Abandoned

I have a newfound love for abandoned buildings.

I wasn’t sure why, until this moment.

I am presently experiencing an overwhelming feeling of frustration toward people who seem very unloving.

As I cried out to God in this moment of frustration, I started to see their hearts.

They looked like old, rusty pipes that no longer carried fresh water.

They were empty and abandoned.

Some of them were wrapped in chains.

Others were bound by cobwebs and spiders that settled in.

I continued to pray as I walked by.

I heard them whispering nasty things about people.

I heard them speak out hopelessness over the youth that needed to be loved & encouraged.

I wanted to scream!!!

Instead, I prayed for the chains to be broken.

I prayed for their emptiness to be replaced with love.

I asked God to pour His love over these abandoned “buildings” so that the ugliness would stop.

I asked for their whispers that pierced hearts to be replaced with truth that heals.

I asked for their hopeless remarks to be replaced with miraculous hope.

I asked for peace to replace their bitterness.

I asked for their blind eyes to be opened to the resilience that our youth have within them.

I asked for their minds to be renewed.

As I prayed, my frustration became less intense.

God’s love for me quieted their whispers.

I saw His hands pick up the remnants and make them beautiful.

I saw the abandoned made new.

Crumbling rubble

Have you ever stumbled upon a passion that you were never aware of? Surprised by your own drive to advocate for something you knew nothing about before that moment?

About six months ago, I met someone who unknowingly made me aware of an issue that now affects me daily.

As soon as I realized how big the issue was, I felt inadequate to address it.

An assignment to create an advocacy plan intimidated me even more.

Advocacy is a way to be a voice, to make people aware of a change that needs to happen.

My journey to find that voice began.

The more I learned about the crumbling rubble that this person has to traverse daily, just to survive, my heart broke.

Instead of becoming discouraged, I allowed the sadness to fuel my passion to help.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the root of the biggest challenge was based on a misunderstanding.

Instead of providing this person with the tools she needed to overcome, the system offers her a vertical slip-n-slide.

She falls further and further behind the people around her who have everything they need.

She watches them excel while she is left to fail.

Her foundation became the hole that was dug for a basement, instead of solid ground.

The voice I found was trembling, yet strong.

It has the potential to change the foundation for her and many other people in her situation.

The advocacy plan started with providing clarity to the owners of the broken system.

I’m hopeful that the clarity will be the spark that sets her world on fire.

I’ll never give up on this journey that can turn her crumbled rubble into a smooth, beautiful path full of everything she needs to succeed.

Parenting

Disclaimer: This post does not include advice from a parent who thinks she has it all together!

I would describe parenting as a dance. As I move forward, my children either move back, or they step on my feet. Or, I step on their feet. Or, we both fall over and laugh hysterically.

When my first child was in my belly, I read all the books about what to eat and what not to eat when I was pregnant. How much to exercise, sleep, and work. I tried to follow the best advice in order to prepare for his arrival.

As most parents know, all of that information flies out the window when that bundle of joy cries for no apparent reason and the mystery scavenger hunt begins.

What is wrong? What am I doing wrong? How do I figure this out when I am exhausted and my patience is still asleep?

I was 25 years old when my first child was born and 30 years old when my fourth, and last, child was born. Needless to say, I was in survival mode most of the time. I have joked on several occasions about being thankful that I journaled and scrapbooked pictures and thoughts about those years because I don’t remember ANYTHING.

Shortly after my last child was born, I got divorced. So, the survival mode that I was already in kicked into overdrive.

Now, she is 15 and I am 45.

Back to parenting… the point I wanted to make today is that none of us really know what we are doing. We try stuff that we hope will work because it sounded so perfect in the books we read. But it doesn’t seem to work on OUR kids, because, well, they’re unique. And so are we.

So, we adjust, and then readjust, never really getting it right. And, that is OKAY!

I read this recently, and loved it: “God didn’t make perfect parents. He made mothers and fathers perfectly suited for the unique needs of their children” (Dave and Ann Wilson, in their new book titled, “No Perfect Parents”).

I love this because it gives parents the validation, affirmation, and freedom to just be themselves. Accept the fact that you aren’t perfect and you aren’t expected to be perfect. Embrace the fact that God knew you before He gave you your kids, He knows you now, and He even knows what you haven’t done yet. He chose you to be their parents anyway!

I believe that kids need us to just love them where they’re at, for who they are. We can dance with them, we can definitely try to figure them out, we can attempt to improve, and we can make changes when necessary. At the end of the day, they just need us to love them.

Part 3

In the book “The Pursuit of Happyness,” the author breaks up seasons of his life into chapters. I think about this often, whenever I laugh quietly to myself about whatever it is that’s happening in my life that warrants a next chapter. So, here we are. I am calling this post “Part 3” because I think I am in that in-between chapters period of my life. I’ll keep you posted on the next chapter as soon as I am made aware of when it is happening. That’s kind of how my life has gone… I know that I have graduated to the next season in the middle of it. The chaos blinds me until the spinning stops at the moments where I need to pay attention. Like the scenes in so many movies where the main character is standing still but the world is spinning around her. People she once knew, places she has been… like the last moments that happen before something big is about to fall before you, and your life flashes before your eyes. I feel like I am right there right now, watching everything in my past spin by, with glimpses of my future that are still blurry but are coming into focus with each new day. I keep seeing myself playing outside when I was about five years old. I loved catching frogs and making them my friends. I’d keep them for little while and then set them free. There was one I forgot about (and I don’t know if I’ll ever stop feeling guilty about that) but I buried his little bones out of respect. In a paper I wrote for school recently, I thought about how that little girl became me. She grew up and never lost her curiosity and sense of wonder. She never lost her quest to seek adventure, especially the getting lost part. There are other parts of me that are starting to make sense too… I had a dream once, a long time ago, when I was looking for answers about my purpose. In the dream I was standing in the doorway of a beautiful, white Victorian house, with pillars that lined the porch. The door was open as I was greeting someone (still unknown to me as I write this), and there were several little children around me holding on to my legs, pulling at my pants for attention. When I woke up, I thought it meant that I would own an orphanage someday. I placed the memory of that dream on the shelf of my high school bedroom closet. Fast-forward to a few weeks ago when I was driving home from my internship at the local middle school. That vision flashed back to me but this time it wasn’t a Victorian house and they weren’t little children. It was a middle school and the doorway was a school counseling office. In that moment of that flashback, I felt like I had arrived! Yes, tears flooded my eyes at the realization that I found my purpose. A few moments later I realized that the little children who were tugging on me in the dream were the students who are currently tugging on my heart. I want to help them find their purpose. I want to help them find out what motivates them to succeed. I want to show them that they were created uniquely and purposefully. I want them to see the hope that I see in them.

LOVE

There is a love that is greater than the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen

It covers us like the softest blanket on a rainy day

It comforts us when life feels impossible

It shines through our darkest moments

It forgives our mistakes and our ugliest actions

It wraps it’s arms around us when we feel lost and alone

This great love is freely given

It cannot be purchased

All we need to do is receive it

Open our broken and shattered hearts to let this healing love in

The mannequin

I stood there, eyes closed, singing. I saw what looked like a cement block blow up and pieces fly everywhere in slow motion. Block after block destroyed.

Once the wall was gone, I saw a heart that had been mended, beating and alive.

I continued to pray.

The next thing I saw was anger, so I prayed that his heart would soften so that God’s love could be absorbed.

My thoughts wandered to the image that came to my mind earlier in the week… An image of a mannequin laying lifeless with holes all over her body.

A man walked up to her with a pitcher. As he poured the pitcher into the first hole, it closed up and became flesh.

Pitcher after pitcher he poured into the mannequin. Hole after hole, filled.

The mannequin stood up, full of life. Whole. Complete.

I thought about how I used to feel like that lifeless mannequin, with holes that I tried to fill with people, affirmation, and acceptance.

I was using the wrong pitcher, trying to fill myself with it.

I had to surrender to God so that He could provide the only things that could fill me… His love, His peace, His joy, His kindness, His patience, His truth, His protection, His hope, and His perseverance.

The person I have become since that day of surrender now stands full of life.

Whole.

Complete.

Entangled

On my hike today I noticed several trees that had vines wrapped around them. At first, I thought it looked cool so I was going to take a picture. As I stepped closer to get a better angle, I realized that the vines were choking the trees. Strangling them.

As I walked further along the trail I realized that nearly every tree was entangled in vines.

A few of the larger trees were able to break free, and I applauded them (silently, in my mind).

The vines reminded me of things in my life that have tried to take me down. Choices I’ve made, past mistakes, things that have happened to me, and past hurts.

The vines took me down when I wallowed in self pity that led me into a deep pit.

I remember being at the bottom of that pit looking up, crying, yelling, screaming for help, and giving up.

I also remember being lifted out of the pit, seemingly lifeless, presented with the gift of a new life again.

Walking this trail today, seeing the massive trees that broke free from the vines that tried to take them down, I realized they were me.

As I accepted the gift of new life, I received new strength. The new strength is endlessly provided when I remain rooted in the gift giver, just as the trees remain rooted when they break free from the vines.

If I allow choices I’ve made, past mistakes, things that have happened to me, and past hurts to define me, I will end up entangled again. I will end up back in that pit.

I choose to accept them, all of them, and break free.

I choose to remain rooted in a new strength that is provided daily.

I was discouraged

In the midst of the pain and the coughing, I cried out to God and it seemed like He was not listening.

I begged for healing.

My son drove me to the Emergency Room when the pain was too much to handle. I thought for sure I needed oxygen or some other kind of technology that wasn’t available to me at home. The symptoms I was experiencing weren’t going away after a week of feeling extremely sick, and they just didn’t seem to make sense.

As I sat in the waiting room for two hours, I watched three older men come in. Two of the men were immediately placed on oxygen as they waited for another 30 minutes in the chairs surrounding me. They were taken back to see the doctor before me. The third man was whisked away quickly since he couldn’t keep his eyes open and his oxygen level was extremely low.

Results from my X-rays and the bloodwork led to a diagnosis of viral pneumonia. A COVID test came back positive. My oxygen levels were normal, so I was sent home the same day.

As I walked down the long hallway on my way out, I had to stop at an intersection where one of the men who walked in to the ER after me was being pushed down the hallway in a hospital bed with an oxygen mask covering his face.

It was in that moment that I felt like God showed me His protection. He protected and strengthened my lungs. I have asthma but COVID didn’t attack my lungs enough for me to need oxygen. Looking back, now that I am healed, I see this as a miracle.

I didn’t feel completely healed until a week after that trip to the Emergency Room. I coughed so hard my ribs felt broken. I alternated doses of pain relief medication: 600 mg of Motrin and 1000 mg of Tylenol every 3-4 hours that just eased the pain a fraction. I was prescribed Robitussin with codeine that knocked me out for one short hour at a time. I couldn’t sit up or breathe without coughing. It was the worst experience I have ever gone through.

I felt better last Monday after two weeks of the pain and the coughing.

I have gone on four hikes since then. Every breath of fresh air that filled my lungs felt like a gift.

I stood on the bank of a river, surrounded by peace, and whispered, “I love you God.”

It seemed like He responded with a whisper to my soul: “I love you too, my precious daughter.”

His love is so tender and amazing.

I have so much to be thankful for.

Going through this sickness was a great reminder of God’s protection, healing, and love.

Even though I was discouraged in the worst moments and I even felt like God didn’t care and wasn’t listening…

He provided,

He protected,

He loved,

and

He healed.

Not alone

I went for a walk today, in the woods, to get away from schoolwork for a moment. I thought I was alone.

As I walked along the path that was covered in leaves, I realized I was not alone.

The leaves were fallen arrows. Arrows that were directed at me and blocked.

I looked to my left and saw rows of trees…

Each tree represented an obstacle that was conquered. As the obstacle was right before me, it seemed insurmountable. Now that I see them from this angle, they seem so small.

As I walked a little further, and looked to my left, I was overtaken with beauty of the sun shining through the trees. It was so Majestic.

I was not alone.

A few more steps, and I saw this rock next to a massive tree. I remembered a verse I read once… “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud; And He set my feet on a rock, making my footsteps firm” (Psalms 40:2).

So… I stood on it.

As I trampled upon the unsuccessful arrows, I looked up and saw rows of power lines. In that moment, I realized that the path set before me is kind of like a row of power lines. I could see about four towers attached to the lines. In my mind, those towers represented goals ahead of me. My upcoming internship, graduating, getting hired as a school counselor, and paying off my student loans…

The path remains straight, and the towers continue even though I can’t see them. I trust that they are there, so I will follow the path.
As I walked a bit further I saw a smaller tree that aligned its roots with a larger tree. It seemed like it was clinging to the larger tree. “Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself but must remain in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me” (John 15:4).

For some reason, I looked up. I saw a pine cone where it did not belong.

The angle is a bit off in the picture above, but it struck me nonetheless. Even when I fall, God is there to catch me.

I chose this trail for my hike today because I love watching the water flow over these rocks. For some reason this place brings me peace.

Today, it reminded me that even if we are silent, even if we don’t praise God, “the stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40).

As I was leaving, I saw another tower. This one was right in the middle of my path. As I looked at how massive it was, and thought about how strong it must be, I thought about this verse, “The Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run into it and they are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).
To be honest, I was afraid to go on this walk alone.

I think that is why God met me there.

Without a VOICE

Ariel from the Little Mermaid willingly gave up her voice and her relationship with her father when presented with a lie.

Students who are being taught lies give up their voices unknowingly.

People all over the world are being robbed of their voices that could stop the violence.

Violence is fueled by the lies we are being told about our country.

Division and animosity are rising out of the ashes that were already defeated.

The ashes are being stirred up to give a voice to division.

Our country is being divided as people are falling prey to the same lie that Ariel did: your voice doesn’t matter.

Without a voice, truth is being muted.

Without truth, our world is weak.

We are called to stand firm and to not be swayed.

We are not empty souls.

We are not pawns on a chess board full of powerful people in society who get to move us wherever they please.

We must stand up to the lies and fight for truth to be taught.

We have souls that are bold.

We have voices that must be heard.