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20140813_201917 3

Life has a way of slapping perspective on you. In the weeks approaching this one I couldn’t help but feel more and more anxious. My husband was leaving for a week, which seriously freaked me out even though we have spent a lot more time apart than that. What scared me most was the intense pressure that I was alone in taking care of our son, what if something happens? Who else but my husband would drop everything on a seconds notice to help? We don’t live near any family, we are blazing this trail alone.
The night my husband left I went to “life group”. Which is just a fancy term for a small group of us from church who kind of have things in common and meet every 2nd and 4th Tuesday to get to know each other just enough that you have to start all over again the next time. ( OK It’s more than that, but this is how I would have described it this night).  I kept hearing the voice that night that I was alone. “These people don’t care about you” “you don’t have a village” “you are alone here” “You may as well just leave”. The thoughts crippled me. I literally laid awake in bed praying that I just know something was going to go wrong and what was I to do when it does because I was alone. Satan pinpointed my weakness and lunged at the opportunity to attack.
The next day was the first of 3 that things would, in my book at least, go terribly wrong.
My anxiety over my teeth’s health always haunts me. I have nightmares my teeth are falling out, because I am stressed my teeth will fall out. Wednesday night I was having dinner with a much loved, newly refreshed friend when my top tooth falls out. Just *falls* out. I knew the tooth was in bad shape and had just seen a surgeon about extracting it, but only part of it fell out which meant this just became an emergency. See, I had not yet made my appointment because I was trying to decide on local anesthesia or going under. I was feeling incapable of making a decision because of some personal reasons that felt impossible to go through. I asked God to help me make a wise choice, so He helped.
The next day I set my phone on the counter and I swear a wind came out of no where and pushed my phone face down on the hard tile. The screen cracked and I wasn’t able to properly function it. The feeling of vulnerability in that moment was unbearable, not to mention I was traveling in a few days and about to undergo oral surgery.
The morning of that oral surgery came and later that evening as I was coming home from getting my medicine my car got a flat tire.
These circumstances were less than desirable, for sure. But here is what I saw from them. My friend at dinner stayed longer than she could to make sure I was ok, and sat in traffic for two hours going home because of it and offered to come back the next day. Another friend who is having a baby any day now asked if she could help me in any way. Another friend canceled a long awaited reunion with someone special to watch my son for my appointment. Another friend moved an important meeting around and took his kids from the last days of summer to drive me to my appointment, stay for over an hour, and get me safely to where I needed to go. Another friend went the opposite direction of her house and job to come to pick us up and stay with us until she had to go to work. Another friend stayed the night with us to make sure we were ok. Another friend happily met me immediately at the side of the road to change my tire.
Gratitude changes everything.
The lesson I am learning through this is not to live in fear but in gratitude, to open my eyes and see that I do have a village, to see God will take care of me and He alone is what I should set my eyes upon.
After these 3 days of darkness a new hope has arisen in me.
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My friend helping with my tire.
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I found this picture on my phone the night of my oral surgery. I have no memory of taking it.
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When I was younger, I used to say to myself that I would make no decision that I would later regret. I was always very careful when doing anything because, God forbid, I make some kind of mistake.  

The thing about regret is that sometimes it can sneak its way into your life no matter how hard you try to keep it out. It can be difficult to keep the “what ifs” out of your mind when you start reflecting back on the choices you have made in life and where you ended up as a result.
My dad recently said something to me that struck a chord.  He said, “There is no point in feeling regret because you know that you made the choices you made with the most knowledge you had and the most time you needed to make them”.
There is a lot of truth to his statement. Looking back, my choices were thoughtful and made with great care using all the knowledge I had in front of me at the time. There is no way to know the future. We will make mistakes. We will, unintentionally, hurt other people in the process. It is because of these things that we start to feel sorry, feel regret, or even start to feel a new kind of grief. The wounds can start to feel fresh again.
So we have yet another choice; we can choose to learn, to grow and to humble ourselves in front of those we’ve hurt.
From our mistakes sprout growth, from our pain sprouts grace, from our humility sprouts forgiveness.

 

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Peppy came to us when she was one. She was golden brown and was called biscuit. Our dog of 6 years had just tragically died and she was in a bad home. At first, I resented her. I missed my dog that had just died and I wasn’t ready for another one. But that special “peppy” spunk stole my heart quickly. When I was going through some rough times feeling deserted and alone, peppy was there. Shortly after I moved out, my mother surprised me with the gift of keeping peppy all to my own. She loved taking night time walks and cuddling in my legs at bedtime. Her floppy ears and small frame drew others to her, but she hated everyone else. We loved Peppy’s distinct personality. She had always been a princess. When she felt sick I would stay up with her all night holding her in my arms. When she got out I would spend hours upon hours trying to catch her, this happened way too often. She was my baby. Peppy moved with us across country two times;  from Illinois to Florida, from Florida to Texas. She always had her home with me and soon after that my husband too and at different times in her life she lived with both my parents, my sisters, my in-laws, my best friend Rachael, my best friend Jamie, a snake, a lizard, two birds, A pitbull named Bridget, A collie named Maggie, a golden retriever named Toby, a dog named Panda, and for a very brief time a cat named Tucker. For 14 years Peppy was a staple in my life, the one thing that never changed, that never stopped loving me, that never left my side. She cuddled close when I was sick, crying, or on bed rest. Her sensitivity to my emotions was uncanny. If I were to describe peppy in three words it would be stubborn, sensitive, and of course peppy! She never lost that “pep” to her step, even in her old age her mobility never deteriorated. She had a “paw-ful” of people she loved dearly. She was definitely choosey when it came to whom she liked. When I was pregnant peppy would sniff my belly and when we brought our son home for the first time she sniffed him and laid next to him. Until he was mobile, Peppy acted like a nanny to him, watching him if I stepped away and laying at his side.  She was growing old in age and her health started to deteriorate little bits at a time. At the end, she was ready to go. She lived a full and happy life, and she lived beyond what was expected. I am grateful to have known her and lost her than to never have known her at all. Peppy, this is to you my love. I will forever hold you dearly to my heart and I thank you for adding spunk to my life.  I cherished your friendship and your loyalty. I love you, little pepster of mine. 

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Some advice on advice.

 
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I am so sick of hearing about the kinds of things people say to others when they seek advice from them. Therefore I gathered a list of the kinds of things that will actually be helpful to say. So, here is my advice on

what to avoid when giving advice and what to say instead.

 
 

Do not say “I’m here for you”.

Many times this is said with good intent. However, to the person in need it may seem like an empty gesture. Instead ask them how you can be there for them and make a plan. For example, if they say they need company let them know, “I’m free Tuesday afternoon, lets go get coffee”. Stick with your plan and at the end of your coffee date ask them again, “What can I do to help” or “what do you need right now”. Repeat as necessary.
 

Do not tell them what to do.

Most likely, this person is being told what to do from everyone else and it is getting quite old. Instead remind them that they have gut instincts for a reason. Even though they may hear that little voice inside, it might be getting drowned out by everyone else’s voice. Remind them we have instincts for a reason and empower them to hear their own voice.
 

Do not judge them.

Many times you might have an opinion on something even if you have never been in that situation. And even so, we all react to things differently. Just because something worked out for you doesn’t mean it will work out for them too. Instead empathize with them. Try putting yourself in their shoes and tell yourself that you aren’t perfect either. If you are coming from a place of judgement then don’t offer advice.

 

Do not assume you know better.

If they are getting all kinds of advice from all different angles then they will be more confused than ever. Your advice might be just as good as someone else’s. Try looking at it from a wider lens by taking yourself out of the equation. Help them really look at all the different solutions and help them weigh out the pros and cons. Put your own advice in the pool but consider it just as worthy as the other advice. Chances are, by getting on the level of the person in need you will empower them to see the best thing for them on their own.
 

 Do not use their situation to better your own agenda/ or rather do not give them your personal opinion.

We all can have some pretty strong convictions on things and they range from political all the way to religious. Try to put your personal opinion to the side for a moment. If you cant do that then don’t offer advice. They don’t need someone else preaching at them. Instead, listen to them. Ask them questions in order to understand where they are coming from. Many times just talking about it will help them figure it out on their own.
 

Do not tell them, “everything will be OK”.

The last thing you need to hear when you are feeling down is hearing a generic statement that “Things will get better” or “Everything will be ok”. Instead let them know that you understand they are in a devastating situation and that they are going through a valley right now. Remind them that there is hope on the other side. Remind them that they will get through even though it may not feel like it at the moment.
 

Do not tell them you will pray for them.

If you want to go the prayer route then ask them what kinds of things you can pray for and then do it right there. Either pray with that person or on your own and let the person in need know you just prayed for them. Be specific about what you prayed for. Everyone knows that this statement can be said with the best of intent but is hardly carried out. If you both are prayer people then keep them on your prayer list and text or call every time you say a prayer for them. This shows the person in need that not only are you serious about helping them but that they can count on you in the future.
 

Do not tell them you are sending good/positive thoughts.

Let’s be honest, this really does nothing but helps you feel better about yourself. Instead actually send them “good thoughts” by mailing them a “thinking of you” card. This is a simple gesture but it can really lift their spirits.
 

Do not say “Let God work it out” or “It will work itself out”

Neither statement does any good so just avoid it all together. This also sends the message that you have no real intent to help. If you are both the religious type then offer a verse from scripture that might be comforting. If they aren’t religious and/or neither are you then point out another time in history that is a similar situation and talk about why it did or didn’t work out.
 

Do not give out unwarranted advice.

Just because you feel you have something valuable to say doesn’t mean that person is ready to hear it. Just sit back and listen and keep your mouth shut until they ask.
 

The key to giving out advice is empowering the person in need. You can not decide what is best for them, but you can help them figure it out for themselves. People in need really just need support and someone who can get on their level. If advice isn’t for you then simply being there for them can do wonders as well. Remember, this isn’t about you.

 
*If someone is talking about hurting themselves or others then seek professional help. But don’t stop being there for the person in need. They need someone there for them now more than ever.*

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I have seen this going around the internet lately and I find it deeply troubling. I understand that this is supposed to be encouraging for people who find themselves in lost relationships. However, I don’t agree that this is the best thing for those people to hear.

“When people walk away let them”

Here’s the thing about relationships, they change. This is the nature of relationships and of life. I couldn’t name one person in my life with whom my relationship is the same as it was even a year ago including my husband, sisters and parents. There are two things that happen organically in a relationship: It moves towards intimacy or it moves away from intimacy. Most relationships don’t change because someone chooses to walk away. On the surface it may seem like someone is choosing to walk away, but digging deeper you see that isn’t the case. Think about a marriage that has just ended, it didn’t fall apart overnight. It took time and it took inward change on both parties for that marriage to get to where it is. I acknowledge that it seems there are times in which someone chooses to walk away from a relationship, but it took more than what meets the eye to produce that result.

And how easily does one give up on a relationship?

Recently I had the privilege of talking intimately with a friend of mine I have had since high school. About a year ago I started feeling some intense negative emotions regarding our friendship. This is a friend who never failed to inspire me and with whom I could have a deep meaningful conversation and have fun with. But after she took on a full time job and I moved to a different state, the little attempts I made to connect with her were met with empty responses. Finally I reached my breaking point, after multiple attempts at getting a hold of her and not hearing back I came to the conclusion that our friendship was over. I was done. Still, something in me couldn’t let go and I made one last desperate attempt to make things right. We were able to meet in person and talk things over. What I found out was that she was struggling with deep issues and she sincerely felt bad that she was emotionally disconnected. We were honest and raw and forgiving with one another. We made a plan going forward where both our love languages could be met. Since then I have seen a real effort on both parts to honor our relationship.

Not all true friendships look like that either. I can list on one hand people with whom I have true and genuine friendships but talk to maybe once a year.

My point is that any one of us could chalk that up to the other “choosing to walk away”, when it isn’t like that at all. And in the case of my one friend, we had to fight to keep our friendship alive. We had to be real and vulnerable with each other.

Simply put, “letting people walk away” seems awfully cowardly to me.

There are, of course, extenuating circumstances. I am not saying all relationships are or should be redeemable. Getting out of a relationship where you are abused in any way is always better for you and you did not do anything to deserve the abuse. I hardly think that is what this quote is referring to, but If your only source of encouragement is this quote on this snoopy comic then by all means, let it motivate you! But even then eventually, hopefully, you will be in a place of healing and you can use your past to help you move towards your future. which brings me to the second part of the quote:

“Your future is not about people who walk away, its about people who stay in for the ride”

God, I hope you don’t think this way. This is like one of those really bad pinterest motivations to get you to exercise that shows an overly muscular person and says “fit is the new skinny”, and by the way that person also happens to be skinny.

Life isn’t about forgetting what brought you to the place you are at today. Your future IS about how you were once addicted to drugs in the past, were in an abusive relationship, or used food as a way to deal with the pressures of life – because that changed you. Every day someone who struggled in the past makes choices in the present because of it. “Healing doesn’t mean that the damage never existed, it means that it no longer controls our lives.” Our choices in the present are largely affected by our experiences in the past. Our future is determined by the choices we make today.

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 How I wish all relationships were lasting! The truth is, that not every relationship was meant to last forever. We all enter each other’s lives and affect it somehow, whether it be obviously positive or not. Sometimes we meet people who hold such animosity towards us, but teach us great lessons. I have lost count of how many people I have known who have disliked me and vice-versa. These are people who have had strong personalities and made it very clear they didn’t like me. Most of the time it was a co-worker whom I had to see every day. Sometimes these people held authority over me in the workplace. At the time it was a difficult place to be in. Looking back, I can very clearly see the positive that has come from such opposition. If I chose to only consider the people who “stayed in it for the ride” I would be missing out on some great life lessons.

Sometimes we get so caught up in “surviving” that we forget to acknowledge the role we played in the situation. How easy it is for us to agree with “feel-good” quotes. The internet has created a mass audience that will eat anything up if it seems pretty enough or makes you feel good. Anything could be written in curly cursive and placed on a nice picture of a sunrise. Imagine if someone posted this on the internet:

feelgood

We wouldn’t like that, would we? But sometimes that is the truth.

It would be brave to question why a relationship fell apart. It would be brave to acknowledge your role in it. And it would be braver still, to do what you could to mend the broken relationship.

Being brave is hard. Taking the cowardly route is easy. What would you choose.

tract

Have you ever received one of these? If you have it was most likely done without ever knowing the name of the person giving it away. You might have seen it on top of the toilet paper roll in a public restroom, next to or in place of a tip at a restaurant, lying around on a floor somewhere, or mixed in with that delicious candy from Halloween. Most tracts use fear as a tactic, some of them are clever and none of them are appropriate. They are most likely passed around with good intentions because in the Christian faith we find hope for the hopeless, love for those who have never experienced it before, and sacrifice so strong that it is capable of turning your entire life around.

How many tracts inspired a non-believer? I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is the message that is really getting across with a tract. This message is that you aren’t as happy or good enough in your life right now as the person who has a wallet full of these. It is that people who believe in God are tactless and hypocritical. It is that Christianity is full of judgement and punishment. It is that the Christian doesn’t have the time to sit down with you and have a real conversation, nor would you want them to because with the looks of it all they will be thinking about how to better tell you about the “A-B-C’s” of Christianity or how you can “be saved” from hell.

If you have a stack of these somewhere that you are planning on giving out, I’m going to let you in on a secret. These are as effective as a used up piece of gum stuck to the sidewalk, except that the gum actually served a real purpose at one time. You aren’t doing any good by leaving these around for some stranger to find, all you are doing is making yourself feel good.

You are not provoking thought. You are perpetuating the common perception that Christians are a bunch of jerks who don’t really care about anybody but themselves.

True evangelism is genuine. It is an honest and very real relationship with somebody. It lacks judgement and humbly admits our own lacking. It takes time. It takes prayer. It takes Spirit provoked conversations. True evangelism will never really tell you the kind of difference you are making. It is serving and self-denying. It pours every ounce of you into someone else. True evangelism is no secret. Jesus did every one of these things when He was on this earth. The closest thing he did to leaving a tract behind was writing in the sand, and nobody really knows what it was that He wrote.

If you want to make a true difference in this world or get a true positive message across then buy someone a meal, watch their kids for nothing in return, use the gifts you have to give. If you don’t then you may as well go get a stick and start drawing in the dirt because that is much more productive.

tract

Lately I  have been thinking about what it means to be genuine. I have always considered myself a genuine person. I am vulnerable with my struggles and try to always give an honest answer. The difficult part of being genuine is that even when you are true to yourself in that moment, it is possible for that part of you to change.

Many times when a conflict happens or something that is shocking, it takes me at least a few days to process it. I have spent months processing something before. I also have a really difficult time saying what I am thinking or feeling. Many times I have walked away from a conversation feeling like I mis-represented myself in trying to explain myself.  And sometimes it simply isn’t appropriate to announce your emotions right there in the moment, because emotions can be rash and unpredictable. For these reasons I have been called things like “two-faced”, and that’s OK because I understand it seems that way. And even though I am in my late twenties, I still sometimes struggle to get over the “teenage angst” of being misunderstood.

I try my best to be genuine and surround myself around others who are genuine. The truth is that “being genuine” is only as good as the moment. When we are true to ourselves we will be true to others and although the truth may change as the day turns into night, the intent behind it does not.  As true as I can be to myself is as true as I will be to you.

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”         

William Shakespeare  

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