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Sweet & Salty: On Joy and Bitterness {ft. a Character Study: Naomi}.

I’ve had better days.

A bit before 2017 rolled around, I wrote a post on how 2017 would be better than 2016. 2016 brought on a lot of pain and suffering in the form of a mental illness {see the “Unashamed” tab}. It brought on a lot of heartache and bitterness as I longed to return to Nash and be loved by my Waco friends.

Then 2017 hit and it has been better — God’s provided me with an amazing, entry-level dream job; He gave me a new church home and provided new, grounded community; lately.

He’s opening up opportunities for me to serve locals on Forest Ln — people I work with, climb with, eat with, drive by, pray for — from all walks of life: every age, race and socioeconomic level {many are impoverished}; and to fully seek healing redemption through Him and Him alone.

He’s given me a core group of women my age and life phase that hold me accountable to discovering His Truths and living them out daily. We call ourselves the “Wine, Whales & Word” tribe. I cannot say where or who I would be without them during this crazy, fun season of life.

Sometimes life is sweet. Sometimes it’s salty.

My TVC Dallas Home Group and I are walking through Ruth. Starting yesterday, we plan to read it all the way through {it’s four chapters long} each week, to deliberately meditate on the scripture, to earnestly analyze characters, culture, Creation and Christ in every word and between every line.

Yesterday we walked through Chapter 1. I believe God is forever, always, eternally sweet, but life can sometimes be salty.

Poor, Sweet Naomi — her husband and two sons all died within a short span of time. She was left a widow without children with two women who were destined to become cultural outcasts unless they remarried soon.

Before their deaths, Naomi was named “Pleasant.” She experienced the pleasure of loving and following God, of living a life under His provision and guidance. But after their deaths, she changed her name to Mara, which directly translates to “Bitterness.”

I think bitterness is a valid emotion — when people wrong me, I become bitter. Today was a very bitter day: my pants broke, my stomach hurt, employees related to my work {not people I work with} were being unkind, impatient and downright rude, my back started to physically ache from the anxiety and stress.

Joy is also a valid emotion — as Believers, we are equipped with eternal joy when we accept the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in us. We are called to a joy that never ceases, to thanksgiving in all circumstances {1 Thess. 4:16-18}.

Joy partners with seven other Fruit of the Spirit — please note: it’s only one fruit, this means the Fruit of the Spirit is one entity, embodying seven traits {Gal. 5:22-23}. It does not stand alone, it must work alongside love and peace {they are the three foremost fruit that truly marry each other in union}.

As people, we choose to be sweet or salty. We get to decide.

Today, I was salty. I slightly snapped at my poor work husband Cedric when he playfully teased me as he always does. I decided to be bitter to dwell in anger and regret and contempt. My day was awful to me, so I wanted to be awful in return.

Sweet Penny from Downtown Fort Worth Sheraton chose to be sweet. She reached out in hopes that our firm would give them business. Sweet Penny delivered a Tiff’s Treats package to me: cookies, ice cream, milk.

These three things will always brighten my day. But snail mail in particular really gets me going. It really makes me grateful for the sender’s intentionality and genuine pursuit of my gratitude and love. It takes more work to call a company, ask for a delivery, pay for a package, than it does to text me, “Hope you’re doing well.”

Sweet Penny gave me faith in humanity again. She made me feel “Pleasant,” just like Naomi felt pleasure before her trials. She reminded me there are kind, patient, good people in this world who love to serve, share and give.

It is not up to me to decide if we give Sweet Penny and the Sheraton business, and Sweet Penny knows that. But she chose to send me some love anyway, to brighten my day just because she can, and just because she had the opportunity to.

I want to be Naomi.

I like to choose pleasure, I like to choose joy. I will choose bitterness and contempt on off days, I will experience down moments and unkind souls and humans who test my patience and my ability to love and be loved.

But I want to be Naomi — I want to experience God’s goodness, promise, provision. I want to taste and see — figurative cookies, ice cream, milk — literal joyful moments, people, places — that God is eternally sweet to me and sweet to everyone He loves.

Who are you today? Who do you want to be? And how can you become that person? Stay tuned for a later character study on Ruth, Boaz and Mara. Stay tuned for a post on how to overcome bitterness and bask in eternal joy.

Blessings,

Naomae

For the record, I have zero regrets for using that pun.

*S/o to SJ, MCD, AML, RDLC and a couple of new faces eager to join us soon.

Bearing my Cross · Body. · For the Ladies · Friendship · Life Written. · Mind. · Post-Grad. · Sojourn. · spirit · The Word · To My Mister

Waiting on God 101.

I know how to wait.

Or at least, I think I do — most of the time. I’m used to waiting on men, waiting on change, waiting on flights, waiting on food, waiting on traffic lights, waiting on lines.

But waiting on God? For some reason, that’s harder for me to tackle. Maybe because I can’t physically see or audibly hear Him.

Maybe because some days it’s hard to picture Him as more than a figment of my imagination. Maybe because I’m often too stubborn to remember He manifested himself in Christ, lives through the Spirit in me and works for my good every day.

Waiting is the worst.

Sometimes, I pray for patience. But then I learn the process to obtain patience entails waiting, so I usually take it back — can you take prayers back? Like unkind words or jeans that don’t fit?

Waiting is always uncertain — it can last hours, days, weeks, months, years. At times, waiting periods may pass in the blink of an eye. But others may not be so quick, they are painful and arduous and test every ounce of perseverance within me.

I’ve spent my lifetime waiting.

Not in this lazy, complacent way where I just sit and wait for good things to happen. Not in this overbearing, manic way where I run fast and chase after good things.

Somewhere in the middle, where I find peace in the present and satisfaction through productivity.

I’ve waited for my guy to come, I’ve waited for my medication to work, I’ve waited for a job, for a place to call home, for a friendship, for a degree. I’ve waited for short periods and long stretches. I’ve waited for the world to change (as my man John Mayer sings).

Here are my tips on waiting:

  1. Gain perspective. Think of why you are waiting, and what for. Think of how to use your time and resources wisely. How can you spend your energy? Who can help you in this waiting period?
  2. Pray. A lot. We are called to “present our requests” to God with “prayer and petition.” I think of a dorky petition I signed in middle school to allow gum chewing on campus. God probably has bigger fish to fry than gum privileges, but perhaps He wants us to approach in the same manner — with a plan, with support, with tenacity.
  3. Remember hope. It is with the Hope of the Lord that we truly survive, and more importantly thrive, during our waiting periods. We cannot do this alone, not without the support of friends & family, and surely not without God on our side.
  4. Weep. The older and hopefully wiser I become, the more likely I am to weep, to truly mourn for my hurts and heartaches, and for those around me. When I miss something or someone, when I beg God to deliver me, I often curl up in my bed or fall to my knees. I cry out to God, because He promises to hear our cries.

There are so many ingredients to waiting contently, waiting patiently, waiting in a strong and respectful manner. All of my suggestions come from the God-breathed Scripture, the gift that is His word. I would get nowhere without it.

Friends who are waiting, be encouraged by this: you are never alone. We wait for good news. We wait for good friends. We wait for better days.

When we wait on God, we will not be disappointed. When we wait for Him, He will reward us here on earth, and permanently in Heaven. When we wait, we grow.

Bearing my Cross · Body. · Friendship · Life Written. · Mind. · Popular Posts. · Post-Grad. · spirit · The Word · Unashamed.

Unashamed: When April Showers Don’t Bring Mae Flowers.

They’re supposed to bring May flowers.

April has come and gone — and for the most part, so has the rain — the Dallas Arboretum proves the flowers are upon us — but what if life’s metaphorical flowers, aren’t?

I haven’t been majorly depressed since December — BLESS UP. It’s been a whole new year of adventure and excitement and radiance that I rarely tasted in 2016. The amount of gratitude toward my parents, friends, doctors, therapists and The King has overwhelmed me.

But I think I’m regressing — lately I’ve experienced heavier and lower days. It hurts, as I started a dream job just a couple of weeks ago, and so desperately want to thrive there. I seek out medical, emotional help partnered with a holistic approach to mental health.

Sometimes the flowers don’t sprout.

We go through periods of absolute suffering and pain, we cry out to God for relief, but it seems as if the hope and joy never come upon us. It seems as though we are forgotten and abandoned and He doesn’t live up to His promise to “work for our good.”

Lately I’ve been eating up Isaiah. This morning, I walked through ch. 30. It talks about rebellious people who “speak to us smooth things.” They want an easy way out, they want smooth sailing.

Yet, those people are like breaking “that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found.”

We are Christ’s vessels — we are called to be filled with the Spirit and pour out radical love onto those around us. So how do we refuse to rebel and cling to God’s goodness?

We remember that He will be gracious. He hears the sound of our cries, he answers us. The “bread of adversity” and “water of affliction” make us see our Teacher.

Bread and water are necessities — I’d prefer to live without adversity and affliction. I’d prefer to sail calm waters without blasting winds and pelting rain. I’d prefer to not be bipolar, to not give too much of myself away, to not suffer from anxiety over tomorrow’s.

But He “binds up the brokenness of His people.”

He sees our hurt. He hears our cries. He sits with us. He cradles us. He listens. He weeps. He protects. He provides. He delivers.

He will not leave us alone. He will not let us suffer without Him, His presence, His grace. He will not abandon or forsake or condemn us if we walk in Spirit and in Truth.

He says, “You will not suffer forever. I will stitch you back together. I am yours, you are Mine. We will fight this. We will win. And I will overcome.”

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In the Darkest Moments: On Peace That Transcends.

Sometimes, bad things happen to good people.

Long before I was diagnosed, I saw the pain and hurt of my friends and family. Divorce, deaths, diagnoses tore them apart from the inside-out. It ripped their hearts into pieces and they dove into depression or became addicted to whatever vice to briefly fix their pain.

Sometimes, bad things happen to me.

Sophomore fall was my hardest semester of college. I suffered from betrayal of those who were close to me, I became bitter and distraught. My life felt desolate and isolated.

I wandered in my own desert, longing for Christ’s eternal water to quench my thirst.

My diagnosis last year tore my world apart. I honestly thought I peaked in college and that I would never be able to work, function or love again. I feared that my life would amount to nothing and I’d be stuck in a constant cycle of major depression and minimal joy.

But during even the lowest of lows, I remembered core truths:

  1. God works for my good.
  2. God loves me.
  3. God never changes.

When my world shatters, I get down on my knees.

One of my very favorite Bible verses is Philippians 4:7. This is how it goes:

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (NLT).

It’s hard for me to pray when I’m hurt. My instinct is to get mad at God, to put on my gloves and smack a bag and scream until I weep. I feel forgotten and used and trapped.

It’s easy for me to pray when I’m whole. I’m madly in love with my God and my friends. I feel joyful and independent and confident.

But God pursues us when we’re both: when we’re black and blue, and when we’re silver and gold. He seeks us out with his never changing grace and mercy. He scoops us up in His strong, brave arms.  He says, “You are allowed to feel, just know that you are always mine.”

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with peace.

I’m in a strange period of life: ending a PR internship, seeking something more. I’m open to new opportunities near and far, similar and unfamiliar.

I’m ready to dive headfirst into my next adventure, because I just know God’s cooking up something good.

I experienced the deepest heartbreak in 2016, but God’s brought so much healing in 2017. In the most painful moments when I doubted, He met me while I was curled up in bed in a puddle of my own tears.

He said, “There, there, dear daughter. Let me stitch you together with my love.”

When you are down and when nothing seems right, when you’re right in the eye of the storm, remember: God works for your good. God loves you. God never changes.

You can be angry, you probably have a right to be so. You can be sad, you probably have a right to be so. But you can also rejoice, because in the hardest moments, God’s already ahead of you, prepped to heal you, ready to make you whole.

Bearing my Cross · Body. · Life Written. · Mind. · Post-Grad. · spirit

You are an Influencer {On the Impact We Leave}.

Infuencer. It’s a term in the PR/Mkt field.

When working on a campaign, we look for people who already have an impact in their communities to boost our brand, image or mission.

For example, if Torchy’s Tacos was aiming to target millennials in the DFW area, they would search for Dallas food bloggers with a strong following who might already be featuring #tacotuesdays. Then they would create a partnership in hopes to spread awareness of their services and products among DFW young singles. Aka I am the perfect candidate because we know how much I love and consume tacos.

I’m an influencer.

As a young woman who has a steady following on this blog, my new Dallas one and social media, people are already listening and engaging in what I have to say. They want to know my stories, my highlights, my trials, my life. They want to keep up-to-date on my latest advice and lessons and whatever else I may share.

It’s an honor to be an influencer, but it is also a burden. It means I have to represent myself well, and also represent whatever entity I belong to well: that can be my employer, my family, my church, my Jesus. I have to choose my words and actions carefully, I have to consider how I dress, how I love and how I serve.

We are all influencers.

Each of us has a following, a community. You don’t need to blog or Instagram to have people look up to you, or to look at you at all. You’re an influencer at your work, school, home, on the road, at the grocery store, and more. You’re an influencer as a human being.

I encourage you to consider who you are and whose you are, to dissect where you’re plugged into and who you may impact daily. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you leave an aftertaste, a scent. Is it tasty? Does it smell good? Is it kind? Is it hurtful? Is it welcoming? Is it hostile?

I hope you leave a delightful taste when you leave a room. I hope your scent lures people in and makes them feel at home. I hope your smile is never forced and always sought out. I hope your generosity is always known and never taken advantage of. I hope you realize that you can and will and do change the world, and you are perfectly capable of being the best influencer out there.

Bearing my Cross · Body. · Life Written. · Mind. · Sojourn. · spirit · The Word

Home Sweet Home: On Travel & The Holy Temple.

home is a really weird concept to me.

I now live in the same house I grew up in. It’s this really adorable two-story in Richardson. I’m the same bedroom. But it looks a lot different now than when I was five. I can still recognize who is coming up the stairs by the patter of their steps. It’s home to me.

But Waco used to be my home. It was familiar and comfortable and safe. Then I turned Florence into my home. It was welcoming and breezy and warm. Even Nashville was my home for a bit, it felt kind and pure.

Not many people can use the phrase “home” easily. But I’m quick to the punch. If I’m settled (which can take only a few weeks) and I feel safe, I’m ready to call it so.

The more I wander this earth, the more I realize that God is my home. Heaven is my home. I’m not made for this world. I’m called to a higher, purer, holier place than this. Heaven is safe and familiar and comfortable. It’s welcoming and breezy and warm. It’s kind and pure.

but i’m god’s home, too.

Ephesians 2 says that the Body of Believers are “joined together in Christ, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.”

“Through Christ, you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.”

I often forget I am a holy temple for the Lord. Sometimes my words, thoughts and actions don’t reflect it. Sometimes a curse word slips, or a lie, or I think a mean thought about someone. But I am built to be Christ’s temple. What an honor!

We are The Holy Spirit’s dwelling place. When I think of dwelling, I think safety and peace and comfort. I think of a refuge and a safe haven. I feel calm and warm and at ease.

We are the place The Holy Spirit feels safety and peace and comfort. We are its refuge, safe haven. We make the Spirit feel calm and warm and at ease.

So wherever I flee, wherever I roam, wherever I call home, I can know that 1) my true home is Heaven and 2) I’m the Holy Spirit’s home.

God is for us. God is with us. God is in us.

Bearing my Cross · Body. · Life Written. · Mind. · Popular Posts. · Post-Grad. · The Word · Unashamed.

Unashamed: Real-Life Scenarios of my Bipolar Experience.

“Oh my goodness. You’re being so bipolar.”

That’s what I used to say when someone acted happy and okay one moment, then angry and frustrated the next. If someone’s mood suddenly switched from carefree and on, to grumpy and off.

But then I was diagnosed with bipolar, so I stopped using that phrase.

bipolar is so much more than acting moody.

Since I was diagnosed just over a year ago, I’ve experienced each and every level and symptom of the mental disorder. I can vouch for the world that bipolar isn’t just a girl “on her time of the month,” or a boy “being moody and dark.”

Here are a few scenarios of what bipolar has looked like for me through the past year:

  1. Feeling really great and buying all of Anthro. Okay, obviously I didn’t buy all of their clothes. But I definitely clicked the “add to shopping bag” button three too many times when perusing their sale section online.
  2. Feeling really down and making an excuse not to go out with friends. This happened repeatedly during those weeks when I felt off. I was ashamed to spend time with other people, because I feared I would lower their mood, too. So I simply stayed inside. A hostage to my disorder.
  3. Feeling awesome and ordering a last-minute ticket to Florida, but then feeling depressed when I actually get there and not enjoying the vacation. Last summer, I asked for a ticket to FL as a birthday present from my parents. I felt so great and was elated to reunite with my dear friend Gabbie. By the time the trip rolled around, I was having an off couple of weeks, so I was sluggish and spoke little and felt down the entire trip.
  4. Feeling very inspired and writing three songs in one day. As a creative, I love to tell stories through music (especially guitar, sometimes ukulele). During moments when I’m high, I feel inspired by God and the people around me and my past, so I usually crank out some songs. Of course, when I’m down, I can’t bring myself to play a note.
  5. Feeling absolutely nothing and watching copious amounts of Criminal Minds episodes back-to-back. While I do enjoy the occasional binge-watching off my latest favorite shows, it’s not the same when I’m down. When I’m low, watching TV is about all I can muster myself to do. I feel like I can’t do anything and I feel like I am nothing, so I do nothing.

bipolar looks different for everyone.

Manic and hypomanic episodes are different for everyone, and so is depression. Everybody responds to their mental illness in different ways.

Since my diagnosis, I now encourage people to do a few things:

  1. Be aware. . Be aware that 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental illness. Be careful of things you say and do, because it can be hurtful to call people “bipolar” if they’re moody, “OCD” if they’re organized, “depressed” if they’re just sad.
  2. Educate yourself. Read books, watch documentaries, browse articles. If you or someone you love suffers from a mental disorder, learn about it. Even if you don’t know anyone, it’s likely you will meet someone who does.
  3. Be compassionate. At the end of the day, we are still people, just like you. Sometimes there really isn’t anything you can do but pray for healing. Sometimes all we want is for you to sit beside us. Ask how you can help, but don’t be offended if there answer is, “There’s nothing you can do.”

We are fighters.

I fight every day to be as healthy as I can be.

I try to eat well, exercise often, meditate daily, pray continually, work hard. I do my best to perfectly combine my medicine and balanced lifestyle in the hopes that a deep, deep depression, or a crazy, crazy manic phase won’t overtake me.

I fight to share my story on here and in person,

so that people can understand 1) there is nothing wrong with people who have mental illnesses and 2) we are human, too. I try to be transparent and honest and open about my personal struggles–bipolar and otherwise–and my walk as a Christian.

Please, if you are ever curious about my testimony or about how my disorder has changed me, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email or DM my LL&G Facebook page.

I’m here to help you learn and grow and share. And I’d love to have a conversation with you.