Bearing my Cross · Body. · Friendship · Life Written. · Love Languages · Love or Something Like It · Mind. · Popular Posts. · Post-Grad. · Rockstars. · Sojourn. · spirit · The Word · To My Mister · Unashamed. · Uncategorized

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. · Love Languages · Love or Something Like It · Mind. · Popular Posts. · Post-Grad. · Red Bus. · Sic'Em Forever. · Sojourn. · spirit · The Word · Unashamed.

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 · Life Written. · Popular Posts. · Post-Grad. · Sojourn. · The Word

Do Something: Thoughts on How to Respond to the Syrian Crisis.

Photo courtesy of The Odyssey

There’s a lot happening in syria right now.

I’d like to start off by saying 1) this is not a place to scrutinize Trump’s latest attacks on Syria and 2) I am the furthest thing from a political genius. Also, please follow the underlined linked phrases in this post for more information from reputable sources.

As a journalism major, I think there is so much value in engaging in conversations about current events. As a Christ follower, I think it’s vital we understand such events and discover how God wants us to respond in whatever is happening in our world.

In case you missed it, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons in an attack on his own people last week. According to my research, at least 70 people died. The “fog of chemicals enveloped men, women and children, leaving many to suffocate, choke or foam at the mouth (Chicago Tribune).”

I watched videos and read articles that described the attack and gave a recap on the Syrian crisis. And oh my goodness, my heart absolutely ached for this nation, for its people and for our world.

One particular article from CNN told the story about a man who lost 25 relatives, including his wife and twins, in the attack. I cannot even fathom the heartbreak, devastation and utter loss this man must feel. I mourned for this man and his family, and for all of the other victims in the attack.

so what can we do?

My dear friend Rosie and I discussed how Christian Americans (and also just Americans) can feel disconnected to tragedies that happen on the other side of the world. We read articles and hear stories and our hearts break, but it seems like we are too far away to do anything.

We decided on a few basic steps in response to the crisis:

  1. Educate yourself. We cannot ignore what is happening in our nation and in our world. Watch the news, research articles (avoid “fake news” sites  –lol– that are not credible) and be hungry to know more.
  2. Talk about it.  We must engage in conversation about worldwide tragedies — like the Palm Sunday attacks — because we are all God’s people and we all matter. If we do not discuss them, then we essentially act like 1) they do not matter and 2) they did not even happen.
  3. Pray. Pray. Pray. We each pray in different ways, but we Believers pray to the same God. And He is the God who hears us, intercedes for us, directs us and loves us. He’s the God who protects, delivers and defends.

But wait. There’s even more.

There are refugees that live in the United States at this moment. And not only ones from Syria, but other nations who are also trying to escape terror in their countries. According to the Star-Telegram last May, at the time, Texas led the nation in number of refugees resettled. Dallas resettled nearly 700 last year.

There are so many nonprofits and ministries that engage the crisis by reaching out to local refugees, because they need love, care and attention, too. They need basics like clothes, toiletries, toys and books for school. There are also multiple charities collecting donations to aid Syrian refugees.

So guess what? You can do something.*

god calls his followers to do something.

He doesn’t necessarily call each of us to quit our jobs, pack our bags and fly to Syria. But He does call us to do something, absolutely anything to help the people He loves, and the people we are also called to love.

So start with baby steps. Start by learning. Start by talking. Start by praying. Start with what you have — a compassionate heart that reflects our Creator’s — and who you have — God, your church, your community of Believers.

Just do something.

*If you do not know of a ministry or nonprofit you can get plugged into, shoot me an email or comment below. We’ll find you something.

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

Just Around the Big Bend: On Suffering & Satisfaction

ep

I camped last weekend.

My friends Brian, Sarah, and I made the 10ish hour drive down to Big Bend National Park.

Our first full day there, we decided to hike to Emory Peak, Big Bend’s highest point. At 7,825 feet, this hike was more like a trek for an out-of-shape, wannabe adventurer like me.

It was rough.

Minutes into the walk, I was already panting. Then my calves began to hurt. Then the sun came out, and I sweated like none other.

I wouldn’t define my uphill battle as suffering, but I sure wasn’t thriving. I often asked myself, “Why was this a good idea?” Then I pictured me passing out and rolling down the mountain. Doubts and insecurities crept into my mind.

Mental illness is very much a part of human suffering. Bipolar disorder challenges me because I have little to no control of my moods: I can be happy one day, and hopeless the next.

When I am down, I feel like I am lost in the valley, desperately trying to find a way uphill to a better view, a better state. I doubt my ability to get better, I become insecure about every part of my being. Fear and uncertainty plague my thoughts and interrupt my dreams.

It was worth it.

The top of the peak offered some of the best views of the area below. Mountains and deserts and valleys unfolded beneath my feet.

It was a beautiful, breathtaking sight. My doubts and insecurities stilled. And peace and hope filled my mind.

There is so much satisfaction from overcoming challenges. Each time I come out of my depression, I am thrilled to feel like myself, like a human again. I call up friends and schedule outings, I just want to be around the people I love to show them my true self.

It’s a beautiful, breathtaking moment when you realize the storm has passed. Doubts and insecurities dissolve. And peace and hope reign.

We can make it through the valley to stand on the mountain.

I had a student minister who always said, “If you’re not in a storm, you either just came out of one, or are headed toward one.”

There will be storms, and they will tear apart your life without asking permission. Lightning will strike, thunder will roar, and you will hope and pray to be saved by sunlight.

Make it through the storms, withstand the tests and trials down in the valley. Look up to the mountain, know there is refuge and hope and goodness ahead.

Because the mountaintop view lets you see and understand the trek you hiked, the fears you battled, the storms you faced. The mountaintop moment satisfies you by knowing your suffering was worth it.

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

I’m on a Bike {On Journeying with God}.

BikeBuds

Lately, Pops and I took up biking.

Our family’s been in a bit of a health kick. With my diagnosis and our recent membership at Gold’s Gym, we’ve been focusing on eating well and exercising often.

Our family friend owns Plano Cycling & Fitness, a great bike shop nearby. So Pops and I found two starter road bikes to whoop our booties into shape.

Biking is fun!

I forgot how much I love to bike. Biking brings back every childhood memory of summers and freedom and feeling like I can fly.

Biking isn’t like running. It doesn’t hurt my knees as much, and I can go way farther in much less time.

To me, to run is about the escape.

To bike is about the journey.

When I ride with Pops, sometimes he leads and sometimes he follows. Most times, he lets me set the pace, and I happily trailblaze.

But sometimes he gets out of view, I lose him. I’m not afraid, but I’m lonely, and I pedal pedal pedal to catch up.

Pops reminds me of God on these rides.

Many times, God lets me lead the way. He’s blessed me with free will to do as I please, and choose where I go.

But other times, I’m too weak and exhausted to blaze my own trail. I need His guidance to lead the way.

And yet even other times, I am far behind, and I can’t see what He’s doing. I need to trust that He’s there, He’s there. He is good and He is way far ahead, and He’s making a way for me.

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

Dive In {On Going Headfirst into God}

13308149_203122093414648_6733760200629676289_o

Lately, I’ve taken up swimming as a form of exercise.

The other day, I was swimming, but I didn’t want to get my hair wet. I’m not legit, so I don’t have a swim cap. My hair was tied in a ponytail, and I was doggy paddling above the surface.

It simply didn’t cut it.

I tried to float a little, to flip and flop my arms around to save my hair. But it wasn’t the same as plunging under the surface, immersing myself into the cool, refreshing water.

So I went underneath. Then I picked up speed, swam laps, timed myself, and got the full experience.

God wants us to go in headfirst.

He’s an all-or-nothing type of God. He loves us despite our works, despite our efforts, but He wants to us dive into Him.

Doggy paddling will only get us so far. We begin to sink into the darkness and destruction and temptations of this world. We can’t see what’s going on underneath, we don’t know what surrounds us.

Diving in will let us swim farther, see more, feel more. It lets us receive the full experience of immersing ourself into faith, of receiving the fullness of His grace and mercy and peace.

Diving in shows commitment, and God is the most committed, faithful God.

Let’s stop doggy paddling.

It simply won’t cut it. We kid ourselves when we swim with caution, when we try to preserve our wants, needs, bank accounts, jobs, hair.

We are more than flailing around aimlessly in the water. We are able to dive deep into the depths of the ocean, to be washed by His love, to trust beyond borders and to swim by faith.

So what are you waiting for?

Dive in.

Bearing my Cross · Body. · For the Ladies · Friendship · Life Written. · Mind. · My Adoption · Popular Posts. · Post-Grad. · spirit · The Word · Unashamed.

Unashamed: Stable & Able {On God’s Strength vs. Mental Illness}

13243891_203119956748195_6724010833973776814_oBipolar disorder is marked by mania and depression.

When I’m manic, I lose sleep, my mind races, I talk too quickly, and I can’t sit still. I come off jittery and overwhelmingly excited over petty things.

I make plans, plans, plans, with people and for my life. They’re big and fun and grand, and often a bit too lofty.

When I’m depressed, I sleep too much, my mind slows, I talk too slowly (or I don’t talk at all), and I only want to sit or rest. I come off lethargic and seem underwhelmed by nearly every activity.

I refuse to make plans, I isolate myself from friends and family. I feel shame for feeling so down, and I don’t want to cause others to sink to my level.

Doctors want their patients to be stable.

“Stable” is a buzz word in the world of mental illness. We don’t want to be too energetic or over eager, but we don’t want to be too sad or underwhelmed.

We want a happy middle ground between a crazy high and a sleepy low. We want an even, strong, secure stance.

In the world of mental illness, we aim for normalcy.

But I’m not normal, so I aim to be able.

I’ve always been the odd one out: adopted, Asian, young, boyish, etc. I’ve never melted into a crowd easily, in some form or fashion I keep sticking out like a sore thumb.

Originally, I hated my diagnosis, because I feared it made me stick out too much. I felt sad, because I lost a life I loved in Nashville, and angry, because I lived a faithful life until now.

These days, I know I’ll never be perpetually stable. My disorder is called bipolar, so it throws me into a world of dichotomy, of yes and no, of black and white, of being “read” all over by strangers, family, friends.

My friend Britt prays that I can live in the grey. She prays I can be steady, steady, steady. And I am so grateul for her prayers.

I may never be stable, but with God, all things are able. He is the One who Heals, Protects, Redeems. He is the One who Fights my over-energy, and under-sadness.

He is the One who makes me new, not because I need to be fixed, but because I am a broken, sinful human being.,

We are not always stable. Our life crumbles to pieces when tragedy, betrayal, darkness strikes. We can ever be able, with God on our side.