Secrets and comfort

Last week left my stomach in knots, my shoulders hunched and my heart heavy. So heavy. So many of my conversations in the past few days have so far have ended with an “I’ve never told anyone” or “This can’t leave this conversation”.

As someone who takes on the problems and burdens of others, I’ve been feeling such a heaviness on my heart. I’ve been holding people’s pain, trauma and broken hearts inside my own heart, feeling the weight of it all dragging me down. I vented, cried, and tried to distract myself.

But all week I felt so hopeless. So small. So insignificant. So unhelpful.

Sobbing uncontrollably, I cried on a bench located in a little garden. I wish I could say I am a pretty crier, but I am not, and especially not during this cry. Big, heavy, ugly tears fell down my cheeks. I cried for every person that was hurting and for the own pain in my heart. Despite the bright flowers and peaceful breeze, I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders and it was all threatening to crush me.

And as I was crying, I thought of the verse, “Jesus wept”.

At a convention this past summer (yes, I promise this has to do with what I just said) I saw a girl with that tattooed on her. Intrigued, I asked her why she chose that particular verse. Her response was that it reminded her that Jesus is human….and he cries with us.

As I sat on that bench, I suddenly felt comforted. In John Chapter 11, Jesus gets word that Lazarus has died. Now Lazarus and Jesus were extremely close, so Jesus comes. Jesus meets Mary, Lazarus’s sister, on the road. Mary is crying and grieving.

And what does Jesus do?

He weeps WITH her. John 11:35 is the SHORTEST verse in the Bible and it simply states “Jesus wept”…..

Even though he knew what was going to happen.

Even though he had already said he was going to heal him.

He didn’t tell Mary to stop crying. He didn’t dismiss her emotions. Instead, he cried and grieved with her.

In that moment, I felt so loved and comforted. Jesus was crying with me on that park bench. He was crying with me as I was on the phone with my friend as they shared heartbreaking news, he cried with me when I sat in the parking lot of a hospital, and when I was sitting on the bathroom floor offering support to a friend.

He was crying with me through every heart-wrenching moment this week.

God isn’t scared of our emotions. In fact, I think that is why this Bible verse is so powerful. Jesus feels what we are feeling.

What’s powerful is that the story DOESN’T stop there. Jesus weeps with Mary and then heals Lazarus. He fixes everything…because ONLY HE can. The story is a reminder that Jesus is in control over every situation. I cannot fix anything. Only Jesus can.

And I’d rather have the Lord of the Universe fix problems than a girl like me who forgets to grab her phone and loses her glasses on a daily basis.

But on a serious note, I found so much comfort through this and I hope you will as well. Whether you are going through a hard time or someone close to you is, just know that Jesus sees everything. He is with you when you feel pain, sorrow, and stress. He is with you when you sob, cry, and even laugh. Remember, Jesus is the ONLY one that can fix it all.

Open Letter To My Little Brother

Note: This article was originally posted on the Odyssey, Open Letter To My Little Brother

Dear little brother,

First, it is crazy how much you have grown. I remember you being this short, dorky, rambunctious little boy. As you get older, I am shocked at how much you mature. I cannot wait to see the man you will be. Every day it seems you grow another inch! My advice to you during this time of growth and change is to never become complacent. Continue to grow, to ask questions, and to educate yourself. Above all this, never lose your child-like spirit! Your jokes and pranks are what keep this family always laughing. I wouldn’t trade your craziness for anything.

Secondly, I hope you know I’m sorry. I am sorry for the times I yelled at you. I’m sorry for the times I locked you out of my room or told you no boys allowed. I am sorry for the times I tattled on you or got you in trouble. I’m sorry for the times I wasn’t a great big sister to you. I hope you know that I truly wish I could take those moments back.

I want to know that I’m always going to act like your mom. Yes, I know you already have a mom. Yes, I know I’m just your sister. No, I will not stop acting like your mom. I will forever be your second mom. So just know you can always count on me for advice, hugs, and I-told-you-sos.

You should know that I’m always going to have a problem with you dating. Honestly, it still freaks me out. I promise that yes, one day I will like one of the girls you bring home. It just might not be anytime soon. I’m joking, well kind of. Just know that from the mess-ups to the make-ups, I will only be a phone call away. When you find the right one, know that I will be just as happy as you will be. You’re an amazing guy, and any girl in the world would be lucky to have you.

Thank you for being my partner-in-crime. From the crazy late-night adventures to the occasional rule-breaking, thank you for always having my back. I can’t help but laugh at all the adventures that we have had together. From the times you got roped into my craziness to the times that we got into trouble-together. Someday, we are going to have awesome stories to tell our children. Just know that no matter how old you get, I will always have your back.

Lastly, know that I love you. You are my little brother, but you are also my best friend. I mean, I have known you since day one (literally). So no matter what happens, know that you always have a friend in me.

Love,

Your Big Sister.

To the Person That ‘Cares Too Much’

Note: This article was originally posted at The Odyssey: To the Person that ‘Cares Too Much’

Dear person who cares too much,

I get it. Your friends and family don’t understand. They say you’re “too sensitive” or ask you “Why do you care/let it bother you?” You get told you overreact to things, or that you get attached too easily. But you can’t help it. You’ve always been that way and you really don’t know how to stop.

You care about people more than yourself. You will always drop everything you are doing in order to help those that need you. You probably always say “I’m sorry” even if you didn’t do anything wrong. You just can’t help it. I know you’ve stayed up late at night overthinking things, replaying situations and words said in your head.

Sometimes you care about people more than they care about you, and it hurts. It hurts because you can’t fathom why someone wouldn’t do the same things you’d do for them. When those expectations aren’t met, you’re devastated.

You are constantly giving people multiple chances and seeing past their imperfections. When people mistreat you, you blame yourself. You immediately recognize when people start acting differently towards you, often garnering the response “You’re looking too much into it,” but you just notice things.

You take on everyone’s emotions as your own. You find yourself constantly checking up on friends and family members just to see how they are. You’ve shown up to your friends’ houses with flowers and food to cheer them up. You listen to other people’s problems more than you talk about your own. You genuinely want those around you to be happy.
Feeling and caring so deeply about others can suck sometimes. It seems like you’re always getting hurt. The fall of a relationship or the severing of a friendship cuts like a knife and you always swear that next time you’re not going to love or care so deeply.

But you need to know that your caring heart is what this world needs. We live in a society that celebrates being the one in a relationship that cares the least. Seemingly, it is celebrated to be strong, to not care, to not feel deeply. People throw around the word “hate” every day. It isn’t a big deal when someone says they hate people or hate the world.

This is why you are needed. We don’t need more hate or selfishness in the world. We need more people with your type of heart. You have so much love and hope to give and the world needs that. Yes, you’re going to get hurt. But this is worth hurting for.

Do not let anyone, including yourself, make you view your big heart as a weakness. It is your strength. It is harder to recklessly and abashedly love others and be vulnerable than it is to not care. The people that are in your life need your love, care, and support. The world needs more people like you.

The right people will enter your life and appreciate your caring heart. Until then, keep spreading the love.

From,

A girl that also cares too much too

Just Care

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It was typical drive through Hampton. As I waited at a stoplight, my eyes were drawn to this man clutching this sign. Immediately, I was captured by the amount of hurt and anger in his eyes. I was so captivated that I immediately made a U-Turn. I picked him up some food, parked, and went out to talk to him.

(I asked his permission to take his picture because I’m hoping it will impact someone the way it impacted me.)

This is not the first time I saw a sign that stopped me dead in my tracks. I was in Washington D.C. for Spring Break, and my friend Emma and I saw a homeless man with a sign that said “This isn’t what I wanted to be when I grew up.” That sign humbled me. It reminded me how homelessness can happen to anyone and most do not chose to be homeless. This isn’t what they “dream of” either.

While in NYC and in D.C., I noticed that the homeless are often treated like less than humans. Many times, people do not even acknowledge their presence.  Homeless are often ignored and treated as less than. There have been online videos, where actors have played homeless individuals in need of medical attention and people walked right past them or ignored them.

We, as humans, especially as Christians, we need to CARE. Not just donate our time and money once in a while, But REALLY CARE. Many times, we are more likely to share a status, a video, or an article about helping the homeless rather than ACTUALLY helping them. Why is that? It’s time for us all, especially Christians, to get out of our comfort zones and DO SOMETHING!

We all give the excuse that we don’t have money (you can buy a meal at McDonalds for under $5 or buy a bottle of water for cheap) or time (it doesn’t take long to stop and talk to someone, to show you care- I promise).

Stop making excuses and make it happen! Be the change in this world!

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Proverbs 14:31

My brother had an amazing experience with an elderly homeless man in a wheelchair, struggling to get onto the sidewalk. The man confided in my brother how he struggles daily trying to get onto this sidewalk and how no one ever stops to help him. He was a War Vet and was honored that my brother would take the time to help him and speak to him.

God calls us to be HIS hands and feet. We are called to love, to serve, and to care!

I encourage you to go outside your comfort zone. Have some food or water in your car, so you can give it out, when needed. Stop and talk to the homeless and ask if you can pray for them or help them. You may be pleasantly surprised by their answers.

More than anything, genuinely care!!

You will be surprised how lonely many of them are. They just want someone to “see” them, acknowledge them…make them feel “human”.

Many desire someone to just care, to acknowledge them, to give them a little bit of time. That’s Free and wouldn’t cost you a thing, so no more excuses….

Like NIKE says, “Just Do It”!

The Struggle with Identity

Recently, I wrote a Spoken Word for the Christian Broadcasting Network on Identity. The response was overwhelmingly positive! It will be at the bottom of this post and is also accessible through the video tab. I encourage you to read this short blog post and watch the video! Feel free to share the video as well! I want more people to realize their identity in Christ!

Identity is something that many people think only teenagers struggle with. However, I am finding that it is a struggle that people of all ages, gender, and backgrounds have. Who am I? For some, we identify ourselves by our accomplishments. We are the executive of ________. The boss of _________. Others identify themselves by their family or partners. I am the wife of ____________. The son of _________. Or perhaps it’s by our talents. I am great at _________.

But what happens when that changes?

If we find our identity in being a military brat, what happens when our father/mother is no longer in the military? If we find our identity in being the pastor’s wife, what happens when our husband is no longer the pastor? If we find our identity in being the best singer, what happens when we can no longer sing? If we find our identity in our job title, what happens when we lose our job?

We end up suffering from an identity crisis.

Recently, I had the privilege to hear Rachel Lovingood preach at a conference at Point Harbour. She is the author of a great book (join me in reading it!) called Salvaging My Identity. She pointed out that there are constant identity crises throughout our lives.

Transition from elementary to middle school. Identity Crisis. Transition from middle school to high school. Identity Crisis. Transition from high school to college. Identity Crisis. Transition from college to real world. Identity Crisis. Transition from one job to another. Identity Crisis. Transition from single status to marriage. Identity Crisis. Transition from marriage to divorce. Identity Crisis. Transition from children to empty nest. Identity Crisis.  The struggle with our identity is something that everyone struggles with at some point in their lives.

Our identity cannot and should not be found in anything besides who God says we are.

As a eighteen-year-old leaving for college soon, I still struggle with figuring out who I am and what I believe. If we’re honest with ourselves, we all do, even if we think we have ourselves figured out.

I want to challenge you to read through the Bible and start discovering who God says you are. It’s rather unfortunate that many Christians are unaware of the identity that God has given them. Many can quote that we are all “wonderfully and fearful made” but the Bible talks about SO MUCH MORE than that! I encourage you to start discovering for yourself what God says you are!

Click the link to check out my spoken word! Let me know what you think!

Who Am I? Spoken Word

Dirty Past

“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future”
Those are wise words scribbled on a gas station bathroom wall that led me to think. How many times do we let ourselves be defined by our past? How many times do we let our past hinder us from doing what God has called us to do?
Isn’t it great that the Lord of Lords already knows our past?
The King of Kings, the maker of heaven already knows YOUR story
AND YET
He still has an AMAZING FUTURE planned for you BECAUSE of your past.
It’s easy to get stuck on the past. It’s easy to dwell on the unfair circumstances we were given, the people in our life that hurt us, or the tragic losses we have endured. It’s easy to dwell on the past people we were and the sins previously committed.
Anyone can dwell in the past, it takes so much more to look to the future.
Sometimes we let our past define us. We let everything that’s happened define who we are. But the past doesn’t define us, it just shapes us. Did you get that? Those things FORMED who you are but DO NOT DEFINE who you are. You are not your sins, your circumstances, or your losses. You are the son/daughter of the Creator who has given you a clean slate.
The Devil will remind you of your past every chance he gets. The Devil knows your name and calls you by your sin. God knows your sin and calls you by your name. (Ricardo Sanchez)

So many people let their past stop them from pursuing what God has told them. “I can’t preach about purity, I lost my virginity when I was young.” “I am too messed up. To scarred. No one will listen.”
Not True
If God has called you to be something, you can do it. If God wants you to do something, you can do it. God doesn’t use “perfect” people. He doesn’t just use middle class Americans from a two parent household that were raised on Christian values and never had any financial instability or emotional trauma.
We are so quick to put down ourselves from the circumstances that we’ve been dealt with instead of realizing that God can use that to bring HIM glory.

Philippians 3:33
“Focus in this one thing; forgetting the last and looking to what lies ahead.”

God’s purpose is not limited by your past and all those things that used to define who you were.

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God doesn’t use perfect people. No one is perfect! Rather, God specializes in taking broken people and using them to further his kingdom. No matter what you’ve done, who’ve you’ve been, or where you come from God CAN and WILL use you.

We see this in Luke 8:26-39
A man lived as an outcast for many years. He lived naked and alone in the tombs of Gadara. He was posses with demons. When he saw Jesus, he cried out for Jesus to have mercy on him. Jesus commanded the demons to leave him and then cast them into a herd of pigs. The pigs rushed down the steep bank into a lake and drowned. The man was finally free, both physically and spiritually. The man was so thankful for what Jesus had done that he begged to travel with Jesus. But Jesus had other plans. Instead, Jesus told him to go and share his story of what Jesus had done for him….and the man DID.

The terrible thing he had to live with became a story of healing and hope. It gave his life purpose. It became a testimony of healing.
“People can deny Christ, dispute Scripture and ignore prophecy, but they cannot deny, dispute or ignore God’s transformational power in someone’s life.”(Proverbs 31 Women Ministry)  Our stories of trials, heartache, pain, adversity are meant to serve as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and power. We are to show that God can take what the devil meant for evil and turn it into something good.

God NEVER wastes our pain. Only we do that. There is truly a purpose for everything that we endure. The man did not sit around and say “But no one will listen to me…I’ve been possessed. People will judge me based on my past.” By doing that, he would’ve disobeyed what Jesus had told him, but also missed out on the amazing opportunity to share how God had made a difference in his life, despite the burdens of his past.
There is a purpose to your past and God will use you BECAUSE of your past, not despite it.

What’s the plan?

As a high school senior, I am attempting to figure out what my future consists of next. Should I do a gap year and travel? I have a love for other cultures, travel and want to go back to Africa.  Should I apply to college? I have always been driven and love to learn. I always talked about being a lawyer ever since I was little.  What colleges should I apply to? Christian or non-Christian? In-state or out-of-state?  Far away from home or close-by? WHAT IS GOD’S WILL FOR MY LIFE?

In life, we often find ourselves at a crossroad. Maybe you’re like me, the high school senior attempting to figure out the next step. Or you’re a college graduate venturing into the “real” world, as adults like to say. Or perhaps you’re the retired adult trying to figure out what to do next. Or maybe you’re just a crossroad trying to find a new career, a hobby, etc.

Crossroads can be a pretty scary place to be. I have seen a lot of Christians stand at the crossroad saying “Well, I’m figuring out God’s plan for my life.” They say that as they sit and wait….and wait….and wait….and wait. I’ve watched them wait on God for Him to reveal his plan to them.

Which is great…….

but what if that isn’t the point?

Google “God’s plan for my life” and you’ll get hundreds of results from books and articles about how to find and focus on his plan for you. It’s a topic that seems to be preached about in churches and bible studies all over the world. We hear it all the time!

Maybe I’m crazy for saying this, but I don’t think God is always going to tell us His plan. I think that sometimes, God’s plan is on a need-to-know basis, and apparently, He thinks we don’t need to know.

Now let me get clarify something before I continue. I am NOT saying that God DOESN’T have a plan for us…God does have a plan for us.

It is seen in Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” However, I don’t think we should focus so much time, energy and effort trying to figure out God’s plan for our lives. If we continue down this track, it typically leads to one of these two things

1. I GOT THIS

I was addicted to the George Lopez show for a period of my life. George, the main character of the show, had a tag line he always said. Whenever someone doubted him or wasn’t sure of his ideas, he would tell them, “I GOT THIS.” Sometimes, we mistake OUR plan for our lives with God’s plan for our lives. We have everything planned out, from the college degree we will get, to the type of home we will buy, the perfect man or women we want to marry, all the way down to the number of kids we will have. This is dangerous! It becomes self-centered and self-fulfilling. We take control of our life. We control where we are going and what we are doing and wanting, instead of putting our trust and faith in God. He ultimately knows what is best for us and what we REALLY need.

  1. I’M CHILLING

If the above description didn’t fit you like a glove, perhaps this will resonate with you. Sometimes we get stagnant as we wait for God’s plan. We get lazy. We just wait for God to tell us what to do, instead of being proactive. We become complacent, not doing anything and just leaving EVERYTHING up to God. Yes, God is very capable of doing everything, but work is required of you too. That coveted job position will not just fall into your lap, if you’re late for work, don’t do what you’re supposed to do, or don’t even apply for it. God needs you to do your part too.

Both of these are negative. We either become focused on controlling our lives or we become lazy and complacent. I know many that get anxious. I have cried out to God on multiple occasions, begging him “What do you want me to do? Just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it!” Only to be answered with silence. If we don’t see an answer or hear one from God, it’s easy to feel forgotten or ignored by Him. But you are NOT! God hears every prayer and every cry.

So what’s the solution to all this? If we can’t know God’s will, what do we do?

Just GO! Move forward!  The secret to finding out God’s plan for your life isn’t to keep asking God over and over, to tell you the plan. It honestly doesn’t matter where God is taking you. Just go! The reality is none of us know where God is taking us. He changes things up all the time. Yet, we shouldn’t fear. He knows our hearts better than we do.

I read somewhere the other day that “If you knew God’s plans for your life, you would abandon your own.”

So YES, God does have a plan for my life as well as yours. I just don’t think he always tells us. Why would we need faith and to trust in him, if we knew all the answers?

How would faith play a part if we knew what we are supposed to do at every crossroads? Our obsession for figuring out God’s plan for our life is really just our obsession with control. We want to know God’s plan with us because we want to be in control. This is an area I know well and I struggle with. I want to know the answers, so I can control my life. I want to know so I can feel in control of where I am going.

This is where faith comes in, which can only come from knowing God. Faith is not knowing the plan. Faith is trusting that God has you, right where he needs you. Exactly right where you are. Faith is moving forward, trusting him.

I remember something my mother told me in the midst of a particularly frustrating night. I was upset because I was tired of guessing what God wanted me to do. I was frustrate until she said, “Move forward. Apply to wherever you want to. DO SOMETHING. Then trust that God will direct your steps. He’ll move you and shift you to where He wants you.”

If our desires are aligned with God’s, then he will fulfill them.Psalm 37: 4 “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” NIV

God hasn’t promised to reveal his complicated and beautiful plan four our lives. He’s promised Himself. He’s promised to give us the desires of our heart. The heart that he gave us.

Knowing the answer to everything is such a boring way to live. I want to live my life being surprised by God! In everything that I pursue and do, I want him to show up. Therefore, I need to learn to trust Him. Not hoping he will see me through it, but KNOWING he already has.

His way is better than anything I could have hoped or dreamed…or did myself.