The more things change…

Happy 2019!2019

I was thinking about what I wanted my first post for the year to be all about. During this time of year, blogs are plastered with either personal affirmations of new year goals or tips on how to achieve them. I must admit myself that I’ve got my own list of  to-do’s.

Recently I joined a kickboxing gym and I got to say…. kicking and punching things is FUN!!! There is something about putting on my wrist wraps and gloves that feels like a super hero transformation. My mindset changes once my gear touches my skin- and I become this fiercer version of myself that I wish I could be 24-7. Among my resolutions, I intend to keep with my new routine, and master speed bag punches (it’s so deceptively simple!)

2019 changeAs the page in our lives turns to the 2019 chapter, it’s second nature to consider the edits we need to make in our story. Wrongs to make right, new fears to conquer- or reclaiming the jeans that became a size too small over Christmas to fit into. All of these resolutions are centered around improving- but I am wondering if there is anything in our lives that we can leave just the way it is. Are we so obsessed with changing imperfections, we fail to acknowledge wonderful things that should remain the same?

So I challenged myself to come up with at least one thing in my life that I can just leave alone for 2019. And I got to admit- it stumped me for a bit.  The initial difficulty of this task reminded me that I need to appreciate myself and my strengths more (add to the resolution pile). But don’t let me digress.

As I reflect on my 2018, one thing that I can resolve to carry into 2019 is to continue telling my teddy bear of a husband how much I love and appreciate him and all he does. My man is my hero: he works hard and is fiercely loyal to the people he loves (love you babe!)

2019 love

So- what’s your thing? What are you already doing right that you must continue to bring into 2019? None of us are perfect, but life demands that we stop once in a while to take note of such things. 2019 needs that thing (or things)!

Go encouraged!

Advertisements

Hind’s Feet

I roll out of bed at 6:40 am. It’s just another random Thursday. November 8th 2018 was going to be just like any other week day. I wake up. I get dressed. I fumble with my eye liner. I make breakfast. I pack lunches for my husband and I and we drive off to work.

Wake up-perform-repeat right?

I have my egg sandwich in one hand and my yogurt in another. I plummet into my sofa for a speedy breakfast and a snapshot of the news before it’s time to grab my jacket and head for the car.  As I bit into my sandwich I do my best not to get the condiments on my outfit. I flip on the tv to the Today show…..

And there it is.

Breaking news: 12 dead in a California bar shooting. College night at the Borderline bar & grill in Thousand Oaks CA gone horribly wrong. Dancing and relaxation turned to gun shots, screaming and mourning as someone took everyone’s lives, including his own into his hands- and created a massacre no one will soon regret.

My heart sinks as the story sets the tone for a somber day. Sadness for precious lives lost and for those left behind to battle with grief. Fear as this story reinforces the reality that mass shootings in places that are meant to be safe are happening far too often.  Work places- schools-churches; nothing seems to be off limits to  this unpredictable danger. Before one story of mass murder goes cold, another unfolds.

This tragic chapter in American history made me think about Habakkuk: the book I seldom read before recently, and the man who lived in a time that in many ways mirrored our today.  Habakkuk was surrounded by inexplicable injustice: stealing; violence and a  corrupt justice system.

The bad guys seemed to win every single time.

And to top it off: Habakkuk is frustrated that God just seems to not even care. It seems like his prayer for justice falls on deaf ears. That God has turned his back on countless victims. I imagine that many of us when we see our current social fabric stained with hate, violence and death;  we can’t help but wonder the same thing:

God, where are you? Why have you checked out when innocent lives leave home and never come back? When people die trying to be heroes?

Don’t you care anymore?

Why won’t you do something?

I have come to appreciate this book in times like this, It’s entirely focused on Habakkuk’s prayers and mindset. It’s comforting to see that even a well to do prophet struggled to understand the apparent lack of action on God’s part in the face of tragedy.

But it is also comforting to see that God replies to his hurt. He reminds him- and all of us that He sees the injustice- and He is going to do something about it that will amaze you (Hab 1:5). In fact, His plan for restoration and justice is in motion before we even know it.

God told Habakkuk that he  was going to use the Babylonians to conquer and humble the Jews who were so enmeshed in their schemes and sins. Then the Babylonians was going to get their just desserts. Habakkuk’s faith in God’s sense of justice was restored, but he had to admit that he didn’t understand this plan.

Have you ever felt like that? I know I have.

God hasn’t gone deaf or blind. And He has a plan. We may not understand what He could possibly do on the heels of such devastation, and the atmosphere of fear it has created- but in our cries to God, we must declare our faith that He remains a God of justice, and he is in the business of righting wrongs and restoring what has been broken and destroyed.

Like Habakkuk we have got to watch diligently and expectantly for God to show up (Hab 2:1)

My prayer is that we can be like Habakkuk. While we have our human moments of weariness, anger and fear; and we can’t make sense of tragedies like Borderline Bar, we can leave it all at His feet because he has a plan. And he loves us. And we know that all things He works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). In this world, we will all face troubles, but as Habakkuk 3:19 says:

The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army];
He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet
And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my[a]high places [of challenge and responsibility].

deer

 

My friends, in the midst of the challenge there is a plan:

For those who are hurting

For the victimized

For those who intend to inflict violence

For healing and restoration

 

 

And a big part of that plan is that he gives us this inexplicable strength to survive the challenge. Through the uphill battle, where it is far too easy to trip over fear, and there is the threat of falling backwards into hopelessness. Where each step is labored as we fight against the forces of uncertainty and anger that press back with a weight like gravity. And exhaustion beats against our heads mercilessly we try to navigate today and face tomorrow. We can be confident that if we make God our strength, we will make it to the top of whatever mountain we must climb.

Go encouraged.

 

Glorious shame series: Broken beginnings to beautiful endings

Glorious ShameSo I’ve begun a series called “Glorious Shame”, inspired during a hike I was on. Those who know me best may just experienced their jaws dropping to the floor because I have always had the personality of a cat- I’ve never done outdoors if I can help it. Especially for exercise.

Well I’ve been doing some changing you see. Outdoors depict God’s artwork across the seasons. And I am developing a whole new appreciation for the colors and tones of fall. And I like to see it all from the top of a steep mountain that make my legs cry.

Fall-by-Peter

I’ve come to enjoy turning hikes into quiet time with God: seeing the chaos of man made structures surrounded by the vast spread of nature remind me of how omnipotent He is. Then before you know it, I’m meditating on his love for little old me: just one small entity that makes up this vast world.

Then I got the idea of “Glorious Shame.”

Glorious shame is presented as separate small stories. Each story is a testimony of how ordinary people were transformed by the extraordinary power of God and overcame their former shame. It is meant to be a celebration of something all believers share: testimonies.

I chose the name GS because testimonies all start off with a point of brokenness. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably felt shame about your past or struggles you’ve been through.

But you never stay at the point of pain or despair or doubt, do you. You find yourself being pulled from sinking sand and gloriously rescued by Jesus. And  story of that journey is what inspires hope in others, and strengthens faith in God.

So sit back, grab a nice cup of coffee or tea or cupcake or whatever you like, and just read story 1. Then reflect on your own testimony- and share your own “glorious shame” with someone!

serena glorious shame

Part one: Secret darkness in the mind

The battle began each morning when I opened my eyes. My first thoughts were never about work or what I was having for breakfast. It was always a familiar dark whisper that would echo over and over in my mind until I complied:

“You’ve got to weigh yourself. Better make sure that you are not a pound over 110.”

My fear and guilt over yesterday’s calories drag me from my bed to the digital scale in the bathroom. I lost some weight and have been getting better at eating fewer calories each day, but that nagging whisper always said that it wasn’t good enough. That I still wasn’t pretty enough.

I take a deep breath and climb on to the cold glass top. I could feel my heart pounding as the scale calibrates my mass.

I was 110 even yesterday morning. Today, I need to be less. I broke down and ate my entire sandwich for lunch yesterday like an idiot but for dinner I just had an apple and some carrot sticks so that should even out the bad right?

1-1-2.2

I stood on the scale in utter shock and my already anxious mood plummeted into perpetual despair.

112.2 was the proof that I had failed. 112.2 proved that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. Tears strolled down my cheeks as I got off the scale and headed to the sink.

“What’s wrong with me?” I asked my teary reflection, “Why do I see nothing but fat when I look at you? Why can’t I get smaller even with the exercise and the restricted calories?”

“You’re pathetic,” the dark whisper in my mind reminded me, “You know what you must do but you’re too weak minded to do it.  Eat less and you will finally be a ten in the mirror. You will finally fit in with everyone else.”

I pinched my legs and my waist and felt the self-hatred consume me. My legs had no tone and my waist was still too big!

That day, I was determined to calorie restrict and exercise even longer and harder. It was exhausting to put on my mask at work and pretend like everything was okay. It was so exhausting to sit in the lunch room with my apple and carrot sticks and have my coworkers ask if that was all I was eating. But I was determined to finally reach the point when I could accept the woman in the mirror staring back at me.

Part two: Drowning

The name of the dark whisper in my head was finally uttered aloud one day, when I woke up in a hospital bed, attached to tubes in my arms. The doctor explained that I fainted at work and my panicked co workers called 911. He said that I was terribly underweight at just 90 pounds and severely malnourished.

He said that I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. There it was. Anorexia was the what coiled itself firmly  around every inch of my mind and said that I wasn’t good enough.

Anorexia said that I would never be free.

Being force fed and diagnosed didn’t help me to feel better. Being in that hospital only meant that I was trapped with the whispers in my head. This was going to undo all the progress I made, and there was nothing I could do about it! As I laid on the hospital bed, I could feel by body getting fatter and my self-hatred rising. The torment went so deep sounded so loud that it was hard to sleep.

And at that moment, I just wanted to die. The task of trying to make myself good enough was so daunting and heavy. I felt like I could never be free of that dark, cold whisper. Who could ever unravel it it from my mind and body?

I was transferred to an in-patient behavioral health unit and prescribed with therapy, antidepressant medication, and frequent visits with a Nutritionist. It was encouraging to meet other women who felt just like me and to see their genuine commitment to better mental health, but I wasn’t strong like them. All my life I’ve been mediocre and now it’s up to me to adopt a new mindset to save my life? If I’m in the driver’s seat, then this car was destined to wreck before the key was even placed into the ignition. I was afraid that after my release, I would go right back to my scale and the dark whisper in my mind. It was just waiting for me to leave this regimented environment and he would truly let me have it.

Part three: Jesus to the rescue

One day, while I was doing a crossword puzzle, the Chaplain dropped by my room with 2 books. I attended one of Miss. Gibson’s prayer circles because my therapist recommended that I venture out and try some the other support groups at the facility. I hadn’t been to church since I was probably 12, but I just felt led to sit in on Miss Gibson’s prayer circles: I figured that I was in such bad shape mentally, I could use all the intervention I could get. Some prayers couldn’t hurt right? It even felt good to share about my struggle with Anorexia.

I looked down at the literature she dropped on my bed. One was a NIV Bible. The other one was called “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyer. I was surprised- and a little disappointed with my gift. I could barely keep focused enough to finish a brochure. Did Chaplain Gibson really expect me to read all of this?

My disappointment was plain as day on my face, but Chaplain wasn’t disheartened by it, “Good habits aren’t easy to form, but nothing that’s worth it comes easy, does it.” she said reassuringly.

“I guess, but what do you want me to do with these?” I didn’t want to sound ungrateful because Miss Gibson was nothing but kind to me, but I suppose being in an environment that promoted honesty made me forget my tact as well.

“Read them of course! Serena: do you want to get well?”

“Of course I do.” Chaplain smiled and sat on the bed next to me. She took my hand in hers and squeezed them reassuringly. Her kindness melted my apprehension away.

“Then you got to fight the bad thoughts with good ones. And you need a relationship with the One who specializes in supernatural victories to help you form a new relationship with yourself.”

The Serena before in-patient treatment probably would have dismissed her, but something about her words pricked my soul and made the yearning for victory and renewal of my entire being scream above the hopeless I felt about recovery.

What if this Jesus that Chaplain shared with her prayer circle could become more than just a story, and clean away the darkness that made me so tired and worn?

I knew that nothing meant more than the possibility of living a life where I had peace of mind, and where what I saw in the mirror was beauty and strength. Nothing meant more than the joy of hope.

Maybe I would try to read these books. And pray like I’ve never prayed before. What did I possibly have to lose?

I picked up the Bible, “Where do I even start?”

How about for tonight, you read the story of the woman with the issue of blood. And we will both pray for God to show you what you should read next.

“What about the Joyce Meyer book?”

“Read a chapter a day, starting tomorrow.”

Chaplain prayed over me. She prayed about me reading the Bible. She prayed for healing from Anorexia. And she prayed that I would desire a relationship with him. I couldn’t explain it but while she uttered those words and her arm scooped me closer to her, I felt this peace flood over me. It was something I never felt before. Not even when I was taking my medication. That peace was so precious I didn’t want it to leave. I needed more.

That night in my room, I read the Matthew chapter 9: 20-22. The woman with the issue of blood’s story was short, but I felt as though I related to her. How much effort it must have been just to make it to the robe of Jesus. But He stopped and healed her. I felt worn and tired just as she was, tethered to a persistent sickness.

Despite my earlier complaints to the Chaplain about reading, I kept reading the rest of the chapter where he healed a dead girl and two blind men. Then I decided I needed to read the entire book of Matthew. I made the time to read the Battlefield of the Mind as well during the day. I was in a constant war against spiritual darkness and I saw all the signs in my own life. How hungry I was for healing and victory over my mind!

Part 4: Redeemed

Before I was released from treatment, I used that prayer circle to give my life to Jesus. I didn’t want to walk through another moment of life without him. I couldn’t. I think I made Chaplain Gibson’s day when I slowly raised my hand to tell everyone that I wanted them to pray with me and help  me to get “born again”. She got up and hugged me so tight that I could barely breathe. She squeezed my hands tenderly and led me in prayer to the biggest decision I could ever make.

And through an active decision to read the Word daily and feast on the daily restoration it brought to my mind- I noticed that the dark whispers grew quieter and quieter. Jesus was actually winning. And I no longer felt that anxiety about my appearance. Like the woman with the issue of blood, I was a daughter who was made whole through my faith. I was healed!

Adjusting my thought life is still a journey, but I no longer see a skewed image of myself in the mirror. Thoughts of self-hatred no longer plague me in the mornings. Instead I make the effort to pray first and invite Jesus right in to be a part of every single day.

I thank God that I’ve made it this far, and that he continues little by little, to lead me on as I run my glorious race.

The end

 

 

 

Conviction versus Condemnation

 

“Condemnation is like a menacing shout;

but Conviction, an encouraging whisper.

Condemnation  does all it can to make me feel insignificant;

but Conviction builds up my strength.

Condemnation tells me all about the things that I will never become;

Conviction however guides me to overcome every obstacle.

Condemnation will hide the truth if I let it;

but Conviction reveals every lie in my mind.

Condemnation attaches the shackles of guilt and darkness without us even knowing, but conviction reveals the shackles and offers us the keys to freedom.”

—> Shanica Roberts

I’ve been thinking a lot about Conviction versus Condemnation this week and I have Priscilla Shirer’s “Discerning the Voice of God” Bible study to thank for that (Priscilla, if you ever read this, you;re awesome!!!). I am currently studying this topic with a group of awesome ladies from my local church. As I enjoy fellowship with my group and learn of everyone’s experiences and struggles; I am faced with my own. That’s right- I’ve been dealing with thoughts of condemnation throughout the week- and I am learning to cope with them in a different, proactive way.

 

ugly statueWhen you’ve owned something long enough, you learn to accept it as just another facet of life that may never change. Much like that figurine in your house that was gift from someone you cherish, but in all honesty, the thing is butt-ugly.

You may not display this figurine in a prominent area in your house (unless if gift giver is visiting). Maybe you stick it in a room that does not get as much traffic so you avoid having to look at it as much as possible. But you would never think of throwing it away either. After all, it was a gift from someone you loved and respected. What would they say if they knew that you had thrown it out? 

Month after month, year after year, we accept that this ugly fixture as a permanent part of our dwelling space. We get comfortable with it. And if you look at it long enough- it doesn’t look half bad right?

Well, I’ve done just the same thing with condemning thoughts. With enough internal repetition over years, much like several gazes at the ugly figurine, I’ve accepted certain internal dialogue as truth, and something I would never overcome. Here are among my top thoughts of condemnation:

  • I’m no longer a size 8 so I’m not as attractive.
  • The only two options in life are perfectionism or failure. Get it right the first time or else!
  • You’ve always been mediocre: you could never inspire others with your writing.
  • i should be so much further along in my walk with God!

What does your internal dialogue sound like? Is it riddled with ugly affirmations gifted to you by painful past events, or by hurtful people? Are you like me- and you just came to accept those thoughts and messages as truth? Even though it doesn’t feel good at all?

This week God has been convicting me that those toxic messages ARE NOT HIM. That I need to renew my mind and the only fighting chance I have is to develop the habit of rehearsing his Word when those thoughts raise their ugly heads. For years, I’ve always heard that the Word of God is the sword of the spirit, but it’s only been recently that I’ve been implementing a practical method of getting his word down into the depths of my mind. Something that goes beyond prescribed Sunday Sermons or pre-planned reading time so you can earn your legalistic check mark for the day.

I’ve been fighting condemnation by writing Bible verses on index cards, and placing them in convenient places within my everyday environment: like my work desk.When I hear the menacing shouts, I read the cards and repeat the words until I feel that quiet, peaceful whisper drown out the shouts. Sometimes I have to say the words aloud. Then when the thought returns, so does the memorization of uplifting, power filled scripture. It actually works!

bible read

Internet: Condemnation is not the voice of God. It is certainly not a gift he gives us, so why are we holding on to it? It’s time to topple those ugly thoughts over and allow the lies to shatter. If we can get on the offensive and keep rehearsing the Word of God, it will bring the strength needed to topple those thoughts right over!

What do you struggle with and what Bible verses offer you encouragement to get through the day? How do you access those verses? Is it index cards, podcasts or an app on your phone? I want to hear about it!

I will leave you with this Bible verse (which I wrote on an index card) that helps me out:

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” -> Jeremiah 15:16

Go encouraged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Encouraged!

Seventy times seven

Heartbreak

Every time she ever thought about him,  a darkness would descend on her face. And every time she spoke to him in person, it was hard to look him in the eyes. Conversations were only short and superficial: he would ask her about the weather; then she would ask him about work. She would take in his responses while focusing intently on his shirt or at whatever was behind his head. If she avoided his eyes and appeared aloof, she would be safe.

She had forgiven him at least a thousand times already, but reminding herself of this was never enough to disperse the discomfort nor tear down her emotional guardedness.

You see- all her life, this man who was her father, wasn’t there for her. He left her mother shortly after she was born for another woman. Phone calls and visits declined the older she got, and by the time she reached her teens- even birthday and Christmas phone calls ceased. She couldn’t remember him ever pitching in for her tuition, or the time when she needed surgery and her mother didn’t have the insurance to cover the costs. By the time she was sixteen; any interaction between them both consisted mostly yelling and expressing intense disappointment in each other, especially we he found out that she was skipping school to be promiscuous with other boys and posting provocative pictures of herself online.

Once she was 20 years old and living on her own, she started dating older men, and after each painful breakup, it wasn’t long before she was in the arms of another lover. She just couldn’t stand to be alone: she knew all to well the cold deepness of the void left by not having the love of a good man in her life.

After a failed marriage and a diagnosis that would make it hard for her to ever have children, this lonely and overwhelmed young woman flung herself at the feet of Jesus. She sobbed her way to salvation- and every day she makes a little more progress towards renewing her mind and submitting years of toxic thinking to her heavenly father.

Yet, there was just one issue that seemed so much harder to battle than all the rest. She thought “How am I ever supposed to  to have a healthy, safe relationship with my father?” Dad was now in his late 60’s. She wasn’t sure if it was years of regret kicking in- but he started reaching out to her more. She didn’t even know how to process the sight of this figure who represented deep betrayal and rage- acting like a father for the very first time.

My character has no name. That’s because she is so much like all of us in one way or another. Even if you’ve been blessed with healthy parental relationships, there is someone we know who has hurt us very badly. And for those who have made the courageous step to forgive them- we can’t figure out why it may still feel awkward to be around them.

Do we still feel guarded and remember the past because we weren’t sincere in our forgiveness? Maybe not. In Matthew 18, Jesus’ command to forgive a brother seventy times seven is followed by the parable of the king who forgave the incredibly large debt of a slave (10,000 talents: with 1 talent being the equivalent of more than 15 years’ wages). Though this debt was so inconceivably large, the king issued his forgiveness only once. One intentional decision fueled by compassion canceled the large debt. The slave didn’t even have to pay a single talent back!

But like this slave, who ultimately failed to show the same compassion to another for far less wrong doing; we have negative mindsets that make us forget the power of forgiveness. That slave’s mindset was probably that this person did not deserve to be forgiven- and that money was so important; it justified the cruelty of prison.

My young woman’s mindset was that forgiveness was supposed to erase the effects of years of emotional distance. She hoped for the magic wand that would instantly transform her interactions with her dad. But it takes time to learn a new way of being with the ones who hurt us. It takes daily renewing of our mindsets and intentional actions. It doesn’t mean that forgiveness didn’t “work.”

What are your own mindsets about people who have hurt you that may be tricking you into thinking that your are not free?

forgivenessI believe that the seventy times seven command encourages us to have a consistent attitude of forgiveness because we all make mistakes multiple times. That being said- When forgiveness is finally issued for a wrong- know that it’s valid! God never said that He had to forgive us over and over for the same things.

We must take one step at a time towards learning a new way of being with those who have hurt us. It won’t always be comfortable, but God promises to be right along side us. What practical step do we each have to take towards that journey? Ask God and He will show you.

Go encouraged.

Next Opportunity Waiting (and a long time no see)!

I’m back and I’m sorry that it took this long!

Last few months have brought some monumental changes. For one, I’m living in another state and I am back to square one looking for a new job. And let me tell you- the cross country move was not without some monumental challenges! My husband and I were tired from the journey, and angry about that the moving company we hired did not live up to their google reviews at all. And on top of it all, the uncertainty about our future careers can at times be scary.

the-heart-of-washington

But here I am in beautiful Washington. Looking outdoors alone reassures me that the pros of this change outweigh the cons. Then I had to take myself aside and get back to writing:

“Self, you’ve got to stop procrastinating and start writing again.” 

“But it’s been so long, I doubt people will even remember me- or want to read what I say.”

A long inner quarrel later, the blogger won and I am so glad that she did. As they say, better late than never.

NO-NO-NO

I want to say a few words about when the world tells us NO. That’s especially true in the ever competitive world of the job hunt- and I am experiencing that first hand. You put a lot of effort into resumes and interviewing and every “NO we’ve picked someone else with more experience,” makes the hope levels drop just a bit more. After your 100th application and 50th failed interview, it’s understandable if your hope resembles nothing more than the last 2 drops in a beaker (I am not to this point this time around, but I know the feeling all too well!) For me- the worst kind of NO you can get is when the employer does not even let you know that you are no longer being considered.

no- 18

People, we all got a NO-story. NO I don’t want to be with you anymore. NO I am never going to lose this weight. NO I am never going to get out of debt/ out of this neighborhood/ over him or her.

NO-NO-NO.

Rejection is a fact of life that we cannot change nor avoid. It’s time for you and I to focus instead on changing the devastating impact this small word has on us. If we can do it, then our hope beaker will be replenished, and we can still find a happy ending- even if it has to be a different one than the ending you initially set out to achieve.

I was thinking, what if I turned NO into an acronym that would serve as a positive reminder each time I heard it? Then I would be less likely to give up and ball my eyes out. And I would accomplish my goal eventually, no matter what was thrown at me.

What did I come up with you ask?

N- Next

O- Opportunity

Add a W and I’ve got “Next Opportunity Waiting.” Now every time I don’t get a job offer, My inner dialogue goes something like this:

“That’s okay; I’ve got a next opportunity waiting for me. Each NO get’s me closer some something that will be worth the wait. Don’t give up!  I will be one tougher chica for it!”

What could N.O mean for you? What positive reminder do you need in order  to get through the day? I challenge you to do this exercise. Once you come up with your slogan, do what ever you need to in order to memorize it. Then share it here. I would love to hear what that is!

(P.S: I love to write down any meaningful quotes to a growing collection of index cards that I’ve transformed into a mini-book.)

-Go encouraged (and full to the brim with optimism and hope!)

happy cup

 

Long live the sycamore tree!!!

tree

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged! And after all this time, I decide to write about a sycamore tree of all things…

I was recently reading the story of Zaccheus from Luke 19 after someone from church said something that was quite profound. And it wasn’t so much about Zaccheus or even his conversion after he met Jesus- but it was about that tree that he climbed.

Here was a man that made a fortune out of hurting and cheating others. But in spite of that, something in him wanted to see this Jesus. He couldn’t see over the crowd but he didn’t let that stop him. God knew about Zaccheus and the fire he would feel to meet his son from the beginning of time.  So before Zaccheus was even born, God provided for Zaccheus’ need to see Jesus. He grew a tree that would be tall and strong and majestic. And he placed it right along the path that Jesus would walk. So that a broken, imperfect man could be changed. Apparently, these trees live for hundreds of years and it is reported that they grow about 2 feet a year. 

This is profound to me because its a reminder of God’s omnipotence. He knows all our needs, and our hurts before we even become a thought. And He has already made a provision to meet that need. I guess what I am saying is that we all need to reminded that there is a sycamore tree planted just for us. But we won’t be able to climb above our obstacles by doing nothing and just wishing for change. Let’s put some action behind our faith and run ahead of the voices that say that we simply cannot or that things will never change.

What comes to mind when you think of a sycamore tree?

_zacchaeus_in_your_life

-Go encouraged!

Good deeds aren’t about warm fuzzy feelings.

Can you believe that January is almost over??? Where does the time go? 

I’ve been pretty  busy these last few weeks- and my last post (and the positive responses I got in return for sharing) inspired me to start another blog dedicated to career advice!!! It is called Career Corner and it’s where I tackle  the topic of how to win in your job search.  I am in the process of creating a series where I give advice on how to answer tough interview questions. I am looking forward to your continued support on this second project, and just maybe you can get any needed help in the process 🙂

So on to tonight’s topic. Earlier today, I was was on the Daily Devo page of joycemeyer.org in need of some encouragement. Today’s devotional was the following:

dail devo.PNG

The basis of the devotional was that it is important to be surrounded by a support system that encourages you to walk in love and do good for others. Two things resonated with me: not only did I need to surround myself even more with such people, but I needed to encourage myself to step out of my comfort zone, and look past all the excuses of why I should not help someone (still a work in progress on this.)

Later on in the day, I found myself in the middle of a test. I was helping someone with an issue a few days before. I had given her specific instructions on what she needed to do to get herself out of a difficult situation. Today, I spoke to her again to see whether she had followed through on my recommendation. Turned out that she hadn’t!

My mind went instantly to the negative. Here I was helping this young woman, and it seemed like she didn’t want to even help herself. I wanted to complain. I wanted to release the biggest scream in the universe. Why couldn’t she feel the same urgency I felt? Why should I bother doing good deeds for people if nothing productive will ever seem to come of it? My attitude ended up a lot like this:

throwing in the towel

So after my period of “righteous indignation”, I went from anger straight to guilt. My devotional was all about helping people and showing love. Love wasn’t inpatient or judgmental.

I FAILED THE TEST. I was a bad person!

Thank God however that he does not react like most of us when we go off course. Truth is, I have been in the same boat as the woman I was judging many MANY times . But this was my teaching moment. And my lesson was:

“Good deeds aren’t about warm fuzzy feelings. And it’s not about making YOU feel better.”

Ouch God. Ouch!

Image result for you're rightBut He’s so right! Love is not about being selective about who we help, playing the hero, or washing our hands of people the moment they let us down. And many times God will want us to keep helping the very people who quite frankly may seem like the most ungrateful humans ever.

This woman’s issue and her readiness to deal with it is ultimately between her and God. Our main concern should be showing obedience in the midst of being surrounded by people who seem unlovable, or stubborn, or whatever adjective you would like to insert here.

I would love to hear from you! Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like your good deeds/advice fell on deaf ears? What kind of people make it harder for you to reach out and do a good deed for?  In spite of this, I hope that you can join me and embrace it all as growing pains, and try to show love and compassion anyway. After all, we aren’t always always a walk in the park.

And it’s not about us.

Go encouraged!

Is it time to change my career in 2018?

This is definitely a bit off topic, but why not use my own blog to dispense my career-related insights?

I start with my own story of a career crisis which at time, seemed like an iselfie christmasnsurmountable  mountain. I invested three years and thousands of dollars towards obtaining my Master’s Degree in Counseling. I then began my career as a Mental Health Therapist, working in the trenches of an outpatient clinic. I provided individual counseling to a range of people from as young as three to above 60 years old. 

Then something happened.  I cannot track the exact moment when my interest in the field turned into dread. Maybe it was the issues I saw on a daily basis. Maybe it was carrying work home many nights- both literally in the form of paper work and figuratively. Regardless of the combination of factors; the end result was the realization that Mental Health was just not the right fit for me. And I needed to figure out a plan B fast- student loans, rent and bills don’t pay themselves.

There were a few months after this realization where I felt absolutely hopeless about my situation. I felt like I wasted time going to grad school. I was too concerned with what my colleagues, professors, family and friends were probably thinking: “She wasn’t strong enough for this field.” or “I thought she was going to do amazing things: she sure let me down!” And worst of all, I thought the only solution was to go back to school to get another degree. In other words: MORE DEBT!!!!

Does THIS sound like anyone else out there? Maybe you are NOT experiencing a level of job satisfaction needed to not dread Monday mornings, the end of vacation time, or to avoid the “Living to work when I should be working to live” mentality looming over your head.

If you are trapped here, know that I feel your pain. And you need to keep reading.

So, what may be signs that it’s time to rethink your career? There are many inventories and career research available to provide deeper insights into job satisfaction, productivity and fit. The below list is my own, developed from both my own experiences and my own training. I can’t “diagnose anyone’s situation”, but maybe you can relate to something below:

The passion is not there….

It pays the bills, but you are not interested in growing in this field and it does not get you excited when you wake up in the morning! Maybe it’s boring and doesn’t provide the challenge you are looking for. Maybe it’s just nothing more than a daily fight to hold on to your sanity. In any case, you end you looking like this little guy below on the inside:

Image result for bored

This job is the wrong fit!

Very popular in Career Counseling is the Holland Code which basically proposes that there are six personality types (below) that we all have to varying degrees. Everyone has a code made up of three of the six types that mostly resonate with their interests. Each type in turn correlates to different types of careers (Holland, 1997).

Image result

Issues can happen when there is not a good fit between your personality type and your job. So if you are like me and your type is SAE: (you are a Helper, a Creator and a Persuader), then being an Accountant, or an IT Specialist is just not the work for you. Or maybe like me you are in the right field, just the wrong specialization. When you show up to work, do you feel like a square peg trying to fit into a circular hole? To see what your code may be, check out the following free test: Holland Code Quiz

This work environment is toxic! Who can even function here?

 No work environment is perfect. But in this instance, you’ve tried to initiate changes for the better. But the physical conditions, social environment (unreasonable, negative people) or stressors within the job role itself are taking a toll on your physical and psychological well-being. And attempts at change have not been successful. If you are surrounded by a toxicity that only seems to be growing, your productivity is at risk of plummeting along with your wellness.

Image result for stressed at work

 

Guess what… you aren’t stuck!

We often seem to be bombarded with one form of hopelessness or another. One common fear is that it is practically impossible to change jobs. Mostly because they are scarce right?  Wasn’t that one of Trump’s major talking points throughout his campaign? That there was an unemployment crisis?

Inspite of this, there are plenty reports suggesting otherwise. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics “Current Employment Statistics Summary” for November 2017 reported that employment/openings actually ROSE by (to name a few industries):

  • +54,000 in Education and Health Services
  • + 31,000 in Manufacturing
  • + 46,000 in Professional and Business Services

The Unemployment rate reported by the BLS in November 2017 currently sits at 4.1%, the lowest it has been for the year, in addition to since 2007. See BLS unemployment rates

If after some soul searching, you’ve decided that for 2018 it’s time to look for a new career: you are NOT stuck! There are jobs out there, and the answer is not always going back to school to start all over again. What are you passionate about? What are your current skills and in what ways can you apply those to your passions?

Image result for dreams

Through my own soul searching, three months of rejected job applications and realizing that I could use my own current skill set to do something new instead of getting another degree, I found the field of Career Coaching and resume writing and I truly love it! Since then, I have learnt a lot, and I have been able to increase both my earning potential and job satisfaction. Because I didn’t want to “live to work.”

Let me know your thoughts on this topic! It was fun to write this type of article. Also would love to know what people’s Holland codes are!

-Happy 2018

A day in the life of: the unequally yoked marriage

Image result for unequal scaleNow here is definitely one of my “touchy feely” subjects! Myself, like many other women across the world, are in an “unequally yoked” marriage. Being in this category may not win you much approval or sympathy from some “die-hard” Christians.   They are usually the ones quoting certain scriptures and telling you to quit that man ASAP. They hold fast to the belief that unequally yoked marriages are at a greater risk for failing.

See? It’s a category that could make a person feel just a “little judged” if you are on the opposite end. I’ve certainly felt that way, and as a result, I have always felt a bit  protective of my relationship with my husband Dave. Hubby’s take on the matter? Let’s just say that he is not a fan of that particular ideology. There was one point where he was worried that this belief was going to be the end of us.

Opinions that unequally yoked marriages (layman definition: when a believer marries someone who is not a Christian) aren’t a best practice are rooted in Biblical scriptures. One popular scripture comes from 2 Corinthians 6: 14-18 which starts off like this: 

14 Do not be unequally bound together with unbelievers [do not make mismatched alliances with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership can righteousness have with lawlessness? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial (Satan)? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? …….. (AMP)

Unequally yoked unions haven’t been endorsed quite a few times in scripture, but it is acknowledged that it does happen. Queen Esther’s marriage saved a nation. And then there is that one passage in 1 Corinthians 7 that goes like this:

12 To the [d]rest I declare—I, not the Lord [since Jesus did not discuss this]—that if any [believing] brother has a wife who does not believe [in Christ], and she consents to live with him, he must not leave her. 13 And if any [believing] woman has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is [e]sanctified [that is, he receives the blessings granted] through his [Christian] wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be [ceremonially] [f]unclean, but as it is they are holy. (AMP)

 I am not here to debate teachings about being unequally yoked (I leave that to the theologians). I am more interested in sharing the first-person perspective in the matter: my perspective. I walked down the aisle with my best friend who also happens to not be a believer. There is no taking it back and honestly I can’t say that I would choose differently if I had to do it differently. I’m on the arm of one great guy and I consider myself blessed. I love him and my family loves him too.

Image result for lonely

Being unequally yoked though can be a lonely journey sometimes: many of you know exactly what I mean. As a believer, including God in every aspect of my life is priority number one. Building a relationship with my Heavenly father takes time, effort and sacrifice. The most important aspect of my life is constantly being changed and challenged. Sometimes, the discomfort of “becoming a new creature” takes a toll and I want to scream.

But it is a big journey that I am walking alone. It’s one thing that I can’t share with my best friend because personally he does not currently want the same thing. And I can’t force that on him. It’s not that we don’t talk about spiritual matters: but he is not my adviser nor spiritual leader either.

I bet there are alot of women (and men too) who are walking in these tight shoes.  Who feel that loneliness when you’re pulling into the church parking lot yet one more time by yourself. You’re involved in ministry- by yourself. You are learning about God- by yourself. Maybe you have a Bible group or good Christian friends, but you still leave them and come home. Maybe you don’t even have that extra support. Trust me- there are days when I get really sad about this. When I wonder if my prayers that my best friend will change will ever be answered.

I write this post for two reasons. One, is to let people know that: you aren’t alone! It doesn’t matter if:

  • People think you were wrong for marrying your mate.
  • Or if you were hoping that the marriage would have changed them by now.
  • Or if people say that this is the bed you made so you can just go lie in it.

We are still believers. Many of us refuse to be pulled in the other direction away from faith, even though your spouse is not in a position to support your spirituality. As a community who didn’t marry “traditionally”, let’s keep all our spouses in prayer that God will work on their hearts. Then, let’s keep each other in prayer:that we will continue to run our race, persevere through trials and be Spiritual leaders in our homes and families.

Image result for date night

Lastly, let’s not allow this spiritual mismatch block us from ENJOYING our spouse! From thanking God for them and continuing in our daily ministry to show Christ’s love in all we say and do for our husbands (and wives). Go plan a date night, or take time out from your busy schedule to do all the other things that you may have in common.

Call us lame, but my husband and I can tv marathon like none one’s business  and sushi- dates are a treat! 🙂 🙂

If you can relate to this post or were moved by anything here, let me know! love to here your thoughts and stories!

IMG_0261Go encouraged.