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Monthly Archives: November 2016

An Invitation to Sit With the King

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One year ago today, I boarded a plane to Kenya, Africa.

I always dreamed of serving in Africa. I always knew I’d go someday. But I never, ever dreamed it would be so soon. You see, it wasn’t my choosing as to when, how, where, or with whom I’d travel to Africa. One random weekday in early June, I looked at a poster on our pastor’s office wall and casually shared that I always dreamed of serving in Africa. He promptly invited me to join a 10-day mission trip to Kenya that was scheduled for November.

I wasn’t planning on going to Africa. Okay, let me clarify a bit, pastor. I wasn’t planning on going RIGHT NOW. I wasn’t expecting you to ask me. Give me a couple years, okay? Give me some space and time to think on this, yes? Give me a few years for my kids to get older. Give me a moment to make every detail right. Let me get the timing just perfect for my husband, my friends, my family and pretty much everyone around me. Then, and only then, I’ll most definitely say yes to your invitation. Can’t we all just agree that five or six months is not nearly enough time to prepare for a life-changing trip to Africa?

Needless to say, I spent nearly three months thinking and overthinking that trip, and finally said yes less than three months before our group was scheduled to depart.

Given my reluctancy to accept God’s invitation to go and serve in Africa, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I found myself on the outside, watching a group of orphaned and abandoned children worship in the most authentic and abandoned way I’d witnessed in 39 years of life on earth.

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I was there. Fully present. Fully immersed in their worship.

But I was sitting on the outside.

Watching.

Admiring.

Wishing I could be one of them.

Wishing I could live and linger in a place of wild, worshipful abandon for the rest of my life.

Yes, this was without a doubt, a glimpse of heaven on earth.

But I was sitting on the outside.

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Looking Forward With Optimism. A Thankful Heart!

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular guest posts on my blog since February 2015. The purpose of her posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

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Being grateful can improve one’s health. As I reflect on the past year, I have so much to be thankful for! I have two kids who I would do anything for, a great support system of professionals, family and friends, the ability to help myself and seeing gains for my efforts. I have found more peace in myself now than I ever have before. To me, Thanksgiving has a new meaning this year. The good, the bad and the rest that doesn’t always make sense. These are all the pieces of my life that I’m thankful for.

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My parents were out of town for over three months due to my dad’s lung transplant, but have been back now for a little over two weeks. My dad is home this Thanksgiving. I am grateful that my parents get to spend the holiday with us. My dad had some lung rejection issues, and he ended up in the hospital for ten days right before they came back home. His team of doctors will be checking his antibodies soon to see if the lung rejection is still happening. If his antibodies are bad, he will have to go back to the hospital for further procedures. The transition to them being back home has not necessarily been easy, but we are working on adjusting to accommodations that work for everyone. We are moving forward with my dad’s health with optimism. We are planning for a great future with him around.

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I’m thankful that Raegan, my six-year-old daughter, is starting to understand my mental health issues. She likes to show her friends and people who stop by clips from when I was in movies, television shows and commercials in my 20s. I was in the movie Four Christmases. Raegan laughs pretty hard when she sees my hands up in the air in the background. She often asks me what happens when I don’t take my pills. I forgot them one morning, and she asked if I could drive alright without them. I told her that I would be fine, as long as I took them soon. Raegan is reading very well and with great expression. She loves math, her class and her teacher. She is very wise and kind as well. She has her temper tantrum moments. Xander, my two-year-old son, is loving life. He is pretty rambunctious and is an explorer. He is full of questions, loves school (Early Childhood Family Education) and is an extremely kind and loving son. He loves exploring so much that it’s difficult for him to sit still during ECFE reading time. During gym time, he’s been running around pretending he’s a dinosaur. The other kids don’t seem to know what to think. He is proud to call the other kids in the class his friends. My experience with Xander at school has been different because I feel more chill and comfortable about everything. I am thankful for my two children. They keep me going, even when I’d rather isolate myself from the world.

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I need a support system to help me discipline and work with my kids. My parents, friends and a team of professionals help me with these issues. I take advice from each and every one of these people to help improve my situation. I am trying to help myself so I can be more independent of some of this help, as I have been over the past few months. I’m working with what I’ve been told, and am starting to figure out a parenting plan that I can do more independently. Now that my parents are home, it’s east to revert to dependence again. But I have gained confidence over the last three months as a parent. I am a parent who can prepare meals, stay organized and help with homework. I am thankful for all that I have been taught about parenting, and I plan on utilizing those skills throughout life.

Overall, I am very satisfied with how far I have come as a single parent. I am grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life, and am happy my mom and dad are now home, at least for now. My kids, support system, my ability to help myself and peoples’ responses to my gains have guided me towards more independence in life and with my children. I hope that over the years I become more confident in my myself and my skills. Every day is a new journey!

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A 4-Year-Old’s Lessons on Loving and Living During a Divisive Presidential Election

Let’s face it. The 2016 presidential race was brutal and divisive. While so many hoped that the election would put a stop to all the divisiveness, the election of Donald Trump seems to have caused an even greater divide within our great nation, the United States of America.

Will we heal?

Will we hear the other side?

What will it take to bridge the gap between us and them?

Questions loom and linger.

How will we move through and beyond?

Some are grieving. Some are angry. Some are numb now. Some just don’t understand.

Is our country safe anymore?

What will come of our world?

What will a Donald Trump presidency look like?

Will the protests subside, or will they go on for four or eight years?

Will we ever be able to cross the divide?

So many unknowns.

So many uncertainties.

There is no clear or right answer except to remember we are ONE nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.

So what do we do?

Where do we start?

Perhaps we need to step back in time.

This week, my offering to a world that’s in awe, a world that’s divided, a world that’s uncertain and in need comes from my 4-year-old daughter.

In the midst of my grief over what’s transpired during this deeply divisive presidential election, my four year old has shown me what it means to love and live, through and beyond the turmoil.

When asked who was running for president of the United States, my four year old was able to name Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I think she would probably be able to name them if she was shown their faces. But that’s it. Nothing more. She knew their names and that they were running for president. I’m quite sure she doesn’t even know what President of the United States means. But one thing’s for sure. My four year old has taught me what it means to love and live, purely and simply, even when the world’s going mad.

Let’s learn. Let’s turn our ears towards the young. May we learn something profound, something our soul’s forgotten.

LESSON ON LOVING & LIVING #1: Find ways to compliment people and love on them even if you disagree with them.

This week, my 4-year old daughter wanted to write cards for her friends. She got out a piece of notebook paper and had me fold it into four. Then she got some post-it notes out. She wanted me to help her write notes to her friends, Sydney, Henry, Edry and Rylan, on the post-it notes. I wrote as she dictated. It was pure and simple. One sentence or two. That’s it. A compliment. A way to show her love to her friends and neighbors. Then she signed her name after each one.

Perhaps we can glean wisdom from a four year old’s simple and idealistic world.

Find ways compliment people and and love on them even if you disagree with them.

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dsc_1777LESSON ON LOVING & LIVING #2: Surround yourself with diversity.

As I was driving to the gym with my daughter on Thursday, she randomly shared this story. “I have brown hair. My friend has white hair and a white face. My other friend has black hair and a brown face.”

“That is so awesome!” I replied exuberantly. “I’m so proud of you that you have all kinds of friends. It’s fun to have lots of different kind of friends, isn’t it?”

What was most notable about this conversation was that my daughter made that statement with NO judgement. It was a matter of fact. Pure and simple fact. She recognized that her friends were diverse, that they had different physical traits. But she didn’t place any judgement on those differences. There’s something refreshing about that to me. We can recognize differences without casting judgement.

It’s hard to admit, but it’s sometimes easiest to hang out with people who look, act and think like us. But hanging around a monolithic group of people who think, act, and behave EXACTLY like us  doesn’t do anything to expand our worldview. The more we’re able to surround ourselves with diversity or AT LEAST open ourselves up to seeing and hearing the other side, the more likely we’re able to expand and diversify our worldview. Diverse perspectives and worldviews are critical to bridging the great divide.

Perhaps we can glean wisdom from a four year old’s simple and idealistic world.

Surround yourself with diversity.

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LESSON ON LOVING & LIVING #3: Create art.

This week, my 4-year-old daughter brought home oodles of art from preschool. Handmade cards with drawings. Colored pages with paper punches lining the sides. Red, purple and pink pieces of construction paper cut into mountains, hills and rectangles. I’ll be honest, I usually throw away a bunch of this stuff because a mom can’t keep everything or it’d lead to boxes upon boxes of memories. But I’m keeping every single one of my daughter’s art pieces from this week. They’ve been gems to me in a week of presidential, political and personal turmoil.

If you make any sort of art, you MUST continue creating during these days of uncertainty. The world desperately needs your art, your perspective, your unique way of expressing love and joy, despair and destitution, anger and peace. The way you see life, the way you express it through your art? It’s important. It’s noteworthy. It’s crucial and life saving. We must continue making art, even when it seems completely pointless. We must continue making art, even when it seems like everyone’s too busy to see it. We must continue making art, even when the world’s gone mad. Keep making art. Keep creating. Keep putting it out there. We need your art more than ever.

Sing. Dance. Paint. Write. Photograph. Collage. Decoupage. Knit. Crochet. Quilt. Sew. Garden. Decorate. Build. Woodwork. Mosaic. Make jewelry and pottery. Whatever it is you do to create art and beauty in this world, do it and keep doing it! We need art now more than ever.

Perhaps we can glean wisdom from a four year old’s simple and idealistic world.

Create art.

Bridge the great divide.

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