Dreaming Keeps Me Awake At Night

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One of my friends called me last night with the best news ever. We squealed like little girls for while, bursting with excitement. Do any of you dream with your friends? If you don't have a few trusted people to dream with it's quite boring. My old roommate and I have talked about our lives and dreams for years. To see a glimpse and a part of that dream come to life is heart warming. It's inspiring. It's worth squealing over. I've said it time and time again. My friends are world changers. They have the most giving hearts. I am so privileged to know them.

After dreaming with my sweet friend, I could not sleep. I laid wide awake. So of course I started to write until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. When I woke up, I was plastered to my pillow half-regretting my writing escapade into the wee hours of the morning. Yet, part of me woke up really excited and fulfilled because a dream worth pursuing is worth staying up late for. Dreams are worth believing in. Worth praying over. Worth crying over. Worth fighting for.

I believe Generation Y is a significant generation. We will either make a huge difference or mess everything up. I like to think that we will make a huge impact. I get excited when I see my peers starting a business, creating an app, becoming lawyers and doctors, moving overseas, getting married, having children,starting amazing careers, and writing. We have something to offer this world. We may be young but our age doesn't define us. We all have something unique and significant to offer.

The next time you feel like you have failed because you don't know what your dreams are, haven't found your dream job, or you feel really stuck; remember that you are valid. Keep working towards your dreams and goals. Things take time. Our generation believes in instantaneous success that will involve little-to-no effort, unfortunately, that is a shallow point of view. If you want something bad enough you will work for it. Educate yourself in college or trade school. Get some credibility and knowledge. Learn to present yourself as a professional. Carry yourself with confidence. Write out your goals and things you would like to accomplish. I recently wrote out my #Next5 (Goals I want to accomplish in the next 5 years). If I actually accomplished 3 out of the 5 goals, I would feel really great. My goals are pretty ambitious and a little fear started to creep in but I told fear to shut up.

 

So if you are like me and your dreams keep you awake at night, keep dreaming & drink a lot of coffee.

I'll be introducing you all to a few of my friends who have big dreams and goals in a blog series called "Not so Ordinary Dreamers". They are doing great things in their communities. I can't wait to introduce them to you! Gen Y, let's stick together.

 

XOXO

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The Great Divide: How Do We Build A Bridge?

 

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I have spent the past two weeks pretty angry and disappointed. I would be lying if I told you the things going on in Ferguson did not affect me in someway. I have read a lot of blog posts coming from different angles, I have researched and watched lectures from professionals on the subject of racial reconciliation, and I have had open conversations with some of my Caucasian friends. I have prayed and cried about this situation in Ferguson and the national issue of racism. Wether we like to admit it or not, racism still exists. Not all white people are racist, it would be very ignorant to make such a broad assumption and accusation.

 Privilege refers to the idea that in human society, some groups benefit from unearned, largely-unacknowledged advantages that increase their power relative to that of others, thereby perpetuating social inequality

Some, Caucasian people may not have viewed themselves privileged or that they are afforded certain opportunities based on the color of their skin. Honestly, what I have gathered from conversations with my white friends, is that sometimes they don't think about being a "White privileged american". When you are a majority you may not have the needs of the minority on the forefront of your mind.

My parents did not teach me to fear white people, some of my closest friends are white. I did not begin to feel a little fear until Ferguson happened. Seeing all the hate out there and passive aggressive racism caused me to wonder who was around me that thought of me that way because of my color? Were there people in my life that harbored hate like that? People that felt I was an exception to "those black people" when in fact the "those people" are MY people. I became suspicious of white people-waiting for someone to change on me. I got concerned for my older brother who is over 6 ft. tall and a broad built black male. He has a heart of gold but people wouldn't be able to tell that if they looked at him. They could think he is a thug instead of a successful college graduate. What if he wears a hoddie or a big shirt on his days off work? Will they suspect him of mischief?

I get that people who are not minorities may not understand this perspective. I am not asking for understanding as much as I am pleading for you to listen. That is it.

I could focus on dissecting all of the hateful postings and blogs I have seen but that would be counter productive because hateful people are everywhere and I encounter them everyday. That will not go away. I had to let myself research and come to a place of peace and balance about the situation in Ferguson along with the killings of other unarmed black men, as well as, the issue of institutionalized racism. There are a lot of moving parts in this discussion and I may elaborate more in a different post.

What I really want to discuss is the racial divide in the church. I know I am about to discuss a "hush hush" matter but more of us need to talk about it. People must understand that the history of African-American culture is rooted in oppression. Although we would like to think that we have made a lot of progress, we have to an extent, there is still a lot to be done. We must be willing to openly talk about race and racial issues in order to really move forward. There is an elephant in the room- like it or not and until we stop passing over it or walking by it silently, we will not see change. We will be back in this spot in a few years.The comments I have seen on the internet let me know that racism is not dead, in fact, it just took on a new form. Nowadays, talking about race makes people tense and everyone comes to the table with their own inhibitions and preconceived ideas of what the other person plans to say. So instead of having hard conversations and breaking down racial divide, we don't at all. A lack of communication makes the divide grow and before we know it we have accepted passive aggressive racism. I believe the African-American community wants people to listen.

Matt Chandler says this best: "What is so deceptive about white privilege is that it is different from blatant racism or bias. A privileged person’s heart may be free from racist thoughts or biased attitudes, but may still fail to see how the very privilege afforded to him or her shapes how he or she interprets and understands the situations and circumstances of people without privilege."

We have allowed the media to feed into a racial divide. We would all be gravely missing the point if it was not evident that we need to have racial reconciliation in the church. It needs to happen. When was the last time you looked around your church and wondered why everyone else looked like you? This goes both ways, for predominately black churches and white churches. "Ninety percent of African-American Christians worship in all-black churches. Ninety percent of white American Christians worship in all-white churches," said Chris Rice, coauthor of More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel. "…Years since the incredible victories of the civil rights movement, we continue to live in the trajectory of racial fragmentation. The biggest problem is that we don't see that as a problem." I think the shooting of Michael Brown brought up deeper seething issues about race. Any group that experiences systemic oppression for a time will come to a point to where they can tolerate it no more. It takes work on all sides to dismantle institutionalized racism. If you are content with your multicultural workshops at your job, fine, but it goes far beyond that. We must be willing to talk and learn about one another in order to break down barriers.

Linda Brown (AP Photo)

Tell me this, if you have no black friends ( I am not talking about people you are associated with and hang out with every now and then) then where do you get your ideas and perceptions about black people? Do you make them up? Are they from the media? We cannot grow and move forward without having hard conversations and uniting together to see change. There are several people uniting to see change happen and guess what? They are not all black. People of all races are uniting together to see change happen. I have noticed that it is much harder to organize change and promote change in the church. Why is this true? I did not experience real overt racism until I went to a CHRISTIAN college. It was evident that some people at my school only knew about black people from TV or the people they saw in the hall at school. Why are the Christians who support racial reconciliation and recognize that we have some real deep racial wounds and issues to deal with, harshly critized by the Christian comminuty? Do you have to be a liberal to agree that human life matters? To believe that something must be done about the clear racial divides in our nation? Are we denying that "white flight" and racism still exist? Researchers will tell you that it still exists. What needs to be said for people to WAKE UP and STAND UP and say NO MORE? If I read the Bible correctly, as Christians, we are brothers and sisters in Christ right? If we are, maybe we should start acting like it. Also, the fact that every Christian who speaks out about racism and Mike Brown, has to give a laundry list of disclaimers so that some of their Christian friends will know that they "believe in the police" & "don't agree with looting", so they don't have to deal with a backlash of comments, is awful. As a Christian and African-American seeing posts from some of my Caucasian brothers and sisters is disheartening. We don't have to agree for you to show compassion on a mourning community and parents that had to bury their son too soon. I get everyone has their beliefs but dismissing people's pain and justifying a teen being shot over 6 times, because of an alleged theft, even though he reached a point of surrender, is cruel. I am posing a lot of questions because I don't have all the answers.  I want us to think about these issues together.

How can we unite together as a church? How can we break the walls of racial segregation in our local church? Let's start opening up this conversation. Honestly until we are able to have healthy productive conversations where neither side is predicting what the other will say, maybe we can move forward. Until we come to the table and lay our swords and daggers down, nothing will change. Remember the church has always been in the thick of controversy. This situation should not be any different. I want to work with others that desire to see change in our communities and churches. I want us to unite together instead of focusing on tearing each other apart. I have found that social media makes it way to easy to let our typed our words be used as daggers to hurt one another. Can we try for once to evaluate our typed words as well as the ones spoken? They are just as powerful. I believe we will have to account for them too.

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There are several things the African-American community is doing to actively better our communities around the U.S. and I pray these initiatives last and we see true change in my generation and the ones behind me. Despite having disadvantages that does not condone crime nor does it give people the right to murder over petty crime. This is a pivotal time for the African-American's to see change in their communities and push for a well-balanced local government. What Antonio French is doing with #HealSTL and registering young people to vote is huge. I hope this situation has encouraged young people to find their voice and to understand that their voice matters and their lives matter. I hope this situation has awakened black youth and that they realize their true value to society. I believe in black youth. 

Here is what I plan to do:

  • Join with other churches who will assist in providing relief and aid to the community/churches of Ferguson
  • Join a local organization that focuses on the empowerment/education of African-Americans in the community
  • Mentor African American Youth
  • Join in conversation with churches and individuals about racial reconciliation and be apart of building a bridge
  • Keep the conversation going: Silence will not bring about change

Growing up I did not focus on racial differences. I was taught to love people, all people. Even when injustice occurred around me, I was taught to stand strong. I love different cultures. My friends are very diverse. I love having friends of different cultures. There is so much I learn from our open conversations. If more people were open to talking, less hatred would exist today. Until you are open to talking to me about my culture and heritage in a kind manner, please do not expect me to be happy when I see comments that are clearly racist. It is hurtful and disappointing. I have cried enough over the senseless and hateful comments people have made about the black community. So I plead with you, come to the table ready to listen. I too am coming to the table with an open heart and an open mind.

I love being Black. I love my natural hair. I love my community. I am educated and I have a successful career. I vote and pay my taxes. I think we have some work and growing to do as a people but I will play a part in changing the narrative that has been written for African-American's in the US. If you are reading this and you are working to bring reconciliation amongst your church, let's talk together. I do not have all the answers but I want to hear from other people and church leaders actively seeking to unite their congregations.

Before leaving this blog post please watch this video:

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Resources and articles I found helpful:

White Brother Shot Black Man

Kristen Howerton

Gospel Coalition

Matt Chandler 

Jennie Allen- To My White People

How To Deal With Racist Reactions to Ferguson

IS IT “GOODBYE EVANGELICALISM” OR “WE JOIN YOU IN YOUR SUFFERING”?'

A Cop's take on Ferguson

 

How I got Interrupted.

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I have been at an critical place in my young adult life. This book review will be a filled with my journey and how Jen Hatmaker’s books wrecked me.

I had spent a month in Rwanda in 2010 and a month in Thailand in 2011. Seeing the love for Christ people had overseas shook me. Their approach to engaging their community and their humility taught me how apathetic and bored I was with church as I knew it to be, yet while overseas I came alive. I loved the way they worshipped God. There was sincerity in it. In America we can just fake it and we get so wrapped up in our appearance that the whole idea of being real with our questions, doubts and concerns is so foreign. Its like we are all waiting for that outspoken person to name the elephant in the room. As if we are all on the edge of our seats, waiting for someone to ask, is this it? Is this what church is about? Can church be really simple like it is for the Rwandan people and the Thai people? These were some of my questions back then and they have lingered in my mind for years.

I have never come home from another country and not cried at least for a week because I am just so broken by all that I have experienced and I wonder what I am missing. I’ve never decided to dig deeper into those questions or really ask God those hard questions because I didn’t know where to start and lets be real- I felt crazy for having those questions. I was raised in church, ministry was my life but somehow it felt like I was missing the main point.

So lets fast-forward to April 2014 when things really changed. I read 7 by Jen Hatmaker. I had been following her blog for a year so naturally when my best friend says she has been crying and reading this book and I have to get it, I bought it the same day. She said oh you will love it. (Jenna and I are like hippie-Jesus loving free spirits that believe anything is possible. We used to sit in the children’s book section in the local bookstore and dream. Yep, we would let our imaginations go where only they could and believe that God could/would do something amazing. ) I had never read anything by an author that openly shared her wrestles and questions with life and church culture, as I knew it to be. As far as I knew, I only talked with a few friends in hopes that I wouldn’t be shunned for my thoughts on the “stuff” we do in church that has nothing to do with souls and Jesus. Most of what I was involved in was all about self-promotion and using that man made platform to build the kingdom. That is what I grew up seeing. In Jen’s book 7 she really digs deep into her transforming journey of letting go of excess and the pursuit of “stuff stuff stuff, more more more” and looking into how her family could change the course of their lives by pouring their finances and resources into things that actually matter. But really, 7 is just the sequel to her book Interrupted. Interrupted is the book I want to talk to you about.

I just gave you a super long intro but I really wanted to set the stage for this book. Reading 7 and interrupted led to the most impactful permutation in my young adult life.

 I will cover a few key areas that wrecked me while reading interrupted.

One major area I wrestled with was the churches responsibility to care for the hurting and broken. I knew that an occasional food drive was not really going to address the needs of the community. It had to start with us the church (the individuals). Jen explains it this way: “We don’t get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. We’re not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can’t withhold social relief because we are not convinced it will be properly managed. We can’t project our advantaged perspective onto struggling people and expect results available only to the privileged. Must we be wise? Absolutely but doing nothing is a blatant sin of omission.”

I found myself on the cusp of ignoring the needs of the community, forgetting the life transforming moments overseas, and settling into my own world oblivious to the needs of those around me and depending on others to see the need and meet it, not me. The real question is why not me? Why not you? Why aren’t we engaging in our community. This simple wrestle is what Jen’s beautifully documents. It’s her journey from ministry and life as she knew it to God brining her husband and family into a “new thing” and ministry via community and building relationships and out of those relationships people coming to Christ. Allowing people to belong before expecting them to behave. Her journey is raw, exciting, and thought provoking. You really can’t read this book without asking yourself, what am I all about? When was the last time I spent time with my neighbor or served the poor not because I was looking to be thanked, but because I was purely interested in their world and serving them because they are human. They have life. They are family. Somehow, life became all about us and we won’t reach out to others if it is an inconvenience or if the people around us don’t look and act like us. Where did we adapt that attitude? Where did I adapt that attitude?

 Jen talks about movement and going when you feel God is leading you into a new thing

Jen states, “When we feel we are supposed to do something radical we can expect it to be misunderstood.” I am not sure what that looks like for you. Maybe its moving to a new city, going back to college, getting a new job, restoring broken relationships. Whatever the case maybe, Jen mentions, “part of the task is going without knowing…if you go wherever God says and when, expect to be misunderstood. And go anyway” Oftentimes, we are waiting on the approval from too many people to just leap when we know in our gut that is what we are supposed to do. No one said leaping would be easy. No one said the next steps would be painted in the sky but wouldn’t we spoil everything if we knew it all? Most of the time we don’t need all the details.

 Interrupted describes a crossroad that many people, including myself, are at. Are you ready for a radical life-transforming adventure? If you are, maybe your heart is open to allowing God to interrupt life and church, as you know it. Interrupted gives you the permission to wrestle and the permission to evaluate your world. You can’t get through this book without feeling, inspired, challenged, and broken for the least. You also can’t read this book and expect to stay stagnant and not call into question life as you know it. If I assume correctly, we have all been challenged to allow God to interrupt our life but maybe fear, doubt, or worry have kept us from fully diving in. Either way, we must do it. We must make a conscious effort to be all in.

Jen’s approach is fun, relatable, and humble. While reading her book you feel as if you on a coffee date catching up on months of time that has passed and you just get to listen to this deep transformation that has taken place in her life. Through this story you leave inspired to love better, be more informed about your community, and allow God to interrupt you. Truth is, if I cam so consumed with serving God the way I want to, whose kingdom am I really building-his kingdom or my own? Comfortable Christianity won't cut it anymore.

I have never been in a place of such humility and brokenness until recently. I have never felt more vibrant, awake, and passionate about His kingdom before. I have layed my service schedule down and I have decided to follow his lead. I’ve been inspired, challenged, and interrupted.

Get the book, you won’t regret it.

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ABOUT JEN HATMAKER:

Jen Hatmaker is the author of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and A Modern Girl's Bible Study series. With a heart for her generation, she speaks at conferences around the country. Jen resides in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Brandon, and their five children. To learn more about Jen and follow her blog, go to www.jenhatmaker.com.

Lose myself

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I was reminded of the song "lose myself by Lauryn Hill" as I read Jen Hatmaker's book Interrupted (The expanded version is coming out soon. Get it. You won't be sorry). In cooperate America, its very clear that in order to gain "success" you have to climb your way to the top. One of the higher up's in my department put it this way," You have to play the game." I left that conversation even more confident that I was not made for the game nor did I want to play it. If playing the game was just for money, a title, pomp and circumstance; then I would not "succeed" in corporate America. I attended a meeting with someone and I left in tears. I was completely wrecked because everything I've been told to fight for in my career is not what I am passionate about. Trust me, I have tried to picture myself at a big desk at a great company climbing the ladder and after a few months, I am once again convinced, that is not the life for me; however, it is the life for some people and if you are that person, by all means please run in your lane, and succeed. As much as I detest this concept of fighting your way to the top it is not just in corporate America; I've seen this "race to the top" in church and even Christian organizations.

Fighting your way to the top in church may be guised with a seemingly well meaning intention but we all know the truth. Working your way to the "top" of the church world may equate to joining the "ranks" of: Priscila Shrier, Christine Caine, Beth Moore, Robert Madu, Chad Veach, Bob Goff, etc. The list could go on. We've all had our moments of admiration and awe that turn into a selfish desire to solely and maybe subconsciously pursue that platform. Those people are in their God-given lane and we can't mimic that. In church we see a pattern: you work the system of who you know -->Gain a position-->Get recognition-Its a tiring game. Luke talks about this is Chapter 14 verse 11 "If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” The Amplified Bible states it this way, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled (ranked below others who are honored or rewarded), and he who humbles himself (keeps a modest opinion of himself and behaves accordingly) will be exalted (elevated in rank)." Even still, Jesus is not saying, try to be seemingly "humble" so you will be elevated. If that is what we think he is saying, we (I) have missed the point.

I think Jen describes it best:

"I hate the top. I hate who I have to be to live there. I hate the biblical two step I have to perform to justify top-dwelling. I hate the posturing up there...I detest the fear that haunts every decision. It's a ridiculous game where everyone is either scratching your back or stabbing you in the back. Depending on whether your rung is above or below theirs. The self-congratulatory blustering up there is abhorrent. I'm so over it.Okay maybe it would be more true to say I want to be so over it. I'm trying to be over it."

When, I read these words, it was like someone articulated my feelings over the past few years. You don't want to play the game, in fact you are trying to get over it, because you are so done. Desperately done. The fact still remains that we are human and have a flesh. I have realized that I need to be "done" daily. I am so susceptible to the game. I've even found myself playing at times. Only to be reminded of who I am and how far I've allowed myself to drift from the truth. The line Jen stated that brings it all home is this: "In order for God's kingdom to come, my kingdom had to go." I can't tell you how many times I have prayed anxious prayers to the Lord crying out for "more of Him and less of me" and I've spent years earnestly soaking in more of me. Can I tell you, people, "I'm trying to be over it." So today I chose to be done and tomorrow I will do the same and so forth. Even when I chose the right mindset, I may slip and I may fall but I am starting somewhere.

I've spent a lot of time missing the main point. I don't have time to miss the point anymore. I want to keep the main thing the main thing. My scripture for this year has been Micah 6:8. It is hanging on my cork board at work. The minute I feel myself wandering from that and seeking success or fame and a following, I am missing it. I must draw myself back to square one: this is all about His kingdom.  I just get to be apart of it. How wonderful that he let's me be apart. Literally he is letting me in on what he is doing.

God gave me this dream to have a non-profit for teen mothers. I have labored and prayed over this dream for years and I continue to pray over it. One thing I have to check myself on, am I missing the point? Am I missing it? God don't let me miss the point of all of this. Truth is, I have a desire to help one momma at a time. It is so easy to get caught up in the emotion of doing something and wanting it to be big. When I find myself heading in that direction, I have to hit the breaks. The main thing is loving people, God's people. It's not about me. The dream was never about me. It was about God entrusting me to carry it. To love his people. To serve his people. Do I know what all of this will evolve into? No, I don't. I do know, it's not about a good social media campaign, marketing, or position. I so desperately want to get that concept with all I am. I want to dwell where Jesus is choose to and make my home there.

This weekend a Bishop Matthew, talked about home. How many people are trying to find "home" and a place to belong. Truth is, as Christians, we will never feel fully at home here. More importantly, "God's love is inside of us and his home is in us." So no matter where you go or where God sends you, his home is in us. "I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you (John 14:18-20)."

So instead of me trying to clammer to the top at church, work, or with HHope. I am humbly seeking Christ daily, to learn how to let his love flow through me and draw people home- to Christ. This peace, joy, and love wasn't meant for me to keep it to myself. It was mean to be shared.

I can't ignore the hurting, broken, those in poverty, and the extreme needs all around the world. "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." (James 1:27). I refuse to befriend apathy and pride. I can't do it anymore. I must make more of an effort to lay "Faitth and all of her agendas" down daily. 

I want to lose myself so I can wake up, be present, and fully engaged in God's kingdom, not my own.

All Son's and Daughters sum up my heart beat:

"Wake up, wake up, wake upwake up all you sleepersStand up, stand upStand up all you dreamersHands up, hands upHands up all believersTake up your cross, carry it on"

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Jumping In

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My mom is not a hoarder by any means. In fact as a child, if something was missing I knew my mom threw it away. If it was't being used it was gone- just like that. We always had to clean out our closet and give our clothes away before we could get any new ones.

As a young adult, I have loved keeping my stuff. I enjoy all my furniture and all of the things I have bought that really make my room cosy. Ever since I took my shoes off, I decided that I really don't need all this stuff. So after thinking that I would sell the furniture in my room, I just gave it away. I put it out there on facebook and within 15 minutes everything was spoken for. I gave away my desk, dressers, vanity and couch. I've never been more happy to have an empty room. There is something fulfilling about letting go.

Truth is, I have a roof over my head, food, clothing, a car, a job, electronic devices, family and friends, etc. I really don't need anything else. One day I may replace my desk and dresser but I hope I never get attached to my stuff because I want to be ready to give my things away at a moments notice. It's just stuff.

I find so much joy in letting go of my selfish ways. I love that my room is not cluttered with stuff and I thought to myself, "Why didn't I do this sooner?!"

I was talking to my friend Jenna about this friday night and we both agreed that we would much rather give our stuff away than grow attached to it. We then started talking about missions and how we can do anything while on the mission field. We became friends while on a mission trip to Rwanda and we spent nearly a month together. Baby wipes were a necessity for "showering" purposes, bucket showers with cold water was the norm, using the restroom in a little stall with just a concrete hole in the ground, eating unidentifiable food, messy hair, no electricity= priceless. This thrill and joy from traveling to a different country and learning from people who live so simply, is irreplaceable. After each missions trip I swear I will get rid of more stuff and I usually spend the first week crying because I want to go back. That lasts for a little while and then I am back into the swing of getting more and more stuff-until recently...I wanted to clean things out. I wanted to jump into a life of selflessness.

I like to think the physical aspect of cleaning out my room represents the spiritual aspect of God cleaning out my heart. I can look back on this past year and see so many areas where my heart and mind have been cluttered.

I am truly understanding the concept of "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21" and "Sell what you have and give to those in need. This will fatten your purses in heaven! And the purses of heaven have no rips or holes in them. Your treasures there will never disappear; no thief can steal them; no moth can destroy them. Luke 12:33"

I never want to forget why God placed me on this earth. I want to pour my life out to others. It's easier said than done at times. I believe, when you show up willing, He does the rest.

You want to know a secret? It's always more fun to give than to receive.

Living a life of faith and trust in Jesus is an adventure.

I'm Jumping in with reckless abandon.

xoxo

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I love orphans.

orphansI was a case manager for a year and a half and I got to to work with children in foster care. Before earning a degree in social work, I was very ignorant about the foster care system. I did not know if orphanages still existed in the US or if children were just in foster homes-until I started my job and I met some of the faces that make up "foster care."

Children in foster care are judged before anyone even meets them. They are probably "bad" or have a lot of "issues." Potential adoptive parents want young children to complete their family. If you are 7 years old you better pray hard because most likely you will be passed over for a baby because you are far too old to "mold" and "shape". Thus they are left in the system, growing more emotionally closed and starting to question everyone and everything. They are used to being let down and people giving promises they cannot keep. They shuffle from home to home- trying to learn new rules each time. Have you ever been to a sleepover as a child but you couldn't sleep well because you were out of your home environment? Children in foster care have to adjust to new homes and wonder if they will be safe. They may not sleep well. They may wet the bed, make failing grades, or be disrespectful.

I was really apathetic towards children in foster care until I saw their faces and learned their names. 

Every time a child ran up to me for a hug or refused to let me leave, my heart melted each time. These children are worthy of love and belonging. Unfortunately the older they are the longer they will permanently bounce from home to home in the foster care system until they age out at 18. By that time many of them are homeless, pregnant, or facing jail time. I can only imagine how they would have turned out if someone took a chance to love them. Loving foster children is risky, especially the older ones, but I believe it is worth it. Did you know that girls in foster care are more likely to become teen mothers or pregnant before age 25?

The teen who taught me the most was one of my greatest challenges at first. She would not talk to me much. She kind of mumbled as she talked. I tried not to pry since they have to talk to several adults about their feelings and it can be overwhelming. So I tried building a rapport with her. I did not see the results of this rapport until a year later. She finally opened up to me. I knew there was something special about her and I wanted to remain involved in her life regardless of where my career led me. She had endured a lot of pain and hurt. She had trouble opening up to people and connecting with adults because one minute they would want her forever and the next they were done. She has a lot of fears and hesitations about being loved. She doesn't understand true self-sacrificing, unconditional, and selfless love, yet. I am hoping she will be able to see past all of her hurt and pain to see how much love is really surrounding her.

In spite of all this, she has marked my life forever. I think of her all the time. Just thinking about her hurt, pain, and life brings tears to my eyes. There is nothing I can say or do to take away her pain. She is just one of many. She is not a number. She has a name and real life.

Watching a family adopt their 16year old son was so powerful. He was so excited to belong to a family legally but to them he was already family and this just made it official. The concept of leaving the old behind and changing your name is so symbolic to me. National adoption day is my favorite. These adoption moments bring me to tears because these kids are so worthy of love and having a family.

There are well over 6000+ children/teens waiting for good homes. These children are not in an orphanage, they are in foster homes in your own backyard- longing for permanency. You would be surprised how fast some parents relinquish their rights and decide to leave their child in foster care. It's heartbreaking.

The most fulfilling work I've ever done was serve these legends. Remember for every number there is a name and a face-these are precious little lives. I hope your heart can be opened to adoption. It's a beautiful, tough, rewarding, and life-changing journey.

Get out there people. Open your homes. Love a child or teen.

If you are scared of being in it alone, you won't be! There are so many support groups that meet in person and online. You will have support.

You will not regret it.

If you don't feel called to adopt then help someone else financially.

Do your part.

You can learn more about adoption through All In Orphan Care and Arrow Child and Family Ministries.

XOXO

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Try

imageIts no secret that Colbie Caillat hit the jackpot with her song Try. Women all over the world are embracing the message of her song. I never realized how much I could relate to the words of her song until yesterday after listening to it several times.

Since I was a little girl, I struggled immensely with my self-esteem. I built my worth an value on the opinions of others. I idolized perfectionism because I wanted to be accepted so badly. It got me no where, literally. Once I realized that “fake it to you make it” was such a stupid statement I aimed to learn more about authenticity. My parents divorce put a "stain" on the perfect life I was trying to lead. I was the actress and I had a role to play. I perfected the statement "I'm good" even when I was not. I did not want people to know how "not fine" I was. I spent most of my time trying to be the "best" Christian and the "best" daughter and the "best" friend. I put all of this pressure on myself.  I was on a mission to please everyone- until I realized that I was loosing myself in doing so. For the people that knew me well; they held me in the darkest of nights and made sure I was aware that joy would come in the morning- and it did.

Joy did come. It did not come all at once. It came in waves. With each wave I gained more confidence, hope, and peace. I went back to square one. I am so glad I did because Jesus met me there. I laid down things idolized. I found myself steadily desiring less of what I wanted and more of what God wanted.

To me Jesus meeting me where I am, reminds me of the homecoming of the prodigal son. I believe that moment of acceptance and love embodies each time I run to God with tears in my eyes and a broken heart knowing when I get in his arms everything will be okay.

Living my life based on "works" or "doing the right thing" or "trying" to be perfect did not bring me freedom. In fact, it suffocated me.

Traveling to Mexico, Rwanda, and Thailand allowed me to see his love in the eyes of people all over the world and to remind me that his love is deep and all he wants is genuine love and worship. More than my worship, he wants me to know of his never-ending love.

I am about halfway through the book Carry on Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed (Thank you Alison for telling me about this book) and I am so inspired by Glennon Melton's authentic dialogue. She made a statement in her book that I believe is so true.

"We are often not permitted to tell the truth in everyday life. There is a small set of words and reactions and pleasantries we are allowed to say, like, "I'm fine and you?" But we are not supposed to say much of anything else, especially how we are really doing. We find out early that telling the whole truth makes people uncomfortable and is certainly not ladylike or likely to make us popular, so we learn to lie sweetly so that we can be loved. And when we figure out this system, we are split in two: the public self, who says the right things in order to belong, and the secret self who thinks other things."

I love that powerful truth. She isn't saying go tell random strangers about your whole life but she is addressing our culture of always having to "be okay" for people so we can "save face". The truth is that a lot of people feel like they have to "try" in some area of their life. This goes for men and for women.

Now I am embracing my imperfections. I'm not "trying" anymore. I am not pretending anymore. I am truthfully and unapologetically me. I know I won't please everyone, oh well. I'm staying honest and showing up. Someday's it harder to show up than others but I still show up. I think that is the point. When we get lost in all of our issues we stop showing up because we feel we cannot win. The truth is we can win. Healing from wounds can be so painful but being on the other side is even better than standing still. Truth be told, when you are in pain, you may feel like crying, cursing,praying,worshipping or being silent. I believe everyone needs a friend that will walk though muck and mire with you and make sure you do not sink and that your faith does not fail you. I have some wonderful soul sisters, Abby and Jenna, that have been with me on my mountain top moments and in the valley. They have held my hands up when I was weak and danced with me in victory. Their unconditional love has been water to my soul.

I know life happens. There will always be something to overcome. We will have to press through tough times and seasons. But now I come to the table ready with God's word on my lips because I want to be more prepared than I was before. There will be days where I am weak and I will cry and I will feel tired but this time I will choose to walk in strength. I will not believe my emotions because they cannot be trusted.

Same goes for you. You are much stronger than you think you are. When you feel like the weight of the world is crashing down don't despair. You are only getting stronger. You may hurt now but it won't last forever- joy will come.

True freedom comes from knowing your daddy God is welcoming you home with open arms everyday- no matter what you look like or how much you messed up. Some people make God seem like he is sitting up in heaven waiting to punish us but I feel like he would be singing "You don't have to try, try, try, try" because we are already accepted. We are already loved and everyday he is drawing our hearts to His. He believes in our worth and value and I know He is beckoning us to believe it too.

Choose to show up and be present. This world needs you.

Here is a question we must all ask ourselves:

"When you're all alone, by yourself, do you like you?

Do you like you?"

Colbie Caillat

XOXOsignature-wordpress

I Thought I knew What I Was Doing.

photo 1As a young adult, we have grand plans for our life and where we see ourselves or we don't have any plans at all and we are just seeing where life takes us. Regardless, either way presents some challenges. Most likely our plans have changed about 203938473 times (okay, I'm exaggerating but you get the point) by now. Maybe it is just me with all the plans that keep changing? I don't know but its too much pressure to try and figure out every single inch of my life. Its stressful. I give up.So now I have adopted the idea that the more I take time to learn about the heart of Jesus and who he is- the more things change, I change, and my plans change. After getting my degree in Social Work and learning about social injustice and what that really means, I have had an undeniable passion to advocate for people. Going overseas just confirmed that passion even more. Being in America confused that passion. I was tired of church as I knew it to be. I came back to America with this insatiable desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus, literally. In college and beyond I was searching for a church that had that same desire to serve others and really live life with people in the community. Outside of a few clothing drives here and there- things were looking pretty bleak and my focus changed from the community back to me. I had a life to figure out, duh- what else was a twenty something supposed to be doing?I was thinking about myself all too much until April 2014 and God interrupted my life. Yes, He did. He completely diverted my attention and reminded me of the main reason I was placed on this earth- to LOVE people. So while I am sitting in frustration, worry, doubt, and fear; I began to realize why I had no peace. How can I truly serve others when I am only thinking about myself?I read a few books that wrecked me during my Solitude time and that was the beginning of the end for me. By the time June rolled around, I was helpless to the realization that life as I knew it was being altered. Then one Saturday morning I took my shoes off and everything changed. I was more fulfilled walking into my apartment with no shoes than I was before I gave them away. Then all the sudden Matthew 25:34-40 comes alive. You see this pattern, friends? The past few months have been like a domino effect.So instead of running for the hills and becoming self-absorbed again, I am embracing this steady wrecking of my heart or being sweetly broken (as some people say). When this happens I get really weepy. I can't help it. I am emotional a very emotional human being. So today I woke up fighting back tears, I cried during worship at church, I cried while driving to the store, etc. You get my point. Some deep shifting is happening in my heart and instead of trying to figure it out; I am just letting it happen.I have found that when this wrecking happens the best thing I can do is be still. So that is what I took time to do today. Sit, eat gelato, read, and pray. If you are being wrecked like me and your plans are changing- let's start a support group. I promise to keep you entertained, listen often, and make you laugh.I'll leave you all with a quote from Brene Brown because she is awesome.

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”― Brené Brown
 
 
 
Lets stick together and stay authentic,
XOXO

 signature-wordpressP.S.Did I mention I went to Austin this weekend?  I love that place. 

Every Day Counts

If you are feeling discouraged about life or your dreams and feel like you aren't going anywhere, remember that every single day that you are alive and well counts. You are taking steps towards your destiny; that is worth being thankful for & fighting for. You are worth fighting for.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.- Martin Luther King Jr.

I have those days of weariness when I'm full of questions, and in those moments I wonder if I am moving forward or standing still? Will my current situation be the same in 2 years or 5 years? (Especially when my free-spirited self is tied down to a desk.)

What will my life look like?

Great question.

I don't know, chances are what you and I think life will look like a few months or years from now could drastically change.

So my thoughts to all of us over thinkers and planners:

Lets enjoy life but not get comfortable with where we are. 

Dream big and not fear.

Jump when there is an open door 

or one worth knocking down.

Believe we can change the world because we can.

Fight for what we believe in.

Stand up for truth and justice.

Live out Micah 6:8.

Trust.

& Wait.

& Wait more if we have to.

May our impatience not lead us further from where we need to be.

Nothing good comes out of building our own idols

and worshipping our own desires.

 One day at a time,XOXOSignature Wordpress