breathe.

I thought the football game this past weekend would serve as a great break from studying for the exams I have this week, and although we did win 51-0, the game turned into inspiration for a blog post more so than a fun study break. To put a long story short, within the first 10 minutes of the game, immediately after we scored our first of many touchdowns that night, the unfortunate event of having alcohol spilled all over me took place (which, I should note, is hilarious to me now). The dude standing behind me in the bleachers was apparently pushed by someone behind him, which caused him to then fall forward into me. It’s fine, accidents happen, but when I say that his drink, comprised of coke mixed with Lord knows what kinds of alcohol, spilled all over me, I mean, alllll over me — my arms, my jacket, my shirt, my feet, and yes, my hair. So it’s 10 minutes into the game and I’m already sticky, now reeking of alcohol even though I was sober, and my hair is now wet, tangled, and everything in between. Uncomfortable for sure, but I wasn’t ready to leave, so, I sucked it up and continued cheering on our Dukes! About 20 minutes later, said dude standing behind me who had previously spilled his drink on me, fell down & fell forward (he had had a bit too much to drink that day). This resulted in his 6 foot self knocking my 5’3 self right off of the bleacher I was standing on and onto the ground into the people in front of me.

You know how sometimes, when you get angry or irritated, you have to tell yourself to breathe?

That was pretty much me at this point. (though now I have a neat bruise on my foot to show for this ordeal). I stood there after this kid had slammed into me twice now, and I told myself to breathe. In retrospect, doing so made me think about how that was the first time I had actually consciously breathed in and breathed out. It was the first time I had paused, and focused on only my breathing.

You see, obviously, we typically don’t have to think about our breathing, right? We don’t have to remind ourselves to breathe, because our bodies just do it. It’s innate. But have you ever thought about how incredibly helpful it can be to do that? To actually pause, let your mind rest and think about nothing other than the mere act of breathing in and breathing out…

I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed, something I’m great at doing is neglecting to allow myself time to pause and breathe. I continue to go, go, go, because when I know there is work to be done, exams to be studied for, applications to work on, essays to write, emails to send, I have trouble putting aside things on my to-do list in order to catch my breath. I am certain I am not the only person out there guilty of that. Typically what happens with that is I keep going, going, going until one small thing will stop me in my tracks and open my eyes to how desperately I need to stop for a hot minute and catch my breath. I’m about to enter week 5 of senior year and each day I have felt as though I have had time to do anything but breathe. I even wrote in my planner last week, “reminder: breathe” and I can think of only 1 instance where I actually attempted to be intentional about doing that. It’s hard. But when we do that, it puts things in perspective. It gives us time to step back and realize that the entire world is, in fact, not all on our shoulders. I encourage you to be intentional about doing that.

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

That’s how I breathe when I run, and how I breathe when my anxiety is really bad. The physiological effects of anxiety are sometimes horrendous, and breathing is difficult in the moment. Just yesterday, for example, anxiety decided to disrupt my walk home from campus, so when I got home, I sat down on my couch, and I breathed. I focused solely on that — breathing in and breathing out. And it helps, cliche as it may sound.

You can only continue going, going, going, and you can only bottle it up, brush it under the rug for so long before something gives. Don’t let yourself be the thing that gives. Allow yourself time to pause. To breathe. To simply ‘be.’ I encourage/challenge you (and myself) to take time to breathe this week. No matter how busy you are, no matter how stressed you are from work or school or anything else. Take time to pause. Be intentional about breathing in and out and having no responsibility other than that — just pause, every hour, every few hours, every few minutes, and focus on your breathing. Have a mantra you repeat to yourself. Pray. Meditate. Ask God to be with you. Remind yourself God is holding you in the palm of his hand! Remember he is strong and is able to lighten your load if you would just simply ask! Personally I have been clinging to this verse below recently, & perhaps it’s one you can carry with you this week:

1 Corinthians 1:25:

“God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom,

God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

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wholehearted dependence || senior year.

Somehow, here I sit — a gal who has just completed her very first week of senior year – how crazy! I feel as though I was JUST moving into my freshman dorm room yesterday, and now, I am sitting here in my house, which conveniently sits right across from campus, and I am unable to stop thinking about how crazy it is to be in my fourth year of college already. Those years have flown by, but I suppose that is a post for another day.

This past week, I began my senior year of college! The week was long, difficult, & stressful, along with every other synonym for all of those words. I am enrolled in five classes this semester, all psychology, and I am so excited for them! The classes consist of abnormal psych, psych of leadership, counseling, diversity issues in psych, and sensation & perception. They all seem so interesting, and I love learning, so I cannot wait to see what more I’ll learn about psych at the greatest university on the planet (I do apologize in advance, though, to all of the people whom I encounter on a regular basis, because I will undoubtedly be analyzing you and trying to diagnose you in my head).

Along with my classes this semester, I am applying to seminary. As many of you know, I am in the process towards becoming a pastor, specifically, an Elder in the United Methodist Church, and one requirement for that process is to pursue and earn my M. Div. So, slowly but surely, I have been creating my accounts, opening and starting my applications, drafting my written statements, asking for recommendation letters, and figuring out the various deadlines for each seminary I am applying to.

There were many times throughout this past week that I thought to myself, “yep, this is impossible to handle.” And I’m sure there will be many more occurrences throughout the semester in which I will think that to myself. But two words that I’ve been clinging to that I think really sum up what having God in my life means, especially during these crazy stressful seasons, is wholehearted dependence. Just last night as I was journaling, some of the words that flowed right off my heart and onto the page were, “I can’t see how I’m going to handle this semester, because I am not the one handling it — we are — You and me, God.” 

I feel like I don’t even have time to be sitting down right now to breathe and write this post, but first and foremost, self care is still important, no matter how busy you get, and secondly, perhaps you need to be reminded to have this wholehearted dependence on a God who is always faithful, in every season and in every moment.

This week seemed like just about the longest week I’ve had in a while, and perhaps that’s because it began on a not so high note. I got back into Hburg this past Sunday, and I was super disorganized beforehand, because I only had 1 week after getting home from Cuba to pack all of my stuff and uproot myself to Hburg for the semester. I basically unpacked and then repacked and by repacked I mean I threw everything into suitcases and then into my car and called it “packed.” And of course, my move back to this town for my senior year wouldn’t be complete without a little excitement!

On Sunday, I left church with the worst pain and irritation in my right eye. It was as though somebody was taking a toothpick and poking my eye with it continuously. I walked out of church after the church and someone in the parking lot asked me if I was okay, because they thought I was crying, due to how my eyes were watering uncontrollably from the pain, and would not stop twitching. The pain did subside once I had sat in my car for a few minutes, so I began to drive home from church, but when I was about three minutes from home, it began again. I pretty much had to drive with one eye shut, which was stupid on my part, but, I will never do it again, I am alive, and so is everyone I passed on the road. I got home and bolted out of my car to grab my mom and ask for her help, because I thought for sure something was in my eye that I just could not for the life of me see. My mom and sister were planning on coming back to Hburg with me anyways to get me settled, which worked out well, because while I thought I would be able to drive, when I arrived at the gas station before getting on the road, my eye pain, twitching, and watering started again, and there was no way I was going to drive over a mountain like that. I hate driving over Afton mountain even with 20/20 vision, I was not about to do it with an impaired right eye. So, my awesome sister drove my car, my mom following behind. My eye twitched and watered and hurt the entire hour long drive back to my house at school. I was miserable, felt nauseous, and began to get a headache. So, they took me to urgent care once we got back to Hburg, where I got a a bunch of eye drops and found out that I had a corneal abrasion. The provider gave me an antibiotic ointment to put on my eye lid 4 times a day for 5 days (I’m now done with the antibiotics and feeling much, much better!) If you’re wondering what caused the abrasion, I’m afraid I don’t have some cool crazy answer for you. The doctor seemed to think that I originally did have something in my eye, and when I went to try get it out, I scratched the cornea. But anyways, that’s how this week started. I coincidentally do not have class Monday’s or Friday’s, so, Tuesday rolled around, and sure enough, it gave me yet another story:

All summer, I had been waitlisted for a class that I need in order to graduate. I was seventh in line to get into the class, which meant that it was pretty positive I would not get into it this semester. So, I began looking for a back up. Well, pretty much everything I would ever be interested in taking, was full (remember: 20,000 students go to this school). I need at least 15 credits this semester and 15 next semester in order to graduate with enough credits, because of how transferring worked out for me. My back up class ended up being a diversity issues in psych class, which I do not need, but I needed another class in order to be enrolled in 15 credits. Well, I was on the waitlist for that class, too. I was confident that I would get an override if I just showed up to the class and asked the professor for one, considering that I was the only person on the waitlist. However, when I showed up on Tuesday, I went up to the professor at the beginning of class to ask her about an override, and she told me that she does not give overrides because she wants the class to be as small as possible. So I left after she told me that, practically in tears, and I went to my department building to try to find another class online. Right when I sat down at my computer and logged into my university account, I saw that I had been enrolled in the class and off of the waitlist for that class — that class I had just been told I couldn’t be in because I was on the waitlist.

“Okay, God…I see you!”

The entire time I was waitlisted in that one class over the summer (the first class) I wasn’t worried about it at all. I trusted that it would work out one way or another. I am so close to graduation — I knew I would be okay, which doesn’t mean that I can just not work and expect God to have everything fall into place for me, rather, it means I was at peace while doing all that I possibly could to make it all work out…one way or another. Because when I think about it, that’s how it has always worked. God has always made a way, even if it wasn’t the ‘best way’ in my opinion, it was the way in his eyes, and it has always been better than any plan I could’ve had for myself. So rather than worrying myself sick about something that I ultimately had zero control over, I chose to believe it would work out…one way or another. All of that stems from my vivid memory of my first semester here at JMU — one night I paced back and forth outside of the library sobbing on the phone to my mom about how I thought I was going to fail calculus and never graduate college let alone graduate on time…………and here I am. God has gotten me this far. He has taken care of me. He will take care of you. He will take care of us, always.

When I got off that waitlist and into the class, I was hesitant at first because it was not my first choice, but after pausing in my tracks for a second, I thought maybe that was God saying to me, ‘hey, go for it — this is me taking care of you, again, as promised’

This week, while I have been going, going, going, and while crawling into bed has been the most satisfying thing in the world, every night, I haven’t let myself go to bed without reminding myself that God has me — that I am taken care of by him, today & always. He will be with me as I stress about classes and as I get all of my seminary applications and documents submitted by each of their deadlines. He will be with me while I take my exams, embrace this last year of school with my friends, and he will be with me when I find out if I’ve gotten accepted or rejected from these seminaries. He will be there, and he will have me in the palm of his hand, no matter what. We’re so lucky to have a God like that. This past week, I got to share at my church here in H-burg about my time in Cuba, and it reminded me of 2 things, including that, but also,

(1) The world is so much bigger than we see it and (2) I am called.

Cuba opened my eyes in many different ways to many different things, and I’m still processing what all of those different things are. But I miss it so much, and I can’t wait to go back one day (soon!!!), which reminds me that this world is so much bigger than school. It’s bigger than the view we have of ourselves and of life right now as students in college.

(2) I was reminded that I am called to minister. I’m not called to school, I’m not even called to seminary — those are steps on the path that I need to take and am excited to take, in order to get to my goal and call to become a pastor, but school is not my final goal nor should it cloud my vision from the opportunities I have right here, right now, to minister. I’m called to serve wherever I am. I’m called to love wherever I am and whomever I’m around. I’m called to show Jesus to people who know him already and people who do not. I am so excited to continue pursuing God’s call upon my life, here, where I am now, at the greatest university on the planet, as well as in the future, in seminary and beyond.

This semester is going to be difficult, and stressful, and filled with lots of coffee and probably some mental breakdowns and crying sesh’s here & there, either in my church’s sanctuary or on the phone with my parents. But I will always get back up. I have wonderful people surrounding me all of the time, I live with 5 of the greatest gals I know, I have amazing friends, family, and mentors loving and supporting me, near and from afar. And I have the greatest God, who I know has me in the palm of his hand.

I really appreciate any prayers you have to offer for this semester that is before me, and please let me know how I can be praying for you! & Remember to have that wholehearted dependence on our God — He is faithful and steadfast always!

Cuba 2018 || the people.

Its been four days since our team got back into the States after 10 days in Cuba, and I am realizing, through my talking about it & reflecting on my time there, that no words will ever be sufficient. I kept telling myself that I would write a post about the trip when I had, “the right words,” but there are no ‘right’ words to sum up or describe the 10 days we spent in Cuba the way it deserves – in a way, I think that is actually pretty special. Words are so powerful, and for a mission trip to be so powerful that not even words can fully grasp it, is pretty amazing to me. I think maybe it can only be understood and grasped through living & experiencing it, and I am forever thankful to have done just that. I realize it doesn’t help me much as a writer or blogger, to struggle to find words to encompass what those 10 days were to me, but I couldn’t not write about it, so here I am, just typing and seeing where the words go.

I am still reflecting on this trip each day, letting it all sink in, and taking away lessons from my experience there — I think my time in Cuba impacted me more than my mind & heart are able to grasp and realize right now, which is why I’m sure there will be many more than just 1 post. Firstly, how a mission trip affects you is something I feel you can never quite fully prepare yourself for — you can plan, you can pack all of your necessities, you can talk about it, you can have a (very) tentative itinerary, but there is a lot that you will not know until it’s happening, and a lot that could happen that you simply cannot plan for. From the very beginning, since the day I said, ‘yes’ to this opportunity, I was most excited about the people — the relationships that would be built, both with my teammates and with our brothers & sisters whom we would meet in Cuba. That was what made me most excited, and as I sit here, 4 days post-Cuba, I can confidently report back that the people are what made this trip what it was; the beautiful, beautiful people of Cuba were a part of the trip that I most certainly could have never prepared myself for.

The relationships we built with those in San Juan de los Yeras over the course of a short five days continues to leave me in awe. Before I even met any of them, I would so easily refer to them as my brothers & sisters, because God kept reminding me that they are my family — that we are all one in Christ, and wow, what a difference that makes when it comes to our perspectives and view of others — when we remember that we are all part of God’s family, & that no race, ethnicity, nationality, or language changes that. They are our brothers & sisters, and they inspire me — they persevere, they are tenacious, they are innovative, they are kind, they are generous, they are passionate, you won’t find them complaining or looking at themselves as victims, they love the Lord with all their heart & mind & soul & strength, and they rely on him to the extent that I am still striving to rely on him. And the people I got to call my teammates, who I grew such a deep love & care for over the course of 10 days makes me grateful every day. One of my favorite things to do is to truly know people; to know their strengths, their gifts, their likes, dislikes, and watch them be lights for God. I got to do that on this trip, whether they realized it or not, they each taught me something about themselves and about God and I just love that.

Beth and Kevin are two of the most intelligent individuals I have ever met on this planet. I had the pleasure of sitting in the same row as them on the airplane all four flights, and I found that while everyone else was watching movies, sleeping, or listening to music, Beth & Kevin would sit there and pass the time by doing crossword puzzles or studying a Spanish textbook. Kevin also has a wonderfully unique and simply astounding singing voice. Mary Kaye sings also, and when she sings, the type of sound that exits her mouth is one which you may imagine hearing upon entering the gates to Heaven — I am pretty positive my jaw dropped to the floor and remained there every time she would sing. The presence she has when standing before large groups of people is confident & lovely, as is her spirit, in general. She is so great at connecting with people, which is something I got to witness so well in Cuba through her interactions with the people there. Larry is so subtly hilarious, and also wears many hats — he is a preacher, a bus driver, great at speaking Spanish, and I bet you didn’t know he also has his own bank, “The Bank of Larry — open 24/7.” Paul is remarkably kind, a wonderful pastor & pal, he is always encouraging others, has great wisdom to share, he listens intently to what you have to say rather than simply thinking of how to respond while you’re talking, and is also so, so great with children. Gary was our ‘doctor’ throughout our time in Cuba, and he carried out the title well. He is a calm presence if I’ve ever known one, he checks in on you, and he is a BOSS at the game UNO (but he’s not as great as Pastor Gaspar, sorry Gary). Gary also let’s people pick on him (but not without dishing it right back to you). Joanna is a painting pro, she is so fun to be around, she loves well & cares for people well, she is full of energy, and always up for anything. I do wish I had a penny for every time the words, “where is my wife?” came out of Paul’s mouth — but the answer is that she was always off enjoying herself & taking awesome pics of the beautiful places we journeyed to! Also, the love between those two is #MarriageGoals. Viv – Viv is one of the sweetest individuals you will ever meet. She goes with the flow, never has anything negative to say about anything or anyone, & you will never heard a complaint come out of her mouth. She is the definition of optimistic and I strive to have that amount of optimism! Meredith has the best personality and a spectacular attitude about life & about whatever circumstances she finds herself in, especially on this trip, where she fell down not one but two times. She also so easily formed bonds with the people, especially 15 year old Diana. P.J. is the definition of free spirited. She’s like a little kid in the best possible way, she is super fun to be around, and is always so excited about everything which I LOVE. She was cracking everyone up the whole trip. Kerry has the best work ethic – he sets his mind on a task, he problem solves well, and he helps gets the job done. He is independent but also simultaneously works so well with a team. He has the softest heart, is great with children, and with being relational in general. And when he leads a devotion, or prayer, or communion, he speaks in such a calm manner that one can only attribute to the Spirit.

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Those are the people I got to travel with, and I have to say, traveling with an A+ team like them and then meeting even more amazing people during our time in Cuba filled & continues to fill my heart in a way I really cannot express in writing.

I would go as far as to say I was convicted on this trip in that I did not realize how much more I really need to be showing the love of God through my own actions, until I met the people of Cuba, and was shown so vividly how Jesus loved with his actions. Way before I left for Cuba, I was talking to a friend of mine expressing some concern because I barely know any Spanish, and she told me, “on the mission trips I’ve been on, I’ve found that God’s love always overcomes those language barriers.” I had no idea just how true that statement would play out to be. God’s love is something that should be shown more than merely talked about. I witnessed, experienced, and received God’s love on this trip in ways I had never before. I received love & generosity from people who are more rich in it than I have ever been, and I’m thankful for that conviction. I’m thankful for the love I was shown and thankful for the presence of so many beautiful people all in one place for those 10 days (especially the 5 days we spent in San Juan). I was so content being surrounded by these beautiful people, listening to them, laughing with them, playing UNO with them, worshiping with them, sharing meals with them. And it’s funny, because I’m an introvert, so while I love & adore people, I need my time alone to gain back energy I pour out eing around people for long periods of time, but on this trip, I was constantly around people, and not once did I become anxious and tired of being around people. Id be lying if I said I was anxiety-free the entire trip, but never any anxiety about being around so many people so often. To me, that was God giving me the energy, strength, and fuel he knew I needed to be my happy self and be present on this trip, with the people — my brothers & sisters. That was a common theme throughout those 10 days — God doing what only God can do.

The verse I clung to during this trip was Psalm 4:3,  “the Lord takes personal care of the faithful (CEB).’ It’s the first verse I opened up to in Psalm when I was preparing to lead devotions our first morning in Cuba (Saturday, the…). Every single person on our team was there because they were faithful to God’s call to ‘go.’ I was comfortable outside of my comfort zone, and I think that so describes what life with God is — he calls us out upon the waters, literally out of where is comfortable, and he takes care of us the whole time –  never fails. I never in a million years would have seen myself going to Cuba on a mission trip, or preaching in another country with a translator, but I said to God, “here I am,” and so there I was.

& I will be back. I knew the moment I got there that it would not be my only time in Cuba. The people — they, I believe, make Cuba the place it is. The country is beautiful, the old cars are neat, the history is fascinating, sad, difficult to understand, & yet powerful, but the people — you know the beauty of Cuba when you know the people. I cannot wait to go back.

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This picture was from Wednesday evening worship — we were each gifted with straw hats which we had no idea about…there were many hugs, tears, and smiles.

August 12, 2017.

My family moved to Charlottesville about five months after I was born in Maryland, so this little town in central VA has been home to me my whole life. I grew up attending Friday’s after Five downtown, hiking Humpback rock, going to concerts at JPJ, living off of Bodos Bagels, walking the strip of the downtown mall about a million times, especially when I was a teenager and thought that my friends and I were the coolest kids around all because we were finally allowed to be down there without our parents. I grew up attending UVA football games not because anyone in my family went there or because I desired to go there, but because growing up in Charlottesville, it was just something you did. It’s funny, back in high school, kids would always talk about how badly they could not wait to get out of this town; “it’s too boring, there’s nothing to do, it’s too small.” And that last part is true – it is small. You can’t go out anywhere without seeing at least one person you know. But no matter how badly a person wants to leave, it’s amazing the sense of pride people carry with them when they say they’re from here. Charlottesville is the type of town that you tell people you’re from, and they go on & on just raving about how much they love it. My friends at other schools including my own love traveling here to escape the norm. I’ve always loved this place, and can’t imagine having grown up anyplace else. Am I glad to attend college elsewhere, and do I want to venture away from here and experience new places? Yes & yes. But this place is home; spend 21 years anywhere and it’s kind of hard not to feel that way. But myself and everyone whose grown up here, did so with the idea that Charlottesville was just this little town in central Virginia that nobody really knew about. Never in a million years did we think Charlottesville would be a nation wide topic of discussion. But here we are, approaching the anniversary of something not only our city but also our country will remember always, and one day have in textbooks, no doubt.

As I sit here thinking about how vividly I remember this weekend, it’s still kind of surreal to grasp that something like what happened, actually happened here, in Charlottesville.

On the evening of August 11th last year, I sat at home watching live footage on Facebook of the white supremacists marching through UVA’s campus with lit torches. They were chanting, “you will not replace us” in reference to those urging the removal of the Robert E. Lee Statue from one of our parks downtown. There was this knot in my stomach that would remain there over the course of the weekend as I watched everything unfold. I knew there were going to be rally’s downtown on the 12th that would be present to counter the Unite the Right rally, spreading love in the midst of the hate that the white supremacists brought with them, and I wanted so badly to go downtown the morning of the 12th to participate in the counter walks being held, but I ended up not being able to find anyone who could go with me, and with safety being a concern, I opted to stay home. I think everyone knew from the start that this day was not going to play out well.

On the 12th, I was attending a rehearsal dinner for a wedding that would take place the next day. The dinner was on Pantops for this rehearsal dinner, which is about 5 minutes from downtown, where the rally was taking place. I kept updated through Facebook on my phone about all that was going on downtown. I got word that a car had plowed through a crowd of people on the downtown mall, killing Heather Heyer, and then not long after, I saw that there had been a helicopter crash which took the lives of two Virginia State troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, III and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who were in the helicopter to get visual of what was happening on the ground around Charlottesville. That knot in my stomach grew. What made my heart sink even more during all of this was that I was scheduled to fill in for my pastor & preach the next day — the day after numerous white supremacists had come into our city and held a hate-filled rally which ultimately resulted in the death of three individuals, right in our church’s backyard. My pastor called me while I was at the rehearsal dinner, and when I saw his name pop up on my phone, I knew before I even answered the call that it would be about what was going on. Though he was technically on vacation, he told me that I would still be preaching, but that he was going to be there at church due to everything that had happened. I have to say, that was the first sigh of relief I had taken all day because I was not prepared to lead church through something as horrible as that all on my own. In hindsight, I am grateful that God allowed me to experience what it’s like to lead a congregation through such a devastating time, and as usual, he was faithful in showing up and doing what only he can do in worship.

I was up at 11pm Saturday night, the 12th, and then up at 5am Sunday morning, the 13th, editing my sermon, because what I had as my sermon before all of this happened was most certainly not the sermon that I could preach on Sunday anymore. There was so much hate, anger, intolerance, ignorance that weekend, love was absent. There were people downtown on the 12th who came to counter the hate filled Unite the Right Rally with love, but with such evident hatred being spewed from those white supremacists, I think everyone, including myself needed to be reminded of love, so that is what my sermon was about more than anything else that Sunday — Jesus & love. My heart had never been as heavy as it was before, during, & after preaching on that Sunday. I seldom get nervous when I preach, but that Sunday, I had never been more filled with nerves. But God showed up, like I said, and I’m thankful, because our congregation, our city, needed that. God is love and love is what will trump the hate.

I went downtown a few days after the rally with a couple friends after things had calmed down a bit. It was eerily quiet. The street that the car had plowed through was blocked off, and there laid a memorial for Heather Heyer which was covered with flowers and sweet messages written out in chalk, along with news cameras & many Charlottesville natives there to pay our respects.

Walking the downtown mall felt different, always will now, I think. I believe this event brought out city together more than it tore it apart because in the midst of such a tragic & trying time, people here felt as though they could do nothing more but come together, to grieve, to talk, to give hope to one another that what happened here does not define our city — that we can help be the change even stronger now that this has happened. We acknowledge that this hate is not welcome here. So the question remains:

What we are going to do about it?

Well what if we challenged ourselves to embrace differences, & talk about those differences, rather than attack one another for those differences? What if we willingly sat down for coffee or lunch with people whom we disagree with, and heard each other out, rather than ignorantly refusing to have our minds expanded by others? What if we opened up our own minds wide enough to believe that we could actually learn from people who are different from us? What if we let ourselves learn from people we disagree with, rather than write them off because we disagree? What if, instead of ‘agreeing to disagree’ we agreed to talk about our disagreements, and vowed to not get up from the table until we agree that we will love one another despite our disagreements? What if we let ourselves be vulnerable enough to admit that we don’t know everything? What if we listened — truly & intently listened, to what other people have to say when they speak, rather than just thinking of how we’re going to respond when they’re finished? What if we acknowledged that racism is real instead of ignoring it merely because it doesn’t affect you or me? What if we acknowledged that white privilege is real, rather than telling ourselves it’s not just to make ourselves feel better?

If you are white, you and I have privilege whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. What if we took the time to listen to the stories those of color have; stories about their experiences with racism, words they have about how our history makes them feel & what if we asked & then listened to the ideas our brothers & sisters of color have for how we can move forward, so as not to repeat that history. If you’re white, remember nobody is asking you to apologize for the color of your skin. We can’t control what our skin looks like, but we can control what we do with the privilege we have because of it. 

We also can’t control the actions of others — those who carry out acts of pure hate like the one’s we witnessed around this time last year. But we can control how we respond, and remember that tolerating it, is a response (& not a good one). That is not how we’re going to move forward as a nation. We move forward when we come together, and talk. Otherwise, we’ll continue to live in our own bubbles, with our own experiences & own perspectives & views of the world, separated, and incapable of reaching unity. (And remember, unity is not something that is capable of being reached only if we are all in agreement! Our unity is tighter when diversity exists!) Don’t have yourself convinced that the only way to enact change is to do something huge and extravagant. The simplest acts often make the biggest change, don’t forget that. Start by loving a little more. Go carry our random acts of kindness. Pay for the person behind you’s meal or coffee. Smile at stranger more. Give compliments more. Go hug somebody. Lift people up more than you tear them down.

Pray.

God, today, I pray — I pray that there would be more conversation;  more civil conversations and less shouting, less threatening, & less violence. I pray for such an abundant amount of peace that there would not even be room left for any violence. May we all be filled with such an extravagant amount of love that there would be no room left for hate. God, give us patience when we are speaking to one another. God, help us, your children, to use this anniversary as a way to remember the three beautiful lives lost last year, and also to reflect on what we can do, individually and together, to ensure that this hate & violence does not happen ever again, here or anywhere.


If you are looking for an outlet to express your thoughts as we approach this anniversary, as I have just done through this post, please feel free to comment below and share.

5 1/2 years||recovery

The 13th of August is actually the day that marks 5 1/2 years, so I am posting this a little early given that I will be out of the country on the 13th & likely without access to the blog. (but will I still carry myself extra joyfully & maybe do some cartwheels around Cuba to celebrate? it’s likely). I wanted to be sure I wrote & published this before I left because over the past few years it has become somewhat of a tradition for me to write a reflective post whenever I hit a whole or half year anniversary in recovery, and doing so is important to me for 2 reasons. First and foremost, I know there are people who read this blog solely for the posts surrounding mental health, eating disorders, & recovery, and I want to share whatever hope I can with them. While writing about such an important & vulnerable part of my life still makes me a little anxious, I think in our society today, it’s important to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, especially as a means of breaking stigmas. I know that back when I was first beginning recovery, I would seek out people to talk to who I knew could relate, and I would always find myself reading articles or blogs online that could help me navigate it all. So now that I am where I am, its become important to me that this blog serves as that source of hope for people who may need it, just as I did. I also write these posts to keep track of this journey for myself, because my recovery is & continues to be the reason that I am here today, and I think that’s something to celebrate, both in writing & in life.

As I approach 5 1/2 years, I think one of the biggest things I’ve been learning recently is that being in recovery is not a weakness. As open as I’ve been about this part of my life, the whole ‘recovery does not indicate weakness’ concept is a fairly new one to me, and it’s something I’m still working on believing entirely. I am a perfectionist, and while none of our lives, realistically, are perfect, having struggled with an eating disorder and being in recovery is a part of my life that stands out to me as ‘imperfect,’ and my mind likes to remind me of that. But what I’m learning is that it’s okay to be in recovery and not yet be fully recovered, and that it’s not a weakness.

I had this belief in my head that I could not simultaneously be in recovery and also be an effective leader in ministry, or an aspiring pastor. When I interviewed with DCOM for my certification interview, we talked about this a lot, and I had no idea walking into that interview that along with being overjoyed about becoming certified, I would also be encouraged in my recovery by the nine or so laity & pastors, including my DS, who interviewed & certified me. It stirred up in my head this crazy idea that maybe this isn’t the end all be all — that I can excel in life and in ministry while also being in recovery. While there is no doubt in my mind that I will be fully recovered one day, it is a beautiful thing to know that I will be supported by those both in my professional and personal life until that day comes. I don’t think the members of DCOM will ever understand the extent to which they reassured me of this truth — that it’s okay to have crap to go through and that you can struggle and still lead well & effectively in the Church (and anywhere else!) Given that my recovery and my call to ministry are two of the most important things in the world to me, believing this has been a life changing thing. In retrospect, I can’t believe I ever let myself think I couldn’t continue in the process towards pastoral leadership unless I no longer had a figurative mountain to climb, or that I could not be in the process of recovery without failing miserably as a leader. But the reality of it is, we all, at some point in our lives (more than once) will have various mountains to climb, because we’re human beings! But that does not at all make us incapable of doing anything, especially not what God has called us to do. That is a truth that sunk in even more for me the day that I sat down in a church one Sunday and listened to a pastor preach about their recovery from an addiction. To hear that being preached from the pulpit & to see someone stand before me who is in recovery, and also a pastor was so helpful in my walk. It was reassurance that I think I needed in order to begin believing that it’s okay to not be perfect, cliche as that sounds. As I sat there, God was like, “hey, you don’t have to choose between being in recovery and being a pastor, you know.” And that is just one of the many examples of how I did not come to this realization all on my own. Along with God I have a lot of people to thank for helping me get this ingrained into my head. The mentors, pastors, & all of the people in my life who I look up to, I once did everything in my power to hide my recovery from, for fear of coming across as weak — but now? They’re some of my biggest supporters in recovery. Not too long ago, I was tagging along on hospital/house visits with one of my pastors, and it was about lunch time and we hadn’t finished our visits yet, so they said, “we’re going to get lunch out, unless that makes you nervous,” and I’ll never forget being taken aback, in a good way, that someone I look up to would be conscious of something like that. Comments like that still make me step back in awe because it rips apart my belief that this is something people will look at me differently for, treat me as fragile or weak for, or something that nobody could ever be ‘normal’ about. But those are lies. Instead, these people who may not even begin to understand what recovery is, still pray for & with me, they listen, they let me vent or cry, they check in with me, & they willingly hold me accountable – these people are nothing short of a blessing from God. It may have taken me 5 years, but I am grateful to slowly but surely be getting over seeing my recovery as some sort of weakness, and instead, seeing it as something that could actually make me a better person, leader, student, friend, & future pastor. We all have crap to go through, amen? Even those whom we think so highly of, or deem perfect. But that crap that we go through doesn’t deem you or me incapable of excelling, or incapable of being used by God. Whatever your mountain is, whatever challenge you face, remember it does not have to stunt your ability to thrive, and it does not make you weak. These obstacles you face aren’t supposed to hinder you, deem you weak, make you ashamed, or discourage you. They’re supposed to help create you.

Personally, it’s not that often that I say out loud the 6 words, “I am in recovery from anorexia” but in my mind, they’re words that carry with them strength, when they used to be words that carried with them shame. I remember when I wasn’t in recovery, still in the very depths of the disorder, and how miserable I constantly was. But now I see where I am in recovery — 5 1/2 years in — and I see how happy & in love with life I am. 5 1/2 years is a long time, and its been hard work, and still is hard work some days and some weeks. But it is beautiful. So don’t lose hope. You’ll get there. Remember recovery is a process more so than it is a choice that you make just once. I say and I write that all the time but it’s a truth that I don’t think can be acknowledged too much. Recovery is a choice you make day after day after day, meal after meal after meal, and sometimes, moment after moment after moment. I am able to have a healthy relationship with food & eat all of the peanut butter m&ms and ice cream I want, I am so very happy with where I am and where God is calling me and am able to exercise because I genuinely love it and want to make my body strong. I am so much better off than I was 5 1/2 years ago, & in every possible aspect of life — mentally, physically, emotionally.  But eating & food? It’s still a struggle some days. And on those days, I just have to fight a little harder. That is the reality of recovery from an eating disorder, or recovery from any illness. It’s not a perfect road. It’s a process, and it’s not one that you can rush. But it’s worth it — more worth it than I could even begin to write here. If you’re struggling, I want you to know that. I want you to know that you are not alone in your struggle and also want you to know that you are strong enough to fight. It’s going to be hard, so you’re going to need to fight like hell, and I know it feels impossible, but it’s not. Remember that having a mental illness of any kind does not make you weak. It’s just something you’ve been handed to combat and overcome, and you are fully capable of doing just that, so do not let yourself believe otherwise, and don’t let anyone else make you believe otherwise, either. You are strong, and you are capable. Study those words until you believe them, and never let yourself forget them. I didn’t, I haven’t, and it’s why I’ve reached 5 1/2 years. I believe in you!

Ruth and Gordon.

I’ve found that sometimes, it’s easier to find the ‘right words’ when you’re writing rather than when you are speaking, and today, that’s me. People grieve in a variety of different ways, and though I am thankful to have had a certain degree of closure when I was able to say goodbye to Ruth before she passed away yesterday, I think it is okay to admit that grieving is still something I am doing, and I’m grateful that writing can be a way for me to do that, & process the loss of somebody as special to me as Ruth. Now that both Ruth and Gordon have left this temporary home on earth to go be with Jesus in heaven forever, I am finding myself grieving both the recent passing of Ruth, as well as no longer having Ruth or Gordon here with me, selfish as that may be. So in attempt to release some of the loss I am feeling, here below is just a small piece written about the huge impact that church grandparents, Gordon & Ruth, have had on my life forever.

I met Ruth and Gordon about 5 years ago one Sunday in church at Aldersgate. I was amazed & inspired by the both of them almost instantly, we quickly established quite a special relationship & it was not long at all before they began referring to me as their ‘church granddaughter,’ and them as my ‘church grandparents.’ I would sit with them each Sunday that we both could be there and we would plop ourselves down on either the far left of the sanctuary or towards the back in the center pews. Every Sunday I would see them coming out of the elevator and walking through the sanctuary doors and it would instantly bring a beaming smile to my face. Always in their Sunday best, they often (adorably) did their best to color coordinate their outfits so that they were matching to a certain extent. Ruth absolutely loved purple, and she loved wearing her hats & bonnets of all kinds & colors, so, you’d often find her sporting a purple dress or skirt and Gordon with a purple tie. They also had this great red, white, and black combo of outfits that they’d wear together, too. Man, they were so in love with one another, and oh how clear it was that this beautiful love came straight from God. Knowing them was a joy because the joy they carried in their hearts was more contagious than the flu, you all. They loved the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind, & strength more so than anyone I have ever met before in my life. They both were in their 90s when they passed away, and all of those years were spent faithfully serving the Jesus Christ whom they are now rejoicing with in heaven. They could never not talk about the Lord and his goodness. His praise was always on their lips.

Ruth and I were frequent pen pals while I was away in college. She loved to write, and she sure was great at it (and yes, she was a published author!) She would always end her letters with one or two Bible verses that were always so fitting to either one or both of our situations. No matter what was going on, she would always end on such a positive note. We talked on the phone frequently as well; whenever I needed wisdom or encouragement, I’d find my little fingers scrolling to her name in my phone contacts — she was my go-to gal, and it will definitely be weird not having that anymore. When we did talk on the phone, we would never hang up without first praying. She typically would say the prayer, but once health issues began plaguing her, she would ask me to say the prayer, which I happily did. I think it takes courage to ask somebody to pray with/for you, and she eagerly asked when she needed prayer, which I admire immensely. Ruth and Gordon also never missed me preach, and if for whatever reason, they were unable to be there, they would hear it on recording, get a hold of the DVD, or get me to print them a copy of my sermon. I can’t begin to express in a blog post how much it meant to me to have their support & love during all my ministry endeavors, but it sure meant the world to me and then some, and gosh, I hope they knew that.

I remember sitting beside Ruth in the hospital after she had her first stroke — the stroke that basically marked the beginning of her health roller coaster. The doctor who had performed the operation on her after this stroke had come into her hospital room to talk to her about the procedure. The doctor told Ruth that the majority of people who have a stroke like the one she did, don’t survive. And Ruth’s response to that?

Well, God isn’t done with me yet.”

Well, Ruth passed away yesterday and Gordon has been in heaven for over a year now and still, I do not think God is done with either of them. The impact that she and Gordon had on the lives of many, many people including myself still is very much alive. I will never forget it — any of it, even the parts that are difficult to remember & think of now that they are gone & I am missing them, because still, the impact is so great. They’re my role models, people I aspire to be like, my rocks. They were so very generous in sharing their wisdom, their time, their money, their love, their knowledge.

3 weeks ago, I visited Ruth in her home. During this visit, we chatted about life, about ministry, about my upcoming mission trip, about all kinds of things. She was weak, but she was responsive, and listened well, as I tried to do the same. This past Friday, I got home after a week out of town serving at a camp, and I received word that Ruth’s health had significantly declined and hospice predicted that her date to go be with the Lord would be probably 3 more days. So this past Saturday — 3 days before she passed away — I was able to visit her once more and say my “goodbyes” or rather, my “see you laters.” She was unresponsive at that point, but I like to think she knew I was there. My dad and I went together, and Ruth’s daughter was there, as was the angel of a woman who had taken such amazing care of both Ruth and Gordon during their health declines. During this last visit with Ruth, we sang some of her favorite hymns, and we talked to her and around her, acknowledging that she could hear us, or at least sense our presence there with her.

Yesterday afternoon we received the call that Ruth had gone to heaven to be with Jesus earlier that morning. When we got this call, my family had just finished packing up our car after a day at the beach. This news immediately sent me into tears I think because you can try to plan & prepare yourself for a loved ones death, but when you actually lose them, you find that it is a feeling nothing can truly prepare you for. But on my family’s drive back to the house after this, we saw a rainbow up in the sky, which we thought was our sweet Ruth saying to us, “I’m okay!!”

Ruth and Gordon always made sure to remind me that they loved me, that God loved me, and that they were proud of me. And I pray I never stop making them proud. We may not have been related by blood, but they most certainly were my family. They were my grandparents. Losing both of them within the span of just over a year shatters me as does thinking about never having another conversation with either of them again, but what gives me peace & comfort is knowing that right now, they’re rejoicing in heaven with the Savior they faithfully loved, served, & preached about all the days of their lives. They deserve nothing but joy, and I can think of no greater joy than standing in the presence of Jesus up in heaven — where pain is no more, and joy is unending. They were good and faithful servants, indeed.

Hey God, take good care of them.

Ruth & Gordon, I love you both with my whole entire heart. & I’ll see you again someday.

ministry | presence & listening.

While I would love to sit here and write a post about all of the things that I have learned thus far in ministry, it would be a novel by the time I touched on them all (maybe one day!) I still have so much to learn, but two things from the ministry experiences I’ve had thus far, and from the pastors and various other ministry leaders whom I have observed, shadowed, and learned from, two actions in particular have stood out to me as being of utmost importance – the ministry that can be done through your listening and your presence. The two go together and are often underrated because they seem far too simple to be effective. But while listening and being present with someone may be simple, it’s meaningful, because both are signs of genuine care and have the ability to positively impact a person & their circumstance, more so than we realize – I don’t think we don’t give God enough credit when it comes to his ability to work through us!

Because I have both seen and experienced the importance of these acts, it has become important to me, as a friend, daughter, sister, aspiring pastor, and human being in general, to carry them out, and I hope to offer a calm presence or the ability to sit and listen each day to those whom I encounter, whether it be in church, in school, on the sidewalk, in the store, in my neighborhood, and anywhere else God will have me. Listening to somebody when they speak about the trials they’re facing or even the joys in their life can be so meaningful to them and can remind them that they are not alone – to be listened to is to be cared for, and to be in the presence of another in the midst of sorrow is to be comforted – ministry, I believe, can be carried out in both such acts.

When I think about why these two specific things have found a place of importance in my heart for the ministry that I am called to, I think of two main reasons —

# 1) I myself seek them out in those whom I confide in, and therefore I want to be that for others, the way people have been for me – when I find myself wanting to verbally express what I am feeling, my hurt, or my confusion, I ask myself: who is going to listen to me because they genuinely want to? Who is going to listen and offer their honest thoughts, whether it’s what I want to hear or not? Other times, rather than talking, we find ourselves wanting somebody who can simply sit down beside us and be a calm presence while we think and process our thoughts & circumstances. People appreciate being listened to, and people appreciate being in the presence of someone, especially when they are hurting.

# 2) Whether it be because I am studying psychology,  am aspiring to become a minister, or simply because I like to sit and have coffee with people, converse, and listen, individuals come to me often with issues that are typically on the heavier side, and while I do happily talk with them and do suggest other resources for them if I feel it is over my head, more times than not, I feel as though my presence and these two listening ears of mine have the ability to minister to those individuals more than my moving mouth does. I want to give all that I can, and sometimes, that is simply myself – my time & my presence.

I’ve shadowed a handful of pastors through the years as they have attended to what I believe to be one of a pastor’s most important tasks, and that task would be pastoral care visits (in hospitals and at the homes of individuals who are no longer able to physically attend church). Something that I have observed along the way during these visits is the pastors’ willingness to sit and listen, simply being present with the individuals, some of whom were in their last hours of life, some with terminal illnesses, some not aware that we were even there, some who had had a bad fall which landed them in the hospital to recover. My grandfather has dementia and has progressed to the point where he does still speak but my family and I seldom know what he is trying to say, so we will often resort to smiling and nodding along, but just the other day, my mom and I were sitting on the couch watching T.V with him and he turned to us and said, “it’s so nice having you guys here.” My church grandma, Ruth, is bedridden at the moment, and talking is often very tiring for her, so there are frequent and long pauses during our visits together. When I go see her, I’ll sit myself down beside her, and sure, there will be silence, but even so, when I stand up to leave, she’ll so often say “you’re not leaving, are you?” Gordon, her late husband, (my church grandpa) didn’t have the strength to speak much as he got closer and closer to meeting Jesus face to face, but when I would go into his room, I’d sit there and hold his hand, and he knew I was ‘there’, though we didn’t really speak, he knew I was present.

Presence matters, friends. It means something – God’s love doesn’t need to only be spoken in order to shine through us. It can be observed through us by our actions and it can be felt in the silence as well.

Something also important to remember in ministry and in life is that you are not always going to know what to say, and that is okay. You are not always going to know how to respond to the things people bring before you. You are not always going to understand. You cannot ‘fix’ everything, as much as you want to. When somebody is sitting before me and struggling with something heavy, painful, and not ‘fixable,’ I can learn the classic, “it’ll get better,” you’ll be okay,” “God is with you” and while there is nothing wrong with any of those words, I have found that I often resort to saying them when I panic in the moment because I don’t know what else to say or how to handle silence – but having the ‘right’ thing to say or merely having a response is not nearly as important as sitting with that person and simply being a calm presence, perhaps praying with them/over them. You don’t have to understand exactly what they are going through, and you don’t have to have an immediate response or the ‘right’ answer. There have been times where people will talk to me for what seems like hours and I won’t have any idea how to respond to the things they are laying before me, and it is in those moments and even before those moments happen that I ask God to please help me and give me the wisdom and the words – words I couldn’t possibly formulate and communicate well to a hurting individual on my own. God will give you words when you have none, but sometimes – your presence will be enough. We all have thoughts to process, tears to cry, words to speak, figurative mountains to climb, and sometimes, it’s just easier to do with somebody by your side. Many, if not all of us, know that the presence of somebody during those moments of releasing our hurt, whether it be through tears, words, prayer, deep breaths, or silence, can be so encouraging and comforting – it can be seemingly pointless but it does hold power. If you’re ever in a conversation with somebody, and while they are talking, you’re thinking of how you’re going to respond and what you’re going to say because you don’t want to leave even a moment of awkward silence, odds are you’re like I used to be (and sometimes still am) – you fear the ‘awkward silence.’ But I have since learned that silence isn’t something to be terrified of and it doesn’t have to be awkward – I think I learned that because of the number of times people have come to me and I haven’t had the ‘right’ words to respond with, leaving me with no option but to sit and think for a bit, or just accept that I have no words, and allow myself to simply sit with the person and just ‘be’ – more times than not, that is enough. When you were a little kid, did you ever run into your parent’s room in the middle of night after having a bad dream? You snuggle up in between your parents, and they may have asked you why you’re there, but they don’t begin a conversation or anything, you just laid there and tried to fall asleep again in the silence, but instantly you felt comforted by the mere knowledge that someone was beside you.

There is power in presence.

Friends, don’t underestimate the meaning your presence has to the whomever you are present with. Don’t underestimate the meaning that your ears have when it comes to listening to somebody speak in the midst of their hurt or in their need for a confidant to spill their guts to. God has the ability to minister through you in a variety of different ways, and these are just a couple. We’ve all heard the saying, “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” So listen. Offer the two ears God gave you to whomever is confiding in you, as you acknowledge that they sought you out for a reason and they are opening up to you for a reason. Be present. Sit with them in their hurt, grief, depression, struggle. Be the calm presence they may need. Plop yourself down before or beside them and simply let them know you’re there, with them & for them. It makes all the difference in the world. It’ll be easy to feel you’re not doing enough, but something I’ve learned to do (because I’m a ‘fix it’ person who can’t always fix things) is pray to God and ask him to guide your words in those situations.

Your presence means something, even if it seems meaningless or boring to you. Remember it doesn’t have to involve a bunch of people, bright lights, a big stage, pews, or a 30 minute sermon in order to be ministry. Ministry is carried out in a variety of different ways, and listening to others and being present with them are most certainly two of them.


If you’re reading this and you’re in need of someone to listen, myself and many others are here for you! If you’re reading this and you’re somebody who has taken the time to listen to my words or who has calmly been present with me in my trials & joys, I appreciate you!