All posts by Amy

For the Encourager and the Future Encourager

I woke up with a word on my mind — encourage. But that was quickly followed up with this thought, “What if the encourager needs encouragement?” I know I’ve written about this before but sometimes it’s good to have a reminder. You see, some of us are born encouragers, others have it in them but tend to be receivers of encouragement much moreso than givers. Believe me, that’s okay; I’m not here to condemn. However, it’s important to do two things:
 
1. If you are an encourager, it’s important to recognize that you need encouragement, even before the times get tough.
 
2. Really assess, if you’re on the receiving end, how often you share that same encouragement with others. You can’t continue to receive but never give that same back to others.
 
The Bible calls us to be encouragers — each and every one of us. I guarantee that those who lend themselves to help, to encourage, are not going to be the first to come to you when they need a word of encouragement themselves. That’s where we must learn to reach out with a word, a text, a call, even a prayer for those we may not know need it most.
 
This morning I want to offer two different words of encouragement; one for the encourager and the second for those who want/need to learn how to be an encourager more. May this be just what YOU need today! Love you all <3
 
To those who want to be a better encourager:
 
You will notice when someone needs encouragement because they may tell you something is wrong, you may know they’re going through something difficult or they might wear their difficulties on their entire being and, without even having to tell you something is wrong, you just know it. What about those who share a smile despite feeling broken inside or in need of the word they just gave to someone else a few moments ago? You may not recognize those as needs but they might even prove to be a bigger need that those who have an obvious “problem”. You see, encouragers who get that much needed encouragement BEFORE it becomes a problem are going to be even better at encouraging those around them. Simply knowing an encourager and offer a card, a text, a hug every now and then might just save them from going over the edge when their weak moments arise.
 
Here’s something I read this morning that might help:
 
“Do you know someone who is always helping others or doing the tasks no one else really wants to do? Maybe you shouldn’t wait until they “need” help or ask for it –maybe you should just offer to do something nice for them. They may be a little resistant at first, but don’t give up. Be there for them. Encouragers need encouragement and helpers need help sometimes. And it’s okay.”
 
To the Encouragers:
 
First of all, know it’s okay to need some encouragement from time-to-time. It doesn’t matter if it’s during the obvious difficulties or on some random Monday when you’re feeling less than appreciated. Either way, needing encouragement isn’t something you should feel ashamed of. We need to feel good and sometimes, we just aren’t feeling it. One of the most important things I’ve had to learn is that most of the time, on those days when it’s a little less obvious to others, I’m going to either need to reach out to a friend or find encouragement on my own. Pride can keep an encourager from getting the encouragement they need by standing in the way of what God might answer in His Word. It also might keep them from a good word from a friend who would be there if they just knew we needed it. Encouragers might think, “Why is no one here when I need them?” When in all actuality, the question should be, “How could someone help you if they knew you needed them?”
 
I have realized over the years that being an encourager is part of my nature. I may not be an encourager to everyone in need but certainly, when God puts it on my heart, I reach out to those who seem to need it and sometimes when God instructs me to, even if I don’t know why. It’s important to me that abiding in Him, being obedient to those things He puts on my heart will bring fruit that I may never see but is so important. It’s the kind of “help” that we give not ever seeing the outcome. Being a good encourager is just that — lending a hand, an ear, a word without expecting one in return, knowing you may not see the fruit of your labor. But what about those days when we wish we were on the receiving end? The more you give, the more you encourage, the harder it can be on those days when all you need is a word of encouragement and no one is to be found. Encouragers aren’t one to reach out and ask for something, nor are they going to call you to say, “Can you tell me something good about me today?” Honestly, some days, that’s all an encourager needs — someone to tell them that they’re doing a good job, that their good deeds are noticed or that they are simply loved for who they are inside.
 
Encouragers, you need to understand that people aren’t going to recognize when you need a boost. Some people wear their heart on their sleeve as in they share every problem or know how to ask for prayer or help when they need it but others wear their heart on their sleeve in such a manner that people just know they have a big heart, never realizing that heart might be breaking ever-so-slightly. So if this encourager is you, you have to learn to ask for prayer but also know to go to God when you’re feeling a little lonely.
 
Here’s a good word from someone who was used to being the encourager that I found this morning:
 
“I imagine that if you are one who helps, it’s hard to switch roles and be on the receiving end. I recently had that experience. I’m used to being on the helping side, not the receiving, yet a situation arose that caused me to need a little help. And boy was it hard to accept.
 
It’s not because I think I’m “too good” to need help – in whatever form that help takes. It’s because I want to give. I found myself stressing out about being a burden or bothering other people, but that’s when the thought occurred to me: when I know someone else needs help, I never feel they’re a burden or a bother. So why would I think others would feel that way about me?”
 
Another blog I read speaks to reaching out to God:
 
“But the best encouragement comes in the form of truth – the Word of God. We desperately need God’s truth. When we feel like we can’t go on any more and life is too difficult, God comforts us with the Holy Spirit, who is our helper, counselor and our encourager.
 
God also provides us with encouragement in the context of meaningful relationships. God uses regular people like you and me to be agents of encouragement. He comforts us through other people who are willing to come along side us and encourage when we’re weak.”
 
Whether you’re an encourager or one who is learning to be one, God has called us all to the same task. That task is to love and part of that task requires learning to encourage one another.
 
“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” –Jesus (John 13:34-35)
 
Be conscious that if you give, you take the time you need to seek encouragement. And if you receive, be sure you always take time to give it back.

Finding Peace In A Crazy World: Part II

20 days. Nearly three weeks ago, I wrote part one.  It started like this:

It never fails. The day you want to start something, the enemy comes to distract you.  Whether he succeeds or not really lies with you but in those moments, we feel that he has total power.  The title Finding Peace In A Crazy World is about slaying the demons that demand our attention and focus when it should be elsewhere.

Now I’ll remind you that it has been 20 days since I wrote that post.  Talk about being distracted.  My intention was to write the rest the following day…then the following…then the following.  I am now at a friend’s house who is also a writer.  Although our topics are often very different, we both understand how important it is to set the tone of your writing space, be it at home, in a coffee shop, or at a friend’s house.  There might be certain music playing on the surround sound or in your headphones, oils diffusing or candles burning, comfy clothes and maybe even a blanket.  You might have your favorite beverage or a simple cup of coffee to give you a little energy.  When you finally get your environment conducive to a good writing session, it never fails…something distracts you.

Thinking of all the things that have occurred over the past few weeks has me wondering if I just need to reread my own words.  In all honesty, sometimes what we write can be as much if not more for ourselves.  Let’s face it, distraction has become something we expect but never prepare for.  When I consider all that I could have written in the past few weeks, I feel bad that I have not made more of an effort to refine a gift God has given me.  Do you ever feel that way? That you’ve put something so far behind on the back burner you have to literally turn yourself upside-down to get things right-side-up again.  I’ve put so much time between part one that I am having to go back to revisit what I wrote because I can’t even remember anymore.  It was good but I needed to read it myself!

So here I sit, at my friends with my headphones in, cup of tea on the table, comfy clothes and blanket atop her couch.  The next words that come out of the mouth of the singer playing in my ears are, “I am guilty.”

That’s exactly how I’m feeling right now.

My word of 2018 is INTENTIONAL yet I can honestly say I’ve only been intentional at about 20% of things that both need and deserve my all.  This thing called life is hard but it isn’t impossible.  How can it be that we have something on our minds to do then the next minute our minds are nowhere near where they started or where they should be? It can be because we allow it to happen.

I said in Part One that, “You CAN find peace – BUT it won’t come easy.  It will require some thought, action and quite possibly, behavioral change.”

For so long we have been allowing circumstances outside of our control, control us.  Instead of pushing through to make things happen, we have so easily caved into our feelings in a situation that we have no control over.

Let me remind you of something else I wrote previously…You aren’t failing when you have a bad day.  You aren’t failing when you have to fake your smile or fight past feelings causing you to struggle. You aren’t failing when you realize you really need to think about the reasons you should be happy.  You’re just at a point when the crazy world is starting to get to you.

Here’s what I realized since writing that…we’re letting it.  We are letting this crazy world and the people in our lives affect how we feel, how we act and ultimately, if we are following along the path leading to our destiny.

So now it’s time for the meat and potatoes; the main dish for which this all has been written to say…

Finding Peace In A Crazy World isn’t too far-fetched.  It IS achievable, but it will take our ATTENTION just as much as it will take INTENTION. There are some practical steps you will have to take but if you do them, even just some of them, I guarantee you will be better equipped to handle the crazy that I guarantee will try to take your day away – again.

When I was in the shower this morning, I was praying.  I’m a random prayer.  Sometimes it’s in the morning when I’m reading, just to myself. Other times it’s out loud when I’m on the elliptical.  And sometimes, well, sometimes it’s when I’m in the shower!  I was praying about our team that is currently in Brazil who we have absolutely no contact with.  One of those team members is my husband, who I am thankful will be home in four more sleeps.  I adopted this phrase from the very friend who sits across the living room from me.  It’s something she says with her daughters when talking about how much longer it will be until their dad comes home who, incidentally is on the same mission trip as my husband.  Thinking about how many “sleeps” is a lot easier than trying to figure out if today counts as a day and how about the day we see them?  Sleeps makes sense.  It’s tangible and cannot be argued.  So now that I’ve explained the four sleeps I have left until he’s home, I can now fill you in a little more on my prayers.  They were about keeping them safe, healthy and happy.  While I know they will be leaving a lasting impact on the people in the villages of the Amazon, I pray that God’s impact on their lives is equally as lasting.  I prayed that the things they are getting from God are moving them in such a way that it will be life-changing, in a good way but a lasting way – that they are able to keep feeling the way they’re feeling and doing as God has called them to do, even once they’re home.  Not only that, but I also pray that the things that God is doing in my life while he’s gone will last as well.  My feelings are different when he’s not here.  I see ways that I can be a helper more to him.  I realize how much he does and how much more I can do.  And so begin the thoughts…thoughts of the things I need to do, how I need to purposely set aside time to do things that will help me to be a better wife and mother, how I need to step up my game and show him even more than ever, how much I appreciate just who he is and how much of an impact he makes on our entire household.  Those thoughts eventually led back to prayers for the team and others who are there.  Praying for some individuals I began thinking about some things that I knew had been said to those very people I was praying for; things that are hurtful and were said shortly before they left.  Then my mind began to start wandering in a different direction; in a direction that made me hopeful that they are not letting these words resonate.  I also thought about the people who said those hurtful words who were in no place to put down a friend.  While these individuals struggle in the same area, I find it hard to take that one feels the need to put down rather than bring up this friend.  Who are they to say something like this when they know it’s the last thing that would help them?  And the cycle stops there.  God spoke very loudly.

I know I’ve said this before but I should reiterate to those of you who are new to reading my posts…I don’t audibly here the voice of God.  It might frighten me a bit if I did!  No, God speaks to me through words He puts on my heart that I then think.  Sometimes they stop me dead in my tracks like these 16 words did:

I am not going to let the things people say dictate the thoughts that I think.

In this situation, I was allowing words someone else had said to another take over my prayers.  If I can allow someone else’s words to someone else affect me in such a way, what was I doing in the situations when someone said something directly to me?  Ouch!  That’s where those 20 days went!

So there you have it folks, Lesson #1 in how to find peace in a crazy world is to not let the things people say dictate the thoughts that I think.  We hear it often and I say it often – We cannot control the thoughts that creep into our minds but we can control what stays there.  We have to do better with keeping ourselves on topic.  If the thoughts creep in, push them out.  Pray if you have to.  I have to remember that I am the only one who can keep me focused.  I may not be responsible for some of the distractions but I am solely responsible for allowing those distractions to take my focus.  What about the distractions that we cause? That’s Lesson #2…

We have to disconnect from the things that cause us to disconnect.  You know what those things are.  They’re social media, the news, anything with connectivity that you initiate.  That’s right, YOU have chosen this distraction so there’s no one else to blame for what follows but you.  Here’s what happens…you connect for a quick second but are immediately brought to something, then to another, and another until you forget how you got there in the first place.  These things that help us connect with some people or things cause us to disconnect from other [more important] things.  I’m going to repeat that again…The very things that help us connect are the same things that cause us to disconnect.  What you do with those few brief moments can have a substantial effect on the rest of your afternoon and sometimes even your relationships. Be careful.

Lesson #3: If you want to be better at something you have to do it.  You’re not going to get better at push-ups by doing crunches.  So how do you expect to be a wife if you’re focusing on being a better mother? How are you going to be a better husband if you’re focusing on being better at your job? How are you going to learn to focus more when you just created more distractions in your life? The cycle continues until you decide that what you want and need to get better at is going to require some work.  How does that relate to finding peace you ask?  It has everything to do with finding peace because of one, very important reason.  If we are not the best we can be, or at least striving to be the best we can be, in every role we have in our lives we will never FEEL that comfort and peace in those roles.  If you’re not putting your all in and making changes that will help you to be successful in those roles, you’re never going to be working at your full potential.  There’s no peace at putting half your effort into anything.  And it isn’t just about the roles we have either.  If you want to get stronger, you will not get there just walking – you’ll need to lift weights! If you want to be closer to God, you’re going to have to read His Word, praying will only do it for so long.

That brings me to Lesson #4: New level, new devil.  Ouch! You didn’t know I was going there did you? It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian, simply spiritual or confidently confused, once you take a step in the right direction and start making progress, it is inevitable that things are going to come into your life to distract you, to take your focus, to throw you off course.  We talk about this often in church in regards to people’s relationship with Christ.  The closer you get to Him, the better you get at your walk, the harder things are going to get.  The enemy is out to steal, kill and destroy and he doesn’t want you to succeed.  You think you’re going to play hardball and outsmart him, he’ll find another way in, typically through your mind because that’s where he gets us the quickest and the deepest.  The only advice I can give you about this is know this – new level, new devil – and then when something happens, simply acknowledge that’s what it is instead of giving in to the feelings that you instinctively have along with it.  Make your actions support your direction and your goals, showing that enemy that he’ll just have to try again later because he won’t be getting you this time!

Lesson #5 You’re not of this world.  I believe we’re beings created for a purpose only we can fulfill.  Regardless of how good, bad or indifferent you are, I know that God created you for a reason even if your choices don’t always or have never reflected it.  He gave us free will so you can choose what you do, how you act and react, but just know you are made with love for love.  It’s simple.  Do it, give it, have it – LOVE. You can’t let the things of this world have such an impact on you.  If you are meant to make a difference in a situation then do it, but don’t let that situation have you.  It’s important to know that our actions must reflect who we are meant to be, not how we’re feeling about things going on around us.

Although most of those lessons were pretty deep, I have some easier, more practical ways to find peace in a crazy world.  If all else fails or you are simply lacking time and can’t get out of your own thoughts, try doing any or all of these things and tell me that you don’t feel better!

  1. Hold a baby. This may not work for everyone and it will be best with a calm, maybe even sleeping baby!
  2. Get puppy kisses. You may not be a dog lover, but I’m telling you if you sit down on the ground and let a puppy lick your face, you WILL SMILE!!
  3. Go for a walk. Sometimes this is even good if it’s raining! But for goodness sakes, if you’re going for a walk, PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!!
  4. Listen to music. This is a little tricky though.  You can’t turn on angry music and expect to feel like looking at sunshine and rainbows.  Let’s be honest, it’s going to take something a little different than that. Whether you believe me or not, you are affected by what you listen to and what you watch.  Try listening to only Christian music for a little while (days) and tell me that something doesn’t feel different.  There’s some good Christian music out there too so don’t think it has to be slow or boring! Try Crowder, Third Day or Need to Breathe.  For me, sometimes I need some 80s-90s country music.  Other times, I need the old KEZK favorites that I listen to as a teenager to fall asleep. Some days, a little Michael Jackson has just the right touch.  Experiment.  Find something and stick with it for a bit.
  5. Get fresh air. How about just sitting outside for a bit? Early morning, late night or mid-day, doesn’t matter.
  6. Disconnect. Seriously, do it. I don’t need to say anything else about this.
  7. Exercise. Endorphins have such a positive effect on your body both inside and out. 
  8. Eat better. What you put in your body effects more than your shape.  It can affect your mood, your health and so many things that you could literally become a different person if you just bit the bullet and put the right foods into your body!

There are so many other things that I could tell you to help you find PEACE in this crazy world but the best advice is to simply not let this world have you.  Here are a few final words of advice…

  • Be passionate about something but don’t let it dictate your every move.
  • Be careful how much effort you put into things that aren’t going to help you to be a better you.
  • And for goodness sake, stop letting things that don’t matter impact you.

Read Finding Peace in a Crazy World: Part I

Finding Peace In A Crazy World

It never fails.  The day you want to start something, the enemy comes to distract you.  Whether he succeeds or not really lies with you but in those moments, we feel that he has total power.  The title Finding Peace In A Crazy World is about slaying the demons that demand our attention and focus when it should be elsewhere.

Let’s face it — we live in a crazy world where the unexplainable, unimaginable happens EVERY SINGLE DAY.  What can we possibly do to get through the days when the crazy seems just a little over the top?  Well I’m going to tell you but FIRST, I have to share a little bit about what I heard on the radio this morning.

I had decided (after procrastinating the past few days) that today would be the day I wrote this blog entry.  After doing a poll on social media on the title that people wanted to read most, it was clear that most people are looking for peace in this crazy world of ours.  I started with my routine — got my coffee, warm compress for my dog (he has back issues), journal entry, bible reading, morning devotional and that’s where it stopped so that I could start writing.  I had put on my headphones this morning so I could really concentrate and because I don’t pay for a streaming service, I have to listen to an occasional news story or commercial.  One, in particular, stood out to me today.  It was about a new class* offered at Yale University on finding happiness.  Who would have ever thought that people would need to be taught how to be happy!?!?

I’m not sure if there’s been a study done or not but I’d venture to say that our society as a whole has become increasingly unhappy for a number of reasons.  Distractions take us away from the natural ways we once found to release stress and we find ourselves encapsulated within a virtual world where we can hide from just about everything.  But at what point do people face reality again?

In the 316 years of Yale University, this has quickly become the most popular class with nearly 1/4 of all undergraduates currently enrolled.  The class, entitled Psychology and the Good Life, “tries to teach students to lead a happier, more satisfying life in two-weekly lectures.”  With close to 1200 students, the 42-year old teacher [Laurie Santos] has quite the task ahead of her.  Enrollment in a class like this at a school like Yale only reinforces my assumption that we aren’t happy.

Students are asked to do things like sleep 8 hours each day and write 5 things they are grateful for, just as a start.  I think it’s funny how the ideas I was going to share about how you can find peace in this crazy world are along the same lines as the principles Santos is teaching in her class.   In 2006, Harvard offered a similar class with attendance around 900.  The difference in the classes — this class incorporates behavorial change.

I think that’s where I’ll start my blog…

Finding Peace In A Crazy World isn’t something you think about often.  I mean the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?  I think we often get caught up in the crazy and assume we just have to stay there.  What if I told you that you don’t have to?  That amidst the daily struggles, you CAN find peace — BUT it won’t come easy.  It will require some thought, action and quite possibly, behavioral change.

You can be in the best mood, having a great day and then BAM!  Someone poops in your Cheerios! Don’t like that analogy?
Okay, so say a bird poops on your head…
You leave your wallet at home, you need gas and you’re already late.
You have somewhere to be and all the forces of the world seem to be keeping you from getting there.  It doesn’t matter whether you have prepared dinner in advance, packed the car ahead of time and stayed on track ALL DAY.  Up until the last minute when the craziness began, you were going to be one time.

What about the times when it isn’t about time at all?  Maybe you set aside a day, or just a few hours, to yourself.  You strategically planned a certain amount of time where you could do something that would help you recover from the daily grind or maybe you carved out just enough time to do nothing at all.  No one is going to be home so it will be perfect, right?  Then a threatening snow storm that we all know will end up being 1/2″ of wetness cancels the meeting your spouse was going to and events the kids were to be at this evening.  Suddenly what was going to be your time has turned into a mad dash to the bath tub where you blow out the candles, let out the water and just get into bed.  I mean, your relaxation is over now anyway — or is it?

Here’s where we go wrong folks — we allow circumstances outside of our control, control us.  We fall into the trap that the enemy has set to take the very thing that will help us get back on our feet.  Our time to ourselves, that schedule we hold so dear, those things we’ve looked forward to.  Instead of pushing through to make those things happen, we so easily cave into the feelings we took on in the middle of a stupid mishap of things that we have no control over.

What if when those things happen we start to think of a 5-letter word that will help us keep our sanity and incidentally on the right path?

PEACE

Think it’s possible?  It is!  You just may have to work for it…

You’ve got the music going, the day is going great and your mind, well it’s in a really good spot.  Your heart is full because life is just spectacular or maybe you’re simply feeling an abundance of gratitude despite any minor complications.

The news comes on and shows a situation that takes your attention.  What is going on in this world.  You turn to social media to see if you can find out more information or even better — what do your friends think about it?  When you get there, you’re caught in the trap.  Story after story, post after post, thought after thought.  You’re caught and find yourself feeling differently than you did before.  You start to take on the feelings of those you’re following and stories start affecting you that you would have never known about had it not been for the news.

Let’s stay on the topic of social media for a second.  It’s a great tool to connect and get information out, I won’t say otherwise.  But for those who are so easily distracted, who take on the emotions of others, who tend to care a little too much what other people are doing, well it can be a trap that you almost can’t get out of.  I talked to youth about this recently at a weekend retreat we went on.  Whether you’re 16 or 36, people easily find themselves feeling discouraged when looking at social media for one simple reason — they’re not doing what everyone else is doing.  It’s so easy to get caught up in wishing we were doing what someone else was doing, that we were invited somewhere that our friends went, that we had little baby or a new puppy, or that we were able to go on a vacation with our spouse.  What happens when we get caught in someone else’s life is that we forget about our own.  We fail to see the beautiful things going on in our own life and start wishing we were living someone else’s.  It’s not intentional so if this is you, don’t feel bad.  I can’t say that this personally describes me but on occasion, it can if I let it.  We have to be careful with how much we believe about what we see.  For the most part, people aren’t going to post a photo of the argument they got in right after they posted that perfect selfie on the beach.  Nope.  And they’re not going to show you the closet floor full of clothes that they had to try on for hours to look as good as they do in that new outfit they had to put on the credit card for that special occasion — that outfit that they couldn’t afford and will probably never wear again.  That friend won’t tell you how much they cried before actually going out the door to that party or that they don’t really belong in that crowd of people — that they’re only going so they don’t have to be alone.  That church friend who seems to know and be loved by everyone, they’re not going to share that they struggle every day to keep their focus, that they have to pray to pray and IT. IS. HARD. on most days to be an encourager.

People aren’t going to put all of those things on social media, they’re going to put what looks best…what looks like they are living their best life.  The problem with that is it isn’t life.  THAT isn’t life.  Life is full of good days, bad days, tragedies and triumphs.  There is not one person in this world that has it all together.  If they try to tell you they do, they’re probably one who has a messy closet they go cry in on a daily basis.

Can I tell you something?  You aren’t failing when you have a bad day.  you aren’t failing when you have to fake your smile or fight past feelings causing you to struggle.  You aren’t failing when you realize you really need to think about the reasons you should be happy.  You’re just at a point when the crazy world is starting to get to you.

Let this be the start of something.  I PROMISE that I will post Part 2 of Finding Peace In A Crazy World but first, you have to admit that it’s possible.  Stay tuned…

*Read the full story here.

Read Finding Peace in a Crazy World: Part II

Two Words

I’ve really wanted to share about my experience this past weekend at Winter (youth) Retreat but the words weren’t there. Then one morning a few days ago, I woke up very early with two words on my mind – STOREHOUSE and WHEELHOUSE. It was probably only about 2a and I wasn’t prepared to wake up so I said a little prayer that I would remember them again when I woke up for the day in a couple hours. I did, and decided I needed to write them down before I forgot them. I’m not sure where they came from but I’ve been thinking about them ever since.
 
When I first thought of STOREHOUSE, I was immediately given the thought of having something to use later when we need it. I looked up the definition and one stood out:
 
STOREHOUSE: a large supply of something
 
I even googled STOREHOUSE in the bible to see what came up. What I found was that it is interchangeably used with the word TREASURES, most specifically, God’s treasures. Without going much deeper, I decided to rest on it…knowing good and well the time would come when I would feel an urgency to write about it.
 
The whole time, I thought WHEELHOUSE was just an overthought in my head that came from hearing the first one so I just brushed it off. Until this morning, that is.
 
As I finished my devotions, I got on my phone to make a few notes on things I needed to remember to do today and saw those words again. This time, I decided to look up WHEELHOUSE and the definition caught me off guard:
 
WHEELHOUSE: a part of a boat or ship serving as a shelter for the person at the wheel
 
My first thought was, God is MY shelter! This is what He was trying to share with me. But then it all came together. Stick with me for this one friends…
 
Let’s say that WE are the STOREHOUSE. We are God’s treasure, a STOREHOUSE full of HIS words and wisdom; best lived when we are open, when we dig deeper, and when we use the skills He’s given us for good — to bless others.
 
But WE are also the WHEELHOUSE…completely opposite from my initial thought. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in me, whom I have received from God (Read 2 Corinthians 6:19-20). It is the WHEELHOUSE to protect the person at the wheel — God — who should be at the center of my life, guiding the direction in which I will go.
 
I would have never thought those two words would have actually come together, nor would I have ever guessed how. But it makes sense now. How quickly we come to think something is one way or should be but in fact, it should be another. If I am the STOREHOUSE I should be full of the things that will help me to be a better WHEELHOUSE. The wisdom God gives me to get through situations is how I protect His being at the wheel, making sure HE stays there and that I don’t take over. You see, often times we get caught up with trying to fix a situation on our own but He is the one who should be in control. We need to read His Word, go deeper to find meanings, take those pieces of wisdom He gives us to heart so that, when we need them, the answers will be right there.
 
In order to be the best at who GOD, not this world, has called us to be, we have to make sure that our STOREHOUSE remains full and that the WHEELHOUSE is in working order. Aligning ourselves with God’s vision for our lives, not someone else’s. Too often people look at social media and, unknowingly, are being fed lies that they will not know how to fight off on their own. They start to think about someone else’s vision as their own, wish they had what one had or did what someone else did. God wants you to be YOU and in order to do that, you have to put your focus on HIM not those around you. If you want to live the life you were called to live you simply have to get your eyes off of everyone else’s calling and back on your own. Direction will come when the time is right. It may not be as quickly as you would hope or in the manner in which you requested it, but keep on pursuing and He’ll keep on answering — in HIS time.
 
Not sure who this was for today, but if it’s you, I’ll be praying 

*Winter Retreat is a weekend getaway where students and leaders come to get closer to God and make lasting connections with one another.

Morning Journal Entry: Day 24

I keep waiting for this feeling to come over me but God gave me a gentle reminder just now that faith isn’t a feeling. I think sometimes I get caught up in remembering the moments when I did “feel” something. They’re so powerful that they have the potential to carry me through to the next BIG THING -or- they can fizzle just as quickly as they came.

I’m tired of waiting for a feeling, for hoping something or someOne will pick me up when I’m struggling and completely worn out from not fighting the battles in my head hard enough. You see, when I fight to stay focused, to not let negative thoughts stay in my head, to be who God has called me to be, those “feelings” aren’t far behind. The saying goes, “Fake it ’til you make it” but what if we were to FIGHT until we make it? What if, instead of giving up when we’re tired and things aren’t easy, we get up and start fighting?

Things are coming from every angle and just when you feel like you’re finally breaking through, the enemy comes at you again. he knows your weaknesses, where you struggle and exactly when you’re at your breaking point. This is when you realize there’s no rest for the weary. If you give up now, what was the fight even for?

I want to be in the muck because that’s where people are hurting but I can only survive there if I have the STRENGTH to. Not strength that’s my own, but the God given, Holy Spirit driven, never going to give up kinda STRENGTH. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I’m giving it to God today so He can use me His way. I’m not waiting on a feeling, I’m fighting for one and along the way, I’ll be creating one.

I know I’m not the only one who thinks this way, feels this way. If this is you today, time to put on those big girl/boy pants, a pair of boxing gloves and fight the enemy who’s working hard to get in your corner. You have too much up ahead to give up now. It won’t be easy and it’s going to take work but trust me, it’ll be worth all the effort you’re putting in.

9 Things I Learned Not Speaking: Day 8 (THE FINAL HOURS)

TODAY’S THE DAY!!!

It’s hard to post today because I decided to start talking since it was Day 7. So on Day 8, I’m going to finish up my posts with less than 13 things but something even more important…

1. My bell still works.

2. As much as people have been joking about it, my two loves really do miss my voice. It was nice to hear that from them both 

3. You cannot be in a room full of friends you haven’t seen in a long time and not talk.

4. Once you start talking again, there’s no going back.

5. My dog really appreciates hearing my voice again.

6. Mother-Daughter conversations were much overdue.

7. I want to protect my voice more than ever now.

8. I will fast talking one day. It was one of the hardest things to give up.

9. Now that the day is FINALLY here, I am a bit concerned with what’s next. But I know God has me.

Over this time period, I may have shared 100 things I’ve learned but one thing stands out above them all.

#101 — I am surrounded by people who truly love and care for me, each in their own special way. Some I heard from daily, others several times in the week, some not at all but I felt their prayers. I received texts, flowers, meals, cards, messages, a pie, a necklace, songs, hugs, kisses and a whole lot of love! There are days when I feel disconnect or sad, not because I have anything specifically wrong in life but simply because it happens to many of us from time to time. However, during this past week of my life, I have felt all of the love that I would have l paid to feel during those lonely times. And you know what God told me before surgery even happened? He told me to take notes. So I did. From the first encouraging message to the last kind gesture, I have written down every name of every person and what they did throughout this process that made me feel special. And you know what? The next time I feel sad or disconnected, I’m going to get that list back out so that I can remember how many people showed me they loved me and that they care. You see, those little gestures mean so much for someone. Something as simple as a text to let someone know you’re thinking about them can lift them up on a bad day. A meal, a card, a BIG hug can quite possibly carry them through a really tough time. We each have our own special way to love and more specifically, our own way to love specific people. Don’t ever think it’s going to be the same for one as it will for another. You don’t necessarily have to consider their love language before you reach out, but really make it personal. And whatever you do, be sincere in telling them that you love them.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out throughout this process. I am certainly a blessed woman! Love you all 

13 Things I Learned Not Speaking: Day 7 (Church Edition)

Yesterday was a little easier than I expected. It was nice to get out of the house especially to be at my church with lots of friendly faces and hugs. Some moments were hard, but for the most part, it was a really good day!

1. Jared thinks it’s funny to ask me if I’m sure I’m okay to drive since I can’t talk. Really?

2. My throat gets dry even just lip synching!

3. Not talking at is difficult at church but equally as comical as it can be at home.

4. A dry erase board is good to send messages to your friends on stage. It may have been Tim‘s idea but caught Fawn‘s attention 

5. Thinking back to #1, he may be right. I do talk to other drivers sometimes. Of course, I only educate them on safe driving tips 

6. You can’t talk back to the woman in the next stall.

7. People at church take on the same traits as my family members knowing that I can’t speak…they lean in, talk louder, nod or gesture as if they’re the ones who can’t speak. It’s quite funny!

8. You can “yell” SURPRISE on a dry erase board.

9. My friend Robin is really easy to have a conversation with on a white board. Not to mention, she does not use any of the gestures mentioned in #7 either.

10. It’s going to be a long six weeks of not singing 

11. My family (and my church family) really love me 

12. Every time I lean over to give Jared a kiss in church, he thought I was trying to whisper to him. It made us both laugh.

13. It was nice to sneak in some words to my two loves and a few friends.

13 things I’ve Learned Not Speaking: Day 6

Of course all of this applies to yesterday but I’m posting on what is considered DAY 6!! That means only TWO more full days. Technically I CAN talk today but because the doc said it would be great if I could hold off until my appointment, I’m going to keep going. Praying for a FULL recovery and then some!

Yesterday was tough early on as you’ll see but it didn’t take long for it to look up. You learn to adapt to the situation and continue to laugh (without sound).

In no particular order…

1. It gets frustrating for me when people say they understand when there is no way they can unless they were in my shoes. Same thing goes for other situations. We tend to say the two words that may sting the most for someone who is going through something – I understand. Whether it is difficult in your eyes or not, it is something to them.

2. I have resorted to texting inside my house or using a word document on my computer. I type fastest but anything is faster than me trying to write legibly, quickly.

3. I over enunciate when I’m trying to get people to read lips. Apparently, it makes it more difficult.

4. Crying starts early on a day that everyone is home. Like I said, it’s just harder.

5. At one point, I typed into my phone, “God, please fix this feeling of frustration for us all. I feel helpless.” I’ve thought more often during this experience about those who are not able to verbally express something they need to say or how they feel.

6. I knew this before but had a reminder today that “It’s the simple, common-sense acts of love that make the difference.”

7. My tongue is sore and glands swollen. Guess that’s part of recovery?

8. Yes and No questions are sometimes best. This is true even for the day-to-day. Think about who you’re asking, why and if a lengthy answer is really required. We should always try to consider if a simple Yes or No is sufficient or if further explanation is needed.

9. I just now realized that I don’t remember getting dressed after surgery. I had to ask Jared if I dressed myself. He said I came out dressed. Hmmmm. I seriously don’t remember any part of getting dressed!

10. My husband thinks it’s comical to make up what I’m trying to say (even though in reality he’s already figured it out).

11. You can’t hear me by scooting closer (Aubrey).

12. Sometimes you forget you aren’t supposed to talk.

13. When you realize that you can talk, you do start sneaking in a few words here and there.

13 Things I Learned Not Speaking: Day 5

For the most part, today was productive and funny.  I guess we’re getting as used to this as we can.  As of this morning, 3 full days left and a few hours beyond.  I’m on the down slope now 🙂

And again, in no particular order…

  1.  You can’t think on negative thoughts for too long simply because most of them require action on our part to “feed” the thoughts.
  2. When everyone’s not home, it is a lot easier but when they are home and none of us are talking, it makes me feel more alone.  Guess I prefer that everyone sound like they’re having a conversation with themselves 😀
  3. You can scare someone without sound.
  4. Watching your husband imitate a crab walking WILL make you laugh out loud.
  5. Adaptations have to be made during situations you would normally speak.  You have to think outside of the box for sure.
  6. People send you funny texts which makes you try really hard not to laugh out loud.
  7. Tears happen again but only because I needed my husband to say to me what I wanted so badly to say to him.
  8. Letters are still a meaningful form of communication.
  9. Apparently I’m awful at charades and if we ever play a game, my husband is not going to be on my team!
  10. If someone crosses your mind, if you do anything at all, send them a random text.  You don’t know how much just that small gesture might mean.
  11. I’m not so rushed.  Not sure if it’s only because I have no where to go or if I’m really just feeling kind of at peace.
  12. My husband misses my laugh.
  13. I read a quote yesterday that said something so profound. It describes how I’m feeling during this whole thing thus far:
    "We do not need extraordinary moments for God to show up."

13 Things I Learned Not Speaking: Day 4

Even on Day 4, I can’t honestly say that I could ever get used to this. I feel like I’m in a better spot mentally and in some ways, emotionally, but at the same time it takes nothing at all to make me tear up when my two loves come home. I said “I love you” to both of them tonight. I saved up all I could and just used those three words twice before bed because I needed to, which brings me to…

(in no particular order)

1. I feel more philosophical in this current predicament. I am forced to really evaluate what I want to say vs. what needs to be said. However, sometimes it literally feels like I NEED to say something.

2. Those of us who don’t work physically or outside of the home tend to appreciate lists that we can mark off to show that we’ve actually done something. This is even more true when you can’t speak. Don’t ask me why, but it is.

**SIDE NOTE**
Writing takes a different kind of something out of you. Writers may not be physically exhausted but mentally, it just wears you out. Never underestimate how much effort it takes, no matter how small [or light] the task may seem.

3. The animals are starting to get confused. When Levi stares at me and I can’t tell him to get his ball or I want Rango to come to me and I bang on the wall and motion with my hand — they just look confused. But for the most part, these boys are listening to my cues very well!

4. I still like not interrupting.

5. I like to talk to people so much that I am choosing to stay home with the exception of church on Sunday. That means I have not been outside of my house except to take the dogs out since Monday. Good thing I like my home! It does go to show how much I love Jared and Aubrey though because I’m quite content seeing just the two of them every day 

6. I must talk to my animals more than I realize on a normal basis.

7. It doesn’t matter that I can only snap with one hand.

8. Flirting with your husband is kind of fun when you can’t talk 

9. You have a shift in perspective. Letting go of certain things is easier. You have a clearer picture of how well everyone operates on their own, without you feeling like you need to be in control. It’s almost like you’re on the outside look in.

10. Mouthed words and signs can be misinterpreted and cause frustration on both ends but no one REALLY understands how frustrating it is to not be able to quickly say what you want to.

11. I really lose track when counting in my head vs. counting out loud.

12. Verbal communication is a staple in our household. I am realizing that more every day.

13. I miss laughing out loud.