Friday, May 29, 2015

Who do I want to be?

I usually cringe at questions like this- because it is such a HEAVY and BIG question. I want to be so many things and what if I can't BE those things... defining them feels heavy and hard because I am afraid to fail.

BUT- does that mean that I should never have goals and never strive to be thriving in who I am? That is crazy-thinking. So it is with a huge helping of GRACE,  a reminder that I WILL FAIL AND THAT IS OKAY, and that I DO NOT HAVE TO BE PERFECT AT ANY OF THESE THINGS that I do my next module with THRIVE.

Here we go- next step in Thrive is to define who I want to be in my "Hats"...I really loved this activity. I am a word girl and I loved putting into words who I want to be. I also loved seeing that I am actually DOING many of these things ALREADY- this was VERY empowering.

Seeing in writing- who I am and who I want to be- not as much pressure as I thought. And I began thinking about the Master Builder of Me, how He knit me together...do you know how hard knitting is? It takes intention, patience, focus and creativity. My sweet God in Heaven knit me together and I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Every stitch of my being has been sewn with Masterful Hands that are Gentle, Precise, and Holy. My inner-most being is BEAUTIFUL because my CREATOR IS BEAUTIFUL. So all of these Hats that I wear- I give them to HIM and ask HIM to bless them as only He can so that I can wear and show off HIS CREATION. He is the designer and I am His Creation.

Before going into my Hats- I had to read Psalm 139: 1-17.

1O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2You know when I sit down and when I rise;
You understand my thoughts from afar.      
3You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.      
4Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.     
5You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.      
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.      
7Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?     
8If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
 If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.     
9If I take the wings of the dawn
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,      
10Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.      
11If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”      
12Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.     

13For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
      

14I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,            

And my soul knows it very well.      
15My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
      
16Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written

 The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.      

17How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!  
   
(emphasis mine) 

When wearing my Daughter of the King Hat, I want to live my faith out-loud and carry the presence of Christ with me everywhere I go. I want my relationship with God to be my first and foremost priority and I want to please and honor the Lord.

When wearing my Liz Hat (Care-Taker and Builder of Self Hat), I want to be a woman who loves herself and takes action to care for my needs, knowing that I am a Temple of the Holy Spirit and that I am responsible for caring of myself.  Additionally, in this Hat, I will take time to nurture what I love and what brings me joy and energy spiritually, physically, emotionally and socially. Lastly, in this hat I will be intentional with the boundaries I set so that I can stay strong and balanced.  
When wearing my Supportive and Fun Wife Hat, I want to love, respect and support my husband to grow to reach his potential in all areas of life. I want to bring a tone of fun, silliness and humor into our relationship. I want to be a safe place for my husband to be himself.

When wearing my Supportive and Fun Mom Hat, I want to love, respect and support my children to grow to reach their potential in all areas of life. I want to bring a tone of fun, silliness and humor into our home so that my children learn the art of joyful living. I want to be a safe place for my children to be themselves.
When wearing my Home and Family Organizer and Supporter Hat, I want to intentionally and carefully manage our schedules, keep up with the order and cleanliness of our home and be aware of our financial strengths and needs in order that I can help our home and family life to be healthy and well-balanced.
When wearing my Ministry Leader, Encourager and Connector Hat, I want to be active in my local church where I lead other women into a stronger relationship with Christ, where I connect women with one another and with the Lord through various activities; Bible Studies, Monthly Breakfasts, Play-Dates, etc...
When wearing my Faithful Friend Hat, I want to intentionally make time to connect with my soul sisters. I want to spend time in prayer and fellowship with them. I want to be a safe place for them and I want to build up my friends.
 When I wear my Writer/Blogger Hat, I want to write words that come from the heart of Jesus, words that encourage, connect and inspire other women to love, trust and serve God and live to their potential as Moms, Wives, Employees, etc... I want to be willing to share my struggles, pains and wounds so that others can see the healing power of Christ in me and be drawn closer to Him.
When I wear my Advocate for Persons with Disabilities Hat, I want to be a professional in the Disability Services field that advocates and sits beside people with disabilities, becoming their student and using my gifts, education and training to help them reach their employment goals and to be aware of their God-given abilities. I also want to stand in the gap for my clients and speak for them when needed, to advocate for them to receive the supports that they need to reach their goals.  

Lots of love!Liz

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

BIG BIG LOVE

Sometimes when my kiddo is acting up, whenever I start to feel GUILT-a bit detached or like my moments with my kiddo has not gone so great, I like to ask my son Benjamin-

"How much does Mommy love you?"
And his answer is- "Mommy loves me BIG-BIG."
And then we smile and in that moment, we can move on with our day with LOVE.

Don't forget! God loves YOU- BIG-BIG!
I love that word- and I DO LOVE my boy "BIG-BIG".
Is he not the CUTEST thing EVER?!

Sweet friend, YOU are loved- "BIG-BIG".
More than you can ever, EVER imagine, by a God who is BIGGER than_____ (insert whatever you are struggling with right now)...

You know what I can insert right there?
Struggles with overeating, Depression, Marriage concerns, Parenting battles, Financial struggles, Hard healing that needs to be done.
Pretty heavy stuff....But God is BIGGER.

His BIGNESS is BIGGER than the BIGGEST BIG!
(sounds like a Dr. Seuss title, huh? ha!)

Right now, this day, Wednesday, "hump day", how are you doing?
I really am asking you with sincerity of heart...how are you doing? Are you okay? Are you at peace? Do you know how special you are? Do you know how precious you are? Do you know that God counts every hair on your head and cares about every detail of your life?

Can you stop right now and KNOW that you are loved "BIG-BIG" :)

Are you tired? Are you feeling like you are misunderstood, alone, forgotten? Are you frustrated with life? Are you unsure of many things? Are you in pain; emotional, mental, physical, spiritual? Are you feeling DONE? Yes, Yes, Yes and YES.
I can feel ALL of these things throughout my day at any point in time...you?

Sometimes I think that God is so far, so out of reach and so UN-present in my life. Why? Because like my son- I make mistakes, I sin, I fight my Heavenly Daddy, I want what I want when I want it, I have tantrums (yes, I really do...:) and I NEED for Him to stop and ask me-

"Liz- how much does your Daddy love you?"
And I need to say- "My Daddy loves me 'BIG-BIG'"

And that even in my place of unsettled, broken, messy living, His BIG-BIG love is more than ENOUGH for me. DO you believe that for yourself? I DO. I REALLY, REALLY DO. Hold onto that truth girlfriend and remember that He HOLDS ONTO YOU when you feel too weak to hold on. Amen?!

There is NOTHING, NOTHING IN THIS WORLD that can SEPARATE ME from the LOVE OF MY GOD- NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING.

Romans 8:38-39
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

You are loved - "BIG-BIG"....
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Taking the Time to Define My Purpose...

So...I am now processing Module 2 in the Thrive course and it is really awesome work.

First of all, just the process of taking the time to think about myself, what I need, what I love to do, what steals my joy and writing it down, looking at it and processing it- is LIKE BREATHING IN A BIG GULP OF FRESH AIR after breathing in the stink and pollution of THE TRY HARD LIFE.

When was the last time you intentionally took time to reflect on yourself; your needs, your feelings, your struggles, your desires? Because truly, and I mean this with all of my heart and because I KNOW that it might be hard for you to remember this but:

YOU ARE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! 
 
Your kids, your husband, your job, your home...they NEED you, I GET IT, believe me?!

BUT.YOU.NEED.YOU. as well.
You HAVE GOT to think about your self in order to be able to THRIVE.

In this Module we are asked to look at the Hats we are wearing, we are asked to organize them, ditch some of them and add new ones- ALL related to our thoughts from Module one with regards to what our purpose is, what we love, etc...

It is amazing to think about all of the Hats that we wear as Moms, Women, Employee's, huh? It is ALOT, but the amazing thing is that- we are not necessarily built for ALL of the hats that we wear, sometimes we put on hats that we do not need to be wearing, hats that belong to other people, hats that no one asked us to wear and hats that just bring us down- for some people this involves activities that we have signed up for that we just don't need to keep doing, responsibilities we have taken on than someone else really needs to do, etc. 

I found that FOR ME- THESE "HATS" ARE not as specific but more of some overarching roles that I play that HAVE GOT TO BE DITCHED- "NEED-MEETER" AND "PEOPLE-PLEASER".

These TWO HATS cause ALOT of turmoil for me because I LET THEM CONTROL HOW I SPEND MY TIME AND WHERE I INVEST MY EMOTIONS LEAVING ME DRAINED, RESENTFUL AND FRUSTRATED.

On the flip side, we also have hats that are extraordinarily lovely, fit us perfectly, enhance our beauty as Jesus girls and bring out the best in us!
They bring us LIFE and JOY and PURPOSE.

FOR ME- MY FAVORITE HATS ARE "RELATIONSHIP BUILDER, SUPPORTER AND ENCOURAGER."
Anytime I am involved with these Hats firmly in place- I have JOY and PURPOSE.

LASTLY there are hats we just HAVE to wear due to our responsibilities in LIFE; laundry folder, driver to sports activities, bill organizer, etc...
These hats are part of my life, but unless I am PEOPLE PLEASING AND NEED-MEETING, they don't take AWAY from my joy as I do them UNTO THE LORD AND FOR HIS GLORY and as I learn to delegate and share them with those God has placed in my life.

One thing I noticed...the majority of my Hats are "others"- focused and based on my FAVORITE HATS OF Relationship Building, Supporter, and Encourager, which is FINE. BUT- I do not take enough time to focus these things on MYSELF to be a "Self-Builder, Supporter and Encourager". One of the things that Teri Johnson encourages us to do is to put our SELF as one of the HATS that we wear.
At first- this was puzzling to me, but now it is VITAL. TOTALLY VITAL LADIES!

So... I actually started off with 33 hats and I was TOTALLY OVERWHELMED.
I scaled it down to 26 and then I REALLY GOT PANICKY.
SO I took a DEEP BREATHE and tried again and LADIES...

I NARROWED IT DOWN TO NINE AND AGAIN I TOOK A BIG BREATHE OF FRESH AIR AND RELIEF.

I will share them with you all:

1. DAUGHTER OF THE KING
2. SELF-BUILDER, SUPPORTER AND ENCOURAGER
3. SUPPORTIVE AND FUN WIFE
4. SUPPORTIVE AND FUN MOM
5. FAITHFUL FRIEND
6. HOME ORGANIZER AND SUPPORTER
7. MINISTRY LEADER, SUPPORTER AND ENCOURAGER
8. TRANSPARENT AND REAL BLOGGER/WRITER
9. ADVOCATE FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

I cannot WAIT for the next module when we will be clarifying even more with these Hats and with our purpose.  It is SO FUN to share with all of you this journey I am on.

God Bless!

Liz

Friday, May 15, 2015

My Plate


So we have these plates that oftentimes feel WAY too full, right?

So we, Juggle, drop, move something over, take something off, stack things on top of each other, throw things at other people, all the while accepting more and more.

My plate...one of my exercises for Thrive is to look at my plate and see what is on it...So I will share-

  • Work: creativity, productivity, growth, time-management
  • Household: laundry, basic cleaning, meals, picking up
  • Marriage: supporting husband's goals, coach's wife, time alone, working as a team, down-time
  • Parenting: having fun, play dates, spiritual guidance, teaching, discipline, connection
  • Creativity/Personal/Spiritual/Ministry: time with God, blogging, writing, reading blogs, self-growth, women' bible study leader (weekly), nursery worker (once/ every third month), reaching out in my community
  • Friendship: coffee dates, texting, FB connections, play dates, helping each other


So one thing I have realized is that I truly LOVE everything on my plate- I really don't want to ditch anything- but I want to better manage it and be more gracious and flexible with WHAT I CAN manage, WHEN I can manage it and HOW I can manage it. Priorities. And how much TIME I am putting into these things. That is my next step...

We are being encouraged to look at Life Balance and developing Growth Plans.

Thinking about our purpose, what steals our joy, how we want to be remembered and what is important to us.

And guess what guys? These self-reflection activities have NOT been stressful at all like I thought they would be! No panicking...I am loving seeing what my life is about and excited to see how I can be even clearer, focused and strong in these areas. It will be exciting to see where God take me and again, I am excited to blog my way through this and share it with all of you!

What about you? What is on your plate? Is it too much? What do you think needs to be removed?
This pic cracks me up...Are you ready to learn how to Thrive- check it out.

God Bless!

Liz

Thursday, May 14, 2015

No More Hurricane Living

So as you all know I am working on the Thrive program...I started to look at the questions for the first module and I am not gonna lie-I PANICKED.
 
You know I am going to be honest with you-right?
 

OMG- I need to change and I DON'T LIKE CHANGE, have I mentioned that before??? And I also get overwhelmed very easily when I look at my life as a whole.
 
But guess what? This is what I need to do- in order to get where I want to go, I need to look at WHERE I AM and when I do...this is ugly- can I admit something to you?
 
I oftentimes feel like I am a victim of my circumstances...like there is this gigantic hurricane which is "my life" that has sucked me into it's vortex and I have NO CONTROL over the maddening, never-ending SPIN CYCLE of my life. So I just stay IN IT, keep swirling around and I live "DIZZY" (which rhymes with my nickname Lizzy by the way)...

Dizzy Lizzy....That's me...UGH. In Fact, here is a funny little rhyme that I just thought of-"Dizzy Lizzy in a Tizzy, why on Earth are you so BUSY "(I hope that made you laugh cuz I am giggling to myself at Panera right now!)... 
 
But anyways- on a daily basis-I feel like I fail ALOT and that I make very little progress...This is not true- I am making progress, but what IS true is that I AM NOT A VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCES and I CAN CHANGE.
 
And what is ALSO TRUE is that God's grace COVERS me in my DIZZINESS for sure and brings good out of all of it...

BUT...I think I am ready to move AWAY from the hurricane living- how about you? Is it possible?
 
I think it is... why?
 
Because the Bible says that I can live "light and easy" in Christ...
 
Matthew 11:29-30
"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (emphasis mine)

 
So back to the Thrive-
...When someone tells me that I can make changes to STOP THIS (the hurricane living)- I listen, with skepticism (sorry Teri!) and some anxiety and here I am panicking- looking at my hurricane living and my feelings of failure and thinking about what needs to change in my life and....
 
God in His AMAZING mercy brings me what I need to move forward-a blog article to help get me grounded and ready and with perfect timing my friend Cheri Gregory reminded me of the MOST IMPORTANT thing to do when faced with failure-Run as fast as you can to Jesus!
 
So before I get too deep into my "WORK" with Thrive I looked at the WORD which says...
 
Matthew 19:26
WITH GOD, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

"And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (emphasis mine)

Philippians 4:13
I CAN DO EVERYTHING THROUGH CHRIST
 
"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."  (emphasis mine)
 
 
THE REASON I CAN THROW OFF EVERY ENCUMBRANCE IS BECAUSE I AM NOT ALONE (SURROUNDED BY A GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES) AND NEITHER ARE YOU!!!....
 
AND HOW I WILL DO THIS IS...
I WILL FIX MY EYES ON JESUS WHO IS THE PERFECTER OF MY FAITH
 
Hebrews 12:1-2
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
 
I will be blogging later on this weekend about my plate and some of my questions I have to answer in my first module, but let me encourage you by what Jesus says...

1. You can change because NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

2. You are made for light and easy living in Christ

3. You are not alone

4. You will change and grow by fixing your eyes on Jesus
 

Stay tuned for more on my journey with Thrive!

Lots of love,
Liz

**Do you need some hope today? There are some AMAZING free resources at keeping it personal where you will meet my friend Teri Johnson.**
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Is it possible to actually THRIVE as a Christian Working Mama?


So I've talked a lot about my messy world as a CWM. I know NOW that I am not alone and that there are ALOT of you out there, living in the mess and needing some help. HELP with WHAT? ANYTHING that will make our lives more in line with Christ and with our PURPOSE in Him.

I am going to go on a journey and I want to invite you...not a journey to find perfection, but to work towards PROGRESS. Although we are loved and okay in our messes and in our struggles, I believe that God is ALWAYS wanting to bring us to a place of "BETTER" in Him. Whatever "BETTER" looks like, that is between you and God. So this is NOT going to be a "HOW TO" or a "YOU NEED TO" kind of journey, but more like a WALKING TOGETHER journey to GROW, CHANGE (as painlessly as possible! ha!), MOVE ON, AND LEARN HOW TO THRIVE journey.

I want to THRIVE, not just SURVIVE! Amen? What does it even mean to THRIVE. Honestly to me, it sounds unattainable in this season of my life. It sounds like a word that would be thrown around at a Motivational speech where I would just be staring into space thinking about all of the UNDONE and MESSY and CHAOTIC corners of my life...

Thriving is for people who run everyday, have maids who keep their houses clean, get up at 5am to read the Bible, never yell at their kids, always serve their husbands with joy and professionally meet all of their goals. Basically I have always equated THRIVING with a FIVE STAR lifestyle... You???

But God...Did you know that God promises YOU (yes-YOU, busy Mama, teleworking in your pajama shirt and old jean shorts, needing a shower, laundry swirling and whirling in the background, baseball gear everywhere, ninja turtle lego starting at you, sitting in the house with the broken Air-Conditioner, the messy table, you with the bitten down nails, the stains on the carpet, the unfinished window- wait....you look JUST LIKE ME!...right this moment...ha!...)...but did you know that you CAN live an ABUNDANT life in Him.

Abundance does not equal wealth, perfection, and achievement. Let's get that straight first and foremost. Abundance to me, HAS TO START in the HEART and when the HEART is settled in the ABUNDANT LOVE of Jesus, it is ready to take a look, dive deeper, and do some work on the nitty-gritty details of life, that honestly- may need to be re-assessed to get OUT of SURVIVAL mode and into THRIVING mode.

So, I am at this place right now. Settling with Jesus in my heart, knowing He is enough and ready to work on ME. I'm scared because I tend to give up too quickly when faced with challenges that stretch me- but I want to grow. I have been blessed to connect with a Life Coach- I think the idea of a Life Coach is awesome- who doesn't need a COACH? I think of the Holy Spirit as being our number one Life Coach and then God gives the gift of encouragement, perspective and guidance to some of His people and uses them to help some of his other people who are feeling a bit OVERWHELMED.

So- I am going to be blogging about my journey through a program called Thrive by Teri Johnson from Keeping it Personal. I want to share with all of you what I am learning and reflect on how I am changing. I need help, can I get an Amen? We ALL NEED HELP. RIGHT?! Right now I am asking for help from someone who has been through a process that has helped her grow and THRIVE.

This week we are thinking about what we would like to change, what we have on our plates, how we are taking care of ourselves and our needs, and looking deeper into our purpose. These are the things I am reflecting on this week as I do my first module. I am going to share with all of you my thoughts on the first word- CHANGE. What I want to see change...

MORE LAUGHTER- LESS WORRY; LEARN TO BE MORE LIGHT-HEARTED

BE MORE CONSISTENT IN MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD/SPEND MORE TIME IN THE WORD.

DEEPEN MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY HUSBAND; SPEND MORE TIME WITH HIM, ENJOYING HIM

BE MORE INTENTIONAL WITH HELPING MY CHILDREN GROW IN THEIR FAITH

BECOME MORE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE AND STOP EMOTIONAL EATING TO DEAL WITH STRESS

REDUCE DEBT

CONSISTENTLY TITHE

MAKE TIME FOR GIRLFRIENDS ON A REGULAR BASIS
DE-CLUTTER AND CREATE MORE ORGANIZATION IN MY HOME

SIMPLIFY MY WORK /MAINTAIN FOCUS WHILE AT WORK SO I AM NOT BRINGING IT HOME

Anyone else want to share? Feel free to comment on what you would like to change, I KNOW change is a super-duper scary word and I usually avoid it like the PLAGUE; however- not this time. I think I am ready, will you join me? Will you be brave enough to say I want_____ to change and I know I can change_____ with God's help. I can THRIVE as a Christian Working Mama! Who is with me?

Lots of love,
Liz

Saturday, May 2, 2015

We Can't Accept Grace Without Accepting Our Mess


 
My house...it is a mess...there is stuff everywhere...the stuff of my life- bills, toys, clothes, scooters, work reports, laundry baskets overflowing, trash that needs to be taken out, Legos, OH SO MANY LEGOS...my house is a constant reminder of what a mess I am. And sometimes I think I have to have a bit of a show down with my house and prove that I am NOT the mess that my house reflects! :)




So...I go into a cleaning, straightening up FRENZY and once all surfaces are clear, carpet vacuumed and dishes put away, I get this strange idea in my head that I "have arrived", I sit down, look around and feel "settled", but NOT REALLY. Because the next day, it starts all over again...

Oh how many moments with my kids and my husband have I wasted because I HAD to pick up STUFF and move STUFF and clear off STUFF...

It's okay- it's part of how I COPE with my lack of control over life in general- not the worse thing in the world, but you know what is SO CRAZY NUTSO AMAZING AND FREEING?...

...when I STOP the STUFF SHUFFLE and just SIT WITH IT, sit with the mess and the chaos and just be ME and let my family be THEMSELVES, it is a thing of beauty my friends...for real...it really is...I accept the mess and I accept GRACE. I accept THEIR mess and they accept MY mess and we, together ACCEPT GRACE.

It is freeing and it is SO MUCH BETTER than SHUFFLING STUFF constantly and trying to make an image of what I think my life should look like. I accept the flaws and I accept GRACE.

Sometimes I seem surprised at how imperfect I am and how quickly I mess up, which is really silly, because the very nature of my being is to be a MESS.  When I accept my MESS I accept GRACE.

And God- this is what He does...

He looks at me in my MESS and when I stop and let Him look at Me, I can see a reflection in His Eyes of a Woman who is LOVED, HELD and BEAUTIFUL. I picture Him grabbing ahold of me and making me sit still on His lap. I picture Him looking at me in the eyes and telling me to SLOW and BREATHE and THANK and PRAISE and LAUGH and LOVE.

He does not ask me to PICK UP, CLEAN UP, SHUFFLE, and/or ORGANIZE MY "STUFF" (literally or on a deeper level)...
I can be an imperfect mess with lots of stuff to be shuffled and I can sit still and embrace my imperfection and when I do- He will SHOW UP and GET ALL THE GLORY for the beauty and life and light that He shines in me.

There will be NO DOUBT that it is Him when He does...
He chooses ME to LIVE IN and SHINE IN and LOVE THROUGH and SPEAK THROUGH and it is SO GLORIOUS and I am so UNDESERVING.

YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL MESS. ALL OF YOU.
Today, I am choosing to embrace my imperfection and just sit with it and let God show up. I'm excited to see what He does. He is the MASTER ARTIST. You are HIS TAPESTRY. Beautifully Imperfect with flaws and cracks that are MADE FOR HOLY LIGHT TO SHINE THROUGH. So, SHINE ON!



    

Friday, May 1, 2015

Baltimore, Brokenness and My Story

The emotional tension today from the Freddie Gray case was heavy in my workplace... As the State Attorney announced the charges against the police officers, the emotional atmosphere became even more intense. This blog is not my opinion on the charges, the character or past or actions of Freddie Gray nor of the police officers involved.

It is just what is on my heart, living in a day where racial tensions still exist and I just want to share my story and my journey with dealing with the issues of racism, poverty and social justice because they are part of the story God has written for me...

As a child I had a best friend who was African American, I loved her with all my heart, we had a "Bracelet Club" and we formed a  singing group and we even were in a talent show together. We ran around the neighborhood everyday and I never thought anything about her color.

In middle school, I had an amazing teacher who showed us a video about segregation and showed police officers hosing down young African American people and showed Martin Luther King and we listened to his speech... I cried like a baby...I began to understand that something very evil had occurred in the past and although I was not around during that time, it hurt and broke my heart.

As I grew older and went to High School, things started to change, my town was predominantly white, though as I said- I had African American friends and never really thought too much about race, surrounding areas "bussed" African American kids into our school and it was the first time I ever felt racial tension. I was afraid of it. During the OJ Simpson trial, someone had broken into our school and wrote profanities in our breezeway that included the "N" word...I walked through the breezeway unaware as groups of African American students got in my face and screamed at me, cussing at me...I grew up loving rap music and although the race issue was still present, for the most part I just enjoyed the culture and diversity that was brought into my life as my school became more integrated.

As I went on to college and went to a Christian school, I majored in Social Work and went to the satellite campus they had in Philadelphia. I was allowed the opportunity to attend Temple University. My classmates and I were minorities. My teacher openly discussed on an ongoing basis the "white privilege" that white people had. I remember sitting in class crying because I felt guilty and I didn't know what I had done wrong. It was very confusing for me. I had another teacher who was from Africa who blamed white missionaries for problems in her country...more guilt, shame and confusion...

And then I began doing internships...
My first was for Mercy Hospital's homeless outreach program in Baltimore. I walked through Lexington Market where there were men standing on podiums yelling words of hatred towards white people. I was terrified. During my internship I saw inner city "projects" and saw things that changed everything for me...
...people wandering aimlessly, children in the streets- crying with no mothers in sight, women standing on corners dressed to sell themselves and young boys huddled in groups, listening to music and yelling...I felt anger, I felt devastation and I felt hopelessness all around me...

Then I interned at homeless shelters and pregnant teen programs in Philadelphia...I went on a "mission trip" to New York City and went into homeless shelters and subway stations where men slept in boxes and again my heart broke...I became angry because I didn't know how to help people who seemed stuck in a cycle of poverty, violence and hopelessness.

And today...those same feelings return as I listen and watch and see what is happening so close to home...

As a professional I work with students who have disabilities. I help many young African American males and females who live on the edge of poverty, have learning disabilities or mental health problems, most without fathers, many who are very hard-hearted and I sit across from them as a white professional woman and I often feel the same helplessness and hopelessness that I felt in the past.

They want me to tell them how they can escape their world of government dependence, drug dealers, fatherlessness and single mothers they never see because they work 2-3 jobs, when they can't read, they don't know how to get or keep jobs and they want me to explain to them how it is possible to escape from their world without turning to crime.

I meet with Ex-Offenders who have disabilities who tell me their stories of growing up without fathers, with mothers on drugs and how they made bad choices and now after spending 20 years in prison- no one will hire them. I see that young face in their older, hardened eyes as they open up about their desperation and need for hope. So much regret and so much despair...

I can't write and "pretty things up" and express anything other than what I have experienced. I don't believe that Racism is to blame for everything and I also don't believe that Racism is "over and done with".  I don't know enough about what happened that night, I wasn't there, all I know is that something has happened that has revealed to us a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.

What I DO believe is that hatred comes from hearts filled with sin and that this hatred has nothing to do with color. I believe that sin is the evil we must all fight together and that the ONLY ANSWER to the ANGER, PAIN, BITTERNESS and HOPELESSNESS of these times is JESUS CHRIST.  JESUS is the only one who can bring healing, restoration, and unity between people. He is the one who brought us, sinners, to God, by dying on the cross.

I won't give up hope, although I spent a great deal of time today as I drove home from work feeling hopeless, angry, and frustrated at all of this mess...it broke me down and I prayed and I prayed and I remembered who my hope was and I remembered that the same God who rescued me from my sin, is the same God who loves, rescues and knows every hair on every head of every person in this world. This is the same God who promises that...

2 Chronicles 7:14
"...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

It's interesting...after work today, every time I saw an African American, I felt myself wanting to reach out, be friendlier, kinder and more intentional than every before. There was a bus driver eating ice cream outside of McDonald's and I slowed my car down to ask her about the traffic and joke about her kiddie cone, her "dessert before dinner".  We laughed together and I told her that a local accident had cleared up and she smiled and thanked me for letting her know. Then the young man and lady at the drive-through...both African American, the young man was extremely polite and sweet to me and the young woman as well. I wanted to hug them.

Sounds silly, but I don't know...maybe, just maybe...God will bring something amazing out of all of this darkness...drawing us to one another and reminding us to show His love to all people. To look deeper into people's eyes and without words speak a universal language of unconditional love and acceptance and when we do this, maybe we can break the strongholds of racism, poverty, violence, and hopelessness that our Enemy has been creating, crafting, and trying to grow from day #1...

I felt hope return tonight as I reflected on how the Lord has touched my heart for my African American brothers and sisters...and we ARE brothers and sisters...I won't pretend to understand your suffering, I won't pretend to know what it is like to be you, but I will stand by you and with you and for you and ask my sweet Jesus to bring about healing and hope for all of us as only He can...I will pray that salvation, justice and healing will come to all parties- the police, Freddie Gray, the community, the angry looters, and that one day in Heaven, we will all be joined together in unity. That is my hope and I don't care what kind of mess the media proclaims and shouts out at me, it is what I will stand for and I will not back down.

I wanted to share what Tony Evans had to say about all of this:
Tony Evans on Baltimore

Good words of Hope, my prayer for sure...