Category Archives: journal entry

a look back

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thanks for your patience with me as i’ve been noticeably absent the last month or so.  i hate that my blog has taken a back seat so drastically, because if for no other reason, it is always encouraging for me to go back and look over what God has done in my life.  I was especially encouraged a few weeks ago to look back and see an overview of what God did in the past few years.

So, keeping up with the tradition, here is a brief overview of 2009…

The year started off on a very low note – with me working through some very difficult issues from my past and having to face some personal heartache that I would have much rather left buried.  Thanks to the help of Matt and Julie and many others from my church, I continued to learn what forgiveness looked like, but not without many tears.

That struggle began several months of discouragement and at times hopelessness.  Looking back now, I am so grateful for my friends who stuck with me, upheld me, and encouraged me each step of the way… and at times, did everything necessary to turn my gaze off myself and back to the hope found in the cross.

I learned through that time, that my safety and comfort must be found in Jesus alone.  That though others disappoint, and at times cause severe hurt and pain, that Jesus never fails.  I learned that like Eustace, in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that at times God strips away ourselves, but it is always done with a hand of love and mercy.

2009 also was a year in which I started to see my health improve.  This year brought for the first time in years the first consistent season of sleeping normally and the first period of weeks with no migraines.  I’m grateful to God for the help of the doctors and others, but ultimately, for His hand guiding my health and my life.

then began a season of questions… should i remain at my job? where should I live? should I pursue moving to another state?  if so, where?  i began pursuing a long-standing desire… to move to the Washington DC area… for months, I investigated, prayed and talked with people.  By late spring, I felt a peace about pursuing it and by mid summer I was convinced I was moving… as soon as God provided a job.  I spent 10 days in the DC area on a fact finding mission, found a place to live, spent hours driving in traffic and was excited about the pending change.  Then God closed the door.  It was clear to me that the door was closed tight and that I was not to pursue any further.  Yet it was also abundantly clear that this change was for my good and was given to me by a God who knows what is best for me.  So, my roots are in Greenville.  But my hope in God grew through that time, and though the “move” was unsuccessful, the lessons learned were well worth the months of questioning.

This fall brought changes once again to my life.  September 13th was my first date with Ted Riley, a man whom I have since grown to love.  We met in August via e-harmony and i am grateful for how God (not merely 29 dimensions of compatibility) brought the two of us together.  I could not imagine a better fit for me and look forward to seeing what God does with our relationship.

The past 4 months have been times of continuing improved health (despite the doctors telling me in August that they thought I could have pancreatic cancer) and new areas of learning to trust God.  Contentment looks different in this season (not “is there even possibly a good guy out there who would like me?” but “when will I get married / when will I have kids / when does the next “season” start?”) but the struggle remains the same… so I keep learning that no matter the circumstance, that my confidence and hope must be in the only One who remains unchanging.

In October, I began writing weekly online devotionals for Devotional Christian.  It has been an encouraging and challenging step for me… in learning to be more thoughful about what I write and growing in being more theologically informed.

I’ve seen reconciliation in relationships this year.  I’ve seen improvement in health.  I’ve seen new changes.  But through it all, I’ve learned more of the faithfulness of our God.  Through every change, He has remained true to me.  And through every time I haven’t remained true to Him, He lovingly corrects and draws me back.

What a God we serve.  I look forward to the challenges and blessings of 2010, confident that through every step, He will be by my side.

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my life right now

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so, for Thanksgiving, Ted’s parents are in town.  We’re getting together at his grandma’s house and since this is the year for my sister and brother-in-law to be at his family’s house for Thanksgiving, my parents are coming with me.  I’m so glad that we all get to spend the holiday together!

i’m really excited.  i love Thanksgiving!  its probably one of my favorite holidays!  And I love being able to spend it with the folks I love.  :)  I”m also excited because everyone is making the food gluten and dairy free for me (and Ted’s nephew TJ who is also allergic to dairy).  I’m grateful for folks who are so understanding and willing to serve me in this way…

on Friday, Ted and I are getting up to go shopping at 5 am!  What an amazing guy… he must really like me to get up that early to stand in lines with a bunch of crazed ladies.  haha.  i’m hoping to get most of my Christmas shopping done that day… we’ll see how it goes!  i have a list of quite a few things I’d like to get…  then later that day, we’ll meet up with some other folks in his family to do some more shopping and then end the day with a yummy dinner at the Melting Pot with his parents and brothers (and families).  Yay!

Saturday Ted and I get to go to lunch with my sweet friends Christa and Wendy.  I’m still mad at Christa for moving to NC last January, but i guess i have to forgive…. sometimes its just SO hard…  :)  then on Sunday i’m getting together for coffee before church with my other friend Christa.  Fun times!  I’ve missed both of them.

then next Tuesday, Laura (my roommate), Ted and I are going to decorate our Christmas tree.  Even though Ted and I are going to be out of town from December 24th through January 4th, I’m still putting up the tree… it just seems criminal to not have it up…

Christmas is only a month away… wow… time flies!  We’ll spend Christmas eve with my family and then drive that night to Mississippi where we’ll be until December 28th.  On the 28th, we’re driving from MS to Pennsylvania… 16 hours!  I figure if we can make it through that, we can make it through anything! :)  Then we’ll spend a few days with both sets of my grandparents and will get to see my aunts and uncles and cousins!

I’m really looking forward to the next month!  yay!

 

i made it through the day…

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 i just wanted to post a quick update and say I made it through the day yesterday.  there were several times I just wanted to sit down and cry, but by God’s grace I was able to simply keep plugging along.  it wasn’t a day of great achievements or accomplishments but God sustained me through the hum-drum of life and for that i’m very grateful.

yesterday was move #9 since 2003…  if you ask me, i think that’s a bit excessive.  but what do i know… I’m the crazy one who keeps doing it!  :)  i’m very grateful for everyone who showed up to haul boxes and furniture for me and have a busy weekend ahead of unpacking and organizing. 

i love seeing God’s faithfulness in the middle of my chaotic life.  yesterday was one of those… just little reminders that my God cares… little encouragements from friends and little examples of His amazing grace.  thanks for your prayers.  i’m grateful.

is this what normal feels like?

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its funny, at times we get so used to the “abnormal” that when things settle down to “normal” again, it seems weird.  (who defines normal, anyways?)

i’ve spent the last several years struggling with insomnia and other major health issues.  typically the way it looked for me is one month i would sleep no more than 2 -3 hours a night, and then the next month i would sleep on average 5-6.  and about once a month i’d spend a day or two in bed too exhausted and sick to even move.  it was really to the point that i could anticipate… “i’m not gonna sleep much for the next month” and then i’d mentally prepare myself for this. 

well over the past 2 years, and especially the past 8 months or so, the doctors have been trying to get to the root cause of many of the health issues i’ve been having.  and slowly, i’ve begun to see some pretty major improvement. 

i’m not on seizure meds anymore. i’m not having to take migraine meds as often, and i’m able to control most of the migraines by very carefully watching my diet (aka no wheat, barley, rye, gluten, oats, dairy, artificial color, artificial flavor, etc).  i’ve got the energy to exercise again on a consistent basis and am able to concentrate during the day.  and over the past 3 months, i’ve slept on average nearly 6 hours a night! (for me, that’s pretty amazing!)

but the weird thing is this… i feel like i NEVER have enough time now.  i’ve gone from having approximately 21 hours a day to do things and now i’ve only got about 17.  I thank God for the extra 4 hours of sleep i’ve been getting but its crazy…  

is this how “normal” people feel??? :)  never enough time?  too much to do?  does this mean i’m “normal” now? (haha!)  :)

its just a new and weird experience for me and i’m having to learn how to adjust.  i’m not reading as much anymore.  that makes me sad.  but i’m wondering when to do it… my typical reading time is from 12 – 3 or 4 am!  i miss my 2 am facebook chats with the other insomniacs.  seriously, when is there time now for a bubble bath?  or to organize your sock drawer? 

 

all these important questions in my mind as i’m readjusting to a new “normal.”  praise God for His gift of sleep!  now I just need to learn the gift of managing time.  :)

the last 18 months… and a very faithful God

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I just want to take a second and look back to remember what God has done, specifically over the last 15 months of my life. All too often, I get discouraged by an apparent lack of growth or what I perceive as changing too slowly. But God in His faithfulness is training me and keeping me at this marathon pace, though my heart would rather be zooming along at a sprinters pace.

February ‘08 – on Sunday, February 24th, during worship rehearsal, Katie Britt came up to me with a little piece of paper. On the paper were these words… “His strength is made perfect in weakness.” Little did I know how those words would define the next season of my life. I woke up the next day with a splitting pain in my head. Imagine a migraine. Then make it exponentially worse. That day was the start of many long and painful months ahead… months of confusion, months of crying out to God, and months of things just seeming to only get worse. This month also was when I began writing poems.

March ’08 – On March 7th, I had my first MRI of my brain. I was terrified and in so much pain that I didn’t know how I would stay still throughout the procedure. And since the doctors were running ahead of schedule there was no time for sedation. God brought to mind the passage of 1st Peter 1 that I had just memorized. He reminded me that He was working… that He had a plan for me (an inheritance that is sure) and that even in my current trial, that His goal is that my faith and hope would rest in God… my loving Father. It was a sweet time, yet I was overwhelmed and confused as to what God was doing.

April ’08 – I had to stop teaching German. The migraines continued. I lost count of the doctors I visited and the tests that were run. There seemed to be no answers.  And though my body was exhausted, sleep wouldn’t come.  Matt preached a sermon that when God brings us into the waves, He is always behind us, holding us secure. He won’t let us drown. He is doing this because He cares for us and wants us to know the freedom found in trusting Him.

May ’08 – May was a month of answered prayers.     I got a new position at work, which was an answer to several years of praying.  I was diagnosed with and treated for a bacterial infection in my brain (similar to meningitis), which had been one cause of the migraines.  I think God was just reminding me here of His faithfulness… and that He hadn’t forgotten me.  However, May was also a month of new trials.  I became very sick with what I thought was the stomach flu.  New Attitude (singles conference) was a struggle.  I had gone expecting great things from God.  I left disappointed that there was no “thunder and lightning” simply a “I’m faithful… trust Me.”

June ’08 – I found out in June, shortly after my 27th birthday that I am allergic to dairy, wheat, oats, food dye and several other things.  Unfortunately I found this out the hard way, after weeks of not being able to keep food down.  On June 26th, my good friends Dave and Melissa lost their baby.  Melissa was 6 ½ months pregnant and went into labor.  I will never forget singing “blessed be your name” while standing in front of a casket not more than 1’x2’.  Their steadfast faith through that unthinkable trial encouraged me to keep looking to our loving Father, no matter what.

July ’08 – on Sunday July 13th, I was baptized.  July was a month of trying to figure out what I could eat and what makes me sick.  My grandparents celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary.  Doctors visits continued.  Migraines started coming back as I was testing food options.  July was a month of learning that blessing and suffering go hand in hand.

August ’08 – August was the month of diagnoses.  The doctors found out that what I thought was a stomach flu back in May, was actually salmonella food poisoning from a puffed wheat cereal.  This was a mixed blessing because though it threw my body into overload, the doctors were able to also diagnose that I have Celiacs disease, something that has gone undiagnosed for about 10 years.  This month was another month of physical weakness.  I had no energy and constant migraines.  The Worship God conference was encouraging and this month began my study of the Psalms.  The Psalms CD quickly became one of my favorites.  At the worship conference, I was able to see God miraculously heal my friend Dave Johnson, after suffering for many years with kidney stones.  Still to this day, he has not had one!

September ’08 – Migraines began getting worse.  Due to the fact that you can’t take migraine medicine every day, the doctor put me on an anti-seizure med that is effective for treating migraines.  After a few increases in the doseage, the migraines began subsiding.  This was a month of ups and downs, along with very little sleep.  September was also the month I decided to move from living with a family in the church to getting an apartment with two friends.  Emotionally, there were many struggles, as I was working through where God was leading me to.

October ’08 – I started having some severe reactions to the medicine and the doctors had to quickly take me off, depsite the risk of seizures.  This was one of the scariest times I have ever faced, not sure what was happening, if I was dying or what to do.  Thankfully, my pastors were extremely helpful in reminding me of my hope in God, the God who knows all, is in control of all and who loves me.  The doctors changed my medicine and I only got worse.  I met with my pastors one afternoon and they prayed that God would heal me.  Sleep was unknown at this point now.  Oh, and on top of that there was the physical and emotional stress of moving, yet again…for the 7th time in 5 years.

November ’08 – November was a hard month with relationships.  And with dealing through issues from my past.  I found a new doctor who diagnosed me with sleep apnea, and a severe vitamin B deficiency.  We were able to take me off all the migraine meds, except to treat the occasional migraine.  I am grateful to have found this new doctor.  I am grateful because slowly, it seems that God began healing my weak and dying body.  I didn’t know He was just beginning to work on the heart and emotions.

December ’08 – if i had to summarize December it would be “face your fears.”  December was a difficult month as I continued working through some pains from my past, thanks to the help of Matt and Julie.  My body continued to improve.  I started having more energy, but still wasn’t sleeping.  In December, the doctor did a second sleep test. Oh, and during my Christmas break from work, I almost died of carbon monoxide poisoning and an allergic reaction to wheat.  Both in the same week.  It was a draining week.

January ’09 – As the new year began, I was continually reminded of the word “peace.”  I was reminded that God is the One who brings peace and that this was His goal for me in the coming months… to learn peace, not because there are no storms, but because I am held by the God who controls those storms.  “the flame shall not hurt you I only design your dross to consume and your gold to refine.”  God seemed to be saying that the coming months would be a clear picture of God’s care and a refining of my dross.

February ’09 – in February I took a trip to Charlotte NC to visit a friend.  I was encouraged to realize that some of my sin struggles are the same things she struggles with.  I felt God say that this weekend would be pivotal in freeing me from certain sins and strongholds in my life.  I returned home, only to fail.  As I saw those waves of condemnation crashing down, I again became very discouraged with my lack of trust and faith in God.  And the emotional scars continued and in some ways only seemed to increase.

March ’09 – God continued to remind me that He brings beauty from pain.  And that my life, which has involved a good deal of pain, is meant to bring Him glory.  Each step I’ve taken and each tear I’ve cried was not lost to His care and love.  As my hours kept getting cut at work due to the economy, I found trusting in that love a struggle.  But I remembered where I was a year ago, in the tube for the MRI, and was refreshed to remember that my God is providing for me.  Since I still wasn’t sleeping, the doctor put me on a sleep med, for the next 3 months to try to train my body to sleep again.

April ’09 – Migraines are more an occasional occurance now instead of a daily trial.  Physically the changes in my body have been phenomenal since last October when my pastors prayed for God’s merciful healing hand to touch me.  I’m even training for a half marathon at the end of this summer!  Lord willing, I’ll have the physical strength to make that goal a reality.  The struggles to trust God to provide financially became greater as I saw to greater depths the mess I’ve created.  I was confronted about a relationship issue that I had left unresolved.  God used that to show me grace in a new and special way.  I was surprised to see such grace to me… a clearly undeserving sinner.  God overwhelmed me with that grace.

May ’09 – Again, God has overwhelmed me with His grace.  I’ve had many nights of restful sleep.  He has provided for me financially in some spectacular ways and has again and again proven Himself to be my faithful Provider.  I’m also amazed at what a gift my friends are and how God has used them to show me His care.  They have sacrificed so much just to simply show me God’s love.  I’m grateful… and overwhelmed.

So, that’s the last 18 months.  I don’t know what the next ones will contain.  But I know that the faithful God who has carried me through many physical, emotional and financial pains time after time, will continue to carry me through every storm He has ordained for me.  I continue to struggle with fear… fear of the unknown, fear of future pain.  But God is faithful in comforting me with the truth that no matter what trials come, He is with me.

God’s grace in failure

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The past few weeks have been crushing for me. God has strategically been destroying me… who I am… what I value, etc. I’ve hated every moment of it. The trial started with a description of my sin revealed to me in a disgusting way and has left me shocked in a sense. I know I shouldn’t be shocked by my sin, but I was. I thought we had moved past it… I thought I had grown. I was shown a few weeks ago that the only thing that had grown was my self-dependence and pride.

Then came another shock… mercy. God used a friend of mine to show me what the Father’s mercy is like… in spite of my failure, in spite of my direct sin against that person, they showed me undeserved and lavish. And since that day, there has been not an ounce of resentment or guilt pressed upon me by this friend… rather they have accepted me 100% and have time and time again gone out of their way to remind me of their care and affection. Not because I deserve it, but rather, because it is true. Forgiveness because they love me, not because they have to forgive.

God has used that powerfully in my life. To see such mercy in repayment for my sin simply blows my mind. I don’t know what to do with such kindness other than in joy resolve to live in a way so as to not hurt them again. And so it is with God… as He has revealed and shocked me with my sin and complete inability to change, I am being met with mercy… mercy that overwhelms… mercy that knows me completely and loves me unfailingly. Mercy that picks me up out of my self-made messes and rescues me.

That truth was never so clear as it is right now…

On my vacation, I received a speeding ticket. When I was pulled over, I knew I was speeding yet was begging God to “let me off the hook” or show me “mercy.” He had something else in mind. The officer came back to my car with a ticket for reckless driving… apparently anything over 80 is considered reckless in the state of Virginia and I was clocked going 82 in a 70.

I was crushed. I am barely “making it” as a result of all my stupid financial decisions in the past (and sadly, present). God’s been working on my heart for a while now that I need His help to overcome this sin area in my life. But how can I ask God to help when I’m so aware that I’m in a mess of my own making? How can I cry out to Him for mercy when if I were only wiser or more cautious, I wouldn’t be in this boat?

And yet my God has been saying to me “I am a God of mercy… come. Come broken and ashamed and humbled and I will heal your wounds. Come not in your typical “I can fix this” arrogance, but rather come needy. Come desperate and watch Me work. Come trusting. Come expecting to receive mercy and grace in your time of need, for that is what I promise to you. Come in faith that My promises are true and that My love will never let you go! Come with empty hands and watch me fill them.”

So, I have come. Come and asked God to do the impossible… to fix what I have messed up. To heal what I have broken. To restore what I have crushed.

Last week my hours were cut at work… again. Is this God’s way of answering prayer? By making things worse?? Really?!?!?!?!? Yet in my frustration and questioning, I still heard simply “Come. Trust. Look. Believe. Know.” So, I have been praying and asking God to provide… not because I deserve it, not because I have earned it and not at all as a result of my works, but simply as my friend did… out of love and because of His faithful compassion.

Because I often have bad dreams, I leave music playing throughout the night… I find it helps me refocus my thoughts if I wake up scared (which I often do). I woke up several times last night… not from bad dreams, simply because… Every time I woke up there was a song playing on the radio that spoke specifically of God’s relentless faithfulness to the unfaithful or His love to the undeserving.

When I woke up this morning, my first thought was “it’s Monday… a new day and a new week… that means that God is promising new mercies and new help today too.” Now believe me when I say that this is NEVER my first thought in the morning. Its typically “is it morning already?” “why does my body hurt so bad?” or “geez, I overslept again!”

From there, God just began to overwhelm me with His kindness. The first way was through a conversation on facebook which served as a reminder of what He has saved me from, granted me freedom from and the hope He has given me through it all.

Not 10 minutes later, God again reminded me of His care. This time it was through a dear friend, who stopped by my apartment at 7am with a card. In the card was a check… blank. The card stated that God had impressed on them to pay for my ticket… to pay off the debt that I earned and owe. To pay it willingly, aware that it was my own fault which caused this debt.

I am overwhelmed. Speechless. There are no words to adequately describe this. It is humbling. But I am rejoicing. I am low. Yet elated. Gratefully forgiven. Yet humbly aware of my weakness. I’m beginning to understand what Paul meant when He described himself as sorrowful yet always rejoicing. What a dichotomy this life is.

How great and humbling it is to know this God, who is not limited or hindered by my sin. Who loves me with all my weakness and who simply says “Come. I love you just the way you are.”

what are you doing, God?

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ever have those times where you ask “What are you doing, God?”  I know His ways are higher than mine.  I know that He loves me and give and takes for my good.  I know what He’s given me, He also has the right to take away when He should choose.  And I know looking back that every time God has taken something from me its always been for my good, even though immensely painful and gut-wrenching at times.  I know that though things can be taken, that nothing can separate me from His love.  How I need that love to hold me close today.  How I long for my war-torn heart to rest there. 

God seems to be shifting me from one furnace to another.  And I am as unhappy with this appointment as I was with the last.  How I long for it to end.  Trials are a funny thing like that… you beg and beg for them to end and as soon as they do you realize that you’ve learned so much more than ever possible had you not gone through that trial.  So as incomprehensible as it seems to your feelings, you find yourself thanking God for what you just walked through.  And simultaneously you pray that you’d never have to go through it again.  In many ways, that’s where I’m at.  I’m grateful for the trials that God has carried me through because I know to a greater degree the depths of His love, care and compassion towards me.  But as I face yet again another trial, I approach it with the same dread and horror as I faced the last.  Horror because as God is calling me to pick up my cross and follow Him, I’m seeing the death, pain, suffering and heartache that accompanies that cross.  And nothing in me wants to go there. 

Yet somehow my loving Shepherd has promised to be with me each step of the way.  He has promised to complete what He has begun.  He has already cared for me time after time and He is faithful.  Because of that, through His strength to hold me, with His help, I will rest in His control over this.  I am choosing to look past the pain, to look past the cross to my Strong Deliverer, who defeated the power of death and the cross.  He will preserve me by His mercy.  He is my Rock in the middle of the storms.  God has promised to complete what He’s begun, therefore I can have hope that He will keep me safe and true in Him…even here, even in this, even though nothing in me wants this.

Somehow I’m excited to see God provide.  As He keeps taking and in my mind its getting even more difficult for Him to provide, I look to my Jehovah-Rophe with hopeful anticipation to meet my needs and comfort my sorrows.  I haven’t really known what to say lately because it seems there are no words to describe the unutterable ache in my soul.  Nothing seems sufficient other than crying to my Maker… the One who knows me and will never leave me alone.  So, in my loneliness, I look to the One who will never leave, abandon or forsake.  In my pain, I look to the One who suffered in my place.    In my despair, I look to the only One who was ever forsaken by God with gratitude that He will not leave me here.  And in my moments (or days) when I just want to complain, I remember how good He has been to me.  The God who restored my broken soul and gave me life, the God who gives me a reason for joy in my mourning, the God who drew me through His kindness and irresistable love… that God will not quit.  So I look to Him.