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My First Blog Post

“Hard times come for all in life, with no real explanation. When we walk through suffering, it has the potential to devastate and destroy, or to be the gateway to gratitude and joy.” -Elisabeth Elliot

I did this piece of artwork back in October. You see, I was sick with rsv, sepsis, and asthma, and had just been released from the hospital with those dreaded words, “You’re still contagious for 2 weeks.” For a people person, that’s REALLY hard to do! As if struggling for a year and a half to just do anything productive in life because of this mystery cough and subsequent breathing problems, fatigue, and other accompanying symptoms weren’t enough, now I couldn’t leave the house?! I remember saying, “God, what is one to do?” And I felt peace with these words from the title of this newly released book I was reading from the late Elisabeth Elliot, “Suffering is Never for Nothing.” I suddenly felt like being home alone ‘not doing anything productive’ was a gift.

I thought of my friends and those I love to work with who have special needs, how they suffer everyday, yet “persevere with endurance the race marked out for them.” (Hebrews 12:1)

Evidence that “suffering is never for nothing.”

I think of their families, who day in and day out, care for their loved ones, putting their family member’s needs before their own, reminding me of John 15:13 saying, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s own life for his friends.”

Evidence that “suffering is never for nothing.”

I think of my young mom friends who are home all day with their kids, exhausted from being up all night with their babies or worn out from the weight of balancing pregnancy and family life, and am reminded how, with The Spirit’s help, their love shown to their family, too, “is patient and kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Once again, evidence that “suffering is never for nothing.”

I am reminded of friends who have recently been through or battling through scary diagnoses and am reminded of their Heavenly gaze, showing me that “the human spirit can bear sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14)

Another piece of evidence that “suffering is never for nothing.”

I am reminded of stories of our fellow Christians who are being martyred for their faith. How they are being “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

I think of God sending Jesus to suffer the ultimate penalty of sin and death, innocently, beaten, mocked, scorned, and hung to die an excruciating death on a cross for me and you so that we might spend an eternity with Him if we believe and be given His Spirit here on earth to help guide us through this life. (John 19-20)

The ultimate evidence that “suffering is never for nothing.”

I quickly snapped out of my little mental funk, and started thanking God that my situation wasn’t any worse. I thanked him that although, things weren’t ideal, at least I’m not paralyzed by my depression and addictions anymore, wondering if Jesus was even real…like too many are around me. I wasn’t lost anymore, I had been found. My eternity secure. My suffering will have an end.

You see, just two years prior, I saw no way out of my suffering. I had spent 5+ years drowning in my depression and addictions to self injury and an eating disorder, one suicide attempt after another, and spent more time in psych wards and rehabs than at home. God brought back memories I had become numb to, but reminded me how through all these less than ideal situations I had already lived through, I was drawn to Himself. That is a miracle.

“Suffering is never for nothing.”

God used those promptings by the Spirit, His Word, friends’ texts and phone calls, sweet get well cards, meals, caramel apples, and Starbucks dropped off by such Godly friends in my life while I was home alone back in October recovering while my parents worked, to all minister to me and make me realize that what I am going through is NOT wasted…”suffering is never for nothing!” Not because of my gains in attention, but my gain in perspective, and my gain in time with The Lord. It was a reminder I needed in, not only that moment, but in the moments to come. Not just for the next few months, but for whatever God has planned for my life. I want to work with people with special needs, and all these life experiences can help me relate to them on a more personal level having experienced a little tasting of suffering in my life. Suffering not only gets us closer to each other, it brings us closer to Christ and reveals His glory to us. “Rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) So in a sense, God can allow as much suffering in my life as He wants, because I believe He’s not done revealing His glory to me, nor will He anytime soon.

So, whatever YOU may be going through in life, I echo to you these words from Elisabeth Elliot’s book:

“There have been some hard things in my life, of course as there have been yours, and I cannot say to you, I know exactly what you’re going through. But I can say that I know the One who knows. And I’ve come to see that it’s through the deepest suffering that God has taught me the deepest lessons.”

“The gift of love has been the gifts of suffering. Those two things are inseparable.”

Your “suffering is never for nothing.”

Dear Younger Me

I posted this on Facebook last year reflecting on years past and thought it was relevant to share on here too, considering I just turned another year older.

“If I could go back to that beautifully broken 12 year old in these photos and give her a little pep talk, this is what I’d say:

‘Dear younger me,

You can’t make yourself a good Christian. This is something you must understand. No matter how much you read your Bible, pray, memorize Scripture, go to church, and do good things, you can’t make yourself worthy. Only Jesus, working in you through the Holy Spirit, can transform your character and make your work last eternally. That’s why the New Testament talks about the fruits of the spirit and walking by the spirit. You’re required to stay in tune to God’s voice throughout each day and let HIM lead your actions. When you do, you will BECOME a strong believer simply by walking in step with Him.

So freckled face, crooked teeth, bushy-browed twelve year old girl,

embrace your beauty!

This beauty that is not your own, but found in the One who created you and lives inside you. The one who is molding you day by day to be more like His beloved, perfect Son.

Nothing you can do wrong will make Him love you less, not anything you do right can cause Him to love you more.

His love for you is everlasting. Oh how I wish you could see this in yourself! Yes you make mistakes. But they do not define you. You are a sinner saved by grace-a power that is made perfect in weakness.

So boast about your flaws!

Those bushy brows and momentary crooked teeth.

Where you are weak, He is made strong.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the eyes of The Beholder of the universe thinks you’re pretty great…to the point of dying an excruciating death for you so you don’t have to. Now THAT is love!

So just have faith dear little one, faith in your Lord Jesus Christ. This is not a feeling, rather, a choice of rather rewarding value, for one day soon we will hear those beloved words “well done good and faithful one. Welcome to the place you belong.” And we will see our Savior face to face.

So you’re right in your feelings of not belonging.

This world is not your home.

But in the meantime, you are where you are for a reason, so let’s receive Christ’s love for you that was poured out on the Cross. You will see the fruits evident of His Spirit working in your life.

Now go love others in this kind of love. For

we love because He first loved us.

Oh how I wish I would have known better because I hadn’t yet learned what I knew now.

Today I forgive my younger self.

Your walk with the Lord is a continual journey, and oh so rewarding! So stop faking and just be you-the you He created you to be-crooked teeth, freckled face, bushy eyebrows and all!’”

In Times If Adversity

Don’t you think God could be using our world’s time of adversity to draw us, His children, to Himself?

[God] opens their ears BY adversity.”

-Job 36:15b

Let’s preach the Gospel not only by our words, but by our actions in this season. Our times right now are NOTHING compared to the adversities Jesus went through here on earth, so “If thou art willing to suffer no adversity, how wilt thou be the friend of Christ?” (Thomas a Kempis) God works all things together for good FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM…so if you don’t know Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him and walking in tandem with His Truths (The Bible), I’m praying for you that you will lift your eyes to The Hills where your only help comes from, not only just in times of uncertainty and chaos, but in times of prosperity as well. We are God’s masterpiece and as Christians, are being renewed day by day to be more and more like Jesus…so don’t you think that in a sense, “adversity is the diamond dust God polishes us, His jewels” with? (Thomas Carlyle) Our reward as Christians is coming! We shall fear no evil. Rest in Jesus and know that IN CHRIST, better days are coming. But in the meantime, let’s look to our Helper, our Teacher for guidance on how to live a life holy and pleasing to God, and worship Him in Spirit and in Truth in ALL that we do, whether in turmoil or in serenity, adversity, or prosperity. Be Jesus to everyone!

”Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, He will still be with you to teach you. You will see your Teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him.”

-Isaiah 30:20

Worship Songs

This week has been a hard one…between work, doctors appointments, an ambulance ride and a subsequent hospital stay, quitting a job I thought would be my forever future, and allowing my body time to just heal and process it all, it’s been hard to do much else than listen to music and read. So I thought I would post my Spotify playlist along with my current book list sitting on my bedside table. Enjoy the suggestions! And if you have any of your own, PLEASE SHARE!!!

Journey to Finding Peace

We search to find our happiness in all the wrong places-shopping, sex, family, friends, alcohol, drugs, self injury, social media, food, sports, just to name a few-we’re looking for something much greater.

Highlights Magazine for Children asked a group of kids, “What is peace?” I love 9 year old Erik Dube’s answer. “Peace is inner happiness that shines through acts of kindness. Peace is the calmness of a beautiful garden that creates magical thoughts. Peace is the joy of friendship.”

In doing some research, I found that the Hebrew word for peace is shalom, meaning to be complete or sound; whole and living well. Shalom was used in both greetings and farewells. The Old Testament anticipated and the New Testament confirmed, that peace was indeed needed, and would be mediated through the Messiah, through His death and resurrection, sending “the Helper, the Holy Spirit” who will “teach you these things and bring remembrance to all He has said to us through His Word.” (John 14:26) We are told all throughout Scripture to have peace-we are called to it-peace that is found when we are governed by the Spirit-not by flesh which brings death. (Romans 8:6 paraphrase mine)

So…

Let me tell you about a time I first felt peace-peace in the midst of my circumstances-peace in God’s Providence.

Depression and anxiety had over taken me. From an early age, the debilitating sickness of mental illness had grabbed ahold of my body. Panic attacks, rage, unexplained crying spells-it was obvious something had to change-just not to elementary school me.

Since my emotional meltdowns were getting in the way of my schooling at home, my parents transferred me midway through third grade to a private Christian school in the next town over. At school, I excelled, but then at home, all my emotions from the day would flood through my aggressive actions and behaviors-my poor family didn’t know what to do. After fourth grade, due to financial restraints, my parents had to resort back to homeschooling me, but midway through the year, things once again had to change-so to public school I went-my only semester of public school in elementary school before upgrading to middle school.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to fifth grade-me. On the outside everything seemed to go right for me-I made friends easily at school, had friends at church-I felt complete. But I wasn’t. And that was evident when my friends and I all went our separate ways, all of us at different schools, making my found dependence on always relying on friends to find my happy place, change.

Middle school is a rude awakening for everyone, but for me, the biggest revelation I had that made me stand out was that not everybody spends their free time at church. They don’t play tag and hide and seek throughout the church building and try to start rumors of older ladies in the church being “pregnant” on prayer chains. They don’t swim in the baptism tank and watch “Finding Nemo” or play Mario Kart on the big screens in the worship center. Not everyone’s dad worked for a church. They didn’t sing songs about Jesus and speak His words, in fact, they spoke words I had never even heard of! They spoke His Name, but when they would, they would usually mean the opposite!

I didn’t know what to think. I was definitely outside my bubble. I had no idea how to control my now, preteen emotions, mixed in with the fact that I stood out and everybody knew it.

This is how the bullying began. It began to torment me, and didn’t really stop, even when I was pulled out to be homeschooled again my freshman year of high school because of the toll it was taking on me.

The lies twelve year old me had grown to believe about herself-lies about my life being useless, and not worth living-now were spoken out loud, making it easier for my wandering mind to misinterpret Scripture to mean something completely different when told “This world is not your home.”

Fast forward ten years now, after a decade of believing the lie that my life was unlivable. The panic attacks were brutal. Crying spells everlasting. Rages never stopped. Searching for my happiness in all the wrong places had led me to addictions-addictions that were all rooted back to first being tried by that twelve year old, sixth grade me. Something needed to change, and I now knew that now. Medications, hospitalizations, shock treatments and short term rehab programs just were not working. I needed something more. That’s what led me to a year long residence that was a year God used to show me Himself.

I am so thankful for my evangelical upbringing and being so easily persuaded by anything my loved ones would say about me-for it was in one particular moment of crisis, miles away from my comfort of family, being swamped by the “feel good prosperity gospel” the world is being overtaken by, mixed in with abuse in the so called Christian long term residential facility I was in, that I was left with a HUGE hole deep in my soul-something that not just anything would fix.

After a suicide attempt I was subsequently made fun of for, I knew something had to change. This “happiness,” this “peace” that I had longed for I knew in that moment, I desperately needed. I knew I needed Jesus and suddenly the Scripture I grew up reciting in church, came to my mind and I believed to be true.

I can’t help but think of that life-altering moment almost two years ago, when now reading Romans 8:6. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”

It’s so true! From that moment on I knew where my true happiness would come from-Jesus! And I suddenly had life!

“Think about whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable…anything that is excellent or worthy of praise, think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Being bombarded with a theology that tended to lean against Scripture, I learned to lean into It, and press into Jesus-the Jesus who is true. The Jesus who is honorable. The Jesus who is just. The Jesus who is pure. The Jesus who is lovely. The Jesus who is commendable. The Jesus who is excellent. The Jesus who is worthy of praise-when I practiced setting my eyes towards The One in charge of my life, my beginning and my end, the God of peace became with me, as stated would happen in Philippians 4:9.

I learned that this practice doesn’t happen on my own-The One who is greater now lived inside me! Another one of the things promised to us in Scripture! All because the Father sent us the Holy Spirit, the Helper, sent in Jesus’ Name, to teach us and bring us peace. (John 14:26 paraphrase mine)

This inner happiness the world sees being shown through “acts of kindness” (aka the Fruits of the Spirit,) “creating beautiful thoughts as calm as a garden and the joy of friendship”-true Friendship in Christ Jesus, is real.

So, how do we get there-rather, how did I get there?

“Be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15b) “Keep your mind stayed on Him, because of your trust in Him.” Isaiah 23:6) “Rejoice in the Lord…do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” THEN “the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

My friends, it is THEN in life’s hard moments, the battles we fight in public or in silent, we can find peace. Peace that is much MORE than a salutation or a greeting.

Our peace has a name.-Jesus!

The peace-speaker says, “Peace I leave to you, MY peace I give to you-not as the world gives, do I give to you.”

Because of my journey with life’s hardships, I know Jesus-the peace-giver and peace-speaker…But I also know it’s easy to slip up. To let your troubles overtake you. “But take heart! [He] has overcome the world!” The cure is right at your fingertips! He can live INSIDE you! This peace-giver and peace-speaker…I know Him by Name, and He knows mine!

Can YOU say that about YOUR peace?

I pray that you can and will. It is a choice to be made. Every second of every day, running to The Father with all your might. Being thankful in all circumstances and rejoicing always.

Pray.

Rejoice.

Be thankful.

This will set your minds on things Above. This will bring you peace-peace found only in Christ Jesus. Trust me, life does NOT suddenly become easier-but is DOES become more bearable.

Open up your heart to Jesus. You’ll be glad you did!

A Bit About My Blog

I have many unique passions in life…passions for art, music, reading, writing, eating, baking, cooking, and most importantly, a passion for the hurting people to find God and lean on Him for their strength comfort and hope in their journey, ultimately turning to Christ if they haven’t already.

You see, I have had a life of one struggle after another and I am BEYOND grateful for it. Being a “problem child” at home from an early age, every problem I had from elementary on up was always anxiety and a learning disability…as I grew up it turned into chronic depression, an eating disorder, an addiction to self injury and many, many hospitalizations and rehab stays. With bullying and grade struggles throughout my school years, I found joy in my friend’s who were also different…I found them by helping out in my schools’ special Ed classrooms and I immediately knew I would be greeted with a great big hug! In those moments my eyes were off of me and what I was going through and onto how I can be an encouragement to them. Because, let me tell you, they are AWESOME at doing that!

Since I have rededicated my life to Christ and am now clean of my eating disorder and self injury behaviors for coming up on the 2 year mark now, I still find solace in my friends and those I work with who have special needs. I not only see this gift I have being reciprocated into just encouragement to me through their hugs anymore, I see it as a way I can offer encouragement to those who may need more of it than most, and that in and of itself, is a gift. When you’re being the hands and feet of Jesus in the way He has called you, you are automatically blessed in return. Yes, I enjoy the hugs and love I receive from such amazing people, but I treasure the many fun things in between, like the pillow fights, blanket forts, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, dance parties, proms, karaoke nights, doing crafts, and making food, having fun out in the community, etc even more. I have often replayed that song from the musical “Annie Get Your Gun” in my head but in REVERSE when thinking about my friends with special needs, singing: “Anything I can do THEY can do BETTER!”

Just stand in a sanctuary on a Sunday morning and watch the many ways these amazing people worship! They worship their heart out! It’s inspiring, really! It brings tears to my eyes watching them worship, people with every excuse in the world’s eyes NOT to, worship their hearts out the best ways they can. Again, it brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it!

And as I’m going through a two year round flare up of asthma that lands me in and out of the hospital at least once a month, unable to do much, and a year of dealing with a bout of ptsd from abuse I received in rehab, I am reminded that God is SO, SO  good and works in such MARVELOUS ways. Because, do you know that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are more susceptible to mental illness and their family members are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression as well? I’ve been there, I’ve done that! God can use (and already has used!) that experience as an opportunity for Him to be glorified through me and my story…rather God’s story on my life. (Like my artwork says, I am just His instrument!) When I was in my upper teens I was diagnosed with being on the spectrum…totally putting my anxiety and learning differently into perspective-NOW some of my favorite kids I babysit have autism, more severely than I do, and I just feel like I get them and can remain calm when they are struggling and help them through their ticks, because I have a little bit of them too. I also was told when I was at the brink of my depression and anxiety just a few short, not even 3 years ago by insurance, my parents would need to find a grouphome for me to live in permanently because I cannot live on my own-NOW, I am in the process of becoming an IL certified Direct Support Professional(DSP) so I can work in a local grouphome.

God sure has a certain way of rewriting our stories, and I believe all these doctors I have seen and disgnoses I have received over the years are NOT wasted and it has been very therapeutic for me to see again and again how His Word is unfailing (Psalm 143:8), it’s a lamp unto my feet (Psalm 119:105), and stays the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:18.) He turns EVERYTHING for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)…and that purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever! (Westminster Catechism)

In my life, that is seen carried out on loving the different, the struggling, and the lonely, because really, NO MATTER ability, we ALL need the Gospel…minute by minute, second by second…we’re ALWAYS in need of the reminder that we need a Savior. A Savior that has already suffered JUST AS WE SUFFER! (2 Corinthians 1:5) He knows my mental illness, my ASD, my asthma. He knows your Down syndrome, your cerebral palsy, your physical limitations, your debilitating stroke, break, or cancer diagnosis. He sees you struggling to take care of your family member’s needs while balancing your own.

🎶Every tear that falls, every hurt and every sting, He has walked the suffering! He KNOWS! 🎶(Jeremy Camp “He Knows”)

And THAT’S why I am an advocate for people with special needs! None other than my great, great God!

So, through my personal stories and memories, interwoven with Truths found from Scripture and some of my favorite authors and songwriters, to my views on what all my friends with special needs can and WILL accomplish for the Kingdom of Christ,  I hope by this blog, I can be even just a LITTLE light in a world full of suffering and give you some hope as you persevere through your darkness.

Suffering is very real, but do you know what’s “real-er?” His name is Jesus! My biggest love in life and the one I take solace in. But friends, the journey to get there will be challenging…and will continue to be. So…you have a choice to make!

Find Peace in God’s Providence

or

Find Temporary Pleasure in the Ways of this World

It’s not an easy way to live, but man, do you reap the benefits! Follow me, and little by little as we together align our steps with God’s will for our life, we will discover peace in our suffering and, though we may not always understand, ultimately find peace in God’s Providence. Life isn’t always easy, but trust me, as Christ-followers, it WILL BE WORTH IT!!!