My last post on this blog is from December 2015, wow. Nearly three years ago I was denied from graduate school and starting my first “real job” out of college, and it’s funny to me to go back and read my thoughts in that season of life. I was so anxious to get my life started, get a job in my field, continue my education, and become an adult. What was I thinking? Haha, kidding. But actually, if I could go back and tell my 22-year-old self to stop worrying so much about the next big thing, then I would. However, I am pretty proud of the realizations that past me made regarding my identity in Christ. If anything, God used that weird transition season to root some solid ideas into me, which would continue to grow until this day.
So here’s a little recap of the last three-ish years. I’m still at that same job that I started when I wrote that last post. I’ve learned so much being in the mental health field, and real-world experience is invaluable. The adjustment to the job was difficult at first, and then I got the hang of it, but now I’m growing tired. They say that we tend to hold an average of seven jobs in our lifetime, and I know that this is not a permanent position for me.
I got into grad school the following year, and started working towards my masters in fall 2016. I had to take a semester off due to some nonsense with my internship and some other factors, so I’ve only completed three semesters since then. I struggle every day with the fact that I should have graduated with my masters this past spring if I would have been able to do the program full-time. Then I have to remind myself that I probably still wouldn’t have been accepted to the school if it wasn’t for my current job. I start my internship this upcoming semester, and I still have two more years of a jam-packed schedule and no social life before I’ll finally finish. I suppose taking four years to finish my MSW is better than never finishing it at all.
I’m still volunteering with the student ministry at church, which I mention starting in my last post. The 7th grade girls that I met that month are going into their sophomore year of high school this year! Talk about feeling old… Those girls are incredible and I’m so glad that they’re in my life. Despite my insanely busy schedule, I can’t imagine not being their small group leader and hanging out with them on Sunday evenings. I think that the Lord has really taught me a lot through student ministry and through getting more involved at church. My community there has been my strength and support through so much over the past few years, and I feel so blessed to be a part of a healthy church family.
With all of that being said, I want to talk about one other thing that ran as a main theme though my past blog posts; mental health. Part of me is really glad that I documented my thoughts and struggles with my mental health all those years ago. It’s neat to look back and read what was going through my mind in one of the darkest seasons. I am for sure not 100% “better” and I still struggle daily with some things, but I can definitely look and see the progress that has come. Anxiety still consumes me, but those days are fewer and farther between. Panic attacks almost feel like a thing of the past. Depression is probably the little monster that is still living strongest in my world right now, but even that ebbs and flows. I feel confident in saying that I have made great progress in coping with my own mental battles and 22-year-old me would probably never believe it.
When we’re in the midst of darkness and hardship and sorrow, it’s so hard to see the other side. Believe me, I know. And I also know that it’s hard to believe the people who are saying those things to you when you feel like no one can possibly understand. But if anyone is reading this who feels that way, please, hold on to hope. I can’t tell you when it will get better or how it will get better, but it does. I have personally struggled with mental demons since high school. They didn’t just all go away one day either. It’s more like they go into hiding for brief periods of time but then come back out to surprise you. But you get better at fighting back, and you learn about yourself, and you get stronger every time. Yes, I still have days of hopelessness, and yes, I still have to battle scary thoughts, but I also think that I would not be the person I am today without God using those battles for His good.
Without rambling on too much, I just wanted to drop in and say hey self, you’ve come a long way, and I know that you think that you’re currently in a dark season of monotony and that you’re stuck in a cycle of unhappiness, but remember, joy comes from the Lord not your circumstances.
I feel like time moves so slow and so fast at the same time. Maybe I’ll check this page again in another two or three years and reflect on how much further I’ve come. Maybe life will look completely different that I anticipate. But regardless, I feel like God is moving and working in my story, just as he was back in 2015. He intended for this chapter of my book to look exactly how it looks, but I also sense a new chapter will be starting really soon, and I can’t wait to find out what it’ll be.
What a whirlwind of a year 2015 has been. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, quit my job, spent the summer in 3 new countries and 10 new states, went 5 months without work, and recently started in my first career position. Relationships have come and gone, friendships have faced new seasons, family members have left, and God has taught me things I never thought possible.
I’ve written in other posts about the immense peace that that Lord has given me through the season of not working and how I’d never felt more content with trusting in Him alone. I have learned more about myself than I ever thought possible, and with that, I can say I’ve grown more this year than I ever expected. I’ve seen new things, I’ve taken new risks, I’ve been crushed and I’ve been rebuilt, I’ve faced tough decisions and I’ve been blessed immeasurably, and I’ve become stronger.
While having a conversation with a friend recently, I realized the greatest lesson that God taught me this year, and that is fully embracing who I am in Him, and not in this world.
Ever since I can remember, I put my own worth in my accomplishments. Grades, awards, sports, promotions, recognitions, affirmations, and success were all I cared about. Without these things, without performing perfectly and other people acknowledging it, I wasn’t good enough. I placed an extreme amount of pressure on myself to make everyone around me proud of what I could do. I fed off of the praise. My worth was in what I did.
So, as you can imagine, when I graduated from school and was denied entry into a graduate program, I was broken. I had this perfect plan for myself and now the door was slammed in my face and I was worth nothing. How could I tell people I didn’t get into the one master’s program I applied for? How could anyone be proud of me now? How could I even be proud of myself?
In addition to that, I quit my job. To be honest, I had worked that tiresome retail job for too long and became fairly complacent in it. Lost motivation and increased frustration led to poor performance proven by the numbers that I was producing for the store. So feeling “not-good-enough” at my job, on top of the fact that the position offered me no satisfaction since I wasn’t using my degree, led to an even larger blow to my self-worth.
So, August rolled around and I wasn’t in school, had no immediate plans to be continuing to grad school, had no job, and felt like I had absolutely nothing going for myself.
But that’s where God stepped in and said, “Your worth is in Me. You are My daughter. You were given gifts to use for My Kingdom. I’ve had a plan for your life since before you were born. Don’t fear. Don’t be anxious. I love you and I won’t ever let you fail.”
Without school or work to prove to myself that I was good at something, I felt worthless, but the Lord reminded me that wasn’t true, and in fact, I am worth so much that Jesus died for me. Through scripture, songs, friend’s words, and church, I was repeatedly told that there are bigger and better plans than the ones I had for myself, that there was no need to be anxious about the future, and that earthly things meant nothing compared to who I am in the Kingdom of my Father.
I can honestly say that I see myself as a different person now. I am more confident in the who I am in Him, and not in the eyes of the world. I am learning more about my talents and gifts and I am seeking out more ways to grow in my faith. I am beginning to volunteer with my church’s student ministry, I’ve found a community of friends who will encourage me as we walk alongside each other, and I’m seeing God do incredible things in my life.
Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” In The Message translation, this verse reads, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
I have never related so much to a verse before, and seen it completely and fully applied to my life. Peace is the one and only word that I can use that really encompasses the second half of 2015. It truly does surpass all understanding. I love that the MSG version says “a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.” There is no true wholeness without God, and when I accepted the fact that He would work all things together for my good, my worry vanished. My heart and my mind were calmed. I felt wholesome peace, and it was wonderful.
I am so excited to see what’s in the Plan for this upcoming year, because whatever it is, I know that it’s the very best, and that I’ll only continue to grow in my identity in Christ.
Because I love words.
The word that gives me hope:
Serendipity – a fortunate accident, the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy way, the act of finding something delightful when you’re not looking for it
What my unpublished and secret short story is about.
The word that motivates me:
Sophrosyne – a healthy state of mind, self-control, and an awareness of one’s true self, resulting in true happiness
A manner I’d like to reach one day.
The word that makes me feel adventurous:
Vagabond – wandering from place to place without a settled home, rogue, irresponsible
Who I want to be when I feel like dropping everything and living in the woods
The word that reminds me I am strong:
Resilience – the capacity to recover quickly after something bad happens, toughness.
One of my favorite qualities.
The word for when I need to smile:
Zamboni – the machine used to resurface ice
A silly sounding word that I can’t say without laughing.
The word I never want to forget:
Agape – the love of God; highest, greatest, self-sacrificing, forgiving, and full of grace
The reason my life changed forever.
Sometimes we feel like we’re on fire as Christians, ready to take on the day with the full and complete belief that God’s got our backs and we’ll be alright. Sometimes though, we feel like God is far away. He’s not, but everyone is subject to those down-in-the-dumps feelings and we find ourselves struggling to find the good in the day.
Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time alone, which translates to actually spending a lot of time in my own head. My mind is a dangerous place to be, and if I reside there for too long, I become depressed. Evil creeps up, finds its way into my thoughts, and tries to sway me from God, tries to feed me lies and heartbreak and negativity.
But I’ve also noticed lately, that the smallest things, the tiniest occurrences, have been able to bring me back to reality, back to the fact that I am loved, by both my God and the people around me. Retrospectively thinking about the past few months, God has shown himself to me in a plethora of ways, and really reinforced that being joyful in hope and faithful in prayer is indeed, enough.
Not once during this season of unemployment have I felt anxious about my job situation or defeated that application after application were being ignored. I can confidently say that I felt peace the entire time, knowing God’s plan is perfect and He wouldn’t lead me astray.
My two very best friends have been compassionate in every way- praying for me, offering support & encouragement, checking in, and believing that the Lord is working up something good for my life. I cannot express my gratitude to have those two.
In addition, so many other friends have shown me love in ways all unrelated. Whether it be offering to pick me up from the airport, sending a quick text to check in on me, or verbally affirming that I am appreciated, it’s overwhelming to know that I am cared for. I am thankful that the Lord has given me such valuable friendships.
To be completely honest here, I began writing this post with an entire different direction in mind, but in writing, I realized that these praises needed to be shared. Sometimes I just have to sit back and smile when I realize how great my Father is, and how He promised He would never fail me, even in the darkest/quietest/slowest seasons of my life (right now), & He’s never left. That just fills me with joy.
So I suppose my main point of this is to say that, even as Christians, we have tough days where we doubt God and question how our circumstances could possibly be what's best for us. But in these days of wondering why in the world God shook up my plan that I had for myself, I've learned so much about how His plan is ultimately so much greater. So when we're letting Evil lie to us, and we're questioning God's good intent, take heart & have faith.
If you know me, you know that I love to travel. I absolutely hate staying in one place for long, and I jump at the opportunity for a new adventure. One of the top items on my bucket list is to visit all 50 states by the time I'm 30 years old. To be honest, if I keep up at the rate I'm going (averaging 8-10 new states a year), I may reach that goal well before 30.
My current total is 29 (and I'm trying desperately to make it 30 before this year is over, because even numbers are better...). In the spirit of reminiscing and catching the travel itch, I thought I'd list my favorite thing I've done in each state. And in addition, my bucket list for the remaining ones!
Arizona - the Grand Canyon, obviously.
California - seeing the Santa Monica Pier, Hollywood, the Walk of Fame, & Beverly Hills (even though they were crowded and stressful), and also swimming with sea lions in La Jolla
Colorado - visiting Denver and seeing the mountains in Colorado Springs
Connecticut - this was a business training trip, but it was my first solo plane ride, so that's fun!
Delaware - spending my freshmen year at University of Delaware
Florida - spending a week with my very best friends in West Palm Beach after graduating high school, and going snorkeling for the first time!
Georgia - I guess I always just drive through Georgia, so I suppose I need to do something more fun than stopping at a Cracker Barrel next time I'm there
Illinois - Chicago! One of my top 5 favorite cities! And going up to the Willis Tower Sky Deck.
Indiana - visiting family for the first time and exploring a small town
Maryland - well.. I live here... Baltimore is growing on me, Annapolis is always a great time, and I've recently discovered a new love for Western MD. Having city, mountains, and ocean is pretty sweet.
Massachusetts - getting to finally visiting Boston after a lifetime of infatuation with it, and touring my dream college. Oh, and going to a Red Sox game at Fenway!
Michigan - exploring Detroit and Benton Harbor with my mom
Montana - West Yellowstone was pretty neat, but so was finally finding coffee at 5am after a few days of being on a tour bus with caffeine deprivation
Nevada - Vegas... I'll never go back, but it was cool to see once. Plus, our hotel had a water slide that went through a shark tank!
New Jersey - Again, I think I mainly just drive through, but I remember visiting the Statue of Liberty from the Jersey side as a kid.
New Mexico - walking around Santa Fe and trying to figure out why there were homeless (by choice?) hippies wearing dresses and yelling at cops. And eating the best fajitas of my life.
New York - New York City isn't worth the hype in my opinion. Upstate NY is where it's at. Hands down favorite memory ever was spending a month in the Adirondacks on Saranac Lake and volunteering on summer staff at Young Life camp
North Carolina - I've been a few places in NC, but my fav was spending time with my best friend and her family and getting to see where she spent her summers as a kid
Ohio - being in Cleveland during a Cavaliers NBA championship game against the Warriors
Pennsylvania - Philly will always be cool, but I really just love dog sitting for my godparents in the middle of nowhere
Rhode Island - pit stop in Providence for lunch on the way home from Boston, seeing Brown University was pretty awesome
South Carolina - okay, this is a worst memory; being forced to go to a Kid Rock concert by my mother and having my first panic attack... Thanks, Bobby.
South Dakota - Mount Rushmore, but it's smaller than you'd expect
Tennessee - going on a road trip with my Poppop, and having that memory now that he's gone
Texas - LOVE TX! Seriously, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Amarillo, I loved it all. Going to a rodeo and seeing Cadillac Ranch were a few highlights
Utah - Salt Lake City was pretty, and seeing Temple Square was neat too, but hiking in Arches State Park takes the cake!
Virginia - going to Rockbridge for Young Life camp three different summers in high school, where I rediscovered Jesus and began my relationship with him
West Virginia - honestly, the best part about going to WV is playing John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" on repeat
Wyoming - exploring Yellowstone with my best friend and our bus tour full of non-English speaking Asians
My musts for the remaining 21 states!
Alabama - go to Talladega Speedway
Alaska - be there for the Iditarod and go dog sledding!
Arkansas - visit Little Rocker & Eureka Springs
Hawaii - scuba with the sea turtles, explore a volcano
Idaho - visit Boise, and as many natural sights as possible
Iowa - go to the National Balloon Classic
Kansas - see Monument Rocks
Kentucky - do an Underground Cave Boat Tour
Louisiana - visit New Orleans
Maine - eat lobster, because I feel like that's a must do
Minnesota - Mall of America!
Mississippi - visit Jackson
Missouri - see Thorncrown Chapel
Nebraska - explore Omaha
New Hampshire - go to Robert Frost's home
North Dakota - go to Badlands National Park
Oklahoma - successfully avoid any tornadoes, and probably visit Tulsa or Oklahoma City
Oregon - visit Portland, but also do a ton of nature stuff, maybe camping?
Vermont - try skiing? This might take some self-convincing
Washington - visit Seattle and go to the top of the Space Needle
Wisconsin - I'm sure there are a ton of great things to do, but I would really just want to take a picture in a cheese hat by the Welcome to Wisconsin sign...
Breathe when it's hard
And when it's easy
Breathe when you're awake, when you're face is towards the sun
When you're lungs fill and deflate without effort, and you're carefree
Breathe when you're stressed, when you're anxious, and when you're scared
Make the conscious effort to inhale and exhale, counting as you go
Remember to take a deep breath
Remind your body what it feels like to appreciate oxygen, let it nourish your brain, let it pump your heart
Take time to breathe, to do away with the distractions and the worries
Moving so quickly, we forget to be mindful
especially with our breaths
Breathe. In. And.
And you will be okay.
Well, friends, it’s been close to four months of unemployment and I can honestly say, this wasn’t exactly the plan. I am a person who finds worth and pride in what I do, and responding to the question, “what are you up to these days?” with “sleeping until 11, binge watching Netflix, and annoying my mother” doesn’t make me feel proud or accomplished. I feel like a bum.
But, in an effort to remain positive and look on the bright side, I’ve been mentally compiling a list of what I have actually accomplished over these last few months, and here it is.
With the transition into autumn come chilly days, bonfire nights, warm drinks, and an array of colors among the trees. Mother Nature does some pretty incredible things all year round, but when the trees change colors during the fall months, we can’t help but look around and see beauty regardless of where we look.
I’ve always found it ironic how we awe over the leaves while they’re dying, how we take walks and take pictures and admire their life cycle. They’ve done their job for the year, and as the weather begins to get cold and winter sets in, the leaves cannot survive. They die and they fall. Then we even find joy in the crunching of them under our feet or the piles that our kids and dogs play in. I think about this every single year and realize how much these dead and dying leaves can really teach us about life.
But this year, I’ve discovered a different way to view the autumn leaves, and it’s stuck with me since. When the leaves are changing, and we are admiring their beauty, we are really admiring their “true colors”. (Hmm, maybe that’s where that saying comes from…)
See, we learn in elementary school that Chlorophyll makes plants green. It is vital to allowing the plant to use sunlight and turn it into food, thus keeping it alive. However, there is another substance that leaves produce called Carotenoid, and this is what creates the brown, yellow, and orange pigments we see in the fall. But, both Chlorophyll and Carotenoid are present in the trees all year round, but the green pigments (Chlorophyll) cover up the other colors during the spring and summer time. They’re masking their real colors because they’re trying to survive. Without Chlorophyll, the leaves die.
Can’t we relate to this though? Don’t we mask our true colors just to get through the day? We suppress our emotions, our dreams, our silly selves; because we’d rather portray the person that we think the world wants us to be. Sometimes we need to stay green so that, to others, we look alive and happy and put together. But the earth will inevitably make it’s rotation around the sun and autumn will come and our green fades away to reveal the browns underneath.
We tend to believe that our masks are more beautiful than what’s true and real. Why do we think like this when we can just look at the trees and be overcome by their splendor? Nature is the most beautiful in its truest form, and so are we. We have a lot to learn from the leaves on the trees.
So in this season, be reminded that just like the leaves, or the mountains or the sea, that you are wonderfully made and your true colors are worth showing, and I promise you, people will find them inspiring.
What I Write About: