Friday, May 8, 2015

emotions on emotions on emotions (aka senior year).

I've been home almost 7 days and haven't unpacked a single box.
It sits in the exact same spot I (literally) threw it all in after moving home.

 (Shows you how important everything in my dorm room was, huh?)

I have just been plain exhausted. I've barely had energy to get out of bed, let alone actually do stuff.  I've barely recovered from move out and the subsequent emotional breakdown last Friday. I didn't get out of bed today til noon. (I had a migraine, but still). That'll do me well when I head back to work next week. Weee.


My anxiety has been amped up about 100 notches since returning home. I think it's a combination of not having therapy and the fact that being home just stresses me out.  Not to mention all my pent up feelings about this year and how much that has affected me since coming home.

Senior year, in a word, was hell.  It was absolutely miserable, and I wish I could erase it and start all over.

There were good things, of course. I loved my classes (mostly); I loved my middle school practicum (high school, not so much). Cozumel was great (and I just realized I never wrote about it this year... whoops). Had lots of fun moments and events with friends.

But overall, I hated this year.

What a way to end my college career, huh? But alas, it's not over, thanks to changing my major I'm here another semester. That's part of the reason this year sucked, honestly.

Beyond all the struggles I had this year with my anxiety, school stress, and other nameless drama, the hardest thing was knowing I wasn't going to graduate with my class.  I didn't realize how much this was going to hurt me until it happened.

It's my fault, of course. I was the dumbass that changed her major junior freaking year of college. I knew from the get go I was going to graduate a semester late. I was sad about it at first, but mostly thankful Dr. S had figured my schedule out so I would only be a semester late (bless her for thinking ahead). This was the hand I was dealt when changing majors. I did it to myself, so I had to deal with it.

I just didn't realize how hard it was going to be when the time finally came.


At Lipscomb, we do all the celebration festivities in the spring together, whether you're a May, August, or December graduate, but have separate commencements (August grads walk in May). So, I got to go to the celebrations and goodbye dinners with my class despite not walking with them last week. This was in some ways great-- I still got to celebrate with my friends and the people I started Lipscomb with. Other ways, it was hard/weird/awkward, because I had to explain to people that I wasn't graduating until December, which was a bit confusing when you celebrate in April/May. I'm glad I got to celebrate with my class, but it was weird knowing I still have a semester left to go.

I've always had friends that were a few years older or a few years younger than I am. I don't know why, but I always gravitated away from people in my age group. I really never had a core group of friends in the same life stage as I was growing up.
That changed at Lipscomb. I had friends that were older and younger, like usual. However, thanks to gen ed classes, clubs, dorm life-- I practically did life with mostly people my own age for the first time in my life. I was friends with mostly people the same age/life stage as I was, and I grew alongside them over the past 4 years. I've loved this part of the college experience, because I'd never had it before.

So, having to stay behind and watch them enter the life stage I should be entering was heartbreaking.

I should have walked with them on Saturday, instead of cheering from the sidelines proudly. (and I was so proud).

I should be done with student teaching and searching for a teaching job instead of fretting about Praxis tests.

I should be done with financial aid drama and not worrying about paying for an extra semester (UGH).

I should be moving on to the next chapter of adulthood. Despite loving college and being terribly sad to close this chapter, at the same time, I'm ready for it to be over- because it should be over.  I should be done. I need to be done. I'm mentally, physically, financially spent.

I was talking to a friend at the beginning of the semester about how apprehensive I was about college being almost over, and she said something to the effect of, "you don't have to be ready yet, because it's not over yet." Well, now I am freaking ready, and yet it's not over. Gah. How the tables turn, huh?

Emotionally, the days leading up to graduation wrecked me. I watched the baccalaureate online and sobbed. Sobbed. Uncontrollably. I should have been there with them. And it finally hit me just how much I wanted to be there with my people. It broke my heart.

I sat at the creek by my house and journaled and cried. I cried and cried. Why did my plan I'd laid out so carefully have to change? Why didn't things go the way I wanted them to? Why couldn't I graduate when I was supposed to? Of course, I made the change myself when I changed majors; I just didn't realize the repercussions were going to cut me so deeply.


I held it (mostly) together during graduation, minus a few moments where Dr. McDowell and Dr. Lowry spoke. I held back tears, but they were there. I kept it together, though (until later).

It's also hard being in this transitional limbo moment. My friends have graduated and are looking for jobs, moving, getting married. All awesome things, obviously. But I'm here lagging behind, still a college student.  That is hard for me to swallow.

It's weird for me because even though I'm graduating in December, I will be almost completely separate from college life, unlike the past 4 years. I'll be student teaching, so I won't be in classes on campus. I won't be involved in any clubs/events/ groups on campus like I have been every year. I'll be a college student still, but not quite a college student. It's such a weird place to be. All of my "lasts" were bittersweet, knowing that even know I'll still be a student in the fall I won't be around or able to be involved in them.

I'm also living at home and not in the dorm in the fall, which is extremely bittersweet and left me in tears. Some people hated dorm life. I loved every minute of it. Ok, most minutes of it... Elam has been home for 3 years, and I cried leaving, knowing I wouldn't be living there in the fall.  (I can't even go back to that blog post I just linked to, because tears immediately sprung up. Good Lord my emotions are so frazzled right now).

I didn't realize how many emotional breakdowns were involved with senior year. Dang.

I'm living at home for financial reasons (and the hope that I can student teach here), but so much of my college experience was wrapped up in that place. It was hard to say goodbye, as silly as that sounds. (and as frustrated as I was living on a freshmen hall this year). It doesn't help that after a week of being home for the summer, I'm already ready to get out. Sigh. It'll be better for me in the long run, but still.


This year has been all over the place, emotionally. In some ways, I'm sad/scared to close this chapter. Every cliché about college going by so fast has been true, and it's been the best 4 years of my life, challenges and all. I'm scared of what the next step is. I'm sad to leave college life, dorm life, and Lipscomb life. I'm ready, but not ready all at once.
Yet I'm sad to not be closing the chapter with my friends. Despite being sad this part of my life is almost over, I wish I was able to end it with the people I started with. It's so, so hard.

I feel like I'm whining and being dramatic about this. I don't mean to, but this just sucks right now. It's perfectly fair, since I made the decision to switch majors, thus forcing myself to stay another semester.
I never thought I'd be this upset about it, but knowing me, I should have known. I'm too sentimental and emotional for my own good sometimes, and stuff like this brings it out of me. I know it's just an extra semester, but it feels like so much more.

Other things, like my anxiety diagnosis and the weight of senior-level classes wore on me this year. Teaching practicums were awesome, but extremely stressful and hard. Most of my friend group lived off-campus, while I was still in Elam. It was a hard year in general.

Senior year was not fun, at all. There was good in it, but it simply wasn't good.

And it kind of sucks that my last year was my worst year.

 I'm okay with being sad, with being angry and frustrated with myself. This year was hard. I knew it was going to be. I just wish I would have known just how much so.

 I don't know why things had to unfold the way they did. I don't know why I didn't start out as an English major and avoided this whole mess. I don't know what's exactly next, or how I'm going to feel about it.  I don't know how exactly I feel about this chapter almost closing. But I know there's a reason and a plan for me, and I believe His plan is better than the one I have.

I just wish it would've included me graduating on time.

To quote my beloved Sarah Dessen: "shoulda, coulda, woulda. It's so easy in the past tense."

I don't want to dwell on the could have and should have beens or the what ifs... but when it's something so life-changing, it's hard not to.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

the purple bird.

today was not my favorite day.

My emotions were scattered about leaving and saying goodbye (that's a post for later); I was stressed out from moving out of the dorm; my mom was being her typical drama queen self- stressful days bring out the WORST in my mother.

I left the dorm in tears. I cried from stress of move out day in front of a friend (I hate crying in front of people), I cried hugging friends goodbye, and I cried leaving the dorm and as we headed home. That's a 40 minute car ride of tears (and they didn't stop there, either).

I was an overly emotional hot mess today. It's ok to be that sometimes, I'm learning. But I'm not writing about all that (at least today).

Today we were almost at the interstate, stopped at a red light. I was crying silently; my mom was ignoring me per usual when she's pissed off and being dramatic. It was quiet, minus the radio playing.

I looked out the window and saw a bird sitting on the sidewalk. It was a dark purple and hazel green, shiny with spots.

I wasn't thinking straight enough to get a picture, but it looked something like this:

The colors were a little darker, and the spots were white-ish-- but otherwise spot on.
 

I was mesmerized. 


I took a lit/biology combo class about nature this semester for my last science credit (no more science HALLELUJAH). We had a lesson about birds and ways to classify them... I retained zero of that information. (Sorry Dr. Kellett and Dr. Lewis!) The big thing I got out of the class was to be more observant to my surroundings- to be intentional and pay attention to nature and how we interact with it.

We were only at that light for another minute or two, but I watched it that whole time. It was breathtakingly beautiful.  I'm not even much of a bird person (I've read/watched The Birds too many times- they kinda terrifying).

 But there was something extraordinary about this little bird that kept me watching.

Purple is my favorite color. There's something comforting, peaceful about purple. My favorite blanket is purple, my school's color is purple, so many of my favorite things happen to be purple. It makes me happy.

That bird brought a sense of comfort nothing else could have to a truly miserable day. I don't know why. It just did. I felt okay after that. Not better, but okay-- and that's all I needed.


I believe that God doesn't just work in big, grandiose motions. I think He works in the minute details of the day... the smallest things hold the biggest revelations.  We just have pay attention and notice.
 I don't think He always is going to send us these elaborate thoughts or messages either. I'm not expecting a burning bush anytime soon. I just want a nudge, a whisper, something to let me know I'm okay and He's with me. I think He does that the most in the simplest, most ordinary things. The sunrise and sunset, giggles and laughter, kind words from a friend-- all simple daily things we see/hear that just remind me that He is good-- and so am I.

And sometimes, He sends a little sign to say something as simple as it's going to be okay. And that sign happens to be something as ordinary as a bird with beautiful feathers.

 I'm okay. I'm going to be okay.

Thank God for the little moments to remind me of that fact. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

people need people.

*really: i need people.

I NEED people.

I've spent so much of my life fighting against community.

I've spent most of my life running in the opposite direction. Afraid to let people in.


I'm fiercely independent in some ways. I like being by myself, doing things by myself. I grew up with the notion that I was better off doing things on my own. I didn't need anyone to do anything for me.

I didn't grow up in much community (besides family, and that was pretty fragmented). Didn't have a solid group of friends until I was older (and that's still small). I didn't grow up in church, and didn't find a church home until I was older (and now college has put that in limbo). I wasn't involved in many extracurriculars or activities until college- and even now, I shy away when it becomes too hard. I worry about getting too deep and too personal-- and how people will react when I do that.

But now, I'm at a point in life where I'm realizing that it's OK to lean on people. Actually, it's more than OK-- it's necessary. I need people to surround me.

I need people to speak my crazy to.

I need people to listen. A listening ear or crying shoulder.

I need people to hold my hand or hug me lots (I love hugs) when the bad days come.  Or the good days. Hugs are good on good days, too.

I need people to help me see what I can't see in myself-- and to help me believe that there are better things coming. I need to be reminded that I'm loved and welcomed, because sometimes I just can't feel it.

 I need people cheering in my corner when I need the encouragement, and calling me out when I'm in over my head. I need someone in the good, the bad, and the everyday. 

I need to hear other people tell their stories so I know that I'm not alone. That I belong.

I need a real-life community of people that are willing to stand beside me and hold my hand and just be there, or stand behind me and push me through whatever wall I'm trying to break down on my own. I need people to remind me that I need people to get through this thing alive.
I cannot wait to own this print and hang it on my wall.
Great post about this on twloha here:

I'm at a point at my life where I'm just exhausted from trying to live life on my own. I'm a Type-A control freak that wants to do things my way. I've been my own caretaker for so long. I want to do things and fix things myself.  I can handle everything on my own shoulders, thankyouverymuch.

Except: I can't. Well, I can, but it's utterly exhausting and miserable and lonely to live this life (especially this season of life) alone.


Okay, I know I'm not alone- I have friends and family and God, yada yada yada. But I've never fully embraced community- or people in general, to be honest. I'm good at letting people celebrate the joys- I shout em from the rooftops. I like talking about the good stuff. It's the low points, the struggle that I don't like sharing. I've always struggled with vulnerability and letting people see and be around the good, bad, and ugly. I'm scared to let people know that side of me.
I've been burned before by people too many times that I'm scared of who I let in. So I just don't. It's safer to have my walls up and my blinders on. Safer, but terribly hard. I'm getting better at this, especially the past few months; even still, I rarely let anyone see everything. I'm working on it.


I have plenty of excuses for this. My biggest one is I feel like a burden talking about my bad stuff. I'll talk about the good stuff all day long- but the bad, not so much. I don't want to ruin people's days with my sads, or  overwhelm people with my life's ups and downs. It's scary and hard work letting people know me. Everybody has their issues- why should I bog you down with mine?

I also worry about who I let in. Are they safe? Are they going to actually be supportive or walk away? (I've had that happen too many times, too). How are they going to react? (Forget that almost every reaction I've had when talking about my life has been extremely empathetic and/or "me, too.") Yet I still don't like it.
I've spent my life running from my story. Vulnerability is hard.
(can't wait to actually read Brene's books). 

My counselor and I have talked about this at length. Because of past experiences with feeling inadequate and hurt by the people in my life's words and actions, I closed myself off to everyone. I became impenetrable. I'm too afraid of getting hurt again so I don't let anyone get too close. When people try, I run. Hard and fast in the opposite direction.

In order for me to fully heal and deal with my issues, I have to break the walls down. No matter how scary.

And that starts in community. Giving my story a voice. Listening to other peoples stories and realizing that we're all a bit broken and we need each other to lean on through our brokenness. Who knows how much your story could impact mine if you aren't willing to share it? (Preaching that one to myself).

But UGH. It's not that easy. At least it doesn't feel that easy for me. It must be for some people. I just don't know how. Or where to start.



The irony is that the community I have and have finally built is about to change.

Lipscomb has given me community in different ways (dorm life. missions. campus ministry. EML department. just to name a few). And yet, just as I'm starting to give in to this idea that I actually need to be involved in the community and engage in it, that time is running short. I feel like I'm finally becoming a part of a community... just in time for everything to change. I'm so, so grateful that I've found community and friendships that I hope last a lifetime here-- I just wish I had really taken the time to get involved and know the community I have. And to let them know me, beyond the surface level.


So, here I am, finally admitting that I'm not as strong as I think I am. Finally willing to surrender to this thought that I need support and other people to make this life meaningful. It's taken so long for me to believe this-- that I'm not as independent as I think. I need a community to lean on and walk through this journey with.

People need people. We need people to remember that we're not alone.

I wish I had figured that out before I felt like I was walking alone on this journey.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

my right now.

We are 6 weeks in to spring semester, and I'm utterly exhausted. Classes are great, albeit tedious; it's just the weight of it all that's killing me. Time is moving ever so slowly this semester, and I haven't decided if that's a good thing or not.


I mentioned in my last post about how much of a struggle the last half of the year was. I finally feel like I can talk about it (real talk: I'm at a point where if I don't talk I think I might explode). I struggle so much with vulnerability- both in writing here and with people in person. This post has taken over two four weeks for me to finish writing, because I was afraid to put myself out there. I was so afraid of people's reactions. But then I realized: this is mostly to help me. I need to write about it, because for me, writing will make me feel better. I hope by writing it'll help someone else too, but even if it doesn't, I need to do this for me for once.


However, over the past few weeks there have been so! many! posts (like this one and this and this  and especially this) that have cropped up that have nudged me in the direction of sharing. Even though I don't want to (and I've seriously stopped this post at least a dozen times over the course of 4 weeks. Sigh). So what I'm telling you is: bare with me. It's long, but please read it all if you've read this far.  And please, if you read this and have ever thought, "met, too"-- PLEASE reach out (in person or on here, whatever works for you). It's hard for me to talk and write this out, and I don't think I'm alone in it-- but most days, it feels like I am. 


I've always had a precarious relationship with my mental health. It's always been a struggle, but it's always been something I've dealt with alone or with a few select people. 

My mental health issues went to a whole new level last fall, however. 

I was on a retreat, having a fun time away from school for the night. I went to bed around 3am; about an hour or so later I was still awake for no apparent reason.
That's when the panic attack started.

Now, if you've never experienced a panic attack, or don't know anything about them, here's one fun fact to know: panic attack symptoms can be easily mistaken for symptoms of a HEART ATTACK. Yes, heart attack symptoms are unique to everyone (especially in women); however, the basic heart attack symptoms and the panic attack symptoms I had at 4 in the morning were the same. 

It was slightly terrifying, to say the least.

My heart was pounding loudly and fast; every time I tried to lay down and forget about it, it got louder.

I had a lump in my throat and felt like I couldn't breathe. I was shaky and absolutely terrified, thinking I was dying or was going to die.

It was hellish. I had never been so scared in my life.

I quietly walked towards the bathroom to look at myself in the light; everything looked okay, but yet I still felt like my heart was going to explode out of my chest. I walked back to the bedroom and climbed into bed, unsure what to think: at this point I didn't think heart attack because I'm pretty sure those are fast acting types of deals, but I had no idea what else it could be. I got back into bed and tried to focus my energy elsewhere (it kinda worked). I finally was able to get some sleep, and woke up with everyone else around 8:30. My whole body just ached--every inch of me was sore. I was still totally clueless and feeling out of sorts... I sucked it up best I could and attempted to enjoy the rest of the day's plans.

Then it happened again, later that night--only worse.
I tried lying down, took a shower to cool off, walked around trying to calm down-nothing worked. I had no idea what was going on.

I went to my RA friend in the lobby and talked about possibly going to the hospital to get checked out. A parent (it was parents' weekend on campus, PTL) overheard me and introduced himself as a doctor (but really, he was a guardian angel). He asked me what had happened, took my pulse, and asked me questions. He said my pulse was normal and everything seemed okay. He asked me about my caffeine intake that day (... a lot. More than normal), and suggested cutting down (I quit cold turkey the next day). After talking to him, I felt a lot better (at least in my head, my heart was still freaking out on me). I sat down in the lobby the rest of the night, until I felt decent enough to head upstairs and attempt to sleep.

Fast forward to Monday. Our on-campus nurse was pretty concerned and ordered an EKG to make sure everything was OK with my heart. It was then she asked me if I'd ever had panic attacks. My thought was, "what do I have to panic about?!" I left the nurse's office upset and confused... still unsure if something was scary wrong. I decided to look up panic attacks online, and realized how many of my symptoms matched up. So I went back to the nurse and talked to her again. She gave me medicine to help if/when I felt like an attack was starting, and recommended melatonin to sleep.
EKG came back normal, to my overwhelming relief. So, the only clear choice at that point was panic attacks- something I'd never imagined dealing with.

And they kept happening, almost nightly.

After a week, I went back to the doctor for a follow-up. With the amount of panic attacks I was having, she diagnosed me with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD-which my counselor confirmed when I started therapy in January). At that point, she didn't prescribe me anything else, but gave me some tips about how to deal with the panic attacks, and requested I go to the counseling center. I didn't put that on the priority list (though now I wish I had), simply because I didn't have the time (or didn't want to make the time, truly).

On top of the panic attacks, the crippling anxiety began... even more devastating than the panic attacks themselves.  It was a cruel cycle: I'd get anxious about panicking, then I'd end up having a panic attack.
Part of my anxiety was (is) that something else was wrong with my health. I still wasn't sure that it was just mental since I was having so many physical issues... every ache and pain triggered my anxiety and caused me to spiral. My brain just wouldn't shut off; I couldn't stop the never-ending thoughts that were sending me into this fear. It was like a voice track playing in my head, every time I had an ache or pain, or something felt off... my brain just would go off the deep end.  My brain and my body are at war constantly... and for awhile, I wasn't sure which one was going to win out.


I've gone to bed every night since October convinced I wouldn't wake up the next day.


That is the most terrifying sentence I've probably ever written. It's most definitely the most terrifying thought I've ever had (and have continued to have).


This fear has crippled me in every sphere of life. It made me physically sick, and unable to sleep-- I doubt I slept 3-4 hours a night most of November and December (and if I did, I didn't sleep until 2,3,4am). Most mornings I was still awake when my Mom was getting ready for work, all because I was terrified about sleeping. I had panic attacks just getting into bed. My (illogical) thought process was this: if I don't sleep, I can't die in my sleep. If I wait until the night is over, I'll survive. (Nights are still hard. So, so damn hard).

Like I said--it's a never ending cycle. The anxiety made me sick, which triggers more anxiety... and repeat. It made it impossible to want to get out of bed and function mentally or emotionally- I didn't want to spend time with anyone or do anything.

 I spiritually was scared out of my mind-- seriously, when your prayers every night end with, "please, don't let me die in my sleep"--SOMETHING. IS. WRONG. I also dealt with the whole, "I trust Jesus yet why am I anxious" debacle, which is a whole other post. Seriously: I love Jesus and trust Him a whole lot (some days more than others). But, this is not a spiritual problem I'm dealing with. It's all mental.

 I knew this by now, of course. I knew I needed help out of this hell. But I didn't know what to do--it was December, in the middle of winter break. It was the midst of Christmas stress and whatnot.

I was in my own mental hell, with no way to crawl out on my own.

I had spoken to a few people in small details about it (people like some family, my best friend, etc), but I never told them the extent of my issues. I don't think anyone knew how badly things were, because I've been able to keep a straight (albeit tired) face most days.

 I finally scrounged up the courage to talk to someone about everything; she helped me feel less crazy (because trust me, it is hard to not think you're crazy when this crap is going on) and has walked with me in all of this since then. I'm thankful I had the strength to finally reach out--but more importantly, I'm thankful I had someone's hand waiting when I finally did reach out.


It's February (almost March!) and here I am now, almost 5 months after this all started. As soon as I could, I started counseling at school-- and it has done wonders. It's taken a lot of vulnerability and strength to talk this out, but I am starting to feel better and have more better days. My panic attacks and anxiety are starting to become manageable, thanks to both counseling and the introduction of anxiety medication (at the recommendation of both my counselor and my doctor). Medicine nor counseling are a cure all (for me or anyone); however, both right now are helping me immensely, and I'm so, so thankful.

There are still days and nights where my panicking and anxiety overpower my medicine (like tonight) and I struggle with sleep and being able to control my thoughts, despite the tools my counselor has given me to help. Some days are going to be hard, and I'm just going to be anxious-- and right now, that's OK.  I'm taking it  day-by-day, and it's in no way going to be "fixed" for me anytime soon. Or ever, really.


But I'm getting better. And right now, that's really all I can ask for.



(if you read this, thank you. really).


Free by Switchfoot



Mess of Me
both of these Switchfoot songs have been on repeat lately... Jon Foreman must get it. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Let's All Be Brave {My One Word 2015}

Well, 2014 is officially over. I'm not too sad to see it gone, honestly.

2014 was an okay/good year until mid-September/early October, when all hell broke loose. My mental health kinda just fell apart... and it's been unraveling ever since. Panic attacks and anxiety have been my life since October, and it's absolutely crippling. I don't talk a lot about it on here (because speaking this stuff out loud scares me, AND because my anxiety's never been so severe), but I'm working towards getting on the upward swing of this stuff. I'll write more about it soon, because I really need to write it out, but that's a future post.

I'm ready to put it ALL behind me. The stress, anxiety, and struggle of 2014 has been enough to make me ready to close this chapter. However, what lies before me might even terrify me more than what 2014 did to me...

2015.

Writing that year just gives me goosebumps. 2015. I can't believe it's here.

I haven't been this anxious about a year in... well, I don't think I've ever really been this anxious about a year before.
2015:
The year I graduate college.
The year I become a licensed teacher (I hope. *gulp*).
The year I grow up and become some semblance of an adult.

The year everything changes. College is over, a grown-up job must be found, friends move or move on... it's overwhelming looking at everything this year has in store.


It's terrifying, this unknown territory. In May, all the friends I came into college with will graduate and move on into the real world; in December, it'll be my turn to do the same (after student teaching).


The little voice in my head is saying I'M NOT READY I'M NOT READY I'M NOT READY FOR THIS!

Usually, I'd believe this little voice. But this year, I'm determined to change the voices in my head. 


So, for the 3rd year, I'm doing my one word resolution-- one word for me to believe in, to set my goals around; I think having a one-word mindset instead of a list of to-do's to check off really help me grow and change the way I think. Honestly, I think my word chose me- like it has in years' past.

2013 was about being and feeling beautiful, and relearning what beautiful means.  

2014 was about love-loving myself, loving others, and letting God and others love me.

**Sidebar: LOVE IS FREAKING HARD. Especially when your brain turns against you mid-year. Really freaking hard to love yourself and be vulnerable when your mental health goes to hell in a hand basket. But I digress; I really think love was the perfect word for me this year: in the midst of my mess, I learned to love myself, warts and all. And through music (Ellie Holcomb and Mary Lambert=love)and Bible studies and what not, I started to really let it sink in how much God loves me in the middle of my mess, too.
Even when I can't feel it for myself,  His love is holding me tight and steady, and despite everything, it won't let go.  Hallelujah for that. /end sidebar


And 2015? 2015 is brave. It's time to be brave and courageous about what the next chapter has in store.

Like I said earlier, this word chose me. I am not a brave human, by any means. I'm the biggest scaredy cat known to man; I'm afraid of everything, and worry constantly. I don't have a courageous or adventurous bone in my body. How on earth could I be brave?

Truth is, I can't-- at least not in the adrenaline-pumping superhero-esque definition of the word. I can never be that kind of brave, nor do I want to be.

But I can be brave, right where I am, with what I have.

It all started with a book... Let's All Be Brave, by Annie Downs. I've mentioned Annie and her book before; I adored her in person, and the book? Life changing. Hands-down the best (and most needed) book I read in 2014.

I was planning on reading the book over Christmas break; however, after Q Women, I kept seeing the book and feeling a nudge to read it right then... even when I had a million other things to be doing. I kept ignoring it, but about a week after the conference, I caved and started reading.

This book. It's a game-changer, y'all.

 I didn't want to put this book down- and I usually don't feel that way about non-fiction. I highlighted so much in this book, I went through 2 highlighters. (Seriously. It was kinda comical).  Her style of writing made me feel at ease, like we were having deep talks and swapping stories over coffee; her stories were relatable and funny, and our struggles similar.

But her thoughts about being brave? Made me rethink what brave truly means.

"I'm here to ask you to please do the thing in your heart that scares you to death."

"You aren't headed out to find courage. It's in you, it is blooming, and it is with you as you travel and say yes to things that seem scary. Remember, it's not only the X that matters; it's getting there."

"When God tells you to be brave, he will make it work. It' won't be perfect. It won't be easy. But it will be your story and your best story."



I never thought about bravery in context to my everyday life; I thought bravery was reserved for the fearless, those that sacrifice and do scary things every day. I never thought that God made me, this anxious girl that's scared of her own shadow, to be brave. I honestly never thought I had a reason to be.

Until this year.

This book came into my life at the perfect time. In the midst of my life changes and transitioning, when my anxiety is at its peak? These are the words I need to hear at this pivotal place in my life. At first I wasn't really sure what I needed to be brave about-- but now I realize how much bravery I'm gonna need to simply make it through this year.

To enjoy my last few months on campus, instead of being sad that this chapter's coming to an end.
To (try to) enjoy my classes and soak up time with my favorite professors, instead of rushing through to cross the finish line.
To spend time and talk with friends--both those graduating and those that graduate after me-- instead of focusing so much on getting out of here I forget about the friendships I've made here.
To embrace the changes and transitions that are about to come, instead of letting worry about the future overwhelm me.
To figure out how to not let this horrible anxiety and panic cripple me like it has been for the past few months. I'm tired of letting anxiety rule my life.

I don't know what being brave is going to look like for me. Asking that of God kinda reminds me of when people ask God for patience: instead of simply giving patience, you get something to BE patient about. Yeah, I don't think I'm ready for that! :)

I do, however, know this: this is the year for me to truly figure out what brave looks like for me. It's the year I have to figure out how to use the courage inside me... no matter how un-courageous I feel.

Brave by Sara B- thought it was fitting :)


This is a year of firsts, lasts, and in-betweens; while I may feel anxious or fearful of what's in store, my hope is that instead of giving into fear, I find my courage and my brave. I don't know what that looks like for my life yet, but I know I can be brave. I just have to find the courage to start.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

the weary world rejoices {hope is alive}

Well, it's Christmas. Technically it's 2am on Christmas as I write this, so I should be sleeping, but oh well. (and no, I'm not up tracking Santa on NORAD, though it might be a good distraction tool from writing this....) 

Did anyone else try really hard to get into the Christmas spirit this year only to just not make it there? I tried. I tried really hard. I LOVE me some Christmas.  but there hasn't been anything getting me into Christmas this year. Christmas music is usually my jam, but I've barely been able to listen to it; I love decorating, but we barely did anything decor-wise (minus our tree, which Mom and I spent so much time arguing about getting one, I didn't care how it looked by the time we got it). We did plenty of Christmas baking, but instead of enjoying it, it felt tedious and nerve wracking; Christmas shopping was rushed, 2 days before Christmas (but I shopped with a friend, and spent over an hour in BAM so it was worth the wait). 

Add to that a newly-diagnosed respiratory infection (my lungs HATE me), on top of a sore/achy body from ridiculous amounts of furniture moving (new house probs), and my insomnia keeping me up half the night; I've just physically been miserable and exhausted every day since I got home from school. Talk about a winter break. Thanks, immune system! 

I'm thankful for the Christmas season and all it stands for, but this year, I'm just not feeling it. I just can't right now. 


Thank goodness the darkness only lasts for the night. And thank goodness when Jesus was born in a manger all those many years ago, He was born to save wretches like me. Even in the midst of my mess, when I'm at my darkest or in the lowest of lows. Before He died for me, He lived for me. He was born for me.

Sammy Rhodes wrote this earlier today: "Unto us a child is born. The good news of the gospel is the “us” includes messes like us."


He came into a broken, exhausted world to bring us back to Himself; a world so far separated from their maker that He had to become flesh to reconcile us to the kingdom.
 He didn't just come here as a grown man to fix everything, either; he started out his life as a helpless babe in a manger, and lived wholly as we do, being tried and tested along the way. 
And when He came, everything changed.

His name will be the hope of the world. ~Matthew 12:21 

A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices. (O Holy Night)

Finally, there's hope. 
My world, my heart, is so weary--finally, something to relieve the weariness and stress. I need this hope right now. I want to not be weary for just a minute.  I need something to rejoice about. 
And now, He's here. No more searching or striving or doing to be 'right' with God; I can rejoice in the fact that Jesus is here, He is born, and He is alive-- and is the living hope I need to get me through. Because He was born, because He lives, so can I- and I can live  fully.


picture courtesy of @madewonderfully's instagram

Jonathan Merritt wrote this today:
"Christmas reminds us that miracles often happen on the dark nights when we have little more than a twinkle star to hold onto."

On this dark night, in a manger, with no room in the Inn; born to two bewildered parents who did NOT expect this wrench in their life plans; and yet, in spite of the circumstances, a miracle happened in that manger: a hope for the future, a hope for the whole world, was born. A living hope. 

Despite the darkness, hope is alive. Finally, there's something worth rejoicing about. Finally, my weary heart can rejoice: 
Hope is here! hope is alive! Jesus is born, and He is here to do amazing, beautiful things! 

He's the hope the weary world needs. He's the hope my weary self needs.

And He is, finally, here, in the flesh, to live out what love and hope really look like. 

Even in the midst of my darkness, that is worth rejoicing. 

Thank the Lord for hope. For Jesus, our living, breathing, hope, born into the world to fix the brokenness and bring light to our darkness. 

Hope is Alive by Ellie Holcomb
(typically I'd post a video with the song, but I sadly couldn't find one! Check it out on itunes, it's a beautiful song!)

After the silence of waiting so long

We hear a baby’s first cry

And into our midnight

A heavenly song

Whispers that hope is alive

Oh joy to the world on this holy night

CHORUS

So sing with the angels that fill up the sky

Heaven broke through and now hope is alive

He is right here among us

Our god is with us tonight

And hope is alive
--
In an old stable beneath the bright stars

A young mother is holding her son

Oh the beauty of feeling the beat of God’s heart

That tells us that we are not alone

Oh, our Emanuel has come
--
So sing with the angels that fill up the sky

Heaven broke through and now hope is alive

He is right here among us

Our god is with us tonight

And hope is alive
--
Into our aching , into our breaking

Into our longing to be made whole

Your arms are reaching, Your love is holding us close

Into our suffering , into our weeping

Into this need we have to be known

Your arms are reaching, Your love is holding us close

--
So sing with the angels that fill up the sky

Heaven broke through and now hope is alive

He is right here among us

Our god is with us tonight

And hope is alive
--
So sing with the Angels that filled up the sky

Those in the shadows have seen a great light

He is right here among us

Our god is with us tonight

And hope is alive


Hope is alive on this Christmas-- and the weary world rejoices! Alleluia! 

Merry Christmas! :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

and if not...

It's 3:30AM and I'm wide awake. Thanks, insomnia and anxiety (anxiety over what, you may ask? Once I figure that out, I'll let you know).
My brain just won't shut off. Why couldn't my brain be this wide awake during 8am classes or finals week? Rip off.

Anywho, tonight something's been on my mind that I figured I should write out; maybe then I'll finally sleep (or I'll take my panic attack meds/melatonin and pass out, whichever comes first).

Tonight I watched/listened to a podcast from She Reads Truth-- a Christmas party, with Ellie Holcomb (ah-mazing as always) and writer/blogger Angie Smith, talking about advent. It was great, and what I got from it is worth a post of its own; but that's not what I keep thinking about.

Rachael (one of the founders of SRT) was wearing this ampersand shirt:


if you're looking for me a Christmas present, this shirt is in the SRT store. #shamelessplug 
Someone during the webcast asked (on the youtube chat box) what the significance of the ampersand was. I (along with a few others) explained that it was based off Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 
It stuck with me the rest of the night, so I decided to re-read the story to refresh myself.  Apparently I needed it today. 


17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (NIV)

16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

Even if not. If He doesn't deliver us, we still refuse to serve or worship another god. 

Is that a tough pill to swallow for anyone else? 

In the midst of their biggest trial, they remained faithful. They didn't backtrack when things got tough--they didn't change their minds and give in to the king just to save themselves. They remained true to the faith that God would rescue and redeem-- and even if he chose not to, they still had faith in their God, and refused to support any other idol. I love the message version: it wouldn't make a bit of difference if God actually followed through with their request: He was still God, and He was worth holding on to. 

At Q Women in November, Annie Downs asked something that resonated with me:

"How do you craft a life that brings God glory and brings you joy, even if God doesn't answer your deepest prayers?"

Even if He doesn't answer my deepest prayers the way I want him to; if my hopes and desires for my life aren't what I planned; and even if I don't understand what He's doing or why He's doing it:

He is still God. 
He is still good. 
He has the plan. I'm simply carrying it out the best way I can. 

Faith is scary sometimes;  I don't want to put anything into God's hands I can't control (control freak probs, I know). So how on earth can I live a life where my plan and His plan might not match up? How can I live a happy, joyous life if it's not the life I have worked out for me? 
 That scares the hell out of me, if I'm being honest. I don't know if I could be like Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego: I'd be running for the hills, if it saved me and my way of life. I don't know if I'd have their, "even if He doesn't save us, I still believe in Him" kind of faith. At least not everyday; there are some days I totally see myself with that kind of faith, then there are the low days where I just shake my head and scream "REALLY?" at God when things don't work out. 

I want to have that "and if not" kind of faith: that "even if it isn't what I want or expect, I still choose to believe" kind of mentality. I really do. He says we only need the faith of a mustard seed, yet somedays I feel like I need faith bigger than Mt. Everest to just survive. Sigh.

The ampersand became more than a punctuation mark to me today: it became a reminder that, even if life goes haywire, He is here, and He is good. 

And if not-- even if He doesn't do things the "my" way-- He is still good. So, so good. 

Give Me Faith-Elevation Worship


Ellie Holcomb-Only Hope I've Got



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