Letter to My Former Self

Dear Younger Me,

You are enough. There is no reason to hide who you are. Being a girl with a VOICE is ok. It is more than ok – it’s wonderful! Everyone has a voice and deserves to be heard. People will always have expectations. They will always contradict each other.

10676291_10152700254343187_1532105320699185332_nDo you know whose voice will never contradict? God’s! He will always be on your side. You don’t have to be perfect. No one actually believes you are (Sorry, to burst your bubble). As a matter of fact, no one expects you to be. That’s what GRACE is for. God gives and so do others. Those who matter won’t mind and those who do don’t matter. Be yourself.

People tell you that you are too shy? Too quiet? God designed you that way. Imagine if everyone was loud – that would get annoying really fast. God designed us to BALANCE each other out. Some will be quiet. Some will be loud. There is power in the quiet. When you speak, people will listen. They will listen because you do not always speak so they know you must have something to say.

Your words have power. Maybe very few people in the room notice you. When you go public places, only a few see you. The reality is you get a unique perspective and can sit back and observe. You will learn to see the little things about friends that others don’t notice. Remembering what it was like to not be known or noticed will allow you to notice those nobody else does. Use that to befriend the lonely.

Lastly, you will bloom. Maybe you feel invisible sometimes. You don’t believe in the power of your voice. Guess what? You were wrong! People care. They notice. God will give you words when you don’t expect it. He will give you boldness when it’s time for you to stand up. He will use you. The only thing you need to do is have faith in Him.

*This is for the person who feels invisible. The perfectionist. The one who thinks no one notices them because they’re quiet. You are enough. God made you for a purpose and you are amazing!*

The Lens Through Which You See the World

aaron-burden-320238.jpgOn an average day are you happy, sad, or mad?  I would say throughout my life I have been called a realist.  I remember being in my online high school and being one of the people personally responsible for getting our discussion boards shut down due to crushing what I felt were idealistic views of other people.  Thank goodness for social work teaching me sensitivity!  We all have our natural pessimistic, optimistic, or realist viewpoints.  You know people have called you those things throughout your life.  The question is are those innate or can they be changed?

In the world of Psychology, there is the theory of nature vs. nurture.  Do you develop your personality because of genetics and biology or environmental factors?  Researchers have spent years studying twins and siblings who were not raised together.  There is still no exact answer and scientists continue to argue.  The reality is there is an answer.

Since I started writing for Tirzah Magazine I discovered that there are different answers to questions but it depends on YOUR source for answers.  For scientists, they are more likely to say our viewpoint comes from biology.  They spend hours studying bodies and textbooks. Psychologists are more likely to say our viewpoint comes from environmental factors. Their hours are spent studying people and animals natural habitats.  I would like to suppose a third answer: the Bible.  This is specifically from a Christian viewpoint.

What if you can become a different person or have a new viewpoint on the world?  That is the cool thing.  You CANNOT innately change who you are or your perspective on life.  You will continue to be the Eeyore or Rainbow of a group.  However, if you are a Christian, your viewpoint begins to change.  Not because you changed it but because God did.  This happens over time and intentionality.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 

That is what makes Christians unique and offers change.  God changes people.  Christians viewpoint should come from one source – the Bible.  The great thing is it offers a map for how to live life – God’s viewpoint.  Scientists and psychologists can always study nature vs. nurture.  There are truths to both viewpoints.  The ultimate viewpoint though is the Bible.

The Bible has the power to change your optimist, realist, or pessimistic viewpoints.  It has the ability to change who you believe you are and who you can be.  One of the neat things for the magazine I edit is that everything has to be screened through the Bible and include Biblical support.  I hadn’t necessarily considered that in my writing or in my activities in the past.  The crazy thing is when you spend days screening everything according to the Bible it becomes a natural response.

Every day when you do something you think “What does the Bible say about this?”  Through that you start to make wiser decisions.  You find that life is not always perfect.  Mistakes are made but you know you consulted the Bible first.  This is a new lens/viewpoint.  It should be an ultimate goal for everyone. Textbooks/science/people can continue to argue on how you become who you are but ultimately through God is how you become who you are MEANT TO BE.  Do you screen your life through the Bible? What is your viewpoint?  

Beautiful Chaos: The Story of a Social Worker’s Birth Mother Experiences

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It was there in the midst of the mess she found beauty.  Not because she knew the future or the past but because she knew the One who held it.  In that one moment she realized the beauty was in the moments of total loss of control.  Those moments were the ones that showed the beauty of God’s grace and redemption. – Alycia Marie

Have you ever been in the midst of complete chaos but felt total serenity?  What about a situation where you have no control yet there is peace?  A little over a year ago I experienced these sensations.  It was in a hospital room with bright lights, people scurrying, and a woman grimacing in pain.  This – this is the world of adoption.

Not every day is spent in the hospital.  There are the days of nervousness when complete strangers meet for the first time. You sit next to a woman and can secretly tell how nervous she is, even though she maintains total control.  She calmly shares her story as if she tells it every day.  By the end of the hour, you watch total strangers hugging and crying together. You see a couple who could never have a child on their own try to hide their joy of raising a child themselves. Then there’s the days after the hospital – you sit and watch a woman experiencing all of the changes of hormones without a baby in her arms.  You sit on the couch in silence processing where life suddenly hurts.

Those are the moments of beautiful, painstaking heartbreak.  Every reason is different.  Sometimes it’s understanding that where she was in life was not one a child could be in.  Other times it’s recognizing that the needs of older children create a hard situation.  Whatever it may be – it is accepting a woman’s right to choose.  The right to make the ultimate sacrifice of carrying a baby for 9 months, withstanding the pains of labor, and leaving the hospital with empty arms.  That is motherhood.

Motherhood is not just the ability to raise a child.  It is the ability to recognize when you can’t.  The ability to say to a stranger “I am trusting you with the life of my child – care for him/her like I wish I could”.  Every circumstance is different.  Standing in that hospital room on that day I experienced so many emotions.  The joy of handing a baby to new parents who only dreamed of this moment every single day.  The sorrow of sitting with my arms wrapped around a woman who loved a baby so much she knew it needed to be with them.  A desire to “fix” her but recognizing the only thing you can do is be present.

That is the world of working with birth mothers who place for adoption.  It is a world of beauty.  A world of chaos.  Heartbreak. Pain. Joy. Love. A time when every emotion a person can experience collides.  Those are the moments you understand love in a whole new dimension.

Like floating confetti

The beautiful gets messy

When the fall out finds the floor

But in the depths of the trenches

Is the richest of riches

Love is calling us to more

-TobyMac

The beautiful gets messy but it’s in those depths you find beauty.  A connection to a woman you would never have met otherwise.  The little piece of your heart that will always be left with that person.  That – that is the life of an adoption social work.

 

 

Weeklong Wanderer Panama Edition: When God Uses Missions to Speak to You

Sometimes God gives you glimpses into the future. Several years ago when I was not truly following Jesus, He spoke to my heart.  The words He spoke into my heart was a vision that I would be a director, a wife, and a mother.  I knew I wanted to be a director and was pursuing my Master’s so I could do it one day.

However, I wanted to be a mother but not necessarily a wife.  I questioned the idea of being married because at that time of my life I was a pretty strong feminist and not really a fan of men in general (God definitely changed me in that area within the last couple of years).  I also grew up in a world where women either worked or stayed at home – definitely not both.  I did not think being a director and a wife would balance well.  Within the last year, God has put desires on my heart of what I will be a director of and shown me that I will be a founder of a non-profit as well.  He has also put a desire on my heart for marriage that was not there for a long time in my life.

Recently, I found that some men were intimidated by my vision for my life.  Before I went to Panama, one man started to talk to me and asked what I did.  When I explained what I did, he almost immediately became intimidated by me.  He began to put himself down and talked about how he could never do what I do.  This is definitely not the first time that has occurred.  That is very disheartening because that is not really the reaction you want from anyone, much less guys, when you talk about what you do.  That doesn’t bode well for finding Godly men who believe in themselves and have visions and dreams as well.

However, this week I watched a woman who had a vision to help the girls of Panama orchestrate her vision.  She had a call to obedience.  The crazy thing is that she followed 20376183_1723234657727216_1131820535296319418_nthat call and there was a man who came alongside her with the same vision.  I spent the week watching a fairly young couple with their two children minister to THOUSANDS of teenagers around Panama City.  Not to mention – doing it while orchestrating 300 volunteers from the United States!

I could tell you tons of stories of the awesome things that happened.  I could tell you how my client who has been through hell and back asked for a rock from Panama City.  Tell you how every girl at #Ilumina17 got a rock with Revelations 2:17 written on it.  I could tell you about how I was able to get one of those rocks and bring it back to my client as proof of God’s never-ending love.

There were so many beautiful and special teenage girls in Panama that I met.  I could tell you about our bumbling conversations alternating between Spanish and English.  There20525992_10155515193958187_5794272464507017873_n was the time I Salsa danced with a group of teenage girls under a tin roof in the pouring rain (Who knew all of that Salsa dancing I’ve done recently would be for a reason?).  The time we had a Holy Spirit moment at the school where Ilumina started where I got to pray with countless girls who are so PRECIOUS to God.

The memories that stuck to me though are the people from the states that I met.  Sometimes it seems like short-term missions changes us more than it changes those whose lives we have the privilege of touching for just a week.  Our church team of 29 was assigned to be ministry partners with a group of 11 from Valley Forge University in Pennsylvania.

Those young adults were on FIRE for Jesus.  I watched us come together as a group and form incredible bonds.  Every day we prayed on the bus, broke out into worship, and were known for our joyful attitudes despite some mishaps throughout the trip.  Everyone knew when Team Mango came into the room!20430041_10210814287527362_4750048930026760263_nOur final night in Panama we had a Holy Spirit miracle rally that carried all the way through the bus into the lobby of the hotel.  Everyone was praying over each other, laying on hands, and breaking chains.  One woman from Valley Forge prayed over me 20429761_10156483415188696_7895635212702575807_nthat I would be the one to bring up a new generations of girls in my church to understand their calling and identity in Christ.  This was a woman who did not even know that my life motto is to inspire girls and women to find their calling and identity in Christ!  Those are the memories I will carry.  The group who came alongside us, the people in our group, and the bonds Jesus formed.

I will remember the girls from the United States that I got to share my heart with.  The ones whose lives I got to pour into like people did when I was their age.  The way Jesus brought two women together on a bus from two totally different states.  God knew there needed to be ministering there – two USA women who met in a foreign country!  The way Jesus knew two women were going through similar situations and brought them together in Panama instead of their church!  God knew we needed each other and knew an immediate friendship would form on this trip!

Most of all I will remember the woman, Tara, who described herself as a creative perfectionist and I knew I could relate to her in that instance.  The woman who carried out the vision God had for her, who followed in obedience, no matter what the cost and with total FAITH and SURRENDER.  I will remember the man, Gerritt, who I watched OPENLY and UNASHAMEDLY weep for the girls of Panama.  The man who supported his wife’s dreams and protected her.  A man who literally falls on his knees with his desire to be used by God to help young women know they are LOVED and have a Heavenly Father.

It was a beautiful thing to watch a couple and their children WHOLEHEARTEDLY surrender to God and work together to reach thousands for Jesus.  They were a true example of Christ and what a marriage fully surrendered to God can be.  We all came on this trip to lift their arms and uplift their spirits as they accomplished amazing things for Christ.  The reality is we were all touched by a wonderful couple who uplifted us and showed us the amazing things Christ does.