Catching My Breath

Happy 2015!

I think this last week has been one of the most chaotic in a long time. I just arrived back in the country from a wonderful two-week trip spent in Ireland and the UK, only to return to my internship as a counselor a matter of hours later. (Score one for my pure stubbornness in wanting to have as much time abroad as possible. Fortunately I was so happy to be reunited with my clients that I didn’t notice the jet lag until that night…) As I sit here writing this post in-between jotting all of my assignment due dates for my final semester of grad school (?!) and typing a draft of my final research proposal for graduation, it is suddenly hitting me just how much has happened this past year.

I am still working on the long post that I briefly mentioned in my last entry. The words aren’t coming to me like I had hoped, but to be continued!

But because it is a new year, I wanted to make just a few brief lists for 2015 goal setting. Definitely encourage anyone else to make their own!

MY WORD FOR THIS YEAR:

Last month I was challenged to pray about a word that God really wanted me to focus on. Before I even finished, the word integrity came to mind, plain as day. Integrity, for me, is needing to…

  • Stop trying to cut so many corners. This is something I am especially bad about in my schoolwork. Sometimes I get so involved and focused on my internship (which I love) and actually serving in the field, that I begin to resent my graded papers and assignments, and just do the bare minimum. I need to remember that I am in school to learn- I want to appreciate what time I still have left and commit more to the entire process.
  • Be more intentional. This is a really broad goal, but specifically, I need to be more intentional about studying the Bible and engaging in conversations about it. Although I don’t want reading the Bible to become a chore, and merely check it off each day, I tend to get lazy and make excuses if I go several days on end without picking it up. I need to be more intentional about setting aside specific time and generally use the “whenever I get around to it” statement less.
  • Be more direct with people. Working as an addictions counselor has definitely toughened me up, but my tendency in day-to-day life is to want to bend over backwards to make other people happy. I need to be upfront and honest more often if I am frustrated with a situation rather than just doing nothing about it whatsoever. Raised voices tend to set me on edge, which is why I need to practice and remember that caring confrontation does not actually have to involve yelling.

Gratitude List

Even though people tend to do this during Thanksgiving, a project I want to pursue is to actively keep a gratitude list. The quickest way to kill contempt is to tell God, or another person, things that you are grateful for. For me, this most often happens when I am driving. (I don’t know if it is because I suddenly have the angry desire to issue driving tickets via hand signals that are supposed to express “What are you DOING?!?!” in the car, and therefore actually think about being grateful more often, but this is usually what happens.) The other day in my head I just started telling God how grateful I was for heat. That gas is a whopping $1.99 all of a sudden. That I have a car. And suddenly my road rage was lessened a bit.

Highlights and Lowlights

This year was a great one. By God’s grace, I published a book (see tab at top of website), joined a church plant team in Ireland for three months (and met an Irish fellow I am quite fond of while I was there…), finished my first year of graduate school, and heard some really amazing teachings and sermons that made my desire to follow Jesus multiply. I am going to be the Maid of Honor in the wedding of one of my best friends, got to see two friends get baptized, celebrated a new birth into one of my favorite families, and traveled solo across Europe for a few weeks.

It was challenging at the same time. It was difficult not having access to income anymore, and I felt guilty spending any just about any money that wasn’t a necessity as it was all coming out of my savings. Although I have some amazing relationships in Charlotte, I also spent a bit of lonely time missing friends in other cities. My sense of time management became stretched thin as I began taking night classes and electives in order to graduate on time and complete my internship. This unfortunately meant that I could no longer attend a weekly Bible Study or a leadership training I was nominated for. This has actually been one of the hardest things to deal with in recent months.

Goals for This Year

  • In some ways, not knowing where I will be living or working in five months, after graduation, has caused me anxiety. In other ways, it has led me to appreciate more of what God wants me to learn and do here in the present day. One goal of mine is to focus more on giving up control to Him whenever I am feeling overwhelmed. Personally, I think the whole “God won’t give you more than you can take” notion is mostly false- I think He gives us a great deal more than we can take sometimes so that at the end, there is no question of who should take the credit for it.
  • I have already talked about the necessity of spending more time reading my Bible, but as soon as I have a spare evening again, I am very much looking forward to joining a small group again for Bible study. I am very much missing the provided accountability and friendship!
  • Continue to invest time and love into the Urban Eagles. Last month, due to my course schedule, I had to stop volunteering in Grier Heights. This was hard for me to accept (I think I was in denial for a bit that a new elective option would be added to a morning), but am so thankful to continue to commit to the Forest Hills neighborhood. These young girls give me some of the most joy all week, and the leaders are all now some of my very best friends!
  • Create boundaries. This is one I will not expand on here, but is certainly a continuous goal, especially for a social worker.
  • Above all, develop more of a passion to know Christ more so that I may be able to know and love others more.

Any prayers for me as I continue writing, studying, learning, and working are much appreciated!

Blessings. xx

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#52 Days: Explanation and Reflection

So for my social media friends who have been looking at my “52 days” hashtags and have been confused as to what in the world I am talking about, but haven’t wanted to ask, here you go! I am explaining it for you. (You’re welcome).

At church, there was a sermon that was turned into a two week series called 52 Days of Thanks and Praise. Our church attendees were challenged to post pictures, tell other people, and so forth of things we are grateful for with the hashtag “52 days”. There were 52 days until the end of the year when the message was preached, and in Nehemiah 6:15, it took just 52 days to finish a task that had been incomplete for years. Basically, it is a way to finish out the year by being especially focused on giving God praise for all of the blessings that He has given.

A really good point was brought up in this message; a point that has been brought up often before, and to be honest, I have probably needed to hear it every time. “You don’t have to feel it to do it.”

You don’t have to wake up super pumped up to get out of bed and go to work in order to know that you need to do it.

You don’t have to feel like you have little stress weighing down on you to be grateful.

You don’t have to have just received good news in order to be thankful.

You don’t have to be pleased with another person’s actions to show them love.

You don’t have to see God’s plan unfolded before your eyes to praise Him for the works He has done in you.

I would describe myself as a very creative and emotional person, so while I don’t necessarily show it all the time, I can be a bit of an “emotional thinker”. This usually means that on any given day I typically will feel both happy to the point of bursting, and also may take criticism or negative situations very personally. I think I also tend to be better at giving others grace than giving it to myself. This means that sometimes while I am not actually upset or angry with God, so to speak, I am so distracted by thinking about things I can/could do to improve or make things better that I begin to focus more on the progress than the praise.

I think progress is really important, and love the feeling that I am growing in my trust and confidence in God. There are moments though when I get the impression that He is gently trying to tell me “Hey. Slow down, relax. I’ve got this covered. You just sit back and watch it happen, and offer praise and gratitude.”

This series came at such a good time. Thanksgiving is coming up, but typically this holiday is centered on being thankful for the big things: family, friends, health, shelter, food… All wonderful things to be thankful for. But what this series has challenged me to do, even though I am not very good at remembering to take pictures (nor do I have the space on my phone due to the fact that I am a bit obsessed with music), is to focus on small things that can often go unnoticed.

I am grateful that my shower can get really hot.

I am grateful that no one can hear me when I sing in the shower, for that matter.

I am grateful that I have people in my life that I love enough to think about their circumstances throughout the day.

I am grateful that my car is always, without fail (…knock on wood…) able to get me from Point A to Point B.

And so on, and so forth. It has been so, so helpful for me to see people on Instagram and Facebook who have shared their own images of gratitude and thanksgiving during this time when so many are stressed and anxious. I have loved seeing statuses filled with praise, pictures of loved ones and beautiful views and sunsets, and gratitude for whatever God has provided them with.

I am grateful for the testimonies of others (you can read mine here) that have inspired me to share mine more openly and without fear. But most of all I am grateful that, as one of my all time favorite song verses goes, I can have no guilt in life or fear of death.