Being Heard

This week I have talked with (trying really hard not to just talk to) children, youth, and adults.  I have communicated via Facebook messages, e-mails, phone calls, texts, and face to face interactions.  Communication is constant, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed at all the messages that are coming at me all at once.  I have learned that not every forward e-mail or blog post sent to my inbox has to be read immediately, if ever.  I recognize that not every text can receive an immediate response, and voice mail exists so that people can actually leave a message.

I want to do more than communicate.  I want to feel heard.  I do not seek to be completely understood as much as I long to be heard.  And I have a vision of creating spaces where others can be heard as well.  

The (in)courage community has been a blessing to me.  Previously, I have been a part of a community group where I was (in)couraged in my new marriage and became a part of a virtual sisterhood.  And now I have the awesome privilege of co-leading an (in)courage community group called (in)teracting About Global Care (missions focused).  All kinds of groups exist for women to connect over shared seasons in life and similar experiences.  Consider checking out the (in)courage community groups and discovering ways that you can be heard and hear others. 

Next week, no one (except Adam) will be hearing much from me.  I’ll be in Disney World with Adam on vacation, and I am unplugging from e-mail, blogs, Facebook, and as much as possible from my phone.  I hope the magical world of Disney and the time away from my responsibilities will allow me to return home recharged.  I want to come home and be ready to hear others as they share about the joys and trials in their lives.  And I hope that I return home with more courage to be able to share my story with others.  God’s redeeming work is still happening in my life, and I hope to keep sharing bits and pieces of my story with others.

If you long to be heard, my prayer is that you will have the courage to seek out places of community and that others will be ready to respond to your genuine, heart-felt need.

“Praise be to the Lord, he has heard my cry for mercy.”  Psalm 28:6

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Now What?!?

Now what am I supposed to do?  I have completed my Masters of Divinity, been hooded, and enjoyed times of celebration with family and friends.  I feel a sense of accomplishment and longing all at the same time.  Hours upon hours during the past four years of my life have been spent reading, writing, and writing about what I read.  My beliefs have been challenged and reinforced, at the same time actually.

I am not sure what all I am supposed to do, and some might say that I should actually consider doing less.  However, I do know that I am supposed to be doing a few things.  Actually, I feel compelled to do these things.

1. Maintain my relationships with friends from divinity school.  Yes, we all have busy schedules, but community is what helped form us into ministers and community is what will sustain us as ministers.  Who else, besides your classmates, knows the essence of your call to ministry and can commiserate/celebrate with you over ice cream?  I will be intentional about staying in community with friends from divinity school and others who are ministers.  We need each other!

2. My husband and I have a passion to live overseas and share God’s love with others.  However, I have recently felt challenged to not wait the 12+ years of finishing education and paying off student loans before we start serving God by serving others.  How can we use what we have and who we are for Christ right now and right here where we are?  I look forward to seeing how God answers this question in ways that are beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine. (Ephes. 3:20)

3. My personal devotional time needs to remain a priority.  For about six weeks of this past semester, I was diligent about guarding my time with God, and then life happened.  Today I started a new Bible study about having faith in the midst of all the questions, and I look forward to continuing this journey.  Please pray that I will stay committed to spending time with God daily.  Nothing else will have meaning if I stay unplugged from the source of life.

4. Do the things that make me happy.  Now this does not give me an excuse to be lazy or neglect my responsibilities.  However, by following my passions, I am more energized for the tasks at hand.  Zumba classes, reading for fun, blogging, and relaxing are all ways that my batteries get recharged.  I know that I have to take care of myself.  Otherwise ministry will deplete me completely.

I am not sure where I will journey, but I am thankful that God will continue to journey with me, both now and forever! (Ps. 121:8)

Happy (not so happy) Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to my momma, Joy Turner.  She is a great momma, friend, and role model.  I am inspired by how much she cares about her family, her friends, the children in her class, and even strangers.  Her compassion toward others has helped me become the woman I am today.  I love you Momma!

Happy Mother’s Day to my mother-in-love, Patricia Beard.  She is a great mom to Adam, and she cares about me so much.  I am so thankful for our relationship, and I appreciate all the ways that she is there for Adam and I.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women in my life who have “mothered” me, especially the ones who have always been there and/or meant a lot to me during college.  You are wonderful Christian women who I admire, appreciate, and love.  My life is enriched because of your influence, and I hope to pay that forward to others.

Happy Mother’s Day to my friends who have children, especially the ones who share those children with me.  I am learning from you  how to me a mom some day, and I am thankful for your willingness to let me ask questions and observe.  I am proud of you and how you work hard every day as a mom.

I recognize that Mother’s Day is not happy for every one.

Happy (not so happy) Mother’s Day to those who do not have children.  Thank you for the ways that you mother those around you.  God has created you with unique ways to serve others, and I appreciate your gifts, whether they be hospitality, writing, preaching, teaching, dancing, coaching, loving, or anything else.

Happy (not so happy) Mother’s Day to my friends (and even those I don’t know) who are struggling more and more as Sunday approaches.  Perhaps you and your husband are struggling with infertility.  I am sorry that Mother’s Day is a painful reminder for you.  If you have a lost a child, I cannot even imagine the grief that you are feeling.  I am sorry that Mother’s Day reminds you of the loss your precious child(ren), and I hope that you know that you will always be a mom.  Also, I recognize that miscarriage is a loss, and I pray that you know that your child matters to God.  And if you have miscarried a child, I pray you know that God sees and acknowledges your loss.  Both you and your child are loved by your Creator, even in the midst of all the pain and grief.

Happy (not so happy) Mother’s Day to friends whose mothers have died.  I cannot know the way that you feel, and I pray that God comforts your heart in real and powerful ways.  May the remembrance of your mom remind you of how you can be a “mother” to others.  

Also, Happy (not so happy) Mother’s Days to those who are estranged from their mothers, whose mothers were abusive or really distant, or who never knew their mothers.  As Sunday approaches, if your heart is heavy as you think about your relationship (or lack of one) with your mom, my prayer is that you will share your pain with God and/or with a friend who cares about you.  

I recognize that the Hallmark holiday of Mother’s Day is dreaded by many.  I understand if going to church is too difficult for you on Sunday or if you chose to stay off Facebook on Sunday as not to see all the Mother’s Day posts.  I hope you know that only you know what is best to bring about healing in your life.  If some one has never given you permission to grieve your loss, I am sorry.  I wish that I could be beside you and let you cry on my shoulder for as long as you needed.  Your tears are precious to God, and your grief is validated.

On the other hand, I recognize that Mother’s Day is day that many celebrate with family.  I pray that you treasure those around you with a new appreciation of the joys God has brought into your life.  And if you live a good distance from family, I pray that you will be able to connect via a phone call or Skype.

If my blog meant something to you, I give all glory to God!  He alone placed this blog on my heart.  I have seen similar blog posts and Facebook posts this week, and I wanted to create something unique for my friends and family. *hugs to you all*

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  Romans 12:15

The Little Joys

The past semester has been full of stress, and I have forgotten to thank God for the the little things.  During the past week, I have been amazed at the little things that bring so much joy to my life.  Reading to children, warm sunshine, compliments from friends, and reading for fun are all things that remind me of the goodness of God.  Some moments in life are difficult, and when those times come again, I hope I, like Ann Voskamp, will continue to count my blessings.

Children bring so much joy to my life.  I love their innocence, honesty, and concern for others.  Yes, they have moments of selfishness and temper tantrums, and yet, they are growing into who God has uniquely created them to be.  They run with all their energy, and at the end of the day, I recharge so I can keep up with them the next day.  Preschoolers especially grow so quickly.  They grow taller and learn so much in such a short amount of time.  I am blessed to be a very smart part of children’s lives, and I thank God for this opportunity.

Recognizing the little joys in life awaken you again to the passions that God has placed within you.  After some rest, I am aware of the big joy that I receive from writing.  I am passionate about writing, and I pray that God will use my writing to bring a little joy into the lives of others.

“You show me the path of life.  In Your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Psalm 16:11

Graduate School Reflections: Part 1

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Yesterday was my final day of graduate school, and I am thankful for the opportunities that were given to me at Campbell University Divinity School.  I am so glad to be done with papers, mandatory reading, and exams.  But I am going to really miss my friends, the community, and the constant mentorship and support provided by the faculty and staff.

I am thankful that no assignments are between me and graduation.  I tear up when I think about all the things that could have hindered me from completing my degree, and I cry tears of joy that God was faithful and helped me to persevere.  And I might be tearing up for quite a while as I continue to process my journey, and I am going to give myself the space and permission to decompress.  The past four years have been intense.

I reflect on the fact that I have been a part of four churches, lived in five places, driven two cars, and had one wedding in the past four years.  Moving in the middle of three semesters was not the ideal situation, but God continued to help me complete all of my assignments…most of the them on time.

I do not expect everyone to understand my journey.  However, I hope that my reflections in the upcoming days will allow you the opportunity to reflect upon your own journey.  What seasons of your life have been most meaningful?  What places do you miss?  Who helped you get to where you are today?  How can you help others on their journey?