A Year Ago Today

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A picture taken at my old school’s sexual assault awareness clothesline project last year- a week before I, myself, was assaulted.

If you could’ve seen me a year ago today, you probably wouldn’t have recognized me. I didn’t put effort into what clothes I put on, I walked with my head down and though I spent most hours of the day holding in deep sobs, I would often break down into tears in public. My social life was shot. I couldn’t think straight and was forgetting to eat meals throughout the day. My eyes were swollen and red with bags underneath them. I looked exactly like what I was going through.

What was I going through, you ask? Well, I had just been sexually assaulted and terrorized by a man I was in a relationship with for almost two years.

I had never felt so detached and numb to life while still feeling so much pain at the same time. It was impossible to hold a thought. I was fighting panic attacks throughout the day, just trying my hardest to get through the last weeks of classes. At the rate I was going, I didn’t think i’d ever see my way through. By God’s grace, I finished the semester with As and Bs. I decided to leave the school and transfer somewhere closer to home, where I hoped to have peace. Just didn’t make sense to stay and be reminded everyday of what happened.

It is such an uncomfortable feeling to go from a situation thats made you feel disgusting and exposed, to being placed into a brand new environment with brand new people. All I wanted was to be back with my friends and the people I came to know as family. But who knows if I would’ve ever gotten peace staying there. I really had no choice but to be in this unfamiliar place and try my best to make it feel like home.

During this year my faith has been tested probably more than ever before. I didn’t blame God for what happened to me, but I blamed him for not intervening. I’ve always known Him as having power over all things, so I couldn’t understand how His power couldn’t be used to stop what happened. While its still a concept I don’t fully understand, what I know is that I’ve been through similarly painful things before and He saw me through each one of them. Deep down I knew that He would see me through this too, but I could still feel myself growing distant from my relationship with Him. It was like being disappointed in a loved one- of course you still love that person but you usually need some time to work through what bothered you before you can genuinely show that love again.

My disappointment phase lasted about 10 months. I didn’t want to talk about God, I didn’t want to go to church, I felt uncomfortable in church settings, like bible studies. But I still went. I knew the way I was feeling was only temporary. I just needed to fight through it. Only recently have I been feeling a change occur. The walls of fear, pride and mistrust that I’ve built this whole year are finally crumbling down, and I can literally feel the freeness and peace within me. My mindset of “Why has this happened?” is turning into “Okay, this happened. What can I do with my experience now?” I’m focusing on the future and how I can use my hard times to uplift others and give them hope for a better, less crazed future.

I know good and well that there’s more healing to come and that these things don’t just go away. I still have nightmares some nights and I still cry until I have a headache and swollen eyes from time to time, but there’s such a peace just knowing I’m not alone in it.

He Sees Beyond the Fig Leaves

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We’ve all been there. Everything was going so well. Hand and hand with God, talking to Him in prayer, fellowshipping with Him, including Him in those daily life decisions, praising Him, leading by His example with our actions. Those are the best, most peaceful parts of our lives. But all of a sudden, when we aren’t paying much attention, we stray away. We get distracted. Various situations aid in taking our eyes away from Him. These situations cause us to let go of His ever-present hand in order to hold onto something else. Its a downward spiral that usually starts with subtle negligence and ends in a fleeting faith, and a guilty “how did I get here?” The results? We end up feeling lost and distanced from God and that peaceful place we used to rest so comfortably seems far out of our reach. Truth is, that place isn’t far at all. He’s never left.

I need you to know that no matter where letting go of His hand has left you, God loves you regardless. There is absolutely nothing you can do to receive less grace and love from Him. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. That build up of guilt and shame are exactly what the enemy wants us to be knee-deep in, but its all a deceptive bunch of empty lies. Let me tell you a little secret: God knows everything about us. He knows our passions, our deepest desires, our faults, and certainly our next move. Do you know what that means? He already knew you would stray away, and what distraction would enable that. He knows when you’ll come back to Him and which circumstance it will be under. I say that to remind you, and encourage you not to try to hide behind those fig leaves. He already sees what they’re covering- and He loves you nonetheless. So put all of those condemning voices in your head, the guilt, the shame, the doubts and feelings of inadequacy away because He’s still here, waiting. Waiting for your confessed sin, whether it be through pain-filled tears or prayer. That’s what tells Him we’re ready to grab ahold of His hand again. It shows Him we are ready to replace ourselves on the throne of our lives with Him, and find our way back to peace. Talk to Him.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Paul Perspective

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This post is apart of the blog series  21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Twenty: Having more of a Paul perspective

The theme of my last mission trip was “press on”, inspired by Paul’s insight in Philippians. Throughout the mission trip we studied Philippians 1-4 together in small bible study groups. I remember being in awe of the way Paul viewed his personal struggles. Despite his terrible setting of prison, he chose to stay joyful instead of displaying negative emotions. He understood God’s purpose for him, so he was able to compare his situation to the bigger, more important picture. He understood what the end goals were and that every situation is gain for the kingdom. Through it all he openly expressed his love for Christ and Christ’s people. How many of us rejoice and express love to others when we’re going through a rough time? I certainly don’t. It’s a hard thing to do.

During the San Diego mission trip I discovered that want to be more like Paul. I want to learn to embrace my struggles and take them as an opportunity to share the gospel. I want to learn how to be content in those struggles. I want to be confident that my trials are advancing the kingdom like Paul was in 1:12, and I want to know deep down that everything happening will deliver me into who God created me to be, the same way Paul did in 1:19. I want to one day be able to automatically see things the way that Paul did, and hopefully my struggles will attract people to God the same exact way Paul’s witnesses did jail 1:14.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Thankfulness 

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This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Seventeen: Being more thankful to the Lord.

Today I taught my kids about the story of the healed leper in the bible. In the book I read them called The Thankful Leper, there were 10 men with Leprosy- a skin disease that makes you break out in sores. The men would cover up their diseased skin with cloth and they’d have to yell “unclean!” each time someone passed in fear of getting others sick. Well, one day Jesus healed all 10 of them because, you know that’s what He did, but surprisingly only one of the men thanked Jesus for His miracle. It’s easy to read about that story in present times and judge how ungrateful those other 9 men were, but when I look at my own life, I can shamefully say that I have done the same.

I noticed that I thank God when something big (in my eyes) happens, like an obvious answered prayer, or an unexpected blessing. But I don’t thank Him for the everyday things I take for granted. The things like waking up in the morning, the opportunity to be teaching the precious little ones about Him, and the relationships I’m building everyday. It’s not that I’m not thankful or grateful, I just forget to mention them in prayer sometimes. Reading that story to my little ones today reminded me how much God should be glorified for the blessings He’s placed into our lives. That includes the everyday things we may not think too much about. This year I came up with an idea where each night I would write out a list of things I’m thankful for, no matter how big or small. I found that it helps me see positives in each day that I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise. I’m so grateful for Gods subtle reminders of what’s important to Him.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Spiritual Gifts

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This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Fourteen: spiritual gifts can reveal undiscovered passions

I remember the first time I found out that God gives all of his children spiritual gifts. I was so interested to know which ones He gave to me specifically. After some research I learned that the reason we have spiritual gifts is to minister to one  another. Not everyone had the same gifts, so we’re supposed to use our personal gifts to help those that aren’t gifted in those same areas (1 Peter 4:10). Gifts are given for us to carry out the work of Jesus in the world. 1 Corinthians 12: 27-31 talks about the various spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, mercy, faith, wisdom, and teaching.

When I dug a little deeper on my research, I found that my gifts were of  mercy, wisdom, and faith. Each description for those gifts explained me completely. The gift of mercy is all about the sharp, sensitive awareness of another person’s needs. Merciful people sense other people’s pain and share it with them. The gift of wisdom involves using experience and God’s Word to give advice/feedback. A person with the gift of faith exhibits a simple confidence in God and it shows in everything they say and do. That’s me in a nutshell.

Since I’ve learned some of the gifts God has woven into my being, certain ministries have become really appealing. I love being in a position to take care of and love people while sharing their pain and experiences. I love sharing my wisdom and expressing the faith I have in God for all to see. My passion for mission trips makes sense when you think about my gifted areas. I get to love on/hang out with all kinds of people while sharing things like a culture and faith stories. As Christians spiritual gifts are such a huge part of our lives. It explains so much about our characters and uniqueness. If you don’t know which gifts God has blessed you with, I encourage you to find them out. This year, while I was doing all of my research, I came across some ways to help learn which spiritual gifts a person possesses. Here is a summed up list of what I found.

1. Learn about the spiritual gifts. Study scriptural passages about them and gain a good understanding of them.

2. Pray for guidance. Whether you think you have an idea of your gifts or not, pray about them. God will reveal them to you with time.

3. Make a commitment to God. He often shows us our gifts through opportunities to act them out. Trust in Him and do whatever He asks if you.

4. Examine yourself. Look at how God has already been at work in your life. Review past accomplishments and present interests. What are you good at? What do you love doing?

5. Seek confirmation. Do other people recognize the same gifts in you?

6. Try out the gifts you think you may have. Volunteer in ways that you can use your gift.

7. Look for results. Effective? Use this gift in ministry, take training opportunities, expand your knowledge, read books and speak with other Christians that have the same gift. Ineffective? Look to try out new gifts.

8. Continually pray for guidance and strength in the use of your gift(s) and ask God to open your eyes to the needs of others that your gift may address.

Once you find your gifts, you’ll know in your heart. Never stop using them, and helping others discover theirs too.

21 Lessons in 21 Days: Getting Plugged into a Solid Christian Community

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This post is apart of the blog series 21 Lessons in 21 Days

Lesson Four: Getting plugged into a solid Christian community is extremely beneficial

One of the very first things I prayed for the moment I accepted Christ into my life was for a community of God’s people that I could grow and learn with. The very next day I was invited to a new church by a friend of mine. Little did I know how much that invitation would soon change my life. There a few things that drew me to this particular community of believers. The first is the way they welcomed me with open arms. Have you ever been the only new person in a particular place where everyone just stares at you and makes you feel completely out of place? Yeah, me too. After two years of looking for a church, thats the kind of awkwardness I was used to. This community was the total opposite. Instead of making me feel even more uncomfortable than I already was, people came up to me and were really interested in knowing who I was and what kind of background I was coming from. From the very first day there was a strong sense of belonging.

The second thing that drew me to this community was the value they placed on fellowship and relationships. There were so many events going on the summer I joined them. They would have church BBQs, women’s swimming nights, and even a baptism event. It was not uncommon to be invited to someone’s house for lunch or dinner just because they wanted to hang out and get to know me better (and it certainly was not uncommon for this hungry college student to agree!). They even threw me a birthday party once they heard I didn’t have anything planned for it! Hope Community Church became my home away from home. They truly made me feel like family.

Through reflections I’ve realized how impactful this community has been on my life this year. They openly loved and accepted me from the moment I walked through their doors. They kept me focused on God’s word and the purpose of this journey we call life. They showed me examples of what the body of Christ should look like, each part of the body holding one another up. They encourage each other and become strong where others may be weak. I learned that there is power in being vulnerable, and that healing usually follows. I’ve been taught the importance of healthy relationships and the accountability that comes with those relationships. It was within this community that I was motivated to get involved in some ministry opportunities, such as teaching children’s church, and going on my first mission trip.There is so much you can learn from being in a healthy, solid Christian community. The right community will help you evolve more and more into the person God has created you to be.

Godships

16 staff members. 23 students. 6 students per hotel room.

Those are the attendance facts we were given before arriving. I didn’t know one single person that I was going to be spending the next ten days with, and I definitely didn’t know who I would be rooming with. It turns out that out of the 22 other students on the trip, three of them arrived to the San Diego Airport at around the same time I did, which meant that we would be riding to the hotel together. Those three students I met upon arrival turned out to be 3/5  of my roommates!  I should’ve known, back then, that we were placed together for a reason. We we’re inseparable from the start.

Now, I don’t know if it was the fact that we shared our testimonies with one another on the first day or the fact that the six of us squeezed into a small hotel room and made it work, but somehow it felt like we’d known each other for a life time by day two. Six girls, all very different, but similar at the same time. We each brought a multitude of experiences with us that helped us relate to one another.

Friendship handcrafted by God = Godship

The thing that is so special about these Godships is that He carefully planned and crafted our relationships before we even knew each other. Probably before we even applied for the mission trip. God is at the core of our relationships, which means that we pray for one another, encourage and support each other, and hold accountability. Over the past ten days we took time to listen to the struggles and victories shared by each person, which gave us some insight on where we could uplift one another.

Not only have these five girls been amazing roommates, they have been my worship and prayer partners, my bible study buddies. Its such a good feeling to know that the ten days we spent together were only the beginning of a long-lasting journey. Im excited to see what God has in store for us in the future!

The Uncertainties of Life

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably had that feeling of being overwhelmed and stuck at some point in your life. Its the kind of feeling that makes your thoughts race through your mind faster than you can process them. The kind that makes you feel unsure of which direction to go in. Well, that’s how I’ve been feeling lately. Days like today leave me with important decisions to make. I know what my destination is, and I know where I am right now. It’s the in between that leaves me feeling confused. There are so many options of which way to go, but each one of those options has a variety of negatives and positives. Some of those negative and positives weigh heavier than others, and that’s what makes it so difficult. Today my daily devotion delivered a very timely message. It spoke about the uncertainties of life, and how we can best deal with them.

The devotion of the day was based on 2 Chronicles 20:1-13

In these verses, King Jehoshaphat was told that a large army was coming  against him from  the land of Edom. At this point, Jehoshaphat was pretty alarmed and scared. But you know what he did? He turned to God. He ordered a fast for everyone in Judah and together they seeked help from the Lord. Now, let me stop the story for a second. How many of us can honestly say that our first reaction to a scary/confusing time is to call on the Lord? I’ll be the first to admit that that is not my usual reaction. I usually let the fear expand first. I overreact and I complain about it to people that really can’t even do anything about it. Where does that get me, you ask? Absolutely no where. It just feeds the fear/uncertainty. Okay, back to the scripture. Jehoshaphat admitted to how he was feeling, and acknowledged God’s power in any situation, including his own. The king’s army began to sing of God’s love, rather than a war cry. Okay, pause the story again. In my mind, when I read that the army sang of God’s love instead of a typical war cry, I wondered what that would look like for me  personally. I think it would mean worshipping God instead of complaining about the situation. That’s how I perceived it. (Play) In the end the Lord set the enemies against one another until they destroyed each other. The Kingdom of Jehoshaphat was eventually at peace because God gave them rest. There was one verse in particular that stood out to me:

2 Chronicles 20:12

12 We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

This verse really implies the importance of relying solely on God in the overwhelming moments life can bring. When we are focused on God through it all, we leave the situation in His hand, which is the best possible place we can leave it.

The devotion ended with this prayer:

Lord, you are not the source of confusion or fear, but of strength and peace. We exchange our panicky plans for Your amazing answers. Encourage us as we wait for you.

Christian R.E.S.T.

Give it a Rest

 

The sermon this morning was about Christian workers, or people God calls to do his work. It was taught by the lead pastor, who explained a few qualities of Christian workers:

1. They respond to Jesus’ call

2. They go in the authority Jesus gives them

3. They teach and meet the needs of people who will listen

He mentioned that being a Christian worker is not always easy because it comes with challenges. As human beings, we are limited with the amounts of money, time and energy we have. We often get distracted, and it can be hard to do Christ’s work with a strong enemy working tirelessly to defeat us. But our God is stronger, and he knows exactly what we need to complete his work. After each season of hard work, rest is necessary. Today we talked about Mark 6:30-44, and what really stood out to me was Mark 6: 30-31.

Mark 6:30-31 (ESV)

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all they had done and taught.

31 And he said to them “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

In these verses we see that the apostles had just come back from doing God’s work, and Jesus was calling them to get rest. How does one effectively get rest, you ask? Our pastor broke it down for us:

Christian R.E.S.T.

1. Renew our minds and spirits

2. Energize our bodies

3. Stabilize our emotions

4. Troubleshoot, reflect and plan for re-entry

We can do these four things by getting more sleep than we usually do, eating healthily, having fun, praying, exercising, and doing some very intentional thinking and planning. From what i’ve seen personally, when God calls us to rest it’s usually because a new task is coming our way. There’s a very specific time in my life that I noticed God’s call for me to rest. At the time I didn’t realize that’s what was going on, but with reflection I’m now able to see it for what it was.

It was July of 2015 that I FINALLY got an acceptance letter into the Nursing program at school. I had spent two whole years trying to get into this competitive program. Most people would’ve given up after the first year, but I was really determined to get in. Once I did, I was more happy than words can describe. I soon found out, though, that my time in the Nursing program wouldn’t go too well. I was really excelling in the hands on aspect of my classes- the lab, where we practiced the things we were learning in lecture, and the on-site clinical in a nursing home. For some reason I wasn’t doing well in the lecture portion of the classes. I would go into each test confidently, just knowing I was going to do well.. and each time I would feel so defeated after hearing my grade. Those tests were worth so much of my overall grade that I eventually had to withdraw from the program to avoid getting a big fat F.

It probably sounds awful to you, and at the time I was distraught but looking back, I’m glad I withdrew. While I was in the program, I was absolutely miserable. I went some days without sleeping because of how much material I needed to study. I cried more than I ate. I felt like a zombie every single day. A lot of people would tell me that I seemed like a completely different person, and not in a good way, either. I always think about how much that program was changing my whole life, including my personality and it just makes me shake my head. I was having health problems and getting constant headaches. The whole nine.

It took about two weeks for me to figure out which direction I would go in next. I withdrew in the middle of the semester, so because I was mostly taking Nursing classes, I was left with only one class. I went from being 2000% overwhelmed to feeling like I had nothing to do. I eventually took that time to get back on track with God. This was my resting season, for sure. With all of that time to reflect I noticed how much I had pushed my relationship with God to the back burner (more like off of the whole stove). I let all of the Nursing craziness take more of my time than I even had to give. I barely even thought about my walk with God. I realized that I made Nursing school an idol, and that that was part of the reason I was so upset about having to withdraw from the program.

My R.E.S.T.ing period was so so necessary. It was my time to relax, reflect and renew my mind. It was within this resting period that God planted a strong desire in my heart to go on the Nicaragua mission trip, and soon after I had a new desire to teach children’s church. If I was still in the Nursing program, neither one of those things would have happened and they both mean so much to me. I am so thankful for that opportunity to R.E.S.T.

Webster Springs Mission Trip: God Moments

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Okay i’ll admit it.. This trip turned out to be SO much better than I originally thought it would be. I am not at all a country kind of girl. I love the city, where there are less bugs and things like cell phone reception. Despite the setting, this mission trip has been filled with so many great moments. Here are some of them:

 

Bonding with my United Campus Ministry group

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This mission trip has given each one of us an opportunity to get to know one another on a more personal level. We were able to help and encourage each other during our hike and our mission work. We got a chance to be vulnerable and share during our daily devotions and we were brought closer than ever before. And can I just tell you guys how funny these four are? They had me laughing so hard that my stomach was hurting!

Soaking up the beautiful nature created by God

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Sitting by the water, for me, almost always results in deep thought. It was really relaxing to be able to hang out and take in the beauty that was all around us in Webster Springs. Those leaves in the background? He knows every single characteristic of each one.. How amazing is that?

Bible Study at a local church

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Before the bible study even started, the pastor’s wife welcomed and prayed for us in front everyone. While she prayed, her voice cracked and tears began to flow as she thanked God for our presence. She and other members of the congregation took turns telling us how grateful they were to have us come into the community to help out. They repeatedly told us that we were the generation of change and good works. They talked about the way media only covers negative incidents and ignores things related to what we were doing in their community. It was so moving.

Meeting my beautiful little sister in Christ

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Okay I think pretty much everyone knows how much I love kids. On this mission trip, there were hardly any kids to hang out with because they were all in school during our work days. In the middle of the week, one of the families from the community came to eat dinner with all of us. I was drawn to one of their kids in particular. In a very sassy voice, she let us know that her name was “Sara WITHOUT THE H.” She was a cute little 11 year old girl that talked a lot about her love for soccer. She reminded me of my little sister Kamara. Anyway, every time I looked to my side, Sara was right next to me. She did not leave my side until her mom told her it was time to go. During our time together she kept telling me how much she wished she could be my sister. It was so sweet. I wish I would’ve thought to explain that we already are sisters in Christ and that’s as good as it can get.

Being pushed out of my comfort zone!

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As I said in the beginning.. Country activities, like hiking and things involving the woods? Kyani doesn’t partake in that kind of stuff. They had me hiking up this huge, steep mountain and I thought I was going to die. I didn’t start off being so willing either. I had a dramatic moment when I refused to go any further and wanted to wait at the bottom while everyone else continued. But I knew I needed to get over it because another huge part of being a missionary is compromise and doing things others enjoy or suggest because it is just as important as the things I like to do.

(Notice, I’m ahead of everyone else with my “get me out of here” face on)