There’s still hope

Up until recent building, our home was near an open field. Critters, including mice, would make their way into our garage. One day, when cleaning out junk, we discovered a nest of six disgusting newborn mice.

They needed to be killed. A fact I understood but, for some reason I stared at them and began to ugly cry. You know the kind when your face scrunches and the others around can’t help but laugh? That is exactly what happened. My husband and soon to be sister- in- law lost it. Their laughing made me laugh but the tears just kept coming.

Something about those helpless and hopeless mice got to me. I think it was knowing that they were born for nothing. So, as morbid and dramatic as it sounds, I used a cardboard to place them on the other side of the fence. I knew my heroic efforts wouldn’t make a difference it but maybe they could have just a little hope at life? Or at the very least, become food to help an owl.

I read a passage today in Ecclesiastes that says, “For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope.”

As long as you are alive my friend, you have hope. Life may feel hopeless and you might feel worthless, but as long as you have life, you have a chance. Learn to laugh at your silly mistakes and learn to change from the big ones. Start over when you fail and try something else if “it” doesn’t work. If someone hasn’t told you today, I believe in you, and you are loved more than you will ever know.

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An open letter to the king of the universe

I walk a tightrope. Caught right in the middle of faith and fear. One misstep might prove that I don’t actually believe. I am ill equipped and untrained for this act.

Generally the ring leader of encouragement, I struggle to find the words to lift my own head. I feel a pressure to be strong when inside I am helpless and weak. 

To some, it seems like a cop out as though I am not trusting God. As if I don’t have enough faith or patience. But I do believe in Him and in His promises. I trust in His word.

I also know that things don’t always work out the way we hope. I also know that sometimes, the answer to prayers is, no. Sometimes, healing doesn’t happen. Sometimes, people are just sick. This is real life. The part that feels like an empty pit. The parts that I so desperately avoid.

As an innate optimist, I find positivity draining from my very soul. I search to refill, and wait for answers but hear only a steady drip into a tin bucket. Emptiness.

I cannot tell if you are telling me, no, or if my deepest fears are screaming loud enough to drown out your voice. I try to quiet my mind but the restless ache in my heart brings unwanted tears.

In the midst of all this, routines must be kept. I cannot stop to feel or cry or break. I have to move forward because I know that one day, you will answer me, and I don’t want to have wasted time wallowing. Help me to find strength in you. Teach me to move forward while somehow remaining vulnerable to your will.

Somehow, Lord, you know the depths of my heart. You, Lord, see my need and know my steps. Your word is a lamp unto my feet.

I will wait for and trust that you have my best in mind. I will trust you because I know that you are unfailing, unwavering and your plan is better than my own. Your ways are higher and if that means the answer is, no, I will accept this path and walk the road less traveled. I praise you and thank you because you are deserving, not because you give me what I want.

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Mistaken Identity

And there they were in all their splendor, with golden hair and sharp teeth. I came far too close to four lions. It didn’t matter that there was a fence separating us because just yards away were magnificent creatures with the power to rip me to smithereens.

I was reminded of a story found in first Samuel. A story right before one of the greatest stories in the Bible of David and Goliath. During his moment of bravery, David reminisces about a time when he killed a bear and separately, a lion. He was a shepherd and it was his duty to protect his sheep.

When one was stolen by the beast, he did what no one in their right mind would. He pulled the lion by its beard, took back the sheep, then struck and killed it.

I find it hard to imagine someone this courageous. Someone willing to risk their life for an animal. But what if it was about more than saving a fluffy sheep? Maybe he was fighting for his identity, which just so happened to be a lowly shepherd at the time. He took pride in his duty and would do whatever it took to protect it.

At the end of the day, our identity is all we have. It is who we are when there isn’t an audience. As I stared at the lions and remembered David, I also remembered who I once was; A girl who believed she could change the world but my identity was no longer one I recognized. The fearless girl who once was so full of life and reckless joy had somehow grown consumed with an image of who I thought I needed to be for everyone else.

My reflection resembled a timid mouse walking on eggshells. Paranoid that if I did or said one wrong thing, I would misrepresent Jesus. But isn’t that just twisted? Jesus offers freedom and we put ourselves chains of religion? What kind of love is that? It isn’t. That my friends represents the image of fear and fear doesn’t come from the Jesus I know.

At the root of who David was lies something, we see throughout scripture. Passion. He fought in epic battles, killed lions and wrote poetry. True identity is the fact of being who you are without apologies. You can be both strong and vulnerable. It is necessary to feel empathy without pity. You can make improvements without degradation. Sure, you may have to face a few lions along the way, too, but isn’t that the point?

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Over 10,000 unread messages were in my email inbox and I am not exaggerating! I don’t know how all of these random messages ended up there. Retail sales, the expensive trip offers, new houses on the market and random fitness tips. I was overwhelmed and honestly annoyed. I tried searching for an email one day but there were so many to scroll through.

I finally decided after weeks of frustration to delete the stinking emails. I was confused as to where they were coming from so I did a little investigating.

Apparently, I gave every single one of these annoyances access to my account. It didn’t matter to them that in 1 year 578 emails were sent to me. I was clueless to the fact that there are settings and I can decide how many notifications I wish to receive. I was ignorant that it was MY responsibility to go in and uncheck the boxes. I was also unaware of one very important option.

Hidden at the very bottom of every email, written in the tiniest of fonts is the option to “UNSUBSCRIBE.” You have to look because it is hidden but it’s there.

All of this crazy reminded me of my brain. Thousands of thoughts wanted and unwanted enter all the time. I just let them stay there until one day, I realize I can’t find what I am looking for. I lose my keys, misplace my wallet, forget appointments and commitments. My mind is overflowing all of the time.

There is only so much space inside of our minds. What are you allowing into yours? It is our responsibility to delete the unwanted thoughts and “unsubscribe” to things that we don’t have room for. Take the time to sift through these thoughts and get rid of the junk mail.

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Stay Focused & Reach For Greatness

For the past year and a half, I have seen my city through a lens I allowed to collect dust. Surely, those people have done this to themselves. Surely, the shootings, killings, and poverty aren’t meant for me to fix. So I turned my face, pointed fingers and turned off the news.

Then it became my job. I started working with hundreds of kids weekly. These are kids who act out in class, fight, steal, lie, cuss, break things, pull fire alarms, start fires, bite, and the appalling list continues. They are the opposite of model behavior and most teachers want them out of their classroom. To be honest, I can’t blame them. They are a nuisance and cause endless distractions.

However, these are also the same children without mom or dad. Their parents lost to drugs, prison or death. These same children are those with empty refrigerators and a mouth full of cavities. They come to school with marks and bruises from secrets they keep. Expected to learn and desperate for attention; willing to do anything to get it.

Simultaneously, a group of mothers meets in support of one another. Only they don’t make crafts or trade recipes. Instead, they share tears. Each one of these mothers has lost a child to violence. To us, it is just another dead gangster, to these women, it is the soul they carried.

When I first came on staff, I cried every day. My tears stopped. It wasn’t that I no longer cared but I wanted to protect myself from feeling broken. Maybe that is the struggle we all face. Not that we don’t care but care too much? Maybe we see the problem and since we don’t have a solution, end up doing nothing at all. Honestly, it is easier to ignore than to face the facts.

In the heart of the Eastside, there is a little hole in the wall establishment called, Stay Focused Ministries. Within this is a mentoring program called, Reach For Greatness. They each have their own goals but meet up to bring hope.

Common things spoken are “You were never meant to be a drug addict.” “You were never made to be a gang member.” “ You were made for greatness.” “We believe in you.” “Never give up.” “Stay Focused and Reach For Greatness.”

I find it fitting as I sit and feel the breeze of a door closing shut. Not as one being slammed but as I enter into a new place and phase in my life.These words ring loud in my heart as I not only hope this for others but for myself. That I am made for greatness, made for more and feel the need to help others do the same.

I will forever be grateful to this place for showing me that people out there are willing to get their hands dirty. That not all people are selfish and best of all, believe in Jesus so much that they are willing to feel pain and heartbreak so others don’t have to.

I never want to stop feeling pain for others. I hope my heart always breaks and never becomes calloused or numb. The only way I can think to live that out is never to stop looking at people in the eye. Never stop asking for their story and never stop believing that everyone is capable of more.

I challenge you to do the same.

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