Sunday, November 3, 2013

Catchin' Up

So I haven't written a blog post in almost a year.  That is somewhat crazy to me because I used to write so often.  When I started this over six years ago, I was moving to a new city, trying to recover from traumatic circumstances, and I needed a place to process and keep family and friends updated since I was so far away.  Life changes though, and I have found other outlets for processing.  I have not yet decided if this will be my last blog post or if I will continue to occasionally post.  I like having the record of life to go back and read, but who knows if this will maintain any sort of priority for me since it clearly hasn't in the last year. :)  But for now, an update!

I have entered into my fifth year of living in Florida.  That is crazy!  I actually really love it here.  I love that I can go outside all year long, Disney is here, the Braves spring training is here...and I have some great friends and family here. :)

Anyway, when I wrote my last post I was graduating from graduate school, and here we are almost a year later.  I think this has been one of the harder years of my life.  Actually, I think this year should just have the title "all the things they don't tell you about how your life will change when you become a counselor".  Because I had to do a year of internship for school where I saw clients, I am actually completing my second year of counseling clients.  There is something different about doing it as your job and not just for school, and while it's been AMAZING and I LOVE it, it's been really tough too.  I am in the process of helping start a counseling center through my church, and it's so very exciting (check out our website at http://renew-church.org/counseling), but it is also challenging and scary as I continuously pray that I will be able to pay my bills each month. :)  So much of what I do has to remain confidential, so what I will share with you this evening is what I have learned about how my life will never be the same.

• "You do WHAT??"  It's actually greatly amusing to me when people ask me what I do for my job.  I love telling them I'm a therapist.  You get some hilarious and classic responses and faces.  There are two typical responses - you can see the fear cross their face and they don't want to talk to you at all for fear you are analyzing their every move OR they want to tell you their whole life story and all the traumas they have endured.  It's always fun!

• "Are you analyzing me?  Do you analyze everyone?"  This is a common question.  After going through intense training in my master's program, of course I can't help but look at people differently.  We are taught to study body language and nuances and you learn to interact with people on a deeper level.  But that does not mean that I am constantly analyzing everyone either.  When I walk into my office, I put a certain hat on.  I don't have that hat on all of the time - it would be completely exhausting!  When I am in social settings, I like to enjoy myself and relax and just be with people.  So could I analyze you?  Sure.  But am I?  Probably not. :)

• Relationships will never be the same.  Now....I am not constantly in therapist mode.  But going into this profession completely changes how you relate to and see other people.  I am constantly working with people on their pain and trying to get them to go deeper and process very personal things.  You can't do that and not deepen yourself or wish for relationships that exist on deeper levels.  Our society is very shallow.  I've never liked shallow relationships or friendships, but now I really don't.  And that makes it interesting at times because while I have changed a lot and gone through lots of training, most people in my life have not.  Learning how to relate in new ways can be challenging!  (**Disclaimer.  Not saying that all my friends and family are shallow.  Just that they haven't walked this same journey.)

• This is a very lonely profession.  I spend my days pouring into other people like I would my closest friends.  But the people I am pouring into are not pouring back into me.  That's not what therapy is all about.  And that's totally fine.  But it takes a lot of emotional energy to sit with people like that and then to have to come home and try to still find energy to connect with people who I really can be friends with in the same way.  I am learning balance and trying to still figure out how to make all of that work. Additionally, to be a great therapist, you have to constantly be processing and evaluating and deepening yourself and dealing with your own crap.  A lot of people don't spend lots of time thinking that way or processing, so they think you're a little crazy sometimes.  Although let's be honest - we're all a little crazy. :)

• I was made for this.  Despite the painful moments and the loneliness and the wondering if I've ruined my life for good by doing this as a profession, I love it.  God has gifted me for this, and I am so honored to sit with people in their most vulnerable moments and walk with them on their journey.  It's a privilege and one I do not take lightly.  Having moments where people "get it" or seeing them find freedom from something that has kept them trapped....it's one of the most amazing things ever.

So....pray for me!  I'm on the front lines with people as they fight for their lives and freedom and healing.  And this is a great time of transition as well.  Nikki is engaged (YAY!!!!), and while we are happily anticipating a wedding in a few months, that means that all of life is also dramatically changing in a very short time.  There are many details to work out, including where I might live, and it's just a lot to decide.  And while I am so excited for her as much of her story is being redeemed, there are also tough moments when I wonder if God has totally forgotten about me in this area of life.

Steven Curtis Chapman recently came out with a new CD, and I've always been a big fan of his music.  I love how his lyrics speak truth.  This is part of one of the songs...

"But God will, He will finish what He started
No thread will be left unwoven
Nothing will be left undone
Every plan and every purpose
That He has will be accomplished
And God will finish what He's begun
And it may feel like 40 long days in a hard driving rain
Or 40 years in a dry desert sand
But when He's finished we will see
A beautiful tapestry
And know that nothing has been wasted in the end"

I'm not gonna lie...there are some days when this is hard to believe.  But I'm holding on to the truth that God will finish what He started in me.  And no matter what that looks like - married again someday or single forever, kids or no kids, I belong to Him and I have a significant place in His story.

Whether or not this is my last blog entry, thank you for sharing my journey with me over these last 7 years.  I truly have seen the faithfulness of God, and I have seen Him heal me in ways I could not have imagined.  I know that will continue happening, no matter what the external circumstances may look like or how much I might struggle at times with doubt.  Thank you for the ways you have supported me and loved me, and thank you that you will continue to do so!  Much love!


Friday, December 14, 2012

On The Eve Of Graduation

Hello everyone!  As we all know, there are times in our lives when change happens unexpectedly...we are going about our day and suddenly something happens and we are never the same.  And then there are times when change creeps up...we know it's coming, and we're aware that it's here, but one chapter must first close before the new one begins.  It is in this particular part of change that I find myself sitting today.  Two-and-a-half years ago, I began a journey that would change my life in ways I never could have imagined.  At times, the days and weeks seemed to drag.  Yet suddenly, I find myself on the eve of graduation - about to receive my Master's Degree in counseling psychology - and it seems as if time has flown by.  Today feels a little like the day before your wedding.  You know that all you've worked for, planned for and prepared for is culminating in a ceremony tomorrow.  And you know that while the ceremony is really just a tiny moment in life, it represents a transition from one journey to the next.  So while I sit here waiting to go pick my family up from the airport, as I ponder the change that awaits me as a new chapter starts, I would like to take the time to thank some people.  Because I would have never made it through these last 2 1/2 years without the support, encouragement, and love of so many of you...

To begin, thanks be to God!  Only He knew that I was ready for this, that I would be finding my sweet spot, learning how He has made me on deep levels.  He knew what I would encounter, what I would work through, and He gave me new friends to give me what I needed to survive.  He remains patient and gracious with me, and I am in awe that He has trusted me with the holy ground that is another person's story.

Thank you to my parents and my siblings!  They have supported me in sooo many ways, and I could not have done this apart from them.  I am who I am because of how I was shaped through my family, and I am a better counselor because of them.  I love you guys so much!

Thank you to my bestest friend and fabulous roommate Nikki!  She has lived through these years with me, known how difficult it was, and supported me through each moment.  I am sooo thankful God brought us together as friends and sisters all those years ago.  He knew what we would need, even when we had no clue what was in front of us.  Love you tons!

To my "big brother" - I would not be who I am personally or as a counselor without you in my life.  Thank you does not seem adequate, but I am forever changed.  Love you!

To the Freeman's - Thank you for your continued support during this time and always.  You hold such a special place in my heart, and I'm so glad we're family!  Love you all!

Thanks to my extended family and friends who have encouraged me in multiple ways - there are too many to even begin to count and name.  I stand here today because you have each been a part of my life and helped shape me into who I am and who I need to be for this next chapter.  I am soooo thankful to have such a community of support and encouragement and love.  You guys will be walking across the stage with me tomorrow and are very loved!

To my professors - Dr. Lawson, Dr. Carson, Dr. Shyers, Dr. Casado.... I have learned much from each of you.  I have the skills and techniques that I need to be a counselor, but more than that, you have taught me how to be me....to embrace who God has made me to be, to realize that I am the greatest tool I have in a counseling room, and that I can trust my gut, even if my style looks a little different.  Thank you for your wisdom, for the countless ways you pour into the lives of your students, and for forever being a part of the fabric of my life.  Love you guys!

Cyndi - You came into my life before this whole adventure started and because of our work together, I was able to do this.  I don't know what would have happened if I had not met you.  Thank you for the grace you have shown me, your patience, and your encouragement in every way.  I am sooo thankful for you.  Love you!

To Liz & Tony B. - Thank you for your faithful support of me through this journey.  You allowed me to eat and pay rent at times, and I will forever be grateful.  You have been a shining example to me of God's faithfulness and His graciousness.  Beauty out of ashes.  Always.  Love you both!

To Jason W. & Chick-fil-A - Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a living while going to school.  This journey would not have been possible without you and the flexibility and support you gave me.  I will always be grateful for all the ways you poured into my life that allowed me to be here today!  Much love to you!

There are so many of you that have been a part of this, and I hope I have not left anyone out - it was not intentional if so!  Just know that I understand that I couldn't have done this on my own.  It is with the community of support God has given me that I will be able to receive my diploma tomorrow and with that same community that I move forward into the next chapter of life.  Thank you feels small, but thank you to each of you.  Now let's celebrate!! :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lessons From My Cat

Greetings, dear adoring public whom I have neglected for so many months now! :)  And yet with good reason....I graduate with my Master's degree  FIVE WEEKS from Saturday!!!!  May I just say that the end that is in sight has never looked so good?  It has been quite the journey over the last 2 1/2 years.  I had no idea what I was in store for on that first night of class - how much I would learn about myself and have to confront my own pain in the process of helping others.  I know it is a journey that will continue for a lifetime, and as painful as it sometimes is, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I don't have a lot of time to write a blog today, so I will put up a post in the somewhat near future (hopefully!) about what my plans are after graduation.  Do not fear - I do have some plans, and I am excited to see all that is in store.  For now, I am just concentrating on finishing up my last two classes, completing my internship hours, and not losing my mind in the process!

Anyway, on to the purpose of today's blog.  Many of you know my famous cat Ellie.  Here she is in case you have forgotten or perhaps never met her...


Over the last year, Ellie has developed an odd and terrible habit of ripping out her fur in select places along her back.  Most likely it is due to an allergy of some kind, and her skin itches, so she licks it and then pulls the fur out.  She has had a striped back a lot lately from where she has patches of fur missing.  So in the latest attempt to cure her ailments, the vet gave me flea meds for her - just in case - and oral steriods to give her over a month time period.  If I had a video of some of my attempts to feed my cat her meds over these last weeks, I could win some awards.  She has not been a fan.  At all.  I've done all the things you're supposed to do to help calm a cat and render them helpless so you can do what you have to do.  But whoever thought you could subdue a determined cat has never met my cat.  As I've held her by the scruff of the neck to syringe feed her the meds, she has clenched her jaw shut.  I have never ever seen a cat do that.  I have had to literally try to force her mouth to open with the syringe so I could get the meds in.  I have talked calmly to her.  I have told her how much this was going to help her stop itching and feel better.  I even fed her treats after so she would associate good with it.  And only now, after being near the end has it gotten much better.

As dumb as it might sound, one morning when I was on the floor with my cat mashed to the ground trying to force her jaw open, I had the sudden realization that I am a lot like her.  How often do I fight what God is trying to give me because I don't like the taste of it or it hurts or is painful?  And how often does He stand over me telling me that in the end, the meds I don't like now are ultimately going to make me so much better?

I sit with so many clients each week, and I think it is human nature and very common to fight against the pain we are in.  We do whatever we can to ignore it and numb it.  After all, feeling pain sucks.  It isn't fun.  There is really nothing pleasant about it at all.  But at the end of the day, I am learning that the only way to truly find freedom and healing is to first confront our pain, feeling it and processing it so that it can then be let go.  For it is our surrender to the process - not the fight against it - that brings peace.  And rest.  Maybe my cat is finally learning this?  Or maybe she just got tired of fighting. :)

 
More updates to come soon.  Love you guys!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

One Year Ago...

Hello friends!  I guess I need to quit apologizing each time I write a blog for the amount of time that has gone by since my last blog.  I have great intentions about posting more often, but at this time in my life, that just isn't happening.  Anyway, I had a few moments today and thought I'd try to post an update and catch you up a bit on what's happening these days.  To begin with, one year ago on this date, I had surgery to have my thyroid removed!  I cannot believe it has now been a full year since that took place. I will say that this has been a very difficult year for me.  Our thyroids are our primary mood stabilizers in our body.  So remove one, and you have to figure out how much medication to take to regulate your hormones and moods.  Add to that a person who has always been very drug sensitive, and you pretty much get a recipe for a year from hell, at least physically.  When your levels are too low, your body physically mimics the symptoms of depression.  When the levels are too high, you display symptoms of anxiety or mania.  This has been a year of up, down and all around for me as I have swung from low to high and back again on a repeated basis.  I will say this - one year later I am doing better.  My cycles between high and low are much less frequent, not as strong, and do not last as long.  I am recognizing the signs in my body much quicker and am learning what to do to prevent drastic swings.  Even so, it can still be tough.  I am currently coming down from a too high level and haven't been sleeping much and am constantly hungry.  Good times!  But while it has not been pleasant, I am grateful to all of you who have been kind to me over this past year, despite the mood swings and craziness!

Of course on top of these physical issues, I have been completing the craziest time of school as well.  It's absolutely miraculous that I have been able to stay in school and get done what needed to get done. And here I am, in the midst of my internship, with graduation looming a mere 5 months away!!!  I am SOOO excited and so ready to be done!  When I started this school journey 2 years ago, I knew time would go by quickly, but it seemed like it would be forever before I would be done.  Now I am winding things down - only 2 classes plus my internship remain, and I can't believe the end is in sight!

I am LOVING counseling!  It is a challenge to be sure, but it has taught me so much about God, myself and people in general.  So far I have seen 40 different individuals this year.  The amount of pain and sadness represented in those 40 stories is at times unfathomable, but I have also seen miracles take place in so many of their lives, and it is such a gift and honor to be able to share another's story as they journey towards healing.

Nikki and I just moved into a new townhouse that she bought, and we love it!  It is so nice to have a place that is a real home, where we can paint and plant flowers and create a space that is...well, home.  Ellie loves it too.  She runs up and down the stairs many times during the day, and family members will be delighted to know that this is helping her lose weight so she looks less like an ottoman. :)  There are lots of changes ahead as chapters end and new ones begin, but I am excited about what God is up to and what He is doing in my life.

For now, your continued prayers are appreciated as I wind up school and try to maintain focus for this last stretch.  Pray for the people God brings across my path.  Pray for wisdom as I sit with others and share their pain.  And pray that my levels will stabilize further and that I will be able to find the exact right dosage that will keep me mostly in the middle more often than not!  For now, I need to go eat some more food! :)  Happy Thursday!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Twitty Tweets, Life & Being Brave

Hey everybody. Lots going on as usual and I thought it might be about time for an update. First of all, I have joined the masses of people who tweet or are twits or however you want to describe it, and I now have a Twitter account. I figure my life is crazy and I have funny and insane things that happen that could make for fun tweets, and it could help people keep up with me some. So feel free to follow me - my username is TiffLynne45 and hopefully soon I'll figure out how to use it and twitty tweets will follow!

On the thyroid front, it's been an interesting month or so. My surgery was last July and my levels are still all over the place. A little over a month ago, my levels tested really really low. So the doctor put me on a higher dose of synthroid, and after taking that for about 3 weeks or so, my levels spiked really high. I didn't sleep for four or five straight nights, I felt like I was on speed, and my hands literally started shaking. It was crazy. Obviously the dosage was too high, so we've settled on the dose in the middle of the previous two. It's been a couple of weeks now on that dose, and things are better. My body is slowly recovering, but in coming down off the high levels, I have had some struggles with feeling really depressed. Some days I'm up, some days I'm down....each morning when I wake up, I'm not sure how I'll feel. It's amazing. :) It has not helped to be dealing with all of this physical stuff in the midst of the madness that is currently my life. However, God is also using it to teach me lots because there are times when my coping skills don't work at all, which is forcing me to confront and deal with even deeper levels of healing. I would appreciate prayer though for my levels to balance out and us to be able to find a dosage that works with my body.

Tomorrow is the last day of March, and this means multiple things to me. First of all, I only have about 4 weeks of this semester left to go, and I have a TON of work to do. But wait - I only have about 4 weeks left in this semester!!! That means that I have survived the first three months of this working/school attending/internship madness. It also means that only summer and fall semesters stand in the way of graduation. The light at the end of the tunnel grows ever brighter, even when I'm not sure sometimes how I'll survive. Time is flying by though, even in the madness, and while I can't wait to be done with school, I also want to make sure I don't miss all of the opportunities I have to learn as much as possible.

Speaking of learning....since I started my internship in January, I have learned soooo much about people and myself and life and God. Sometimes it can be very overwhelming because there are so many things happening that I feel like I don't have time to process it all. I mentioned in a previous post that my word for this year was "brave". Sometimes I'm sorry I chose that word, but God knew I needed to. :) Already in three months, there have been ample opportunities to practice being brave, and I'm sure more will follow. In my last post, I talked about hitting a wall as I was being confronted with people's pain and feeling very overwhelmed. That stage of my journey has pretty much passed. Don't get me wrong - there are still days when I feel completely overwhelmed, like I have no idea what I'm doing and don't know what to say to the person sitting in front of me. But I know with more certainty now that I am exactly where God wants me to be and that this is the career for me. Instead, the stage I currently find myself in on this journey towards becoming a counselor is one of humility. I cannot tell you how humbling it is for another person to sit across from you and share things about themselves that they've never told another soul. Do you know what kind of courage that takes? I have found myself processing so much about this - what does it mean to share our stories? What does it mean to live authentically with others, being open, vulnerable, trusting? Why do we hide? What are we afraid of? As I've sat with my clients, I've realized that as they share their stories, they are speaking my fears out loud. They're saying things I'm afraid to say. They're telling me things or answering questions I ask them that I might not ever say in my own counseling. Why is that?

Granted, it's easier to share parts of our stories with strangers. After all, there's no emotional connection, and we can just walk away and never see the person again if we don't want to. But watching this process play out has forced me to confront my own lack of bravery. Because I have been hurt by others, I'm afraid to be that open - even with the people that I know love me the most. And yet how much am I missing because I don't allow people to prove that they're different? What does being brave look like for me?

Nikki and I watched the movie The Help not too long ago. Amazing movie. I loved what the character at the end of the movie said... "No one had ever asked me what it felt like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free." And that is what I have witnessed so far in my internship journey. As people share what it's like to be them - as they are honest about who they are and confront what they've walked through and struggle with, freedom begins to grow. Hope blooms. Isn't that what we all want? Isn't that what God has created us for? So while I had an idea of what being brave meant and how that might play out in my life in 2012, that idea is being transformed. As I sit with others and experience their courage, I am being challenged to express the same courage in my own journey/story. The question is will I? Will you? May our desire for true freedom and connection with God and others be greater than our fears of being known, of being rejected or abandoned. Love wins. :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Prayers!

Hi everyone. I have officially made it through six weeks of counseling real people as a student intern. And it has only taken me until this sixth week to absolutely hit a wall. Due to confidentiality and lots of important laws and rules, I cannot share specific stories with you. You wouldn't want me to anyway. I have learned a few things in this time that I thought I'd share with you. First of all, it's one thing to go to class and hear professors teach and have a few role plays and read stories in a book. But real people are just that - absolutely real. And their stories and pain and heartbreak and trauma are real. When those people sit across from you and share their pain with you, there are two things that come to mind - absolute honor that they would somehow trust you enough, even though they don't know you, to share their story with you AND complete thankfulness that I am not God, nor do I have to be. Because here is the reality - counselors can't fix it. Only God can ultimately transform, redeem and heal. I can't make another person choose well. I can't fix their life or make their problems go away. I can't carry their burden for them. All I can do is walk with them as they take the journey to their healing and freedom.

I think this is one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'm exhausted in every way. I feel completely inadequate and like perhaps I should choose a different career. And yet I also believe God has called me to this and equipped me for it. But wow....sometimes there are just really no words.

I'm sharing this with you all for this specific reason - I would covet your prayers at this time in my life. While people might think to pray for pastors, we don't often think of counselors as being on the front lines. But trust me - we are. I am coming face to face with evil and the consequences of sin. And it's tough. Sad. Heartbreaking. Please pray that God will give me wisdom, that I will know when to speak and when to be silent, that I will be able to sit with another person in their pain and be present with them but leave it behind when they leave the office. Pray for energy and hope and that I will remember that God really does redeem and restore and bring beauty from ashes. Thank you for sharing this journey with me!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012 - A Year of Brave Adventure!

Greetings everyone! Happy 2012 to all of my family and friends. I CANNOT believe that it is already 2012. It is true that time flies, and it flies faster the older you get. Anyway, for those of you who have known me for awhile, you know I tend to post some sort of "reflective" blog at the beginning of a new year. I like to look back on what God has done in the year that was just completed, as well as look forward to an unknown adventure. There is lots to discuss from this past year and in what promises to be a crazy year ahead. So here goes!

FAMILY
I love my family, and I am very thankful that we all got to be together over the holidays for a few days. We are spread out in 4 states - I'm in Florida, Matthew is in Georgia, my parents are in Tennessee, and Michael & Bekah are now in Texas. It's been a year since we were all together all at the same time, and we had a great time exploring my parents' new town. We have always been a family that was very interactive, and our time in Nashville was no different. Here is a sampling of what we did together...

We decorated our own Christmas ornaments with paint and straws and lots and lots of laughter. They didn't exactly turn out very well but we learned some very valuable lessons that we will use for next year!


We roasted hotdogs (and s'mores!) in the fireplace and had a fantastically yummy dinner! Pa was a great sport and cooked most of them for us.

We created a gingerbread house, and this was the first time Bekah had ever done this. It was lots of fun!

The finished product:

Please note the fence made out of twizzlers. My dad spent lots of time creating this, and made it look like a real picket fence. Very impressive!

We got to go to the Bluebird Cafe together, which was really cool. A lot of famous musicians have gotten their start there and it was fun to sit there and enjoy hearing songwriters play "in the round". We also took some fun photos in a giant rocking chair. Here are a few of those...



We did take a few real family pictures on our last day together. I will post those soon, but they need to be edited first. All in all, it was a great visit, and such a blessing to be able to relax and spend time with some of my favorite people. This year promises to be a big year for us all as there are a lot of big decisions to be made, and I look forward to seeing what God has in store for each person in my family.

FRIENDS
This fall marked the third year that Nikki and I have been roommates here in Orlando. 2011 held lots of adventures for us as individuals and as friends. We even had surgery at the same time this year! We also got to go to Greece together, and not only was that trip a blast, but it became life-changing for us both as it became a marker for us to continue growing and healing in big ways. God has been so gracious to allow our stories and lives to intersect, and I am so thankful for her and her friendship. 2012 promises to be a year filled with new adventures, and I can't wait to see what happens. It's such a blessing to have a sister to share all of the adventures with!

I have also enjoyed getting to know and bonding with some of the people in my cohort at school. I could not be on this journey without them to share it with, and you all know who you are! :) Love you and can't wait to see what this year holds.

Finally in the friend, or somewhat "more than friend" category, the end of 2011 brought an unexpected twist in this area. Almost 2 years ago, I met a guy at an interview weekend for another school here in the Orlando area that I was looking at for my counseling degree. He ended up going to school there and I did not, but we stayed in touch and have enjoyed building a friendship over the last year-and-a-half or so once he moved down here for school. I don't know what God has in store for us, but we are enjoying spending time together and getting to know each other more. He's awesome - loves God, gets it, understands what it means to have a story redeemed, has a great sense of humor, and he appreciates my unique "Tiffany-ness". I would appreciate your prayers for us both as we navigate the path God has before us. And yes to all my "moms" out there - I'll certainly keep you posted! :)

SCHOOL
I can hardly believe I am typing this, but God willing, 2012 will be the year that I graduate with my Master's degree! I am sooo ready to be done with school, but I know this year is going to be incredible, and I'm looking forward to all that it holds. I have learned so much in the last year and one semester. God has done remarkable healing in my life and is continuing to transform me from the inside out. And believe it or not, my student internship begins MONDAY! Oh.my.gosh. Just typing that makes me get a little nervous! :) I actually have my first clients scheduled on Wednesday of this next week. Yes, I'm nervous, but I am also ready. I'm ready to put into practice all that I have learned. I'm ready to use the unique ways God has made and gifted me, and I'm ready for Him to use me in whatever way He sees fit for whomever He brings in my door. Please pray for me. And pray for my first clients as I learn exactly how to counsel. :) I do not take any of this lightly. I believe every person's story is worth hearing and deserves honor, respect and dignity. It is my prayer that I will not lose sight of the holy ground that I am on each time someone shares their soul with me (hence the creation of the picture below I made so that I won't forget!). And I pray God will direct each word I speak so that I can be an instrument of healing as I walk with people through their pain. I'll keep you posted as this next chapter starts - I think it's going to be pretty life-changing!

THE MADNESS
In order to hopefully still pay bills, go to school and do the necessary hours for my internship, I am going to be working 6 days a week beginning on Monday. I can't think too far ahead or I would get very overwhelmed with the thought of all I have to do and all I have to balance. I would truly appreciate your prayers as I enter this next chapter. I obviously want to give my all to everything I am doing, and there are obviously things I have to do. In that, however, I still want to live life. I need to take care of myself, get rest, and have fun every now and then! It's not going to be easy, and I'm thankful for people in my life who will not let me get away with not being balanced. But I don't want to miss what God has for me each day, even in the madness. Prayers for peace, strength, endurance, and joyful abandon are greatly appreciated!

WORD FOR THE YEAR
In 2011, my word for the year was "love". I knew it was important for me to learn to love myself, exactly how God has made me, so that I can love Him and others well. God has done amazing work in my life in this area in the last year, and it is a work that will continue. My word for 2012 is "brave". There are many reasons for this, but one reason is that there are a lot of things God revealed to me in this last year, and now it's time for me to actually choose to live them out. That requires courage and bravery to be vulnerable, real, open and authentic. I also need to be brave as I begin seeing clients and then personally as I continue to grow and move forward in a journey of "more than friends". :) I believe God will be faithful to meet me in this area this year, but you can pray for my bravery as this new chapter begins. I can't wait to see what is in store and how God continues His work. I might not have a lot of time for updates, but I'll do my best. Know that each of you mean so much to me, as all of my life and experiences have led me to this time and place, for this purpose. May 2012 be a year of growth, hope, and transformation as you follow God wherever He leads you. Much love to you all!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Merry Christmas?

As I sit here typing this blog, I'm watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, where little kids are declaring that Christmastime is here, our apartment is decorated for Christmas, the trees are lit....and yet I find myself identifying with Charlie Brown and not feeling like Christmas is really here. I work in a mall, and I can't help but ponder what Christmas has turned into and is really all about. We hear Christmas songs that tell us that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, and yet is it really? If it is, someone sure forgot to tell all the people who are shopping in the mall. Without fail, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas seems to bring out the worst in people. I see more hostile and rude customers in these six weeks than in the entire rest of the year combined.

Let me give you an example of the most fantastic ways that people behave. Today I was finishing up helping some lovely ladies who were very kind when a man reached his arm across the counter and shook his cup in my face because he wanted a refill. Thankfully in that moment I was able to maintain a high level of control and he is still alive today (and I still have a job). But really? I wanted to break his arm! :) What has our society embraced that Christmas brings about such stress and meanness?

I find myself at times wanting to ask the customers why they are shopping for people if it makes them so miserable and stressed out. Since it would be somewhat poor form to ask my customers that, I will ask all of us instead. What does Christmas mean to us? This blog is actually not meant to be a rant against consumerism or commercialism, although working in a mall does give me ample evidence to rant against both. Rather, my question is this: what does giving someone a gift mean to us? Or receiving a gift? When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, his parents received some visitors. The wise men brought very expensive gifts, and while I'm sure Mary appreciated their kindness, I find it most fascinating her response to the shepherds that is recorded in scripture. The shepherds had no tangible gift to offer - they were poor. But they told Mary and Joseph about how they had seen a multitude of angels who had declared to them that their Savior had just been born. As they shared their story and all they had seen and heard, that was what Mary treasured and pondered in her heart. That was what she never forgot. What is true of us this Christmas? Whether we give or receive physical gifts, what do we treasure and what do we ponder in our heart? What of ourselves are we offering others? What will we remember from this Christmas? And what will we forget?

Since Thanksgiving, I can count on one hand the number of people who have told me Merry Christmas as I helped them. Because it happens so rarely, it always stands out. We are so consumed with ourselves and stuff that we don't even see the very people who are serving us. So on behalf of those of us making it possible for you to Christmas shop - be kind this holiday season. Take the time to realize we are people and would love to receive kindness and a smile. We're tired too and we're doing our best to serve you well. And if shopping for Christmas gifts turns you into the grinch, perhaps it's time to reevaluate what it is we're doing and why we're doing it.

In the meantime, pray for me. We still have a couple of weeks before Christmas, and the madness just intensifies each day. I want my treatment of guests - even towards those who are rude - to convey grace and peace and Christ because I am who I am thanks to the gift God gave for me so many Christmases ago. But if one more person shakes a cup in my face.... :) Love you all and wishing you a truly magnificent Christmas season!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Oil In The Eye!

So today was an interesting day. I was at work, helping make the chicken so we could open and serve our lovely guests. The regular filets were finished cooking, and I was opening the deep fryer to remove them when some hot oil popped up and hit me directly in my right eye. This is not something I would suggest you try. :) I was able to go have my eye checked, and it turns out that there was damage done to the surface of my eye, but the damage is just surface level and it wasn't too bad. I have some antibiotic drops to put in it and will follow up with an ophthalmologist to make sure everything is fine, but it appears that it will all be okay. It was kind of a crazy day, but I'm thankful everything turned out how it did. I know it could have been much worse. My eye is sore now and feels kind of tight, like how your skin feels if it gets burned, but it's not too bad.

Since today is Halloween, I shall post a picture of me in my favorite Halloween costume. Someday I will wear this again! :) I might actually go put it on now and trick-or-treat at my own apartment. I'm sure Nikki won't mind!! Hope you all have a good week this week - can't believe November starts tomorrow!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Being Halfway Through and Homework

Greetings friends and family! I haven't written a blog in a very long time. Since I had surgery 3 months ago to be exact. We'll get to that in a minute. But first, I would like to announce that when I take my final in my substance abuse class tomorrow night, I will be exactly halfway finished with my master's degree! I will just have the second half of this semester and next year to go! I'm excited about reaching this milestone. It's been a tough journey but a great one at the same time, and I know this last half of the program will fly by. We start our internship in January, where I will be seeing clients and getting to start putting into practice all that I have been learning. I know that will help make it more real and interesting and allow me to get to start doing what I hope to do once I am through with school. I interviewed yesterday and was accepted as a student intern at the counseling center I have gone to, and I'm super excited about that! I think it's going to be a great fit for me and I'm really looking forward to getting started in January.

And now on to other topics, such as why I have not put up a blog in many months. For those of you who have been readers for awhile, you know I've never hesitated to share struggles and be fairly real in my postings. However, to be completely honest, many of my blog posts are written after I've already processed my struggle. I don't mind being real about what I was struggling with - but I am not often real about my current struggles. My counselor gave me a homework assignment of writing a blog where I was honest about what I am feeling currently. She told me I didn't have to publish it - she just wanted me to write an honest blog - even in my place of not knowing or arriving at a fully processed moment - and to not sugarcoat anything. So that's what this is. And I decided to post it. (Do I get extra credit for this homework assignment now dear counselor???? ;p) I decided to post it mostly because I don't want to. Which means I probably need to. Because one of my biggest fears is that if people know what's really going on inside of me, they'll walk away and not want anything to do with me anymore. I know in my head that is not true, but I find it hard to believe in my heart. If you do actually take the time to read the rest of this blog, please don't feel compelled to tell me how great and wonderful you think I am for sharing this. Not that I will complain if you do! :) But this blog is for me, not for you. This is a first step of faith in taking a risk and moving forward on the journey towards trusting God again. I hope my honesty allows you to have your own honesty for whatever you might need to have it for. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are honest thoughts, feelings and admissions from my current place in life...

Thoughts on God
It really all starts and ends with God, doesn't it? Which means when you and God aren't on the greatest of terms, life tends to suck more. My journey over the last five years has led me through interesting times with God. Early on after the divorce, I felt exceptionally close to God. In my darkest night, He breathed for me when I didn't care if I breathed again. I know Him in deeper ways. And yet, five years later, I don't really like Him much right now. I don't trust Him. I'm afraid of what He might - or might not - have for me. I know all of the right spiritual answers and biblical truths in my head, but somehow I'm not believing them in my heart. I know God hasn't gone anywhere - I know I'm the one holding Him at arms length. But I am afraid that if I let go, if I surrender, He won't be real. That He will let me down. Or that I'll let Him down. So I keep pushing Him away, knowing life would be a lot better with Him close by but terrified of what that closeness will require. I know He wants everything - He wants my entire life and for me to let go of my illusion of control and trust Him - but even typing that almost makes me feel paralyzed with fear.

Thoughts on a Thyroid
It's been a really crappy three months since surgery in dealing with my hormones. Somehow before surgery I missed it that your thyroid is the primary mood controller/balancer in your body. I'm certainly aware of it now. My medication was too low for the first 8 weeks post-surgery, and I went through serious depression as a result. Horribly not fun. My life requires a lot of energy, and trying to do work and school and everything that goes with it with no energy and no sense of caring about anything? Well it's been a little tough. They increased my dosage about four weeks ago, and my energy level is getting back to normal, which is nice. I feel a little more like myself. However, I am having serious stomach problems, which I think is at least partially due to the higher dosage - I've always been super drug sensitive. Probably due some to stress too. But when the alternatives at this point are to be depressed or have your stomach eat itself, it's kind of annoying. I'm afraid I'm going to struggle with this for the rest of my life and wonder if I made a bad decision on having my thyroid removed. I'm frustrated with not feeling well and not feeling right. I'm tired of this process but know it could keep going for awhile. I have large amounts of hostility and want to hurt people and then will quickly swing to feeling exhausted and wanting to lay on the floor of the food court and take a nap. I feel like someone who is pregnant, except there is no reward at the end. I want God to fix it, to help doctors figure out the right combo and what works for me, and I just want to feel normal!

Thoughts on School
The closer I get to starting my internship, the more excited and more terrified I get. Part of me feels very ready - I have been well trained, I have learned a lot, and I am ready to start actually doing all the stuff I've learned about. And yet I am terrified of failure. I'm afraid that I won't be a good counselor - that someone will come in and I won't be able to help at all. I think I'll be a good counselor, but I want a guarantee. I've never been a huge risk taker. I want to know that I am going to be good at something and that I'll be successful. I'm about to get dumped into a counseling room and real people with real struggles will come in, looking to me to walk with them through their journeys. What do I know? I'm just as afraid of change as they will be and I'm going to be asking them to take risks in their journeys that I'm still struggling to take in my own. I'm afraid that I'll let down the people who think I'm going to be good at this, that I'll disappoint those who believe in me and disappoint myself. I'm super good at administrative tasks because there isn't much risk there. I can do a task, complete it, do it well and move on with success. Counseling is organic. It's artistic and emotional and requires flexibility and creativity, which is how I've been made, but living out of that part of me is risky and scary and terrifying.

Thoughts on People
When it comes to relationships, I didn't realize until perhaps fairly recently how much damage was done when it comes to my willingness to trust others. I trust people to a point, but when it comes to sharing all of myself - struggles, hopes, dreams, fears - the deepest parts of my artist heart that make me me, I tend to hold back. Mostly out of fear that if people see who I really am it won't be good enough for them and they'll leave. I have lived a bit with the mindset of "I'll leave you before you can leave me", but I haven't done this by walking away from people. I have done this by holding people at arms length and only letting them get so close. The problem with this is that we all suffer because relationships and friendships can only go so far when this is the case. I want to be who God has made me to be. I want to be myself - to be snarky if I need to be, to laugh with joyful abandon, to maybe even cry if I need to. But I'm so afraid to let go because I'm afraid if I'm any of those things, someone might walk away. I'm afraid to not be enough, to not meet expectations, to be less than perfect, to be weak or needy. I know I need to just take a risk and give people the benefit of the doubt to respond well. But I cannot imagine actually letting someone see me cry. To be that risky and vulnerable, to let go of control and be that real....it makes my stomach eat itself even more. :)

Thoughts on Life
I have recently come to the realization how afraid I really am that I will spend the rest of my life alone - that I'll never really fit in anywhere, that everyone I know will have a family and I'll be the nice single friend who tags along. I used to think it wouldn't be a big deal if I never married again. And I know I would be okay. But I am admitting out loud that I really do want a family. I would love to be married to a man who loves God and loves his family well. I would love to be a mom. I'm afraid I'll never have that chance. I'm afraid there won't be a guy who would want me, especially this me who doesn't have it all together or have all the answers or isn't okay all the time. I want to be free to just be myself and know someone will love that me and that we can fight without them leaving. I hope that exists, but I'm afraid it never will. I'm afraid that the reality I have now - the struggle to provide for myself, to carry all the financial burdens, to have to open all my own jars that are sometimes impossible to open, to have to kill all the bugs....is the reality that will always be and it's depressing to think that might never change.

And this friends is where I am going to end this post. I don't have a neat little bow to tie this up with - to show the redemption in it. I believe God is in all of this, but I don't have any answers. I know some of what I need to do, and I know what my issues are. I know where I am and I know where I'd like to be, but I'm not sure how to get from point A to point B. I don't like not knowing, I'm not really a fan of feeling all of these emotions, but this is where I am right now. This is where I need to sit. And someday I'll write the post that shows God's redemptive work. But tonight I'm just leaving it be and trusting He loves me right where I am.