Welcome to my world...

Hi everyone and welcome to my little piece of the world!

It has been evident to me since I was in about seventh grade, that I love writing and it is a talent I have been blessed with . It wasn't until I reached the ripe old age of 28 though, that I realized God had a much bigger plan for the gift he had given me.

Through blogging on MySpace, I was able to reach not only those that I knew in my own life, but also complete strangers and was amazed at how just my "ramblings" had helped so many people to be inspired, encouraged, or just to think about things in a new way.

From there, it grew into an inspirational column in The Charlotte Observer, then a religious news column in The Statesville Record & Landmark, a speaking engagment for a women's church group and now, a gig as a religion news freelance writer for The Charlotte Observer.

The writing that is closest to my heart though is not the news reporting, but the words that come from my soul - the words that I know God puts there not only to help me to understand life better, but also those around me.

I hope you feel encouraged, enlightened and inspired but what you read here and of course, I look forward to hearing back from you too!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Have you ever found yourself wanting to be like someone else?  Or wished that you were more like "everyone else"?  Most likely everyone can say they have felt that way at least once in their life.  But have you ever wanted to be different than everyone else?  Have you ever found yourself purposely striving to be different than everyone?  It's probably not as common as the first but is actually what we all should be striving for.

I have felt a little different from "society" for quite a few years now, but especially in the past 6 months or so, it has become all the more clear to me that I don't want to be like everyone else.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.  That is not to say that everyone out there is the same.  Of course they're not.  But when I say "everyone", I mean our society at large. 

I don't find the need to post my every waking thought on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc, etc, etc... my cell phone is NOT something I can't live without... I don't worship "celebrities" that do nothing but get famous from drinking, partying and hooking up with a bunch of people... I don't think it's "normal" to casually sleep around... I DO think it's possible to not only not cheat on your spouse, but to respect them completely by not "innocently flirting" at work or online... I don't care who wins American Idol... I don't think a Playboy playmate is the ideal of an attractive female... I don't want to read a book on a handheld elecronic device... I don't enjoy watching movies where every other word is a curse word... I do value honesty and expect people to tell the truth... I wish teachers and nurses were paid more than football players and reality tv stars... I don't think 12 year olds need cell phones, Ipods and Ipads... you get the idea.

I know this is how I feel and I know that I won't change who I am or how I feel about these things, but what I realized tonight after the message at my church, is that I actually want to STRIVE to stand out.  I don't want to be like "everyone else" and I will live my life in a way that demonstrates that.  My favorite line from the Nicole Nordeman song Brave is "So long status quo, I think I just let go..."  And that is exactly what stepping out from the crowd for what you believe in feels like... letting go

I do not want to fill my shelf with idols of things that society worships.  I don't want to add my own "addendums" to the Bible (well yes, technically it says this, BUT...).  I don't want to succomb to society's ideas of what's right & wrong, good & bad, beautiful & ugly, important & insignificant.  I will continue to stand for what is right for me (and God).

I hope and pray that society will start to change some of its ways, but until then, I am perfectly happy to be the "odd one out."  ;-)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mission Possible

This past weekend I had the pleasure of going on my first mission trip.  It was a short, regional trip to Welch, WV to do some small home repair projects for different members of the community.  I had always wanted to go on a mission trip and had been all set to go to the Dominican Republic about 8 years ago, until a last minute glitch kept me from going.  So, when I saw the email about the mission trips with the Cove, it felt like the time was right.  And even though I of course wanted to jump right into an international trip to Honduras or South Africa, I knew the right thing to do was to start out small and go on the regional trip first. 

I was nervous... things like staying somewhere new and not knowing what the eating or sleeping arrangements would be like, not knowing exactly what I'd be doing and not knowing anyone on the trip are all the kinds of things that would normally make me anxious.  And they did, a little.  But the overall feeling was one of excitement and pushing forward through any anxiety, because this was God's work for me.  Just like a few years ago, when I unexpectedly ending up doing a public speaking engagement for a women's church group.  I was PETRIFIED of public speaking, but knew I had to go through with it, because it was God's plan.  And just like then, it turned out to be a great experience.  One marked distinctively with Godwinks right from the beginning...

The day I left, I ended up driving by myself and put the address of the mission clubhouse into my GPS on my phone (not even thinking about the fact that there'd be no cell phone service out there).  Everything was going along just fine, as I was trekking way my way up and down the mountains of West Virginia.  Driving on roads that were barely wide enough for two cars, with 180 degree turns.  I was winding my way up one of those roads when I saw a skinny, stray dog on the side of the road.  Well for those of you that know me well, you know I CANNOT pass a stray dog.  So I didn't and sure enough, I turned around and pulled off the road.  I spent about a half hour trying to get this dog to come over to me and/or get in my car.  I wasn't quite sure what I'd do once he got in the car, but at least he wouldn't be on the side of the road by himself.  :)  Well he wasn't having any of that, so I decided to go all the way back down the mountain to a mini-mart I had passed and get him some food & water.  I went all the way back, bought a can of food, a bottle of water and grabbed a big styrofoam cup and headed back up the mountain, only to find that my little friend was nowhere to be found.  :(  I looked up and down the road a couple times, but he was gone, so I had to give up and continue on my way.  One problem.  When I turned around, the GPS stopped because I had gone off the route and asked me if I wanted a new route.  When I said no, to continue on the same route I had been on, and the GPS refreshed, it lost the signal.  And it never came back.  So there I was, by myself, with no written directions, a GPS that wasn't working anymore, no phone signal to call anyone, driving in the desolate mountains of West Virginia.  I had heard the next direction was to turn right at the end of the road I was on, but after that I didn't have a clue!  So when I got to the next intersection, I simply continued to pray what I had been praying ever since the GPS stopped working, "God, please guide me."  I continued to drive on and on... through the twists and turns of the mountains, having no idea where I was or where I was heading, continually hoping for the GPS to work again and praying for God to lead me.  When the GPS finally came back on, the voice announced that I was 1.8 miles from my destination and it gave me the last couple turns I needed to pull up right in front of the mission clubhouse.  Thank you God!  :)

Since the trip was a construction trip and I'm not exactly Bob Villa, there wasn't a whole lot for me to do, but God found ways to use me... even if it was just to pour water on concrete, drill in a few screws and to paint.  I met a lot of wonderful people from my church that I didn't know, and most importantly, I got a good look at how different life is for the people of McDowell county, WV.  We tend to automatically think of poor conditions when we think of third world countries, but it's not often that we realize how impoverished our own "backyards" are.  That people in America in 2011 are still living in homes without running water or a roof over their head.  It was very eye-opening, but also humbling, that I was able to help, if only in a small way.  Our group fixed roofs, put up drywall, built fences, did plumbing and even did some repainting at the mission clubhouse.  But overall, our purpose was to pass along the love of God through our acts of service.

I came home very much inspired to return to WV in the fall, to hopefully be able to go on an international mission trip soon and with two ideas of my own that I would love to bring to WV.  While passing through the downtown area one day, one of the women on the trip noticed a small dress shop in town and how they seemed to be getting ready for prom.  There were a few dresses in the front window and I realized in this area where there are no shopping centers, no malls... this was probably the only store where teenage girls in this area could get a prom dress, IF they could even afford one at all.  I know that a local radio station here in Charlotte does a donated prom dress drive for girls in this area... but if there is a need here, imagine the need in the poorest county in the whole country!  And, especially close to my heart... I saw stray dogs everywhere and heard stories of numerous amounts of puppies being born from dogs that were left loose to reproduce.  I would love to do something about this as well and hopefully bring a low-cost or free spay/neuter clinic to the area, to control some of the pet population.  They are both "projects" that were laid on my heart and I will continue to pray and work on them, but would love to hear from anyone who would be interested in helping!

And on an unrelated but yet very much related note... the message at my church last night, that I heard just a few hours after returning from WV, was on tithing.  But it wasn't really about giving 10% as much as it was about TRUSTING GOD.  The same thing that helped me to change my perspective about my "desert university" experience.  The same thing that helped me let go of everything I had been so discontent with and trying so hard to work out on my own.  The same thing that allowed me to go on a trip with no one I knew to an area I was unfamiliar with and be secure in the knowledge that God would use me.  The same thing that I realized during that message last night was the next step for me in this journey.  FAITH.  Trusting in God.  It's not about worrying over giving away 10% of your money, especially when your paychecks are already as small as mine are.  It was almost automatic as the pastor spoke... I can't trust only in certain areas of my life and not in others.  I can't hand control back to God (where it should be) over some things but still hold on tightly to others.  And it was that simple realization that got my checkbook out of my purse and the check into the offering box.  It all really comes back to the same thing...

Having faith in God with all parts of our lives.
Doing our best to serve him and others.
And trust, trust, trust.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Desert University

So as has been the case for the last couple weeks, I found myself strangely (or not actually) choked up at the end of my church service tonight.  I know it's something you hear a lot (at least if you go to a good church), in fact, it was part of the video package they showed before the service tonight... one of our church staff members talking about how he felt when he first starting attending and how he thought the pastor must've had his living room bugged because it seemed he was speaking directly about him each week.  Well, I have felt the same way and tonight was just another step in an experience that is so much bigger than me.  The "Desert University" experience as our pastor put it in his message tonight.

When we find ourselves lacking in some area of our life, feeling as though we are discontent with everything and we are in the "desert".  However, instead of worrying and focusing on how discontent we are, we should be patient, trusting and grateful during these times.  The times spent in the Desert University, is when God is trying to teach and discipline us.  There is a much larger lesson going on then what we are usually aware of.  When we are feeling furthest from God is when he most likely is paying us the most personal attention.

I personally know exactly what area(s) I have been feeling discontent with in my life recently.  I have used that exact word.  Expressing my lack of contentment, happiness and peace.  I felt confused, frustrated, sad, irritated and sometimes hopeless over the situation.  Like no matter what I did, the situation wasn't changing.  But now I realize what I was in indeed DOING was worrying, questioning and not trusting.  The message tonight reminded us that worrying is to not trust God.  That is exactly what I have been doing.  Worrying, thinking, analyzing and trying so hard to MAKE my situation change.  When instead I should just be present in the moment, peacefully listening for direction and grateful even if my situation is not exactly as I would like it to be.  When I realize that God is working on me bigtime right now, it all makes sense in a way that hours of worrying and overthinking couldn't ever achieve.

The areas I am discontent in are real.  The things I was worried about are really the current state of affairs.  BUT... again to quote our pastor, God will let you go through periods of hunger, but he will never let you starve to death.  There is a reason why God has removed the things he has from my life, there is a reason why there are certain things that are still missing from my life, there is a reason why some of the attempts to change the situations (whether by me or others) have not worked out, there is a reason why I am being "broken down".  It is not abandonment or something to be sad or angry over.  Instead, it is God loving me so much that he will continue to work in my life until I am completely dependent on him, as I should be.  Until I finally stop focusing on a hundred different things in a hundred different directions.  Until I finally stop trying to control things... fix things... worry myself to death... until he finally has my full and undivided attention and I realize...

Oooooohhh.... so THAT'S what all this has been about...

in that case.... THANK YOU GOD.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

+ or -

Have you ever actually pondered that age-old question, are you a "glass half full" or "glass half empty" kinda person?  Nah, I haven't either.  I mean if someone asked me offhand, sure I'd say I'm a half full person.  I try to find the positive in things.  But I've never actually really thought about it... and, like most of us, find myself frustrated with so many things in my day-to-day, that even I'd have to stop and wonder, is that all talk?

But I literally found myself looking at a glass the other day that was half full of water.  It was just sitting there on my coffee table and my gaze just randomly fell on it in between whatever I was working on on the computer and happened to look up at on tv, but nonetheless when it did... that's what I saw.  A glass half FULL of water.  And I consciously realized it.  I then had to stare intently at that glass to see it as half EMPTY.  Like when you stare at one of those optical illusion pictures where if you look at it one way, it's a rabbit, but if you look at it another way, it's an old woman.  I had to make myself view the half empty portion of the glass.  And ya know what?  I'm glad!

I always say who you are really is who you are when no one's looking.  You know... you tell the truth even if you'd never be "caught", you stop at a red light and wait even when there's not a soul around... it's who you are behind closed doors, who you "default" to... that says who you really are.  Well in this case, this is who I am when I'M not looking.  ;)  When I wasn't preoccupied with worrying about something, hoping for something, overanalyzing something to death (like I love to do), planning for something... when I was simply just being... I was being positive.  And that makes me happy.  :)

We all are going to get overwhelmed.  We're all going to question ourselves and our lives once in awhile.  We all become a bit of a Debbie Downer once in awhile.  But if underneath the everyday stresses and worries, we can hold on to a solid foundation of hope, goodness and optimism, we have all we need.  Because it is that positivity, that light, that will continue to guide us through the dark times and remind us of how blessed we are, in the simplest of ways.

Like having a glass half full of water.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A is for Awesome

So... here I lie with type A influenza.  Serves me right for opening my big mouth and saying I didn't need to get a flu shot because I "never get the flu."  Uh huh.  Anyway, what better time to write a blog then when completely incapacitated?

I can't believe I'm even going to utter this sentence, but I was very inspired by the Oprah show today.  Ugh.  And by what Michelle Obama had to say on there.  Double UGH.  Anyway, the episode was about military families and about how most Americans don't really think about the sacrifices they go through unless they know someone in the military personally.  That sure, most people will stop a soldier in uniform to say thank you, but that's about it.  That if your life hasn't been personally touched by the experience of having a loved one deployed or of having lost a loved one in the war, it is easy to disconnect.  I personally have two family members that are in the military and two friends that have already been deployed multiple times, and I know it is still easy to forget about the reality of war, once your loved ones are back home, safe and sound.

The basic idea Michelle Obama was getting at though is that she wants to start a nationwide initiative of everyone in America doing something.  Employers should set up plans for military spouses to be able to move through satellite offices when having to relocate often, principals should be aware of children who are in military families, and that even those of us who think we can't do something, can always do something.  If that means showing up on the doorstep of a military family with a homecooked meal or if you work in a salon, offering a military wife a maincure or pedicure... a chance for her to have a little break.  Basically, the same idea that I wrote about in my very first column with the Charlotte Observer... just do whatever it is that you're good at and God will make something bigger from it.  The same rule applies here.  Just do whatever it is that comes naturally to you and there will be some way for it to grow into a larger way to help others.

One of the military wives mentioned that besides the obvious issues military families deal with, there are also other things that no one ever thinks about.  For example, after the big, tearful homecoming, the solider who's just returned home, has to figure out how to fit back into the groove of things at home.  That they often have missed so many important events with their families, they can feel left out or unneeded.

It's another one of those cases where it's something we should be aware of all the time, but tend to easily forget.  Thank you to all of you who have served in the military in the past, to those of you that are leaving your families to go serve right now and all of you that will continue to do so in the future.  Thank you is really an understatement, as no words can truly express the sacrifice you make so the rest of us can live a life of freedom and peace.

God bless you all! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who Woulda Thunk It?

As much as I hate to admit that I watch a show like Mtv's "Teen Mom" in the first place... I have to say I have found myself pleasantly surprised by just how chocked full of life lessons it is.  And I don't mean the obvious one about teen pregnancy... I mean just the lessons that are wrapped up in the relationships between these girls and their boyfriends, their ex's and their families.

It is like those "biospheres" I learned about in Microbiology (yes, I did actually pay attention at some point)... this little show about this small group of girls represents a lot of larger issues that we all go through in our lives.  Obviously, the main issue these girls are dealing with is figuring out how to be a teenager while handling the responsibilities of a mother.  But I can relate to many of their situations personally or just recognize them as struggles we all deal with.

Take the one girl, Chelsea.  She is beautiful, has aspirations of being a hairstylist (which you can tell she would be good at cuz she always has cool looking hair) and seems to generally be a sweet, caring girl.  But it's amazing to see how much she puts up with when it comes to how her boyfriend treats/has treated her.  One moment on an episode today particularly stood out to me.  After her boyfriend had been completely ignoring her and their baby, blaming his infidelities on her and basically having the overall maturity of a 12 year old, she takes offense to him calling her a b**** "for no reason."  NOT BECAUSE HE CALLED HER THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE.  She was upset because she said he called her that for no reason, because she wasn't being one.  I wanted to jump through the tv and grab her and tell her "it's not okay that he calls you that EVER!!"  I watched her literally start to question herself and say SHE was the one who had issues, when she couldn't trust her boyfriend because he had cheated on her in the past.  He literally had her thinking that 1) she had caused it in the first place and 2) that she was the one who had issues to work on because she couldn't just get over it already.  Again, this is a teenage "relationship" but represents the same situation that so many women (and men) find themselves in.  Where their own self (and self WORTH) have gotten so lost that they forget the very basics of love.  There is never a "reason" that will make infidelity, harsh language or just disrespect in general, justified.  Ever.

Another girl, Jenelle, has a tumultuous relationship with her mother.  Granted, if I were forced to choose sides, I'd be on the mom's "side" most of the time.  BUT they both have issues that keep their relationship from being a successful, loving one.  It does make my heart break to watch this girl go off and party or stay with her boyfriend, while her toddler son literally stands at the front door and cries, watching her go.  I want to jump in the screen and shake her too and get her to realize how precious it is that she has that little life standing there, wanting nothing but her love and time.  That if any boyfriend was really a man, that he would want nothing but for her to give her son the time and attention he deserves.  But I feel bad for her in the scenes with her mother too, because so many times, whether her intentions are good or not, the mother rips the girl to shreds.  Even when some of the things she's saying may have some truth to them, the mother comes at her in such a demeaning and negative way, it does nothing but drive them farther apart.  It's another instance where I, in my typical fashion of wanting everyone to be able to just see everything as simply as possible, wish that they could both just take a step back, be grateful for one another and speak to each other with love and respect.

Kailyn, brought up the issue of honesty in my mind.  Although her and her ex obviously had many other issues going on, it made me want to shutter seeing the blatant dishonesty that was going on.  It was another situation where she (I'm not singling her out, so many people do the same) looked out for her best interests and what would work out the best for her at the time, instead of just being 100% honest.  I get the strangest reactions sometimes when I stress how much I believe that is how everyone should be.  It's like people think, well yes, obviously honesty most of the time is the best policy, but there is always going to be a time or two where you have to tell a "little lie."  Okay, first of all, there's no such thing as a little lie... if you lie about something little, it will just grow and grow.  And second of all, there's a never a time that you have to lie.  Even if the truth will cause harm or pain, lying about it only doubles that harm or pain.

Ironically, the one girl, Leah, is the one I enjoy watching the most on the show now.  She drove me nuts the few times I watched it last season, I will admit.  But again it was because I wanted to shake her!  She had a guy who not only was willing to be there for her when she got pregnant, but he stepped up in all ways, financially, emotionally, and you could tell he honestly cared about her and the babies.  Amazingly, after all the bad times they went through, they got back together and now are such a cute little family.  They're not perfect, just like the rest of us, but they just seem to have the basics down - love each other, respect each other, be honest with each other and be there for one another - as a team.

I may have just put the show on for noise in the background while I work on my homework or my thirty-one business, but I am glad I did.  They make me think.  They make me feel.  And those are good things to do.  ;)  I wish nothing but the best for all of them on the show, as I do for all of us going through the same things in our lives everyday.  Like I said, I really do think life should be (and CAN be) a lot simpler than it is alot of the time...

*Be honest
*Be respectful
*Be loving
*Be supportive
*Be kind


*Don't ever let anyone be anything but these back to you!