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When Daddy died fifteen months ago it caused a shift in our family, and it awakened something inside me that wanted to honor the way I saw Daddy live. I made a promise to myself that I would not live life half-way. Having a new direction helped me take the energy and pain behind my grief and put it toward something good that I could see taking shape. I did an inventory of everything in my life that I thought was a gift, skill, or passion, and I began to “practice” and believe they were “in me” for a reason. Thanks to a community of coaches, I was able to see things that I had determined were “weird” and discovered they were good gifts from God. I think Daddy would be pleased and that makes life without him a little more bearable. It hasn’t taken away the vice around my heart but maybe it doesn’t squeeze quite as hard.

***

“For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

 

 

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The following is my second speech using the guidelines from the Competent Communicator book. The assignment was to choose any topic and organize it with an introduction, body, and conclusion, use appropriate transition words, and write out a personal outline. If I had to do this one over again, I would chose a different topic. I love giving inspirational speeches, but this one could have been a 20 minute speech. I only had 5-7 minutes. By the time I whittled the speech down to 5-7 min, I felt like it had lost part of the meaning. Since I was rushing through the information to stay in the 5-7 minutes, I communicated more from memorization which I don’t like doing. The other “problem” I had during this speech was with my arms and hands. When I started giving the speech, I became very aware of my arms! I couldn’t figure out what to do with them–hold the lectern, gesture, pick my nose, etc. Nothing felt natural. I’m hoping I become more at ease with my arms as I give more speeches. Overall, it was lots of fun, a little stress, and great feedback. If you are interested in leadership and communication development, check out a Toastmasters Club near you! If you live in Murfreesboro, then check out the Heart of Tennessee (HOT) Toastmasters http://heartoftennessee.toastmastersclubs.org/.

***

Five years ago my daughter and I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Honduras. The main focus of the trip was to build houses for some of the poorest families in the city of Tegucigalpa.  We raised money for building supplies, bought our tool belts and we left over Thanksgiving week with a team of ten people. I really thought God was sending me to the people of Honduras to bring them a small amount of development and a lot of love. But I’ve have time to reflect over the five years since the trip, and I’m not sure God was sending me to help them. I believe God did send me, but it was for them to help me. I wasn’t prepared to see an impoverished country. I definitely wasn’t prepared to see people who were hungry. Today I want to share with you how the people I met and the gift I received taught me how to choose hope in all tough circumstances.

First, We arrived in Teguc and in minutes of setting foot off the plane began seeing the effects of poverty. I knew we were coming to work in a poor country. but I just didn’t have an understanding of what that really meant. My first real encounter with the hungry happened at Church’s chicken where we ate our fill just after we arrived. When we came out of the restaurant, I noticed people waiting for leftover scraps of food. It didn’t take me long to realize that I may have been hungry because I had missed lunch, but I had never experienced hunger like what was staring back at me. Sadly, hunger was everywhere. I thought I had seen the worst of the hunger until day 5 when we visited the Teguc dump. We weren’t there to throw trash away, instead we were going to feed a meal to the people that live there. I didn’t even know anything like that existed. People were everywhere sorting through piles of garbage in order to eat. I felt numb as I sat in the back of a truck giving out food with men and women’s hands reaching out while buzzards sat beside us.  How could we out-give what we were wittnessing? The excitement of the trip turned into a knot of reality in my stomach. Hungry people were real.

But, I don’t want to leave you with only those thoughts. Not only was there poverty, but there was extravagant generosity. Our team received a gift while we were building a house in hillside slum. We had torn down a little shack made of rotten wood and bits of scrap metal and were replacing it with a one-room wooden house. Community folks gathered and the day had a joy to it that stood out beyond the conditions of the city. This day, our team made trips up and down a large hill carrying trash and supplies to and from the site. This older woman watched us all day. On one of the trips down the hill she invited me, my daughter, and a couple other teammates into her home and chatted incessantly in Spanish. I wish I could have understood what she said. 🙂  She had a small table set up with glasses, a 2-liter of coke, and snack cakes. And in a country where people were malnourished and starving, we were given the gift of food. Our leader had already been invited to her home and had told us that she had spent everything she had on snacks for the missionaries to say thank you. Nothing else seemed to matter but that moment. I’ve always heard the saying “it’s better to give than to receive” but that day I learned that it’s good to give and it’s good to receive. And even though I was a middle-class woman from the US standing in a home in the 2nd poorest country in Central America, I wanted to do what she was doing … choosing hope!!

Finally, how do the hungry find hope? There is a proverb from the Christian Bible that says, “a generous person will be enriched, and the one who gives a drink of water will receive water.”  My daughter and I gave water but we definitely left with our cups full. How could the poorest woman I’ve ever met take everything she had and give it to strangers working nearby? All I saw was a country full of deplorable conditions that outnumbered the relief efforts. She taught me a lesson that changed the way I think. This sweet lady’s identity was not in poverty or the slum. It was in something much finer and grander. Her identity was wrapped in riches of love, generosity, and goodness. Those things can never be taken away even in the worst of circumstances.

To conclude: I never want to be prepared to see hungry people or a community of people that live in the dump. In addition, I never again want to underestimate the power of receiving a gift wrapped in love. Maybe it’s when we learn to receive extraordinary gifts that we can give more than we could ever imagine. There’s a quote by Mother Teresa that says, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Yes, I learned about hunger and about giving and receiving, but the most important lesson I want to leave with each of you is how the woman on the hillside choose hope.

Thursday afternoon my Facebook feed blew up with news about the Duggar molestation scandal. Just like a lot of America I spent the next couple of days reading headlines and blogs of varied opinions about this unfolding drama. Child sexual abuse is a terrible misfortune that many of our nation’s children innocently face daily. Unfortunately, we still live in an age where sexual abuse is under-reported and, in many instances, swept under the carpet. I do not know if that’s what happened with the Duggar family. I’m much more concerned about the thousands of children who are presently living through the shame and terror of sexual abuse even as I write these words. Stories of this nature uncover deep emotions which is why we’ve seen a plethora of strong opinions on social media. Putting all differences aside, I’m sure we can all agree that a tragedy has occurred anytime a child is sexually abused.  So how do we take a headline of this nature and use it in a positive way? I want to leave you with five things that you can do starting TODAY that will make a difference in children’s lives and move us closer to a vision of eradicating child sexual abuse.

1. Know the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse.

Prevent Child Abuse America (with state chapters) is a great resource. The following link takes you to a brochure: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: http://www.preventchildabuse.org/images/docs/sexualabusebrochure.final.pdf. There’s a variety of other resources available as well.

Contact the National Exchange Club. Their project of prevention of child abuse began in 1979. They will be able to connect you with local family centers that can teach you the signs and symptoms. Tennessee’s Exchange Club Family Center’s contact is: http://www.familycentertn.org/.

2. Find Stewards of Children training in your area or take it online: http://www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6035035/k.8258/Prevent_Child_Sexual_Abuse.htm#.VWU9EM9Viko. This is national program through an organization called Darkness to Light. You could also consider hosting a Stewards of Children workshop in your area. Take a minute and review their website. I’ve copied their “About Us” below:

We Believe Overcoming child sexual abuse requires us to change the rules, systems, and structures surrounding children so that the potential of every child can be realized.When prevention is a priority, only then can we eliminate child sexual abuse.

Our Commitment We will equip adults and organizations with the knowledge and skill needed to effectively protect children from sexual abuse TODAY. We will empower people to act in the best interest of children.

What We Do We challenge the notion of child sexual abuse as a societal taboo by encouraging communities to talk about risk, prevention, and child protection.We address the urgent need for education that protects children and provides a catalyst for broader societal change.We enable youth serving professionals, child advocates, parents, and communities to apply knowledge and skill to child protection, allowing them to become a dynamic force.When people have the knowledge and skill to stand up for children…and when they are empowered to overcome the fear, denial, stigma, and obstacles around standing up for children, they WILL choose the child.

3. Familiarize yourself with the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. This research was gathered to assess associations between child maltreatment and health and well-being in later life. Review the information on children and toxic stress:  http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/. You can also check out this fantastic TED talk by Nadine Burke Harris on the ACE study: https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime.

4. Know the child abuse reporting law in your state and report suspected child abuse. The following is the law for the TN area:  Tennessee law requires all persons must report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. To report child abuse in Tennessee, call the Department of Children’s Services’ Central Intake at 1-877-237-0004.

5. Be a good neighbor. I love the verse form the bible, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Recently I heard a preacher ask, “who is your neighbor?” He answered, “Anyone that crosses your path.” Read more in Luke 10:29-37. It’s a beautiful story. Childhood is a special and unique time. Let’s do everything we can to be a good neighbor to the children that cross our path.

When prevention is a priority, only then can we eliminate child sexual abuse.”(Darkness to Light)

Let’s Talk!

Posted: May 14, 2015 in Uncategorized
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I am thankful that God’s grace is extended to bigotry and hypocrisy because over the years I’ve been a friend to both. The human experience is not stagnant; it is influenced by our experiences, knowledge, and by a Creator that relentlessly pursues us through all the great times but particularly in our blind spots and valleys. I’m on that journey. My hope is that you will read this blog through the lens of mercy. I share my thoughts, not to spark additional diversity to controversial subjects, but to find a place of connection beyond my own experience. I don’t see the point of writing if it doesn’t bring engagement to hearts and minds—a shared human experience—one that connects my dot to yours. I am committed to sharing my thoughts without pointing the shameful finger of blame to another person or group. Although I may believe that there are things that should shift in our society, culture, religious settings, etc., at the end of the day the change I want to see must start with me. I can’t wait to get started and hear your thoughts!!

Stayed tuned for upcoming post: Confessions of a Good Girl 

***This blog is a work in progress! I’ll do better when I know better! Thank you for your help and  patience as I learn my way around. AB***

Submitting to Jesus

Posted: April 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

This is from one of my Celebrate Recovery lessons. It’s just a little bit of my testimony

Describe the experience of asking Jesus Christ into your life. 

My parents took me to church by the time I was two weeks old. There was never a day before or after I was born that I was not told (or sung to) about Jesus’ love for me for which I am forever grateful. When I was eleven years old, I became aware of my need to invite Jesus as my Lord and Savior into my life. I wanted to wait to share the news during a Vacation Bible School since it was primarily with other children and in a smaller setting but that was months away, and I felt like I might explode from the excitement of what the Lord was already doing inside me. During a revival at Holly Grove Baptist Church, I anxiously waited until the 3rd verse of Just As I Am to release my grip on the pew in front of me and walk to the front of the auditorium. I whispered to Brother Jimmy Arms that I wanted to take Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It was a wonderful night! Since we didn’t have a baptismal pool and my parents wanted to invite friends and family for a special celebration, I was baptized two weeks later at Maney Avenue Baptist Church. I will never forget the beautiful experience of being filled with intense joy and laughter as I came up out of the water and even for hours afterwards. The next few months were memorable. Even as young as I was, I could see myself changing. I was drawn into scripture and biblical teachings. I remember hearing the preacher and realizing he had been up there every week talking, but I had never really listened to much he said. I became a hungry student. I also remember going to school and sharing about Jesus with my friends. I still can hear myself telling a little friend, “even if you are all alone on a mountain, He is there.” I also remember one of my friends telling me, “I can’t wait to go to heaven and meet this Jesus.”

We were so young and innocent and full of child-like faith. It was a sweet, sweet time.

My mind has changed to see ALL people through His love.

The following statistics regarding LGB persons are not okay.

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/facts-about-suicide

Because of bullying, rejection, and shame many have chosen to leave this world.

Who would chose to die rather than live?

Someone who has lost all hope.

This has to end.

#mysilencehasended

I’ve been going to Celebrate Recovery since December to deal with some addictions and hang-ups. One of the areas that causes me trouble is uncontrollable worry over health issues. Because of a medical test today, my anxiety peaked last night.

This morning I woke up and said to the Lord, “I didn’t worry as much last night … does that work?” I’m not even sure where I was going with that question. I think I wanted Him to say, “yay! for progress” and maybe give me a little pat on the back. To my surprise … this is what I “heard” …

“Oh, silly girl! Do you think I need you to quit worrying for me? It’s never been about me. It’s always been for you! Your body was not designed to worry. Every cell inside you was made for life. Worry suppresses this life. If you are trying to quit worrying for me, then stop! I love you whether you worry or not. If you want to stop worrying, do it because of you.”

Our bodies are not designed for worry! We are designed from the One who sustains all life. Worry is counter to His image in us. We carry His DNA. No wonder worry makes me sick! It would be like me trying to live on Mars when my body was clearly designed for Earth.

Shew. I had a lot to think about today.

“Worry weighs us down; a cheerful word picks us up.” Proverbs 12:25

🙂