October 15?!?!

Already?!?! How time is flying by! Two months from today will wrap up a major phase of life… grad school. Graduation is December 15! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I can hardly stand it! Although I’ll still have 3 major exams to take for licensure, they will be spread out over the next couple of years and homework as a whole will disappear. I can read simply because I want to again!

Here are the things I’ve learned about myself over the past 2.5 years:

  • I am crazier about organizing, planning, tabbing and color coding than I ever imagined possible.
  • I really am a good student when I see the long-term benefit and feel the weight of the responsibility of how I learn and choose to value remembering information. It paid to take those 10 years between undergrad and grad school to better know myself, my interests, my abilities and my goals. I haven’t wasted thousands (and thousands and thousands) of dollars on something that I might or might not do something with… I know that I know that I know my calling and how I can best help people through ministry and counseling.
  • I can be disciplined working from home… but it can also be a slippery slope with Pinterest so easily available… I also really enjoy being home with Tony during the day. We may be in separate rooms, on separate floors, but it’s nice to so easily stop for lunch and hang out for a bit during the day.
  • As much as I’ve despised gas prices and the extra early mornings or late nights due to having to drive an hour or so to classes, meetings, internship sites, etc., it’s allowed me some much needed quiet time during the days for prayer, podcasts, reflection of thoughts and processing of clients or the day’s events. Especially now, I’m loving all the fall landscape during my drives!
  • I’m very blessed with a supportive husband and parents/family who have set me up to succeed during such a phase as this. I am thankful beyond words for their help during these past years.
  • As long as 2.5 years / 61 hours of classes and internships have felt… looking back, it has flown by. I feel as though I still have great things to learn and years of experience to gain before I feel fully comfortable and competent. I guess that’s why they require 3000 hours of supervised practice before the state will grant you a license for independent counseling, haha… there IS more to learn!
  • Balancing part time jobs, classes, internships, family and friend time is difficult. I’m not perfect at it. Prioritizing and learning to say “no” and when to take time for rest has become an art. Marriage will look different in a couple of months (due to scheduling, primarily), free-time will look different, availability to friends and family will look different… it’s exciting and a bit intimidating all at the same time…

So I can’t help but wonder what this next phase will look like… what I will look like? But for now… I guess I’ll get back to studying… 🙂

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Monday, Monday

Normally Mondays are not my favorite days (as with many other people), but today has been especially calm, relaxing and happy. I don’t know if it’s the feeling of fall being around the corner… with the crisp and cool air, warm colors, comforting foods… but today has been a different Monday than most. I think the things that have contributed to my happy day are:

  1. Having both a relaxing AND productive weekend (if that’s even possible to have the two together).
  2. I was motivated to wake up early this morning to begin my day (which hasn’t happened in a while – I’ve been waking up already exhausted with the day’s upcoming events lately).
  3. I got to sit and enjoy my egg white/chicken sausage/gruyere omelet and coffee with House Hunters for breakfast… without fear of having to rush to the next thing or guilt that I was putting off something important.
  4. I was able to run a few errands and then realize how much time was still left to work, read and write this afternoon! (Although I’ve spent a couple of meaningless hours on Pinterest, Facebook and dreaming of decorating a high end loft in a big city one day… haha.)
  5. I have been loving my study on Nehemiah by Kelly Minter and learning about the benefits and discipline of prayer… I’m being challenged by the words of Nehemiah and the things he did and felt for others.
  6. And sometimes it’s just nice to be able to be at home… I’ve loved that for the past few days… I think it’s refueled me enough to send me back out the next four days into a chaotic schedule of driving and meeting and talking and oh so much more.

So, happy Monday. I wish you one as good as mine.

Forgiveness (Part Two)

Forgiveness allows you to no longer be a victim of your past hurts. Willingness to forgive opens you up to the freedom to move on. Forgiveness is healthy: physically, emotionally, spiritually… People who are taught how to forgive become less angry, more hopeful, less depressed and anxious, less stressed and more confident. So how can you move toward forgiveness and overcoming hurt? How do you change your expectations to better accept that there are no guarantees in life and you cannot change the hurts and disappointments from the past?

  1. Acknowledge that you have been hurt… recognize the feeling. Realize that staying upset is because you are having difficulty releasing your expectations and desire to control outcomes. Realize that YOU are the person distressed about the problem… most likely not the person who has hurt you.
  2. Articulate the unmet expectation. Sometimes we don’t even know the expectations exist until they are not met. 
  3. Commit to changing your demands regarding what you cannot control. Change the way you respond to disappointment and hurt by making your expectations more fluid and adaptable.
  4. Take back your power by taking back how you feel: never lose sight of the good things of life. Acknowledge and be thankful for your blessings. Look at the beauty around you. Look at others who have forgiven and who love and how you can do the same.
  5. Be able to describe what happened that was hurtful and how it made you feel. Tell someone who you trust, someone who will be helpful in your process of forgiving. This helps you to let go of the hurt and feel as though you are not alone. It also opens you up for receiving encouragement and accountability to release the hurt and not dwell on your bitterness.
  6. Remember that forgiveness is for YOU and not THEM.

I just heard the song “Losing” by Tenth Avenue North, and it fits well with learning how to release the hurts we cannot control and stop feeling like we are the ones losing…

I can’t believe what she said
I can’t believe what he did
Oh, don’t they know it’s wrong
Don’t they know it’s wrong
Well maybe there’s something I missed
But how could they treat me like this
It’s wearing out my heart
The way they disregard

This is love or this is hate.
We all have a choice to make

Oh, Father won’t You forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’ (oh no)
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’

Well it’s only the dead that can live
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that’s mine
Seventy times seven times
Cause Lord it doesn’t feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
Though I guess it’s not that much
When I think of what You’ve done.

This is love or this is hate.
We gotta a choice to make

Oh Father won’t You forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’ (oh no)
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’

Why do we think that our hate’s gonna break a hard heart
We’re rippin’ arms over wars that don’t need to be fought
Cause pride wont let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up but it’s just to burn them down
We think our pain is own apologies and get them to stop
Well truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not
Cause freedom comes when we surrender to the sound
Of Your mercy and Your grace, Father, send Your angels down

I choose freedom… and in regard to forgiveness, that means often choosing to do the hard thing… I’ll keep working on it.

Forgiveness (Part One)

To forgive is the highest most beautiful form of love. In return you will receive untold peace and happiness (quote by Robert Muller).

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you (quote by Lewis Smedes).

Forgiveness is the economy of the heart, forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits (quote by Hannah Moore).

Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; Revenging one makes you but even with him; Forgetting it puts you above him (quote by Benjamin Franklin).

Forgiveness is hard. It feels unnatural. And yet, we cannot move forward from hurts without it. Forgiveness is something that I have often struggled with… and something that even now I’m trying to figure out how to do better. One of my classes this spring gave some helpful thoughts on the importance of and benefits of forgiveness. The topic has been on the forefront of my thoughts this past week as I have fought to release some feelings of bitterness. So, I thought I’d share what I have learned and and am processing for personal growth in this area…

The difficulty of forgiving is figuring out how to remain peaceful when someone hurts or disappoints you. It isn’t easy to recover to a state of peace when you are mistreated. At the heart of our wounds is some event or thing we really hoped for that simply did not occur… an expectation that was not fulfilled. When we hold on to these hurts, they build bitterness. And that bitterness becomes profound when we lack the ability to accept that those things did not turn out our way. Grievances are formed when we are unable to deal successfully with not getting what we want and the disappointment and hurt takes up too much space and energy in our mind.

What keeps a grievance alive?

  • Talking about it over and over and over and over…
  • Letting your thoughts ruminate about the hurt many times throughout the day…
  • Finding yourself growing tired with the amount of time you spend thinking about things/hurts from the past…

Thinking about a problem more than twice is thinking about it too much… and can make the event a stronghold in your life. Thinking of the hurt repeatedly causes you to become stuck and dangerously close to becoming a controlled victim of your past hurts and bitterness.

Things to remember when we have been hurt:

  • Most offenses are committed without the intention of hurting anyone. We can never really know someone else’s thoughts or exactly why they acted cruelly. We don’t even know the painful things that have happened to the offender that have played a role in their offending behavior.
  • Being hurt is common. If we look carefully, we can find at least ten people who have been hurt in very similar ways. The intensity of our hurt and bitterness can be fueled by the idea that no one else will understand.
  • To overcome hurt, we often have to release ideas like: life should be fair; people should be fair; people are supposed to always be kind; life is supposed to be easy; so-and-so should have treated me better.

Next post: how to possibly change your thinking about hurt and disappointment to help you forgive and more forward…

Role Collision

We all wear multiple hats… we play various roles in life. For me, those primary roles are (in no particular order): wife, student, friend, daughter, sister, adoption counselor, counseling intern, homemaker, volunteer, small group coach and church staff member. My identity as a growing follower of Jesus is an umbrella over all of those things, guiding the direction, decisions and motivation for each of my roles… but even that takes time and attention to maintain and grow.

Sometimes everything seems to work well together, each taking a general give and take, allowing one to be more important at times than another. And that’s reality… sometimes being a friend trumps being a worker – a friend might need a little extra time and attention during a crisis that should take precedence over the tasks of work… and sometimes it’s vice versa… The difficulty is when all of those roles seem to demand the same intensity of attention, time and effort. Often, that happens when I don’t allow myself to say “no.” And, sometimes there are just those seasons that are inevitable… everything simply seems to happen all at once… and that seems to be my current season. (For example: I started this blog almost two weeks ago and it’s taken me until today to get back to completing it since everything else on my plate had higher priority.)

So what do you do when everything collides? What do you do when all roles are demanding all the time? What do you do when time for self-care, peace and quiet and relaxation is difficult to come by? What do you do when the light at the end of the tunnel seems so far away?

Step One: STOP and take a DEEP breath. Nothing can compare to the power of prayer. Remember that God is able to do more than you can imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and offers a rest for your burdens that is unparalleled (Matthew 11:28). The time you take to focus on God’s goodness and mercy and strength and power is essential. You’ll never make it without Him. The days I ignore time in prayer and Scripture are the days I feel the most exhausted and defeated.

Step Two: Prioritize. Even though everything seems to be of utmost importance, there still can be some organization to help you keep your sanity. Establish or name deadlines… make your calendar and to-do list specific with plans and goals. It is times like this that organization and careful planning/scheduling is vital. Decide on the essentials and if anything can be dropped. The essentials are things that cannot be forgotten, the things that just have to be done. All the other stuff may need to be adjusted and possibly even let go. And, if you are spending regular time in prayer and Scripture, the Holy Spirit will help you discern these things. If you’ve already done that and you’re still overwhelmed with everything on your to-do list, find someone to help. Maybe that’s getting someone to help with specific tasks, maybe that’s getting someone to listen to your chaos and help give some perspective on your priorities, maybe that’s getting someone to commit to encouraging and praying for you in this season. Just don’t do it alone!

Step Three: Remember that it’s a season. This too shall pass. Even though the light at the end is small… there IS a light. Find what works for you in these crazy times and do more of it. For example, if regular yoga helps to ease the stress/tension, make it one of the essentials. If ending work at a certain time in the day keeps you from lashing out at your loved ones, make a point to keep that a priority.

Tomorrow’s a new day, with a new to-do list, and I’m sure something that will be unexpected… here’s to pressing on (Philippians 3:12-14)…

Fun Ideas…

So, I love understanding personalities…. and I love organization…. why not mix the two? This idea from Real Simple was great this morning!

Take their quiz to learn if you are right-brained or left-brained and get tips for what might work best for your organization style!

Just a fun, random tool for today… 🙂 I, by the way am left-brained, but I think the sides of my brain are sometimes at war with one another, the right-brained, artistic and creative side often fighting desperately to come out and win and make the left side calm down and relax a little!

Summer Break

I’ve just reached my summer break! I have some time off from school to relax and…. organize! My goal is to go room by room in the house and clean out and organize. I’ve already got the back of my car full of stuff to take to Goodwill and just as much has been thrown in the trash. I’ve only made it to two rooms, haha. But, they were the worst closets of the house, by far. One room is my office/guest room. My sister-in-law was staying with us for the first half of the summer, so I had moved my desk out to help give her more space and me space to work without us being on top of one another. So, since she has moved out and I have some free time, I went through everything in the closet and re-set up my desk/office space in that room. Especially since I have no real office space for either of my part-time jobs now… my house is my official work address. The difficult part is that I have a ton of books that I want to keep as resources for myself as a counselor or for future clients. So, they are all stored in boxes for the moment… piled up oh so nicely in my newly organized closet. It doesn’t quite match all the pretty pics online of organized closets with the perfect shelving and cubbies and baskets, but hey, I know everything that’s in there and was able to make-do with what I had. And, at least there is space now for a guest to hang up some clothes.

The blue room is where I had moved my desk, but it was cramping space for working out. And, what a great, calming color of a room to do what I dislike most (sweating), haha! It’s now re-arranged and looks better and the closet is a HUGE transformation. I’m one of those people who saves every box and gift bag and bow… just in case it’s needed in the future for something I want to give. Especially for Christmas! Why buy all that stuff when you can already have and re-use it? But, it does become quite bulky. So, I consolidated all the wrapping paper and made a box for tissue paper and a box for bows and a big bag of bags… and the boxes were all broken down to take up much less space. Sorry for no before  picture, but I was way to eager to get started cleaning to stop for a photo op. Just imagine all sizes of boxes and bags and junk thrown everywhere.

And yes, I’ve been so proud of my work that I have gone back and looked at the rooms/closets multiple times since completing the tasks. I just like to sit and enjoy all my hard work! Up for today: the hall closet and guest bathroom…

My brother-in-law is still living with us through early August sometime. I told him that this is the best time to be living with me! I did his laundry over the weekend and even made him an omelet for breakfast on Saturday after Tony and I had already finished breakfast. Maybe I’m weird, but this is the stuff I love to do – cook, clean and organize.

Climate Change

North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA, recently did a series called Climate Change(I listen to podcasts during my drive to and from Nashville throughout the week.) Basically, the point is that “the most critical climate” may not be what you observe outside your window, but the one “created inside a room when you walk into it.” The climate is the condition that prevails in general, or over a long period of time. Every person has a unique “climate” that she/he carries, and that climate can impact… and even predict… relationships. So if someone’s climate is full of bitterness, frustration, pessimism and pride, relationships will probably be rocky. Other people will more than likely be on edge or overwhelmed around those individuals. Others may grow more frustrated themselves and pour on/reinforce negativity, or they may choose to distance themselves from the bitter pessimist altogether because of her/his innate knack for darkening the room. Know anyone like that? Know someone that instantly creates an emotional or even behavioral response within you as soon as they walk through the door… as soon as you hear their voice?

It’s easy to point out the flaws and frustrations in other people. But it’s vital from time to time that we take a moment to look inward. What if I am that person? What if my climate instantly causes other people to withdraw… to be overwhelmed and frustrated… to feel uncomfortable… to close up and not fully share or be themselves… The first sermon of the series challenged people to ask some honest, close friends, “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” The speaker challenged that if you would be willing to ask the question, be prepared for both positive and negative. If you give others room to offer constructive criticism, you better be open to receiving it. And if the point is to use it as an opportunity to grow and not argue, listen to feedback without defensiveness. I’ll be honest, it was a tough question to ask… it wasn’t necessarily anything that surprised me, but more of confirmed some weaknesses that I was afraid to face. I really only asked Tony, but I hope to ask a few more friends in the coming months (feedback from him was enough to last me a while, haha). So I’ll keep asking… keep working… keep striving to become a person who is seen as safe, loving, accepting, open, generous, hard working, gentle… it will require some pruning (John 15:2), but I believe it will be well worth it as I work toward a climate change of my own.

Week One of Slow Carb

Week one of an increase in protein and dramatic decrease in white carbs and dairy was quite positive. It took more preparation and work throughout the week to prepare breakfast and lunches, but I think the work was well worth it. I had a little more energy than normally each day and felt full after each meal. I did, however, crave for some sugary or cheesy goodness foods, but that made longing for my cheat day (yesterday – Saturday) all the more exciting. For dinner last night, Tony and I ate at Rumours East with some friends. It was delicious, and to be a cheat day, we definitely went all out. We started with the house bread basket while we waited on our friends to arrive and then had the goat cheese (wrapped in grape leaves) appetizer. They had a peach and basil salad that was unlike anything I had ever tasted before. For the entree, Tony got the NY Strip and I had the scallops with wheat bulgar salad on the side. All was wonderful, and I’d highly recommend the restaurant for anyone in the Nashville area!

So, we’ll keep going on our slow carb eating, hoping for a positive second week experience… Menu for this week:

  • Monday: Grilled ratatouille, adapted from the previous recipe I shared with spaghetti squash and no ricotta in the tomato sauce
  • Tuesday: Night out with Tony’s parents – we’re hoping for somewhere Mexican so we can order fajitas
  • Wednesday: Grilled chicken, grilled green beans, corn salsa
  • Thursday: Steak and portobello fajita lettuce wraps with guacamole
  • Friday: Salmon/tilapia, broccoli and carrots

I’ll let you know if we get creative with any of these recipes as we strive to keep them simple and as healthy as possible.

So whether you eat or dri…

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:30).

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:23-24).

This is my motivation to try eating in new and healthier ways. This is my motivation to “not be lazy” (mine and Tony’s favorite new phrase). In my striving to become the best version of the self I have been created to be… as I become a cook, counselor, daughter, friend, growing follower of Jesus, social worker, traveler, wife and whatever else… my striving is that in whatever I do, I do it with all my heart, all for the glory of God. It’s a continual process. I celebrate milestones along the way, but I know it’s a lifelong journey. There are bound to be mistakes, letdowns and detours… but I will press on. I will not grow weary in doing what’s right because I trust God’s promise to reward my perseverance (Galatians 6:9) in all things, in all areas, in all decisions. God has blessed me with life and health, I will do what I can to care for myself.

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