One year – I don’t want to save others & Jesus

A year ago today I landed back on American soil after spending the summer in the bush of Northern Uganda. I couldn’t wait to hug the necks of my parents, but my heart also was in shreds knowing when my feet hit the ground I would be 7,000 and something miles away from my Acholi family. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from last summer.

I had no idea that when my feet hit American soil, I would be in for some of the hardest days I have ever experienced. Dark days. I can’t really put it into words exactly, and if I could fully express it you’d stop reading this post and think I was crazy. I felt like I lost a part of me. Culture shock was hard. Yes, I know I have grown up here, but I had lived two totally different lives. I missed people who I had no way of checking in on. I put down my Bible because it hurt too deeply. It hurt too deeply to mourn that life. This emotionally driven heart of mine shut down. I became numb. I felt like robo girl. Walking through life without it ever touching me. I spent months like this. Totally numb. I had no idea that the next year of my life would bring some of the darkest, most painful days and experiences, and yet bring me to some of the most beautiful realizations.

Here I am a year later. I still miss my Acholi family EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. But here are two major things I have learned in the past year…

  1. The Lord is so patient. Like I said, I put down my Bible after coming back. It all hurt. & guilt wrecked havoc on my life for a little while for doing it. I felt like a fake, like a hypocrite. I had just spent a summer trying to show the love of Christ and how good it is to people and here I am being unable to open the very book I was telling them to cling to. Unable to utter a prayer. And there were days where my guilt got me and I said “okay, I’m going to read my Bible today because I know I’m suppose to do this”. And I would try. And I would open and close it quickly. I say all that to say this. The Lord was never angry at me. The Lord was never standing by a calendar putting x’s over the days that I didn’t read The Word. Did He want me to? Yes, because He wanted to show up for me. But was he angry or disappointed in me? No. He waited for me. Because He knew my heart. He wasn’t screaming why at me. He was waiting. Waiting on me. Placing people in my life that would help heal me, that would gently push me to Him. The Lord is patient. He knows our hearts and He waits more patiently and longer than we can fathom because He cares.
  2. This next point is about to sound ludicrous. It’s even going to sound anti-Christian. Seriously, here is your upfront warning. This is something the Lord has been showing me in the past few months and drove it home today. Today, during my time with the Lord, I journaled this…..(again, PLEASE BEAR WITH ME. I PROMISE IT’S NOT ANTI-RELIGIOUS). “I don’t want to lead others to Christ & Jesus. I don’t want to live in a foreign country as a missionary & Jesus. I don’t want to write blogs & the Lord use them to impact the Kingdom & Jesus.” WHAAAATTT??? YOU WROTE THAT?? IS THAT LIKE AN ABOMINATION OF EVERYTHING YOU HAVE EVER CLAIMED TO WANT AND BE? Yes & no. All of that is good things. All of those are things that impact the Kingdom. Each are things that matter and make a difference. So yes. But no, it’s not. It’s exactly who and what I want to be. Because the line that followed those three was this “I just want Jesus“. I don’t want to be known by many for my faith….I just want Jesus. I just want Him. Whether that means I’m surrounded by people that I can point to Christ or that I’m isolated with only Him to cling to. I don’t want Jesus plus anything…even anything good. I just want Jesus. Period. The end. A few weeks ago, our Pastor did a series on Revelation. Honestly, Revelation has been a book that scares me. It shouldn’t. But it has in the past. Just keeping it real. But he went through the Letters to the Seven Churches. I found the whole series incredible. (Thank you Pastor Nathan for seeking the Lord and preaching Truth.) Today, after writing the above in my journal, the Lord led me back to the letter to the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2. The Lord commends the church in Ephesus for it’s diligence and endurance in speaking the truth. In staying with true doctrine. Which is awesome. He tells them he knows they can’t stand evil and have protected their teachings. That they are enduring patiently for His name. Incredible right. They are doing good things here. But then he says this “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Here they are doing incredible things, good things, but yet the Lord says they have lost their first love. The love that matters. The only thing that matters in the end. You can do all the deeds and works in the world, but the Lord says “STOP TURN BACK TO JUST LOVING JESUS” if that’s not your whole world. They have to turn back to their love of Christ. This is what I mean when I say I don’t want those other things. I just want my first love. I just want my Jesus. DON’T LET GOOD THINGS TAKE THE PLACE OF THE BEST THING. Jesus, only Jesus.

Those are just two things that the Lord has taught me over the past year. Two things that I am so thankful for. Thank you Jesus for my time with the Acholi people…..& thank you Jesus for my time, though sometimes dark, over the past year. You’re such an incredible Father. I want you, Jesus, only you.

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rejection.

I’ve been meaning to type this post for a little while. I have been trying to figure out exactly the words that the Lord would have me use. To get myself out of the way, and to let Him be seen. So my Jesus, please knock me out of the picture. Please take control of my fingers & pour out the things you would have the world hear.

I’ve also been spending some much needed time with some stellar friends who have poured SO much into me. So much love, so much laughter, and so much Jesus. I am so incredibly blessed.

Here is an update about Nashville –

My last post about Nashville talked about waiting. I was waiting on a letter from Vanderbilt. And like I said in my last post, I didn’t want to write it. I didn’t want to let you all in on possible rejection and hurt. I struggle SOOO deeply with self worth. With allowing Satan to twist my thoughts and other people’s words into me being “less than”, unimportant, unwanted, an annoyance, a bother, a burden. It’s a daily, actually a moment by moment, struggle. So I absolutely did not want to tell you all that I was waiting because what if it meant I also had to let you in on bad news. On pain. That’s not fun. That’s really hard.

The whole idea of Vanderbilt came really fast and sudden. It was honestly insane. (& at times I feel insane for picking up my life and moving.) I knew that the Lord was moving in and through it. I didn’t know what He was doing, but I knew He was so totally involved in Vanderbilt. I spent the first couple weeks after finding out about Vanderbilt praying that I would get in. Begging. I was so excited about it. & I kid you not, every time I prayed it, I had this weird feeling about it. I even told a few friends. I was driving to Auburn to pack up my trailer for the final time and the Lord stopped my heart and flipped it. The whole reason I am going to Nashville is because the Lord said go. Not because I know why I’m going, not because I have any plans, just because He said go. And He even wrote it in the stinking stars for crying out loud (if you don’t know that story PLEASE ask me about it. It blows my mind still). & yes, I realize all of that sounds so insane. But we serve a FREAKING BIG GOD and He will do it. I am going to Nashville because the Lord said go. & even though it’s breaking my heart and breaking my parent’s hearts, the only thing I want in this life is to be where the Lord wants me. To be doing what He created me to do wherever that may happen. Whatever that looks like. In fact, my greatest fear isn’t snakes or spiders or losing my parents or cancer anymore, it’s not following God’s perfect, totally unsafe yet incredible, plan for my life. Because that is how I will miss out on the greatest joys. I’m terrified of that. So, I’m going to Nashville. But the Lord changed my prayer from Vanderbilt on that drive to Auburn, from begging to get in to please just lead me where your Kingdom needs growing. If that is in a classroom at Vanderbilt, then knock down those walls. But if it’s working in a coffee shop, or a restaurant, or any other odd job, then Jesus block everything that could stand in the way. I don’t say that to say that Ander has huge faith….I’m scared out of my mind. The only reason I can say that. The only reason I know I want only His will even if it breaks my heart or hurts in the process is because He has proven Himself faithful over and over and over again. He has proven Himself good. He has proven Himself constant. He has proven that He is the ONLY thing that can bring me the amount of joy that makes my heart beat out of my chest. The only peace that can stop painful wanderings and devastated tears. He has proven Himself as my best. So my prayer was only His way. Not what my heart wanted. & even in that prayer He proved himself faithful and good. To change my heart, to prepare my heart, to give me peace, to give me understanding, to give me excitement in the total unknown.

I’m going to Nashville, and I will not be attending Vanderbilt this year because I was not accepted.

Yes, my heart sank when I opened the letter. REJECTION SUCKS. It doesn’t matter how big or small it comes. Rejection hurts. So my heart hurt. But not like I had expected. Because about ten seconds after it broke, it also took a breath of excitement. I realized how insanely blessed I was to be doing all of this with what seems like odds stacked against me. With what seems like no plans. With what seems like total insanity. I realized how blessed I was that the Lord would wipe my slate clean of anything and any plans because it means HE HAS TO SHOW UP. Dude, the Lord is writing a STELLAR story of how good He forever is and He has chosen my life to use to do it.

The Lord HAS to show up for me. I have no other plan. He HAS to provide a job. He HAS to provide a place to live. He HAS to be the God that I know He is. Who am I that He would use me to show His goodness to. I just don’t get it. But that in itself shows His grace. That He would trust and lead a flawed, an emotional, a way overly sensitive, a doubting, a person who slams herself with so much self hatred sometimes, and still do all these amazing works in my life.

The morning after I opened the rejection letter, this was what I wrote:

“Lord, Thank you loving me enough to keep me away from anything but your best. From anything that won’t bring you the most glory. Anything that won’t grow the Kingdom.”

& as deeply as rejection hurts, I mean every word. I’m so thankful He slams the doors that I think I want open in exchange for better doors and paths. I’m so pumped that He would allow the odds to stack against me, that He would allow me to look totally insane, because I can’t wait to see Him destroy the odds…I can’t wait to continue to be totally insane for the Gospel.

So here I come Nashville…..ready to watch God show up in huge ways. Ready to boast about how He moves mountains for the Gospel to be shared through a small town girl like me.

My prayer for you is that you would realize the beauty in the insanity too. It doesn’t have to be quitting your job and moving to another state. It can be paying for the person’s meal or coffee or ice cream behind you even though the cashier might look at you weird. It’s sending that text to that person who you’ve been thinking about and praying for even though they might not respond. It’s opening your Bible and asking the Lord to show you something even though it might feel like you are talking to thin air. It’s asking someone how to even pray despite you growing up in the church and being ashamed that they might judge you. My prayer for you is that you would be insane for the Gospel. That you would enjoy the weirdness. The stares, sometimes even the negative comments, and you would tell your heart not to feel awkward but to be pumped for the Lord to show up. He will. Keep asking. Keep doing.  I dare you to.

From a jobless, school-less girl who is pumped about getting the insane looks because the Lord has a plan,

Ander

beauty for ashes

8 years & one month. 8 years & one month since I have sat in this very gym. & when I walked in, I felt my very breath get sucked from me. I felt my heart get stiff & I had to force myself to make conversation with those around me so I wouldn’t break. & as much as I didn’t want them to, sitting in that gym brought back memories of sadness…memories of pain…memories of anger towards the Lord. If He was such a good God, if He was a God that heard my prayers, why would He do this? Why would He not heal T.J. of his cancer? Was He even really there? Did He even care about me like I had been taught? I had never felt pain like that, and I lashed out at the Lord over and over. I remember my dad not lifting his gaze from the shiny gym floor because his heart hurt so bad. I remember seeing young college guys hug each other and hold a little tighter. I remember seeing flowers purple and gold from Les Miles, his wife, and the rest of the LSU Tigers. So. Much. Sadness. So. Much. Pain….what felt like total destruction. Ashes. • Last night, I sat in the gym & had very different feelings. I was nervous excited. I was joyful. I sat looking at beautiful girls walking across the stage in stunning gowns. I watched Loni, a girl who I have been blessed to know for years & have seen the Lord do huge things in & through, receive a beautiful crown & sash. A friend who will let me go on and on about Africa and then tell me all the crazy stories from China. A friend that loves the nations so well. A friend that challenges me, brings me uncontrollable laughter, and a friend that brings a constant newness in my desire for the Lord. I also sat by a new friend, Cierra, who I quickly became very fond of, who I giggled with and conversed with about the silliest of things. Beauty. • The last time I was here was for a funeral…this time was for a pageant. • & the Lord whispered to the depths of my heart….”Beauty for ashes”. • I sat back and thought about all the things the Lord has done for me and in me since May 2010. He has been so faithful, so gracious, time and time again. He has taken ashes and made them beautiful…in His own time. That’s not to say that thinking of T.J. doesn’t hurt my heart….it still does, badly…but the Lord is good. He takes the broken, the destroyed, the pain, the anger….& He turns it into something breathtaking & indescribable. It becomes our story…His story. That’s my forever hope. His faithfulness. His promise. I’ll cling to beauty for ashes when waters get tough. & if I let go, please remind me of it. He will trade beauty for ashes…whether this side of heaven…or the other. He’s our good King. Our loving Savior.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

Waiting.

The last thing I want to be doing right now is writing this post. I absolutely do not want to let anyone in on this part of my life. I don’t want to be transparent, and I don’t want to write about the unknown.

But I have to. I was called to.

Waiting on the unknown. Isn’t that what scares all of us? Waiting on the unknown medical test results, waiting on the unknown of how ends will meet, waiting on the unknown job call, or like me…waiting on the unknown answer to getting into school…..

I haven’t wanted to let anyone in on this part of my journey…and I think it is actually the very thing that is holding me back. I’ve wanted it kept on the down low unless I get accepted. I don’t want anyone to know if I fail. And if I don’t fail, then I’ll let the world know. I’ll let the world in on my success. But until I knew I was successful, I wanted to keep it hush. I knew if I let you in on the unknown…….there was a chance I would publicly let people in on my rejection also….that terrifies me. But here it is…

Welcome to my unknown waiting. Welcome to either my success or my rejection.

I’m currently waiting on an email letting me know if I was accepted and chosen to be a part of Vanderbilt’s Masters in Child Studies program. A program that only accepts around twenty people a year. And I’m vying for one of those spots. It’s not an easy gig in the least. I’m not expecting to get in because I was so last minute…but still. Thinking about it makes me want to run to a trash can and then curl into a ball.

I’m scared. Not of not being able to go to school, but scared of the sheer thought of rejection. I’ve lived many days of my life under the control of rejection. Not wanting to rock the boat or stand out because I wanted to be accepted. Really it’s controlled me way more than I care to think about. So I’m scared….sometimes nauseous at the thought of opening an email from the Peabody School of Vanderbilt and reading that I was not chosen. My heart winces at that thought..

I’ve learned a lot over the past few weeks of being nervous and dreading writing this post….. I’ve learned that life is full of these waiting moments and life was meant to be shared with other humans. Good and bad. There was never meant to be a pretty paint of coat over our lives….we were made to be real…to strip off the paint….to let people see the crevices and the broken as well as the beautiful. I also know that my bad is never really bad. As much as I want this acceptance letter, I KNOW my God has a stellar plan for me. I know it’s perfect because he knows my heart perfectly. I know it’s a good one because he promises a good one. I know it’ll blow my mind because he has blown my mind a million times before. A wise friend told me that God doesn’t reject, he redirects.

So if you’re waiting on the unknown, keep waiting in faith. He’s got something good planned even if it’s not “door 1”.

This is me letting you in on my unknown and possibly my rejection……this is me stripping off the paint layer….here’s me letting you in…..I could be a Vanderbilt Commodore real soon, or I could not….I could be accepted, or I could not….there’s a lot of waiting on an unknown….

But I’ll trust my forever known….that my good, good Father has a good, good plan.

1. Go find someone and strip the paint off.

2. Trust his plan!!!

-MA

Forever my tribe

**this post is being written through tear filled eyes**

Today I walked out of room 244 and ended my time as a Community 3 Lead Learner. & my heart is shattered into a million pieces. Just saying it makes the tears well back up. I got to my car after fighting back tears for hours & I erupted. Into a mess. My heart was broken and I kept asking God why. Why did my heart have to break to go where he has told me to go. Why was I wanting with everything to turn around and take it all back. I even told him I wanted to. I told him I wanted to take it all back and stay. The words came from my lips, but my soul knew I couldn’t. My soul knows I owe him my everything and that his promise that his plan is to prosper and not to harm, that his plan is a good one will reign true even through the excruciating pain. Turning those keys in, staring at an empty room, hugging necks at PRS was the hardest thing. Walking away blindly from something you love not knowing what is in front but just trying to continue to have the guts to put one foot in front of the other….it’s hard and it hurts and right now it really sucks. Through clenched teeth I’ll say my God is good through it all.

But I don’t want to focus this post on sad. I want to focus on why that drive with the school fading into the rear view mirror was overwhelmingly painful.

First, I love my job. I love getting to love and teach tiny humans all about life. I love watching them grow. I love being the person they laugh with, share weekend stories with, tell sports season updates to, the one they cry to, the one they hug on, and even the one they drive insane. Teaching is so hard but so rewarding. I love my job. To the ‘nth’ degree. Knowing I won’t walk into 150 hugs, I won’t hear “Miss Helms” 18172793 times a day, and I won’t get to watch kids mold into better people hurts my heart.

Second, Pike Road is home. They taught me all I know about teaching. Suzanne Freeman took a chance on a young, inexperienced college graduate, and I will forever be so appreciative for it. Walking away from that place, it’s tough.

But above all else, my heart is into a million pieces because of a few incredible women. Women who I respect, love, and value more than words can say. Women who I daily try to mirror and be like. These women have made me everything I am and then some. I’ve always told them they would be in my wedding whether they liked it or not, and I quickly reminded them of it today after I left. They are my best, they are my people.

There’s no way I could ever, ever, not in a million years, express how thankful I am for each of you….but here’s just a glimpse….

To my people, my superheroes, my best friends, my family,

Thank you. Thank you for loving me so well. Each of you means the world to me. I hope you know it.

I want to say thank you first for all the professional wisdom you gave me. You all helped me form emails, set up my classroom routines, give advice on how things should work, and so much more. You gave me supplies and ideas when I was lost and confused and walking in circles. Thank you for modeling how to teach and more importantly, how to love children so well. I got the pleasure of watching each of you show up with so much grace every day and love on the child that drove you crazy the day before (lol). I watched as you formed plans for kids that were struggling both academically, emotionally, socially, and behaviorally. I watched as you cared for the kid that was left out and saw how you brought them into your class family. I got to see you show tough love even when it was breaking your heart to do it. I got to stand beside you as you fought for kids. I got to watch you push kids, inspire kids, and grow kids. I watched as you took the time to know each and every student even if it meant staying late to finish all the stuff you tried to get done that morning but they were telling you a story about something wild (ha). I saw you tired, angry, sad, and sick and yet you always sucked it up and showed up for your kids. I was there when you stayed late to rework a standard or plan something incredible. I saw you being the phenomenal teacher….the difference maker…every day. Thank you…for making me the teacher I was. I hope I made you each so so proud. I learned from the best in the business.

Thank you for laughing, crying, and getting fighting mad alongside me. I know why we work. We work because we aren’t just coworkers, we’re family. And families are there for each other when life just stinks or when life is really great. Thank you for being there in my highs and lows. Thank you for laughing hysterically with me. Thank you for sometimes putting down the serious stuff and riding down the hall on a cart. Thank you for bringing me the biggest, deepest laughs. And in the same breath, thank you for letting me get so angry that steam was coming out of my ears. Thank you for letting me vent and then telling me to go love my kids. Thank you for always offering a ear to listen (and usually a response that agreed with my anger 😝). Thank you for letting me get frustrated, sometimes even at you, and forgiving me all the same. After all, families fight sometimes right???? Haha. Thank you for having my back and standing up for me when I got so upset. And thank you for holding me as I got mascara all over your shirt. This year was tough. This year brought pain that none of us would have expected. And yet while you were hurting, you let me hurt on you. You held me up when my heart was so overwhelmed. When all of our hearts were so overwhelmed. Thank you for never judging my tears and always letting them fall.

Thank you for letting me dream. For making me brave in the dreams, for helping me find my dreams, and for being a springboard to launch me into my dreams. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more supported than by each of you. Thank you for dreaming for me when my dreams weren’t big enough and then telling me to go after them knowing I’d look at you like you were crazy. Thank you for fighting for me…when I was weak or when I was doubtful. You all ground me and yet help me fly. Because of each of you, I can dream big. Because of each of you, I’m taking a leap. Whatever happens next, please know it’s because of you and for you. Thank you for allowing me to keep growing into a new me. For never allowing me to grow and change. You all told me to pack up and go to Africa and that y’all would cover all the things to have me ready for school the day I got back. You all are the most selfless people I know. You all are my biggest cheerleaders. Thank you for allowing me to be unapologetically me.

There have been breakups, migraines, a hospital stay, living on the other side of the world, great loss, anger, a career change, a future state move, Chalkable, FreshGrade, book studies, new pets and so much in between that I have been able to walk through with y’all hand in hand. Thank you for doing life, not just work, alongside me. Thank you for hurting when I hurt and laughing when I laugh.

God has blessed me with five of the most beautiful, strong, intelligent, loving people I get to call my coworkers, my friends, and my family. If you don’t know them, you should.

As I packed my room, I saw this saying on an old lesson plan book….it said “A good teacher’s influence can never be erased.” That’s so true. So true for each of you. Thank you for being such a great teacher of life to me. Thank you for influencing me in the best of ways.

It takes a tribe. And you all are mine. No matter the miles. C3 Strong. Divided, not conquered. UpSTATE and downSTATE. 😝

Forever my superheroes, forever my tribe.

-Always yours,

Helmsy

**moving to Nashville** -and all the pain and all the God that comes with it

Something started in my heart in about October. This craving. An unsettling. A stirring. Not so much a discontentment as it was a curiosity and realization that there was something God wanted for me that I wasn’t doing yet. It was just a little flutter in my heart…and on some days it seemed a lot more like a tsunami than a flutter. I knew there was a change coming. I knew there was something more God had planned for me.

Nashville started coming up in conversations. Just here and there. And finally I started putting the two together. I realized that maybe the stirring and the Nashville were one in the same.

So I prayed….for it to not be Nashville. Because honestly Nashville would break my heart. I wanted God to let me go home to Andalusia. I knew my parents and grandparents could absolutely use the help. I thought it was the logical move, the move that showed the most love of God through me. I didn’t know why a loving God would not allow me to go home to help my parents who have given and done so much for me. Surely my sweet God would let me go help my precious and overwhelmed parents. Not to mention, my parents are my two best friends, and I don’t have a bit of shame in saying that! It was the move that would have honestly made my heart the most happy upfront…the most comforted…the most peaceful…the least anxiety filled. I knew I could find a job in Andalusia, and truthfully I probably would have been happy if I would have chosen to go there. I also threw in the move to Panama City. Because that’s where so much family lives. I would have LOVED to have lived close to my GanGan. She’s literally the most precious woman to ever walk the earth in my opinion. She loves so well and so big. She is a constant giver of herself. Always there for each one of us no matter what or no matter how many times we cry over the same things. She’s a rock. Plus she is HYSTERICAL so living close to her would have filled my belly with deep, deep laughter.

So I prayed….prayers that sounded like this “Dear Jesus, please let me go back home so I can help my sweet parents or let me go live by my GanGan. But I guess if Nashville is really what you want then I’ll go”…..Seriously didn’t even mean the last part honestly, but I knew it was the “Christian” thing to pray.

God started stirring me and reminding me of Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple”. So I didn’t even know what verse that was and honestly kinda resented whatever Pastor that preached a sermon on that and burned it into my brain (okay…only very slightly resented them). But there it was, etched into my brain and written on my heart for me to have to dreadfully hash over and over in my brain. I’ll tell you this….it wasn’t a fun, happy, encouraging scripture to meditate on. IT SUCKED. IT HURT. And it let me know exactly what I HAD to do. Except I wouldn’t listen. I swallowed the sermon and did my best to throw it in File 9 (in third grade at Pike Road Elementary File 9 is known as the TRASH).

I wrestled with God and begged him. Literally begged him not to make me go so far from my family. B E G G E D. P L E A D E D. I told him I would do anything, just don’t make me leave them.

I think I always knew it was Nashville. I just didn’t want to acknowledge it. I kept praying for the others. Like really praying hard. HARD.

Then came January and February and the incredible pain….the overwhelming, drowning, miserable pain that it brought. The funerals and memorial services, the memories, and tears. I couldn’t even pray for a move because all I could muster up in my prayers was ‘help’. I hurt alongside some of the most precious teachers, friends, and humans a girl could ever know. I hurt with them, cried with them, tried to cope with them, and seriously leaned on them. There was no chance I could ever leave them now. I couldn’t leave this support system. I couldn’t leave them after the things we had faced together.

God was gentle to allow me to reach a point of stability before he pressed moving again on my very fragile heart. This time though, there were no other options. He fully pushed Nashville on me. And it broke me. All. Over. Again.

I remember verbally saying “why would you make me move all alone after I just went through so much hurt”…”why would you let my heart break again”…..”I can’t do this again”. The “whys” eventually turned back to “I’m not doing this” “I’m not moving away from my family and my friends”.

**And then it all happened. I had gone home to Andalusia one weekend. The whole weekend my heart was hurting because I kept saying “God, I can’t leave these people and not be able to come home all the time. It hurts.” I had cried myself to sleep the night before just from thinking of the sheer pain moving to Nashville would bring. And in my tears, I told God I needed him to give me a sign in a big way because a big sign would be the only way I could accept that it was really what he wanted.

I was standing on the edge of my parent’s back porch staring at the stars while I was waiting for Mac to do his business so we could go to bed. I’ve always loved the stars. They fascinate me. I have fallen more in love with them since traveling to other countries and finding wonder that I can be so far from home and yet be staring at the same stars. I find the most beautiful peace in knowing that my family from across the world see that same beautiful sight each night. It just gives my heart a little glimmer of warmth. So there I was admiring them. And I found that I couldn’t take my eyes off of this one little group of stars. Now let me back up and say that yes, I love the stars but I know NOTHING about constellations or their names. But there were these three stars that I could not get enough of. Mac finally finished his business and we went to bed. Nothing big right…..WRONG.

I drove back to Auburn the next day and I couldn’t shake those stars from my mind. I’ve looked at the stars a million times so I found this really, really odd. I try my hardest to look for God in the things that I can’t quite get over. So I tried to search for him in those. I became obsessed with trying to figure out which stars I had seen. I would go outside my trailer at night for a few nights and try to find them, but I couldn’t find them again for the clouds or the trees. I began googling the constellations, and I found Orion’s belt which looked the most similar to the stars I had seen.

At this point, I was pretty sure there was a reason that God had me stuck on this. So I really researched to try to find out why I couldn’t shake these. I found out that Orion’s Belt is one of the few stars named in the Bible. BUT GET THIS. In Job 38:31, God is answering Job in a way that shows that God knows infinitely more and purposes and plans all things. So it reads, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion”.

Okay, cool Ander, so what. YALL. GET READY. Orion’s belt is made up of three stars. These three stars are not on the same trajectory. They are constantly moving away from each other but since we are so far away we can’t see the change. But it’s been happening for years. God was saying that only he can cause them to separate just like only he can keep the stars of Pleiades gravitationally pulled together. So as I was reading and dissecting this, tears began to well up in my eyes.

Three stars. Me. My Family. My Work Family. Moving Apart. Me…I have to separate. Yall…..maybe it’s just me, but that blows my mind that God would take the time to use incredibly amazing things like this to direct a sinner girl that is doubting his goodness and running from his plans.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE.

A week and a half ago, I was driving to Nashville to visit. I prayed the whole way there that God would continually give me a peace and an excitement for moving there because really all I felt was pain. I prayed, and I pretended to be Kari Jobe and have a full on worship concert in my little Toyota Corolla all the way from Birmingham to Nashville. I turned my radio down (because isn’t that what everyone does when they start getting into traffic so that it can help them drive???). And there is was……painted on the first overpass when you hit the Nashville city limits is the center of the Tennessee flag……three….stars…..together. And I knew. I know. That Nashville is where I belong. It’s where my stars align. It’s where my God has big plans.

(These three stars)

So here I am…..with honestly an incredibly broken and weak heart because even though I know it’s where I must go, it shatters my heart. It shatters my heart to know I’m breaking my parent’s hearts moving so far away. It shatters my heart to know that I have to start over. With making new friends. With a new job. With a new church. With new roads to navigate. Here I am with a month and a half until I move with a trailer in Auburn, Alabama that I HAVE to sell because I can’t afford to “live” in two places. Here I am with a month and a half until I move without a job in Nashville because God has told me no so far on all the doors I thought I was suppose to easily walk through….and without a Nashville place to live because who can find a home when they are a state away. Here I am….with hurt, with fear, with anxiety, but also with excitement and peace knowing my God would go to such extreme lengths to show his plan for me. It MUST be a stellar plan.

Here I am…even though things seem to be stacked against my odds…even though my heart is breaking…even though the details seem fuzzy…even though people are telling me I’m crazy…Here I am. Trusting you Lord. Leaning and Listening to Only You. Send Me. Use Me.

Little less than happy on International Happiness Day

Today was International Happiness Day.

And I woke up NOT HAPPY. So not happy. Actually I went to bed not happy. My poor bff, Ellett, woke up to a lengthy paragraph of all the complaints I had before I went to bed last night. (Real healthy right…NOT). So I woke up AND WAS NOT HAPPY on this great international day of happiness.

Yesterday was a long day of parent conferences (WHICH GIVE ME THE MOST ANXIETY). And to be quite honest, my mind was still wishing it was Spring Break-in it.

I also have managed to pinch my left sciatic nerve, and OMG the pain. Yall. THE. PAIN. No, stinking, fun. It completely has robbed the last few nights of any sort of sleep. Ander + Sleep = down for any adventure. Ander – Sleep = STINKIN’ DOWN RIGHT HORRID

It also took about 7 outfit changes this morning for me to feel confident enough to walk out the door. And when I say “confident enough”, I mean “if I don’t leave on what I have on and get in my car and drive to school then I’m not making it to work” confident. I kept looking at my body and thinking BLAH. BLAH. BLAH. It really comes down to the fact that I have tried to start a diet for like three weeks now and well….. I STINK AT THAT (Jesus, take the wheel LOL…but really). So it’s been on my mind a lot, and honestly I have just done some real ugly talking to myself about it all. Seriously. Real ugly self talk. (Yall pray)

So yeah…woowhoo for happiness today.

I knew it was International Happiness Day because my school was celebrating it in a few fun and honestly super inspirational ways. So in my mind I really kept stacking up all the ways in which I was in fact NOT happy on this “happy holiday”.


I got THE cutest little ring from Altar’d State on my little vacay to Nashville over Spring Break.

{Check it out here: http://www.altardstate.com/shop/jewelry/rings/altar-d-state-sentiment-ring-be-still.html }

It simply says “ Be Still”. Those two words became some pretty special words during my summer in Africa. Some of the incredible women I got to learn and grow from kept bringing it to my attention as it was laid on their heart. The words “Be Still” became not a meaning of stopping movement. But to stop whatever rabbit hole my mind was going down and to remember Who I Belong to and all the incredible things My “Holder” has done for me.

I wore the ring because DUH that’s what you do when you get new, fun, and stylish things. You wear them in hopes that someone will ask you about them. (Girls, yall know it’s so stinkin’ true). But after my less then “happy filled” morning, my stylish ring became seven letters that turned my day around.

At 9:45ish every day, my kids go to specials and I get a few minutes of planning (okay, more like running here and there and everywhere). I can’t remember what I was getting, but I reached to open my cabinet and the “Be Still” jumped off that silly ring.

& God whispered….”Baby girl, be still. Stop those rambling thoughts. Stop those “less than” thoughts you have of yourself. Stop those unhappy, negative thoughts. Stop. BE STILL. Calm that rushing mind of yours. YOU ARE MINE. AND I HAVE GOT YOU.”

heart exhaled

Literally, my heart took a breath.

I remembered who I was, who I became because of the cross. And I started “counting my blessings one by one” throughout the day. Today, it came in the form of acknowledging all the things that happened that made my heart SO. STINKING. HAPPY. The things that made my heart skip little undetectable beats.

So here’s a list of them…..because for some reason it seems that I “boast” about all the negatives instead of all the incredible things around me….

*My Ava gave me the most precious handwritten card/letter about how she loved me

*I got the most precious and genuine hugs from a pile of goofy 8 & 9 year olds

*I sat around and we shared all the fun things that we did over spring break (yes, I put down the lesson plans and just talked and laughed with some stellar tiny humans…judge me)

*One of my students from last year brought me a sweet little note that she wrote over spring break because she was thinking about me

*I got to do the alphabet in sign language with one of my kids who set out to learn over her break

*I twisted the top off of a ice cold Dr Pepper bottle and enjoy all 23 flavors J (See…what diet?? Lol)

*I got to BELLY laugh with some of the greatest educators and friends at work today.

*I got attacked with love by a puppy and two kittens when I walk in the door after work

*I found a stellar new playlist on Spotify to listen to before my Quiet Time

*I made some new connections to the Old Testament that super excited me (I really struggle with reading the Old Testament because I get overwhelmed in not understanding…So seriously this pumped me up)

*I earned 50,000 SkyMiles (MY TRAVEL HEART IS PUMPED)

*I enjoyed a bangin’ frozen coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts (AGAIN…WHAT DIET???)

*Mac cuddled with me on the couch before he got wild and pulled out EVERY toy he has (He may be a little spoiled and own A TON)

{PS. I may be a little obsessed….#NOSHAME

*I GOT THE BEST LETTER IN THE MAIL FROM MY RUBANGAKENE JUSTINE. Justine STOLE my heart while in Uganda. He is a precious nine year old boy that is FOREVER SMILING that I have the privilege of sponsoring. I don’t even know how it happened, but very early on, we latched onto each other. Every Sunday morning, we would seek each other out and worship beside each other. There were few words but SO MUCH LOVE. I cannot tell you how many times he crosses my mind DAILY. Where I wish I could grab his little hand and squeeze it. Where I wish I could hear him run from the Woman’s Refuge Center screaming my name with a little  smirk on his face. Last night, my heart was extra heavy missing him and my friends across the sea. AND TODAY I RECEIVED A NEW PICTURE AND LETTER FROM HIM. My.heart.almost.exploded. (As tears were obviously rolling down my face)

So many incredible things to celebrate and choose happiness over. Geez Louise. What a blessed child of an indescribable God I am.

Be still. That’s all it is. Be still. Calm the world and cherish the world saver.

 

 

So cheers to “being still” & cheers to INTERNATIONAL HAPPINESS DAY!

*May I always choose to find the happy.

“Be still & know that I am God” Psalm 46:10