I was told to go to Nashville, but I’m not going.

Warning….Long Post Ahead…

Well…this is not the next post I thought I would be typing. But here we are, and I’m still just as pumped about the Lord’s work in my life as I was a week ago.

I’m also going to be very honest and say that Satan has been taunting me and made me VERY reluctant to sharing the insights into my life and heart right now, but I KNOW THAT I KNOW THAT I KNOW that the Lord has called me to publicly share my life. I never want to seem as though I have it all together and I’m writing to tell other people how to get it together. I don’t at all; my greatest hope in putting my life and thoughts into words is that something in my journey will encourage, help, or give someone the strength to take the next big step towards Jesus.

Most of you know that the Lord called me to Nashville. I have shared some of the ups and downs of that. And I still stand by the statement that the Lord whispered to the depths of my heart to quit my job that I loved, move from a home that I found so cozy, leave friends that are actually more like family, move hours away from my absolutely wonderful parents and sister that I so enjoy spending time with to Nashville where I had ZERO plans. None of it made sense really. Except that the Lord continually, He even wrote it in the stars, told me to do all those things. And I had done them all and they were all HARD, no doubt, but I knew Jesus stood beside me through it all. In the last few months I have searched, alongside momma and my girl Katie, to find a place I could live in Nashville. Everything else was in place. I found a job, had visited and was getting familiarized with my new place, but finding a place to live hit wall, after wall, after wall, after dang wall. Through every wall I hit, every time I heard the Lord whisper to the depths of my soul “I know it’s hard, but keep going. I’m writing a good story”. So I would. I would shake it off and keep going towards Nashville (after a few tears shed HA).

Well just like my last blogpost said, September 7 was my move day. And I was excited to finally have everything in order and finally worked out.

**Insert this past Sunday**

This past Sunday I was sitting with my dad watching tv while mom took a nap in their room. I was in that weird stage where you’re half asleep but also half know what’s going on around you. I heard mom’s phone ring in the bedroom, but didn’t think anything about it. A few minutes later, she came in and said we needed to talk about the apartment I was going to live in. After about thirty more seconds of discussing, she told me the final price of rent that they had drawn up, and I realized that there was no way I could afford it. I felt as though all the breath was knocked out of me, because I just KNEW that this one was totally going to be it. And then I waited to hear the usual words of my Father….and I didn’t hear them. Instead I just heard “okay”. I got up from the chair I was sitting and went to my room and FELL APART. Why was I not hearing and feeling the same reassurance of Nashville. What did He mean “okay”? I was not at all Positive Patty towards the Lord. I questioned Him hard. I asked Him why? Why? “Lord, I have taken every step to follow you in obedience. Why? Why does this door keep getting slammed when I am trying so hard despite being scared? Why am I trying to please you and I just keep getting met with no?” I wanted the words I had heard so many other times before to just be whispered to me. I sought them and desperately wanted to hear them. I didn’t. I just heard “okay”.

I had worked myself up into a big bunch of tears and overwhelming feelings. I asked the Lord to please show me what I was suppose to do and then I knew I needed Godly wisdom poured over me in that moment. Sometimes we can take our thoughts and emotions and let them run rampant through us, and I was. I knew it was unhealthy and that I needed to “take every thought captive” and that I needed help doing that.

**I have been SOOO blessed in friendships that the Lord has given me with through the years. Not only friendships that fill me with laughter, love, and confidence but friends that I KNOW are in the Word and therefore can pour truth over me in a moment of total weakness. Luckily, I’ve had one of these friends stick by my side since diapers.**

I called Susie. I knew she would speak truth into me because she would allow her heart to yield to the Spirit and only say things that were laid upon it. I honestly don’t remember most of the conversation because I was in a puddle of tears, but I remember the part that the Lord specifically had her speak to me. She said “Ander, all I can think of is Abraham and Isaac and that you were asked to sacrifice things you loved.”

Now she had NO idea the impact and meaning behind her words. I still haven’t told her fully. But her words were powerful.

**This summer I got to attend the camp I grew up going to as a youth member at Bethany. I shared some of the things the Lord was doing in my life through my move to Nashville with the youth group, the good, the painful, and the ugly. The last full day there, my friend and incredible brother in Christ, Ethan, approached me while at the drink machine. (Yes, I remember exactly where I was because it has been a defining moment in my recent growing, learning, and trusting in Christ.) He came up to me and said “Ander, I think you’re being like Abraham. He sold everything and left his home because the Lord said go”. I have thought about that a million and one times. It made me dive into studying that story, and I have read Genesis 12 multiple times because I found such a comfort and encouragement in it.

When Susie said Abraham’s name, I knew the Lord was getting my attention. I knew He was in the midst of this and that He was showing me what to do. I don’t remember anything else that Susie said after that, but I hung up and opened my Bible to Genesis 22 and read the story of when Abraham was called to sacrifice his son Isaac. The very son that Abraham and his wife had prayed for and waited for for YEARS, the very son that God promised Abraham He would give and would fulfill the promise of numerous descendants. God was asking Abraham to sacrifice everything to be obedient. And Abraham did. I’m sure the thought had to cross His mind that it seemed as though God was being counter intuitive and contradicting himself and His promises. But Abraham never wavered in His obedience. He put one foot in front of the other, probably the most difficult steps of his life, and knew the Lord was good and would keep His promises in some way. For those of you that may not know the rest of the story, Abraham and Isaac walked the trail to the place God told them, built the altar, and even bound and laid Isaac on it. With knife in hand, then an angel cried out and told him to not harm Isaac and that the Lord would provide another sacrifice, and he did. A ram was caught not too far from them.

When I didn’t feel the Lord tell me to keep pressing forward towards Nashville like He had so many times before, I felt as though I had messed up or somewhere had made a wrong decision. And if I hadn’t already, I was scared I was about to make a wrong decision. I was so scared to do something that was not according to God’s will. While at that time, the thought of doing something that the Lord didn’t want me to do seemed overwhelming and scary, I realize now that that is a beautiful place to be and that I in fact do not have to be scared of that because I in no way am strong enough to mess up the Lord’s plan. It’s one of the things the Lord wanted to show me. He wanted to get me to a point of full surrender. That nothing else around me….my job, my parents, my friends, my comfort, my safety was anything I cling to or fear losing. That when asked to give anything up, I don’t have to live in the bondage of losing temporary things. That I can live and do crazy, radical things that the Lord calls me to….that honestly don’t make sense to anyone else or even me and that sometimes may seem unrealistic, unpractical, or even total nonsense. That I can live a life totally backwards from the world around me. He has taught me that this world and the places I call home truly aren’t. That in our eyes plans can change and seem like too much, but really in all things He is drawing us to Him, showing us that He knows best and that He is the greatest, safest, and only thing to cling to.

After reading the story of Abraham and Isaac, I worshiped and prayed. I asked the Lord “Please, I don’t care if I’m suppose to go to Nashville or if I’m suppose to stay here for a little while until I go back to school, but please, please just tell me where so I can please you.” That was my prayer. And in the most real, audible voice ever, His response back to me was “Where will you serve me?” I wrote the words down because I always try to write what I think the Lord is telling me and I stared at the words in almost disbelief. It seemed like the silliest question. It didn’t matter where. I would serve Him wherever. And so I told Him that. And guess what He responded back with…..that same old “okay”. And I have never felt more peace from an okay ever.

Okay meant He didn’t care whether it was Nashville or Andalusia or HongKong that I was right now, as long as I was serving and pointing people to Him.

He asked me to give up every single comfort and stronghold to move to Nashville because He needed ME to see I could. That He was good enough. He needed me to know that “You’re all I need, and You’re worth everything” weren’t just words I said in prayers but that they truly were real. That I could give up the whole world as long as I had Him, and I would be okay because I would be in my Maker’s hands. Not because I’m some awesome, strong, selfless, and super Christian to be able to do that, but because through every step of Nashville He has shown me HE WILL SHOW UP. HE IS FAITHFUL. HE IS GOOD. HE IS JOY EVEN IN HARD DECISIONS. He has shown me HE IS ENOUGH. I’m SO thankful for this. For the surrender and trust in Him that He has allowed me to learn. For how He has grown and shaped my heart. I feel like a whole new person.

Ironically enough, since Sunday, the Lord has confirmed me being in Andalusia over and over and over again. He has led me to know I want to go back to school for Radiation Therapy and NO WHERE AROUND NASHVILLE HAS IT, BUT AROUND ANDALUSIA DOES. He has presented me with job opportunities that even if I don’t take them, I know they were dropped in my lap to show me He will provide. He has given me a desire for a Bible study with girls my age and guess what….HE EVEN HAS GIVEN ME A PLACE TO DO IT. GUYS I AM A HOMEOWNER!! Seriously! I went from spending months and months and months looking for a home to finding one and in less than 24 hours I somehow managed to be the highest bidder! He has given me the joy in being able to watch my little sister sing His praises in the youth praise band, and surrounded me with old and new friends that are already encouraging me and growing me. ALL SINCE SUNDAY!! What a faithful and good God. What a God that is WORTHY to be praised. What a God that is so kind and generous and concerned about each heart of His children. Not only to care for our hearts, but to grow our hearts.

The Lord asked me to give up a home, a job, my family, my friends, my comfort, my normal, and I am so thankful. The Lord 100 told me to go to Nashville. Don’t at all for one second doubt that or think that I doubt that or that I heard Him wrong. He called me there because He needed me on that mountain with that sacrifice on the altar and knife in hand so that He could stop me and have me pause and reflect on the generosity, the grace, the perfect plan He has for me. So the Lord is now asking me to give up my pride. Because I know this “change” (I say that very loosely because it was never a change for God, only a process to get me through) will bring doubts and questions from some. And I’m okay with that. Ask them. I would love to sit beside you at a high school football game, sit across from you at Zaxby’s, or stand in the isle at Piggly Wiggly and tell you what the Lord is teaching me. I hope that in dying to myself, in trusting the Lord’s voice and hand in my life, and sharing it openly will somehow point someone to Christ. So I know that while I was called to Nashville for sure, I was not meant for Nashville, it was a journey. One that the Lord knew would return me back “home” with a heart of surrender. A heart that is ready for the next absolutely insane thing that He will call me to do.

The Lord is good. Always.

I’m home, Andalusia!! ( for now at least (: )

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the older brother syndrome

Here’s a Nashville & heart update all in one…..

I’m writing this from the comfy couch of my parent’s house in Andalusia, Alabama.

Yep…you read that right….that does not in fact say Nashville, Tennessee and does in fact say Andalusia, Alabama.

It’s something I have honestly hid behind. I thought I would already be in Nashville doing whatever it is the Lord has called me to do (that’s another blogpost coming soon 🙂 …stay tuned). But I’m not. And I have struggled with it in my heart. Big time.

When the Lord started putting Nashville on my heart as the next place He has called me to, He would always finish with saying this “it’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be good. Trust me. I’m writing a good story in you.” Seriously, He has told me over and over again that Nashville would be hard. I’ve even shared that with some of you.

I thought the “hard” would be leaving my parents and being so far away…I LOVE being with my parents and so being far away will honestly be hard, but God said more. I thought it would be the rejection of Vanderbilt and sorta feeling like I was aimlessly trying to find something else to do there, but God said more.  Now, I’ve hit scams, people hopping the process in front of me, and just flat out bad luck when it comes to finding a place to live in Nashville. I mean as recent as yesterday. And I thought….”Lord, if you’re telling me to go, why the heck is door after door being slammed in my face so that it feels like I CAN’T GO”.

****

Last night, Lee Harper preached on a passage that I promise you I have heard an actual million times. It’s Luke 15 and the Parable of the Lost Son. But isn’t it crazy how a passage you have heard a million times can come to life in a whole new way. Seriously the Word of the Lord is so active! The parable starts with a son that takes his inheritance from his STILL LIVING Father (yes, he asked for it before his father had passed) and does whatever he wants with it. He does whatever his soul pleases and whatever he thinks will bring him happiness. That is until he spends it all, hits rock bottom and when I say rock bottom I mean he was taking care of pigs and was CRAVING the food the pigs were eating. I’ll say it again, ROCK BOTTOM. He realizes he has to at least try to go back to his father because he has nothing. He decides he will go back to his father and ask if he will hire him as a servant so that he can pay back all he took from him. So he begins his journey back to his father’s house, and as he was still a ways off, he sees a man coming towards him. As the man gets closer, he realizes it is his father running towards him with arms wide open. He can’t even get out his plea of becoming his father’s servant before his father is telling his other servants to bring the finest robe and a ring and to get ready to throw a party because his son is home!!!

Let me stop right there and say, if you have been living your life according to your own wants, your own desires, trying to grasp a hold of whatever you think will make you feel good only to be left feeling empty, you are that son. That son that our BIG Father, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords wants to welcome back home with open arms, with full forgiveness, with no debt to be paid. He doesn’t want to give you a list of things you have done wrong and how you must repay Him. No, He wants to throw a stinking party in celebration that you are back home, that you are HIS.

The story doesn’t stop there though. The story goes on to talk about the older brother. This brother had never left his father’s side and had worked hard to please his father. This brother heard the party going on and became angry when he found out that it was for his little brother who had left them and squandered all his inheritance. He wouldn’t even enter the party. Lee talked about how this is the person who maybe has grown up in church but doesn’t realize just how lost they are. That loving Jesus isn’t about a list of things you do for him so that you can be the most loved. So that you can sit and look down on others who are sinning and say “why are they being accepted after all they have done.” Isn’t that a scary thought? That our hearts could be like that.

And then I realized that just that day, I had questioned my Jesus. My heart had said such similar things. “Lord, I literally quit my job, sold my home, am moving a great distance from my family, and have no idea what my exact purpose in Nashville is just because you told me to….and now all I get met with for saying ‘yes’ is a bunch of doors slammed in my face. Lord, why does it seem to work out for other people, people that don’t even consider you, but this thing for you is not working out for me right now”. OH MY GOODNESS!! Serious big brother syndrome. And what is sad and so convicting, is that as Lee was preaching, I realized that it wasn’t just today that those horrible thoughts have crossed my mind. I have thought “Lord, those two people don’t even love you but they are happily married, and here I am heartbroken.” “Lord, how come that person has a successful blog or has been able to publish a book like I want and they don’t even acknowledge your hand in it all.” Seriously, yall…..I’m just being honest. How icky is my heart at times. How selfish and “Pharisee-like” can I be. That I think that because I go to church, pray, try to follow God’s calling (sometimes), that I deserve a big fat gold star and for the Lord to grant my every desire. OH MY NO! How stinking backwards is that. The Lord never said that following Him would be easy.  Not one scripture will say “Follow me, read your Bible, pray constantly and I will make you super successful in the world, and you will never have sickness strike you, and you will get to marry the guy or girl of your dreams, and you will live everyday with the biggest smile on your face.” Friends, let me tell you that if your Bible or preacher or what you think says that….it’s so far from the truth. Go read about Paul, about the incredible man of God he was, how he loved the Lord and followed Him closely, and then read where he sits in jail. That’s not the “blessing” that you would think a man doing the things of the Lord would get, right?….DUDE HIS REWARD WAS IN HEAVEN WHERE JESUS IS. And if Paul doesn’t convince you, please follow the life of Stephen. Nothing in this world will ever be as good as heaven and sitting at the feet of Jesus! Our blessings don’t come in this life. Nothing about following Jesus is an “I’ll do this for you Jesus and in return, I’d like a nice house, a good job, clear answers, a hot hubby, and a few kids”. NOPE NOPE NOPE.

***

So after I threw my pity party about feeling like one thing after another wasn’t working out for Nashville despite going because the Lord said go, I heard God whisper this to the depths of my heart……First, he chuckled, not in a mean or derogatory way, but I know he chuckled, like a father would to a child that just asked an innocent but totally silly question, and then I heard Him say “I told you that this was going to be hard. But it’s going to be good. Trust me. I’m writing a good story in you.”

So here I am, in Andalusia, Alabama, with September 5 as my move date (as of now haha), and I’m learning that just because Jesus calls you to it, doesn’t mean it will be easy.  And that just because something isn’t easy, doesn’t mean that the Lord isn’t calling you to it. I’ll even go so far as to say that truly following Jesus won’t feel safe and it won’t feel comfortable most of the time. We live in the world where the devil and his posse of demons get to wage war against us, if you’re fighting for the things of the Lord, the devil is going to fight back hard. Don’t let him win, the devil and fear are liars.

See the problem with my view was that I thought the Lord owed me something for my “good religion”, and in thinking that,I have forgotten the insanity of the cross….the weight of the cross…the enormity of it….the radical thing that the cross is. The place where a PERFECT man, who gave up heaven to come to earth, FREELY and WILLFULLY (the soldiers didn’t control Jesus on that tree, He gave himself up to hang on that tree) carried a cross he should have never bore to a hill where he stayed on a tree and felt the full wrath of God, that I should have felt, until he cried “It is finished” and died. The place where a perfect man gave up his life so that I could come to the Father…so that the Father could even turn His eyes to me and see me as His child. So that I could have a chance at life again, a life I could have never bridged the gap for. Jesus doesn’t owe me anything for my obedience, my obedience isn’t to try to gain blessings, Jesus already gave me the most undeserved blessing. My life is now an offering to Him, a thank you to Him for giving me more than I could have ever done.

May I never be that older brother, may I never lose sight of the cross, may I never make me and Jesus equal in thinking I’ll do for you if you do for me. May I always remember that I am living in His sacrifice. May I live a life saying okay to “hard” because I can trust He is writing a good story in it. He is the anchor to my soul. An ever present help. May I life my life as an offering.

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.

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