New Beginnings

Forty-one days.

Forty-one days until the basement full of shopping bags will be relocated. Forty-one days until my years of living in my oh-so beloved home in the lovely suburbs of Chicago will come to an end. Forty-one days.

The classes are set and the first of many student payments has been sent in. I am, in only a matter of time, going to be a college student.

I have known I would be leaving for college for months. I have known NIU would be my home for the next for years for some time now-it was the only school I applied to and there wasn’t any looking back-and I am beyond excited to start my next chapter. And yet I am also sad. An emotion that I have been battling confusion about ever since I have linked sadden and college into the same category. Excitement and a sense of nervousness? Normal. But to me I am just sad. Excited and sad.

I am a home girl. Born and raised in Wheaton, its the only home I have ever known. But, I am also fully aware that it will only be a matter of weeks after I back up and head to DeKalb before the dreaded “For Sale” sign will make itself at home on our front lawn. And oh how I will with all my might for that sign to set up camp elsewhere. My home has been my whole life.

It is where I said my final goodbyes to my father, and where I parted with my beloved dog. It was the meeting ground of new hello’s and the sanctuary of where the afternoon naps have always taken place. And when that sign stick its roots in the mud the two people remaining in that house will be up and out of the oh-so lovely and yet oh-so expensive Wheaton. And that doesn’t sit well with me.

Where will I go when I have breaks. My new house won’t be home.

Who will greet me when I come home on warm summer nights?

I have grown accustom to the culture of living in a cul-de-sac with such fabulous community. A place where you can receive high quality car washes for reasonable prices, all while supporting a local small business. (Insert heart eye emoji)

Community.

But, with great love comes great losses.

At the age of eighteen I am lucky to say this is the first big move I have experienced and while I know full well it won’t be the last I consider myself honored to have known such love of a home growing up.

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Time is more than just minutes.

There are so many sayings about it.

“Time flies when you’re having fun.”

“It has been said, time heals all wounds” -Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

Time passing is one of lifes’ few guarantees.

Life never stops. There is no pause button. No rewind or fast forward. There is just time. Every sixty seconds in a new minute every sixty minutes in a new hour, and every twenty-four hours is a new day. That is never going to change.

In a world full of uncertainty it is rather nice to know that no matter what changes the sun with rise in the morning and set in the evening. But sometimes it can be a real pain. We often wish the world to pause for a week while we mourn the loss of loved ones. We crave to go back to our childhood, or the days when life was a simpler place. We yearn to skip the days of the early morning classes and the late night study sessions, wishing to jump to the good part when we are really living our life.

It’s a nice set of dreams, but it isn’t reality.

I recently turn eighteen, in sixteen days I will be graduating high school and in three months I will be starting college. I now make monthly car and phone payments and will begin working a full time job this summer. It seems as if my childhood has merely disappeared before my eyes, leaving me nothing but distant memories. And while I celebrate my newfound freedom I mourn the loss of when life was easy.

It’s a balance.

Time truly is a balancing act. Managing it, enjoying it, and trying with all our might not to take advantage of it.

As I have gotten older I have noticed that my view on time has changed. I used to view life as a great adventure. Everyday a new page full of things to discover and as I grow and work my way into early adulthood I view each day as a ticking time bomb, and the only way to stop it is to get a list of stuff done.

Make that appointment.

Finish that project.

Fold that pile of laundry that has made a home on my bedroom floor.

I am happy but I am not enjoying the here and now. I do my school work and I eagerly await college because I know that what comes after I will love with all my heart. I am enjoying the outcome that is merely years away.

And that, that is no way to live your life.

I recently stumbled upon a quote that has since changed my perspective.

 Don’t spend more than five minutes being upset about something that isn’t going to matter in five years.

Not more than three hours after this verse was brought to my attention a friend asked me to join her in a hike to a hammocking spot.

Automatically I thought that it would be a waste of my time while I value spending time with my friends I would rather do something productive together, like shopping or preparing for things to do, but I agreed as I knew it was of importance to her to get out and enjoy to sun.

Since that day two weeks ago I have since gone hammocking with her twice and alone once.

There is something about the wind and the fresh air. The sound of birds chirping and the water flowing that completion of any task, no matter how big or small can beat.

I Pray One Day I Can See the World Through A Child’s Eyes

I am constantly filled with joy at the love that I see from children.

They do not hate anyone, everyone they encounter is a friend. Skin color doesn’t mean a single thing to them. Age is simply a viewed opportunity to learn from someone new. And the world is full of possibilities.

My three year old niece has recently become a big fan of talking to everyone she sees. At the park she ran around with a boy many years older than she. She told me after that she was excited to “run with the kid”. She runs to save me from the “monster” when a balloon hits my head. A four year old that I work with at school has become the best of friends with one of the special needs high school kids in the class. Children simply have a heart full of love.

Today I took my niece out to breakfast. We walked into a local Cracker Barrel and I was already ready to walk out. She hadn’t eaten anything other than two chips all morning and the poor girl was simply hangry. She was not having it. I sat her down and attempted to distract her with coloring and games but it was just not suiting her needs. I looked around, bright red, embarrassed that I was unable to control her and glanced over to see an elderly women that was eating by herself.

She was smiling.

It wasn’t too busy and I figured maybe my little Evelyn just wanted to talk to someone that wasn’t me. At the moment I was the devil because candy was not on the list of things I would let her eat at eleven in the morning.

I pointed the women out to Evelyn and suggested she go talk to her. She walked over to the lady and chatted up a storm. I sat and observed from two tables over as Evelyns voice of excitement roared through the aisle.

She told her about her recent birthday and the birds she saw outside and the fun bath she took earlier and even ranted to her about how I wouldn’t give her candy.

Fast forward and we wrapped up our meal. Evelyn told me was going to draw a picture for her “new best friend” she scribbled and scribbled and scribbled and then plopped out of her seat and walked right up to the women and said “I have a surprise for you.” Gave her the drawing followed by a big bear hug and walked away.

All by her own free will.

It’s makes me think. If a three year old child can selfishly give up one of her own prized possessions for someone she hadn’t known but one hour, why do we struggle to love people so much?

Why does it take seventeen lives being lost to gun violence for us to rally together as schools and say no more?

Why is it that it is only after a classmate takes their own life that we talk to those we hadn’t before?

I pray that I can learn to show the same grace to those around me as my niece shows to those she encounters. This world is full of hate and shame and the simplest of joys are what keeps this world going. I pray that I can learn to see life through the eyes of a child.

And I pray the same for you.

 

 

The only perfect leader is the Lord. Doesn’t me those that sin aren’t worthy of leadership positions.

It’s funny, really, how so often others think so much more highly of us than we could ever imagine thinking of ourselves.

In the past week I have had two people, on two separate occasions, come up to me to discuss faith. Both said that they look up to me highly as a spiritual leader. I am not saying this to gloat about myself. To be completely honest I do not read my bible every day and I struggle daily with questioning my faith.

How does this work?

If God is real why would He let this happen?

How do I know heaven is even for real?

Given I have been reassured multiple times that these are all normal things to question as a teenager growing up in a christian environment I still don’t think that these are questions I should be wrestling with if I am someones spiritual leader.

And if I am battling this then I mustn’t be a very good leader.

The two people that I had these conversations with where both peers. I think they could tell my shock when the spoke so highly of how they look up to me.

My first thoughts where if only they knew half the things I am battling.

If only they knew half of the sins I commit on a daily basis.

If only they knew…

Then I realized, thats the thing, they do know. They where both peers that I am relatively close with. Both know some of my poorer choices I have made and the words that come out of my mouth, and yet they still chose me. Why?

Well I didn’t ask both of them, as one of them is a non-believer that I didn’t want to pester with my own insecurities but the other, well, she is a christian. And so I asked her.

Why? Why me? Of all the amazing young adult Christians you know. Why me?

Her response was simple, and non-hesitant. “Because, In all your battles and trials you always come back to the Lord.”

I said thank you and left good enough alone but I thought about that a lot that night. This peer, whose relationship I value greatly, respects me as a spiritual leader. Knowing all my flaws and mistakes.

It made me think about my own life and my own leaders. While I don’t have a spiritual peer leaders that I have a close relationship with I have a few close adults in my life that I respect greatly. None of them pretend to have it all together, and none of them hide their flaws from me. And I look at them with the upmost respect.

Makes you think.

Maybe the most respectable leaders are the ones that humble themselves. The ones that openly admit to a lack of perfection and still keep fighting. The ones that are nothing in comparison to our Great Lord, but the ones that know where the end goal is.

That is the type of leader I hope to continue to be.

And I wish the same thing for each and every one of you.

In case you haven’t been told yet today. You are loved.

“Three words exist that you must hear from God today. NO matter what your circumstance, this trio of syllables breathes life, imbues hope, infused joy.

I.

Love.

You.”

-Margaret Feinberg

Think about all the words you hear each day. All the words your read each day. You wake up in the morning to hear your family talking about their day, you drive to work or school and hear the words from your favorite song or the heart wrenching update of the tragity that took place over night. You go about you day listen to people tell you what to do or where to go. You come home and listen to your family talk about their day, the new job opening at work or the snobby classmate your sibling has to sit next to in science class.

We go about our days hearing thousands of words and yet there are three that have the potential to change a whole day, or even week, or month.

I recently purchased a news devotional called Flourish by Margaret Feinberg. I will admit that I am one to judge a book by its covers in a very literal sense. When my friend picked out the book I was automatically attracted to it by its appealing cover. When I saw that it had coloring pages in it I was sold.

I read the introduction my first night, the second night when I flipped to the first day devotional I was instantly hooked when I saw the title. “The three words you need to hear, I love you.”

In those three short pages I was reminded that even though I am critically broken, I am also extraordinarily loved by God.

We are all guilty of sin. And my guess is that at some point or another we have all felt unloved. We have made choices that made us think that we are unworthy of love. Or we have lost that main relationship that we leant on for a reminder of how we are loved.

Personally, while I know I am loved by many people here on earth I also know that I have hurt many people that I love. I know that I have caused concern for people and have broken trust. And at times knowing that I have hurt people overrides knowing that I am loved. And it is a hard pill to swallow.

But the Lord is my water.

It is overwhelming how much the Bible talks about Gods love for his children. Just read the New Testiment.

Jeremiah 31:3 says “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

Psalms 33:5 says “The earth is full of his unfailing love.”

John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world He sent His one and only son so that whoever believes in him will not parish but have everlasting life.”

Talk about love. He sent His one and only son to die on the cross so that we may be free if we know and love Him.

I truly believe that I have no reason to feel as though I am unloved. Not when I know the Lords words. That I am loved. Here is the even better news!

So are you.

 

We live in a world full of sin. Every direction you look now a days someone is dying from cancer, or loosing their job. Look left and you see a family of five living on the side of the streets. You turn right and their are women being abducted and sold into a life of slavery. A life they will most likely never get out of.

It is saddening.

A few days ago I was sitting down with a younger friend. She is at the young age of fourteen. For the sake of her privacy we will call her Aly. She sat down with me and informed me that for the past six months she has been talking to a twenty-three year old man. Twenty-three.

I asked Aly why she was talking to a grown man when she knew it was inappropriate. The minute I asked that question I automatically regretted it. For just a few short years ago I was in her position. I was a thirteen year old girl talking to a seventeen year old guy. And when people dared to ask me why I was talking to him I would simply reply with five words.

"He makes me feel loved."

That relationship turned south extremely quickly, to say the least. Now, when I look back on that relationship, I realize that it wasn't a matter of why was talking to him. It was all a matter of why was HE talking to me. What buisiness did a high school senior have talking to a eighth grader. What buisiness does a twenty-three year old man have talking to a fourteen year old girl.

We live in a sinful world. Where young girls are warped into thinking that being hit and yelled at is normal. A world where women cant walk to their cars at twelve at night without fearing that they are going to be raped.

At yet, there I sat, five minutes later, telling Aly that while she needed to stop talking to him, she also needed to show him grace.

A very wise women once told me, "The only thing worse than being abused is being the abuser." That simple sentence has changed the way I view this world. You see, I am not exactly a fan of the man that abused me. And I am most curtainly not a fan of this twenty-three year old man that is munipulating his way into my friends life, but my heart goes out to them, because they must be going through some really tough stuff to get to the point where this was the only way they know how to cope.

This world is broken, it is shattered, and from the outside looking in it doesn't seem like it is getting any better. But God has a plan. He knew exactly what he was doing when he put the guy in my life. I can imagine God sitting up in heaven the day I met my abuser, with his plan book right in front of him.

"Right on track."

Not all realizations are fun, but they can move mountains.

Recently I have come to the painful realization that my mental illness does not only impact me, but those that love and care for me as well.

I've always known that my mental illness impacts others I just didn't know that people actually cared about me. It wasn't until this past week that I truly realized, in the bottom of my heart, that I am loved.

I know I am loved and cared for, I always have. In a sense of I have never doubted that my family loves me. I haven't even every doubted that God loves me. But what I did not know was that my best friend cares enough about me to text me multiple times when I don't reply within a few hours. Or that the one man that I look up to more than I can even try to form into words cared about me enough to drop everything and drive across town to make sure I was okay.

Realizing that I am loved was a wonderful feeling.

Realizing, not long after, that therefore my illness impacts those people greatly?

Well that was a much harder pill to swallow.

Ever since I have been diagnosed with depression I have become selfish.

I, for the longest time, didn't care if I bailed on my friends, making them feel unloved and betrayed. It didn't cross my mind as a big deal when I ruined family events because I was sitting in a corner crying.

It had nothing to do with any of them. It was a me issue, and so it shouldn't impact them. Right?

Wrong.

I was on the phone a few days ago with a family member who I care about greatly. They said to me that they simply did not understand depression. That the whole depression and anxiety bit didn't make any sense to them. They seemed angry at me for being mentally ill. Like I let them down in some way.

When I hung up the phone I was angry, how could you possibly be angry at me for something that I have very litte control over? It is not my fault. It is not something I asked for.

Then I sat back and thought about it. That family member never said he was angry at me for being mentally ill. He simply said he didn't understand. He said he was at loss for words. But then he said that he loves me.

I realized that maybe, just maybe I needed to stop making assumptions about how people are feeling.

I remembered that the first time I talked to my best friend about her mental illness I didn't understand. I hadn't yet been diagnosed so all her struggles simply confused me. I wasn't mad at her, I just care about her. I didn't know what to say so I told her exactly what that concerned family member told me. I told her that I didn't understand, but that I loved her.

And after I told her that we sat in her room in dead silence. Because was at a loss of words.

Does it stink that my own personal struggles impact others so deeply? Yes. But I choose to see that as not only proof that I am loved but as my motivation to get better.

After all, the Sears Tower wasn't built with only one person that cared. It took a village.

And I, I am a skyscraper in the making.

Sometimes you just need a reminder that your life is not as hard as you think.


I complain, a lot.

Just yesterday I was driving in my car, that I did not pay for, thinking about how irritating it is that I haven’t been able to fix the big dent in the front of the bumper.

As the day went on I found myself trying to decide what to do for dinner. Irritated that I have nobody at home to cook for me since my mom is out-of-town on business I decided to get some fast food. I sat in my car legitimately frustrated because I really wanted Panera but did not want to get out of the car to go in and order it.

Today I went grocery shopping, frustrated that my brother spent $20 of the $100 my Mom left us for groceries I did not think I would be able to get a weeks worth of groceries with $80.

“Why does my life have to be so complicated?!” I thought to myself. Angry at the fact that my life is as difficult as it is.

Then, as I was driving home tonight, I noticed a women. She was clearly homeless with a blue beaten up pillow in her left arm and her hands full with the bags that carried her few belongings. She was walking alone in the middle of the night. She was not smiling but she was not crying either, she was just being. I noticed as the light turned green that she was simply paying fine attention to her surrounding. Reading all the signs on the buildings around her.

She did not seem happy, but she did not seem sad. She was just there.

As I continued my journey home I prayed. It was a simple prayer, asking God to cleanse me of my lack of greatfulness.

I have not had the easiest of lives, but I have it pretty good off.

No, I have it really well off.

I have a Mom that loves me with all her heart. I have a roof over my head and clean clothes on my back.

I have a warm bed to sleep in and food on my plate. I have family and friends that I know care for me more than I can explain.

But greater than all of that I know God.

I thank God for putting that women in my life, even if we did not exchange words she taught me too appreciate every little thing that I have because my life, it isn’t too bad at all.

I can only pray that that women comes to know and love the God that loves her with all His heart.

Every Christian has experienced a spiritual high. My goal is to experience a spiritual life.


Ahh yes.

That spiritual high.

I am confident when I say I think every Christian has struggled with this at one point or another. You go on that church retreat, that church summer camp, or even a missions trip. Your last day arrives and you find yourself changed. A new person with a new perspective on their faith. You find yourself stronger than ever in your faith!

A spiritual high.

Then you go home. Your friend says something that upsets you and you lash out at them. Or your parent asks you to do a chore and you moan and groan only to never complete the task. You go back to the real world where you aren’t being spoon fed Gods word. And you come down from that high. Disappointed that all that work was for nothing, but excited for the next trip so you can reconnect with Christ again. You tell yourself that the next time is for real, that this next trip is the one that will really change you forever.

I get it, I am on that high right now, only I am praying to never come down.

After recently having an amazing opportunity and growing much closer to God as well as those whom I spend my church time with I found myself in a new position. I spent a whole week in the middle of a forest with 10 other people.

No phone.

No flushing toilets.

No escape.

I was being fed the word of God daily. With fourth five minutes of devotional time and then a whole day centered around learning how to grow as a team that serves the Lord I left that camp ready for whatever God was going to throw my way.

I got home and I got my phone back. I got to take a nice long shower and a long nights sleep in my own bed. I got the hundreds of text messages that I had missed that week.

I got the latest scoop on who was dating who and what girls got in a fight, the group chats seemed to be never-ending pits of drama and bullying.

Hate.

Sin.

I scrolled through my Instagram feed only to see pictures of my friends half-naked on the beach with some guy they didn’t even know. I saw pictures of my classmates son. I saw everything I had been sheltered from for a week. And I felt weak.

Suddenly I realized that if I wanted to keep my “spiritual high” I was going to have to make it my life.

I realized that serving God means that I need to start serving Him in everything I do. In the songs I listen to and the words I speak. The friends I surround myself with and the choices I make.

I have been home for three days now and I have already sinned more times than I’d like to admit but I am still high up in the clouds. With a new point of view on my faith I have a newfound excitement towards the idea of teaching others about God. There is only one thing I am more excited about.

And that, is seeing His plan.

You can learn quite a bit from a kid.


Yet another post about my job. Because I love what I do and I spend a large majority of my time doing it, being a babysitter has changed me in drastic ways.

One specific family that I have come to care for dearly has taught me more than I can type in one post.

This family did not get life served to them on a perfectly clean plate, to say the least. But they are a group of people that I look up to greatly.

A few days ago I found myself is the storm called lunch time. With children all around not wanted to eat their sandwiches, begging me to just let them enjoy their ice cream. I found myself getting frustrated. I looked at the little two year old boy, who was screaming bloody murder because I wouldn’t let him out of his high chair unti he had one more bite of his sandwhich, in my mind I wanted to give him my stern you better do what I say now or there is going to be issues look, but I didn’t.

He is only two, and while giving him a stern look and a serious tone might make me feel better it was highly unlikely to be effective with him.

I looked at him and In my ‘I’m talking to a two year old voice’ I said to him. “Daniel will you please eat one more bite on your sandwich for me?”

That little boy, without even blinking said, clear as day. “OK!”

He picked up that sandwhich and took a bite. I, sticking to my word, unbuckled him from his seat and off he ran to his next activity, happy as could be.

As I was driving home later that day I found myself reflecting on that sandwhich incident. I came to realize that often times in life we are that two year old, stuck in the high chair screaming and crying to get out so we can get on to our activities. And life, well. Life can tend to be that sandwhich. That one load of laundry we should fold before taking a nap. That one apology text we know we need to send to somebody we snapped at earlier that day.

We kick and scream bloody murder hoping God will let us go about our activities without finishing our sandwhich.

Little do we, that innocent litte two year old, know that that sandwhich holds all the energy and encouragement we need to get throughout the rest of our day.

As I go into a summer full of fun nights with my friends and great laughs with my family I encourage myself, and you as well.

To eat the sandwhich. 

Accept that you can not do life alone and you are half way there.

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Probably my favorite thing about being a babysitter is that I get the privilege of seeing the kids that I watch grow.

I get to see them through their temper tantrums and their shining moments.

I don’t think there is a single emotion I have not seen a child experience. With everything I see the one thing I do not see very often in young children feel completely and totally defeated.

Yesterday I sat one the floor of a play room covered from left to right in train tracks. The three-year old girl I was watching was determined to build a train track. She even said she would clean EVERYTHING up when she was done, an extraordinarily large commitment for a three year old to make.

As I helped her claw her way through the piles of tracks I encouraged her to try to put the pieces together herself.

The idea of putting a train track together by herself excited her, she wanted to show me that she was a big girl.

That she could do it on her own.

No more than ten seconds into her attempt she looked at me with a face of distress.

“I can’t do it, Sarah.”

I looked at her with a fire in my eyes that screamed “yes you can!!!!”.

I was a tad shocked that she had given up defeat so quickly on something she was so determined to accomplish.

A scenario all too familiar.

That test that I was determined to get an A on until I realized it would require me going in for extra help after school.

That relationship I whisked away after an arguement that lived on a day longer than the usual bickering.

I did not give up on that little girl. I plopped her in my lap and guided her hand to help her understand how the pieces should fit. After a litle guidence and encouragement she did it. She made a train track. And with an exuburant smile on her face she watched Thomas chug down the tracks.

Far too many times I have found myself slumped in the corner, frustrated because things did not go as planned the first time.

Sometimes I have somebody physically there to hold my hand and help me build this track called life.

But more often I find that the Lord has picked me up, plopped me in His lap. And guided my hands to make the pieces fit.

And I will do it and I will thank Him with an exuberant smile on my face. And then the track will start to go downhil, but this time instead of giving up entirely I will turn to my Father and simply bow down on my hands and knees.

I can not do it on my own.

Nobody can.

How do you get air out of a glass?

empty_glass

It is a simple question. But you either know the answer right away or you are, like me, completely clueless. 

The first time I was asked how to get air out of a glass the first thing I thought was you can’t. Then I thought of breaking that glass. Or maybe taking some sort of vacuum? Turning it upside so nothing can get in?

If you don’t know the answer don’t worry. I will tell you.

You fill it with water.

It’s a metaphor, you see. The glass is life. The air is the struggles of life; the cancer, the murder, the sadness and pain. In order to get rid of the air you have to fill it with water, the positive.

Yes, you are still going to always have a little air, unless you fill it to the tippy top. But that is ok.

Bad things are going to happen. You are going to try and move your glass and it will shake, and water will spill out. But do not worry! There is always more to put in it!

When I first heard this metaphor I kind of let in go in one ear and out the other. It was interesting but I did not feel it applied to me. I truly did not believe I had the power to find the good in bad things.

Then one day I was sitting in English class and I started to have a panic attack. My first thought was “Ok, I know that I have the ability to excuse myself from class, so I will just go down to my counselor and process it out.”

Then I had another thought.

“I do not want to miss the information she is giving us right now, I need to try and stay. I will try that silly glass thing.”

I sat there and said to myself that I was grateful for my anxiety because it taught me how to be more understanding of others. I said to myself that If I could just get through the rest of that class then I could do anything; that I was grateful for the support I could go to but that I was grateful God gave me the strength to get through it myself.

I have not missed a single class due to panic attacks since then.

Not only that, I have mentioned the simple metaphor to multiple friends and even adults. Just the other day I got a text from a friend saying that thanks to the metaphor she was able to push through an uncomfortable therapy session.

Everything in your world might be falling apart. And you might be questioning if things could possibly get any worse. The truth is, yes, things could always get worse. But no matter how tall and wide your glass of life is, you can always fill it with water. You just have to do a little searching first.