Monday, October 28, 2013

Walter Reed

   Imagine. You are walking through the halls of a new place. You are overwhelmed by the history of of the establishment you currently tread on. You are taking in the sights and sounds and choking down the fact that you are now an employee and part of an incredible effort. You stumble through halls that look the same and attempt to find your way through a maze of halls and people all seeming to know where they are going. You then shut out the overwhelmed feeling and begin to observe those around you. Camouflage. Various strains and colors, but lots of camouflage. Also, people with artificial limbs and wheelchairs and crutches. This is expected, after all you are in a hospital but something is different about these people. There are young and average weight and healthy. They do not seem to have some disease process and age has not had a chance to cause this type of deterioration. Many of these bear an obvious traumatic experience. Something that happened quickly and unexpectedly.

   You begin to look into the eyes of these people, beyond their missing arms, legs, sometimes entire lower body. You ignore the deformities and the scarred flesh or bandaged wounds. You consider the person, and look into their eyes: their very soul speaks through their eyes and you see a resilient and determined person. Sometimes you see despair and distress. Whatever you see, you begin to realize why they are here and what you are becoming a part of. This is where their healing begins and this is where you step up to the plate. Your problems, your struggles, your frustrations you choose to leave in the parking garage. You walk into the building with the determination to help bring hope to the lives of the men and women who boarded a boat or a plane with the knowledge that they may never come back. They protect the freedoms that you and I rarely acknowledge. They have seen the lack of freedom. They have seen poverty. They have seen lifeless bodies. At the end of the day, you really have no idea what they have seen. The thing you know is it was there calling to go and they took on the challenge. They bear the external and internal wounds as a result. They have returned with lives forever changed and a new set of challenges, sometimes as basic as learning to eat with no hands or walk with prosthetic legs. They have returned and seek help from you.

   While the "you" is a large group of people, I am so thankful to be a part of it and living something that was a far away dream of mine a thousand miles away. I began a new job last week and it is such an incredible opportunity. Yes, there are parts of it that are awful-that is life. If it didn't have challenges, we wouldn't be better. My biggest advice is to find what you love and do it. Someone once said, "If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life!" So very true! Once upon a time, I sat as an English major in my dorm and laughed at my nursing major roommates (working extremely hard and studying) and said, "I am so glad I am not doing that. I would never do nursing!" Six months later I was busting my butt to get into their class and three years later I graduated by the grace of God and the help of so many people. Countless phone calls to my mom, ensuring that I still had a couch to sleep on in case I failed this test and got kicked out of the program. There was a day I distinctly remember walking into a professors office and having a breakdown. Disheveled and sleep-deprived I looked up at her with my wild hair and my tear-stained eyes and asked her, "Do you honestly think this is for me. If you don't, I understand. You have done this long enough to know and I need to know." This woman will always have my respect because of how much she poured into her students. She would come in on the weekends to give us tests and hold reviews. She would stay late at night and come in early for each little question we had. Here I stood, before her, ready to walk out and change careers completely. She stared me right back into the eyes with a look of determination and said, "Grace, I don't think you can do it, I KNOW you can and I am going to help you!" She set me up with a wonderful person who became my study partner and a best friend and the rest is history.

   Wow ,that was a tangent. My point is, you can do anything that you put your mind to. Don't think that it's too late to find what you love. You only get to live once. Making money isn't everything. I will probably never be a millionaire monetarily but the fact that I love what I do and get to work and play hard makes me feel like the most wealthy person ever! Life is more than we limit ourselves to. That is why God is so important. He can see our potential, beyond what we imagine, and He knows the outcome!

   This has already been too long, but I encourage you to choose to be happy today. Even if you work a job you do not love, you are only responsible for your actions and reactions. I'm posting a photo from this weekend. Some friends and I took a trip to Shenandoah to catch the colors. This little guy was such a delight to hang out with!

Friday, October 18, 2013

First Day Back

   Today marks the first day of a new job at Shady Grove. Same place but new shift.  Lots of firsts as I learn to work in the "land of the living" instead of the night zombies! 

   My new ID photo is particularly fabulous! When my recruiter asked for one, I initially sent one of a complete backbend on the beach. He said that might not work as I would have to constantly assume the position to prove legitimacy.

   Regardless, my devotion for today is included below. Excellent advice for all of us today! Time to save some lives!

October 19
Come to Me with your defenses down, ready to be blessed and filled with My Presence. Relax, and feel the relief of being totally open and authentic with Me. You have nothing to hide and nothing to disclose, because I know everything about you already. You can have no other relationship like this one. Take time to savor its richness, basking in My golden Light.
One of the worst consequences of the Fall is the elaborate barriers people erect between themselves and others. Facades abound in the world, even in My Body, the church. Sometimes, church is the last place where people feel free to be themselves. They cover up with Sunday clothes and Sunday smiles. They feel relief when they leave because of the strain of false fellowship. The best antidote to this artificial atmosphere is practicing My Presence at church. Let your primary focus be communing with Me, worshiping Me, glorifying Me. Then you will be able to smile at others with My Joy and love them with My Love.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. —1 John 1:5–7
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” —Exodus 33:14
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…think about such things… —Philippians 4:8

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Trying Times

   I am sure I have blogged about this before, but what is it about the valleys that makes us stronger? Why do we have to endure hard times? Why does it seem that just when things are looking up, God decides we need a little more faith? Call me a horrible Christian, but these are the questions flooding my mind and heart these days. It seems that no matter how much extra I do, I run into another wall. Money is tight and the job delay has a vice on my heart.
   While people experience this all of the time, it makes me wonder why certain do and others do not seem to have any problems. This is, of course, the child in me pouting and saying to God, "It's not fair!" Instead of realizing that we each have battles and just because I cannot see yours does not mean they do not exist, I choose to allow my selfishness and lack of faith to rule my thoughts. The result, well in my life my body is FABULOUS at showing my recent thoughts, concerns, or lack thereof. When I'm stressed and not trusting God, well it's amazing the amount of makeup I suddenly have to wear and how sick I get just out of the blue. I keep thinking, I can fix this, I can trust more and have a bigger faith but at the end of the day I am just as discouraged and stressed. Why? Because I decide to tackle the problems instead of letting my Creator handle them. I sometimes imagine myself like the child in this picture. I am tired, cranky, and want to play with my toys and this person is trying to feed me. NOT what I WANT, but most likely what is good for me.
   Today, I ran into more walls. More than I thought I could. Instead of focusing on that, I am going to count some blessings. Being a visual learner, I am going to post some pictures of the blessings from the last few months. This is not to brag on myself, but that which God has done for me and because this post is for me to encourage you to count your blessings. Pictures can say a thousand words. I would encourage you to make a "Blessings" folder somewhere that you can always access it. Technology allows us to have pictures everywhere. I am going to post a few from my folder. Remember, no matter how discouraged you become, there is always someone with less than you have. We are so blessed as individuals with incredible things like health, a place to sleep, and people who love us. Be encouraged today!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Struggling to Please Some Dirt

   The rain is steady, it has been for several days. The traffic outside is typical for D.C. H-Mart is still my favorite for grocery shopping, although the weekend crowd left me feeling like a giant Amazon. I successfully avoided stepping on any small children or people, a feat that left me feeling accomplished until I almost got hit in the parking lot. Turns out "Anthony" "really" liked my "hair, and your style. Does your boyfriend know just how lucky he is? Oh wait, do you have a boyfriend??" What a way to ask a girl out. Run her over. Props for ingenuity? Not so much. Enough with the H-Mart trip-although it's always an adventure. I always discover something new to learn how to cook. I never realized just how many fruits and vegetables exist.

   I am feeling exceptionally like a domesticated homemaker. My entire apartment is clean, meals for the next week have been invented and perfected (yes, from scratch for those from D.C.), I successfully ran my errands, got my work-out in, paid my bills, stressed more about jobs, then watched a documentary on how stress ages and kills your body. All in all, I'm feeling quite accomplished.

   Strange entry? Yes, I know. Just a day in my life. These are my thoughts. They don't always dive deep into the spiritual realm. Of course, they wander there at some point. Today while I was mopping for what felt like hours due to the amount of dirt carried in with the move, my mind began to wander. As Aerosmith's Dream On rocked my Pandora, I began to think of the thousands of people who plod away each day in an effort to make someone else happy. The thousands, probably millions of people who work tirelessly to make a relationship work or to please someone. This someone could be their parents, children, neighbor, roommate, significant other, spouse, spiritual leader, boss, or just a random stranger. As things go, we cannot please everyone and sometimes the one person we care to please will never be happy with us. Or perhaps they are pleased but do not express their appreciation.

   While I may be wrong (feel free to comment below), I believe there are some people in our lives who we will always either consciously or unconsciously hope to please. The heart-breaking part is when we never succeed. Our most incredible efforts are only met with disappointment. The repeated rejection can easily lead us to be unhappy with our lives, skeptical and negative towards others, and lose our feeling of worth. Galatians 1:10 says, "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." The challenge is clearly laid out, whom do you serve? Yourself? Others? How about the God who made you? Isaiah 2:22 says, "Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?" I love the sense of humor presented here. People with breath, made out of dirt. My point is not that we should completely dis-regard the opinion of others, but God says to worry about Him and allow him to worry about the world. He planned everything at the very beginning and I'm pretty sure He's got this one. Besides, National Geographic has a great documentary on the effects of stress on the body, so why not just give this "stressor" up, since we don't actually have to take it on.

   I think about the people in my life currently that I work so hard to please. I think about all of the wasted time and energy I spend trying to make them happy. Then I think about the things that I should do for others. Some of those things overlap, but the time I spend worrying about their happiness, well that is a sin. We are to help others, but not to the extent that it negatively affects us or what God would have us do for eternity. I will wrap this up with the hopes that I have not completely confused anyone but encouraged you to seek to please God in your actions. As my mother always told me, "Grace, you can only be responsible for your actions and reactions to others. Everything else is between God and them." Not sure why I actually remembered that one-maybe because I was constantly needing reminded as I sat in the principal's office for punching a boy or spoke disrespectfully to an authority figure. Be encouraged, God see's your efforts even where others don't!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Controlling the Tongue

   My devotion today was strangely similar to the one shared with me by my Mother. The topic, controlling the tongue. The Bible describes it as a small but powerful member, something that can strike down or build up. Throughout history, examples of the power of the tongue are seen. The encouragement of the "Guardian of Scotland", William Wallace, allowed his meager 2,300 men to defeat the professionally trained 10,000 British soldiers in the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The proud words of Nebuchadnezzar removed him from his beautiful kingdom and sentenced him to seven years of roaming like a beast in the fields.
   God does not mess around when it comes to the power of our words. He speaks in James 1:19-21 of the importance of listening slowly and taking our time in making decisions instead of being hasty to anger. One version reads:     
   19 Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. 
   20 For man's anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires].
   21 So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls.  
   We get ourselves into trouble when we make swift decisions without taking more time to listen-not hear, but actively listen. The Holy Spirit is placed in our heart to provide us counsel when we accept Christ into our lives. Why do we allow distractions and the noise of life to crowd him out?
   As I consider all of the words I have used in the last twenty four hours, I am embarrassed to consider how many of them were in the effort of making a difference in someone's life for eternity and ashamed at how many were spent talking to God, particularly in comparison to the number of idle words I used. 
   While this is a huge topic and I could go on and on, my personal challenge for today is to be more aware of the words I say, their affect on people, and if God would be pleased with my use of the blessing of speech. It is truly a gift to be able to communicate and something we should not waste.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Dry Times" of Life

   We all have probably experienced that dry or slow period of something, whether it be a relationship, our job, our Spiritual walk, etc. Dry spells in life are opportunities to raw-ly seek God's face without the distractions of comfort and prosperity. While that may sound contradictory, we are much more tuned into the Creator of our hearts when we recognize our need for Him to provide for us on the most basic level. What better time than When we are going through a trial?
   Your dry place is your preparation place for your Caanan place. When you are going through your dry periods of life, don't question God, be thankful for what God has done.
    In Exodus 17, Moses was weak and afraid of the murmuring people, but not to the extent that he did not call on God. God reminds Moses that God is the same one who led him out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea. When going through these periods of life, we must remember that God is available in our time of need.
   We also must understand that we cannot let others' contentment or discontentment keep us from the promises of God. When we are in our dry place, we are very thirsty and can begin to see mirages. The things of the world begin to look appealing. We start to substitute things that are not good for us because we are "so thirsty". If we allow those things to control our lives instead of the things God intended for us, we will never be able to appreciate and enjoy the promised land the way it was made to be enjoyed. The dry land is our preparation time and the time we must struggle to stay disciplined because circumstances are not easy. Remember, the struggle makes us stronger.
   If you have to fight in your dry place, choose people who will keep the Bible "lifted" or in the forefront of your thoughts and decisions as you go through your struggle. Moses chose Aaron and Hur to keep him accountable. He chose those who understood the Bible and would keep him accountable accordingly. We must be careful in choosing our friends for they are our counselors.
   There will always be two nations at war, both inside of us and outside of us. The one is flesh driven and the one is Spirit driven. The one happens inside of us and must be fought daily with the help of God's Spirit inside of us. The other is manifested outside of us in the problems of the world. Both wars will always be fought in this lifetime, but God never gives us a struggle that He has not already provided the grace for us to conquer.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Search for Intimacy

   I love how alive the Bible is. These are few books in history- I dare say none, from which one person can read and obtain so many different blessings from the same words. The Holy Spirit guides us if we allow Him and shows us what we need for each passing day.
   We seek to be loved. To be valued, to have our worth validated by another. We find that individual who we think will do So and we seek a commitment from them. We are eventually disappointed in the humanity we discover and either move on or ''Suck it up" for our commitment. Why do we have such a Strong desire if it is never to be fulfilled? Because it can be fulfilled. Jesus seeks a relationship with us, despite Knowing intimately our flaws and failures. True love accepts the humanity and sees the potential in the person. My prayer for today is that I will strive to fulfill my need for intimacy in Christ and not depend or hope for another.
   Thoughts from my devotion: 
    Never take for granted My intimate nearness. Marvel at the wonder of My continual Presence with you. Even the most ardent human lover cannot be with you always. Nor can another person know the intimacies of your heart, mind, and spirit. I know everything about you—even to the number of hairs on your head. You don’t need to work at revealing yourself to Me.
   Many people spend a lifetime or a small fortune searching for someone who understands them. Yet I am freely available to all who call upon My Name, who open their hearts to receive Me as Savior. This simple act of faith is the beginning of a lifelong love story. I, the Lover of your soul, understand you perfectly and love you eternally

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Luke 12:7

  "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."
John 1:12

  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:13

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall in the Ozarks

Enjoying a break from recording at my favorite highschool hangout. A beautiful closed bridge.

Worry eliminated by Thankfulness

  After two days of this thought in my devotions, I realized God was trying to make a point. Unfortunately, I tend to be in the slow class and sometimes require secondary enforcement. With the government shutdown, I found a further delay of my new job at Walter Reed. The frustration of the unknown as well as the feeling of being unemployed and having bills to pay is a feeling I had not yet experienced. While certainly a stressful time, God allowed me to be at home in Missouri. Here I have been able to relax, catch up with friends, record music for the next cd, but most importantly awaken a part of my faith that I had pushed aside and boxed up like Christmas decorations. The faith that God will provide your "daily bread" is someday very basic and yet He tells us to have the faith of a child.
  Growing up, I was priveleged to not worry for my next meal or where I would sleep. That was something for The adults and my job was to obey the tasks at hand and enjoy the freedom from responsibility. God offers us the same freedom. He Says, "Cast all your cares on me." "That is easy to say, but how does one even start?" Thankfulness. "Whoa, big word!'' Ok, count your blessings. Grace, what has God done for you in the last year? Oh, in self-pity mode, huh? Lets go back to basics. Are you currently living in a free country? Did you come here in a box as a slave and crammed on a ship? Have you watched your family and friends murdered for their faith? Do you have warm clothes and a place to lay your head at night? Do you know you have a heavenly Father who Loves you dearly and wants to get to know you intimately? To each of these questions, " someone in our world today could answer "yes". Humbling, isn't it? The more you realize just how many things you have to be thankful for, the stronger your faith in God's protection over your life should become.
I do not say these things to lecture, but more to challenge and encourage. These are hard times, but God is still in control.

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” —Luke 12:7
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. —John 1:12

Wednesday, October 2, 2013



   Tonight I was privileged to experience a small taste of the real life horror story through which so many of my DC area friends lived. In a small, private screening of the documentary Blue Caprice, I found myself surrounded by victims of PTSD. People with once normal lives who experienced twenty-three days of sheer terror as thirteen people were randomly murdered. These people surrounded me in the audience; these people who were forced to see the fragility and uncertainty of life, helpless to hide, and encouraged by leadership to “continue living their lives as normal” throughout the terror.
   As the movie began to unfold, the odd relationship between two individuals going through difficulties in their lives tugged at the audience’s emotions. Interestingly enough, the director left out any dates, names, or specifics in reference to the events-those events with which this particular audience was grossly familiar with. Without any identifying information, the viewer was encouraged to feel compassion towards these two people. After a solid hour of introduction the movie cruised through the preparations made by the “stars” of the documentary, then sped through the murders that wreaked havoc on so many innocent people and stole the loved ones from ten unrelated families across the D.C. metropolitan area. The documentary ended abruptly with an arrest, an abrupt interview, and the image of a young man forced to spend the duration of his days in an orange jumpsuit.
   While the director performed incredibly from an artistic standpoint and was able to evoke two strong and opposing emotions of sympathy and range from a majority of the audience, he forced something to my attention that I was only subconsciously aware of.    Our society does not want to admit we need God. In denying that we need a God, we are forced to find a reason for evil outside of His clear-cut explanation of sin. We need the reasoning to provide closure when traumatic events happen so that we can attempt to cope or handle them on our own. While we flounder in the darkness searching for a reason, we can justify anything we or someone else does based on race, gender, childhood trauma, social status, deficiency of neurotransmitters, or any number of fabricated excuses. While circumstances certainly can certainly improve or deter our ability to make positive choices in life, each individual person has their battles. Each person has mountains to climb. Some are easier to see than others. Some are physical such as poverty or disease. Some are emotional such as depression or anxiety. The common ground we share as humans is this world. We each have free will and we each live in a world riddled by sin. While on this earth, we will be uncomfortable and we will struggle. It is called “earth” and not “heaven” for a reason. The point is to realize we are only responsible for our reactions to struggle.
   While this documentary was very well done, it encouraged a sympathy to sick, depraved humans who murdered the innocent to satisfy the need for vengeance on life’s hardships. I believe it is important to understand the beliefs of others and where they are coming from. I believe it is important to find closure to traumatic events. What I do not believe is that we try to explain away sin, thus lessening the depraved reality of our souls. Reality is that we are all capable of the sick acts of terror performed by these two individuals. One individual was seventeen years old-not even a legal adult.
   Something I constantly must remind myself when confronted with a horrific act is that but for the grace of God that could be me. We are not bigger or more human than those who murder, rape, or steal. We must swallow the fact that we are human and equals. This world can be wonderful but it can also be brutal and without the hope of a Savior, we can all be driven to the worst acts of terror.
   I do not mean to dissuade from this film-it is very well done and while not completely accurate, it is certainly thought provoking. I encourage viewers to go in with an open mind, but to realize the importance of a firm foundation based on something eternal-not something temporal. This world is only getting older, but there are things we can count on including the love of an eternal God. As for evil, it will always be in this life. Instead of trying to cope by explaining it, I encourage you to cope through forgiveness. You are freed from the burden of evil with forgiveness and although it is not an easy thing to do, with God’s help anything is possible. I believe in the power of the mind God has given us but like our body we must feed it well if it is to be healthy.