Anx-iety

Earlier this semester, I posted about my struggle with mild anxiety on Facebook.  I discussed how what I was dealing with may not be a big deal to some but it was/is a big deal to me.  How do you explain to people about the weight resting on your heart or how hard it is sometimes to get out of bed when they don’t experience it?  It can be crippling.

I am going to be honest once again, these past 10 years have broken me.  I never imagined that my dad and his siblings would all be gone in a span of seven years.  I never imagined I would have to bury students or have to worry about my friends’ safety overseas.  I never imagined a lot of things that have happened.  Maybe I was still dreaming that life would be butterflies, rainbow unicorn poop ice cream, and warm fuzzies.

My heart is a series of patches glued back together by God.  Grief is like the ocean to me.   There are days when I am fine, and there are days when it hits me hard.  Anxiety and depression are the same.   Mental health is not necessarily often discussed in the Christian circle.  There is a stigma attached to it, and I think people are afraid to admit when they are struggling because it makes them less “Christian.”  Or something is wrong with your relationship with God if you continue to struggle, and He isn’t healing you of the anxiety/depression.  There was one point that I was stuck with the “Well if your dad isn’t being healed maybe you don’t have enough faith.”   Cut the bull crap.  Those are lies trying to defeat you and me.

Ya’ll I am a horrible Christian.  I mess up every single day someway or another, and yet I know that God continues to forgive me and use me.  I am so thankful for His grace and mercy.  Each day is a new day.  A new day to choose to overcome the obstacles life brings.  Each day is a new day to choose joy.

2 Timothy 1:7 states, and I loosely quote, “For God did not give me a spirit of fear or timidity but one of strength, love, and a sound mind.”  I cling to that verse daily, especially with new obstacles being tossed at me.  God did not give Erin a spirit of fear or timidity….but He gave Erin a spirit of strength, of love, and a spirit of sound mind.  There is freedom in that verse for me.  There is freedom in God.  Life hurts but yet I find my joy and my strength in Him.

a delight remembered

We said goodbye to my beautiful aunt this past week.  After a year of battling pancreatic cancer, she is finally reunited with her parents, her sister (Aunt Doreen), and her brother (Daddy) in heaven.  Although I am happy that she no longer has to struggle or be in pain, my heart grieves for the loss of another beautiful soul from this world.  I love her and I miss her so very much right now.

*I am going to be honest right now, I am a blubbering mess as I write this post.*

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” ~Kahlil Gibran

Aunt Karin was a delight to all she met.  She spoke her heart and eloquently expressed her thoughts on life and love to all she came in contact.  She became even more outspoken as the year progressed, and she taught us how to live in the present.  Her wisdom touched many and inspired us to live fully.  She showed what it meant to live in grace and how to be gracious. She taught us what it looks like to fight and that “time is a precious commodity and it is worth fighting for.”  She exuded peace and lived in the Spirit.

I will forever cherish the moments God gave us together as a family, and the extra time I was able to spend with her and Uncle Jerry this year as a spoon bearer.  I will forever cherish our talks, our accidental naps and her morning, cinnamon coffee.  I will forever cherish the peace of her presence.  I will forever cherish the wisdom and grace she imparted to all of us.

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

~Tennyson

I loved her and she loved us.  Tomorrow we remember her life and celebrate her well deserved homecoming.  And so my heart grieves and will continue to grieve, but I will forever cherish the delight of having had a beautiful Aunt Karin.

Love is a many splendid things…

When I think about love, I think about my family.  There are not enough words to express how I truly love my family.  Sadly,  I overuse that word and often casually toss it around to describe fleeting objects.  For how can I use the same word to express my unhealthy relationship with  pizza and also use it to describe my feelings for family.  Obviously, pizza is a quick stomach pleaser and doesn’t last forever.  But family?  Family is part of the heart and soul, and when we lose someone too early, no wonder our heart feels like it is being squeezed and crumbled.

My coworker and friend, Phil, always defines love as, “a determination of the will to look out for someone’s best interest despite how you feel.”

I appreciate this definition because when I see true love in action, I don’t see selfishness, pride, anger, frustration, or even jealousy.  I see my friends and my family placing others first despite how they may be feeling.

The past six years have hit us hard.  The past five months have seemed to knock the air out of us continuously.  I don’t always understand life, and I will be honest, I had a “what the double hockey sticks” moment.  Life is reevaluated during these times, and one really begins to weigh what is deemed as truly precious.  Suddenly driving home two and a half hours to be with family for less than five hours does not seem as crazy.  Or randomly popping by to see family out of the blue isn’t out of the way anymore.  Or giving someone an extra long hug because you don’t know if or when you will see them again is wanted and needed.

Treasure the moments you have with those you love.  Put away the electronics and be there.  Soak in the memories and cherish the time. Live purposefully.

 

 

Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. ~Alfred Lord Tennyson

Three weeks have passed since the death of my Aunt Doreen.

[I have stared at this blinking cursor for thirty minutes trying to process what I want to write, and everything that I want to express seems so…]

I loved my Aunt Doreen.

When dad died, we said goodbye to him together in the hospital room.  We shared each others’ heart break in that moment;  a sister saying goodbye to her beloved little brother, and a daughter saying goodbye to her beloved dad.

I always regretted going into work that day, and not trusting my gut instinct to stay with mum and dad.  So I was thankful for the time that I was able to spend with Aunt Do at the hospital during the week of Christmas.   I will forever cherish the moments of laughter and the final conversations we had about God, life, boys, and the future.   I will forever cherish the memories of seeing her face light up with a smile when I walked in the room, and our love you moments when I had to leave for the day.

Aunt Doreen was a beautiful, gentle soul.

 

She loved with all her heart, and everyone that met her experienced that.

 

I miss her.

 

I miss dad.

 

But I am glad they are together again.

 

 

Memory Lane

Five years ago, I remember sitting down and writing a blog post about the top ten things that I was thankful for.  It was November of 2010.  It was our first Thanksgiving without dad.  It was my first semester at AU.  I remember praying together at the table as a family, knowing that when I looked to my right, he would not be there waiting to eat his ham covered with cherries.  I cried myself to sleep a lot that year.

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post about drawing my hand to hang on Rachel’s wall in her apartment.

“Our hands tell us so much.  You can tell if a person is a laborer, a musician, a writer, or an artist.  They tell a story.

Before my grandmum died, her best friend Dora would come in, every single day to check on her.  It was like clock-work, I’d be sitting in the room working on homework, and I would think ‘Hmmm Dora probably will be coming soon’.  I’d hear the knock and go to open the door so she could come in with her walker.  I could never get through those visits without crying, because I’d watch Dora take grandmum’s hands both so gnarled and rough, and pat them.  She’d smooth and fix grandmum’s hair, talking to her while trying to get a response.  But the image of her hands resting on grandmum’s will forever stay in my memory.  The picture of friendship and love between two dear friends….

Of course just like Rachel’s apartment, they drew their hands on our lives. They left their mark, and even though physically they are not here with us.  I see their influence in my life daily, and that is something that will never be taken away.”

Three years ago, I wrote about how thankful I was for my friendships with Laura and Jenny, my two best friends from high school.  How I was thankful for my friends in England, Scotland and Ireland.  How I was thankful for my Lemon Peelers.  I continue to cherish these friendships and hold them dear to my heart.  Each one has left an imprint on my heart and my life.

Two years ago, I didn’t write a blog post for November.  It was my senior year and I freaking out.  I was having serious doubts about whether or not I really wanted to be a teacher and was considerably afraid that I had just wasted a lot of money.  I knew that once Thanksgiving passed, I was only a few weeks away from student teaching and I was terrified.

One year ago, I also didn’t write a blog post for November.  In fact, I didn’t write many blog posts last year.  I truly am thankful for last year.  I discovered my weaknesses and found my strength in God.  I developed friendships with coworkers that I absolutely love and cherish to this day.  I also learned what it meant to fully rely on God because there were times when I had nothing left in me.  My roommates were a Godsend for me last year.  Megs and Anna encouraged me and prayed for me on a daily basis.  My mum and sister constantly checked in on me, and made sure I was okay.  At one point, mum even offered to come to just be with me, and I will forever cherish that offer.  I was and am thankful for my family and my prayer warriors.

Today, I am thankful for joy.  I am thankful for laughter.  I am happy.

I believe that a trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. You see, when you let go and learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient. Patience is not just about waiting for something… it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting.

~Joyce Meyer

Life has had its valleys and mountains.  It seems as though the last few years were a valley for me, and there were times that I wasn’t really sure if I would  get through it.  The weight of the world pressed heavily on me, especially last year.  This past summer when I was determined to leave America, I really had it in my head that it was going to happen.  I will be honest, I cried when I hung up after my interview with LCS because I knew deep down that I was going to get the job and I was going to stay in Anderson.  I so desperately wanted to leave.

God seems to know best, and when I decided to trust Him, I never knew just how much joy I would receive in accepting this job position.  My Spanish teacher use to tell us to find a job where you don’t have to go to work each day but you get to go to work.  I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to say that, but this year I am.  I am so thankful that I get to go to work.  I am happy.

Laughter, joy’s best friend.

Me: “If zombies were to attack, would you be ready?”
Student: “Huh?”
Me: “Listen, there are those who are ready and those who are zombie meat. Which do you want to be? ”
Student: “ummmm…ready?”
Me: “Correct answer, young grasshopper.”

I always dreamed about being the first black president.  However, since that is no longer possible. My dream is to be the first good black president.

I was attacked by a hobo in the hallway.  That is why I was late.

Can I use a baby’s head to smash open the plane window?

(my response) No!! Babies are humans, not weapons.

You are the best Miss E. I am not just saying that to try to help convince you to not give us vocabulary next week.

Miss E!! Come dance the ney ney with us!!

I think my handwriting is sexy!

Ooooohhh, can we make a running list of every time you fail?!

How do I express the amount of laughter that fills my life each day while I am at school?  I once heard a quote that said, “a laugh is a smile that bursts.”   Seriously, how perfect is that!    I can’t always say that each day is easy, but I certainly love going into work and working with my students.  Every day is a learning opportunity, and my students are always teaching me something new.

Rage

We live a very fragile existence, and yet we have the capability to live powerfully.  I was struck by that thought this weekend.

For those who know me well, it isn’t a surprise that my family is precious to me.  We have lived life together through some very hard times.  Our hearts have taken a beating, and we have been at the precipice together, weary and worn.  We have also lived life through some very good times amidst the pain.  However after we lost dad, I was never more aware of just how fragile life is.

I was told some news this weekend that shook me up a bit.  I was thinking about my life, and I started to wonder if I have lived my life powerfully.  Have I used every minute to live it to the fullest?  Sadly, no.  However, do I have any regrets with my life?  No, because I can’t change the past; I can only learn and strive to do better.  I am always struck by this poem by Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Those words are beautiful, “Rage against the dying of the light.”  Talk about the ultimate motivational speech.  Even when losing is imminent, continue fighting. Live. Live life powerfully.
I have transitioned into a new teaching position working with middle school and high school at a local private christian school.  I am excited for this year, and have already finished up my first two weeks of teaching.  Although my heart was set on being overseas, God seemed to have different plans for me.  I was talking with my friend Breezie last night, and she is transitioning into a new phase of life also.  We talked about living a life of radical faith.  She especially will be experiencing that as she transitions into her work in East Africa.  We are extremely privileged to have the amenities that we do in America.  What if we didn’t?  What would our lives look like?  Would we instead be living a life of radical faith?   My hope is to challenge my students this year to think outside the box, to question and explore.  I don’t want robots for students.
My hope for myself this year is to live life powerfully.

Where I am at

For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.

~Rainer Maria Rilke
       How do I begin to describe the journey that my life took during this first year of teaching?  I don’t really know where to begin.  I knew when I took this job that it would be extremely challenging and taxing.  I knew that I would be stretched and changed.
       I was thrown into the deep end.  I had to quickly learn how to swim if I was going to survive, and most of the time I was guessing and hoping that I was doing it correctly.  I had students that loved me, and I had students that severely disliked me.  Normal occurrence, except working in an alternative school makes that whole reality so much more different than a public school.  I am really not going to go into specific stories because of privacy.  However, I am going to talk about what I learned.
       My first lesson was realizing that I was not my students’ savior.  As hard as I tried, I could not fix them and turn them into tiny Erin robots because obviously I am the perfect role model. (Sarcasm folks)  I learned this lesson the hard way by the end of the first semester.  There was a heaviness in our school due to suicide.  I had many talks with some of my girls regarding it, and there were many nights that I came home crying and feeling defeated.  Nothing that I could say could change what they were feeling.  Nothing I could say would change the reality of their life and their specific situations.  I always thought of myself as a great listener, but this year taught me how to truly listen and how I do not always need to have an answer.  I also learned how to be truly dependent on God and what it means to have a  dedicated prayer life.
       My second lesson was to learn how to live. I did not have a healthy balance between school and home.  I was constantly working, and felt this pressure of making sure that I was always prepared.  Most of the preparation got thrown out the next day anyways.
       My third lesson is probably the most important.  I included the Rilke quote at the beginning because it is the core of what this entire year meant to me.  Some students are easy to love, they do everything right and get their assignments done without nagging.  Some students have their off days but for the most part they are fine and you end up loving them.  However, then you have students that get under your skin and do the complete opposite of what you ask and love is nowhere to be found.  I found myself categorizing my students, and God seemed to hit me pretty hard.  I ended up praying every morning “God teach me how to love.”  It was almost like He began to pull scales off my heart.  Each day began a new lesson on how to love every student where they were at for that moment. Sure enough, every single student that I worked with this year has found a place in my heart.
       I think as a society we have an “us and them” mentality.  We have a circle of compassion that only extends to some and ignores others.  This year taught me to have an “us” mentality.  As dysfunctional as we may have seemed from the outside looking in, we became a family.  If only the world would adopt this mentality, we would be in such a better place.
       Love is difficult from a human perspective.  It is easy to point out the flaws of others and to downgrade a person.  Thank goodness God does not set guidelines on whom he chooses to love.  He loves us in our imperfections, and He loves us where we are at.  What a humbling and sobering realization.
      My prayer now is that I will continue to keep the “us” mentality.  That my compassion is for everyone and not just a few that I feel deserve it.  My prayer is that God will continue to teach me how to love everyday. To love as He loves.

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The Attitude in the Silence

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.

Mother Teresa
I have spent countless hours by myself the last few weeks, and I realized that today I have not done justice with the many hours I have had alone. It amazes me how much I can get caught up in life and not set aside to just find God in the silence, to read my Bible, to pray diligently.  Why do I let myself get to this point?

Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.

Billy Graham
I am in the midst of transition in my life.  I have a job that, in all honesty, reminds me of the heart of YfC and the mission work that I did there.  I am excited to be part of an organization that treats one another like family and really cares and helps the students we work alongside.  I have found a place to live in Anderson with two other girls.  I mean seriously, that is one of the biggest reliefs possible.  I thought finding a job was stressful, it’s the housing situation that is even more stressful!!!  God is taking care of me.
I have been reading a lot of my posts that I wrote whilst in England and this one from November really stuck out to me.  So I have decided to share it again, or at least part of it.

Pastor Adrian has been speaking on ‘The Winning Attitude’ the past month.   It’s been quite challenging for me, and each time I hear what he has to say it really just strikes a chord with me.  I like to think that I have an absolutely brilliant attitude…but sometimes my pride gets the best of me.  It’s interesting though, ever since I’ve gotten here to England I’ve gone through every type of emotion possible.  It seems to be more amplified then usual, quite possibly because I’m in a different territory then normal.  It’s strange when you are completely out of the normal context of your life how your emotions and attitude on things can completely change.  I find that it is quite amazing how we can have a stronghold on the way we speak, act, or think.  It can be quite a bad thing when our mind is locked into one way of thinking or acting.  When we aren’t open to change in those areas.  When you think about it your attitude affects the way you live, how you feel about life.  If you are always down in the dumps, or thinking life sucks…then yeah life is going to suck for you.  It’s not going to change until you change your outlook on life, and realize that the attitude you have chosen isn’t exactly helping.  The only attitude that we should strive to have is the attitude of Christ.  He is the best example ever.  The thing is Jesus came to serve, he had a servant’s heart and if we are to follow his attitude, his example we are going to have to lay down the culture of ‘me’.  That is quite hard, to humble ourselves, to become servant-like especially in this day and age.   We have to apply Him to our lives daily, only then will we really be able to change our attitudes.  The other thing that can affect our attitude is the way we take care of ourselves.  When we are too exhausted and don’t care of ourselves or take time out to just really soak God in, can totally affect the way we live, the way we feel, the way we act towards others.   In the midst of disappointment or heartbreak that’s when we really need to just be with Him.  Jesus went through every type of emotion on this earth, He knows.  God knows, and sometimes when we’re at a loss for words that’s fine….because all He wants is for us to sit with Him and let His peace float around us.  We have to come near to God, to put our hearts in a place to find Him, and to have an attitude like Jesus.

“Create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence oh Lord, take not thy Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and renew a right spirit within me.”

I wrote that last part for me mainly.  It’s a good reminder for me, to daily just soak God in.  My constant prayer is to have a heart like Jesus.  To have the right attitude, the right out-look on life, to not be stressed over things or worried about the future plans I need to make.  I’m here, and I’m living for now, for God.   Sometimes the worries can get quite overwhelming at times but it’s all God’s now.  It’s all God’s.