Finding My Psalm.

As summer keeps flying by, I have been finding myself searching for something to cling on to—some sort of support, a constant, something that will ground me. With college approaching faster and faster, my life has been getting hectic and overwhelming. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about living on campus in August. While I’ll only be about 25-30 minutes from home, it’s still scary thinking that I’ll be by myself, no family to help me when I’m overwhelmed, or for me to run to with my problems. This is a huge deal for me, because in the past, I’ve always relied on someone being with me to help me get through situations. The situation that scares me the most is my panic attacks. I got my first glimpse of having one on my own this weekend when my parents went down to Indiana. I got sick and started throwing up, which led into a panic attack, and then an ever present anxiety that stayed for nearly two days. While I did cheat a little bit and call my mom at 11 o’clock at night, crying because I didn’t want to throw up, it was technically my first time being sick without anyone physically there with me.

Nonetheless, I’m realizing I cannot cling to family, friends, or something tangible to keep me grounded in anxious and scary situations. Instead the only thing that remains constant is God. I tell myself over and over that, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). I wish I could say that I’ve always relied on God’s word, but that isn’t true. I had a wake-up call a few weeks ago and it became clear that God’s love and care for me is so unfathomable and that I needed to trust him fully. I’m still learning to go to his Word and to Him first, but believe me, it’s hard. It’s so much easier to try to call someone so I can actually hear a voice to help me through a tough trial. But with all the “tangible” noise I have been craving, it has been putting God’s voice on mute, and not allowing him to speak to me at all.

Anxiety speaks louder than God most days, especially this past weekend. But anxiety hates when I make God a priority and purposely sit to soak his word in. I cling to the fact that his word is living and active and it has the power to cease any anxiety I have at any moment. Which leads me into finding my Psalm.

This is something that the Pastor at my church has brought up many times. The principle is fairly simple; when you are looking for God, start in the Psalms. Start at Psalm 1 and keep reading until one of them speaks out to you; until one reaches out and connects to you; until you find God in a specific one. One sleepless night it took me 51 chapters until I found my Psalm. Upon finishing Psalm 51, I immediately fell into tears—and I am not an easy emotional crier.

In a historical context, Psalm 51 is a Psalm of David. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband—a great military man—killed, and had fallen deep into sin. David starts the Psalm out “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2). David goes on to talk about how he has sinned and done evil in God’s sight, he asks for God to clean him and wash him, and for Him to “Create in me a pure heart…and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (v. 10). But the verse that always stops me in my tracks is 11 into 12:

“Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to
sustain me.”

I always pray specifically over those two verses. God don’t cast me from your presence because it is your presence that I find peace and comfort, where I find all that I need. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me because it runs deep in my soul and gives me strength to keep going. I want him to constantly restore to me the joy of salvation that even when I sin, which separates me from Him, that I can be reminded of the salvation I have through Jesus Christ. And when I feel like I cannot continue on, I pray that he does grant me a willing spirit that will sustain me.

“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (v. 15); I only ever want his praises to fall from my mouth, I want all I do to be edifying to his Kingdom. I want him to know that I’m sacrificing all my life for him because, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (v 17). If David, a horrible sinner could find forgiveness and mercy in God, then I am confident that I too can find it if I pray and confess to God all of my shortcomings and sins. Psalm 51 is a reminder that I am not perfect, I make mistakes, and I need God’s grace and mercy to restore me and lift me up. Because all I can give to him is my broken and contrite heart—he gladly takes it and lifts me up. I have no other way to express my gratitude than with lifting his name with praises.

Yes, anxiety can be crippling for me, and I can feel like I’m going to die. But God is bigger than my anxiety. His word can read louder than any of the thoughts of anxiousness running through my mind. When I’m overwhelmed, all I have to do is open up His word, and wait for Him to speak. I know He’ll always find me in Psalm 51. My goal is to meet with him every time I read His word, no matter where I find myself in it. For it truly is alive and active.

Post Graduation Thoughts

Post Graduation Thoughts

Yesterday, I donned my white cap and gown, red stole, and silver magna cum laude cord. I had my name presented as I walked across the stage, shook a board member’s hand and received my diploma. I stood up with my fellow graduates and moved my tassel from right to the left, and exited Spring Lake High School for the last time in my life.

To put it lightly, high school was hard for me. Academically, I never had a problem. I breezed through the classes, maintaining a superior GPA with little to no studying and excellent test taking skills. I had my niche for English, and flourished in any class that had reading or writing involved. I made great relationships with teachers and other faculty members. But when it came to connecting with my peers, I never fared well.

Out of the nearly 200 students that graduated yesterday, I maintain contact with less than five of them. Although it is noted that I did graduated 7 months early, so life moves on and people change, I still returned for graduation with few connections. I never felt the need to have the most friends, be on the top of the food chain, or “run the school”, but coming from a place that prides itself on its small town, amicable community, I often felt disregarded.

I always felt ahead of the game in some ways; feeling more mature and prepared for the future than some of my peers. I left high school early to start college because I was ready—I realized that high school had nothing left to offer me. I was ready for a fresh start with new people and a new atmosphere. So far, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that. But coming back to high school for graduation was something I wasn’t fully prepared for.

I had to return to the place that I associate with a lot of broken relationships, hurt, anxiety, and difficulty. I had to return to a sea of students so happy and high on life—something I already experienced more than half a year earlier. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited about graduation. I was looking forward to it. But coming back to the high school reminded me why I left—to find the real me with a new and fresh start.

I am grateful for the knowledge that I gained, for the few amazing relationships I have, and the teachers who inspired me daily. I am grateful that I could go to a high school that is passionate about college preparedness and exceeding expectations. I’m grateful for some of the acquaintances who could still muster kindness and humor, to make me feel welcomed at times when I felt pushed aside. I’m grateful that I made it to graduation day.

I went up to hug a friend after graduation and she said to me, “Who would have thought that we would make it through the worst 4 years of our lives?” That sums up high school for me. I had some wonderful times in high school, but my life was changing so much, and a lot happened to me and my family within those years, that it was hard to tackle maturing through life and dealing with the sometimes pettiness of high school–those years weren’t my best.

I made it through some of the worst years of my life and came out on top. I graduated early, got a head start on the rest of my life, and have cherished some of the memories that I will hold on to forever. I hesitate to say it’s been great Spring Lake High School, but in the end, I can accept that sometimes the good does outweigh the overwhelming amount of bad.

Graduation was something to check of the list of things to do—it was a loose end to tie up. In the midst of finishing my first semester of college, getting a job, and now officially graduating from high school, I’d say it has been a good 7 months. I look forward to plenty more in the future. And I wish everyone in the graduating class of 2016 all and only the best for your future.

What You Don’t See.

This week is Depression Awareness Week. In the past, I’ve written about anxiety; however, I haven’t touched on my experience with depression much, if at all. Seeing that it is Depression Awareness Week, I thought I’d take it upon myself to bring awareness to something I have dealt with. When it comes to depression, there is a lot that is invisible. The Blurt Foundation launched a campaign this week which has caused Twitter to be flooded with the hashtag #WhatYouDontSee. It’s about time that we become more vocal about the invisible.

Depression started affecting me a few months after anxiety started affecting me. I didn’t want to believe that I was depressed, so I just convinced myself I was unmotivated because of school. But then I graduated early from high school in November, I had a two month break, and then I started college in January. Things were going well in life, but I felt terrible on the inside. Somedays it was hard to get out of bed in the morning. I didn’t feel any purpose in doing my classwork, even though if I failed it would be so much money wasted. My perspective in life had changed and it was so subtle that I didn’t realize I was changing into a negative mindset.

What blows my mind still about my depression is it physically put a grey hue on life. Colors weren’t as vibrant, the sky didn’t seem as bright and blue, and the beauty of life was gone. I didn’t think that medication would do anything for me; I got off of it because I tried so hard to just forget everything. I didn’t want depression to be a part of my life.

I eventually reached a point where I couldn’t fool myself anymore. I had a cloud around me that dimmed my life and my motivation to do anything was gone. I felt hopeless and alone in it. It’s that feeling which makes me want to speak out about depression. It’s more difficult than some people make it out to be. It’s a silent killer and it can steal all of who you are. When the invisible is affecting your life, it helps to have people who will support you. Help is sometimes the last thing you want to get, but it’s the only thing that can get you to a better place. I have a few amazing friends who have been with me through the thick and thin of life; if I didn’t have them, my journey would be much longer.

I am in such a better place, I know I’m well equipped if my depression returns. I have so much to be thankful for any appreciative of. And nothing beats a positive mindset in life—it will get you so far.

3 Takeaways From a Year Ago Today.

My family of five almost became a family of four a year ago today. A normal day turned into one of the worst of my life. March 31st is a day I don’t like to think about much, but I’m choosing to open myself up to the feelings I have tried to ignore for a year in order to give you a glimpse of what the past year has held for me.

A year ago today, I almost lost my dad.

It should come as no surprise that I wouldn’t be eager to talk about this; discussing a loved one’s near death experience is something I wish no one ever had to endure. But alas, I come before you now and say that my dad nearly died.

Let me talk medical for a few moments. My dad had a rare PICA (posterior inferior cerebellar artery) aneurysm—rare as in you have a 0.5% chance of having this type of aneurysm if you have a cerebral aneurysm at all—rupture, or as the CT scan showed and one doctor put it, explode. The ruptured aneurysm made blood pool around his brain, that being a subarachnoid hemorrhage. My dad’s chances of survival were very slim. There is a stat which states that aneurysm patients only have a 15% chance of making it to the hospital alive. In PICA aneurysm patients, 2/3 of individuals will experience fatality or permanent disability. Needless to say the odds were not in my dad’s favor. Unbeknownst to everyone, God was doing a huge series of miracles for Papa Mark. While I could write a book on all the miracles performed that day, there Is one that all of them revolve around: my dad is still living.

I used to dread when someone wanted me to recount what happened to my dad. It’s not that I didn’t want to tell of the wonderful miracles or inform people, I just was so exhausted from telling the same life-altering story nearly everywhere I went. While my dad was hospitalized, I had a bevy of folks come up to me and want updates, news, sidebars; it was so overwhelming. I kept thinking to myself, if I’m still working through processing all of this, what makes these people think I’ll give them a time of day with an update basically saying he is still the same? I contemplated making a frequently asked questions brochure to hand out to people when they’d ask me a question about my dad. But as time has gone on, I’m understanding that without March 31, 2015, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It has shaped me in many ways.

Looking back a year later, I have three clear things that I’ve taken away from this huge life experience my family went through.

  1. Relationships become strengthened in hard times. My family has always been very kind, loving, and compassionate to one another—whether verbally acclaimed or through actions. As my brothers and I have grown older, we all went on to do our separate things in life and didn’t see each other much. But when we all spent time in the hospital by my dad’s side, I felt myself getting closer with my siblings in a way I never have before. I wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable; if I needed to cry, they’d understand and try to cheer me up, if I was having a hard day they’d make me laugh. If I needed anything, they’d get it for me. We talked more and really leaned on each other. I’m so thankful that I was able to strengthen my relationships with my brothers and my mom as well. It took a terrible thing for us to get closer, but I’m glad that in the end we are all closer.
  2. Perspective becomes clear in hard times. Before I even knew what an aneurysm was, I was so hyper-focused on school. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well, get the highest grade point average I could, and impress those around me with my intelligence. School took over my life and in an unhealthy way, I pushed myself as close to the edge of the cliff as I could to achieve what I felt I needed to do. I wasn’t focused on relationships, living in the moment, or enjoying life. I was preoccupied with the future and I stopped at nothing to make sure I had a road map of my life figured out. But when life throws you a curveball, any road map you draw out will never have an alternative route for the unplanned and unexpected. I slipped far behind in school, I didn’t think I would pass with sailing colors, and I was convinced my grade point would be screwed up for the future. It was a month or so after March 31, 2015, that I realized how pathetic it was of me to be so caught up in my academic success. I knew school was an important part of life that needed to be done. But I let it take over my life, and it made me miserable. The thing that made me feel good about myself, made me so angry because for the first time, I was struggling in it. Falling behind and idolizing school doesn’t mix well. I realized that I needed to live in the moment, not worry about the future so much, and know that whatever happens to me academically, I’m going to survive. Being in college now, I still have to constantly remind myself of that. I feel like I have a much better perspective in life because of where life took me and my family last year.
  3. Time becomes precious in hard times. At any moment, I could have lost Papa Mark. God had a different plan, and while I am so incredible grateful to Him for that, this experience taught me a huge lesson about my faith. We only have so much time on the earth; the next minute of our lives is not guaranteed. I can live my life for myself and not giving a care about what’s going to happen to me. For the longest time, that is how I lived. But when I saw how quickly the situation with my dad took place, I realized, I don’t have the time to live recklessly. I’ve learned to pursue God daily and see what it is He wants me to do with the time I am given. I have faith that God will take me as far as I need to go—I don’t feel the need to worry about the future as much anymore, for in due time it will come. Time is extremely precious and I know better than to take it for granted now. I’m going to live each day with purpose and determination that I can leave a mark on this world.

So here my family stands, one year later. My family survived the hard times, my mom persevered through all of the trying situations, my brothers grew closer with the rest of us, and my dad rebuilt from where he left off. God has been so great to my family; he brought us through one year and I trust that He’ll guide us through so many more.

 

 

You’re Unforgettable.

I received an email this past weekend that was unexpected; it was from an individual who is a few years younger than me. I was still in high school when our paths crossed. She was in one of my last classes of HS. When I opened the email and started reading, I felt discouraged after reading the first sentence.

“You probably don’t remember me…”

I had to immediately stop reading–it broke my heart that someone could think that I’d forget her. Before I continued reading the remaining content of the email, I started a draft reply and made sure my opening sentence was, “Of course I remember you!” I appreciated and cherished the rest of her email, but that is beside the point I want to make right now.

This teenager who I only knew for twelve weeks; who I saw as outgoing, sweet, and genuine; who I respected and appreciated. This teenager who thought she was forgettable.

At first, I felt inadequate to empathize, because I’ve never thought about being forgotten. But then, I felt like I failed at truly showing this individual how much I appreciated her. It is a hard burden to carry, knowing that someone thinks you don’t remember them.

I cannot seem to let this concept go; it has opened my eyes and has shown my naïveté–something of which I never like to admit. But now that I’ve uncovered this, I cannot be silent about my reaction to hearing what this individual said.

There are people all around us who feel forgotten or forgettable.

I wish I could bottle up this feeling I get when I think deeply about it, so that you could experience it, too. It feels like everything stops and pauses for a brief millisecond–almost like your heart skips a beat. It is like that weird tingly feeling you get when you try holding your breath for a really long time. It feels like a mix of panic, confusion, remorse, even frustration. It’s like a spark igniting a flame within you that spreads through your entire body. It’s a passion to end the distress for those individuals who don’t feel remembered.

I may not know what the girl who emailed me feels like, but I do know that it won’t stop me from reassuring her of the truth that she is memorable.

To everyone who feels forgettable: you’re not. To everyone who feels lost in the shadows: you’re not. To everyone who feels ignored: you’re not.

I may not have the best memory in the world, but rest assured, my memory isn’t bad enough to forget a person. Every single person I meet leaves a lasting impression on my life–whether I’ve known them for an hour or for my whole life. It’s impossible for me to forget you, because you’re important to me. I care for everyone and that will never change.

I wish that I won’t have to receive another email, phone call, text, from a person in the past who is certain I don’t remember them. I am going to work so hard to make sure people know how much they will be remembered.

Each individual has something to offer up to you in life. You can take it or leave it. But you’ll never be forgotten.

You are not forgettable.

Believe it, it’s true.