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And that's what Christmas is all about...

So, Christmas was a little different this year. Life is different. Priorities are different. My heart is different.

My family decided last minute to use the money that we would've spent on each other for a better cause, a more fulfilling purpose. Our original thought was to spend around $300 on toys for boys and girls and donate them to Helping Hands. So, we did that but in matter of days, my eyes were open to just how big our God is. He totally blew my mind.

So, we went to Target and purchased the toys. We split the money 50/50 for the boys and girls. Shopping for them was really fun and something that was really cool for us to do as a family. But on the way home that afternoon, as I was driving along, I felt like there was something else that needed to be done. I felt such a burden to help people! So, I just came up with the thought of maybe not donating the toys to Helping Hands but instead trying to find a family that was in desperate need of providing their kids with a Christmas. As soon as I got home, I asked around, posted something about it on Facebook and on Twitter. I thought I'd give it a day and if no one responded then we'd just go with our original plan. This is where it gets good....ready?

The next day my best friend, Autumn let me know of a lady that she works with who lost everything in house fire a few days before. The Brown's are a family of four with two little girls, ages 3 and 6. I thought that would be a great place for the girl toys to be donated to so I was really excited about that! Autumn gave me the husband's cell number and I planned on calling him right after work that afternoon just to let him know that I had some toys for his girls. Well, before I got off work, I called my dad to tell him the news and then he told me that he had actually already called Helping Hands and they would be expecting the toys....all of them. So, my idea to help The Brown's went right on the window! Until...

So I have this amazing job with an even more amazing boss, Jennean. She's more like a close friend. We've known each other for almost five years. We've shared a lot of life moments and stories together. Since I was at work when all of this was taking place, I told Jennean about the situation. Jennean is not only a really great boss but she's also a giver! She has her own non-profit organization called Just A Girl as well and you can read about what they do here. As I was leaving work that afternoon Jennean donated $100 to me on behalf of her organization so I would be able to help The Brown's! Amazing woman! I was so excited and extremely grateful! When I left work, I called Mr. Brown but he didn't answer his phone. So, I left a message which was something that was out of the ordinary for me to do. I thought, "Okay, either he's going to be really grateful or think I'm a complete psycho!" In the message, I told him that I knew of his situation and that I had some toys for his girls if they needed them and some donated money and to just give me a call back. As soon as I hung up the phone leaving that message, a friend of mine, Jennifer, called me to ask if I still had toys to donate because she knew of a family in need. The family she knew of was through her friend, Janet. Janet works with Big Brothers Big Sisters and mentors a family with three kids. Two boys, ages 5 and 9 and one girl, age 12. Because I had already made somewhat of a commitment to The Brown family, I told Jennifer I'd get back with her if I was able to come up with anything else for these kids. All I had now was toys for the boys and nothing for the girl and I just couldn't do that! I seriously didn't think I would have enough to help these kids. But then...

When I got home from work, another friend of mine, Adam, send me a message through Facebook asking if I had found a family to help. Adam and I went to high school together and he is serves in the Army and is getting ready to leave to serve in Hawaii. He told me it was really awesome what I was doing and asked if I was taking any donations! Whoa...hello God! So, of course I told him I'd love for him to help out in any way that he could. Adam ended up unselfishly giving $100. I was blown away! Adam was the final piece that enabled me to help out so many! My brother's sweet girlfriend, Chelsea also donated $20 to me to go towards the family with the three kids! And, Autumn gave extra money to go towards The Brown family! My plans changed in a big way! So, here's the breakdown if you're confused:

Helping Hands--I decided to give ALL the toys to them that my family purchased from Target. We will probably be able to give to about 20 kids with those.

The Brown's--They called me back the next day and I spoke with the wife. She told me the girls were fine because so many people had already donated to them. So, I asked her what her biggest worry was. She responded with, "I know this is selfish but my husband and I have nothing to wear to work". I reassured her that ANYTHING she asked for is NOT selfish in any way. I mean, they lost EVERYTHING! So, we were able to get $175 worth of Amex gift cards for them to spend anywhere. Sweet!

Big Brothers Big Sisters Family--I spoke with Janet and she was so happy that I was going to be able to help! She actually told me that a lady who was suppose to provide Christmas for these kids had just backed out the day before. She kept saying I was such a sent blessing! I had $120 to spend on these three kids. I went to Target, found some great deals and ended up spending around $160 on them. It was totally worth it and so fun shopping for them! I made sure each child had around 4-5 individual gifts to open and then I was able to snag a DVD player for $30 and some DVD's for $5 each as well as a few board games for all of them to enjoy as a family. I also made them Christmas cookies to really make it feel like Christmas at their house! Because of my hectic schedule, I was unable to go with Janet when she dropped off the gifts to the kids but she sent me a text message that said, "Thank you for making the children's Christmas matter! They were so happy! May God bless you like you have blessed this family! They said they've never had so much on Christmas!" How awesome is that?!

Overall, I didn't get to see any of the families or children receive these gifts but I really don't mind. It's not about that. It's about helping people and loving on them in whatever way I can! This blog isn't about what I did it's about the change we can make if we just put an effort into it. My prayer was that God would provide the way and I promised to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus. So yeah, I'm pretty sure God provided...in a huge way! I hope you had a Merry Christmas and remember that change starts small but can grow into something that will blow you away! Thank you to EVERYONE who made this possible! I will be forever grateful!

Change is good.




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Beautifully Broken

Past

Lift up your eyes girl, I know you’re broken
Just like the same war that you never know
Your way is to fall just like before you
But the way isn’t long and your almost there
There’s a feeling that you won’t make
All you have in store
This time is just a season, you deserve much more
Lift up your head, look out the window
Cause it’s almost over now
Take back the time that your fear has stolen
Cause it’s almost over now
Don’t let it get you caught in the tunnel
The end is always a few steps away
There’s a feeling of resistance
You can’t seem to fight
This time is just a season
You can make it right
Your eyes open, your heart clean, but are you looking
To be free


Present

May today there be peace within..
May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing and dance. It is there for each and every one of you






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I have a love/hate relationship with running. The "hate" part includes getting ready, especially when the weather is weird and I'm not sure of whether or not to wear a sweatshirt. It also seems I get tired of the music on my ipod rather quickly so I'm always having to download new songs before I leave. Stretching is something I've tried to get better at over the months because even my doctor and a masseuse told me that if I didn't start stretching, I was going to do some damage. And then comes the mental preparation. I never want to go but once I find my rhythm and beat, the love comes out. We've been lucky here in SC to have such beautiful weather when we're rapidly approaching December. Low 60's and sunny with a crisp breeze. That's a recipe for perfect running weather. My favorite time to go is as the sun is beginning to set. It's absolutely breathtaking and creates a pretty incredible mini-worship experience. It creates a thankfulness inside of me for the small things in life; the things we take for granted. All that thankfulness initiates love for me.

I decided to wake up early Thanksgiving morning and get a run in before all the family arrived for lunch. So, off I went. It was a beautiful morning and I thought it only appropriate to listen to some worship tunes as I ran so I could really get in some good Jesus time. One of my favorites, Never Said by Brandon Heath was playing and it was a good time of reflection over my prayers. The lyrics were a good reminder of the times I doubt what I'm being told. It could be out of uncertainty of if I'm hearing Him right but mostly, it's fear. Fear of taking a wrong turn or going down the wrong path. However, those fearful times are when I allow faith to replace that fear. It's all a cycle, really. I had a pretty powerful moment the other night while praying. I was asking for an answer of something I've been praying about for months now. It's been emotionally draining and there's been plenty of times I've wanted to give up but something keeps me going. As I was begging for clarity and even saying "just give me the answer, now!", I heard Him say, "If I gave you the answer, you wouldn't have faith." Ouch. So then, I just prayed for renewed strength instead. I want to see as He sees, feel as he feels, and have a heart that is only triggered with His love.

When I've been running, I always pass a house at the end of my street. Most of the time it's usually dark by the time I make it to that end of the neighborhood. The man that lives in this house has no blinds or curtains so I can see directly in his house. He's probably mid-80's and he's always sitting at the kitchen table by himself. I recently learned that his wife passed away about a year ago and he lives alone. That pretty much broke my heart. Every time I see him, I always think that I should go introduce myself and just have a conversation with him but I never do. It's probably because I fear he's going to think I'm a total freak...but then again, he probably wouldn't. So as I'm running on Thanksgiving morning, I pass his house and I notice that his truck is in the driveway and I immediately felt a burden to go ask him if he had anywhere to go on Thanksgiving. I kept running. The burden grew. I kept running. Then I couldn't stand it. I turned around to go ring his doorbell. As I was approaching his house, I kept running. I thought, "I'll just fix him a plate of food and bring it by later". Yeah right, I knew I wouldn't do that. Then I remembered that not only will we regret the things in life we did but we'll also regret the things we didn't do. So, I turned around. I walked across his yard and rang the doorbell. I waited a few minutes but no answer.

I don't know where this gentleman spent his Thanksgiving but at least I had the peace of knowing that he wasn't sitting alone at his kitchen table. Even though this isn't much of a heroic story, ringing the doorbell was just a step. Small steps lead to bigger steps. It was a beautiful reminder to be cautious with fear. There's a time to be fearful and there's a time to replace fear with faith. And then there's just the beauty of time which is the most lovely of them all.





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What if God wanted you to do something you didn't want to do?

What if it caused pain, made you uncomfortable, broke your heart, or caused you to lose hope just to regain it?

Would you do it?


That's all.




A servant's heart



Last Saturday I had the opportunity to serve in Atlanta through a disaster relief organization (you can read more about it
here). A group of 112 from my church made the journey early Saturday morning to assist in the post flood clean-up. The announcement of the trip was simply made online through my pastor's blog and amazingly enough, we still had 112 people show up--that's huge to not even be announced during a church service! I don't really read the blog too often so when I came across it last Tuesday, I knew I was being called to serve. To be honest, when I felt the call to go I thought, "ehhh, I kinda want to sleep in late on Saturday...I need to study...I've got tickets to the Clemson game...". However, doing these things instead just didn't sit well with me. So, I signed up...just like that. I felt great about it all week until my alarm went off Saturday morning at 4:45 a.m. I thought, "Really God? Are you sure you want me to get up and do this...I mean, this is my only day to sleep in?" I soon realized that that is pretty dang selfish especially when I've been praying for service opportunities to come my way. Which brings me to this blip--In my mind, I was waiting for some "significant" service opportunity...like it had to be overseas or something in order to be significant. No way! Speaking a kind word to someone is a service opportunity. It's more than about the actual act of service, it's allowing someone to see the Holy Spirit work through you and making our Creator's name famous.
Saturday was so rewarding for me and I'm so glad I did it. Imagine all of your belongings from your house being ruined from rain and mildew; all the way down to the sheet rock. We moved all belongings outside to the road to be picked up by sanitation. I picked up photo albums, clothes, book reports, furniture, and even bibles. It was a sad situation but really awesome to be apart of something bigger than myself; working with an amazing team of believers! My favorite part was God reminding me to keep going. It was really, and I mean REALLY, cold on Saturday. The wind was a chilly one and there were plenty of times when all I wanted to do was go back to the bus, but that little whisper kept saying, "This isn't for your comfort...keep going". Love those whispers, even when it's not what I want to do!
If you ever have the opportunity to serve--do it, even if it's something local or something you think isn't significant enough!

Peace and Love!









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tissue please

I had one of the most impacting clinical experiences today. I've been trucking along through nursing school; I've seen a lot of things but today topped the charts. I'm currently in my Psych rotation which gives nursing a whole new meaning. For the past 8 months, the physical part of patient care has been embedded into our brains; getting vital signs first thing, washing your hands until they're so dry that lotion doesn't help, bed baths, change linens, give meds, give injections, create incredible care plans, blah blah blah. Beginning this Psych rotation was a difficult transition for me. I had to take myself out of the task-oriented mindset and transpire into an emotional-oriented mindset. Our rotations are quick, only lasting five weeks, so adjustments must be made pronto. My first week was okay. I was in an assisted living facility. I didn't feel like I really made a difference because I basically was assigned to make sure all the beds were made and that the floor had been swept. I thought, "really? I'm here for this?" I was only there for three days so I got over the, "oh my goodness I'm not doing anything" attitude quickly. Week two was in a hospice facility. Again, surprisingly, it didn't impact me. I think it didn't because the only patient I was assigned to was in preparation for discharge to a nursing home facility. So, the whole point of hospice is providing comfort at the end-stage of life right? I didn't get to do that so I was a little bummed out. Then week three arrives---mental hospital! The first two days were just scary. I was placed on a crisis unit which consists of patients with severe mood disorders such as bipolar, schizophrenia, paranoia, and suicidal/homicidal thoughts. The typical explanation of these disorders in everyday society is pretty mediocre and that really bothers me. These individuals are truly suffering and need help. My assigned patient was an older gentleman suffering from a mood disorder. We had really good conversation. He is so stinkin' smart! He's all about "going green" so we were able to talk about all kinds of environmental things for about an hour. He's an educated man with a bachelor's degree in engineering, married 52 years, and completely brilliant. He reminded me of Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind". As we were wrapping up our conversation I thought he was improving until he looked at me and said, "I'm going to hypnotize you and turn you into a bunny rabbit!". Scary. Every individual on that unit was a picture of a sad situation. I witnessed plenty of random outbursts, someone trying to escape, hearing someone crow like a rooster, fights, got a few marriage proposals, inappropriate gestures/comments, and some really funny patient to patient conversations.

When I arrived this morning, I thought, "I'd really like to go over to the adolescent unit". So, I asked my instructor if I could attend their group therapy session instead of going to my unit. She agreed that it would be okay and so off I went. I had heard so many great things from students that had previously attended so I was super-stoked. The majority of the kids are within the age range of 13-17 so with my girlish looks, short stature, and laid-back attitude...I fit right in. I talked with a few of them before we went into therapy which was interesting. In their common area, the walls are composed entirely of dry-erase boards with creativity scattered. Poetry, thoughts, and song lyrics were dispersed among these walls so it was right up my alley. The time for group therapy was among us and I was so eager to listen but I honestly did not think it would impact me as much as it did. Keep in mind that most of these kids are here for depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and sexual assault. The purpose for group therapy is so they can discuss their stories and struggles with one another and receive advice not only from a therapist but also from each other. It is real. They talk about every intimate detail of their situation or struggle. The first hour was pretty basic, discussing their goals/feelings for the day. The second hour blew me away.

A young girl began discussing her painful past. She was really short with her answers and I could tell that she was hiding something she was just dying to get out. Her every inner-being was just screaming. She lost her mother recently and used suicidal thoughts as a coping mechanism. But there was something deeper behind the suicidal thoughts; something far beyond physical death. One of her peers instigated and said, "Why don't you tell them what you told me last night? You always cry at night about it but you never share it with the group". Immediately I thought how it's so easy to express our feelings when we're alone, at night, when no one is around but eventually someone is going to notice it. Truth comes out. This poor girl broke down and admitted she had been sexually assaulted numerous times over the last year and had never told anyone, not even her mother. It was such a breakthrough moment. Then her peer, who's also been through the same thing but is recovering greatly, said, "You have to let it go. It's not your fault."....then this brought me to tears, "What you think you are is who you are". D.A.N.G. This girl is 16 years old and realizes this already. I was so proud of her for saying that! I wanted to get up and give all of them hugs, cry with them, and tell them how incredibly beautiful they all are...but I couldn't because I'm not "allowed to". As a student and an observer, I can't show any emotion nor can I speak during these sessions. That was so difficult! I was balling my eyes out at how amazing some of these kids are and my friend looked at me and said, "You're not allowed to cry". I responded with, "Screw the rules".

"What you think you are is who you are"--The girl who said this made me so proud. She's come a long way and is so intelligent and mature. I guess you'd have to be if you want to survive any hardship. I wanted so badly to tell each one of them how much they're worth not only to me, but to Jesus. He thinks they're all beautiful and they are all worthy of something better than what they are giving themselves. So, What defines you? What have you created in your head that makes you think you are a certain way or not good enough? Do you idolize something that you rely on for your identity? What makes you, you?

The emotion and rawness of this observation brought forth many emotions personally. Overcoming insecurity is a constant struggle but is my struggle really significant compared to theirs? No, it's really not in my eyes. It put a lot in perspective for me and I learned it all from a teenager. When I left the house this morning my main concern was worrying that my khaki pants made my booty look too wide and then Jesus smacked me with a, "Look at their stories, be thankful my love". And so today, I am thankful. I have so many positives in my life and enable me to overcome the negative. So, I challenge you to rethink whatever situation you're in and realize the strength you have within yourself to overcome it.

I leave you with this: Good works and religion don't atone for sin (Isa 64:6), and no sinner has it within his power to change his own heart (Jer. 13:23). We can make cosmetic changes, but that doesn't remove us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of light. Only God can do that (1 Pet 2:9). Only the same "God who commanded light to shine out of the darkness" has the power to "shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6). Have faith. Make changes. Be better than who you are because chances are, you're not reaching your full potential. And if you're a parent, tell your kids how incredible they are--boost them up; tell your daughter how beautiful she is and tell your son that you respect him! Create an accepting environment.

Today was the jammity-jam!



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