You-Yes, You-Are Known, Seen and Loved.

You-yes, you-are known, seen and loved.

I was thinking about this simple fact this weekend.

Known.

Verb. Meaning “have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with.

Seen.

Verb. Meaning “be or become aware of something from observation or from a written or other visual source.”

Loved.

Verb. Meaning “like or enjoy very much”.

You, regardless of what you have done or who you are, are known to the very depths of your soul and loved by the Creator of the Universe.

I think about the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. He didn’t listen to his father, squandered all his money, and severely grieved his father’s soul, but his father knew all that he’d done and STILL welcomed him back with open arms.

God does that with us. He pulls us into His arms and welcomes us home-even after we have tremendously grieved Him.

In the same way, God knows, sees, and loves us, we need to know, see, and love others. I listened to Angie Smith at IF gathering this weekend. She compared faith to solitaire. In Solitaire, you have to start with an ace. What’s the ace of our faith?

Love.

It has to be love. That’s the foundation. Everything else is based on that. If you throw down a five or seven, it won’t work and no one will listen. If you start with the ace though, everything else falls into place. It can be still be challenging at times, but you’ll keep building on the ace. It’s the same way with faith. Love comes first.

Can you honestly say you love everyone regardless of political views, sexual preferences, and religious views?

Love comes first.

You won’t argue anyone into heaven, but if you start with love, and see them, I mean really see them flaws and all, you give them a glimpse of how the Heavenly Father loves them unconditionally.

Throw the ace.

You won’t regret it.

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Anchored to Hope

Anchor.

That’s my word for this year.

Anchor.

Recently, I was challenged that I’m exactly where God wants me and that He has put people in my life that are meant to be there. When I think of “anchor”, I think of a ship’s anchor. The thing about that is

the anchor locks the ship down temporarily. It stabilizes it for the time being so the sailors can do what

they need to. When it’s done in that part of the ocean, it pulls up anchor and sets sail again.

That’s a lot less scary than the idea of putting down roots and God asking me me to uproot in a couple

months or even years. As I’ve begun to think about the practicality of anchoring to hope, here are a few

things I’ve learned.

  • Be open to the unexpected

Sometimes, the sweetest things come in the most unexpected packages. Things that I never expected

could be exactly my what I need in the moment. I’m learning to keep the door open to possibilities-both the

unexpected and expected.

  • Self-care is not selfish, but it anchors you.

Slowing down could be the exact thing I might need to help you remain present. It’s hard to slow the mind

down but sometimes I just need to breathe in and out. Breathing in and out anchors the soul and reminds

me that I’m exactly where I need to be. I need to take care of myself in order to take care of others. I could

get frustrated because I seem to need more rest than the average 24 year old, or I could use this time to

grow mentally and spiritually.

  • Here is where I need to be right now.

Two years ago, I wanted to be anywhere but here. Honestly, I wanted to be halfway across the world, but

I settled for Akron. Through a series of events, God brought me back to Mansfield against my will. I fought

against it for awhile, but recently, I realized that this actually is when I’m meant to be. This place-the littles

at school, my bible study and my small group girls-have a piece of my heart.

So here we are – almost a month into 2019 – and I’m figuring out how to be present and anchored in my

corner of the world. Here’s to anchoring myself to God and hoping/believing that God is moving.

ABBA-Good Good Father

Father.

When people hear that word, they have different emotions. Some people smile a soft smile remembering,

long walks and being carried on shoulders at amusement parks. Others grimace remembering the fights

and the fear.

We sang “Good Good Father” at church the other day and I really listened to the words.

Regardless of your view of that word, God desires to blow the top off the box of who we think He is. I

mean, the lyrics say, “I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night”.

We hear stories of who God is, but we’ll have to find out who He is for ourselves.

His quiet voice in the dead of night.

His breeze when you are dying of heat.

These things seem like coincidences but they may be God kisses.

I knew God loved me before my accident. I knew He was a good father, but through different things that

have happened recently, I’ve understood it in a different way.

The moments when I’m at the end of my rope, something happens to give me a little extra energy to

finish whatever I started.

A gentle breeze.

A touching note.

A baby cuddle.

An encouraging text message.

A soft smile.

I could go on.

No matter the hard times or the good times, Jesus-ABBA- is waiting with arms wide open to welcome

us into His arms.

Let Him encircle you in His arms-you don’t have to face this world by yourself.

A Year Full of Expectation

I chose expectation as my word for this year. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I chose this word.

Man, was I unprepared for what God had in store for me this year!

Here are a few things that I learned from this year full of expectation:

  • God doesn’t like to stay in the boxes we tend to put Him in.

This has been a lesson I seem to learn time and time again. I try to put God in a box of what I think He can accomplish or how I think He’ll heal me. Time and time again this year, I put God in a box, and time and time again, He burst out of the box doing more than I ever imagined. I sent out letters for Ukraine and within week…WEEKS…I was fully funded due to generous people. I didn’t expect to fall in love but I did. Ukraine wormed its way into my heart within minutes of touching ground. I finally got content with being in my corner of the world, and God put hospital nursing back on the table. Through an unintentional interview, it was like God was saying “Your story is not over yet.”

  • Bravery and expectation go hand in hand.

Living with expectation takes a lot of bravery. I mean, if you expect God to move, you have to say the next brave “yes”. You can’t expect to sit on your butt and wait-just wait-for God to do something. Living with expectation means listening to God and saying the next brave “yes” that falls in front of you. It means making plans, but holding them loosely as you expect God to move in them.

  • Rest is not selfish. It enables you to be your best self later in the week.

Rest. Self-care. In some circles, these words make people cringe. Honestly, 2 years ago, they would have made me cringe. It wasn’t until I was literally forced to slow down that I realized how necessary it is. My energy is like an opaque coin jar. I keep taking change out of it not realizing I’m close to the bottom until I hit a wall, get a TBI headache and I’m put out of commission for 24 hours. I hate it. I hate that I can’t do everything. I hate that I seemed to need more rest than an average 24 year old. I realized something this year. If I plan time into my schedule for rest, it doesn’t feel unproductive or a waste of time. Over time, my mentality changed because I didn’t view it as selfish rather I viewed it as necessary for me to be my best self. I couldn’t help the littles feel better if I was at the end of my rope.

  • My story isn’t over yet. Your story isn’t over yet.

I don’t know where you are or where your story has taken you. You may be reading this and you are on a mountaintop. God has never felt closer, and life is perfect. I’m happy for you. Cling to that feeling. Soak it in, and capture it to remember in the hard times. On the other hand, you may be reading this thinking “What has she got that I haven’t? Why is life so hard right now? Why is God so far away? Is God even good?” Don’t…and I mean don’t be ashamed of those questions. They are real. I’ve been there. All I can say is try and remember the mountaintop experiences. It may not seem like it but that God is the same God in the valley. This is why reading the Psalms is good-oh so good. David lamented about where He was but he always said “remember when…” You may feel like your story is over. I’ve felt that way many of times in the past two years, but GOD. He has redeemed what I thought was lost, and put my mind and my heart back together. 3 years ago, I begrudgingly settled for Akron, OH when I really wanted the ends of the earth, 2 years ago, I had no choice in moving back to Mansfield, OH. Today, I am realizing that God is up to something at MCS and in Mansfield. I am honored to be a witness to what God is up to.

This has been quite a journey, and I’m not there-wherever there is-yet. Thanks for walking this journey with me. This has been a year full of expectation. I started out the year hopeful, but depressingly realistic of where I was. I end the year overwhelmed with how God has blown those seemingly realistic thoughts of who I would be out of the water.

There’s Always Room for One More

There’s always room for one more.

This was a saying I heard all the time growing up. In Nigeria, there was always room for one more in the car and our lives.

In Haiti, I encountered this thought  process again as we fit as many people as we could into transportation to get from place to place. Personal space wasn’t really a thing, to be honest.

Now we kind of laugh at this because in our culture,  personal space is a big deal and time is a commodity that can be spent. But, in thinking about it, it really speaks to a deeper, beautiful thing.

There’s always room for one more.

No one is excluded. Everyone is welcome.

I think Jesus thought that way. No one was excluded from His friendship. No one unworthy of His time and energy.

This mentality is one I want to cultivate in my heart. There’s always room for one more-in my heart and life.

I think western society has cultivate this image of scarcity. It’s weird to say because we have so much excess, but we have cultivated-unconsciously-this idea that we don’t have time and space. This idea that we have to plan for exactly how many people are coming so we don’t run out. This idea that if someone is better at something or prettier, than we are less. The idea that there’s not enough of anything to go around.

I want to cultivate the mentality for more in myself.

Just because someone has something that I don’t doesn’t mean there is not enough of that thing to go around, or that God is withholding some blessing from my life, it just means it’s not my time to acquire that thing.

I want to embrace this idea that there is always room for people in our hearts. Some people camp out in your heart for a while, and some just stopped by on their way to somewhere else, but that doesn’t mean we should stopped making room for others.

There’s is always room for one more. There’s room around the table for you so pull up a chair and sit for awhile. Richness is found in relationship whether the people are in our life for awhile or just for a season.

There’s always room for one more.

2 years and Counting

730 days.

17520 hours.

1051200 minutes.

That’s how long it has been since my life changed. Well, it’s coming up in about a month. It’s a

time that I really could have done without, but I remember it because of God.

I’m alive primarily because of God.

These two years have been challenging and hard-often times seemingly impossible-but God has

held my hand through the fire.

Here are a few things that kinda summarize the past two years.

  • There are a few people that climb in the hole and hold you when it’s not their battle to
  • fight. Never let those people go.

These people are my people. My family have been through every high and low with me. There have

been some friends that have seen me at my worst and still chose to crawl into the hole with me. They

didn’t try to help me up right off the bat, but they sat with me for a while. Then, they started to help me

up and out of the hole. One of the reasons, I’m where I am today is because of the few people that never

gave up on me.

  • God can redeem and repurposed dreams that you thought were lost.

There are some dreams or experiences that got cut short-like working with my best friend-but God has

taken those dreams that I had as a little and grown girl and shaped them into his will. I love little humans

and now I get to love on them both in my job and free time. I wouldn’t change anything because these

littles have wormed their way into my heart. My dreams right now look a lot different now because some

doors have close, but also because my dreams have changed.

  • God isn’t afraid of emotion.

For a long time, I felt conflicted. I felt like I couldn’t have doubts about God’s goodness. At the same time,

I didn’t believe God was good or had a good plan for me. I needed to face that emotion-that doubt-and

give it room to breathe so to speak. When I gave myself permission to have those questions and sit with

them, I discovered the ways God has been good to me throughout-giving me people to come alongside

me, getting a job etc. That’s when the most emotional healing happened, because I gave myself

permission to have those doubts. In the end, I fell in love with the person I’m becoming shaped by

my experiences.

  • God is love. He oozes it, and it encompasses everything He does.

Love. That’s a had emotion to pin down. Often recently, I’ve heard the argument that if God is love,

why do bad things happen. I was thinking, if God is love then why was 2017 so awful. I don’t know the

answer but this is what I’ve figured out. (This is my opinion based on scripture and my experience so I

would take it with a grain of salt.) God doesn’t cause bad things-hard things-but He walks right beside

us-loving us fiercely through it. I mean, look at Joseph’s life. God didn’t cause him to be sold to the

Egyptians-sin nature caused that, but he orchestrated it to be used in the saving of Egypt and Israel.

  • Everyone gets overwhelmed looking at the big picture, so smaller goals are needed.

I think if I realized two years ago that I will never be done with my TBI journey-that I will never not have

a traumatic brain injury-I think I would have fallen into a deeper longer depression. I needed to set my

mind on the simple fact that the most recovery will be done in the first two years. I focused all my energy

on getting better in the first two years. As the two year mark fastly approaches, I’m better able to mentally

wrap my head around the fact that I’ll always deal with this and be recovering.

Surrendering Graciously

Surrendering graciously.

That’s an oxymoron in my life. Often when God asks me to surrender things, I give it up kicking and screaming. I try to take it back

soon after I give it up.

In this season, I’ve had to surrender some things like my five year plan. I mean, it got thrown far out the window.

My word for this year was expectation. Within that word, I couldn’t really expect God to move while still holding on to my plans.

I tried though.

Oh I tried.

This year started out with me struggling to understand why certain things happened and what the purpose was of moving forward if

it wasn’t going get me to where I wanted to be. I held onto some dreams like a drowning person would clutch a lifeboat. It wasn’t

until I gave myself permission to ask the questions-Is God good? Does he have good plans in store for me?-that I really started to let

go of things. It was kinda a forced surrender because it needed to happen and life was picking up speed.

I let go of my ambitions to return to floor nursing.

I let go of my ambitions to live overseas long-term.

And many more ambitions.

I surrendered them knowing they might not happen. I’m learning it’s hard to let go of things graciously but that’s what I’m striving to do.

Albeit, it kind of helped that so many ambitions were ripped from my hands, so I had few options but to let go.

It’s taken 10 months, but I’m finally at the place where I’m not forcing things to happen.

I’m kind of just willing to listen, hands open, to what God has for me next.

A verse that has been ruminating in my mind the last couple of months is Ps. 25:1 which says, “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.” This

verse just captures the sense of what David was going through. I’m sure he was tempted to fight against God multiple times, but

instead of being antagonist towards God, he says matter-of-factly “In you, I put my trust.”

I’m striving to do that.

I don’t know what your story is, or what is that thing that you can’t seem to quite let go.

Let go.

Simply unwrap your fingers from it.

I don’t know your story, but I know how sweetly God has redeemed and repurposed the dreams and ambitions I let go.

Just tonight one of my girls said, “if it wasn’t for your accident, you wouldn’t be here.”

I was taken aback by her wisdom. She was right. If my life had gone on with my terms-my 5 year plan-I wouldn’t be right here, right now.

I would be missing out on a lot.

I like this version of my life. I like this version of me. I’m going to keep striving to surrender my dreams and ambitions to God graciously.

He truly has a good plan in store for me. It may not look anything like the 5 year plan I had but I think it’s better.

So here I am, striving to surrender graciously in my corner of the world that God has placed me in.