Friday, February 28, 2014

Spring "Break" time.

The break is in quotes because my break isn't going to be much of a break.

Considering every waking moment that I've had since the semester started on January 8th has either been spent sick and in pain or working on stuff for this semester, I haven't written the 3 papers I need to to finally finally finish last semester.

So on top of the fact that anytime I head to see the family isn't exactly a restful time for me, my Spring Break is going to be spent holed up with my earphones in doing research and churning out about 40 pages of writing, 20 of which will be in French, in 9 days.

Lucky me.

That acceptance letter from NYU sure is good motivation, though.  (Did that seriously happen?!)  And at least it'll give me an excuse to block out the drama at home.

I'm not even home yet.  Mom and Mommom are at The Eagles' concert in Raleigh (so jealous!!) tonight and they're picking me up once they get out.  So I should be home around 2  am.  And yes, I will be riding home in my pajamas and slippers.  Because duh.

Here we go.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

So then this happened.

I've never been so excited to open an email in my life.

I'm still a tiny bit in shock.

It's happening.  It's really happening.  I'm going to grad school.

Not only that, I could potentially be fulfilling a lifelong dream and be living in New York City less than six months from now.

I'm gonna wait to see what other offers I get, and see if any offer financial aid (NYU didn't), before I make a decision, but I have until March 30, so it works.


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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I was going to write something important tonight.

But I can't remember what it was.

Because I've been awake since 7:15, had a tutoring session, two classes, and a whole lot of work outside of that.

Plus a State/Carolina basketball game that was a total rip-off for the Wolfpack and dealing with obnoxious Carolina fans afterwards.

And lots of stress in many different areas.

So right now, my head is the worst it's been in recent memory and my eyes feel like they're going to pop out of the sockets.

And all I want to do is get in the hot shower that is waiting for me and sleep for several hours until I have to get up and write an assignment that was actually due yesterday.  But thanks to my professor answering my email at 11:00 tonight, I actually have the info to write it now.

God bless my professors and the whole Campbell faculty.


That is all.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Not myself today.

Guys have no idea how good they have it.

Going through this every month is not fun at all.

Enough said.

Here's to a better tomorrow.

And at least this is getting over with before I go home this weekend.  I certainly don't need my hormones to be crazy on top of all the crazy that is waiting for me.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Community is a gift.

Thursday night, in all of my venting, I mentioned that a friend had texted me and offered to come read Scripture with me tonight when I told him that I wasn't sure where to start with my Bible.  I certainly wasn't in the same place mentally tonight that I was on Thursday, but Zack still wanted to come over anyway, and since I haven't seen anyone all weekend and he's such a wonderful guy and he wanted to talk, it happened.

Sometimes, you head into something thinking that it's not going to be a big deal, and then it actually turns out to be one.  We sat here in my room for a little over an hour, and nothing out of the ordinary happened, but it was such a sweet time.  I feel like a giant Christian cheeseball right now, but seriously, God's presence was felt so deeply.

He shared some verses and passages that had been hitting him hard lately, and for a change, I was actually really looking forward to digging into the Word, and I shared with him some of my favorite verses.  We talked about them, what we thought about them, and they each would end up leading us into talking about some aspect of our lives as believers.  Our walks with the Lord.  Our friendships with both believers and non-believers.

I learned a lot about him.  It turns out, we have a lot of the same struggles, and I got to see a different side of him from the serious guy that he usually seems to be.  We talked a lot about what had happened on Thursday, and I told him about how God showed me that it really is okay to be angry when he texted and made that offer.  What surprised me was then when he started telling me about how much he appreciates me and my friendship and how he sees me.  I don't remember the last time someone did that totally unprompted and without me asking a related question.  It made me think about Friday when Clayton told me "You help more than you know."  Another sweet reminder that just because I don't know what God is doing through me doesn't mean there's not something happening.

At one point, I told him that I really don't like feeling like I need people.  Zack responded with something that I've said numerous times, "We weren't meant to do this life alone."

It was nice to, for once, not feel like I was doing all the talking.  I was so appreciative that Zack wanted to come over tonight, but when I said thanks, he just sort of scoffed and said, "This did just as much good for me."  He texted me later to tell me how much he enjoyed it and said, "God was doing some works."  It happens in ways that can sometimes seem really strange and totally surprising, but God will show up anywhere.

I'm so thankful for how God loves me, so proudly and deeply that something like this happened even when I felt so down and was so angry.  God cared enough to put this friend and this time together in my path to remind me that my anger isn't too much for Him, that He still loves me just the same.  And to remind me, yet again, that my life is filled with love, with faithful, loving, kind, patient friends who know me and love me, sometimes even despite me.

You can't tell, but about 5 minutes before this picture, we were watching a clip from Lord of the Rings that he thought of because of a verse I mentioned.  I certainly didn't expect that one.  :)

Tonight, I'm thankful for a time of community with a sweet friend that drew me closer to the Lord and uplifted me heading into another week.  Times like this remind me how far I have come.  I don't know where I'd be without friends like Zack.  I pray I can be this same kind of friend to everyone in my path.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014


Another terrible migraine day.

11:00 and I'm finally able to think about doing something.


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Friday, February 21, 2014


Today? Was AWESOME.


Because only a good, good God would pack today with so many things that blessed me and surprised me and leave me sitting here with a smile on my face, after how I was feeling yesterday.  It's such a good reminder that God really can handle our anger and frustration, and that it's okay.

First, Political Thought was actually funny.  I definitely don't see Dr. Schroeder the same way I did when I was a freshman.  He's really witty and sarcastic!  I loved it, and to see my perspective change was great.

Right after that, I got to have lunch with Clayton (a Reformation brother, if you don't remember), which is always great because he is a joy to be around.  As soon as I met up with him after our 11:00 classes (his is Early Christianity...with Dr. Jonas. Boo.  I'm still sad I'm not in there live-tweeting it), he gave me this big hug.  For some reason, every time we get together, we end up talking about faith and God and he teaches me a lot about theology.  Like almost every other Reformation brother, he has a hard time accepting compliments, so any time I try and tell him how wise he is, he basically looks like he doesn't believe me.  We spent a lot of time talking about yesterday, but not so much about the details as the emotions that came with it.  Clayton is full of Biblical stories that relate to whatever we talk about, and today was no different.  He also shares pieces of himself and his own struggles, which makes me feel less like I'm just dumping everything on him.  Also, he's a total dork and is absolutely hilarious.  So everything about my time with him is great.

Just as we were getting ready to leave the Oasis - I had a meeting in D Rich and he had work in Taylor at 1:00 - the bottom fell out of the sky thanks to a massive thunderstorm.  Like, I'm talkin' the wind was blowing the rain so hard sideways that it blew the front doors wide open and knocked the framed "sanitation grade" thing off the wall.  With no warning whatsoever.  Clayton looked over at me and said, "Uhhh...let's wait a minute."  So we stood there talking for a bit until the wind calmed down enough that we thought we could make it out, and it looked like it was about as good as it was gonna get anytime soon.  NC thunderstorms are no joke.  But here's the thing - my umbrella broke a while ago, it's completely unusable because two of the metal bars completely snapped in half when it got flipped inside out one time.  I haven't had to deal with a storm since then thanks to this ultra-bizarre winter.  Clayton, wearing only a short-sleeved shirt (no jacket), insisted I use his umbrella until we got to D Rich (thankfully it's before Taylor when coming from the Oasis).  That sweetheart got absolutely drenched in a thunderstorm so I could remain somewhat dry.  That was so kind.  D Rich, unlike most of the buildings with outside stairs, has a covered part at the top, so we walked up those for me to hand him over his umbrella.  And instead of looking miserable like most people would in his state, he just grinned at me through his wet glasses and said, "I need windshield wipers" and made the motion of windshield wipers cleaning off his glasses.  And he's one of the ones that isn't afraid to tell me he loves me. :)

In my meeting with Dr. Thornton, he helped me with a piece of the research for my Senior Seminar paper that I was dead stuck on.  So that was a great relief.

By that point, the rain had slowed down quite a bit, so I decided to head on over to Pearson, Dr. Steegar's office building where we have our French class, and just wait there because I knew no one was in the room we use before us.  It was great that the rain slowed down right at that time.

While I was waiting over there, since I had about an hour and a half to waste before Pam would show up, I texted Clayton and said, "I hope you're warmer now."  We talked for a few minutes.  A little bit later I told him that his wisdom, advice, and humor were much needed gifts today (and they were), he wrote back that he was glad he was a positive force.  And when I said that I hoped my presence did some good for him even though I'm a bit of a mess (with all this health stuff), he wrote back, "You help more than you know."  That was a great, powerful sentence that has been stuck in my head ever since.

French class was hilarious.  And the great part of it was that I did my best video transcript yet.

Afterwards, Pam and I had a great, sweet, but short talk as she headed back to her car.

And I went over to Austin's room.  The best part about this is that it confirmed for me that things really aren't going to change after what happened on Tuesday.  But the whole conversation was just great, as it always has been with him.  He's one of the people that has been trying to get me to not beat myself up when I'm upset or angry with God, so I knew he'd be interested to hear how my mindset had changed, and he wanted more details on everything that happened yesterday.  But we ended up talking about our friendship and the Reformation class and just friendships in general.  He talked about how he's a "mood creator" and that's why he's always so good at cheering me up, which he definitely did today.  And at the end, he prayed over me, despite the fact that he had to get a shower and be somewhere in about 10 minutes.  The whole thing was really, really great.  Spending 45 minutes laying on his bed was the perfect cap on the past 24 hours.  I'm so thankful I still have one of my best friends and one of my most favorite people on this campus.

Last but not least, the craziest part about tonight.  I went to get dinner about 20 minutes after I left Austin's room, and ran into my RA.  A brief interaction turned into 3 full hours of us sitting and talking and me telling her my story.  The very first thing that Austin said in his prayer over me was that he was thankful for my witness.  Tell me that's not God.  The greatest part about it, though?  When I finally decided to go, she looked at me and said, "You wouldn't know this, but I needed this conversation way more than you did."

I said give me a couple days and I'd get over how I was feeling yesterday...well, I've been grinning since about 12:30 when I said bye to Clayton.  I'm grinning like a fool tonight.  And that?  Is GREAT.

God, great is thy faithfulness.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Story Continues

Today has been a hard day.  If you're going to read this and try to give me any "tough love", please don't.  I'm well aware of what is true, but I am still human and I'm going to have a bad day.  I just need to write this out because my head is spinning.

I just looked back at my blog in December, and it seems that I didn't record the details of this, so let me fill you in.  I mentioned the day after Christmas that I went to the eye doctor, but I was so miserable from being sick that I didn't write out what was discovered.  Since August, my vision had rapidly deteriorated.  For one, my eyes would just randomly turn in so I would look cross-eyed and my vision would get all blurry - sometimes one eye, sometimes the other, sometimes both.  The frequency of this increased with time.  Second, because I had broken both of my pairs of glasses (the orange pair was taped together), Mom and I decided to get a full eye exam to get me a new pair (my doctor does a full exam anytime you get new glasses so she doesn't stick you with bad lenses).  During that exam, my doctor discovered that the amount of prism I needed in my lenses - prism is what helps keep a person from seeing double - had jumped from 4 in August (which is when I last got my lenses updated after going through the eye exam for the DMV paperwork), to 20 that day.  That is bad.  She did a few more tests and decided that because she couldn't see what was newly wrong with my vision, and because the problem fluctuated between the eyes and was not constant, it would be better that I go see a specialist in Wilmington, and in the meantime, not update my lenses or get me a new pair of glasses (they just replaced the broken arm).  The appointment with that specialist was set up for today.

December 26th, the prism I needed was 20.  Today, it was 35-40.  That even shocked the doctor.  The most logical explanation to the problem would be that my shunt is malfunctioning, but according to the doctors who read my many post-seizure CT scans, my shunt is fine.  Botox would have to be directly injected into the eye muscle to cause it (I asked both him and my Botox doctor).  So long story short, this specialist has no idea why I am having my vision deteriorate so quickly.  I continue to live up to my title of the "medical phenomenon."

I go back on March 27th and he'll do the same exam he did today.  If the numbers are about the same, we'll most likely schedule surgery.  I told him that as weird as it sounds, I'd rather have the surgery and get it over with, mostly because I plan on moving to DC or NYC in August, and partly because the other options are wearing a patch (which is embarrassing for a college student and also unlikely to work as quickly as this is getting worse) or just dealing with it.

To be frank, I am pissed off.  And for once, I'm okay with being so.  I used to believe that it wasn't okay to be angry or upset with the way my life is playing out, so anytime I would have those feelings, I would try to suppress them to the point that I got furious with myself for not being a good enough child of God to be joyful about everything in my life.  But after many, many people that I love and respect very much spent a good deal of time drilling into me that it was okay to acknowledge the negative feelings and to let myself feel them, I decided to stop fighting it.

Now let me be clear: I have not lost sight of who God is.  I know that God is good and fully believe that something great is in the works that I can't even imagine.  Because I know God, and that's the kind of thing that God does.  And until my last breath, I will thank the Lord for every time I have been made aware of how I am being used to help people for the Kingdom.  Short of reflecting on all that Jesus did for a broken soul like mine, there is not a more humbling feeling.

But I am not okay with this.  I am not okay with a 21st surgery being put on the horizon two months after the last one.  At least, not today.  It feels like every possible force in the universe is trying to stand in the way of me graduating in May.  Even my professor when I talked to him after class and told him about likely missing the 27th next month because of the appointment time and filled him in on what happened today, said, "It's just one thing after another for you, isn't it?"  And I am angry because I don't understand why health issues are piling up on me, especially at such a crucial time in my life, and how even when it feels like one gets taken off the table, another random one shows up.  I know I'm not supposed to understand it, but I'm still angry.  Because it feels like I am being put through the wringer and all I want is a break so I can get to graduation.  I so desperately want a break.

And I am scared.  I was fine at first, when I was texting all the people that I knew would want to know, but as the day went on, the more it weighed on me.  Every time a new health issue pops up, the fire of a huge fear is reignited.  The fear that this isn't going to stop.  The fear that the life the Lord has planned for me, the life that I know like I know the sky is blue that I want to be in line with because I know I can't do this on my own, has a whole lot more physical pain involved, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that.  My body feels so close to the breaking point already.

I wish often that I were more like Sara, Gitzen Girl, who couldn't even leave her house because of her disease but never once stopped praising God for her life, but I'm just not.  And for once, I'm accepting it.  Because I have too much weighing on my heart to be mad at myself, too.  Selfish?  Maybe.  But I believe that God knows my heart well enough to know that I am doing the absolute best I can to cling to the faith that is basically all I have left.  I see God's grace and feel God's presence, even when my heart aches.  Because only a God that loves me so fiercely would send a friend at midnight to text me and end up offering to come read Scripture to me Sunday evening when I flat out admitted that I'm not sure where to start with my Bible right now.  I am loved that much, even when I'm angry and sad and scared and a million other things.

Give me a couple days, and these feelings will probably subside, at least somewhat, but this is where I am tonight.  This is another chapter in the story I've been given to tell.  This is part of the trouble I'm facing, but through it all, I know Jesus has overcome the world.  Even if it is hard to focus on that right now.

I'm not holding onto You, but You're holding onto me. - Casting Crowns, "East to West"

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I'm so weird.

Because sometimes I have days like today where I fall asleep at 4:30 in the afternoon, wake up at 6:30 to eat dinner, then promptly go right back to bed, and then wake up at 3 am and decide I need to take a shower so I don't have to do it in the morning.  Because I have breakfast with a friend at 8:30 and absolutely plan on going back to sleep after I blow dry my hair.  Because somehow, I can still be tired after all of that.

Sigh.  I guess sometimes your body just revolts and informs you that IT REALLY NEEDS SLEEP by making you utterly incapable of staying awake during normal hours.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014


I made my confession, never looking him in the eye because I knew I couldn't without falling apart.  And then I finally looked at him, cautiously waiting for his reaction.  Waiting for the hammer to fall.  Waiting for him to get up, hurl words of condemnation, and walk out of the room.  

Instead, he looked me straight in the eye, never wavering, and said, "And?"

...even though I thought I understood what grace looked like, I really had no idea how deep and wide the mercy of Christ is.  That he looks at us when we lay ourselves bare before him, with all our ugly truths and realities, and says, "And?"

~ Melanie Shankle, Big Mama, "The Antelope in the Living Room"

I find it funny that a scene from a book on marriage would be the first thing that popped into my head after what happened tonight, but it did.  And I knew I wanted to include it here, because Melanie's words mirror exactly what happened tonight, just in a different scenario, and she did it much more beautifully than I ever could have.  (Also, go buy that book!  And her first one, "Sparkly Green Earrings".  I'm not a wife or a mom (obviously) and I laughed until I cried from the beginning to the end of each of them.)

I'm not sure if I've ever written something out here.  I'm going to err on the side of no because of the fear that the person it was about might actually find it, but now he knows, so there's no holding back.  But if I have already said this here, sorry, just go with it.  This isn't the important part anyway.

I have feelings for Austin.  Shocker, I know.  I have since November, but I didn't tell him because I was scared.  Again, another shocker.  Scared that it would change everything.  Scared that I'd embarrass myself.  Scared that I'd lose him.  And I continued not to tell him because I had a pretty good feeling that he wasn't interested.  Austin's an introvert, yes, but with the people he's close to, he can't hide anything, and considering I can look at him and tell when he's having a bad day without him saying a word, it's safe to say I know him pretty well.

But last Thursday, when I was talking to my friend Lauren, and the conversation turned to him and my feelings for him.  We discussed why I hadn't told him, and particularly how I had this fear that it would ruin our friendship.  That sweet girl point blank asked, "But do you really think Austin is the kind of person who would ditch your friendship over this?"  I had to say no.  The fact that he's one of the kindest people I've ever come across in my life is one of the reasons I fell for him in the first place.  I couldn't honestly see him freaking out at me over this, but anyone who's been in this situation before (which is, I'm pretty sure, everyone who ever lived) knows that that fear will run through your head whether it's logical or not.  And gosh knows there have been times that I've been in this situation where I didn't expect the guy to freak out about it and he did and I lost someone I cared about very much.  So I was nervous.  But after talking it out with her, I decided that I was going to tell him, because if I didn't, I knew there was no way I'd get over it.  Too much of my heart is invested in my friendship with him.

I couldn't do it Thursday night because he was going to bed early, and then he left first thing Friday morning and was gone all weekend, and when I texted him yesterday he said that he needed the night to study for a test, but that I could come by tonight.  I had told him the general time, and when I got to his room, he wasn't there but he was on his way back to his room.  He walked in a minute later, and he had a group of guys with him, but luckily they went in the lobby without me even asking for it, so we stepped in his room (right off the lobby) to talk.

All I could think was "Don't cry.  Don't freak out.  Don't stutter.  Just get it out."  And this is where Melanie's words come into play, because for some reason, I couldn't keep eye contact with him.  I spent most of the time staring at his bed, just willing myself to keep talking and get out what I needed to say without sounding stupid.  When I finished, and I finally really did connect gazes with him, he was...Austin.  He was the kind of person that is exactly the reason we clicked instantly in the beginning with all the qualities that made me grow to love him as much as I do.  He barely took a breath before he said, "Well that's okay."  He said what he needed to say, and I honestly don't remember all of it, but I do remember one specific thing.  "This changes nothing."  That? Was exactly what I needed to hear.

In all of my nerves, I lost sight of something I've known from the very first conversation we had: Austin knows grace.  Austin knows grace, and he understands how to give it better than just about anyone I've ever met.  I've told him some pretty big things about my past, and with each of them, it was as if he had looked at me and said "And?".  There was no (logical) reason to think tonight would be any different, and I am so thankful that I was right.  Because now I can go to dinner tomorrow with one of my best friends and know that everything is okay, that everything is exactly the way it should be.

The biggest reason that I am thankful for Austin, though, is that no matter what the situation is, no matter what is going on or what either of us is dealing with, he constantly points me back to the Lord, whether he realizes it or not.  And tonight, as I walked back to my room from his, all I could think about was the fact that the grace God has for me is infinitely deeper and wider than the grace that Austin has shown me over the past 5 months.  I was reminded that I don't have to be ashamed to tell God what is on my heart, not just because God already knows it, but because grace will cover it regardless of how bad or stupid I think it is.  It's still hard for me to accept the fact that God loves me endlessly regardless of what I do or don't do.  God doesn't see our mistakes, only the pure, clean righteousness of Jesus.  God's grace really is amazing.

And it's grace that I know allowed Austin to look at me tonight and tell me it was okay and that I am still one of his favorite people, a kind of grace I pray I learn how to show to people even more than I do now.  I want to look at everyone in my life, no matter who they are or where they've been or what I think they "deserve", when they make themselves vulnerable enough to show me their flaws and shortcomings and ugly truths, and only have one thing to say in return:

"And?  This changes nothing."

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Monday, February 17, 2014

You know that feeling...

When you make a plan to do something important...

except you can't do it until the next day...

and you don't want to think about it because all that does is make you more nervous...

but all you can do IS think about it...

no matter how hard you try to think about anything else...

your mind just keeps going back to that same thing...

and running through all the different possibilities of how it could play out...

and you're walking that balance of "hoping for the best, preparing for the worst"...

but you really, really don't want it to be the worst because that would crush you...

so you'd settle for a happy medium between best and worst as long as it doesn't make you cry...

because this is really important...

but you know you're not promised a good ending...

because you've thought you had a good ending before and that went horribly wrong...

so you just sit there praying, "God, please, let this work out okay"...

trying not to be too dramatic because it's not the be-all-end-all...

but knowing how much of your heart is invested in it...

you just want it to be over with already just so you can get rid of the feeling you have right now?

Yep, that's me tonight.

More to come tomorrow.  Promise.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Another late night ahead.

Well, the streak ended.  Had a seizure at church today.  Luckily, I avoided another hospital trip because I was sitting down.  And I'm grateful it's been 13 days since the last one.  Progress!

So...I killed about four hours of my afternoon taking a nap after church because between the late night I had last night and the seizure, I was absolutely exhausted.

After that, I (finally!) finished the reading for Political Thought.

Now, I have to get another French video ready for tomorrow, and somehow piece together the answers for these very difficult essays questions since I have no idea which one will be the test question tomorrow.  (The professor makes someone roll a die to determine which one we respond to.)

Here's hoping I can manage to get some sleep tonight.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014


After I wrote last night's post, I got a phone call from Mom filled with some pretty rough news.  I texted what needed to be texted out to my prayer team, because even if my mom doesn't like prayer or want prayer, it's all I know to do to support her when I hang up from a conversation like the one we had.  Thankfully, I have so many people that love me so much they are also willing to pray for my family.  I don't want to get into the details of what is going on, because it's not my story to tell and I know my mother wouldn't want it.  Just please, be in prayer for her, for her health, for her strength, for her spirit, and that she would be drawn closer to the Lord and find peace with the way that her story is playing out right now.

One of the (many) people who responded to the text I sent out was my sweet friend, Amy.  She ended up suggesting I call her, so I did.  I was able to confide in her everything that's been weighing on me lately, this past week in particular, and it did so much good for my soul.  I am blessed to be surrounded by some older Christian sisters who are always willing to mentor me and pour into me the way that we all need.

But what jumped out at me most in the entire conversation (that was an hour long, by the way, apparently I'm even more talkative than usual this week!) was when I was telling her about a friend of mine.  I said something to the effect of, "He's so humble and so smart, and he doesn't even realize it.  He genuinely won't believe you if you try and tell him how great he is," and she interrupted me and exclaimed, "Mal!  What you just said about him, it's the same way for you!"

I exhaled, and she knew I was listening, so she went on.  "It seems like he can't see how wonderful people think he is, and you're the same way.  You just said you have a very hard time seeing all the good things people say they see in you.  You know those qualities are there in him, and we all know the good things that are in you."  And then I laughed.

I laughed because as many times as I've said what I told Amy about my friend and about how I have a hard time seeing what other people see in me, I never once made the connection between the two.  And it just cracked me up to finally see it that way.  It was as if the lightbulb had just magically turned on.  Voilà!

I may be book smart, y'all, but I tell ya, sometimes I can be really, really stupid.  God bless these friends of mine who are willing to drill the truth into my head no matter how many times it takes to make it stick.

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Friday, February 14, 2014


It's amazing what can happen for your mood when you decide to do something for other people.

Instead of getting all moody and focusing on all the couples that I'm surrounded by, I decided to surprise a bunch of strangers.

I had ordered four balloons and a treat bag from a group on campus for Valentine's Day, but due to the crazy weather this week, they couldn't get the balloons filled with helium, so instead I got two treat bags and $4 back.  I didn't know what to do with them, and I'm trying to cut back on the sugar I eat, so voila, the idea was born.

I was in the Student Center for lunch and killing time before French class, and I kept looking around trying to decide who to give them to.  I saw two guys sitting at a table chatting, so I just walked up, put the treat bags on the table and said, "Here, Happy Valentine's Day."  I thought it was weird that they said, "Thank you, Miss" until I saw them leave with Army bookbags on their back...I definitely picked the right people.  There's no one I'd rather randomly bless than two soldiers.

Despite the fact that I literally have twenty cents to my name right now, I looked at those 4 one dollar bills in my purse, and I just didn't want to stop giving stuff away.  So I got up, walked up to four random people and didn't say a word to them other than "Happy Valentine's Day".  The looks of shock on their faces were totally worth how awkward I must have looked.

And then I remembered this Starbucks gift card that I got last summer in a blog giveaway.  And I remembered that I used it once and it's been sitting in my wallet untouched ever since.  So I pulled it out, and walked up to this couple sitting at a table, asked them if they liked Starbucks, and gave it to the girl when she said yes.  I told her there was about $16 on it, said Happy Valentine's Day and walked away.  The two of them kept looking over at me for the next five minutes, as did their friend when she walked over  It was all I could do not to laugh, because I don't think they noticed I saw them looking at me.

I'm not writing this to have anyone tell what a wonderful thing it was that I did.  I'm writing this because this was, hands down, the best Valentine's Day I've ever had. And it amazes me and makes me laugh that surprising 7 strangers with 2 $3 treat bags, $4, and a gift card I wasn't using anyway was all it took.  It amazes me that a situation that looks like me blessing 7 random people was actually a huge blessing for me, too, possibly an even bigger blessing than it was for them.  I get a huge grin on my face every time I think about it because it was so much fun.  And doing it made me really think about the fact that you don't have to be in a relationship to show love to people on this day, and that not being in a relationship doesn't make me any less valuable today or any other day of the year.

Happy Valentine's Day, people.  I hope someone told you they loved you today, even if they did it without words.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Believe It

"Now, what if you really believed that you were loved? Not just, like, know it in your head, or you've been taught that your whole life, but actually believed, deep down in your heart that you were loved. That you were wanted.  That you were pursued, cherished."

"What if we actually believed that we are who God says we are, and that we belong to Him?  All these desires that we have bubbling up in us are good desires, that we want to be loved, we want to be wanted, and that, ultimately, that is fulfilled in Jesus, that HE satisfies us, that HE loves us regardless of what we do or what we don't do, and it's a scandal to believe that in this day and age!  But let us be women that do that, that believe Him for what He says is true over us.  And if we're gonna be women and ladies who change our communities and change our schools and are examples for this next generation of girls coming up behind us, we have got to start believing in what God says about us.  We have to believe that we, as women, are SPOKEN FOR."

Does God's timing ever just make you laugh?  Do you ever just want to go, "Okay, God, I get you're trying to tell me something here"?  Because that's what happened when I watched this video, and then had a 90+-minute phone call with my sweet friend Lauren, the vast majority of which centered around this topic.

I'm going to try to be as concise as possible with my thoughts, but just bear with me.  This has been the biggest struggle of my life, obviously very much so before I was a Christian and when I was in high school getting bullied so much.  Matt, that dear sweet patient best friend of mine, was the receptacle for my bottomless pit of fear that he didn't love me for so many years, all the while he fought to prove to me just how wrong I was.  But even when I found security in my friendship with him, that didn't stop me from questioning everyone else.  Even if they didn't know it, I was questioning them.

In the months after I became a Christian and got baptized, I started questioning things less.  More importantly, for the first time in possibly my whole life, I felt like I actually loved myself.  That was when I stopped trying quite so hard to please my family, because I intrinsically knew that I was at a better place than I'd ever been.  I fell in so naturally with people, most of whom I still talk to today, and I began to see that I wasn't as awful as I'd believed I was for so long.  One of the things that Lauren said to me during our conversation tonight when talking about my life and my friends is, "Girl, you are CRAZY loved!"  And that's been reverberating around inside my head ever since.

She's right, you know.  I am crazy loved.  I could not ask for better friends, more loyal, patient, faithful, or loving.  I know that.  I will tell anyone that.  I know every single day that these are the kind of friendships I longed for when I was a little girl.  Somehow, though, I've lost sight of that.  More and more, I look at my friends and simply wonder, "Why do you love me?  How can you love me?"  Sometimes, I've even flat out asked them that.  I didn't understand why they stuck around.  I didn't understand why they cared when I was sick, why they'd rather check on me and talk to me than be around people whose lives weren't so complicated.  If I did that with my friends, people as broken as I am, you can just imagine how much worse it's been in my walk with the Lord.  I said it here; I don't believe I'm worthy of being loved.  And as Alyssa says, even though I know in my head that God loves me just as I am, I don't believe it in my heart because I can't understand how a God so good could love me when I am so screwed up.  I hear far too often everything that's "wrong" with me, and I let those hurtful words seep into my soul before the words of the Lord who delights in me no matter what.

That's what is holding me back from the rest I seek, the difference between knowing something in my head, knowing something is true when I say it out loud, and believing it in my heart without a word being spoken.  This reminds me of when Reafe asked me if I'm close to God, and how careful he was to point out the difference between that and being a Christian.  "When you're close to God, what everyone else says won't matter.  You won't care."  I know God, I love God, I know who He is, but I have so much further to go.  Jesus doesn't satisfy me right now.  I'm looking to people for the satisfaction that only He can bring.  And that's why I'm still so lost and confused.

God says I am beautiful, even though I have (a lot of) weight to lose.  God says I am wanted, even though I am intense and try too hard.  God says I am pursued, even though I feel unnoticed more than anyone realizes.  God says I am cherished, even though I tend to hear the voices who tell me why I'm not good enough first and most clearly.  My Father doesn't speak with corollaries attached.

Lord, I pray that this is the year I learn to hear You first and believe what You say is the truth over me all the way down in my heart, so it's a part of me and I can't lose sight of it.  Thank You for loving this broken girl, and for giving the world people like Alyssa and Lauren and countless other friends who help me see me how You see me.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Weirdest Winter Ever

I don't remember the last time I saw snow twice in one winter.

Now, I've seen snow twice in two weeks.

There's about six inches outside.

Ice all over the roads.

An ice storm tonight.

Freezing rain tomorrow.

Constant threats of a power outage.

Campus is shut down entirely.

I'm not going anywhere.

Remember that ice storm that shut down Atlanta?  Yeah, that's now North Carolina.  It took my friend 7 hours to get home from work today when they let everyone out at like 12:30. Seven. Hours.  She said it's normally a 20-25 minutes drive.

The UNC/Duke men's basketball game, one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports, got postponed, and Duke is 8 miles away from UNC.  Campbell had a basketball game tonight, and the visiting team is spending the night in our arena.  Things are nuts.

On the upside, my Political Thought test got moved to Monday since we didn't have class today, which gives me 3 more days to get this reading done and prepare the essays.  Silver linings. :)

All for now.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Spirit, lead me.

I'm pretty sure the Botox has stopped working.

I mean, I obviously don't want to/can't say anything definitive yet as it's only been a week since the last injection, but considering how much pain I've been in over the past week, and how vastly different it has been compared to the first week after each of the other injections, it feels like a pretty safe bet to make.

I know, I know, don't be a pessimist.

Anyone who really knows me knows I don't like being a pessimist.  That was exactly why I went over to see Austin today.  Because after sitting in my room all day trying to focus on work but getting pretty much nowhere (and I have to read 426 pages by Friday morning. And prepare 4 essays.  Ugh), I really couldn't get out of my own head.  And I knew I could be honest with him without being judged but still get a different perspective.  One of the first things I told him is that he knows how much I hate feeling sorry for myself.

Somehow, I've become convinced that getting mad means that I don't trust God, that I don't have the faith that I thought I had.  That's what I've been told...a lot.  That anger and trust are mutually exclusive emotions.  That's what I was raised to believe, and even though I know it's wrong now, I don't always realize it's my former church-raising talking when I get thoughts like that in my head.  So then I was getting mad at myself for getting mad.  Because I had this voice in my head going "Don't you believe that God is still the same God He was last week, the God that's kept you from having a seizure since last Monday?  What's wrong with you?"

I do.  I do believe that.  I don't have a doubt in my mind that God is still as good as He was yesterday and last year and the night I got baptized.  And I'm starting to understand that getting angry and having questions doesn't change that.  As Austin explained it, I was mixing blind obedience with trust.  Just because I get mad and I have questions and I'm not sure I like how things are going (or I'm sure that I don't), that doesn't mean that I don't trust that God is going to get me through it.  Austin said, "To me, trust is knowing that things might not work out, they might go horribly wrong, but I still have Him.  I have Him.  I know He hasn't left and He's right there in the middle of it with me."

So this is where I am tonight.  I'm mad.  I'm mad that this pain has been going on for almost 17 months without stopping.  I'm mad that things feel like they just keep piling up.  I'm mad that there seems to be one more obstacle standing in the way of me graduating on May 10.

And I'm scared.  I'm scared that if this pain doesn't stop soon, my body is going to break.  I'm scared that I'm not going to have the energy to get everything done in the next three months.  And I'm scared - sometimes I'm downright, sob-inducing terrified - that the life the Lord has planned for me, the life I know that I want to follow because I know He loves me so well, is going to include a whole lot more physical pain.

But then, I look at those words, and I think about the words that Austin began his prayer with earlier tonight. "Thank You for Mallory.  Thank You for her life, and for her testimony.  Thank You for what she does for people because of You and for Your Kingdom."  And then I'm reminded that all of this, even as awful as it feels to live through a lot of the is so worth it.  Because it's not just strengthening other people, it forces me to rely completely on the Lord.  This isn't about me.

I know that I trust Him, because I know that He is the only one who can give me peace with this whole situation, and I'm praying that He will.  Soon.

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?  And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Second Chances and Restoration

Today, something really, really awesome happened.  At least, it was really, really awesome for someone who values relationships as much as I do.

I am going to try to tell the story as clearly as I can without using names, because who is involved isn't important, and I don't want anyone to feel like they're being called out should they ever see this post.

There's this person that I was friends with back in spring 2012.  We'd known each other for a few months when that semester started, but that spring, things changed big time.  We were part of clubs, actually executive board members of them, led by people that really didn't get along with each other, yet we still tried to maintain the friendship we'd formed.  But it wasn't easy because our club-mates/other friends disliked each other so strongly.  So I was left with my club-mates, also people I considered friends, on one side telling me that this friend and the leader of his club were trying to divide us and separate me from my loyalty to the club, and I had my friend on the other side telling me that my club-mates were exploiting my loyalty to them to try to make me hate him just because they did.  After several months, and the mess of it all following me all the way to DC, I finally picked a side.  Because I had come to truly believe that my friend was the bad news my club-mates, one in particular, had been telling me that he was, I told that friend never to talk to me again.

Fall of 2012 was good...I didn't see that friend or any members of his club...until I got removed from my position as a leader of the club.  The executive board got completely changed, and the two that I had come to trust the most, the club president and VP, stopped really participating in the club, as well.  I saw the president in passing throughout 2013, and though I had one class with the VP, we rarely spoke (though when we did it was cordial), but I never saw my old friend at all.  Not once in the entire year of 2013.  The president, though, slowly became everything he once said he hated.  He's now practically best friends with the guy who ran my friend's club...who also played a big part in our friendship ending.  His cockiness and inability to listen to anyone, no matter how much they care about him, has completely turned me off to him.  I even deleted him from my Facebook and Twitter, which, if you know me, is a lot because I rarely do that to people I know.  In seeing how easily he blew me off as he got some statewide power, and began to only hang out with people who either boosted his ego or could help him get somewhere career-wise, I realized just how obvious it was that I'd made the wrong choice.

Fast forward to this semester, and my old friend showed up in one of my classes, adding it on the first day.  I didn't know how to respond or interact with him, simply because it'd been so long since we'd seen each other and things left off on such a bad note, so I just tried to play it by ear.  Nothing major happened, but something in me still assumed that that bridge was burned and I should just be thankful that we could be civil toward one another.

Last Monday, though, I had a seizure in the class that we have together.  It was about 15 minutes before the class started, so he was one of few in there.  I wasn't sure how he was going to react, quite honestly, because I had no idea what he thought about me after everything that had happened.  But he helped.  I knew I wanted to thank him, but Wednesday he came into class late.  Thursday evening at dinner, Summer and I talked about this guy and everything that had happened between us.  She told me that she thinks he's a much different/better person now, and Summer isn't the first person to have told me this.  I told her I wanted to apologize, but I wasn't sure how he would take it and if it would be a good idea or if it would just cause another issue.  She told me that it couldn't hurt for me to try, and she was right.  And I really did feel awful for all the stupid things I said to him and the mistakes I made, so I knew I needed to say something.  But Friday, I obviously wasn't there.  So Saturday, I sent him a message on Facebook (not how I wanted to do it, but I wanted to get it out there before I chickened out).  He still hadn't responded by class this morning, so I was a bit worried that he hadn't taken well to it or/nor believed me.

But here's what actually happened.  At the end of class, I stood up to grab my bookbag off the back of my chair, and since he only sits two seats over from me, he looked up and said, "Hey Mal, how's it goin'?"  I looked at him and just said, "Can I talk to you for a minute?"  He said sure, and we stepped out in the hall.  He told me that he had indeed read my message, but he hadn't responded because he was out of town, so it was just nuts, which I totally understood.  The conversation we had was just really, really sweet.  We sort of talked out how everything went wrong.  We both apologized for all the stupid things we said and did.  We discussed how much we've both changed since we got away from the "friendships" that actually turned out to be the toxic ones.  I could tell he is definitely a much more mature and levelheaded person than the guy that I knew two years ago, and I think that he could say the same for me.  I told him about what it felt like to have him on one side trying to convince me of one thing, and my club-mates on the other telling me the exact opposite, and that I had to make a choice, and I simply made the wrong one.  We both got played by the people we chose over each other.  And when I left to go to lunch, he gave me a hug and asked me if I was doing better.  Just like the friend I was used to just a couple years ago.

All of that is to get to the lesson I found in it.  Sometimes I think friendships are ruined, that the bridges are completely burned to ashes, but that isn't always the case.  Second chances are hiding in places I don't expect to find them, and awesome things can happen when I am willing to just step out, swallow my dang pride, and admit that I made a mistake.  That apology was long overdue, and I'm glad that I did it, even if he hadn't responded.  But I'm way more thankful for the redemption that comes with second chances.

And I'm really, REALLY thankful that a friendship the both of us missed seems to now be restored.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

You can have the best of me.

In love, You came to be
You lived and died to set me free
From the man I used to be
And in faith, I'll take a stand
With a broken heart, I'll praise You
With a broken heart, I'll give You all I am
"Page One" - Aletheia
Oh, I'm running to Your arms, I'm running to Your arms
The riches of Your love will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world, forever reign

My heart will sing no other name
Jesus, Jesus
"Forever Reign" - Hillsong United
In my heart and my soul
I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord
Let justice and praise
Become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out
"From the Inside Out" - Hillsong United 
With all creation I sing
Praise to the King of Kings
You are my everything
And I will adore You
"Revelation Song" - Kari Jobe

Just some pieces of the songs I heard this morning that really hit me, so I wrote them down.  :)

PRAISE THE LORD.  I made it through a church service today for the first time in months.  And oh my word, I can't even begin to tell you how good it felt to be back with my church family, for REAL this time, no problems, no distractions.  I was able to worship my Father surrounded by the family that has walked with me so faithfully from the minute I walked in the doors 16 months ago.  I'm so thankful that they love me so well, that they don't look at me any differently despite everything, that when they say they pray for me, I know they mean it, and they welcome me back each week simply praying along with me that this will be the week I'm able to stay.  And it finally worked!  Justin even prayed over me right there in the church before the service started, and I had Alexis and Hannah praying all morning, and you'll never be able to convince me that that didn't have something to do with it.

We're in the middle of a series called "Living for Eternity" and Pastor Sean preached on money.  Every time I've heard a sermon on money, the preacher always starts out with the heresies out there from people who say that God wants to make you wealthy and that if you give to Him, He'll give you back even more.  Pastor Chris mentioned the same false teachings in his "How to Be Rich" series.  I was used to that.  What I wasn't expecting is where Pastor Sean went after that, why we give and what we give.

I didn't know that Proverbs 3 was King Solomon talking to his son.  I didn't know that it was Solomon telling his son to value God above all the wealth and excess that surrounded them every day of their lives.  So that was new to me in and of itself, but what really jumped out at me in his sermon was his explanation of the beginning of Proverbs 3:3 "Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;"  That "steadfast love" comes from a Hebrew word that is so unique we don't have just one English word that can match it - hesed.  (And can I just say, WOW, God has brought me a long way that the biggest memory I have of a sermon is a Hebrew word and its translation, haha!)  Hesed, from what I remember, encompasses a lot of the good qualities we know to associate with the Lord - His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, His unending and loyal love, His persistent pursuit of relationship with us.  All wrapped up into one word.

Proverbs 3:9 says "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce".  Turns out, firstfruits isn't actually the first stuff.  It's the best.  We're to give the Lord the best of what we reap.  It seems so twisted to a non-believer's ear, but as Pastor Sean put it, we're to give the Lord the best of whatever we have so that we aren't tempted to worship that stuff over God.  And the God we serve doesn't ask us to do anything He hasn't already done.  He gave us His best when Jesus went to the cross with our brokenness and our sin on his back.

When I think about hesed, when I think about everything that God is and everything He did for me long before I ever believed it was real, everything that is the heart of the Lord who loves me even when I doubt and when I'm just waiting for Him to leave, I can't help but want to give Him the best of me.  I owe Him everything; He gets all the credit for where I am now compared to where I've been, and wherever I will be will only be so because He will get me there.  I want to give Him the best of what I have and what I am because He gave me everything without a promise of anything in return.

Today and everyday, I have to surrender myself to the fact that I am NOTHING without Him, His grace, His mercy.  I probably wouldn't be alive, let alone living the life that I am now, if He hadn't persisted in chasing me down and breaking me so that I could see that He loves me and has always loved me so proudly and fiercely and desperately.  Because it was when I finally got a glimpse of that that I stopped pretending.  And the 22 months since that have been far from easy, but I know that it is because of God's persistence in holding on to me even when I'm letting go that I am still standing.

THAT is why He deserves the best of me and all that I have, and that's why I want to give it.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Most Dangerous Game

"I envy you sometimes, not gonna lie."

It's funny how a day when someone I love dearly and have known since I was a little girl tells me that I'm an inspiration to them can be the same day that I'm sitting in my room texting a girlfriend telling her I envy her.  A day when people have done their best to build me up is the same day that I'm sitting here feeling envy, feeling like I'm not good enough.

Comparison.  I don't think we fully realize how dangerous it really is.  It will destroy you.  If we let it, it will burn out the light that is within each of us.

The crazy thing is, the people we catch ourselves playing the comparison game with are often the people we don't know intimately.  They're the people you call friends, but not good enough friends that they run to you to tell you the bad pieces of their lives, because they have friends that are closer to them to fill that role.  And for all you know, they're as envious of you as you are of them, just for a different reason.

No one's life is picture perfect, even when it seems that way.  We all have demons, insecurities, baggage that we hide in the corner because we all just want to be liked.  We're all broken.  And that brokenness that we know lies within us and try so desperately to hide is what shouts inside our minds that if people really knew us, they'd run.  The sin of this world has convinced us that no matter how hard we try, we're never going to be good enough.

I make a concerted effort to be real with people.  To be the same friend to Matt and Ryann as I am to my Reformation brothers as I am to classmates as I am to people I randomly meet in the Student Center.  And I know that that's a good thing, being authentic, not being two-faced in a world full of people that most would tell you not to trust.  But sometimes, I worry that it's a mistake, that that's what scares people off, that maybe it really is my fault when friends leave with no explanation (or a hurtful one).

And when they do leave, that's when it gets bad.  That's when I start envying friends I know are far from perfect but who feel like they have everything I want, that maybe if I could be like them, like the girls I know who have this infectious way of making everyone love them, then maybe people wouldn't leave.  But the truth?  The truth is that I am not responsible for the hurtful things people say and do, that I am no more responsible for their choices than anyone else is for the mistakes that I have made.  The truth is that the Lord made me just as I am for a reason.  The truth is that I won't always get it right, but I love people the best I know how.  And I am blessed to say that I have many, many people around me who see that and understand grace enough to give it to me when I inevitably mess it all up.

All that comparison does is overshadow God's perfect plan in His creation when He made each of us as unique, gifted, individuals, and takes our focus off of who we are in Him.  It has broken my spirit on too many occasions.  I don't want to let it do that anymore.

The Lord says that we are enough.  We are enough because we are His.  I'm going to work on not just believing it, but believing so deeply that it's in my heart and soul as part of my understanding of His love.  I pray that you are able to do the same.

"You are beautiful.  You are smart.  You are funny.  You are kind.  You are unique." - Jon Jorgenson, The Anima Series

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Migraine day.

Didn't even go to class.

Have been in bed all day.

Got up at 7:45 to eat and try to do work.

The eating was successful, the working not so much.

Mom's okay.  They said it was a spasm in her esophagus.  Thanks for praying.

Going back to bed now.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

My mama needs prayers.

You probably don't remember this because it was so long ago, but back in May 2010, my mom landed in the Coronary ICU and ended up having a stent put in her heart to open up a majorly clogged artery (80-90% clogged; if it had hit 100%, she would have had a heart attack).

Well, she's back there.  And she's having another catheterization in the morning.

I don't have any other details besides that, honestly.  I just woke up to a text from her saying she was in the hospital and that she was having a "heart episode", but she specifically said she had not had a heart attack.  Then she texted later about the plan for the procedure, which thankfully her actual cardiologist will be doing instead of whoever is on call.  The catheterization, which is the procedure they did in 2010 that told them she needed the stent, will let them see if any repairs need to be done to that stent or if any other arteries are having trouble.

I haven't talked to her, but she also said that she can't get her pain under control (and they're giving her the drug doctors usually give ME).  So I've just been trying to let her rest as much as she can, and I know she'll text me or Mommom will call me if there's an update.

But yeah.  Nothing else happened today, so that's my post for today.  If y'all could be praying for her, I would really appreciate it.  My mama may drive me absolutely insane quite a bit, but I still love her more than anyone in the world, and it kills me to see her like this.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Prayer for a Friend

Today was one of those days where nothing out of the ordinary happened.

I got up and went to Political Thought where I was thoroughly confused by the discussion of writings of guys from the 1600s and found out we have a test on our first two authors next week.  Awesome.

Then I went to lunch with the ever-adorable Hannah and Emily.  Those two never cease to make me laugh.  If only Peyton had been there!

I had every intention of coming back to work on the bibliography for my Seminar paper after that...instead I took a three hour nap.  Oops?  I was exhausted and there was no way I was going to be able to think about getting my 60+ sources in order.  Yeah, that's going to be a fun paper to write.

After that, I had dinner with Austin.  Every time I see him, it blows my mind to think about the fact that I've only known him for just shy of 5 months.  There's a level of trust with him that makes me feel like the Lord is present any time we're together.  It sucks that we're both so busy that we don't get to see each other a lot this semester, but that's life and it doesn't change the fact that he is one of my dearest friends and possibly the person still physically at this school that I trust the most.

Tonight was spent doing my bibliography (hallelujah, that thing took me 5 hours but it's done and in and I can move on to the rest of my ever-growing to-do list).  After that, I started picking up and cleaning the few dishes that were dirty and just generally organizing stuff because we have room checks tomorrow.  Oh yes, room checks.  What was touted as RAs coming around to make sure you're not hiding alcohol or drugs or any other "contraband" in your room is actually that plus them making sure your room is clean.  At Campbell, you can actually get written up for a "cleanliness violation."  Yay private schools?

And now it's past 1:30 in the morning and I'm going to go take a shower and then hit the sack and praise the Lord that I can sleep in tomorrow.

You know, now that I think about it, there was actually one special thing about today.  After dinner, when Austin had to go print some stuff off before his night class, I looked at him and just said, "You need a hug and a prayer."  And so we stepped outside, and we wrapped each other in a big hug, and I prayed over him and just rubbed his back the entire time.  And I loved it.  I loved that he let me do it, even though he's much more introverted than I am.  Over the past couple weeks, I've been getting more bold about stepping out and praying for people when I feel the desire to.  I don't know if it's my desire or God telling me to do it, but when I get the thought that I should pray over people, I just do it.  Which is something new for me because I'm bold in a lot of ways but praying over people hasn't usually been one of them.

But I remember thinking about that when I got back to my room, and how at dinner before that even happened, we were talking about how on the days when I'm feeling the worst about myself and beating myself up the most, there will inevitably be a moment when someone unexpectedly tells me what an encouragement I am and how good I am at lifting them up and making them feel better, with my smiles and hugs and maybe a compliment thrown in.  Austin's reply was simply, "You ARE! You are so good at encouraging people."

The speaker at FCA last night talked a lot about how we need to figure out the gifts that God has given us, figure out what we're good at, and just go do it and He'll direct our steps.  I think I'm good at encouraging people, that I'm good at making other people feel good even when I don't realize I'm doing it.  And while yes, smiles and hugs and compliments are all great things, I'm learning that there is no better way to lift someone up than to lift them up before the Lord.  And not only does it make me feel good, too, those are also the times when I feel the least awkward praying.  I remember when I was at lunch with Clayton a couple weeks ago and he asked me to bless the food and I sort of stumbled my way through the prayer; when I'm praying over someone that I love, like Austin, for the things that I know are weighing on them and that they need prayer for, the words come naturally.  I'm not sure why that is.  Bottom line, I just really like to help people, and helping them helps me, too, if only because doing things like praying for a friend helps me to remember that this life really isn't about me.

I hope that God opens my eyes to more ways that I can encourage and help people, and that He'll continue to give me the confidence to step out and offer to pray for people, even if I'm not sure they want me to, and that He'll keep pushing me to get out there and do it even when I'm not sure that it's doing the other person any real good in the moment.  Stuff like that, like giving someone a hug and us holding on to each other as we go to God, it reminds me of  how close and accessible our Father really is.  So even when it seems like I'm praying for a friend to help them feel more at peace, I guess we both win.  Is that awful?  Nah, I don't think so.  As long as the prayers are sincere and my heart is in the right place.

Knowing Austin has been a good opportunity for me to learn true selflessness, how to always make myself available to people when they need me, or they just need someone in general.  That kid's door and ear and heart are pretty much always open, and he never seems bothered by it in the least.  I just hope I continue to remember that my prayers for/over him and offers to help him anytime he needs don't need to be in the "I'm trying to pay you back" vain.  I know I don't need to pay him, or any of my other real friends back, I just want to love them as well as they have loved me.  I want to be as loyal as they have been to me.  I want to be as patient as they have been with me.  Not because I owe them, but because that's love.

And when the body of Christ loves each other like that, it brings both the giver and the recipient of the love closer to the One who taught us how to love in the first place.

I really wasn't expecting this post to take this turn, but there you go.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

You've never failed, and You won't start now.

Okay, so here's what that prayer request was about.

About 6:00 last night, I opened my email, and saw a letter from the Dean of Students.  It said that a team of school officials had met to discuss me.  They needed my doctor to fill out a(nother!) form telling them I'm safe on campus.  They also needed me to sign a release that this Dean could be told I'm attending my counseling sessions (which is something I signed two weeks ago, at my first counseling session).  I had 24 hours to get on the Dean's calendar to have a meeting with her and get them this fax number from my doctor.  If I did not respond and comply with this request (their word, not mine), the team would meet again to "evaluate my enrollment".

Evaluate my enrollment?  That's a really fancy way of saying kick me out.  Cue sobbing.  Mom (on the phone) and Mommom both listened and helped me calm down and told me that they knew I was doing everything I was told and that I should just get this new form taken care of and go talk to the Dean about everything else, and if they still tried to kick me out, a whole slew of people would be raising hell...starting with my Uncle Ed.  I eventually stopped crying, but I couldn't get it out of my head.

So this morning, all around going to get my Botox, I called and got my neurologist's fax number.  I called and gave it to the Dean's secretary.  I got an appointment with the Dean for 4:30 today.  The neurologist's nurse called me later and told me the doctor needed a release to even fill out the form, so I told them to fax it to the number that faxed them the form and I would sign it at my meeting.  I basically spent all day trying not to completely freak out, which was not helped by the fact that I did not sleep well last night.

I took a nap before the meeting, and woke up to an email from the head of Student Success, asking me if I wanted her to send the Dean the letter that they got from my doctor weeks ago.  I, of course, responded, "Yes, please!"  I had to go by that office on my way to the meeting to pick up letters for my professors, and when I got there, I found out the reason why the Dean didn't already have the letter.  I assumed she did because she was in the meeting when I was told what needed to be in the letter and requested that some things be included.  AND no one told me I needed to give permission for her to get it.  And the head tried to email me last week to ask for permission, but I never got the email because she emailed the other "majones" in the Campbell email database.  And she didn't realize she had done so until today.  So that team of officials thought that I was withholding the letter when, in reality, I had no idea I had anything to do.  Luckily, she sent the letter right over to the Dean and explained that the whole thing was her fault.  As for the other part, I had told the Dean in a reply email last night that I had already signed the release about me attending my counseling sessions, and I reiterated that in the meeting today.  She said she called the counseling center yesterday, and whoever answered the phone told her they didn't have the release, but she never spoke directly to my counselor.  So I told her I watched my counselor file it after I signed it two weeks ago, and if she spoke to my counselor she would know.  So basically, the Vice President of the university threatened to kick me out of school over my medical condition because people can't talk to each other.  Go figure.  At least everything seems to be straightened out now.  I told the Dean to tell that whole team that I really am doing everything I'm told, and she said, "I will!  I knew there had to be something missing because it's not like you to be non-compliant!" :)

On a lighter note regarding the whole thing, my mom finally was able to talking to this Dean today (they'd been playing phone tag for days) and she said, "Listen, I'm going to be as nice as possible because I'm a teacher so I know what it's like to deal with ornery parents, but here's the thing.  Telling someone with STRESS-INDUCED SEIZURES who is three months from graduating with two degrees and honors that you're 'evaluating their enrollment'?  NOT A GOOD PLAN."  Haha!  She comes in handy.  I think I'll keep her. ;)

Tonight, I went to my first FCA meeting, because my friend Zack invited me.  It was great.  There's music and a speaker.  One of the songs they did was "Oceans" by Hillsong, which is one of my all-time favorite songs and where the title of this post comes from.  When we sang, it hit me what a fool I've been today, completely freaking out.  I should've known it would work God.  God is good, and He wouldn't let this go wrong when I wasn't doing anything wrong.  I pray for the day when I don't just immediately freak out.  That will be a good day.  And the speaker even said, "You think God's not big enough for what you're dealing with?  Try Him."  BOOM.

May this be a lesson for me, though.  He's never failed.  He won't start now.  Thank you, Lord, for loving me even when I'm stupid.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

A Night Away

I was supposed to go get my third Botox last week, but couldn't due to the snow.

Tomorrow at 9:15 was the only appointment my doctor had open for all of February, and since it's important that I get these on a very specific schedule, we had to take it.

My sweet grandma came up and picked me up at Campbell when I got out of French class and we drove up to Durham (a little over an hour away, and where my Botox doctor is) to a hotel that is not far away from the office, making the morning much easier on us.

So I'm spending the night in a hotel.

And praying I get a long, good night sleep because I am exhausted.

The shower and towels were amazing, so here's hoping the bed is the same.

As an aside, I'm having real issues with my seizures and the people at Campbell.  If y'all could pray that everything gets sorted out so I can make it to graduation that is 3 months and 1 week away, I would really appreciate it.

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Good Problem to Have

Sigh.  Well, once again, I couldn't make it through a church service.  And that's after skipping the last two weeks because I didn't want to have another one there.  Maybe next week?

But all of that did lead to something good.  My friend Corey, who's helped me any time I've had a seizure at church, came to the ER to bring me lunch because once I wasn't nauseous anymore, I was super hungry, and he stayed and talked to me while I waited for my X-ray results (just twisted my shoulder pretty bad, and bruised my ribs).  Somehow, I don't even really remember how, we started talking about life at Campbell and the friendships you make and how special it is in comparison to other schools.

We talked about how different this is from high school, and how you can make friends here that you never could have imagined before.  Turns out, I'm not the only one who feels/experiences this stuff!  Imagine that.  I got to tell him about experiences like how at the 125th anniversary ball, I danced with a guy (my now-friend Drew) who ended up being crowned Homecoming King the next day.  And how my absolute best friend in my whole time at this school is the girl who, in profile, would have made my life a living hell in high school.  And how my Reformation brothers are the most genuine group of guys I've met.  And how the soccer boys completely defy everything you would expect from a group of attractive, popular, talented athletes.  And I got to hear some of his experiences, too.

All of that really made me think about the friendships I've made here, and how beautifully diverse they are.  I've made friends that have different majors, different religions, different family backgrounds, different senses of humor, different races...everything.  So how did I manage to click with all of them?  I don't know.  But when I think over the past 4.5 years, and I think about the people who jump out in my mind, I know that they all taught me something.  I know that our friendships had a purpose.

Not all of those people are still in my life, either.  Some of them had closure, some didn't.  Some of them ended just with the passing of time as we drifted apart, some of them ended painfully.  But do I regret any one of them?  Not a chance.  Because even the friendships that ended painfully hold good memories.  Memories that helped make college for me.  Lessons that helped make me a better friend for the next time.

Tonight, I sat in the lobby of a Reformation brother's dorm and ate pizza and watched the Super Bowl with him, his girlfriend (who is just adorable), and a group of guys I've never met before in my life.  During commercials and the halftime show, I was reminiscing about Russell Wilson as an NC State quarterback and the super memorable Wolfpack games of years past with the guy sitting next to me just because I found out we were both cheering for the Seahawks because of Russell.  No matter where I am at this school, I feel at home.  I've learned how to come out of my shell here.  Five years ago, when I started this blog (that anniversary is actually in 20 days, haha!), I never could have imagined my life would look like this, and that's one of the things I love most about God.  Just like I've always said He did with my Reformation brothers, He knew what to give to me long before I even realized I wanted or needed it.

As I told Corey today, I have far more love than I know what to do with.  And as he told me in response, that's a really good problem to have.


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Saturday, February 1, 2014

First, Most, Best

"You know I have a problem with being way too hard on myself...Thursday night, God opened my eyes to some sin I've been in, and I was feeling absolutely disgusted with myself because I'd become the exact opposite of the person I want to be.  What's the balance between conviction and condemnation?  How do I forgive myself when I know that God has already forgiven me?"

"Hmmm...good question.  I would make two points: 1. The idea of repentance in the Bible means "to turn around," sometimes we feel guilty about sin that we haven't completely turned our backs on. 2. If we have truly repented and we can't forgive ourselves, then we are holding ourselves to a higher standard than God.  And if the Author of all things can let it go, so must I."

"Mmm.  Good point.  This might be more than you can tell me, but how do I let it go?"

"It's different with every person.  Don't feel guilty about feeling guilty.  Be happy that your conscience is working (which can't be said for everyone)!  Just remind yourself that God's love restores all things."

"Thank you, brother. I so appreciate you!"



That's a piece of a conversation I had with a Reformation brother earlier tonight.  Simple enough, yes?  But it drove home a few points for me, things people have been telling me for quite a while now that I've heard, I just haven't understood how to put into practice.

As I sat down tonight, knowing that I was going to write generally about this, two specific verses popped in my head.  Don't you love when that happens?

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love cats out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:18-19

I'm still caught up in that prison cell, like the song last night mentioned (which, by the way, I have had on constant repeat).  Still terrified that this time will be the time He finally gives up on me.  Still believing that I'm too messed up for Him to show me grace.  Still feeling like if you really knew me, you wouldn't love me, either.  Forgetting everything that I know to be true about my Father because I'm so swept up by being angry at myself and being...absolutely, bone-chilling, heartbreakingly scared.

The irony of it is that I believe a boy who went back to drugs is forgiven, my friends will be shown grace for their mistakes, my family can be brought to Christ despite their current feelings about the whole idea.  I'm not scared for them (well, maybe my family, in simply the fear that they will never come to know the Lord like I pray they do).  I have confidence for them.  What will it take for me to feel that same confidence for myself?  If I can forgive others, why can I not forgive myself?  If I can love others and believe that God loves them, how can I not believe in my soul that He loves me just the same?  If I believe there is grace for others, how can I forget that there is grace for me, too?

As this brother said tonight, what I'm doing now, this constant bashing of my own spirit, that's me holding myself to a higher standard than God.  That's me telling God my sins are bigger than He is.  And that's not fair or right, to me or to God.  Just like the sign I still have on my wall says, the Gospel is bigger.  Always.  No caveats.  No corollaries.

This is what I am praying God reveals to me this year, one of the reasons that I chose Rest as my One Word for the year.  I'm praying that He teaches me how to truly rest in the promises He gives me in His word.  In that rest, I believe I will be able to understand how to forgive myself, because my own thoughts won't matter.  Like Reafe told me yesterday, when I am close to God and know how He sees me, what everyone else says won't matter...and what I say won't matter, either.

Lord, help me to see that my chains are broken.  Teach me, every single day, that I am forgiven, that I should not be afraid.  Overwhelm me with Your unending grace and mercy and love, to wash out the fear that hides in the dark places of my soul.  Take me to the deep places where I have no choice but to hold on to You, because I know that that is where I will finally see the depths of Your power and love for me.  Thank You for loving me despite my stupidity.  Thank You for holding on to me even when I let go.  I am so blessed to be Your child and to be used by You for Your Kingdom in whatever way You see fit.  Thank you for the broken chains.  Just like the promise I made the night you saved me and I pledged my love to You in my baptism, I am done and I am Yours.  I give myself every day to You, the One who loved me first, loves me most, loves me best.  Forever.

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