Permission to be a Sunset

It took less time than Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to watch Mother Nature turn the evening sky into her own dressing room.  Donning different colored celestial gowns to usher in the Moon.  Awe inspired I stood there, watching the Sun use her waning photoshpheric presence to paint mastery across the darkening horizon.  

I found myself deeply envious of the Sunset.  How She is allowed to change multiple times in a crumbling window of time and command nothing but indubitable veneration.  I crave approbation to emulate a Sunset; to change my continuance without question or concern; to fully become an avant-garde entity as often as I crave.  Transient moments like this when I yearn to be all I want to be without apprehension of the condemnatory verbiage of other’s view of my outcome.  I seek nothing nothing but permission to be a Sunset; to be fully undisputed in my feminity however I manifest myself.  


In losing 100 pounds I almost lost it all…

I stepped on the scale this morning and felt fear grip my insides. +3 pounds from what I was two weeks ago. I closed my eyes, inhaled sharply, stepped off the scale and re-calibrated my mindset. I walked back to my room fighting through waves of panic and defeat. I was getting ready to step in front of my full-length mirror hanging from my closet door to evaluate where I had gained the 3 pounds when I reminded myself what a dark and twisty road that leads down.

Not evaluating myself in the mirror this morning might not seem like a big step, but for me it was a momentous victory. Another step in my recovery and healing. You see, I’ve lost 100 pounds, but in doing so lost sight of my reason for weight loss and found myself making alliances with eating disorders. I say plural with eating disorders because it was not one specific one, it was a nasty cocktail of whatever I felt would get rid of my caloric intake for the day.

If you’re reading this you’ve probably known me long enough to have seen me lose the weight or if your new, my consistent posting about fitness on Instagram is enough to clue you in that I’ve made some incredible milestones in fitness and health. I won’t bore you with the backstory of how I came to that weight loss.

This time last year, I was spending a significant amount of time starving, purging, taking “skinny pills” and sweating away calories. In January 2018, I reached, what I thought at the time, the pinnacle moment of my weight loss when I started to no longer lose weight, but rather maintain it. I found myself continually frustrated that my hour workouts, copious amounts of water, clean eating and uptick in active lifestyle were no longer dropping the needle on the scale but rather staying neutral.

I made the sad mistake of hopping my way over to the nearest supplement store and asking the clerk what kind of legal products they had to get me skinny. I started taking water pills to get rid of excess hydration, a form of hydroxycut to give me caffeine and metabolic burner boosts, cinnamon supplements and a plethora of other lame attempts at losing the excess weight. I pushed all of this and more for several months, watching the pounds come off again and I found myself satiated. I had put my happiness in the sight of the scale going down, all while preaching to others that the scale is a poor determining factor in weight loss and should not be relied upon solely.

By April, my body had found itself adapting to the weight loss regimen I was putting it through and plateaued again and I found myself panicky with the shadows of summer and swimsuit season looming over my head. So along with the supplements I was already pushing I added laxatives to my capsule diet. I’ll spare you the obvious and gory details, and as much as I hate to admit they worked, I found myself so depleted of hydration, energy and motivation that I increased my take of caffeine pills to help contrast the lack of everything else.

There were a ton of other factors at this point edging my weight loss spiral to the chaotic mayhem it became. I was still in training at work, which is arguably one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through. For four months I found myself scared to go to work, stressed, holding on to the mindset that everything I did was wrong, and had no desire to continue on. I lost sleep (several hours a night) and lost all desires to eat. I found myself wearing uniforms that were too loose and I enjoyed the feeling of my ribcage against my body armor at the end of a shift because I was in control of nothing else at the time (at least that’s what it felt like) and it gave me a misplaced sense of comfort that I could control my weight the way I did.

May came around and while the work stress continued, the training was over and I found myself putting less pressure on the weight loss. I chugged along in the gym, drank my gallon of water everyday, consumed my capsule diet, ate some food, and got enough sleep every night to help me survive the next day.

One morning in June, I was in the shower rinsing my hair, when a big clump of it came free from my scalp. I stood there staring at it for a second, absolutely in fear that I inherited my Dad’s baldness. Dude’s can totally pull off any balding look, but girl’s…haha…that’s a definite no go. These were all the red flags I should have paid attention too, but I didn’t because weight loss had become an addiction, and I’ve been doing my job long enough now to know how fast and easily addiction sneaks in and takes hold of someone’s life.

Later that month, I was invited to go on a cross-country driving trip to California to help a friend of mine re-locate. As excited as I was about it, I found myself buckling down again to cut any excess weight before the big trip. I had sights to see and wanted to document this epic journey, but refused to look like I did at the time. So from the month of June to August I spent time after any sort of meal with my finger or toothbrush at the back of my throat, excavating calories from my body, at home, at work, and one time even after a date. Every time it got to be too much, I reminded myself that I had California to look forward to.

At this point, I had replaced sound and healthy logic with misguided ideals of skinny versions of me that I would do anything to achieve. Wearing a size 14 in pants was not satisfactory and I would not rest until I saw single digits. I was getting compliments left and right on my weight loss and while they seemed to fill up my hollow, decaying spirit, they lasted in my system about as long as I would let food take up residency – not long. I was being flattered by guys and I found myself enjoying the new found attention. Apparently my personality that was completely amazing before any weight loss was better emphasized with a slimmer version of me. I began to see myself as only acceptable to guys now because they wanted this slender Beth over what I used to look like. All of the attention and the desire to not let people who had been encouraging me and supporting me this whole time fueled me to push harder towards the wrong goals.

After I returned from California I found myself slowly losing a grip on things. I found myself getting injured easier, taking longer to recover from strained muscles and constantly achy. I was struggling to maintain an appetite for any sort of food at this point and finally decided to talk to my doctor. On top of an entire gamut of other issues, my unhealthy choices had led to hormonal imbalances that were fueling my physical ailments. The doctor gave me my options, and like a fool, I decided to wait on them and just see if everything righted on their own. In November, after a particularly rough day, I caved and decided to start prioritizing my health again.

Why share this now? Why post something so personal for anyone to read? Last week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and I clapped silently for several friends that were open about their own struggles on social media. I admired their strength in admitting they had a problem and were actively engaging methods of recovery to reestablish their own health. I didn’t post because I struggled with the shame and embarrassment of what I allowed me to do to my own self all while encouraging others to pursue the right ways to lose weight. While I have been working towards my own personal goals of recovery since late November, I have still refused to admit there was ever a problem. Because when the fat girl gets skinny, it’s celebrated, no matter their methods.

I stumbled across a poet, Blythe Baird several months ago in which she wrote a poem called “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny”. In her poem one line sticks out more than the others:

“If you develop an eating disorder when you are already thin to begin with, you go to the hospital.
If you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story.” – Blythe Baird “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny”

For Full Poem Click Here – (Worth the Listen)

So back to my question, why share this now? I have a couple of reasons, but one that I hope will challenge your own perspective. There are people all around us pining for a change in their weight. Whether or not it’s 100 pounds or 15 pounds, people embark on their own health journeys regularly. When you see someone working towards their own goals, I hope you staple the question “How are you losing the weight to make sure you keep yourself healthy?” along to the compliment of “You look strong/healthy/fit.” I had one person reach out to me when I was fighting my own battle with eating disorders who called me straight out on how I was doing it. They had been fighting their own eating disorder for years, and knew exactly what I was going through. While I didn’t listen to the individual immediately, I found myself reconsidering every-time I purged knowing that there was someone out there aware of how I was hurting myself and actively engaging me in conversation about it. Their awareness of my problem was enough to make me pause and try to find an alternative, eventually leading me to seek out the help I needed.

My second reason for sharing, is to serve as a warning for people out there who are trying to lose weight. Whether that’s you or someone you know, it can get out of control very easily. Losing 100 pounds has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself, I have removed stress on my heart, improved my cholesterol levels, minimized knee pain from carrying too much weight, have fewer weight-related back problems, and have given myself months if not years of my life back because of healthy choices. But I can speak from experience that all those healthy choices can become clouded in the desire to lose more, faster.

Since November, I have put on 15 pounds, but I’ve done it in a way that my body has been able to utilize in a healthy manner – HELLO bigger Biceps and Quads! My fears of gaining weight are slowly but surely withering as I put on healthy muscle mass. I’m also choosing to accept the fact that the stretch marks and loose skin are a part of my success story and survival. I still have big goals and dreams in fitness and I’m just getting started, but I’m choosing to let my body do what it does naturally.

“I used to be proud when I was cold in a warm room.
Now, I am proud. I have stopped seeking revenge on this body.
This was the year of eating when I was hungry without punishing myself and I know it sound ridiculous, but that shit is hard.”

– Blythe Baird “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny”

Losing the Weight Between Your Ears

“If it lives in your mind, it lives in your life.” – T.D. Jakes

I remember the first time I decided I needed to lose weight. I was eleven years old, 150-ish pounds, 5′ 6″, walking through the Harris Teeter grocery aisles seeking anything that looked bland, miserable, and healthy – because at that time, eating healthy meant finding bland and miserable items. At the age of twelve I decided I was not correctly sized to fit within the parameters society had dictated I should be in. At the age of thirteen, I was told by someone very close to me, that they would “hate to see me gain more weight and become unhealthy.” That gut punch delivered by a loved one was followed by a doctor’s appointment in which I was told I had high cholesterol and was headed down a dangerous health path and that I needed to lose weight. I grew up hearing stories about how I had been called the Michelin baby because I had been so fat (when it’s cute and acceptable to be fat). It had been ingrained in my brain from when I was young, that I was predisposed to fight weight, even down to a nickname put on a six month old.

At the age of twelve I had just moved to North Carolina. I was struggling with immense grief and depression over moving and while I was processing through all of this, I entered my teen years. If “Teen Years” was a book, the sub-title would be “An onset slew of aggressive pursuits in ideal body image, unattainable by anyone sane” – at least for my teen years. I repeatedly sought out anything and everything that would make me look like the Abercrombie and Fitch models that were slapped all over 2007’s billboards. I remember laying in bed at night sucking in my stomach as far as it could go until my belly would sink lower than my hipbones. I would blow my stomach back out and measure the distance I had to go until hip bone projection was the final result.

And so I struggled with weight for YEARS. From the age of eleven to the age of eighteen I woke up, ostracized what I saw in the mirror, ate unhealthy foods, beat myself up over consumed items, punished myself with exercise, skipped a few meals, drove myself straight into a brick wall of anxiety and depression, woke up and did it all over the next day. For seven years, I battled my own self daily. Everything I did was wrong, and I was an absolute embarrassment to myself. I utilized my hatred of self to keep me from setting goals. I became my own enemy, on top of the billboards, America’s Next Top Model re-runs, and shopping trips where I couldn’t buy clothes in Hollister because I didn’t fit the CEO’s definition of attractive.

When I turned eighteen, I embarked on the revolutionary college years where I found myself taking advantage of the opportunity to reinvent myself. But throughout my experimentation with reinvention, I found myself becoming dangerously complacent towards my health. I went from one end of the eating disorder spectrum to the opposite. I found myself worried about not fitting into my clothes and turning to food to comfort those emotions. A temporary solution to a permanent disability. All the while, I would continually blame situations and emotions I experienced on the way I looked and appeared. A total sense of hopelessness all the time. I was deeply aware that my use of food for comforting emotions was only pouring gasoline onto the already blazing fire, so I turned to alcohol and copious amounts of work and school to erase the hatred of myself from my mind.

I tried repeatedly throughout college to make health a priority. I would go for two weeks and eat a salad at every meal, workout until I couldn’t breathe and walk to all my classes, but I would break it all and binge eat Sonic, Domino’s or whatever unreasonably greasy food item I could, finish a bottle of wine, and cry myself to sleep. I abused my existence because I hated my existence. I poured everything I had into maintaining a 3.6 GPA and working three jobs, and participating in multiple extra curricular to keep my mind off the mirror and scale. Seemingly, the more I did, the louder those demons and fears screamed at me.

So what changed? All those failed attempts at fitness were just a build up for the one time I picked up weights in 2017 and haven’t put them down since? Nope. I found something that drove me. I discovered something that spoke to me a little louder than the old demons. It was just enough extra momentum to projectile push me into a totally different mindset. Then I found myself surrounded by like minded individuals who had the same drive and determination. You know that super ridiculous statement “Your vibe attracts your tribe”? It’s not as light weight as some would think. Those individuals sharpened a competitive, driven edge in me unlike any others. Eventually the passion for what I was working towards began to outweigh the negative mindset I had been carrying around since I was eleven.

Mind you, those old mindsets left deep scars and gouge marks in my soul and brain and there are days, most recently, today, when those scars and gouges get nicked by some comment and reopen old wounds. The pivotal shift in my mentality came when I decided to let my passion steer the ship instead of the negativity. When you let passion direct your life, you tend to let negativity take the backseat. It’s definitely still there trying to reinforce it’s presence but your goals and desires megaphone drown out the voice of distain and despair. You have to lose the weight of negativity that lives between your ears, before you can ever expect to lose the physical weight. If you don’t you’ll find yourself in constant push and pull – two steps forward, three steps back. Your mindset guides your physical results.

“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Alexander Den Heijer

I am a cop…

It’s not what a hard call does to you on scene, but what it does to you after that is so haunting. It’s not the dispatcher relaying traumatizing information over the radio that gets your adrenaline going, it’s the quick files your brain ruffles through to wrap your mind around what the scenario really may be. Is this a false alarm or is this the real deal? It’s not the fact that you are hyper aware of your duty weapon in its secured position on your hip that alarms you, but rather the realization that had things not become controlled, you might have to play judge and jury with a single squeeze of your trigger finger someday. No, it’s not an “in the moment” reaction that keeps you up at night, it’s the brutal reality of the fragility of life that will scream through your sleep deprived mind.

I’m a cop. A police officer. A peace keeper. A sheepdog. A mediator. A crisis counselor. An enforcer of the law. A pig. You choose the adjective based on your perception of my job description. I hold a position in which the general population and local community determine my job description on a minute by minute basis. Actually…I hold a position that has no precise description of the deployment of my duties. I answer calls for service. Anything from a stray kitten running at large to a beaten down woman who vexed her husband for asking too many questions. How do you put that into a 150 word job description? I’m still trying to find a way to sell that.

You don’t see commercials during “Bachelors in Paradise” breaks that playfully endorse a career path in law enforcement. It’s not sold to the digital consumer like an online degree to DeVry University. I guarantee that if a commercial was made with the same selling points of an online degree program, local police departments would have people lined up outside their key padded doors seeking employment to “explore their potential.” You can’t sell sacrifice to a digital consumer, because any sane person would understand that sacrifice does not guarantee security.

I’m a rookie still at this point in my career. I work for a medium-sized police department. Double digits of sworn officers feels like a gift compared to PD’s that have only 3 sworn, yet a curse to the vastness of NYPD – but as business runs, supply and demand. Perhaps the true reason I have finally decided to put my thoughts, emotions and feelings about this job in a post is because it’s January 15 and we have already had 6 line of duty deaths and countless other attempts. 2 weeks into 2019 and 6 cops dead.

So instead of emptying a bottle of Jack or sucking on Newport’s like they’re going out of style, I write. I’m up at 11:55 p.m. at night with alarms set for 5:00 a.m. with things to do, writing because sleep plays an elusive thief again. I chase thieves for a living so I guess I can add sleep’s name to the list of others on warrants I need to swear out.

It’s little things, like my sister, who is out late with her friends. She’s 21 and unencumbered by quite a few vexing realities I store in my sack of shitty realizations I tote around. I’ll call her two more times before I attempt sleep because the first time she told me she was “fine” and that she will “be home soon” isn’t clarifying enough. “Fine” is too vague and “be home soon” determines no timeline for me. I’m still up because a few months ago around this time at night I was listening to a twenty something year old man scream for his mother while he bled from a compound fracture of his femur. His head grotesquely laying over the console of his car is an image seared in my brain. The woman that hit him pacing like a caged tiger looking for an escape, using her two still functioning legs to walk around.

My sister is 21 and I know that could have been her screaming for help while strangers struggle to stabilize traumatic injuries. It wasn’t her, but as I’ve already come to realize, cruelty knows not one certain type of victim. Cruelty plays roulette with life, except that it will never know the chambered bullet itself.

That call was the first time I felt haunted. Blood, screaming, moaning – all things that only belong in the most grotesque imaginations of twisted Hollywood directors. I can only be thankful for the primal backslide of brain function that robotically performed my job duties in that moment the way I was trained. Render aid, gather statements, assist other officers, standby while roadway was cleared. Moving through a muddle of human emotion from bystanders and witnesses I did what I was trained to do. I stand firm in pride that even in the most horrific incidences I have yet to prove that I cannot resort to training mode.

It was after I left the scene that my training mode switched off and I resurfaced. “What the hell!?” I screamed and hit my steering wheel. I drove around the rest of the shift lost in my complete inability to process through what I had seen. Humans aren’t meant to see shit like that. We aren’t meant to watch others suffer and walk away unaffected. That’s what the Japanese are designing robots to do. A few hours later I walked up the stairs, put on a fake exhausted face to skate by the rest of my team with little interrogation about the nights events, clocked out and drove home. My fake exhaustion a sorry excuse to hide a haunted awareness of life’s fragility.

I woke up panicked four times the first night after that wreck. Three more days dragged by with little sleep and vivid nightmares. But it wasn’t the fact of what had occurred the night of the wreck that was hunting me down so intensely. It was the fact that the wreck could have been the reality for someone I love. A few more restless nights went by and I stopped losing sleep. I was fine. It sucked, but I got through it.

Then you get a phone call from your buddy. When they call you upset and you panic because you have no idea the context of their pain. They just had to drag a child out of a pool. The child didn’t make it. So you listen to their living nightmare they just experienced and you both console each other because that’s what you do. That’s the thin blue line. That balance beam you walk single file on until you have to turn and embrace the person behind you as they process their hard call. You both fail to understand why bad things happen to good people and you find yourself questioning much larger things beyond your earthly scope. And then they dry their tears, you tell them to call you if they need to talk and you move on.

Repetitive trauma to a part of the body can result in chronic pain or permanent disability. I’ve begun to wonder if that is the gaping jaws of a mental beast all officers are looking down. Will those calls, far between each other, but horrific enough to cause angst for several days after, eventually lead to a complete disability? The strangest part about playing with this mental fire is that something inside me tells me to push through. God doesn’t give burdens larger than you can handle.

I love this job. The adrenaline, the “select few” mentality – all keep me in it. I’ve found a work family of like-minded, determined individuals who want to put the bad ones away and bring the good ones justice. We have each others’ backs, and I know what it feels like to be a part of something much bigger than myself, truly. I’m driven and hopeful that I can be a lifeline for someone someday. My passion motivates me to get up early in the mornings, work exhausting swing shifts and spend holidays in front of a magistrate, because I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.

So I go back to posing the earlier proposition, how do you sell sacrifice to digital consumers? Oh hey Kaepernick, I guess I’ll let you handle that one.

The Harm in Setting Resolutions Without Reinforcing Goals

If you have not experienced it already, chances are, the New Year’s Resolution bug will begin to nip at your internal subconscious.  You will begin to feel a magnetic draw towards the enticing and endless possibilities of the “New Year, New Me” ideology.  My realization of the proximity of 2019 hit me the other day when I was working and had to utilize a January date to schedule something.  Other than the despairing thought of having to learn to write dates with a new number at the end, the new year can be full of fresh elation and potential.  

I have always had a disgruntled and negatively skeptical posture towards New Year’s resolutions.  My lack of desire to create personal resolutions is because of my appalling failures in past endeavors to “better” myself.  I have had “lose weight” on the top of my resolution list for at least eight years, but it was not until a very humid July of 2017 – over halfway through that year – that I finally put a pair of workout sneakers on and lamely attempted to change my situation.  The worst part of it all, starting the weight loss was not because of a New Year’s resolution more than a panicked reality of what I needed to do to get the job I wanted.  The disheartening part is that I sing the song of most, who have, like me, attempted to drive themselves full speed into a New Year with the best intentions and directives for their lives.  Narrowed tunnel vision towards a positive upturn in one’s life, that goes horribly wrong.  So why are resolutions so hard to keep?

Resolutions initiate a precept towards things that need to change.  They give us a strong sense of what needs to happen but fail to set up “bowling lane bumpers” to guide the trajectory of our actions.  So instead of swearing off all progressive means of changing with each new year, I have come up with a self-taught alternative that has instigated change throughout the year, while holding myself accurately accountable.  

I have organized advances I desire to see each year into four categories: Professional, Financial, Academic, and Personal.  Within each of those categories I list my resolutions.  Ultimately, resolutions are solutions to problems.  I assess what I see in my current lifestyle that are problems, and create a resolution to them.  But here is where things differentiate in my planning.  I give myself attainable goals within the resolutions.  

So you want to lose weight this year?  Great!  But generally saying you want to lose weight is useless without a mental “blueprint” guiding your steps.  Contractors do not get to job sites and say “Let’s build a house.” without having already laid out the steps necessary to produce the final results.  

Do I sound crazy yet?  Hang with me.  Within each generalized resolution comes the importance of breaking it down.  What steps are you going to take to achieve that goal?  As much as I despise cliches I will give nod to one.  “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  How do you resolve a problem?  One goal at a time.  I break goals into daily, weekly, monthly.  So if we are using the example of weight loss, the daily goal could be as simple as drinking 64 ounces of water, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, going to the gym and working out for 30 minutes.  The weekly goal builds on that with a little more muscle (pun intended) behind it.  Weekly goals towards weight loss become: meal prepping instead of drive through, getting six workouts in, losing 1 pound.  Monthly continues on with: losing one pant size, and/or running 3 miles without stopping.  What a lot of people tend to forget is that the daily goals, add up to meet the weekly goals, which build on the monthly goals, which launch you straight into your yearly goals.  Being consistent in your daily goals produce the results in your yearly goals. 

Resolutions overall, as much as I have historically avoided them, are not without good intentions.  They become harmful when one fails to reinforce them with attainable goals and objectives.  Goals create a healthy mentality of persistence in adversity.  They create relatable and encouraging methods in which one can guide themselves.  They create mile markers on your “journey” to the resolution.  


When Songbirds Stop Singing

I was scrolling through my blog site the other evening reminiscing about the hours I used to spend bleeding out my heart onto this digital substitute of a notebook. The days I used to carefully plan out and constitute blog posts to share and involve my readers in, and the times I introduced myself as “Beth” quickly followed by my ironic self-descriptors “blogger” “writer” “consumer of words”. I lived for the niche moments in which I could intimately evolve myself over word play. Challenging myself to write creatively was almost as easy as taking my next breath – I didn’t have to tell my body to do it, because it was already established memory.

But somewhere last year the words I so badly wanted to leave my heart stayed trapped inside. They were screaming to be let out and I was petitioning myself to seek out joy in writing again but I felt the powerful words weaken inside of me with each suffocating plea for their release. It went from a devolving laziness one day to a desperate shut of my laptop lid when the words refused to come.

Don’t get me wrong – I still write. In fact as a police officer, writing is nearly 90% of my job description. But no longer do I seek out adjectives to liven up a re-telling of a story. No…I copy and paste a vernacular based solely on the verbatim re-play of an incident from emotionally heightened individuals. It is a strange day when a previous creative writer is completely outdone when writing down a horrific circumstance that happened to someone. “And then what happened?” is no longer a stimulating question daring my creativity to appear, but rather a chance for me to collect my scattered thoughts as I listen to another human tell me their version of reality that is so often twisted and skewed I can’t fully comprehend it. I could have never drummed up a story like that if I was offered a blank check and a pen to write it.

So here I am, craving an intervention with myself. Begging myself to seek out therapy with my writing – feeling on the verge of divorcing my previous creative life all together because “I don’t recognize her anymore.”

I have a deep ache inside of me that misses the old, the familiar, the comfortable. I know writing always healing beyond comprehensible measures to my soul but there’s something terrifying in admitting to yourself that it’s going to be hard. Just like a therapist scrambling to save a marriage “it requires work”, “it won’t be easy”, “you have to keep the flame alive”.

So I can only imagine it comes down to this tragically sobering realization. Somewhere last year I stopped writing – the way I loved to write anyway. I gave up on working towards anything with my writing and in the long run have run into a brick wall of remorse and sadness. So here I am, a wobbling infant deer, trying to familiarize itself with new legs attempting to find myself in words again. Because I can only imagine if a songbird would stop singing altogether, the thing it knows how to do best, it would find itself in a horribly miserable existence.

Hope and A Future

In pursuit of intentional transparency with people, I thought I would take a few moments to write about some intense life course changes that have happened over the past few weeks.  First off, God has shown up in ways I would have never imagined.  God’s hand has been guiding this exponential transition in my life to a purpose greater than my own plans.  If you have kept up with my blog recently, I have written about being rutted in a post-graduation ditch where jobs, emotions, and events were refusing to fit together in a neat little package.  I was forcing things where they should not have been forced and resting my hope and future in my own plans as a substitute for God’s. I will forever treasure the way God decidedly wiped my plans off the table and replaced them with His own blueprints.  I’m learning that within submission to God, there is so much grace and love.

To rewind a bit and get you on the same page you will need some back story information.  About three and a half weeks ago, I was called by a company (not within my major) regarding a job interview.  I went in, with a dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing that this job was not going to be fruitful and was only going to provide me with a paycheck.  I went anyway and was determined to show face and see what the company was about.  After a 15 minute interview, being told my resume was irrelevant and hearing about how hiring me would only get my supervisor bigger paychecks, I walked out feeling dejected.  I felt like my major had betrayed me, the hard work I had put in the past three years academically meant nothing, and that my future was not looking bright.  I cried the whole way home and was beyond frustrated.  I had cancelled a mission trip to London a week and a half prior because of uncertainty and overall fear for my future.  I felt that God had been calling me to London earlier this year, and felt in June that God was telling me “No more London” and I had absolutely no rational idea why.  But between my fear and acting out of obedience I cancelled my trip to London.  At this point, I was feeling absolutely low.  So here I am, bad interview, no future travel plans to look forward to, no job and no hints of any big waves on the horizon.

Long story short, That afternoon I called into a company nearby and inquired if they were hiring.  After they informed me they were indeed hiring for a part-time position I applied and prayed fervently that this was within God’s plan.  On the way home I stopped by a local police department and asked if they had any non-sworn officer positions open, they did not, but instead of turning me away discouragingly, the secretary told me that there was a local community college still enrolling students for their Basic Law Enforcement Training School (BLET).  Without hesitation, I applied, I told God that if this was what He wanted me to do to make it abundantly clear to me because I was tired of a foggy future.  Be careful for what you pray for dear Reader because when you move within God’s will, things happen – big things.  I was accepted into the school and received the job offer for the part time position all within 3 days.  I was completely overwhelmed and emotional.  For the first time, in three and a half months, I had a new goal to work towards.  But the story doesn’t stop here my friends.

I was determined to fund my way through BLET.  With under $900 in my savings account and about $1,500 worth of clothing, background checks, textbooks, doctor’s appointments I found myself petitioning God to yet again provide the means necessary.   If God was going to call me to wipe out my savings account to get through this school then I was going to do it, but oh did I long for another alternative.  A week ago I received a check.  Remember that London trip I begrudgingly gave up earlier this summer for unknown reasons?  I had been reimbursed a certain percentage of the flight tickets that I had not used.  Without monetary details, I will tell you that it completely covered the rest of the costs for BLET with minimal savings withdrawals!

I do want to delve into some valuable lessons learned in the past few weeks.

  1. God does not leave us in a desert without provision.  During the sermon this past Sunday from my church, the pastor said something that resonated deeply within my soul. “What if that desert of darkness is actually a valley of resources to equip you to break down your strongholds?”  Often times, when I have struggled in a season of life, I refuse to look at how the pain and frustration could benefit me.  I can’t see God in the tangle of it all.  But those moments, when we can’t see the forest for the trees anymore, are the moments God uses that strife to strengthen us – so we can learn to build resistance against those pressures.
  2. God will exponentially blow your mind when you move within His plan.  Nowhere in a million years would I have ever thought that God was going to orchestrate the entire process of both the job and BLET to work out perfectly.  My underestimation of Him proved to be the moment where He decided to not only prove me wrong, but to show up in ways I could only dream of.  I love these moments when within our relationship with Him we count it impossible.  I like to think that God is up there looking at us saying, “Oh you think that’s impossible?  You’re cute.  Now watch this.”  I like to think He takes these opportunities to blow our minds because of our reactions.  The dumbfounded state I have been existing in the last week I am sure has provided God with a little light “I told you so” moments.
  3. Show up to the fight, knowing you won’t have to.  This was another key highlight from the sermon this past Sunday.  It further solidified the fact that when one stays hemmed inside of God’s will, the hard work is done by God.  2 Chronicles 20:15 says: “…Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”  I think the beauty within this verse is not in the fact that God fights these battles in our stead, but that even though they aren’t ours, we still need to train and prepare for them as intensely as if we were on the frontline (refer back to point 1 about being equipped in the deserts)

Dear friends, I don’t know what season of life you are walking through right now.  But I do want to share how God has moved in mine.  I think more often than not we don’t share the astounding things God is doing and has done and we miss great opportunities to encourage others.  If you are struggling right now or finding yourself in a foggy season, I can assure you that my fog has lifted and that there is hope and a future on the other side of uncertainty and chaos.

Not My Calling…

I received an email the other day from a legal department I wanted to work for so bad I thought my heart would rip apart.  This particular email only added to the growing list of rejection letters stating that “while the choices were difficult, we decided to go with another candidate”.  Nothing makes you feel lower than a “thanks, but no thanks” kind of email to kick off your Monday morning.

This job, sans explicit details, felt like the perfect path to start working towards my dream career.  I would have been working with the particular group of people I want to work with while gaining a deep level of understanding to help bring justice to people who had been victimized.  This is what God has called me to do.  This was right.  The interview had gone wonderfully.  I got along with the interviewers extremely well, we were synchronized and excited the whole time.  Even in my limited interviewing experience, it felt so, completely right.  I left the interview practically floating on cloud nine, thanking God the whole drive home for putting this job in my path and for helping me nail the interview (pride comes before the fall).  I was told to wait two weeks to hear back from them regarding their decisions, one way or the other.  For two weeks, I balanced on the tipping point of crazed excitement and impatient insanity.  I just knew God would not have put this opportunity in my path if it wasn’t mine for the taking.  I mean how many other people would have been called to this career path the way I had been?  (I really hope at this point in the post you are reading this with the heavy sarcasm I am trying to emphasize.  The irony and truth of it all still stings though.)

After two and a half weeks had passed, my hopes waned and my enthusiasm found itself barely living.  I went to the opposite of extreme excitement and found myself anxious, frustrated and somewhat angry.  I was supposed to do this…duh…so why would God be making me wait so long?

Three and a half weeks after the interview, I received “the email”.  The one that totally takes your breath out of your lungs, puts knots in your stomach, and causes your eyes to brim with tears you refuse to spill.  I didn’t get the position.  I was dumbfounded, I stormed around the house for about an hour getting mad at everything, finding myself wrapped up and overthinking every answer I gave them in the interview, wondering what I had done so horribly wrong to cause them to say no to me.  After the storming came the anger at the person who had received what I had wanted so badly.  God called ME to this, not them, ME!  I remember that deep stirring in my heart when God began to orchestrate things so powerfully that he redirected everything I thought I was supposed to do into what He wanted me to do.  At least I thought I had heard Him when He told me to follow this career path.  God is not a God of confusion or chaos, but here I was grasping at straws completely baffled.  After about a week of pure frustration, I gave up.  I was tired of being a brat to God.  I was just tired of not knowing why it had not worked out.

Scrolling through Facebook last night, I came across a video that literally had nothing to do with what I was going through, but God used it to speak right to the anger, frustration and hurt.  “I didn’t call you to that job, because I called them.”  In the midst of my pride and the fall that ensued, I had completely become wrapped up in myself and my wounded ego.  I had never, for one second, stopped to think that maybe God hadn’t put me in that position because I wasn’t the right fit.  I was qualified on paper, but God saw something I hadn’t.  Someone else in the picture besides myself.  After God dropped the mic on my selfish attitude, my perspective on the matter changed.  I was no longer offended.  I prayed for that person that had been offered that position, that they would do the job better than I could have ever imagined.  I prayed that they would see that group of people like God wants them to be seen. I prayed that their heart would not grow weary and they would fight everyday for justice.  And I prayed that if they didn’t know God, that they would find Him moving in their lives in unbelievable ways.

Every email I have received since then, denying me an offer of employment, I have humbled myself before God, setting aside the hurt and confusion and asked for the person who had been placed in that position to pursue it more passionately than I could have.  Because God calls each of us to things in our lives that will not only better ourselves but further His Kingdom as well.  I hope that you will see as well, that when God shuts a door on us, He isn’t shutting a door in His Kingdom.  He is using someone else to further it and grow it exponentially just as He will use us to grow His Kingdom in ways only we can.  Until then wait, pray and humble yourself.

Give me a W….Give me an E….Give me an A…Give me a K….What does that spell?!

By Erin Sands

It’s hard being a woman these days. We live in a generation of perfection. Pinterest helps with beautiful decor, delicious meals, and cute outfits. Side note…Do you know you can type in outfit for game night and it gives you ideas?!? Amazing. Facebook gives us an avenue to highlight the perfect things we did or how #blessed our lives are. Instagram allows us to receive praise for arranging our food pretty on a plate or showcasing how wonderful everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is. Now don’t get the wrong idea. I am a big fan of all 3 of those forms of social media! Pinterest has saved my life a time or three million. I love posting thoughts and ideas on Facebook and Instagram. So this isn’t a post where I am going to tell you how bad those are. But what I am going to tell you is how rotten the human heart is.

Your heart, like mine, is focused on self. We want people to think we have it all together. We convince ourselves that we have it all together or at least that we are doing the best we can. We make much of the little great while trying to bury the parts of us that are messy and ugly to the eye.

We want to make much of us. That is our first mistake. Our lives are not given to us to highlight the impressive feats we accomplish. We want people to praise us and honor us and find value in the things we say and do. We want people to like us. This life isn’t and never should be about us. Our lives were bought with a price and are given to us with the sole purpose of glorifying God and making Him famous. Everything we say and do should point to One. The One. The only One.

Once we start to recognize and submit to the fact that our lives are meant to glorify God then we can quit making mistake number 2…boasting in the things we do well and hiding those that aren’t.  We, as people with faulty hearts, think that we should only showcase the great things we do. However the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 11:30 that “if I must boast, I will boast in the things that show my weakness.” How often do we sit down to post the 32 ounces of cereal our 2 year old defiantly poured on the floor? Or the days, plural, that we don’t take a shower or fix ourselves because we are busy pouring ourselves into others? How about the moments where we are completely depleted needing the Lord to fill us to overflowing so we can continue with our marching orders? No friends. We never highlight those moments because we don’t want to be seen as weak, or dependent, or needy.

But sisters I am here to tell you that real women of the Lord are weak. They are dependent. They are needy. And not only do they recognize themselves to be this way…they spotlight it. We can say, because of our hope in the Lord and our belief that His word is true, that we boast and delight in the things that make us weak.

For me personally the Lord has been preaching this to my heart over and over again for the last 7 months. And when I read this verse again last week, He was sweetly reminding me of it again because y’all my life…let me just tell you a little about it. I am a full time working, pastor’s wife and a momma to 4 kids. So from the get go I am needy for some Jesus. A whole lot of Jesus actually. And I think sometimes people question our sanity with the decisions that we make. One decision we made that is about to come to fruition is hosting an international student. My husband Josh and I felt the Lord asking us to open our home to a 14 year old Chinese student who will be studying at our school the next 4 years. We said yes adding more CRAZY to our life that already causes eye rolling and staring. One day driving home from Charlotte I told Josh, you know people think that we are crazy for allowing Zoe to live in our home. They think we already have enough chaos why in the world would we want to add more. But I felt the Lord saying to me, Zoe will make you desperate for me. Having 5 kids will cause you to need me like never before and that is why I want you to say yes. So come August 8, I’ll be leaning into Jesus even more. I will be pressing in so close to Him you may not be able to see where He ends and I begin. And that’s ok because I was made to need Him. To be desperate for Him and who He is. And I’m not only going to lean into Him but I want to boast about how crazy things are to spotlight how only He can bring the peace to stay sane in the madness. How only Jesus can bring comfort to my anxious heart. To boast, I have to trust Him enough to show the world my messy, unorganized, weak, needy self completely reliant on Him.

Gals, I’m here to tell you this won’t be easy. Nothing of God’s kingdom is, but it does bring freedom and Life! The first couple of times you verbally tell someone I am a mess and I can’t do this, BUT with Jesus I know I can do all things, you might cry ugly tears. You will be broken and my friends that IS beautiful. In those moments Jesus is able to shine girl, like never before! You will become vulnerable yet relatable. You will become a safe place where others can experience freedom in not being enough, helping them see that with Jesus they have all they need. So to all of my Jesus loving sisters out there, let’s stop boasting in ourselves and our accomplishments. Let’s take a deep breath, grab our big girl panties, and ask the Lord to show us where we can boast in our weakness to make much of Him. And let’s watch how the Lord becomes more precious to us as we find His strength to always be enough.

The Prenotion of Complexity in Prayers

I want to talk about prayer for a second, because I have this wildly, insane prenotion that I am severely under qualified for prayer.  The fact that I just declared it as a wildly, insane prenotion clarifies that I know how off kilter I am in my thinking.  So why, every time that I have started to pray, have I backed off suddenly feeling unworthy of conversations with my Father?   I allow my self-perceived smallness to keep a safeguard gap between me and God.  Before going further, after some heavy soul-searching and Bible reading, I believe that understanding the smallness of ourselves in comparison to the vastness of God is important, in fact it can keep us humbled and in consistent awe of His Kingdom.

Understanding our flawed, human smallness, in relation to Christ’s Kingship, keeps us in a mindset of willing servitude, instead of dwelling in a concept of god-like self-elevation.  

This week I’ve been wrestling with my historic travesty in approaching prayer.  I truly sought out answers and solutions to break down my barriers of conversations with God.  I don’t struggle in my earthly relationships to find conversation, so why am I not trying to improve my conversational skills with God.  After much wrestling and God sized break throughs, I wrote down five excuses I find myself making when I approach prayer.  After Socratic-ally discussing prayer with some friends, I found that some of my excuses were not burdens I was carrying alone.

What a comfort it is when we become real with each other and discover some of our burdens are shared – to know that others out there struggle the same way we do. That this journey called faith is not a perfect path.  

The first excuse I find myself making is: “If I pray, God will challenge me and I’m not ready for that.”  This is such an ironic discord in my personal makeup, because I desire for things, people and topics to challenge my thinking and actions.  I want to change and grow stronger, but I hesitate when I realize that prayer could and will most likely cause me to take pause to current events and change them.  I believe that this runs deeply personal because I have asked for God to challenge and strengthen me in areas I feel are weak, but when He starts to put the pressure on for change to happen, I buck.  I recently started attending a Martial Arts gym (I swear this relates).  In fact, right before my first weight-lifting class I was thoroughly excited and pumped (pun intended) to start down this new fitness journey.  The next day after the weight-lifting class, I cried the entire way home.  I knew in my head that I was severely lacking in areas of fitness, but when the trainer pushed me to my max and forced my body to recognize it’s inadequacies, everything become very real.  Only by the strength of God did I drag myself to the next day’s kickboxing class and here we are seven weeks later.  I still dread how sore my body is after the gym, but I am seeing physical results from the excruciating amounts of work I put in – it’s paying off and I feel stronger, healthier, and more excited about fitness than I have been in awhile.  This is how I imagine God views our requests to be tested and grown.  He already knows how inadequately weak we are.

Just like my trainer had to bring me to the critical point of absolute muscle exhaustion, God has to bring us to a point of spiritual exhaustion for us to recognize that the realization of our weakness needs to go beyond head knowledge.  Only from there can God add additional weights that will eventually produce spiritual results that will blow our minds.  

My second excuse sings the song of self-inflated ego informing myself that: “I’m benefitting God by talking to Him and giving Him my attention when I have the time.” I really scoffed at this attitude I bear and despise the realization that this is a hindrance in my prayer life.  I don’t think I could offer anything to God that He would not be able to provide Himself.  I think another realization came in that God doesn’t wait around.  He isn’t holding His breath waiting for me to spend time with Him.  He will move when He wants, where He wants whether or not I am on board.  And I hope for goodness sake that I stay within His movements, because when He moves, amazing things occur.

“I pray because I can’t help myself.  I pray because I’m helpless.  I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping.  It does not change God – it changes me.” – C.S. Lewis     

My third excuse wins an award for “lamest excuse ever”.  “But I can’t concentrate.”  I know two people in my life that when they talk you can’t separate what is prayer from what is conversation.  Their inclination for prayer is so commanding that their conversations are prayers to God.  Having conversations with these two people are probably the most intriguing and powerful feelings I have ever experienced.  They aren’t particularly concentrating on the fact that saying a prayer is a separate event, but rather leading the conversations into periods of prayer.

I believe that is what God desires prayer to be – nothing more than a conversation so natural there is no distinction in the transitions between conversing and prayer.

My fourth excuse smells of lacking trust and frustration in timing (another finger pointing at my control issues if you read the previous post).  “I’ve never heard Him answer.”  I allow my lack of trust in His movements to cancel my actions of patience to wait for Him to move.  My concept of conversation in earthly context versus conversation with God transfer over too much causing a disruptive ideal.  In a normal conversation a person is immediate in their response or acknowledges somehow they have heard you.  I’ve discovered time and time again that prayer isn’t always like that.  The longevity of my requests to God, to the time when they are answered causes me to doubt His abilities.  It made me cringe earlier this week when I wrote this excuse down, because it hurt me to think that my lack of trust runs so deep it quite possibly has cracked and uprooted my foundation in Christ.  I think this is probably one of the deepest and heaviest burdens I maintain everyday.  I allow my lack of trust to not only keep people at arm’s length, but also to keep God there too.  When talking to my friends, this echoed among the group.  We all had a lack of trust or peace that He does hear us and that He does acknowledge our requests, whether or not they are answered with immediacy.  I believe that God uses these faulty trusting faculties in our brains to exponentially prove to us that He is more than capable.  I think of things in very visual ways, and can only imagine it’s like asking a baby who can stand with support to run a 5k.  I hope you laughed because that would probably be the dumbest request ever.  The baby’s legs are most definitely unable to provide the strength and endurance needed to run a 5k.  So when I ask God for something and don’t get that thing right away, not only do I sound like a brat to Him when I whine, but I also probably look pretty ridiculous.  I probably look like an infant trying to run a 5k.

Just because He can do it immediately, doesn’t mean He will do it immediately.

The fifth excuse I waive around is a pity party I throw for myself.  “I don’t pray as beautifully as others.” I rolled my eyes as I typed that because how many more violins can I put in my pity orchestra?  Another human struck by the comparison game induced by a culture of unhealthy competition.  Another excuse that baffles me.  I’m going to peel back another layer of my psyche for a vulnerable minute and reveal that I think mistakes (for the most part) are endearing.  Especially when they come from people I strongly admire.  Watching someone who is seemingly perfect make a small mistake serves to be a beautiful little reminder that they are not so different than I am.  No, I don’t rejoice when people mess up, I just think it can be the nudge that keeps us human with one another.

“Our prayers may be awkward.  Our attempts may be feeble.  But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado  

I’ve made prayer more complex than it was ever designed to be.  If I approached earthly conversations with the same hesitations as I approached conversations with God, I would be sitting at home with no friends and no hope for interactions.  So I can’t question why I struggle so hard in my relationship with Christ sometimes when I lack the conversational pieces to strive towards a deeper connection with Him.  After reflecting this week on these excuses, I humbly entered prayer with a totally different attitude.  I acknowledged my smallness in His presence and admitted the excuses I have been making to avoid prayer for weeks/months/years.  I hope this post serves to be a vulnerable revelation that from one human to another, I struggle everyday in my relationship with Christ.  It takes work, dedication and commitment that I hate to admit, often times I lack.  As stated above, I feel that the more real and vulnerable we become with each other, the more we can come up alongside each other and support and walk through this journey of faith together.