October 18, 2015

Empathy vs Sympathy

For the longest time I didn't realize there even WAS a difference between sympathy and empathy, but over the past several years, I have come to realize the difference. To me, sympathy is really somebody feeling sorry for somebody else. They don't necessarily understand what the other person is going through or maybe they just don't really care that much. Maybe they just feel bad because that is how they are supposed to feel. Empathy is completely different. To me, empathy is something that you feel WITH the other person. You share their pain and maybe even have experienced something similar to what they are going through.

I had a miscarriage six years ago this week. That was a really hard time for me. A miscarriage is different than the death of an older loved one. To me, it was more personal. It was a private pain that I didn't think most people really understood. I had a lot of people telling me how sorry they were for me and yada yada yada. That was very uncomfortable for me. The people (women) that helped me feel a little bit better were the ones that had been there before. It was still a private pain, but knowing that I wasn't alone, made it a little bit better. The same thing goes with other situations: divorce, loss of a child, loss of a parent, terminal illnesses, etc.

I honestly believe that the best comfort comes from somebody who has been there. When I was going through my divorce, I had a few ladies in my church who had been through the same thing. Those ladies helped me out SO MUCH! I am forever grateful to them. I was able to talk to them about what I was going through, and they were able to say “yep, I've been there. I remember what that was like. Here's part of my story. Here's what I did.” That sort of thing. Just having somebody there who understood helped so much. Other people who tried to help that I didn't know well and didn't understand the situation, didn't help any.

I was just talking to a friend about this very thing, and she said that it probably bothered me when people tried to sympathize with me because I do not need the validation. She said some people need that validation so they are constantly trying to find somebody who will feel sorry for them (sympathy). They aren't necessarily looking for somebody to help them. They just need somebody to basically tell them they are right. That thought struck me because I had never thought about it like that before. I've been there. I used to not like myself at all. I felt like I was worthless, and I attracted people who fed on that. That is how I ended up in an abusive marriage. I didn't feel like I was worthy of a good person. He came along and validated that feeling for me. He assured me, indirectly, that I wasn't worthy. In fact, he made me feel like I was worthless. Everything was my fault, and I believed him.

Here's the good part. After I left him and started seeking God and listening to godly counsel from people I trusted, I have learned my real worth. I no longer feel the need to be validated by other people. My value comes from God alone. God made me how I am, and He loves me unconditionally. He knows I will mess up, but He loves me anyway. He wants what is best for me. Heck! He sent His son to DIE for me. Now, if that isn't love, I have no idea what is. I thought I knew love before, but it wasn't. The Bible says, in 1st Corinthians 13, that “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Let's break this down.

Love is patient. What does this mean? What does it look like? What is patience? We always talk about needing patience. I ask God for patience when dealing with my son some days. I think patience is being able/willing to wait on somebody else without getting irritated or angry. When we lose our patience with another person, we usually get irritated with them. I think having patience is being able to remember that the other person is only human too and maybe looking past your own perspective about them and seeing them the way God does.

Love is kind. I think this one seems pretty self-explanatory. Being kind is the opposite of being mean. Being kind with someone means you are patient with them when they are struggling with something, when they disappoint you.

It does not envy. Webster's dictionary says that to envy means to “begrudge”. You want something that is not yours to have. This could be anything. It could be a person that is not your spouse/significant other. It could be a car, a house, another job, etc. It's more than that though. I think envy is more when that want for something else starts to consume you. Wanting something more or different from what you have is fine, but when it consumes you, there is a problem there.

It does not boast. Another almost self-explanatory term. To boast is to basically brag about your accomplishments. You compare yourself to others to try to make yourself sound better than them or make yourself feel better.

It is not proud. This goes along with the boasting. Prideful people are stuck on themselves. They don't necessarily care about anybody else.

It is not rude. When you are rude to people, you are mean to them. A lot of the times, people that are rude to others are ones that are very prideful.

It is not self-seeking. Selfish. Somebody that is not self-seeking would be somebody who looks out for the interest of others before themselves. They prioritize others above their own needs or wants. Often times in relationships, this comes as compromise. Each person gives up a little of their want so that both people can come to an agreement.

It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Somebody that is easily angered is a hot head, and I'm pretty sure nobody likes being around people like that. Keeping no record of wrongs means not bringing up the other person's past faults and failures.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. They want to do the right thing and strive to be honest and truthful.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love protects the other person from harm. This isn't just physically. This also means protecting the other person from people who want to hurt them emotionally. Love protects them from negative influences and strives to build them up. Love always trusts means that even when you don't understand why the other person is doing something, you trust that they are doing it for the right reason. You trust that they won't purposely hurt you. Love hopes for the future, for better times. Love always perseveres means that no matter what you go through with the other person, you are there for them, and they are there for you.

This passage is one I've heard probably a few hundred times, but it's not one that I have really taken to heart or applied to myself or those around me. I didn't know what love was supposed to look like until fairly recently. Those above verses are a very good guideline of what to be to other people and what to expect from those you have relationships with. Right relationships will have these. No relationship is perfect, but they can be really good. The best relationships are the ones where each person puts the needs and wants of the other person above their own. Yes, there are times when you have to take care of yourself, but in general that's what it should be like. Just make sure the other person knows when you need to have time for yourself so they don't think you are angry with them.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for now. This has kind of turned out as more of a sermon than just a few thoughts. I wish you all relationships like this.

September 26, 2015

The one Thing I cannot live without

Yesterday at training we were told to name one thing we couldn't live without. I was lying here thinking about that, and I came to the conclusion that the one thing I really could not like without is my relationship with Jesus Christ. That is truly the only thing that I could not live without.

That got me thinking about when I was younger. Even before I was a Christian I knew He was there for me, and that gave me hope and a purpose. I often wonder how people live without that hope that comes from God. I imagine that if I didn't know God existed and cared about me when I was younger, I probably would not be here now. I thought about suicide when I was in grade school because, to me, life was unbearable. I hated going to school because I got picked on mercilessly by my classmates and ignored and rejected by the rest. My grade school years were extremely lonely. I remember pleading with God when I was younger, but never feeling that connection. I thank God He finally opened my eyes when I was almost 13. From then on, it's been an extremely rocky road, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have learned to trust God with a lot of things and really lean on Him for pretty much everything. I have learned what it feels like to be loved unconditionally and to feel close to the Creator of all things. Think about that! Can you imagine having an intimate relationship with the One who created everything? Really think about that. Doesn't that blow your mind and make you feel kinda giddy? It does me.

My hope is that everybody I know (and don't know) experiences God in a very real way; one they cannot deny. I didn't really experience that until about four years ago, and I've been a Christian for over half my life.

Father, reveal Yourself to those who are seeking, and to those who are hurting, may they feel Your presence and Your love and experience peace and joy that only comes from You. I love You, Father! Amen

September 12, 2015


I've always been interested in joy: the differences between joy and happiness, what it looks like, how you know you have it, etc. It is something I have been learning about for most of my life. I remember my pastor's wife talking about the differences between joy and happiness in youth group one night. I still remember what she said. She said happiness is based on circumstances, our situation, but joy is not. We can have joy no matter what we are going through. That is something I have thought a lot about, but I guess I still didn't really understand it. I don't think I really began to understand what joy was like until about four years ago.

Four years ago, I hit my rock bottom. What caused it is irrelevant to the point. To help you understand where I was at this point, let me try to paint a picture for you. Imagine being at the bottom of a well. It is pitch black. You can't even see your hand touching your face. Now, imagine feeling fear all around you. It is so real, you can literally feel it. I was at the point where I was afraid of everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. I was more depressed and hopeless than I had ever been before, and that says a lot because I dealt with depression for most of my life and had contemplated suicide several times before. It was a scary place to be, BUT here's the thing. I felt God there with me the whole time. I knew He was there for me. I knew He wanted me to just reach out my hand to Him in the darkness. Even though I could not see Him, I could feel Him so I reached out my hand into the darkness, and He grabbed hold of me and never let go. He started pulling me out of that pit. He put people into my life that came beside me and supported me and listened to me and let me know I was not alone. This brings tears to my eyes to write this because it means so much to me. I will forever be grateful to God and the people He put in my life during that time. It was during that time that God began showing me what joy was.

I really believe that joy is not what most people think it is. Joy is not dependent on anything or anyone. Joy comes from God. He gives it freely, but because we humans always like to do things our own way, we don't always experience it. We think our ways are better than His so we turn our backs on Him, and we walk away from joy. It doesn't make sense, but that's the way it is. I have turned my back on it and Him far more times than I would like to admit. It is literally a daily struggle to keep my focus on Him. Satan is bound and determined to take my focus off of God and put it on myself and my circumstances. Just yesterday I was sitting in my office at work, and all of a sudden, I just felt blah. That's the only word I can really use to describe it. It was like the joy had been sucked out of me, and I was just sitting there! I wasn't even really doing anything. I saw it for what it was though and decided I had better turn my focus back to where it belonged. The rest of the day went better. I don't know about any of you, but I find that it is usually shortly after I have experienced God face to face that Satan sneaks in and tries to steal my joy. I don't think he has failed once to attempt this. It's pretty predictable that he will try. I just never know when it will happen.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. What is joy? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Can anybody have joy? Where does it come from? :-) That last one is the easiest to answer. Lol I think I will answer that one first.

Joy comes from God. One of my favorite verses about joy is the one that talks about the fruits of the spirit. Galatians 5:22 reads “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” I know it doesn't say the “fruit of God”, BUT it does say the “fruit of the Spirit”, the Spirit being the Holy Spirit which is part of the holy trinity.... basically, the Holy Spirit is FROM God. Every good thing comes from God. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” So do we all agree that joy comes from God?

Next question: What does joy look like? This one is a little bit more difficult to answer. I believe that joy is easier to see in other people than to see in ourselves. We don't necessarily recognize it when we have it. It just IS. Joyful people to me are those that can have a genuine smile on their face in the midst of the most trying circumstances. To be able to praise God and help others while you yourself are experiencing something awful is definitely a sign of joy (and peace, but that's another topic). There are probably other things it looks like, but that is the main one I can think of right now.

What does joy feel like? Hmm. Another good question. Joy feels like excitement in the midst of difficult times. It doesn't really make sense that you should feel that excitement, but you do nonetheless. That excitement or joy is not coming from you; it is coming from God. It feels like being able to be thankful for what you have even if you don't have everything you want.

Another simple question: Can anybody have joy? The answer is YES! Absolutely yes! Anybody can have joy. The Bible says, “Ask and you will receive.” (Matthew 7:7) Receiving joy begins with asking for it. It may not be as simple to experience it as you'd like, but He will give it to you.

Last question: So what IS joy? Whew! That's actually a complex question. Joy is both simple and complex at the same time. Joy itself is simple but experiencing it can be quite the process. Joy is an amazing gift from God. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit which means that anybody who has a personal relationship with God can and should have joy. It is a bi-product of being saved. I'm not saying other people can't feel joy, but true joy comes from God. I'm also not saying that all Christians will necessarily feel joyful all the time. Life is hard, and there will always be times when we feel overwhelmed with things of this world, BUT we have a promise from Jesus: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace [or joy]. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I pray that you all experience peace and joy at some time in your lives.

September 10, 2015

Starts with Me

This was taken from a post I had on my Facebook page from August 4, 2015.

Starts With Me by Tim Timmons

I've been really struggling the past few days. ..maybe even longer. I want so desperately to feel close to God all the time, but I always feel like there is something that gets in the way. Even when I feel like I've made a breakthrough, I find myself falling flat on my face in no time, and then I feel horrible. I haven't slept well for most of the past few weeks. Not sure why. I started journaling again this weekend because I needed something to help me clear my head and sort through things and writing has always done that for me. Last night I woke up again about 11:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. I started getting hungry and then I started getting angry; really frustrated so I started writing. At about 1 o clock I finally finished. I am just so tired of holding myself back and not letting God use me the way He wants to because I am more scared of what people will think of me than I am about making God happy and doing what I really want to do. I've lived most of my life in fear over one thing or another, and I'm just plain tired of it. It actually breaks my heart. Why am I so worried about people and not about the One who means more to me than anything side? The Only One who has been with me through all the pain and heartache and tears. The One who gave me the strength to get up each morning and take care of my son because nobody else could or would. God has shown me so many things about myself over the past four years. He's shown me just how strong I really am. He's shown me how much He loves me and how He believes I am beautiful, and I'm finally starting to believe that. So why do I abandon him? Why do I pretend like he's not there and try to ignore the longing I have in my heart to worship Him with all of my being? I just want to live fearless and unashamed. I want my life to be lived with Him shining through me and shining brighter than me.
I was feeling pretty heavy this morning. I got in my car and this song was on the radio. I've loved this song since the first time I heard it because I really do want to change the world. I really do want to sing his song, but I also know that revival HAS to start with me. I can't change anybody else. I can't be a witness to others when I'm not following God the way I want or should. I know this song was God's way of showing me He is still here with me. He has not left me. I know I will get through this, and I know with all my heart that there are brighter days ahead for me. I know God is preparing me for something, and I want to be ready.
If you're going through a hard time right now, I want you to know that you are NOT alone. Even if everybody else abandons you, God never will. He has promised that He will never leave us or turn His back on us. Cry out to Him. Reach for Him. He's there. He's just waiting for you to make the first move, and He will welcome you with open arms. Revival always has to start from within.

A Yo-Yo

This original post was posted on my Facebook page on August 23, 2015

There are times I feel like a yo-yo. God has given me a tender and compassionate heart. I've known that for a long time. For the longest time, I fought it because with a tender heart, you tend to experience more pain and brokenness, and not just your own. When other people are hurting, you hurt, but on the flip side when other people are rejoicing, so do you.
A couple years ago I went on a mission trip to Mexico. While I was there I realized that my heart had become cold and calloused. It bothered me. I asked some friends to pray for me that my heart would be softened. Within a couple days or less, I could feel God softening my heart. I have come to realize over the past couple years that it's only when I focus on God that my heart will remain soft. I still find myself getting hardened a lot. I admit it. I'll be going about my day, thinking it's going well, and then something happens, and my reaction is not what it should be. I admit that there are times when my reaction to bad things happening to others is that they deserved it, and I do NOT like that reaction. That is NOT how somebody who follows Christ should feel. Jesus never felt that way about anybody. Why should I? My pride gets in the way a lot. A lot of people don't realize that about me because I usually keep my mouth shut, but if they knew what was going on in my mind.... They probably wouldn't like me very well. I struggle with this a lot. Sometimes it's daily and sometimes it is minute by minute. God revealed something to me awhile back, and I have felt for awhile that I should share it.
As many of you know, I was in a car accident when I was 13. I ended up with a lot of scars. I was laying in bed one night, when I noticed one of the scars on my arm. I felt God telling me basically that scars are a sign that you have healed. Scars are soft and sensitive. Mine are more sensitive than the rest of my skin, and I imagine that's the way it is for all people. He explained to me that scars are a way to know something healed properly. When we are hurt emotionally and mentally, scars are a way to remind us that we are healed. Maybe that means that we were able to forgive someone, etc, but we are still healed, we are still soft and not hardened. We still FEEL. 
Now, callouses on the other hand are hard, and you can't really feel much through them. They come from constant friction against your skin. They are your body's way of protecting what is underneath. It is so easy for us to become calloused by things going on around us and to us, but God doesn't want us to be calloused, He wants us to be soft and moldable. He wants us to feel what He feels. I look at my scars, inside and out, and I see what God has brought me through. I have experienced a lot of pain, physically, emotionally, mentally... But God has brought me through all of that, and I am a better person now because of all that, and I know God has a purpose for my life.
Jesus, make me more like You. Continue to make my heart more like Yours. Break my heart for what breaks Yours. Open my eyes to the pain that these people feel; the ones that I judge and have hardened my heart to. Give me compassion for those that are not easy to love. I pray that I will look past their outward appearance and see their hearts and the hurt that they feel. I pray that I will be a light in the darkness, that when people see me, they are drawn to you, Father. Break me, Father; break away all of my pride. Amen.

Outta My Mind

This original post was posted on my Facebook page on August 27, 2015.

Outta My Mind by Anthem Lights

This song has been popping up a lot lately. It fits so well with what I've been thinking. I don't know about any of you, but I tend to spend a lot of time psyching myself out. I think so much about any given thing that I freak myself out. I keep thinking to myself I gotta get out of my own head. I have to repeatedly remind myself that God is in control, and that He knows what He's doing, but there are times when it is so difficult to look past my current situation.
This song also reminds me of a Bible verse. 2 Corinthians 5:13: "If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you." I ran across this verse many years ago. When I first found it, I jokingly told my friends, it gave us permission to be weird. In reality it is talking about how the world views us Christians. We are told in the Bible that we are not of this world. This is not our permanent home. We should live like this is not our home. If we are truly living for Christ, we should be living differently from the rest of the world. They should look at us and wonder what is different in us; they should see a light in us that they don't see in the world. I think back on Jesus and all of His disciples, and it brings a smile to my face thinking how some people thought they were crazy. That is what this verse is talking about. I want my life to be like that too. I want to follow Jesus so closely that people think I'm crazy or "radical".
Father, I pray that I will always be able to keep my focus on You and not the things of this world. Let Your light shine through me to those around me. I pray that when people see me, they see hope; hope that comes only from You. Continue to use me as an encourager. Amen

Strangely Dim

I love it when God speaks to me, and it's usually through music. Yesterday morning I heard a song on the radio (Strangely Dim by Francesca Battistelli). When it came to the chorus, I started tearing up. I couldn't figure out why. Didn't think too much of it. Today on my way home from work, the same song came on the radio, and I started tearing up again when it came to the chorus. Still not sure why, but I figured God was trying to get my attention.
Over the past several weeks, I've really been trying to put my focus on God. It's been a real struggle. I've had complications at work that were totally out of my control; this past week I've been sick but still went to work because you gotta do what you gotta do. I know that this past week especially I have taken my eyes off God. I've been focusing on the fact that I'm sick and still have to work and take care of Jabin. It's so easy to throw a pity party for yourself when stuff like that happens, but we shouldn't. After hearing this song over the past couple days, I realized that's what I had been doing. When we focus on God like we're supposed to, our perspective changes and things don't look quite so bad.
I am SO blessed. Even though I haven't felt the greatest, I've still been able to get out of bed in the mornings, and God has sustained me throughout the days while I've been at work. Each morning this week I woke up feeling a little better than the day before. That's a God thing. Sometimes God brings hard times into your life to show you what you can do with him or him through you. Whichever way you want to look at it. I know God has great things in store for me. Like I've said before, my desire is to help people, and I really look forward to seeing how he is going to use me. There are a lot of hurting people out there who are just looking for somebody to LISTEN to them, with their undivided attention. God, I want to be that kind of person. I know what it feels like to feel like nobody cares. I was at that point for most of my life. It is a lonely place to be. If you are there right now, I want you to know you are NOT alone.
Father, help me reach out to those who need to feel Your love. Amen

August 9, 2015

I'm still here. I promise

I had not realized it had been so long since I had written a new blog post. Almost a year. That is FAR too long. No wonder why I was feeling the itch to write again. lol  I'm still here though. I promise.  Last fall was such a challenging time for me. God slammed so many doors shut in my face, but He had to because I wouldn't have moved otherwise.  I can't believe it has been almost a year since our pastor left.  I still keep in touch with him from time to time, giving him updates on how we (my son and I) are doing.

Last fall was really a testing of my faith. God brought me through that really difficult time to see if I could really trust Him.  I THINK I passed.  I guess I probably did because He brought me to where I am now.  After many months of praying and looking for a new job, I found one. The story is actually a pretty cool story. I still remember it pretty vividly.

At the end of January, I saw an ad in the newspaper for a job with Head Start.  I had no idea what the job entailed, but I really felt God saying to apply for it so I got my resume all updated and sent it in. A week later I got a call for an interview.  A week after that, I had the interview. The interview in itself was pretty amazing. The conversation I had with the lady doing the interview just flowed. We connected right away.  By the end of the interview, I think we both felt pretty good about it.  She offered me the job on the spot, and I accepted. Then, we discussed my start date.  We both agreed that I would start March 2nd.  Now, came the task of finding a place to live. About a week later I found an ad in the newspaper for a house. I called the lady up and asked her if I could come look at it. The guy that had lived there before had JUST moved out.  She said I could so my mom and I went to look at it.  It is a tiny house, but I figured it would be perfect for my son and I. I decided it would be a good place to live so I gave her the deposit and first month's rent. The next week we were moving stuff in. Everything just happened so smoothly.  I still had no idea what I was going to be doing at this job, but I quickly learned.  I know God has me in this position for a reason. I'm not really sure what exactly that reason is, but I like my job. I like my co-workers, and I like the families I work with.  I also really like the fact that I'm helping families who have had similar problems to me.  "Helping People, Changing Lives".  That's the simplified version of the company's motto. I love it.

Anyway, I've been pretty busy this summer. Had quite a few adventures in the past month or so and a couple more to go this month. I'll have to post about that some time later.  Just wanted to check in with you all really quick and let you know I haven't forgotten about my blog.