Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The "IT" Factor

Have you gone through a time when you felt that you were alone? Perhaps you have been surrounded by people, but somehow still felt isolated?

Maybe there have been times when you press in to hear the voice of God and the quiet whisper of His Spirit, and instead all you hear are echos, so even God Himself feels silent? It is in these moments you may have found yourself wondering if God really sees you – does He see your pain, your situation, your struggles?

Clearly, He is the God of the universe, but it can be all too easy to minimize His role in our lives and that a God as big as He is would be “bothered” by our trivial concerns. Let me remind you of a couple things…

Yes, He is a big God.
Yes, He does see you.

And yes, He does care. About you. About all of “it,” whatever “it” may be – an ornery child at home, a spouse who doesn’t listen, bills that seem to be piling up, classes that are overwhelming, work pressures, home pressures, pressures of parenting; and yet somehow, you are supposed to make it all work and fit into a 24 hour period without losing your mind.

And you are not too much for Him. Your “it” is not too much for Him. And in fact, He delights in knowing you and all that it entails. 

About 10 years ago this month, I found myself in a place I never thought I would ever be. I found myself facing fears and darkness that I thought were long behind me. People who I thought loved me had left me. People who I had trusted had hurt me and destroyed my life. And then there were people who, while they didn’t leave me, they had hurt me so deeply that I, in turn, left them.

I was alone. I was scared. And I had no choice but to start over.

I had played by God’s rules and I had gotten burned, at least that’s what I told myself. And while I called out to Him – blaming Him, shouting at Him for allowing this to happen to me – I struggled to put what was left of my life back together. I struggled to find a “new normal” and to find a way to deal with the loneliness, emptiness, and pain that had wreaked such havoc around me.

I will spare you all the details of me “finding myself” and healing. But rest assured that God is faithful; He showed His faithfulness and grace every step of the way. And there is not one detail of my pain that has been overlooked or forgotten by my Creator. He has used every feeling, every loss, every aspect of that horribly dark time to mold me into who I am today. There are lives that I have had the opportunity to impact not because of what I learned about me, but because of what I discovered about my God.

To give you an idea of how my life looks today: I have an amazing, God-fearing husband; a toddler who I am honored to love; a job that feels like I am coming home every time I go to work; staff who are more like family than employees; a love and zest for life that I have never known. Sure there are struggles and insecurities still, but I know that I know that I know that God sees me. That He knows me. That He loves me. And that He will help me. He is enough.

So whatever your “it” is, it is not too big, or small, or scary, or threatening that God cannot help. It’s much like my toddler who insists on doing things his own way: even though it takes longer, and he inevitably gets hurt in the process, I wait for him to give up in desperation. When he does, he looks around the room to find me. And when he does, he sees that I have been there the entire time, waiting. Waiting for him to relinquish control. Waiting for him to call out to me. And he does. And when he does, he comes to me with his arms outstretched, crying and calling my name.

And without fail, I will scoop him up in my arms, comfort him, and tell him, “Everything’s ok. I am here. I never left you - I was here the whole time.”

Maybe it’s time for you to stop struggling. It’s time to relinquish control. It’s time to trust God with it all. And when you do, you will hear Him say, “Everything’s ok. I am here. You are not alone.”

My biggest and undeserved blessings
**Note: If you need a friend to talk to, or want to know more of my story, I would be happy to share my experiences! Please reach out and send me a message!

***Additional Note: Heartfelt gratitude to the one person who stood by me through it all... I love you mom! More than you will ever know, and more than mere words could express. Thank you for loving me through my ugly!

Monday, July 15, 2019

What Good is a Dandelion?

Stubborn. Pesky. Relentless. Unwanted. Aggressive. Frustrating.

These are the words that my husband (and nearly anyone who wants a nice, landscaped yard) would use to describe that little yellow bud that seems to grow just about everywhere (and usually in all the places you don’t want it to).

Why are they so annoying to gardeners? These “weeds” pop up seemingly overnight, despite my husband’s best efforts to get rid of them. He will painstakingly go through the yard and handpick them out by their roots – time after time after time – to try to keep them from coming back.
They somehow have the power to grow in the worst conditions – in rocky terrain, bad soil, horrible heat and even in the cold. It's almost as if these bad conditions make that pesky weed that much stronger. 

Brody was so proud of that little flower!
The other day, I went for one of our morning walks with my son and my hubby. It’s a short walk around our neighborhood, and it ends by a small swing set, which of course Brody loves. This particular day, as he was joyfully running towards the swing, something caught his eye. Suddenly, he stopped and bent down. He looked at my hubby and me, and with a big smile, he pointed and said, “Fwow-er (Flower)!” With a little prompting from my husband, Brody bent down again, picked it up and gleefully ran to me with his hand outstretched, giggling the whole way. This tiny yellow bud was sticking out from between his fingers as he hugged me and repeatedly said, “Fwower! Fwower!”

In that moment, this little weed that would normally be considered a nuisance, waiting to be picked and tossed aside, was the.most.beautiful flower that God ever created.  Why? Because Brody thought so. Because of that, he wanted me to have it. The joy in his eyes as he looked from that beautiful little weed and into my eyes was contagious.

Have you ever felt that you were like a dandelion? That you have been overlooked, cast aside, or forgotten? Know that you are made in the image of God, and because of that, you have the power of the Almighty God of all of Heaven inside of you! The same dandelion that pops up in your yard overnight, is the same flower that grows in wastelands and dessert places, in rocky hillsides and murky waters. It brings its bold beauty, strength, and resiliency to the most unlikely places. And the same is true for your life.

A quick internet search can tell you that the dandelion roots go deep into the soil. Snapping them off at the top doesn’t kill them, but rather, it makes them grow back stronger and fuller. And when they grow, they have one of the longest flowering seasons of any plant. 

So know this my friend: when life gets hard, when you feel like you can’t go on, sink your roots deep into God’s truth and you will see just how resilient, beautiful, and spectacular you really are! May you look at your life with the same joy and enthusiasm of a child, knowing that you are the most precious thing that God has created. 
“And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. Romans 5:3-5 

Friday, May 24, 2019

It's His Job

We co-sleep.

My son is 18 months and we have found so much joy in having that extra time for snuggles, cuddles, and giggles.

Don’t get me wrong -  along with the snuggles and cuddles, there are definitely kicks, slaps, flips and flops. He doesn’t mean to wake me with a gut-punch in the middle of the night; he’s just a very restless sleeper.

But in the stillness of the morning, I love to watch him. He sleeps so peacefully in these moments (of course when I am already awake) right next to me. Sometimes he will wake just long enough to reach out for my hand or to wrap his arms tightly around me. And then he instantly calms and relaxes, drifting off to baby-dreamland.

Sometimes, while he’s so calm, his inner gymnast comes out and he begins to roll, flail, and even flip himself over. I am ever watchful, and will always guide him away from the edges of the bed; regardless of how sudden his movements are, he is always safe. I make sure of that. Other times, all he needs to calm down is to feel my hand on his back; it’s enough to know I am near.

As his mother, it’s my job to know what he needs. And I do all I can to make sure that he is provided for, cared for, and knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is safe and loved.

Do you ever have those moments where the world seems to stop spinning, just for a second, while your brain and heart finally seem to connect? As I watched this same scenario play out for the umpteenth time earlier this week, and I felt my love for my son surge through my body, I realized that this was one of those moments.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

So this is what Your love for me is like! I whispered in my spirit to the God of the universe. I quickly recalled several moments/seasons in my life where I lived very much like how Brody was sleeping: dangerously close to the edge, sometimes needing lifelines to bring me back into safety. I suddenly had a deep understanding that despite how much I had moved away from – and even flailed against - God, not only was He still there at each moment, but His heart surged with love at the mere thought of me. He didn’t just check on me from time to time when He wasn’t busy with someone else’s problems; His eye is on me. It always has been. It always will be. He knows where I am, what I am doing, and my innermost struggles. And He reaches in and grabs me, pulling me into His arms to remind me that I am not alone; that I am safe. It’s His job.

So if you feel like you are flailing around, falling aimlessly through space – you aren’t. If you feel like you are alone, that whatever problems you are facing are too big – they aren’t. And if you feel like you are dancing precariously on the edge with no one to catch you – He will. Regardless of the decisions you need to make, the battle you have to fight, the war you just can’t win – you are not alone. You never have been. You have a God who sees you. You have a Friend who will never leave you. You have a Father who loves you – far better and far greater than you could ever know.

Just trust Him. Be willing to forget your doubts and fears. Reach for Him; He will make sure you know that you are loved, safe, and your needs are met. He has never failed you and He never will.  

It’s His job.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Better Than Dog Food

I cook. A lot.

Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Dessert. Snacks.
My free time is usually spent prepping for the next meal or the meals on the weekend.

Not necessarily because I want to; mostly because I have to. Maybe it’s a mom thing. Maybe it’s a wife thing. Or maybe it’s just a thing. Either way, it’s my thing.

I do enjoy it, even if it is a hassle. I take pride in making food that is not only enjoyed (usually) by my family, but also because it is healthy. Even not-so-healthy food is better when it is made at home with love.

So it came as a surprise to me to one day find my toddler happily chowing down on dog food. Yes, you read that right. Most of you aren’t the least bit shocked to read that. Others of you are just as appalled as me. I mean, I get it. He’s a toddler. He’s teething. So he’s bound to put everything in his mouth, right? But dog food?? 

Isn't there some proverbial line that makes certain things off limits even to toddlers? I could understand if I was a bad cook and he didn’t eat what I made. Or if he just enjoyed feeding the dogs their food (or my food for that matter).  But no – there he was, happily chewing away with dog food in his mouth and in both hands. Double-fisting it, no less.

Brody and Lucy
If it's good enough for the dog,
it must be good enough for me!
What’s more, it was like World War III when I moved him away from the food. How dare I take from him that which he enjoyed so much? Don't you know how much I want that?! And I want it right now! He wanted it, so he should have it! He screamed and kicked and cried because of this unwanted interference. Hell hath no fury like a toddler who doesn’t get his way.

Time and time again, I have found him trying to sneak and get into the dog’s food bowls. Sometimes, he sees me watching him and he will flash his million dollar smile - as if he knows how much it melts my heart – to distract me from what he’s really doing. I just can't understand why would he want that when I have so much better for him!

I questioned God why my child must perplex me so, why he would repeatedly go after something that wasn't good for him, even after I told him so. And I felt His gentle prodding on my own heart - How do you think I feel? Wait, God… you mean, I do this too?

So I sat and reflected on all the times I wanted my own way. All the many, many times that I was determined that my plans were best and that I knew better; far too many seasons in which I thought God was too far away and out of touch with those things that meant the most to me. When in fact, God knew far more about me than I could begin to imagine; He knew more about me and what was best for me than I did.

God knew that I didn’t really want to marry that guy from high school. God knew that I didn’t need to hang out with those kinds of people. And God also knew that the job I thought I wanted, while I was qualified for it, was not the job I needed.

Rather than marry that guy from high school, He gave me my current husband – who, while imperfect, is perfect for me. Instead of being part of the “popular” crowd, God gave me my small tribe who has my back regardless of the situation and who points me to Him when I start to stray. And if I got the job that I thought I wanted, I wouldn’t be at Care Net helping to impact thousands of lives in our community for His glory.

Because He knows me. He alone knows my heart. He also is the only One who knows my future and what it’s going to take for me to accomplish all that He created me to do. All I need to do is let go. 

Just like I know my son. I grew him in my womb for 9 months. I know his breath, his laugh, and the reason for his cry. I know all the good things I have planned for him – things so much better than dog food.

Oh God, let me always remember that your ways are not my ways and your thoughts are not my thoughts. Let me always trust you and that, even when it doesn’t make sense, your purpose for me is far better than anything I could comprehend. Thank you for being such a good Father.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Trust Me

Trust falls.

I hated them. Always being a “bigger” kid, I was always scared no one would catch me. Always. So I always offered to be the catch-er rather than the catch-ee. That way, I could always be in control. I didn’t have to worry about who was behind me, who would drop me, what the ground felt like when I hit or what people would say when I fell. I got to control the conversation and instead impress others by making sure they never hit the ground and felt the humiliation I was afraid I would face.

It’s hard going through life like this. Trying so hard to please people because you are scared of your own weaknesses or inadequacies. Feeling so intimidated that you are afraid to try new things – to live life fully and without regrets.

But this is not the life God calls us to. He calls us to a life of abundance, of plenty, of joy and peace and rest. We cannot do this – or have any of this – if we are constantly living in a state of fear.
What are you afraid of? Here are some ideas…

Rejection. Do you alienate yourself from others or refuse to let others see the real you because you’re afraid they won’t like what they see?

Failure. Do you work harder than most to prove you are capable of more than they (or you) thought?

Inadequacy. Are you afraid that you just aren’t good enough? Not smart enough? Pretty enough? Financially secure? Are your experiences limited to only doing those things you think you do well?

Image result for do not be afraid
Or maybe it goes beyond this. Maybe you’re afraid of the car payment or mortgage that is due next month that you don’t know how to pay. Or maybe you are afraid to ask your teen the real questions he needs to hear because you’re afraid his answers will make you uncomfortable. Or maybe you just found out you are pregnant and not sure what to do? Perhaps you're in a toxic relationship and afraid to let go because then you will be alone...

Let me tell you what my little boy is afraid of – NOTHING. For months now, I have been astonished watching him as he plays. There are times when I play with him, and confident that I am there, he will literally throw himself backwards. He fully expects that whenever he decides to do this (laughing the entire time) that I will be there, and that I will catch him. He knows that when he hears Mommy’s voice, that I am watching and waiting on his every move. And in his moments of glee, he launches himself backwards, into my arms, giggling with delight. I then proceed to pick him up, hold him close, give him a kiss and set him on his feet so he can keep playing.

Me and my son, Brody (11 months old)
There are so many lessons we can learn just from watching our babies. When we know the voice of our Savior, there is nothing – NOTHING – that we need to fear. There is no bill too big, no challenge too great, no relationship too difficult that He is not there to walk through it with us.

May we have such a relationship with our Lord that we willingly, and without hesitation, launch ourselves into His mighty arms confident that He will catch us – every time.  

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Friday, July 6, 2018

That's the Point!

(The following is taken from a letter sent to our supporters at Care Net. I shared with them my heart for the ministry, and wanted to also share it with you.)

Recently, I sat down with our Board of Directors and we discussed Care Net of SoMd, the ministry as a whole. At length, we talked about our goals, our purpose, and our primary mission. In an effort to avoid “mission creep” (doing good things that are not part of our original goals, which over time lead us away from our actual mission statement), we reevaluated why we do what we do. So of course, we asked ourselves these questions: Why are we here? What is the point?

While there are many discussions still to be had together, we all agreed that the ministry of Care Net is Kingdom work. Meaning, our primary objective is to bring our clients to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Only then, will they truly understand value and worth – their value and worth – and therefore, the worth of their baby. Yes, we want to stop abortions. Yes, we want to support the mother. Yes, we want to be a light in the darkness where so many struggle with unplanned pregnancies. But why do we want to do these things? Because God created them in His likeness, and therefore, they are all valuable. Regardless of their mistakes; regardless of their choices.

Sure, we can offer sonograms and STI testing, education and material support. And Lord willing, they will make a choice for life as a result of these efforts. But if they never acknowledge their need for Christ, then there will never be true change, and they will only continue to perpetuate this cycle.

This is why we offer all of these programs. This is why we hold fundraisers and outreaches through the year. And I believe this is why you have chosen to stand with us – because what we do and why we do it matters in this community, and it matters in this world.

Image result for relationshipsHere’s what some of our clients have had to say, just this last month alone:

“I couldn’t be more comfortable [at Care Net].”
“It’s like my second home where I can share my feelings.”
“They make you feel welcome anytime. You can tell them anything about your life. It’s really a great place to come especially if you need someone to talk to.”

Building relationships takes time. We have to build trust first before anything else happens. Some of our clients are “repeat” clients who have come to us for help through multiple pregnancies. Sometimes it takes this long for them to see our hearts and let their guards down. But many are new clients each month, facing consequences of their choices and needing support, and they are ready to hear truth. What is important is that our efforts in building relationships and offering grace freely and unequivocally to those who come to us are paying off in spiritual dividends: We have nearly tripled the amount of spiritual discussions we are able to have with our clients from a year ago.

Thank you. Thank you for partnering with us. Thank you for giving to us financially, month after month. Because of you, our doors are open. Because of you, not only are babies being saved, but hearts are changing. Because of you, we are able to be God’s hands and feet to those who desperately need Him. 
Image result for relationships
"Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good." Heb 10:24

For more info about Care Net Pregnancy Center of Southern Maryland, or information on how to donate and join us in bringing hope and healing to our community, check us out here:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Myths about Pregnancy Care Centers

In my core, I have always been pro-life. I was raised pro-life. Truth be told, there was a time when I wasn’t living quite as I should and I wondered what I would do if I had gotten pregnant. I questioned whether I would be able to face my mother, and worse than that *gasp*, how would I face my church? That's another post for another time. But in my heart of hearts, I knew that I could never justify my behavior enough to warrant killing a baby simply because it was inconvenient.

Fast forward to many years later, I find myself at the helm of Care Net Pregnancy Center of Southern Maryland (Care Net PCSM). At the risk of exposing myself, I feel compelled to share with you how I feel. This world is a dark and broken place. And it seems that only the loud voices get heard. And right now, the voices being heard are those screaming for validation of their choices; for those things that are not godly to be considered so; for the world to stop acknowledging our brokenness but instead renaming it, as if it would change anything.

The fine print doesn't matter.
What matters is that disrupting the
nest warrants legal action.
Add to this the fact that I am a new mother. (No, I am not blaming hormones for this post.) But I am more acutely aware than ever before that life is valuable. All life is valuable. Regardless of how it was conceived, the very principle and morality of human existence is the fact that we are all valuable. Aside from the myriad of scripture that claims it to be so – far before science ever proved it – life is redeemable, life is a treasure, and life is precious. So much so that we are spending TRILLIONS of dollars sending missions trips to outer space to find any molecule in order to validate life. And we are arresting people for killing eggs of endangered species because of the value of life. So how we can spend BILLIONS of dollars for the right to terminate human life with a clear conscience?

But I digress. There will likely always be a debate about this topic. You will believe one way; I choose to believe another. But in the end, whether a pregnant woman chooses life or not, she will need support. And this is where my rocks get rattled. Regardless of the services offered at PCC’s (Pregnancy Care Centers) across the nation, there are those who refuse to support what we do. There are a lot of lies out there as to what we do, why we do it and how it is done; so I will quickly discuss the three biggest myths we face in in our PCC and the truths behind them.

Myth #1: Pregnancy Centers claim they are medical centers, but they are not.
Testimonial from an ultrasound client.
Truth: There are Pregnancy Centers and there are Pregnancy Medical Centers. In short, some only offer material and emotional support while others have licensed and certified medical professionals (volunteer and paid staff) who are able to conduct clinical services.  At Care Net PCSM, we are a medical clinic. As such, we are a facility that provides medical services, under the direction and supervision of a licensed physician. We offer medical services that are diagnostic in nature. (Diagnostic means that a medical test is administered, results are read, and a medical opinion is rendered.) We currently have three Registered Nurses as part of our medical team who are trained in providing all our clinical services. Our medical director is a licensed general practitioner, and she issues standard orders, signs policies and procedures, and oversees the rest of our medical staff. You can learn more about our clinic staff here.

As part of our clinic, we follow guidelines by the AIUM, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and American College of Radiology (ACR) and are able to offer limited obstetric ultrasounds and specialized examinations (STD/STI testing, pregnancy testing).

Myth #2: We are bible thumping do-gooders, forcing you into our religion.
Wow. Sounds like someone is watching too many dramas on TV.

Truth: Yes, we believe in God. We believe in His Son, Jesus. Because of that, and because of who we believe He is, we also believe that there is hope in the midst of a world that continually offers none. Because of who we believe He is, we also believe there is grace and forgiveness that He desires to give to all those who ask. And oftentimes, we know there is grace because we, too, have experienced it for ourselves first hand. (You might recall my introduction where I mentioned my own shortcomings.) Anyone who knows me has heard me say that we are all the same at the foot of the cross. I know from my personal experience that God can redeem and renew what the world would consider broken and useless. And because I have experienced this myself, I can demonstrate this to others. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Don’t get me wrong. Yes, these things are the backbone and foundation of why Care Net PCSM exists. But this only provides the lens through which we see each client and each other. Do we force our faith on others? No. Absolutely not. That would go against all that Jesus stands for. But do we greet each person with a smile, offer them a shoulder to cry on, a safety net where they can vent their fears and anxieties without judgement, blame, or ridicule? One thousand times yes. Do we offer to pray with them if the situation allows? Yes, of course we do. But we also ask their permission and
understand if they say no. Grace, hope, and love – how refreshing this is in a society that demonstrates everything but these things. And really, who wouldn’t want to come to a place like that when they feel lost or confused?

Myth #3: We are Pro-Life, and we will coerce you into carrying the baby to term against your will.
Truth: Yes, we are pro life. Yes, we want you to choose to carry your baby. Because we believe in the inherent value of life. Will we guilt you? Coerce you? Shame you if you choose not to? NO. That would defeat our purpose of providing hope and grace without judgement. Unfortunately, we do have pregnant women who call us, come to us for their ultrasound and still choose to abort. Yes, it breaks our heart. Yes, we always wish we could’ve done more. And yes, we reassess each time to try to determine what we could say or do in the future to ease their anxiety or stress they feel.

What we will do is empower the pregnant client to make the best choice she can. We educate her; we talk about ALL her options, including abortion. We do not hide this option from her. If she is going to abort, then she has a right to know exactly what she is doing to her body and her baby – something that most abortion clinics do not do. We give her room to talk about and think through her decision, however long it takes. (When was the last time you went to a doctor and were given as much time as you wanted to make a decision or discuss your concerns?) Because we are a non-profit ministry, we have no quota to meet, no financial pressure to ensure you make a decision in our favor. God has blessed us with enough financial support in our community to give the luxury of time to our clients – without opinion, coercion, or pressure. Our client advocates are trained to be empathic, compassionate, and sincere in their approach while still giving the client the information she needs to make an educated and informed decision.
To that end, we also offer support groups for those women who have decided to abort. Many women will at some point struggle with their decision to terminate a pregnancy. And if/when they do, we are prepared to help them find hope and healing. Click this link to watch a quick video about our Bible Study. Information on the bible study we offer can be found here

I know this is a much more serious post than I usually write. But as of late, God has been impressing my heart for our babies and the brutality of this world. My heart aches over the callousness of those who think it is ok. It is a socially charged topic that rarely is discussed calmly. Both sides of the issue tend to break down and resort to awful tactics to prove their point. I am proud of the work we do at Care Net PCSM, and I believe in what we do. I believe that there are more people who have been helped in our community and are happy they turned to us in their moment of need (regardless of what choice they made). And I will continue to use my own brokenness to fight for each life that I can, because I know that each life is worth fighting for.

*Disclaimer: The thoughts presented in this post are in regards to how Care Net Pregnancy Center of Southern Maryland operates. While we are affiliated with Care Net (national), which includes 1100 other centers nationwide, I can only speak specifically to how our Centers are run.

For more information on Care Net Pregnancy Center of Southern Maryland, click here.

To compare Care Net’s (National Affiliation) stats with Planned Parenthood, click here.

The "IT" Factor

Have you gone through a time when you felt that you were alone? Perhaps you have been surrounded by people, but somehow still felt isolated?...