Little Things

Life is hard.

There is no doubt about it. Sometimes it feels like life is not just handing you lemons, but continually slapping you with those lemons… in the face… for no reason.

At least that is how it has been feeling for me for about a month now. I have had so many issues with my schooling, emotions, and just finding joy in general. I have just been feeling like I was being continually washed in sadness, despair, and hopelessness. There was no end in sight, no reason to be positive or optimistic. Basically, I was “Sadness” from the new movie Inside Out… (like, you-will-have-to-drag-me-everywhere sadness.) 

Not a pretty mental picture.

But you know what… there are so many other things to be than sad. So many more places to be, people to greet, and things to be thankful for.

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In honor of life’s disappointments (not just mine, but maybe your’s too?) I’ve made a list of all the great things in life. Maybe not all, but four sounds like a great place to start. So be sure to enjoy:

Life’s Little Goodies

1.) I am alive.
        Honestly, you and I are both breathing and our hearts are beating right now. This moment you are having thoughts and living a life (even if you don’t think your life is great.. it’s yours.) We are in this together. I want love and acceptance, and I am betting that you do to. These are facts that we are alive and conscious of our desires and that we have a life to live at this moment. Take a minute and just breathe. Feel your heartbeat and feel thankful for this life.

2.) I can read.
       And yay! So can you! We are the select few in the world who can read about people, events, and emotions. We can interpret squiggles that create stories of adventure or information about the world we live in. Reading helps us to be informed, empathetic, and help those in need. Without the basis of reading, we would be so limited in what we can do to encourage, love, or help others.

3.) I have necessities.
     I not only have water, but food and shelter. No, it’s not a pinterest house and I am not the best at creating art from the food I make, but I am well cared for in all of these physical needs. Not everyone has these things, even in the United States. In fact, about 633,782 people in 2012 were found to be homeless (US Department of Housing and Urban Development) and 17.5 million households are food insecure (Coleman-Jensen 2014b, p1.). This isn’t even the poverty number. Poverty in the United States as of 2013 went up to 45.3 million people…. So to be thankful for the necessities is a big deal.
If you find yourself in need please let me know.

4.) I am so very loved.
    Friends. Please know that you are very deeply loved. I haven’t met you, but know that I love you and want to encourage you to keep going! This life is so hard, but it feels infinitely harder when you feel alone. Know that you are not alone, we are all in this together. While some may want you to fail, or if it just seems that way, others are rooting for you. We want you to do your best and live your best life. You are so loved!

While that may not seem like much… at this moment I know that I am going to make it. I have these four things to get me through.

One more thing, even if you don’t believe in God, I just find these words to be so encouraging:

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will praise Him, my Savior, my God”
Psalm 42:5

I love you all so much. Be encouraged.

Much love. Much grace.

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Working In A Pregnancy Information Center

I was so excited that Jessica agreed to write for “Perspectives” this week! She is a dear friend of mine with a heart full of such compassion for others. We have been close friends for over four years, and she has kept up her love for others the entire time I have known her.  Jessica’s passion for people has taken her down a different road than she ever imagined.

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As I sit here trying to put words and thoughts onto paper, I am watching the cursor blink repeatedly. I am struggling to find the appropriate, most impactful words to describe what Chelsea has asked me write about: my job. You see, I have a unique job. It is controversial, rewarding, and challenging.

 I am the Executive Director at a pregnancy information center. The Back Porch is a pregnancy information center that is located directly across the street from an abortion clinic. I counsel women every day who are literally minutes away from getting an abortion.

 After my husband and I graduated from Louisiana Tech University, we moved to Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. Canada is a long way from my Louisiana roots, but we know that God has called us here to work in church planting. My husband and I are here to build relationships with people, share the Gospel, and start new churches. When we moved here last summer as missionaries, it was the biggest leap of faith we’ve ever taken.

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Leaving everything we’ve ever known. Leaving family and friends. Not knowing if I would get a job. Adjusting to a new culture and lifestyle.

But God was faithful. He provided me with a job at The Back Porch within the week we arrived in Edmonton. I have always had a passion to help women and this job fit the bill perfectly.

 In Canada, there are no legal restrictions on abortion which means that it’s an option to the mother for the entire 9-months of the pregnancy. Yes, let that sink in. Also, the Back Porch is one of only two centres in the entire country of its kind. Most abortion clinics have legal injunctions, or bubble zones, that strictly prohibit any pro-life activity inside that zone. If you violate that bubble zone, then you will have to answer to the law. Well, our bubble zone at The Back Porch happens to be very small which allows us to do our unique work in talking to clients in their 11th hour.

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I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not easy working where I do every day. There are times when I ask myself, “Can I keep doing this?” I watch hundreds of women each month walk across the street to have an abortion. I watch ambulances pick up clients when something has gone wrong. Some clients leave the clinic relieved and other clients leave the clinic doubled over in pain and sickness. There is no stereotype for a woman who seeks an abortion. I have seen and heard stories that make me cry tears of sadness and utter disbelief and tears of joy. It’s easy to get discouraged when there are more women who choose death over life for their unborn child.

But I know that God has placed me here for a season of growth.

He has taught me that I cannot do this on my own strength. I can only rely on Him to get me through the discouraging times. He has taught me how to be a better leader. He has strengthened abilities that I never knew I had inside me. Sometimes I do need to an occasional escape to the mountains to rejuvenate, but that’s okay because I have learned this past year that God commands us to rest. I can’t do this all on my own.

I could tell you countless stories, but there are those rare times where God gives me a glimpse of exactly why He placed me here. He gives me the pleasure to meet precious babies whose lives have been saved through this ministry! And when I meet them, hold their fragile bodies, smell that baby scent, and look into their beautiful eyes, I say to myself, “It’s worth it. This is what it’s all about.”

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Jessica Bennett is a wife and friend who is a Southern girl living in Canada. She enjoys spending quality time with family and friends. She and her husband, Justin, share a love for the outdoors, coffee, and their sweet cat, Millie. Her passion in life is to experience travel and adventure and be Christ’s Love to those along the way.

My Year Off from Titles

Before I go any further, I just want to say that absolutely none of this comes from a place of anger, bitterness, or regret. I have learned these lessons on my own because they were lessons I needed to be taught. I am not blaming, accusing, or hating on any person, group of people, or organization. This is just what I have learned and how I have grown from my experience.

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I have learned how to be strong. I have learned how to have the courage to keep going.

For the first three years of my college career I was in a whirlwind of activities. I was a part of several different school organizations, on leadership at my church, and also a leader in on-campus ministries. Not only did I participate on paper with titles, but all of my free time was consumed with leading others or being present every single time anyone asked me to be there. I would stay up all hours of the night, get up early, and sometimes miss my homework deadlines due to the amount of responsibility I had put upon myself.

By the middle of my Junior year I was flat out exhausted. I was tired. I was discouraged. I was burnt out. And it wasn’t the fact that I wasn’t being “filled” spiritually… I was in SO many Bible studies it is CRAZY. And I actually was learning from all of them. It was just that I felt the need for rest. Maybe instead of being at six (yes SIX) ministry related activities each WEEK, I needed to take time to rest in God’s presence. To remember why I had loved doing what I did.

And that is what I did. I had become too attached to the “Leader” label. I loved it. I loved hearing people say I was on leadership or was a team leader. I loved being super involved and having a voice. I loved fighting for my passion when others did not deem it important. But I loved it too much; I loved it more than the reason why I was doing these things. So with that, I pulled out all of my leadership and membership applications for my Senior year, ready and willing to see how God would use this last year of college for His glory.

This year has literally been the hardest year yet. Being a senior brings life change with harder classes (and then getting engaged…) and less time, and I felt it. So I tried to reach out. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried to love, encourage, or meet with people, things never worked out. I began to feel the loneliness.

I began noticing how since I had no label, I was not important. I knew nothing of events to go to until after they were over. I could never meet with the people I needed/wanted to. My community was lost. All because I let go of a title. Something I believed would be freeing and joyful and encouraging turned in to loneliness, sadness, and hurt.

I felt feelings of betrayal and being forgotten. I had wrapped my community up into one place, and it was shattered when I could no longer give as much of me as I had before.

These depressing thoughts loomed over me daily.

I could not escape the trap of loneliness that I thought was so unjustly cast upon me.

And in someways I am still dealing with these emotions. While this year is coming to an end, I have realized the purpose.

The Lord does not call me to a life of comfort.

The Lord does not call me to a life of popularity.

The Lord does not call me to a life of half-heartedness.

The Lord calls me to live a life that invests. A life that loves deeply. A life that encourages even when I am not being encouraged. A life of rejection. A life of being an outcast. A life of joy that only comes from Him.

See, I lost that when I was a part of these leadership teams. I loved being a part of the team so much that i would become surface level in my friendships.

I realized that even though it seems like it is, the church is not supposed to be a fraternity.

That is what my community was. Surface level. Giving to me only if I gave all I had. I felt that I had to have a certain personality to fit in. I had to wear certain clothes or say certain phrases to be included in these ministries. And I did these things. I changed to become like others. And that was what had burnt me out. I was being a different person that I was called to be.

God used these experiences to show me how far I had gone into my safety bubble. My little Christian bubble was so thick, I could not see outside of it. I could not see when people were hurting. I had to live a year of my life outside of the bubble. Make friends with those different than me. To feel the rejection and bitterness. To feel alone.

I don’t understand everything (obviously…). But I do feel more open. I feel more compassion to those outside of the selective ministry we have created. God is bigger than just that small group. He loves everyone.

What am I doing to share that?

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Movie Love: Queen

I am not a film buff. I don’t know directors, actors, or screenwriters. I don’t know how to tell if a film is “badlly made”. All I know is that I love movies that provoke emotion, show the human experience, or take me to a far off land (imaginary or real). For a long time I have been meaning to watch a Bollywood film because I have heard so many great things about the colors, singing, and dancing; but also heard they were very emotional… causing me to drag my feet when thinking about watching one.

BUT. The movie Queen is AMAZING.

Like I said, I am not an expert, and I do not claim to be. I just love sweet movies and this is one of them.

This film is such a journey, and takes some time in the storyline- it’s 142 minutes long! – but it is worth every second. Rani meaning “Queen” and played by Kangana Ranaut, is a traditional Indian girl who was jilted just days before her elaborate wedding to Vijay (Rajkummar Rao).  In emotional distress and a loss for her next step Rani decides to go on her honeymoon to Paris, France and on to Amsterdam alone. Never traveling anywhere alone, even in her town in India, the thought of traveling across the world is daunting and frightening to Rani.

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As she travels Rani meets people very different from herself. People who challenge her in many ways. In good ways. She is challenged to dance and shop. To do the things she loves like cooking and seeing new places. The people she encounters loves her as anyone would since she is an easy-to-love character. All I wanted while I was watching the film, was for Rani to enjoy her travels and her new life, and to be the Queen that her name called her to
be.

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I feel this way when I think about other women in my life as well. All I want is the best for them. I desire for their lives to be filled with good health, joy, peace, and adventures…. I want them to be respected and loved by others. I take joy in their triumphs and saddess in their trials. I want each of them to succeed, to be the Queen I know them to be.

How is it that I find it so hard to have these feelings for myself?

There are days where I think that I am not deserved of a good thought, let alone the idea of “Queen”.  Why is that? How can I love the other women in my life, when I find it so hard to love myself somedays?

And that is the very thing. I need to love myself, to see myself as others see me. To wish happiness, health, joy, and love to myself. A personal journey that must be taken to gain confidence in myself and who my God made me to be.

Rani had a physical and personal journey while roaming through Europe. Meeting new people, and learning that while they are different, those people cared for her deeply, more than her beloved Vijay ever did. And while I know most of us can’t drop everything and backpack to France, the personal journey to find confidence and love is still important. I don’t know what that looks like for you, or anyone else besides myself honestly. But I do know that it needs to be done. To change the world, we must have confidence in who we are; as women and men. As adults, teens, and in-betweens.

So go. Give yourself a little love. And then give it to someone else. (And then watch the movie Queen…)

 

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