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Sunday, December 31, 2017


what. a. year.

i rappelled off a building. i faced someone who crushed my family. i grieved the loss of my grandpa. i ran my first 5k. i learned about infancy loss and heartbreak from a friend who openly and bravely grieved the loss of her son. i took a promotion at work. i was part of a birth team and watched my nephew come into the world. i turned 30. i applied to go to africa. i got accepted. i raised 3500 in three months. i joined a small group at church. i celebrated. i mourned. i praised. and i struggled. i grew.

all i can concentrate on now is being ready to go to uganda in just a few weeks. i can only pray that 2018 is as full of life, adventure, challenge, and fearlessness as this year was.

cheers, 2017. you were a wild one. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

november news

some really cool things happened this month that i don't ever want to forget about.
i had an appointment at the beginning of the month to get my yellow fever vaccine. i made the appointment about a month before that, told them what i needed and why, got all the details about what to bring with me, took sick time from work, and off I went. i sat in the waiting room for over an hour, which was annoying, but would have been okay on its own. however, went i went back and was able to see the doctor, he informed me that there is a national shortage of the yellow fever vaccine and they no longer offer it. um... okay, that would have been really good to know when i made the appointment a month ago, and before i took off work and sat here for over an hour. he gave me a list of places i could call to get the vaccine, gave me several other recommended booster shots, and sent me on my way. i called tulsa because it was the closest option and they couldn't get me in until december 21st. which made me stupid nervous because it was so close to when i was supposed to leave. but i made the appointment anyway just to be safe. i ended up calling the little rock clinic and was able to get in on black friday, november 24th. i called dad and we made plans to drive there and back that day, him so graciously offering to ride along in case i had any reactions (or just to spend time with me, that's up for debate). i put it out of my mind and didn't think anything else about it. fast forward to sunday the 19th, the weekend before we were supposed to go to little rock. mom was talking to jill, because we were spending the weekend after thanksgiving together, and said that we weren't coming until saturday now because of dad and i driving to little rock. jill says hold up, parsons is an international hub and we offer that shot here, so let me call on monday and see if they have any vaccines left. um okay cool god, if this works out i'll cry. she calls me back and tells me that they had 6 left, but a group of 6 were scheduled to come in on Monday and get them. dang, okay, worth a shot and still cool that it was a possibility. but then, she calls back to say, only 5 of 6 showed up and they have ONE vaccine left. ARE YOU KIDDING ME GOD?  so i cry, like can't believe that it's in parsons and i don't have to drive to little rock and okay now when do i need to get there during the week and oh crap its also thanksgiving that week so the health department is closed so whatever i need to do just let me know. jill works her magic, (ps. jill worked at the health department for many years and just recently, like in the last 6 months, left her job there, so she knows everyone really well), and her old boss Debbie agrees to meet us up there on a Saturday, when the health department isn't even open, to give me the last remaining yellow fever vaccine they have for the next year. Again, ARE YOU KIDDING ME GOD?? So now not only do I not have to drive to little rock, i don't even have to make a special trip to parsons, she is just going to meet me there over the weekend when i was already going to be there for the weekend. okay, god, i see you, and if i ever doubted you wanting me to go on this trip, it's loud and clear now that i'm supposed to be going. so i roll up to parsons kansas to see my friends (read bonus family) and get the one vaccine i really need and then receive a donation from her boss on top of all of that. debbie, you are a heaven sent gift. god, you are crazy cool. i can't believe this is the story you are writing for my life.
also- i met part of my team this month. i was stupid nervous, because you know, anxiety. but it went really well. I'm feeling anxious still because it seems like everyone else on the team has a really defined role and clear expectations of what they'll be doing, and i don't and my a-type brain is having a hard time with that. i keep saying "even if i go and only love on kids for the time we are there, it will still be an incredible experience" and that's true. so i'm trying to just be content. its way harder to do than it is to say. 
one more thing that didn't happen in november, but i don't ever want to forget and it's related to uganda and going on this trip. back in april i had to work after school care unexpectedly because my staff called in last minute. i was ticked off. so annoyed that i had to work a 12 hour day last minute because of irresponsibility on someone else's part. i didn't want to be there, but since ASC is my program at work I had to cover it. so, away i went. it was a beautiful day that day, so we spent most of the afternoon outside with the kids. a grandparent came around 4pm to pick up their grandson, and since it was so nice she asked if it was okay that she stay and let him play for a little while. i said sure, and went back to my business. i was sitting with two kiddos on a blanket and she came over to chit chat. (side note- i hate chit chat. especially at work. i have a job to do and i need to focus so chit chatting makes me bonkers.) so here comes grandma lady wanting to chat it up about the work we do and how incredible it is and how special we are to work with kids with special needs. i agree, yeah, yeah, they're cool kids, yada-yada. then she starts to share about a random experience she had a few years ago, was supposed to be traveling with her friends and one ended up sick and unable to go so their plan was altered a bit. they ended up a a place in africa that works with kids with special needs. she proceeded to talk about how cool it was and how it changed her views on things and gave her a new perspective of being engaged with people with disabilities. i kind of laughed and asked, "you said this was in africa? did it happen to be ekisa?" and she starts crying. (side note 2: know what i hate more than chit chat? crying strangers.) she says yes, and i tell her how much i love Ekisa and have wanted to go for several years and it just hasn't worked out. and she says "i just got goosebumps. i want you to know that you'll be going to Ekisa this year. and i'll help fund your trip because you need to be there." and i'm like.. uhhh hold up lady tell me what your name is again? who are you and how did we get here? she tells me to call her and we can talk more about the trip and how to get funded to go. (fast forward to november now- i can't get ahold of this lady for anything, so she didn't help me fund my trip- but funds were never an issue and god provided. just cool that back in april before i even applied to go on this trip god was working and knew i would be going and put this lady in my path to light the fire in me again.) 
so. god writes cool stories. he does cool things unexpectedly and doesn't forget our dreams and wishes and works them all together for his good. and it's really cool to see the details be worked out like this. for it to be so clear that i am supposed to be on this trip. thanks god, for the story you are writing right now. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

october tidbits

some things that happened in October...
-we went to the pumpkin patch and it had the most beautiful field of sunflowers
- rex was dedicated at church
- ruthie had her 5th birthday, full of all things princess and dress up
- tracen got all 3's at school so we had a special date filled with Ricks bakery donuts and the arcade. the man working there gave T a free pass to come back next time he has good "grades" again and he was pumped
-Dewey played t-ball, and you could see his courage grow each week which was really cool
- we took the kids to Dewey's fall festival at school and ended the night with a chickfila date
- 99 Balloons held their 10 year celebration and I was able to be a part of it. really cool to see what God is doing with the organization and how he is weaving my story with it
- i went trick or treating with my class at the walmart home office, and it went off without a hitch. which is almost a miracle considering how overstimulating and loud and chaotic it is
- i had my first overnight babysitting gig, and it also went off without a hitch
- painted and carved pumpkins with Tracen
- shared my blog on Facebook to tell people about my upcoming trip
- was crazy surprised how supportive and encouraging people were
- i met my fundraising goal of $1000 in October
- baby Will was born and went to be with Jesus. i watch my community in Columbia surround the Colemans and celebrate during tragedy and it was such a beautiful picture of the gospel at work
- work was really challenging, a lot of hard things happened and pushed me way out of every zone i have ever been in. several people got fired. i cried a lot. but i survived. and learned a lot about being a manager and a lot about myself.
- my anxiety was off the charts this month. it lead to some really challenging things, my feelings getting really hurt, crying a lot, canceling plans, staying home. god redeemed it and when things didn't work out one way like i anticipated, he provided other plans that were fun and good for my heart. ruthie loved her bracelet and special date day. i have to figure out how to manage my anxiety when things are so tough, because october was a hard month.
- discover group continues to go well. i'm enjoying getting to know some people and hopefully growing a community.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

fearless mission

I'm going to Uganda.
I'm going to Uganda.
I. am. going. to. Uganda. 
I have to keep saying it out loud because it seems so unreal. its hard to believe that a 5 year, far fetched dream is going to happen. so i keep saying it out loud. i am going to uganda.
now that it is a dream coming true, i thought i needed to share a little background about 99 balloons and Ekisa. where my heart is at with this trip. why it's such a dream.

99 Balloons ( is a local nonprofit organization. It was started by a family, the Mooney's. The Mooney's had a son, Eliot, born with Trisomy 18. Eliot lived for 99 days, and at his funeral they released 99 balloons to celebrate each day of his life. They founded 99 balloons in 2007 to serve children and families with special needs. Their first initiative was rEcess, the capital E being no accident. During Eliot's 99 days, the Mooney's were on the receiving end of so much assistance so they were able to better care for him. They founded rEcess in order to serve families in ways that better help them care for their own children and families. 99 balloons has grown to be an organization that serves both locally and globally. I first got involved with 99 balloons when I  started volunteering for rEcess about 4 years ago. Being able to provide a few hours of respite for children with special needs while their parents were able to rest, have a date night, go to the grocery store, or just have a quiet moment... that was incredible. Some of the families we served during rEcess hadn't had a date night since their child was born until they started coming to rEcess. Some families hadn't ever left their child with anyone before and they put their trust in us. volunteering for rEcess filled my cup, I loved it.

Ekisa ( is a nonprofit organization in Uganda, Africa. It was founded in 2010 and officially opened its doors in 2011. In Uganda, people having special needs and disabilities are considered outcasts. Families often do not have the knowledge or resources to provide the care needed. Ekisa was founded to try to change that stigma and provide families and communities with the resources and knowledge needed to provide care for their families. Ekisa now serves over 100 children with special needs through their residential, community, and special education programs. They are able to provide education, medical assistance, therapy, and counseling to families throughout the region. I started following Ekisa's blog shortly after they were founded and since their doors opened I have dreamed of being a part of their organization. My heart has always been drawn to Uganda. I don't really know why, or have a specific reason, but every time I did research on orphanages, adoption, mission work, every time I found strangers blogs and fell in love, followed strangers on social media... it always came back around to be related to Uganda somehow. I have loved Ekisa's mission since the very first day, and I can't even believe that I get to be a part of it for a short time.

99 Balloons and Ekisa are both incredible organizations. When God partnered them up, I thought it was too good to be true. How does a little nonprofit in northwest arkansas end up partnering with my dream nonprofit in uganda? like really god, that's some good handiwork. when god started to open doors, it was pretty clear from the beginning that i would be going on this trip. i officially committed to go on september 7th and paid the deposit. on september 9th i shared about the trip for the first time on social media because i had to start fundraising immediately. i had my first deadline to meet... by september 22nd. for those of you who are also not good at math, that's less than two weeks. less than 14 days to raise $1575 so i could purchase a plane ticket. i laughed, like no way this is going to happen, thats a lot of money and i have less than two weeks, how in the actual heck could this work out, but okay god if you want me on this trip I'm trusting you to help me raise the money stupid fast. and wouldn't you know, on september 17th, 5 days before my deadline, and only 8 day after i started my fundraising, i met my goal. ARE YOU KIDDING ME GOD YOU HELPED ME RAISE $1575 IN JUST OVER A WEEK YOU ARE CRAZY AND BY CRAZY I MEAN CRAZY GOOD. like how does that happen? how do i have people in my life who support me so generously and freely and without hesitation? i can hardly believe it.

so my heart. it's always loved everything special education and disability related. it has always loved orphan care and nonprofit missions. it has always dreamed of doing something big and bold and scary and exciting. it was always a dream i kept tucked away and only shared with those i really trusted. it was something i never really thought would happen but loved to dream about. and right now i still can't believe its not just a tucked away dream in my heart and that it is a real life actually happening dream. my heart is overwhelmed because i have no idea what the trip is actually going to look like. i have no idea what my role will be when I'm there. i really don't know any details other than where i am going, and that is so hard for my control freak heart to accept. i'm trying to trust god in the details and keep telling myself that he is working it all out and i am going for a reason and even if i only love on kids for a week that will still be worth it. im being fearless by saying yes to this trip and not knowing any details. im being fearless and trusting the god who helped me raise $1575 in 8 days and said "you are going on this trip emily". trusting and holding on for the wild ride ahead.

thank you jesus for knowing my heart and my desires and loving me so deeply that you provided this opportunity. i am so undeserving and so unbelievably grateful.

(ps: in october i have to raise another $1000 to meet my next goal. i'd love your support if you are able, and would also love prayers and encouragement as i prep for this adventure)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

august and africa

can i take back the "fearless in 2017" challenge yet? because each month gets crazier and crazier. i first heard about ekisa almost 6 years ago. i applied to go for the first time 5 years ago this month (weird detail, thanks time hop). i applied 4 times over the last 5 years and every time it was so very clear that the door was not open and i wouldn't be going. so imagine my surprise this year when i apply again on a whim when i see 99 balloons is going in january, because you guys january is like the best time for me to be out of work, it's after the holidays, it's not vacation time for me, so many selfish reasons i applied, and wouldn't you know that god seems to be opening the door. so i applied back in july to go to africa in january with 99 balloons (a local nonprofit). i thought i would find out if i was going by the end of july, but july came and went and there was no news. so i convinced myself it wasn't my time to go because that is easier than keeping my hopes up and being let down again. but then august came, and day after day i waited and watched my email. i made myself sick waiting. i talked myself into going, and talked myself out of going. i came up with 100 reasons why i shouldn't go, and then 101 why i should. i checked my email like i was an addict. i waited for the phone to ring with an unknown number. i didn't sleep well. i worried. i prayed. i reached out to friends to pray. i worried some more. and at the end of august, the 29th to be exact, i finally heard. they want me to be a part of the team (if they go- they don't have enough people to commit as of yet). so if they go, they want me to be their SpEd person. they want me to go to africa. and now i know, and i just want to throw up. fear creeps in every time i take a breath. there are now a thousand reasons why i shouldn't go and only ten that i should. what am i doing, lord? why do you want me to go to africa now? why in the freaking heck are you opening this door now? but even though I'm terrified, i'm pretty confident i'm going. like if i were a betting woman i would bet money that i'll be going to africa in january. god is going to get more people to commit, he is going to help me raise the funds, he is going to open the door. a 6 year dream in the making and i can feel it coming true.
but you know what else? i'm still terrified. i don't want to go. i have so much frickin fear. about everything. every detail. and i don't even know the details. right now god is opening the door and telling me to trust him and be fearless and make the deposit with money i don't even have in my account and say yes to going to africa. he's telling me to say yes when i don't know any details or really even know what i'll be doing there or what my role will look like and he's telling me to say yes even though I'm so scared of flying (not actually being in the air, all the things that lead up to it, like getting to the right terminal and fighting to find a spot for my carry on and losing luggage and missing flights and having anxiety poops on the plane and basically everything except for the actual being in the air flying part) and he's opening the door and pushing me through it and I'm fighting every step of the way and have made myself literally throwing up sick because I'm so anxious about all the details i don't even know and my brain just feels so scrambled. but he's telling me to say yes and he's opening the door and showing me so clearly again and again and again that it's time to trust him and i'm so (insert any emotion here) that i can't move forward at all, its like i'm stuck, just stuck and can't put one foot in front of the other.
but you guys. i think i'm going to africa. help me. pray for me. support me. send anxiety meds. (only kind of kidding on the last one...)

Monday, July 31, 2017

birth and birthdays

july. you always bring joy and pain. celebration and grief. beauty and ashes. you are broken yet so  beautiful. july brought heartache and happiness, joy overflowing and fear so palpable it was like the elephant sitting on my chest.
turning 30 this year seemed like such a big milestone. i know it's just another day and just another number, but it seems like so much more. as a kid, 30 seems so old. i just knew that by the time i turned 30 i would have a family of my own. i would have a husband and a whole gang of my own little loves running around. i would be planted in the perfect little starter house. i would be a wife, a mother, an educator, a world traveler. and today, i am only one of those. and that's okay. i'm learning that god has me exactly where i should be. i don't have a husband because it's not my time for that. i don't have children of my own because it's not my time for that. i don't have a house of my own because it's not my time for that. if I've learned one thing in my 30 years, its that God always provides what I need on his time, not my own. So here I am, entering my 30's in a huge, not-so-surprising, continued season of waiting.
so my 30th came and went. it was full of love and surprises and although i thought i would be sad to be turning 30, it was really just another gift. my best friend hosted the best birthday weekend, complete with surprise visitors, some of my favorite snacks, and a seafood feast that i will dream about for years to come. my heart was happy and my belly was full. and i am thankful, so very thankful, for every minute that was put into the prep and roll out of such a weekend full of love.
the week leading up to my birthday is always tough. it's strange to think of the day a traumatic event occured as an anniversary, but i don't know what else to call it. every year july 7th rolls around and is a seemingly normal day for everyone else. but when i wake up, i can't breathe. i spent all day trying to get my mind on something else, unsuccessfully. i plan a day full of things only to cancel because the anxiety is so real and so fierce that most of the time just getting out of bed to take a shower is all i can do. 12 years since i was raped, and sometimes the fear and shame and guilt and anxiety is so real it's like its happening all over again. so i spent the day doing nothing, because i couldn't do anything else. i sometimes wonder if someone acknowledged the fact that it's july 7th would make a difference. but then how do you say to someone "hey, would you tell me you love me on July 7th because its always a tough day" without opening a huge can of worms? it seems so easy to say when I type it out, but every year it rolls around and no one says a thing and i can't reach out to anyone to tell them I'm struggling because the fear is too crippling and the shame is too real. so this year, like the last 11, i woke up crying, feeling like i couldn't breathe, and crawled out of bed. i took a shower so hot my skin was raw and red. and i did nothing else. but you know what? that's okay. because i survived another day. i got out of bed. and i survived.
so by the time birthday week and day rolled around, being surrounded by friends and family, watching them pour over homemade treats and decorations and surprises, it felt so good. like on a level that i can hardly put into words because when i try i am just brought to tears. how could people love me so much? i am selfish and a complainer and defeated and spend so much of my time canceling plans, how could people love me anyway? what a beautiful picture of the gospel that week/weekend was for me. my people came together and loved me like jesus loves me. and when i ruined my party shirt they drove across town to buy the exact same one so i would stop crying. and they let me have all the left overs for the next 3 days and didn't complain that they didn't get any. and they served me and loved me and encouraged me. they loved me liked jesus loves me. and i can never say enough thank you's for that.
july, you also brought a gift that i will never forget. little rex arthur. it's not my birth story to tell, but i am honored and in awe. i am honored to have been there when you took your first breath, when we learned you were a boy, when you came into the world with a fighting spirit. i am in awe of how strong you are, how incredible your mom is, and how wonderful our sweet savior is. i can't quite articulate my experience that night as a member of your moms birth team. all i know is you are a gift, your mom is incredibly brave and strong, and the lord is so good. you are a good, good gift, and i praise him for you.
oh sweet july. thank you. thank you for both the beautiful and the broken. thank you for bringing new life this month. thank you for new days and new strength. thank you for bringing my people who love me fiercely and deeply to the same place to celebrate my life. and thank you lord for loving me through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Friday, June 30, 2017

jumping for joy in june

it's hard to think of witty titles for blog posts. i'm just not that creative. but ya know, june made it easy to jump for joy. when i moved back from south carolina in 2012, i had absolutely zero intention of staying in arkansas long term. arkansas is home because my family is here, but arkansas is not home in the sense of community and happiness. it was strange to move "home" to a place that felt nothing like home at all. i asked god week after week why he brought me back here. "lord what are you doing with my life? why would you take me from columbia, from a loving church family, a solid community of friends? why would you take me back to arkansas, a place that did nothing but hurt me, to relationships that burned me and left me broken? why would you do that? what are you doing in the background? please lord help me have peace, help me understand." so celebrating 5 years back in arkansas this month almost took my breath away. it is so hard to believe it has been 5 years. i feel like it was yesterday we were loading the u-haul and trucking back across the country.
i've gotten to see glimpses of why i think he brought me back here, and let me just say that he knows what he is doing. he took me out of contentment and comfort and put me in unknown and scary. and he did it on purpose. for a purpose. when i am content and comfortable, i don't need god. so when i got too comfortable, he said "alright time for a change, let's bring you back to me." and back to arkansas i came. 5 years is a long time to be somewhere that you didn't want to be in the first place. i have spent 5 years not really getting plugged in on purpose, because i didn't want to be here. when you build relationships and have community, it is a lot harder to leave. so instead, i just didn't. it's been a lonely 5 years because of it. but at the same time, i wouldn't change it a bit because i have needed god more in these 5 years than ever before. i have learned to listen for him in the daily tasks, to seek him in the hard times, to trust him in the details. i have cried out to him when my heart is breaking, and praised him when his faithfulness is revealed again and again.
he brought me to arkansas to be close to my family. i have been given the gift of being an aunt up close and personal. i have had the opportunity to pour into their lives and watch them grow and help them learn and have had so many adventures my heart could burst. i have chased sunsets, had way too many treats, and have had the best snuggles. he brought me to arkansas to support my parents through lots of changes and hard times. being in arkansas so i can be close to my family is the ultimate gift, and i'm so thankful he knew what he was doing when he brought me here.
he brought me back to arkansas and led me to sunshine school. i had no clue what i was doing when i applied for a job there. it was kind of a last ditch effort because i had such negative interviews with public schools. i spent so many days and nights just crying because i needed a job, but i didn't want to work in public school special education. the interviews i had were all great, i was offered several jobs, and i cried every time i got the phone call because i knew i would be miserable. so i applied for a lead teacher job at sunshine school. and when i showed up, they interviewed me for something completely different because i had a masters degree in special education. i met their qualifications and they took a chance on me. and LORD THANK YOU for that. i have met some of the greatest families through sunshine school. i have helped parents learn how to advocate for their child. i have made friends. i have built relationships. i have made a difference. i have watched kids take their first steps, use their first words, drink from a cup for the first time, make eye contact purposefully, i have celebrated the tiniest milestones because for us they are huge, and i have mourned the challenges and setbacks alongside families. i lost my mentor to a hard fought battle with cancer, and have been left grieving that and all the changes it brought with it. i have learned about gardening, what is a weed and what is a plant, how to cultivate life from a tiny seed, how to use my time gardening to worship and pray and tell beth how much i miss her. god knew exactly what he was doing when he closed the door to public schools and led me to sunshine school. 3.5 years ago when i started working there, i had no idea what i was doing. i had almost zero management experience, had never worked with families directly, and had never had a real full time job. but now, today, i wouldn't know what to do without sunshine school. i got a promotion in may, and it was just the boost i needed. its been a tough year, lots of changes, lots of challenges, and i was in the dumps. my leadership team recognized my abilities and asked me to step up and take on more. and i needed it. i panicked at first, because "what if i mess it all up, what if i can't do it, what am i getting myself into, this is too much, theres no way i can manage all of this"... but then god told me flat out that i would accept the promotion and i'd be okay.
so here we are now, being fearless and trusting him again. trusting him in another year in arkansas. trusting him to lead me in this new role. and trusting him to take away my fear and replace it with confidence and courage. i can do this. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

may and mental health

another awareness month that i love. may is national mental health/anxiety/depression month. sometimes i joke and say things like "hi I'm emily and i have anxiety" like i'm at a recovery meeting. but jokes aside, it's not a laughing matter at all. anxiety is crippling. i don't do so many things because i'm too worried about the traffic i'm going to have to fight to get there, the amount of people in the crowd i don't know and will have to touch to get by, the small talk i will have to have with people that i don't even know. i worry about every little detail from the beginning to the end, which makes the whole experience just suck. so instead, i just don't go at all. i stay safe in my little apartment haven. i hide from the world. i hide from strangers and unknowns and new situations. i make excuses and then cry because i missed out again. i get my feelings hurt when i stop getting invited, even though i probably only made one of the last 10 invitations i was given. can i really blame them for not trying when i always have an excuse?
anxiety is tough. it strikes at any moment. it hits me out of nowhere. it's unexplainable. i have learned how to manage and am getting better at recognizing the symptoms before they hit me full force. but most of the time i can't control it even when i see it coming. i still panic. my heart beats so fast i feel like i can't breathe. i cry so much, or am always on the verge of tears. i close my eyes and try to breathe deep. i pray, ask god to calm my anxious heart. and i breathe deep again, waiting for the storm to pass. if you don't suffer from anxiety or depression or mental health issues, it can seem like people who are suffering are just exaggerating, trying to get attention, overreacting.. but i promise you, we can't help it. if i could take a deep breathe and have it all go away in an instant, it would be a dream. sometimes, most of the time, its not that easy. a lot of times the fear wins and i am stuck in my brain without a way to calm myself. but sometimes, i close my eyes and take a breathe and i can move on. i can't control it. anxiety and depression are true disorders. there are a lot of days when i can't get out of bed. i wake up crying with a heaviness on my chest that is unexplainable, and i can't move. the overwhelming sadness, the heaviness, it doesn't make any sense when it happens. how can i just wake up so sad? sometimes it hits me if the middle of a perfectly normal day. how can i be functioning, having a great day, and then as fast as i blink it all changes and i can't shake it. it affects every aspect of my life. it tells me i'm not good enough, i'm not worth it, i don't deserve anything good, that i'm not beautiful, that i'm not loved or treasured or cared for. it ruins relationships, it hinders growth, it breaks me. it jumps into my heart and mind and turns everything black and cold. and it is as real as the sky is blue. it is thick and fierce and unmanageable. i have to fight it every day. i have learned that it's okay to admit when i'm having an off day. most of the people who have stuck by me are happier to hear that i'm struggling than to have an excuse. they remind me to breathe, that it's going to be okay, that i am loved and valued and worth it. they send me scripture, preach truth to my heart, and help me fight the darkness. and i will be forever grateful for those people who haven't walked away, but instead pulled me in closer. i know it's hard to love someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, so thank you for believing in me and helping me. god is showing me that i am worth it, i am loved and treasured and adored and beautiful and valued. he drops truth bombs on my heart right when i need them. he gives me the courage to get up and keep going, to open my eyes and fight through the darkness, and trust that he is there and he is good. and i couldn't be more thankful for that truth.
if you know someone that struggles with a mental health disorder, love them anyway. love them through it. support them and encourage them. they are worth it.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

april was a long month

it was a really long month. april is usually one of my favorite months. it is autism awareness month, national child abuse prevention month, and sexual assault awareness month. it is my littlest loves birthday month. it was easter this year. i had so many things planned, so many reasons to celebrate, and then life showed up and reminded me that I am not in charge of the plan, that sometimes the plans don't make any sense and the plans are hard and sad and not fair. and that's how april was for me.
april was a month to celebrate both life and mourn loss, to navigate through the messy and hard and unimaginable at the same time i was celebrating life and love and miracles. april, you were a long month. a tricky month. a month that was so hard and so good and so sad and so happy all at once.
april is always one of my favorite months because of its awareness days. it's an honor to stand up and celebrate the kids i work with who have autism. it's an honor to walk alongside their families as they navigate through what the diagnosis means and how it changes the path they are going to walk. it's messy and hard and can be heartbreaking, but at the same time, it's exciting and beautiful and so much fun. autism doesn't define a person. autism doesn't make you less of  a person. different is beautiful. and autism should be celebrated, not mourned. it will be messy and challenging and mean things may be different than you dreamed about, but it doesn't mean it is the end. celebrate your child being different, celebrate their milestones, the successes no matter how big or small, celebrate their LIFE. because it means something. it is worth something. and it matters.
child abuse prevention awareness is also something near and dear to my heart; partly because of the line of work I'm in, and partly because I have so many littles in my personal life. nothing wrecks me to my core like having to make a child abuse hotline call. nothing makes my heart ache and my stomach turn like calling child protective services after a child tells me what is going on at home. i will never understand this side of heaven why children are abused, and that is something that I just have to come to terms with. but you know what God is showing me through these circumstances? he is showing me that I can be a constant, stable, loving person for that child. he is teaching me to be a strong positive adult in their lives. he is teaching me to turn to him when my heart is broken because of yet another case. he reminds me that he is holding that child in his hands and that he will use this part of the story for his glory. and that is beautiful and sacred and it is so incredibly hard to trust in. but no matter how sad the story, how horrible the abuse, how broken the home... god is still good. and i have to tell myself that over and over and over some days, and that's okay.
sexual assault awareness month hits me straight in the heart. the statistics of sexual assault are staggering, heartbreaking, unbelievable. as a victim/survivor myself, i know first hand how heartbreaking and unbelievable sexual assault is. its been almost 12 years, and sometimes it feels like it was that long ago, and some days it feels like it was yesterday. sometimes i wake up and can't breathe because i had a nightmare, and sometimes weeks go by without me thinking about it. living with a trauma is such a strange phenomenon. on one hand the guilt and shame, the negative self talk, the denial, those things are unbearable. but on the other hand, the pride of surviving, the strength to face another day, the courage to talk about it and not bury it anymore, thats the good stuff. that's what it's all about. also- can we talk about rape culture for a second? because this shit sucks. the fact that i sometimes still have the thought "maybe i did deserve it, i was really drunk, i had a not so classy outfit on, i kissed him earlier in the night" is flat out bullshit. all of those things don't matter, because at the end of all that, at the end of the night, i did not ask for what happened. so f rape culture and rape shaming people, making us feel like it is our fault or maybe we deserved it, f that. that needs to stop. no one asks to be assaulted. 
so, besides awareness month- april is one of my favorite months because it's Finn's birthday. and ya'll,  that is a freaking miracle to be able to celebrate his birthday. when he was born at 27 weeks, i was fairly sure that we wouldn't celebrate his first birthday. i will praise god forever for what he did with Finn in the NICU because it is really nothing short of a miracle. but you know what? celebrating his birthday was hard. because at the same time I was getting amped up to go visit for a long weekend, i was grieving the loss of a dear friends perfectly healthy baby. how do you celebrate the life of a baby who shouldn't be alive at the same time you mourn the loss of a perfectly healthy baby who should be? that beauty from ashes, broken and beautiful stuff is so hard. it caused my heart so much turmoil that i didn't really even know what to do. i couldn't process either one because they were both so unreal. this is one of those things i will never understand this side of heaven, just have to trust that god knows what he is doing. grieving and celebrating at the same time is something my heart can't process, and that's okay.  i still praise god for Finn's life, and yell at him for taking Ezra. i praise him for the miracle of Finn's life and curse him for the loss of Ezra's. and i'm learning that both are okay.
also, i ran my first 5k. and i didn't die. and i did it in less than an hour. which i know is ridiculously slow, but whatever. i'm ridiculously overweight and can't breath so i'm proud of myself.
april, you were crazy. crazy beautiful, crazy hard, crazy tragic, and crazy magical. crazy, april.

Friday, March 31, 2017

March Madness

I said this already, but when God challenged me to be fearless in 2017, I had no idea what that was going to look like.
I'm not good at facing my fears. I tend to hide in the background rather than face things head on. I think He was laughing when He put this word on my heart because He knew how challenging it would be for me, while knowing all the while that it would mean I have to trust Him in ways I can't even begin to understand in this moment.
When He followed up "hey Emily, trust me and be fearless this year" with "trust me and be fearless this year by rappelling off a 6 story building in front of a group of people for a work event, and oh yeah it's going to be below freezing and raining that day and you're going to do it anyway", I could have died on the spot. I mean, excuse me WHAT the freaking what?!!
When I signed up to participate in the fundraise for Sunshine School, I never thought I would hit my goal and raise $1,000. (I really just wanted the Jack Links jerky gift box that was a gift to those who signed up first.) I kept saying "it's okay if I don't meet my goal, any money I raise will still be for a good cause"... aka: please don't let me raise the full amount because I might throw up or pee my pants or die if I have to actually rappel. But wouldn't you know, my people came through and I met my goal of $1,000, and I had to rappel off a 6 story building in the pouring, freezing rain. I couldn't feel my hands, so holding the rope was really difficult. I couldn't get a good grip on the wall, you know, because of all the freezing rain and such, so I was just panicked the whole time I was rappelling. I ended up in one of the last groups of the day, so I had worked myself into a mess by the time it was my turn. I actually called my mom to say goodbye- no laughing- because like what if I really fell and died? y'all it was ridiculous the amount of fear I had.
The best part? I did it. I trusted Him. I trusted him enough to step off the roof of a building in the pouring, freezing rain. I trusted Him with my life, literally. and I survived. and I had a sense of pride and accomplishment in myself that I haven't felt in years, maybe if ever. It's so easy to avoid the hard things. It's so easy to stay home, to not face it, to avoid things and people and conversations, to just hide in the background like I prefer. But I didn't, and it felt so good
But God, my man, please don't make me step off any more roofs in the rain to be fearless. Can we make a deal that one time is enough? (ha, kidding, I already committed to do it again next round, Lord willing). 
cheers to being fearless. march was complete madness. and i loved it. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

february fears

february. one month in to this commitment of being fearless and i'm already so far out of my comfort zone i just want to throw up.
what i didn't know when I committed to being fearless was that it would include committing to having conversations so hard and so painful and so difficult that i would literally get sick, that i wouldn't sleep or eat, and that i would have panic attacks and feel like i couldn't breathe. it meant that i would feel depression and anxiety so deep within me again that i couldn't hardly function and get anything done. it meant sleeping less than 4 hours a night and having to trust that god (and coffee) would sustain me each day because i had nothing else left in me to put up a fight. every day this month i had this thought process... why did you challenge me to be fearless this year? you knew what this year was going to hold when you asked me to be fearless. you knew how hard it was going to be. honestly, i'm a little angry that you asked me to be fearless. i know you did it so i would have to rely on you to get me through it, but CRAP i didn't know being fearless would be so hard.
february was so hard. so freaking hard. when i say february was hard, that is not an exaggeration. it was so incredibly freaking hardmaybe one of the hardest months I've ever had, and that says a lot because i've had a lot of hard months in my 29 years of life. i lost my grandpa and couldn't really even focus on that because i was so focused on having to go to the funeral and see someone who ripped a hole so deep in my heart that i don't know how it will ever be repaired. i was so focused on having to have the most difficult conversations with my cousins that I've ever had to have that i couldn't even cry about grandpa being gone. death is a hard thing to process anyway, so adding facing a fear that left me feeling paralyzed made it 100 times more difficult. 
february also taught me that being fearless can be so freaking hard, but can also be so incredibly freeing. broken and beautiful, beauty from ashes, this is the hard eucharisteo that i've been learning about.
when i made the choice to go to my grandpas funeral and face someone who crushed our family, i had no idea that it would lead to having conversations with my family that i could have never imagined having. i had no idea it would lead my heart to open to and start processing through things that i stuffed down and locked away because they were too painful. it opened the door to keep having the hard conversations with my family. it allowed me time to start to grieve what happened and how it has affected us all. so in a weird way, I'm thankful for losing grandpa. because without that loss, we would still be moving along with things unsaid and feelings untouched. breaking down the wall is the hardest step, but once the wall is down and the floodgate is open, it allows for so much freedom and that is so beautiful in the most broken mess of a way. but even though it opened the door, there is still so far to go. there are wounds so deep i don't know how they are going to be healed. i don't know how to keep processing through the hard things so i don't shut the door to my heart again. i don't know how to grieve a death, knowing that it means the end of so many things besides just life itself. i don't know how to process through that. 
february was so hard. 
please don't let this be a glimpse into how the hard the rest of the year is going to be.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


2017. a brand new year. another chance to have a fresh start. there's something so satisfying and encouraging about a new year. it brings so many opportunities to try again, to dust off the old habits and give them a new go, or try something that I've never done before. Back in November and December the idea to choose a "word" for the year kept creeping up. I know people who do it every year. I've read blogs from people I don't even know who rave about the dedication it takes to choose a word and stick to it. I work with women who openly discuss their word and how it challenges them throughout the year. Honestly, I've always thought it was kind of a dumb idea. Why would you choose just one word for the whole year? How could you possibly focus on it the entire year? That's a big commitment, and I have never been interested in it. But this year is different. Week after week I couldn't stop thinking about choosing a word it didn't make any sense to me why. Remember, I think it's a stupid idea, so why can I not stop thinking about it? I confided in a friend who chooses a word every year and sticks to it. That dear friend finally challenged me.. she said something along the lines of "if you keep thinking about it, why don't you pray about it? Ask God to show you what word to choose."
So, I did. In a sarcastic, not believing type of way, like how in the world am I going to know what one single word God wants me to focus on, I said "okay god, what should it be?" The first word that came to mind was confidence. I thought on that word for several weeks. What would it look like to focus on confidence for a whole year? What would that do for me personally, spiritually, as a whole being? I couldn't figure out how it would benefit anything, I couldn't seem to commit, it just didn't feel right, so I kept thinking. A few weeks later, it hit me. In the middle of the day, it could have been a flashing light it hit me so clearly, He didn't want me to focus on confidence, he wanted me to focus on being fearless.
FEARLESS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I have crippling social anxiety, I avoid situations on a weekly basis because I am so afraid, I don't have hard conversations with the people I love most because I don't want to rock the boat, I don't step out of my comfort zone because it is too hard. HOW IN THE ACUTAL HECKAM I SUPPOSED TO BE FEARLESS FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR? Okay God, good one. What a sense of humor you have. I tried to not commit to that word too. I kept thinking and kept taking Facebook quizzes that were supposed to tell me what to choose.. and over and over, i kept coming back to fearless. fearless encompasses confidence and bravery and trust, it challenges me in a way that makes me uncomfortable and pushes me to the edge of my seat. and i knew in that moment that this is exactly why god wants me to focus on this word, he wants me to have confidence, be brave, get uncomfortable and push myself so i absolutely have to trust in him alone.
So here I go, rolling into 2017 committing to being fearless. committing to trust that the lord is going to stick with me when I want to freak out and will likely fail and say no to things because i'm too afraid. committing to do the hard thing, no matter how hard it is.
it should be a wild year.