Faith like a Child

Something odd but interesting happened to me on this fine Sunday afternoon. After church I went to my favorite “me” place, Starbucks, to take some time to get organized for my next semester of classes that starts tomorrow.

As I was sitting there minding my business I continuously kept looking at my phone. I was waiting, waiting, waiting. Specifically waiting for one person to read my messages and finally respond to me.

I knew things were over between me and the guy, and they needed to be, but we were friends before we started dating. And he had even said on the day that we broke up (not even a week ago by the way) that we could still be “best friends.” I use the quotation marks because those were his exact words.

Although despite the concept of being “best friends,” he was not treating me like a best friend should be treated. This doesn’t say much because he didn’t really treat me like a girlfriend deserved to be treated either (hence why the relationship needed to end), but that’s another story, for another time… or maybe not.

About a week ago, Monday December 31, 2018 at 7 am my Fit Bit’s vibrations shot anxiety through my veins like no other, waking me up in a panic. It was him. He was finally calling me, as he had promised he would days ago. I was nervous because I knew this was most likely the last time he would be calling me for a while… because this was it. This was the end, whether I wanted to believe it or not.

In fact, this had to be it. Because it was the last day of 2018 and I needed to make sure I could do the whole “New Year, New Me,” thing on the first day of 2019. How could I do that with an unhealthy relationship hunkering me down?

I answered my phone and just cut to the chase. We both had a mutual agreement that it needed to end, but that we could still be friends. Although, I was still pretty angry with him because I’m not sure he completely understood why I needed to break up with him. I mean, he bluntly admitted that he knew I wasn’t happy and could find someone else, but deep down, I knew he had no idea the amount of pain that he had caused me throughout most of 2018.

I hung up the phone and went back to sleep, waking up later feeling a bit anxious, but a bit lighter. The only problem was that now a huge part of my life had changed. No, not changed. This was my new normal. And whether I liked it or not, I needed to get used to it.

I powered through the week still trying to communicate with him. He blocked me once and continued to just read my messages (or delete them without reading them) and never respond. This hurt even more.

We had big dreams together to get married and live as powerful social workers. Yet somehow, someway, he was able to throw me away like an old, used pair of shoes- used and unworthy. At least this is how I felt.

Finally, I got sick of it. He told me throughout the week that he would call, but he never did. So, I tried calling him. Each time he rejected the call. By the third try, he blocked me. He told me he would too. This is where the story continues…

I was sitting in Starbucks on this Sunday afternoon chugging away at my work, and a skinny cinnamon dolce latte, when I noticed he had, yet again, ignored my messages. I can tell because like Facebook Messenger, with this app you can see when people have come online.

Fed up, but knowing what was coming to me, I tried calling him. Of course, the call was rejected, and about three seconds later I received a message, “Goodbye,” and just like that his little icon picture disappeared and I was blocked.

As tears filled up my eyes I gathered my belongings and rushed out to my car. I could not let myself break down in the middle of Starbucks. Once I got to my car, I tried calling him on his regular number, rather than the app. His phone was switched off.

I checked Instagram and messaged him, asking him to unblock me and call me. By this moment, I had completely lost it. I was upset, angry, confused and so much more.

So I went home and sobbed on my bed with the comfort of my mother and my sister’s cat. But on my way home, I saw something very unusual.

Between gasping for air, screams, and sobs, I was able to maintain my concentration

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If you don’t know what the “floss” is, check out this video of this grandma rockin’ it!

driving. And I was able to do this enough to see three school-aged boys standing at the end of a neighborhood road dancing. One kid was doing the floss.

I made eye-contact with one of them. I’m pretty sure they saw me upset and crying because when I looked in my review mirror they all ran together in complete disbelief– probably that they saw a grown woman crying while driving.

Through the midst of my pain and suffering I was able to let out a little chuckle and remember my days of young walking around town and doing similar things.

Oh the youth and the crazy things they do, am I right?

Well, here’s how their little act of fun impacted me positively today. After I spent some time sobbing and relaxing in a steaming hot shower, I grabbed my bag and headed back to Starbucks. I needed to keep myself occupied and I needed to get my work done!

I drove by the same place where I saw the kiddos getting boogey with it and I was reminded of a Bible verse.

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'” Matthew 18.3. Here we see Jesus stating that to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, we have to change like little children

We have all probably heard the phrase “faith like a child,” too. I was quickly reminded of this.  These children had faith.

They had faith that they would not get hit by a car.

They had faith that they would make someone laugh.

I want that. I want that faith. Not faith that God would restore this relationship, I mean yes, I hope he does unblock me so we can be friends, but in due time things will happen the way they need to for both of us to move on and heal.

Not faith that I would be miraculously healed from the pain, although that would be nice… But that is not necessarily Biblical. We can see examples of suffering throughout scripture, such as, Job, Paul, and the greatest example of all is Jesus.

Peter also tells us: In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1.6-7)

That’s kind of a beautiful scripture isn’t it? That we are being refined and have greater worth than gold. Woah man. That’s pretty neat if you ask me.

The faith that I want like these little guys dancing on the road is that God would protect my heart and keep me emotionally safe through this trial. I understand that my emotions are already somewhat bruised and on the line, but that’s nothing Jesus can’t heal. 

9780718084646As Lysa TerKeurst states in her novel Uninvited, I want the faith that through the mess of this there will be a miracle– it may not be healing right away, but something will come of this.

Lastly, I want the faith that will give me strength to rejoice in my suffering (James 1.2-3; 1 Peter 1.6-7). Faith that will allow me to turn my mourning into dancing (Psalm 30.11). Faith to remind me that God is in control and He still has a plan for me (Jeremiah 29.11).

Through all of this pain and messy relationship situation, I just want faith like a child.

And through that faith, I will receive healing.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5.34

 

Accepting Solitude, Declining Loneliness

It has come to my attention these past few days that within the next few weeks here in India I am going to be forced into a season of loneliness. Those of you who know me, you know this is super difficult for me.

I am an extreme extrovert. I LOVE being around people. I thrive from positive interactions with other human beings. It could even be a total stranger and I’ll leave the conversation feeling more energized and re-focused on the purpose for my life. Almost like a breath of fresh air.

Today it hit me the hardest. I was still in bed when I got the text from one of my best friends asking if I wanted to join for lunch at a place literally 10 steps from my front gate. I called up my boyfriend and we met her there with a bunch of other friends.

Wow. Is all I can say. I had so much fun just sitting there talking for a bit, even with another dude I just met. After, my boyfriend and best friend came over to help me with a video project for a class I am in.

After laughing our hearts out because it was just too hard to try to stay concentrated, we finally finished the video. My friend left and my boyfriend decided to finish a movie he was watching on my phone.

So, I did what anyone else would do. I napped. When the movie was over, my boyfriend had to leave immediately to go home. As he was leaving, he told me he couldn’t come back until probably next Monday.

That’s four days from now. YES, I can handle being away from him for that long. BUT, I basically broke down crying because I just knew that all my other friends would be busy between now and then also- thus I would be stranded in my little dorm/apartment style room. All. By. Myself.

After he left I texted some friends and asked if they had dinner plans. YEP. Everyone had plans. Cool. I thought. I hope they have fun. Looks like it’ll just be me and trusty Netflix tonight… at least I can try to finish my Netflix series sooner than I thought… those are good goals right?

After one episode my stomach was growling its way into another dimension. I didn’t want my leftover hillbilly vegetable pasta (derived from my mom’s hillbilly hamburger helper), so I packed my bag with my tablet and my wallet and I hit the road for Café Society– my usual when there is no one else to grab dinner with.

I sat there reading through some other WordPress blog posts and then it hit me. I can use this time of being alone as solitude, not a time of loneliness. I mean c’mon. Though, my cheesy boyfriend would say “But you’re not alone, God is always with you.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe God is doing this to me intentionally so that I will learn how to be alone– and learn to practice solitude. There are so many things I can do in this time that I wouldn’t be able to do if I were with people.

For example, I can focus more on my blog, or finishing the last few weeks of this semester. I can work on reading the two other novels I brought with me. I can focus on praying for the salvation of my friends and family. I can relax and watch Netflix or play Sims (okay you caught me, I’ve already been doing that).

These times of being alone don’t have to be a time of loneliness. They can be a prosperous, productive time of solitude leading to growth and independence. You may even gain guidance on what the next step of your life is (at least that is one thing I am hoping for).

Our dearest Apostle Paul reminds us to “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5.16).

So friends, join me in making the most of the lonely time and accepting the growth that can take place in solitude.

*I also have to give a shout-out to my boyfriend because I used a photo he took as the featured image!*

Yours is the Victory

Do you ever do something where you aren’t really sure if you have the confidence to do it, but then when you actually do do it you are so darn proud of yourself? Not like a bragging kind of proud, but like a wow, I actually did it! kind of proud?

I mean, I’m talking that feeling were you are crazy nervous and anxious to do this one thing that you don’t even realize you are doing it. THAT kind of proud. The kind where you’re like woah.. did I seriously just do that?

Right now, I am sitting in Café Coffee Day (shocker that I’m in a coffee shop right?) with the leftover nerves and anxiety streaming through my veins. Or maybe that’s the chocolate ice cream and coffee I had for lunch about 30 minutes ago…

ANYWAYS. The point is, I did it. I accomplished a fear! I took a chance and stepped out of my comfort zone! You’re probably so excited for me right now… don’t you want to know what I did?? Okay… you talked me into it, I’ll tell you!

As you know from my previous posts, I am living in India right now. I was here before, but when I was here before I was scared to even walk to the grocery store alone. I don’t really know why. Maybe I was afraid I would get hit on, or just hit in general in attempts to cross the street in this crazy traffic.

But this time, I’m not as scared. I feel confident in walking to the grocery store, and even crossing the street. I think that it’s because of one thing and one thing only… OLA. Ola is like the cheap Uber of India (although they still have Uber). It’s just a simple app where no matter where I am, basically, I can get an auto or car ride for a decent price. WOW. Can you say life changer?

BUT here’s the thing folks. Ola is great, but not everyone uses it. In fact, while it is cheap to Indians even that can be pricey. Why would you take an Ola auto when you can take a Share auto for only 20 RS, or the bus for 15 RS.

This is the dilemma I am in. I have enough money to stay here for the rest of the time I have planned, if and only if, I live the Indian way. This means, it’s okay to walk or take the bus. That’s the problem. I don’t have the confidence to take the bus on my own… or at least didn’t.

I woke up on this humid and hazy Sunday morning at about 10:30AM. I’m a bad girl and didn’t go to church. Actual, I have a valid reason for that. I’ve been very sick and coughing up a storm, so I didn’t want to go to church and disturb the sermon every three seconds because I needed to clear my throat. I also thought it would be good for my body to catch up on some zzz’s.

So I woke up, took my cold shower, and went to lunch with another American bloke image_123986672that’s here. We went to one veg restaurant with a hankering for a Masala Dosa, but they weren’t serving them at the time. Naturally, we left and went to another veg restaurant, a little further away, to get our dosas. Only to find out this place didn’t serve dosas until after 4pm… hence the chocolate ice cream and coffee for lunch.

After we finished the food that we did end up getting we walked back to the main gate of the college. Across the street from the main gate is a bus stand and a share auto stand. My plan for the rest of the day was to get a share auto to Café Coffee Day and spend the day slaving over my computer and textbooks with a hot cup of Joe (yes, another cup of coffee).

I asked one Share auto if he was stopping in Sembekem, the place where Café Coffee Day was. He did the weird head bobble thing that I recognized as a big fat “no”. I started walking through the bus stand to get to the auto stand. Then, another auto drove up next to me, clearly seeing that I was just rejected, and asked where I was headed. I told him the location and he just laughed in my face and drove away.

COOL. I thought to myself. We continued to walk through the bus stand and there was a bus that said 95 on it waiting to take off. Without hesitation I walked to the front of the bus and through the window I asked the driver if the bus was stopping in Sembekem. He did the head bobble thing that I took to mean “yes”.

I was like see ya later Gary, I’m hopping on this bus and going to Coffee Day! So I did. I sat down and waited for the bus to leave and my mind was like what am I doing??!?!?!? I don’t even remember what the Sembekem stop looks like! I’m going to miss it and embarrass myself. I DO NOT have the confidence for this!!

When the conductor (is that what they are called? Or is that just for trains?) came and I paid, again without thinning I said, “Sir, can you tell me when we stop at Sembekem?” He rambled something in Tamil and I was like thanks man.

Sure enough, he mentioned to me when Sembekem was next. I even started to get off the bus before the bus was fully stopped! Okay cool, so I took the bus. No biggie right? Except for the fact that now I had to cross the street!

I took a deep breath, pulled up my big girl pants and just walked into the road. I waited for these slow as all get out bikes to pass and made my run for it. There were two bikes waiting at the median to turn, so I waited with them and as soon as there was an opening in the traffic I skedaddled my little legs as fast as I could across the street!

As I finished the short walk to Café Coffee Day it was like I had two little Jenny’s sitting on each shoulder. One was like who do you think you are young lady? You could have died! You could have gotten on the wrong bus! And the other was like I am Jenny Freaking Bushnell and I just conquered the only fear I have in India. I am victorious. And then a bike drove through a puddle next to me getting my feet soggy. (insert face palm emoji here –>).

Anyways, I know that was a long story for such a small punchline, but c’mon folks! If we don’t conquer our fears with confidence and poise, aren’t we letting the devil get the best of us? I could have very easily just taken and Ola auto back to my little place and end up losing my motivation to blog, or do any type of work, and just binge watch “The Good Wife” for the rest of the day.

But I didn’t! Because instead I said not today dear Satan. I walk with the blood of Christ covering me and I am victorious because of it! What is holding you back from conquering your little fears? Are you afraid to admit that you even have a little fear like I did? It’s OKAY! Just let it out and then stomp it out! You got this! Start living your best life today!

 

The Heart’s Desire

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”

Psalm 37.4

How many times have you heard this verse in church or Sunday school? This verse is one of the most popular verses referred to when it comes to waiting.

You want to get married? Delight in the Lord and He will give you your desire. You want to have kids? Delight in the Lord…. You want a new car? Delight in the Lord… Any true desire that we have, the response is “delight in the Lord…”

Let me tell you about a time when the Lord put this verse on my heart, but I honestly did not know what the true desire of my heart was.

It was the end of my first year of college. I had just joined this missions group on campus called Ekballo. Shortly after I joined, we had a leadership retreat a few hours from the college at the vice president’s mansion. Now, I have to be honest and tell you that there was a very cute boy that was also going to this leadership retreat.

We were already pretty close friends, but I wanted to get to know him a little more. Ya know, see if there was any potential. So that was one of my missions for the weekend. On one of the days we did a prophecy exercise. All of our names were put into a hat and we drew a name and asked the Lord to give us a word for that person. The catch is that we couldn’t open the paper until after the word the Lord had given was shared.

As soon as I picked the piece of paper from the hat, I knew I had my own name. There was no doubt about it. The Lord said to me, “I am the God of the impossible and I will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37.4).”

My human mind immediately thought that was a promise that things would work out with this cute guy. For so long, I took that literally. I prayed and prayed and prayed that the Lord would send us out to the nations together. Then, we went on a missions trip to Southeast Asia together. I thought that surely the Lord was making this happen.

Things did not go as I had hoped with this guy though. He didn’t have feelings for me and then at some point we tried dating but realized it was just awkward, so not we are just good friends, and at one point, we were best friends.

So, that led me to still ask the Lord “then what is this desire of my heart that you plan on giving me?” As you may know from previous blogs I spent the beginning of 2018 until about April living in India for a study abroad experience. You may also know that I fell in love with that land and the people there.

Before I go any further, I need to share another little snippet of my past. After this guy and I went on this trip the Southeast Asia, we went to a missions conference back in the states. At this conference, they asked those who are willing and desirous to go the nations one day and serve overseas to fill out a commitment card. I knew I still had two more years of school left, so I said, “okay Lord, in two years, I will go and live on foreign soil to spread the Gospel and bring justice.”

Okay, now back the story… After getting home from my time in India, I did what most college graduates do. I got a job and started online classes towards my masters degree. I actually ended up having to get a new car too.

At first, I loved my job and was happy to be home with my family. I enjoyed hanging out with my cousin and best friend every weekend. I started playing tennis and doing all sorts of other exciting things.

Soon, I realized that this happiness was not lasting. It was so hard to be away from the land that I fell in love with. Not a single day went by where I did not think of India. I talked to friends from there everyday.

After a few months of working, I needed to re-evaluate my plans. It’s not that I hated the job, but it was not up my alley in what I wanted to do. The experience was incredible, nonetheless, but I wanted something more. So, I prayed.

I said Lord, I want to go back to India. I began searching for ways I could go. Maybe I could use education as a clutch again. I searched for an online job to keep me financially secure, and I reached out to my contacts in India to find proper housing. I didn’t expect any of it to work out in such an easy way.

Then, all of a sudden, housing fell in place, people wanted to partner financially with me, I had a project lined up for me to do when I got there, the only thing that was not set was the education piece. The school that I go to wanted me to go to a different part of India to complete field placement. They were not satisfied with where I had proposed I did my field education at.

I had a choice to make. Either I moved to a different part of India where I didn’t know anyone or the area, or stayed home. Then, the Lord put a third option on my heart that I didn’t even think would be possible. I could drop down to part time for my masters degree and complete it in two years, instead of just one.

That would mean that the educational piece would be eliminated altogether. After much prayer and surrendering my own plans to the Lord, this is what I decided to do. I felt so much peace about it. Probably because I knew God had a greater plan through all of it.

I texted my professor from my undergraduate college and told her everything was set into place and I was going back in just one month (this was at the end of July). She replied, “the Lord is giving you the desires of your heart!”

At that moment, the past two years of my life in wondering what the Lord meant in what He said to me at that leadership retreat all fell into place. While I do have the desire to be married one day, my biggest desire, and promise I made to the Lord, was that I would live overseas for an extended period of time serving the Lord.

That being said, I quit my well-paying job, hopped on an airplane and moved to India for the next 7 months of my life. As I sit here in my own room that I am renting with the funds the Lord so graciously provided, I am filled with the most joy I have ever felt because I know that I am completely and utterly in the exact place that the Lord wants me.

The Lord has gave me the desires of my heart. Friend, if there is anything that you get out of this post, get this: The Lord is faithful to bring His promises. It takes a little effort on our end. We are called to be obedient, no matter how fearful we are, and to trust that He is in complete control. So, take a step back and delight in the Lord because He wants to give you the desires of your heart too.

Many Waters

Probably over a month ago I stopped at a small park with a little lake on my way home. It was pouring rain and I could just imagine how beautiful the rain look thrashing against the still water. Normally I would go the actual lake (lake Erie), but it was late and I didn’t have time for those shenanigans. My dad used to take my sister and I to the lake all the time to watch storms roll in and reside, that’s where I got this idea from.

I did a very quick drive by and tried to swipe a good picture of the nature scene, but because it was so dark and rainy it did not turn out. But as I sat there for a small moment and watched as the sky saturated this already soaking wet land with its rains, I couldn’t help but just desire the same.

I was reminded of the verse from Song of Solomon. You know, the one that Jesus Culture turned into an incredible worship song? Song of Solomon 8.6-7:

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for long is strong as death, jealousy demanding as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If man offered for love all the wealth of his house he would be utterly despised.

Let me repeat the very specific portion that I am referring to:

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.

My basic, human, non-Bible or non-theology major interpretation of that is this: you can never have too much love in your life and there is very little that can extinguish love (or satisfy it). In other words, only love will truly satisfy us.

We can thirst and drink as much water as we want, but the only thing that will really satisfy us and bring that “quenched” feeling, is the love of God.

I’m not talking about some mushy-gushy-cheesy-romantic-Jack-gets-Jill-in-the-end kind of love. No. I am talking about the deeply rooted, never-ending, all-consuming love that Christ offers us.

As I watched the rains spill its guts all over that lake, the already wet, filled to the top with water lake, I couldn’t help but imagine that the water was actually God’s love. The lake was a lake of Jesus’ love and the clouds were Jesus showering even more love!

I want that.

We use the term “saturated” to describe things as being soaked that absorb a lot of liquid. That’s want I want. I want to be over-saturated in the love that God has for me. I want to be so caught up and consumed in His love that I don’t even think twice about what is means to delight in Him.

Servant Leadership

Similar to my last post, this post is going to be for a specific school assignment. Although it is for an assignment, I think it is a great discussion among not only the social work community, but also the Christian community. So, here we go!

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When I say the word “leadership” what do you think of? What are the traits and characteristics that immediately pop into your mind? I usually think of the president of student council, the church board members, the principle of a school, the captains of sports teams, etc. The list could go on and on and on. Personally, I feel like leadership is an opportunity to show people you care. It is an opportunity to utilize your own giftings and skills to serve. Yes, that’s right, I said the “s” word.

I know the word “serve” is not the first thing that comes to mind when we hear leadership. Some of us might get the picture of a huge army being led by one single person. How could that one single person “serve” an army? It sounds impossible doesn’t it? But think about the concept of servant leadership… what does that look like to you?

To me, it looks like a leader stepping off of the stage for a moment to help a follower. It means having compassion for the people under you and being passionate about your leadership role. I mean, c’mon, who wants to be a “follower” under someone who is not really passionate about what they are doing? I had an experience with this once.

It was my second year of college and I was the action officer of our missions club on campus. My specific role was to plan events to do missions work on our campus and in the city surrounding the campus. I was under a particular leader, whom I adored, don’t get me wrong, but she was not as passionate about the club as a few other leaders and myself. It was very difficult to work with someone like this. There were a lot of tensions. And honestly, the club is no longer in existence (there are more factors to that).

As a student studying a subject I am extremely passionate about, I often think about how I want to be a leader in my future career. In my undergraduate studies I always thought being a leader in social work meant being the absolute best, all the time. I was the student that got assignments done when everyone else asked for a deadline. I was the student that made sure I understood my theories and aced every test I took. I met all the page count and source count requirements. I even participated in social work club as much as I could. I thought of myself as a leader.

But now that I am in graduate classes and even working in the field of social work, I am learning that leadership is so much more than that. Leadership is an opportunity to facilitate empowerment and encouragement among colleagues to help them do their best (that was such a “social worky” statement wasn’t it?!). Yes, being a leader is a chance to “shine” and show what you can do, but it’s not to be done in a selfish fashion.

One thing that we do not always realize is that there are different types of leadership. Peters (2018) shares a few of these different types of leadership: organizational, relational, and individual. I’ll let you use your imagination on how each are different. Personally, in the field of social work (as a student and looking towards my future career) my role is to be a competent leader, with empathy and passion, that works to serve not only my future clients, but also my colleagues.

It is crucial that if you are going to be a leader, you need to be an effective leader. Otherwise, your efforts are just wasted. Being an effective leader may mean accepting constructive criticism from those around you, taking on projects/tasks that aren’t so thrilling, and recognizing when it is your time to step down. In this profession (and in the Christian community) we are working with other professions (other religions). We encounter them on a day-to-day basis (i.e. medical staff, counselors, psychiatrists, police officers, lawyers, etc.). The actions we take as leaders in our community make impressions on those we interact with.

Just as we are “judging” the other professions to make sure they are doing their jobs right, other professions are doing the same of us. We are always being watched and critically analyzed. That is just another reason why it is important to make our leadership sound and effective.

Personally, I believe that to be an effective leader, the leader must make sure they are taking care of themselves. Effective leaders, desiring to serve, cannot truly be effective if they have no energy, motivational, or will to serve. Simply put, you cannot pour from an empty cup. This is a field where compassion fatigue is easier to accomplish then self-care. Do you practice self-care? Wait, do you know what self-care is?

I would describe self-care as caring for yourself. Yes, it’s that simply. So much of our time as professionals and leaders in this chaotic life is dedicated to meeting the needs of others. We deal with messy, fragile situations that take a lot of energy out of us in order to be effective. So, how do we fix our decrease in energy? By doing something for ourselves. I like to go for a walk, play tennis, play my guitars, nap, read, eat, nap in a hammock, etc. I have a never-ending list… Now, it’s time for you to make your list of self-care practices. It’s important to have these tricks in a bag so when you need to pull them out they are right there. I may not always have time to take a nap, but I can sit in my car waiting to see my next client and read a chapter of my favorite book. Here is a self-care starter kit to help you build your list of tricks! Feel free to comment your results!

Almost coupled with self-care is the ability to assume positive intent and recognize where you are on the mood elevator. This is crucial to being a good leader for several reasons. First, have you ever received a text message from someone and immediately thought the sender was being rude? Me too. Almost everyday. Now, texting is not the best form of communication, however in this developing world, some clients may not even want to talk on the phone, thus scheduling with them is done via text. Email is similar to this. We cannot assume that the senders meaning behind the message was to be rude. This would be assuming negative intent. In other words, their intentions were not to come off like a stone-cold, hot-headed, ungrateful individual. This article explains a little more about positive intent.

Assuming positive intent is also important because as a leader we never want to come 6a00d8341d883653ef0162fbd046b7970d-600wiacross as being offended. We never want to open the door for us to respond negatively either. Thus, recognizing where we fall on the mood elevator during these times is important. Check out the picture to the side. Let’s say you are a supervisor and you open up an email on a Monday morning from your newly hired social worker. You specifically hired this worker because you loved their positive attitude and how they always used exclamation points in their emails. This one did not. It also asked if you could privately meet with them. How do you respond?

You could get anxious because you don’t know what they want to talk to you about. You may even assume it is bad because of how the email was written. OR you can be optimistic and respond by saying, “Sure! Let me know when you are available this week!”

In my Professional Development class, we read an article about the five components of emotional intelligence. They are: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. Basically, having these five pieces put together will help you to be an effective leader in social work practice. Unfortunately, it is not always that easy. We will not be able to “master” all of these components. And that’s okay!

Personally, I feel like I will struggle the most with self-awareness. It is not that I am self-aware, it’s that sometimes I am overly self-aware. I mean, to the point of being afraid I might offend someone if I make one little mistake. However, I know that as I continue on in my education I will learn how to cope with this challenge and be the best I can be for myself, clients, and colleagues.

So now you are probably thinking, okay so why are you sharing this on your faith-based blog? Because while this is for a social-work specific class, the implications can be applied to any profession. They are also very important to examine in our own faith walks. I purposefully made an effort to not mention Christianity, Biblical context, or Jesus as much as I could throughout the article because I wanted to challenge you to make those connections. If you want to have a discussion about it, I encourage you to comment!

It is important for MSW students (and anyone else) to be introduced to what leadership is because this is the point in our education where we really dive into the field of social work. It is no more generalist practice like we had in UG. The stakes are raised, more expectations are expected, and we are all being challenged into our own little unique leader-selves that will eventually go out and serve out communities and the world. Learning this now instead of during our first job after graduation will most likely get us the best first job after graduation because we will stand out in already being effective leaders.

While I enjoyed this class I took very much, just like anything else, improvements can be made. Throughout this course I was able to do a lot of self-assessments that helped me become more self-aware (hey, there’s that word again!). I was challenged in unique ways and inspired to be a better, effective leader. This course also touched on a variety of topics. However, it would have been really interesting to go more in-depth with all levels of social work (micro, mezzo, and macro) as well as spend more time looking at how to be a leader when working with other cultures.

The last thing I would like to share is a specific leadership model. This model is called the social change model of social work. Iachini, Cross, and Freedman (2015) find several values in three different categories that help social workers promote change. Individual values consist of consciousness of self (being aware of beliefs and strengths), congruence (aligning forms of communication), and commitment. In a group setting values are collaboration (working together to complete a task), common purpose, and controversy with civility (handling conflict well). Lastly, the one social value discussed is citizenship.

The things discussed in this post are specific things to help us better ourselves as leaders. Everyone every now and then needs to do a self-check. This is a great time to do that if you are already in a leadership position. If you are not in a leadership position but would like to be, this is a great way to start!

 

Iachini, A. L., Cross, T. P., & Freedman, D. A. (2015). Leadership in Social Work Education and the Social Change Model of Leadership. Social Work Education34(6), 650-665. doi:10.1080/02615479.2015.1025738

Peters, S. C. (2018). Defining social work leadership: a theoretical and conceptual review and analysis. Journal Of Social Work Practice32(1), 31-44. doi:10.1080/02650533.2017.1300877

The End All

It was a warm Monday afternoon with a slight breeze shifting the sun’s rays from beating directly down on my already sun-kissed skin. I was trying to figure out what I did to deserve the blessing of getting off work early on a Monday afternoon. I had two and a half hours to spend doing whatever I wanted. After stopping at the LifeWay store to check out good deals on books, selling a pair of old jeans to Plato’s Closet, and using my buy-one-get-one coupon at CoreLife Eatery on two healthy-as-all-get-out salads, I had a decision to make.

I could either go to my grandmother’s house and accompany her in her scorching living room and do nothing, or go to the Starbucks that I basically live at to finish, yet another, assignment for my graduate classes. I chose neither. Instead, I went to a park with a river. I wanted to just rest. I wanted to spend time with myself. I wanted to just breathe for one moment before I had to go to yet another commitment.

I got to the park, grabbed one of the books I just bought (and the free journaling notebook with my purchase!), a pen, and my aqua blue water bottle and headed for the shaded bench along the riverside. There were several dads walking along the river with their young children. It was so precious watching the little ones laugh and giggle while walking in the smooth river.

As I sat there, I breathed in and thought this is it. This is what I need. A moment for me. I opened my book and began to read, but only made it through the introduction before the wind sent goosebumps up and down my spine. I got up and walked to another bench in the sun. Perfect.

I continued reading and sipping my cool water. I was in such unbelief that on a Monday afternoon I could actually take time to just be. This was a moment I longed for more of. No rushing. No cell phone. No worrying. A moment of pure bliss, I would say.

I kept reading and observing the beautiful wildlife around me. God had such an imagination when He created. I had enough time to read through four chapters of this new book I just got (the chapters were less than 10 pages!). The book seemed to be exactly what I needed. It was like the words sprang right off the page and into my heart.

The book, An Intentional Life by Karen Stott began by talking about passion and pursing the things that God has called us to. Karen shares her own personal testimony to help readers relate. And boy, could I relate! The words that she probably put her heart and soul into were some of the most empowering words I have ever read.

Eventually, I put the book down because I needed to process what I had just read. You see, we all have so many hopes and dreams, so many desires, so much passion. She described this one moment where she was doing something she absolutely loved and she could tell it was what she was called to do because she was thriving and just at complete peace. Have you ever felt that?

I felt that once, when I was in India. I loved the work I was doing. I loved the people that I was surrounded by. Sure, I missed home, but this was it! This is what I was passionate AOAM0562 (1)about! Someone even captured a candid of my pure joy of me doing what I felt called to do. But now, now I am home. I am back in the States, living with my parents while I finish (hopefully) the rest of my education in my masters program.

There is not a day that goes by where I do not think about India or my time there. I miss it. Even though there were so many times when I was so frustrated and did not understand anything, I miss it. Because that was clearly where God had called me to. I feel like one day, hopefully sooner than later, I will be traveling back to those not-so-foreign grounds that I fell in love with.

Eventually, it was time for me to leave the peaceful moment and head to my church to serve at our summer sports camp outreach for children. As I walked to the car I had only one thought: this is not the end-all.

After getting home from India, an experience that changed my life and that could never be topped, I graduated college and did what any other college graduate does, I got a job (and started my masters program). I started working full-time, getting re-engaged in my church, catching up with friends, going to school full-time, heck, I even picked up Tennis as a hobby! But something was just not right. I was not happy. I was not happy with where I was career-wise, or several other areas of my life.

I had this aching and passion to do other things. I wanted to move to Washington D.C. and work for the International Justice Mission or move to New York and work for the United Nations (I still do!). But I couldn’t. Not yet. It wasn’t “my time” to do that. Even though those are my dreams and passions and goals for myself, they were not what God had in mind for me fresh out of college. God had something else in store for me. He wanted me to work and get this other college education and focus on bettering myself (maybe I should say “becoming” myself?)

This meant, once again, putting my dreams on hold. I even had to recognize that I had to put a really important relationship on hold, trusting that if it were meant to be, God would make a way. This is a time where God wants to transform me. God wants to lead me to still waters. God wants to plant a yearning so strong in my heart for the things that I am already so passionate about that I will not ever be able to give up on my dreams.

This is my season of growing.

I was talking to my best friend (my best friend for over half of our lives now). She is also in a season of growing. We talked about how difficult it is. We are both in places where we don’t want to be, but where God has ordained us to be. It comforts me to know that my closest friend is in this with me.

Before recognizing this (and even after), I realized that at some point along the lines I lost my fear of God. I lost my reverence and awe for the one who created me, the very thing that connected me with God on a level I couldn’t even begin to describe. My heart hardened. My well was dry. I was in a desert. I was so stubborn, that I did not even recognize this.

I was angry with God. I was confused at why I had just experienced something so incredible and so life-giving that I loved doing, but was brought home to something I was not passionate about. I was upset with him that I met an amazing man, but the relationship was put to a halt. I asked God if He was punishing me, but He did not answer. He was silent. All of this warped my thoughts and made me question if I should even continue pursing the dreams I have. Should I even trust God that if it is His will, He will make a way with this relationship?

I felt like I would be stuck in this rut for the rest of my life.

But after this moment at this park, I felt renewed. After reading a few words of encouragement from another sister in Christ, I felt that it is possible to get through this. Even though right now, in this day, I feel like I am getting no where, or achieving any of the goals I have set for myself, God is taking me everywhere and I am achieving the goals He has set for me.

So while I am not living the “perfect life” I thought I would be right after I graduated from college, I am living the life that God has called me to live at such a time as this. And in this time, come hell or high water, I want to be so immersed in what God has for me that I will never be distracted. I want God to mold me, transform me, prune me, make me new. I know it will be painful, but it will be worth it. He is preparing me for something mighty ahead. He is answering my prayers in His own way, in His own timing.

This is not the end all and the best is yet to come.

Now, it is time for me to allow the Holy Spirit to soften my heart and to submit to what He has placed before me. Are you ready to join me on this journey?