When I Don’t Feel Like Singing 

I take my daily drive into work very seriously. I have a playlist of worship music that I listen to every morning. I make a big deal of queuing the most appropriate songs based on how my heart is feeling. The next 30 minutes are a non-stop praise fest.

There is very loud (and off-key) singing, raising of hands and sometimes crying. One morning I listened to “Out of Hiding” by Stephanie Gretzinger on repeat for the entire drive. I showed up to work a mess of tears, completely overwhelmed by how good God is to me. Consumed by the fact that He relentlessly draws near to me.

Lately though I haven’t felt like singing. Whether it’s grogginess from not getting enough sleep or annoyance because I couldn’t find the right outfit to wear, my daily commute has become silent. My usual morning routine has been hijacked.

It started out as a slow change. At first I would play my music and even sing the words, but my heart wasn’t in it. My mind was fixated on something dumb I had said two days before and wondering what people thought of it, or thinking of all things I had to do when I got to work. I would try to push the thoughts away and hold fast to the words I was hearing in the songs.

Eventually I succumbed to the thoughts in my mind. The music still played, but my thoughts were so loud I didn’t hear a word.

One day, I turned the music off altogether. If my brain couldn’t chill for thirty minutes, then I wouldn’t even bother. The thoughts in my head would counteract the painful silence of a car with no music. It seemed like I was fighting a losing battle so I threw in the towel. I was bitter and it definitely showed.

In a stunning act of kindness, God unraveled the tangled mess of my thoughts in my head and plucked something incredible from amidst the war zone.

“Sometimes when my heart isn’t in it, I feel like that’s when I really need to raise my hands in worship.”

God is funny isn’t He? A pastor I’ve known for years and really respect has said this on multiple occasions, and in the moment where my thoughts had overtaken me, had stolen my joy, God lifted this piece of truth from the recesses of my memory.

Sometimes it’s when my heart isn’t in it that I must be led by action. Sometimes it’s when I feel like I can’t draw near to God, that I need Him the most. And sometimes, it’s when I don’t feel like singing when I must shout the loudest.

 

 

 

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Choices

Depression, I’ve learned is not something I can run from.

Whether I like it or not, I will live with it for the rest of my life. There will be times when it seems to lie dormant and other times when it seems to consume the very life inside me. I certainly did not choose depression; did not choose moments that seem so bleak. But,  it is at these, my darkest moments that I am given a choice. This choice carries great weight and has great impact on all that follows. In these moments, I can choose the path I will take.

My choice will always stem from what I know to be true about this illness: I alone cannot defeat depression.

As a result of my inadequacy, and the knowledge that I am hopeless to defeat depression, I default to Choice One. I realize that its nasty claws are in and I am powerless to take them out. Give up. Call it quits.  Shut down. Skip the event. Lock the door. Ignore the call. Snooze the alarm. Close my eyes. Pull the covers higher.

As I dive further and further into this choice, it leads me down a path deeper and darker than I ever imagined I’d be on. I found myself on this path nearly one year ago, unable to recognize any of my surroundings. Even if I wanted to turn back, I wasn’t sure I could.

But over the past couple of months I’ve become aware of an alternate choice. Like missing keys hiding in plain sight Choice Two was revealed to me. Like a light being turned on in a dark, dark room I finally began to see.

My weakness isn’t a call to surrender to depression, but rather a call to surrender to God. To remember that aside from Him, I have nothing and that He alone is my strength. Instead of championing my depression, I champion Christ as the victor that He is.

The same facts still apply. I still have depression. It still punches me in the gut sometimes and knocks me to my knees. But, on my knees I begin to acknowledge that Christ is all-powerful. My weakness is illuminated, but not in a way that defeats me. It is illuminating in a way that pushes me to complete dependency on the Lord.

The following verse comes to mind: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I see that in my weakness, God is strong. In my inadequacy, He is adequate. In my defenseless, He is the Great Defender.

I sink comfortably into Choice Two. The choice to acknowledge that Christ has the final word. That He has already overcome. I glory in his defeat of darkness and stand firmly in the light with Him.

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I Wrote A Poem

If you know me well, you know that I struggle with depression. It is a constant in my life, and probably will be as long as I live. Some days can be really dark but I believe there is always a light shining in the darkness. If you happen to read this and are battling your own demons, I hope this poem instills you with the hope that you too can rise.

I had to do an assignment for class in which we worked on a piece of writing throughout the semester. On the last day of the semester we had a publishing party and shared our pieces with the class. I write often so I didn’t think the assignment would be difficult, but I began to struggle with what I wanted my piece to be.

One day while sitting in Methodical Coffee, I came across Still I Rise by Maya Angelou, an old favorite. I was reminded that despite the struggles I was facing, I would rise, and in fact, I had already risen. I decided to capture that in a poem.

If you happen to read this and are battling your own demons, I hope this poem instills you with the hope that you too can rise.

 

A Poem Inspired by Maya Angelou 

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise. 

 

Depression, you seem

Oh so wise

But like mighty oak tress

Still I rise

 

You ensnare me

You darken my skies

But like the sun

Still I rise

 

You weary my heart

You ignore my cries

But like the phoenix

Still I rise

 

You make the world blurry

Before my eyes

But like warm baking bread

Still I rise

 

Truth is not within you

You are full of lies

But I know the truth

So still I rise

 

He constantly pursues me

So ardently he tries

But I’ve found a greater glory

So still I rise

 

No more will I fall

For your thin disguise

Like Jesus my Lord

Still I rise

 

 

P.S. Here’s to you, Dr. Stover.

 

Holy Spirit Power? 

 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

On May 9 I boarded my first plane and traveled roughly 6,000 miles to Israel. I came back from my trip with a wicked Chaco tan, a brain full of unanswered questions, and crippling anxiety over how I would describe my trip once I got back. I did indeed come back with new eyes, and new views and new perspectives; but I had no idea how to express them in a coherent way. Since returning, I have balked at the thought of putting all I saw and experienced there into words. During my entire three-week sojourn I mulled over what I would say to people when they asked me about the trip. Every time the scenario played in my head, I couldn’t find the words to say. I fell short.

When I finally did come back and people asked me how my trip was all I could say was “incredible” or “amazing.”

Pathetic.

One liners.

Come on Jordan, you literally spent three weeks where Jesus walked and preached and lived, and all you can say is amazing?!

I was so  frustrated and utterly disappointed. Instead of coming up with poignant words to describe this life changing trip, I stuttered. Instead of sharing my experiences with others, I hid it away out of fear of not doing it justice. I kept quiet because I didn’t want to say the wrong words.

It wasn’t until a few days ago that all the fear and insecurity was washed away by the Lord himself. Scott, a leader in my church that knew I had been to Israel casually asked me, “What was your favorite part of the trip?”

My heart began to race thinking of all the possible things I could say. As I was about to resort to my default answer, it was as if God showed him the anxiety and trouble within my heart and he rephrased the question.

“Actually, what was your favorite part about being near the Sea of Galilee specifically?”

My heart began to flutter less and less. The gears in my brain began to slow down. The Holy Spirit within me assured that I could answer this.

“The site of Peter’s Restoration” said a voice that wasn’t my own.

“Really?” he replied, “mine too.”

“Can you tell me more?”

Stress within me began to build again and this is where the Lord totally took over. I recalled the story illustrated in John 21. As the disciples are gathered by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus appears to them. I imagine Peter’s emotions as he sees Jesus, who just days before had been hung on a cross to die. As Jesus walks toward them, is Peter shamefully remember his denial of Jesus? Is he thinking, how could I ever show my face around Jesus again? Does he wish he could disappear? Does he expect the Lord to bestow his wrath on him in the painful way Peter deserves? I know those are the things I would be thinking.

But, this is not at all what Jesus does. Instead, he lovingly comes to Peter and out of grace and mercy restores him. And not only does he restore him, but he gives him a mission.

Feed my sheep.

Even when I struggle to remember this daily, this is the message of the Gospel. Though I am sinful and deny Christ every chance I get, He is holy. In his holiness, he loves and restores me time after time, and grants me with the honor of bringing people into his kingdom.

Being by the Sea of Galilee, in this location, where the Lord so graciously restored Peter, brought a truth I had been forgetting to the forefront of my mind: The Lord restores me when I sin against Him, and then equips me to share his glory with others.

A month ago when I thought about communicating what I experienced in Israel I froze, but somehow in this moment I was able to effortlessly express the impact this site had on me.

In that moment, it was so clear that the the Holy Spirit worked in me and gave me power. I realized it less about using beautiful words or sounding educated. It didn’t matter if I recounted every single detail right or forgot exactly what city I was in on what day of the trip. What mattered was what God taught me while I was there, and how I apply that to my life now, and shared that with others. It what was when I let go of the fear of saying the wrong thing, forgot about all the minuscule details and trusted the Lord that I finally found the words to speak.

 

Reflections From My First Mission Trip

I came into my CE internship at Grace Church  this summer with a lot of “firsts”. Just one month before we departed for Allendale, I had boarded my first plane for a three week trip to Israel. Two days after I returned, I was hard at work at Grace planning a mission trip to Allendale, South Carolina, a place I had only vaguely heard of and most definitely couldn’t locate on a map. Other than the fact that I was now planning a mission trip there, my only prior knowledge of Allendale came from the documentary Corridor of Shame. The documentary depicts the inequalities and neglect facing schools in the counties along I-95; Allendale is one of these counties. I had previously viewed the documentary in both a Poverty Studies and an Education class at Furman University. So, the two viewings of the hour-long documentary were my only thoughts about Allendale.

That being said, two things during planning began to emerge. First, I acknowledged the fact that I myself had never been on a mission trip. I had to take a step back for a second. The trip that I was planning, and would be majorly responsible for, was based on something I had never actually seen or done. That was a lot for me to handle, and at first made me put a lot of pressure on myself. I was constantly stressed over whether or not things would work out, and felt like every logistical detail had to be perfectly planned out.

 

ESPECIALLY FOR MY FIRST MISSION TRIP, EITHER OF THOSE PLACES WOULD BE A MUCH COOLER DESTINATION.

 

Second, I started thinking about the vast majority of places I could be going instead of Allendale, South Carolina, a mere three hour drive from where I call home. Why not Nicaragua or Eleuthera? Why couldn’t I be planning and going on one of those other trips that Grace takes? Especially for my first mission trip, either of those places would be a much cooler destination.

As the planning process continued I felt myself begin to get more bogged down by these two concerns. It wasn’t until I spent a day in Allendale tying up loose ends before the trip that I truly began to get it. As we drove into the city I felt an immediate shift. I looked out the window to see abandoned buildings to my left and right. I felt my heart being changed as God whispered to me, “See, this is what it’s about. It’s not about you.” As I sat across from a city leader and heard the passion with which he spoke about the city, God spoke to me again. He assured me that it didn’t matter that I had never organized or even participated in a mission trip. He assured me it didn’t matter that I didn’t want to be in Allendale.

As I left that day, prepared go back in just four short days, my heart had been completely changed. At the beginning of my internship, I was tasked with reading the Leader’s Guide of Helping Without Hurting in Short Term Missions, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. The book introduces a new approach to short term missions and changed a lot of the way I thought about our trip. In the beginning as I planned, I easily became stressed over small details like where we would work and how the daily schedule would flow. To me, those would be the markers of success at the end of the trip.

I REALIZED THAT SUCCESS IS QUANTIFIED IN MORE THAN A RIGID SCHEDULE OR A MEAL THAT GOES OFF WITHOUT A HITCH.

 

But as we got there, I continued to read Helping Without Hurting and experienced the people of Allendale, and I realized that success is quantified in more than a rigid schedule or a meal that goes off without a hitch. Success can be a night where a 15 year old boy, who is failing school, comes from summer school during the day to sing worship songs with our high-schoolers at night. Success can be sharing a popsicle with the farmers that sell their cucumbers and watermelon at the farmers’ market every day.

However, it wasn’t until I got back to Greenville and to the end of the book that I came across this quote that beautifully captures the essence of this all, “Rather than focusing on the trip itself as the primary element of success, we need to deliberately situate short-term visits as one piece of a larger undertaking. When properly designed, short-term trips are an opportunity to learn from, encourage, and fellowship with believers in the context of long-term engagement with God’s work, focusing on understanding His body and our role in it more fully.”

You may be like me at the beginning of my trip, someone who doesn’t know much about Allendale and certain you can’t have an impact. You may have prior judgements and think of Allendale as insignificant since it is so close to home. You may doubt that God could use you in a place like Allendale. You may even reject God’s call for the hope of a more romantic destination. I would dare to say all of these patterns of thinking are wrong. God knows where he wants us and he equips us to be there and do His work, no matter where it is.

After being there for just four days, I can tell you so many things. I know that Big G’s restaurant is owned by a husband and wife, and they get a lot of business from college students during the school year. I know that a woman in labor has to drive an hour away to have her baby because the Allendale Hospital isn’t equipped to deliver babies. I know that there is a 102 year old former schoolteacher in the nursing home there, where she taught another one of the residents to read. I know that just about every handicap ramp in the city was built by a man named Frank. I know Frank and his wife Lottie love the Lord and love their community.

I came out of this trip completely different than I went into it. I realized it was not at all about me, but completely about what the Lord wanted to do. I firmly believe the Lord has things to do in Allendale. If you are interested at all in what my church is doing, let us know here.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 12:20-21

 

ARE YOU IN YOUR 20S AND LOOKING TO SERVE IN ALLENDALE? SIGN UP FOR THE DECADE 20 ALLENDALE SERVICE DAY HERE

Home.

Two days ago I took my last final and headed for home. Closing the chapter on junior year in Greenville, I headed drove to Rock Hill, South Caroline. After a brief stay in Rock Hill (brief meaning two days)  I’m now headed to Atlanta to spend the weekend with my parents before I leave for Tel Aviv, Israel (!!!!!!) on Monday. The past week in itself has been a whirlwind, not to mention the entirety of junior year. And, as I embark on a 3 week trip across the country, immediately starting an internship in Greenville when I get back, I realize this is not exactly the typical vision of “coming home for the summer”. In fact, in August, I will have spent less than 7 non-consecutive days at the house where I grew up. And actually, since I started college, I haven’t spent a summer at home.

To be honest… I’m okay with that.

It’s not that I don’t love my parents. Trust me, I do. I actually don’t know what I’d do without them. They’ve always supported me, and shown me all the love I could ever hope for. And because of that I feel the freedom and confidence to venture on my own. Really, for me, thats what home is. Its not an address, or a zip code. Home is the people that love and support you. Home is with you regardless of your location in space. Home is in the values my parents instilled in me. Home is in the love and grace with which they raised me. Home is in the deep belly laughs of my father that erupt from me when I hear a really funny joke. Home is in my mother and my identical love of all things vintage.  Home is in the quiet, gentle spirit I inherited from my father. Home is in my mother’s Type A personality that comes out of me occasionally. This weekend, my parents and I will be home together in Atlanta. We’ll laugh and talk. We’ll love. And, as we say our good-byes at the airport, I’ll be comforted knowing that even though I’m not technically home, home is always with me.

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Challenges.

Over the past year, I’ve been challenged a lot. But, through those challenges I’ve learned a lot. As I finish up my junior year of college, I’m expected a lot of the next year. I’m expecting to be pushed and challenged in ways that I haven’t been before. Through these challenges, I must remember to keep my heart focused on Christ, as it is His strength working in me that allows me to achieve.  These challenges will ultimately bring growth, but may not seem worth it as I faith them day in and day out. I want to keep up with this blog to record my experiences and what I learn along the year.

This past semester, I struggled greatly with depression. I felt like everything in life kept piling on and piling on and I didn’t have the strength to handle it. In the darkest of days, I tried to muster up all the strength I had and push through completely on my own. I had no time of reflection, and didn’t stop at all to listen to what God was urging me to hear. For months, I tried to go it alone while He was whispering to me that He was with me all along. If I’d been listening, I would have known that I didn’t have the strength, and that my strength instead came from above. If I’d slowed down, I would have realized my own strength wasn’t before I was knee deep in a depression I thought would never end unsure if I’d make it to see March.

Honestly, in the thick of if, those months sucked. Like majorly. But, once I stopped and started listening to God’s voice, I began to learn a lot. So, here’s a list:

  1.  Most importantly, I learned that depression is a real thing that affects me. It isn’t something I can will away.
  2. Contrary to my belief, I CANNOT go it alone. The Lord desperately craves my dependence on Him, especially in times like this.
  3. My  go go go personality is my downfall. That being said, I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO create extensive time in my day for reflection on Scripture, prayer and journaling.

Though my struggles with depression was one of the biggest highlights of this semester, I have many other experiences under my belt, many of which I hope to include in this blog.