Time to Heal

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When I started this project 9 months ago, I promised to be truthful and real, no matter how it may look. I didn’t want to sugar coat my life or make it something it wasn’t because this project was to be about realness, about being broken and finding Jesus in those moments when your low seems like it can’t get lower. It’s also about the good moments, the love and joy and the healing and happiness. It’s about life, the good and the bad and the tough and the easy. I never want it to deviate away from those principals.

With that said, I have struggled with depression most of my adult life. Sometimes, it hides in the inner corners of myself, and I push through with smiles and laughter and it doesn’t seep into my daily life. Then, there are those times where seemingly out of nowhere it grasps me and drags me down, confining me to the comfort of my billowy blankets, unable to face the world. When the latter time start to outweigh the better times, I know it is starting to be a problem.

That time is now.

In deciding to open up about my depression on here, I am doing something that many people don’t like to do, myself whole-hearty included.

I am admitting that there is a weakness in me, a flaw, that I am no quite sure how to handle.

I am admitting, to the friends, family and readers that I don’t have it all together. That, is a very hard thing to do. But, then again, it isn’t much harder than navigating the world of depression itself.

There are people out there that believe depression isn’t real, that it is or isn’t cured by medicine, that it’s lazy, that it’s a matter of “get over it”, that it is selfish, that it is an excuse .. that it’s this or that.

I am here to tell you my personal story, and only that. I know depression robs me of moments with my family and loved ones. It steals my joy. It takes the things that I hold dear and makes them undesirable. It takes the core of who I am and leaves me lost and lonely, even amongst people who desperately want to pull me out of it. I know depression is real, that I fight it daily, and that there is no one in this world that wants rid the sadness inside of me more than I do.

My husband and I made the move from Mississippi to Maryland to live closer to family and pursue our dream of being full-time missionaries. That is still our dream. Right now, my sweet husband is allowing me time to heal myself, before we move onto the next phrase of trying to help and heal others.

This season, as I am calling it, in my life is going to be about me. Of finally taking my health in my own hands, and doing what I need to do to heal. My 20’s have been plagued with these bumps and bruises of pains and hurts that I have gathered along the road of life. I’ve tried to heal them with time alone, hide them away and bury them, but they always come back, bigger and stronger.

Now, I have to face them.

I’m telling you this now, because that’s my job as Editor and Writer of this project. I am telling you this now because there are dark spots in our lives sometimes, and we don’t have to hide them, not from God, not from our loved ones, and not from anyone. I am telling you this so that you know, whatever you are dealing with, it’s okay. It’s okay to feel pain, to crumble sometimes, to not stand strong.

It’s okay to take time to heal.

I thank you all for your kindness, your thoughts and mostly, your prayers during this time,

Jenny

Photo Credit by Flickr Creative Commons Vinni123

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Living out Loud

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Dinner plans. Presents. What you had for lunch. Ultrasound pics. Dogs and cats. Kids and siblings. Special dates. Drama. Opinions. Thoughts. Feelings. Feel good moments. Steak dinner. Errand list. Complaints. Travel plans. What you’re reading. What you’re wearing. What you’re doing.

All of it, lived out on social media.

Before I go on, I want to give y’all full disclosure and say that I am guilty, guilty, guilty. I even have some examples that I will entertain you with later.

Everyday, we all log on and putting our best foot forward, spill tidbits of our lives, share pictures that represent the best of us, and create this painting for our friends and enemies alike of what our lives should look like from the outside.

Here’s an example. If you got through my page, you’ll see posts like this:

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I LOVED that day. We had just got our first Sam’s club card and we were like little kids on Christmas morning, holding hands and pattering down each and every aisle, laughing at the oversized portions and acting like goofs. It was a beautiful moment and a wonderful day, and as soon as I came home (or maybe in route to home to be honest) I decided to share it with my 637 Facebook friends. Why?

Maybe because it was a moment worth sharing, but I think more so because it was a pretty picture of my life at that moment. If you crept up to my window and peeked in, that is what I would want you to see. And really, that’s what Facebook allows us to do. It gives us warning that you are coming over, so we can tidy up our house and put out the fine china.  It gives us control over what others see and let’s us paint a picture that we want, that may or may not mirror reality.

My husband and I DO have a fantastic marriage, but it’s not all hand holds in the grocery store and love cuddles on the sofa. What marriage is? But you won’t see much of the posts where I say “Went shopping with my husband and argued over which bread to get for an hour. Why can’t he just embrace wheat bread? Why should I have to get white bread?” That’s not what I want you to see, because it’s not what I want to see myself.

I worry about living our lives out loud. That we get so caught up in posting pictures and status’s that we are forgetting to LIVE the moment, cherish it in our hearts for ourselves, not everyone else.

I worry about the reassurance and constant approval we are learning to rely on. How many likes? How many comments? Look at the ring he got me for my birthday, does it meet your approval? Are you jealous? Is my life desirable?

My life’s aim is to make my life approved by one man, and that is God. He doesn’t buy into the rose-colored pictures and status, but see’s the core of who I am. He seems the ugly in my life and loves me just the same. I don’t need to put my best forward for Him, but instead, His love strives me to be better.

I ask you to take a challenge with me. It’s scary and seems a bit crazy, but I think we can do it.

I am taking the next 30 days to live my life for me, to cherish my moments and keep them banked in my own heart.  I am going to be free and messy and me without status updates and pictures. With full disclosure, I will still use Facebook to talk to friends and to post blog things, but nothing personal. Are you in?

Let me know if you will take my challenge too!

With Love and Prayers,

Jenny

Why I won’t go Home

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I was born and raised in the great city of Pittsburgh, a city I love, a city I stand for. It doesn’t take long into first meeting me that I start to gush about my hometown. I love the sports, the black and gold nation of Steelers, Penguins and Pirates and their fans. I love the bridges that are snapped in like Legos over the still rivers that line a beautiful skyline.  I love the people, a small town demeanor in a big city lifestyle.

Pittsburgh is my home, and I miss it everyday. It’s been almost 6 years since I have lived in it’s billowing comforts, but I know I won’t ever live there again.

I know that I won’t ever go home.

Since my move away from Pittsburgh, I have lived in many places and have been willing to move whenever I felt like I needed or wanted a change or whenever I felt God calling me somewhere. But, I have never once thought of living back in Pittsburgh.

If you have been a reader from awhile, you know that my upbringing didn’t foster a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings in my life. I grew up in a family that defines dysfunction and there are wounds from it that are still barely scabbed over. Unfortunately, those pains hang over my beloved city like an inescapable chill. A visit there doesn’t bring me the same comforts that it used to, but instead attempts to claw at my healing and rips away old wounds while creating a halt to my moving forward.

This is a very hard balancing act, because I have two younger brothers that I love more than life itself in that city. I have an aunt that became like a mother to me, took me in when my mom threw me out like the garbage and she raised me like her own. I have a step-dad that is an important male figure in my life and who has never once treated me like anything but his daughter. There are friends, best friends, that helped me through the hell of those rough years and the pain afterwards.

In other words, in the darkness of that pain, there is so much light.

In a way, Pittsburgh is just a metaphor for the life we live everday. There is pain and darkness, hurt and sadness. There are open wounds that we try and cover over each day, hoping that in time they will heal and the sting of life won’t hurt quite as much.

But, in those moments there is light. There is a God to lean on, to provide us strength and healing like nothing else can. There are friends and family that guard our hearts and build us back to being stronger than we ever were before.

I won’t ever live in Pittsburgh again, but the longer I let my hometown stay besieged by the pain, the more power I give that pain, and the people that caused it. The more I shield myself from the darkness, the more I miss the light.

Part of this move to Maryland was to be closer to the people I love in the city I call home, and yet here I am dragging my feet afraid to open the door.

I will visit and see the people I love. And I will look at the foundation that sits in between the rivers, and think about sitting in it’s midst on hot summer days studying for finals. I will remember the good I achieved there, the non-profit I started, Hearts and Crafts, that partners the Art Institute with children at Children’s hospital. The Habitat work that lead me to New Orleans and ultimately Mississippi. The people that shaped my life, the road that lead me to who I am now.

I won’t see the clouds, but the light shining through.

Is there something you can’t face for fear of pain?  Please let me know how I can pray for you.

Jenny

Christian Mothers, Love One Another

This blog has been a long time coming.

It’s going to be a call out to our judgmental, prideful, and worldly hearts. It’s a hot topic these days. I may offend some people, but honestly I think we could use that. It’s about us, moms. About how we stare down our noses at other moms and the way they parent. There is nothing that gets my blood boiling faster these days other than seeing a mother criticize or argue with another mother over breastfeeding versus formula, organic versus processed, epidural or home birth, etc.

I honestly feel like Satan has taken a beautiful, Spirit-lead role and demeaned it down to nit picking each other to make ourselves feel better. Image

Let me back up {and take a deep breath}. I have been the blessed mother of Jude Garrison Taylor for almost 2 years. He is a gift. He is passionate {stubborn}, adventurous {dangerous}, funny {wild}, loving {momma’s boy} and a picky eater {ugh}. I literally think he is the best kid in the world, and I love being his mother. I’m still learning how this looks every day, and most of the time I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing! I pray a lot more and ask for a lot of wisdom. I am also pregnant with our second baby boy, Graham, and we are beyond grateful for this gift too.

However, I have never felt more judged or more “watched” since becoming a mother. I have never been in a stage where other women were so quick to give their two cents on what I should or shouldn’t’ do, how I should calm down or try their tactic {which is unsolicited}, or felt more boundaries being pushed past in really inappropriate ways. The guilt or feeling of failure as a mother immediately had come right after their words, and I realized that it was not from God. But still, it hurts. It hurts to feel that because I had an emergency c-section some women think I am weak or failed at giving birth. It hurts that some women look down at me because my son weaned himself from breastfeeding at 6 months old, and I had to use formula. It hurts that some see Jude carrying around a bag of Cheezits, and shake their heads in disgust. I just don’t get it. Why are we this way to each other?

Why, when mothering is so hard already, takes so much prayer and strength, would we beat each other down like this?

Why can’t we just love each other and be there for each other when we are going crazy?Why do we feel like failures because we aren’t doing the million Pinterest ideas for homemade organic snacks or creative fun activities, and really we just got through the day without any meltdowns? I call that a success! How is arguing over birth or your right to show everyone your breasts in public while you nurse really the best thing to do with our time? It breaks my heart.

Christian mothers, we need to get back to a few basics. One being that the point of mothering is to lead our sweet and rebellious children to the only thing that will truly give them a full, rich, life: Jesus. Not organic produce or breast milk. JESUS. The other being that these children are not our own, they are God’s. He knows their deepest needs, He loves them more than we do, and He wants better things for them than you can come up with. There is no need to argue or fight with anyone for them. He will fight for them. He will satisfy them. There is no need to judge any mother for how she is mothering because He is leading her in the way she should go. Trust God with her mothering, and trust her to trust Him with what she should do. Let the Spirit lead each person to what Jesus is calling them to do, whether that is having their baby in a bathtub or having them in a hospital. Let’s encourage and lift up all of our beautiful and brave mother friends, and support them in whatever God is asking of them.

I’ve got to say this in full disclosure: I do buy organic products often. I think breastfeeding is great. I also used formula. I also let Jude eat hot dogs and ice cream. I really hope to have a vaginal birth this second time. I do think about what I put in my family’s bellies but I also love to get them fries & nugs! BUT none of these things is the MAIN THING. These are fleeting, worldly things.

The main thing is that I discipline my children towards righteousness. That I lead them towards repentance. That I rejoice over their choices to be kind and giving. That I model how to be a servant. That I love them with the love Christ has loved me with.That I take a breath and realize He is in control of them and every detail of their life.

Can we free each other from feeling guilt and shame as mothers? Can we just love and accept each one as a sweet gift to the body of Christ and trust her to do what God asks of her? Can we just lay down our own insecurities as mothers and let each woman feel the freedom God has given her to parent? I would so love this. I know I’ve been guilty of judgment and these words and prayers are for my heart first, and for yours next.

Children are a gift from above, along with every other good thing we have. I hope we steward them well for God’s glory and for their joy. That they would know Him, love Him, and honor Him should be the only fighting we ever fight for, sweet Mommas.

Chavon

Going for God

I am seriously in love with the Olympics.

There is something so amazing and inspiring about athletes from all over the world, coming together in one place to showcase their talents and passions. The dedication they Imageput in, the hours of blood, sweat, and tears, the pain, the glory; it all seems so unfathomable.

And while the flags are being raised, the anthem is being sung, and the glimmer of all that dedication comes steaming down their faces, I can’t help but get choked up and reflect at my own life and where I put my time and dedication.

Where are my dreams in the priority of my day to day life?

Where does my passion lie?

And what might my life look like if I pursued and sought God like an Olympian?

I have dreams…..

To be a missionary. To pack up an RV and hit the road going from city to city doing disaster relief. I want to be a writer. I want to use my words to bring people closer to God. I want to be a mom, and to raise a family.  I want to run a race. To make my body lean and strong and run through the wind towards the finish line.

But above all, my biggest dream should be: to pursue God with every ounce of strength and energy I have.

And if that was the focus in my life, if that is what drove me and motivated me, wouldn’t the rest fall into place?

Sometimes, I get caught up in the day to day so much, that I feel like I am sleep walking through life. I lose the passion and the fire that makes this life beautiful. I put off my dreams for another day, I dip my toe in the pole of depression, and I let days fly by me like seconds. I am daydreaming and hoping for brighter days, but lay paralyzed in the stagnant pool of despair and normality.

God did not design me to live a dreamless life.

And more than that, he didn’t design me to dream and not achieve. He wants to fill my life with Blessings, He wants to see me succeed and live  fulfilled. But, He won’t do it for me.

If I want to be a writer, I must pray, seek Him, and write.

If I want to be a runner: I must pray, seek and run.

And in all hopes in dreams I must follow that model:

1. Pray: Share with God my hopes. my fears. Talk to Him like a daughter would to her dad about the things that matter to me. Brainstorm. Dream. Share my life with Him.

2. Seek God: Seek Him in every step. Ask Him where to go:then go. . Let Him walk with me, step by step in each milestone. When I hit a roadblock in my plan,I must seek his guidance and ask for His strength.

3. DO IT: With God walking (or running) right there next to me I can achieve my dreams. He has now paved the road, and all I have to do is run on it. And with each step I will know and feel that God is with me.
Suddenly, that dream isn’t so scary. The goals aren’t so high. When we use God in our lives, everything starts to look a little less intimating.

I will probably never be an Olympian, but that was never really my dream. Instead, I will pursue my OWN passions and dreams with God with the same hard work that an Olympian does.

And when this life is over, I will die a champion, and my God will greet me with a hug and a high five and be proud of what I have done here on earth.  I will make my dad PROUD. Who doesn’t want to see that?

Dream Big.

Pray.

Seek God.

Do it.

Achieve.

Repeat.

I love you all and can’t wait to share our dreams and achievements with each other.

Jenny

Using the Platform for Hope…

I usually don’t get involved in these type of debates or politics.

I leave that up to the people

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Photo by: polsifter

that get paid to do it. I usually subscribe to the avenue that love and hope will fix the cracks in our world, that politicians lie, and that fighting over the little things when there is a world of people that don’t know the Truth about Jesus is a much bigger problem worth fighting for.

With that said though; This Chick-Fil-A debate is making me sick.

Support or not support gay marriage, when did we become so closed minded that we can’t except anyone opinion unless it matches our own? Where does that get us? What kind of intolerance are we starting with that mindset?

In fact, this very project is meant to show the beauty of five uniquely different woman with different viewpoints and opinions, but share one IMPORTANT truth, the Jesus is the Lord of our lives. We may disagree on other issues, but at the end of the day, that truth alone will bind us. I can’t imagine what this project would look like if we all read each others posts and argued or boycotted them. We would be missing the point completely. We would be wrapping ourselves in closed-mindless and lacking the ability to grow.

There are many things I used to strongly believe it, with conviction and passion.I would debate them and stand up for them, but after many discussions with people that loved me enough to challenge me, I saw the other side and it faded away. It’s called growing. And trust me when I say, it is hard to admit you were wrong.

The problem with this Chick-fil-a debate is that it is running of hate.

Sure, boycott them if you like, because that is your right. But, why the slander, the hate sprayed across the internet, the campaign to ‘take them down’ and ‘make them suffer’. Really?

All while the other side is using the Bible as a means of hate and judgement. If you want to use the Bible to sling hatred and judgement at others, you are missing it. Love is used 508 times in the Bible.No one will ever hear those beautiful 508 times, no one will ever be changed and feel the hope in those 508 times if you continue to only use anger and hate. We are not here on this earth to judge. We are here to love.

Are we really at the point in this fractured world where we need to boycott and slander everyone and everything that doesn’t match our own view points?

With that mind set, I guess as a Christian, I need to stop eating or shopping at places that are owned by people of a different religion. Or maybe I should ask my employer how they feel about pro-life vs. pro-choice before continuing my employment there. In fact, maybe I better boycott and cut out everything and anything that doesn’t match my own view on the world.

Do you see how once this ball gets rolling, it will be impossible to stop?

How will we ever learn? Where is tolerance? Love? Acceptance?

If you agree or disagree with what was said is NOT the issue. I am also not suggesting we abandon our opinions or stay mute on the things we feel strongly about. The issue is what we are doing with that opinion.

I can absolutely assure you that blasting them with hate won’t change ONE person’s opinion. Not one.

And isn’t that what we are trying to do? One side is trying to boycott and hate Chick-Fil-A into changing their stance. The other side is trying to change the other sides way of thinking but using the cross as a malice of hate. But no one is moving because everyone is on the defense, trying desperately to “win”. There are no winners in the game of hate.

You know what might change someone’s opinion? Love might. Befriending them might.  Using this debate as a platform for HOPE might.

What might happen if both sides put down their arsenal of hate and instead filled it with love and tolerance. I am not saying you have to agree with that other side, or even think they were justified. Just listen. Send your letters and explain your side. Use your own judgement and by all means, if you feel it’s right, make your own decision to stop eating there. Listen to the decisions. Form an opinion. Follow you heart. Just don’t hate.

Don’t just wait to stand against something, but figure out what you stand FOR.

Just a week ago, a man walked into a movie theater and killed and injured people who were just trying to have a good time and enjoy a movie. . Many were hurt. Damages were unimaginable. Pain is their hard reality.

And here we all are, fighting over the opinion of a CEO at a fast food restaurant.

We are missing it.

Ignorance and hate are becoming the backbone of our county and it literally hurts my heart.

Please, no matter what side you are on, put down your hate. Let’s stop this now, before we live in a world where the only people or places we associate with are ones that match our own narrow mindedness. Please see the beauty in uniqueness and difference in people. It is how God created us; different and beauty so what we may learn from each other.

Love people for who they are and don’t hate them for what they aren’t.

Jenny

Growing Up Broken


Growing up, I was a daydreamer. I would lay out in the grass, sun warming my skin and just dream.

I’d dream of a family that would sit at the table every night, laughing and sharing their thoughts and excitements, while passing around bowls of homemade potatoes and bread.

I’d dream of a mom that kissed away my fears, that engulfed me with love, and that would cuddle up next to me at night, reading me stories before tucking me into bed.

That’s not the mom I had.

The mom I had wasn’t addicted to drugs or suffering from a severe mental illness. She wasn’t a junkie and there no diagnosis that would help understand her.

She simply didn’t have the capacity to love me.

I was 8 when my mother came into my room and made me watch as she took each ceramic doll I had collected over the years and smashed them all against the wall, laughing as their angelic, plastered smiles shattered and fell into small piles onto the carpet.

I was 10 when she started locking me in my bedroom with a padlock and key, every night, leaving me terrified of fires or being forgotten or trapped.

I was 13 when she told me she loved my two younger brothers more. That I was a mistake, detailing all I had taken away from her, just from the unfortunate occurrence of my birth.

I was 17 when she cancelled me off of her insurance, as I laid in the emergency room, having serious heart arrhythmia from a bad combination of diet pills and years of bulimia.

And at 18, just a few days after my high school graduation, she kicked me out; taking just a week to convert my old bedroom into a personal at home gym.

I was broken. My heart ached and I encountered the most crippling depression I could ever imagine. I welcomed death, but lacked the courage to greet it personally.

I was lost, alone, and utterly defeated.

But luckily, God wasn’t done with me yet.

There were times over my life that I got very angry with God. I didn’t want to see Him or face Him. I turned my back to Him completely.

And when I did speak to Him, or even acknowledge Him, it wasn’t friendly..

Why didn’t I deserve a family?

Why didn’t I deserve love?

Why had I even been born?

or worse…

Why am I not good enough for her?

Why am I not good enough to be spared this pain?

and of course….

Why did this happen to me?

What did I do to deserve this?

The Why’s and constant longing for my mother set the tone for my late teens and early twenties. I became a shell of a person, desperate for love however I could get it. Lie, cheat or steal, I needed that emptiness filled.

But my God is so good, he snatched me back when I wasn’t even looking.

My heart began to turn towards mission trips and volunteering. I began to slowly let God back in, although at first it was a very slow and cautious relationship. The closer I got to Him, the more I let Him use me. And the more He used me, the more I felt a sense of purpose, a worth outside of being my mother’s daughter.

That’s not to say I didn’t still struggle. I still had anger and hate in my heart. And right below that ugliness was a deep depression that could consume me at any given moment. It was a hole of self-hatred that I could not fill.

I wanted a mom.

I needed a mom.

But every time I tried to reach out to her, she’d slam that door on me, leaving me more broken than before. ‘Not being good enough’ for your own mother’s love is something I just couldn’t move beyond.

Then, God came in for the save.

Just a few months ago, I was blow drying my hair when he spoke to me clearer and louder than I had every heard before.

“You would have nothing you have right now if not for her. This life wouldn’t be yours, if not for her.”

It literally knocked the wind out of me. What??! I should THANK her? Be happy at the brokenness that was my life for so many years? I just couldn’t accept that.

The answer came quick:

Yes.

And there it hit me and healed me almost instantly.

I idolized my mother. I would do anything she wanted and I followed her like a sad puppy, begging for love and attention. I was going to be a nurse, just like her, because she was…even though I can’t stand the sight of blood.

And the few times I went to youth group with friends, she called it “a cult” and mocked me.

God had bigger plans for me.

He was going to use me. He wanted me and needed me to carry His message to others. I was going to work in the midst of disasters to bring people His hope.

And for that to happen, we BOTH were going to have to deal with some heartache.

And here I am now, living on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, 1,200miles away from the family that threw me away, doing just that.

There was nothing and no one that could heal that hurt but God.

I have no anger or resentment now. My sadness is gone. I’m no longer the fragile, little girl, praying through teary eyes that God would give me a mom that could love me.

Instead, I’m all God’s child, and there is more than enough love to fill me up.

I have learned that being a Christian doesn’t mean that we will live a life without pain, but that despite, or in some cases because of that hurt and pain, we WILL be used for the good of God.

Jenny