A (very) condensed telling of my life story: death, sexuality, and the love of Jesus

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This week I submitted my first application to seminary. I feel reeaally old. Like how am I already graduating college? It seems like I just started looking into Birmingham-Southern. But here I am, sitting in front of a computer screen, stressing over how I’m going to explain to Candler the call God has placed on my life. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how much I have grown over the years. Not only have I grown into a woman who is confident and sure of herself, but I have grown into a woman who is confident in God’s love for her. God has helped me to take ownership of and be confident in the story They have given me. It’s been a long and tough one and my story is still continuing. But I have this story for a reason, and it is to tell it. I pray that through my story, people who are in a pit of depression know that it is not okay to walk that journey alone. That it is okay to be angry and confused, but you can’t carry your burdens all by yourself. Jesus was a man of many sorrows and He is strong enough to help carry the load. I pray that people who are insecure and resentful of the way God created them, learn to accept their uniqueness as beautiful and special. It may feel like a burden sometimes, but maybe God created you for a time like this. God does not want you to hate who you are. God wants you to see yourself as God sees you, to value yourself as God values you, to love yourself as God loves you. I wish I could write so much more, but alas, there was a four page limit to Candler’s autobiographical statements. Candler read it first, but now you can right here on my blog! So… here’s my story.

“This is my story this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”

 

As I have grown into a woman of faith, I have experienced many roadblocks along the way. While these hardships often caused me to doubt what I believe, they ultimately made me a stronger person. They have tested the strength of my faith, my understanding of myself and of my relationship with God, and my view of the world as a complex place that God loves and cares for. Reflecting on these experiences, I find comfort that God brought goodness and growth out of such difficult times. These experiences have shaped me into the person I am today, including how I discern my call to ministry.

An important journey I have walked for years is coming to terms with my sexuality. During a two year long relationship in high school, I considered myself to be “waiting until marriage.” It seemed normal that I wasn’t having sex because that is what God wanted me to do, right? When I got to college, I soon realized that sex was an important part of everyone’s lives. My classmates talked about their hookups the night before, my sorority sisters told me about their relationships, everyone seemed confident in their sexuality. I wasn’t even wanting to have sex. I didn’t think it was evil and I wasn’t making a conscious choice to abstain, I just simply had no interest. It was abundantly clear to me that I was different than everyone around me.

At this time in my life, I was working for a youth ministry that had “The Christian View of Sex” classes for middle schoolers. They assumed every boy and girl was bursting at the seams with curiosity. Conversations I had with church leaders made it clear that marriage was the goal for a Christian woman and sex was a beautiful gift from God. Before I knew it, the way I understood how God created me was insecure and self detrimental. I questioned God daily about why God had made me so different and odd. I wondered why God would give me a desire to be with someone in a romantic way but not physically, because no one would want me. It seemed that God was taking away the desires of my heart and making me bear burdens I could not carry.

After I had an honest and beautiful conversation with my Mom when I came out to her as asexual, I started to realize that I was not a disappointment to my family and I was not invaluable to God. I may be different, but through my sexuality God has given me the ability to love and understand people in a more emotional way. I now am more accepting of people who are different than me. I have empathy for people of all sexualities, races, genders, and life experiences because I am learning that we are all beloved children of God. I am also now more confident in myself and I am content where God brings me in my relationships with others.

Another experience that has greatly impacted my faith journey is the loss of people close to me. When I was in ninth grade my world was rocked when Malorie, Karen, and Greg Ezell died. Malorie, a ball of laughter and yellow daisies. Karen, a lending hand and joyful light to everyone around her. Greg, a mix of Christian rock jams and cheesy jokes. They were my family’s closest friends, and I didn’t know how to wrap my head around them being gone. For a while, I cried before school in the mornings and came home to a grieving family, trying my best to be strong for them because it seemed as if they had more reason to be sad.

I had a strong faith for someone who was just entering high school. I was involved in my youth group, I led worship, I answered all the questions in Sunday school. But I had never experienced something like this that made me question my faith. So of course I asked all the typical questions that accompany death, loss, and grief. Why did God let this happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? If everything happens for a reason, then what the heck is the reason for this? When my mom’s friend suddenly passed away soon after, and another year later when one of my favorite people in the world committed suicide, I had to go through the grieving process all over again. Why God are you letting my family hurt so much? Why couldn’t you save them? I grappled with these questions over and over again. I yelled at God and I blamed myself; I searched for meaning in meaningless situations. God was patient with me and in time, taught me that I needed to stop driving myself crazy trying to put reason to every bad occurrence. Instead, I needed to focus on the blessings in my life, the kindness of the people surrounding me, and the goodness that God was bringing out of a terrible situation. I came to discover that while a lot of things in the world are evil, God always works to bring good out of them. Since learning these lessons, I have had the ability to counsel people who are experiencing similar things to me and who are struggling with their grief. I know that we are not strong enough to face grief on our own, which is why we must lean on our Savior and on people close to us.

When my mom’s friend Erin died, I had the privilege of singing at her funeral. I so badly wanted to bring comfort to her family through the words I sang, so I decided on the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. It includes a lyric that has since become the cry of my heart and my anthem in life’s struggles: “All around hope is springing up from this old ground. Out of chaos life is being found in You. You make beautiful things out of the dust.”

As I stated earlier, I was very involved in my youth group in middle and high school. It was my sanctuary. My place of rest. It was also a place where extreme growth took place and where I first felt the call to ministry. Naturally I decided to be a Religion major in college where I have taken classes in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Douism. Most importantly I have taken classes focused on human rights, social justice, the social gospel, and Christian ethics. When I learned about these topics in an academic sense and I reflected on my own hardships, I realized that I have a passion for bringing justice to hurting people. During my junior year I added Human Rights as a minor so that I could pair my faith with social action. I also did internships where I could get practical experience in ministries and I attended Passion Conference in Atlanta where I discovered my passion for helping human trafficking victims.

Candler excites me because of the practical but also vulnerable and challenging experiences I would be guaranteed to have. Being placed somewhere like a homeless shelter or an abused women’s shelter, I would be in close proximity with God’s children who are hurting and suffering. I would be living out my call in a way that is most accurate to Jesus’ ministry on earth. Being placed in a church, I would be able to explore my passion for speaking, teaching, and counseling people. I believe that God has given me a gift of discernment and encouragement, and I would have the opportunity to use these gifts to shepherd a congregation.

After graduating from seminary, I would like to continue on the path to ordination. Due to my own experiences, I know that teenage years can be some of the most difficult but crucial times in one’s walk of faith. I know I have the gifts and abilities to make a difference in young people’s lives, whether that is comforting students through a time of grief or helping students through their insecurities so that they view themselves as valued children of God. Even though I have a special care for youth, I do not want to put myself in a box because God has called and equipped me to minister to people in all walks of life. Being a young white woman, I may encounter instances when people do not respect me or view me as capable. But once people get to know me and understand the struggles I have experienced, they will realize that I am capable of counseling and ministering to people of all ages, genders, and life experiences.

Specifically, I have an interest in becoming the head pastor of a church. I love speaking about God and my experiences with God’s grace and provision because I can feel the Spirit speaking through me and impacting lives. Whatever ministry I lead, I desire to have a focus on community outreach and social justice so that we can use our own redemption stories to impact others. It is important that my ministry does not stay inside our church doors, but lives out the social gospel by helping the least of these.

My experiences with grief and struggling with personal identity, along with my academic experiences at BSC, have made me passionate about helping people see their true potential and worth in Jesus Christ. Whatever type of ministry God brings me to, I want to help bring spiritual nourishment, encouragement, and justice to people through my ministry.

 

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The Start of Something New (not HSM…Whole30)

I’m so excited to be starting the Whole30 diet tomorrow. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now, but never got the courage up to doing it. For those who don’t know, I have always had problems with my stomach since I was a little girl, but recently my health has been deteriorating even more. I constantly struggle with nausea and vomiting, and it seems like almost every food makes it worse. With my sinus surgery and constant infections, I’m always tired, my body hurts, and I rarely feel like doing much. This summer I really wanted to take some time off from school, work, etc to rest and get better. But of course I’m a busy bee and ended up going on a lot of vacations and trips and honestly I felt kind of worse. I couldn’t go on a vacation without getting sick, and often I found myself feeling pretty hopeless and depressed. I’m stuck in between trying to constantly do everything myself and beating myself up when it doesn’t work, and feeling like there is nothing I can do. I’m tired of going to doctors, but I’m also tired of feeling this way. This is why I’ve decided to do the Whole30. It gives me something to work hard at, because I know it will be difficult. But I also can’t really beat myself up about it if I follow the rules and it still doesn’t work. Because after all, I’m making a conscious and smart decision to take initiative of my health. I should be proud of that.

After a lot of research and talking with friends who have done it before, I’ve decided that the Whole30 is the best natural way to try and eliminate some of my reoccurring health problems. I hate how medicine makes me feel because I hate just putting more crap into my body. This way, I hopefully will feel better and get to eat some yummy foods on the way! The Whole30 is a 30 day diet that cleanses your body of sugar, alcohol, dairy, legumes, wheat, grains, and of course any junk-food-unnatural-processed-baked goods-type foods. The point of this journey is not for me to lose weight, but to eliminate any foods that may be having a negative impact on me– disrupting my blood sugar, hurting my digestive tract, stripping me of my energy, etc. For example, fried food makes me throw up. Sometimes pasta makes me feel really bogged down. Really cheesy stuff and ice cream sometimes makes my stomach churn.

 I’ll also be exercising (with God’s help haha) and just trying to keep a positive mindset about my body. It’s super easy for me to get down on myself and feel insecure about how my body looks. My weight fluctuates a lot, so I’m always fitting into different sizes. I know though that this is just how my body has been working with my stomach problems and changing diets, so I can’t take blame for something that is often out of my control. Many times I truly hate my body, not for how it looks but for how it works. When I try to eat healthier, but still end up throwing up all night, I blame myself, I curse my body, and I spiral into a rut. NO more of that! These 30 days I’m going to:

  1. try my best to take things one meal at a time
  2. love my body for the things it can do and the little victories it has
  3. try my best to follow every rule, but not beat myself up if I slip once
  4. enjoy the food I eat instead of worrying that it will make me sick 
  5. not worry about my weight or the fat on my stomach, but about how I feel

I have to admit, I’m pretty nervous about this next month! Change scares me, especially when I’m taking a leap of faith. But I am hopeful that the Whole30 will energize me and refresh me for the coming school year. It will be hard to resist that ice cream when I’m stressed out studying late at night. I will have to say no to those Sonic runs with my friends. I’ll have to work hard to find things I can eat out at restaurants. I can’t have a glass of wine while watching Bachelor in Paradise or a margarita with my friends to celebrate coming back to school. BUT ultimately this is so worth skipping out on those guilty pleasures.

I’ll be posting about my difficult but exciting journey on social media and my blog, so stay posted! Bye ice cream and pasta, helloooo fruits and veggies!
Isaiah 43:19 – “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”

There’s Only One Tree Hill Road Trip

For a while now, I have been planning a trip to visit Tree Hill. Of course, Tree Hill isn’t a real place. Instead, it’s a fictional town in one of my favorite tv shows. So that makes it real to me. It’s a special place in my heart because metaphorically some of my favorite memories and best lessons learned took place in Tree Hill. It helped me through my first years of college. It helped me cope with a tough breakup. It taught me to not gain my value from the labels people place on me. It encouraged me to be a woman confident in my abilities. It helped me believe in love, whether that be with a boy, a parent, or a friend. It taught me the power of forgiveness, and to never give up on someone. Tree Hill is home to me in a way. And if you’ve never seen the show, I encourage you to just try it out. Get past the cheesy story lines and over the top characters at first, and you’ll grow to love it.

So anyway, One Tree Hill… I love the show and I’m really dorky when it comes to shows I love. I’m one of those people who gets obsessed with pop culture and annoy all my friends with my constant raving about the best new show or the five star movie that’s in theatres. So naturally, I had to go tour the filming locations of One Tree Hill. It’s a good thing my mom is pop culture crazed too, because she indulged my obsession and traveled with me to Wilmington, North Caroline, otherwise known as Tree Hill. (She hasn’t even seen most of the show, and she still loved it!)

Step One. Google articles from people who visited the set and posted all the locations they visited. My mom and I did a lot of research prior to our trip in order to make plans of what locations we wanted to see. Most articles we found had all the addresses listed for the locations, so all we had to do was put the address in our GPS and let it take us! We were very thankful for the genius invention of GPS. I would tell you the websites we used to find the locations, but now that I’m writing this all you have to do is read on to figure out all the details 🙂

Step two. Book a cheap bed and breakfast. Wilmington is such a cool little town. It is full of historical buildings and old houses. We could have taken the easy road and booked a Comfort Inn or even a hotel on the beach (which is about fifteen minutes from Wilmington). But we wanted/needed to be a little cheaper, so we saved money by looking on Airbnb and finding a quaint bed and breakfast. It was about $70 per night versus a hotel that was $100 or more.

Step three. Put some extra spending money aside for One Tree Hill apparel. We had heard there were plenty of souvenir shops in Wilmington that sold One Tree Hill shirts, sweatshirts, hats, stickers, coffee mugs, etc. I made sure I had a little money to buy me a Clothes Over Bros shirt. (Then I couldn’t help myself and also bought a Tree Hill Ravens, Lucas Scott jersey.)

Step four. Plan to go to the beach while you’re there. Like I said, the Wrightsville beach was only about fifteen minutes away from our hotel. We went ahead and planned to spend a whole day on the beach while we took a break from Tree Hill sightings. It was so nice, except for the parking situation so make sure you leave early in the morning to find a parking spot and have some extra money since parking costs there. Fun fact though if you’re still wanting to find One Tree Hill easter eggs at the beach: there were several cool filming spots on the various beaches surrounding Wilmington. For example, the beach house often seen in the show is there, as well as Haley and Nathan’s original wedding spot found at Fort Fisher beach.

Step five. Get on the road and have fun! Get excited to step inside the world of Tree Hill!

Now that you’re all set on how to plan your One Tree Hill vacation, here are all the AWESOME places we found and some tips on how to get the best experience out of them.

1. The Tree Hill Bridge

Seen in the credits with Lucas Scott bouncing a basketball with “I don’t wanna be anything other than what I’ve been trynna be lately…” playing over it, you’ll drive right over this bridge coming into Wilmington. Don’t confuse it with the famous bridge that the limo crashed over into the water. That’s a different one we couldn’t find, but this bridge is still cool!

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2. Peyton Sawyer’s house – 1901 Chestnut Street

This was right around the corner from the bed and breakfast we stayed at, so we practically were neighbors. The house looks the same except for the pretty trees in front and the fact that in the show the house seemed a lot more secluded. There’s me pointing at the window Psycho Derek was thrown out of.

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3. Haley James’ house – 1811 Chestnut Street

This house was surprisingly right next to P. Sawyer’s house, which of course you don’t realize in the show. Haley didn’t stay in this house for very long, but it’s still the spot where she and Nathan first kissed. I was pretty excited about that.

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4. Brooke Davis’ house – 2314 Tattersalls Drive

This was definitely the house I was most excited about. I aspire to be like B. Davis in every single way, so you could call it an obsession. The house was just as beautiful in person and was located in a neighborhood full of huge houses. You can’t miss hers though because it still has the red door. In fact, the owners of the house painted it back red because of all the fans constantly looking for their house. Anna and Felix’s house is right next door too, but who cares about them, right?

5. Lucas and Karen Scott’s house – 1829 Wrightsville Avenue

I loved this house because it really looks exactly the same as it did in the show. It’s in the middle of a smaller and tighter neighborhood, but their house is just so cute. You can tell the owners are a little irritated with the fans coming on their property, because they have several signs telling you to respect them. But I had to sneak a pic on the porch Lucas and his mom are always having deep conversations. Just don’t go peering in their windows of course!

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6. Nathan Scott’s house – 1621 Country Club Road

Nathan’s house was a popular place for fights with him and his awful dad, Deb yelling at Dan in the driveway, and occasional high school parties. The house is located in a wealthy neighborhood, right down the road from the country club.

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7. Nathan and Haley’s apartment – 4395 Birchwood Park Drive

This is where Nathan and Haley first moved when they were married, and later in the series the apartment was tossed around to people like Brooke. Their apartment was in 4395. I couldn’t figure out which room was exactly theirs, but it was still pretty awesome.

8. Keith Scott’s Body Shop – 1901 Covil Avenue

This location wasn’t hard to find. It’s about a street over from Haley and Nathan’s apartment complex, and it looks exactly the same (minus the Keith Scott Body Shop signs). The people working there were so nice. They came outside and immediately recognized us as One Tree Hill fans, and took our picture! There was also a basketball goal, so we imagined Lucas and Keith shooting some hoops together.

9. The Riverwalk

The Riverwalk is not only a popular place in Tree Hill, but it’s popular in Wilmington too. It’s located in the downtown area and it’s easy to find. The Riverwalk in Tree Hill is seen often in early seasons when Lucas and Haley are hanging out, or for town events like the Burning Boat. Right across the river is where The Rivercourt once was, but it’s been stripped down sadly. Along the Riverwalk, you can find a lot of good restaurants, ice cream parlors, and shops like Poodles with One Tree Hill goodies and The Black Cat Shoppe that once was the cd shop in the show.

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10. The Naley Bench

Known for their first tutoring session when she went behind Lucas’ back but found true love!! It’s where Nathan handed her a bracelet from a cracker jack box and said, “Don’t say I never gave you anything.” There are actually a lot of these picnic tables so we just picked one. Despite the construction happening around them, we made the best out of it!

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11. The Dixie Grill – 116 Market Street

Found along the Riverwalk, this restaurant was yummy and a part of One Tree Hill. The Dixie Grill is the restaurant used as the diner Brooke’s foster child Sam always hung out at. She and Sam had many interactions there, and she and Julian ate together there a few times. We found a booth that was seen in a lot of episodes, and I felt just like B. Davis!

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12. The original Karen’s Cafe/Tree Hill Cafe – 300 North Front Street

The building is now a coffee chain called Port City Java, but the inside still looks pretty similar to the Karen’s Cafe seen in the pilot. It was used for the pilot episode, but then they moved to the location right next door. Later in the series, Tara opens up a rival coffee shop of Brooke’s newly opened Karen’s Cafe. That coffee shop, Tree Hill Cafe, was shot at this building.

13. Karen’s Cafe/Clothes Over Bros – Corner of Grace St & N Front St

The building looks a little different now, because they have added more windows instead of the doors seen on the tv show, but it’s still easily recognizable. This tall yellow building was used for Karen’s Cafe in most of the series, and then Brooke later opened Clothes Over Bros there as well.

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14. Tree Hill City Hall – Corner of Third Street and Chestnut Street

We couldn’t really figure out where the steps used in the show were, but we were still proud of ourselves for finding it. The City Hall was seen several times in the show when Mayor Dan Scott gave press releases. The building looked like it was used as Wilmington’s city hall as well as a performing arts center.

15. Brooke and Julian’s wedding spot – Grace United Methodist Church

The church is so beautiful in person and is a familiar location in the series. Of course, I loved it because Brooke and Julian were married there (swoon!!), but it’s also where Lucas almost married Lindsey and Crazy Carrie kidnaps Jamie. Not cool, Crazy Carrie.

16. TRIC – 1121 South Front Street

Tric was one of my favorite places. You wouldn’t think so, because it’s really just an abandoned brick building that they added a staircase to. But all over the bricks, OTH fans had written quotes, messages, and love notes to their favorite characters.

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17. Tree Hill High School – Cape Fear Community College (Shwartz Center)

My favorite part of our self guided tour was finding the filming locations for the school. It took us a while to find the exterior of Tree Hill High, but once we came across it we knew what it was. They used only a small part of a building at the community college, then added a school sign and photoshopped in the tall glass building. But the white columns and walkway leading to the school doors was unmistakable. Common scenes filmed here were Prom, the school shooting, and lots of convos between Peyton, Brooke, Lucas, Haley, and Nathan.

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18. Tree Hill High School Gymnasium – Laney High School

Okay, now this was the coolest thing ever. We really wanted to see the gym the Ravens played in, so we figured out on this really detailed website that it was filmed at Laney High School. By the way, Michael Jordan played high school basketball here (WHAT?!). So the gym is named Michael Jordan Gymnasium. We discovered that Lucas Scott is number 23 because Michael Jordan is number 23, so that’s cool. When we got to the high school, construction workers were building a brand new gym funded by Michael Jordan, but of course they’re keeping the old gym for historic reasons. We went on a Monday hoping they were having workouts or something, but it was locked. I was not going down without a fight, so I went inside and talked to the sweet secretary. I explained to her my road trip and she called the custodian to open it for us. He was so nice and gave us all kinds of information about the gym. It still looked pretty much the same with the same blue colors, just a little older. If you ever go on a Tree Hill tour, make sure you go get into this gym! Visiting during the week in the Summertime is probably your best bet.

My trip to Tree Hill was so special and fun. I truly felt like I was a part of the show, from visiting Karen’s Cafe, to spotting Brooke Davis’ red door, to being a student for the day at Tree Hill High. Plus, I am now officially a Clothes Over Bros customer. There’s only one Tree Hill, and I so happy I got to visit.