Stuck Right Here

Six weeks later… here I am. I miss this space, and I think about it all the time. But currently I don’t feel like I have any thoughts worth sharing. Things are pretty negative around here. The best news I have for you is that I put my shoes on this morning without crying. Literal baby steps.

Last we talked I told you about the two part surgery that I was looking forward to. It was scheduled for mid October, and then cancelled. The insurance denied it. Multiple appeals later, still denied. I’m pretty devastated but holding on to the hope that my team will find a way around this roadblock. We have some options to look into, and other doctors offering to help. I’m frustrated, but my friends and family are pretty good at keeping hope alive for me. I probably won’t share any more about this surgery until the device is permanently in my body, just to keep you all out of the mess. In the meantime, I’m medicated and hiding from the world in my closet. It’s safe in there.

Like I told you before, I can’t make any promises of scheduling or content. But I want to be here. I have some ideas in mind- things I want to say/do/show you. In the next few days, I’ll be sharing a comprehensive review of the She Reads Truth Bible, and probably some cute pictures of my dog because we all know she’s the reason you’re here!It’ll happen as my life allows, and as I find the words and courage to keep this space alive. Until them, you know where to find me.

Tell me something good in the comments down below. Give me a reason to celebrate today.

With all the love,

A

A Month to Forget

Hey friends, here’s an unexpected Saturday post for you. This one’s coming from my lil bitty heart after a lot of conversation with friends (both personal and blogging friends) during the most unexpected month. We all came to the conclusion that raw and unedited honesty seems best for now.

I’m really frustrated, in a whole lot of ways. A month ago, I sat down and planned all of my blog posts for the month of September. I had all of the outlines written and even had the whole first week written and scheduled (which is why you got posts for a few days earlier this month). I even had a few brand deals in the works, and I was so excited.

And then I got sick. Like, really sick. Sicker than normal. It always starts as a sinus infection, and ends with much more extremes than that. Two hospital trips within 24 hours, my parents even had to come down here and stay with me for a while. I couldn’t do anything for myself. I have very few memories of that week, and I know that is probably for the best. I remember crying a lot. There were a lot of literal and figurative pills to swallow. A lot of phone calls to be made. A lot of things to figure out.

Less than a week after the first trip to the ER, I found myself in the office of a new pain management specialist. Meeting new doctors, filling out millions of forms, retelling my story dozens of times. I’ve gone through this stage of treatment a few times in my life, and it never gets easier. I hate telling my story, believe it or not. I can do it in bits and pieces, but when I have to look someone in the eyes and tell my 9 year long story in one breath – that takes more strength than I currently have.

This new team immediately scheduled my first surgery. They said it would be my first of at least 3 (but more likely 6) before Christmas. I drove home running through all the memories I have of being in the OR – none of them worthy of reliving. The procedures I am currently having done were done on  12 year old Ally too. They didn’t work back then. The “doctor” I had at the time told me it was my fault. He ruined a lot of potential healing for me.

One week later: I’m in the OR. They took my dog away from me, even threatening to kick her out of the building for not having “papers” (remember: theres no such thing as SD papers). They had drugged me enough to make me forget why I was scared. I don’t remember going to sleep, but I remember waking up. I remember the gold fish crackers that the nurse fed me.

I remember feeling warm. CRPS takes away my ability to regulate my body temperature. I have been about 3-4 degrees colder than a normal person for 9 years. I was warm.

For a minute, the surgery worked.

That night came the fever. The headache.  The infection. The pain in my back that prohibited me from even feeding my own dog. Friend’s were in and out – feeding me, walking my dog, holding my hand. It sucked. A lot.

The pain in my back is still not gone. My legs are no longer warm. But my doctors see some hope for me.

So I’m having the same surgery repeated in 5 days. We’re hoping for the same warmth, and maybe even some pain relief. We’re just hoping. Or rather, everyone else is hoping for me because I’m currently still frustrated and hurting.

A few weeks later will be the big surgeries. A “pace maker for my nervous system” (aka a spinal cord stimulator) is being implanted to replace the pain in my legs with a more tolerable and less painful sensation. It’s a two part procedure that is meant to last 8 years. This is my big hope. This is my biggest chance.

Enough of my month long sob story, I guess what I’m trying to get at is this: I don’t know what to do with this space now. Some days I’m just too tired (or drugged) to write and edit. Some days there’s nothing to say. I can’t commit to a schedule, and I definitely can’t commit to content. I have no idea what is about to happen with these upcoming surgeries, but what I do know is this:

Writing is often my only outlet, and even the only way I can form words at all. I’ve been encourage to share this journey, and to be honest. I’ve been reminded that there may be one other person out there, or millions, who need to hear my story. Why not tell it as it’s happening, rather than wait for an outcome that may or may not occur?

So here I am. I don’t know how often I’ll be here, or what I’ll have to offer. But I’m here now, and ready for whatever is next.

I hope you’ll stay here with me.

With all the love,

A

Forgiveness

Hey friends, a little disclaimer here: I wrote this post two years ago and kept it hidden away until I found it last week. IT was incredibly heavy on my heart then, and super relevant now, so I think it’s time to share. Let me know what you think! 

 

Forgiveness is such a weird thing. If you’re in a position where you find yourself needing or wanting to forgive someone, that means that they’ve done something to hurt you. They’ve caused pain in your life, whether it is a small scratch on the surface of your heart, or a deep laceration straight into your soul. Pain is pain. None of us enjoy it. We all want it to go away. Some people believe the way to make that ache escape us is to cut the person who caused the ache out of our life. That might work for a hot minute, but I promise you that it won’t be the most fulfilling healing process. True, genuine, complete healing begins when we forgive.

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean the pain never happened. It doesn’t make the current moment any better than it is, but it’ll make your future so much lighter and brighter. When you take the opportunity to forgive someone who has done you wrong, you open the door to building stronger relationships and the chance to replace the negative memories with positive and lasting memories.

You see, we forgive because we are forgiven. We learn by example. Our Holy Father has taught us that forgiveness is such a blessing, and such an opportunity. Every day, constantly, he is forgiving us for our wrongdoings. No matter how many times we mess up, he continues to love us all the same. When we sin, his heart aches. Not because we have hurt him, but because he wants so badly for us to do better. He see’s so much potential in us. He knows that we are capable of so much more than whatever situation we are stuck in. He forgives us eagerly, every chance he gets. When we reach out to him and ask for forgiveness, his heart bursts with that forgiveness and love without a second thought.

Why can’t we be the same way? Instead of seeing the negative things people have done to us, why can we not believe that those people are worth so much more than their downfalls? Why can’t we see the potential in people to learn and grow from their mistakes, rather than wallow in the pain?

Forgiveness is hard. It’s so hard. I get that. But The Lord won’t cause us pain without allowing something beautiful to grow from that pain. We just have to take that first step towards becoming more like Jesus. Loving more like Jesus. Forgiving more like Jesus.

With all the love,

A

It’s Not a Race

Today is my first day of senior year. I’m supposed to graduate in May and start a real job and be an adult. It’s supposed to be almost over.

I won’t be graduating in May. Or August. Or even next December.

If all goes according to plan (fingers crossed) Malibu and I will walk the stage in May of 2019. A whole year late, because I dropped out one semester, cut down to part time in the middle of another semester, and will continue to be part time for 4 more semesters. It’s been frustrating and exhausting and disappointing. I’ve spent a lot of my school days feeling like a failure as I struggle to balance life with school. It’s been this way since I got sick in the seventh grade, and I’m assuming it’ll be like this for every season of life to come.

Instead of continuing to feel defeated and disappointed in myself, I’ve been trying hard lately to appreciate the progress that’s been made. I’ve come much farther than I ever anticipated. I can remember a time when I thought my illness would stop me completely. There was a point in time when I didn’t think college was even an option for me. My first semester I went from walking to wheelchair almost over night, and still managed to get a 4.0. I worked incredibly hard to get myself back to school after taking a semester long break for treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. I’ve shown up to school just hours after being discharged from the hospital, and battled symptoms and fatigue just to make it through an exam. In fact, this past Summer, I had class Monday through Friday for 10 weeks straight and was only absent once.

These are all things that I never thought possible. As disappointed as I was that I’ll be in college longer than what’s expected of a girl my age, I’m equally grateful now to know that I do have the ability to succeed.

Who said college had to take four years and not a semester longer? It’s not a race. I’m not losing, and I’ll cross the finish line eventually. Until then, cheers to senior year (and the senior years to come!)

With all the love,

A

Tips & A Testimony (Guest Post: Cassie)

Hey y’all! I’m Cassie from Anchored in Amazing Grace & I’m so excited to be here! Today I will be sharing a bit of my testimony and how it affected my freshman year of college, as well as a few tips for all new and returning college students.

image1.JPG

So I’m gonna keep it somewhat vague, because detailing out 19 years would make for a quite lengthy read, but I’ll jump right into it. Now I’m gonna share a bit about who I am & what God has taught me in my short time on this earth.

I had a pretty “normal,” stereotypical, Christian childhood- I was a happy kid who attended church 2-3 times a week, and I was usually quite optimistic and cheerful. At the ripe age of 7, I decide to ask Jesus Christ to be my savior- because that’s what Christians do & my parents were proud. It was very exciting. As a 7 year old, though, I didn’t quite grasp the power of God’s love, or what being a Christian entailed. I hadn’t really gone through anything that tested my faith, so how could I not believe in and trust this wonderful creator I’d been learning about in Sunday school my whole life?

About a year later, God gave me the gift of dance- a sport that became a huge part of my life in the years to come, but it had rocky beginnings that I didn’t quite enjoy. In fact, I was absolutely awful. I’d never really been bad at anything before. I was considered quite smart for my age back in the day, as I did very well in school and took part in the Gifted & Talented program, drama clubs & other sports I participated in. But dance… yikes. Anyway, that’s a bit of a tangent, God gave me dance. I didn’t know it then, but this was working towards a grander plan for me! The next summer, I was about 9, my aunt lost her battle to cancer, and within 2 consecutive months I lost 3 other family members. This was my first experience with death & I was unsure how to handle it. I continued going to church- I didn’t really have a choice- but something changed inside me. I felt anger, confusion, and darkness fill me. I believed in God, but I was upset with him for taking the people I loved from me. How can this perfect, merciful creator I have been praising take the lives of his creation early? Why them?

 

For the next 8 or so years, the childhood illnesses I had progressed and caused me a lot of problems. I went to dance as my release, and advanced quite quickly because all of the pain I bottled up was only released while I danced (and I attribute that to keeping me alive- Thank you, God for giving me a creative outlet), but inside and outside of the studio, I faced severe insecurity, bullying, depression and anxiety. I carried around so much darkness & wore a sparkly, perky facade so that no one- not even my parents- would know how I felt on the inside. I knew all of the “Sunday school answers” at church & didn’t get into trouble. I didn’t rebel, at least not in the way other kids did, but I was crumbling.

Fast forward to high school. I was on the drill team when I suffered a hip injury that made me unable to dance for 6 months. That was an adventure. I struggled fitting in, as I was shy & very self conscious. At this time, every girl was dating & guys paid no attention to me- which only built on my insecurity (pro tip: don’t rely on guys to make you feel beautiful- you already are and God loves you SO much!!). I was still struggling with my health & anxiety, and the stress of school got to me- I’m a perfectionist and nothing I did ever felt like enough, including who I am. I was not confident in myself: a nerdy, passionate, artsy, caring & introverted individual. I focused a lot on being someone else and that was not okay. I continued walking my distorted and dark road that was disguised by a sparkling facade that I had created. I continued to let the devil convince me how horrible I was. I didn’t have any joy most of the time, and I didn’t care to be alive. I didn’t have suicidal thoughts, but I didn’t really care if I lived- if something happened to me. That’s such a dangerous place to be in & if you or someone you know is there, please get help! So summer rolled around & my father got very sick and was hospitalized. My dad is my best friend and this was a breaking point for me- but also my turning point. We weren’t sure if he was gonna make it and I didn’t know what else to do. My siblings had already moved out, so it was just my mom and I at home. I tried to be strong for her, I didn’t want her to see me cry. When I was alone, I bawled my eyes out. At dance, I released all my pain. One day, I was particularly stressed and turned on my pandora to hear a song I hadn’t heard in a while by one of my all time favorites, Relient K. The song was “For The Moments I Feel Faint,” (check it out, so beautiful!) and one line struck me: “never underestimate Jesus, they’re telling me that there’s no hope, I’m telling you you’re wrong, when the world around you crumbles, he will be strong.” I fell to my knees and cried out to God, and prayed for a few hours to help my dad, and to help me. An instant weight was lifted off of my shoulders & I rededicated my life to Christ. It hasn’t been an easy road since, but my perspective has changed. I’m genuinely optimistic and am a lot more secure with who I am. I found God and he brought me through my darkest points & I dove into the word. I began to believe I was beautiful, that I had worth, that I didn’t have to be perfect, that I deserve love and that I am not alone. This has made all the difference. My dad got better & is doing better than he’s ever been. We’ve been facing financial struggles & I’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness that is sometimes quite unbearable, but I am able to face it and fight it with optimism and hope. Hope to use it for his glory & hope to overcome. This hope comes from Christ. I am just a mere vessel that was constantly getting lost at sea, but Christ is the anchor that stabilizes me and keeps me from capsizing adrift.

This newfound hope has helped me so much with my journey of getting to college and actually living on my own in a new place. I just want to offer love, hope & encouragement up to all who are reading this. You’re not alone and through Christ, you can get through anything. Keep the hope, stay anchored.

Before I go, here a few must-haves/tips for all college students:

  • Emergen-C: y’all, I swear by this. Everyone gets sick in college, but this really helps boost your immune system!
  • a planner! It is so important to keep a routine and stay on top of your schedule/deadlines to help reduce stress
  • Okay not really a thing, but check your email daily! You never know when due dates change, classes are cancelled/rescheduled, or when extra credit opportunities come up!
  • Brita water filter: this comes in handy if you’re in a dorm and need a way to stay hydrated, because sink water isn’t ideal!
  • Go to office hours! I kid you not, this is so important when it comes to success in your class and final grades. It could be the difference between a B and an A!

Thank you for reading, and feel free to stop by sometime! I talk about God, school, missions, and the occasional nerd blurb!

“Sea” ya later,

Cassie

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure,”

 -Hebrews 6:19 NIV

Service Dog FAQ: Public Interaction

Hi friends!! First of all, I’m so sorry this post has been delayed… BUT today I’m excited to share some basic guidelines and answer your questions about service dogs and public interaction! As always, if you want to know more or have other questions, feel free to leave a comment or contact me on any of the social medias!

  1. Can I pet service dogs? They’re so cute! Short answer: probably not. If we’re going to be technical, if you absolutely can’t ignore it, ask the handler if you can pet their dog. Sometimes they’ll say yes, sometimes they’ll say no- it really depends on the environment and situation. Either way, ASK first. Also, pay attention to their patches if they have any on their vests. Some dogs (like mine) have patches that specifically say “Do Not Pet.” When in doubt: please don’t pet a service dog.
  2. Why can’t I pet a service dog? Once again, there’s no simple way to answer this question. Basically, petting and interacting distracts a service dog. Some dogs are alert dogs, and if a stranger is distracting the dog from doing its job it might miss an alert and put their handler in danger. Some dogs help people who have severe anxiety and the interaction not only distracts the dog, but also makes the handler anxious or uncomfortable. Ultimately, it’s just not a good idea to pet a dog. Also: please don’t make kissy noises or any other sound to distract my dog while we’re walking by.
  3. My kids are scared of big dogs. What do we do when we see a big service dog? I’ve literally been asked this question, and I really don’t have an answer for you. I used to feel guilty when my dog made a small child scared. I do have a fairly large dog, but most people tell me she’s beautiful rather than scary. I get it, everyone has their phobias (hello, I’m terrified of cats). To be brutally honest, there’s nothing I can do for you if you or your kid are scared of big dogs. I won’t avoid a place just because people there are uncomfortable with my dog. She’s legally allowed to be there and I know she’ll do no harm. You do not have to be near my dog if you don’t want to be. I suppose the best you can do if you or your child are scared, find ways to learn about dogs and the good work that service dogs do. Be assured that service dogs are polite and well trained, and will not hurt you.
  4. My friend has a service dog! Can I pet it while we’re out since I know the dog personally? Probably not. I have a lot of really great friends who love me and my girl. When we are at home or settled in somewhere, sure you can pet my dog! Especially when her vest is off. Malibu loves a good belly rub. But when we are out in public or walking around a store, I’d prefer that Malibu be left alone. First of all, if people see my friends petting the dog they assume that they can pet the dog as well. Also, I need Malibu to be focused on me, and not paying attention to what everyone else is doing. It all comes back to the idea of not distracting the service dog. I promise that you will have plenty of play time with your friend’s dog when it isn’t working!!
  5. What should I tell my kids when we see a service dog? My favorite question!! First of all: tell them not to pet the dog… but then explain why! Tell them that the dog is special, and it’s working. Explain to them that service dogs are trained to help the person they are with. My trainer likes to use the superhero analogy, and the vest is their “cape.” Use whatever analogy works for your child. Most importantly- use it as an opportunity to educate them! Nothing makes me happier than hearing parents educate their children on service dog rules and norms. Education is the most important aspect of service dog interaction.

Have any more questions about service dogs? Let me know! Next up in our series, I’ll do my best to explain the training options and processes and what goes into making a dog a service dog.

With all the love,

A

The Hope in Saying “No”

Hey friends! I definitely fell off the radar again, between moving into my new apartment and breaking my collar bone and turning 21, I’ve been a little busy. BUT! I have a ton of new things that I’ve been working on, and super cool opportunities coming up that I literally can not wait to share with you.

But today I’m a little broken hearted.

This morning I had the chance to buy really cheap tickets to tomorrow nights Ed Sheeran concert. I would get to go with a friend that I love and it would have definitely been a night to remember. I’ve been listening to the Divide album on repeat for MONTHS and it’s one of the only secular albums that I know every lyric to.

But, I can’t go. Why? Because I’m a sick kid.

The same reason that I can’t go to parties, movies, conventions, or even church some weeks.

I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go. I knew that the lights would stimulate my broken brain too much, the sound would hurt my bones to the core, and the crowd would terrify me to no end. I knew I wouldn’t be able to bring my service dog to help with my symptoms, and I knew that any medication I took would put me to sleep before we even arrived at the arena.

And yet, I still did everything I could to make it work. I could picture the perfect night that I wanted. The fun we would have, the memories we would make. I was excited and the anticipation of going was nearly unbearable.

Once I made the realization that I would have to say no, I was devastated. I’ve had to say “no” way more often in my life than I’ve been able to say “yes.” I’ve missed so many birthday parties, Six Flags days, concerts and even camps and retreats because my body forced me to say “no.” I’ve always felt deprived and isolated and less-than because of that.

My first question today was why did I get so excited when I knew the answer was going to be no? I knew this was an unrealistic situation, so why did I even bother entertaining the idea?

After being sad for a solid 4 hours, I realized that the entire reason I experience disappointment is because I have hope. If I didn’t have hope, there’d be no reason to ever get disappointed. For nearly an hour today, I had SO much hope in going to the concert that I completely forgot my limitations and pain.  I have the hope of one day living a normal and healthy life (whatever that may look like), so therefore it’s devastating when I am reminded of my current inabilities and differences. That’s not to say that my hope is lost, because it definitely isn’t. It just means my present reality has to be altered a little bit.

So at the end of the day, I’m feeling a whole lot of gratitude for my heart’s ability to find hope amidst devastation. I’m thankful for that hour of extreme anticipation and hope this morning that allowed me to completely forget the realities that I’m facing currently. I’m comforted in knowing that my hope has not been lost, and that someday I will get to have that perfect and healthy body- even if that might not be here on Earth.

With all the love,

A

A Life That Could Not Be

Saturday was my 21st birthday. I’ve been asked about my expected first hangover at least 5 times… But I’m not hungover. I still haven’t had a single drink. Well, if I am hungover, it’s the classic anxiety hangover that most of us know so well. 

IMG_5029

For the past few weeks, I’ve bounced back and forth between excitement and dread for the upcoming day. I made plans, I cancelled plans, I got excited, I cried, I told everyone it was my birthday, then I even wished it wouldn’t happen. 

Looking back, I realize that this is something I go through every year. It’s a sick kid thing, I’ve come to know. Kids like me fight so hard to get to the next birthday. To survive just one more year and hope for less pain and healing in the process. It’s meant to be a celebration of the victory of survival for us. It’s a day to prove our clueless doctors and their uneducated prognosis wrong. 

Despite all that, it’s still a day of disappointment for a lot of us. We can’t celebrate in the ways that we want. Pain holds us back. Anxiety paralyzes us. Unexpected tremors or infections don’t get put on hold for a birthday. Everything can still go wrong. 

I spent my day busy but pretty depressed, to be honest. Meeting my favorite friend for coffee turned into an internal war with myself because I was consumed in sensory overload and complete panic, but I couldn’t show it. I became trapped in myself and shut down to the outside world. I lost my “out loud” words for a solid 4 hours and had to sleep it off. 

I cancelled my roomie hibachi celebration at least twice in the span of 6 hours. The thought of being in public again was too much for me. We decided to go in the end, and even had to switch tables because I couldn’t tolerate the sound in the room. My friends kept saying “you’re safe with us” but my mind told me to run. 

An older friend that I trust a lot offered to take me out for my first drink. I wanted so badly to go and be a typical 21 year old, but instead I got in bed and cried. She showed up at my door and laid there with me. 

As difficult as this day turned out to be, I kept coming back to the same lyric from JJ Heller’s newest single Braver Still:

“Its ok to grieve a life that could not be.”

This is what chronic illness really looks like.

 The life that we had always dreamt of for ourselves is no longer a possibility, and that’s something we have to allow ourselves to process and grieve.
If you’re going through this too, just know that it’s okay for that grief to last a long time. Losing a life time of possibility and our own expectations of opportunities to come will definitely take some time. I’m 9 years into the pain, and daily think about my life that simply could not be.
Instead, I’ve been given a life that is so much fuller than I expected. My opportunities are just as abundant, even if they look different than I imagined. I’m 21 years old and have experienced things I never imagined possible, and learned more than I could have ever imagined.
I’m 21 years old now, and more grateful for life than I ever have been before. But even still, it’s okay to grieve the life that could not be. IMG_5031
With all the love,
A

Student Ministry (Guest Post: Lily)

Good morning friends! Today I’m sharing another one of my favorite bloggers wisdom with you. Lily and I have a lot in common, both serving in a student ministry called Young Life! I’ll let her introduce herself and tell you more about the importance of loving students where they are….

 

Hey all! Before I jump into the main content of this blog post I just wanted to give you a quick intro about myself. My name is Lily, I am a 21 year old living in colorful Colorado with my Fiancé, Jared, and our beagle pup, Rizzo. I love all things health, wellness, outdoors and performing arts. I am passionate about student ministry because I think it’s important to show up for kids, I even met Jared on a Young Life leader’s retreat. Ministry makes my heart swell with joy and I think it’s increasingly important that we invest in youth and in students because their future matters. Thanks for stopping by to read this guest post If you like what you see, you can head over to my blog, Love Wyns for more content. And a special thank you to Ally for giving me a little space on her blog to share my thoughts. Ya’ll ready for this? Here we go!IMG_8258

I’m not going to lie… student ministry has wrecked me in ways I never knew possible. I have slept in church hallways, stayed up late counseling someone about the divorce of their parents, I’ve washed hair in kitchen sinks when there are no showers open on mission trips, I’ve wept along families and friends at funerals of young people, I’ve had all sorts of gunk thrown at me during a muck war and I have watched kids come to know Jesus. Student ministry has wrecked me but would I do every single one of those things again? Absolutely. See, I don’t do student ministry because it’s easy or because I have some awkward desire to be liked by high school students, I do student ministry because I truly believe it’s the work of Jesus. Student ministry has wrecked my heart for the better so let’s chat about why it’s so important.

10986873_973886655987426_6526185518630693647_n
I wasn’t kidding about washing hair in a sink….

Students need consistent adults. Let’s be real and say that I am the least “adulty” adult there is, but you don’t have to have all the answers to hang out with students. You just have to show up. Showing up will do more for these kids than you could ever imagine. Show up to youth group and chat with them about their lives and you’ll be showing them Jesus. Show up to that basketball game, that play, that swim meet, and you’ll be showing them Jesus. Meet them where they are and you’ll be showing them Jesus. How cool is it that one simple thing, showing up, shows kids Jesus? The bible tells us in Luke 19 verse 10 that “the son of man came to seek and to save the lost” this is said after Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus the tax collector. Jesus didn’t wait for Zacchaeus to come to him, he sought him out and came to his house for dinner. So let’s seek out students and buy them Starbucks (because that’s clearly the modern day equivalent). Kids need adults to show them that they are loved and important and all you have to do is show up. I could honestly probably stop talking right there but, I’m a talker so here’s some more insight for you…

11230716_997306170312141_9036950666977842736_n
Yes, I am shorter than all of my students. You learn to live with it.

How do I know that students need this kind of love? Sure, I’ve been a leader and I have seen this type of consistency to get kids to come to church, to get kids to study the bible, to get kids to get baptized, to get kids to lead other kids, but the real reason I know that the whole consistent adult thing is true is because I was a student once too. I was a student at the very same church I later was a student ministry intern at, I grew up in the youth group scene and loved it. I didn’t drink or party in college or high school because of what a youth leader said to me my freshman year of high school. I am a testament to how showing up for kids works. I am who I am today because of the fantastic leaders I had in my life. I am a leader today because of the fantastic leaders I had. I believe in Jesus because leaders have shown me Jesus. Jesus was tangible to me in high school because I was surrounded by adults being the hands and feet of the Lord. So trust me when I say that showing up is everything.

1013738_675350055841089_292906588_n
High school me, serving with college leader Brianne

Student ministry is awesome because you get to bring kids to Jesus but it’s also amazing because Jesus will become real to you as you do his work. Now, I recognize that not everyone is called to student ministry but if you feel that tug on your heart, run to those kids and never look back. I promise you’ll never regret it. It’ll wreck you but it’ll wreck you in all the best ways.

I’ve never experienced Jesus in such a powerful way as the time I first served communion to students. I was a student ministry intern and I loved those kids (still do and always will by the way). As I served them communion, the spirt overtook my soul. Not my heart, my soul. I wept as I saw student after student come to remember what their Jesus had done for them. I cried knowing that they were radically loved by both me and by the Father. I experienced Jesus that night alongside them and I’ll never forget it. So yes, you’ll find that in ministering to young people, your relationship with Jesus changes as well. Your love for his people will grow and flourish and that’s the best thing ever.

11825722_10153528159189267_2148720959475873221_n

In a time where depression runs rampant, suicide rates increase and bullying is at an all-time high, students need Jesus. They need you to show them Jesus. In a time where kids don’t know their worth, they need you to show up. In a time where going to church is the last thing a student wants to do, they need you at their basketball games or taking them out to lunch. These students need leaders and it’s our calling to make disciples. So if this blog has tugged at your heart in any way, shape or form, I encourage you to reach out to your church or your local Young Life ministry and get involved. Go show up for students, go show them Jesus.

Xo,

Lily

Service Dog FAQ: My Dog

As you probably know, for the last two and a half months I have been on a journey to train my dog Malibu as my service dog. Two weeks ago, she passed her public access test and she is now an official service dog!

Throughout our time together so far, I have encountered a LOT of questions and comments. I’ve decided to address this publicly, in hopes of providing some education and taming some curiosity! Over the next week or so, I will be answering questions regarding different service dog related topics- training, public interaction, etc. If you have a question that you want answered, click the Contact Me button or leave a comment down below!

Today, I’m answering the 5 most common questions that I am asked about my dog specifically! Here we go:

 

  1. Why isn’t your dog a lab or retriever? I understand where this question comes from. In media and movies, service dogs are almost always portrayed as golden retrievers or labs. This is likely because most fully-trained service dog agencies breed labs and retrievers specifically for their clients. Because I chose to train my own dog, I was able to adopt any dog I wanted to! I chose to rescue a dog from a shelter, because that’s what I believe is best. At the shelter, I tested the aptitude of a few dogs and decided that Malibu had the best behavior and personality for service dog training. Moral of the story: service dogs can be ANY breed!! That’s a right- even “bully” breed! (and before you have to ask, she is half St Bernard, half Great Pyrenees)
  2. Is she a service dog or emotional support animal? What is the difference? She is a Service Dog!! Many people ask me this question simply because they don’t know the difference between an SD and an ESA. A physician can prescribe an ESA. It can be any species or breed. ESA’s are typically used as “calming” companions for people who may have emotional or mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. An ESA does not have full public access rights protected by Federal Law. On the contrary, SD’s are allowed in ANY public place that the handler goes- including all forms of transportation and food establishments. Legally, a service dogs does not require a certification or registration, and a physician does not always prescribe them. A service dog must be trained to do specific tasks that help or benefit the handler. By law, Malibu is a service dog because she is trained to preform specific tasks that make my life a little easier.
  3. So you can take Malibu with you ANYWHERE? YES! I can and usually do bring Malibu with me everywhere. As I mentioned, no public establishment can deny my dog entry. The only reason that I may be asked to leave is if my dog is disruptive or a threat (of course, we have never encountered that problem!!). Now, just because I CAN bring Malibu doesn’t mean that I always DO. There are certain times that I leave Malibu at home, such as if I am going to be running errands for the majority of the day and know that I won’t have time to let her rest or take a break in between. I will also leave her home if I suspect that she’s not feeling well, or if we have already been gone for a long time that day and she deserves some alone time. 9 times out of 10, Malibu will be with me- but sometimes it’s just easier to leave her at home.
  4. What tasks does your dog do? Before I answer this question: friendly reminder that this is NOT a question you can legally ask a handler! But since I’m your friend, I’ll go ahead and answer! Malibu does a lot of things to help me! The most common command you will hear me give Malibu is “cover.” Malibu can do a front cover, and a back cover. Basically, this is where she puts her body in front of or behind me. This serves a multitude of purposes. Most commonly, I use it when standing at a counter such as a cash register or when ordering at a coffee bar. The cover keeps her out of the way and in control between the counter and me. She also covers me to put space between me and other people. This ensures that I have enough room to breathe, and that I don’t feel overcrowded. Malibu also has a command called “snuggle.” This command is specifically used in times of high stress/anxiety/panic or even high pain. To the passer-by, it looks like I’m just loving on my dog and scratching her ears and giving her kisses. In reality, she is grounding me and keeping me focused on her (and my breathing) and not whatever stressor is around me. One of my favorite tasks is called deep pressure therapy. This is when Malibu uses her weight to lay or lean on certain parts of my body, typically my legs. Not only does this have a calming effect, it also mitigates my nerve pain. Malibu also does a variety of mobility tasks, including “bracing” to help me stand/balance, and walking ahead or behind me going up or down stairs to give me support and balance. These are just a few of the great things Malibu can do for me! And of course, we are always working on new tasks to add to her list.
  5. Is Malibu ALWAYS on the job? Technically, the answer to this is absolutely not. When we are at home, Malibu is a pet just like any other pet dog! I take her vest off the second we get home, if not when she gets in the car. She loves to run around outside and take really long naps. She LOVES belly rubs, and likes to carry her kibble around the house and spit it out for me to find later. See? She’s a dog! Now, of course, taking off her vest does not mean forgetting her commands. She will (almost) always do what I tell her to, and she’s really good at responding to my needs 24/7. She comforts me always, and will help me any time of day or night. We also run through a series of basic commands each day to keep her training up and her mind sharp, but that is always balanced out with lots of treats and playtime outside!

If you have any other questions about my girl Malibu, let me know! Up next I’ll be answering your questions about how to interact (or NOT) interact with an SD in public…

With all the love,

A