A Short, Late-Night Reflection

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Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

 

I can’t believe it’s been three years since I made Jesus Lord! It feels like just yesterday and yet a lifetime ago. I was 14 years old, about to start my freshman year of high school, and had no idea what I was getting into (but if I did I don’t think I wouldn’t have made the right decision [God’s timing, am I right?]).

To other people, it seems like the past three years of my life have been a reflection of my strength, but I want to make it very clear that I am not strong. I am weak. I am foolish. I am broken. God is the strong one here, not me, and his “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). He is why I tell my story so boldly, because it isn’t mine — it’s God’s. It’s a story of his power, love, generosity, and mercy. If you’re confused by this or want to hear the full thing (not just the bits and pieces in my blogs), ask me! I’m happy to chat 🙂

All in all, I wouldn’t be standing here (or typing this) had not God put the people he has put in my life to guide me to him. Thank you to everyone who’s prayed for me, directed me, and loved me unconditionally. God is using you all in extraordinary ways.

This year, I’ve really seen that I truly lack nothing with God. Today and the rest of my life, I give all glory to him.

With Love,
Emma

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Choosing Love

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Huge shoutout to my amazing HFKLA track for supporting me, encouraging me, and calling me higher. They made my summer so full of growth and laughter, and I truly call these people my family. Thanks for making this summer #totallytov

This summer has been a whirlwind! I just recently had the privilege of being on Hope For Kids Leadership Academy (HFKLA), a 5 week long leadership program where participants learn leadership skills through serving like Christ served his ministry. I learned a lot, but a lot of the learning was in putting things into practice.

God makes it very clear throughout the Bible that love is a choice, not an emotion. Yes, it can elicit feeling of joy, infatuation, security, or pain, but love itself is, in fact, a choice.

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you, but here’s why:

In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus says,
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The love that Jesus talks about here is a command. It’s a choice, and it’s one I am called to choose every moment of my life. Jesus says that this is the greatest commandment, so if I’m supposed to be a Christian, why am I not loving at all times?

Honestly, on HFKLA my main excuse and temptation for not being loving (ie judgmental, bitter, impatient, prideful, selfish, irritable, untrusting, negative… you get the picture) was that I was tired. Physically, I had been on my feet working for 5 weeks straight. I ran around (the very hill-y) camp trying to find my campers, washed 600 people’s dishes, and walked around Drexel’s campus for hours sharing my faith. Also, the camp (Camp Hope for Kids) was in Schwenksville, PA, about an hour away from Philadelphia, so it was humid. Real humid. And there was no air conditioning. And I’m from LA. Needless to say, I felt like a boiling puddle of sweat most of the time.

Emotionally, I was thrown into a group of almost 40 people, and I only really knew one person prior to arriving at camp. I was trying to make new friends and create a home at camp away from my home in Los Angeles. I was also a mentor and camp counselor to many different girls of different ages and was in charge of leading discussions and listened to the struggles of these young girls and teens. I was also pouring my heart and life out when sharing with my girls and doing Bible studies with people I had just met a few minutes ago. Although I loved what I was doing because I love God, I’d be lying not to admit that I. Was. Exhausted.

Like I said, I absolutely loved the work that I was doing, and I’d do it all again and more in a heartbeat, but y’all, there were times where all I really wanted was a nap!! I wanted to lie on my bed with my fan pointing at my face, and sleep for 10 hours, yet I knew that wasn’t an option. In these moments, I had to actively choose to love my campers/mentee/fellow HFKLA participants. I had to choose to love these people as myself, like Jesus says in Matthew 22, catering to their needs, actively listening to them, and being patient, not expecting anything in return.

It reminded me a lot of how God loves me — loves everyone. This is really evident in the amount of “mights” throughout the entire Bible:

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Exodus 9:16

“[Jesus] appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach” Mark 3:14

“From one man [God] made all the nations that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:26-27

God loves us unconditionally. He put us in our position so that we might seek him. He sent Jesus so that we might be saved. He desires a relationship with me, but he doesn’t expect anything in return for his love. However, if I do accept his love, I am called to love other as he loved me: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

My motivation for loving others needs to come from God. I need to love out of my gratitude and love for God. During HFKLA, I really got to put this into practice, and it’s something I’m trying to continue doing now that I’m home — loving unconditionally, with no strings attached.

With Love,
Emma

Feeling Funky

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I told you I wasn’t kidding about the goats…

This time of year tend to be what I like to call “funky.” School’s coming to a close, a lot of celebrations and showcases are happening, and summer and all its activities are right around the corner. I, for better or for worse, am a person of routine, which makes this time of year, strangely, really stressful. My classes are at different times or canceled, events are being planned and scheduled one night after another and change at the last minute, and although I have more free time than normal, I don’t significantly feel any more relaxed.

The past few months I’ve really realized how much I rely on consistency and routine (which, funnily enough, is lot like my brother). I like knowing what to expect, I mean, who doesn’t! This past month, however, has been pretty all over the place, with a lot of fun things, as well as a lot of stressful things. It’s a pretty mixed bag. It started with APs, then the SAT, then prom, then new students to tutor (more money yay), yoga with baby goats (I’m not kidding), a CS showcase for STEM achievements this year, and lastly, end of year projects, essays, and finals. I know this sounds like a lot, but it’s been spread out over the month so don’t feel too bad for me. Actually, because of APs, half my classes at school are done.

The hard part for me about all this is not exactly that it’s a large quantity of events, it’s that I need to prep myself for new situations almost every day. Managing my anxiety at this point consists mostly of knowing what to expect, making a “game plan,” and praying about it to prep myself for any potential stressor. I realize, however, that I cannot function as a hermit, only staying within my comfort zone, in fact, I want to try new and exciting things, but my body isn’t a huge fan. It takes a lot of energy to prep myself, but I’m okay with that, because it’s always worth it. The down side, however, is that I’m exhausted. Which leads to funkiness.

I define funkiness as not really being present, kind of tired, a little lonely, scatter-brained, and really wanting to take a nap. It’s not depression, not even close, but it’s not pleasant either. I find myself daydreaming a lot, not very focused, and not really knowing what to do with myself despite the fact I have all these things going on. Whenever this happens, I tend to brush it off as “I’m just exhausted” and tell myself “It’ll end in a few days/weeks,” but it happens often enough to where it’s started to impede on my wellbeing.

I’ve realized that in my prepping for events and trying to manage my anxiety, I seldom rely on and trust God. Instead, I rely on my own knowledge and strength, and I think by now we all know where that gets me…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
-Proverbs 3:5-6

In dealing with this recent funkiness, I’ve realized I’ve needed to take a step back from my own plans and let God take control. My understanding of things are often not entirely accurate — how could they? I don’t know the future! I spend so much unnecessary time stressing over the future when all I really need to do is trust God, and He will show me where to go. Obviously easier said than done, but it’s a start.

With Love,
Emma

One Year Later…

One year later…

Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.
– Habakkuk 1:5

It’s amazing how much one year can make a difference.

Last year today I was discharged from treatment. I didn’t have many expectations and had no idea of what I would do with the life that six weeks prior I was ready to throw away. I wasn’t sure of much, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to complete the semester, but I had confidence that whatever happened, as long as I had God by my side, I could move mountains.

Since that day, I’ve done so many things I never could have imagined.

In the past year I’ve seen my first snow, danced my heart out despite my dad moves, graduated from my sophomore year of high school, been to my first professional and high school sports games, seen an engineering marvel, started a blog, met and reunited with too many friends to count, travel to Vancouver to serve the community, bowled more gutter balls than I’ve ever thought possible, played violin at Elevate for a second time, won a raffle for the first time, had a big girl birthday party, gone on my first family vacation that was actually a vacation, climbed inside the statue of liberty, gotten my driver’s license, started learning the ukulele, coded a bubble shooter game, got invited to a worldwide robotics competition, seen many dear friends get baptized, and these are just the things I remember off the top of my head.

But imagine if this year didn’t happen for me. I think of what I could have missed, all the joy as well as the trials, and that really would have been a shame. I thank God for this third chance at life and this extra year I got on this earth. Happy. Healthy. Definitely stumbling, but undeniably holding on.

With Love,
Emma

To the little girls who like robots

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So you like building things, huh? The excitement, the innovation, the challenge, the joy of when it works, I completely get it. I grew up constantly building paper structures and lego cities, and Cyberchase on the PBS kids network was by far my favorite show. Once I was old enough to know what programming was, my parent signed me up for a class through girl scouts and soon enough, when I started 7th grade, I joined my school’s robotics team and never looked back.

I’ve loved STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) all my life, but here’s the thing I want you to be aware of: people will tell you you’re not good enough, that the robot kits are just “boy toys” and dolls are just “girl toys”. People will be surprised by your knowledge in STEM fields and try to prove they know more. People won’t always give you the credit you deserve and assume you “tag along for the boys,” but not because they’re jerks, they’re just not used to seeing girls like you being so excited about these things. After all, when was the last time you saw a female programmer on Disney channel?

Despite what these people tell you, I want you to know something: You are just as good and worthy as the other boys. You can achieve whatever you set your mind to, and no, boys are not smarter, they’re just often told that they are. You may need to work harder, but you will be made stronger and better prepared for whatever’s next. The people who underestimate you will often find themselves eating their words, so try not to let them get the better of you.

So please, be unapologetic about your passions, because little girls like you grow up to do amazing things. Ada Lovelace. Grace Hopper. Sally Ride. Rosalind Franklin. Edith Clarke. Literally every programmer on the first missions to space. You bring a different perspective to the table, one that companies desperately need, and they’re just starting to realize that (and I’m so excited).

You belong in this field just as much as any other boy, even when it doesn’t always seem that way. I dream of the day where you can confidently walk into a competition, classroom, meeting, etc. and feel like you have nothing more to prove than your peers do. Until then, keep doing what you’re doing. Take advantage of every opportunity you find. Be patient and persevere. You are going to do amazing things. I’d say good luck, but you don’t need it 😉

With Love,
Emma

Not-So-Great Expectations

 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. – Luke 6:36

Like most of my friends and family know, I have a lot of ~issues~ (with society and other people), so it’s no great surprise that I have a lot of expectations. Most of the time they serve me well and ensure that my needs are met and motivate me to do my best, but taken too far, they can be really harmful.

This past year, I’ve realized just how hard on myself I am. I expect myself to succeed in my classes, have a decent robotics season, be mentally sound, be spiritually well, have certain types of friendships, I even expect myself to have semi-clear skin. These expectations have mostly served me well in terms of motivation and having standards, but I rarely cut myself the slack I need to achieve these things and ultimately function. Having a “normal”, “perfect” life is so incredibly unreasonable, and I’ve been learning how to afford myself some grace, after all, that’s what God does (see Luke 6:36 above).

Sure, I don’t always get my homework done on time, the robot breaks down just about every week, I still get panic attacks, I doubt God, I don’t have/can’t handle a ton of close friends, and I have very little control over my skin, but I still get by and do well most of the time, and I guess that’s “good enough” for me.

Unfortunately, this idea of cutting myself slack has not exactly translated to other people. I put a lot of expectations on others around me. I get really frustrated when they don’t react a certain way, express love/appreciation when I want them to, change the moment I express hurt, or just generally don’t read my mind. Again, these are all so grossly unreasonable and are rarely met, which leads to a lot of disappointment and bitterness. When any expectation isn’t met, I tend to make assumptions and judgments about the person that almost always boil down to “they don’t care about me,” which, now that I think about it, is very untrue in almost any situation. Nonetheless, I am often let-down, and get easily irritable, frustrated, disappointed, and hurt.

By writing this, I’m not at all asking people to change to meet my gross expectations. I am creating my own problems. I need to afford those around me the grace that God has afforded me. I need to express when I feel hurt, ignored, not cared for, or when my needs are not being met, or else I will forever be a person with lots of ~issues~ (which, I have to admit, is very exhausting).

Since this is New Year’s Resolution-making season, I guess my goal for 2017 is to speak up when my needs are not met. I have a lot of fears (go figure), but the biggest one is that I won’t be taken seriously; however, I can’t make that assumption without giving you all a chance. Here goes nothing!

To a new year of faith, growth, and perseverance!

With love,
Emma

17 things for 17 years

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Blocking out the negativity

You are the dancing queeeeeen, young and sweeeeeeet, only seventeeeeeeeeeeen

I’m seventeen!!! I’m absolutely floored to think that I’ve made it this far in life. It’s funny how seventeen years feels like such a long time and not very much at all. Anyway, to celebrate this monumental occasion, here are seventeen things I’ve learned over the past seventeen years I’ve had on this Earth so far.

  1. One step in front of the other. Don’t look at the last step when you haven’t even seen where the second step is. The whole” big picture” thing is God’s job, not yours 🙂
  2. School isn’t everything. Intellect is only valuable if you are also kind, and academic success isn’t the only admirable quality one could have. You can be generous, honest, trustworthy, resilient, courageous, forgiving, etc. Being smart is not a prerequisite for any of these things.
  3. The idea of one being “normal” is a social construct and therefore does not apply to you nor anyone else you will ever come in contact with. There is no normal life, normal family, normal brother, or normal childhood. We all have ~stuff~, big or small, and comparing that ~stuff~ won’t really get you anywhere meaningful.
  4. Mental health is not a shameful topic. Friends want to know what’s happening in your life, the good and the ugly, and if they don’t, they’re not your friend.
  5. Eat vegetables. Try to live relatively healthily. It’ll make you feel better, or something like that. Just do it.
  6. While we’re on the topic of physical health, go in for your yearly physical. Also, if your stomach frequently hurts, go see a doctor; don’t wait three months. Your body will thank you later.
  7. Writing is not the enemy.
  8. I repeat, writing is not the enemy.
  9. Go to sleep for goodness sake! I promise, it will not be the end of the world if you turn your homework in late. Believe it or not, THIS is why you’re getting sick so often, so sleep!
  10. If you think you need to start therapy again, you need to start therapy again.
  11. What are you waiting for?!? Make an appointment!!!
  12. Frustration and anger are valid emotions. So are sadness, fear, and grief. They stink, but (unfortunately) they’re valid — treat them as such.
  13. Being busy isn’t always a good thing. Having nothing to do is definitely not a good thing. You need balance, and it’s okay if it takes awhile to find that.
  14. THIS is how you incorporate the word “however” into a sentence because ~apparently~ you can’t start a sentence with that word??!?: I like to eat cheese; however, I am allergic to milk. Go figure. #thanksEnglish
  15. Write down everything — what you have to do, your ideas, things you need to buy at CVS, your emotions, a moment of inspiration, everything — because you know that within 15 minutes you’re going to forget, and you will spend the entire day trying to remember, and that is something you have neither the time nor the energy for.
  16. Trust may not be build overnight, but communication can be changed in an instant, and that’s a start.
  17. Love will always be greater than fear (1 John 4:18). Okay fine, I haven’t exactly accepted this one juuuust yet. I’m close though! Check in with me in a year or so 😉

With Love,
Emma

Learning to Love Myself

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WHY IS IT SO HARD?!?!!?!

Like pretty much every person on earth, I frequently find it hard *cough* impossible to love myself. Whether it’s looking in the mirror and wondering, “Wow I look terrible; do I always look like this?” or sitting in class learning a difficult lesson and internally thinking, “This is it. I’m dumb. I’ve officially failed at life.” For a very long time, I would try and try time and again to stop thinking these things, and usually the thoughts improve to a point, but I can never seem to fully get rid of the negativity and self-hatred. The fact that I will probably forever struggle with my perception of my looks and intelligence was/is extremely frustrating, and it can very well send me into a spiral of depression if I think about it too much.

News Flash: Loving myself is hard. Society tells us that pretty much only two things about ourselves matter: our intelligence and our looks, yet it also tells us to love ourselves the way we are made. Talk about confusing! But what I think I’ve been learning more and more is that loving myself is so much more than just believing that I’m pretty or intelligent.

When I think of a person I love, I don’t think, “Oh my gosh, I love this person so much! They’re a genius and might as well be a model; they’re just the best!” No! I think about their patience, selflessness, trustworthiness, their ability to listen, how much fun I have around them, the list goes on and on, yet not one of the things I think about is if he or she is smart or good looking. If I value other people for so much more than surface-y traits like being intelligent or attractive, why do I evaluate myself on only those two things?

Even God tells us that our looks and intelligence don’t matter!
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
-Matthew 5:3-10

Where does it say “Blessed are the smart, for they will win at life” or “Blessed are the good looking, for they will be loved”? Nowhere! God cares about my heart, my character, my faith, my actions, not things that are fleeting and can’t help being.

Like I said before, loving myself is hard. It’s a constant struggle, but putting my value in things that aren’t up for debate makes it whole lot easier.

With love,
Emma

Coping Skills!

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Goodbye summer, see you next year 😦

I’m making this list because school’s starting. And every teenager who has experienced any degree of a mental health issue knows that 99.99% of the time, school only makes problems worse (Hey teachers, pls fix this).

But! This year is different than the last 3 (at least that’s what I’m telling myself)! I have dealt with seemingly the majority of the things that needed to be dealt with, and I have ~realistic(er) expectations~ for myself. I have multiple backup plans for if things get stressful or anxiety decides to have a field day, so in theory, I should be set. I also have a God that will carry (or drag) me through this year and keep me in one piece because let’s be real: Life could not possibly get worse than last year. I can only go up!

However, just because I’m recovered doesn’t mean I won’t have my moments from time to time, so here’s a list to remind myself (and whoever else that might need it) of what to do when these moments happen:

1. Pray. “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” -Psalm 94:19. Prayer is literally the only thing that can calm me down from the worst of my panic attacks or flashbacks, and by prayer, I’m not talking about those nice prayers you say before you eat your meal. I’m talking about those super honest, frankly ugly, prayers where all the emotions spill out at once (Psalm 13, 69, and 102 are prime examples). The crazy thing is, by the time I finish the prayer, like with the Psalms that I mentioned above, my perspective shifts. I am less “in my head” and more reasonable. 10/10 would recommend.

2. Go for a jog. Outside. Like Nike said, “Just do it.” Seriously, this is one of the first things I do when I get anxious. It helps get the extra energy out my system that the adrenaline oh so inconveniently provides, and it forces me to breathe (not breathing is typically the first sign that I’m anxious). It also helps reset my brain. I don’t know the science behind it, if there even is any, but it just does. Being outside is really important because I need to feel like I’m making progress and going somewhere, and being on a treadmill is boring. Also, the alternative of not running and keeping the energy in is that I get tired and crash. Crashing = depression. And that’s something no one wants.

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3. Breathe. I really hate this one. The last thing I want to do when I’m panicking is sit still. This is why I like running more, but when I’m taking a test and I’m having a moment, I can’t exactly bolt out of the room, so this is the next best thing. There are many types of breathing patterns, but the one I like to do is: breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4 and then repeat. I try to imagine a square, each side being one of the “steps,” and I follow along around the border (see picture above).

4. This is kind of like prayer, but talk or write about what’s happening. This has been so helpful because it gives the anxiety less power over me. Putting into words what I’m worrying about stops the thoughts from ruminating and circling around in my head and helps me realize that a lot of my worries don’t make much sense, and I’m usually able to walk my mind out of the irrational thoughts.

5. Hold ice. This one is more for if there are thoughts of self harm. It gives a physical sensation, which can satisfy the feeling of needing to do something, and it snaps me right back into the present. I’ll admit, this one’s pretty inconvenient, but so is anxiety, so it’s okay. If that still doesn’t work, dunk your head in a bowl of ice water. Ice bucket challenge 2.0.

6. Put your head down, listen to music, and sip some hot tea. This one is specifically if the anxiety is from sensory overload; in other words: everything that’s going on around you, is just tooooooooo much. It’s being overwhelmed by your environment. Anxiety is feeling a loss of control, so by putting my head down (sight), listening to music (hearing), and making/drinking hot tea (touch, smell, taste), I’m controlling what’s happening to all 5 of my senses. Just make sure the music doesn’t have distressing lyrics and that the tea is non-caffeinated ;).

7. Say nice things to yourself (This alone could make up an entirely different post). When I’m anxious, the majority of reasons behind any given episode is that I came to the conclusion that if x, y, and/or z happens, I am/will be a failure. By tweaking the things I say to myself and talk to myself the way I would talk to a friend, my brain slowly starts to go towards those positive thoughts instead of the negative thoughts. It’s like reprogramming and debugging the brain!

This type of strategy of dealing with anxiety is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and if it seems like something you’re interested in doing, I recommend researching it and possibly finding a therapist that uses the technique. The whole thing relates a lot to Philippians 4:8 —

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Calling myself a failure is by no means any of these things. Changing the brain’s “default” position of negative thoughts is definitely a long term thing, and results can be slow, but it’s made such a difference in my life and countless of lives around me.

I wish all you fellow students a good school year! Remember, no matter how much homework you have or how bad your grades may be, your health needs to come first.

With love,

Emma

HYC Vancouver: What I Learned

Hey y’all! I’m back! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, but I’ve (for the most part) recovered. For those who don’t know, I was in Vancouver, BC, Canada from August 1-11 serving the homeless through a program called “HOPE Youth Corps” (HYC). Our particular track partnered with an organization called “The Lookout Society,” which provides services for the homeless such as shelter/housing, food, and harm reduction. I’ve learned so much about myself and God through this experience, so I thought I’d share it with y’all!

1. Homelessness is not that far out of reach

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One of the first things we did was organize a gazillion clothes and fitted sheets and put them into boxes. BTW the girl in the picture is my lovely friend, Jade.

On our first day of service, we had an orientation about who we were serving, what to expect, and safety precautions. It was here when I learned about just how close I could have been to homelessness. The typical demographic of people who are homeless struggle with at least one of the following: mental health disorders, medical problems, traumatic experiences (ex: war veterans, domestic violence), lack of familial support, and/or addiction. The fact that I could “check off” at least one of these boxes was extremely humbling, let alone multiple. If my dad lost his job, I was born into a not as supportive family, my family didn’t have a good insurance plan, or I had attempted to self-medicate, I could have very easily ended up on the streets. I already knew that those who experience homelessness aren’t all that different from those who don’t, but this realization took it to a whole new level. I was so humbled by how much I could relate to these people, and my empathy for them grew so much. I am still in awe that I was the one serving and not being served, and I am so grateful that God has blessed me so much.

2. I seriously need to check my pride, shut up, and just listen

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This cool cat, Marin, taught me a lot about humility and being a good listener.

Pride is one of those sins that pretty much everyone and their mom struggles with. I think because it’s so widespread, it can be hard for me to take this sin seriously and have Godly sorrow towards it (2 Corinthians 7:10). During HYC, we talked about pride/humility a lot, and what I’ve been realizing more and more is that it’s still a huge problem in my life.

Confession time: I am a terrible listener. When hearing a friend talk about their life, I tend to start to think about what I would say after they finish, or what wisdom I may impart on them to make their life exponentially better. In reality, I have no idea what I’m talking about, and even if I do, it doesn’t mean I’m going to help them in any way. How does this relate to pride? By doing this, I put my thoughts at a higher importance than my peers’: I know best and therefore my thoughts matter more. Looking back, I think I just need to shut up and listen completely to what my friends have to say.

I think mostly everyone who has any sort of friendship with me knows that my memory is worse than that of a fish, and I have valid reasons as to why it’s like that, but not listening definitely does not help with not being able to remember what my friend said an hour ago. During this HYC, I had the opportunity to have many many many deep conversations with those that I lived with, and to be honest, it was really challenging at times to just listen, and I failed A LOT. However, I was able to learn so much by just listening, and I plan to continually work on it now that I’m back in the states. As Proverbs 3:34 and James 4:6 say, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

3. God can actually work through me, not just around me

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SO MANY AWESOME PEOPLE IN ONE PICTURE!!! GAH!!!

Throughout the past six months, I have seen God work in amazing ways in my life. For starters, it’s miraculous that the bulk of my recovery was done in about three months. It’s important to recognize that recovery is ongoing, and I will forever have stuff to work through, but what some people never recover from, I was able to do in three months. Now, let me make this clear: It was all God. I honestly don’t even know how my recovery was this quick. Yes, I put in the work, but God and His Word allowed me to gain so much peace that otherwise, I would not have had.

Even though I have seen God work in my life and through other people, I forget that He can also work through me. After all, I do have the Holy Spirit, so I have that power in me already (Romans 8:11). During this HYC, I was really able to see how much I can do with God working in me. Since before we even got to Vancouver, all of us were praying that we could make an impact, and although we weren’t able to see if/how our work affected the homeless population in Vancouver, we were able to see how it affected the staff at The Lookout Society. We were quite a loud group of teenagers and young adults, so when we’d come in each morning to a different location, the staff were rightfully skeptical; however, by lunch time they were beaming with joy at the work we’d do. Even when we felt like we weren’t doing much, like scrubbing the same patch of graffiti in a bathroom for an hour, they’d be so happy. Quite a few staff member were even interested in visiting the Vancouver church and finding out who God is. It really shows how much God can work through us when we let Him.

Another time I was really able to see God work through me was when our group would interact with the Vancouver church. Seeing how encouraged the campus and teen ministries were by us just being in Vancouver, before they even met us, was really awesome. There was one day where I was especially tired and sick, and there were blisters on the bottom of my feet. It was our “break day” after a week of serving, so we went to the Olympic stadium and played volleyball, but because of all my ailment, on top of potential trauma responses, I decided it wasn’t a good idea for me to play. Another girl in the Vancouver teen ministry sat with me, and I was able to tell her about my struggles with mental health and how God helped me through them. Turns out, she struggled with similar stuff. It seemed like sharing my story with her helped her a lot and gave her hope that God could carry her through anything that Satan threw her way, and it was really cool for me to see that some good could come out of my hardships. God really showed me that He can do so much through me, and that I can make a difference.

It’s crazy to think that all this learning happened in just 11 days. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible and supporting all my crazy endeavors.

With love,
Emma