Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Don't dare God... He might just deliver!

If you read my previous blog post then you are aware that I have been searching for a new professional opportunity for nearly eleven months. They have been trying months and learning months... they have been desperate months and searching months. But... they are over. I have come to the end of that valley of life and am humbled at God's promise in it all... it's a great story I want to share. 

When my job situation changed last fall I was slightly at a loss. I knew what I wanted to do and pursued those aspirations... but interviews came and went to no avail. Influences and resources in my life kept pointing me to teaching and I was running as far as possible. A lot of folks don't know that I actually have a Masters in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). During grad school I decided to pursue Student Affairs and Higher Ed rather than teaching... and I'll forever be grateful for that decision because of the wonderful people I have met along the way (Seriously... some of you Samford coworkers and kids... my life would be so different without having known you!). However, as I journeyed on this valley of job searching, surrounded by a school full of amazing teachers (OGLE IS the place to be!), I found the influence of teaching to abound... people kept asking me what I taught, then why didn't I teach, etc... people from all aspects of my life! So much so, that I began to pray about it... because the truth is, even though I have that degree, I've never really wanted to be a teacher. Not even a little bit, not even at all. I couldn't ignore those influences though... so I looked into what I would have to do to get certified, I looked into different options, and in the mean time I was scared. Scared of what I didn't know... of a field I had no experience in (with the exception of some volunteer work). I continued to pursue only jobs that were within my interest, and I realized at some point in time along the way I was a bit like Jonah... 

So one day many many months ago, during what I like to call one of my 'chats' with God, I told God (paraphrasing here)... "Okay Lord, if you really want me to be a teacher then I'll do it... but I want to teach college students and I don't want to have to move." I specifically mentioned in that prayer the English Language Institute at USM... an incredibly specific prayer that I figured wasn't likely to happen since there were no job openings that I was aware of at the time... but in May the ELI posted a job, and I applied. (Also note - this request was between me and God, I didn't share with anyone else).

Fast forward to last week... I was in a mood... Wednesday was a bad day. I was deep dark in that valley of not feeling adequate and capable since it seemed no one would hire me for a job. I'm not even sure what got me to that breaking point... but as I prayed on Wednesday night I literally lifted my hands up to God and said "I'm handing you the reigns to this search Lord"... the things I was pursuing were not working. Those doors were shutting, and I felt like I was hitting my head against a wall until I realized that no matter how much I had prayed and prayed and PRAYED about this situation... I had not fully given it to the Lord. I was a bit like Jonah... trying to do my own thing and the results were getting me nowhere!! (Thankfully they weren't getting me into the belly of a whale!). So I prayed and cried and finally gave it up... finally relinquished the control of my professional future. It was scary, but I was relieved. 

Not even kidding, I received two offers for interviews on Thursday. Literally HOURS after I gave control of my situation back to God. Both were jobs I was very interested in, one was in Student Affairs and one was a teaching job... at the English Language Institute at the University of Southern Mississippi. 

(Y'all pick your jaws up off the floor... I know I had to!)

I spent the weekend researching teaching methods and reading scholarly articles like I had not done since grad school. Did I mention earlier that teaching scared me... cause it did! So much responsibility, so much paperwork, so many methods!! But once again, God gave me some shut up juice... thanks to my pastor Blake McCain and a sermon on "A Satisfied Soul" from Psalm 63. I was sitting in church listening to his words from God's Word about seeking, praising, meditating and TRUSTING (hello!!) the Lord in order to be satisfied. The whole time I'm thinking of this interview on Monday afternoon and my fear of teaching, and then he put the following verse on the screen: 

"Do not fear or be dismayed; 
tomorrow go out against them, 
for the Lord is with you."
(2 Chronicles 20:17)

Y'all... the verse says tomorrow... the interview was TOMORROW!!!

I mean it's like Jesus was standing there handing me that cup (of previously mentioned shut up juice) and saying "Here you go Kace... drink. it. up."

So... I listen... and I prepare... and I show up. We talked for about an hour and a half, and the offered me the job on the spot. The teaching job... that very specific one I said would be the ONLY one I would take. 

Y'all... (anyone else shaking their head here... I am!)

It has been a whirlwind the past 24 hours... but I accepted the job and as of August 1st will be and ELI Educator at USM. I went and observed classes today, and during four classes interacted with students from ten different countries. The other staff members are so nice and welcoming and now, instead of being afraid of teaching... I'm excited! 

I am, however, sad to be leaving OGLE. I said in my letter to my Dr. Brumfield and Mr. Thomas, "As you know I never planned to be at OGLE, but it is hands down the best detour I've ever had in life." That statement could not be more true... and I'm so thankful to all you wonderful people for taking me in and walking with me in this valley... even though you might not have known about it. Y'all are amazing wonderful people and LCSD is so lucky to have great people like you... OGLE is a gem... and you all make it shine brighter. 

There are lots of lessons that I have learned, and I certainly hope you might glean one for yourself in all this... I thought I had given this situation to God months ago... but obviously I had not fully given it up to Him. If you are struggling through something... humble yourself and admit you need His help. And of course... don't dare God, because He might just deliver! 

Love y'all, 

Friday, July 7, 2017

A vulnerable note...

I just found a note I wrote to myself earlier this spring... and as I read it today I sit here in a much peaceful place. I want to share that note, written from a sad space, but I also want to explain the reason for it: 

In August of 2016 life was grand... then one day, due to no fault of my own or anyone in my district, I lost my job. It's hard to find out that your financial safety net is gone due to the mistakes of those on a more superior (state) level, and you can do nothing to fix it. 

The next day I started a new job, in a place I have come to love with people who are amazing. Over the past (almost) eleven months I have learned a lot from the Admin, teachers, tutors, staff members, and even the kids I work with. My goodness the kids... on the days I was really discouraged those little voices, those little hugs made it a lot better. But that change was intense financially. I took a $2100 per month pay cut. I have had to drastically change my spending habits (essentially gas and groceries only), and to be candid I would not have survived financially without the help of my mother. It has been a humbling, embarassing, vulnerable and enlightening experience. There have been a lot of days that I have felt as useless and insignificant as possible. Finances have always been my biggest concern... and this situation just multiplied that problem, exponentially. 

Since August I have applied for a lot of jobs, and though I have had some great interviews and met some nice people, every door has been shut, some have been slammed. It has been discouraging to say the least to spend eight hours in an interview only to find out you are the second choice (what's that old saying, "Second place is the First loser"... that's what it felt like) for a job that you really wanted. But I continue to pursue opportunities for my future... and I'm thankful that God has had the patience with me throughout this process that I have not always had with him. 

So here is my note I wrote on March 29...

I wish I knew the lesson I still need to learn. For that must be why I've once again entered a valley... 
A valley where I feel like I'm not enough. Second choice. A valley which is an all too familiar place, and one to which I would prefer never to return. For the valleys... they are the places where the devil attempts to steal my joy. I will be honest in saying I question my ability and God's motives. But my Joy... it is not a thing to be taken. My Joy - though sometmies it seems like a small flame, it will always be burning. 
My Joy does not come from me - it was a gift received on the day of my Salvation. It's a gift that always allows me to see the glass half full or the bright side. My Joy is what sets me apart in the valley - maybe that makes me an easier target, but if so... my God is the creator of the arrow, the wind, and the laws of physics.
My God knows my abilities when I doubt them all. 
My God knows my heart - the sad frustrated thing it may currently be... but He created it, and only He can fix it. 
Why do I doubt?Why do I feel insignificant? Why do I feel unwanted?Why do I feel like I'm never going to get out of this valley when I know He has brought me thru them before?...
Because I'm human. Because we're fallen, and because I feel the need/desire to control my situation... remember the words of your daddy, Kacey... " that He is in control, and if I cooperate, life will be better."
I want to cooperate Lord. Give me the desire for Your will and show me how. 

Wow... that was a bad place. But thankfully, I'm not there today. I have been since then... and I could be there tomorrow... but today I'm not. A few nights ago, while in that place I talked to God for a while... I held out the reigns to this situation and gave them to Him. I came to the conclusion that trying to control this situation was obviously not working... therefore why continue making the same mistakes with the same results... I can't hire myself for a job, I can only put myself out there and pursue endeavors I am qualified to pursue. Some might be easy, others (one in particular) are slightly scary... but if He is in control of it, then He will guide the decision... at least I am praying and trusting that He will. 

There are doors opening, as they have before... these may close, I don't know... but I am going to pursue them as He makes them available. 

Love Y'all, 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

In his own words...

Eight years ago... life changed. 

If you knew my daddy... you loved him. I don't know that I ever met someone that didn't care for him. Of course I'm partial, but he was a friendly person. He was always present... he listened, he talked... my goodness did he talk. But generally, when he said something... it was generally worth hearing. 

It's sad to me that there are people in my life that will never know him. They will never know his wisdom, his fun personality, his guitar pickin', or his creativity. They will never hear his prayers... they were long, but they were sincere. 

So today I mark another year without him... while thinking of what to post I decided it would be best for you to hear from him. So here is the story of Dane's mandolin. I've walked past this frame a million times in our home, but I don't know that I truly read it until a few weeks ago. This story (a true one of course) shows daddy's character and his voice, and I hope you learn a little bit about him... in his own words. 

Dane's Mandolin

The original owner of this old mandolin is unknown. My knowledhe of its history began soetime in the latter 1920's or early 1930's. As a young boy living in Covington COunty, MS Dane Webster was about 10 years old. Wanting to play music, Dane picked cotton to make $5.00 to buy this mandolin. He walked several miles to buy it from a man that had told him when he got the money he would sell it.

Dane began his pursuit of music with this little instrument. Later on in years he met my Dad, Claude Cole. They had a mutual interest in music so they began to play together. Some of my earliest memories as a child is of me listening to them play old gospel songs on this old mandolin. My Dad learned how to play mandolin on this old Strad - O - Lin. 

I guess it was inevitable that I would follow suit with an interest in music. When I was about 6 or 8 years old my dad had borrowed this mandolin to practice with. I got it out of the closet and tried my hand at playing and "tuning" it as well. When Dad took it out to play it the box ws pulled apart. My "tuning" had ruined the old mandolin. It stayed that way for years. Sometimes I would take it out and guilt would overwhelm me. I was determined to correct my mistake. 

Some of the first money I ever made was spend on having Mr. John Stuart put it back together again. When it was fixed I carried it back to Dane and presented it to him. He was thrilled to be back with an old friend from his past. 

Dane became very sick in the years before his death. When Dad and I would go visit him, sometimes he would hardly know us. The last thing I remember about Dane was his giving the old mandolin back to me. 

I display it with pride in how it was obtained by a little boy with music in his heart, with thankfulness for the understanding shown me when my love for music and desire to learn caused me to destroy its ability to make that music, with satisfaction that I made it right by having it repaired, and with the knowledge that even if we may not be the best instrument God has, even if we've needed repair in the past, and though we now may carry the scars of our past life. Our value to some may be more than we know. 

Dannon Cole 

Lessons in life may come from anywhere. Even old mandolins. 

For the past eight years... I've tried to look for those lessons (the ones that come from anywhere) and learn from them as Daddy always inspired me to do. 

Love y'all, 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

How to you comfort someone walking through a Valley of their own?

How do you react when you see someone traveling thru the same Valley you were in for so long? 

Me, well tears of course because I'm always hyper emotional at this time of year. 

You see, I pose this question because I recently witnessed the tears of another which brought my own. I know the journey she walks as it is a road I have walked myself. I want to hold her hand and tell her everything will be okay... but the truth is it may not be. Now, I am not giving up hope for her and her situation... but I've learned from experience that things don't always turn out how we desire, how we pray, how we plead with God in the doorway of our homes for them to... 

They just don't. 

Because the outcomes that we want... well they aren't always His will.

So how do we react? With tears, empathy, prayers, casseroles and baked goods... 

Those words often said at funerals - you have heard them if you have lost a close loved one...

"They're in a better place."

"They aren't hurting anymore."

"I'm sorry for your loss..." (etc...)

Anyone who has been on the receiving end of those words can tell you... if we're honest... that those words don't help. HOWEVER, the sentiment behind them is what helps to heal. The look of comfort in their eyes. The squeeze of a hand, the hug and the pat on the back... those mechanisms of comforting one another... that's how we react. That's how we try to make it better. 

Does it work? I guess it depends on the person. For me, at the time... No. But in the months and years after I looked back on those hugs, those kind words, and yes even the baked goods as comfort (still to this day, someone brought a coconut pound cake that I think about!). At the deepest valley in my life friends, family, and even strangers did all they knew how to express comfort to me. Just as the Beatitude said, out comfort doesn't just come from the Lord, but also from those He places in our lives. 

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

And furthermore, we are instructed in Romans to help bear others' burdens...

"We then, who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification... For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," (Romans 15:1-2, 4-6)

Personally, for me... learning from sorrow was very important, and thankfully was encouraged by some close friends. 

"For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment!"
(2 Corinthians 7: 8-11)

And then of course, we find the Hope in His Word in Revelation: 

"And God will wipe away ever ear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, 
nor sorrow;  nor crying." (Revelation 21: 4)

So what to we do? We do what we can... whatever the Lord lays on our hearts to do... whether it's prayer or cards or food... share tears or a hug. Join them on the walk through the Valley... you never know when you may be holding them up along the way. 

Love y'all, 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Reflections on a birthday spent in the ER...

I miss sweet tea.

Like seriously... it's been three months since I had a glass of what used to be my favorite drink. I guess it still is... I'm just not allowing myself to have caffeine. Therefore did I mention that I've been leading a decaffeinated life for the last three months? Well, I have... it's been tiring.

For my birthday this year I got a kidney stone. Seriously. My birthday dinner I planned with friends and family turned in to an evening at the ER with 5-10 of my newest medical professional friends. Super nice people really, very efficient at their jobs, but nonetheless not who I wanted to spend my birthday with... on a plus side, my best friend Liz (remember the one who told me to get back to writing) was coming to see me for my birthday and we had planned this fun getaway weekend... so like any good friend she stopped at the CVS and brought me socks and a sports bra to the ER. Rather than the Mexican fiesta I had planned for dinner, I had soup and water. Lots and lots and lots of water.

And them some more water... 

Long story short, our fun weekend out of town got cancelled when rather than driving to the coast I was being fitted for my newest accessory, a stint. Yep, instead of enjoying the view of the beach I was staring at the ceiling of an operating room listening to some Luke Bryan on the radio. Thank goodness for the anesthesia because I was in a precarious position and thanks to the juice I couldn't care less.

So back to the sweet tea. Due to the fact that the type of stone I had (which was eventually removed during a procedure a few weeks later), can be caused by caffeine... I cut it out cold turkey. Thankfully I was on pain meds for the kidney stone, therefore cold turkey wasn't so bad. But truthfully, and some may think this is stupid, but I feel a little less southern now that my favorite beverage is off my menu.

Like seriously, can I have some water with my fried chicken or barbecue? That's just not right...

That's like drinking a glass of wine with a taco... 

Or a margarita with your Kung pow chicken... 

It's. Just. Not. Right.

But alas, I'm choosing the hope of never having another kidney stone over my favorite drink... and even though it chips away at my southern identity just a little bit, it's for the best. I hope.

I guess it's like insurance for my kidneys... something like that.

So... where is the lesson in this you might ask? Since generally I try to make these posts have a point rather than just a humorous story about a horrible birthday. Well... despite how much I miss it... I know it was good for me. Why? Because I've lost 10 pounds and literally the only thing I've changed about my diet is getting rid of sweet tea and caffeine. But also, it's the reminder that just because something is attributed to a quality of myself that I like (I'm a proud Southerner y'all), it doesn't mean that is where my identity lies. This actually reminds me of the advice my Pawpaw Cole gave to me the day before I left for my study abroad semester in Mexico.

"Remember who you are, what you are, 
and where you're from."

Now I know those statements can me translated differently for every person. Some may perceive it more literally than others, and ultimately the answer changes over time.

So who are you? How do you fill in those blanks? No matter what you feel your identity might be wrapped up in (the sweet tea example), I think these questions really get to your core. Take some time to evaluate your answer. See if you like them... if you don't, why not? I think what my grandfather was getting at with that statement is, what guides your decisions? Who are you responsible to for your actions? It's worth pondering y'all... so grab a glass of tea (I'll settle on some lemonade) or your beverage of choice and think about it.

Sincerely yours,
(Daughter/sister/friend/dog mom, Christian, and South Mississippian)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

More posts coming soon...

My best friend (Liz) told me a few days ago that I should write a book. A book about who knows what… but a book nonetheless. So I started thinking… what would I write about that people would actually care to read? I mean yes, my occasional Instagram or Facebook post gets a lot of likes of comments, but are those things people would make a point to read? I usually just write when I get annoyed or emotional about something, more so the latter. I blogged a good but after daddy died. It was therapeutic. I was able to write out all the things I wanted to say… some to him, some to God… but ultimately they were just emotions I needed to release and lessons I hoped someone else might learn from. It’s been a while since I blogged… I’m not sure why, it’s not that the lessons have stopped coming, though I think I am harder of hearing to God’s will than I once was (That's a post in and of itself). 

If I’m honest with myself I’m in a rut… whatever that is, but it’s what people say, right? My personal life is fine (read: boring), but my professional life is, well… it’s an eleven month lesson in who knows what. My dating life is non-existent, and the amount of adventure in my day to day revolves around 11 cows, 2 horses, 2 dogs, and an ancient donkey named Jake (and yes they all have names). Seriously though, I spend as much time with them as I do people, except I don’t have to pick up people’s poop, which is part of barn chores. Yes it is still gross... I'm just immune to it now. 

Most days... 

So – I guess I could write about a lot of different things. Single Life. Farm life. Life with Rhett. Sports, cooking, decorating, traveling (which I rarely do anymore). Hopes, dreams, aspirations. Goals and plans. Valleys and Mountaintops. The journey from the Valley to the Mountaintop… those are the most important lessons, in my opinion.

I've got a lot of time off this summer, so I guess we shall see what is on my mind… 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

When God makes your burden heavier...

Generally speaking, I'm a pretty calm individual. I try my best not to get stressed or worried, because often times there is nothing I can do to solve those worrisome issues. I have, over the past year, developed on major area of concern... And it is the very adult concern of finances. 

You see, I'm not trying to buy a new car or going on an amazing vacation (though of course those things would be nice). I'm just trying to pay my credit card bills and get out of debt. Honestly, I have barely made it month to month since adding a mortgage to my monthly expenses without using my credit card, hence the credit card bills. So, when recently that burden was compounded by losing my job due to budget cuts in the state, well... That increased that burden by -$15.25 per hour. 

(Now let me please add, I'm thankful for the job I have been given in order to keep my insurance... And if the pay was comparable to my previous job, the burden would not be so heavy.)

When I finally broke down and had a good cry about this tonight, after a month, I realize that I know the answer... God is using this situation to MAKE me rely on Him. And even though I know, I KNOW that He has got a plan for me... I still whine and cry and don't understand... I mean really y'all, sometimes I wish I could just throw human nature out the window.... Or flip that switch to where I'm only spiritually minded for that time being! Gosh wouldn't that save me some tears and  truthfully a few bad words. 

So I know what I should be doing, and how I should be prayerfully focused, but then I start creeping back to those dark times a few years ago... post Daddy's death and pre- moving back home. Those were times when I felt rather unsatisfied in life, though I was completely being Blessed by God in many ways and too ignorant to see it. 

I can't be the only one that has been there... It's like a pity party that you only invite God too and then He is like... Hey... Shut up... I've got you! 

Well, fast forward a few years and I was back there tonight. Not a proud moment, lots of Why Mes and some tears. And then... As always, there is this little voice in my head reminding me of why I felt this way or that way before, and what I learned from it. Then there is the biblical lesson from the "Why Mes" of the bible... God uses our bad days, our struggles, our leprosy (shout out to you Simon the Leper from last week's bible study)... FOR HIS GLORY. He will heal us, pick us up, guide us... In His time. 

Oh goodness Kace... (Yes this is me talking to myself) don't you remember that He brought you through all those valleys before?! He will do it again, and again, and again... If you trust in Him more than yourself. 

Oh ye of little faith... That's so me sometime. God has you... Just try and be patient. Be thankful for the lessons along the way... Appreciate the people you meet and the paths you cross. 

Wait. Pray. Seek.