Shattered to Shining, by Taylor Sharp

Hey All! I am SO happy to introduce you to a new guest blogger- Taylor Sharp! I know Taylor from our church's youth group. She has such a heart for Jesus, and people. It's a JOY to have her share with us today!

“Humble yourselves, therefore under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

In September of 2014, I was diagnosed with a concussion after taking a basketball to the back of the head in gym class. (Haha! Pathetic right?!) At the time, I was told the concussion was minor, and in a few weeks I would be as good as new. After several days off from school, three dropped classes, quitting my seven year commitment to the swim team, physical therapy, turning my back on God, two years of headache medicine, and much more, I can now say this concussion was anything but minor. It changed my entire life.

Because of the way my brain reacted to the injury, I experienced more anxiety than ever. I have struggled with anxiety since elementary school- panic attacks, stomach aches, the whole bit. A few weeks afterwards, I had lost ten pounds because I was so sick. I cried daily because I was so stressed, and I had abandoned my faith because I believed God had abandoned me. All of this was due to my brain naturally overproducing cortisol (the “fight or flight” hormone).

 For the first time in my life, I hit rock bottom. I was crippled by fear, exhausted, and doubtful of God. I didn’t trust anyone, I was pessimistic, and I was bitter. I was convinced I had met my end.

The months following the concussion are a blur. I don’t remember my sixteenth birthday or celebrating Christmas, so I can’t really speak to how I coped or made it to “the light at the end of the tunnel”. However, I do remember telling my mom two things throughout the process. I told her in excessive detail, God didn’t love me. She would tell you it broke her heart to see me turn from my faith, and doubt God’s love. However, I wholeheartedly believed he didn’t love me. I believed he took everything I had worked for and wanted. I also thought he stopped responding to my prayers and left me in silence. I was lonely and afraid. I don’t know how I made it back to salvation, except that God’s grace covered me and welcomed me back with open arms, and my mom never stopped praying for me. It was under God’s mighty hand I was lifted up.

Secondly, I constantly cried to her I was broken. Now, if you know anything about me, you know I am not one to cry. The word “robot” comes to mind ;). I would lie on the floor, tears streaming down my face, staring up at the woman who had supported me through everything, and I would desperately beg her to fix me, to put my pieces back together, to make me “normal”.  Looking back, I surely wasn’t wrong about my brokenness. Realizing this and realizing I needed help truly humbled me.

My parents did everything to help me recover. I was soon diagnosed with anxiety at the pediatrician and put on a medication. The medicine helped me take control of my life and helps me cope with everyday stressors. As I regained my strength, I had to re-learn how to trust. By attending counseling at my church, I slowly began to trust God with my anxieties again. I can cast them on Him because He really does care for me. Weekly therapy sessions left me with raw emotions, vulnerable, and terrified someone would find out my secret of being so broken. It was through these months I learned the importance of God’s perfect timing.

Today, I am still broken. I still battle anxiety and fear, but I am now unashamed of the works He is doing in me. The Lord will be victorious. Let us not be overcome with the shame of our brokenness, but instead use it to encourage our neighbors. Without the grueling experience of a concussion, I would not currently stand in the same place of reliance and confidence in God.

1 Peter 5:6-7 reads, “Humble yourselves, therefore under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”

We serve a God who uses us as we are, but loves us enough not to leave us there. I encourage you to remain faithful to Him because he is faithful despite our unworthiness.

God continues to fight the devil for my anxious heart daily, but I am now equipped and stronger than ever to fight with Him.

7 Years With You

7 years ago, I met Chuck during the month of November, we started exclusively dating in December, and he proposed in February.

The National Christmas Tree in DC, our first date.
He surprised me over Christmas, visiting me at my parent’s house in North Eastern Pennsylvania. That was only one week after we had started dating! He also invited me to go on a trip to Virginia Beach with him and some of his siblings for New Years. After the Christmas festivities were over, we hopped in our separate cars and drove five hours down to Northern Virginia where we were both living at the time. We went to our houses, and packed our bags in record speed for the New Years trip. Chuck picked me up somewhere around 10pm, and we drove several more hours together down to VA Beach. When we arrived, we parked the car at the house where the family was staying, and headed straight to the dark, night time beach. We walked a short distance just to step onto the sand and feel the (freezing!) ocean breeze. I LOVE THE BEACH! That night we continued talking until the sun came up. The next night we did the same thing. Talked and talked and talked and talked.
Christmas Surprise.
After New Years, when we drove back to NOVA, I was starting to feel sad that our vacation-always-together-24-7-time was ending. But, during that car ride, the unexpected happened. Chuck asked me the bold question, “How do you think you know when you’re in love with someone?” (This was less than two weeks after we had started dating!) I knew then that he loved me, and I knew  I loved him. In my mind, I assumed he was going to take me home, and we’d go our separate ways for the evening. Instead, he asked if I wanted to get dinner, pick up a movie, and hang at his place. I was ELATED. He wanted to keep spending time with me, as much as I wanted to keep spending time with him.

While we were browsing around this place called, “Blockbuster” (hee hee) looking for a movie, again he brought up the topic of love. Chuck explained to me the difference between the two different words for love in German. Again, I knew he loved me already. I was giddy. I was sick to my stomach. I might as well have been floating. I was crazy in love with him. In case you’re wondering, for some odd reason, we rented, “The Phantom of the Opera”. You know I was in love, because I can’t stand musicals! Of course we ended up making out for most of the movie, so it didn’t matter anyway.

I yearn for those early days sometimes. The times when Chuck and I were inseparable. Back then he would come over while I was nannying, or visit while I was working at Starbucks. It was just the two of us in our own little world. It was glorious. We had so much fun, so much of the time. Life with him was a fast-paced, exciting adventure!

He was gorgeous! He was tall! He had super cool, dyed hair! He had piercings! He was a Youth Pastor! He had the most amazing lips! He was amazingly creative! And sexy? You better believe it- whew!
Right after he proposed!
Happy 7 Year Anniversary, Babe. I’m still crazy over you. I’d stay up all night with you all over again, if we weren’t so completely exhausted all the time.  ;) You are the blueberries to my pancakes, the strawberries to my milkshake. I love you. Here’s to 70 more!


Who is Full of Joy? Part 2

Not long ago, I heard a story on GMA about a, “Mommy Blogger” who had earned up to $1,500 per post. She ended up quitting because she felt she had to portray a perfect image of her husband and kids at all times. I wouldn’t last long either if I had to pretend to be something I’m not.

I’m a woman who is anxious, fearful, stressed out, angry, bitter, overwhelmed, impatient, quick to speak, slow to listen, slow to forgive, and easily irritated. I knit pick at my husband, yell at my toddlers, don’t read my Bible every day, spout off about people, worry incessantly when I’m afraid I’ve upset someone and I’m hateful, vengeful, manipulative, critical, and cranky. Like really cranky.
There is no good in me, but I am living a joyful life because of one reason. Jesus saved my soul. He died a gruesome death on the cross. He shed his pure and precious blood which paid the price I should have to pay. Yet, I do not have to pay- Jesus paid it ALL. I owe absolutely nothing. I deserve to die. I deserve to rot in Hell. But because Jesus died for me, I am free. Completely free.

Sometimes I forget how evil my heart can be. It’s so much easier to point my finger at everyone else out there. It’s easy to cloud my own mind with thoughts like, “I’m doing my best. Working my hardest.” It’s easy to ask questions like, “How could he/she do such a thing?!” Outside of Jesus, I would act the same way as said, “he/she”.
Love doesn’t cover over hate. JESUS ALONE covers over hate. Jesus alone gives the power to forgive so angriness and bitterness cannot have their way. JESUS is love. If there’s any good fruit that comes from my life, it’s only because of the grace of Jesus. I praise Jesus for that. He is everything.

I’m not a “Mommy Blogger”, though I am a wife to an incredible man, and a Mama to an amazing son and daughter. $1,500 a week could go a long way around here, but I don’t write for income and I don’t write to portray our lives as perfect.
 write to share Jesus’ love of an imperfect girl like me, with hopes to encourage all the imperfect people like you that HE loves you too. Won’t you turn your imperfections over to Him so Jesus can forgive you once and for all? A joyful life of freedom is waiting for you.

Daughter of The King

Walking into a room of people is not something I enjoy, especially when I’m alone. To combat my nervousness, when I had money during my single years, I would almost always stop for a coffee or bring my own tumbler from home. I liked having something to hold onto, and something to sip, which made me feel like I was doing something. Now that I’m married with a family, we don’t tend to spend much money on luxuries like coffee (other than our own morning brew, of course). I’ve had to learn to enter a room full of people all by myself.

Last year, at this exact time, I found myself in that scenario. There was a big event going on in Fusion (the high school youth group we work with at our church), and I brought the kids with me. They were 1 and 5 months old at the time. Basye had JUST gotten her helmet, so it was the first public place I had taken her.
Her first scan. All results were sent to Boston Children's Hospital. (The helmets are technically called The Boston Band.)

She was so little! My beautiful girl.

It was nerve wracking. As soon as people saw us coming, they peeked into the double stroller to get a look at the kids. The awkward part is that many adults didn’t say one word about Basye’s helmet. They just acted like it was normal. On one hand, I get they were trying to be polite, but on the other hand I wanted to just get it out in the open. I didn’t want her helmet to be the elephant in the room, but I also didn’t want her helmet to be the main center of conversation. I wanted to have her treated normally, but I didn’t want people wondering what the helmet was all about and not say anything.
One of the great things about teens is they tend to be blunt. Many of them came up to me and said things straight up like, “Why is she wearing that?” or “Is that helmet to protect her?” Those kind of questions were great because I could explain what it was, and then the conversation could move on to other things. If someone didn’t say anything, then it just felt like this looming topic.

Overall, in the grand scope of life, people were very kind. There were some horrific comments, which absolutely crushed me, but thankfully Basye had no idea. She was blissfully unaware. However, I feel it could be helpful to share publically, if you ever come across a baby in a helmet there are some things you should know.
Her first fitting.

From Day 1, she never had any trouble sleeping with the helmet!
Don’t laugh at the baby. Don’t tell the Mother the baby looks like a Sumo Wrestler. Don’t tell the Mother her baby looks like a character from any sort of movie. Don’t avoid asking the obvious question- just kindly inquire, “So what does he/she need the helmet for?” Don’t tell the Mother you can barely see the baby’s eyes. Don’t ask the Mother every time you see her, “When will he/she get that off?” Don’t complain to the Mother that YOU never get to see what the baby "really looks like".
Listen, I know people who said comments like that didn’t intent to hurt me. I heard so many of those comments over and over. It got really old, really fast. It’s extremely emotional to have your infant have to wear a helmet 23 hours a day for almost an entire year. There is a loss. A loss of what I had longed for. There was a grieving period when I had to let go of some of my desires for the first year with my daughter. Snuggling was very hard. I couldn’t feel her sweet head anymore. I couldn’t run my fingers through her hair. I could only rub half of her little cheeks, but not her forehead or the side of her face. I couldn't be cheek to cheek with her. Or forehead to forehead.

Please hear me. OF COURSE there are a million things that could be worse. There are a million Mothers who went through or are going through things that are a lot worse. Listen, that doesn’t mean what I went through was easy. Of course I’m thankful for her overall health and well-being, but it was still tough.

The good news is, it got easier. Chuck, Jase, Basye, and I all got used to the helmet, and it became normal for us. I stopped feeling so nervous walking into a room of people for the first time with her in the helmet. People that knew us got used to it, too.
A few weeks ago I was sick, so Chuck took Basye to her regular helmet appointment. When he came home, he her helmet was off. And just like that, she graduated! Her two soft spots closed up, she got reports from both the neurosurgeon and the specialist that her head was perfect! I could hardly believe it. Then a couple weeks later, she graduated from the Early Intervention program, which means she no longer needs physical therapy for her neck! After such a long, emotional year- it all came to an end. I found myself feeling sad saying good-bye to Basye’s physical therapist, and even cried when the case worker declared her finished.

I am so thankful. The year Basye spent in her helmet and doing physical therapy was all for her good. I’m thankful to live in a day when things like Plagiocephaly and Torticollis can be treated very successfully. God has overwhelmed us with His provision and goodness through it all. He has given me a heart of compassion towards those who may look different. He has softened my heart towards other Mothers who are going through/have gone through physical difficulties with their children. He has opened my eyes to the incredible ways He takes care of us- even in the midst of strange situations. He has also crossed my path with countless beautiful and wonderful people who have served and loved my baby girl. It has been a JOY to be around such loving and kind professionals, and experience their care for my daughter. I thank God for so many who have helped her. I thank God for healing Basye. I thank God for his tender, loving care for her.

And now today, I thank God for providing yet another source of healing and help for our girl. At 16 months old, she can now see cleary and focused for the very first time! Thank you Jesus for providing glasses at just the right time for our daughter- your daughter.
What are these things?!
I can see!
This girl is going to grow up knowing when she walks into a room she can be confidant- not because she has a round head or a straightened out neck or even because she can see, but because she is the Daughter of The King. The King who loves her with an intimate, personal, ever-lasting love. (And so do her Papa and Mama!) Shine for Jesus, sweet Basye, shine for Jesus.