Being Locked Out is an Inconvenience

Being Locked Out is an Inconvenience

I’m writing this to you all the day of and shook. I was cat sitting at my aunt’s house and stepped into the garage to throw something away in the garbage can. As I lifted the lid of the garbage can, I heard the swift, yet gentle closing of the house door behind me. I winced, turned around, and tried the door handle. Locked.

Okayyy. I assessed the situation. I was in the garage. Locked in the garage. I had no keys, no phone, no purse. It was just me. And tools. I had no idea if my aunt had a spare key and no way to ask her. I opened the garage door to let some fresh air come in and sat at the doorstep of a lovely and locked abode.

Think, think, think. What do I do, Lord? I’m locked out. With no phone. And whose numbers do I know? How would I call? Where do I go?

It’s astounding how quickly one can feel completely lost and helpless. I went to the front door and saw the umbrella I had left outside. Okay, now it was me and an umbrella. I walked up to my aunt’s outdoor security cameras and explained to her the situation. My hope was that she would watch the video from where she was and somehow contact someone who could come help me out.

I was expected at a friend’s house for dinner and didn’t have much time to wait around for the cavalry… so, I grabbed my umbrella, closed the garage door, and headed out to find assistance. It’s a Sunday… offices are closed, so I thought, What’s open? CHURCHES! I’m a believer and believers are supposed to help everybody… so, I’ll go to church!

I walked down the street and around the corner to an Episcopal church I’d driven by hundreds of times. I had no idea what to expect and felt so helpless and out of place. It was weird. As I walked, I recited numbers I knew. I had my mom, my aunt, and my roommate’s numbers memorized and kept chanting them in my head, terrified that I’d forget. Two of the people’s numbers I knew were out of the country… not too helpful. And  my roommate was at work. It was going to be a toss up.

I approached the church and stood under the porte cochere because it was starting to rain. People entered and left the building, but no one really greeted me or inquired as to why in the midst of all these dressed up people there was a young adult female in yoga pants, a large Springsteen t-shirt, and an umbrella.

The courage it took me to muster to ask someone if I could use their phone is sad, y’all. But it takes courage to ask complete strangers if you can use their phone! You don’t want to feel like a psycho! Two girls were coming out of the church and I asked if they had a church office. They didn’t, but one of the girls graciously let me use her phone to call my three contacts and attempt to sign into every social media account (which I couldn’t remember the passwords to any of them). She had to leave with her family, so she passed me off to her brother who was staying at the church longer. He, then, graciously let me use his phone to call my three contacts and attempt to sign into my social media accounts again. All fails. I texted my roommate my predicament and location, then asked her to let my dinner friends know I was alive and see if they could pick me up. After that, I looked at the brother and was like, well, I don’t know what else to do. The brother said he’d come out and let me know if my roommate responded.

After all that was done, I had nothing else to do. I sat down and… sat. I had missed dinner at my friend’s house, so I was pretty certain they believed me to be dead. There was no way for me to tell them otherwise. I opened my umbrella. Closed my umbrella. Twirled it around. That took up about 30 seconds of my time. Then, I sat some more.

May I invite you into the fantasy of what I thought my trip to the church was going to be like?  In my head, I walk up to the church and ask where the church office is. A very helpful person leads me to the church office, listens to my story, and invites me to use their phone and computer to get a hold of someone. They are invested in my journey, are concerned for my welfare, and ask me how they can help. Maybe offer to buy me an Uber ride so I can get to my friend’s house and receive help from there. Oh, and while I wait, would I care for some coffee or a bottled water? 

That’s what I had imagined. My reality was a heavy rain, a porte cochere, and the church people passing by me with polite smiles, places to get to and people to see. My two phone people had left. I wasn’t sure if the brother had completely forgotten about me or if my roommate’s work was so busy that she hadn’t seen my texts.

Let me tell you how easy it was to feel sorry for myself. It was about instantaneous. I could feel the tears welling up, the why me chorus warming up their vocals, and the dread of being part of a late-night-city-gang-fight-under-a-porte-cochere later. What kind of damage could I do with an umbrella? 🤔

I remembered what I had read in my counseling text book the day before. We, as people, develop “must” and “should” messages throughout our lives that we don’t even know we have. Things like, “People must treat me fairly and if they don’t it’s absolutely awful and the end of the world!” Instead, we need to change up the language. For example, “I’d like people to treat me fairly, but if they don’t, it’s an inconvenience.” It’s less dramatic and more reasonable.

So, I tried it out in my situation. My initial statement was something like… “I can’t believe this is happening to me. I must get a hold of someone and get out of this predicament immediately or else all hope is lost and my day has been completely wasted.” I tried a different statement out. “It’s unfortunate that I locked myself out of my aunt’s house. I’d like for someone to respond to my messages for help, but if they don’t and I’m stuck out here longer, it’s an inconvenience. I know that God is sovereign and He can handle the who, the how, and the when. I’m going to be okay.”

It changed my perspective so fast. I sat against a column of the porte cochere and watched the rain. The church had a pretty courtyard area and it felt safe to be there. I thought about what I could do with the time and realized I could think through some details of a ministry I’m currently developing. It has been consistently placed on the back burner due to school, but since all my school stuff was locked away at my aunt’s house and I didn’t have a phone… I was able to free up some thinking space. My situation was pretty relevant and helpful to a portion of the training materials I have been stuck on for awhile.

I sat for a total of an hour and a half (I found out later since I didn’t have a way to tell time…) and saw a familiar car pull up. It was the two girls that had originally let me use their phone when I had first walked up to the church. One girl got out and said she had been asked to come back to the church to help out with something. Her friend came with her to check on me because she felt like something wasn’t right. She asked me if I needed a ride somewhere. I was elated! As I got into her car, she let me use her phone one more time to try and contact someone. I texted my aunt and she texted back immediately! There was a spare key and she gave me all the information I needed to retrieve it. 🙌 As this was happening, the brother came outside and said my roommate had just responded. It was like God opened all my channels of communication at once and got me exactly what I needed. He knows the who. He knows the how. And He knows the when.

The girl drove me around the corner to my aunt’s house and said it was nice meeting me and she was glad I was able to get in the house. I was glad too! My aunt had also seen the security camera footage I had done at the beginning and called her neighbor. He came out as I pulled up and helped me find the spare key. Guess where the spare key was? IN THE GARAGE. 🤦🏼‍♀️

I know everything happens for a reason. I’m sure I’ll be seeing life lessons in this experience for a good while, but here are some lessons I gathered today:

  1. Memorize SIX people’s phone numbers. You never know what’s going to happen.
  2. Don’t let a door close on you.
  3. As a Christian, be watchful for opportunities to help.
  4. Rest in the sovereignty of God.

Looking back on the day, the fantasy I had as I walked up to the church should have also been my reality. It’s tough asking people for help. It’s tough stepping into the doors of a church building without being invited. I was literally at the entrance to a church and was not invited in by one person. It’s hard to know who is a friend or foe these days, but it can’t hurt to ask some simple questions. If someone looks like they’re lost, new, or needy… it’s probably because they’re lost, new, or needy. Take the opportunity to show the love of Christ before even speaking a word of the gospel. Caring and hospitality speak volumes! I’m happy to say I go to a church where I do believe my fantasy would have been reality. I pray I’m right. I will say that I’m going to be testing myself from now on, at least. I know what it’s like to be the person with nothing to their name. Goodness. It’s not a great feeling.

Thankfully, everything worked out for me and I was only out of the game for a couple of hours. Praise God! Did I learn some unexpected lessons today? Yes. But hey, it’s part of the grand adventure with God. You never know what each day you’re given is going to be like and that’s what makes it an adventure! Enjoy and please, memorize six people’s phone numbers.

Godspeed, friends.

 

The Art of Prayer

The Art of Prayer

Hey all!

I’m currently working on training materials for a ministry I’m developing. When looking for volunteers in ministry, it’s important to me that they have a vibrant walk with God. How can people reach and inspire others for the gospel if they feel empty themselves?

I’ve posted below what I’m calling an evaluation and self discovery exercise. If you’d like to fill it out and send me feedback that would be awesome and super helpful! I look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions. 🙂

PRAYER EVALUATION AND SELF DISCOVERY

  1. Give three words to describe your prayer life currently.

 

 

  1. Write below why you chose those three words.

 

 

 

  1. Do you feel like God’s love and engagement with you is conditional based on your prayer life? Whether yes or no, why?

 

 

 

 

  1. What three words would you like to use to describe your prayer life?

 

 

  1. Write below why you chose those three words.

 

 

 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul encourages his readers to pray without ceasing. This could bring to mind a seemingly impossible task of speaking to God every second of the day. However, I believe this kind of praying without ceasing to be a state of being, rather than an ongoing essay of sorts. God has given each of us unique ways to communicate with Him. We are not all the same. Some people love to journal their prayers, others like to go on prayer walks and speak with God or sort through their thoughts with Him, some like to sing prayer and praises to God, and others use art to express their feelings and desires. There are ways I cannot even think of because I don’t know you and how God made you!

  1. Write down some of your strengths, gifts, or pleasures below. What do you enjoy doing?

 

 

  1. How could you incorporate these into your prayer life? Prayer is all about engaging with God. He is not limited to one form of communication!

 

 

 

Another element of prayer is surrender. We cannot fully experience the freedom of God’s grace until we give Him our weaknesses, obstacles, and troubles. After becoming a Christian, it’s all too natural to continue carrying the weight of our responsibilities, dreams, and issues. When we do that, we are missing out on one of the greatest gifts of salvation! Accepting Jesus as Savior begins an adventure of trusting God in every step and having Him work through us. It’s all very exciting.

Jesus urged His listeners and disciples to not worry or be anxious. The apostle Paul followed that same thought in his letter to the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Prayer places you under the protection of the peace of God. This peace can only come through Jesus Christ. Any time you are struggling with an emotion, specific life situations, or fear over upcoming obstacles, surrender it to God! He will accomplish His work through you and take care of you. As you watch God do this for you on a daily basis, the prayer without ceasing will flow from you naturally. You will find yourself living in the joy of God’s peace more and more with those worries and troubles having less of a hold on you.

Once you start consistently experiencing the joy and peace of God, there will be times when you once again feel overpowered by life. Do not be discouraged! Do what you did at the beginning. Surrender! We are not perfect. That’s why we need Jesus. Our imperfections are a reminder of our need. Our times of fear and pain bring us back to God if we have wandered off a bit. We need these negative emotions to warn us when we’ve gone outside of God. Don’t run from them, but embrace them and take it all to God.

School Update

School Update

Well friends,

The summer semester ain’t over yet, but here we are approaching the fall. The past month and a half, I have gone through a class on addictions and compulsive behavior, I’ve visited AA, NA, and Al-Anon meetings, and learned about stages of addiction and recovery, along with the damaging affects substance abuse has on the brain.

It’s been an inspiring summer for me, in which, there are changes about myself that I am looking forward to making. It has been a sad summer, as well. I’ve seen how addicts have been ostracized and neglected due to the stigma of addiction. There are great opportunities for the church to take in this area. It’s also been an enlightening semester as I’ve seen recovering addicts come together to support one another and experience life transformation together.

My experiences this summer have fueled my passion for counseling and recovery. I am pretty much immersed in it due to being in recovery, studying about addiction and recovery, and being around others who are recovering. There’s just a lot of recovery going on and I want to see so much more! God has used counseling to transform my life and show me the great joy that comes from surrendering everything to Him. I want to be a part of others’ journeys as they begin to learn what I am consistently learning through recovery.

I’ve had many thoughts over the past month and a half that I would like to eventually share with you, but for the moment, I don’t have the courage. We’ll see how I feel next week… or the week after next… 😛

As the fall encroaches so quickly on us, my tuition does, as well. I would not have been able to grow and learn as I have this past summer without you all. It was from your generosity that I was able to attend class at Dallas Theological Seminary. I want you to know that your contributions towards my education have been so appreciated. This class has been a confirmation to me that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be and that is such a valuable feeling to possess!

I will be taking two classes in the fall semester: “Counseling Theory” and “Social and Cultural Foundations”. The tuition for the fall (plus cost of books) will be a *Hallelujah Chorus* of $4,000! I have applied for some scholarships, so if I receive any financial aid, I will give you all an update. In the meantime, I will be working to pay the bills, but I need your help on my counseling journey!

So, without further ado, if you would like to either continue to contribute or participate in my counseling journey for the first time, here is how you can do it:

My Etsy Shop: As an extension of my website, I have created an Etsy shop called, WriteMegButlerStudio. In this shop, you can purchase prints of my original artwork. All purchases made in the shop will be direct contributions to my tuition. For this coming semester, I have posted greeting cards for purchase. 😄 New sets will be posted throughout this month. ✨

Seasonal Set

Support a Seminary Student: Dallas Theological Seminary has made it possible to support a seminary student by contributing financially through their site! You can give online, by mail, or set up recurring monthly gifts. Click here to be redirected to DTS’ giving page.

If you give through the DTS website, the gift can be anonymous or you can put in your information. I would love to know you have contributed because I have a gift for you! When you contribute financially through DTS’ site, I will put you on a distribution list for an end-of-the-semester gift. Included in the gift will be a an original piece of art inspired by something I’ve learned in that particular semester. There will also be a letter to update you on how my semester went, PLUS, a report card!! You can post it on your fridge, share it with your coworkers, and hold me accountable to my studies!

Once again, thank you for your encouragement and support!

Summer 2018 Tuition Goal Reached!!

Summer 2018 Tuition Goal Reached!!

I just wanted to give you all a quick update on my tuition fundraising. The Summer 2018 Tuition Goal has been reached!! Today I had the privilege of paying for my summer semester and getting excited all over again for the counseling program.

Thank you to everyone who has purchased a painting or donated through the Dallas Theological Seminary website! It has been really meaningful to receive support from so many people I care about. I can’t wait to keep you updated on the lessons God teaches me and the progress I make through the program.

I hope you all have a wonderful day and thank you again for your support. ❤️

 

The Discipline of Self Care

The Discipline of Self Care

Recently, I had a health issue flare up. I won’t give you all the gruesome details, but I will tell you that it was disgusting and life changing. The worst part is that it was preventable. I neglected the issue originally and let it grow into a big problem.

This particular health issue came to be about a year and a half into my codependency recovery. I was working at a particularly stressful job and could not find the time to get it checked out. When I left that job and started a new one, I had it looked at by a doctor and was prescribed a cream (you trying to guess what the issue is? 😛 ). After I got the cream, I went back to my life and, guess what, my new job wasn’t as emotionally stressful, but it was time consuming. And! It was very hard to find coverage for my position. So, needless to say, it was not easy to leave for a follow up doctor visit.

I worked that job for a little over a year and the health issue remained but it was very tame. Sometimes I would go for long periods without really noticing it. You get used to health issues sometimes… they become your new normal. In codependency, many miseries are normal: The fog of confusion as you try to make decisions about jobs, relationships, and boundaries. The chaotic state of your environment. The poor health of your body. The lack of true intimacy with those who care about you. Your view of God.

All these elements are part of living in survival mode with your codependency. If you are throwing all your chips into one category of life, the rest are going to get neglected. That’s just the way it is. There are five basic pieces that create a balanced life: relationships, work, spirituality, physical health, and mental health.

In my case, work was overtaking the other elements of my life. It was consuming so much of my time and energy that my physical health got neglected. An issue was allowed to remain and fester. When my health was compromised, all my energies went to regaining my physical health. Then! The other elements were being neglected because all my focus was on the physical! It can become an exhausting cycle of putting out fires.

This cycle can be portrayed in other ways, as well. Work life crazy can cause neglect in all areas (not just the physical). If you are consumed with work, that means time for relationships is put to the side, your living environment might become a little messy and chaotic, your physical appearance roughens up, your soul starts feeling like a desert, and your mental capacities are just about to run out. These signs may all seem very obvious, but in codependency, that’s not necessarily the case. These issues can become so normal in our survival mode mentality that we don’t even notice them. The screams for order become muted and we trudge on in our misery. What may be very obvious to others can be invisible to the codependent in crisis mode.

Another way life unbalance has affected me in the past was when I would be obsessively focused on a romantic relationship (or desire for a romantic relationship). The drive to have my Disney fantasies come true would steer me away from investing in other friendships and engaging in my life. How could I care about my career or hobbies when I had a relationship to bring to fruition?? Where could I find the time or desire to stop and respect God’s leading? What if He didn’t want what I wanted for myself?

Putting too much emphasis on relationships will lead to neglect of other important areas: like the spiritual. What could be more important than listening to God? But! When a codependent becomes entranced in a fantasy, it’s hard to see past the highs and lows of interactions with that significant other. Obsessive thinking can set in and, when that does happen, say bye-bye to the rational. Everything in life, besides that special person, becomes an afterthought.

Codependency is a dangerous cycle that brings chaos. God has great plans for you in all areas of life… not just a career, not just a relationship, not just school, not just you fill in the blank. If you evaluate your life and decide that one area is getting more attention than the others or if you feel that your life brings a chaotic presence, seek counsel. Go to God as best as you know Him and discuss everything with Him. See a counselor or talk to someone you trust. Living a life of balance feels good! When we become too focused on one area of life, it is easy to make that our god. Giving away the place of God undercuts His power in your life. It says you believe something else can provide you what you need. However, nothing can love and provide like God.

Refocus and go to Him with your life and your calendar. After my health issue, I did some serious reevaluation. So due to that change, I’m thankful I went through what I did. It brought me closer to God and taught me a valuable lesson. Would I want to do it again? Absolutely not and I pray I never have to. But I’ll take my lessons and walk with God to the next adventure. It’s a good life He has blessed all of us with and there’s a lot to be thankful for.

Back to School!

Back to School!

Greetings!

For those of you who know me or who have been following me on my blog, you know that there are two things I am very passionate about: theology and counseling. Well, those two things are now merging into one, focused pursuit: biblical counseling.

I have recently been accepted into Dallas Theological Seminary’s biblical counseling program!! I will start either this summer or in the fall. It’s hard to express my excitement. I absolutely love learning and I’m also looking forward to becoming a licensed counselor. 

My ultimate goal with this degree is to open a counseling practice for primarily high school and college students, along with young adults. This was a time of extreme confusion and anxiety for me. The majority of it felt foggy and dramatic. I’d love to walk through that time with others and guide them to a healthier relationship with God, others, and themselves. If I can be used by God to provide others with the joy and clarity I have received through counseling, then I will be a happy woman.

There are a couple of elements that any student is required to give when venturing into school: time and money.

Since I have to work while I go to school, I am anticipating long days and long nights in which I will interchange roles of employee, student, and dog mom. It’s going to be tough, but worthwhile.

In addition to time, there is the money factor. DTS has scholarship money available and I am applying for outside scholarships, as well. However! Scholarships help with school tuition, but they do not cover all expenses. There is opportunity for you to participate in journey I am about to begin.

There are two ways you can contribute:

My Etsy Shop: As an extension of my website, I have created an Etsy shop called, WriteMegButlerStudio. In this shop, you can purchase prints of my original artwork. All purchases made in the shop will be direct contributions to my tuition.

Support a Seminary Student: Dallas Theological Seminary has made it possible to support a seminary student by contributing financially through their site! You can give online, by mail, or set up recurring monthly gifts. Click here to be redirected to DTS’ giving page.

If you give through the DTS website, the gift can be anonymous or you can put in your information. I would love to know you have contributed because I have a gift for you! When you contribute financially through DTS’ site, I will put you on a distribution list for an end-of-the-semester gift. Included in the gift will be a print of an original piece of art inspired by something I’ve learned in that particular semester. There will also be a letter to update you on how my semester went, PLUS, a report card!! You can post it on your fridge, share it with your coworkers, and hold me accountable to my studies!

I’m anxious to get started on my degree and see what God has in store! Thank you for support.

Sincerely,

Meg Butler

 

Sick

Sick

Yesterday, I felt a slow tiredness come over me and towards the end of the day, congestion took over and I could hardly breathe. I slept fitfully last night and woke up feeling even worse. In my area, allergies are just always there. Someone year round is getting affected by one form of pollen or another.

One of the affects of feeling sick is that I don’t want to go to work. I’d much rather sleep all day and see how I feel tomorrow. However, that is not an option. I have to go to work. So I will go, but I will not be 100% myself. I’m running on a lesser percentage. This will affect the amount of work I am capable of doing today, it will change how I interact with people, and I will plainly just not feel very good. My body will be telling me to lay down somewhere while my mind prompts me to get through my to-do list for the day.

And that, friends, is not only the affect of a physical illness. If you’re walking through a valley of depression, insecurity, shame, anxiety, etc., trust me when I say that you are not being 100% yourself. How can you be? When we get distracted or overwhelmed by the negativity within us, it’s near impossible to see the clarity of truth and receive joy in the reality we live in.

Most of my blogs focus in on a symptom, topic, or story involving codependency. But today, I want to place a word of challenge and encouragement out there: don’t be afraid to get to work on your stuff.

It’s easy to lack awareness to our misery because it’s our normal. It’s also easy to downplay feelings or situations that happen in life that cause us to feel a certain way. Don’t do that for yourself. Go deep and process the past so that it doesn’t have a hold on your present and on your future. If you have the means, I’d encourage everyone to see a counselor (two or three sessions, even). The reason for doing so is that it allows a third party to take a look at your life and point out to you things you may be incapable of seeing about yourself.

When we can define our own patterns and give our symptoms a name, that is a first and important step to living a life of freedom in Jesus Christ. And please note, if you believe in Jesus, you are already free. Most of us just end up living like we’re imprisoned.

Don’t be afraid to reflect and process the painfulness of your past. God is gentle and He will give you only what you’re ready to walk through. And He won’t make you sit in the pain for any longer than necessary. God is trustworthy so give to Him all your pain and let Him replace it with His joy, peace, and security.

Have a great Monday!