What I Learned in College

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I graduated college on Friday… what? (aka I have a BSSW and I start grad school in two weeks and by this time next year, I WILL HAVE A HOOD and an MSSW… what?)

I’ve learned a few things while being a Vol the past four years. So I decided to share those things. The list is long, but this does not scrape the surface of explaining how much college has impacted me as a person.

What I learned in college…

  • I learned that high school isn’t the best time of your life, college is. College is 100 times more homework, 100 times more responsibility, and 100 times busier BUT it is also 100 times more fun, 100 times more rewarding, and 100 times more life changing.
  • I learned what love is. I learned what love is in a relationship. I learned what love looks like in friendships. I learned how to love strangers. The oppressed. Unbelievers. Everyone.
  • I learned what a bad relationship is. Then I learned what a good relationship is.
  • I learned how to share the gospel, how to lead a Bible study, and how to worship.
  • I learned how to hold others accountable, and how to allow others to hold me accountable.
  • I learned what confidence is. I learned how to be confident in my walk with Christ, in myself, and as a social worker.
  • I learned that my goal in life is to be as much like Jesus as humanly possible.
  • I found my passions. Those passions include advocating for and helping the oppressed, loving people, and educating others.
  • I discovered myself. I found who I am. I became comfortable and happy with who I am.
  • I found out who I was spiritually, emotionally, physically, and politically.
  • I learned that social work is the best field on the planet.
  • I learned endless amounts of information about people, new places, and policies and politics. I gained so much valuable knowledge the past four years.
  • I learned that grades aren’t everything. But it still feels good to get that A.
  • I learned that sucking up to the people that matter is never a bad thing. Be the teacher’s pet. It benefits you.
  • I learned that I can’t do anything on my own. I need God, a field instructor, a boyfriend, a friend, a family member, or a stranger to help me.

These are just some of the things I have learned the past four years. I could keep going for days. It has been a quick and crazy time filled with so many learning opportunities. I have gained so much knowledge that I never had the chance to learn before being at a university where I met so many people. Each of those people have different beliefs, viewpoints, experiences and information that helped me discover who I am. I experienced new places. I did things I never thought I would do. I am so thankful for the past four years. I will never, ever forget the impact it has had on me.

Stay tuned for another blog next May when I’ll be thinking back on all I learned during grad school.

Loving people.

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It’s pretty easy for me to love sinners. You know, the worst of the worst.

But it’s really hard for me to love Christians who don’t love those people.

God has commanded us to first love Him, and then love everyone like He demonstrates love for us. And I’m just as guilty as those Christians who don’t love the world because I have a really, really hard time loving them.

But why is it so hard to love the world like God commanded?

I love people. A lot. I want what’s best for all people. I want everyone to know Jesus. I want everyone to be happy and loved. I want no one to be sad or oppressed or hated or treated with disrespect.

God has specifically called me to work to make sure that everyone has that.

We should be advocating against what sin has put in this world like poverty, racism, sexism, and hate.

But so many who claim Christ advocate FOR those things. They value economic democracies over the well-being of people created by God. They value their privilege as a white man or woman over the need to accept modern racism as real. They value history and American pride over the need to move passed hatred and discrimination towards equality and freedom for oppressed people. They value tradition and gender roles over God’s love for men and women equally.

It’s so hard for me to love people who put their American freedoms over their Christian freedoms. God has given us the opportunity to LOVE people. To truly love them. To show them how Jesus loved us. To show them how to love when they do not deserve it, when we do not deserve it.

Why do we fail to do that so often? Why are we selfish beings who just want what’s best for our conservative beliefs? Why do we judge everyone based off their sin? Why do we say mean things and put others down who are different than us?

America is not my home. I do not care about my freedoms I have here on Earth, though I am thankful for them. I only care about the freedom from sin I have in Jesus Christ.

And I want to love people like He loves me so that they can experience that same freedom.

-mjm

p.s. I’m working on loving Christians who fail to love others. I’ll get there eventually.

 

 

Worship.

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The thing is, I know I want to write down my thoughts on worship. I just haven’t decided how that is going to look, yet. If it turns out to be one giant word vomit, I apologize. If it turns out too short or too long, I’m sorry for that too. But here we go…

I, unfortunately, know too many people who think modern worship is of Satan. Too worldly. I also know too many people who think hymns are outdated and pointless. Too traditional.

I think both of those people are wrong.

I think it’s okay to prefer one style of worship over another. I, without a doubt in my head, prefer modern, contemporary worship music. But it’s okay if you don’t prefer that style. It’s just not okay for you to say that it’s wrong. Just like it’s not okay for me to say traditional worship is wrong.

God does not prefer for us to worship in one way or another. His Word does not say anything about the style of worship He wants from us. He only requires us to worship Him.

For the past two Sundays, I have attended a modern worship service and then a traditional worship service within an hour of each other. I already knew I preferred modern worship but experiencing the two back to back made it clear to me. The times I get most excited about what God has done for me, is doing for me, and will continue to do for me is when I am worshiping in a contemporary service. Those are the times I get the most in awe of what the Bible says about God. I love God the way I should love God in those moments. That’s why I prefer it. Because traditional hymns do not put me in a state of true, genuine worship for my Creator. They usually just make me fall asleep.

That’s my personal testimony of how I feel about worship. You don’t have to agree. You might be the exact opposite. You might feel totally uncomfortable in  a modern worship service. THAT’S OKAY. God does not care how you’re doing it as long as what you’re doing is genuinely giving Him glory for everything He is capable of.

I think it’s important to point out that change is not a bad thing. At one time, the traditional hymns we sing were new too.

Changing the way we worship, the way our sanctuaries look… none of that matters. God isn’t going to ask you how, He’s going to ask you if you did it. I hate that we get so caught up in what certain parts of church look like. Just do what glorifies God the most. It doesn’t matter if it’s different than someone else or if it’s different than forty years ago. Tradition isn’t Christian. If we get too caught up in tradition and rules, we begin to look like Pharisees. We need to look more like Jesus. He changed the world so we can’t be scared of change.

Changing with the times is part of life. I don’t wear what my grandparents wore and they didn’t wear what their grandparents wore. The world we live in changes every single day. It’s okay to change with it as long as we continue to live like Jesus did.

A Day in the Life of a Social Worker

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The month of March is Social Work Month. So I thought it was fitting for me to give you a rundown of a typical day as a social worker. Now, I have only been in the field for a year and a half and all of that has been as a student. I haven’t gotten the full range of experiences as a social worker, but I can tell you exactly what a social work intern (aka me) does at my elementary school. It lays the foundation of beginning to understand what we do.

So here’s what I did today.

I wandered the school with a student who had stomped out of his classroom. Behavior isn’t exactly what I expected to handle when I showed up at the elementary school my first day last January, but I’ve gotten pretty dang good at handling it. Other staff members would have grabbed his armed and forced him into the office. Some might have yelled at him escalating the student to a point of no return. I just walked with him. I tried to talk to him even though I was talking to a wall of no response. I finally got him to the floor of the office and that worked well enough for me. At least he wasn’t yelling and running around the entire school.

I gave a clothing card to a family that I honestly don’t think needed it. The mom said she forgot about the one we gave her last semester which shocks me. But clothing cards are a  resource that we have for families, and she said she needed it. I willingly gave it to her regardless of how much I felt she needed it because it’s not my job to determine that.

I met with a student who said: “I have anger issues”. But she doesn’t really have anger issues. She’s just terrified she’s going to start punching walls and hurting others like her dad did. So we’re in the process of talking about how to breathe deeply and come to my office to cool down when or if she gets angry.

I played heads-up, seven-up with a group of third graders before and after they took their standardized test.

I became very, very sad when a student literally stopped functioning because he couldn’t handle staring at a math test for 75 minutes straight. He already can’t function in the classroom on a normal day… give him a standardized test and he runs the hallways with tears in his eyes.

Social work isn’t popular. I can count on one hand the number of times my answer to “What’s your major?” has been enthusiastic and positive. I get a lot of negative comments on the lack of a paycheck. I get even more comments on how it’s a hard job to have. I’ve gotten at least one that said I can’t help people so I shouldn’t even try.

But we do important work. Very important work. We connect people, fellow human beings, to the resources they need to meet their basic needs. We accept those who are different than ourselves because they deserve to have the same rights we do. We move past our biases and value-differences to serve our clients in an ethical manner. We work hard to assure that everyone is getting what they need, and it’s important. I’m so proud of everything this profession does which ranges from therapy to advocacy to playing heads-up, seven-up.

Happy Social Work Month! I urge you to do some research this month to educate yourself on what we do as social workers. Or just ask me:)

-mjm

Present Day Segregation & Education Inequality

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Listen to this podcast. It’s 58 minutes long and completely worth it. It begins by explaining the current education inequality in America. It goes into detail about how Black and Hispanic American students are receiving a less than quality education. This happens because of present-day segregation. Yes, exactly like it was before Brown vs. Board of Education. I see it in Knoxville. If you live in East Knoxville, you’re attending a majority Black school. If you’re living in West Knoxville, you’re attending a majority White school.

The podcast presents an example: the same school system in Missouri that Michael Brown attended.

The school system is primarily Black. The story begins by explaining that it has had such a low quality education that it has been on probation for fifteen years. Threatening to lose its accreditation because it’s not up to educational standards. This means that a student could have gone K-12 without ever receiving a proper education. An example of an everyday high school classroom experience consisted of AP English taught by an unqualified teacher doing middle school level  worksheets, four periods of music, and a permanent substitute who had not taught an actual lesson in months.  It was so bad that a middle school student and her mother called every school district surrounding them to try to get her into another school. Everyone said “Sure! … but you owe us tuition money.” Finally, something amazing happened and the school system lost its accreditation. This meant that every student had the opportunity to attend another school for free. However, the school system decided that the school they would be attending was a primarily White school 30 miles away. The 5am bus stop was supposed to be so unappealing that no student would want to leave their current school. This happened because the more students to go to the new school system, the more the old one had to pay. However, the middle school girl was determined to go to this new school system to get a real education.

She and her mom decided to go to a meeting the new school system was holding regarding all of these students being shipped to their school. The meeting sounded a lot like this… “We don’t want them here!” “They are going to bring violence and drugs into our school!” “We demand a vote!” “Our test scores will be negatively affected by this!” “Where are our metal detectors and drug dogs going to be at?” “I’m worried about my child’s safety!” “If they’re coming here, we’re going somewhere else.” “Maybe we can move the start time up, so it’ll be even more unappealing for them to come here!”

After getting over my initial anger at the brutal stereotyping these parents and school board members were displaying with their words…

What these parents didn’t know is that the integration that was about to occur would be life changing. This accidental integration would be proof that this is what we need all over the country.

The Black students flourished in this new environment. Well, until the old school system changed their name meaning they went from being “unaccredited” to “non-accredited”. Which meant every. single. student. had to return to their old crappy school system OR pay tuition at their new one.

I’m infuriated.

Every single person deserves a quality education. It’s a fundamental human right. But there are students all over the country not receiving that. They are graduating high school behind. This is a perfect example of that playing out TODAY.

It’s also a fact that these students who aren’t receiving a quality education are primarily Black. We have become just as segregated as we were before the segregation era. The reality is if a student is in a classroom where everyone is performing poorly, so will that student. If a student is in a classroom where everyone is performing well, that student will succeed. We need integration all over again for that to happen.

Again, I urge you to listen to this podcast to be enlightened on the education inequality happening HERE. Something needs to be done about it. Soon.

Typical- 8 Goals for the New Year

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I’ve been trying to think of some goals I want to accomplish this year. New Year Resolutions, if you prefer. It’s a cliche. It’s possible I’ll forget I even made the goals by next December. It’s even more possible I won’t accomplish any of them. However, goal setting is something we are all constantly doing. We are always striving to be better in some way by setting standards for ourselves and then hoping to eventually meet that standard by completing a set of objectives. So here I am, setting goals for myself for the year of 2016. They are as specific as possible because research proves that the more specific a goal is, the easier it is to stick with.

1. Workout at least twice a week

I know it’s typical but look, I’m in my last year of undergrad. Possibly, my last year of college if I don’t get into grad school. Walking around on campus is the only reason I’m not obese because I eat a bunch of delicious crap. I haven’t touched the incredibly nice gym paid for by my ridiculously high tuition since my sophomore year. I need to workout not only to actually get in shape, but also, to get my money’s worth. I also kind of want to run a 5K.

2. Continue reading SheReadsTruth daily

Reading my Bible more is also a typical New Year Resolution. I finally found something that seems to work so my goal is to stick with it. I get the SheReadsTruth devotionals sent straight to  my email, and it forces me to read my Bible every day because I can’t stand to have that little red “1” next to my email on my phone. (Some people might be uneasy by this thinking that I’m only reading to mark it off my to-do list but it’s actually working really well).

3. Write more

I want to write more blogs instead of waiting for something to infuriate me before I’m inspired to do so. But in addition to that, I want to journal. I want to journal prayers, thoughts, emotions, concerns, daily activities. Writing is a good stress relief technique. It also helps my failing memory to remember good and bad times.

4. Start a memory box

To go along with writing, I also plan to start a memory box. I got a beautiful box for Christmas that would make the perfect place to house memories. I want to pack it full of pictures, notes, letters, journal entries, objects and more. Then next year, I can reminisce on 2016 and start all over with 2017.

5. Say no more often

I’m a busy person. I have a lot of responsibilities. I’ve committed to something every night of the week during the school year except Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I lead a Life Group which could fall on any day of the week. I hold two positions on a leadership team. I have responsibilities with school and my internship which takes up a lot of my time. I am a volunteer with a local non-profit that requires my weekly attendance (and more). I just do a LOT of stuff that I love to do. Yet I struggle to say no when someone asks me to commit to something else. I need to stop saying yes and start taking some responsibilities off my shoulders so that I can put 100% into everything I do. I am constantly choosing between two commitments instead of being able to do everything with all that I have.

6. Say yes to more adventures

In addition to saying no to more responsibilities that I don’t have time for, I want to say yes to more adventures. I’ve missed a lot of opportunities throughout the past few years. Realizing that I no longer have a “summer break” left hits hard. I need to start saying yes to more adventures while I have the chance to do so.

7. Learn to play an instrument

I’ve attempted and failed to keep the motivation to learn guitar and piano. I think it’s about time I actually learn to play at least ONE instrument. Literally, the tambourine would be okay with me. I don’t even want to be good. I just want to be able to say I can somewhat, kinda play an instrument (i.e. drums).

8. Live out Proverbs 31:8-9

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”

I already strive to do this, but I fail all the time. For my last goal of the New Year, I need to be kinder, gentler, more giving, louder, and more passionate to accomplish speaking up for those being crushed to ensure that they get justice. I want to live this verse out more in my life and also as I move into my career as a social worker. I want to be a better advocate this year. I want to draw closer to Christ so that these actions that have been commanded to me will come more naturally and easily.

Reality Check to Myself

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My satisfaction, joy, and hope are found in Christ alone. It’s not found in any person, place, or thing on this earth.

I get so discouraged, depressed, and my self-esteem goes to about a -500 when Ryan and I fight, when I get a bad grade, when something doesn’t go the way I expected, when I don’t get to do something I really wanted to do. When I get let down in any way at all.

But my satisfaction, joy, and hope don’t rely on those things. Ever. I’m not satisfied by Ryan or school or my friends or church or anything else. It’s only done through Christ and what He did on the cross. The things mentioned have the capabilities of making me happy and they do, but they still let me down a lot. It’s okay that they let me down, though, because they do not define my joy. They do not satisfy my soul.

I put so many expectations on other people and other things that I fail to accept God as the only one who can supply every need and provide everlasting hope. I can’t rely on people who mess up just as much as I do to provide the things that only  God can.

I’m so thankful for that.

I have someone who is always there for me regardless of what happens while I’m here. The bad days or silly disappointments don’t matter because God’s plan goes beyond that. God has a specific plan for my life that’s ultimate goal is to further His kingdom. In addition to Him holding my whole life in His hands, I’m guaranteed eternity with Him in Heaven. He offers so much more than anything of this world can. That’s why my satisfaction is found in God alone.

I’m thankful He provides others to bring laughter and happiness. But I’m even more thankful that He’s always there with infinitely more regardless of how often those people and things let me down.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

To the boyfriend who lost a parent too soon. 

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I’m sorry I don’t always know what to say when you’re upset.

I’m sorry I can’t understand the heart break you continuously go through.

I’m sorry the holidays are so hard for you and you can’t feel the joy and celebration you long for.

I’m sorry I came into your life too late to meet your dad.

I’m sorry he’s not here to see how hard of a worker you are and how much you’ve accomplished.

I’m sorry you feel alone and I can’t always make you feel otherwise.

I’m sorry that “I’m sorry” doesn’t heal the wounds.

I’m sorry for every life event that won’t be the same without him.

I’m sorry no one will ever be able to take his place.

I love you immensely. I know that life is hard. I know that it’s not fair. I hate that you’re heart broken. I hate it. I feel it too when you’re hurting. I know I’ll never feel it like you do but I promise that everything will be okay one day. Even if it’s not today or tomorrow. I promise that I’ll do everything I can to help you get through the hard times and I promise I’ll never leave you alone.

Your dad would be so proud of you. I know that because I’m so proud of you. I wish I could have known him and I hope you can tell me more about him when you’re able to. But for now, I want you to rest in all of the good times you had together. Celebrate when you know he would be celebrating. Laugh at the same jokes he would laugh at. And rest in knowing that you’ll see him again. That’s been promised to you and it’s something you can look forward to.  I can’t wait to meet him too.

Be strong and brave.

But it’s always okay to cry.

-mjm

What are you fighting for?

I know I should probably tone down the politics but I can’t help it. I have a lot of things to say.

The topic: Syrian refugees

I have seen so many posts by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are refusing to accept the idea of Syrian refugees coming into our country. I’ve seen the argument that it’s unsafe and they could be terrorists. I’ve seen the argument that it’s their business to handle and we should butt out. I’ve seen the argument that although Jesus commands us to take care of those in need, the commandment to love your neighbor comes before that. I’ve seen the argument that we can’t even take care of people here so there’s no reason to take on such a big job elsewhere.

These arguments are… absurd.

Is our safety important? Absolutely 100%, yes. But isn’t the safety of Syrian refugees also important? YES. Jesus didn’t walk the Earth and proclaim that only the Jews and those who were just like Him deserved protection. He went out of his way to heal, protect, and love those that were different than Him. The safety of Americans is SO important but it’s not more important than the safety of scared, fleeing refugees. It’s selfish of us to close our borders and refuse help to those on their knees begging for it. They shouldn’t have to be begging. We should’ve been five steps ahead with our arms opened to the wounded and hurting.

God is bigger than any problem we face. He is bigger than poverty, hunger, fear. He is even bigger than terrorists and political conflict. We can’t live our lives in fear of what might happen. We have to be able to follow Biblical commands without being afraid of what the world might do. If we are in His will, doing our calling, we will have His protection. His will is for us to be His hands and feet, NOT to live in selfish fear.

What would Jesus do in this situation? Honestly think about it. To me, the Bible is clear and the way Jesus lived while He was in our shoes is not the way Christians are acting currently. We lack trust in God and a whole lot of faith if we continue to fight for the wrong things.

Consider what you’re fighting for. Is it your safety? Your political party’s stance? Your opinions on Muslims? War? Money? Your favorite presidential candidate? Or are you fighting for peace, love, gentleness, kindness, compassion, and empathy?

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your moth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

Jesus loved us so much that He died for us. He sacrificed His LIFE. And we aren’t willing to sacrifice our comfort for the Syrian refugees. That’s not loving like He does.  We can’t demand a Christian nation if we aren’t even willing to make bold statements like Christ did.

-mjm

 

 

 

Health, happiness, and fortunes.

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Let’s chat.

What’s the first think you think of when you think about welfare? Be honest. What’s the first word that comes to mind? Is it “lazy”? If it is, not to be harsh, but you’re wrong.

Stereotypes are harmful. They hurt people. It blows my mind that people still categorize others in such a harmful way. If someone is receiving welfare, that doesn’t make them lazy. A lazy person might be receiving welfare but welfare does not equal laziness.

Did you get that?

It hurts me deeply when I see my fellow Christians post ridiculous, horrible things about people on welfare. How does someone who follows Christ’s example [you know, hanging with the poor people and what not] be against helping those in need? The definition of “welfare” is this… “the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group”. So social welfare- the thing that everyone complains about- is the program that helps people achieve that. Jesus commands us to provide for those in need. So why are we against the social programs that do exactly that? Because a couple of people you know are too lazy to work and decide to manipulate the system and live off the government? Or a few people on welfare spend their food stamps on potato chips and/or a lobster tail [why is that even your business]?

The reality is, the majority of people on welfare are people like this: a single mother with a minimum wage job, trying to take an online class every now and then to get a degree, and can’t afford to feed her son. Or a social worker whose husband just lost his job and her salary can’t pay the bills. Or a family of four who is stuck in generational poverty and can’t get out. People who NEED help. They’d be starving, homeless, or dead without government aid. Everyone wants to be able to provide for themselves and their families, but it isn’t always an attainable option without help.

I know, I KNOW, trust me I know that the system is really screwed up. There are so many things wrong with the way the government helps people. But I’d rather have a screwed up system than no system at all. I’d rather some people get helped than none at all. It really doesn’t bother me that there are a few people who use the system. There will always be those people no matter what. That doesn’t make the system completely faulty.

Jesus was a living welfare system. He healed, he gave, he helped, he saved. The least we can do is support and advocate for a government system that genuinely helps people in need. I’m so tired of seeing Christians advocating against exactly what Jesus stood for. It’s sickening to see Christians making fun of people who have a lot less than they do. As Christians, we should be building them up, encouraging them towards success, and helping them meet their goals. I think we need to show more compassion and selflessness and do a heck of a lot less generalizing and dehumanizing to be like Jesus.