Friday, September 22, 2017

Finding who I AM

We've had a busy week and not much downtime at home until yesterday afternoon and this morning.  I truly love being at home with my family.  As I started cleaning house and began preparing to put out fall decorations today (all while corralling my 18 month old), I thought to myself, "Is this madness?  Should I even try?" But then I had this overwhelming sense of thanksgiving wash over me.  And I stopped, looked around, and really took it all in.

Our sweet little girl running through our home, wild curly hair bouncing all over the place, her toys strewn in every direction.  My pregnant belly getting bigger and bigger by the day, making it harder and harder to do common chores.  A plate of leftover homemade double chocolate chip cookies sitting on the counter.  My husband's coffee mug from this morning sitting down in the sink waiting to be loaded into the dishwasher along with all of the other breakfast dishes.  A pile of laundry needing to be folded and put away.  A Bible laying open instead of put away neatly on the tray where it goes.  Glass doors so full of finger prints and doggie nose art that you can hardly see out of it. And in this mess, I saw utter beauty.

This is what I dreamed of.  From the time I was a little girl, all I ever wanted was a family of my own and a house to make a home.  I couldn't wait until it was my time in the kitchen to cook meals for my family.  Long before Pinterest ever existed, I'd cut clippings of decorations and recipes from magazines and store them in a manilla folder.  I eventually graduated to saving pictures onto a desktop folder on my laptop in college.  (Why didn't I think of something as fantastic as Pinterest?!)  My parents' next door neighbor even bought me a Family Recipe Cookbook as a Christmas gift when I was 15 or 16 so I could start writing my favorite recipes down.  She recognized God's calling on my life far before I did.

Maybe you can relate to me.  Maybe not.  Either way, as I started out in life, fresh and green out of college at 21, I took my life in a completely different direction.  I sought to be a successful business woman, working 12 hour days, climbing my way up the corporate ladder.  That became my dream, or so I thought.  (Now hear me - there is NOTHING, absolutely nothing, wrong with this if this is your calling.  My downfall was that is was not my calling and my life had no peace.  I was never satisfied.  I always wanted more-more-more or I found that I could never do enough.)

The harder I gripped onto making this my reality, the more it slipped through my fingers.  It's like trying to squeeze a wet bar of soap.  The harder you squeeze, the more slippery it becomes and it eventually pops out of your hand.  That was my life.  I was trying to control every facet and I was failing miserably.  Where had I gone wrong?  Who was I?  I had become someone I didn't even know.

And then I met Jesus.  He never stopped pursuing me during all of my years of backsliding and living apart from Him.  And I certainly faced consequences for living my life this way, but the beautiful truth is, it wasn't until I realized who He is that I found who I am.  My identity rests in Him and Him alone.

It's easy for us to get lost in who we think we're supposed to be - moms, caregivers, entrepreneurs, health gurus, beauty gurus, teachers, wives, the list could go on and on.  We weave a tangled web and often get caught up in something we're not supposed to do or someone we're not supposed to be.  It's utterly exhausting.  And this world fuels that fire even more.  Just look at your favorite social media outlets.  If you don't have the peace of Christ at the center and forefront of your mind, you'll start to feel less than, left behind, and not good enough.  We have to be founded on His solid rock.

Here are a few things He's taught me through the years as I've learned to surrender and live out His plan for my life:

1. We are all different and that is a good thing.  We were not created to fit the same mold.  The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:6 that, "We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us and each of us are to exercise them accordingly."  We are all given different gifts and they are all equally important.  This whole chapter of Romans 12 is full of amazing truths and lessons on life.  Read it when you have a moment.  Takes notes.  Put the verse that stuck out to you on a sticky note and place it on your bathroom mirror where you will read it everyday.

2.  God sees things differently than we do.  I've been studying 1 and 2 Samuel for a month or so and my favorite take away has been and still is that God does not see as man sees.  When The Lord told Samuel to go anoint the new king and God led him to David, Samuel first looked at David's brother, Eliab, and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before me.  But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 6:6-7)  Eliab might have looked more royal than David, but God wanted the boy with the ruddy complexion to sit on the throne.

3.  I am made new in Christ.  I don't have to worry or fret over the time I wasted trying to find myself.  "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)  What peace this brings me.  God doesn't see my past, only my future and what He can do through me.  Amen.  I am thankful for a Savior who wipes my slate clean.
Get out and take that first step of faith in trusting God with your life.  He's the One who created it, so who better to let lead it?  Your changes may not be immediate (mine certainly were not), but if you keep walking with Him and seeking Him with your whole heart, He will direct your steps and lead you in His way.  His plan for your life will unfold beautifully before your eyes if only you'll get out of your own way and allow it.

I am just a girl with a messy bun because (dare I admit this to you) I haven't washed my hair in four days, a messy house, and a messy life at times.  But the Great I AM says this is exactly where and who I am supposed to be.  I will continue to let Him use my mess as a message.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hard Love

One of my current favorite songs is "Hard Love" by NEEDTOBREATHE.  I'll link it below for you to listen to if you haven't heard it yet.

It came on the radio the other day and I immediately sent a text to a friend who's going through a really hard trial right now as an encouragement to keep going.  Push through.  Persevere.  And she's not alone.  I know so many folks in the same boat as her, maybe not going through the same thing, but people all around me living with hard truths, diagnoses, circumstances, you name it. 

Why do we face such difficult and trying times?  I don't know, but I do know a truth that I hope encourages you today.  This is something I learned while going through dark times in my own life; times where I felt so suffocated by my circumstances that I couldn't see the light.  These were days when I thought morning may never come.

I'm studying Ecclesiastes right now and a verse from yesterday's chapter just seemed to jump off the page at me.  It's from chapter 7, verse 14:

In the day of prosperity be happy,
But in the day of adversity consider -
God has made the one as well as the other.

I don't think we often see our trials as something that's as good as our blessings.  In fact, I know we don't.  The human side of us in very narrow minded.  And this is why we need a Savior.  God uses adversity and hard things in our lives to humble us, to draw us near to Him, to show us that He is the way, the truth, and the life.  It's a hard love sometimes.  And our eyes will never be opened to this truth if we don't keep them fixed on Him.

I don't pretend to have the answers, but I know the One who does.  He holds my tomorrow and He holds yours too.  It's easy to praise Him when all is sunshine and rainbows, but let's not forget to praise Him in the storm too.  He has promised He will never leave you or forsake you.  And that's a promise you can cling to in the midst of whatever adversity you may face.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Weeping Forward

Weeping forward is a term I recently came across in Kelly Minter's Ruth Bible study and it struck a chord deep within.  Since then, it's a prayer I've been praying for a lot of friends as they deal with hard, hard things...divorce, suicide of a loved one, prodigals, illness, the list goes on and on.   And then this morning I got my daily alert for the The Bible App verse of the day.  It comes from Psalm 42, which is the perfect psalm for a weary soul.  The Psalmist has gone into the depths and all hope seems lost.  But then he emerges.  He writes, "Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God."

Weeping forward is the notion that when life seems to be crashing in around you and you feel like you're paralyzed with fear, anger, regret, or sorrow; you refuse to stop and wallow.  Yes, wallowing and having a pity party is the natural, human instinct and reaction.  But instead of succumbing to those emotions, you push forward.  You put one foot in front of the other and take it one day at a time.  And you always keep moving forward.  Always.  No matter what.  Like the mountain depicted in the picture above, sometimes it's a steep uphill climb.  But climb, dear one.

 There may be pain in the night but JOY comes in the morning:

I know what it means to live this.  I feel like almost the whole decade of my twenties was spent weeping forward.  There was weeping over a failed relationship, not being able to find a job in my field, piling amounts of debt incurred by many different situations (some my own fault, some not), dealing with miscarriage and then infertility.  It was a trying time in my life, but I learned many important lessons through it all.  I learned what it meant to weep forward.  And through that, I saw God's providence and His deliverance.

The only way I learned how to weep forward was to surrender my life to God fully.  Grasping for control was keeping me planted right where I was.  There was never any growth because I dug my heels in and refused to surrender.  Once I was brought to my knees in full surrender, I suddenly felt the weight lifted.  Nothing about my situation had changed, but who carried the burden of my situation had shifted.  Instead of me packing it upon my own shoulders, I gave it to God.  I began to spend time with Him and learn His word.  Through that, He showed me many truths that encouraged me and kept me moving along the path He had laid before me.  He gave me enough light just for the next step.

After your season of suffering. God in all His Grace will RESTORE. Confirm. Strengthen and ESTABLISH you.   1 Peters 5:10:

If you're in this situation today, I want to encourage you and remind you that there is hope.  And that hope is in Him and Him alone.  You are not alone and you are loved more than you can imagine.  If when you do what is right and still suffer, patiently endure it.  This finds favor with God (1 Peter 2:20).  The patience you are gaining is ultimately strengthening your character.  Keep weeping forward, finding your strength from the Lord. One day you will be able to look back and see the beauty that was once just ashes.

Monday, April 10, 2017

I am Invited

In the summer of 2016, my MIL and I had a discussion one night about feeling left out, uninvited, and simply not thought of or remembered.  We talked about our feelings of inadequacy and rejection among various groups of people.  While I remember thinking, I'm glad I'm not the only one who has these feelings, I was overcome with a sadness that I can't even put into words.  As I listened to her hurts, I could clearly see the devil's attacks on her.  It made me want to take all of her hurt away and assure her that she WAS wanted and always invited.  If you know her, you know how beautiful and sweet she is.  Her mere presence is simply a blessing in her sweet spirit and my mind couldn't even bear to think that she'd been living all of that time believing she was anything less.  And all of a sudden, it was like the veil was lifted.  In my own feelings of inadequacy, I always thought there was something wrong with me.  I wasn't pretty enough, funny enough, didn't wear the right clothes, live in the right neighborhood, etc, for people to want to be around me.  I simply thought I just wasn't good enough. I never once saw all of these insults I hurled at myself as the devil's attacks in my own life. 

Why is it so easy to look at someone else and know exactly what their problem is and how to fix it, but when looking at ourselves, we can't see it the same way?  Please tell me I'm not alone in this.

A couple of weeks after this conversation, Lysa TerKeurst's new book, Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely, was released.  I immediately went to Lifeway and bought a copy for the both of us.  She read hers quickly but mine got shoved to the bottom of my book stack.  I wasn't currently feeling less than, left out, and lonely, so no need to read it yet.

That all changed rather quickly.  I don't even know what caused this shift in my thoughts, but I suddenly began to feel very isolated and withdrawn from everyone.  Maybe it was hormone related from recently having my daughter, maybe not.  All I know is I was heading into a dark place of feeling very lonely, left out, and less than.  From the outside looking in, I'm not sure if anyone could even tell.  I appeared to have it all together.

To cope, I began to immerse myself in God's Word and cracked open Lysa's book.  I even posted the picture above on Facebook and I had so many women respond to that post either through a comment or personal message.  Our church has already offered two Bible studies on this book and I would not be surprised if the demand is there for a third.  That many women are seeking comfort in dealing with these feelings. 

Over 600,000 copies of this book have been sold from August 2016 to March 2017 making it a #1 NY Times bestseller.  That's great and all, but that tells me that a whole lot of us women all feel the exact same way.  We all hurt and want so badly to feel loved and accepted.  How did this happen?

In my search for answers, God has been opening my eyes to the lies I believe about myself and the truths I should know about myself.  I'm only to chapter 5, so about a quarter of the way through the book, but I felt I needed to write this now and maybe readdress it again when I'm finished.  It's totally possible that I may talk about something she discusses later in the book and that's okay.  That's just  further confirmation that the Lord is leading my thoughts in the right direction.

From what I've gathered, I see three major lies that us women tend to believe about ourselves:

1. I am not loved (enough).
2. I am not good enough.
3. I am not invited because of something I did or didn't do.

We often think we are not "enough" in many circumstances whether it be in the way we look, how much we weigh, clothes we wear, foods we eat, how we raise our kids, the decorations that adorn our homes, exercises we didn't do, you get my drift.  We measure ourselves against standards that are unrealistic and unattainable.  NO ONE can be all of that all of the time. But it sure looks like it on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat.  It's EXHAUSTING to try to live up to that!  We don't feel loved (or loved as much as we want to be) because we read about what our friends' significant others are doing for them and well, that's never been done for me so I must not be loved. Or we seek love from someone who's toxic to us and can never love us the way we so desperate need it.  And those pictures your friend just posted of her amazing weekend with all of your other friends're not in fact, you didn't even know they were all getting together.  Yeah, it must've been because they didn't want to be around you. It hurts. That's what you're thinking, right?

All of these are LIES.  And it's such a vicious cycle because the more we believe these lies, the more pain we unintentionally inflict on others and ourselves because we are so desperately trying to feel good enough, loved enough, wanted enough, that we start posting our pictures, telling our friends' secrets to gain that "in", and so on that we cause this cycle to start with someone else. Let's break these chains. Please.

Out of these lies come the three major truths that I want to leave with you:

1. You are loved.  You are so loved in fact that Jesus came down to earth because He didn't want heaven without you.  He was willing to die for you because He loves you that much.  And He wants nothing more than for you to return His love and to show others His love.  Love is a big deal to Him.
As Lysa says in her book, "Live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won't find yourself begging others for scraps of love."

Live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won't find yourself begging others for scraps of love. - Lysa Terkeurst, from Uninvited, the book. (Simple, but not necessarily easy.):

2. You are more than enough.  As I stood at the crib watching my beautiful girl sleep, I prayed, "Lord, she is so beautiful.  I praise You because she is fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works.  Oh how my soul knows it well." (Psalm 139:14)  And He whispered to my soul, "So are you."  If we don't start seeing ourselves; our bodies, our minds, and everything in between as enough and perfectly created by God, what kind of message are we sending?  There are many things about my physical appearance that I wouldn't mind changing, but why?  I challenge myself and you to live in the peace of knowing that you are beautiful and perfect the way you were made.  Measure yourself to God's standard of you.  Not Cosmo's or the latest and greatest beauty trend.  It's all so fleeting and ultimately won't leave you fulfilled.  I speak from experience.

Psalm 114 "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" Wallpaper Download Free from Life By Elizabeth:

3. You are always invited.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me..."  I'm sure you've heard this verse before because it's a well-known verse about turning your troubles over to Christ, but don't miss the first part.  Jesus says, "Come."  That's all we have to do.
Lysa says in her book, "The more fully we invite God in, the less we will feel uninvited by others."  This is so true.  Seek Him first above all else and let His love pour over you, calm you, and reassure you.

My prayer for myself and for you is that we will be able to discern the lies from the truth.  I pray we will return to Christ over and over for fulfillment instead of seeking that from someone else.  You are loved, you are enough, and you are always invited.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fast Fixins - Erica's Greek Chicken

Have you ever had someone make you a meal and you could just feel their love through it?  Isn't that the best feeling?

 ∞ ❤ :) ❝ ❞ ×○ ➹ ♬ ✦ ❄ εїз ♖ ✧ ✩ ❀ ♕ ♡ Her heart is a secret garden and the walls are very high. ♡ ♕...:

Cooking is one of the ways I show love to people.  I would feed everyone if I could afford it.  I guess it was how I was raised.  My dad was always in the kitchen whipping up something.  His specialties were cheese grits, biscuits & gravy, lemon pound cake, and brownies. The man always had a slew of food available for anyone that might walk through the door and he made sure you never left hungry.  I think that's what my childhood friends remember most about coming to my house.

I have a sweet friend, named Erica, who brought us a meal after Emmy was born (and has since cooked for us a few more times), and every time I bite into one of her dishes, I know that cooking for others is a way she shows love.  It's there in the fresh ingredients, the time she spends chopping, cutting, and dicing vegetables and herbs.  This is one of her recipes that's not only delicious, but quick and easy too.

Erica's Greek Chicken (makes 4 servings)

-4 washed and trimmed boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (or breasts - I prefer cutlets because the cooking time is less)
-1 cup all purpose flour
-2 tablespoons Greek seasoning
-Olive oil
-Feta cheese
-Kalamata olives
-Cherry tomatoes, sliced
-Green onion

1. Preheat oven to 325. Mix flour and Greek seasoning and coat chicken in mixture.
2. Sear in 1 tablespoon of olive oil on high heat in hot skillet until light brown (about 1-2 mins per side).
3. Place seared chicken in a foil lined pan and sprinkle with as much feta cheese, olives, tomatoes, and green onions as you'd like.
4. Bake at 325 for 15-20 mins (depending on thickness of chicken)

While the chicken bakes, I make my vegetables to go with it.  On this day, I paired it with fresh green beans and sweet potatoes.  You can cook a sweet potato in the microwave in 7 minutes if you don't want to wait for it to bake in the oven.  These green beans take about 8 minutes.  I flash steam them in a little bit of water for 2 minutes in a skillet, drain, then return to the hot stove and cook over medium/high heat with a drizzle of olive oil, minced garlic, and a little salt and pepper for about 3 minutes. Quick, easy, healthy.  And CHEAP during their peak season.  You can get a whole bag for about $1.50 at Publix that's easily 4-6 servings per bag.

You can also pair this with rice or cauliflower rice with another green vegetable.  It's such a flavorful, colorful, healthy dinner that's ready in less than 30 minutes.  I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as we do!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Vase

Our daughter's first birthday was a few weeks ago and we had a small family party for her.  While I was getting the house cleaned up for guests, I had to find something to do with this vase full of wormwood (another post for another time) my Meemaw gave me several years ago that I've been using as a space filler for a drab corner of our kitchen.  It was where I needed Emmy's highchair to go so that I could configure good seating for her little party.

So, I took the vase and put it in a corner in our master bedroom because that was the most *logical* place for it to go (along with all of the other junk that I couldn't figure out what to do with) and closed the door.  Guests don't need to go in there anyways, right?  Tell me I'm not the only one who does this.  People will comment that my house is so clean and I'm like, " don't even want to see my closet or bathroom." We can't have it all together all of the time.

About a week after her birthday party, this vase was still in our bedroom.  (I guess I have selective OCD.  I am so organized and on point when it comes to some things.  Apparently this vase is not one of those items.)  Jared and I were sound asleep one night when all of a sudden we heard a loud CRASH.  It scared the daylights out of us both.  Our hearts were beating out of our chests as we jumped up to face whatever fate may await us.  Our hearts slowly returned to a normal cardiac rhythm when we realized one of our dogs had gotten up to go sleep in this corner I had now "decorated" with the vase and had knocked it over, waking up the whole house.  I knew I should have moved it out of our room a week prior.  I had even thought to myself that it was a matter of time before it fell over because it was unsturdy on the carpet in our bedroom.  But instead I let it sit there.

As I took deep breaths to try to calm myself back down, a parable Jesus spoke to the masses came to my mind.  It was one that I think about often because I feel like I've lived difference aspects of it.

It comes out of Matthew 13:18-23:

Hear then the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.  This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.  The one on whom seed was sown on rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporal, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.  And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty.

There is so much packed into these six convicting verses that I could never cover in one post, so I want to focus on the bolded verse.  And I want to focus on the bolded verse because this used to be me.

In the church, you hear a lot about a "God-sized hole" that we all have.  Well, I believed and I knew I had a God-sized hole that I was constantly trying to fill with various things - friends, clothes, boys, cars, money, education, job, alcohol, etc - things of the world that could never sustain me.  I was always so interested in learning about God when a friend would take me to church with them, but as soon as I got home or away from it, I was right back to my old way of life.

You see, I had no solid foundation in Christ.  I had no serious convictions about the way I was living my life so when any form of temptation came my way, I was sucked right back in.  If others would question me or taunt me because of Jesus, I would give right back in to my old way of living.  I couldn't stand on solid ground because I wouldn't lay down my life in surrender so that Christ could lay down the foundation for it.  This vicious cycle repeated itself for many years until finally one day I surrendered. Only through the work of the Holy Spirit in my life did I became like the seed that was sown on good soil.

If you find yourself in any of these other states, there is hope and as long as you have breath in your lungs, it's never too late.  You do not have to live your life in turmoil, without that peace that passes understanding.  Allow Jesus to be your hope and foundation and know that I'll be praying for you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Quiet Time

The past seven years or so I have rocked establishing a quiet time.  It was simple because my schedule was the same everyday and I could always plan for and carve out time to spend with my Lord.  And He always showed up.  No matter how little or how long I prayed, studied, etc, He always revealed truth to me and taught me His word.

Now that I've been delivered from my infertility and have my sweet little precious goo to care for each day, establishing a quiet time again has been difficult.  Once we get a "schedule", it quickly changes.  Can I get an amen, moms of young kids?!  And don't for one second get me wrong.  She is the answer to years of prayers and I would never trade her.  I've just had to make adjustments and finding quiet time has been one of those.

But this week I had a little revelation.  Quiet time doesn't have to be quiet.  Especially for this season of my life.  Hear me out on this.

I had in my mind that quiet time had to be completely silent in my house with no distractions - No TV, no cell phones, computer off.  A hot cup of coffee with my bible, prayer journal, and any study materials were supposed to be spread out neatly on my kitchen table as I took a sip of steaming hot coffee with the perfect proportion of creamer and dove in to God's word.  Is this ideal?  Sure!  Is it realistic for my life right now?  Absolutely not.

It is a lie.  And it was a lie I completely believed and fell for for many months.

This is what my quiet time looks like these days.

Quiet time doesn't have to be quiet in the sense that all noise has to be removed.  Quiet time is a time to quiet my soul and spirit before the Lord.  It's a time where I open His word and pray for His Holy Spirit to teach me.  It's a time where I give thanks for the wonderful gifts all around me.  It's a time where I be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).  He doesn't care how I come to Him, just that I come.  He will take care of the rest.

In James 4:8a, His word says, "Come near to God and He will come near to you."  That's what you have to do.  Take that step and walk toward Him.  You don't have to have it all together.  God doesn't care about that.  In fact, He tells us to come to Him, all of us who are weak and heavy burdened and He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28).

Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  This is encouraging to me because all God asks me to do is seek Him.  I don't have to have myself put together, hot cup of coffee brewed, house neat and quiet.  That's just not my reality right now.  And frankly those are distractions, those flaming arrows, that are shot at me to take my eyes off of what I should be focusing on.

He simply wants us.                                                       …                                                                                                                                                                                 More:

Be encouraged today.  You are enough.  Believe it and rest in His peace and presence.  Simply come, quiet your soul, and open His word.  He will take care of the rest.