Thursday, November 30, 2017

It's Time for a Wardrobe Transformation

I need a wardrobe overhaul.  It's not because I'm 9 months pregnant and my selection of suitable options is quickly dwindling.  It's not because the clothes I have hanging in my closet are out of style or becoming too worn.  No, those are much more surface issues.  I need a wardrobe transformation because I have been clothing myself with pride.  It's time to take that off and clothe myself with humility.

IF:Equip                                                                                                                                                                                 More

I have been praying for some specific things and people in my life and the Lord has constantly laid the word pride before me.  Not something I wanted to hear.

Pride is a funny thing.  It rears its ugly head in the most cunning and devious of ways in my life.  It never comes out and flaunts itself as being proud or having high self esteem.  Instead, my pride manifests itself most often in the form of anxiety and insecurity or wanting someone else to feel the freedom that I have experienced since meeting Jesus, which can then cause me to be critical.

Wait, those are characteristics of pride?  Yes, they are.  They show a lack of trust and faith in the One who made me.  They show me focusing more on others than on myself and my own heart.  As I've been praying through this over the last month, the Lord has continued to place people, obstacles, sermons, and scriptures before me that reiterate the fact that this is definitely a problem I need to deal with.

This morning I listened to an excellent podcast that was divinely placed in my path, no doubt.  The title was "Pride & Humility".  Well, that caught my attention.  It's not like I hadn't been praying for that specific thing for the last month.

The Pastor began by asking these questions:

Are you anxious?
Are you critical of others?
Are you defensive when someone points out something wrong?
Do you constantly seek others' approval?
Are you insecure?
Do you take advantage of God's grace?
Do you feel shame or think your sin or brokenness is bigger than God's grace?
Do you believe that you're worthless or unforgivable?
Does a particular sin define you more than God's claims on your life?
(Questions taken directly from The Porch Podcast on Pride and Humility)

I answered yes to more of those questions than I'd like to admit.  Maybe you did too. 

Every single one of those questions points to PRIDE.

Here's what the Lord laid on my heart to share with you as He brought me peace and revelation about this topic that has been plagued me:

1. Pride (and all that goes with it) is the devil's playground.  

Again, for me, pride certainly manifests itself as anxiety.  Anxiety is something I've struggled with my whole life, or at least as long as I can remember.  My panic attacks started when I was thirteen and I found myself frozen in fear, heart racing, hands tingling, unable to swallow or breathe. I have learned to cope with it through the years, especially since coming to know Jesus, but it doesn't go away.  It's a daily battle.  And I had never seen it as a pride issue. 

It's pride because it is the doubt of God or not believing what He says to be true; not believing that He really will provide, protect, heal, defend, etc.  Satan knows this and he feasts on where I doubt God.  As long as I keep feeding him with my worries, doubts, fears, and problems by talking about it with other people or letting it distract me from how I'm called to act as a Christ follower, the vicious cycle continues because the appetite increases.

I remember when we were struggling with infertility all I saw were pregnant women.  They were EVERYWHERE.  They were in the grocery store, on the billboards I passed daily, on my Facebook newsfeed, in my Sunday school class.  And instead of praying against it, I fed it.  I continued to check for pregnancy announcements, I looked for the pregnant ladies in the store, I even dreamed of maternity clothes and how I would put together outfits.  All this did was increase my doubts and fears.  I learned Google was not always my friend and sometimes you just need to shut the social media down.  Maybe you can relate to this because you're in the same boat, or you're single and long to find your person, or you don't think you'll ever make enough money, or you don't think you'll ever accomplish your goals.  Or-or-or-Fill in the blank.  We all have vices.  But when I stopped feeding into those vices, they began to disappear.  And when they'd try to resurface, I could shut them down a lot faster.

2.  Recovery starts with humility.

We have to get to the end of ourselves.  A.W. Tozer said, "The reason why so many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't yet come to the end of themselves.  We're still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us."

We have to get to the point of realizing we need help.  Ask for it.  God helps the humble.  His Word tells us over and over again that He loves a humble heart, He will exalt the humble.  Start doing all the things you say you are going to do.  Feed on sermons, educate yourself on God's Word, talk to Him.  He will meet you there in your humility and the recovery will begin.

You see, pride and humility are polar opposites.  One cannot exist where the other one is.  I want to rid my life of the pride that steals my joy and makes me focus on the negative.  I want to be humble in my heart and spirit.  The only way I can do this is through Jesus. Humility is a beautiful thing and if we're honest, we all love a humble person.

The self awareness that is now right in front of me is definitely humbling and I pray some part of this post will resonate with you too.  It's not easy to admit our downfalls, but thank God it's not my defeat.  The Lord will lift me back up from where I've fallen.  And I will choose to wear the garments of humility.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Long Suffering

I'm sure this title jumped right off the page at you and you just couldn't wait to read such an encouraging post, right?  You might be in for a surprise.  Today I was reminded how beautiful long suffering can truly be.  I needed this encouragement and I pray maybe it will fill you with the same hope it did for me.

Long suffering means to show abundant patience in spite of troubles.  Other familiar words we use instead of long suffering are patient, tolerant, forbearing, perseverance, but to me, long suffering gets the point across in a much more descriptive way.  Don't you think?

The past two months have been rough for a number of reasons.  I am sleep deprived, I've suffered the loss of my grandpa, we're working through temper tantrums, I am trying not to lose heart and patience with certain people, I am working on getting over having my feelings hurt, blah blah blah.  Cry me a river, right?  But I'm sure you can relate.  I don't mean to be Negative Nancy, but let's be real...sometimes things are just tough.

Today my darling daughter was refusing her nap (which has been a common theme these last couple of months thanks to sleep regression, moving rooms, sickness, and now no more pacifier), and I was about to snap.  She was beyond exhausted and so was I. I had been trying to get my usually perfect sleeper to nap for an hour and a half.  We had things to do today and this nap NEEDED to happen.  She was in her room whining, jumping in her bed, evicting her stuffed animals one by one in a desperate attempt for me to return to her room once more and place them back in her bed, and I could feel my blood pressure rising.  I've been trying to be very intentional and look for God in the daily chores of everyday life, so as I started making my bed, I began praying and having a really honest conversation with Him.  It went a little something like this:

Lord, I am TRYING to find You in the mundane and everyday and make this time holy, but I'll be honest...I'm having a REALLY difficult time.  How are You in this?!  I can't focus over the whining, I don't know what else to do - we've read numerous books, we've rocked, we've sang songs, I've tried ignoring her, nothing is working.  What the heck is her deal?  Why can't she lay down and go to sleep?  That is what's best for her.  I know that and you know that so why can't You help me out here?!

Have you ever had a conversation like that with God?  If you haven't, I encourage you to do it because He already knows your thoughts.  Be honest and be real with Him.  He'll always do the same for you.

When I was finished talking and ready to listen, there in the midst of my pity party the word long suffering came to me.  Humm...I hadn't expected that.  It took me by surprise when God spoke right to my core and reminded me about the beauty of His long suffering for me.  

 “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭NET‬‬

How often had I pitched a little fit, cried, whined, all to get my way.  And He sat there patiently loving me while I carried on like a little toddler.  He didn't get angry and raise His voice.  But He also didn't come swoop me up and save the day immediately.  You know why?  He ultimately knew what was best for me...just like I did with my daughter this morning.  I knew she needed rest; that's why I continued to hope that she would settle down and fall asleep.

But God's long suffering for me has much more depth to it than a missed morning nap.  His long suffering for me and for you is life saving.  His Word in 2 Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."  His long suffering gives us eternal life, if we choose it.  From this, I want to lift out several truths that were laid on my heart during my little moment of revelation:

1.  God is in the everyday and the mundane.  He cares about us right where we are.  And He wants to meet us there.  He was there with me this morning while I was making my bed and doing my own fussing and whining.  He was there all of those years when I continued to run from him and try to ignore the tug in my heart to turn to Him.  He was there when I thought my world was falling apart.  He was there when I went on that first date with my husband.  He was there during my agonizing years of infertility.  He was there in my daughter's first cry.  He was and He is always there.  He loves you and me so much; more than we can comprehend.

2.  Prayer is powerful.  I know we hear that and we often times even say it, but do we believe it?  As Shaun Pillay, our Minister of Evangelism & Discipleship, said yesterday morning, "Prayer engages the Lord of the universe!  It does not equip us for the greater work, it IS the greater work."  Now I am far-far-far from righteous, only by Christ alone, but this was actually a moment when I was engaging the Lord in prayer instead of calling my mom or husband to complain.  And you know what?  He answered!  Had I not been praying in that moment of frustration, I would not have heard His voice and felt this message in my heart.  This is such an encouragement to me because often times I fall short.  I feel like God gives us these moments to reaffirm His truths and encourage us along this journey of life.  

3.  I should count it a privilege to experience long suffering towards someone.  You can re-read that if you need to.  Do you know how hard that is to actually live?  I am willing to bet that you do.  I don't often see it as a privilege because most often I want to whip whoever is putting me through troubles into shape.  And this very concept is actually something I've been praying about for a long time now.  The Lord has continued to show me time and time again that the only person I can change is myself.  And the only way some people see Him is through me.  Every irritating, seemingly annoying person placed along my path is an opportunity for me to grow in some aspect and to do what Christ did and love them through it.  Like I said, this is not easy.  And I often fail, but I am thankful for this reminder and I pray I will continue to come back to this moment and gain strength to push forward when I'm feeling defeated.
Fruit of the Spirit Printable - Love Joy Peace Patience Kindness Goodness Faithfulness Gentleness & Self Control - Galations 5:22-23 Print Etsy

Maybe you needed this reminder as much as I did today.  The Lord is good to hear us when we call for Him.  We just have to be sure we're ready to listen.  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Butternut Squash and Sausage Risotto

One of my favorite Bible study authors/teachers is Kelly Minter.  I first did her "No Other Gods" study back in 2013 and since then have done all of her studies over the last few years.  Not only is her content fantastic, but she also includes recipes in each of her study books.  Win-win!  I have a few of her recipes that have become favorites, but this one takes the cake.  When I read the description, I'll be honest and admit that I wasn't initially excited or even thought about trying it.  Sausage and butternut squash...together?!  But something told me I ought to step out of my comfort zone and give it a go.  WOW - Am I ever glad that I did!  This makes enough to feed 8 people, so it's an excellent option for a large crowd.  As soon as the temps dip below 80, I'm ready for savory dishes and this is one of my go-to meals in the cooler months.

Butternut Squash and Sausage Risotto
(serves 8)
adapted from Kelly Minter

Doesn't it just look like fall?!

16 oz. of Arborio rice
1 lb Ground Italian Sausage (I use Jimmy Dean's found in the breakfast meats section)
1 large butternut squash, seeded, cubed (I'll post recipe below of how to easily roast a butternut squash)
1 onion, diced
5 cups chicken stock (or broth, but I prefer stock)
2/3 cup white cooking wine
2 Tbs butter (or olive oil)
½ cup Parmesan cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and place cut side down on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil and cooking spray.  Roast for 25 mins.  Remove and let cool then easily peel the skin off, cube the squash and toss with 1 Tbs of olive oil, salt, and pepper in the pan. Put it back in the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes until edges are lightly browned.
**I have found this to be the easiest way to roast a butternut squash.  If you want to peel and dice it beforehand, go for it.  But be warned, you might lose your religion over it.  There's always the option of buying pre-cut, but it's usually pretty pricey.  If you do buy pre-cut, you'll need about 4 cups and you'll roast for 20-25 mins.

2. While butternut squash is roasting, cook ground sausage in large saucepan (I use my dutch oven), stirring often to break up sausage. Drain most of the fat, reserve a little for flavor and set aside.

3. In the same large saucepan (or dutch oven), sauté onion with 2 Tbs butter in pan for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add rice and stir until well coated, about 2 minutes. Add white cooking wine and cook for another minute to let the strong wine flavor burn off. Add one cup of stock and continually stir until stock is absorbed. Do this with each cup of stock, waiting until current stock is absorbed before adding the next. If you feel like you can still add more liquid after the 5 cups of stock, you can add a ½ cup of water (or stock) until it’s creamy and to your liking. After rice is cooked, add butternut squash, sausage and Parmesan to the saucepan, stirring gently so you don’t smash the squash. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve with a mixed greens salad and a green vegetable, like asparagus or roasted brussels sprouts.

This recipe just screams fall with its orange hues and sweet/savory flavors.  It's a total crowd pleaser and you can freeze any leftovers.  You may want to add extra liquid when reheating leftovers as the risotto continues to soak up the stock.  Please give this a try and let me know what you think.  It's not a quick fix, but you will not be disappointed!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Remembering How Grand He Was

Our Pastor has shared that the one title in life that actually lives up to its grandeur is the title of grandchildren - they truly are grand.  I feel the same can be said about grandparents as well.  Many of us look to grandparents for wisdom, unconditional love, and a sense of awe.  I was fortunate enough to have one like that.  I inherited his prominent jawline and his appreciation for the simpler things in life.

My grandpa was a man whose life could be turned into Nicholas Sparks' next bestseller.  It was filled with highs and lows, victories and defeats, mountains and valleys.  He was a man of strength, integrity, valor, and grit.  He met my grandma, who was a young widow raising a one year old and a two year old after losing her first husband, shortly before being shipped out for training during WWII.  He married her before he left so that she could receive all of his benefits in the event that the war claimed his life.  He was a Pharmacist Mate, 1st Class, USNR in the battle of Iwo Jima where he was one of three surviving members out of over forty corpsmen sent to the island.  From that battle, he received a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, as well as three additional medals, but ghosts from the war haunted and plagued him most of his adult life.  Even still, he came back home and began a family with my grandma that would grow to be almost fifty people spanning four generations.

It wasn't until my grandma's death in 2004 that my grandpa and I began to develop a deep bond.  Over the last 14 years, we spent many days together talking, cooking, and just simply being in each others' presence, which I will always cherish.  He taught me more than I could ever put into words, but in light of his passing last Tuesday, I have been reflecting about the three big lessons I learned from his life.  From him I learned:

1.  If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.

I bought this sign from a friend right before grandpa went into the hospital,  Truer words could never have been spoken about his life.  The life he and my grandma created is truly a legacy with seven children, fifteen grandchildren, twenty-three great grandchildren, and two great great grandchildren. The love he and my grandma shared is evidenced by those of us left behind.  He picked fresh flowers for my grandma each day and I have no doubt he's doing that for her now in Heaven.  They were married for 60 years, but even 14 years after her passing he refused to take off his wedding ring.  The day before he died he even slapped my mom's hand at the mention of having to remove it because of swelling.  We buried him with it still on.

The power of love can change lives, move mountains, and leave a lasting impression on anyone left in its path.  When Jared and I married, grandpa told us in the receiving line to never take each other for granted, that is was over too fast.  I think maybe we should all heed that advice.

2. It's never too late.

To say my grandpa was a strong-willed man might be an understatement.  No wonder I'm so headstrong.  And as often as that strong-will could get him into trouble, it was also life saving for him.  After nearly 50 years of smoking, one day he decided it was time to quit.  It was never too late to make a change for the good.  He went over to the trash can, threw away his pack, his carton, and his lighters and never picked one up again.
"It's never too late." via 
The greatest peace I have through all of this is knowing that it's also never too late to call on Christ.  At the age of 91, I was driving my grandpa to a doctor's appointment when I asked him to tell me his salvation story.  To my surprise, he told me he didn't have one, that he had never asked Jesus to be his Savior.  We talked a good bit and he dusted the dust off of his old Bible and began reading in Romans.  I would continue to ask him over the course of the next year if he had decided to accept Jesus, but his answer was always, "No, but I'm thinkin' about it."  I never quit praying and God sent a wonderful caretaker who would continue to water the seed that had been planted.  At 92, my grandpa accepted Jesus.  It's never too late.  The peace that washes over me as I think about every burden being lifted and forgiveness flooding his soul brings tears to my eyes.

3.  God's provision is miraculous.

Even when my grandpa wasn't walking with the Lord, God's provision throughout his life is evident and encouraging.  He spared his life during the war; He used my grandpa as a tool to save many other men's lives who went on to go home and be reunited with their families, have children, and create legacies of their own.  God provided as my grandparents raised seven children and sent them off to start families of their own.  When my grandma died in 2004, God provided the opportunity for my grandpa to sell the home that they had lived in for 50 years and move to a beautiful little home next door to one of his daughters and 10 minutes down the street from us.  Hurricane Ivan hit 3 months after my grandpa moved and his previous home suffered significant water and wind damage.  God's provision.  When it became too much for my mom and her siblings to care for him alone, God sent four sweet women who would take turns sitting with him, dispensing medication, cooking, cleaning, and caring for him the best they could.  God's provision.  In his last days, his health began to decline rapidly and his children were facing the decision to put him in a nursing home, which was the last resort.  By God's provision again, He called my grandpa home.  No more pain, no more suffering, just eternal rest and glory in the presence of Jesus.

You're sweet mercies are new every morning....great is thy faithfulness 

What a legacy.  I am thankful to have been apart of it and have my eyes opened to the goodness and rugged grace that was lived out before me.  I am a better person for having known and loved my grandpa.  And one day we'll be reunited for all eternity where we can continue to shoot the breeze and rest in each others' presence.  Until that day, I will carry him in my heart and pray that my life teaches valuable lessons to those around me who are watching and listening.  Don't take people for granted, invest your time into what matters, don't forget that it's never too late to make a change for the good, and pay attention to the Lord's goodness and provision in your life.

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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


My heart has been so burdened lately by the thought of being a lukewarm Christ follower.  Just for fun, let's take a look at Google's definition of lukewarm:

adjective: lukewarm
1. (of liquid or food that should be hot) only moderately warm; tepid.
2. (of a person, attitude, or action) unenthusiastic.

I don't know about you, but when I read that, I can conclude that lukewarm is not a very pleasant thing.  No one likes their coffee lukewarm.  Starbucks sells it hot or cold.  No one likes a lukewarm bath - Unless you have a fever....and then that's just a miserable experience all around.  Trust me, we experienced that last week with Emmy during a nasty sickness.

But the words that really grip me in the definition above are "unenthusiastic, tepid".  Yikes.  Do I want those words to describe me in any aspect of my life?  Absolutely not.

Jesus has a strong word for people who are lukewarm for Him.  In Revelation 3:16 He says, "So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth."

I recently saw another quote that read, "The single greatest cause of Atheism today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and deny Him by their lifestyle."

The single greatest cause.  Let that soak in awhile.

With the explosion on social media of everyone's thoughts and opinions on every topic under the sun, my spirit can easily get sucked in.  And not just that.  Friends and family can have influence over my life too and it's not always positive.  Gossip and rumors seep in to conversations, discontention arises, so on and so forth.  And while I always try to rise above, I confess that sometimes I really struggle. If we're honest, all of us do.  If you don't think so, you may want to ask God to examine your heart.

I write all of this to say that I've been heavily burdened by this lately and I recently had a breakthrough.  In reading 2 Corinthians 6:17a, the apostle Paul writes, ""Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord."  What a healing word this was to my soul.  I do not have to conform to what anyone thinks I should conform to.  God says I am to be separate and He will welcome me (v.17b).  He calls me His daughter and He tells me that He will cleanse me from every burden I carry if I will only come to Him and talk to Him about it (2 Cor 7:1, 1 John 1:9).  What a loving Father.  He always knows just how to light my fire.

 Image result for he restores my soul'

My soul feels refreshed.  He always provides light and a way.  He reminds me that it's good to be different because that's who He called me to be.  I don't need to worry about acceptance because I am acceptable to Him.  Maybe you needed this word too.  Maybe you feel rejected or burdened because you sometimes don't know where you fit in or are welcome.  And maybe it's all made you feel a little lukewarm.  Good news!  God always has His arms open to us, ready to welcome and receive us no matter how far we've strayed or what we've done.  And it's a warm, rich embrace.  Amen and amen.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sweet Sufferings

I have so many posts that have been in my head (and I've been HORRIBLE about posting), but this is one that keeps pressing me with urgency.  Maybe it's because of all the heartache all around me.  Whether it be breakups, loneliness, divorce, miscarriage, infertility, death, any kind of heartache - I want to encourage you that you are not alone and you are loved.  You are loved more than you can imagine.  I was gifted with a glimpse of this love and my mind can't comprehend it.

After your season of suffering, God in all His grace will restore, confirm, strengthen & establish you. 1 Peter 5:10:

If you belong to Jesus, your suffering is never in vain.  He showed me that through my years of infertility struggles.  Our suffering will never be greater than God's comfort.  He is the Father of compassion. 

Rest assured, your pain is for a purpose.  According to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, "...the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."  This means suffering connects us to other people in a way no other experience can.  No one gets it quite like someone who has been there.  The purpose for your pain may be that you are supposed to walk through it in order to help someone else who will be going through it later. 

Suffering also creates in us a patient endurance that might not have been there prior.  In fact, I'm 99.9% sure that it wasn't.  Patience is born out of waiting.  And sometimes that waiting is painful.  I love Romans 5:3-5 where Paul says, "And not only this, but we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

Tribulations -> Perseverance -> Proven Character -> Hope -> God's Love
You like my little illustration there?  The end result in God's love.  He loves you through it all, but I don't think you can clearly see it when you're in the depths of it.  Hold tight,  When you make it to the other side...ahh, what a glorious view!  He loves us SO MUCH.  He loves us so much, in fact, that He often times saves us from what we think we want because He has something better.  

Nothing teaches you obedience quite like waiting.  Isn't that how we train our puppies?  Sit. Stay. Good boy!  Not that God speaks to us like that, by any means.  It's just an illustration of how obeying yields rewards.  I feel like God's talking to us is more like, "Be still.  Calm down.  Don't fight me.  I've got this.  If you would just be quiet, I will fight this for you.  I love you and I'm going to do what's best for you." in the calmest, most assuring, loving voice you've ever heard.  I know I've spoken those words to my precious Emmeline as she's battled me during nap time.  She's flailed and screamed and I knew what was best for her as I tried to gently soothe her and rock her to sleep.  But she could be relentless!  Isn't that just how we are?  Exodus 14:14 and Psalm 46:10 truly came alive to me in the person of my little bity baby.  And I could see clearly how I learned to stop, be still, wait, and listen as I waiting during my trial.

Sufferings can bring us to the end of ourselves.  But it's not THE end...because there's Jesus, arms open wide.  He's waiting this whole time.  Suffering can shift our reliance from being on ourselves to relying on God.  What a sweet release that is when you finally surrender.  Again, I love Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 where he says, ""My grace (Jesus' grace) is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."  Powerful.  Weakness is actually a gift from God.  It's His way of reminding us that we don't have to do this alone.  He's got this.  He loves us, listens to us, and will work everything together for the good of those who believe in Him. (Romans 8:28)

 2 Corinthians 12:9. Literally just wrote tho sin my journal this morning.:

Let your heart be encouraged.  You are never alone.  You are loved more than you can imagine and every little thing is going to be okay.