What Can Be Stronger than God’s Law?

Tonight I asked the question, "God, WHY are you blessing me even though I blatantly sinned against you...in so many ways?"  The answer I received..."Because, my sweet Edelweiss, (which I'll explain in another post) my grace, love, and mercy are SO much greater and bigger than the laws I have placed upon you.  My darling, I put those laws in place to protect you, not to hold you under my thumb."  This was eye-opening to me. Am I free to fully accept the blessing of this new marriage, of this new chapter of my life without the chains of feeling guilty over the sins I have severely sinned against my Father, who CLEARLY revealed his will for my life, through His word?  

As my sweet fiancée reminded me of, "Darling, we don't deserve His salvation, but He gave us that. Why would He not give us each other?"  THESE are the words of a man who exudes the Spiritual leadership and wisdom that I have so deperately longed for.

Think about that.  Meditate on that.  Yes, God's laws were expressed to us for a reason...not to be legalistically binded to, but to protect us from the troubles that we cause for ourselves in this life; and once we have received the mercy of Christ's salvation in our lives, to guide us through His mercy and grace...and to share this kind of love and mercy to others, so that they will come to know Him as we do.  He is first, and foremost, our Father. We are His children and He wants NOTHING more than to express His love and compassion to us so we can show it to others so that THEY may be able to rest in it, as we have.

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God is GOOD!!!

Hey there! I know it's been a while. I'm not gonna lie...I got carried away (swept off my feet) by a GREAT guy! In fact, we will be geting married on July 1st.

God is SO freaking good. All I expected was punishment for divorcing my husband, and yet, God has blessed me anyway. That is how God our Father is. Like the Prodigal Son, he throws a feast for us and welcomes us back with open, loving arms...and a FEAST of blessings. I spent a lot of time trying to plan my life the way that I wanted it to go. And, because of that, I dealt with a bushel FULL of heartache and sadness. And then all of a sudden, God placed me in a position at a church where I was able to find rest and support...and then my sweet Daniel came along. You guys, I DO NOT deserve this man...and yet God has blessed me with him anyway. I tell him all the time that he is a living, breathing manifestation of God's grace and mercy and love towards me. I have made SO MANY mistakes over the past 3 years...they are innumerable. But, our Father took me by the hand and led me to this man who is a TRUE spiritual leader and who loves me in a way that I have never known...as I do him. The deep love that I have for him is one that only God can provide. He is my "forever". He knows EVERY single mistake I have made and he loves me in spite of all of them. He sees ME and who I want to be. That is beyond my comprehension. I genuinely love him with everything that I am...and if you knew all of the ugly details of my past...that is saying A LOT!

What I want you to take away from this post is this...it does not matter how many horrible decisions you have made or how guilty you feel for things that you have done wrong...our Father is waiting to run to you and throw you a feast...just as you are. All you have to do is come back to him.

New Beginnings

So, as I'm sure you could already tell, my blog was down for a while. There was a technical glitch but, I let Christmas kidnap me and hold me hostage for a bit so, I just didn't get around to fixing it.  Not that I am complaining.  I have all of the symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to Christmas.  But, alas, it has passed and here I am.

I've been spending a lot of time reflecting over the past year and just how much has changed in my life.  I live in a completely different part of town, have a whole new group of friends, I am living alone (with the exception of my daughter) for the first time in 17 years, I have a whole new career, and I am single and dating. I even know how to swing dance and do the tango now.  How much change can one person pack into a year?  My goodness.  Change is scary.  Really scary.  But, I can honestly say that I am exactly where God wants me at this point in my life and He just keeps refining me, through my circumstances, into the person He knows I am in Him.  

I am truly in awe of how much he has blessed me and taught me in the past year.  There are two major lessons that He has impressed upon me over and over again that I want to share with you because I may not have these lessons down yet, but thank God that He has not left me where I used to be.  

  1. I am not responsible for other people's choices and emotional well-being.  Take a second and think about that.  I mean, REALLY think about that. Once that sinks in, it's life changing.  I have spent WAY too much time tying myself into knots about those two things.  It is scary how easy it is to fall into that way of thinking.  We all want the people that we love to be happy.  But, it becomes unhealthy when their happiness becomes your responsibility.  I'm not even good at being responsible for my own happiness, how in the world am I supposed to be responsible for everyone else's happiness?  This is not to say that we shouldn't ever take responsibility for mistakes that we've made that have caused them pain. We should love everyone as we love ourselves.  But, I think that is where we get confused. We assume that loving ourselves means that we do anything and everything possible to be happy all the time.  That is NOT what the scripture means.  Sometimes, loving ourselves means making really hard choices that may hurt like hell but we know are for the best. Loving the people in our lives does not mean that we exhaust ourselves trying to keep them as happy as possible.  It means that we consider them and what is best for them and love them accordingly.
  2. This is the most important lesson I've learned this year; choosing to believe that God really does love me as I am and not as I should be.  I have made some TERRIBLE decisions in the past that I am not proud of.  I even allowed my mistakes to define me for a while.  In fact, for far too long.  Open your Bible and really take notice of God's love, forgiveness, and ability to use the most dysfunctional people in the world.  Allowing myself to be defined by my poor choices is, in essence, not accepting our Savior's biggest sacrifice for us.  We treat it as though it was all for naught.  The ENTIRE reason God sacrificed his son was to release us from being identified by our inability to be "good enough", just so that we can spend eternity with him no matter what we've done. THAT is how much he loves us.

I know that I have already posted this video in one of my previous blogs, but it seems as though that post got lost in the glitch and it is the essence of what I am talking about. So, here it is once more.  

Happy New Year everyone!  Here's to new beginnings with God's unfailing grace and love.

Self-Care Friday: Just Say No

I seem to be meeting myself coming and going these days.  As proof of this, notice that I am writing this "Friday" blog post on Saturday morning at 2am...so, it is as much for myself as it is for all of you.  Learning to "just say no" is so much easier said than done.  I am a natural people-pleaser so this is a difficult one for me.  But, with all of that said, just because something is difficult does not mean it isn’t completely worth it. 

We are not obligated to make everyone happy all the time.  God calls for us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  But, I think that we tend to take that Scripture out of context.  We must also remember that the first part of this Scripture states, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”  If we are spending all of our time over-extending ourselves by saying “yes” to every request asked of us…or obligation that we put onto ourselves, we are leaving very little time, concentration, energy, or rest in order to spend time with our Father. 

galations1-10

So, with this epiphany, I have decided to make some much needed changes in how I schedule my time.  For instance, I have marked 3 days out of next week as “no” time.  I am going to spend those days resting…not necessarily just physically.  I am going to mentally rest and spend quiet time with God so that I can get my mind back to where it needs to be...free of stress and any other thoughts that distract me from resting in Him.  This may sound hokey, and maybe even impossible, especially given how fast-paced our culture is and how easy it is to neglect our relationship with the one who created us.  So, just to prove it to you that it is possible and also to keep myself accountable, I present my calendar…

calendar

* P.S. Yes, I AM having a hot tub night on Friday.  It's also considered self-care.  But, that's another post for another time.

God is not wanting busy work from us, He is wanting US.  He wants to spend time walking with us as he did with Adam through the garden or with Moses, sitting on the mountain top for 40 days.  Jesus spent time in thoughtful conversation with his disciples and his followers.  He also took time to get away by himself to reconnect and meditate on His Father, our Father. 

I want to challenge you to take some time to “just say no” and take a brain break and rest in God.  I promise you, it will be totally worth it.   

Social Hangover Survival Kit

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am an introvert.  I love me some alone time.  So, it's only natural that after a week that includes Thanksgiving with family and friends, my daughter being home from school and with me 24/7, and all other types of major social interactions, I would be suffering from what I like to call a "Social Hangover" .  I am currently writing this blog from my "Bubble of Bliss" and it inspired me to help you to survive your own Social Hangovers, if ever needed.  

I had to have surgery about a month ago (nothing serious) and part of the recovery process requires me to spend 5 days a week sitting inside of a Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber for 2 hours at a time.  It has a whole lot of really cool health benefits and it also happens to be an introvert's dream!!!  I also feel like a badass because they have to ask if I brought any of my hand grenades or other flammable weapons every time I come in.  I always reassure them that they are safely locked away in my locker in the dressing room.  (One can never be too careful.)  I even get my very own Gatekeeper of Sanity.  He stands guard over me and protects me from those who might dare approach my chamber with weapons or small talk. I have knighted him, Sir John the Valiant.

sir-john-the-valiant

He also provides me with entertainment during my time in there.  Today, he showed me a documentary called, "Finders Keepers".  If you have never seen it, I highly recommend it.  I'll sum it up for you.  A guy got his leg amputated, chose to store it in his BBQ pit...in his storage unit.  He then forgot to pay his monthly fees for said storage unit and the man who bought all of his items in an auction became the proud new owner of a human leg...and refused to give it back!  Because, you know, he might need a spare one day?!?  A law suit ensued (see what I did there?) and a documentary was born.  It was epic.  Good times were had by all.  I promise I am telling you all of this for a reason.

I now present you with everything you will need in order to survive your next Social Hangover...

Social Hangover Survival Kit: 

  1. A Hyperbaric Chamber, a very large hamster ball, or a secret portal to Narnia...whatever is most accessible to you.  No need to stress over this choice too much.
  2. A bucket FULL of stress balls for you to throw at people, as you see fit, throughout the day.  Whoever invented the stress ball should be given an award.  Nailing people with those really is quite cathartic.
  3. Junk Food.  "Why yes, I HAVE had snack cakes, bacon, and Diet Coke for every meal today.  You have a comment about that?  Here, let me show you my new basket of stress balls."
  4. Ridiculous entertainment that makes you feel better about your life and the people in it.  I mean, at least I'm not being sued by someone for cuddling with his amputated leg every night and then refusing to give it back.  I seriously plan to run all of my responses to every frustration in my life through that filter from this point on.  I think it's really going to help.
  5. This sweater... introvert-sweater Need I say more?

Ok.  I think I have fully prepared you.  Now, go out and share your new found wisdom with others.  Just one piece of advice...send them an email.  You will probably never get past their Gatekeeper of Sanity without that approach.

 

Self-Care Friday: Routine

If there is anything that I have learned over the past year, it is that it is SO SO important to make sure you are checking in on your own personal health on a regular basis.  It is all too easy to forget to stay on top of that when our world feels like we are in a whirlwind. 

I seem to be a bit of a walking contradiction when it comes to this first "Self-Care" suggestion.  Routine.  I can be the most organized OCD person on the planet with some things and let other things completely fall to the wayside.  The key to making it work FOR you is to find what actually does work for you.  That sounds so simplistic but we tend to take the status quo as a one size fits all way of doing anything and everything.  It works for them so why isn't it working for me?  Because you aren't them!  You are truly unique…through and through.  God doesn't make exact copies of anything.  With all of that said, I have come to find some ways of creating routine for myself that are completely customizable. 

  1. Prioritize the things in your life that are genuinely going to baby step you towards your big picture goals of your healthiest and most fulfilling daily lifestyle.  Don't just SAY that you want to start eating healthier, getting more exercise, take more quiet time for yourself, or learn something new.  Make actual simple daily steps that will help you to get there.  If you just focus on the big picture, you are going to completely overwhelm yourself.  A good friend of mine takes some time every month to write down 3 goals that she would like to achieve by the end of that month and then she will figure out small things that she can do daily that will enable her to accomplish each one of them.  Start small.  Not all changes have to be major and immediate.  Small, daily progress is going to be much more attainable and satisfying for you in the long run.
  2. Find a way of keeping you on track every.single.day.  Keep yourself accountable to your dreams and ambitions.  How do you best remember things?  What is most natural for you?  I mean, do you prefer electronic calendars and checklists or do you, like me, prefer to write everything down?  It doesn't matter what method you use…as long as it works for you.  I have attached below my free printable routine tracker that I use.  
  3. Find the time and schedule it.  I am notorious for saying that I don't have time for this or that.  But, the truth is usually that I am choosing to spend my free time on things that have zero lasting value.  Please don't misinterpret what I am saying here, though.  This in NO WAY means that every single moment of every single day needs to be filled with busy work.  Not at all.  In fact, doing that would completely undermine your personal health.  For instance, I have generalized anxiety.  So, I have a bubble bath on my daily agenda for every single night before I go to bed.  My bathroom is completely decorated and accessorized with every single calming and relaxing element you can possibly imagine.  (I have designated it as my "Fortress of Solitude".)  There are candles everywhere..scented and non-scented, bath salts in pretty containers, lavender bath oil, special "Bubble Bath" music, etc.  This helps me to wind down from the day and helps to relax my body and my mind before heading to bed where I then have my quiet time with God and go to sleep.  This small change in my routine has done WONDERS for my mental and spiritual health. 
  4. Chores.  I know.  This doesn't exactly sound like it should be anywhere in the realm of a discussion on relaxing and unwinding.  But, actually scheduling out regular chores to do, for you AND your kids will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed when you walk in the door at night to a home that is a COMPLETE nightmare.  And hear me on this, EVERY family member should be helping with this.  There is no confusion as to who is in charge of getting what done.  It is up to you how you manage the rewards, etc. for completing chores well.  I will say that I use an app on my phone that helps me to keep track of all of that and reminds me of how much I owe my daughter every week based on the things she checked off of her list. 
  5. Quiet time with God is essential.  This is last but far from the least.  I mentioned this one earlier.  I try to do it right after my bath and right before I go to bed.  This is one of the easiest to push aside and eventually get away from completely and yet it is the MOST important.  If the thought of trying to do a quiet time overwhelms you, Google different methods that people use in their devotional time with God.  Again, there is not a one size fits all approach to this.  I spent years thinking that if I didn't audibly speak my prayers to God that they wouldn't be heard or answered.  How silly is that?!?  I am a natural writer.  I think better when I write.  So, I now write out my prayers and it is SO cathartic for me.  Your relationship with God is supposed to be personal and fulfilling.  If you are just going through the motions by trying something that doesn't come naturally to the way God created you then you are not experiencing the relationship that God longs to have with you and you are completely depriving yourself of the single best blessing in your life.

I hope that some of these suggestions help you to find a way of making you feel just a little more in control of your own life so that you can relinquish even just a little bit of unneeded stress from your life.  If you have any tips or suggestions regarding routines, I would love to hear them.  I always hear new things that I have never considered and I love it so much when someone takes the time to share things with me that may impact me in positive ways.  Please feel free to leave them in the comments below. 

Thank you for taking the time to come and spend this time with me.  Every Friday I will be discussing new self-care ideas and inspiration so let me know if there are any areas that you might want me to cover and I would be happy to write about that and see if we can figure some ways to help you and probably everyone else.

Have a great weekend and I look forward to spending time with you again next week!

Weekly Planner
Weekly Planner

How to Become a Royal Mess – Part 2

Ok, let me start off by saying that I am sorry this second post has taken longer than I originally intended. LIFE.  Am I right?

Now, to the second part of my story.  The part where it gets good.  I’m honestly at a loss where to even begin.  I can honestly say that my life has been radically changed in so many ways over this past year that I could more easily count all the stars in the sky.  But, this has become my story, my ministry and I choose to be obedient to what God has called me to.  I am to be a light for others who are questioning where God is in the midst of their suffering and pain.  He is there.  Not only is He beside you the entire way, He has also gone before you and prepared your future in such an intricate way that beautifully intertwines your mistakes, your pain, your gifts and talents, your experiences and so many other details that you may never even realize into something beautiful.

I came out of that hospital an utterly broken person.  I could barely stand on my own two feet.  I had spent a good part of the prior year completely alienating myself from my family and other people who cared for me deeply.  And guess who was waiting for me with open arms on the other side of those hospital doors…all of them.  God has literally spent this entire past year loving me, taking care of me, giving me rest and healing me THROUGH different people in my life and their unique image of God himself.  There are so many facets and layers and characteristics of God’s love that they literally cannot be contained in one human being.

I was the very image of the "Prodigal Son" and God met me where I was at and lifted me off of the ground so that he could heal me, love on me, show me the depths of his forgiveness, and bestow on me a feast of blessings.  If I wrote the details of each and every blessing that He has given to me during this time, it would fill an entire book.  My sincere desire for you, as you read this, is that you will grasp just how LOVING and FORGIVING our Father truly is.  I had lied, betrayed people that I professed to love, only thought of myself and my own happiness, and so many other things that I had never realized I was capable of.  I lost people I loved and considered to be family because I didn't protect our frienships like I should have and God forgave me for ALL of that before I even forgave myself. 

Now, I said that I think in bullet points and this is the perfect place for them.  I now give you an EXTREMELY brief list of how God has loved me and blessed me over the past year:

  • FAMILY – As dysfunctional as families can be, when push came to shove, mine was there for me. They have walked with me and held me up when I couldn’t do it for myself more times than I can count.  Mom, Dad, Lesli…you have all been SUCH great examples to me of God’s infinite love and I can only hope that I have the opportunity to show that kind of love towards you one day.
  • Yes, my marriage DID fall apart. We both made mistakes and hurt one another deeply.  But, I can truly say that THROUGH that, God created a truly unique and deep friendship between us that is unwavering.  Mike is my BEST friend and I could not be more thankful for him as my best friend and as the father of our daughter.  He is honestly one of the best men that I know and I am grateful that we have the relationship that we do.
  • The DAY I was released from the hospital, I received and email from a pastor that my favorite professor from college (shout out to Dr. Craver!) referred to me for a position as Director of Family Ministry. After speaking to Dr. Craver and getting his encouragement to just meet with the pastor, I prayed A LOT and told God that I was just going to lay it all out on the table with him during my interview.  If the church chose to hire me anyway, I knew it had to be from Him.  Well, they did.  They hardly batted an eye and the blessings and lessons that have come from my experience as the Director of Family Ministry with them are innumerable.  I have formed some life-long friendships that were tailor made for exactly what God knew I needed.
  • My daughter, Bella, has been the most innocent victim of the fallout from the last couple of years and yet she has shown me more grace and strength than I could have ever given her credit for. She is the most forgiving, comforting, kind, and hilarious child I have ever known.  I am just plain blessed to be her mother.  Our relationship has grown by leaps and bounds through all of this and she has been a direct source of healing for me more than she will ever know.
  • One final blessing I will share:

God has shown me my purpose THROUGH my pain.  I am no longer the person I was a year ago.  I had to die to myself in order for him to form me into who he created me to be.  Would I ever want to experience that amount of pain EVER again?  No.  But, I can genuinely stand here today, on the other end of the tunnel, and tell you that it was COMPLETELY worth it.  I have peace that I have never known.  I have strength that I never thought I was capable of.  And I have an empathy for others who have found themselves in pits that they were thrown into or that they created themselves.

I am a MESS!  But, I am also the beloved daughter of the King of the Universe…and that make me a ROYAL mess.

How to Become a Royal Mess – Part 1

Exactly one year ago today I had a nervous breakdown and spent the next week in a psychiatric hospital.  I know that is a pretty blunt statement to start out with for my very first blog post but it is THE reason I decided to start blogging.  I don't want to hide who I was back then or the results of my poor choices in life because then God's blessings and his purpose for the pain would never be seen to fruition.  I don't know about you but if I am struggling with something that major, I want to talk to someone who can empathize and give me some hope from the other side of the tunnel.  So, this is what I hope this blog will be for you...a shining light to help you find your way out of that dark tunnel you may be in.  I get it.  I have been there.  

Don't worry, I am not going to drag you through all the many details of how everything I knew fell apart but you do need to know where I was at so you know that I was and still am, on occasion, a COMPLETE royal mess!  In the span of a year, I came close to dying in an emergency surgery, I became enmeshed in some EXTREMELY toxic friendships, I became an alcoholic, I was physically assaulted, and my marriage of 16 years fell apart.  Somehow I had made it through all of that but on this particular night, everything came to a head.  I made an extremely difficult decision that needed to be made but, unfortunately, it did not come without collateral damage.  The complete disdain and anger that I felt coming from someone who I loved very much but who I hurt as a result of my decision was the last straw.  I had hit rock bottom and the old me died that night.  

Ok, I want to take a little bit of an intercession here to give you a break from reading.  I am notorious for losing interest in blogs that go on and on.  I typically think in bullet points and, I promise, all future posts will be more short and to the point.  So, take a break and come on back tomorrow when you are no longer pulling your hair out from ALL THE WORDS.