I’m Engaged!!!

For those of you living in a cave...we got snow in Texas this week!  REAL snow!  A lot of it!  Yes, it only lasted one night but it was purely magical.  The electricity in my apartment went out so I had to go over to William's.  The living room was completely dark except for the light from his Christmas tree.  He asked me to come and dance with him (which, in and of itself, was nothing too out of the ordinary).  But, the song that he had chosen for us to dance to was "Lady in Red" which just so happens to be my favorite love song.  When the song was over, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.  I had to laugh at first because out of nervousness he accidentally opened the box upside down.  My response was an immediate, "Yes!"  

This man has seen me at my best and at my worst and has loved me through all of it.  He is, by far, the most patient human being on the planet.  Anyone who can sit down and do homework with a hormonal 13 year old girl and ACTUALLY get it accomplished with no frustration has super powers that I just do not possess.  We have something that is beyond explanation...just a way of understanding and protecting each other that is just beyond comprehension.  I am so blessed to be loved by this man and his beautiful (also 13 year old) daughter.  

After all of the craziness that the last 3-4 years of my life have handed me, I can honestly say that I haven't felt the amount of peace and pure bliss than I feel when I am with him in a very long time.  He helped me to find ME again.  God is so good and gives good things to his children...even when they don't deserve them.  

I hope this post will help those of you who need some encouragement and hope that God really does have this and is waiting to bless you beyond your wildest dreams.  I have been in the trenches just where you may be right now.  Please read this and know that this isn't how it will always be.  God loves you and has wonderful things in store for you.  

I am sending all the love and encouragement within me to all of you!

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Guard Your Heart

"Above all else, guard your heart,                                                                    for everything you do flows from it."

                                                                           Proverbs 4:23

Relationships are tricky.  People are flawed.  Our hearts are easily manipulated and sometimes even forced into denial by our own thoughts.  So, with the understanding that there is no such thing as a perfect relationship...friendship, romantic, family, or otherwise...how do we truly know how to guard our hearts and discern between imperfect but healthy relationships and unhealthy toxic ones?  The answer...Ask yourself if you reflect God's love towards one another.  Sure, that sounds very simplistic but honestly, how many of us have considered that and still ignored the red flags that God has made clear to us?

Proverbs 4:23 shares the wisdom of God in relation to our hearts but 1 Corinthians 13 breaks it down for us and helps us to actually apply it to our own lives.  

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Godly Relationship

  • Practices Patience
  • Treats Each Other with Kindness
  • Finds Joy in Each Other's Blessings & Successes
  • Stays Humble
  • Gives Unselfishly
  • Slow to Become Angry with One Another
  • Doesn't Hold Grudges
  • Trusts One Another
  • Believes the Best In Each Other
  • Endures Hardships Together

Toxic Relationship

  • Frequently Get Impatient with One Another
  • Isn't Considerate of Each Other's Feelings
  • Jealous of the Other's Successes and Blessings
  • Prideful - Doesn't Easily Admit Wrongdoings - Arrogant
  • Only Thinks About What Will Benefit Them - Doesn't Consider Others' Needs
  • Easily Angered or Annoyed 
  • Holds Grudges/Doesn't Forgive Easily
  • Suspicious and Untrusting of One Another
  • Assume the Worst of Each Other
  • Abandons the Relationship when Things Get Difficult or When It No Longer Suits Their Desires

Obviously we all struggle with less than admirable personality traits but look at these lists from a bird's-eye view.  Are these things the "banner", so to speak, of your relationship.  Are they constants?  If you are in a relationship right now that just doesn't feel quite right to you, I urge you to pray hard over these lists and ask God to speak to you through your intuition.  He gave it to you for a reason.  I like to think of it as His still, small voice.  I, myself, have CHOSEN to turn away from that voice in the past and even though it would have been excruciatingly painful to walk away from the toxic people in my life, I know now that it would have been a small sacrifice in comparison to where those relationships landed me.  God does not desire unhealthy relationships for us...no matter how much we may love the other person.  He ALWAYS has something...SOMEONE he wants to bless you with that is so much more than you could have ever chosen for yourself.  Unfortunately, we sometimes take the long way around to find them.

10 Crazy Things I’m Thankful For

I'm hardly ever wrong (insert eye roll here). So, imagine my surprise when I found myself thanking William for being stubborn early on in our relationship and not letting me get away with having things my own way and ending up making a serious error in judgement.  

This got me to thinking about Thanksgiving and how we are always thankful for the usual things like family and good health.  All great things to be thankful for but I think that there are some things in our lives that tend to get overshadowed by the typical blessings we have.

So, I decided to sit down and make a list of things that I am genuinely thankful to God for that might not otherwise be recognized:

  1. Rock Bottom
    • Hitting rock bottom not only causes you to seriously wake up and re-evaluate your choices in life but it also has the added benefit of truly showing you who you can REALLY count on when the going gets tough...and makes you value those relationships all the more.
  2. Challenges
    • You never know who you really are and how strong you can actually be until life throws lemon grenades at your face.
  3. Waiting
    • I had one of the longest nights of my life a few months back and although I would NEVER want to go through that again, I can honestly say that it really did help me to realize that I can endure, overcome, and know that "this too shall pass", as all things do.
  4. Mistakes
    • Like it or not, none of us are perfect.  When you take a step back and really consider all of the mistakes you have made in your life it helps you to check your ego at the door and genuinely empathize with those around you...and help them in ways that no one else could.
  5. Intuition
    • My mistakes have forced me to listen to my intuition, REALLY listen.  I am now better able to discern whether or not I am in a healthy situation - instead of ignoring it and diving off of a cliff - AGAIN.
  6. Being a Night Owl
    • Being a morning person is so overrated (sorry dad).  I do my best thinking, planning, organizing and writing in the middle of the night...just note the time I posted this.
  7. Allergies
    • Bet you thought I went off the rails with this one.  However, this past weekend is the very reason I am so thankful.  Bella, Elayna, and I were suffering from allergies which then motivated us to do nothing but stay in and play board games and watch movies together.  It also may have had the added benefit of being waited on hand and foot by a pretty cute guy I happen to have a crush on.  
  8. Really, REALLY Ornery Dogs
    • Milo is absolutely the cutest and most aggravating dog on the planet.  He has been known to stare at us in the eye AS he starts to pee on the floor and I'm convinced that it's just out of spite.  But, along with this comes a great deal of humor and a smidge of forced self-discipline to take him out regularly...or to at least have Bella and Elayna do it.
  9. Not Getting What You Want
    • God knows us better than we even know ourselves and we end up with more than we could have ever hoped for - in a much deeper and lasting way.
  10. Stubborn People
    • You know who you are.  I'm talking about the people in your life who aren't afraid to call you on your crap and make you look in a mirror.  I'm not talking about the haters.  "Haters gonna hate." Proverbs 9:8  I'm talking about those people who love you enough to talk TO you instead of talk ABOUT you...and keep doing it until something sinks in.  

Who God Created Us to Be – Our Relationships

Now that we know our strengths and our skills, we can finally determine WHO we are called to serve.  We may very well have the same gifts and talents as the person sitting next us but that doesn't mean that we are called to use them to serve the same purpose or people.  Who do you find that you gravitate toward and feel passionate about blessing?

The author splits our relationships into 3 categories:

  • Heart Relationships - Your inner circle; those with who you can truly share who you are.  Some family and your closest friends will be in this category.
  • Personal Relationships - More casual relationships; these people share your life in your neighborhood, church, work, family, etc.
  • Functional Relationships - Very casual relationships; your interactions have a practical purpose.  These would be your acquaintances.

"It's normal for our relationships to fluctuate in different seasons of life."  Try to think of certain people for each one of the categories I listed above.  This can be a good indication of who you tend to be especially drawn to.  I, for example, find myself always wanting to be a part of Women's Ministry events.  I feel drawn to women my age and a little younger who are doing their very best to find themselves (and some sanity) in this crazy world we live in.  I know where I've been and I love having the ability to empathize and relate to them in a way that lets them know they aren't alone.  I feel like I am at my best when I am surrounded with opportunities to do just that.  

Who has God given you a soft spot in your heart for?  It's important to remember that this can change and adapt throughout your life, as you change and grow.  And that's ok!  Don't pigeon hole yourself and risk burnout.  If you feel God leading you in another direction from where you are now, pray about it and let the Holy Spirit lead you where He may.  Someone once told me, in regards to ministry, "If you don't move out of the way from a place that you no longer feel is right, you are robbing someone else of fulfilling their God-given purpose."  I think that is so so true.  

Your homework:

  • What individuals or groups do you feel especially drawn to?
  • Who has God placed in your life during THIS season for you to serve?

"Your strengths + your skills + who you are called to serve = Making a difference in the world in your own amazing way."

I Want to Be My Daughter When I Grow Up

It has been a week! Sorry I missed my post last week. Bella's birthday was on Sunday and we took her and some friends to the mall to go shopping. And then, this past weekend my sweet boyfriend took me on an amazing date downtown and gave me a promise ring. I know. That sounds very high school. But, he knows me and all of my past and that was his way of telling me how committed he is to me and Bella without taking things too far too soon. I just love him. He is genuinely one of the sweetest guys on the planet.

One of the things that happened this week that weighed on me so much was a conversation that Bella and I had on Wednesday night on our way home from choir practice/youth group. She asked me about why her dad and I split up. I tried really hard to dance around it until she said, "You know I already know, right?" Ugh. A ton of bricks fell into my stomache. This conversation was happening about 10 years sooner than I would have liked. Now, I'm not going to go into all of the details on here because, well, that is personal family business. But, I will tell you that kids know WAY more than we give them credit for. She hit the nail on the head. She knew ALL of the mistakes that I had made...and she forgave me for them. I'm not saying that I am completely to blame for our divorce but I was certainly not an angel. She has seen it all and was very honest about her feelings. But, not once did she condemn me for my shortcomings. This child who just turned 13 was able to process some very grown up issues and responded with such grace that I was left completely speechless. William was waiting for us when we got home. So, as we got out of the car, all she said was, "Mom, I don't think any less of you. If anything, I think more of you because you were honest with me and didn't treat me like a child. Thank you for our relationship." What? My goodness. God is GOOD. I have been dreading that conversation for so long and God just took it and made our relationship stronger because of it. He used my weaknesses to make my relationship with my daughter even stronger. Wow!

Ok. I promise that I will get back to our book/Bible study on Sunday. But, I just wanted to share that with all of you because I think that we, as mothers, tend to stress over not being perfect for our children. We somehow think that our mistakes are going to screw them up for life. God is so much bigger than our poor choices. He takes our mistakes and brings good out of them. NEVER forget that. Forgive yourselves and let God do what he does best...weave miracles into our crazy messed up lives!

Who God Created Us to Be – Our Skills

Now that we know what our strengths are, the next question is, "What do we do with them?"

Skill: "A strength expressed in a specific way that builds up others and benefits the kingdom."

In this chapter, the author makes a FANTASTIC biblical reference from Exodus.  This verse is describing a craftsman who was chosen to work on the tabernacle.  God says, "I have chosen Bezalel, the son of Uri.  Uri is the son of Hur.  Bezalel is from the tribe of Judah.  I have filled him with the Spirit of God. I have filled Bezalel with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge, and with all kinds of skill.  He can make beautiful patterns in gold, silver, and bronze.  He can cut and set stones.  He can work with wood.  In fact, he can work in all kinds of crafts." Exodus 31:2-5

This verse reminds me of a conversation I had with someone I care about very much just this week.  He is an artist.  A great one at that.  He was finding himself getting discouraged because he was trying to fill out an application for his dream job as an art teacher at a Christian school and he couldn't find the right words to describe why he wanted to work there and be a teacher.  So, I sat down with him and we talked about it for a little while and I typed as I listened to him explain his passion for the very skills that God had filled him with.  I was able to type up exactly what he wanted to express and it made him feel inadequate.  What I said to him next is something that I want ALL of you to hear.  "Don't base your self-worth on other people's skills."  Those little things that you do that SEEM so simple to you...aren't simple for everyone.  I can barely draw a good stick figure and he was convincing himself that he wasn't worthy of a job as an art teacher just because he couldn't find the right words to put on an application?  Can you imagine if the craftsman that God had chosen to work on the tabernacle had let something like not being eloquent with words keep him from fulfilling his purpose?  God blessed you with your individual skills for a reason.  Sometimes it's to fulfill your divine calling and sometimes it's to help someone else to fulfill theirs.  We are ALL so beautifully unique!

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  - Albert Einstein

Ok.  Now, what are YOUR strengths?

  • Acting
  • Adapting
  • Administering
  • Advising
  • Analyzing
  • Appreciating
  • Art
  • Assembling
  • Believing
  • Building
  • Challenging
  • Cleaning
  • Collaborating
  • Cooking
  • Communicating
  • Connecting
  • Constructing
  • Coordinating
  • Counseling
  • Creating
  • Decorating
  • Evaluating
  • Expressing
  • Growing
  • Guiding
  • Helping
  • Imagining
  • Influencing
  • Initiating
  • Leading
  • Listening
  • Maintaining
  • Managing
  • Motivating
  • Negotiating
  • Nurturing
  • Organizing
  • Persevering
  • Planning
  • Prioritizing
  • Problem-solving
  • Protecting
  • Relating
  • Researching
  • Responding
  • Risk-taking
  • Serving
  • Sharing
  • Speaking
  • Supporting
  • Teaching
  • Training
  • Writing
  • *Add your own

Your homework:

  1. Identify AT LEAST 3 of your top skills.  What are you doing when people compliment you and you can't quite understand why they think it's a big deal?
  2. Connect your strengths with your skills.  The author uses what she calls "skills circles".  She says, "Put one of your strengths in the middle of a big circle then smaller circles around the edge represent the skills related to that strength.  The size of each circle is related to how much you express that strength through the skill."

Who God Created Us to Be – Our Strengths

Last week I really wanted to focus on embracing our shortcomings and freeing ourselves from our insecurities so that we can really move forward this week and discover our God-given strengths.  Sometimes we don't even recognize our own strengths without first going through trials and pain.  Remember what I said last week, "Pain brings purpose!"  If you need to go back and read 2 Corinthians 12:9 to really hear God's words about that then please do so.  It is absolutely key!

There are two points that the author, Holley Gerth, made in this first chapter that I really want you to remember:

  1. "We are closest to and most like Jesus [not another person in our lives that seems to have it all together] when we are fully being who HE created us to be."
  2. "You will not thrive, fulfill your God-given purpose, or offer what only YOU can if you don't know who you are."

Embrace this process and remind yourself daily that it IS a process.  Be patient with yourself.

Ok.  Now, onto the fun part...what are the strengths that God has uniquely blessed you with?

STRENGTH: "A personal characteristic that can be used on behalf of God in service to others."

The author emphasizes the importance of asking ourselves specific questions when determining what our true strengths are:

Service: Does it help me serve God and others?

Time: Has it been present throughout much of my life?

Relationships: Do others see this?

Energy: Do I feel energized when I'm living this way?

Natural: Does this come naturally to me most of the time? Or do I know God has intentionally developed this in me even if it doesn't?

Glory: Does God ultimately get the glory from it?

Trials: Even in hard times, does it usually come through somehow?

Heart: Does this really feel like a core part of who I am?

After keeping these questions in mind, take a look at the list below and write down the ones that you feel apply to you:

 

  • Adventurous
  • Analytical
  • Athletic
  • Brave
  • Calm
  • Capable
  • Caring
  • Cheerful
  • Considerate
  • Courageous
  • Creative
  • Dedicated
  • Determined
  • Devoted
  • Easygoing
  • Efficient
  • Empathetic
  • Encouraging
  • Energetic
  • Fair
  • Flexible
  • Forgiving
  • Friendly
  • Frugal
  • Funny
  • Gentle
  • Gracious
  • Hardworking
  • Helpful
  • Honest
  • Hospitable
  • Imaginative
  • Intelligent
  • Loving
  • Loyal
  • Mature
  • Organized
  • Positive
  • Protective
  • Reflective
  • Reliable
  • Resilient
  • Resourceful
  • Responsible
  • Sensitive
  • Servant-hearted
  • Social Skills
  • Spontaneous
  • Supportive
  • Thoughtful
  • Trustworthy
  • Warm
  • Wise
  • *Add your own

Now for your homework assignment:

  1. Identify AT LEAST 3 of your top strengths.  How has God used each one in your life?
  2. Remember that having weaknesses in certain areas actually helps us be stronger in others. 
    • "Strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:9
    • What weaknesses do you wish you didn't have?
    • In what ways could they actually help you develop your strengths?

Introduction: Who God Created Us to Be

Ok.  So I have decided to start doing my blog posts every Sunday.  There is just something about going to church and having everything that the Holy Spirit has laid on my heart during the church service that makes what he has to say through me on here even sweeter.

Secondly, as I went through this week's study, I found myself wanting to really spend some time reflecting on some really important things that I think we all need to let soak in before moving forward too quickly.  So, this study may actually end up lasting longer than I had originally anticipated.

The first part of the chapter of "You're Already Amazing" starts off talking about how important it is that we figure out who God created each one of us to be, individually.  I am going to quote several key things that the author said in these chapters because they really resonated with me.

The first point she made that really struck me was when she said, " Being disconnected from who you really are leads to depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, and a host of other troubles...Being free from insecurity allows us to serve and offer the world what only we can."  Ladies, this includes not just our strengths, but also our weaknesses...and yes, even our mistakes and failures.  God allows these things in your life to show you who you are and who your are NOT created to be.  Don't be tempted to be like someone else who you perceive to have it all together.  Because, guess what...THEY DON'T.  The enemy wants us to strive to be like ANYONE but Jesus...and he emphasizes their highlight reels to us to do just that.

Pain brings purpose!  Our pastor read us a letter from someone he received a while back this morning during his sermon and one sentence hit me like a ton of bricks.  This person said to him, "I am so grateful to you for your pain."  WOW!  2 Corinthians 12: 9 states, "“My grace is sufficient for you [My loving-kindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.”Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me."  God knew even what our weaknesses would be when he created us and made a plan for our lives that was and is customized for each one of us, individually.  Without our weaknesses how could we relate to the struggles of others...and help them through it?

"You created every part of me;
    you put me together in my mother's womb.
 I praise you because you are to be feared;
    all you do is strange and wonderful.
    I know it with all my heart.
 When my bones were being formed,
    carefully put together in my mother's womb,
when I was growing there in secret,
    you knew that I was there—
   you saw me before I was born.
The days allotted to me
    had all been recorded in your book,
    before any of them ever began."

Psalm 139:13-16

I wanted to end here for the first week because it is SUCH a great introduction for where I want your mindset to be before you move forward on this journey of discovering WHO God lovingly and purposely created you to be...warts and all.  He uses it ALL in ways you could never even imagine.

My homework for you this week is to think back on your life and begin to realize the ways in which God has used your pain and your struggles to bring about blessings in your and other people's lives...and then thank him for his mysterious ways...and really begin to TRUST that he's got this!

 

You’re Already Amazing

I have recently set some personal goals for myself and one of them happens to be to start writing my blog more consistently.  I just got done going through a wonderful book/Bible study by Holley Gerth called "You're Already Amazing".  It's all about finding your personal identity in who God created you to be.  It is fantastic!  So fantastic, in fact, that I decided to use it as a tool to keep me on track with my blogs and to share it with all of you.

So, starting next week I am going to be facilitating a study based on her book through my blog.  If any of you would like to join me, let me know by commenting below or on Facebook.   I think you will find it to be extremely insightful.  I will cover one chapter each week.  I plan to only summarize the information that she gives.  So please get yourself a copy so you can follow along and get the most out of it.  I have included a link to where you can purchase it from Amazon.

http://a.co/4YMdSEc

I hope you can all join me over the next six weeks.  I am looking forward to it!