Transparency is Where It’s At

Several people have asked me recently why I feel the need to be SO transparent in my blog posts...viewing it as "airing all of my dirty laundry".  I always have the same purposeful explanation in response.  I did not create my blog with the intent to show everyone some sort of distorted view of my life that is always sunshine and teddy bears.  I write it to show that we ALL struggle with our own personal issues BUT that there is someone else out there who knows how low life can get and who also knows that God ALWAYS finds a way to get you through it and teach you lessons that you never realized you needed to learn.

I HAVE had a very rough past few years but I have also learned a lot and have reaped more blessings, grace, and mercy from God than I could have ever experienced without going through the things I have.  I have met many Christians who put on a good front that their lives are picturesque and that they seem to have it all together.  I can tell you that when I have been in the deepest of my trenches, they were the LAST people I wanted to go to for refuge and advice.  That front does nothing but show others that they should be ashamed if they have struggles within their Christian walk with God.  Those types of Christians are not approachable or helpful in times of real struggles.

I have always had a heart for Women's Ministry.  It is THE reason I got my degree in Christian Ministry.  Sure, I may still be struggling with certain strongholds in my life but I also know the true depth of God's love, grace, and mercy and THAT is what I want others to see through my blog.  You can reach rock bottom but still be given hope that one day you too will get to a point of seeing the amazing Lord that we serve and just how personal and loving he is to each one of us.  He never wastes our pain and he never leaves us alone to drown in our strongholds.  Even when he seems silent, you will later see just what he was doing in those times of "silence".

If my transparency gives hope to even ONE person then it has all been completely worth it to me.  I've been through the trenches and I know your pain can sometimes feel as though it is going to last forever.  I am here to give you hope that "this too shall pass".  Not only will it pass but God WILL fight for you.  He is with you and FOR you.  Always.

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They Are Called Strongholds for a Reason

Romans 7:15-20

15 "I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it."

 

 

Ugh, strongholds...am I right?  The thing about them is that just when you think you've got them licked, Satan finds a way to worm them right back into your life.  Guys, I need prayer this week.  I am in a full on battle with myself.  I suffer from major anxiety and it seems to be getting the best of me lately.  I am in between health insurance right now so I have not been able to refill my normal prescription that helps to alleviate it.  Unfortunately, my stronghold when I get to this point, is to dull the anxiety with alcohol.  

A lot of people view alcoholism as something that can be controlled with mind over matter.  I wish it was that simple.  The best way I think I have ever heard it explained was like this... Alcoholics don't become that way because they WANT to be.  There is always an underlying cause.  Mine just so happens to be my anxiety.  When you have anxiety, it feels like you are literally being tortured from the inside out.  And anyone who is being tortured will do ANYTHING to make it stop.  Therein lies the problem.  You KNOW it's not a healthy solution.  You KNOW you are opening yourself up to all of the problems associated with drinking too much...what it does to your relationships, your health, your freedom.  And yet, they are called strongholds for a reason.  

 

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Blissful Serendipity

Yesterday, exactly one week after our wedding, I was approached by a friend of my parents who was telling me that her daughter has also had a rough past couple of years and even though she is now having mostly good days, she is still in the trenches.  This post is dedicated to her.

Any of you who have read my very first blog post know that I have gone through some major trials, including a divorce after 16 years of marriage, going through a very serious surgery that resulted in a near-death experience, being sexually assaulted, getting involved in a very toxic and emotionally/mentally abusive relationship and finally hitting rock bottom after getting a DWI because my way of coping was to drink away the anxiety that I was left with.

I want you to know that yes, those experiences were excruciatingly painful...and even some of my own choosing.  I would never choose to go through any of them ever again but I cannot honestly say that I am not thankful for where they led me.  God never wastes our pain.  I want to share with you just a few of the many blessings I have received from our Father that I never would have known had it not been for those trials.  His grace is all we need and His power works best in our weakest times (2 Corinthians 12:9).

You know I love bullet points.  So, I want to list out some specific blessings that have been a direct result of his grace and mercy in my life from the past few years:

  • My DWI - I have no doubt that I would still be self-medicating with alcohol had I not gone through this long and exhausting legal process.  Spending a night in jail and ALL of the battles that go along with something like this really make you re-evaluate how you are coping with things.  This forced me to take a step back and finally admit that I was not dealing with my stress and anxiety in a healthy way.  I learned to accept the help I truly needed.
  • My divorce was difficult and also came as a huge surprise to many friends and family.  While I will not go into the events that led up to our divorce, I will say that God taught us both a lot about ourselves and showed us the true meaning of forgiveness.  We forgave each other for the mistakes we made with one another and I can truly say that we have a friendship that no one will ever fully comprehend.
  • One of the many stipulations of my DWI arrest was to attend counseling.  I have learned a lot about myself through this and have also gained a wonderful mentor who saw past my mistakes and helped me find a passion and a calling.  I have been invited to come back as a counselor and teacher through that very same program once I come to the end of my probation.  
  • I also don't believe that I would have met my sweet husband had I not walked down the broken path that I had taken.  He came into my life at exactly the right time.  He was there just as I hit rock bottom and has never left my side.  He knows the scars I have from the abuse I endured and I am convinced that God hand-picked him to be the one to protect me from ever having to endure that again. He has helped me to find ME again and I truly have joy and peace again.  
  • I have also gained a step-daughter who is a true joy to be around and the relationship that she and Bella have formed is one that only God could have orchestrated.
  • Bella has seen and experienced so much more than any child should have to over the past few years.  I have put her through a lot...and this has produced a lot of guilt in my heart.  But, God has not only protected our relationship, He has also made it abundantly deeper.  I have made no secrets about my weaknesses with her and I have used what I have gone through to teach her just how hard life can be...but that there is always strength to be found that you never knew you had and that YOU have the choice to take hold of it instead of folding under the weight of your adversities.

I know I am leaving so many things out that just aren't coming to mind right now but that is because my cup is truly overflowing with blessing, grace, and mercy.  Whatever you are going through, my friend, know that my heart and my prayers are right there with you in the trenches.  God WILL provide just what you need and you will be able to look back and see what a beautiful tapestry He has created out of your broken pieces.  

This is a small glimpse into my life now but it is SUCH a great example of the blissful serendipity that God's joy has brought into my life...

Wedding 1
Wedding 2
Wedding 3

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Peace and Contentment are SO Underrated

I have had MAJOR writer's block recently.  But, last night Bill and I went to my aunt's house for a Super Bowl party and as he put his arm around me on the couch and I leaned in to him something suddenly came upon me.  I felt a sense of peace and contentment that I had not recognized in a LONG time.  I think that we sometimes value drama (mistaken as passion) over these God-given blessings.  Why?  Because it causes our emotions to go into overdrive instead of simply resting in them.  

This man KNOWS me in ways that I wasn't even aware that I had shared with him.  God really knew what he was doing when he introduced us on that Father's Day that I will forever be thankful for.  In the past, I mistakenly thought that drama (my version of passion) was the definition of love.  I could have never been so wrong.  At that moment, I realized that what I felt when I leaned into him was everything I have ever needed.  Peace and contentment.  As I sat there, not paying attention to the game at all, I began to realize that there is PASSION...true, pure passion that is to be found within the peace and contentment that God longs for us to seek out in Him.  

Passion is not drama.  It is a reaction to being fully enveloped in who God created us to be and how He meant for us to be loved.  Don't chase the high of drama in your life.  Chase peace, contentment...and TRUE passion that can only be given by God.  

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Progress is a Process

"Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times have come.  One of the ways I assert my sovereignty is in the timing of events.  If you want to stay close to me and do things my way, ask me to show you the path forward moment by moment.  Instead of dashing headlong toward your goal, let me set the pace.  Slow down and enjoy the journey in my presence"

~ Jesus Calling

With the new year, comes new resolutions.  Well-meaning resolutions.  Unfortunately, I think that the reason why most of them never come to fruition is because they become overwhelming and begin to seem unattainable.  We bight off more than we can chew. 

I think the same can be said for our desire to follow God's will for our lives.  We truly do want to follow his plan for us but the weight of trying to figure out what that plan is and how to follow it PERFECTLY is just too much sometimes.  So, sadly, we just settle for mediocrity.  I've been struggling with this in my own life.  But, as I was reading the above passage in my devotional the other morning a thought process came to mind...  

God does not expect perfection from us, he is looking for progress...and progress is a PROCESS!

What are some things that you feel God calling you to right now or are you seeking His guidance on?  Pray and ask him to show you the path...moment by moment.  

List them out.  Then ask yourself, "What is God revealing to me that He wants me to do RIGHT NOW?"  In other words, "What can I do today/this week that will help me get closer to achieving the goals I am praying over?" 

I have a super cool new planner that I (the Type "A" part of myself) use to keep track of this in order to keep those goals feeling attainable:

IMG_0033

Hope this helps my fellow personality types out there who geek out over lists and bullet points.  Keep calm and get organized!!!

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Happy New Year!

I posted this song for New Year's Eve because it reminds me of some really great memories from my past.  Everyone goes through seasons in their lives, and with those seasons, some friends come and go.  While I am entering a new and WONDERFUL season in my life, I can't help but remember friends from my past that were very special to me but were only meant to be in my life for a short time.  So, for this new year, let's all listen to this beautiful song and wish those people from our past who have brought us to where we are today and be thankful for the memories and the life lessons they taught us a Happy New Year and all the happiness in the world.

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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.

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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.  

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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."

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