So, I took a little longer to answer this question. Partially because I was out of town last weekend when I would have sat down to write it and partially because, well, my life is out of balance right now and most days I am just going with the flow (flying by the seat of my pants!).
I was raised in the church, from the womb to the crib at the church nursery, and from then on out. The church was all that I had ever known and understood as the way of life for everyone, and because of this, I came to know Jesus from a very young age. I believe I was seven years old the first time I asked Jesus into my heart and then about eight the first time I was Baptized. I was a young girl that was ignorant in so many ways, truly naïve to the world and all that it had to offer, and blind to deceit or the reality and the weight that I would soon learn that it held.
In a nutshell, I was a very happy-go-lucky kind of girl! Trusting to everyone and knew no stranger. I had a huge heart that wanted to help anyone in any way that I could, you know, a save the world kind of girl! That was me, the best friend, the teacher’s pet, the girl who wanted to do anything and everything as long as it put a smile on her face and everyone else’s around her. I continued to attend church regularly with my family and then with my friends as I got into middle school. Then before I knew it I was thirteen, and that’s when everything started to change for me.
I guess you could say I became your “typical teenager” with a few quirks here and there. I was involved in sports and was on our high school drill team. I had a ton of friends and was in most of the advanced classes, as well as the top 10% of our class. I was super active in the youth group at the local church in our town and until then, I was just living life and enjoying being a kid. You could say it all changed when I fell in love with a boy, although, the changes had already started happening to me before then and I just hadn’t noticed it yet. A year before this time, my sister got married and had a baby. This, in most people’s worlds, is a huge blessing and a happy time in life. But for me, it felt like I was being left behind, that my sister was being taken away from me, and that no one really cared about what I had going on anymore. Silly to think about now, but it was a harsh reality for me then.
So here I am, thirteen and deeply in love with this boy, like head over hills crazy in love, do stupid stuff with a boy in love. That’s right, at the very young age of fifteen I lost my virginity. Instead of living my life for Christ like I was born and raised to, I started living my life for a boy and pretty much worshiped the ground that he walked on. I would have done anything for him, seriously, anything. Anything at all that I felt would make him happy or have him love me the way that I loved him. I went as far as to give my body to him, something I said I would never do until I was married. I completely blew off anyone and anything that had ever mattered to me so I could devote myself to him, and before I knew it, I wasn’t just in love with a boy anymore, I was on drugs and had fallen in love with them too.
The drugs were my choice. I want to make that abundantly clear for anyone who may every think or feel otherwise. He hated the fact that I did drugs or that I changed an ounce of who I was as time went on and our relationship grew. But it didn’t matter, I was going to do what I wanted to do because I wanted to do it no matter what it cost me. I lost all of my friends, I dropped out of school. Not once, but three times, before never going back at all. Then, once it was too late and I had dug the hole so deep that I could no longer see the light anymore, I turned back and he was gone too. All that I had then was the drugs and the friends that I found through doing the drugs and all of the people and places that came with it. When he was no longer there to devote myself to, I just found something new or someone new to devote myself to and every single time, it turned out to be a huge lie and a waste of my time.
I had this way of finding “new projects” if you will, something that I could devote all of my time and pour all of my energy and focus into. These projects usually consisted of the new boyfriend who I loved so much and that was so amazing and had every problem under the sun. But I never let that get me down because I was there to save him! I was going to make it all better. I was going to fix him. I was going to make all of his problems going away. Or a friend, that was “worse off” than I was and that too needed to be saved. This was a constant in my life. No matter what I did or all of the crazy that I put myself through I did not see how badly I was hurting myself in an effort to save someone else, or how bad I was hurting those who truly loved me and cared for me instead. Regardless, I continued down this path and no matter what had happened with the other people before them I kept pushing thinking it would be different this time. I could never understand why it always ended in defeat and why no matter how hard I tried, I could never save them, it never worked. It would be a long time before I learned the powerful lesson as to why.
This went on for years. I found myself constantly complaining and whining about how all I ever did was give of myself and I would never expect anything in return, yet I was continuously getting stomped on and let down by everyone and all I could scream was why?! Sure, my family was always there to tell me exactly why, but I never wanted to hear it. They were the last people I wanted to listen to because I didn’t think they would understand and there was no way I was about to admit to them that what they were saying was true and that I was wrong. At this point, I was in a continuous cycle of deceit. All of which I had brought upon myself and as far as I was concerned there was no way of coming back from it, plus, I didn’t believe I was doing anything wrong. Even though I was lying to my family, my friends, to myself, and most importantly to God. Even though I was having sex, and doing drugs like there was no tomorrow, had dropped out of school, and everything stupid I could think of in between. I was only doing it for a good cause! I was trying to help people here. What was wrong with that? I never went out of my way to hurt anybody and in the times that I did, I never meant to do it. The only person I truly ever thought I was hurting was myself, and that didn’t bother me because I was strong and kind and I had God on my side! I could handle everything, right? Give me a cape and call me superwoman! That was what I thought. But I was wrong, so so very wrong.
Fast forward six years down the road, I had now been to jail and was put on probation for a year, a year that would soon become one of the worst years of my life. What once had started out with me being young and in love and on a mission to save the world, ended up with me being promiscuous and having sex out of wedlock, smoking pot every day all day and living life as one of the biggest potheads in Gladewater, Texas (I’m sure there were bigger, but you get my drift). On top of that, I had spent the last six years in what seemed like a continuous party, sleeping on whoever’s couch would have me and coming home after being gone for days at a time. I had eventually tried every drug in the book at least once, if not a couple of times, and had lied to every single person that I had known in some way or another. In my drunken stooper, I was raped, twice. I put myself in the most dangerous situations that one could imagine. I was stealing, cheating, lying, abusing others, and being abused, I was prideful, stubborn, conceited, unemployed, and I had eventually lost my car. I was slowly losing my family, on top everyone else in my life that I had already pushed away. I didn’t care if I was alive or dead. I attempted suicide once, or twice, gosh I lost count, but at that point, I just didn’t care anymore. Before I knew it I was eighteen years old, and before the clock had struck twelve on my eighteenth birthday, I was on meth (it was literally a birthday gift to me). This started the downhill spiral that led me to my bottom, which I would discover over the next two years.
I sounded like a trooper if you ask me. All the crap I put myself through and I was still here. Never once forgetting who Jesus was or where I was headed if I kept up that life.
Honestly, I cannot say that the life I was living didn’t bother me because that would be a lie. All of it did. No matter how far I took it or how much time had passed or how much I said or showed differently, I cared. But I was lost. I was so far beyond being buried in deceit, I had dug a hole so deep and ran from God for so long that I truly believed there was no turning back, that I could not be saved.
Looking back, I cannot tell you the first thing that sparked my mind or heart to want to change and just take that first step. I give credit to a lot of different things and some very important people in my life that were a part of this time, and a part of what got me to that point. The reality is, I was tired. I was past the point of giving up, and in my experience, I had discovered giving up had gotten me nowhere, because after I had given up I was still here. I was still alive, and I knew there had to be a good reason why. So, I finally decided the bad was bad. No, it was horrible beyond words or human belief. It was the bottom of all existence and everything I ever was or thought I could be. I was done.
Growing up in the church I had always heard that God would never allow me to go through more than I could handle, even if I dragged myself through it, He was still in control. I have later learned that it is just a twist on His truth, but it has definitely got me through some hard times over the years.
The following summer I decided to visit my sister in St. Louis. At the time, her living so far away was a sweet escape for me when life was kicking me down. I could always count on her to take me in and love me exactly the way that I was, plus it didn’t hurt that I had a key. On this trip, I got the chance to take myself out of “my world” and be in a completely different environment. This, of course, was not the first time I had done that. But this time I had a completely different motive in mind. I attended church with her each Sunday while I was visiting and her church was doing this mini-series on super sizing your life. I cannot remember the significance of the lesson now, what was said in which moment or why, but I do remember everything just starting to click for me.
Through all the insanely horrible things that I had put myself through, God kept showing me mercy, time and time again. He was always there, watching over me and keeping me safe. No matter what new dark place I could find to try and run and hide too, He was there. I was running from Him and He was chasing me, wanting so badly for me to come back to Him, just waiting for me, patiently. It didn’t matter how badly I had stomped on Him or how many times I had rejected Him or how long that it took for me to come home. He was still there. Ready and waiting, with arms wide open, just waiting for me to accept.
All of the years that I had spent hurting myself, I blamed the devil. I blamed everybody and everything for what was going on around me, for where I was at in life. Then that day, in my sister’s church, it all made sense to me. Are you ready for it? In order to be changed and to leave it all behind and to be happy and peaceful and full of life, with Jesus Christ himself, to love Him and to have a beautiful relationship with Him, I had to let go; of me.
and I did y’all. That same day and I have never been the same again.
A week ago tomorrow I celebrated 9 years sober, I’m late on updating and praising the Lord because a week ago Saturday I was at a women’s retreat watching God perform miracles on other women while being blessed and in awe of who He is and all that He has done in my life.
In the last nine years, He hasn’t disappointed. Each day as I have continued to grow closer to Him and form a more intimate relationship with Him, He has revealed Himself to me in was that I would have never thought possible. He has set me up for blessings and opened up doors for me that I would have never even asked for, or thought to ask for, in my own understanding. He has truly taken a broken woman who less than a decade ago was one high away from leaving this earth, and instead molded me into this beautiful creation that is only able to have the life that I have now, because of Him.
A life that includes waking up everyday and living for Him, sharing my testimony with other’s and helping them find hope through the story of what Jesus did for me. A life that He set up for me which allows me to stay at home with my two children, and homeschool them, while my husband is able to provide for us more than what we could ever need and enough where we are able to do for others who are in need. A life where just eight short (and somehow so very fleeting) months ago, He called me to be the Preschool Pastor in our church home, doing life with families from all over our community and walking alongside them as they go through all the ups and downs in their life.
In nine years, I’ve managed to receive three college degrees and believe it or not I am working on my fourth! My husband and I were able to buy our first home and God willing in the next 5 years will be able to build our forever home! We own two cars and a super amazing dog named Hannah, a very feisty cat named Lincoln, and He has blessed us with friendships abounding in love galore! I get to co-lead a women’s bible study group at church with my fellow children’s pastor and when time allows go on mission trips and women retreats where God just showers me with all the amazing parts of who He is and the plans He has for this world!
I seriously could go on and on and on with what God has done to an ADDICT and how I have been redeemed!
But for now, I will leave you with this:
God is so good, and He loves YOU so. There is truly nothing in this world or in your life that you will ever be able to do or have done to you, to take that truth away. Romans 8:31-39
From the darkest deepest corners and depths of the earth, He is there. In the most dangerous and crazy and just wordless moments of your life that you think you could never possibly come back from or be forgiven for, you can.
God can take all your ugly, all your hurt, all your broken and make a beautiful masterpiece, that is priceless to this earth and most precious in His eyes. Ephesians 2:10
You are valuable, you are worthy, you are loved, you are chosen, you are wanted, you are everything and more. God loves you, I love you, and my greatest prayer for you is that you will one day know that as truth and accept it. Ephesians 1:4-6
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child and I reasoned like a child; now that I am a woman, I am done with my childish ways and I have put them behind me! 1 Corinthians 13:11
Beautiful Southern Heart
Honduras changed me.
I’m sure it will be quite some time before I truly figure out all the ways in which it did, but I’ve been home for two days and my heart is so torn. Full, broken, confused, angry, excited, unsure, overwhelmed, indifferent…
My four-year-old son got in bed with me this morning, happy that I am home and there to cuddle with. He stroked my face as he always does and said, “momma, I hope your tummy feels better today, I don’t want you to feel bad anymore”. I turned to him sweetly and said, “I do too baby, I don’t know what’s causing it to hurt…but I hope it’s better today so I can play with you because I missed you so much”. He exclaimed, “it’s probably the food you ate”. “The food I ate”, I said? “Yeah mom, the food you ate while you were gone last week…it’s probably why your tummy has been hurting”. “Oh, yeah, that could be it. You are so smart”! He said, “Yeah, well, I’m losing my smartness because I don’t get to watch YouTube anymore. YouTube is what gave me my smartness, and now since I can’t watch it, I’m losing my smartness”.
This kid…if he only knew!
I haven’t felt well since I got home. I’ve been tired, having zero desire to do anything, and pretty much have been trying to distract myself with Netflix and Facebook to keep my mind off…well, being back home. I’ve been here before. I’ve come home from a mission trip and been in a daze and it’s taken time to get back into the swing of things. I realize it’s only been 48 hours. But this time it’s different.
Every time my stomach starts to hurt, I think of Honduras. I wonder if it was the food. I wonder if my body is simply trying to adjust back to American food. I wonder if my emotions are so overwhelming that I’m subconsciously making myself ill. I wonder if I just picked up a small bug on the way home from my travels. Who knows.
Every time my kids come up to me, I get excited because I’ve missed them so much, but then suddenly so very sad, because I miss the kids in Honduras. My heart aches that I am not there to hug them and love on them and be even a fraction to them what I am to my boys a 1000 times a day.
When I scroll through Facebook and see all the hate and filth and greed, it makes me sick. When I scroll and see the war going on in politics and how much hate the media has stirred up for those in Honduras, I want to scream at each person and their ignorance in what is truly going on. I want to tell them about the families I met while I was there and their loved ones who joined the caravan out of desperation to simply feed themselves. I want to tell them about the mother who was eight months pregnant and starving, who left three children behind to join the caravan and have her child on the road and who may not even be alive today, because she was desperate and searching for anything that could save her family and pull them out of the hell that they have been living in.
Honduras is so broken. The country is so corrupt. The people who live there were born into a broken system that they can’t escape and it’s not their fault. Of the 9.4 million people who live there over 66% live in poverty, that’s over 6 million human beings who are suffering on a day to day basis. That’s 1 in 5 human beings that are potentially starving, homeless, sick, being abused, neglected, and that feel hopeless.
It’s easy to turn a blind eye, to ignore it, to simply say “not my country, not my problem”. It’s easy to look at a caravan of 7000 and pictures and videos from the media and stamp “criminals” all over it and forget about the nearly 5000 in the crowd who are simply seeking refuge, food, anything…and harden your heart to human beings that are suffering.
This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
— Zechariah 7:9-10
The reality of it is, you don’t know what you don’t know and it’s hard not to base your feelings off of human emotion and the ability to only make an opinion off what you see (through the media). I did it too.
Here’s the kicker.
When I was eating lunch with an 11-year-old last week whose father is in jail for drug trafficking and mother is MIA; I tried my best to answer his questions about America, the caravan, our government, and why the only hope he’s ever known is not the shining star he thought he could always count on (America).
He didn’t understand why 7000 people trying to come through a border to seek refuge, to find food, to find a job, to find hope for their families…would just be turned away…or worse. I tried to make him understand that there is a right way and a wrong way and it’s when one is done over the other, then that’s where the problems arise. But all he could see was that someone was hungry and needed to be fed.
I couldn’t argue with him.
I still stand behind what’s right and what’s wrong. I still stand behind walking through the doors and not violently knocking down walls to get in. I still stand behind protecting our home and protecting our borders, because America wouldn’t be this place of saving grace if we didn’t.
But I can’t stand behind turning a blind eye to the hungry, turning a blind eye to the poor, turning a blind eye to an entire country that is suffering and living in a continuous cycle of defeat. I know it’s not our country’s fault, I know it’s not our President’s. I blame it on the broken system in Honduras. I blame it on the prince of darkness and his desire to steal, kill, and destroy…an entire nation.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us all in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
My hurt is hearting so badly for so many and all I can do is pray, keep loving, spread awareness, and continue to develop a relationship with those who live there. God is alive and well in Honduras and even though there is a spirit of brokenness and poverty in that nation, He will prevail, and He is the ultimate victor!
Honduras is just 1 of 195 countries in the entire world.
Just one country, with over 6 million human beings who are suffering in our world today.
I met a little over 100 beautiful souls this past week who were saved from that suffering. Who were given clothes to wear, food to eat, a warm bed to sleep in, an education, and the hope of Jesus.
That’s 5,999,899 souls that are still suffering.
In just one country.
There are 7.5 billion people in the world.
Over 3 billion who live in poverty. Even in America.
However, the homeless in America are wealthy in comparison to those in other countries with access to clean drinking water, food, and shelters.
What can we do to change it?
What can we do to even put a dent in these facts and make it better?
What can we do to bring awareness to other’s who simply don’t know?
What can we do?
It’s like I said, Honduras changed me. I’m still processing. I’m still praying. I’m trying so very hard to be still and see what God has in store. For me, for those in Honduras, for those in my community, for those in the church, for those in America, for those around the world.
I encourage you, to step outside yourself. Step outside your pride and your opinions and your comfort zone. Show compassion, to just one person. Then do it again, and again, and again.
If you are unsure what that looks like, I can show you. You can look Him up in the Bible, His name is Jesus.
Oh, my heart.
Beautiful Southern Heart
Have you ever been in the kitchen preparing dinner, just slicing stuff up and thinking about random things that have happened in the last 24 hours and God just hits you with some knowledge? No? Well, that’s what happened to me earlier!
I was thinking about something my sister said to me yesterday and she used the phrase, well mama said…and then validated whatever she was talking about off of what mama said. Which made me chuckle because she’s 32 years old and even though she’s fully capable of making her own opinions on a subject, she still is quick to side with or go off of what mama said and not think twice about it.
How often do we do things like this in our life? From the time we are really little and even as adults when in a discussion on any given subject, when we want it to hold value or prove where our help comes from, we say things like, “well my mama said this so it must be true!” or my “daddy said this and that’s the way it is” or “well my grandma always told me and she would never lie to me!” and we exclaim these things without a second thought and trust it with all of our beings. Straight up! Mama said it, daddy said it, granny said it, I trust them and love them and respect them, so that’s good enough for me.
It got me thinking…
Why do we not have that same trust with God?
Why do we not have that same unwavering faith when He tells us something, about
really anything at all, and we don’t just believe Him and spit it out as truth at the first sign of needing back up in an argument or something to add value to the conversations we have or as an answer for a friend when they are struggling with something in their own lives and we don’t necessarily know the answer’s ourselves, but we know what mama said…
With God’s promises, all of His truths, what He says about who you are and how He feels about you, what’s good and true and right. Why don’t we treat Him the same way?
The Bible tells us that God is our Father and we can come to Him like little children. But I think we somehow get caught up on this idea of this big guy in the sky, rather than a daddy that we can have a relationship with. Then because of this, we allow ourselves to not fully trust Him in all things… or at least our behaviours show otherwise.
Like when things are getting kind of rough and maybe your funds are low and you have no idea what you are going to do or how you are going to take care of it? Where does your help come from? Your father. He promised He would supply every need of ours according to HIS riches – Philippians 4:19. Or that even when things are crazy, and you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. He tells us “For I know the plans I have for you, for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope” – Jeremiah 29:11
Or how about when you’ve made a series of bad choices, like hundreds of them, and you feel like with everything that you have done or that you’ve put yourself through that there is no way that God could possibly still love you or forgive you? But He tells us, no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, He will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it 1 Corinthians 10:13
…and then goes on to tell us, He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted, but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not grow faint Isaiah 40:29-31
Which leads you to my most favorite of His promises.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or cause calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the scripture say, For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep) No, despite all of these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us!
AND I AM CONVINCED that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow. Not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below, indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39
These are God’s promises, these are the truths that were God-breathed and given to us in the Bible so that we can live a life walking in His truth and His promises and His love.
Yet, somehow, we allow ourselves to forget it. We allow ourselves to believe it when things are good and then completely deny it when things are bad. It’s like we have a daddy that is teaching us all the important things in life and constantly telling us how much He loves us and everything He can, will, and has done for us, and yet we just dismiss it.
You wanna know how I know?
Because instead of puffing your chest out when things go wrong and declaring, it’s okay my daddy will fix it! We run and hide and worry and stress and stuff ourselves with so many negative emotions of hurt and anger and despair, when all we have to do is say, “But my daddy said” and then believe it and then go to Him.
Turn to your daddy.
He’s waiting, He’s ready with arms wide open and man, He has so much love to give you it’s unfathomable. He loves you so much and you are so special, there’s nothing in this entire universe that He wouldn’t do for you. He’s better than Superman. He’s the one true king!
…and He chose you!
At least, that’s what MY daddy said.
Beautiful Southern Heart
The past two weeks have been hard for me and the past two days have been the worst. I have been trying to pinpoint the reason for my frustration and anger and although I can come up with many different reasons, I know none of them are THE reason. Interestingly enough during this time of blah, I have had much time to reflect on a lot of things and today God sort of connected all the dots for me.
You see, a couple of weeks ago maybe even three, I somehow in some crazy way hurt my thumb. At first, it didn’t bother me so much and it was more just annoying really. I thought I had just jammed it and within a day or so it would work itself out and inevitably be a faint memory in my past. But that didn’t happen and a week went by and I was still in pain. Things were really starting to get hard for me, I couldn’t even open bottles or turn a doorknob without crying out in pain and at this point I was over-it. I turned to google as I do anytime I can’t figure out what ails me and I refuse to go to the doctor for something that will likely work itself out or that can be dealt with at home. I put in my symptoms and read through quite a few articles to come to the conclusion that I have sprained my thumb. Who does that? How does it even happen? I’m beyond annoyed and become even more annoyed when I find out that there is nothing you can do about it and treatment consist of; trying to keep your thumb immobilized and to take anti-inflammatory and acetaminophen for pain, oh and just my luck it can take anywhere between 2-6 weeks to heal (that’s if you are doing the best you can to help it out and it is NOT on your dominant hand).
It is on my dominant hand.
Yep, I feel like I can do nothing. It’s hard to cook, it’s hard to eat, it’s hard to hold a pen in my hand. It’s hard to wash dishes or change the channel on the remote or use my phone for anything (which I am not too bummed out about the last one). Driving is hard, picking things up, absolutely any type of housework is hard. To make matters worse, I started working out earnestly a little over a month ago and have big goals and have already seen amazing results, but now, I don’t feel like I can go to the gym at all. Over one little digit on my hand. My friggin thumb.
Who knew your thumb had so much power? I ask that question and decide to google it only to find, everyone. That’s what makes humans special from other species. We have opposable thumbs that allow us to grasp things. Which I no longer can do with my right hand! Rant over.
So how has God used this to my advantage? Yeah, you heard me right, my advantage.
He has reminded me who He is and who I am through Him and as a member of the body of Christ.
I woke up this morning less than thrilled to go to the gym to meet my trainer. I haven’t been since last Thursday when I saw her last. I honestly don’t know if I would have gone today if I didn’t have an appointment with her. But I did, so I went. Reluctantly. In just a matter of days, I had convinced myself that I am useless because of this injury. That there is no way I can work out without having leg days for the next six weeks and looking like some undeveloped version of the hulk, which I have no desire to do. I should have known better though. I should have known that my sweet trainer would find some way to prove me wrong and make me hate life (in a good way) during our session and ultimately prove me wrong by showing me that I can do so much more than I give myself credit for and although annoying, my thumb can only hold me back so much. Mind over matter. Yet today, she did so much more than that.
At the start of the year, my husband and I decided to get gym memberships. A couple of months later I still hadn’t gone and after another story for another day, we decided it would be best for me to get a trainer. Within a week I was signed up and started the journey that I have loved so much and am so excited to see through as a lifelong change. When I signed up I specifically was looking for someone to challenge me, hold me accountable, show me things I really didn’t know when it comes to nutrition and fitness, as well as someone to do life with (not on a day to day basis really, but that I could eventually have a relationship with and could lift me up and help me along when I need it and if God willing, I could do the same for them). After getting started I realized that I might have been asking for too much when it came to a personal trainer, but today God showed me otherwise. Today, when I really need it the most. He showed up right one time, as He has a habit of doing.
As I said before, I was not looking forward to going to the gym today, but when I left the gym my spirit was happy. My cup had been filled and God has spent every moment since then speaking to me and connecting the dots of my anguish over the last few weeks, and He did it through her. Through her own love for God and her willingness to be obedient in His love and His desire for all to know it, she took the time to encourage me on a completely unrelated subject, but to look to Jesus none the less. She simply said, to ask Jesus for help and He will give it to me and if asking doesn’t seem like enough, look in His word to see what He has to say and in doing so, that will help me. Simple and sweet.
After our session ended I went to the treadmill to put in some cardio before leaving for the day, which gave me twenty minutes to talk to God and see what He had to say. This is what He reminded me…
He loves me so much and I am so important. Choosing to be filled with His spirit every day and not giving into my flesh is one of the most important choices I must make, every single day. If I am walking in the flesh, He cannot use me and if He cannot use me, then I am not doing my part in the body of Christ. Every single member of the body of Christ has a purpose and is so significant. Without certain parts the body is weak and although still able to thrive, has a hard time doing so and misses the part that is gone. In that same light, even though I am broken, I am still a member of the body and through time and healing, the body is waiting and ready for me to be whole again. It needs me to be whole again.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (ESV) talks about the body and its members.
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Just as I am a part of the body of Christ, so is my trainer. I still have so much to learn about her, but I do know she is significantly great and God is using her for beautiful wonderful things, as long as she is willing. Although it may seem like she only works in a gym and “just helps people work out”, God has given her this platform with hundreds of individuals that she comes across on a daily basis that she has the ability to encourage or plants seeds in. But He is only able to do so if she is willing and walking in His spirit, and I am so thankful that today she was, and I realize how crucial it is that I am, every day.
You never know when God will choose to use you or how He will use you or if you are even aware that you are being used. Which is why it is important to be ready at all times to be used by Him and do so by being filled with His spirit. Romans 8:5-6 tells us that 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
I have been so unsettled over the past couple of weeks and I always seem surprised when I come to the same conclusion that I am not spending enough time with Jesus and my spirit is weak and not at peace because of it. What’s worse is how completely selfish it is to walk in the flesh. For every day that I have chosen the flesh over the spirit, I have passed up opportunities to be used by Him and share His love with others. I think as Christians we get complacent from time to time and caught up in the world and allow ourselves to be “comforted” by the fact we know Jesus and He loves us and through a relationship with Him we will get to spend eternity with Him, yet forget that there is a world out there that needs to know it too, deserves to know it too and will only be able to do so by us sharing that love with others.
Sharing that love with friends by bearing each other’s burdens and fulfilling the law of Christ Galatians 6:2, as well as strangers and those we have yet to meet through going out into the world and preaching the gospel to all creations Mark 16:15.
My thumb has been a burden to me over the past couple of weeks, to say the least, but I have come to understand the importance and value of my thumb and am quite appreciative that I have one and even though it is out of commission for a little while, it’s value has not diminished and I still have one. A true blessing. Just the same as the knowledge of the purpose and importance of who I am in the body of Christ and as a lover of Jesus. How important it is me to walk in the spirit every day so that I will not only be at peace but so that I can bring peace to others through sharing the love of Jesus wherever I go and in whatever I do.
Romans 5:3-5 tells us to rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Thank you, God, for sending your son Jesus to die on the cross for us and to save us from our sins so that we may have a relationship with Him instead of a life and eternity of living in the flesh and being away from you. Thank you for leaving us your Holy Spirit so that you are with us always and you continuously are there to bring us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Thank you for not giving up on me in the times when I choose my flesh and forgiving me when I do. Thank you for all of my brothers and sisters who make of the body of Christ and for perfectly orchestrating my relationship with my trainer who can help remind me of your love and the peace that it brings in the moments that I forget. I love you so much and am sorry for every moment that I am apart from you through my own fleshly desires. Continue to work on me and create a new heart in me and to eliminate anything unclean in me. Help me when I look in the mirror to see you looking back at me and that when other’s see me they see you too. I love you so much! Amen.
Beautiful Southern Heart
It’s been three months since my last blog, four months since I quit my job and six months since I came home from Jamaica for the second time. Yet somehow, it all seems like it was yesterday.
I recently made a post on my Facebook page reaching out for prayers and some general support for all that I’ve been going through in this time and what lies before me that I want to be strong for when the time comes.
My father called me a few days after I made this post to sort of follow up with my thoughts and feelings and to do what he’s been best at for the last decade, being my biggest accountability partner. You see, before this last decade, I didn’t have the greatest relationship with my father. He was very much a part of my life and someone who has always been kind to me and loved me more than I’ll ever know or understand. But for the better half of my childhood, he was missing, and although I don’t resent it or wish it had been different. I am thankful for the lessons I learned as an individual about who I did and did not want to be, and what I think a daddy should look like, and what I have learned that a father is.
It was towards the end of the years in my addictions that I really started to bond with my dad or even truly have a relationship with him at all. I was very young when he and my mother divorced and although I would see him growing up, we didn’t really have time to get to know each other like one would when you see them day in and day out. Because of his past and what was then my present state of mind, we were able to relate to each other in a way that I am now very grateful for, and that played such a big part in my becoming sober and maintaining my sobriety over the last 8 years. My dad, even as a “stranger”, has always been my biggest fan. I can literally walk into a room and hear him say, “whoop whoop, that’s my daughter, go Kristen go Kristen go”. As silly as that may be, he is always rooting for me and has always been there to tell me how much he loves me and how special I am, and how proud he is of me (even on my worst days). Which is why, even though I only saw him sparingly throughout my childhood, I always felt like I had the greatest daddy in the world and I was proud of that. I was his princess, and I still am, and I always will be.
It wasn’t until I was on the brink of becoming an adult that, I met my father.
My addiction got really bad around my eighteenth birthday, so much so that I was hanging by a thread in the relationship department with most of my family and really anyone who knew me if they hadn’t cut me out of their lives entirely at this point. It was hard to physically be around me, from just how unhealthy I looked, and how insanely terrible my behavior was at this point. I was truly past the point of giving a damn about anyone else other than myself and my need to get high that day.
But this didn’t stop my dad, this didn’t deter him away from me, and this didn’t make him for even one second of one day give up on me or my potential to “come back home” and be the person God created me to be. No, instead, he just acted as if everything was normal every time he saw me, he acted as if I was his same special princess that had never done anything wrong as he always had, he continued to speak life and love into me even if I didn’t want to hear it, or in doing so, just pushed me away further through the disappointment in myself and feeling as if I wasn’t capable of being all of those things that he thought about me, ever again. At my lowest, when it felt like the entire world had turned it’s back on me, my daddy chose to love me just the way I was and never for one second turned his back on me or made me feel less than.
It would be years before I fully understood this love or where it stemmed from, and truly be able to appreciate it, for all that it was and all that it still means to me to this day.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 3:14-15 (ESV)
Fast forward to today, the present, and the last eight years.
My father is not a blameless man. He too has a past that would probably haunt most, but by the grace of God, has made him into the man that he is today, the man that continues to walk a walk that I can look up to and that has helped me become the godly woman that I am today.
Even though my father didn’t raise me and wasn’t there to tuck me in bed at night or sit around the kitchen table with me each evening or help me to do my homework or teach me about relationships. When he was there, he showed me what a father should look like, and he strived to be the daddy that our father in heaven has always been to him. My daddy has never raised a hand to me in anger, has never punished me with spankings or harsh words (even though I probably deserved it a time or two). He’s never raised his voice to me or spoke low to me in any way. My daddy has always opened up the door for me, never let me talk to him with anything less than respect, and he’s tried in every way to protect me when he could and to teach me about the Lord, and to love me the best that he could like Jesus does, even when he couldn’t love himself. My daddy has prayed for me every day and has always been the first to let me know that my flesh is showing (when I am not walking right with the Lord). He doesn’t lie to me or pretend to be perfect, and when he’s having a hard time in life, he never makes his burdens my burdens, even when I want to be there for him in the same way that he’s been there for me. He will give me his last dollar if it means putting food on my table, or gas in my car, or a smile on my children’s faces. But the greatest thing he’s ever done and continues to do is in teaching me about the Lord.
Father’s, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4 (ESV)
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. – Psalms 103:13 (ESV)
When my dad called me the other day to check up on me and just talk to me on his way home, he took my feelings of doubt and confusion and encouraged me with the truth.
You see, coming back from a mission trip can be tough. Really tough. Not only are you reeling from one of the greatest high’s you could ever have, after spending a week with Jesus. But you are working through and trying to understand all of the things that God taught you while you were there, and what He’s trying to show you after you come home.
It can take months before you feel “normal” again and you begin to truly see the changes that God has made in your life and the path that He has laid out for you. But, when you have great accountability partners, like my dad, it’s much easier to stay on track and gain perspective when things don’t seem to make sense anymore.
When I talked to my dad that day, we talked about how nothing was really “wrong” with me and that I instead was just feeling off and I didn’t know why. After coming home from Jamaica and quitting my job, and becoming a stay at home mom again, I couldn’t find the peace that I once had and with all the changes going on around me. I didn’t know why or what had changed. But he showed me that, I have changed. I allowed myself to become distracted by all the changes going on in my home, that the routines I once had in my day and my walk with Jesus, had changed because of me. That in fact, nothing was truly wrong, and I just needed to give it to God and allow my thoughts to line up with His will. I needed to ask the spirit to make my ways, His ways, and for my heat to bear His fruits.
He always has the funniest metaphors for everything, but they really help to make things stick when I’m just not getting it. Things really are simple with God, but we are always trying to complicate it and that’s where my dad comes in to help me, when I am not getting it.
My daddy said you know when you go shopping for something that you need? You will go to the store that has exactly whatever it is that you are looking for. Well, it works the same way with the Holy Spirit. When you need fruit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control, you have to go to the Spirit for it and He will supply all of your needs.
He left me with this.
It’s important every day that we guard our hearts because everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
And when things aren’t making much sense and you feel like you have lost your way, just remember…
My dad has mimicked those verses to me over and over again in my life, and somehow, I still forget. But that’s okay, because we have a good good father that shows no condemnation and forgives us of our sins and is always, always there waiting for us to get back on the straight and narrow path that leads us back to Him.
I am thankful, and so very blessed that I not only have a Heavenly Father that has chosen me to spend all eternity with Him, but I have an earthly father that resembles Him and is making sure that no matter what happens in this life, that I will get there too.
Sorry I made you cry dad, I love you, Happy Birthday – your princess.
Beautiful Southern Heart
It’s been three months since I sat down to write. After coming back from Jamaica my head has been in a whirl spin and I’d like to say that it’s stopped, but I can say that it’s getting better. Let me bring you up to speed and share with you my amazing God story of my time while I was gone.
Let’s back it all the way up to the end of July when I left for Jamaica, my second home!
If you have followed my blog or know me at all you know that I went to Jamaica a year before on my first mission trip and truly had the best time of my life. I got to spend a week with Jesus like I had never experienced before and it truly changed me. When the opportunity to go back this past summer came up, I didn’t even hesitate and began the journey of preparing myself to go back to the place that holds a special piece of my heart.
The months leading up to this trip were different. My expectations were different. The team that I would be going with was different. I was different, and I had no idea what God had in store for me.
I remember clearly sitting on the plane next to my friend John (our team leader) and his wife Kimberly talking about my feelings surrounding the week ahead of us. I told them that the year before when we had all gone, it was an adventure of firsts for me. The first time I was going on a mission trip, the first time I was flying on a plane, the first time I was leaving the country, the first time I was going to get to see the ocean and so much more. It was exciting in ways that I will never truly be able to explain and I knew that I had already experienced all of that, so what was going to happen this time?
I am a very observant person and like to tap into everything going on around me, especially the hearts and minds of those on the team that was going with us this year. I spent months watching them all prepare for this trip and got to see the many different areas that God was already stretching them and growing them, I could see the areas that they were struggling with and what God was probably going to teach to them while they were there. My excitement for them was over the moon and I could not wait to experience it all alongside them, the only problem was that I could not see what God had in store for me too. I told John that I was going into it with completely different expectations than the year before because I already “knew” what to expect. Of course, I knew it would be different and I knew it would be amazing, but I still just could not wrap my head around my purpose this time and I was eager to find out what it was, and God did not disappoint but instead, had a hilarious way of showing me.
As we started the trip I was pretty much just going through the motions and thriving off the excitement of all the first-timers that were with us. When we got into Harmons, I was so happy to be back home and crazy excited to see all my friends that I had missed terribly over the last year. In my journal after the first night I wrote:
Jesus, I am back in Harmons! I feel like I am home in a lot of ways, but I am so physically uncomfortable that I cannot seem to let go and just be here…I am having a hard time clearing my head, but I am looking forward to tomorrow.
I won’t go into details, but from the moment I got off the bus and stepped back into the Harmons house after a day of traveling, I just did not feel good and it was wearing me down, so I was ready to go to sleep and wake up with a fresh attitude and be ready to take on the world. But little did I know…
While in Harmons you get to immerse yourself in the community and create a community in the house for the week that you are there with the other missionaries that are there too. During the week, we spend different moments of the day in devotional and there is usually a “theme” for the week if you will and for this week the theme was; being still. Ironically enough, if you know me even just a little bit, you know this is something I struggle with on many different levels, so I just knew this week was going to be challenging for me and I was a mix between excited and not so excited to find out how.
Monday morning, I wake up and I roll over to get out of bed and as I go to stand up, I can barely move. My back decided that it did not want to let me bend and if I forced it to, then I was going to be in a world of pain. If you have gone through any kind of back pain at all, I know you are feeling sorry for me right now. But if you have not, at the very least you can imagine how upset I was, not just because I was in pain but also, because we were about to start our first day of hard labor and I could barely walk. We were literally about to go on a two-mile hike up and down steep hills to see the community and putting one foot in front of the other was miserable for me, sending a sharp pain through my spine with each step that I took.
I was furious, to say the least, but, I could not let this consume me and I knew I had to keep pushing forward and set the pain aside so I could see what God had in store for me. I just had to.
On day two we had our first large group devotional and the word of the day was; still. At this point, nearly twenty four hours in to being in Harmons, between my back and the theme of the week, hearing the words be still just sort of made me a little angrier than I already was, however, I knew there was a reason for it and I knew God was up to something big and I was honestly trying to just be still and listen. That morning we learned;
We were made to be human-beings not human – doings. We learned this through the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42
Psalms 46:10 teaches us to “Be still and know that I am God”.
In my journal later that day I wrote:
So, I’ve been still today God! But I have tried with everything I have, to push it out of my mind, and focus on you and all the wonderful people around me. I’m still trying to figure out what is going on here. Maybe I’m not supposed to know, but for now, I am going to continue focusing on being still and see what it is that you have in store for me.
In this humorous event, I was finding myself in, God and the forces of the universe thought it would be just a little bit funnier if they put me on maul haul for two days in a row, with a back that was
out of commission. You probably guessed that this just fueled my anger, and you are right it so did, but the beauty in these two days was getting to meet my very special friend Dean and how God used him to change my heart.
I’ll have to tell you about Dean another time when I have his permission to do so, but for now, just know that I am so very thankful for his friendship and that God chose to use him to get through to me. What is hilarious about this choice is that Dean and I did very little talking over those two days, I ended up giving him the nickname “Mean Dean” because of how little he liked to talk to me, yet he was anything but mean, and instead of talking I fell in love with his heart and his love for God through his writing. He taught me so much about simplicity and just having a relationship with God and the wonders of His love and it is something I will always look back on and cherish.
Later that evening when we got back from working and going to the infirmary I wrote this in my journal:
Today was a much better day Jesus. Today was also a much harder day, emotionally. I’ve been trying really hard to be still and see what it is that you have for me. I feel so out of place being still, it is definitely not something that comes naturally to me. But in the midst of it all, you have shown me so many beautiful things…I feel like there is a big shift going on inside of me and I am really nervous to find out what it is…
Oh yeah, on day three of our large group devotional our word of the day was; simplicity. We were asked, “what types of things do you do to busy yourself”?
God really has a way of showing up and showing out when He wants to.
Day four was when things got serious. Our word of the day was; contentment. We studied these verses very closely: Philippians 4:10-13 (NIV)
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last, you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Then we were asked: How can we become content?
It was in that moment that God told me, that I can have all of the desires of my heart and He knows exactly what they are and when I am still and listen to Him, that is when He can reveal them to me. My contentment comes from Jesus, being at home with my boys, being a good wife to my husband and just living my life abundantly for the Lord. But there I sat confused. I asked Him how? I have an amazing job that I cannot leave, working for people that I love and that have been so good to me. I have bills that have to be paid and unless we got rid of a lot of things in our lives, we would not be able to meet those needs if I left my job. I do not understand. But then he said, yes you can because you can do all things through me.
Later that day we went to work and I honestly don’t remember everything that happened that day now, because my head was spinning from this revelation that God had given me. When we got in from our worksites and went to clean up I bent down to pick something up and stood back up in astonishment. I ran out into the room with the other girls in our dorm and started bending down to touch my toes and popping back up. Just like that, my back was healed. All of the pain was gone and I could bend and jump and twist and do anything I wanted to like nothing had ever happened.
Later that evening in my journal I wrote:
It hit me like a ton of bricks today! I almost don’t want to write it down for fear of all that it entails, but I am so excited! I am most looking forward to being with my children again, changing our household in ways that I have only dreamed of before. I’m truly at a loss for words, so for now, I am going to continue to be still and listen, because a lot is going to go into me quitting my job and going back to being a stay at home mom!
Did you just read the same thing I did?
Psalms 37:4 tells us to delight ourselves in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
The best has yet to come.
Now that I am on this insane high from this crazy week of God physically sitting me down and forcing me to be still and then telling me that I could have the desires of my heart if I would just trust Him, I am kind of freaking out. I have to go home and tell my husband that while I was gone for a week, God told me to come home and quit my job, although I do not have a clue how that is supposed to work out for us or what that will look like, I have to listen to Him because He’s my daddy and He said to do so.
I decided that I was going to wait until I was in person to tell him because it was only right to lay something that big on him face to face. But God had other plans…
Saturday evening when we got to Mobay, I called my husband and spoke to him for the first time in a week, so I’ll save you the sappy I love you and I miss you and get to the good part.
He says: So, guess what happened this week while you were gone?
I say: I have no idea, what is it?
He says: Oh, nothing. My boss got offered a new job and will be leaving in a few weeks.
I say: Oh yeah, that’s nice. Is this a good thing?
He says: Yeah, and you know what that means right?
I say: No, what?
He says: That I am getting a promotion.
Hold the phone.
Did he just say what I think he said?
I say: Well, in that case, I have some news for you too.
He says: Oh yeah, what’s that.
I say: God told me to quit my job this week. It’s a long story, but I am supposed to go back to being a stay at home mom and it looks like you are getting a promotion so it’s all good baby. Ha!
He says: Haha alright, we will have to talk about this a little bit more but I’m okay with that, I trust you…
You guys! If this week wasn’t already enough of God doing big God things and I had not already seen and experienced all that I can handle, He goes and does this.
The entire week that I was away, He was working everything out for my good.
Hillary Scott said it best in her song, still.
I believe that you are God alone, but sometimes I still try to take control. Cause I get scared when I can’t see the end and all you want for me is to let go. You’re parting waters, making a way for me. You’re moving mountains that I can’t even see. You’ve answered my prayers before I even speak. All you need for me to be is, still.
Going back to work the following Tuesday was hard for me. I had to sit my boss down, this woman that I love and care for deeply and that has been such a huge part of my life for the last three years and that has stood by my side through some really hard times and some really great times, and tell her this crazy amazing, but so difficult thing. That God had asked me to go be home with my babies and that in the months to come I was going to transition out of the workplace and back into my home and I had no idea what to expect or what He has in store for me, but that I know in my heart that it is what I am supposed to do and that if I obey Him, crazy beautiful things are going to happen to me and for me. I also knew that in the same way, He has prepared this for me, that He wouldn’t leave her without something else beautiful to replace me and I fully believed that He did. Which is another story for a different day…
Today, I have been back home for nearly a month.
The past couple of months, transitioning out of my job and back home have not been the easiest and quite honestly have not been full of sunshine and rainbows. However, I know that I am in the center of God’s will for me and that as long as I continue to trust Him and listen to the plans that He has for me that He will continue to work everything out for my good.
We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them – Romans 8:28 NLT
I still feel crazy, not knowing what the future holds. But I know that I am exactly where I need to be and that God has something huge in store for my family. All it is going to take is for me to be still.
Beautiful Southern Heart
I want to know…
What’s the point? What are you truly trying to accomplish? What are you fighting for? If you could hand someone a list of demands, wants, needs or what have you. What would be on it? In all your anger, anguish, persecution, oppression, being misunderstood, undervalued, belittled, mistreated, misused, abused, neglected, ridiculed, and shamed, what are you trying to achieve? What is the outcome of all your pain, hours of fighting, arguments, and unending division in your hearts and communities?
Do you want to change history, the history of today or tomorrow or from the past? Would taking down a monument, changing the name of a school, changing facts in a history book, or how things are addressed make you feel better? Would rewriting history as a whole do it or just certain parts?
If your list of demands was met 100% with no questions asked, no push back of any kind, just checking the boxes and making the changes, would you then be happy?
I truly want to know what the ultimate end goal is here, because I am failing to understand.
Is your identity found in the words of another human being or even the actions? Does your joy come from what someone has said or done to you? Do the actions or words of another human being play a part in your eternity?
What type of mark are you leaving on this world?
What are you doing to change it or make it better?
All that I know is this.
We live in the top 1% of the world. Yes, all Americans do. We have a longer life expectancy rate. We have reasonable access to safe drinking water. We consume more calories than any other nation. We have some of the most stable soil in the world. Even the homeless, having just one dollar and access to shelters that can feed them and cloth them and give them a place to sleep, are richer than those in many other countries. If you are unsure of what I am talking about, visit another country outside of the United States, it doesn’t even have to be a third world country, and you will see that American’s got it good, regardless of your ethnicity, religion, or gender.
So still I ask, why?
I by no means live a perfect life or walk a blameless path, not even remotely. But I do choose to attempt to in the only way that I know how and that’s through Jesus.
My identity is not found in the words or actions of a stranger. It is not found through my husband or my beautiful boys. It is not found in the accomplishments I have made in my life or even the mistakes. It is not found in my work or my friends or my neighbor down the street. It is not found through the color of my skin. It is not found through the clothes that I wear or the car that I drive. It is not found through the place of my birth. It is not found in my parents or my ancestors. But it is found in what Jesus says about me and who I am because of Him.
I am chosen. I am worthy. I am loved. I am cherished. I am beautiful. I am free. I am forgiven. I am justified. I am redeemed. I am accepted. I am unique. I am righteous. I am holy. I am a child of God. I am a citizen of Heaven. I am the salt of the earth. I am the light of the world. I am made perfect in Christ, by Him and through Him.
That is the greatest truth I know and the only truth that I want to spend my life fighting for and fighting for others.
The word says, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
I recently had an amazing conversation with a new friend I met while I was in Jamaica. I told Him that I couldn’t wait to go to Heaven and that I would be happy if Jesus took me from this world right now. He looked at me very seriously and then asked me the following questions;
Are you sure you are going to Heaven? I said, yes. He asked again, are you sure? I said, yes, without a shadow of a doubt. I know Heaven is my home! He then said, then how can you say that you are ready to leave this earth? I stood there puzzled for a second, but shot back with, because this world is an awful place and I am so ready to be gone from it and not have to deal with all the hate, pain and suffering anymore. He then said, but that’s not what you were called to do. If Jesus took you home today, then you wouldn’t be here to share the good news to others. He will call you when it is your time, but until then, your greatest mission in life should be in helping others to get there too. You were called to be the light of the world which means God needs your light here on earth to shine through all of the darkness.
Talk about a reality check.
I was not lying when I said that I was ready to go to Heaven because of how awful the world we live in is, but I was wrong for wanting to leave it this way. Not just wrong, but selfish.
Colossians 3:2-4 says to set your mind on things above, not on things of this earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
I could focus on all of the bad things going on in this world. I could get really mad and show my anger through arguments with others who do not agree with me, sharing memes of hate that make me feel better about my position in the argument, I could protest and riot, or demean others for how they think or feel. But if I did any of those things, then I would not be doing a very good job at furthering the kingdom and instead would be doing the exact opposite of what I have been called to do.
This is not me ignoring the things going on in this country. This is not me ignoring the way that you feel about those things. This is me saying that the only way I can truly fight back is on my knees through prayer and by shining my light for all of those around me to see.
The battle we fight is not with each other. It is a much greater one that we cannot even physically see. The war that is raging should not be between our brothers and our sisters, but against the enemy that is hiding in the darkness waiting to steal, kill and destroy anything that you give him the option to. It is up to you, to stand your ground, to fight back with good and note evil and to be the beacon on a hill shining your light in this world of darkness.
You can so choose to be a part of the problem or do something to change it by being better and doing better. Not just for yourself, but for those around you who are watching you and do not know any better themselves. But this cannot happen if you choose to walk in your selfishness, your pity, your need to be fulfilled or heard. It isn’t about you and it isn’t about me. It’s about Him.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves, but do what it says. James 1:22
So with that;
I am calling you to stand up with me, dust yourself off, ask for forgiveness and then forgive those around you, to fight the good fight and to shine. That is the only real way you are ever going to see the change that you want to see.
Stay blessed America,
Beautiful Southern Heart
I remember being about three or four when I met my first friend. Sure, I probably had many other friends before then in some form or fashion, through play dates with my mother’s friends or kids I met at church and of course the greatest friends I’ll ever have, my cousins. But this was the first friend that I made that was a complete stranger to me and that I came to know and love all on my own. Our brothers played little league football together and we found each other at one of their many practices or Saturday morning games. Frank and I end up finding that we would soon have many more play dates like this to come for years as our brothers were the same age and played sports together all throughout grade school. We too were in the same grade and ended up going to school together when we were of age and he not only became my best friend, but a brother to me, and as a result of our friendship, we both gained an extended family.
It wasn’t until we were a little older that I found out that there were some people in this world who didn’t like other people because of the color of their skin. This was a shock to me because at this point in my life and for as long as I could remember I had many friends who were black or brown and I had never thought twice about it. The very first friend I ever had was black. His mom was black. His brother and his sisters and his father were all black. His cousins and their wives and children were black too. As far as I could tell, relatively speaking, their skin color was a different pigment than mine and through their family tree, they resembled one another, which is why they were black. Just as I did my family and just as everyone else in the world does with theirs. So when I saw that someone didn’t like my friend, my best friend, because he was black; I was not only angered, because how in the world could someone not like someone for the color of their skin something that they have no control over, but, I was insanely confused, baffled, and just completely flabbergasted in every way.
Frank, my sweet friend, has always had a thing for white girls. Call it what you want, but it’s no different than being attracted to a red head, a country girl, someone who is voluptuous, or short. He likes what he likes and for him, it was a girl with white skin, and to this day, still is. In a really unfortunate way, I learned about racism through his attraction to white girls. The first time I saw the ugly face of racism was through a father of a friend who Frank liked. I can still remember to this day going home and asking my mom what was wrong with Frank liking her and why her father was so upset. As much as my mom tried to explain racism to me, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it and decided I was going to be someone who defied racism and it would not exist in my world.
As the years went by racism was a distant thing for me, meaning I only encountered it occasionally and when I did I fumed at the idea that someone could be so ignorant and hateful. Over half of my friends were African American, Hispanic, or some other version of not white and diversity was not only a huge part of my life but something I longed to be a part of and still do to this day. That’s why the thought of living in a world where diversity is divided saddens me.
If you haven’t caught on yet, racism was not a known subject in my family. It took encountering it in the world to not only discover it but learn what it was and the awful truth of why it even exists; hate. Pure hate and cruelty to no end. No just reasoning or idealsy or logic to it at all, just sheer hate.
Growing up in the church and coming to know God from a very early age, you may laugh at me, but I have always thought this to be one of the greatest truths there ever was;
Jesus loves the little children. All the little children of the world. Black and yellow, red and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.
We were made to love and be loved, by Jesus, and each other. We do so by treating others the way that we too wish to be treated. By letting our light shine in a world full of darkness. By realizing that God made each and every one of us unique in His image and that He did not make a mistake when he formed you in your mother’s womb. We are all perfect in His eyes, and yes, He loves all of His children.
It is that simple you guys.
Beautiful Southern Heart
Last year I was blessed to go on a mission trip to Harmons Jamaica with my local church and a group of 9 others. It turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. That’s why this year whenever the opportunity presented itself to not only go on another mission trip but go back to the place where my heart was truly transformed, just a short year before, it was a no brainer for me. I leave in just under two weeks to go back and every day that we get closer to boarding that plane, the anticipation is growing inside me like a deep hunger that before last year, I never knew existed.
Before going on a mission trip last year, I have always wanted to do so and even started to join a group a time or two but never followed through for one reason or another. As the years have gone by I have looked at mission trips as a distant desire that maybe one day would be a reality for me, but I honestly didn’t see it happening and was growing more comfortable with the idea that it never would.
It wasn’t until last year when I started preparing to go to Harmons that I started to see how the world, not as a whole, but on a much larger scale than I realized, viewed mission trips overseas. I’ve read some articles that quite frankly missed the entire point altogether and really made missionaries look like bad people. Can you believe that? A person traveling to any location, whether it be local or in another country, to help others, is seen as a bad person. Totally blew my mind and flabbergasted me. Not only did I find articles on the matter, but the more I shared my upcoming journey with others that I know and love, I too found out that they felt the same way.
Why would you go to another country to help others and share your love for Jesus when there are plenty of people in your own back yard who need help and need to hear about Jesus?
I’m not going to support you going out of the country to “serve” God when you can do it in your own back yard, you can leave me out of it.
You need help raising funds to go on a mission trip to another country, well raise it yourself, you made a choice to go then you should make the money to support it.
I’m not going to lie. Hearing stuff like this come out of the mouths of people that care about you and that you care about most, hurts. Mostly because I feel that someone should know my heart and me as a person to know why I would want to go do something like this and even at the end of the day if they don’t entirely believe in it, support me simply out of love and their trust that if it is something I feel strongly about then nothing else should matter.
Here’s the thing. I think we should be missional in every area of our lives. In our homes, in our back yards, throughout our communities, across our country and overseas. I do not think there is a boundary, time or a place that it is not okay to be missional and ultimately further the kingdom of God. I fully believe in; if there is a need to be met and I can meet it, then I should. I would want the same done for me. I do want the same done for me. I pray that God uses me as His vessel every day and that I have the courage and heart to answer Him when He calls.
As I stated before, God has been tugging on my heart for years to go on missions and to do so overseas. I’ve pushed that away and ignored it for a long time simply because I did not think that I could. But last year, sitting in church that December morning when our pastor announced the trip to Harmons and the need for a team. The Holy Spirit told me, go. After the service was over, I looked at my husband and said, I am going, God told me to. He looked back at me and said, go for it, it’s about time…and I did.
The mission trip itself was a week long, eight days if you include traveling, Sunday to Sunday, a small blimp of my life in comparison to anything else. From the moment I signed up until the day that I boarded the plane for the first time was six months, equivalently 182 days. Day 1, the moment I put my name on that list and I said yes to the Holy Spirit, God started working in me in a way that I never knew was possible. Some days were more profound than others, some days were full of battles and attacks from Satan that would be enough to make any person run in the opposite direction. But on day 182, when I stood in that circle with my team praying before we left the church, and then for the next 7 days to follow, God was opening my heart to secrets that I never knew. I walked hand in hand with Jesus for 7 days with no distractions, basking in perfect love and that is something that I would never trade for the world (or anyone in it telling me that I should).
You go on a mission trip to help others and to share your love for God and His love for the world with anyone who is willing to listen if the moment presents itself. But what I have learned is that God did more for me, changed more in me, taught me more about my heart and who I am because of Him in that week and all the months leading up to it, than I ever thought was possible in my journey to “help someone else”. He taught me more about my life, my behaviors, the world we are living in and what I can do to make a difference in those short seven days than He or anyone else did on building houses or standing in a line handing out food.
I won’t pretend that going to Jamaica is filled with a week worth of saving souls and giving back to the poor through some great need that we can fill that would completely go unnoticed if we didn’t because it’s not. It’s filled with a week of building relationships with strangers and falling in love with them over a course of 7 days. It’s building two houses for said strangers while getting to know them and their family and their culture and their love for God. It’s taking a ton of donations with us to attempt to stock a store that caters to the community with normal items like clothes, shoes, and toiletries and barely making a dent in their needs, but doing the best we can with what we can and knowing that God is going to multiply in tenfold. It’s spending a day with the lost and forgotten in a place where the sick or homeless go to die, and putting a smile on their face by just simply loving them in the moment for who they are and everything that you have that is inside you. It’s leaving my home, my children, my job, and all my comforts to attempt to be a good steward for our Lord and allow Him to use me as a vessel in whatever way that He sees fit, and if at the end of the week I do not see an ounce of evidence of a job well done, I will still be satisfied in knowing that I am just a seed planter and God is the ultimate harvester and what seeds I plant for His good, He will grow. It may not manifest itself today, it may not manifest itself for ten more years, but it is all a part of His plan and I am just thankful to be used in it.
As I sat down this morning to do my morning devotional out of the book Jesus Calling He affirmed this for me.
Seek My face and you will find all that you have longed for. The deepest yearnings of your heart are for intimacy with Me. I know because I designed you to desire me. Do not feel guilty about taking the time to be still in My presence. You are simply responding to the tugs of divinity within you. I made you in My image and I hid heaven in your heart. Your yearning for Me is a form of homesickness. Longing for your true home in heaven. Do not be afraid to be different from other people. The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you. The more closely you follow My leading the more fully I can develop your gifts. To follow Me whole heartedly you must relinquish your desire to please other people. However, your closeness to Me will bless others by enabling you to shine brightly in this dark world.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
My desire to be intimate with God is greater than anything in this world and if I can find that intimacy with Him in a week in Jamaica, you better believe I am going to take it!
Beautiful Southern Heart
Last night at church I was sitting in the large group listening to our preacher teach his sermon. All of the sudden he asks, “Who here wants to see God face to face”, of course, everyone in the room raised their hand. He then said, “Now to turn to the person next to you and take a look at them”. As we all turned to look at our neighbors he then said, “There He is”. My sister bent over next to me and whispered, I told you to look at my toes wiggling them joyfully (to remind me when I saw Jesus in a stranger recently when I had my toes done).
On the way home after church later that evening, it was just me and my oldest son in the car listening to the radio and then I hear;
Me: Yes, baby?
Michael: If I ever wondered off away from home and got separated from you and daddy, I wouldn’t be lost and I would know how to find my way back home.
Me: Oh really? What makes you say that?
Michael: Well, I would never be lost because Jesus is with me. He is always with me momma.
Me: Yes baby, he sure is.
Michael: He is with me right now, sitting right beside me.
Me: Yes He is, He is with you wherever you go, He will never leave you.
Michael: I know that momma. I just wish I could see God and hear Him. I know He is sitting right beside me and with me always, but I want to see Him like really see Him and talk to Him.
Me: Well babe, you can see Him and hear Him, it’ll just take time to before you are able to recognize it as such. The more time you spend with Him and the closer you get to Him…
Michael: …Oh, I already know mom. The closer I get to God the brighter it will be!
Me: It will? That’s an interesting theory…what makes you say that?
Michael: Because! The closer I get to God, the closer I get to Jesus, and Jesus is His right-hand man, the sun. The sun is the brightest star there is, you know that!
Me: Chuckling, you are so right hun, but I think you are a little confused on the meaning of “son” in reference to Jesus.
Michael: What is confusing about the sun, I get it?!
Me: He’s not the sun, he’s the son. Like you are your father’s son. Jesus is the son of God and God is his father.
Michael: Oooooh. That makes much more sense now.
Me: But don’t forget, that He is the son of God, but also one with God and the Holy Spirit. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, before He went back to Heaven, He left the Holy Spirit here with us to guide us…
Michael: …Oh yeah, I know that mom. Jesus is living inside of my heart! When He died and went to Heaven he built a home in my heart and that is where He is now.
Me: Yes, baby, I suppose that is true. I have never thought about Heaven being in my heart, only that God is with me and in me.
Michael: Yeah mom, He lives inside your heart! That’s why we celebrate His birthday on Easter!
Me: No, Easter is about His death…
Michael: …Oh yeah, I got that wrong. Easter is about Jesus dying for us on the cross and Christmas is His birthday! Yeah, mom, Easter ain’t about no bunny and no candy. Neither is Christmas, that’s not what you are supposed to think about. We aren’t supposed to be worried about presents or Santa or food or trees! It’s about Jesus!!
Me: Beaming on the inside. You are so right, baby! Did you learn about this stuff at church tonight? (wondering where all of this information is suddenly coming from)
Michael: No mom, I am just telling you what’s in my heart.
Me: Oh, well! That’s so amazing baby. Do you want to be a preacher when you grow up like Edward?
Michael: Hahaha Nooooo mom. I could never do that.
Me: Why not? That’s what you are doing right now. You are sharing the gospel and not even skipping a beat!
Michael: What’s the gospel, mom?
Me: Everything you just told me, son. The gospel is the story of Jesus and how He came to save us from our sins and how much He loves us and everything in between!
Michael: Oh yeah, I can do that!
Me: I am honestly so surprised to hear such wisdom coming from a five-year-old. But you could share this with anyone, anywhere and that would be preaching!
Michael: Oh yeah mom, I don’t think I know any other kindergarteners who do that.
Me: Me either, but there could be more! That’s why it’s important to share Jesus with others.
Michael then fell silent and I turned the radio back up, I am sure he was thinking about everything we just discussed, that was a pretty amazing conversation in such a short amount of time if you ask me. Then, over the sound of the music I hear him say, “hey stars, talk to me, I want to hear you sing!”.
I’ve always said that my most favorite learning moments about Jesus come from my children, this night was no different. Jesus is truly with us wherever we go. Whether we can see Him or hear Him, He is there. Like my pastor pointed out tonight if you are looking for God just take a look around you. There is evidence of Him everywhere. Through all of His creations of the earth and in His children that you speak to every day, God is with us. You just need to pay attention.
Beautiful Southern Heart