10 Years Sober!! A decade of blessings and restoration!

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.

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This was my freshman year, Queen’s ball, RIGHT before my life started to change…

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.

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One of the many pictures of myself back then..high..but smiling.

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.

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This was the same week I sat in my sister’s church. Just a couple of days before this picture my hair was down to my butt (a normal for me), I decided to cut it all off to symbolize that the old me was dead and gone. This was a new girl 🙂

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.

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A year ago today I celebrated 9 years sober 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 ten 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.

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A life that includes waking up every day and living for Him, sharing my testimony with others’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 a little over a year and a half 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 ten 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 really struggled this year with wanting to rewrite my testimony and really go deeper into my life and what God has done through me, but I am still on a journey of figuring that out for myself and sharing it with you the right way. I wouldn’t do it justice if I didn’t do it the right way and authentically express all that He has done for me. So for this year, I will add on to it with this;

In the last year of my life, I have done some amazing soul searching that I didn’t even realize I needed or that was possible. I’ve gone to some deep dark corners of myself and found healing in places I didn’t even realize needed healing. The truth is we go through our entire lives picking up baggage that we carry around and that weighs on us in ways we sometimes never even realize or uncover as truth for ourselves. For me, I’ve tried really hard to run from a lot of that baggage and especially the years during my addiction where I am fully aware of the things that happened to me and the things that I went through and the things that I put myself through. It is hard to come face to face with at times, but it’s a beautiful thing when you do and you give it to God and He frees you from it. I have a lot of work to do and I am not running anymore. I am a definite work in progress and I have so much more ahead of me. Today I celebrate 10 years from a life that tried to kill me but only actually made me stronger and the beast of a woman I am today! I am looking forward to the day that I get to lay my whole story down and I don’t struggle to find words through the pain. Today I am sober, today I am the healthiest I have ever been in my whole life, today, even in quarantine which is a rough place for an addict to be in, I find joy in all that God has done for me and is doing through me.

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

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

Empowering Questions – Journey to Greater Intimacy – Week 3

What is my life like when it is in balance?

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 used to be very structured and controlling every aspect of my life, every single part of it. But in this last year, God has brought all of that to a screeching halt and has taught me what it looks like to just take things one day at a time and color outside the lines a little bit. It is because of this that I knew this question would be pretty hard for me to answer because for the last year, my life has felt like a roller-coaster with a lot of loose screws that goes in and out of the dark and seems to start and stop at its own pleasure. I’m sure that sounds much worse than it actually is because the last year has been really great, but it’s been hard for me on a personal level.

But in this last year, God has brought all of that to a screeching halt and has taught me what it looks like to just take things one day at a time and color outside the lines a little bit.

When I first pulled this question from the deck I laughed, like out loud, and thought oh boy! Here goes another question that I do not even know the definition of the keyword: balance. I have seriously spent a lot of time trying to discover the meaning of this word and have gotten close to understanding it, but then the rollercoaster takes off again and I am back at square one. I know I know, I am being dramatic again, it really is not that bad. But sometimes, in moments like this, when I am asked what is my life like when it is in balance, I feel like I do not have a real clue.

I have like textbook answers. What I think the answer should be. Or what I feel like the answer could be. But I am unsure of the truth of what that looks like and honestly, I’m just going to wing it to find out.

Every time I think of this question a life wheel pops in my head. Have you ever seen one of those? It kind of looks like a pizza with equal slices cut out of it, except instead of pepperoni and jalapenos, you get an away of life qualities like; self, health and fitness, intimate relationship, family, fun & social life, career, financial, and personal development. I found one on google that I will use as a visual so you can see where my brain is going with this. The particular one I found has numbers in between the slices so you can more or less grade yourself in each area. wheel-of-life

Well, this just got real. On a scale of 1-10, I need to decide where I fall in each of these categories and then tell you what I think it should really be like. I think I’m just going to stare at it for a little while and see what comes to me…

(times lapse)

Okay, I got it.

Let’s go back to the definition of balance: an even distribution of weight enables someone or something to remain upright and steady. A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. With synonymous like stability, steadiness, footing, evenness, levelness.

When I look at the wheel I feel like you should have an even circle going all the way around and that circle, no matter if you are on level two or level ten, should be the same all the way around, and that is balance.

balanced-millennialBut then after I look at it more and think about what I just said, I feel like that sounds a little crazy. I feel like that sounds really hard. I feel like that puts unnecessary pressure on something that is already pretty hard to do without any added weight to it. And just like that, I’ve changed my mind.

 

Have you ever seen one of those cool looking pictures of rocks? Like really pretty and smooth ocean rocks. The kind of rocks that you can only find at the ocean that has been tossed back and forth by waves for years and are like a perfectly smooth texture. I have another visual for you if not.

When I see this picture and this depiction of balance, I get a little air in my chest and feel stronger. The wheel of life was overwhelming and made me feel incompetent and incapable of finding balance in my life. But the balancing rocks with the beautiful ocean in the background, made me feel human and alive. I chose more than one rock visual because I do not think there is one right or wrong way to find balance in one’s life and that it will look different for everyone. But I also think that is where the beauty lies and I’ll tell you what that looks like for me.

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When I look at this picture and see the ocean, I think of God and the universe and all the majesty it holds. When I see the bottom rock, the rock that holds all the other rocks up, I think of Jesus and a firm foundation. When I look at the other rocks and the different shapes and sizes I see my life. I see where there are some areas that I may give less attention to or that hold less weight in my life but are important to the foundation and steadiness of the other areas of my life. I see more things and more weight on one side, but bigger and greater weight on the other, and when the rocks are stacked just right on either side, you get balance.

What I like about the rocks and the uniqueness that they all bring is that they have the ability to be shifted, moved around, and even make room for other things that may not exist yet or even let go of things that shouldn’t be there. I see the ability to be unperfect, but yet have perfect parts that fit perfectly with each other. When my eyes wander back to the ocean I think about the steadiness and calm that it beings, but then I think about the weather and how storms can come and all of this can get knocked down and take what looks like a perfectly balanced masterpiece, and it all crumble to the ground in an instance.

Balance-comes-when-you-begin-to-trust-that-you-are-enough.But then I think about the hands that created the masterpiece and I realize that even if that happens when that happens, He can take all of the pieces and slowly put them back together again. At that moment, when He does, it may look different than it did the first time and some parts might even have to go away for a while, but none of that takes away from the ability to be balanced and be beautiful and be strong. To just be enough.

So, for me, when I think about what my life is like when it is balanced, I guess I think about Jesus. I think that it looks like understanding that my life is made up of many different and important aspects and that every part of me needs attention and to be present in my life. But that also, there will be seasons and storms that cause that balance to shift or crumble and I can find peace in knowing that the God of the universe is going to put me back together again. He is going to take me in His hands and piece by piece align each part of my life exactly where it needs to go until I am in perfect balance again. He is the one where I will find stability, who gives me a firm footing, who will bring steadiness to the situations that are just completely out of my control. He is the one who will level out all the bumps and bring me back on even ground.

As long as I look to Him and build my life on His firm foundation, balance will come.

Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste. – Isaiah 28:16


Week 4’s Questions: 83145011_213103186522406_8871979223108026368_n

What would I do if I had enough time?

What do I do when I have time?

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

Keep up with these questions and my journey on Facebook and join in on the conversation, as well as checking back each week to see what I post here.

Previous weeks in the series:

Week 1

Week 2

Empowering Questions – Journey to Greater Intimacy – Week 2

What larger entity am I a part of?

I thought long and hard on this one and was a little stumped, to say the least. I immediately thought, well I am a part of God, but that thought seemed too simple. These are empowering questions that need strong answers and I had a lot more thinking to do before I just settled on the obvious. But I was having a hard time in general with defining entity for myself, past God, so I decided to look it up.

If you google the definition of entity you are going to get a ton of business jargon on what type of entity to put down for your business and what all that means. I tried to reword it a million different ways and still, all of the results were business-related, so I just settled with the Webster dictionary definition of entity and synonyms associated. This is what I got;

Definition of entity – a thing with distinct and independent existence: organization, institution, establishment, body, operation, structure, system, unit, whole, setup or outfit. As well as being, commodity, existent, individual, individuality, integer, object, reality, substance, or thing.

Okay, well, that changes things then.

My mind started going in a lot of different directions and so I decided to make a list. I listed out all of the entities that I belonged to according to the definition of what an entity is and I came up with fifty different answers.

Fifty.

I was overwhelmed by that list and started to wonder if these answers fit into the overall question, what larger entity am I a part of?

Then I started to wonder, what defines a larger entity? Like does it have to have two or more people in it? Or fifty or one hundred? Does it have to be well known or cover a large area? Does it have to have great importance or be of great importance to people who think about it? Who decides that it is large and how do I measure it?

I automatically knew that google was going to be of no help. The last time I typed in the word entity I got a whole bunch of results for business-related information, so I was pretty sure if I asked google what a large entity was then I would just get a whole bunch of new results about major corporations or something along those lines, so I decided that the judge would have to be me. I would have to decide how to measure what I believed to be a larger entity or how I was going to measure this list in front of me.

Maybe I don’t measure it at all, maybe I just condense it. Maybe I don’t condense it and I leave it as it is, but I instead put it into categories or in order of importance to me. Maybe I don’t do any of those things and I just stick with my first answer and call it a day because this is all starting to overwhelm me a little bit and I feel like I am losing the picture of what the question is that I am trying to answer. So, I decide to walk away. I decide to walk away and leave the list alone and let it steep for a while and see what God says.

Maybe I don’t do any of those things and I just stick with my first answer and call it a day because this is all starting to overwhelm me a little bit and I feel like I am losing the picture of what the questions is that I am trying to answer.

This morning when I was reading my bible, I came across a verse in Romans 1:13 that said, I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.* I saw that the verse had an intext citation and looked to see what it was about. The reference read: The Greek word for brothers or sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men, and women, as part of God’s family. I read that and thought, wow, I am a part of God’s family, so I feel like Paul is talking to me right now. Then I thought, God’s family is large, like really really large and that is definitely something I am a part of, so I am going to write that down.

Later on, I came back to my list and read over it again. Everything on it was true, everything on it is something that I am a part of an entity that I belong to and I do not want to take any of it off. But this list, with fifty items, is still really long and I need to make sense of it so I am going to put it into categories and go from there. This is what I came up with;

Out of the fifty different items on my list, I could easily break these up into major and minor. Right off the bat, I see ten that would fit into the major list and forty that I could easily put into the minor list, so I separated them. Then I looked again and thought, all of these items more or less fall into the categories of organizations, people, places or things. So, I divided them up and was able to really start to see this list in a whole new way. The major entities are like an umbrella, or even a succession of umbrellas, that hold the minor entities, but when it is all said and done, they are all larger entities that I am a part of and that I belong to. When you look at it from a bird’s eye view you can see that all of this is what makes me, me.

Broken down for you it looks like this:

Major Entities

  1. The Kingdom of God
  2. My relationship with God – The Lord of my life, His child, brothers and sisters in Christ (adelphoi)
  3. My marriage – people who are married
  4. My children – being a parent
  5. My family – mom, dad, brother, and sister, nieces and nephews, grandparents, cousins
  6. My friends – collectively, separately, in the past, today
  7. My church – Summit Heights as a member, of staff. Bible study group, CR, women’s
  8. The Church – an individual body that is in the body
  9. Soul work – Women Revealed and The Crucible
  10. The human race

Minor Entities

Organizations

  1. Grand Canyon University – College of Theology
  2. The Gladewater Class of 2008
  3. The National Honor Society of Collegiate Scholars
  4. 4-H Family
  5. Homeschooling Family
  6. Gym 101
  7. Gilmer Public Library
  8. East Texas Professional Credit Union
  9. Aflac and Cigna
  10. Customer of AT&T

People

  1. Women
  2. Caucasian
  3. Millennial 25-30
  4. Economy – Middle Class
  5. English
  6. Missionary
  7. Pastors
  8. Addicts – Recovered
  9. Sexually Abused
  10. Mental Health Issues
  11. Glasses
  12. Non-Political
  13. Southerner
  14. Tattoos and Piercings
  15. Animal Owner
  16. Home Owner
  17. Car Owner
  18. Licensed Driver

Places

  1. The Universe
  2. The World
  3. America
  4. Texas
  5. Upshur County
  6. Pritchett

Things

  1. GED holder
  2. Degrees
  3. Notary
  4. Social Media
  5. Internet (email, blogs, etc.)
  6. Entertainment (Netflix, Hulu, etc.)

I kind of feel like someone could steal my identity or something, now that I have put it all out there. But honestly, that information is already out there and exists and really just answers the question for me; What larger entity am I a part of?

It is very interesting when you take a step back and look at it all. When I think about if other people were to answer this question and write their own list, I wonder what it would look like for them and I wonder how surprised I would be to see all that they belong to or maybe even the opposite. I look at this list for myself and think, wow. I could have just stopped with number one and that been enough, like seriously, more than enough. But to sit back and look at all of the organizations, people, places and things that I belong to I can’t help but feel, special. Almost as like, if I ever thought at any moment in this life like I were alone or didn’t fit in or somehow there wasn’t a place for me here or that there were people who cared about me. I could look at this list and find fifty different reasons why all of that is not true. I could find fifty different reasons to feel loved, to feel important, to feel valued, to feel needed, to feel wanted, to feel enough to feel not alone.

I look at this list for myself and think, wow. I could have just stopped with number one and that been enough, like seriously, more than enough.

But more than anything, I could look at the top of this list and know that if every other thing were gone and passed away or no longer existed, the first thing would be enough. The first thing is enough. My first answer trumps all other answers and is the largest entity I will ever be a part of and is what matters most. I am a part of the Kingdom of God.

Wow.


Week 3’s Questions: 83401996_598110010746122_369147087561949184_n

What is my life like when it is in balance?

Woah, this one is going to be a doozy. I’d like to say that I look forward to journaling and praying about it, but I am a little worried to see what this answer will be. I think it will be a tough one.

Stay Blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

Keep up with these questions and my journey on Facebook and join in on the conversation, as well as checking back each week to see what I post here.

Previous weeks in the series:

Week 1

Empowering Questions- Journey to Greater Intimacy: Week 1

What kind of feelings am I feeling right now?

What kinds of metaphors can I find to describe my feelings?

I’ve been thinking about these questions on and off all week long and what my answers to them should be. Wondering if I should just answer it simply or the only way I know how, with length and details. I am just not one for short and sweet and I feel like I am doing myself a disservice to my truths whenever I try to be. When I think about these questions a lot of different answers come to my mind, like what I am feeling right this very second, what I have been feeling over the last couple of weeks, and then the lingering thoughts of do I even really know what it is that I am feeling at all?

Over the last year I started on a journey of self-awareness, self-healing, self-discovery, and just a general desire to have answers to a lot of questions that honestly, I haven’t even asked yet, but others that have been popping up over the last few years and some over the course of my life. A big journey that I have come to the realization will be a life-long one that will change and evolve over time. On this journey so far, I have learned quite a bit about myself, something of great significance to me is having a better insight into my personality type and how it plays a huge role in all areas of my life, including my feelings (that is a loaded statement).

A big journey that I have come to the realization will be a life-long one that will change and evolve over time.

I learned that I am a type two on the enneagram system and we twos are jam-packed with all sorts of feelings, so much so that we closely resemble the likeness of an empath. An empath being someone who is highly aware of the emotions of those around them, to the point of feeling those emotions themselves. For a two, that looks like being keenly aware of the emotions of everyone else around you and so in tune with others emotions that we ultimately fall out of practice with being able to recognize our own or run from the reality of our own emotions by focusing on everyone else’s around us and busying ourselves with their needs and neglecting to take care of our own. Tomato tomato, I digress.

Simply put (ha), I have become, over the course of a year, aware of the fact that I really do not know what it is that I am feeling. Like really really feeling. Sure, in the flight of a moment I can tell you I am happy or sad or mad, like in that exact moment. But the reality of it is, if I am anything less than happy, you probably are not going to know about it and I am going to keep it to myself until I can get to the point where I can look you in the eye and say, I am happy. That’s another interesting thing about twos, we just don’t like to do icky feelings. We can do them with other people all day long and even sympathize or empathize alongside them with genuine affections. But when it comes to our own feelings of really, anything less than positive, we ignore them. We hide them, we sweep them under the rug, we put it in a box on a shelf and do well to never open it again, we put it on the back burner with intentions of coming back to it and dealing with it, but then we find ourselves distracted and we do not.

That I something that I have become good at, distracting myself. Diverting feelings that really need to be dealt with, in an attempt to be happy as soon as possible. Deflecting. Oh, I am really good at deflecting. I am so good at it that I have gotten really bad at recognizing my own feelings. Or just straight-up ignoring them, like giving myself the silent treatment and knowing that if I wait long enough, I’ll eventually forget about it, for a while anyway.

Here’s the crazy thing. Until this year, seriously, like 12 short months ago. I didn’t even know I was doing this, I was completely unaware of it. I was so far rowing down denial, the river of fake happiness, that if it wasn’t for God using my own self against me, then I might still be there, rowing away. You are probably wondering what I mean by that. I just snickered. But, seriously, I signed up to attend a Women’s Retreat through an organization called Women Revealed (if the name doesn’t say enough about it I don’t know what will) to attend a weekend called Release Your Burdens. I signed up under the thought process that I wanted to go see what the hype was about, I wanted to go see what everyone else was going to go do (I had some real FOMO going on) and I didn’t even think I had any burdens that I needed to release. I honestly had no other intentions of going other than to see what it is that I didn’t know (another really funny “two” thing) and like I do with all things in life, see what God had for me. So, you can imagine my surprise whenever He slapped me upside the head with some truth and then led me down the road that brought me here. It was on that weekend that I discovered, I’ve been doing it wrong, I don’t have faint clue about what is going on inside me and now that I am aware of this sad truth, I have a long way to go to figure out what it is that I don’t know, about myself. If you are scratching your head right now with it cocked to the side and wondering what in the world is this girl talking about, that’s how I felt when I received this truth.

I was so far rowing down denial, the river of fake happiness, that if it wasn’t for God using my own self against me, then I might still be there, rowing away.

I have spent the last twelve months trying to unravel that truth and only be left with a slew of new questions that I didn’t even know I had before then. The biggest one that I have been working on, like diligently trying to uncover, is the golden question. What kind of feelings am I feeling right now? See the irony in that? During my search for that answer, I have found some other answers that are like tiny little clues leading up to the big reveal. One of which is my general apprehension towards intimacy and simple vulnerability. I touched on that in my post where I first posted this question and when God gave me this fun little assignment to work on throughout the year. I believe that through my journey of answering questions over the next 52 weeks I am going to uncover a whole lot more answers to the questions I have been asking over the last year and the new ones that I get as each day passes, as God helps me to be seen in my vulnerability.

I want so badly to have real intimacy in my relationships, to be authentic in all that I do, and to not be afraid of vulnerability but instead see it as a strength that can be used for my good and the good of others. I feel like when I shy away from vulnerability, I am actually doing more harm to myself than good, setting myself up for deception, strongholds, and windows of opportunity of attacks from the enemy, as well as robbing myself all of the beauty that comes from the intimacy that is found through being vulnerable. I’ve lived a life-time of being closed off from others in an effort to protect myself that I have missed out on the healing that comes from others when we let them in. So again, I digress.

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I’ve put off answering these questions long enough and it is time to empower myself by revealing what lies within, my feelings. I learned a cool tool to naming my feelings over the last year in a process called a check-in, where you use a chart of feelings (or wheel) to help you pinpoint what they are and then “check-in” with yourself, which all stem from the root feelings of; Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, Tender (SASHET).

Today, in this moment, I am checking-in Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, and Tender. I am full SASHET. I am sad because I found out this morning after reading my bible and journaling that I have been grieving the Holy Spirit, both intentionally, and unintentionally and I was lying to myself about it. I am also sad because I have a very close friend of mine that I have not spoken to for a little while that I am unsure of what is going on within our friendship and what to expect for our future. I am sad because I haven’t seen my husband in a week, and I miss him. I am sad because I have some unspoken feelings about some other important relationships in my life that I am earnestly praying for God to mend and bring healing to. I am sad because there were some things that I was looking forward to in the next few weeks and months ahead and I feel like God is leading me in a different direction and I wasn’t prepared for it and I guess you could say I am mourning the truth in all that.

I am angry because there are some things in my life that I have no control over and that I cannot fix, but that is like a thorn in my side that I cannot get rid of. Another thing that I am trusting in God to fix in His good timing, but while my boundaries are being crossed and I am pushed against a wall, it leaves me angry. I am mad because there are some things in my past that I really thought I had found healing in and could move past from, but God has shown me that is not the case and that in fact will be “dealing” with it very soon, but in the meantime, I am dealing with PTSD from it and unwarranted and unexpected bouts of anxiety as a result of it. PTSD and anxiety that pours over into my closest relationships and steals very precious moments from my day and it is infuriating.

I am scared because my husband is on his way home from traveling all week long and there are some very bad storms happening today and I just want him to be home, safe and sound, and not spending the next few hours waiting and wondering when he will get here and if he will be okay. I am scared because in a little over two months I will be going on another women’s retreat, this time through the Women’s Crucible, and I will be coming face to face with some strong demons that I personally do not think I am ready for (don’t’ ask me how I know, it’s just a feeling). I am scared because I told God a couple of months back that I was going to quick trying to control everything in my life and since I have been keeping up my end of the deal (for the most part anyway) I am walking every day in the unknown and even though I know He has nothing but great plans for me and works His will in my life for my good, it still scares me. I am also scared because I live a very fortunate, blessed, and highly favored life that I feel like with my good graces I will mess up at any moment by standing in my own way and just making the dumbest decisions that leave me sitting in the floor with a bucket over my head (I don’t honestly think that will happen, but I don’t trust me).

I am happy because my husband is on his way home and I haven’t seen him in a week and he is my best friend and his presence makes me so very happy. I am happy because homeschooling your kids is really hard, but even on the rough days, I get to see some amazing things that I never would get to experience otherwise and I am constantly reminded that this is the right choice for our lives and I am so expectant at what God has for us in the future. I am happy because lately I have been trying really hard to put God first and allow Him to direct my life and I am doing a really great job of it, for the first time ever. I am happy because God is so incredibly patient with me and has allowed me to be stubborn and hard-headed, while He has led me to where I am today. I am happy because I have been working really hard on trying to heal myself mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and in every way possible known to man, and it’s working.

I am excited because when I think about the upcoming year and I see what God is already put into place I just want to scream and shout for joy and do a little happy dance in anticipation for all that is to come. I am excited because I am turning 30 this year and I welcome it and look forward to what this decade will hold for my life. I am excited because I have been losing the equivalent of 2lbs a week and I am stronger and more flexible and more determined than ever to see where this will all go. I am excited about the upcoming Women’s Crucible weekend that I will be participating in. I am also very excited about my husband moving on into more Crucible work and all the insanely amazing things that God is doing in his life. So excited.

I am tender because God asked me to reach out my friend today and be vulnerable and I am attempting to leave all other feelings at His feet and bask in the trust I have for Him in this situation, that no matter what happens, He is in control and through my obedience will come great things, whatever that may be. I am tender because I am now being vulnerable with all of you and I am not quite sure how else I feel about that, but tender is definitely part of it. I am tender because so many of my friends and loved ones have been going through some major trials and tribulations and loss of loved ones and my heart just breaks for them and their sorrows.

I feel like I have so many more feelings boiling inside of me, but these are the ones that I was able to pinpoint, right now in this moment.

The second part of the question was what kind of metaphors can I find to describe my feelings? I snickered again, I almost feel like this question is as hard or harder than the first. But I’ll try to answer it.

Right now, since I am full SASHET but with various forms of the words, metaphors of my feels;

Sadness is a bittersweet friend.

Anger is like an alarm for the fences around my heart.

Fear is a friend of mine.

Happiness is a common familiarity that I am often in search of.

Excitement is my favorite distraction.

Tenderness engulfs me most of the time.

Wooooooo. I never thought I would make it through the first week and this first question, but here I am.

I hope that by me answering this question in length and my desire to embark on this journey, that God will inspire you to either join me and answer the questions along with me, or in your own way, or at the very least you follow me over the next 52 weeks as I pull a new question from the box and I become closer in discovering what true intimacy is and as I learn to be vulnerable with myself and others on a whole new level.

Week 2’s Question: 82975432_565251114321763_5809495033698582528_n

What larger entity am I a part of?

I look forward to praying and journaling about this one and seeing how I answer it.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

 

 

Keep up with these questions and my journey on Facebook and join in on the conversation. My first post on the topic on Facebook.

For more information over the enneagram and finding out your own personality type, I recommend checking out the Enneagram Institute and taking a test to get you started. The Enneagram Institute

For more information over Women Revealed and attending a Release Your Burdens Weekend, check out their website or feel free to message me on Facebook. Women Revealed

For more information about The Women’s (or Men’s Crucible) Project and attending one of their weekends, check out their website or feel free to message me on Facebook. The Crucible Project

“My Mama Said”

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.

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“my mama said, not to be taking rides from strangers”

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

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“my mama said that Jesus died for me on the cross because I’m special”

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

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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

God our Father

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.

Trust Him.

Have Faith.

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.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

Smorgasbord

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.

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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.

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After I got off the treadmill and my mood hand changed. I could barely hold the phone up because I was weak after working out. ha!

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.

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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.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

When God says be still, you listen…

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.

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Me, John and Kimberly

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.

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At the end of our walk ’bout the community – The Harmons sign

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.

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Dean and I

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.

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What it looks like to just be still, you miss the small stuff when you are moving too fast.

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.

Message received.

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.

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The face of a happy girl, a content girl.

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.
Wait, what?
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.

Speechless.

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.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

Dear America,

I want to know…

Why?

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.

Where does your identitycome from-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.

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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

Jesus loves all the little children

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.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

Speaking From His 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;

Michael: Momma?
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.

MOMMASMichael 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.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart