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

My pedicure with Jesus

You probably read that title and thought, what? Is she crazy? Maybe a little bit. But this was not crazy at all. It was beautiful and sad and perfect all during my Thursday lunch break.

A couple of weeks back my boss gave me a gift card to go get my footsies done. I have been putting it off for days and finally decided I was going to shave my legs this morning and go get those puppies done. I do not like to go get my toes done very often and by that I mean once a year, maybe, mostly because I do not like people touching my feet and whenever they do I cringe and have so many insane emotions than run through my body as it is happening. So, if you ever watch me get a pedicure it is pretty entertaining, to say the least.

Today was no different than any other day and this pedicure trip was going to turn out just like the rest. Me sitting uncomfortably in a chair that is supposed to be super comfortable as it massages you, but the fact someone is touching your feet and doing crazy things to them takes away any enjoyment that the chair may bring you. But to my surprise when I got to the salon, my favorite one in town, by the way, I sat down to what looked like a ten-year-old boy who was going to do my toes.

Good grief.

I was already super concerned about how this was going to pan out, but now I have a ten-year-old doing my pedicure?! I seriously thought that I came at the wrong time of the year if they let their children give pedicures during the summer. This was promising to be everything I hoped for and then some. I begrudgingly got in the chair and allowed him to start my pedicure. I decided I was going to be nice whether I liked it or not because I only had an hour and I wanted this to be over as soon as possible.

In the first couple of minutes, I kept my nose in my phone so I didn’t have to watch the torture that was mine. But every time I looked down to see how it was going, he would smile back up at me with the sweetest grin and absolutely no idea that I hated pedicures or cared about how young he was. I kept that up for a while trying to ignore him and that he was touching my feet. But once he started getting to work on my callous I could not hold it in anymore and we both started laughing so hard. He looked at me like I was crazy, as did every other person in the salon as I tried to explain to them all how I hated my feet being touched and this part of the pedicure is always the worst for me.

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Now that the mood was lightened for everyone and I no longer had my nose in my phone. I was able to take in this person in front of me. A couple minutes before, the lady next to me was making conversation with her tech and mine and had asked their ages (they both looked incredibly young) as we found out her tech was twenty-four and mine was twenty! No way, not possible, you look like a ten-year-old. I’m sorry, but you do. As I started to study him I noticed that he did not look like a ten-year-old at all and instead looked like a young man and indeed could potentially be twenty years old (I still refuse to believe it).

My tune started to change as the pedicure went on. He was being “gentle” with me but not lacking in the services he was performing so I was distracted from the usual torture and as I took in all of who he was I started to notice some interesting things about him…

He had scars, so many scars on his legs and his wrists and his arms. Every time he looked up at me and gleamed the scars would disappear and then when he looked away and got back to massaging my feet, I noticed all of the pain he was wearing and my heart began to break. What in the world could be causing this beautiful soul so much pain to make him want to harm himself? What is going on in his life or that he has been through to cause him so much pain that the only way he could find an escape from it all was the release in putting a razor blade to his skin?

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He noticed that I noticed them and hesitated for a moment and tried to hide them, but ever so swiftly to not put any pause in the work he was doing. I instantly stopped looking and started praying. God, take his pain away. Maybe his pain has been gone for a long time and he’s overcome whatever he’s been through, I pray that he has, but if he hasn’t, take this cup from him. Heal him, Lord, from the inside out in a way that only you can. Love him, God, so deeply that peace would overwhelm him and the darkness would flee from his life. Thank you, God, for bringing me here today, so that I could see him and fall in love with someone so special…I know this pedicure and this moment was set up by you and I am so thankful to be here today. Thank you for coming with me to get my pedicure. Thank you so much, Lord.

The rest of our time spent together was about the same. My phone died (in the yellow I might add). I think God wanted me to soak it all in and just enjoy this moment for what it was. I have never had a more perfect pedicure before in my entire life and as I sat there contemplating how much of a tip to give him I instantly thought, ten should be nice. Then I argued no, twenty, this was a free pedicure and I really want to bless him today and bring some light to his world. But then God said, no, match it. Match it? Yes, give him what you would have spent if you paid for it yourself. Okay God, if that is what you want me to do.

As the final minutes were coming to a close and he was getting to the painting of my toes, an older lady walked in, you could tell she was a regular.  She said she needed a pedicure and her nails done and that she wanted the sweet girl who did them for her last time to do them. She looked over at me and said, oh good she’s here! She thought my tech was a girl! He looked at me, obviously offended as any man would be and tried to ignore her and finish my toes. She then came and sat down in a chair one over from me and was talking to the lady starting her pedicure and asked if her daughter could please do her nails because she really enjoyed it so much last time (still talking about my tech) and his mom said yes and he noticeably got upset, but then shot her the sweetest grin when she looked his way. I felt so bad for him, and no one was going to tell her she was wrong. But this moment was just a glimpse of what his pain must be like, so heavy and so deep, but the second that someone looks his way he flashes the most beautiful grin their way.

Before I knew it he was finished and it was time to go, I honestly was not ready to at this point. I did not even care that it had taken thirty minutes longer than I had planned. He gently put my flip flops back on so as to not mess up my paint and then came to my side and helped me out of the chair as he asked me if I was happy and did he do a good job. I sheepishly said yes, and told him to have a wonderful day as I walked to the counter to pay.20170629_161743_1498771128814

The guy said that’ll be two dollars. I handed him my debit card and he asked if I had any change and I told him no because I wanted to leave a tip. He asked me how much of a tip I wanted to leave and I smiled as I said thirty-five dollars. He shook his head and looked over at my tech and said, you want to leave him thirty-five dollars? Yes sir, thirty-five dollars. Signed for it and walked out the door with the biggest grin on my face, because I just got a pedicure with Jesus.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

Easier said than done

It’s been awhile since I sat down to write something for my blog. I could give you a laundry list of excuses as to why, but I simply just haven’t had the time to and haven’t had anything inspire me to do so. With that being said, I have missed it. I have missed getting on each week and sharing my thoughts on life and things going on around me. I have missed the interaction with others and seeing how they have benefited or related to something that I wrote. I have missed the lessons that I inevitably taught myself along the way through writing something that was more for me than it was for you.

I have decided that I do not want to go weeks again without writing and am going to do a short series to keep myself motivated and make sure that I am writing something new each week. The series will be over my experience in recovery and the twelve steps that you can walk through to get there too. Without further ado…I want to discuss something that has been weighing on my mind lately and I have found brought up in discussion with my friends and family many times. The introduction to the series…


You have seen me talk before about my strong desire to help people, see people change for the greater good, for their greater good. In my life testimony, I talk about how it was one of my greatest struggles and quite honestly one of the hardest lessons that I have ever had to learn; that you cannot help someone who does not want to help themselves. As much as I would like to tell you that I have reached the full understanding of this notion, it is still something that I struggle with today. Thankfully on a much smaller scale, but even still I find myself wanting to help someone be a better version of themselves and come out of the darkness that they are hiding in.

I struggle more today with allowing myself to help someone because I know that they are the ones that have to help themselves and unless they want to, there’s a good chance I am going to feel like I have failed in the end. The struggle comes from feeling as if it is easier to just give up and walk away rather than extend a lending hand in their time of need. Learning to find the balance between supporting them and enabling them or ultimately harming myself in the process, is a battle that I feel I will rage for years to come.

It is funny to me because I know that the best way I could help someone who is determined to destroy themselves or unwilling to come out of denial that they are in; is through prayer. I know that I do not have an ounce of control over whether or not they put one foot in front of the other and move forward in their life, but I still cannot help but feel even more powerless when I do nothing at all. I do pray for whoever it is and whatever their situation may be, but then I give up too easily and find myself eager to walk away and just let it be. Saying, they’ll come around when they are ready, I’ll be here when they do.

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But I do not like that way of thinking. It makes my heart feel heavy and sad. It makes me feel like a bad person for allowing someone to wallow in whatever detrimental life that they are choosing and sit back and act as if I do not notice. It makes me remember how I wish someone would have pushed through my stubbornness when I was an active user and been there by my side, instead of waiting on the other. Do not get me wrong here. I am not trying to contradict myself because I know that I know, you cannot make someone want help and you cannot make someone follow the right steps that it takes to get better, do better, be better or have better. But at what point do you stop trying? At what point do you give up? At what point do you keep going? At what point do you choose another angle? At what point do you stay instead of walk away, without getting hurt in the process.

  • I have found that equipping others with the right tools that they need to succeed is a start.
  • Loving them unconditionally through their ugly without judgment is not only necessary but one of the most important things that you can do for them.
  • Not only praying for them but praying with them will impact them more than you could ever imagine and will give you the strength that you need to walk through this journey with them.
  • Being consistent and setting a good example that they can follow is not only important to them but important for you so you can remain firm in your foundation.
  • Setting boundaries and abiding by them, at all cost.
  • Holding them accountable and allowing them to do the same to you.
  • Never make promises that you cannot keep or do not intend to because they merely sound good in the moment and you think it will make it better. It won’t.
  • Do not be afraid to give tough love. It can be extremely painful and really scary. But in the end, even if you feel like you are pushing them away. One day, they will thank you for it.
  • Remember that respect is a two-way street. They deserve it just as much as you do, and you cannot allow it to be waivered from you or them.
  • Listen with the intent to hear what they are actually saying and then respond in love.
  • Be honest. Even if it hurts. The truth will set you free, and they need to see that so that it can one day do the same for them.

daniell-koepke-feel-guilty-toxic-people-7y3s.jpg_thumb_600w-squareKnow this. It is okay to walk away, it is okay to allow yourself to not be a pushover, a door step, an enabler, have a revolving door in your home, be used and abused or manipulated and deceived. Not only is it okay, but it is necessary for their healing. Rock bottom is a real thing and I wholeheartedly believe that sometimes it is the only thing that will save a person and give them the desire that they need in their heart to turn their life around or whatever situation they are in that is harming them. They have to become fed up with what is going on in their life to not want to experience it anymore. They have to get tired and long for rest. They have to decide that enough is enough and that they are done. You cannot do that for them, no matter how hard you try.

Here’s the crazy thing. I’m not only referring to alcoholics and drug users. I am referring to any person that has a hurt, habit or hangup. I’m referring to your friend who is in an awful relationship that is destroying them and you are waiting for them to walk away from it. I am referring to your neighbor who has abandonment issues from their childhood and it has manifested itself as anger or resentment and now that they are an adult and you get the blunt end of the stick. I’m referring to the bully who is screaming for attention and looking for it in all the wrong places.

CR-Hurts-Habits-and-Hangups-300x190We are all human. We are all imperfect. We all make mistakes. We all need help. But most importantly we just want to be loved, and be happy. When someone you know and love goes looking for that happiness or wholeness in all the wrong places, don’t give up on them. Be there for them. Set a good example for them. Pray for them, every day. Be the love that they need, and let your light shine.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart


This article is an introduction to an 8 pt series on Recovery.

Part 1 Admitting you are Powerless

Part 2 Learning to Let Go

Note: If you would like to find out more about faith-based Recovery programs in your area, visit Celebrate Recovery and click on CR Groups. Feel free to email me for more information on where to find a group in your area.

Confidence in things unseen

Complete trust or confidence in something or someone. – Faith

I recently attended a girls night with some of my close friends. Nothing crazy, just a night away from the kiddos where we could relax and unwind and catch up with each other a little bit. Interestingly enough we got on the topic of faith and different passages in the Bible amongst other things. Since that night and thoughts coupled over the past couple of weeks I have had the topic of faith running through my mind. Hearing people say, it’s so hard to believe in something that I cannot see or understand or I’m a very literal person who has to see it to believe it, anything outside of that just doesn’t make sense to me.

As I was driving down the road the other day I thought to myself, each day that I get in my car I am trusting the other drivers on the road to follow the rules and stay in their lane and drive according to all that they learned in order to receive their driver’s license. I am putting faith in the fact that if they get behind the wheel, I am going to make it to my destination in one piece, as will they.

Just like when a light turns green, as much as everyone should, how often do we look both ways before automatically pressing the gas pedal and moving forward into the intersection? If I had to bet on it, most people are simply having faith in the fact that their light turned green and everyone else’s light turned red so that means they can move forward and they will be safe and not get hit.

How about when you go to a restaurant and your order your food from a complete stranger. You go there doing so with faith that you will look at the menu and order your food and that the person will get your order right. You have faith that the kitchen is clean, the people that are cooking your food know what they are doing and have clean hands too, that the food is not expired and has been stored properly and will be cooked according to how it should, the dishes being used have been cleaned properly and no longer have the germs from the person before you, as well that when you eat it’ll not only taste delicious but won’t make you sick either when it is all said and done.

You also have faith in the people that are taking care of your children for eight hours a day, whether this is at the public school that they attend to get an education or the day care that they go to because you have to go to work and are unable to stay at home with them. You trust that they will get fed, be kept clean (for the most part), not get any injuries, and be treated with love and admiration in the same that you would if you were with them too.

Don’t forget about your doctors and the hospitals, when you are sick and in need of some sort of medical advice, these are the people that you turn to for help. These are the people that you put your faith in to keep you alive and help you get well when you are ill. These are the people that when something terrible is wrong and you’ve looked up every symptom you can think of, you turn to them for guidance and understanding to save you because you cannot do it on your own.

Just to make sure I am covering my bases here because I know everyone lives a different life. Maybe you do not own a car or have never driven one, so this doesn’t apply to you. Maybe you do not eat our at restaurants because you prefer home cooked meals or simply cannot afford them. Maybe you are a stay at home mom and you homeschool your children and never let them out of your sight. Maybe you do not go to the doctors and have found out how to naturally take care of yourself and none of these examples apply to you.

But what about when you wake up in the morning and you go outside. Without even thinking twice about it, I bet you have faith the sun will rise. I bet you know that the moon will be in the sky as will the stars when the sun goes down. In the same place, in the same way, never changing, every single day. I bet that when you breathe in deep you expect your lungs to fill with air and send oxygen throughout your body and to your brain. I bet that as you are reading this now and you put your hand across your heart, you are expecting to feel it beat and pumping blood throughout veins keeping you alive.

With all the examples given above, down to your breath and your beating heart, they all can fail you. In some form or fashion the things that you easily have faith in each and every day without question, can let you down.

A person driving a car could decide not to stay in their lane and in return drive into yours. A person that is going through an intersection and sees a yellow light could easily decide to go faster rather than slow down and in return go through the light after it’s turned red, and you could meet them in the middle. You could go to that restaurant and order your food and have it come out wrong and end up with food poisoning. You could drop your kid off at school or daycare and pick them up and find a bruise on them. You could go to the doctor and get sent home because they couldn’t find anything wrong with you, only to find out you had an illness the whole time and now it’s progressed and will be harder to treat. You could even take a deep breath right now and your lung collapse and you not be able to take another. Just the same as you could put your hand over your heart and not feel a beat and keel over dead right now.

All of that sounds terrible I know because it is. But we put our faith in all of these things every single day without question, and for good reason. 9 times out 10 these things do not fail us and go according to how we believe that they should.

So here’s my question…

If you can have faith in all of these things; people you do not know and have never met and probably never will or things that you literally cannot see or have no control over. Why is that so hard to do with Jesus? Why is it so hard to believe in God? Why is it so hard to believe that there is a creator of this earth that loves you beyond human imagination or belief and that wants you to love Him back and spend eternity with Him in paradise?

Sure, as a human the latter is a much bigger pill to swallow especially because you cannot see it or begin to fully fathom it to understand it and you have to completely put your trust in it. But what makes that any different than the former?

Now faith is the confidence of things that are hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith, we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 1:1-3

It blows my mind all of the things that we will put our trust in confidence in and walk around with faith in, even when we have seen these things fail us. But have such a hard time in putting our faith in something good. Something wonderful. Someone that created you simply to be loved by you. The most beautiful love story that there every was and you are one of the main characters and you do not want to be a part of it. It seriously blows my mind.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

Some call it limbo..

Lately, I have found myself in this weird sort of limbo. I’m not exceedingly happy and I am not sad or angry, mostly just confused and a little out of sorts. There have been a lot of changes going on in my life in the recent weeks along with life feeling busier than ever. We are coming to the end of a lot of different seasons all at once in our household and I am ready for the fog to clear, but mostly a little excited to see what is on the other side.

18403413_873949399411839_8545694382446794468_nMy son graduates from Kindergarten on Thursday. I’m not sure what more there is to say about that. He’s now experienced a full year in school away from home and outside of the world that I built for him and into the world that I know I cannot save him from. I realize he is only going into the first grade, but it is still a huge milestone. Not to mention how much he grew in one year, mentally and physically, it’s almost mind blowing. I am hoping to really soak up the days I have with him this summer, outside of me going to work of course and strengthen the bond we have because he is such a momma’s boy and he’s really my best friend.

In addition to Kindergarten graduation, baseball season ends on Thursday too. We wait for it all year and then it finally comes and it sucks the life out of you for a couple of months until you cannot wait for it to be over, and then you are sad because you cannot wait for it to start again. He was so much fun to watch this year, again, amazing to see how much he’s changed between last year and now and how he’s not afraid of the ball anymore and is actually a pretty great batter. It gets me all in my feels when I think about it.

Then there is my youngest son. My sweet baby Kory, that is not a baby anymore. Just a couple more weeks of us being cautious with night time undies and then he is potty trained for good. Completely independent of any need for me anymore, not that he needs me for that now anyhow, but whatever denial I am living in now will no long exist and the last thing that made him a baby will disappear with it. It is heartbreaking, to say the least, but so incredibly overwhelming to watch the little man he is turning into and him finally starting to grow out of this terrible stage that he’s been in for the past two years. He took terrible two’s and terrifying three’s to a whole new level. But he wouldn’t be who he is if he had not. I love every part of who he is and cannot wait to see what that means later on down the road.

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Amongst the swirl of feelings surrounding my children, I have been working on myself a lot lately. Both physically and emotionally and as always, spiritually. I was driving to work this morning and realized that I haven’t taken any anxiety medication (both prescribed and natural) in over a month. I have probably only used oils to combat what felt like the onset of something a handful of times and without realizing it, have been walking around completely anxiety free. I should be jumping up and down and be doing cartwheels and screaming from the top of a mountain, but I am mostly shocked by this realization. I have had to deal with it for so long it doesn’t seem real that it is gone, but I am thankful. I have a few more tests in my near future to see how ‘real’ it is ( but I’ll share that with you anther time).

18527989_877764272363685_3621081005866937708_nI’ve also adamantly been losing weight. Most people gawk when I tell them this and then drop their jaw when I tell them how much I’ve weighed for the last year, because I somehow carry it well, but let’s just say that I am obese according to medical charts and not the healthy weight for my height. I have lost 10lbs so far and more inches than that, I feel pretty good about myself and the effort that I have put forth, but I know I have a long way to go. The real test will come in July when I am back in Jamaica and climbing that mountain at the end of the week…

I’m not sure what the immediate future holds or how I will feel in the next few weeks to come, but I am truly excited to see what God has in store for me and my little family. I have never liked change very much, but the older I get it grows on me and I sort of look forward to it. Until next time…

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

via Daily Prompt: Adrift

The difference between judging someone and holding them accountable

It is amazing what we can do and think in this world based off of what we have been told from a lie. It is even more amazing how much of us are walking around in denial believing that the lie is the truth and refusing to see anything else for what it truly is. This is the reality we live in today, and it’s sad. I am no exception to this, as much as I would love to say otherwise.

I have been talking back and forth with different people about this subject and decided it was time to touch on it from my view and what I perceive to be the truth. If what’s true for you is true for you and what’s true for me is true for me, what if one of my truth says your truth is a lie? Would it still be true?

Think about it.

If you live in the same world that I do, whether you are a Christian or unbeliever, you have at some point been in the argument or read one regarding opposing views on just about anything that someone can come up with to oppose someone else on. Some of the more popular arguments surround religion, race, politics, and health. In any case, a large majority of our population cannot disagree with someone in a calm cool and collected way without ultimately ending up with hate in their heart or a burnt bridge, all because of a matter of difference in opinion.d80125d67887cf6531dda39f4864b568

When arguments like this ensue, they might not start around religion, but almost certainly always end in it and the end result is usually that Christians are too judging and are not loving the way they are supposed to if they can’t accept the way someone else is living or behaving. I am here today to put an end to this argument and settle this once and for all, if you will let me.

My mom and I were recently discussing the difference in judging someone and holding someone accountable for their actions. The line between the two often gets blurred when someone is doing something they do not want to do and need an excuse to keep doing it and ultimately make them feel better about the choices they are making. But here is the thing that most Christians do not tell you or often leave out in the heat of the moment.

We sin too, no differently than you do. There is no greater sin than another and we all fall short of the glory of God, and that’s okay,. No matter how hard you try you are going to continue to sin because you are human and sin is in the world and we are in the world with it. The good news is; Jesus came to save us from that sin so that we do not have to be condemned by it and if we so choose, get to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. What once used to separate us from God, sin, no longer does because He sent His son to die for our sins and because of His blood that was spilled, we are no longer bound by it. Pretty amazing right?

8735fdedffc50f86276711edfaa114e0With all of that in mind, here is where the tricky part comes into play. As a Christian, you, simply put, deny yourself and choose to believe that Jesus died on the cross to save you from your sins. In believing this you are choosing to start a relationship with Him and follow the rules and instructions that He has laid out for you. This does not mean that everything you have ever done has instantly been erased. That does not mean that you are now a perfect human being with the inability to sin or do no harm. That does not mean that the you who once was will automatically become someone different.

It does, however, mean that everything you have ever done in your past has been forgiven. It does mean that you are accepting the fact that you are a broken sinner who needs a savior and will continue to sin but live your life in a way that pleases God and in doing so will over time start to sin less and less out of love and obedience for Him. It also means that although you are still who you are; through the reading of His word, prayer and beginning to walk in a close and personal relationship with Him, you will be transformed by the renewing of your mind and in that, become a reflection of Christ Himself. It also means that this is something that you have to choose every single day to do over and over again because if you do not, then your flesh will win and the picture that people have in their heads when they hear the word Christianity or Jesus will remain to be what it is today.

So what is my point? Where am I going in this “argument”?

There are many things, that we as Christians, are called to do as we follow Christ and the example He set before us. One of which is to hold others accountable for their sin so that they can to be saved from it. Not judge them for their sins so that you can feel better about yourself because you can’t and you won’t.

ef64a817b5d4d01bbf30b273a695e7dbMatthew 7:1-5 says, “Do not judge others, or you too will be judged. For in the same way that you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why would you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take that speck out of your eye’ when all of the time there is a plank in your own? If you do this, you are a hypocrite, and you should first take the plank out of your own eye so you then will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brothers”.

That is pretty straight forward if you ask me. This passage simply states, that we are all sinners and my sin should not go unnoticed simply because someone else’s sin is apparent and out in the open. I should work on my own sins and pray for and be an example to my brother so that he can work on his too. If I do not do this and instead judge him for his sins, then I will reap what I sow and it will not be pretty.

We are also called to restore our brothers and sisters gently. Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brothers and sisters if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves when you do, because you may also be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Again, a pretty straightforward request that gets skewed time and time again. This passage says to me if someone you know is doing something they should not be doing, as a loving friend, tell them what they are doing that is wrong. But watch out, because it is easy to get caught in the same sin with them. Regardless, we should carry each other’s burdens and support one another and in doing so we will be doing as Christ has asked us to do.

7fe53896390fe213704b7d0d50cdfa4dThe last one I am going to share with you, which is pretty stinking important, and is the one that gets messed up the most. Matthew 18:15-17 which says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won the over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector.

God intended for us to look out for one another and to help each other when we lose our way. This passage tells us to go to our friend if they are doing something that is harming themselves and to tell them what is going on, just to them and not to someone else. If they do not want to listen to you, then try it again in front of two or more people so that the effort does not go unnoticed and you have witnesses to strengthen the argument. If they still will not listen, take the matter to the church so they can handle it there and if even then they will still not listen, then walk away because there is nothing you can do about it and you cannot let them bring you down and brought into their sin with them.

This is the moment you have all been waiting for, my point.

When someone is trying to live their life, holy and pleasing to God and they find fault with a choice that you are making in yours, it is not because they want to judge you or condemn you for what you do. They first, don’t have the power to and they know that they don’t. But more than anything, are just trying to hold you accountable for something that has been made clear to them that is not right and that is displeasing to God. If Christians watched their family and loved ones make decisions that they know are against Gods will and say nothing about it, they are no better than the person that is committing the sin. If Christians just kept their mouths shut and never told you that something you are doing is wrong and that there is a better way to live your life, the world that they too live in would soon become hell on earth, but worse, you would never get to know about Jesus.

Therefore, let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of your brother. – Romans 14:13

Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.  – James 5:20

Here is the thing y’all. God put us on this earth to love and be loved because He is love. There is not one single individual on this planet that God does not love and that He would not want to spend eternity with Him. But the cool thing is that He gave you the ability to choose, free will. He is not going to force you to love Him.  He is not going to force us to all get along or to do the right thing and because I know that, I want you to know it too. I want you to feel the same love and peace and hope and joy and blessings that I feel every single day. I want when I go to Heaven, to see you there too. But I cannot do it on my own and neither can you. Iron sharpens iron as one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17), I need you to tell me when I am in the wrong so that I can tell you when you are in the wrong and no matter what love each other through it, deal?

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

7 Years and Counting…Sobriety Wins

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 freshmen 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 every 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 fell 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 anyways. 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. 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’d 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 had been 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 birthday, I was on meth. This started the downhill spiral that led me to my bottom 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 whole 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 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 and 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.

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 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 this, 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 bad 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 had 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.

Today marks seven years of my sobriety.

They say that after seven years that every cell in your body has died at some point and regenerated, so to me that means I am a brand new person today, just like I was seven years ago when I decide to stop running and give it all to God. Seven years later I am happily married with two gorgeous boys that I am so very much in love with, and our family dog Charlie. I have graduated from college twice now and am now working on my third degree, my masters! We bought our own home a few years back, we own two cars, and we are still in debt, but it’s just a footprint from the life we are living. We attend church regularly as a family and are all very involved in our community. Every year God continues to mold me and grow me into this beautiful human being that I never thought I could be and the best part about it is; I am human. I am not perfect. I stumble, like every day y’all. I fall. I make plenty of mistakes and yet, every time I do, my God is there to forgive me. He is there to dust me off and pick me back up again and that is something that will never change!

This morning I woke up late because I had a bad dream, it was a dream about my husband doing horrible things to me and my world crumbling back down to what it was before, it was a nightmare and it woke me up in bad mood. After I got up one thing after another kept happening to me to make me upset. My son peeing all over the middle of the floor, my water bottle spilling all over the counter because I forgot to put the cap back on, it was pay day and my check had not come in yet, and from where I was standing my day was going to suck.

My husband urged me to let it go and not let it ruin my day, he’s a smart man.

But then God reminded me. You have a son! You have a job! You have a counter and water to spill on that sucker. You are blessed beyond belief and today you are a new woman! Hallelujah!

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