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

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

The truth will set you free, or burn you, one of the two

Have you ever went through life assuming you knew how someone else felt about a particular situation or thing, based off of what you know about that person or how you felt at that time. In that assumption, did you take your word for it and never venture to find out if it was true and move on with life because you were satisfied with the truth that you had given yourself, even though you were not 100% sure that it was the truth at all. Even after not knowing and feeling whatever type of way your truth left you with, you still did not try to dig deeper or simply ask to see what the real truth was, maybe even letting years go by before eventually finding out the truth and then feeling dumb because you were wrong the entire time. It didn’t happen that way. Things could have been different. But you stuck with your truth and here you are now and there’s nothing you can do about it, but accept it.

I have.

This past weekend I got to go on a trip with one of my childhood friends to see our best friend so we could make plans for her upcoming wedding, and get away for a couple of days. It was a pretty great trip when it was all said and done and I am glad that I went on it. It was an experience I was not planning on, to say the least, and something that ultimately left me feeling satisfied yet indifferent.

1 (1)The trip started out with me spending five hours in the car with a girl that I had not been around alone, or much at all for that matter, for over ten years. This same girl used to by my best friend. We grew up with each other from a small age and were nearly inseparable through middle school and high school. We had a lot in common, similar personalities, and had this overwhelming need to compete with each for everything (in a healthy way of course). She and I and three other girls (including the one who is getting married) ended up in a group referred to as “the fab five”.  Awful I know, but I cannot make this stuff up. We did not give ourselves that name if it makes it any better, but if you saw one of us you saw all of us and the name got stuck with us so we ran with it. Right before her sixteenth birthday (my friend in the car with me), found out she had cancer. This was a devastating time in our lives and the initial shock of it all was overwhelming, but like any normal teenager (speaking for myself) life keeps going on, with or without your friends, whether or not cancer sneaks up and bites you.

As I have told you all before, high school was not an easy time for me. Which you are probably curious as to how now that you know that I was in a group called “the fab five”. Everything started out great for me, for us, but after she got cancer everything changed. We all changed. I’m sure this change was starting to form long before the news, but this event marked a new time in history and looking back, things were never the same after.

I dropped out of school by the time cancer was gone from her life. Meaning, I wasn’t there when she came back and I have no idea what it was like or what she came back to, I just know what it was like for me and why I was gone and how I felt when I left and why I left. I always assumed there were other reasons why she quit being my friend and “gave up on me” like everyone else, and this weekend I felt out I was completely wrong. It was totally my fault, well most of it anyhow, and had I not been in such a crappy point in my life she would have still been there and she wanted to be there, but I made that an impossible thing to do and it took me over ten years to find that out.

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Ours wasn’t as classy, but you get the picture.

When we got to our best friend’s house we wasted no time getting the party started. We immediately went out and bought pizza and wine and spent the rest of the night reminiscing about when we were younger, the people we hadn’t seen in years, and filling in the gaps thereafter and in-between. We did our wedding planning like we were supposed to, but the majority of the trip was spent with us just enjoying each other’s company and hanging out like cancer never came and our lives hadn’t changed. It was an overwhelming feeling to be around two people who I know so well and have such a huge history with and that I do not get to see every day, but love so much and so deeply. It was truly refreshing to be around two people who you can just laugh with and at and never skip a beat and make you miss all the years that have gone by and cringe at the reality of how old we are getting now.

 

On the car ride home, it’s like we were two totally different people. Nearly strangers with fond memories as we rode to our destination, to old friends who have known each other for a lifetime, catching up after years of being apart.

There was a lot of healing that came with finding out the truth, a truth that I did not even know existed as anything less than what I thought it was, a truth that I was not even looking for and thought I already knew. There was also a lot of pain that came with finding out that truth, pain from allowing myself to assume that I knew what was true instead of taking the time to find out for myself, years ago, and missing out on having someone so near and dear to me in my life.

I cannot go back and change the choices I made or the action of allowing myself to assume I knew better. But I can move forward with knowing I was wrong and change it if that is what is in store for us now. I learned a powerful lesson this past weekend that I know is true with so many other situations in my life and throughout the world. We should never assume anything, even when the pieces look like they fit so well together, we can still be wrong if we do not take the time to find out the truth. I for one do not want to go through another experience like that again in my life and hope that the next time I am faced with a choice to assume or ask, that I ask. The outcome could possibly change my life or someone else’s. Do yourself a favor, do not assume.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

Thirteen Reasons Why…and One Reason Why Not

As I am sure many of you have by now, or soon will if you have yet to discover, binge watched 13 Reasons Why. I came across an article about it and was intrigued by it, this particular subject hits home with me in more ways than one and I was curious to see how someone portrayed the topic through a mini-series.

“Thirteen Reasons Why, based on the best-selling books by Jay Asher, follows teenager Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers a group of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) -his classmate and crush-who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, Thirteen Reasons Why weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect viewers.” Written by Studio

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After completing 13 emotionally raw episodes as Hannah goes through the events that led up to her death, I was left with an empty feeling and an overwhelming sadness that even though this was just a television show, things like this happen every day. It happened to me. It happened to friends of mine as we were growing up. It has happened to close family and loved ones. It happens every day, all over the world and frankly is not talked about enough.

In case you choose to never read the book that inspired the series or watch it for yourself, I’ll shed some light on the “reasons” why she ultimately took her own life. (Potential spoiler alert)

She was a high school girl that was fairly popular who ended up losing all of her close friends and soon found herself feeling all alone. As a result of bullying through simple “normal” high school antics, it all struck a chord with her that left her feeling worthless. She was abused mentally, physically, and spiritually until she felt like there was nothing left of her. She even tried to seek help, but was made to feel as if she was not worth the help or that there was nothing that she could ultimately do about it, except forget it and move on. Every part of her was broken, lost, confused and she felt hopeless.

I have yet to share my story with you all and plan on doing it soon.. But, I have been there before. High school was not easy for me, as much as I was great at hiding it. I lost friends that had been in my life since kindergarten, which when you are 16 years old feels like your entire life. I was abused mentally, physically, and spiritually. I thought about suicide more times than I would like to admit and even failed at it once or twice. I got to a point in my life where there was nothing left for me and I was completely disgusted with myself and everything about who I was and what I was doing in this world.

and that’s when Jesus stepped in.

I won’t say it happened in one day or even in one moment, it was a collection of days that came to a head to make me decide to push for life, instead of death. No matter how long I had been running or how far I had run, Jesus loved me and He wanted me to live. I could have easily came up with 13 reasons why I did not want to live on this earth anymore, but it took me finding only 1 reason why I should surrender and stay, and that was Jesus.

We are not so different from Jesus in our trials and unfortunate circumstances. Jesus was blameless and yet He was still;

Betrayed

Abandoned

Rejected

Falsely accused

Mocked

Physically Abused

Spit on

Shamed

Crucified

All for us.

He loved us so much that He wanted to bear the weight of the world, the weight of sin, everything terrible thing that you and I have done, or have yet to do, or that has been done to us. He took it all so that we would be forgiven and if so choose, get to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

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It was that truth that saved me. It is that truth that I want to save everyone with. It is that truth that has me sitting here writing to you today asking you;

Please, do not give up. Reach out for help. Even when it is hardest to think about your family and loved ones, especially in the moments when you feel like they could care less, it is not true. They care, they love you so much. He loves you so much. I do not even know you, and I love you so much. You are worth it. You have a purpose. You were chosen for something beautiful and you can only find out what that is if you stay.

For those of you who have never dealt with anything like this before, give thanks to the Lord that you have not had to experience such pain. But more than that, make sure that you are not a part of someone else’s pain. As hard as that might be to hear, everything we do or say impacts the world and those around us. It is our job to be kind to others, to love and be loved in return, to help those who need it, and simply be there for others who need someone. When someone gets to the point in their life that they are even thinking about taking their own, they will not tell you and you will not know, which is why we have to be proactive in making sure it never gets to that point.

If someone you know and love is going through a tough time, take a moment out of your day and reach out. It could possibly mean life or death. If someone you know is going through a hard time and is suddenly happy and content, reach out. Even if someone is not going through a hard time, reach out. If you are that someone, reach out.

Be there for others.

Love and be loved.

Choose Jesus.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

My trip to Harmons, Jamaica

Last year, God decided He was going to shake my world up in ways that I could have never expected. In December of 2015 I answered the call to join the Jamaica Mission Team for 2016 (JAM Team)! In six short months God was going to prepare us spiritually, mentally, physically and through all of our other needs to travel to Harmons Jamaica and spend a week doing whatever it is that He asked us to do. Spreading His love through building relationships and changing lives forever (especially my own).

Over the next six months God really did a number on my heart. My relationship grew with Him in leaps and bounds and my trust and faith in Him and all that He is was greater than I had ever known, I was over the moon and ready to take on the world! But I would settle for a week in Jamaica! During those months we had to raise the money that we would need for the trip as well as donations that we would be taking with us. Including plane tickets, airport fees, passport fees (since I had never been out of the country before), trip insurance, food while we were there, things we would need to “survive” while we were, as well as the money that is used to help employee the people we would be working alongside during that week.  I honestly do not remember exactly how the money came or when it did, I just know that God provided every cent of my needs and I never had to think twice about where it would come from or if I would have enough to go. I trusted Him completely and He provided all of my needs!

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Miss Kimberly at our packing party.

As the days grew closer to us leaving, our team gathered together a few more times to square away the details and just get in some good bonding time. Then a few days before we left we took all of the donations that we had gathered over the last six months and packed them in two 50lb suite cases (twenty in total). Once this was done we were ready to go and just two short days after that we gathered at our church at four in the morning to load up and head out! We were on our way!!

As I stated before, this was my first time out of the country which was a big deal for me! It was also my first time on a plane, which was another huge deal for me! As well as my first time on a mission trip and my first time seeing the ocean! The whole entire trip was filled with first for me and I was so excited and so ready to experience them all!! Ain’t God good!

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Waiting to board the plane! I ❤ these people soooo much!
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Katie on the left, me on the right.

It is really hard to describe all of the feelings that came with this journey. But I was super glad that I was getting to share it all with my sister, Katie. Not that I was unable to go on my own, but having her there with me made it easier for sure. Plus, who wouldn’t want to experience such awesome stuff with their sister!! The plane ride wasn’t as bad as I expected, I mostly tried to ignore the fact that I was on a plane and had no way to escape to until it landed again. It was only a two-hour flight, which was awesome and coming into Jamaica was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen!  The second they opened those doors we knew we were in Jamaica, the humidity hit you in the face and you realized, this is the air that I will be breathing for the next week, Jamaican air baby!!

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First site of Jamaica!

We had a little mishap when we got to customs, because we were in a large group and because we were each bringing in 100lbs of goods that we didn’t plan on taking back home with us. But just like anything else in our lives, God took care of it for us! Instead of searching us like they were supposed to, they did a once over through each bag and sent us on our way! We were free!

It took us 3 ½ hours to get to Harmons from Mobay (Montego Bay). We had prepared ourselves for one of the worst rides of our lives going up into the mountains (from stories we had heard from other’s who had previously been on this trip), but we ended up taking the toll roads (which wasn’t so bad) until we go to the mountains and then experienced the scariest ride ever at nighttime up a mountain on the opposite side of the road going 80 miles an hour (I might be exaggerating it a little bit, but I am not too far off). Once we finally made it to the Harmony House we were greeted by the summer staff who we would be spending the next week with and unknowingly falling in love with before it was all said and done.

 

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The summer staff ❤

 

It was 9 o’clock at night and we had just spent the last sixteen hours traveling, so of course taking a picture was the way to go and unpacking all of our things to get ready for the week ahead of us! Yet none of that really mattered because as far as I was concerned, I was home!

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Straight off the bus!!

Over the next week I got to spend every moment with God, literally, from the time I woke up until I closed my eyes at night I felt like I was walking hand in hand with God and experiencing the most peaceful week that I had ever known before. I was up on the mountain with God and I never wanted to come back down! I know you are probably wondering why it’s not like that for me every day, here at home. The answer is; it is. God never ever leaves my side. But we have so many distractions here that make it hard to focus on Him like I need/want to and I have to struggle every day to keep my eyes on Him and Him alone. But, it is so worth it and I will live every day doing just that!

I’ll try to summarize the week as best as I can for you…

Day Two (first workday):

We went on a walkbout (a walk about) around the neighborhood and we got to meet Gonga!

I spent the day with the house ladies sorting through the clothes that we brought getting them ready to go into the Harmony House Store!

Then that evening we had a party at Son’s which was so much fun! I got to meet so many amazing people that day, and I cannot wait to see them again this year!

Day Three (second workday):

We built a foundation! You guys! It may sound silly to you, but this was the coolest thing ever! Literally from the ground up we put in the rocks and dirt and concrete that began the foundation of the home that someone would soon get to live in. Priceless.

On this day I saw a million different fruit trees; star wrapper, jack fruit, kens berry, tangerine, mango, avocado, (which is a pear to the U.S) and oranges (truly my favorite thing about Jamaica!)

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We did not cordinate all of the blue and green. haha

Day Four (third workday):

My sister and I got to go to the greenhouses. I spent half of the day with Maxine pruning tomato plants and just talking about life. It was amazing how much we had in common, but more amazing to see how much she loves God! She really touched my heart that day.

Later that day we went to the infirmary in Maypen. The infirmary is like a nursing home/orphanage where people go when they do not have anywhere else to go and they can’t survive on their own. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. My most favorite part was getting to meet Ms. Mary Patrick and listen to her quote entire books of the Bible without skipping a beat!

That evening we had a party at the crawl and enjoyed some relaxation in the community dancing the night away!

Day Five (fourth workday):

I got to meet the girls and get my hair braided! The entire week the rest of the team had been on their land building their new homes, and in another day we would get to dedicate them. I fell in love with this family and am blessed to still be in contact with them today! I hope I get to see them when we go back this year!

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Day Six (home dedication):

That morning we got to dedicate the completed homes to the two families that we were helping that week. It is really hard to explain what it feels like to hand the keys to a family and know that they will now have a roof over their head for years to come! It was a blessing to get to experience that and I am so thankful God allowed me to!

This was our last day in Harmons, bitter sweet for sure.

We spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out; climbing mountains, playing soccer, getting our hair braided and nails done and some of our team even got some awesome designs cut into their hair!

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Climbing the mountain was amazing. The absolute hardest thing I have ever physically done. But so rewarding!!

That night we had one last party with the community before saying our goodbyes and getting ready to leave in the morning. Best night ever.

Day Seven (back to Mobay):

As much as any “normal” person would look forward to the part where you spend the day on the beach, it was definitely the lowlight of my week. Amazing, in every way I’m not denying that. God really showed out when He created the ocean and all things in it. It was beautiful in every way and I could have stayed there forever, but it was nothing compared to the six days before in the mountains with Jesus.

That night we had one last hoorah with the team (and the team that was with us there all week from North Carolina…too much to tell about them all…but so much love and such great memories!!) The next morning we made our way back home.


Going to Harmons, Jamaica was truly one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. It is insanely crazy to think that it is just the beginning for what God has in store for me! It wasn’t just the seven days that I was gone either, but everything leading up to it and even the lessons I had to learn once I came home. Coming home was much harder than I expected it to be, coming back to the reality that we live in and hating the way that the world is, it was hard. It is still hard. But I am thankful to have a different perspective on life and the world and all the things in it.

I have so much more to learn and experience, I know that. But this experience will be one I never forget. We are going back to Harmons this summer with a different team and I am so stinking excited and grateful that God has called me to go again! I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am and how much I cannot wait to see everyone there!! God really showed up big last year, I can’t even fathom what He is going to do for us this year!! Keep me in your prayers, and my team that is going. We will definitely need each and everyone one of them. Thank you for taking the time to read this all the way through to the end. If you every really want to hear the details, I would be glad to share them with you! Plus I have more pictures 😉

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

 

p.s. The organization that we partner with on this trip is Won by One – check them out!

If you want to help donate for this year’s trip you can do so here (or click on the picture on my sidebar)

I want to go back

I want to go back to the basics. I want to be like a child again. I want to live in a world where this is the same for everyone. Through the way that we act and the way that we treat each other and the way that we see others, the world, and Jesus.

We teach our children to act this way, we teach our children to follow these rules, we teach our children to believe in these things, yet somehow we do not expect the same from ourselves. In simple things like;

Please
Thank you
No Thank you
Yes ma’am
Yes sir
No ma’am
No sir
You’re welcome
May I
Excuse me
I’m sorry
Forgive me
I forgive you
Treating other’s as you wish to be treated
Respect your elders
Listening to understand, not to respond
Waiting to talk and not interrupting others
Asking permission when the person, place, or thing is not yours
Being kind by thinking before you speak
If you do not have anything nice to say, then you probably should not say it all
Acknowledging someone in your presence
Knocking before you enter
Opening the door for others
Waving back at someone who waves at you
Returning a smile
Offering to help, even when it’s not needed
Using language that is pleasing to God, essentially anything that is good and anything that is true
Not calling people names, even if you think it is “just a joke”
Giving someone your full attention, even if you are bored and uninterested (in any given situation)

The list undoubtedly goes on and I would have let it, but hopefully something in that list struck a chord with you and made you think twice about how often you do that in your own life, or if you do at all. The answer should be always, every day, at every opportunity and I know for a lot of you, it is not.

This goes far beyond just face to face interaction, but as adults this can mean on the phone with a bill collector or someone from your job, at the store while you are shopping and passing people down the aisle, in your car driving down the road as you let someone onto the road or take turns in a parking lot without having to be the “most important person on the road”.

Taking the time to remember someone’s birthday, and calling them or texting them to tell them so (instead of simply allowing Facebook to do it for you).

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praise worthy — think about these things. Phillipians 4:8

All of these things seem may seem trivial, yet have such a profound impact on our world and the way that it is today and what it will be like in the future. You truly can help make the world a better place by doing any one of those things, every day. Imagine if you did them all, without question or a second thought. Imagine what the world would be like. Imagine what your world would be like.

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Not only are we setting good examples for others around us, but the most important of all is the children who watch us and mimic our actions. What kind of example are you setting? How are your actions changing the world?

There’s more.

God expects us to act this way. Matthew 18:2-6 Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Jesus is not calling us to be perfect. He is just calling us to be kind, honorable, loving, and to treat each other with respect. That is why my children teach me the most about God, because they allow me to see myself through His eyes, through theirs.

My friend sent me a song yesterday that really summed this all up for me and was exactly what I have been feeling for quite some time now. Listen to it.

“I wanna go back to Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I wanna go back to this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. I want to go back to yes, Jesus loves me.”

I want to go back to blind faith, as small as a mustard seed, yet big enough to move a mountain. I want to go back to pure joy, for no reason. I want to go back to being enamored by the stars and thinking my daddy hung the moon. I want to go back to smelling every rose. I want to go back to jumping in puddles and watching the clouds for hours. I want to go back to singing random songs I just made up and dancing to the music in my head. I want to go back to walking around in circles in my front yard and talking to God. I want to go back to never knowing a stranger. I want to go back to thinking I could save the world, with just one hug, and then trying to. I want to go back to the basics. I want to go back to being like a child.

Stay Blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

Baseball Season, the most wonderful time of the year

It’s spring time! You know what that means?! Baseball Season!! The most wonderful time of the year; when you are a baseball mom of course! For all you moms out there that are starting your first week of practices or already got a game or two under your belt, this is for you.

I am a second-year veteran tee-ball mom. I know you 10 – 12 moms are rolling your eyes right now because two years is nothing compared to the 5+ that you have under your belt. But before I was a tee-ball mom, I was a baseball and softball aunt. I did my fair share of running kids to practices multiple days a week and running between two games that are at the same time (sometimes in completely different locations) trying to cheer for both kids, staying as long as you can until one bats and then run back as fast as you can to the other game before the other one is on deck.

Baseball season can be grueling y’all.

Game on Monday, practice on Tuesday, church on Wednesday, game on Thursday, practice on Friday, Tournament on the weekend, all weekend.

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You can forget about eating decent meals for the next three months (six if you make it to all-stars). Concession stand foods, take-out, sandwiches in the car or frozen meals in the microwave/oven minutes before it is time to hit the hay and do it all over again.

Let us not forget about uniforms. What are your team colors this year? Black and some other dark color, like royal blue or forest green? We got gray this year which is the ugly first cousin to white, which means that we will be washing those bad boys every day. Do not even get me started on white and the stains…oh, the stains…you might as well get you two or three pairs if you want to make it through the season.

Oh yeah word to the wise, all the other moms out there hate you this year. Keep that in mind when you get a crazy look from another mom right after a game that both of your kids just played in. You didn’t do anything wrong, she’s just thinking about how she is going to stay up all night making sure she gets the fresh grass stains our of what started out as pearly white pants (for the umpteenth time) while you get to go home and pop yours in the washer without a second thought and then go straight to bed, it’s not personal, but you suck.

It is super fun if you have children who are not even playing that year. Oh, you forgot you had other children? Yeah, the ones that you have to try to entertain and keep an eye on while simultaneously cheering on the one in the game. The one who is constantly asking you for one more dollar because the snow cone man is there. Sure, you feel lucky when they have other friends at the game that they can play with and thus be entertained without your help. Except, when you look up and notice how filthy they are because they just spent the last thirty minutes rolling down a dirt hill (that last inning was too intense to look away from, I know). Doesn’t make it suck any less when you are forced to give them a bath before they go to bed.

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You have to give it to them, though. They are either not old enough to play yet or completely uninterested in doing so, but still tag along to every game excited as can be and usually without much trouble, eat crap for dinner for three months, getting less sleep at night, doing homework in a camping chair, lugging around chairs and bags and snacks for the team or simply sitting outside for hours on end in the blistering heat without any other choice and deciding to make the most of it. Well-deserved recognition for their efforts I’d say, be sure to thank them for it the next time you see them.

But somehow, through all the insanity, it truly is a wonderful time of the year.

There is nothing in the world like it. I know, it is little league baseball. But it is so dang exciting and so much fun to watch. The tee-ball years are the best and comical, to say the least. Digging holes in the outfield, chasing each other around to get the ball, dancing to the music in their head, trying to catch the pretty butterfly, hey look, mom, a plane! Then they move up to coach pitch and you really get to see their talents unfold, they are starting to get the hang of just how the game works, and by this time you are pretty clear on the type of player they will be in years to come and exactly what they need to work on in the off season to impress their coaches next year.

Once they move into kid pitch they have become “pros”, truly, experts on the way a season goes. Ready for their practices, the many different coaching styles, which players to look out for on other teams, what to expect day to day in the months to come, and when they play they come ready for whatever position they excel in most ready to hit the ball out of the park (because it’s going to happen this year).

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Each year really does get a little bit sweeter and a little more exciting and a little closer to them growing up and playing in the “big leagues”.

There is nothing quite like being a baseball mom. It takes a lot of talent, yes talent, to get through the season with your sanity still intact. You are the chauffeur. The dry cleaner. The fast food girl. The teacher. The scorekeeper. The team mom. The friend. Heck, sometimes even the doctor. But most important you are their biggest fan, they know it, and they love you for it. When the season is over, a party is definitely needed to celebrate being alive and getting your life back. But you are also sad because you know there will be seven months separating you from the next game, the next practice, the next all weekend baseball tourney and all the crazy in between…and you will miss it.

Baseball really is the best time of the year, if you are a fellow baseball mom you know what I am talking about. Good luck, I’ll see you out there. Let’s play ball!

Stay Blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart