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.

You are the ligh of the world..png

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

Learning to Let Go

If there is one thing that I have struggled with more than others on a day to day basis, it is the need to be in control. For many years I let this have great power over me, so much so, that I was simply not happy if I was not in control and bad things happened when I did not get my way. Not an easy thing to admit, especially when this is still something I struggle with today. But through the grace of God, I am getting better and learning how to relinquish that control one day at a time.

The problem with wanting to be in control is that you inevitably do not let anyone else have any control or help you with whatever it is that you may be doing or going through. I have always had this unhealthy fear that if I did not do something myself, then it would not get done right and something really important would go unnoticed or not get done and everything would be terrible in the end. It is hard to put your trust in others to “do the right thing” in any given situation, but more so in a situation where something is so important to you and you just cannot stand the idea of letting anything bad happen or go wrong.

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It sucks for a lot of reasons, living life this way. One is that you hurt others around you in the process. With my need to be in control, I do not allow others to flourish in areas where they might shine had I not held them back. There have been times when I have not given someone the admiration, credit or thanks for their efforts and instead criticized them for what they could have or should have done differently. I have found myself totally dismissing the abilities of others and just bypassing the whole situation altogether and ultimately isolating myself in the process and becoming burnt out because I had to do it all on my own. The worst part about this character trait is when I have refused to let go of control over my life and let God have the wheel, thus bringing myself back to step one and having to cope with the fact that my life has once again has become unmanageable.

I would love to tell you that I no longer do any of those things and that I, in fact, have found the root of what drives me in this way, therefore, freeing me from this flaw altogether. But that would not be true and I would not be able to share with you where I am today in spite of it because I am still working on it and I still have my good days and my bad days and thankfully God is not done with me yet!

Surrender

The good news is through my recovery I have learned that I do have a problem. I have learned what the problem is and what I can do to change it. For me, that is making a conscious decision every day to cast my worries and anxieties on the Lord, to trust that He knows what is best for me and His plan for my life far outweighs anything of my own. That if I wake up each morning and allow God to direct my path then I will have an amazing day and it will be full of surprises and blessings beyond my wildest dreams that I would never get to experience if I continue to hold onto the reigns.

2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover.

For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13 NIV

I will give you no hopes in telling you that in doing these things it will be easy because it won’t. Learning to let go of control over things in my life has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, which is why I still struggle with it so much.  Even when I am not thinking about it, I do it. Even when I do not try to take the reigns, it naturally just happens. But like anything else that is a bad habit, it must be broken through diligently trying to overcome it and I now know that the only way I can do that is through Jesus! I kid you not, if I am having a hard time trying to do something or find myself getting stressed of flustered during the day, I am totally the one to blame and I have to throw my hands up and say “it is yours God, I am stepping away”. Once I do, I usually kick myself for trying to do it on my own, laugh, and then smile because I know that God’s got this! True Story. You should try it 🙂

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart


This is part 2 in my ongoing recovery series, for the introduction and Part 1 you can find them here.

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.

Admitting you are powerless

In April of 2010, I quit using meth and other illegal narcotics cold turkey. I did not go to a rehab or slowly cut back, I decided that I did not want to live my life like that anymore and I was so very tired of going through what I was going through and that I had enough. I got to the point where I wasn’t using recreationally anymore, but I was waking up wondering how I was going to get high and spending the day making sure that I did.

I was no longer working, my car had gotten repossessed, I was less than 100lbs and I was burning bridges left and right to the point where my friends were getting tired of me too. I had been arrested and just spent the last year on probation, where my drug use got heavier as I became depressed and felt like my future had been ruined. I had spurts of positivity where I would do something really amazing to try and make others around me proud of me, which was always just a cover up for what I was really doing. One of which was me starting college (during the heaviest time of my using) and never attending any of my classes because I was too high or asleep from being up for days.

The whole year of 2009 was jam packed full of insanity for me. My life had completely become unmanageable and it was time for a change. The options before me were going to jail, die or start over and change.

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My road to sobriety was unconventional, to say the least. I have always been stubborn and strong willed, so if I was going to get my life back on track I was going to do it my way and on my own terms. I knew that I needed to get out of the environment that I was in and ultimately cut off everyone that I knew or had been around for the last couple of years. I did not want to escape reality and instead wanted to face it head on with my family by my side and clinging to Jesus. I chose to go spend the next month in St. Louis with my sister and her family. Over 9 hours away, with no vehicle to escape in if I could not handle the pressure and disconnected from all the people and things that would normally suck me back into the lifestyle I had become a pro at living.

While I was at my sister’s I tried to engage myself in activities that would not only distract me from the desire to go home and use again. But that would better me as an individual and put me on the right path to staying clean long term. I did this through starting to exercise, something I had not done in years and my body needed desperately, attending church regularly with my sister and her family, as well as attending a small group with her a couple times a week. I read my Bible daily, started a devotional that would help me to grow in the Lord and just poured my heart and soul into becoming the person who I knew God created me to be. I started to gain weight, I cut all of my hair off and I was finally becoming happy with the person I saw looking back at me in the mirror. I now had hope, goals, wants, desires and was content with doing whatever it was that God wanted me to do. I was on fire in every sense of the word and a force to be reckoned with!

The FirstStepIs AlwaysThe Hardest (1)I know I make getting clean sound easy, but it is actually one of the hardest things that I have ever done. Not even from the physical aspects of it, but everything tied into using mentally and emotionally. In order for me to truly change and move forward I had to come to terms with where my life was at and who I was in that moment; an addict. Labeling yourself an addict is not an easy thing to do and it is not something that makes you feel good on the inside. However, doing so gives you a sense of empowerment of your life and the will to move forward. I say this because, if you do not know what the problem is then you do not know what to fix, but once you found what the problem is you can start working on getting it done.

No matter what type of recovery group you attend whether it be AA, NA, CA, SA, HA, SAA, WA, CR or the alike the first step is always going to be the same;

  1. Admitting that your life has become unmanageable and that you do not have power of your addiction, hurt, habit or hang-up. i.e. Coming out of denial.

For me, however, I found myself (which I would not know until much later) following the 8 Recovery Principles that are based on the Beatitudes and my step one was more like this;

  1. Realizing that I am not God; admitting that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life had become unmanageable.

I knew that in order to truly change that I was going to have to let God do the changing in me. I needed to let go of myself and relinquish the control of my life over to Him. This was something that I would need to do every day, for the rest of my life if I wanted to make sure that I never used again. It would be years before I discovered a Christ-centered recovery group that would help me to dig deeper into my issues and continue to better myself for the long-run, but I will talk about that another time…

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart


This is part 1 in my ongoing recovery series, for the introduction and the rest of the series you can find them here.

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.

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

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 ever mattered to me so I could devote myself to him, and before I knew it, I wasn’t just in love with a boy anymore, I was on drugs and had fallen in love with them too.

The drugs were my choice. I want to make that abundantly clear for anyone who may every think or feel otherwise. He hated the fact that I did drugs or that I changed an ounce of who I was as time went on and our relationship grew. But it didn’t matter, I was going to do what I wanted to do because I wanted to do it no matter what it cost me. I lost all of my friends, I dropped out of school. Not once, but three times, before never going back at all. Then, once it was too late and I had dug the hole so deep that I could no longer see the light anymore, I turned back and he was gone too. All that I had then was the drugs and the friends that I found through doing the drugs and all of the people and places that came with it. When he was no longer there to devote myself to, I just found something new or someone new to devote myself to and every single time, it turned out to be a huge lie and a waste of my time.

I had this way of finding “new projects” if you will, something that I could devote all of my time and pour all of my energy and focus into.  These projects usually consisted of the new boyfriend who I loved so much and that was so amazing and had every problem under the sun. But I never let that get me down because I was there to save him! I was going to make it all better. I was going to fix him. I was going to make all of his problems going away. Or a friend, that was “worse off” than I was and that too needed to be saved. This was a constant in my life. No matter what I did or all of the crazy that I put myself through I did not see how badly I was hurting myself in an effort to save someone else, or how bad I was hurting those who truly loved me and cared for me instead. Regardless, I continued down this path and no matter what had happened with the other people before them I kept pushing thinking it would be different this time. I could never understand why it always ended in defeat and why no matter how hard I tried, I could never save them, it never worked. It would be a long time before I learned the powerful lesson as to why.

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

This went on for years. I found myself constantly complaining and whining about how all I ever did was give of myself and I would never expect anything in return, yet I was continuously getting stomped on and let down by everyone and all I could scream was why?! Sure, my family was always there to tell me exactly why, but I never wanted to hear it. They were the last people I wanted to listen to because I didn’t think they would understand and there was no way I was about to admit to them that what they were saying was true and that I was wrong. At this point, I was in a continuous cycle of deceit. All of which I had brought upon myself and as far as I was concerned there was no way of coming back from it, plus, I didn’t believe I was doing anything wrong. Even though I was lying to my family, my friends, to myself, and most importantly to God. Even though I was having sex,  and doing drugs like there was no tomorrow, had dropped out of school, and everything stupid I could think of in between. I was only doing it for a good cause! I was trying to help people here. What was wrong with that? I never went out of my way to hurt anybody and in the times that I did, I never meant to do it. The only person I truly ever thought I was hurting was myself, and that didn’t bother me because I was strong and kind and I had God on my side! I could handle everything, right? Give me a cape and call me superwoman! That was what I thought. But I was wrong, so so very wrong.

Fast forward six years down the road, I had now been to jail and was put on probation for a year, a year that would soon become one of the worst years of my life. What once had started out with me being young and in love and on a mission to save the world, ended up with me being promiscuous and having sex out of wedlock, smoking pot every day all day and living life as one of the biggest potheads in Gladewater, Texas (I’m sure there were bigger, but you get my drift). On top of that, I had spent the last six years in what seemed like a continuous party, sleeping on whoever’s couch would have me and coming home after being gone for days at a time. I had eventually tried every drug in the book at least once, if not a couple of times, and had lied to every single person that I had known in some way or another. In my drunken stooper, I was raped, twice. I put myself in the most dangerous situations that one could imagine. I was stealing, cheating, lying, abusing others, and being abused, I was prideful, stubborn, conceited, unemployed, and I had eventually lost my car. I was slowly losing my family, on top everyone else in my life that I had already pushed away. I didn’t care if I was alive or dead. I attempted suicide once, or twice, gosh I lost count, but at that point, I just didn’t care anymore. Before I knew it I was eighteen years old, and before the clock had struck twelve on my eighteenth birthday, I was on meth (it was literally a birthday gift to me). This started the downhill spiral that led me to my bottom, which I would discover over the next two years.

I sounded like a trooper if you ask me. All the crap I put myself through and I was still here. Never once forgetting who Jesus was or where I was headed if I kept up that life.

Honestly, I cannot say that the life I was living didn’t bother me because that would be a lie. All of it did. No matter how far I took it or how much time had passed or how much I said or showed differently, I cared. But I was lost. I was so far beyond being buried in deceit, I had dug a hole so deep and ran from God for so long that I truly believed there was no turning back, that I could not be saved.

Looking back, I cannot tell you the first thing that sparked my mind or heart to want to change and just take that first step. I give credit to a lot of different things and some very important people in my life that were a part of this time, and a part of what got me to that point. The reality is, I was tired. I was past the point of giving up, and in my experience, I had discovered giving up had gotten me nowhere, because after I had given up I was still here. I was still alive, and I knew there had to be a good reason why. So, I finally decided the bad was bad. No, it was horrible beyond words or human belief. It was the bottom of all existence and everything I ever was or thought I could be. I was done.

Growing up in the church I had always heard that God would never allow me to go through more than I could handle, even if I dragged myself through it, He was still in control. I have later learned that it is just a twist on His truth, but it has definitely got me through some hard times over the years.

The following summer I decided to visit my sister in St. Louis. At the time, her living so far away was a sweet escape for me when life was kicking me down. I could always count on her to take me in and love me exactly the way that I was, plus it didn’t hurt that I had a key. On this trip, I got the chance to take myself out of “my world” and be in a completely different environment. This, of course, was not the first time I had done that. But this time I had a completely different motive in mind. I attended church with her each Sunday while I was visiting and her church was doing this mini-series on super sizing your life. I cannot remember the significance of the lesson now, what was said in which moment or why, but I do remember everything just starting to click for me.

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

Through all the insanely horrible things that I had put myself through, God kept showing me mercy, time and time again. He was always there, watching over me and keeping me safe. No matter what new dark place I could find to try and run and hide too, He was there. I was running from Him and He was chasing me, wanting so badly for me to come back to Him, just waiting for me, patiently. It didn’t matter how badly I had stomped on Him or how many times I had rejected Him or how long that it took for me to come home. He was still there. Ready and waiting, with arms wide open, just waiting for me to accept.

All of the years that I had spent hurting myself, I blamed the devil. I blamed everybody and everything for what was going on around me, for where I was at in life. Then that day, in my sister’s church, it all made sense to me. Are you ready for it? In order to be changed and to leave it all behind and to be happy and peaceful and full of life, with Jesus Christ himself, to love Him and to have a beautiful relationship with Him, I had to let go; of me.

and I did y’all. That same day and I have never been the same again.

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 payday 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

Things that make me chuckle, being hangry

Hangry: bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.

I have been feeling this way a lot lately. It is quite irritating when it happens, especially for weeks at a time. As I am writing you this my mind is spinning with all that I could be or should be doing differently to keep this from happening. But all I can think about is that I do not have enough time, especially after being sick last week and in bed for nearly four days. I literally feel like I am behind in life because during those four days I was not able to do anything and now that I am trying to catch up, I do not have time to do it. So, I am falling in an endless cycle of feeling behind and like there is not enough time in the day to do whatever it is that I need to do, which leaves me feeling tired and hangry.il_fullxfull.279321995

Baseball season is without a doubt my most favorite time of the year. As long as I can stay organized and ahead of things, the busyness of it all does not even faze me. The part that knocks me down is that for two months my schedule has to change and it takes away from my personal extra-curricular activities, like bible study and my recovery group, or having any time for myself. During this time I try to supplement those things with digging deeper into the word on my own, but without the fellowship and accountability, it is not an easy task. This is where being hangry comes into play.

It always sneaks up on me, until I am snapping at someone over something I normally would let roll off my back and then I feel embarrassed that I allowed myself to react in such a way. You see, the first week or so of missing a bible study or not getting to attend my recovery group is not so bad because I am still pretty full and charged from the last week and just like anything else, skipping one meal isn’t so bad when you are busy. It is when it’s time for the next meal to come along and you have not eaten yet that things get bad, and the hangriness starts to slowly creep up on you.

921af01a2cad204d2ebbe1fc9299e0fc1 Peter 2:2 tells us that we ought to be like newborn babies longing for spiritual milk so that we can be satisfied. Being spiritually fed is vital for all that we are and all that we are going to become. Yes, you can do it on your own and without attending church, it is possible. But man is it hard and even the “best of Christians” end up hangry in the end.

Once again, I am admitting something to you that I am not proud of and wish I could say were not true. But life happens and baseball season comes and the devil knows just where to attack you at and try to tear you down. The good thing, neigh, the absolutely beautiful thing about it all; is that God is there to pick me back up again and carry me through the next few months. He is doing so right this very minute through me sharing this with you. Before I started writing all I could think about was how bad my mood sucked, how tired I was, or how I was going to complete everything I need to do before the day is over before tomorrow is over, and why was I having such a hard time just feeling like myself. Then Jesus stepped in, my savior!

Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor; for if one of them falls, the other will be there to lift up his friend. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another there to lift him up. Again, if two lie down together, then they can keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? And though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him because a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

il_340x270.813029680_74yqWe were not made to do things alone, as much as we certainly can and I certainly do try. We were meant to help bear the weight of one another and lift each other up when they are down, and help where when and how we are able. I do not have to do it all on my own. I can set my stubbornness aside and simply ask. God keeps telling me to sit, be still, I think it is time that I stopped and listened. I think it’s time that even when I am busy with baseball that I go out of my way to make sure that I am spiritually fed and getting the fellowship that my body needs and my heart deserve.

I don’t know about you, but hangry does not look so good on me and bet you could do good to avoid it yourself when you notice the symptoms starting to show. Jesus says, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh Galatians 5:16. You might think I am crazy now, but you will thank me later. Get fed.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Chuckle

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

Put Together Like Perfect Puzzle Pieces

Do you want to know what one of my most favorite things in the whole entire world is? It is watching God’s plans unfold right before my eyes, in the smallest of moments to the grandest. It is amazing to see His hand in our lives and watch Him work!

Getting to say; God did that. That was all Him. You can thank God for that. That was totally God. That had Jesus written all over it. That was an answered prayer right there! are truly some of my happiest moments and fill my heart with tremendous joy every single time that it happens. Which is often, and happens more and more every day, the closer I get to Him!

I’m not sure if I have shared this with you before, but one of my biggest struggles has been letting go and letting God. I have an overwhelming need to be in control, at all times, in every situation or I get intense anxiety or frankly just really upset that it’s not “going my way”. That is not an easy thing to admit, but it’s just a part of being human I think, and I have learned to accept it and grow from it and even slowly to relinquish that control, to Him. In doing so, I am seeing God’s hand more in more in my life, because I am stepping out of His way, finallythy-will-graphic

It is incredible what God can and will do for you if you just step out of His way and let Him be God. Being able to step aside and have something amazing happen in your life and know that it was God who did that, is the greatest feeling in the world, and it can only happen if you let Him.

There have been multiple occasions over the past couple of weeks that I have seen his perfect work come together in my life. Every time I experience something like this, I get an overwhelming sense of peace; because I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what God designed me to do, walking in perfect sync with His will just as He would have me do.

download (1)It’s like a puzzle, every time you find that piece that fits, which for me are those moments that I get to say “that was you God”, you are getting closer to finishing it and seeing the beautiful picture that has been created!

It is not always an easy thing to do and it is a choice I have to make daily, to surrender to His will and not my own. Being human, we have this need to know what is going to happen next and what the outcome is going to be before we put our foot in front of the other and take that first step. But with God, you do not know and you cannot see it, until it happens. You have to trust Him and fully rely on Him and His sovereignty, that everything He does in this world He puts together for your good. That even though you cannot see the first step you have to trust that rest of the stairs are there, through blind faith.

It sounds incredibly scary when you think about it and in your case when you read it in black and white, and it can be. But every time you do it, it gets a little bit easier and a little more exciting and a little more real until you aren’t even thinking about whether or not you trust God anymore, but instead are trying to remember to put the car on autopilot and let go of the wheel.good

I have an incredible example that I want to share with you all on this very thing. Yesterday I was the only one in our office holding down the fort because everyone else was out of town or out in the field. Normally this isn’t so bad, but we have a lot going on this week and there were many things that needed to be taken care of and made sure that ran smoothly. Needless to say, I became overwhelmed by mid-day, and by the time I was supposed to take lunch to my sister at her school, I was totally frazzled and unfortunately unable to enjoy my date with her because I was trying to calm my nerves (in a school full of teenage children, ha!).

Before I walked into her school I was sitting in my car and I took a deep breath and said “Jesus, please still my heart. Yes, steal it and still it and help me find peace in this moment”. By the time lunch was over I was much calmer, but still a little frazzled and on edge. When I got back to the office I checked the notifications on my phone to see a woman had commented on an article I wrote a couple of weeks back. She wrote and I quote, “As I was reading I felt God prompting me to tell you that as someone who has made it through your season of life, and has learned from many mistakes, we need to be intentional about making room for margin in our lives so we can have time to just be still, breathe and rest in His presence.” She wrote that at the exact moment that I prayed to God for that very thing! How cool is that?! He not only heard my prayers, but He chose to tell me through someone I do not even know, I hear you baby girl, you can find rest in my arms, just be still.

God is so good y’all. He truly finds you in the darkness and pulls you back together, if you let Him. He’s a loving God, who gave us free will, to choose Him. He is not going to force Himself upon you or force you to love Him because that’s just not nice and it’s not in his character and it’s not who He is. He is a good God, a good father and if you do not know Him, you are missing out.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

 

If you could see what I see, I know you would believe

This week was rough on me.

Nothing really crazy happened to make it that way, yet I was dying every single day from not feeling completely like myself and from feeling like I had so much to do and not enough time to do it. It is crazy because I actually got to stay home three nights in a row without running around like a crazy woman going to practices and the grocery store and to bible study and trying to find the time to get my homework turned in somehow. Yet even with my surprise break that never happens, I was exhausted. Granted hormones played a part in it, but the timing had nothing to do with it.

Life was kicking my butt and all I could do was lie down and take it, which was not my finest moment.

Yesterday I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw a fellow mom talking about how crazy her life was and how inadequate she felt with all the chaos going on around her. She has six kids who range in ages from three to eighteen and they all are involved in various activities as well as go to school and of course, just kind of exist and need to be taken care of because they are unable to take care of themselves on their own. In addition to motherhood, she runs her own business (two actually) and is the wife to a husband who owns his own as well. They have a beautiful home, their kids are smart and kind and well taken care of, and you can tell that through all the crazy they are pretty happy with their lives and she is doing a great job at simply being a mom and a loving wife.

There was another post that I saw later on from a different mother who was heartbroken over people giving her a hard time over her son’s behavior, who is three, and essentially behaving like any three-year-old boy. Their words were like knives and were ultimately making her feel like she was doing something wrong as a mother. Even though her son is gorgeous and well-mannered and loved so much by her and everyone who has ever met him and is happy and healthy and being raised to love the Lord, which if you asked me, is as good as it gets! She was still made to feel less than, and it hurt.

This morning I was updating my calendar because I signed up to take snacks for my son’s tee-ball team twice this season. I then took that time to add his Easter party at school and the trip I will soon be taking out of state to see my best friend to do a little wedding planning. As I was looking at my calendar I started to get a little bit of anxiety and wondering how in the world I was ever going to be able to do it all. In addition to the items that I added to my calendar, I already had many meetings for our mission trip team scheduled, conference calls at work, baseball games, Easter, birthday parties, assignments due and barely any white space for breathing room in-between.

Right as I was driving into work this morning the song priceless came on the radio. I hadn’t heard it in a while and the lyrics popped out at me. It was God. He was opening my ears to listen because I needed to hear it and because I needed to share it with others who needed to hear it too.

Mirror, mirror, mirror on the wall. Tellin’ those lies, pointing out your flaws, this isn’t who you are.

It might be hard to hear, but let me tell you, dear. If you could see what I see, I know you would believe this isn’t who you are, there’s more to who you are.

No matter what you have heard, this is what you are worth, you are more than all the money or diamonds and the pearls. Oh, this is who you are. There’s more to who you are.

I see you dressed in white, every wrong made right. I see a rose in bloom, at the sight of you. You are irreplaceable, unmistakable, incomparable, darling you are beautiful. I see it all in you, oh so priceless.

He’s talking to you moms. God loves you so much and thinks that you are superwoman, truly. He made you to take on the world and whatever life might throw your way. He made you strong and beautiful and brave and worthy. He made you to be gentle and kind. He made you to be the safe place for your children and their bravest fighter from all that is wrong in their world. He made you smart so you could juggle a million things at once without skipping a beat. He made you resilient so you could get back up when life knocks you down. He made you fearless in the face of danger or anything that could harm the ones you love. He made you perfect, in his image. He made you.

For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, in your book, was written every one of the days that were formed for me, before they ever happened. Psalm 139:13-16

You are perfect in every way. God doesn’t make mistakes, only masterpieces.

Just remember, when life gets rough and knocks you down by busy schedules, scary full calendars, or mean words from others. Dust yourself off, get back up again, and remember who you are. You are priceless.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart