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

I was raised in the church, from the womb to the crib at the church nursery, and from then on out. The church was all that I had ever known and understood as the way of life for everyone, and because of this, I came to know Jesus from a very young age. I believe I was seven years old the first time I asked Jesus into my heart and then about eight the first time I was Baptized. I was a young girl that was ignorant in so many ways, truly naïve to the world and all that it had to offer, and blind to deceit or the reality and the weight that I would soon learn that it held.

In a nutshell, I was a very happy-go-lucky kind of girl! Trusting to everyone and knew no stranger. I had a huge heart that wanted to help anyone in any way that I could, you know, a save the world kind of girl! That was me, the best friend, the teacher’s pet, the girl who wanted to do anything and everything as long as it put a smile on her face and everyone else’s around her.  I continued to attend church regularly with my family and then with my friends as I got into middle school. Then before I knew it I was thirteen, and that’s when everything started to change for me.

full (3)
This was my freshman year, Queen’s ball, RIGHT before my life started to change…

I guess you could say I became your “typical teenager” with a few quirks here and there. I was involved in sports and was on our high school drill team. I had a ton of friends and was in most of the advanced classes, as well as the top 10% of our class. I was super active in the youth group at the local church in our town and until then, I was just living life and enjoying being a kid. You could say it all changed when I fell in love with a boy, although, the changes had already started happening to me before then and I just hadn’t noticed it yet. A year before this time, my sister got married and had a baby. This, in most people’s worlds, is a huge blessing and a happy time in life. But for me, it felt like I was being left behind, that my sister was being taken away from me, and that no one really cared about what I had going on anymore. Silly to think about now, but it was a harsh reality for me then.

So here I am, thirteen and deeply in love with this boy, like head over hills crazy in love, do stupid stuff with a boy in love. That’s right, at the very young age of fifteen I lost my virginity. Instead of living my life for Christ-like I was born and raised to, I started living my life for a boy and pretty much worshiped the ground that he walked on. I would have done anything for him, seriously, anything. Anything at all that I felt would make him happy or have him love me the way that I loved him. I went as far as to give my body to him, something I said I would never do until I was married. I completely blew off anyone and anything that had ever mattered to me so I could devote myself to him, and before I knew it, I wasn’t just in love with a boy anymore, I was on drugs and had fallen in love with them too.

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

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

full
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.

full (2)
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.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

A year ago today I celebrated 9 years sober at a women’s retreat watching God perform miracles on other women while being blessed and in awe of who He is and all that He has done in my life.

In the last ten years, He hasn’t disappointed. Each day as I have continued to grow closer to Him and form a more intimate relationship with Him, He has revealed Himself to me in was that I would have never thought possible. He has set me up for blessings and opened up doors for me that I would have never even asked for, or thought to ask for, in my own understanding. He has truly taken a broken woman who less than a decade ago was one high away from leaving this earth, and instead molded me into this beautiful creation that is only able to have the life that I have now, because of Him.

58781527_10217980585933913_3005330088938962944_o

A life that includes waking up every day and living for Him, sharing my testimony with others’s and helping them find hope through the story of what Jesus did for me. A life that He set up for me which allows me to stay at home with my two children, and homeschool them, while my husband is able to provide for us more than what we could ever need and enough where we are able to do for others who are in need. A life where a little over a year and a half ago, He called me to be the Preschool Pastor in our church home, doing life with families from all over our community and walking alongside them as they go through all the ups and downs in their life.

 

In ten years, I’ve managed to receive three college degrees and believe it or not I am working on my fourth! My husband and I were able to buy our first home and God willing in the next 5 years will be able to build our forever home! We own two cars and a super amazing dog named Hannah, a very feisty cat named Lincoln, and He has blessed us with friendships abounding in love galore! I get to co-lead a women’s bible study group at church with my fellow children’s pastor and when time allows go on mission trips and women retreats where God just showers me with all the amazing parts of who He is and the plans He has for this world!

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

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

I seriously could go on and on and on with what God has done to an ADDICT and how I have been redeemed!

But for now, I will leave you with this:

God is so good, and He loves YOU so. There is truly nothing in this world or in your life that you will ever be able to do or have done to you, to take that truth away. Romans 8:31-39

From the darkest deepest corners and depths of the earth, He is there. In the most dangerous and crazy and just wordless moments of your life that you think you could never possibly come back from or be forgiven for, you can.

God can take all your ugly, all your hurt, all your broken and make a beautiful masterpiece, that is priceless to this earth and most precious in His eyes. Ephesians 2:10

You are valuable, you are worthy, you are loved, you are chosen, you are wanted, you are everything and more. God loves you, I love you, and my greatest prayer for you is that you will one day know that as truth and accept it. Ephesians 1:4-6

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child and I reasoned like a child; now that I am a woman, I am done with my childish ways and I have put them behind me! 1 Corinthians 13:11

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

Empowering Questions – Journey to Greater Intimacy – Week 3

What is my life like when it is in balance?

So, I took a little longer to answer this question. Partially because I was out of town last weekend when I would have sat down to write it and partially because, well, my life is out of balance right now and most days I am just going with the flow (flying by the seat of my pants!).

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

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

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

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

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

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

(times lapse)

Okay, I got it.

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

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

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

 

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

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

download

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

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

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

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

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

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


Week 4’s Questions: 83145011_213103186522406_8871979223108026368_n

What would I do if I had enough time?

What do I do when I have time?

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

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

Previous weeks in the series:

Week 1

Week 2

Empowering Questions – Journey to Greater Intimacy – Week 2

What larger entity am I a part of?

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

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

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

Okay, well, that changes things then.

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

Fifty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broken down for you it looks like this:

Major Entities

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

Minor Entities

Organizations

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

People

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

Places

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

Things

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

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

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

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

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

Wow.


Week 3’s Questions: 83401996_598110010746122_369147087561949184_n

What is my life like when it is in balance?

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

Stay Blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

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

Previous weeks in the series:

Week 1

Empowering Questions- Journey to Greater Intimacy: Week 1

What kind of feelings am I feeling right now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

82313296_1547791252027647_8658024241846812672_n

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sadness is a bittersweet friend.

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

Fear is a friend of mine.

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

Excitement is my favorite distraction.

Tenderness engulfs me most of the time.

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

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

Week 2’s Question: 82975432_565251114321763_5809495033698582528_n

What larger entity am I a part of?

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

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

 

 

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

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

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

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

The need for compassion

Honduras changed me.

I’m sure it will be quite some time before I truly figure out all the ways in which it did, but I’ve been home for two days and my heart is so torn. Full, broken, confused, angry, excited, unsure, overwhelmed, indifferent…

My four-year-old son got in bed with me this morning, happy that I am home and there to cuddle with. He stroked my face as he always does and said, “momma, I hope your tummy feels better today, I don’t want you to feel bad anymore”. I turned to him sweetly and said, “I do too baby, I don’t know what’s causing it to hurt…but I hope it’s better today so I can play with you because I missed you so much”. He exclaimed, “it’s probably the food you ate”. “The food I ate”, I said? “Yeah mom, the food you ate while you were gone last week…it’s probably why your tummy has been hurting”. “Oh, yeah, that could be it. You are so smart”! He said, “Yeah, well, I’m losing my smartness because I don’t get to watch YouTube anymore. YouTube is what gave me my smartness, and now since I can’t watch it, I’m losing my smartness”.

This kid…if he only knew!

45647363_1199542160185893_5152835409343938560_n
Honduras countryside

I haven’t felt well since I got home. I’ve been tired, having zero desire to do anything, and pretty much have been trying to distract myself with Netflix and Facebook to keep my mind off…well, being back home. I’ve been here before. I’ve come home from a mission trip and been in a daze and it’s taken time to get back into the swing of things. I realize it’s only been 48 hours. But this time it’s different.

Every time my stomach starts to hurt, I think of Honduras. I wonder if it was the food. I wonder if my body is simply trying to adjust back to American food. I wonder if my emotions are so overwhelming that I’m subconsciously making myself ill. I wonder if I just picked up a small bug on the way home from my travels. Who knows.

Every time my kids come up to me, I get excited because I’ve missed them so much, but then suddenly so very sad, because I miss the kids in Honduras. My heart aches that I am not there to hug them and love on them and be even a fraction to them what I am to my boys a 1000 times a day.

45616949_1199416443531798_1881003918243135488_n
Some of the little ones in the children’s village

When I scroll through Facebook and see all the hate and filth and greed, it makes me sick. When I scroll and see the war going on in politics and how much hate the media has stirred up for those in Honduras, I want to scream at each person and their ignorance in what is truly going on. I want to tell them about the families I met while I was there and their loved ones who joined the caravan out of desperation to simply feed themselves. I want to tell them about the mother who was eight months pregnant and starving, who left three children behind to join the caravan and have her child on the road and who may not even be alive today, because she was desperate and searching for anything that could save her family and pull them out of the hell that they have been living in.

Honduras is so broken. The country is so corrupt. The people who live there were born into a broken system that they can’t escape and it’s not their fault. Of the 9.4 million people who live there over 66% live in poverty, that’s over 6 million human beings who are suffering on a day to day basis. That’s 1 in 5 human beings that are potentially starving, homeless, sick, being abused, neglected, and that feel hopeless.

It’s easy to turn a blind eye, to ignore it, to simply say “not my country, not my problem”. It’s easy to look at a caravan of 7000 and pictures and videos from the media and stamp “criminals” all over it and forget about the nearly 5000 in the crowd who are simply seeking refuge, food, anything…and harden your heart to human beings that are suffering.

This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
— Zechariah 7:9-10

The reality of it is, you don’t know what you don’t know and it’s hard not to base your feelings off of human emotion and the ability to only make an opinion off what you see (through the media). I did it too.

Here’s the kicker.

When I was eating lunch with an 11-year-old last week whose father is in jail for drug trafficking and mother is MIA; I tried my best to answer his questions about America, the caravan, our government, and why the only hope he’s ever known is not the shining star he thought he could always count on (America).

45619153_1199541786852597_2073912696465522688_n
Dunia, one of the 100 who has been saved. She is 3 years old and was completely malnourished just 1 year ago. 

He didn’t understand why 7000 people trying to come through a border to seek refuge, to find food, to find a job, to find hope for their families…would just be turned away…or worse. I tried to make him understand that there is a right way and a wrong way and it’s when one is done over the other, then that’s where the problems arise. But all he could see was that someone was hungry and needed to be fed.

I couldn’t argue with him.

I still stand behind what’s right and what’s wrong. I still stand behind walking through the doors and not violently knocking down walls to get in. I still stand behind protecting our home and protecting our borders, because America wouldn’t be this place of saving grace if we didn’t.

But I can’t stand behind turning a blind eye to the hungry, turning a blind eye to the poor, turning a blind eye to an entire country that is suffering and living in a continuous cycle of defeat. I know it’s not our country’s fault, I know it’s not our President’s. I blame it on the broken system in Honduras. I blame it on the prince of darkness and his desire to steal, kill, and destroy…an entire nation.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us all in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

My hurt is hearting so badly for so many and all I can do is pray, keep loving, spread awareness, and continue to develop a relationship with those who live there. God is alive and well in Honduras and even though there is a spirit of brokenness and poverty in that nation, He will prevail, and He is the ultimate victor!

Honduras is just 1 of 195 countries in the entire world.

Just one country, with over 6 million human beings who are suffering in our world today.

I met a little over 100 beautiful souls this past week who were saved from that suffering. Who were given clothes to wear, food to eat, a warm bed to sleep in, an education, and the hope of Jesus.

That’s 5,999,899 souls that are still suffering.

In just one country.

There are 7.5 billion people in the world.

Over 3 billion who live in poverty. Even in America.

However, the homeless in America are wealthy in comparison to those in other countries with access to clean drinking water, food, and shelters.

What can we do to change it?

What can we do to even put a dent in these facts and make it better?

What can we do to bring awareness to other’s who simply don’t know?

What can we do?

Have compassion.

It’s like I said, Honduras changed me. I’m still processing. I’m still praying. I’m trying so very hard to be still and see what God has in store. For me, for those in Honduras, for those in my community, for those in the church, for those in America, for those around the world.

I encourage you, to step outside yourself. Step outside your pride and your opinions and your comfort zone. Show compassion, to just one person. Then do it again, and again, and again.

If you are unsure what that looks like, I can show you. You can look Him up in the Bible, His name is Jesus.

Oh, my heart.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

 

 

“My Mama Said”

Have you ever been in the kitchen preparing dinner, just slicing stuff up and thinking about random things that have happened in the last 24 hours and God just hits you with some knowledge? No? Well, that’s what happened to me earlier!

I was thinking about something my sister said to me yesterday and she used the phrase, well mama said…and then validated whatever she was talking about off of what mama said. Which made me chuckle because she’s 32 years old and even though she’s fully capable of making her own opinions on a subject, she still is quick to side with or go off of what mama said and not think twice about it.

forrestgump1
“my mama said, not to be taking rides from strangers”

How often do we do things like this in our life? From the time we are really little and even as adults when in a discussion on any given subject, when we want it to hold value or prove where our help comes from, we say things like, “well my mama said this so it must be true!” or my “daddy said this and that’s the way it is” or “well my grandma always told me and she would never lie to me!” and we exclaim these things without a second thought and trust it with all of our beings. Straight up! Mama said it, daddy said it, granny said it, I trust them and love them and respect them, so that’s good enough for me.

It got me thinking…

Why do we not have that same trust with God?

Why do we not have that same unwavering faith when He tells us something, about

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

really anything at all, and we don’t just believe Him and spit it out as truth at the first sign of needing back up in an argument or something to add value to the conversations we have or as an answer for a friend when they are struggling with something in their own lives and we don’t necessarily know the answer’s ourselves, but we know what mama said…

With God’s promises, all of His truths, what He says about who you are and how He feels about you, what’s good and true and right. Why don’t we treat Him the same way?

The Bible tells us that God is our Father and we can come to Him like little children. But I think we somehow get caught up on this idea of this big guy in the sky, rather than a daddy that we can have a relationship with. Then because of this, we allow ourselves to not fully trust Him in all things… or at least our behaviours show otherwise.

Like when things are getting kind of rough and maybe your funds are low and you have no idea what you are going to do or how you are going to take care of it? Where does your help come from? Your father. He promised He would supply every need of ours according to HIS riches – Philippians 4:19. Or that even when things are crazy, and you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. He tells us “For I know the plans I have for you, for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope” – Jeremiah 29:11

Or how about when you’ve made a series of bad choices, like hundreds of them, and you feel like with everything that you have done or that you’ve put yourself through that there is no way that God could possibly still love you or forgive you? But He tells us, no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, He will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it 1 Corinthians 10:13

…and then goes on to tell us, He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted, but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not grow faint Isaiah 40:29-31

65a42fb61-1

Which leads you to my most favorite of His promises.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or cause calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the scripture say, For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep) No, despite all of these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us!

AND I AM CONVINCED that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow. Not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below, indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

God our Father

These are God’s promises, these are the truths that were God-breathed and given to us in the Bible so that we can live a life walking in His truth and His promises and His love.

Yet, somehow, we allow ourselves to forget it. We allow ourselves to believe it when things are good and then completely deny it when things are bad. It’s like we have a daddy that is teaching us all the important things in life and constantly telling us how much He loves us and everything He can, will, and has done for us, and yet we just dismiss it.

You wanna know how I know?

Because instead of puffing your chest out when things go wrong and declaring, it’s okay my daddy will fix it! We run and hide and worry and stress and stuff ourselves with so many negative emotions of hurt and anger and despair, when all we have to do is say, “But my daddy said” and then believe it and then go to Him.

Trust Him.

Have Faith.

Turn to your daddy.

He’s waiting, He’s ready with arms wide open and man, He has so much love to give you it’s unfathomable. He loves you so much and you are so special, there’s nothing in this entire universe that He wouldn’t do for you. He’s better than Superman. He’s the one true king!

…and He chose you!

At least, that’s what MY daddy said.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

My Father’s Heart

It’s been three months since my last blog, four months since I quit my job and six months since I came home from Jamaica for the second time. Yet somehow, it all seems like it was yesterday.

I recently made a post on my Facebook page reaching out for prayers and some general support for all that I’ve been going through in this time and what lies before me that I want to be strong for when the time comes.

My father called me a few days after I made this post to sort of follow up with my thoughts and feelings and to do what he’s been best at for the last decade, being my biggest accountability partner. You see, before this last decade, I didn’t have the greatest relationship with my father. He was very much a part of my life and someone who has always been kind to me and loved me more than I’ll ever know or understand. But for the better half of my childhood, he was missing, and although I don’t resent it or wish it had been different. I am thankful for the lessons I learned as an individual about who I did and did not want to be, and what I think a daddy should look like, and what I have learned that a father is.

20180209_114034
My daddy and I at the zoo when I was a little girl

It was towards the end of the years in my addictions that I really started to bond with my dad or even truly have a relationship with him at all. I was very young when he and my mother divorced and although I would see him growing up, we didn’t really have time to get to know each other like one would when you see them day in and day out. Because of his past and what was then my present state of mind, we were able to relate to each other in a way that I am now very grateful for, and that played such a big part in my becoming sober and maintaining my sobriety over the last 8 years. My dad, even as a “stranger”, has always been my biggest fan. I can literally walk into a room and hear him say, “whoop whoop, that’s my daughter, go Kristen go Kristen go”. As silly as that may be, he is always rooting for me and has always been there to tell me how much he loves me and how special I am, and how proud he is of me (even on my worst days). Which is why, even though I only saw him sparingly throughout my childhood, I always felt like I had the greatest daddy in the world and I was proud of that. I was his princess, and I still am, and I always will be.

It wasn’t until I was on the brink of becoming an adult that, I met my father.

My addiction got really bad around my eighteenth birthday, so much so that I was hanging by a thread in the relationship department with most of my family and really anyone who knew me if they hadn’t cut me out of their lives entirely at this point. It was hard to physically be around me, from just how unhealthy I looked, and how insanely terrible my behavior was at this point. I was truly past the point of giving a damn about anyone else other than myself and my need to get high that day.

19260416_895378890602223_8489107503489116654_n
My dad and I after my college graduation

But this didn’t stop my dad, this didn’t deter him away from me, and this didn’t make him for even one second of one day give up on me or my potential to “come back home” and be the person God created me to be. No, instead, he just acted as if everything was normal every time he saw me, he acted as if I was his same special princess that had never done anything wrong as he always had, he continued to speak life and love into me even if I didn’t want to hear it, or in doing so, just pushed me away further through the disappointment in myself and feeling as if I wasn’t capable of being all of those things that he thought about me, ever again. At my lowest, when it felt like the entire world had turned it’s back on me, my daddy chose to love me just the way I was and never for one second turned his back on me or made me feel less than.

It would be years before I fully understood this love or where it stemmed from, and truly be able to appreciate it, for all that it was and all that it still means to me to this day.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 3:14-15 (ESV)

Fast forward to today, the present, and the last eight years.

My father is not a blameless man. He too has a past that would probably haunt most, but by the grace of God, has made him into the man that he is today, the man that continues to walk a walk that I can look up to and that has helped me become the godly woman that I am today.

_BSP5284
My dad and I dancing at my wedding ❤

Even though my father didn’t raise me and wasn’t there to tuck me in bed at night or sit around the kitchen table with me each evening or help me to do my homework or teach me about relationships. When he was there, he showed me what a father should look like, and he strived to be the daddy that our father in heaven has always been to him. My daddy has never raised a hand to me in anger, has never punished me with spankings or harsh words (even though I probably deserved it a time or two). He’s never raised his voice to me or spoke low to me in any way. My daddy has always opened up the door for me, never let me talk to him with anything less than respect, and he’s tried in every way to protect me when he could and to teach me about the Lord, and to love me the best that he could like Jesus does, even when he couldn’t love himself. My daddy has prayed for me every day and has always been the first to let me know that my flesh is showing (when I am not walking right with the Lord). He doesn’t lie to me or pretend to be perfect, and when he’s having a hard time in life, he never makes his burdens my burdens, even when I want to be there for him in the same way that he’s been there for me. He will give me his last dollar if it means putting food on my table, or gas in my car, or a smile on my children’s faces. But the greatest thing he’s ever done and continues to do is in teaching me about the Lord.

Father’s, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4 (ESV)

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. – Psalms 103:13 (ESV)

When my dad called me the other day to check up on me and just talk to me on his way home, he took my feelings of doubt and confusion and encouraged me with the truth.

You see, coming back from a mission trip can be tough. Really tough. Not only are you reeling from one of the greatest high’s you could ever have, after spending a week with Jesus. But you are working through and trying to understand all of the things that God taught you while you were there, and what He’s trying to show you after you come home.

It can take months before you feel “normal” again and you begin to truly see the changes that God has made in your life and the path that He has laid out for you. But, when you have great accountability partners, like my dad, it’s much easier to stay on track and gain perspective when things don’t seem to make sense anymore.

19149330_895378917268887_223027836680009275_n
Dad and I during Easter this past year

When I talked to my dad that day, we talked about how nothing was really “wrong” with me and that I instead was just feeling off and I didn’t know why. After coming home from Jamaica and quitting my job, and becoming a stay at home mom again, I couldn’t find the peace that I once had and with all the changes going on around me. I didn’t know why or what had changed. But he showed me that, I have changed. I allowed myself to become distracted by all the changes going on in my home, that the routines I once had in my day and my walk with Jesus, had changed because of me. That in fact, nothing was truly wrong, and I just needed to give it to God and allow my thoughts to line up with His will. I needed to ask the spirit to make my ways, His ways, and for my heat to bear His fruits.

He always has the funniest metaphors for everything, but they really help to make things stick when I’m just not getting it. Things really are simple with God, but we are always trying to complicate it and that’s where my dad comes in to help me, when I am not getting it.

My daddy said you know when you go shopping for something that you need? You will go to the store that has exactly whatever it is that you are looking for. Well, it works the same way with the Holy Spirit. When you need fruit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control, you have to go to the Spirit for it and He will supply all of your needs.

DUH DAD.

He left me with this.

It’s important every day that we guard our hearts because everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

And when things aren’t making much sense and you feel like you have lost your way, just remember…

His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light for our paths…in all our ways if we acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths to line up with the accordance of His will. Psalm 119:105 & Proverbs 3:6

My dad has mimicked those verses to me over and over again in my life, and somehow, I still forget. But that’s okay, because we have a good good father that shows no condemnation and forgives us of our sins and is always, always there waiting for us to get back on the straight and narrow path that leads us back to Him.

I am thankful, and so very blessed that I not only have a Heavenly Father that has chosen me to spend all eternity with Him, but I have an earthly father that resembles Him and is making sure that no matter what happens in this life, that I will get there too.

Sorry I made you cry dad, I love you, Happy Birthday – your princess.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

 

via Daily Prompt: Simplify

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.

20476153_10211838297051952_1140821494852923305_n
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.

20621067_1363523360364297_9132012050814999834_n
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.

CC, WM, SH Day 06 (15)
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.

CC, WM, SH Day 02 (101)
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.

CC, WM, SH, Day 04 (12).JPG
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

Jesus loves all the little children

I remember being about three or four when I met my first friend. Sure, I probably had many other friends before then in some form or fashion, through play dates with my mother’s friends or kids I met at church and of course the greatest friends I’ll ever have, my cousins. But this was the first friend that I made that was a complete stranger to me and that I came to know and love all on my own. Our brothers played little league football together and we found each other at one of their many practices or Saturday morning games. Frank and I end up finding that we would soon have many more play dates like this to come for years as our brothers were the same age and played sports together all throughout grade school. We too were in the same grade and ended up going to school together when we were of age and he not only became my best friend, but a brother to me, and as a result of our friendship, we both gained an extended family.

It wasn’t until we were a little older that I found out that there were some people in this world who didn’t like other people because of the color of their skin. This was a shock to me because at this point in my life and for as long as I could remember I had many friends who were black or brown and I had never thought twice about it. The very first friend I ever had was black. His mom was black. His brother and his sisters and his father were all black. His cousins and their wives and children were black too. As far as I could tell, relatively speaking, their skin color was a different pigment than mine and through their family tree, they resembled one another, which is why they were black. Just as I did my family and just as everyone else in the world does with theirs. So when I saw that someone didn’t like my friend, my best friend, because he was black; I was not only angered, because how in the world could someone not like someone for the color of their skin something that they have no control over, but, I was insanely confused, baffled, and just completely flabbergasted in every way.

Frank, my sweet friend, has always had a thing for white girls. Call it what you want, but it’s no different than being attracted to a red head, a country girl, someone who is voluptuous, or short. He likes what he likes and for him, it was a girl with white skin, and to this day, still is. In a really unfortunate way, I learned about racism through his attraction to white girls. The first time I saw the ugly face of racism was through a father of a friend who Frank liked. I can still remember to this day going home and asking my mom what was wrong with Frank liking her and why her father was so upset. As much as my mom tried to explain racism to me, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it and decided I was going to be someone who defied racism and it would not exist in my world.

As the years went by racism was a distant thing for me, meaning I only encountered it occasionally and when I did I fumed at the idea that someone could be so ignorant and hateful. Over half of my friends were African American, Hispanic, or some other version of not white and diversity was not only a huge part of my life but something I longed to be a part of and still do to this day. That’s why the thought of living in a world where diversity is divided saddens me.

If you haven’t caught on yet, racism was not a known subject in my family. It took encountering it in the world to not only discover it but learn what it was and the awful truth of why it even exists; hate. Pure hate and cruelty to no end. No just reasoning or idealsy or logic to it at all, just sheer hate.

Growing up in the church and coming to know God from a very early age, you may laugh at me, but I have always thought this to be one of the greatest truths there ever was;

Jesus loves the little children. All the little children of the world. Black and yellow, red and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

We were made to love and be loved, by Jesus, and each other. We do so by treating others the way that we too wish to be treated. By letting our light shine in a world full of darkness. By realizing that God made each and every one of us unique in His image and that He did not make a mistake when he formed you in your mother’s womb. We are all perfect in His eyes, and yes, He loves all of His children.

It is that simple you guys.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

The problem with missionaries

Last year I was blessed to go on a mission trip to Harmons Jamaica with my local church and a group of 9 others. It turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. That’s why this year whenever the opportunity presented itself to not only go on another mission trip but go back to the place where my heart was truly transformed, just a short year before, it was a no brainer for me. I leave in just under two weeks to go back and every day that we get closer to boarding that plane, the anticipation is growing inside me like a deep hunger that before last year, I never knew existed.

Before going on a mission trip last year, I have always wanted to do so and even started to join a group a time or two but never followed through for one reason or another. As the years have gone by I have looked at mission trips as a distant desire that maybe one day would be a reality for me, but I honestly didn’t see it happening and was growing more comfortable with the idea that it never would.

It wasn’t until last year when I started preparing to go to Harmons that I started to see how the world, not as a whole, but on a much larger scale than I realized, viewed mission trips overseas. I’ve read some articles that quite frankly missed the entire point altogether and really made missionaries look like bad people. Can you believe that? A person traveling to any location, whether it be local or in another country, to help others, is seen as a bad person. Totally blew my mind and flabbergasted me. Not only did I find articles on the matter, but the more I shared my upcoming journey with others that I know and love, I too found out that they felt the same way.

Why would you go to another country to help others and share your love for Jesus when there are plenty of people in your own back yard who need help and need to hear about Jesus?

I’m not going to support you going out of the country to “serve” God when you can do it in your own back yard, you can leave me out of it.

You need help raising funds to go on a mission trip to another country, well raise it yourself, you made a choice to go then you should make the money to support it.

I’m not going to lie. Hearing stuff like this come out of the mouths of people that care about you and that you care about most, hurts. Mostly because I feel that someone should know my heart and me as a person to know why I would want to go do something like this and even at the end of the day if they don’t entirely believe in it, support me simply out of love and their trust that if it is something I feel strongly about then nothing else should matter.

Here’s the thing. I think we should be missional in every area of our lives. In our homes, in our back yards, throughout our communities, across our country and overseas. I do not think there is a boundary, time or a place that it is not okay to be missional and ultimately further the kingdom of God. I fully believe in; if there is a need to be met and I can meet it, then I should. I would want the same done for me. I do want the same done for me. I pray that God uses me as His vessel every day and that I have the courage and heart to answer Him when He calls.

As I stated before, God has been tugging on my heart for years to go on missions and to do so overseas. I’ve pushed that away and ignored it for a long time simply because I did not think that I could. But last year, sitting in church that December morning when our pastor announced the trip to Harmons and the need for a team. The Holy Spirit told me, go. After the service was over, I looked at my husband and said, I am going, God told me to. He looked back at me and said, go for it, it’s about time…and I did.

The mission trip itself was a week long, eight days if you include traveling, Sunday to Sunday, a small blimp of my life in comparison to anything else. From the moment I signed up until the day that I boarded the plane for the first time was six months, equivalently 182 days. Day 1, the moment I put my name on that list and I said yes to the Holy Spirit, God started working in me in a way that I never knew was possible. Some days were more profound than others, some days were full of battles and attacks from Satan that would be enough to make any person run in the opposite direction. But on day 182, when I stood in that circle with my team praying before we left the church, and then for the next 7 days to follow, God was opening my heart to secrets that I never knew. I walked hand in hand with Jesus for 7 days with no distractions, basking in perfect love and that is something that I would never trade for the world (or anyone in it telling me that I should).

You go on a mission trip to help others and to share your love for God and His love for the world with anyone who is willing to listen if the moment presents itself. But what I have learned is that God did more for me, changed more in me, taught me more about my heart and who I am because of Him in that week and all the months leading up to it, than I ever thought was possible in my journey to “help someone else”. He taught me more about my life, my behaviors, the world we are living in and what I can do to make a difference in those short seven days than He or anyone else did on building houses or standing in a line handing out food.

I won’t pretend that going to Jamaica is filled with a week worth of saving souls and giving back to the poor through some great need that we can fill that would completely go unnoticed if we didn’t because it’s not. It’s filled with a week of building relationships with strangers and falling in love with them over a course of 7 days. It’s building two houses for said strangers while getting to know them and their family and their culture and their love for God. It’s taking a ton of donations with us to attempt to stock a store that caters to the community with normal items like clothes, shoes, and toiletries and barely making a dent in their needs, but doing the best we can with what we can and knowing that God is going to multiply in tenfold. It’s spending a day with the lost and forgotten in a place where the sick or homeless go to die, and putting a smile on their face by just simply loving them in the moment for who they are and everything that you have that is inside you. It’s leaving my home, my children, my job, and all my comforts to attempt to be a good steward for our Lord and allow Him to use me as a vessel in whatever way that He sees fit, and if at the end of the week I do not see an ounce of evidence of a job well done, I will still be satisfied in knowing that I am just a seed planter and God is the ultimate harvester and what seeds I plant for His good, He will grow. It may not manifest itself today, it may not manifest itself for ten more years, but it is all a part of His plan and I am just thankful to be used in it.

 

Kimb.png
Photo Creds: Tony

 

As I sat down this morning to do my morning devotional out of the book Jesus Calling He affirmed this for me.

Seek My face and you will find all that you have longed for. The deepest yearnings of your heart are for intimacy with Me. I know because I designed you to desire me. Do not feel guilty about taking the time to be still in My presence. You are simply responding to the tugs of divinity within you. I made you in My image and I hid heaven in your heart. Your yearning for Me is a form of homesickness. Longing for your true home in heaven. Do not be afraid to be different from other people. The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you. The more closely you follow My leading the more fully I can develop your gifts. To follow Me whole heartedly you must relinquish your desire to please other people. However, your closeness to Me will bless others by enabling you to shine brightly in this dark world.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
—Psalm 42:1–2

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
—Psalm 34:5

So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
—Philippians 2:15

My desire to be intimate with God is greater than anything in this world and if I can find that intimacy with Him in a week in Jamaica, you better believe I am going to take it!

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart