All Over the Place

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It has been long, hard several months. My brain and emotions have been all over the place. This post may end up all over the place before all is said and done. Let me start by saying that cancer SUCKS!!!! In 3 circles I belong to, 4 ladies have been taken by cancer in the past 3 months. Me being who I am have stuffed the emotions and attempted to pretend I’m ok and not hurting, but the last death brought the emotions and the tears. Cancer is a thief. It takes people before we are ready for them to go. Yes, I could get all spiritual and give the trite response of “Because they had a relationship with Christ, I know I will see them on the other side of eternity and they are whole, healed and in the arms of our Savior.” While I know that to be true, I am hurting and even angry. Last night I had the privilege of getting to see Jen Hatmaker on the Moxie Matters Tour. My favorite line of the night was “It’s not bad Christian PR to admit that you’re hurting.” AMEN and AMEN!!! She gave us permission to hurt and feel all the feelings.

Let me back up and give a little more context to this painful story. Last June my MIL was diagnosed with Bile Duct Cancer. Later Liver Cancer would be added. Cancer would take her the Sunday, the week of Thanksgiving. In my group #the4500, cancer would take 2 of our members, one in November and then one last week. Lexi and Carrie were well loved and are missed by our crew. The day before my MIL’s funeral a friend from another group underwent emergency surgery where bleeding on the brain and lesions were discovered. The following week, Lea Anne would share she was battling stage 4 Malignant Melanoma. Yes, brain cancer. She fought like a warrior. At the beginning of last week she underwent another major surgery. By Saturday night her husband announced she had been placed in hospice and not given much time. Tuesday morning I awoke to the news she had stepped into the arms of her Savior.

My heart aches at all of the loss. I know my own personal feelings are a drop in the bucket to those closest to these ladies. My MIL left behind a daughter, 3 sons, 3 daughters-in-law, a son-in-law, 12 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren with the 3rd great grandchild due this spring. Lexi and Carrie each left behind a husband and 3 sons. Lea Anne left behind her husband, 3 sons and a daughter. They all left behind a large number of friends.

While my MIL had lived to see 75 years, she still had plenty of life left in her. The other 3 were late 30s/ early 40s, so way too soon for anyone to have to say “goodbye.” All of the children, young and old, still want their mothers/ grandmother around. The 3 husbands definitely wanted to grow old with their wives. It’s not fair any of them had to leave when they did. When I think about all of the life experiences these ladies will miss out on and the life experiences the husbands and kids will experience without these ladies it’s heartbreaking. Did I mention it’s not fair. I know life’s not fair, but these losses take it to a whole new level of unfairness.

I don’t share any of this for pity, but for people to realize that we as Christians feel the same emotions as everyone else. We do have our faith, but the pain isn’t any less for us. We still ask the Lord “Why” and you know what? The Lord can take it!!! Yes, we can cry out to Him when we’re hurting. We don’t have to pretend we are fine when we pray. Plus He already knows how we’re feeling, so there’s no use putting on a mask with Him.

I think many of us are open in our prayers when we’re hurting, but we don’t let others in. The Lord gives us spouses, siblings, close friends to be His hands and arms here on earth. My husband and a couple of friends have seen the tears, but I tend to hide the tears and the pain from others. While I don’t think we need to think we need to share with every single person we interact with on a daily basis what we are walking, we do need to have the strength and the vulnerability to let our Tribe in. I have been blessed with an incredible Tribe. I don’t share the way I should, but I’m working on it.

We also need to let those around us know how much we love and appreciate them. My former pastor, Bro. Jerry, used to say “There is nothing so certain as death and nothing so uncertain as the time.” We never know when it the Lord will call us or someone we love home. Last night on the way home from the Moxie Matters Tour event I told one of dearest friends what I appreciated about her. I make sure my husband and children hear on a daily basis how much I love them. I stink at letting others know how much I appreciate them and how I feel about them. I need to be better about this.

The other thing when looking at the 3 younger ladies who passed is that I need to step out and work to accomplish my goals. I have spent too much time timid and afraid. I know the Lord has called me to do a couple of thing and it’s time to take those steps of faith and go for it.

I’ve also realized how much time I have spent wearing a mask and hiding behind walls. Masks and walls are safe. You see, you can be safe and no one can hurt you when you have your masks and walls. It’s really quite lonely. The safety is only imagined. The words to the song “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” have played over and over again in my head:

“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me.”

Because I have spent so many years with my mask tightly adhered to my face as well as kept my walls thick and high, it will be a process to figure out who I am without them. I am sure as the year progresses there will a blogpost or two on this topic.

If you have made it this far, thank you for letting me chase a few rabbits and get some feelings written out. The grief process is not quick. It is not a straight line. It’s all over the place. You go back and forth between the stages. I am sure as I walk through this process more tears will fall. I am not a perfect Christian. I am flawed. In spite of what most people think my emotions are large and I feel them with everything in me, even though most people around me never realize it. I could write a whole other post on my personality type and it “might” help people who have to deal with others with a similar personality.

Anyway, if you are walking a similar road please know you are not alone. Please reach out to your tribe. If you don’t have a tribe to reach out to, please start building that tribe. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me.

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Princess is Not a Dirty Word

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Before I get into the post, please know this is coming from a self-proclaimed Tomboy. I am happier camping, hiking and swimming out at the lake than I am at a spa or the mall. I am a blue jeans, t-shirt, tennis shoes/ flip flops kind of girl. The only truly girly things about me are my love of dance and my slight obsession with all things Vera Bradley.

As I have read through social media here in the past couple of weeks, I have noticed a trend that’s a little disturbing to me. Many of the posts start with “Please don’t call my daughter a princess” or “Please don’t call my daughter beautiful or cute.” There was one article posted about why a mother didn’t want her daughter to be referred to as “Daddy’s Little Princess.” I don’t get it. Mama bear has come out. When did being a girly girl become something so un PC and something we deemed as bad or detrimental to our little girls?

I am the proud mother of a little girl who is 100% girly. She loves all things pink, shiny and sparkly. More than that, she is 100% Daddy’s Little Princess. You know what? I LOVE IT!!! Growing up I was not close to my father. I was never Daddy’s Little Princess or a daddy’s girl. I was often referred to as “The Major’s Daughter.” My siblings and I were more of Daddy’s Little Soldiers than anything else. This isn’t to say he didn’t love us in his own way, but he was never overly affectionate toward us. I LOVE that my husband and my daughter have that special relationship. My heart melts when I watch the two of them together. I pray it continues throughout their lives.

I don’t see this as a negative where my daughter is concerned. Her room is painted pink. Her bedspread is white with Eiffel Towers, pink hearts and little puppies all over it. She has posters and pictures of Paris all over her walls. If you open her closet and dresser, you will find the whole spectrum of pinks. You will find sequins, ruffles, glitter and all sorts of sparkles on her clothes. Her shoes have a pinkish rainbow on them. She has a bow board overflowing with bows. In the the bathroom, you will find a collection of colorful barrettes, hair ties and headbands. Her backpack is pink, with unicorns and rainbows. She is not a fan of sweat, but will slightly tolerate it in gymnastics.

My daughter and I are the same in some areas and then polar opposites in others. When she looks at me and asks to go get a mani or pedi, I don’t always know how to react. I’ve had 2 manis in my life. The first was for my wedding. The 2nd was for one of my best friend’s 40th birthday. It’s not something even close to being on my radar. My daughter is just shy of 9 and has been into fashion design since she was the ripe old age of 5. She has several fashion design books and is constantly drawing dresses and outfits on blank paper she finds. My daughter also has a love of baking. While my husband and I have yet to turn her loose in the kitchen without supervision, she is learning her way around and I love the confidence I see when see gets to help cook and bake. Depending on what day you catch her, she will tell you she either wants to be a fashion designer or open her own bakery when she grows up. Again, I absolutely LOVE this about my daughter.

I don’t see any of the things I have listed above about my daughter things that need to change. I don’t see how, by allowing to nurture these things in her, that we are raising a terrible human being. You see, on top of all of this my daughter is an honor roll student. Did I mention she is a straight A student in math? Yep, another trait she did not inherit from me. I wish my grandfather would have lived to meet her because he would be thrilled to see a grandchild who can crunch numbers like he did. He was CFO of Butler Paper before he retired. My husband also excels in the area of math and business.

My daughter is also kind and generous. I have had several parents tell me how much they appreciate the way my daughter has welcomed their child into the classroom and befriended them to help them feel comfortable in a new setting. My daughter is a child who other children trust. They know my daughter is a loyal friend. My daughter is also generous. When we go shopping for Operation Christmas Child and Gifting Tree, she would buy out Wal-Mart and Target if we would let her. If she knows of other needs, she desires to meet them. You see you can be a princess who loves all things pink and sparkly AND be kind, generous and intelligent. It’s a both/ and, not either/ or.

While this has been a post about little girls, I will throw in that I am a boymom as well. I have 2 little boys who we are training to be true, southern gentleman. My boys are 100% boy. They are rough and tumble and are happier outside playing with their basketballs, footballs and trucks, in the dirt than they are inside coloring. They are the total opposite of my daughter. My boys are being raised to hold doors open for ladies. They are being taught if a gentleman is present, a lady should never have to open her own door. Is the lady capable of opening her own door? Yes. Does that mean she should? No, it doesn’t. I love having sons who love being boys, just as I love having a daughter who embraces being a  girly girl with all her heart.

The other part of this is that we have taught my daughter and my sons once they accept Christ as their savior, they not only have an earthly father, but they will have a heavenly Father who also happens to be The King of Kings. This means they will have an eternal, Royal inheritance. My daughter is coming close to making the personal decision to follow Christ. I pray she embraces being a child of The One True King with every fiber of her being and know that she will always and forever be a princess in the eyes of our Lord.

I think we as women have pushed for equality for so long that we have unintentionally sent the message to our daughters, nieces and little girls in our lives that being a girl is something to be ashamed of. By being a girl, especially one who embraces it, that they can’t and/or won’t be respected. Society says “Put your daughters in gender neutral clothes.” “Give your daughter toys that would be traditionally meant for boys.” “Put away the pink, the sparkles and the bling because only then can you earn a place in society.” I will give you an emphatic “NO” to all of this. As long as my daughter wants her pink and her sparkles and I will continue to let her have them. I will not teach her to “tone the girly girl.” I love her the way she is and the way the Lord created her. So please, do tell my daughter she is beautiful. Please tell her she is a princess. Definitely please remind her that she not only has an earthly father who loves her to pieces, she has a Heavenly Father who thought she was to die for.

Again, Princess is NOT a dirty word!!!!!

Word of the Year

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It’s January, so of course the long list of “I want to accomplish _________; My new year’s resolution is __________” is all over social media, the blogs we read and the sermons/ podcasts of our favorite pastors/ teachers we follow. I don’t see anything wrong with setting goals, but I wonder how realistic and honest we are with ourselves when we set these goals? Is there any intentionality in our goals? Do these goals allow us to get to where we want to be when December 31st rolls around?

I am a member of an incredible group of women on FB. This is a group who started off as launch team on FB, but once the launch was over we never left the FB group that was created. This is a group of women I have come to love and cherish. We come from all walks of life, different denominations and hold a wide range of views. The cool thing? The main goal is to support each other and I have watched this group walk alongside women walking through all sorts of life issues. This is an encouraging and praying group of women. Some I have had the privilege of meeting in real life and others I hope to one day meet. I share all of this to say we want to see each other grow and succeed.

One of the things we have been encouraged to do the past couple of years is to pray and ask the Lord to give us a word for the year. Last year my word was “Restore.” All year the Lord put verses on restoration right in front of me. There are areas of my life He is still breaking, only to restore. I look at in the form of a remodel. You can’t have the new unless the old is torn out. It’s a process that goes hand in hand. The restoration process isn’t over. The Lord is still working in my life and will be for a while.

When praying about my word for the year, the Lord kept bringing the word “Courage” to mind. Most people who know me, would say I am a picture of confidence and maybe even come across as a little cocky and arrogant. Y’all this is so far from the truth. When I left my full time position back in spring of 2013, a part of me shattered. I felt like I had failed my husband, my children and myself. I didn’t see how the Lord could take that hot mess and make anything of it. Even though the Lord opened an incredible door for me to walk through in our own church and allowed me to land in a position that fits my talents, skill sets and spiritual giftings, I still managed to lose my voice. I have stayed quiet when I should have spoken up. I shrunk back, when I should have squared my shoulders and stood up.

My husband and I experienced a great deal of life in 2017 and the second half of the year was rough, to put it mildly. When everything started happening, I stopped writing. It’s been roughly 6 months since I’ve had a blog post. I stopped because life was hard, but I also stopped because I didn’t think it mattered. Y’all, I love to write. The one thing I could have kept going, I allowed to come to a screeching halt. Fear also played into this. It took me a while to realize how many areas of my life I allowed fear to takeover and to silence me. It wasn’t anything any one person said or did, it was allowing satan to claim space in my head he didn’t deserve to have.

The verse the Lord has given me for the year is Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it shall be given unto you. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened unto you.” This is KJV, but it’s way I learned the verse back in middle school. It seems to be a weird verse to go along with courage, but how much have you or I missed out on in life because we were too afraid ask? I think too many times we feel like things/ opportunities are given to others, but we aren’t worthy of receiving them ourselves. I believe the Lord will open all doors He sees fit, but I have to wonder how many more would be opened if we approached Him with confidence and asked? When we get into situations, do we truly seek the Lord’s hand and wisdom? I don’t think this means if we ask for a million dollars and a lavish beach house, He will grant it because He isn’t a genie in a bottle. I do however believe if we are truly seeking His face and living a life He called us to live, He will provide and open needed doors.

Walking into the first part of 2018 my goal is to find my voice. This is both physically and in the written word. I know the Lord has put more inside of me than I have shown or given over the past several years. This means stepping forward with courage in spite of the fear I may feel. It may mean having hard conversations. It may mean taking steps I never imagined taking. I pray when December 31st rolls around, I will see a bold, new person when I look in the mirror. I pray the Lord will do as He did last year and put verses on courage in my path throughout the year. I pray He will take and destroy the fear I have allowed to build up over the years.

As you walk into the the second week of 2018, I hope you will pray and ask the Lord to give you a word to focus on for the year. I pray the Lord will bless you beyond measure in the area He is showing you that needs to grow and/or change. I pray 2018 is life changing for you and the Lord takes you to places you never imagined you would go.

Body Image and Expectations

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It’s taken me a couple of weeks to write this post. I needed to make sure I was writing from my heart and not from a place of anger and frustration. Honestly, I have struggled with weight since I was in middle school. There are many factors that have played into this over the years. Some of it has been what others have said and/ or done, others have been my own choices, both positive and negative.

A few weeks back I had two encounters within a week that left me angry and in tears. The first happened in a local grocery store. A lady approached me and started to share about a weight loss program she had created and the new store she was opening on the north side of town. Sounds harmless; right? Wrong! In her spiel she told me how she lost 93 lbs on her program and she could help me “lose weight as well.” Y’all my 8 year old daughter was standing beside me through the whole thing. I was angry, embarrassed and wanted the aisle to open up and swallow me whole. Whether she intended to or not, she fat shamed me in front of my daughter and sent her the wrong message. Her words also went against the language we use as far as health and fitness go in our home. I will also say she lost a potential customer.

The second incident happened in a private, health FB page I belong to. In a post a lady bragged about how she judges people based on what’s in their buggies. She also openly admitted to judging those she passed in the grocery store, along with fighting the desire to have “honest” conversations with parents with “fat/ obese kids.” The thing that made my stomach churn more than it already was is that so many other women agreed with her. They felt she should speak up and if maybe they all spoke up, then they could in turn save the world from fat people. It was horrifying. It was a moment I couldn’t respond. I had many responses I could have typed, but I kept scrolling.

One incident was directed towards me and the other wasn’t, but both still reduced me to tear. Y’all, I am NOT a crier. It has to be bad for the tears to come. The tears partly came out of anger at their words, both spoken and typed. The other tears fell as a result of a huge wave of shame that rolled over me.

know what I need to do. I know what to eat. I know how much exercise I need. I have a minor in Human Performance. (In some colleges/ universities this is the same as Exercise Science). I also spent 9 years working in the recreation and fitness field before starting seminary. Oh yeah, the whole my body being a temple thing didn’t help any of this. Christians are experts at the whole guilt thing. Wish I could say I was kidding, but I’m not.

Total transparency here. At my heaviest, while pregnant with my youngest, I was pushing 200. At my smallest, I was in the low to mid 120’s. Most of my adult life I have fluctuated between the 2 numbers. The cycle goes like this: Exercise, eat right, maintain for a few months to a year or so. Slowly start to let diet and exercise go. Throw diet and exercise out the window, eat all of the things and send the “skinny” clothes to Goodwill. Get frustrated and start over. I know I can’t be the only one who falls into this cycle.

There were times when I was at my heaviest I was good with being “the fat girl.” I know how to play this role. I know what’s expected. Then when I’ve lost the weight and can wear what I call “cute clothes” I love looking at pictures of myself and feel proud that I am no longer the “fat girl” in the group. It’s fun to be the “cute one.” It’s fun to have people comment on how wonderful you look.

This is what one of my seminary professors would call “stinkin’ thinkin’.” How much of what society says plays into this particular tape in our head? How many times do we pick up magazines and see what is expected of women? Most of the women’s, fitness and running magazines show women with 6 pack abs and cut arms. Their thighs don’t touch. They are considered beautiful.  There are so many diets, exercise routines, pills and shakes to choose from that should make this whole healthy and skinny thing easy. I’m here to tell you it’s anything but. All of our bodies are different. What works for one person may not work for another person. This fact can add to our frustration. As I look at all of the media around me and options and opinions it’s no wonder eating disorders are so rampant and starting earlier and earlier in our kids.

When I look at what it means to truly be healthy and comfortable in your own skin, it’s not about a number on a scale. It’s not about the number on the tag of your clothes. It’s about being able to go about your daily life and not being winded by tasks. It’s about being able to chase your kids around the backyard or the park and not feel like you’re going to need someone to hand you an oxygen mask. It’s about being able to sit through a sermon on your body being a temple without praying the Lord will look at all of the other good things in your life and letting this one thing slide. It’s being able to go out to eat with your husband or your friends and not worry others are judging you because of what you ordered. It’s about being confident to go buy new jeans or a dress without having a meltdown in the dressing room. (We all get a pass on swim suit shopping because that’s a whole other monster).  It’s about being able to look in the mirror and be content with who you are.

The crazy thing is I can give you the whole paragraph above, but I can’t tell you how to get there. I’d be a multimillionaire if I could. We all have different backgrounds. We all have different issues we’ve overcome or are working to overcome. Our hurts and hangups are different. I don’t have any of the answers. The only thing I can tell you is to be kind to others. Don’t judge their appearances because you have no idea what they may be walking. Watch what you say in the presence of your daughters, nieces and other special little girls in your life. Don’t teach them the same unhealthy thought patterns you have. Most of all be kind to yourself. Seek and ask for help when needed. Find an accountability partner if possible. While this will sound like the correct Christian thing to say, pray the Lord will help you in this area. We can’t do it in our own strength. While they are health issues the lead to issues with weight, many times it boils down to an issue in our own hearts. Only HE can deliver and redeem whatever that issue may be.

In the meantime, I’m here whether you need an ear to listen or an invitation to come join me in the gym. We can do this together.

A Lot Like Moses

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Hey y’all. It has been way too long since I put up a new post. Confession, I have been living in fear of just about everything. The fear has been so bad that I have not even been able to write. I love writing, but my fear prevented me from writing. The fear also sent me into hiding. I don’t mean I have refused to leave the safety of my house, but I have not reached out to friends and basically stopped doing some of the things I love like hitting the greenway and the gym. The Lord is slowly bringing me out on the other side of this, but it’s a process.

This is the last blog post I started back in March, but never finished and hit publish. I have edited part of it because some of the timelines have changed.

If you asked me who I most relate to in the Bible, I would answer with Jonah, Peter and the task driven Martha. Our church is currently reading through the F260 reading plan and back in March we finished up reading about the life of Moses. While I grew up hearing and reading stories about Moses, I never really made any connections to my personal life until now. Ok, well, maybe I haven’t killed and Egyptian solider, nor have I seen a burning bush, but there are several other ways in which I can relate to Moses.

After Moses killed the soldier he fled into the wilderness to basically start life over. He walked away from a life of prestige and comfort. What he didn’t realizing by running off to hide is that we can never hide from the LORD. We often think we can hide, but reality is that He knows where we are at all times. When the Lord decided to confront Moses, it was in a way Moses knew it was really the LORD. I can’t imagine staring at a burning bush and hearing the LORD saying “Take off your sandals for the place you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). I can’t even begin to imagine what Moses was thinking as all of this is unfolding before him. I think most of us have had moments where the LORD made it clear as to what He was saying to us, maybe not like this, but still clear.

Then we hear Moses say “But God” for the first time. Y’all he says this multiple times throughout the remainder of his life. If I am honest, this past year has been a year of me saying the exact same thing. You see I know there is something specific the LORD has called me to, BUT I don’t feel qualified to do nor do I really think anyone else would want to hear what I have to say. I feel like it’s time for the dream He gave me in college to come true, but I am terrified to step out on faith and do it. For me, the LORD typically uses people as my “burning bush” moments. I have 3 people in my life who have encouraged me like crazy in the past year. Several months ago I was basically called out because there is something I typically do and this person noticed I hadn’t done it in a while. The next day a sweet note was written about me and the same area was addressed. I mean seriously, how many times does the LORD have to put people in my path to get the message across. Y’all, I am great at saying “But LORD.” I think like Moses, there is truly a feeling of inadequacy and fear involved. I don’t see it as a rebellious spirit and not wanting to obey, but more being afraid to take that step of faith.

Because Moses liked to say “But God” so frequently, Moses was reminded that he had Aaron. Every person needs at least one Aaron in their lives. I have a couple I would consider to be the Aarons in my life. Some of the people in the paragraph above fit into that category. An Aaron keeps us grounded and is by our side. In modern day terms, these people would be considered our “tribe.” My tribe is amazing and has walked through the mountain tops and valleys of my life. They have been there when I have admitted that I was having a “But LORD” moment. They’ve held my up my arms. They have prayed with me and over me. My tribe is small, but exactly what I need it to be. Even though they have not always been able to prevent me from having Moses moments, they have been there to help pick up the pieces or encourage me to follow the LORD’s leading in my life.

As I continued to read through the story of Moses, there are many times when I really feel like he rolled his eyes at the Israelites until his eyes hurt. The people he was leading were really ungrateful and complained a great deal of the time. They forgot he had led them away from slavery in Egypt, but because they were so ungrateful and disobedient, even after experiencing the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14: 15-31). While I have never led a group that large, we all have those people in our lives who rub us the wrong way. They are never happy. You can point out all of the positives the LORD has done for them and it’s just never good enough. Admit it, you have that person’s name at the forefront of your mind. I struggle to be around people who are like this. I can also imagine that sarcasm was a favorite form of conversation for Moses. I have often joked sarcasm is unappreciated spiritual gift and something more people should understand and appreciate, but I digress.

While my temper has definitely cooled over the years, I can see and relate to this trait in Moses. There are 3 times when I see that Moses really lost his cool. First, he killed the Egyptian soldier (Exodus 2:12). Second he broke the original stone tablets which held the 10 Commandments. (Exodus 32). Then, there are several more eye roll moments. Just before they are to finally head into the Promised Land, the LORD tells Moses to speak to the rock an water will appear, but Moses, being frustrated strikes the rock twice (Numbers 20: 1-13). While I believe there are healthy ways of letting out anger and frustration, going against the LORD is not something I recommend. Even when anger isn’t physically taken out on someone or something, it can still cause issues when done verbally. While I wish I was the quiet type, I’m not. Like the meme says “I always mean what I say, I just don’t always mean to say it out loud.” This is where my temper and my love of sarcasm can cause issues. There are also days where the greenway gets to feel my anger. Last summer I had an issue that brought my blood to beyond boiling point, so I laced up my running shoes and hit the greenway. During this run I knocked a full minute off of my mile. By the time I returned home I was drenched in sweat. Running or other physical activity is something I would highly encourage when you are angry and that way others around won’t feel the affects.

All throughout Moses’ story you can see how he has gained favor with the LORD. About the time you think the people are going to be destroyed Moses displays his faith and the people are saved. Several times throughout his story, you read about how his face “shone” because he had spent so much time in the LORD’s presence. This is a trait I would love to have. When I take my final breath on this earth and step into eternity with the LORD, this is what I want said about me.

I am grateful the LORD takes us good, bad and ugly. I’m grateful He sees through the mess, the doubts, the fears and the “But Lord” moments in our life. I’m grateful for a Savior who leads me and allows me to be used. I’m grateful He looks at me and calls me “Redeemed” and “Worthy.” I have grown to love the story of Moses because he a sarcastic hot mess and the LORD still used him to lead and the relationship Moses had with the LORD was sweet.

I have had many Moses moments in my life and will more than likely to continue to have them. If you haven’t read his story, you need to. I pray the Lord will continue to use me in spite of me. I also pray that I will find the courage to continue to write. If you are one who actually follows me on this blog, please feel free to say something if you notice it’s been a while since I’ve posted. My goal is to get back on track with my blog and my book. I’m as much a work in process as they are. It’s ok if you are as well.

Going Through the Motions

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My original plan for this post was to share my goals for the year and the steps I planned to use to meet those goals. As I have had a couple of conversations and then read a few posts and articles on social media, I decided honesty and vulnerability in a New Year’s post would be better than only showing my Type A, goal driven, anal retentive tendencies. You know what I mean, the “Here is the polished, I have it all together side” kind of post. This morning a friend of mine posted a meme on Facebook which states “We need more women who are willing to say, I’ve been there and I’m here. You can always talk to me without judgement.”

So here’s the hard truth. 2016 was a wretched year and I was thrilled to see the clock tick down to midnight and welcome in 2017. Last year the Lord took me through a breaking process and reality is He is still breaking several things in me. I am stubborn as a mule, so this process may take longer in me than in another person. Even though there were times I could see the Lord at work, I spent a great deal of last year simply going through the motions. Many things in my faith that I hold dear either went by the wayside, or I simply marked them off on my to-do list like the obedient, Type A personality I am. I put on a mask with a fake smile and simply did what was expected. There were times last year when I didn’t feel like praying and my Bible became a little dusty. I never stopped believing in the Lord, but many times had to rely on my logic and go with what I knew to be true verses what I felt.

I let a situation a friend had zero control over pretty well ruin that sweet friendship I came to value.I let frustration and jealousy build a wall between us. Truth is that I miss our almost daily conversations/ text messages and spent a good part of last fall feeling lonely. Because this is a friendship at church, it only added fuel to me going through the motions at church. I pray that I can make things right with this friend again and that she will find a way to forgive me.

Last fall when I knew the Lord was calling me to teach a ladies’ life group class on Sunday morning I didn’t understand, especially given where I had been spiritually. Leading a class “forced” me back into The Word. Funny how that works, right? My class is small, but I have come to appreciate spending time with those ladies every Sunday morning. I like having a “need” to be in The Word. Yes, I acknowledge that as a believer, we are called to be in The Word on a regular basis and the Lord speaks to us through our Bible readings, but this class put me back into regular study times.

Through out the course of the fall I was also having conversations with a younger lady in the church, as well as conversations with the person over our groups. Talking with both of them I argued with the Lord over what I was hearing. There was NO way I was going to lead a D-group. I would feel like a complete and total fraud. I appeared to have it all together, but inside my faith was room temperature at best. I knew our church was going to be going through the “Foundations” book and my Sunday morning group had already decided to follow the church’s lead and walk through it with our pastor and other groups.  I had been invited to be a part of another D-group, which would have put me sitting under a lady I have come to have a great deal of respect for and knew I would gain a great deal in that group, but there wasn’t room for me and the other young lady I had been talking with. I prayed the Lord would make it crystal clear as to what I was supposed to do and He did. Around the first part of December, the young lady I had been talking with walked up to me with two other ladies and before I knew it, I said “yes” to leading a D-group.

In our Bible reading for week 2, I came across a verse in a familiar passage that jumped out at me and I’m not sure I ever really paid any attention to it before. “So she named the Lord who spoke to her: The God Who Sees, for she said, “Have I really seen here the One who sees me?” Genesis 16:13. Do you see what it says? “The One who SEES me.” Through all of the things that happened last year, the Lord saw me. Even when going though the motions and feeling invisible to those around me, He saw me and He still sees me. I’ll be honest and say tears came to my eyes. I sat with the verse for a while and it renewed a spark in me that has been missing for some time now. I don’t have everything worked out at this point in January, I do know the Lord is moving in my life and by December I am certain I will be able to see the Lord’s hand on many areas of my life. I see this as a year of change, I also see that this is going to be a year of renewal and restoration. I also feel like the Lord will be opening doors for me I never would have imagined possible. I’m still not sure what this looks like, but I’m ready. I know He sees me and sees what’s inside of me.

Why do I share all of this? For one, I think too many times we feel guilty for pretending like everything is fine and going through the motions. Second, there tends to be shame when we hit this point in our walks with the Lord and lastly, we are pretty sure we are the only ones who feel this way. We let our pride get in the way and we are too afraid of admitting we feel this, which in turns keeps us from reaching out and allowing the Lord to use another person to be His arms. Guess what? You’re not alone. You’re not a failure as a Christian for walking through a faith valley. I am telling you I have been there and am slowly coming out on the other side. Please feel free to be honest with me. Don’t walk that road alone. Find a person you can be completely honest with and let them know where you are. Connection with other believers can renew your spark and put you back on the right track.

God, Friendship and the Election

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To state this election has been tumultuous would be an understatement. While the past couple of elections have been heated, they have nothing on the one we are currently experiencing. Hateful words have flown from both sides of the aisle. Insults have been hurled. Morals and values have been tossed out the window. Friendships have been damaged or destroyed. It’s an election where most of us feel we could use some healing and some breathing room to cope. It’s also left us wondering if God is anywhere near us?

When I look at our two major party candidates, I’m still a little shocked they were the last two standing. The prospect of one of them sitting in the Oval Office is enough to send chills up my spine and makes me wonder what it means for our kids and their futures. I have honestly felt a great deal of fear over the past several months. There seems to be so much riding on this election and so many decisions will be made based on who wins. It’s hard to know for certain what will happen.

One of the major phrases flying throughout this election has been “If you are a Christian, you can’t vote for ______.” People have turned this into an election of shaming others and demeaning them for choosing to stand by their candidate. I wonder how many believers walked away from the polls and wondering if the Lord could really love them or consider them His child because of how they voted? Is it theologically sound to question the salvation of another based on their vote? Is it correct for us to sit in the judgement seat based on a person’s vote? The answer is “no.” There is no vote that will cause the Lord to love you less or for you to lose your salvation. By the time you read this, the votes will be in and we will have to find a way  to move forward as a nation. This also means looking at those sitting on the opposite side of the aisle remembering the Lord loves them and many of them have a personal relationship with Christ.

My pastor has been in Ephesians for a couple of weeks now. As I read chapter 1, I couldn’t help but think about where we are as a nation. Yes, this may be seen as a stretch, but hold on with me for just a minute:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ;
4 for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love
5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will,
6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
8 that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him
10 for the administration) of the days of fulfillment-to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.
11 In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will,
12 so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.
13 In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation-in Him when you believed-were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

14 He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14)

The passage has a great deal of us and them in it, then as it nears the end it jumps to “our.” Technically, this passage is talking about the Jews and the gentiles and then the body as a whole. I think if we’re honest we have been throwing out us and them throughout this whole election, when in reality it is about “our.” Just as Christ died for ALL of us, our president sits in office for ALL of us. No, I am not making our current president or president-elect out to be the savior of our nation, but under our president we are one nation. I think the sooner we adopt the “our” mentality, the better off we will be.

This post is a little weird because I started it as Americans headed to the polls and am completing it the day after. It was a long night. Many of us rode the crazy roller coaster. We waited until the AP called it a little after 2AM and then waited another 15-20 mins until Fox had called it. For better or worse, Mr. Trump is our next president. As I have scrolled through social media today, my heart has been broken. This is not necessarily because of the outcome, but be because there really is a line in the sand between the left and the right. Insults are still flying and the division appears to be even greater. We have 2 choices. We can choose to repair broken relationships with those on the other side of the aisle, or we can allow the line to become the great divide. How awesome would it be to work together and then at the end of the next 4 years to look back and realize we came together in unity and put an end to the hatred?

My challenge to you is this, reach out. Talk to the person who has polar opposite views from you and really listen to what it is they have to say. I’m not saying you have to agree with them, but let them know they’ve been heard and you care. In the areas where you can, find a way to compromise. Create ways to extend the olive branch and build bridges. I think this will go a long to repair relationships broken through this process and create the nation of unity we all so much desire. I also encourage you to remember that God is The King of Kings and The Lord of Lords. Regardless of how the next 4 years play out, HE is still on HIS throne and we are still His children.