Friday, September 20, 2013

My Favorite at the Moment...

At the moment, this is my favorite worship song.  Maybe with the newly discovered knowledge of my Love Languages (2nd being Physical Touch), it makes sense that this song tugs on my heart.  I crave to be held in the arms of someone who loves me.  This song helps me redirect that desire to be held in the arms of Jesus.  Wow!  Look at this song...word for word...listen to the words...say them, sing them...whatever it takes for you to connect with Him!
Every line of this song rings with truth...He is good, I am not.   He is love, He is Light, He is Hope!  Oh my goodness, if nothing else, during this season, my hope in Him has been completely restored.  I am so grateful He has taken away all my sins--past, present, and future! WOOOOOO!  He is Peace...OH YES HE IS!!!  He is True, He is Joy, He is Life!  Come on!  I hope your close to shouting right now!  
When I think of all the pain, hurt, humiliation, rejection, and struggles life allows, I get overwhelmed.  I want to shut down, give up, and run away.  But, when I am reminded of how He is moving in my life, I am ashamed for doubting.  
Right now, the part of this song that just humbles me and fires me up is: "You are here, in Your presence I'm made whole.  You are God, You are God of all else I'm letting go..."  What freedom!  He is with me in every moment of every day!  When I am happy and dancing, He's there with me.  When I'm balled up on the bathroom floor or hiding under my covers, He is with me.  Nothing else matters in comparison to His love for me...so I can let it all go!  That is my goal and the desire of my heart...to let go of all that is holding me down and to run as hard as I can into His strong, loving, supportive and ever-open arms!
Forever Reign- Hillsong
You are good, You are good When there's nothing good in me You are love, You are love On display for all to see You are light, You are light When the darkness closes in You are hope, You are hope You have covered all my sin
 
You are peace, You are peace When my fear is crippling You are true, You are true Even in my wandering You are joy, You are joy You're the reason that I sing You are life, You are life, In You death has lost it's sting
 
[Chorus]  Oh, I'm running to your arms, I'm running to arms The riches of your love Will always be enough Nothing compares to Your embrace Light of the world forever reign
 
You are more, You are more Than my words will ever say You are Lord, You are Lord All creation will proclaim You are here, You are here In your presence I'm made whole You are God, You are God Of all else I'm letting go
 
[Chorus]
 
//My heart will sing no other name Jesus, Jesus//
 
[Chorus]

Women and Worship

The Worship Center at BBC...filled with sweet ladies!
Last night was such an awesome experience.  This time last year, I went completely out of my comfort zone and am so glad I did.  Women's ministry is not my forte...there is a reason I work with kiddos.  Large groups of women scare me to death.  When I heard about The Gathering at Biltmore Baptist Church last year, I wanted to go and was scared to go.  So, like any smart girl, I suckered some of my friends into going with me.  That night made such an impression on my heart, mind, and soul.  The Gathering is a night of worship, fellowship, and testimonies...women to women.  It is overwhelming and completely wonderful.  

My Mama and Me
This year, The Gathering fell on my Mama's birthday.  As her gift, I wanted to take her to this special event.  She was gracious enough to share her birthday celebration with several other women.  I invited a few of my dear friends.  We went to dinner beforehand, then headed over to the church.
                                                                                                                                                                   
Mandy and Me...friends since elementary school (Mission Friends and Girl Scouts)
I could write forever and ever about the experience.  We are blessed at Biltmore Baptist to have incredible leadership and great resources.  My sweet friend, Kelly Williams, spearheaded the event with an army of volunteers, worship leaders, drama team, tech crew, and many, many more people.  Everything looked beautiful...from the parking lot to the lobby to the worship center...it was just perfection! 
Britnee and Makenzie, the world's most amazing young ladies!
I was in desperate need of a night of worship, refreshment, and being around other Christian ladies.  The worship set was incredible.  The speakers spoke right to the heart.  My mind and heart were wrapped up in God's love through His Word and His people.  It was an amazing night.  But, the best, most awesome, simply marvelous factor was being surrounded by other women who were seeking that connection with the Lord as much as I was.  I stood in the back of the worship center and took a few pictures, then just let the reality of the sheer volume of women wanting Jesus soak in.  How humbling and inspiring!

My posse for the evening (minus Daphne and her Mama)


My favorite thing about the night was worshiping with some of my favorite people.  There was a moment during one of the songs where I looked at the row in front of me, and in my row on either side of me, and I was completely surrounded by people who I love and who love me.  These are people who have seen me at my ugliest, my lowest, my meanest...and they still love me!  These are people who have loved my children.  Ladies who have encouraged me, laughed with me, cried with me, and yelled with me.  Oh, my goodness, when we were singing and our hands were lifted to our Heavenly Father, I was overwhelmed with His love...and reminded of how He has placed so many in my life who love me.  I am a super blessed girl! 

Relief Pitcher

What single-parenting looks like in my head...

In my life, I've had a myriad of jobs.  And, I have enjoyed all of them.  When I was 16 I started working at Ingles on Leicester Highway.  I really liked working at Ingles...I knew everyone who came in the door, I had 2 really good bosses (1 I didn't like at all), and I got to work with some of my high school buddies.  The following summer, I worked at Stein-Mart...I don't remember how I ended up with that job.  It was SOOOO far out of my comfort zone.  I hated having to count the drawer every night.  This was before the time of debit/credit card machines.  This was the day when you still had to pull out the big metal thing that made the carbon copy of credit cards.  I HATED handling money.  But, I loved when the snowbirds would come up from Florida and need to buy an entire summer wardrobe.  Let's just say, I was very entertained...because even at 17, I didn't care about clothing or fashion at all, but for some reason, I looked like the person to ask about what shade of pink best complimented an 80 year old woman's complexion.  Thank God for the wit He gave me.  The summer after my Senior year of high school, I started working at summer camp at Little Beaver Daycare...and that's when it all clicked.  I LOVED that job the most.  I loved working with the sweet kiddos, playing outside with them, dancing with them, and getting to know their stories.  I stayed with that job when I started Mars Hill College worked there until I got married  

My first job after I got married was as a Nanny for 2 precious kiddos in VA.  Oh, I loved that job...LOVED it.  I would spend hours on the weekend planning activities for the 2 year old and 4 year old who were in my care.  I spent so much time with those babies...I hated when we moved and I had to quit.  When Mark went out to sea, I moved back to Asheville and lived with my Grandmama and worked at West Buncombe Elementary as a substitute.  Best job in the public schools...time with kids without having to test them.  Next came working for a really cool elementary school in FL.  Aside from having to spend time in the cafeteria each day, I had fun with the kiddos and the adults I worked with.  After that, I worked in a Teacher's Supply store in GA.  That was a fun job because I got to into schools and make deliveries, I could take Cecely to work with me.  When we moved back to NC, I was blessed to go back work at West Buncombe.  I worked as an assistant in 2nd grade.  That job was challenging, but I had a heart for special needs kids.  I moved from 2nd grade to the Intensive Intervention classes.  That job absolutely loved working with those amazing kids...I was never bored.  I spent a lot of time one on one with a non-verbal Autistic child.  Everyday, he would try to choke me.  He would bite.  He would kick.  He would scream.  He broke my heart.  But, I loved him with all that was in me.  While I was working at West Buncombe, Cecely was attending and her developmental delay issues were becoming more severe and more evident.  That's when the next employment transition occurred...from public school to homeschool.  Of all the jobs I have had, that was my FAVORITE!  I loved planning lessons, activities, and events for my kiddos.  I loved being able to teach them on their level at their speed.  I found so much joy in our ability to serve together.

Homeschooling was an amazing season for my little family.  I miss it already.  I absolutely despise that our life changed without our consent, and that homeschooling was one sacrifice.  However, in the midst of that change, God provided me with my current job.  I am beyond blessed to work at my church.  What an honor and privilege to be able to do what I feel I was wired to do, to work with people who pray with me and for me, and who shares my vision of reaching children with the love of the Lord.  The kiddos are back in public school, I am working more, and it has been an amazing and positive transition.  I just know God is working in our lives.

All of those jobs gave me stories and experiences.  They helped me develop skills and to build a resume.  These jobs supplied me with an income and taught me how to be responsible for what I earn.  However, none of those jobs were as difficult as the scariest, most physically-demanding, emotionally exhaustive, spirit-sucking, mind-melting job that is parenting.  Being a Mom is by far the most painful job I've had.  I know I'm not alone in this.  I also completely understand why God designed families the way He did.  It makes sense that there should be a Mom and a Dad.  (I know that there are many families that are out there where one parent does all of the work, where grandparents are doing the rearing of kids, and many other types of families.  Please know that I'm not judging or condemning any of those.)  What I'm saying is, God knew what He was doing when He placed a husband and a wife together to raise kiddos.

Now, please don't misread this...I love Cecely and Titus with everything I have in me.  They are my biggest gift and greatest joy.  I am 100% sure that they have been God's plan as my saving grace during this season.  Cecely protects me.  Titus hugs me.  They both make me laugh.  My children are amazing.  I could not be more honored to be their Mama.  I am so undeserving of this task that God has given me.  I LOVE being a Mama...it is the greatest job on the planet!

That being said, oh my goodness!  I am exhausted.  I would love to hire a relief pitcher.  I really need one.  In baseball, the relief pitcher does just that...he relieves the pitcher.  In parenting (again, I know this ideal in a lot of homes) one parent can relieve the other.  Right now, I feel like I'm drowning in parenting responsibilities.  I would love to have a guy come swoop in and pick up the kids from school because I am sick as a dog in the bathroom.  I would love another me to pop in to take care of the laundry.  On the nights when I can sleep (maybe 2 or 3 times a week), Titus usually can't sleep.  I average about 2 hours of sleep a night...and if he has a nightmare, I may not sleep at all.  And, that's ok.  I love that he comes to me when he can't sleep, and I want to be the one to get him back to sleep.  But, I'm exhausted.  I would absolutely do the happy dance if a relief parent would step in.

I know SO MANY of my parenting friends are also exhausted...with 2 parents  or 1...with help from grandparents, other family members or not...Parenting is hard, no matter how many parents there are.  It is an intensive job.  I know I'm not alone in this!  What are your parenting survival tips?  What gets you through the end of the day?  If you don't have a relief pitcher in the bull pen what do you to get through the day?  I'm just so tired.  I love my babies...I feel guilty for feeling tired.  I feel like I am not giving them my best.  I feel like I am selling my kiddos short.  I am so exhausted that I don't have the energy to be the Mama I want to be...who I'm called to be.  So, when you say your prayers, please feel free to lift me...pray that I can sleep, that Titus can sleep, that I can be the best Mama who my kiddos need!  I will do the same for you, friends...I pray for the families in my life.  I pray that God will empower the men to be the leaders He has called them to be.  I pray that the women will be the supporters that God made them to be.  I pray protection over the marriages of my friends.  I pray for the safety and health of their children.  I know God is good, and He has me and my kids covered...I just need a little boost! 
I do love my kiddos...So happy and blessed!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Just When I Thought I Had Figured Myself Out...

Life is so funny.  Actually, God is pretty funny.  He has quite the sense of humor.  His timing both makes me growl and makes me chuckle.  The past 3 days have been one revelation after another.  I am literally mentally gone. I have not stopped processing since Monday afternoon, and that is too long of a stretch for my mind to be going non-stop with no down time.  It is amazing to me how God has to figuratively beat me over the head with a topic before I face it and realize that He has been talking to me this whole time, but I have been too wrapped up in my own thoughts to hear Him.  I am so grateful that He doesn't give up on me, that He is patient with me, and that He knows how to get my attention.

We are forever changing, growing, and hopefully maturing.  Our lives produce circumstances and events that shape who we are and who we become.  In addition to that, God has hard-wired us with a unique design.  Today, I was made aware of how I really have no clue about myself...I thought I was getting a pretty good grip on how I think and what makes me tick.  As my Daddy used to say, that's what I get for thinking.

This morning, I was blessed to be in a Bible study group for ladies who serve in ministry.  Our teacher led us in a survey to determine whether each of us were introverted, extroverted, or ambiverted (a mix of the two).  My friend and I were chatting a little about the "test" and how if we had taken this same test 10 years ago, we would have tested totally different.  As a sociology major in college, I was obsessed with survey, questionnaires, and tests.  Today, I still love to take surveys.  During my years studying psychology and sociology, I underwent several personality tests.  When I was in college and was a younger adult, I would test across the board as a strong extrovert.  I was outgoing, low inhibitions, full of zest, constantly surrounded by other people, and often the life of the party.  As I have grown up, my personality has changed.  Today, when I took the test I had very high extrovert tendencies, very high introverted tendencies, and several of my answers landed right in the middle.  My friend and I were talking today about how different our answers were than when we were younger.  We agreed that this is a part of maturing, but (for us) the changes have also happened as life has happened.  The hurts of our lives have caused us to add a protective layer around our hearts and minds.  In my case, I spent so many years trying to change myself into the person I thought my spouse wanted, that I would skew a personality test to fit what I thought he needed.  What is interesting to me is that I had lost sight of who I was designed to be by God.  I am a wonderful creation.  He made me the way He made me for a purpose.  I knew I had been watering down who I was in the past, but today made me acutely aware of how little I really know myself.

Later this afternoon, I had a meeting with my mentor. Toward the end of our meeting, I was asked what my love language is.  I had no answer. I realized (again) that I had even manipulated the way I gave and hoped to receive love to fit someone else's idea for me.  My mentor said it's obvious how I give love...I am an encourager and am all about sharing words of affirmation and giving gifts.  But, neither of those are really what I need. So, I went to a quiet place, got online, and took the Five Love Languages Profile.  I zipped through the questions and answered what was on my heart.  I have to tell you, I was completely surprised by the results.  Again, I have been so deep in trying to make another person happy and to feel loved, that I was completely unaware of how God wired me to receive love.  Totally blew my mind.  And, given the issues I have been dealing with all week, it helped me to understand why some of the hurts I have felt have not been resolved.  It is also why I probably have a new set of worries...because I just don't know myself. 

This has made me realize how grateful I am for this season where I can take time to spend in meditation and communication with the Lord.  This can be a season of peace where I need to just let Him speak to me and remind me who I am and how He made me.  There are some things about me that haven't changed...I've always been an encourager, and I always will be.  I know that's part of His design for me.  I am filled up with joy when I am encouraging others.  But, there are other aspects of me that He has allowed to change for whatever reason. I am trusting in His timing.  I am excited to discover His purpose for me.  And, I cannot wait to see how He moves in and through me.  I am thankful that He is never "done" with me...I get to be a work in progress, and that is simply astounding!

If you are interested, you can click on the colored, underlined text in the blog to take these quizzes yourself.  You might be surprised!

(Just in case you were wondering, I am almost completely half and half on the introverted/extroverted test.  In the Five Love Languages profile my scores were: Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, and Receiving Gifts (which actually was a zero).  These results 100% threw me for a loop, and explained a lot of the battles I have been struggling with internally for a long time).

Monday, September 16, 2013

Time, My Frenemy

Time...I have such a love/hate relationship with Time.  Right now, it is the ultimate four-letter word in my life.  I am in a season where everything is floating around...everything is contingent on everything else.  There is no resolve in any area of my life at this moment.  What I want more than anything is to have at least one aspect of my life settled and concrete so that I can begin to lay a foundation on which to build the next phase of my life.  I have peace in my heart (that comes from my relationship with the Lord) but I have no peace in my mind.  I don't sleep well.  I can't relax.  I am in a constant state of thinking and planning.  My world is a series of "what ifs" and "maybes" right now. 

The advice I receive over and over is "it takes time".  This has become my least favorite saying...of all time.  But, it rings with truth.  People have understood the vast power of time since it began.  We will it away when we are facing a battle, when we are waiting for a loved one to return home, when we have an exciting event approaching...I can think of many occasions where I wanted time to fly by.  When I was in high school and awaiting the prom, graduation, and college acceptance letters, I could not make time move quickly enough.  As an adult, I want to fast forward to get to the next phase, where I have some certainty, and where I have the opportunity to start over.

Then, there are instances where I want time to slow down.  Anytime I am with my sister, I want time to stop so I can stay with her and talk and laugh and recharge.  When Titus and Cecely climb up in my lap, hold my hands as we walk, or when we are all laughing together, I want time to leave us alone.  When I get to spend a lazy day in comfy clothes, curled up on the couch and watching a movie, I want the day to go on and on.  But, just as I can't make time go any faster, I am unable to slow it down.

I am trying very hard to be grateful for this season and for this time.  I would be lying if I said I didn't struggle with loneliness and hurt.  I think of how hard it is to take this time and do my best to stay on the right path while others have abused this time and are living like there are no consequences.  I had a strong reminder today that I need this time...while I may look like I have got it together or that I am getting it back together, I am still struggling.  While I have grown and changed, and I feel so much stronger and healthier, I am still a mess.  I realized today that some of the hurts I have experienced are still very prevalent.  My feelings are unbelievably raw.  And even though I am learning from past mistakes and behaviors, I was reminded today that I still have some major obstacles to overcome.  I have old habits that are trying so hard to pull me down.  When I am hurt, I curl up inside myself, like one of those fuzzy worms.  I physically pull away from the situation, I mentally shut down, and I emotionally clam up.  Not good...at all. 

So, I realized that I do indeed need time.  As much as I hate it and as badly as I want to be in the next chapter of my life...I need it.  I need time to heal.  I need time to cry.  I need time to hurt.  I need time to remember.  I need time to prepare.  I need time to restore.  I need time to grieve.  I need time to celebrate.  I need time to grow.  I need time to change. 

In the church world, we often hear the phrase "God's timing".  I can't help but want things on a nice and neat timeline.  I am a planner, and I like to be ready for what's coming.  Thankfully, God has got a grip on me.  He can see the big picture, while I get lost in the details.  His timing will make perfect sense...my timing would mess everything up.  If I stop and look back over the past 8 months, I can see how God's timing and His provisions have been what have protected my kiddos and me.  Why do I doubt Him?  He has proven His love for me over and over, but I still can't grasp the concept that His time is better than my time.  I am going to continue to try and be grateful for the time He has given me during this season.  I am going to continue to use this time in prayer, His Word, and fellowship with other believers who can help drag me down this long road.  I cannot wait to sit down to write a blog this time next year and see how His timing took care of me.

I'll leave you with a few of my favorite quotes about my frenemy...time:

“It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
Rose Kennedy

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”-J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring


“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I Just Don't Get It...

As I have admitted time and time again via this blog, I am a words woman.  I love words.  I love vocabulary.  I think using a thesaurus is fun.  Scrabble makes me smile.  Reading brings me happiness.  I just love words.  I can write for hours.  Now, sadly, speaking on the other hand, is not my forte.  That's when I trip and stumble over words...or my brain completely freezes and I have no words anywhere.  I digress...as I was saying I just love words.

Every once in awhile, I come across a word I don't recognize.  I look it up.  Then, I try to use it in a sentence at some point during the day.  (This has proven most interesting when reading Tolkien or C.S. Lewis...they love some flowery language).  Recently, I have come in contact with two words I completely don't understand...pursue and cherish.  Neither of these are difficult words, but they have not been applicable words in my life.  In my head, these are fairytale words.

I have a mentor, of sorts, right now, who I meet with on a semi-regular basis.  This person has been one of my greatest advocates and encouragers over these past 8 months.  Through this very tumultuous season, this person has offered support, accountability, and wisdom.  Just a few days ago, we had a conversation about my future.  This person said that they hoped I would know what it means to be cherished; and that I would be pursued by someone who knows me, knows my package, and wants me still.  That conversation shook me up, because I realized I did not have any idea what either of those words meant.  They were just empty sounds with no meaning or context.  So, I did what I do...I went to the trusty dictionary, and here is what I found:

Cherish- (love, adore)
a :  to hold dear :  feel or show affection for
b :  to keep or cultivate with care and affection :  nurture
:  to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely 
 
Pursue- (chase, follow, run, track, trail)
a :  to engage in
b :  to follow up or proceed with
:  2chase 
(Definitions from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary)

Ok, so I have to tell you, reading the definitions didn't really help me all that much or give me great comfort that this is what my mentor wants for me.  Being a realist on a good day, and a cynic on a bad day, the idea of being cherished seems far-fetched.  I think that I am capable of cherishing another person...I can be affectionate (although it does take a conscious effort).  I am naturally nurturing.  But, for some reason, I cannot imagine another person cherishing me.  I just don't get it.  When I hear "cherish", I hear that song...Barry Manilow and The Association sang...and it makes me gag.  Really?  Cherish is the word you're going to chose to sing about Barry...really?  I don't buy it.

Pursue...is it just me or does that sound scary?  You want someone to chase me?  Um, pass.  Because if someone is chasing me, there is a very good chance that I'll be running as hard as I can the other way.  That is really my only incentive to ever run is because someone bigger, stronger, and scarier is coming at me with the intent to hurt me.  Now, there is a chance that my mentor is hoping I'll disappear off the face of the earth.  But, I don't think that's their hope for me being pursued.  Again, this is a stretch for a realist, but it seems the idea of pursuing someone is to learn about them, show them your interest, and to reach out to get to know them better.  Coming out of a very painful and deeply hurtful season, the thought of being pursued by someone who wants to get to know me better is just as as scary as being chased by a big, crazy person.  It seems the risk for more hurt is very high.

I obviously have a long way to go in understanding healthy relationships.  I have a lot of learning to do.  I have much pain and hurt to overcome.  I have to constantly fight my cynical nature.  I doubt I'll ever lose my realistic edge, and I'm perfectly fine with that.  Even now as I re-read these definitions and try to apply them to my way of thinking, I'm still lost.  It's like there is some kind of mental block in my brain.  Hmmmm...looks like I'm going to have to figure out a different way to learn how to use these words...say a prayer, and stay tuned.  In the mean time, I'm going to lace up my running shoes and be prepared for anyone who has the notion to chase me...

The "D" Words

Growing up, there was a laundry list of words we couldn't say in our house.  My Mama was serious about our language.  I can remember having to brush my teeth with Ivory soap one time for some unsavory word I used in elementary school.  In our house, you never said the "B" word...that's right, butt.  You better not use the "D" word, dumb.  And dear gussy, Mama would go nuts if you dropped the "F" word...you know it, fart.  My Mama wanted only good words to come from our mouths.  Of course, when you live with 3 other super-creative kids, you can find a way around Mama's preferences.  For example, I believe we would use "tush", "booty", "fanny", "bottom" and "hindquarters" to avoid trouble but to still get our lingo in.  Our shining moment of trying to use bathroom vernacular was when we discovered the word "flatulence" and used with with flair.  That lasted about a week...and out came the soap.

As I've grown older and am working on becoming wiser, I have come across some new bad words.  Lately, a stream of "D" words have been circling in my mind...doubt, defeat, discouragement, disappointment, depression.  I have felt each one of these detrimental words greatly in my life lately.  I have definitely felt that they are "bad words", and I would love it if there was a way to wash them out with that trusty Ivory soap.  Sadly, these words are very real to many people.

In this incredibly messy world with heartache and pain running rampant, the "D" words are wearing people out.  Disappointment keeps looming in my life.  Disappointment in myself and in others.  I am painfully aware of how messed up I am how often I screw up.  I hold myself to a standard that is hard to keep.  And, I do the same for the people in my life...for the ones I hold closest, I have high expectations.  When those aren't met, I feel disappointment creeping in.  Like I said, I feel this not only for my others, but unyieldingly for myself, too.  When I mess up, I tend to dramatize the reality of the situation and go into worst-case-scenario-mode.  (Gratefully, grace is abundant and has been shown to me repeatedly, which makes it easy for me to show it to others...grace, grace, God's grace. Grace that is greater than all our sins).

Lately, I have been struggling with discouragement.  I have been blessed to be an encourager...God has equipped me to cheer on other people.  I am my happiest when I am doing that...because that is the purpose God has for me...to lift others up.  But, recently, I have found that I have an incredibly hard time encouraging myself.  Instead, I am fighting with myself.  Now, I know that when I am doing what God wants of me, when I am fulfilling my purpose, and when I am chasing after Him, Satan is going to come after me full-force.  And, that is when I start to feel discouraged.  I wonder if I am where I should be.  I doubt my abilities, my strength, my heart.  When doubt and discouragement set up camp in my heart, I am steps away from some more "D" words.

Defeat and depression are my worst enemies.  When they take hold of my heart and mind, I can feel myself start to spiral downward into the darkest depths of my thinking.  I have 2 amazing friends that God has purposefully placed in my life...especially for this season.  I can tell them that I feel the spiral starting to spin, and they both jump in to help me.  One friend takes the tough love approach and mentally beats me up...she reminds me of what God has done, how He is moving, what she sees in me.  She pounds me until I snap...until the light light goes on, and I can start crawling out of the depression dump.  My other friend takes a more empathetic approach to ministering.  This person meets me where I am in the depths and crawls inch by inch back up with me.  While these incredible people have vastly different tactics, they won't let me fall too far.  They let me vent, moan, groan, whine and complain...they listen to my rants...they soothe me when I cry...they reassure me when I doubt...they have literally picked me up off the bathroom floor and held me up when I couldn't stand.  I am so well-supported, that I cannot linger in depression too long. 

I have had several people ask me lately to write another blog.  The reason it took me so long between writings is because I have been overcome with "D" words.  I literally haven't had a positive thing to say.  I want this blog to be honest and transparent, but more than anything, I want it to be an encouragement to others.  Here's the reality...sometimes life is just ridiculously hard.  Some days maybe so dark that it is nearly impossible to pull a positive word out.  And, if we function day to day on our own strength and ability, then yes, the "D" words will overcome. 

I am so blessed and so fortunate to be as well-taken care of as I am.  I serve a God who loves me more than I can understand.  He knows my hurts and pain.  He knows my weaknesses.  He knows what sets me off, how I fail, why I doubt.  He knows my every mistake.  He has heard me cry out in rage.  But, He loves me still.  He made me.  He understands me.  He is always standing right next to me...I just have to let go of those "D" words and hold on to Him instead.  I don't understand why he has blessed me so deeply.  I don't deserve the relationships I have with people who care about me so deeply.  I 100% believe that He has placed amazing people in my life to help me overcome the "D" words and to focus on the new life He is laying out before me. 

I don't want to give the letter "D" a completely negative connotation.  I can think of several wonderful "D" words...delight.  "Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (Psalm 37:4).  What a beautiful promise...and I believe it!  "You have turned my mourning into dancing" (Psalm 30:11).  Oh, yeah, a great "D" word...DANCING!  One of my favorite things to do with my friends, my kiddos, and the sweet little ones I work with.  Lord knows I have Bapticostal tendencies, and if I get to "moved" by the Spirit, I may just break into a dance!  On a completely non-spiritual note, some of my favorite things are "D" words...daisies, donuts, and Disney.  I think that's completely self-explanatory.

You may have your own list of words that are beating you up right now.  You may not be fortunate enough as I am to have friends who will drag you up out of the pit.  But, you do have Someone who loves you more than you can fathom.  You have One who knows you so deeply, He feels your hurt.  He knows you secret thoughts.  He has heard your darkest cries.  He has seen the depths you have fallen, and He loves you still.  Don't face this life alone!  Don't take on these battles on your own.  Call out, cry out, scream and yell!  He'll hear you.  And, He will respond...wait for it.  I promise, it will be completely worth it. 

Call My Name You Tube Video

"Call My Name"

It's been so long since you felt like you were loved
So what went wrong
But do you know there's a place where you belong
Here in my arms

When you feel like you're alone in your sadness
And it seems like no one in this whole world cares
And you want to get away from the madness
You just call my name and I'll be there
You just call my name and I'll be there

The pain inside has erased your hope for love
But soon you will find
That I'll give you all that your heart could ever want
And so much more

You just call my name
You just call my name

Call my name, say it now
I want you to never doubt
The love I have for you is so alive

Call my name, say it now
I want you to never doubt
The love I have for you is so alive

You just call my name
You just call my name
You just call my name now

The love I have for you is so alive
The love I have for you is so alive
You just call my name
You just call my name
You just call my name

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Muse is Gone...

When my mind is full and going a hundred different directions at break-neck speeds, I typically find that writing helps me.  Sitting on my bed with my laptop in front of me forces me to sit still, to be quiet, and to streamline my thoughts.  I usually write when my "muse" is with me.  I will have a thought pop into my mind and there it will stir and change and grow into an idea.  Then, I can sit down and write for an hour about whatever the muse has brought me.  Lately, I have found that my muse is taking leaves of absence.  I have so much going on in my brain, but I cannot sit still and focus.  I feel like I need to be "doing" something.  When the muse is out for a smoke break, I stare at the blank screen and cannot conjure up one notion worth sharing.  In case you can't tell from my ramblings, the muse is out at the moment. 

I made a comment once on Facebook that my muse was on vacation.  My dear friend (who is an excellent writer) commented that when those moments happen, write anyway.  Take your thoughts on a different path.  I typically write about my kids, our little family, or whatever is going on in my life.  I write the things that God has shown me or has impressed on my heart.  But, as I was sitting here with my fingers poised and ready to type, I remembered my friends advice...if my muse has gone on vacation, where did he go and why can't I go to?  All that to say, tonight, I'm taking a stab at writing outside of personal experience.  We'll see how it goes...

If my muse has skipped town and is living it up somewhere, I hope it is somewhere with good food.  If you know me personally, you know I'm all about eating well.  When I am fortunate enough to go on a trip, I don't want to eat at a chain, I don't want to eat something off the menu that I can prepare at home.  No, I want dining to be part of the traveling adventure.  One of my "realistic" goals in life is to go to the World Showcase at Epcot and eat my way through all of the countries represented.  I realize this isn't a life-changing goal, but it sure sounds like fun to me.  My dream is to go to Ireland one day.  I am very aware that they are not known for their culinary delights.  BUT, I do like potatoes, sausage, corned beef, and bread.  I'm sure I'll be fine.  And yes, when I go to Ireland one day, I will absolutely eat things that I will probably never eat again.  There are a couple Irish pubs in this area that I really like.  When I go, I order something different each time.  I like to think that I'm prepping for an Irish getaway. 


If my muse has left me for a trip across the pond, I hope he is smart enough to take in the natural beauty of Ireland.  I think that is one of the biggest factors drawing me to that country.  I have watched several documentaries and travel shows about Ireland.  I am simply stunned by the green, the sea, the hills, the cliffs, the winding roads...There are forests I want to explore, rocks I want to climb (when I say climb, I mean a low grade hike), waves I want to watch, cliffs I want to gaze off of, and roads I want to get lost on.  I am completely drawn to the villages and towns.  I want to walk through the villages and just listen to the rich accents.  I want to hear the sheep bleating.  And, I definitely want to hear music playing.  Who knows...I may have a knack for dancing in Ireland.  I think I should go there and find out! 


As I have confessed many times, I am not a romantic.  I am very practical.  I am constantly dancing the line of being a full blown cynic.  BUT, if my muse is spending time on the island that is Ireland, I think there is potential for romance to arise.  Obviously, I'm a girl, and while I'm not the most stereotypical lady out there, I very much want to go to a castle...any castle...shiny and fancy, old and crumbling, I don't care.  The little girl in me who still thinks there is an inkling of a chance that there is a Prince Charming out there who will one day whisk me away, really wants to see an actual castle. I have downloaded countless pictures of castles in Ireland and have used them ask desktop backgrounds from time to time.  With my romantic-mental-deficiency, castles seem to be the remedy.  (Again, I realize I am a completely crazy person and how much of this sounds delusional...be comforted in knowing that I know I'm quirky).

So, I'm not sure where my muse has gone.  I hope he returns in a timely fashion.  However, I have enjoyed the break from writing on serious topics and having a few minutes to daydream...and to start looking on Groupon again for their deals on Ireland.   I like that there is a part of me (albeit a very small part) that sees hope for romance.  I like to turn my mind from all the busyness of life and to take a moment to entertain some "what if" thoughts.  And, honestly, I like to think of what food I can eat when I am walking through the villages of Ireland.  Great, now, I'm hungry...and I don't have any corned beef!  What's a girl to do?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Honesty, Absolutely the Best Policy

I have found in life that there are many people who don't value honesty.  It blows my mind how willing people are to compromise and twist the truth.  I am sure that each of us could look back over past relationships and identify someone who has lied to us or a relationship where you were the one lying.  I have done my fair share of bending the truth, exaggerating, or flat out lying in my past.  When I was a junior in high school, I remember being so convicted of the lies I was living.  The pressure of covering up my life choices with lie after lie weighed my heart  down.  What I hated the most about lying was that only a few people really knew me.  Everyone else had an image of me and thought they knew the real me.  I remember being in between boyfriends my junior year of high school and being overwhelmed with guilt and shame.  I was a prevalent member of our church's youth group.  I knew I had several younger girls looking up to me.  I had three younger siblings who thought I was as close to perfect as a person could be.  I had distanced myself from the Lord in attempt to stifle the conviction I felt, so I could keep doing what I wanted to do, and so that I could justify my choices.  The bigger the lies became, the further from the Lord I strayed...He didn't move, but I sure did.  I also felt myself drifting away from my siblings...who were the most important people in my world.  I especially remember the way my brothers would look at me, as if they admired who they thought I was.  That was what broke me.

I met with my youth pastor and his wife (Larry and Joan Ledford).  I poured out my heart to them.  I confessed to them the struggle I was dealing with, the secrets I had kept, and the lies that I had told to cover up my sin.  The two of them hugged me and loved on me.  They prayed with me in the youth room at Macedonia Baptist Church.  I told them that I wanted to talk to my parents, but I was afraid.  They offered to join me in talking with my parents.  The following day, my parents, me and the Ledfords met at their home.  I opened up to my parents and unloaded two years worth of hurts, pain, and lies.  Naturally, my parents were brokenhearted.  My Daddy was furious.  And, they had every right to be upset with me.  I had broken their trust.  I had lied.  I had made choices that could have had lifelong physical repercussions.  (Even now, I have emotional struggles tied to this season of my life when I was 15-17 years old.)  I had put myself in a precarious situation.  I had been a poor role model to those who looked up to me.

Even as painful as it was to tell my youth pastor, his wife, and my parents what I had done wrong, I felt such freedom in telling the truth.  The Bible tells us that "the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).  It did just that for me.  Things weren't instantly better.  It took awhile to earn my parents' trust back.  I sought accountability from my youth pastor and his wife.  I started walking back toward the Lord.  After meeting with my parents, I spoke with my brothers and sister.  Now, that is what really hurt me...the disappointment in their sweet faces, the disbelief in their eyes, the pain that I caused them...it all made me so sick.  I was supposed to be someone they could count on and someone they could follow.  I had let them down.  BUT, they were so forgiving.  Just like my parents, more importantly, just like Jesus, they showed me unconditional love.  That summer, my youth pastor asked me to share my testimony with our youth group along with another youth group who would be at the same retreat center.  I remember getting up in front of that room of at least 60 teens and various adults and telling my story.  My motivation was to help someone keep from making the same choices I had, to let someone who was where I was know they could turn it around, and to let everyone know that God's love for us is bigger than the messes we make.  Because of that season in my life, honesty has become essential in my existence.  I asked God to convict me the MOMENT I begin to tell a falsehood, exaggerate or not tell the whole story.  I do not want to ever be a liar again.

Now, as an adult, honesty is by far the thing I crave the most in a relationship...any relationship.  I am recovering from a past filled with lies that weren't my own but that deeply affected me.  Because of the dishonesty I have dealt with, I have trouble trusting others.  I struggle to believe that people are telling me the truth.  Thankfully, God has blessed me with wonderful friends who are honest.  I love spending time with people who are authentic and transparent.  It is my goal to be the same.  I want to be honest about my thoughts, feelings, shortcomings, victories, pain, and joy.  I want God to shine through me.  I want to be genuine.  I want to surround myself with people who are the same.

With my children, I try to teach the value of honesty.  If I catch either of them in a lie, we talk about it right then.  I want them to understand that when they do wrong, there will be a consequence, but the consequence will be much greater if they add lying to the list of wrongs.  I told them that it is far more important to be honest and to take a punishment than to take a greater punishment because they thought lying would make it better.  I also want them to understand how quickly a lie grows, how it can infiltrate your heart and mind and take over your life.  I want them to guard their hearts against lies and to surround themselves with honest people.  Cecely is very honest...almost brutally honest, so we are working on honesty with respect and compassion.

I am honest with my kiddos in our relationship.  We talk about everything (at an age appropriate level, of course).  As we go through this separation/divorce period, they have had a lot of questions.  I answer them as honestly and appropriately as possible.  One of their favorite questions is why don't I have a boyfriend like Daddy has a girlfriend.  My answer is "because the Bible says a man should have one wife and a woman should have one husband...not a wife and a girlfriend or a husband and a boyfriend."  I have explained that until the court declares their Daddy and me divorced, we are still married.  I want them to be able to have those dialogues with me as uncomfortable as they might be.  I want them to understand that even though a topic may be awkward and difficult, it is better to be honest about it so that we can work our way through it together.

The Bible is full of verses about the importance of honesty.  These are a couple of my favorites:

"The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them" (Prov. 11:3)

"Do not lie to each other, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices" (Col. 3:9)

Finally, I'll share this song with you.  I love that God can take us with whatever faults and sins we have.  And, He can change us into something new.  Isn't that just amazing?  I love this song by Brandon Heath...
I'm Not Who I Was
I wish I could go back to high school and tell everyone that I'm not the same as I was.  I am a new creation who God is using everyday!