Sunday, January 1, 2017

See ya!

Every year I take some time to reflect on the previous year, and this year is no exception.  Two-thousand sixteen was a decent year and I want to take some time to remember the good things about the 12 months of this past year as well as the challenges that came my way.


I started off my 2016 with the desire to be more like Jesus.  That is always where I begin.  Sometimes in my daily walk, I succeed in that pursuit, sometimes I do not.  The thing that I have realized this year is, regardless of my efforts or success, He still loves me.  It was a recurring them from January 1 through December 31.  

Looking back on some of my social media posts from this past year, I came across this quote from Beth Moore, and I think it is worth repeating.

"We can draw joy from Jesus.  Relief.  Laughter. We can gulp down hope when a moment is hard to swallow.  We can draw buckets from the bottomless well of His love so we can have something to give people in our lives who drain us dry.  We can also draw something for ourselves when we've ground or own encouragers to dust."

I am thankful for His grace, even when I don't accept it fully.  My prayer this past year was to love better.  Love everyone....better.  Again, I didn't fail completely but it was not easy either.  I started off the year feeling like I had a great concept of God's love and how much He loves me, and ended the year wondering if it was even possible that He could love someone like me.  What I do know is that God created me, He protected me and brought me out of a painful childhood, and He has a great plan for my life.  He speaks to me when I least expect it and also when I am seeking Him the most.  He sent His only Son so that I would not have to pay the price for the trash in my life.  That is love.  A love that is unconditional and unfailing.  

I started the beginning of the year going through the Bible with Angie Smith in her Bible study, Seamless.  It was life changing.  I learned details and things I never knew and had never been in a study where you go through the entire Bible. It was wonderful.  I then went to Hebrews and did a self-guided podcast study through Jen Wilkin.  This might be one of my all time top 3 favorite studies that I have ever done!  It was AMAZING!!!  I learned so much and could not wait to get up and dig in to the Word each morning.  A little while after starting Hebrews, our ladies at church started 1 Peter by Jen Wilkin so I did both at the same time and loved them both.

On February 24th, I lost my precious Aunt Donna.  She was like a mother to me and she was my biggest fan.  It was one of the hardest deaths I have ever experienced and I miss her so so much.  

I read a few books last year.  One of them was Nobody's Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle and it is one of my favorites.  Here is a good quote from that:

"The truth is, we need our friends.  I mean, we need Jesus to truly complete us, but we absolutely need our girlfriends, because no man wants to listen to all the words we have to say in the course of a day."

I also read Looking For Lovely by Annie Downs which was also very good!  One of my favorites of the year was Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson.  It was so so so good!!!!!  I even bought several copies for my friends to read it! 

I voted in my first primary election in March.  And then voted again in November.  The elections results were quite surprising and what I know is that God is in control and still on His throne.  While it was a surprise to me, it certainly wasn't to Him.

I went to a few conferences this year.  The first one was in March with Stephanie for her birthday to Waco to see Beth Moore.  It was wonderful.  We even took a minute to see the silos at Magnolia Market.  I went to a conference in Frisco at the end of the year and it was one of the best I have ever been to.  

We took a few trips this past year.  In March, Lauren and I took off for Little Rock (Conway) to go to Sarah's wedding.  It was a sweet weekend for just the two of us.  I also got to see my mom that weekend...more about that later.  In April, I was able to take a girls' trip to Bossier City, LA with Sara and Rachel to see Carrie Underwood.  It was just about some of the greatest fun I had in a long time!!  In June, we set out for a LONG road trip to the beach!!!  Our first family vacation of the year was to Gulf Shores, Alabama and we spent a week at a beach house with some of our friends.  It was so much fun!!    Then, our big family trip came just two weeks ago when we went back to Disney World for 5 days and a Disney Cruise for 4 days.  It was one of the best trips we have ever taken and I will blog about that later!

I was able to go to LOTS of Ranger games!!!  It really was one of my favorite things that I did last year.  It didn't matter if they won or lost (okay, maybe it did matter a little), but the games were just fun!!!  I was able to see the Razorbacks defeat TCU at the Hornfrogs stadium in amazing seats and that was AWESOME!!!!!  I went to my first professional hockey (Stars) game with some friends and co-workers and had the best time!!!!!

Work was quite eventful in the year 2016!  It was quite possibly the most successful year I have ever had at a job.  In June, I spoke at the Stroke Symposium about social work/discharge planning in front of about 150 people.  It was maybe the most nervous I have ever been but it went well.  That actually prompted another speaking opportunity, so I also spoke at the DVT Symposium a few months later.  I was nominated for a GREAT Award in January and then actually was chosen for a GREAT Award in November.  In August, I started probably the most influential thing I have ever done in my professional career:  Emerging Leaders Program.  It was honor to be nominated, a greater honor to be chosen, and now I am a graduate of the program.  I will forever be grateful for the things I learned from that program, and I am excited to see where my profession takes me next.  I had a great yearly evaluation and a nice merit increase.  I have never thrived more in a job than at Methodist Dallas.  It is a great place to work!

Time with friends in 2016 was so precious to me.  My prayer was that last year would be a year that I would not seek for MORE friends, necessarily, but that the friendships that I do have would grow.  That prayer was answered in such a wonderful way.  We celebrated birthdays, went out for girls' nights, painted, solved puzzles in order to get out of rooms in an hour, and just shared life.  I do not have many close friends, but the ones I have are so incredibly special to me.  God has blessed me with wonderful friends and for that, I am grateful.  

In June, I decided to seek out professional counseling for the first time.  It was scary and I was nervous but it was needed.  I am still doing that now and the growth I have seen in my life has been monumental because of those therapy sessions.  I was diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder with anxiety.  Working through things with someone unrelated to my life has proven to be very helpful.  My anxiety has gotten better and I feel better about life in general most days.  She has given me many tools to deal with everyday life and anxiety.  

God was really good to us this year financially and I am thankful.  I got a new car!!! :)  My husband's job is thriving and we are seeing the fruits from that.  I am so proud of him.  We celebrated our 12th anniversary in August.  This man puts up with a lot from me and this past year was no different.  We had some rough patches but I love him more than ever!

In November, my mom received her sentence for vehicular manslaughter that occurred in August 2015.  This has been one of the hardest things I have ever dealt with.  God is faithful.  The main prayer during this time was that my mom would know the love of Christ and He was very firm in letting me know that part of that love was to be through me.  I have learned how to love my mom fully and better through Christ alone.  While she serves her jail sentence, I pray that she continues to see and feel the work of God in her life.  As this information floods your minds when you read, please remember that in these types of situations, if you do not have all of the information, you cannot fully understand.  I have such a different train of thought about stuff I hear and read and I am a little less quick to make a judgment because of this situation.  

My Hannah turned 5, Lauren turned 7, and Rachel is 10 and almost as big as me.  A few weeks ago, I turned 36 and I have never been more blessed! 

Our church also called a new pastor who will start this week.  We spent the year learning from and listening to Dr. Tommy Kiker and I will forever be thankful to him and his family.  Pastor Shawn and his family will be a blessing to us (already have) and I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for Inglewood in 2017 and the years to come!  

It has not been an easy year.  It has had ups and downs and everything in between, but one thing will always remain:  GOD IS FAITHFUL!!!  HE REMAINS ON HIS THRONE and it's time for my 2017 goals.

1.  To live more intentionally...in all areas of my life
2.  Think before speaking/typing and think about how I make others feel
3.  Pursue a more personal and real relationship with Christ daily
4.  Spend more time living in the moment and enjoying my children

I will continue asking God to continue to allow me to be filled with His love and have a greater understanding of what that means.  

Happy New Year!!  May you all feel God's goodness this year, regardless of what happens.  He is good.  He is faithful!


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Grace Still Covers Me

A dear friend of mine texted me this week and told me to listen to this new song by Casting Crowns - who I adore!!!!  This is just a great song!!!  I am posting the lyrics because they are awesome and I cannot find a link to the video yet, but everyone needs to download this song!  My favorite line in the song is


"I hid from you haunted by my failure, and found a God whose grace still covers me."

"God Of All My Days"
I came to You with my heart in pieces
And found the God with healing in His hands
I turned to You, put everything behind me
And found the God who makes all things new
I looked to You, drowning in my questions
And found the God who holds all wisdom
And I trusted You and stepped out on the ocean
You caught my hand among the waves
‘Cause You’re the God of all my days
CHORUS:
Each step I take
You make a way
And I will give You all my praise
My seasons change, You stay the same
You’re the God of all my days

                        I ran from You, I wandered in the shadows
And found a God who relentlessly pursues
I hid from You, haunted by my failure
And found the God whose grace still covers me
I fell on You when I was at my weakest
And found the God, the lifter of my head
And I’ve worshiped You
And felt You right beside me
You’re the reason that I sing
‘Cause You’re the God of all my days

REPEAT CHORUS

In my worry, God You are my stillness
In my searching, God You are my answers
In my blindness, God You are my vision
In my bondage, God You are my freedom
In my weakness, God You are my power
You’re the reason that I sing
‘Cause You’re the God of all my days

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Living Loved

I started my very first Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study this morning.  I was very excited about this study because it is based on the new book by one of my favorite authors - Lysa Terkeurst.  The Bible study is about living loved when you feel left out, lonely, and less than.  The book is Uninvited.  I have had the book for awhile but have hesitated getting started with reading it because I knew that it would hit hard and somewhere very deep.  I don't want that to sound like a "oh, poor pitiful me" statement because I am not wanting anyone to feel sorry for me.  I don't often feel uninvited or left out but it is the feeling loved part that I struggle with.  I have really really been battling this for about 2 years or so and even more so in the past year.


This morning, we watched a couple of videos and had our first memory verse.  The memory verse was Colossians 3:12.  I am going to give it to you from the NLT because I really like the part that says "people he loves."  

"Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."

I am convinced that Lysa and I are the same person...or at the very least, we would be BFF if we knew each other in real life!!!!  Something she said today resonated with me and is SPOT ON with what I have been feeling.  

"I want to live from a place where an off kilter interaction with other people is not a downward spiral of wonky feelings but stable love instead." ~Lysa Terkeurst

YES, YES, and EXTRA DOUBLE SUPER-SIZED AMEN YES YES YES!!!!!!!

I mean there are days when someone can say or do one thing.  One response that was not in line with my expectation and I am spent!  What in the world?!  So many days I feel like I am the only one in the world that feels this way, and the fact that someone put this on paper is so refreshing and encouraging to me.  I don't feel like such a freak!  ;)  Do I like it any better?  Nope, but I know that I am not alone.  

She went on to talk about the guilt associated with feeling anything but thankful for all of the blessings in her life when others around her have it so much worse (raises hand), but describes it as an "undercurrent of disappointments that ebbed and flowed" when she is truly honest about her feelings.  Then....what do I do?  I perform.  I start pouring out love and service with the hope that someone will give me what I am longing for.  

"Performance based endeavors are not the answer for living loved.  Living loved is sourced in your quiet, daily surrender to the One Who made you."

As I was looking back over these notes and thinking about these words, it kind of frustrated me.  I got frustrated at myself.  I mean, why is it so hard to just live loved because I am?  The Bible tells me that I am loved by God, I have been taught that, I am closer to God now than ever before, I am His princess, I am redeemed, forgiven, set free, I AM LOVED!  Why in THE WORLD is that so hard to just believe and LIVE??!!  Pick it up, take it with me, drink it, eat it, live it, and BELIEVE it?!  I do not have an answer for that, but regardless, it makes me cry.  A lot....from the deepest part of my heart.  I cry.  Why oh why do I look for love in all the wrong places?  Not bad places but not God places.  HE is the only One that can fill that void.  It is not my friends' job to come to my rescue.  When I don't get x number of likes on a Facebook post or Instagram picture, my world should not come crashing down.  When I text, "I love you" and I don't get that in return, my heart should not shatter.  I should live LOVED.  BECAUSE I AM.  Those people that I so desperately long to be loved by....they actually DO love me, but even more important than that....GOD LOVES ME and THAT is Who I should seek to please.  

Wanting to be loved by the very One that created me should be my greatest desire.

All I know is that He is not done with me.......pressing on.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

In the Silence



What do you do when your husband takes your kids, all of them, to Arkansas for a week and you are left by yourself?  You do all of the things that you can't do when the kids are home, right?  You plan stuff every night.  You stay up super late and eat ice cream for dinner.  And watch movies that children's eyes can't see.  You have friends over and go to the movies, shop, and get pedicures.  That all sounds fun but I actually did not do ANY of that.  None of it.  

At the end of the previous week, I posted about how my week was...well, less than what I wanted it to be.  And, I am not going to take that back, but it was actually a blessing in disguise.  At the end of that post, I said, "God is so good." And, you know what?  He is!  I wasn't trying to convince myself that He is good.  I believed it because I knew that, even in the midst of a crummy week, He had something in store for me that I could not see at that moment.  And, boy, was I right!  

I remember thinking as my family was about to drive away for 7 days, that I was feeling a bit anxious because I did not have one single solitary thing planned for my week.  The irony of it is that I did not even know when I was going to return to work at that point....long story.  My family was leaving and I had a chance to do all of the things that wanted to do and nothing was on the agenda.  I remember going to my bedroom and laying down on the bed and reflecting on the week that had just unfolded and I began to cry.  The next thing I remember was waking up a couple of hours later.  I was tired.  God said, "Rest."  And that would be my theme for the remainder of the week....

As I woke up Monday morning, I set out for my week, unsure of what it would look like.  That day, I had a sweet time just visiting with one of my favorite people.  We talked about important things, shared everyday happenings in our lives, and just shared what God had us share.  One of the highlights of my week.  Tuesday, I went back to work and the evening was spent eating take out in my PJs and watching the Rangers beat the As from my living room. Tuesday a neat thing happened that I am convinced God orchestrated.  I sat and visited with a friend that I have not really talked to in awhile.  She has been sick with a rare illness that causes issues with balance and coordination.  One of the things she said really stuck with me and I think it will for a long time.  I noticed that she is different in the way that she deals with things.  I said, "You are so calm."  Her response was, "You know, you go to bed one night with all of these plans, thinking that you will just wake up tomorrow and everything will be the same as it was when you went to bed.  Then something happens, and your world changes.  Suddenly, the things that you thought were important, they aren't quite as important as you thought they were.  You learn that you can only do what you can do, and the rest, you just let it go.  God told me to be still and I did not listen.  Now, I am listening."  Wow.  I mean.  Wow......Wednesday, work then Bible study and catching up with an old (young) friend.  It was incredibly spur of the moment, simple, catching up.  Thursday, I went to counseling, then went shopping for a baby shower that I helped with yesterday and then home.  Friday night, I was able to go to the Ranger game with the Russell family and it was one of the funnest things I have done in a long time!  I had a really good time!  They are one of my favorite families.  Just genuinely good people.  Love them so much!  And, the Rangers won!!!!!  My family came back last night and I got to love on my two youngest girls.  My best friend is back and my girls are already arguing again.  All {almost - Rachel will be home Friday} is right with the world!!  

I walked into my house one night this week and I just stood there and listened....there was not one sound.  It was silent.  All I could do was say, "God is so so good."  God is doing such a refining work in my life right now and I do not understand it all.  He is speaking and I am listening.  I just want to hear Him clearly.  As I got still and in the midst of activity around me this weekend, I began reflecting in my heart all of the things that God has done in my life, and He started speaking to me.   It is an incredible thing when we know what we are supposed to be doing.  When God opens and closes doors and we obey, He will equip us in the areas He has called us to. 

May I always be listening.  When God gives me silence, I hope I always stop and listen.  When I am anxious because I don't have any plans, may I recognize that He will give me divine appointments with golden nuggets of wisdom from people that will impact my life forever.  When He tells me to be still, I pray that I will listen and that I will know that tomorrow could very possibly look different than today did and my plans are not God's.  He is FOR me and wants my best.  

You're my strength
You're my defender
You're my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You've always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me


"Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.  Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives.  Colossians 3:12,16

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What If!?



I feel like I spend my life asking the question "What if?"

The fear of the unknown seems to be something that I struggle with more than I care to admit but why?  Control.  That is what I have decided that it all boils down to.  I want to be able to control every situation and know the outcome.   What if I knew the outcome before taking the action?  Would I make a different choice?  Perhaps. Maybe not.  Who knows.  The thing is....I would be able to control what happens.  

I remember back to 2010 when I had surrendered and repented of a past sin and knew that I had to go and confess this sin to someone very close to me.  The days leading up to meeting with her were nearly excruciating.  I knew that I was doing the right thing by getting my heart right with God and not allowing satan to have the stronghold over this area of my life any longer, but I was so afraid of what this might do this relationship.  What I distinctly remember in the days and weeks leading up to the meeting with my friend was a prayer that I said anytime I became anxious.  I prayed over and over again, "Lord, whatever the outcome, please let me be okay. Please protect my heart, whatever happens."  You see, I had no idea what was going to happen and I had no control over the situation.  My biggest fear was that she would never speak to me again.  That she would decide that she did not love me anymore and that she would simply "write me out" of her life.  What I did know for sure was that I HAD to follow what Christ was asking me to do.  That was non-negotiable so all I could do each time I thought about it and satan placed that fear in my heart was pray that whatever the outcome, that God would allow my heart to be at peace.  During my drive to Canton that day to meet Christi, I just remember a peace like I cannot explain.  Sure, I was nervous, but I was okay.  The end result is that our relationship today is better than ever.  My point, though, is that what God was asking me to do was far better than anything that I was fearful of.  My need to be in control of a situation was not the important part, because God was telling me that He was going to take care of it and all I needed to do was be obedient.

I tell that story because so many times today I get caught up in the "what ifs."  What if someone gets mad at me.  What if I fail at this or that?  What if I don't say yes?  What if the party doesn't turn out exactly like I planned it?  What if my picture doesn't get 45 "likes" on Facebook?  What if my words are not received well when they were well intentioned?  What if, what if, what if?  The fact is that none of can excel or be perfect or get rave reviews about everything every time!  Life is not comprised of warm fuzzy feelings every second of the day.  We will fail.  We will have disappointments.  People will fail us.  Our friends likely are going to get mad at us.  We are going to argue with our spouses.  We are going to get complaints at work.  Our children are going to say we are not their best friends.  The good news is that if our friends are our TRUE friends, they still love us and our friendships will not only recover but be stronger.  Our marriages will not only survive but we will grow closer together.  We will learn from our mistakes and grow.  Our children will realize that we want the best for them.  And the best thing about all of this is that we have a God that is bigger than it all who loves us bigger and more than all of it!  He loves us more than we can imagine and nothing we can do can make Him love us more or make Him love us any less!  What a wonderful promise.  That is something that we cannot control but there is also no conditional "what if" attached to it!

What I want is to be able to take all of these things and say, when my friend doesn't respond the way I expect her to during a conversation, "Lord, please help me to be okay, whatever the outcome."  When I get overwhelmed at work or receive a complaint, I want to be able to say, "Lord, please guard my heart and let me be okay, whatever the outcome."  I know that this may sound a little overly dramatic to most of you, but if you know me at all, you know how sensitive I am.  I get my feelings hurt very easily and in the course of a day, I can feel like my world if crumbling due to 4 or 5 of these things all happening within a few hours.  I want to be able to have peace in my heart knowing that I am following God's plan and doing what He would have for me.  If I am not following God's plan, I pray that He show me that and how I can change that to line up with His desires for me, then whatever the outcome is, that I would be at peace with that outcome.  

I want to have peace in my life and make decisions based on hearing from God, not fear of what others will think.  It is so important to make decisions with a pure heart and right motivation.

"The Lord says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you."  Psalm 32:8

Friday, July 22, 2016

What I Have Learned This Week

What I have learned this week is a lot of things that I likely already knew but I was reminded of from real life circumstances. I learned that life is hard. I learned that letting go of things can be uncomfortable and tricky but necessary. I learned that when your figurative plate is full, you have a tendency to drop it and break it, shattering everything on it in the floor. I was reminded that those that love you the most can hurt you the most. I learned that the closer you get to God, the more satan attacks where you are most vulnerable. I've learned that just when you think you have passed through the valley and are on the upward swing, another dark cloud can come. Perception is key and pride can destroy almost anything. People feel loved and give love in different ways and it is important to know the difference. I've learned....well, I've admitted that social media is a major source of anxiety for me. I've learned that I CAN live without social media. When things were really tough at times, I ran to Jesus instead of my friends. That's the right thing to do. Jesus wants me to run to him. My friends wish I did less running to them. That's what I learned this week. I learned that sometimes I get too sensitive. That drives people away. It's a miracle I still have any friends. I learned that I am loud and obnoxious...a friend told me that today. I learned that sometimes it feels good to sit in the closet floor and cry...a lot. Sometimes it feels good to yell...really loud. And I learned that I am much more of an introvert than I once realized.


Above all, I learned that God is big. He's so so so GOOD!! He is working in my heart, in my soul, in my mind, through my sorrows, through my heartaches, despite my flaws, and He LOVES me! He wants me to trust Him. Fully, completely, above anyone and anything trust and depend on Him! He alone can fill and satisfy.

It's been an incredibly hard week but experiencing the amazing work of Christ...worth it. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Trust or Faith?

The definition of trust is: belief that someone or something is good, honest, reliable, and effective. It is the assured reliance on the characterabilitystrength, or truth of someone or something. It can also be defined as one in which confidence is placed. 


Faith is a strong belief or trust in someone or something. The dictionary defines faith as complete trust. The Bible defines faith as the "confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1) 

Are these two things the same? Is one dependent on the other? That question may be for someone a tad smarter than me but I will tell you what I do know.

I know that trust does not come easy for me. I know that hurt has been a real part of my life. I know that I don't like it. I know that I have walls. Tall ones. I know that I have a tendency to be cold towards people and not even realize it...especially if I have even an inkling that I will be hurt. I know that even today...this very day, that satan has told me that I am not worthy of anyone's love and when others tell me they love me it is out of pity and obligation. Maybe it is. Who knows for sure. 

I also know that I have been protected from some ugly stuff in my life with a protection that is quite unexplainable. I was delivered from sin and convicted from a place so deep within that there is only one possible explanation. I know that tiny life was formed from nothing and was weaved and formed inside my body more than once. The product of those miracles now walk around my house and cause me more anxiety than I will ever experience again. Only one being can create that. 

My trust and my faith are in a God that created me in His image. He chose me and He loves me. He spoke life into my soul and He redeemed me from the very mess I created for myself. By faith I chose to believe that He lived, He died, He was buried, He was resurrected, He still loves today, and one day, He is coming back for me! 

My days have been very very hard lately. I cannot explain to you why, because honestly, I am not really sure. My emotions are all over the place. I'm closer to God than I have ever been and the devil is utterly aware of that. He knows my insecurities. He knows I'm sensitive. He knows I get my feelings hurt easily and he uses what he can to attack me. A lot of days, he ends up getting a good hold of me. Does he win? No! Because of whose I am! 

Do I trust fully in God? I'm trying. I feel like it's a process. I read something recently that asked if we trust in God like our life depended on it. Like a newborn baby trusts his mom. For everything. I can't say that I'm there...but I'm trying.




Reason to Rejoice
 
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