Peace Please

Twice this week we have had storms. Not just your typical thunder storms, but destructive storms with walls of rain, hail, and damaging tornadoes. Level 5 tornadoes at that, demolishing buildings. And while destruction was all around me, a wall of protection was up around my family and friends. No one was hurt, and no one suffered any loss, praise God! But the thing that really stuck out to me as I scrolled through photos that people submitted to a local news page were the photos of the sunsets.

I’ve always loved sunset. I remember watching them with my Grannie looking out across the lake, the different shades of color painted in the sky. Sunsets always brought warmth and peace to me, and they still do now.

It happened first on Monday: there was a gap in the photos, and what started as rows of storm damage turned into rows  of magnificent sunsets, all over central Georgia. This happened again on Wednesday: I scrolled through in disbelief at what this beast had done, when all of the sudden the rubble and debris turned into caramel-colored skies.

Majestic – the kind that make you stare in awe, not only because of the beauty that was contained in that moment, but because you knew the storm that had come before the beauty.

Dark turned to light. Fear turned to comfort. Chaos turned into calm.

There’s something about experiencing the storm first that makes one so grateful for the calm. For if there was never chaos, we would not know how to fully appreciate peace.

While this particular storm was raging on Wednesday, and I had the weather man updating me on its location, I thought back to Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8. The disciples had followed Jesus onto a boat and at some point Jesus had gone to sleep. Yet, while He was sleeping, a great storm arose, so much so that the boat was being covered with waves (v. 23-24). Can we just pause and picture this scene for a moment? Storms are bad enough on land – I saw this yesterday – but can you imagine a storm of the magnitude on the water?! Nope, not me. I know I would be anxious, no, most likely hysterical, and would be believing I was going to die. In fact, that’s exactly what the disciples thought. “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” (v. 25) they cried to Him as they woke Him up. And what was Jesus’ response? He didn’t “freak out”. He didn’t tell them they better make peace now because they were all going to die. Instead, He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” and then he got up and rebukes the winds and the sea and it became perfectly calm (v. 26). The disciples were amazed (v. 27) and I imagine ever person that reads this passage stops with the same expression on their face.

I truly believe the disciples were experiencing real fear and real anxiety in a very real storm. And in looking at the situation, they were even justified in their fear. So why did Jesus say, “Why are you afraid?” Did he really expect them to have faith and be at peace during this great storm? Yes, I believe He did. Why?

Because peace is not a place; it’s a person.

If we keep our eyes on our circumstances and what’s around us, we will fear every time. We will be anxious in the storm, and we will have very little faith. No peace can come to us in this state. Yet, if we recognize that Jesus is peace, and we keep our eyes on Him, I completely believe it is possible to have peace even in the midst of the deadliest storm.

1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all of our anxiety on Him because He cares for us. I have to stop right here and think how much differently my life would actually be if I practiced this regularly. So very often I don’t “hand over” my anxiety until it has consumed me and I can take it no longer, but imagine the peace I would immediately feel if I immediately gave God my worries, and did this with ALL of my anxiety.

Imagine what life would be like if we really believed that God cares for us and wants us to give Him our burdens. Imagine the freedom it would bring. Imagine that kind of peace. 

It’s almost like we would be able to have peace even being surrounded by a storm…

In a world that preaches meditation and yoga, anxiety meds, “me time” and more, real PEACE can only be found in Jesus, for “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7)”.

TIME

It’s the one thing we can’t get back, the one thing we can’t “create” more of. We use it every day to create plans, to make schedules, and to keep track of where we’ve been and where we are headed. Some squander it, some value it, and others just simply take it for granted. School-aged kids believe it to go by so slow until those same kids grow to be adults and long for it to slow down. It interacts and intertwines with every part of lives no matter what age or walk of life we are from. We wish we had more of it, wish we could make it stand still, long for those moments where loved ones were still part of it.

TIME

I really don’t know why “time” has been on my mind so much lately, but the more I think about it, the more complex it seems to be. I really believe the only person who had a complete grasp on what exactly “time” is is the Creator Himself, God Almighty. Even then, He views time so differently than we view time, but when You’re eternal and not bound by time, I would expect nothing less.

Eternity. It’s something I struggle with comprehending because my mind it too small to fathom a world where time is no longer a part of it. Especially since time seems to be one of the most important aspects of this world.

I used to think time was going by soooo slow. I clearly remember telling one of my second grade teachers about a dream I had the night before that class: I was 16 and driving my friends around. We were going to the mall to just hang out. Fast forward to when I actually turned 16 and it seemed like that dream was only weeks ago instead of 8 years ago. Once I graduated high school time seems to accelerate, and even more so after getting married. Now I’m a mom of a 2 year old who is currently kicking me in the side with her toes of metal as I write this, wondering how it’s possible that time is flying by so fast. I remember waiting in the hospital to meet this precious girl I could feel every second that went by. And that is distinctly the last time since I can recall time going by “slow”.

Death , or the anticipation of death, makes one think about time in a different light. It’s sad to think that so many people who receive a “death sentence” brought on by cancer or some other horrible disease don’t truly to start to “live” until they realize they are going to die soon. When the expiration date on your time is near, I guess it makes you want to stop and smell the roses and realize what’s truly important in life. But the truth is, all of us is going to die a physical death at some point. Our time on this earth will end. And the only one who knows this moment is God.

So why do we so often take our days for granted? Why do we “live for tomorrow” and plan out every detail of our lives like we can control it?

Imagine a world where we actually valued our time here on earth and thought every moment was important. Imagine what would happen if we realized tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and we lived for the day, guided by the Spirit in every moment, being the hands and feet of Jesus so that His Kingdom could be “on earth as it is in Heaven”. Imagine if we kept God first and our family second above all else, and we waited just a little while longer before checking our e-mail. Imagine if we lived like our work actually mattered because our days our numbered and we wanted to influence all of those surrounding us, and even those that we may never even meet, because we stopped and said “Yes” to God and “no” to watching that next episode on Netflix.

Imagine a world where people cared and took a stand against world hunger. Imagine a world where people were passionate and zealous for the Gospel and weren’t so easily offended because they understood that our time here is but a vapor. Imagine a world where people understood that people are different, and that’s something to be celebrated, not held against one another.

Imagine a world where people actually LIVED in the moment instead of trying to capture it on Snapchat, filter it on Instagram, and talk it up on Facebook. Imagine a world where you could actually remember the moments you lived instead of having to “review your timeline” because you were never really there to create the memory yourself.

A couple of weeks ago, a former co-worker of mine was murdered. It was completely out of the blue, totally unexpected, and he was found innocent – his murdered charged completely guilty. It was a total shock for me, but definitely for those closest to him. He truly was a great guy, a great friend to so many, with a warm smile and so much kindness in his heart. I still think back to one of my favorite memories of him. We were sitting in the back at work and he was telling me about some of the places he traveled, and some of the places he was planning to go. I very quickly realized that this guy had the right attitude. He never took it for granted. He was generous to others, spent time with his family and friends, but also took time for adventures, to see the world. And he was someone I admired from that moment on.

In a recent sermon series, our pastor encouraged us to “spy” on our money.After doing this, I felt God leading me to “spy” on my time. A few nights ago I wrote out all the hours in my week and how I spend them. I was shocked to find that on week nights alone, I only have 1-2 hours of “free time”. I thought about this as I turned to a previous list I made a couple months ago of all the things I was trying to do with my time, a list I had made after being told by a dear friend of mine that I was trying to “do too much, to fix too much”. I knew it was true to some degree, but after looking at the two lists side-by-side I was absolutely speechless. The truth is I was spreading myself too thin and doing a bunch of things just “okay” that I was not able to do anything well at all. I did not really see just how precious my time was. I was taking it for granted, thinking I had way more of it than I actually had. And in that time I actually had, I was “so busy” I couldn’t enjoy a single moment of it.

I’m starting to view time differently now, trying to enjoy every moment of life, even those that seem so small or  don’t feel that great, because all of it matters. I don’t want to be 60 years old one day shaking my head saying it was all a blur. I want to live in every moment and remember the way it felt, all the colors, the scents, and the sounds. I want to make a difference while I’m still here and just sit and be. Life goes by so fast already, I don’t want to “wish” the smallest moments away for the “larger” ones. The truth it, it’s probably the “mundane”, the “day-to-day” that impact us more anyway.

Because I believe time matters. It’s precious. Every hour, every minute, and every second of every day. It makes a difference. And I want to spend all of my time guided by the Spirit, living like Jesus, in glory to the Father. Amen.

Moons, Move, and Mess: Reflections from the past month

It was a crisp January morning. The moon was full, huge, a rarity for this time of morning. The fog loomed above the ground and roamed throughout path, encompassing everything in its midst-trees, houses, and my truck. It looked like something from a painting, a movie, maybe a book. Yet, aren’t all of these first inspired by scenes of nature itself? Art and culture are performed in awe and admiration of the Creator and truly are acts of worship in glory to His name. All of these are thoughts I had while staring breathlessly into the beyond while driving to work.

December had gone and a new year had started. Is the wait and see over? Did I miss it God? I began to reflect over the last few messages…

  • I realized I had a control problem and needed to trust God more because HE can bring chaos out of the mess I created. Because, chaos is a sign of not trusting God, but rather trusting in yourself, reminding me to humble myself and submit myself to the Lord. I wrestled with what submission really meant, and what is the difference between control and discipline.
  • I learned that I had, once again, built a wall around parts of my heart, a wall that I thought would give me strength, but true strength is to be found by remaining in God, not locked away in a tower from Him. The Spirit whispered things to me during this time, like “Love doesn’t always look like Mr. Darcy, sometimes it looks like a warrior” and  “The Father loves you unconditionally and nothing you do can make Us love you more or less”.
  • Perhaps one of the most painful epiphanies I received was realizing I lacked peace in my life, but was, instead, in a storm because of trusting in myself and not God. I created my own storm, but worst of all, I wasn’t even asking God to take me out. I was still trying to get myself out, even though I knew I could not. Even though I consider myself to be a disciple of Christ, I was still placing faith in myself and not Jesus. I knew He was the One who held the power over the storms, and yet I still said “That’s okay, I’m good” and proceeded to try to fix my own mess.
  • Probably the most profound and meaningful truth that I gathered from this particular series, however, comes from Sunday, December 11, 2016. “The Mighty God can create order from our chaos,. He moves on behalf of His followers, but not in the way we think.”

In my previous blog, I noted that I thought I had received my Word from God before 2016 was even over, which was unusual but fitting. God had been teaching me to have faith in Him and to come to Him and ask Him for things. So in my heart I asked what my word-if there even would be one-for 2017 would be, honestly not expecting an immediate answer. However, just a few minutes later He spoke, “Move” to me, not like a physical move, but more of a personal, life-changing move.

I think in the last few weeks of 2016, as I thought about what this word meant I had a lot of it backwards. I thought of it in light of my marriage an how God would “move us” to something greater. I thought about work and how He might would “move” me to a different position at work. And even the scary thought of “moving houses” appeared briefly before I smacked it back into left field where things like that belong. I am now sitting here in bed, almost a month into 2017, realizing that God didn’t intended my word to be ANY of those things. When God spoke to me “Move”, He was and still is speaking of a personal move, a move in the very deepest parts of my soul. This move isn’t about anyone else or changing them, it’s about how He’s going to change me, and how HE is going to move in my life.

Sometimes I get so obsessive and controlling and want to be in charge of everything in my life that I “try to remove the speck from my neighbor’s eye instead of looking at the log in mine”. Translated: I worry about my daughter being “good” and behaving the way I think she should while also trying to get my husband to fit into this spiritual mold that I’ve constructed in my mind as the way to be a “godly man and husband/father”, both of which are totally legalistic and so far from what the Bible instructs me to be as a woman of God.  So no, “move” isn’t God telling me He’s going to work wonders and turn my family into perfect angels that suddenly fit my selfish “wishes”. Oh, and “move” really isn’t about God suddenly deciding He’s going to fulfill expectations and plans I put into my head long ago without receiving any sort of guidance from Him at all.

No, “move” is about something far greater. I see now the beginning stages of God doing a total, absolute, MOVE in me, a complete paradigm shift. For starters, this year along with my word came scripture I’ve been instructed to study, as well as a personal assignment, both of which I’m sure I’ll blog about some other time as it will be something that takes a while. “Move” is about my life becoming less about me, and ALL about Him. “Move” is me believing that God really WILL create order from my chaos, moving on my behalf, but not even in the slightest way I would think.

Would you really expect any less from God, for Him to completely blow our minds and do something totally out of the comfortable norm?

In looking back now, I don’t think I “missed it” at all. What God had me waiting for in my “wait and see” was totally different from what I thought it would be. God didn’t suddenly give me a better job, or a cleaner house, or a “fix-it-all” solution to the multitude of insignificant worries rolling around in my head. He didn’t increase our salaries or give me a new washing machine and dryer, nor did He throw anything else at me like a genie whose lamp has been rubbed three times. So, what did He give me?

He gave me a word, but oh He gave me so much more than just a word. He gave me a movement, in its beginning stages so far, that will change my life, and change me forever, all for His glory and to further His Kingdom. He gave me a promise and a purpose, to move and be moved. And while I know I’m beginning on a journey that will last a long time, the truth is that even if this were all He ever did, His promise is already fulfilled. HE is faithful. He has moved and will move again. And I look forward to the movement.

Fasting from social media…so far…

I believe that everything happens for a reason, and nothing happens by “coincidence”. I believe we are all part of a story that God has so eloquently written for our lives. I believe we still have free will, and make choices, but that God already knows the choices we will make. Oh, how He wants great things for us, just as any loving Father wants great things for His children (Matthew 7:11), but sometimes we don’t always see what we are going through as “great”.

Last Sunday, exactly one week ago from today, I made the decision that beginning on Thursday (December 1) I would give up social media for at least the month of December. My reason being that I am currently in a “wait and see” (see last blog for info.) and don’t want to miss what God has for me, as well as an attempt to be more present with my family, which is more important that SnapChats and Instagram posts this Christmas season. That being said, I have known since last Sunday that I would make this decision, and so far had has only 3 full days without social media. Only 3 days that is, and yet already I can feel a difference. It’s still not easy, but as of the first night I slept more soundly than I have in I can’t remember when, a pattern that is still continuing.

So that’s why my body woke me up like clockwork at 5:45 this morning (that and I accidentally fell asleep about 8:30 last night so when you sleep for 9 hours in a row you probably should be waking up). I fought it for a few minutes but then decided it would be nice to have some silence in the house before Brandon and Autumn woke up for me to “get things done”. Only God quickly reminded me that today is our Sabbath Day and that I was to just sit and spend time with Him, not to mention while I did that I could put some ice on my foot and rest since that’s the purpose of Sabbath anyway. Well played God, I thought to myself, and grabbed my Bible, my study book, and pencils and headed to the couch. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t opened this particular study in weeks, but I started reading through the pages and when I came to one particular passage of scripture I decided to stop and look it up in my own Bible translation to see how it would read. Then the very last verse from this passage stood out like a lighthouse on a dark and stormy sea: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NASB). As soon as I read it I realized this is what God has been trying to teach me all week. In fact, let me give you a little play-by-play of how this week has gone:

Monday (1 day after being obedient and making this decision to fast from social media): God pours an enormous amount of thoughts into me on the way to work, for which I am hugely grateful. I think I have gotten my word for next year, which surprises me because I usually don’t get that until January or February, but okay cool.

Tuesday: I begin the process of wasting entirely too much time on social media, knowing it will “end” in 2 days.

Wednesday: I get myself ready to give up social media. I tell my small group and post this great blog called “Wait and See” to explain why I am doing this crazy gesture of giving up social media. I stay up until 11:58, falling asleep as I scroll through social media for the “last time” before finally deleting all of the apps on my phone.

Thursday: It feels weird not waking up by looking through Facebook, or checking Snapchat, so I decide to just get up already and I end up leaving for work almost 20 minutes earlier than usual so I go to Starbucks and get a FREE Starbuck’s Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato with fat-free milk and extra caramel drizzle (I’m sorry but did I mention FREE???). I get to work and get my day ready, nice and calm, not stressed, slightly annoyed at how much time I waste in the morning on social media. Several times throughout the day I tray to take a Snapchat or think of something funny to say on Facebook, and try to do mindless scrolling on everything. I whine to my community group (shoutout to y’all for being so amazing and patient) about not having social media. But right before I fall asleep something interesting happens: we have more money in our checking account than I have logged in my budgeting book. I try to figure this out for about 20 minutes and end up falling asleep.

Friday: I wake right on up and realized I’ve had a wonderful night of sleep, and think about how I actually wake up better and faster without social media. Go figure! I get ready and spend about 15 minutes trying to figure out my budgeting error but give up, only having partially figured out what went wrong. I go to work and do slightly better (but not much), mostly due to the fact that I had an enormous amount of work to do. That afternoon I decide to look at my budget and check log one last time and finally find ALL the errors and got us balanced up. And for the first time EVER I actually found unspent money. It was truly a mistake on my on part since all of our transactions really had cleared. God had provided a way for us to pay all the bills on time. That night we have our Supper Club Christmas party and I actually feel more involved not constantly checking my phone and had a great time.

Saturday: I take a few pictures as we work on the house but slowly don’t even think about “posting” anything. I go to check the mail and find the huge bill I’ve been dreading that is due January 1, but I also find my retirement refund check I’ve been waiting for for over a month to come in, and it is significantly larger that I had anticipated. Actually, to be completely honest, it was only $60 less that the huge bill that had came in. I screamed for joy and gave many thanks of praise unto God as it felt like an anvil had been lifted from my shoulders.

Sunday: After waking up after a 3rd night of complete sleep and rest, I do some Bible study and realize how much God is pouring into me and start writing this blog.

If you read “Wait and See” you know what a huge answered prayer some of these things really are, both financially and spiritually. God pulled through yesterday with this check and with the “found” money on Friday. The cool thing is how by not having this money sooner God protected me and kept me from Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. I finally surrendered, and obeyed, and asked God with pure motives to provide this week on Wednesday (as He instructed last Sunday), and oh how HE provided! I asked Him for spiritual guidance in some matters (some of which I can discuss in a later blog) and He really overflowed my cup on those and my heart is just in awe of my Heavenly Father right now.

If you go back and read the verses before 16 in Hebrews 4, there’s a lot of great stuff there, but one of the things the author writes in verse 15 is that we have a high priest in Jesus, “who has been tempted in all things we are, yet without sin.” I stopped and realized that a lot of time I don’t cling to Scripture like I should, and I don’t let God hold me, leaning on Him for things like I need to. Do I really believe that I can come to God with confidence and receive mercy and find grace? Do I really believe that God has ALL wisdom and guidance and has been temped in ALL things, to where He can pour perfect insight into my life? I think part of me has doubted those things in the past, but just by taking a step in being obedient unto God, He gave me so many wonderful gifts this week, more than I could have even imagined in different ways than I would have thought, but I am even more grateful for these.

I don’t think it was just a “coincidence” that I lost money during the two biggest “sale” days of the year, but still found the money in time to pay the bills I needed to pay. I don’t think it is a coincidence that I read this passage of Scripture in a book I haven’t picked up in weeks, at 6AM this morning after having this particular week. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I am writing the last thoughts of this I hear Autumn sweetly call for “Mommy!”. I do, however, believe God, instead, holds for us a much greater life than we choose to live in 90% of the time. I believe we can walk in abundant life and hold fast to His word and abide in Him always and we will see just how much we are missing out on before with all of the distractions of life.

Does this mean everything is going to go right all of the time and life will just be perfect? Absolutely not. But God already gave us what we need to press on, we just have to make sure we use it.

“Wait and See”

At 9:15 the band started playing and worship began. I love this song, I thought to myself and closed my eyes like usual to sing praise from my heart. But today was difficult. I sung the words but soon I didn’t even hear myself singing anymore, lost in thought as my mind drifted away. A couple of times I said quietly, “Focus”, and though it sounded like a prayer it was more of a command to myself. By the time the sermon began I had thought of about a million other things than singing worship to God, and I realized just how distracted my soul truly was.

I can’t say when this unrest, these distractions really started, but for weeks now I have felt it coming. I think Sunday was just the tipping point I realized something had to change. As Chad was making his way up to the stage the words “silent and solitude” from the last sermon echoed in my heart and again I remembered the first stage of burnout: failure to take care of yourself. That for sure is me, I’m there I had thought after that message, but not much had changed in the past week. You see when you’re too busy being a control-freak and trying to be strong for and take care of everyone else sometimes your own needs go unmet. So here I sat, wondering what the next sermon series would be as I still reflected upon the last…

(Side note: Please note that the quotes used below are not direct, but come from my paraphrased notes I took)

“Wait and see. A wait-and-see moment is when you’ve done all you can do and are waiting for God to come through. Maybe your waiting on God to act, or your just waiting for guidance”. Everything in me froze and immediately I was intrigued. Chad continued talking and I felt like I could cry. Yes, I have been in a wait-and-see for a while now. I was waiting on God to act AND give guidance actually, but so far nothing. Just silence. In that moment I felt God speak, “You have not because you ask not”. Chad continued preaching and I kept hearing those words repeated to me, though Chad never actually said those words. I knew the verse was from James, but couldn’t quite pinpoint it. I flipped to James, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:2b-3 NASB). Ouch, that hurts. What’s interesting is the words that followed from Chad…

“Some of you aren’t going to want to hear this, and I even debated on saying this…” Yikes… “Sometimes we don’t hear from God because of sin in our life. It could be a hidden area of sin or an area of defiance.” My gut reaction was no, because my relationship with the Lord has been pretty good, but then Proverbs 3:5-6 got brought up and the Holy Spirit convicted me about the whole “lean not on your own understanding” part. I soon realize my area of defiance/sin. Once again, I had slipped into having to always be in control. I wasn’t looking for God to guidance, but had been trying to do everything all on my own. I hadn’t asked God for guidance or help, and therefore had not received. And the few times I had asked God to provide guidance, or even asked God to provide financially in this “wait and see”, it was coming from a place of pride in my heart, which would allow me to be in continued control. No, I wasn’t asking God for more stuff or even more pleasure in those moments, but I was, in a nutshell, just asking to remain in control.

As we entered into a time of prayer I knew immediately what I had to do. I knew a lot of my distractions and unrest was coming from my constant contact with social media. I had been wrestling with God about giving this up but had not obeyed, and I knew the time had come to surrender. I decided that as of December 1 I would give up all social media (except for blogging and the occasional Pinterest search when needed) for at least the month of December. My other reason for doing this is because in this time of waiting, I don’t want to miss what God will provide, whether it’s a specific act of plain guidance. I want to make sure I’m available to listen to Him. Also, with it being the Christmas season, I want to make sure I’m fully present in the here and now and available to my family and friends, to remember the true reason for this season. Overall, I know that this social media fast is meant for my good.

Right before writing this post I was reminded of my word for 2016, “Held” when the song by Casting Crowns came on the radio. Once again, tears swelled in my eyes as I listened to the lyrics. This year I was supposed to learn what it meant to be held by God. While I still feel like I have more to learn, I now at least feel like I understand what God wanted me to know. I am not meant to go through life alone, even though it may feel like that sometimes. And while there is an expectation to be strong, I have to remember that this is not to be done in my own strength, but in the Lord’s. I must trust in Him and lean fully on Him, for He is the one who holds me, not myself.

This year has brought some crazy things, and life has “hit me out of nowhere” more than once. On more than one occasion I felt like I was barely hanging on, but man has God done some awesome stuff! He brought Brandon and I closer together in our marriage than ever before. He placed us in an awesome church family and in and amazing community group. Our family has grown and I was provided a full time job at my dream location. So while there have been plenty of ups and downs this year, God has consistently reminded me of oh how faithful He is. I am not alone, I can stop trying to hold on and have constant control, but instead, just be held by Him. ❤

Why I Love Millennials…

I LOVE leadership development. So much, that I decided to major in leadership in college. I guess my fascination with leadership really began in middle school. I was involved in various clubs and activities and knew I wanted to be a leader “when I grew up”. In high school, I had various leadership positions in some of the extracurriculars I was a part of. In college, I felt led choose a leadership major at Toccoa Falls College, though I didn’t understand why at the time and really did not know if I would ever get to use what I had learned “in the real [career] world”. I pressed on and graduated and began life as a stay-at-home mom, only months later to realize that this was NOT for me.

When I was young, I thought leadership belonged to a small, elite group. Yet, as a grew, I came to realize that each and every one of us has the power to be a leader. In fact, if you are a Christian, I believe you are called to be a leader in some way. However, YOU, whoever you are, have a choice whether or not to wield this power and be a leader. Even then, you have a choice of what kind of leader you want to be.

Leadership isn’t something that comes with age. It isn’t something that can be bought. But it is something that can be unleashed in any ordinary person’s daily life. Every day, I have an opportunity to be a leader, to make a difference, to impact someone’s life for the better.

God recently led me to begin a career at Georgia College, and so far, I absolutely love it. I LOVE working with college kids. They are incredibly cool to me. Each one is different and unique. They are my passion. I love this stage that they are at in life. It is so pivotal and impactful, and though my current position doesn’t allow me to spend much time with a single one, I love the interaction I do get to have with them.

Today, I believe millennials are misunderstood. We – because yes, I am guilty of doing this at times myself – judge them for being different, for not holding up to our own standards and even some standards of generations before us. We are quick to point out their flaws, but hesitant to give them praise. We get frustrated when they don’t know or do things that seem like common knowledge to us. We deem them selfish, we label them as babies, and we think them incompetent. Worst of all, we don’t give them the attention they need, or credit they deserve.

Change is inevitable. It happens every day. We cannot be so stuck in the past that we impose this upon the generations to come. If we inflict our own stereotypes upon any group of people long enough, eventually that is who they will become. However, I believe if you take a group of people, guide them, foster growth, and nurture them, they have an opportunity to become something amazing. This is what we believe and perform as parents, so why should it be any different with others?

So just why do I love this current generation of college students that we call “millennials”?

They are energetic. They have passion. They are alive. They refuse to be “normal” or mundane. They refuse to settle. They believe that dreams come true. They set goals and have plans. They are excited, enthusiastic, and determined, and if you hang around them long enough, their vibe is contagious.

They’re inventive. They’re entrepreneurs. They have vision and artistic talent. They are climbing the corporate latter while also starring on broadway. They make headlines in sports and begin to lead in academia. They want to be informed and they want to make an impact.

They’re optimistic. They’re focused. They truly want to change the world for the better, and they believe they can make a difference. They are strong. They love information. They want to be involved.

Is this generation perfect? No, but let’s be honest-no generation is! Every set has it’s own problems, problems to which the generation that preceded should help them in their weakness. Yes, this generation tends to think it’s entitled. Yes, sometimes they lack basic skills and knowledge that generations before them take for granted. But we have two choices. Either we can continue to point our fingers, pick out their flaws, and blame them for everything that is wrong in the world, OR we can humble ourselves, observing the own log in our own eye, and help this group of amazing people. We can guide them in their weakness and help them grow, while learning from their strengths. We can form relationships with them and build teams with them, and truly come alongside them to serve our communities and live out the Gospel of Christ.

After all, isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do?

Oh, and I almost forgot…while many people tend to think of millennials as only today’s college students, guess what? These are actually some of the last millennials. That’s right! If you were born between 1980 and 2000, YOU are a millennial. Remember that the next time you go to cast a stone! 😉

Heavy Hearts

I think I can speak for the whole LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) community when I say that our hearts are heavy. My heart breaks for the family and friends of the officers that died and are injured in the Dallas shooting. My thoughts and prayers are with them, as well as with every LEO, his or her family, and friends. I am just speechless and broken. It has been a burden on me to make my thoughts known for a while, and I feel now is the right time in light of recent events.

There is a flat out assault against police in our county that is not only occurring, but is being encouraged and even celebrated. It is absolutely astounding to me to witness such horrifying events. It is beyond me why the public has targeted cops as being all evil, all bad, all corrupt, when there are these types of people in ALL professions, not just law enforcement. There are bad doctors, bad teachers, bad construction workers, bad chefs, and so forth, but we don’t label them ALL bad. Let me be perfectly clear about this: there are both good and corrupt people in EVERY profession, and in law enforcement especially there ARE more GOOD than corrupt. The media focuses in on the bad because that makes a better story and gets more attention. After all, who really wants to see a good cop doing his job the right way. So they (the media) present distorted views to the public and the fire is fueled.

My question to those that are in this campaign against cops is this:

Who are you going to call when someone breaks into your house and robs you?

Who are you going to call when you’re in an accident and a drunk driver hits you?

Who are you going to call when your little girl is kidnapped?

Who are you going to call when someone attacks you while you’re out shopping?

Who are you going to call when a gang beats up your brother?

Who are you going to call when you’re house gets shot up?

Who are you going to call when someone has made a threat against your family?

Every single one of you would call “911”. Every single one of you would want a cop to respond. You have no use for police until you need them, but then when you need them, you will sure be sorry if they don’t respond.

LEOs serve and protect us. They are on the front line every second of every day. There is no “off” time. It doesn’t matter if they are in uniform or not. They are always aware and always have to have their guard up. It is exhausting and it is draining. I witness it in my husband every day. LEOs are constantly on watch for us. So on top of all they do, now they have to worry about being assassinated for no reason at all. Sure, they are trained in self-defense and use of force if the time should come. It comes with the job and is expected in certain situations. But now, they have to worry about being murdered just for bearing the name of a LEO, with no consideration of them being a person at all.

I understand that racism is real and it is a problem. However, racism is NOT as big a problem in the law enforcement community as the media would have it seem. Cops are to serve and protect the innocent from those who practice evil, regardless of who you are. If you are a person, regardless of how you feel about them, they STILL serve and protect you. That is their duty. When sworn in, they take an oath to enforce the law, and that it what they do. If you practice crime, if you partake in evil, you will be punished. It is as simple as that and is a concept that goes back to Adam and Eve. They did not listen to God, they sinned, and they were punished.

My husband is a deputy, a LEO. It is in his blood. It is who he is and who he was created to be. It is his passion, his calling, and his giftedness given to him by God. People ask me all the time how do I not constantly worry, how I can “let” him do this. The only reason I even  can have peace at all is because God. I’m not perfect and I have my moments where I am overcome by worry and fear, but that is where I have to trust God. I know this is what he was born to do, so how can I stand in the way of that? Tonight, the day after Dallas, a day where even more LEOs have been shot, including one in Georgia, as I watch my husband get ready to go in, my heart breaks. Inside, everything in me wants him to stay. I want to beg and plead for him to stop, to just stay with us, to do anything else. I want to just take him and run away to an island where we can be in peace. But I am silent. I remember this is who he is. He has a heart to serve and protect the people in this community, given to him by God alone. When we became husband and wife, one, I took my oath. I took an oath to always be loyal to him, to be with him always, no matter what came our way, to endure, and to bear his burden. So in this depressing time, I cannot help but admire him for his courage, to put on his uniform and do his duty in the evil times we live in, to still live out his calling, despite the widespread persecution. He is an honorable man, and a man I love deeply.

So I sit quietly watching, praying. I pray fiercely for God to protect him, because I love him and I cannot imagine my life without him, or Autumn having to live without her daddy. I pray for our LEO brothers and sisters. I pray for their spouses and children. I pray for their mothers and fathers. I pray for the rest of their family and friends. And I pray these horrifying assaults will never make it into our community.

Cops are people too. They bleed red. They have feelings and emotions. They have families and friends. They have hopes and dreams and fears. They swore to serve and protect you. Please, when you see an officer today, say “thank you”. Show some appreciation. Pray for them and pray for their families. They need it now more than ever.

Morning Humor

Most of my blogs this far tend to be deep and reflective of what God is teaching me, so today I thought I would mix it up a little and post something a little more comedic. Sometimes we tend to get caught up in the seriousness of life that we forget to laugh, and God gave me a reminder of that this morning. I wanted to share with you my thought process during this particular morning in hopes to lighten your mood. 🙂

Morning Thoughts:

5-something in the morning: OH MY GOSH I HAVE TO PEE!!! *Jumps up from coma-like sleep and stumbles to the bathroom, realize my nose is completely stopped up, and then stumbles into kitchen to get some nose spray. See a dark shadow in driveway that I assume is Brandon’s Tahoe (I of course didn’t have my contacts in and was still half asleep), then stumble back to the bedroom and call Brandon. “Brandon, are you in the driveway?” “Yes…” “Okay goodnight.”

6:35: Brandon is coming to bed. I don’t have to take Autumn to daycare today, my lunch is ready, I’m going to sleep 20 more minutes…*Back to deep sleep*

6:55: Man I still feel dizzy from sleeping so hard. I wonder if my blood sugar was high last night…

6:57: Crap! What am I thinking?!?! I DO have to take Autumn to day care today!!

7:04: My eyes are way to sleepy to put contacts in…

7:09: Oh I need to get the crockpot out to put supper in.

7:13: I’ll just put my contacts in real quick; I don’t feel like wearing my contacts today.

7:16: *Walking out the door* I didn’t put the food in the crockpot when I turned it on!!!

7:23: *On the way to daycare* “Autumn, do you not feel good honey?”

7:24: Why is she coughing this much?

7:25 Awe, she’s so cute loving on her Minnie doll…

7:26: Oh my gosh she sounds horrible…

7:27: “Autumn, PLEASE stop saying ‘no’…”

7:28: Is she getting what I had? I really don’t want her to have to have breathing treatments…

7:29: Seriously! I will lose my sanity if she keeps saying ‘no’!!!

7:30: *Tells daycare to keep an eye on her and call me if she keeps coughing*

7:32-7:49: Blank thoughts, sooooo sleepy….

7:50: I will make it…I will make it…I WILL make it…

7:59: Walking in the door to work like

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 9.42.24 PM

8:00: Sitting at my desk like…

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 9.46.00 PM

I realized after typing all of that how crazy I must have looked rushing through my morning, and I cannot help but laugh at myself. Why do we mommas think we need to have it all together all the time? I am so guilty of this. I tend to want everything on a nice schedule, to stick to a daily routine, and keep everything in balance. I have to be reminded that there’s beauty in the unknown and the best adventures are unplanned.

Today mommas, give yourself some much needed grace. Our Father doesn’t expect you to be perfect, and He gives His grace so freely, so why do we not accept it more? Why do we beat ourselves up for the little things like forgetting to brush our child’s teeth that time, or rocking them to sleep too much, or not realizing they haven’t had a bath in 4 days (whoops…)? Guess what, they WILL survive. They WILL make it. And they WILL still turn out great! You’re doing the best you can do so just breathe and let it go. Tomorrow is a new day. ❤

Coming Together

Just last night I was looking on Facebook and thought to myself, “God, there is so much evil and hate in the world. How are we to ever hope with our world in this condition?” Today He responded, “Your only hope is in Me. Your hope is I AM.”

In my relationship with God, every now and then He gives me these big “lightbulb” moments where all the details come together. I tend to see big picture and in the past I have tried to force the details. I am learning that, instead, God lets me see the big picture, then He works out the details and my only job is to be obedient. In these moments, God tends to overwhelm me for about 10-15 minutes and my mind is flooded seeing how He has connected things over the past few years. This afternoon I experienced a huge light bulb moment for me.

Six years ago this month a promise was birthed in me, and I now realize this promise is actually coming true. I recently discovered my destiny, cause, and calling (as mentioned in the last blog). Constructed solely by God, I realized that my destiny, my purpose, is “to empower people to change the world for the better”. My cause is to “provide educational opportunities”. My calling is “to learn about others through teaching, writing, and research”. Over the past few months, God has started birthing ideas in me to reach out to others and provide opportunities for fellowship. I realized that I truly enjoy learning about other people and cultures and that God has really given me a heart for people. God has also given me a true love for people, something I had been praying for. All of the sudden, I realized that these ideas were aligning with my ministry and my whole destiny statement. Everything was finally coming together. And God gently whispered “promise fulfilled”.

Six years. Six years of waiting and developing, and now it is being fulfilled. It’s not perfect and has a long way to go, but it is beginning and it is beautiful. But, ah, I realized something this evening. The promise he birthed six years ago is actually twofold, dare I call it, a double portion. Therefore, as one side begins, I have hope that the other side is not far behind. God is faithful, and He works in His own time because He knows best. He knows what we need, not what we want. Six years feels like such a long time, but what amazes me is the fact that yes, God revealed this to me six years ago, but He created this promise, developed it, long before I was ever born. He has always known my purpose. And wow is that amazing!

I finally see my hear of darkness coming into place with everything else. I realize now that that year was needed. Oh, how it was so desperately needed. It was literally a time of death. I had to let go of what I thought I wanted, of false dreams, and watch them die, watch them crumble into ash. My world was literally falling apart. But the thing is, that world I was living in was a world that I had constructed for myself. God did not cause that to happen, I did. I didn’t consult God but made my own way. I forced the details upon my own agenda. And I was absolutely miserable for it. So I had to be stripped of everything: my pride, my dignity, my broken dreams, and all my ideas of what I was. I had to die to myself. I had to learn, once again, how to make Christ not just my Savior, but my Lord. I had to let God rebuild me and give me my identity found only from Him, not my circumstances, not from the people around me, and not the ideas I had built up in my head. Just God, God alone.

Boy, has it been amazing. I can’t even describe the joy and peace I have in my heart. It is truly indescribable. I am living in God’s grace and freedom now in a way I never thought possible. A huge part of that has been God leading us to a new church. In April we began going to Dublin Bible Church and it was the craziest thing. We walked in that Sunday and as soon as the music started I felt the Holy Spirit take over inside me as God whispered, “Your home”. I prayed that Brandon felt the same way because for me, it was a done deal. Our search was over. Thankfully he did, and that is our home now. The first Sunday we were there Pastor Chad started a new sermon series over Joshua and our conquest for abundant life. Every message had fed my soul and has left me thirsting for more. Interestingly enough, this past Sunday was the final sermon in the series. Although I was not there, I realized something tonight. I am finally living in the abundant life God has for me. No, I am not perfect my any means. Yes I still struggle and fail. However, I can honestly say with confidence that I am walking in the life God has for me. I yearn for Him, I long to seek His face, and I long for His heart. I am content with where I am in life. I am at peace. And I finally see His promises being fulfilled as He is planting me in ministry right where I am today. Yes, I tend to be a dreamer and see big picture, but what is amazing to me is to see God working out the details right in front of me as my ministry comes to life. Break Away Ministries is happening right now. God is using me right now where I am. And it’s insanely beautiful because He is doing the work, not me. I am not forcing anything to happen, but am simply saying “Yes, Lord” with whatever details and instruction He gives. There are no words to describe the freedom this brings.

As a dear friend told me today, I am okay with waiting on the promises of God. For I know the longer it takes, God is making all of the pieces come together. The longer I wait, the more deeply rooted His work will be. Instant gratification shall not last, but with Christ being the foundation, with the work being deeply rooted in Christ, His promises will last. I am tired of temporary and fake. I long for the real and lasting. I long to live my life by the Gospel and bring love to a hurting and broken world. I am thankful for the work God has done and will do. I know He will finish His work in His time. For now, I am at peace. I am content to walk in the abundant life God has for me. And dear hearts, I pray you too find this abundant life that only God can bring. ❤

Promises of God

“Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land. Everlasting joy will be theirs.” (Isaiah 61:7 NASB)

I wanted to open this post with a Word from God, and this just happened to be the verse for the day on my Bible app. However, due to the nature of this blog, this verse is very fitting. During my senior year of high school God introduced this theme of double portion to me, and I found it fascinating. I felt like it was a promise He was going to weave into my story. Honestly, I have not thought about that for years until now. Reading Isaiah 61 we know about the affliction of the Israelites. However, even though this affliction was brought upon themselves by their own sin and disobedience, God was (and is) still faithful and promises to exact them, one of the ways is this double portion. It is fitting that I read this today because this afternoon God revealed to me how one of His promises to me is coming true in my life, and gives me hope for the future of more promises that are to come.

I have always been super careful in labeling something as a promise for God. I have not had very many of these in the course of my lifetime, but I have had a few that I know without a shadow of a doubt have come from Him. Some have been fulfilled and I am still waiting on others. One thing I am sure of, that God who began a work in me will finish it until completion (Philippians 1:6). Six years ago this month God birthed in me a promise. I had just returned from a life-changing mission trip and God spoke over me a promise, that He would be in women’s ministry, and that one day I would speak and write. Almost three years later, He gave this ministry a name, Break Away Ministries. I knew the purpose of this ministry would be to help women break away from their busyness, from being caught up in stress and frustration or whatever they were in, to spend time with the Lord and with each other. Time went by and it seemed like this promise would never be fulfilled. In fact, months ago I questioned whether or not I had heard from God correctly on this. Yet, over the past couple months, God has been doing some amazing things in my life, and three years later I see this promise coming true. I now see that God had to do some major work in my life to get me ready for this promise, and it has been worth the wait.

I have spoken briefly to certain people about the darkness I faced last year. For most of 2015 into the beginning of 2016 there was a darkness in my life. I was depressed and confused, lonely and miserable. The hardest thing I could not understand was why. I remember talking to my husband one evening and he said to me, “I don’t understand why you’re so miserable-you’ve got everything you’ve ever wanted.” He was absolutely correct and that was the question I had been asking myself for months. For eight years of my life, EIGHT, I thought my purpose was to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. I got my 4-year degree, did the hard work and had my “back-up”, but I was finally living what I had dreamed about for EIGHT years. Except, it wasn’t at ALL what I had dreamed. I indeed was miserable, and I could not understand why.

That fall I made the decision to start looking for a job. I was tired of not having any money for our family to have some freedom to do things like eating out or going away on day trips. We paid the bills and nothing was ever cut off, but it was tighter than ever. Plus, I realized I just needed to get out of the house and be with adults. In December I got my first “big girl” job at Verizon and it seemed like a dream come true. At first, I was really excited and it seemed like everything was great, but it wasn’t and though the darkness lifted for a moment, I slipped into further darkness. I became very selfish and consumed. My life pretty much consisted of my sleeping, eating, and working and that was it, leaving my husband to do everything else. I started having health problems and was diagnosed as a diabetic, type 1, which meant I would be insulin-dependent for the rest of my life. I went through some major changes, but much to my surprise, did not fall apart. God gave me in early January my word for the year, “Held”, and He has continued to hold me throughout everything I’ve gone through this year. Still, my family life felt like it was falling to pieces. My marriage was strained and I never saw my precious daughter anymore. One Saturday at work I fell apart on my managers and realized I was done there. Immediately, I could actually physically feel a weight lifted off of me. I worked my last two weeks there and left, not knowing what the future held.

Exactly two weeks later I got information from a close source that there was a temporary position opening up at Georgia College, and just a week later I was offered the position. 25 days after leaving Verizon I was back working full time, a true miracle to me. I never could have imagined how crucial this position would be, but God appointed it perfectly and aligned it to His will and put me in the right place at the right time with the right people. He gave me an amazing boss who spent time with me furthering my leadership and mentoring me, and just in the past two months I have grown tremendously. While there, I spent a few weeks learning about myself: my personality, my values, and my strengths. Then, he worked with me to help me form my destiny statement. He explained to me that a destiny statement basically explains your purpose. You’re a Christian and you are here to do God’s will, to further His Kingdom, but how are you going to do that. I knew that God uniquely designed me for a purpose, but I had never spent a whole lot of time looking into what this meant for me. Sure, I had ideas of things I wanted to do, but those were mostly constructed by the environments I had been in and people I was around. For about three weeks we worked on this. He explained to me that your destiny statement is made up of three parts: destiny (why), cause (be), and calling (do). I had to find out why I am here, who I am to be, and what am I called to do. After a long process, God finally revealed to me the specific wording of these and I knew it was perfect when it was finished.

I’ve been mulling this over for a couple of weeks since the completion and have thought to myself, “Okay, God. What next? Let’s see what you do with this.” Since then I have had some struggles and one night had gotten down. My soul just felt heavy and so I cried out to God, “When will Your promises be fulfilled? Lord, I’m so tired of waiting. It feels like this will never come true.” He softly encouraged me and I became at peace again, but there was still a longing in my heart…

*For the continuation, please see the following blog, “Coming Together”