Monday, September 30, 2019

Chemotherapy: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!

I have sat idle this month and listened to God. I have heard many sermons on forgiveness and patience and thought that would be my post, but tonight as I was getting ready for bed a taste appeared in my mouth that gave me a memory I would love to forget. Chemo memories, nausea, metallic tastes:(

You are probably asking yourself what is she talking about. I could only make my body swallow certain juices when I was sick and going through chemo. The tastes of many liquids made me so sick I couldn't make myself swallow no matter how hard I tried. This past week I have been fighting my yearly kidney infection (yes I seem to get one a year and they are always heck to get rid of) and I have been drinking lots of cranberry juice. Don't ask me why this particular time and this drink sparked that taste, but it is one you never will forget.

Many have asked me my story so here it is: November 2010 I drank three sips of champagne and had the most horrible pain in my chest and neck. I was positive I was having a heart attack. I was scared to death, but soon the pain subsided and I felt light-headed. (Note: there was no phone service where we were and I didn't want to be left alone to find a phone). The next morning I felt fine but decided to call my sister-in-law, (she is an amazing midwife, but that day she was my angel, the reason I breathe, see my children grow older, and enjoy life today). I told her alcohol tried to kill me and I was never drinking it again. She laughed and said alcohol in that amount won't do that, tell me your symptoms. Well, she is our researcher and she started looking up adverse reactions to alcohol. A crazy thing happened, Hodgkin's Lymphoma popped up.

The few weeks up to my first chemo treatment were a blur. Thanks to my sister-in-law following her gut and advising with doctors who advised a CT, we discovered a mass on my heart. (the reason the pain was so intense on my heart) Now don't go researching my stats because I am not a stat person. If I remember correctly my oncologist said only 2% of patients with Hodgkin's have this reaction and 98% of them are positive for Hodgkin's. We moved like lightening from doctor to doctor, test to test and all I can tell you is our amazing God gave me peace only He could provide.

I had a partial sternotomy (I will talk about this miracle surgery another time), port placed in my chest, and began my six-month journey of 12 rounds of chemotherapy. People asked me, did you have options. Yes, I did...fight like crazy!! That was my option, my only option. I had a Kindergartener and Fourth grader and they needed their Momma.

That amazing sister-in-law I spoke about stayed out of work and drug me from doctor to doctor. Holding my hand, as I almost broke hers, while the oncologist performed a bone marrow biopsy, sat with me during my first chemos, talking me through each step, all the way to the end. I can't tell you what ABVD stands for, but she can. I can't tell you their side effects, but she knew. I didn't know they made numbing cream for my port, but she did.

Every step became a fight, a competition for me. If I am honest I didn't think I could ever recover from the initial surgery, but I did. Did you know you use your sternum when you pee? (just a humorous, or painful, sidenote there) I spent days pacing my hallway repeating, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." I know I said that verse thousands of times over the 6 months. I am just a bit stubborn and hard-headed(ha!ha!) and don't like pain meds. Well, I would sometimes wait until the pain was crazy before I would take meds and that never turned out good. I was so proud when ibuprofen became my friend and nothing stronger was needed. (TAKE YOUR PAIN MEDS AS NEEDED!!)

So to the saved my life for sure, but I am sure the after-effects of it harmed parts of me too. I can only imagine what is in that stuff. My first few chemos were rough. I lost 16 pounds in a little over two weeks (I am not a person that needed to lose that much weight) and truthfully told God this task is going to be impossible and I can't do it! Chemo is calibrated to your weight and they don't like to have to redo it. I was told to eat anything and everything I could keep down. I did too on my good days, but somewhere after my third or fourth chemo I became severely constipated. I BIG no-no with chemo!! I literally could feel the poison burning my insides. The pain was crazy!! (Note to anyone out there reading this and going through chemo now, take the Miralax or whatever they give you). I ended up with my precious second Momma taking me to the chemo lab where they hooked me up to a morphine drip all day and the pain barely subsided. I woke up to see her on her knees praying and crying as I was near screams from the pain. Anyone who knows me knows my pain tolerance is very high. This was a crazy kind of pain, pits of hell kind of pain. (If you are having stomach pains with chemo talk to your doctor. Nexium truly saved my life!!)

I was determined to work during my treatments. I truly think we as humans must have a purpose in life. For me, my purpose was my students. I missed them so much when I wasn't teaching. They gave me joy. The wonder and pure love from them were healing. After chemo number two my hair was falling out in clumps. That is a very emotional time or it was for me. I remember being in the bath and my second Momma coming in to check on me and I was sobbing. There was literally hair floating all in the bathtub and stuck all over me. She knelt and begin scooping up handfuls and taking a washcloth and removing the stuck pieces of hair from my body (by the way modesty goes out the door when you are experiencing the wrath of cancer). She took care of me and reassured me my hair would come back. My hair had always been one of my best assets and the emotional aspect of losing it was more difficult than I imagined. The following day we decided to have a shaving party and shave my head. It was so liberating!! I think I could totally rock being bald! My showers were cut in half, no clogged drains, no nicks from razors, and no 20-minute blow-drying. The greatest gift was the day a student asked me to go bald at school and not wear a scarf. I said I would think about it. I am only human and was nervous about being bald. Do you know the following day those sweet babies went all morning and never even realized I was without a scarf? One student raised his hand and said you look good with no hair. The others were oohing and aaahing over the fact they had just realized I was bald! It was such a beautiful gift from God! I started only wearing scarves out and not at home and sometimes I even went out without one:)

I could literally write a book on my experiences (who knows maybe I will one day), but I can tell you this: whether you are facing cancer, another health issue, lost job, broken marriage, disobedient child, or just a tough life, know the one truth, the one constant is our Lord and Savior. Without Him, we are nothing and can accomplish nothing without Him. Cancer was a season, it was a chapter of my life that I am honored to have walked through. I am the person I am today because of it. Do I want to do it again? Absolutely not!! Would I? Of course, as many others have. Cancer is like anything else we face in life, it allows us to lean into God and trust Him to get us through. Don't give up! Know He loves you and no matter what you are facing, you can and WILL get through it!

"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

**sidenote: There is so much I haven't touched on. If you are going through cancer and I can help in anyway please reach out to me. I am praying for each of you in your fight! You CAN do ALL things through Christ!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Financial Fiasco: Working Toward a Solution

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”—Luke 14:28–30

A plan must be in place to work your way out of a financial fiasco. I have been working on this plan for some time now and praying for God's will. I apologize for not keeping you updated. 

First I feel I must address something many have probably trip this summer to Greece and Italy. Well, I did make a plan for that and continued to not plan on the other finances in my life. I knew I wanted to take my daughter somewhere amazing for her senior trip. I started planning and working extra the April a year before her trip (yes, I saved and paid on this trip over a year to make it happen). It took much planning and hard work (which I will write on very soon) to budget for this trip and make it happen. Yes, I could have used that money to pay down my debt. Remember those memories I talked about in April. I would work three jobs to make the memories we made on this trip. It has literally changed my life too:)

Before the trip in June, I knew I wanted to get a plan in place for myself and set a very firm budget to get my debt paid off as quickly as possible. I talked about several options with my family and none of them seemed to be a good fit. I had contacted several companies about debt consolidation, not liking any of the options presented (thank goodness my first degree is in Business Management because some people will try to talk you into crazy things and I know just enough to know crazy) One day a co-worker shared with me how they consolidated their debt and how it had worked for their family. In the meantime, another friend and I had a very long conversation one night about their debt and the method they were using. 

Then one of the companies I had contacted called me about some options. I listened and told him I would pray on these options and call them back the following day. I loved the fact he was a Christian also and encouraged me to do just that. I told him I would not be pushed into a decision. I also researched the company online for hours. For the first time I had a peace about my options.

The following days set into place my journey to finally getting a plan and paying off my debt. With anything you do in life not pleasing to God, there are consequences to your actions. So before you think this is a utopian way to freedom, it isn't. I chose to pay my debt back, not dissolve it. The method in which I will pay it back means not using my cards (that is a great thing). It also means my credit score won't remain as great as it once was. I was super happy about this one! You are probably asking at this point am I crazy. No, I feel like I don't need to be using a credit card. Therefore not being able to get one is great! I was able to choose one card to keep and a small credit line in case there ever was an emergency while I was away from home and needed to use it. 

Let me tell you something at this point in my story...I am not a financial guru giving out financial advice. I am an everyday person who has made bad financial decisions and am doing what works for me to dissolve it. With that being said I have sought advice from some of the financial gurus and to be honest unless you are making great money and live like you are below poverty level most of the plans won't work for most of us literally drowning in debt from multiple accounts. I am not saying you shouldn't sacrifice, because you should. I did listen to one financial advisor online who seemed completely real to me! He said there isn't a one size fits all way to work your way out of debt. What works for one, may not work for another. He stated he was always very careful not to dismiss certain solutions and never make a person feel like they are at a dead end. I love that!

My humble advice for you if you are drowning in debt is FACE IT!! That is the hardest part!!! If you are married, set down as a couple and figure out everything you can cut out and if you can make headway paying off one card at a time. If you are like me and that wasn't working for you and you have cut expenses as much as possible look into ways that will work for you as a couple. If you are single (parent or not) find an accountability partner. I am not an expert by any means, but I will be happy to hold you accountable. 

Our debt DOES NOT define who we are as people and NO ONE should tell you otherwise. We are ALL sinners and I promise you the one pointing the finger needs to take a LONG look at his/her life and their sins. Digging out of any hole or hold is never easy, but I promise if you make the effort God will open the doors. I would not do anything different in my circumstances. I have learned much I can share with others and I am still learning. The enemy tries to make us believe we are failures, but we are not. We may fall, but we can get back up. 

I am praying for you my friend! Get a plan and stay on the path:)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Stars or Dots?

1 Thessalonians 5:11-15 The Message (MSG)

9-11 God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.
13-15 Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.

I never know when an idea for a post will come to me, but when they do I usually get a tingly feeling. You know that feeling that goes through your body like a small electric shock? Then a nudging to write about whatever the topic is.

This exact feeling transpired last Friday in my classroom while we were reading a book called You Are Special by Max Lucado. This story has a sweet lesson.  I love having the students listen to the story and then recording all the attributes that make them special.

While we were listening to the story (keep in mind I have heard this story many times) a certain part of the story stood out to me on this particular day that made me sit up and pay attention. The Wemmick's maker Eli is telling the main character why he is special, Eli said,  "" Oh, you don't have to defend yourself to me, child. I don't care what the other Wemmicks think." "You don't?" "No, and you shouldn't either. Who are they to give stars or dots? They are Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn't matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special."

Wow!! We are eager to judge others and others are eager to judge us, but why? In this short paragraph, Max Lucado does a beautiful job of summing up God's thoughts on this matter. He tells us we should not worry about others' thoughts, only His. Yet we find ourselves in situations where we are consumed by the thoughts of others. So much so it cripples our ability to be ourselves. To shine.

That people pleaser thing I talked about a while back feeds on this type of thought process. We tend to strive for stars, but the dots beat us down, so much so we tend to hide or cower in a corner. God doesn't want His children to feel this way. He wants us to put our trust and faith in Him and Him alone. We are all humans. We are sinners. We fall short every day!! When we begin to look to others for validation we are disappointed because one day we can get a star from that person and the next day we get a dot. Our emotions and self-worth are skewed.

On the other end of the spectrum, we much realize our actions and words harms others (our giving of stars and dots). Whether it's a friend, family member, or co-worker we need to remember our job is to build them up, accept them for who they are, love them (even the sandpaper ones), and pray for them. Our job is not to give out stars or dots. We are not worthy enough to earn that title, yet we so gladly take it on. We are to accept others for who they are and love them and pray for them, not judge them or gossip about them or make them feel bad about themselves.

I am challenging myself (maybe you want to do the same)  to listen to God's voice. To put my faith in Him and Him alone and to build up those who are so eager to be the ones to hand out the dots. Let me ask you this in you live only for the stars others give or feel like a complete failure when someone throws dots freely at you or do you lean into God and listen to what He has to say about your worth? My friend God says YOU ARE SPECIAL!!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Boundaries or Brokenness

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18)

For people like me who want to please others, boundaries do not come easy. I have learned when we fail to set boundaries we tend to lose ourselves. 

As I sat in an airport pondering all the boundaries around me, I realized the importance of boundaries. When boundaries aren’t established we aren’t being safe. Boundaries protect us. Whether we are in a public setting or private setting, personal or professional we must establish them. 

Have you ever felt a gut feeling or some may call a red flag? You know, a signal? It’s your body telling you to be on guard. When we ignore that feeling we are ignoring a God-given sensor to protect us. We are also allowing others to break through those boundaries. Once the gate is open the gap becomes wider and wider until we no longer have boundaries. 

If I am honest I did not want to write on boundaries because I am not all that great at monitoring them, or should I say I wasn't (I am learning with some amazing coaching). I sat with my counselor awhile back telling him about an incident where I had spoken up and it didn't go very well. He was very happy and even high-fived me. I asked, "Why are we happy, again?" He said you stood your ground and God took care of the rest. He removed the situation. I sat there a minute to ponder and said, "But it didn't go the way I wanted it to go." He then explained how we set up boundaries and how it isn't about how we may want it to end, it's about God taking care of us when we stand our ground and speak up to get what we deserve. He also talked about how some people have a very difficult time respecting boundaries. This is when we lose our way. The other person inflicts their ways, ideas, or wants on us and we lose who we are and what we want in life. 

Needless to say, I felt this may have only been one of a few times in the past year I had implemented the boundary tactic, so I still wasn't convinced this was a topic God really had put on my heart to talk about.

Fast forward a week or so and I am sitting with a group of ladies and one of them is expressing her concerns over an acquaintance and how she tends to override situations when another spoke up and said you must set boundaries immediately. There was that word again, "sigh". I knew I needed to listen up and take notes. God was helping me learn and understand the need for boundaries. Fast forward a few more weeks and I am sitting on a plane talking about life and the word boundaries pop into the conversation. I listened intently at the advice because I knew God was using yet another person to teach me what He so badly wanted me to learn.

My takeaways (as I still learn) are: boundaries are created to keep us safe. When toddlers began to move a parent creates boundaries to protect them. Most of the time they do not like the boundary. They want to bust through it. They don't see the dangers of breaking the boundary, but once the boundary has been compromised dangers are being invited in. This happens to us as adults also. We don't see the dangers of compromising just one tiny boundary. What could it hurt right? Then the gate has been opened and before we realize it our life is not our own anymore. We don't even know what our boundaries originally were or how to get them back. 

Boundaries are God's way of protecting how He made us unique and different. Our ways don't need to mimic someone else's ways. No matter whether it's in the professional realm of life or personal we have different views and we should never be made to feel our views or thoughts are not valid. The moment we allow our boundaries to be compromised we are saying my thoughts aren't important. Don't confuse being difficult and not working well with others to be the same as setting up boundaries. I am not implying that concept at all. 

My last takeaway is this: if you feel you can't be yourself in the situation you are in then you probably compromised your boundaries. I have found setting boundaries may not always be easy and implementing them is sometimes even more difficult (I have found some people don't like it when you tell them your expectations i.e. your boundaries, especially if they are the type to think boundaries don't apply to them). It is ok if they remove themselves from your life or you remove them from your life. It does not mean you can't speak or be kind, it means you value your worth and know you are fearfully and wonderfully made! 

God wants to put the pieces of your brokenness back together again. Are you willing to implement those boundaries and take a chance on God? Because we know He will never leave us or take us down a path to hurt us. He wants to save our crushed-spirits! I invite you to take a look at where you are right now. Are you allowing others to break through your boundaries or are you the one breaking through someone else's boundaries? I am praying God helps us live our best lives with our boundaries intact. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Impressing Man or Impressing God Part 2

I'm absolutely convinced that nothing - nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable - absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8: 38-39 (The Message)

How many times have we needed this reminder? My post yesterday highlighted my struggles over the past year. With social media today we seem to compare our lives to our closest "friends", yet we know those posts are our highlight reels in life. Who wants to see the messy life? I knew the purpose of this blog would not always be to see the pretty, but the real. I knew God had called me to use my life experiences. I have been terrified, but for all the wrong reasons. While watching a Netflix special with Brene` Brown last week I realized in order to be vulnerable we must have courage. I lacked courage and my trust in God, embarrassing, but honest.

You see we allow people to see what we want them to see. I had a friend recently tell me how she saw me as being a very strong woman as I was sharing with her some struggles I was walking through. I was explaining where I was in life and she very gracefully said you will be fine, you are one of the strongest women I know. It was such an amazing compliment, but I got into my car and thought, she has no idea. She doesn't see my weaknesses and fears. We tend to go through life imagining how wonderful someone else's life is or how amazing he/she handles life. In reality, we only see what others want us to see.

No one sees "me" the days I could barely pull myself out of bed or barely go through the motions of the day when life fell apart. The nights I fell to my face begging God to explain why these things were happening to me again and again, countless tears falling to the floor. Or the endless conversations with one of my prayer warriors as they walked me through yet another crisis or rejection, trying to reassure me why I had yet another hurdle to jump through, what God wanted me to learn from it. On the outside, everyone sees this strong woman, but let me tell you I am not strong, my God is strong! I can not breathe literally and figuratively without His strength in me.

My fears of posting my struggles became my focus these past few weeks. Do you know why? It wasn't what God would think. He already knows my weaknesses, fears, and shortcomings. He sees my everyday struggles and still loves me more than I can even imagine.

People, people's thoughts were my fears. When we slip people are right there to tell us or question our faith. Question our Christianity. Of course, not everyone, not even most people, but the enemy uses one or two and we begin to think there are thousands against us. We allow the enemy to attack our confidence and trust in God. We allow the enemy's voice to cripple us.

That's when we need to begin to pray purposefully. Pray for God to hear our cries and know we trust Him even when we aren't showing it or at the time fully believing. We sometimes need to say it out loud to believe it. Especially when we feel attacked in every corner, even though our heart tells us it was lies, not the truth. Nevertheless, the struggles are VERY real.

Nothing can get between God's love for us, but us! We walk away, we turn our backs, we doubt. We must remember all of us are human. We cannot put our worth in the words or actions of other humans. God NEVER leaves our side. He sits patiently waiting for us to return to him. Doesn't it feel great to fall back into His arms?

Of course, we will fail again. We are human and sinners, remember those impurities I talked about. The wonderful thing is our God loves us with ALL our impurities. He will teach us and help us remove them if we will let Him.

The important lesson we must learn is we can't live for man's approval alone. Although most people are good; we can't live for their approval  It is important to focus on God when we least feel Him in our lives (talking to myself here) and know when life gets tough we can't listen to the enemy and instead of walking away from God we run to Him because He is ALWAYS here with us waiting to embrace us with His unconditional love.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Impressing Man or Impressing God? Part 1

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10 NIV

Don't you love how we seem to want one thing, but do another? We want God's love and approval, but we tend to work for man's. I am a people pleaser. It makes me happy when I see others happy. It is difficult for me to see others hurting or upset. It is also very difficult for me to think I disappointed someone or hurt them.

The past four years of my life have been a time for me to stretch my wings and learn to live for God truly and not for man. I didn't intend or set out for that, in fact, I can say I have lived in a bubble of sorts. God has shielded me from the outside world in a sense. I feel like I have been in a tunnel, only seeing what is right in front of me. Don't get me wrong the past four years have not been a joy ride. As I posted a couple of months ago I am now digging myself out of debt and will be for some time. (I will post more on that too.) This time has been meant for the healing and restoration of my soul.

When we live for God and not man it is almost a magical place, but it seems we don't always remain in this place. During my "bubble" period, I was only able to concentrate on God, my kids, my job, and college (The same week my marriage was ending I was accepted to college to get my specialist degree). I had so much on my plate I had little time to think about people's thoughts of me and to be honest I didn't really care what people thought or said. I was numb. I knew MY life and what I had experienced and so did God. That is all that matters. So many people have asked me how do you know what to do when life is so tough you can't seem to breathe. My answer always remains the same, "Lean on God and when His answer is all that matters then you know." (That goes for anything we do in life.) For me, this means seeking God and not everyone else's thoughts. When we concentrate on what everyone else thinks about our life we begin living for man and not God. There comes a time when boundaries must be set and decisions made. I knew I had to live with my decisions. I just prayed for protection for me and my kids and let God take care of the rest.

You are probably asking how will my experiences help you? I hope you will see how difficulty doesn't always mean defeat. The past year (June 2018) has been the hardest in this newfound life of mine. I realized my marriage could never be restored. I also woke up and decided to look at my finances and they were a MESS!! I took chances in my career and got into the world of dating. I could say all of these things were failures, but they weren't at all. They were lessons on trusting God. Looking back I feel like God placed me on my own two feet and said, "Ok it's time for you to walk on your own. I am right here beside you, but I am not going to carry you anymore." I felt this way when my mom died and when I was going through chemo. God carries us in difficult times, just like we carry our children. As a parent, we know when it is time for our children to stand on their own and experience life on their own. We are always right there to help and protect, but we know they must experience life in order to learn.

June of last year until now has been a time of experiences and more learning, some I would rather not have experienced if I am being honest, but I know I will grow from them and hopefully through Christ help others grow too. Life isn't easy and living to impress and please others can complicate things even more. Being raw and taking chances to only be turned away can be tough too, but guess what with each rejection comes a time to reflect and learn. This year has been full of rejections professionally and personally, but with each one, God has given me the opportunity to learn and reflect.

Dear friend life is tough, God doesn't promise us a happily ever after on this earth. He promises us something SO much better!! Eternal life in Heaven! How much better can it get?

 Tomorrow I will share how through failures and defeat we can be stronger, more confident in Christ.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Faith in Dust: Detour

Faith in Dust: Detour: Have you ever been driving down the freeway enjoying the sunshine, maybe your favorite song is on the radio, and then traffic starts to slow...


Have you ever been driving down the freeway enjoying the sunshine, maybe your favorite song is on the radio, and then traffic starts to slow down? The next thing you know you have come to a complete standstill and your traffic app is telling you to take a detour, but you can't decide if you would rather sit in the traffic or take a chance on the detour. You are safe on the freeway. You know the way and you aren't in that big of a hurry to get where you are going, but you know the detour is the smart move and you do have obligations at your destination.

You decide to be listen to the traffic app and take the detour, only to find the way it's taking you is difficult and stressful. You are stressed to the max now. Anxiety level is at its highest and panic mode is getting ready to set in because now you are in unfamiliar territory. After what seems like forever you reach your destination. As you share the details of your journey, you reflect on the emotions you experienced on this detour, yet suddenly you start to see the beauty that surrounded you during the detour that you didn't see as you were driving through it.

Sound more familiar than you would like to admit? We encounter detours in our lives more times than we are comfortable with, but do we sit still where we are comfortable or do we take the detour? The detour is unknown and could be quite stressful, yet the detour can have beauty too.

When we are obedient to God we tend to encounter detours in our lives that help us to grow and be refined, but we must be willing to take them in order to grow. I experienced a recent detour and I can say without a doubt it was one of the most difficult detours I have had in a while, but one of the most rewarding. When we are walking through a detour it usually means we didn't choose this path in our lives.

 Google defines a detour as a long or roundabout route that is taken to avoid something or to visit somewhere along the way. My detour seems like a long route and it was truly taken to avoid something painful, but God had other intentions:) He used my detour to help refine me and remove my insecurities and self-doubt. I didn't even realize these impurities existed because I was avoiding the detour at all cost.

I sit back now and smile at how God maneuvered my detour. I went willingly but didn't realize it was a detour until I was smack in the middle of it. Yet through the process, I was able to self-reflect and spend countless hours talking to God about what He needed me to see. I was stressed beyond belief, felt some days were too difficult to bear and felt anxiety closing in on me. Day after day God revealed Himself in the scripture, devotions, sermons, and my prayer warriors. I stumbled many days, doubted His plan was the best, and honestly wanted to turn around and go back to where I was before the detour entered my life. That was NOT God's plan and he patiently waited on me to listen to Him.

I sat at a women's gathering recently listening to our speaker tell us to concentrate on now, not what we fully don't know about now, but just concentrate on now. Another words, don't question everything, just live in the moment. We have to praise God in the middle of our brokenness and then we witness the power of God when we are in the valley. God is not waiting in our strength, He's waiting on our surrender. I learned I had to surrender and stand firm in Him, not in my knowledge, but trusting His. I learned we can't go back because then we make things worse.

Detours usually aren't planned and even when they are the process isn't always easy, pretty, or admirable, yet when we step back and reflect on the view we realize the lessons were priceless. Just like the Bible speaks of the process of refining gold, God uses detours to refine us just like the gold. The process is difficult and painful but the impurities are skimmed off and we are purer in Him.

Don't avoid the detour, it might just be God's way of helping you skim off more impurities:) Praying for you my friend. Don't give up on God and don't think he's left you stranded on the side of the road. He is driving:) Just sit back and let Him guide you on the path. I promise the difficulty and pain will be worth it if you trust in Him one day you will know the full story.

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Faith or Fear?

Can we have faith, yet fear? Can we trust God, yet fear life? Can we be obedient in Christ, yet still fear? I have struggled with all of these questions and probably a hundred more in the past few weeks. Why am I fearful? What am I fearful of? Why? What? How? Questions, then answers, yet no peace in sight. I KNOW God has a plan for my life, but why am I so fearful? Isaiah 41:10 says, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

I have laid awake at night begging God to help me with these questions. I have dug into His word. I have listened to sermons, read devotions and Bible Studies, and prayed without ceasing. I am mentally and physically exhausted, but I know my God is with me. He is carrying me through this storm, and I am snuggling into Him and trusting Him. No one loves fear, no one embraces fear, but we all experience it. Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

 Fear is of the devil!! Yet, as humans, we give in to those voices, the enemy! I know I'm not alone out there. I have heard many of you voice your fears, post them on social media. You know the ones, right? You aren't good enough. You will never escape your past. You don't deserve happiness. You aren't pretty enough, skinny enough, rich enough, happy enough, have the best job, best house, best life. The list of fears and insecurities could go on and on forever because we place all these pressures on ourselves, allow our own insecurities to overcome us, and try to compare ourselves to others. Why? Why can't we just believe we are good enough and our past is our past, and we DO deserve happiness!!? We ARE beautiful! Our bodies are perfect in God's eyes! God provides for our needs! We can be happy! We can have the best life!

Guess what? If any of the things aren't the way we want them to be its OUR job to make them wonderful!! We can't sit around, compare, and sulk then expect things to change. Change is NEVER easy, but in order to grow, we MUST change. We must press in and be patient and listen to God. When we are prompted to move, we must be obedient and move. Ugh, I say that and know God is prompting me for more change and my flesh side just wants to go hide and cower, but my spiritual side knows the change will make me stronger and more equipped to serve Him.

I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I do feel like I should be. I think part of the process is learning and being a willing student. I am not perfect, but when someone asks me how I push through I have one word, God. I DON'T push through, He carries me, but I am willing and obedient to His will, no matter how painful or heartbreaking. I know His plan for me is much greater than mine. We can choose to cower, give into the enemy, live a life of flesh or we can stand tall, dive into His word, and tell the enemy to GET LOST!! We all have choices!!

Will you choose fear or faith? I know I choose faith every time and I will fight through fear with scripture and Godly people surrounding me and encouraging me! I pray you will do the same. My friend the walk can be brutal at times, but oh the outcome! I can feel the peace when I let myself feel the love God has for me. I become giddy! When I allow His love to pour over me I remember fear is a big fat liar and faith in the foundation that will give me peace and joy. We are all works in progress, but what beauty we gain when we are willing to walk through the fires to become more like Him.

I would love for you to leave a comment. I would love to pray for you! The comments section has been a pain. I pray I will receive what you send but know either way I am praying blessings of faith and no fear on each and every one of you!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Let Go and Let God!

*Not the post I intended to write today, but it's what God placed on my heart:) Praying if you are doubting or hurting today you will turn to God's word and trust Him! Let Go and Let God!

My Facebook post was only the beginning:)
Sitting here this morning soaking up God’s word and in awe of His love for me! So often I jump ahead of Him, take charge, try to reason or control my circumstances. Anyone who knows me is not surprised by that piece of information😜. But today I’m reminded again of letting go and letting God be in charge. Trust, a difficult action for me! 
If you are struggling with trust like me, just know God loves us more than we can imagine. It’s hard to trust because most of the time when we are trusting Him humans are involved in the mix. It’s hard to find the balance, but there’s something to Be still and know I’m God. I’m not always embracing my dust but I’m working on trusting Him to make it beautiful! I know His will for me is so much more beautiful than anything I could will for me. Today I’ll regroup and Let Go and Let God:))

Are you like me and often question God? I am the expert of this and not proud of it! Why do I doubt? Why do I often question His will and if it's the best for me? Why do I step in and try to take control? Because I AM HUMAN!! Those imperfections I talked about day one, they exist in ALL of us. Trouble is many of us don't take the time to self reflect and listen to God. Or in my case, I take the time and listen, but still question or take control. We don't trust Him completely and the enemy LOVES when he can find an open window to crawl through.

I have always been a take charge kind of girl. I was told if you want something done do it yourself. I'm not one to sit around and wait on others to do it for me. That can be a positive trait, but a taxing trait. Sometimes it is good to delegate or depend on others, but through life circumstances I allowed my mindset to be altered. I went from doing to surviving. Honestly, neither of these are good alone. We need balance. With maturity in our faith comes the balance. We should be able to rely on others, but we should never rely so much upon others that we feel so defeated our only purpose is to survive. We MUST trust God, but be able to trust ourselves and others too. When humans break our trust or we fail we find ourselves not trusting, sometimes we don't even trust God. We must remember God can ALWAYS be trusted, but we have to get out of the way to allow the trust to take place (speaking directly to myself right here:)).  Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." We don't have to understand we just have to trust. Boy, that is harder than it sounds!!

God can use our life experiences to guide us and help us grow, but we have to be alert and willing learners. (One I tend to trip on too often.) I get scared and stop trusting. I ask questions, lose focus. Each time I think I am standing on solid ground some slip up reminds me my foundation isn't as solid as it needs be. This is when we must re-evaluate and dig deeper into God's word and trust Him to guide us.

Since I have been prompted to begin this blog God has placed people in my life that have shared their personal journeys with me. If you think your struggles are like no one else's let me remind you that is NOT the case. The enemy wants you to think your failure, your defeat, your secret is like no one else's. He wants you to believe you are alone and cannot trust anymore.  IT"S A LIE!!!! I have a tribe of Godly people I know I can count on to pray for me and not be so quick to advise me. My advice is to get a Godly tribe, but don't make your tribe too large because truth gets confused with chaos (BTW social media is NOT the tribe I am talking about) Share your fears and burdens and ask for prayer! Don't be afraid to ask for prayer! Be specific and more than anything pray for God's will not your own!

In my time with God this morning I read something Beth More said in her study "Breaking Free" that resonated with me: "Like Peter on the mount of transfiguration, we're so caught up in the tabernacles we want to build that we sometimes miss a fresh revelation of God's glory right before our eyes." She went on to talk about sin leading to death or obedience leading to righteousness. I had to ask myself, "Am I concentrating so much on building something beautiful that I am missing the beauty found right in front of me?" "Am I sinning or being obedient?" Trust God and know that no matter your past or current circumstances He loves you and wants to guide you EVERY STEP of the way!

Comment below that you trusting God in your life or share a story or ask for prayer. We are one family in Christ!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Financial Fiasco Part 2

I had every intention of posting yesterday, but the enemy had other plans and I gave into the insecurities and self-doubt planted in my head. I allowed it. I even nurtured it and babied it! When you are getting closer to God the enemy presses in harder. He will try to take any happiness you have just to tear you down. Last night and this morning I prayed even harder, pressed in closer to Him, spent time this morning listening to an amazing sermon from Rick Warren from his Unshakable series, and listened to a very important person in my life. Thank the Lord the enemy is defeated once more:) The devil may try to get me down, but he will NEVER win!!

It is humbling how God places people in your life at exact moments for His purpose. This morning I learned of a precious person feeling completely defeated because of financial fiascos. This person is much older than me. Financial Fiascos do not target specific ages! I have never had more clarity in the purpose of these posts than today. (The enemy may have tried to stop me yesterday, but God had a purpose for today.)

You see financial fiascos are temporary. They don't define me or you. Oh they will try and I have fallen into the trap of thinking there is no way out, but I know with God all things are possible! 

I sit here in the sun by the pool at the beach house we rent each year writing this. (I am sure many will think, aren't you in debt? How are you paying for a beach vacation? Shouldn't you be using that money to pay down your debt?) Well yes, I am in debt, I paid cash (from my tax return) for the house, and I could pay down my debt with the money, but I have a VERY different outlook on debt and getting out of debt than most. AND I won't apologize for it either!

You see my dad worked 6 days a week for more than 35 years to make our dreams come true. My mom always wanted a beach house. They were one step away from acquiring that dream and she was diagnosed with cancer again and lived 3 weeks. I learned at that very moment you are not promised tomorrow. The very weekend she passed we were supposed to be heading to the beach to see this house she wanted. My Jackson was 4 weeks old. She had bought him his first beach trip book from Pottery Barn for us to record his trip. That trip never happened. 

Fast forward one year and dad was diagnosed with cancer. His surgery was successful and his chemo cured him. Then 2010 comes around and I was diagnosed with cancer. My babies were in Kindergarten and 4th grade. I KNOW what living each day to the fullest is ALL about!! Yes I want out of debt and I have goals, but I also want memories. If I die today, my debt is paid off immediately with life insurance, but guess what if I live every second of everyday stressing over my debt, not living, but only working to eliminate it, what have I gained? No debt, miserable life, and NO memories! My family memories are what gets me through days I miss my mom so bad I can't breathe. Memories I have made with my kids reassure me I am ok and living. 

No matter what, if it's God's will and I am a good steward of His gifts He will help me accomplish my goals. I explained to a co-worker last week my thoughts. If I work 6 plus days a week and go or do nothing extra I will be debt free sooner, but at whose expense. My kids didn't sign up for our situation and I will not take away our memories because I didn't live the way I should have the past 4 years. I am a very frugal person by nature now. I have been for many years. I fell off that wagon, but I know how to get back up and try to fix it. Will it be easy? NO! Will there be days when I think I am going to drown? YES! But With God ALL Things ARE Possible! I will hold onto that truth and live my life to the fullest, making beautiful memories EVERY step of the way. 

My McCall will be graduating this year. This season of our life is near completion and a new season is beginning. I won't have this week with her again for a VERY long time, if ever. I will cherish every memory. Praying time slows down just for a week:) 

I am NOT saying or promoting to live like crazy, spend freely, and worry about the consequences later!! Live frugal, know when a memory is more important than a debt, and pay cash!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Financial Fiascos

Have you ever just felt God push you? I mean literally, I feel like a scared little girl about to go out on stage in front of 100,000 people and tell my most embarrassing secret all the while saying, "No! I can't do this!" As God is behind me pushing me and saying, "Yes you can, remember I am right beside you." I have tried every way in the world to get out of this post. I have even had 10 other ideas of a post I should make:) God doesn't like my sense of humor I assure you. I can feel His convictions. As nervous as I am of admitting my biggest shortcoming I know this set of posts will be the ones that many people will be able to relate to on various levels. 

I would love to say I have never had financial fiascos until my divorce, but that would be a lie, denial on my end. I lived a VERY blessed childhood. I don't regret a second of it, nor do I blame anyone for my shortcomings, but I will say there is something to teaching your child financial responsibility no matter how difficult they make your life. I was given much as a child and young adult, all out of great love. The only problem was when I became an adult on my own I had no idea what a budget meant or how to live within my means. My 20s was not some of my best years financially, but after hard lessons, I went into my 30s completely debt free. I took Crown Financial and Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace class and learned how to finally budget and live within my means. 

Then life happened and well as the saying goes, I fell off the wagon! Big Time!! The past 4 years I have lived in a tunnel; I believe that would be the word for my state of being, but I have lived life to the fullest, made some amazing memories with my kids, and accumulated plenty of debt. When things finally came to a head last summer and I realized my life would never be what it once was and no amount of going, spending, or denial would change that. I practiced adulting (yes it's hard to adult sometimes:)) and went to a counselor. I needed to admit my shortcomings and get advice. 

My counselor is amazing! Can I just say everyone should have someone neutral to talk to! I have learned SO much about me in the past 10 months. The one thing I have learned in this entire process is to accept your mistakes and then set realistic goals to correct the mistakes. I knew my process wouldn't be an easy one and I had to hit rock bottom before I could rise up and re-build. November was my flat on your face, can't breathe month. I honestly thought there was no recovery from my bad decisions. It took me 6 months to get up the nerve to even add up my debt! I was that scared of facing reality!! My counselor was very patient with me and gave me baby steps each month to get me to where I needed to be.

Then an amazing thing happened!! My next session we discussed how to accept my mistakes, take responsibility for them and correct them. Not making excuses, but accepting it. I couldn't continue to live in my tunnel and I had to get my act together! It has been one of the most painful and beautiful processes I have ever encountered. Mostly because for the first time in my life I am depending on God and my faithfulness in Him to take each step. No bailing out! Oh, I can't say I didn't ask and the best gift my dad ever gave me was the answer no. The crazy thing was before I even had an answer God spoke to me that day. (Yes call me crazy, but I have conversations with God often.) He asked me did I trust Him. I said yes of course I do and He said your dad isn't going to help you, but I will be here with you every step of the way. I knew my head was saying this is too much for me, but my heart was saying God is going before you.  Y'all my daddy has never told me no when I have really needed something, so I really thought I was not hearing God right. (Can I just say the pain on my dad's face when he told me no was enough to break my heart. He was heartbroken to say I had to do this on my own.) The peace I had was CRAZY and when dad started talking I was completely calm, no fear because I knew this time I had to figure out my crazy mess myself. Don't get me wrong, my dad came back later to say he would do whatever he could to guide me, but right now I knew I needed to lean on God. 

This journey won't end soon, my realistic goal is by the age of 50 I will be debt free. I am praying it will be sooner with hard work and discipline. The amazing thing is I will be completely debt free at the age of 50! 

I post this to say, we ALL have our fiascos! Mine is finances. Yours may be financial or maybe alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc. You are not alone and you don't need to feel alone. We are in this life to build each other up and pray for one another. I don't have all the answers, but you better believe my tribe includes a dear friend who rocks Financial Peace and she keeps me in check. You may not feel led to share your story on a blog, but share your story. You will be amazed at the blessing and freedom you will receive. I know the more I share of this journey the more healing I will experience. 

This was in my reading today and I thought it was a perfect verse for this post:)

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 New International Version (NIV)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Imperfections Galore!

We all have them, imperfections that is, and we all tend to concentrate more on them than the beauty we have been given. I was prompted to create this blog in December. I have prayed about it for months now. Each time getting a knot in my stomach at the prospect of sharing my imperfections with others.

God, I can't do this! What will I say? How will I put my faults out there for others to read? How can my imperfections help others? I don't have the words. I am not capable. You name it and I came up with the excuse.

God has sent numerous people, devotions, sermons, and scriptures in my life the past 2 1/2 months to push me in this direction. Yes, I tend to be a little hard headed! My counselor (if you don't have one you need one) put it in black and white for me a few weeks ago. He said, "Is this your blog or God's blog?" Wow!! Was I again making this about me? Yes, I was! Then this past Thursday a sweet friend came up to me on a field trip with tears in her eyes telling me how a post I had written on Facebook was exactly what she needed at the exact time she read it. A tear slid down my face because I knew I was not being obedient to God's will in my life. My imperfections had helped her. If only I could get past me and to Him I knew this blog would happen.

 I am me, full of imperfections, shortcomings, and disappointments, but to Him, I am worthy, beautiful, and His. He doesn't see them as imperfections at all. Wow, what a relief! I can only pray each post will brighten your day, make you feel worthy of your calling on this beautiful planet we call Earth, but most of all I pray you will feel His love rain down on you.

 Yes, we all have imperfections galore, but we can choose to hide them or allow God to use them, find the beauty in them. I invite you to gladly allow Him to use them to bring others to Him! May your imperfections shine for His glory!