Friday, March 28, 2014

What Scares you?

What scares you? Is it a fear of spiders, heights, snakes...? There are so many phobias these days. I have been trying to identify things that hold me back so I can break through in those areas and grow. Y'all know that growth isn't comfortable, right? The only way we can grow is by stretching ourselves and by doing things that make us uncomfortable. 

Ok, I'm going to be really honest with y'all here. You want to know what really scares me?? Meet ups with other women one on one scare me. Now, this hasn't always been the case. It's just been the last few years after a few women who I loved dearly hurt me deeply. I just started backing off from really allowing myself to be vulnerable.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not one of those women who hates other women. I love women in groups. I love teaching women. It's the one on one, sitting totally by myself in a coffee shop that gets my nerves a little rattled. 

So, what am I doing with this fear? After some months of contemplation. I am facing this fear head-on. I have at least one, sometimes two coffee dates a week planned for the next few weeks. I have realized that it is time to make myself vulnerable and let other women in again.

What scares you? What are some things you have been afraid to do? Let's face these things together. You can do it!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Family Planning

It's such an amazing thought that I get to spend the rest of my life with my three favorite people on the planet. Derek and I recently celebrated 18 years of marital bliss! Our sweet Caroline is 16 and Kate is 7. There is not one aspect of my family that has turned out the way I thought that it would. We all grow up with preconceived ideas about what our lives will look like. I have yet to meet a single person who's life looks exactly how they thought it would look.

We'll start with Derek. Derek and I met and married in 5 months! Crazy, I know. I had always thought that you needed to date for at least a year and then be engaged for around 6 months. Well, Derek and I were talking about marriage on our third date! Another aspect that was unplanned was the fact that Derek had been married before me. His first wife was killed three years before we met when they were hit head-on by a drunk driver. She was seven months pregnant. Wow, that's a lot to take in for a 23 year old girl who had spent years praying for her husband, thinking we would experience all kinds of firsts together. Scratch that. When I first heard about Derek's story, I initially wrote him off, thinking that the man God had set out for me to marry would not have been married before - that was NOT part of the plan. After meeting Derek, I realized that he wasn't holding onto his past and wasn't full of baggage.

Fast forward to our first year in marriage. We found out we were expecting our first baby on our one year anniversary. There were not major issues, just major morning, afternoon and evening sickness. Caroline was born on Oct. 31st and appeared perfectly healthy. It wasn't until her four month check-up that we realized she had a heart murmur. We were referred to a pediatric cardiologist where we learned that Caroline had a hole in her heart. We were devastated, our precious baby had a heart defect. We were told that it wouldn't have a major impact on her life; she just wouldn't be able to participate in sports and would be prone to sickness. The doctor said that in some instances the hole grows together but that wasn't likely. Well, that's all we needed to stir up hope. We prayed that when we went back for her one year check up, the hole would be gone. Guess what? We went in at one year, she got hooked up to the various machines and low and behold, the doctor comes back and tells us that the hole had grown together and there would be no issues!! Thank you, Jesus.

Then years go by, all my friends who had babies around the same time I did were beginning to have their second child. I kept waiting and waiting for our second baby, because the plan was to have 3 children two and a half years apart. Well, month after month of disappointment, I began to give up hope. I told myself that one amazing child was enough, we didn't need any more. I kind of got to the place where I was numb because it hurt too much to keep hoping, month after month. 

It wasn't until my youngest brother had a baby that the desire began to grow again. One night in worship, after watching Derek carry our niece, I broke. I wept and got honest with God telling Him that I wanted another baby. Weeks later, I took a pregnancy test and sure enough, I was pregnant! November 22nd, sweet baby Kate was born, seven years after we started trying.

I told y'all this to encourage you that just because things don't work out the way you have planned or prayed doesn't mean that it's going to be second best. Many times we have faith in our plan, and our faith has to be in The Planner. Habakkuk 2:3 (NLT) "The vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What are You Leaving Behind?

When I ask the question, "What are you leaving behind?" I am not referring to your last will and testament. I am talking about when you enter a room, a conversation, do you leave people in better spirits or worse? I believe that our words are powerful. Think about when someone said something encouraging to you, it lifted your spirits, didn't it? On the other hand, when someone has said something hurtful, it could leave a mark for some time.

Being one of six children, I was always fighting to be heard. I have always loved to talk. My friends have always known that something is wrong when I am quiet! During family dinners growing up, my parents always told me to "practice the art of silence." This one never really stuck. Due to my gift of gab, I have often said things without thinking. For example, when my sister-in-law had her very first baby, I went to visit her in the hospital. Her baby looked like all newborns, bald and squishy, but to the mother, she was beautiful. Well, trying to help, I told here that when Elyse turns about 9 months old and gets some hair, she will just be the cutest thing! What was I thinking?!? Well, it is one thing to think this way, but a whole other thing to actually let those words come out of my mouth. 

One day, I came across Ephesians 4:29 in the Message paraphrase, it says "say only what helps, each word a gift." Whoa, this verse hit me right between the eyes. I know that the only way I can do this is through the help of the Holy Spirit. I am constantly asking God to help make every word that comes from my mouth a gift. I hope that after people spend time with me they leave encouraged, hopeful and just better off. What mark do you want to leave on people? Let's be very aware of the words that we are speaking over each other.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

No Disappointment Here

For far too long I felt like I was a huge disappointment to God, that I was constantly letting Him down. I grew up with three brothers who always picked on me, not that I am blaming them for my disfunction.  I just always felt like a screw-up. I was anything but graceful. I have so many scars on my knees from constantly falling down, that a guy in college asked me if I’d ever had knee surgery! I chipped my teeth, broke my arm, busted my lip and head on various occasions. I'm sure I kept my mother on her knees!

When I would pray, I felt like God saw me as a screw-up. I was trapped by this thinking for
many years, until I studied Romans 3:23-24 which says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard (we all hear this a lot) YET God, (don't you love the yet God parts) with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”

God declares us as righteous, not because of what we have done, but because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. When God looks at us, He sees us through the blood of Jesus. He did this out of love for us, not because of anything we did to earn it. 

Not only is God not disappointed in us, we are pleasing to Him. Have you ever had the thought, "God loves me, but I'm pretty sure He doesn't like me." Well, there is no Scripture to back up that line of thinking. You're believing a lie. Sorry to sound so harsh - it's just the truth!

Ephesians 1:5 says, "God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure." God takes pleasure in being in relationship with you. He takes pleasure in calling you His own. What an amazing concept.

The reason God sent Jesus was because He wanted to be in a relationship with us. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says, “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”

Reconcile means to restore a friendship, to cause people to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement. God went through great lengths to restore His relationship with mankind. God is not mad at you and He is not holding your sins against you. Receive the Father's love - that requires faith!

That is such an amazing truth, that God is no longer counting our sins against us. If God isn't bringing up all the messes we have made, then we need to let ourselves go and walk free. God is not disappointed in you. He loves you just as much as He loves Jesus - let that sink in for a few minutes :)