About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a full time working mom, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a breast cancer survivor of almost a decade and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Life Lesson #147 ~ Where You Are

"You own the skies and still You want my heart." ~ Unknown

I often find myself wondering why God has placed me where I am. I mean who am I to be a witness or give testimony of His grace? And yet it is He who has set my heart on fire and shown me mercy in spite of myself. I think sometimes if He hadn't chosen me before I was born, He might not have done so after wards. But I think that is the way many of us think, as if we're not ever good enough. But the truth is we're all sinners, not one of us is perfect and if that was a deal breaker than God wouldn't have provided forgiveness. He wouldn't have sent His Son, paving a  way for us to find redemption or for that matter shown us mercy and given us grace. I like how C. S. Lewis puts it, "I would rather be what God chose to make me then the most perfect person I can think of; for to have been thought about, born in God's thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing ever."

Galatians 1:15 says, " For even before I was born, God had chosen me to be his and called me—what kindness and grace." And by His grace I have been given a wide canvas, filled with His glorious brush strokes. No matter what I have been through or what I have endured, it  doesn't even matter by who's hand, my Father has never let go of mine. My feet are planted, my heart is sound and my spirit is content right where I am. I may not be where His plans are yet to take me but I am right where I need to be in this very moment. I will not tell you life is easy, because it is most certainly not. I mean my life is absolutely an example of that. Cancer, the loss of my breast, type 1 diabetes, a stroke, RA, auto-immune diseases out the wazoo and a dozen other medical issues on my plate spells out difficult in capital letters. But I am not bitter and I do not resent my life or the journey it's taken me on. What I know is this: Life is an amazing journey even through the pain and uncertainty and I'll tell you why. All those dark nights, all the pain and suffering led me to new tomorrows and when the sun rose I was free. The Son took my hand leading me to where I am today. Even though He knew all I would do, the good and the bad and who I would become He still took my hand. And yes yesterday, today and tomorrow "I choose Jesus, the One who first chose me." The love of Christ, is not only mine but resonates  throughout my life, even as the sinner that I am. By His grace, I am aware just as curiano.com speaks of, "Inside me is a weak heart but behind it, is a strong God."

My hope is secured, my faith unshakable and my eyes set on my Father. Why you ask, seriously how can I be so sure, undeterred in my belief in a God I cannot see? I'll tell you, because He has never failed me, not even in my darkest hour. I'm here, my  feet planted firmly, assured I am a daughter of the King, adopted by grace and given a new name and a place within His kingdom all by His love and mercy. Jesus speaks to us of this in John 15:16. He doesn't mince words either as He speaks, assuring us, "I chose you. I wanted you. I appointed you. I set you where you are." Did you hear that? We are chosen, wanted and set where we are with purpose! See life may not always take us where we want to go, but God always takes us were we need to go. Unashamed Impact puts it this way, "Sometimes you think you're being buried when you're really being planted. God is using this season to grow you."

Jesus, He's my great deliverer and His Father is mine too. I trust Him, right where I am. My life, it's a testament of my Father's grace, mercy and unconditional love poured out over the last four decades of my life. Nothing in my life has been wasted, all my broken pieces have been put back together in ways I could never have imagined. Forgiveness and grace are mine to give because Jesus offered them to me when I least deserved either one. In spite of my past, of my scars and any current or future circumstances I am saved by grace, sealed and delivered into the arms of my Father. "I am chosen, blessed, adopted, forgiven, redeemed and accepted." I'm a child of God, grafted into His family. Isaiah 62:3 reassures me of this, "You’ll get a brand-new name straight from the mouth of God. You’ll be a stunning crown in the palm of God’s hand, a jeweled gold cup held high in the hand of your God. Even with my dying breath, I will praise the God who first loved me. Today, I know no matter where  I am, I am right where He needs me to be. And that is really the core of Life Lesson #147 ~ Where You Are. We are all on different journeys, and we all are led in different directions, but the thread that ties us together is this truth found in Ephesians1:4, "You are chosen and loved."

"It feels good to be lost in the right direction." ~ Unknown


Friday, April 21, 2017

Life Lesson 146 ~ Family Leadership

"Christ is the head of our house, The unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation."  ~ Unknown

When you think of leadership what comes to mind? The leader of a country, a sports figure, maybe it's a job title or a position? So how often does the word family come to mind when we think of leadership? Probably not as much as it should right?. I mean someone has to be the leader, guiding and steering our families through adversity and hardship right? What about our dreams or our efforts and accomplishments, who spearheads those endeavors? There's usually someone behind us or beside us rallying, lifting us up and motivating each of us to push past what we see as our limits right? In every family there's at least one person who takes the reins.  That's leadership...where the buck stops, the fault lands and the liability for all decisions good or bad when push comes to shove. Now that said leadership can be in a more traditional sense where the father is the head of the household or it can land anywhere in-between as well. Now before anyone gets themselves in a tizzy or has a conniption fit as we say down here in the South, let me be clear what I'm talkin' about. If we are being honest with our reality today examining family leadership, we know it can come to us in many ways.. as a single mom guiding her children or it can be much like our home where we lead together as a unit, as a united, unified team. As parents, as a husband and a wife raising our boys Johnny and I have had to learn together,  "a true leader is one who is humble enough to admit their mistakes." And let me tell you, we have made our share of those along the way. If either one of us were to tell you we were perfect, rather than fair to middlin', that we hadn't made our share of mistakes or a bad decision a time or two or hundred during our 20 years as parents, then I've absolutely got a bridge to sell you. The honest -to- goodness truth about being a leader as odb.org states, especially in a family is knowing "a good leader is a good servant."

I can tell you Johnny and I know without a doubt our leadership training has come on the job. Nothing about being a parent is easy. Well that's not necessarily true. There is one exception to that rule. And what is this one deviation you ask? Well we've found it's in the way we love our children completely and unconditionally as parents. The reality in being a mom and dad, as leaders of our family is we have to understand a few simple truths. The first one is in exercising our humility not as the 'the boss' but as servants.. I personally love the way Higher Perspective imparts the differences between being a leader and a boss to us. "A boss: demands, relies on authority, issues ultimatums, says, "I", uses people, takes credit, places blame, says, "go",  and last ,my way is the only way. A Leader : coaches, relies on goodwill, generates enthusiasm, says, "we", develops people, gives credit, accepts blame, says, "let's go", realizes there's strength in unity."  This kinda reminds me of Philippians 2:3-4, " Don't act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves. Don't be concerned only about your own interests. but also be concerned about the interests of others." You see as parents, the responsibility to lead our children comes to us.  We are accountable to God for how we instruct and prepare our children. As husbands and wives our job is to put God first, and in doing that our family thrives. True to the point, as Donald Walters states, "Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance."

Leading our families, is not an easy task, and anyone who says it is, needs a reality check. In a world of social media, easy access to anything and everyone how do we lead by example without falling flat on our faces? It was hard enough on our parents and grandparents, but the world we live in today more than challenges our ability as parents to lead our families. I think more than ever before we have to be willing to allow our kids to be themselves. We're not here to produce little carbon copies of ourselves or followers, no we're charged with raising our children to be leaders in their own right. As parents and as a team leading our family together Johnny and I have done our best to model what Marvin J. Ashton speaks of. "Be one who nurtures and builds. Be one who has an understanding and forgiving heart. Who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them." The thing Johnny and I have learned, is our children already have greatness in them. God put it there. It's not our job to carve it out of them, to make them great or noteworthy. No it's our responsibility to simply help drawl that same God given greatness out of them. It's funny so many times through the years we've been told we have amazing kids, how strong, kind and genuine they are. And  yes as amazing as that is to hear, Johnny and I know it's not because of anything we have done, but what God has done through us. See as parents and partners in the raising of our children it's our job to encourage, them not to withhold it just because they're different from us. It's just not all about us as parents, and it's not a my way or the highway mentality either. Discipline yes, rules absolutely, but a dictatorship, no. Our roles as leaders are to bring the best out in those we love, and in this case our children. It's not to have them fearing for or questioning our love for them. We can be proud of our kids, but it's not our job to ride their coat tales. What I know from experience is this: Parents who lead with love and direction aren't the ones clipping their kids wings but providing them a runway to take off from. These kind of parents lead in life and in their families but they don't take credit for talents, abilities and achievements that aren't theirs. They simply provide the means for their children to get there. Bottom line, parent leadership isn't just a title or a position Being a real family leader means we lead with humility, and we don't take credit for things we didn't do alone.

"The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold but not bully; be thoughtful but not lazy; be humble but not timid; be proud but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly." (Jim Rohn) This is honestly one of the best paraphrased versions of Ephesians 6:4 I can think of.  It says this, "Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master." And what we as parents need to understand is our children have been given to us for a short time. In those years we have to learn not only to trust them but to learn to trust God as well. Leading means trusting. The reality is we may not always agree with everything our kids believe, how they think or what they do but that's the beauty of trust. If you trust that you've done your part, showed them the way, guided and encouraged them, and given your children the right tools, they will succeed. The other side of trust is this, if we believe the Word of God to be true, then we have no other choice but to trust Him. Doesn't matter which path they take if you have raised them and led them with love and humility, then you have nothing to fear. Proverbs 22:6 reminds us of this, point your kids in the right direction --- when they're old they won't be lost."

 As I say often to my family, "What's comin' will come and we'll meet it when it does." That's how I see life, and the truth of leadership. We can spend our days fretting or we can spend them trusting the One who has already led and prepared the way. The truth is Life Lesson #146 ~ Family Leadership, is not about me, or my husband, it's not even about our children and all they have planned. No, today's life lesson is solely about the One who was led to the Cross and then led us to His Father's saving grace. I'm thankful for the ability not only to lead but to serve my family with my husband, by his side.  I encourage you to take these words with you as you go today from Psalms 25: 5. This scripture is where my hope and my heart are grounded daily. "Take me by the hand; Lead me down the path of truth. You are my Savior , aren't You?" My Savior indeed.

"Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence." ~ Sheryl Sandberg


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Life Lesson #145 ~ Be Curious

"I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells." ~ Dr. Seuss

I have always been a curious soul. As a little girl I was inherently curious, inquisitive and filled with an imagination that took me on adventures like none you have ever seen. I loved to play dress up, the wilder, the more peculiar and unusual the better. I loved to sing out loud, at the top of my lungs even if I was off tune. I told bed time stories to my parents. I'd take them on my many wild, crazy and unexpected adventures right before night time prayers, ready to sail off into my dreams. I guess you could say I'm weird, odd, off beat, and very unconventional. But I like it that way. Walt Disney once said, "We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things because we're curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." I think this is why I fell in love with his world and why his world became part of mine as a little girl. I guess when it comes down to it, I was quirky, a bit zany and long before it was cool to be different I believed, "If you live your life true to yourself and not the way others expect you to...you will live your life happy and regrets will be few."

Till this day I am still a very unique and rare bird if you'd like to put it in those terms. As an adult, even as a mother and a wife I'm very much a curious spirit. Not in the get into trouble kind of way or the type of curiosity that leads down paths of darkness. No I am talking about the kind of curiosity that lights our path. Honestly because of this curious nature of mine my life has become transformed, from the inside out and nothing about me is normal in the world's definition of it. I'm predictable until I don't want to be anymore. I can be completely spontaneous,  and still wait my turn on the carousel. I won't deny I'm still abandoned with desire to chase the wind, to find adventure and play on this playground we call life. I still love dressing up, going out at midnight and eating cotton candy for no other reason than turning my tongue brilliant shades of pink and blue. You see, I learned long ago, "the world of reality has it's limits but the world of imagination is boundless." I'm not a woman to be explained. I have no rhyme or reason for the way I am, I'm just myself, no apologies. I live my life passionately, full of joy, sadness, messy hair, bare feet and lots of controlled chaos. I'm a free spirit, a curious soul with an adventurous heart always ready for the ride. My hubby, he knows this about me. He loves this about me. He's never sought to change me, to clip my wings or control my chaos. He simply sits back and enjoys the ride with me. From the time we met, he's called me his goof. He loves my laughter, the way my eyes light up when I get excited and inevitably gets annoyed with my need to talk during a TV show. Yet he always, always takes the adventures with me no matter where they may lead.  From the moment our lips first met, Johnny understood this about me, "From the chaos of her soul there flowed beauty." (Louise Alexandra Erskine) And he still does.

The Scarecrow in the Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum, couldn't be any wiser  than when he says, "I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones." And so I believe with all my heart as long as we're truly being ourselves, we are among the usual. And so in a world of ordinary, cookie cutter, perfectly ideal minded people I'm blessed to have a husband who isn't perfect. I know that sounds surprising right? Maybe a bit strange, odd or curious too? Absolutely it is, and I wouldn't want it any other way. Why, well because it's what makes life interesting and extraordinary. We fit each other like a glove yes, but some days they're miss-matched and that's fine by me. We both bring something unique, unsurpassed and unrivaled to our marriage. Me with my curious nature and Johnny with his ability to steer me through my world of curiosities makes for a happily imperfect life together. I love this about him, the way he can jump in with me, being there with me, a part of my strange little world without trying to change it.  In the last year, our life has come full circle and in that we have too. I'm free to be me, he's free to be himself. Just the way we were last night under the big tent of Kurious.

So in sharing Life Lesson #145 ~ Be Curious, I want to encourage you to believe in yourself, to "Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell not stuff to show." This is the greatest lesson my parents could have ever taught me. And now it's my turn to be the same example to my boys. After all they say blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures. I know this to be true, for my life has been an adventure beyond my imagination. I haven't climbed mountains, or met Kings and Queens but I have known an extraordinary love. I've been saved by a grace deeper than the ocean, shown mercy beyond anything I deserve and lived a life fuller than  I could have ever hoped for. By God's grace, I've felt the kiss of curiosity across my soul and seen the dreams of my childhood become a reality. But only because I've never stopped believing anything other than what scripture tells me in Romans 12:2, "Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it." See He made me the way I am, different, curious, a free spirit with a wild imagination and ready for my next adventure. Much like Princess Diana once said, "I like to be a free spirit. Some people don't like that, but that's the way I am." And the truth is anyone, me and you, we can do great things. Doesn't matter if it's as King, a Queen, as a princess, a daughter of the King or simply the court jester.  If you are truly yourself, nonsense and all you are rare indeed.

"Do not chase another human being. Instead, chase your curiosity. Chase your development and your goals. chase your passion. Strive to work for something bigger than yourself, and instead of trying to convince someone that you fit into their world --- build your own." ~ B.A.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Life Lesson #144 ~ Three Days

"A lot can happen in three days."   ~ Anonymous

I think of this saying a lot when I evaluate my life. I mean, from day to day a lot happens doesn't it? One day you're living happily, cancer free and the next, you're fighting for your life with a cancer diagnosis nipping at your heels. Life happens that fast and change comes in the blink of an eye. A key note from 'Fallen' explains it this way, "There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts ~ before this, and after this.  I don't know about you but I have many divided parts of my life. We all do. From wonderful moments such as saying I do, becoming a parent, graduating or getting the news you're cancer free to darker, more troublesome moments as we let go of toxic relationships, lose a job or sit down for our first of many chemo treatments. What I've learned through the years, is something Curiano Quotes Life resounds beautifully, "Some of the best life lessons were learned at the worst times."

I'm a woman of faith, I have never hidden this fact and I never will. I've not pushed my beliefs on anyone, but neither will I hide my relationship with Jesus Christ. He is my reason for hope. He has given me strength even when I've been at my weakest. He's never failed me, even when I've failed Him. And thinking of the third day, I'm sure as Jesus hung from the cross He had plenty of time to think about how much his life had changed in just three days. Still He stayed the course. Jesus, He was our offering. He gave His life for ours and He taught us by His own example, "Time doesn't heal all wounds, God does." How many times do we say a lot can happen in a year, a month or a week? But how many times as believers do we think about how things actually changed for us in those 3 days between the death of Christ and His resurrection? The truth is, a lot changed. Reading of how He died, understanding the cruelty of crucifixion we learn about a truth many times forgotten, "No one heals themselves by wounding another." He most certainly could have broken His own chains, brought down the armies of Heaven, striking His tormentors down, but He didn't, He broke our chains instead. Jesus chose to love us unconditionally, painful in the moment as it was. In His death those of us who believe He is our Savior are able to realize our freedom is found in His blood, in the laying down of His life. If not for His grace, we would come undone, dying from our own demise. If not for His sacrifice, we would not have the peace within we know today. See in those final moments on the cross Jesus taught us how to love, how to forgive and in His resurrection three days later He taught us how to live and how to rise from the ashes.

What I've come to understand through the testing of my faith, in the moments of heartache and of triumph is a simple truth,"Sometimes painful things can teach us lessons that we didn't think we needed to know." (Goodlifequotes) My life, it's not a picture perfect tapestry. It's more like a patch work of failures and victories. My story, is nothing more than a book full of revisions, edits, change and before and after. Three days can change so much, and I'm OK with that. John 13:7 tells me, "You don't understand now what I am doing but someday you will." And that is assurance enough for me. I don't get the whys many times. I get upset, and I may even get angry but I know my life is more than what I see. Everything broken in me, has been mended, by the Master Potter's hands. No matter what I go through, what is said about me, thought of me, I know who I am in Christ. I may want to go to war, put my battle armor on, take up my sword  because I have been wounded but "sometimes  I need to focus on the battle God wants to win in me more than the battle I want Him to win for me."  And that's the lesson I personally take away from the battle fought for our souls on the cross,  over two thousand years ago.

My hope is not in myself, or anyone else for that matter. My hope is solely in Jesus Christ and what He not only did for me but all He overcame for me in those three days. This is the thing when I see pain, He sees growth. When I see uncertainty, He sees possibilities beyond my imagination. When I feel disregarded or wounded, He is my refuge, my healing grace. Jesus taught us all something while hanging on that cross, and that's His love is greater than anything the devil can devise to besiege us with. What I see when I look to the cross, is love in it's purest form. Jesus surrendered yes but only to the will of His Father, not the enemy. This is what we need to understand: When life hands you lemons, when life gets complicated and folks repeatedly attack you, your character and your faith, remember what it is they're truly rattled by...His light within you. As Michael J. Fox is quoted as saying, "One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked but it can NEVER be taken away unless it is surrendered." This is what we have to remember when we're attacked by people, by illness or simply the ups and downs of this life,  take nothing personally, Jesus didn't. Instead He offered forgiveness.

This is the real life lesson we need to take away, though we fail at it miserably sometimes, "Life is passing and we never know when it ends, therefore, we must take care of it so when the owner takes away the life we borrowed, we will never be ashamed to give it back." And this is exactly how I see Life Lesson #144 ~ Three Days. So much can happen in three days, life, death and everything else in between, so what are you going to do with the days given to you? I am but a sinner, saved by grace, loved unconditionally and given a beautiful life in spite of all the pain, suffering and difficulties. You see I believe Jesus can do the same in my life, and in yours  as is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15:4, "He was buried and He was raised to life three days later." All it takes is three days...three days to rise from the ashes to life again. You just have to accept, "There isn't enough room in your mind for both worry and faith. You just need to decide which one will live there." ` Anonymous


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Life Lesson #143~ Closed Doors, New Thresholds

"Today is a perfect day for opening new doors." ` Anonymous

We talk so much about our past, the what could have been and the chapters we've left behind locked doors we often forget to focus on the new doorways waiting for us to unlock. We have this knack of collecting old keys and wearing them around our necks like chains. Maybe we think we'll get back one day, maybe we'll W-40 that lock and jimmy our way back through or maybe we just feel better knowing we have a link to all the doors we've passed through at one time or another. I don't really know, but what I do know is life is full of doors either we have closed or God has locked . Honestly many more times both of those statements are true. I think as human beings we just get stuck in-between doorways, caught between the past and present, one foot over the threshold while the other one's stuck on the doormat on the opposite side. The truth is many times God has already shown us the way, unlocked the doors in front of us but for whatever reason we're still banging on the one behind us. Joel Osteen, has some pretty good advice when it comes to these particular doors in our lives." Every unfair situation, every closed door isn't a setback. It's a setup for God to get you to where He wants you to be." I have to tell you I  can speak for me and my family without hesitation  when  I say we know a few things about doors. As for myself, God has not only closed some doors, He's bolted them shut tight and thrown away the key. That said, it seems pretty dramatic I know. But the reality is closed doors aren't something we should be apprehensive about. Honestly, we should "be thankful for closed doors, detours and roadblocks. They protect us from paths and places not meant for us."

Being the foolish mortal that I am (yes a bit of Haunted Mansion humor), I've spent too much time banging, pounding and trying to shake bolts loose from doors welded shut. What I 've learned in the process, with  bleeding hands full of splinters and bruises is the old German proverb is right, "Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is."  It's fear that keeps us from those open doors ahead of us. It's the fear of change continuing to push us back into those slammed, fastened shut doors again and again. I think sometimes we get so comfortable in our fear and misery that we just can't accept those doors are locked for our well-being,  Grace is a door, one offered to us at any time. The problem is too many times we can't grasp grace because we're too busy pulling splinters out of our hands. I love the way The Minds Journal puts it, "When a door closes, knock on it a few times. But when it doesn't open, let it stay closed. In career, in love, in LIFE---when you see the period at the end of a sentence, don't try and turn it into a comma. Know when some thing is over and move on." And that is why we struggle so much with grace. We're too  busy trying to open locked doors long after they've been sealed and barricaded shut. Now I know, it's not easy handing over the keys and walking away from our comfy zones. I like the familiar as much as anyone. But I have come to understand how important it is not just to let go but to walk forward into new beginnings.

Letting go of what we thought should be, or what was so important to us at one time is crucial to our growth and to becoming stronger, steady and forgiving people. Forgiveness is pivotal in our relationship with each other, ourselves and with Jesus Christ. After all it is the Son of God who forgave those who nailed Him to a cross. So how is it we struggle so much with forgiving a grudge or a wound we can't even remember the origin of?  Being afraid is natural. No one wants to be hurt, and no one wants to have to confront the pain of a closed door, especially when it comes to relationships or dreams we held close. But holding on to resentment, bitterness and outrage only brings more pain. Closing a door is not a sign of weakness, instead I like to think of it as an act of courage. Deuteronomy 31:8 tells us to be brave, to take courage and then goes on to say this, "God is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down, He won't leave you. Don't be intimidated. Don't worry." And this is exactly what the Lord has done in my life over the past 3 years. He has most definitely closed many doors, doors I fought to keep open. If not for the doors God in His wisdom shut, taking away the key from me and with Him I wouldn't have the peace, the joy and the strength I do today. See coming to a place where you can look upon a closed door, locks, chains and all and feel forgiveness in your heart means you've finally embraced mercy and grace. It speaks of closure in your life as you cross through the next open door waiting for you. The thing about closed doors is "Every single time. Whenever a door has closed behind me, God has ALWAYS led me to a better place --- a place I would have never have gone had it not been for a "closed door". Trust God. He simply longs to take you from good to best. Every single time." (Stacy L. Sanchez)

Holding on to our past, keeping old doors cracked open and holding onto rusty old keys we no longer need sets us up for missing opportunities God has for us. His grace, His mercy and His plans for us are all waiting just inside the door ahead. Sure that door ahead may seem immensely impossible, massive, even towering but "a very little key can open a very heavy door." All we have to do is trust our Father to open the door. I'm a living testament of this. If not for the struggles, the rejection and the pain of letting go of my own plans and of what I thought was my door, I wouldn't have found His resilience or my unique, independent spirit. Since He closed those doors behind me surrendering myself to His plans and letting Him walk me across new thresholds my life has become more than I could have ever imagined it would be. Today I have a much richer, fuller life. I'm content in the moment, in all I've been given, with what I have with those He's placed in my life. I'm married, happily to the love of my life. I've been given the blessing of two amazing young men who call me mom, parents who continue to offer me their love and wisdom and friends who not only share in life's humor with me but truly make me a better woman. Because some doors closed and others opened I'm teaching, writing with a deeper purpose than ever before and I'm living a balanced but active social life as I simply take one step at a time. I'm not discontent with the pieces of myself left behind or the parts of my life unknown to me yet. I'm not in a hurry to open doors yet unrevealed to me nor am I determined to keep revisiting those doors closed behind me. What I am is happy, content and satisfied with all the Lord has provided me with in the here and now. The doors behind me, are just that, behind me. The doors ahead of me may not be open quite yet but the door before me right now is wide open, just waiting for me to step through.

The truth I am speaking of in Life Lesson #143 ~ Closed Doors, New Thresholds is simply this, every ending brings a new beginning. As a Woman of Faith says so well, "When God gives you a new beginning, He starts with an ending. Be thankful for the closed doors. They often guide us to the right one.!" What I have found in my own life, from all my experiences combined is this: when I stop being so restless and discontent with my circumstances, trying to push open old doors to take a peak, I find real, honest to goodness joy and happiness. The truth I've come to know is that God will open new doors. When you're in doubt, trying to take back the keys and sticking your foot in the door God is closing remind yourself of what Revelation 3:8 says. "I've seen what you've done. Now see what I've done. I've opened a door before you that no one can slam shut."  And so I tell you today, from my heart, He alone is the opener of doors.  Jesus, my sweet Lord, He alone holds my life and my faith in Him  will continue to unlock all  the doors yet to come.

"You never know which door will lead you towards your dreams, until you have the courage to walk through it." ` The Light Workers Academy


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Life Lesson #142 ~ One Call Away

"There are some people who could hear you speak a thousand words and still not understand you. And there are others who will understand without you even speaking a word." ~ Anonymous

We all have a few, close friends we know we can count on. We may call them our brothers or sisters but the one thing we know DNA or not, they are only one call away in any situation. Anywhere we are in life,  no matter where we go we know they will be there too. When we think of these loved ones, we know their hearts and ours are aligned. They are very old friends much as rumi speaks of.  Be it 20 years or just a few months our hearts are entangled, connected and joined together. We are affixed be it spiritually, mentally, emotionally or physically. And for those few we hold closer than a brother or a sister, we are fused together by all four. For me personally, "I'm close to a very few people but those few people mean everything to me." See when you've got a close circle of friends you know you can count on to listen to you and not judge you,  to love you unconditionally becoming part of your spirit, you have found your tribe.

The thing about life, as I've said before is it's messy. Nothing about it is certain. And what is certain is it's covered in fingerprints, smudges and dirt from all the places and people we've  met. So when it comes to those I keep close, who know how my pieces actually fit together, those who I allow to leave permanent footprints in my life, I am guarded. The truth about me is, "I like messy people; people who don't fit in a box or stay between the lines but whose integrity is greater than any rule book and who's loyalty is stronger than blood." And by God's grace I have been afforded these beautiful people in my life. I know under any circumstance I can count on my tribe. Doesn't matter the time of day or night, if they're busy or not all I have to do is pick up the phone. These are the women I call friends, and family, those who call me sister and I them. My closest friend always says, "You are the sister I got to choose."  The truth is they are the sisters I've been given the choice to choose as well.  In life we often long for friendships like these, and  then by God's grace they seem to show up just when we need them the most. In my life, these women, they are the glue that many times holds me together. I can count on them to be honest with me, and not sugar coat the truth. I know when I am at my lowest, they will pick me up and when lost in a sea of worry they will anchor themselves to me, keeping me from going under. I also know just as they share in my sadness, they too share in my joy, my victories and in the pursuit of my hopes and dreams. When one succeeds we all do. The thing about  unconditional love is it doesn't compete with itself, and so by loving my sisters, and them me, we rejoice with one another in all our accomplishments. The truth is, "My sisters remind me, by their steadfastness, that truth, beauty and goodness exist in the world and that no matter what there are and always will be people loving people through thick and thin." This quote reminds me so much of what my parents said so many times as I was growing up, people helping people through Jesus and that my friends, is a gift we all need.

See our friends, those so close to us, and a part of our inner circle know us sometimes even better than we know ourselves. Because they have been hand picked by our Father, and given a glue stick to use as needed, we have assurance we can fall apart in front of them. If I am being completely transparent, there are very few people in this world I can wear my heart on my sleeve around, cry in front of or even allow the pieces of our my heart, spirit and soul to fall off in front of. Maybe the last few years have been hard on me, changed me, taught me to be more guarded but I am thankful for the change. Why, well because I've been put back together by the hands of a mighty and gracious God and those glues sticks He's put in the hands of my sisters well He's forged a completely new me.  The truth is while many may have an image of me, an idea of who I am only a few actually get to see the full picture.  In these last three years, I've started thinking much like CreativeMomista, "The older I get the more selective I am of who is in my tribe. I would rather have four quarters than a hundred pennies." And the truth is we all come to this place in our lives. Sure we are happy reminiscing on our past, the pieces that brought us happiness, or even taught us lessons necessary to our growth. But in time we learn to look past high school, our college years or even our beginnings and focus on the here and now, with those who are beside us, hand in hand. These are the moments where we find our focus and the people who are a vital part of our journey. These people are our glue sticks and they "make us hungry for life, touching our heart and nourishing our soul."

And this is really the heart of Life Lesson #142 ~ One Call Away. These women, my closest friends, confidants, my sisters of the heart are the ones I know without a doubt are only one call away at any given moment. They've taught me how to be openly myself, unashamed and content in how my Father's put me back together again, glue sticks and all. This tribe of mine, these women who are part of me, and I them, never fail to be an example of His grace, mercy and loving kindness in my life. When I think of them, I consider these words, "Beautiful is the woman who knows people, places and things don't define her. She is defined by her acts of kindness and a generous heart." And these very same women I call sisters, they are more than any words can define or describe. In closing, I am reminded of the loveliness and goodness of my tribe as I read Philippians 2: 1-4  out of The Message, "If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand." And these women, they are the very definition of this verse in my life .I'm so thankful for these Godly women's influence over my heart, ever ready with glue sticks in hand and at any moment always just one call away. I truly love you to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond.

"I'm just a call, a text or drive away from you. I'm always here." ~ Anonymous


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Life Lesson #141 ~ Game Changers

"Be a game changer. The world is full of game players." ~ Hugh Jackman

What I know about the game of life is that it's mostly a hot mess. I mean an absolute hotter than all get out kind of hot mess. Way too many players and not enough game changers in my book. Standing on top of the winner's podium means nothing if you had to  cheat or find a loop hole around the rules to get there. Being a player in the game of life, not a game changer, well it just leaves you with the kind of hot mess our mama's warned us about. I'm talking the kind that pulls you under on a hot summer day  in a swamp full of gators and leaches. the kind of predicament that pretty much leaves you a hot, slimy, sweaty kind of mess with nothing to show for it but mud on your face. I don't know about you, but I've had my share of those kind of days, months and even years. Going back into that hot mess is nowhere in my vocabulary, that's for sure. You can call me late for lunch any time if  you'd like, but playing the game of life under the guise of snatching the trophy at all costs isn't how I want to move my pink car along the board. The truth we all know is life's complicated. It's nothing like the board game we all played as children. As for myself, and my husband, "We're not here to play the game. We're here to change it." See playing the game only leads to disappointment, hurt and temporary happiness. What I can tell you after almost 21 years of marriage and two kids, the game of life isn't about how well you play the game, but how determined you are to change it.

Change is one of the most important game changers we can ever land on. Having our lives shaken up, and rearranged can actually benefit us more than we know. "Change is hard at first. messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end." At least that's what Robin Sharma says anyway. But you know what, I believe her. I look back on the last 3 years of my life, and I can see how trying to win at the game, to conform to the world's idea of happiness eventually made a play at stealing it from me. Part of the problem is we have this idea of the American dream, the perfect family and an image we hold onto. A picture perfect view of what the ideal game of life looks like, that we forget how to actually play together, for one another as a team. We tend to forget we can actually change the game, and not out of spite or selfishness but out of mercy and kindness. Not one of us is perfect, we have all sinned, failed and lost our way but the truth is as Richard Sibbes states, "There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us." Maybe, just maybe, this is the game changer we need.

When I see the life God has afforded me, I am awe struck. Nothing about me or the life I lead is perfect. I have been hurt, and I have hurt those I love by my own actions.  God Himself knows what Johnny and I have been through. Nothing has come easy, and each step we have taken since then has been met with intent and the need to protect our family and one another from those players looking to knock us off the board. See what we went through, it was a game changer. And the truth is, as game changers we hold to a mind-set that propels us forward, not backwards. We're in this together understanding more than ever,"Sometimes in the winds of change we find our greatest direction." In that change Johnny and I have found our strength, and we've found mercy, forgiveness and a saving grace only God the author of this game of life could ever offer. Today, our focus isn't on coming in first place. The truth is we may cross the finish line last but that's fine and dandy by us. See finding  happiness is not our focus, being happy is. Our life together has purpose and meaning. We may be moving slowly but we're moving all the same and in the right direction. I love my husband, after all I've called him the love of my life since I met him all those years ago. The truth is even though some have tried, even as the world has moved to separate us, what God has joined together, no man can divide. I am his and he is mine. We are nothing short of imperfect and flawed any day of the week. Still forgiveness, mercy and unconditional love are among our greatest prizes. You see, "From his rib I was created to always stand by his side. Traveling with him around the curves, along life's often bumpy ride. I will forever support him hand in hand through everything. And just like in the game of chess, the Queen always protects her King."

Johnny and I do not hold onto the past, carrying it around like a burlap sack or a crown of pride on our heads. We aren't holding or breathe waiting for the shoe to drop and we're not tied up in convincing ourselves or anyone else for that matter of our happiness. I believe with all my heart we have come to understand, "People get lost when they think of happiness as a destination. We're always thinking that someday we'll be happy; we'll get that car or that job or the person in our lives that'll fix everything. But happiness is a mood, and it's a condition, not a destination. It's like being tired or hungry, it's not permanent. It comes and goes, and that's OK. And I feel like if people thought of it that way, they'd find happiness more often." (One Tree Hill) And this is exactly why I needed to write, Life Lesson #141 ~ Game Changers...because being a player of the game, grabbing the brass ring and taking the winner's podium only leads to temporary happiness. On the other hand, being a game changer, well it opens a whole new mind set when it comes to being happy. So yes, Johnny and I have become game changers in this great big game of life. Not out of entitlement or self declaration but simply because we believe what Beth Moore does, "Faith is a game changer'. What we have now as a family, as a couple is faith in each other, in our life together and in the One who is ultimately the game changer in our lives, Jesus Christ. As Psalms 119:30 says, "I have chosen the life of faithfulness." And in those simple but powerful words,  we have become a family of game changers.

After all who really wants to end up in a hot, slimy swamp with mud on their face, looking like a hot mess? Just remember in this game of life, as you're fighting everyone else for the winner's rights, "You're only one decision away from a totally different life." ~Anonymous


Monday, April 3, 2017

Life Lesson #140 ~ There Once Was A Little Girl

"I often miss the little girl whose dreams had no barriers...Who believed in a world where anything is possible with a heart that was full and unbroken." ~ Anonymous

I don't know how things were when you were growing up or what you wanted to be or  even who you wanted to become. We're all so different with distinct ideas and dreams but we can probably agree on one thing, we saw the world through young, fresh, wide open, bold eyes.  I remember very clearly who I was as a child and who I wanted to be. Years later, the truth is life has turned me inside out and back again. Despite those disappointments I can still hear that same little girl inside me, yelling, "Hold on tight girl, we got this." Seriously, isn't it funny how we change and yet stay the same?  I am so much the little girl I once was and yet I have changed in more ways than I can count. The reality is I have grown through those changes and in growing I've become a much stronger, passionate and spirited woman than I could have ever dreamed I'd be. In finding my inner voice, my courage and determination as a young woman, through high school and beyond I've come into my own.  As the little girl looking back out through a woman's eyes today, I understand  R.H. Sin's words, "Her smile was like armor and everyday she went to war." Yes I have gone to war everyday but that is not where my story ends or even begins.

My story begins with love, hope and courage. Why those things, well because I was born out of all three. I was brought into this world, carved out and given life because of a purposeful deep unconditional love and the desire of my parents to have a child. Growing up I was given wings to fly and the ability to explore the world around me while keeping my feet firmly planted in Jesus. I was taught and given full freedom to be myself, to embrace everything that made me different and unique  but with humility. I was never afraid of rejection or fearful of who I could become one day because I was always safe, tucked away and wrapped inside the safe arms of my parents and Jesus Christ. Being different, standing out was not a curse, but a blessing in our home. I learned through watching my parents never to be afraid of being divergent. Instead I was more afraid of being the same as everyone else in a world full of hate, despair and cruelty. I guess I understood even as a child, "All the real monsters in the world are humans." And realizing that  as a little girl made me want to shine a brighter light, be accountable, take ownership  and grow up to a woman full of grace, not regret and contempt even more. Standing where I am today, as the woman I've become I'm aware just how blessed I have been.  Growing up I  was given the gifts of gentleness, kindness and hopefulness. I was shown how to give, to put myself last and never to feel entitled or resentful when doing so. I learned early on something William Shakespeare once said to be true, "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away."

So what gift could I possible have to give away? I mean who am I in this great big world of billions? The truth is we all have a part of us, a gift inside we are meant to share, to give away. The struggle is real as we look for and find the courage within to step out of the shadows. The little girl  I was and the woman I am are just two sides to the same coin. Much like the dreams of the little girl I once was, the Wizard of Oz taught me as a  woman something pretty spectacular actually. "You have plenty of courage I am sure. All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty." So  yes, there once was a little girl. She was happy, full of joy and hopefulness. She knew she was meant to serve, to give and to fight battles yet unseen or unknown and so she decided early on to feed her hopes, her courage, not her demons. She knew life was hard, but she loved it anyway.  She knew sometimes  better than anyone else, "Courage, determination and strength were what little girls were actually made of." Growing up in a world of make believe and imagination, a world where she was free to be herself, she learned to fight the monsters, the dragons and the wicked witch without losing her dignity in the real world outside. In a world full of princesses, she was content simply being Batman. This little girl found wielding a sword and shield made her happier than a wand and a tiara. After all being "a princess with the strength of a warrior" wasn't such a bad thing. This little girl, she took the time to think and to ask herself," Is there anything she can't handle? She's been broken. She's been knocked down. She's been defeated. She's felt pain that most couldn't handle. She looks fear in the face year after year, day after day but yet, she never runs. She never hides  and she always finds a way to get back up. She's unbreakable. She's a warrior. She's you."(allthings_possible)

My story is far from over, but when it does end I hope it can be said of me I was never defeated or afraid to be myself. That despite the suffering this world may have brought into my life I was found kind, courageous and illuminated by hope. After all John 16:33 says this about life," I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united to me. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world!" And I know if He has defeated the world, I can be brave when facing it. So yes, Life Lesson #140 ~ There Once Was A Little Girl is about strength and courage but balance as well. We can't control everything, nor should we want to. What fun would life be if the element of surprise was gone? In closing I want to share an anonymous quote that means a lot to me, speaks to both the little girl inside of me and the woman I have become. It says this," Find balance in your life. Work hard but don't let it take over your life, you will lose yourself. Love but love for the right reasons. Life is too short for anything mediocre. Know who you are and know that you are worthy of reaching your dreams and that it is never too late to start creating that life you have always dreamed of. Do not compare yourself to others, that's just deadly. No two souls are the same. You are your own person, you are beautiful and you are unique. put your trust in the universe. Some things are just meant to happen, and some are not. Let go of whatever is stealing your happiness, it's hard but worth it. Embrace change. Embrace life. Everything happens for a reason, sometimes you just need to breathe, trust and let go."  And that is exactly what I plan to do with the rest of my life, from here until to the end of my story.

"You've always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself." ~ Glinda, The Wizard of Oz


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Life Lesson # 139 ~ Girls From Texas

"Forget glass slippers this princess wears boots." ~ Anonymous

I wasn't born in Texas but I can tell you as the old saying goes, I got here as fast as I could. That aside I am definitely God made, Jesus saved and Texas raised. I love  rodeo, the Texas country music circuit, a good ole kolache in the morning, my Blue Bell on a hot day, my Tex-Mex any day of the week and yes I know a good margarita when I taste one. You can say I have Texas in my soul. It's s been said by Bob Bullock, "Only death will end my love affair with Texas." I do believe he's right. I am proud of my state, of the generous, friendly people, the old dirt roads, rusty old fences, cattle grazing and the town I have rested my boots under the bed from the time I was a little girl. Yes, my roots run deep here in the Lone Star state. Texas is my home and no matter where I go, my heart always longs for Red River Country. I have to admit, the saying is true, "You can take the girl out of Texas but you can't take Texas out of the girl!"

I often talk about being southern, and I am most definitely a hot southern mess that's for sure. But tried and true, I'm a Texas girl, grown, raised and continuing to thrive. Billy Clayton, once said, "A born Texan has instilled in his system a mind-set of no retreat or surrender. I wish everyone the world over had the dominating spirit that motivates Texans." I can't argue with this statement either. Maybe it's because we still carry the spirit of the defenders of the Alamo within us. Or maybe it's because the blood split at the end of that 13 day siege was that of heroes from 23 different states and 7 countries. You see no matter what the reason is, Texans are a proud, steadfast tough bunch, overcoming adversity with a grin and a swagger. And as a Texas raised girl, I have  grit not because I'm naturally tough but because I was raised in the presence of strong Texas women. I have been given the opportunity to sit in the laps and to walk beside women who've learned generation after generation, through drought and hardships to fight back. Women who know that struggle is part of the process and women who don't stand down even when it's the easiest choice to make. Women who can admit they're wrong and hug your neck without a grudge. When it comes to the Texas women I know, they hold on to their core values. Texas women stay the course, even if it means going down with the ship. If the Alamo taught Texas women anything, it's this: we're capable of anything and have the fortitude to fight for our families in spite of the whatever forces rise up against us. And why, well because we know without a doubt when we stand together we're a force to be reckoned with.

Now on the other side of that coin, Texas girls are gracious and playful, and a downright funny  bunch of ladies too. We do not believe we're better than anyone else, we just tend to be a bit confident when it comes to our footing. The truth is girls from Texas are about as diverse as they come. We come from the Coastal Plains, the North Central Plains, the Great Plains, the Mountains and Basins of Texas. We're made up of many different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs and races but the one thing that  runs true, tying us together as Texas women is our integrity and our compassion. We are Texas proud, but we hold to our core beliefs, keeping a spirit of humility  and generosity in everything we do. We're definitely a sassy bunch let me tell you but we're also a very friendly crowd too. We love to get gussied up, wearing our pearls but we can go from high heels to boots and jeans in less time than it takes to shake a stick. One thing about a Texas girl, she's fairly independent and stubborn. She can take care of herself  that's for certain. She can change a tire, work outside of her home, raise her kids, be team mom and a cook you a five course meal without the blink of an eye.  That said, a Texas woman also enjoys and understands how to step back and allow herself to be taken care of without feeling any less of a woman for it. As has been said so well by Kathy Lynn Harris. To paraphrase,"Texas women are fiercely loyal, we're going to do what we're going to do so it's best to get on board with us. We love our college football, our Texans, and I shutter to say Cowboys. We're deeply involved in our kids lives, we hold it together in difficult times, and we'll show you some of the sweetest hospitality you've ever known if we trust you." And I'll add myself Texas women are known for loving deeply and a bit wildly. When they feel safe, they'll let their hair down. Texas girls, well  we can party till the cows come home literally and still keep it classy.

And that is exactly what this Texas girl did Friday night. My hubby, a Texas born man through and through, bought us tickets to see one of Texas's greatest sons of country music, the amazing and talented Pat Green. If you have to ask who he is, you're probably not from Texas.  And if you have to ask if we're fans, then you missed a truck ride or 100 with us when the boys were little. 'Wave on Wave' was on constant repeat every time we got in the truck. Till this day, our boys whose music tastes have expanded since then, still love Pat Green. Listening to his music or catching him on the Texas music scene, especially in Greune Hall is as Texan as apple pie is to Americana culture. I can't tell you how amazing Friday night was. It was a night I won't soon forget. Hearing Pat's songs live, reminded me of so many good times singing to the top of our lungs in a crowd of Pat Green fans as the kids were growing up. Memories made, this time without the kids, just the two of us, swaying to 'Baby Doll' and dancing to 'Three Days' hand in hand on a jeans and boots kind of Texas night was this girl's idea of perfection.

As I close, I realize Life Lesson #139 ~ Girls from Texas may not be every one's cup of tea. But  I have to say it's certainly filled with just enough sweetness for anyone curious enough about Texas girls and the women they become.  I know Texas isn't every one's idea of Heaven and that's OK. Some see our pride here in The Lone Star as arrogance, egotism or conceit but the truth is it's more about respect for all this land has given us and the people and the culture created by those who came before us. The thing about Texas pride is it's a mixture of success and failures, humility and stubbornness. We don't expect everyone to understand us. Heck sometimes we don't even understand ourselves. We do however have a love for one another, our history, our flag, heritage, music and an all-inclusive cowboy culture that can't be rivaled. The truth is I am without hesitation a Texas woman, through and through. A little girl raised from the age of 7 to call this little bit of Heaven home. I'll forever be a 'Way Back Texas' girl with my feet firmly planted 'Deep in the Heart of Texas'. I have to say on a morning like this, sitting on my front porch looking out, I'm  without a doubt thankful for the people, the culture, the music and the home I have found in Texas.  And certainly while the lyrics  of 'Wave on Wave' are not necessarily about Texas, I imagine it's not too far of a stretch to think they could be as Pat Green sings, "The clouds broke and the angels cried, "You ain't gotta walk alone." That's why He put me in your way. You came upon me wave on wave."

"Texas living , where the tea is sweet, our words are long, the days are warm and our faith is strong." ~ Anonymous


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Life Lesson #138 ~ Go Through It

"If you're going through hell KEEP GOING." ~ Winston Churchill

If there is one thing I know well it's life is tough. Seems more than anything Struggle and I are old friends. We have this vibe thing going. Or rather Struggle seems to have a radar gun pointed in my direction at any given moment. As least that's how it feels anyway.  Struggle, has this "Oh it's going so well for you is it now?" thing going with me then turning around and chiming in, "Why don't I just stir this pot over here for you then?" Struggle just wants to be helpful I'm sure BUT helpful is not the word coming to mind. It's more like hassle and trouble with a capital T if I do say so myself. The bottom line is I'm a magnet for anything remotely related to the words difficulty, struggle and exhausting. If I have learned anything in my 43 years, it's this,"Strength does not come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you could not do." And the reality is, life offers us more struggle than not.

There's an old saying. It goes like this,"The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It's about what you're made of not the circumstances." And this is how I've chosen to think of my relationship with my old friend, Struggle and her sister Difficulty. When it comes to these two, the best way of thinking is something along the lines of Thelma A.Myer's quote,"Blessed are the flexible I always say. they shall never be bent out of shape." She has definitely got that one down correctly. Being flexible in any situation or circumstances Struggle and Difficulty throw your way is sound advice if I can say so myself. I mean I understand very well the difficulties life offers us. I don't have to explain this to many folks. My life has been full of those little, "Let me stir the pot for you sweetie" moments. From being diagnosed at age 8 with type 1 diabetes, to pre-term labor, a stroke, breast cancer, a child with a TBI and another on the spectrum and everything else under the sun, I have learned to simply go through whatever comes my way. Trying too hard to avoid the darkness, the pain or the hardships many times only leads to more of them. Believe me I know, Struggle has relentlessly decided to turn the flames up any time she's had the chance. My life has been a constant tug of war between me and the Chaos sisters, Struggle and Difficulty. It's really about how you play the game though. Do you give up or press on?

I've learned personally many times over, even when I'm not happy about it,"God is not going to deliver me from every difficulty. He is not going to keep me from every challenge. If He did, I would never grow. The scripture says, "Our faith is tried in the fire of affliction." When I'm in a tough time, that's the opportunity to show God what I'm made of." Life, it's hard there is no arguing that but it's also beautiful and worth every struggle we face. The truth is even if we can't understand that in the short- term the fire within us won't die out in the long-term unless we allow it to. We can be strong, and yet soft, weak in the moment and yet fierce and mighty in battle without ever being defeated in spite of our failures. Seriously, as so well said by Mama Indigo,"The best thing you could do is MASTER the chaos in you. You are not thrown into the fire. YOU ARE THE FIRE." How many times, when our old friend, Struggle shows up do we remind ourselves, we are the fire? I know for myself, I'm made of more than one tiny spark and that fire, the one burning inside of me, through me , the one that is me has been stoked and tended to by my Father's hands. Struggle, well she's just a well-meaning  old friend who occasionally fuels the fire. The thing about our old friend is she likes a good fight, an occasional scuffle or conflict. She may even put her foot out just as we're crossing the finish line causing us to trip. The reality is without her I know for myself, I wouldn't understand the light within me is brighter than any darkness she could ever muster up. I guess I see things the way Winston Churchill did, you gotta keep going, pushing through, going through it, not around it. The truth about Struggle and her sister Difficulty is they are both key components in our growth. We can resent them, resist them, become hard and callous or we can simply go through it just as this life lesson is titled.

Life isn't easy, we can all agree on that for sure and I think that's a constant resounding theme for most of us actually. It doesn't really matter who you are, where you're from or even what you're struggling with for that matter. Each time we face Difficulty and Struggle, we become deeper, stronger people. What I've learned in my relationship with the Chaos sisters is this,"Rock bottom has built more heroes than privilege."  We are equal when it comes to grief. It takes time to go through the woods, it takes time to work through hurt and suffering and it takes time to heal from a broken heart and injured spirit. Eventually though, most of us make it out of the woods. From 'A Woman of Faith' and out of 1 Samuel 22:30 I stand myself on these words,"May my heart be kind, my mind fierce and my spirit brave." And this is where I leave you today, at the end of Life Lesson #138 ~ Go Through It... one side and out the other. We keep going and we come out changed for the most part, better, a little tattered and bruised but richer and passionate nonetheless

After all, "The best way out is always through."


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Life Lesson #137 ~ The Strength of a Woman

"She slept with wolves without fear, for the wolves knew a lion was among them." ~ R.M. Drake

I have been blessed by the presence of strong, humble and Godly woman in my life. Lions no doubt among wolves. My mother being my greatest example from the time I was little. My mom, a lioness in her faith taught me the art of trusting God even in the most dire of circumstances. From a child to this very moment I see a strength and a courage many have not always been privileged to witness inside my mama. For me, JM Storm best describes her ,"She is beautiful. But you really cannot comprehend it until you understand she is the result of the pieces that she refused to let life take from her." And the truth is that is a resounding theme in the women my Father has chosen to bless me with all my life. Through the years God has placed many wonderful, loving and amazingly strong, determined  women in my life. These woman have not only been there for me but have served as living examples of His grace.

So many times through the years I've been asked where my strength comes from. Honestly at moments I have questioned this myself. From my childhood illness, to pre-term labor, breast cancer, auto-immune diseases and so on and so on I have never been alone. God has time and time again strengthened me through the unconditional love, honesty and steadfastness of the women He's planted in my life. At any point during any difficulty or uncertainty in my life, you will find a strong woman standing beside me. Personally, for me to be a strong woman means understanding your strength is a gift. A God given gift, one forged in the heavens and given to you in the form of those true friendships and the family who will hold your tired arms up just like Moses' by Aaron and Hur in Exodus. You see the truth is, "Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back." And that doesn't mean riches, big houses or titles either. No it encompasses more than that. Success isn't only measured in material things, success is found in  the friendships, unconditional love, loyalty, strength and the grace you're surrounded by in spite of your present circumstances.

The strength I carry, I don't carry alone for it is not my own. It's the blending together of the determination and love of these very women in my life...strong, beautiful fighters. When I look at these women I understand where their strength comes from, and why I am made strong simply by knowing them. For some it may take a lifetime, and for others just a mile or two but as a woman of strength we get it, "Not everyone believes in her and not everyone supports her, but her God goes with her and that's what sustains her." (Morgan Harper-Nichols) And in bringing these amazing women, each with different flaws and abilities, characteristics, personalities and strengths into my life, He makes me strong. These are the kind  of women who have a quiet and indescribable strength inside of them. They're beautiful, gracious, strong and loyal and having been refined by the fire they are warriors in their own right. These women of strength offer support and encouragement because they themselves understand, "No amount of physical beauty will ever be as valuable as a beautiful heart."

Coming from a long line of strong women I now understand God's strength, His grace and unconditional love are abundant even when we can't see the forest for the trees. He is good, even when we're screaming at the top of our lungs at Him, questioning the whys of our pain and suffering. It is in those moments He not only offers us but provides us insurmountable strength in those women who've become more than a friend, but a sister in arms. In those times our sisters, swords in hand, shields up nudge us to hold on to His promises much like Luke 1:45 does," Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her." And this is the way I have lived and continue to live my life. I struggle, my body fails and my mind at times goes mad, but in Him I am strong. In His grace I am fulfilled and in the women He's surrounded me with I am never alone in the fight. "I may be slightly broken, a little bruised and even permanently scared. But I still wake up every day with a tremendous will to fight. I am a strong woman who refuses to be defeated." (Attitude to Inspiration)

And so what I want to convey to you in Life Lesson #137 ~ the Strength of a Woman, is this: to be a woman of strength requires letting go of your ego, the pride that holds you back and embracing your path fully. You are a lion after all, not a wolf. Remember, "Heavy is the crown and she wears it as if it were a feather. There is strength in her heart, determination in her eyes and the will to survive resides within her soul. She is you, a warrior, a champion, a fighter, a queen." (R.H. Sin) But only because of those women, the warriors and queens on each side of you, holding up your arms in the thick of battle. As they say, may we know them, may we be them and may we raise strong women!

"She looked back and marveled how far she had come...She didn't wonder how she made it...She already knew the answer. Only with God's help had she powered through. for without His strength she could do nothing." ~ Godfruits


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Life Lesson #136 ~ Insane Courage

"Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it." ~ We Bought A Zoo

Many of you know my son Joshua's story. Or at least parts of it anyway. At 15, he suffered a traumatic brain injury in the locker room. In the weeks afterward he began to suffer from seizures, depression, debilitating headaches, processing issues among other affects of the injury.  His nose had to be corrected due to his septum being shoved upwards and his eye muscle repaired. In an instant life changed forever. Everything that came easy for everyone else was a struggle in the first few years for Joshua. Driving, working and school were slow steps, one at a time. At times he felt he would never get there but he did. Some mocked him, while others overlooked him and still many more doubted him BUT that didn't stop Joshua. He did graduate, he has gone on to college, he's working, he's driving, playing drums like no ones business and he has taken to the ice like a fish to water, as if he's been playing hockey all his life. Almost 5 years ago, none of those things seemed possible in the moment but they have all become a reality. And why, well because Joshua never gave up, he endured, and continued in pursuit of his hopes and dreams in spite of the obstacles. Through all this the biggest lesson I've strived to teach my son, is this, "If people criticize you because what you're doing isn't how "everybody else" does things, then you're probably on the right path." ( Daniel Dipiazza) You see sometimes you have to go the long way around in order to reach your goal, but in the end you still get there. And the truth is in the near 5 years since Joshua has faced more than most people do in a life time. But he's done it all with courage and determination. Fear has been a constant companion, but much like Amelia Earhart, Joshua has followed her advice. "Use your fear...it can take you to the place where you store your courage." And it has.

Nothing has come easy since Joshua's injury. Throw in the rising cost of medical bills, the struggle to hold on to information in school, all while watching his parents eventually fall apart and back together again through high school was an insurmountable amount of pressure, uncertainty and fear for a teenage boy. He suffered rejection, loss of friends and self confidence and still came out the other side strong, with an insane courage, his faith in tact a guarded heart yes but with a gentle spirit all the same. By God's grace our son rose from the ashes, and the fire meant to destroy him high above the turbulence becoming the man he is today. Joshua's character emerged, his leadership abilities arose, his quiet confidence grew and his humility surfaced stronger than ever. I am reminded of all Joshua has become, through the fire and testing of his character when I re-read what Douglas McArthur once said. "A true leader has the confidence to stand alone. The courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent." When I read this, I see my son. Joshua's always chosen the road less traveled, the path that requires the most resistance. Because of this he's never accepted the ordinary life, never walked down the middle of the road even if meant having rotten tomatoes thrown at him. When I see my son, looking at all he's been through from the fear of losing me to breast cancer or being bullied because of his faith and beliefs that eventually led to his TBI I am humbled, inspired and ever so grateful for the man he has become.

When Joshua was born, we spoke a scripture over his life, not knowing just how important and relevant it would be as he grew.  Joshua 1: 9 is that scripture. It goes like this,"This is my command ---be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." And even in the pain, the heartache and the suffering God has been there with Joshua every step. The reality is more times than not Joshua doesn't see himself as he really is.  From the time he was little Joshua has had a remarkable and challenging life. Nothing has happened by chance not even the difficult times. Despite it all, he's stayed the course being a kind, generous and loyal to a fault young man. I often think of the movie 'Courageous' and the self titled song by Casting Crowns. This  movie was an exceptionally relevant and significant film for Joshua. A year after he first saw this movie with his dad, Joshua had to dig deeper than ever before for his courage. It was during this time, Joshua was faced with a choice much like the song explains, "We were made to be courageous. And we're taking back the fight. We were made to be courageous. And it starts with us tonight. The only way we'll ever stand is on our knees with lifted hands. Make us courageous, Lord, make us courageous." Sure Joshua could have stayed on the sidelines of life, angry and defeated or as he did, rise up taking back the fight for his life.

I am completely humbled when I say Joshua has become a man of faith, integrity, humility, strength and courage. He's taught me so much about life and faith since he was born. He's one of my heroes. Joshua is by far nowhere near perfect. We don't always see eye to eye or find ourselves anywhere near the same page but that's OK. What Joshua has shown me through example is the importance of moving on from what you can't change, not worrying about being right or having the last word, forgiving those who hurt you and simply letting go. No matter where life has taken him, one thing is certain, his character has remained in tact. Those who have mocked, overlooked or even doubted him have not defined him. He's lived by a code, much like the one Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson emphasizes, "Show respect even to people who don't deserve it; Not as a refection of their character, but a reflection of yours." And from the beginning Joshua's character has been a reflection of endurance and perseverance. His life, despite his critics is a purpose driven life. Honestly to think when he was born Johnny and I named him after the strong leader and the courageous warrior Joshua in the Old Testament speaks volumes of God's hand in his life long before he was born. I mean we gave him his middle name, Caleb, for the faith and strength of his Biblical namesake. We could have never imagined he would have to fight so hard , to be as strong and courageous in his lifetime, overcoming struggles, battles and hardships much like his namesakes. Proverbs 22:1 says this, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." Chris Giovagnoni explains the importance of a name beautifully, "Names are more than a convenience allowing us to talk to each other. Names are a gift from God. They contain His power. They define things. They define us." Looking out over Joshua's life so far, and waiting for what's yet to come Joshua's name more than defines him and will continue to all his life.

As for Life Lesson #136 ~ Insane courage...It's true, all it takes is twenty seconds of insane courage. And yes I do believe Joshua has more than proven this time and time again. My little boy is no longer a child, but a man of God and of character with a warrior's heart full of courage. Keep going beautiful boy, you're a good man, and you've given more meaning to your name than you know. For God has been generous. I love you to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond, forever and always.

"Never forget that I love you, Life is filed with hard and good times, Learn from everything you can. Be the man I know you can be." ~ Mom