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!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Life Lesson #157 ~ Daughters of the King

"A Daughter of the King is known not by the crown she wears. but by the message she bears." ~ Daughters of the King ebook

As a child did you ever dream of being royalty? I know I did. Yes, this comic book loving, Sci-Fi watching little girl daydreamed of being a princess. Pictures of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty come to mind. I mean who wouldn't want to talk to animals and sing all day? I sure did, but more than anything  I wanted to wield a sword, carry a shield and fight with the rebels. I twirled around in my cape made from a bath towel and carried a light saber made of a cardboard wrapping paper roll. My idea of royalty was more of a warrior than a dainty helpless damsel. I wanted to be like my favorite Amazon fighting Princess, Wonder Woman right out of my comic books or even Princess Leia from a galaxy far far away fighting against an evil Empire. Looking back now, I know I'm a warrior by birth. Even at my weakest, I've been a fighter from the start . Sure as a child I may have been fighting imaginary foes, but those battles fought inside my daydreams had a purpose. You see they were there to prepare me for what was to come, to train me for the real battles I'd face one day.

The God of Heaven knew I would face illness beyond description, and that I'd have my heart broken and shattered. Still He chose me, called me and embraced me as His own. He placed a crown upon my head and a sword and shield in my hands. He breathed purpose into my life, carved mercy and grace upon my heart and gave me the spirit of a warrior. His love turned my life around, picking me up, dusting me off and encouraging me each and every time I've fallen. I call Him Father, my daddy and He calls me by name, His daughter, a child of Heaven and Earth, commanding His angels with my protection.  His Spirit lives within me, pushing me forward, encouraging me never to give up. As I've spoken of recently, there's a spiritual battle going on all around us, on all fronts. No mater how strong we are or how prepared we think we may be at some point we're going to be tested and the enemy is going to surprise us. When those times beckon, that's when knowing Whose you are is so important. So when I'm trapped in the middle of a battle, fallen and afraid, I know Whose crown I wear, Whose shield I hold and Whose sword I carry with me onto the battle field. My Father comes to me, a King carrying me back in His arms to the safety of His camp. It is in these moments He speaks to my heart, reminding me through the words of Lisa Jo Baker, "There is nothing ordinary about you. You are a Daughter of the King and your story is significant."

Certainly the world can remind me of each and every failure. Scoffers can throw stones,  hurdle words of hurt and try to inflict pain upon my heart/ But  you see what they do not understand is my heart, my soul and my spirit have been forged by the fire, carved from grace and set in the mercy of Jesus Christ. What is done is done, my past is my past. I have not only been forgiven but by His grace I also forgive those who have injured and wounded me. You see as Elaine S. Daltons reminds us, "I understand who I am and whose I am." I may not be Wonder Woman or Princess Leia in real life but I am a warrior, redeemed, forgiven, fearfully and wonderfully made, a Daughter of  the King of Kings and the God of Heaven and Earth. No matter what has or will come my way the weight of the world can't change the truth that I have been claimed, adopted and called His. Be it pain, suffering, emotional loss, physical  scars, joy, hope and yes happiness all these things have shaped me, built me, and made me into the warrior princess that I am today. I am not a picture perfect princess. I go barefoot more often than I wear shoes. I go without makeup and usually have my hair tied up in messy ponytail, and yes with a crooked tiara on top of my head most days. I can sure get mad, snort when I laugh and trip over my own feet. I am not over confident though, instead I'm a very real, authentic and flawed, daughter of the King. My identity isn't found in who the world says I am, should be or the opinions of those who would throw me into the lions den. No my identity is found solely in the absolute mercies of Jesus Christ.

Psalms 91:14-15 tells me this, “If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;" And the truth is He has kept His word. The real story inside Life Lesson #157 ~ Daughters of the King is in knowing this simple truth, "You are strong and beautiful. You are a woman trained by the King to be a warrior, to face the very battle in front of you. You will not fail for He is with you." (April Williams)  I can tell you without hesitating His name is great, and so is His spirit inside of you. I'm forever grateful that I heard His voice inside my heart calling out to me, "Little girl, arise and take my name." It was at that moment I realized the God of Heaven not only knew my name, but called me His, and in His eyes my life was meaningful. I knew then I was not only a child of God, but in fact a Daughter of the Highest King. He not only claimed me, He knew me before I was formed, before my heart began to beat under my mother's and He placed me in this world for a purpose. This is my truth, a truth which covers me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. And I tell you with all I am, "God's truth has prevailed in my life. I am not important because of what I've done, but because of what's been done for me. My worth is not based on my fame, but my Father's name. I am a daughter of the Most High, whose worth is defined by a sacrifice that was made by Jesus. That is who I am." (FlourishigToday.com)  So today, I say to you, arise little girl~ What do you have to fear?  Don't you know you're anointed and  blessed? Let Isaiah 14:27 ring in your ears, "All the forces of darkness cannot stop what God has ordained." Then take this to heart beautiful girl... I know, "inside you may be a weak heart but behind it is a strong God." (curiano.com)  So go on, take up your sword, hold tightly to your shield, you're a warrior, a daughter of the King, and His name is written upon your heart.

"I am a daughter of royal birth. My Father is King of Heaven and Earth; My spirit was born in the courts on high; A child beloved, a princess am I." ` Anna Johnson


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Life Lesson #156 ~ Downhearted and Discouraged

"What you're going through does not go unnoticed. God sees every injustice. He's got you in the palm of His hand." ~ Unknown

Life can be unfair, can't it? One day every thing's right as rain and the next somehow you've bitten off more than you can chew. It may be through no fault of your own or it could be you put yourself smack dab in the middle of that particular rodeo. Either way, the storm's coming and there's not a whole lot you can do about it either. Many times you're just an innocent bystander in all the ruckus. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sadly you may just simply be an escape goat or punching bag for someone else's failures. Maybe it's because you had a different opinion or just simply didn't have one. Possibly you decided on reinforcing your emotional fences and in the process they were trampled and smashed. The reality is when we start building healthy boundaries, that's when the storms roll in and the stampede rushes our spiritual and emotional perimeters. Those folks, they come to test us and like a wolf, to blow our newly carved out and constructed boundaries down. The thing you have to remember when you're being attacked on all sides is found in a wonderful quote by Lydia H. Hall, "Healthy boundaries are not walls. They are gates and fences that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden."

We all know those days, the kind when you're caught by surprise, unprepared and realize you just might end up with your feathers not just ruffled, but possibly pulled out by the roots. Seriously, we all have those days, even seasons of our lives that seem to go on and on. Before you can get a handle on the situation the sun has retreated, the clouds are growing darker by the second, the winds are not only picking up but getting colder and the rain is becoming heavy, sharp drops falling  on your head from an ominous sky. All we can think of in those moments is to find shelter, a place to cover our heads, protect ourselves from the flying debris, take off our rain soaked clothes and sip from a cup of something warm and comforting. Depression, sadness and anger can settle into our lives, especially when you're battered by those same storms on a daily basis. And it's easy to say to someone, God has a purpose for your pain, even a reason for your struggle. Now while this may be true, the reality is if we can't respond with real compassion and actual action by opening our own hearts to the wounded, then our words as Christians are worthless. We have all known the feelings that come from being downhearted and discouraged, so why then is it so hard to show compassion and empathy when others are in need? How come we can be put out by those who deny us room at the inn, and yet still hang a sign of our own that says, "no room" on our door? Why are we not being Jesus to those who need His compassion and grace?

So back I come to myself, to you and how we respond to those who reject us and cast us out of our comfort zones. It's never an ideal situation when we're opposed by those we're connected with but sometimes we need that kick in the butt even if it bruises our pride a bit. Depression and discouragement can come in like a bat out of hell at this point. It's true, it's easy to feel downhearted, as if you've been banished, exiled, booted out and falsely accused. And why, well we may never truly know the answer to that question honestly.We can respond with anger, hostility or even with a malicious and vicious self righteous stance,  but that perspective only leads us further into the badlands, alone and condemned. This is the thing. You are worthy,  and nothing about you is undeserving or unlovable. Truthful,  you have to look at it this way, "Small minds can't comprehend big spirits. To be great, you have to be willing to be mocked, hated and misunderstood." You also have to be capable of  forgiving and letting go, showing compassion even when you don't feel like it. Being misunderstood, rejected and dismissed is hard, but sadly it's just the nature of the beast I suppose. Is it right? No, but how we respond and react to the world's criticism of us determines how well we rise after the storm has passed. Take your moment, let your emotions sweep through you, let discouragement wash over you but then let it all fall like water off a duck's back. When it comes to the world and their 'opinions'  of you, remember they are just that, an opinion, a view or a judgment formed about you , sometimes having  nothing to do with you. These viewpoints aren't based on fact or knowledge, but conceptions. Personally I believe what Bill Bullard says is true, "Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another's world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding."

What I have come to understand is this truth: I will not be liked, or even loved by more than half the people I meet. The reality is you may be too much for some people, but I say be too much. There is a greatness inside all of us, but not all of us are able to achieve that greatness. Not because we're not capable, but because many do not know how to be humble in the abilities they've been given. Those who walk in humility, who still open their doors and show compassion are the one's who tend to be outcast. Never forget Jesus was rejected, and He was tossed out of His own town. So when you are shunned, just remind yourself of the amazing company you keep in your heart. Understand, you will find yourself at the center of someone else's opinions,sentiments and storms of rage at some point. The rains will come, and being wounded,  you may be shot down again and again. don't take it personally. Instead take heart and don't be discouraged or downhearted. "God restores everything. When we submit the broken pieces of our lives to Him, He restores us to a beauty far more than what we prayed for." What I have truly learned in my some 43 years is something  Isaiah 54:17 says," But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you." What we need to know deep down in our hearts is even if we're banged up on every level, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically we are not a lost cause.  I may not be accepted by those who sit outside my front door ready to pounce on my good intentions or my integrity, but I still walk out the front door with a smile on my face, a song in my heart and God on my side.

As I wrap up Life Lesson #156 ~ Downhearted and Discouraged, I want to say to you, rise up and don't allow the world to make you despondent or downcast. Remind yourself of this when the hurt of this world comes banging on your door. "David didn't need to know Goliath's strength because he already knew God's." There are always going to be times in our lives when we feel useless, rejected, hurt and even angry in our circumstances. To say we are downhearted and discouraged is more than an understatement but we are not made by our circumstances, instead we are crafted  by how well we rise from the ashes. So as I close this post  today I want to leave you with an amazing quote by Morgan Harper Nichols. She says this, "You might not be able to see where you're headed, but I assure you, the Lord can. He's breathing life into every aspect of your present and future. He's shining His light even in the darkest corners of your mind. So hold on tight to Him. Hold tight to His love, knowing that He will never leave you or forsake you, and because of Jesus, you are in His grip forever. No uncertainty, no broken dreams, and no fear of the future can keep you from Him. He is with you always, in all of this. Trust Him. Believe. And let Him gracefully lead you where you need to be."  Don't forget your story is still unfolding.  Go on look up, the skies are calm, the clouds are clearing and the Son is shining, His light is inside of you and you not only walk in His grace but in His favor too.

"Not to spoil the ending for you but...everything is going to be okay." ~ Unknown


Friday, May 19, 2017

Life Lesson #155 ~ The Enemy at the Gate

"I have God, Jesus and two thirds of the angles on my side, what do you think I am going to do? Sit down and cry?" ~ Leonard Ravenhill

I don't know about you but from the time I was small I have felt a spiritual battle I can't necessarily see with my eyes, but I still feel raging and going on all around me. I know how that may sound to some, but the reality is if we pay close enough attention to our hearts we can feel the battle between good and evil being fought for our souls. From the time I can remember I have known the name of Jesus. He wasn't an overlord, a tyrant, a judge waiting to throw the book at me or even a name I only heard during tough times, or the holidays. No, His name was, just as it is today, part of my everyday life. His name has filled me with not only love and compassion all while encouraging me and consuming my life with the courage needed to face the unknown sitting outside my door everyday. My relationship with Jesus is personal, real and authentic. I never feel insignificant in His eyes even if I feel that way in my own. My faith and my love for Him may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is mine. I guess the best way to describe my devotion is like this: In a world of Starbucks and coffee, I'm what you call an afternoon tea, Earl of Grey kind of girl. And the truth is, I'm imperfectly perfectly happy with that. Now because of my personal, one on one relationship with Jesus I can take His love for granted at times.  Have I ever become complacent? Have I ever gone through the badlands, coming out beaten down and injured on my own, with my mind on myself and not my Savior? Absolutely I have and you know why? Because I am completely , 100% human. The truth is when I venture just outside the gates of His protection, it is because I've been listening to the enemy. Only when I start listening to the Keeper of the Gate by not continuing to "agree with the lies of the enemy and start fighting by believing the promises of God" do I begin to find my strength again.

As Christians and as followers of Christ, many times we think too much of ourselves and we boast of our own strength, not His. We forget it is not by our stripes we are healed, but by His. There is nothing inside His gates we have title to without His grace. And it is by His mercy we rise up each and every time the enemy strikes us down. We are never stronger than when we walk in His grace filled with humility facing the enemy at the gates. I know my truth, and when I am carrying His sword and shield, when I am walking with Him, not in front of Him, I do not walk into battle alone.  Don't get me wrong, just because you're walking in the grace of Jesus Christ in no way means you've got an easy path ahead. In fact, quite the opposite. My life has been full of battles and fights with the enemy I never saw coming. Some of those battles were for my life, while others were for my integrity, and even more for my faith and joy. When it comes to our personal battles, most of them are fought on our knees. If we forget that, it's like leaving for the front lines without your weapon. You may falter, you may be afraid and you may even come home battered and bruised, but you're a warrior are you not? Warriors may retreat, but they don't give up. A warrior may stumble on the battle ground, but they don't back down. For those of you heavy hearted, seeing the enemy at the gate, you are not alone. Go on, pick up your sword and shield and go slay the dragon. Say to the enemy at the gate, "not today Satan, not today!"

Dr. Michelle Bengtson has a fantastic quote I love to remind myself of when the enemy starts banging on my door. She says this, "The enemy is looking for a door opened even a tiny crack to come back in and whisper more lies to you" You have to understand, it is not the physical battle, but the spiritual one that decides our fate. The devil knows he cannot overtake us physically until he first beats us down spiritually. If we don't guard our hearts, keeping watch then the enemy will slip in, banging on a door Jesus closed a long time ago. It is then when we are weak, he will try and convince us to open the front gate for his forces to rush in. But the truth is the enemy has to leave, and he knows it. Just the sound of the name of Jesus causes the demons to shake, and yes Satan to flee. Luke 10:19-20 from The Message (MSG) says this, Jesus said, “I know. I saw Satan fall, a bolt of lightning out of the sky. See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing.” So when the enemy is at the gate, when you feel weak and vulnerable, remember, "The enemy wouldn't be attacking you if something very valuable wasn't inside you. Thieves don't break in to empty houses."

Most of you know my story, illness from the time I was a child, breast cancer, stroke, auto-immune disorders, low self-esteem, learning disabilities and the list goes on. From the outside the cards seem stacked against me, on face value anyway. But pushing the enemy aside, rejecting his lies and locking down the gate to my heart and faith I am a warrior, strong in God's mercy. Today, overcoming fear and by God's grace I am becoming the kind of woman that when my feet hit the floor the devil shakes. Maybe he even wets his pants a little knowing I'm up, sword and shield ready, walking in the strength of a mighty, powerful and awesome God. I can imagine that, giggling at the devil's expense a bit. I know I'm far from perfect, and I don't hide that fact. I am weak on my own, afraid and many times outwardly defeated. The spiritual battle is ongoing for my soul. The warfare I do not see is raging on, every day, every moment of my life, but the battle is truly already won. I have nothing to fear when I am walking boldly to the gate, shield up, sword ready with my Savior beside me. When I trust I am safe in the arms of Christ, that His grace is sufficient,  the enemy at the gate falls back, running for cover. Deuteronomy 28:7 out of the Message (MSG) says this, "God will defeat your enemies who attack you. They’ll come at you on one road and run away on seven roads." And this I know is true, for my life is a living, walking testimony of this very truth.

So I say to you today, rise up, hold the gate and rest firmly in the ability of Jesus Christ to cover you, to defend you and to win the battle. True, you may not see the struggle, but you can absolutely feel the battle raging all around you. "The enemy is not after your money or your stuff. He wants your mind, your attitude, your heart, your faith, your peace. Understand that you're not being attacked over tangible things in your life, the enemy is fighting you over the things you can't see." And that is what Life Lesson #155 ~ The Enemy at the Gate is speaking of and trying to convey to you today. The battle is real, but so is the victory!  Never forget as a Christian when you are facing the devil in sheep's clothing or blatantly in his true form you have the power of God to defeat him by the grace and blood of Jesus Christ. And when you ask yourself why me, keep in mind, "You never know how big of a threat you are to the enemy, until you start doing something for God." Go on, let your feet hit the ground, pick up your sword and shield, and go remind the enemy at the gate who he's up against!

"When God's warriors go down on their knees, the battle is not over. It has just begun!" ~ Unknown


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Life Lesson #154 ~ Trust Me, It's Not the End of the World!

"Trust that an ending is followed by a beginning." ~ Unknown

Ya it sucks, but keep calm. It's not the end of the world! How many times have you heard that one? But honestly isn't it some pretty good advice? If we react to everything life topples down on us, then we'd never get out from under anything. We'd always be digging ourselves out of a mess or running around like Chicken Little, warning the sky is falling continually. Now that said, life can get out of hand and absolutely feel like the world is ending. Life just has this way of crashing down suddenly, without notice and sending you your very own dancing Chicken Little. It's not the fear inside us that messes us up but what we do with Mr. Little's echo , "the sky is falling." It's our own version of the chicken dance which ultimately defines each and every particular chapter in our story. I think we tend to forget we have a choice in how we respond and react to adversity in our lives. Not everything in our lives deserves a fall out shelter or a nuclear meltdown rehearsal. Rachel Wolchin is so right when she says, "People too often forget it is your own choice how you want to spend the rest of your life." And that's the reality, we do have a choice. We can fall apart, let our world come crashing down, knock our own walls down and prepare for the end of the world. OR we can reinforce our foundation, trust God isn't going to let the sky fall down on top of us and walk out our front door confident in in His grace and mercy.

I can speak from experience, and I don't say this proudly...I have had my share of Chicken Little's appear out of nowhere leading me on more than my share of wild goose chases. More chapters in my story than I'd care to admit have gone sideways and even more sad, unfortunate moments have occurred while I knocked myself out trying to get into a poorly made fall out shelter. These are just those times when I wish I could have realized it wasn't the end of the world. But hey, we all learn from experience right? I'm not an exception to that rule either. Life can be puzzling, unexplainable and quite honestly maddening at times. Who's to say what's really going on behind the scenes or what spiritual battle is taking place, knocking ceiling panels down on our heads and releasing Chicken Little out on the cross streets of sanity and unhinged. The reality is even if it was truly the end of the world as we know it, God has this. Jane Clayson Johnson says it best. "It takes a lot of faith to put everything you have on the altar of God, trust in Him, and know that His plan is better for you than the plan you have mapped out for yourself." And that is the core of what we need to understand. Just because life doesn't go as planned doesn't mean it's the end of the world.

Loss is hard, Nothing about loss is ever easy, no matter what kind of loss it is. We hurt, we grieve and we let go. If we don't let go that same loss will consume us, and destroy us sending our lives into a nuclear meltdown. The reality is, we can lose everything if we're not careful. The simple truth is we have to allow what's happened to shape us, but never to eradicate our hearts and minds to the point of madness and hysterics. The fact is, "We never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder creatures." So yes while it may appear, even feel as if the sky is falling, it isn't. Our lives change yes, but our hearts grow and so should our faith. If not for times of great adversity I wouldn't appreciate those precious moments of peace and joy in my life. I'm made of many wonderful and beautiful memories, times that fill me with happiness and joy. But it is also those dark moments, the days when the sun seems blocked, the sky looming with smoke, and the air filled with ash that I find my purpose. If not for both the dark and light I wouldn't be the woman I am this very day. And to be honest, I've fought way too hard to become this woman to regret any of the darkness it took God to carve of me while sculpting my life into His masterpiece.

What I know is simple, and quoted beautifully by John Piper. "Every person or thing we trust will eventually fail us, except Jesus. Only He can bear the full weight of our HOPE." What we see as the end of the world may simply be a plot twist in the beginning of a brand new chapter of our story. I am forever an optimist, but I've had those moments when I too went chasing off after Chicken Little. I've been found guilty of carrying around a panel from the ceiling convinced it was the sky falling. We all have, let's face it. But to be a real optimist you have to understand that it "requires taking a step backwards after taking a step forward. It's not a disaster, it's really more like a cha-cha." So stop running around like a chicken who's lost it's head, grab your senses, take a step back, put the pictures back on the wall, don't rampage through the house or tear apart the pantry in a panic. Go ahead and  slip that ceiling tile back in place, sit down and take a load off your feet and mind for that matter. Not everything is going to go your way, and not everyone is going to like you. That's life. If I've learned anything in  my near 44 years it's this, "You cannot make someone love you. All you can do is be someone who can be loved. the rest is up to them. I learned that no matter how much I care, some people just don't care back. And it's not the end of the world." (lessonslearnedinlife.com)

Even in the middle of all that chaos, life is still beautiful no matter what is happening around you. That fall out shelter is still there, the crossroads leading to bonkers and cuckoo are just ahead. Don't worry if you haven't reached them yet, you will. But if you trust in the One who made you, you have nothing to fear. I am a stubborn, strong-willed and at times obstinate woman, but I have learned by experience when it comes to my fear, and the unseen battle behind the curtains of life, God is fully in control even if Mr. Little is convinced otherwise. Proverbs 16:9 says this, "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." (NLT) Look at Life Lesson #154 ~ Trust Me, It's Not the End of the World like this: it's going to suck that's a given, but it will pass and when it does you'll have quite the story to tell now won't you? Life is a constant balance of emotions and we have to be willing to ride those waves without panicking. I say when the pain comes, when the overwhelming need to take cover inside a self made bunker, remember to sing to Jesus. Also keep in your mind this little gem much like Rebecca Cambell does, "bless the thing that broke you down and cracked you open because the world needs you open." And so does Jesus my friends because being open means you've let go of what's been holding you down. It shows Chicken Little you mean business and you're ready not only to follow Jesus out of the darkness but to lead others out of their fallout shelters too. It's not the end of the world, it's the beginning of a new day.

"Close your eyes. Clear your heart. Let go." `Unknown

~ Christina

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Life Lesson #153 ~ My Mother's Daughter

"Life doesn't come with a manual, it comes with a mother."  ~ Unknown

I am most definitely my mother's daughter. We are completely different but absolutely cut from the same cloth. I learned love and grace by watching her life in motion. My mom is gentle, kind and loving. She's selfless, and always looks for the best in everyone she meets. She is one to give until she's completely empty. She rarely gives up on folks either. It takes far more than a broken heart for her to lock a door. My mom, "she makes broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walks with the universe on her shoulders and makes it look like a pair of wings." I simply adore my mom, and all she is. Is she perfect, a saint, no not in the least but she's honest, and she's real and that's what makes her so beautiful and authentic. She loves with all her heart, closes doors slowly and gives second chances freely. My mom is a woman of faith and prayer, even when she's not sure of where God is leading her. It is my mom who lived her faith out loud in front of me, stiring my own faith to flourish and grow in spite of the hardships along the way.

If you ask me I will tell you without hesitation that my mom is beautiful, outwardly and inwardly, beyond compare. She has always had youth on her side. I remember as a teenager folks mistaking  us for being sisters.  Mom, is a radiant woman. She has never looked old  a day in I her life even if she thinks differently. My Mama is a beautiful woman, and the truth is she's the kind of beautiful that takes your breathe away and still she has no idea. As a little girl I wanted to be just like her, to look like her with her long blond hair, contagious laugh and a smile that lights up any room. In my eyes she was and still is magnificent. In my dad's eye's she's everything, a beauty, the sun, the stars and the moon colliding together. To us she's captivating and the truth is "there ain't a woman alive that could take my mama's place." So when people tell me I am a mirror of my mother I am truly humbled. I am also aware how blessed I am to call my parents, Mama and Daddy. For years my folks prayed for a child, and for four years the answer was no. My mom feared she would never know the joy of holding a child of her own in her arms. But then after years of trying God entrusted my life into theirs, into her arms. And the thing is God knew everything that was coming, the hardships and hurdles my life would bring, He knew they were ready, and they were capable of handling what was ahead. Yes, He knew they might lose me, but he trusted them with my life and for that I am so thankful.  Because of His grace, I am my mother's daughter and forever my daddy's little girl. Because of His certainty I was placed into the hearts and lives of two incredible people and molded into the woman I am today.  I have an odd sense of humor I wouldn't exchange for anything. I love sci-fi and eating beets. I am goofy, silly and honest. I learned to be loyal, to love unconditionally and to forgive without holding a grudge because of my parents. I am unashamed of who I am and where I come from but most of all I am my mother's daughter. You see,."my mom is also my best friend.  I am grateful for her example, kindness, hard work and friendship. But above all...I am grateful for her unconditional love for me. I love you Mom!"

I was raised in a house of grace, by two parents who cherished me, flaws and all. My mom, she's taught me so much. Because of her example I have found my own voice, living the weird crazy life that I call my own without regret. She's shown me that Jane Austen's words, "A loss may be sometimes a gain" is true. That being rooted  unshakably and grounded in the love and grace of God is more important than worldly riches. She's also shown me in recent years that "an unresolved past never really goes away until you find the courage to revisit all the pain and accept that there's nothing you can do to change the past. What's happened has happened, and what's done is done." When I say I am my mother's daughter I understand just how blessed I am. When I look back on my life from the moment I was conceived, to the day I was born up until this very moment I know God has had a plan. And the truth is everything I am my mama has helped me to become. My mom, she has prayed for me through the night, held me when I could not stand on my own, wiped away my tears and has always seen in me the woman I am yet to become. There is a quote that reminds me so much of my mom, and the beauty of her spirit. It's by Boyde K. Packer and it says this, "There are few things more powerful than the faithful prayers of a righteous mother."

As I read 2 Timothy 2 :5-7 this Mother's Day I see the legacy of my mother's life inside me, and in her grandsons and of the lives of the generations yet to come. "That precious memory triggers another: your honest faith—and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice, and now to you! And the special gift of ministry you received when I laid hands on you and prayed—keep that ablaze! God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible." My mom has been my greatest example of God's unconditional love. She has given her life and opened my childhood home many times over to those in need. Her acts of kindness and the gift of her time are some of the most precious things I hold dear. She is truly a diamond, resilient, strong , beautiful and precious, absolutely rare in her clarity, quality and value. The truth is mom, on this of all Mother's days I want you to know how incredibly blessed I am to call you Mom. I am  beyond privileged to know you as I do, and I want you to know the details of your life make me stronger. I know who you are, inside and out. I know your heart and your hopes, your dreams and yes many of your regrets. You are my best friend, my mother, the light which sparked my own faith and the prayer warrior who fought for me on her knees from the moment I was conceived. You are my Mom, always and forever. And so Life Lesson #152 ~ My Mother's Daughter is dedicated to you. I will always be my mother's daughter...to infinity and beyond. I may be a mess, but I'm your beautiful mess aren't I? And so as I wish you a Happy Mother's Day Mama, I just want to remind you, "I smile because I'm your daughter. I laugh because there's nothing you can do about it!" I love you Mom so much more than to the moon and back.

"I'll always remember the things you have taught me and how much you have loved me." ~ Unknown

~ Christina, (your Criggy)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Life Lesson #152 ~ Bold Women

"There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise."  ~ Unknown

I have been called a strong woman but the truth is on my own I am weak. Through the years I have had my faith tested, my body scared. my heart broken and my life nearly taken. The darkness has come and been chased away by just the mention of His name. That name is Jesus, the One who has given me the ability to rise each and every time the enemy has come knocking on my door. I have not been fearless. I have not been strong. I am nothing on my own but by the grace of God I have walked boldly in the strength of my Father, rested in the peace of His Son and found life in the promise of the Cross. Hebrews 11:1 says, "To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see." And this is exactly the kind of boldness I carry with me everyday. As a woman of God I am filled by His grace, charged by His mercy and clothed in His armor. I never go into battle without His sword and shield in my hands. I walk in boldness because I know He never fails me. My desires, my wants may not come to fruition but not because He withholds anything from me. No, it's simply because He holds me in His hands, protecting me, guiding me ever forward, never backwards. When I think about it, my heart seeks the same truth as Renee Swope, "I want to be a woman who overcomes obstacles by tackling them in faith instead of tiptoeing around them in fear."

On my own, before putting on the armor of the One who has given me a new name, I would fall, unable to get back up. From the time I was a little girl life was hard. Nothing came easy. From being diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 8 to Triple Negative breast cancer at the age of 32  life has been a fight to the verge of death. I hid many times, but His light found me each and every time. Learning disabilities, no problem, He made me a teacher. If that isn't humorous I don't know what is. The girl who couldn't keep a tune in a bucket went on not only to be accepted into a music program but to start out as a voice/music major without being able to read music! Talk about irony. But you know what, it wasn't about me. I just sang with all my heart for Him. You see to my Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ it wasn't how beautiful my voice was at the time, no it was about my desire, raising my voice in praise to Him in spite of my limitations. And because of that, He breathed beauty into my song, raising my voice to glorify Him and Him alone. This is why I know no matter what the enemy has thrown my way, my God has been bigger, mightier and stronger. Yes, the enemy  has stood over me, time and time again as I felt ashamed and worthless. He's whispered in my ear how incapable I am, speaking lies, trying to convince me I'm a disappointment, full of regret and dismay. But then something amazing happens and standing there in front of  me is my Father reaching out His hand, a smile wide across His face, full of love, pulling me into His arms with mercy, grace and compassion. He whispers in my ear, "The enemy is not fighting you because you are weak child, but because you are bold in faith, and my strength is inside of you." That is when His words wash over me, covering me, cleansing and empowering me to rise up with more determination than ever before. In those moments I know I am a Woman of Boldness, an adopted and loved daughter of the King. Going into battle I am not alone, His sword is mine and the victory already His.

Today, I do not walk without fear,  for I am made of flesh and blood but I do walk everyday in boldness knowing He has gone before me. It has been said, "The woman of God discovers her identity in Christ! She finds love, happiness, comfort. strength, respect, acceptance, joy and peace in WHO she is in Him! Her prayers begin to change. Her desires change. Her PERSPECTIVE is no longer the same. She doesn't find satisfaction by the things of the world. Her STRENGTH is in uplifting others knowing there is no competition. It is hard  to find a woman like her. She is rare, secure and confident. She radiates love and respect! She trusts the Lord with all her heart and seeks His direction over her life. She is a daughter of the King." And this is my hope, my prayer and my goal each and every day. I want nothing more than to rise with determination , not only as a daughter of the King, but as a woman of God, walking in boldness putting on the full armor of Christ. What I know without a doubt is this: When the weight of the world weighs on our shoulders we can be assured there is hope , no matter the circumstances. You see His armor is ours, freely given to protect us and so we can walk in boldness on to the battlefield of life every single day. God's Word says this, "God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out." Ephesians 6"10-18 (MSG)

So today as I close this post, I want to encourage you, to inspire all who are weary, who are broken and pained to lift your heads up. God is there, He is reaching out to you with His hand, arms ready to exchange boldness for your fear. His armor waits for you, His sword and shield are gifts bearing your name upon them. All it takes is faith, giving all of yourself to Him and with humility walking boldly into His presence. Just as I began Life Lesson #152 ~ Bold Women, I again reiterate this truth. I have had my faith tested, my body scared, my heart broken and my life nearly taken but I have never been rejected by His grace. The truth is, there is power in His name. I call Him Father, He calls me daughter. By His mercy and grace I have been grafted into His family, given a new name, clothed in His strength and empowered with boldness. I am His and that is all I need to know. Nothing can separate me from His love. His armor is mine, His sword and shield with me always. What I know is throughout this life, I have come to understand a quote so well spoken by Darlene Schacht, "A strong woman knows she has the potential to shine in this world, but true strength lies in her ability to lay down her life so that God can shine through her." And my prayer for myself  and you today is this, that we walk as bold women, humbly in His grace, our lives proof of His love, willing to lay our lives down and to be warriors both on the battlefield and on our knees.

"WAKE, PRAY, SLAY, in that order, everyday!" ~ Unknown


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Life Lesson #151 ~ Pencils in the Hand of God

"I'm a pencil in the hand of God." ~ Mother Theresa

Have you ever just stepped back, looked out over your life and simply evaluated where you are and how you got there? Think about it, how many times have we grabbed the pencil out of God's hand, scribbling down whatever nonsense makes sense in the moment rather than relying on His greater understanding? If we laid our story out on the table, flipping through the pages of our life, I wonder if we'd see alternate endings or resolutions all missed because of our need to control the pencil? Personally, I have snapped the pencil out of God's hands more than once or twice. We all have if we're being honest. That is where most of our troubles arise, where the conflict exists and where those resolutions I was talking about take place. If I look at my life as a whole I see without a doubt God's hand steadily writing my story on every single page of my life, through each chapter from my birth, illnesses, marriage, children and who I have become as a wife, mother daughter and yes even as the woman I am today. I see where His hand guided me toward those I call family, and away from those who hold hate and contempt in their hearts for my existence.  I can see where He moved me towards something or someone, or away and how He expanded the story of my life from breast cancer to survivor. My life, my story is a book filled with misadventures, ups, and downs and miracles all woven together, written by my Father's hand. My life is most certainly a story most wouldn't understand. Heck, I don't always understand where the plot is headed believe me. I've been known to shout loudly, "Plot twist!" But the one thing I know in spite of whatever zigzag arises the Author of my Salvation has a clear vision of the story He is writing.

Has my life been perfect? Oh no, not in the least. Am I flawed and a hot mes most of the time, yes 100 times over. But that's the beauty of life, of being a pencil in the hand of God...He can rewrite parts of your story, closing some chapters only to begin anew in the next one. I have failed Him, I have failed my husband, my kids, my parents, friends and family. I have even failed myself. I am definitely a sinner saved by grace. In spite of my failures, God's grace still covers me, wraps itself around me and whispers in my ear daily, " I am holding you by your right hand ---  I, the Lord your God ---  I say to you,  don't be afraid; I am here to help you." (Isaiah 41:13)  Together Johnny , the kids and I have faced some pretty fierce battles. Some have left us wounded, but every battle, every plot twist and every beginning and yes,  end of a chapter has been to bring resolution into our lives. See, "Shame says because I am flawed, I am unacceptable. GRACE says that though I am flawed, I am cherished." The reality is we don't throw away a good  book, or tear out a chapter we're reading because things go south do we?  All great characters in any story have flaws, and many times they are big ones too.  But isn't that when we find ourselves rooting for the underdog the most? No author just tosses his most difficult chapter away. No a great writer keeps going, pushing through each and every plot twist, mishap and unexpected turn. And that is exactly what God does when we allow Him to be the Author of our story.

"Broken things can become blessed things if you let God do the mending." Honestly that sums my life up in a nutshell.  I can tell you after a lifetime of tug of war, I know God has a plan for my life, and that of my husband and our children. What that plan is, is not yet clear. Our story, well it may be nothing more than the size of an ant hill in the scope of things when all is said and done, But you know, that's OK cause our lives still have a mighty bite. See it is His plan and whatever may come we rest knowing our story, much like our lives are pencils in the hands of God. Every day is a new beginning, a new page, leading into some closed chapters and still opening new ones. It is only when I stop grabbing for the pencil myself, letting my Father firmly grasp it in His hands that our story runs smoothly both during the good and the bad times. Much like the Newsboys sing in their song ,'We Believe' ,"I believe in God the Father, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in Jesus Christ, giving us new life, I believe in the Crucifixion, I believe in the Resurrection, that He's coming back again." And the truth is if I profess those things, then who am I to grab the pencil out of God's hand and go it alone with my own story telling?

Philippians 1:6 tells us this, "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it."  He will complete our story, and He will fill it with brilliant color as well as some gray. Life is beautiful, whether we live a big, loud life or a small, quiet one, both are just as paramount. The thing is we just have to let Him do the writing! No more stealing the broken pencils back, no more trying to erase what's in the past or cover up our flaws, our faults and our oops. We are human, and therefore inherently a mess. Step back and let God reveal the indisputable beautiful mess you are in his time, not yours. "All you have to do is be yourself and live the story that no one else can live---the story of your own unique life."  I guess looking back on my own story, a near 44 year span is this, If God writes our story, we have nothing to fear because He's got the ending too. So, as we look at Life Lesson #151 ~ Pencils in the Hand of God, don't forget your story is worthy of the hands of God. I humbly offer these words from A Work of Grace , as a reflection of my own heart, "I tell my story not so that I get glory, but so others may know HOPE." Just remember your story is your testimony, and your testimony is the story of your encounter and your experience with God. Make it a good one.

"I am a little pencil in the hands of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." ` Mother Theresa

~ Christina

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Life Lesson #150 ~ Say To That Moutain!

"Hope is not born on mountain tops, but in valleys when you're looking up to the heights and peaks that you're yet to climb."  ~ Susanna April

I don't know about you, but I'm a mountain climber. Now let's not read too much into that. I'm not speaking of climbing an actual mountain like Everest. I'm adventurous enough to say back in my college years I was known to climb up and repel down a few in the Mountain state. But on a serious note, what I'm really talking about are the mental, spiritual and emotional mountains we face. These mountains I know well. These mountains can be dark, dangerous and down right scary but in the midst of any ascent or descent, I've learned this: "Tell your mountain about your God.'

Mountains can be beautiful as much as they are treacherous. They can offer us refuge and still cause us pain. The thing I know about life is it's filled with both valley's and mountaintops. You have to go through and sometimes over one to get to the other. Breast cancer was just one of my many mountains, and no it wasn't easy. I was scared to death, no pun intended. It wasn't the hair loss, the loss of a breast, the chemo or even the pain and illness that came with that particular mountain. No, it was the uncertainty, the idea I may not make it over that mountain and I  honestly wasn't really sure how I could make it through it either. Yet in spite of my doubt and my fear my Savior whispered in my ear death could not hold Me so why would I let it steal you. In those moments I knew without a doubt, no matter the physical outcome, I would reach the top of that mountain one way or another. From that assent came my voice, a mighty roar and in the descent, this blog was born. If not for that mountain, I would have never found the courage to put pen to paper, to dig deeper than ever before and to share my journey with you. Looking back, and out from the view I have now, I see how true this quote is, "You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved." ( Unknown)

I have met more mountains with less passes and more landslides than I care to count. Yet I know a truth Christine Cain speaks of,  "The most difficult time in your life may be the border to your Promised Land." And she's right. If not for those uphill struggles, those sides of the mountain that were high, or steep I would have never made it to the top, nor would I found rest in the valley below before facing the remaining darkness chasing me. I had to get over those mountains in my life, to pass through them, to have the faith to say 'move', and at other times even the knowledge to know it isn't my mountain. Sometimes we try tackling or even carrying a mountain that isn't ours. There are also times we struggle to pick up a mountain that is ours, to load it on our backs and carry it off when we were only meant to go around  it. And that's where I think we forget to say to that mountain, move!  Our faith becomes beaten down sometimes but we have to remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 17:20, "For if you had faith even as small as a tiny mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would go far away. Nothing would be impossible." (The Living Bible) Sure He could be speaking of physical mountains,  and I know He could move them but in our day to day lives, we know looking at this verse Jesus is speaking to the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual mountains, the uphill struggles we face everyday. I think we just get caught up and "sometimes when we get overwhelmed, we forget how big God is."

That mountain, it's big, it's looming and it's going to be a struggle I have no doubt. But I am a daughter of the King. I not only wear His crown , I have His shield and sword with me. I rest firmly in knowing my prayers and faith are grounded in Him and they can move those mountains. I may be scared and I may doubt myself, but I do not doubt His strength. I have seen His mercies and felt His grace time and time again. The scars I bare are not reminders of battles lost. I am not ashamed of the stories they hold. No my scars, they are reminders of victories won. I am a woman of faith, a woman who knows her past very well. I am a woman who has been found blameless because He claims me as His own, bringing me to my knees not out of shame but because of mercy. He is not ashamed of me, not of any of my mountains or the battles I had to endure to overcome them. I really love how Pamela J. Kuhn explains mountain tops. She puts it like this, "She stood on the mountains, feeling the rocks crumble beneath her feet. One thing she knew, the God of her mountaintop victories would help fight her valley demons."  You see whatever is before me , I am not alone. My faith has been tested continually throughout my lifetime. I may have fallen, been bruised, crippled , even beaten down at times, and to many it would seem I've failed. The truth is I have.  My body and my mind have completely fallen apart but I have never given up my faith. My God, my Father, He has never stopped pulling me up, carrying me on His back or even saying to those mountains to difficult for me, "MOVE!" Isaiah 41:10 out of The Message version has this to say about  that, "I've picked you. I haven't dropped you. Don't panic I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I'm your God. I will give you strength. I will help you.  I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you."

And so Life Lesson #150 ~ Say To That Mountain, is not about how ready you are or how strong you are when facing your own personal mountains. No, it's about having the faith inside of your heart to know you will reach the top. The real core of this life lesson is simply found in carrying that mustard seed with you, saying to that mountain, 'I will not be moved', then with the strength of God within you pushing it out of the way.

Just remember, "The best view comes after the hardest climb." ` Unknown


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Life Lesson #149 ~ My Gypsy Soul

"She has fire in her soul and grace in her heart." ~ Unknown

I am a mess of a woman. I can be honest. I rarely have it all together. I love to daydream, to get lost in a book and I've got a flair for the creative. Music, comic books, Star Wars and anything steampunk is generally right up my alley. I'm a responsible woman. I acknowledge when I'm wrong. I have a different sense of humor, goofy probably describes me more than the word than humorous. I'm educated, both in the traditional sense and in an unconventional means. I'm a resourceful woman. I can make something good to eat out of whatever is in the pantry and fridge. And yes I  can make money stretch for as long as need be. I'm fairly responsible too. I work full time like many women,  leaving the house and finding my way back home again every weekday. I pick my battles when it comes to cleaning our house and the kitchen is open for home cooked meals Sunday through Thursday and some Saturdays. I'm often found with my hair down, bare foot with two puppies in my lap and a sweet tea within reach. I can go from lazy to ready to go quicker than you can say 'a monkey's uncle.' I am a bit odd but if I'm not worried about it then why should any one else be? I love the woman I have become, but not because I'm every one's idea of perfection, but honestly because I'm the opposite.  I'm a hot mess without a doubt, but I'm myself no questions asked. I believe in being different and 100% yourself, quirks and all.  I guess the truth is I have a seriously wild heart, a streak of creative passion I refuse to let go of and a song in my heart I don't mind blaring as loud as possible, on a loop. You can say it, I know it's true, go on, blame it on my gypsy soul.

They call soul's like mine bohemian. It's a word many times describing hippies, but there's more to it than that. I'm certainly not a hippie by any stretch of the word, and no I don't scream wild child at first glance but I am a free spirit. I've never really done things as expected. I've wandered, seen the world, explored, and found my soul at perfect peace in the hands of Jesus Christ. When I was lost, He found me. When my heart had broken, He put it back together just like stained glass. When my soul was torn, he restored it, making me new again. The beauty of when God mends our lives is He takes us just as we are, no strings attached. He loves me for the hot mess I am, not for the picture perfect idea of a Godly woman someone else has decided I should be. He sees my desire to serve Him, to love and be loved and to be uniquely myself. He knows without question I feel as Erin Van Vurem does, "I will not be another flower, picked for my beauty and left to die. I will be wild and difficult."  I am headstrong, stubborn and messy. Still my Father smiles in spite of my chaos. Knowing I have a gypsy soul and a wild heart He simply grins widely, putting His arms out and folding me into them. I've read a quote many times on Pinterest that spells out who I am pretty well. It says this, "She has a gypsy soul and a warrior spirit. She makes no apologies for her wild heart. She leaves normal and regular to explore the outskirts of extraordinary." You may not see it when you look at me, and other's like me but once you get to know us, glancing into our hearts you recognize the wild gypsy soul within. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know who I am , hot mess and all.  I'm a free spirit, a bit off beat, peculiar and odd at times. As defined, I am  "a gypsy, wanderer, a person, musician, artist or writer who lives a free spirited life and believes in truth, freedom and love." That's who I am, but I am also a woman of God, with a warrior heart, surrendering my life, as messy as it is, to the One who gave His for mine. I mean sure this definition above can be interpreted in many different ways, but for me it speaks volumes to who I am underneath it all. I'm comfortable in who I am in Jesus Christ, in my weird, random ways. I am perfectly content with the woman I have become since I took my first breath over 43 years ago. I don't feel the need to hide who I am and by God's grace neither do my children. I may have failed them in many ways through the years but not in this, not in knowing who they are. This they know and accept when it comes to being themselves. To paraphrase Dean Jackson, by God's grace, my boys, much like their mama, "dance to songs in their heads, speak with the rhythm of their hearts and love from the depth of their souls." If I can look at anything I've done halfway right in life, it's in the raising of our boys and in giving them the freedom to be themselves in Christ.

It's taken me years to live my life as I was meant to...free, unabandoned and with fire. My gypsy soul has been let out of the man made box this world tried to contain me in.  Having the heart I do, residing within the soul my Father gave me, I fully understand this point," A girl's most beautiful outfit ever is her charisma, the prettiest accessory is her smile and the best pair of heels is confidence." Life is meant to be lived not caged. I live a life free today because of Jesus Christ's sacrifice. He offered me the ability to be myself, to come just as I am. I believe strongly in doing your own thing in life, being your own person. I say often, go on, swim against the current and you just might see how life becomes amazingly charming in the process. Ephesians 2:10 says this," For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." (NLT) And isn't this the truth? And that is why I chose to end April with Life Lesson #149 ~ My Gypsy Soul. Each of us is a Masterpiece, adopted by the King, unwanted by the world, and embraced by the Father of Heaven. I'm a child of God, bought and paid for only to be set free by His mercy and grace. I may be a chaotic, hot mess with a gypsy soul but I am His and nothing can take that away from me.

"And at the end of the day your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling." ~ Shanti

~ Christina

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Life Lesson #148 ~ Twenty Years From Now

Celebrating 21 Years as Mr. And Mrs. O

"I wasn't looking when I met you. But you turned out to be everything I was looking for." ~ Unknown

That's exactly how I feel about my hubby. I wasn't interested in a relationship, much less marriage when he came walking into my life wearing his boots, cowboy hat and wranglers. The night he pulled me out on to the dance floor, I was breathless. Johnny was everything I wanted and nothing I expected. He was a man's man, confident, and yet he was sweet and humble. That night some 23 years ago, my baby swept me off my feet and I have yet to land on them again. To think I
was just 22 years old when I met Johnny. I was seriously a baby. When I think of today's standards, I was barely out of the cradle. To be honest I had no idea what I was doing whatsoever. All I knew was I loved the man standing in front of me and I wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of my life waking up beside him. I may have been na├»ve but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt Johnny had my whole heart and he always would. When I met Johnny taking his name as my own was about the last thing on my mind. But as the days turned into weeks stealing his heart the way he had mine was set in motion by a hand greater than mine. It's unbelievable twenty-one years ago, when Johnny and I said 'I do' no one knew where our love would take us, with the exception of our mighty and loving Father. Now all these years later, looking back I can tell you, "we built this love from the ground up."  I know our life together has been anything but perfect, still I can tell you this life of ours has been a wonderful adventure, and anything but dull. We've spent 21 years laughing and struggling I know, but we have done it all together. And all because we have come to understand this simple quote by curiano.com."Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage."

It's hard for me to believe my hunny-bee and I were married exactly 21 years to the day. Seriously, that's over two decades ago. How crazy is that? Who could have envisioned we'd be just as excited about a new day together, gray hair and all, as the first night we danced cheek to cheek to a George Straight song. Nothing about us has ever been garden-variety though. I mean we met and married in 6 months time. Unheard of right? We just knew. no questions asked. From the moment we said hello, our stars were crossed, tied and our lives meant to walk the same line together. Have you ever just known, or seen two people meet for the first time and realize they were meant to be together? That's how it was for Johnny and I. We didn't need to wait years to cross the altar side by side, we knew and that's all we needed. At 'our thoughts' explains it perfectly for me. "Have you ever just looked at someone and thought, "I really love you." They're just talking or watching a movie or reading a book or laughing  or something, and there's something about them in that moment that makes you think," I just really love you." This is the best explanation ever of how I felt the night I met my hubby at a country dance hall. I just knew, and so did he. Almost as quickly as we began dating we were talking about our future, together. It wasn't just that we wanted each other, we loved each other from the start. This is what I can tell you about our marriage in the most honest way possible...our love story isn't in any way typical. The pages of our story are as wild and free as our love is. I learned early on as a young woman not to accept a love that was typical, ordinary or anything resembling middle-of-the-road. You can say I was heavily influenced by my parents marriage and even though ours is a very different kind of love,Johnny and I share the same foundation of unconditional love, forgiveness and a genuine acceptance of each other's faults. See I saw how my parents cared and  put each other first. I experienced on a daily basis how they accepted one another, flaws and all. I knew from the time I was a little girl I would fight for nothing less than an extraordinary love, much like my parents. Would it be easy, would it be painful at times, yes, absolutely but a love worth fighting for, is love worth bleeding for. I may not have had it all together when I met Johnny, and truthfully  I still don't but I do know a love like ours is incomparable and irreplaceable. A true love is imperfect, and perfectly in tune with your heart.  'I heart intelligence'  explains how I see the great adventure of love so  beautifully. "Fall in love with the person who enjoys your madness. Not an idiot who forces you to be normal."  And that's exactly what I've found in Johnny, a love fully embracing the madness that is us.

As a couple, we've faced some pretty fierce battles and heartaches together. We've wiped each other's tears away and even been the cause of some of them. Yet there has been more joy than pain, more laughter than tears and many more adventures than I can count. Johnny and I have come to understand, that while we are part of our story, entwined together, our story is not completely our own to write. Our lives are for God to pen to paper. Kristen Clark's words speak volumes, "Your love story will never be more beautiful than the one you allow God to write for you." After more than 20 years as husband and wife, this is a lesson we understand more than we could have ever possibly in the beginning. Life has thrown some pretty hard balls our way, hit us upside the head and knocked the breathe out of us. Yet, all life has done is challenged us to become stronger and better together. I know whatever comes our way, I will love Johnny and he will love me. Every night as we have from the start, we go to bed and wake in the morning side by side...TOGETHER. No, we don't  always see eye to eye, and to be honest I like that we don't. We both bring individuality to the table and that's the way it should be. I'm a very different cup of tea and he's definitely a strong shot of whiskey, but together we fit. Having it any other way would be sad indeed. I'm not always right and neither is Johnny.  We want to make the other happy but we also understand if we truly love one another, we have to be willing to confront each other. I think when it all comes down it what we have learned together over the last 21 years goes something like this," I will love you even through the pain for I have found myself in you, as you have in me, You as my King and I as your Queen. Together we are one."

Taking a step back in this very moment, looking forward and ahead to the next twenty years I have to say I'm excited to experience all life has to offer us, side by side, hand in hand together. When I think of each and every difficulty we've faced, we've done so together. Happiness has been ours, as much as sadness, but only because we haven't given up on each other. When I think of our life together joy comes to mind not regret. The truth is our marriage could have ended, we could have gone our separate ways and given up but we didn't. Instead we stayed the course, we dug our feet in and we let Jesus take the wheel as Carrie Underwood so beautifully bellows out. Johnny and  I made the choice to stay, realizing "Love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. To love somebody isn't just a strong feeling. It is a judgment and a promise." When I think of our marriage I'm reminded of the Song of Solomon, chapter 8:6-8, 'Put me over your heart and on your arm, never to be taken off. For love is as strong as death. Jealousy is as hard as the grave. Its bright light is like the light of fire, the very fire of the Lord.  Many waters cannot put out love. Rivers cannot cover it. " And this is the kind of love Johnny and I share today. It's not perfect, but it's deep and it's strong. And so today, as Johnny and I celebrate our 21st anniversary I offer you Life Lesson #148 ~ Twenty Years From Now. See I have faith we'll still be the same people and  in just as much love as we were the day we were married. And yes, I would still marry Johnny, the love of my life twenty years from now, just as I did 21  years ago. Yesterday, today and tomorrow what I know is this, our marriage and the love we share isn't about where we've been but instead it's about where we're going.

"I'll never finish falling in love with you." ~ Bliss


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