To the Momma I Overheard Talking to Her Son

To the Momma I Overheard Talking to Her Son

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I saw you holding your little boy’s hand as you briskly walked into the store. How old is he? Maybe 4? You both looked like winter pros as you braved the cold weather and harsh wind bundled in thick jackets, scarves, gloves and boots.

My girls left the house with coats and boots and gloves too.

But my 1 year old refused to keep her boots on. And only 70% of their other winter apparel could be accounted for before we even got out of the car.

So my littlest one was just wrapped in a fluffy blanket like a pink burrito.

Motherhood is all about improvising and going with the flow, don’t you think? I do. So I counted the burrito wrapped baby as a total win. But just so you know, my mom-experience appreciated how put together you both were. Not one element of your assemble resembled a food item. Impressive.

You stopped at the end of our aisle and said something to your son. I was slowly browsing towards your direction in search of a cutting board and knives. (I love to cook and make amazing dinners every night. Just kidding, I hate cooking and they were for my chef of a husband.)

I noticed you take both of your son’s hands abruptly and bend down right in front of him, getting right on his level. You leaned in and literally couldn’t get any closer to his face. His eyes immediately honed into you and his attention was all yours. I couldn’t hear what you were saying, but I assumed by his short little nods and your very intentional tone that he was being reprimanded. So I looked away and tried to give you both privacy and space. Well, as much privacy and space as possible in a crowded store during the height of the Christmas season.

I scanned the shelf trying to decide which cutting board was the prettiest—because I’m sure esthetics is the most important feature of a cutting board and I wasn’t going to let my husband down. (You’re welcome, babe.) As I spotted the one, I took a couple steps forward and bent down to grab it. As I reached out, I could hear you. Very clearly. And what you were saying brought me to tears.

You were right in his face. You even gave your son’s hands a few shakes. “I am so incredibly proud of you. Do you know that? You are amazing and that was just awesome. Man, I’m proud of you!”

He was staring at you, shaking his head. Absorbing it all.

I was absorbing it all.

Right there in the middle of the retail chaos and the hustle and bustle, among all the speeding carts full of “stuff” that won’t last and “things” that just don’t matter—you were giving your son the most beautiful gifts. Things that will last. Things that do matter.

Affirmation. Appreciation. You were giving love.

And your son wasn’t the only one that walked away from that conversation with a fuller heart. I did too.

Oh, momma. In a world that can feel so cold, so harsh, your words warmed my very soul.

You truly are changing your part of the world.

Keep speaking words of life to him. Keep telling him how amazing he is. Keep telling him how proud you are of him. Keep taking the time to stop in the middle of life’s chaos to show him how appreciated and loved he is. You’re affecting him. And you’re affecting those of us lucky enough to be standing in your same aisle.

You’ve challenged me to stay focused and chase what matters. To stop in this moment and find what is right and beautiful and good—and openly acknowledge it. And I am forever grateful to you.

Merry Christmas, fellow momma. Stay warm. And stay you.

Life or Death

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Words.

They can be one of the hardest things to tame; faster and more powerful than an angry, raging river. With one swift motion, that small muscle we call the tongue can cut a heart in half.

Isn’t it incredible how something you can’t see or hold can be shared so quickly? Whether or not we like it, words can transform us. They can empower us, motivate us, or they can tear us down and shatter our very core.

Like you, I have been on both the receiving & giving end of other’s words. I have received hurtful words. I have given hurtful words. I have received words that gave me life. And I hope I have spoken life giving words.

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Every careless word we speak, we will be held accountable for. Yikes.

We are responsible for every single word that we give. If you’re like me, it can be all too easy to justify the words I speak by rationalizing, “Well, they asked for my opinion, so I gave it to them” or “They wanted the truth, so I told them.”

Despite how hard I try to convince my husband, my opinions are not always actually right. Even if the words come easily to me, it doesn’t mean they should be released. And just because I speak with conviction it doesn’t guarantee that the source of those words is pure. My heart can be deceptive. If left to it’s own devices, my heart can be jealous, angry and selfish.

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

 

There are many times I have to make the conscious decision to bridle my tongue. The more I’ve practiced “thinking before speaking”, the more aware I’ve also become about where my thoughts and words are coming from. Are they coming from a source of jealousy? Is that why I feel the need to say something? Inviting God into that place of my heart and mind has been a game changer for me. He’s revealed how untamed emotions like jealousy, anger, bitterness or frustration can disguise themselves as something harmless. If I give in to their ugly persuasion, they will surely rise up inside of me and try to escape through my words where they can do insurmountable damage. It is easy to hold back? Not always. Is it important? Yes. It’s absolutely vital.

I’m not talking about behavior modification. I mean allowing God into the depths of our heart so that the source of our words will be pure and holy and loving. Words are simply the manifestation of what’s going on inside of us.

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Proverbs 11:12

If our first reaction is to “blaaaaaaaaa”, then let’s go to the source – our hearts. Let’s ask the Lord to show us the parts of our heart that we’ve kept closed off to Him & that cause us to feel like those words should be said.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”        Proverbs 12:18

Learning To Be Beautiful

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So I’ve reached that time after having a baby where I’m really noticing that extra “fluff” that baby-growing has left on my body. It’s always an interesting time for me. I want to get on a consistent exercise routine again, but I’m still so tired from being up at night with baby. Extra energy is rare. I want to make sure I’m eating healthy, but I also love Oreos. So yes, it’s interesting.

Before I was a momma, before I was married, I had a very unhealthy self-image. To be honest, I think I treaded on the obsessive side of worrying about what my body looked like. Being beautiful meant being sexy. It meant highlighted hair, manicured nails, a sculpted body, tanned skin and a perfectly painted face. None of those things are wrong, but they were my highest priorities in life…and that is wrong. Confidence meant knowing how to flirt. It meant knowing how to make guys desire you. It meant getting what you want. Authenticity didn’t matter. At least not to the degree it should have. Kindness and courage also didn’t hold places of honor like they deserve. If I felt like I had gained an ounce of weight, I would simply skip a few meals until I felt like I was where I should be. Even if I hadn’t gained weight and just wanted to feel more desirable, I would stop eating. I’m sad that’s they way I thought, but it’s the truth.

After I had my first daughter over 2 years ago, everything changed. I didn’t want her to grow up feeling insecure or obsessing over what her body looked like. I didn’t want her to absorb the lies that society told her about being “perfect”. I didn’t want her to overhear me talking about how I hate loving carbs so much because they make me fat. But when my baby weight started to be burdensome, my first reaction was so restrict how much I was eating. I remember looking down at her sweet, innocent face while she was nursing and I thought, “I don’t want her to see that growing up. I will not take away her nutrients. I’ll eat healthy foods. She matters more than my weight. She is more important.” That realization was a game changer for me. That seed of truth took root and it’s been growing ever since. I stopped using the words “fat” and “ugly”. Even when I’ve felt like those things, I will not say it. My daughter will not hear them from her momma.

As I was looking in the mirror the other day, 4 months after having my youngest daughter, I saw a very different body than what I used to have. I had to do a double take because I didn’t recognize a few body parts. But I realized something. I can look at my little kangaroo pouch and a little more truthfully say, “That’s ok. I grew a human in there for almost 10 months. And that’s pretty amazing.” I can look at my thighs and my hips and acknowledge that the extra weight they carry was important baby-nourishing weight.

Do not let your beauty come from the outside. It should not be the way you comb your hair or the wearing of gold or the wearing of fine clothes. Your beauty should come from the inside. It should come from the heart. This is the kind that lasts. Your beauty should be a gentle and quiet spirit. In God’s sight this is of great worth and no amount of money can buy it.      1 Peter 3:3-4 (NLV)

Now I’ll be the first to admit that some days it is hard. It’s very hard. Motherhood changes everything, including our bodies. I get that. I really do. The extra rolls and fluff that won’t fit into all my pre-pregnancy clothes can feel more like burdens than badges of honor. I get it. Those days are numerous, believe me. But my desire is shifting to be healthy, not hot; to be strong, not sexy. Don’t get me wrong, I want to look physically beautiful and I love when my husband gives me a little smack on the toosh and a “mmmm” as he walks by. Being beautiful doesn’t mean neglecting outward appearance, but it doesn’t mean obsessing over it either. I’m slowly learning to stop equivocating beauty to a number on a scale. Confidence doesn’t mean calorie cutting, it means grabbing hold of what makes you you and boldly living it out. Now that is beautiful.

Since I’ve had my daughters, I feel more beautiful. And I feel stronger. They’ve allowed me to be who I am. They’ve helped me value what matters. They’ve helped me reconnect with the beauty I felt as a young girl. Real beauty. I value strength. I cherish confidence. I esteem courage, kindness and authenticity. Because it is those things that make a woman truly beautiful.

Her clothes are strength and honor. She is full of joy about the future. Proverbs 31:25 (NLV)

 

A Voice in the Silence

I wonder if the Lord chooses to whisper sometimes so we will listen for His voice with more intention & with greater desperation.

I know that’s how it has been for me. When I feel like the Lord isn’t speaking as loudly or as clearly as He usually does, it makes me pause & listen a lot closer. The interesting part is, the silence I feel has usually come to me during times in my life that are “good”. And I think the “silence” has a lot more to do with me than Him. I allow my situations & emotions to be the things satisfying me, instead of staying in a constant state of hunger for Jesus.

But listening for Him in the silence can be just as sweet as hearing His words. Because even in the silence, He is there & He is working.

 

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. Psalm 62:1

 

I love that about Him. He is constantly guiding me, like a Father. Constantly correcting, instructing & teaching. I envision a little lamb walking with her Sheppard. He is always nudging & directing her along the winding & sometimes dangerous terrain. He keeps her safe & guides her.

 

My sheep hear my voice, & I know them, & they follow me. John 10:27

 

I have to remind myself that just because I don’t feel emotionally passionate or energized, doesn’t mean He’s not speaking. If I am reading His Word, I am hearing His voice. And just because I’m not experiencing life-changing revelations every day, doesn’t mean He isn’t working & transforming my life. If I am meditating on His Word & spending time with Him, I am becoming more like Him.

 

So faith comes from hearing, & hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

 

The voice of the Lord is so sweet. His whispers can bring alive even the driest of bones. How precious is His Word. We never have to question if He is speaking to us. All we must do is consume the words He’s given us & continue to listen. He promises to answer.

He will always answer.

 

Call to me & I will answer you, & will tell you great & hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3

 

My beautiful friend Amber, recently wrote this on her Facebook status:

It’s okay to be in the quiet place. To be still & learn & soak & sit & wait. And not think about your own worries but to think on who Jesus is & ponder this, & soak in the amazing reality of who He is that He desires to live inside of us and do everything to enliven us supernaturally. And not only that but that He wants us to have our very nature be transformed by His grace alone; to have His desires; to have our heart beat as His. That we would be driven by what drives Him! Amazed. Simply amazed. In awe. And thankful.

So as you sit in the silence, my dear friend, know His presence; feel His heartbeat. And may your heart be totally sensitive to every breath & word that comes out of His mouth. He will answer. And when He does, may His life pour into that place in your life that you desperately need it to.

I declare my God as faithful!

Just Like Mommy

So I had an “oh boy” week. The kind of week where you literally say “oh boy” out loud at least a dozen times. The kind of week when you realize your child is no longer a baby, but is now a little girl & is watching you…very closely. Everything you do, every word you say…that adorable little sponge is soaking it up. OH BOY.

My first “oh boy” came shortly after our dog had cozied up with my daughter & was an inch away from the delicious snack she held in her hand. His nose started bobbing up & down. His eyes were completely focused. And then his mouth started to open oh-so-slowly. He’s a beagle & his nose bosses him around & tells him what to do. At least that’s what he’s always trying to convince me.

So after realizing what was about to happen, I told him “no” in a stern voice, pointed my finger at him, then tapped the top of his head a few times.

Well, my daughter proceeded to do the exact same thing. In fact, for the rest of the day, our poor dog endured countless “no” taps on his head. Each one was followed by belly laughs from my daughter.

“Oh boy, it has begun. She’s copying what I do now. OH BOY.”

The tricky part about having a 16 month old is that I really couldn’t apologize for what I had down & explain why we need to love on our doggy instead of telling him no all day long. I tried, but I’m sure all she heard was, “Akjsdifjdoa DOGGY asldkjfoidjadf MOMMA.” All I could do was ask her to pet him or kiss him when I saw that sneaky little glimmer in her eye of needing to tell the dog no. Again. For the 400th time.

So by the end of the day, that was pretty much under control.

It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was definitely a huge realization. If she watched, absorbed, then copied my actions in such a small situation, the day is arriving when she will be completely focused on my actions, words & tones for things that truly are a big deal.

I don’t know about you, but that scares me half to death.

I feel like I’m constantly asking God for forgiveness & thanking Him for His grace. I know I am a flawed person. But now, I have an extra set of precious little eyes on me.

The following day, my little one unloaded my makeup case. That’s nothing new. She loves all the brushes & do-dads. But this time was different. She grabbed the eyelash curler & brought it to her eye. I have never shown her that. Well, I suppose I have, but unintentionally. She then grabbed my blush brush at dusted her sweet little cheeks.

Yep, this kid is watching my every move. Even when I have no idea that she’s paying attention to something as trivial as putting on makeup.

OH BOY.

Like I said, I know these situations are not dramatic ones, but still, they have brought a new awareness to me.

Our words, actions & “tones” are being watched, even when we think we’re secluded in those decisions. Not only by our kids, but by our coworkers, friends & even strangers.

So may we do the right thing even when it’s dark. May we speak kind words even behind closed doors. And may we be honest even when we’re inconvenienced. We truly don’t know the extent to which someone’s life can be touched by the quietest of our whispers.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp & put it under a basket, but on a stand, & it gives light to all in the house In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works & give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Our lives affect those around us. So may they affect others in a beautiful way & point them to Jesus.

I declare my God as faithful!

Anxiety & Fear

Anxiety.

That word just sounds ugly to me.

Have you battled anxiety before? I sure you have. God’s Word repeatedly tells us that there is a battle for our minds & thoughts. The root of many addictions, fears & problems start in our minds. If it’s true that our minds hold such power, then of course that is exactly where the enemy wants to attack & weaken us. He wants us distracted, anxious & focused on anything other than the sovereignty & peace of our Savior.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

This issue is very close to my heart. I have battled fearful, anxious thoughts since I was a child. I remember experiencing my first panic attack when I was about 11. There were a few things that I could do to lessen them, but it was temporary & another one would eventually happen.

After I got married, I would ask my husband to pray over me when I would begin to have a panic attack or feel anxiety trying to settle in. He would pray over me, but then he would always ask me to pray over myself…out loud.

As I would be lying there completely paralyzed with fear & anxiety, the last thing I wanted to do was pray out loud. I didn’t feel bold. I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t feel like my words could battle anything because those words were coming out of a very scared, overwhelmed girl.

But with every attack, I began to rebuke any fear & anxiety & declare my God as more powerful than any fearful thought trying to take hold of me. I would keep verses all over the house so that I could look at them & claim them out loud when I began to feel anxious. Even if I couldn’t think straight, all I had to do was look over at the verses, read them & claim them out loud. As I would verbally claim God’s Word, I noticed that the anxiety lessened & lessened. After a while it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had once been.

I know a lot of things can cause anxiety. Sometimes it has a lot to do with chemicals or hormones in our bodies. Sometimes it’s a spiritual attack directly on our minds. Sometimes, it’s a mixture of both.

With new seasons come new things that try to cause us to worry or be anxious. After feeling so much better for so long, anxiety came back & it came back with a vengeance. My breaking point came soon after my daughter was born. I have never loved another human the way I loved her & the responsibility in that was too much to think about at times. I wanted to roll her up in bubble wrap & keep her home forever. I never wanted her to feel the pain of this world. I never wanted her heart to be broken. I never wanted her to experience the disappointments, hurts & sadness that life would surely throw at her. All these thoughts coupled with raging, mommy hormones, was a combination that on my own, I couldn’t handle. They brought me to my knees. No, they knocked me to my knees.

I looked around & saw my mommy friends handling motherhood like champs. And here I was at 2am making my husband check all the locks on the doors…for the third time that night. Why couldn’t I handle it with grace? I hadn’t showered in 3 days much less been out of the house. I felt alone. I felt inadequate & overwhelmed.

Isolation is a dangerous thing. It makes us feel like we are the only ones experiencing something; that we’re the only ones that can’t handle the situation we’re in. What a lie. Almost every mommy I talked to felt the same way I did. I wasn’t treated like a failure. They loved on me & empathized with me. Sometimes the first step towards freedom is being brave enough to ask for some help & support. After I did just that, things began to change.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

I began giving God this new fear & anxiety that was trying to steal my mind & thoughts. It was a slow process over the course of a year & I still battle anxiety sometimes, but I know the power to defeat it is held in God’s Word!

If you feel anxious, no matter to what degree, always remember that you are not alone. And no matter what thoughts try to consume you, God’s Word is your shelter, shield & sword! His promises & truths are yours to claim! So claim them out loud.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

You are loved & treasured! Please let me know if I can support you in prayer during this process! Victory is yours!

I declare my God as faithful.

Those Two Words

Hello friend.

I’d like to think that I have a fairly decent vocabulary. However, I seem to have trouble with 2 words sometimes. They aren’t long words. There’s no tricky accent on them, nor do they require tongue twisting enunciation. These words are…

I’m sssssssss.

Let me try that again…

I’m soooooorrrrr.

Ok, this is more difficult than I expected. Here’s goes.

I’m sorrryyyyy.

Whew! There. I feel better.

It’s not necessarily that those words are impossible to say for me; it’s the jab to my pride & admitting I was wrong that make them a little sticky. When I miss someone’s phone call, those words flow beautifully off my lips. “Oh I’m sorry I missed your call. I’ve been talking to God in my prayer closet for the past 4 hours.” Ok, it doesn’t usually go that way. It’s more like, “I’m sorry I missed your call. I was blowdrying my hair and a large chunk of it got sucked into the backside of the dryer. And while I was trying to pull it out, I panicked and turned to unplug the thing and stubbed my toe. Smoke from my burned hair had filled the room so I couldn’t see anything and ran into the door, knocking me unconscious for the past 32 minutes. The good news is, I saved the dryer. The bad news is, I now have bangs.”

Simply apologizing for something is sometimes difficult, but saying I’m sorry without putting a “but”, “that” or “if” after it…can be even harder! “I’m sorry that you took it the wrong way.” “I’m sorry if you think I said that out of spite.” Or the classic, “I’m sorry for how I said it, but I’m not sorry for what I said.”

Yep. The I’m sorry without a but, that or if. What a challenge.

I have a friend who’s been through thick and thicker with me. We’ve been very close the last few years. Slowly but surely, little things this person would say & do would make me…well…angry. But did I tell them that? Was I honest to them? No, no, no. Don’t be silly. I just kept listening & listening & taking it in. I would take it personally & and let it build up inside of me. All the while, I was smiling and nodding. My friend had no idea that I had had it up to here with her bad attitude & empty talk. And how could she have known? I was smiling & nodding. I didn’t want to have to deal with conflict or confrontation. But a girl gets to her breaking point eventually. You know what I’m saying. You’ve been there. You take it & take it & then…SNAP! Your face gets flush, your heart start pounding & then bllllaaaaaaaaaa. Out come some not-so-pretty things. “Oh sure, just because I’ve been smiling & agreeing with you about everything you’ve been saying throughout the latter part of our friendship, then all of the sudden I explode all over you, you think I’M crazy. Fine. Be that way.”

I thought that everything was said and done; it had become something that couldn’t be reversed. There were so many things this girl had said & done to me; our friendship was over. But then, my loving God began a work in my heart. I didn’t come straight to the conclusion that I needed to ask forgiveness from this person. It was a journey & my heart began going through a transformation that I can only explain as a God-change. I was craving God’s word constantly. I truly felt my relationship with Jesus deepening into something very special & real. Knowing that I wanted my heart to be cleaned out and made pure, I began to ask God to show me things that I needed to do in order to make things right with people so that my heart, motives and actions could line up with God’s heart. And of course, don’t ya know it…He began to show me people who I needed to apologize to.

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” 

I love how The Message puts Psalm 139:23 & 24. “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.” 

I knew swallowing my pride was going to be hard enough, but being genuine with my apology WITHOUT needing or requiring an apology from this person, was only going to happen with God’s strength. I knew I couldn’t do it without tapping into God’s mercy and grace. And when we do that, watch out. I was overwhelmed with love for this person. I wrote out a very long apology & sent it off. I didn’t blame, accuse or point out my friend’s wrongdoings. Even if it had ended there, I experienced this incredible sense of joy in my heart from being obedient to God’s command in the situation. I don’t care how hard the situation is, when we’re obedient to God’s leading, there will be joy in our souls.

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”

I can love them, pour grace out on them, give mercy to them through Him.

So within a couple of days, this friend emailed back, expressing her heart & how she was sorry too & how we should just start fresh. What an additional blessing that she was so receptive! That’s not always the case though. But that’s ok. We are only required to be responsible for our own reactions & motives. If we are listening to God’s beautiful voice in our lives and being obedient to Him, we don’t have to worry about others’ responses or hearts. It’s not our place & isn’t our burden to carry. We can however, pray that their hearts & long for God. We are all different. We all have varying opinions, priorities & convictions. But as we all run after God & desire for hearts to be like His heart, we will come to this mutual ground of love, understanding & respect towards each other. And that is a beautiful thing.

1 Chronicles 29:27, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.”

My God is faithful.

Encouragement

I was thinking the other day (I do that from time to time). I started to drift off into a nice, little, mental vacation as I stared out the window. There’s a cute little park across the street and I like to people-watch as they walk their dogs & don’t pick up after them.

Anyways, as I was daydreaming, I began to pray & ask God for some encouragement. I didn’t need anything life-altering, just a word of encouragement from someone. Or perhaps a love note in the mail. Those are always fun. So as I started to go on with my day, I felt God move in my heart. As much as I had desired encouragement for myself, I began to feel the need to encourage someone else. So as I started to think of all the lovely ladies in my life that I would just love to encourage, I knew that God wanted me to encourage someone who wasn’t in my “best friend circle”. You know who I’m talking about. The girl that you’re not necessarily close to; or perhaps, the one that you’d prefer to say hi to & that’s all. Anything above that, would just be…awkward. Besides, we don’t know about her life well enough to personally take the time to pray for & encourage her, right?

Oh, how wrong I can be. She is loved! Just as you are. Just as I am. We are all equally precious in His sight. So guess what? As daughters of the Most High, it is our responsibility to love on her, encourage her, but most importantly, show His love to her. His unconditional, pure, passionate love.

Romans 12:6-9 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement”. 

I began to feel a little anxiety set in as I was typing out the note to her. How was she going to respond to this? Was she going to think I was weird? I hadn’t talked to her in literally a year. After about line 5 of this note, I realized how ridiculous I was being. Whenever someone encourages me, I don’t respond like, “What? Why would you tell me how great you think I am? You think I’m…what!? Amazing?? And you love me?? Gosh. Keep those thoughts to yourself next time!” That would be ridiculous, right? If anyone speaks encouragement into my life, I’m literally floating on a cloud the rest of the day. It feels my heart to overflowing! The more I wrote, the more I began to really admire and love her. Which resulted in me wanting to write more. Which made me love her more. Which…ya know.

As I typed out the last line of the note, I was so excited to send it to her. It wasn’t anything super-deep, I just typed what flowed out. I signed it and hit ‘send’.

Within the hour, I received a message back from her. Her reply started, “You’re not going to believe this, but I was just praying that God would encourage me today.” Oh, sister. I believe it.

Our God is so incredible like that. He’s not only holding the entire universe together, He loves to encourage you. You are His treasure and the “little things” in your life are so important to Him. I was more encouraged that day by giving out encouragement. As great as a love note would have been, her response made my heart leap in my chest. It showed me how personal God is. And how loving and caring He is.

I love this verse. Philemon 1:7, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” 

So if I may, could I suggest we intentionally refresh the heart of at least one woman this week? And make it interesting; encourage a woman that you haven’t talk to in a while or someone you don’t know that well. They are going to be so surprised & blessed. Let’s pray for guidance on how to encourage her & just do it! Whether it’s a note in the mail, an email, a flower, a coffee date or a verse written out & given to her; let’s lift up that woman & show her how passionate God is about her. Don’t worry about wording everything perfectly. Just go for it.

You are fantastic. You sincerely bless me & have touched my heart. I’m absolutely positive that you’re beautiful heart is going to greatly impact the people in your life this week! Let me know how it goes!

I am praying for you. And I declare Him faithful!

Who I Am

I don’t know about you, but periodically I catch myself letting out a deep, heavy sigh. Even if nothing in particular is happening at that moment, it doesn’t matter. Here comes the sigh. It’s like I’m releasing feelings of being overwhelmed from fighting a battle that I’m unaware of. Or maybe all the stresses of life combine into this huge pile, so I’m not thinking of just one thing that’s on my mind, because 1,000 things are. What do I do on days like this? Well, there’s the classic to-do list. Until I get distracted or realize I just don’t feel like making or doing anything on a list. I can allow myself to be a professional procrastinator if the occasion calls for it. I thought marrying a man who was super organized & motivated would change that about me. Or at least make me look better. But instead, I’m the one that is being asked to pick up my underwear off the floor or keep my paperwork semi-organized. Wow. That transition into superwoman wife didn’t happen as well as I had hoped.
 
Marrying a man that truly finds joy in being organized, having a dusted house & wiped-clean electronics doesn’t make it very easy to pretend to be organized either. I know we’re married, but I still have stories about my college dorm room I haven’t shared with him. Stories that would haunt & disturb him to his squeaky clean core. Marrying a man who thinks being 10 minutes early is being on time has also stretched my “fashionably late by 20 minutes” habits. During my sophomore year, my sister became a freshman at the same University I was at & we thought it would be fun to take some classes together. From the first day of our sisterly-shared classes, I’m sure my sister regretted it. I always knew it took me an hour to fully get ready in the morning. But for a little reason I like to call “loving my sleep more than life itself”, I made us late for every class. It got to the point where she would say, “I love you, Heather, but I’m going to be on time today. You’re on your own. See you at class.” At first, I could convince her that I was just a couple minutes away from being ready to leave & she would wait for me. But then my baby sister wised up & figured out that 2 minutes meant 15 minutes in my language. And I usually had a stressful, hurried walk to class…alone. I take full responsibility for that. But if I could just add one thing, I was always dressed nicely & fully accessorized. Sometimes I even remembered to bring my textbooks.
 
Up until about a year ago, I become completely emotionally depleted while trying to earn my father’s love & make him proud of who I was. But nothing was enough & love shouldn’t have to be worked for or earned. Every time I was told what I was doing wrong, I immediately claimed how imperfect I was & tried harder to change into something different just so I could feel approval to some degree. Comments in my childhood, regardless of whether or not they were maliciously said to me, deeply scarred me. I went from thinking I could conquer the world, to wondering if I was good at anything. I went from thinking I was the prettiest girl in the room, to not eating for days at a time so that I could be somewhat attractive. I almost always had breakouts on my face, so layers of makeup went on to help complete the mask that I liked to wear to cover up the ugliness I felt.
 
Looking back at all of the defining moments that hurt in my life, I see God’s hand. Times I was laying in bed, knowing my decisions were not only hurting me, but hurting the people I claimed to love, I still felt God’s grasp on my heart. He wouldn’t let go. I would cry & ask God why He still wanted me. There was nothing likable, much less lovable about me. At least that’s how I felt. I wasn’t interesting enough or beautiful enough to keep the attention of the people that I desperately longed for. I wasn’t the prettiest, the most talented or creative. I was just…me. And I was a MESS. I always viewed my messy life as a reason that I couldn’t be used by God for something bigger than what I was. I was empty. I didn’t have anything in me that could stack up against the amazing people around me. I had no 5-year plan. I didn’t know what my plans were for the upcoming weekend, much less what I wanted to do after college or the rest of my life.
 
So long story short, I’m a mess. There’s no cute little box with a perfect little ribbon tied around this girl’s life. But despite my messiness, God has ALWAYS been faithful. And I think because of my messiness, God is faithful. God never asked us to get ourselves together before we accept Him into our lives. What I’ve learned is that it’s impossible to get to a point where I feel ready enough, clean enough, organized enough, pure enough, holy enough to approach a perfect, unconditionally loving God. I can’t do anything to earn His love. But that’s the beauty of Who He is. He loves me no matter what.
Let that soak in.
 
God loves you. Nothing you’ve done or will ever do will change the fact that Jesus died for you. He died for you. He welcomes your messiness.
 
Listen to what 2 Corinthians 12:9 says:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
So there we are. I’m a mess & God loves me. I am empty without Him. Anything good inside of me is from God. He is personal, loves unconditionally & pours out grace on me every single day. From the second my feet the floor in the morning, God has given me the strength & grace that I need to live that day; not just get through the day, but fully, abundantly & passionately live. Because I am empty without Him & because I am weak, Christ’s power can be made perfect in that weakness! Praise God! I declare Him faithful!