Easter Celebration!

I love Easter.  I actually like it more than Christmas.  I used to dread it.  I used to be depressed during it. Now…. I love it! I love the weather around Easter. I love see everything in bloom.  I love the longer days.  I love the story of Easter.  I love Jesus.

In years past I struggled with the fun part of Easter.  I was so focused on the crucifixion and felt so bad about it that I missed the celebration part.  I was so focused on the horrific details of his death and the events that led up to it that I skimmed over the fact that he overcame death.  

  

True story, I thought the songs of praise were inappropriate on Easter Sunday.  That is how focused I was on his death.  For years I did this.  I missed out.

In doing a study called “One thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp I have taken time to focus on what I am grateful for.  I have praised God in the good, bad, ugly, boring, and uneventful things in life.  It has challenged me on my views and perspectives.  I like to have fun in life and have an annoyingly loud laugh (it’s genetic), but when it came to my faith I was so serious and gloomy.  I focused mainly on the rules and not so much in my faith.  Last year I started my journey of growth and freedom.  This Easter I felt free!

  

It’s one of the hardest concepts for people to grasp.  Jesus is freedom. Jesus is peace.  Jesus is hope.  He died on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  He died for all of us. Every single one of us.  You know that sinning you do, or just did, or are about to do?  He died for that. 

We didn’t ask him to.  It was his ultimate purpose.  He knew and wasn’t real thrilled about it, but he did it anyway.  Then he rose from the grave.  He overcame death and walked among the people one last time before being reunited with His father, God.  He left the message of “I will see you again”.  

As I type this I bow my head… Humbled, grateful, amazed, excited.  God showed his ultimate love for us in Jesus.  It isn’t hateful, judgmental, spiteful, bitter, or ugly.  It’s beautiful and surpasses our human understanding.  As I once did, our society puts so much focus on being right and the religious rules that we miss the point of his resurrection.  We missed the message.  We overlooked the gift.  This past year, I finally opened the gift.  It was a freedom. It was peace.  

It’s the first year I have allowed myself to celebrate that Jesus rose from the grave and is alive.  I am celebrating that He is sitting at the right hand of God in heaven.  I am celebrating that He will return one day to earth and one day I will get to see him face to face.  That is totally awesome and worth celebrating.

I even did the fun, silly stuff this year.  Hid Easter eggs and have fun doing so.  Rocked out Easter Baskets for the boys and felt no dread.  Jammed out my finder nails in springy colors because it made me laugh.  Sang a little loud during worship service (and God did not give me the gift of song) and maybe did a little dancing.  I had fun.  I celebrated.

  

He is Risen!  He is Risen indeed.  Celebrate it how you see fit, but celebrate it!  Happy Easter.

You are worthy. You matter.

It sucks when someone makes you feel that you don’t matter. They have this way of making you feel as if you aren’t worth anything. Logically, you know they are wrong. Emotionally, they got you. This is something I have struggled with most of my life.

As I have gotten older I am stronger and have confidence that my worth is not measured by others. I know my value is measured by God… “but God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). If we didn’t have value, if we didn’t matter, God would have never done that. We matter. You matter. I matter.

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Most days I do not struggle with feeling as if I don’t matter because I am able to stay focused on the present in the moment. A while ago I wrote about being mindful and part of being mindful is living in the moment. I drink in the experiences as I am moving through them and get overwhelmed with gratitude that I have the opportunities to live it. Occasionally, past moments of bitterness, hurt, and rejection creep up. I call these moments “Balloon Poppers”.

When my balloon gets popped I can feel myself getting deflated. I can hear the painful words of rejection all over again. I can actually imagine the child version of myself hiding in the corner to protect herself from verbal harm. I am aware that this sounds like I could use some therapy, but that’s part of what this blog is for. :-). Actually, I may or may not be lying on the couch typing this up… Just like a therapy session.

I will feel these emotions strongly and as I feel them and notice that I am going down a dark path I begin to fight like hell. I start to battle the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. I remove myself from toxic people, thoughts, and images. I find which essential oils are uplifting, invite peace to my body, and are grounding applying or diffusing them daily. I can’t stand the feeling of overwhelming darkness.

From talking with others and being open about my own struggles I have, many people have shared they feel the same way. It’s universal… We all experience hurt. Some of been hurt more than others, but that does not negate another persons hurt. What amazes me is how those who have been hurt in an unimaginable and almost unforgivable way can find it in them to forgive the one who hurt them. They are able to set their anger & bitterness free by forgiving the one who hurt them.

This morning, I was looking to set myself free of the hurt I have been feeling. The stress and anxiety that I have been quietly battling was taking its toll on my spirit. I needed a release, especially since I know that the ones who were allowed to hurt me do not care. They may feel justified for what they said or did. So the message I received this morning and the message I hope to pass on is Forgiveness. Watch this video Forgiveness by Matthew West

Warning… Have tissues nearby. I cried. It’s powerful and its eye opening. I have held on for years the feelings of rejection and bitterness. This morning I have forgiven those who made me feel that way and have forgiven myself for holding on to those feelings. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that I am going to rush back and rekindle relationships that have ended. It just means that I am releasing the power they have over me to hold me captive in the darkness. To do this, I must forgive. My favorite saying is, “They don’t deserve it, but neither did you. Show them grace anyway”.

We matter and we deserve to live in the light. Jesus said, “What is the price of five sparrows – two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

I hope you can find your place of peace. It’s a beautiful place. You deserve it because you matter.

Happy Independence Day

I hope you have an awesome day celebrating the day where America became a free country. A country that decided it was time to put the power and responsibility with the people of the country instead of just the Governement. The day we were free to practice our religion the way our heart believed, to freely speak against our government without fear of persecution, the freedom to protect ourselves from those who wish to harm us, and so many more freedoms. To me, it almost seemed like they were experimenting with common sense and it was the greatest experiment ever.

Today, it seems we have lost our identity and have messed with the Bill of Rights to the point where it’s unrecognizable. There are so many laws that honestly, it makes the Bill of Rights kind of fuzzy. What once seemed so simple and effortless has become a hot confusing and uncomfortable.

When I think of freedom of Government I must think of the freedom in Christ. Let’s be honest, our government loves power and we all know there are more laws that we can handle. We are probably breaking laws we are even unaware of because there are so many of them. They probably don’t even know what laws they have made. It’s this that makes me step back and breath a breathe of freedom. I honestly know what it’s like to feel free through Christ. When I accepted Jesus as my savior the void that was in my heart disappeared. It was as if His spirit filled it and I finally was free. God’s laws are way more simple that man’s laws. When the disciples as what the most important commandment was, Jesus replied “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your sould, and all your mind. This the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40) It doesn’t get any more simple than that. If we actually followed this law, then we wouldn’t need all the little, petty laws that contradict each other from our government.

Today I am celebrating with my family and sharing with my kids the history of our country. To keep the story and celebration alive so my kids will know what it means when we say, “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”. I am thankful over and over to those who gave their time, efforts, and ultimate sacrifice so that we may know what a free country is. They still fight today in lands where the people do not know freedom of religion, speech, security, employment, and even love. Honor the armed forces and their families. Lift them up in prayer. They are doing some ugly work in order for us to feel free in our country. Never forget this.

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There are all kinds of freedoms, but the one I lift up the most is the freedom I have in Christ. It protects me from the ugly of this world. Maybe not physically, but it protects my heart and my soul. The American soldier protects our Bill of Rights. Let’s celebrate them. Celebrate our founding fathers for having the courage to stand up against total control of the people. Let’s celebrate freedom!

Lessons learning

We all like to act from time to time that we know it all. Sometimes I will even convince myself that I am in a really good place of knowledge and wisdom. I am not suggesting that I’m the all knowing but I’m saying I get this feeling and then not long after this wonderful feeling arrives… it’s gone. I am back to the drawing board. It’s a good reminder that I am so freakishly far away from knowing much about anything (does that even make sense?).

For the past few days I have had a bit of a glimpse back at my teenage years. I have had to think back what it was like for me and how did I respond. Times were different then, obviously, but some things are still the same. As I have watched some older teenagers this week it has become evident that a lot of them seem to be unprepared to be on their own. I couldn’t wait to get out of the house after graduation and experience the freedom of life. My home life was great, my parents were great, and my life was good but I needed to be on my own. It took a while for it to happen, but when it did I made a gazillion mistakes! I also did a lot of things right because of the lessons my parents taught me.

There were things that my parents had me do while I was a teen, that at the time made me so mad, but as an adult I say Thank you! I was not given a TV in my room because I wanted one. I was not given a phone in my room because I wanted one. I had to have a job in order to pay for the gas and up keep on my first car, which was not a brand new car. It was an old car with no radio, the cloth on the ceiling was coming down, and the car shook when you hit 55 mph. It was freaking awesome! My parents making me get a job at 16 was the best thing that happened to me. It taught me the lesson of earning the things I desired (I totally bought a TV and a phone for my room…. BAM!). These are stupid little things but the point is, the lesson was learned. If I wanted it, I had to earn it.

Life obviously got tougher once I left the nest. I didn’t live in a really nice apartment with the greatest furniture (although I did have my awesome 13″ TV and telephone). I didn’t have everything handed to me… and I loved it. I have loved the experience of figuring out how to “get through this thing we call life”. Sometimes I fall but I pick myself right back up. Take note and try not to make the same mistake again.

I want my kids to know this experience. I make my oldest so mad all of the time because I challenge him a lot about having to earn the things he wants. My youngest is not coping well with the phrase, “What can we do to earn that toy you want?” because he says, “I want it so you get it.” Teaching my kids to respect their elders is so important to me. I have watched so many people think it is okay to take a seat from an older person or not offer theirs up to them that it breaks my heart. If you are young & capable… get up!

Chivalry is sleeping because so many people don’t teach it. We are working hard to to teach our boys manners, kindness, generousity, responsibility, and independence in a world that does not value these things. We have a lot to do and hope to teach it mostly by example (my husband is an awesome example of a good man).

I want to give my kids the world and every little thing they want from the stores. I want to always hold their hand and take care of things for them. I want to keep them from falling down. The biggest thing I want to give them is the gift to be able to learn from their mistakes. They may fall over and over but eventually they will get it. If I always fix it for them, they will never learn to trust themselves and become indepedent. The lesson I am learning this week is to stay on this course. It’s the harder course because you aren’t the most popular parent and you will see your kids struggle in the midst of a battle. You will also see your kids light up with pride that they figured it out and are ready to take on the next thing that comes their way. Their lessons learned are my lessons learned. And we are always learning….20140617-082839-30519964.jpg

Future Hope

Recently my husband and I were talking about all of the negative press in the world and the message it sends our kids. The message our kids hear is that the world sucks, they won’t be able to find a job, create a business, afford healthcare, have freedom of speech, they are not as smart as the rest of the world, they are spoiled, have no morals, etc… Nothing positive. Remember the saying that if you hear the bad stuff enough you will eventually believe it? Well… it’s effectively working.

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Our kids hear this in school, on the news, on the internet, and through others conversations. I admit that at some point our kids have heard us talk about the things we hear on the news. It’s never good. We stay confused about what is going on in our society, so we know our kids stay confused.

In our conversation we challenged ourselves to change the conversation. Instead of discussing the bad in this world (and there is a lot of it)… We are going to lift up the good because there is a lot of that as well. I believe there is more good than bad, we just hear about the bad ALL. THE. TIME.

This conversation change doesn’t change our discipline tactics or expectations of their behaviors, education, and overall being. It changes the direction in which their thoughts go. See, America was built on a dream and an idea. The dream doesn’t have to die and the ideas don’t have to stop just because we have had a government and media that wants us to believe we can’t do anything on our own. We can. We will.

We decided that we would speak only good and positive things around them. Not to protect them from harm but to encourage them to stay strong and have faith in the midst of the storm. So they will be able to look for the good in everything around us when most only see the bad. Our hope is that they will be a part of the solution and not the problem. Right now, they are in the same boat as everyone else. We are turning in our tickets and getting on a new boat going towards a new direction.

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Our hope is that our boys will be positively effected by this change in conversation and that a new dream will be awaken in their hearts. God created a beautiful people on this beautiful planet in this massive universe. He did not make a mistake when he created it. We aren’t going to let the wicked and negative minds of others ruin the hope for our future. We are going to lift up God’s promise and His message of light and love. We are going to give that message to our boys in hopes that they will drink it in and have that be their foundation of hopes, dreams, and ideas.

My husband and I are committed to changing the messenger. No more CNN, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC, Drudge Report, Drudge Retort, or any other news media outlet will be in our home. It’ll be a change, but it will need to be done to bring hope back.

I love the first picture above that reads, “it’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not”. They hear and then believe they are not good, and that’s not the truth. The majority of the world is good. That’s the truth. Here is to the truth and future hope!

School, Society, Anxiety, and Forgiveness

This is what I saw yesterday pop up on my phone in the middle of the day:

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This was from my oldest son, who was able to text me what was going on at school the other day. Luckily there was no bomb found, but the damage had been done. He, along with his classmates, were scared to death. He hates going to school to begin with, but now you add the insecurity of his safety and he is done.

As a parent, it is just another reason why I consider homeschooling my kids. I do not agree with the way our kids are being taught in the current education system. I hate that our schools have become targets of people who are so wicked that they attack innocent children and unarmed areas. Lastly, I am tired of our government jerking around our teachers!

The anxiety we feel isn’t just because we have a lot to do, it’s also because there is this little voice if fear always lurking in the back of our minds. Fear of some deranged individual coming in unannounced and hurting our kids. Fear of a terrorist attack and we can’t get to our kids. It’s absurd. I know how I feel as a parent sending my kid to school, I could not imagine what it would be like as a student. Worrying about studying, grades, tests, CRCT’s, socializing, enjoying being a kid, sports, church, family time, living up to expectations, and being scared of getting hurt.

If adults were to deal with this much stress on a daily basis, we would go nuts. It’s no wonder that pre-teens and teenagers are being diagnosed with anxiety disorders at such a high rate. The pressure is insane. I work hard not to baby my oldest… He needs to know how to function in society, but at this rate our society seems so unpredictable and evil, I don’t know when he will be ready to handle it.

I am a frustrated and angry Mama right now. Some punk threatened my kid and many others. I can’t help but be mad. The logical side of me tells me not to be angry, but to pray for the person who instilled an unnecessary fear in my child. It tells me that this particular person needs to be loved and accepted for who he/she is. It tells me that this person is hurting and needs help. Logic tells me that this was a cry for help. My emotions and logic are battling right now. I am working hard at replacing my anger with compassion.

I am not sure if he will continue on in the public school system next year or not, but I know I will be in prayer for the answer. He would probably be happier being homeschooled because then he could learn at his own pace and do it without having to be afraid. Then again, if I pull him out does it mean that those who fester fear win?

Today we remember Good Friday. The day my Lord and savior, Jesus, died on the cross for our sins. As I wrote that last sentence, it hit me… He died for our sins. All of us. Guess that means if I am forgiven then I am going to have to forgive the little punk. Durn. Makes staying mad hard. It’s not logic or emotions that will get me through this feeling of frustration. It’s faith. It’s always faith.

John 10:10 reads: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Psalm 34:3 reads: I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Jesus came to give us life and be the light in this dark world. My faith in Him is what calms my fear. I just have to remember to go to him whenever I begin to feel angry or anxious.

Luxurious Chores

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I do not enjoy the repeated daily chore of laundry. I despise laundry. It’s actually the part of folding I don’t like. I can wash & dry all day, but folding… ugh. It’s horrible. I have no idea what my block is on folding laundry. I know I am not alone in this because when I tell my girlfriends this, it’s universal. We all hate folding clothes.

Maybe it’s because we know that the same shirt we washed, dried, and folded will be on the floor or (hopefully) in the hamper tomorrow. We will do the same thing exact thing tomorrow and sometimes it’s just frustrating. Doing the same exact thing over and over again can also get boring so today I ended up doing something unexpected and crazy.

Today I folded laundry with a glad heart. I started the folding process just to get it out of the way but somewhere in the middle of it I started praying. Prayer can happen anywhere and at any time so I went with it. It wasn’t like a prayer of, “Do you hear me” or “Please help so and so” or “I need patience”… it was of a small voice saying, “Thank you for this chore of laundry.” It shocked me. As I said it again the realization set on me that I was behaving like the spoiled girl I am. I cringe about folding loads and loads of laundry when there is someone out there right now without loads and loads of laundry because they don’t own anything more than what they wear on their backs. It was a humbling prayer.

It wasn’t one that I was seeking, but sometimes Jesus likes to remind us in subtle ways that we need to take step back and get over ourselves. I honestly wasn’t acting like a brat today. This may have been building and for whatever reason the prayer came about and today I gladly folded each piece of laundry. For the first time (and maybe the last… we will see how long this stays with me) I found laundry a beautiful thing. It was a chore of luxury.

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I think the above scripture is appropriate. Create in me a clean heart… a clean spirit… a clean mind. Clear my head of the expectations of this world and let me be glad. We are so busy and so overwhelmed that we miss the beauty for what we have in front of us. We take for granted that we even have loads of laundry to do, trash to take out, dishes to clean, and much more. Today’s event gave me a lesson in humility and maybe even got me to fold more laundry than I have ever had before.

I pray this lesson stays with me. Especially since I have two more loads of laundry to dry & fold.

I CHOOSE Happiness

I CHOOSE Happiness

We often do not think we deserve happiness, but that is further from the truth. There will be tough times in life and sometimes you may feel down. You have a choice. You can choose to stay in the dark or open your mind & your heart to choose happiness!

Perfect for International Day of Happiness!

Running and growing

About 8 weeks ago I started a Run for God 5k training program through my church. I made it a goal of mine to do a 5k this year and God agreed with this goal so he placed it on the hearts of some fellow runners to set this up.

I have always wanted to run but have always been scared to do so. I have tried in the past, but each time I started I quit. It was hard to do. Also, my knees hurt really bad. When I was 16 it was discovered that my knee caps were slightly diagonal.

I started dancing at 3 years old and loved it. When I was in 6th grade my best friend tapped at a place called The Atlanta Dance Works. It was “the place” to learn to dance. I had to go there and I did. I loved it. My goal was to learn everything I could, move to New York, spend a few years as a Radio City Hall Rockette (seriously practiced kicks in my room just in case), and then complete my career as a choreographer. When I got the news about my knees, my career ended. At 16 I was told that I shouldn’t dance, run, hike, skate, bike… pretty much should not use my legs for anything other than walking. I was devasted. I was told that I could possibly out grow it, but it wasn’t gauranteed.

Well, I can tell you that I didn’t outgrow it because my knees still give me fits. I try really hard to take care of them but I like to be active. I can not sit still. When I decided to do this 5k shindig I knew I was going to need do it slowly and at my own pace. Armed with knee braces, a blend of essential oils, and a written goal for all to see I started with my training.

Each week I am always convinced that I can not complete the intervals. Each week I do. When I run I am exhausted and ready to quit, but I have learned to turn my focus on Jesus and I get through it. Seriously… I repeat “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” over and over. The last minute is the hardest because you know you are almost done but you can barely make it. This week became a learning experience for me. This week I learned that I am stronger than I think I am. This week I realized that as hard as the training is for me, the feeling I have when I am done is so worth it. I am proud, exhausted, energetic, excited, at peace, and accomplished. It’s a reminder to me that anything worth doing is going to be tough, it’s going to hurt, there are moments you are going to want to quit… but don’t. Turn your focus from you on to Jesus and He will guide you through the rest of the race.

I still have a lot to do and I am not looking forward to the next session, but it’s part of the process. I’m still growing and getting better every single day. I am fortunate enough to have a great support system getting through this. My fellow runners & walkers are absolutely the best. I know wouldn’t be able to do this without them because they make it fun and keep me accountable. Thanks y’all!

I love this picture. It says it perfectly:

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Working towards excellence each & every day!

How to stop over committing your schedule

Today I would like to address the problem of over committing. We all know what happens when we over commit. We get frazzled, stressed out, irritated, resentful, confused, and many more ugly words. Truth is, we over schedule because we are afraid to upset other people. Do you know what this means? It means you think of yourself as less important than others. It means that you worry more about what someone else may think of you outside of your family than you do your family. When I say “Your family” I mean your immediate family. Those that live in your home under your roof. They and YOU are your first priority.

So. Are ready to take back your calendar and your life. Okay. This is what you do. Next time someone comes to you and says, “Can you help with this?” or “Would you like to be a part of something?” or “If you don’t do xyz for so and so then it will look really bad for you.” I want you to say the following sentence to that person.

No.

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It’s a complete sentence. It doesn’t have to be said ugly or rude. If you are like me and your southern gets in the way of just saying “No” you can try the following:
“No, thank you.”
“No. I can’t make it.”
“No. I’m sorry.”

It sounds selfish, but it’s not. It’s all about priorities. For example, I am part of a group that leads a women’s bible study on Sunday afternoons. I committed to this a while ago. Since I have already committed to it then it is my obligation to honor it. Plus, it’s a group of women loving and learning about Jesus… that’s an important priority! This doesn’t mean that invites and other things come up that aren’t important but it does mean that I have already scheduled that time and therefore will be unable to cram anything else in for that day. In the past I would have stressed, freaked out, bailed on my commitment to appease others but I have found a peace in acceptance that I can’t be everywhere at one time. I have missed some things and will miss some things, but I am okay with it. I am learning to not over commit my schedule. I am embracing the peace that comes with saying, “No. I can’t do that for you today.” I’m not perfect at it, but I am getting better at it. Slowly, but surely.

Simplify your calendar if you feel overwhelmed. Stop the madness of over committing. Just say No.