When You Need to be Anchored

When we’re children, we are filled with hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Possibilities are endless, the world is limitless, and we can do anything we put our minds to.

Why, then, do we have such a hard time bringing these hopes, dreams, and aspirations to fruition as we grow older, and can realistically accomplish those things?

Life happens.

And it changes us.

Life can grow us, help us, harm us, affect us, strengthen us, build us, transform us. We can feel like we’re being tossed around aimlessly on the sea, bouncing, gasping for air, and possible drowning at times. When we do life like this, it can be overwhelming, messy, and just plain hard. And it’s through “doing life” that I’m learning to rely on the one constant I have, the One that keeps me anchored in the rough waters…the good Lord.

It’s taken me a long to time be able to get to the point where I can honestly write that above sentence, but I’m here and I’m a constant work in progress. And that is ok, and that is right.

I was honored and blessed to be a part of my first book launch team during these last couple of months. It was for a new Christian writer name Micah Maddox, and her book, Anchored In. What an experience it’s been being a part of a launch team, and being able to share with you her inspiring messages on social media and word of mouth.

Maddox is refreshingly honest and transparent in her story, which is something everyone, I believe, needs in their life. Her book shares deeply personal stories which are used to help and reach out to others who may be experiencing similar difficult situations and hardships. While reading her book, it was like talking to a trusted sister or girlfriend, one who you could cry on her shoulder, let her cry on yours, and then laugh together until your sides wanted to split.

Maddox gives proof of how she has God anchored in her own life, and He was the reason that she was able to overcome the various adversities she has faced. She explains how He is there to protect, guide, and love us all, and how by being anchored in Him, His love, and His presence, we can experience His true love and power in this life that likes to toss us in the waves of a stormy sea. She gives us hope and comfort, when we may need it most.

Anchored In is a very timely and refreshing read that is sure to touch your heart in more ways than one. Let me know what you think of it after you read it, and how you become anchored in His presence.

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Embrace Change

Change is hard. It’s everywhere, all the time, and comes as a windfall all at once when we least expect it. We have to adapt, react, and “punt” in order to keep up with that change, and move on to the next endeavor that befalls us.

It can be overwhelming and leaves us wondering and pondering so many questions: “Why?” “How?” “What next?” “What do I do now?” We live in a world where change is a constant; it’s something that will never fail to produce. But when we get pulled into the undertow of change, we struggle to breathe. We can begin to suffocate if we don’t know where to turn, and really there is only one solution to help us understand, adapt, and react.

Only God.

He is our constant. He is unchanging. He is who we can count on no matter what comes our way. Hebrews 13:8 (NIV) says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. We can rest in the fact that He will faithfully be at our sides, helping us through our struggles and change. But He never will change who He is and what He does. He loves us. He made us in His image. He had a plan for our salvation from the beginning. His love has no limits, and neither does His awesome power.  

So when the next transition, hurdle, or hiccup comes along, we can rest in Him and be still. He has us by the hand, and we can walk confidently in knowing that while the world may be completely different today than yesterday, He will never be.

The Power of Words

The Jesus Bible

Image from the Jesus Bible

 

My husband teases me that I’m the eternal optimist. And overall, I try to think positively. I think people are born and generally good, there’s always a silver lining to issues happening to us, and most people have good intentions as we go about our days.

 

But life happens. It influences, changes, molds, shapes (add whatever verb you want here) us and our words and actions and thoughts and opinions come out on our sleeves and we make the choice to let “life” shape us in our decisions, attitudes, and thoughts. But what about how our thoughts, attitudes and words influence and affect others?

 

I’m currently reading the book of Job in my own personal Bible study time and it’s heartbreaking. So much YUCK happens to Job that I think could easily break anyone. I know it would for me! From losing his 10 children, all his assets and more in the span of a day, he is pushed to the brink. He is a faithful, devoted man of God, and he does nothing wrong. Only we are aware as we read that there is spiritual warfare going on, and Job is caught in the middle. Yet, he does not give in to the enemy’s tendencies, and he never curses God. That’s a strong person if you ask me!

I have not finished this study yet, but what caught my eye while reading today was how Job’s friends are speaking with him. They were good friends who were there to support him in this awful time and circumstance: “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:13 NIV). They sat with him saying nothing, until Job himself speaks for the first time. And then, the opinions, attitudes, and thoughts begin to flow from them.

 

What began as well-intentioned advice turned into judgment on their friend. I’m writing in very general terms here, but they had turned it back on Job and assumed that the reason for his suffering was all his fault. They had no idea what was going on in the spiritual realm, and were quick to assume Job’s guilt or immoral choices, which was not the case. I really began to think about this today, because I had wondered how many times I had been in those shoes…not of Job’s but of his friends.

We see a friend or loved one in need and hurting. We want to help. We think we know the whole situation and understand everything that is at stake. How easy it is for us to spout off well-meaning, but not always solicited advice. It’s so easy for us to have this “alternate” perspective when we’re not involved in the situation. We can tell them what to do, what they’re doing wrong, and how to fix it. Exactly. The first time.

 

I’m just as guilty of this as the next person. I want to help my friend, but sometimes I inadvertently get on my high horse to do it. Before I get on that high horse though, have I examined my own opinions, attitudes, thoughts, judgments, etc? Are my words actually helping and healing? Or are they hindering and unhelpful?

Jesus hits this on the head (as He always does!) in Matthew 7:3-5 NIV when he says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

 

Ouch…

Ouch again.

I think God’s nudging me today. I need to listen more, pontificate less. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, right? Even if our intentions are for good, we need to stop and think before we speak. Examine our own actions, thoughts, attitudes, opinions and judgments before we mess around with others’. Our words are so influential and powerful on other people. Something we say can affect a person’s entire day, week, month…whether we know it or not. Whether we mean for it to do that or not! I think about Job and how he just needed friends to listen and although they meant well, they were rubbing salt really deep into his wounds. I don’t know how this book ends yet, but I am going to be more intentional in how I interact with others…my family, friends, coworkers, students, church family, etc. It’s a conscious effort to do so, and I need His help with it.

Love more, think more, listen more.

 

 

Love

Love.

According to Dictionary.com:

—noun
1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person
–verb
1. to have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for

A four-letter word for a simple concept. Love should be easy to practice, give, share, foster. This ability is within each and every one of us. But lately, that hasn’t been the case.

Our world is hurting. People are hurting. Every person on this planet has their own thoughts, feelings, and opinions on certain issues. And you know what? That’s what makes all of us Unique. Different. Worthy. Important. It’s ok to disagree with one another. But do it with respect. Do it in an informed fashion. Do it with love.

In the book of Matthew, the Pharisees tried to test Jesus and trip him up in his words. One asked him, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36 NIV). Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV).

We need to show and practice love. Love God. Love our family and friends. Love our neighbors, coworkers, adversaries. It’s not always easy. But it’s the right thing to do.

Dream a little dream…

I have been doing online Bible studies with Proverbs 31 Ministries now for about 2.5 years. We’re gearing up for our next one starting in September with the book, “She’s Still There” by Chrystal Evans Hurst. I’m so excited to begin this study, as it is about re-discovering who you are, because as we all know, life can take some crazy twists and turns, and we can lose who we are in the process.

One of the fabulous study leaders posed a pre-study question yesterday to think about and respond to get us in the right mindset for this book. She asked, “Has your life turned out the way you always imagined it would?” I read this question and paused for a split second. My answer?

No. Absolutely not.

But that is not a bad thing.

Here’s where I’m coming from. If you don’t know me that well, you need to know that I live on a working farm in the middle of nowhere. I’m very happily married to my husband of 7 years, and we’ve been together for a total of 9. We have cows, horses, goats, and a herd of barn cats that roam the property and who think they run the show (but in reality, our two children do). But this is not where I started. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. On average, we see about 2 stars at night because my house was so close to the city, the Chicago lights drown them out. It takes about 5 minutes to get to more than 5 choices for grocery stores (10 if there’s traffic), and there’s always movement somewhere.

I attended a big elementary school, an even larger junior high, and a HUGE high school. There was always something going on somewhere, and we were never lacking entertainment. I did everything I was supposed to do to get through high school: earn good grades, join a bunch of groups/clubs, maintain some sort of a social life, and get into college. And I was blessed. I got into a great school which I LOVED and made some amazing friends who I still hold dear today. Life was going according to my plan. (Notice I said, “MY”).

The plan was to graduate Illinois State University with a degree in English Secondary Education (which I did). I’d move back home, find a job, get my feet wet, and move out to make my own living. I’d find a great place to live in the ‘burbs and continue that suburban-style living that I’d been used to, at that point, for 22 years. I’d keep in touch with my friends from high school and college, spend my weekends out in the city enjoying my freedom, and everything would be hunky-dory.

But God had other plans (And for the record, I’m so glad he did!)

Upon graduation, I feverishly began to apply for jobs. I lived back at home, and knew I could stay there as long as I wanted. I knew I needed to start making money to contribute and pay bills, and I knew I needed that health insurance from a good school district. So I applied. And applied. And applied some more. I figured calls for interviews would start coming in quickly.

Yeah, not so much. After I applied to over 40 different districts (you read that right, districts. Not individual schools), I was starting to get discouraged. But about halfway through the summer of 2008, I FINALLY got the call to interview at the school I’m at now! I was elated. They interviewed me to teach high school English, but they really wanted me to teach high school Spanish (um, what? I didn’t know right away that I had the creds to teach middle school Spanish). So I interviewed. They offered me a job then and there for the Spanish position and…I turned it down. Pretty bold on my part. I told them I didn’t feel comfortable being a first-year teacher in a subject I wasn’t comfortable with, and that I’d hold out for the English position.

I didn’t get that English position. They had hired another person to teach it, and that was that. Here’s where God always has the final say in things. The person they hired accepted a different position elsewhere later that summer, and they called me back. I had a job! That definitely was divinely orchestrated. But this would involved a big move into a new town where I knew just a couple of people…a huge leap of faith.

One of my favorite verses in scripture is Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): “‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'”. Yep, He had those plans figured out already, long before I was ever born.

My husband and I had been dating for a short time when I accepted the job. My mom likes to joke with me that I moved so far away from her for a boy. My husband is one of the biggest blessings I have in my life, but at that stage in the game, I was thinking of health insurance and a paycheck. So picked up everything, moved my life again, and went from a busy, suburban-lifestyle, to living in quiet, slower farm life.

This was a huge culture shock for me. And even as I’m about to begin my 10th year of teaching, it still is from time to time. I have learned so many things living in small towns and on a farm (like what a hog nipple is, how to move cows, and that the county fair is the highlight of the summer), that I couldn’t express them all in this single post. But the biggest lesson I’ve gleaned from all of this is that God has those plans set to prosper us and design our futures. And He wants us to dream and set goals and reach for them as far as we can. We just need to be open to His plans as we do life everyday.

I wouldn’t change a thing of where I’m at right now (okay, maybe to have a shorter drive to Target and be able to get Chicago-style pizza). I’m not saying everyday is “sunshine and roses” and incredibly easy. It’s not. It can be hard. I miss home and my family and my friends. I’ll be honest, I miss what used to be my comfort zone. But there’s so much I’d miss out on had I not been set on the path in this direction. This is where I’m supposed to be.

So, has my life turned out the way I imagined it would?

No. Absolutely not.

How about you?

She Speaks 2017 Recap

She speaks picture1480 miles. 12 hours of driving. 6 states. 5 days. 4 nights. And 1 amazing experience in North Carolina. This was the She Speaks 2017 experience I was so fortunate to have had. I am still processing the information, messages, and events from the conference, and I have so much to tell!

Naturally, nerves have a tendency to set in for new experiences. If I had said I wasn’t nervous, I’d be lying! I was nervous to go, and as I was packing and preparing the day before, the “mom guilt” set in. I felt like I was being selfish, like I shouldn’t go and leave my children at home for 5 days (they were with my husband, who is an amazing and very capable father!) But I think every mom will attest to experiencing this guilt at some point in her life. I kept reminding myself to be fearless, and that there was a purpose to this trip, and I had to figure out what it was.

The entire trip began on Wednesday when one of my closest friends and I began our 1400+ mile trek from the cornfields of Illinois to the hilly terrain of North Carolina. Normally, I love to fly everywhere, but let’s face it, it’s expensive. I was so fortunate and grateful to have this amazing friend who came with me during this experience, and some of the most memorable moments I had during this trip took place during our cross-country jaunt in our conversations. We talked about everything; from school to religion, to business, and more, nothing was off limits. It helped get me to the right mindset for attending a conference, even though I really had no idea what to expect when I got there.

Something that was unique about this conference was the almost instantaneous and strong bonds that were created between the women attending. The conversation and fellowship began before conference in a Facebook group specifically designed for attendees this year. Great conversations took place and we got to know each other in very general terms. Anticipation began to build as we’d all soon get to meet each other face-to-face, and have common ground over which to bond. I was lucky to encounter a small group of women who were staying at the same hotel I was in, and we seemed to “click” very quickly and easily. This isn’t always the case for women! Coming from different states, backgrounds, stages of life, we found common ground in our love of God and taking our steps of obedience for His calling on our lives.

As I had written earlier this year, my focus word for 2017 is “Fearless”. God really tested me during this trip as to how well I’d stick to my word. And I feel like I did! I was fortunate to befriend my “group” from the hotel, but I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone to make connections with as many women as I could during this conference. God is amazing with how He orchestrates who comes in and out of our lives at the exact, perfect times. Never in my life have I been in a place where EVERYONE was so kind, genuine, and inviting. And I really do mean everyone. Not once did I ever feel like there were “cliques” or I was uninvited. If you were alone, it usually didn’t last long. Women would smile and ask each other, “Are you here alone?” or “Would you like to sit with us?”. I did as well and I had some wonderful conversations with women from all over the country. Situations such as this, attending a conference by yourself, can turn out to be uncomfortable or awkward. Not here 🙂 I felt like I was with “my people” and I know I’ve forged relationships that will last a long time.

The She Speaks Conference is named from Proverbs 31:26: “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue”. It is a Christian Women’s conference for women who are interested in pursuing writing and speaking in order to spread God’s Word. I came into the conference knowing I wanted to write. Writing has been in my blood since I was a young child, and it has been through the growth of my faith that I’ve decided to be “fearless” and make a commitment to what I feel is my calling and purpose on this earth. Every day of this conference was full of inspirational speakers, informative break out sessions, and fellowship like I have never experienced before. Not to mention, we had praise and worship before every key note speaker and meal, and the band was amazing. During these times of singing and worship, the energy in the room of over 700 women was infectious and you couldn’t help but get lost in the music and prayer.

This conference is hosted and put on by Proverbs 31 Ministries (www.proverbs31.org). This organization’s goal is to spread God’s Word through ministry for women in a variety of ways. I am fortunate to serve as a volunteer for this group and I had the opportunity to meet and get to know many of the volunteers and those who work for the group. This was one of my favorite experiences of the whole weekend. Everyone who volunteers is from all over the country, so to have the opportunity to meet face-to-face and have a live conversation as opposed to one on social media, really drove home how important this work is. And let me tell you, these intelligent, strong, beautiful women are every bit as genuine in person as how I know them online. It was a humbling experience for me, as well as one that helped me embrace my “fearless” mindset while making new friends.

I have started a book. All I will say about the content of it here is that it deals with issues that many women face in different stages of life. But, because of this conference, I feel more confident in what I’m writing and that there is a purpose to the message I feel compelled to share in the story. I’ve been nervous, unsure, and doubtful about this undertaking. But after attending She Speaks, meeting and connecting with other women who share similar values and goals, and most importantly, experiencing God on the move in this area of my life, I’m fully committed to keep stepping in obedience in order to fulfill the calling He has for me. I can’t wait to see where He leads me next!

She Speaks 2017

She Speaks 2017This post will be a bit different than what I’ve been posting the last few months, but I wanted to share!

Earlier this year, I wrote a post titled, “What’s Your Word?” and I wrote about how my Focus word for this year was going to be Fearless. I’m happy to say that I have been keeping to this focus word, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone as much as I can and as often as I can this year thus far.

Which brings me to She Speaks 2017. A Christian conference for aspiring writers, “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26). I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know what God has in store for me. I don’t know how I’ll change one this conference is over. I do know one thing…I’m meant to be there. This is a major LEAP out of my comfort zone for me. I’ve been to plenty of other conferences before, but this is the first one where I’m going on complete faith with no clue of what the end result will be. That’s frightening…and thrilling.

I got the idea to register for this conference last year, but I never did. Seeds of doubt were beginning to sprout in my mind as I considered attending this event. “Why should I go to that?”, “I don’t belong there”, “You’re not a writer, don’t fool yourself”, “It’s not meant for you”, “It’s too expensive”…I missed out last year. But then the email showed up in my inbox again for 2017. And after a gentle nudging I felt in my heart and mind I thought, “why not?”

I can’t pinpoint exactly where my mindset changed over the last year, but I’m glad it did. I’m meant to be there and be an active participant. I’m meant to learn, grow, thrive, and spread a message from Him. Pretty excited about that 🙂 I have NO idea whatsoever what to expect, but I’m ready. I’m ready with an open mind. I’m ready with an open heart. I’m ready to see what God has in store for me and the 700 other women who are attending this event. And I’ll be ready to share with you.

“See” you on the flip side 🙂

My Kind of Heaven

My kind of heavenThe sun sets over the horizon, lazily bringing the end of day,

I take in all of God’s glory, thankful to have had the chance.

As the birds sing their sweet lullabies, I gaze with wonder at the beauty before me.

Deep greens of the grass and leaves and fields, not hinting at jealously, but of rich, verdant life.

The sapphire sky, clear and clean and alive. Never-ceasing, boundless and full.

The golden sun, casting its rays and bringing about the reds and pinks of love in this earth.

The birds compose a chorus of melodies, creating a perfect symphony to lay the day to rest.

I sit, in awe, of the beauty surrounding me, drinking it all in.

In a world that never sleeps, never stops, never slows down, I pause.

To be a part of something so beautiful, humbling to say the least.

I give my thanks, and rest in my kind of heaven.

 

Joyful Endings

Life doesn’t always go as planned, but that’s the story of her life.
Once sheltered, reserved, and timid, she’s now transformed, ready for anything.
Everyone may want a happy ending, or may even expect it to happen…
Or they may fear the worst.
But she’s thinking differently…she’s not going to wait.
She’s going to make her joyful ending.
This fire within her can’t be quenched, and will keep burning for what she wants.
Constantly moving, changing, spreading…she can’t be stopped, she’ll never be put out.
With this flame igniting her soul, she’s fearlessly ready to jump

Into:

The unknown
The unimaginable
The deep

She’s going as far as she can; watch her, World, as she takes flight,
And makes her own joyful ending.

Dragon…Damsel…Distress?

*I’ve been having so much fun in my online creative writing class! This was a prompt I did today in which we had to challenge a fairy tale/myth/folk tale and change some main elements.*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We all know the story
Of how the princess needed to be saved.
The heroic prince, dashing and brave, would storm the castle and slay the dragon, and all “Happily Ever Afters” would ensue.

But…
What if?

What if the prince was a scoundrel, only out for the glory, not even caring about our princess?
What if the dragon was the hero? Wanting to rescue the princess from a loveless marriage?
Or what if the princess needed rest, solace, peace, solitude from the selfish, greedy prince who wanted to only serve himself?
What if…

Here’s what really happened…

The prince was a fiend who stole everyone’s money and killed and plundered to raise himself in power and thrive. But to become king, he had to have a bride.
No matter, he’d kill her as well, in due time.
The princess knew his heart and didn’t want to die.
She sneaked away, oh so quickly, to converse with her fire-breathing, reptilian friend.
Yes, FRIEND!

They planned it out, all was set, they were ready to hatch their plan.
Hiding in the dungeon, “weak” and “helpless”, “Oh save me dear prince…!” would describe the princess, but we know she was ready to fight!
The dragon took his position, breathing fire, setting traps, and grinning inside.
The prince came ready to kill, and met the fight of his life.

The princess began to seduce, but locked him up, and ran to her freedom, smiling.
The dragon set the castle ablaze and left the scoundrel to his fate.
Morbid?
Maybe.
But for the greater good?
Absolutely.

The damsel and dragon fled to a different land,
And took to a quiet life.
No more titles, no being feared,
They are adored, accepted, loved.
Two friends, caring for others, caring for each other,
And just…

Happy.