… the next thing

I’ve literally written through just about every difficult season and experience in my adult life. It’s been well documented here and I love that. I love that I have a space that allows me to share encouragement, hope, joy, and examples of endurance and faith with others. It’s been amazing.

But, I’m also very much over writing through… living through… the hard, the hurtful, and the struggle. It isn’t fun. I’ve operated on high levels in the most stressful times of my life and won. Achieved. Hit goals. Experienced amazing accomplishments only to hardly enjoy it because outside of those moments, hard is literally looking you in your face.

It’s exhausting. Mentally, physically, and emotionally to do very well in all areas when you’re also weighed down in so many ways. But, there’s a sweet opportunity to look above what’s in front of you and look ahead. Look ahead focusing what your end goal is and hope for that.

And, I know, right now, with COVID-19 completely flipping our worlds upside down, it’s hard for a lot of people to look ahead when the realities of joblessness loom over you.

So many people are out of work right now. Some still blessed, even in quarantine, to have checks still clearing the bank, others experiencing an unexpected stop to their income flow whether it be because they’re hourly or commission based employees, some salaried whose contracts were suddenly suspended. For many, it’s hard and scary.

What I believe deeply is that in every experience of uncertainty, our Heavenly Father and his abilities are really, actually very real. That this shift… that every flip of the script, every surprise, every rug pulled up from under you, every shoe that dropped was no surprise to him. and, I believe he has an answer for it, healing, hope hidden in every hurt and disappointment. I believe that He has a plan of prosperity and good, a plan the lacks nothing, one that glorifies him well, one that is full of his goodness being made evident to all people on this side of heaven, a plan that exceeds everything, all things we could ever imagine….. and it included this pandemic. I believe that all things work together for our good. Which is how I can enjoy this time, how I can sit still, and ask “What’s next?” with peace instead of anxiety and fear.

The “next” in God’s plan for our lives going to be good, but we know that nothing laid out will come to life unless we work. I know that right now we have to have a faith in the character and capabilities of our God. So, we need to dig into our Bibles and sit before the Lord. We have time to develop our faith. To read. To ask questions. To seek the Lord’s face and get to know him. Hello #quarantineandchill. lol.

He may lead us to do somethings outside of our comfort zone… that generally where the good stuff happens – in uncomfortable spaces. Every person that did something great when the Lord laid out his plans for them had a question. They weren’t always sure. The work was always outside of normal. Which means you [and I] should get comfortable with doing what “isn’t you” because “you” could be holding you back, ya know? We can start with what we know we ought to be doing…. not because we know how to do it, but it stays on our minds. [but, wait….] Also ask God to renew your mind and examine what you’re focusing on; what we’re allowing into our heads and hearts. If you know it’s not pleasing to the Lord… that’s not the kind of “out of your comfort zone” work I’m talking about. [wink]

Some really hard things are going to come from this. Families are going to be hit hard – mine included – but I am confident in that so many people are also going to experience the favor of God and my question is: Why not me?

I’ve literally been pleading to the Lord for life change over the past year or so. Just complete restoration and redemption. A full on crown of beauty instead of ashes…. it’s an incredible picture of a totally different life. In Biblical days when someone was in mourning, they’d cover their head with ashes. It was a sign of heartbreak, humiliation, bereavement, or death. But, now, a beautiful crown. With a crown comes privilege, protection, influence, power, access, and options.

A crown & ashes – they both cover our heads.
They are two ways of thinking.
Two ways of leading.
Two ways of that determine taking in life.

A crown makes such a vast difference in the way one carries themselves, how they’re perceived, treated, and go about living their life. It’s freedom. It’s victory. It’s life change. It’s the very thing I’ve been at the foot of the cross praying for: a crown for ashes, joy for mourning, praise instead of despair.

And, please don’t get me wrong….. Life is not awful. I have truly learned to trust God and live joyfully, enjoying every day and making the most of what is in front of me, but it is very hard ……… even still, I’m very clear on the fact that this ain’t it. Not for me. This isn’t what my God promises. There’s more to life and the Lord’s plan for me than this.

This year (all 3 months of it) has been hard. We want to give 2020 back to the streets. I get it. [Maybe this is like the first trimester of a pregnancy… not fun, we’re sick (literally), but everything is better afterwards? maybe?]

But, we also have to trust without doubting that there’s someone over all of this. Someone who reigns over the leaders of companies, corporations, the government, and the powers that be at the state level.

There is someone who controls the rising and setting of the sun – it doesn’t do it by itself. The world is not spinning on its own. Now….. yes, Science-y things are happening to make it appear as such but The One who actually controls all things – the winds, the waves, the tides, etc – is in full control.

Full control.

I’ve been Instagramming and Facebooking my thoughts and observations of the Israelites [which I will pull over here too…] and I’m reminded of something I mentioned: trust like children. My children aren’t usually hovering over me and micromanaging me as I drive or push the stroller. They sit in their seat and do kid stuff. Sing, argue, look out the window, talk about sprinklers, and ask for food. Anything other than that is above their pay grade, ya know? We always get to where we’re going and truth be told if we’re going to make it isn’t ever their concern. Even when they know the route we’re taking isn’t typical….. they still stay in their seats. In their lane doing kid stuff. They don’t hop out of their seat and try to push me out of the driver’s seat. And, we get to where we’re going every single time….without their input or interference.

This pandemic, the quarantining, cities across the nation basically shutting down isn’t exciting, but it’s also not our lane to control. Not our world to manage. We just have to remain faithful, cast our cares, trust, and my favorite “… do not be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today…” Exodus 14:13 [NLT]. I love that translation because it uses the word rescue, which happens to be my absolute favorite word that is repeated over and over and over again in Psalm.

Rescue. Rescue. Rescue.

He will do it. He takes care of the birds of the air and the lillies of the field…. He will most certainly take care of us.

Sidebar: One thing I committed to doing [out of mental health necessity] was spending more time with my friends this year. Looking back at all the photos I’ve taken in the last three months, I can tell that that decision was one of my best so far! I’ve literally never been so at peace and joyful even in the middle of heart hurts & disappointment. I look amazing …… and, I feel amazing and am definitely a kind of happy & hopeful that surpasses all the junk and funk . God is so good like that. I’m thankful and absolutely enjoying the ghetto we are calling 2020.

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… my sweethearts

If you know know me (which you do!) you know how much I love documenting moments – good and bad. with tears in my eyes or the biggest smile plastered across my face. the exciting or disappointing. with a hopeful heart or a devastated one. with the encouragement of friends or the disapproval.

I love to share. Revelations 12:11 says “They triumphed over him (the accuser…. our enemy… the Devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

I don’t love the perspectives of others or their views of what they think life looks like so much so that I won’t talk about publicly what the Lord is doing in my life….. in my health….. or in my body.

This space has seen the ups and downs of marriage, infertility, adoption, marital struggle, divorce, entrepreneurship, and now single parenting. It’s been a journey……. but if you could see my inbox, my text messages, the stories of random strangers I’ve come across in person who recognized me from this space….. you would encourage me to continue sharing. You would see how valuable sharing your experiences are with others. And, you may just be more inclined to share yours more readily & vulnerably. Maybe not as publicly as I do, but that’s okay. God calls us each to do our specially assigned work for the kingdom and our job descriptions don’t have to look the same in order to be productive!

Long sidebar short…….

When I got pregnant with the girls (jog down memory lane with me here!), their very non-professional photographer mama begged for a camera to capture the girls moments. Everyday moments in a beautiful, professional looking way! And, I got it! Yea!

We started off really well, but soon with chasing behind twin toddler solo…. I couldn’t keep up with them, all of their stuff, mine, a phone, AND a camera & camera bag. Wasn’t happening. So it was dropped. And, near forgotten.

While I’ve taken a few photos here and there for others, it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I whipped out my Canon, dusted it off, dressed my three in casual Valentine’s Day cuteness, and drove us to a photo sesh spot. It was a lot. So was managing them, their moods, trying to get them to all smile at the same time while looking at the camera. Y’all. I dropped f-bombs. There were frustrating moments. I wondered why Logan had to Vogue pose with every picture. Why Dylan had an attitude for NO reason, and how to get Rhyann to laugh so she doesn’t use her fake smile.

All of it happened. Just not all at once.

And, I’m cool with it because you just scrolled through a dream come true – using a gift to forever capture my children as they are in February of 2020 with great quality.

That. Is. Life. And I’m so thankful for these people – through it all ….the ups and downs of life, choosing to love and see our people for who they are and value them where they are…… while giving them room to grow is where it’s at. It’s love. It’s how we not only maintain relationships but learn to enjoy each person as they are, where they are.

And, even when they frustrate you….. They won’t be like that forever.

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… thirty seven

[ t h i r t y – s e v e n ]

Before 2019 ended, the idea that my life was about to change could be felt.

Changes were made that I’d known for a while needed to be happen…….. but after major conviction, taking inventory of the past, & processing my feelings and what I’d like for my/my family’s future to looked like helped me to truly see what I’d been missing before:

Nothing is better than Jesus in a very real way.

That sounds super Jesus freakish & you probably rolled your eyes, probably wondering as a Christian why I’m just getting that, but as much as I love/d Jesus, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that he truly is everything that I need. I knew that, but never put everything down for him. This lightbulb… that came through a deeper, closer relationship with God, has completely changed behavior. Not rules, not someone saying “You should…” or “You can’t”, but being so close to God that anything that separated me from him hurt me.

A few things that I recognized…

Approval – his alone matters. periodt.

Acceptance – no matter what, when, or why he will forever search for me & welcome me, desire to be in relationship with me and be open to it even though I sin.

Comfort – He is the God of ALL comfort. Not cinnamon rolls, Chick-fil-a, wine or whiskey, or companionship. Just Jesus and once he is the first and only source of comfort, I won’t over prioritize, over value, or sacrifice who I am or standards to feel “better”.

Support – he gives wisdom in abundance if we ask, he leads us, he protects us, comforts, & is the safest, most intimate space we could ever ask for.

We truly need nothing else, but Him. And the most amazing thing is we often feel (or I quietly felt) that I’d be missing out on something if I truly gave everything up for him, if I truly lived sacrificially. I doubted and didn’t fully trust even though I knew that everything good comes from him, that there is no lack in him, that he withholds no good thing from us …… I was afraid that I’d be missing out on something. Ultimately something celebrated by culture (which likely contradicted The Word), something that would result in loneliness (which I was already feeling), or whatever I felt I needed. If everything I need is truly found in Him…… he is the ultimate source and then from trusting Him will come the very things I need except better. If I’m trying to fill a space based on my thoughts & feelings, I will lose every single time and still end up empty. Those choices will be fueled by fear, thoughts of lack, trauma, selfishness, sin, and cultural “goals” that will have me chasing after something that will never truly satisfy me.

I might be the only one whose lightbulb is just.now. clicking but I am so thankful it is. At nearly 40… feeling too late, too old, too weighted down with  life’s responsibilities… regardless of the feels, God is so so so good and nothing compares to Him.

2020 began with a whole new outlook on my Plexus business, relationship perspectives and goals, motherhood goals, career moves, & just how I wanted each day to look. The perspective I have is that everyday literally is going to create and lead to a week that turns into a month that turns into a year. If I.. when I focus on sacrificing and submitting day to day the life I want (which is the life the Lord has for me) will flow.

And one of the first things I knew I needed to change was the fact that I did nothing for myself in 2019. Nothing to very little for myself. Very little. I hardly hung out with my friends, didn’t go to any movies (which I love to do, until the end of the year), and was completely overwhelmed & growing resentful at what my days looked like. I couldn’t be the mama, friend, person, writer, speaker, provider, ministry partner, business builder I needed to be because I empty. Running on empty. fumes. and clawing to stay on my feet. It was exhausting and another year that way wouldn’t end well.

So, I committed to being more social – not for the sake of just being out, but truly pouring into, rebuilding, and establishing friendships and relationships that I’d neglected over the past few years….. and the last 26 days have been so much stinking fun. While I know exactly why I didn’t do it sooner, I’m wondering, ‘Why didn’t you do this sooner?’

I know the reasons I had were valid & real…… but they weren’t true. Tony Evans says that there’s a difference between truth and fact. I based decisions on facts, but not the truth. And we do it all of the time.

EX:
Mom: I can’t go, because the baby is too young.
Yea that’s a FACT, the baby is tiny….. but the truth is – you can go.
If you choose to…. choose to believe that we aren’t our kids end all and be all. Choose to believe that we can truly have a life outside of them and still be good mothers. Choose to believe that things will be fine if we aren’t losing ourselves to hold them and everyone and everything else together.

Y’all. I’m scared, no lie. Because I’m not sure. And, anyone who says walking with God in a way they’d never had before isn’t scary is.. lying. Hello, Moses, and everyone else who’d been pulled by the Lord and responded with a “Who me?” Then, you have those who came to the Lord for healing and you’ll see a few times he asked, “Do you want to be made whole?” umm.. of course, that’s why I’m here. Right? Like let’s not ask questions we already know the answer to. That’s annoying.

But, the truth is:
there are times we want something, but just not bad enough
to sacrifice and change our life for.

Not enough to truly be vulnerable for.
Not enough to stop being lazy for.
Not enough to stand up and be bold for.
Not enough to say “no” to everything else that isn’t that for.
Not enough to just do the things that need to be done for.

So…. again… do you want to be made whole?

So. It’s tough. And, scary.
Already 26 days in.
But, I believe deeply that while I have no idea what they heck is going to happen, I know that every day (a hundred times a day), I lay every fear that crops up, every desire, every choice, every opportunity, every move at the cross. And I trust that God heard me. Like the enslaved Israelites tears, fears, and desires – “…their cries rose up to God. God heard their groaning…” (Genesis 2:23-24) and because I am trusting the Lord and truly delighting myself in Him….. seriously enjoying worshipping, praying, reading the Word, talking throughout the day, I trust the promise of Psalm 21:2 that says the Lord will “give him his heart’s desire; you have withheld nothing he requested.”

And, my response before, during, and after is praise.
Not because I have what I asked for or even that it’s promised to me and I have the faith that I will receive it, but because I love God. And, God loves me and is worthy of my praise….. every other reason is extra.
cherries and whip cream and sprinkles on top.

Just like the children of Isreal were God’s special possession, I am, too.
Just as they needed him for deliverance, I do, too.
Just like they needed him for provision, I do, too.
Just like they messed up, I do, too.
And, he still heard them.
He still welcomed them back.
He didn’t stop being their God.
He didn’t stop being their provider.
He didn’t stop leading them.
He didn’t stop being who he was.

While the goal isn’t 40 years of learning while wandering….
I’m prayerfully grasping what they continued to miss:
 He is everything that we need.

And, if they had allowed him to be that everything all the time – even when they were afraid, even when they didn’t know, even when they felt alone – they would have experienced God in a way they never had before and would have seen what he promised and had stored up for them.

Lastly,
I posted on Instagram a few days ago that
we often trust that God will, but doubt that he is.
(At least I do… could be solo on that one.)
Doubt that in this situation right now, God is creating & establishing it.
Doubt that this situation right now is what we have been praying for.
Doubt that this could really be it.
Doubt that the first step in the plan, the steps we have to work hard to complete and sacrifice to accomplish, really will lead us there.

So we quit. We allow fear and “wisdom” and comforts of life and habits of our comfort zones to keep us from what God has for us.

Not this year.

And, because I really want a lobster & bacon grilled cheese sandwich for dinner tonight…. I’m going to get up and go to the store for Havarti cheese. Yes, one item. Because I want it that badly.

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