Friday, February 24, 2006

It's a new season again!

For some reason when I don't blog I get emails asking me if I'm okay. I sometimes forget that I have an audience through my blog. I sometimes forget that God actually uses me to speak to some of you. Some of you are actually waiting on me to write. Wow! What an amazing thought to know that I am a vessel. I know that it is only because of Him that I am able to minister to others. He deserves all of the glory. I'm just the servant!

This week God has been doing some pretty amazing things in my life. A purging is going on inside of me that is overwhelming at times and other times it feels incredible. The change going on inside of me creates feelings of excitement and feelings of disgust both at the same time. I hate all of the change because I struggle with a craving for perfection. While God is busy changing my insides, I'm frustrated that I can't get there quicker or that I can't understand it the first time He shows me. I want to get it right! I want to make it perfect! But then I think about all of the things He is showing me about myself and things He is showing me about Him! I love what He is doing! So, it's a love/hate kind of thing. It's hard but it's life changing and I need it.

Over the past week I have realized that I have been pouring out all that God has given me. When He speaks to me, I pour it out in God given blogs and share with you. It hasn't been very hard. My words have flowed without struggle. But, now I feel like I'm empty again. It's not an empty feeling that brings pain. It's an empty feeling that leaves me wanting more. It's a feeling that leaves me thirsty. Right now I'm thirsty and God is beginning to feel my cup once again for a whole new chapter.

I'm here. I'm praying, I'm reading. I am pursuing Jesus. He's doing something new again and it's going to change my tone drastically with life, with relationships and with my blog as well. This is a season filled with God challenging what's on the inside. I'm ready to weed out what doesn't belong. I'm excited, for things are flowing my way!! I pray that God can use me in the process.

It's a new season, It's a new day.
A fresh anointing is flowing my way.
It's a season of power and prosperity.
It's a new season coming to me.
-Israel Houghton

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Something has changed

Seventh grade is not a year I care to go back and relive. There are no memories that bring great joy when I think about that time in my life. Turning thirteen is every young girl's dream. I couldn't wait to be a teenager! But as soon as the day came, I was ready to give it all back and remain twelve years old forever. One particular day stands out in my mind that I will never forget. This one event will forever be a part of who I am. I know that someday I will tell my little Ava Beth this story and she will know that I am a real person and not just her mother. She will know that she can talk to me, she will know that I understand her pain. She will know that I am always on her side. And may this story give her hope that she can make it.

It was a normal day just like any other. I woke up that morning dreading my Pre-Algebra class and History but I looked forward to Volleyball practice and Choir. Those were the times of the day I looked forward to the most. These were the classes where I had the most fun, for I knew all of my friends would be there. In Athletics we could talk in the Locker room, in Choir we could pass notes, laugh, giggle, and all get in trouble at the same time. But on this particular day, I wanted to run away and never go back to school again. Heather was her name. And on this day, she was mad at me. I have no recollection of why she was angry, but I remember her anger quite well. As I walked into the choir room, it happened! For the first time in my life I was called the "B" word. Even now that word haunts me! I can still hear Heather saying, "B____!" My heart began to pound, my face turned red and I don't remember exactly what I said to her but I do remember how I felt. I sat down in my assigned seat, in front of Heather. She was behind me and the rest of my friends who were also Heather's friends were sitting in different places all over the room. Slowly I begin to make eye contact with each friend in the room. Each one looked at me with anger. Some rolled their eyes. Some ignored me completely. It was then I realized that every single one of them felt was Heather was feeling. And then the fire drill went off!

So we all lined up and made our way outside. Our teacher instructed us to wait underneath the tree across the parking lot facing the choir room door. It was the longest five minutes of my life. While the entire school went to their assigned places outside, we had to wait for each teacher to get a count of students and report it to the principle. As we waited, the girls began to congregate and whisper.
I was standing alone while they talked about me. Then Heather looked at me and said, "Don't even look at us because we can't stand you AMANDA LIVINGSTON!" I began to cry and then she began to mock me and make fun of my crying. It was horrible. Thinking about it makes me laugh but also makes me sad. During that time in life it seems that everything is life or death. When the movie Mean Girls came out I refused to watch and I still refuse to watch it. What I felt standing underneath that tree was the strongest insecurity I have ever felt in my life. Eventually everything blew over, it always does in 7th grade. Eventually, we all hated Heather, they hated me again and then hated someone else. The days I was accepted by that group of girls was incredible. The days I was rejected were horrible. If only then I knew the woman I would become. If only then I knew that Heather would mean nothing years later. If someone could have told me, "Amanda, someday you will be a wife and a mommy and live just a few blocks away from this school. What's happening today will mean nothing in seventeen years. This school will still be here, the tree will still be here but you will not be who you are today."

Today I drove by my old school where I attended 7th grade. Actually, it is less than a mile from my house. It's kind of funny that six months ago, we moved back to the area I grew up in. Every time I go to the store, I see Harwood Junior High and remember that day in front of the school. The school looks exactly the same, the tree I stood under is still there. One thing has changed, me.

As painful as it may be to think back to such a sad event, it's refreshing! It's refreshing to know that I will be thirty years old in about five weeks and what you say about me doesn't mean a darn thing anymore. It may hurt a little, it may make me shed a few tears but I know that it doesn't mean anything to who I am. Harwood Junior High is still there, the tree is still there and I am sure Heather is now a wonderful lady (I pray so). But one thing is for sure, I am not that girl anymore. About a year ago at this same exact time, everyone's comments, dirty looks, or attitude towards me got under my skin. While others were being mean, spiteful and sneaky, I was letting it control me. I faced a situation where I wanted to get even, make others pay and expose who they really were. And at times, I did. I was back on the front lawn of Harwood Junior High giving into the same feelings I had at thirteen years old, only difference I was twenty eight years old. That situation is no longer in my life nor the people, but the pain is. Days creep up on me that take me back. The anger, the hurt, the depression, the betrayal takes me back to that girl a year ago. But, now something has changed, me!

A few months ago I began a journey in my life of extreme change.
I have written about this often. It was a change of address, a change of friends and a change of who I was and who I felt I was. As I experience new faces, new scenery, new places, new ideas in my life, it's a struggle to not go back to the feelings of the past. It's a struggle to not bring all that I felt back then to the place I am at now. So since this is a journey, I have to make a few stops along the way. Today, my stop was the the tree in front of the school at Harwood Junior High. I'm not the same girl, I don't feel the same way, I don't believe the same things. I know who I am in Christ, I know who I want to be and I know who I don't want to be. Just as the School remains exactly the same, so do the experiences that I suffered. Just as the tree remains in the same spot that it always has, so do the memories of how I felt long ago. But Amanda is not the same.

Lord, you are constantly healing me from the past. Thank you.
Thank you for speaking to me today. Thank you for bringing me out of where I was. Help to love and constantly forgive the people in my life that hurt me. Right now I feel so loved, so accepted and so free with those in my life. But I know that it is inevitable, I will be hurt again. Hold onto my heart, protect me and help me to not give my heart to the wrong people and when and if I do, help me once again to heal. Thank you Jesus for the woman you are helping me to become. For you are the only one I live to please and if I live to please you, I will instantly be pleasing to others.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A mood to change

Paula Deen! Oh how I love Paula Deen! Just listening to her explain one of her delicious, Southern recipes makes me hungry. "Hey Y'all! I've got something I'm gonna cook up today that y'all will just love!" Every time I hear her say "butter" or "sugar", I want to go into the kitchen and cook something yummy! And you will never watch one of her shows where butter and sugar are not used as ingredients! There is no low fat, low calorie or fat free vocabulary on her cooking show. Just as her recipes ooze with Southern charm so does she! My husband just told me the other day that before I chose a cruise for my 30th birthday, he had decided to take me to Paula Deen's restaurant in Savannah, GA called "Lady and Sons." This is no lie, I actually felt disappointed for a moment that I was going on a cruise instead of flying to Savannah! But someday, I will go and eat some delicious Okra and Tomatoes! Not only is Paula a great cook but she is an amazing woman with such zeal for life. I hope someday when I am 59 years old that I have as much fun in life as she does. Just listening to her and seeing her bright, contagious smile gets me excited but even more, it makes me want to cook! "Hey Y'all!"

Yesterday afternoon I began cooking for dinner and decided that I would surprise my husband with desert!So I pulled out my Paula Deen cookbook and made a Fudge Pie. It was delicious especially with a heaping of Blue Bell Vanilla ice cream! Every thing is better with Blue Bell, Right?! As I skimmed the pages of Lady and Sons cookbook, I got very hungry! My mouth was craving fried chicken, biscuits, Texas Sheet Cake and so much more! Just reading her cookbook or watching Paula on her cooking shows gets me in the mood to cook and cook good!

There have been many women in my life that have had something to do with who I am today. Some have taught me to cook, some have taught me to laugh, some have taught me to cry. Some have taught me how to be a wife and mom, while others have taught me how to be a Godly woman. These women haven given me something just by spending time with them. By going to their homes, by meeting them for lunch, by talking on the phone, I have learned by example. Just as Paula Deen gives me the desire to cook, my girlfriends give me the desire to keep a better house, have a better attitude or make a adjustments to my parenting. These women get me in the mood to change!

When Josiah was first born there was a precious girl in my life that was younger than me. However, she was a mom before me so she knew stuff I did not. She also had a very calm and peaceful spirit. This young girl took care of her home in a way I had never seen. She read her bible, cooked, cleaned and spent time with her son. Whenever I left her house, I felt inspired. Just being with her made me want to go home and get my house clean, take care of my baby, cook, clean and spend time with the Lord. There was something so simple about her yet so incredible at the same time. Her home was her delight and just by being with her, I knew that. Even today, I think about her and the things she taught me. She got me in the mood to be the heart of my home!

And then came Ava Beth, twenty three months after Josiah. I once heard Bill Cosby say, "You're not really a parent until you have two children." While having one child at the time of hearing this statement, I felt discounted. Going from no child to one child is huge! But then came my little Ava Beth! NOW I 100% agree with Bill Cosby! I just keep reminding myself that one day when I have my 3rd baby that I will think having two was a piece of cake. But until then, I think it's hard! Thank the Lord for friends in my life that already had two kids that were close in age like mine. When I brought Ava Beth home from the hospital I really felt like I would never leave the house again. But I like to conquer those types of feelings! So, when Ava Beth was two weeks old I took her and Josiah to the grocery store. She slept the whole time so it wasn't too bad. But, I would not have been able to do that if it weren't for a friend in my life telling me,"You can do this! Just go on short trips to the grocery store with the kids and in no time you will be back on the go." So, I did! And since then I have never been a stay at home Mom. I am a stay at home that never stays home! As much as I hate shopping with my kids, I have to do it sometimes. As much as I hate taking my kids with me to get my hair highlighted, I have had to do it. Never again though! (right Mom!?) I am an on the go type of gal and I don't function well by being at home all the time. God knew that! So he surrounded me with other moms on the go! A few days ago I met my friend Courtney (one of the encouraging moms I am referring to) at Grapevine Mills Mall. Trying to shop, push a tandem stroller and try on clothes was quite the chore. But something about shopping with Courtney keeps me calm. I stress out, growl and then look over at Courtney with her two little girls and she has it under control. And yesterday while on the phone with Courtney, I was trying to fix lunch. All of the sudden, Josiah says "Mommy, I want Cheeseballs for lunch today!" And my sweet friend Courtney says, "Let him have cheeseballs. It's okay. Some battles are not worth fighting." Just being around Courtney makes me calm! She gets me in the mood to not sweat the small stuff with my kids. As mothers we all need someone like that in our life!

Now I do not consider myself to be a domestic goddess, but I do like order in my house. I am guilty of having clean clothes on my couch for a few days that I have not put up. This drives me husband crazy. Also, my side if the bathroom is always cluttered as well as my side of the closet. My husband hates this too! But, I do like to keep a clean house. I do pick up toys and the toys do have a place. For the most part, my home is organized and my meals are planned each week. I am not perfect but I do have a system that works and I learned it from many other moms. But the greatest compliment came the other day from my best friend. While talking with her on the phone she told me that after being at my house, she was in the mood to clean her house. She said my house was so neat and clean that it got her in the mood to do the same. Wow! I felt honored! I actually got someone in the mood to clean!

And that's what it's all about ladies! We must surround ourselves with those that will make us better. A new mom needs a seasoned Mom. A new wife needs an old wife. A disorganized person needs an organized person. An easily stress out woman like myself needs a calm woman (thank you Courtney!). A cook needs a Paula Deen! A woman struggling to be a Godly woman, needs a woman that chases after God. As I think about these precious women in my life, I think about how much I desire to be someone who other women need. As I learn from you, may you learn from me.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Wanna know what you're playing for?

I can admit it, I have an addiction with reality TV. American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, The Apprentice, The Amazing Race (some seasons), Nashville Star, I love reality TV. But my all time favorite, the one I enjoy watching the most is Survivor! Outwit, outplay, outlast! Every season I have watched and adored. It's a show that gets my heart pounding and my adrenaline rushing. As the Survivors compete in challenges, I often stand up and cheer for the team or certain Survivor that I want to win. Then during tribal council, I can feel my heartbeat as it pounds inside my chest. Is this normal? Well, probably not but that's how much I love this show! Thinking back to all the different seasons of Survivor takes me back to all of my own seasons. Just as the show changes locations, scenery, cast members and challenges, so has my life. While Sue on the first season was busy causing trouble amongst tribe members, I was single, in the business world and anxiously awaiting a new season such as marriage and kids. While Rob and Amber were falling in love during Survivor All Star, I was healing emotionally from a miscarriage. And now as I cheer on Terry the retired fighter pilot who is now a commercial airline pilot, my life has new challenges with even better rewards. On the show it seems that each season the challenges get tougher and the rewards get more extravagant. It's my favorite part of the show, the reward challenge. It may be a brain teaser, a true/false game, an obstacle course, a disgusting food challenge or a race of some sort in the water. As the tribes/tribe shows up for the reward challenge, their faces are filled with wonder. For they know if they win the challenge, something of great need will be given in return for winning. The loosing tribe wins nothing. It may be a plate full of cheesburgers and french fires. Maybe a few blankets, pillows and lanterns or maybe a trip on a private yacht for the night where they are able to enjoy a hot shower and an unlimited amount of food. After Jeff Probst, the host, explains the challenge he always asks the same question, "Wanna know what you're playing for?" As Jeff reveals the reward, the survivors instantly regain strength, for they know what they're playing for. Wanna know what you're playing for?

Many of us are in a season that have us wanting something different. You may be working late hours, extra hours, or extra hard in order to save for a vacation. The hard work will payoff. You know that the more you work, the more you can save and the quicker you can take a vacation. You know what you're playing for. I know someone right now that is training for a marathon. He runs constantly. Each day he spends running, sometimes three times a day, he knows his body is getting ready for the difficult race. He knows there is a payoff to training so hard, he knows what he's playing for. In a month, I will be cruising the Western Caribbean. Now for me, I know that this trip will be one where I must pack a bathing suit. I am like most women and the bathing suit thought scares me a little. I really don't desire to look perfect, that's just not possible. But I do want to tighten up some of my flesh! The only way I can do that is by working out. I am not about to diet so I run. At times I don't want to. At times I will be running on my treadmill and want to slow down, quit or walk. Then I remember the cruise and my desire to look and feel more physically fit. If I do so, I know the payoff! I know I will feel better and even look better. While running on that treadmill, I know what I'm playing for!

Our spiritual life is a lot of the same. We have seasons that force us to work hard. Seasons that force us to change. There are some weeks when I feel like as soon as I'm finished with one battle, another one begins. In March of last year, I was facing a lot of challenges. The worst part? I didn't know what I was playing for. It took me falling down on my face several times. It took me surrendering my wants and desires many times. It forced me to examine my relationships and decide which ones were helping me and which ones were not. I often felt like an athlete on the injured list. Every time I got off that bench to play, God would sit me back on it. "Nope, you need to rest. Drink some water. Breathe. Let's make sure you're okay first. I don't want you going back out there and getting yourself hurt again!" You see, I didn't know what I was playing for anymore. Other people, myself, my surroundings, my past, all got in the way and I was useless. Over the past couple of months, I have endured a lot emotionally and spiritually. God has been working on me and changing me in some of the most radical ways. I know I have changed, I know it. Now I know what I'm playing for. It was too hard to see before, too many things clouding the reward. There is freedom in knowing what I'm playing for. It's been revealed to me in so many ways as I have sat on the bench. All the things I have been wanting to do so badly ministry wise, is happening. The coolest part, I didn't ask for it. I said nothing to anyone, and now God is ready to put me back in. It's been a while, I'm a little nervous, a little timid and I know I will be using muscles I haven't used in a while. But this time, for the first time, I know what I'm playing for.

Father, you have us all at different places in our lives. Some of us are struggling right now, some of us aren't but soon will be. I pray that you will show my sisters in Christ that read this, show them what they're playing for. Show them what you have called them to do! Thank you Father for not giving up on me. Thank you for answering my prayers. Thank you for using me again. And as I am used, may I truly serve you and others.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Small bites

When I was a little girl I had a difficult time cutting up my meat. In the world of etiquette it is not proper to cut more than two pieces of meat at a time. At least that's what I was taught. But as a child it was easier for my Mom to cut up my entire piece of meat or chicken so I could enjoy my meal and she could enjoy hers. Last night I had a delicious ribeye for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Texas Roadhouse. I feel so blessed to have one less than a mile from my home. We love their food! So last night as I spent time cutting into my delicious medium cooked ribeye, I thought back to how much I hated steak as a child. It was hard to chew, hard to cut and even hard for me to swallow. But when my Mom cut it into small pieces for me, it sure made it a lot easier and much more enjoyable. Small bites!

God is teaching me a lot right now. He is teaching me about myself, about others and most important He is teaching me about Him. I am overwhelmed quite often. I stress way too easily, my feelings are hurt over ridiculous things and I analyze the crud out of too much. The hardest part is the way I feel about myself at times. It's easier for me to give others a break but very difficult for me to look at my own life and have patience. Just this morning a sweet friend sent me an email that said a lot. "Oh Jesus is doing amazing things in you-can you feel it? Don't be so hard on yourself. You are a normal woman. You don't have to be a Proverbs 31 woman all in five minutes. That woman's bio was a lifetime. I am sure that there were days of being overwhelmed- but in those times you just learn to run not walk to the "ROCK". " She had no idea how those words freed me up! It's so much easier if I take it one thing at a time. The Proverbs 31 woman did not wake up one day and have her home totally spotless, breakfast on the table, quiet time already completed before anyone else was awake, and I doubt she was making fine clothes out of fine linen either. It was a process. I am sure she had days where she grumbled about her husband and I bet she had a sharp tongue at times too. But later on, she began to "get it". She understood that Jesus was her guide and with Him, she would become all that He wanted her to be. But throughout her process, I am sure she took small bites. The small bites eventually fill our tummies.

May I be a woman to write about. May I be all that God wants me to be and may I understand that this is a process. I must give myself a break and realize that this journey is a lifetime and will never be completed until I stand before Jesus. Until then...Small bites.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy V-Day Jeremy

I don't usually use this blog for things like this but today I am making an exception. I usually gross out when people are ooey gooey with romance. I don't like being mushy, it's just not me. Maybe because it's just not me or maybe because I have never experienced it, I don't know. If you know me, you know I am not a hugger. When people come up to me at church and hug me, it's not something I am comfortable with. Someone once told me, "When I hug you, you don't hug me back. You just pat." It bugged me when it was brought to my attention but it's true. What's wrong with me? Who knows, who cares! But, right now I'm gonna be mushy! I know my husband will read this later so this is for HIM.

Soon you will be home to take me out on a date. It wasn't really planned because we didn't know what your work schedule would be like today. But the kids are at your moms and now we can go out all by ourselves! Today I just want to tell you Jeremy how much I love you. I know that when I feel like the world is against me, you are not. You always have my back. It was five years ago today that we had just met and you invited me to a singles Valentine party at your church (I was the new girl at the church). I thought you were just inviting me to be nice. I thought there was no way someone as HOT as you would go out with me! I just KNEW you would not like me! When I walked into that Valentine Party, my heart pounded as I searched the room for you. I was bold, I was brave. You were quiet, you were reserved. I was loud, I was obnoxious. But somehow we got to know each other that night. We all went country dancing at Cowboys later that night (we pass it on our way to church every week and I think of you). As soon as we started talking, I felt comfortable. I love to dance but I can't country dance worth a flip but I didn't care if you noticed. Hey, you can't country dance either! I felt safe. I felt like I could be totally real and your good looks no longer intimidated me. You were everything I needed and more.

We are so different, yet so much alike. Because of you, I love to fish! We have so much fun fishing on our boat and I love it that you get mad when I catch more fish than you. You hate to listen to the music loud while in the car, I crank it up. But you have learned to just go with it and sing to all of Kelly Clarkson's songs with me! You tell everyone about my cooking and you brag on me. I love that! So, let me brag on you! You are amazing! You can fix anything! You can build anything! You can work harder than anyone I have ever known. You are so talented and you have the biggest heart I have ever seen. What a servant you are! When I met you, you hadn't been saved very long and now you teach me more than anyone else. I love you for what you are helping me become. The kids adore you and every time they hear that garage door open, they run! "Daddy's home!"

You never had a Dad and didn't even know how to be one, yet you are the best father to our children. You amaze me with your love for them and how much they worship the ground you walk on. I never new stable ground until you came along. You have taken care of me. You have kept me. I am a kept woman. Thank you. Happy Valentines Day Babe! I love you. I leave you with the song played at our reception as we walked through the doors as husband as wife, our song.

I've been searching for you I heard a cry within my soul
I've never had a yearning quite like this before
Now that you are walking right through my door

All of my life Where have you been?
I wonder if I'll ever see you again
And if that day comesI know we could win I wonder if I'll ever see you again

A sacred gift of heaven
For better, worse, wherever
And I would never let somebody break you down Nor take your crown, never

All of my life Where have you been?
I wonder if I'll ever see you again
And if that day comesI know we could win
I wonder if I'll ever see you again

And everytime I've always known That you were there, upon your throne
A lonely queen without her kingI longed for you, my love forever

All of my life Where have you been?
I wonder if I'll ever see you again
And if that day comesI know we could win
I wonder if I'll ever see you

-Lenny Kravitz

Obviously out of season

I absolutely love my house. I also love my neighborhood, my quiet cul-de-sac, the nice people and the tall pretty trees landscaping the yards. But one thing has really started bugging me. One of my precious, sweet neighbors still has a Christmas Wreath on the front door. I knocked on their door just the other day to give them a gift. As I knocked, I wanted to take the wreath and run but instead I stood there thinking, "Why is it still here? Have they forgotten? Don't they know it's the middle of February? Surely they will see it when they open the door to my knock and take it down immediately." Nope! Still there! So yesterday as I was pulling out of my driveway, they were pulling in. As I waved goodbye and drove to the end of my cul-de-sac, I watched in the rearview mirror. I noticed they were going in through the front door so I knew they were finally going to take the wreath down and pack it away for next year. NOPE! Walked in, closed the door and the Christmas Wreath remains. Each time I walk outside, I see it! The wreath is ruling my cul-de-sac! How can one let something remain that is so obviously out of season!?

Since March of last year, I have experienced one of the toughest, most grueling pruning processes of my life. I am ready for the Lord to bring it down a notch for a while! But, as He walks me through this season, I am realizing all the obvious things in my life that are out of place. I was saved at five years old and picked up a lot of bad habits along the way. Some habits were taught, some were genetic and some were just plain ridiculous. Attitudes we take on, beliefs we take hold of and mindsets that blind us from the truth. God has given me a name for my issue that does not belong in my life, CONDEMNATION. How can I let something remain that is so obviously out of season?

The past couple of days I have prayed for a word. "God, please show me what it is that has me in anguish. What is ruling my life? What is there that does not belong?" Yesterday morning the revelation began. The Holy Spirit began to take me back to High School and a mindset that I had about myself. The lies I believed in my mind and who I thought I was. As I began to take that walk down the hallway of L.D. Bell High School I realized that I was a seventeen year old girl who felt condemned. Many reasons play into this story and I will reveal more another day. But it was then that I began to believe what others would say about me. It was then I began my journey of defeat. My morals were in order, my relationship with Jesus was real but I did not like Amanda. It was that very season, thirteen years ago, that is being dealt with now. Things I believed about myself, lies that I believed have remained all these years. And now God is removing those things that have remained that are obviously out of season.

It's always comforting to actually see and feel the change taking place. Last week, I believe the Lord threw many things my way to see how I would respond and also to give Him the opportunity to teach. Every single day from Monday all the way to this past Sunday, something was waiting for me. Where was my mind? Where was my belief? What was the truth of every situation? My relationship with Jesus is so personable, it's so touchable, it's so real. He walked me through every circumstance and then He would stop and say, "This is why we are here. This is what I want you to see. This belief that you may feel, this idea that you may have about yourself, it doesn't belong. Let's leave it and move on."

I'm ready! I'm ready to remove all the things in my life that are obviously out of season. The things that don't fit, the mindsets that have held me captive, I want to be set free. I'm ready to leave it behind and move on.

Philippians 3:12 I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Fully charged

(This is kind of a personal blog that is full of things only some will understand. I am finally beginning to accept this new season in my life and accept the new faces that have come with it. So, this one is for the women helping me along the way. I feel so blessed and so challenged.)

A few months ago we purchased new phones for our home. It seems that we have had a lot of bad phones through the years so this time we went all out! With a Best Buy gift card and a little money of our own, we splurged on Vtech cordless phones. So far, they work great! But I have a very bad habit! I almost never place the phone back on the receiver. (This drives my husband crazy!) Quite often I will be chatting on the phone and quickly discover by the sound of an awful beep that my phone will soon go dead. Quickly I find the other phone and realize my time is limited once again. For I found that phone off the receiver as well! So, I have two dead phones! My cell phone has a battery symbol that lets me know when my phone is close to being fully zapped of power. Why can't my home phone have that feature? Better yet, why can't I have that feature?

My Mom is a hair stylist and has met a lot of people through her successful business. A lot of people have shared with me how much they love going to her Salon because she makes them feel so special. Besides her being extremely talented, she is very giving. I know that anyone who has sat in her chair has been prayed for many times. You have also been encouraged or you have experienced someone who will just listen. That's what she does! It's more than getting a new style, it's getting a new look. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, she will fill your tank. But at times my Mom has expressed to me that people have come to her that have drained her. (none of you reading this blog, so don't worry!) She says, "Sometimes I feel like people come into my Salon, sit in my chair and attach jumper cables to my body. The entire time they are there, the life is sucked out of me." We have all known people who can do that to us. Guess what? We have done that ourselves. Some of us need a flashing light, a beeping noise, an indicator of some sort letting us know our battery is about to be totally zapped and needs to be charged.

Unlike phones, our battery can be zapped instantly. It's not always a slow thing to happen. At times we know that we are on the brink of emotional ruin, especially women. We know the days on the calendar, we know the things that will bring us down emotionally and even physically. For Satan loves to attack us during those times. But other times, we don't know! A comment made by another person, a sudden argument with your spouse, a phone call that brings bad news, some things just instantly zap us! Sometimes it's our own minds that do the zapping! Where is the beeping? Where is the flashing light? I thought I was fully charged!

For me it was one comment, one conversation, one person. Many of us have things will deal with in our minds and in our minds alone. Actually all of us do. It safe to leave those things in our minds instead of voicing them. But today, I am not playing safe. "I'm never going to be used again. Every time I want to jump back in and serve, I get knocked down so I am not going to try. I could never sing at this church, I'm not good enough. I am not a good wife. Why am I the one with all of the problems and not my husband? I am not a good Mom, I should be doing daily crafts with Josiah and reading more to Ava Beth. I am not a good friend, I am annoying. I am too loud, I talk too much." The list goes on and on and on and on. So yesterday, I was zapped. The conversation I had with this person let me know that I was not about to give myself to anyone or anything, especially church. "Why on earth would you get involved when really no one cares about you!" Then I thought, "How dare this person steal my joy!" Well, the person was ME! The conversation I had was with ME! No one else sucked me dry. No one else came to steal my joy! It was all ME! Insecurity will get you every single time. My voice tends to always suck me dry.

Today I have an indicator and right now there is no flashing light. There is no annoying beep. It's fully charged. Someone may come along and try to deplete some of my charge. It could be a family member, a friend, a stranger but more than likely if anyone tries, it will be ME. Just yesterday I heard my Pastor say, "Dream thieves usually come from within." The people that usually bring us down or tear our dreams apart will usually be our friends and family, that's just how it goes. But in my life, the dream thieve has been ME. My battery hasn't been fully charged. It functions well for a little while but then all of the sudden it goes dead. So, this week I don't want a battery that is charged for only a moment, I want it charged all week long. And I know there is only one way to do it, the WORD!

(Thanks LC for the charge you gave me while walking through Wal Mart last night. I am so blessed to have so many older women in my life now. Not OLD women, older women. I pray that I can let go of so much junk in my life and be more like the Karens, the Marys, the Ginas and the LC type! I have a lot to learn but I am glad God has planted me where I CAN learn. Keep speaking the truth to me. I need it!)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More on what God's doing in me

Here is my Mother's take on our experience this past Sunday. It was so awesome to be ministering with my parents. After all they are some of the most Godly people in my life.

http://fashionedbyhim.blogspot.com/2006/02/aquarium-keepers.html

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bono said it all

He's always been my favorite Rock Star. His voice is one of a kind as well as His message. I remember the first time I saw him, I was nine years old and obsessed with MTV. It was an all day affair with some of the greatest musicians in the world. It was Live Aid and it was the day I realized how much I loved Bono. Is there anyone better than Bono? NO.

Tonight as I read his speech that he gave at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, I realized that the the change that is going on inside of me is world wide. The world is in need of a touch and God can bring that touch through me and any other person who is willing to touch the afflicted. For Bono his mission is Africa, for me it's leaving my comfort zone behind and sharing my Jesus. It's spending time with those that may try to suck the life out of me. It's loving the ones that are hard to love. It's praying for those that can't seem to get it. It's taking a chance and asking, "Sister, do you know Jesus?" I may offend, I may make others uncomfortable. I am also uncomfortable with the change going on inside of me. But one thing I know I will never regret is following my Savior. The purging going on inside of me is difficult, I am having to remove so many obstacles. But, I can't go back to who I was. Something has happened in my life and I will never be the same again, I just can't. All of the things I have been equipped to do, I no longer desire. It's time to take a step into a different world. It's time to make a difference, God is watching what I do.

Bono's speech is exactly what has been in my heart and it communicates everything I was trying to communicate earlier. http://www.data.org/archives/000774.php This is well worth your time to sit and read. Bono says it all! And watch out, he will step on your toes pretty hard. I know he did mine.

"Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet… Conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS… Soccer moms and quarterbacks… hip-hop stars and country stars… This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!"

Please let me explain to all of you

I have had a few emails today questioning the content in my last blog. Honestly, I had no motive behind the blog. In fact those that know me, know my heart and know that I would never use my blog as a platform for my own agenda. Instead it is solely used for God's agenda. I have written many things before only to delete them before sending them out because my spirit had a check. Those that walk closely with me KNOW my heart and know that I have been blessed in many different churches. My blog did not say anything bad about churches from my past. My last blog was written to express what God revealed to me and what God gave me to share with my readers. As I have been questioned today by several, I have realized that I must continue to speak the truth and speak the truth in love. I share what God gives ME.

Today, I have deleted comments from my blog. It's not out of anger and it's not because I don't have an open mind. Instead, God has given me a word and I shared it. If the comments are not flowing within the same vein that I am moving in, I must remove. If you have any questions about the point I am trying to get across, please email me. But one thing you can always KNOW about me is my heart is pure.

This blog is about MY life. I will not write about your life unless I have your permission. Many have written me so please don't think I am talking to you personally. I just feel that I need to share my heart. After all, this is my Blog and I want it to glorify God. I do not want it to become a forum for debates. Also, please don't jump to my side or comment with anything that would be offensive. No one has hurt me or been mean to me so I don't need defending. Please know that the last blog was not to defile any church. Please know that I believe EVERYONE needs Jesus. Rich, poor, black, white, we all need HIM! This last blog was simply me confessing my own struggle in life, materialism.

Caught Up (revised)

Along the way at some point in my life, I got caught up. I can't pinpoint the exact moment I was swept away. Perhaps it was during my adolescent years or maybe the age I became a teenager. But one thing is for certain, I have been caught up for many years.

For all of my adult life I have been in church. Not just any type of church either. The churches I have gone to have been beautiful. Beautiful churches with beautiful people who have beautiful things and drive beautiful cars. The church is in a beautiful neighborhood surrounded by beautiful homes or beautiful landscape. Beautiful children with their beautiful moms and dads run through the beautiful doors. It's suburban bliss to say the least.

During my time at one of the churches, I sang on a vocal team. At that time all of the team had to coordinate our outfits and many times I did not have the color or item needed for that weekend. I hated this! I wanted to fit in so badly. So almost every single time I was up to sing for the weekend, I bought a new outfit. It was then I began to whiten my teeth at the dentist office. It was then I began to shape my eyebrows. It was then I began to spend $100 to get my hair done. It was then I chose a very expensive apartment in a very nice area to live in. It was then that I began to want so many things in my life that I had never wanted before. Some could afford this lifestyle and some reading this may think there was nothing wrong with the decisions I made. There was nothing wrong with the church I was attending but there was something wrong with who I had become while there. But, I knew. I knew I was caught up.

As a woman I know that we all struggle with wanting more. Don't say you don't because you do. You have to! It's a curse. Let's go back to Eve in the garden. The fruit looked desirable and delicious, so she ate it. The story of this woman fascinates me. I have heard many say that Eve was not content, she wanted more. She represents you and me, she started our journey and at that moment I believe Eve was caught up. In modern day, what would Eve struggle with? I think it goes something like this. She is invited to someone's house for dinner and as she drives up to the house, she notices the outward beauty of this home. Then as she walks inside something happens, she is swept away. Inside the home is new furniture, pretty pictures, spacious bedrooms, extra bedrooms, a huge kitchen and a big backyard. As Eve sits at the dining room table eating her dinner with friends, she realizes all the things she doesn't have in her home. When she leaves, she feels discontent. She wants more! She wants her home to look like that! She wants new shoes, new clothes, new clothes for her children and maybe even a new car. As her thoughts gather around her discontent, she feels empty. Now, she is completely caught up.

A few months ago I came to a harsh realization about myself. I have been caught up and that part of me needed to die. The Holy Spirit began to show me how ugly it was and how dangerous it was to walk around feeling like I had to have the best of everything. It's not that I shop at Nordstroms and spend a ton of money on my outfits. It's more of addiction for me. A trip to Target once a week to buy a new shirt for church on Sunday. A stroll into Baby Gap to make sure my kids have something new to wear. Even if I did get something on clearance and even if the shirt was only $14.99, I realized my addiction to have to have something new. Back in October, I remember walking into a home for a jewelry party that was beautiful. The woman that lived there was a fabulous decorator. Her furniture was gorgeous, her taste was impeccable and as I surveyed the rooms, I realized all the things I didn't have in my home. Instantly I imagined running into Hobby Lobby, Kirklands and Garden Ridge to make my home look like hers. It's not that there was something wrong with this lady having a beautiful home, but there was something wrong with the way I felt. I was completely caught up.

The church my family attends is a wonderful, amazing, life changing, community changing church. It's not in a pretty neighborhood, some would even say it's not in a safe neighborhood. We have white people, African American people, Hispanic people and I am sure many other kinds of people. Our Pastor doesn't have a different outfit every single week, neither does the Music Pastor or the Choir Director. The people that sing in the choir don't have color coordinated outfits. The parking lot is not full of brand new cars, some are barely running. And would you believe that not everyone speaks English? We are all different, with different walks, different ethnicity, different pay checks, different tithe checks, and somehow we all worship together. I know that in this place, so many things don't matter. Our church is not attracting a certain kind of person or trying to hone in on a certain demographic. Our church is in the hood! And this past Sunday I realized God is doing a new thing in my life. I am not saying that the churches I have attended in the past are bad or caught up in being materialistic. Only God knows that. But, I know that I have been. I am tired of being caught up and I am ready to be set free.

Last week our Pastor told us to pray for him. There is a gang in the neighborhood surrounding our church and the Holy Spirit spoke to our Pastor about meeting with the head of this gang. Sunday morning, sitting on the front row next to our Pastor was the gang member. This past weekend, he met Jesus. He is now a believer, praise the Lord! As our Pastor began to speak to us, I realized he was not going to preach. He had something else planned. "Are you ready to do the stuff? Are you ready to tell people about Jesus?" A few moments later, he ushered the entire church out the front doors and sent us to minister to the neighborhood. It was the most amazing sight. Hundreds of church members scattered into groups of three and began knocking on doors to apartments and homes. We prayed for people, invited people to our church and asked them if there was anything we could do for them. We did the "stuff"! It wasn't a pretty suburban neighborhood filled with white people. In fact, I was praying as I knocked on doors that we would be greeted by someone that spoke English. As we walked, I realized my walk was not where it needed to be. In order to do the "stuff", I can't be caught up.

For this week I have grown and realized change that must happen in my life! Folks, it's all about Jesus! It's not about your clothes, your pretty highlights, your perfect makeup, your perfect body, or how many times you ran on the tread mill this week (I'm talking to myself on these things), it's about doing the "stuff"! I don't want to be caught up! I don't want to bombard our budget at home with me trying to figure out how I can get a new shirt, new jeans, new shoes or new clothes for my kids. Those things don't bring people to Jesus. Women, don't be so caught up! (Yes, I have highlights, nice clothes and nice shoes and my kids are dressed well. We live in a very nice home in a very nice neighborhood. There is nothing wrong with this. I love being fashionable. But there is something wrong when you are driven by it and I have been.)

Ecclesiastes 6:9Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don't have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind.

Father, I know I will struggle with this again. I know I will want nice things, new things and better things in my life. But, help me to not be caught up in those thoughts. Father, I want to bring people to Jesus. I want to be bold to the lost. I don't want to just plant seeds, I want to ask others if they know Jesus! Thank you Lord for your conviction for I know that you are doing a new thing in my life. Send me opportunities to do the "stuff"!

Friday, February 03, 2006

He trusts me

I am so thankful for the ones in my life that allow me to be silent.
My personality has been such a struggle for me almost all of my life. When you meet me, I am gregarious, loud, cheerful and one to constantly crack jokes. But when I am silent, most everyone thinks something is wrong. More times than not, that is true. I am not usually the quiet one and when I am, many things are going on that I am not sure how to handle. This is something that has been one of the biggest thorns in my side, for I just can't fake it! My pain, confusion, deep thought or physical exhaustion takes over my whole being. Many have told me that they can tell what kind of mood I am in from the second I walk in the door. Oh how I wish I could change this! Even as I type this blog, I cry just thinking about all the things that I need to change. It is truly more than I could ever bare.
So, I have been silent. I am unable to find the words to explain the pain I am feeling. But someone in my life has loved me through my silence. She has loved me through those phone calls of me being depressed. She has loved me through those times when I am empty and have nothing to say. She hasn't taken it personal or told me to get over it. Instead, she has just been there. It's a gift that she has given me. For I know that I can be silent and not worry about what she will think. Not once has she said, "Why haven't you called me? Why aren't you talking? Have I done something wrong?" Instead she has trusted me and I have trusted her. There are those we can be silent with, those we completely trust.

Relentlessly I have prayed and cried out to God, "Where are you Father? Why are you silent? Why are you not talking to me? Father, I can't hear your voice right now!" Oh how I long to hear from my Father. I need Him. I need His comfort, I need His words. I need His touch! But, the past couple of weeks have been silent. I know that I know that my Father is listening, so I continue with my pleas.
Not a moment passes that He is not in my thoughts, so I press on.
For, I know that His silence means one thing, He trusts me.

At times there are things in our lives that we need cleansing from and times when our sin has separated us from God. But, there are times like I am facing now that I have to trust my Father. For I know that He trusts me. He isn't punishing me, He hasn't turned from me. His silence is a gift. This gift make me chase after Him more and seek Him more. I long to please my Father and show Him my love. But more than anything, I want to feel His heartbeat and I have.
I may not hear Him, but I can feel Him. He has showed me numerous times today that He is here and working in my life like never before. A friend sent me a song this morning on email and I worshipped Him while listening to the song. As I cried out on my knees, I realized how present He was and how present He has been during this difficult time. Finally, it was in that sweet moment with Him that I heard Him! Hallelujah, I heard Him! "The more you seek me, the more you will find me."

So today I sing this amazing song.

The more I seek you, the more I find you. The more I find you, the more I love you. I want to sit at your feet, drink from the cup in your hand, lay back against you and breathe, feel your heartbeat.
This love is so deep, it's more than I can stand. I melt in your peace, it's overwhelming.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006