Monday, November 24, 2014

Focus on the Positive

Three weeks ago I started a journey to get healthy. It's not the first time I've started such a journey, but my hope is that this time will lead to a lifetime of change. You see, Faithful Finish Lines is a tangible program. It starts by asking the journey-taker to create "God-given, short-term fitness goals that balance with family priorities, promote eating for energy, and include mission and fun." 

One of the reasons I love Faithful Finish Lines is because it is practical. The program isn't like all those diet programs out there that make you drink meal replacement shakes or obsessively count calories or work out 2 hours a day. Instead, Faithful Finish Lines is all about helping each individual create short-term goals that will aid in healthy long-term lifestyle changes. For example, the program leaders give us fitness goals each week, such as increasing our fruit and veggie intake or increasing our movement for the week. Along with the goals, each member is encouraged to to pray a specific prayer for the week that will help us focus our mind on Jesus as we re-create our lives towards a more healthier version of ourselves.

Another reason I love the program is that not only are the leaders (Sara & Jill) super inspiring and encouraging, but the members of the group are as well! We spend time each week logging onto the Faithful Finish Lines Facebook page to cheer each other on in our journey. Faithful Finish Lines isn't something you do on your own, which often leads to giving up and going back to your old way of doing things. Instead, Faithful Finish Lines has a built-in accountability system. There are other people walking alongside you in this journey, encouraging and lifting you up in prayer, while you do the same for them. It's amazing, and I'm so so thankful to be a part of this wonderful group!

Confession time: while I love love LOVE everything about Faithful Finish Lines, change is HARD! If you've been paying attention to the blog, you've noticed I've not blogged about FFL in two weeks. These past two weeks have been super difficult as I've tried to walk this journey to a healthier life. Some of the changes have been simple, such as adding more fruits and veggies to the diet. But other things have been a challenge, such as increasing my activity. Week one I was determined to get moving more and was walking 1.2 miles every other night. Week two I started out strong then it got cold outside, so I lost all motivation. Not to mention, I can't seem to get this eating under my calorie goal thing down. It's  because I don't want to give up some of my favorite things (Mt Dew mostly).

Last week I avoided the Faithful Finish Lines Facebook page. I ignored Sara's emails asking me to let her know what my short-term fitness goal was going to be. The truth was, I was discouraged because I felt the weight of making this huge lifestyle change. I finally reached out to Sara and let her know I was discouraged, and she responded with such encouragement. She reminded me that I needed to give myself credit for the progress that I was making, even if it seemed small to me. 

So this week I've decided to focus on the positive! Though they may seem small, these changes I've made are going to help me in the long-term:
  • I went from ZERO servings of fruit per day to 1-2 servings
  • I went from ZERO exercise a week to walking 2-3 times a week
  • I went from almost ZERO glasses of water per day to 1-2 glasses

Also, the short-term fitness goal I've chosen is to attempt to walk a 5K! I officially signed up for the Rudolf Run which is coming up soon on Thursday, December 4th!! This event is going to be super fun as it's a night-time event that comes along with blink-y noses so all the folks participating can look like Rudolf. :) I'm also walking with a mission -- to honor some folks in my life who are cancer survivors. These folks inspire me each and every day to continue to live a better life!

Ever since I participated in the #write31days challenge, the thing that keeps coming back to me is that it's OK to give myself grace. There will be times in life where things get difficult, when I'll feel like quitting, and maybe I'll even give up for a while. But instead of giving up permanently, grace says it's OK to start again.

What is grace telling you?

If you're on this Faithful Fitness Lines journey with me, THANK YOU for your encouragement along the way. Whether you've actually personally said something to me or not, your words have made an impact. I'm reading your posts on Facebook as well as your blog, and your stories keep me motivated on this journey. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

When All Goes Still

There never seems to be a quiet moment in my world. Funny enough, I don't have kids, so you'd think there would be plenty of quiet time in my life.

But the noise is constant.

Sometimes it's because I want it to be there. I need the noise to keep me motivated, energized to do whatever task lay before me.




Heck, even writing a blog post.

While I'm driving to work, the music has to be playing. Otherwise I talk to myself  God. He doesn't mind all the chit-chat during the commute.

And when I'm home, the TV seems to always be on, the same shows repeating themselves over and over again.

But this evening, oh blessedness, there is not one sound in this house. I can breathe.

Peace, the stillness has come.

And I'm enjoying every moment of it.

Is this noise constant in your life or do you find moments of quiet?

Today I'm joining up with hundreds of others who like to take five minutes every Friday to free write. There's no need to be perfect or to worry about taking time to edit. Feel free to join us as we link up here!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Two Things that Inspire

I love sunsets. 

There's something about the sun settling down on the western skyline that brings joy to my heart. Whether it's the gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, and red spray painted over the blue-purple sky, or the silhouettes of the trees in the foreground. 

Sunsets are breathtakingly inspiring. 

You know what else is inspiring? A group of people who band together to make changes in their lives and are encouraging each other on their journey together!

Last week I started a journey as part of a group called Faithful Finish Lines. It has been such a joy to be on this journey with these brave, inspirational women. We're all at different stages in our journey, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that we're doing it together!

I'm also a part of a Facebook holiday challenge group. The goal is to get up and move for 30 minutes each day. I suck at exercise, but it's been so inspiring to see each person post every day when they've got their 30 minutes in. Plus they're cheering each other on! 

These two groups of people amaze me.  We are all different. All in different stages of life, faith, and fitness. But we're putting that all aside to be each other's biggest cheerleaders. 

That, my friends, is inspiring. 😊

What inspires you? 

Today I'm linking up with the folks at #InspireMeMondays. Click here to read other inspirational posts! It'll make your Monday better, I promise. 😊

Faithful Finish Lines


That's what you've heard on the blog these last ten days. After the flurry of writing in October, I took some time away from the blog to just be. Thirty-one straight (almost) days of writing was quite the challenge! One I'm proud to have participated in and conquered (even if I didn't write every single day). {You can read all the 31 days of simply writing posts here!}

You see, that's the thing I learned during the challenge: to not let one or two or three days of not writing keep me from finishing. 

It's OK to give myself grace. 

But then I have to pick up where I left off and keep going. 

It's also an important lesson I've learned this week while participating in the Faithful Finish Lines fitness group. FFL is a 7 week program developed and led by Sara Borgstede which offers encouragement and accountability all while helping those of us on this journey to create and complete a specific fitness goal. 

Say what?!

So if you've known me any length of time you know I'm hugely overweight. Always have been. Well, except from like birth to 6 years old. Once I turned 7 it was like the pounds just crept up on me and never left no matter how active I was! Well, except that one time when I went to India and faithfully woke up every day for mandatory exercise at 7am and then walked a bazillion miles every day to get wherever we were going for five months. 40 pounds melted right off me those months regardless of the number of cokes I drank or the fact that I ate a Big Mac (lamb burger, anyone?) every day. 

Online Faith and Fitness Program

But anyway... So I've joined the FFL group not because I have a huge desire to lose weight and be super skinny. Never have been skinny and never will be. Weight has never defined me as a person. It's a number on a scale. That's it. Weight has never stopped me from being ME or achieving the goals in life I've set out for myself. It doesn't matter if I'm 100 lbs or 400 lbs in terms of who I am or what I want to do in this life. 

With that said, the older I've become the more I realize that the weight I carry often causes me physical pain and fatigue. Several years ago I started working out and eating better, and one of the results from doing so was all this energy! It was amazing to finally not be tired all the time. But I quickly became discouraged because my goal then was to lose weight yet the pounds weren't coming off. So I quit. 

But this past week I've picked up where I left off several years ago and I'm moving forward. The steps forward are baby steps, but they're steps nonetheless. 

This week I've kept track of my eating habits and caloric intake by using MyFitnessPal as well as my exercise (or lack thereof) with RunKeeper. I've also made plans to meet with a friend of mine to learn the art of clean eating and possibly some personal training. I've also been reading and chatting with some of the other FFL participants, which has been so encouraging. Not to mention, I love receiving encouraging and inspiring emails from Sara a couple of times a week. She's been where I've been but has also seen the other side. 

I'm looking forward to seeing the other side as well. 😊

Have you ever started a journey, fitness or otherwise, only to find yourself discouraged? Did you quit or did you keep going?

Friday, October 31, 2014

The End (or is it?) {Day 31}

Today is the final day of the #write31days challenge hosted by The Nester. The challenge was simple - write every day for 31 days. I joined up with thousands of others and wrote. I missed a couple of days, but that's OK.

I still wrote. 

I didn't give up when I missed a day. I just picked up where I left off and wrote. 

Like a couple of years ago when I started working out but didn't see the results on the scale. I felt better physically and mentally, but wasn't looking pounds. So I gave up. I stopped working out. Even though I loved Zumba, I quit going to class. 

Also a couple of years ago I started writing a book with my husband and beat friend. We wrote and wrote and wrote. Then life got busy and crazy and just in the way. So the writing slacked off. Then eventually stopped. Though I loved colloborating and creating something with my favorite people, I quit. 

But this time was different. I could have given up after I missed a day, but I didn't. I kept going. 

I gave myself grace. 

This afternoon I was thinking about how sometimes we're our harshest critic. It is easier for most people to forgive others but so hard for us to forgive ourselves. We can give grace but think we don't deserve it. 

Yet we need to accept grace when it's offered. And we need to extend it to ourselves sometimes. 

So as the 31 days of simply writing series comes to a close, I challenge you to give yourself grace. This challenge may be ending, but the real challenge is just beginning: taking what we've learned these past 31 days and applying it to our lives. For me, that means to keep writing. To not give up when I get off track. To give myself grace even though it is super hard sometimes. 

What have you learned these past 31 days? 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Little Things {Day 28-29}

This week has been (and will continue to be) extremely busy. Three days this week have (or will) keep me away from home until late in the evening. Though they're all good things, it makes for an exhausting week.

Today was one of the days in which I was able to come straight home from work. The biggest portion of dinner was in the crock pot, so all I had to do was put together a couple of sides. Then the hubs and I sat down for a nice meal together. 

As I was cleaning up the kitchen mess, I noticed a bag of mail on the counter. Most mail is junk mail at our house, but I thumbed through it just in case there was something important. And I'm so glad I did as there was a letter from my sweet girl in the pile!

My sweet girl, Mounika, is my Compassion child. She's a sweet 10 year old girl from India. It is an absolute joy to get a letter from her. She writes of her love for Jesus, her family, friends, and school. Her birthday was earlier this year and we were able to send her a little extra $ so she could get something special. She wrote that she was able to get a couple of dresses and make-up which makes her feel beautiful. 

Her letter this time was much longer than usual, and it simply blessed my heart. Her previous letters were much shorter. But this letter shows that she is growing and learning and being loved on by the Compassion staff. 

It's a small thing, this sponsoring a child. Some wonder if if makes any difference, sponsoring a child. Spending $36 each month and writing letters to a child. Maybe it does or maybe it doesn't, but from what I can tell, it does.

Mothers Teresa says that "little things done with great love can change the world." 

She's right, you know. 

Many of us have grand ideas of changing the world. But we become overwhelmed. We think changing the world is too big a job. Especially for one person. But one person can change the world, if they focus on the world around them. Each of us have our own sphere of influence. And we can do little things each day to influence change in our part of the world. 

For me, one of those little things is giving up $36 a month for my sweet girl. Compassion makes it super easy to become a sponsor. If you're interested, click here for more information

What other ways do you do little things to change the world around you?

This is day 28-29 of the 31 days of simply writing series. Click here to read from the beginning. And thanks for stopping by! Feel free to subscribe to receive my posts directly in your inbox. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hands {Day 27}

Photo credit: aussiegall

One of my roles in life is Outreach Coordinator at Centerpoint Church. 

I love everything about this role. From planning various projects to leading teams to seeing people get excited about showing #crazylove in little (and sometimes big) ways! 

This is the kind of stuff I was made for. 

Tonight just reinforced the love I have for my role. And for my church. 

This week our church is doing a unique outreach we've dubbed "Trick or Treat with Bob." (Bob is our kid's ministry mascot. He's an orange tiger, and kids love him.) Unlike most churches, we're not doing an alternative Halloween event. No trunk-or-treat, Hallelujah Night, or Harvest party for us. Instead of staying within our four walls on Halloween and inviting folks to come to us, we are going to them! We have 10 different host homes throughout various locations in our community who are just gonna pass out special gift bags full of candy, stickers, temporary tattoos, etc. And, at one location, kids will get to meet Bob. It's going to be a great night!

In preparation for the event, we had a "packing party" tonight as we plan to hand out 2500 candy bags! We carved out 4 hours to pack all the bags based on info from another group who'd packaged 3000 care bags in the past. We anticipated 20-30 people would come help put the bags together. 

Guess what happened?!

Over 40 people showed up and rocked it out by packaging 2500 bags in an hour and a half!!!

And that's one of the many reasons I love my church! They GET IT. They recognize that sometimes being the hands and feet of Jesus means showing up and packaging candy bags. Sometimes it means going outside the box and stepping outside the four walls to show a little bit of crazy love. 

This week I've heard the phrase "many hands make light work" several times, and it's so true. Tonight proved that to me. 

Tonight also proved that crazy love isn't just an event, but a lifestyle. (More on that later...)

What's your favorite way to show crazy love?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

When Dark & Light Collide {Day 26}

Photo credit: descar66

For the past seven years or so, my drive to work or church or wherever I was going in the morning would take me north, south, or west. Never east. But if you've been following along during this 31 day challenge, you'll remember I moved recently. In fact, I've only been living in the new house for a few days. And now when I drive to work or church or wherever in the morning, I drive east. 

This morning as I found myself driving east towards church, I drove towards a gorgeous sunrise. I'm nowhere near a morning person, so I'm usually never up when the sun rises. This morning was a rate treat! (Thank you Centerpoint cafe for scheduling me as a brewer this morning, otherwise I may have missed it!)

Anyway, as I was driving to church, gazing at the sun rising over the top of the cornfields and over the hills of southern Ohio, this realization dawned on me:

There is something beautiful created when dark and light collide. 

After a while of driving, the sun became so bright it was all I could do to see the road. It was magnificent, brilliant in all it's glory. 

I wondered if this sunrise was similar to that at creation. As the Spirit hovered over the deep waters, and God spoke light into existence, did the darkness suddenly become overwhelmed with shades of pink, red, orange, and yellow? Did the sun in all it's glory drive the darkness out?

As children, often times we fear the dark. We can't see what's in front of us or worry about what's hiding in the shadows. This fear follows is into adulthood, though it manifests in different ways. We're afraid of the unknown. We are afraid that the darkness will overtake us, suffocating us.

For me, the sunrise this morning reminded me that the dark times in my life will one day collide with the light, and something beautiful will be created. I don't have to be afraid of the dark for the light is coming, right over the hills. 

Was there a time in your life when dark and light collided? What happened?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Oops! {Day 23-25}

Photo credit: Flickr/Creative Commons

For 22 days I wrote. Every single day. I even bragged about it in day 22. Said how I hate to lose a challenge. It's true. I hate losing. 

Then life decided to get in the way. Thursday night the hubs and I got into a fight. A big sucky fight. Exhausted from no sleep on Wednesday combined with the fight left me asleep on the couch right in the middle of my favorite tv show. 

Then came Friday which was no better. So I decided to make things better by hanging out with my best friend. I hunted her down at work and told her we needed to hang out. So we did. We went to the bowling alley, ate nachos, and shot some pool. Even invited my brother and his girlfriend to come play. They didn't, but they did come and hang out. 

Here's the thing: I'm not going to beat myself up for not writing every day. Life happens. When it does, it's OK to make adjustments. 

For me, this challenge was to motivate myself to start writing again. To start a new habit. To create. 

And for 22 days, I did. And today I continue. I've picked up where I left off and kept going. 

For those of you who've stressed out about giving up on this challenge, extend yourself a little grace. It's OK. This challenge isn't the end all, be all. It's a springboard. These 31 days are just the beginning of something new. 

I, for one, am excited to see where it all goes. 

Whether you've written all 25 days or just 2, what have you learned along the way? What are you most excited for when this challenge is over?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Live, Dream, Learn {Day 22}

Today has been a long day of work then unpacking/organizing a few rooms in my new home. Yes, I moved! (Sorry if you're just leanrning of this exciting new adventure... I didn't tell many people.)

To be honest, I wasn't sure what I was going to write today. I thought about just skipping because I'm so exhausted. But the challenge is to write something every single day. And I hate to lose a challenge. :)

Thank goodness for cable tv and Ghosthunters! Yes, friends, tonight's post is inspired by none other than something I saw on a tv show. 

The Ghosthunters crew is investigating the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. A few minutes ago a few minutes of the team passed by a sign that read:

When I saw this, it reminded me that life is all about balance. Far too often I can be stuck in the past, dwelling on all the things that I used to do or all the bad things that happened. Or I spend so much time thinking and planning about what I'm gonna buy when I get X amount of money or where I'm gonna go on vacation. Sometimes I'm so engrossed in the past or focused on the future that I forget to live in the present. 

If life is all about balance, then it's OK to dream about the future and learn from the mistakes of the past. But I also have to live in the here and now. 

Right now, I'm living in the present. My here and now is chilling out on my new-to-me couch and watching Ghosthunters. What are you doing? ;)

If you're joining me for the first time, this is Day 22 of the 31 days of Simply Writing series. I'm just one of thousands of other bloggers who linking up for the #write31days challenge. Feel free to browse my other posts and leave a comment to say "hi!"

Just Being Real {Day 21}

My husband and I are in the middle of a big life changing situation -- we are moving! So I'm a little more than exhausted at the moment. But I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about something I've been thinking about for the past couple of days. Especially this evening as I was in a meeting with a couple of folks talking about this exact topic: being real. 

The buzzword these days is authenticity. 

Whether you're in a church or leadership or business or marketing, that's what people are talking about these days. The idea is that this generation is all about being real, authentic. If it's anything other than authentic, forget about it. 

What's the big deal about authenticity? For many, especially those who identify as Christian or a part of the church, being authentic is being able to be who you are with fear of judgement. It is coming to church just as you are with whatever baggage you have, whatever hurts and misconceptions you might have, questions and doubts, you name it. It's OK not to have your stuff together. 

For me, authenticity allows me to say I struggle to trust God even though I've been walking this faith journey for more than 20 years. That I struggle being a wife, often getting angry rather than giving grace. That I struggle with showing emotion because I'd rather feel physical pain instead of emotional pain. 

And even as I type this post on authenticity, there's still a wall up to guard against judgement. 

Just being real.

Be real with me: what do you think about authenticity and the church?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Storm Clouds {Day 20}

Today I'm joining up with the folks over at Inspire Me Mondays where we post something positive to start off our work week. Since Monday is my least favorite day of the week, it's easy for me to be negative. But I've chosen for over a year now to find the good, the beautiful, the positive on Mondays. I hope you'll join me in doing the same!

This morning started off looking like it was going to be a nice day. The sunrise was beautiful, the sky a lovely light pink as the sun rose over the hills. (Not that I was up to see the sunrise, but I did see the effects it left.)

But soon those pink skies let way to dark storm clouds. The rain came off and on throughout the day. Not a downpour but a steady, drizzly rain. It disappeared for a while, giving way to a clear night sky with a few storm clouds on the horizon.

This evening on my drive home, the skies lit up with lightning, indicating another storm was on it's way. Along with the lightning I witnessed the brightest, most beautiful falling star!

It's days like today that remind me that there is still joy to be found in the midst of the storm.

For the past 20 days I've been writing every single day for the #write31days challenge. My posts always hold a hint of what I'm going through in life, but never do they divulge the whole story. Maybe one day. But for now, it's enough to know that life is stormy.

But there's joy in the middle of it all.

There's hope and peace and light and love.

Whatever life throws, it's going to be OK. Like the quote says below, "it may be stormy now, but it never rains forever."

Photo credit: My Dear Valentine

When your life is stormy, what gives you hope to keep going?

This is Day 20 of my 31 Days of Simply Writing series. If you're just joining me, feel free to go back and read from the beginning! Also, if you like what you read and don't want to miss another post, please subscribe to my blog to have them delivered straight to your inbox. Thanks for reading! :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sanctuary {Day 19}

Church has been a part of my life since my mom started going when I was 10. I'd been to church before that, but it wasn't an important part of my life. It was an occasional thing, like for Christmas or Easter or a weekend spent at Nana's. 

But from the time I was 10, that all changed. My family was in church twice on Sundays and on Wednesday evenings. Anytime there was a special service or event, we'd be there. Basically whenever the doors were open, we were in a seat (or serving.)

Church has been a huge part of my life for many, many years. I grew up in the church. It molded me and shaped me into who I am today, and it continues to do so. 

But for many, the church hasn't been such a wonderful place. It's been a place of hurt. Of broken promises. Of deceit, hypocrisy, and hate. 

This morning as I was driving home from church, an old church song popped into my head that really spoke to me:

Lord, prepare me
To be a sanctuary.
Pure and holy,
Tried and true.
With thanksgiving,
I'll be a living 
Lord, for you. 

This, friends, is what the church should be. A sanctuary. A safe place for people on the midst of the brokenness. A refuge which offers healing. 

There are some folks who have been so hurt, so battered by the church that they'll never step back into a church building. Folks who want nothing to do with Christians. 

As followers of Jesus, we have a long way to go to repair and restore the church's image. 

The church - you & me - are to be a living sanctuary. A place of hope for our family and friends. 

I don't know about you, but my prayer this morning is that I can be a sanctuary for those around me. I want to be a safe place for my family and friends. I want to be able to offer hope and healing to those who are in need of it. My heart longs to be a follower of Jesus who helps bring about mending broken hearts and restoring broken lives. 

If you're reading this and have been hurt by the church, I'm so sorry. My heart grieves for you and hopes you will find a safe place where you can heal. That Jesus will mend those broken pieces of your life. 

I hope you will find sanctuary here. 

Have you found sanctuary? Are you a sanctuary for people in your life?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Like Mother, Like Daughter {Day 18}

One of my all-time favorite TV shows is Gilmore Girls. Thanks to Netflix I have been binge-watching the show most of the day. Well, the early afternoon and now late evening. 

If you've never watched the show, it's about a mother-daughter relationship. Lorelei and Rory have more of a friendship than your typical mother-daughter relationship. They share a love of movies, tv, music, junk food, and coffee. They're quick-witted and super-intelligent. 

There's so much about this show that I love. But the one thing is that it reminds me of my own relationship with my mom. Growing up my mom and I had our issues. We fought about stuff like any mother and daughter would. I had a terrible problem of back talking. 

At the same time, my mom was (and still is) my best friend. She and I have always been able to talk about anything and everything, even if we don't agree. We both love to read and often share books. We also both love music, though I'm more of a rock-n-roll kind of girl and she loves contemporary Christian. (We do share a love of worship music, though.) She's a coffee drinker and I'm not. And she loves to watch the news and I could care less. 

The one most important thing we have in common, besides each other, is our relationship with Jesus. My mom was instrumental in my coming to believe in God. At the age of 10, mom started taking my brothers and I to church. It was there that I heard the gospel, but it was at home where I saw it lived out. Mom taught me what it was to have faith. She taught me to pray and believe and to love unconditionally. 

Through the years, mom and I have had our ups and downs. But I'm thankful for every moment we've shared, good or bad. Because each moment has still been filled with grace and forgiveness and love. So much love. 

(Love you, Mom!)

Have you seen Gilmore Girls? What is your relationship like with your mom?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Longing {Day 17}

It's Friday which means I'm joining up with the Five Minute Friday community. Every Friday we write for five minutes on a specific topic. No editing. No backtracking. No worrying if things are perfect. Here we go...

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, And gathered out of the lands, From the east and from the west, From the north and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; They found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, Their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by the right way, That they might go to a city for a dwelling place. Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, Bound in affliction and irons— Because they rebelled against the words of God, And despised the counsel of the Most High, Therefore He brought down their heart with labor; They fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, And broke their chains in pieces. (Psalms 107:1-14 NKJV)

A year ago life was more than hard. So many nights I went to bed in tears, praying for God to make things easier. To do something, anything, to make things better. 

Prayers that have still gone answered. Life is still hard. But there's a peace in the midst of these circumstances. 

My heart knows that He is good. 

My souls knows that He satisfies. 

He is bringing beauty from these ashes. 

In the midst of the unanswered prayers, He has let me know He hears every prayer. He has seen every tear. 

In my trouble, He has heard and answered my cry. He has saved me from distress by giving me peace. 

Have you ever prayed for something that has gone unanswered but still had peace? 

Meet Kelly {Day 16}

A few years ago I used to have a series called "People You Should Know." It was inspired by blogger Matthew Paul Turner who had mentioned something on his blog about doing something similar.

Anyway, I haven't done this for years, but I'm going back to it for at least today. Because I have a friend who is wonderful and I'd like you all to meet her. 

Meet my friend Kelly. 

Kelly and I met at church several years ago. We both have a passion for Jesus and for showing crazy love to everyone we meet. Because of her huge heart for people, we hit it off immediately. She is kind and super compassionate, and inspires me to be more so. 

Kelly is also a writer and blogger. Today she wrote a post on love. Her heart is for folks to truly understand one another and to show love rather than judgement. We have no idea what others face on a daily basis yet we are quick to judge their words and actions. Jesus compels us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Why not give others the same grace we so often give ourselves?

Today, instead of reading my words, will you do me a favor? Visit Kelly's blog. Read her post from today and leave a comment. Thanks, friends!

This is day 16 of 31 days of simply writing. If you'd like to start from the beginning, click here. You can also visit the #write31days website to visit thousands of other writers who've also joined the challenge! 

What did you think of Kelly's thoughts on love?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How Toy Story of Horrors Inspired Me {Day 15}

Do you ever get inspired by the weirdest thing?

Sometimes I do. 

Tonight was one of those nights. Toy Story of Horrors was on ABC and I was scrolling through Pinterest at the same time. Mr. Potatohead was missing and Jessie was getting ready to hop in a box, scared to death, in an effort to save him. Then I scrolled by the above graphic on one of Compassion International's boards. 

Inspiration hit so I decided to write my sweet little Compassion child!

Sweet girl is ten years old and lives with her family in India. She lives in a small village on the east coast. If we think the economy is bad here, imagine what it's like there. Most folks live on less than $2 a day. Thankfully she receives an education, healthcare, and learns about Jesus through the Compassion program. 

But just like any other 10 year old, I am positive there are days when she is afraid. So I told her the story of Jessie from Toy Story of Horrors. How she overcame her fears in order to help save Mr. Potatohead. I also told her of Joshua from the Bible and how he had to be brave and strong. And how The Lord was with him.  

Then I told myself the same story. 

Because sometimes I'm afraid. 

Afraid of change. 

Afraid of failing. 

Afraid of being alone. 

But these two seemingly unrelated stories remind me it's possible to overcome my fears. Because He is with me, I can be strong and courageous. 

I can be brave. 

What weird things have inspired you lately?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What I Learned from Watching 'Selfie' {Day 14}

We're a few weeks into fall, which is obvious (at least in Ohio) by the cooling of the temperature and the changing of the leaves. It's a beautiful time of year. Perfect for long drives in the country, windows cracked, and music turned up loud.

It's also noticeable due to the excitement of all the fall TV premieres and new fall shows.

Thursday's on ABC is my favorite night of TV. God bless Shonda Rimes! She is absolutely brilliant. If you're not a fan of Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and the oh-so-amazing new show starring Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder, I'm not sure we can be friends. Well, we can. But you really need to watch these shows. At least try. I promise you won't regret it. :)

As I type this post, another one of my favorites is on - Castle. It combines the best of the best - writers, cop-show drama, romance, and mystery. And Nathan Fillion absolutely makes this show what it is.

One of the new shows I'm keeping my eye on is Selfie. It's supposedly a modern re-telling of My Fair Lady, but let's be honest - I have no idea if it is or isn't because I've never seen MFL. (Don't shoot me.)

What I do know is that the pilot had some funny moments. Probably my favorite part of the whole pilot, though, was the opening plane scene. I don't know about you, but I found myself reliving one of my embarrassing moments. No, not finding out the guy I was in love with is married thing. The throwing up on the plane in front of everyone scene. Granted, it was only one bag instead of two, and I (thank God!) didn't have the bag of puke bust and spill all over me. Nonetheless, upon landing on one international flight a million years ago I got sick and threw up in a barf bag. And wound up with a personalized barf bag, courtesy of my team leader. (I still have that bag!)

Whether you love or hate the show (it's still to early, for me, to tell), there is one thing I learned from Selfie:

We were created for relationships.

One of Eliza's standout lines from the pilot is: "When Siri is the only one who's there for you, it makes you realize: being friended is not the same thing as making friends." Despite the amount of friends she has on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, Eliza doesn't have one real friend she can call in her time of need. That's heartbreaking! (Yes, I know it's just a TV show....)

But I'm sure she's not alone in this world. Social media can give us a false sense of community sometimes. We get excited about how many "likes" our status receives on Facebook or how many times our tweet was re-tweeted. But those numbers aren't truly indicative of our real-life relationships.

We spend so much time investing in social media. In creating our platforms. Stressing out over how many people are reading our blog posts, liking our Facebook statuses, or re-tweeting us. I've been so guilty of this, especially during this 31 day challenge. That's part of the reason I went from a consistent blogger with a small audience to a sporadic blogger with no audience in the past couple of years. I became obsessed with the numbers instead of focusing on the joy of writing.

What's interesting about this challenge is that I'm able to experience both the joy of writing and seeing my audience grow. It's still small, but I'm hoping a community will be formed at the end of the challenge. I'd love to create a safe place in my little corner of the web where folks can come just as they are and discuss a variety of topics without worrying about being judged, condemned, or whatever.

At the same time, my focus isn't solely on getting more people to be my friend on Facebook. I'm not worried about getting more followers on Twitter or Instagram.

While I want to build an online community, I realize that I still need to nurture my real-life relationships. The family and friends who are going to be here when my blog has fallen to the wayside. When my online community has dispersed, and social media no longer consumes all my time.

Because right now I have family and friends who I can call upon in good times and bad. And I want to keep it that way.

Have you seen 'Selfie'? What do you think about social media, community, and real-life relationships?

If you're joining me for the first time, welcome! This is day 14 of a 31 day series called 31 Days of Simply Writing. I've joined thousands of other writers who are writing every day for the 31 days of October.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday Blessings {Day 13}

After such a beautiful and laid back weekend, it's back to the work week. Today is Monday, so of course it is filled with it's own set of challenges, not to mention it's rainy and dreary outside. If I had the choice I would close up shop for the day and head home, climb back into bed and pull the covers over my head. Sleeping the day away sounds much better than fighting with a bad internet connection and finicky network. Since that is not an option, looks like I'm going to be choosing to find something positive about this day just like during my #ManicMondayChallenge series of old.

While today hasn't started off the greatest, it still holds potential. And it's already filled with little blessings:

I'm awake and alive, which means God still has me on this earth for a reason.

My car started and is still running, though a bit shaky. But it runs.

My office is quiet today, which is a nice contrast to the crazy-busy month of September.

My lunch was paid for, and often is on Mondays. Something I have taken for granted recently.

Though I don't know what the rest of today holds, I do know this: I am blessed. It is oh-so-easy for me to look at the negative things in life and wonder why God isn't working, why prayers aren't getting answered, or why things aren't easier. 

So as today continues and the negative thoughts continue to pop up in my mind, I'm going to combat them with positive thoughts like these:

Today I'm linking up with the folks over at #inspirememondays. I stumbled upon this link-up through the #write31days series that's happening over at The Nester's place. If you're joining me for the first time, this series is as challenging as it sounds -- write for 31 days on whatever topic (or not) of your choosing! In my case, I'm simply writing. Every. Single. Day. And what a fun, rewarding challenge it has been so far. Feel free to check out all 13 days of my 31 Days of Simply Writing series. If you like what you're reading, feel free to subscribe to my blog and have posts delivered directly to your inbox!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Reminder {Day 12}

"There's nothing worth something that won't involve struggling."

There is so much truth to this statement. Things of value, of immense worth, often are the result of struggle. 

Like diamonds, for example. They are created under intense pressure and heat. 

It's interesting how something so beautiful, so pure, can be created out of such an immensely painful process. 

Pressure and heat, for diamonds, might not be painful. But for us humans, the fire burns. The pressure becomes too much to bear. 

On Friday I wrote about how much God cares for us, and yesterday how He sustains us. 

Today I'm reminding myself that those words I wrote are true. That He cares for us and He sustains us. 

He cares for me.

He sustains me. 

When the fire gets too hot and starts to singe my hair, He is with me. When the pressure begins to push me down, He holds me up. 

Those things, those people, I'm fighting for?

They are worth the struggle. 

Even as I type these words and waffle back and forth wondering if I can continue the fight. 

I fight because He fights with me and for me. 

Are you struggling today? Know you're not alone!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sustain {Day 11}

Yesterday I joined up with the Five Minute Friday community to write about care. But because we only get five minutes to write - no more, no less - my thoughts were cut short. Which is OK because that means I get to write another post!

1 Peter 5:7 tells us to "give God all your worries and cares, for he cares about you." All the little (and big!) things we have a tendency to worry about, God cares about them. But even more so, He cares about us. Which really shouldn't be a surprise, considering that from day one He has shown us over and over and over again just how much He cares.

He created us.

He clothes us.

He feeds us.

He loves us.

He died for us.

He pursues us.

And in our times of trouble, when we're so full of anxiety, fear, and worry, He sustains us.

Psalm 55:22 tells us to "cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken."

What does that even mean?

Merriam-Webster defines sustain this way:

: to provide what is needed for (something or someone) to exist, continue, etc.
: to hold up the weight of (something)
: to deal with or experience (something bad or unpleasant)

This is what God does:

He provides for us, whether it's something tangible we need or someone who can physically (or emotionally) be present with us in our time of need. 

He bears the weight of our burdens. 

He walks with us through the situation, holding our hand or holding us up, whatever we need at the time. Never do we deal with things alone; He experiences them with us.

Sometimes when I read scriptures like 1 Peter 5:7 and Psalms 55:22, it's so easy for me to just skim over the words without really understanding how God cares for us. But when I think on these words, truly meditate on them, I'm left utterly astounded at the goodness of God!

And when I finally open my eyes to the truth, I can look back at various times in my life and really see when God was sustaining me. 

How has God cared for you lately?

If you're visiting my blog for the first time, welcome! I'm so glad you decided to stop by today. If you like what you've read, consider subscribing to my blog where each new post will be delivered straight to your inbox!

This is Day 11 of a series entitled 31 Days of Simply Writing. Thousands of other writers have joined up to write for 31 days straight for the month of October. Click HERE to find other writers just like me. You won't regret it, I promise. :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Care {Day 10}

Happy Friday ya'll! :)

Today I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community where we write for just five minutes with no editing, no worrying about being perfect. Friday has always been one of my most favorite days, and joining this community the past few weeks has made it even better! After reading my post, go check out some of the other writers. They're amazing! :)

If this is your first time stumbling onto my blog -- welcome! Glad to have you. Hope you feel right at home. This post is the 10th in a 31 day series where I'm simply writing. No real agenda other than getting back into the groove of writing as well as disciplining myself to write every. single. day.

Ready? Here ya go...

Sometimes circumstances of life get to be too much for me. I worry about little things, like how I'm going to pay the bills or if my car is going to finally give up and stop running. I worry about big thing, too. Like if my marriage is going to last or if my mom's health is ever going to get better.

I worry, but I shouldn't. I know logically there's nothing I can do about any of the things I worry about. Heck, this isn't even the first time I've written a blog post about worry. You think I'd have learned my lesson by now! 

Unfortunately, I haven't. I still worry. 

But there's hope.

You see, in the midst of my worrying, I realize there is hope.

God knows I am going to worry about the little (and big) things going on in my life.

And He cares.

1 Peter 5:7 tells me to "give all my worries and cares to God, for He cares about you."

God cares about ME.

And you, too.

Not only does He care about me, but He says He will sustain me. (more about this tomorrow as I just ran out of time!)

What are you worrying about today? Give it to God! He cares for you, my friend!

Is there a way I can pray for you today? If so, let me know in the comments!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Birthday {Day 9}

Today is a special day.

41 years ago today the world welcomed a little boy who would one day become an older brother.

My older brother. 

This brother who would tell my mother a few days after I was born to "take her back."

This brother who would one day need me to teach him to tie his shoes. 

This brother whom I looked up to and wanted to play sports with all the time. 

This brother who used to pretend to be my twin. 

This brother who introduced me to great music and took me to amazing concerts almost every weekend as a teenager. 

This brother who inspired me to go on my first mission trip and to pursue being a full-time missionary. 

This brother who shares my love of reading and movies. 

This brother whom I love and want to wish a very happy birthday!

Will you all help me wish a happy birthday to my brother?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I'm Doing It {Day 8}

Day 8 of the #write31days challenge and I'm loving it! My posts haven't been anything profound, and my writing sure isn't pretty, but you know what? I'm doing it! And that is all that matters.

With that said, I've also been doing a lot of reading. There are so many other writers doing this same challenge, and it's amazing to see the community that is forming. Writers encouraging one another every day to keep writing. To focus not on finding their audience or following a set of rules or how to increase traffic. But to keep writing. To type out the words that are so close to our hearts and just have to get out. The stories of life, love, family, friends, faith.

I'm not sure what The Nester intended when she set this challenge before the world, but it's a beautiful thing!

As I've read through post after post, it's been humbling to see that others are going through similar situations. Whether they're struggling through life and challenging themselves to find the good in the midst of their crappy situation or if everything is hunky-dory and they're loving life with all the ups and downs that come their way, we're all so similar. We're all living a story. A beautiful, brave story.

Your words matter. You're giving a voice to those of us who sometimes need to know that someone else is going through something similar. You're telling us that it's OK to cry, to laugh, to grieve, to rejoice.

Keep telling your story, writer! Be brave. Every. Single. Day.

What are you afraid to write? Do the world a favor and be brave. Write those words!

If you're joining me for the first time, this post is Day 8 in the 31 Day Challenge. Find more of my posts here or go check out some of the other hundreds of writers over here!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Struggle {Day 7}

It is nearly 11AM (EST) and I just now have a moment to write. It's been that hectic of a day. 

And here's the thing... There mare any words, sentences, and paragraphs swirling through my mind. Yet I can't put them on paper. Or on this blog. Not now. 

The past two days have been such a struggle. Not to write. But in life, relationally. 

Words I don't want to say seem to spill out of my mouth before I even have a chance to catch them. 

I want to take them back, yet the words spoken are true. But they're not helpful to the situation. 

On the other, there's so much good that's happened these past two days. Beautiful, wonderful things. 

And these things should be celebrated! Maybe even shouted from the rooftop. Because God is glorified in what's happening. 

And so He will also be in the difficult. When one day these ashes are made into something beautiful, others will know that it was He who made it. 

Are you struggling today? Can I pray for you?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Happy & Blessed {Day 6}

Photo Credit: Mike Foster of POTSC
Mondays suck.

That was my mantra for years while I wrote post after post for the Manic Monday Challenge. Truthfully, I still hate Mondays. But I've learned to find the positive in them. There's always something beautiful and good lurking around the corner. You just have to look for it.

Today while I was wasting time online at lunch, I stumbled across the above image from Mike Foster of POTSC (People of the Second Chance) on Instagram. THIS is what I want my Monday Mantra to be!

It's Monday.

I'm happy.

I'm blessed.

God is going to do amazing things this week.

You know what? It's so true. Yes, it's Monday, and Monday's suck. BUT...

While I'm not 100% of the time happy-go-lucky, for the most part, I'm happy

Even in the darkest of days, when I don't even want to crawl out of bed or open my eyes, I'm blessed.

And though I have no idea what God's got up His sleeve, I know He's going to do amazing things this week!

If I think about it, God's already done so much today! I'm still breathing. Still have a job. My husband and I are still together and haven't had a fight yet today. My mind is still able to process things logically and creatively, so much so that my fingers are able to tap out these words on a keyboard so that all you lovely folks can read these words!

His mercies are new every morning, and I'm so so so grateful.

Mondays and I may not get along, but today I embrace the truth that "I'm happy. I'm blessed. God is going to do amazing things this week."



How was your Monday? If you hate Mondays as much as I do, what do you do to find the good/beautiful/positive/etc things about the day?

For the whole month of October I'm joining up with hundreds of others who are writing every single day on a specific topic! Head on over HERE to read through some amazing posts. You won't regret it, I promise. :)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Community {Day 5}

Sundays are one of my most favorite days. They're typically busy from sun-up to sun-down, but I love them. I love them because I'm surrounded by the church. Not the four walls of a building, though I do attend church in a place that has four walls, but people. People who are like me and you with all the hurts, struggles, joys, blessings. Whatever our individual realities, whenever we come together we are one. A community of Jesus followers who long for acceptance and grace and understanding and love who actually get it. 

I know some of you haven't found a community like that, and I understand. I didn't always like Sundays. There was a period of time in my life where I struggled to find a church who felt like family. A community where I could be me with all my imperfections and flaws. There were days, weeks, months and even years where I'd attend a church and felt completely unnoticed and umwelcomed. I would serve Sunday after Sunday and folks would say "hi" but never ask me about myself, my family, or anything else. They didn't try to befriend me or invite out for lunch or even just coffee. 

Truly, for a long time I felt like the church was just a clique. A social club for believers. They were on the inside and didn't really care about those on the outside. And even if you were on the inside, you still had to fit into a certain category to really fit in. 

Fast forward to today and I've found a church that doesn't care about being a social club. They care just as much for those who walk through the doors as those who might never enter. They mean it when they say "come as you are" by not judging but welcoming all with open arms. 

Tonight as I sat all cozy in a living room with others who've found the same sense of community, my heart was overwhelmed. I listened as several folks shared their stories, of where they've been and where they are now, of how this church - these people who are the church - showed them God's love and their lives have been forever changed. This, my friends, is what community is all about! 

Have you struggled to find a community where you feel at home? Are you still looking or have you finally found your community?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Savor {Day 4}

Most days life keeps me busy. From work to church to meetings to serving in the community. My days are jam-packed full of stuff. Good stuff. God stuff even. But sometimes I just need to slow down. To take time to breathe and maybe not do anything at all. 

Today was one of those slow, easy kind of days. I slept in way later than I thought I would then slowly eased myself into the day. 

The best part of the day was this evening when I got to hang out with three of my nephews. Though I've always wanted a little girl, the tomboy in me loves these little dudes. Throwing a football and building tents and swords fights; that's what life is all about as a kid. Being creative and living in the moment. 

It's these kinda moments I just want to soak in and savor. 

Truly, there's nothing like cuddling on the coach after a fun-filled day with three little boys, giggling as we watch tv. 

Sometimes life is hectic and difficult. It can be so easy to forget to slow down and enjoy the moment. I don't want to life to be so busy and full of stuff that I forget what really matters. 

I want to savor each and every moment. Especially ones like these. 

How was your Saturday? Did you take time to savor the moment?

Friday, October 3, 2014

New {Day 3} A Five Minute Friday Post

It's Friday, so I'm joining up with the Five Minute Friday peeps today! Just five minutes of unedited writing. Love these moments of writing with abandon! Here we go...

There's this saying in Christian circles that God is doing a new thing. I think it's scripture, and I know it's an old-school DC Talk song. 

While I love the fact that God's in the business of doing new things, there's also this apprehension about whatever He's gonna do. Sounds kinda silly, right? But for those who don't do well with change - like me - it can leave you feeling unsettled. 

There's another saying, "change is the only constant." Maybe that's why I'm always a little on edge.

Thank God for the grace and mercy He extends in the midst of the newness. Of all the change. Because I'd lose my mind without it. 

Change is on it's way. And while it makes me nervous and anxious and all, I'm excited. Because I know that the new thing is going to be good in the end.

Is God doing something new with you? What's He doing?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Worthy {Day 2}

A couple of weeks ago my mom and I were having a conversation about the trials that we go through sometimes in life. She was re-telling a painful story from her past with a quiver in her voice as tears threatened to spill from her eyes. Though the details of her story are foggy, the ending of her story is so similar to one of my own. It ends with a question and a resounding declaration of truth.

I spent most of my 20s as a full-time missionary. My faith was growing and maturing as I spent time with Jesus, savoring our precious moments together. I was eager to learn and grow in my faith and had plenty of opportunities to glean from those who'd been in the faith and field far longer than myself. It was a wonderful period of time in my life. 

But it wasn't without trial. There were times when I had to trust God - as Provider, Healer, Father, Friend. And trust has never come easy for me. Not when I've felt abandoned, lonely, hurt, lost, rejected, sick. Whether real or perceived, my circumstances left me cynical and unable to fully trust.

One of the perks of being a missionary is traveling to exotic locations. At the beginning of my tenure as a missionary, I had the honor of being on a team headed to India and Bangladesh. I was beside myself knowing I'd be going back to my beloved India as well as going somewhere new. Expectations were high as God had answered my prayers in putting me on the team and had provided the finances to go. What could possibly go wrong?

Knowing my past experiences with mission trips, I should have known that it's never perfect. This time was no different. 

Just a couple days into the trip, I got sick. Nothing to worry about, just a little cold with some flu-like symptoms. One day with a fever that kept me back at the hotel. 

Then we get to Bangladesh. My symptoms got better and I spent a week doing dramas and painting and building relationships with people. 

Then I got sick again. Like horrible sick. Teeth-chattering shaking chills and feverish kinda sick. Throwing up while sitting on the throne kinda sick. The worst kinda sick while being 10,000 miles away from home can't call your mama kinda sick. 

And I got granddaddy hives on top of it all. 

I cried. I prayed. I begged God to make me better or send me home or something. 

In the midst of my moaning and groaning, I heard God ask me a question.  

God is fond of asking questions. 

He asked Adam and Eve "where are you?" while they were hiding in the garden. 

He asked Job "where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?" while he was suffering. 

Jesus asked Peter "do you love Me?"

And God asked me while I was miserably sick, "if it never gets any better than this, am I worthy?"

Wow. What a question. Seems kinda loaded if you ask me. 

But then, and now, the answer is the same. A resounding "YES!"

Yes, He is worthy! Always and forever. 

Circumstances have a way of clouding our vision, of making us think that God has abandoned us or forgotten about us. Or worse, that He is the one inflicting whatever pain or injustice we're currently suffering. 

In fact, He is the one who despite our circumstances and what we think about them, He is worthy. He is worthy of our lives, our sacrifices, anything and everything we have to give. Not because of who we are but because of who He is. 

He who created all with a word. 

He who gave all with His life. 

He is worthy of all my words and my whole life. Whether it gets better or not. 

He is worthy. 

Has God ever asked you a question? What did He ask? How did you respond?

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, (Revelation 5:9 NKJV)