At 44, I welcomed my third (and final, hopefully! Lol) child! Ever since my husband and I learned we were expecting, I was over the moon. And once he arrived, it was love at first sight.
Austin joined his siblings, Christie (24 at the time) and Dallas (13 at the time). So I had some experience with little ones - although it had been a while. I was just so thankful God allowed me another opportunity to see the world through a child's eyes.
Boy, it's amazing how different you look at child-rearing when you're older. More patience. More grace. Did I mention more patience? Austin is now three – where does the time go? Truly. I can't count the number of times I thought: enjoy this moment, it will be over before you can blink. The moments when I would lay him down (sound asleep, mind you), only to have him snap those big brown eyes open and begin the 32nd round of crying. More rocking. Then the contorted climb out of the glider to tip-toe, gently laying the monkey down. Finally, silence!
As I watch him grow and learn – mastering one step before moving onto the next and most recently, to riding his "big boy bike"! – I'm reminded how patient our heavenly Father is with us. Through our screaming and crying as we learn and grow, He is always patient with us. He waits for us to join Him so we can enjoy the blessings he has for us.
Understanding what God had planned for me took me more time than I would like to admit. And I'm still learning! We are a stubborn people - forever trying to "make things happen". There is a saying: Let go and let God. It has proven to be true in my life.
Jeremiah 29:11 says God knows the plans He has for us. Plans to prosper and not hurt us. Plans to give us hope and a future.
The next couple of verses continue: "In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. (vs. 12-13).
If we seek God, we will find Him. I see Him everyday when I look at the sweet faces of my children. I see Him in the wonder of a brand-new day. I trust that He wants to prosper me. Living daily in that trust requires FAITH – and a desire to surrender to His plans for us.
Making an intentional choice to walk with God has changed me. He has plans for my future. I seek to serve Him and share His hope with others. I was in my mid-thirties before I truly began "living" - not worried about tomorrow but living for each moment. It wasn't until a few years later than I began to understand my purpose. Encouraging women who are struggling with tough decisions or those who just need to know someone understands them and believes in them. I sure do thank God for His patience with me!
Are you ready to change your life? Are you ready to embrace the plans He has for you? It will not be easy - but it is simple. Make the choice today to seek Him. He created you for a purpose too!
Come see me as I embark on my new adventure: www.CultivateChangeCoaching.com.
I'd love to hear what God is doing in your life :)
And I'll keep you posted with occasional Austin updates as we discover God's plans for him!
Today is the first day of the rest of your life! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)
Last night I presented the Color Code to the ladies at my church (Englewood Christian Church here in Jacksonville). The Color Code is a personality assessment based on who God created you to be. Your innate personality. It is a fascinating topic to me as I'm a curious person and love people. This test identifies your Core Motive - what makes you tick.
I always thought I was a people-pleaser based on my childhood experiences and upbringing. Turns out God created me with a Core Motive of "Peace" (I'm a White - take the test to see what color you are!) It's my nature to operate from a motive of Peace. Can't we all just get along?! Lol
So I thought I'd share some pics of me over the years. Enjoy! xo
And be sure to check out my new business site: www.CultivateChangeCoaching.com and sign up to receive updates from me. I promise I won't be a stalker! hehe I will be talking about the Color Code periodically.
P.S. I'd love to know what color YOU are! Leave me a note in the comments below ;)
By His Grace,
About a month ago, I was back home after attending the Christian Communicator's Conference at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, in Asheville, North Carolina. I was still basking in the glow of that amazing experience!
I remember feeling so blessed to be there surrounded by like-minded women who were seeking how to best serve God. Women who, like me, felt God leading them to speak out and share their stories.
I originally heard about the conference back in April through a friend's website. She had attended and graduated the year before and had a button on her page. Curious, I clicked and discovered a unique speaking conference limited to 30 women. I was attracted to the inevitable intimacy of a group that small. Five days and four nights immersed in training at "a retreat center in Asheville, NC, designed to encourage, refresh and empower beliers who want to grow and deepen their faith." I wanted some of that! Lol Unfortunately, the registration was closed - all 30 spots were filled. They were, however, accepting email requests to be put on the waiting list.
On a wing and with much prayer, I sent an email to the conference organizer asking to be put on the waiting list. If God wanted me to attend, then He would open a spot. It was a long shot - with just 30 spots - but in early August, I received an email saying a spot just opened! God opened the door for me to attend, but it was through the prayers and generosity of family and friends that I was actually able to go.
I asked for specific prayers that God would make it clear that this is where he wanted me. But He already did. He made it crystal clear when I opened my email that day! God is always working and invites each of us to join Him. It's up to us to keep our ears and eyes open for the opportunities. Now I had to trust Him to provide the funds – and He did! I was, and still am, so humbled with how this worked out. A super special thank you to all the friends and family who supported me with prayer and financial gifts.
So on Wednesday August 28th, Annie (my new best friend! Lol) arrived at my house and picked me up. Out of the 30 women attending the conference, 2 of us were from Jacksonville, FL. Only God! A big thanks to Annie for listening to the Holy Spirit and inviting me to ride with her.
The 7 hour drive to Asheville, NC seemed to fly by. Annie and I shared our stories and how God had been working in each of our lives. We were both beyond excited to be attending the conference and looking forward to what was planned. (Loved this reminder on the gas price sign! Not only John 3:16, but a new favorite: Ephesians 3:16. "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.")
A sense of anticipation enveloped me when we exited the interstate and entered winding road leading to The Cove. There is nothing more peaceful and serene than being surrounded by the mountains, trees and nature of North Carolina. We were truly in God's country!
As I sit here reflecting on an experience that was beyond what words could convey, I am awed by God's wisdom. This conference was truly a life-changing 5 days. In addition to the teaching and practical side of the speaking business (paperwork, ugh! hehe), I was blessed to be surrounded by women who are now lifelong sisters. Whether or not I am ever invited to speak at a women's event, I have a family of new friends who will encourage me on my walk with the Lord :)
So what I've decided to do is let my photos do the talking, A picture truly can say a thousand words! I hope you enjoy my photo compilation and a brief summary of what I learned each day.
The conference began at 4:30pm on Wednesday, August 28th with the gathering of 30 different women in the classroom that would be our home base through Sunday. Each of us shared our "30 second commercial" introducing ourselves to the group. We then participated in a fun trivia game, trying to guess whose fun fact matched which lady. One of the women never made it down the bunny slope. Her family says the only thing about her that is coordinated is her outfits! Someone else was crowned Miss Sweet Potato. Another conference attendee survived a plane crash and travelled around the world.
What I learned after Day One is that no matter our size, shape, age, experience, mistakes, successes, failures - God can turn our mess into His message. Our tests become our testimony. God wants to use each of us for His glory.
Day two started with Praise and Worship led by Janet Roller. I was moved to tears through the beautiful singing of "As the Deer Pants for the Water" – a hymn sung at my wedding in Mexico by my dear friend Delaina. It happens to be my husband, Buddy's favorite song! The atmosphere at The Training Center was alive with God's presence. The day progressed with training sessions led by Vonda Skelton and Carolyn Knefely. Steps to a Powerful Ministry Presentation and Create an Empowering Purpose Statement were particularly helpful. I also attended a break out session designed to help us organize our business. The creative girl in me especially enjoyed making a Purpose Board (see photo below) by cutting out words and images from magazines and glueing to foam core. Afterwards, we were invited to share what our Purpose Board meant to us.
What I learned after Day Two is that God has given each of us a Purpose. That purpose is universal: to bring Him glory. How our Purpose is manifested is unique to each of us.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
We were in for a treat on Day three! The day was packed with learning how to share our message with the world, taking care of the details of our speaking ministry, an etiquette class taught by Carolyn followed by a fabulous High Tea and a professional photo shoot courtesy of Cheryl Kaiser! In addition to that, Annie, Mary and I hit the trail (literally!) and hiked to The Chatlos Memorial Chapel after dinner.
What I learned after Day Three is that while nobody likes the word "promotion," we must remember Paul and his mission to share the Good News. God has called each of us to "... go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19). God is equipping me with the tools I'll need to share His word. I must do it - the time is now.
Today was the day we were presenting our 5-minute talk! At this point, God had given me my topic (Our Words are Gifts) but I still needed to tweak my presentation. After the morning's praise, worship and devotion, I spent some quiet time with the Lord to refine my message. The presentation's were being filmed by a professional video service, Two Girls Video Production, and we all wanted to be prepared. We were asked to support our new sisters by participating as audience members. The taping of the presentations would last all day. Some women shared their unique testimony, some shared a Bible truth, a couple were recording introductions to their ministries for their website. I wanted to share a Biblical truth to represent how I would speak at a Women's Event (my video will be posted after I finish editing!). I was honored to hear several talks that were clearly inspired.
What I learned after Day Four is that we all have stories. We have all experienced life – the good, the bad and the ugly. God allows trials not only to refine us, but that through our suffering we will draw nearer to Him. The comfort He provides when we seek Him is the comfort He wants us to extend to others when we share His Word. We are blessed to be a blessing.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. ~ 1 Timothy 4:12
Our last day at The Cove was bittersweet. The conference was everything I imagined and more. There was such an intimacy to a smaller group. Close friendships were formed. God's presence was evident and powerful during each day's training. The women's presentations were inspired and humbling. There was a common thread during the week's discussions that I must mention: fear and feeling unworthy.
Who am I that God could use me?
What if I make a mistake?
I'm not good enough for this type of calling.
Lord, I know you are leading me to share your Word, but what could I really say that could make a difference?
Women throughout time have struggled with these lies. The enemy wants to deceive us and knows our weaknesses. We must be smarter. We must be stronger. God says you "... find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord, "and will bring you back from captivity." (Jer. 29:12-14). The Lord is our strength and our refuge. He has created us for a purpose. His "grace is sufficient" and his power "Is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9). Oooh, I'm so thankful for this: GOD'S GRACE IS SUFFICIENT!
What I learned after Day Five is that barriers are built by the enemy. Jesus came so that we may LIVE. Fear has no place in our heart. We ARE valued. David knew this when he wrote, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." AMEN! (Psalm 139:13-14).
Friends, in this life we will face opposition. Satan will prey on our fears and hits below the belt. Especially when we have committed to serving God. What we can do is be prepared for battle! I would love to hear from you - leave me a comment and let me know what you think of The Cove!!
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:10-12)
Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. ~ Ephesians 6:19
This month Austin will be 2 1/2 years old and he just gave me the most precious gift. He said he loved me for the very first time!
He is learning so much, so quickly — I just want to start the record button and film every moment! (I do take way more pictures than I should. Praise the Lord for the person who created digital cameras!)
I absolutely adore this age. My baby is becoming independent. He is starting to use the potty like a big boy and learning the rules, what he can and can't do.
And talking. Forming sentences - "Dat my boo wobot" (translation: that's my blue robot) - and repeating words.
Our conversation went like this:
Me: Austin, say "I"
Me. Say "love"
Me: Now say "you"
Me: Austin, say "I love you Mommy"
Austin: "I ove ew Mommy"
Ok, say it with me friends... "Awwww..."! My heart melted. So precious are these days. I want to make time stand still — but of course I can't. He's going to grow up, learn more words, make decisions, explore this world. My job is to teach him the tools to make good choices, be safe and use his words wisely.
Our words are gifts. Just like the impact Austin's words had on me, our words affect others. We have all been wounded by words. A thoughtless comment can leave a lasting impression. And on the flip side, encouraging someone with a "great job" or a simple "thank you" can make their day!
Proverbs 16:24 tells us, "Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."
That old saying — sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me — is so not true! Words can hurt. And words bring healing.
We have a choice with what we say, but sometimes we speak without thinking. Unintentionally hurting someone's feelings or regretting saying "yes" so quickly! We often don't realize the gift of a kind word. Saying something nice may seem so minor from our perspective, but it could be just what the other person needed to hear.
Today I encourage you to memorize Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
And remember this, "the tongue has the power of life and death." (Proverbs 18:21)
Give the gift of life today!
Everything was packed and loaded in the trunk. Did I forget anything? No. At least I hoped not! I climbed into my rented Toyota and backed out of the driveway while the butterflies danced in my tummy. Finally! After many weeks of anticipation and preparation, I was on my way to Charlotte, North Carolina to spend 3 days with like-minded women at the She Speaks Conference, hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries.
Let me begin my telling you this was my 3rd conference. God planted the seed for me to share my story through speaking and writing back in 2006. I attended my first She Speaks Conference that year and was completely changed. So this was what I was called to do! At that point I didn't understand how, but I certainly understood why. God uses our stories to share His story. I was totally on board. I was on the Speaking track that first year and learned so much . The 2nd conference was in '09 and I signed up for the Writing track.
Fast forward to this year where I attended a combination of Writing and Speaking sessions filled with encouraging, educational and inspired "content." I was filled to overflowing with information and have the notebooks to prove it! The speakers were absolutely amazing. God was definitely "in the house" :)
But it was the women I met this year that truly touched my heart. Or rather it was how God was working through the women that moved me.
The email came a week or so ago from the director of the conference and said something like: During the conference, you should network, mingle and get to know your fellow attendees. (sidenote: I've actually tried to locate that email to no avail, so perhaps it was my subconscious I heard!)
Regardless, this became my M.O. — reaching out to women who asked questions during the sessions (specifically questions I wanted to ask but didn't!), introducing myself to the girls sitting next to me and basically making it a point to say hello and encourage others. It turns out I was the one blessed by the contacts I made.
Now you'd think there would be some envy or at least a glimpse of that green-eyed monster at an event hosting 600+ women who have ALL been called by God to share His message! Quite the contrary. I experienced such an example of Jesus living IN these women and working through them. It was extraordinary — and a testimony to the power of God's grace and love.
There's room at the table for everyone.
This message was shared during the first day of classes by Emily P. Freeman (author of Grace for the Good Girl) — and became my mantra for the entire weekend. There's room for her. And for her. And that one over there. And room for me too.
God has called me to share His story through mine. He calls each of us – as Christians – to be His ambassadors of Christ. God can use each of us as well. Our stories are as personal and unique as we are.
His story of hope, grace and forgiveness is the "message" — we are the messengers.
"I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should." (Ephesians 6:20)
My prayer is that every attendee at this year's She Speaks Conference was encouraged and inspired by the women they had the good fortune to meet. I know I was blessed — and have made lifelong connections. I'm already ready for next year!
I've been re-inspired to write and speak and share the story of Jesus — through my story.
There's room at the table for me too.
(If you're looking for the "She Speaks" Scholarship information, scroll down to my 4/13 blog entry! And thanks!)
Have you ever felt like you just missed the bus?
Like life is passing you by and you forgot to "get onboard?"
I actually witnessed this literally the other day. On my way to work I was behind a city bus as it completely passed a scheduled stop. There was a young man waiting and I watched him stare incredulously as it drove by. I almost laughed at the look on his face - but didn't of course!
He most definitely "missed the bus!"
I could almost feel his frustration and helplessness as he watched the bus round the corner and vanish from sight. He might've been on his way to work — or a job interview. Perhaps he was going to visit friends. But one thing was clear: he was going to be late, if not miss his appointment altogether. He was going to have to adjust his plans.
Life moves so fast sometimes, doesn't it? It's easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. So many things to do, not enough time. And then our plans change. Sometimes through no fault of our own. Like the young man who missed his bus.
It's during these times that we can lean on the Lord. He understands when we feel frustrated and helpless. He wants us to trust him. We need to remember his "plans to prosper... and not to harm... , plans to give... hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
When we get too busy, we lose sight of our priorities and what's most important: our faith, our family, friends, our goals, ourselves. God may then orchestrate a situation that forces us to slow down, regroup and breathe. I know I need to slow down when I feel like I'm getting sick and have no energy. I can almost hear God telling me to rest and focus on him. "Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him." (Psalm 62:4-6)
Other times, I can sense the Lord telling me to wait. This is especially difficult for me. I want to make things happen — now! Patience was not one of my virtues. And I know I have missed out on the "prosper" part of his plan simply because I could not wait. Thankfully, I have learned how to trust the Lord and wait. More often than not, he has something better coming along. One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Why is that so hard to do sometimes?!
So today let me encourage you to slow down. Take a deep breath. If you don't know what to do — simply wait. Trust that God knows what's best for you. The obstacles you face today may hide God's blessing for you tomorrow.
Missing the bus may be just what you needed.
More favorites scriptures:
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
~ Lamentations 3:25-27
For in this hope we were saved.
But hope that is seen is no hope at all.
Who hopes for what they already have?
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
~ Romans 8:24-26
Now that the 2011-2012 football season has finally ended (congrats to the New York Giants!) - I wanted to reflect on the phenomenon that occurred during the season: TEBOWING!
It seemed like everyone was 'Tebowing'! There is even a website dedicated to Tebowing, aptly named Tebowing.com. So what exactly is Tebowing? Well, it's a action verb: "to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different."
Isn't this what God tells ALL of us to do? Romans 12:2 begins, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world." As Christians, we are commanded to be different. But the world tells us to follow the crowd. Everybody's doing it so it must be ok, right?
I have struggled with this my whole life. Wanting to fit it and feeling the pressure if I didn't 'go with the flow'. Not that I put up much of an external fight. The conflict I felt was inside. I knew that some of my choices weren't the right ones but it was often easier to 'blend in'. I would then feel guilty and torn up about those decisions. In hindsight, I was insecure and seeking the approval of others.
What I admire most about Tim Tebow is that he consistently seeks God's approval - not the world's. His focus is on pleasing God. So, how do we please God?
"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thess. 5:18)
It seems Tim Tebow is constantly thanking God - if all the images of him 'Tebowing' are any indication! I imagine his prayers are peppered with words of praise and thanksgiving. Whether he's just thrown the winning 80-yard pass in overtime or his team is suffering a 45-10 loss, I bet Tebow is counting his blessings and thanking God.
It took me a few years, a wonderful counselor and lots of prayer before I finally found my 'voice' - so to speak. I started to gain the confidence I needed to make unpopular choices. I began to value what God wanted me to do, rather than what the world expected.
It's a conscious choice and can be a struggle (depending on the day!) - but I want to be different. I don't want to 'conform' anymore. I want to give thanks in all my circumstances.
You may not find me 'Tebowing' anytime soon, but you can bet I'll be praying!
_The conversation with myself went something like this:
"Should I go back in and ask her?" I wondered.
"Nah, she will be offended and I'm certain she wouldn't need it." I reasoned.
"No, she might. You never know. I'm just going to do it."
I had stopped at Pizza Hut to pick up dinner and noticed a young woman bouncing her baby. She was standing beside a booth with two other children. As I walked back to the car with my pizza, I remembered my son's bouncy seat in the car. I had planned to give it to a friend along with a box of Austin's outgrown baby clothes. But when I saw this young woman, a thought popped in my head: I wonder if she needs a bouncy seat?
And so began my internally struggle. Like a tennis match, my thoughts went back and forth. Should I?
Or shouldn't I?
Over the years, I have learned to recognize God's voice. He often speaks to me through my random thoughts. Those times when I think about an old friend and consider calling or writing. I believe that is God's voice. He also speaks to us through his word: the Bible. I can read a particular scripture and think, "Wow, God is totally telling me to _______ (fill in the blank)."
My challenge is the ACTION part of listening – doing it!
It's never easy to step out of our comfort zone and make the first move. Whether calling an old friend to say hello, volunteering to help an elderly neighbor or... approaching a total stranger.
So, we may say a little prayer – or promise to help out next time. What keeps us from actually doing something - now?
Fear of rejection? The young woman will think I'm nuts.
Taking the time? I needed to get home with dinner.
Laziness? It was raining and I was already in my car.
We can come up with any number of excuses.
So with much trepidation on that rainy, Friday night I LISTENED. And made myself go back into the restaurant and approach this young mother.
"I know this is going to sound crazy but I am trying to listen to God. I think he's telling me to talk to you. I have an 8 mo. old who has outgrown his bouncy seat. It's in my car. Do you happen to need one?"
With tears in her eyes, she replied, "Yes, that was God. The only thing we need for the baby is a bouncy seat. But we're on a budget and haven't been able to get one."
My eyes began to fill and I was left speechless. Oh, the power of God. And how he works when we listen - and obey.
I recently shared this story with my Sunday School class and came up with an acronym for LOVE: Listen. Obey. Value. Everyone.
Let God use you to be a blessing to someone!
DO IT :)