Dream

My mom was a dreamer.

217035_5572776373_9441_n

An incredible, crazy fun dreamer.

 

She  loved to sew.

She had plans to be one of the best children’s fashion designers in the nation.

398392_10150501424126374_1472774807_n
Her clothing line made Earnshawns Magazine and was featured in a trade show in 2006.

She came up with ideas that were way before her time and I am now seeing some of the designs she created on the clothing racks of various stores.

 

She was so talented.

 

She would create outfits out of unique patterns and colors and fabrics.

She went on this African kick once, and created jumpers, jackets and parachute pants out of Kente cloth, a fabric filled with vibrant colors and patterns from Africa.

 

 

 

My sister and I were her guinea pigs. Everything she made, we wore everywhere. The vibrant colors and patterns of Africa screamed loudly on my fair olive skin.

 

Third graders can be real jerks. I got called Kunta Kente from Roots. I begged my mom to buy  clothing from the Gap.

 

She didn’t stop. She created more clothing, more designs, more dreams.

 

Her dreaming landed her a clothing contract with JC Penny’s. I don’t exactly remember the names of her clothing line, but it flourished in the stores. She couldn’t afford to hire someone to manufacture all the merchandise for her, so she spent all her time sewing hundreds of pieces of clothing.

 

She’d break to feed us, help us get ready for school, complete homework and get ready to bed.

 

We’d often fall asleep to the sounds of her sewing machine whirring in the background, the faint light of her sewing machine peaking under our bedroom door.

This went on for a year. She got more contracts, more stores, more sewing.

 

More dreaming.

 

Then dreaming had to turn into surviving.

 

She was a single mother, with two very rambunctious, adventurous little girls. Sewing for stores in Georgia was going okay, but it was not enough money to take care of her family. She would have to leave Georgia and go to LA or New York to pursue her dream.

 

My mom was very focused on our education and feared we would not get the proper education we needed if we attended school in a big city and weren’t in a wealthy area. She had us living in an upperclass area of Marietta that she could barely afford, just so we could have access to better schools.

 

She did not want her dream to distort our future.

 

She picked up another desk job to make ends meet.

Soon the desk job and the struggle to raise two girls on a single salary took over the dream.

 

The dream became a hobby.

Then it faded into the background as eviction notices, overdue bills, and my cancer diagnosis loomed overhead.

 

My mother set aside her dream for us.

 

Occasionally she’d pick the sewing back up again and previous opportunities would arise and she’d pursue them. She’d get close, so close, but then the cares of the world would take over and the dream would be set aside again.

 

This pattern would happen over and over again, until she herself was diagnosed with cancer and died.

 

Watching my mom struggle with her dream made me afraid to pursue my own.

Yet, she always encouraged me.

“ You’re a writer, Sweetie, it’s what you’re meant to be. Don’t listen to what anyone says to discourage you; do what you love. God will always provide.”

 

 

So I tried to become a dreamer, too.

21765423_10108582509369321_1431832628755214652_o

I created bucket lists.

I planned to travel the world.

I hoped for a family of my own some day.

I wanted to become a writer.

 

My writing dream followed me everywhere.

 

I too, put my dream on the back-burner. I pursued Recreation Therapy, Rehab Counseling, and then Recreation Therapy again. I now have a job I love.

 

But writing…

It won’t leave.

God tells me that my writing is a gift.

But sometimes, I am afraid to use it.

 

God tells me:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not be frightened and do not be dismayed. For the Lord thy God will be with you, wherever you go.” Joshua 1: 9

 

This is my go-to verse when I am afraid.

 

Afraid of failure.

Afraid of success.

Afraid to dream.

 

God then tells me to write more. That if I do write for Him, He will bless it and bring success.

 

My only requirement is to trust Him and not be afraid to dream.

 

So I started to pursue my dream; I applied to Daughter of Delight last year to write devotionals and I got picked.

I was elated!

I could final put some time into pursuing my dream.

When it ended I looked for more work. I got a lot of rejections.

And writers block hit hard.

I got discouraged.

I stopped dreaming.

Stopped writing.

But God persisted.

“You’re a writer, Sweetpea. It’s what I called you to do. You must focus on your writing more.”

He then gave me a BIG promise along with that.

I got scared. I resisted a little.

But then I decided – YOLO.

 

So now I am dreaming again.

And it’s scary.

But it is starting to pay off.

 

To start my dream, I reached out to a few online ministries and I am now helping them out with their stories.

They are small roles, and not exactly writing, but I love it.

 

And on March 14th, I’ll have my first article published through Joy of It.

And there are more along the way.

It’s exciting.

It makes me want to keep dreaming.

Keep pursuing.

Keep writing.

essay-writing

Dream always.

No matter how much it scares you.

No matter how many bumps in the road.

Or rejections you get.

Or doubts you have.

Go for it.

God will bless it.

Just dream.

Longevity

 

I have to say, 2017 was one of the hardest, yet best years of my life. My relationship with God and my friends and family deepened so much. So much joy and love came out of such a hard time. And I got to check one of my bucket list items off my list- Italy.

Around this time last year, I embarked on an unwanted adventure- stage 4 thyroid cancer. I remember the devastation I felt getting that initial diagnosis. Later I was told that this adventure was going to be brief; below is the conclusion to that unwanted adventure. To all of you who saddled up and joined me on this adventure: thank you. You mean the world to me.

Enjoy.

On January 8th,  I received an email with the results of my CT scan. Three of my tumors had grown. The cancer treatment I received in July did not work. I was devastated. This was not the answer I was expecting. I was supposed to be healed.

I immediately called the my doctor’s office for an appointment to set up a plan of attack. I left messages with no response on their end. I was frustrated, frightened and saddened by the aspect of losing my hair, chemo and my PTO being wasted on medical treatments instead of fun adventures.

I shared my email results with my closest friends and coworkers who immediately prayed for me. One of my coworkers who was outraged that I found out via email told her mother, who was equally outraged, and a nurse at CCare, a cancer treatment center here in town.  My coworker connected me with her mother who got me an appointment with one of the best oncologists at their center. On January 23rd, I took my squad, Lauren, Donna, Tammy Jo and my Uncle Johnny (who drove up from LA for the day just to be at my appointment) and we met Dr. Rao.

Dr. Rao went over my scans and medical information and gave me some of the best news of my life: there was no need for further treatment at this time. I was overjoyed: no chemo, no hair loss, no sickness…I would get to keep my PTO. I was thrilled.

After the good news, came what my boss calls “good bad news”: my tumors were not going to go away and there was no treatment that would rid me of them completely. There was no need to treat me now, as I wasn’t symptomatic. There would come at time where I would be and when that time came, there were treatment options that would help shrink the tumors and slow their growth, but again not rid me of them completely.  They would prolong my life, but decrease my quality of life. His goal was for me to have the best quality of life possible for as long as possible.

I took all this new information in and asked: ” So, will this cancer eventually take me out?”

Dr. Rao sighed and said: Yes, eventually you will die of Thyroid cancer.

“How long do I have?”

“15 to 20 years”

I was stunned. I did the math; I’d be 50-55 years old when I died. I want to get married, have a family of my own…15 to 20 years would definitely affect that. I wouldn’t be able to grown old with my friends. I may spend my last days sick and suffering. I sat in stunned silence, my mind racing with the thought of only 20 years left.

Dr. Rao continued on.

“The goal is to keep your TSH levels as low as possible. This will slow the tumor growth. They are very small now, not even a centimeter, so I am not too concerned. In 3 to 4 years they might be an inch. Right now the plan is to watch the tumors. When they start to become a problem, we’ll talk treatment options. I’m going to set you up with an new endocrinologist to monitor your thyroid levels…”

I don’t remember much else from that appointment. My friends embraced me once the doctor left. They prayed for me. I cried. I counted my years. 20 years. It was long but not long. I couldn’t believe this was it and there were no other treatment options. I’d have to live with it until it took my life. I was numb.

But…I also had no peace. The words of the doctor didn’t sit right with me. I respected him and trusted him but the dying of thyroid cancer part- it didn’t fit.  Having only 20 years left didn’t sit right with me. Some would say it’s denial- but I felt like his word was wrong and that this would not be my ending.

God then whispered: You are going to have a long and happy life.

Me: “I know God; 20 years is a long time. It could have been 6 months left”

God: No Alexis, not only 20 years. You are going to die an old woman. You are going to be married and have children. You’re going to have grandchildren.  You are going to live a long and happy life.”

At the time, I was too stunned to hear or believe God’s words. I delivered the news to my family, friends and coworkers. They were shocked, but encouraging and supportive. Many of them were in disbelief of the news too, and almost all have stated: God is in control and has the ultimate say in all things.

God whispered to me daily to trust Him and His plan. To trust His word. The week after I got the news, I had to fight hard not to give into despair and give up. The enemy was so loud;  reminding me daily of my shortened life and broken dreams. It is so easy to listen to that voice and believe it when you look at reality: cancer, stage four, no cure.  But when you look at things through faith and trusting God- reality means nothing.

Unknown

He spoke to me again at church through my pastor- “The word of man is meaningless; you are going to live a long and happy life.”

And finally, I had peace.

Side note: I am learning to trust what God tells me and not having to rely on the words and prayers of others.  Not that those things aren’t good, but I need to realize I can hear Him clearly and I have to start trusting that I hear Him correctly. Thankfully, God is patient and will give me multiple confirmations of things He’s told me through His word or through others.  It bothers me that it took me hearing it from my pastor to really believe what God was telling me. I am working on that.

Since that meeting with my oncologist, I’ve met my new endocrinologist who confirmed that word from God: the cancer will be controlled by my medication. If I take the right dose of thyroid hormone and my TSH levels are at zero, then the hormone will act like chemo and keep my tumors from growing. She let me know that she has patients who are in their 70’s and 80’s with these tumors and still doing well. They have some symptoms but they are well managed. She didn’t want me to worry about dying from this; she was certain that I would have a long life.

Again, God sweetly confirmed his word.

So now, I am clinging to that word. Once the enemy realized that I fully believed God about my cancer and wasn’t afraid of the what the doctors told me- he was silenced. He may try to bug me in other ways, but my cancer- he doesn’t bring it up. He knows he can’t hurt or discourage me with it. And that my friends, is sweet victory!

So that’s the end of my cancer story for now. I get to live with it, but not be overcome by it.  I look forward to a year filled with new babies, new marriages, new travel adventures and plenty of PTO.

 

Italy

So I am back from Italy. IT. WAS. AWESOME!

I saw so many awesome things; met a TON of cool people and the food…OMG the food.

20170911_140721

And, the best part…this trip was a fast and a major test on trust.

Let me explain.

Oh, FYI, I am going to bounce around in this quite a bit. Sorry, not sorry. But bear with me…

Every September my church does a fast.  We fast for different things: our promises, salvation for the lost, our nation, etc.  We were to pick a pleasure and a food.  So I ask God, “Okay, it’s September. What am I fasting this time? Is it sweets? A meal? Caffeine? Social media? Routine? (This one is tough for me; I am a serious lover of my routines)”.  As I am going through all of the things I could possibly fast, God interrupts me:

God: Italy is your fast.

Me: Are you sure?  Because this sure feels like cheating…

God: Trust me; this is your fast.

Me: You mean I can eat all the pizza, pasta and gelato I want?

God: I’d like you to practice some restraint and not go nuts, but yes you may eat those things.

Me: SWEET!!! Best. Fast. Ever!!!!!

So this trip is a fast. Great! I honestly thought :”Oh man I really lucked out this September; I get to explore a country on my own, eat awesome food and meet new people. Not really giving anything up at all…

Or so I thought.

God took away all comforts of the familiar, the known and the routine (which I LOVE) for me on this trip. It was just Him and I. I haven’t had time like that with God since I moved away for college when I was 18.  When I landed in Rome, there was no one to pick me up, no one to guide me as to where to go. I had to depend on God, for everything.

20170915_113055

 

And for that reason, I could have NO FEAR.

Before this trip happened, God did a TON of uprooting this year. Tons. Anything, anyone fear related had to go. It didn’t matter if it was close family or friends…it was gone. And it hurt. I couldn’t understand why it had to be that way and so sudden. I wanted to fix things, try to repair the broken things and confront the fears but God said to yield..and it was gone. Originally I thought it was because of the cancer diagnoses, and I needed solid people and things around me but I was wrong. It was for this trip. I could have no fear doing this trip. None.

20170915_114840

You see, when I am afraid, I can’t hear. I can’t hear God, any voice of reason or logic.  I can’t see.  All I hear are voices of doubt and panic and they are louder than my Father’s voice. Everything within me goes into self protect mode, I push God out of the way and I lean on my own strength. It’s dangerous enough doing that here at home, but even MORE dangerous operating like that in a foreign land. So I couldn’t have fear influencing me in any area of my life, no matter who it came from or where. It had to go.

20170916_180636

The only time I felt fear on this trip was on the plane to Rome. When you are flying, American Airlines has this screen where you can pull up a map to see how close you are to your destination. I usually love looking at that little map, but when I saw that my plane was closer to France than New York, I slightly panicked.

airplane

” Oh snap! America is really far away!”

In that moment I wanted to reach out my arms and grasp for the tiny bit of America I could see left on that map. It finally felt real to me that I would be on my own, just me and whatever belongings I had in my suitcase and back pack for TWO WEEKS. The thought started to form in my head:

“I am al…”

God: “You are not alone.

 

So when I land in Rome, it is pouring. When it storms in Rome, it storms. The thunder is literally shaking the train station, there are people everywhere, everything is in Italian and I am thinking…”What on earth have I gotten myself into?”

20170919_184049

My first stop in Rome was to be  ICF Rome, a Christian church that was 45 minutes from the train station if I walked. Since it was storming like crazy, I had to use the bus. My original plan was to get to their 9:45 service for bible study, stay for the 11am church service, grab lunch then head back to the train station for my train to Padova at 4pm.

Yeah, that plan didn’t happen.

It took a while for me to figure out how to get euros, then how to get bus tickets, then how to figure out which bus to take and then find where the buses were to get to the actual church. By the time I got on a bus, 9:45 had come and gone, but hey! I found the correct bus.

One of the biggest differences between Italy and America is signage. Street signs aren’t really a thing over there. Sometimes a street name is carved into a building, or written on a wall. So when you are going somewhere you REALLY have to know where you are going and what you are looking for or else you get lost, fast.

20170911_165706

I did not want to get lost, because I REALLY wanted to make the church service because: A) it was storming like crazy outside and I really didn’t want to sight see in this weather. B) The church would be dry and warm unlike me, who was now soaking wet with a very battered umbrella. C) I really wanted to go to church because this was the whole reason for this stop and I didn’t want to wait in the train station until 4pm so I was pretty determined to make church happen.

So as I am on the bus contemplating all this and trying to figure out the bus stop from the directions I was given, God speaks up:

God:  “You should ask for help.”

So I turn around and smile politely at the lady behind me. “Parla inglese?”

She smiles nervously, pinches her fingers together and says “A little” I then try to explain where I am going and what I am trying find and we spend the next five or so minutes trying to communicate. She decides that it would be best to find an English speaker for me. She turns to the lady behind her, asks in Italian if she speaks English and thank God…she does! Even cooler, she’s going to the same church I am going to!  How cool is God?

So I got to church. The service was great, I met really nice people who helped me get back to the train station and I had some of the best pizza I’ve ever tasted.

20170917_202209

That’s pretty much how this trip went. God led me along everywhere and provided everything.  He was my pilot. He guided and I followed. When I needed to speak up and ask for help, he provided help through anyone I met. When I needed to follow Him and just learn how to read a map…I learned how to read a map. (I disobeyed  in Verona and tried to do things my own…and ended up with an unwanted shadow for three hours. Lesson learned.)

20170912_152512.jpg

And the best thing: other than that brief moment on the plane…I felt no fear on this trip. None. It was awesome to do this without fear. I knew with everything in me that He would take care of me and I could just lean on Him. It was so freeing, and since I had that peace; I had a blast.

20170920_153040

There are so many more stories to share but this is getting long. But I’ll leave you guys with this: I am  determined to no longer let fear control  my life in any way at all anymore. Fear is stupid  if it is holding you back from what God has called you to do. Heck, even if you don’t believe in God, fear should never be the reason for not doing something you want to do EVER.

Fear is the enemy’s way of stealing your joy and robbing what God has for you. Christian or not, the devil doesn’t discriminate.  He hates all of us, he loves to steal and he uses fear (among other things) to steal from us. And it is so not okay. So if you feel fear and you want to do something, do it afraid. God will be there. And if you mess up (and this is a perfectionist talking) that’s okay, because God restores.

So that was my  fast/trip. It was God’s way to restore in me something I managed to forget along the way: God’s got my back, I can trust him and with Him I have no reason to fear..

Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.”

20170922_191843

 

I choose love

God prompted me to write. I’m studying 1:Cor 13 and this past week, I focused on verses 4-8. These are my thoughts on it. Hope it makes sense 🙂

We are no match for the gates of Hell, for the sin that resides within us and the evil that seeks to destroy us and everything we hold dear. Alone we can not overcome this darkness. We are hopelessly lost.

The only answer that gives us a fighting chance is LOVE. Jesus is love. Through Him and only Him do we ever have a chance for victory.

18e788707cc84c3c70b20e74d3d66871

 

Now love is not easy. It is work, y’all. It takes putting ourselves aside, admitting that we are weak and need a savior. God has revealed that love is one of his biggest weapons. Jesus saved us all with one simple act. Love. He conquered sin and death for us all.  And when we use it, we can conquer anything. We just have to learn how.

So I took a look at 1 Cor 13, because I needed to figure out this “how to really love” thing. Like I mentioned before, it’s hard. Why is it hard?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. For one, I’m human. And with that comes selfishness, pride, impatience, foot-in-mouth syndrome, and anger. And when I’m  wronged, here come vengeance, walls a ninja can’t even climb and unforgiveness. It’s a mess, but its what you default to when you are human and try to go it alone.

So lets look at 1 Cor 13: 4-8

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends

There’s a lot to love, many things this one word seems to hold. Yet, it was Jesus’ one command to us:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34

I look at that command and think:

“God, I am so human. I want what I want, when I want it and how I want it. How can I possibly follow this? There are days that I remember who I am and that I serve you, but there are days where I forget (or times, like driving on the 41 on my way to work and there’s that one super slow driver….).

Whoops, rabbit trail. Ahem, back on track.

Yet, He calls us to love. It’s a scary thing because we’re human. And better yet, you want us, with all our mess, all our stuff, all our love of self, to join together with another human…with all their stuff and mess and love of self- and call it love.

Wow. Thats an even bigger command. To let worlds collide, very different worlds, and learn to love within them.

So what do we do with all of this? What is our plan?

We have to follow love. It’s the only way to win. It’s the only way to defeat the enemy. It’s like a throat punch to the devil every single time we choose to love. Every time we choose unity over separation, another throat punch.  Pretty soon the devil can’t speak anymore hate and fear into our lives because his throat is swollen shut. That’s an awesome thing.

Every time we lay ourselves down, and choose these things and choose Christ, the enemy reels back in horror. Our love for one another, our willingness to lay ourselves down  and follow Christ terrifies him. And it causes him pain. Doesn’t that just make you happy to know that every time we do this one simple act, to love, it destroys him. The devil, who steals our joy, wants us dead, destroys our families…it is wonderful to know that every time I choose love, it ruins him.

So I choose love. No matter how difficult, how scary or how painful…I choose love.

 

 

FEAR

I saw After Earth a few weeks ago and actually loved it.

Surprisingly Good.
Surprisingly Good.

I’m usually hesitant when it comes to M Night Shyamalan’s movies (I still haven’t forgiven you for “The Happening”. Plants?! REALLY?!), but it was a free movie ticket from work. I really, really enjoyed it. There were several amazing moments from that movie, but the quote below is one that stuck with me:

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.”  Will Smith in After Earth 2013

I love that quote. It applies to so much that is going on in my life at the moment. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the known. Fear of having control. Fear of losing control. Fear of practically everything I can’t see coming. I tell people that I am spontaneous and love to do things without much thought…LIES! I am those things, but I usually have a planned safety net, ripcord for my parachute in case I jump into something really stupid. I always have a plan A, B, C…you get the point.

Like I'd really jump into something without one of these. I may be crazy, but not THAT crazy.
Like I’d really jump into something without one of these. I may be crazy, but not THAT crazy.

But now, things are coming and I honestly can’t see the outcome. I can’t make a plan A, B or C to evade what’s coming without messing up other things. I’m following God’s plan.  It’s a good thing, but it’s caused a lot of anxiety because I am giving up control. My fear issues have become so strong that it had me on my knees at my home church. I was up at the alter, trying to stand, but found myself on the ground literally shaking from it. I felt so paralyzed.  So badly I wanted to cast my fears on Him. So badly I wanted to release my control and hand over everything. Instead, all I managed to squeak out in prayer: “I’m scared.”

God answered right away:

God:  I know you are scared. I need you to breathe. That’s it, deep breath in; deep breath out.

Me: I’m freaking out. I can’t breathe.

God: I know you are. Keep breathing.  Remember, you can be scared, but you have to keep moving despite the fear.

Me: I can’t do this.

God: Yes you can. You can do this. Trust me and let go.

Me: God, I can’t…

God: Do you trust me?

Me: Yes.

God: Let go.

After that conversation, all I could do was be still. You guys, you have no idea how hard it is for me to just be still. My mind races constantly. In that moment, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think.  I could barely sing. I was just still.

b1d7ca868bccbcb4be2cf575547c4b47-1

I was pretty wiped about from that encounter, as well as the epic dance fest at my friends wedding the previous night. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and sleeping. I felt like I was hit by a semi truck.

I talked to God later on that day, informing Him that I do not want to be scared anymore. I refuse to be ruled by  fear. From that conversation, God instructed me to read Hinds Feet on High Places again. It’s an allegory that follows the character Much Afraid, as she makes her way from the Valley of Humiliation to the High Places. Great story. Right now, I really feel like Much Afraid, and God has informed me that I can no longer remain that way.

You can check out this book here.
You can check out this book here.

On Saturday,  I listed out my fears in my journal and laid them before the Lord. There are so many, and almost all of them are things that are coming in the future.  These fears pop in my head on a daily basis and when they do, God reminds me:

“Hey! What did I tell you about worrying about things that have yet to come? Let me handle it. Focus on today.”

Oh boy, I am trying. All I can do is really try.

My best friend and I hung out on Sunday to make God boxes. It was a great chance to just hang out, talk about our lives and be creative.  We will be using these for our prayers, fears, troubles, wishes, hopes, and dreams. Once they go into that box, they are God’s. This is what I ended up with:

You can find out more about God Boxes here.
You can find out more about God Boxes here.

I am ending this with a prayer request. I have a job interview coming up  with the VA home in July that ultimately sends me home. I’ve been praying for this interview since September and well, it’s finally here. It will be right before my vacation, which adds a whole bunch of complications (in my mind anyway), but it is what God has planned. It’s funny that God put it there, because He knew the dates would make me nervous. And He was right! This is the biggest step in my faith/ trust walk with Him and I am going to keep moving.

Thank you all for reading, praying and commenting whenever I post.  Your words are always encouraging to me. I love you all…seriously.

Reflection: She Reads Truth

This Saturday, one of my favorite devotional/bible study sites: She Reads Truth turns 1 year old.

Love this site!
Love this site!

I love their devotionals/ studies and they have really helped me read a LOT more of the Bible. Color me weird, but I have a tough time just reading the Bible straight. I do not focus well at all. I’ll start talking to God, which is not a bad thing, but then I just stop reading. Or I’ll just hop around from book to book, and not really take in what I just read. Or I’ll get distracted by a noise.  Or something shiny. ADHD much? Probably.

Yup, that's me.
Yup, that’s me.

Devotionals make reading the Bible a lot easier because I have questions, themes, etc that I can focus on while I am reading. I hope this changes for me though.

Currently they are doing an old testament series (which I have been DYING to get into, but SQUIRREL) and I just finished their study on Nehemiah. While checking their site for a new old testament book to study, I found that the site wanted everyone to vlog about their journey. I’m not good at talking about how I feel, especially on camera, but I’m pretty good at the writing thing, so I’ll stick to that.  Here’s the questions we were asked. Here are my answers. So pop some popcorn or make some trail mix if you actually decide to read all of this. It’s going to be a long one, and you’ll probably get hungry.

You can find this awesome recipe here while you read. You’re welcome.

How have you seen His faithfulness this year?

Oh man, there has been sooo much. I might need to give you a glimpse of what I went through last year so you can understand how much I’ve seen his faithfulness this year.

Last year was rough. There was a lot of growing and pruning. It wasn’t all bad, I got some pretty sweet blessings (new job, deeper relationship with God, friends, family) but it was definitely a tough year. I basically threw a fit with God and finally admitted to how much I do not trust Him and I did not forgive Him for my mothers death, which was hard to finally own and admit those feelings. This was the root of the not trusting junk.

This is what unforgiveneness was doing to me. Not pretty.
This is what unforgiveneness was doing to me. Not pretty.

So He put me on a HUGE trust walk so we could repair our relationship, and I could work on my faith. Of course, I was met with obstacles.  Things and relationships that I thought were solid started to fade. Promises that He had made seemed out of reach.  The enemy tried to discourage me and tell me that everything I ever wanted would not happen and pushed me to give up. I felt very lost and out of control…which is where God wanted me and I finally broke a lot of my stubbornness and started turning to Him first. The enemy didn’t like that of course, and turned up the heat.  Instead of giving up, walking in unforgiveness and running, I reminded myself of the promises God had for me. I prayed a lot and dived into the Bible (with the help of devotionals of course ).

Towards the end of the year, awesome blessings happened. And my, how they have continued! The promises I had asked for really started to show fruit. Relationships that I thought I had lost started to bloom. I was able to walk away from harmful relationships without guilt (HUGE for me).  I started getting answers from a job that I have been trying for for several months (still waiting for the job, but I know that it is coming) so there is finally a light at the end of that tunnel. I got honored at my current job by the CEO and the active duty members that I serve.  I got blessed with the chance to take a huge, much needed vacation with a friend.

Outlaw Run...I so can't wait!
Outlaw Run…I so can’t wait!

I got an amazing word from God, thanking me for walking in forgiveness and I was told that the promises that I asked for are coming and that He is quickly working over them. I will have so much happiness, I won’t know what to do with it. SWEET!

How has the Holy Spirit wrecked and rebuilt you?

Sometimes I still feel like the wrecking ball is still swinging.

Sometimes complete obliteration is necessary.
Sometimes complete obliteration is necessary.

It’s a good thing though, because there are a ton of things He needs to wreck. There’s a lot he has been working on, but I’ll go over the biggest thing he’s trying to knock down first.

What I have always viewed as being independent was actually just  a mask for pride and fear. Ouch.

When God pointed out my independence thing as actually a pride thing, I was so confused:

Me: Look God, I got this done by myself. It turned out pretty awesome!

God: Here’s the thing, what you keep calling independence is actually pride.

Me: God, I thought you liked my adventurous, driven, independent spirit?

God: Yes, I love those things and gave you those gifts. However, you need to come to me and depend on me.

Me: I do. I ask for your guidance.

God: Yes you do, but then you just do your own thing anyway if you don’t get answers soon enough.

Me:  But God, if you want something, you go after it. So I ask you and go after it. I’m just independent, just the way you created me.

God: No, that’s pride. You can’t do it all and you can’t do things independent from me.

Me: I’m not. I ask for your input, and I figure it’s what you would want me to do anyway, so I just do it. I’m just using the gift you gave me.

God: (Facepalm)

God and I had several of these conversations. Finally, I started getting smacked by my independence. I’d try to take control…SMACK…it would fall apart. It kept happening over and over again. The biggest area I got smacked in was in my career. Do you know how infuriating it is to turn down 7 jobs because you didn’t listen to God?  Or have to bail on interviews because you thought you could move things along faster if you had “control”?  Lemme tell you, it’s awful and very humbling.

Don’t be dumb like me.

 So after I finally grew tired of getting smacked,  I came into agreement with God that yes, what I viewed as independence was actually a ton of pride, and when He asks me to do something, I do it. I’m now on a YES walk.

It has not been easy, to be honest, it’s been scary. But, its been a good scary. I need to let go of the kung fu grip I have on my life. My need for control is actually fear based.  God has made it very clear there’s no love in fear and that there is no room for fear in our relationship. So I say, yes. Great things have come out of just saying yes. Lots of great things (see above).

Do I still freak out…oh yeah. You don’t stop being a control freak overnight. But,  I say yes, panic for a bit, God listens, reminds me that He’s in control and I keep moving.  It’s better than what I used to do and that was run away. In reality, I found that when I ran from God, this is what I was actually doing:

Cute, but dumb.
Cute, but dumb.

What truths have you read in His Word that have drawn you closer and deeper in relationship with Him?

I know I’ve said this before, but when I saw this question these were the first verses to pop in my head:

Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

When I first saw this verse, I kinda laughed. Joy and trials just don’t seem to go together. I am supposed to be happy and grateful for the tough times? I’m supposed to willingly embrace these moments as chances for growth?

It took me a while, but as I went through tough times I saw a lot of value in these verses.  After a particularly rough patch, instead of giving up, I would recite James 1 2-4. There were days I would read it over and over again just to get through the day. It was a constant reminder that God would never leave me nor would He fail me.

Through my past trials, my mothers death, losing relationships, job opportunities, disappointments, all these things have caused me to cling to God and grow my faith. Once the trial has ended, and I’ve gotten to the other side, I can see the growth and change the Lord  has done in me. I’m not dead or lying on the ground in defeat. I’m a lot stronger than I started.  It’s a cool thing.

So that’s it.  If you haven’t checked out She Reads Truth, you should because it is awesome.

Here’s the link: http://shereadstruth.com/

Thanks for reading.

Day 7: A Mom I Can Borrow

Kinda scattered today, and left my laptop at work. So I’m doing my gratitude journal from my phone. I hope it posts!

Today was nuts, soooo I really needed an ear just so I could vent about the craziness I encountered all day. I yelled at God about them, not that I was angry with Him, I just needed to yell. Although, it was mostly in my mind :p

Once I was done I asked my friend’s mom if I could talk to her about my day. For me, that is huge. It felt weird to call some one just to vent as I reserved that job for my mom. Well shes no longer here, so I’m learning to make God my person. It’s a work in progress.

Every now and then, I just need a person to talk to. A person to fill that mom role.
To allow someone else to take that role, even if it was for a bit, was kinda scary for me. I always worry that I’m burdening them with my problems. I knew that I would just fester with todays happenings and not sleep, so I reached out. I am so glad I did. I feel tons better.

So today, I’m thankful that I was able to put aside my pride and tell someone about my troubles. I’m thankful to have friends whose parents are so awesome, they treat me like one of their own :).

Day 2: Trust

This daily gratitude journal is tough, but I committed to doing this…

So, for Day 2 I am grateful that I am trusted, that I can trust God and that I am starting to trust myself. I got a lot thrown at me today work wise, and my boss wasn’t worried at all. He totally trusted me to handle everything. Once everything was ironed out, our event ran successfully and everyone had a great time. It felt good knowing he had that much faith in me.

With this event, I learned to trust myself. I really wasn’t sure that I could pull this off, but I did. I really sell myself short sometimes. But, when I stop listening to that voice of doubt in my head and just go for it, I end up doing just fine.

The coolest thing about all of this is that everything that is happening with my job is totally setting me up with awesome experience with the military guys. This will help me a ton as I am hoping to transfer back to Fresno for a position with the Veterans Home. The more I do with our military group, the more I can add to my resume. Sweet!  I think God knew I needed more experience in this area, which would explain the sudden increase in job duties.

God had a plan all along…whew! I can stop trying to be a control freak and just trust Him. And that feels good.

 

So, there you have it…Day 2. Off to enjoy a mug of eggnog…yum!

Dear God: You’re Not Funny

God sure has a sense of humor. My life feels like a comedy right now. A comedy that I did not agree to star in; it’s just happening around me and I have to let it.

And I don’t like it.

Not. One. Bit.

So I finished up a fast in September which focused on praying for our promises. I had four promises. There were my three big ones, build a stronger relationship with God, find a recreation therapist position in Fresno and move back home to Fresno. There is one more, but I am no where near ready to talk about that yet, at least here.

Image
Yeah, really didn’t see that fourth one coming. Mind blown. There are no words…

Anyway, as I fasted and prayed for these things in September, I learned some things about myself that I need to work on:

1) I am not patient at all.

2) I have serious trust issues…this I already knew, but this more so applies to my relationship with God.

3) I am a control freak.

Yuck.

I praise myself on having a pretty laid back personality, but when it comes to letting go of my life and fully trusting God, boy do I like to try to micromanage. Thankfully, God is God and he just picks me up and moves me out of the way. So, I get huffy and try to sneak my way in. That doesn’t work either. This is kinda what our conversations look like.

Me: “Hey God, Jesus…whatcha doing?”

God:”Just editing these bluepints. We’ve got some great stuff planned for you that we need to update.”

Jesus: “You’re going to love it. I’m so excited! “

Me: “Really?! Can I take a peek?”

God: (Laughs) “An artist never reveals his masterpiece until the timing is right.”

Jesus: “You’ll just have to wait.”

Me: “But…it’s my life. I thought I was in control…”

Jesus: (Chuckles and pats my head) Aren’t you just adorable? We’ll let you know when it’s ready.”

Me: (Stomps off, sits in a corner and sulks for five minutes while they giggle at my childishness and continue planning my life without any of my input)

Image
Yep, definitely given God a lot of attitude the past couple of weeks.

Don’t get me wrong, God does answer my prayers, not all of them but he’s answered quite a bit. He does take what I want into consideration, just not everything. At the end of fast, I got answers to all four of my promises…but I have to wait on ALL of them, except for one, which is growing stronger in my relationship with God. That one is really taking off. If anything, all this waiting, trusting and letting go of control has really improved my prayer life, cause I pray all the time now. Even if it is me asking what the heck is going on, it’s still communicating with God. So yay for that!

Image
Can a sista get a hint? Please?!

But as for the other three…OMG waiting sucks. It is really not fun. God knows this is really driving me nuts and He is really laying it on thick in the “learning to trust and wait” department. When the fast was over, there were five recreation therapy positions in Fresno at this brand new veteran’s home. When I saw that, I cried. I applied instantly.

“Yay, finally I get to go home now!!!”

I sang as I danced around my apartment. Then I looked at the potential hiring date: APRIL 2013.

REALLY GOD?!

REALLY?!

UGH!!!

Turns out that the Veteran’s home is just waiting on funding from the state so they can open it. God says the job is mine, I just gotta wait for it. There’s that waiting thing again. I thought I was done with it after the fast.

Nope.

Back to the corner I go to sit and stew for five minutes while God reassures me that this will all be pretty sweet in the end. I just have to wait.

During this waiting period, I have made attempts to take this situation into my own hands. However, God is like the best NFL blocker of all time and has blocked every single field goal I’ve attempted to make. He just catches the ball, shakes his head, and tells me that it’s only the second down and I am trying to attempt a 70 yard field goal. Then he sends me back to the bench, telling me he’ll call me when they make a touchdown.

So what were my field goal attempts?

I applied for other jobs around Fresno. Five of them were my dream jobs: a position as a recreation therapist with the Veterans Administration and they were all located in the Bay area. Not exactly Fresno, but close enough to where I could visit on the weekends.  I have always wanted to work there. Always. Getting into that place is hard and getting an interview is really rare. They commonly have openings in my field, but they are usually in crappy areas like Alabama or South Dakota. (Okay, I’m sure these are great places, I just don’t want to live there). So when I saw the ones in the bay area…I thought to myself:

“Yes! This must be from God! I’ve always wanted one of those! I must apply!”

So I did, and I got selected for interviews. The strange thing was, all my interview notifications went to old email addresses and telephone numbers which I hadn’t listed on my resume. I just happened upon them when I decided to randomly check these email accounts. When I did catch one, I couldn’t make the interview date and it could not be rescheduled. God was blocking my every attempt to take control!

Seriously…who jumps that high?! Oh, that’s right…God does. Quit blocking my balls God!!!

I had to turn them down and watch sadly as they were reposted again. I even passed one on to my coworker. That was hard. I will be happy for her if she gets it, but way sad if she gets to leave to California before I do. Also, she’s awesome and I really like working with her.

After bowing out of another interview today, this one an hour from Fresno…it hit me. God means for me to wait. I have to do it. Fighting Him just won’t work; He’s got something planned and I just have to let Him take control. I know in the end it will be awesome and if I try to mess with stuff now, I’ll just make everything a mess. But, waiting is hard y’all; trusting is even more difficult. Dying to my old self, the one who would have probably said…

” Screw that! This is my dream job. I am going for it no matter what,”

is so not what I am used to. Now I am becoming this obedient submitting person and it’s just strange. I don’t even recognize myself. It’s frightening , yet exciting at the same time.

So now that I fully get that I just have to wait, I’m going to do what my friend told all of us on the way to Magic Mountain last weekend, (which was a blast, btw). It went a little something like this:

“Everyone has to wait. You have two choices; you can either sit and be pissed off while you wait or you can sit back, let God take control and just grow in the waiting.”

I’m ready to be the second part of that statement now.

I know there are times that I will freak out, because I am a control freak and right now…I feel like I am in control of nothing. But, God has a book for that.

James is awesome right now, especially James 1:2-4 because of what I am currently going through. So, when I am feeling kinda anxious, I’ll refer to this passage:

Image

Being honest

Dear God,

I realized today that I am really, really angry with you. I know you’ve known this as I’ve tried to give you the cold shoulder for the past year, but now I am past that. I’m coming right out and saying it: I’M REALLY MAD AT YOU.

I also don’t trust you. There. It’s out there now. I’ve admitted to myself, to everyone, that I don’t trust you.

This makes it hard to love you. To be totally and completely sold out to you.  When there are anger and trust issues present, love is a difficult thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love you. I can’t live without you. But loving you is no easy task.

Sometimes I feel like the kid who’s told to go to bed early.

My anger  and lack of trust stems from my plans never really matching up with your plans. You think I’m strong enough to be without my mom; I think you overestimate my ability to handle it.  You think I can grow without my home church; I think I’m not strong enough.  I want to leave Arizona; you want me to stay. You want me to get ready for a relationship; I really don’t know how to do that. You want me to find my voice; I still don’t know where to look for it.  You want me to be light in a place of darkness; I don’t even know how to turn the light on.

You keep pruning me, watering me and trying to make me grow. Of course, I protest:

“I’m getting growing pains, Lord. STOP IT!!!”

” Isn’t there a hibernation period for your plants? Don’t they have semi-annual, annual, perennial? Can I be one of those? Please?! ”

“I’m totally fine with that wonky leaf hanging off my branch.I like the color yellow. Leave it alone; it’ll turn green someday.”

Yet you ignore me and keep doing what you do. You keep clipping, shaping and watering. I yell at you, and you listen, but the pruning continues. I cry uncle and say enough is enough, but you keep adding more. And this Lord, is why I am angry with you, having a hard time trusting you and even a harder time loving you.

So now that I’ve laid out all my issues with you; what’s next? How do I overcome these issues that I know are present? How do I  follow, trust and love without protest?

I know the verses:

Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,  plans to prosper you and not you harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

Deuteronomy 6:5- Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. 

And of course the one I struggle with the most:

Proverbs 3:5-6- Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Seek him in all you do and he will direct your paths.

I know the verses. I have these memorized. I know what I you say to do. Why the heck is it so hard to default to those three verses? Why do I protest? Why can’t I submit? Why do I respond out of anger; why can’t I accept the trials you give me with love?

And the biggest question of all: Why do you continue to put up with me?