A story of healing…

As many of you know and have been celebrating with us, Micah and I are 1 year and a few days into this thing called marriage. It’s been a wonderful year and its hard to believe that it’s already been an entire year that we’ve been married. While I feel like this is the perfect time to share about all that God has taught me this year, today I’m going to go back a little further¬†because I feel like I’m just now truly seeing the beauty of how God’s been working and it’s just too good not to share!

I feel like in today’s society, we spend a whole lot of time preparing for our wedding day. We thought about it as little girls, naturally, and then still as teenagers. For me, I thought I would meet the man I was supposed to marry in high school and we would wed shortly after graduation. Keep in mind, I am from a very small town where this is a reality for many and that’s all I’d known. My parents had been “going steady” since middle school and eloped on prom night. Yep. That’s a story for a different day! ūüôā In today’s society, we have the ability to plan our weddings in great depth thanks to the likes of Pinterest and all of the wedding photographers and bloggers that have kept us dreaming. And I was no different. I knew very early that one day Micah and I would get married and let’s just say my Pinterest boards were full of ideas for the perfect day!

And it was perfect. However, on November 1, 2013 – exactly one year before our wedding day, the Lord spoke to my heart and gave me some brutal truth. See, Micah and I had been together two years at this point and I did not understand why the timing was not right still for us to get married. I had peace that he was the man I would spend my life with but did not understand why God was still telling us to wait???¬†And as I sat there at the base of Spring Point Lighthouse in Portland, Maine, sipping my Dunkin Donuts coffee and writing in my journal about Maine and how much I love it there, the Lord spoke to me out of the clear blue and told me that I’m not ready for marriage. He didn’t say that Micah wasn’t ready for marriage (which, if I’m 100% honest, I always secretly placed the blame on his shoulders), He said that I was not ready for marriage?? But even deeper than that, He told me WHY¬†I was not ready for marriage and that was not a conversation I was ready¬†to have.

I mean, is it ever exciting to have the Lord show you step by step where you’re in the wrong? Hello……. not so much! But this conversation deep dove even more than that. See, God wasn’t giving me a list on that foggy Maine morning of reasons why I’m terrible and that’s why I’m not ready to be a wife… No. God spoke to me about my heart and how I had not allowed Him to come in and heal my brokenness. I had been leaning on others to comfort me instead of letting the Father come in and heal me.¬†And that’s a day I’ll never forget.

Two years later, I’m still healing but the process has been so so sweet. It is not Micah’s job to comfort me on days when I’m in the desert (I’ll write more about that later!) it is my job to recognize my broken spirit and fall at the feet of Jesus. And that’s not easy for me to do. I’ve come to realize¬†that I’m a Type A Control Freak and while some might see that as a strength,¬†that does not make me strong – that makes me weak because it’s in those moments that I’m grasping control when I’m supposed to be letting go.

My prayer is that no matter where you are in your journey, that you’ll allow God to move in you and to heal you right where you are. We’re all broken and it’s when we recognize our brokenness that we can see the Lord’s hand bringing beauty from ashes. I’m going to leave you with¬†a song that has been on repeat in my head for weeks and I hope it encourages your heart as it has mine.

-C

My New Health Journey!

This post is different than what I normally write.¬†I’m walking you through my story to introduce you to a new journey I’m starting today in hopes that you’ll be encouraged, I will be held accountable and together we can make strides toward happier, healthier lives.

Over the years, I have tried lots of different methods to lose weight. I have tried running, Zumba, weight watchers, myfitnesspal, ItWorks!, Plexus and many more weight loss rituals and exercising apps that I can’t even remember them all! Each one has shown me temporary success but nothing that has really stuck with me. I even lost 35 pounds last year but the transition to #wifelife took a toll on my body and I have gained half of that back.

A couple of months ago, my friend Brittney was sharing about her journey with JuicePlus+. I was under the impression that it was yet another weight loss option, I started asking her about it and even ordered my first round of JuicePlus+ Complete. I LOVED the shakes and was having them occasionally but wasn’t really committed to it. When Brittney started an October cleanse group, I decided to join because A. I’m not getting any thinner!! B. I needed an accountability group to help jumpstart some weight loss. and C. I wanted to really give this JuicePlus+ thing a try. Transform 30 was the name of the cleanse where you drink two shakes a day with the JuicePlus+ Complete, take the JuicePlus+ gummies or capsules, and eat clean – no gluten, no dairy, no added sugar – 30 min or exercise 4 times a week, drink¬†2-3 liters of water a day and get 8 hours of sleep each night. We were on a facebook group for accountability where Brittney posted recipes and helpful tips.

Now there are a few things you need to know about my former eating habits before you say things like “oh wow, there’s no way I could go dairy free/gluten free!” I can not function without coffee. I’m the girl that people know by first name at the Dunkin Donuts drive thru and know that I want my french vanilla hot coffee with cream and sugar. How am I going to function without cream and sugar in my coffee?? Also, I love cheese! Seriously. I love it. I love all kinds and I love it on everything!! Before this cleanse, I’ve never cooked a single dish that didn’t have cheese in it in some form or fashion. As far as the gluten free thing…it was easier for me than some. I’m not a person that demands some form of bread with every meal but I do love chips and dips – think of the girl that orders spinach and artichoke dip as an appetizer at every restaurant, I MUST have pizza once a week (We do Pizza Fridays at our house!) and I consume gobs and gobs of mexican food – aka, bring on the tortillas!

The first thing I did was prepare my kitchen and my husband for the cleanse. I also prepared my friends at work so that they didn’t think I was being ugly by not wanting to eat lunch with them every day anymore. I went to CostCo and purchased gluten free bread, fresh veggies, hummus, natural peanut butter and a huge bag of frozen chicken breasts. ¬†I went through my pantry and made my husband eat anything tempting the last week before the cleanse began.

I really thought I was going to struggle with not having gluten but it was the dairy that really took a toll on me. Every where I turned, I wanted sour cream in my chili or wanted a loaded baked potato. I did a fairly good job just keeping my mind of things I could eat instead of things I couldn’t but it was difficult. I finally had to think through my day and what I was going to eat the entire day and if I knew I was going to be eating out somewhere, I would try to think through the menu and have my mind made up on what I would order without looking at the menu once we arrived. During my first week on the cleanse, I had a work meeting where we went for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants that has the most divine buffalo chicken dip in all of Middle TN! My coworkers all decided to go in together and get a bunch of pizzas – except for Casey who asked for a grilled chicken¬†taco¬†salad, no cheese with salsa and guacamole instead of dressing. Once the food arrived, I really enjoyed my salad and I realized, I CAN DO THIS!!

I had a few cheat meals throughout the cleanse and let me tell you, I felt terrible each and every time!!! We went out of town for a few days and I cheated quite a bit and it took me a couple of days to get back on my ritual to really get to feeling better and that’s where it hit me! My body does not want these things! And through many conversations with Brittney about JuicePlus+, what I have found that I love most that is different than other products and companies is this: JuicePlus+ is a company that promotes healthy living with products that provide nutrients that your body is craving and through the flushing of toxins out of your body, you’ll find weight loss – so far I’m down 10 lbs! But this is not a weight loss company – this is a company that promotes healthy living and this is what I need more than anything.

October was the 5 year anniversary of losing my mom. She was 53, I was 23. My mom did not make healthy life choices. Our house ran on coffee, velveeta and wavy lays potato chips. My mom’s death did not come at the hands of an unhealthy diet but I know that the quality of the life she lived would have been elevated tremendously if she had made healthier choices during her time with us. This month on this cleanse has taught me one definite thing –¬†I’ve been given one body and I need to be a good steward with what I’ve been given and that needs to start now with healthy life choices.

And I’m going to do that with JuicePlus+! Here are a few questions I’ve already received from some friends over this past month of doing Transform30.

  • What do you eat if you’re not having gluten or dairy??
    • Here’s a rough sketch of my day to day: I make a shake with JuicePlus+ Complete – I prefer the chocolate!! ūüôā I use 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 scoop of Complete, 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter, 1 banana, and whatever other fruits I have available that I think will be good. I normally keep strawberries on hand but I also use raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, mango, apples…just anything that I feel will taste good! ūüôā I struggled the first couple of weeks with being disciplined to having 2 shakes a day but I packed my JuicePlus+ Complete in my lunch box, kept a carton of coconut milk in the fridge at work along with a handy dandy blender bottle. On days when I wanted something different for lunch, I normally grabbed a small chili from wendy’s and a plain baked potato. As far as dinner goes, I was given lots of recipes that I would put in the crock pot before heading to work and they’d be ready for us when I got home from work.
  • What did you do about Pizza Friday’s?
    • The first couple of weeks we ordered gluten free pizza with no cheese and lots of toppings from Pizza Hut. It was a lot better than what you’re thinking right now. The first problem with that is that they only serve gluten free pizza in a small which is just not enough pizza for two adults that love pizza! The second problem is that a small pizza that is not enough food for two adults who love pizza is $15 with tax!! Ouch! We ended up just using Pizza Friday as my cheat day where I eat normal pizza with light cheese – which made me feel not so great but what can I say? I love pizza! We did go¬†to publix and found some frozen gluten free pizzas that we could make at home on Fridays but they all had cheese. We tried one last week but I only made through 1.5 pieces and had my husband finish my second piece as I went and steamed¬†a bag of brussels sprouts. I could already feel my stomach turning so it just wasn’t worth it for me that night. We’re still on the hunt for gluten free with no cheese that doesn’t break the bank.
  • What snacks/desserts did you eat during Transform30?
    • Luckily, I love fruit! So I would pack my lunch box with an apple, banana, a ziploc bag of various berries that I had in my fridge. As far as desserts go, I fell in love with Coconut Milk Ice Cream!! The chocolate tastes just like an almond joy!!!
  • What about your coffee??
    • Well, that one was a little easier than I would have thought! I heard¬†once upon a time that if you feel the need to put tons of cream and sugar in your coffee (cough, guilty, cough!) it may be that you’re drinking bad coffee and that’s why you feel the need to pump it full of cream and sugar. The first couple of weeks, I didn’t drink coffee at all and had to power through the day with ibuprofen to get through the caffeine withdrawal headaches! Then Britt told me about almond milk vanilla creamer. I started putting just a dash of that in some coffee here at home and I have loved it! I still don’t drink it every day which has been nice since I don’t like feeling dependent on anything which I completely did before starting the October cleanse.
  • Isn’t JuicePlus+ kind of expensive?
    • That’s what I thought too when I first look at the prices. And then I started looking through my bank statements at how much I was spending eating out for lunch and breakfast each day. I didn’t normally eat out for both of those meals but I was eating out for one of those meals each day and that really adds up! When I looked at breakfast alone, I was spending between $4.16 and $4.82 for coffee and a bagel depending on my coffee size. If I did that 3 days a week, which I did… That’s an average of $54 a month. Now let’s be realistic and add in at least $7 spent 3 times a week on lunch each week. That’s an average of $84 a month I’m spending on lunch on top of the $54 spent on breakfast each month = $138 each month and that’s a modest estimate. Now, I order The Staples which includes JuicePlus+ Complete and the Basic Gummies which is $108 each month so I’m at least saving $30 and like I said, that’s a very modest estimate of what I was spending eating out for lunch and breakfast each month.

I’m really new to this whole JuicePlus+ thing and I’m learning more and more every day! If you have any questions for me, please let me know and I’ll be happy to find those answers for you! Thank you for reading this far! I know this is a super long post!! I hope this encourages you to pursue healthy life choices and that you’ll help me by holding me accountable along the way!! ūüôā

Following Him…

Last week when I was coming home from work, I was thinking about a friend of mine and I decided to pull into downtown Nashville and pick up a “happy” for her at the LifeWay store on Broadway. My husband was having a bible study with our neighbor and this way I wouldn’t be busting up in the middle of their study and distracting them. While I was in LifeWay, this feeling¬†came over me… one that I’ve had before in similar situations. I found myself wanting to do nothing but stay in that store and read all day long. There were so many books that I wanted to sit and read, so many authors that I love, so many journals that I wanted to fill with my thoughts, so many encouraging cards that I wanted to write and send to people.

I’m a leader at work, I majored in¬†organizational leadership in college, I’ve lead worship for children and college students, I’ve lead bible studies, I’ve lead mission trips and in every single organization that I have ever been a part of, I’ve been in some sort of leadership role. And I love it. I love shaping and developing those that I’m privileged to work beside into being their best and how that will impact our company. I love leading others in worship and being completely humbled by God’s message beckoning the hearts of his people through song. I love studying the bible with women and learning more of how God’s speaking to my heart from how God’s moving in¬†theirs. I love seeing that spark in a college students face while they are serving God in missions when they grasp that this is exactly what He was talking about in the Great Commission.

But today, I am not a leader. Today, on my day off, I get to be a follower. I get to sit on my couch (still in my jammies!), read through Angie Smith’s book, listen to my IF:Gathering Wednesday Worship Playlist on Spotify and write from my heart. I don’t have to be a leader today, I can simply be a follower of Jesus here in the quiet with nothing else taking precedence. I can simply be a follower to my husband as he leads my family and serve him by preparing our home for his return from work today. And as much as I love that God has equipped me since the beginning with this ability to lead, all I really want to do is follow, day in and day out.

All I have been able to think about since last week¬†is how I want to do nothing else but write books that make women feel the exact same way. I want to write books that make women feel empowered and encouraged in their walk with the Lord. I want to write books that make women examine the redemptive power they’ve experienced in their life and the impact that’s made on their own faith journey. And that’s all I want to do. And I feel that is the best way that I can use the gifts and abilities that God has given me; to follow Him, to write what He’s teaching me in hopes of leading others closer to Him.

Would you pray for me in that? Would you pray that M and I would be faithful as we seek Him, as we follow Him and as we wait patiently for His timing?

-C

Racism is Reality…

That’s right. You read the title of my blog correctly. Racism is a reality in today’s society. No, we don’t have segregated schools and pools and restrooms but there is real race-based hatred that still stirs our streets today. We can watch movies like The Help, The Butler and Selma and think about how far we’ve come but if we’re blind to how far we still have to go, we’re not gaining any ground. 

When I was a little girl, I competed in rodeos every weekend. Many of you are likely shocked by this as you’ve only known me through college, church or Corporate America. About the same time I was doing the rodeo thing with my family, our local high school placed a ban on Confederate Flags on school grounds. A group of high school guys were offended by this new ban and decided to fly huge Confederate Flags in the back of their trucks, park in an abandoned parking lot off school property and walked to school. They would also drive through the school parking lot during school events to make their point. This all happened while I was around 5th grade or so when I began to go through a weird phase myself. As a part of this Southern Pride Rodeo culture where everyone listens to their country music on truck tail gates drinking beer, flying the Confederate flag was just part of that culture. I can remember having to have every single “Dixie Outfitter” t-shirt possible and being so excited when my dad got me a Confederate flag saddle blanket. I had absolutely no regard to how the flag made others feel and I felt it was part of my heritage. And it was/is. Was I racist? No. Was I ignorant to the ramifications that my freedom of speech as a young girl would have on my African American friends? Absolutely.

 As we all know, 9 church members of Mother Emmanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina were gunned down during a prayer meeting last month. This act of terrorism was rooted in White Supremacy and Racism. Since then, there are many politicians and journalists capitalizing on the situation as they strike up gun control conversations but an additional conversation has been started through this tragedy as well. A Confederate flag has flown over many Government buildings, including the Capital Building in South Carolina and was removed this week; which has stirred quite the controversy for those identifying with Southern Heritage and are fighting to keep the flag flying. 

In regard to those that are so opposed to the Confederate flag being removed, my question is this: What part of this flag’s history is so noble that we should disregard the hurt it brings to others? Our heritage lies in those who are likely the same ones that scoffed at black people who were sitting a little too close to them on the bus. Our heritage lies in those who are likely the same ones who dressed in white sheets, flew that flag and set a bus of freedom riders on fire in Birmingham, AL on May 14, 1961. Our heritage lies in those who were likely the same ones who felt the need to own and brutally treat African American slaves. And to make sure we get our history straight, our ancestors were likely the ones to drive out Native Americans during the trail of tears, cast out immigrants coming through Ellis Island and a mile long list of other atrocities committed by white folk. We can honor our heritage and honor those who fought and died for the “freedom of the South” without publicly waiving symbolic flags that stir up more hate and hurt in our society. 

Maybe I’m alone in this but I’m not afraid to say that when I take a deep dive into my heritage and the history of my own race, I’m terribly embarrassed. I’m terribly embarrassed to have been so excited to have such a flag stamped on my saddle blanket as a young girl that would cause pain to others. I’m terribly embarrassed that my skin tone makes me privileged. And I’m terribly embarrassed that so many White Americans representing the church are fighting the removal of the Confederate flag. 

Just like any other sin, racism is a heart condition. Same as jealousy or greed or pride. And if you are as hurt by the shooting in Charleston as you posted on Facebook weeks ago, then it’s time that we, as the church, truly start searching our hearts and casting out all judgement and prejudice. Over the last few weeks, I have seen multiple posts essentially mocking those who are offended by the Confederate flag. You can’t ask for prayers for the families of those 9 people killed last week and then mock others who are offended by the Confederate flag the next. 

There’s a disconnect and it’s a big one and it’s keeping people from seeing the true redemptive story of Jesus Christ.  It’s promoting an inconsistent message. We can’t be a people who promote a God of love while also defending a flag that can symbolize hate. We don’t have to erase the history of our country. Actually we shouldn’t forget! We should study it and learn from it so that we can assure ourselves not to repeat it. The sins of our people are not to be forgotten just as we shouldn’t forget our own sins but reflect and learn. 

The flag may be a symbol of your heritage but it’s also a symbol of the heritage of others as well… a very painful one and we shouldn’t be so persistent to display ours to stir up hurt in the hearts of others. “Heritage, not hate” may be stamped on your Facebook and Instagram as your stance on this issue but until we open our eyes to see that it’s actually a Heritage of Hate, we’ve gained absolutely zero ground in this fight for racial reconciliation in this country and in our churches.

Wisdom for College Freshmen…

As one who graduated from high school 10 years ago (yeah, I’m still struggling with that one! How did that happen?!?!?) I had some reservations when heading into college but more than anything, I was just READY for something new!! ūüôā I learned a lot throughout my college journey and there are a few pieces of wisdom I hope is helpful to those new college freshmen who might be a little nervous. I have also started a Pinterest Board that has some helpful articles I’ve pinned as well. You can find it by following my Pinterest link here on my blog. ūüôā

  • ¬†Be “ok” with letting go.¬†Some of you have spent the last 13 years with the same people and have made, what you feel, the best friends you could ever have. And now you’re in this transitional season where you are all moving on to different schools and you’ve sang the graduation song and pledge that “We will still be Friends Forever…” and all of those things are perfectly normal ways to feel. But I’m here to tell you that if you go to college and you start to feel those friendships slip away… it really is ok. ¬†Just like you are having new, life changing experiences, so are they and through those things, it is natural to grow a part. Relationships are really hard work when you don’t find yourself seeing that person every day. And Some relationships are worth working to keep. Along the way, you’ll know when it’s right to work for a relationship or to let it go. And it’s ok to let go.
  • You don’t have to have it all planned out.¬†You’re going to meet people during Freshman Orientation or in the first few weeks of classes that have their major picked out, know where they are going to work after college, when they are going to get married, where they want to settle down, how many kids they want to have and what their names will be. And that’s fine. But I also want you to know that only about 1/2 a percent of those folks’ plans will work out that way and that’s ok too. For me, I thought that I would complete my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre, move to NYC, slum around from audition to audition until I finally found my place on a big stage somewhere along the way finding the perfect man and us having a large family. None of that happened the way that I had planned but it has been so much better than any of those dreams. So here’s a thought: How about having a idea of what you want to do but also going in with a completely open mind. You’re going to learn so much about the world and about yourself that even if you’ve been 100% sure your whole life as to what you wanted to “be when you grow up”, college and life away from home might surprise you and take you on a completely new journey that is more than you have ever dreamed.
  • Find a solid community.¬†This is a crucial part of making¬†college successful. There’s a reason why you find a lot of people flunking out of school. A lot of times that can come down to not finding a solid community in college that is encouraging and holding you accountable. As a college freshman, I found a great group of people who I met for bible study and worship regularly on campus. Through this community, I found a family of people who rallied around me through the toughest of times and helped me navigate through some really tough decisions. I know that I would not be where I am today without the community that I found in college. These are the people that drive 3+ hours to make it to your wedding or to your parents’ funeral. You need these people so find seek out these relationships early.
  • GO.¬†There will be many opportunities for you to go on crazy adventures during the summer and during spring/fall breaks. GO! There is going to come a time after you’ve walked across that stage and you are working your full time job where you¬†will wish that you had taken advantage of the trips you missed out on when you had the chance in college.¬†You don’t have to take summer classes every year! GO¬†study abroad, GO white water rafting and camping for the weekend, GO teach English overseas, GO hold babies in an orphanage! These experiences will change you so much more than any class that you take in college so GO and be changed because there will come a time when you don’t have the same opportunities.
  • Who said you have to be finished in 4 years?¬†College takes 4 years for some people. It also takes 3.5 for some and for me, it took quite a bit longer and that is ok. Be faithful and obedient to God through it all and no matter how long it takes, the journey the Lord takes you on will always be greater than what you planned for yourself.¬†During my journey, there came a time where I needed to take a break to figure out what God wanted for me which lead to me changing majors (multiple times!),¬†losing my theatre scholarship¬†and having to just take a couple classes at a time while I paid for school out of pocket. Not ideal by any means but God used that entire journey to teach me so many lessons of his faithfulness and the goodness of His timing. This is your journey and no one else’s so be obedient to God’s time frame and no one else’s.
  • Don’t skip class.¬†Take it from me. Hanging out with friends and binge watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix sounds like a much better idea than actually attending class but seriously, go to class.
  • Document EVERYTHING!¬†Below are several photos from throughout different adventures I went on in college. I am so glad I took so many pictures and you will regret it if you don’t. Luckily, we are a society that documents everyone on social media and while that’s debatable
  • Be obedient.¬†There are going to be times in your college journey where there’s a certain yearning and longing in your heart that is different that what makes sense to the world. It’s going to be different than what your parents want you to do or what society thinks you should do but God’s ways are always higher than our ways and if we have to be obedient in the right now so that He can prepare what’s best for us in the future. Maybe that’s changing your major from corporate communications to Social Work even though it will push your graduation date back 2 semesters, be obedient to what God is leading you to do and no one else. Maybe¬†that’s going to Haiti for 2 months in the summer instead of taking a full course load so you can get ahead in school, be obedient to what God is leading you to do because these experience that you’re feeling lead to do by the Lord are experiences that are going to shape you and those around you more in the image of God and those experiences are the ones we regret once it’s too late., document it for yourself nonetheless!

I hope these words of wisdom are helpful as you head into what is going to be the most exciting and most challenging season of your life! You’re going to meet the people who will stand by you or even officiate your wedding, who will wait at the hospital when your babies are born or clean your apartment for you when your mom passes away. This season is one where you are going to be shaped more and more into the likeness of God is you will let Him lead and guide you through this season. I included some of my favorite photos from my college journey below. Please know that with every wonderful choice I made to go on amazing adventures to beautiful places, I likely made just as many terrible decisions a long the way but God is faithful through it all! Just don’t waste this season! You will miss it when it’s gone!!

-C

NYC Trip - Fall 2005
NYC Trip – Fall 2005
First Mission Trip Ever! This is where I caught the missions bug! Biloxi, MS Hurricane Katrina Relief - Fall 2005
First Mission Trip Ever! This is where I caught the missions bug! Biloxi, MS Hurricane Katrina Relief – Fall 2005
APSU Homecoming Float -  Fall 2005
APSU Homecoming Float – Fall 2005
First trip to Orphanage in Mexico - Summer 2006
First trip to Orphanage in Mexico – Summer 2006
First trip to Mexico - May 2006
First trip to Mexico – May 2006
Taking a break for dinner in Biloxi, MS - fall 2006
Taking a break for dinner in Biloxi, MS – fall 2006
College is full of good and bad hair decisions - summer 2007
College is full of good and bad hair decisions – summer 2007
Finding a rainbow at the top of our hike in New Hampshire - Summer 2007
Finding a rainbow at the top of our hike in New Hampshire – Summer 2007
My first camp babies!- Summer 2007
My first camp babies!- Summer 2007
Being baptized in Cape Elizabeth, Maine - July 2007
Being baptized in Cape Elizabeth, Maine – July 2007
We spent 4 days shoveling snow off this church roof in Caribou, Maine! Most fun ever! - February 2008
We spent 4 days shoveling snow off this church roof in Caribou, Maine! Most fun ever! – February 2008
Stacy presented me as BCM State Vice President in April 2008 for the next school year :)
Stacy presented me as BCM State Vice President in April 2008 for the next school year ūüôā
Acadia National Park in Maine - Summer 2008
Acadia National Park in Maine – Summer 2008
Coloring and loving on Anna & Milli - All Summer long, 2009
Coloring and loving on Anna & Milli – All Summer long, 2009
finding a llama in Argentina - summer 2009
finding a llama in Argentina – summer 2009
Dancing in the rain! My 23rd birthday in 2010!
Dancing in the rain! My 23rd birthday in 2010!
Those face paintings made me a sweet friend who I love returning to visit at Pilar de Esperanza Orphanage - Mexico, January 2010
Those face paintings made me a sweet friend who I love returning to visit at Pilar de Esperanza Orphanage – Mexico, January 2010
painting faces at the orphanage - Mexico, January 2010
painting faces at the orphanage – Mexico, January 2010
Story telling in Nepal - Summer 2010
Story telling in Nepal – Summer 2010
Rocking the most awesome chaco tan ever!! - Summer 2010
Rocking the most awesome chaco tan ever!! – Summer 2010
Watching the snow fall outside campus - January 2011
Watching the snow fall outside campus – January 2011
Making the long road trip moving Scott to Maine - May 2011
Making the long road trip moving Scott to Maine – May 2011
Hanging with my favorite kiddos at WJBC Fusion Camp - July 2011
Hanging with my favorite kiddos at WJBC Fusion Camp – July 2011
Loving on sweet babies in Costa Rica - July 2011
Loving on sweet babies in Costa Rica – July 2011
Making friends in Costa Rica - July 2011
Making friends in Costa Rica – July 2011
This sweet girl held my hand all through the slums of Costa Rica piecing together my broken Spanish into the story of Jesus! The Holy Spirit is MIGHTY TO SAVE! - July 2011
This sweet girl held my hand all through the slums of Costa Rica piecing together my broken Spanish into the story of Jesus! The Holy Spirit is MIGHTY TO SAVE! – July 2011
These are the best friends I could ever have! Stood by me through many funerals, graduation and on my wedding day. One of them will most likely hold my hand while I have babies one day. These are the things to look forward to in college!
These are the best friends I could ever have! Stood by me through many funerals, graduation and on my wedding day. One of them will most likely hold my hand while I have babies one day. These are the things to look forward to in college!
Sweet friends that drive to visit you at midnight on your birthday are the best!! And so are camera self timers! :)
Sweet friends that drive to visit you at midnight on your birthday are the best!! And so are camera self timers! ūüôā
Catching some snow flakes in NYC - Fall 2011
Catching some snow flakes in NYC – Fall 2011
Take some time to just take a stroll! We were just two kids falling in love back then! :) - Fall 2011
Take some time to just take a stroll! We were just two kids falling in love back then! ūüôā – Fall 2011
This kid stole my heart in Mexico! His picture is still hanging in my home today! - May 2012
This kid stole my heart in Mexico! His picture is still hanging in my home today! – May 2012
Saying goodbye to this sweet boy was so so hard! Praying God's blessings! - Mexico trip May 2012
Saying goodbye to this sweet boy was so so hard! Praying God’s blessings! – Mexico trip May 2012
serving the Lord next to your best friend never grows old! - Mexico, May 2012
serving the Lord next to your best friend never grows old! – Mexico, May 2012
As you can tell by the time stamps on these pictures, my journey was long but the Lord was so faithful every step of the way! Graduation May 5, 2012!!
As you can tell by the time stamps on these pictures, my journey was long but the Lord was so faithful every step of the way! Graduation May 5, 2012!!

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He loved me through til the end, pushing me every step of the way!
He loved me through til the end, pushing me every step of the way!

Mother’s Day…

For the past 4 years, I’ve had a particularly difficult time on this day. And it’s completely understandable. In the fall of 2010. Over the years, I have learned how to handle the holidays pretty well; Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthdays… not a problem. Mother’s Day is a terribly different story.

Our last Mother’s Day together is one that I will NEVER forget! This was during a difficult season of my life where I watched my parents going in and out of the hospital due to the effects that years of addiction will have on one’s physical body. That morning, I was sitting in church and could not hear a word that was spoke. All I could hear was the pounding of my heart in my chest as I tried my best to compose the tearful mess that was sitting in that pew. I felt the spirit of the Lord so heavy as I sat there and felt Him telling me how much he loved my mom. When it was time for the invitation, I went down front and told my college pastor that I felt the Lord telling me that I needed to go talk to my mom. He prayed with me and as soon as the service was over, I drove my little blue VW bug out to my childhood home. When I arrived, I had a text from my best friend, now husband, telling me that he was proud of me. (<< Can we take a moment to Praise God for His faithfulness??)

I walked into the flower shop first because I was certain I’d find her there. But she wasn’t, just my grand mother was there. Maw and I sat and talked and cried briefly as I told her what I was feeling and she quickly sent me next door to my parent’s house. I clearly remember her tearfully kicking me out saying, “If God is telling you to do this then you better get over there and do it!” (Anyone feel like they’ve heard me say that before? I get it honest!) When I walked in the front door, I was such a mess that my mom just knew that I was coming to tell her someone had died. I sat down for a second and gathered myself and told her that all during church I felt God leading me to come tell her that He loves her. She began to cry with me and told me that she has never doubted how much God loved her. She felt offended at first and began to scold me that she hadn’t given up on her faith in God and that she had never felt closer to him. (This was just a couple of weeks before I left for Nepal.) She told me how she would never be able to let me travel around the world for the summer if she did not have full faith that God would protect me and bring me home. She told me about her prayer life and how God continued to comfort her that she would be ok. That we would all be ok.

That day we spent the afternoon driving around town running errands and just talking about life and things I needed for my summer. That day. I’ll never forget it. Later that same day I received a phone call from my dear friend Laura who called to let me know that she had shared with her church my financial need for my summer in Nepal and that individuals came to her after the service, all in all, giving every last penny I was lacking for my travel expenses.

For so long, I thought this was a story of God’s faithfulness through my obedience and I while I still feel that was a valuable lesson during that time in my faith journey but over the past few years I have come to realize that God’s message of how he loved my mom on that day was so much more for me than it was for her. I needed to be reminded that through all of the painful circumstances, HE still loved her. My mom knew God, loved him yet did not follow hard after Him for years and HE still loved her. She was human. She struggled with insecurity and depression and turned to temporary substances instead of God’s Holy power to try to overcome what ultimately overtook her body. HE still loved her. God never stopped loving my mom. That is the message of grace that I’m reminded each time I think of our last Mother’s Day together. There are consequences for our sin but God’s love is not one of them!!!¬†My mom’s message to me is so comforting as she shared of her faith in Christ that day. My mom was fully aware that she had spent years screwing up and that it had taken over her body but we would all be ok because God still loved her and He would always take care of us.

Mother’s Day will always be painful. I have no doubt in that so please forgive me for not seeing me take my place in a corporate worship setting today;¬†my place of worship today is my place on my couch as I prayerfully listen to God’s comforting voice speaking words to write as I process through His healing work in me.¬†Know that my heart is full of love and gratitude for my mom and the lessons I learned from her during her time on this earth and even more so¬†now that she’s gone.

Know that if you are having a painful Mother’s Day as well, I am praying for you!

  • For those friends who, like my mother, have lost babies you were never able to hold – I am praying for you!
  • For those friends who are so hungry to be a mother but are struggling to conceive – I am praying for you!
  • For those friends who had the opportunity to hold their beautiful child but they are no longer with us – I am praying for you!!!
  • For those friends who are step-moms and carry the weight of motherhood yet have never that connection as a mom to those children – I am praying for you!!
  • For those who gave up your¬†child for adoption because you felt you could not provide the proper life for that child, thank you for choosing life – I am praying for you!
  • For those¬†who are feeling the weight of your¬†choice for abortion – You are loved! And I am praying for you!
  • For those who are waiting for paperwork and government decisions to come through so your adopted child will finally be in your arms – Honey, I am praying for you!
  • For those with strained relationships with your own Mother or Children – I am praying for you!
  • For those that are single and in a season of waiting, aching to be a wife and a mother – I am praying for you!

I write all of this to say, cherish every moment with those you love and be thankful for the time you have. Be mindful and aware of those in pain around you and commit to pray for these women during this season each year!  And if you fall into one of the above categories, you are not alone, you are highly honored and loved!

-C

Lessons from Lent: Day 1

Growing up in an SBC church in a small, rural West TN town, I had never observed Lent. I can remember being so confused on why my friend Carmen (who attended a Methodist church) would EVER think it was a good idea to give up Coca Cola for 6 weeks?? Throughout college, I learned more about Lent and why it’s important but still to this day, I’ve never fully observed it; I’ve started the season fasting from something insignificant and still¬†failed. This will be my first year to not only fast from something I think is important in my faith journey but I’m also committing to the She Reads Truth study, “Jesus, Keep Me Near The Cross” which is a study specifically for the Lent season.

I came to this place of choosing how I would fast during this season over a series of conversations with the Lord over the past couple of months. See, I’m not real good at taking care of myself. I’ve struggled with making healthy life choices for as far back as I can remember. I wasn’t an athlete in high school so the whole active lifestyle is truly a challenge for me. I grew up in a family culture where you sat down at Maw’s table and talked and ate your way through anything that was bothering you – or you made a road trip to Sonic for Happy Hour drinks!

Over the past few years, I have made really great strides in changing unhealthy habits. Even in 2014, I lost 35 lbs. and had developed a nice workout routine but as I entered this new season of life in marriage, I’m struggling to get back on the horse. Luckily, I’ve maintained that weight loss for the most part but it’s just finding that groove again. My husband doesn’t have as much of a struggle. He has a group of guys that he meets at the gym for basketball multiple times a week and his family culture has reared him toward healthier eating choices.

Recently, I have encountered the Lord in a way that has all but scolded me for all the excuses I’ve been conjuring up. While we were in Maine a couple of weeks ago, there was a moment during the church service we attended where I felt the word of the Lord come down on me like a ton of bricks. We were talking about excuses that Moses gave in Exodus and if that wasn’t enough, Joey had a quote pop up on the screen that really did me in. “Lord of all or not Lord at all.”

WOW! That’s exactly right. If Jesus is not my absolute Lord of all areas of my life than he’s not Lord at all. One of my biggest pet peeves in life is when believers want to pick and choose what scriptures from the bible they want to live by. They want his grace and mercy but don’t want the sacrifice and obedience. Hello? Let’s talk about my hypocrisy for just a minute! Trusting Jesus to provide me a new position at work and seeing him provide that in his perfect timing wasn’t enough? Trusting Jesus to heal my broken heart and spirit after losing my parents and seeing his healing hand at work each and every day hasn’t been enough? My problem isn’t my circumstance… it’s my faith! It’s my faith in Jesus that he can take my greatest weaknesses and prove His strength and might! That though I am weak, HE is strong!

For this season of Lent, I will be fasting from fast food. Since I changed positions at work and I commute an hour to a town that ONLY has fast food options, this is a huge weakness for me! M and I do a really good job in making healthy food choices for our kitchen at home so my biggest weakness is just that lack of healthy options for my lunch in town which will simply mean that I have to pack my lunch. We have also set up a little rewards system for us at home. See, I am a HUGE sucker for GSC – Girl Scout Cookies!! For that reason, I have divided the cookies up into individual baggies based on serving size (2 cookies=1 serving??). For every day that M and I have a solid day of eating healthy, tracking our food on My Fitness Pal and have exercised in some capacity (even a 30 min walk around our neighborhood counts!), we can each choose a serving of either Tagalongs or Thin Mints after dinner. ūüôā

Today in my reading, I was really taken back with the thought of the scripture in Genesis right after the fall when God is speaking to Adam and Eve about the consequences of their actions for not only themselves but all mankind. In Chapter 3: Verse 19 we read, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” That really got me thinking this morning about how we only have what comes from dust to dust. We only have this one life and haven’t a clue as to when it will end. We must take advantage of the time that we have and make sure that our one life counts – and for me, I want to make sure that my one life counts for Jesus! There will be no time for apologies or excuses once our time is up! We have to get it right here and now! My struggle with health and fitness has nothing to do with how my body looks but all in how I can best serve Jesus with it! Just like I’m only given one life, I’m also only given one body and I must make great strides in honoring my body and taking my health seriously so that when my time on this earth is finished, I can honestly say that I truly gave my all and that I truly lived.

So here’s to this season of Lent and all the lessons that will be learned during this time of¬†fasting and focusing on our sins, how that separates us from Christ and how we are going to give our sins to Jesus so that He can make us new. “Let today stop you in your tracks to ‘lament and acknowledge your wickedness’, knowing that the King of Alleluias has already done all that needs to be done to grant you ‘perfect remission and forgiveness.'”

shereadstruthlentday1‚̧ C

I am not the bride…

Just hang with me on this one.

I was driving home from my bridal shower a couple of weeks ago and I was listening through my wedding playlist. As each track played through, tears just streamed down my face as I pictured these songs being played and pictured my guests flipping through their programs as my bridesmaids walked down the aisle. I have every detail about this day sketched out. I have planned every detail. And I have loved each and every moment.

This one song came on as I drove eastward back to my Nashville home and it’s a song that I have always loved but that has become much more special to me over the last few months. The last verse is when my little tears in the corners of my eyes began to flow steadily down my face¬†and I felt a huge dose of reality. I can plan each and every detail and I can be as prepared for this day as I want to be but it’s not about the wedding at all. And I am not the bride.

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful

I am not the bride. We are. We are the bride. And this wedding is not about us. It’s not about me and M. It’s all about this last verse of this song. And we are not getting married for us. We are not getting married because we are in love and we want to spend every sleeping and waking moment together. We are getting married because of the wedding celebration that we will take part in one day. We are getting married because we want as many people as we can reach to be there with us. We are doing this because we feel that God will be more Glorified by our marriage than by our singleness. That together, more people may come to know Jesus face to face than if we were serving Him alone. I am not the bride. And this wedding is not about us.

We are just a few days out from the day when M and I will be one. I am so excited for our day but even more excited for the life of service we’ll live together. I planned each and every detail of our wedding day but I can not map out each and every detail of our marriage and well, that’s the exciting part right? ūüôā Thank you to everyone that has been so encouraging and so supportive over the last few months, and really – years, that have led up to this day. We have been blown away and are so excited to see so many of you in a week! ūüôā

‚̧ C

The redemption of Fall…

There is a red vase on my sofa table with an arrangement of silk fall flowers from a bouquet I caught at a wedding a few years ago. It stays there year round as a reminder that fall is coming. It’s my favorite of all of the seasons. So many of my favorite things happen during autumn. I love cooler weather where I can wear cardigans and boots and scarves and sip coffee and walk through crunchy leaves and watch football. It’s my absolute favorite time of year!

There is an app that I use called “Time Hop” which gives you a report each day of the posts you’ve made on social media on that day over the years. It is a really neat tool because you’re often reminded not only of good/fun times that bring a smile to your face but it also reminds you of valleys that God has brought you through.

Oct. 3 of 2010 is one I’ll never forget. The anniversary is quickly approaching and it is always one of my most difficult days of the year. It was the day that my mom’s physical body was laid to rest and her spirit joined our Heavenly Father in Glory. Grief comes in waves and while the pain grows easier as time passes, that’s only until another wave comes crashing in. As you allow God to heal your¬†heart and heal those wounds, you learn how to prepare for the storm but the tides crash and often times you just have to ride it out.

I’ll never forget the first anniversary of my mom’s passing. I wanted to be proactive about the day. I wanted to be prepared for how hard it would be. I wanted to do something special. I wanted to do something that I would always remember. As I mentioned in a post previously,¬†stones of remembrance have is a biblical image that I hold dear in my heart as I journey through this life. And so that’s what I did. I left town and stayed at a friend’s apartment. She wasn’t in town but she left me a key so that I could spend some time there alone. I had went to lowe’s the night before and had found a stone block. I brought paint and paint brushes and I let it all out there on that stone. I painted on that stone everything that I could remember from the last year that I had wanted to call and tell my mom about my life and the lives of the people that were most important to me. I wrote little things like taking my nephews to the movies and to the zoo. I wrote that I had been back to Maine twice and had even gotten snowed in during my winter visit. I wrote that I had fallen in love with M, my best friend and the one she always rooted for. That was/is the hardest part about my mom’s absence is all the things I want to call and tell her and this was the best way for me to release the pain I’d been feeling that first year and to physically have a stone of remembrance for that first year without her here with us. And when I made it back to Bells, I laid that stone at her grave.¬†IMG_0603

In 32 days, I will be standing at the farm looking around at each tiny detail that we have planned. It will be the happiest day of my life and yet it has the potential to be a sorrowful one as well. It will be sad that my parents are not there. It will be sad that they didn’t get to see me in my dress or be a part of our day.¬†But that’s the beauty of redemption. God gave me a wonderful mother, father, grandmothers, grandfather, aunts¬†and uncle that were so very instrumental in making me who I am today. I don’t have to be consumed with their deaths because my living is putting feet to the work they did in me for years. I can happily walk down that aisle as my brother gives me away to the man that God created specifically for me. I can vow to love and cherish Him for the rest of my days. God used them in their time on earth, and even after their passing, to mold me into M’s bride. This is something to celebrate!

And that doesn’t end with my wedding day. It’s such a beautiful beginning to a new journey in life! The love they instilled in me is thriving in¬†the love I have for others.¬†My advocacy and passion for those struggling with substance abuse and depression is the redemptive work given to me from the Father through my parent’s fight with alcoholism and depression. Seeing beauty in the mundane is Maw’s spirit still teaching me of God’s handiwork in and around us.¬†Finding humor in the craziness of the world and the creatures who are in it ¬†– that’s Nana’s laughter echoing in my heart! So much of who I am is because of the legacy they have left with me and that is something to cherish and celebrate! This is redemption’s song!

The fall is here again and it’s a time to be joyful. It’s a time to sip coffee and snuggle up in quilts. It’s time to get up early and go to flea markets and yard sales! It brings a feeling of refreshment. Enjoy it! Breathe it in! It’s only here for a little while.

As I read through the words I’ve typed tonight, I realize that these words are so much more for my own heart rather than any one else’s but thank you anyway for going along this ride with me.

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My prayer for Iraq!

Last night while I was at the gym, I watched the news while Obama addressed our nation regarding the militant and humanitarian acts¬†which he¬†instructed for the country of Iraq. I knew of what was going on in Iraq. I was proud of the humanitarian efforts that were made. You will never hear my stance on military action because it’s simply not worth the debate. Again this morning, back¬†on the elliptical¬†I watched the news but this time my heart had turned toward a different side of the story. Of course my heart is truly breaking for those persecuted Christians that have fled for their lives rather than converting to Islam and many have died on that mountain without food and water. I refuse to look at any photos or videos of the Christian children that have been beheaded and I have even asked God, “Is it time yet? Time for you to step in? Time for you to save your children?” I seriously am so arrogant to think that I know the answers and that I know how and when God should intervene in these situations.¬†

Today as I listened to reports on all that is happening in Iraq, I began to feel burdened in a different way. I wasn’t only burdened for the persecuted but also to persecutors. They are so lost. So lost to think that what they are doing is pleasing to their god. So lost to have such a hardened heart that they could create a genocide among minority religions in Iraq. I realized this morning that while we definitely need to be praying for our brothers and sisters in Iraq, we need to pray that their faithfulness to God in spite of persecution would speak into the hardened hearts of these attackers. That the Holy Spirit would break down the walls bordering the hearts of these men and that the attacks would subside not due to the force of man but the force of God and His Almighty Power! May we pray that above all else, God be glorified in Iraq!

May we submit our doubtful minds to the supremacy and the sovereignty of our Almighty God and recognize that He is still on the throne. These events have not shaken Him or His plan and while it is so very hard for us to comprehend how any of this could be a part of His plan, we must also take note from the faithful Iraqi Christians and trust that God is God and He will not be shaken. Join me in praying that God’s Glory be known in Iraq! Join me in praying that God’s strength would sustain our brothers and sisters in Iraq! Join me in praying that just as God’s spirit moved in times of war in the Old Testament, His same power would move in Iraq today, that lives would be changed and that peace would be found. We serve a Big God and we must pray Big Prayers! He is Able!

-C