Time Well Spent

Last week I wrote about the sudden onset of stress and anxiety in my life.  It was causing the tell-tell signs in my body that I had let it get too far.  It was causing me to lose sleep, and I had a tingling in my face.  I shared how I needed to find ways to release that stress but that I ultimately needed to give it all to God and actually let go of it.  Well, I feel like I was surprisingly able to do that for once.  My sleep has improved, and the tingling has subsided.  I am definitely feeling calmer than I did this time a week ago. If anything, though, I should be really feeling the effects of stress right now because this week is insane for me. We have so much going on with tons of moving parts, and then mother nature has thrown in the threat of snow in the middle of all of it.  It’s like everything that was crazy about our lives before the pandemic and everything that we missed out on has all been thrown into this one week.  

This past weekend, my oldest, along with her high school gymnastics teammates, clinched the Regional Championship and secured their spot at the state competition on Friday of this week.  They are heading to defend their state title for the 4th year in a row.  It is super exciting. However, the competition is approximately 3.5 hours away, and the forecast of snow is threatening to derail their chances of being able to compete, not to mention the difficulties of traveling in the snow if we are allowed to go. The dilemma comes with whether or not she and I travel down on Thursday to get ahead of the snow if the school system doesn’t prevent us from going altogether.  If things go according to plan and the girls are allowed to compete on Friday, my oldest and I will at least be there overnight on Friday night since they won’t get done until late.  My husband and my youngest will be heading to another location on Friday afternoon for cheer where my oldest and I will meet them on Saturday morning sometime.  I will do my youngest’s hair and makeup and then go watch her compete while my husband and oldest wait in the hotel room (only one spectator is allowed per athlete due to COVID).  When that is over, my husband will then take my youngest and drive back home so she can be at practice on Sunday morning.  My oldest and I will stay at the hotel for her to compete on Sunday.  Also, in the middle of all this, we have to drop the dog off for boarding while we are all gone and then pick her back up at some point. If any one thing goes wrong, it will be a domino effect for the whole weekend. 

Crazy, right?  This is when I should be feeling the stress and anxiety, but surprisingly I am not.  I’m fairly calm about the whole thing.  I guess that is a good thing, but it is a little weird to me.  I keep waiting for it to come.  I know that is the wrong attitude to have but years of experience have me skeptical.  Have I really found inner peace and a way to keep my stress and anxiety levels down? I don’t know, but maybe. You may be asking what I am doing differently than all those times in the past.  Well, let me tell you my secret. I am spending time with God every morning.  I truly believe that is what is helping to keep me calm and the anxiety at bay.  I used to do my devotion and daily prayers at night.  I would often forget or would be too tired by the end of the day so I would go days or even weeks without really spending quality time with God. Sometimes I would even fall asleep in the middle of my prayers. I always thought that my mornings were too busy and that I needed to get all things done first before I could truly focus on God.  I was wrong, and I knew that I was wrong. Look…I’m not the perfect Christian, but I’m always willing to grow. Trust me, I have heard sermon after sermon about how you should start your day with God, but I never really put it into practice. Well, I take that back.  When I was teaching, I would pray on my drive into work in the morning sometimes, and I loved how it made me feel.  When I stopped teaching, though, that stopped.  Over the last couple of months, I have slowly been making a switch.  I still don’t do it first thing when I wake up like so many have said you should do.  I have had to find what works best for me.  Instead, I get up, get ready, and do a few household things if needed.  Then I head downstairs to my office to begin working.  Before I open my computer or do anything else, I read a short devotional.  I started with just doing that and then reading the little prayer provided for me and maybe adding in one or two sentences of my own.  Then last week when I felt the effects of my stress, I started closing my eyes and really praying from the heart. I even spent some time in silence just listening for God’s voice.  Some days my prayers are long and sometimes they are short, but I actually take a moment to spend time in the presence of God.  It almost always feel a sense of peace wash over me.  Sometimes I even get chill bumps, and I know that is God laying his hands on me.  It makes me feel rejuvenated and ready to face the day.  I feel more connected with God. When I do this consistently every single day, the stress and anxiety just fade away.  

If you are not beginning your day with God, stop making excuses like I did and do it.  Tune everything else out.  Close your eyes and speak from your heart.  Then sit in silence and let the Holy Spirit wash over you. Get to know God on a personal level.  Build a relationship with him.  I promise you, when you do this consistently, you will notice a difference in your mindset, your attitude, and the way you approach every day.  It will absolutely change your priorities, too. Seek him first above all else, and he will lead you through every step of your day. It will be time well spent!

Anchored in Christ,

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Cast Your Cares

Over the last week or so, I have been feeling stressed and anxious.  I’m not really sure where it is coming from, but it is hitting me like a ton of bricks out of nowhere.  I’ve gotten the tingling twitch back in my cheek at night which is a tell-tell sign that I am stressed.  Competition season is back in full force (different but still a lot) for the girls, and I have been questioning some things in my life lately.  I guess those things could be the cause of the sudden onset of anxiety, but I’m not sure.  Life is not even close to the level of craziness that it was pre-pandemic, but my body is starting to feel like it is.   I’m not sleeping well, and I am getting more headaches.  Those things coupled with the twitch in my face, are all the signs that tell me I need to get it together.  It is funny how are bodies are affected by stress and anxiety.  It is like nature is saying, “Whoa, knock it off!”

This past weekend, we had some crazy, unexpected changes with the cheer schedule due to the snow and a few other things.  It just about sent me over the edge because it was causing conflicts with something I had to do that I had been looking forward to for a long time.  I got upset and even angry about it.  My emotions were definitely all over the place and blown way out of proportion.  It all worked out totally fine so there was no real reason for me to get so upset about it.  Part of that is that I am a serious type A personality.  I like schedule and order, and I don’t like unexpected changes or surprises. It just seems to throw me off my game.  We had another unexpected schedule change yesterday, though, and it didn’t seem to bother me at all.  Why some things send me over the edge and some don’t is a mystery to me.  I wish I had the ability to control it, but I don’t. 

I have to figure out a way or some kind of outlet to keep my stress levels low and to fend off my anxiety.  I guess maybe I need to take some time for myself.  Ultimately, though, I know that I need to spend some time with God.  He tells us to cast our cares on him because he cares for us.  Easier said than done, right? I think this is the biggest thing that I struggle with in my walk of faith.  I have a really hard time giving all my worries and stresses to Him and letting them go.  I can pray about it and say that I am giving it all to him, but I don’t really ever let it go.  I still carry the burden of it on my shoulders.  I wish I knew the secret to letting it go completely, but I don’t.  I don’t know how to stop it from throwing me under the water until I can barely stay afloat.  I don’t want to get to the point where I feel like I am drowning in it all.  I know that I will if I don’t put a stop to it now.  The physiological symptoms are just the first step to me crumbling.  I know this.  It has happened time and time again.  I am grateful that I am more aware of the signs now than I used to be.  Hopefully, that will allow me to not let it get any bigger.  

All I can do is to continue to spend time in prayer, take time for just me, and try to avoid the things that bring me stress.  My apple watch keeps telling me to breathe.  Maybe that will help too.  I’ll try just about anything to relieve my head and my body of all this stress and anxiety, so send your tips and tricks my way.  I will simply keep reminding myself to give it all to God until the day I figure out how to truly do that.  Maybe one day I will be able to let it all go completely.

Side note: I am currently listening to a Bridgerton playlist on Spotify that someone shared with me. I have never watched the show (it’s on my list), but I find it oddly soothing. Music does have that affect on me. Prayer and music! Maybe that’s the secret!

Anchored,

The Only Voice That Matters

Necklace/Earrings/Lipstick (Lead the Way)

Do you ever have those days when you feel like you just can’t do anything right? I recently had something practically handed to me on a silver platter, TWICE.  All I had to do was accept it and make it work, but I failed both times. I couldn’t bring it to fruition, and I don’t know why.   I don’t think that it is possible for things to get much easier than it being handed to you, so why couldn’t I make it work?  Why did I let it slip through my fingers, not once but twice?  Is there something wrong with me? Why am I failing? Maybe I am not cut out for this like I thought.  These are all the things that were running through my brain this morning when I learned that the second opportunity didn’t pan out.  That was Satan talking.  It was him trying to get in my head and make me doubt myself and God’s plan for my life.  I know this in my heart, but it still didn’t stop the thoughts from coming.  It didn’t stop me from beating myself up and second guessing every decision I have made.  It didn’t stop the “what if’s” from coming.  

I can tell you that Satan is good at his job.  He knows what he is doing. If we aren’t careful, he can take over.  He can overwhelm us with all this negativity and make us give up.  I have seen it over and over in myself and in those around me.  When you put your heart and soul into something and are constantly getting slapped in the face, it is hard to keep going.  Who likes having the door slammed in your face over and over again? Satan can use it to wear you down.  He will make you believe the lies if you aren’t careful.  It is easy to call it quits when you convince yourself that you aren’t good enough, but that is when Satan wins.  That is when he gets his way.  Trust me, there have been numerous times in my life when I have let that happen.  For years I believed the lies that he was feeding me.  I lived my life never feeling confident, never believing in myself, never feeling worthy.  I was miserable.  It wasn’t until I realized that I had to simply be still that I came to see myself in a different light.  I had to push out Satan’s voice and zoom in on God’s voice. I can only do that by being still and truly listening.  It was when I started doing this regularly that I was able to distinguish between the lies and the truth.  

I am not telling you that I tune out Satan’s voice all the time.  If I did, I wouldn’t have had that brief conversation with myself this morning about what a failure I am for missing out on two incredible opportunities.  What is different about me now from all those years before is that I don’t let those lies sink in and take root.  I don’t let them affect my decisions and actions going forward.  When I catch myself letting them creep in, I stop completely and tune out everything around me.  I consciously push that voice aside and listen to the only one that matters.  That is when I start to hear that I am worthy.  It is when I start to see the path laid out before me may not be an easy one, but it is the one I was called to follow.  That is when I start to see those failures as lessons and opportunities for growth.  It’s not easy, and I don’t expect that it ever will be because Satan will always be there putting those negative thoughts in my head. Just this morning I had to keep shutting those voices down. I will admit that it took me a few minutes to truly be all in this morning and tune out the negativity. I am human. Once I did, though, all the thoughts of failure faded away. Only one voice matters.  It isn’t your voice, it isn’t mine, it isn’t Satan’s.  It is pure and simple.  The only voice that matters is God’s.  I think we all have to learn that the hard way, and it is a lesson that we need reminding over and over, but it is one of the most important lessons of our lives.  

Don’t let yourself be overrun by those negative thoughts. Don’t let them take root inside you and allow you to feel less than you are. Don’t give them power over you or the authority to rule your choices. Don’t allow them to give you permission to quit. Be still and let the only voice that matters wash over you. Allow it the space to come in and change you. Only then will you know the truth about yourself. You are worthy! You aren’t a failure! You are on the right path.

Anchored and Still,

Fear

FEAR. That is a big word these days and something a lot of people feel and are talking about in this crazy time we are living. One of my friends and I had a talked about fear last week, and we were trying to make sense of why fear was affecting so many people that we know when we feel so differently about our current circumstances.  That conversation got me thinking a lot about that word more.  There are people that I know right now that are living in complete and utter fear, and it is ruling every single decision that they make. For some it is debilitating because they have allowed it to completely consume them.  Those people are struggling in ways they never have before.  They don’t know how to manage the things they are feeling, and it is leading to erratic behavior that isn’t doing anyone any good.  I am not at all trying to downplay the risks of this virus or the seriousness of it.  What I want to talk about is how we cannot let the fear of it completely take over all of our thoughts and emotions.  

In our conversation, my friend and I came to the conclusion that our lack of fear was because of our relationship with God, and that is something that those we know who were struggling don’t have.  I truly believe that fear is the absence of faith…faith in a mighty God who has total control.  I have seen women of incredible faith navigate an illness like cancer with unshakable strength, grace, and gratitude. While those women may have had some fears, they were able to manage them knowing that God was ultimately in control.  That knowledge alone was enough to sustain them and give them peace in the midst of the darkest times in their lives.  On the flip side, I have also seen women without faith go through the same illness all while crumbling into pieces. They had no one to cry out to in the depth of their fear and despair to bring them peace and comfort.  They lived in fear and darkness with very little light seeping in.  It is the same when it comes to this virus.  My friends who don’t know God are struggling with it so much more than those that know him. Those with faith are rolling with the punches and continuing to live their lives.  Yes, we should all be taking precautions, but we still have to live.  I cannot even imagine going through something like cancer or this pandemic without my faith…without the belief that no matter what happens, God is with me every step of the way.  

Thinking of fear as an absence of faith helps me to understand those that are struggling right now a little better.  I know why they feel so lost.  They have nothing to place their trust in. That is what leads to their fear the most.  The only way to get rid of the fear and to be filled with peace is by placing your trust in the all-seeing, all-knowing God.  He is the only person that can truly take away the fear and distrust. Locking yourself inside and isolating yourself with your head filled with worry is not going to make a difference.  It may keep you from getting the coronavirus, but it isn’t going to keep your from becoming sick from the anxiety it causes.   The fear is always going to be there unless you give it all away to the one who is ultimately in control.  He alone can take away your fear. I’m not saying that the cure to all anxiety disorders is faith.  Placing your faith in God isn’t going to magically cure you.  However, it will fill you with a different kind of peace…the kind of peace you have never known. That peace is the key to healing. 

Fear is a liar.  It will steal your joy and rob you of so much.  Living your life in fear is no way to live at all.  If there was a way to rid your body of all that turmoil and uneasiness, wouldn’t you take it? It is right there in front of you.  All you have to do is grab hold and let it fill your body, mind, and soul with the peace that passes all understanding.   Take that leap of faith, place your trust in God, cast your fears into the fire, and watch them melt away. I truly cannot fathom going through life without my faith.  It truly is the answer to facing your fears. 

Anchored in FAITH,

Get in the Boat!

This past Sunday our pastor preached a sermon entitled “Step of Faith.” He used a story from John 4 where a royal official came to Jesus and begged him to heal his dying son.  The man was determined to bring Jesus to his home to perform a miracle. Instead of going with the man, Jesus told him to go and his son would be healed.  The official did not hesitate. He followed Jesus’s command to leave.  Upon his return home, the official learned that his son had been healed at the exact moment that Jesus said he would.  This story is all about faith.  The man had faith that Jesus could perform a miracle, and he had faith that Jesus’s word was truth. The man’s faith brought healing.  His pleas were answered. It is about faith in the unseen and faith in the unknown.  We should all have that kind of faith…the kind of faith that knows no end.  What happens when our faith doesn’t lead us down the path we wanted, though? What if it doesn’t make sense? The man could have had faith that Jesus would heal his son, but Jesus could have said no. It happens all the time.  Sometimes our prayers feel unanswered or aren’t answered in the way we wanted.  Sometimes, God doesn’t perform the miracle we asked for.  How do you continue to have faith then? One of the points that the pastor made was that faith is trusting that God is God and God is good even when we can’t reconcile it.  It is having faith even when things don’t work out.  While I know this is the truth, it is easy to let disappointment cause you to lose faith sometimes.  When asking God for something and there is not a visible answer to your prayer, we often become discouraged, disappointed, and even angry.  I cannot count the number of times that I have prayed about something or asked God for something, and it felt like he wasn’t listening.  I have asked God to open doors and none were opened.  I’ve asked for healing and none came.    Sometimes there is only silence, and I don’t understand why.  Those are the times when I can start to lose faith, but in reality, those are the times when I should rely on my faith the most.  Those are the times when faith is most important because God is in control even when we don’t know how or why.  He is listening, and he knows best.  He has a plan and his plan sometimes doesn’t line up with mine. That is hard to accept, but I have to remind myself that he knows things that I don’t know.  He may not give me the answer I want, or he may lead me down a path I don’t want to be on or even knew existed.  Sometimes, he may push me in a direction that is hard.  I may even be forced to weather a storm. Instead of fighting against it, I have to have faith that he is in control and knows what he is doing.  It has to be his will and not mine.  

This was a lesson that I needed to be reminded of. I have been discouraged recently about some “unanswered prayers,” and I needed the reminder that I have to have faith in the bigger picture.  While I may not get the answers I want right now, I know that my prayers are not really going unanswered.  I have faith that God is answering them in his own way and in his own time, and his timing is perfect.  It may not be the answers that I am looking for, but an answer will come. He will lead me where I am meant to go.  I also have to be open to the answer even if I don’t like it or is hard.  I have to look for doors that are opening and be willing to walk through them.  I don’t want to miss the door.  It is really more than just having faith.  It is also about walking in faith.  That means that I am still moving forward even when I don’t get the answer I want.  It also means that I keep trying and don’t give up when I get knocked down.  I get back up and keep pushing through.  Jesus stands just outside of our comfort zone.  We have to be willing to step outside with him.  We have to have faith. 

It reminds me of a story I once heard.  A man’s house was beginning to flood. A car came by and offered him an escape.  The man said, “No, thank you. God will take care of me.” As the water continued to rise, he moved to the roof of his house. Someone on a jet ski came by and offered him an escape.  Again, the man said, “No, thank you. God will provide for me.”  The water rose to the man’s waist.  A third person came by in a boat and offered him an escape.  The same answer was given. “No, thank you. God will help me.” Sadly, the man drowned.  When he entered the gates of heaven, the man asked God why he let him die and did not provide for him.  God answered, “I sent you a car, a boat, and a jet ski!” 

The man had incredible faith that God would provide for him, but God did not provide the answer he was looking for.  The man thought God would stop the water from rising and was not open to the alternatives.  He thought that God didn’t answer his prayers, but that was not true.  He just answered it in a different way.  The man had faith, but he wasn’t walking in faith.  He didn’t get in the car, the jet ski, or the boat.  God does answer our prayers.  We have to not only have faith in whatever those answers are, but we also must keep walking in that faith even when we don’t like it, or it wasn’t what we expected.  We have to get in the boat! 

Anchored,

Give Thanks

It is the time of year when we start to look back over the past year and think about all of the things that we are grateful for.  Thanksgiving reminds us that we need to stop and appreciate the many blessings in our lives.  Gratitude journals are so popular right now and are designed to make us reflect on all the little things that bless us every single day of the year.  They encourage you to start your day by listing things you are grateful for.  It is supposed to help you have a more grateful heart and a positive attitude. While I think the concept is great and really has an important meaning and lesson, I am sure the majority of the world is not using them consistently.  People very rarely take the time to stop and think about all the things that have blessed them in their lives.  Many will say that they don’t have time for that every day.  Thanksgiving is really the one time of the year when people actually do reflect on the things that they are grateful for.  I guess once a year is better than not at all, but we really should try to express our gratitude more often.  It might bring some change to an otherwise negative world.  I am not using a gratitude journal right now, but I am really trying to focus on all the little things that have make an impact on my life every day, and I know that I am truly blessed to be living this life.  With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, I thought I would share some of the bigger things that I am thankful for this year. 

I am thankful for my husband.

As always, I am so thankful that God placed him in my life when he did.  It was certainly God’s timing and not mine.  In May we will have been married for 20 years, and it is really hard to believe that it has been that long.  So much has happened in those 20 years, and I feel like we have both done a lot of growing individually and together as a couple, especially this year. It has only strengthened our bond and made us better people.  I am not sure how either of us would survive without the other.  My love for him is unbreakable, and I thank God daily for bringing us together.  

I am thankful for my two beautiful daughters.

My two girls mean the world to me, and I am so thankful that I was chosen to be their mama.  I certainly don’t deserve them. Even though they drive me nuts sometimes, I couldn’t be prouder of the young ladies they are becoming.  I love watching them grow and come into their own. I just wish is happened a little slower. I am blessed beyond belief to get to teach them about life. I love them both to the moon and back.

I am thankful that God has opened my eyes to the injustices of the world.

God hates injustice and calls us to stand up and fight against it.  I never really realized that until I did a Bible study on it earlier this year.  I was totally clueless to the things women around the world faced.  I lived in my little bubble and didn’t think about anything outside of it.  God has truly spoken to me this year and has shown me the horrible things going on around the world and right here in front of me, and he has given me a platform to fight against injustice.  I am so glad that he placed Trades of Hope in my lap when he did. I know that I am now closer to him than I have been in a long time as he is leading me down this path to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

I am thankful for my friends.

I am so thankful for all of the friends I have made over my lifetime. There are those who are still close and those I’ve lost touch with.  No matter how close we are now, I feel so blessed to have had all of them in my life. They have picked me up when I was lost and carried me when I couldn’t take a step on my own. They have cheered me on and held my hand through tough days. Each of my friends means the world to me.  I am also grateful for the new people that have come into my life in the last year. Some have truly been a blessing to me and have had a huge impact on my life. 

I am thankful for my family. 

This year, I feel like I have developed an even greater appreciation for all of my family members.  Loosing someone you love makes you realize what a gift life is and how much all of the people in it mean to you. I do not show it or say it enough, but I love each member of my family and am so grateful for their presence and influence on my life. 

I am thankful for strength.

A lot of things have happened in the last few years that could have broken me, but I am so thankful that God gave me the strength to overcome it all.  He was holding me up through a lot of it and his strength became mine.  I can’t imagine my life without my faith.  God is such a huge presence in my life and I don’t know how I could have made it through some of those things without the strength he gives me so freely.

I am thankful for this blog.

I am so thankful that I was able to commit to this blog for over a year now.  It has truly led to a ton of reflection and self-growth for me.  I have been able to find my voice and use it to encourage others.  I cannot even describe how much writing here every day has changed me and blessed me.  Thank you to all of my old and new readers for coming back time and time again to read what this simple little country girl has to say.  Thank you for allowing me to share my heart and my passions with you free from judgement.   

Life has been good to me and God has remained faithful.  There isn’t much more I could ask for than that.  I am thankful for this life I get to live and for all of the people in it. I am truly blessed.  I wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings this year.  Use it as a time to reflect on what brings you joy and what has impacted your life.  Give thanks and know that you are loved. 

Anchored and Grateful,