The Greatness of America

The summer after our wedding, Dustin and I took a short trip to Washington, DC for the 4th of July. We got into the city early to get a good seat for the parade, landing a spot on the steps of the National Archives – a great spot! – where we sat for a very. long. time. After the parade, we had some time to kill before we needed to get in place for the fireworks show, so we spent the afternoon walking through the Smithsonians. Then we took our spot on the National Mall and waited for dark for the show to begin.

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National Archives, Independence Day 2008

During the fireworks, speakers played patriotic music. Imagine standing between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, listening to songs like “America the Beautiful” and watching fireworks pop over head. I was moved to tears; it was so beautiful! We enjoyed our trip so much, we deciding to make it a tradition to take a 4th of July trip each year to catch the country’s best fireworks shows.

I get oddly emotional this time of year, which can be confusing because I am not typically very patriotic. I don’t fall on either side of the political spectrum. I criticize conservatives’ tight-gripped allegiance to the constitution and liberals’ ignorant belief that there really must be such thing as a free lunch. I support giving up personal rights like privacy for the betterment of the whole. I would encourage immigration. It’s safe to say I really don’t make a whole lot of sense to most people.

So, as I started to feel all the feels this year as the 4th was approaching, I asked myself,  “why?!” Why do you love this country?

It’s easy for our minds to go to the military as we think about what makes our nation great. I wholeheartedly appreciate their sacrifice and service as they have fought for our safety and freedoms since the Revolutionary War, but I think the greatness of our nation far exceeds the work they’ve accomplished. Knowing still, we couldn’t have furthered the American cause without their work! 

In considering our greatness, we easily recall these iconic revolutionary times in our history – independence, the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, space exploration, civil rights. These movements have given us a foundation to be proud of. It has established a known (though albeit sometimes not shown) equality of the people who call this place home. And with this foundation, the amazing people of this country have answered the American call to greatness.

America is great because we have an attitude of independence. Heck, we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t!  We believe we are enough to make it happen. We are independent thinkers, thinking outside the box and never settling for status quo. There is an expectation of progress in every aspect of American living. Within our homes, we seek to provide better for our children than our parents did for us. We seek to attain more education than our previous generation. Within our business offices, the standard is not to be stagnant, but to increase sales or production, and further decrease expenses. We set goals for higher graduation rates in our schools, and higher employment rates nationwide. Our medical field exists to lengthen the life expectancy, and reduce mortality rates caused by preventable diseases. We create technology that makes life more efficient, convenient,and seriously more fun.

American industrialist Henry Ford invented the assembly line that increased production of automobiles. His innovative invention is used every day, every where. Stay at home moms employ his methodology plating lunches for the family. You can see this process at work in the security line at the airport. Offices gather around the conference table folding letters, stuffing envelopes, and putting postage on mail outs. His idea has saved our country (and more!) immeasurable time and money.

Thomas Edison was a great American inventor, accredited with over 1000 patents. The applications of his inventions have provided us with electric power, motion pictures, sound recording, and the advancement of mass-communication.

And yet our rich history of great inventors is nowhere near finished! Just in my short 28 years of life, many many inventions have made our lives better. Vaccines for Hepatitis A and Lyme Disease. Increased life expectancy for HIV positive persons. Robotic surgery! The Hubble Space Telescope. UV Water purifier. Laptop computers. The internet… WIRELESS internet. GOOGLE. Could you live without Google?!

And it’s not just inventions that change lives! Research, information, campaigns, activism, awareness, participation, generosity… all of these have impacted the way we think and live.

Have you ever been to the Chick-fil-A drive-thru on a Friday? If so, chances are someone ahead of you paid for your meal. I think this illustrates what it means to be American.

You get this free meal that you didn’t necessarily ask for, or earn. And while there is no obligation to pay for the person behind you, it just kind of happens. For a while, until someone doesn’t.

We live each day benefiting from the great gifts that have been passed on to us through the history of this country. And still, while we are not obligated to pay it back, we press on. We strive to leave something behind for those that come next, that they might offer some sort of legacy as well.

Sometimes, you get caught at the Chick-fil-A line with only a few dollars to buy your one chicken sandwich and someone pays for yours. You can’t afford the car behind yours so you accept your free sandwich and remember their generosity. No worries, friend. It happens. But what makes you truly American is that when you do have that opportunity to buy someone’s meal, you return to Chick-fil-A proud to be able to gift someone as you had been gifted.

When I think about the greatness of our country, I think about those people. The ones that have stumbled upon some great information and implemented it in a way that has changed lives. The people that devoted their life’s work to making this a better place. The people who spoke up for what they believed, empowering others to do the same. The people who left something behind that inspired us to do the same.

This Fourth of July, I’m raising my can of good ole’ American Coca-Cola to all the people.

To those who have made a difference….

The Rosa Parks. The FDRs. The Abraham Lincolns. The Martin Luther Kings. The Henry Fords. The Condoleezza Rices. The Ronald Reagans. The Harriet Tubmans. The Alice Pauls. The Johnathan Edwards. The Thurgood Marshalls. The Sam Waltons. The Clara Bartons. The Bill Gates.The Henry Clays. The Walt Disneys. The Wright Brothers. The Andrew Carnegies.

And those who will continue to make a difference….

The soldiers. The Presidents. The police. The inventors. The social workers. The construction workers. The engineers. The doctors. The medical researchers. The CEOs. The secretaries. The farmers. The authors. The preachers. The lawyers. The judges. The lobbyists. The congressmen. The city council. The PTAs. The nurses. The explorers. The musicians.

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The summer after we ventured to Washington, DC, we spent our Fourth of July in Seattle for another wonderful Fireworks show. That was the last trip before we had to pause our tradition for summers spent raising babies. This year, we finally braved taking them to a public fireworks show locally to practice for picking up our tradition next year. Not sure where we’ll venture to in 365 days, but looking forward to continuing to celebrate the greatness of America for hopefully many, many more years!

Until the end, do something that matters!

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Teaching Resourcefulness

Our sweet Little Love just tickles me every day with how his brain works. He’s a thinker, for sure. But what I love most of all, is watching him put those thoughts into action.

Last night, he ran in the living room asking us to spell “birthday.” He was writing it on the top of a coloring page, so I thought maybe he was making someone a picture for their birthday. Dus spelled it for him, and he ran off saying, “I’m making my birthday list!”

I thought it was so precious that he wanted to make a list. So I reminded him what my grocery lists look like. (Little Love is usually tasked with crossing off the items as I put them in the buggy. Partly because it’s helping him recognize different letter sounds as he’s learning to read, and because that secures at least one otherwise running bottom in the buggy.) I asked him if he wanted a clean piece of paper so he could write all of his wishes on one sheet, like mommy.

I gave him a stack of maybe 5 sheets, and he ran back to his room to work, returning maybe a minute later saying he ran out of paper. Somehow he forgot about the little chat we had about the grocery list being all on one page and had written one item per sheet.

resourcefulWith some more clear direction, he was ready to go. I’m not exactly sure how he was spelling all of those words to start with. He initially asked how to spell “PVZ GW”… which is funny. Especially since somehow he figured out how to spell “Skylanders!” He got most of it on his own and came to us at the end to ask how to spell bicycle. I showed him how he could find words on his iPad using voice memos. I demonstrated it for him by pushing the microphone button and saying a word. Now that it was typed out, he knew all of the letters. So he used that tool to do the rest of his list, including asking it how to spell “Jonah’s Birthday List.”

I was admiring his list this morning, beaming with pride. And I though most of all, I’m proud that he learned HOW to find the answer. I think as I’m heading into this new career and overwhelmed with the idea of teaching 5 or 6 classes to probably 120+ students, I have been thinking a lot about what my goals are. What do I want them to take away from their time with me? What is my most important role?

Most of all, I want them to NOT just memorize the material. I want them to form genuine understanding of the concepts and ideas, and to internalize them. I want to give them the tools they need to be lifelong learners. To be able to go from curious to informed… on repeat for the rest of their lives. So that when thoughts pop into their heads, they can use their intellectual resources to become brighter, growing individuals.

I’m glad I didn’t tell him how to spell those words. Now he’s one step closer to being able to write me a story and spell new words. Maybe I’ll run my classroom on the method of never answering a question, but rather pointing them towards finding the solution on their own. Has anyone ever tried that?

After all, we’re not raising kids; we’re raising adults.

Head, Leader, Helper

Our church is walking through a study this summer on Wednesday nights about Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Such a beloved topic for myself, as I have grown to adore just how distinctly God created man and woman. But in such times as these with all the controversies about gender and gender roles, it is quite a necessary study.

This week as we looked at Biblical Femininity, I was drawn to the idea of the Trinity. In 3 persons, God establishes completeness. Through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, God accomplished His goal. And it is HIS goal. Not Jesus’. Not the Holy Spirit’s. Both the Son and Spirit walk to the beat of the Father’s heart.

And they are all equal. Not one is more holy, nor more worthy. There aren’t rankings as to which one is more important to have in your life (seriously, Charismatics… there is not). We need all of each in order to fully serve and follow the Lord.

We talked last night about how Eve is referred to as Adam’s “helper.” And the question was asked if women should be offended by that. I can’t speak for all women, but I have never found the term offensive. My mind was drawn to John 16 where Jesus comforts the disciples in knowing that in his absence, He is sending a Helper (the Holy Spirit).

There must be some parallel there between the establishment of the Trinity and this triangular picture of marriage the Christian community has come to model. With God at the head of the marriage, the top of the triangle, the husband and wife are the bottom angles – as equals. Likewise, in the Trinity, can we not make the same picture? God is the top point and Jesus and the Holy Spirit take equal, yet different, sides to form the triangle.

I found it interesting to note that the Holy Spirit and women are referred to as the Helper. And if you think about the Creation story, and Salvation, there are also similarities.

Eve could not be made without Adam, for she came SECOND after his creation. And was made from his rib, a piece of him.

Likewise, the Holy Spirit (though eternally present) is only present to Christians AFTER Jesus. Not only in the Holy Spirit’s entire earthly existence coming after the resurrection, but in that each Christian is only inhabited by the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation.

If you think about the roles of Holy Spirit and the roles of a wife, there are even more similarities. The Holy Spirit acts as that inner voice to convict, encourage, spur. And as wives are we not called to encourage and spur our husbands?

Consider this. Think back on a time in your Christian walk where you felt the Spirit was not present. Maybe you were begrudgingly spending time with the Lord and your heart had a barrier that was keeping you from experiencing His presence and growth. You were checking off the God and Jesus boxes like you were supposed to do… praying, and going to church… but nothing else was happening. The Spirit was far from you (or so it felt). You are ineffective without the Spirit.

Now translate that to the marriage picture I’m proposing with the wife taking on that role. How is your husband going to be effective in his leading the family and following the Lord if your piece of the triangle has been severed? Without the 3 – God at the head, Christ/Husband leading God’s charge, and the Spirit/Wife supporting the cause – we are not wholly committed and ineffectual.

I love being reminded of these things, especially in such times where the world tries to muddy the water.

In a funny, related note…

We are buying Littlest Love a kitty cat for her birthday in August and so we have started looking around. At the SPCA the other day, we found a long haired one like we want, but it was a boy and our Littlest Love requires a girl kitty cat. I made the comment that even though it was a boy, we could just raise it to think it was a girl. Give it a girl’s name and pink accessories. It’s 2016! I can do that, right?! I told Big Love, and he said PETA would probably have a problem with it and call it animal abuse. 😉

Happy Thursday! It’s almost the weekend!

The Journey Begins

48 hours ago I received a phone call I’ve been anxiously expecting for about 5 months. My eyes filled with tears and my hands flew up to the sky in humbled, overwhelmed gratitude.

A little more than two years ago, I became a stay-at-home mom. For many reasons. Initially, it was because I got pretty sick and we couldn’t figure out what was wrong. After spending a few months home while having tests run at every doctor’s office in the CSRA, we decided I would continue to stay home until childcare became cheaper (when the kids went to school). It made the most sense at the time. Childcare for two kids full-time can be extremely costly, and the types of jobs I found myself in didn’t necessarily warrant spending that kind of money. (That’s what happens when you major in Business… because so does everyone else who has no clue what they want to do. Maybe more on this in another post.) The opportunity cost was too great for me to spend those days working for something I wasn’t necessarily passionate about, at the expense of my kids spending the majority of their time with someone else.

It was a very hard transition for me. I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I have always wanted to work. I just hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do enough to do it for so little money (thinking about net after childcare). I spent those years at home volunteering as much as I could because I loved being out of the house. I loved solving someone’s problems. And what I really found that I loved most of all, was impacting the lives of teenagers.

So in January, like every other married couple (I think other people do this?), Big Love and I were mapping out our year. Strategically planning how we would progress towards financial freedom… how we would accomplish things we had on our lists for years… etc. We knew with our Little Love going to “real school,” we would be able to finally REALLY benefit from me working. Now it was up to me to decide what I wanted to do.

I’m a rational thinker. Always relying on facts. Logic. So naturally for me, deciding what career to pursue had to be an answer that came from a set of facts. I just had to lay it out. This is what I knew.

  1. I had a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and I LOVE the study of business.
  2. I really wanted to spend my time with high school kids.

Using that information, I made a very short list of careers that combined the two. As I stared at one option, “teaching,” I remembered how many people encouraged me to teach when I was in high school. And how adamantly I KNEW I did NOT want to teach. Yet seeing it spelled out in front of me, it seemed to excite me. I pulled up the county’s school district website to search for any openings and lo and behold!, my high school alma mater was looking to fill a position for Business Education. It was like the clouds had parted and a ray of light was shining down onto the screen of my phone. From that second, until 48 hours ago, I have filled out dozens of papers, been fingerprinted, my background checked, spent hundreds of dollars on certification, studied and passed the Praxis II for Business, started substitute teaching, pinned (& read!) hundreds of teaching articles on Pinterest, interviewed high school kids for “market research,” listened to Ted talks on education, interviewed, and prayed A LOT.

And now…. I am finally a teacher.

For anyone seeking alternative route certification in South Carolina (maybe similar in other states?), it is not a quick process. There are more hoops and fees and hurdles than they’ll really tell you upfront. So get started as soon as the thought occurs to you! I applied for the PACE program January 21st, and received my Letter of Eligibility on May 23rd. 

DIY: Dollhouse Tour

This past Christmas, we redid the kid’s rooms. It was a long and exhausting process. But my absolute favorite project was this dollhouse for our Littlest Love.

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I can’t seem to find the picture of what it looked like when I got it. It belonged to one of my Young Life girls. Her sweet mom knew I was planning to get one for Littlest Love for Christmas, so she passed it on to us. I had never seen a dollhouse like this! I loved the shape and function of it – and it was just the right size, as I was imagining to fill it with Calico Critters dolls.

When I got it, it was all unfinished wood. I tried my best to hold off on painting and redecorating… but I couldn’t help myself. It was a dream come true. I starting with painting all the little wood furniture that came with it. I originally used acrylic craft paint and little paintbrushes but that was taking too long. So I switched to spray paint and it was gloriously fast! (There were a few nights I was working late and didn’t want to go outside, so I spray painted on scrap poster board in our living room. One morning I woke up with the most throbbing headache I had ever had… pretty sure that’s the closest to a hangover I’ll ever experience! I don’t recommend spray painting indoors, as I’m sure the label also suggests!)

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The whole time I worked on this, I did it right in the living room. Our whole house at this point was a construction zone and I just didn’t have any options, but we wanted to keep the dollhouse a secret. So Littlest Love would say things like, “I wish I had a dollhouse like that.” “Maybe next Christmas, I can have a dollhouse?” We kept assuring her I was making it for another little girl, which was totally believable to her since she’s seen me fill so many Etsy orders!

I asked her if it was her dollhouse, what color would she want it to be. And so, I painted the exterior yellow with pink doors. The trim I spray painted in ivory.

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I had a lot of fun making the interior decor! I could make tiny art all the time. Here’s a handful of the things I made. All of this was made with random craft supplies I had handy. The bunting banner I made out of scrapbook paper & twine. The scrabble letters I bought in a pack in the scrapbooking section. The bathrug was made by hot gluing mini poms to a small piece of a cereal box. For the “hello” sign, I cut the round tips off of popsicle sticks to mimick pallet wood and the “hello” was another scrapbook section find. The circle rug was thicker twine hot glued to a round piece of a cereal box. And the E A T letters were made from small wood craft squares and 3D alphabet stickers.

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The bathroom is probably my favorite room! For the floor, I used hot glue and ceramic mosaic tiles for the flooring. I had to leave gaps between the tiles so that the spacing would work, as I didn’t think I could risk cutting my fingers off to run these tiny fellas through the tile saw. I plan to one day grout them in…. maybe. The “wallpaper” was made with scrapbook paper and mod podge. I added a tile backsplash to the walls and some easy 3D stickers to say “Relax.” I really wanted it to say “Frankie Says Relax” but I just couldn’t make it fit. 🙂

I made tiny bath towels by cutting white felt in rectangles and used twine on the wall to make a towel bar. I love how colorful this room is!

 

I had some fun with color in the kitchen, too! As you can see in the picture, Little Love was my photography assistant today. He loves his sister’s dollhouse almost as much as she does!

For the kitchen furniture, I tried to create the stainless steel look for the appliances using metallic silver spray paint. I did the same on the counter-tops, cause who has time to faux paint granite. The cabinets I repainted 5 times until I settled on this bubblegum pink to match the flowers in the wallpaper. The EAT sign is so cute!

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dollhouse.jpgThe bedroom is Littlest Love’s favorite room! She loves to put her favorite characters to sleep in the beds. I posted this picture to Instagram a couple of weeks ago. As you can see, no Calico Critters living here. She has quite the collection of mini figurines from her favorite shows and they seem to feel just at home in this tiny house.

For the bedroom, I may have decorated it the way I want my bedroom decorated. Gold, cream, black, & white. And it’s very similar to the color scheme I chose for Littlest Love’s room – minus black add pink.

For this room, I painted the adult beds metallic gold and the bunk beds white. I reupholstered the mattresses and pillows and made blankets for the big beds. I used felt for the reupholstering and hand sewed it all, because I break sewing machines every time I touch them. It was a LOT of work and neck pain… but Big Love gave me extra neck massages for all of December because I was working NONSTOP. I made the chevron rug out of a piece of already painted canvas in the scrapbook section. The blankets were made out of a thin felt and I added a decorative trim ribbon. This “wallpaper” was actually poster board, but I had to have those gold foil polka dots! Since she didn’t know it was for her, I couldn’t put E’s (her initial) everywhere. So I used the next best thing, an “R.” 😉

The last room is the living/dining room. I struggled with this room as it came with so much furniture I wanted to use and I just couldn’t figure out how I wanted to place it all!

I painted the dining chairs each a different color and then painted white over top and sanded them for a distressed look with a pop of color. I chose scrapbook paper in coordinating colors to mod podge to the chair seats. The table runner is just a wide piece of ribbon.

I hung a small circle mirror on the wall with hot glue and the scrabble letters to spell “faith.” The bunting banner and the pallet “hello” sign hang on the wood wall, which again is just scrapbook paper. For this room and the bedroom, I also laid down dollhouse carpet, which was super simple!

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I also glued shingles to the roof, which was a lot more tedious that I originally thought. Two whole bags of shingles and approximately 30 hot glue sticks later….

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I’m so happy with the way this turned out. It’s bittersweet. I know this is something Littlest Love will enjoy for a long time, but that also means I don’t get to do this again! So sad!

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Thanks for taking a tour of our tiny home! – The Pigs, The Care Bears, & The Princesses. 

Midland Valley, Midland Valley

When I was in high school, I was in the marching band. Actually, my senior year I was the Drum Major for the marching band. You can go ahead and call me Queen of the Nerds. 🙂

At every football game, we would end the night playing the Alma Mater. Most of us didn’t know all the words, so we would sing on repeat “Midland Valley, Midland Valley, Midland Valley, Midland Valley!” to the tune of our Alma Mater… so at least our lips were moving!

This year is my 10 year reunion.

I have been feeling so tethered to MVHS recently. I’m not sure if it’s the upcoming reunion that has me nostalgic, or all the recent accolades that have been awarded that make me wish those cool things would’ve happened when I was a student there. But my heart is bleeding orange and blue.

Midland Valley gave me so much.

  • It is where I first saw and talked to my husband, on my very first day of school as a Freshman. Mrs. Glover’s 4th period study hall for my first semester of high school became the petri dish where our friendship would grow.
  • Midland Valley introduced me to my favorite instrument in the whole world and gave me countless hours of access to play that beautiful vibraphone.
  • It is where I got to experience the high of winning Lower State with the entire marching band, playing Amazing Grace as loud as we could – and I literally CRIED at every competition because it was SO beautiful.
  • It is where I got to play in a trash can band and dress like a construction worker with some of the coolest drummers I know.
  • It is where I was given the opportunity to earn a full academic ride to college and gave me all the tools and resources I needed to succeed there.
  • It is where I met a lifelong friend in my guidance counselor. She later would be my matron of honor in my wedding along with her daughter as my junior bridesmaid and be one of the only constant relationships in my life 10 years later.
  • It is where I was given my first chances to lead and discover my passion for influencing others.
  • It is where my husband showed up months after he graduated to proclaim his pursuit of a relationship with me. (Top 10 best moments of my life!)
  • It is where I stood on stage in front of all my classmates and their families and gave my Salutatory speech and sang “Go Light Your World” to the largest audience of my life.
  • It is where I met my “mejor amigo del mundo” and the place we get to visit and reminisce together when he visits from Venezuela.
  • It is where I was awarded “Midland Valley’s Junior Miss,” an honor that became my obsession… and now my full-time volunteer position!
  • It is where I led a Bible study every morning before school my senior year- my very first teaching gig.
  • It is where I would return years after graduating to mentor and teach pregnant students parenting skills.
  • And now, it is where I hope to return and join the amazing faculty that is blazing a trail of excellence in Aiken County. (Can someone send this to the Principal and consider this my application? Just kidding!)

I’m so excited for the future of MV – and I’m really praying the Lord lets me be a part of it again.

Once a Mustang, always a Mustang!

****UPDATE****

I have just accepted a position as a Business Education Teacher and will join the Mustang Faculty in August!

RETWEET: He Says I Am

Ladies. We need to talk.

(Gentlemen, feel free to read. It may help you understand your lady. And you may find some goodness in it for yourself.)

I saw this video a while ago about how women perceive their own beauty, and it was crazy real. Follow this link and DO watch the video.

According to Dove’s statistics:

  • Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (up from 2% in 2004)
  • Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves
  • 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful
  • 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful but do not see their own beauty
  • More than half (54%) of women globally agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic

SOURCE: Dove Research: The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited

Those statistics are pretty tough. But you don’t have to look hard to verify this for yourself. In fact, you pretty much don’t have to look past the mirror!

As long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by girl friends who struggle with their self-esteem. In every form… beauty, intelligence, athleticism, success, supermom, homemaker, creativity, etc. etc. etc.

Recently, I was attending a women’s Bible study and during our small-group discussion my heart sunk listening to one woman’s struggle with recognizing her self-worth. Not because she felt ugly. Or because she wasn’t supermom. But because she struggled to accept God’s love and blessings for her because she felt so undeserving of His love.

As soon as she poured her heart out, tears and all, all of the ladies around the table held their breath. We didn’t know what to say, but we knew something had to be said. God does not want us to think poorly of ourselves. We are made in HIS image…. so what do we say when we call ourselves worthless?

So, I’ve got an idea.

You know those posters you can buy with all the different names of God recorded in the Bible? Emmanuel. Jehovah. Lion. Lamb. Alpha. Omega. Great I Am.

Have you ever noticed the names of YOU in the Bible? Zechariah 2:8 calls you the “apple of His eye.”  Romans 8:17 says we are “co-heirs with Christ!” We are the salt of the earth. We are made to worship. We are new creations! I, especially, am a peculiar people. 😉

These are my words of empowerment. The truth is, I do not deserve God’s love. Not ever. But as Christians, our self-worth is in who we belong to.  Just as Jesus replaced his suffering for our punishment, we get to claim his reputation. Not our criminal history.

I’d love to put together a list of “self-empowerment” for those rainy days. Maybe something we could all print off and put individually in a jar. I’ve been researching… looking for an existing list to pull from and have not found one. So, let’s do it together! If you have a favorite scripture that describes how fantastic you are because of Christ, please comment below! (Include the scripture reference… cause I’ve got to make sure it’s legit!) I’ll make another post later with all of our ideas put together so we can all walk in the spirit of power that God gave us!

The Bible has a lot to say about how awesome you are. It may not seem real, but the God of Heaven sincerely knows you are. Who can argue with that?

 

RETWEET: This post was originally posted in 2014 on my old blog.

DIY: Custom Vintage Teacup

So, as I posted in my Week in Review, I had the pleasure of making a handmade gift for my cousin’s bridal shower this past weekend. Handmade gifts are kind of my thing right now. Partly because I’m trying to be frugal, but mostly because I see so many Pinterest ideas that I want to do and I just need a reason to do them! (If you invite me to a party, just go ahead and expect something handmade.)

I saw this on Pinterest and fell in love. I love going antique shopping, but never buy anything because I have negative storage in my house and I’m scared it will all be ruined before I can get my life house in order. It was the most exciting experience to actually check out at one of my favorite browsing spots.

I selected my teacup. I looked for coloring that would complement black lettering and for relatively smooth and less shapely sides to assist my handwriting.

Now, the worst part was that the internet has about 1,863,909 different tutorials for how to make those hand-drawn sharpie mugs and they are all different. AND, I would be using that method on vintage, already coated/glazed, china. I did a LOT of research and after buying the incorrect products initially, settled on these.

Step 1. CLEAN the teacup & saucer with cotton balls and rubbing alcohol. This helps remove any dirt/dust that has collected from months in an antique shop.

Step 2. Using an Oil-Based Sharpie (found at Hobby Lobby in the painting section), draw your choice of words. I opted for “Mrs.” instead of “Bride” because I felt like “Mrs.” would be appreciated for longer. If you mess up, no biggie. A damp paper towel, or rubbing alcohol will wipe it off and you can start again.

Step 3. Place teacup/saucer in COLD oven. I put mine on a metal pizza pan. Turn the oven on to Bake at 350 degrees. Once the oven is preheated, set a timer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn off the oven and allow items to cool inside. I just left mine in overnight.

When you remove your items, the hand-painted lettering will be sealed and can now be washed gently by hand.

Voila!

customvintageteacup

My Personal Reformation

So, perhaps you’ve noticed the splashing of the word “reformed” in my social media posts and on this blog. Welcome to the explanation.

To catch you up, Big Love and I recently left our church and have started attending the ONLY Reformed Baptist Church in the CSRA. On purpose. We sought this out and landed there intentionally. But why?!

Well, that’s a question we’ve been asked a lot over the last couple of weeks, especially by members of this church. Everyone has their story of how they came to follow and study Reformed Theology and we’ve enjoyed hearing the spiritual, theological journeys of our new friends that led them to the same place as us. And they all want to know ours.

It wasn’t a question I was prepared to answer, and I left each conversation understanding a little more about the path that led me here. I’ve grown to see more of it, and the Lord will probably have more to show me.

Being a Preacher’s Kid, I grew up under a consistent doctrine. Many churches- but always with the same Pastor, with the same education and perspective. I certainly had moments of questioning, but my Dad was the best at forcing me to have my own interpretation of scripture and not relying on what he believed. I agreed with what I learned in those Southern Baptist churches I grew up in. But I am naturally a skeptic. I don’t believe anything anyone tells me ever. It’s kind of annoying. I have to verify everything. Serious. In all my researching over the years, I’ve dubbed myself a “Theology Snob.” Someone make me a shirt.

When I turned 16, Big Love agreed it was important that we attend church together to encourage conversations about preaching, and to study the same things. I moved my membership to the church he grew up in, also a Southern Baptist church, and we attended there for the next 4 years, with my Daddy’s blessing. We continued in other Southern Baptist churches for 6 more years. Always agreeing with the Baptist Faith & Message, but struggling over details and applications at each one.

Since I can remember, the sincerity of salvation has been something I have been most frustrated over and debated. I never felt the presentation of salvation that I was witnessing in church was the whole truth. That it missed something and in doing so, deceived many. It broke me and I constantly found myself in arguments and conversations over what I saw as a major inaccuracy when compared to scripture.

We began attending another Baptist church that very quickly was adopted by a C&MA church and so we became C&MAers. At the same time, we began leading Young Life – a very new ministry and concept to us. If you don’t know YL, it’s an international para-church youth ministry that desires to see every kid have “the opportunity to meet Jesus Christ and follow Him.” Young Life leaders come from all kinds of backgrounds, theologies, and denominations. For me, this was my first real experience where I was frequently exposed to doctrine that opposed my own and it was a HUGE struggle for me. Each week, I listened to a different leader speak with their own set of beliefs and it tore my soul.

Sidenote: I had to eventually comfort myself knowing that anyone in that room hearing what I believed to be “false teaching” would not be hindered from believing in the Lord if the Lord was calling them to Him (predestination, irresistible grace). Realistically, most of the time I just wanted to scream, “STOP!” Please hear me and know that I don’t diminish the faith or salvation of those with other beliefs; I personally just couldn’t figure out how to co-teach the Gospel with them. To me, it was as if a French teacher and a German teacher were trying to teach “foreign language.” Yes, French is a foreign language, and German is a foreign language… but they aren’t interchangeable. It’s probably an easily overlooked problem for most normal people. But skeptical, theology snob me just couldn’t overcome.

It was the most emotionally trying 2 years of my life… and I was supposed to be functioning well enough to engage and disciple teenagers. But looking back, I’m thankful. Listening to so many people believe noticeably different than me made me research. I had known for a long time that I was Calvinist, but I didn’t know what being “not-Calvinist” meant or what those people might believe. And I wanted to know.

So I spent a lot of time researching. My research consisted of basic stuff – reading definitions of the theological perspectives of Calvinism and Arminianism – and reading scripture. Somewhere in this, as Big Love and I began regularly talking about these topics (and sharing hilarious Calvinist memes) we began listening for our beliefs to be validated in the sermons at our church. And then, they just weren’t. We asked around and realized we were alone in our opinion in our congregation and left to find “our people.” (Though we seriously miss our church family! <3)

4 weeks in and this is why I believe they’re my people.

  • They make fun of a certain Televangelist 😉
  •  One of the Pastoral Interns quoted Flame from the pulpit… during a sermon!
  • We don’t have to explain what we believe to them
  • Mostly, because Theology is the #1 priority of EVERY. SINGLE. THING. (Theology Snob Approved!)

So officially, Big Love and I are now identifying as Reformed, though I suppose we always were. Now, insert funny meme.

GRACEmeme

 

What I Would Say to my BFF Fighting Cancer

If I had a BFF who was fighting cervical cancer (or any other kind!), I would probably want to help her in any way possible. I might help organize meals for her recovery, or offer (to no success) to clean her house and fold her laundry. I would certainly pray for her and ask my most trusted prayer warriors to join in. I would want to go to lunch with her and make fun of cancer and laugh until we cried. I probably would refuse to make plans just in case she needed a friend that day. I may dash across stage to fetch tissues when playing along at worship made her cry. And then, I’d really want to offer her some sort of verbal support. Some encouragement, a little peace, and some hope.

If I had a BFF fighting cervical cancer I would want her to know these things:

Your uterus does not define your womanhood. You are a woman. Not because of your ability to make beautiful future in-law quality children. But you are a woman, because the God of the universe chose you to be. He created you uniquely with the attributes of a woman. I see it in the way your heart struggles over longing to be with your kids more and the conviction of how much you desire to nurture and care for them. I see it in the kindness of your heart, and in your passion. In your submission to your husband and your respect for his leadership. And let’s face it, your love for Grey’s Anatomy is kind of a dead giveaway. 😉

I couldn’t even attempt to belittle the severity of the procedure you’re about to endure. You have every right to be sad, scared, and maybe even a little angry. But you DO NOT have the right to feel like less of a woman. YOU are a champion of women. You are surviving! You may not be subject to the gross atrocities of this female life anymore (sorry… was that worded less graphically?), but that is not because you are not worthy. No ma’am! You are beyond worthy. Your suffering and this trial of your life gives you hero status in the eyes of women everywhere.

But no uterus is still no uterus, even though you know you’re still all woman. And let’s face it, any loss is cause for mourning. You are most definitely allowed to grieve the loss you feel. Whether you wanted more kids or not, no one likes to have those decisions made for them. So, grieve. Grieve the life that might have been.

God’s sovereignty started a LONG time ago. When I think about the many people who will be part of this journey with you, I am so comforted to know that the Lord has been on the throne since before the foundation of the world. Your husband, your kids, your parents, your community, your doctor, your nurses, the receptionist at the doctor, the anesthesiologist, the billing coordinator, the lady you bought the planner from, ME, etc etc etc. ALL of these people have been part of your plan since before you were born. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s pretty cool. Whatever God is up to here, I believe that one (or many!) of these people will be affected by your story. Keep that in mind. Or not… maybe that’s too much pressure. 😉

Your life will never be the same (and that’s a good thing!). Everything will be different now. Every doctor’s appointment will be met with anxiety and re-living the emotions that you’ve experienced already. You will forever share cancer awareness articles and photos on Facebook and you will wear your ribbon shirt with pride! You’ll finally have some “medical history” to report on that paperwork at the doctor’s office and you may even have a scar. Life will be different.

But I want you to remember other things in your life that changed your life FOREVER. Your salvation changed you from death to life. You will never ever be on the path to death again… and that’s a pretty good thing! When you got married, everything changed. Your life became about more than you. You became ONE with your husband and you had to rethink your whole world to include him. And then you became a mom. And sometimes I’m pretty sad that we can’t go back for just like three seconds to breathe, but being a mom is a gift that causes you to refocus and consider your children in every decision made.

When it comes to “life-changing” moments in life, you’ve got a pretty good tract record of positive ones. This will be no different, no doubt! Sure, life is different now. You have cancer. You will forever be especially aware of cancer as it relates to everything around you… you may begin to read those warning labels a little more seriously. Or you’ll get preventative care on every body part that your insurance will pay for. But life isn’t changing for the worse.

Because you know what? There may be pain in the night and joy comes in the morning!

Like, so cliche, right? But for serious. I think sometimes trials are solely for the purpose of the rejoicing when it’s over. God demands glory in all things. He doesn’t expect us to just say, “Yay! This cancer is so friggin’ awesome!” James says, “Count it pure joy when you face trials of any kind.” And that sounds weird and sick. But James isn’t glad to suffer. He is glad to be strengthened and disciplined, because trials produce perseverance. And a Christian walking in the perseverance of the Spirit is like gold to the glory of the Father. How can He not be magnified to see you walk through this so beautifully, and vulnerably, and faithfully?

I am so proud and thankful to call you friend! I share your feelings of fear, sadness, confusion… obviously at like 1/10th of a percent of how you feel. But I love you and am so deeply sorry for you. It’s hard to know what to say… especially when you’re like me and just not overwhelmingly nice most of the time. But you are on my mind, constantly. And I am looking forward to many celebratory cancer-free anniversaries and wearing matching shirts on whatever cancer walk you drag me to. You are such a light and are beasting this thing already!

And so to my BFF Emily who is currently kicking cancer’s big fat butt… these are my prayers for you.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might. Ephesians 1:17-19

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height and depth, and to knowthe love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the POWER at work WITHIN us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21