Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Few of My Favorite Things - October 2016 Edition

This has been a year of favorites for me - discovering some new ones, enjoying a few classic ones, and of course, spending time with a handful of breathing ones!

Therefore, I thought I'd start a new ongoing series sharing some of my current loves with you. I always love it when friends share theirs with me. I inevitably find a new product I can't believe I never knew about. Whether it's a helpful timesaver, or something that's just fun, anything that makes my world easier, less hectic, and brings me joy, is a very good thing. 

This summer I was part of a Favorite Things Summer Swap. It's a FTL Launch Team (For The Love) thing where each participant sent a box of their favorite summer products, treats, etc., to another FTL sister participating in the Swap. One day a box shows up at your house and it instantly makes your day! 

This is what my Swapple, Carrie, sent! Don't even get me started on the Wonder Woman glass in the background. IN LOVE!
My "Swapple" (yes, we've taken this FTL thing a bit too far, but it's wonderfully fun and we love each other) included this lovely tonic in my box, Bai Antioxidant Cocofusion. I was a skeptic at first because I've tried to like coconut water. I really have, but every brand I tried tasted gross. Not this one!

However, I cannot seem to find this particular version (with lime) anywhere near me. So I simply squeeze in half a lime (which I always have limes on hand). However, my favorite way to drink this tasty concoction is in my morning smoothies. I chock them full of healthy stuff you really don't want to hear about, but please ask me if you do. I'm happy to share. I'm working hard at getting more healthy things inside of me. So drinking Bai Antioxidant Cocofusion makes me feel like I've accomplished that.

At the beginning of the summer, I started losing weight. I wasn't trying. You could say it was a mixture of stress from a recent venture, the onset of TMJ which kept me from eating most anything which had to be chewed thoroughly, and a bit of a waning appetite from the two combined. 

On a side note, I no longer have TMJ! The Lord healed it in one day and I've been pain free for two whole months! Friends, keep praying, keep asking, keep knocking. We have a God who heals!

Please hear me. I could care less about my weight. I am truly happy. I love who I am, and I have never been insecure about my weight. Someone needs to hear that it's okay to be who you are, whether you have a few extra pounds or you're as skinny as a rail! If I ever begin to obsess about my weight, Lord, please make me fat! I think obsessing about being fat is worse than being fat because it's a mindset that says, "I'm not good enough," or, "There's something wrong with me." 

Good grief! Just be healthy. Take care of you the best you can, and that's been my goal this year - to take care of me and to get healthy. It was a personal mandate the Lord impressed upon me early on this year. So I've been working on that, not on losing weight. 

By September, some of my favorite tops were swallowing me up alive, and a couple of my pants/jeans that I wore all the time weren't fitting at all. We're talking a belt would be pointless! I mean who wants to look like an orphan wearing hand-me-downs tied up to look like a sack of potatoes? Not me. That's when I found this awesome online resale clothing site called ThredUp.

I am very particular about resale. I am personally not a fan of resale shops unless I'm looking for furniture. (I found the PERFECT piece for my bedroom a couple of years ago at a resale shop - exactly what was I was looking to purchase retail, but for probably a third of what it would've cost me in a furniture store.) 

ThredUp isn't your average resale clothing site. You can choose to shop by brand names, sizes, clothing specifics, and my favorite - condition of the item. I only look for things in "excellent condition. Could mistake for new," and "New with tags." This way I can shop my favorite brands and only view the items that I am willing to consider. I have found some AMAZING deals this way, many with the tags still attached and in excellent condition. With my limited budget, I've been able to get what I need as my body is transitioning and continuing to lose weight, and pay far less than I would in any store. ThredUp is perfect for me and my budget!

Another way I started investing in my health and taking better care of me was through using essential
oils. I just purchased this gem for my office after a recent health diagnosis. I was already diffusing Young Living essential oils at home, and using them daily. This little Orb™ Diffuser sits under my desk, (on top was in too close proximity) and the fragrance fills my office. I've had people come in and ask, "What is that smell? I really like that!" Well it's Lavender and Stress Away essential oils, a heavenly  blended scent which keeps me calm and happy. 

I don't sell the oils or have a web site, but I am a Distributor because I use them every day and I get greats deals and discounts as a Distributor. It's worth it if you're going to invest in yourself in this way. If you decide to become a Distributor to either sell them or simply to benefit from the discounts for you and your family, please feel free to sign up under my Young Living ID#: 3758835. These oils have helped me tremendously in my effort to become a healthier me. I've been using a few of them for over a year and the difference is significant. So worth it!

Last but certainly not least is a fun one. I am all girl, and I love getting gussied up! I know. I'm showing my age with that term. 

I discovered this new (to me) shade of lipstick at a Mary Kay Relaunch Party for my friend, Angie. I was looking to replace a color I loved in another line, but could no longer find. Once I put it on I instantly feel in love with it! I can wear it with just about anything, and I do! It's called Rosette, and it's a satin finish. Super creamy and it lasts for hours. I typically only have to reapply once throughout my day, if that. I'm currently wearing another color in this same finish called, Spice 'N Nice, and I haven't had to reapply at all today. Effortless makeup is my fav!

I hope you find some new favorite things from my list. Please share yours with me. I love hearing about products that make life easier, and are good for you. Also, in case you missed it, be sure to check out my last post about one of my new favorite books! I almost included it on this list, bit since I'd already devoted an entire blog post to it, I thought that might be overkill. 

Until next time, blessings, and please take good care of you! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Best (Christian Fiction) Book I've Read All Year

This summer I was invited to join a friend at the relaunch of her Mary Kay business. I know. I'm such a sucker for supporting other women that I said, yes, just to honor my friend and to lend my support. Plus I use some MK products and was looking for a way to get what I needed much faster. My friend carries most all MK products in stock. Yes!

I was there with a room full of ladies I didn't know except for my friend, the consultant, but in a crowd of strangers I could do what I like most - observe. So I didn't mind.

As I started to leave, one other guest followed me out the door. She wasn't leaving, but was trying to catch me as I walked out the door. The conversation went a little like this...

Other Guest: "Do you like to read?"

Me: "Why yes, I love to read. I'm usually reading three or four books at a time. Why do you ask?"

Other Guest: "Well I felt like I was supposed to give you a copy of my book. I never do this, but I felt like the Lord wanted you to have one."

My new friend's name was Cindy Schroppel. We chatted briefly about the book (Skandalon)
and then I promised to follow up and left, realizing this was most likely a God-ordained meeting. I drove home wondering to myself, "Just what was in that book?"

I'll tell you what was in it - 1) a story of redemption that almost rivals the Biblical story of Hosea, 2) a drama so well crafted that you forget that this is the author's first novel, 3) and probably the best fictional depiction I can imagine of the battle being waged in the heavenlies for our very lives. 

I read all kinds of works: historical fiction/drama, biographies, books on leadership and ministry, and books on Christian growth, probably what I read the most. But when I want to read for sheer pleasure, my go to genre is Christian fiction. To each his own! I have a stash of Janette Oake's earlier works I'd love to give away to some sweet young reader (teens-20's). It would be my honor to pass those onto someone who'd love them as much as I did. They are treasured works which helped fuel my love for reading after I left college. (I didn't like to read before then. Thanks, for ruining that for me, high school required reading lists!)  

Skandalon is that sort of book. It's not dark. It's not heavy. It's simply a very well crafted story that will have you turning page, after page non-stop, until like me, you suddenly realize you've read the first 154 pages all in one sitting! I could hardly put it down. So I always made sure I had large blocks of time to devote to reading it.

This was Cindy's first novel. The Lord told her to write a book, and so with much trepidation and uncertainty in her own ability, she trusted God and wrote Skandalon in nine months time. The result was this gem that had me riveted! There were times when I had to stop and pray because the details surrounding the things happening in the spirit realm, were so realistic that I could not go on. The Lord was doing things in me and reminding me that I don't wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). I was convicted at times, and encouraged at others. Skandalon took me on the wildest roller coaster ride the whole way through! It was awesome!

Now if you've read any of Frank Peretti's works with a similar theme, do not think for one second that Skandalon is like his books. I've read a few and while good and revealing for the reader about what's going on in the spirit realm, both for and against us, I find his writings a bit darker than Cindy's work. Skandalon is a true love story, from start to finish, that theme remains true all throughout. It's practical, laden with scripture used as a tool in intercession, spiritual warfare and worship, and it's a drama in every sense of the word. 

A few weeks after meeting Cindy at my friend's house, we met up for a lunch with another friend of hers. There are moments when you just know this is about more than just a book. God is doing something here. Neither of us is exactly sure of the magnitude of that meeting at the MK gathering just yet, but after reading her book I am most definitely a fan!

Cindy is writing a Bible study to go along with the book. It should be available sometime in January. Bible studies, teaching, and leading worship are where Cindy feels most comfortable. That's just crazy to me after reading Skandalon. I can't wait to see what words she puts to paper next, because if writing novels is among her least comfortable gifting, then good grief! Where do I pre-order her next work?

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Best Stress Reliever

I had a stressful summer. Or so I thought until just this week.

Back in May I developed TMJ. I didn't realize that's what it was until the pain became more frequent and someone mentioned TMJ as possibly the cause. So I did some research and without a doctor's visit (because there is little to nothing a doctor can do for TMJ), determined my friend might be right.

I had been under quite a bit of stress because of an upcoming event. I'd also been waking up in the morning, often with my jaw clenched. Two very distinct signs of TMJ. As a result of this new found discovery, I began to take action and implemented some changes in my diet, and I added some nutritional supplements that had been suggested by most online sites.

As the summer wore on, my stress level lessened, as did my TMJ issues. It was still a somewhat stressful season for me, more than most summers. Then this week happened. 

I've become expressly aware of just how much stress we carry in our bodies on a regular basis. Thanks to this awful TMJ, it's become difficult for me to ignore. 

Yesterday was one of the most excruciating pain-filled days I think I've had, ever. Very little I did early on brought any relief. I couldn't think straight. I was completely distracted. 

I was so grateful for the quietness of the day. Hardly anyone was in the office and the phones were down. So, gratefully, I didn't have to interact with anyone which is something I don't know that I could've done given how debilitating my pain level was for most of the afternoon. I looked forward to going home so that I could rest, but that's when things became much worse.

Once I was home, the pain increased and became consistent. No temporary reprieve, Just pain. Non-stop. 

Then I remembered something - this little post I wrote just the day before. It was for my weekly Wednesday's Washing devotional.

As I was literally writhing in pain trying to find the most comfortable spot, I began to try to relax. I know! I can barely keep a straight face and I just wrote those words! How can you relax while in pain so great you can't sit still? But I tried, and I did, for a bit.

The only thing I could think to do to help me relax was to quote scripture - scriptures about peace, stillness, and about pain and disease. I tried to be as still as possible and envision myself resting in the Father's arms, free from pain. Um, it worked! Okay, I was still in pain, but sitting still took the edge off and I was able to start thinking more clearly. 

I eventually had the good sense to go grab the cold compress out of my freezer and toss it in the microwave. Heat helps to relax the jaw muscles. DUH! Why didn't I think of that sooner?

Why? Because pain does weird things to our bodies, including how we think, and stress makes you stupid. It's true. Something happens in our bodies chemically that makes us forget, unable to think clearly, and otherwise, a different person than if we were stress free. Don't believe me? Click on those links in this paragraph and read for yourself. 

So when I stopped and did the excruciating work of trying to relax my mind, I got different results. When I focused on the Lord, and not on my pain, things began to change, however slight that change might have been. 

Regardless, I received enough clarity in that moment that it helped me find a solution that worked immediately to relieve my pain. As a result, the rest of my evening was completely pain free. 

My point is this. We are often too worked up in the midst of a crisis to see our way clearly through it. Therefore, we panic. We don't respond rightly. We do all the wrongs things to get out of the trouble we're in because we fail to step back and just breath. Relax in the midst of the chaos. Still our mind.

I wonder how many relationships would be saved by simply taking a breath before responding in a heated conversation? I wonder how many accidents could be avoided by relaxing our grip on the wheel and not allowing others haste to affect our pace? I wonder how over anxious individuals could find peace by simply choosing to still their mind? 

Let's face it. Stress is inevitable. In fact, some stress is actually good for us. It's how we handle that stress that determines who we choose to become. 

In truth, I am a mess most days. A beautiful mess, but a mess none the less! I want to become a person of peace and one who can easily be at rest whether in pain or pain-free, stressed or not. I don't want to be controlled by my emotions. 

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You,

because he trusts in You.  Isaiah 26:3
( of the verses I meditated one while I was in pain.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

My Brave Face

This summer I have officially proclaimed Fridays, No Makeup Day! It's true. I haven't worn makeup not one Friday in July, except for a little mascara and some lip gloss, because let's be honest. I am a girly girl, and some things are simply non-negotiable!

It's hot here where I live. I walk outside and all that effort simply goes to waste. So in a sense, I'm saving time and money by not wearing any makeup. At least that's my rational.

I won't lie. I've been blessed with good genetics when it comes to skin. However, it's taken me years to see that even though I've heard it all my life. So going without hasn't been that big of a deal for anyone else but me. In truth, I'm not sure anyone has noticed, but then no one is hardly in our office on Fridays. So maybe I'm not as brave as you may think.

Never-the-less, it's been a little liberating sleeping in just a tad bit longer on Friday mornings (all 1 - 2 minutes of it), knowing I could skip a step in my morning routine. There's been days when I've even felt slightly mischievous, like if caught, the makeup police might give me a warning or a slap on the wrist. 

It's all rather silly. I know. But it's made me think.

We all put on some kind of face. We want to show our best self, the one we want everyone else to believe about us. We hide the truth about our lives behind a pasted smile or a cheery greeting, when really we're a mess inside. We're not as put together as we'd like for everyone to believe.

So instead of baring our true face, the one we look at every morning in the mirror, the one full of pain, heartache, disappointment, shame, and regret, we cover it all up for fear of being exposed. We don't know what might come with such exposure. Rejection? Judgment? Blank stares? Therefore, we keep it all in.

This week I didn't just bare my true face - the one I see in the mirror every morning. I also bared the one I've been keeping under wraps - the truth about my pain. It was one of the scariest things I've ever done, and once I did it, I felt so exposed! There was nothing I could do except wait for the response, if any. I anticipated rejection, judgment, and blank stares. There's probably been some of all of that happening in the privacy of the homes of those who read my story. That's okay. It's the response of those who reached out that has made putting on my brave face worth it. I've had some powerfully life-giving conversations this week, and I feel a bit closer to those individuals than I did before.

I don't know what face you might be keeping under wraps, or how unpresentable you might think it is to reveal. Let me encourage you to put your brave face forward. Dig deep down to that place which longs to be known. It's inside of each of us. We all want that - to be truly known, pain and all. It's gonna take some chutzpah (audacity)! But I believe it's in you. 

More than that, I believe you are worthy of being truly known. Yes, you with all your flaws, insecurities, and imperfections. Yet the face you put forth is the one people will come to know. I guess it all comes down to how tired you are of covering it up. 

I've learned it takes more effort to hide the truth, when just an ounce of courage can bring it to light.

Here's my Friday brave face. That smile is the real deal. Playful. Grateful. Amazed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Asked the Question, by Angela Petry

Hey, friends! Cheryl here for just a bit to introduce you to my friend and fellow writer, Angela Petry. Angela is a frequent guest writer on my weekly Wednesday's Washing devotional blog, and she grew up in the church I attend. I love her heart and how she chooses to see the world. So when she told me about this post she wrote around the same time I wrote my last post, I knew I HAD to read it! I cannot think of a better follow up to the words I penned over the weekend, and a better person to say them. For some of you, I think what she shares may help to answer those nagging questions and thoughts you may have about what to do. Angela is doing it so effortlessly, and I believe her example might shed some light for those of you wanting to help bring healing.


I did it. I knew it might not be a happy or an easy thing, but it was time. In light of recent national events, I’ve been realizing that life cannot go back to normal; so, as my small group sat down to dinner, I opened with the share question, “How have you been affected by racial tensions in your life?”

Seven sets of eyes slowly turned away from mine, suddenly wide open, to stare at hands, at feet, at windows, at the ceiling – at any part of the room that wouldn’t cause a chance encounter with another set of eyes. Seven sets of eyes, divided suddenly into four ethnicities. To be honest, I expected this. I ignored the squirming in my belly, and let the silence stretch. Gently, I added, “If you don’t feel comfortable sharing, that is perfectly okay. This is a sensitive issue. But if you would like to share, it would be good to hear your heart.”

This was not my first time to ask this question recently. In the last two weeks, I’ve sat down with my black friends and asked or been asked this question – at a work meeting, at church, over tacos, and over spaghetti and meatballs. And each time, a somberness settled even more deeply over me.

That night, as the girls sat around my table and the silence stretched almost to the point of breaking, the girls slowly began to share. 

Stories of a family splitting only a few years ago over a white/black marriage – with the pastor on the side of the racists…
… of a Korean girl being ignored for years at a business meeting – a CHURCH’s business meeting – and still not having one friend from that group.
… a Hispanic girl, still unable to speak publicly of the hurt in her heart.
… a white girl, so ignorant of current racial tensions, that she didn’t even know her friends were regularly insulted, pulled over by cops, and stalked in shopping malls.
… of a black girl, treated as “less than” (insulted or yelled at even by people VISITING A PLACE OF WORSHIP as she sits in the seats to join in), and always having to ask herself, “is the way I was treated because of my race?”
… of a girl, terrified for the safety of her black brothers, even though they are good men, living good lives.
… of a girl saying, “I’m just not sure how much longer I can last.”

These are some of the stories of the eight women sitting at my table, who have been meeting regularly for over 6 months, and who had no idea of the deeply personal and nightmare-ish struggles that some in our midst face daily.

I’m coming awake to the startling idea that, when it comes to race, we can live in the same place but still not live in the same world. I’m ashamed I didn’t know this. I have been one of the clueless ones, thinking racism was a thing of the past except in random, tiny pockets.

That night, most of us cried. There were good tears – healing tears of girls who realized they were not alone, and that girls of multiple race experienced similar pains; there were compassionate tears – tears of girls whose hearts began to break, grieving with those who grieve; and there were also reluctant tears – unexpected and forceful, eeking out through stammered explanations of, “I didn’t expect to cry.”

Honestly, it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fun. It hurt a lot – both for the people sharing, and the people listening. But we did it. We didn’t fix national issues, and we didn’t even talk about solutions – but we did see each other, and as our eyes locked over the table in the aftermath of our stories, the kindness and gentleness and connection was nearly palpable.

As the church, we are to mourn with those who mourn. We are to be known by our love. There are huge groups of our friends in deep mourning, deep pain – do we even know it? How many relationships do we each have with people of different races? Are we reaching beyond ourselves and what is familiar at all? Are we even positioned to hear about the lives of those who are different from us? Are we setting lunch dates with our friends of different races, just so we can ask them how their hearts and their families are doing in the midst of the violence and fear that is filling this nation right now? These are the questions I am asking myself.

I don’t have any pretty words to close this story. I just know it’s time to speak. It’s time to listen. It’s time to pursue connection with people of different races as a lifestyle – to do more than just have nice intentions. It’s time to mourn.

Our stories, our vulnerability, tie us together; silence and distance keeps us apart. Perhaps maybe, just maybe, one person at a time, our love and our tears can even be a part of the healing.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

My struggle with the shock and awe over recent racial tension...

This is a post I've wanted to pen for quite a long time now - years in fact. Yes, years. Here recently, the desire to do so has been so strong that tonight, or should I say very early this morning, I got up to tend to my dog and I started thinking about it again at a little after 2:00 am. This time I stopped to put my thoughts down - a risky business for sure, but I can't help but think that taking risks is what might begin to change this mess we're in. So let's start there.

As I was saying, this is a post I've wanted to write for a very long time. Just like with most things in my life, I've wanted to do so under very specific terms.

I've been waiting for the dust to settle. You know, waiting for the shock and awe of recent events to die down and for everyone to go back to living life as they were before. I've been waiting for the lull in the news cycle that would give a reprieve from spotlighting and emphasizing racially charged events. That hasn't happened. There's been no lull.

It's been rather important for me to wait for that lull because that's when the dullness sets in. Danders aren't so raised and opinions not so outspoken when it's not being pushed down our throats through the incessant news stream that seems to surround such events. It's as though everyone forgets there's a problem - a BIG problem, and so we go back to living our naive and secluded lives, or at least those of us who are not people of color. We have no idea that even though it may not be the current media storm, black America is still living the nightmare. And so our outrage gets tucked back in until the "problem" surfaces again in the next news cycle. This is my existence.

This is why I preferred to wait, because it's in the lull that we forget that racism is an ongoing issue. For most of you this is news. You had no idea there was a problem until it started bombarding you at every turn, thanks to the ever increasing reach of social media. 

I personally don't watch the news. I don't even own a working TV. Don't feel sorry for me. I like life this way. I catch what I really need to know online, and everyone is talking about it anyway.

I've not watched any of the controversial videos which have been slathered all over social media. Why should I? What need do I have to witness such heart wrenching events? Sometimes it's just best to protect your heart from things that could harden, and possibly taint it. So no, I'm not a news watcher or obsessive, top rated video viewer. 

The truth is, with every new episode I become just a bit more jaded. We rage against injustice when it's staring us in the face, and then we go back to life as usual, making no change that would justify our indignancy. I confess I am guilty of this myself in some areas, and that it's easier to see in others when it's your injustice being put on display.

We speak our minds so openly and stagger over the most unoffensive use of words, but then things settle down. The problem gets swept under the carpet and we feel justified in having "done our part" to make the world a better place because we said what we needed to say.

I must confess, and I'm trying so hard to be gentle, but I find this utterly insulting.

To speak your mind on an issue you really didn't know existed to such a degree as is being presented, to apologize in such a public forum to just whomever might happen upon your post, to say your heart is wrecked by such obvious injustice and then to move on and make no personal change, gets me more than just a little riled up. 

Living in today has been difficult for me. Managing a right spirit and loving well in the midst of what I have deemed as such a personal offense has not been easy, and I've not done it all right.

Through all of this I've only had two connection points - just two people who've  reached out to me with regards to what I'm feeling, thinking, and processing. Only two.

One of those was on a very public forum with people who only know my public self. A small handful have been able to see me on a slightly more personal level, but for the most part, the one asking the question was not in that group. I was able to share openly and honestly some of what I'm sharing here.

The other was a more personal acquaintance - a friend and coworker who's known me for over 20 years. I was able to share more deeply my personal struggle and the fact that eventually, I would put all those thoughts down. He encouraged me in that.

That was it. Among my many friends of privilege (and by privilege I mean those not born of color) that posted about the racial tensions, only those two reached out to me personally. Take just a moment to think about that, but don't you dare run to me out of guilt and try to start that conversation. Remember, I'm still a little jaded by all of this and working diligently to guard my heart against offense. Some days are better than others, but this season has been difficult.

You see I knew there was a problem. In fact, I've known for almost 48 years that, America, we have a problem. I just had my 48th birthday, if that tells you anything. I knew it when I was seven. A car sped up next to me as I was walking home from school and a white man leaned out the window, yelled something at me and then threw his not quite empty beer can at me. I didn't understand his words then, but I knew something was wrong.

Just out of college, I knew there was a problem when at the church where I was working and also where I grew up, a parishioner made the comment TO ME that we must be paying our (black) cleaning lady too much if she could afford a car like the one she drove.

For years, when I've walked into certain stores I've known there was a problem. Just a few short years ago, I went into a little gift shop close to where I work. It wasn't my first visit, and certainly not the first time I felt as though I was being treated slightly different from the way other customers were treated because their skin color was much lighter. This was just the first time it was outwardly expressed. I have never been back and have re-gifted every item I've received from there since that day.

Sadly, on more than one occasion I've been shown that there's a deep seeded problem as friends I've dearly loved and trusted suddenly forgot I was their "black friend." In those moments, their choice of words exposed what was really in their hearts. I no longer hang out with those people or share as much of my life with them as I once did. Racism goes deeper than we think.

This is why I cannot "like" your posts filled with outrage at the state our country is in with regards to racial tension. This is why your apology and most sincere and distraught social media pleas have no affect on me. This is why I scroll right past almost every single one of them, at times rolling my eyes and guarding my heart against believing that most people of lighter skin really are that clueless.

The truth is, for most of black America, we don't want your apology unless you have intentionally wronged us. Words are meaningless. Actions on the other hand, speak volumes! Look at your social circles. How many of your closest friends are people of color? Don't proudly declare that you have a black friend. We are not your "get out of jail free" card! 

Where I'm coming from right now is not from the stance of black lives matter. I don't care what word you use to express a life that matters. They all matter! In my opinion, Jesus died for all. So they ALL matter. However, right now my heart and the hearts of so many who walk this road, they matter. And my heart is feeling pretty sick.

I hear your words of exasperation but my question is, what are you doing about what you're feeling? How are you helping to bridge the gap of unity between the races? If you're not making new friends, or striking up more conversations, or graciously tipping your black server, or getting to know people of color on a more personal level, then please, for my sake and all of us dealing with racism almost every day, say nothing at all. Keep your fear and your outrage solely to yourself. It's not helping. It may make you feel better about being privileged but, it's not soothing the tension in our world.

If you're white, it is your privilege every day to walk into a more upscale store and not be judged or followed from the moment you enter until the time you leave. (This happened to me just this week.) 

It is your privilege to hold a higher position in your company without the stigma of the underlying sense that perhaps you were chosen simply to meet a quota, no matter how hard you worked for it or how many degrees you've acquired

It is your privilege to interview for a job and not get passed over or second guessed because of the color of your skin. 

It is your privilege to drive a nicer vehicle and live in an affluent neighborhood without getting pulled over, or having suspicions surround you as to what you could possibly do for a living to be able to afford those luxuries. 

It is your child's privilege to attend a private school and to easily make friends because the majority of the students look like them. 

It is your child's privilege to walk down the street with a group of same color friends and not automatically be deemed up to no good.

So what's the answer? I can sense your exasperation even now, at least those of you who really do care. The answer is you. You can make a difference. You really, really can!

There is probably a cashier you see almost every time you frequent a certain store. Make it your aim to make her your favorite. I have three - one at my regular drug store and two at a couple of different grocery stores I frequent. Talk to them. Let them tell you about their day.
Bless them with an encouraging word. Laugh with them.

One of my girls is a much younger woman. Her life is so broken and filled with choices that will most certainly serve to harm her future. Yet, I seek her out and try to share a bit of joy whenever I'm shopping. 

Look for those serving at your job, your gym, or your salon. You have no idea the life they lead day in and day out. A little bit of heartfelt attention directed their way could go a long way to healing old wounds.

Sit down with your friends of color and let them tell you their story. Listen. I mean really listen and don't judge their frustration, their anger, or their distrust. 

If you really care, I mean REALLY care, make new friends with people of color. Invite them to lunch. Have them over for dinner or coffee. Arrange a play date with your kids. Expand your social borders and help break down the barrier that exists, because it's real. I'm here to tell you, it's very real.

Or you can wait for the next story to break and then do what you've always done - allow your feelings of outrage to surface through your social media presence, and then go back living life as usual once the dust settles. 

God help us should we make that choice, and God help me not to live so jaded.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Azusa Now Experience, Part 1

Hey friends, I'm pretty sure that most of you who follow me know me well, but for those of you who don't, this next paragraph is for you.

Just so you know, my personal blog is not like my weekly ministry blog where I post a devotional one day a week. Both are sincerely me in that I have an earnest desire to see the people of God rise up and be who they were called to be - unashamedly, boldly and without excuses. I have been called to pull, push, and drop kick people out of their comfort zones so that they can go deeper in God, venturing further than they've ever dared. That's me! I love people! I truly do. So if anything I write here comes across to you as other than that, then I'm asking you to please read it again keeping in mind what I just shared about myself and filter my words through those.

In this blog I am gut honest, but I will never dishonor the Lord in what I say (at least not intentionally). I will tell it like it is, but never to harm or criticize anyone. I don't beat around the bush because I just don't have the time, but you will hear my heart and the passion within it. So with all of the out of the way, I'm ready to begin sharing with you my Azusa journey!

...from The Call Azusa Moments.

I posted on my Facebook page a few days ago that I would soon be writing about my time at Azusa Now in L.A, on April 9. However, first I needed some time to process all that was churning in my spirit from the weekend. I'm ready now to start sharing tidbits from my personal experience with you all, and I plan to begin where they started on that Saturday morning - preparation.

Before things really got underway, before introductions and all the stuff you'd expect to happen at the beginning of a 15+ hour event like this one, we were charged with this one thing - to lay aside any judgements or critical opinions on what we might see, who we might hear or what could possibly happen throughout the day. I thought that was brilliant!

Just imagine over 60,000 people from many different denominations and life experiences, all coming together for a day of prayer, not knowing who'd speak or lead worship and whether or not it's people we "follow," like, or even trust! You know that had to mess some people up internally as they were being asked to lay all that down for the sake of unity under one banner, one Lord, and one purpose - to bombard heaven with prayers for revival for our nation. That's it! No personal agendas allowed. No pouting because your favorites didn't make it on stage, or perhaps weren't even invited. No taking up offenses because no one from your stream was on the platform. No grumbling because worship wasn't what you're used to. None of that stuff allowed that we Christians sometimes get caught doing because we like things a certain way, we believe a certain way or we're just plain stuck in our ways. None of that!

I loved how the day began! I loved that this was the first mandate of the day. I love that we were charged to examine our own hearts so that we could push that mess aside at the get go, so that the Holy Spirit would have room in and through us to move.

What if we started every day that way? What if we each prepared ourselves like this before entering into church on Sunday morning? What if when someone we're not particularly fond of is given a platform to speak, we took some internal inventory and got our judgments out of the way? What if we actually lived judgement free?

Some of us cannot even imagine such a life because our minds are so critical and full of judgements on ourselves as well as others. We know the right way, which of course is the ONLY WAY to do things. We know who should be doing it and if not them, then us. We have an opinion about everything and everyone and we wish people would just listen to us. I know this because I'm sometimes that woman, but you can bet I'm not alone! Before you shake your head, know this. I know many of you, too. We're just flawed human beings, and this is why the charge was issued. Those in charge know we leak. We are far from perfect and it's so easy to fall into that trap of passing judgement. Yet if we desperately want a move from God in our lives and in our nation (which begins with a move in our lives) then we've got to let go of what gets in the way - our critical spirit.

If you've ever been on the receiving end of a critical tongue passing judgment on you, then your heart is probably softer and more tender in this area. If you know my own personal story, then you realize I get this. Yet, I confess I struggle. I didn't struggle on that day with what I might see or experience because I LOVE when nations, and ethnic groups, races, denominations, and different streams come together to stand under one banner. This thing of unity is inbred in me! It tears my heart out at times and keeps me on my face before God. It breaks my heart how much disunity there is in the church - factions here and pockets there. This group for that person, and this one for this other person. It should not be that way yet we are hindering the message of the Gospel by holding onto our judgments of one another. It's our love and affection for one another that will turn the lost to Jesus.

So, yes. Though I was ready and excited about whomever was going to be up on that stage, I too, had to do some business with God in that moment. There were others, not having anything to do with Azusa Now, but everything to do with my heart and what I would receive that day, that needed to be released from my judgements. Even now, I am still actively releasing. I don't want anything to hinder the flow of God in and through my life. I could care less what others say or think regarding who I should be, or what I should be doing, or even how far off I may seem from their ideal whatever! Therefore, I don't care to choose this side or that, or this person over that one by passing judgement on their life. My goal is to honor the Lord. Nothing else matters. I must be faithful to that call above all others, and my judgements don't quite fit into that category.

Hear more about The Call Azusa...

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Ones You Can't Forget

I recently had the honor of hosting one of my lifelong mentors and big sisters in the faith, Esther Flores, at our annual Ladies' Retreat. She was my Youth Pastor's wife from the end of my junior year, to my senior year in high school. From the very moment she said yes to my invitation, I could hardly stand it! There were times, via texts and phone calls, when we were both so doggone giddy that you could've sworn we were a couple of junior high girls! It'd been 11 years since we'd seen one another, and boy did we have some catching up to do!
Esther and I at her eldest daughter's wedding. Her daughter, Melanie, was six months old when we first met.

Just before one of the sessions where Esther was speaking, I told our ladies about how dear she was to me. I was talking about honoring others and how important that is in our relationships, especially within the church. We'd just spent some time during the weekend honoring our pastor's wife in a special way. So it seemed appropriate for us to remain there for a bit. 

Here's the story I shared...

My plan to attend a particular college fell through at the end of my senior year. It just didn't feel right. So I stayed home and attended the local junior college while working full-time at a TV studio just a block away from my house. Somewhere during the course of that year, I became interested in attending another college, but my parents just couldn't see it. Never having more than an eighth grade education - either one of them, they did not understand why I couldn't be like my sister and stay home, get a job right out of school and be happy. Bottom line - that just wasn't me. So if going off to school was going to happen, it would be all on me - every single bit of the process.

Not able to drive just yet, and with no one to take me for a visit, I asked Esther if she would drive me up to see the campus. A week or two later, she and I, with her one year old in tow, drove up to Houston to see the place that would forever change the course of my life, for it was there that I met friends who introduced me to this little church in NW Houston, where I've since been a member for over 20 years, and now am on staff.

I will never forget walking that campus with my friend who thought my future important enough to make this trek happen. What a gift! And here we are today - full circle with her as my guest for an event I oversaw, at a church I never knew existed until I met a friend at the school she drove me to over 30 years ago. Only God could orchestrate something so intricate!

There are people like that who make a deep impression in our lives, who you simply can't forget. Esther is just one of those for me. I cried while telling my ladies that story. It's not that my parents didn't want me to become more than I could where I was. It's just that their limited education couldn't see possibilities beyond where I was. I don't fault them for it, but I thank God for placing people in my life who could see possibilities, and who were willing to help make them happen.

Have you ever looked back on your life and traced a success or an accomplishment back to the efforts, no matter how small, of maybe one or two people? Now I realize my friend wasn't the only one who had a hand in making this story possible. Her part, at the time, may have seemed small. It didn't to me, not then or now, but it might've to others. She drove me to the big city for a tour. That's it, but that was the start, and without her part I'm not sure how any of this would've played out. 

I think we often take for granted the people in our lives who've helped to make us who we are today. They deserve to be remembered whether in our prayers, with our thanks, and sometimes with an invitation to show them how significant their little part was in our story, and even more so, in God's bigger story. 

Esther had no idea the course God placed me on and how He used her to help bring it about. My story isn't over yet! We have no clue the greater impact which neither of us can see. She was surprised to hear me tell my story because she didn't remember our little trip until I shared about it, even then, vaguely so. But I remembered. Always have. Always will. And I'm forever grateful.

Esther and I at the retreat...

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Word of Encouragement

February is almost over and I haven't posted! I made myself a promise to post on this blog once a month this year. (That fits my lifestyle best.) I just barely made the cut! However, I must confess something. In thinking about what to share, only two words came to mind.


So I will, but in truth, I am cheating just a bit.

I wrote this a few weeks ago on the weekly devotional post I write for our Ladies' Ministry. I post there more often. So please follow me there if you're looking for more regular encouragement, challenging or inspiration.

I received so many, "I needed that," responses after this post went out, that I've decided to recycle it here. I hope it blesses you today!

In All Things...

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Year of The People

It's a new year! Can you feel it? Even the air just feels cleaner, newer, fresher.

Whatever you left behind in 2015 - leave it there! Don't pick back up debilitating habits, tumultuous relationships, destructive thinking. Leave all that junk right where it is!

Think on these things...

How would you like to be different in this new year? Who do you want to become? Where do you want to end up? What would you like to accomplish?

Every new year, I take a couple of days to ask myself these questions and to seek the Lord for guidance for the next 365 days. I find that during that time, I catch a small glimpse of what's ahead.

It may just be a word that will signify my year. The Lord may give me a scripture to live into, or he may give me an idea to bring to reality. Every year is different, but that time spent seeking has never been a waste.

I started thinking about 2016 in 2015. (Actually, I do this every year.) It's hard for an organizer not to start looking ahead!

As I was seeing things playing out in my life, and watching others desperately grasp for meaning and significance from the last fleeting days of the year, I realized something. We all want to BE better. At least, I think that's so.

We want our businesses to prosper. We want our kids to excel. We want our relationships to blossom. We want our churches to flourish. We want our lives to mean something. But do you understand what each and every one of these desires will require? They each require some investment in people.

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."  Philippians 2:4

If you want your business to prosper, invest in people. If you want your kids to excel, invest in them. If you want your relationships to blossom, invest in them. If you want your church, ministry or organization to flourish, invest in people. If you want your life to matter, invest in people. Same answer, for each desire.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."  1 Thessalonians 5:11

We can't do life without people. God designed us that way. When I find myself promoting my own agenda more than I'm investing in people, I begin to feel as though I'm spinning in circles getting nowhere. Yet when I'm pouring into people in the midst of being intentional about pursuing my goals, I find that God uses people to help me get there. Go figure!

I don't know what the Lord has in store for you over the next year, but I hope you'll take some time over the next few days to catch just a glimpse (Psalm 32:8).

What goals and dreams would you like to see come true? What do you want to work on? Be intentional in your asking and sharing with the Lord. He knows it all anyway, but he'd sure love for you to share it with him yourself (Psalm 3:4-5).

Get his perspective on the year ahead for your life, and then ask him how you can invest more in others. That will thrill him to no end! He loves it when our focus is not just on ourselves. I think it's because he really likes this community thing (Psalm 133:1).
As you are living your 2016 and working on your dreams, make this year about people, strengthening the relationships around you. Invest yourself, no holds barred, in the lives of others. It's a messy business at times. I know. Boy, do I know! But if we want to become who we were created to be, we cannot avoid rubbing shoulders with people - all kinds of people.

So in the dawn of this new year bursting with promise and outrageous potential, take note of where you'll be as 2017 begins to make it's appearance. Perhaps you'll see it was people that helped you along the way, who held your arms up when they were weary and who prayed you through the sketchy moments of 2016. Yes, those very same people you faithfully poured into as you were simply living your life.