Tag Archives: Encouragement

The Unmaking

the-unmaking

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Nicole Nordman perform. She has a very powerful testimony and she shared about  how walking through some of the darkest moments of her life helped her to find God in a new way.

Then she sang this song called The Unmaking. It was incredibly powerful and as I have listened to it over and over again I have realized that this is where I am finding myself once again.

It is coming to that place where we are broken because we can’t manage life on our own. It’s the giving up of the lies we have believed, the things that have shaped us and kept us stuck. It is the letting go of the need to control and finally being ready to trust God with our lives.

The chorus of her song says it beautifully:

This is the unmaking
The beauty in the breaking
Had to lose myself
To find out who You are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars
This is the unmaking

I have walked some difficult roads over the past several years. Ones that were hard by my own doing. Through a lot of hard heart work I have come to that place where I am letting go of shame, embracing who God has made me to be. I am finding joy and contentment in where I am (especially with my writing here) and am letting go of the burden of jealousy and envy. Something that has tripped me up for far too long.

Just like the song says, I had to come to that place where I was completely unmade and yet because of my faith, I could trust that God had a plan for it all.

Freedom came from that refining. I wrote an entire 31 Days series that came as a result of that time in my life. I am so grateful that God met me there and I really thought that maybe I was done with my “trying” times for awhile.

But today I had a realization that I once again was going through a refining time.

I am inching closer to 42. When people told me that things would change once I turned 40, I didn’t really think it would happen to me. But (of course) it did happen and over the past almost 2 years I have gotten more physically weak, more tired and deal with back pain every day.

Something had to change. I was tired of making excuses and so I joined an accountability group that’s led by an amazing coach and started on my first round of the 21-day fix exercise program. Guys, it’s HARD. And this morning I shared the following in my accountability group….

“My husband and I were talking to our oldest son a year or so ago and joked that when you turn 40 all bets are off. It gets harder to keep off the weight, to exercise etc. We made up this acronym to describe ourselves. WOLFS. You would think it might mean something strong but no, it stood for Weak, Old, Lazy, Fat and Soft. That’s how I have viewed myself for the past year or more.

Back in 2012 he and I were doing the 30-day shred videos. I was stronger and more fit than I had ever been. I felt great about myself. Then my husband fell off a 15ft extension ladder and shattered his heel bone into 3 pieces. It was a major injury, changed his life. He lives with constant pain and will never run again. He has 10 screws and a plate holding his foot together. It was a miracle he didn’t break his back, leg etc.

Once that happened I felt guilty when I would go exercise because he physically couldn’t. For 4 months he couldn’t even walk on his leg. And so I quit. Once I stopped it was easy not to get back into it, to make excuses.

Today as I did the pilates fix I struggled. At one point I cried. I am so not flexible. I can’t even fully straighten my legs. I always have to follow Kat (the modified exercises) and I am so tired of being a WOLFS.

This is not only a physical battle for me but an emotional and spiritual one. I believe lies much faster than I do truths. I get discouraged and quit when it gets hard. This time I want something different. So while I am discouraged at how poorly I do on the exercises, I am determined to keep going. I am only 4 days into the actual program. But I have done at least 20 minutes of hard exercise 9 out of 11 days. That’s huge for me.

I can do this. Tomorrow I will get up and do the next cardio workout in the program. I will probably have to stop and my body will hurt, but I am getting stronger. And I will see results. I am holding on to that this morning.”

Sharing that truth felt like a weight lifted.

But laying on the floor this morning I realized that I was in that place of brokenness once again. I could stay there and feel sorry for myself, or I could commit to getting back up and working for my best health.

I don’t know where you are today, what needs rebuilding in your life, but I am guessing you are stronger than you realize. God has equipped you and will strengthen you and even in the rubble you can see the beauty…the hope that’s available.

If you are holding onto lies, I am praying you would ask God to reveal the truth. And remember that when we are at our “bottom”, the only place we can look is up. I encourage you to listen to the entire song The Unmaking…I hope it blesses you like it has me!

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Photo credit: changeable focus

Empowered to Choose

Choose Elijah

I shared last week about how I had given my kids 3 words. Words that might encourage them to see how God created them. Words that would inspire them to be a blessing to others. I saw it working right away…it is pretty amazing actually and I only wish I had figured this out years ago.

I guess it has been born of my own recent self discovery.

I have been stuck for so long in a place where I felt defined by my failures, where I wanted to be defined by my accomplishments, seeking man’s approval and not considering how I was created in the image of God.

I have walked through life making choices, having responses, laying blame and not taking responsibility for who I was because I wasn’t able to see who I was in Christ. Yes I committed my life to Him and believed I was saved, but I always saw myself as the messy sinner that I was.

I thought I had an understanding of grace, but never really for myself.

But I am realizing that living in this way, full of lies and weighed down by past sins isn’t the life giving freedom that God wants us to walk in, through Him. It is exactly why He sacrificed His son…so we didn’t have to live this way.

I see my own kids responding to life in many of the ways that I have, and I wanted it to change. Yes they would continue to make mistakes, we all do, but what if they could fill their minds and hearts with truth instead? Would it make a difference?

It has and it does.

Elijah has been the most impacted. He held the door again after school for his classmates. He apparently volunteered in the classroom when his teacher was out for the day and his substitute sent a note home and said he was her hero.

Do you know what it does to a young child to be called a hero?!

This morning we were talking on the way to school and he said he wanted to add a 4th word to his list! He called himself helpful. Then he proceeded to name some strengths he saw in me.

He is looking for the good in others and then telling them. He is six. Imagine what a lifetime of hearing and affirming the truth about who God created him to be will do?!

In choosing 3 simple words for my son he is now empowered to choose more truths for himself and others.

He is choosing to see that God created him for good. At six he has a purpose, he believes these truths about himself. He won’t always get it right, but he is embracing the positive instead of believing the negative lies.

Oh how I want everyone to be transformed in the way my son has. We need to start claiming the truths of who God created us to be. Stop believing the lies that you are too dirty, too broken, too sin-filled to be used by God.

Name 3 truths about who God created you to be and start walking in them today. {<====Click to Tweet}

I have maybe shared this song with you already, but it is such a powerful song that I wanted to share it today. It is called Clean by Natalie Grant and the words so speak to who I have seen myself to be, and the the reality of who I am in Christ.

God is restoring my heart and my life piece by piece. I can see it in even the smallest of ways and I am just humbled by His grace in my life.

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Do Not Be Afraid – An (in)Courage Guest Post

Incourage Mary post

It was the final day of our time in Florida and for some reason I woke up extra early with one thought in my mind…that I needed to check and see when the next opening was to submit a guest post over at one of my favorite sites – incourage.

Upon checking I discovered that the deadline was that very day. I started reflecting on the early days of Mary, her discovery that she was pregnant and her response. And that morning in the dark of my room I wrote words that surprisingly have encouraged me today.

I struggle with fear, I want things to be perfect and problems or changes in the plan cause me panic. I think there are many of us that can relate to that fear…

And Mary? What about her?

As I read the text in Luke again I saw a response that gave me great hope.

I would love if you would head on over here at incourage to read more about Mary and why we shouldn’t be afraid.

In moments of uncertainty, let’s shed the chains of fear and walk forward with a song of praise. (<====Click to Tweet)

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If you are just hearing about incourage for the first time you should really spend some time seeing all they have to offer to encourage women! And so you don’t miss a single post you should sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox!

I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and it is my prayer that we can enter into 2016 filled with excitement and anticipation at all God will do through us and with us!

A Woman of Fervent Prayer

Fervent

I have not seen the War Room movie yet, but I am desperate to after reading this amazing book Fervent -by Pricilla Shirer. I was sent this book and several others that are all designed to partner with the movie. All of them are wonderful resources, but this book was POWERFUL. I read almost the entire book on my plane trips to Florida!

Just the back cover was enough to peak my interest….

“You have an enemy. And he’s dead set on destroying all you hold dear. He does it strategically. He does it specifically. He’s doing it right this minute, in fact – aimed at personally drawn targets on your heart, your home, your mind, your life. And this book, the battle plan, is your chance to fight back. With a weapon that really works, With prayer.”

Oh friends. This book is THE BOOK you need to be reading right now.

I have long felt the attacks of an enemy that seeks to ruin and destroy all that we hold dear. Any time my husband or I step out to do something FOR God, participate in a church activity, share our story, get involved in a ministry…EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. we are attacked.

Sometimes we don’t see it as an attack either, we just become short with one another, our tempers flare, we get over busy and overwhelmed, we stop praying and start trying to handle it all ourselves and then BAM we are waist deep in the thick of a struggle or sin.

THIS is where the enemy wants to keep us!

STUCK. ANGRY. OVERWHELMED. DISTANT. LONELY…

My friends the list goes on and on. When we find ourselves surrounded with our problems, when we allow unforgiveness to flood our hearts, when we choose sin because trying to do the right thing is too much…the enemy is having a party.

Pricilla says “The real enemy isn’t your husband. Or your teenager. Or your brother’s wife. Or your mother-in-law. Or the weather. Or the traffic. Or your sweet tooth. Or whatever powder keg of frustration really gets under your skin and sets you off before you can think straight. The real enemy – the capital E “Enemy” – well you know who it is. And you cannot keep letting him go unchecked while you throw money and anger and logic and physchology at your problems in a vain attempt at overcoming or outsmarting them…..”(p 43)

It doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to sit around helpless. We CAN do something. We can fight, we can stand firm in who Christ has created us to be and we can live in victory but we have to enter the battle prepared. We MUST prepare first with prayer!

“Prayer is a reminder to yourself, as well as declaration to the enemy, that you know he’s there. That you are on to him. When you bring your concerns and fears and irritations to the Lord in prayer, you’re aligning your weak-ling spirit with the full force of God’s Holy Spirit. Instead of continuing to to fail by taking the battle into your own hands – and taking the battle to the wrong people – you’re joining instead with all the power of heaven….” (p44)

This book caused me to ask myself if I am bringing all of my fear, frustrations and worries to God. What am I trying to handle on my own? What am I “allowing” God to be a part of? So much more today I realize that He wants to be a part of ALL of it. God loves me and wants to fight FOR me, WITH me….so why don’t I let Him?

One of the ways this book encourages a strategic battle plan is to pray using the PRAY model.

P – Praise – Thank Him for completely forgiving you, cleansing you, changing you.

R – Repentance – See the foolishness of anything that perpetuates old sin patterns , and by His Holy Spirit, walk away.

A – Asking – Ask for freedom, for release, for the ability to deflect lies and embrace truth.

Y – Yes – Because you,, by His resurrection power, can now walk in a new way of life.

We need to fight these battles with prayer.

In the movie the main character gets a prayer room. She starts writing down her prayers and then tapes them up on the walls. It is a tangible way to see and remember all of the things you are praying for and also documenting when answers come.

At this point I don’t have a specific space that is a prayer room for me, but I do have a prayer journal. Each morning I get up and write out my daily prayer requests in my journal. One of the resources Icon Media sent to me was a prayer journal. They also have a beautiful book for kids that talks about a boy’s journey to prayer and it includes this poster with “I prayed” stickers so the kids can write out their prayers and see tangible results as well.

I am finding more and more for myself that prayer needs to be something so constant, it becomes like breathing. I need prayer to sustain me, to keep me going, to ground me, encourage and bring hope.

Prayer does that for me. Even when the answer isn’t as I had hoped…I can start to see God’s plan in my life, recognize His provision and protection. Prayer gives me peace when things are spinning out of control.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. I have more pages underlines, starred, dog eared and circled than I have in any book I have read recently. Filled with Bible verses, encouragement, real life examples and hope…Fervent is a book you need to order today!

Check out all the resources that accompany the War Room! I received these books at no cost from Icon Media in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Revealing – a GSD Post

Road

Oh friends what a journey I have been on this year. I have said it before but please DO NOT chose the word DEPEND as your One Word if you don’t want a year full of stretching! 😉

I feel like I have been on a bit of a roller coaster lately, but you know it is ok. I do know that God is working out some beauty in all of this and am trusting that He will be the One on which I can depend through it all.

He is faithful. He is steady.

When I am not, I can trust that He is.

I discovered this even more when I was on a family vacation in early June and I am sharing some of the newest things God has been revealing to me about myself over at God-sized Dreams today. Will you join me there?!

Mom Confessions – Smiths in Real Life – Part Ten

Mom ConfessionsIt has been fun sharing my “confessions” here each week. Like therapy, but free! 😉 And even though I would love for you all to go on believing that I have it all together, that isn’t my reality. At all. So I am joining up with my friend Anna over at Girl With Blog and sharing some of my Mom Confessions.

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I may have told Karlena that I needed 3 minutes without words the other day…I really couldn’t take all the talking.  I promptly hurt her feelings and then came the tears. Awesome. So I apologized and gave her all.the.things. Because that’s how I roll sometimes. Ok all the time.

karlena crying

I have a new guilty pleasure. I am not typically an ice cream eater. But last time we were at the grocery store I saw some waffle ice cream comes on an end cap. There was a coupon for $1.50 off ice cream too so it seemed like a great treat for the kids.  I made the mistake of trying one myself. For whatever reason I thought I should line the inside of the cone with caramel sauce. Oh my goodness it was like my very own homemade drumstick. Oh it is so good. It was my dinner on Saturday night. I have a serious problem.

ice cream 1

ice cream 2Oh and after my ice cream I are Doritos…because I needed some salty after my sweet.

Folding/pairing socks together is not something I enjoy. I had let our basket get overrun again this week and begged the kids to help. I told them they didn’t even have to do the folding of the socks, just the matching. I came home later and found this…

socks pile

It was pretty funny actually, any movement at all and that stack was going down. But I was able to whip through the pile in no time flat so I was a happy mama!

One morning this week Karlena woke up and just wanted to watch horse jumping on my computer…in her room. I obliged and found her later like this, she cracks me up!

Karlena computer

The fruit truck came to town again on Monday and this time it was blueberries and melons. We bought 24 pints. What can I say our kids love fruit and these were sooo good! One the way home Dominic and I may (or may not have) eaten an entire pint.

blueberries

I plan on freezing a bunch so that I can use them in my blueberry banana bread recipe later in the year. Does a fruit truck come to your area? Next up is bing cherries and I can’t wait!!

And finally it was our 19 year anniversary on Monday and boy did Dominic surprise me!! I am usually a card giver…but the reality is, Dominic isn’t as moved by cards as I am…so I didn’t get him anything. We typically haven’t made a big deal out of our anniversary…although we should right?! Being married this long is hard work – we should reward ourselves!

Anyways, not only did he get me a beautiful card, acknowledging my love of words…he also made mention of it at church and we were recognized AND he ordered flowers for me that Isaac delivered to the office!

This is HUGE people! And I likely won’t get flowers next year, but this year…I am totally soaking it up! 🙂

Anniversary flowers

Aren’t they beautiful?! I was just so so excited!! I am enjoying them all week!

Well that’s about all my brain can muster right now. It has been a week of long days and nights and little sleep…but rest is in sight! Have a wonderful rest of the week!

Roadblocks

Roadblock 2

Recently I got an email from a sweet reader B asking about roadblocks. I have written several times about the various ways in which our family faced difficult times, changes in our plan etc. She is facing a roadblock of her own and she wanted to know they whys…and what to do about it.

While I am at times an expert in living with the roadblock, I unfortunately don’t always deal with them well. In looking back at some of the major setbacks we have faced, I can see more clearly. I can see why God has us walk another path…why we needed to go through the difficulty.

But honestly, in the moment, all I can see is pain and frustration.

Dominic and I were talking again yesterday about how God answered a very simple prayer with a seemingly difficult answer. Almost 5 years ago Dominic started praying that God would bring him someone that would teach him another area of law…give him a chance to learn and thrive.

When we got that call from a head hunter about a position in MN, we did everything “right”. We researched the area, the type of law he would be doing, the man he was being interviewed by. We got down on our knees every morning and prayed together that God would clearly open or shut doors so we knew we were making wise decisions.

We didn’t want to make a choice based on money alone, and while the salary increase is what we needed financially at the time…we didn’t want to have dollar figures rule us. At the end of several months of interviews that resulted in a job offer, we took it excited to face the adventure ahead.

Dominic and I are the type that are comfortable in sameness. We don’t go out  much, we are homebodies and do well with routine. Living apart for the following 8 months, he in MN and the rest of us in SD, was one of the hardest things we have been through.

On top of the difficulty of living apart, his position at the new firm quickly turned to a hostile one. The environment there was awful, to say the least, and Dominic was under so much stress he was wearing it on the outside.

Why would God lead us to this place that was so toxic?

We pushed forward though, prayed about selling our house which sold after 1 viewing, in 4 days. An open door to make a move to MN to all be together.

And then, as I have shared before, months later we both found ourselves unemployed. How did this happen? How could God let this happen?! Those were the thoughts that went through my mind each day.

That year on my birthday my sister gave me a plaque with the following saying on it. “Sometimes God doesn’t give you what you think you want, not because you don’t deserve it, but because you deserve so much more.”

At the time I couldn’t see the truth in all of it.

I was bitter and angry at God and just wanted to be done with all the struggle. Have you ever found yourself there? Just wanting life, everything to come easy?!

But as you know, those dark times led to big steps of faith. Those steps led to the opening of our own business, my transferring to the office to work with Dominic…and today a successful business.

It isn’t easy. We are busy and often stressed at the workload, but it is a good stress. One that we are grateful for because we know that God’s hand was in the entire situation. God answered Dominic’s humble prayer so many years ago.

He provided someone that would teach him the basics of this new area of law, and while we had anticipated that he would be working there for a very long time…God had bigger plans for Dominic. Ones that we couldn’t have thought or imagined at the time.

Yes we had to face roadblocks and setbacks through the process, but ultimately our prayer was answered with a result that is far better than we could have hoped.

I don’t know what roadblock you may be facing today. And like I told B, I wish that I could tell her the “whys”, and the “what nows.” I don’t have all the answers, and honestly as I walked through my own I didn’t do it with a lot of grace.

So instead maybe learn what not to do from me! 🙂

Today I try and spend some time in the Bible each morning. I pray that God will guide our every step. And I try to remember all the ways that He has been faithful to us throughout the years, so when I face another roadblock (and oh they WILL come) I am prepared with my arsenal of faith stories to get me through in a positive light.

If you are facing a seemingly impossible situation today, would you leave a comment and let me know. You don’t have to give details if you don’t want, but I would love to pray for you!

Photo Credit: B4bees

Neighboring Well

ArtOfNeighboring

It was clear that she was “new”. As a new dance mom myself and just a few months into the routine, I could tell that she was attending drop off for the first time. I raised 3 boys before we had a chance to welcome a girl into our family, so this dance mom thing is new territory for me.

And can I just say it is a bit intimidating.

Maybe it is just women in general, we can come off as illusive and unapproachable. I do the same, I make myself busy with my phone so that I don’t have to make conversation with a “stranger.”

As an introvert and shy to boot, it is work for me to join a conversation, to make friends.

It isn’t comfortable, it never is, but I am learning that sometimes God calls us to step out of our comfort zones and do something different.

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My friend Kristin Schell is doing that with her #theturquoisetable movement.  I love this idea and can’t wait to get a table this spring. Recently she told me about another book that captures this idea of neighboring well.

The Art of Neighboring arrived at my door yesterday and I started reading it as I was getting ready this morning. If I didn’t have to be at work, I would be on the couch reading this. I had flagged pages and underlined in the Foreword. Oh it is going to be good.

“I am convinced that living in close community with our neighbors is the best way to live. The command to love our neighbors lies at the core of God’s plan for our lives, and when we follow this mandate, it changes everything. The journey begins when we choose a lifestyle of conversation and community over a lifestyle of busyness and accumulation. It’s about making room for life and choosing to befriend those God has placed around us.” p11

So often we make assumptions about people. We wave and smile as we drive down our neighborhoods, but it doesn’t go beyond that. And when we haven’t taken the time to really get to know someone, we assume we know what happens in their homes. Good, bad or otherwise…we don’t really know.

“Perhaps we’d find that the people on our block are normal people just like us. They go to work, hang out with their kids, and put their pants on one leg at a time. At the end of the day, they long for a place to belong, a place to be accepted and cared for. They want to do something significant with their lives, something that really matters. What good things might happen if you truly got to know the people in your neighborhood and they got to know you?” p18

These words put a lump in my throat.

If there are people in my neighborhood that are looking for a place to belong, and I can do something about it – what is stopping me? As a believer in Jesus, isn’t this my calling?

Love your neighbor as yourself.

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I am telling you that this isn’t going to be easy for me. My heart beats fast at considering hitting publish to these words, knowing that my neighbors may read them…people in my church. I don’t want to be someone who talks the talk and is afraid to walk the scary road ahead of me.

But this idea of better community, or neighboring well is hitting me on all sides and I can’t ignore it or assume that someone else will do the hard work.

So once again, with knees knocking, I step forward willing to let God use me. (<====Click to Tweet)

As I headed back to the dance studio to pick up my girl, I saw the new mom waiting…phone in hand, scrolling, because it is what we do.

And I turned and said hello, asked if they were new to Marshall, or just new to dance? They had just moved here for a job, new community and new people. Another mom joined the conversation and she also has been here only 2 years “And I don’t know anyone.”

I want that to change! So in a few minutes we stopped and share “newbie” stories and next week maybe that conversation can continue.

We don’t have to do this alone, we shouldn’t do this alone.

It will likely be baby steps for me, but they will be steps forward, to learning the art of neighboring, and neighboring well.

Will you join me?

Photo Credit: From The Art of Neighboring

More than anything, I want them to see You

merry go roundI am less than a week from turning 40. The BIG 4-0. And I am surprisingly ok with it all.

I wasn’t really dreading 40, I feel better about who I am and where I am, than I probably ever have. 40 isn’t something to fear or dread. It is just another year right?! And I am surrounded by some of the best family and friends a girl can have, so I am really just overwhelmed with blessings.

I have spent more years than I can count, and really that I would like to admit, worrying about trying to be the perfect person.

As far back as I can remember, I wanted what I didn’t have. I wanted the Strawberry Shortcake dolls that the girl down the street had, or the cute red Esprit jeans with the white hearts on them. (Oh how I coveted those pants and don’t even get me started on the matching heart sweater!!) Maybe it was the name brand jeans or a place on the cheerleading squad…there was always something missing.

I found myself wanting, lacking, and it wasn’t a place that I wanted to be.

So I studied hard so I would be the smart one and do something amazing with my life. Then I went off to college and couldn’t hack the career that I was certain was for me. And once again I knew that when someone looked at me, they just saw someone who was lacking.

For a perfectionist like myself, this is a terrible place to be. Because when you looked at me I wanted you to see beauty and grace and maybe the least bit of fashion sense.

But I was certain that what you saw was the opposite.

Have you ever found yourself there, on the merry-go-round of striving to be something, someone better than you feel you are? (<====Click To Tweet)

And yet it seems that no matter how hard you try, you come up short.

The past few years have been growing ones for me.

Yes I may have added a few pounds towards my waistline, ahem 😉 that comes with the aging I am told but I am not talking about that today. No, even more than that I am discovering who I am. What I love and where my passions are. I have reconnected with my love of writing and that alone has brought me so many gifts.

This refinement process hasn’t always been easy either. Dominic and I are learning how to work well with one another in our business, as we also try to manage a reasonable balance between work and home life. We have big kids, and middle kids and little kids…and raising them isn’t always a cake walk.

I yell too much, and get frustrated about little messes. I often forget to take time to count my blessings.

But despite all of that, all of my shortcomings, I am filled with the overwhelming peace that God will use it all for His glory. (<====Click to Tweet)

I have seen Him do it in my life already. How He took all the messy and the ugly parts of me and healed them and then gave me a story to share. He gave me a heart for others, for loving them and sharing the hope that is found in Him.

I don’t head into the Big 4-0 wanting you to see me and how put together I am or what a wonderful wife and mother I am.

More than anything, I hope that when you look at me you see Him.

You see a woman who loves Jesus. A woman who is admittedly a hot mess most days, but even on the worst of them can see the potential for God to use it for good.

Yes Lord, it is my prayer for year 40 and beyond…as long as you have planned for me here, that when people see me, they see You in me. Fashion or no, good hair days and bad, muffin tops and veiny legs….none of it perfect Lord, but through You I have the faith that I will be perfected for Your glory.

And that is all that matters.

Photo Credit: Great Beyond

2014 – A Review

Battle Lake Sunset 2Our family just spent a week up in a “cabin”…which in this case is code for very large home on a lake with its own theatre room which was ridiculous…except for a few of the bathrooms that only provided cold showers, we were surrounded in luxury. It was nice to get away from the “normal” and spend time with my extended family.

My dad commented that most years we get about 4 hours together at Christmas, and this year we had several days. It was a treat and a blessing that God provided for us. Yes, God has really provided for us this year. It hasn’t come without hard work, long hours and sacrifices…but He has been good.

I have been thinking a lot about the past year and what I thought 2014 was going to bring. In some ways I can’t believe that it is over and in others 2015 can’t come fast enough.

One of the biggest and continued blessings of 2014 has been the community of women that God has surrounded me with. Women that support and encourage me. Women that pray over me and love without judgement. These women in my tribe are the greatest gift I could have ever received this year. While community wasn’t what I was seeking when I started this God-sized Dream journey 2 years ago, it has been better than I could have hoped or imagined.

At the beginning of 2014, with wobbly and knocking knees, I shared my hopes to be called to the platform and speak. It terrifies me even still because even thinking about it makes me want to throw up a little, but still it is a calling that I feel. And while 2014 brought only 2 opportunities, one for my husband and I together at church and another at a local MOPS group early in December, both were an honor to be a part of.

I think starting the year, sharing that dream, I thought that maybe there would be something “bigger”…but I was reminded recently when listening to my 40 Day Prayer Challenge devotional by Mark Batterson, that I don’t have to influence thousands….maybe God calls me to be an influence to 1 who then goes on to influence thousands. Each is important. And so while my dream to speak didn’t end up looking like I had hoped, it was a blessing to be given an opportunity to share my story at all.

Because our stories matter, don’t they?! Our hurts and our hopes, they need to be shared. I have said before that I started blogging because of one woman who was brave enough to share the difficult…and her testimony and faith were what got me through a very dark time in my own life.

If you feel called to share your story, do it! We may not get a book deal, or a viral post….but our words may touch the heart of another who is hurting and THAT my friends is what makes it worth it!

At the beginning of the year I also felt challenged to find balance for my home, work and family. I felt like God wanted that for me and so I made it my word for 2014. And can I just say that challenge was a FAIL. Like a BIG TIME FAIL.

I think I walked away from 2014 with less balance than I started! 😉 So if you feel the same don’t feel discouraged! I am reminded once again that this road we are on is one of progress, not perfection. It is easy to look back at our year and feel like we have missed the mark. But I don’t want to end this year focusing on all the things that I didn’t get done, or I didn’t do well. Because intermixed in those failures are so so many blessings. And that is what I want to remember!

There has been growth in ways I hadn’t expected. Approximately 3 months ago I started my first 40 Day Prayer Challenge. I wasn’t sure what I expected, and with my track record of starting but not finishing so many other things….I didn’t hold high expectations for me on this. But yesterday I finished my 2nd 40 day challenge!

I have journaled through the process and while some of the prayers are yet to be answered, I have seen God moving and I can’t wait to keep going. I even got a new Prayer Circle Journal from my dear friend Delonna and it will be the perfect way to start praying through 2015!

Yes God has been moving.

So I leave 2014 filled with gratitude. No it didn’t always work out like I had hoped or imagined, but each step was a learning experience, an opportunity to grow, and for all of those things I am thankful.

And 2015? I thought I had a word to start the new year and now I feel like God has given me a different word. Because of course, and a little thank you to Christine who spoke life and truth to me this morning that helped in that revelation! I will share more about that tomorrow though.

Until then, can I just end this by saying thank you. Thank you for walking with me here, For encouraging me, believing in me. For each uplifting comment, and those who shared my writing. I know that many of us haven’t met in real life, but I count you all friends. You make this journey worth it! Happy New Year friends!

Today I am joining my friends over at God-sized Dreams linking up our dreaming stories from 2014!  And Kristin Hill Taylor’s Three Word Wednesday!

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