Teddy Bear or Tarantula?

Have you ever watched the show, “Total Blackout”?

I saw it for the first time tonight and I am not kidding when I say I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard.

Y’ALL, IT IS HILARIOUS.

Essentially, the show is made up of three tasks that each contestant/contestant team has to perform.

Except there is one little minor detail we got going on here: It is in COMPLETE DARKNESS. Hints the name: Total blackout.

I mean, not even a night-light or a peephole of light.

Tonight, one of the challenges was to transfer items from one tank to another tank. The first thing that they transferred from the tank was a SNAKE.

Yes, a snake. Count me out then! Done! See y’all later! Not a fan of snakes.

However, the next thing they picked out of the tank was a teddy bear! A literal wet stuffed animal.

It can’t bite. Or hurt you. Or anything!

But in the dark, you don’t know that do you?

So, naturally, the contestant was screaming and barely holding it by the tip of the ear screaming “OH MY GOSH! AHHH WHAT IS THIS!!!?”(meanwhile, I am rolling laughing).

I guess my point is, if you are that contestant? You are TERRIFIED. You are walking in the unknown, completely unaware of what challenge you are about to face.

It often is not the particular challenges in this show that make it so difficult to complete, but rather the perspective that these contestants have to compete in!

It makes teddy bears turn into monsters!

Aren’t we the same in our daily lives?

We allow ourselves to mull around in darkness, not allowing any light to permeate our minds. Therefore, our perspectives are skewed and are reality is irrational.

Our imaginations run wild, imaging the worst possible circumstances.

Our anxiety runs sky high and before you know it, our mole hill is Mount Everest!

The reality of any situation is this: It is not too big for our God to fix and it is not too small for Our God to overlook.

Turn on the LIGHTS!

Why operate in “total blackout” when you have the ability to turn on the lights!?

Don’t let your teddy bear become a tarantula!  

Operation Total Blackout is over, Jesus is on the scene 🙂

He wants it ALL.

You know how there are those days when nothing in particular happens but your heart is just vulnerable, a little anxious maybe? Well, yesterday was one of those days for me.

So, right after work, I headed to the gym to just let my mind sort itself out. It usually does that when I’m running.

I start up the treadmill and plug in my headphones, completely unaware of what song it would play since I hit “shuffle”, and one of my favorite songs comes on.

My eyes start to “water” a little bit, as I am clearly  reminded of whose hands hold my heart.

My mind started to sift apart the words and feed my soul with Jesus’  truth and desire for my life.

“Love me, love me with your whole heart. He wants it all today.”

Your WHOLE heart. Not just the parts that seem pleasing to Him. Or the parts that are not damaged from the past. He wants every single bit of your heart to love on WHO HE IS!

And when you do, your anxiety turns to excitement and your fear turns to trust because you realize that this life- yeah, it’s not about you! It’s about Him and He deserves it ALL.

“Serve me, Serve me with your life now. He wants it all today.”

Your entire LIFE. Every single part of it. He doesn’t just want you on Sundays, as if it’s a weekly date! Your heart was made to pursue Your father, and until you realize that Your purpose is to serve Him, you will never be content! He wants all of you, not because He is afraid something else will win you over, but because He knows He is the only thing that can truly win your heart’s affection. Forever.

“Bow down, let go of your idols. He wants it all today.”

Let GO. Let ‘em go. Jesus knows that we live in a world full of distractions and brokenness, a world full of promises that lead to empty hearts, timid souls and weak bodies.

He begs of us to cling to Him, more than any other thing or person in this world, because guess what? You are not of this world!

You were made for SO MUCH MORE.

As I’m running and the song continues to play, a flood of relief consumes my body. Not just a wave, but a flood!

My friend, when you draw near to Jesus, He draws near to you! He sits you in His lap, He combs your hair, He dries your tears, He dusts off your feet and He looks in your eyes and says: “I’ve missed you! Glad you are home.”

Jesus, I pray that today we give you all of us. I know that we sometimes worry that we are not good enough but Jesus, You find us worthy! Irreplaceable! Perfect in your eyes!

I pray that we all seek to serve you today Father, to let go of our idols that distract us from the real purpose we are here.

Thank you for loving us like you do and creating our hearts to pursue the Ultimate Keeper of Promises.

In Jesus Name, Amen 🙂

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” -Matthew 16:24-27

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” -Isaiah 40:28

Don’t Dread, Just Do!

“Ughhhh I am so not ready for this week.”

“Is the weekend seriously already over?!”

“I have SO much to do this week, I just don’t think I can handle it.”

“Have you seen my to-do list?!?”

WAH WAH WAH.

Complaining. Dreading. Talking and not doing. We are ALL good at it.

One of my favorite quotes goes like this:

“If you have time to whine and complain about something, then you have time to do something about it.” –Anthony J. D’Angelo

The truth is, when you actually start attacking the things on your to-do list instead of worrying about them, talking about them and dreading them, they are not nearly as awful as you talked them up and imagined them to be!

Dreading tasks allows your brain to take a situation, add a few “what-if’s” to it, pump up the anxiety and WA LA- it suddenly seems impossible!

So, naturally, you procrastinate doing the inevitable. You push back doing what you have to do because you spend so much time mentally HATING what is coming up!

For example, I know everyone has gone to the gym when they have been dreading working out all day.

The energy just isn’t there. Work made for a long day and the last thing you want to do is run on a treadmill.

However, you push through it. You suit up, drink your water and some how plant yourself on the treadmill.

An hour later, you feel like you can climb a mountain! Your energy is up, you feel refreshed and thankful that you pushed past the dread and did what you knew you needed to do anyway!

Let me encourage you this week to attack your to-do list with excitement and determination rather than dread and discouragement.

You CAN do it!!!

And you will!

And your to-do list will get smaller.

 And your worries will be fewer.

So, don’t dread. Just do. The rest will take care of itself 🙂

You are valuable.

“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” –Psalm 34:5

You are radiant. Jesus is in you and therefore you shine! I hope you do not let anyone dim your light, for you are radiant in Jesus!

Jesus to you: I know life is not always easy but my love, do not let your head hang low. Look to me for I know everything, and my greatest work are my children. Do not let shame, guilt or condemnation captivate your spirit, but rather sit with me for a little while and let my reassuring eyes look within your soul. YOU are radiant!

“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” –song of Solomon 4:7 

You are beautiful. Without flaw. Not because you are so wonderful, but because Jesus sees you through His eyes and He is without flaw.

Jesus to you: Beloved, as you read this, take a minute to just rest in my Truth that there is no flaw in you. I watch you go throughout the day, picking yourself apart and feeding yourself lies. Relinquish those to me tonight and let me remind you of how beautiful you are!

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” –Psalm 139:14

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Jesus longs for you to see yourself as He sees you.

Jesus to you: Beloved, do not seek to change who you are on the inside or how you look. I hand-crafted you, every fiber of your being, and I take great delight in you. It pains my heart to hear you wish you were someone else or that you looked another way. Trust me when I tell you that you are wonderfully made. I do not make mistakes, only masterpieces, and you are one of my favorite masterpieces.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” –Ephesians 2:10

You are created with the hands and mind of Jesus, with a very important purpose!

Jesus to you: My sweet child, do you know how valuable you are to my Kingdom? You are vital! No matter how many times you’ve messed up, my plans for you are good and they are promised. Just as a carpenter builds His pieces with great intentions for what they will do and how they will serve him, I have created you with a specific plan that only you can do. Never doubt that you are not good enough for my Kingdom. You, just like you are, are the perfect vessel to use!

As it is Friday night and my brain is absolutely fried, it was on my heart to just remind you of how valuable you are 🙂

Jesus is so sweet to us.

Because of who He is, we are.

Thankful for that truth tonight 🙂

Embracing the Season

With the cold weather sorta, kinda,  alittle bit (I am in Texas) coming into the picture, I started reflecting on the different seasons that we pass through during the year.

Winter, Spring, Fall, and Summer. All of them are so different, others being more favorable than others, depending on what kind of conditions you like.

But it’s okay, you know you’ll last…because it’s just a season. It will pass and others will come.

Isn’t life the same way?

Looking back on my life, I have gone through so many different seasons.

There are many factors that affected these “seasons”  in my life. Some were old boyfriends, some were past insecurities, some were strained friendships and others were seasons of growth and breakthroughs.

I think there were so many times in which I was terrified to let go of something or someone, because it had been with me or a part of my life for so long.

Looking back? It seems much shorter, like a season that I had to pass through to get to where I am today.

That internship that I thought I was going to DIE if I attended one more day? Yeahhhh, still alive!

That boyfriend (can’t believe I’m admitting this in writing) that I planned my future kids with and thought I was going to lose my left leg and sanity when we broke up? Yep, still here!

Seasons often seem much longer and dreadful when you are in the middle of them but looking back, they become just a patch in the quilt.

Let me explain…

Friendships are a wonderful example. We all start off elementary school and middle school with the same group of friends. Then, in highschool, some of them part ways and become our rivals and we see them less, therefore creating a new circle of best friends and losing grip on our old ones. Then college rolls around, distance makes its way in the picture and time gets the best of everyone…and, well, certain friends start to feel more like acquantainces and life goes on.

No one did anything “wrong.” Nothing in particular happened.

Your friendship? It was perfect, for a season. It doesn’t have to feel like a loss, as it was exactly what you needed when you were at a different point in your life, but now? Things are a little different and the circumstances have changed.

Some seasons in life are characterized by abundant success and new connections with your career.

Some are characterized by tragedy and heartache and the sun just seems a little less bright during those days.

Some are periods of personal growth and development, in which you realize what your goals and your dreams are and you gain the confidence to pursue them.

Some are…let’s be honest….seasons where you learn what you do not want in a husband/wife.

Just bein’ real.

Truly though, I think it is crucial to look back on these times in our life and remind ourselves that seasons are natural and they are inevitable.

Friendships and relationships change.

Distance can cause disconnect.

Life throws you curveballs, sometimes you swing and miss and sometimes you hit the sweet spot.

But either way, you can’t be afraid to step up to the plate. Because as life has shown you over and over again, seasons will pass you by and you will look back and wished that you could’ve had the perspective that you have now.

Do not spend summertime wishing it was fall or do not spend winter wishing it was summer.

Rest assured, no matter how difficult the season you are in-it WILL pass.

Cherish the difficulties, the struggles, the breakdowns and the closed doors- they are not life’s way of telling you to quit. I assure you, they are God’s way of telling you He has something else in store…perhaps for another season.

 Choose to grow, to pursue and to seek Jesus during this season of your life. He is the reason for the season….every season 🙂

A Servant’s Heart

On the heels of the election (don’t worry, I’m not going to make a post about the election), I have had two things on my mind.

Service and love.

I’m not all too sure why these topics have consumed my thoughts but they have. Maybe it’s because my thoughts with the election were that I just want people to be less concerned with what the country can do for them but what they can do for their country . Yes, the all-too-familiar quote from JFK, but it is so very true.

And love, because how better to serve than to love, right?

So, yes, maybe that’s why these things are at the forefront of my mind. 

Or maybe it’s because, as I sit at work, in my cubicle, tending to my duties and working all day, I question whether I am making a difference at all in the lives of those around me.

Am I loving them and serving them like I am supposed to?

As I write emails, is it possible to see past my words and show love to my co-workers?

Is it possible that, despite what my emotions want to do, I can choose to love others when I would prefer to cry out of stress and frustration?

You see, there is one thing that we can all give no matter how much we own, one thing we can all offer no matter where we are and one thing we all require no matter what way we are “wired”. It’s LOVE. 

It sounds cliché but it is truly a universal language. Spoken by all because it is required by all. 

The currency is the same in every place and we do not have to be worried about running out, because we receive an endless supply from the man upstairs.

So the economy? Yep, not an excuse in this department!

And the craziest part about it is: Everyone needs it. Literally every beating heart in this world needs love.

So, as I’m writing, I’m thinking through this myself.

 This is nuts. So the ONE thing that EVERYBODY NEEDS is the one thing that is FREE to give away and we have an ABUNDANT supply of, yet it is so lacking in our society?

Read that again.

It is FREE to give away. Yes, it doesn’t cost you a dime to love someone. And it doesn’t cost them a dime to receive it.

Everyone needs it. No matter what they say, where they come from, what they look like or who they are, they need love. Their heart was created for it and by it.

We can never run out. Ever. Even if we tried. When we choose to stop loving, Jesus loves even more. 

YET, it’s rare.

People are too busy.

Too scared to be uncomfortable.

Because loving someone outside their comfort zone would require a little….faith. Trust. LOVE.

Loving those that you also love to like- now that’s easy most of the time! But what about those that do not live inside the four walls of your home? Or those that do not attend weekly social nights with the girls/guys?

Jesus says that when we love the LEAST of these, we are loving Him.

He looks at us behind every eye we make contact with, every hand that we shake, every heart we encounter and every life we approach.

Would it change YOUR mind how you loved others if you viewed each of them as Jesus?

I know it would mine.

I’m not sure if I’m rambling, quite possibly so. But something in my spirit is just unsettled with the fact that I act as though my “hands are tied” sometimes because I can’t  spend all my waking moments in the homeless shelter (please do not think I am saying that is not important! It is crucial! And wonderful! But it certainly isn’t the only way to serve through love!)

Service is making bagged lunches for the homeless and delivering them in the cold. 

Service is spending time with children that have no clue what it is like to be invested in.

Service is being a light in your workplace, encouraging those around you and LOVING Jesus through your co-workers, despite the corporate, impersonal approach we are often told is more “professional.”

Service sometimes requires your hands.

But it ALWAYS requires your heart.

Because when you LOVE others, despite how much you feel like you are “doing”, it is profound the different you can make. 

Love someone extra hard today! Pray for them, encourage them and SERVE them. The ultimate form of worship is servanthood and it’s time to worship our King and LOVE on His people! 

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13:13

Proudly an American, Jesus-follower.

The election, I’m just not sure how to avoid that topic at this point in time tonight.

It’s the topic of every news station. 

Every facebook post, tweet and instagram.

And my most recent text conversation with my mother:

Me: How are you feeling about the election?

Her response: “I know the plans I have for you….to give you a hope and a future.”

You see, no matter how I am “feeling” about politics, there is a fact that will always reign true no matter whether I bleed red or blue- Jesus is our hope.

It is so easy to get so immersed in the election, to get consumed with which political party is taking the lead and to spend your time wondering about your future.

 It is filled with uncertainty. Changes. Opposition. 

And humans. 

Simple as that. Flawed people that are trying to just figure it all out.

But Jesus?

He wins all the electoral votes.

He wins all the popular vote. Why? Because he literally created every heart that beats. 

His promises form a foundation so strong that nothing on this earth can even touch. 

His loving arms are not based upon our response to Him but rather His response to us: eternal love.

Our plans are good and hopeful because of who He is, not because of who we are.

These things- these are things we KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that reign true in our lives.

As I sit here watching the election results, I can not help but realize how divided we are as a nation.  It is scary to think that people spend more time arguing their point  and demonstrating their power rather than using their position to make positive, effective changes for our country.

I pray that America focuses on the ideals that this country was founded upon.

I pray that we do not become a nation who seeks to be served rather than to serve.

I pray that we do not lose our work ethic, that we appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into any job and that we expect it from everyone equally.

I pray for exposure, so that the negative and deceitful acts going on in our country will be brought to light.

I pray for discernment for our political leaders, that they may see what America needs and that they may go after it.

I pray for open ears for every individual, that we may listen more than we speak, so that we may truly understand the needs of others and our country.

I pray that our soldiers efforts are not put in vain and that the freedom they fight to protect is considered an absolutely priority in our nation, always.

I pray that fear does not consume any spirit nor worry does not consume any mind moving forward.

I hope and pray for so many things for our country.

But WHO do I hope in? 

Well, that all boils down to one word: Jesus.

I am an American, Jesus-follower. No matter how the election turns out, that is something I will always proudly stand by.  

Pullin’ Those Weeds.

What is the least exciting job when tending to a garden?

Yep. Pulling those weeds out.

It seriously is quite terrible. It’s a nitty-gritty job that involves getting all up in that dirt and using some elbow grease.

Also, they are EVERYWHERE. And come out of NO WHERE!  My punishment when I was a child:

My mother: “Wanna talk back to your mama? Go pull weeds.”

My response: “You’re kidding me, right? I’d rather cut the grass with scissors.”

My mother: “Yay! Now two hours of pulling weeds rather than one.”

My response: Absolutely nothing. Three hours of pulling weeds = death penalty.

Seriously, though.

It sounds pretty routine but what would happen if you didn’t?

Your garden would be overtaken with long, ugly, good-for nothing weeds. No one could even see your pretty, pink flowers!!!

Same goes for your mind!

 If you constantly have negative thoughts (WEED), gossip (WEED),  Satan’s lies (WEED),worries about the future (WEED)  and what other have said about you (WEED) cloud your mind, you will no room for positive thoughts that please the Lord (BIG BEAUTIFUL HYDRANGEAS!)

“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” –Proverbs 4:23 (NCV)

Your thoughts can either be toxic to your spring of life or they can purify it with truth!

If you willingly let people plant weeds in your yard/mind, that’s your own fault!

Think about it: What have others said about you that you have let toil over and over in your mind and become a root of bitterness?

What lies of Satan’s have you taken for truth that have consumed your thought process and instilled fear or insecurity within you or your abilities? 

What gossip train have you recently jumped on that you thought would lead you to a place of feeling better about yourself but instead, you are questioning your own character rather than those you talk about?

Your thoughts run your life.

Negative or positive. Productive or unproductive. Seeded in truth or grounded in lies. They affect your daily words and actions.

Now, remember, if you take out the  “weeds” in your life, you can’t leave just an empty spot and not expect something to take root. 

You must replace the negative with the positive.

What used to be a weed, decide to plant a flower.

Fertilize your thoughts with water from the living well Himself, Jesus!

Let Him reassure you of His truth. Let the garden of your life be so deeply rooted in Him, that it rejects the weeds that try to implement themselves where they do not belong.

Let’s start a new gardening strategy here:

  • REJECT.
  • Reject thoughts that do not please the Lord.
  • REPLACE
  • Replace those harsh, negative thoughts with positive and truthful thoughts that nourish your soul and heart.
  • WATER 
  • Water these precious seeds that fill your mind. Hydrate your life! Do not settle for wilted, “used to be pretty” flowers when you can have a fresh bouquet everyday! Jesus wants to fill your cup EVERYDAY! 

I don’t know about y’all but I am a huge fan of hydrangeas, not weeds. It’s time to get to wackin’ those suckers down!

What’s growin’ in your garden? Praying for you 🙂

Get to Cookin’!

Consistency.

Oh yeah, here we go. 

When I think about important qualities to have, I often undermine the importance of being consistent. Devoted to something.

Everytime my mother and I discuss writing, she has one piece of advice.

“Cleere, be consistent. Period. Until you do that, stop talking about it.”

She’s right. Unfortunately.

 Have you seen the movie, “Julie and Julia”? 

It’s about a woman named Julie Powell, who attempts to re-construct her life and decides that in order to really embrace her new culinary career, she must cook every one of Julia Child’s recipes, all 524 recipes in 365 days.

There is something about this movie that I always remember: No matter what was going on that day, no matter how many things she burned, no matter what-  she cooked everyday.

Without fail.

As time went on, she got better. 

Things came naturally.

After a few months, teaspoon measurements could be done blind-folded and taste-testing a dish became more gratifying with every recipe she cooked and every check mark she made.

In fact, after she got started and had a month under belt, it wasn’t even considered an option to NOT cook!

The more consistent she was, the more her goal of becoming a chef became possible.

Not only did she cook everyday, but she blogged her progress everyday as well.

The mishaps. The exciting recipes that turned out perfectly were documented, and those ones that, well, when the oven messed up, those were documented, too.

Yep, every single one.

With time, she had a following. People opened her blog, expecting the latest recipe to be available accompanied by a picture of the perfectly crisp casserole or charcoal flavored pork.

It showed the human side to a goal and the fact that experience is life’s greatest teacher. The good, the bad, and the ugly were all blog material.

And that in itself= GENIUS.

As I reflect on this movie, I realize Julie also has something that many others don’t when chasing a dream or pursuing a goal:

  1. A way to document her progress
  2. Accountability

Do you lost weight if you neglect to tell anyone your goal and the only thing that’s for dinner everynight is hamburgers and French fries?

I am pretty sure every weight loss show includes a weekly weigh-in to provide motivation for that individual, whether it is stimulated from a lack of progress before or from exceeding their expectations.

Not to be rambling, but as I am writing now, it is all clicking. 

HELLURRR!

You want to write a book? Write everyday. Make a way to document how often you write.

You want to lose weight? Make a gym schedule. One day a week ain’t gonna cut it sista friend. And tell somebody! I promise you when it is raining, you will NEED that reminder that it will pay off.

You want to make a 2100 on the SAT? Start studying daily. Tell your mother your goal- believe me, she WILL keep you accountable. 

CONSISTENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY.

Goals are usually set to help you pursue something that doesn’t come naturally with the course of your day. 

It requires extra time. And energy. And effort. And passion. And determination.

SO, here we go. 

I’m dedicating myself to writing a blog everyday for 40 days. 

If I’m tired, you might get a paragraph.

If I’m feelin’ good, you might get an Emily Dickens novel. 

Either way, it’s time to get to steppin’.

Putting an extra sticker in my planner for everyday I write and telling all of you for accountability (I realize I could totally be talking to myself here…)

You with me? Do you need to change something in your life?  Or actually chase a dream you’ve been “thinking about” for a year?

It’s time to put your money where your mouth is.

Get an apron on and get to cookin’, friend. 🙂