Embracing your uniqueness

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Can I be real? It can be draining being a mom…but there is nothing I would rather do. That is why I am so thankful that I am involved in a great ministry, called MOPS, moms of preschoolers. Its literally a support group for moms, so that we stay encouraged and build friendships. I am so excited as we prepare for our new MOPS year with our new theme. We had a meeting to talk about the upcoming year and the leaders asked us to share 2 things…

What is your biggest struggle or beautiful mess (as we call it) in this season of your life? And what new thing do you want to do this year?

To answer the first question, my biggest struggle currently as a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom), is feeling content in who I am. I want to be a great wife, a wonderful mom, and a fun friend. But sometimes the little things get to me. Having a 7 month old is a job in itself, but adding a 5 year old energetic boy is like that same job, while walking a tight rope and trying to juggle several balls at once…it gets me tired just thinking about. lol:)  I know I say this all the time, I am thankful for this position, as some don’t get this opportunity. But with this role, comes a lot of responsibility.

I am home most of the day and I am the type of person that likes to have a checklist on things done. The problem with this, is that after I get the dishes washed, the sink fills up with dirty dishes again. Or I get done with laundry and then there are dirty clothes. Sometimes, I feel so accomplished if I cook a real dinner! (other than chicken nuggets) Sometimes, I feel like I don’t do enough. I play the comparison game. But let me tell you, God always speaks to us, especially when we feel at the bottom.

I am by myself most of the day and eat most of my meals either standing up or solo. Because we choose this lifestyle, Stephen works a lot. For all you SAHMs, let me encourage you, this season will be short lived. Sometimes we think, “I can’t wait until they are bigger so they can do things for themselves.” However, each season has its own struggle and unique joy that you’ll never get back too. Enjoy your time with them. There is a saying I love that illustrates this point beautifully “When it comes to raising children, the days are long, but the years are short.” I am so blessed to have a great support system with my family.

To combat my struggle with contentment I was encouraged by a recent message Pastor Tony preached titled, “Embracing your uniqueness.” Here are some important points that I loved:

We need to embrace our uniqueness…when we do this, we are accepting who God created us to be. Start loving yourself the way God loves you.

Stop comparing yourself to other women. Stop listening to the world’s system on how you should look, act, or think. We all are unique, so why do we compare ourselves to others? We diminish God when we compare ourselves. We are saying, “why didn’t God created me like that?” We try to find our identity in unrealistic expectations of other people. Stop fighting the “mommy wars.” Instead, learn from other mothers and share your experiences. For example, stay at home moms to working moms. Sometimes SAHMs want to be working moms and vice versa. Know that whatever you are, God is using you and you are the BEST mother your children can have.

Start valuing everything that is unique about you. What sets you apart from others? Thank Him for your uniqueness…your physical features, your gifts, passions, and dreams. God has a purpose for you and no one can do what you can do. When we embrace our purpose, we are saying, “Lord, here I am.” Embrace your purpose not someone else’s purpose.

Okay, you might be thinking, I got that, but how do i do that?

Do you pray? Daily? Multiple times through the day? I feel as if I don’t pray hard enough or even often enough. I’m changing that with focus and encouragement from this scripture:

phil 4-6,7

 

Why don’t more Christians have a more serious meaningful prayer life? Do they really believe that prayer works? If they did why don’t they pray more?

We need to re-think our personal beliefs about God, His promises and His power.  God is truthful, All Powerful, Faithful! Many Christians don’t think they really need to pray because God knows your heart and after all He is going to work everything out for everyone’s good anyway. Repeatedly, throughout the Bible, He has commanded us to pray, offered rewards to us if we would, and pleaded with us to spend time talking to Him … and promised that HE WILL ANSWER.

Whatever season of life you are in, I encourage you to pray more.
The 2nd question about starting or trying a new thing was a little harder to answer for me. I like a routine and well my husband and I are not early adopters of anything. Usually we let many others try stuff and confirm to us that a) it works great, and b) it’s fabulous you should try it.

It’s also a very broad question it could be anything. I answered the question by asking myself “In this season of life that you want new thing do I want to try to do?” I thought about it and said, I want to be more creative. What I mean is, I want to try to make things. I am a great graphic designer (I am embracing my uniqueness), but I want to be more crafty. This is hard for me, because I am a perfectionist. If it doesn’t look right or I don’t think I can do it, I won’t even try. But this year, I am going stretch myself and try new things. My first creative task is making some hair bows. In the future, please ask me how I am doing on this, so that I don’t get lazy or discouraged.

Ladies, what is your beautiful mess? What is something you want to try this year? Do you want to learn to sew, take cooking lessons, change your hairstyle, etc. Nothing is too small or too big, just answer honestly. I would love to hear your comments! Lets encourage and pray for one another! Love from one Moodsetter to another Moodsetter.

Uninterrupted Quiet Time…Not So Much

Yesterday, was a long day for me and I had not planned to go to church that night. Anyone that truly knows me, knows that I don’t like to miss church. In enjoy church very much as I am encouIMG_0426raged and challenged everytime I go there. Well yesterday, I didn’t feel like going. It was a long Wednesday and I had made my mind up early in the afternoon that I wasn’t going to go. Stephen had a work appointment, so he was going to go to church from there. So I went on with my daily routine…help Jude with his homework, feed Avalyn, cook dinner, etc. As Jude and I were eating dinner, he said, “Mommy, I wish it was church night tonight.” (Quick reminder, this is a 5 year old that still doesn’t know his days of the week.) I said, “Jude, it is church night, but we aren’t going. I am really tired, so we won’t be going tonight.” He said, “But I really want to go. I have to go to my Royal Rangers class and learn about the Bible and earn my badges.” Looking at me with those big brown eyes, my heart was quickly convicted. I then told him, if we could finish dinner, clean up and get ready, we could go. He finished all his dinner and instantly got ready. I share with you this story, because the devil tried to keep me from going to church last night. He knew I needed to be there. All day, he reminded me how tired I was and how difficult it would be for me to get everything ready by myself to go to church.He almost me had me, until my mighty lil’ man of God stepped in.

Lately, I have been feeling drained and far from the Lord. I feel like I don’t have time for my quiet time. It seems like something is always coming up. I wake up in the morning and I have my routine and these past weeks God hasn’t been scheduled in there. I am being so real, because I feel like as a mom, a wife, a woman, we could all relate to this. However, even when I feel far from God, He draws near to me. Pastor Tony did a great (and funny) analogy the other day at church. He had a volunteer come up on stage and said that when we feel like something is so heavy on us but we feel far from God, that is when the Holy Spirit is closest to us.

I have to make a conscious effort to worship God and spend that time with God, even when its not convenient for me. I may not have that “quiet” time I yearn for. I may have to read the Bible while I am nursing Avalyn or listen to sermons while cooking meals. We live in a time where it is so easy to listen and find God’s Word. I am fortunate to have an iPhone. There is no excuse for me not to be able to hear the Bible, listen to praise music, or sermons on my phone. Its so easy and accessible.

I say all that because Pastor Tony’s message last night was how to keep the advantage. We already have the advantage, but how do we keep it? Its simple, staying in God’s Word. It may not be easy, but it’s simple.

Joshua 1:8 says:

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Keep the Word around you all the time. My problem is, I want it to be quiet and no distractions. However, Pastor Tony encouraged us last night, even if we are just playing The Word in the background, we are retaining it. It’s getting in our Spirit. How many times have we learned a song, and didn’t even realize we knew the words? Faith comes from hearing and hearing. So turn something godly on.

The reality in my life, (right now) is that I may not get uninterrupted time to pray or even some of the sermons I so desperately want to hear. My time with God may have to be broken up throughout the day or delayed until evening. But God desires us as we are, He wants us to continually seek Him. Through His strength, He enables us to pursue holiness. However tired our earthly bodies may feel, He gives us the strength for another day. Those are the days that I must wake up and declare, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let me rejoice and be glad in it.”

One of my favorite verses from the Bible is Mathew 11:28–30.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Never have I needed these words more. What a sweet Savior we have! He knows we need rest and He freely gives it to us. These words are so needed for a mother’s heart. Because of Christ, God accepts our worship to Him, messy or neat.

On the way home from church, my heart was full. I’m so grateful that God is giving me the grace to embrace worship in every stage of life—even the most inconvenient.

I promise you, the times that I am listening to a sermon or reading a passage in the Bible, it helps me get through the day. The Holy Spirit helps me! I find myself getting irritated easily and more tired when I don’t get the Word in me. Just like we need food, water and exercise for a healthy life, we need spiritual food (the Word) as well. Sometimes even more…

How do you worship God through some of the inconveniences that come with motherhood? I am speaking from a stay at home mom perspective, but know that it is so difficult for working moms as well. I would love to hear your thoughts and encouragement.

Appendi-What?


This isn’t how I envisioned spending a typical Friday. I had my day planned with a play date in the morning then making sure Jude took his kindergarten cap and gown pictures and then going to a Christian concert at night. Little did I know when I woke up on Thursday that we would be taking Jude to the emergency room later on that night. The doctors ordered some tests and did ultrasounds to rule out appendicitis. They wanted to keep him overnight, so as I came home to be with Avalyn and Stephen stayed with Jude. As many of you know, Jude is so precious to me and for me to leave him for the night was extremely hard for me. 

So they ran tests and came to conclusion that Jude needed to have his appendix removed. So today has been a waiting game for him to have this procedure done. So as I sat there with Jude, telling him everything will be ok and he will feel a lot better, I had this peace with me. I do a lot of worrying but sitting there I wasn’t. Praise God! There was a message I was listening to the other day by Pastor Steven Furtick and this is what he said that spoke to me.

“Don’t you know that worry is a sin? Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5-7 and characterizes the sin ‘worry’ in the same sermon as adultery and murder. More specifically, Matthew 6:25 says, “Don’t you worry about your life!” This covers it all. Not just don’t just worry about your bills, kids, food, clothes, job, but don’t worry about your LIFE. Jesus doesn’t say not to be prepared for things, but He said not to worry about it. Life is more than clothes and food..

I listened to that message 2 days ago and am so glad that God allowed me to remember it today. While we were in the pre-op room, I had such peace that everything was going to alright. It wasn’t until a couple hours later that it got to me. I started thinking, my baby was being operated on! The tears started flowing…yes I had a moment. Then STEPHEN grabbed my hand and said “he is going to be alright, he has the best care and God is with him. ” So we walked to the waiting room, not saying anything at all, just walking in peace that everything was going to be okay. While we waited, my parents, Mrs. Frances, Adel, Maria, and the cousins anxiously awaited the good report from the doctors. It was like a scene from my favorite show “Parenthood.” If you have watched it, I love it because it is my family on TV. We are the Bravermans:) Two hours later, we went to see Jude in the recovery room and in pain, which is completely normal. Our sweet, energetic little boy was in pain and laying completely still. My heart was breaking for him, but knew I had to be strong for him. So we got to the room and it was just Stephen, me and the 2 grandmas to sit with him while he “recovered.” A little while later, his cousins came back to visit him. That made him feel so much better and is on the road to healing. As I sit back and reflect on these last 48 hours, I am in awe of God’s mercy. I feel like it was a blur and like I literally floated there and back with Avalyn on my hip. I am thankful for my husband that is an awesome daddy to our children. I think it was harder for him to see the IV go in Jude’s arm than Jude himself. He literally felt the pain, lol.  I am thankful for the doctors and medical care of Arnold Palmer Hospital, the best hospital out there. I am thankful for my loving family and my wonderful mother in law, that were here for us on this difficult day. I am thankful for all my church family and godly friends that overflowed my cup with their prayers and encouraging words throughout the day. Today, I am extremely thankful that I have a healthy boy that is alive and is recovering wonderfully. There at the hospital are many children fighting for their life. And last but not least, I am thankful to my Savior that died on the cross and shed His blood, not only for forgiveness of my sins, but for healing in our bodies. Isaiah 53:5(NCV)

But he was wounded for the wrong we did; he was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to him, and we are healed because of his wounds.

Again, thank you for your kind words, thoughts and prayers. We are so thankful that Jude is so loved!!!

Here are some pics of the day…

A nurse explaining what surgery is and what they were going to do to Jude

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ImageRight before surgery, so thankful for the bunny Nana brought to us right before surgery

Imageafter surgery

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His cousins make him feel better. All we are missing are Chase and Isis.

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‘My Tio makes me laugh. He said that we have something in common, neither of us have our appendix now.”

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Feeling so much better a few hours after surgery. Popsicles make everything better. Oh, and time with Daddy, of course.

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Getting rid of worthless talk…

I’ve been hearing several messages about the verse Ephesians 4:29, so I know God is talking to me about this. I always use the phrase, “Women love to gossip,” but I think just being a human being we like to talk about other people, good or bad. That is something that I think most people struggle with.

Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it. –Ephesians 4:29(Amplified Version)

When I read through that one verse, there is so much going on there. I am going to break up the verse by phrases on how the Holy Spirit spoke to me about this.

*“foul or polluting language”

Now I have never been much of a “cusser,” but just because I don’t cuss doesn’t mean that I don’t sin. Pollution is a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects. Polluting language can be negative talk. For some people, it is easy to talk about how their life is going bad instead of all the good that is in their life. So just because I don’t use foul language doesn’t mean that I don’t use polluting language. It is all the same in the Lord’s eyes.

*“worthless talk”

Alright now, how many times do my conversations turn into worthless talk? It could be the truth, but that doesn’t matter, its still worthless. Dr. Nasir Siddiki said, “My words should be a blessing. My words are “grace carriers.” Your words can release grace or shut down grace. Make it a point today to use your words to be grace carriers, not only in others’ lives, but in yours as well. I will speak postively about myself. Once you speak blessings in your own life, it becomes easier to speak it in others’ lives.

*as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others

The first thoughts I have are, how can I be helpful for building up my husband, my children? There are times when it is easier to say something negative or nothing at all, but that’s not what God calls us to do. After a long day, when Stephen comes home, instead of telling the bad things that happened today, tell him all the good things and thank him for the hard work he does. Tell him that I am thankful that he is the spiritual head of this home. Read Scripture to him and encourage him. Now to Jude, uplift this mighty young man of God. Tell him that he is a great little boy and ask him about his day. We listen to Christian radio and what a joy it is to hear him sing those songs. Parents, children follow your lead. What you listen to, is what they listen to. Who you respect is who they respect.

*“as is fitting to the need and the occasion,”

There are times that you need to be happy and joyful, but there are also times where there is a need to be quiet and compassionate. Allow the Holy Spirit to use your words to be a blessing to others. What are people needing to hear from me that day? God has placed you to minister to people at specific times. If you allow Him to, He will use you to meet the needs of people through words.

*“that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it.”

We should leave people better after they have spent time with us. I have a very good friend, Jean Wright,  after I talk to her, I leave Imagerefreshed and encouraged, anyone that knows her will tell you a similar story. She is the type of person that the Holy Spirit indwells in and you can tell. Now there are times, when I want to “vent” about somebody or something, but I don’t do it with her. Not that she won’t listen or doesn’t care. There is this presence (Holy Spirit) in her that when I am with her, we talk about the greatness of God, answered prayer requests, and things we need to pray for. She is a woman full of grace. If I ever have a urgent prayer request, I am calling her. So the question is, how can I be a “Jean” for other people. I want people to leave me saying, “I am so glad I saw Xochil today, my day is better now.” Let me be clear. Not because of who I am, but because God is in me.

I leave you with this, what you think about will be what you talk about, and what you talk about about will be what you believe.  Everything in your life will be established by the words you speak and believe.  Matthew 12:36 says: But I tell you, on the day of judgment men will have to give account for every idle (inoperative, nonworking) word they speak. Most Christians don’t stop to think about what they say or rather what More could they be saying. Today, I encourage you to get rid of worthless talk and speak words of grace and God’s favor and see how your life is changed. Watch how people come alive with your words of life.

I love this song by TobyMac, “Speak Life”

I am a beautiful mess…

As I sit here holding Avalyn, I think of all the things that need to be done. She is 4 months old now and loves to be held. So when she is sleeping, that is when I rush to do the things I need to do. Everybody tells you rest when she is resting. At this stage of life, that is not an option. My laundry would be overflowing, dishes stacked up, and general household duties have to get done. Oh and lets not even talk about eating. I usually eat standing up. If she is awake and being entertained for the few minutes in the bouncer or bumbo chair, I can try to cook dinner. Let me tell you what happened the other night. We have an afternoon routine, when Jude comes home. We do homework for about 45 minutes, yes 45 minutes for a kindergartener. Then I let him watch TV, while I nurse her and then prepare dinner. It was about 5:45 p.m. and she just fell asleep, so I started to cook dinner. She gave me a good 15 minutes and then she woke up. photo 1So Jude held her for a few minutes and then she wanted mommy. So I held her while I was cooking. I know, not the best thing. Then I needed to chop veggies. So I put her down in her swing, she started crying so I moved her to her laydown mat and she started crying again, so I moved her to the bouncer, then to the bumbo. I decided I needed to finish because my ground beef was overcooking so she started to scream. Jude then puts the volume up because he can’t hear the TV over her loud crying. I continue cooking, rushing to finish. I stir the beef and then burn myself. I keep going and start to chop veggies. I then slice my thumb because I am rushing to cut the tomatoes up. I rinse out my cut and look for a bandaid and can’t find one, because we are all out (Jude loves band aids). She sees me walking around the house and starts screaming more. I don’t find one, so i put some peroxide and Neosporin with a napkin and continue to finish. I finish and then call Jude to table and he says “Do I like tacos?” He is the prince of hamburgers and chicken nuggets and doesn’t like to venture far from that. I look at him and say “Tonight you do!!” I pick her up and Jude and I ate dinner, the 3 of us together. As I type, I am smiling because I can look back at the night and laugh. Life can get a little messy.

You might be thinking, where is your husband at? Stephen is a server and is off on Wednesday nights(church) and Sundays. He works the other days and nights. He is a hard worker and the provider for our family. When I have a night like this, I am so exhausted but then he comes home, more exhausted than me and he first asks about my day. In no way, am I complaining because I love my life. I love being a (SAHM)stay at home mom. However, its a lot of work! But I love it and everyday I thank God for Him allowing me to do so. God has given me a husband that allows me to stay at home. He could tell me I have to work. However, we are in one accord about what we want for our home and children. For the Elmores, God has placed this desire for me to stay at home and I don’t take it lightly. Stephen comes home to a clean house, clean clothes, and most of the time something cooked for him:) But its a sacrifice. On both of our parts. He comes home late and I am solo for 5 nights of the week doing it by myself. But we chose this. For all you working moms, please don’t think I am taking anything away from you. You are superheroes in my eyes. You are in a league of your own and you have me deepest respect. But something that drives me bonkers is that people think you aren’t doing anything because you are a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom).

I remember from one of my MOPS meetings, we watched a video and the mom shared on the topic of our identity. What defines us? The first thing people ask when they meet is, “What do you do or What does your husband do?” We are constantly changing. We aren’t the same women that we were when our children arrived. Before I had Jude, I was a youth minister and a children’s librarian.

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But now I am a SAHM. However, that is “what I do” but not who I am. I am a Christian, a daughter of the King of Kings. I was put on this earth to bring Glory to God. I find my identity in that. All these other things, Wife, mom, school volunteer, etc. are just sub sides of who I am. However, God has called us to do certain things while we are on this earth.

When we go to the pediatrician’s office and they call Avalyn’s name. I stand up for her, as a physical representation that I am  standing upfor her. She can’t physically stand up and say “here I am .” So I say it for her. I am her advocate, her caregiver. I remember the first time that somebody said “that’s Jude’s mommy.” I loved it, that was the best thing I could hear. However, sometimes I let the role of being a mom become my identity. My relationships like wife and mother give me a rich purpose, but they are with imperfect people so they let me down or I disappoint myself.

I invest my life in being a mom, but its not always satisfying because my mommyhood isn’t perfect. But God gives us grace.

On a daily basis I have to remind myself that I am God’s masterpiece. He sees me and I am a mess, but I am a Beautiful mess. Even though “I am a mess” God uses those situations to help me and others. But I must first accept His grace so that He can use me.

It says in Ephesians 2:10 (New Living Translation)

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Don’t take what you do lightly. You are HIS masterpiece and He has a plan for you! Good things for you!

I find encouragement in that, even with my sliced thumb:)

Blessings to you!!!

Here’s a funny video that I can relate to :

Remembering My Hero…wow 10 years

Image10 years ago today, my world was changed in the blink of an eye. I remember that day just like it was yesterday, there are some things you just don’t forget. I remember it all vividly and the hurt doesn’t go away. I hope by telling my personal story of loss that I will honor my brother and give hope to others who have experienced loss and tragedy.

I was living in Graceville, Florida (in the panhandle, about 20 minutes away from Dothan, Alabama) enjoying being a newly wed wife. Stephen had left a few minutes before to meet with his accountability group just down the street from where we lived. I had the day off from my job at Lifeway Christian Store and I was up doing things around the house. At about 8:30 that morning I got a call from my brother Adel and when I heard his voice I immediately knew something was wrong. He asked if Stephen was with me and I said “No, he just left, what’s up?” He said, “I got some bad news to tell you.”

I knew in my heart it was about my brother Eric. He said, “We just found that Eric was killed.” I began screaming, it was literally an out of body experience. I could see myself on the floor with the phone yelling “NOOOO!” but wasn’t able to stop screaming. It really felt like it was a dream, or more accurately a nightmare. He told me that I needed to come home immediately. After I hung up the phone, I got in my car and drove to where Stephen was. That was before we all had cell phones. Looking back, I don’t know how I drove myself, except to say that angels surrounded my car, because I was not in my right mind to drive. As I got out of the car, I was sobbing so loud that the neighbors went outside to see what happened. I didn’t care who saw me, I needed to get to my husband ASAP. Stephen and our friends heard me and ran outside and literally carried me inside because I couldn’t even hold myself up. I tried to tell them what happened, but all that came out was my brother’s name. They began to pray over me and then Stephen took me home and called my brother. I got ready and packed a lot of clothes because I didn’t know how long I would be home. After that we were on the way to my parents’ house. It was usually a 6 hour trip that took us about 4 hours that day. Stephen and I didn’t do much talking on the way, as I was so distant and heartbroken.

When we pulled up to the house, there was at least 50 people there and the yard was full of cars. It was a small house and I could see from the driveway that people were overflowing in the house. To be honest, that is the last thing I wanted to see. All I wanted was my family, especially my mom. As I got out of the car, I ran inside the house and people were trying to stop me but I ignored them and went straight to my mom’s room. There I found her sitting on the bed, with a couple of people around her. We embraced each other and cried like you can’t imagine. Then Adel came in and then my dad. As we were all in that small room, we hugged and then they gave me some of the details of his death. (For those that don’t know what happened. He was driving a humvee, when explosives blew through the vehicle he was driving near the Abu Ghraib prison. He was killed instantly.)

I didn’t want to leave my mom’s side, and I became very protective of her and who she came into contact with. I don’t know how it is for anybody else, I just am speaking from my personal experience. Everyone wanted to hug or touch us, especially my mom. It became so draining for her as so many wanted to talk to her. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Counseling, but nothing could have prepared me for this. There are several things that I learned not to do. Never, and I repeat never say to a grieving person the following phrases.

  • “He is a better place.” While this is true, I didn’t want to hear this. I didn’t want him in heaven, I wanted him here. He was way too young to go. This phrase was not comforting to me or my family.
  • “He is an angel now, so he can watch over you.” This is not true! This is so theologically wrong, that it makes me so sad when people say this. There is no place in the Bible that says we become angels when we die. We get a new body when we die, and for that I am rejoicing that Eric has a new body, but in no way does he get his “wings.” Again, I didn’t want him to watch over me, I wanted him to be with us on earth.
  • “God has a plan for this.” Really, wow, thanks?!? God didn’t kill my brother. We live in a fallen world. Bad things happen. While I absolutely know that God knows each one of our days on earth, He allows things to happen. This phrase didn’t lift my spirits in any way.
  • “If there is Anything, and I mean anything I can do, let me know and I will do it.” People have great intentions and this is a big commitment to make. Instead of saying this, offer something specific and do it. Don’t just say you are praying for them, PRAY for them, right then if possible. Bring them a meal. Offer to do something around the house/yard for them. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to help them as they grieve.

With that being said, the outpouring of love was so overwhelming that it made each one of us feel very important and most of all it honored Eric. Hundreds of people like, family, high school friends, military people, and people we didn’t even know came out to show their respect for him. That says so much of what kind of man Eric was. He has a road named after him and the Mascotte Post Office is named in his honor.

My brother served his country in the Navy and he decided to stay in California after being stationed there and worked for the Sheriff’s Department. He joined the National Guard in 2000 to prepare for a career in law enforcement.

While in California, he met the love of his life, Tracy. He found a gem, when he met and married her. She blessed him with 2 beautiful children, Isis and Chase.

When people ask what kind of guy he was, this is what I proudly tell them. Anyone that knew him, would agree:Eric was one of the nicest guys you would’ve ever meet. He was quiet at first, but once you got him started he loved to talk. He had a special place in his heart for comic books and Star Wars. He loved the beach and to surf. He was extremely funny and sought out people that could be forgotten or overlooked. As his little sister, he was protective of me, but also encouraged me to try new things. We lived in Mt.Dora all our lives. He told me to go out of my comfort zone, listen to other kinds of music, hang out with people that I was not accustomed to hanging out with. Everything that he told me to do, he did himself. Right after high school, he enlisted in the Navy. He traveled overseas and experienced things we could only imagine. He tried all kinds of things out. He loved life. As I was entering my senior year, he asked me what I was going to do. I told him that I was going to go the community college and live at home. He offered for me to come out to California and live with him for a little while so I could experience other things. He wanted me to see things from different perspectives. Looking back, I would’ve loved to do that, to spend more time with him…sometimes we think we have more time. I tell Jude all the time about his Tio Eric and he sees pictures of him, he will always know about his Tio Eric.

One of the most important things about him was that he was a Christian. Today, 10 years later, when he left this earth, he saw Jesus face to face and that is what brings me comfort and hope. He was and will always be my hero. I love you big brother!Image

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”–John 15:13

Time Well Spent

ImageAs I sit and watch my husband read the kids a Bible story, I sit back and thank God! I have so much to be thankful. We may not have a lot of “material things” but I am so happy and joyful. A wise woman told me the other day, “give God all your hopes and dreams. Verbally say what you want, He already knows your heart.” I was thinking to myself, “what are my hopes and dreams?” I am at a place where I am content. Sure, I would love to have more money, but I think we always desire that, even when we have more money. My hopes and dreams are to be the best Christian, wife and mommy I can be.

I’ve asked the Holy Spirit to guide me to direct Jude and Avalyn to be great kids with manners. God can use anything to guide His children.

I am a HUGE fan of the Duggars. For you that don’t know, they have a show called “19 Kids and Counting.” My friend Christina, recommended I watch it, but I was highly uninterested. Why would I want to watch a show with that many kids? I didn’t want to see a lot of chaos going on, like other shows on TV. Well, it became available on Netflix and I gave it try. I instantly fell in love with this family. This is no ordinary family…this is a family that loves the Lord and follows their beliefs even if it goes against society’s norms. I HIGHLY recommend this show, even Jude enjoys watching this with me.

I have put to use some of the practices they use. The parents(Jim Bob and Michelle) are impacting this small town mom in a big way. Here are some things I am implementing in my life. This is what I mean when I say that God can use anything to show HIs children different things.

1. Michelle always looks into her children’s eyes and gets down on their level. One of her sayings is, “if I don’t get their eyes I don’t have their heart.

2. Have them do chores. They have their children do chores, even their little ones that are 4 and 5 years old. Nobody is too young to help around the house. The other day, I made a chore chart for Jude and we place a check mark for every time he does a chore. At the end of the day, he gets a penny for every chore he has done. Also, I am teaching him to say “yes ma’m/sir and thank you and please.” Each time he does that, I also give him a penny. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but the pennies are adding up and he loves it. The Duggars make a game out of things they are teaching their children.

3. Reading a Bible story every night. This is so important! Teaching your children to read God’s Word and making a habit of it while they are young. So when they are older they will do it by themselves. We started this last week and the quality time that we spend with Jude is priceless. We ask him questions to make sure he was listening.

4. Having a love for their siblings. There are 19 kids in the Duggar Family and they love each other. Very rarely, will you see them fighting on any given episode. They love and are thankful to have each other. In an interview, they were asked “How many of you want a big family when you get older?” Each one of them raised their hand. Michelle and Jim Bob have done a great job of not allowing sibling rivalry and love each one equally. I want that for my children. I want them to love each other and get along.

5. Praise your children ten times more than you correct them. This is hard!! Sometimes I get frustrated and notice that I get on to Jude way more than I am positive. This is a constant reminder that I need to uplift him more.

Michelle Duggar is so sweet and you can see her love for Christ. One of the most important things I can learn from her is be the best that you can be. Don’t compare yourselves to others. Be the best “you” can be. God created you uniquely and has specific plans for your life that no one else can do.

It is a special night when Stephen is not working at night and we can read the Bible together. He works hard to be the provider for our family and I am so thankful. Ultimately, we know that God is our Provider, Jehovah Jireh.

One of the things I am most  thankful for in him is that he loves God more than he loves anything, including me. He is a natural teacher to Jude and an strong example of what a godly father looks like. Our hearts’ desire is that we are teaching Jude and Avalyn, God’s way so that when they are older, they will have a strong relationship in Christ for themselves.

…and that is my hope and dream!

train up pic j and a

Welcome Holy Spirit

Holy SpiritWe are learning more about the Holy Spirit this month and WOW have my eyes been opened. Pastor Tony said something that was profound for me. He said “we don’t like to be ignored and neither does the Holy Spirit.” For far too long, we have been ignoring Him. It is so true. We focus on God and Jesus and we hardly mention the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit appears in the book of John in the Bible, as the POWER by which Christians are brought to faith and helped to understand their walk with God.

  • The Holy Spirit is the Helper, whom Jesus promised to the disciples after His ascension.
  • The Holy Spirit honors the Father and Son by helping the community of believers.
  • The Holy Spirit teaches us to be like the Father.
  • The Holy Spirit is our Advocate.

During His ministry, Jesus refers to the Spirit of God (Matt 12:28-29; Luke 11:20) as the power by which He is casting out demons. When we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit comes inside of us. We have that same power that Jesus had while He was on earth. As a mother and Christian this brought great comfort to me. Whenever I come against an obstacle or hard choice or daily trial, I just need to speak to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to guide and direct me, to give me power to overcome my trial.

Jesus said that we will do greater things than He did. He healed the sick, raised people from the dead, feed 5,000 people in one sitting, and turned water into wine just to name a few miracles He did. It says in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. “

We can do these things because the Holy Spirit is in us. But we have to acknowledge the Holy Spirit, for us to use that power.

In Matthew 3:11 it says, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

This was John the Baptist speaking about how Jesus was coming. He came to save us, but He also came to give us access to the Holy Spirit for our daily lives. Sometimes Christians think, “Well when I get to heaven, things will be better or I can do this or that.” We are Kingdom Citizens we need to be doing the Lord’s will on earth as it is in Heaven.

Not sure how to get your child to want to do his homework? Ask the Holy Spirit for an idea and be still, He will bring the perfect idea to motivate your might little one. Having difficulty not being negative with a friend who is negative? Seek the Holy Spirit to control your tongue and let His light shine on your conversations.

When I think of fire, I think of it being mesmerizing. Its hard to take your eyes off of it. That is how we should be. Because the Holy Spirit is in us, people should know that there is something different about us and they can’t help but “stare” and want to know what it is. Also, fire is cleansing, it purifies things. Let me be clear…the Holy Spirit is not fire, He cleanses us like fire. Fire moves upward, it consumes things. The Holy Spirit’s job is to take us upward to God.

One important note is that the Holy Spirit is not an “It,” a dove, or a flame, He is a person, He is intelligent and has a personality. Christ is not the Holy Spirt. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit in John 14:26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

I thank You, God for sending the Holy Spirit to be my Advocate. He speaks on my behalf.

The Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity, which is God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Ghost. I love how Pastor Winston puts it, “there is no hierarchy in the Trinity.” They are equally important. And just like we praise God and Jesus, we need to also praise the Holy Spirit.

Thank You Holy Spirit, for giving me new life. Thank You for giving me the words to say when I am at a loss for words. Thank You for being my Comforter in times of need. I love You and worship You!

As you finish reading this post, I encourage you to listen to the song below. Let this be your prayer as you welcome the Holy Spirit.

Prayer and Fasting

As we begin 2014, we participate in the Daniel’s Fast. This is a “fast” where we eat only fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans. We do this to prepare for our year and separate us for a time of prayer. We do this for 21 days and we follow the example of Daniel in the Bible, when he fasts for 21 days (3 weeks), this is found in Daniel 10:3

Simply stated, biblical fasting is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose.

According to the Bible, there are three duties of every Christian: give, pray and fast.

Fasting is a discipline that helps to shift our priorities. It puts Him first and allows us to hear His plan, receive His direction and His blessings. If you want success in your life, in your marriage, in your work—putting God first is the key.

When you give God your first through fasting, prayer and giving at the beginning of the year, you set the course for the entire year.

The Bible says seek ye first the kingdom of God. We are seeking Him in January so we can be prepared for all He has for us. One important reminder is that Jesus fasted when He was here on earth. If He did, how much more important is that we do it?

I am doing it a little different this year, because I am nursing and that is between me and the Lord. But I want to share with you, how awesome and faithful God is! If you have never fasted, I encourage you to do so. It will change your life and bring you to a closer relationship with HIM!

Last year, I totally surrendered my body to Him and this included whether or not to have another baby like my husband had wanted. I know that sounds funny. I was so hesitant and didn’t want to have another baby. I was content because I had the most precious little boy, Jude. During the fast, I prayed and said “God, I give everything to You and if its Your will for us to have another baby, then Your will be done.”

Some background…it took about 2 years for us to have Jude. A lot of tears and sadness each month, when I would find out that I wasn’t pregnant. But Jude finally came, in God’s perfect timing. To God be the glory! Maybe that was another reason, why I didn’t want to have another baby, I didn’t want to be upset if it didn’t happen. 

So back in January 2013, I said that prayer and 9 months later Avalyn is here. As you can see, God doesn’t take long, when we we are obedient to Him. It wasn’t an easy pregnancy, but we are blessed beyond belief with this small treasure we have now added to our family. To think I didn’t want anymore children, is crazy to me because of the beautiful baby we now have.

I firmly believe, had I not fasted and prayed last year, we wouldn’t have Avalyn this year. God still does miracles in our lives, we have to take the first step though. 

As Stephen and I talked about the fast this year, he said “I am excited about the fast this year, because it brought us Avalyn. What is God going to do through us this year?” 

We are so thankful to have family that we love deeply and we serve a God that gives us all we need. 

I encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer and let your decisions about your biblical fasting come from Him. Ask the Lord to show you areas to target during your time of fasting and prayer. I believe that, as we pray and seek God and give Him our best at the first of the year, He will bless our ENTIRE year. We have Avalyn here to prove it:)

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A Different Kind Of King

All over the radio we hear Christmas music, from “It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas” to “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” to “The Chipmunk Song-Christmas don’t be late.” I love these songs, but what do they have to do with Christ? I know we hear it all the time, ‘Christmas is too commercialized.’ But we as Christians are the ones helping this problem. We need to focus on Jesus Christ and celebrate Him. There is a song called “How many kings?” by Downhere that tells exactly what Christmas is all about. Here is the chorus

Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Jesus wasn’t the “king” they were expecting. He is a different kind of King. No other king would step down from their throne to save an unworthy person. He left heaven. He left His Father. He became the ‘least” of people, even though He is God. And on another side of the story, God our Father gave up His Son, Jesus so that He could die for us. Being a mom, and loving my 2 children so much, I know it wasn’t easy for God to do this. Especially knowing how we would treat Him when He got to earth. He didn’t expect everyone to bow down at His feet. Throughout the New Testament, we read that Jesus served people, He walked with the people, He spent time with the people, and He died for us. Again, I stress, what king would do that? What president would do that? What leader would do that? I am thankful that He is a different kind of King!

In Luke 2:10-12

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Salvation is for everyone. This is what Christmas is all about. The good news is for all people.We all have sinned and fall short of God because He is perfect. But that is why He sent Jesus! The angels were rejoicing at this good news. Christmas is a time of rejoicing. You shouldn’t be sitting still and being quiet about what Christmas is truly about. We should be rejoicing at work, at home, everywhere! Our rejoicing shouldn’t stop at church.

In Pastor Tony’s message on Sunday, he spoke on how Jesus is “still King.” He read the beautiful passage Isaiah 9:6:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Even if our finances aren’t good, He is still King. Even if our health isn’t good, He is still King. Even if we feel far from God, He is still King. He is still King, no matter what we are going through.

He is Emmanuel…”God is with us.” No matter what the enemy throws at us, He is with us. Every opposition MUST bow to God.

As Christmas quickly approaches, let me encourage you with this…Its not about the gifts, money, or even family, it’s all about the King. I am so thankful that He is a different kind of King.