Everything!

I almost skipped over watching this video but something told me to watch it. I am so glad I did, and I encourage you to watch it as it truly is beautiful.

Journey with God

I cry every time as this is simply too beautiful and touching for words! God bless and may you know God is always there with you, covering and sheltering you! All my love ❤

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. ~ Psalm 18:2

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. ~ Thessalonians 3:4

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Waiting to See Results

Do you ever decide to start something new, get pumped up about it, then give up after seeing little to no results?

I know I do, more often than I’d like! Especially when it comes to diet and exercise. Two weeks ago, I decided to start making an effort to eat a well-balanced diet and exercise for 30-45 minutes 5 times a week. I did really well the first week but this week, not so much.

Having a healthy lifestyle makes a huge difference on how we feel.

When I visited Branon the Sunday before last, I chose to stray away from that to drink some soda and eat some other sugary food. It honestly surprised me that indulging in sugary food made me feel sick after eating healthy for just a week.

I downloaded a nifty app for my kindle called myfitnesspal. I’m sure I’m way behind the game and people already know about it, but here are a few reasons I like it:

  • You tell it information such as your weight, height, goals, and activity level to determine your net calorie intake.
  • You enter your exercise activities and it calculates the amount of calories burned.
  • It adds your calories burned to your amount of allowed calories per day giving you the net calorie amount.
  • As you enter foods and activities, it tells you how many calories you have left for the day.
  • You can track your measurements and weight and view your progress.
  • It’s accessible online.

Keeping track of your progress increases your chances of achieving your desired results because you keep yourself accountable. God has been teaching me some important principles that I need to really understand and apply in my life. In order to succeed in all of them, I need to remain accountable in some way.

Exercise releases endorphins, benefiting us with positive moods and decreased stress! According to Web MD, “These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.”

When you first start working out and exercising, it takes a lot of work to get in shape. It’s hard to push through the initial pain to develop endurance. In my experience, it takes at least a month of hard work before results start to show.

I lose motivation time and time again after not seeing results quickly. When I chose to press on, the results become visible to myself first, then eventually to others.

The Lord revealed to me that this applies to our relationship with him as well.

We desire to know God more intimately, to receive more understanding and revelation, so we devote ourselves to spending more time in the word or in prayer.

When we don’t see the results we expected as soon as we want, we get discouraged and get distracted by the things the world offers.

When it comes to our relationship with our Abba, we should never give up.

We must choose to remain strong in our faith, knowing confidently that God is moving things in the unseen realm. Galatians 6:9 tells us, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

I talked in a recent post about how powerful God’s spoken word is, so I wanted to give you 7 promises to speak. I think you will find encouragement in them as you to continue seek growth in your relationship with God.

  1. Hebrews 1:11, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (KJV)
  2. Jeremiah 29:13, And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (NKJV)
  3. James 4:8, Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery]. (AMP)
  4. 2 Chronicles 16:9(a), The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (NLT)
  5. Isaiah 40:31, But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (ESV)
  6. Psalm 16:11, You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (NIV)
  7. Ephesians 3:17, Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. (NLT)

As you commit to spending time with the Lord, you should notice a change in your perspective, even if it takes a while for others to notice the change in your attitude.

vision

I actually started writing this almost a week ago and had planned on posting it that day. I ended up visiting my friend, Kaleigh, who was stuck in the hospital since her water broke prematurely. She actually had a c-section yesterday and her baby was born at 32 weeks. They both are doing great, but everyone please keep her and baby Izabella in your prayers!

I realized that when I start a post to share with you what God’s been teaching me, I end up getting distracted from the very things I’ve been learning.

This discourages me from posting since I have not successfully applied what I’m learning to my life. In fact, I constantly have to push through the lies that are constantly tossed around in my head, especially this one lately: You don’t have it together so you need to stop writing for a while.

I just want to say to you that I’m guilty of losing motivation to post when the point of my blog currently is to share my victories and struggles with you. There are no victories without struggles.

The truth is, I’ll never have it together on my own. The Holy Spirit, however, will not leave me to accomplish God’s will for my life alone. He is my constant companion, my guide in the darkness. Together, we will overcome the obstacles in my path.

My promise to everyone is that I will not give up. I may fall, but I will get back up. I will push through all the pain in my life to reach the promises God has for me. I know He is working behind the scenes to bring all the pieces into place to start this organization. Thank you, friends, for being part of my journey.

Developing the Heart of a Servant

Don’t you think the sound of a baby laughing is so heartwarming? Especially when they are your own!

As I write this, Isaac is cracking up chasing around one of our dogs in his walker! I had to snap a picture.

Happy Boy in his walker!

Happy boy in his walker!

Yesterday, he was not so happy. I had to make use of my unpaid time off work,  so I took Branon to the doctor since he needed to go over a week ago. I baked Branon some blueberry/chocolate chip muffins, his favorite, from scratch for breakfast. I found the recipe for bluebery muffins here, and just substituted some of the blueberries with chocolate chips.

The doctor visit unfortunately meant spending time sitting in a waiting room. Isaac, of course, wanted to be able to freely move around so this was not his favorite part of the day. He didn’t care if he disturbed the other people in the waiting room though, and made lots of racket playing with his toys. I had to bring something to keep him occupied; he does NOT sit still for more than about 3 minutes.

People seemed to enjoy watching him though. One guy sat with his girlfriend and kept talking to him. I heard him tell her, “This has been a great hour because of him.” I love that people are blessed through Isaac.

Isaac also met a cute little almost 3 year old. Immediately upon seeing her, he crawled quickly over to her. She was drawing, aka scribbling, on paper and he snatched the paper from her. I told him that was rude and gave the paper back. Luckily, she wasn’t terribly offended.

The reason I had the day (rather, the last 3 days) off work is because when I took Isaac to his wellness checkup on Wednesday, I found out he has an upper respiratory infection. To his dismay, the poor guy left the focus office with a breathing machine and prescription for antibiotics. He does not cooperate particularly well with sitting still for the breathing treatments.

The doctor said he was slightly contagious til he was on antibiotics for a full 48 hours, mainly if he gets close to your face. Which, he does get in the other babies face at day care. I dropped him off one morning and he crawled up to the other baby girl and gave her a kiss.

Isn’t my boy such a sweetheart? And a flirt. Which makes it so important for me to model to Isaac the fruit of having a life giving relationship with God!

I want to be sure to fulfill my responsibility of well rooting Isaac in biblical truth so he learns how to treat and serve others because of his love for Jesus.

I have no doubt after Branon completes the program that he will be such an incredible teacher to Isaac.

Let me give you guys an exciting update on his progress. I’ve seen an improvement in Branon’s attitude in the last week and a half!! I’m so thankful for this. Isn’t it so awesome to see the answer to your prayers in action?

Branon spends three days a week working at lost sheep ministries. Apparently they have something to do, somehow (Branon didn’t know the details), with helping people with addiction get into treatment.

He told me today that he had an opportunity to share part of his testimony to a woman who, along with her significant other, was using drugs. The man was going to treatment in Mississippi, but she did not want to be in treatment at all, partially because of her 2 kids.

He shared part of his story and how God is working on his life with the woman and her grandmother. He told the woman that it was a small sacrifice to make to be a part of her children’s life, then went back inside to work. Later he came out and the grandmother told him that something he said encouraged the woman to fill out an application to get treatment!

How awesome is that? Give God the glory!

As of recently, when he isn’t there, he works in the kitchen. He told me that he noticed a theme throughout the positions God placed him in lately: a servant’s heart.

He gets to move to first phase, which comes after orientation, hopefully this weekend! Which means we will get to talk on the phone for 15 minutes a day! He also changes counselors, and he found out today that his counselor is going to be the actual program director.

His current counselor thought they would be a good fit. I know God arranged it, and I can’t wait to see what comes through this.

I just can’t tell you how much seeing improvement in Branon lifts my spirit. God is so wonderful!

I know God wants to use our testimonies to reach other people; when he led us to each other and gave us a heart for full time ministry, he knew this part of our journey lay ahead. He patiently allowed everything to happen in order to perfect our characters, fill us with humility, and allow his glory to be displayed through us as servants of the Lord.

I feel so unworthy of this honor, but our Abba gives amazing gifts to his children because of his unfailing love.

I’m so excited to reach what God has planned for us at the end of Branon’s time there! I know he has something extraordinary awaiting! He just wants us to each develop the heart of a servant before he can entrust us with more.

I also wanted to let you guys know that God is stirring up some ideas for me to grow this into an actual website for Awakening Hearts Foundation that I can’t wait to share with you as I get them more organized. I value your opinions, and I’d love for you to comment to let me know what you would like to see on this blog as God expands it!

The Power of Speaking Truth

I hope everyone had a lovely thanksgiving holiday! God blessed us with a 24 hour pass for Branon and I to spend our anniversary together Wednesday night and, of course, Thanksgiving Day.

Branon and I celebrated our 2nd year of marriage at Kabuki for dinner and saw Catching Fire at the movie theater. Thursday, we just hung out at the house for the most part. We romped around the living room with Isaac, played some Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii, and ate lunch. Those 24 hours flew by, but I am so appreciative of the opportunity God gave me to just hang out with Branon.

For our anniversary, I wanted to make Branon something I thought he would appreciate while he is away from us. I always like to make him stuff because I would rather give him something I put a lot of thought into than something I bought. Thank goodness for pinterest, always there to give me ideas!

I made him a little book out of a deck of cards with 52 reasons why I love him last year. This year, I wrote some bible verses and quotes on blank index cards, matted them on colorful card stock, and printed some pictures. I wrote a letter for 12 different “open when… ______” envelopes to go along with the different pictures, quotes, and bible verses.

Anniversary Present

It’s cool because last Sunday True Purpose Ministries dedicated their new location to the Lord at their church service, and a few people gave their testimonies. One lady talked about how Satan wants us to believe his lies and accusations. He uses seemingly unchangeable circumstances to cause us to doubt God’s goodness.

The danger in this comes from allowing those lies to become truth to us.

We have to fight the lies with the truth in God’s word; it’s the only offensive weapon in Ephesians 6:13-17,

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

We can’t just stop with believing it though. To take it even further and really overcome the lies, we need to speak the truth. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

That’s why it’s so important for us to stop Satan’s lies when they are thoughts, before we speak death over our lives. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

The Saturday before thanksgiving, I watched the last Beth Moore video in the series with my small group. She talked about another time we have an opportunity to speak truth: when others negatively impact us.

When others insult us or do something that upsets us, rather than responding the way we naturally want to, we should be full of pity and compassion for those people.We should speak blessings instead, speak truth to them in love. We also can pray truth over them in our prayer life.

Only speak words that make souls stronger.

This Sunday, I attended church at RIO Revolution; True Purpose Ministries alternates between hosting church on campus one Sunday and taking the guys to RIO Revolution the next.

This week the pastor talked about 2 different acceptable offerings to God, with the focus on the second. First is the living offering.

God desires for us to be truly alive: passionate, enthusiastic, and on fire for him!

Satan desires the opposite, and that is why he desperately tries to stop us from reaching that point however he can.

That leads to the second offering. We don’t enjoy it, but it is so necessary for our walk with God: a refined offering. God wants us to reflect his image, and he puts us in the fire in order for that to happen. He purifies us in our trials.

I learned that when a silversmith makes silver, there are 99% impurities in the rock and only 1% silver. The rock must be crushed and sifted through in order to get that 1% silver.

Before the process is complete, however, the silversmith must place the silver in the fire and let it sit there until he can see his image reflected in it.

Prayers are always heard, maybe a bit delayed, but are always heard.

I love how God gives us so many analogies to better understand him, yet we never will fully grasp his awesomeness until we reach our eternal inheritance.

If we learn to embrace and appreciate the trials God places us in to perfect our character, and speak truth daily as we encounter the attacks of the enemy, I believe we will find ourselves in a place we didn’t imagine possible.

Have you noticed how much you grow through the difficulties you face in life? Do you have Jesus to walk along with you, the Holy Spirit to guide you?

My heart breaks for those who don’t understand the joy and peace they truly are missing out on from having a relationship with God. I like how the message says it in Hebrews 6:18-20,

18-20 We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek.

Does life instantly get better when you make him Lord of your life? No. In fact, Jesus promises that earth gives us problems in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Like Jesus promises, I find peace in him. I know he knows what I need, and I trust that whatever circumstance comes my way will be used by God to bring glory to his name. Besides, my life is not my own. It’s ALL about him.

He blesses me more than I can ever imagine through Isaac. Let me share some cute videos I was able to capture of him 🙂

This first one is rotated if you click to watch it on youtube, I don’t know why it wouldn’t update here.

Isn’t my little man awesome for taking those steps in the second video!?

I want to apologize that I have still been slacking with posting regularly. Honestly, I can’t even give you a good reason why; I just keep putting it off. However, the Lord convicted me today for not posting because people have told me they find my blog encouraging. Why would I rob people of that? It’s selfish of me, really.

So I will start posting once or twice a week. I desire to live my life in a way that glorifies God and this blog gives me a great opportunity to do that.

I asked God to take me to the next level spiritually, which of course grabbed Satan’s attention. He wants to keep us from reaching our potential! So, like always, I’ve been battling him these last couple weeks. Thankfully the Lord is on my side. Romans 8:28-31 explains,

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

God proves the truth of this to me by continually demonstrating His faithfulness despite my circumstances.

isaac

For instance, because of my work schedule I started seeking different childcare. I found a few options, but I only found one lady I liked. Unfortunately, it required a 30 minute drive there, then a 30 minute drive to work. I want the best option for Isaac rather than the most convenient, but my car can’t handle that mileage right now!

As a last resort, I visited the daycare located about 2 minutes from my parents house that has extended hours (8 pm). Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great daycare. The lady who runs it understood my concerns with putting Isaac in a daycare facility because she never put her children in daycare either.

I didn’t feel comfortable with that option though for a couple of reasons. One, Isaac loves to explore! He also gets upset when he has to be in one place for too long. How could you blame him though; I wouldn’t want to be stuck in one room either! Two, it worries me to have him in daycare as they are notorious for exposing kids to sickness! Three, my parents can’t commit to picking him up even by 8 every night because their schedules vary.

I prayed about where God wanted Isaac all week. Friday night I searched Craigslist and found a lady who runs an in home eco-friendly childcare only 15 minutes away. She charges reasonable rates which include home-made organic baby food. She watches babies until they turn 21 months old, and only 3 at a time.

I couldn’t believe it when I found her! I immediately contacted her through her form on her website. She called me within 30 minutes!

After a 30 minute chat, we agreed to meet at her house on Sunday after Branon’s visitation was over. She worked around my schedule to meet me since she normally meets parents during the evening on weekdays.

I basically knew that I wanted her to watch Isaac. After meeting her and seeing her set up, I knew for sure. I believe it will provide a wonderful environment that Isaac will flourish in as he grows into a toddler. She also is willing to work with my schedule. God is so good!

Also, True Purpose Ministries allows the families to come to their church service on Wednesday nights. It goes from 6-7, and they also have visitation for 30 minutes before & after. I normally work during those hours. As I believe it’s important for Isaac to be around his dad as much as possible, I approached my supervisor to ask if they could let me work day shift on Wednesday nights. They approved it! The Lord continually gives me favor at work, and I’m so thankful for that!

Words can’t explain how difficult for us this time away from Branon is, especially for me.

meandisaac

If my hope was not in Jesus, I would be a royal mess.

That’s not to say I don’t have my moments. I’m human, and I make mistakes. I love how God uses our mistakes as teachable moments, just as any father should. In fact, let me share with you how my Abba worked on my character last Thursday.

It started with a phone call from Branon. He faced a moment of discouragement from being away from me and Isaac, and wanted to leave. I told him he had to stay. This caused disagreement between us and the phone call didn’t exactly end on a good note.

The bigger problem came from my reaction. For some reason, this call unleashed a plethora of emotions. Normally, I exhibit fairly good control over my emotions. This time, however, I sort of lost it.

I felt worried, angry, and betrayed then on top of that I felt guilty for feeling the way I did. I cried, a lot. I had a hard time getting myself in control. By the end of the day, I only wanted to go home and sleep. I realize now that God tested me in an area He had been teaching me.

I think we sometimes forget that God has a sense of humor! It’s funny to me because I listened to this message by Pastor Chris Hodge, and I thought wow, this summarizes what God’s been teaching me! I get it! God always tests us when he teaches us before we can move on, and I failed the test. God lovingly reminded me how I should have reacted.

Basically, in that message, he gives us 5 sources to give us hope in the storms:

  1. God’s Presence- Experience his presence daily! Worship God; I talk about this in my post about peace. Praise him and thank him. I went to a listen up conference in August 2012 that talked about your meeting place with God. Here’s the idea: picture a place you really love and where you feel comfortable. God meets us there! Pastor Chris Hodge calls it the Secret Place. This quietness refuels us.
  2. God’s Promise- If we read God’s Word daily, we can find a promise to stand on.
  3. God’s Process- We all face difficulties in life, but these serve to develop our character! If we focus on what God is doing in us, we can redefine our bad days because we know we become a better person through them. We may not enjoy this process, but we can appreciate it.
  4. God’s Purpose- If you have not found the reason why God created you, you are just surviving. When we know God’s purpose for us, we can say life may not be easy, but God created me for something worth it all. Making a difference for eternity brings true fulfillment.
  5. God’s Place- Our true home awaits us in Heaven. Earth is not our stopping point, we simply pass through.

Had I stopped for a few moments, worshipped God, that in itself would have adjusted my attitude. I know many promises I could have stood on, yet I chose to sulk and indulge in self-pity. I should have thanked God for this opportunity to trust him as he improves my character. I know God has huge plans for me and Branon regardless what trials we face currently. Plus, our ultimate hope is in the sacrifice Jesus made so we can spend eternity in Heaven.

If you keep up with my blog, hopefully you see how all of this ties in with my other posts.

Aren’t we so blessed to have a Father who loves us enough to lovingly correct us when we make mistakes?

Don’t Let Fog Make You Lose Sight

Do you remember the last time you drove through thick fog?

tule fog

Fog makes it really hard to see! Last week, I experienced some spiritual fogginess. I apologize that I waited so long to post; I attempted to write a few posts but unfortunately I was too distracted to put anything I wanted to say together well.

Let me give you a quick summary of everything that’s been happening in my life in the last week and a half:

  • Isaac and I drove to Alabama on Friday after I got off work to pick up Branon.
  • Branon and I received the blessing of a date evening Saturday, and had our first over-night away from Isaac together.
  • We spent the day Sunday with our second family in Alabama before returning to Knoxville.
  • Branon interviewed with True Purpose Ministries on Monday.
  • A couple friends from church prayed with Branon and I Monday night in preparation of our new life chapter.
  • We dropped Branon off to start the program on Tuesday.
  • Wednesday, Isaac found out at his follow up doctor appointment that he still has some fluid in one ear, but not an infection.
  • Isaac’s current child care provider informed me Thursday that she will not be able to work with my schedule, leading me to search for Isaac’s 6th child care provider.
  • My parents scheduled family pictures for Saturday so we drove to Strawberry Plains for that. I can’t wait to see how they turned out!
  • My growth group Saturday night talked about spiritual gifts; my small group leader gave us a 125 question spiritual gifts inventory, which I believe my church provided for the entire congregation last Sunday.
  • Yesterday, Isaac and I visited Branon at his new location.
Last Visit in Alabama

Last Visit in Alabama

I tell you all of that to say that everything slightly overwhelms me at times, and the enemy preys on our vulnerability. I finally experienced some much needed closeness with my husband only to be torn apart again. It’s really been hard on both of us, making it absolutely imperative that I keep my focus on Jesus right now to help me see through the fog.

I love how Jesus illustrates this for us with the story of Peter walking on water in Matthew 14:

24-26 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

32-33 The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”

When we keep our focus on Jesus, His power sustains us. The moment we shift our focus to our problems, we start to drown in the worry. Thankfully, he rescues us. After a difficult week, my Abba encouraged me this weekend with family pictures, my growth group, and my visit to Branon.

God blessed us with the opportunity to see each other every Sunday for church and visitation, and potentially every Wednesday evening as well, depending on my work. I placed that decision in God’s hands though. I would love for Branon to be a part of my life and especially Isaac’s an extra day a week, but God knows what is best for us and I want his will to be done, not mine.

True Purpose Ministries hold their own church services on campus. The church service Sunday displayed the faith of the leadership. I sense this is exactly where Branon needs to be right now. I believe he will get the mentoring he needs spiritually, and the healing he needs emotionally to be delivered from addiction.

I pray God gives us both humble and teachable spirits, willing to endure any trials necessary to be changed into his image. I want to be used by Him in the greatest capacity, but I have much to learn first.

First Visit at True Purpose

I plan on posting later this week to summarize everything I’ve been learning recently in a pretty cool way. I admit though, part of my discouragement this week stems from losing sight from an eternal perspective. That sums up the effect of the fog: making it possible to see only a few feet in front of you. This world serves as my temporary home; my hope is not in it but in Jesus, who defeated the grave so that we can be fully alive in this world and the one to come.

This week, I choose to press through the fog. If you also are experiencing a hard time, I encourage you to do so as well. Jesus promises to provide the light we need.

John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

Plus, how can I remain discouraged when I have this cuteness around me every day?