Right in Front of Me

Whomever invented italian rainbow cookies should be inducted to the Hall of Fame. These little gems are one of the many things that i love about Long Island.

Whomever invented italian rainbow cookies should be inducted to the Hall of Fame. These little gems are one of the many things that i love about Long Island.

I’ve naysayed this place I’ve lived in pretty much since I got here more than 7 years ago. Even if something was nice or beautiful, I’d look at the negative. I’m generally a positive person and try to find the good in people/things but I’ve been on a mission not to allow myself to like any part of where I am for fear that I’d never return “home” (the south) if I so much as saw a glimpse of the good here. Shame on me.

Back in December I was able to break away from everyday life one Saturday morning and attend a ladies event at my church; it was an IF Gathering which was a pre-recorded conference. Man did I want to lay face down on the floor and just cry. I felt so convicted and guilty yet so open and inspired by the words of the key speakers. Jennie Allen, the founder of IF made some profound statements about today’s society— more specifically the women—and how she fears that the new generation coming up will not have the older generation discipling them. She touched on how we need to stop looking and thinking that bigger is better, that we’re trying to go big but God wants us to go small. That’s not to say He doesn’t want us to be successful or stifle ourselves but rather instead of sitting behind a computer and posting inspirational things, instead of worrying about how many followers we have on Instagram, we need to get back to basics. We need to take the girl next door to coffee, get to know our sisters on a personal level, break bread with them and gain their trust so that we can minister to them and then they can go minister to others. A chain will form and that older generation is me.

Sometimes seeking the will of God for my life can feel a bit overwhelming. Today's society is all about self-help and me me me. What can I do to better myself? What can I do to make myself happy? How can I become more successful? I'll admit, at times I tend to get caught up in that whole mindset and forget the big picture. While it's a great philosophy to want to better yourself, that's not what life is about. We were created to be beacons of light, pointing others towards Jesus. Not exhausting all efforts to be happy. That gets old if you ask me. There's a huge difference between happiness and true joy. Happiness is a feeling based on your happenings...on your current situation. It's short lived. True joy is eternal and comes from fulfillment that only God can provide. If you've been looking all over kingdom come, trying this and that to feel fulfilled, don't you think that maybe you're missing one essential nugget? A true relationship with your Creator perhaps?

It's so easy to get wrapped up in what others are posting on social media these days--everything is filtered, looks prim and perfect, their lives look so put together but I'm sure most of those people (ok let's be real...all of those people) have hurts and problems just like you and me. Life gets them down and feeling overwhelmed. No one is exempt from the craziness of this world we live in. The difference though is where our hearts are positioned. Are they positioned in an "ok this other thing will make me feel fulfilled and happy" or "life may not be perfect but I serve a perfect God who gives me joy every morning and I'm going to shout it from the rooftops and share with whomever will listen"? I definitely need polishing in the field of discipleship and to be quite honest, I'm still navigating what exactly that looks like, but after that If Gathering a few months ago, I left feeling challenged to stop getting so overwhelmed with trying to keep up with the artist next door and what her Instagram is looking like, and get back to basics. Be my authentic self. The core of my image for MAGNOLIA+PINE boutique is to spread the word of God but if in doing that, I'm losing site of what He really wants from me--not to get wrapped up in comparing my stuff to others and trying to be successful with sales, followers, etc.--I'm working my tail off in vain. Sure, it's great to have Instagram followers and a platform that could reach the corners of the earth but if I'm not doing my part locally, taking the girl next door (so to speak) to lunch and asking her, "hey, how are you doing...truly?", I'm missing my mark.

The thought of discipling is intimidating to me not only because I'm a mom to two small children with a truck load of tasks and responsibilities so time away from home is few and far between, but also because even though in most situations I come across as an extravert, I truly am much more comfortable in my little shell. However, I feel like God continues to remind me of that December day and the importance of the small, basic things. I've always been a dreamer, since I was a small child I remember having big dreams, and that has carried on into adulthood. My dreams now look a little different than when I was 5; instead of me being a professional figure skater or gymnast like the girls I saw on T.V., I now dream of having a successful loving marriage, well behaved children who will one day choose to serve God and a successful business. As I've grown and matured spiritually though, I have begun to see the importance of others over myself. More so in the spiritual realm than in the physical. I still have to remind myself often that this world won't always be here and if anyone who isn't remotely a believer who happens to read this post will probably think I'm a looney-tune, but it's true. When your time on this earth is done, is it really going to matter how many Instagram followers you have? Is it going to matter how many comments and likes you had on any of your social media handles? What really matters is where you're going and who is going with you. I know where I'm going, now it's just a matter of me bringing as many people with me when it's my time to go. It seems like a daunting task but it's really so simple. It starts with a simple invitation to go for a walk or grab a cup of coffee. Dream small.

"If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities." -Luke 16:10


Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises Dream Small · Josh Wilson Dream Small ℗ 2018 Black River Christian Released on: 2018-03-02 Auto-generated by YouTube.

Skewed Views

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I woke up this morning singing the Jesus Culture song, "All Consuming Fire" in my head and I'm not sure why other than the fact that maybe this is what the Holy Spirit is singing over me today.

I started this blog as an outlet to jot down everyday musings, whether those musings be a funny story about my kids, something inspirational or challenging for myself or you...whoever you are reading this.

CC woke me up around 5 this morning and I wasn't able to go back to sleep; something kept telling me that I needed to write a post. I sat down on the couch, read a chapter out of Ezekial (because for the past month or so I've been trying to read the book even though at times, I feel as lost as a goose in the woods navigating through it), then came to write a post. Crickets. Not a clue what to write. I resorted to my thoughts of, "well, I don't have anything funny to say and I don't want all of my posts to be serious and deep-in-thought, so I just won't write today." However, the lyrics of that song kept playing in my mind so here I am, back in the post.

Reading the lyrics of this song, I'm drawn to one word, love. I think my view of God has been so skewed my entire life, and still today at times. I've been a christian for as long as I can remember, though I did some major backsliding in my late teens and college years; I've always known and acknowledged God but I think subconsciously I've seen Him as being unreachable and judgmental. Though I've seen miracle after miracle and have experienced blessing after blessing through and by Him, if there's ever been a bad thought in my mind or something bad that has happened in my life, I immediately think, "what did I do wrong?" or "is this God punishing me", or even, "this is too good to be true, something bad is going to happen." How jacked up is my way of thinking?! And this is coming from someone who has always known and loved God! In the past few years I've really tried to tackle this view I've had of God. A friend of mine has mentioned numerous times about the character of God and one of the last times I heard her say those words, I really thought about that statement and evaluated my assessment of the character of God. That is when I realized that I've had a pretty messed up view of His character. Yes, when we sin, there are consequences but that's not God condemning us. He's not some dictator sitting on a throne, ready to throw flames at us for the things we do wrong. He's not out to get us. I've always been a worrier; I remember my mom calling me the "worry wart of the family" as a child and I think because I've always been a worrier, I have had the mentality that something bad is just around the corner. I remember when I was in my early twenties, I would pray that God would let me be a wife and mom, and to please not let the world end until I could experience motherhood. So fast forward to after the miracle of Bo being conceived and born, I remember one day having a mini internal anxiety attack thinking, "oh gosh, my prayer was answered and I'm now a wife and mom...am I going to die now?!" or "is the end of the world coming now??" I know, jacked up. I sit here and shake my head at myself thinking of how ridiculous those thoughts are. I still find myself having fleeting thoughts much like these at times, especially when something good happens in my life but now I stop and often have an internal comin'-to-Jesus meeting with myself. The God I serve is the God of love. I often hear He is love--that's His pure nature and character. I'm 31 years old and still trying to fully grasp that. I know I can only absorb and understand but so much because I'm human and it's very difficult to see God for Who He truly is but as much as my minuscule mind can grasp it, I will continue to strive to see Him for Who and What He truly is. Love.

All consuming fire
You're our hearts desire
Living flame of love
Come baptize us
Come baptize us

All consuming fire
You're our hearts desire
Living flame of love
Come baptize us
Come baptize us

All consuming fire
You're our hearts desire
Living flame of love
Come baptize us
Come baptize us

All consuming fire
You're our hearts desire
Living flame of love
Come baptize us
Come baptize us

Let us fall more in love with you

We wanna know
How high, how deep, how wide is
love, love love

*All Consuming Fire by Jesus Culture | Songwriters: Cassie Campbell / David Brymer / Misty Edwards

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Dry Bones

Faith in Jesus is the breath that gets us through the dry, desert places in life.

Faith in Jesus is the breath that gets us through the dry, desert places in life.

Life has been a bit busy during the first month of this new year..but what else is new? I have a lot on my plate but yet I find myself spinning my wheels--not sure if it's the wait 'til the last second philosophy I've always had. I don't know what it is about me but even if I've got a zillion-and-one things to do, and I plan and hash every detail out, I can't seem to focus on accomplishing the tasks at hand until the last minute. I might be a hot mess when finally getting to said tasks but by golly, I get them done and everything always works out. What can I say, I work well under pressure! So now I find myself with a crap ton to do work/creative wise but my mind is all over the place because I feel God doing something new but I'm not quite sure how to navigate it all. Do I jump...what if I fall? Do I continue to wait...what if I miss an opened opportunity? There's so many factors and pieces to what I feel God is possibly doing but I've thought I've felt Him moving before (with the Clark house two years ago) but was obviously wrong and was utterly disappointed in the end. My mama always told me that if I didn't know what to do or where to go, to not do anything, be still and just pray. My praying life isn't what anyone would probably consider to be a traditional one, especially as of late. Maybe I'm wrong for it, I don't know, but I tend to "think-pray" as odd as that sounds. My friend Alex said something a few years ago that I can totally relate to--that in high school, she would pray all day, it was almost like she had a continuous conversation going with God and that's, in a sense, what I do. I have all these thoughts and ideas rolling through my brain all day and during them, I find myself wondering if what I'm thinking is God's Will, or if He is orchestrating the things that I'm thinking. Of course I'll whisper little prayers to Him too and of course I also have those sit down, coming-to-Jesus meetings with Him but mostly it's just a continuous barrage of thoughts and "is this You, God?" prayers. Yesterday Rob took Bo to run an errand and CC was napping so I finally was able to have a little quiet time since I couldn't yesterday morning. I've been reading Ezekial. Have I retained everything? No, not one single solitary bit. I wanted to read Ezekial because of the story of dry bones which I've read (and highlighted in my Bible) before but I wanted to read the entire book to get the full picture of what led to the valley of dry bones. Needless to say, I'm going to have to read the book again when I'm done because all these conversations and visions that are exchanged between Ezekiel and God is too much to keep up with. Nevertheless, I forced myself to sit down and read a chapter yesterday while the house was still and quiet, then I knelt face-down in a fetal position on the living room floor and just stayed there for a few minutes. I heard recently during a sermon (can't remember whose) that sometimes you need to go to God in prayer and not speak, just sit and listen so I laid there on the floor and just listened...to myself breathe. It's so frustrating when you genuinely want to hear from God, are all but begging for some direction and all you hear is yourself breathing. I know I get distracted easily, I know I don't spend as much time in the Word as I should, I know I don't pray like I should, but when I finally still myself and get into a physical position of "ok God, I'm listening!!!", and all I hear is myself breathing, I find myself feeling silly for getting on my face to pray and glad that no one saw me down there. I know it sounds awful but I'm keeping it real. I'm ashamed to admit that when I finally uttered words to God while on my face, I started my conversation with, "if You're up there...". Now I could see someone saying that who truly had never had a relationship or encounter with God but me?! I was raised in church (not that that means a hill of beans but for arguments sake, I know better), have seen the hand of God move in more ways that I can count, but I found myself in a desperate state of "What do you want me to do, God??? What is my next move here?!" The words came flying out of my mouth before I could reel them back in and as soon as they left me, I immediately thought back to the miracle of Bo, and I felt awful for even stooping to that level of desperation and doubt. I know God is there. I know He hears my every prayer (so ironic to see myself type those words because CC had a sticker placed on her shirt at church on Sunday that read those same words). I'm so terrified of making the wrong move and falling on my face or getting my hopes up with one thing or another and what I truly feel God is calling me to is really just my own doing. How do I sift through the muck? I know, I know--most (if not all) would say to be in His Word, meditate on it and He will speak. But where do I even start? I'm in His Word everyday. Am I not in it long enough? Am I not reading what I'm supposed to be reading? Am I not desperate enough to hear His voice? I know He's there. Even though it's my human nature to doubt (and honey, let me tell ya, I am as human and imperfect as they come!), I can't bring myself to say, "peace out God, I'm not going to pass anything by you or acknowledge Your existence". He's engrained in me and always has been even when I've felt so far from Him. I've mentioned in a previous post about me having been in a dry, desert season and that I've finally felt that I'm coming out of it. While I'm not quite completely out of it, as Lauren Daigle's song exclaims, "breathe O breath of God...we call out to dry bones, 'Come alive!'". In my continuous waiting for direction, more than wanting answers and guidance, I pray that God would breathe some life on the dryness of my prayer life and that I can once again feel completely in sync with Him. I know the distractions that need to be tamed and/or eliminated so I guess that's the first step in watering these dusty, dry bones.

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Waiting Well

It's funny how as long as I've been in NY, I've always had a magnolia tree somewhere near me. This shot was from our yard in the cottage we lived in before buying our house 5 and a half years ago.

It's funny how as long as I've been in NY, I've always had a magnolia tree somewhere near me. This shot was from our yard in the cottage we lived in before buying our house 5 and a half years ago.

I'm internally snickering at the subject of this post. "Why?", you may ask. My answer is because my entire life, I've been the one with the least amount of patience. For real. I don't know what it is about waiting but I can't stand it--if something isn't happening in the amount of time I'd like for it to be, I just grab it and do it myself.

But God.

A few days ago I received an e-vite from my pastor's wife to attend the Kingdom Hearts women's conference this year. I attended for the first time two years ago and was completely in awe of the presence and details of God that entire day. I remember the excitement of having a girls day with a small group of ladies from my church and being a bit envious, yet hopeful when I walked into the building and saw a whole slew of vendors set up, wishing I had known about the fact that one could set up shop there. Looking back at my journal from that year, I found my notes from the day of that conference--it was held on April 23, 2016; the day before, I had written an entry describing myself sitting out back here at our house, under our pink magnolia tree watching Bo play with trucks. I wrote about how I had been so excited for that tree to blossom but was disappointed because we had gotten a cold snap (including a late snow) that killed the blooms that were to unfold, but that after sitting there under the tree and studying it a bit, amongst the dead blooms, I could see green shoots and a few traces of pink. "Even in the ugly, there were traces of beauty", I penned. I went on to say that the magnolia, in some ways, was me--that even though I had allowed the enemy or circumstances to take hold of me at times and my trust wavered, I would wither and appear to be drained of life, but when I surrendered to God and put my full faith and trust in Him, I'd begin to be and experience the beauty of what He had designed for me to be.

Back to the day of the KH conference, I walked into the main hall and there, set up as a prop were two wooden pallets that had been handpainted on with the scripture: Jeremiah 17:7-8, which reads, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord. For he shall be a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes, but its leaves will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought nor cease from yielding fruit." The keynote speaker that day was Francie Winslow who spoke on trusting God as well as the condition of our hearts. This morning I sat down with that old journal and looked up the scriptures from that day. I also looked at the sermon notes from the next day at church--my good friend's (now) late mother had given that sermon on Elijah and how God will always provide when he sends us on a mission, how He takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary, how He answers prayers even when we're still speaking, how we are to believe that He will provide and answer prayers, that God orchestrates everything according to His plan, how if we're faithful in little things, He'll give us bigger things, and that He's able to do anything, even what seems to be impossible. Then, I continued to read journal entries from that week which led to sermon notes of the following Sunday which was a sermon by mine and Rob's good friend, Mike who spoke on the subject of "seasons". Something that he said that stood out most to me was, "We need some seasons in our lives where we are drawn to our knees so we reach out to Him, and what follows a desperate season is a season of fruitfulness." WOW. Mind blown. I had no idea that the season that I was stepping into was a dry, drought-filled, wandering, silent, at-times-dark season. I thought I had God figured out, and that Rob, Bo and I were to purchase that old farm house on 34 acres and relocate to Alabama (if you missed it, that story is here) that following year only to have the wind knocked out of my sails just four months later when the deal fell through. I also had no idea that almost a year to the day of that conference, even in my dry season where, though I knew God and was trusting Him on blind faith but not waiting very well, I would be blessed with a daughter, even though I was so apathetic and complacent. 

But God.

So now here I am nearly two years after that conference, with an invitation to attend this year's conference. Upon receipt of the invitation to attend this year, I did some thinking and research, and found myself on the phone with the very sweet vendor coordinator for Kingdom Hearts. Guess who's going to be a vendor at this year's conference? Yep, you guessed it. MAGNOLIA+PINE. I wanted to get a feel for the keynote speaker and her message topic so I looked her up yesterday; her name is Chrystal Evans Hurst and if you're familiar with well-known pastors and Christian speakers, her dad is Tony Evans and her sister is Priscilla Shirer. Anyway, I came across Chrystal's blog and she recently did a podcast with contemporary Christian artist, Meredith Andrews (listen here). Y'all! I started listening to that interview and was glued. They spoke on what it means to be faithful in every season, making room for your gifts (i.e.: how to juggle home life/mommin' and using your God-given gifts and passions), and finding time to rest for it is when you {wait and} rest that you often hear God. It's hard for me to get out of my rut and focus on a sermon at home sometimes but I could listen to that podcast over and over. As we started this new year, I wanted so bad to turn over a new leaf and really get a groove with MAGNOLIA+PINE but of course to still be present at home with Rob and the kids, I just didn't know how in the world I would be able to maintain brain space and momentum. But God, right? This podcast came at just the right time. Chrystal and Meredith spoke about snippets and how so many women feel like it's all or nothing with getting something done. That is totally me! I feel like whether it's a devotional or design, blog post or creative vision, if I sit down to finally get something accomplished--either Bo needs his truck fixed or hiney wiped, or CC is screaming and wants the boob--I lose all concentration and say, "forget it, hopefully I can finally start on _____ tomorrow during their nap". These ladies spoke about how, even if you have a thought, word, vision, whatever it is, and you can speak it into your phone notes, do it! Grab whatever snippet you can and then go back and fit the pieces together. It's so hard for me to imagine myself doing this because I've always been a perfectionist and at times, a bit OCD, but when I sit and really think about it, getting things done in the manner of which they're suggesting is almost like a mosaic. You may be putting tiny pieces of random gibberish together but when it's all finished, it's a beautiful work of art. Such is my life.

I didn't know seven years ago that I'd still be living in New York. I didn't know two years ago that I'd be about to step into a desert season. I didn't know last week that I'd be starting a new year this week and having the sand wiped from my eyes, looking back at an old journal and literally reading the promises of God in my hand writing, in black and white. I say it all the time but when I'm caught up in a lesson He's teaching me, it just absolutely blows my mind. I can't help but feel a little guilty and want to kick myself for the times I haven't waited well, especially during the last seven years. But God. He has been teaching me firsthand His character, His lovingkindness and His grace. I've always had faith and held on to hope but as my dear friend, Shell recently shared, "let us be more aware of Him"; I know He's always working and orchestrating in my life but sometimes I go days on autopilot and not really seeing what He's doing. However, if I just sit for a second and wait...listen instead of speaking...I realize that He's always always always at work, even in the mundane. Even in the desert.

 

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