Monday, December 31, 2012

Stones of Remembrance 2012

Where did 2012 go? It has truly been a year of surprises, answered prayer, and major transition. Because of all the hits on last year's reflection post, I decided to continue the trend.

In the Bible, stacked stones often represent a memorial or altar intended to remind people of God's faithfulness in a specific circumstance. In Joshua 4, the Israelites finally inherit the land promised to them by the Lord.
"And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God." 
As I reflect back on the past year, I have my own stones of remembrance: moments that shaped me, lessons that changed me, people who influenced me, and a God who never left me. As we usher in the new year, I hope you will join me in looking back on 2012 by celebrating and marking with stones of remembrance all the Lord has done. If you don't know my Jesus, there will be no better way to bring in the new year than to allow Him to be Lord of your life.

Stone 1: At my conference in February, I met with multiple agents and editors to find a good fit for my manuscript. Mission accomplished. I signed a contract with WordServe Literary Agency this year and have the privilege of working with Sarah Joy Freese. What a blessing!

Stone 2: New job. Once again, I began a new job this year. Last year, I had the incredible privilege to nanny a little girl who made me smile more than I thought possible. But that time came to a close for both of us. In February, I accepted the position as writer for for the communications ministry at First Baptist Dallas. It has truly been a learning experience. My job has morphed and taken on new responsibilities, but God has been so good here. 

Stone 3: Haiti bound. In May, I spent a week in Haiti with a great team from my young adults ministry. I fell in love with the people, with Mission of Hope, and left challenged and encouraged by what the Lord is doing there. I can't wait to go back!

Stone 4: Reunited and it feels so good. In August, I flew to Missouri to see my best friend for the first time in over two years. The trip was an absolute blessing. I am still in awe of how the Lord has consistently knit our hearts together while states away. She is now engaged, and I look forward to standing with her at her wedding in 2013.

Stone 5: Mended relationships. I was ready to quit community, and the Lord restored beyond what I could have imagined. I learned much about the power of prayer, about dealing with conflict, and about authenticity.

Stone 6: Renewed team work. My young adults team took a weekend retreat to pray, cast a new vision, and have fun with one another. I am incredibly grateful to be part of this ministry. The Lord has used my team to soften my heart, increase my boldness, ignite a passion to serve, and push me to love Him more.

Stone 7: New car. I am officially an adult! This was another mark of the Lord's faithfulness in prayer. I paid exactly what I could, found the make and model I wanted, found a "new" used car, and even found my favorite color. The Lord's timing is perfect, and I am almost finished paying it off!

Stone 8: My brother graduated! I'm so proud of his hard work and business direction.  I'm also excited that he moved back to Dallas. Now I get to spend even more time with him.

Stone 9: Beautiful holidays. Over the course of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was able to spend time with both sides of my family. My uncle and aunt are both cancer-free this year! My granddad survived a wreck and was able to celebrate with us. My cousin got married, and his new bride spent her first Christmas with the whole family. My other granddad made it out of the hospital just in time to celebrate our Savior's birth. was a white Christmas. There is much to thank the Lord for this holiday season.

Stone 10: This year, the Lord taught me a great lesson in what it looks like to live abundantly. Haiti changed my mindset. Work became a tool and opportunity to both influence and be influenced. My friends changed my heart and taught me what it looks like to live in authentic community. I experienced adventure, challenge, and transition. It has been a year of growing, of spending my time on things that matter, and of learning to say no and rest when necessary. I learned a lot about dreams and obedience to the Lord. I learned that my dreams are subject to change and all for His glory.
So many exciting things are already on the calendar for 2013 - lots of travel, weddings, work craziness, and a big announcement! Stay tuned! Follow me on Facebook and twitter. Join this site. If nothing else, pray and grow with me this year as we anticipate the big things the Lord desires to do in your life and mine! 

Happy New Year from Texas! May God richly bless you no matter what comes in 2013.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dream Big - Better than Yesterday

I once heard it said that we should look to our heroes for inspiration and then set out to surpass them. Have you identified your hero lately?

I'm not talking about Justin Bieber or the church answer of Jesus. (Since Jesus is Lord, to lump Him in the hero category seems a little demeaning.) I'm talking about a person in your life, your profession, or your history that encourages, inspires, or challenges you to be better.

Better yet, have you determined to surpass your personal best?

In high school, my band director told us that we should only purpose to beat one competitor...ourselves. If we continued to improve everytime we stepped on the field, we could hold our heads up.

I took that to heart. I trained my fingers to fly over the keys until I could play the music in my sleep. I trained my lungs to handle running while playing in various weather conditions. I trained my muscles to walk backwards, forwards, and sideways without ever turning my torso from the sidelines. I trained my mind to keep pushing when I was tired and encourage those around me rather than complain. And every day, I was better than my previous day's best.

The same is true in life. Learn from the success and failures of your heroes. Learn from your own successes and failures. Don't base your dreams on your hero's victories, but on your own personal ability and calling. Be better than you were yesterday.

Have you identified your hero lately? Have you identified what draws you to this individual? How can watching them make you better? How can you use that to beat your personal best from yesterday and the day before?

Satisfaction today comes from knowing you met the demands of the day with your best. Contentment tomorrow means embracing the day before and diligently working to improve. Dreams are achieved when you belong to Christ, know who you are in Him, and walk obediently, working for the Lord and not for man.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Live Inspired - Tis the Season

I've always loved writing poetry and even took some advanced classes in college. For some reason, the urge to tap that creative outlet called a few days ago. My professor would flunk me, but it felt good to stretch these writing muscles again.

The Christmas King

Christmas tress and glowing lights, 
fire pops on winter nights.

Families gather near and far
like wise men traveling to find the star.

Christ child centers the manger scene,
Mary and Joseph's faces gleam.

Celebration focused 'round this tiny babe,
born to die to free the slave.

The essence of love in a bed of hay,
this King of Kings we celebrate on Christmas day.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dream Big - Problem with Comparison

Comparison is the thief of joy. It is also the thief of dreams.

While I wrote my first book, I began every writing day praying that the Lord would give me His words, not mine.

Now, I'm working on book 2, and comparison is robbing me of my ability to be effective. I second guess myself every time I sit down. As ideas fall into place, I get excited until it comes to execution, and then i wonder what in the world I'm doing.

In reality, I know I can do this. I know I'm capable of creating something beautiful when I let go. But I look at other writers and wish I could write as eloquently or as creatively. BIG PROBLEM! Comparison steals my confidence, and my writing is mediocre instead of full and rich.

We live in a society of comparisons. If he is succeeding in business by enacting a particular strategy, then I should do that as well since it clearly works. In reality, that strategy may work for that guy, but I'm a different person. I attract a different audience with a different message, style, and voice. I have to do what fits my audience.

I have to be ME.

In order to do my best, I must remember to see myself as my Heavenly Father sees me. I must be who He created me to be. I can learn from the success of others. I can learn from their victories and defeats. I can learn from their style and gifts. But I must use that to shape and make me better, instead of becoming a cheap imitation. No one goes to the museum to see a copy of the Mona Lisa. Everyone wants to see the original.

Here is my prayer for book 2..."But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 1:9)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 20 - My Bubba

Meet my baby brother in 6'4" form. He is amazing. Today, I am so incredibly thankful for his strength and gentle spirit. He is steady in my life...even when he decides to chase a new idea.

I am so proud of him. He will graduate from Hardin Simmons University in a few short weeks. School didn't always go as he planned, but he stuck it out. He even received his class ring this month.

Toby is loyal, a champion of the underdog, disciplined in taking care of himself, and kind. He makes friends easily and invests in those who stick around. He is an entrepreneur, always tossing around a new idea and then following it whole-heartedly.

He makes me laugh, speaks truth, encourages me, and is always ready to give a hug. I'm thankful for my gentle giant who knows when to be tough and when to be calm. Congrats, Bubba! Love you!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 19 - Night

I am a creature of the night no doubt about it. My best ideas strike in the quiet. This weekend, I hit holiday mode big time - stayed out late with friends, slept in late, watched movies late. LATE was the name of the game.

But last night I was particularly thankful for my phone, something I completely take for granted.

I'm thankful that it connects me with people I love. I'm thankful that it gives me an opportunity to be with them when I physically can't. I'm thankful that it is never too late for community to call. And I'm thankful it gives us the opportunity to pray together, no matter the time or circumstances.

I'm thankful for the night watches. I'm thankful that I was able to partner with a friend in prayer last night in the stillness. I'm thankful that the Lord hears and answers. And I'm thankful that He promises to do BIG things.

Today, I'm also really thankful for caffeine. Sometimes I overestimate how late I should stay up. Here's to a happy Monday!

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:5-8

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 18 - A Church Home

Just over 2 years ago, I stumbled into Watermark Community Church, craving community, something familiar, and something stable. I had just moved home from college and needed a fresh start in my home city. I needed a place to spread my wings and grow.

It didn't take me long to feel at home in this place. I always leave challenged and encouraged. Many days, I leave frustrated because of the biblical accountability...which is how I know it's working.

Every week, without fail, I am either privileged to see lives changed or hear stories of life change from those around me.

I have seen broken people made into beautiful, confident warriors for Christ. And, I am so honored to call them friends and serve with them in ministry.

This place is home. These people are family. We disagree, but we are learning to love one another well. We challenge one another with the gospel message, and we push one another to share it. We pray for one another and pray God does BIG things in our city.

I know this isn't unique to my church. But, I can't help but think it is something special, simply because I get to see what God does using the people here every week. On this beautiful Sunday morning, I am thankful that I walked in those doors 2 years ago. And I'm thankful for how the Lord has changed my life in that time. He is so good!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 17 - Little Treasures

Where is this month going? We are already on Day 17!

Today, I'm thankful for little treasures...

- a night with friends outside of work
- a morning to sleep with nowhere to be
- 2 days left of work until Thanksgiving break!
- this fun little find this morning at an estate sale
- another weekend of Texas Tech football...Wreck 'em!
- a cool, fall day
- time to write and get some things done that I haven't had to time to do.

All little treasures that make for a beautiful weekend. I have so much to be thankful for, and too often, I forget to thank the Lord for these little moments that make me smile.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 16 - When I wanted to run...

Time for Five Minute Friday where a whole bunch of writers virtually gather to share our stories. Today's word?


Three years ago, my goal was to run. Run as far away from Texas as possible. Don't get me wrong...I'm a die hard Texan, born and bred, and true as they come. But I wanted escape from everything familiar - a total fresh start.

So naturally, God closed every door outta here. One right after the other. Frustrated is an understatement. Presently thankful is also an understatement.

I wanted to run from broken friendships.

The Lord said STAY, and now I wouldn't trade the community of men and women my age who love me and run hard after Christ.

I wanted to run from my future, create my own.

The Lord said STAY, and I found a Christian mentor who helped me finish a book that is about to be published.

I wanted a fresh start, to reinvent myself, or the bitter girl I had become.

The Lord said STAY and used old and new friends to help heal my heart. Then he dropped me right back in the church I grew up in as a staff member doing what I love - writing.

To say that His plans are better than mine is also an understatement. I am so thankful that my God does not give me all the desires that I think my heart wants. He makes me STAY and wait for what is even better. Master story teller right there. And He's still writing mine.

Thankful Heart Day 15 - Music

I am a music lover. My life revolved around choir and band growing up. But I love all genres and styles of music.

Today, I am so thankful for the beautiful gift of music!


changes my mood
is a form of worship
makes me smile

The Lord tells us to make a joyful noise before Him. He created music to be a method of praising Him, something beautiful to His ears. We don't always use it correctly.

I think J.R.R Tolkien described God's intention for music beautifully in The Silmarillion. This book is known as "The Elven Bible" to Tolkien enthusiasts. It is the prequel to Lord of the Rings and basically describes the creation of Middle Earth and the elves. It is like the book of Genesis, complete with a God-figure and a devil-figure. In this book, the God-figure creates the world and the elves with music. So Melkor, this devil-figure, decides to use music to trump God's creation. I love the way the God-figure responds:

"And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” 

Even music that is meant to dishonor the Lord is not as beautiful as the kind meant to praise Him. What an awesome promise!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 14 - My Sis

Happy 21st birthday to my beautiful baby sister! I am so incredibly thankful for her! 

She has grown as a person so much since she left for college. I love the friends she has made. I love her creativity and passion for excellence. I love that she is developing the artistic gifts the Lord has given her, and I really love that she isn't afraid to figure out her own style. It's also fun that we are both Red Raiders. Wreck 'em Tech!

Her joy is contagious, and she never ceases to make me laugh. She is both competitive and compassionate. She roots for the underdog and is fiercely loyal to her family and friends. She never backs down from what she believes is right.

And, I must admit, she completed our family. I am so proud of how she has grown in the Lord and how she encourages others. And I'm even thankful for my very furry nephew, Duke. Though I'm convinced he is the sickest dog on the planet, he is a sweetheart.

Happy birthday, sis. I'm so thankful for 21 years with you!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 13 - He is Sovereign

Work got crazy today. Actually, the coming craziness is what scares me. We are currently preparing for HUGE changes, and it will require all hands on deck.

Sitting in my meeting this morning, my head began to spin. How will I finish writing my book and be fully present to help me team here? How will I balance my schedule in the craziness if I'm struggling with that now?

Thank the Lord that He is so Sovereign when my brain skips five steps ahead.

He knows I want to do my best. He knows my desire to please and spend time with those in my life. He knows my heart to write stories that make an impact past my own backyard.

He knows. 

Remembering that brings an incredible measure of peace to my day. One day at a time. Do my best today and let tomorrow and next spring wait until they get here.  He is not the author of chaos or stress. He is the author of peace and good plans. 

My fear stems from my stupid idea that I can somehow fix or control the events. Nope. He will give me strength to meet the needs of today and strength to meet the needs of tomorrow. What an excellent reminder to rest and trust in Him today!

Now back to work.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 12 - Countdown to Thanksgiving

It's almost Thanksgiving break!

The countdown has begun. In just a few short days, I will see my brother and sister, my furry niece and nephew, my grandparents, cousins, and aunts, and uncles.

And I'll have a couple days off work to unwind. I CANNOT wait! With all three of us spread out all over Texas, holidays are a sweet time and always over too soon. And...with three big dogs, our house is nothing short of entertaining.

I'm so thankful for the coming family time and the opportunity to rest and recharge.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 11 - Fall

There is something comforting about being back in the city I grew up in, even though it is enormous. No matter where I go, there are people and places that hold memories.

This morning I had the incredible privilege of worshiping at the place I grew up while my current community worship across town.

Today, I'm thankful for fall weather, Sundays, the rain, and community, no matter what shape it takes.

Fall weather in Texas is creeping in and leaves are falling, tugging at my creative heart with their color. I love that each is unique. I love that I needed a jacket this morning. I love that the air smelled like rain. I loved lunch with my dad. I have loved this beautiful, fall, rainy day full of familiarity - old and new.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 10 - Saturdays and the Arboretum

It's a beautiful Saturday, and there is so much to be thankful for. After a week of not feeling great, I feel much better today. The weather is cool and windy, perfect for a walk outside, which is exactly what I did. Thanks to a friend who works at the Dallas Arboretum, I was given a couple of free tickets.

Today, I'm thankful for a gorgeous, calm day to spend time with a friend and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors.

Fall is definitely one of the best times to visit the Arboretum, a natural oasis in the heart of Dallas. Pumpkins of all shapes, sizes, and textures are EVERYWHERE. Fall flowers cover the landscape and the Chihuly exhibit is amazing! Colorful, blown glass is strategically placed in all the gardens.

I gotta be honest - it really triggered my creativity. So thankful for days like this with a friend I have known a long time. There was no need for extra energy, no need to entertain or do more than walk and talk. We could just BE. Such a blessing!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 9 - Quiet

I'm learning the value of QUIET again. What does it really mean to unplug in a world that constantly bombards us with messages "needing" our immediate response?

Quiet from the chaos in my own head, telling me what I need to do and when.

Quiet from the constant tug to people please.

Quiet from the hum of machines and the "ding" of my email.

Quiet from the voices on TV that paint a sadly accurate portrait of a crumbling American morality.

Quiet from my own fears and worries.

Quiet from the opinions of others.

When I quiet my mind and heart, I hear a different voice, One that whispers "this is the way you should go, now walk in it."

I don't need a microphone to hear it. This voice is familiar to me, but too often I turn the volume of life up so loud that I drown Him out. Sometimes intentionally. Sometimes unintentionally.

Today, I'm so thankful for the QUIET, still small voice that speaks to me in the whirlwind and the storm. 

Nothing erases Him. The voice is constant and strong, giving me the courage to stand strong and turn the volume up on everything else enough to make an impact but still hear His counsel.

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..." (Isaiah 30:15)

Linking up with Five Minute Friday today!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 8 - Lunch Dates

Just call me firefighter or jack-of-all-trades. It really depends on the day. My job requires a fast pace, random deadlines, and the occasional need to put out a fire at the last minute. That job usually falls to my team.

Some days, it is just necessary to get out of the office and not talk about work. Some days, it's important to build relationships.

I'm thankful for lunch dates with coworkers. Today's lunch date was with my boss, Bethany, at Corner Bakery.

I'm so thankful for time away from the office to fellowship and be refreshed. The walk was beautiful and the change of scenery really recharged my creative juices. Gotta love adventures in downtown Dallas. Oh the story ideas.

Time to knock out more projects!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 7 - Productivity

I'm learning a few things about productivity in this writing adventure...

  • It's not about waiting for inspiration to strike...just get busy!
  • It's NOT a feeling. 
  • It doesn't help to over think the situation. Make a plan of attack, and then carry it out.
  • Busyness does not equal productivity. 
  • It isn't perfect execution. It's about getting something on paper and then working through it later. 
  • Getting something done is better than getting nothing done.
  • Simplify the list. Identify what needs to be accomplished, and eliminate everything else.
  • Tackle the biggest project first. The little stuff adds up, but too often it exists to consume our time and limit finishing a task.
Today, I am so thankful for a meeting-free day and time to be productive.

“Times of great calamity and confusion have been productive for the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace. The brightest thunder-bolt is elicited from the darkest storm.” Charles Caleb Colton

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 6 - I Voted!

I voted! I actually voted a couple weekends ago.

But today, I'm thankful for the freedom to exercise my rights.

Everyone seems to have an opinion "based on facts," but the facts seem to discount one another. Get a grip, people. After a while, your emotional response gets annoying.

My pastor said something very wise this past Sunday: The only election of eternal significance is the election into God's family. 

I love what Daniel 2 says about my God, "He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning."

Pray for wisdom and discernment for our leaders. God is Sovereign over whoever wins, and no matter what comes, He will get glory. Pray. Vote for issues that align with the Bible. CHILL OUT. And let's see what God does.

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people." (Proverbs 14:34) Vote for what's right and pleasing to God!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 5 - The Little Things

Today, I'm thankful for the little things...

  1. A misty morning with cool temperatures
  2. No traffic
  3. Encouraging texts/emails from coworkers and friends
  4. A busy day
  5. My office team
  6. Hot tea
  7. Sweet truths in my devotional this morning
  8. A few, quiet minutes of down time to work on my writing
  9. The changing colors
  10. The coming holiday season

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 4 - Baking Cookies

Day 4 - I'm so thankful for...

Time with my mom and the simple pleasure of baking cookies.

Even when I mess up the recipe because I just don't feel like doing all the math, Mom is there for a bail out. This weekend has been a perfect time to spend time relaxing and getting crafty. 

Thank the Lord for the weekends - for rest before a crazy week, for a power outage that reminded me to spend quiet time with the Lord, and for time with my parents. I know this time is limited!

There's something to be said for completely unplugging. And there's something to be said for time with Mom in the kitchen and the smell of snickerdoodle cookies filling the house.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 3 - Shoe Boxes

Today, I am thankful for shoe boxes.

More specifically, I am thankful for the incredible privilege to provide Christmas for a child I will never meet. The last few years, I've participated in Operation Christmas Child. You fill a shoebox with suggested goodies for a child in need, and the box is delivered to another country.

After spending time in Haiti, this shopping task had my heart fully engaged today. I kept thinking of the little girls I held - their lack of clothes and toys, the joy on their faces with a simple coloring page, the need for school supplies.

My arms and heart were full as I approached the checkout counter.  My box is overflowing. I just kept thinking about all the things this little girl might need. I pray the Lord uses this box in a special way. I pray it brings a smile and encouragement. I pray that it meets a need for school supplies and toys and a new shirt.

I only wish I could help distribute these gifts!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 2 - Quiet Moments

Fridays are the new Monday at my office. Since I work at a church, many ministers take Fridays off so that they are equipped and rested to serve on Sunday. So a few of us hold down the fort. With several events going on this weekend here, it is all hands on deck.

Today, I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Literally.

On day 2 of this thanksgiving month, I am so thankful for the quiet moments of rest and renewal in the midst of a hectic day. 

Every day, I start work with reading Jesus Calling and meditating on the recommended scripture. Since today started of with a BANG, this afternoon is better than nothing. I love the tender truths that I discover here.

The reminder today...

"A yielded heart does not whine or rebel when the going gets rough. It musters the courage to thank Me even during hard times. Yielding yourself to My will is ultimately an act of trust. In quietness and trust is your strength." (Jesus Calling, November 2, by Sarah Young)

In QUIETNESS and trust is my strength. I choose to abide in Him in the craziness and in the calm. What a beautiful truth! Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thankful Heart Day 1 - Honest Friends

Last year, I spent the month of November concentrating on building a thankful heart. Too often, I fail to thank the Lord for His goodness in my life, regardless of the circumstances. This year, I would like to start this again...30 days of a Thankful Heart.

Today, I am so thankful for my community group...

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend;  profuse are the kisses of an enemy." (Proverbs 27:6)

I gotta be honest...accountability sucks. I mean, it is awful. And I'm not talking about accountability for something I'm doing wrong. I'm talking about accountability for something I want to do right. But, check that verse out:

Faithful are the WOUNDS of a friend. 

Not the hugs of a friend or the compliments or encouragements of a friend, although I like all that. Nope. That verse is incredibly clear about pain inflicted by a friend. But the shocker is that those wounds are not the result of a broken friendship but a faithful friend, one who loves you and wants your best. 

Community isn't comfortable. In fact, it is very uncomfortable. But, I am safe and loved in that uncomfortable feeling because I know these women are running hard after Jesus. Therefore, I can trust them. I would rather have women in my life who tell me the blunt truth and encourage me in the right way than those who are so worried about my initial defensive reaction that they coddle me.

Tough love is better than selfish, kind words. Day 1? So thankful for blunt honesty and unconditional love in community. I pray we continue to sharpen one another.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finding My Voice

It's time for Five Minute Friday where a flash mob of writers join to write purely for the joy of the craft and then share their thoughts over at Lisa-Jo's. Today's word?
I used to be quiet. I never voiced an opinion unless I was surrounded by my closest family and friends. For those who know me now, that's hard to believe. For those who knew me then, I speak a little differently now.

There was a time when my friends fought over my voice. One discovered I have a sarcastic edge and did his best to nurse it to health. The other discovered subdued opinions and encouraged them to life.

In college, I overcompensated a bit, sometimes struggling to find that line between blunt and honest while seasoning every word with salt. Turns out that seasoning gave my voice a strength and flavor all its own.

I still don't have it mastered, but I know who made my mouth. I know who gave me a voice, and I know He told me to use it well, all for His glory. So I take delight in using this tool God gave me. I exercise it like any other muscle, making it submissive to the heart of my Father. I want Him to approve. I want to make Him proud.

Some days taste a little salty than others. Other days, it's a little bland. But, I'm constantly learning the balance. Turns out my voice is unique to me. My opinions, my heart, and my thoughts are treasured by the King.

He even gives me words to say when my voice goes silent. I pray my voice finds its source of strength in the One who spoke the world into being. Only then will I truly use this platform effectively.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Got The Blues - Remembering Haiti

I must confess, my heart is in Haiti this week. Or perhaps it is just consumed with the experience, the people, and the way the Lord worked in my heart back in May.

I went to a country many would deem of no account and put hundreds of faces with a name that has come to mean as much to me as my own. I have a severe case of the Haiti blues.

If there is one thing that I have learned since returning from Haiti it is this: MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY. Be intentional. Live life to the fullest. But what does that look like in a culture that doesn't understand how to slow down?

Life is simple in Haiti.

  • They sit on their front porch or sweep their one room house.
  • Kids run to and fro. Babies sleep or sit on their mother's lap.
  • Livestock runs loose.
  • They make a trip or two to the well, gathering all the needed water for the day. Some sloshes out on the mile long walk back home while they teach their children the correct way to balance the paint bucket on their heads.
  • Teens are no different there. They play pick up games of soccer, have cell phones, flirt with one another, and like to look nice.
But life is simple, uncluttered with the complexity I see in American culture. In Haiti, many families often wonder where their next meal will come from. In America, I wonder what my next big purchase will be.

In Haiti, they see the Lord as Provider. In America, sometimes I don't think He provides enough.

They celebrate a roof over their heads and a one bedroom house. I live in a full-sized house and dream of bigger.

They understand the value of conversation around the front porch. I pop in my headphones and ignore the world.

But a week in this country changed my heart...

- My world lit up with the smile of little Pierre,  suffering from a brain tumor but humming a sweet tune for our ears.
- My heart engaged with the teen as I asked him his vision for Haiti.
- My mind connected with Kinsley as he taught me French and Creole on our long walks.
- My tears fell when we prayed for a teen with cerebral palsy and saw the faith and dedication of his mother, despite the circumstances.
- My hope rose as a girl my age sang the most beautiful worship song in Creole as my team gathered around the porch of her home.

I'll never forget their faces, their stories. And this week, as I pray for 40 of my friends who are serving there faithfully, I selfishly wish I was with them. But, I know I have a job to do here. I know that simplicity can be found in my Dallas life. Time to get busy with the things that matter and discard what doesn't reach to eternity.

Time to develop the heart of a Haitian believer - the knowledge that He is provider, sovereign, and holy in my life!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dream Big - What Are You Waiting For?

No matter how many times I edit my stories or poems, I continually discover typos, misspelled words, and grammatical errors. SO frustrating! I have noticed this many times after the story is published or submitted to a contest.

Last year, I finished my first novel, and I'm currently working on book 2. I edited that first manuscript until I could hardly see black, then I sent it to a professional editor, thinking it was pretty clean.

Yeah right. That would have been too easy.

It came back with even more red marks. Epic fail for this perfectionist. I immediately read through it. What in the world did I miss? Apparently, quite a bit. Amazing what others can see in our lives from a distance that we are unaware of up close and personal.

So, I did another few rounds of edits. By the time the manuscript went to the publishers, I couldn't count how many times I had read that book. I just knew I was tired of it. My agent said that's how she knew it was ready to go. Thank goodness!

Truth is, I poured countless hours, prayers, tears, and laughter into that book. It carries a piece of me that I forced to expand, grow, and spread wings, and fly. From caterpillar to butterfly. But even as I stuck it in the mail, I wondered if I could have done more.

You will never fully be ready for your dreams. One day, they will arrive, and even after all your careful preparation, you will discover how much you have left to learn. Our dreams are journeys. They aren't perfect, they don't happen without hard work, but don't get stuck on the flaws. DIVE IN! Pursue them with all your heart, knowing that they will never be perfect. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Colossians 3:23)

The praise of others often falls short when I continue to look at my work with a critical eye. I see the flaws. It came from my own head and heart, after all. I'm so thankful that the Lord looks at me, knows my flaws, and stamps me COMPLETE in Him. He paid a price for my mistakes, my self-criticism, my controlling nature, and my fear of failure. On the cross, He declared that the need to cling to all those wrong attitudes is FINISHED. Time to stop waiting and move forward in faith in the pursuit of your dreams.

You'll never fully be ready. Just dive in. 

I took the challenge. I finally penned "The End."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Look Beyond The Surface

It's time for Five Minute Friday where a flash mob of writers join to write purely for the joy of it and then share our thoughts over at Lisa-Jo's. Today's word?

I love to people watch. Don't worry, I'm not a creeper. But you learn a lot about the character of a person from their behavior.

For instance, the way they walk tells a story. Fast or slow? Eyes downcast or straight ahead? Posture erect or slumped? Are the engaged with another person in conversation, or do they have headphones in? There is more to people than their appearance. Look below the surface.

This week, I'm learning to take a deeper look not just with the people in my life, but with the Lord. It is in opening my eyes to the world around me that I better understand who He is, and therefore, who I am in Him.

It's fall (although Texas hasn't quite caught on yet), and the leaves are changing color. But no tree is colored like another on the block. No leaf has quite the same pattern. Each stone has a different hue and texture. Each person holds a different image, but all are created in His likeness.

Just like Michelangelo stared at a broken mess of marble and saw the David, so I am working to be aware of what's around me and see deeper. The world is intricate and unique, hand-crafted by a Master Artist. There's too much to see to spend my life in a blur of movement and activities.

I must make the commitment to slow down and look. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. What lies below the surface? What treasures am I missing in my daily life?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dream Big - Network

Let's make a connection...We never get anywhere on our own. We may think we do, and in reality, it may appear that we conquered mountains in our life with sheer will and determination.

But time to burst your bubble...

You are shaped, influenced, and aided by those who cross your path. Truth be told, you actually get a lot farther up that mountain when others help you.

As a writer, I am dependent on the stories and lives of others to create well-rounded, personal characters. Through connections at my church this past week, I was able to connect with two men who are familiar with the Navy SEALs and ask them questions as I research my character.

Books are beneficial for knowledge, but they don't always capture the heart of a team, profession, or individual. My character is coming to life, and I love watching him develop. I'm thankful for people who are willing to use their passions and areas of influence not only for their own benefit but for the betterment of others and the glory of the One who gifted them in the first place.

In the context of pursuing your dreams, community is important. Utilize your NETWORK. The people in your life are there for a purpose. Help one another be better versions of your current selves. Don't be afraid to use them as a resource for people and places they can reach that you may not have access to.

My pride often gets in the way of asking for help in the pursuit of my dreams. I often feel obligated to make an unrealistic commitment in return, or I don't want to bother that other person. You never know what can happen when you ask. So, take a chance. Ultimately, I hinder or benefit my dreams based solely on my choices.

Make the connection. Build a network, and make sure to return the favor when someone comes calling. Develop an attitude of service toward one another, and you won't go wrong.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Welcome To My World

It's time for Five Minute Friday where a flash mob of writers join to write purely for the joy of it and then share our thoughts over at Lisa-Jo's. Today's word?
It's what I do every Tuesday night at our young adults service. But it's what I'm learning to do every day. It's more than a word.

It's a smile, a conversation. It's remembering some one's name and pronouncing it correctly. It's listening.

It means pushing past immediate feelings to connect with others. Making them feel loved and worthy should be my number one goal. Host well, no matter where I am. Include everyone. Develop a servant's heart.

It's making my home, my office a place where people feel safe and comfortable. It's making my attitudes and actions reflect the One Who desires to welcome people into an eternal family.

Most of all, it's loving when a person is beyond lovable. And listening when I would rather be anywhere else. Because it isn't about me. Never has been. But too often I forget that.

I've been welcomed into too many groups and communities to count. I've learned what it looks like to include, and I've learned what it doesn't look like. I've also learned that it starts with me. I may welcome someone to my day without welcoming them to my life. If I'm not careful, we will share a moment in time and not a life-changing memory. It hinges on my choice to allow them past the surface level smile to my heart. Such a tough thing. I have to welcome them to all of me - my struggles, victories, the people I love most, and my weird quirks.

A welcome is just the beginning of building a deeper bond. And I firmly believe that we weren't created for surface level interactions. May I settle for a deeper welcome - one that makes an impact!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dream Big - Life Motto

You see these lists everywhere. Live, love, life. Dream, believe, achieve. You get the picture. They tend to get a little cheesy and cliche. But I have to be honest, I learned the value of making my own. In one of my classes, my study challenged me to choose a life motto - goals to strive for, an identity. 

So, in no particular order, this is my list. I'm not who I want to be yet, but I'm not where I used to be. I'm surrounded by people who challenge and encourage. One of these days, I'll have these down. Maybe.
Dream Passionately
Crave Adventure
Hope Eternally
Love Deeply
Live Abundantly
Lead Humbly
Serve Whole-Heartedly
Laugh Freely
Believe Completely
Follow Devotedly
Grow Consistently

“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent people,and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics; and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a little better,whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived . . this is to have succeeded.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson 
What does your life say about you? What would you like it to say?