Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Opinion Doesn't Matter

This week was tough for me.  My feelings were hurt by some things that were said about me, and I was also feeling guilty about things that I said in retaliation to being hurt.  I woke up this morning with a heaviness in my spirit, and I just felt bad.  But in the midst of feeling sorry for myself, I had a revelation from God, and it's BIG! 

We all believe we are right.  If we didn't believe we were right, we wouldn't have an opinion.  I'm almost certain that all of us have an opinion about everything!  If we didn't believe we were right, we wouldn't be leading an authentic life, the life that is right for us.  Living a life that is right for us makes us happy.  It develops us as leaders, trendsetters, and decision makers.

But what gets me, is how judgemental we've all become about what is right and wrong.  I am guilty of this very thing that angers me.  I find myself so upset when people force what is right for their life into an opinion or judgement about how I am living.  But I am right there with them, voicing what I think is right for them without walking a day in their shoes.  This cycle is so difficult to break.  With Facebook, Twitter, and blogs allowing us to say whatever we please in reaction to others, we think our opinion matters.  Guess what...It Doesn't!!!!  

If I would focus half of the attention I spend on judging others or offering my "sound" advice on my relationship with God and allow him to develop my character so I can love and be an example instead of just talking all the time, I would have a much more fulfilling life. 

So why don't I do this?  It's not easy.  Gossip, the act of judging out loud, is an addictive habit. No matter how bad I feel after I have opened my big mouth, I repeat the cycle over and over.  This is a daily struggle for me; an important life test I fail 98% of the time.  I hate it!  We gossip to feel included and to feel validated although most of us don't feel good after we've participated.  We quickly realize that sharing our opinion just wasn't that important, especially after we have hurt someone.  I am going to be honest and tell you that I have strong opinions about what people eat or drink and how much they eat or drink, what they wear or don't wear, and what they do with their free time.  I have an opinion about how people should handle their finances, whether or not they should have children and how they should parent (how ironic because I don't have kids), how they do their jobs, how they speak, what they listen to and watch, how they treat their significant others, and how they treat me.  I promise this list could be longer, and I have just proven that I need to get a life!!! 

Though I have an opinion about everything, I get very angry when people share their opinion about the way Michael and I live our life.  From time to time, people boldly share their opinion about how we spoil Scarlett too much, how we throw money away because we choose to rent instead of buy, how we spend too much money on groceries because we shop at Whole Foods, how we are weird because we don't buy gifts for each other, and how we are selfish because we have chosen to remain childfree.  I get angry because I should not have to defend the way we live, and I already struggle with feeling isolated because we live differently than most married couples.  BUT we have to do what is right for us.  I want people to understand that we love Scarlett and she is ours to spoil, we enjoy the freedom that renting allows us if a better opportunity comes our way, eating organically has become a way of living and no price can be put on our health, buying gifts is not as important to us as traveling together, and neither of us feel we have been called by God to have children at this point in our lives.

But the greater lesson is that others should not have to defend the way they live, which is exaclty what happens when I choose to judge them and gossip about them for the decisions they make.  They have to do what is right for them.  I have no right to an opinion or judgement about how anyone lives, and I am prideful in thinking that I am as important as God--the only righteous judge.  I am wrong to form a judgemental thought, and I cause pain every time I open my mouth and allow the thought to be voiced. 

Thinking about the events of this past week, God has shown me that instead of getting upset every time someone shares their opinion about me, I need to stop and think if I have done that very thing recently.  How hypocritical of me to ask someone else to let me live when I am not giving them the freedom to live themselves.

"Do not Judge, or you too will be Judged."  Matthew 7:1

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Four Years...A Journey

I believe God has been refining and preparing me for four years. I am in the midst of a looooong period of growth, a never ending character building exercise orchestrated by God. I imagine that His plan was meant to take half the time it's taking, but when you are dealing with a stubborn woman like myself who likes to control everything and do everything her own prideful way, the refinement takes a little longer I suppose. I don't know when this period will be over, but I am determined to have faith that the most amazing result is going to come out of nowhere and dramatically transform my life. It won't be what I think, when I think, or how I think, but I do know that my faith needs to increase until that time comes.

Recently, I was asked if I am a new follower of Jesus Christ. That question hurt my heart so much because I know that how I led my life for years, it appears that way. A Christian is not consumed with pleasing herself or others, she is consumed with pleasing God. But in a way, it makes me happy because I believe she has seen a change in me over the past year. A change that reflects a true believer.

I have been a follower of Jesus Christ for 15 years. Since that day, there have been amazing periods of growth in my relationship with Him, but I confess that I rarely gave my days to God or asked Him what He thought was best for me. I lacked discipline, and I lacked faith. But God loves me, and He knows what's best, so He gave me so many gifts and opportunities for many years in spite of my disobedience. He has been shaping me into the woman I am purposed to become. His most amazing blessing is my husband Michael who was made for me and who was made to lead me. I don't thank God enough for His perfect gift. Marrying Michael was the second best decision I've ever made. The best decision was of course accepting Jesus as my savior in a junior high school classroom years ago.

I was a daughter of Jesus Christ, but I only had faith in myself for so long. I led my life on my own terms and according to my schedule. I controlled everything! As a very young girl, I developed an "achievement attitude" as I like to call it. I began to believe that the acceptance of others was extremely important, and as long as I looked good on the outside then life was good. Though there is nothing wrong with doing well and working towards achievement, as I got older, my identity morphed into the labels these awards carried with them. I lost myself because I worked so hard to achieve more and more, and I became consumed with the approval of my parents and of others. I belived that my appearance, status, grades, scholarships, awards, titles, and accomplishments were my identity. I dreamt about being successful, having lots of money, and being someone some day. It's funny though because I had no clue what being "someone" even meant.

I didn't live like this on purpose. I thought I was doing everything right. I thought I was happy. I was able to keep my parents from paying for a college education they couldn't afford, I was given many wonderful leadership opportunites, and I was given the chance of a lifetime to travel abroad. I had a great group of friends, and I had Michael. None of this would have been possible without my need to excel; however, a false sense of pride developed over the years as I continually put faith in myself and in the approval of others and believed it was me and my own hard work that accomplished so much. I was a Christian, a daughter of Jesus Christ, and there were numerous moments in my life when I should have been on my knees with tears rolling down my face thanking Him for everything. Instead, I continued to trust in myself and in my visions of the future while I relished in the achievements of my past.

Four years ago, the awards stopped, the economy tanked, and the real world reared its ugly head. No one was begging for a writer or a creative thinker to come work for them. Life had become about the bottom line. My life was about to change. If you know me and have read my blog since it's beginning, you know that four years ago I was diagnosed with panic disorder, anxiety, and depression. I became so debilitated by this diagnosis. In my head, I went from "Achiever" to "Panicked Loser." Because my identity was wrapped into all I had accomplished, once all of the awards were gone, my identity became about depression and anxiety. I became anxiety, and it consumed my life. All I could think about was what are people going to think of me? Look at who I was and look at who I am now. I must say I can laugh at this now because I was so prideful! I was so convinced that I was above depression and anxiety. How could I have gone from speaking in front of hundreds of people as an ambassador overseas to barely being able to get out of bed and function in an office of three people without pills?

I see now that my diagnosis was the beginning of His refinement. I call it His "Big Humbling Experience." See that's the thing with pride, He had to do something so huge because my prideful nature was out of control. Pride is so Satanic that it creates this false sense of security in yourself and in others, yet the whole time you are so insecure because you have no clue who you really are. I am convinced that all prideful human beings are the most insecure people on the planet. I speak from experience! But we learn to live like this because our world is all about feeling good and living for ourselves. We don't think it's wrong to make our own decisions. It's what we know. Essentially, most of us walk around as our own gods. It's not until God gives us the "Big Humbling Experience" that we figure out how wrong we were.

I can say these things four years later, but for 2 1/2 years I kicked and screamed. I was angry. I blamed everyone and everything I could blame for my anxiety. I was a victim. I was difficult to be around. I didn't want much to do with God. I was jealous of others who were successful and happy. In 2008 and 2009, I experienced some of the worst events of my life, yet I still depended on myself and on others first. You would think I would have learned to surrender, but Satan did not want to let go!

When we moved to Birmingham almost two years ago, I didn't know how much my life would change. Unfortunately, I had a rocky start with a dream job that was going to make me "someone," yet again it became another humbling experience. I was miserable for 7 months, but this ultimately led me to surrender. I thought we moved to Birmingham for my job, but we moved to Birmingham for God. His spirit is all over this city! I have never experienced a place like this! He has done amazing things in me here, and I am finally discovering who I am and starting to believe I am who He says I am.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am like no one else, and that's a great thing! I am His and His only. I am free! I am free to love, free to be real, free to be weird, and free to grow. I am not an award. I am not a diagnosis.

I thought all of my accomplishments made me somebody. They don't make me anybody. But what I am faithfully believing is that He is going to use every accomplishment and every plan that I selfishly made and work it for good in my life, and He is going to transform me into the somebody I never thought I could be! You have no idea how far I've come through His grace to be able to say that! I never thought I would be so grateful for His "Big Humbling Experience."

We are meant to be in a perpetual state of growth, continually moving toward our destiny to be like Christ. I will continually struggle with putting faith in God and not in myself, I will struggle with fear, and I will struggle with gaining acceptance from others. The marvelous miracle about Christianity is that I am free from being perfect, God's grace covers all of my imperfections.

It has been on my heart to share my journey for a while now. I look forward to sharing more. Thank you for reading.

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28

Sunday, April 15, 2012

God is Good!

This was the first weekend Michael was home in a long time, and guess where we spent most of it? In the hospital :(. I am happy to report that all is well, but we were both pretty scared yesterday when Michael asked me to take him to the ER. He felt awful all day and had what he said was the worst headache of his life. After lots of rest and fluids, Michael did not feel any better. I've never seen him in so much pain, so we headed to the ER at 5:30 last night. After four long hours in the ER waiting room (a place I hope we never visit again), a clear ct scan, and a few pain meds, the doctor cleared Michael to go home. Many people were praying for him, and your prayers worked! He has felt so much better today, and he hopefully will never have to go through this again.


Feeling better and getting ready to leave!

We made another trip to the hospital this afternoon. This visit was a celebratory one! Chris and Nicole Arvin welcomed their baby boy Mason Carl Arvin at 10:48 a.m. He weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces and measured 19 inches. He has Chris' nose and Nicole's mouth. He is so perfect! Nicole was exhausted from all the work she did today, but she looked great and I am so proud of her! I can't wait to see Mason grow up. His parents are so much fun, and I cannot imagine how amazing his little personality is going to be.


Though there were some rough hours this weekend, there is more surety in God's love and protection. He had Michael in the palm of his hand last night, and so many prayers were prayed over Nicole and Mason, and now this little miracle is here and he's healthy.

God is good!!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Eli turns One, Scarlett celebrates Too!

Sorry that my blogging has been more sporadic lately, but our computer is so slooooow, and it literally takes an hour to upload pictures and blog. Forgive me for putting it off, but some nights after working, cooking, and doing things around the apartment, I just don't feel up to it. My mom and aunt Paula are coming into town for Easter tomorrow night, so I knew it was now or never to write a post or it would be another week before I got it done!

This past weekend was about more celebrating! Eli's first birthday party was Saturday at the park. I cannot believe he is already one year old. Looking back at some of my posts from last year, it seems like yesterday that he came into the world!


Eli's Smash Cake


Eli recently started walking, and he was on the go!

It's cake time!


Then presents....


It's true what they like the wrapping and tissue paper more than the presents. He was so funny to watch as he tore the paper apart each time Jamie handed him a present.

Happy Birthday Eli!!!!

Scarlett and I were invited to a dog birthday party on Sunday for her friend Reese! It makes me happy to have friends that love and spoil their fur babies like I do. Reese turned 2, and her mom Rachel baked all the dogs a dog friendly cake and all the humans delicious cupcakes. We let our dogs, or kids as we think of them, run around the park and play in the water before they all tired out. Scarlett was beat!

Isn't Reese's cake awesome? The circles are carrots, and the center had beef and barley.

Reese and her mom Rachel. If you look closely, you can see that Reese is wearing a birthday tutu :)

This makes me smile because Rachel is giving a taste of cake to Reese just like Jamie did for Eli in the picture above. I tease Rachel about what her children's birthday parties will be like when she is a mom.

Scarlett and her friend Tito

Doggy Birthday Cake!

Amid the celebrations, I accomplished lots of spring cleaning and organizing. Periodically, I go into crazy organization OCD cleaning mode, so since Michael worked all weekend it was perfect timing. I spent lots of time outside cleaning off our balcony and washing our outdoor furniture that was covered in pollen. I don't know how you people with yards have any free time! I also bought some beautiful plants and transplanted fresh herbs from the nursery next door. This is my first time to grow herbs, and I decided on growing cilantro and sweet basil. We used the cilantro tonight in a recipe, and it was delicious. I loved being able to cut fresh cilantro and walk 10 feet and add it to our dinner. Next year, maybe I'll grow herbs from seeds like a true gardener.

Our pretty plant

Cilantro and basil....I'm happy to report it has grown so much already since I took this picture.

My little helper who wanted me to stop cleaning and give her some attention

I'm excited to be hosting my mom and Paula for Easter. We are going to do some fun things around Birmingham and spend the day in Atlanta on Saturday. I'm excited about them visiting COTH on Sunday for our Easter Service. I hope all of you have a blessed Easter. How blessed we are to have a savior who died and rose again so we could have life!