I’ve been working my way through Kelly Minter’s study, “Encountering God,” for a few weeks on my own. I don’t work on it daily, because I also like to read my Bible, journal, read additional books, and I’m often interrupted by littles. But I have been enjoying it and chipping away at it little by little. The study is on “cultivating habits of faith through spiritual disciplines,” and I must admit, one of the lessons that really challenged me, is the one on worship through celebration.

She began this lesson reviewing some of the feasts that the Israelites would have celebrated in Old Testament times, the why and how they were celebrated: The feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Weeks, and Feast of Booths. She then goes on to say:

As we turn our attention to the New Testament, we see that the Jewish holidays of the Old Testament are no longer prescribed for followers of Christ–they have been fulfilled in Him. The body of Christ can now celebrate at any time and in any place–the most significant celebration being the weekly gathering of the church. Yearly feasts were incredible, but regular community in Christ is better. The party can now be cued anytime believers are present with one another celebrating the shared life of Christ.

Kelly Minter, “Encountering God,” p. 105

Her main point in this lesson is about celebrating the Lord with our lives, together as a family of believers! We’re talking not just in church but living our lives like the early New Testament believers. Dining with each other, celebrating with each other, mourning with each other. Encouraging one another, discipling, doing ministry alongside each other, and just walking and talking through life’s joys and difficulties.

I’ve been thinking a lot about some who have neglected returning to Church because of their fear of COVID, and I just want to point out that you’re really missing out. We can read our Bible all we want at home, and worship on our own. We can work through Bible studies, and read all the books, but we’ll be missing out on the celebration of the Lord in doing life with other believers. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” And let’s not forget Proverbs 27:17, which states, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” We need each other to grow in our faith!

Paul David Tripp, in his devotional, “New Morning Mercies” also reminds us that “We were not wired by creation or re-creation to live on our own. Independent, self-focused living never goes anywhere good. We must all come to understand and accept the truth that our walks with God are community projects. We were not designed to live the Christian life on our own. The reason God calls us to this high quality of relationships is because relationships are an irreplaceable tool in his redemptive hands.”

Lastly, if there are any who are still using fear of sickness as an excuse to return to community. My question is this…How can we trust Christ with our souls, but not with our lives on the earth? Our number of days on the earth are preordained! That’s why the Word say “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27; Luke 12:25).

Don’t forsake your community. We need each other.

Truth, love, and grace!

2017 in Retrospect

It’s that time of year, again! I was thinking and talking to my husband, just yesterday, about all that has happened this past year. We have been so blessed. My husband and I went on a babymoon, we purchased a car (with cash), we became aunts/uncles again (×2), WE had a baby (my Cookie girl!), I left my job be a stay-at-home mom, AND we became debt free.

Wow! There’s just so much to be thankful for, and yet, we know that there’s more to come in 2018. We have multiple friends who are expecting babies, my sister is expecting again, and we’re hoping to begin house-hunting in the next few months. 

Now, that’s not to say that 2017 didn’t knock us back a few steps here and there. A broken down car; sleepless nights with a new baby; one of my sisters lost her home in a fire; my brother-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia; family in Puerto Rico were affected by the two hurricanes that passed through; and my husband’s grandmother passed away. But God continues to provide and prove His faithfulness over and over again. 

So as I sit here, with a napping baby on my lap, I’m jotting down some goals for 2018. They’re different from what I’ve desired previously, mostly because I’m in a new season of life. Yet, the same, in that I desire God to be at the center of all that I do. (You don’t realize how difficult that can be once you have a little one vying for all your attention.) If I were to write everything down here for you, it would take forever to explain, but I’ll go ahead and share a bulleted list of four areas I’d like to focus on for 2018.

  • Relationships…with God, spouse, baby, and friends.
  • Finances…budgeting, saving, and home buying.
  • Ministry…my family, homeless, worship, hospitality, and this blog.
  • Health…eating/cooking healthier, exercising, and taking time for self.

    As I look at this list, I know I’m going to have to be intentional, organized, and very diligent with my time. However, I also know that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). 

    So, what are some goals you’re hoping to accomplish in 2018?

    The Gift of Life

    Good morning, my beautiful readers! Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but I have a really good excuse this time! I’m pregnant! Currently, 13 weeks and 2 days.

    I was working two jobs when my husband and I discovered we’d be expecting–the day after Thanksgiving, lol–but I quit my part-time position in December, after the holidays had subsided, and the only thing preventing me from sharing with y’all has been the fatigue and nausea associated with the first trimester. I have been feeling a little better the last few days, so hopefully, I can continue where we left off.

    This morning, on my way in to work, God and I were having this really long conversation. I was talking to Him about my pregnancy and the baby; my marriage and relationship with my husband; my friends and family who are also expecting; and my friends who’ve recently given birth, and their marriages. Then I started thanking Him for the life He’s given me and here’s where I started to break down a little.

    If you’ve read my testimony, you understand why I began getting so emotional. There was once a time in my life where I didn’t see a baby as a precious gift, but as an inconvenience. I’ve since then recognized my flawed thinking and repented of my sins and failures, but to be in the position that I am now…is overwhelming, to say the least. God’s not only given me new life through His Son Jesus Christ, but now He’s giving me new life in the form of a baby; and that just goes to show how forgiving, loving, and merciful and generous He is.

    This Friday, January 27th, is the March for Life in D.C. Last year I got snowed out, and this year I won’t be able to make it just due to the fact that that’s a lot of walking and I’m not prepared for it in my current state (my body has been so achy, lately, since everything is shifting inside). However, if you can make it, I encourage you to do so. I’ll be praying for your safety and that God speaks clearly through you. Don’t forget that there are people on both sides of this issue and we all need to see God’s love and truth through you; we need our talk to be seasoned with grace at all times.

    If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1, ESV

    Lastly, I just want to say…we serve a great GREAT God and I don’t know where I would be without Him. If you are, or ever have been, where I once was, or you don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, and you want to know more, submit a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond with love and grace. I love you all, because God loves us all, and gave up His one and only Son for us so that we might have eternal life with Him…all of us.

    Take care and God bless!


    Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-20, NLT)

    I don’t talk too much about myself in these posts, because I’m very private, but I do like to get personal when I feel it may be beneficial to you. If you’d ever had the chance to meet me personally, you’d find that I’m very quiet. That’s because I’m a thinker. An observer. I’m an introvert, lol. There are a lot of articles about introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts floating around out there, but that’s not what I really want to discuss. I want to talk about learning to unplug.

    As an introvert I get overwhelmed by being surrounded by people on a continual basis. This is why I often hide away at home to unwind, relax, and recuperate after a busy week(end) or day. A few months ago, I realized that my anxiety and exhaustion stemmed from more than just being surrounded by people, but from the constant flow of information via cellphone apps like Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, I made the decision to delete the apps from my phone. O.O (I see the look on your face, lol.)

    For the next few days I continued to pick up my phone to scroll Facebook and Twitter, only to put it down when I remembered I no longer had the apps. It was like I was detoxing. Over time it got easier and I felt freer for not being so attached to my phone. I was no longer worrying about what everybody else was doing or saying. I was again, in control of what was filling up my time and thoughts, and what I was spending my energy on.

    So, here I am, encouraging you to take some time to unplug. Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, etc., it doesn’t matter, the fact remains: we need to unplug from the constant barrage of information transmitted through our handheld devices and televisions. We don’t have to be connected to everybody at all times and others don’t need a play-by-play of our day. Some things should be between just us and God (or between us and our intimate family and friends).

    So take some time to think, write, pray, study God’s word, and soak in His presence. Often, it’s just what we need to realign our hearts and attitudes with His. Go ahead…unplug.

    Unrealistic Expectations

    A day hasn’t gone by this week that I haven’t heard or read something about how people hurt each other, are untrustworthy, or are undeserving of something or other. The reality is…it’s true. Humanity is imperfect. We often do or say things to one another that we may or may not realize hurts the other person. However, not everybody is out to get us. Sometimes we just take things the wrong way. More often than not the other person doesn’t even know that they hurt us!

    Most importantly, whether or not the other person meant to hurt us, doesn’t really matter, because as children of the most High, we’re called to love other people…period. It doesn’t matter how badly they treat us, God has called us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27). He also tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14); that means to treat others as we want to be treated, regardless of how they treat us. (We’ve already talked a lot about this in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post back in July.)

    Now, I understand full well that this isn’t always easy. When people hurt us a common desire is to hurt them back, to treat them the way they treated us, or to play the victim and tell the world how we’ve been mistreated. Sometimes we’re spiteful, vindictive, judgmental or cruel; and the world tells us we have a “right” to be. But as believers, we’ve lost our so-called “rights.” When we choose to follow Christ, we choose to give the Holy Spirit full access to every part or our lives, to change us from the inside out (John 3:30). Our behavior and thoughts shouldn’t be the same as the worlds!

    Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)

    Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT)

    An example of unrealistic expectations.

    What does changing the way you think entail? I know for me, I now recognize the brokenness of humanity. I recognize that people are lost, broken, hurting, and don’t know the truth. Therefore, how can they make good choices, or treat people with love and respect, when they don’t understand or haven’t accepted the love of the Creator? When it comes to people and relationships, our expectations often exceed reality. Meaning, we expect them to be up to par with our personal standards, but that’s unrealistic. While the world may believe that people should “just know” these things, the truth is, humans are selfish at heart, and like I wrote in a previous blog, due to our relativistic culture, we do what seems right in our own eyes. That’s why when Jesus called people to follow Him, He told them to turn away from their selfish ways, deny themselves, and pick up their cross (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).

    This is the world we live in; one in which none of us is perfect and we all fall short (Romans 3:10, 23). But let that not be an excuse to give in to sin and treat others poorly, to complain, or to give up on people altogether, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us; and through Him we can do all things! Furthermore, we’re made to be in relationship with others, why else would God say loving our neighbors is as equally as important as loving Him? (By the way, you can’t do one without the other.) So, remember, the next time that person cuts you off in traffic, talks about you behind your back, or gives you an attitude, to treat them as you would want to be treated: with grace, mercy, and kindness. And remember to pray for them, in love.

    Birthday Confessions

    Carrot Cake B-day Cake

    Mmm…Carrot Cake, my fave!

    I don’t know about you, but it seems that about twice a year—around my birthday and the new year—I find myself taking inventory of where I am in life and where I would like to be. With my birthday just a day away, I’ve been thinking a lot about career decisions, where I want to be in five years, what my goals are, and what it’s going to take to get there. For those who’ve been following my blog so far, you know that I’m currently on the Dave Ramsey plan and have been trying to pay my student loan off as quickly as possible. I’ve actually started looking into getting a second job to work in the evenings and on the weekends, in addition to my full-time job, just so I can have some extra money to get my loan paid off quicker.

    However, these last few days, I’ve been reminded that I shouldn’t become so preoccupied with paying off this student loan that my relationships with God or other people suffer. As much as I want a second job, I also want to continue serving in my church, whether on the worship team; working with the children’s, homeless, or young adult ministries; or teaching a Wednesday night Bible study (like I planned to do in the fall); I want to serve. Not to mention the fact that I currently have the freedom to meet a friend after work to study the Word on Monday evenings, attend a ladies Bible study at my friend Cori’s house on Friday nights, and spend some quality time with my boyfriend on the weekends. 😉

    Now, will I continue to look for other ways to increase my income? Absolutely! But I still want to be able to serve, minister, and foster the relationships that God has placed in my life, as well. This just means that I have to trust that God will open a door and make this a reality. Trust and patience have always been difficult for control freak me. I want to devise my own plans and create my own way, but God says it’s His job to direct my steps (Proverbs 16:9).

    Whatever you’re doing, wherever you’re going or planning, or even if you’re like me–working on your debt snowball–don’t forget that all this is for His glory and we’re to honor Him in all that we do. Nothing is more important than Him and the calling He’s placed on each of our lives to point the world towards Him. Don’t let any other goals, people, or objects distract you from Him.

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2a, NLT)

    Boundaries, Preferences, and Dating

    Before I gave my life back to Christ I dated, a lot; and to be honest I had the completely wrong idea about what dating was. After Christ, I read Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships, (which is mentioned on my resources page) and learned a lot of things that I wish I’d know years prior. I really suggest if you’ve never read the book, do it! It’s so worth it!

    After I rededicated my life to Christ I was single for quite a while before I began really dating my now current boyfriend. I was lonely sometimes, but I used the time to deepen my relationship with Christ and grow in my responsibilities at church. When I finally did re-enter the dating scene, I made sure to go back and re-read the book with a friend as a refresher. While I recommend you read the entire book, one of the chapters in particular stood out to me this morning, Chapter 6: What You Can Live With and What You Can Live Without.

    When you begin dating another individual there are many important aspects to consider, and some things are much more important than others. The authors of Boundaries in Dating, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend state that many people are too rigid in their dating preferences and tend to close themselves off to some good options; they state that “there are basically four areas we want you to examine in dating:

    1. Some of your preferences might be too limiting, and you need to be more open.
    2. Some preferences are more important than you might realize, and you should value them.
    3. Some imperfections are minor, and you might have to learn to deal with them.
    4. Some imperfections are major, and you should not ever have to live with them. They are totally off limits” (Cloud & Townsend, 2000, p. 93).

    My boyfriend and I at a local pumpkin patch, Oct. 2014.

    My boyfriend and I at a local pumpkin patch, Oct. 2014.

    Everybody has preferences in a dating partner, but we need to recognize the difference between the traits that are necessary to a healthy relationship and those that aren’t, or even more important, those which can actually harm the relationship or individuals involved. We want to be sure to date someone with whom we share common interests, goals and values, for instance, but the fact that he doesn’t look like a supermodel or that she doesn’t enjoy sports, aren’t deal breakers. We can also deal with minor imperfections. As Dr. Cloud and Townsend state,

    No one is perfect. Every person that you date will be a person who will sin and let you down. There is no Prince Charming that has it all together. So give up that fantasy. However, as you evaluate the people you date, remember a few things. First, there are sinners that you can live with. Those are people who have the ability to see when they have wronged you, to confess it, to care about how they have hurt you, and to work hard not to continue in that pattern. Anyone who sees where he or she is wrong and tries to change is on the right path and can probably be trusted if that path is not just a momentary turnaround. If it is truly a path and is continued upon for the long term, that is a good sign.

    However, there are also major imperfections that we can’t and shouldn’t live with. I’m going to end this post with a list of destructive personal and interpersonal traits that are to be avoided. If these “occur infrequently, you may be able to work through them if your date will take ownership, confess, and work on himself. But if these things are a pattern, and there is no ownership, sorrow, and repentance then watch out” (Cloud & Townsend, 2000, p. 103).

    Destructive Personal Traits

    • Acts like he has it all together instead of admitting weakness and imperfection.
    • Is religious instead of spiritual.
    • Is defensive instead of open to feedback.
    • Is self-righteous instead of humble.
    • Apologizes instead of changes.
    • Avoids working on problems.
    • Demands trust instead of proving himself trustworthy.
    • Lies instead of telling the truth.
    • Is stagnant and not growing.
    • Is an addict.
    • Is duplicitous.

    Destructive Interpersonal Traits

    • Avoids closeness.
    • Thinks only about himself instead of the relationship and the other person.
    • Is controlling and resists freedom (in dating, this includes not respecting limits in the physical realm).
    • Flatters.
    • Condemns.
    • Plays “one up” or acts parental.
    • Is unstable over time.
    • Is a negative influence.
    • Gossips.
    • Is overly jealous and suspicious.
    • Negates pain.
    • Is overly angry.

    *These lists are taken from Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend’s Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships, 2000.Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.

    Holiday Blues

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year…If you’re anything like me you probably sang that verse, lol. I love this time of the year. Actually, as soon as the leaves begin changing into their bright red, orange, yellow, and purple hues I want to take out my camera and take pictures of everything. God’s handiwork is so beautiful and makes my heart feel so incredibly full; I love the colors, the smells, the twinkling lights, and getting the opportunity to spend time with my faPumpkin Patchmily. However, as much as love all of these things, there have been recent years when I greeted these days much less than enthusiastic.

    While this season can bring about great joy and gladness, it can also produce pronounced sadness for some. Why? You may ask. For one, there are those who may not have the opportunity to spend holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve with their family, due to various circumstances. There are those who celebrate while serving overseas, or at sea, as members of the military; those who are simply separated by great distances of land and don’t have the means to travel; or those estranged from their family. The second category of people who struggle during this season, are those who are single.

    Personally, I’ve experienced the sadness of celebrating a holiday alone, and away from my family; and even single, while with my family. I encourage you, if you’re reading this and know someone who doesn’t have family nearby, invite them to celebrate with you. Nobody deserves to be alone during this time of the year. Let them know they are not forgotten, and that they are loved.

    This time of the year can also be incredibly difficult for those who are single, whether or not they are able to join their family; particularly, if their siblings are married or dating. I’ve spent a number of Christmases celebrating with my dating or married younger siblings. There are always those dreaded questions regarding your relationship status, and having to internally suffer while watching couples be affectionate with each another. It’s those times I usually returned home feeling more alone than ever.

    Some words of advice for those of you who are single or celebrating away from your families during this time of year? Don’t allow your loneliness to isolate you during this time of the year (or ever, for that matter). Surround yourself with friends. Below are a list of activities you can do during this time of the year with your friends:

    • Host/attend a holiday party.
    • Get together for dinner at your favorite restaurant.
    • Bake cookies for the elderly.
    • Check out Christmas decorations/lights in your area.
    • Participate in a gift exchange.
    • Send Christmas cards to military service members, veterans, or inmates.
    • Go window shopping (if you’re on a budget) or Christmas shopping.
    • Host a Christmas movie marathon with popcorn, peppermint bark, and hot chocolate or apple cider.
    • Help provide/serve a holiday meal at a homeless shelter.
    • Exchange gift ideas—sometimes we could use a little help!
    • Host a game night.
    • Pack a box for Operation Christmas Child.
    • Host a gingerbread house decorating party.
    • Sponsor a family or elderly person and purchase Christmas gifts for them through Families First or the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree.
    • Create your own Christmas decorations or gifts.
    • Host a “Christmas From Around the World” potluck.

    I know this list is far from complete. Let me know how you and your friends enjoy spending these times of the year by commenting below….and have a Happy Thanksgiving!