Courage

Intimacy with God: Trusting God in the Valley (A Prayer)

PSALM 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

My Prayer

May every “valley” experience that we face be an opportunity for us to lean on God even the more. For he is the great Shepherd. We can trust the places and the timing of his direction. He makes no mistakes. We place every circumstance in the hands of God, acknowledging that we are powerless on our own. But as we yield to God in obedience, we become supernaturally equipped to walk in power and authority. We are not defeated because Jesus fulfilled the greatest victory known over 2000 years ago on the Cross of Calvary. We shun fear and we adopt courage to keep on moving – moving toward our destiny. We are not alone – even in the “valley.” The great Shepherd is with us – even in the “valley.” Our greatest reward is being known by the Shepherd and being guided in his loving care. May our “cups run over” with more love, joy, peace, long-suffering, faith, meekness, temperance, goodness, and gentleness. We surrender.

In Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen

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Courage

Engagement: 3 Ways to Build Teamwork Before You Say “I Do”

Did you know that the engagement period is the best time to start working together as a team? The wedding planning and the meticulous details of coordinating your new life together is great experience at building teamwork and cooperation as a couple. I know entering this new phase of life on the right foot is your top priority.

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Wedding planners, advisers, coordinators, etc. are wonderful but there are just some things that need to be directly handled by you and your spouse-to-be. Consider yourselves the “managers” of your marriage (with GOD as the CEO), doing what’s absolutely necessary to carry out the vision for your life. I chose to outline these tips in the form of meetings that would be carried out by you and your spouse as equal participants in a very important discussion. Consider these three types of meetings now as you await your upcoming nuptials – Family Vision Meeting, Personal Achievement Meeting, and Financial Planning Meeting. I chose to share a bit more about the “Financial Planning Meeting” toward the end since $$$ is a leading cause of conflict in marriages.

FAMILY VISION MEETING

I believe every couple has a purposeful existence here on earth. You may be called to procreate in order to birth the 2060 nominee for the President of the United States. You may serve natural disaster victims, leading a team of volunteers to impact the good of humanity. You may start a neighborhood watch group out of concern for increased crime in your area. Whatever it is, now is a great time to find the “heart” of your marriage. What motivates you both beyond yourselves? What legacy will you leave behind? Ponder together your shared values and generate ways to proactively be the best parents you can, outreach to those less fortunate, or create that awesome program that will make others’ lives better. This doesn’t have to happen overnight. Create a timeline for attaining such goals as you prepare to take your neighborhoods and world by storm. Meet at least quarterly to discuss or revise your plans.

PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT MEETING

Does one of you (or both of you) want to go back to school or receive special training? What does this look like for the family, time wise? I can remember when my husband and I decided that we wouldn’t attend graduate school at the same time. We didn’t want two preoccupied students in the house amidst our already busy schedules. My husband attended first because his job was footing the tuition bill at the time. I attended graduate school a couple of years later when I was sure of what I wanted to study. This arrangement worked for our family, as we could “serve” the studying spouse as a cheerleader of constant encouragement while assisting with editing papers and assignments.

At your own meeting, sit down with your calendar, journals, and/or planner. Assist each other with planning personal goals, as you both strive to improve yourselves in various areas, whether it be in your education, career, or health. Clearly define the goals and hold each other accountable to time lines and specifics. Meet quarterly to discuss how far you’ve come with meeting those goals.

FINANCIAL PLANNING MEETING

Can you imagine the executives of a major billion dollar corporation not meeting to discuss the order of business for a week, month, quarter, or year? I’m pretty sure that many meetings took place in order for them to attain their current billion dollar status as they planned, organized, and executed their next big business move. As technical (and not romantic) as it may sound, this same mindset has to be adopted by married couples as they attempt to foster a healthy financial mindset. Monthly review of bank statements, budgets, and saving goals can be the agenda of your particular “exec” meeting. Use these meetings to also discuss ways to adopt better habits and attitudes towards money. No matter what level of income you achieve, proper communication and wise decision making is crucial to money mastery.

Here are some attributes of couples with a healthy financial mindset:

  • they don’t live for the joneses to keep up with every latest car, clothing designer, restaurant, and luxury brand in order to feel good about themselves
  • they understand saving $$$ is a priority and not an option as emergency funds and retirement accounts take precedence over frivolous matters that hold no true value (Ask yourself this? Could I borrow against an expensive cell phone or a $1000 handbag if I need money in a pinch?)
  • they realize that true wealth is not centered on how much money can be attained but is characteristic of the high quality of relationships and life lived
  • they remain thankful for progress and celebrate small victories
  • they respect each other’s salary amount and contributions to the budget and household
  • they have a joint bank account in order to work together to plan how household bills will be accounted for (I’ve witnessed spouses scrambling around every month to pay “their portion” of the bills. They were always short the money needed as they stressed over ways to pay it. It is my belief that no spouse should have to endure this. As a team, couples should work together to figure out the details of the budget, removing the pressure off of any one individual.)

I hope you find these tips useful. Feel free to share with a bride-to-be. God bless you!

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Courage

Are You Ready to Work? Fighting for a Marriage When It’s Hard

Who likes to be the bearer of any type of “difficult” news especially when a person’s hope is all the way up to the moon and back again? But with my most serious face, I say:

MARRIAGE IS WORK.

And in lieu of another beautiful wedding season, I pick up my pencil and continue my “speech.”

The married women reading this particular blog article are probably nodding with me in agreement. The single women might be a little scared at the moment. The engaged women might be rolling their eyes out of annoyance as they await their own wedding date. Whatever the case, I proceed.

Imagine getting new plants that you are depending on to grow and thrive since you plan to allow them to be your sole food source for vegetables. There are no other options for vegetables and you must cater to these plants with great care. So you water them. You remove any weeds – God forbid your precious plants choke from the unnecessary effects of them. You even talk to your plants daily, as you once heard that they respond to human communication. You “need” these plants and you’ll do anything to keep them alive. Your dedication to your vegetable plants becomes evident as you now have a garden that is not only beautiful but edible. What began as mere sprouts will grace the many dinner plates to come in the form of delicious and healthy food. You’ve worked hard for your results.

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Now imagine approaching marriage in a similar manner as the vegetable garden. Although you may be strong in your faith, you are in “need” of your spouse as the complimenting gift that God has allowed. Your spouse does not serve as your “life source” – because God is your “life source” – but you love your husband dearly. You understand that the marriage God has blessed you with must serve a purpose (God doesn’t allow anything without a purpose and marriage is no different). So out of your “need” for your gift – your husband – you nurture your marriage with meticulous care. You listen as he speaks. You do attentive and nice things that will please his heart. You remind him of his potential when the world constantly tries to attack his manhood. And most importantly, you pray like you’ve never prayed before. You pray for him as a husband. You pray for yourself as a wife. You pray that God’s role in your life be magnified as you both denounce Satan’s tactics to destroy your marriage. You pray that you are able to “stand” – stand in the good, the bad, in sickness, in health, when money is low, and in the face of the most disappointing circumstances of your marriage.

Marriage is WORK, but may the rewards of your diligence be evident in God’s due season. May your marriage continue to blossom as the “plants” mentioned above. Put the WORK in, lady. Put the WORK in – prayerfully.

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Courage

Wife Confessions: How I’m Ditching Perfection (again)

I’m preparing for the week on this beautiful Sunday night and I gave myself permission to do something awesome: I’m throwing perfection out the door (again). I even finally got enough courage to niche this blog to “faith, womanhood, and relationships,” as I attempt to save time and energy as a more prioritized wife, mom, minister, and career woman.

If any of you can relate to my type of personality as a person who is constantly trying to get things done – this blog post is just for you. I realize more and more that the next part of my journey can’t afford this type of “self-imposing intervention.” I must only do what I can as I trust God with where he’s led me.  And recently, God has led me to a pretty wonderful opportunity. Tomorrow will mark the start of my first full week at my new job as an instructor at a local community college here in New Jersey. I’m ecstatic about the possibilities and want to be “all in” for this special teaching assignment.  Taking on “too much” during this season is definitely off my radar.

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As I get ready to iron clothes, sing one more lullaby to my 3 year old, check in with my husband, and rest up for tomorrow, I will quickly outline three ways to discern what’s right for you in this season of your life:

  • Pray. Pray. Pray some more. God’s voice is the one we want to be heard over our own self-talk and constant distractions.
  • Pay attention to how God is using you the most at this time. Are you “rocking it out” as a nurse, volunteer, secretary, mom, entrepreneur, etc.? Follow this path and don’t veer from it. I knew specifically when it was time to shift from being a stay-at-home mom to working as a teacher again. Once I discerned this, the doors that God was allowing “flew open.”
  • Couple your spiritual nourishment with physical nourishment. Outside of prayer and meditation, be sure to get some exercise if you can. Something as simple as a walk will help you clear your head and think as you multitask the duties of womanhood, relationships, work, and life period.

Have a lovely week and I look forward to connecting again! Be sure to subscribe below.

 

 

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Courage

Engagement: Why I Broke it Off

I hesitated sharing this part of my life as I felt it was best kept where it was housed – the past. However, after some time with God, a gentle rebuke, and a firm prompting to write, I share my story.

Twelve years ago (during the Christmas season), I sat on the couch staring blankly at a TV screen. My hand was graced with the most beautiful diamond you could imagine. Strangers complimented me on this ring on a constant basis. I am certain that most could see the bling on my finger from across the room. It was just that gorgeous.

Photo credit: PinterestPhoto credit: @DeerPearlFlowers

I thought I was happy with the decision to accept the marriage proposal of my on-again, off-again boyfriend of five years in the fall of 2005.  It seemed to make sense as we would plan to solidify such a shaky history of “together” and “not together”.  Soon after I accepted the proposal, I couldn’t sleep at night. Anxiety would take its toll on me during the day.  I was unfocused, unhappy, and not the image of a content woman who should have been elated about her man putting a ring on it. I thought no one noticed as I attempted to conceal my inner-struggle, but it would be my mother who would ask me one day, “Do you want to do this?”  I don’t remember my verbal response to her, but do remember the weighted feelings of dread, worry, and uncertainty.

“The decision wasn’t about my ex but all about God…”

So as I’m sitting on my couch, staring blankly at the TV screen, the tears began to flow down my face as I thought about the decision I would have to make. I sensed that God was drawing me away from my ex and toward Him as the author and finisher of my faith. I’m not here to bash my ex, but this was a moment in time where my words of “I love and trust you, God” would have to match the actions of “I’ll do your will”.

“Faith without works is dead” – James 2:17

 I was already a devout Christian, church attendee, bible reader, and women’s ministry leader but God wanted COMPLETE SURRENDER from me.  Would I let go of my pride? Would I dare to believe that He was speaking? Would I follow Him even though it would cost me my relationship and perhaps invoke embarrassment?

“the bling was gone, but what I gained outweighed the shine of that diamond…”

My mom walked in the room and hugged me because she “knew.”  She prayed for me and declared God’s Word over my life as I cried like I had never cried before. I was no longer going to ignore God’s voice. God was doing a new thing and I never looked back as He redirected me, healed me, and brought a new life and purpose…

“my prayer for you…”

May God keep every person who is having a “Will I trust the Lord?” moment in time. May the peace of God overtake you as you pursue God like never before, declaring “not my will, but your will be done, Lord”.  May you experience a greater level of trust in God and adopt unshakable faith. May you be reassured that He has your best interest at heart because He can see the bigger picture of your life.  God is with you. God is for you. God loves you.

 

 

 


 

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