Be BRAVE.

          2018. Four simple numbers. These numbers that add up to the next chapter in my book: life. Our lives are made of years, each year a chapter. Those chapters are full of moments and seasons. Seasons of joy, pain, growth and change. Life is measured by moments and memories. Happy (belated) New Year y’all! 2018 is my new chapter. We all hear “Happy New Year” the next word that comes to mind, is “resolutions”. Quite honestly, I’m sick and tired of New Year’s resolutions. (If you’ve been keeping up with my blogs the past 2-3 years, my first blog of 2016 was about resolutions and goals: “GO!”: A New Look at a New Year posted January 2016). I prefer to set goals and find new adventures, especially trying new things. Trying new things can be intimidating and scary but that’s what makes it fun and makes life beautiful too. So, I’ve heard many people now choosing a “word for the year” each year instead of “resolutions”. My friends and I have been doing this for a few years now. My dear friends on the She Matters Team were briefly discussing it last night at our meeting. The word I have picked and prayed over had been bouncing around in my brain and stirring in my spirit in the latest season of my life. My word I chose is BRAVE.
           BRAVE. Five simple letters. Bold, Radiant, Adventurous, Valiant, Endurance. These are words that just popped into my mind when I think of attributes related to bravery. The definition (according to Dictionary.com) of brave is “possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance”. When used as a verb, it states “to defy, challenge; dare”. I’ve always loved a challenge and growing up with boys I rarely turned down a dare. You better not tell me I “can’t” do something. To me, the word brave means stop letting things hold me back. Fear used to be something that crippled me but no longer has a place of residence in my life. Brave and bold to me means trying new things, new goals, new beginnings, new adventures, and new chapters. Stopping procrastinating and excuses. As a little girl who dealt with fear constantly… I dealt with anxiety, shyness (that was a very brief season in my life), and nervousness crippled me at times. I would find excuses and let things hold me back. When I was a teenager, the anxiety had weakened but depression was more on the forefront. I would get nauseous at the thought of getting up to speak or even sing in front of an audience. Fast forward ten years later, I speak and sing and teach all the time now. It’s as natural as breathing. I went through short periods of depression on and off throughout years, I’d be happy and cheerful on the outside but cry when I was alone. God conquered my fears and doubts with growing my faith. Fear and faith can’t exist in the same dwelling place. God has been teaching me throughout the last few years that change is a normal part of life. In the past few years, I graduated college, changed careers, lost loved ones, and blessed with a beautiful relationship with an amazing man who loves Jesus, laughed, cried, struggled and became more brave. Life is full of change. How we adapt to change is how we learn and grow.

          To me, in the latest season of my life “brave” means making changes and stepping out in faith: Two years ago, I left the retail and restaurant industry and went into child care, the world of early childhood education and preschool. Last year, I took a promotion as position of assistant director. I accepted a dream position of children’s director at my home church. Now, by the end of 2017 I had accepted a new job and a new direction at another child care center. Sometimes in life you have to step into uncertainty and trust in God’s direction when all you have is faith. In 2014, my last semester of college I went on a mission trip to Costa Rica: my first flight, my first mission trip, my first trip out of the country. On that trip, I was out of my comfort zone speaking Spanish, learning a laid-back culture, helping the poor and serving alongside brothers and sisters ministering through a church vbs and local church family. On that trip, I literally took a leap of faith and jumped off a zip line platform hundreds of feet in the rain forest canopy through the mountains and over the beaches in Jaco, Costa Rica flying about 40 mph about 600ft. What an exhilarating feeling! Crazy, scary, adrenaline-pumping, freeing and so much fun. Something I would have never known if I had let fear grip my life.

      So, being brave doesn’t have to mean zip lining through the rain forest. Brave could mean taking the initiative to do something different, to say hello to the neighbor or help someone who needs it, making better choices daily, making changes, taking a new direction. Anything that encourages adventure! So this year chase your dreams, knock out your goals with passion and fervor! Be FEARLESS! Don’t ask God to guide your footsteps if you aren’t willing to move your feet! You have to make the first step after seeking Him and praying, to step out. Sometimes being brave means having the courage walking away from something that was not meant for you. Sometimes being brave means facing whatever storm, for example battling cancer, head on like a warrior.  Whatever it may be (in light of resolutions and goals) going to the gym, grabbing a salad or fruit instead of that burger or candy bar, walking more places, start writing that book, start that blog (like I did), go back to school finish that degree, put down your addictions and habits one day at a time, travel to new places and adventures, apply for that dream job, go on a mission trip, don’t be a afraid to go on a date, pick up your bible and read it, take the time to cherish your family and friends, whatever it is! I’m knocking things off my bucket list in 2018! Be spontaneous. Be adventurous.

        Joshua, was one of the only two out of twelve young men who weren’t afraid of the so-called “giants” in the land that was promised to them. Joshua and his bestie, Caleb were leading the rest into uncertain territory. They gathered their armor and gear, all they knew is that God said this land was theirs and that He said go get it! I can’t imagine every thought, excuse that said nah man turn around but courage had set in. So I leave you with, Joshua 1:9 my verse for 2018 “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Be courageous, Be fearless, but always be faithful!

Be BRAVE.

With love, and the spirit of adventure,
-Heather 

A glimpse at a new hobby Wes and I found to do for a DIY date night: woodworking and engraving. [Joshua 1:9] 

I had already decided my “word for 2018” but just for fun one day I took this quiz and I kid you not, it confirmed what I already knew: my word was BRAVE. Listed below is a screenshot but go to www.dayspring.com/yourwordquiz

Once again, Happy New Year! #2018 

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Moments of Miracles: Living With Everyday Enthusiasm

Moments of Miracles: Living With Everyday Enthusiasm

This is a reflection of life’s littles and bigs.

Every day is full of moments. Moments are made up of minutes and seconds. Minutes and seconds are what make up our lives. But our lives aren’t founded upon and latched to minutes and seconds, but laid upon the foundation of moments. And sometimes it’s small miracles that make a difference between a minute and a moment.

What is a miracle? The definition of miracle is described in three different but similar terms: 1) a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency, 2) a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences, 3)an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something.

Miracles are beautiful wrapped in the ordinary and the extraordinary paper. Miracles can be beautiful and frightening at the same time, something that takes our breath away or shocks us so much we can’t even explain. That’s the point, miracles can’t be explained. Life itself can’t be explained. It’s beautiful, yet frightening because it’s the “fear of the unknown” that holds people back. I’m quite guilty of it at times. To me, I’d rather live life as “why not?!” instead of “what if?”.

As my 26th birthday just passed a month ago in March; I always get a bit more reflective, adventurous and sentimental than usual. Last year when I turned 25, to me it was more of a big deal than 18 or 21. An age where you really start to see your life shaping up around based on the decisions you make, responsibilities you face, values you hold on to, and the memories you make. I love living for Jesus, and because of Him I am a one who gives it my best to live without fear and be adventurous. Experience. It’s been said (although I can’t remember who said it) “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but the moments that take your breath away”.Therefore one of my motivations is my bucket list! I don’t let this “checklist” control my life like we can with our “to do lists” day-to-day. I let it push me and motivate me, when I feel like I’m not doing well to my own standards or my “imagined” standards of other’s opinions of me (which I know and we all should Who’s opinion and standards truly matter-my Heavenly Father’s), or when I feel stuck in a rut and discouraged with where I am in life, or even when I just feel up for adventure or something purposeful…I look at my bucket list for motivation, to reflect on the accomplishments and places that God has already brought me to and through. I can’t help but get excited! This is what I call living with everyday enthusiasm.

What is “everyday enthusiasm“? To me that means, having a reason to get up out of bed in the morning when I wake up, to thank God for letting me open my eyes and draw another breath into my lungs. By enthusiasm, I don’t mean the chipper and cheesy, oh-so-annoying perky morning person that drives everyone crazy with their sunshine and rainbows. (I have been guilty). It means to simply CHOOSE JOY. Joy is a daily thing, like taking a daily prescribed medicine or a multivitamin. We have to choose it each day. Happiness is circumstantial and temporary, joy is eternal and solid. Our happiness can be tested, or change. Joy is something we choose in spite of circumstances. Once you have joy, and set mind and heart on it-IT CANNOT BE TAKEN AWAY. Circumstances like: devastating news, a breakup, a lost loved one, a grim diagnosis of cancer or another aggressive illness, a divorce, job loss, loss of a friendship, or simply sometimes just a bad day. But a bad day does not mean you have a bad life. Circumstances could be on the opposite end of the spectrum too: the little things in life that bring us joy: a long chat with one of your best friends, your favorite song on the radio with the sun shining and windows down, sitting on a porch swing, driving your truck down a dirt road, your favorite fishing spot, that endorphin high from a great workout or that extra mile on your run, your favorite kind of coffee in your favorite mug curled up with your Bible or a good book, a little bit of good news from a friend or family member, a sweet hug or smile, a high-five from a little kid, or just a random act of kindness from a kind stranger. Those are what I call “moments of miracles”. The things we take for granted, memories and everyday moments. Miracles are everywhere in the world around, we can look outside at God’s creation and see it!

But what about those circumstances in life that call for major miracles? I recently went to the theater and saw “Miracles from Heaven” on Easter Sunday with my parents. The movie is about a young girl about 9 years old who gets very sick with an intestinal disease and there is no cure. The story is one that follows her and her family (two sisters, mom, and dad) through her illness and how one crazy turn that could’ve been catastrophic actually was the miracle they had been praying and searching for. The young girl falls 30 ft into a hollow tree which could’ve killed her, yet she is healed from her disease! Sometimes circumstances, the good along with the bad and sometimes downright painful leave us begging for relief: some type of miracle. Some lose their faith or at least struggle with it. Others gain faith that they need even knew they needed or wanted. It teaches us. It strengthens us and weakens us all at the same time if that even makes sense in our human minds. I know friends and family members right now in need of major miracles and serious prayer. Prayer and faith can move mountains. Miracles-the unexpected and unexplained. So I simply leave you with this-find your joy, seek and pray for your miracle or one for someone you love, choose to live your life with “everyday enthusiasm”, see the miracles in every moment. Choose JOY. Be grateful, and always Be HOPEful.

With joy,
your sister in Christ

Heather

“Hope Springs Forth, Coming In Like a Flood” by Heather H.

 Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you…”

Sometimes we look for hope in the everyday ordinary things. (First things first, what you are about to read is not sugarcoated, it’s about to get real. This is not meant to be opinionated about any political or media view, just a look at reality.) We go through life on cruise control or autopilot sometimes, especially if day to day life is “normal”. We get comfortable and complacent, and use words like “I’m content”, or “It’s all good!” But when things spiral out of control we forget about “hope” or we search for it desperately like it’s a quick fix, shot in the arm kind of drug that can fix our problems so easily. We cry out to God when things in our world come crashing down, everyone says “Prayers Appreciated”, or “Please Pray” in difficult times of need. But when the sun is shining and everything is “normal” we forget to pray sometimes or even speak to God. There’s a quote by C.S. Lewis that comes to mind when I think of the ups and downs of life; “We can ignore even pleasure. Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

So what happens when you or a loved one gets diagnosed with cancer or some other terminal illness with just months to live? Or when your child is disrespectful and belligerent, going against everything you raised them to be? Or you develop an addiction that has you bound in chains? Or you feel scared and alone in an unplanned pregnancy? Your boyfriend breaks up with you when you were honestly expecting a ring, or your devoted husband of many years decides he wants a divorce? You are struggling to take care of your family-meaning your children and your aging mother with Alzheimer’s who doesn’t even remember you, her loving daughter? Your best friend or close family member passes away? Or how about losing your job? Losing your home in a natural disaster? Life is full of ups and downs, unexpected events and catastrophes that can take the wind out of your sails, and pretty much leave you knocked down on the cold hard ground that is until you decide to GET BACK UP

We see on the news daily, robberies, gangs, drug deals, children being hurt and molested, car accidents, police officers and first responders under attack, plane crashes, school shootings, abortion, racism rising up, Christians under intense persecution, and war on terrorism, Constitutional Rights being challenged and taken away. What in the world is going on? What ever happened to love? SO MUCH CONFUSION. SO MUCH HURT. SO MUCH PAIN. We wonder when it will end. Or will it ever end? We sometimes even question God and His sovereignty, we ask things like “Why did God let this happen?!” We begin sometimes doubt our faith that we’ve known for so long. Doubt is sometimes a healthy part of growing our faith…to wrestle with life and its questions–to challenge our faith. Remember this word: GROW, tuck it in the back of your mind while reading the rest of this. Sometimes we are just searching for some tiny bit of good news, and other times it’s as if we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. In South Carolina, just a few weeks ago…October 4, 2015 a devastating catastrophic flood came sweeping in after days and days of rain, even though the weather alerts had warned about flash flooding no one expected what they call “A Thousand Year Flood” meaning no one has seen flood waters so destructive in 1000 years! Roads washed away, bridges buckling, dams breaking and busting forth washing out everything in their path. Businesses, homes, and lives were lost. But through every struggle, throughout the past year South Carolina has remained strong and stood together, united. Neighbors helping neighbors, strangers became friends. Everyone needs hope, in some way, shape or form.

I’m pretty sure Noah felt like all hope was gone when he saw the world around him crashing and crumbling into a pattern of sin. The truth is we live in a fallen, imperfect, broken world. Some things are completely out of our control, others are consequences of our own personal battles and decisions. The first we call, life and nature. The second we can call “mistakes” or sin, but we can also look back and call them growing pains and lessons learned. Sometimes in life we have to face storms, whether literal torrential rains or personal cloudy days filled with lightning and thunder in our hearts. I’ve heard it said before, “Sometimes we create our own storms, and get mad when it rains.” But the fact of the matter is without clouds how can we appreciate the sunshine? The SON is always shining. Every storm will finally run out of rain. Rains will eventually stop. But in all honesty, think about why do we need rain? Rain gives life to plants, trees, flowers and helps crops grow. Seeds, without being watered will not bloom or grow, they’ll die of thirst. We know in John 4, Jesus speaks to the woman at the well about living water. That Samaritan woman was searching for hope, something to quench her never-ending thirst. Water not only gives life, it washes away dirt and impurities. John the Baptist, Jesus and the disciples baptized people in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Living Water cleanses us of our old life, the old us before Jesus came into our lives, the hurt, the pain, the past. Baptism represents new life. The blood of Jesus paid the price and washed our sins away….water provides the thirst to grow. I think of Peter and the other disciples shaking in their boat as the waves crashed around them, and in the midst of the chaotic ocean walks Jesus ON THE WATER! Can you imagine seeing that?! Jesus can calm the storm! Just reach for His hand; He’s the best lifeguard you’ll ever know! Sometimes when the flood gates open wide and the storms comes crashing in, hope comes flooding in also. Next time you face a storm, remember the One who controls raindrops and where they fall. Let the rain fall down and cleanse your heart and soul, refreshing your spirit. Hope comes in the midst of difficult times; hope comes in the day-to-day pleasures. Hope can be found when you least expect it. Hope springs forth, coming in like a flood…one that you want to get swept away in!

-In Hope,

your sister, Heather

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