Spread Cheer

Encouragement. This was the initial desire that moved me to start a blog. I know it’s been many days since I’ve shared encouragement here. But today, I need release, and my best release comes through my writing.
Twenty years ago today I was encouraged by my beautiful, 33 year-old, mother to stay after school and participate in my schools basketball  cheerleading tryouts. My mom loved that I was a cheerleader, and encouraged me often to cheer at home, for her. I remember some pictures she took of me in my middle school cheer years. They have since been lost in all the change. She was a proud cheer mom.
As I sat, waiting for tryouts, chatting away with my friend Jill, I was called to the principals office. Odd, I thought. With a serious face and fairly somber voice, I was told I had to ride the late bus home. I tried to explain that I was waiting for tryouts at my mothers request. But the verdict remained, I was to go home.
I huffed in anger back to my friend, where I complained and pouted. I begrudgingly got on the late bus, leaving behind my friends, the cheerleaders.
We lived about a mile from where the bus dropped off, as our 4th and most recent move led us  out of the district. With sympathy from Mom and the school we were allowed to ride the bus, but it was our responsibility to get there. This afternoon our neighbor was waiting to pick us up. This was not terribly unusual, she sometimes picked up the younger kids from the late bus. What was unusual on November 2, 1994 was the amount of cars parked out in front of our house. When I saw those cars my stomach was instantly sick. My grandma, who was suffering greatly from Lou Gehrig’s disease, was living with us at the time. I think the consensus in the car was something terrible happened to her. But I felt something different. I vocalized that with a, “Mom” as I opened the door of the still parking car. I jumped out and ran inside that house to see my moms family sitting around our dining room table. Their faces red and wet from crying. I myself felt the wetness roll down my face. No words were necessary. My mom was gone.
The events of that day are seared in my memory. It was a day that would drastically change my life.
Remembering her this day, twenty years later, I can still hear her voice. I can hear her encouraging  me to keep being the cheerleader. I don’t need a uniform, I have the heart and a voice. Today, there are so many people in need of a cheerleader. I commit to being just that, if only for one person in need. Encouragement, like despair, is contagious. What will you spread? 
On behalf of my encouraging mother, I encourage YOU, go spread some cheer!
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:2 (NKJV)

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Ragdoll Made Whole

My oldest son has a stuffed dalmation puppy that he loves to carry around. Five years ago when my son received this dog as a Christmas gift, the stuffing was full and firm. “Slinky Kawasaki,” (my son has a way with names, hopefully MANY years down the road when he gives me grandchildren he won’t be naming them after things he likes) was able to sit strong and tall as his puppy friend. His “fur” was bright white with distinct black spots.
But, over the years Slinky has become a bit more ragged. He’s been thrown around, left in the dirt, squeezed and battered a bit by a boy who loves him. Poor Slinky, though still incredibly loved, has been worn down by life. He can no longer sit strong and tall, his head flops to one side. His “fur” is  dull white, and some black spots may not be an original.
I think of myself when I look at Slinky. Many years of life had left me as a ragdoll. Though I was loved, I was battered and worn. I tried to patch myself up, taking drugs, seeking attention by wearing provacitive clothing and boat loads of makeup. I thought putting these patches on might hide the worn out girl I really was. Then, in a moment of utter darkness and only one option left unexplored, I put on Jesus. I made an appointment with the great physician. He’d kept His schedule clear, specifically waiting for me. He took me in, opened me up, and gently began to pull out the old stuffing. He washed away all my dirt and made me clean. He restored me with brand new stuffing and put me together exceedingly better than before. I don’t need, nor want, any patches now. I am whole.
“Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.” Acts 3:10
I want to encourage you today, if you have been feeling like a ragdoll, I know a great physician. He is better than any cosmetic surgeon, therapist, or drug. His name is Jesus. He is standing right next to you, loving you, waiting for you to invite Him to restore you wholly and Holy. His schedule is emptied specifically for you. He is able, He alone is able.
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Lighting up my mountains

If we were all to stop for a moment, turn around, and look at the path behind us, would it not look similar? We would all see fields of beauty; roses of a wedding day, lilies of child birth, strong, tall trees of family, friends, and mentors. We would all also see some mountains. Sure, they may have different names and heights, but we all have those dark, rocky peaks.
I’ve recently wanted to spread the light from my fields of beauty to the entirety of my path, including those dark valleys and skyscraping mountains. They’re behind me, which means I’ve conquered them. They are a very large part of me. Why not cover them in light?!
I had that very opportunity at a tea and testimony meeting with some fellow moms.
I’ve only shared my testimony once before. That was in Nicaragua on a mission trip, where I already KNEW some of those girls knew my mountains by name. It’s always somewhat frightening to stand before a crowd, all eyes and ears on you, and be an open book. But, standing in front of a crowd, all eyes and ears on you, without knowing if anyone there knows your mountains names..multiply that fear by ten.
I know I’d been led to share. I knew purpose was walking ahead of me, almost invincibly. But, I stood in front of that crowd and got naked. I encouraged them to do the same. Take off your shirt of shame. Drop those busting britches of self condemnation. And when you’re completely naked, turn your eyes to Jesus who made you. Turn to Jesus who is lovesick for you and calls you worthy. Turn to Jesus who spread wide his arms on the cross to die for you in His unshattering love.
After I finished speaking, I felt worse than before. I could feel the heaviness of incline underfoot. I didn’t say all the things I wanted to. It was too heavy for a morning of tea and fellowship. All of a sudden I had found myself in the ring, and I was kicking my own butt. Imagine walking by someone and watching them body slam themselves. That was me. Throwing myself down on the colorful flowers I had just planted in my field of beauty. Crushing the stems of courage. I laid on that bed of flowers and turned on some Brene Brown.
“Yeah, it’s so scary to show up. It feels dangerous to be seen. It’s terrifying. But, it is not as scary, dangerous, or terrifying as getting to the end of our lives and thinking, what if I would’ve shown up? What would’ve been different?”
I showed up. As dangerous and terrifying as it was to be seen, naked, I showed up. At that moment I was able to stand back up. I thanked God for allowing me to shed light on my mountains.
As we celebrate the death of Christ today, remember why. Because He LOVES us. Love yourself! Love others! We are ALL worthy, even with our mountains.
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Time, I let thee go…

I’ve been struggling with time lately. Trying to control it even. The things I am not courageous enough to face, I avoid like the plague, convincing myself that a later, better time will come. The things my heart desperately desires, I attempt to rush and force to happen prematurely. There lies a wicked combination of the two, which may be most frightening, and damaging to me. Ya know, the hearts desires that I’ve worked diligently toward, yet seem to terrifying to receive with arms wide open and so I turn away from it.
I spent this past Sarurday interacting with some residents of a local assisted living home. I noticed that all of them talked either about their future, or their past. They were focused ahead, on the return home, or the home left behind, only to be seen in visions of memory.
It broke my spirit and encouraged me to embrace the day.
Each day is a gift, a journey, with moments to be seized, and lessons to be learned. I’ve realized that today sets me up, prepares me for tomorrow, and matures me from yesterday.
How many blessings have I already missed because I’ve focused ahead, or behind? Today, that doesn’t matter. What matters, is my choice to be immersed in today. Today, I will choose to trust in the truth of Gods perfect timing. Today, I choose to praise both what is, and what is not. I will live the blessings of today, trusting my faithful, good God for the blessings of tomorrow!
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The stormy, shaken ground

I just finished reading about large magnitude earthquakes shaking the earth in Nicaragua. My heart is special to Nicaragua as it is the place I committed my first mission to the Lord. I immediately opened a devotion and was led to Psalm 29. The Psalm so happens to be a reminder that our God is the commanding voice over nature. Therefore, when the ground shakes, in Him we can find strength and peace.
How different could this be as we walk along our spiritual path?
We will be walking a smooth road that is flower laden. We enjoy breaths of fresh air upon our cool face as we walk in contentment. But, without notice, the ground below our feet trembles. We’re no longer able to experience the fresh air or the joy that previously surrounded us. It could be we’ve lost a job, spouse, home, or ourselves.
Can I encourage you? Perhaps myself a bit too.  “The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11)
It doesn’t say He might. It says He WILL. Be patient. Endure. Plant flowers in the storm. Gods got your back.
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Fear is the prison Jesus broke you out of

It’s time to get real. Real transparent. I pretend I have it all together. Sometimes I pretend so well that I think I could be in Hollywood getting paid millions. I’m tired of pretending. In fact, the pretending takes so much energy, that my passions take backseat to my acting gig.
Today, I’m going to admit to you, my readers, (thank you) that I often give up on things that take extended effort. I give up on things, that though I enjoy, I feel like I labor in vain. Hearing those thoughts projected make me laugh. If it brings joy, how can it be vain? Not to mention how temporal and deceptive feelings can be.
I can’t be alone in wanting to see my dreams achieved NOW. I can’t be the only person who expects to see the results I want when I want them. I know I can’t be the only one who has given up when this didn’t happen. Am I?!
I know that I’m not. My sister confirmed it. In our discussion we tried to understand why. Our greatest conclusion was a combination of fear and taking the easy road.
Whatever the reason, I want change. I want to keep pressing through the muck. I want to get as muddy as I need, to see my dreams, passions, and desires come to fruition. I want to fight Goliath. He is afterall not nearly as strong as he seems.
God wants to see our desires alive too. Who do you think put them in your heart? Could it be your Maker? I’m guessing so.
I feel like sometimes, ok mostly, I expect Him to do all the work. I want Him to completely and solely build my platform, and I want to enjoy the ride, completely pain free. He assures us His best, but if we’re giving up on Him, we can’t blame Him for less than best. I want to see things through. All the way to the end. What if the end was my very next exit?! Couldn’t I hold on and push through slightly further? I bet I could. I bet you could too.
I’m going to run with these desires of my heart. I’m going to face fears, tackle them down and run right past them. I’m going to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might. I’m going to work WITH Him, giving thanks always. The mud is what makes us stronger. God is on the sideline cheering us on by name, and sometimes even taking our hand, helping us up, and pushing us along.
So what is it your heart aches for? Don’t take the easy road. Easy isn’t victorious. Fight hard and don’t quit. Your dream is just around the corner. 
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