Our Journey to this Crunchy Life

Crunchy blogDo you ever sit back, take a good hard look at your life, and giggle? It brings such joy to my heart to think about our health journey over the last decade, through all the ups and downs God has certainly been by our side teaching and guiding our steps. Today I want to share a little bit about our journey to this crunchy life!

According to urbandictionary.com, crunchy is an adjective that is “used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental (and I would add health) reasons.” Yep that’s us and let me tell you we are all in!

It all started when I got really sick with a fungus called aspergillus in my lungs back in the summer of 2011.  That illness led to 12 cases of bronchitis/pneumonia and 55 weeks of bedrest over the 2 ½ years that followed. At my worst I was 36 years old, on 24 prescription medications, and my husband and I genuinely didn’t expect that I would ever work again. This cycle of illness was crippling to our family and our future. Desperately in search of anything that would break the cycle, we took matters into our own hands and began to do a ton of research. We read many books & articles online, watched documentaries, and talked to friends who had been through health issues. We quickly discovered our unhealthy lifestyle needed a serious overhaul.

Crunchy blog 1Honestly I’m so eternally grateful for the information we found, because prior to my illness I would have TOTALLY rolled by eyes and snickered judgmentally at “crunchy” families. I fully and completely trusted that things sold in the U.S. were safe and not harmful for our family, oh boy was I wrong. The truth is that there is very little regulation on household, hygiene, & beauty products. Not to mention genetically modified foods, pesticides, and processed food loaded with chemicals. The more we learned the more appalled and overwhelmed we were. So we made changes little by little, starting with the laundry room.

One of the things we quickly discovered was that our laundry detergent was giving me a horrible rash all over my body, an almost constant yeast infection (sorry guys..just keeping it real!), and contributing to my daily headaches. We had used this detergent for years and I never had a problem, but my now weak immune system could not keep up with the chemicals and fragrance within the detergent. So over the next year we tried 12 different laundry detergents, we tried all the brands of free & clear, we tried all the so called “natural” detergents and yet there was still something in each of them that gave me this horrible reaction. Most companies hide toxic ingredients using the umbrella of fragrance, a term that can be used to represent thousands of different toxic chemicals. If it wasn’t for the very obvious and unavoidable symptoms that remained I may have never continued this costly experiment. We finally found a solution, and for five years we made our own laundry detergent, which at the time was the only option for relief from my symptoms. Gratefully we currently using Young Living’s Thieves Laundry Detergent which works amazing and I have zero rashes, infections, or headaches from it.

Crunchy blog 2Around the same time we began our weight loss journey and made huge changes in how we fuel our bodies. Weight loss is a journey that is far from over, and has had many ups and downs. It began with two successful years on Weight Watchers where we learned a ton in weekly meetings about healthy habits. That was a time I will always cherish! We stopped eating processed foods, began cooking 95% of our meals at home, ate about 75% organic. It was such an eye opener to see a very primitive truth first hand: when you give your body what it needs, it will heal itself. It’s part of the miraculous way God’s creation works.

Back in 2012 I still struggled with painful headaches and was taking 800 mg of Ibuprofen every. single. day! So a girlfriend gave me a bottle of Young Living Peppermint essential oil and told me to try it for my headaches. I received her gift mainly because I didn’t want to be rude but I honestly thought, what is this plant juice going to do for my headaches?!? I had read a little about essential oils in our hunt for natural remedies and there just started to be a lot of buzz online but I basically knew next to nothing. Nothing about how to use them, where to use them, safety…nothing. So the next day I put a drop or two of the peppermint oil on my forehead, temples, back of neck, and shoulders. I WAS SHOCKED that within 5 minutes my headache completely disappeared. Thus began my love affair with essential oils! Since then we have learned how to use essential oils hundreds of ways. They are a celebrated solution to most of our wellness needs and I am so grateful to share our journey with others through my Young Living business.

Crunchy blog 3Throughout the last 8 years we have learned a few principles that we will live by now & forever, by God’s grace.

  1. God’s creation is amazing & powerful. God provided everything we need for life, health, and wellness in creation.
  2. Be an advocate for your own health & wellness. Don’t believe everything you read or hear. Labels lie and are intentionally misleading. Just because something says natural on it, doesn’t mean it is. Do your own research.
  3. We are the gatekeepers of our home and our family. Everything you put in your body or use in your home/hygiene is an investment in your health – either positively or negatively.

I am happy to report that after wonderful medical care + being an advocate and gatekeeper in our home + removing the chemicals from our home/hygiene/beauty products, my health has returned beyond our wildest dreams. I am currently only on 2 prescription medications.  I am able to serve with my husband in fulltime ministry, own my own business, write, speak, and so much more. All of this was possible by God’s amazing grace and direction!

This is just a snapshot of how our crunchy life got started, I’d love to share more with you guys! Tell me about your wellness journey. Where are you at on the crunchy scale?!? All in or just getting started? What questions do you have about our journey?

Next week I’m going to share a powerful self revelation that “I Can’t Do This”  See you then!

 

Complete.

Complete. blog

On August 13th of 2005 my husband and I committed our lives to one another before God and witnesses. Our passion for family and desire to have children was so absolute that we actually included these vows in our wedding ceremony:

Our mentors read: “Recognizing the present culture war that seeks to undermine the covenantal structure of the Christian family in our society, Do you both vow to uphold a high value of life and family?” To which we emphatically, full of joy and hope replied: We do!

And then we repeated these vows, in unison, in front of God and witnesses:

“Enabled by God’s grace and guided by the wisdom of Biblical revelation,

…We vow to establish and maintain a Christian home

…To receive our children as gifts of God’s blessings

…To nurture and train them in His word and ways

…To honor Christ and the gospel of the Kingdom by doing so!”

Everything about that sacred moment mirrored our certainty that we would have many children. In the depths of my heart I honestly expected to get pregnant on our honeymoon and continue to have children until God said otherwise. We have such a high value of life that it has been our personal conviction to never use any type of birth control but wholly rely on God’s sovereign timing and plan.

God has been writing our story for the last thirteen years and our family looks different than we expected. During our second year of marriage we celebrated our first pregnancy. I knew within weeks that I was pregnant and saved the news as a romantic Valentine’s Day surprise for my husband. Both of us were overjoyed and called all of our family and friends to share in the celebration. By March 2nd, at just 7 or 8 weeks pregnant, I had a miscarriage.

Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe our shattered hearts.

The next few years cycled between anticipation and disappointment. I’m not sure you can understand the agony of infertility unless you have personally lived it. The utter and complete helplessness and despair month after month. It is a grief like no other.

Complete. 2 blogWe did all the things y’all. We saw all the doctors, endured all the exams & procedures, read all the books, prayed all the prayers….but God didn’t answer in the way we hoped or wanted. To this day we have never had another pregnancy. Doctors found nothing biologically wrong and yet God’s answer to our longing for biological children is no.

For years I felt broken and ashamed. I irrationally carried the weight of infertility on my shoulders as if I was the giver of life.  None of this made sense. I was angry and jealous of couples abounding with children. I was so confused and asked all the whys…why no, why us, why not now? Most of all I felt this profound sense of lack as if our family was incomplete while at the same time we knew with certainty God wasn’t leading us toward more aggressive next steps like IVF or even fostering & adoption.

It has taken many years for my husband and I to be at peace with the reality that we will not have biological children. This peace is without question an absolute gift from God. The agony and cycles of despair have stopped as we rest fully assured that we are walking in God’s perfect will for our lives. Our family doesn’t look like the picture we had in our minds when made those vows years ago, but we are complete.

Something struck me recently while studying the first married couple in Genesis chapter 2. God formed the first man, Adam, out of dust and breathed the breath of life into him (vs. 7). God then gives Adam a purpose – to steward the garden (vs 15). God proceeds to set some clear boundaries for Adam – do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (vs. 16-17). Then God says “it is not good for the man to be alone” and He looks through all His creation but doesn’t find a suitable partner for Adam (vs.18-20). God puts Adam to sleep and unlike the rest of creation He uses a rib from Adam (rather than dirt) to form Eve, God modeled in her forming the oneness and unity He desired for marriage. This section ends with the first honeymoon and my favorite verse, “Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.” (vs. 21-24).

God’s precision in creation is astounding. Everything He did, the way He did it, in the order He did it, matters! Let’s face it, He is the almighty star breathing God of the universe – He could have snapped his fingers and created a whole generation of humans in an instant, fully populating earth. He could have modeled the first family as a set of parents with 10 kids and all of history would have followed that design.

Yet He looked upon this first family – a husband and a wife – along with all of creation, and declared them very good (1:31) and complete (2:1).

com·plete /kəmˈplēt/ adjective      1. having all the necessary or appropriate parts.

God declared them very good and complete. Just as they were, a husband and a wife.

God has used this passage to bring so much healing to my heart and to re-frame my perspective on our family. My husband and I have surrendered our lives to the Lord and are walking in His perfect will. We have followed God’s direction are trusting in His perfect plan for our lives. God doesn’t owe us anything. Our family has all the appropriate parts, we are not lacking in anything. We are complete.

Complete. 3 blog

I’m so grateful that in time God has replaced those feelings of brokenness, shame, and lack with a sense of purpose and hope. When waves of sadness and despair visit I sink myself into the truth of God’s word and remind myself that He is trustworthy. I rest in the peace of His will and the completeness that we have in Him.

Have you had an experience where God didn’t give you what you wanted? How have you handled it? What does it mean for you to be complete in that situation?

If you are reading this blog and are going through a struggle with infertility I want to encourage you that you are not alone. You are not broken or lacking or incomplete. You were designed by God for greatness and a purpose, even if you can’t see that right now. Infertility is such a painful and isolating experience and I pray that as I share our journey you will receive a new perspective and source of hope. May God give you the strength and courage to lean into Him, I promise He will not let you down.

If you are reading this blog and you have someone in your life going through a struggle with infertility, please share this blog with them and stick around for my next blog post “Supporting those with Infertility”.

MY FAVORITE THINGS – ESSENTIAL OIL TOOLS

I did it y’all!! I finally compiled a complete list of all of my favorite essential oil tools. I have links for everything from DIY supplies, storage solutions, reference books, & more. I hope this is a blessing to you on your journey and makes life super simple!

ESSENTIAL OIL BOOKS

Most of these books listed below are available at www.discoverlsp.com or you can use the Amazon links referenced below. *All Amazon links are affiliate links

Essential Oil Pocket Reference – https://amzn.to/34VLpLO

Essential Oil Desk Reference – https://amzn.to/2Xfn9lq

Supplements Desk Reference by Jen O’Sullivan – https://31oils.com/supplements/ or https://amzn.to/34REZxp

Animal Desk Reference – https://amzn.to/32CMrL7

Gentle Babies: Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infants and Young Children (10th Anniversary Edition) – https://amzn.to/2pdgA6h

Betsy Bosom’s Baby Book: A Girlfriend’s Guide to Using Essential Oils from Bellies to Babies (Lucy Libido) – https://amzn.to/2qQvgbG

Lucy Libido Says…..There’s an Oil for THAT: A Girlfriend’s Guide to Using Essential Oils Between the Sheets (Volume 1) – https://amzn.to/2X8OYLV

Essentials: 50 Answers to Common Questions about Essential Oils by Lindsey Elmore – https://amzn.to/2NFxwMa

Essentials: 75 Answers to Common Questions About Essential Oils and Supplements by Lindsey Elmore – https://amzn.to/32CTIe9

Healing Oils of the Bible – https://amzn.to/373irvE

Essential Parfumerie by Melissa Poepping – https://www.essentialparfumerie.com/

Pure Male Cologne Book by Melissa Poepping – https://melissapoepping.com/

Essential Oil Make & Takes by Jen O’Sullivan – https://31oils.com/make-takes/ or https://amzn.to/2NEBG6M

The Art of Blending with Essential Oils Booklet – https://amzn.to/2O4YjR0

ESSENTIAL OIL BAGS
Modern Makerie – https://www.modernmakerie.com/

Honey Hive Five – https://www.etsy.com/shop/HoneyHiveFive

Baggage and CO – https://www.etsy.com/shop/BaggageandCO

Cowgrl Creations – https://www.etsy.com/shop/Cowgrlcreations

Amanda Fair Designs – https://www.etsy.com/shop/AmandaFairDesigns

ESSENTIAL OIL SHELVES
Tucker Design Co. – https://www.etsy.com/shop/TuckerDesignCompany

Chipped with Charm – https://www.etsy.com/shop/ChippedWithCharm

His Hers Woodworking – https://www.etsy.com/shop/HisHersWoodworking

Essentially Curated – https://www.essentiallycurated.com/

Tree of Life Oil Shelf – https://amzn.to/2NZomc4

Oily Hounds – https://www.etsy.com/shop/OilyHounds

Essential Racks – https://essentialracks.com/

DIFFUSER JEWELRY (*best choices)

*Ashley Madrigal – https://www.etsy.com/shop/AshleyMadrigal

*Put On Love Designs – https://www.putonlovedesigns.com/

*Lava Essentials – https://www.lavaessentials.com/

Aroma Dream Jewelry – https://www.etsy.com/shop/AromaDreamJewelry

Leaved Gates – https://www.etsy.com/shop/LeavedGates

Ashleyy’s Finds – https://www.etsy.com/shop/AshleyysFinds

Joy Plus Jewels – https://www.etsy.com/shop/JOYplusJEWELS

Halle’s Jewels – https://hallesjewels.com/

CARRIER OILS

YL V-6 Carrier Oil: http://bit.ly/204kDHA

Coconut Oil Unrefined – https://amzn.to/2NEP4bf (#1 choice)

Coconut Oil Refined – https://amzn.to/2X5IaPg (some use in beauty products)

Coconut Oil Fractionated – https://amzn.to/2XcAavV (good for rollers)

Sweet Almond Oil – https://amzn.to/2NIrDxT

Jojoba Oil – https://amzn.to/2KfDDo6

Argan Oil – https://amzn.to/2qOY5Wk

Vitamin E – https://amzn.to/2Kg4Wi8

DIY SUPPLIES

Shea Butter – https://amzn.to/2KgcOjG

Cocoa Butter Wafers – https://amzn.to/32DV203

Bees Wax – https://amzn.to/2rGdJDT

Epsom Salts (8lbs unscented) – https://amzn.to/2qO9JQW

Dr. Bronners Liquid Castile Soap (32 oz unscented) – https://amzn.to/36YqQQT

Witch Hazel (8oz) – https://amzn.to/2CzzJ5t

Aloe Vera Gel (12 oz) – https://amzn.to/2X9wP0x

ESSENTIAL OIL ROLLER BOTTLES

*I recommend re-purposing your empty essential oils bottles then make a roller by adding an Aroma Glide Fitments from YL. These fit both 5ml & 15ml bottles bit.ly/1RQ8W3t

Whimsy & Wellness –  https://www.whimsyandwellness.com/

Wood and Oils – https://www.etsy.com/shop/WoodAndOils

The Root & Petal – http://www.therootandpetal.com/

10ml roller sets on Amazon

6 amber with black cap – https://amzn.to/2KfzXTg

8 colorful frosted – https://amzn.to/2O5roeX

12 amber with gold cap – https://amzn.to/2CGGbr6

12 colorful with gold cap – https://amzn.to/2KiUWVA

OTHER DIY CONTAINERS

8oz Glass Spray Bottles • for diluting Thieves Household Cleaner:

6 pack assorted colors – https://amzn.to/2KfEO6Z

6 pack amber – https://amzn.to/36Wi45Q

2oz Glass Spray Bottles • perfect for linen, room, or outdoor sprays:

4 pack blue – https://amzn.to/2O2JfTU

6 pack amber – https://amzn.to/34WGKt7

2oz Dropper Bottles • for face serums, holding carrier oils, etc.

2 pack blue – https://amzn.to/2rwstF1

2 pack amber – https://amzn.to/2pVqwBP

Foaming Hand Soap Dispensers (3 pack) – https://amzn.to/34SYHZA

Empty Veggie Capsules • for taking vitality oils internally – https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/products/clear-vegetable-capsules

4 oz Mason Jars (set of 4) – https://amzn.to/2O47dOA

8 oz Mason Jars (set of 6) – https://amzn.to/2QeCKjw

MORE FAVORITE ESSENTIAL OIL SUPPLIES

Essential Oil Bottle Labels – https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/products/essential-oil-bottle-labels

Essential Oils 25 pack 2ml Sample Bottles – https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/products/essential-oil-sample-bottles

Essential Oil Spray Tops For 5, 10, 15 to 100 ml Bottles (rainbow) – https://amzn.to/356JdRX

Smelly Faces – stuffed animals – https://www.etsy.com/shop/SmellyFaces

The Cheeky Doormat – essential oil doormat – https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheCheekyDoormat

6 pack of stainless steel lids and straws for wide mouth mason jars – https://amzn.to/2q5GGIE

4 pack stainless steel straws – https://amzn.to/2O1yhOw

YL BUSINESS BOOKS

Propel: Your Guidebook to Freedom by Niccole Perez – https://inspiredsharing.com/  Or https://amzn.to/32Dju1B

Gameplan: The Complete Strategy Guide to go from Starter Kit to Silver by Sarah Harnisch – https://amzn.to/2QcmW0Q

Unstuck: How To Talk To Humans & Get Them To Respond To You by Sarah Harnisch – https://amzn.to/2O8RRrZ

Getting Noticed: A No-Nonsense Guide to Standing Out and Selling More for Momtrepreneurs Who Ain’t Got Time for That by Lindsay Teague Moreno – https://amzn.to/36VKtsK

Boss Up!: This Ain’t Your Mama’s Business Book by Lindsay Teague Moreno – https://amzn.to/33Jr0cW

The Four Year Career, Young Living Edition by Richard B. Brooke – https://amzn.to/34VXVuK

25 To Life: Jailbreak Your 9-5 & Escape to Financial Freedom by Adam Green – https://amzn.to/2qaa5Bs

YL BUSINESS RESOURCES

Young Living – https://www.youngliving.com/

Young Living Blog – https://www.youngliving.com/blog/

Young Living Seed to Seal – http://seedtoseal.com/en

Young Living Foundation – https://younglivingfoundation.org/

Young Living Farm Tours – http://younglivingfarmtours.com/v2/

Nature’s Ultra – https://naturesultra.com/

Life Science Publishing – https://www.discoverlsp.com/

GROworkspace – https://www.groworkspace.com/

Oil Revolution Designs – https://oilrevolutiondesigns.com/

Oil Supply Store – https://oilsupplystore.com/

31 Oils – https://31oils.com/

The Social Oiler – https://thesocialoiler.bigcartel.com/

Melissa Poepping – https://melissapoepping.com/

Essential Oil Transformation – https://essentialoilstransformation.com/

The Oil Posse – https://theoilposse.com/

Inspired Sharing – https://inspiredsharing.com/

Bethany Shipley (Diamond Workbook) – https://bethanyshipley.com/

Oil Ability Team – https://oilabilityteam.com/

Growing Healthy Homes – https://growinghealthyhomes.com/

*All Amazon links are affiliate links

Transformation Tuesday featuring Monica Simpson

TT Monica BLOG

How many of you have been inspired and blessed by these amazing personal journey’s of transformation? I know I have!! Today’s Transformation Tuesday is featuring a beautiful friend of mine, Monica Simpson. Monica and I first met during our counseling internship many years ago. In this post she shares her incredible transformation journey to becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor. Enjoy!

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My Journey to Becoming an LPC – Inspiration to Motivate and Give Hope

by Monica Simpson

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anais Nin

I never saw myself as a risk taker. I never dreamed of running my own business. Speaking in front of people or even confidently helping people through their difficulties was not on my radar. In fact, I’ve played it safe for most of life; I followed the rules and did what others expected of me.

When I began college, I had a deep desire to break out of my self-imposed box and blossom into the person I felt God wanted me to be. Looking back, I can confidently say that this was the beginning of my journey. I didn’t know it would take me another 30 plus years before I truly felt that I was walking in my purpose…in my truth.

Blossom Quote BLOG rev

In those formative years I had glimpses of the woman inside of me waiting to blossom-a tight bud on the verge of blooming. After college graduation, and before international travel became mainstream, I worked in several different countries as a single woman, I started a small bookkeeping business, had two wonderfully strong and resilient daughters, and people came to me with their problems seeking advice or just a supportive ear.

But there were also years when I lost track of myself; I became pregnant while in college. I got married because I was afraid of being a single parent but became a single parent anyway for 17 years after our divorce. I stayed in unfulfilling jobs – too scared to leave for financial reasons, but also too unfulfilled to shine and progress in my field as an accountant.

I was discouraged and I knew God desired more of me, but I didn’t know what that looked like or what I was supposed to do. Four years after my divorce I took a leap of faith and decided to make a career change, which I knew would entail returning to school. My daughters were 5 and 15 – one ready to begin kindergarten and the other one entering high school.

I felt I had a natural talent of helping people – many of friends sought my insight. I returned to school to become a counselor with the vague idea of working for a company that helps people. Sounds good, right? I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had a business undergraduate degree. The only psych class I had taken was Psychology 101. Now I was surrounded by concepts that I had not been exposed to before. My learning curve was steep, but I was both confident and determined that I could be successful in all the arenas of my life: single-parent, full-time employee and master’s degree student.

Just when I felt I had it all figured out I was thrown a major curve ball. As part of the master’s program, students were required to complete 500 counseling hours prior to graduation. Where was I going to find time in my already stretched-thin schedule? How could I possibly do it all? I couldn’t see a way and knew that God would have to provide because I was all out of ideas. He blessed me in a way I never saw coming – I was laid off from my job, with full pay and benefits for 6 months. In one fell swoop, He afforded me the time and money to complete my degree. God was gracious and I had never felt more encouraged to finish the task before me.

I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Southern Christian University (now Regents University), the same year my daughter graduated from high school. Pride welled up inside of me thinking of us, together, on the brink to our futures. I believed that all my career desires were at my fingertips. And I was reminded, once again, that God’s plans were way bigger than mine.

In order to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in Texas, applicants are required to complete 3,000 supervised counseling hours. I was back to working full-time and as a single mom with a family to support I could not imagine taking a drastic pay cut in order to complete my hours. I was overwhelmed with the weight of discouragement. I added hours to my full time job and began seeing clients in the evenings after work and on weekends. I prayed for God’s intervention, but once again I was wanting God to follow my plan: I’ll get married, my husband would support me, and I could quit my day job or at the very least work part-time. I know now that I was leaning on my own understanding and ability and not God’s. I had learned, again, that His way is so much better than my way.

I didn’t get married. I didn’t quit my full-time job. I prayed and relied on God to show me how this obstacle would be overcome. I became discouraged as I saw some of my fellow interns complete their hours in as little as 20 months while I was still slogging through my journey with no foreseeable end in sight. I held on to the belief that God would not have brought me on this journey just for me to abandon my calling. The longer my journey lasted, the more convinced I became that something bigger was happening. My journey could not just be for my benefit.

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Five years, 70 months, later I finally completed 3,000 hours. Finally. During that time, while I worked feverishly to meet the deadline set before me, my prayer life and full surrender to God was the strongest it had ever been. That was 4 ½ years ago. Last year, I stepped out on faith and left my full-time corporate job to work in my very own private practice full-time. What a beautiful, perfectly packaged gift God has cushioned and prepared each step that I have taken. I thank Him for each new client that calls my office because I know this is the client that God has for me. I’m often amazed and grateful for all that He has done for me, the opportunities that have come my way.

I believe that had I not stepped out in faith and courage; I would not be where I am now. I’m living in my purpose, in my truth: to strengthen families by helping, exhorting, and encouraging individuals and couples.

Above all else, seek Him always.

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Wow! Monica’s story is one of perseverance and hope. It encouraged me to never give up, keep holding onto Jesus, trust in His plan, and to not compare my journey to others. Thank you Monica for sharing your story with us today. Your transformation is truly inspiring!

Share in the comments what encouraged or challenged you the most for your own journey? How would trusting in God’s plan for your life change your current outlook or circumstances? What is holding you back from blossoming?

Anyone else struggle with selfcare? Join me next week as I share some powerful insights that have transformed my life!

I Can’t Do This

I can't do this blog revI can’t do this.

I can’t achieve this goal.

I can’t conquer this addiction.

I can’t forgive this person.

I can’t overcome this hurt, pain, & loss.

Maybe you’re like me and you have a similar phrase that cycles through your thoughts at times. This self-defeating monologue visits most often when I am weary, overwhelmed, and physically and/or emotionally exhausted. It’s a punishing unwelcomed guest that produces nothing but hopelessness and frustration. Ughhh! Have you been there too?

Let’s be honest, we ALL have these toxic momentary thoughts from time to time. Some of us have them more often than others but at some point in your life you will have an, I can’t do this thought/feeling/moment. It’s the kind of moment where you want to throw in the towel and give up, maybe not on life, but definitely on whatever stressor is beating you up that day. The kind of moment that taunts you to quit before you even start. The kind of moment that causes you to crawl back into bed and cover your head with blankets readied to hide from the world. Oh my friend, I’ve been there and done that! Life is hard and no matter how capable, or accomplished, or strong you are…we all have I can’t do this moments from time to time.

A few months ago as I was sitting across the kitchen table from my beloved husband having a meltdown about an upcoming event I am responsible to lead.  As I uttered the familiar defeated phrase “I can’t do this” aloud to my husband I had a major AH HA revelation! My thoughts immediately shifted as if God whispered into my heart – you’re exactly right, YOU can’t do this, but I can!

You see the benefit of hiding God’s word in your heart (aka. memorizing scripture) is that it is available to swiftly draw upon like a sword when you’re in the heat of battle mentally. Over the last year I have been captivated by the truths in John chapter 15 and have studied it several times. Since then, verse 5 has been playing like a record over and over again in my mind,   “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

I can't do this blog 2In this verse our responsibility as branches is very clear: to abide in Him. We are called to remain in, join with, and stay connected to Jesus. When we do that, He handles everything else. My whole job as a Christian at any given moment is to wait on, pursue, and listen to Jesus. His job is to produce the fruit, manage the plan, create the outcome…and so much more.

I don’t know about you but WOW that is so liberating for me. You see I like to bear fruit, fruitfulness is kind of my thing. In fact if I’d let it, my entire existence and self-worth would be centered on how much fruit I am bearing. When I think about bearing fruit I think about being productive, accomplishing something meaningful and tangible, and contributing to my family and ministry. None of those are bad things, however many of us, myself included, struggle with centering our identity on how fruitful we are, rather than how well we are abiding with Jesus.

The Message paraphrase gives us another look at this verse, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.” Our relationship with Jesus is to be so intimate and organic that the only results possible are abundant fruit. It’s the only outcome available when we are joined to Jesus. HE is just that good!

In that weary moment my focus was on my own lack rather than connecting to Jesus and relying on Him to produce the fruit. The lesson I am learning through all this is that when those, I can’t do this moments come – because we are all human and they will come, to press into Jesus and fully rely on His ability and strength rather than my own. The phrase > I < can’t do this is completely 100% accurate! In my own strength and abilities I can’t, but I am NOT alone and together with Jesus ALL things are possible (Matthew 19:26)

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My She Reads Truth Bible has a devotional titled “Walk in Them” (page 1990) that begins with this powerful thought: “Maybe the secret to doing big things for the kingdom is in making peace with the sentence “I can’t do this!”” Making peace with the fact that apart from Him and in our own strength we are incapable, incomplete, and imperfect.

It’s a beautiful thing when God can teach you a powerful lesson from a thought that was formerly toxic and defeating. Among my morning affirmations I have now included the phrase “I can’t do this” referencing John 15:5. It is my daily reminder that apart from Him I can do nothing. A reminder that the responsibility of my life is to remain in a beautifully intimate and deeply rooted relationship with Jesus. Everything else is up to Him! I choose to begin my day not by focusing on myself, my plan, and my agenda but rather by connecting to Jesus and all that He wills to accomplish in and through me.

If you are in an “I can’t do this” moment or season in your life right now I want to encourage you that you are not alone. In humility and gentleness I want to encourage you to connect with Jesus acknowledging your need for Him in your circumstance. Apart from Him – in your own strength, ability, & might – you can do nothing. But in John 15:7 Jesus tells us that, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.” Together with Jesus all things are possible my friend. In the comments share how we can pray for you in this season.

I pray this glimpse into my journey has been an encouragement to you today! Next week I’m going to share a post titled “Change Starts with You” looking at how to produce meaningful change in relationships (marriage, family, work, friends). Have a blessed week!

When God Says No

When God Says No blogLet’s be honest, there is no one on the planet that enjoys hearing the word NO. Myself included! Does anyone else have a rebel personality that when someone tells you no, it lights a fire within you to battle to the bitter end in order to get your way? Ughhh, that is totally me and I’ve been this way since childhood.

I was the oldest child (& grandchild) in our family until my older step brother Ryan came along when I was fourteen, and my younger brother Keithan is just 15 months behind me. Keithan and I spent the bulk of our early childhood at our maternal grandparent’s home while Mom worked multiple jobs and put herself through college. I have always been fiercely independent with a cunning tongue, so fights with Keithan often looked like me battling with words and him responding with action (aka. fists). Although younger, my brother always had the advantage in physical strength. My Mom would famously say, “If you’d stop running your mouth, he’s stop beating you up.” HA!

I vividly remember childhood scolding’s from my beloved grandmother. She would seat us separately down on the couch, then after we calmed down she would pour into our lives. Essentially she exerted her authority and influence to say no. No to the fighting, no to the nasty words, no to the hurtful actions, and no to whatever harmful thing our wills desperately longed for. In wisdom, strength, and purpose my grandmother no’s were a necessary part of leading us toward growth, maturity, and truth.

Couch blog revWhen God says no, I am often reminiscent of that rebellious child who would kick and scream to get her way. There are times in my life that God has said no so clearly and yet I still pushed forward, plowing my way through and making a huge mess in the process. Over the years I have learned the wisdom of hearing God’s voice and trusting His no’s, but it hasn’t been easy.

When we moved in New Jersey six years ago my health was at its lowest, my husband and I truly did not expect that I would ever work again. I’ll share more with you about my recovery in next week’s post “Our Journey to this Crunchy Life.” As I got stronger and was able to work again, I began to pursue licensure as a Professional Counselor as well as a Marriage and Family Therapist here in NJ.  I jumped through all the required hoops, submitting documentation about my education, internship hours, passing tests, supervisor recommendations etc. After months of waiting and multiple appeals the answer to my pursuit for a career as a licensed Therapist here in New Jersey was a solid NO. Long story short the NJ state boards rejected reciprocating my licensure from Texas, rejected several of my Dallas Baptist University classes, and in order to move forward with licensure they shackled me with requirements that would be far too costly both in time and money to ever be feasible for our family.

JP grad blog revIn my wildest dreams I could have never imagined a scenario in which God would say no to this request. Never. Why would He allow me to fully recover from my health crisis and then not be able to pursue the career He so gifted & called me in? Why would He direct me to get a Master’s degree, take on student loan debt, and work my booty off in 2,900 hours of internship? Nothing about any of it made any sense to my brain or my heart. I had worked so hard and my health crisis robbed me of so much, why would God allow this no, how was this possible?

Maybe you can relate to praying hard for something and God, in His sovereign authority and wisdom, says no. Ughhh! Dealing with the disappointment can be SO heart breaking. Whether your no is about a career, health issue, infertility, relationship struggle, or some other deep desire. No’s are not fun but at times they are necessary. No’s are often God’s way of protecting us and preventing us from going down a path that is outside of His perfect plan for our lives. But it’s also troubling to often never get the answer to those haunting “why” questions.

Actions blogIf you are experiencing a no from God right now, here are the actions I recommend.

Continue to Ask, Seek, & Knock!

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” Friend I want to encourage you to continue to ask, seek, & knock in prayer. What may seem to be a no from God, might just be not yet or not now. God isn’t obligated to do everything we ask Him like some supernatural genie in a bottle. But He tells us in his word that when our desires line up with His will they will be done. Jesus says in John 15:7-8 says “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.”  Ask, seek, & knock are verbs, that means they require a bold action on our part, so never give up praying and believing.

Press into Him!

Next I want to encourage you to press into Jesus. Press in, don’t pull away. So often when we are working through hard emotions like disappointment, fear, grief, and confusion our tendency is to run away from God. In my experience nothing good comes from running from God. As hard as it may be, I want to encourage you to press into God. Matthew 11: 28 if one of my favorite reminders from Jesus, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Our rest, our solutions, our futures reside in Jesus. Maybe you’re mad at God, not a problem – He’s a big boy & he can handle your anger. Press into Him. A loving Parent doesn’t always give us what we want, but our Heavenly Father does care about every tear that we have cried (Psalms 56:8) and He is the solution for our aching heart.

Choose to trust God, even when He says no!

I still have no idea why God would completely shut down my ability to become a licensed counselor here in New Jersey, but I trust Him. I pressed into God with my shattered heart and He comforted me with His peace. I choose to trust that God is directing my life according to His perfect plan, even if my life looks different than I expected. Trusting God and pressing into Him renews my hope!

Nothing about your situation may make sense to your brain or your heart right now friend, oh man I have been there. I want to encourage you to trust God, even when He says no.  He is trustworthy, and He has a plan and purpose for everything He allows to be part of our story, press in & trust Him – He will renew your hope!

What no’s from God are you currently wrestling with?

How can I pray for you as you press into God this week?

Supporting those with Infertility

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Infertility is an unwelcomed guest in many homes. Most of us know a couple that have walked through this struggle and we often have no idea what to say or do to support them. In my recent blog post Complete.  I shared our journey with infertility over the last 13 years. Today I want to share some advice from my perspective on how to best support those in your life as they battle with infertility. This is going to be very real and direct! I hope that you walk away with a greater level of empathy plus helpful tips in supporting those you love.

Let’s start with what NOT to do!

1. DON’T BE AN EXPERT

Under this category I would also include: don’t send them articles to read, don’t buy them books, and don’t shower them with miracle stories. Many well-meaning family & friends have positioned themselves as a medical experts and cornered us with unsolicited advice and direction over the years. I believe they care, I really do – but I assure you it is not helpful.

Trust me, most people going through a struggle with infertility have already done ALL. THE. THINGS! We’ve read all the books, seen all the doctors, had all the tests, watched all the documentaries, and we have heard all the miracle stories. When you position yourself as an expert it is humiliating and belittling, it’s as if you are saying they probably missed something or are incapable of figuring this out on their own. Just don’t do it!

2. DON’T FLOOD THEM WITH MEDICAL QUESTIONS

Medical questions are extremely personal and not everyone feels comfortable sharing those details. Sometimes people are in the place emotionally to drudge through all the medical details, and sometimes they are not. When you drill them with medical questions it can be extremely overwhelming and trigger painful emotions. Supporting them through this season means giving them the space to share what they want to share, when they are ready to share it.

3. DON’T SAY STUPID STUFF

Words are powerful, use your words wisely and check your heart! Here are some doozies I’ve heard over the years and perfect examples of what NOT to say.

What’s wrong with you?  Why don’t you have children?

I’d wish you happy Mother’s Day but you’re not a mother.

You must not have enough faith. Or Where is your faith?

Are you trusting God enough? Is there sin in your life?

Listen, I know it can be awkward and at times you mean well but just don’t know what to say. When in doubt, listen and love. Allow the couple with infertility to lead and guide the conversation, if they are ready they will open up. If you must speak, speak life giving words of encouragement and hope.

4. DON’T PRESSURE COUPLES TO FOSTER/ADOPT

To be honest I have a ton of baggage with this one y’all! After 13 years in this struggle with infertility I can honestly say my husband and I are at complete peace and in complete unity with the fact that we will not have children. I’m talking about the kind of peace and unity that can only come from God, it is an absolute gift.

Often we feel enormous pressure from family, friends, and even society to foster or adopt. Listen I want to be clear about something, we absolutely celebrate the beautiful ways God builds families through means like fostering & adoption. We are huge supporters and advocates for fostering and adoption. We would encourage anyone who feels God leading them to foster or adopt to follow His direction.

However, at the end of the day our job is to seek God’s face and follow His direction for our own family. We believe the very best place to be is in the center of God’s will. No matter how good a thing is, if it’s not God’s will then it is not best for our lives. Amen?!? My husband and I have prayed about this over and over again and we are crystal clear that God is not directing us to foster or adopt.

So in supporting those in your life going through infertility, I want to caution you to tread lightly on this subject. It is never helpful or supportive to pressure or manipulate anyone into doing what you think is best. Always encourage people to follow God’s plan for their family.

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Now let’s look at what to do!

1. MANAGE YOUR OWN EXPECTATIONS & EMOTIONS

One thing my husband and I have noticed over the years is that our close family and friends have had to process their own grief and loss over the fact that it’s not God’s plan for us to have children. It can be so real and painful for everyone in your inner circle. Our parents and siblings will not have the grandchildren, nieces, and nephews they so desperately wanted. The picture of our family in their minds looks differently than they expected or wanted. Each of them have had to process this reality on their own and work through their own emotions.

If you are in a situation where a close loved one is battling infertility I would encourage you to prayerfully journal, processing your own expectations and emotions about this situation. Allow the Lord to speak to your heart to bring healing and understanding. Psalms 34:18 says “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” I pray that He will be near to you as you work through your own unmet expectations and emotions.

2. PRAY OFTEN

Pray for healing, pray for strength, pray for God’s will to be done, pray for wisdom and direction, pray without ceasing as directed in I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 that reads “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” They say that prayer moves mountains, and I believe God uses prayer to change not only our circumstances but our hearts. Prayer is simply having a conversation with God, and it is always a good idea!

3. BE PRESENT

Last but not least, be present. Without expectations or demands, resist your desire to try to “fix” the situation, and wade into the messy of it all. Be present to listen and support your friends as they have need. You’re not going to do everything perfectly and that’s ok. What matters most to those who are hurting is knowing they have someone who cares about their pain and is willing to be there.

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Thank you for caring enough to read this post! I hope these do’s and don’ts help empower you as you support those in your life who are walking through infertility. I’d love to know which ones spoke to you the most. Or which ones you thought of that didn’t make my list?

Coming up next week I’ll be sharing “When God Says No”…see you then!