Transformation Tuesday featuring Monica Simpson

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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.

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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!

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!

 

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?