Intentional Stillness

In this season of life, "being still" takes work. It requires intention. There is always something to be done: a shoe to be found, homework to be done, somewhere to be, a countertop to be cleaned, laundry to fold. In all that's to be done, life can become overwhelming and being still is often moved to the bottom of our priorities.

When we take the time to be intentional about that stillness, we see where God wants to be intentional with us. His Spirit is a life-giving Spirit; we need just to be still and let Him move within us.

Every week, I crave this stillness, but I especially need His reminders of my purpose this week. While I am tempted to grumble about the things I am unable to do, instead I should be praising Him that Blakely is okay and seeking His intentions in slowing us down. Starting my day with "Be still and know that I am God," {Psalm 46:10} is a great reminder of today's mission.


Planning the Perfect Girls Trip


If you know me, you know I am a sucker for travel! Whether it's a family vacation, running off with my husband for a few days, or a girls' trip {shh...don't tell anyone that this is my favorite type}, I am always game! I love it SO much that I wrote A Quick Guide to the Perfect Mom's Getaway for Fort Worth Moms Blog to get the ball rolling for those of you out there who have always dreamed of a girls trip but could just never seem to get the logistics together.

After you've read that post to check out the starter steps below to getting your R&R time with the girls underway!

So we've covered the basics of who, when, where, what, and you've even learned how to get it started, but there are a few more things that I want to share with my fellow Type A travel planners that have made some of our trips better than the rest!

  • Personally contact the concierge of the resort you plan to stay and make personal connections with the travel planners or home-owners if it's an AirBnb or bed and breakfast. These people LOVE to make your trip perfect and often provide special surprises like room upgrades or special touches to your stay!
  • Fall {late September to early October} works great for parents with children who have started school or are in preschool. This is also hurricane season so beach trips come with a risk but are much better on the budget!
  • After Spring Break to mid-April is before the end of school busyness begins and great weather for the beach, although your prices will be a bit higher!
  • Leave on an early morning flight, especially if you are traveling to the East coast to make the best of your trip! We won't even consider a place if we can't arrive before lunch. We only get three days a year, so we make every minute count!
  • Have the type-A friend who most likely planned a loose itinerary calculate potential costs including hotel taxes, Uber fares, and links to restaurants for various destinations to send out before everyone commits. Before everyone books, I send out a pretty rough sketch of what they trip will look like on the pocket book including breakdowns by how many people go.
  • Book the rooms as far out as you can as they almost always can be canceled without penalty!  Also, check the hotels websites weekly as you can always rebook if you notice prices drop!  
  • If you want to charge to the room, everyone get individual tabs then take pictures of your receipt as you close out your tab so that at the end of the trip, it's easy to settle up for what you owe and no one gets stuffed with the bill.

Lastly but most importantly, after six years of girl's trips we have learned a bit about how our bodies feel during the trip! 

Day One
We are always tired from travel whether it's a local destination or a plane ride away, so we generally make early dinner reservations at either a low key resort restaurant or with a quaint dive in town and cap off our night with early bedtimes. 

Day Two
This is what we designate as our activity day!   After a good night's rest, we are always at our best for an early morning of fitness followed by time getting pampered at the spa or hitting the town.  The day we book our flights, we call to secure spa appointments so that all of our treatments are at the same time.  We have found that mid-morning to 11:30ish time frames allow for us to sleep in, slip into a Zumba class, then massage away at our muscles. Not working out? Whatever it is your activity of choice is, make sure to reserve space or book whatever it is you would like to do the same day you book your flight! 

We usually do spa days, so our second night there is always our "late" night reserved for dancing and/or any other type of nightlife or specialty activities like concerts or comedy shows.  Anything that we would be out late for, we do it this night so we have the next day to rest, nap, and recover!   

Day Three
We plan nothing for our last day.  We either lounge, hit up the spa for more, or fly by the seat of our pants!  It always ends up being a blast and filled with laughter, especially come nightfall.  Night three is usually when we do our pajama night or night around the resort playing super fun games that leave us in stitches.  We hit the hay early-ish and are always well-rested by the time our midday flights roll around.  

Bidding farewell is always sad, but after three days away from the family, we are secretly chomping at the bits to hug everyone's neck!  

To see a compilation of our Mama's Getaways, click here.


Rebuilding My Writing World

Many of you who were faithful followers of our family blog may recognize a few posts that are archived below.  If you are one of those people, you know how devastated we were to learn about how our privacy had been so violated through that blog, which led me to the decision to make it private.  It was right the decision, but I was determined to not let evil win.  Not long after that decision, I decided to start this new writing space where I could share my successes and failures, journal my shortcomings, highlight God's transforming love, and continue a little of what I loved to do.
Truthfully, it has been so difficult to rebuild.  It has been difficult to find my voice.  When I set aside time to write, I often come up empty.  I decided that to launch this new space, I would pull some old content over and use it as starting point.  It has been a much slower progression that I had expected, but I think in time, I will be back at it.
A few weeks ago, something was posted on social media to a Word Press link.  I attempted to start there, but WordPress was a whole new world and I just couldn't keep up that drab site.  The formatting makes an OCD mama like me absolutely crazy and I nearly gave up every time I tried to restart.  I tried it for as long as I could, but it just wasn't for me.   I started this one instead and I sure am hoping I can give it life and character like I have on my family blog (you can still follow that if you'd like--click the "Our Family Blog" tab for more details on how).

Not being able to share fun pictures and silly stories of our lives has been challenging.  So if you're one of my old faithful's, bear with me and if you are new to this blog, know that while this site may look crazy strange and seem so out of sequence, I am working at it and hopefully in years to come, it will come together exactly as envisioned.






What I Want My Girls to Know About Biblical Friendships

There is no such thing as a perfect friendship. Where there is deep love, there are always deep emotions formed from that said love. This is why "they" say having girlfriends is impossible. It doesn't have to be if you stand on this one principle alone. Whether it's two friends or twenty, L O V E your tribe by walking in truth with all you've got. Even when it's hard. Even when it's uncomfortable. Even when it gets messy. Even when you're wrong (and you need to make it right). Even when they are wrong.
Trust and loyalty is often irreplaceable. That's what I love most about my T R I B E. Those longest lasting friendships, 20 and 30 years, are based on trust and loyalty. To my college loves, college bled into the season of working life, seasons of weddings, seasons of motherhood, difficult adult-life seasons, celebratory seasons and we stood firm with trust. Same can be said for my best friends from high school and my new tribe of friends that having children brought me.  If you want long lasting friends, they need to be built on a solid foundation of love, trust, and loyalty and the frame should consist of humility, selflessness and compassion.  We can't always be the perfect friend, woman, sister, wife, mother, etc, and we will fail, but may we always, always, always, do our best to be a woman who lifts up other women.   
When we take a look back at biblical friendships, we don't see easy or surface level.  We see friendships like the one between Naomi and Ruth that took courage and that models faithfulness.  Ruth was loyal to Naomi no matter how tough it got to remain by her side. We see selflessness, putting protecting another over oneself in Jonathon and David's friendship.  We see Paul in his witness to his friends, proclaiming and encouraging the gospel of Jesus, but also being bold in telling them when they stumbled, holding them accountable while granting so much grace to them.
We are also introduced to many unbiblical friendships such as Judas and Jesus.  Judas followed him and claimed to be His friend, but all the while, he was a fake who would ultimately deny and betray Jesus.  Ahithophel, the type of friend sho repays good for evil, spreading rumors to hinder the success of King David, his supposed friend.
With more or more social media, smart devices, etc, our society is beginning to lose depth in so many relationships.  We appear as best of best friends on the surface, but deep down, when push comes to shove, these best friends are unable to speak real truth to one another.  When things get hard, we run because friendships are supposed to be so easy.  Yes, the easy times should far outweigh the difficult, but when the difficult times to come, those who speak truth are those who hold strong.
As Christian mamas, we need to raise up and lead a generation of Naomi and Ruth's.   Our friendships should be depth filled and positive.  Ones that bring out the best in us and lay to rest anything else.  When the tough gets going, we need to build up one another and focus on speaking the truth in love.  Gentle, humble, compassionate, grace-filled love.  We will make so many mistakes as friends, but true friendships are filled with apologies and forgiveness.  The best way to lead a generation of good friends, is to model being a good friend to our daughters.
A society of Proverbs 17 mamas and daughters can change the world.

{Unpublished Post from 2014} Mental Illness Talk

Robin Williams. 
Another celebrity death that sent shockwaves through our generation. 
First, it was Michael Jackson.  I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news.  Next, a few short years later, I was sitting at dinner with Paige and we heard that Whitney Houston had passed away.  This time, it was Robin Williams.  We all know that MJ and Whitney were tragic deaths due to drug overdoses, and now, a third celebrity in which we grew up watching and loving has died tragically--suicide.  As reported over the years, Robin suffered from drug addiction in the 80's and most recently battled alcoholism, clearly hiding from deep dark demons in his life.  On Monday, those demons within got the best of him.  

Just with Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, with the news of his passing, a little part of me broke.   It's strange when that happens...as if we actually knew these celebrities, but really not knowing them at all.  Their talents had profound influences on our lives through their music and comedic relief.  Their art provided an escape to us, but nothing could provide an escape to them.  We watch Aladdin at least two times a week in this house; Mrs. Doubtfire is an all time absolute favorite movie of mine, Patch Adams pulled on heartstrings, but this death seems to have such a more profound effect on the status of my heart.  My emotions can't escape the fact that he lived his life to make the world laugh but could not find the joy within to make his own self happy.  He gave light to so many, but in the depths of his soul was surrounded in darkness.  What tragic irony. 

It all got me thinking. 
What Robin Williams was on the outside was a mere cover for brokenness on the inside. 
So many people surround us living like that every day.  

***
This isn't going to be easy to write about. 
It's gonna hurt and bring back painful memories, but it's worth it. 

When I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression in late 2010, I did everything I could to hide it.  From the moment the words slipped through the doctor's mouth, I felt weak, as if I couldn't handle my own problems, and if it wasn't for looking in the mirror and having no clue who the woman staring back at me was, I would have easily been in denial.  The coined phrase "mental illness" could not escape my head.  I was labelled.  My record of sanity was suddenly marred.  As if a depressed person needs any additional reasons to feel insufficient, this diagnosis made me feel even worse about who I had become.  It certainly didn't help when I finally confided in someone outside of my family and the response to my admission was pure laughter.  "Depression isn't real...it's just a mental thing, Meagan.  You're not depressed."  

Boom. 
Shattered. 

At the time, I did not realize how innocent the comment was; uneducated on the realities of mental illness and lacking in understanding?  Yes.  Malicious as I took it, no.  Looking back, I know that it wasn't meant to hurt me in the way that it did, I just wish I had been in the mindset to have understood that then.  The darkness that was consuming my soul continued to convince me that the comment was heartless, crass, rude, unsympathetic and full of judgement towards me and others who suffered from this disease; it placed even more shame and embarrassment on those who struggle; it made me wonder if every one shared that same view.  Was I crazy?  As if I already wasn't filled with shame over this diagnosis, I was now hell-bent on hiding my demons from just about every single person I knew.  After all, maybe the shame I felt was because I had never truly understood the seriousness of depression until I had walked a day in it's shoes.  How could I blame a comment thrusted upon me in which there was a day I may have, too,  lacked that compassion in understanding why people couldn't just snap out of it; why they seemed to stand on that excuse for their actions or reasons why they had a right to be a certain way.  I've always been compassionate and empathetic to a fault, but I couldn't really grasp the disease.  Whatever the case, I was now not only trying to figure out how to go forward with this disease, but now I was scared to talk to anyone.  One of the worst things that someone who is dealing with depression can do is to hide it.  Lesson number one. 

The next few months of my life were undoubtedly some of the hardest days of my life.  They were full of joy; so much to be happy for; so much love in my life.  Yet, hiding a very sad side that I could not even begin to explain.  In the midst of all of this, Adam fell extremely ill.  He lost 30 pounds in a matter of months, he was feeling horrible, pale, pain, and multiple trips to the ER.  We began down a long road with an hematologist searching for reasons his sickness.  Blood tests, CTs and Xray's that led to a bone marrow aspiration procedure finally clearing Adam of a rare cancer possibility, which further led us to our diagnosis.  It's a time where we had all the world could offer: a loving marriage, an adorable new baby girl, and a thriving career for Adam.  But on the inside, we were breaking...and hiding.  All in the name of shame that "mental illness" seemed to carry to those on the outside looking in.

We wore the mask just like Robin Williams and millions of other Americans wear today.

Days passed into weeks, weeks into months, and slowly our lives began to change dramatically.  This terrible time of uncertainty was the absolute best thing that EVER, EVER happened to our family.  It sounds so crazy to say, but as soon as I started taking antidepressants and was able to gain clarity and stability, I cracked open my dusty bible.  I knew that taking a psychotropic medication could only help so much.  I needed my soul healed.  I needed my savior.  And that was nothing I could ever find in a little blue pill.  

At this time, relying on an antidepressant for me and anti-anxiety medications for Adam (a first for him as well), we rediscovered who we were.  We may have been hiding in shame enduring emotional disorders on the outside, but on the inside, a new life was blooming for the both of us.  A better life.  A more fulfilling life; a life where Christ comes first and Christ's salvation doesn't stop at his atonement.  We both pulled through our depression and anxiety through regeneration in resting our burdens in Christ.  While it is easy to claim that Wellbutrin healed me of depression, that is simply not true.  In 2011, we were both rescued by our faith.  We were walking hand in hand with God and seeing and living the word was healing.  The use of anti-depressants was temporary in order for me to regain control on my life to where I could get to a stable place that would allow me rely solely on God.  When I was there, I finally released my secret where I was lifted up and loved on by so many people.  It was amazingly therapeutic and encouraging.  

I spent the next nine months walking the strongest walk I have to date; living in the word every single day.  I would love nothing more to say that depression left me and never returned, but since then, I have gone in and out of depression.  My second pregnancy dished out a severe dose and there was very little I could do to pull through.  I relied on my faith, but I dipped to a point where even my faith wasn't strong enough.  Being pregnant, I couldn't just lean on an antidepressant.  It was a rough road.  As soon as I was able to get back on anti-depressants, I did.  It helped, and I slowly weaned myself off again.  

Most recently, in March I believe it was, I went back into a deeper rut than I did after having Preslie.  I remember exactly where I was driving when it clicked to me that I was back in a dark, deep hole.  I looked into the rearview mirror at my beautiful girls.  My heart could have burst with the love for the two of them.  I remember thinking how I wanted the very best for them.  I wanted them to be every last things that I am not.  I wanted to protect them from harm.  I wanted to be everything that made them happy and secure and feel loved.  Then, I was filled with anger and hate towards myself.  I mentally berated myself until I felt there was not one thing to love about me.  I wanted to give up; move away and never come back.  I hadn't been feeling right for a few weeks, but when those harsh emotions crossed my mind, I was scared that I could never find love for myself again.  That is not normal.  I went home and wrote...and wrote...and wrote...and wrote...and cried...and cried...and cried.  My life is so perfect.  WHY do I feel this way? 

I immediately had my thyroid levels checked and when the results came in, I was ecstatic to see that my thyroid was in horrible condition because that gave my a justification of sorts for why I couldn't be happy.  Sadly, I also knew my faith might not be in a great spot to have let this dark hole overcome...again.  Determined not to fight this alone, I gave Adam my journal of writings.  He read, and I cried.  He vowed to never let me feel that way, even though we knew it was something I would probably deal with the rest of my life.  I have never felt so supported and loved in my entire life. 

It's taken me some time, but I have decided to not kept my struggle secret anymore.  Something I am finding in my journey is that depression isn't staying away, no matter how hard I try.  I lived 28 years without this, but the last three have been filled of ebbs and flows of this daunting ache. I can also tell you that the longest stint I had without it, a little under a year, since having Preslie was when my walk with God was the strongest. 

You see, I am lucky.  
I've learned not to hide this wicked demon any longer. 
Despite the shame and the ill-effects of that comment on a cold December night, I still work to convince myself that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Sometimes, I hit it out of the ballpark with faith and others, I walk in the dark not realizing that it's crept back to steal my joy.  But others in the world are not that lucky. 

Thousands, no millions, of people are out there so lonely.  So desperate.  In so much pain and hopelessness that they cannot fathom facing another day.  It's not just adults.  It's teenagers and children, too.  Yes, children.  Two students at a local elementary school have committed suicide this year alone. It's devastating.  It's real.  And it shouldn't be hidden.  

No one should feel shame.  
Loving some one through this could be just the thing that leads them to being saved. 
I realize that it isn't that simple.  Maybe simple love can't save them...but it can't hurt.  Shame, judgmental friends and family, and non-acceptance of those struggling, though...it WILL hurt.

In many cases, 
Shame + embarrassment leads to drugs + alcohol dependency and 
alcohol dependency and drugs leads to addiction and overdosing 
which leads to accidental and purposeful deaths of so many depressed people. 

It's TOO real. 
And it's a REAL problem. 

My words that follow are NOT an answer.  I know this disease is much bigger and much scarier and so much more in depth than this.  It would take me ten blog posts to cover every aspect of my inner thoughts, but here is a start in a the on place where I have found the most joy in my journeys. 

Since the passing of Robin Williams, the media has infiltrated our homes with depression statistics, psychologists, and advice and tips on how to help friends and loved ones who suffer from this disease.  It's unavoidable and it brings up emotion and memories every time I see the word.  Something is missing, though.  All this talk about depression and there is NO talk of Jesus Christ.  Nothing, NOTHING can save us like the love of Jesus and what he did for us on the cross.  Things of this world can stabilize is, but only the Lord can truly save. 

I am HIS statistic. 
I am HIS patient. 
I am HIS child.

I spent the last six years on and off of anti-depressants.  

No matter what, depression will not be my permanent excuse for dissatisfaction for life.  It will not be an excuse to hermit away from the world around me (which is exactly what I do). 
It won't be my excuse to lose dependability with friends and family. 
It won't take me away from my kids and husband. 
It will try, but it will not win. 

I stand on the battlefield against the dirty mental illness. 
My faith has won the battles countless times.
My lack of faith has lost battles times, too. 
Even if one of my soldiers is an anti-depressant, I am okay with that because I know my army is so much more than that when I am walking day to day with the Lord. 
In scripture, God has provided me with everything necessary to create, sustain, and nurture a SPIRITUAL life of healing and happiness.  I know that I can find joy when I am giving my all to Him. Drugs, alcohol, addictions...they just help you run to cope with the pain. 
Jesus.  He reveals to you the light in the darkness; his mercies are new every day; His love and grace never stops. 

"My grace is sufficient for you; my power works in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

My mission is to seek those troubled souls and help them see that 
The redemptive love of Jesus Christ is ENOUGH. 
The road for depression is NOT easy.  It isn't even easy when you are walking it alongside the Lord.  
Ultimately, Christ himself is our counselor.  Not pharmaceuticals or even the kind psychologists and psychiatrists who listen to the hearts of many.  Those may stabilize us {which is very necessary; I am terrified to see where my mind would be without Wellbutrin}, but nothing can cure us from the heart outwards like the love of God.  


A "mind of Christ in the bible {1 Corinthians 2:16}" can conquer anything, if you're willing to wholeheartedly commit to the word of God and live for Him.  I many never be able to permanently function without an antidepressant, but I will never give up on my goal knowing that Christ is all I truly need.  

In my darkest hours of my pregnancy, convincing me to pray wasn't even going to happen; I had lost all hope.  I understand all too well pushing God aside in those days.  I realize that my thoughts and feelings could be unrealistic, especially for those are fighting suicidal thoughts.  But we have to pull together, somewhere, somehow.  Let LOVE shine into the darkness of the depressed soul. 

Be The Change You Seek



Saturday, January 17, 2017, women all around the nation gathered together to walk on behalf of women's rights.  While I did not walk, I am all for championing and empowering women.  I am grateful that we live in a country where women have the freedom and the opportunity to express themselves and be heard.  The women who walked peacefully on Saturday with class, maintaining their dignity, choosing their words wisely and covered with love, walked for many, many women across generations who never had that chance and I greatly appreciate their efforts.
The thing about it is...no matter how large the numbers may be, crying out and showing solidarity in mind won't effectively solve anything.  Stay with me here.  Let's not mince my words:  The Women's March is a representation of something beautiful and when done respectfully, should be applauded, but what if we took all that power and we put it into action?  What if every. single. person who marched backed up their actions with deeds?
What if for every hour spent tenderly preparing for and marching, the participant turned around and donated that same amount of time, talent, or treasure weekly to an organization that supports the population in which they feel is being threatened?  What if we, the women of this country, came together and devoted our time to climbing into the trenches with the oppressed, the marginalized, the battered, the broken, the poor, the needy, the sick, the elderly, the teen moms, the abandoned babies, the uneducated, the non-English speakers and we used that energy and power to teach them, love them, nurture them, care for them, bring them up, and assist them?
We need not underestimate the power of our ability to create the change we seek.
Because Ladies.  We can.  If we want change, we have to BE the change we hope for and that starts with helping others more than ourselves.  It means we have to dedicate our time, treasure, and talent not just in walks of protest, but in daily efforts to tangibly enrich the lives of others.  If we can get out there and DO this in the numbers we saw marching Saturday, we would make far more of an imprint on the lives of those we are marching to defend.  Yes, many women who took part in the march are donating their time, but let's be real... most are not.
It's time we get out there and show the nation more than women marching, but instead show our great strength as women while we come out in record numbers to educate the uneducated, mentor the lost, teach English to the immigrants, serve at women's clinics, pray with battered women in shelters, hold the scared teen mom, and do whatever it takes to breathe back life into the one's whose rights are unrecognized.
This doesn't need to be the "beginning of a resistance" but instead the "beginning of strengthening the weak."  It's easy to march for yourself, but where the revolution really occurs is in the action of doing for others.
Don't know where to start?  Here are some local {Dallas Fort Worth area} organizations that could use your help. *most are for women's rights, but the list is not exclusive to women, also including marginalized demographics
{and a special thanks to all of you in the DFW area who helped me compile this excellent list of local resources; if you're reading this and you are not in DFW, I encourage you to share this article and ask your Facebook friends what local organizations they support!  You will find their answers rewarding.}
Teen Pregnancy
http://alleyshouse.org/about/
http://www.angelsclinic.org/our-services/

Mentoring Youth
http://www.girlsinc.org/
http://allthingsmadenew.net/home/
https://promisehouse.org/
http://cisnt.org/
http://c3studentleadership.com/
http://www.proplayersfoundation.net/

Education/Literacy
http://www.ndsm.org/adult-esl-classes/
http://www.vmlc.org/family-literacy
http://www.tarrantliteracycoalition.org/

Women's Safe House and Support
http://www.genesisshelter.org/
https://www.gatehousegrapevine.com/
http://www.safehaventc.org/

Immigrant Immersion
http://www.rstx.org/dallas.html
https://www.raicestexas.org/
http://www.vmlc.org/family-literacy

Single Parenting
https://mercyhouse.org/
http://fwpcfriends.org/

Women's Health
http://www.theagapeclinic.org/services
http://www.bridgebreast.org/
http://curawomens.clinic/grapevine/
http://mcpregnancy.org/

Sex Trafficking 
http://www.newfriendsnewlife.org/
http://www.rescueher.org/

General Organizations to Help Others
https://www.catholiccharitiesfortworth.org/get-involved/
http://www.buckner.org/?gclid=COPen7zC29ECFQqFaQodhk4Dyg
https://www.humancoalition.org
https://www.thesourceforwomen.org/

{Summer Nights Recipe} Scrumptious Peach Crisp

6 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   Line a buttered an 8x8 baking dish with sliced and peeled peaches. Drizzle the vanilla and almond extract and mix.

2.  In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Soften the butter and mix it with the dry ingredients to create crumbles.

3.  Cover the peaches in the crumbles.

4.  Cook until bubbly and brown on top, approximately 45 minutes.

Serve with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.

Griffin's {Gaston} Wish Reveal

Our hearts were bursting at the seams for this sweet wish reveal.
This adorable boy loves Gaston and his lovely twin sister loves Belle.  
The theatre department put on the most incredible act of his favorite song......the Gaston song. The fire department brought the actors.  The original Gaston from Disney World {voice} just so happens to be locally connected.  The costumes were provided.  The football team, cheerleaders, Belles, Stuco, high school news media, PALS all had representatives there to provide cheer and happiness.  It was a wonderful, perfect reveal for this much deserving family. 











Christ's Response to Opposition

This week has been an eye opening week for our country.   No matter how one voted, most did not expect the shocking win that Donald Trump impressively stole from Hillary Clinton.  
The day I voted, I made it clear that my leader would not change come November 9th, 2016.  As a self-professed infomaniac, I followed the news diligently.  I rotated all news channels, print vs. television, read both conservative and liberal medias and tried my absolute very best to make the best decision I could based on what we had before us.  I did not like either option and was burdened by both.  My mind was not made up until I went unto the polling booth.  At any minute, I could have been swayed.  While my Christian values ultimately brought me to how I should cast my vote, many others could use same said Christian ideals to vote for the opposite party with different reasoning.  I am not here to judge with political platform is more aligned with Christian values.
It's important to note that we all have different life experiences that lead us to the platform that best suits our vision for America and that's why we have the free right to vote in this country.  As a Christian, I love all religious backgrounds and engage in friendships with people based on their hearts, not religious choices.  I don't think differently about an individual based on how they choose to vote. I have people I love and respect who are die hards for both and I love them the same.
While a Donald Trump presidency scares me and makes me cringe in many ways, a Hillary Clinton presidency would have done the exact same thing.  I am no better off with either candidate.
No matter how I would or could justify myself to my children, my own conscious or anyone else seems to no longer matter.  The second Americans woke up Wednesday morning, a new wave of a domestic war had begun.  The attacks on people's personal character, their religious beliefs, their life experiences that led them to vote how they did have been far too much to absorb.  This has to stop.
I have watched 35 year olds..let me reiterate...THIRTY-FIVE year olds...threaten to delete people from their life, cast numerous stones, judge and stereotype, name call, blast, and blatantly disrespect the perspectives of others.  We aren't talking about two candidates where one was an angel and the other the devil...we are talking about two candidates who are both deemed by most Americans as deeply flawed and of poor character.  THIS is what we are casting stones over people.
How, as Christians, can we stand as Believers, together as one, despite fundamental political differences?  By looking directly at Jesus and His ministry to those who opposed Him.  
Dear Christian With Opposing Views to Mine,
I see you. I understand you. I hurt like you hurt. In many ways, I am you. In some ways, I am not like you. This election season presented many issues beyond the policies on the ballot. Many of us are in the middle of the road and agree with certain aspects of each platform but were given two faces for these platforms that were so appalling, that it made voting for the things that mattered to us that much harder. For different personal life experiences, we had to chose to sacrifice somewhere. Both faces were nauseating characteristically. This was not your typical election year and we can ALL agree on that.
I have loved many of the oppressed who live in fear today.  I have been in the shoes of holding a person in fear of losing their loved one due to deportation. When I taught in Irving, I will never forget crying with a 12 year old--a CHILD-- whose mother had been taken in by immigration while she was at school. Because she was born here and had citizenship, she was left with family members. Alone. In her country, but not her moms. It was devastating. It tore me to pieces, just like the little girl who wrote me an essay on how she used a coyote to get to America, traveling from Guatemala, illegally traveling through Mexico, then across the Rio Grande with her little 8 year old brother. Her parents were already here so she was doing this alone. I can't imagine the terror. My heart, again, broke for her and it would break if she was deported "just because" tomorrow. Those memories and moments are forever engrained in my mind. The pain, the sorrow, the appearances of no justice. Nothing softens that kind of blow. Nothing. I understand the fear and the high emotions, but I also had Hispanic immigrants who believed strongly in coming here the right way and deporting others because their family had to fight HARD and to get here and be naturalized. Where is the justice for those people, too?  We cannot live our lives only focusing on one side of every story or life experience.
There are so many examples of the oppressed that are hurting today, living in fear of a Donald Trump president.  
I fully respect how you see that your Christian values are the foundation of why you voted the way you did and I will never argue your personal beliefs, but I do expect the same respect for mine.  Can we take a moment to evaluate how Christ responded to His opposition?  Did he protest, did he curl up in a ball and cry foul, did he persecute others, did he mock them, did he judge them, did he spew venom at their character?
He told his disciples to love the opposition, to further their purpose in love to further His kingdom, to be a witness of His love and light. He told them to display the fruits of the Spirit in their witness (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) even when faced with opposition, as Christ's goal is the salvation of mankind, seeking harmony and unity. That is why so many people, especially believers, are calling for unity. Not to discredit the feelings of others, but because that is how we are told to conduct our lives: with unity. I would have never imagined hoping for unity could be offensive to anyone.
No matter how one's Christian values are justified within themselves to align with a political platform, Christ would never stand behind his disciples asking His chosen people to live without unity.  As His disciples, we are called into unity and we are to seek peace to further his kingdom. We are to be humbled in our opinions as our witness to Him. We are to never, ever seek discord under any circumstances, especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
And as for Trump and his salvation, you are exactly right. I do not feel that he is a brother of mine in Christ. But do you know what? He could be someday and what an incredible, beautiful testimony that would be before the WORLD that a man as disgusting as Donald Trump could be redeemed. Can you even imagine the impact his redemption and transformation could have on the world stage? Instead of arguing about who is more Christ-like or who is more compassionate to the marginalized and disenfranchised, our focus should be PRAYING that the Lord use this despicable man in a shocking way to bring others to the Lord.
Americans have their right to a voice today and everyday, but we all need to do better about this voice we've been freely given. We all need to come together and understand that it is a difficult time for MOST Americans for all sorts of reasons and respect that commonality instead of lumping the two sets of voters into two vastly different stereotypes.
Imagine, again, if you will.... Imagine that all those people standing in the streets today screaming their anger at Donald Trump getting into the trenches with the oppressed and actively rising up with them and fighting for THEIR voices to be heard. 
Take those voices who call Donald Trump a racist and instead of marching in front of Trump Towers, go to an inner city school and get with the kids, help them break the cycle and become educated.  
Take those whose voices are for battered and abused women who fear Donald Trump and send these people into women's shelters around the country, advocating for their support, empowering these women to rise above, loving them so fiercely.
Get involved with an immigration human rights group and provide shelter and meals for these families who lose loved ones to deportation.  
Get in the trenches, Americans.  BE THE LOVE YOU SEEK.  Do not depend on a man in the White House to dictate that barometer of change.  The power is in YOUR hands and protesting in the street does nothing but cause further division.  
How many of you who are actively Christian shaming your brethren out there are actually serving the community in which you cry out for?  That is where the difference is made. Not with a vote.
One thing we do know is that regardless of who is the president, regardless of our religious beliefs, social status, demographic, etc, LOVE DOES make the world go round. We can be hurt and still love. We can be fearful and still love. We can disagree and still love. We can be battered and bruised but still love. But doing each of those without love, only divides. Can we humble ourselves (those who are rejoicing, those who were bruised from losing, those who are caught somewhere in the middle) and take actions that show love to everyone instead of actions that divide us further? Is it possible to have voices yet still respect others? Let's make that our goal instead of protesting, crumbling into blackholes, attacking strangers, sharing articles that promote said fear without fact checking, and stereotyping by how they voted. Love can and will stomp out fear. Fear can't grow and manifest if we are focusing on wholeheartedly loving.
My challenge to everyone in these days following such a passionate election is to let your LOVE shine before your personal beliefs and feelings. If we focus on our love being evident, our voices will be heard much louder and much more clearly. The disciples LOVE shined and their voices were so very heard.
"Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love." 1 John 4:18
Let's do better than this.

{Fall Comfort Food} Melt in Your Mouth Pot Roast

We are suckers for a warm, slow cooker meal on cold winter days.  Changing our dinner menu up as the seasons change is one of my most favorite things.  Summer is for the grill and winter is for the dutch oven...and a dutch oven hasn't been seasoned yet if it hasn't made you a fall-apart pot roast.  Good news is...I have the PERFECT recipe for you!

4-pound chuck roast
Roast Rub: 1/3 cup flour, 1 tablespoon tony's seasoning, 2 teaspoons kosher salt.
2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 cans golden mushroom soup
1 box of Lipton Onion Soup (both packets)
4 tablespoons Worcershire Sauce
1/2 cup cabernet
1 cup of coffee

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the dutch oven, saute the chopped onion and garlic until translucent.  Remove from dutch oven and set aside.

2. Coat the roast in the roast rub all over.  {add additional oil if necessary} Brown in the dutch oven on medium heat.  Add the sauteed garlic and onion, then set the dutch oven with roast aside.

3.  In a large bowl, mixed together the wet ingredients.  When thoroughly combined, pour the gravy over the roast. Cover the dutch oven.

4.  Bake for 45 minutes per pound.