Just Saying No Because God said So…

My spiritual father used to always say, we live in a microwave oven and Burger King type of world. We want everything fast and “our way.” We all have our personal goals, career goals, and spiritual goals which are great to have, but what’s most important is knowing how to prioritize them. 

If you are married your higher priority (over everything but loving God) is your husband and then your children. EVERYTHING revolves around our family not the other way around. If we can’t take care of home, how can we be successful in anything else?!? 1 Timothy 3:5 is very clear about the true priority when it comes people who cannot manage their own home but tries to manage a church. I believe that this could also be applied to other commitments like a business, organization, club, or any other endeavors we may have. We truly can’t successfully manage or lead effectively if our home is chaotic and out of order. 

We also need to remember that there is a time and a season for everything. Being cognizant of this let’s you know when to say yes, no or “Not at this Time”. I like to use the phrase “Not at this time” because it simply means I’m interested but need to postpone. Just note that there will be more times when you likely need to tell yourself (and people) no.

Thinking about who and what I need to let go in order to do what God called me to do effectively…

God knows the plan that He has for us but usually does not layout the exact timing to everyone. And many times God’s voice gets distorted because we’re too busy pleasing ourselves and people. We need to slow down, listen to the Lord , be obedient, use discernment and wisdom, then more details are revealed. Since God already had the plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11) and has given us these gifts to bring Him glory on this earth, when do we use them?

I’ve heard many people say that God has taken their gift away but the bible teaches us that He doesn’t (Romans 11:29). God just wants us to use our gifts according to His plan for us. Let’s think about our gifts, purpose and season. What are we doing right now that doesn’t fall in line with God’s Word or purpose for our lives? What or who do we need to say “No” to in order to accomplish the unique mission God has given each and every one of us? Think about that. 

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3 Reasons Why Marriage is Still “A Thing” For Us

We were in our early 20s when we decided to tie the knot 9 years ago. We had tons of people giving us the inevitable unsolicited advice. “Keep God in the center of your marriage” , “Keep a great love life” and “Communication is the key to a successful marriage” are just a few statements that I can remember. Fast forward, nine years later, I will acknowledge that these statements were very relevant words of advice but no one, at that time, explained to us the “How”. How do we keep God in the center of our marriage? How do we communicate when I really just want to prove my point and win the argument? What love life??? With children, jobs and ministry work, how do we even find the time or energy for intimacy!?!? Anyway, from these thoughts derived three reasons why I believe my husband and I are still married in addition to God’s amazing grace and daily renewed mercies. 

1. My husband knows that I respect him and I know he loves me.

We’ve argued plenty of times and hitting my dear hubby upside the head then carrying on with my life was enticing. We’ve had moments in our marriage when I would think “This joker can’t be serious???” and worse words would end up coming out of my mouth if I didn’t check my heart. Then one day during a disagreement, my husband said to me, “I know you don’t talk to your boss like this…” Now that right there was something to think about. If I can respect my boss, surely I can respect my own husband. I’m not capable of altering the way he thinks or acts (that’s a job for God) , however, I can change my attitude and how I respond to him.

The bible tells husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husband (Eph. 5:33). So after heated arguments, when all I want to do was give him a piece of my mind and enter the deadly silent treatment phase, I have to humble myself and apologize. A minister once said, “Never look to win in an argument because either you’ll be a loser or married to one”. We’re not enemies and if I’m upset with him I still have to respect him simply for who he is.  He is my husband, the head of the household, the sole provider, and leader of our family. Reading the bible and obeying it is how you “Keep God in the center of your marriage”.

2. We never stop striving to communicate effectively.

When you’ve been with someone for so long, you go through a plethora of changes; appearance, preferences, and interests. What you liked yesterday might not be what you like tomorrow. How you feel about something today may not be how you feel about it next year. We have to talk to each other sometimes like it’s our first date. We ask each other about goals and where we see ourselves in the next 5 years. We intentionally engage each other even if we’re up until one in the morning. We are quick to apologize but still have those hard conversations to resolve the issue instead of ignoring it. This all goes with the “communication is the key “ advice. That’s pretty simple right???

3. We make finding ways to be intimate with each other a HIGH priority.

Unfortunately, being intimate with each other is already a hard task when you’re always tired, you work a lot, and you have multiple children in the home. We getaway about once a year to a Family Life marriage conference for private intimate time and to also receive spiritual impartation from some of the best Christian marriage counselors around. So what else do we do for the other 363 days of the year???? We get creative and intentional. We plan our private time and until then a loving touch, hug, and kiss here and there when the kids aren’t looking, goes a long way! Women, it could be even better if you initiate the love taps. Initiation reminds your husband that intimacy is a high priority for you, too. 

I’m sure we all can agree that it takes time, sacrifice and an honest effort from both husband and wife to have a strong marriage. And I’m here to tell you, if we can press on through the good and bad, so can you! Join us in striving to beat the odds and make your marriage last forever. 

Time or Money: Do We Really Have to Choose What’s More Important?????

“What’s more important time or money?” was an interesting question posted in a Facebook status. The person who wrote the post was specifically referring to sacrificing time with his family and friends in order to work more hours. Well, from reading responses to that question I learned that it’s all about perspective. A rich person dying of cancer would likely say that time is more important, however, a person who has lived in poverty most of their life would probably say that money is more important. If you had only one year to live (and considering the world we live in today this is very likely) would you accept a job aiming to receive more income even if the job required more of your precious and diminishing time?? In my opinion, time with loved ones is much more important than money. I also believe that if we learn to use our time and money wisely, we wouldn’t have to struggle as much as we do, to be successful in our careers and family life.

Unfortunately, it took a series of tragedies to transpire to help me put life into perspective and prioritize my goals according to the purpose God has for my life. One of those tragedies was losing my 16 year old brother. Even after his death I still made getting money my highest priority. My goal was to make tons of money to live the lavish lifestyle of owning the finer things in life and someday have a family of my own to share it with. In my vigorous attempt to attain that goal I simultaneously worked 2-3 jobs while in college full time. I wanted to receive a bachelor’s degree and later pursue a law degree to make even more money. No matter how much time this endeavor took from adequate hours of sleep, spending time with my family or volunteering at church, I was determined to get my money or die trying. That was a dangerous quote from one of the popular rappers at the time that I had chosen to live by. Then in the moment of me actually coming close to death, I thought, this money is not more important than the time I could be spending with my family and doing something for the greater good. At that point, my foolish desire to get rich by any means necessary started to dwindle.

After the unexpected death of my brother and my own near death experiences, my ultimate goal was to have an intimate relationship with the Lord. I decided to make a very intentional effort to CHASE THE LORD instead of money. To chase the Lord is to simply strive to be like Jesus. There were many times when I got off track but God always found a way to bring me back. Regarding my desire earn a good living, I learned that what’s most important than sacrificing time to make more money is learning how to properly manage the money you already make. I began to look at how much time I spent working to make the money, how quickly I spent it and what I spent it on. I also thought about new job opportunities and what worked best for my family situation and my desire to serve the Lord. This is how I established the correct order of my goals and discovered the true value of time and money.

The bible tells us to honor the Lord with our wealth (Proverbs 3:9). Most people these days choose not attend church let alone relinquish the tithe and offering. Giving our money to the church is the last thing on our minds but we consistently pray and ask God for increase. I learned that if I wanted to ‘chase the Lord’ I needed to also be obedient with giving a portion of my income to further His kingdom. Would it make sense for God to bless us with more money if we are being disobedient by withholding the tithe and spending it all on temporal things? Are we wasting our time doing foolish things when we could be working or learning to invest our money. Perhaps if we had a grateful attitude about our families, jobs, homes, and belongings the Lord will then bless us with even more income. Maybe if we honor the Lord with our income and properly manage our time and money, we will then have the amount we allegedly need.

I’m saying all this to encourage people to strive to live a righteous lifestyle, seeking Godly wisdom/counsel and being obedient to God’s Word then we will won’t have to compare and contrast what’s more important, our time or our money. Godly wisdom and counsel will help you become a better person, employee, family member, friend, and steward with your money. It will also teach you the disciplines you need in order to succeed in life. Also educate yourself by reading Godly resources and attending seminars regarding finances.  I personally believe that If you sacrifice all of your time chasing money, you will be running after it your entire life never having enough to satisfy yourself. And in that inevitable moment when you’re about to bite the dust, most of you will desire more time with loved ones instead of the material things your money got you .

I can’t speak on what others do to achieve success but living a righteous and modest life what I strive to do. It’s still not easy for me and I’m continuously learning and seeking wisdom/advice to stay on track. With this approach I’ve witnessed the favor of God on my life and family’s life as it relates to health, safety, job opportunities, financial responsibilities, investments and even vacation experiences. I truly believe that if we all strive to receive wisdom from the Word of God concerning our time and money, we will lessen the experiences of hard life lessons due to ignorance.  We actually need to seek the Lord for advice concerning everything!Anyone can preach this word all day long, but honestly, I believe it’s time for us all to make a better effort at practicing what we preach if we really want to help ourselves and others. Value your time and your money using Godly wisdom, it will reap success.

Avoid getting so busy making a living that you forget to live. Don’t take life for granted. Find your balance. What lifestyle changes do you need to make in order to balance your time and money effectively? Both are important but maybe you don’t have to choose.

Working From Home With Multiple Children: How I Survive! 

Endless spills, constant screams/whining, bathroom accidents, and countless ungrateful attitudes are what a stay at home mom deals with on a daily basis, all day long. Literally 24/7! You probably thought that I was only referring to the behavior my children but these behaviors are definitely experienced with grown folks, well…myself! Yes, I’m guilty of spilling things, screaming and being ungrateful when I get frazzled or frustrated. That all comes with the three jobs I have. My primary job is to homeschool and care for my four little blessings; 5 year old boy/girl twins, 4 year old son, and 2 year baby girl. The other jobs are working at home as a contract administrator for a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company and managing our finances in which I also consider part-time. 

I have recently calculated an estimated gross salary for my current triune role as a WAHM (work at home mom), a position I’ve obtained for over 2 years now. It was an astounding amount of $180,000 a year! That includes a salary from daycare (for all four children), part time work from home, and part time CFO (Chief Financial Officer). When you combine all of these daily positions in addition too your normal at home spousal duties i.e. cleaning, cooking, and yard work, you are no doubt over worked and essentially underpaid. All of my work seems to be pro bono and at times I feel like an under-appreciated servant who’s always stressed out, physically, mentally and spiritually drained.

Well I’m here to tell you what makes my life easier. When I say ‘easier’ I’m definitely using that term lightly. Please understand that staying at home with children is a calling. It will never be easy and everyone might not be able to do it, however, you can survive it! Here are eight practical ways to help you in your work at home with kids journey.

1. Plan Your Day Ahead of Time

I plan the meals and snacks for the day on the night before. I also get their outfits out (if we decide to change our clothes that day). The activities, lesson plans, outings and naps (If I get lucky!) are incorporated in the daily schedule. Without a consistent schedule you will without a doubt lose your wits!!! Plan, plan and plan!

2. Manage Your Time Wisely

If you have to break it down by the hour to make sure you are managing your time effectively then do it. For example, I try not to spend more than 1 hour at a time in front of my computer, watching TV, or doing a chore. I try to prioritize what task needs my attention the most. For example washing a sink full of dishes or load of laundry does not take priority over a job project or teaching my children. Designate time for every task you have but also find time to play with your kids. 

3. Confine Your Kids to a Designated Area

We generally hang out in our living room or family room. That way, at the end of the day I only have a few rooms to clean including the kitchen. Those rooms are also the largest rooms in the house that enables the kids to play, learn, and watch TV. Whatever you do, do not let the roam them house unsupervised. You’ll end up with a very eventful day to say the least.

4. Child Proof Every Room

If you have something that can harm your kids, lock it up. If they shouldn’t go into a particular room, lock it up! Put the good sweet snacks on an elevated shelf in the pantry so that you have time to catch your little kids if they attempt to help themselves! Use your high chairs, bouncers, and pack n plays to temporarily restrain your little one before you get on a call or take a potty break. Also sit in an area of the house that provides the perfect view of your child’s possible way of escape. For example, if you are in the living room sit at an angle that allows you to see each exit into another room. Completely unsupervised children will cause major problems and it could be dangerous. No matter what age group your child falls in, keep a watchful eye at all times. 

5. Discipline Your Child/Children Consistently 

Spare the rod, spoil the child is what the Bible says. I honestly think that it’s not only referring to physical chastising but establishing rules and enforcing them. I’ve learned to talk to my children about what their actions and why they were wrong, give a swat on the rear-end if they have broken a rule (time out or taking away something they like for a period of time are alternatives), then say a short prayer with them. When you take the time to do this you not only make your work day run smoothly, you also impart into your child core principles of life. If they don’t learn to respect and listen to you then they won’t do it to others. You might not see the benefits of this type of discipline right now but I truly believe it will pay off in the long run. 

6. Stay Loaded with Snacks 

Anyone who knows me, knows the fact that I stay equipped with snacks in the home and especially outside the home. Snacks are great to use when for a reward system, distraction and redirecting. If I know I have to get on a business call, focus on a project, or tend to another responsibility, I make sure I have a quiet activity along with a snack planned for my little ones. If we’re outside of the house I tell my children if they follow the rules then they get a sweet snack (usually fruit snacks or fruit roll ups). This encourages them to learn self control. It also lets them know that good behavior is appreciated and therefore rewarded. 

7. PRAY Without Ceasing

The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing! Every morning before I get up, during the day, and before I go to bed I pray. I ask God to give me supernatural strength to be effective and efficient in all of my positions. This is a job that requires you to have the help of the Holy Spirit especially if you don’t have help from a nanny or family member. Along with prayer, also anoint your home with holy oil to set the atmosphere of love, peace, unity, and contentment. 

8. Keep a Grateful Heart

When things are continuously not going as well as I expected , I always remind myself that things could be worst. There are days when I feel like I want to give up and that I have failed as a wife, mother, friend and employee but life goes on. I learn from my mistakes and keep it moving. I’m grateful that I’m alive, healthy, and blessed with family and provision. I look at my jovial and beautiful children, listen to their cute little giggles and watch cognitive developmental milestones all day long.  I’m grateful that I was blessed with the opportunity to stay home with them and still have an additional source of income. When I struggle, I find joy knowing that my kids are happy, loved, educated, minstered to, taken care of by me and that my dear husbands trusts me with this great responsibility. Joyce Meyer once said, “Enjoy where you are on the way to where you’re going”. Those are words that I strive to live by. 

I believe this post pretty much answers the frequently asked question, “How do you do it???”. The topic was recently requested by my brother in law who occasionally works from home with my sweet nephews and niece. This one’s for you Uncle B! 

“Losing Johnny: The constant flow of tears have dwindled but my heart never stops crying.”

October 2nd, 2005:

Johnny: “Don’t forget to call and check on me, okay?” 

Me: “Okay, I Love You”.

Johnny: “Love you too…”

October 5th, 2005: The day I lost the greatest gift my parents have ever given to my sister and me, our little brother…Johnny.

The final dialogue I had with my 16 year old brother, who I thought had a bad case of the flu, are words that are tattooed on my brain. Words that haunt me yet simultaneously bring me great joy because I know they were significant and sincere…

It has been 11 years since Johnny has passed but the grief is still ebbing and flowing in my heart. Everyone grieves in their own way but here are 3 personal actions that have helped me experience joy after this tragic loss.

1. Keep reading God’s Word. 

As you read, the Holy Spirit will strengthen your faith and stop you from falling into depression. The strength you need to regain from the massive loss of a loved one is not attainable without God’s help.

2. Try to remember the happy times and share your memories with others (especially your children). 

My children and I look at pictures together and we talk about their Uncle Johnny all the time. Whatever you do, try not to make your lost loved one a forbidden subject. I’ve been around people who don’t even want to mention their name let alone stories of them. If we cherish the memories of our diseased loved one, shouldn’t we share them?

3. Do something in honor of that loved one’s memory regularly.

It’s a great way to keep their memory alive and carry on their legacy. My brother was an avid giver. When Johnny was about 8 years old, he ‘found’ $200 dollars in my dad’s pants pocket and decided to distribute the $20 bills to most the kids in the neighborhood. They all went to the store to buy candy and water guns compliments to my hard-working dad. So every year, I give to the MRSA Foundation in honor of him. My family has also given college scholarships to young students at his former high school, in Zion, IL and Tallahassee, Florida.

“Those whom we have loved never really leave us. They live on forever in our hearts, and cast their radiant light onto our every shadow.” ~Sylvana Rossetti

Humility + Obedience = Breakthrough

via Daily Prompt: Breakthrough

quote

“What is God asking you to do?” was the daunting question my pastor asked during her sermon yesterday afternoon. The question that still dwells in the core of my heart and cavity of my brain… I’m aware of what God has asked me to do now I feel like He’s telling me to start doing more. But I don’t want to do more, right now. I’m already struggling with my current responsibilities! But I can’t help but ponder… If my obedience and breakthrough, or the lack thereof, could determine the destiny of others (including my children), maybe I need to just humble myself and obey.

The story of Abraham and his obedience (referenced in my pastor’s sermon yesterday) was a reminder for me to re-evaluate my heart and way of thinking. It was revealed to me that I don’t determine my level of sacrifice, God does and I have to continue to TRUST Him. I can only see breakthrough in my life if I choose to obey Him. Even though I’ve felt like my level a sacrifice (while trying to be obedient) has been high enough in the last 2 years of my life, I still have to consider that God could be asking more of me for a reason deeper than what I could even fathom. Our God is omniscient! He already knows what I need to do and the outcome.

These words have made me sit down and evaluate my life’s purpose, breakthrough and progression toward them both. I hope they will give you a fresh revelation about your life.

 

 

Facade: She successfully killed what needed to die…

via Daily Prompt: Facade

As an adult she heard a preacher say, “When you feel like you want to kill yourself, something needs to die, but it’s not you”. She only wishes she had heard these words in her difficult teenage years because at the tender age of 17 she tried to commit suicide.

Excessive bullying, an emotionally abusive relationship (that ultimately led to a harsh breakup), an injury that ended her high school athletic career and alcohol addiction that ultimately led to chronic depression is what she endured at the age of 17. One may ask, how on earth does this happen to a 17 year old girl??? This is how.

She was a junior going into her senior year of high school with a high likelihood of receiving a full athletic scholarship for basketball. At the beginning of the year, she had received an abundance of letters of interest from some of the most competitive Universities in the US and a few international programs. The dream became less promising when she tragically tore her ACL and meniscus during a High school basketball game. From that day forward, her life instantly came crashing down as she began to put on a facade to hide her identity issues and signs of chronic depression. Everyone, including herself, wanted to believe that she was only the girl who loved Jesus (because she was in church like 3-4 days out of the week), performed great academically, and didn’t give her parents much trouble at home. They couldn’t know that she was hanging with who she and her peers thought were the ‘cool kids’, their friends. These ‘friends’ were fake thugs, excessive weed smokers and drinkers who liked to party and make anyone the object of ridicule until they broke down in tears. Mere heartless bullies…The thought of revealing the insecure, self-condemning, depressed, confused, and not so smart girl that she was, became unbearable.

A few days, post full reconstructive knee surgery, she was alone in her bedroom thinking she just needs to be put out of her misery. The life she is supposed to live after this just isn’t worth living. So she grabbed her bottle of Vicodin and stared at it for about 30 seconds thinking, “I wonder if this is enough to do the job”. She slowly opened the cap, turned the bottle up and dry swallowed half of contents. She was seconds from finishing the bottle when suddenly, her bedroom door was opened. Her parents showed up with her favorite fast food. She began to weep. That small thoughtful gesture of her parents essentially stopped her from committing suicide. The poor girl was high as a kite for a while, then sick a dog for a longer while, but she was indeed ALIVE. God’s amazing grace had saved her and she was reminded by the Holy Spirit that she was a child of God. He knew her heart and He loved her for who she was.

It still took a few years for her to accept who she was in Christ but she continued to persevere. Even through her trials and tribulations, she loved Jesus, strived to obey God’s word, and find her identity in Him. She successfully killed what needed to die, the facade.