Thursday, February 4, 2016

Getting my Fix on

I've honestly lost count what number fixes these are.  Like 27 and 28 or something. These are the ones I received in December and January and if you follow along on Instagram with me then you know about my hashtag #wearingwhatweloveandlovingwhatweweare.  It's basically me sharing my journey of enjoying myself, my appearance, and my reflection in the mirror right now and not 25 lbs from now.  Don't get me wrong,  Nick and I are working on our health...those extra pounds we have put on over the last several months with all the traveling and holidays and whatever.  But I made the decision to extend myself grace and not be critical of the "fluffy" me right now.  To free myself up to accept and love and enjoy the journey.  We can beat ourselves up easily when we go to throw on those favorite pair of jeans and they no zipbutton up.  I don't want to live frustrated and mad at myself.  So I'm not.

And thus began #wearingwhatweloveandlovingwhatwewear.  My new rule of thumb is, if it doesn't make me feel confident then I don't wear it.  Our clothes should be an extension of what's going on inside of our hearts.  Godly confidence and His joy..being content with how He created you...is what pulls any outfit together and makes someone look amazing.
Not the brand. Not the trend of the week.  Not how much or how little it costs.  

So while I'm doing temple maintenance on this old body of mine, I'm for sure keeping my eye on the prize but I'm also gonna enjoy the journey. And I'm blown away by so many ladies who are joining me!  Those who have been encouraged to quit being their own worse critics.  Ladies who, like me, are changing lanes....and instead of getting frustrated over the fact that favorite outfit no longer looks great on, they are finding what works for their bodies right now and working it for all it's worth.  Celebrating feeling good about our appearance and having a heart of gratitude for all the Lord is doing in our lives.

Whew.  I just love it.
So with all that said.  Here are my last two fixes combined.  What I kept and what I sent back. 

First up are these jeans. I've said it before but I'll say it again....I don't know how they do it but their jeans are THE BEST.  They always have the right amount of stretch to them and they are the most comfortable jeans I own.  I almost always keep the jeans they send.  And they are like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants....jeans I bought from two years ago STILL fit me...even with 20 extra pounds. It's crazy or magic or something.  I can't figure it out but I love them.  Just about every pair of pants or jeans you see in my posts on Instagram came from Stitch Fix.  I love them.

And these distressed flare jeans are no exception. 

They have that magic stretch in them and they are high waisted. #holla!
And the color denim is perfect.  I requested a blue denim pair after receiving a pair of black denim that is pictured below.  My stylist, Catherine, listened and I couldn't be happier.  (The vest on the right is from a fix a couple of months ago. I think November's fix and it was the only thing I kept that month.)

Next up is this cobalt trench coat.  I LOVE the color and it's a comfortable, stretchy jersey kind of material.  Perfect weight for our mild winters around here in the south.  This came in my December fix and I almost didn't keep it because it was a little on the big side.  But I loved the color and comfort so much I went for it.   It wasn't very expensive so when it gets too big, I won't feel bad about passing it on for someone else to enjoy.





This top though!!  This is the perfect example of "don't knock it til you try it on".  I wasn't crazy about it in the box.  But when I tried it on....ooo la la.  I LOVED it.  It compliments my hair color and matches my favorite lipstick to the T.  (Revlon Siren)   I'm so  glad I tried it on.



This next top came in January's fix.  I LOVED it too!  I love the color and the tassels and I thought it flattered my figure.  I really felt great in it.  But sadly, I didn't keep it.   It was a little pricey and I had already kept the top above from the previous fix  and the cobalt blue one below.  So regretfully, I sent it back. Such a bummer

This next one came in December's fix and I loved the color but wasn't 100% about the fit.  I shouldn't have kept it not being totally in love with it.  Then I could have snagged the one that came in January's fix.   But overall, It's a great top.


These are the black denim flares that I loved so much in December's fix.  Super comfortable, high on my waist which holds me in where I need it with just enough stretch.  These are what prompted me to ask for the blue denim's that I love so much.



This little top is from a fix this time last year and I still love it.  In fact, I wore it on my first plane ride when my grand daughter, Hazel was born.  She has her first birthday next week and I can't believe how time has flown.  Like I'm not even kidding.  My necklace is also from a previous fix and is still a favorite of mine.

This cardigan was in January's fix and it was not a keeper. It was cute and I could definitely pair it with a lot in my closet but I it had no wow factor and I didn't love it. So I didn't keep it.

And last was this dress.  I went round and round trying to decide if I was gonna keep it.  It was a great price and I needed a new dress or two that was this length....PERFECT length.  But again...I didn't love it.  So I didn't keep it. 
(My stylist also sent me a GORGEOUS kelly green dress with crotchet overlay that was beautiful but alas, it didn't fit me in any of the right places...not even enough to snap a quick pic.)


So. This top and these jeans. They were hands down my favorite two pieces from the two fixes.  
And I think it shows on my face.  

What I love so much about Stitch Fix is how well my stylist, Catherine, has listened to me.  I shared with her my trouble places on my body that I now need to choose the right clothes to cover and flatter and she has consistently listened and followed through.

I can't wait to see what she has in store for this month.

If you're interested in getting a little box full of fun delivered to your door from your very own personal stylist, then just click the banner below.



   

  

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Daughter's Journey to Health and Wellness

People ask me often what it is like to be the mom to grown daughters.  And I always tell them the same thing... It's amazing. The relationships shift and we become best friends,  and in some ways "peers".... just women trying our best to honor Jesus, love our husbands well and raise our children to the best of our abilities.  Once they are married, there is a transfer of leadership that takes place.  Their husband's are now the ones who lead them and they are their own team now...making decisions together and bearing all the responsibility.   I get to be their cheerleader.  Their encourager. Their sounding board.  And their prayer warrior.  The concern and worry for them never goes away but it does take on a different dynamic.

I love being the mom of daughters.  I love this season we are experiencing together. I love seeing fruit of years of labor as they build their own nests and raise their own families.  I can see some of my victories being emulated as well as some of my struggles in their lives as wives.   But I am also learning so much from them.  They are teaching me many things as well as I watch them in their own callings and roles the Lord has given them.

My oldest daughter is one of the most amazing moms I know. She would never describe herself in that way but she really is.  She will always go the extra mile for anyone in need and she has done that for her own family. When finding herself in a very hard season, she didn't throw in the towel. She struggled at times but she went the extra mile and found the answers to what she needed...what worked for her and her family to help her overcome a season of depression and be the wife and mom God created her to be.   

I asked her to share her journey here.  I've seen with my own eyes the difference her choices have made for her personally and for their family.  She is teaching me so much in the area of health and wellness by choosing natural methods over what I've always known and done.

Maybe you will glean a nugget or two yourself.....


The following words are from Elizabeth as she shares a little of her journey.

           
I was done.
Feelings of hopelessness, immense inadequacy, worthlessness, and self-hatred plagued my heart.
Most of my days were spent lying in bed while fatigue ruled my life.
Deep sadness would suck me into this deep, dark hole, which I found so much easier to stay in than have to do the extra work to dig myself out.
I would remain there for days..weeks..months even.
My mind and body were continuously at war with one another never in agreement.
I mean, how could they be? I was sick. My mind was sick. My body was sick.
Which obviously only trickled down into every other area of my life.
My walk with the Lord and everyone I loved and cared for suffered, and that genuinely pained my heart above anything else.
I was miserable, and I wanted out.
Something had to change.

I married my high school sweetheart very young, and the Lord graciously (and surprisingly) blessed us with children shortly after. One after the other they came, turning our world upside down and filling our hearts to the brim. Giving our life such joy and purpose, which was truly indescribable. The only problem was my body took a beating. I didn't nurture and take care of it like I should have, so each new pregnancy stripped me of more and more of the nutrients my body needed to function optimally. It was after my precious Julia Rose, that my body started to go down hill. We had just moved to a new state, started serving at a new church, and had a new baby along with a small toddler who was basically still a baby herself. All the change was a bit overwhelming, and I started to spiral quickly. I got pregnant with Nate only 5 months later, and then eventually we moved to another state for Chris to further his education. It all just slowly took its toll on me for several years to follow, and thats when I hit rock bottom. I literally hated the person who had taken up residence in my body.

You see, all I have ever wanted to do is serve the Lord and my family well.
To love and honor my husband, to nurture and care for my children, and to serve Gods people.
And all I felt like was a big fat loser.
Every day I had to carefully choose what I did that particular day fearing if I over-exerted myself, I would reap great consequences in the days to follow.
It took a ridiculous amount of willpower to even muster up the strength to feed my kids daily.
I knew deep down my worth was not bound by how good of a mother I was or not, but the internal struggle I fought deep within made me feel otherwise.

I was on medicine. Had been, on and off, for 3 1/2 years.
I was tired of the way it made me feel. Sure, it helped me. It really did at times. But the side effects were unreal.
I felt crazy, unstable, and out of control. I was tired of the roller coaster I had been riding for too many years. It just wasnt worth it.
It felt like I was just putting a bandaid on a gaping wound. A wound so deep, I feared could never be healed. I wanted to get to the root of the issue.
My greatest fear was this was my new normal. This was going to be the way I was forever.
I was back to square one, and thats when I started searching.

Essential oils had just started to surface more widespread, and I was starting to see oil posts pepper my IG and FB feeds here and there. Im a curious gal, so they intrigued me greatly.
But let me just tell you, I was skeptical of those little boogers. I mean, how could they possibly work like everybody was talking about? I was a true hopeful skeptic. Hopeful that they would work for our family, but totally skeptical they they actually would.
Our kids were constantly sick. I had 3 at the time, and they passed everything between each other. We were struggling financially, and I was the worst Ive ever been in my post-partum journey. Thats when I knew this was THE time to make a change.

I had a strong desire to live more naturally, but I would have never called myself a naturalist.  In fact, I was far from it. I wanted to come off of my medicine, and I knew I needed to eat healthier and exercise, but remember I could barely get out of bed! How was I going to have the energy and stamina to cook healthy meals?
I couldnt.
But I knew I needed to take a step. Even if it was just a baby step.
And essential oils were that next step for our family. I knew I could DO that. It was an easy way to start implementing changes in a small, practical way that could have the potential to produce BIG results.

So out of the blue, I asked my parents for the Young Living Premium Starter Kit for Christmas as our family gift, because I knew it would benefit all of us!
Still skeptical and with Chris thinking I had gone a little crazier than I already was, we took the leap of faith.
We did it.
It was our diving board into a great big pool of health and wellness.

That kit is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
It literally changed our lives.
And I dont take that phrase lightly, but its true. Oils have been life-changing for our family. YL essential oils have set us on a path I promise we would have never been on if we had not taken the plunge with the kit. And I will forever be grateful.

My kids are sick MUCH less. Its very rare that they are, and if they do get sick, its typically pretty short-lived. Because oils are so versatile, we pretty much use them for everything you can think of. You name it Building the immunity, respiratory support, hormonal support, aiding the digestive system, teething, upset tummies, carsickness, anxious feelings, skincare, perfume, lotions, bath salts, dishes, laundry, hand soap, cleaning, and so much more.

But like I always say, oils are just a huge puzzle piece in striving for optimal wellness. And because of being on this journey of wellness, we have been able to eliminate the chemicals and toxins in our home all the way from our cleaning supplies, skincare, laundry, to our toothpaste.

Which has only led us now to taking charge of our nutrition. You remember how I talked about how I barely had the energy to feed my family? Well, we are in the middle of Whole30 right now, and Im feeling better than I have ever felt in my ENTIRE life. Im cooking 3 meals a day from scratch with enough energy to last for days.
Yall, Im literally in tears right now as I type this. Im overwhelmed with gratitude. Did you hear me when I said I am cooking 3 meals a day for my family? This may seem trivial to some, but to me.. its everything.

You see, I remember vividly where I was (broken, tattered, and beaten down), and where I am today.
And that is no coincidence, friends. I dont take for granted how much has changed in our family. Yes, it has taken work, but its been small, simple steps over the course of two years that are going to have life-long lasting effects.

Jesus mostly definitely healed my body, but He used several tools to do it with.
And for that, Im forever grateful.

What are your health goals? What are you struggling with today? Maybe for you your first step is eliminating chemicals? Maybe you start by taking charge of your nutrition? Or maybe you are like I was, and you just dont know where to start, but you want to start somewhere?

The key is to start. Take that step. Even if its a baby step.

One of my favorite quotes lately, is one from Lara Casey, and one I have told myself time and time again the past several weeks doing Whole30 is,
She believed she couldnt, so HE did.

Let me know how I can be praying for you today as we start to seek the Lord on how to honor Him by taking care of our temples. These old bodies are His anyways. Lets get them working the best we can, so that we may glorify and serve HIM with every fiber of our being!



 Amen!  She is such an inspiration to me.  I am rejoicing with her over cooking for her family.  I know what a victory that is for her.  And having all the energy to do it. I am so encouraged and inspired by their commitment to Whole30 and the results they are enjoying from clean eating.  I love that my grand kids are being taught how to fuel their bodies instead of feeding their faces.  I've seen the benefits of essential oils firsthand in their family and I am blessed by Elizabeth's desire to give her family her very best.   

If you have any questions about any of it please send her an email at elizabethsirven@gmail.com 

   

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dressember...It's bigger than a dress. {Round Two}



This was my conviction for joining Dressember last year:

Nick preached a message last week that has stuck with me. It was a very convicting kind of message but even more so… a confirming kind of word.  Confirming what you see God doing in and through your life. 

It was just one verse of scripture. Proverbs 18:16 
"A man's gift makes room for him. And brings him before great men."

He expounded on it and shared how God puts a gift in each one of us.  None of us are passed over.   When we use that gift for His glory, it will open up opportunities and doors for us.  Those doors are opened to us to have influence.  To be an influence for God's kingdom.

Our gifts all look different but we all have one. Probably several. It will be something we are passionate about and people will be blessed by it when we use it as God intended.

There were so many layers to the message and so many things that God spoke to my heart.. Just like as parents when we notice a gift or interest our child has, it's our responsibility to cultivate it and help them develop it.  Well so it is in the body of Christ.  When we see someone doing something well…something that blesses us… we need to tell them. We need to encourage and cultivate each other in the body of Christ.    Because we need each other and all the different gifts for the body to be effective.

"A man's gift makes room for him. And brings him before great men."
When we exercise and use our gifts, they will lead us to that which is important…things that matter. And what is important is any door God opens for us is to have an impact and be an influence for His kingdom.

Which brings me to what God confirmed in my heart through that message.  He's given me so many passions and things I love.  Things I recognize are Him at work. Some things I'm still wrestling with Him on.

He's given me a passion for life and telling our story as it unfolds.  It comes so natural for me that it's hard for me to see why some people find that so strange.  When the Lord called us into ministry, people often described being a pastor's family as living in a "glass house" or fishbowl and would give me their condolences but I've never felt that way myself.   And even though I share a lot of our daily lives through social media I still don't feel like we are on "display".   Maybe I'm naive. Maybe I'm crazy.  Or maybe this is part of the gifting God has given me.  I know He certainly has used it to make room for me to tell about what He has done.  He has given me a much bigger sphere of influence to connect with and I want to honor Him with it.  I want to use that for something much bigger than me.

Stuff like Dressember. Have you heard of it?
I love that God has taken one of my passions (fashion) and one of my burdens (human trafficking) and caused them to collide in a crazy and amazing way. 

Dressember is a movement started by one girl who wanted to bring awareness to the great atrocity that is a reality to so many young girls and women around the world.  Sex slavery.  It exists. It is real.
Today, nearly 30 million people are trapped in slavery.
And we have a voice and a responsibility as believers to do something about it. 

So every day in the month of December, me and thousands of other ladies will be wearing a dress..rain, snow or shine..in order to bring awareness to this and help bring and end to it.   We will embrace the freedom that we're allowed,  on behalf of those who aren't free to live vibrant, autonomous lives.

You can check it out yourself here.  You can also read about Blythe Hill, the founder of Dressember here.

The History: 
What began in 2009 as a quirky style challenge with a clever name spread like wildfire. Dressember is a month of wearing dresses, but it is so much more. At its core, Dressember is an embracing of the inherent freedom and femininity of all women.

In 2013, Dressember took on new meaning: opposing the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women. In its first year as a fundraising campaign, Dressember aligned with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. Those who participate in Dressember are supporting the abolition of modern day slavery. Beginning in 2015, the Dressember campaign will expand to partner with other anti-trafficking organizations.

 IN ITS FIRST YEAR OF FUNDRAISING, DRESSEMBER HAD 1,233 REGISTERED PARTICIPANTS IN 32 COUNTRIES ACROSS 6 CONTINENTS WHO COLLECTIVELY RAISED OVER $165,000 USD. 100% OF THE FUNDS RAISED IN 2013 WENT DIRECTLY TO INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE MISSION. IN 2014, PARTICIPATION DOUBLED, AND THE FUNDS RAISED NEARLY TRIPLED, AT OVER $465,000 RAISED.


Donations to the Dressember 2015 campaign will support the work of International Justice Mission and A21, two human rights organizations that are bringing rescue and freedom to victims of slavery, sex trafficking and other forms of violent oppression. Learn more about IJM and read about A21 here.


And this is my conviction for joining Dressember THIS year:

I honestly had talked myself out of doing it again.  Not that I don't still believe in what they are doing. and wanting to use my platform and voice to help others and bring God glory...because I most definitely do. Actually the campaign has grown so much and they have SO many participants, I told myself that it wouldn't really matter if I didn't participate this time around.

No sooner had I made my mind up that I was gonna sit this year out, that night on the news, in our little town of Meridian, Mississippi, there was a lady arrested for human trafficking. She had been making young women have sex with men in return for drugs for herself.  Right here in my own "backyard". The timing was not a coincidence.  I mean, I knew it existed everywhere..that it wasn't just a "big city" problem or something that happens in other parts of the world.  But to see it on the news on that same day....The Lord reminded me that my voice matters. It IS important and there is a war to be fought. This atrocity is everywhere and it effects us all.  My heart was broken.

So this December you will see me wearing my dresses. Every day.  Again.
I'm wearing them for my three daughters. 
I'm wearing them for my three grand daughters and the ones yet to be born.
And I'll be thanking the Lord for their protection and safety and for the life and freedom He has blessed them with.

I'll also be wearing them for the thousands and thousands of little girls and women who will not wake up in a home full of love and security.  They won't hear I love you several times a day or get tucked in at night.  No, they will wake up each day to abuse and wonder if their lives will always be this way.  

I want to be a difference maker with the passions God has given me.  I want to make a difference in the lives of these precious girls and women who don't have a voice.

You can make a difference too.
You can join me in spreading awareness and wear a dress with me this December.
Or you can sponsor me. I have a personal goal of raising  (gulp) $500.
You can do that here.



I'll be sharing my journey all through the month of December.
You can check out the hashtag #dressember to be inspired and challenged by the thousands of ladies around the world who will also be participating and #honeyholdendressember to follow along with me. I definitely don't own 31 dresses or even 10 for that matter.  So I'm gonna enjoy the challenge of getting creative and using the resources that I have.
All the while keeping my heart focused on the girls and ladies it's all for.

"Dressember.  It's bigger than a dress"

Sunday, November 29, 2015

My Favorite Party of the Year

Sorry for all the reposts y'all,  but I wanted to share this again for my new friends who are following along this year.  Our party is scheduled a little later this year so when I post about it on Instagram, it would be too late for any of you to try to have one yourself if you wanted to.  Let me know if y'all do this with your family and friends!  
xxoo
Stephanie

*****************************************************************
  I posted a pic on Instagram Friday about my annual Christmas party that I host each year.  I promised a blog post with details because so many of you were intrigued.  Well, here it is.  I morphed together several blog posts over the years so you could read lots of examples of some of the gifts that have been given.  The very first post I wrote about it three years ago explains the origin of the party and how it came about for those who wanted to know.  This year's party is at the end of the post.

Several ladies have already let me know they have started hosting these parties too.  That blesses my heart SO MUCH!  I love seeing God's people giving Him glory for what He's done and is doing!


Y'all come on in and welcome to my favorite party of the year!
Where we give gifts that tell our story and bring Him glory!





**Repost from Three years ago**

Y'all know I love a party!
If you know me personally or been following my blog for any amount of time, then you know we throw parties around here for just about anything. I don't know if it's my Louisiana roots or what...but I don't need much of an excuse to whoooop it up big time!

But this past Tuesday, I hosted my favorite party.  I look forward to it all year!
I call it my "Keepin Jesus the Reason for the Season" Party.

The Lord birthed it in my heart many years ago when my husband was pastoring our first church. I was working in a friends boutique a couple days of week to help her during the holiday season. Her store was a-maz-ing. It was one of the very first of its kind and it was filled from floor to ceiling with quirky, trendy, one of a kind, amazing GORGEOUSNESS!!  I mean everything in there sparkled and glittered  and it all screamed.."you know you want me...you gotta have me...you know you can't live without me" in every corner you turned in this shop!

Well, don't get me wrong...I don't think there is a thing wrong with sparkly, pretty things....but as I was surrounded by it..saturated with it..  seeing the hunger of the people each day wanting MORE and spending SO much money to get it...well the Lord began to work in my heart that year about reminding me of getting back to the basics of Christmas...
back to the TRUTH of Christmas...
HIM!

** I didn't share when I first wrote this post, that part of what inspired me was a particular customer who had come into the store on a regular basis and would spend money like water on decorations and gifts.  She had come in one day and was wanting a gift for a Christmas party where they would be exchanging Dirty Santa gifts….you know…where you can steal a gift from another person.  Well she said she wanted to get THE gift that everyone would want to steal.  She told me she had to have the best and didn't care what she spent on it…to just  make sure it was to die for.  Well….that resonated in my heart and just burdened me.  I still think about her 13 years later.

So... I threw my first "Keepin Jesus the Reason for the Season Party" that year.
I invited all the ladies and asked them to bring a simple gift that represented their walk with the Lord during the year...something that would reflect what He was doing in their lives and how He was at work in their hearts.   Well, let me tell you...that night rocked my world!!  
What a blessing to hear testimony after testimony of what the Lord had been doing!

As the ladies came in with their gifts, I would put a sticker with a number on it and put it under the tree.  After we ate and fellowshipped awhile, I  have each lady draw a number from a bag (one number for however many gifts were brought).  The lady who drew #1 would then open it and then the lady who had brought that gift would then share the meaning behind it and why she chose it.   We do this until each gift has been opened and all the ladies have shared.

The creativity of the ladies was incredible!  
One of my best friends, who is like a tenacious little bulldog when it comes to her boldness for the Lord, …well, she brought a turtle pin one year and it represented how the Lord was teaching her how important consistency was in her walk..to be slow and steady like the tortoise and not to be super fast and burn out while serving Him. 
 Consistency…. to finish her race WELL.
I now can't see a turtle and not think of her and that spiritual nugget of wisdom!

I could go on and on with examples of the creativity over the years but it would take forever, so I am gonna take you to my party...


 This was from last year but I have it sitting out and I love and treasure it.
It was from Ms Pat.. she shared that she wanted to desire more and more of Lord..to pant for Him as the deer pants at the water brooks as Psalm 42 says.

She made it herself and I love the vintagey feel of it.
It's a such a great reminder to me as to what I am desiring most...


 This year, I received this...

 A planner from Janet. She told us she almost brought a plate to represent that how "full her plate" is but went with the planner cuz the Lord is teaching her about prioritizing her time...only saying yes to things HE has designed for her...learning its OK to say no if she hasn't heard from Him on a matter...and desiring to fill her calender with things that have eternal value.

Well, the Lord in His sovereignty made sure the planner AND the meaning behind it ended up with me!  As I dive into this new year..I want the same thing! To quit wasting time on what He hasn't ordained for me and do what will last throughout eternity!!
(Plus, I have a wedding to plan..my daughter has chosen APRIL.
 Yes I know that is only 4 months. sigh.)


It was a wonderful night. A refreshing night.
We shed tears...lots of them.
We laughed....really hard.
And we cried some more.
We ended the night in prayer, thanking Him for transforming our lives and that He would choose to come to this world so many years ago and humble Himself so that we can experience the freedom and joy of salvation in Him.
  WOWZA! How incredible.

As I said,  this is THE party of the year for me.  
I love hearing how great our God is and how He is at work. 
 Seeing the ladies growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord  is the best gift ever.
(2 Peter 3:18)



****Two years Ago***
  This gift that someone brought just blessed me so much. It represented the freedom from years and years of unforgivness she had harbored in her heart toward someone and how when she repented of that, through God's grace in her life, she felt like a bird being set free from a cage!   I loved it!  And it had been such a blessing seeing the Lord restore this relationship!  


This was the gift I received last year and it was one of my all time faves.  I'm not gonna lie, when I opened it I was like, huh?  A silver walnut?  
But then Kate began to share the meaning behind it and oh my goodness.  I loved it.

She and her husband were newly married last year and she shared that celebrating family traditions had become so important to her. She was wanting to start some new traditions with her husband but also carry on some old traditions she had growing up.   Her granddad always gave them a painted walnut each year.  She said the first year he did it, she was six years old and she was so upset because it was a measly little walnut.  But little did she know what was inside…  

A $100 dollar bill!
He wanted to teach them the value of not judging everything by what you can only see on the outside.  And that it's what is on the inside that counts.  This wise old grandpa kept up the tradition until he passed away in January of 2006.  

Kate didn't have a $100 dollar bill inside hers of course but the impact was the same.
Such a great lesson.
And such a great tradition.







***Last Year's Party***

 We were few in number but God's presence was so strong.
This was my gift that I brought. I forgot to take a picture of it before I wrapped it.

 But what was inside was a mirror
The kind of mirror that magnifies stuff 10 times. The kind that exposes all the blemishes and nothing is hidden from sight when you look into it. It can startle you when you see yourself that up close.  And that's exactly what God did recently  to me using an indecent in my life.  It cause due to look closer at my hear and it really exposed some gross and yucky stuff and attitudes that I needed to see  for what they really were… sin.  It made me think of Hebrews 4:12-13… "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit and joints  and marrow, and it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."   I am so thankful He doesn't leave me to myself but in His mercy He exposes my sin and pours grace into my life and changes me to be more like Him.  Hallelujah!   (I also had it wrapped in a dish towel because part of what He revealed to me is that I need to be more of a hands on_get dirty washing the feet of the disciples _ kind of servant.) 

And last thing before I go…
This is the gift I received!
A mini flashlight!

Sweet Mama Rob who brought it is one of the greatest examples of a servant I know! She is always doing for others. Always.  She is always asking how she can help…she doesn't wait until you come to her.  I want to be more like her.   I pray I am even half as active as she is when I am 78 years old like her.


What blessed me is the verse that prompted her to choose a flashlight as her gift.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  Matthew 5 :16
Aghh.. So perfect.  It couldn't have been more perfectly chosen for me.
I so want to make Him known with all that I do.

And the sweet thing about these fellowships…year after year…Each lady goes home with a gift that ministers to her heart and has a tangible reminder of the message every time she looks at or uses the gift.  It's sooo good.  We always close out the night in prayer thanking the Lord for the work He is doing in our lives  with great anticipation of the year ahead.


Now on to this year's party!


We had a grand time as usual.  One thing I loved about this year is seeing the spiritual growth in the ladies in the things they shared.  I am so blessed to have them in my life and to learn from them as they walk through the things the Lord has brought them through this past year.

Again, I don't have time to share all of what was brought but here are a few of them.

One of the ladies, Janet, is a teacher on a college campus.  She loves her students and is just as concerned about their lives outside of her classroom as she is inside her classroom.  But even the best of teachers often need reminders to help them stay focused on what a good teacher is all about.   She chose this necklace made from a rock.  But it wasn't just any rock.
An actual friend of hers finds regular old rocks that the average eye would just pass over and leave lying in the yard.  But she knows that once these "ugly" rocks are cared for and polished with the right tools they can become something beautiful so she and her granddaughter keep their eyes open and are searching all the time for rocks they can transform. Well Janet said the Lord really challenged her this past year to be intentional about her studentsto not see them at face value but to look past their "issues" and see the person.  To see the person they can become with the right encouragement, and people in their life "polishing" them.   I LOVE that.  So awesome.

One lady brought a box sugar because she had gone through some really difficult times this year but the Lord was still just as good (sweet) in those rough times as He was in the good times.  And that He truly is getting sweeter and sweeter to her the longer she serves Him with each passing year.    So good.  So true.

Another brought a card full of cash.  She has had an extremely difficult year this year.  She battled cancer along with some other tough situations and she has blessed me more than she will ever know watching her trust the Lord through it all.  She shared that she has learned that Jesus is the ONLY place that she can find her hope from.  Not even her family, who she loves so fiercely, can be her source for hope. So she brought money and said to whoever ended up with it to just know that whatever they spend it on…groceries, a gift, clothes, whatever…that the satisfaction it brings only lasts for a moment.   Jesus is the only lasting satisfaction we can truly have.    Sooooo good.  It had an impact.  

Our sweet Carolyn brought prayer journals as her gift which was so fitting because she is such a prayer warrior.  The gift she received was a hoot though!  Here she is opening it.  Carolyn is a die hard Ole Miss fan.  Her gift was a MSU Bulldog bath bomb.  It turns your water maroon and once it completely dissolves, it leaves a little cowbell in the tub with you.  She was convinced it was gonna turn into "Ole Miss" though. lol.  The funniest is when she opened it she didn't know what it was so Boo (sitting next to her) had to explain that it was a bath bomb.  If you could have seen Carolyn's face and reaction… She said "A BOMB?!?!"   lol.  Bless her heart.  We died laughing.
And if you're wondering how a bath bomb has a spiritual application, Boo said it represented peace and calming and tranquility. She is a newlywed this year and explained that is exactly what being married to Brandon, her husband,  has brought into her life….peace.  I have loved watching them settle so well into married life this year.  So good.

For times sake I'll wrap it up with my gift and what I brought…
Only part of my gift could fit in this box.


The real gift was hanging on my door as they walked in.
This wreath that I made.

I wanted something to represent all of the doors the Lord has opened for me to share His story this past year.  It has been a whirlwind full of surprises.  He has had me speak at conferences, retreats, virtual retreats via video (which was totally new for me).  He's opened doors for me to share His goodness and truth to people from all over the world who have emailed me and I've been able to share bits and pieces of my story with them.  And He's connected my heart with thousands of people through social media.  I never went looking for that platform of influence but it is a door He has chosen to open for me and I don't take that lightly.

So I wanted something to represent all these doors.  The fact that is was a fresh wreath was good too.  I always want to have a fresh work that the Lord is doing in my life that I can give away and share with others.  I'm thankful for those ebeneezers in my past that I can go back to a recall His faithfulness but I don' t want to rely on that as my only source of what I can share with others.  I want to be seeking Him daily and gaining fresh insights to give away and bless others.

The other part of my gift that was in the box were these socks.
They represent "HOW" I should walk through the doors God opens for me.  They are fun and outlandish and a little over the top….exactly how I want to be as I share what He has done for me. The world is watching and I want them to see joy…even during the not so great circumstances in my life. 
 I want them to see me having fun.  Because living for Jesus is fun.  His people are fun.  And I want to be outlandish for Him. I want to be brave and do hard things and not be afraid to stand out looking different for His sake.  I want to walk through each door with a twinkle in my eye and a skip in my step that makes the world around me want what I have.  Cuz what I have is good y'all.

The funny thing is God likes to make sure we are walking the walk that we talk.
I shared this about opened doors on Friday.  
Nick started feeling sick that night and began to run fever and get all achy.
He never left the couch Saturday.  But he just knew he'd feel better by Sunday.

Long story short.  He didn't feel better by Sunday.  And EMCC, our local community college, was playing for the National Football Championship in their division and a lot of our church is on staff there.  So they were all out of town at the game…along with our worship leader and many of the men who lead.  SO…that left me.  Nick asked if I would give a testimony and  share about the Christmas party and the meanings behind the gifts with our congregation.  So I was gonna have to teach my ladies Sunday school class, then lead worship and give a testimony afterwords…pretty much have the entire service on my shoulders.  

I thought about what I just shared a couple of nights before and knew I had to walk through this unexpected open door with great confidence in Him.  So, I rallied some of my friends and family to be lifting me up in prayer, then I threw on my most outlandish pair of tights, grabbed my bible and headed out the door.

God was faithful.  I survived and He was glorified.  But I definitely have a renewed appreciation for my husband and all pastors and worship leaders everywhere!

Back to the party before I go….if you have any questions just send me an email.  I'd love for you to host one wherever the Lord has you  planted.  If you do, please let me know.  I'd love to hear all about it.




  
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