She was young, beautiful and loving life until the storms came bringing her to her knees.
Now suddenly widowed and emotionally shell-shocked, Ruth is now facing hard truths and even harder choices.
She hadn’t planned this. She never dreamed it could happen to her.
No woman ever does. Now what?
Should she stay with her mother-in-law Naomi, who has also lost her husband as well as both of her children, or return home alone?
Seeing Naomi weep, Ruth “clung to her” (1:14) vowing never to leave her side. (1:16-18)
Two women enduring a pain few could fathom bound together by grief and loss.
One morning Ruth decides to go pick grain and “As it turns out, she found herself working in the field belonging to Boaz” who was a close relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. (Ruth 2: 3)
Coincidence? Absolutely not. Divinely orchestrated? No doubt!
And in this wheat field God picked up His pen and began to rewrite the stories of two devastated women.
The day Ruth buried her husband, her heart and hopes perhaps accompanied him to the grave.
Yet in her darkest hour blinded by tears and crushed in grief God had already started restoring her dreams.
Envisioning a day without a broken heart seems unfathomable when you have one.
Maybe you’ve buried a loved one or have suffered the loss of a marriage, friendship, promising relationship or ideal job.
And now you ache – a silent, hiding-behind-the-smile, firmly embedded pain.
So how do we move towards a promising tomorrow while buried beneath a painful today?
Ruth perhaps wondered the same thing yet even in her agony she recognized value in Naomi’s wisdom and made a decision that forever changed her life.
Ruth chose to follow Naomi’s counsel concerning Boaz and from her obedience came her reward.
Where deep sorrow once lived now love bloomed.
How do we obey God and “hold on unswervingly to the hope we profess” remembering “He who promised is faithful.” (Heb 10:23) in the midst of our suffering or when life is begging us to quit?
Ruth told Naomi “I will do whatever you say” (3:5) but I wonder if her pain was screaming “No! I simply can’t take another heartbreak” or What if I do and it fails or I am disappointed yet again?”
What Ruth didn’t see God did long before. He united Boaz and Ruth long before their vows were ever spoken.
Little did Ruth know that in her loss God was already planning her gain.
In the aftermath of tragedy joy seems a million miles away.
Trusting God even with tears streaming down your face and fear gripping your heart is not easy. Your wounds are fresh and the scars feel permanent.
Trusting Him is an act of obedience which seems impossible in our painful moments.
In Luke we meet Jairus who had a life-altering choice to make.
He could either listen to reality that proclaimed his daughter deceased or he could listen to Christ who gently instructed him “don’t be afraid; just believe.” Luke 8:50
Like Ruth, Jairus chose obedience and witnessed one of the greatest miracles in Christ’s ministry.
Divine destiny brought about by a willingness to obedience produced a miraculous gain from a tragic loss.
Jairus’ obedience resulted in a resurrected daughter.
Ruth and Boaz’s love story resulted in a son named Obed who became the grandfather of David.
Naomi now cradled the grandchild she thought she would never have.
The love Ruth thought ended in her husband’s death held her in his arms each night.
From loss came gain and from Ruth & Jairus’ obedience came the reward.
How? Because “All of God’s promises are Yes! in Christ?” 2 Cor 1:20
Hopefully by now those breakups that led you to your breakthroughs have prepared you for your break out.
What does it mean to “break out?”
A woman who is breaking out is living every area of her life on a noticeably higher level than most around her.
It is reflected in her home, appearance, job, finances, health and relationships.
Because she has broken up with beliefs and people who were holding her back, she has set the stage for her breakthrough, which comes when we surrender and admit our need for God’s help.
Our breakthrough paves the way for our breakout.
The woman who is breaking out is consciously and consistently raising her life standards which moves her daily existence from average to amazing.
She becomes protective of her overall well-being and guards her life fiercely.
She no longer simply lets life happen to her but she happens to her life.
She understands the quality of her life is directly connected to the quality of her thoughts and beliefs and influenced by the quality of her relationships and always chooses wisely.
Others notice a woman who is in the process of breaking out by the way she carries herself, the way she thinks, behaves, dresses and speaks.
Comments like “you seem different” or “you’ve changed” are common and true.
She is different and definitely changed and it’s beautiful to behold!
How do you know when you are experiencing a breakout?
When the life you once only imagined now slowly starts to become your reality.
You sense a boldness and confidence you’ve never had.
You are no longer controlled by your emotions, circumstances, fears or others’ opinions of you.
You are so engrossed in cultivating your own life you have no time to compare your life to others.
You understand the value of every day and are protective of your time; how you spend it and who you spend it with.
Wasting hours on social media or with life-draining people is traded for setting audacious goals that require you to become someone you’ve never been.
Beautifying and organizing your living space, polishing up your resume, eating a healthy, delicious meal, going for a late afternoon walk, creating a vision journal, reading books that inspire you – even something as simple as trying a new hairstyle – anything that breaks you out of ruts, routines, comfort zones, agendas, expectations and destructive habits and transports you to a higher level of living that requires a higher level of being – THAT is breaking out!
The laundry can wait. The reality shows can wait. Social media can wait.
Your life cannot.
Imagine reinventing yourself and your life.
What does that life look like for you? What does that life ask of you? Who does that life ask you to become?
God’s Word reminds us that from our ashes come our beauty. (Isa 61:3). Never believe otherwise.
While sitting in the ashes of a life I had made a mess of I didn’t see any beauty.
But God did and He does with you as well.
Breakouts happen by choice and sadly so few ever make the choice to break out.
Breakouts ask you to commit time, practice the art of discipline, walk in crazy faith and forgive yourself along the way.
Breakouts are where bondage ends – bondage to the labels, fears, guilt, shame, others’ expectations and the past.
Breakouts are where real freedom begins.
Freedom to live a life that excites you instead of depleting you of energy, joy and peace of mind.
Breakouts take us from existing to truly living. From surviving to thriving.
Because life begins when we begin breaking out!
Breakthroughs (Session II of III)
Breakthroughs come after the breakups and before the breakouts.
Breakthroughs are beautifully designed to usher us into a new chapter of life, to unleash and develop the potential buried in our emotional rubble and create dramatic and permanent change.
They ask us to be vulnerable, authentic and honest with ourselves.
They require boldness and a willingness to move into the unknown and demand we check our ego at the door.
How do you know when or even if you need a breakthrough?
Ever feel like you have hit a wall, are in dire need of massive change or just simply want to quit?
Ever feel exhausted with daily living, burned out or overwhelmed?
Ready to trade the average, mediocre and ordinary for the spectacular yet fear, guilt or shame holds you back?
Ever wonder why the results you seek never show up? The life you want never happens?
Perhaps you are due for a breakthrough.
But are you ready for a breakthrough?
Break THROUGHS happen when we reach a breaking point where change is no longer an option but a necessity welcomed instead of feared.
Breakthroughs happen when we declare “enough is enough,” gladly swallow our pride, say goodbye to our stubbornness and fully surrender our mess to Him who is faithful becoming the servant ready to obey the Master’s orders no matter what.
Surrendering isn’t easy because it means giving up control which invites fear, panic and anxiety.
The “what ifs” barge in – what if He asks me to do something I don’t want to do, stop doing something I want to keep doing, go somewhere I don’t want to go, develop new habits, change my thinking, my routine, my friends, my life?
We will know when we reach our breaking point.
How we react to it determines whether we break through or break down.
When our frustration finally collides with our desperation and we completely let go and trust and obey Him regardless of how difficult it gets, how frustrated we become or how badly we want to quit especially when we see no evidence of change whatsoever – that is when our breakthrough comes.
Unfortunately many bail out just before their breakthrough.
They snatch back what they handed over to God angrily storming off because they didn’t see immediate results or didn’t like His response or requirements.
So are we ready for a breakthrough?
Are we willing to listen to Him first then act second even when it’s hard or when others don’t understand?
Are we ready to break up with certain people and beliefs and leave current circumstances even though they’re comfortable choosing instead to step out in faith believing for the impossible?
Are we willing to fully believe that when Christ stated “Everything is possible for the one who believes” He in fact meant everything including our breakthroughs? (Mark 9:23)
Are we willing to make changes and listen to wise advice instead of believing others should change or thinking we know everything?
Are we willing to “relocate” moving away from the present in preparation for the future?
Are we willing like Abraham to trade the familiar for the unknown and “go to the land I will show you”? (Gen 12:1)
It takes a trusting soul to set out on a journey without knowing the destination first.
Perhaps God knew the breakthrough that would bring the blessings couldn’t come while Abraham was living his current life surrounded by his current friends so He graciously relocated him. (Gen 12:2-3).
When we reach a point that we are willing to do whatever God tells us is necessary to get the breakthrough – whether it is surrendering our life, making hard but required changes, cutting ties and “relocating” or overhauling our mindset – then be assured the breakthrough is close because the Word repeatedly proves that obedience always brings reward.
And after the breakthrough comes the breakout!
Emerging from the ashes we stand defying the odds, shocking those who said we “couldn’t” and “would never” proving that we can, we did and we will continue to do so.
So are you ready for a breakthrough?
BREAKUPS – SESSION I of III
The calendar says the last stages of 2019 are here with Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon.
Holidays are crazy busy then suddenly it’s a new year.
While I usually take time during the holiday madness to journal my desires and commitments for the upcoming year I realized recently a different approach is in order.
For us to truly experience a phenomenal 2020 some breakups are necessary.
Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
We simply can’t take all of this year into next year and expect it to look differently.
Some people, thoughts, words and behaviors need to stay in 2019.
Distancing ourselves from negative, drama and chaos driven, self-absorbed people, whether family or friends, is critical to our future happiness.
As women we tend to assume responsibility for everyone else’s happiness and success while neglecting our own and it is costing us dearly.
A massive weight fell off my shoulders the day I realized I was not responsible for others happiness – that responsibility is theirs alone.
One of the most difficult tasks is relegating energy-consuming, life-draining relationships (especially family) to the outer fringes of our lives but it is essential in moving forward.
Breakthroughs always begin with breakups.
We don’t have to be friends with everyone because everyone doesn’t need to be our friend.
When packing for travel we carefully choose our outfits knowing we can’t take the entire closet with us.
The same applies for our lives. Everyone can’t go with us.
For 2020 to be a fantastic year we have to wisely select who stays and who goes then begin with some breakups.
Please understand I deeply love those content living in their self-imposed chaos and wish them the best but reducing communications with them and extracting myself from their daily drama has freed me to focus on cultivating healthy relationships.
God commands us to “Walk with the wise and become wise but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Prov. 13:20.
It’s our choice.
Because our friendships strongly influence our daily lives who do we need to break up with before January 1st?
We also know our world will always reflect our mental mindset so certain beliefs that are holding us back must go.
Many years I spent crying many tears because my mind controlled me instead of me controlling my mind.
I didn’t even know I had a choice.
My mind told me to stay in my comfort zone because I wasn’t capable or qualified to go after my dreams.
It said I shouldn’t even bother attempting to create a life I love.
It told me that to be accepted I had to be like everyone else, think the way they think, want what they want, dress how they dress, act how they act and talk like they talk instead of embracing and owning my God-given uniqueness.
Our thoughts will keep us stuck and settling or encouraged and empowered and life always moves in the direction the mind goes.
Circumstances NEVER change until our minds change.
We can starve ourselves silly but if our minds are telling us that the weight is never coming off the body simply buys into that belief and the weight never budges.
Friends, I know this firsthand.
And, when those thoughts become words and women declare “the right man will never come along”, “the great job will never show up,” “I will never get out of debt,” “life will always be ongoing unorganized chaos” to no one’s surprise they are correct, prophesying their future with their very own words.
Look at a woman’s life and you will quickly figure out her mental mindset.
Some women grasp this truth and execute changes but sadly many execute excuses.
If 2020 is to be our year, severing ties with the complaining, blaming or excuse-making woman is a must otherwise it’s only a matter of time before we mimic her and our lives mirror hers.
While it may seem harsh it is a proven fact that we become like those we associate with.
Likewise, thoughts and words lead to choices and actions that dictate the direction our lives take.
By refusing to break up with those self-fulfilling, self-sabotaging thoughts, words and actions and being unwilling to say goodbye to emotionally and mentally exhausting, joy-stealing relationships before this year ends, your 2020 will look exactly like your 2019.
If you want to break through and break out in 2020 today is the day to begin breaking up with 2019!
Yes, many women are content with their next year looking identical to this year.
The question is “Are you?”
She is funny, stylish, artistic and wise.
She loves to travel, dance, create, cook, garden and getting together with friends.
She is an entrepreneur, a teacher, a dancer, a singer, a high achiever.
She’s been hurt, betrayed and wounded. She’s failed miserably, loved hard and overcome triumphantly.
She laughs, forgives and cries. She’s made mistakes, bad choices and wise decisions.
She has regret, remorse, beautiful memories and cherished moments.
Who is she?
“She” represents my closest friends.
How do I know who “she” is? Because I asked.
It’s hard to admit but there was a time when I formed my opinion of people based on the opinions of others.
I unfairly and unwisely judged and criticized without knowing the whole “story” behind the woman taking others’ assessment of her as the final word.
Every woman has a story, a long history of experiences, adventures, highs, lows, dreams and desires that make up who she is.
We label a woman who may be different than us as “odd” or having “issues” without ever bothering to hear from her the whole story.
Instead, she is criticized, judged, misunderstood and excluded.
Instead of getting her story, she gets placed under a social microscope with her past being dissected, her choices, financial status, weight, looks and life being scrutinized.
Several years ago I was introduced to a woman through mutual acquaintances.
As this woman walked away the whispers began.
She was supposedly “strange” “weird” “different” “maybe crazy” and more.
I would like to say I tossed their labels to the wind, found out her story then formed my own opinion but I didn’t.
I regret it deeply but God taught me a life-changing lesson through it.
One morning in my quiet time He reminded me “Do not judge or you too will be judged,” (Matt 7:1)
I don’t know about you but I hate being judged and yet I was doing just that and my heavenly dad called me out. He’s such a good father that way.
As children our parents told us “Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it” and it is still applicable today.
If we dislike being judged, ostracized, excluded, labeled, looked down on, criticized or mistreated then we can no longer do the same to others.
In John 8 a certain woman was caught in adultery and faced imminent death.
Nowhere do we read that others first stopped to get her story before pronouncing judgment on her.
They labeled then condemned her. Case closed.
No one asked her why?
No one asked her what past experiences made her now believe she was only worthy of being someone’s second choice, his side dish, his stolen moments, his secret when she was worth so much more.
Did anyone tell her she was deserving of being a man’s wife, his world, his joy, his everything, to be loved and praised publicly and openly?
Let me be clear.
Learning a woman’s past first doesn’t mean we condone or excuse her present day choices especially when they are destructive but knowing her backstory helps us to understand who she is today more clearly.
We aren’t dismissing or justifying but armed with the knowledge found in her story we can extend some much needed grace, understanding and encouragement of a better way.
There is always a why behind every woman’s thoughts, actions, words, emotions, desires and decisions.
That why is buried within our experiences, some good some bad.
Many of those moments now have women labeling each other “non-trusting,” “insecure” or having “issues” though no one really knows why because no one is asking.
If a woman doesn’t want to share her story we are to respect that but also refrain from making or spreading any assumptions about her.
To understand each other we can no longer hastily condemn each other based on public opinion, half-truths, outright lies, rumors, gossip or misinformation.
What if we made it our mission to “decide not to decide” about others until we first hear their story?
Oh, and that woman I was introduced to earlier that others had labeled “weird.”
I invited her to lunch one day and discovered she’s one of the most beautiful souls I have yet to meet.
She is kind, gentle, creative, sensitive and caring. She is brave, daring and multi-talented, loyal and inspiring.
Her incredible story contains mountain tops and valleys, adventures, failures, mistakes, tragedies, successes and heartache and I have benefitted tremendously from knowing it.
Every woman has at least one thing in common. We all have a past.
For years my past was like the bully on the playground cruelly taunting me keeping me in fear and stuck in a constant state of self-condemnation.
Is it the same for you?
What would happen if instead of seeing our pasts as reminders of our missteps we viewed them as a source of information and inspiration?
Did you know your yesterdays can be your greatest teacher or your worst enemy?
And you get to choose?
For years I never knew there was any other choice but to live in the shadows of a shameful past.
The day God informed me that it was my decision was a turning point.
When you decide your yesterdays will no longer deplete you but provide the fuel that radically changes your todays is when your life is forever altered.
No one likes to remember painful times, failures, old sins, regrets or loss.
But when we begin to look at our past from a “student’s” perspective in life’s classroom searching for valuable lessons and repetitive behavioral patterns that are holding us back, the torment of the past now becomes the tool to create amazing todays.
The past is now productive and useful, an asset instead of a liability.
It is no longer something to run from or deny but to embrace.
While all bad memories may not be the result of our actions we suffer the pain nonetheless.
No woman chooses to be mistreated or wounded but all of us can choose our reactions when it happens.
Our todays are impacted positively or negatively by our response to yesterday’s hurtful behavior of others.
Every woman I know has done things she deeply regrets. I have.
A certain woman made a bad decision and was now facing the consequences.
A wrong choice resulted in her being judged, labeled and condemned to die.
Would this be the day she died in the bondage of her past or would it be the day her shame would be replaced with grace and a chance for a fresh start?
That day the only One qualified to condemn her does not.
Instead Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:11.
Instead of shaming her for yesterday’s poor choice, He instructs her to go and leave behind her old life taking a valuable lesson from the moment with her.
He uses a negative situation to teach her a positive, life-changing lesson.
Our pasts, regardless of how ugly, sin-filled or nasty do not have to be in vain.
Looking for lessons in my past was hard but necessary.
Who wants to recall cringeworthy or deeply troubling times?
But this I know:
Our lives will never change until we change and we cannot change until we know where change is necessary.
Our pasts hold that answer.
My past revealed a pattern of sabotaging relationships, quitting goals when it got hard and justifying bad decisions instead of owning them.
It told me that I was insecure, unteachable, undisciplined with an unhealthy need to be liked (validation) which resulted in being used, manipulated and mediocre.
These powerful revelations were the starting point from which to begin the process of creating lasting inner self-worth instead of searching for it externally, to becoming coachable and developing discipline.
I had to make some hard changes but they led to the very happiness I had been seeking all along.
Looking into our past can be painful and embarrassing.
It requires facing hard truths and making difficult admissions.
It requires forgiving others and ourselves.
It is not easy. But it is worth it.
The past contains valuable insight needed to create lasting changes so we aren’t repeating our pasts in our present.
When we ask the pasts to teach us she will always say yes.
We become the student and the past is our teacher.
It inspires us to keep pressing forward and encourages us not to repeat old sins, habits and mistakes but to extract the lessons and let them go.
Playing yesterday’s pain on repeat in our heads, punishing ourselves for past sins, ongoing seething with resentment from old hurts keeps our lives in turmoil and drama.
Learn that lesson then let it go.
Everything you need to know about creating the life you want can be found in the archives of your past.
It contains all the wisdom, inspiration, information and motivation necessary to keep you focused on becoming the woman you want to be if you will let it.
Don’t look back and relive regrets. What’s done is done.
Healing and change begins when we can look back at our pasts and say “Thank you for the lessons.”
Have you ever been sucker punched feeling like the wind has been knocked out of you?
I have as well as every other woman I have ever known. It’s a part of life.
Unexpected circumstances, losing a loved one, job or financial issues, a health crisis, a crumbling relationship that once held promise – situations that leave us in an emotional fetal position barely able to breath.
After years of setbacks (mostly self created ones) I found myself pleading to a God I had abandoned not realizing my comeback was about to begin.
Every woman will experience setbacks.
Some choose to live in the setbacks.
Some choose to make a comeback.
When reaching a breaking point finally deciding that enough is enough, the comeback woman finds an inner strength she never knew existed and creates a life she once only dreamed of.
The setback woman wants to come back yet has become a slave to her fears and her emotions unable to break free from the stress and havoc they create.
Fears paralyze us and living in an emotional knee-jerk reaction mode proves destructive resulting in ruined relationships or impulse shopping, eating or drinking.
I lived this for years – being led by emotions and fear.
My mantra now is Go scared but Go!
Also, somewhere along the way many of us dismiss our own desires and allow others to decide for us what we want from life.
However, the comeback can only begin when we commit to taking back control of our lives.
While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for staging an incredible comeback, every one I have witnessed started when a woman became crystal clear on what she wanted.
To live not knowing exactly what we want is like driving without a destination in mind. Yes, we will end up somewhere but it may not be the place we wanted.
The comeback isn’t about deciding what we don’t want but what we do.
It begins with answering a few key questions.
What do you want your life to look like? Calm, laughter-filled, organized, fun, peaceful?
How do you want to be described? Successful, adventurous, energetic, cultured, a go-getter, fit, inspirational, elegant, funny, authentic, spontaneous, a risk taker, bold, confident, creative, stylish, a joy to be around?
What habits are necessary to create your comeback? Discipline, self-control, assertiveness?
Habits are created not inherited and therefore can be learned and unlearned at will.
Who inspires you to up your game?
It is an absolute fact — we will become who we want to be when we spend time with those who already are.
Want to get in fabulous shape? Hang out with a healthy person.
Want to start a successful business? Find a woman who has.
Want to grow? Get around someone who makes personal development a priority.
Want to declutter your home? Spend time with someone who has decluttered hers.
Want a more hopeful, positive, happier attitude? Find someone who has one.
The quickest way to stay stuck in your setback is being around others who are stuck in theirs.
They thrive on using life’s difficulties as an excuse as to why they can’t, won’t, shouldn’t have to, have no plans to or are not going to.
I heard a preacher once say “Someone could take the cards you have been dealt and win.”
I heard this at time when I was in a self-pity “why me?” mode. It was life-changing.
Your cards may not be ideal. No one’s is. (I don’t care how perfect their life may look)
There are countless stories of people who were dealt the worst hand a human being could get but they won. Just Google Erik Weihenmayer, Lopez Lumong, Cornel Hrisca-Munn or Marla Runyan.
You can too. Play to win.
Invest your time and resources into you.
Read books that inspire and inform you. Listen to podcasts or music that fires you up.
Take a social media break focusing instead on creating your comeback.
What would happen if you swapped the time spent scrolling Instagram or Facebook for a couple of laps around the park, reading a few chapters of an inspirational book, detoxing your fridge/pantry, cleaning out a closet, sitting outside appreciating nature, taking an online course, learning a new hobby, creating a financial plan, writing down some clear goals, creating a gratitude or dream list or researching your ideal vacation?
Invest in yourself because you will always be your best investment.
Surround yourself only with what you love.
Whether it is delicious smelling candles, fresh flowers, luscious bath gels, organized spaces, positive people, nature, a clean car or handbag, a rich shade of lip color, clothes or shoes you feel amazing in, writing, creating art, watching classic movies or reading beautiful literature – surround yourself with what lights you up and let go of everything else until your life looks and feels like a temple instead of a trashcan.
Pursue excellent physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Life-giving foods, regular exercise, down time, quiet moments and mindful thinking all provide the necessary energy to fully commit to and complete your comeback.
Simply put, we become what we think and eat.
When we were little day-dreaming was a part of life yet sadly somewhere along the way we stopped dreaming and started settling.
Where have you always wanted to go? What adventures do you want to experience? Who have you always wanted to meet?
My Dream List is well over ten pages of awe-inspiring adventures I want to experience and while I may not get to them all I have had a blast trying.
My dream trip is France. To ride a camel in Morocco would be an incredible experience and meeting Steve Perry of Journey would be absolutely amazing.
Daydreaming is free and harms no one and what joy that comes when another adventure gets checked off!
Be generous and grateful.
A setback is not permission to be self-absorbed believing the world revolves around us because it doesn’t.
Gratitude is the most powerful step in creating a successful comeback.
It was during my lowest point a kind friend cared enough to give me some tough love and reminded me of all I had to be thankful for.
She wasn’t downplaying my pain but simply pointing out that even in the darkest of times I had a lot to be grateful for. Everyone does.
Look around your life. What do you have to be thankful for?
You know how you feel when you do something nice for a friend or family member and they barely say “thank you”?
I can’t help but wonder if God feels the same way when we do that to Him.
When He provides a roof over our heads, food, electricity, fresh water, multiple freedoms and yet in our setbacks we only focus on or blame Him for what we don’t have. I know this because I have done this.
Being thankful for what we currently have opens us up to receive more while being unappreciative keeps us living in lack and discontent.
Don’t believe me? Adopt an attitude of gratitude and see what happens.
Don’t compare your comeback to hers.
The comeback requires we stay in our lane in order to create the life we want.
Comparison kills comebacks because it robs us of the energy and attention our own progress requires.
It also invites jealousy which is the thief of joy.
When someone complains because someone else is thinner, more educated, lives in a nicer home, married into a wealthy family or drives a better car she is actually saying “I would rather judge and be jealous than improve my current conditions.”
It is an excuse to avoid responsibility and justify her unhappiness in her own life rather than change.
You will never see her comeback because it will never happen – at least not until she stops the jealousy, ditches the victim mentality and matures emotionally.
Ya’ll this is tough love I know but I have been that jealous woman and I know its destructiveness. It kills dreams and runs people off.
Do something everyday towards your desires.
Take action daily towards what you want and the woman you want to be.
Change happens through small steps every day.
It is easier to focus on losing one pound, creating one new habit, walking one lap, paying off one bill, cleaning one drawer, reading one chapter of a motivational book, watching one inspirational video, sending out one resume or accomplishing one goal at a time instead of twenty.
Get out of your comfort zone.
Be known as the woman who takes the risk and says “yes” even when it is uncomfortable.
A comeback cannot be created in a comfort zone. The woman who refuses to budge stays stuck, never growing and never learning.
Comebacks take time, effort and a refusal to quit when delays or disappointments come which is why so many never experience their comeback.
Will you stay in your setback or will you create your comeback?
It is your choice and your story.
The page is blank and you hold the pen.
How will your story end?
Saying Yes to the Hard Things of God
Share my life story that includes my mistakes, shames and failures? Forgive those who have wounded me deeply?
Fully commit to a healthy lifestyle rather than sporadic exercising and fad dieting? Seeing goals and projects through to completion?
Take responsibility for my life? Stop trying to force relationships, fix other people’s issues, be who I wasn’t?
My Ninevehs – those hard places God was calling me to go and asking me to do.
For too long my reply was always “No!” I am stubborn.
Nineveh wasn’t in Jonah’s plans when God called and he too said “No!”
Perhaps Jonah’s reasons are also ours when God asks us to do the seemingly impossible.
Fear. Every negative emotion known to woman is always rooted in fear.
What will people think or say? What if they don’t like me or I fail?
What if I can’t? What if I forgive and get hurt again?
What if I don’t get the results I want?
What if I get my hopes and expectations up and am disappointed?
Fear of the changes or sacrifices that might be required of us.
Fear of having to assume responsibility for difficult circumstances.
Everything negative in our lives cannot always be someone else’s fault.
Believing it was kept me stuck in victim mentality FOR YEARS resulting in isolation as friends started distancing themselves from my emotionally draining and constantly negative presence.
Eventually they realized I wasn’t seeking to change but preferred pity over advice. In order to protect their own peace they had no choice but to walk away. I don’t blame them.
God doesn’t call us to the difficult to desert us but to grow us.
Saying “No” to Nineveh means staying stuck where we are.
Each month identical to the last one. Each relationship ending like the last one. Each diet producing the same results.
Going to Nineveh requires us to toss our excuses and move in the direction of change even if we go scared.
Your Nineveh could be losing weight, leaving an unhappy job, saying goodbye to a toxic friendship, paying off debt or simply getting out of your comfort zone more.
Is it hard?
Absolutely which is why so few of us ever find our way to the other side of Nineveh.
Ninevehs require us to face our fears and make sacrifices and hard choices.
But what if saying yes to Nineveh, your lost weight means more energy and confidence, your dead-end job gets replaced with a fulfilling one, those life-draining friendships get traded for beautiful ones, your zero debt means zero worry and stepping out of your comfort zone invites more fun and adventure?
How tragic to come to the end of our days wondering how life would have looked had we said “Yes” to the seemingly impossible challenges He calls us to instead of cowering to unfounded fears or preferring sympathy and pity to following sound advice.
I’ve learned that avoiding Nineveh can keep us stuck, resentful, unfulfilled and worried.
Jonah’s avoidance of Nineveh resulted in isolation and darkness. (Jonah 2:3-10)
We were never meant to go through hard places in our own strength and thankfully Paul reminds us that we “can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.” (Phil 4:13)
Saying yes to the hard doesn’t guarantee easy.
But we can go confidently knowing when we stumble and cry out to God, He “listened to my cry” (Jonah 2:2) and He will wipe away our tears, calm our fears and encourage us to press on.
Because He sees the reward waiting on the other side of our Nineveh that we can’t see in the midst of it.
There’s a quote that says “If God calls you to it, He will walk with you through it.”
Please know those hard places will always come with sufficient grace as God tells us “My grace is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9 NLT)
Everything you desire is on the other side of your Nineveh.
Are you ready to say yes to the journey? Go scared but go.
Nineveh or Bust!
Live long enough and you learn that life is never a straight road but consists of unexpected turns, frightening valleys and desolate deserts.
Those happy moments experienced on the mountaintops offer an unobstructed view of God’s blessings and how far He has brought us.
Yet when wandering through the lonely deserts of discouragement, that breathtaking mountaintop view of miracles and mercy quickly fades from memory.
We become emotionally exhausted and spiritually parched in the dry terrains of anxiety, worry and fear.
Others have experienced this too.
The Israelites’ departed Egypt for the Promised Land which required a long trek through a scorching desert where they would witness God’s wondrous working power.
At the Red Sea they saw the waters “divided and the Israelites went through on dry ground with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Ex 14:22)
In this suffocatingly hot region, God’s faithfulness was evident providing them manna and quail yet their trust in Him wavered as the dream-killer of doubt infected the camp.
Moses said “In spite of this you did not trust in the Lord your God who went ahead of you on your journey in fire by night and a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.” (Deut. 1:32-33)
He reminded them that “The Lord your God who is going before you will fight for you as He did in Egypt before your very eyes and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord carried you as a father carries his child . . . ” (Deut. 1:30-31)
It would be easy to self-righteously criticize these complaining children of God except I too was guilty of forgetting to remember.
During hard times I forgot how often He carried me when I stumbled under life’s pressures, how many battles I stood no chance of winning that He fought on my behalf and how many messes I made He cleaned up.
When we find ourselves struggling with our finances, health, relationships, jobs, family or future how easy it is to blame God accusing Him of child neglect totally forgetting yesterday’s miracles.
Those times He rescued me from self-imposed storms were distant memories when temporary circumstances blinded me.
I failed to recall David’s exhortation to “forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your sins, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Ps 103:2-5)
God, like any parent, wants to enjoy a beautiful relationship with us.
A healthy relationship requires regular communication and equal giving and receiving between both parties.
We all have that friend who only contacts us when a favor is needed.
They have little interest in events in our lives because life revolves around them and their current drama or crisis.
After a while we sadly realize we are not part of a “friendship.”
It hurts. Deeply.
I can’t help but wonder how often have I pierced God’s heart behaving like that friend only contacting Him when I needed a miracle yet showing little interest in Him otherwise?
Neglecting His word, never being grateful for all He has done, angry instead of where I felt my life was lacking or coming to Him only when I had a need.
I have purposely distanced myself from people who behave towards me like this yet I have treated Him the same way.
Oh it hurts to even admit that but it is the truth.
As Moses called the Israelites out he called me out too as I had forgotten to remember.
Yes, we still come to God with hands out when we have a need.
But let us also come to Him with hands lifted thankful for those desert moments in our lives where we witnessed His amazing, unmerited faithfulness and provision.
Let’s come to Him with gratitude instead of grumbling, praise instead of pouting, excitement instead of envy or entitlement, to give rather than to receive, serve rather than be served and to worship instead of worry.
And today let us not forget to remember that He is always present, always providing, fiercely fighting and compassionately carrying us through the deserts to our Promised Land.
Summer means pools, picnics and patio parties viewing magnificent sunsets.
Summer also means my close friend and I can meet for lunch.
She is a kindergarten teacher so come August our time together is relegated to evenings and weekends.
Time spent with her is always uplifting, inspiring and fun.
She exudes elegance, positivity and authenticity and lives life with a contagious enthusiasm and infectious joy.
Recently in a conversation we were discussing a painful event she had endured and she said something that resonated with me.
She commented “Well that’s in my rearview mirror and I am moving forward.”
And she did.
Instantly I recalled a favorite scripture.
Paul wrote that he was “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ( Phil 3:13-14).
We are also encouraged to “not remember the former things . . .” because “behold, I will do a new thing . . .” (Isa 43:19).
Much of life belongs in our rearview mirrors.
Learning life-changing lessons in our failures, mistakes, toxic relationships and poor choices is wise and necessary.
Failure to learn results in living life on “repeat” in a vicious cycle of the same mistakes, toxic relationships and poor choices leaving us emotionally depleted with our self-esteem in shambles.
Grudges, resentment, emotional wounds, bitterness and anger if not placed in the rearview mirror will negatively impact our daily lives.
Today is the day to forgive others, forgive yourself and forget what lies behind you.
Had Paul focused on his past we would be without three quarters of the New Testament.
A favorite quotes says “Don’t look back. You aren’t going that way.”
And I would add that if you are going to look back let it be simply to see how far God has brought you.
So, today what or who needs to be viewed from your rearview mirror?
What lies ahead that you desire that you can daily press towards that will result in the life you long for?
I encourage you to forget the past and focus on the present detailing exactly what you want from this moment on and always trusting that yes God is doing a new thing indeed.
The Chic Creative
She kept a jar of miniature candy bars on her desk with a box of birthday candles next to them. I didn’t notice them immediately but they came to play an important role as the school year went on.
Being a shy, insecure, introverted eleventh grader, I was mesmerized by her confidence, elegance and subtle sophistication.
She was well-spoken, worldly and cultured.
I often wondered how she came to live in this sleepy, southern town.
She taught English and Literature and firmly believed possessing proper grammar and a knowledge of beautiful literature could open doors for her students.
Later I learned she was correct.
Walking into her class each day, we quickly knew which student was having a birthday because a “Happy Birthday” sign was displayed on her podium and she gifted them with one of those miniature candy bars complete with a birthday candle taped to the top.
For that one hour of class that student believed he or she was worth celebrating.
She shared her fascination of Beowulf, introduced us to Canterbury Tales and invited us to sail along in Homer’s The Odyssey knowing one could travel the globe with fascinating characters, grow and learn simply by opening the pages of a book.
My essays were always returned with critiques kindly laced with compliments. Little did she realize how much I valued and needed those words of praise.
Each time I sit down to write a blogpost, journal entry or speech, I hear her reminding me of the power, impact and influence of words so always choose them wisely.
She repeatedly stated that education was not limited to the classroom and should not end upon upon graduation contrary to popular belief.
She believed that opportunities, adventures, experiences, people, places, books, music, art, theater, successes and failures are all teachers with life-changing lessons if we will simply listen and always remain curious.
She encouraged me to see beyond my small town and ignited a passion within me to explore the world, study and emulate those I admire and develop my talents of writing and public speaking skills to inspire others.
While waiting my turn to kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland, I remember wondering if she had any idea that day in class when she encouraged her students to create a Dream List, the profound effect it would have on this country girl living in the Deep South.
She granted me permission to dream big without limitations and each time another adventure get’s checked off my list I silently thank her.
To this day I don’t chew gum because she demonstrated in class once how one looks chomping on gum while carrying on a conversation. It was comical yet mortifying. Lesson learned.
Thankfully, she took the time to teach us excellent communication skills and how to express ourselves in an educated, dignified manner, skills I still employ today.
She instilled in me the value of continued learning and acquiring culture which is why I am often found strolling museums, spending countless hours at the library, taking online classes, learning new languages, reading biographies, traveling anywhere, watching documentaries, attending the symphony, shows or the ballet or have my head buried in a book.
My eleventh grade teacher stood shoulder to shoulder influencing my life with another teacher, one who never stepped foot into a classroom yet has spent her life educating and encouraging others in the bounty of God’s love, mercy and grace.
For her, the classroom is anywhere life presents an opportunity whether she is behind the pulpit, standing in the checkout line or sitting in her living room.
Her daily curriculum includes studying the Word, always saying “Yes” when God calls, never writing off those the world has deemed as lost causes and above all practicing what she preaches.
If ever someone walked their talk it is her. If you don’t believe me, ask my friends.
Each time I stand up to deliver a speech, write a blogpost, conduct an empowerment course, guide a client through a strategy session, take someone’s hand in prayer or share my story with others, it is because I watched this teacher live with complete authenticity and never a judgmental spirit.
She encouraged me to move beyond my past, always pursue spiritual and personal growth, step out of my comfort zone, seek to be a blessing, love without expectations and extend forgiveness even when the apology never comes.
Two teachers, two different learning environments, one forever changed student.
It would be impossible to determine how many people these two teachers have positively impacted.
Their legacies will forever continue simply because both answered the call to educate, empower and encourage their students, giving unselfishly of their time, talents, experience and wisdom.
To all the teachers in the classroom and beyond, thank you!
To my teacher Donna McLean – thank you!
To my mother (my greatest teacher) Joanna Barnes – thank you!
Know a teacher who changed your life? Thank them today.
Lately I have been knee deep in dirt, planting, potting, and pruning.
While I am no green thumb, in gardening I have learned much about life.
Social media can be a positive force in creating awareness, encouraging generosity and inspiring change but also a source of negativity, frustration, comparison and criticism.
Facebook allows us to peek inside the homes, adventures and lives of others.
I don’t know about you but I have spent hours scrolling through the “gardens” (lives) of others while my own garden was slowly dying due to neglect.
Overgrown with the thorns of comparison, weeds of pity and procrastination and dehydrated from lack of attention, my garden left me feeling frustrated, left out, cheated and resentful.
From my sofa I lived vicariously through others though my own life pleaded with me to get off the couch.
For years I whined about the life I didn’t have, the life I said I wanted yet I refused to budge because complaining was easier.
I didn’t have to confront my fears, take any risks or be accountable for my actions.
My pity party consisted of me and my overgrown garden with any potential beauty choked by emotional and physical clutter, toxic friendships and unhealthy habits.
My garden was in a sad state because I was too busy constantly comparing my garden to everyone else’s.
I was so engrossed in other’s lives that any goals or dreams I had wilted on the vine with no available space for growth.
It’s a truth I had to own before anything could ever change.
One day while having a “spiritual hissy fit” giving God an earful of poor, pitiful me, He lovingly reminded me of a truth I knew but didn’t want to acknowledge.
My messy, overgrown garden was due to my neglect and if I wanted a different garden, a different me would be necessary.
It was time to focus on cultivating my own fabulous garden so there would be no time to compare or critique anyone else’s.
Although initially overwhelming due to the accumulation of “stuff” physically and emotionally, I was excited to create something beautiful.
Before starting, I had to decide how I wanted to feel as I strolled through my garden.
Calm, peaceful, interesting, exciting, connected, adventurous, elegant, simple, healthy and joyful became my goal.
How do you want your life to feel?
With that in mind, we begin prepping our gardens for planting which requires removing the weeds because in order for the new to grow, the old has to go.
What in your life needs to be pulled up today?
What needs to go, physically and emotionally?
For me it was clutter, old habits, resentment, guilt and feelings of unworthiness.
A gorgeous, quality garden requires quality conditions in which to thrive.
Enjoying a morning prayer and devotional, reading a motivating blogpost, spending time with positive minded people, adopting rituals that refresh us (for me it is smooth jazz, hot baths, long walks and reading), pursuing activities that energize us, listening to an uplifting podcast or music – all contribute to an environment in which our gardens can flourish.
A beautiful garden also needs regular pruning, cutting back to encourage more.
To create space for more of what you want in your life, what or who needs to be cut away?
I ask myself this when I am feeling frustrated, unmotivated or “stuck”.
Sometimes it’s an old belief that no longer serves me, unjustified fears, a relationship past its prime or time stealers like hours scrolling social media.
It is important to remember that life, like gardening is an ongoing process with each season serving a purpose.
When we compare our lives to “her life” it is easy to forget she may be in a different season than we are currently in.
While “she” is losing the weight, meeting the soulmate, scoring the dream job, jetting off every weekend to the beach, moving into the new house, starting the business, leading the small group, we are perplexed and maybe a little envious because it seems nothing is happening in our own lives.
She is not smarter, luckier, prettier, worthier etc than us.
She is simply in a different season.
Only when we become so engrossed in cultivating our own gorgeous gardens, sashaying through each season with grace and gratitude, being fully confident that we too will have a glorious space in which to thrive, then life becomes amazing.
With this new approach, our lives take on grander meaning.
We are now positioned to be introduced to new people, adventures, opportunities and experiences that leave us joyfully breathless and utterly amazed.
Today is the perfect day to begin cultivating our own stunning gardens!