Have you ever gone back to a place filled with incredible memories and have all those memories come rushing back to you? It is kind of like listening to a song and suddenly being transported back to a special place and time connected to that song. A few weeks ago, I went with my family to visit Baton Rouge, and it was one of the best days I have had in a long time. Returning to a place where Father impacted my life in such a major way brought refreshment to my soul and reminded my spirit of the truths Father taught me there. When I lived there over 18 years ago, I had a complete paradigm shift in my thinking about God and what I thought He thought about me.
Yet before I got to that point, a journey had begun in another college town, Tallahassee, home of the Florida State Seminoles! I am going to be brutally honest ... I did not even pray about where I was going to attend college. I knew I would have to attend an in-state school to use a scholarship I had received. I ultimately chose Florida State because it felt like living in a different state with all of the beautiful trees and hills. Within in a short amount of time, I realized someone had prayed about this decision. My life began to radically change at FSU. I share this to say that Father hears every cry of our heart and the prayers of those who love us. Our prayers for others do not go in vain. I am living proof of that. While I was at FSU, I remember walking downstairs to the lobby of my dorm, Kellum Hall, and I saw a table set up advertising Campus Crusade for Christ. I am sure they were used to people trying to sneak by, but I marched right up and signed up for a Bible study. This was the beginning of Father placing a hunger in my life to grow in new and exciting ways. The young lady at the table was named Anita, and she spent the next few years walking beside me and leading me into a deeper understanding of God’s Word. She was the perfect person to work with me because of her gentle, kind, and nurturing nature. She was also an elementary education major which was an instant connection.
So fast forward a few years ... I am in my senior year at FSU, and I am doing my student teaching, and I am MISERABLE (mostly due to working with a rather negative supervising teacher). I knew Father had told me to “love the children,” yet I started to feel the tug on my heart to go on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. I knew this would involve really stepping out of my comfort zone through raising support and moving to a new place. I ended up going on staff and attending staff training in Fort Collins, Colorado, that summer. I met with a Crusade leader named Joe B. to discuss my campus placement. I thought about going to Georgia or maybe North Carolina. He suggested LSU because he said the staff team would be a great fit for me. At that moment my mind thought two things: 1) that is really far away, and 2) isn’t that the school that did that CRAZY skit at the staff retreat I visited in Panama City?! I trusted Joe would do what was right, and I did of course end up at LSU. My staff team was the perfect fit for me, craziness and all ;-). There were four married couples on the team and five single staff members. I was nurtured by the married couples and fell in love with all of their kids. Yet again, someone, including myself this time, had been praying about this decision. When I first arrived in Baton Rouge and entered the campus, I was surprised and relieved to realize how similar the culture was to FSU. I was enthralled by the beauty of the campus and remember being excited about this new journey in my life.
While I was living there, I began to attend Quail Ridge Bible Church (now named Grace Life Fellowship). The first Sunday I attended, I was completely shocked to see a familiar face from Florida State. One of the girls I had attended church with in Tallahassee, Amy, was sitting there in church. We both freaked out and could not believe it. I learned she was getting her masters at LSU. It was just another one of those gifts from Father allowing me to find a familiar friend in a new and unfamiliar place. The pastor at this church is named Frank Friedmann, and he taught me all about who I am in Christ, yet more importantly, who Christ is in me. Up to this point, I knew Jesus was my Savior and my Lord, but I did not know Him as my LIFE. He wanted to live His life in and through me. He wanted to express His life through my unique personality. He did not expect me to jump through certain hoops for Him to love me or accept me. He accepted me based on the facts of Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, therefore I no longer live. Jesus Christ now lives in me.”
So as I was saying in the beginning of this post, a few weeks ago Kalon and I walked down memory lane in Baton Rouge with our kiddos. We took them by the church Campus Crusade for Christ met in, we drove them by the church we were married in, we took them by our old apartment, and then walked all around the campus. This next excerpt are words my daughter Kaley wrote after I asked her to read through what I had written about my memories so far. This is her writing the story she's heard many times from memory and reflecting on the day from my perspective:
“Then, Christ led me to the love of my life: a man named Kalon Pichon. We had our first date under a tree. Our kids actually got to see the place. Then, Kalon wrote a song about me and the rest was history! And yes…Kalon is beautifully crazy just like all of the LSU kids ;). Kalon and I could not stop reminiscing as we walked around the school. We practically submerged our kids in happy memories.”
Resting in His Love,
I have three beautiful daughters: Abbie (age 19), Alex (age 17) and Avery (age 15). Being their mom is one of the greatest joys in my life, and being married to their dad is another. :) Our church is going through a sermon series titled "Family Matters". The staff have shared some interesting statistics, one being that we have 936 weeks with our children from the time they are born until they graduate high school. Seriously?! That seems like a long time, but it's not. Life moves fast! My girls have grown up so quickly, and I often find myself wondering: Was I there enough? Did I do enough? Did I love them enough? In order to help work through my questions, I sat down and wrote out some words I wanted my girls to have forever. I decided (with some encouragement and maybe a little push from my TWU friends), to share this here too. I hope and pray my girls remember these things, but I also need to be reminded. And maybe you do too.
Dear Abbie, Alex and Avery,
I remember each time I found out I was pregnant and the day each of you were born. Three girls born within four years meant that I would have a little one to rock for quite a while. I thought you would be little forever. But forever actually lasted as long as it took me to type the last three sentences. *sigh* This time last year, Abbie, you graduated from high school and became the first child to leave home for college. I cried for months. Alex, this time next year, you will be graduating from high school and heading off to college. I'm getting teary eyed just thinking about it. Three years from now will be a double whammy. Avery, you will graduate from high school/leave for college, and Abbie, you will graduate from college and begin your teaching career. Avery, how does online college sound?
Recently, I was thinking about the next few years, and I thought about the things I want you to know. Some are serious, some are simple, but all of them, I feel, are equally important.
This one may seem like a given, especially since you have been raised in church, but it is something you have to do for yourselves. You were all young when Grandma passed away in 2004. You may not have many memories of her, but she was a strong godly woman with an amazing relationship with the Lord. She was a godly example to all who knew her, especially your daddy. After she passed away, Dad struggled in his faith. Was his faith genuine or was it based on Grandma’s faith? After much soul searching, his faith became stronger as did his relationship with God. I don’t want you girls to love God because we tell you to. I want you to love God because it is a natural response to a relationship with Him that only you can have.
Success. What is it? We are constantly bombarded with the world’s idea of success. A nice home, a great car, lots of money, etc. All of those things are nice, right? But what does God’s Word tell us about success? I think when we live our lives focused on God and his will we will succeed. His desires will become our desires. The things that matter to Him will matter to us.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what happened is ok, but rather it’s an acknowledgment of a wrong that has been done. When you were little, I didn’t allow you to just say “sorry." You had to say, “I’m sorry for …” Why? Because you needed to take ownership of the wrong you had committed. As a mom, I’ve had to learn to ask forgiveness from you. That’s been a hard lesson to learn. I grew up in a home where forgiveness wasn’t sought, nor was it given very often. I hope that you will forgive and ask for forgiveness often. We have too many people in this world that don’t own up to doing wrong.
The world tells us that strong women can do anything they put their minds to, can be anyone they want to be, and can say anything they want to say. Dad and I have encouraged each of you to pursue your dreams, to try new things and to speak your mind. But none of that matters if you are not living life to the best of your ability. I love this definition of a strong woman: “A strong woman is someone who is walking in her God-given identity, unaffected by the world’s image of the feminine role or the religious pressure to conform to some reduced version of herself.” - Kris Vallotton from Fashioned to Reign. Stand up for yourself. Stand strong in what the Creator says about you and who you are.
Believing in yourself is empowering. Think back to a time when you knew you could do something and you accomplished it. Avery: the first 3 point shot you ever made. Alex: submitting a piece to an art show and getting an acceptance letter. Abbie: that mid-term that you crammed for all night and aced. How did you feel? Amazing, right? That’s what believing in yourself feels like. You gain confidence. You sense your purpose. You can conquer the world. And don’t worry if you fail. Look at it as an opportunity to learn.
The first six months that we lived in Louisiana, we weren’t really there. Our hearts were back in Alabama with our family and friends. As often as possible, we would “go home” for the weekend. We had to learn to be “at home” in Louisiana. It was hard making new friends and finding a new church, but looking back at the moment we decided to be where we were, we began to experience new and wonderful things. Whether you are working a job that gets you through school, or you are in a place temporarily, don’t miss out on the opportunities God has for you there. When we stop looking too far into the future or missing the past, we will learn to enjoy the present moment. Eight years later, I can say that Alabama no longer feels like home. Home is wherever I am with you and Dad.
Cliché, I know, but it’s a good mantra to have. Worrying is a time waster. It can cause stress and wrinkles. But most importantly, it takes away our trust in God. One of my favorite passages is Matthew 6:26-27: "If the God of the universe will take care of the birds, He will take care of you." I’m not saying that I don’t worry because I do, but I also trust that God is going to provide (because He ALWAYS has in the past). He’s got your back. You can trust Him to take care of you.
When you have a bad day, remember it’s only 24 hours long. You just have to get through the next few hours before you get a new start. Bad days will come, but that’s all they are. A day. Twenty-four hours. And when you’re having a bad day, just call your mama. I’ll be happy to listen as you vent and remind you of how awesome you are.
Have a servant’s heart. Invite people over. Feed them. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Share life’s joys and heartaches with them. It doesn’t matter if you eat pizza off of paper plates or steaks off of fine china. Take the time to invest in those around you. Find a way to serve the ones God has put in your life. It may be as simple as listening to a friend share what they are going through or cooking a meal for a family in need. It’s easy to serve the ones we care about, but I challenge you to find ways to serve outside of your comfort zone. The quantity of time spent with someone is never too little when it’s done in love.
When each of you was a baby, we dedicated you to the Lord. As much as we love you, our love does not compare to the love your heavenly Father has for you. When you feel unlovable, know that you are loved. When you make mistakes, know that you are loved. We may not always agree with the decisions you make, but we will always love you. You are loved. You always have been, and you always will be.
You have us. You have your friends. One day, a long time from now, you may have husbands and a family of your own. Relationships are hard work. A good relationship requires communication, trust, and a little give and take. Always keep the lines of communication open. Learn when to speak and when to keep quiet. Be trustworthy and bestow trust. Nurture those good relationships, and recognize what harmful ones look like. And remember, Dad says you can’t date until you're 30.
Pursue your dreams. Follow your heart. Do whatever the cool t-shirts tell you to do. Just don’t earn a degree because you think that’s what Dad and I want for you. God has placed within each of you a talent, a gift, a passion to do something special. Find it. Grow it. Live it. Life is too short to be stuck in a job that you hate, not living life to the fullest. Take time to find out what your best life might look like. If it lines up with the calling you feel God has on your life, then pursue it!
And last but not least…
Laugh until you have to cross your legs. Make that ugly cry face. Sing along to the car radio. Yes, people may stare at you for any or all of the above but not the people who love you. Dad and I, and your sisters, we are your people. I hope you find others to embrace the crazy and become your people. Welcome them into your inner circle.
I hope that you don’t see this as a to-do list but attainable things that might make life a little more enjoyable. Things, I hope, that I have modeled for you. Dad and I love you. Our desire has always been to raise you to be godly women. Girls, we may not be able to give you everything you want, but hopefully we have given you the things you need: LOVE. ENCOURAGEMENT. SECURITY. Home will always be a soft place to land. I’m blessed to be your Mama.
Embrace life to the fullest,
Have you ever heard Father tell you to “Step Back”? I have heard Him say that to me quite a bit over the past few years. For those of you who know me, you know that I tend to be extremely busy and the word “no” never seems to enter my vocabulary. About two years ago, Father started telling me to step back in some areas of my life. I would love to say that I immediately stepped back and never questioned this or fought back, alas, I did not. I was very involved in a leadership role at my school through attending training meetings and being involved with various committees. It came to a point where I had to make a decision about deepening that involvement. I felt like I should take the plunge, but something within me was struggling. Then, the voice of reason from my husband gave me a reality check on the time commitment that it would involve. This was the first of many step backs. I remember at the time being disgruntled and upset about it, yet now as I look at my life, I see the wisdom in that decision.
So while I was attending all these leadership meetings for my school, I had people suggest that maybe I should go into administration. I began to pursue that thought and looked into various ways to get my certification. I was about to start an online program when again I heard, “Step Back,” and my husband confirmed it, along with another special friend. That next year ended up being the beginning of some crazy personal struggles going on in my life. I would not have been able to be a mom and wife, go to work, and take classes. Again, I saw the wisdom in this decision as I look back at the season my life was about to enter.
One of the benefits of stepping back was being able to spend more time on the SHINE Club at Bonne Ecole. All of the hugs and smiles I receive from all of those kids was and is one of the best gifts I receive at school. Father was intentionally removing things from my life to make room for better things. Years ago when Father called me into teaching, He whispered in my ear, “Love the children.” Through being involved with SHINE, I have been able to love many children. I am honored to be able to work with all of them. This year I was able to have an even bigger team for SHINE. There really are no words to describe how amazing all of these ladies are and what a blessing they are to me and the students at Bonne Ecole. SHINE is something that I let consume me at times as well, yet this past year, I had to step back more and allow these ladies to step in. There was a day when I could not come to school at the last minute due to a medical emergency in my family. These ladies stepped in and took over the SHINE meeting for the day. Their ideas and talents have made this year wonderful for the SHINE Club. If I had not stepped back, they would not have been able to step in and SHINE!!
The next step back was a very personal one. I tend to get really involved in the lives of others when they are hurting and struggling. I jump right in many times without thinking of what this will cost me personally (especially in the area of time with my family), spiritually, and emotionally. I got to the point of utter exhaustion. I was so busy helping others and worrying about their problems that I did not realize I was about to be overcome by an avalanche of my own issues. For me, it is easier to step in and help others and ignore my own issues. Father loves me too much to keep me from healing and growing more in my knowledge of who I am in in Christ. That was why He said to step back and take care of myself. That is a REALLY hard thing for me to do, yet it has been one of the best decisions of my life. You see when you finally stop helping everyone around you, it opens the door for others to actually step in and help you. I am so used to being in the role of helping others that it felt very weird to start asking people to help me.
I began to really need to ask for help when I had some family members go through some major health battles, and I had to ask MANY friends to help me and to help them. I have never been so overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of others until I went through all of this. I had friends from school and church bringing food to my family members, come and sit with them and pray with them in the hospital, come and sit with me and bring food to me, and I even had some who went and decorated my door at school. I needed to learn how to receive from others. Let me tell you … it was a struggle for me. I felt like I caught myself constantly apologizing to people. I remember having some friends stop me as I was apologizing and tell me what a blessing it was to give to me. I knew that I needed to receive these gifts of love from all of them. I have grown so much in this area, and I am learning to say, "I cannot do this on my own; can you help me?"
Father wants me to live in a state of dependence on him, not in a state of independence. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
Stepping back does not mean disengaging from life and becoming a hermit. It means I am in a place where I am learning to say no and knowing that it will be alright. I was not made to do everything and be in the middle of everything. My prayer for all of you is that you are able to discern areas where you need to step back and reevaluate. My pray is that Father will whisper into your ear and speak words of truth as to who you are and whose you are. Below I have included Dennis Jernigan’s interpretation of Zephaniah 3:17. As you read these words, imagine Father speaking them over you.
The Eternal, self-existent God
The God who is three in one
He who dwells in the center of your being
Is a powerful, valiant warrior
He is come to set you free
To keep you safe
And to bring you victory.
He is cheered
And He beams with exceeding joy
And takes pleasure in your presence
He has engraved a place
For Himself in you
And there He quietly rests
In His love and affection for you.
He cannot contain Himself at the thought of you
And with the greatest of joy
Spins around wildly
In anticipation over you
And has placed you above all other creations
And in the highest place in His priorities
In fact, he shouts and sings in triumph
Joyfully proclaiming the gladness of His heart
In a song of rejoicing...
All because of YOU!!
Resting in His Love,
As women, we are incredibly busy. Whether you stay at home, or work outside the home, have a husband and children, or are single, life is just fast paced. Our schedules are full of things to do – some we want to do, some we have to do, and some we feel obligated to do. We want it all, and to be it all. The best wife, the best mom, the best at our career, the best ... the list could go on and on. Being the best comes with a cost, though.
With all those things, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Ever been there? The kitchen full of dirty dishes is enough to bring you to tears because you just can’t figure out how to manage one more thing. The deadlines looming over you at work seem unattainable, and there is still dinner and bath time to face once you finish the long day. Life is hard – but being overwhelmed with it can steal your joy. Personally, I am on a mission to keep my joy and avoid that feeling of being overwhelmed.
I have tried to mold my to-do list around a very simple verse: “Let every detail of your lives – words, actions, whatever - be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way” (Colossians 3:17, The Message). For years, when I heard anyone talk about that verse, it was about your attitude. I was reminded to have a good attitude at work, at home, with others, because that glorified God. While I definitely do believe that our attitudes should be Christ-like (or attempt to be, because we are human), I think that it also applies to what we choose to do, or not do.
Last summer, I took on something new, adding to my to-do list: I started graduate school. This decision was one that I prayed over, and was sure was God’s will for me. So of course, I needed a good attitude about it, but I also needed to do it well. Doing something half-way definitely doesn’t bring glory to God, right?
So, I started my summer off from school (I’m an educator, so I technically have summers off), by taking two classes. I soon realized I was going to have to do some juggling – those two classes added about 25-30 hours of work into my schedule each week! I struggled to keep my four year old entertained, my house clean, laundry done, spend time with my husband and get the required work done well. I struggled with not meeting the expectations I had set for myself in all those areas of my life. I knew in August I would also be adding in work-related responsibilities, and I was overwhelmed. I could not do it all, or be it all. Not well, anyway. My joy was gone.
But then I realized something important. I do not have to be it all, or do it all. I need to do what I do for God’s glory and stop trying to be Superwoman. When I spread myself thin, I cannot do anything for God’s glory, and am overstepping the purpose He has for my life. I might even be doing tasks that God meant for someone else so they could fulfill their purpose. I am letting my joy be stolen and stealing opportunities from others. That is not the way I wanted to live any longer.
I decided to be who and what God wants me to be – that is more than enough! I began saying no to extras, let my family help me around the house, and tried to not accept guilt over what I did not do. I struggled with that last part the most – the guilt. It was hard to not meet the expectations of those around me, but not as hard as taking on the expected task when I couldn’t do it well. People do not define my purpose, God does.
I am sure this change in priorities has upset a few people around me. It may have inconvenienced someone who was expecting me to get a job done. But it has provided blessings, too. My husband has helped so much at home, and that has further deepened our relationship and appreciation for one another. My daughter has learned how to do some basic chores, and is learning to find joy in serving others. My load has lightened, and my joy has returned. I know that my life is less busy, but much more full. I am living on purpose, and it has brought joy and contentment. I am accomplishing the things on my list (even those “have to” things that no one likes) well.
We each have a purpose in life, and God-given responsibilities. But often, we take on other tasks beyond that. No one else is willing, we feel guilty saying no, we have always done that too ... but how often do we ask ourselves if by doing it we are bringing God glory? If you are too tired to do a task well, unhappy about it, or doing it out of obligations, it is likely not bringing God glory. This could mean two things. Maybe that task was never God’s purpose for you, and it was really meant for someone else. Let them fulfill their purpose, and focus on yours. Or, if it is what God has for you, something else needs to be let go so you can do it well for God’s glory. Keep your to-do list simple. Focus on what God has purposed for you, and leave the rest alone. Do whatever you do for His glory.
As we all face busy lives, I pray that you will find the courage to evaluate your to-do list, and to focus your energy on only what will glorify God. I pray you will be full of joy and peace knowing you’re right where He wants you, and let that be enough.
Keep living life on purpose,
Oh, hey! Remember us? Hopefully you didn't forget us because we certainly haven't forgotten you. In fact, we've been busy planning for you and dreaming about the future of Total Woman U and all the ways we want to connect with you. You may or may not have noticed that we haven't blogged since last August. Life gets busy doesn't it? I could list off reasons explaining why we lacked time for writing and posting and tell you of all the celebratory things and hard things that have happened in the individual lives of our team and in our organization as a whole, since we last posted here, but I won't do that. Instead, what I will do is say that our goal and plan is to get back here! We want to do the big moments with you, like events, but we also want to do the in betweens with you. I have a new appreciation for the in betweens in life lately. I recently wrote this [obnoxiously long] rambling of thoughts on Facebook regarding the in betweens.
Let's call our absence from blogging a big ol' in between. I'm not sad it happened. SO many big, hard, and beautiful things happened in all of our lives during those away months. And a whole lot of small seemingly mundane things happened too. But I/we are making a pact to recognize and cherish moments, BIG AND SMALL, with you. I recently was reminded from a message I can't get out of my mind by Louie Giglio that we only get one life. I, you, we, just one life! When we let life pass us by and don't take time to intentionally recognize the beauty of EVERYTHING--big moments, small moments, in between moments--life feels fleeting and like it's rushing passed us and sometimes even like we're missing it. I want to make the most of this life I've been given, the chances I have to share my Jesus with the world, to keep telling and retelling the story of the Gospel, to keep sharing and writing and posting and telling all the big and small things God does in my life, to use the voice God has given me to make much of His name. One life, y'all. Jesus is coming back in our time or after our time. But regardless, He's coming (praise hands FOR REAL), and we only get one life on earth to be a vessel used by Him.
So all that to say, we never stop planning for the events and all the big things TWU does, but as a team we feel called to you! To plan and create big moments like events, but to live out all the in between moments with you too. To share our lives with you. To speak the words of truth, vulnerability, the funny stories, the serious lessons, and teachable moment after teachable moment that God gives us. We want our messy lives and moments to be part of and connect with your messy lives and moments too. Expect us to start posting here again regularly, and also be on the lookout for some exciting things happening through our ww, Twitter, and Instagram for some exciting things happening to keep you connected to us and us connected to you (hint: GIVEAWAYS!).
Let's make our own rules,
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