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3 Tips To Finding More Joy - Zuppa Toscano &Olive Garden 

Joy. Even if we don’t admit it, we want more of it in our lives. I’m on a great quest to have the most joyful life that I possibly can. A million dollars would make me extremely joyful, but the older I get and the more I experience, the more I realize that joy does not come from riches – although riches would be nice! 

I find that chasing and obtaining joy is a choice – one that I sometimes fumble, clutch and cry hysterically while laughing. I found myself in such a position this week over the execution of a simple recipe. This week’s lesson on living a joyful life all began with my consuming desire for Zuppa Toscana Soup from the Olive Garden. And since I don’t have a million dollars, I figured I better learn to cook it myself so I could eat it whenever I wanted. 

I bought all the ingredients, from Whole Foods no less, and that simple soup which would have cost me $9.99 for unlimited bowls, salad and breadsticks came to a whopping $22.00 worth of ingredients. But I didn’t complain, there would be left overs and there would be enough to feed me and Jon so I was already coming out ahead. 

It wasn’t until I sat down to cook that the fun began. I cut the potatoes and promptly knocked over the entire bowl. Potatoes flying everywhere and covered in dust and dog hair. I didn’t have enough chicken broth, so I wound up mixing it with beef broth. I had to keep adding salt and it just didn’t taste good. It was brown and bland and I was already having one of those days… and in the long list of other things that had happened that day that I can’t even go into because this would become a five page essay, I once again decided I had two choices. Give up and throw in the towel. Or rejoice in the effort, praise the Lord and use some ghetto ingenuity. Jesus and Ghetto fabulous won out. 

I followed the rest of the directions and then did what any other gourmet chef would do. I tossed in two tablespoons of butter and grated a half of block of Cadmont Sharp Cheese into the soup, added more cream, pepper, garlic and salt, then chopped up the sausage and threw it in to simmer. Yes… cheese and butter make everything taste better and Jon Bush ate two bowls and put some up for work. And I knew he really liked it, we have the type of marriage when one doesn’t like something the other has bought or made we tell each other. After Christmas, we were both exchanging gifts that we had bought each other – LOL. 

Joy, it can be elusive but cooking that darn soup taught me three specific things about the journey to joy that I want to share with you as we go into the new year. 

Find things that have nothing to do with what you usually do to pursue as a hobby. I just started seriously cooking. And I mean seriously, like learning about rues and sauces and marinades. I’ve mastered Brisket, Beef Stew, Quiche and now I make a mean Zuppa. Sometimes learning new things is frustrating but a journey to joy can’t always be filled with victories. Embrace the detours, learn to improvise and laugh when you drop the potatoes. 
Cheese makes everything taste better. Except replace cheese with prayer. Prayer makes everything better. A joyful life is filled with prayer and while engaged in chopping, stirring, grating and tasting, you can also engage in conversation with the Lord. He’s listening and He’s watching, and He loves to hear the sound of you voice. He may even give you some advice on how to make the dish – or your life, even better. 
Don’t be afraid of end result. The worst case scenario with my Zuppa adventure would have been that it would have been so bad that we couldn’t have eaten it. I had already forewarned Jon that this might be the case, so he came in prepared to cook some oven baked fried shrimp, wipe my tears and encourage me to tackle Zuppa another day. And there have been days like this. You can’t think about the money that was wasted or the time that was spent when you could have been doing something else… no, you have to jump in and try – that’s what finding joy on the journey is all about. 

So Zuppa is in the books as mastered dish. Next up creamed spinach! 

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to shoot me a message or leave me a comment. And If you’d like my Zuppa Recipe let me know!

I Didn't Finish Strong! 

 

November came and I realized I'd gained five pounds! Yikes! I looked over my goals and realized I missed a few! Ugh! I had started a new business and was behind on learning the ropes. I was nowhere near finishing the Prayer Journal I was working on.  

I mean I was busy, 2017 has had some triumphs but as the end of another year dawned I wanted to make sure I had hit the mark! So I did what any other occasionally nutty overachiever does. I put together an 8 Week "Finish Strong!" Challenge for my Facebook group. 

Honestly, I started the Challenge strong and then I puttered out. I left those who said they wanted to go on the ride with me hanging, because every time I sat down to work on the plan, there was a new fire to put out, graphic design dramas, new business glitches, blogging issues, an unexpected trip. I wasn't dealing with it well. I finally threw up my hands, did what I could and limped through November. 

Revelation came when I threw up my hands... Hand held high are often a sign of surrender and in surrender comes great peace and in great peace comes great quiet. When you are surrounded by great quiet you can hear the smallest whisper. The Lord whispered when I gave up. Quality not quantity is what people need. Do less, do it better and be more consistent, that's what changes lives. Take time to seek the Living God and rest in His Presence.  

So I didn't finish strong in 2017, I left some things on the table, some things fell through the cracks, I had to let go of some things, forgive

 

some folks, forgive myself. I started some projects that just didn't get finished, but I'm OK with that. Because what's the point of pressing to finish when there was no real purpose, or joy, and forcing yourself to try was never God's plan? 

When I threw my hands up, I was able to refocus my health and wellness activities - back to smoothies and walking miles. I found a renewed passion for the Word and am spending more time reading, studying and seeking intimacy with the Lord.  I'm rolling into 2018 with a very explicit instruction - Quality as defined by the Lord over Quantity that I think is beneficial.  

Yep, I admit it, I didn't finish strong, but I am all the stronger for it! 

Much Love!  
Naima 

If this blog blesses you, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to drop me a note or share your comments on my social media sites! And we are now booking for 2018, if I can be of service through music or speaking please contact me! Email Naima

The True Reason For Eating Clean Part One - Casey Sollock 

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from women is that they have a hard time hearing from God. Though they earnestly seek His guidance, they sometimes can’t find it. 

Does this sound familiar? 

It’s not that He’s hiding; it’s that there are too many things creating static on our line of communication with Him. It’s like when you’re on a call with someone and all the sudden the only thing you hear is white noise. You’ve lost connection. 

We want clear communication with God so He can guide our steps as walk out our purpose here on earth. As we’re moving through life, we need to continually ask for direction from heaven. 

Our responsibility, no, our privilege, is to maintain a clear channel of communication. So often that channel gets muddied. Static on the line! White noise. Then it becomes near impossible to hear the whispers of our Maker. Yikes. 

What creates the static on the line? 

1. Stress 

2. Processed/packaged fake foods 

3. Sugar 

4. Lack of hydration 

5. Lack of nutrition/nourishment (God food) 

 

While those things muddle up our communication heavenward, they also mess things up for our earthly body. It shows up as… 

1. Excess weight 

2. Chronic health issues and disease 

3. Aches/pains 

4. Lack of energy 

5. Lack of confidence 

6. Emotional issues like depression, anxiety 

7. No zeal for life. You almost feel like a shell of yourself. 

 

So, how do you reclaim your health in order to re-establish your heavenward connection? Great question. Glad you asked! 

It’s definitely not a quick fix or about taking a pill. 

It’s about cultivating a new lifestyle. 

It’s a journey of re-connection with self and with God. If you take a pill or opt for a “quick fix,” you’re missing out on this beautiful journey of re-connection. (Also, a ‘quick fix’ isn’t a lifestyle and you’ll fall back into old habits immediately…) 

 

Here are some practical steps to reclaim your health and clear the static on the line to God: 

1. RENEW YOUR MIND. A new lifestyle of healthy eating first starts in the mind. Your thoughts control your actions. Your mindset is imperative for creating the health you desire. We want high-vibrational thoughts and ideas inhabiting your mind. There’s a lot incorporated into this step. 

First, no more negative self-talk. No more fighting with your body. This creates stress in the body and pits your mind against your body. We want your mind, body, and spirit to work TOGETHER to create the health you deserve. It’s the only way. 

Next, be conscious and intentional with your daily choices. No more autopilot. Be mindful when you’re eating and think about why you’re eating. Listen to your body. Third, check your beliefs. Most of us have old beliefs that are keeping us stuck or preventing us from creating the health we want. Things like, “I’m too old,” “I don’t have time,” “There are too many things already wrong,” “It’s too expensive,” “It’s just in my genes, I have no control,” “I’ve always been this way, so I’ll always be this way,” “It’s too hard,” etc. It’s time to re-write your beliefs so that they are supportive of where you want to go with your health. 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Next Steps...

This week focus on renewing your mind so you can clear the static on the line!  Join us next week for the conclusion of this article, three more great tips and a great smoothie recipe for you to try!

Join us next week for Part Two of Casey's Blog!  Until then... Have Questions? Contact Casey Here: Email Casey

The House Is Trashed, The Cat Is Dead & Overwhelm Is At The Door 

Florida is full of roaming cats of every color, kind, shape and size. They gather under crawl spaces, invade your yard and sprawl on your car. They squeeze into impossibly small spaces while scampering on the roof or romping overhead invading your attic. These strays declare your porch their property, sunbathing on your patio furniture and obnoxiously daring you to shoo them away. There was the one in our old home that brought Jon gifts of dead things, but kept our green spaces free of vermin. I named him Skittles. 

In our current house, tucked away in a grove of trees and creeping vines, Patches ruled. She became such a bold fixture that the dogs just nodded respectfully when they came out for their daily walks. Annoyingly imperial, but after a while much appreciated. And well… I guess even loved. 

A few weeks ago, I was pulling out of our driveway and glanced behind the trash can awaiting pick up on our corner. There was Patches lifeless, halfway hidden by greenery.  My heart shattered and boiling tears streamed down for this lone stray cat. It was too much, a tipping point that brought me to a place where I knew I was too tired, stressed and isolated. 

Those tears were for Patches, but they were for so much more. Although I find it easy to share my emotions in story and song it’s hard to share what I’m feeling at the exact moment I’m feeling it. I often live in my head, it’s that melancholy artist personality. But in mourning the loss of Patches I instantly understood that something deeper was going on. 

The last three months had been wearying and seeing Patches, laying there took me over the edge. Bianca, my chihuahua needed major surgery, the second in a twelve-month span. In the midst of trying to grow my businesses and the ministry, my house had gotten cluttered and disorganized. I mean the place was trashed, clothes, books and paper everywhere and laundry piled to the ceiling.  Jon had been involved in a serious car accident, the kind where you walk away only because of the grace of God.  Someone who demanded more than I could give at that moment said something so amazingly nasty to me about my character that it felt like an open handed slapped in the face. My grandmother had gotten ill causing my mother to rush home, Jon was working double shifts and I never saw him and our dear sweet Pastor Sneed from Nashville had passed away. 

How do you have joy when the pressure is so unbearable that you can’t breathe?  How do you keep seeking the face of the One your soul loves when it feels like your life is a jumbled as your unorganized office? 

Sometimes you don’t breathe, sometimes you just hold your breath and stop seeking. I was angry, sulky and tired. I fell into a piece of cake and cursed myself after. I closed my ears pouted and withdrew.  It’s a nasty dark place and I didn’t like it, no, not all.  Finally, I made a decision, it took more energy and facial muscles to frown then it did to smile.  I was done being a prisoner of my own discontent. That’s when the Word of God whispered to my heart… 

Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope! I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles.   Zechariah 9 Verse 12 New Living Translation 

The choice was mine, would I be overwhelmed by the troubles of this life or overwhelmed by His promises?  This is the place where you begin quoting His promises to yourself. This is the time when you turn off the TV, cut out social media and stop comparing your life to the perfectly polished ones displayed on Instagram.  This is when you discover that even Jesus had an inner circle and that it is alright to love people but limit their access to your heart. This is when you take inventory and cut out projects that are not vital to the season the Lord has placed you in. 

These are the choices I made and I sought the Lord and simply asked Him for help. That simple prayer was more than enough and help came, it always does. And as with all things, this to did pass. There is a new car in the driveway and Bianca made it through her surgery.  And just like the Lord put a rainbow in the sky as a sign of His promise, He sent me a promise as well.  As I was driving up my lane a few days ago I saw a young calico cat romping in the neighbor’s yard with a small group of wild kitties. 

Still a kitten but old enough to take care of itself I knew instantly who the cat belonged to. Lo and behold, it was the daughter of Patches…

Naima

 

#personal struggles #faithandfear #fightingoverwhelm  #godspromises #grief

My Doubtful Voice - Maggie Winterton 

That doubtful voice inside my head never goes away. What if this goes terribly? What if it’s too much? What if I am really homesick? What if I don’t make friends and I’m really lonely? Can I even handle this? Do I go through with it? 

I remember the times when I had these same questions running through my head. The times when I sat up at night worrying about a big change. 

I was newly married and about to say goodbye my new husband for (what I thought would be) 2 months. He was about to go to Navy basic training, where communication to the outside world is extremely limited. I couldn’t imagine not seeing (and barely speaking to) him for that long. I didn’t know how I could possibly handle it. 

Of course, I chose to put myself in that situation months before when I accepted his marriage proposal. 

And even though I knew for a very long time that my husband would leave in January, I became more anxious as the date drew closer. Panicked and desperate is a better description. 

Fear was eating me alive in the days before he left, and it would once again a few years later before we would move to our new home in Italy. 

The prospect of our new life in Italy felt so unknown to me that it almost felt like my current life was ending and I was beginning a new one. We really didn’t know what to expect when it came to many aspects of our new command. I still didn’t know a lot of Italian, and it worried me. I had never even been outside the country before. We didn’t know what kind of a home we would have in Italy, or when any of our belongings would arrive. Then there’s always the unknown of deployments. 

And there was an added weight for me: I was now a mother. 

For me, that makes everything a lot worse. My baby deserves the best life possible, and I don’t want anything to jeopardize that for him. I feared that I wasn’t going to have a lot of support out there in the beginning, and my husband could be sailing away at any time. It could just be me and my little boy for long stretches. Could I handle it? I wondered. 

There has to be a reason for this season of my life, doesn’t there? God doesn’t make mistakes. 

What I grappled with pre-Italy (and boot camp) is wondering what God really wants for me. Does He want me to make a big change myself, proactively protecting myself and my family from any hardships to come? Or to go in faith to my Promised Land of sorts and reach out to grab this awesome opportunity? 

My husband went to boot camp. I didn’t stop him. Due to an injury, he was there twice as long. But I still made it. Looking back on those days he was gone, I realize that I really grew as a person during them. And I know I’m certainly a stronger person because of it. 

We went to Italy. It was hard! I still don’t know Italian. I traveled a lot. And, it was worth it. 

No one ever really knows what God wants for our lives. What I do know is that I can’t make decisions out of fear and doubt.

So pray and trust. Try to resist the doubt and fear. And whatever happens, know that God will guide you through.

 

To Learn More About Maggie Click Here!

Trusting In Our Sheperd To Lead Us - Ashley Sauls 

When I first heard Psalm 23, I had an image of a utopic situation where our Good Shepherd leads us uninterrupted through life. As His sons and daughters, we just allow Him to restore our souls and lead us. What a beautiful image. I used to love my interpretation of this scripture. Then I faced a major storm that shook me to my core. I received this very scripture as an encouragement, and I couldn't understand the jewels in it. Where is the Good Shepherd? Where are the green pastures and still waters? How can He possibly restore my soul in this less than ideal environment? 

Then the wisdom came from Psalm 23:4: 

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, 

I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. 

Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (NLT). 

No matter how dark it is, we never have to be afraid. God is always with us. That's the key! When God is with us, we can walk "through" anything and not fear what is going on. We have to learn how to interpret hard times from God's perspective and not our own. When things get tough, our first reaction is to internalize the problem. We wonder, "What did I do wrong?" Sometimes we haven't done anything. The darkness is a transitional place. It is not meant to be a place where we camp out. There are lessons we will learn that bring us into a deeper understanding of God. 

Here are a few lessons we will learn about our Good Shepherd: 

We learn His nature 

He is not a Good Shepherd in theory. He leads us as we allow Him to by way of Holy Spirit. We see Him in action as He shows us in every day moments His commitment to us in good times and hard places. 

We Learn the Extent of His Love 

It is one thing to say God is love. It is another to feel His love through tears and brokenness. If you think back to your darkest places and see how God showed up, it's an experience that is hard to describe. You just know He is supporting you. We see His love in the ways we need at the perfect moments. 

We Learn His consistency 

When has God forsaken you? He never has nor will. God may not answer according to what we want though. He is God and makes decisions from perfection. He has an eternal perspective that goes beyond our momentary discomfort. 

What about this rod and staff? Sounds scary huh. How is that comforting? Our Shepherd disciplines us and corrects us on the journey. He also protects us. It means we don't have to wander around trying to figure things out. He guides us as only He can. 

You may or may not be facing a dark night of the soul. Whether you are (or are not), this Scripture reminds us of promises we can count on daily. Your Good Shepherd is with you. 

To Learn More About Ashley Click Here!

#23rdPsalm #RefreshingLife #Ashley Sauls #thegoodsheperd #walkingwithgod