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You Are God's Creation - Guest Post by Ramelle T. Lee 

You Are God’s Creation 

By Ramelle T. Lee ©2017 

Meditation Scripture: (Psalm 139:14 KJV). 

 

“ I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 

Marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” 

 

YOU ARE VERY SPECIAL!    You are one of a kind!  You are unique in many ways. What has God done in your life?  Do you realize what He has uniquely done to make you so special?  You were born with something special and unique.  Your characteristics are not like anyone else. You are God’s unique creation.  You don’t really understand how wonderfully you were made. 

Have you ever taken the time to look in the mirror to see yourself as God sees you?  Are you happy with whom you have become?  Do you like who you are?  What are your thoughts and opinion of what you look like to God?  How do you feel?  It’s time that you discover who you are in God.  Keep your eyes opened to see who God has made you to become.  You are a miracle made in God’s image, His likeness.  You may not always feel significant, important or worthy.  However, you must get a new attitude and disposition about yourself.  It is time to come away from negative people who will destroy the true you!  Stay away from situations that will bring you down! 

God has planted or placed you in this world to be a part of His kingdom.  God can use you!  He wants you to help change lives.  He can work in your life if you let Him!  You can help others because there is something extra special about you.  You can give others hope. They will be lifted inspired and encouraged!  Your life will be a light to show them how to see Jesus.  They will learn of His power and work as you allow Him to work through you. 

You are unique and needed by the Lord.  Sure, you have experienced sorrow and hurts in your life that have caused you pain, suffering and grief.  But, God has kept you through every storm or hard-time.  No matter what Satan has done, God has been there for you.  He brought you through to be victorious! In God’s eyes, you are newly created!  You are a new person! God made you anew when you accepted His Son, Jesus Christ. You made the right choice to allow Jesus into your heart. 

Now, this has opened the door for Him to enter in to show you the way to live a better life. God has transformed your way of thinking.  Now, you can see Him more clearly.  As you read God’s Word in the Holy Bible, your life will ultimately change from the inside out. You will become reborn, changed and empowered with a brand new life in Christ!  The love of God will live inside of you.  He will lead and guide your every step. 

Realize that God has given you His power to further build your character. With His help, you will be able to tear down false images or thoughts of hopelessness.  You will see that they can interfere with who God has called you to become. When you were formed in your mother’s womb, God already had His hands on your life. 

You are somebody special to Him.  You were always created to share His love with people.  You have been chosen to be used by God. You have been given a mandate or godly orders to take God’s Word everywhere.  Stand for what is right, true and honest.  God has placed His Words in your heart.  You are equipped to share His love.  You can help those who are not living for God!  You have His power to reach out to those who are uncertain or unsure as to whom they are in Christ.  You can help them to discover who God has created them to become. 

Proudly serve God, the Almighty Master of the Universe.  Follow the Holy Spirit as He leads your life.  You will receive God’s blessings.  Every false thought or image of yourself will be destroyed!  You are God’s amazing creation! There is nobody like you!

 

Ramelle T. Lee is a poet, author of four books, speaker, businesswoman, radio co-host and a staff writer for The Lamp Newsletter.  In 2006, she founded Touching Your Heart Ministries to reach people who feel hopeless, deeply hurt, rejected, wounded and brokenhearted.  She is also a CEO of Treasures from Heaven Ministries and a leader in several other organizations. 

For more information or to contact Ramelle: Touching Your Heart Ministries 

P.O. Box 119 Lincoln Park, MI 48146-0119 

(313-680-4429) Ramelleskip@aol.com

 

Repost - A Prayer For The Singles by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush 

A Prayer tor the Singles 

February, the month of flowers, proposals and lots of chocolate, which as a big girl is soooo not a good thing!  As a single woman I remember running the gamut on emotions during this time of year.  There were the, I’m so depressed moments and the, I hate men moments.  Which were often followed by the, I don’t care if I’m alone moments, the I’m so jealous I can turn green moments and the moment that signifies you’ve made your peace with Christ,  I’m just gonna hang out with my girls cause I’m alone and I’m going to have a good time, even if I feel a little sad sometimes.  

Coming to terms with being single is easier said then done for some of us.  I don’t know if I ever came to terms with the crushing loneliness that sometimes invaded my space.  I never fully made peace with my singleness and I know that it is often preached in many singles groups – make peace and then “The One!” will show up.  But it didn’t happen like that for me.   

Instead I simply surrendered with a prayer that went – “I don’t want to be single, You know I don’t want to be single, and You desire truth from the inward part so I’m telling You that I don’t like the thought of being single all my life.  But I know You know what’s best for me, and I trust that You will do right by me. So if being single is what’s best for me, I trust You to carry me through.” 

I meet Jon not long after that and we were married in less then nine months.  What was I doing when I met my husband?  I was singing – doing what I was called to do.  After 18 years of waiting I get to celebrate, but for many a dark Valentine’s Day Jesus sustained my heart.  I pray He do the same for you if you’ve been waiting for a few years or many years, if you are a widow and desire a mate, a divorcee or a new Christian.   Be about your Father’s business and let His plan unfold. 

Check out my stories of singleness and being newly married in my book, Lessons From The Back Seat  

And in the meantime, I'm praying for and with you! If you desire a mate and have been waiting and would me to add you to my prayer list, leave me a comment or shoot me an email! naima@ministryofnaima.com

Tell The Devil Nuts! 

Tell The Devil Nuts! by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder of the Refreshing Life with Naima

*This post originally appeared in the Naima Newsletter and original blog in June of 2015.

 

Here’s a tidbit that most people don’t know about me.  I love watching war movies, as a matter of fact one of my favorite movies of all time is, When We Were Soldiers.  I can watch that movie over and over again.  Recently, I got a chance to watch, Band of Brother’s Series on HBO, a WWII docudrama that focuses on the experiences of the paratroopers who landed behind enemy lines during the invasion of Normandy.  My favorite part comes near the end when the 101st division is surrounded by the Germans at the town of Bastogne in Belgium. Dealing with a brutal winter, a lack of supplies and an overall weariness, the division Commander is issued a demand to honorably surrender by his enemy.  General McAuliffe who was in charge at that time responded to the German commander one word, “NUTS!” 

Despite the opposition, the appearance of defeat, the lack of resources, General McAuliffe told his greatest enemy in no uncertain terms, “You sir, are crazy, I will not stand down.”  Shortly after McAuliffe wrote that one word in faith, the 101st was resupplied and joined by a fresh division and were instrumental in bringing to end one of the most horrid and brutal events in world history.  It was almost as if his very defiance changed the atmosphere and shifted the war in the favor of right. 

What I’m learning is that as Christians we need to take the same approach.  We need to look the devil in the eye, and let him know that the Creator of Heaven and Earth is on our side and we will not back down.  We need to remember that no matter what it looks like or feels like, God has a greater plan that He is working out on our behalf.  Fresh supplies and reinforcements are on the way!  By faith we have to take a step towards victory declaring that we know by faith it is right around the corner! 

When things go wrong, I’m going to start to yell, “NUTS!”  It is going to be my war cry that I will not be defeated, but rather that I trust the perfect plan of God.  If you are struggling, sick, can’t seem to find your way, if you are in need, if you’ve been fighting and you are tired, yell, “NUTS!” Then start to praise the Lord!  Use the word to declare that the very thought of you being on the losing side is crazy because the Lord of all is sending fresh supplies, angelic and human reinforcements to hold you up.  We will not surrender, even when it is the darkest night!  God has declared the time of victory is now, NUTS to anyone or anything standing in your way!

The See Saw 

The See Saw by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder, The Refreshing Life with Naima

Balance… that’s what I’m learning these days. Sometimes life is like a tipping scale, or a see saw, spend too much time on one area and the see saw goes wacky and tosses everything on the other end high into the air! My see saw has my personal life on one end and my ministry/professional life on the other. Over the last month I’ve seen that see saw totter back and forth unevenly most of the time. I’ve seen quite a few things go flying as well! And the fall out has not always been good… have you ever seen a little kid get tossed from a see saw, there is usually blood involved in those crash landings. I personally have been on the losing end of a see saw battle, dropped so hard my teeth chattered and my backside ached. I’ve been flung so hard and high I had to grip the little handle for dear life. 

What I’ve been learning over the last month is that it’s ok to let the see saw swing, you can’t always keep it perfectly balanced although for your own mental health and spiritual peace you should try.  You should also know when not to try so hard. Christ should always remain in the center… think of Him as that brave older kid who stood in the middle of the see saw balancing perfectly as you rode up and down. A good see saw ride should be smooth, going up and down equally, with little stress and with great rhythm. The point is to enjoy the ride! If you have a dream, a ministry, a desire deep in your heart that your working towards make sure you’re taking time to balance the see saw, let Christ stand in the middle helping you to balance and enjoy the ride! 

 Keeping Balance 

- Stay in prayer, keep Christ in the center 

- Make time to read your Word, pray, meditate and be involved in church 

- Determine what your priorities are and make decisions for your life based on these priorities 

- Schedule personal time and stick to it 

- Take care of yourself, exercise and eat right 

- Don’t work after the time you’ve set as the end of your work day 

- Deal with problems right away, don’t be afraid of confrontation, handle conflict in a Christ like manner 

- Always pause to listen to your loved ones

- NO is and always will be, a complete sentence.

Want to learn more about Balancing your life? Contact me for more information about, Joy School, a program specifically designed to bring more joy, more prayer and more thankfulness into your life! Contact Naima!

 

You Are Much To Old! 

You Are Much Too Old by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder of the Refreshing Life

Recently I was reminded of The 2nd Annual Called to Sing Retreat that occurred in 2011.  It was an amazing gathering of artists who came from as far away as Maryland and the mighty Midwest of Illinois.  Artists eager to do a great work for the Lord, seeking direction, encouragement and a community of like minded psalmists who understood their special needs. 

As I reflect back, the most interesting thing about the group was all of the artists in attendance except one were over the age of 30.  That’s like being a senior citizen in the world of contemporary Christian music.  I remember my first experience with a major Christian Artist organization when I left my day job to pursue this God given dream fulltime.  I was told in no uncertain terms at the rip age of 32 that I was much too old to expect a record deal or have a viable career as an artist.  I left that conference feeling discouraged – in their opinion, and they were the gatekeepers, I was too old to be worthwhile to mainstream Christian music. 

After drowning my sorrows in cake, I decided that I wouldn’t let anyone tell me what Jesus could and could not do.  If He wanted me to have a record deal, dog gone it, I’d have it.  Since then, I’ve started my own label seen and done some incredible things in ministry and have been able to sustain myself as an artist for almost 20 years.  Am I rich, nope, do I have national exposure – nope.  But I am happier then I ever was working in an office confined to the limits of other people’s faith.  And I believe, I’ve made a difference and touched a few lives in the process. 

A friend and fellow artist Katie Peltier once said that Christian music seemed to be one of the only industries that closed the door on your entry after a certain age, which is completely contradictory to what the Bible says about age.  The Bible says in Proverbs 16 verse 31 that, Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.  And I gotta a few gray poking through this blonde wig.  Or in Job 12 Verse 12, Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. 

What I know now, what I have experienced and learned in my early 40’s can in no way compare to what I knew when I was in my 20’s or even 30’s.  I’m a better artist because I know about struggle, loneliness, extreme joy, Godly love and loss – in multiple ways and from multiple perspectives.  I’m not saying young whipper snappers don’t have anything to say – I could be my current producer’s mother if I’d had a baby at 17!  I’m saying that a multitude of life experiences make for a richer artist so don’t count me out cause I’m older then what a record label thinks is marketable. 

So I want to encourage someone if you are an artist or not… someone told you it’s to late, you’re to old, it will never happen for you.  Don’t believe the lie of the devil.  Get moving on that dream, that desire, that goal.  You have much to share with the world and as long as there is breath in you, it’s never to late!  

As for me, I’m leaning on Psalm 92 Verse 14, 

And you know what, I’ve only just begun, sit back and watch me burn… I got things to do and places to go for the Lord.  I’m on a great adventure, will you join me? 

I'd love to know your thoughts! Please leave a comment and let me know! If you are looking to launch your ministry or God given dream and you'd like a little help, pick up a copy of Dr. Nay's Guide To Achieving Your God Given Dream - get it on www.amazon.com today!

This Is Not A Punishment 

This Is Not a Punishment by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder, The Refreshing Life

How do you reconcile praying for something and feeling like the answer is no, and will always be no? I have tried my best to handle my infertility with grace and most importantly with faith. Walking through the stages of mourning from questioning, to anger, to bitterness and grief.  Finally making peace with my empty arms despite wanting to hold on to the dream with mustard seed faith. Trying to believe and receive the prophetic words that still come declaring that there will still be a child. 

But at forty-seven all I can do is say, “I believe, help my unbelief, let Your will be done!” 

We always planned to adopt so bringing foster children into our home with a husband who was adopted was just part of the dream and we shared with our Social Worker that we only wanted to foster children that were ready to be adopted, those already in need of a forever home. 

When they plopped a two-year-old and a two month on our doorstep we were ecstatic. And then we got to court, and we met mom and much became clear.  She had no intention of giving up her children, she didn’t appear to be a drug addict or unwilling – rather she seemed like a young mother who had fallen on hard times and needed some help.  What were we suppose to do in that moment when the Social Worker asked if we wanted to keep them while she got things together? And even more alarming to me, we were asked if we wanted to keep them both. I was appalled, we were already in love with them and they were siblings, we don’t separate siblings, no – we don’t rock like that. 

I have to be honest, I was heartbroken, but I wouldn’t admit it.  It looks like I will love and raise them for a season and then give them back. My gut twists even writing the words. With so many people clamoring to tell us congratulations, to give us helpful items, to step in and help us care for them, makes the burden all the harder to bare. 

These are not my children, although I am charged to love them like Jesus loved them, and quite honestly, I would give my life for them.  I already mourn the day when I have to pack them up and send them on their way.  And I must admit it is really difficult not to let bitterness creep in while the devil is whispering in my ear… "God made you infertile, now He's given you children that can never be yours." that's enough to allow bitterness more then a foothold in my life.

I wrestle with the perception that the Lord knows my mother’s heart, He knows the grief of my infertility. He knows how I’ve cried in the middle of the night and felt like less then a woman because I could not birth a living legacy. Children are a legacy of the Lord. That’s what the scripture says. 

This denial often teases me to think that I am being punished.  Have I done something to offend the Lord that He would allow me to watch my former youth group kids have numerous children, or the young ladies who I prayed with in Nashville for husbands now having beautiful additions to their families? Or what about all the women who take this enormous gift from God and destroy it? 

I have cried out to the Lord seeking the answer, asking how have I offended You? Have I not loved enough or served enough or given enough? And the heavens remained silent. Until I came across the following passage of scripture: 

 “What a wonderful God we have—He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does He do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we undergo sufferings for Christ, the more He will shower us with his comfort and encouragement. 

 We are in deep trouble for bringing you God’s comfort and salvation. But in our trouble God has comforted us—and this, too, to help you: to show you from our personal experience how God will tenderly comfort you when you undergo these same sufferings. He will give you the strength to endure.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-8 

It’s a hard pill to swallow but His word never lies. The Lord must really want to comfort, strengthen and help me walk this broken road. This isn’t a punishment. Somehow my infertility, the potential loss of these babies that have nestled under my heart, are burdens that I must let Christ carry through me. These are seasons I must walk through so that someone else might be comforted in their own time of questioning, uncertainty and grief. 

When I accepted the call to be an encourager of God’s people, I never knew when or where I’d have to encourage others. I choose to accept in this moment, infertility as a blessing, not for me but for someone else who is walking through this shadow. And if I should pack these children up and send them on their way, I choose to believe that this is not a punishment either, but somehow this part of the journey will be one more opportunity to run into the arms of my Father, who sometimes makes decisions that are in my best interest, but I won’t understand until I’m older.

And later on, I’ll be able to encourage someone else to do the same.

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to share your comments and questions below.

 

#adoptionstory #adoptionjourney #fostertoadopt #infertility #copingwithinfertility #infertilityandfaith

#fostermom #griefandfostering

 

Photo Credit: Image by MorningbirdPhoto from Pixabay

The Joy Challenge! 2019 

The Joy Challenge 2019 by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder, The Refreshing Life

#storiesoffaith #findingjoy #joyfulliving #lifeofjoy

I'm on a mission to bring more joy to my life. I have a habit of worrying to much, forgetting to live in the moment and letting go of things I have no business hanging on to. So for the next few months I am starting a grand journey, launching off into the deep to hear the laughter of Jesus... I am trying to learn to live in the pleasure of the Father.  

That means more then just doing things that are fun and make me laugh.  Learning to live in the pleasure of the Father means sometimes doing the hard and scary things like being a witness, serving in areas that are a challenge for me, being bold in sharing the gospel.

It means reaching for deeper intimacy with the Lord, immersing myself in His Word, seeking His face and finding refreshing in prayer, in learning to discern that still small voice again and moving quickly to do what He has called me to do.  

And it also means being downright silly, sometimes eating the ice cream, rejoicing in the love of my husband and playing tea party with the toddler who has taken over my home and heart.

Life is short and I don't want to live it worried about how long we'll have these children in our lives, if my liver disease will take me out, wishing I spent more time reading my Bible, sharing His word and singing His song. 

This month I commit to resurrect my joy, like Christ resurrected from the grave! And I'm going to start with picking things off my list - 100 Ways To Find More Joy In Your Life to try to bring a smile to my heart.

This month, I commit to doing at least 10 things on the list to the right of 100 Ways To Have More Joy... this is only the first page, but I'd love to share all 100 with you!

So, I'm on a journey to joy and I expect it to be a wild ride. I'm rolling with Jesus and I'll be documenting the journey with pictures, videos and blogs. Who wants to roll with me?

I'd love to hear your comments or questions. And if you are interested in following along or going on this journey with me email me simply saying, I want to go on the journey! Journey To Joy Sign Up

Want a copy of all 100 Ways To Bring More Joy To Your Life?

Get your digital download here:

100 Ways To Have More Joy! 

Picking Weeds... 

Picking Weeds by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder, Refreshing Life with Naima

When I was a little girl, I thought that dandelions were the most beautiful flowers in the world.  Every spring they would pepper the project grass plots and I’d climb over the little chain link fence to pick a few and hand them as an offering of love to my mother. Bless her heart, my mom would take them up to our stuffy New York apartment and put them in water.  Can you imagine how hurt my feelings were when I discovered that those perky little yellow buds were not flowers, but in fact weeds? 

Life is like that… it’s all about perspective when you think about it.  What do you see when you look at the wide world and the life you are blessed to be living? Do you see your life as a garden overgrown with the white wisps of future weeds? Or do you see flowers that spread like wildfire with the ability to express the sacredness of love? 

I have always lived by the mantra that, “What you call it, it will become.” 

If you call a child stupid or ugly or unwanted long enough, they will listen and believe what you say and act accordingly.  If you call yourself stupid, or ugly, or unworthy, then pretty soon you’ll take on the false attributes of these titles. Even though the Lord has never called you any of these things… 

What if we took the ugly bits of our lives and began to call them great things, what if we called them God things? What if instead of us always complaining about our bodies, our eyes, our voices, our jobs, we began to call ourselves fearfully and wonderfully made?

What if we started looking at life and instead of thinking nothing will ever change, we started thinking about the promises of God – that all things were working together for our good? That we could cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us, that we were fearfully and wonderfully made? 

What would life look like if we started seeing flowers instead of weeds? 

And what joy would we have if we gathered those weeds and handed them as an offering of love to the Creator of the Universe? 

April 5th is National Dandelion Day… (Seriously) what are you going to do about it!?

I'd love to hear your feedback, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me a message.  And if this blog blessed you, please share it with someone who might benefit from it. 

#nationaldandelionday #findingmorejoy #joyonthejourney #fearfullyandwonderfullymade

The Year of No! 

The Year of No! Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder of The Refreshing Life with Naima

I have a problem with guilt… even when I don’t have anything to feel or be guilty about.  I take on the weight of the world, the obligations of others, the responsibility of other people’s stuff.  And at the end of 2018 I found myself tired of burdens that I had picked up when no one, not even The Good Lord, asked me to.  Or burdens that I picked up not because Jesus directed me to, but because people asked me to and I felt like I couldn’t say no. Because after all, if someone asked for something, what would Jesus do? He’d give them what they needed, wouldn’t He? 

I had a revelation.  Sometimes when we ask the Lord for something, He tells us, “No!”  When Paul asked the Lord to remove that thorn from his side, what did the great I Am that I Am say? He sure didn’t say yes, it was more like… “My grace is sufficient for you!” (2 Corinthians 12:9) In other words, the Lord told Paul, “Um… No, I’m a need you to deal with that one.” 

Because sometimes no is what is best for us at that moment in time. And if the Lord sets the example we are suppose to strive to follow, then shouldn’t we be ok with saying no as well? What if our failure to say no when we should, stands in the way of God’s grace? What if someone else is called to do it but can’t cause there we are doing it? What if the Lord wants to get the job done with a miracle? Yikes… 

When the Lord says no to a request, He is not saying no to loving us, but rather, no to a specific request we have made of Him for His own personal reasons.  I recently heard on a podcast, when you tell someone no to protect yourself or to protect them, you are not saying no to the relationship, you are only saying no to that one commitment. The next time, you may say yes. 

I also have a problem believing in myself. I have held onto limiting beliefs, missed opportunities, failed to follow up, fell back into bad behaviors, been inconsistent, silenced my opinions and gone out of the way to accommodate others, even when accommodating them was not what was best for me.   

And now, on the cusp of a New Year, a fresh beginning, I am tired. 

Each year I select one word that describes my intentions for what I’d like to see happen in my life. The words have varied over the past few years from healed to fruition… and this year when praying about what my guiding word should be, one word resounded clearly in my spirit. 

No. No is a complete sentence. No means stop and pause and ask the Lord before doing something you personally feel obligated to do but don’t want to do. No means sometimes putting yourself first and being assured of your own boundaries. No means, that guilt has no place in your life if the answer no comes from a pure heart and a genuine inability to accommodate the request for whatever reason that has been purposed in your heart. 

So, this year I am saying no… No to other people’s expectations. No to my own personal guilt, low self esteem and bad habits. No to being afraid to say no! I am saying No to not saying yes when I should and saying no when I shouldn’t. I am especially saying no to doing things without consulting the Lord and finding myself miserable, exhausted and joyless because I’m somewhere doing something I didn’t even have to do! 

Sometimes the Lord says no… and I want to be just like Him.

I'd love to hear your comments, please feel free to leave them below!

#personalboundries #learningtosayno #christianlifestyle

 

How To Choose You In 2019 

How to Choose You in 2019 - Guest Post by Cheryl Lacey Donovan

 

Love your neighbor as “YOURSELF” Matthew 22:39 

Imagine sitting at you desk at the age of 35. All of a sudden you have difficulty breathing, your chest is racing, your arm is hurting, and you begin to sweat. Every thought imaginable crosses your mind. 

Eventually you find the strength to summon someone into your office and they tell you that you don’t look so good. A call to 911 and a subsequent hospital say let you that it could’ve been worse. This time it was only anxiety. Next time you might not be so blessed. 

That was me several years ago. It was in that moment that I realized the importance of taking care of me. 

Choosing yourself is a crucial part of your success and happiness in life. While some may see this as selfish the truth is selfish people always choose themselves, but those who choose themselves aren’t always being selfish. 

Choosing you simply means that you put yourself first when it’s necessary; you take your own health and feelings into consideration and, when necessary, you put those feelings and needs over the wants of others. People who are merely selfish always put their needs and wants over the needs of others. 

So how can you start to choose yourself? 

1) Stop and Think Before You Just Say Yes Out of Politeness 

This was probably one of the biggest lessons I learned. While it’s good to be open to new things, taking on too much work or too many obligations can overwhelm you and harm your overall mental health. 

Instead of immediately saying yes, why not pause and reflect on your own needs. Then get back to the person later with your answer.  

Can you take on more work or another event? 

Can you handle a party, or do you need to go home and recharge your batteries? 

It’s okay to politely decline an invitation or to help someone when it’s necessary. 

2) Treat Yourself with Kindness 

Part of choosing yourself is treating yourself well. If you don’t treat yourself kindly and with respect, how can you expect others to do it? Stop being so hard on yourself; we all make mistakes, choose poorly, and miss the mark sometimes. 

Give yourself a break and forgive yourself for your errors; as long as you learn from them, it’s all a part of life. A good way to practice this is by giving yourself pep talks throughout your day. 

You don’t have to do this out loud, but the act of deliberately thinking positive and inspiring thoughts about yourself will help you to overcome this obstacle and improve your self-esteem and confidence. 

3) Speak Up for Yourself 

Another big part of choosing yourself is standing up for yourself and your beliefs. You matter just as much as anyone else and so does your opinion. Practice stating your opinions, views, wants, etc. and standing up for yourself when necessary. You’re important and you deserve to be heard. 

4) Take Care of Yourself 

Part of getting into the habit of choosing yourself is choosing to take care of yourself. You’re only given one body and one life; you need to take care of it. 

Eat healthy food, exercise regularly, maintain proper sleep habits, go to the doctor when necessary, and do what you need to minimize stress and improve your mental health. It’s hard to choose yourself in social situations if you aren’t healthy enough to be in social situations. 

5) Let Go of Toxic People 

Everyone that is in your circle is not in your circle. What I mean is, everyone isn’t for you. Even if they come to every meeting, attend every event, and communicate with you on a regular basis. Look at is this way there were throngs of people who followed Jesus and therefore could be considered disciples. Of those, Jesus only chose twelve to really get to know Him. Of those twelve, only three were in His intimate inner circle. And let’s not forget that one of the twelve betrayed Him. 

Letting go of toxic people isn’t only a step towards choosing yourself, but also a crucial step in maintaining good mental health. Toxic people bring no good into our lives; they tear us down and keep us there. 

The only way to survive this type of situation is to get out of it. Choose yourself and let go of the people that only mean you harm. 

6) Remind yourself you’re Worth It 

If you don’t love you, who will? Know who you are and whose you are and remind yourself of it daily. Remember to see yourself the way God sees you and only speak the things about yourself that God says. “You’re fearfully and wonderfully made.” “You can do all things through Christ.” “You’re more than a conqueror.” 

As we said before, people often have a pre-conceived (and mistaken) notion that being your own cheerleader is an act of selfishness. However, this effort is more in the name of self-care. Sometimes you just have to encourage yourself. 

You’re choosing yourself in situations where it is necessary: when you can’t take on a larger workload, when you can’t handle more obligations, when you need to remove a toxic person from your life, etc. You’re doing this because you’re worth it. 

You are your own best champion, always remember that and choose you in 2019. 

Cheryl Lacey Donovan is an award winning author, speaker, moderator, educator, and media personality. Learn more by visiting her website http://www.cherylspeaks.org.

#starting2019right #cheryllaceydonovan #journeytojoy #christianselfcare

The Greatest Gift  

The Greatest Gift by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder, The Refreshing Life with Naima

When I went to middle school at the East Harlem School of the Performing Arts, we sang a song based on James 1 verse 17 that went like this, “All good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above, so thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all His love, I really want to thank the Lord.”  

The mere fact that we sang a song filled with praise and power in a public school is amazing, but the greatest truth is contained in its simple poetry, God gives us good gifts, and He gives us these gifts because He loves us.  At Christmas, on birthdays, or “just because”, we scour the stores seeking and searching for that perfect gift to brighten the lives of those we love.  Sometimes it is about quantity or expense, the bigger the gift or the more expensive, the better we showcase our love.  Sometimes it is small and meaningful, the delicate, thoughtful or handcrafted object that illustrates the tenderness of the heart. 

But how often have we received a gift and despised it?   Spent more time thinking about how the gift was impractical, not needed, to extravagant or in our own insecurities we were unclear of the motive or rational of the giver?  How often have we been unsatisfied with the gift that we did receive, hiding in our hearts the secret thoughts of, “what should have been mine” or “what I could do if I would have been given that something else!” 

In our often selfish and blinded states, we sometimes treat the gifts of God that way, failing to see the beauty or power in the special gift He has given just to us.  We go about our lives, doing what we want to do and never stop to ask the Lord what gift He has placed in us that must be used to edify the body of Christ and encourage the lost to seek the love of Christ.  

I was like that, God gave me a gift for music and I poured it into a dream of secular stardom so that I could be bigger then Whitney and better then J-Lo.  My goal, my greatest dream, was to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, a Grammy and various Soul Train, NAACP, American Music and MTV awards, while selling millions of records and cruising around the world first class in my private jet.  That was before the world beat me up and before I accepted the greatest gift of God – Salvation.  

We think that our gifts are inadequate, we don’t pursue them, we allow the world to influence our holy dreams and then one day we look back with regret.  The greatest tragedy is when we believe the lie of the devil, that we have no gifts at all and can make no difference in these last days.  I was like that, God gave me the gift of music and I hid my light under a bushel believing that I could not sing like Whitney and didn’t look like J-Lo so I better let that music dream go, get an education and make as much money as I could in the academic world.  That was before I understood that Paul’s words to Timothy applied to me today! 

Paul states in 1 Timothy 4 verse 14, 

Neglect not the gift that is in thee which was given thee by prophecy… 

Or how about when Paul states in 2 Timothy 1 verse 6, 

Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by putting on of my hands. 

Have you failed to stir up the gift, let it lay dormant, hidden it or not figured out what it was because you are afraid, or you think that it is not a worthy gift, or you want to do what you want to do and never stopped to ask the Lord what He would have you to do? 

For many years I neglected the gift of song in me, so when the Lord called me to leave my safe, well paying job as the Associate Director of Student Life at Wright State University in 2001 to sing for His glory, all I thought about was my failures, my shortcomings, my inadequate voice… I never even thought about the power of the anointing.  I didn’t understand that if God had given me the gift, and if I used the gift for His glory, then it was not a question of me failing or being less gifted then someone else.  I did not need to compare myself to anyone else, because the gift that God gave me, He gave only to me and only I could do the job He called me to do with His gift to me.  He called me Naima, gift from God, what is He calling you?  Confused?  Well here is the revelation in another way. 

When we neglect the gift inside of us, we deny the world an opportunity to see the power and glory of the Lord through His working in our frail abilities.  When we believe the lies of man or the devil, that we are too dumb, old, late, slow, poor, or we have to much to lose… we glorify the kingdom of the enemy by withholding from individuals the song that they need to be encouraged, the prayer that might save their lives, the class that needs to be taught so that a child can be influenced and make the choice for the Lord and so on and so on!  When we neglect the gift we fail to edify the body or lead the lost and become partners with the enemy in his attempt to destroy the kingdom of God.

How do you plan to use your gifts in 2019? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below or shoot me a message at: naima@ministryofnaima.com

This blog is an excerpt from Naima's Book: Confessions of a Big Girl. Purchase your copy of Confessions by Clicking Here!

Set The Standard  

Set the Standard - Guest Post by Alicia Terry

In May the company I worked for had a lay-off and I was one of the people let go. I was certain I would find work inside of a month, but that hasn’t been the case. As I write this post it is October 3rd and I am still looking. 

I’ve applied like crazy and have had my fair share of interviews, but nothing has come to fruition. At one point I found myself applying for jobs simply based more on my ability to do them. Would I be happy to do any one of them? May be…may be not. 

One thing I do know for certain is just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  There is a grace, a time and season for everything (Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). 

I wouldn’t advise anyone to take a buckshot approach to job hunting, but there I was doing it. Trying to force something to happen when I really didn’t know what I wanted to happen. My buckshot strategy was totally misguided and I knew it. 

Why is it when stressful situations arise it’s so easy to fall back into familiar bad habits? 

Of course I have people praying with me for the right job at the right time and all according to God’s will for my life. However, when I asked my friend Jackie to pray she requested I give her specifics for what I’m trusting God for. Later that day I sent my specific request to her.  

That one exercise was a game changer. Why? Because I now had a standard by which to judge each and every job description before I took action to pursue it. Does it meet the standard or not? Yes or no. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. 

God’s Word is like that too. It sets the standard that brings great clarity for how we are to live in today’s society. It enables us to stop exerting energy on things that rob us of it. God’s Word equips us to focus on the things that matter. That is why we, as Christians, must read the Word, know it, own it and live it. Clarity based on God’s standard is how we will change lives and how we will impact the culture for His glory. 

Let God’s Word set the standard.

 

As the owner and founder of Idea Haven, a communications and training practice, Alicia Terry helps entrepreneurs, teens and women clarify the message around their mission so they can attract and connect with the people they are meant to serve. You can learn more about Alicia at aliciaterry.com and connect with her on Facebook. She is a frequent writer for the Refreshing Life Blog.

#aliciaterry #jobsearch #trustinggod #godstiming #godsstandards

 

The Importance of Abiding In Christ - Guest Post by Alicia Terry 

The Importance of Abiding in Christ - Guest Post by Alicia Terry

This post is a bit different than what I normally write, but I hope my recent experience will help someone who may have gotten off course get back on again. 

Here’s My Story 

I did it again. I set myself up for failure when I focused my eyes on the mission at the expense of keeping them on the Master. 

I got back into the mode of trying to write impactful blog posts and even a book in my own strength. To be honest with you I don’t know exactly when I pushed God out of the process, but when it happened I lost my focus, drive and ability to hear the words God would have me say.  In short, I was attempting to write anointed words without the One who gives the anointing. 

Where Things Went Wrong 

I tried to make things happen in my own strength and all I got in return was a lack of energy to get anything done.  I felt physically tired and emotionally detached from the calling I knew God had given me.  

Where Things Went Right 

Then something interesting happened… 

In two separate conversations with long-time friends we discussed the goodness of God and the call of God on our lives. I felt excited and energized. 

I basked in His presence as I listened to worship music and my soul was refreshed and a weight was lifted. 

In reading the book, When God Calls a Writer, plain but powerful words admonished readers to focus less on the calling and turn our attention to the One who is calling us. Not only was I immediately encouraged, but also set free to be about God’s business again. 

The deal was I had to stop trying to do things on my own. I needed to re-establish myself in the Vine. Jesus tells us: 

 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NKJV) 

Where Are You Abiding? 

If things are falling flat for you and you’re struggling to make things happen in your life don’t go another second without answering the question, “Am I abiding in Christ?” Our lives, businesses, gifts and talents will never reach their full potential and impact apart from Him. 

Don’t be afraid to assess yourself. Let today be the turning point to get back on track if you’ve gotten off track. Abide in Jesus and allow Him to breathe new life into everything you do. 

 

As the owner and founder of Idea Haven, a communications and training practice, Alicia Terry helps entrepreneurs, teens and women clarify the message around their mission so they can attract and connect with the people they are meant to serve. You can learn more about Alicia at aliciaterry.com and connect with her on Facebook.

The One... 

The One by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush

We all desire to do a great work for the Lord and for the last several years I’ve had a pretty solid definition about what doing a big work for the Lord means.  I have shifted my ministry focus, started projects, shut down programs, all to pick up again in a whole different area.  When your heart longs to be of service to the Lord and to His people, it is extremely easy to get sidetrack by the multitude of needs that bombard you. 

It doesn’t help that I have dog and squirrel syndrome… You know, when a dog sees a bushy tale flash around the corner of a tree and tears off like a mad hound pulling his owner like a limp noodle.  My goodness, the poor Holy Spirit being dragged around as I jump from project to project without staying the course. 

What is the course? I believe that when you get off track you should go back to the original dream, the original vision, and most importantly… the original word that the Lord spoke to you. 

And that is what the Lord has been whispering in my ear, go back to what I first told you.  I have been so focused on building a ministry with a goal of touching first 1,000 women and then 1 million women that the most important person has not been at the forefront of why I do what I do.  

The One.  The one person whose life might be changed through a word that the Lord has given me to share.  The one young woman I can inspire to be a wife of excellence by sharing my mishaps.  The one called to ministry with no idea where to start who can learn from my multitude of mistakes. The one who needs a song to brighten their day, a community to uplift them, a prayer warrior to help them pray through the challenges of sickness, infertility, lack, depression, food addiction.  A friend to come along side them to laugh, share the joyful moments and point to His faithfulness and goodness through stories, music and art. It's so much easier to find success when you focus on one person at a time...

There are so many dreams I hold in my trembling hands.  I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t want to sing to nations, see my books touch millions of lives, speak a word with such power and truth that the captives are set free.  But I’ve come to understand that these are my dreams.  

And sometimes my dreams are not the dreams of the Lord.  So back to the basics we go, surrendering what I think is a great work for an even greater work.  The work that He has willed for me to do.  When I first started this journey in fulltime ministry so many years ago, my heart was to simply meet the needs of those around me and sing the songs God had given me. 

I’m going to stop chasing squirrels, stay the course, sing a song and go back to the first things the Lord laid on my heart to do.  I’m going back to my first love and going after The One… 

Go back to your first true love and joy will be found again.

Naima is the founder of The Refreshing Life Network and would love for you to join us in our Facebook Group where we are learning to live lives of joy, powerful prayer and thanksgiving! 

Join the Refreshing Life Group by clicking here: Refreshing Life with Naima

Because I Am Young - Guest Post By Gena McCown 

Because I Am Young - Guest Post By Gena McCown

 

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech,

in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 

1 Timothy 4:12 

 

I was invited to speak at a local church for an upcoming Women's Conference.  There were many emails sent back and forth about the event, but now it was time to have a face to face meeting with the Women's Ministry Leader.  You can only imagine my surprise when I entered the room to find a nineteen year old waiting for me.  It was such an encouragement for me, someone who invests in raising up women into leadership, to see such a young woman in this position.  I was impressed that the church saw her potential and had a willingness to let her lead this ministry.  

I probably stared at her all googley eyed, enamored by the child of God sitting before me.  On the way home I was even praying, “Lord, let there be more like her... nineteen year old women ready to take up the mantle of ministry leadership!”.  After arriving home I had some time to really think about our conversation that day.  Another woman had joined the meeting and after discussing my years of serving in the ministry, she pointed out to me that I had begun as a young leader too.  After twenty years of ministry service, I had forgotten that fact.  Just like someone believed in this young lady, there were people who believed in me. 

Even at the ripe age of forty, I have days where I feel like people look at me and think I am too young to be an expert in my field.  They see my face, they don't see the twenty years of experience that brought me to where I am today.  I have to put a voice to that experience, share my education, etc. all to prove that I actually know what I know.  My mother says that the last born always stays a “baby” in the eyes of their parents.  I often wonder if that is the same in the church.  When your faith journey allows you to grow in front of the church body... can they see who you have become, or do they still see only who you were? 

Whether you are nineteen, forty, or ninety-nine, there always seems to be a least a hint of feeling inadequacy that we battle.  It may because of our actual age or based on our number of years in service, it could be the lack of formal education too.  We begin to doubt ourselves because we are not enough.  But the Lord says that we are more than enough in Him, because He equips us for what He calls us too.  The Word reminds us that even our age doesn't matter to God, who created us for his delight and purposes. 

Jeremiah 1:6-7 reads, “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” 

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” 

Be encouraged that the Lord can use YOU where you are at.  When Moses questioned God's appointment by pointing out that he wasn't a good speaker, God didn't change His mind.  Paul told Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because of his youth.  Whatever it is that you believe disqualifies you, cast it aside.  When the Lord asks... “Who will go?”, reply “I will.  Send me.”  He will handle the rest.

 

Gena McCown is an author, speaker, teacher and ministry leader who makes her home in Southern Florida.  She is the founder of the Lead Her Women's Conference and leads The Women's Ministry Council.  For more information about Gena visit:  www.GenaMcCown.com)

It Is Well - Dr. Naima Johnston Bush 

Every once in a while, I am overwhelmed by a song that wrings my heart and speaks to the deepest darkest places in my soul.  I came kicking and screaming to Leesville, Louisiana… well, not literally but in my mind, I sure was howling like a banshee.  

But it didn’t take long to realize that this was a place I was supposed to be, a place of rest, healing and most important, of renewal.  I didn’t realize how weak my faith felt, how hard my heart had become, how cold my love seemed to be.  Until I got to a place where no one asked me to do anything except what I believed the Lord had called me to do.  A place where people were truly loving, and the power of God was evident.  I can’t remember the last time I was so captured by the Word, saw miracles and was able to get lost in worship. I can’t remember the last time I was so happy to be around God’s people. 

I’ve been in the valley a long time.  And I didn’t even realize it.  My soul was weary and disconnected from the source.  I have been taught and am of the belief that man is made up of three parts – spirit, soul and body. The body is of course our flesh, our spirit is the part of us that communes with the Lord and comes alive when we accept Christ. Our soul is our mind, our intellect, our emotions.  In other words, my mind was heartsick. 

Recently our worship team introduced me to a new song – It Is Well by Bethel Music. As we lifted our hands that Sunday morning I focused on the words, 

“Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You! Through it all, through it all, it is well. It is well, with me. Let go my soul and trust in Him! The waves and wind still know His name! It is well with my soul!” 

And I realized that even if people had hurt me or took advantage of me, with Jesus it was well. 

If I felt disregarded or passed over, it was still well. If I had to battle infertility, start the adoption process all over again since we moved, felt like time was passing me by, it was well with me. 

If it seemed like the ministry wasn’t growing, that we were still facing financial battles, if my health was still a concern – through it all it was well. If my loved ones faced sickness and old age, and my dogs slowed down and became elderly, somehow, because of Jesus it was still well with me. This is a truth I continue to grip in the palm of my shaky hands. 

My mind has been restored, my heart has been healed, my hunger for the things of the Lord has become fresh.  My soul is at rest. All because I listened to a song and grabbed a hold of the truth in the words, Jesus is with me – so no matter what, it is and always will be WELL.

I Think I've Been Shot... Or Did I Shoot Somebody - Dr. Naima Johnston Bush 

I've been amazed at the things that are coming out of people's mouths over the last few months. If we prayed as much as we talked, sniped, argued and berated - the nation would be in a different place. I now know why the Lord had me study the book of James so intensely!   I've spoken out of turn more times then I can count, but I'm thankful for the grace of God and the Word of God, which is constantly correcting me and training me. 

Some of you know I keep a list of what I like to call; Dr. Nay's Random Life Lessons and I love to share them with the world.  Now please don't respond if your temper gets tweaked, the Lord teaches me these life lessons usually because I've been guilty of them at one time or another in my own life.  So I'm pointing the finger at me first – hey, then I have three more pointing back at me again cause you can't count your thumb – LOL! 

So here is Random Life Lesson 438… 

Words can be used as weapons.  Be careful how you use them.  You might shoot yourself in the foot.  Ha, you might even kill yourself or someone you care about by playing around with a loaded "word."  So the next time you go to speak remember, "Words don't kill people, people who use them incorrectly kill people."    

James 3:2 - The New Living Translation 
Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.
 

There's always a time or place to speak, to stand up boldly for the Lord.  But that is not what I'm talking about, I'm talking about gossip masked as prayer requests, attacks hidden under personal opinion, statements that simply don't need to be stated and fact finding that is grounded in falsehood. 

Let's not make our brother and sisters victims of "friendly fire." We're in a war – we're in the army of the Most High God.  Let's aim our weapons in the spirit realm and take the enemy out.  As Christians let's pray more and talk less.  I'm praying daily that the Lord would cover my emotions and help me guard my own tongue. Heck, I don't want the guilt of shooting anybody; I've got enough stuff to repent of already. And I don't want to be shot, seems to me that being shot could be pretty be painful… 

So, that's His word, and I'm sticking to it.

Finding Joy On The Journey 

This is a blog of confessions... I'm big on confessions since I wrote, Confessions of a Big Girl. Today's confession stems from the fact that I like to read my old blogs and see where I am in relation to where I've been.  That's when Ecclesiastes kicks in big time...you know, there is nothing new under the sun.  And so I found this blog originally written in 2010 about two months after I got married.  Who when I wrote this blog, that the scripture reference I used at the time would become my ministry mission statement, that I'd be moving again, this time to tiny town America, that I'd still be working on being a healthier me, overcoming illness and evaluating everything I do to make sure it lines up with the Lord's perfect will for my life? It's the climb baby, and I'd rather climb to see the view for a few moments, trusting that the trip down always leads to a trip back up.

The Climb

I have a dirty confession to make; I own the soundtrack from the Hannah Montana Movie. I know it might sound strange, but I stumbled upon the soundtrack by accident because I went to see the movie on purpose. In my last year of singleness, during the time I lived in Nashville, I came to a point where I was simply ok with being single. I was determined to live my life, have the most fun doing it and reach as many people for Christ as I possibly could. 

So every Tuesday night I took myself to the movies. I never had to justify what I wanted to see, I never had to debate the movie choice, and I never had to share the popcorn. And although I wouldn’t trade my husband and permanent movie date for anything, I will always treasure those times alone in the movies. It taught me how to be with me and to be ok with being alone so I could be a better wife and share of myself freely. 

But back to Miley and Hannah, besides being a cute little movie, the soundtrack to Hannah Montana is brilliantly written. With artists such as Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift and the writers behind the bubble gum pop songs that Miley Cyrus sings, the song, The Climb is a real gem. 

Tonight while organizing my I Tunes library I found the tune hidden as an unidentified track in my messy musical listings. And I listened to it… several times, thinking again what a powerful song. 

At this moment in time where I am adjusting to being married (now 8 years), taking time to refocus and redirect my ministry, still battling vocal issues (now liver disease) and finding myself back in Ohio helping rebuild a church (now Leesville, LA, where my husband is leading a school), I struggle with what I’m suppose to be doing and how I’m suppose to be getting there. Sometimes I feel so frazzled, pulled in a million directions, called to a million projects trying to figure out what God’s will is for my life. 

And then I remember this scripture: 

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus 1 Thessalonians 5 16-18 

So instead of being frazzled I choose to enjoy the journey. Pause as I climb the mountain and take in the view. I choose today to give thanks when it’s more then difficult, joyful when it is challenging and prayerful to the point that I hear God’s voice so clearly that I know which steps to take as I climb upward like doe on mountain paths and high places. 

Today I am determined to enjoy the climb and sing while I pull myself upward… 

There’s always gonna be another mountain, 
I’m always gonna wanna make it move 
Always gonna me another battle 
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose 
Ani’t about how fast I get there 
Ani’t about what’s waiting on the other side… 
It’s the climb! 

Enjoy the climb, it’s a blessing from God!

Smile! It's Over! 

Just when I thought I was home… the Lord ups and speaks a word and sends me from sunny Florida to tiny town Louisiana.  Yep, Jon and I are now living down on the bayou and it happened so quick I know some of you are still trying to figure out how the heck it happened.  I’m still trying to figure out it happened! 

It just goes to show you that we make plans and God laughs.  And in His laughter we have a choice, will we laugh with Him and enjoy the journey even if it takes us to unexpected places? Or will we cry and moan and be angry that the life we thought we were about to live is now gone? 

Moments like these call for some Dr. Seuss wisdom. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” 

For three wonderful years we didn’t wear socks in the winter, went to Disney frequently, made a multitude of new friends and saw the Lord sustain through sickness, lack and discouragement. And we never thought we’d leave. As a matter of fact I was just about to purchase my Florida Disney Resident Pass! 

For a couple who are called "the gypsies" by our family, we felt like we had finally found home – oh, we might have left Jacksonville and went on to Orlando or Tampa at some point, but at some moment in time unbeknownst to us, Florida replaced Nashville and became home. 

New Llano, Louisiana, a small town surrounded by the booming metropolis of Leesville… combined the population is about 8,000 people with about 20,000 at Folk Polk, the army base that is a few miles up the road.  This is a town where people wave at me in my front yard as they drive pass, where people introduce themselves to me in the Walmart because they know me, although we have not yet met, a place where we have been truly embraced by our new church family.  It’s so very far from all our big city “villes” Nashville, Jacksonville… now Leesville. This is a town where I have to drive 2 hours to get to Whole Foods... 

How did we get here? It happened in a whirlwind six week period. Jon was offered a position as the principal of Leesville Christian Academy. So totally unexpected, I mean it really was a message on Facebook, a few phone calls, lots of tense discussions, a whole lot of prayer and boom – next thing we know we were packing the house right after Valentine’s Day and waving good bye to Lyle Lane on March 20th. Miracle after miracle paved the way and every door opened before us even though it seemed at times there was a great deal of opposition. 

So here I am adjusting to a new life, a new home, a new church, a new mission again.  I can already tell this is a season of growth and pruning – God has been speaking and I have been listening.  It’s going to be an interesting year with some interesting blogs, I can already tell you that. 

But I do miss Florida.  But I do trust the plan of the Lord and His promise.  Today, If you are facing sudden changes, surprises in life, opposition or the unknown, I encourage you to join me in mediating on the following scripture: 

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16 
  
And as He leads you smile… beautiful things are in store for every ending is a doorway to a new beginning. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts, come minister to your group or see you over in our Refreshing Life Community if you are not already a member on Facebook. Shoot me a message and let me know how I can be of service or your comments about this post! Message Naima

Free As A Butterfly - Guest Post by Alicia Terry 

In 2001 I accepted a job that I tried to convince myself was the right move for me to make. In short, it wasn’t. What it turned out to be was the worst job of my life. It robbed me of my creativity, visionary thinking and had me second-guessing my ability to even write. I love to write and as someone whose career is based on it this was devastating. 

I felt like my wings were clipped and I could no longer fly. I was forced to stay inside of a cage for someone else’s comfort. I could go so far and inevitably be snapped back into a place of mediocrity and routine. That’s where management was comfortable and that’s when I learned that small minds cannot hold big dreams. 

I looked for another job, but nothing. So I stayed out of necessity (I told myself) and out of fear. I had bills, a car note, a mortgage and no savings. I also stayed because of expectations of others, primarily my parents. I didn’t want to disappoint them in leaving a job without having another one lined up. 

 

Breaking Bad 

It was a miserable existence. I accepted a job that I knew wasn’t for me and allowed myself to remain in a toxic work environment where eventually my spirit was broken. After a year, it came down to an “Alicia, it’s not working” conversation and like that I was out of a job. 

For the next five months all I did was sleep. Winter turned into spring and spring to summer. I was depressed, embarrassed, scared and probably a whole lot of other emotions. It wasn’t until the first day of summer I realized I slept through springtime and that made me angry. I needed to get out of the house to get some fresh air. I’d been cooped up long enough. 

So, my dog Rusty and I went for a walk. The warm sun felt good on my skin and the fresh air rejuvenated me. About a block and a half into our walk, we came upon a beautifully landscaped yard. There was protective netting over the flowers to keep deer from eating them. It was really beautiful and I just stood there taking it all in. 

Something Caught My Eye 

In the flowerbed nearest me something caught my eye. It was a butterfly trapped under the netting trying to get out. It flew up as far as it could and then dropped back down. Up and back down, up and back down. 

I lifted the netting to set it free. Interestingly, it didn’t fly away. It just kept going up and back down as though it was still trapped in the netting. This continued until the butterfly eventually stopped in the street not too far off the curb, but far enough out to potentially get ran over by a car. 

I started to pick it up to get it out of harm’s way, but I had an overwhelming sense that I was to leave it there. I struggled with this decision, but I couldn’t deny the overpowering veto in my gut. So I left it there and continued my walk. 

All I could think about was going back to save the butterfly. The thought of it getting run over pu

t a knot in my stomach. As we headed back home, I was afraid I would find it squashed in the road. I had such a sick feeling. Thankfully, when we came to the spot where I last saw the butterfly it was nowhere to be found. I concluded it had flown away. 

What’s It All About? 

I knew this was something more than a random experience, so I asked God what is it all about. Here’s what He immediately spoke to my spirit: 

So many of My people remain in bondage when, in fact, I have already set them free. They don’t realize they’re free and therefore don’t live in the fullness of life that I’ve provided for them. They continue to live in the old pattern of up and down, up and down. But like that butterfly, they need to realize they are free, gather up their strength, and get back to being who I called them to be and doing what I called them to do. 

Life’s situations and circumstances can easily lock us into a pattern of up and down, up and down. We can remain conditioned by the world’s system, or, like that butterfly, we can spread our wings and fly according to God’s plans and purposes for our lives. 

Which will it be? 

 

 

Alicia Terry is a communications marketing and training professional. She is also the owner and founder of Idea Haven, a training and development practice serving entrepreneurs, teens and women. You can learn more about Alicia at aliciaterry.com and connect with her on Facebook.

I Don't Deserve It - Creating Reward Systems 

I Don’t Deserve It 

If I lose ten pounds, I can have a bowl of ice cream… why? Because I deserve it. I’ve worked so hard to get this weight off I deserve a little treat, don’t I? Or do I? I have spent years setting up systems and challenges to reward myself for a job well done. Motivation is a tricky thing, especially in my line of work, where it seems like you are always sowing and waiting with baited breath for the reaping to begin. 

How many times have you used a system of giving yourself a treat when you accomplish a goal, meet a deadline or overcome a problem? Better yet, how many times have you used a system of rewards to entice a loved one to comply with your directives? 

You know, “Little Johnny, if you get all A’s this semester, I’ll give you $10.00 for every great grade!” 

Incentives are good, but they can become counterproductive when they lead you back to the very behavior you are trying to overcome. What if no matter how hard Little Johnny tries he needs a tutor and gets a C in math? What might be bright Little Johnny’s response to not only your reward system, but to the problem itself? Little Johnny might just blow you off and do what he wants to do, or he might feel like a failure and struggle with self esteem and confidence in this area, or he might get mad and start to act out. All of those responses are not very healthy ones. 

I had that revelation a few days ago when I found my hand stuck deep down inside a bag of chips. Why was I rewarding myself with the very thing I was trying to overcome? It’s like saying I’m going to pay off my credit card bills and then after doing so running out and buying something you don’t need but want because you’ve been handling your money so well. Until now, because you used that same credit card to make a purchase to reward yourself! And what if that small purchase that you deserved turns into those shoes that were on sale, that comforter that was marked down, those nightgowns that were buy one get one free? 

I had to face the truth, at least this was my truth. I didn’t deserve the reward, because to many times the reward that I had selected had turned into a spree. Rewarding myself was an excuse for me to be undisciplined. To act in ways that were not good for me, to engage in old habits and yes, to even be disobedient to the will of God for my life. I was Little Johnny, sometimes not caring, sometimes feeling defeated, sometimes angry that this was my cross to bear. 

Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person with no self control.” 

Aw, the undeniable, ever truthful, smack you in the face, word of God. 

Thinking I deserve something that catapults me back into the very things I’m trying to gain victory over is nothing more than functioning with broken down walls, without a trace of self control. So, I have resolved that I don’t need to reward myself. What I need to do is plan time to unwind in my day because I am busy and sometimes I need to tune out with Flea Market Flip. I need to get back to my Celebrate Recovery Meetings, everybody needs somebody to talk to and to hold them accountable. And finally, I need to schedule those foods that I deem as “treats” into my life. I’ll have ice cream cake on my birthday, no need to use it as a reward for losing ten pounds. 

And most importantly, I will remember that although I actually deserved death, the Lord loved me so much that His death declared that I deserved life. And being obedient to His perfect will should be the only reward I seek.

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