Stop Signs and Red Lights

A few months ago, Nehemiah went through this phase where he did not like to sit still in his carseat… at all. It seemed as though he felt like carseat = movement/driving/etc and if he was not doing any of those things he should not have been in it. One evening as we were riding home we came to a stop light and he began to get upset. I started to speak to him about being patient. As I was talking, I realized that there was a message in those words for me. I told him how sometimes God places red lights and stop signs in certain places to protect us, comfort us, save us, etc. Those pauses in life may come at the most inopportune times from our point of view, but they are essential. It is during those times that we grow and learn. We have the opportunity to take a look back at where we have been and to focus on where we are headed.
I am starting to learn to appreciate those brief pauses in the road. I am learning to see those red lights and stop signs as blessings instead of obstacles that I must hop over immediately. I am beginning to view them as God’s way of saying “hold on one second… its almost ready for you”, or “you are almost ready” or even “watch out!” I am thankful that Nehemiah has learned to be patient at those stop signs and red lights. My prayer is that I would be able to apply the same principles to my everyday life.

Do You Know What Today Is?

It’s our anniversary!
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Three years ago today, I married my boo! I could not help but reminisce about that wonderful day and all that these past three years have brought us. When you get married you are so full of hope and have so many dreams for what the future with your spouse will look like, feel like, and be like. Rarely ever do you consider the difficult times that undoubtedly arise in life. I am thankful because I have a true partner that has been there through the difficult and the good. When I did not have the words, he spoke. When I did not have the strength to even lift my head, he held it up for me. When I did not want to go another day, he encouraged me. When I believed I was unloveable, he loved me. I am so thankful to God for allowing me to experience this type of love.
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My prayer today is that God would continue to strengthen our relationship, that our love would continue to grow deeper, and that our relationship be a reflection of His love, grace, and mercy. I pray that Joe would continue to grow and develop as the strong man of our home and that I would be a better wife to him. Thank you Lord for these past three years the good and the bad… I would not trade them at all nor could I have asked for a better partner in life. I love you boo!

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Check out our wedding trailer!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/25837861″>Joseph & Stacie’s Cinematic Trailer</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/3ringmedia”>3Ring Weddings</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Marriage Mondays: Vulnerability

One thing I struggled with for awhile when Joe and I first started to date was my ability to truly be vulnerable with him. Completely letting go and allowing someone to get that close scared me. Prior to Joe, I always had what I called “back ups”. They were guys that I could always turn to if my boyfriend at that time acted up. It seemed like the perfect situation for me. I always had someone there if I wanted. Someone to flatter me, to take me out to eat, and make me feel special. Over time, those things no longer mattered to me. Those things were no longer enough.

Joe and Toya 12:2006

Joe and I, at UGA in 2006.

So Joe came along and demanded that I called all of my back ups and let them know that their services would no longer be needed. I was so shocked and appalled when he made that demand. I was even more surprised that I actually did it. Several phone conversations later and few choice words from some of my back ups and there I stood in a relationship with Joe. I was excited and terrified all at once. What would I do if Joe acted up? How would I bounce back? What guy would I call to fill that position? I felt completely wide open susceptible to hurt and pain, I was vulnerable. What that meant for me is that I would need to learn to trust Joe with my heart completely, not because he was this wonderfully, terrific person. I would need to learn to trust him because I knew to trust God. I prayed for months for God to bless me with someone like Joe. I had to decide at that moment to trust that the man God sent me would be enough. I had to decide to forgive him if he ever did make a mistake. I had to decide to place my confidence for my relationship and subsequent marriage in God and not in Joe.

 

Once I stopped trying to guard my heart and I let Joe in, I began to experience a type of peace in my relationship that I never knew existed. We evolved together from a couple of teenagers in “like” with one another into a couple completely in love and invested in making our marriage work. Everyday I allow myself to be vulnerable with my husband, I give him my whole heart because I know that what I am really doing is saying God I trust you. It is such a liberating experience and has truly taught me so much about how to love someone with your whole heart, no restrictions, boundaries, or fear. For me, true intimacy starts with the ability to remove those barriers.

 

How do you feel about being vulnerable in relationships and even in friendships?

 

Hopeless Laughter

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Throughout my last pregnancy I was drawn to women in the Bible who had some sort of struggle with pregnancy, such as Tamar who fought for her right to birth children, Hannah who was taunted by her husband’s other wife for being barren and prayed to God for a son, and now Sarah the wife of Abraham who had basically given up hope. As I was reading more about Abraham, I came across a scripture that really struck me.

Genesis 18:10-15 reads,
Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”  Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’  Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

I read that and thought about how many times I laugh at God. How often do I laugh at a word that was dropped into my spirit or something that someone speaks over me. How often do I see it as impossible? unattainable? unimaginable? or too much for me to handle? I realized that I often laugh just like Sarah did. I laugh not out of disrespect or disregard but out of doubt, disbelief, and fear. I laugh because I may have lost hope in a particular situation and have began to believe and accept that things are what they are. I laugh because I forget how big the God I serve is. Like Sarah, time after time God has followed through on His promises and shown me just how good He is.

I have decided not to laugh out of fear and doubt anymore. I am choosing to believe and trust that He will do just what He says. Will you join me?

Falling in Love

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With Valentine’s Day being last week, I could not help but think about my first love. I remember being so excited, so head over heels, and so passionate about my new love. I wanted to tell everyone about Him and to declare my love from the rooftops! I have never experienced something so refreshing, uplifting, and comforting. I never wanted that feeling to go away and never thought that it would. Unfortunately, it did. My first love was Jesus and those first moments were so special and tender.

As I got older and continued to grow, it seemed that I had moments where those feelings were not present. Where I felt fairly distant from my first love. I was living life and doing the “right” things but it just was not the same. I failed to realize that like other relationships it would take time, effort, and attention to maintain and deepen that bond. It took me a while to learn what that would look like and would truly require of me. I needed to give Him my all daily like I did in the beginning.

What I discovered through all of that is that I can fall in love with Jesus on a daily basis. I can have that same giddy feeling over and over again because we can constantly reconnect on a deeper and deeper level. Everyday I learn new things about Him, His love for me, and how even through the difficult times He has never abandoned me. As the song goes, “Falling in Love with Jesus, is the best thing I have ever done.”

Of the Abundance of the Heart

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You may have noticed by now that I reference a scripture from the book of Proverbs very frequently. I did not really notice that until a certain someone (my mother!) brought it to my attention. When I was in middle school, I thought that I was beyond cool and in an effort to fit in with those around me I started using profanity regularly at school. One day, I just so happened to write in my friends slam book (I am not sure if you remember what those were) and I used some of my school language in the note. My teacher got a hold of it and sent a copy of it to my mother who was floored. Needless, to say I got punished in multiple ways! My mother always felt that the punishment should somehow fit the crime. So since I was being foolish in my written speech (and verbal) I needed to gain some wisdom and I needed to do it by writing over and over again. She did not have me write anything like I will not use bad language or I will be respectful. That would have been too easy and it would not have given me that wisdom that she said I needed. So she sat down and opened the Bible. After a quick debate to herself as to whether I should write from Isaiah (because of its length) or Proverbs (because of the wisdom she hoped I would gain) she of course chose Proverbs. I spent my entire summer writing the book of Proverbs FIVE times! Guess who does not use profanity anymore! Yep- This girl!

What I realize now as an adult is that the book of Proverbs is very much engrained in me and often times serves as my go to book when I am in need of encouragement, clarity, and truth. By having me write that book over and over again I truly have many of those scriptures engrained in my mind and now my heart. As I was reflecting on this, a scripture came to mind (That is not from Proverbs! See I read other scriptures!) Luke 6:45,
“ A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”

My mother taught me a valuable lesson. At that point in time, like so many others my heart was full of what the world wanted it to be full of. I was trying so hard to be cool and fit in that I lost sight of what I was allowing to enter my heart through the music I would sneak and listen to on the bus, the shows that I would watch, and the conversations at school that I sat in on and became a part of. My heart was full but not of the word of God. I was being attacked and she knew that the only way to stop that attack was with the word of God and prayer (and a belt here and there). I learned to hide the word in my heart so that I may not sin against God (Psalm 119:11). I also learned that having the word in your heart gives you access to so much of His strength. You can speak the word over your life and situation without the Bible present in front of you. When Joe and I were in the hospital, I was shocked at how the first thing we turned to in that situation was the Word of God for encouragement and strength. I believe that without it, I may have needed to be checked into the mental ward.

As of late, I have been reflecting on Luke 6:45 in terms of the words that I speak to and over others. When I have moments where I am feeling down or negative I start to question what my heart is full of at that time. It is easier to take a quick assessment and know when I need more of Him. I want to be a constant source of encouragement and love to everyone I encounter. I am so far from that right now but it is something that I am definitely reaching towards and I would love it if you all would hold me accountable.

What about you? What is your heart full of today? How is that affecting you and those around you?

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Building or Tearing Down?

Today, as I was checking out Aisha’s blog over at oldfashioncouple.wordpress.com I felt convicted. Reading through her posts allowed me to recognize another area that I am weak in when it comes to being a wife, homemaking. Now, I am not saying that my home is always dirty and things are all over the place, but I do have this image in my mind of what I want things to be like. Somehow, through my daily routine that does not always occur. I usually wake up in the morning and plan out my day while still lying in bed. I decide the main things I will focus on for work, business, and for home. Day in and day out, it seems like my list for home gets neglected after everything else has stolen my attention.

It reminded me of the importance to not just maintain a clean home but to build your home as a wife in every way. Proverbs 14:1 says,
“ The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”
So I had to sit back and ask myself, am I building or am I tearing down? There is so much depth to that question. It is important to me that I am creating an environment that is conducive to the growth and development of my family. An environment that is filled with love, order, and productivity. I want my guests to feel the same thing when they enter my home. It is important to me that I lean on the Word of God for wisdom on how to steward my home and family as a wife and mother.

Therefore, I have decided to start working towards those goals by focusing in two areas: my words and order. I have mentioned it before, but I always saw myself as a wordsmith. And not in a positive way. I took pride in my ability to use my tongue to cut someone down despite their physical stature or social status. I now want to use that to bless others more and encourage them, especially my husband. I want to uplift him as the strong man of our home. For me, this has definitely gotten easier over the years. I learned rather quickly when I got married that Proverbs 25:15 is so true! (“With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.”) The way that I speak to and honor my husband directly translates in so many areas, particularly the way my son will learn to speak to others and the way he will expect his future wife to speak to him.

As far as order is concerned, I love it. I love organization and structure. The problem is that I do not always follow through with it, although I can devise a great plan and system. My primary goal in this area is to bring more order to my home by maintaining it better on the surface- more consistently. Consistency in this area is my biggest struggle.  I want to work to maintain the cleanliness of my home on a daily basis. I also want to get better with meal planning and cooking because I want to build my family’s physical health and financial health as well. So those are the two areas I will be focusing on for awhile. I feel like Proverbs 14:1 is not something that I will master and then be able to move on. It will be something to constantly strive toward and over time I will continue to identify areas in my life that need improvement and change. For now, words and order is on the agenda!

What about you? Are you building or tearing down? What are some things you want to work on in this area?

Behind Every Man

Occasionally, I read Proverbs 31:10-31 just to see how far from the Proverbs 31 wife I am. This morning as I read over it I definitely realized once again that I am no where near that. I also realized that I can read the same scripture hundreds of times and each time God will reveal something else new and unique to me. The verse that stood out to me this morning was verse 23.

“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land”

Initially, I thought oh okay that is so nice that he is respected at the city gate! But what does that have to do with the wife we are reading about? Who cares if her husband is sitting down with the other men while she is working so hard to take care of him, the children, and the family? I mean this woman is handling business and the author of the text stuck a scripture in about the husband chilling at the city gate! I just knew this scripture was not there because they wanted to show this amazing woman who had such a lazy husband as an example. So what does God want us to see through this scripture?

Her husband was respected at the city gate and able to sit among the elders because she was the wife that she was. We always hear the saying that behind every good man is a good woman. I believe that is exactly what this scripture is saying. This wife is a direct reflection of her husband. What she does, how she cares for the children, how she cares for the home, and how she carries herself speaks directly to who he is as a man. As a result of the woman that she is, he is respected in the land. He is able to participate in the decision making and leadership of the city.

Naturally, I began to take an introspective look at myself. Am I anywhere close to being that type of woman and wife? The jury is still out on that one. I do know that what I do, say, and even wear directly affects my husband. I do know that what this scripture speaks about is more than just being “down for my husband” and taking care of him. It speaks to my character. What I do in difficult times, how I react when someone has hurt me, what I do when someone needs my help, how I love when love is not reciprocated, and even how I celebrate when things are going well. It speaks to how I truly treat my husband behind closed doors, how I speak to him, how I do or do not serve him, and how I pray for him during my quiet time. I want to be more to him than the Bonnie to his Clyde. I want to be a woman after God’s own heart, his beloved.

Redeeming Love: Returning to My First Love

I am so excited about my new blog! And this first blog post! I hope that you will join me on this new leg of the journey to becoming that Proverbs 31 wife!

Have you ever read a book that absolutely changed your life, altered your way of thinking, and caused you to truly refocus on what God is doing in your life? I experienced that in this past week as I read Francine River’s, Redeeming Love. I felt God speaking to me with every page that I turned and every word that I read. I could feel my spirit being lifted and the Holy Spirit revealing so many things to me. At some points in the book I was turning pages with tears in my eyes because I could so identify with the characters and what they were experiencing. The novel is based on the book of Hosea in the Bible where God called Hosea to marry Gomer, a prostitute. Although, I am not a prostitute nor have I led a life anywhere near to what the biblical character or the character in the novel, Angel did I noticed so many similarities. The author told the story in a way that parallels directly with God’s love for us.

In the book, Angel was constantly fighting and struggling to stay afloat. She was struggling with who God is and how He saw her. No matter how many times she messed up he (Hosea) would come back to find her and save her or wait for her to come back and he would always receive her with open arms. She struggled with that notion. She could not understand why he would want something so soiled and filthy. Hosea was able to see her as God saw her, as his beloved. Before Angel could truly understand that love and be content with where she was with her husband she had to know who God is and how He felt about her despite her mess.

As I read the book, I realized that although I have been living a “Christian Life” I have lost some of my passion and fire for the One who always redeems me. I have gotten complacent in my walk and have been satisfied with reading my morning devotionals, attending services on Sunday, giving, and serving in the church and the community and being a good wife. It is time that I return to my first love. It is so amazing how God works because the sermon at church yesterday centered around this same topic. In Revelations 2:4-5 we read,

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do  the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

The pastor discussed how in love many of us were when we were first saved. How we were excited to read our Bibles and pray. Just like many of us get when we are in new relationships in the “honeymoon” phase. Once that phase is over our affections decline and we become complacent in the relationship. When you ask couples who have been HAPPILY married, not just married for many years, what the secret is many of them say that they decided to fall in love with their spouse again everyday. They decide to love them no matter what. I no longer want to be complacent in my relationship with God. I have to make the decision to pick up my cross daily and to work on that relationship because after all, He is my first love.