Thursday, January 29, 2015

10 Things to Know Before Tying the Knot

My husband and I said "I do" one year, six months, & nine days ago. By the grace of God (and my husband's awesomeness), I grow more and more in love with him everyday. I'm so thankful to God for giving me this lifelong opportunity to adventure, learn, & grow more in love with God and with the man that God gave me to help and encourage. Together, we are growing together, experiencing abundant life, & creating a legacy.
 
My husband and I met and were engaged within four months and married five months after that. Needless to say, we didn't experience much hardship within those short nine months before tying the knot. We were blissfully in love and while we both knew that God's hand created our futures to be together as husband and wife, there are just some things you won't learn until after you are married.  Maybe you're in a serious relationship, engaged, or a wife. I want to share some of those things with you that I personally think are wise to know or think about before tying the knot!  
 
 
 
 
 
It's so much more than a wedding day
We plan out our wedding our entire lives as girls. We hear it all the time that the wedding is just a day and the marriage is forever but we never really understand it until after that short and sweet wedding day has come and gone. Those flowers you're stressing about? They'll be wilting halfway through the ceremony. That shade of pink you can't seem to get just right? No one will notice. You're going to be taking your shoes off to dance anyway so why spend your month's allowance on them? Yes, it's your "big day" but what you should be putting all of your energy and effort into is in getting to know the man who you're about to pledge your life to!
 
 
 
 
 
Go to the doctor now
Yes, that dreaded doctor visit. I really wish someone would of told me to go to the gynecologist before getting married. It would of saved me a ton of stress, disappointment, & heartache. Whether you plan on having kids right off the bat or not, schedule a check-up before tying the knot to make sure that everything is in working order. I don't say this to scare you but I know from experience, you really never know.
 
 
 
 
 
Decide now to be willing to forgive any & every offense
"Your husband is going to mess up. You are going to mess up." If someone would of told me that while we were engaged, I would have laughed. Y'all, I was that high on cloud nine. And I know I wasn't the only one! Things are going to come up after you settle into your apartment or home together that never arose until you are married and living together. That's the beauty of it. But there are going to be days when he does everything in the world to make you mad and you forget to do things that are vital to him. It's going to be okay. Learn now to forgive AND FORGET... each little and big offense. Because they will come and when they do, YOU yourself will have a choice. Choose forgiveness because Jesus forgave the sin in you.    
 
 
 
 
Learn who he is & be content with it
Be intentional about learning him.. what he likes to do, what he doesn't like to do, what makes him laugh, his hobbies & favorite things. Learn those things and do them with him! After you learn him, don't try to change him. If you are fixated on changing him, why do you want to marry him? You cannot change anyone but yourself and sometimes even that is impossible. If there are things that you wish would change, go to him and talk them out. Honestly, it's better to talk about them than to hold them inside of you and think that you can change them after the wedding day. It will end in bitterness and resentment. Bitterness has no place in a thriving marriage. Also, you are not his Holy Spirit. Stop trying to convict him & judge him. Leave those things up to God. PRAY FOR HIM! Only God can change hearts and lives so put your trust in the one true God alone, not yourself.
 
 
 
 
Communication is key
The C word. Oh, how I struggled (and still do) with communicating. Some women have no problem communicating their feelings & heart to their husbands while some find it impossible. I'm definitely part of the latter group. Confrontation of any kind, good or bad, has always made me uneasy because I'm the type of person who wants everything to be good all the time and when it's not, I shut down because I don't know how to react. But guess what? Communication is so vital to every marriage. If you can't communicate what is going on in your life, heart, and mind, how will he know? He isn't a mind reader. It may hurt. It may take weeks, months, years to figure out but never stop communicating even when you stink at it. Even if you have to sit and think about how to say something for ten minutes. Something that our pastor mentioned last week in a sermon stuck out to me... If you're having a "heated conversation" or any ole conversation for that matter and you hear something that makes you feel hurt, tell your husband "this is what I heard...... is that what you meant?....". That will give your spouse the opportunity to explain what he really meant when he said something that upset you. Never stop talking to each other!
 
 
 
 
Get right with God
God created marriage. God created marriage for what? For His glory. If you don't have a relationship with God, I so encourage you to seek Him. I couldn't even imagine being married and not knowing Jesus. He has gotten us through the darkest of times, together and individually. It's then and only then that you will find the true purpose of marriage which is to glorify God and be an example of the unified oneness between Christ and His Bride, the church.
 Something that I struggled with a lot at the beginning of our marriage is how to put God & my relationship with God above my husband and my marriage. If I make my marriage more important than my relationship with God then that means I am relying on myself to keep our marriage going strong and that will only end in hurt. We can't do it alone. We need God.
 
 Also, when we elevate our marriage above our relationship with God, we are making our husband an idol in our life. We start to depend on our husband to fulfill us in every way and give us purpose which is something only God can do.  It takes daily prayer and intentional time with God to find that balance but with His help, He will make it happen.
 
 
 
Always, always be striving for unity
I never realized how important unity in marriage is. I guess I just figured it would happen on its own but I was so wrong! Keeping unity between you and your husband means so many things. From keeping your eyes only for him to keeping your mouth shut from gossip. It's not okay to flirt with or drool over other men (even if those men are on a TV screen or in a book!)  Never ever talk to another man about your marriage problems. Don't even talk about your husband to another man unless you're bragging on him! I would even go as far as to say that it's wise to restrain from bad-mouthing your husband to anyone at all, even your mom or your closest girlfriend. Of course your husband has faults but no one should learn about them from you. How would you feel if you heard him complaining to his buddy about the way you do something? Those things only create disunity. Go to God and to your husband with those issues. Yes, seek wise and godly counsel but do it together or at least openly. Never go behind your husband's back unless your planning him a surprise party. Disunity is something you will never find in Jesus and if we are the example of Jesus then we should always be seeking to be united with our husbands in every aspect. 
 
 If you are unsure about something, ask yourself "Does this bring my husband and I closer together?" If the answer is no, run far away!!
 
 
 
 
Be prepared to get over yourself
If there is one thing that I have learned over the past year and a half it is that marriage requires selflessness. Marriage isn't about me and it isn't about you. Jesus calls us to pick up our cross daily and follow Him. Picking up your cross means you're walking in such a way that is obedient to God and you have no say over your life. You don't even put into account your own desires, wants, or wishes. There will be times when he wants chicken for dinner and you want fish. Get over yourself. The laundry needs folding but you want to watch one last episode. Get over yourself. You want that new purse at Target but it just isn't in the budget. Get over yourself. If you want to yell at him for doing something that ticked you off, get over yourself. It should be your joy to choose your husband over yourself and if it isn't, I encourage you to sit and think of why you want to get married. Marriage has brought me so much joy and happiness and fulfillment but that only comes with learning to say "no" to self and "yes" to loving and serving my husband.
 
 
 
 
Respect goes both ways in marriage
When we respect our husband, we are loving him in the way God intends and your husband needs. When we both respect each other's love languages and needs and commit to carrying those out, we live in harmony. Submission to our husbands is required of us as God-glorifying wives but it should be our pleasure! It may be hard at times to say "no" to ourselves but it glorifies God and tells our husbands, "I love you, I support you, & I'm on your side." Don't get too busy to live that out & tell your husband that!
 
 
 
 
 
Marriage should be hotter & more fun than your dating relationship
 It's no secret that culture has turned marriage into this boring thing that adults do when they want to settle down and have kids. That's just plain wrong. God created marriage to be so much more than what the world thinks it is. It's so much more than a tax write off or a reason to have kids. God created marriage to be a beautiful masterpiece painting of Him and His loving Bride, the church. (That's us, Christians!) Marriage gives more satisfaction than a one-night stand, it has more purpose than just living together, and it should be more fun and enjoyable than any puppy-love dating relationship. You should never stop dating your spouse. Never stop going on adventures together. Don't let the work schedule get in the way of that fire between you two. Keep seeing the world, keep kissing in the dark, keep flirting, keep laughing. You don't have to stop. Prove this world wrong. God created marriage to be enjoyed to the fullest!! God created sex to be enjoyed and experienced in marriage alone & when it is, it's so much more purposeful than this world could even dream of.
 
If you aren't engaged yet, commit to purity because each time you compromise, you're giving a piece of your heart away and when you find yourself at your wedding night with nothing but a ripped up tiny piece of your heart left, you're going to wish you stopped at handholding.  Save yourself the heartache. That moment of pleasure isn't worth it.
 
If you are engaged, stop messing around with your husband-to-be. If you haven't said "I do"  in front of God and man, then you are not married. You have no place committing your body to someone who you're not committed to with your life. It isn't too late to stop! He will respect you and if he doesn't, I encourage you to seek wise counsel because he doesn't sound like someone you should be marrying (in my opinion).  You're going to find so much joy and contentment in waiting, sweet friend!
 
If you feel like that flame has went out in your marriage, plan a weekend getaway without technology to spend with your beloved or get a babysitter and spend the night alone together. Never stop pursuing passion with one another!
 
Above all, remember that God is gracious. He is so loving and forgiving and gracious. Even if you have compromised one too many times, you aren't any less of a wife. You are whole and pure and loved in God's eyes. Believe it & live it, girlfriend!
 
 
 
 
I am still learning from God everyday & am still teaching these things to myself everyday. Not every day is going to be picture perfect but everyday is definitely an opportunity to grow.. closer to God and closer to your husband!  I am so thankful to have such a loving, forgiving, gracious, funny, amazing & sweet husband. I believe we have a great marriage because God has blessed us and is just an amazing God. Trust in Him & watch Him do amazing things!
 
What things do you wish you knew before you tied the knot? If you aren't married yet, did any of these stand out to you?  I would love to hear!
 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Testimony Tuesday - Week FOUR

I am loving Tuesdays now & it's all because of Testimony Tuesday, I do believe!
 
You are in for a treat, my friend. I am so excited to share a testimony of God's awesomeness & it's a dear one. Sarah and I met through blogging & have become close friends. She is a burst of sunshine on a grey day & I know that it's because of the joy from Jesus inside of her.

God is so good & He deserves all praise. I hope & pray that Testimony Tuesday glorify & make Him famous. He is so worth it...
 
 
 
 
 
"I grew up in a great home. My mother (despite our issues) and my father loved us and made sure we were taken care of.  I remember going to church every once in a while but it certainly wasn't consistent and the only time we talked about Jesus was around Christmas. But, I was enrolled in a pre-school that taught about Jesus and I loved it there. In fact,  I think there might be a video of my brother and I singing "Jesus Loves Me" somewhere. 

Anywho...

I was a pretty decent kid throughout elementary and middle school but when I started walking the halls of high school, I rebelled.  I started hanging around a certain crowd of people and in an effort to fit in, I started making decisions I normally didn't make. I was running away, yelling at my parents, lying to my parents--- heck--- lying to my friends.  I didn't care what anyone outside my group thought about me. My parents were divorced and my antics were only causing more problems between them.  I would use them against one another and make one or the other feel sorry for the situation I was in.  Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. And for the first part of my high school years, I was out of control. 

I was angry.
I was selfish. 
I was manipulative.
I was inconsiderate.
I was ignorant.

By the time I hit my junior year, I was living with my grandmother. And things were looking up. I was making new friends, getting good grades and working on rebuilding the relationships I had destroyed.  I started hanging out with a quiet girl named Leslie who accepted me for me and allowed me to be myself, no questions asked.  Leslie was beautiful, kind, considerate, smart, and, funny! Actually, she still is.  The more we hung out, the closer we became.  We were pretty much inseparable. One Sunday, after spending the afternoon on a school assignment, Leslie asked me if I wanted to join her at church.  Without really thinking about it, I said yes and my life changed that very night. God started working on me right then and there. 

I started going regularly, partly because I was interested to learn more and partly because there was a boy I liked. Teenagers, right? But in between the stolen glances and flirtations, God was working on me. Oh, He was working. And I could feel it.  There were several times in the next few months that I felt that tug in my heart to walk to the altar but something  someone was holding me back. However, I broke free from that grasp of Satan on a cold, December evening. It wasn't easy, my shoulders were sagging, my feet were heavy and my heart was weary. The weight I'd been carrying, the sin I'd been carrying for so long, finally took over and I collapsed at the altar, at Jesus' feet and I prayed. I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for renewal. I prayed for peace. 

After I peeled myself off the floor and I instantly felt...lighter. That weight I took up there? Gone! It was amazing, so amazing, that I can't really put how I felt into words. But I will never forget those feelings. Ever. And now?

I am happy. 
I am benevolent.
I am redeemed.
I am forgiven.
I am a Child of God."
 
_________
 
Sarah is now a wife, an amazing friend, & an incredible source of encouragement. I highly recommend you checking out her blog, 12TwentySeven!
 
 
 
** If you are interested in sharing your life story & testimony of God's great love and grace in your life, please email me at hotteaandtheemptyseat@gmail.com! I would love to share your story on Testimony Tuesday!
 



Friday, January 23, 2015

Coffee Date // How He Loves Us

Hey Friend! Today I'm linking up with a sweet blogger, Jenna, for another installment of Coffee Date // her linkup about the highs + lows of our lives, the ladies behind our blogs. This is my first Coffee Date of 2015 so I'm super excited to get back into the blogging community. It's hard to juggle life + blogging and lately, I have been focusing a lot more on life but I have so missed my blogging friends!
 
 
A little peek into my life lately...
 
+ Monday, I shot my first ever newborn session! If you don't know, I have my own photography business! I absolutely fell in love with newborn photography! God is such an amazing Creator, isn't he? If you are in the TN area and are a mommy to be, I would love to work with ya!
 
 

 
+ Tuesday, my hubby & I celebrated our one and a half year anniversary! Please tell me that I'm not the only one who celebrates halves ;) Sorry not sorry, I love celebrating life's big + little moments! I'm definitely a celebrator. We started the evening off with our most favorite restaurant in town. When I say favorite, I mean our home away from home. We are kinda obsessed with The Terminal Brewhouse. That cheese dip, though. Next, we drove across the bridge over to Uptown Art. We free-handed oceans. It was so fun! The coolest part was scribing the lyrics from our first dance as Mr. & Mrs.! {The boat song by JJ Heller}
 
"If you were the ocean..." "I'd be the sand"
 
 So thankful for the best husband. I'm so lucky to have him!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
+  Last night, our not-so-little puppy Penny ran out the door and was gone. At first, I didn't freak out. Then as I was outside in the dark with my flashlight yelling for her, I totally lost it. It was such an awful feeling of fear and loss. If you're not an animal person, you probably think I'm being ridiculous but if you are, then you have probably felt the same way! I realized in that moment how much she, just an animal, meant to me. What was I going to do without her?! I prayed and prayed as we and a couple of our awesome neighbors looked for her. THANK GOD she finally came back. She was just running around the neighborhood having a good ole time while we were all freaking out. I realized a few things last night.. we live in a blessed neighborhood, I don't want kids because if I ever lost one of them I would go on a killing spree {just kidding}, and lastly, it hurts God's heart when his children wander off. Unlike me, He knew where Penny was and He brought her back safely! And unlike me, He never loses us. But we do run from Him. And it breaks His heart. I pray that I or you will never run from God again but if we do wander off the path a little, I know that He will guide us home safe and sound. He is so good!!
 
 
 
 
 
 + Please pray for me this weekend! I will be heading back to my hometown by myself for a bridal show all weekend. I don't enjoy being away from my husband and I'm pretty nervous to talk to a thousand people that I don't know so I would love your prayers for courage & peace! It will be a good weekend, I know in my heart. I will get to spend time with a little bit of my family & I know that my husband is going to have a great time of fellowship back here at home this weekend as he is having a guy's night with our youth group kids. I am so thankful for such an amazing husband!
 
 
 
 
 
If we were chatting over coffee right now, what would you tell me? What's new? What's on your heart? How can I be praying for you this week? You are loved!
 
 
 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Testimony Tuesday - Week THREE

Welcome back to Testimony Tuesday, sweet reader!
 
I am so excited that you are here! I hope that you are ready to hear another amazing testimony of God's sustaining grace and perfect purpose. I am honored to present Carrington's story to you and I pray that whatever season you find yourself in, know that there is a God who loves you. No matter what.



"Hi, I'm Carrington. Otherwise known as "Momma Fussell" to my three year old. 

Katie has so graciously offered to let me take over the blog today. I'm so excited to be here with y'all today!
 
I'm a mom to an incredibly handsome, blue eyed three year old, named Lincoln. I love my creamer with a side of coffee, all things Christmas, and I have a candle collection that would impress The Yankee Candle Company. My idea of camping is a five star hotel, I own entirely too many scarves, and I seriously think that whoever created seasonal drinks {I'm looking at you, pumpkin spice latte} should be fired. Immediately. 
 
 
But those are really the superficial things. Today I want to share some of my story with you.
 
To really know me you have to know my Jesus and you have to know my son.
 
When I was 17 years old, I got really sick. My dad ending up taking me to the doctor and lo and behold, what seemed like the flu was really morning sickness. And just like that, I became a pregnant teenager.
 
My boyfriend and I had just celebrated our three year anniversary {which is obviously an eternity in high school years} and I figured we'd just accept reality and parent the best we could. He had other plans. So it was the beginning of my senior year of high school and I was now a single mom.
 
I got saved when I was seven but I fell in love with Jesus at seventeen. The more I prayed, the more I knew that God had prepared me to be this precious little boy's mom. Out of all the women in the world, I was chosen to be Lincoln Fussell's mom. That is the highest blessing and honor I could ever receive.
 
 
 
Although some people walked out, I was surrounded by Godly people who loved me like crazy. My family was amazing, my principal/teachers worked so well with me, and my friends encouraged me often. I kept going to school and fell more and more in love with Jesus and the precious child growing inside of me.
On April 19, 2011, at 4:28 am, at eighteen years old, I delivered the person I love most in this world. At 6 lb 10 oz, he was the smallest and most perfect gift I'd ever been given. 
Today I'm a 22 year old mom to a precious, handsome, smart, sweet, and incredibly well-mannered three year old who steals my heart more every single day. I am a certified nursing assistant, I work in home health, and I'm a full time college student in nursing school. God willing, I will graduate and become an RN in December 2015. Lincoln and I are out to beat the statistics.
 
God has blessed my little family of two beyond what I could've ever imagined in that doctor's office at seventeen years old. There are no words to adequately describe the grace and love that Jesus has poured out on Lincoln and I.
I say all of that to say this. I don't know your story and circumstances, but I know the Jesus that holds them. I don't know what you've done or are doing, but I know the Jesus that loves you no matter what. I can truly say that God keeps His promises when He says that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose {Romans 8:28}.
 
If Jesus can take a pregnant 17 year old and make all things work for her good, then I truly believe He can do the same for you.
 
Jesus is big enough to handle your disappointments and fears. He’s big enough to handle your finances and your family. He’s big enough to hold you in your broken-hearted moments. He is the comforter and creator of your soul, and He knows just what you need.

Jesus came for ALL {John 3:16} and that includes YOU! He is big enough to redeem every single one of us. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, who you’ve been, because The Father wants you today. Even with all of your broken pieces and baggage, He wants you. And that, my friends, is the best news.
 
So thank you, Katie, for letting me share today! I love how our God is a God who redeems even the most broken of souls, and I’m so grateful I could share how He’s redeemed my life."
_______________
 
Carrington is a precious woman of God with the sweetest little boy you ever did meet! Carrington is a CNA with a heart totally sold out for Jesus. Follow her blog here!
 
 
 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Life Goals for 2015!

Goal: an aim or desired result.
 
At the beginning of 2015, I decided that I wasn't going to set any specific goals for the new year because personally, I don't want my life to be characterized by what I want to do and what I think is best for me. I want to be led by God in my life. But after hearing a sermon about how Christians should always be striving to be more like Christ, I realized that it isn't a bad thing to have goals and ambitions! As long as those goals and ambitions aren't selfish. I'm such a black & white kind of person. I so dislike having anything in my life that is in the "grey area".
 
 
As I think through my goals for this year, I desire one thing above all else and it can be summed up in one verse:
 
"He must become greater; I must become less."
John 3:30
 
I'm making this list so that I can be held accountable & so that I can look back and see how God worked! I hope that these can encourage you & maybe even inspire you to add them to your own goal list!
 
 
 
 
Relationships
+ Pursue unity & oneness with my husband, striving to put his needs before my own
+ Strengthen the friendships that I already have
+ Keep up with friends in other towns more often
+ Step out of my comfort zone and be a better neighbor
+ Step out of my comfort zone and get to know new ladies in our church
+ Grow in my role as a youth leader, balancing being both a friend & a leader
+ Grow in my relationships with my parents, siblings, in-laws, & other family members, intentionally showing them the love of Christ
 
 
Financial
+ Stop spending money on useless items that I already have plenty of
+ Stop spending money on clothing unless I am in need of it
+ Wait a week before I purchase anything that I do not need
+ Purge my closets & pantries at least three times this year
+ Give more than I receive
+ Let go of the mentality that more is better
 
 
Blogging
+ Less about me, more about Him
+ Keep up with Testimony Tuesday
+ Start 3 new series
+ Connect with 3 new bloggers
+ Host a Meet Up
+ Get back to Planning a Retreat with 12TwentySeven
 
 
Fitness
+ Get to a point, physically, where I am happy again with the way that I look
+ At the end of 2015, be able to run 10 miles without stopping
+ Run a few 5ks and possibly a half marathon
+ Lessen my addiction to sugar
+ Eat more green
+ Start Yoga
+ Be more intentional about taking care of my body
+ Overall, have a more healthy 2015
 
 
Spiritual
+ At the end of this year, I want to feel and see a growth in my relationship with God
+ Learn how to rest in His grace that I do not have to perform or do the right things to get Him to love me
+ Step out in faith
+ Pray every day, for others
+ Finish reading the entire bible
+ Grow in boldness, purity of heart, & positive thinking
+ Break free from the mindset of negativity
+ Learn to be content with less & but never content with standing still. Always move forward towards Jesus
 
 
Career
+ Continue in my photography business & learn more
+ Design my photography website to my likeness
+ Learn Calligraphy & Design
+ Start a vision for an online business
 
 
What are a few of your goals for this new year? It's never too late to move forward!
You are loved!
 
 
 
 


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Testimony Tuesday - Week Two


I am so glad that you are back! It's Testimony Tuesday!
 Today, a sweet and dear blogging friend of mine is sharing her testimony. It's an amazing story of God's relentless love for His beloved children & His protection over His children in the dark times of life...
 
 
 
"I grew up in a Christian home. Christian parents, church every Sunday, I was on the drama team at church, I went to Youth group, and all nighters, all the things Christians do, ya know?
 
When I was 20, I was in college but I had no direction whatsoever. One day I told my cousin that I was looking to just give up a year of my life and do whatever God wanted me to do. She told me about an internship in Texas that promised to help me find direction and purpose if I just gave up a year of my life and devoted it to Christ. So, I packed my bags and moved to Garden Valley, TX in January of 2009.
 
The internship was hard in a lot of ways, mainly emotionally. There were a lot of strict rules like: no dating, a curfew, no alone time with boys, and we had to fill out accountability cards. At the internship, everyone seemed to turn into the same person. They thought the same way, liked the same things, dressed the same, did the same things, and talked the same. And I just did not fit in with the masses. I didn’t want to go to Africa, speak in tongues, or journal for hours. And because they made me feel like this is what a Christian looks like, I felt like maybe I wasn’t a Christian after all. At the end of my first year, I was faced with the choice of staying another year or going home. Since I didn’t have another plan, I decided to stay. I hated my second year there. The legalism was crushing. I was 21 years old and I couldn’t think or act like an adult. My doubts on whether I was cut out to be a Christian grew nearly everyday.
 
It wasn’t all bad though; I made some of my closest friends there. I made my faith completely my own. I learned where I stood on things (though my stance has changed and probably will continue to change). At least it wasn’t because "my mom/dad/youth pastor told me this so this is why I believe this", it was "this is what I read in the Bible and this why I believe this way". Even though the internship was WEIRD (that’s a whole other loooong story), I grew a lot as a person there.
 
When I got home I began to rebel against everything that I learned in Texas. I knew God loved me but I didn’t feel like I was ever going to be the model Christian that had been described to me. So I figured ‘why bother?’ and I started doing whatever I wanted. I got drunk. A lot. I gave up my first kiss to a stranger. I had waited so long for that kiss and I never thought it was going to happen so just went for it. I did a lot of things I regret and a lot of things that left me with memories I wish I could forget... things that seemed like fun at the time.
 
During this time, my family and close friends had been praying for me... praying I would come back to God and realize He loved me just the way I was. I had just starting to go back to church and was trying to figure out what it meant to be a Christian outside of Texas when I met Philip. After I met him, my life completely changed in so many ways.
 
He reminded me that there are good men out there and I was worth more than I was settling for. I started going to his church every week and I remembered what it was like to be excited about God again. I had forgotten the joy I used to feel when in the presence of God because for so long I was afraid I wasn’t good enough to be there.


 
It was at that point that my heart was profoundly changed by the grace of God. I knew full well that God loved me and I didn’t HAVE to want to be all those things I thought I once did. I just needed to seek after Him with all that I have. And even if I wasn’t going after him with all that I had, He was still there for me. He still loved me.

 
Just 3 months after we started dating, I got news I will never forget. I remember it vividly. My brother looked at me and said, "Dad has a brain tumor" It was an out of body experience. His prognosis was grim- 6 months to 3 years if he was lucky. The next few months are a long and painful journey that I maybe will talk about one day. Ultimately my dad passed away on August 16th 2012.
 
The first few days, weeks, and months, everything seemed dark and scary. I never thought I could make it to the other side. I got into counseling 3 weeks after he passed and went for just over a year. I really believe God used this to His glory; I processed and grieved.
 
After a while I looked back and 6 months had gone by, then 6 more months – a year. Then 2 years. I never thought I could get here and be happy. I won’t lie, some days are harder than others but all in all I believe with all my heart and soul that God carried me through. Christ is the center of my world now because I don’t have a choice otherwise. I would not be here today if it weren’t for Him. Looking back, I see His hand in everything. Do I wish there was a different outcome? Absolutely! But I know he worked all things together for His good. He gave me joy, peace, and He gave me Philip to take care of me exactly when I needed him the most.
 
But listen to me, friend, if you get nothing else from this story today know this: God is REAL. He is real and He loves you, He loves you exactly how you are. He is worthy of our praise and our devotion. He has proven Himself to me over and over again. That is why I can’t keep it in. That is why I feel the need to tell people it is by the Grace of God I am here today. That is why if you came into my church on any given Sunday you would probably see me with both arms stretched out wide and trying to hide the tears in my eyes. How can I not be moved when I get to sing to the Lord exactly how much He means to me? The words I am singing make my heart soar because I know them in my heart to be true. My desire is for you to know Him too. Because I know this joy full well I want you to experience it too."
 
 
----- Mary Keith
 

 Mary Keith is a Jesus-loving newlywed who loves yoga & blogs about her life!
Her Insta & Blog

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YOU ARE LOVED! 


Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday Musings { Vol. 1}

Welcome to Monday, my dear!
 
It's no lie that I have put this little blog of mine on the back burner! Every time I sit down to type, I remember the loads of laundry awaiting me or the people in my life who need encouraging. God has led me to focus all of my time and energy on the people in my life right now but that doesn't mean I have forgotten about all of you! I am going to be more diligent about coming to you whenever the Lord gives me some time during the week. Forgive me? I knew you would!



 
+ Last Tuesday, I started Testimony Tuesdays, a new series about our life stories & how God has saved us and changed us. Last week, you heard my story. Tomorrow, you will hear from a fellow blogger so be on the lookout!
 
 
+ I totally dropped the ball on Wifey Wear Wednesday. It's SO HARD to spend hours every Tuesday or Wednesday getting ready, setting up my tripod, getting decent photos, and then posting them. I thought I could do it but it kinda crashed & burned. But guess what? Grace. It's not the end of the world & personally, I think that Testimony Tuesday is a lot more important anyway! I mean what is cooler than sharing how the Creator of the universe saved and redeemed souls? Nothing, friends!
 
 
+ I have been so loving life. No, it isn't any easier or less complication. But that's the beauty of it! God has placed people in our lives that we have the opportunity to love.. how amazing is that!? It's amazing to watch God at work! My husband and I started this weekly dinner at our home called "Potato Tuesdays" where we have people over to eat & talk about what Jesus is doing in our lives. There is so much stuff going on in my life and I know that there is in yours as well but, friend, I encourage you to lay them down at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to give you opportunities to help and love people. Like my dear friend and Small Group leader said last night, "People are Important." People are important! Everything else can wait. People & their souls are so important to God and they should be to us too!  

 
 
+ A few weeks ago, I shared my word of the year. I chose two actually. Awareness & Obedience. I want to be more aware of the enemy's attacks & more obedient to what God is calling me to do or say or write or think!
Do you have a one word or a few resolutions for the new year? I would love to hear about them if you do!
 
 
 
 
What have you been up to lately?
 
You are loved!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Testimony Tuesday (A New Series!) --- My Story


I've always had a love for words. Words are powerful. They can build up or break down. What better way to glorify God than with words. Of course, words without action, like faith without deeds, are empty & dead. But it doesn't have to be that way. There is power in the name of Jesus! I have had the opportunity to talk with a few friends from all over the country & they have opened up their heart with me and all of you. In words, they are sharing their testimonies of how God, in His amazing grace, has saved & changed them.

Normally it will be every Tuesday, starting next week, that I will bring you a personal testimony. It's called Testimony Tuesday and I pray that God will use it to encourage you & open up your eyes and hearts to God's amazing love that He has for us, His dearly beloved creations.

I want to share my own personal testimony of God's saving and perfect grace in my former hurt, lost, and confused life.
When I was five or six, my parents divorced. I still don't enjoy thinking about it but I can remember it all started. At that time and for years to come, it would seem like this trial in my life was ruining me. I couldn't see the end, even as a young child. It was the hardest thing I've ever endured. But what the enemy planned for evil, God planned for GOOD.
Without knowing, that statement would come to be a recurring truth in my life.
Meanwhile, I grew up confused and hurt. At the age of 12, while sitting in a church service with my mom, I remembered feeling my heart pump almost out of my chest while my hands became cold and clammy. I remember picturing Jesus' cross on a hill, knowing in my heart that the perfect God of the universe came to earth for me, a sinner condemned unclean, to save me and make me whole again. Somehow, Someone who I grew up learning as God, loved me. I needed Him. I knew it, I believed it, and I wanted to be washed clean from my sin so that I could know this amazing God. I asked Him to come into my heart.
My life was still hard. Honestly, I don't remember it changing too much after that. I remember crying myself to sleep every single night because life just wasn't what I thought it should be, too painful for a child. Most of the time, it was impossible for me to fathom that God, my Heavenly Father, actually cared for and loved me. But I had faith, at least a microscopic bit of faith, that I held onto for dear life while I struggled through life feeling confused and hurt.

During middle school, I struggled silently with depression, anger, and unforgiveness but I just figured it was part of being a teenager. Because I wasn't being led to Jesus in really any way, I turned to the world for my identity and fulfillment, purpose and happiness. We stopped going to church during my first two years of high school and honestly, I don't remember much of my life during that time. The person who I was wasn't the real me. I was drowning myself with worldly things... unhealthy relationships, fake friendships, meaningless dreams. I always knew God existed. I never ever once doubted that He was there. I just grew numb to everything. I was popular and on the outside, was normal but on the inside, that couldn't be more far from the truth. 
 As I look back at my life during high school, wow, I see God's hand EVERYWHERE. He was saving me over and over again and I didn't acknowledge Him once. I didn't care. As long as someone as interested in me, I was "happy". Fast-forward to my junior year of high school. I was dating someone (who wasn't a Christian and didn't care to be) when my little sister gave her life to Christ. That was the wake up call for my family. My step dad also turned his life over to Christ completely and started learning how to lead his family towards Jesus.
 I could spot new life budding all around me but on the inside, all I saw was dead flowers just waiting to be brought back to life with the Living Water. I remember two specific days in my past that cut deep. The first one was a day that I was sitting in my bedroom floor looking out the window. I saw a big black bird fly across my window. Something about it felt extremely eerie, something you wish to unsee. For some reason, after that moment I felt complete darkness and sadness for weeks, even months after. I think that Satan was battling hard for my soul. Of course, he couldn't have it but I was so weak and vulnerable, he knew that he could break me down as much as he wanted. (Praise God for His mercy to me because quietly, He was working something different out that the enemy nor I could see!)

 The second was a day I looked in the mirror and literally couldn't recognize myself. It was scary. All I saw was "fake". It was in that moment that I knew something had to change. But because I had no guidance and a lot of pride, nothing permanently changed. I continued to follow the world. On the outside, I was blissfully happy but deep inside, I was dying. I learned how to fake it so well. So well.
But God didn't leave me in my mess. He never once left my side, PRAISE JESUS! The summer after I turned 17, my then-boyfriend (now ex of course) asked me to go to the beach with him and some friends of ours. I asked my mom for permission and for the first time EVER, she told me to ask my father (my real dad). I knew that something was up because she never told me that. I asked him and he said no. In the moment, of course, I didn't understand. But looking back, I KNOW that that was God at work! God was working and moving mountains for me! He was pursuing me and I didn't even know it! That is until a month later when I was supposed to be leaving for the trip. The youth group from our church was leaving that morning for a week long summer camp. I left that morning with them without having previously signed up. I just did it. I didn't want to deal with everything back at home that summer plus I had a weird feeling that I needed to go. That was the week that God changed my life, my heart, my soul, my mind. He changed me completely, from the inside out. It was like God brought me back to life that week. I remember one specific night at worship where I met with God. It was powerful and I only remember sobbing on the floor for hours. Meeting with the all-powerful God for the first real time in your whole life changes a person, ya know? I'll never forget the song that He wooed me with... "Lead Me to the Cross" by Hillsong United. Y'all, I wish that I could put into words that experience. I have never been the same since that week. All glory to God. Thank you Jesus for breathing life into my dry bones!
When I got back from that camp, I no longer craved the world but I desired to remove myself from the world as much as I possibly could. I had a fire burning in my heart and mind for only one thing. I had one desire: Jesus Christ. It was so hard but I had to tell my best friends of 10+ years that I couldn't do the things they were doing anymore because I loved Jesus now and He changed me. They still hate me to this day. But they won't understand why I did what I did until they open their hearts to the One and Only God, Jesus and I pray they do that before it's too late. I also had to end it with my boyfriend. That was hard since we were very close friends but I had absolutely no desire to be with someone who didn't love Jesus or even believe in Him for that matter. After breaking up with him, I remember sitting in my bathroom reading my bible. I came across these verses and I KNEW that God was speaking them right to me...
"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
James 4:7-10
Those verses quickly became my life verses because I knew that God was meaning business and was taking control in my life. I couldn't risk looking back even for a split second. I still read them nearly every day! 
I wish I could say that I stayed single until I met my husband but that isn't reality. I went back and forth from that ex (mainly because I couldn't get rid of him, he would come to my house everyday to beg for me back) to another guy that was a great guy but sadly, that's all he was. A morally good person. My heart craved a true Jesus follower, a godly man. If only I would of learned patience earlier in life.
Thankfully, God placed a Christ-like mentor in my life to encourage me and help me focus on my One True Love, Jesus. Her name was Cheryl and I swear she is an angel. We met once a week and she taught me, encouraged me, and gently guided me to Christ in a loving way. I grew immensely during that time. I struggled with loneliness since all of my old friends despised me but I prayed for new ones and God was faithful to send me true, honest, and loving friends who love the Lord. What a blessings to have true friends who point you to Christ!
After feeling God call me to mission and community work rather than college (another story for another day), I spent my summers working for Christ and growing nearer to Him. What a hard but blessed season of my life that I can look back on and see how He carried me and instilled key truths in me that I use every single day like hospitality, selflessness, and a love for others. During this time of growing closer to God, I learned how to stop hiding behind a mask. I learned how to be real instead of fake. You don't have to pretend to have it all together. God sees your sin, your scars, your hurt, your pain, your screw-ups and He is loving enough & powerful enough to reverse the curse of sin over you. He gives you strength to be transparent & honest. He loves you no matter what you've done! Do you believe that?
At the end of 2012, I met someone through a mutual friend. We talked for a while over text and then decided that we needed to meet. Four months later, as we overlooked the Caribbean, he prayed with me and thanked God for all that He was doing in our lives. That handsome guy got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife! I almost threw up with excitement. God was faithful. Neither of us were expecting to meet our spouse that year but God is so good! We were married five months later and life hasn't been the same since! Joe has been a key part in freeing me from the chains of my past life and showing me the love and freedom that is Jesus Christ. I have learned so much from him. We have both grown in leaps and bounds with our Father. Marriage is hard but so amazing because God uses it everyday to incredibly mold me and change my heart. I was so selfish before being married. Of course, I don't have it down perfectly, but God has molded me into His loved servant who is more selfless and loyal than ever before.
Living for Christ and not for yourself isn't easy but it is amazing. We have had our ups and downs but I know that it is all for God's glory. He is so so so worth it all. God gave His life so that we could live. The least I can do is lay that life down at His feet to be used for His glory and fame. I still struggle and it's a battle everyday for our souls but He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. My life is hidden in Christ & I am 100% His. When you let go of selfish ambition, goals, desires, selfish thoughts, and just open your heart to God and His amazing heart, He gives you purpose and joy... Two things I never had until He saved me and asked me to lay my life down and follow Him.
Purpose and Joy is found in Jesus Christ alone!
I struggle with fear but I know that in Christ, I have nothing to fear. God is with me always.
I struggle with past regrets and guilt but in Christ, there is no condemnation and He has made me into a new creation. In Christ, I AM PURE! Literally, my name means pure princess. God is so wise! He knew that I would struggle with worth and guilt and he named me his pure princess before I was even thought of. Thank you Jesus!
I struggle with the pressure of unreal expectations on myself as a wife and Jesus follower but in Christ, I don't have to work to be loved or accepted. I must simply abide in Him.
God is doing so many amazing things in my life right now. He is demolishing fear that has been sewed in my mind all my life. He is sending people into my life to point me to Christ even more so. We are now members of the most amazing church group I could ever dream of. Living life alongside true Jesus followers who are being spent for the cause of Christ is nothing short of supernaturally amazing.
He is giving me a genuine love for people, lost and found. He is giving me a growing urge to do nothing but serve and love Him and His people. I am realizing more and more each day that this life is not about me,  not even 0.1%. It's all about Him and His glory. He saved me from hell, destruction, torment. He has given me life, joy, love. HE IS LIFE, JOY, & LOVE!
One day, I will see my amazing Savior face to face. Lord, haste the day!!!!
You are loved!