Currently {Vol. 2}

image

Each week, The Mama Collective, does a link up where bloggers share what they are currently up to. It’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and build community.

Listening To: Johnnyswim

image

 

image

I must be honest. I rarely buy music. I love music but in its current state, I doesn’t exactly run out looking for new albums to purchase on Tuesdays. I am lucky if I buy an album or two a year and that’s a stretch. A few months ago, a friend told me about this up and coming musical husband and wife duo she heard perform at the Catalyst East conference last October and had been anticipating their first full length album ever since. I listened to the title track from Johnnyswim’s album Diamonds and was immediately a fan. It’s safe to say their album Diamonds and EP Heartbeat are in constant rotation. It’s been a long time since I have heard some really good music. You can check out their NPR Tiny Desk Concert which showcases their AMAZING vocal skills, passion for music and fun they have performing together.

Reading: Bird by Bird:Some Instructions on Writing and Life

image

I bought this book several weeks ago at the recommendation of my friend/community group leader/awesome blogger Kristen from When At Home.  I got a few pages in with every intention of finishing it but somehow life happened and it went untouched on my bookshelf until now. I’ve heard such great things about the author Anne Lamott and true to form, she delivers some timeless wisdom on writing and just life in general. Highly recommend this for any writer who is trying to get out of their own head and write.

Thinking About: Ferguson, Missouri and Mike Brown

It’s been several weeks since the death of 18 year old Mike Brown. The rioting and protests have turned to strategic measures to heal the hurting city of Ferguson. However, I have yet to figure out how to put my thoughts and feelings into words. No arrests have been made, a young man is gone and city has been torn into pieces.  The sad reality is the fact that what happened to Mike Brown is the same fate that my three black brothers and two black sons could experience on any given day simply because of their skin.  I am thankful for the healthy dialogue on race and discrimination that has taken place between blacks and whites on social media but it’s beyond heartbreaking see the blatant racial division and hatred flooding every corner of the media.  My heart is still so raw about all of this but I will share my thought, fears and hopes soon.

Thankful For: Jesus the Redeemer

I wrote a post that gave a small glance into my life as a former teenage mother.  I don’t really think much about my teenage years since they are so far behind me. Yet since that post, I have been reflecting on that stage of life, the hurt, the labels I allowed others to give me that I accepted as truth for so many years and the scars that I realize I still try to hide. Despite all that, I am thankful that Jesus is the Redeemer who gave me a new identity when I said yes to Him. He striped away my labels and shame and gave me His righteousness. To this day, He is still rebuilding my ancient ruins so that I can wear my crown of joy proudly.

 

Dear Teenage Mom: I Support You

image

Me at 17 with my son Gavin

A Facebook friend posted a status about her heartbreak over the number of her high school classmates that are teenage mothers and rightly so. She wondered if all the congratulations from other teenagers was even an appropriate gesture. The status generated some healthy conversation from both sides of the fence. As I sat read through the comments with no real desire to weigh in one way or the other, I started to think about how I felt when I found I was going to be mom at the ripe old age of 16, many moons ago. I was lucky in a way since there was no social media then. The thoughts and opinions of others were not so easily accessible, yet still implied because teenage pregnancy at anytime is still heartbreaking. I started to think about how different my life would have been had I not had the support of friends and family who wouldn’t let me fail. Where would my son and I be if I didn’t have family who sacrificed so that I could finish both high school (on time, with honors) and college? What would my life look like if I hadn’t made a decision to use the judgement and criticisms of others as motivation to keep going? If I could share some thoughts with a teenager staring at motherhood well before her intended time, it would probably go something like this:

Dear Teenage Mom:

I know it must have come as a shock when you found out you were expecting a baby. No teenager really thinks about becoming a mom while they are still in high school, trying to figure out life. Yet, for one reason or another, here you are. I am sure a thousand thoughts and questions ran through your head when you found out.

What will I tell my parents? What will I tell my boyfriend? Will he stick around? What about college, my future? What will people think? Should I keep my baby?

Those are some pretty tough questions with not so easy answers. Honestly, these will be the first of many large decisions you will have to make as a mom. The journey from being a pregnant teenager to a teenage mother will be rough. There is no getting around that. There will be people who will look down on you. There will be people who will judge you. There will be people who will make assumptions about you, never knowing your circumstances. There will be people who will make you think you are simply a statistic, a burden on society, a failure to your parents. There will be people who will write you and your little baby off before either of you even have a chance to thrive. There will be parents who will no longer want you to be friends with their daughters because they see you as a bad influence. There will be times when you will be excluded simply because you are a teenage mother.

But I support you.

Though the position you are in is not ideal, I celebrate the fact that you chose life over abortion. So many teenage girls choose abortion out of fear, pressure from their boyfriends, or because of parents who don’t want the stigma of having a teenage daughter with a baby out of wedlock. Yes, those girls made the same choice to have sex as you, but they took the route that would never expose the evidence of their choice. Though I wish you had chosen purity over pre-martial sex, I celebrate the fact that out of this, you will learn the beauty in God’s grace, mercy, redemption and forgiveness.

I support you as you put on the brave face and announce to friends and family that you will be bringing a life into the world earlier than intended. I support you as you walk down the halls of your school under the gaze of disappointment and judgment from teachers, administrators and classmates. I support you as your friends and family push through the negative reactions of planning a baby shower because many will think it’s celebrating teenage pregnancies. In honesty, it’s an event to show how much you and your baby are loved and supported during this tough time. I support you as you stay up late to finish homework in between feedings because you are one step closer to a better life for you and your baby. I support you as you choose working an extra shift at your part time job instead of going out with friends because you understand the pride in being able to provide whatever you can for your baby. I support you as you share hundreds of pictures of your baby on social media because you choose to find the joy in parenting instead of being paralyzed with shame. I support you as you navigate through the rough patches of co-parenting because you want both families to be apart of the life of your baby. I support you as you walk across the stage during graduation while your baby sits on grandma’s lap in the audience because you reached a milestone so many others didn’t think you would. I support you as you adjust, but not throw away, your dreams for your future.

Despite what the world will tell you and despite how you may feel some days, you are worth celebrating. Please understand that I am not celebrating or glorifying teenage pregnancy at all because it’s not a position I would wish any teenage girl to be in. Yet, because we live in a broken world, it will happen more often than we want it. However, instead of joining in with the masses who will condemn and shame you more than you probably already do yourself, I choose to show you that this one decision does not define who you are. This one decision does not have to dictate whether you succeed or fail in life. Instead of joining in on the never ending discussion of how bad the teenage pregnancy rates are or how disappointing this plight is, I choose to acknowledge the fact that you are not just a topic of discussion but living, breathing young girl who desperately needs to know someone will hold her hand through this. You are worth hugging and wiping away tears when being a parent seems like it is too much to bear. Every mom on earth feels that way at one point or another.  You are worth supporting. You are worth encouraging. You are worth cheering on. You are worth the time and sacrifice of those who love you so that you and your baby can succeed. You are worth loving. You are worth being looked in the eye and being told that you matter, that you are not just a statistic and that your baby is a blessing worth treasuring.

There will be no shortage of teenage mothers who live up to the stereotypes and low expectations of society because of their actions. They will never rise up to the challenge and responsibility of being a parent leaving the burden to fall on others. They will be selfish and put their own needs and desires ahead of what is in the best interest of their child. That does not have to be you. Your baby is depending on you to make the right choices so that both of you have a shot at life. Don’t let anyone tell you won’t succeed, that you wont measure up, that you are less than or that your life is over. You and your baby are loved by the Creator of the Universe. He rejoices over you, He fights for you and He will cheer louder for you than any one else around. Keep your ears open so you can hear Him above all else.

Sincerely,

A Former Teenage Mom Who Kept Her Ears Open

Currently {Vol 1}

image

Each week, The Mama Collective, does a link up where bloggers share what they are currently up to. It’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and build community.

Thinking about:  The Influence Conference

image

I honestly can’t believe that in a few weeks, I will be in Indianapolis at a conference with some Jesus loving creative women from all over the country. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some of the most interesting, thoughtful, honest and amazing wives, single ladies, moms, bloggers, authors and small business owners around. These women challenge me to make my online life and real life mean something.  Even with all the excitement, my nerves are getting the best of me. Traveling to a city I have never been to before to met people I only know online isn’t exactly something an introvert like myself does. I still sometimes wonder if this single mama will fit in but I will never know if I don’t step out on faith and go. Despite my own trepidation, I know this will be an experience I will never forget. I am fundraising to help with the cost of the conference. I would love for you to consider making a donation and learning about my heart behind wanting to attend the conference here.

Listening to:  The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger

image

If you have never experience the beautifully anointed worship that flows from Steffany Gretzinger, you have been missing out. The Undoing is her first full length album from Bethel Music (one of my favorite worship collectives). I’ve been a fan of hers since I first heard her on the Bethel Music’s album The Loft Sessions. The whole album is amazing but the song Out of Hiding has been speaking to my heart like none other.

Reading: Writing to Find Yourself by Allison Vesterfelt

imageI’ve read several books about writing/blogging and I must say Allison’s latest e-book is a breath of fresh air for my weary blogging spirit. One of my biggest struggles is figuring out my voice and building confidence as a writer. There are so many other bloggers and authors out there and often times, I feel like my little space on the internet gets lost among all the other noise. It’s comforting to know that one of the bloggers I admire has been in my shoes before.

Thankful for: REST

image

Last week was a tough week. Work was overwhelming and I am pretty sure I thought about quitting about 17 times in one day. My seven-year old Aiden has had a different health issue almost everyday. Asthma issues, tummy troubles and now we are dealing with a strep infection on his legs (who knew that could even happen). I feel like I have barely slept in a week but my heart and mind are at ease. My body is exhausted but I am thankful that God has quieted my anxious heart and reminded me that He is still a healer and that the Holy Spirit is still a comforter. Thankful for a long weekend with no plans and a couple days off work (while the kids are in school) so I can rest and be refreshed.

A Letter To My 16 Year Old Self

 image

Last month, I turned 33 and just a few days ago, my oldest child turned 16. With each passing birthday comes growing pains, even for adults.  I am trying to find a healthy balance between cool, yet firm parent. I never want my boys to think that they can’t come to me with issues. However,  I also want them have that healthy fear of knowing that I am not so far removed from pop culture that I am clueless about what’s going on in their worlds.  

As my teen and I continue to figure out this song and dance, I realize that  a lot of my conversations with my him have hovered around this simple truth:

“I’ve been your age before. I know better. Trust me.”

There are so many things I wish I had known at 16.  I wish the truths that I try to impart into my boys had been imparted to me when I was their ages, especially 16-year-old me. My mom did the best she could with my four siblings and myself but may things I learned were the result of good old ignorance and insecurity. I’ve learned a lot since I was 16 and decided to reflect on some of the highlights in a letter to my 16-year-old self.

Here goes. Brace yourself.

Dear Frances,

Right now you are 16 and think that you have this whole life thing figured out. You have some awesome friends, freedom to do as you please, and the admiration of quite a few boys. Life is good.

But you don’t know everything. Actually, the amount of things you know about life are pretty small in comparison to how big this world is. When you are 33, you are going to look back at you life and realize that many of the things you thought you knew, you really don’t.

The friends you have now are just that. Friends for now. Unfortunately, by the time you graduate high school and go off college, that will signify the end of many friendships you thought would last forever. There is nothing wrong with that. As you grow, your attitude and perspective on life will change and you will have to adjust your circle of influence accordingly. You will end up meeting some of the most amazing people ever. They will love you, dirty secrets, flaws and all. They will laugh and cry with you.  They will let you have your pity parties when you need to but will call you out when you have been there too long. Those friends will be lifers.

The boys that you will meet will say everything you want and need to hear. Because your father was never there to affirm your beauty and your worth as a child, you may feel the natural desire to seek out that affirmation in other men. Learn and understand just how beautiful, smart, funny, and valuable you are right now so that you don’t have to crave that same validation from a young man who is looking for his own method of validation. You are worth more than sex and butterflies feelings. You really are. One day, you will look up and realize you actually want to get married and you will. It may take a while in your mind but someone will tell you that you wont be single a day longer than God intends for you to be (thanks Charity). And you wont so don’t rush it.

Before you graduate high school, apply for every scholarship under the sun so that you don’t have to take out loans in when in college. It’s not worth it to spend the next 30 years paying off loans for a degree you probably wont use. When it comes to picking a major, be brave and go after what you think is scary and not just what is safe. You really like science and want to work for the CDC. Go for it and don’t look back. Psychology sounds interesting and it is but unless you plan to go get your masters degree and get licensed to practice, a psych degree is pretty worthless. Oh and when you get to Ole Miss, stay out of Kincannon Hall. Sneaking out of the boys dorm is never sexy.

Never take your siblings for granted. Right now, they get on your last nerve, but eventually you will all leave home and it will take years to get you all back in the same place at the same time again. You will need each other more than you realize as you get older.

Never stop writing. Writing for you just seems like something that comes kinda easy and nothing to take too seriously. Just know that your writing really is a gift. Everyone can put one word in front of another, but not everyone can create sentences and paragraphs that will pierce hearts. You can. Write everyday, even when you don’t want to. That discipline will come in handy in the future.

Develop a relationship with God. A real one. Not just the one you are used to which is confined to a couple of hours on Sunday. Read your bible (there are other versions easier to read that your King James version). Learn about prayer, God’s heart, and ask for signs and wonders. God is real. Realer than your mind can understand right now but He is. He will always chase after you, even when you don’t want Him to. You will get yourself into some sticky situations but He will be there to get you out because you mean that much to Him. There will come a day where you will ask God to show you that He is real and He will. Get ready because it will take your breath away. 

Lastly, life won’t always go as you have it planned out but it will work out as it should. Right now, you are 16 with dreams of escaping the projects to conquer the world. Yet, by the time you are 17, you will be a mom of the most awesome little boy ever. You will feel a mix of emotions and want to give up sometimes, but you wont. You will still graduate high school (with honors), you will still graduate from college. Your have a desire to succeed despite what happens along with God’s grace will carry through many dark days. That little boy will teach you about love, sacrifice and the truth that every mom will feel like a failure at some point. But you aren’t.  You will makes LOTS of mistakes but you will be okay.

Sincerely,

33 year old you.

If you could write a letter to your 16-year-old self, what would you tell yourself?

I Can’t Fix A Broken Man

 image

Last night, I was chatting with a dear friend about two of my favorite subjects: God and relationships. I always love to hear from fellow single women about how they are navigating through life, waiting for their time to come when they can say so long to their single days. Everyone’s journey from single to married is different but we can all relate to “the struggle” because not all days are filled with joy and contentment.

The main take away from my conversation last night was the unsettling reminder that sometimes impatience and fear gets the best of women.  Before I finally decided to relinquish control of my love life over to the Author of Love, I was that girl who was impatient and fearful. I moved from one relationship to the next, never really giving myself breathing room in between. It sucked being single and I was going to do anything in my power to make sure that didn’t happen.  Even when the glaring red flags were there, my impatience and fear ALWAYS whispered this familiar lie:

“You can fix him. Stick with him because he will eventually change. Why put in so much work for the next woman to come along and reap the benefits. Stick with him.”

I’m sure I am not the only woman to fall for that one.

The truth of the matter is a woman can’t fix a broken man. Period. Stop falling for the lie.

No matter how good our intentions are or how well we think it worked for someone we know, a woman can’t fix a man whose heart and spirit are broken. It’s not our job nor are we even equipped to do it. We can be his biggest support, his loudest cheerleader and point out the potential for greatness that we see, but we can’t fix wounds from past hurts or offenses. We can’t fix his prideful nature. We can’t fix his insecurities. We can’t fix his unforgiveness. We can point him to Jesus, but we can’t make him love Him.

In my conversation with my friend, the God downloaded this little nugget of wisdom:

“I am the Creator of all things, including that man whose heart is far from me. I know everything about him, things you may never understand, but I do. What makes you think you can fix what you didn’t create? What makes you think you can fix my handiwork? Let Me do a perfect work in him.”

Single ladies, you cannot fix a man just like a man can not fix you in your broken state. Only God can. He created him and knows everything area of his heart, mind and spirit. God’s love and depth of understanding for than man is greater than we can ever imagine. Despite what we think, God doesn’t need help restoring a man made in His own image. Love him like a brother in Christ by pushing him towards Christ. Guard your heart in the process. Silence the lie that tells you to stay out of fear of “the next woman” reaping the benefits. Our desire should be for God to be glorified, not us.  God is the author and perfecter of all things and is more than able to restore what has been broken.

 

Because You Really Are Worth It…

Frances:

Sometimes women need to be reminded that they really are worth it.

Originally posted on The Living Letter Chronicles:

image 

 Sometimes I wonder what goes on inside the minds of women. Not just Christian women, but all women. Every where we turn, there is another book, radio discussion, panel discussion, magazine article, TV ad, music video or movie telling women what they need to do to get and keep a man.

“Don’t sleep with him on the first date because he wont respect you.”

“Sleep with him on the first date because women should embrace their sexual identity.”

“Ask him out because this is 2011 and women shouldn’t be afraid.”

“Wait until he asks you out and pretend to not really be interested (keep him guessing).” “Dress up to impress him and don’t talk to much about yourself (make him feel good about himself).”

“Be comfortable, don’t try so hard, be yourself.”

“Don’t pressure him for a commitment because it will scare him off (he will eventually come around).”

View original 565 more words

Make A Difference Monday–Speak Life

 image

I’m excited to participate in my first Make A Difference Monday link up hosted by some pretty amazing bloggers ! It is a weekly link up designed to encourage and inspire us to live each day on purpose-making a meaningful difference in someone’s life in even the smallest of ways. Thanks Jen Weaver  for hosting!

 Here we go!

If you are like me, you kinda dread Mondays. The weekend is over and it’s back to the weekly work grind. For me, it’s not so much that I dread going back to work. I dread all the negative comments and attitudes associated with Mondays. Without fail, every Monday I end up on the elevator with someone complaining about how much they are going to hate the day and can’t wait for Friday.

I can freely admit that I am not at my dream job. I spend 8 hours in a cubicle, staring at a computer screen,  pushing files from one end of my desk to the other. Despite it not being my dream job, I know that my attitude, whether good or bad, will affect how I navigate throughout my day. I have a choice to walk in every Monday morning, jump on the bandwagon of complaints and set myself up to hate the rest of the week. Or I can choose to speak life and encouragement to those who decide to complain, including myself.

My desire to combat complaints and negative attitudes at work spills over into my regular life as well.  I know that  words carry a lot of weight and a simple word of encouragement can change the course of someone’s day. The words that I speak to my children, friends and even strangers can make such a huge impact. Though I am far from perfect, I try to always make a point to speak encouraging words, compliments or just simply say “Hi” to people I encounter. Whenever someone comes to mind, I take 10 seconds to send a quick text message just to say something nice. If I am standing in line getting coffee, I chat with the barista and wish them a good day.  A smile and a thank you goes a long way with the cashier who may have just had a rude customer. Who knows what kind of day people could be having and my few positive, life-giving words may have been just what they needed.

As you go through out your week, remember to speak life instead of death. Set yourself up for success by speaking in truth that you will choice joy over frustration every morning. Don’t entertain the grumbles and complaint that are sure to come on Mondays or anytime during the week. Become intentional about complimenting and encouraging people you encounter. Those very people may follow suit and pay it forward to others.

Matthew 12:36 states, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” Make sure that your number of empty words pale in comparison to the words that were life-giving.

 

Speak Life

Speak Life

 

Photo Credit: The Influence Network

The Waiting Room

Frances:

I wrote this almost a year ago and needed to remind myself of this very idea today. God hears us, even when we don’t have the words to express how we feel. Be still and know that He is God.

Originally posted on The Living Letter Chronicles:

78632-425x282-Woman_aloneAs a writer, I always keep a journal and pen with me. I am inspired by the simplest things. Images, emotions, mental downloads from God and random conversations with people all tend to ignite the creative side of me. My mind is always going so I jot down notes or phrases  whenever they come to mind. Many times they turns into a blog post or a one on one conversation between God and I. God never ceases to amaze me in the way He pieces together words in my mind and allow them to form sentences that resonates in the hearts of those that read the finish product. Being able to share my thoughts and revelations with the world is an answered prayer and certainly a gift from God that I can’t take credit for. As I allow the Holy Spirit to decipher my jumbled thoughts and random sticky notes of phrases…

View original 761 more words

Celebrate Everything

 image

 Last month, I celebrated my 33rd birthday. As I get older (and hopefully wiser), I realize I appreciate things a lot more than I did years before. I appreciate  friendships more. I appreciate my children more. I appreciate every little dusty corner of my house more because it’s my home.

While it’s easy to appreciate those big picture things like family and friends, it’s so easy for me to navigate through my days on autopilot and lose sight of all the little things in life to admire and appreciate. Sometimes it’s hard to find the silver lining in a situation or pin point the good that happened in a day. I can easily find the fault in someone who made my day go downhill or point out what went wrong last week, but I haven’t always been nearly as intentional about finding something to celebrate.

A few weeks ago, my lovely friend Jeanell, who blogs at Momma Bird Takes Flight , posted a simple Instagram photo of a routine grocery store trip with her and her daughters. Though she had a stressful day and the trip was not without a couple of hiccups, she choose to celebrate the small wins of the experience like coming out under her shopping budget. That one photo sparked a desire in me to start celebrating the little victories of the day instead of focusing on the bad.

Finding joy instead of frustration has made SUCH a difference in how I navigate through my days. I’ve learned to keep myself motivated by celebrating everything, big or small. From actually getting out of the house to work ON TIME to finally hitting “publish” on that blog post that has been in my draft box for weeks now, it all deserves a little praise.

Here are a few things I want to celebrate this week:

1). I ate dinner at home every day this week so far. I resisted the urge to grab something quick, unhealthy and outside of my budget.

2.) I collected children’s books to donate for my friend Jeanell who also has a non-profit that promotes literacy.

3). I signed up to participate in a children’s book exchange where children can receive up to 36 free books.

4.) I have NOTHING scheduled for this weekend. With my schedule, that RARELY happens!

5.) My teenager turns 16 tomorrow!

I challenge you to find something through out your day to celebrate. It’s fun and it makes these 24 hours we get that much more enjoyable.

#CelebrateEverything

 

 

My Struggle With Parenting

image 

 I rarely write about parenthood because honestly, it feels like that one area of my life I seriously struggle with the most. Even though my oldest son turns 16 in a few days (eekkk!), I still feel like I haven’t quite figured this whole being a mom thing out. I was not that girl who longed to be a mom so parenting does not come naturally to me. I sometimes envy women who say “all I ever wanted to do was be a mom.”  That is seriously such a foreign concept for me to grasp. Don’t get me wrong, I love my boys to the moon and back but parenting them has not been without its fair share of struggles and victories.

This past year or so has probably been my hardest so far. Grades, emotional issues and just communicating with them has been beyond challenging. My sweet baby boy went from this perfect kindergartener to a first grader who made up in his mind that school was for the birds. My oldest struggled with normal teenage angst like fitting in, self-esteem and understanding just how important high school really is. After many emails to teachers, phone calls, conferences and crying fits in my car, I was ready to throw in the towel and admit that I sucked as a mom. My boys weren’t performing to my expectations and everything I tried seemed to fail. I was a honor student from kindergarten through college so to have my kids struggle with school was a blow to my ego. I suffered in silence for quiet a while because I didn’t want to be “that single mama struggling with her kids.”

Everything that they did or did not do, I took personally. They were my mirror, a reflection of my parenting.  When they weren’t doing well, it meant I wasn’t doing well as a parent. My boys are FAR from being juvenile delinquents but even the smallest issues was a big deal to me because everything rested on my shoulders. If my first grader didn’t follow directions in class for the 3rd day in a row, I failed as a parent. If my teenager didn’t ace a test, I failed as a parent. I was not measuring up. I was doing it all wrong.

It was a hard to pill to swallow when I finally admitted to myself that I had let my identity and worth be wrapped up in my kids’ performace. I was allowing how I saw myself as a parent be dictated by the rise and fall of their ever changing moods. I did not give myself grace or them breathing room to make mistakes.

As a parent, we are often more critical of ourselves than others would ever be. No parent wants to be considered a failure. Aside from Mary, mother of Jesus, no other parent has ever raised a perfect child, so why even beat ourselves up when they don’t live up to our lofty expectations. This year has taught me such a valuable lesson in cutting myself some slack as a parent and embracing each challenge as they come. My children will never be perfect. They will make mistakes…and so will I.  The beauty of it all is that with every new day comes a new chance to be a little better than we were the day before.

Grace not perfection.