Currently {Vol 1}

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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:

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 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).”

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Make A Difference Monday–Speak Life

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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…

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Celebrate Everything

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 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

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 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.

 

 

My Journey To The Influence Conference

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Influence Network is for creatively minded women, who are looking for an uplifting community where they can be encouraged and also resourced to make their online lives mean something.

I joined The Influence Network earlier this year after seeing some Instagram posts about it.  I figured it would be a good way to connect with other writers and bloggers just in case I ever decided to really get serious about writing. Little did I know I was joining a network that lived up to its purpose. I have had the honor of connecting with some of the most inspiring and encouraging Christian women around. They are from all over the world, from different walks of life, different stages of life all carrying a love for the Gospel and the desire to truly make their online lives mean something. They are bloggers, small business owners, authors, photographers, artists, single ladies, moms & wives. They are sisters in Christ who pray for, encourage and celebrate one another. I am proud to belong to this online community of women who speak life to each other and sharpened each other. So often, online communities get so much flack because it’s hard to fathom the idea of authentic friendships with someone you’ve never met. I can put that myth to rest because I’ve had women rally behind me in prayer for some pretty funky moments and I have done the same for them.

Thanks to lots of encouragement and prayer, I finally decided to stop wrestling with God, embraced the fact that I am a writer and a blogger and that my voice mattered. I gave my blog a face lift (thanks to a fellow Influence Network graphic designer) and really started to map out a plan to utilize this little space of the internet I call home. With some shaky faith, I prayed that I would get the opportunity to attend The Influence Conference in September. As a single mom, trips like this are usually not an option without some serious sacrifice and planning. I had already convinced myself that the conference was not an option but the thought of missing out on an opportunity to meet face to face with bloggers and creatives that I admire and had gotten to know was a bit heart breaking.

After a couple of nights of a dream about fundraising for the conference, I set up a GoFundMe account just to see if people would be interested in donating to help towards the cost of the conference. I was rather skeptical with fundraising for the conference but trusted God’s direction in the whole thing.

Within 3 days, I had raised enough to cover the cost of my ticket.

Wow.

God is always faithful.

I’m still hoping to raise the additional funds to help cover the travel and hotel costs. I see every dollar donated as an investment to help me spread the gospel and encourage others through my blog and books that will come in the future. Please consider making a donation to help get me to the conference this September!

I highly encourage any woman that spends any amount of time online to get connected with The Influence Network. You don’t have to be a blogger or shop owner to join. You just need to have a desire to connect with other women who understand the power of the Internet and social media. Check out The Influence Network on Facebook, Instagram (#influencenet and #influenceconf), and Twitter.

July Goals

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I must admit that I am not that girl that makes goals often. I tend to be a more big picture, I kinda know which direction I want to go in but not quite sure of the all the steps to get there, type person.

There in lies the problem.

Without having measurable goals, I am pretty much doomed when it comes to making these visions that I have come to pass. Even though July is well under way, I have decided to list out a few goals to help keep myself accountable to some of my big picture aspirations.

1. Blog at least 3 times per week. I am not the most consistent blogger but working to change that. Time to finally hit publish on those several drafts that are just sitting there.

2. Read 2 books this month, one being Total Money Makeover. Working on emptying my bookshelves by actually getting through the books that I have collected, yet have not had a chance to read.

3. Cook at least 3 days out of the week. I’m working on getting healthy so cooking at home will help me watch what I eat and is definitely more budget friendly.

4. Spend more time with my family…outside. I’m always on the go so when I do get a chance to rest, my preferred method is catching up on sleep. It’s been a beautiful (and hot) summer and I don’t want to miss out on it.

5. Create something. I always say that aside from writing, I’m not very creative. Yet a couple of weeks ago, I got the idea in my head to paint (which I never do). It was fun, therapeutic and outside of my norm. I want to challenge myself to step outside my box more often.

Here are my masterpieces!

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Here’s to a productive and goal oriented July.