Sweet Tea and Flip Flops

Life really is good!

The Importance of Godly Friends

About 5 years ago, I battled post-partum depression. I knew I was never going to climb out of my pit, and being a decent mother was a fantasy. Some days, it was all I could do to get out of bed, much less be a new mother. I didn’t want to be around people. The thought of pretending to be happy was sickening and I didn’t want anyone to see the mess that I had become. I made up my mind that the best thing for me, was to keep to myself. Aside from my husband and new baby, I wanted nothing to do with anyone else. I couldn’t handle the attention and the, “what’s wrong? Why are you crying?” all the time. I felt like the only way to avoid all that was to seclude myself from the world outside of my home. At home, I didn’t have to explain myself and I could cry all day without having to tell people why.  Roughly a year later, my seclusion was not helping so I finally sought help. I was prescribed several anti-depressants that I took for about a year. By the grace of God, I was eventually able to come off all medicines and my post-partum finally healed.

A few months ago, stress of life put me into another pit. I wouldn’t call it depression because I didn’t have a sense of hopelessness, I was just sick of stress. Between family illness, cars dying, one financial blow after another, I was done. I had had all I could take. Again, I made up my mind to close everyone out.  A very close friend, who happens to be my aunt, figured me out and told me what’s up. She looked me square in the eyes and told me, “you need to keep those Godly friends close, and you call on them, daily. The enemy wants you to seclude yourself so that he can get into your head and tear you down more. He also wants to make sure that you are never encouraged, so that you stay miserable.” She didn’t realize what an impact she made on me.

In Genesis 2, God even says that it is not good for the man to be alone, hence God created a helper for him, Eve. God wants us to be in sweet fellowship with other believers! We should be surrounding ourselves with Godly friends and calling on them, often. With the technology so available today, we should be texting, emailing, Facebook-ing, tweeting (whatever tickles your fancy), with our Godly friends! Start a group text where you laugh together, cry together, and send pictures together. If group texting is not your favorite, start group DM’s on Twitter or Facebook. Don’t forget the ancient art of actually getting together. It is so important that we encourage each other daily. Every single one of us is fighting a battle and needs encouragement.

There are few things worse than seclusion. I promise you, with every ounce of my being, shutting others  out WILL NOT MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER! Reach out! Confide in someone you trust, and always seek God first. If you need to, pray to our Heavenly Father and ask Him to put loving Godly people in your life. It makes the hard times a little easier and the sweeter times, even sweeter. Also, if you see that someone needs Godly love and support, do not wait for their invitation. It may not come and usually, the hurting person will not be an initiator.

Love y’all in Christ,

Grits

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They’re Not Yours

As most of you know, I am a proud momma of two very active little boys. What many don’t know is that both of my boys share the same birthday. Yes, the same day, three years apart, in late October. I look forward to their birthday every year! It’s the day I became the most important thing I could ever be: a mommy. This year, that was NOT the case. I was very upset, and depressed even, over it. It had become a sad reality to me that my babies were growing up an sooner than I’d like, they would be grown and not need me anymore. October was tearing me apart with each new day.

In one of my emotional moments, I began to pray for the Lord to change my heart. I was praying Isaiah 55:8,

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

My prayer was that our Heavenly father would heal my hurt by making my thoughts turn to His thoughts. As soon as I said Amen, God answered my plea, “My child, they’re not yours to begin with.” Instantly, my human heart wanted to argue. “But, God, you gave them to me. What do you mean they’re not mine?” I knew exactly what God meant. They are not mine. They are His that He has entrusted to me to nurture, love, and teach to Love Him. Mommies and Daddies, our babies do not belong to us. They belong to our Heavenly Father. He has trusted us with His most precious gifts, with a mission. Our mission is to love those little ones just as God loves us. He has given us the task of teaching them to love Him more than anything. We are to stir a passion in their little hearts for the Lord Jesus. I cannot think of anything better! The God who created the universe by speaking, loaned us His most precious creation to care for! There is no job description more wonderful than that! 

           God knows that we will never be perfect parents, but we are never alone in our task. God will hold our hand through every single step of this mission, but we have to remember, our babies (old and young!) belong to God! Cherish every day with them, knowing that you are caring for God’s most precious creation.

Love y’all,

Grits

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Why Is Christmas Not Enough?

I have been fighting God tooth and nail, on writing this blog. He woke me up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago and told me I needed to voice this. I have used every day since to make every excuse I can think of, on why I can’t write this. *Deep breath.*

In my home, my husband is the sole bread winner. In other words, we are four people on one income. Needless to say, money is tight, but God always provides. ALWAYS! “Blessed,” does not begin to describe our family.

2014 was a whirlwind. The grace of God got us through it. My husband’s school is under IRS investigation so we lost his financial aid, a program director dropped the ball on licensing her students for their clinicals. This adds two semesters to an 18 month program. The hospital’s (where he was to do his clinicals) contract with the school expired which added a third semester to an 18 month program. The list of problems with his school goes on but I’ll spare you. In September, my father-in-law’s Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s hospitalized him. Two weeks later, he died of a pulmonary embolism. My brother was married in October and I was in charge of the little details and decorations. Our two children have the same birthday in mid-October. My mother was hospitalized twice since mid-October, my mother-in-law had a heart attack and was hospitalized the day before Thanksgiving. Praise God, she is okay.  Quite a sob story, huh?

The financial strain of all of this was unbearable, therefore, we could not do Christmas.  If we didn’t already have it in the attic, we didn’t buy it. We had a tree, decorations, etc., but gifts. . .  we have a four year old and a one year old. Care to explain to them why there are no gifts under the tree? God provided in that they were given gift cards for their birthdays. Good thing we saved them; they bought their Christmas. My husband and I were broken over the fact that we could not give Christmas gifts this year. Not even for each other. It was heart-breaking, depressing, and cold. We hated it. We prayed so hard that God would provide a Christmas bonus at work, or some overtime, or something so that we could buy gifts. No extra money came. In fact, because of all the sickness in our families, all the birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas get-togethers were at our house. This made the money situation even harder. Still, we prayed for a Christmas miracle. We finally called our families and friends and told them that we were trying something new this year and to please not buy us any gifts. We would gratefully decline them.

All this time, my husband and I were praying, praying, praying for something to give. He stayed strong but I did some good crying. We could barely pay the bills and now, here comes Christmas. In one of my cry sessions, I received my miracle. The holy spirit laid it on my heart so heavy that I was totally overwhelmed.

“Neena, you have totally forgotten what Christmas is. Do you think these people won’t love you any more because you didn’t buy them something that they didn’t need anyway. Christmas is celebrating my birth. Why is that not enough for you?”

I thought I was broken when I was thinking about no gifts, but the brokenness I felt when I realized I had, in a sense, betrayed my Jesus, was more than I could handle. I pulled my husband into the bedroom with me and told him what I was told. His heart was just as blessed as mine was! We had our miracle! No extra money appeared. We know that this was because God wanted our focus back on Him. Not on the chaos and commercialism of what Christmas has become.

I never realized how much of my Christmas spirit was gone with the gifts. I was so busy running to this store, then that store, to the bank, to this person’s, to that person’s, etc. I was a mess. By not doing gifts this year, we had extra time to drive around and look at lights as a family, we were able to attend all of our church’s Christmas events, we were not distracted. We were able to see Jesus in this holiday season!

We all spend so much time being so “gifty” to everyone that we are too busy to see why we even have Christmas! Why do we HAVE to buy all those gifts? Let’s face it, we don’t do it any more because we want to; we buy Christmas gifts because of a sense of obligation. My husband and I bought three gifts for each son and then one gift that they share. That’s it! Our children were thrilled! They had no idea there weren’t a million toys under the tree. They are grateful and love the gifts they received. We bought nothing else. No, stocking stuffers, no mom gifts, no dad gifts, no grandparent gifts, not even for each other.  This has been the most wonderful Christmas I have ever had! I urge you to give up the gifts next year. Cut back seriously on the kids and cut out everyone else. I understand there are some you love to buy for, but cut back! I never realize that I had become too busy to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

My husband and I are so grateful that God gave us our Christmas miracle by not landing a bag of money in our lap. Instead, our Heavenly Daddy reminded us that Jesus really IS the reason for Christmas! Praise God for knowing what is best and for loving us enough that He shows us! I pray that you all reconsider the holidays in 2015. I know they’re a longs ways off but I will pray that God give you a reminder to keep Christ first next Christmas!

I love you all.

Neena, AKA Grits

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Don’t do it for yourself! Do it for God!

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” In other words, no matter what you are doing, you should be doing it to glorify GOD.  NOWHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT SAY, “do good for yourself because it makes God happy.”  If we could do good on our own, there would be no reason for Jesus to have died on the cross because we were already good enough. Romans 3:10 “As the scriptures say, no one is righteous-not even one.”  There is no such thing as good enough for God, without Jesus’ payment. The entire reason that God sent his son to earth was to die on the cross so that our sins would be covered by the blood of Jesus. WE CANNOT BE WITH GOD AS OURSELVES, NO MATTER HOW “GOOD” WE ARE. God is a holy and perfect God and our sin keeps us from him.

GOD IS NOT HERE TO SERVE US. He is not some genie in a bottle that sits around making sure that you are happy. He is to be honored. He is sovereign. He is the master of the universe. He is not some guy that will plop that new car in your driveway because you asked nicely. He is not here to coddle us. We were created to serve HIM and “doing good” is nothing to him if you don’t have Jesus! I am going to lose a lot of followers over this but I feel lead to say it, STOP MAKING GOD SOME EARTHLY BEING HERE TO SERVE YOU! IT IS WRONG! If you are doing something under the pretense that God would want you to be happy first, you need to know that it is not about you. It is about GOD. Every single thing that we do is to glorify GOD. Yes, everything. 

God loves us deeply and does want us to be happy but not at the expense of honoring Him FIRST. Yes, God will honor the desires of your heart but that does not mean that you are going to get everything you want. God is not concerned that you have the biggest house or shiniest car. He will meet your NEEDS (Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ.) 

I cannot emphasize this enough, Christianity is not about being happy. It is not about self empowerment, or self glory. (For crying out loud, how many Christians lived the glorious life? Not Paul, not Stephen, not John, not Peter, want me to keep going?) It is not about US! Christianity is about honoring God!

Every single thing that we do or say is to honor God! Don’t do it for yourself! DO IT FOR GOD!

 

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Jesus Prayed for You

Whether you believe it or not, YOU are a child of God.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. When He created you, He knew everything about you, before you were even conceived. He knows your name. He knows what you love. He knows what you fear. He knows how many hairs are on your head. He even collects every tear you have ever, and will ever, cry. He made you in His wonderful and perfect image. You are His love. You are His heart. You are His reason for leaving glory and coming to this cruel earth. You are His child.

Life is hard. Sometimes, everything about it is hard. There are days when the thought of getting out of bed gives you anxiety. We have all had that day and to some, it is days, and then weeks, months, and then years. Before we know it, we have been in that hole so long, we forgot what it feels like to see the sun. Feeling like this doesn’t have to have a title. You don’t have to be “depressed” to feel alone. Sometimes Christianity is painted to be all happy days with no worries. That is not the case. In the Bible, Job was a man of God. Job lost everything, He lost his farm, his livestock, his family, everything except his life. He sat, homeless, on the street, covered in sores, praying. Job never gave up on God, because he knew that he was God’s. Job knew that God had a plan for him and he stayed faithful. How is it so hard for us?

I do not have the answer to that. I am guilty of making things about myself when things go wrong, and not looking at God’s plan for me. We all are. We all want life to be perfect. God never once, promised us a perfect life on this earth. But, HE PRAYED FOR YOU. Ladies and gentlemen, if Jesus prayed for something, you can flat count on it; IT IS GOING TO BE ANSWERED!  

In John 17, Jesus is praying for the day ahead. He knows that He is to be crucified the next day, but He prays. He does not toss and turn in bed. He is not afflicted with anxiety. He prays. First, He prays for Himself. Not for His father to rescue Him from the cross, but that His father would be glorified and honored! Second, Jesus prays for His disciples. He prays to His father of their faithfulness and obedience. Then, Jesus prays for you. He loves and treasures you so much that the night before we nailed him to that cruel cross, He was praying for you and I! He prays for your protection, He prays that we be unified, He prays that you be filled with joy. John 17:15 says, “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world , but to keep them safe from the evil one.” Put your name where it says them. Jesus is praying for God’s hand of protection over you. Again, Jesus prayed it. It will be answered. This means that God is protecting you every single second of your life. He watches and protects you the same way a mother would her children. Verse 19 shows His ultimate love for you. “I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” Again, put your name where it says them. Jesus sacrificed Himself, willingly, so that you could be made holy. You! Jesus died for YOU! Every whip to His back, every blow to His face, the crown of thorns smashed on to His brow, the nails in His hand and the nails in His feet, were for you. When He was hanging on that cross, He was thinking of you. “I am doing this so that ____ can spend eternity with me.” He treasured you and loved you and yearned for eternity with you, so much that he took that punishment for you.

Friends, I urge you. Please read John 17, replace every adverb with your name. Please know that life is not meant to be perfect and painless but it is meant to be lived for Jesus. I pray that this speaks to your heart and that you find comfort in these words. Jesus loves you more than you or I could ever fathom and He wants your eternity to be with Him.

With Christ’s Love, Grits

 

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The (Only) Problem with the Veggie Tales

Let me just start by saying, the Veggie Tales are the best! They are my favorite, my kids’ favorite, most of the Christian world’s favorite, they are awesome!  I have just one problem with them, they have given me the ability (and the yearning) to be silly when the time really doesn’t call for it.

Let me give you an example: a couple years ago, my church’s VBS theme was the story of Daniel. (Some of you already know where I’m headed, here.) We were at the part in the story where Daniel was in the lion’s den and our youth pastor asked the kids, “can anyone tell me why the lions did not eat Daniel?” The answer he was looking for was, “because God held their mouths shut.” What did I answer? “Because they ordered pizzas!” The good news is that I didn’t say it out loud (I think), but non-the-less, I thought it. The Bible tells us that thinking something is no different from doing it, oops!

                       

Another example is the other day, I was reading the book of Esther, where King Xerxes called for Queen Vashti to appear before he and his men so that they could gaze on her beauty. She refused so Xerxes had her banished. When I was reading this, I thought, “now wait a minute, she was banished for not making Xerxes a sandwich.” (I know the truth, just being funny, here.)

As much of a Veggie Tales lover that I am, these are the kind of shenanigans they have brought me to. Not that I need an excuse, but the Veggie Tales have given my a LOT of silliness to work with. My son was in a foul mood the other day and the only way I could think to lighten the mood was busting out with a little, “we are the pirates who don’t do anything!” He giggled. Thank you Veggie Tales. Or how about when my husband says, “hey honey, where’s my water buffalo? Why don’t I have a water buffalo?” (It was all I could do not to crack up-but I held it together for sake of the kids.) Here’s the hub’s water buffalo.

The worst thing, is when we’re in big church (adult church), and our preacher made the comment that God is bigger than the box we try to put him in. All I heard was, “God is bigger than the boogie man!” Admit it, you thought it too. I actually giggled a little, in big church, at this one. Did I mention what plunging the toilet reminds me of? Yes, Larry Boy.

The Veggie Tales have given me a silly take on the Bible. Have they ruined it for me? No. I don’t recommend consulting the Veggie Tales for the next sermon you’re preaching but if you teach the four-year-old Sunday school class, and need a good reference for how it really is what’s on the inside that counts, remind the kids what happened to Madame Blueberry in Sweet Pea Beauty.

“And so what we have learned, applies to our life today. God has a lot to say, in His book!”

For kids, the Veggie Tales are a fantastic way to learn Biblical principles, and life lessons. It’s clean so you don’t have to worry about censoring what little eyes are seeing and little ears are hearing. Adults: face it, if you can watch Veggie Tales and not be in a better mood, well you’re just a sour person. Granted, I wouldn’t replace seminary with them. . .

“And remember kids, God made you special, and He loves you very much!”

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Rise Up: God Is Not Done With You Yet!

No Laughing Matter Ministries

Wrestling 1For those of you who don’t know, earlier this year I made an extremely hard decision to step down from the pastorate. Without going into a great deal of detail the big reason I stepped down was because I was burned out. After I announced my decision to step down, the church council decided to close the church. It devastated me, to say the least.

Ever since then I have really been wrestling with a lot of different emotions: Anger, bitterness, betrayal, sadness, regret, remorse, etc. As a minister my confidence disappeared. I began to question my calling. I even began to doubt it.

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God is NOT done!

Recently, a Twitter friend of mine posted three pictures, each with a quote from a famous “preacher” that we all know.  Not gonna lie, two of these quotes BURN ME UP but I’m only going to attack one of them. If you don’t want to hear my first real rant, now is where you should stop reading. . .

Here is the quote: “God has already done everything He’s going to do. The ball is now in your court. If you want success, if you want wisdom, if you want to be prosperous and healthy, you’re going to have to do more than meditate and believe; you must boldly declare words of faith and victory over yourself and your family.”

I’ll do this in a list form to keep it to the point.

1- (In all caps) GOD HAS NOT DONE EVERYTHING HE IS GOING TO DO.  Are you kidding me??? The fact that a self-declared man of God says this, is CRAZY! Does any Christian truly believe that God is done?? If nothing else, anyone ever read the book of Revelation?  Case closed.

2- “The ball is now in your court,” indicates that you are on your own, God has left you hanging. You are the king of your own destiny. God is done, so now you do it. Guess that means we don’t need God anymore. (That should sound ridiculously stupid, because it is.)

3- “If YOU want success, if YOU want wisdom, if YOU want to be prosperous and healthy, YOU’re going to have to do more than meditate and believe. . .” It’s not about YOU!! It’s about what Jesus did for us. He was humiliated, degraded, betrayed, and beaten for us. As Christians, we are to focus on this. Our mission is to tell people what He did and win souls to Him. We are to minister and lead people to HIM! It is not about us, it is about JESUS!

4- “. . .you must boldly declare words of faith and victory over yourself and your family.” There we go with the YOU business again. See number 3.  Oh, and the victory bit, our victory is in Jesus but since God is done with us, I guess, why bother? I’m sorry but doesn’t declaring victory over something mean that you defeated it? (I know what he meant, but his verbiage is terrible.) Does this mean that we are to defeat ourselves and our family? Yeah, that sounds biblical. The only victory we truly have in life is through Jesus. All good things come from God. If we have any victory, it is only through Him.

END RANT

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My Kid Does Not Hear English

Before you go all squirrely thinking I’m a country bumpkin with my verbage, let me explain. My three year old, Noah, thinks it’s hilarious to chase the cat into a corner and then “tickle” her until she “laughs.”  Our cat is eight years old (human years); she is not amused. What is actually happening here is this: Noah chases the cat back and forth across the house until she finally runs and hides in the corner behind the vertical blinds. I still can’t figure out why she runs to a corner that she knows she will not be able to escape from. Anyway, she crouches down into a ball (praying for her life) while Noah tickles her. He actually thinks she is ticklish. His goal here is to hear her laugh–what we adults like to call, “hiss.” The louder she hisses, the more Noah tickles her. After all, the harder a person laughs, the funnier it is, right? 

In the meantime, I have said, “Noah, stop chasing the cat. Noah, leave kitty alone. Noah, quit. Noah, go play in your room. Etc.” About a hundred times at this point. Which got me thinking, he doesn’t speak English! It’s the only logical explanation. The only problem with my theory is that his English is crystal clear when HE speaks it. “Mommy, can I play outside? Mommy, I would like peanut butter and jelly for lunch. Mommy, I need to go potty.” So, I started thinking even deeper. “He speaks it just fine. . .he doesn’t understand it!” That’s got to be it! He speaks it but doesn’t understand it. Then I think about the times where he knows exactly what I said, and he replies to me like a professional. Example: “Noah, would you like to go play in the pool?” “Yes, mommy! Can I wear my shark bathing suit?” Or how about, “Noah, would you like some ice cream, now that your spaghetti is gone?” Yes, mommy! Can I put my own sprinkles on top?” (Now, these conversations are all interchangeable between mommy and daddy, so I know it’s not just me.) Obviously, he understands exactly what I’m saying. So why is it then, when it comes to chasing the cat (among many other things), he doesn’t. My kid does not HEAR English!

I understand that this already has a name–selective hearing–but try telling a three year old that he has selective hearing. He looked at me like a deer in headlights. So now, when he commences kitty chasing, after I’ve told him 57 times to stop, I tell him, “Noah, you are not hearing my English.” Does it work? No. Not even close. It does give the hubs and I a little giggle because we both know it makes zero sense. When he gets older, we’ll explain the selective hearing bit to him, but for now, he needs to start hearing my English!

 

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Why on earth am I doing this?

I am 29 years old, married,and a mother of a 3 year old and a 6 month old. There is never any laundry to do. My dishes never pile up. There is never anything to clean. Did I mention, we homeschool? Oh, and I volunteer at church. Plus, we go to the usual Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night church services. I’m never busy, or stressed, or tired.  

Whoa, did I fall asleep? So now that I’m awake from that beautiful (and insane) dream, let me tell you the truth. . .

The part about married with the two little ones is true. Oh, and the homeschool part is true too. The lies are (I would think this would be pretty obvious): the laundry, dishes, cleanliness, busy-ness, stress and tiredness, etc, etc, etc. I am a living and breathing example of craziness, in the day to day survival manual. My family’s laundry pile grows so tall, we have lovingly named it Mt. Washmore. If we had to pay a dishwasher, the overtime would cost us more than the national debt (guess our little GE will have to manage). Both of my kiddos are boys so I clean in my sleep (can anyone tell me how strawberry jelly makes it to the ceiling???). Homeschool is such a beautiful blessing but there are days where I ask myself seriously, why I am doing VOLUNTEER preschool. I mean, he’s only three, right???? (Whole ‘nother blog for a whole ‘nother day.) So WHY ON EARTH AM I STARTING A BLOG? Am I crazy? Have I lost it? I already have a million things on my plate so. . .

Maybe, I like self-torture. Isn’t there a name for people like that? Masochists, I believe? No, no that’s not it. My pain tolerance is zero.   Hm, maybe I do this to run and hide? No, I have an amazing life. Granted, I have my days, but as a whole, I really am living the dream.  Is this blog idea to encourage other people? Maybe. I like to make people laugh and Lord knows, I am way far from perfect. Maybe people can relate to me? Okay, enough psychology fluff. We all know the world has had enough of that. Is it because I like to write? No- wait, maybe I do. (Hey, I just learned something about myself!)

Someone once told me that I had a lot of insight. At first, I laughed. ME? Insightful? Hahaha, good one. I’m too simple for that. What if that’s just it? I am extremely, what you see is what you get. Maybe the fact that I don’t play games is what makes me easy to relate to? Now, I’m just chasing rabbits. . .

So why am I writing a blog? I really have no idea. Before I started this, someone told me that I needed to have a goal before I start. I confess: I don’t. My life is quirky and full of funnies. I am so undeserving of the fairy-tale that I live. I definitely don’t have a goal here. I just want to be silly and have fun! I’m sure a lot of you can relate, so lets all laugh together! God gives us so much and every day is a chance to relish in it! Life is too precious to be so serious all the time. This will be my little place to share some of my life lessons, insight, and maybe even rant a little here and there (I promise to make those rare). Enjoy!

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