When “Miss Popular” became “UNpopluar”

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1993. Sitting in Mrs. Keeton’s English class probably daydreaming about a boy (didn’t we all?) and over the loud speaker I hear the following:
“We would like to announce this Senior class’s ‘Who’s Who’…’Most Popular’ Tressa Hovater and ____________’…”
And just like that I was forever known as “Miss Popular!”
Well, forever is stretching it. More like for the next couple of months and especially during the photo session for the annual when “Ok, so Most Popular is next” was announced. And for your viewing pleasure…I am sharing that photo:

I was your perfect picture of “Popular but for no material reasons what-so-ever!” I did not drive the new car of the day, I did not have the name brand clothes, or shoes, or vacations, or the most money in the snack room. I never not had what I needed…food, clothes, and a warm bed…but I never had “the best of everything” like so many around me did in the fashion/car/stuff categories. My first car was a 1982 Mercury EXP (in 1992), I shared clothes with my mother/sister, I had ONE pair of Guess jeans (you my age people know what this is) that I got for my 16th birthday, and my first pair of brand new Nikes came when I was in college. Soooo, I was NOT “that” girl. I was all but her. The outfit that I am wearing in this picture was my mother’s. That is just hilarious to me. She was a good mother to let me wear her clothes.
I was simple. I was generally in a good mood every day at school. School was my “escape” from the crazy unknown at the time bi-polar world I was living amongst. And I was happy there. I could be myself and laugh (yes I was loud then too) and make the posters for the basketball season (I was a cheerleader…not a “yay go me” one but a “if you’re gonna play basketball, then you’re gonna cheer too” one and I was GOING TO PLAY BASKETBALL. I loved it. Heck, I still love it. I get plum cray cray come “March Madness” season. Brackets er’where. Anyway…I loved my high school days. They were good to me. I had friends and great teachers and great teams and some of the best happenings of my days. I of course had the “high school boyfriend” on/off/break up/hate/love/best/worst/learn/stupid story of my very own. He and I are still very good friends actually so it was not as “typical” as most I guess. I had some of the best guy friends anyone could ever hope to have…8 of which were in my wedding as groomsmen and 21 years after graduation, I still could/can call at any minute and they’d each be right there for me. Of course, my husband who was one of those best guy friends in school says it’s because I married him and they are all his friends. Whatever TJ. Whatever. Lol
College life was not much different for me. I still did not have the great and awesome car (had my sister’s 1991 Maroon 4 door Escort at this point) but I was super proud that I was paying for it. Paid it off actually. Then a WHOLE MONTH of NOT having a car payment then B.A.M. T-Boned by a man running a stop sign. Yay me. I seriously write like I talk and therefore one little description of my life leads me to tangents…I know. It’s distracting. I get it. Apologies.
Soooooo, I experienced pretty much the same thing(s) in college as I did high school. I never brought any great material gifts to anyone at anytime but I never had a problem “fitting in.” I never joined a sorority but attended plenty of frat parties. I sang with a popular local band at several little bars and events. I dated whomever I wanted. I was liked by all but one college professor…he was a straight up self proclaiming male chauvinist who did not believe that women should be in the Political Science department of study. Therefore, I was not favored by him in the 831 classes I had under him. Maybe the sarcastic very loose lipped call you out in a second personality I had then may have had a teeny tiny bit to do with it. For example…he was attempting (and I use that term very loosely) to draw for us the process of “How a Bill becomes a Law” right?! And we are talking about chalk board days. Which, for those who messed up and use an eraser to erase said mess up and start over, was fine. Yet he would mess up, smear the chalk with his hand, and keep writing. And within a 49 second roundabout session of this topic there was nothing but a HOT MESS on that board…and MAN I wish that term had’ve been created back then cause I woulda used it at that very second…so I, being just as disgusted as the rest of the closed mouth class, slammed my pen down on my desk and said (code for OUT LOUD) “THIS is ridiculous. Can you please just erase this crap and start over?!” To which he totally ignored my sweet and appropriate request and continued to just cloud up that blackboard. Lovely. He also taught a Political Equations” class required for my degree and at the end of the semester asked for suggestions for teaching this the next spring (he was fresh out of PhD school) to which I wrote on the suggestion paper “Um yes. How about you get a new teacher for the next class. One who knows what in the crap he/SHE’s doing.” He was the ONLY B I had that LAST semester. 21 hours…7 classes…POLITICAL SCIENCE…and THAT class taught by him was the only B I had. An 89.6 and he left it 89. I was also the only woman in that class. I’d like to slap him. 15 years later. Lol
So comes marriage. Then the baby carriage. And all along these times of my life…I am pretty well liked. I carried “Most Popular” well. Sure I had people who hated me…but most of that mess was boy related. And as I look/think back on all.that.time. I only have a few, and when I say a few I mean a few, times that my Christianity was ever an “issue.” Once was in high school a guy asked me “Why do all you Church of Christ people think you are the only ones right?” And he was not asking in a harsh or mean way. He sincerely wanted to know my answer. So I gave the best one I knew to give: “Well, all I know is that everything we do as a church, I can find you book/chapter/verse for why we do them.” Sounded good. Pretty sure I had heard that taught to me in a lesson before. And the other was I had a college professor who was an Atheist. First and only true one I have ever known. His mother passed away when he was 15, he was an only child, and he said the day she died he had been praying to God to heal her. These were his words to me to explain why he did not believe that God exists: “when her spirit left her body…I saw it go out the window. And my belief in God when right out with it.” He was a believer that we as humans “made up” the notion of a God, heaven, afterlife, no pain, tears, etc. to make ourselves feel better. That in all reality, when we die, we are just dead. Nothing else. And because we “don’t like that notion” we created this story that has been passed down for generations so that we do not have to feel that we are nothing. When you really ponder this…it seems feasible. And because he knew that I was a Christian, a loud/outspoken/not afraid of a good conversation Christian at that, he would call me out sometimes. Example: (he was a political science professor as well) “So in the process of voting/choosing for the President…if you only have 2 choices, maybe 3, in whom you did not choose to be the candidates…are you really getting your choice? Kind of like with the Bible. God says ‘you do it my way or else’ so is it really a choice? Tressa. You’re a Christian. Tell us then, do you really have a choice?” Things like that. He loved it. I was always willing to just open my mouth and let it out. I was his favorite Christian because I was so much like him. Raw, hard, cold, calloused, outspoken, not afraid, and with all of that…very likable.
So I say alllllllll of that exhausting life history to make the point that popularity came easy. It was not sought out, it was not desired, it was not accomplished by denying my faith. I was a popular girl. Through high school, college, marriage, babies, all things life I have been very fortunate to have been liked by many many folks. In the congregations we have been members of, our family has been received and loved and “fit right in.” I have been a woman who, even though I have that rough and cold and harsh side, has never had a problem having friends. And believe me, I am not telling you this to be boastful/prideful/arrogant…I am simply stating “how” my life has been…as a person AND as a Christian. See, what I realize is this:
I have been “Most Popular” as a person…as the Christian I was…but now, the Christian woman I am…is so UNpopular.

“What do you mean ‘unpopular’ Christian woman Tressa?”
From what I have diligently studied at the feet of my husband for the past 2 1/2 years, the Christian woman of the world standards is VERY different from the Christian woman of the Bible standards. The biblical portrait of a God fearing and Jesus following woman, from what I gather, leaves NO impression she was:
Career eager
Hungry for equality
Desiring to be seen/known
In control of her husband
Self absorbed
These are clearly ALL things the world tells us we should be…have to be…want to be in order to be respected/successful. And as long as I was intermixing the two concepts ~a little Christian and a little worldly I was popular. And liked. And accepted. However, the decision to be less like the popular and liked and accepted Tressa and MORE of the Christ like, God fearing, obedient, submissive and obedient woman of faith Tressa has caused a much different outcome when it comes to my popularity.
I am not.
And I could not be any more satisfied that the world is no longer my desired accepted version of me. Jesus is. Being the woman who honors and follows and obeys His commands for me is. I read and study and pray to be just as His word reveals to me how I should be. And so many of my “friends” and dear sisters in Christ have abandoned, shamed, and condemned me for doing so. A local congregation even went so far as to publicly announce that my daughter and I are lost and condemned…simply because we are starting from scratch and studying and obeying simply from the Lord’s instruction. Our obedience is no longer at the understanding of a “name” of a religious group. Because when you are faced with obeying a man made organization of believers who are set in their ways of worship/obeying and it comes to a “you will do as we tell you to do or else” verses what the scripture simply reveals…the choice is truly simple. Or it should be. Just be warned that when you are truly convicted to be a simple Christian, you will be complicatedly labeled as a “lost soul.”
That sounds crazy huh?! Yeah, I would say my popularity has been stripped of me. L.O.L But thanks be to God that being obedient to HIM is finally the goal and not being recognized as “Miss Popular.”
That truly never fit me anyway.

Just don’t. But, when you have…

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Sisters. Does this prick you the way it totally did me? Read it again. Now, consider its truth.

Through obedience of my children’s souls, there came a true humility to my own. That humility has lead me to accept simplicity in God’s plan, His will, His intention for me. I read Titus 2 and know beyond any convincing or debating or demanding by humanity that God instructs older women to teach younger women things of being a woman. So this simplicity has caused me to self reflect and to come to an understanding that some “things” I hold precious or important or even once accepted as truth must change. See, through the truths taught to me simply from God’s word and not from human wisdom, have caused a choice. I have been shown from His word that so many choices I have made have been made outside of Him. Unknowingly I might claim…ignorance for sure…acceptance of human tradition or pattern or teaching…because that’s what I was told to do…whatever “excuse” I may use will not hold water for when I am asked by Him “Why did you do ________ when you came to an understanding that it was NOT what I wanted from you?” Just picture that scene. I do. I mean, I have a whole list of questions for Him. Like, “how did You deal with Judas?” and “what’s up with not making me a man?” and “why in the world did You create mosquitoes?!!” And yet no answer He gives me for these will be of ANY importance right?! But what about my answer. What about the defense I try to muster up for the WHY that He demands of me? A simple question. Why? There’s a popular hymn that causes one to think “what will your answer be?”

So. “Don’t go outside of obeying GOD to get something because you will HAVE to stay outside of God to keep it.” really caused me to admit that I was/am guilty of this. I have gone outside of God/His word/His authority to do what I want to do. In His name of course, because come on…we as “Christian” women in today’s world just do not outright rebel. We do what we want to do and claim that that is what God wants too…we can quote some big time scripture and back them up with some fantastic explanations that have taken us about 3.6 minutes to memorize. We have the highlights set on automatic…”I do ____ because of ____!” Our answers are quick, proud, with extreme confidence and we spout off exactly what we have been fed.
How many of us women have ever been willing to be taught instead of being the teacher? How many of us have ever wanted to be lowly, submissive, obedient, silent? How many of us desire to be the woman of God’s plan over the woman of our own desires/fulfillment/understanding? How many of us are selfish in the kingdom yet claiming selflessness the whole time? Better yet, how many of us have ever questioned what we SO PROUDLY claim to KNOW? I cannot answer for anyone other than myself…and I KNOW that I have been guilty of “leaning on my own understanding.” Pitiful. Sad. Playing the role of a Christian woman and yet NAILING the role of a hypocrite. Which I am pretty sure just disgusts Jesus. That’s what I gather anyway. And for heaven’s sake…I don’t want to disgust Him, any longer.

We -my husband and myself- had come to the understanding we had gone outside of God in making some of our decisions. And we knew that we would have to stay outside of Him to stay true to those decisions. One specific area was in my role in God’s kingdom. We had been blindly following, in good conscience, a humanistic understanding of my role. It made sense. It worked. It was productive. It was accepted. Everyone was on board. There was an universal agreement that THIS was obedience to God’s plan. It was easy. It was liked and pretty and fun and smiled upon. Every single Christian we knew agreed to this way. So the right thing to do was to just continue in it right?! Surely if all the good and honest and strong and faithful Christians were doing this it MUST be right!! And yet…the “but…’s” just could not be shaken. So, “seek and you shall find” became a promise we held Him to fulfill.

So, a journey of study began. Individually and collectively we studied His word. We relied on His word. We sought His word. We began looking to Jesus and The Holy Spirit’s message with the intent to obey THAT! We stripped away all preconceived ideas and all patterns and all accepted “truths” that had been preached to us for years and years and years. And THIS is when our lives were (to steal another’s writers words–Jen Hatmaker) “Interrupted.” When we began listening to HIM over the wisdom of people, what we began to hear was truth. His truth. THE truth. And so began the recognition of choices made outside of obeying God that we now would have to CHOOSE to continue outside of Him to keep. And it was like taking our hands and doing the up and down version of weighing the two. THIS over here is what GOD HIMSELF says…this over here is what these people are saying…hmmmmm, what to do what to do. Are you kidding me? I mean, THIS is what we do. It sounds ridiculous and I am willing to guarantee that some of you will think “oh no, not me, I never ever do that!” when in fact we ALL do. We are born and trained to believe “a way” — “a teaching” — “a denominational pattern” — and we seldomly if EVER question what we are taught. We just do it. We believe it. We practice it. We defend it. We even teach it to others and tell them they are wrong if they are not doing it, believing it, practicing it, defending it. And let me interject here and say that IF we are trained in God’s way, teachings, and patterns then when we do question them, we will find that our way, teachings, and patterns are in line with His. BUT what do we do when we find out they are NOT??!

Hence this post. Hence the calling to think. Women we are being taught and trained and programmed to believe all this stuff that most of is NOT what God has said but what we as humans want God to say. We twist and turn and pervert and change what IS to what we think it IS. Hmmmm, seems like somewhere I have read about leaning on our own understanding….and being proud in ourselves…and directing our own steps…and doing what is right in our eyes…so, we/I rely on God. We are searching diligently for truth. And once we understand through prayer and seeking, we obey. Simple –spiritually, it’s so simple. Physically…it’s so not simple. It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking. It’s controversial. It’s angered people. Many many people have turned away from us and no longer socialize with, fellowship with, or recognize us as saved in His kingdom. We are “in error” to them and therefore they understand that they must pull away from us. We understand this thinking. We knew this would be the outcome. We saw it in scripture that THIS is the result of truly obeying. Physically it’s hard. Jesus knows that too. Spiritually it’s worth it. Jesus proved that.

I am a woman submitting to my Lord and Master’s will for me in being submissive, and obedient, and silent when commanded to be, submitting to the authority that He has placed in my husband as my head, and choosing to obey Him over men. I am a woman who loves her God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. I am a woman who is learning what that REALLY means. And in that, learning more and more of what it means to love my neighbor as myself. I am a woman committed to obeying His clear and undeniable commands to teach younger women the things of being a woman. I am learning to choose Him over me. Learning to listen to commands over wants. Trying my best in sacrificing over fulfilling desires. I try. I fail. I repent. Beg for forgiveness. I try again. I succeed. I fail. The pattern will more than likely repeat for the course of my life. But I now know, through a continuation to study, that when I make choices to go outside of obeying God to get something…I have to stay there to keep it. And I just do not like outside of Him. It’s scary out there. I want to be “All In!!” Inside of Him by obeying His word.

I pray for courage to let go of any “thing” I gained outside of obeying Him. I pray for pride to not be what drives me. I pray for strength in enduring the “persecution.” I pray for all of my sisters, ones I know and those I don’t, to be ruled by humility. I pray for wisdom in loving my husband and children. I pray for time to become all that He wants me to become. I pray for understanding of my role in His kingdom and then courage to do just that, no more/no less.

I just LOVE quotes that make me think.
Hope you enjoy reading my thoughts. :)

Change…beautiful or brutal

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“Just call me…because you are going to be a basket case who will not be able to stop crying!” was the advice I was given from a few ladies about my baby babies starting kindergarten AND pre-k the same year. See, Autumn was always a very independent and confident child so I was not fearful of the routine change for her in starting kindergarten. Scout, however, was THE momma’s sweet baby of ALL the momma’s babies ever alive…so I was CERTAIN that the change from being home with momma allllllllll day evvvvvvvvery day would just be the worst. And the two only being 18 months apart in age meant that Autumn would start school and Scout would be home. Alone. With momma. For a year. I mean, that would have just been over the top hard for that baby to recover from the following year. I could just imagine it…”Aw, here Scout let’s take sthisssther (he had the cutest lisp) to school every morning then we will snuggle and laugh and play all day every day. Until it’s your turn to go to school. Cause I’m SURE you will totally understand that!” He would’ve needed serious therapy. Like DHR would have been called the first day right?! SO our answer was this…we will enroll Scout into a pre-k program so he and “sthisssther” can prepare and do the first year of school thing together. It was brilliant. And BONUS…our local school (the one hubs and I both graduated from) started a pre-k program THAT VERY YEAR that Autumn would start “keeen-dee-gar-tun.” Score.

So here we had all this CHANGE coming upon us. Individually AND as a family unit. My world would be changing drastically because my last 6 years had been CONSUMED with pregnancy, newborns, diapers, feedings, no sleep, spit up, just plain vomit, cuddling, snuggling, laughing, hide-and-go seek, Dora, Charlie and Lola, town runs, play dates, ALL.THINGS.BABY/TODDLER/CHILD. And yet, with all of that…the biggest change would be NOT BEING WITH MY BABIES EVERY DAY! I mean, I had devoted my entire life to this. My “job” was being home with them every day. And.I.LOVED.it. And then there would be the change that A and S would be making…the same as mine — NOT BEING WITH MOMMY EVERY DAY!
Please do not miss this though…there would be WONDERFULNESS in this change as well! I would be able to go to the dentist and get my teeth cleaned ALONE. I would be able to go to Wal-Mart and grocery shop ALONE. I would be able to clean my house DURING the day light instead of at 12 midnight because that’s when all is quiet and still. I answered one lady this way when she asked “aren’t you going to be so sad when they start school?!!” :
“UMMMM, NO. IT’S LIKE RETIREMENT FOR ME!” Who have you ever met that when their job is finished and complete isn’t ECSTATIC for retirement?!! I had been doing something else over the past 6 years…I had been preparing. I knew that if the world stood and time remained that in 5 very short years, my baby would be going to “keeen-dee-gar-tun.” I knew that was the natural progression of time. I knew that with maturity and growth would come change in her/our life. I knew that it was what was necessary for her to become who she was meant to be. I knew there would be sadness mixed with the excitement. I MAINLY knew this: THIS was part of the reason I would commit myself to her. THIS was why I would sacrifice a career, my pride, my need, my desire. THIS was why I forbade myself to miss these 5 years. THIS would be what I would NEVER be able to have again. A job was ALWAYS a possibility…my baby girl and baby boy’s first roll over, first word, first steps, the snuggles, the kisses, the TIME with them would not be ever again. And that TIME with them both would be over so quickly, I just didn’t wanna miss it. We made decisions to do without. We didn’t do vacations every year, we didn’t eat out, we didn’t buy new or expensive clothes, we didn’t have extravagant “things,” our home was small and simple, we didn’t have “stuff” … and ya know what? we made it just fine with what we did have — L*O*V*E and commitment. We had food every day…and we had clothes every day…we were provided for in every sense of the words “for our needs.”

I took a nap, on our big bed, with my sweet and precious and BEAUTIFUL babies one afternoon and woke up to be fixing pancakes and bacon for my 5 year old and 4 year old children’s FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. It LITERALLY happened that fast. With “Build A Bear” creations as support (Autumn’s voice recording was me saying “I love you baby…don’t cry.”…that bear still says that 8 years later) and backpacks full of goodies/supplies for their classroom and full stomachs…we head out. Scared. Unsure. Nervous. Excited. Giddy. Back to scared. Like a roller coaster that with every up there was a sign that read “good part” and with every dip “bad part” and every curve “good luck figuring out what you’re feeling now!” we head out to this CHANGE. THIS moment in our lives is EXACTLY what I thought of when I first read the above quote. THIS was such a beautiful and natural and exciting and new “era” of time for all of us…that was the BEAUTIFUL part. And yet it was so scary and different and challenging for us as well…that was the BRUTAL part. So how’d it turn out you ask?! Autumn (my very independent and confident child) cried EVERY SINGLE DAY for the first two weeks…like the embarrassing outpour crying that made me tell her on day 6 “I am NOT leaving you at the Hannah Home box for the love…it’s school. Your aunt is in the office and your momma lives 3 MINUTES from here…get it together!” Bless. And once she learned the routine and got comfortable with the “change” she fell in love with school and has never cried to go since. Scout (my very momma’s boy child) walked into that pre-k class, straight to his table, took off the supply filled backpack, waved at me and said “bye ma!” He cried WHEN I CAME BACK TO PICK HIM UP! The “change” wasn’t so hard for him afterall. Wow how our babies can totally fool us huh?!

Now. When I look at this quote I see a spiritual application and not JUST a physical one…read it again.

Based solely upon our children’s obedience to Jesus and His Gospel…our lives changed. And that “change” has been BEAUTIFUL. And brutal.
We, as 4 saved souls, have started at the point of the Cross. We no longer are just following after men, patters, traditions, ways, doctrines, etc. There is something very enlightening about simply and humbly seeking The Lord and His Word. The change that THIS brought has spiritually brought about a peace which doesn’t make sense in the world (isn’t it ironic..don’t ya think?). We accepted that we did not know a lot…and then begin to pray for the change that was necessary for us to know exactly what He wants/requires/demands. That change was from a commitment to trust. Trust Him to do what He says He will do…He is completely ok with being held accountable to His promises. That change was from a commitment to have faith. Faith that He is able to do just as He says…and to rest in that faith that He wants to. So, for us to have hearts which desire truth, seek truth, and ask understanding, trusting Him to lead us and having faith that He will…CHANGE has been beautiful because through His word we are brave enough to accept what is required of us. NO MATTER THE COST. It’s beautiful because it’s relying on Him…beautiful because He is ENOUGH. His Word is ENOUGH. And because we know that He is faithful and just, the change(s) we are making is/are not brutal in that we are fearfully resisting…change is brutal because becoming more obedient to God means being less obedient to self/people and self and people just DO NOT LIKE THIS!!! It doesn’t make sense. It’s weird. What I am obeying may not be what you’re obeying and therefore I can say you are wrong and you can say I am wrong…but say all we want right cause we know all there is to know and we are responsible for making sure that every soul is obeying the way we obey. Clearly, that’s the right thing right?! I have it all figured out…you need me to tell you what to do…and when you don’t, then you are wrong. Cause you will have to answer to me one day about how/what you obeyed. I am your judge. I have the answers. You must please me. You have to do what I am doing or you are wrong because I am right. This means this and if you don’t see/understand this this way…then clearly you are wrong. Now wait. Hold up. Surely when you read that and maybe even say it out loud when you reread it…it sounds REEEEEEEdiculous. It was intended to. See, change in what we do – what we understand – what we believe – what we know – what we practice – is almost 100% of the time looked at brutally. If we begin to do things differently…immediately those new ways are wrong. And yet, CHANGE is exactly what will happen when we accept His way for us. CHANGE will continue to happen our entire life after that moment as well…as we mature, we change. As we learn more, we change. As we understand more, we change. I use the #think a lot in quote posts to simply get people’s minds a’turning. So, just think about this with me for a moment:

We make physical changes ALL the time and they go without question right?! I may go from having dark hair through several steps to become blonde and only an occasional “ah, well, you look different” will occur. We change jobs, houses, cars, shoes, hair styles, friends, hobbies, ALL the time and hardly ever do we question those changes. There may be physical changes we make that never even get noticed. We change the type of music we listen to…we change the liquids we drink…we start painting our finger nails light colors instead of dark ones. These “types” of changes do not bother us or anyone else normally. They are vastly overlooked. BUT…let a family of 4 souls who submit to Jesus start making changes based on spiritual understanding AND THE WHOLE WORLD CEASES TO TURN. THIS is not accepted, or overlooked, or unnoticed. Let a woman and her husband and their daughter accept simple instruction of silence during gatherings of The Lord’s church and THIS has GOT TO BE WRONG…and ADDRESSED IMMEDIATELY. There can be a family of 4 who’s child is slowly making subtle changes that are proving his/her choices to serve self instead of God but since they are physical choices like dress/dating/friends/habits/behavior/etc we don’t get all ruffled about that. We call that “normal” and “hormones” and “teenagers” and “sowing wild oats” and “figuring things out”…BUT if a woman and her daughter are choosing to submit to God in the instructions He has given them in being silent, it will not be tolerated. “They don’t understand those instructions clearly.” “That’s not what that means!!!” Do you see that?!
Why can’t we accept spiritual change? Why do we fear it? Why do we judge it? Why do we condemn it? Why do we not allow it? NOW…let me interject here and say this: we are commanded not to change what God has said right?! What He says is what He means. Clearly. And that is NOT the changing I am referring to in this post…it’s the change that comes from a true submission to His Word. The change that happens in our hearts…our thinking…our understanding…our choices…our actions…our worship…our devotion…our commitments…ONCE we humbly submit to Jesus, His example, His commands, His ways. Once we humbly submit to God, His Word, His will. Once we humbly submit to the Holy Spirit, His teachings, His commands, His instructions. THIS WILL CAUSE CHANGE. Change that will be BEAUTIFUL or BRUTAL…and that depends on us. Sisters, submitting to my Lord’s will for me is the best thing ever. It’s weird. It’s laughed at. It’s doubted. It’s questioned. It’s abnormal. it’s BRUTAL…To the world only. To my Lord — it’s the most BEAUTIFUL THING EVER!!! And I pray for Him to allow me time to change in whatever ways necessary to be pleasing to Him, to honor my husband, to love my children, to be the complete servant He desires. WHATEVER changes THAT requires…may I see them as beautiful and not brutal. May I understand the brutality would be in resisting those changes…resisting humility, resisting selflessness, resisting instructions from Him.
Change with intent to obey Him = beauty
Change resisted because of fear/pride = brutal.

#think ~~~~~ Just think.

What mothers aren’t saying.

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Said “QUIT” like 27 times.
Whipped him/her 392 times.
4 hours sleep in 19 weeks.
4,674 dishes washed.
Even more clothes.
No shave November…pffft, no shave ever.
Sex – want it/don’t/can’t/too tired/fat/blah.
17 bills paid TODAY.
$837.72 in groceries. This month.

Done it. Said it all. Right?
THIS can produce THIS:

“I want to just leave. Go away. Drive until I run out of gas.”
“Good luck doing this alone buddy. I’m out!”
“This place would collapse without me.”
“I just cannot do this anymore.”

Admit it. You’ve thought it.
And IT’S OK. No need to beat yourself up. Or be embarrassed. Or ashamed. You are in the 100 percentile of mothers.

When Autumn was 2 weeks old, I took her to her 2 week checkup. Alone. And no it was not because TJ had no interest or care for me, her, or the situation…he HAD to work. We lived on his income only and he never took advantage of taking time off. He worked or we didn’t eat. Lol. Upon arriving at the doctor’s office, I got the typical “aww, she’s so pretty” and “you look so good” and the ever famous “your life has forever changed!” I smile and say “thank you” to everyone and head back to an exam room. When the doctor makes his way around his packed facility, he looks at her info -weight, length, etc.- and says “YOU ARE STARVING HER!” Wait. What?! She has been sucking the nipple PLUM off my breast for the last 2 weeks, and I mean that literally -like rips in these bad babies- and I’M STARVING HER?! What crazy meds you on old man?! Gimme my baby and shut your mouth cause you clearly know nothing about breast feeding or birth or bonding of a mother and baby. All things that ran through my head. When the evidence was PLAINLY in front of him. Autumn weighed 9.5 at birth, lost down to 8.12, and 2 weeks later….she is still 8.12. She was getting nothing. Nada. ALLLLLLLLLL that sucking, bleeding, cracking, ripping for NOTHING?! All those 2 hour feedings for nothing. Really? That nursery nurses advice about “let her cry” was ringing in my head. Well, I had been “letting her cry” for the last 2 weeks in order to not “spoil” her…NOBODY TOLD ME I COULD BE STARVING HER!”
So, a walk of shame back through the hallway–feeling the eyes of judgmental women who perfectly raised their perfect babies and never ever starved them–I drive home. I cry. I feel so ashamed. So guilty. I cannot even look at my angel perfect baby because I have failed her — TWO WEEKS IN!! I make it to the bedroom in our itty bitty 2 room home, get her out of her carseat, lay her down in her bassinet at the end of our bed…and I cry. I remember having this overwhelming feeling of “I KNEW I was not meant to be a mother!” I inched over to the edge of her bassinet and looked at her and realized that I had done her so wrongly…she was crying out for me in a state of hunger and I -wanting to be THAT mother of THAT baby who would NOT be spoiled to being picked up every time she cried- let her cry herself exhausted. And starving. Worthless doesn’t really even justify how low I felt.
TJ arrives home to find me crying face down on our bed…still in that uncontrollable state. When he asked me “baby…what is wrong??!!” I will NEVER forget my reply…and neither will he.

“I don’t want to be a mother anymore.”

“AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH….HOW COULD YOU???!!” No mother is supposed to EVER feel this…let alone SPEAK IT!!! Right?! Look, I was exhausted. Emotionally drained. Going on almost no sleep. The nipples…OH DEAR LOVE. And I’ve JUST been told I am so incompetent and horrible and selfish and the worst mother to ever mother. (that was clearly all in my head…but come on, we feel this way right?!!)

See there is something about God’s design for the human body to NEED to lie in a state of rest for a certain amount of time daily. Wisdom. And over the course of the two weeks, I have had ZERO. She ate every 2 hours. So figure this:
12-15 minutes on left breast
Burp for at least 5
12-15 minutes on right breast
Burp for at least 5
3 minutes to change diaper
lay her down…she cries.
15-20 of that (ohmygah I was starving that baby!) she falls asleep
That leaves…57 minutes until she is ready again right?!
Now, I have to pee. Clean and medicate the nipples. Write in her book some feeling I had cause clearly I am SUPPOSED TO RECORD every little thing. eye roll. I may get to close my eyes for 30 minutes…maybe none. It’s time to incorrectly latch her back on again. Oh.the.pain. I mean, if you have NEVER had a knife -a very sharp one- slit around the outside of your areola..well by nad IT FREAKING HURTS!!! I would hold my breathe, grit my teeth, and pray to God above that THIS time it wouldn’t hurt so badly. Well, it would. Just as badly, if not worse, than the last time. BUT, I knew she needed what my body produced for her MORE than I needed to be relieved. I had a sense of her need(s) more than my own. And THAT freaked some Tressa out let me tell you.

ALLLLLL that typed to make this point: ALL of us have felt that overwhelming “ohmystars I just can’t.” Like “DONE!” “I’m out!” “This isn’t what I signed up for!” “She’s so little HOW can she need SO MUCH?!” “I am a epic failure.” But you know what…I -in 2001- had no idea this “feeling” was normal. Women just didn’t seem to openly talk about failure…or exhaustion…or overload…or the “too much”…I was prepared for all the 9 month crap and the labor mess and yet NOBODY told me about L.I.F.E with this human. I was supposed to be in amazement and awe and so happy and so “normal” right?! And I just wasn’t. I wanted out. I changed my mind. I didn’t think this through. And then top that with the OVER the top pile of guilt that surfaced for feeling this way. “WHO FEELS THIS WAY?!” “Who doesn’t want to be a mother anymore after being a mother?!” “I am the worst human being to ever live!” And yet, I wasn’t. I was completely and utterly JUST like every other mother who experiences this pregnant/labor/delivery/newborn/sleep deprived/hormone roller coaster. But I never KNEW that until I began openly talking about how this whole thing siphoned (which is my word for the other word that TJ won’t let me use in my posts lol) and then other mommies were all like “yeah, tell me about it” and then would commence to releasing all this negative “untalked” about stuff that I SO NEEDED to hear. The “fairytale” stuff was draining the life outta me. I was desperate to hear “IT’S OK. No need to beat yourself up. Or be embarrassed. Or ashamed. You are in the 100 percentile of mothers.”

So. Here I am. Telling you all. Whether you be 14 and clearly single, or 19 thinking of that life of being married and having sweet little creatures, or 6 months pregnant, or waiting in the doctor’s office right now about to have a BOMB dropped on you like “hey, you’re starving little Suzy,” or like me currently…13 years removed from the sleepless, exhausting, nipple tearing phase of motherhood and residing in crazy teenage land, I’m here. Just trying to help. Reassuring you that you are NOT the first woman/wife/mother to feel what you feel. I promise. There is somewhere a woman/wife/mother who has experienced EXACTLY what you are right at this very moment. AND WE NEED TO KNOW THIS!!! We need to help each other. Teach each other. Learn from experiences of others who gained wisdom and foresight about this whole encompassing LIFE of being a woman/wife/mother. Right?! You get me?!

Now…what will you do with the lessons learned in your life? Talk. Reach out. Help. Offer. Ask. Seek for her. PRAY FOR HER. And take what you have –whether little or MUCH– and share it. Give it away. Bless a woman with it. And in doing this we will prevent others from feeling that “I just want to leave” feeling. We can empower each other to experience the feelings of “I have been told about this…and I know I can make it!” And open avenues of communication. I am telling you sisters…THIS is what we are in DESPERATE NEED of. It isn’t being brave, or being bold, or going out and being BIGGER and BETTER than last year, or being known, or heard, or any of that! We’ve been aiming at this for what…50-75 years?! How’s that working out for us ladies?! We need each other. We need advice. We need ears. We need connections. We need love and support. We need correction. And crazy thing is…THE LORD knew we would. May be the very reason He commanded us to do this for each other. Hmmmm…that wise God. He’s so spot on. Or “on fleek” as I’m understanding teenage dialogue?! lol

Let someone you know know “It’s ok. I’ve been where you are and let me offer you how I survived it!”
It seriously could make ALL the difference in her life :)

There’s this song…so good. Listen and share today.

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It was a normal Sunday morning, our souls were together at the throne of God worshipping His Awesomeness, remembering our Savior’s sacrifice of His sinless Body and His pure blood, and afterwards I began to cry. This happens very often when in clear and uninterrupted thought about THAT. I was thinking of “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” When He vowed to be that Friend for me, He has YET to “withdraw” that promise. He knows the true and deep and real meaning of being a friend. So I began to think of what “kind” of friend I am…

I immediately realized my flaws. My wrongs. My downfalls and mistakes and let downs that I have disappointed so many with in my lifetime dominated my mind…for just a few seconds. Then I hear my phone ding the sound of a text message and having sick parents, I instantly think “if I don’t check it, it could be them.” So I walk into the bedroom, pick up my phone, it wasn’t my parents. It was a sister. A sister who has continually edified me. Not always in agreement, not always in a patting on the shoulder, never in a judgmental way, but always with a spirit of love and friendship…ever willing to learn and seek and pray together with me. And there is this link to Youtube in the text. No words, just the link. Before I can click on the link, the next message comes in…”my Tressa song.”

I KNEW I would be embarrassingly boo-hooing within moments…

I curiously opened the link and began to listen…it was the video type with the lyrics on the screen…and by the end of the first verse…I’m in tears. Like, uncontrollable sobbing. The kind that you always hope NOBODY is seeing you like this because you look like a complete idiot…yeah, that kind. This sister was simply wanting me to know that she loves me and that she is so thankful for our friendship, in her very “unsappy” way cause we just don’t do sappy together well. We had rather send each other a “you’re weird…I like it.” type text. She had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA that moments before while worshipping our God, I was dwelling on His friendship and self reflecting at my own friend ability…the good and the bad in me. She had no way of knowing that I had been questioning if I were the person that someone could say “I have a friend in her.” NO WAY for her to know how alone (physically) I had been feeling. It was impossible for her to be aware that I was in doubt and analyzing every single aspect of me and my love for my friends…and what that even really means. I mean, Jesus is my friend and He proved that by living His life to teach about my role of being submissive, and obedient, and good, and selfless, and trusting, and forgiving, and in service to others. He loved me enough to tell me exactly how to please our Father. He died for me. He. died. for. me. He rose for me. He. rose. for. me. See reason for the massive tear parade?!
When comparing THAT to what I bring to the table for my friends…I’m an epic failure. And I realized that in order to truly be a friend for my friends, I would have to be more willing to empty myself of my own ideas and wants and desires for my character in my friendships. I would have to be selfless. I would have to do more for them than I would myself. I would have to be willing to do what He says…not just for my own soul, but more importantly for the impact on others. I would need to be willing to live the life He commands and die in faithfulness.
I want to be THAT friend. I want to live for others. I want to love the way He loves. I want my present friends, friends I have previously had who may not still be a presence in my life, and future friends out there to know – to believe – to be confident in – that I am a friend to them.

So, was the text a coincidence? I do NOT believe in such…I am a believer in perfect timing. I am confident that God is a giver of perfect gifts and answers and confirmations…in HIS time. I am confident that text, with that song, and with that following caption, was for a purpose. Not for the “oh yeah, I’ve got this thing down and I don’t need to make any corrections because I clearly, according to sister X, have this whole friend thing down pat” purpose…but the absolute reassurance that there is a soul -a sister soul -a friend- I have made an impression on. She is thankful for my heart, for my honesty, for my willingness to refine, for my desire to seek the Lord, for my want to to teach her about loving her husband…her children…and how being a woman is a beautiful and precious and special thing in His kingdom. She is willing to be challenged to think. She can receive correction in a mature and respectful way KNOWING it is coming from a mature and respectful place. She does not judge. She listens. She is factual and never allows the influence of another’s thinking to sway her own. She’s steadfast. She’s confident in God’s love for her. She is willing and eager to teach me about things too. She is a poster woman for forgiveness and patience and understands that THIS is how God deals with her and her sins/imperfections. So…for her to think of me in this way…and to let me know this at THIS moment in time…without knowing how badly I was feeling…was moving. Heart swelling. Humbling. Warming. Reassuring. It made my eyes cry tears of JOY and my emotions be overwhelmed with thankfulness. It was perfect.

I shared it that day. I forwarded it to bless others with the blessing I had received. I am posting this for that same purpose. Listen and text the Youtube link to your friend. Your best friend. Your mother. Your daughter. Your sister. A woman who may need to be uplifted. A friend who recently rescued you. A friend you haven’t spoken to in a while…for whatever reason. A friend who may not know how much you appreciate her. Just share it. Be a blessing.
Might wanna put those little warning light emojis before sending the link…just to give her a head’s up. You know, like in case she is about to go in the grocery store. Shew, please don’t catch her off guard with this cause if she has a heart…it’s gonna make her hit her knees. And if she’s wearing mascara…in public…oh dear love. Be a blessing who warns and prepares. Lol

“I don’t doubt
God is with me in the valley
But I believe
He gave me you
To remind me
The face of love
An answered prayer
The hands of God
With me right here” … be this blessing.

“So HOW’d you put em on?” you ask…

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Lying in the Emergency Room of choice…being asked “have you ever considered hurting yourself?” and “is there any abuse at home we should know about”…having nurses check my wrists for marks…my husband explaining that the pain gets so bad for me that I have said “if I come up missing, I’m in the woods with a bullet in my head” and how he knows I would NEVER do that but THAT’s how bad this gets at times…like, WHAT?!! What the crap is happening?!! Tears just stream down my face, I can’t actually cry because my head will explode so for the 3rd day in a row I just cry silently. I just want it to go away. Please…for the love…just make it go away. All of it. The headache FIRST because that’s the prominent problem at hand, but the pain next. Then the stress felt. Then the no sleep issue – that’s a big one doc! Make the thoughts stop. Make the missing people I feel end. Make the attacks stop. Make the mean people just quit. Make ALL of this just go away. Please.
A FAST…like not kidding you, this kid had wheeled a few people back before and knew the way to make that wheelchair scoot…ride to the ct scan room and back, the doctor comes in to say “well, everything medically inside your head is fine…no tumors or spots of concern.” TJ explains the occipital nerve issue I deal with. So, just as he knows how, the doctor says he will be willing to meet with me outside of the ER to discuss medical options to control my headaches and my anxiety/depression. Which I so appreciate because he is offering the help he knows. So I explain to him my utter fear of man made medicines and have Zilch-O desire to become dependent upon any. My dad suffers from bi-polarism and I have always been so terrified of suffering the same so I do NOT want to chance chemicals in my body messing up other chemicals. Doctor respects my decision and preciously gives me a shot to fix the inflammation in my muscles/neck, a medicine to control my nausea, and a medicine to relax me so I can sleep. One time deal. And in a “here’s your bonus award for coming in today Mrs. Bragwell” way, prescribed me a small dose 10 count anxiety pill. “Just to take the edge off at times…will help you sleep” he says. AND MAN WAS HE RIGHT??!! I didn’t say I would NOT take anything…just don’t want to become dependent on anything. Lol
So, did the shot fix me? Did the amazing good sleep I got that night? Maybe it was the sweet and encouraging nurses and doctors who were so lovingly concerned about me? …
No. NO. and NOOOO.
All behind the scenes of this 2 year, life changing, stressful, heart aching, and ultimately “DEPRESSION” causing “situation”…has been THIS constant and amazing and beautiful person working for my good. Holding me up, keeping me together, reassuring me in our God, picking me up off the floor, praying over me, praying for me, cheering me on, wiping my tears and holding my hand, correcting me when I’m wrong, holding me accountable to my responsibilities, reminding me of THE BIGGER PICTURE…and his name is TJ.
Now let me say this…GOD is the ever constant, ever present, all safe REFUGE for us. He doesn’t move. He doesn’t sway. He isn’t persuaded away from us. He doesn’t buy into the false stories and lies of people trying to make Him pull away from us. Others will. And that’s told to us in advance…see, He doesn’t allow any “surprises” to jump out of the woods and blindside us. He tells us: “you will be hated.” BUT HE LOVES US. He is sitting there just WANTING us to rely on Him. “SIMPLY TRUST ME baby.” “I will take care of you…just allow ME!” And I know that ONE way He takes care of me is through His creation, named by his mother and father,…TJ.
This man. Yall, he is THE most aggravating person in my life. He can drive me batty in a flat racetrack second. He snores. He can take WEEKS to do something I ask of him. He has his limits. He is the way he is and he has the hobbies and desires he has…I knew that at 13 just like I know it at 39. He likes junk. He is NEVER interested in throwing ANYTHING away based on the handed down philosophy of Bragwell men “I may need that one day.” (eye roll please). He shuts down easily. He has NO interest in talking about his feelings. He overthinks. He plans waaaaaaaay too far in advance for my taste. He doesn’t like spontanaeity. He thinks going out to eat and dropping $75 is ridiculous when you can just eat at home. He picks his toenails. He bites his fingernails off and leaves them lying around on the coffee table. (THIS I have threatened divorce over.) The point if HE IS NOT PERFECT. He is just like every other male, he is flawed and weird and set in his ways and different than his female counterpart. So I am not trying to portray that he is this perfect little creature who just sits and stares at me and tells me how beautiful and precious I am all the time. See, even THAT…he’s never really been good at. “Keeps you humble Tressa” is his “reasoning” hahaa!
BUT what he IS is this…He is a man who loves his wife. Not always in the “let me run my fingers through your beautiful and long hair” love…but ALWAYS in the love of God. Always. He knows what it is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He believes that he is commanded to obey this and will be held accountable for his “performance” of it. He knows to lead her as he follows his God. He knows and does seek Him first in everything. He has this relationship with God that he doesn’t even have with his wife…he loves God more than he loves me. Just as he should. I made this statement in my vows to him on our wedding day (almost 15 years ago…wow) “No Christian wife minds being her husband’s 2nd love…when God is his first.” And I meant that. And TJ has only grown and grown and grown closer to God in his relationship with Him. As His servant, His child, His student, His representative, His disciple…TJ is committed to being what his God expects, commands, and simply wants for him to be. And ONE of the benefits in this is that he loves me. And THAT my dear friends…THAT is how I put my big girl’s back on.
Friday morning comes and I have had the MOST SOUND sleep AND rest. I am awakened to “I made you some coffee baby.” Once I rise, with the after effects of the headache still threatening me, he tells me to pack. He had asked me on Thursday “what do you need to feel better?” and we had kinda talked about getting away. But the headache HAD to go first. I had confessed to him I felt a real disconnect from him over the past year, from the stress he has – the stress of “church” – the stress of teenage daughter and preteen son still living at home lol – and that we survived the first 10 years of our marriage with the “hard stuff” of babies, nursing, toddlers, job changes, moving, moving states, etc. with flying colors but this part was HARD. And I related it to us not having time for the other. We took a week’s dream getaway in October of 2013 to Hawaii and that was the last time we had been away alone. So, he knew. He knew that taking his wife away to her favorite place in the whole entire massive galaxy would help her. To the beach we went.
We packed one bag, 2 beach chairs, an umbrella, and sunscreen. He had our children taken care of by friends who were standing by asking “what can we do?” Love. Tears. I mean WHAT would we do without them right?! Can’t even. So, a stop at the pharmacy and a 6 hour drive later, involving one stop in which I happen to see in the back seat the “take home copy” of the ER discharge papers which reads “Diagnosis – Acute Headache/Depression” and that depressed me. Like, I was depressed about being depressed. There’s something about knowing in your mind that you feel down…and actually being labeled as “DEPRESSED.” BUT… Big laugh about it now though. Anyway, we arrive, check in to the hotel we reserved on 65S 2 hours previously…he walks beside me, holding my hand, to the beautiful and majestic and I don’t care how many times I’ve seen it before it ALWAYS amazes me to tears beach. The sand was so cool. The winds were just a perfect breeze. The sun was barely peeking out from its friend the clouds. The waves were gentle with just a kiss of “come out here and I’ll getcha.” And my mind was quiet. My head was eased. My heart was full. My faith rekindled. My husband the reason.
As he placed my chair in the perfect spot and got my umbrella on the back, making sure I am just as perfectly comfortable as possible, he begins to walk.
His ADD does not allow him to just sit for very long. Bless. And as he is walking, I’m taking all of THIS in. Like, I’m at the beach. On a Friday. With no planned out agenda. No anticipating weeks/months of excitement. Just there. Without a worry. Because my husband loves me and knows that my laughter was gone and I was big girl pantiless for far too many days. That’s it. It wasn’t about him. Or the kids. It wasn’t about a vacation. It wasn’t about anything or body except that his wife was in need and he recognized it and selflessly make it his aim to rescue her from the sadness and depression that had all but consumed her. And I began to cry tears of happiness…tears of joy…tears of ultimate amazement that if TJ loves me THIS much…HOW MUCH MORE DOES GOD LOVE ME?!!
HOW MUCH MORE DOES GOD WANT TO TAKE CARE OF ME?!! HOW MUCH MORE DOES GOD SEE AND KNOW MY PAIN?!! HE created this beautiful place where the water meets the sand in a controlled fashion and where the sky and the water meet and gave me eyes to see this beauty and ears to hear the waves crashing, the birds talking to each other, and feelings to sense the sun and its warmth and the coolness of the wind. And created TJ for me. And had arranged to have me rescued by bringing both gifts to my ever present need in this very moment. And as the overwhelming realization of how MUCH I am loved by my Father and my husband engulfs me…I immediately felt peace. I knew that all is well in this spiritual house the Lord dwells in. He is pleased with our efforts and desire to seek and know Him…to worship Him in spirit and in truth…to humble our hearts and open our eyes to His truth…to make whatever changes necessary to please HIM and to not allow the attacks of the evil one and those doing his work to distract me ONE. MORE. MINUTE. And I lift my eyes to heaven…and say “yes Lord, I know You are there. I hear Your still small voice. I will from this moment on trust YOU. I will fix my eyes on Jesus and follow His example of obedience so I can too be where You are.” And comically, because I know He has a sense of humor, I also say “oooooooK, I will put them back on!”
Then this “Romeo” romantic –and believe me, this is a normal AND yet very very sporadic trait of his– comes back from his “exploration” of the beach with this…a gift and reminder of God’s perfect timing. His perfect love. His perfect -untainted by the world and its effects- care. His perfect creation.

And as the old song says…”and that’s all I need to know!”

I know WHERE my BIG GIRL panties are…I just don’t want to put em on!

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I have lived a great deal of my life buying, washing, drying, wearing, buying the next size up, and repeating the process of BIG GIRL panties. I know all about the “suck it up princess” attitude. I have for years had “hardships” and “difficulties” and “challenges” to overcome…I mean, haven’t we all?! And when I really analyze, really really think on what I as an American Christian consider “hardships” and “difficulties” and “challenges”…seems so spoiled, and pathetic, and cry babyish. HOWEVER, our lives and our situations are REAL to us and matter to us and make a difference for good or bad for us. When whatever it is happens to us, it is so easy to immediately sink into that “oh poor pitiful me” mentality and like my momma says “waller in self pity!” THIS has happened to me for literally the first time in my life and I know where my big girl panties are…I just don’t want to put em on!
Let’s see if I can comically paint this picture for you all…cause I like to laugh. About everything. Dad having cancer removed off a section of kidney? Laughing. Dad having THIRD heart attack in recovery AFTER said surgery? Let’s ask him “Dad, I mean come on…you’ve had 2 already. Do you not know what they are by now?!!!” Mother having BIG TIME like life changing liver transplant right?! Let’s be sure to paint her fingernails AND take the polish off immediately after ok?! And laughing with her all the way to the OR. Its’ what I do people. I laugh. I see humor, I can think on funny moments and remember hilarious scenarios in the seriousest of serious moments. I could give you a cagillion examples of how laughter and laughing and “seeing bright side” has assisted my sanity for years. I’m THE person everyone looks to for a smile, a laugh, a ray of sunshine to share and I LOVE that being “what” I’m known for by people. That is SUCH a beautiful compliment to me…I could care less about weight, beauty, hair, age, etc. Being known for being able to laugh and help others laugh…I’ll take it.
And then…I wasn’t laughing anymore.
Wait.What? Tressa doesn’t feel like laughing? Wait…can that be right?!! But she’s ALWAYS been able to do that…rise above…see the “bigger picture”…overcome…accept…and has grown through everything in her life to be the woman she is today. So…what do you mean she isn’t laughing anymore? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU TRESSA?
Let me just start this way…my sweet precious and God fearing husband and I were once half hearted, partially spiritually minded, followers of the teaching we had received, I’m humiliated to even call us…”Christians.” Hear me out here, everything we had done and participated in and practiced was done in all honesty out of a true belief we were doing what the Lord wanted. We know now…God saw us for the half hearted, partially spiritually minded, followers of the teaching we had received, CLAIMERS of following Christ. And we are in ABSOLUTE confident faith that He loves us, wants us to seek Him, desires for us to want to know more and more about Him, and will exhaust all measures to “get our attention.” Well, let me rephrase that…will exhaust all measures to prove to us how much He loves us. Like, for the point of this post…answering our prayers.
So there have been “those moments” -surely you can relate to these- when you just know that THIS is an answered prayer! And please don’t confuse this with physical desires like a new job, or a new car, or 10 pounds to magically disappear off of you and appear on the lady who has had 4 kids and still wears a size 4. (vomit right?!)!! I am talking about spiritual answers. I am talking about when you have those majestic and perfect beings born from your body and laid upon you and you cry out “THANK YOU GOD for this perfect gift!” And you realize in that moment (or maybe you didn’t) that this child is a soul. He/she is NOT a body who has a soul…he/she is a soul who has been given a body. And this soul has now been entrusted in your care. Just let that sink in for a moment. YOU just became responsible -physically, mentally, emotionally, and most importantly spiritually- for this soul who God loves enough to allow HIS ONLY SON to die for. Wow. Like, how many of us thought of THAT when having the fun to get that baby? Or how much time was spent on preparing for THIS in comparison to our baby showers, our nurseries, our maternity pictures, etc.? I, for one, did no preparing for THIS. At least…I thought I didn’t.
I immediately went into the “oh man, this is bigger than me isn’t it?! Like this is a soul…a living breathing beautiful perfectly untainted soul from heaven and I have named her Autumn. I had prayed for a healthy pregnancy, right, because that’s what we do. The typical “I don’t care if its a boy or a girl, just want a 10 fingers/10 toes healthy baby.” So yeah, I had prayed for her. I had thanked Him for giving her to me. I had asked Him to “give me and her daddy the strength and knowledge to be the parents for her she deserves.” And ya know what…He answered all of those prayers BUT the one prayer I now know -the one I had the “AHHHAAAAA” moment over- He answered with the purpose of proving to me how MUCH HE loves me was giving me and TJ the strength and knowledge to be the parents she deserves. And rightfully so right?!! He is, after all, THE perfect FATHER…He knows how much we love Autumn, He knows how much we want her to obey, and endure this physical life, and stay the course laid out for her. He felt all of that for His Son Jesus.

So being a prayer life for and over my daughter began. I prayed for her heart to be tender and to receive correction without rebellion. I prayed for her mind to receive the training in the ways of the Lord. I prayed for her obedience to His commands. I prayed for her future husband to be the man God intends for him to be. I prayed for her choices…for her hobbies…for her friends…for her thoughts…all to be centered around her God. I prayed that her daddy and I would rely on Him for guidance in doing this parenting thing. I prayed that we would listen, that we would study, that we would seek, for His ways for us AND for her. And these prayers were continual, sincere, heart felt, and from a lowly and honest place…the depths of my soul. Enter soul #2, a little guy we named Scout, and the same prayers were uttered before His throne for him.
And then…one day…”out of the blue” as we southerners like to say…these 2 souls did the most odd thing (sarcasm font applied). They obeyed the gospel!!! The training we had instilled in them in the way of the Lord had pricked their hearts. They understood Who Jesus is and what He did for them…and that THEIR sins had put Him on that cross. They believed every word about Him they read and heard was true. They wanted to be forgiven. They cried those tears of sorrow from a pricked heart and cried out “I want to be forgiven!” And lemme just say…oh my heaven stars…to witness this moment in time, to see the light come on, to then see the shame and the heartbreak they felt…was/is the most beautiful moment I will ever be a part of on this side of heaven. My baby Scout has these eyes, those who know him know what I’m talking about. They are just these precious and engulfing jewels on his face that will just melt you. And for those eyes to be weeping with tears of shame and sadness for the disobedience he had been guilty of here in this life (because he was trained to know that disobeying his parents by his own free will, is disobedience to God) and to look at me and pitifully plea “I want to be forgiven!” …I am in amazement that heaven will be more glorious than THAT!!! They were both baptized and we rejoiced with others around as we witnessed the “newness of life” come forth out of the water and my children were safe in Jesus. Oh happy day.
And with that day…April 21, 2013 -the best day ever-…came the changes in our 4 lives that would create peace which passes all understanding for us. AND the reasons I would find myself -2 years later and just for a time- not laughing anymore.

See, what happened for us in that moment was life changing. Spiritually changing. Socially changing. And the hardest of all for me…relationship changing. Those who rejoiced with us in their obedience would eventually turn their backs on all of us for doing just that. Some of my most cherished sisters in Christ would in time no longer speak to me. Our dearest friends, the couple we agreed would be our children’s legal guardians in the event of our simultaneous passing, would cease from even speaking to us. And only…only because we began -upon the answered prayer of our children’s obedience to the gospel- to truly seek God and His word. We had a new perspective on obedience. When I knew that I would hear myself say to God on judgment day “because they told me to!” … to God…THE Creator and Sustainer of all life everywhere…I would be confessing that I CHOSE to LISTEN TO AND OBEY the voices of people…weak and sinful just like me people…instead of the All Knowing All Mighty God. Are you kidding me?!! I mean, seriously. Sounds ludacris right?!
So pile on some chronic headache condition I have, mix with no sleep, and stir in a mass load of hypocrisy…and ya’ve got one hurt, sad, depressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, and tired Tressa. Who wasn’t laughing anymore. Who knew where the big girl’s were…and for the first time EVER just didn’t care. How did I overcome this? My husband. Well, The Lord of course but He used my husband. hahahahaaa. That post is coming soon :)

So let me please tell you this much…because this much I know….
When a soul prays for its Creator to guide it, to direct it, and that soul has humbled itself to the lowest of lows to say “not my will, but Your will be done” … that soul is pleasing to its Creator. Because hat soul will seek AND obey. And so will begin a journey that will be physically demanding, and life changing, and scary, and the unknowns will try and devour it, and the evil one will never rest in trying to change that souls direction away from its Creator. And as long as that soul stays in the path of light, listens to His voice, and seeks to be where He is…that soul is secure. Physically, emotionally, and mentally…that body and mind may be sad, hurt, tired, overwhelmed, and yes…even depressed. But that SOUL…oh that SOUL…rejoices in the peace which passes all understanding. It rejoices in pleasing its Creator. Like a child with only the approval of his/her parent as the goal. You know those moments mommies…”mommy mommy look what I did…I cleaned my room JUST LIKE YOU told me!!” The joy and excitement in their eyes…the pure obedience in their choices…focused solely on hearing “Well done baby….well done!”
That my friends….brings THE smile to my face.

Surroundings…meaning relationships…sisters/friends.

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On an average day…I will communicate via text, email, instagram, face to face, and EVEN the age old way of telephone, with my best friends. And yet, somehow, they are so easy to not even think about. Hear me out here. Do we realize how MUCH these relationships, our surrounding ones, really and truly mean to us?

I’m gonna look through my phone right now and give you a couple of examples of the convos I have exchanged in just the last 2 days…and I picked the ones in which I could make this point.

Me: “Random ? … Was “anti-sass medicine” the name of it when I told you about it or did you name it that? I’m writing about learning from older women and telling the story of the lady who told me about it and can’t remember if that’s what she named it or you.”
Lindley: “I honestly don’t remember…(On my defense…early stage dementia…)”
–she is so telling the truth people, like she remembers hardly anything. I can say “Lindley…put this in your calendar so that you will remember AND you won’t schedule anything else that day at that time!” and it doesn’t seem to fail that she will FORGET TO CHECK HER CALENDAR IN HER PHONE when making plans. She began having “forgetful moments” after her birth giving years. She acknowledges her issue and is completely ok with being called out on it…when she says things like “you know, come on now, help me out…ummm, like, ummmmm…” I will laugh. She knows. I love her. I pray she never forgets me, she is 6 years younger than I so she naturally should keep long term memory longer than me BUT at this rate…lol. She knows and believes in me. All of me. She is SO my right hand. She is an answered prayer.

My friend Shelana is an ADVOCATE for not texting and driving…like doesn’t even look at her phone while operating a vehicle (which almost got 991–hahahaha–called on her tail one day for not replying in a timely fashion) so she has started trying the voice texting. It’s been a blast people. Here’s yesterdays convo about me asking her if she and Gabbie would want to go with Autumn and me to pick out a dress for the Junior High Athletic banquet next week. I will alter these a bit due to the going on and on and on and on we sometimes do…
Here’s the short version:
I ask…hey you wanna go, she says she’s already over that way because she needed some stuff, she’s already mutilated like 3 voice attempts because it changes words and her texts make no sense, then this is where we will pick up:
Me: “Are you gonna be back soon?”
Her: “Well Sarah Grace may have a dress that Debbie would consent to wearing one evening”
Let me interject right here…she has children, none of which are named Debbie. Continuing…
Me: “Are you drunk?” accompanied with a photo of a tee that says the same and the two boxes for yes and no…the “X” is marked like to the side and underneath the boxes. Funny.
Her: “I had a stroke.” which is the truth. 2 1/2 years ago.
Her: “Debbie may have a dress that Gabby can wear” again, that Debbie.
Me: “I can’t wait to meet Debbie”
Me: “She’s up for whatever”
Me: “Want me to take G with me to town or leave her home?”
Me: “Aka Deb”
Me: “Debbie”
Me: “Little snack cake”
Me: “I’m laughing out loud like so loud”
Her: “It’s up to Debbie”
Her: “Me too I almost had a wreck”
Me: “Is Sophie, now referred to as Alice, with you? Just because Debbie needs a sister named Alice”

The result of this…Gabbie is now Debbie for like eternity and Sophie runs in her house last night after returning from the trip with us and yells…”ALICE IS HOME!!”
So Shelana sends this this morning:
“Shane thinks we have corrupted them beyond repair.”
Me: “When I think…she favors Alice in the wonderland. Shane and TJ may separate us in corners.”
–I laugh everyday with this woman. She is so good and lovable and raw. She is an answered prayer.

Me: “Listen to this song…the words.” Along with the name of the song. This is a very common thing for the 2 of us. One of her favorite “things” is knowing that “this world is not her home” and so we randomly will send each other reminders.
Anna: (7 hours later because she was at work and does NOT reply much, out of respect, while she is at work) “Holy crap!!!!! No freaking way!!!”
sends pic of her car radio with the song title showing
Anna: “I was like this is a good song!! Then I thought…wait…isn’t that what Tressa sent?”
It was the same song. She had read my message 7 hours earlier, didn’t have time to look up and listen, and then on her way home she heard it and it hit her! We have that connection. She is the most spiritually minded young woman (she’s 14 years younger than I) I have ever had the privilege of getting to know. She has been in my life for almost a solid year and she loves her Lord, her husband, and strives every day to be more of who she should be for both. She is an answered prayer.

Ok so who caught the common thread among these 3 relationships? They weren’t born in the same era of time, they don’t have the same goals and desires in life, they don’t have the same great/awful traits, so what makes them so alike to me, in my life?


They. are. answered. prayers.
Lemme explain.
For years I have been in this committed state of change. Refining is the best description I guess. I have witnessed through the evidence presented to me through my own actions/choices that I am NOT the perfect person I spent so many years believing I was. Shocking right?! Like that moment you realize “I am crap.” Surely you know that moment. The “AHA” moment I guess, like “hey woman, THIS whole thing IS NOT ABOUT YOU and who you claim to be and what you claim to stand for and what you feel or think or believe or want!” If you’ve read previous posts, you are aware of this. I have seriously been focused on putting away the idea/notion that I can just be whoever I am by nature or whoever I simply choose to be. For instance, I am a very bluntly honest person. I have never had a “problem” telling someone the truth about something…whether it hurt him/her or not was not my concern because the truth is the truth and he/she deserves to hear the truth right?! Like, “honesty is the best policy” on crack. So when a friend/sister would come to me with whatever, I would just blast them straight up with the truth…”he doesn’t love you, get over it.” or “well you should’ve thought about the way your life would turn out if you made that decision BEFORE you made it.” or even “this is totally your fault.” And then walk away feeling justified because “I told the truth.” I mean, isn’t that “what we do”?!! We CHOOSE how to be and then JUSTIFY that choice by saying “this is just how I am!”
Which led me to think…”is it?”
I had no compassion. I did not listen well. I was way over opinionated. I was obnoxious. I was selfish. I was self centered. I was proud. I was confident. I did not care. I was rough. I was scarred (not scared but scarred, like with scars). I was a product. I was all about me. I used to tell people during my college years (there won’t be many posts about this era of time so pay attention. lol) “there’s nobody I’d rather be with than me.” And I was being honest. Because with me…I caused myself no pain, I couldn’t leave myself, I wouldn’t cheat on myself, I wouldn’t disappoint me, I wouldn’t be humiliated, I couldn’t neglect myself, etc. I was ALL FOR ME. I graduated high school this way, college this way, married this way, gave birth this way, and managed every relationship I had this way. Even my relationship with Jesus. And yet…WHAT about anything I just described to you reflects Jesus?

So fast forward a couple of years, events, things, and people, and we get to that “AHHAAAAAAA” moment for me. And with the saddest reality I had EVER experienced, came the ugly truth I had been missing.
Here’s what I thought previously: I was sure. I was good. I was spiritual. I was accepted. I was loved. I was a good friend. I had good friends.
Here’s what I realized: I was lost. I was ugly. I was over-confident. I was proud in the bad way. I was selfish. I was a crappy friend. I was a poor example for my friends.

I mean…HOW do you change right?! Like that’s the first question you ask. Ok so I know all of this, but HOW do I make it better? I do not claim to know HOW it will/should work for you, but here’s a start for how it did for me…
I asked God. Seriously. I looked up and said “ok sooooooooo…what?! What do you want from me? Because I don’t know, I’ve never asked You before!”
See, I had listened to myself tell myself I should be the way I was…I listened to friends reassure me that I was fine…I listened to brothers/sisters tell me that I was accepted by God…I was listening to all the voices I wanted to hear. Saying alllllll the things I needed/wanted to hear to soothe my soul. “You’re fine.” “You’re pleasing Him.” “You’re doing what you should do.” And I KNOW these friends/people were going on and making their decisions about me from a good place. They are good people. So, they weren’t doing anything wrong. THIS was totally my mess up. My wrong doing. And I would be the only person who could un-do it.

So ONE area of my refining process has been to pray for honest hearts. Honest, God fearing, God serving, selfLESS hearts who will know me -the true me- and accept that I was completely unaware of who that true me is and on my way to finding her. Friends who will believe in me. Sisters with hearts who have been changed by the belief in Jesus. Ones who will love me…NOT for who they think I am or think I should be…but love me for who I am so desperately seeking. Sisters who would need my insight and wisdom in the areas of life I have already been through. Friends I can learn valuable lessons from like forgiveness, mercy, kindness, compassion, nurturing, loving…all things I never was. Women who love Jesus and know that they stink at it sometimes. I prayed for truth. I desired and longed for women who I could laugh with and cry with and share intimate feelings with and express anger to and learn from AND teach about just. being. a. woman. I had never given any consideration, AT ALL, to the women I was surrounding myself with. I had never given any consideration, AT ALL, to the woman I was/was not for them. I had never thought “am I helping her be more like the woman she needs to be for God?” because I HAD NEVER THOUGHT IF I WAS THAT WOMAN!!! I was blinded by what I wanted to see, believe, feel, or accept. All that “I am fantastic” crap. But when I began to pray—years ago mind you—for truth, in every way, in every thing, in every relationship…THAT is just what has been answered…and is continuing to be answered. And prayerfully will always be answered.
AND please don’t miss my point here by thinking that I do not value ALL of my friendships, relationships, sisters because THAT is so far from the truth. I have forever friends and new ones I just recently met. I have those who I don’t see all the time and when we see each other it’s like we never have spent a second apart. I have those I would bail out of jail in a heartbeat. I have those who may be a little challenging to like all the time, just as I am not likable all the time. I LOVE THEM ALL. I have ALSO learned EVERY ONE has something valuable…something unique…some “reason” to be in my life…and I truly love (which is another whole post) each one of them. Everyone around me has something to offer and I am so focusing on learning what that is and then allowing God to use that in His way for my life. I am trying with my whole heart to be who I am supposed to be…and at the same time satan is trying so hard to deceive me as to who that is. It’s a battle. Everyday. And everyday I lean on HIM for answers. I take what I know RIGHT NOW and live that out the best I can and I pray for more and more and more and still more understanding of what He wants from me and my life in His service.

So, what has been searched for and prayed about by TJ and me…being in this together…is truth. And truth is, I want to be the woman who pleases her Father. I want to obey. I want to teach younger women about being a woman. I want to be taught by older women the same. I want to be selfless. I want to be a Jesus example of submission, obedience, love, kindness, compassion, purity, and forgiveness. I want to be only want what HE WANTS FOR ME…which is to be changed in my thinking and to see truth His way. I want to be encouraged by those around me in truth -HIS truth, not our versions of it- and I want to be an encouragement for everyone around me in the same.

We have friends. All of us do. We have those we talk to every day, every other day, once a week, once in a blue moon, and no matter the amount of communication exchange…we are all probably guilty of not being appreciative enough for the role in which they play in our lives. We probably don’t do enough praying about valuing people in our lives and keeping those relationships alive and well which encourage us in truth and letting go of those which do not. I have learned to seek out those souls committed to obeying and serving and to let go of those who are not…and continuing to set the right example for both. So, thank your friends. Tell your sisters you love them. Pray for relationships which are Christ centered. Be the woman the world of women around you NEED and the one God wants.

And then laugh. And text crazy. And prank call. And send funny pics. And MOST importantly…pray for her. And love her with every word you utter.



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imageI am not a person who has a clean car. Just am not. So, the times that I do have my car cleaned up all spiffy, inside and out, windows Windex’ed, it’s a deal. Big deal. Like we are heading out on a trip or I am driving people to an event, etc. And it NEVER fails that I never have to ask “Who has been touching the inside of the windows?” Fingerprints, some smeared and others clear as a crystal, are evidence of my youngest “wittle baby Scout” ‘s hands.

Sisters, do we recognize -clearly- when our Father’s hands have been at work in our lives? Do we see the fingerprints?

I had the blessed privilege to spend the weekend with sisters listening to the cool and amazingly talented Jen Hatmaker. She told us about how she didn’t recognize God’s fingerprints until she “got it.” Specifically, she used the life event of her and her husband adopting a brother and sister from Ethiopia. When their life was “Interrupted” (name of her book) by Jesus, they began to work in the lives of the orphaned, the widowed, the homeless, the extreme poor of their neighborhood. And one night when putting her youngest child, baby girl Sydney, to bed she asked “momma, why aren’t we talking about adoption?” Jen didn’t realize until after the adoption of their 2 precious souls was complete that that moment with Sydney was the first fingerprint of God.
So that leads me to think. Which I love. I choose to go to the conference for 3 main reason:
1) to support and grow with my sister
2) to hear from a woman how to be a better woman, wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend
3) to laugh. and cry.
And all 3 were accomplished. There was plenty of hoop-lah and the what not, stuff I had never witnessed, and cool stuff to buy. It was kinda like a flea market of Jesus stuff and a rock concert combined. So, little lamb here took it all in, sat in silence, and was thankful for growth.
And got my new nickname…”sledgehammer.” It’s a honor.
Fingerprints. Evidence. The proof that God was there. Do you see any? Are there ones you look back and go “ahhhhh…now I see!” Cause I straight up do. I made TJ stay up last night til after 12 just listening to me tell him the weekends events. From the hilarious comment to my new angel baby to the tears that POuRED from me as I texted him in THANKFULNESS for the man he is for his God, his wife, his babies, and his world. Cup overflowed inside til I was DRENCHED in my own salt water and snot. Not a good look btw. Anywho, I can relate to Jen’s message to us as women of taking time in our busy lives filled with the alarm clock, the rush of the school morning, the running around, the laundry, the homework, the games, the suppers, the issues, the “do this/don’t do that” mess, to just stop and look for the fingerprints. To take a minute to see how God is working. For me, I see His hands all over my children’s obedience to the gospel. I can SEE how that moment in our lives was wrapped in His hands. That was the game changer. The “thing” that was needed to cause TJ and me to self reflect upon our own obedience. For me, I wanted to make sure I was the woman I was claiming to be for Him. And so began the “quest” of being a “TITUS 2 WOMAN!”
The fingerprints of God have been innumerable. But I finally am seeing them. I was enlightened by a woman wanting to serve her Lord and doing what she knows to be doing as of today. I am thankful for that. For her.

Lemme just say real quickly…in one of the MOST moving and beautiful and soul renewal moments of my life, I made a vow. On a rock. With a black sharpie and clearly…we all know those things are permanent. I told God and my husband that I was committed. I will use my influence for good. For the work of which I am to do. I want to teach the younger woman in my home, the younger women in my friendships, the younger women in my neighborhood, the younger women in my social media groups, and all younger women looking to be the woman God intends. I will teach them about what loving your husband looks like, requires, demands, and takes. I will teach them all facets I have experienced and can offer wisdom in the life of being a mother. I will teach them of conduct becoming a Christian woman. I will teach them about loving the home in which is theirs and creating a LOVE and WARMTH inside that fills her husband and children UP every day. I will teach them about being a woman. Because when I look out and view the world in which I see, I see the NEED for this. Young women need spiritual guidance from childhood on up on “how” to be a woman from wiser and older women in His kingdom. Our marriages need this. Our babies need this. Our homes. Just THINK at the difference it would make. So I commit. I promise. I vow. I will live my life to be a “Titus 2 woman” for HIM, for them, and for you.
Just please remember this…there are those in this world who walk into a room and are soft and precious and have angel like bosoms we rest in…then there are those of us who are “active sledgehammers!” Of which I am the following.
But I can see His fingerprints on the handle.

Realize and understand

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It may take some small somethingother … It may take a great big slap in the face … It may be willingly in this life … It may be forcefully hereafter … It may have opened your eyes … It may have caused you to look away … No matter, the realization of WHO He is and what you’re not will come.
His ways for you are some of the time against everything you’ve known/been taught/believe/think/want.
And yet His ways for you are ALWAYS better than anything you’ve known/been taught/believe/think/want.
Does it matter what I know?
Does it matter what I have been taught?
Does it matter what I believe?
Does it matter what I think?
Does it matter what I want?
Yes it matters!
Because if you line up everything with HIS Word…He will be pleased with your life, your worship, your sacrifices.
If you do not, and you choose to twist HIS Word to what line up with what you know, you’ve been taught, believe, think, and want…He will not be.
And sisters we know we want Him pleased. We wear His name because He is worthy of our hearts, our obedience, our lives. For ALL we KNOW He has done for us…makes us realize HoW BIG He is and then understand how small we are.
Let’s choose to obey. Simply. Humbly. Honestly. Let’s unite in being women for His kingdom. Let’s fulfill our roles of supporting, submitting to, respecting, and loving our husbands in everything. Let’s be partners in training our children and keeping them in line to obey us as we train them in His ways. Let’s train them that love is action…and then when we say it it’s already proven. Let’s be modest hearted women with gentle and quiet spirits. Let’s make sure our conduct is that of obedience. Let’s be chaste and pure. Let’s be serving those who need us. Let’s say “I’m sorry please forgive me” when we completely mess up! Let’s be women serving in the roles He created JUST. FOR. US!!! Let’s be honored.

He is Who He is …
I will do my absolute best to be who He desires for me to be.
I realize and understand that means it’s not what I know/have been taught/believe/think/want…it’s what HE SAYS. Him alone.