life beyond the well…


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Welcome Home Baby Ethan!

 

On Sunday, May 15, 2016 at 6:36pm I gave birth to the most amazingly handsome baby boy- Ethan Micah Almond.  We welcomed him home on Tuesday, May 17 and have been on a glorious rollercoaster ever since!

To say that Preacherman, our little, and I are excited would be quite the understatement!  We’ve been excited throughout the entire process of my pregnancy, so meeting Baby Ethan in person has filled my heart with joy.

And yes, that’s why I’ve been quiet for most of the year.

Well, not exactly.  I mean, things got busy, I got (more and more) pregnant, and I had to make a decision to keep the main thing the main thing- which meant focusing and prioritizing my life so that we could all be fully prepared to welcome this beautiful gift of God that we have the joy of guiding through life.

God really used this pregnancy as a time to speak to me about me- my heart, my desires, my fears, my limitations.  I can’t wait to share more of that with you in the coming days/weeks/months.

Until then- please continue to keep us all in your prayers as we begin to navigate this new phase of life!

Be encouraged! Peace and Blessings!

 


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Know Your Destination. Check Your Directions.

There’s not much that I hate more than being lost or being late.  Being lost brings up all types of feelings of confusion, anxiety, and frustration…and as a result of my being lost, I then end up being late.

This happened a few weeks ago as I was on my way to a meeting at another school for work.  I thought I had done all the preparation I needed in advance to ensure that I wouldn’t be late or lost.  I had entered the destination into my Google Maps app, I had all of my materials, and I gave myself some extra time.

And then I got caught in traffic.  Ridiculous traffic (think ATL rush time traffic) at 10am.  I was so confused, but I called and let them know that I was running late.  When Google Maps finally notified me that I had reached my destination- I was even more confused, because I wasn’t wear I should have been.  Imagine the frustration I felt when I realized that unbeknownst to me, Google Maps had directed me to the school’s athletic facilities, which were located at a separate site from the school (about 3-4 miles away).  I headed back in the opposite direction, and after a few more turnarounds, finally arrived at my destination…feeling completely flustered, and ridiculously late.  Even more frustrating was realizing that if I had used the correct directions, I would have never been caught in traffic, and I would have been on time to the meeting. Sigh.

From that experience, I was reminded of the importance of being certain of your destination- and making sure that you check your directions,  If you don’t know your destination, you can get detoured, run into traffic, meet all types of unnecessary circumstances- all because you are not certain of where you are supposed to be going.  But along that way, you need to make sure that you check your directions.  What is leading you and guiding you?  Is it aware of your destination?  If not, your directions could be leading you to a totally different destination.

Understanding my destination, my life’s purpose has provided so much clarity for me.  However, I have to constantly have my guard up about my directions- it’s so easy to get distracted by things that seem appealing (and engaging, and even profitable), but have no real purpose in my life, and won’t get me any further to where God is calling for me.  All of the little things matter.  Small decisions and choices about how I spend my time and my resources can all be indicators of how serious I am about reaching the destination that God has for me.  I’m determined to make it to my destination on time- using the directions that He has given me.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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2013- Second Quarter/First Half-Year Review

And just like that, it’s July! I can’t believe that we are in the second half of 2013.  It seriously seems like we were just celebrating the new year.  Preacherman and I are doing well, continuing to learn and grow together and becoming increasingly excited about the plans that God has for us.  At the beginning of the year, we committed some things to the Lord, and it’s been so wonderful to see how faithful He has been to us.

I’ve seen progress on both my dissertation and my exercise routine. I also wanted to focus on healthy eating and honoring God with my body and what I consume.  Though it’s been challenging (I love all the wrong foods just a little too much), the discipline of eating and exercising has paid off.  Since our wedding, I’ve lost about 10 pounds and I successfully completed my first 5K.  God has truly been faithful in these pursuits, and for that I am so grateful.

While it’s easy to just rest on what has happened so far, I’m challenged to believe God for more.  The faithfulness that God has demonstrated to me and Preacherman during the first half of the year is encouraging and empowering.  I’m looking forward to see what can happen next if I continue to exercise my faith and believe.  This is important for me, because it’s so easy to become complacent with what God has done, and adopt a “business as usual” mindset.  I don’t want to be on auto-pilot or cruise-control with God.  I want to be fully engaged, pressing for more, believing for more, trusting for more- in every area of my life.

So that’s what the second half of 2013 is like for me.  More. Lots more.

More of God.

More belief.

More worship.

More faith.

More faith in action.

More trust.

More love.

More love in action.

 

I’m excited to see what God has in store for the remainder of 2013, and I hope you are as well.  I know that there are many people who have struggled through the first part of this year, and I’m praying that you will continue to see and believe God for the things to come.  If what you’ve been believing God for in 2013, know that there is STILL time.  Trust that God will keep His promises.  Be encouraged that His ways are not our ways and His time not our time.  What takes us years can take God seconds.  Your waiting is not in vain!

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!

 

“I am persuaded, Lord to love you.  I have been changed, to bless your name.  I am constrained by this great gospel, forever to worship you.”

“Lord your love for me gives me everything I need, and it keeps me wanting more…You are my delight and with you I’m satisfied. Your love keeps me wanting more…”


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Be Aware

This past weekend, I was in Walmart picking up a few groceries.  I was exhausted after traveling to Carowinds with Preacherman’s school, attending a marriage seminar at my church, and going to a friend’s bridal shower.  I couldn’t wait to get home and just go to bed.

As I headed to check out, I detoured (not at all unusual for me in Walmart or Target) back to the produce section to look at celery.  I have been wanting celery to pack in my lunches as a healthy snack, but have been unable to find small prepackaged bags of celery.  I was hopeful that Walmart would have what I was looking for (if you can’t find it in Walmart, it may not exist), and sure enough, they had the exact item.

I checked the expiration date (which read 04/27/2013), and was all set to add it to my cart.  In my mind, I thought, “Man, those celery are gonna be fresh for a long time.”  I was just about to drop it in my cart, when I realized that the expiration date was actually a week prior.  My fatigue and my lack of awareness almost had me make a choice that could have been detrimental (slightly to my wallet, but moreso to my health).

I think we are all like that sometimes.  We can get so caught up in the doing of life, and get so into a routine (and so rundown from that routine) that we lose our sense of awareness.  When we lack awareness, we can make decisions that seem to be good on the surface, but could have detrimental effects.  Not only that, a lack of awareness can cause us to fail to recognize the goodness and blessings that surround us each day.

Let me encourage you to be aware- of the choices you make each day and their impact, of the blessings that surround you, and of your life and daily routine.  Be aware of ways that you can serve and assist others.  Be aware of your areas for growth, and seek tangible ways to improve.  Life is too short to be numbed from your busyness and your technology.  Imagine how much better our world/country/state/city/town/home would be if we each took the time to unplug and be aware.

My challenge to you: don’t let another day go by where you’re lacking awareness.  Find the good in each day, in each person, in each situation.  Search for the good, and be grateful for it.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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2013 First Quarter Review

It seems like 2013 is zooming by!  I can hardly believe that it’s already April.  This year has already been amazing, and I’m really excited to see what God has in store for the rest of the year.  Preacherman and I have been enjoying our life together as newlyweds, and are learning, loving, laughing, and growing together every day.  It’s so much fun being married to your best friend!

I’m not one for resolutions, but going into this year, I knew that I wanted to focus on my dissertation and getting into a healthy exercise routine.  Along with that, I wanted to be better about reading and studying my word, and getting to work on time.  After experiencing some challenges, I feel like I’m finally on track.

More than anything, I’ve learned the value of consistency and persistence.  Every thing that I’ve committed to focusing on this year does not yield immediate results.  And I, like the rest of us, am used to getting results when I want them.  Our microwave society, complete with all the technology that I could ever desire (until some marketing gurus convince me that I need something else), has conditioned me to want the results immediately.  This is SO unhealthy.  Anything worth having takes time.  If we rush the process, we don’t get to enjoy the product in its’ best form.  Can it stand on its’ own?  Maybe.  But you can never know the value of waiting without actually waiting and seeing the process all the way through.

But also, each of the things that I’m focusing on for this year are mostly dependent on me.  Meaning, if I’m not seeing the progress I desire, it’s more than likely the result of something that I’ve done- or failed to do.  So, if I’m failing to be consistent and persistent, I’m not going to see the results.  It’s no one’s fault but mine.  Coming to grips with that has truly allowed for me to take ownership of my behavior so that I can be sure that I’m getting the desired results.

What does all this equate to: discipline.  In regards to my healthy exercise routine, it’s meant getting up early or carving time in the evenings to work out; but also taking the time to make sure I’m eating the right things and tracking my food and exercise intake.  In regards to my dissertation, it’s meant constantly seeking feedback from my advisor and doing revision after revision, even when I don’t understand or see the need in revising.  In reading my word, it’s meant taking stock of my time, and not being afraid to press reset when I’ve done a poor job at managing my time and my priorities.  What I’ve realized is that if I fail to be disciplined, I’m going to experience a failure of some sort down the line.

I’m looking forward to applying the lessons learned during this first quarter to the rest of the year, and finishing stronger than ever!

Be encouraged!  Peace and blessings!


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Press Reset

I’ve been hoping and praying all year that it wouldn’t come to this.

I started this year out with the best of intentions, and was fairly faithful in my progress- at least initially.

But then, I just got swamped. Late nights and early mornings, trying to balance family life, work life, regular life, and my school life. Finally, the moment came where I’d have to do what I’d been hoping all along would NOT have to happen: I had to press “Catch me up” on my bible reading plan app.

I know for some of you, this may not be that serious.  But for me, it was an immediate and striking reminder of how I had become too busy; of how the “urgent” began to crowd out the “important”.  And the thing is- I recognized it when I was just a few days behind in my reading plan, but instead of taking immediate action to fix it (i.e.: devote some extra time to reading and studying the word), I just kinda casually dealt with it- reading a little extra here, a little extra there; but not enough to be significant or to make any real progress or to see any real results.

The truth is that I viewed pressing that “Catch me up” button as a failure, instead of as an opportunity to learn, grow, and recalibrate myself to prioritize the items that I feel are most important.  By being bound to this mindset, I got further behind instead of making even the slightest hint of progress.

Life is kind of like that.  We hate to press the reset button.  We never want to have to catch up, because having to catch up means having to admit that we were behind instead of “on par” or “ahead”.  But what I learned is that it’s okay to press the reset button.  It’s okay to have to catch up and reorganize your priorities.  It’s better to take the steps necessary to move forward and progress than to stay stuck because you have too much pride to admit that you were behind in the first place.

In what areas of your life do you need to press the reset button?  Let me encourage you to JUST DO IT!  You’ll feel better afterwards- I promise!

Be encouraged!  Peace and blessings!

 


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February Blues

When I was teaching, we used to suffer from this condition that we called the “February Blues”.  It used to hit us toward the end of February, after the newness of the year and semester had worn off, and we realized that there would be many weeks of nonstop school before any sign of a break.  The grind of teaching, grading, correcting, and being physically and mentally present day in and day out starts to wear on you.  You’ve either seen progress in meeting your goals, or you haven’t; and it’s becoming more difficult to stay motivated.  The cold weather becomes annoying and gloomy, and you long for the bright and warm days of spring.

Though I’m no longer teaching, I’ve found myself with my own “February Blues”.  Though I’ve been fairly consistent with my workout routine, and I’m seeing results; I haven’t been as successful with my productivity towards my dissertation.  I’ve been better about getting to work on time, but I’m struggling with being as organized as I feel that I should be.  While I’ve had several thoughts swirling in my head (and drafts written), I’ve found it challenging to complete entries for this blog because I just haven’t felt super inspired.

And yet, I must press on.

I have to press on because the “February Blues” don’t last forever.  I have to press on because I don’t have time to waste wallowing in my feelings.  I’m on a journey, in the middle of a process; and it continues despite how I feel or what I see.  I can’t allow myself to get so caught up in these fleeting feelings during this “gloomy time” that I find myself unprepared when the sunny time comes.  I have to continue to prepare myself; continue to exercise and strengthen my faith regardless of how I feel.  I’m believing for more than I can see right now, so I have to act like it, move like it, talk like it until I DO see it.

And then I have to believe for more.

What encourages me the most is knowing that “February Blues” don’t last long.  Soon, I’ll be at a point where I can’t recall feeling this way, and I’ll be enjoying the blossoms of spring. As my pastor says, “Anything temporary can be tolerated.”  Since I know this isn’t forever, I will continue to trust, believe, and press my way.  And when the next round of “February Blues” come, I’ll be encouraged because I’ve been here before; because I’ll know what it takes to get through- and I’ll hunker down and do it.

“February Blues”- I’m coming for you!  No more holding me back!

Peace and Blessings!

 


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Not By Might…

I hate sitting still.

Not literally.  Literally speaking, I enjoy sitting still.  However, in terms of having things to do, I hate sitting still.  I enjoy having multiple projects to do, and it honestly keeps me from wasting time.

However, this love of being busy (or being a busybody) has it’s downfalls.  More often than I care to acknowledge, I find myself feeling overwhelmed by many of the tasks that I have to do (not even counting all of the tasks that come with planning a wedding).  And usually, it’s my fault because I have over-committed myself to tasks without fully evaluating what’s on my plate.  It’s like I’m asking for and consuming more food before I’ve even finished with what I have.

This is dangerous.

It’s dangerous because it puts me in a position where I’m constantly finding myself feeling stretched and drained.  I’m not able to be my “best self” because there are pieces of me in so many different places that I’m not a “complete self”.  I’m not able to devote my full attention to any ONE thing, because any ONE thing is a distraction to the FIVE (or 8, 9, 12, 17, 24…etc) other things that I COULD/SHOULD/WANT TO be doing at the time.

It’s also dangerous because there’s no way that EVERYTHING that I’m committed to is something that God desires for me to be committed to at this time.  I have to be conscious of my season and of what God desires of me at that time.  Good things are not the same as God things.  So, while it may be great for me to be serve on __________ committee or to help with ___________ program, if it’s not what God is calling me to do at the time; it’s a distraction and a tool of the enemy.  Though we frequently think and believe that the enemy just tempts us with things that are absolutely deplorable (and he does), he also tempts us with stuff for which we have an affection.  And in our minds, we feel that it should be okay since we are doing a GOOD thing.  But the bottom line is that if we’re doing anything outside of what God calls us to do at the time, in the season, wherever…it’s not good…and can ultimately cause us more harm than good.

As I’ve struggled to balance all of my responsibilities during this working season, I’ve been holding on to the following scriptures:

“So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” – Zechariah 4:6 (NIV)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”- 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

With all of the things that I have on my plate, the ONLY way that it’s going to get accomplished is if I turn it all over to God, and trust Him to equip me with the strength I need to handle each task, each day.  Knowing that God has given me sufficient grace, and that by His spirit, I can (and will) accomplish these tasks has been comforting; and every day it forces me to seek Him first in regards to the plans for the day.

It has been and continues to be a challenge, but I continue to pursue the balance that my life needs, and I believe that God will honor my sincere efforts to organize and balance my life in a way that He sees is best.  So, even in the midst of this busy season, I’m confident in the power of the Lord to carry me through.

Be encouraged!


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Where I’ve Been…

Sometimes I really hate that time just flies by.  You know, things are happening and you’re living and responding to it…and then one day you wake up and realize that it’s been a few months since you’ve posted on your blog.

I’m gonna do better.  I say that a lot, but I really mean it.  One of the things that I’ve realized in my writing absence is how much I love writing and how much I feel that it helps me process my thoughts and stay balanced.  It’s just something that I need to do for me, and I need to be better about creating the time and space so that it actually happens.  Hold me accountable to it.

So yeah, I haven’t just been avoiding writing.  I’ve been super busy.  Life comes at you fast, you know.  Here’s where I’ve been/what I’ve been up to recently:

As you can see, it’s not you.  It’s totally me.  But I’m back.

 
PS- I’m always on Twitter (@airendee) and I sometimes hang out on Instagram (@airendee).  Hope to see you there soon!


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Leaving Something You Love.

It will happen to you.

It may not have happened yet, but trust me; it WILL happen.

“It” is the day that you have to leave something you love.  That something may be a person, a place, or a thing that you’ll have to leave.  For me, it was a job.

I knew that it was coming.  It was inevitable.  What initially was a dream opportunity, had become a  heavy weight.  But, I LOVED it.  And I carried the weight proudly.  I did what was required and then some.  And while I knew that at some point the time would have to end, I didn’t know that it would be that way.

The thing about leaving something you love is that you have to be committed to that decision.  You have to know that you know that you know that you KNOW that it’s your time to leave.  And with things like that, it’s difficult to share with others.  Why?  Because if they really know you, they know how much you love that thing.  They know how much of your time, energy, and resources you’ve invested.  And they probably feel that you don’t need to quit- you just need a break.

But my situation was different.  This thing, this job, was my Isaac; my sacrifice to the Lord.  In the same way that Abraham prayed for his son Isaac, I had prayed for this job.  Specifically, THIS job with THIS organization.  For years.  And when I was granted the opportunity, I was overjoyed; confident that it was a blessing from the Lord.  But after having this blessing for a while, the Lord asked for it back.  Would I be able to sacrifice this gift to honor and reverence the giver, trusting that the giver would provide an appropriate sacrifice and replacement?

It was a struggle.

Not because I didn’t know what to do, but because it was something that I loved. And then the question became one of whether I loved and trusted the giver more than I loved the gift.  The answer was yes.  An eager, yet hesitant yes.

And so it began.  I put God to the test, believing the word that I heard at a Women’s Fellowship event in January would come to pass.  God passes all of His tests.  Not barely, but by a large margin.  God not only kept His promise (as He always does), but provided a ram in the bush.  When doors seemed to be far from open, God provided- even down to the details.

And once it all came to pass, just as He promised, I was then left with the choice to leave something I love.

I really like how God does that.  Makes us a promise, fulfills his end of the agreement, and still leaves us with a choice.  But the way I really see it,is that I had an obligation to meet; even if it involved some temporary discomfort and changes in my circumstances.

I’m so glad I did.  Even though it was difficult.

But, what’s easy for us isn’t always what’s best for us.  And in this journey, we’re often faced with situations and circumstances that are the answers to prayers; yet we choose to pass on them because it would involve us enduring some discomfort or change.  I would challenge you to dig deeper, and trust that what lies on the other side is not only greater than your temporary discomfort but is also WORTH enduring some temporary discomfort.

I left something I love, and I’m better for it.  Amen.

 

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” -Romans 5:3-5 (The Message)