life beyond the well…


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When Social Becomes Sinful

I love social media.  I especially love the ability to use social media to stay in touch with people and current events.  I’m always excited to receive a friend request from someone that I knew, and I love seeing pictures of people getting married, having babies, graduating, getting promotions, etc.

But…there’s also something that I don’t like about social media (and perhaps technology in general).  I really don’t like that social media seems to give people the license to be mean at the expense of others.

Here’s what I mean- far too often our social media behavior is making fun of others.  Talking bad about them; saying things about them that we might not ever say if they were standing in front of us.  Sometimes it’s about people we know, sometimes it’s about people we used to know, sometimes it’s about celebrities (who are people too), and sometimes it’s about strangers.  The whole “People of Walmart” or “World Star Hip Hop” phenomenon…to air someone’s less clean laundry bothers me.

Seriously- what is happening IN us that we feel the need to document, comment on, and share someone else’s shortcomings?

I love a laugh as much as the next person.  But, laughing and publicly sharing and shaming someone else? That’s not cool.

The great thing about social media is that it can be used to reach the masses.  With the same energy that we use to shame, we can encourage, inspire, uplift, and glorify God.  Here’s the thing- anything that we have can be used as a tool to lead others to Christ.  Social media provides us with this platform

I know that everyone may not agree with this, and I’m fine with that.  I know that there are people who may view social media solely as an outlet for expression.  And while it is absolutely an outlet for expression, here are my questions:

  • As I stated before- what is happening IN us that we feel the need to document, comment on, and share someone else’s shortcomings?
  • Isn’t there a way that we can express ourselves without it being at the expense of someone else?
  • Would you say ____________ to the person/people directly? (If the answer is no, why are you saying it at all?)

The word teaches that death and life are in the power of the tongue, advises us against unwholesome talk, and instructs us to encourage one another.

When I was in college (as social media just started to exist), a friend’s mom gave us some good advice on speaking, telling us, “Before you speak, ask yourself if what you’re about to say is nice, necessary, and the truth.” I think that’s all something we could stand to abide by now.

Until next time…

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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The Appointment

It’s not something that’s on my schedule.  If you were to check my iPhone and my Outlook calender, you’d notice that the space between 4:45pm and 5:00pm Monday-Thursday is always empty. It’s the end of the day, and during that time, I find myself doing two things: prepping for the next day and waiting.

Waiting for my appointment.

I don’t know when it became an “appointment”.  It kind of just happened.  She would get dismissed from her class and swing by my office before heading downstairs to get picked up.  Initially, it was just to ask a question about high school or college. But eventually it became more- the visits became more frequent and the questions (and conversations) became about life.  Real life stuff- the kind of stuff that can trip up even the smartest, most talented person if they aren’t equipped to deal with it.  She shares, and asks questions.  I listen- until she’s ready for me to ask questions or provide feedback.

After talking with Jesus, and praying with Preacherman, this is one of the best parts of my day. When working with students, you often wonder if you’re really impacting their life.  You wonder if what you do, what you say, how you teach and instruct is helping to move the needle; not just in the classroom, but outside of it as well.  Most days, I’m given this appointment- this 15 minutes to plant some seeds, water other seeds, and pull up some weeds in this student’s life.  It’s something that I cherish- and I’m grateful to God to be entrusted with this responsibility.  My life is better because of it- and I pray that hers is as well.

Until next time…

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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Celebrating TWO

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Dear Preacherman,

It’s been two years.  Why is the time going by so fast?  At this rate, we will have to live to at least our 120 years, so that I can feel that I will have had sufficient time with you.

You are amazing; more than I bargained for, beyond what I imagined, the answer to my prayers.  Thank you for your love and your faithfulness, your leadership and your kindness, your relentless drive to pursue and fulfill God’s purpose for your life. You are absolutely one of the best people that I know and I am so glad to call you mine.

In these short two years of marriage, we have changed jobs and addresses; gained and lost weight, traveled to quite a few states, partially eaten our way around Jacksonville, figured out how to make salmon in a way that rivals Vin Rouge, gone to our first professional football game (and made it on the big screen), and shared more laughs than I can remember, nor that I ever want to forget.

Year three is sure to be an exciting one for #TeamAlmond and I’m while I’m excited about the things to come, I’m even more grateful that I get to face them all with you. Love you to the moon and back, Boss.

E5


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Divinely Delayed

I really hate being late.  Well, let me not say that…because there are definitely areas of my life where I struggle to be on time.  Just keeping it real.

So what I really mean is that I hate for my routine to be interrupted, thus causing me to be late(r).  I know that it happens, and generally there’s nothing that I can do about it, so I’m good about rolling with the punches…after I get over the initial frustration.

Today was one of those days where my routine was interrupted.  Preacherman was having car trouble, so I had to take him to work.  The challenge is that he has to be at work an hour before I do…so my entire morning routine was thrown off by having to take him to work and struggle through the early morning traffic.  Adding insult to injury was the fact that my car was in DIRE need of gas.  I mean, to the point that I was praying that we would make it to his job, and I was REALLY praying that I would make it back home without having to call AAA because I was stranded on the side of some Jacksonville road.

After making it back home (thanks God!), getting dressed, and making it out of the house in a decent time to head to work (after stopping at the gas station), I received a phone call from a friend who I haven’t talked to in a while.  She’s struggling.  Going through some major stuff.  And while I’ve been praying for her, I haven’t had a chance to connect with her on the phone in a while.  So, it was good to talk to her FOR REAL and be able to encourage her in her situation.

On the way to work, I processed all that happened.  Had I not been delayed by Preacherman’s car issues, I would have been on my regular schedule and would have missed the opportunity to connect with a friend who so desperately needed to be encouraged and reminded of God’s love for her in the midst of her challenges.  And I would have missed God’s reminder to slow down and enjoy His delays because He’s always at work.

It’s so easy to be frustrated when our routine is interrupted.  I encourage you, in the midst of those interruptions to seek God.  What is it that He is trying to tell you?  How, in those moments, does He desire to use you?  I’m grateful for God’s nudging and gentle reminders of how He is always at work.  I’m grateful for being used to encourage someone else in their situation. And though I was initially frustrated, I can honestly say that I’m grateful for this morning’s divine delay.

Until next time…

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!

 


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Recap: Pastors and Leaders Conference 2014

This past weekend, Preacherman and I had opportunity to attend the 2014 International Pastors and Leadership Conference hosted by Bishop T.D. Jakes in Orlando, Florida.  We loved every minute of it.

Being busy without direction is dangerous because it can lead you to waste time, energy, and resources.  One of the biggest gains from this conference was being able to understand the HOW and the WHY of what we should be doing in regards to our ministry.  Not only that, we left with a clear idea of what we can do right now in our church planting process.  Every night, Preacherman and I found ourselves making to-do lists, reaching out to people, and processing all that we were learning.

A huge highlight for us was being able to connect with people–meeting others on the same journey as us, meeting people who have been in ministry for years, and seeing friends and family.  Our pastor, Andy Thompson presented at the conference on Marriage and Ministry, and did a phenomenal job! His session was engaging and entertaining, but grounded in wisdom and biblical truth.  It is such a blessing to be under the leadership of him and his wife, and we are so appreciative of their love and support of us in this journey.

There really are no words to describe how full we felt after leaving this conference.  Since being back, we’ve been hard at work applying the things that we’ve learned, building relationships, and finally hitting a stride in the church planting process.  Though we are at the beginning of this journey, it’s exciting to see things begin to take off and move in the right direction.

To God be the glory for the things He has done.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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Friends for the Duration

I was completely surprised to realize that this post from almost six years ago has been one of the most popular posts I’ve written.  I figured it was time to do an update, and I did, explaining my thoughts about friendship and how life causes things to change.

But I also hinted at the fact that there ARE people in your marathon of a life, who will be with you for the duration. How do you know if people are with you for the duration of your marathon? I guess “you just know”.  But if I had to quantify it, reflecting on the people in my life who I know are with me for duration, here’s what I think:

  • They like the “old” you, but they love the “new” you.
  • There’s no conversations that are off limits- good/bad/ugly, you can (AND DO) talk about it all without judgement.
  • They make you better-they don’t let you get too comfortable or complacent.

Looking at this closer, here’s what I mean:

They like the “old” you, but they love the “new” you: One of the best things about my friends who are with me for the duration, is that they have fond memories of me from “way back when”.  But, even with those fond memories, they really LOVE me as I am now.  They have accepted that I have grown and changed, but their friendship and love towards me HAS NOT changed.

No topics are off limits, and it’s judgement free: I appreciate having the freedom in my friendships to be my complete self: good/bad/ugly, and know that I’m not judged for who I am, how I’m feeling, or what I just said.  They know that AT MY CORE, I’m not the person I may sound like I am on the phone or via FaceTime, and they provide a safe space for me to vent my concerns or frustrations without fear of judgement.  Also, it’s a safe space for me to ask any/all questions without fear of judgement.

They make you better: So, while they don’t judge me for what I say or what I ask, they respectfully push back and challenge my thinking and my behavior to help make me the best version of me that I can be. They let me whine, but they don’t let me wallow. I can complain, but I’m challenged to not be complacent. And often times, they provide direct feedback on HOW to be better.  Not just saying “you need to do better” (I mean, that DOES happen), but “have you tried this?” Or connecting me with actual resources to be better and to make better decisions.

I realize that I have been incredibly blessed to have a strong circle of people who are running the marathon with me, and it’s not something that I take for granted. I pray that you have the same “circle of love” in your life.

But how about you? I’d love to hear how you determine who’s with you for the duration.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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Updated Thoughts: Outgrowing Friends

Nearly six years ago, I wrote this post entitled “What Happens When You Outgrow Your Friends?” and it’s hard to believe that it’s been one of the most popular posts on this blog.

It is indeed possible for you to “outgrow” your friends, purely because life happens.  And as life happens, things change. We change. We adapt and we evolve. And as that process happens, you may find yourself in a different place than some of your friends.  While “life happens”, it doesn’t happen to everyone at the same rate/same pace/same time.  It’s like puberty- some people are “early bloomers”, some blossom late.  Those changes impact your values, as well as where and how you focus your time and energy- and your friendship can be one of the casualties of such change.

But here’s another truth: when you remove the commonalities that you share with your friends that merge your life together (school, church, work), it really requires effort to maintain a friendship.  So, in some cases, you haven’t “outgrown” a friendship, it’s just that with the change of circumstances, neither person is willing to put forth the effort required to maintain a friendship. Is that bad? I think it depends on how you define “bad”.

However, I do believe that everyone isn’t meant to go with you all the way.  Life is a marathon.  As you run your marathon, you’ll find that your running group and your crowd changes across the miles.  There are some who are with you for the duration.  There are some who are there to get you through some of the difficult miles.  There are some who help you get off to a good start, and there are some who help ensure that you finish well.  There’s value in each of those roles, and you should appreciate people for them.  But when it’s time for roles to change, be accepting of that as well.  And that, I believe is truly more difficult to do.  However, you can do yourself more harm by staying in relationships that need to end, as opposed to dealing with the emotion and moving on accordingly.

The best way that I’ve found to handle these situations, is to trust that God has provided me with all that I need for the season that I’m in–and that includes the friends that I have.  When friendships change, I praise God for the opportunity to have had that relationship, and then I continue in prayer for them and for my ability to move forward.  Each time, God has been faithful, and equipped me to be able to move forward with grace.

Be encouraged! Peace and blessings!


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Celebrate Those Still With You

As the new year comes in, I’ve seen my social media feeds flooded with people proclaiming their plans to leave behind people who they feel no longer need to be a part of their lives.  I believe that’s a necessary part of life- everyone isn’t designated to be with you for the duration.  Some relationships have expiration dates, and we can literally make ourselves sick when we continue to indulge in those relationships after they’ve reached that point.

So, I get it.  I totally understand that you want to (and need to) let people go.  However, I think there’s another side of this that often gets overlooked- are we celebrating those who are still with us?  Have we expressed our gratitude to those who have held us down over the past year(s)?  Have we taken the time to let them know how much we appreciate their friendship and their loyalty?

There are some people who have been with me since way back. Since before I could comfortably walk in heels, since before I knew how to wrap my hair and apply makeup; back to the time where I was happiest rocking a hoodie and some fresh sneakers. They’ve been with me and they’ve watched me grow.  They’ve let me change.  They held me when I cried from brokenness, and they celebrated with me as I some of my dreams came true. They might not be in every physical picture, but the photostream in my mind is full of moments where they are present.

I know that you have people like that in your life.  I’m sure that as you read this, you immediately thought of 2-3 people who fit the bill.  My hope is that you’ll take some time to let them know how much you appreciate them for staying with you.  Cheers to a great 2014 with the people who helped you make it this far!

Be encouraged! Peace and Blessings!


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25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

I have my dear friend Jovian to thank for this.  She sent these questions out in an email to a bunch of us, and I thought I’d tackle them in this space…because I feel that doing so makes me slightly more accountable than just answering them in my head or replying via email.

So, let’s have at it (warning- this is long):

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

1. What am I most proud of this year?

I am most proud of my growth as a wife.  Every day, there are new challenges and new opportunities for growth.  In our first year of marriage, we had experienced changes beyond what either of us could have imagined.  I’m proud of handling the change with faith, and by being on the same team.

2. How can I become a better person?

I ABSOLUTELY must be better by asking for help.  Note to self: It takes a strong person to admit where they are weak, and to ask for help to become stronger.

3. Where am I feeling stuck?

In my pursuit of having a more healthy lifestyle. My current reasons have not been compelling enough, nor has my discipline been where it needs to be. I’m looking forward to overhauling this area, and really understanding my “why”; as well as creating SMART goals to make sure that I see the progress I desire.

4. Where do I need to allow myself grace?

In my role as a wife. Preacherman knows this more than anyone, but I am incredibly hard on myself.  I’ve decided to adopt Emily Ley’s motto as my own: “I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not PERFECTION.”

5. Am I passionate about my career?

Yes! I love what I do, and who I serve. It’s been a huge area for growth, but it’s been rejuvenating and fun. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help students see the possibilities, and then make them realities.

6. What lessons have I learned?

Not so much lessons, but reminders: God is a faithful. God is love. God is a provider. God is…

7. What did my finances look like?

I’m extremely proud of our saving this year- we came up with a plan that works, and with God’s provision, we were able to handle a huge move in the short-term without taking much of hit.  This year, the goal is to live lean, save more, and to look for ways to build wealth.

8. How did I spend my free time?

Pre-move: lots of time was spent serving at church, and fellowshipping with friends and family.  Post-move: lots of time was spent on organizing our new home, getting acclimated to new jobs and a new area, and creating systems to make us more efficient.

9. How well did I take care of my body, mind, and soul?

I started out on a roll with all three- exercising and eating healthy, striving to learn new things, and purposefully seeking growth in my relationship with God.  As things got busy and life happened, I didn’t do as great of a job at balancing all three- I would maybe have 2 things going well, but missing the third one.  Again, I believe that creating SMART goals for 2014, along with clarity about what’s most important in this current stage of life will help me be better at all of these in the coming year.

10. How have I been open-minded?

In seeking, hearing, believing, and trusting the promises of God beyond what I can see or feel.  The circumstances of my life this year have required that I be more open to seeing, hearing, believing, and trusting the promises of God.

11. When did I feel most creatively inspired?

I don’t know if I can identify a time, but I know that I feel more creatively inspired to write (for this blog and otherwise) when I’m most balanced in my relationship with God and can hear Him clearly.

12. What projects have I completed?

Getting the new home organized and decorated.  It’s great coming home to a place that you love.

13. How have I procrastinated?

Dissertation.  See also #15.

14. In what ways can I re-structure my time?

Reducing some of the social media activity (although I LOVE the debates and conversations that take place on Twitter and FB), Scheduling meetings in the mornings, blocking out my day tasks- and not being afraid to say no to someone else’s “urgent” (your emergency is not my emergency) when it could be detrimental for me.

15. How have I allowed fear of failure hold me back?

Dissertation- the feedback that I have received while working on my dissertation has been the most critical feedback that I’ve ever received in academic work.  I’ve always enjoyed school, and I’ve always done well at it.  While I enjoy this, I find myself in a situation where I’m doing a ton of work that is extremely time consuming…only to get a significant amount of feedback of where you can improve.  It can be paralyzing to know that you’re doing all that you can to submit your best work and you KNOW that you’re going to get  a return email with your document…and even more corrections to make.  I definitely let this affect my mental approach to this work, and that CANNOT happen this year.  I need to keep the end goal in mind.

16. Where has self-doubt taken over?

In appearance- turning 30 in a workplace where the average employee is a female around the age of 23 or 24 and has their college metabolism and college body really forced me to think about what I wanted 30 to LOOK like and feel like for me, and how to really get to “my best self”.

In competence- my school work transitioned from classes to sole work on my dissertation.  I thought that without having classes, I’d miraculously have more time and the ideas and words would flow freely.  But that’s totally not what happened…and while I had moments of progress and inspiration, it wasn’t nearly as much as I’d hoped for.  When I coupled that with my inability to really master my time in the best way, I began to doubt my ability to complete the task at all.  I ended this year on a high note, making much progress and getting positive feedback from my dissertation chair.

17. When have I felt the most alive?

In moments with Preacherman and/or our little- working on math problems, making funfetti pancakes, watching the Cosby show, helping to wrap Christmas presents, singing “Jesus Loves Me” before bed, reciting our confession of faith together in the mornings.  All the little moments that I won’t always have.

18. How have I taught others to respect me?

Setting appropriate boundaries- especially at work has been extremely helpful here.  Being vocal about what I need, and refusing to take on too much has been incredibly helpful here also.

19. How can I improve my relationships?

Be more diligent in maintaining and creating them.  This is a challenge as an introvert, but it’s one that I need to overcome…particularly if I want to keep friends and make new ones.

20. Have I been unfair to anyone?

I hope not (LOL!).  I’ve probably been most guilty of being unfair in not extending the same grace to others that I would want extended to me.

21. Who do I need to forgive?

There are a few people who really hurt me over the past few years, and while it doesn’t hurt anymore; there are times where I find myself angry or frustrated about the way things panned out, especially after doing what I could to reconcile the situation. I need to be better about taking any negative thoughts captive and committing my mind to complete forgiveness.

22. Where is it time to let go?

Overworking/being a workaholic.  I need to place better energy on being productive while at work, and not always allowing things to carry over into home life. My first responsibility is to be the wife and steppie that God has called me to be.

23. What old habits would I like to release?

Being mean to myself/being too hard on myself. Grace, not perfection.

24. What new habits would I like to cultivate?

Consistency in reading: The Bible, devotionals, and other books to promote learning and growth

25. How can I be kind to myself?

As mentioned above, I think Emily Ley’s motto sums it up perfectly: “I will hold myself to a standard of GRACE not PERFECTION”


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Happy Year One!

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Dear Preacherman,

Happy Anniversary!  It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been a year since we gathered together in that church in my hometown, in front of a huge group of our family and friends, and got married. Time truly flies when you’re having fun!

There is so much that I could say about this past year, but I’ll just say “thank you”. Thank you for this past year.  For loving me more and more each day.  For being patient and kind.  For not keeping record of my wrongs (and there are many).  For pushing me to be better. For helping me to overcome challenges. For protecting me from challenges. For being my love and my best friend.

Thank you for your many sacrifices- of time, energy, and resources. Thank you for making me literally laugh out loud, every single day. Thank you for your unwavering dedication to God, me, and our family. Thank you for desiring to live a life of purpose, that will leave a legacy of faith for our family.  Thank you.

Cheers to you- the captain of #teamAlmond, the President and CEO of Almond Family Enterprises, my leader, my lover, my confidant, and my very best friend.  I love you and I am so grateful to share this life with you.

Love Always,

E5