life beyond the well…


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Hosting Thanksgiving

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

Today Preacherman and I will host our first Thanksgiving as a married couple.  Last year we celebrated our first married Thanksgiving with his family, and this year we are excited for them to make the trip to visit us in Jacksonville.

While I love spending time with family and friends, I also enjoy time to myself.  It’s something that I have accepted as a result of being an introvert.  I’ve never been one to host events or have lots of people over, so today is a huge stretch for me, and I’m determined for it to be a good experience.

I recognize that devil can manipulate great situations, forcing us to miss the blessings in front of us.  Because of that, I prepared the following reminders to help me navigate this first thanksgiving hosting:

Lord, when I feel overwhelmed by the presence of people, help me to remember the blessing of family and fellowship.

Lord, when I feel annoyed by the dishes and the laundry, help me to remember the blessing it is to have food to eat and clothes to wear.

Lord, when I am disturbed by the noise, help me to rest in your quietness and remember the blessing it is to be able to hear.

Lord, when I feel frustrated and cramped in my home, help me to remember the blessing of having a home and having those to share it with.

Lord, let my fellowship and my conversation encourage others and bring You glory.

Lord, let us seek ways to serve others as a demonstration of our gratitude for all that You have provided for us.

Lord, let me remember that in every circumstance, you are in control.

Lord, let me have fresh eyes to see the beauty and blessings in every moment.

I’m believing that today will be a great day.  Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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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


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30- Better than Good to Me

Today is my 30th birthday.

I’ve been mulling around in my head (and with Preacherman) just what that means, and I honestly don’t have an answer.  It’s hard to believe that I’ve been alive for 30 years.  Last year, I marveled at turning 29 and the faithfulness of God over the past 29 years of my life.  I am constantly amazed at God’s faithfulness.

More than anything, I feel so incredibly blessed.  I got saved for real when I was 20 years old.  The past 10 years have been such an amazing journey.  When I think of all that God has done over my life, but particularly over those past 10 years, I am moved to tears.  I finished college and graduate school, had amazing jobs in Georgia and Florida, moved back to North Carolina for another amazing job, got married, and moved back to Florida with my husband to pursue the purpose that God has for our lives.

If I could put it into a song, it would be this one, sung by our church’s praise and worship team: You’ve Been So Good to Me.  Here are the lyrics:

Lord, You are good-  You’ve been so good.  Lord, You are good- You are better than good.  I can’t praise You enough.  I owe You my life.  I can’t praise You enough, even if I tried.  You’ve been so good to me…So many doors You’ve opened, so many ways You’ve made, so many times You’ve healed me- You’ve been better than good to me!

Yeah. That kind of sums it up for me.  I can absolutely look back over my life and see where God has been true to His word on so many different occasions.  Goodness and mercy has followed me, His plans have prospered me; given me hope and a future, Nothing has separated me from His love– all in His word and all in my life.

Cheers to 30!  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the next 30 years

Another testimony of my 20s: “All we want and all we need is found in Jesus/All we ask is more of you/Nothing else can satisfy our hearts desire/All we want is more of you/For the Lord is good/And His love endures/Yes the Lord is good forever/And I’ll shout it out/from the mountain tops/Yes the Lord is good forever…” –Israel and New Breed “More and More


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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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Make Marriage Look Good

It’s hard to believe, but in a few days (like 8), Preacherman and I will have been married for six months.  This first half-year of our marriage has flown by, and it’s been an incredible experience learning and growing together.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit two places that I haven’t been in a while- my old high school and my former job.  Both were filled with people who haven’t seen me since Preacherman and I got married.  While it was great to catch up with people and see people who I haven’t seen in a bit, I heard variations of the following comments frequently:

“You look so happy!  Marriage really agrees with you!”

“It’s so good to see you!  You look great!  Marriage is treating you well!”

Now, I just smiled and said thank you, because I do agree that marriage agrees with me and is treating me well.  And while I am no marriage expert, I am happily married.  But I was so surprised that so many people were surprised that I look (and am) happily married.

Seriously.  What is this about?  Was I supposed to get married and just fall off?  Was I supposed to get married and become unhappy?  I’m so confused.

Not only am I confused, but I’m also sad that people have associated marriage with unhappiness (both in terms of looks and emotions).  Marriage isn’t supposed to be that way, and I don’t think that anyone enters marriage expecting to be unhappy.  No one agrees to be with someone for the rest of their life with the expectation that it will be horrible.

For those of you who are married, engaged, seriously dating, or plan to be married at SOME point- please do me a favor: MAKE MARRIAGE LOOK GOOD. Be happy.  Enjoy your spouse.  LIKE (and love) your spouse.  Be their FRIEND.  Speak well of them to others.  Do the work that it requires.  Remember and remind them why you love them.  Let us each do our part in promoting marriage as wonderful, fulfilling, engaging, lifelong relationship; instead of something that leads people down the path of despair.

Be encouraged!  Peace and blessings!


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Book Review: Real Love- How to Avoid Romantic Chaos and Find the Path to Lasting Love

“Real love. I’m searching for a real love. Someone to set my heart free…” – Mary J. Blige

Whether we admit it or not, we are all desiring a real love. We smile and feel joy in our hearts at the stories of couples of have been married for 50, 60, and even 70 years; and we often wonder if it’s possible for us to have that same kind of love and marriage. The truth is that it is ABSOLUTELY possible, but you have to go about it in the right way.

That’s where this book comes in. In “Real Love: How to Avoid Romantic Chaos and Find the Path to Lasting Love”, Andy Thompson provides wisdom to those who are seeking to find a lasting love relationship. The book provides simple explanations for how to know if you’re ready to be in a relationship (and reasons why you may not be ready), as well as other valuable tidbits such as “The Three S’s” that men need from their wives and “The Three S’s” that women need from their husbands–and an additional “S” that both husbands and wives need to demonstrate in their marriage.

While the book provides lots of practical wisdom for those who are married, there is also a wealth of knowledge available for those who are in dating relationships. Thompson explains items that should be considered when making “the list” of qualities that one desires in a spouse, the limits and boundaries couples should abide by while they are in the dating phase, and the things that one really needs to know about a person (“The Seven P’s”).

I would recommend this book to people who are hoping to be married so that they can approach their dating relationships with a sense of wisdom instead of being lead by their emotions and how they may feel about a person at the time.  I would also recommend this book to people who are married, as it provides tangible knowledge that can be useful in helping their marriage be the best that it can be.

Being in a successful, long-lasting relationship is not magic.  It requires work from each person involved, but it’s also helpful to begin the relationship with a solid understanding of what lasting relationships require.  While this book doesn’t provide all the answers, it does give you an excellent foundation on which to begin the search for a REAL lasting love.


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Don’t Be Afraid to Walk

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all.  Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach.  The world you desire can be won.  It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.” -Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

I love being a woman and I’m convinced that there’s no other experience like it.  I particularly love being a black woman, and I recognize that as such, I’m constantly faced with experiences and challenges that others don’t face.  My experience as a black woman, and as a black girl were mostly empowering.  I was constantly reminded that I could do ANYTHING that I wanted to do as long as I was willing to put in the work required.  And I grew up with other young women who were taught the same thing- that anything was possible for us.

I love seeing the same message in society today- that our young girls and young women can accomplish anything; that there is an entire world out there that is theirs for the taking.  I still feel the sense of empowerment and “You Go Girl!” when I hear of women being the first in the field to accomplish a task or assume a role, and I am proud to work in a department that is lead by women.

Yet despite all of this, I still deal with the little voice in my mind that allows me to question if I’m good enough, strong enough, smart enough, capable enough, competent enough.  And I know that I’m not alone.  Some of my sister-friends and I have frequent conversations about how we feel like we’re “not there yet”- and how we may never “get there”.  Or we lament our struggles with  “Imposter Syndrome“, even though we know that we have both degrees and knowledge to back it up.

All of this makes me wonder- when does this change happen?  When do we go from believing that we can do anything to wondering if we are deserving of what we have accomplished?  What causes us to lose the confident stride that comes with knowing that we are “Phenomenal Women” and leads us to crawl slowly with our head down, wondering if we’re worthy of the life we’ve dreamed of?

I can’t pinpoint what it is, that causes this change, but I want to encourage you- don’t be afraid to walk!  Whether it’s walking away from the relationship or the job where you know in your heart that you’re settling for less than you deserve, or it’s walking toward the career that you’ve dreamed for, the degree that you aspired to but told no one about- don’t be afraid to walk.  You owe it to yourself to walk away from anything that makes you unhappy and unfulfilled, and to walk towards anything that God purposed for your life.  And when you walk- walk with confidence, knowing that you are capable, that your dreams can and will come true, that you can have the life you want to have- because it IS possible.

And if you’re confused about what it is that you should be doing or where you should be going, start to listen to yourself.  Take time to hear the voice of God within you and follow that voice.  You aren’t an accident- there’s a purpose for which you have been created and the world NEEDS for you to walk in it!  Be fabulous!  Be fearless!  Walk it out!

 

Author’s Note: This post was also featured on Up4Discussion.org for Women’s Empowerment Month.


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Be Nice or Be Quiet

I have very little patience for people who say mean things.  I know that sometimes people don’t always mean to, but it still bothers me.  I feel like there are so many areas of life where we hear negative things (especially on the news), that we should hold ourselves accountable to saying nice, positive things to each other.

Now, I will also acknowledge that this is difficult.  There have been quite a few “bite my tongue” or “Lord, hold my mule” moments in my life (or in the last week).  I still have to fight the urge to not pop off and say the first thing that comes to mind when I feel that someone has approached me in the wrong way or has verbally attacked me.  I often tell Preacherman that I’m glad that there’s not a scrolling marquee on my forehead because I’d find myself in some trouble in certain situations.

However, for 2013, I’ve decided that I REALLY want to be purposeful and intentional about the words that I speak.  And as I continued to think about what it means to mind my mouth (or rather, getting my mouth to mind my mind), I arrived at this: “Be nice or be quiet”.  It’s probably not that much different than what I learned as a kid of , “if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.”  But sometimes, we don’t take hold of those lessons as we should as children, and we need to learn them again as adults.

But on another note, this has been my approach to any situation that threatens my peace of mind and my confidence.  The devil is real, and his ability to attack our mind is real.  And if he can attack my mind, he can steal my peace, my confidence, my joy, my hope, my salvation.  So, I feel that for this year, as I’m believing God for great things, I must address the enemy.  I can’t expect him to be nice or to play nice, but I don’t have to listen to him- and I can tell him to be quiet.

I can choose to listen to the foolishness of the enemy, or I can choose to fill myself with my word, with positive music, confessions, and affirmations until I have effectively tuned him out. Be nice or be quiet is more than what I choose to say to others, but it’s also about what I choose to say and HEAR myself.  I’m believing God for FAR TOO MUCH this year, and the devil won’t talk me (or have me talk myself) out of my promise.

Be mindful that the voice of the devil comes in many forms- it can be the nagging uncertainty that you feel after you’re excited to try something new, or it can be the “friend” who’s never able to share in your joy about your accomplishments or aspirations, or it can be the person in your family who never thought you’d amount to anything.  Be mindful of those voices and be willing to tell them the same thing you’re telling yourself: BE NICE OR BE QUIET!

Peace and Blessings!

 


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More Monday: A Quick Wedding Photo Video

So, I really had no intention of sharing more wedding photos so soon- that is until I received a message from our wonderful photographer Ashley that she had a surprise for me and Preacherman!  We were completely blown away by this video she put together, compiling some of our engagement photos and our wedding photos!  Take a look:

To say that we loved it would be an understatement!  Thanks Ashley!  And again, if you are in need of photos for your event/life, you should DEFINITELY connect with her!

Peace and Blessings!


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Friday Favorites: Wedding Pictures

It’s hard to believe, but yesterday marked two months that Preacherman and I have been married!  Time flies when you’re having fun!

Because I haven’t shared many of them on here, and I promised that I would, here are a few of my favorite wedding photographs.  Honestly, they are ALL my favorite, and our AMAZING photographer, Ashley, of ArtbyAsh deserves every accolade possible!  She did awesome work, and I may have finally persuaded Preacherman to let me keep her on a small monthly retainer so that we can have a photo session whenever we like!

Without further ado:

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Photo above: Me with my wonderful bridesmaids!

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Photo above: Preacherman and his handsome groomsmen.

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Photo above: Prayer with my Dad, Pastor Nate.

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Photo above: Preacherman and I praying together before the wedding- on opposite sides of the wall so we couldn’t see each other!

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Photo above: Going to hug my mom- because you’re never too old for hugs from Mommy!

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Photo above: The bouquets!

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Photo above: Me, opening Preacherman’s wedding gift.  He did a good great job!

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Photo above: Our wedding bands and the program.

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Photo above: Check the hands- we’s married now!

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Photo above: Preacherman and I walking into our future.

Such a wonderful, magical day!  To God be the glory for the things He has done!  Peace and blessings!