Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rise Up

Everyone's life is a unique journey, with ups and downs, trials and blessings. When life gets tough we need to raise ourselves up by our boot straps. We need to buckle up and be ready for the ride. We don't know where we are going all the time, but we need to pray for direction and God's will to be revealed. When things are difficult we can pray for peace, pray for grace, pray for wisdom. When we are completely overwhelmed we can literally get down on our knees and just pray, with tears streaming down our face.

The main thing I have learned is God is always good and faithful. We don't like it, but sometimes the answers to our prayers is "No", "Not right now", or He may be silent. God is right there with us giving us grace to deal with our situation, though. His grace will carry us through when we are not sure if we could do it on our own!

He cries with us and his heart breaks, when our heart breaks. He loves us and just like any good Father he would rather us yell and scream at Him, instead of becoming distant, give up on our faith, and/ or our relationship with Him. This verse below, shows how compassionate and empathetic God is towards us when we are upset.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭56:8 NLT

You can never be a failure in the Lord's eyes. Remember he created us in His image and sent His one and only Son to earth to die as an atoning sacrifice for you and me. We are already good enough and worthy of His love because we didn't deserve the salvation as we are yet still sinners.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

"Rise Up" by Andra Day is one of my favorite songs right now. Sections of the lyrics and link to the full music video are below. This song is about unconditional love and compassion towards a loved one, even when it is inconvenient or difficult- helping them in a great time of need, being there for them no matter what and showing love for one another. This is what Jesus calls us to do.

Andra Day in "Rise Up" music video

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:30-31‬ ‭NIV

When we do this we are the closest to God that we can possibly be. This is what the Lord wants for us because this is what matters the most. So when life is tough for you or a loved one... Rise Up!!

"Rise Up" by Andra Day

"Rise Up" by Andra Day Music Video (Click Here)

You're broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry go round
And you can't find the fighter
But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out
And move mountains...
And I'll rise up
I'll rise like the day
I'll rise up
I'll rise unafraid
I'll rise up
And I'll do it a thousand times again
And I'll rise up
High like the waves
I'll rise up
In spite of the ache
I'll rise up
And I'll do it a thousands times again
When the silence isn't quiet
And it feels like it's getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we'll take the world to its feet
And move mountains
We'll take it to its feet
And move mountains...
All we need, all we need is hope
And for that we have each other
...We will rise...
I'll rise up
Rise like the day
I'll rise up
In spite of the ache
I will rise a thousands times again
...For you...

Sunday, March 26, 2017

How I Love Our Toddler and Taking Him to His First Wedding

Let me start with saying, "Hello, how have you been?!" It has been almost a year since my last blog post about two of our best friends, Amy and Brad Ward, who left Atlanta to travel the country!!! Update: They are chilling in Colorado living the Snow Bunny Life. 

Family picture at James' third birthday party
Our son, James, just had his THIRD birthday a few weeks ago. His third birthday, seriously?! That went by so quickly! We love our little munchkin, more than I ever would have thought possible. Sometimes it is still surreal that I am grown up and a mom. The way he looks to me for comfort, love, attention, approval, snuggles, and even how he wants me to rub his back while he is falling asleep, it gets me every time. When he is around other people and children he listens and takes it all in first before he gets comfortable. He is our little observer. I love how he is so sweet and thoughtful. I am grateful for the respect he shows me too. Sometimes it surprises me how I start "counting to 3" and he gets up and gets going on #1. 

James loves to sit on my lap

But I'm definitely a little softy, though. For example, he would have me carry him everywhere if I would. Usually, I have been carrying him but we are trying to get him to walk more. I just know I will look back when he is much bigger and relish the memories of carrying his little 31 lb. self all over the place. My little snuggle bunny loves to sit in my lap. It is the sweetest part of my day when he wants to climb in my lap and hold my hands. He would prefer to sit in my lap even while we are both eating but he has to eat in his own chair and "be a big boy". But, I know I'll miss him being little enough to sit in my lap one day too. I treasure all of these memories we have together and look forward to making new memories as he grows older. 

Snuggle buddy

We recently went to Lauren and Alex Ziegler's wedding and took James. It was a beautiful celebration of love and was a picture perfect Southern style wedding weekend, complete with a crawfish boil on the Thursday night before the wedding. I love the South and how everyone makes you feel so welcome and the hospitality can't be beat! The Clark-Ziegler wedding was no exception!! 

Behnkes and Zieglers
I was honored to read this scripture about love during the ceremony: 
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loves in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:7-21 NIV

Lauren and I before the wedding
We went to get James a suit before the wedding, because it was elegant and formal. James was so cute picking out his little suit. He was so proud of himself that he was going to be all dressed up like his Daddy.

My handsome dates

Then, he was such a great little traveler and had so much fun at all the wedding events and festivities. He even helped me give a little speech during the rehearsal dinner. I asked him after we got home what was his favorite part of the wedding weekend and he told me it was when we were dancing together. It made my heart completely melt into a pile of mush. Kyle even joined in with the dancing. The three of us held each other and were all dancing together. Yes, sorry, we were those people having a family love fest on the dance floor. But it was one of the best nights the three of us have had out together.

Our little family at the Jackson, MS Yacht Club
The sweetest part of this story is how it ties into my own childhood. One of my very first memories was dancing with my dad at a wedding. I'll never forget, my favorite preschool teacher, Ms. Jamie. She was getting married and asked me to be a flower girl. I had the best time but my favorite part was dancing with my dad. I swear, I learned all my dance moves that night. Well, maybe not all my dance moves, but I certainly learned how much fun it is to dance with your favorite guy. It brought it all full circle for me. 

Thank you for inviting us, Lauren and Alex, to be a part of your wedding! May you have much love and happiness as husband and wife!! 

I hope James always knows the love we have for him and how we would do anything in our power for him. He is going to be our only child and he will always be enough. We are so blessed to be his parents!! We love you, James!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Wards Big Adventure

What is your journey? The simple answer is your life. Every day, every minute we are constantly writing our story by living out our journey. We have to constantly think and be conscious of the story we will tell one day looking back on our lives. Will your story be about how you overcame obstacles with grace and faith? You knew the obstacles and trials were all part of God's plan? Will you tell how you rejoiced in even the smallest victories, knowing God was with you? I sure hope so, because if not, you may have a lot of regrets when you are older... 

One of my very best friends, Amy Ward is about to embark on a journey of a lifetime with her husband, Brad. They are calling it, the "Wards Big Adventure." That is exactly what it is, a true adventure! They felt led to sell almost all of their belongings and literally leave it all behind. They are going to travel the USA for a whole year.... Wow! Talk about stepping out in faith to live an amazing journey. 

They have a plan about a lot of places they want to see, but ultimately they are trusting God to direct their steps and lead them on their path. I am so proud of them and how they listened to that nudge from God. I can only imagine the things they are going to see, the fresh air and flowers they are going to smell, the birds and animals they will hear. Just think, they will see the night sky out west with nothing but stars, planets and the moon! Amy was born in Oregon and they are excited to return to see the coast and all the spectacular trees. 

These are some of the top places on their travel wish list among many others: Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, to drive down the Big Sur, Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, the Wine Country, Yosemite National Park, Mount Saint Helen's, and the Badlands. 

As one of Amy's best friends, I am personally conflicted. A big part of me will miss seeing her almost everyday and talking to her all the time, but the other side of me knows this is what the Lord has called them to do. They will show God's light all over the USA and show people what living a life in faith looks like. How can I possibly have selfish motives for her to stay when this is the biggest step in faith they can possibly take and a once in a lifetime opportunity? 

Me, Nicole & Amy

Everything has lined up perfectly for this trip and I couldn't be more excited for them and all they will do and see! I'll truly miss my friend but love her enough to be happy for her and Brad and their big adventure! 

I hope you follow them on Instagram @WardsBigAdventure and you can search the hashtags #Bramytravels #travelingtheUSA #adventure #travel #nomads #WardsBigAdventure 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ruby Leigh has lymphoma

I really don't know how to start this post, except by saying God is still good... 

In the good circumstances, blessings and in the trials. 

Last week, I took my sweet dog, Ruby Leigh, to the vet to be seen because I noticed the lymph nodes in her neck were swollen. After the examination, the vet said all of her lymph nodes were swollen- the ones under her legs and behind her legs too. She was honest and said it was possible that it was Lymphoma. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that effects the lymph nodes. She told me she was worried. I started to cry thinking about losing my sweet Ruby especially after just over a year of losing my mom. I had a really bad feeling that it was Lymphoma and a few days later it was confirmed by a pathologist that it was. 

Ruby Leigh 

My dog, Ruby, means so much to me. She has been with me since Senior year at the University of Mississippi, known as Ole Miss. She had 10 puppies back in 2009. She loves to run, swim in the lake and give kisses. She protected me when I didn't live in a great neighborhood when I graduated from college. She got a daddy when I married Kyle in 2010. Then she knew when I was pregnant and stayed close to my side the whole time. She is so sweet and gentle to James and he loves giving her treats and petting her.  But most of all, she is loyal and has been my best friend for 9.5+ years. She is my girl... 

Ruby Leigh's 10 puppies

Ruby Leigh and General Lee

But through it all, I am trying not to be too sad and continue to trust God. I know God uses all things for His good. I don't know how this will be used for good but I know He keeps His promises. Maybe this trial will help me with compassion? Maybe it will be used to help complete the work he started in me with growing my faith? Maybe to teach me how valuable life is? 

Ruby Leigh and General Lee ready for college football

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
James 1:2-4, 12 NIV

Left to Right: Amberley (her daughter), Topaz, General Lee (her son), & Ruby Leigh

I am not sure how this will be used for good but I know God is faithful even in trials, even when I don't understand His plan. I feel His love and comfort of the Holy Spirit. God is still good. He doesn't cause pain, suffering, or evil but since we live in a fallen world, He allows it to happen. God will be with me through it all, he is by my side. 

Ruby and James on Mother's Day 2016
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV 

I know Ruby will go to Heaven when she passes to be with my mom and Jesus. I know I'll see Ruby in Heaven one day.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV