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Even When Devastated, Give Thanks

“Excuse me but I think your daughter is hurt.” My eyes looked up from the book I was reading, across the field to the opposite side of the track where the long jump pit was located. It was an absolutely beautiful day, with the sun shining brightly and only a few clouds in the sky.

As a young child, Kennedi was so busy. She was always on the move and into something. She would jump off anything – dressers, down the stairs, and off retainer walls. She just loved to move. I remember one time at the park, she was about five years old and went across the monkey bars by herself. An older boy was there as well but could not make it across. His father got mad and berated his son because “that girl could do it, why can’t you?” I hated when people said, “Run like a girl” or “play like a girl” as if that were somehow inferior. I wanted Kennedi to defy all stereotypes about female athletes and raised her to be fearless and compete with anyone, regardless of their sex or gender.

When Kennedi was six, I saw an advertisement in a local paper for a track and field youth team. I ran track in high school and was excited to see Kennedi also in the sport. By the second week of practice, she discovered the long jump and loved it. There was a lot to the technique – learning her starting mark, working on her approach, her release from the board, and her jumping form. She seemed to be a natural, and by the next season, she had broken a regional record and was a finalist in both the USA Track & Field and AAU Junior Olympics.

My husband and I were convinced we had a future Olympian in our family and went all in to develop her natural athletic ability. Training started in April, and she competed from May through early August, always culminating with the Junior Olympics.

When she didn’t perform the way I expected, I would let her know it. I would rant, fuss, and complain, usually with her ending up in tears. I thought I was challenging her to be the best she could be, as I knew what she was capable of. But all she heard was she wasn’t good enough for me, and the pressure grew and grew the older she got. I honestly think that pressure contributed to her injury, as I later found out she made a landing adjustment before her jump that she should not have.

On that fateful day in July 2018, Kennedi was competing in the pentathlon for 13-14 year-old girls and was having an amazing day of performances. The long jump always made me nervous, having to watch her approach the board, making sure she didn’t foul, and then waiting for the official to read out her jump distance.

It was the 4th event in the competition, and Kennedi was in 2nd place, so I decided to sit with the other parents in the shade while she competed. I figured she was in good hands with her dad and coach, and I could skip the nerves and butterflies in my stomach.

There was a lot of commotion at the sand pit and fear immediately gripped my heart. With everything in me, I wanted to dart across the field. Instead, I calmly walked along the outer perimeter of the track. I knew I should be praying, but I didn’t know what to say. My mind went to 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and I just kept saying “Thank you Jesus, thank you God, thank you Jesus, thank you God.” I had no idea what was waiting for me on the other side of the track, but all I could do was thank God in advance for the miracle I knew I would need Him to perform. I wanted God to remember my initial response was to thank Him while not knowing what was going on, so He would show mercy for whatever it was I was about to face. 

As I approached the pit, all I could hear was my daughter screaming and crying in pain. The closer I got, the faster and harder my heart pounded. People were surrounding her, attending to her. “No, no, no, please God no!” I just stood there praying and then I got on my knees, I grabbed her hand and I just prayed, and I declared the words I always spoke over her: “You walk in divine health, you are the healthy, healed, and whole child of God.” It was a declaration I learned in my church years earlier, and we had been saying it ever since.

In the ER, her x-ray showed no broken bones; we were advised to follow up with our orthopedic doctor for an MRI and we left for the hour drive home with Kennedi’s left leg braced and in extreme pain. That night was terrible. She was in so much distress and cried when she wasn’t sleeping. My heart ripped with every reaction to her agony. We all slept in the living room, waiting for morning to come.

The next day brought more physical and emotional trauma. An attempt to go upstairs and bathe her brought so much pain, causing her eyes to roll into the back of her head, and she went in and out of consciousness. We called 911 but by the time the police and ambulance arrived, she seemed to be ok. We left immediately for her orthopedic doctor, and after hours of waiting, she was finally approved by our insurance to have an MRI.

I fought back tears when the doctor read the results – a torn posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), one of the four main ligaments in her knee. It wasn’t a common injury in children, and we sought multiple opinions to find a doctor who had experience treating someone Kennedi’s age with this injury. Thankfully a good friend recommended Dr. Mesa at Delaware Orthopaedic Specialists (DOS), who promptly examined Kennedi in between surgeries that Monday. After discussing our options, we decided to proceed with intensive physical therapy instead of surgery due to Kennedi’s age. Along with rehabilitation, we would be praying for a miracle, as I was convinced she would defy all odds and expectations, and be back to competing way ahead of the projected recovery schedule.

Another family friend recommended the University of Delaware’s Physical Therapy Clinic, as he had recently torn his PCL playing football and was rehabbed through the facility. I was a ball of nerves at her first appointment. It had been over a month since she walked, but an amazing therapist named Greg had her walk right away, even through her pain. At first, I stared in horror, thinking, what is he doing to my daughter? But Greg knew exactly what he was doing and for her first day of high school a few weeks later, the crutches were gone. Kennedi was known as “the girl with the brace” at her new school.

She rehabilitated her entire freshman year; we drove to the University of Delaware three times a week, then twice a week, and once they were satisfied with her progress, we transitioned to a closer facility – The Training Room, where she worked hard to strengthen her knee.

She wasn’t officially cleared to resume sports until the summer of 2019 and played volleyball on her high school team in the fall. Next up was winter track and on the first day the sprinting drills brought extreme pain, so we had her focus on the shotput for the indoor season. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the season ended early, and the spring season was canceled. Unfortunately, she never had the amazing high school athletic season we all eagerly anticipated over the years. She regained her strength and agility, but the speed and knee stability were just not restored to their previous condition.

I remember one evening I was in the kitchen making dinner, and Kennedi had come home from practice and was complaining about the pain in her knee. Weary at this point, I started questioning God again. From day 1, I prayed for and believed without wavering that He would heal her knee. Countless people prayed over and for her as well. Why was it taking so long for Him to answer all of our prayers for her healing?

After a while, I worked myself up so much that I was yelling out to God in my kitchen. “WHY GOD, WHY?” His quiet voice finally responded: Because you’ll bring Me glory. I was stunned. I started crying again, but the reason for the tears was much different this time. I knew I had to use our story to encourage other people to trust God when they were going through painful and devastating situations and needed hope.

Soon afterward, I shared our story with Guideposts magazine and started writing a blog about our faith journey. Our ministry, Destined 4 the Dub, was born from that place of pain.

I often think about my initial response when Kennedi was injured. I wonder what it meant to God for me to trust and thank Him on one of the darkest days of my life. As Kennedi is still on her journey, I’m still thanking God despite my uncertainty about her future.

Kennedi just left for college and she’s thriving. She wants to be a pediatric physical therapist and focus on helping children with special needs and physical disabilities gain mobility, just like her physical therapist helped her. I’m overwhelmed by the thought of her impacting so many of those special lives.

I often wondered what would happen if Kennedi faced another difficult situation after she left our home. After her injury, I was always praying over her, giving her scriptures to stand on, and speaking words of life and encouragement to her.

But what would happen when she was no longer in my house? Did she have a strong enough foundation in the Word of God? My next endeavor was to write a book: Using God’s Playbook for the Game of Life: 52 Scriptures Your Young Athlete Should Know Before Sending Them Off Into the World, which I dedicated to Kennedi.

I don’t know what the future holds for Kennedi. But I know God has great things planned for her, and her life will make a great impact on others. Being thankful while not knowing what the outcome will be is not easy, but it’s a response that honors God. And I’m still waiting with great anticipation for how He will respond to my thankful heart.

PRAYER:

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank you for each person reading this story. Please show them you are on their side, and not against them. May we remember to thank you for Your amazing plan for us, even when we don’t know any of the details. Please show us when our prayers aren’t answered how or when we want, or when our dreams have died, that You are still in complete control of our lives.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Who Determines Your Worth or Significance?

Something amazing and still quite unbelievable happened – my oldest daughter graduated from high school this week! She’ll be leaving our home in less than two months for college. I’ve had seventeen years to prepare her for this transition and milestone. Did I do a good job? Is she ready? I get emotional just thinking about it.

When I first launched Destined 4 the Dub, Kennedi was starting high school. She had just experienced a life-changing injury and I started writing to reflect on the life lessons I was learning through our journey. If you are new to our site, you can find our stories in the archives, starting back in September of 2018.

I realized it has been almost a year since I’ve done a personal blog about us. I’ve spent that time launching Faith-Filled Moms, a ministry focused on finding God’s glory in every mom’s story, no matter how difficult or painful each story may be. You can find all of the amazing and encouraging stories from our guest bloggers here – stories about autism, cancer, adoption, blended families, infertility, and the loss of a child and spouse. It really was an amazing experience, and I’m excited about the next round of topics and stories returning in September.

As I re-focus back on Destined 4 the Dub, and my personal lessons in life, I find myself back to writing about a topic I first blogged about three years ago. It’s something we as parents all have to go through at some point in our lives – the End-of-Year (or Season) Awards ceremony.

This event can either be a source of pride and joy, or bring on feelings of unworthiness, dejection, and not being good enough.

Whether it’s for school or sports, our children may either be recognized or overlooked, based on another person’s opinion of them. This experience can be a joyous time for some and a source of disappointment and discouragement for others.

This week I found myself asking the same question I did six years ago – who determines our value and worth?

As athletes…?

As students…?

Even as parents…?

It definitely stings when you feel your child has been left out. I can remember when the girls were younger, it was hurtful for them to not be invited to a certain birthday party. Or maybe your child wasn’t picked for a team you knew they were qualified for. Or perhaps they were overlooked for that class, program, or even college they really wanted to get into.

This rejection comes from the judgment of imperfect humans. The ones making decisions are like each of us – they have a limited point of view and skewed lens based on their own experiences and beliefs, which are reflected in their opinions and decisions.

So, what are we supposed to do?

I return to the lesson I learned three years ago after I wrote this blog. I remember I’m a Child of God, and so are my children. No matter who cheers us on, who supports us, who calls us out as worthy (or who doesn’t), God has created each one of us specifically with a plan in mind, and our goal should be to please Him in everything we say or do, even if others don’t recognize or notice our worth or accomplishments.

Why would we ever need validation from sinful, selfish, imperfect people (which we all are by nature)?

Last summer I did an insightful interview for Future Christian Podcast you can find here. I encourage every parent to listen to the wisdom I’ve gained through the most painful season of my parenting. In the interview, I talked about my obsession with posting all the awards and accolades my children received on social media, mostly for the benefit of the likes and comments, and having others affirm my children (and ultimately me as a parent) through their accomplishments. It was really eye-opening for me to verbalize that with a stranger.

After that experience, I decided for the next year, I was not going to post anything about my children’s accomplishments. And I haven’t. That was difficult for someone like me. I would find myself comparing my children to what others had achieved. Many days I wanted to post the amazing things they were accomplishing, but I knew it was for the wrong reason. Just as I was comparing my children to others, I knew someone would be comparing their children to mine.

And comparison is the thief of joy.

How should we affirm our children? By pointing out all the great things about them. By letting them know how much we love and care about them, but there is someone else whose love will completely outshine anything we could ever feel for them. And the One who loves them the most has their future confidently in His hands.

We should also remind them God’s approval is more important than anyone else’s, including ours.

As Kennedi is preparing to leave our house, it’s important for her to know what God requires of her. In Micah 6:8, we are given three specific instructions: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Act justly

We must teach our children to live a life of honor, to do what they know and have been taught to do, to be fair to others, and to do their best to ensure those around them are treated justly as well.

Love mercy

They should fully support the concept of mercy – this means freely giving mercy to others, whether they feel it’s deserved it or not, and being at peace with it. God’s love is demonstrated to others when we show mercy.

Walk humbly with God

This is probably the toughest of the three directives. Humility – it’s a difficult concept for many of us, especially given our human nature. Humility is not often looked at as a character trait to be championed or celebrated. It does not always get you far according to the world’s standards. But it’s what God requires of us. Either we can elevate ourselves or wait for God to elevate us.

If they are following this guidance, we can be confident God is pleased with our children. There is more direction the Bible provides for how to live a life worthy of honor. Although my time has somewhat run out to provide instruction in my home, for the last two years I’ve been working on a devotional. And its debut couldn’t have been timed more perfectly. Using God’s Playbook for the Game of Life: 52 Scriptures Your Young Athlete Should Know Before You Send Them Off Into the World is scheduled for release in early August. I dedicated this book to Kennedi, as she was my inspiration for writing it. After her injury, I questioned if she had a strong enough foundation in the Word of God to carry her through the challenging situations she would encounter when I was no longer there to help her through a difficult experience.

This annual devotion features what I feel are the 52 most important scriptures I wanted my children to know by heart. Each one has a 7-day workout to reinforce the scripture and meaning so by the end of the week, that scripture should be clearly understood and memorized.

It is my prayer all the hours of praying, seeking, researching, and writing will introduce a new generation of young athletes who will forever stand on the firm foundation of the Bible, and know God’s Word and promises in their hearts and minds.

You can pre-order here, and all orders placed before July 31st will be signed and shipped in the contiguous US for free!

Before I get back to my graduation celebration, remember this…

No more comparison – don’t let anyone steal your joy!

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A Different Look at Death

I’m interrupting our regularly scheduled series of Faith-Filled Moms because my friend Shari passed away from cancer less than twenty-four hours after my first guest blog about Faith-Filled Moms and Fighting Cancer was posted. 

My friend had valiantly fought her sickness for years. She believed God was going to heal her. And so did I. We connected through Destined 4 the Dub’s blogs over the years. She shared that my writing really impacted her as she was standing in faith for her healing. Over the years I prayed for her and would send her inspiring texts whenever she ran across my mind, or if I read something that I thought would especially encourage her. 

Last month, as I was preparing for this series, my mother shared with me that Shari was not doing well and was struggling with why God hadn’t healed her. To be honest, I struggled a bit with it as well. I declared and believed right along with her, and she lived much longer than the doctors had predicted. 

But now she was gone. And God hadn’t answered our prayers. Or had He? I thought about it as my mom and I talked, and I wondered aloud why we didn’t view the death of Christians as healing?

As humans, it is our desire for our family and friends to live a long time, so we can enjoy life with them on earth. But with everything going on in the world, death seems to be hitting us more frequently. And we are struggling with it. 

I never told Shari about the Faith-Filled Moms cancer series. And I’ve been struggling with why since the day she passed away. I used the excuse I was consumed with the “planning” and “tasks” of getting my series started, but if I’m being honest with myself, I didn’t reach out to her because I didn’t feel like I would be much encouragement when her physical condition was deteriorating. 

I wanted to check in on her, but how could I send her information about having faith when she felt like hers didn’t work? I know she subscribed to the blogs, but I don’t know how sick she was and if she saw read the first blog that morning before she left us. But if she didn’t, I know she’s living out the theme of Markisha’s story right now. She has re-discovered God in the most meaningful way. 

What if when a Believer passes away, we immediately picture them at their Heavenly birth celebration, meeting Jesus for the first time. We sing songs about going to heaven, so why isn’t it a more joyous occasion down here on earth when it actually happens for our loved ones?

What if we are getting it wrong? Well at least partially wrong when we are devastated by the death of a Believer in Jesus Christ? I know that Jesus wept in John 11:35 after Lazarus died and that it is a natural human emotion to feel grief and sadness after death. 

But what if every time a wave of grief hits us, we can redirect that thought into our loved one sitting in the presence of Jesus – fully healed, fully loved, fully free, and full of joy?

An important realization I’ve gotten from this experience is that every interaction with someone may be your last – whether it’s in person, via email, phone, text, etc. You don’t want to have any regrets about your final contact with a loved one.

Additional insight is when someone runs across your mind, there is a reason. The next time that happens, reach out and check on them. You may not get the opportunity again. Even if you are hesitant about what to say, especially if they are facing something as serious as cancer, contact them anyway. You don’t always need to have something deep and profound to say. Just let them know you are thinking about them and how much they mean to you. 

I’m so sad that I won’t get to see or communicate with Shari again on earth. But she has finished her race. She is with Jesus. There is no place else in the entire universe that she would rather be right now. 

And I will get to see her again one day. Now isn’t that worth celebrating?

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When Life Gets Too Heavy

I remember when I wrote this…getting out of bed was difficult. I just wanted to sleep so I wouldn’t have to think, wouldn’t have to remember, wouldn’t have to deal with life.

I was living with a crushed spirit.


Last week I talked about a spirit of heaviness and sadness that I was experiencing after my daughter’s diagnosis. It was a burden that just sat on me after contemplating our road ahead and was weighing me down.

This isn’t the first time that has happened – if I recall some of the toughest times in my life, they’ve almost always been accompanied by that same awful feeling.

For me, it starts as a terrible sensation in my stomach. You know the feeling when you’ve gotten really bad news and everything inside of you just drops. And if you could, you would just ball yourself up in a corner, under a desk or table, and just lay there.

And every morning when the alarm went off and snatched you from the oblivion that sleep graciously offered, you’d just wish you didn’t have to face the day. Instead, you want to just turn over, burrow yourself deeper in the covers, and just sleep until that feeling goes away.

But for most of us, we just don’t have that option. We have to fight against those feelings and get up to take care of our family, manage our household, go to work, go to school, or whatever it is we have to do to keep moving in life. Even if every move seems to be a slow dragging of our feet just to get to the next step.

Many people struggling with those feelings are facing some type of loss – possibly in the form of a death, divorce, bankruptcy, homelessness, while others may be experiencing devastation that may not be as perceptible – including the loss of a dream, the loss of their hope, or the loss of their joy. And any kind of loss can bring a feeling of trauma and distress.

Which can trigger that feeling.

Is there even a name for it?  From the movie The Neverending Story, I compare it to The Nothing. The Nothing was this dark and evil presence that consumed and destroyed everything in its path. It couldn’t be described, quantified, or contained.

Yep, that sounds about right. If that feeling is not addressed and contained, it can ultimately lead to destruction.

There are varying levels of that feeling, which can be brought on by any number of negative situations and experiences. Our feelings and perception can’t always discern the full reality of a situation, and our brain can’t always interpret if the conclusion we believe is real or skewed, temporary or permanent, or the true degree of severity.

And this is not an issue just affecting adults. More and more we hear about teens and children – some as young as 9 – contemplating suicide or actually taking their own lives in response to the trauma and pain they are experiencing.

Sometimes I hear their stories and think, “If only they knew this wasn’t the end of the world, that help was available – and if they just lived longer, things would have gotten better.”

I truly believe God thinks the same thing about us when He sees us struggling so much with the pain we are feeling. As we allow ourselves to be consumed by negative thoughts, He just wants us to come to Him, surrender to Him, give it all to Him, and then trust Him.

While we struggle with trying to survive through this pain on our own, or by utilizing worldly solutions to bring us temporary relief, He’s waiting for us to just hand over our broken hearts to Him so He can heal us.

Today’s Play Prediction is a promise that we should continually remind ourselves of when we are struggling with our pain – that He is RIGHT HERE with us and wants to rescue us from our anguish.

But how can He do that?

As I shared last week, when we worship God, we invite His presence into our situation. Just how turning on a light switch in a pitch-black room makes the darkness scatter, God’s presence makes the despair we feel scatter. Sometimes it’s permanent, and sometimes it’s temporary. If we continue to feel it coming back, then we need to keep on worshipping!

He is also with us through the people He has put in our lives. Whether family or friends – a strong support system is needed during difficult times like these. Support by someone aware of, but not necessarily personally affected by the situation, is critical. Their assistance, prayers, and empathy can provide windows of relief and encouragement, alleviating the pressure we are feeling.

Another way God is near is through the help of professional mental health providers. We don’t think twice about seeking medical assistance for a major injury or illness to our bodies, why should it be any different if our minds are unwell or we’ve experienced a traumatic mental or emotional injury? God created healthcare providers for both our bodies and our minds, and we should be utilizing both when treatment is needed, as they each can contribute to us having healthy and long lives.

I’m telling you what I wish someone would have told the 14-year-old that recently took her own life at a nearby school – just keep on living. Trouble won’t last always – this too will pass.

Reposted from March 11, 2020

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

If you have been struggling with a heavy weight or burden, feelings of hopelessness, or depression, God is close by, ready to rescue you. It may be through your worship, through the assistance of others, through mental health treatment, or a combination of all of these. Get the help and support you need.

*If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide – please don’t struggle through this alone.

PRAY WITH ME:

God,

When life gets heavy and feels unbearable, please show me that you are right there with me, and that I can trust you as I walk through the storms of life.

Even when I can’t see down the road, give me the peace of knowing that you can, and that you are in complete control.

In Jesus name, Amen.


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Is There a Reason Behind Your Uncomfortable Situation?

After 14 months of being pretty isolated from the rest of the world due to the pandemic, we finally decided to take a road trip and family vacation. We returned to our happy place in the Myrtle Beach area, this time staying a little further south in the less populated Surfside Beach.

As we were approaching South Carolina on a major highway, my navigation system suddenly changed my route. It indicated for me to take the next exit, and as I approached it, I briefly considered staying on the main highway, even if it took me longer to get to our destination.

But I remembered a previous blog I had written about following and trusting the navigation, as the system usually had more information to support the guidance it provided. As I exited the highway, I glanced at the system and saw that we were still an hour away from our destination.

I dreaded driving through those long, back roads. Something about the darkness and uncertainty of those single-lane dark roads unnerved me. I glanced over to Kenny, who was sleeping so peacefully, and decided to push through my feelings and keep driving.

Besides, I knew God was with me, and I resolved to spend the next hour focused on Him.

As we passed houses that I could make out, I started wondering about the people who lived inside. What was their occupation? Did they like living out here by themselves? I couldn’t imagine living so far away from my next-door neighbor. I inquisitively pondered what they did when they had to borrow something from their neighbor while cooking.

It’s interesting now that I think about it – I find that when I’m driving to a destination where I need the guidance of my navigation system, it often takes me through neighborhoods. Early on as I observed the random houses, I felt the urge to pray for the people who lived in them. Now it seems to be instinctive, as I usually say a quick prayer of salvation, protection, and blessing when I find myself driving through an unfamiliar neighborhood.

To occupy my mind, I started praying for people in the houses as I passed them until I would see a car approaching me from the opposite direction. I kept my eyes focused on the oncoming lights as my heartbeat slightly quicker while my hands gripped the steering wheel, ensuring I was in my lane and checking to make sure they were too.

I had heard and read too many news articles about late-night accidents happening on these kinds of roads. That’s what was causing my angst, and I noticed the feeling rose inside me every time there was a car approaching from the darkness.

I felt myself growing frustrated with each passing car and soon turned my exasperation to God as I truly believed He ordered my every step, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Why would you have me come this way? Why couldn’t I just stay on the main highway?

As it grew well past the midnight hour, I saw fewer cars, and we were surrounded by the darkness. Soon, I saw bright flashing emergency lights up ahead. There were so many of them, so I knew something terrible must have happened.

I called out to my sleeping family and woke everyone up. As we approached the scene, we saw a horrible car accident on our right side. I briefly saw a car that was severely damaged, as I tried to keep my eyes on the road. The girls pointed out there was another damaged car way off the road, obviously the result of a terrible collision.

Right then, Kassadi starts to pray aloud for the people involved in the accident. She interceded for all involved and prayed that no one died and that everyone would be ok. I nodded my head in agreement as she prayed and then offered my own silent prayer of protection for them as well.

As we drove off, I couldn’t get the accident off my mind. It was exactly what I had been so worried about driving on those roads. It was such an awful car crash, in the middle of nowhere, and so late at night.

But then I couldn’t help but think that maybe the reason we were on that desolate road was so we could pray for them. What if no one else would travel past that accident scene and our prayers were the only ones that would be offered for their lives?

Had God spared their lives because we took the time to pray? What a comforting thought! I’ll never know, but I really did hope so.

My family soon went back to sleep, but I continued to think about that accident scene. As much as I despised driving on those roads, I was thankful to be able to lift those people in prayer. As I finally pulled into our destination, I resolved to work harder at not complaining when God has me on a journey that may be uncomfortable, unpleasant, or downright painful. I must remember that He has a purpose for everything I experience, even if I don’t understand it at the time. He’s just amazing like that.

CLOSING CHALLENGE

Have you ever wondered why God has you on a certain path? Do you find yourself questioning the direction of your life?

Resolve today to trust in God’s plan and journey for your life, even when you don’t agree with it, and look for the lesson He is trying to teach you.

PRAY WITH ME

God,

Thank you for ordering my steps. When I feel myself growing dissatisfied with the path I’m on, please help me to remember that there is a purpose in everything you do, and I can trust you throughout my journey.

Thank you for the plan you are unraveling in my life.

In Jesus Name, Amen


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Finding Myself on Another Dark and Lonely Road

While vacationing last week, it happened again – I ended up driving on lonely, dark, country roads. This time in North Carolina and South Carolina. Our family was heading to Myrtle Beach for a family vacation and to support my husband and his AAU basketball team for a tournament.

After stopping to visiting family in Rocky Mount, NC, I offered to drive the final leg of our journey, which was only a few more hours.

Ninety minutes into the drive, our navigation directed us off the highway to an exit that led to nothing but darkness. I glanced at the screen, which showed that we were still over an hour away from our destination.

AN HOUR! I literally pouted and fussed at God in my mind for not giving me a better route to take! He could have at least led me to a two-lane road with lights!

Next week I’ll be back with a lesson I discovered from that drive. But today I want to share a similar experience that I blogged about a couple of years ago.

Now, this escapade was nowhere near as dreadful as “The Trip Straight Out of a Horror Movie”, but I still had to fight off fear at different times throughout the journey until we finally approached the outskirts of Myrtle Beach. I hope this memory is a great reminder that we can always trust God.


The nation observed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day of Service this past Monday. This time of year also brings MLK holiday weekend sports tournaments throughout the country; we were headed to a volleyball tournament in Richmond, Virginia, which was about four hours away.

All week there had been reports of an impending snowstorm – you know the doom and gloom that weather forecasters love to predict at the slightest hint of snow. I had to intentionally keep my mind in check and not let fear run amok as driving in the snow causes me great stress.

Before I left, I was declaring over and speaking to the weather, and I maintained my peace, even as our governor declared a state of emergency and our church rescheduled service in anticipation of inclement weather.

On this road trip, it was just me and Kass. Thankfully, the weather forecasters got it wrong – there was no storm, and our trip was smooth and uneventful going down and coming back up. But it did bring to mind a similar situation that happened a year earlier, again during MLK’s holiday weekend.

Kennedi had just experienced a concussion from a volleyball hit to her head the week we were scheduled to leave for their MLK volleyball tournament. I had to change plans as she could no longer travel with us. I found myself on another road trip with Kass, this time to York, PA. We left home later than originally planned, so it was pretty dark by the time we started our journey.

I had traveled to York several times over the years and knew the general direction I should have been headed in, but my navigation app had me going an unfamiliar route. Instead of crossing the state line right into Pennsylvania and heading West to York, I was routed through Delaware and Maryland, and back up to Pennsylvania. And as soon as I got off the highway and onto the country roads, this is when “The Trip Straight Out of a Horror Movie” (as I now jokingly call it) began.

I literally could have been on location shooting a major Hollywood horror flick. I’m sure movie studios pay thousands of dollars to create the scene I experienced that night. First, the fog appeared, as the weather was warming up after a week of cold temperatures. That wasn’t too bad at first, and after mentioning it, Kass was soon off to sleep. I put my favorite Praise and Worship playlist and planned to sing at the top of my lungs so that I would stay alert for the next hour until we arrived at the hotel.

Soon, I noticed the road became tighter, and there was no space between the road and the drop-off at the edge. It appeared if I went off the road, I would have veered down into a cliff. So, I gripped my wheel tighter and drove slower.

There were no more streetlights and I was driving in pitch black. Next came the forest of burned-out trees on my left. That sight, along with the continued fog was so eerie, and then the road suddenly got bumpy, and the entire car was shaking as I was driving. It was as if my car were driving over dead bodies, reminding me of a particularly distressing scene in the movie Hotel Rwanda; my heart was pounding so hard that it could have jumped out of my chest.

I glanced in the rearview mirror, thankful that Kass was still asleep. I was having a hard enough time maintaining my composure, and I could hardly imagine how she would have reacted if she had been awake.

I felt myself in Flight mode, as my vital statistics were elevated. I was experiencing the adrenaline rush that comes when your body feels endangered and threatened. I repeated today’s scripture over and over – God you are with me, I will not fear.

To counteract my pounding heart and sweaty palms, I started taking deep breaths to calm my mind and body down. I turned the music up trying to drown out my thoughts. It was all I could do, I never thought to call anyone the entire time, I just wanted to stay connected to God. I KNEW He was with me, but I had seen enough horror movies similar to the scenery I was driving in, and I was literally fighting off the fear with everything in me.

Just when I thought I finally had myself together, the road veered into a one-lane rickety bridge. I continued struggling internally, trying to fight off fear, while feeling absolutely terrified. I am not exaggerating here – I was fully expecting a Loch Ness Monster-ish creature to rise out of that fog and mist-covered water. It makes me laugh now, but if something had come out of the water that night, I honestly would not have been shocked! Even though I know Nessie doesn’t exist, our minds can have us believing certain situations or outcomes that aren’t even earthly possible.

By the time the car with the bright headlights started tailing me and seemed to be following my every turn for about 10 minutes, I was mentally exhausted but still on heightened alert, feeling like my life was still in danger. I anxiously kept glancing out of my rear-view mirror, wondering who was in that car, why they were following me, and what they were planning to do. When they finally turned off a different way and I saw the bright lights of a town in the distance, I breathed a sigh of relief.

I often wonder how that road looks in the daylight. I’m sure if I took that route on a beautiful sunny day, it would have been a much different experience. How many times has our enemy worked to create a terrifying scenario in our minds to paralyze us in fear? Only to have us look back at our past, realizing that we worked ourselves up for nothing?

If you are living in fear concerning any situation, I encourage you today – things are not always what they seem. Our enemy loves to play mind games with us, causing us to react based on fear, often taking us off the path God has designed for us. I’m going to travel down that road again one day. I must see for myself what had me so scared in the shadows of the night. I know I will laugh and be reminded once again that no matter what my perception may be, that God is always with me.


CLOSING CHALLENGE

How many times have fictionalized things you’ve read or seen on TV affected your thinking or decision-making?

How can that be avoided in the future? What unknown outcome has you fearful today? Do you believe God is with you, to provide peace, protection, and comfort? How does that change your thoughts on the situation now?


PRAY WITH ME

Dear God,

Thank you for being my protector. When I find myself in seemingly dangerous situations, I will try not to be fearful and remember that you are always with me.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Celebrating the Success of Others, Even When No One is Celebrating You

For the summer break, I’ve decided to encore some impactful stories that are still relevant in my life today. I wrote the below blog during the first track season following Kennedi’s injury. I remember struggling terribly as all the athletes on her team continue their pursuits while she was sidelined and recovering.

Unfortunately, this year I still experienced some similar emotions, so my words from two years ago are still speaking to me. While I cheered on our friends in high school and club who had amazing seasons, I couldn’t help but wistfully wish that Kennedi was among them, and wondered if she would ever re-experience the success she had in the past.

Even though I constantly write about accepting God’s will and plan for Kennedi, it is a continual process of having to release the dreams and desires that I have, while opening my heart and mind each day to the path that God is laying out for Kennedi., and trusting that it’s going to be pretty amazing!

If you are still grappling with others moving on, while you seem to stuck in place, know that you are not alone. Trust the process…God is at work.


I have a confession. I’m a recovering Hater.

OMG, I can’t believe I just typed that.

I’m getting better, but I sometimes may struggle to be happy for other athletes’ success if mine aren’t experiencing the same or greater success.

Now you know my terrible secret.

I’ve asked God to help me, but inevitably those horrible feelings creep in from time to time. As if someone else’s shine somehow diminishes my own children’s success.

How many times do we do that in everyday life? Someone gets a promotion? A new car? New home? Another straight-A report card proudly posted on social media (I admit, this one gets me frequently, as I wish my A/B students would just once give me an opportunity to post their perfect scores).

As I looked to the Word of God for direction for how I handle my feelings, I kept coming back to today’s Steady State verse – one that I’ve known most of my life, but never really paid much attention to.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.

Romans 12:15 NIV

On one particular day, I was still contemplating why I couldn’t shake the negative feelings I was having at someone else’s recent success – and I implored the Holy Spirit to speak to me. And right there He revealed to me – it was due to my selfishness and self-centered thoughts. I was interpreting the success of another as a reflection on me (or my family) and not understanding that it was just truly about the other person. If only I would take myself out of the equation, I could easily be happy and rejoice with and for someone else.

Was it that simple? Was I able to easily shake off those selfish thoughts when the opportunity came to celebrate someone else’s success? Not at first. But what helped was that every time I felt those ugly feelings creeping in, I had to shut them down simply by telling myself

It’s not even ABOUT you!”

Or sometimes a different emphasis “It’s not EVEN about you!”

And the more I reprimanded myself in the moment, the feelings would scatter, and I could celebrate and enjoy others’ successes.

And in recent months, I was able to sincerely celebrate the recent scholarship signings for many of our friends’ children to big-name D-1 schools on athletic scholarships, even while continually fighting off fearful thoughts about my own child’s future.

Their success had nothing to do with mine or my husband’s or our children’s success. Their shine didn’t dim our light. We were the same people after their success as we were before. And furthermore, our identity should be tied to who God created us to be, and not our performance.

So, I implore you to rejoice and celebrate with your friend, neighbor, co-worker, and teammate on their success – no hating is necessary. Let’s work on being amazing cheerleaders for our circles of influence.

I believe God smiles when we overcome our selfish tendencies and show we have a heart for others. And then He can freely trust us to handle the success He has planned for our lives, while keeping us humble enough to remember that every blessing comes from Him.

CLOSING CHALLENGE

Can you be happy for someone else’s success, even if you aren’t experiencing any in your life?

How can you start celebrating the achievements of those around you? Pray and ask God to provide direction if you need help in this area, and then practice rejoicing in the accomplishment of others.

PRAY WITH ME

God,

Thank you for the plan you have for my life, even though sometimes I may feel disappointed with how things are going. Please help me to trust You, even when I’m feeling uncertain or unhappy about my current condition or circumstances.

Please help me to rejoice in the success and achievements of those around me, as I patiently walk through this unique life that you have destined just for me. Show me all the ways your hand is moving in my life, as I remember that my identity is found in you, and not anything that I have or will do.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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Teaching a Significant Life Lesson to My Daughter – Resiliency

It’s the end of another “season” – the last day of an unprecedented school year. This included a somewhat disappointing sports season. We missed volleyball this year due to safety concerns, and Kennedi’s inaugural high school outdoor track and field season did not end as hoped.

When I shared about Kennedi’s back injury a couple of weeks ago, I was confident and hopeful that God would heal her, and that my hopes would finally be realized, that she would end the season with her ticket to go to States.

It didn’t happen. Her back improved slightly, but not to the point that she could compete. The doctor recommended that we end her season, and start physical therapy, which we wisely followed. Kennedi was devastated, and I was pretty heartbroken for her as well.

Despite everything I was feeling, I had to accept that achieving her goals and my hopes just wasn’t in God’s plans. After all she’s been through, I was really hoping this would be her triumphant return.

Honestly, it was in a way – it was such a blessing just to see her back on the track and competing, and helping her team win their conference championship. I shared with her that even though she didn’t make the impact that she wanted to in multiple events, the points she won for her team while high jumping was critical to helping them defeat their competitors.

But that seemed to be little consolation to her not meeting her goal of not going to States after all her high hopes and the hard work she had put in.

I had to figure out how to turn this into a teachable moment. I didn’t want to leave her to her own thoughts, just simmering in her disappointment. There was no telling where that road may lead to. After thinking about it, the word resilience came to mind.

The capability to recover from tough or difficult situations; to spring back into shape.

Resilience

Yes, this was it! I wanted to explore this character trait further, as it was an area we could both grow in together.

Up to this point, I had spent the last year using all the experiences we faced to instill adaptability in the girls. I had been so focused on teaching them how to adjust to changes from the pandemic, which included the loss of their uncle, virtual learning and those associated challenges, a loss of socialization with friends, and missed seasons of sports.

Now, I had to pivot and teach Kennedi how to be resilient to this latest disappointment. She needs to know how to navigate through her disappointment, recover from it, and most importantly to look for God in the middle of it. And honestly, I could use the refresher course as well.

Today’s scripture was a great place to center our discussions.  Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 is such a contemplative chapter, affirming that there is a time for everything under the sun. Birth, death, healing, weeping, laughing, crying, and rejoicing to name a few.

As we read through the chapter, there is a myriad of occasions and events that are highlighted, which we all may encounter at some point in life. Some I’d rather not – like a time to break down, a time to mourn, and a time to lose.

While we all must experience negative situations, verse 11 assures us that God makes everything beautiful in His time, but we will never understand the full scope of what God is doing in our lives.

He has made everything beautiful in its time…no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV

What we do know is that within that scope, is that we can be assured of the theme and scripture I shared a few weeks ago after Kennedi experienced her injuryeverything that happens to her will work out for her good.

We’ve seen good already come from her injury. Kennedi was invited by the Alice Paul Institute to interview the New Jersey Lieutenant Governor, Sheila Oliver, Secretary of State, Tahesha Way, and Civil Services Commission Chair, Deirdre Webster Cobb last Saturday. The interview took place around the same time she would have been competing at States had she not gotten injured, and there’s no way she could have done both. It was a great event, and she had an opportunity to learn professional and life skills from very experienced and influential women, while at the same time developing her public speaking skills and presence in a public setting.

That was her designated moment on Saturday, and not to be at States, and it was yet another experience to remind her to trust God, even when her life is unfolding differently than she originally hoped.

As I enter what could be considered as my final season of parenting her before she becomes an adult and leaves for college (that just made my heart drop), I must prepare her to live a life without my constant guidance. And that must be a life that includes knowing she will experience different seasons in her life – some good and some bad – and that adaptability, resilience, and most importantly, trusting in God, will allow her to face anything that comes her way.


CLOSING CHALLENGE

Are you experiencing an unexpected situation in your life, or trying to walk your child through a season of difficulty?

Read through Ecclesiastes 3 and contemplate the life experiences we all must go through, and think about how you can trust God as you experience a difficult season.


PRAY WITH ME

Lord,

Thank you for being an Almighty God, who has a plan for my life. Even though I must experience some difficult experiences as noted in Ecclesiastes 3, I know that you have a high-level view of my life and have everything under control.

Help me to trust you, even when I don’t understand.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Am I Focused on My Child’s Potential or Purpose?

“Whitney doesn’t want to do gymnastics anymore.”

My mouth dropped open in shock at my sister’s words as I stared at my phone.

She went on, “she said she doesn’t like it anymore. She just wants to be a kid and have a normal life.”

My sister and I lived similar lives as sports moms. Her son has been playing football and wrestling for as long as I could remember, and Whitney started gymnastics right before she turned two years old. Their family spent a good amount of time on the road going to practices, meets, and games, and had missed out on countless family vacations, birthdays, events, celebrations, and get-togethers, just like we had.

Now 12, Whitney was competing at USA Gymnastics Level 7 and was training for Level 8. She only had a few more levels to go before achieving the Elite status, which would include competing in national meets, some of which would be televised. We anticipated watching her in the Olympics one day.

After I hung up with my sister, a made-for-TV movie called The Simone Biles Story: Courage to Soar came to mind. I remember watching it with the girls earlier in the year before Kennedi was injured in 2018. What struck a chord with me after watching it was how much Simone gave up to become the amazing gymnast that she is today. I don’t dare speak for her, but my impression after watching the movie was that the normalcy of her adolescent and teenage years was sacrificed so she could train and become the phenomenon that she is today.

As I thought about all the time and sacrifice it took to become the jaw-dropping athlete that Simone is today, my mind went to a book that a friend recommended to me years ago.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell asserted that it took 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill or become an elite athlete. After reading that, I took that notion and ran with it. I knew my daughters had the ability and potential to become elite athletes. I calculated how many hours they would need to train to meet the magic number of 10,000 hours. I concluded that we could never reach that, but I committed to doing whatever I could to maximize the hours that they did have available to train.

That meant hardly a break in between seasons; searching out available school track fields to train on when we were out of town. And sometimes getting up early during summer break to train before I had to go to work instead of allowing them to sleep in. All because I thought it was the best way to help them fulfill their potential.

As parents, many times we may see the potential in our children and will be driven to allow their talents to be maximized to the fullest, hoping for a standout scholar, athlete, artist, etc. When those dreams experience a detour or go unfulfilled from an injury, loss of desire, poor personal choices, or bad intentions from an outside party, that can leave us questioning everything.

This past Sunday, I watched Transformation Church, as a new series called The Paradox of Purpose kicked off. Charles Metcalf spoke about our potential in relation to God’s purpose and calling for our lives. And my mind immediately went to my children. I thought that all this time I had been basing my prayers on their purpose when in reality I was praying for (what I thought was) their potential to be fulfilled. I realized I had been offering a consolation prayer of surrender to God’s purpose only when He didn’t answer my original prayers the way I wanted Him to.

I didn’t get what I prayed for? Ok God, if I can’t have what I want, then may Your will be done. When in reality, my prayer should have always been for God’s will to be the priority over my dreams and desires for my daughters.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this paradigm shift in my thinking. I have been looking at my notes every day, trying to release all the ambitions I had placed on my daughters, based on their potential, so that I could fully embrace the fact that God has them on a path for His purpose.

The path to purpose starts with the unique talents, gifts, abilities, and strengths that God has given us in different areas. But how do we know what we are supposed to do with them? How do we manage the potential that comes from the way we were created?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10 NLT

But God, I find myself asking, why would you give them all this potential, along with these talents if they weren’t going to use it?

This is where our relationship with God comes in. He knows exactly why He created us, including our children. And as we seek to be in a relationship with Him, not for what He can do for us, but just getting to know Him for who He is, it is then when He reveals more about Himself, and about those good words that He has planned for us to do, which is our purpose.

While I wait for God to answer my questions about purpose, I’ll continue to walk on this journey, which sometimes feels precarious due to not knowing what each day holds. But I must be strong and confident enough to trust God with the unknown.

Can I be honest? I don’t like not knowing.

At all.

But when I pray, “Your kingdom come, and Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”, I want to really mean it. And this is where it starts for me.

Yes, even when it comes to my dreams for my children. If they are overridden by God’s will, then so be it.

And to my sister Terri, I hope these words are an encouragement as you process this sudden change in your life. Continue to seek God’s purpose for Whitney’s life, and I know she will be just fine.

CLOSING CHALLENGE

Are you struggling with the way your life, or your child(ren)’s lives are going? Are you dealing with difficult times, or does your life appear unrecognizable?

Take a moment to release your hopes, dreams, ambitions, and even unfulfilled potential to the Lord, and accept His purpose for your life.

PRAY WITH ME

Lord,

I thank you for the potential you’ve given me and my children. And right now, I release that potential back to you, trading it for the purpose that you have planned for us. Please show me your plan for my life. Help me to look to you, and not my own desires and dreams. May Your will be done in our lives.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

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Remember This – Your Child’s Worth is Not Found in Other People’s Opinions or Judgments of Them

It’s happening again… the infamous end-of-year awards.

As the school year is ending, the ubiquitous part of the graduations and moving up ceremonies is the handing out of special recognitions and awards.

For every child who receives an award, there are countless others that don’t. And twice as many parents in the audience possibly grappling with feelings of frustration, disappointment, and even inadequacy.

Same goes for those posting about college acceptances, scholarship offers, and job offers. There’s nothing wrong with that, and they should be celebrated, but what about those struggling with college rejections or no job prospects?

I hope my words from two years ago provide some encouragement if you happen to find yourself in this situation. You (and your child) are still the same amazing people, with or without the recognition of others. Just know that God sees you. And congrats to all those who are graduating and moving up!


My youngest daughter had her Move Up Ceremony a few weeks ago. As a proud mama, I was excited leading up to and during the entire event.

There was a Student Awards section in the program. About eight different categories of awards were given out during that portion of the ceremony.

During the first award, I held my breath as they started calling names, but once they got to the B’s, I realized she didn’t win that one. Next award up… and still nothing.

When the 3rd award category came up and I heard her name called, I breathed a sigh of relief. Like somehow her award validated me as a mother.

Did her winning that award change who she was, how special she was, or how much I loved her? Absolutely not! The award was someone else’s assessment of her. She was the same girl before her name was called, as she was afterwards.

And someone else’s opinion should not define who she is. Kass defines who she is, and as a parent, I help define and fashion the lens she sees herself through.

When we got home, I immediately wanted to post her achievements on Social Media. But I checked myself – what was my motivation for posting it? To sincerely congratulate her, even though she wasn’t on Social Media and wouldn’t see it?

Or was it to pat myself on the back for being such a “good” mother? Or to see how many likes or comments I could get in praise of “our” accomplishments?

I thought back to how I felt three years earlier when I attended that same ceremony for my oldest daughter, and anxiously waited, award after award, to hear her name called – only to be extremely disappointed at the end.

Did the fact that Kennedi didn’t win any awards make me any less of a mother? Or make her any less worthy than the children that received awards that night? Of course not!

I knew she also was just as smart, as accomplished, and as amazing as I thought she was before that ceremony began.

That night I only posted my congratulations to Kass, along with all the cute pictures of her with her teachers and friends. I didn’t tell any of my family or friends about the awards. I didn’t make a big deal about them in front of her sister either.

I just smiled proudly the next morning when she showed me her homemade scrapbook with all her certificates and pictures that documented her activities and achievements throughout the year.

Both of my daughters are truly amazing! But that night I realized that all the accolades they may (or may not have) received over the years from their activities and athletics sometimes influenced my view of them. Even though I knew that this week’s scripture has always been true about them – they are amazing because they are fearfully and wonderfully made by their Creator! And Psalms 139:14 is truly the only recognition and affirmation that we need!

I am by no means promoting that we discontinue giving out awards, nor am I advocating the infamous Participation Award. But we should keep in mind that awards and recognition, whether it’s sports/activities, academics, work-related, or otherwise, are always based on another infallible human’s biased opinion.

Sometimes deserving people get overlooked. But it should never define us, or our opinion of others, either in a positive or negative manner. We should always work hard and do our best with the talents and abilities that God has given us. Not for recognition or accolades, but to show our thanks and appreciation for the way God made us.

And if someone chooses to recognize our accomplishments, that’s great! But it they don’t, we are still the same amazingly wonderful people that God created us to be. And to Him we are always MVPs – Most Valuable People!!

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Have you ever been looked over for an award or recognition that you thought you deserved? How did it make you feel about yourself?

How much value do you put into what other people say or think about you? What does today’s scripture affirm to you about your worth?

LET’S PRAY:

God,

Thank you for fearfully and wonderfully creating me! Help to remember that my identify is found in you, and not what others think about me. Help me to live my life in a way that pleases you, so that I can honor you for making me exactly the way that I am!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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When a Mother’s Dreams Go Unfulfilled and Prayers Appear to be Unanswered

I think I’ve hit a wall. Or maybe I’m boxed in. Whatever the case, I’m feeling a bit stuck.

Which was surprising because we just finished an amazing 4-week series of Faith-Filled Moms, where courageous women shared personal details and struggles about their families for the first time ever in public. And I feel so blessed and privileged to share their stories. And while I’ve been so encouraged by their stories and courage, I’ve also been in retrospect about my own Motherhood journey.

As you may know, my daughter Kennedi finally kicked off her high school track career this spring. She’s not running competitively yet, mainly focused on the field events – high jump, shot put, and trying javelin for the first time this year.

I recently prayed for God to speak to me as I was just feeling uncertain about some choices I needed to make. And my uncertainty was rooted in the girls being back on the track after a two-year hiatus, still attending school remotely, and the best way to protect them as the world around us was slowly opening back up.

The weekend after I prayed, we virtually visited The Family Church in Voorhees, NJ as part of my Sorority’s May Week activities, and the pastor’s message really challenged me. He spoke about faith – I was confronted on whether my faith was fixated on what I was believing to happen, or was my faith truly in God’s will being done, and being ok with whatever He allowed to happen?

I started questioning myself – did I really trust God, or was my trust in Him confined to what I wanted Him to do for me and my family?

I had to get back to basics. I turned to Hebrews 11:1:


Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.


The questioning continued…exactly what has my faith been based on? What I wanted? Or what God wanted for me? And how could I be sure of what God wanted for our lives?

And what if God’s will was different from what I wanted? What if I didn’t like it?

This week’s scripture helps me answer those questions. It’s what I come back to time and time again when I find myself getting discouraged during the wait:


And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NKJV


This doesn’t change what I’m believing God for, but if faced with the choice, could I release my hopes and dreams, and believe that everything in my daughters’ lives would work out according to God’s will and plan for them? Even when it doesn’t line up with my faith?

I may not understand or like the situations they are destined to experience, but if I believe in this promise, that should not stop me from trusting Him.

As I contemplated this, I thought about our current situation with Kennedi. The track season I have been waiting and anticipating since 2018 has come to a pause. She had been progressing in the shot put and javelin, and finding her way back in high jump, usually taking 1st or 2nd place in her meets. Her high school team won their conference, and it was time to prepare for Sectionals.

And then… a weird positioning while she was trying to set a personal record for a new height in high jump, caused her to come down awkwardly on the mat, where she said she felt and heard her back crack. An immediate visit to the chiropractor revealed a severe sprain, with an unknown recovery time.

And here I am. Stuck.

What did I have faith in again? Her healing, of course.

But what healing was that? The old injury or this new one?

Or both?

After thinking about it, my faith is unchanged that every day she lives as a healed child of God, no matter what may come.

My trust is in God, and everything He does for her every day. Every lap she runs around the track. Every implement she throws. Every jump she makes. No matter what the mark is, whether it’s a low mark or record-breaking.

My prayer is that every day He is ordering her steps and orchestrating what happens in her life. And that everything He allows her to experience has a purpose for her future.

And if this is nowhere near my expectations or what I was believing for, all that means is that He knows her much better than me.

But back to my human emotions – what if she never gets to stand on the top of the podium again? I do hope she gets to experience that again, and I’m fully expecting it. But above all, I want God’s will to always be the most important desire of my heart. Can I say that it is right now? Not always. But I’m a work in progress.

Whatever He allows to happen, I’ll have to be good with it. Because however her life turns about, she has a faith-filled mama who’s been praying fervently and endlessly for her. And I know He’s responding to my faith and my prayers. And that is ultimately the best answer I could ever receive.

As this track season closes out, no matter what happens, my next steps are to make sure that I’m trusting in God and not my own dreams of what the next few weeks, months, and years will bring for Kennedi. Yes, I’ll still dream and hope, I’ll never stop doing that. But above all, I’ll trust in His unknown plan for her as it’s unraveled before my eyes.

Because it’s ALL for her good.

CLOSING CHALLENGE

Do you have a long-standing prayer that you have been standing in faith on, but God doesn’t seem to be responding?

How can this week’s Play Prediction scripture help you in moments of discouragement and disappointment?

PRAY WITH ME

God,

I’ve had this prayer request before you for a while now. And sometimes I feel weary – I know you are listening, but sometimes I feel like you aren’t moving.

Even though I don’t understand Your plan, today I make a decision to trust you, because I know you are working out everything for my good, and for my family’s good.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know You hold my future. And that’s enough for me.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Faith-Filled Moms: Faith for the Unknown Journey Ahead

I hope you have been enjoying this Faith-Filled Moms series – each story has been a blessing to me personally, and I’ve captured words of wisdom from each mom’s story. You can also catch my interview with each guest blogger on Destined 4 the Dub’s Facebook Page, as we go deeper into their stories.

This week, Sheera Berdecia is sharing her Autism story and experience, which is still being told. Sheera has been a long-time follower of Destined 4 the Dub, and I wanted to share her story of faith this week. I hope you are blessed by her journey, and please share with another mom who may have a child with autism and could use some encouragement today.

~Tonya


All the individual moments play like videos in my head. I think back to my prayers and each scripture that I held on to for dear life. As each milestone was cleared, I grabbed another scripture, as they led me on the journey to the bigger picture that I was meant to experience…

I gave birth to this beautiful baby girl despite a myriad of labor complications, which resulted in her premature-stable birth at 35 weeks gestation. Layla was a whopping 5 lbs 9 ozs and she made her presence audibly known upon entering this world. An emergency c-section revealed that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. In spite of a difficult birth, I was grateful to leave the hospital with my daughter a week later.

Layla had a lovely first year of life, where we marveled at her personality and took such joys in little things; her eating, and the first time we heard her infectious laugh. We could not have imagined the direction our life was headed in. As she neared one year of life, we noticed that she was not clearing milestones, such as talking and walking. She said Mama and Dada but that was it. She began to crawl at about 10 or 11 months but did not walk or say basic words until after 15 months. We knew what all the books said, but being our first child, we chalked it up to Layla being a late bloomer.

Still, I internalized my fears about something not being right, as I just did not want to face them. By then I was pregnant again, and my fear about Layla led to unfound concerns about the baby I was carrying. I couldn’t let my anxiety consume me as I knew my daughter needed help, and as her mother, I had to find it for her.    

My husband and I discussed our concerns and decided to have her examined. A child neurologist gave us the formal diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which felt like a knife through my chest. All I could think of was what would her quality of life be, would she experience some of the moments I had as a young woman, like choosing a career, getting married, having a family, and traveling? Could she live a fulfilled life?

A million different scenarios and concerns clouded my head in a fog of crippling fear. And then God’s word came to me. Everyone reacts in their own way, but I like to think that God slams the Word on the table in front of me like a Draw Four card in UNO to refocus me and get me out of my head. But the scripture, “God’s word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against thee” snapped me out of my depressive coma so I could hear Him. I began recalling the scriptures that have been poured into my life and hidden in my heart.

My husband’s words about the grace of her being a physically healthy child reminded me to think of the good and praiseworthy things about Layla, as Philippians 4:8 instructs us to. I could not let her see my weakness, so God shrouded it in His strength. The chaos of possible future scenarios was jumbled in my mind, but God covered them with His peace.


You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3


When Layla entered the preschool autism program in our district, she was introduced to the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). PECS included a binder filled with detachable pictures of everyday items and needs that allowed Layla to communicate as she worked on forming her words. I can still hear the Velcro ripping from the book when she wanted to tell us something.

When it was time for her to enter the elementary autism program, we felt the district program did not meet her needs, and wanted a more centralized program, so we pushed to see out-of-district options and found The Bancroft School.


For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29: 11


She made leaps and bounds through their early education program and we worked with her at home. I was available to the school regardless of my work schedule. I remember days when I would get barely four hours of sleep after working overnight, because the school would call when Layla was “having a moment”. I would drive up to the school to investigate – those days were exhausting, but we got through them and never let up on her progress.

When we felt that she had outgrown Bancroft, we began discussing other educational options. We were in the process of moving to a new home and decided to see how she would fare in a public school. We were blessed to live in a district where she could thrive, and the administration addressed our concerns openly and honestly.

But then, the pandemic hit, and remote learning was introduced to the equation. Even still, we worked tirelessly to create an environment for her learning and more importantly the closest scenario to a routine we could find. It has not been easy, but God has been with us the entire time. It’s just been another opportunity to trust God through a situation of uncertainty.


Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Psalms 37:4


I remembered all my requests to God concerning Layla. I was determined to do whatever it took, no matter how many sleepless nights, early mornings, late evenings, breakdowns, crying sessions, and periods of repetition. I recall crying through those tough potty-training days that lasted well into her school-age years, but Layla eventually conquered that too. These moments were such a reflection of God’s grace.


My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.

2 Corinthians 12: 9


I knew as long as I kept showing up, God would keep meeting me at the point of my needs and the same was true for Layla. All she had to do was show up, and God would meet her every time.

We have fought and petitioned for changes in Layla’s development outside of the home, specifically in school. She is not in a special needs’ class in our new district, and that journey has required a new level of advocacy. I learned that the world will not always see the needs of my child, and I shouldn’t expect someone to immediately perceive the best options for my situation. In difficult times, I’ve had to be firm while still showing the love of God, and I’m thankful for chances to continually work on myself.

I’ve learned to embrace my journey. As I trace our lives, it is evident that the hand of God has always been there, providing, sustaining, and leading us to the next step on our path. I’ve realized that no one else can care for the precious life that was entrusted to me, despite all the challenges we’ve faced.

I didn’t know I could love like this and I didn’t know I could fight like this. But God knew what I never saw in myself. There will never be a shortage of things to worry about concerning our children, but there will also never be a shortage of God’s promises to combat every single worry.

Dear God,

I pray for moms everywhere, for them to obtain and be wrapped in your matchless grace. I pray that all moms, myself included, give ourselves space to be human and receive the love you have for us all. You have given us such a precious responsibility and sometimes we can become overwhelmed by wanting to be perfect parents or do everything right and on time, but you have blessed us with little ones who just see us as beacons of unconditional love towards them.

Help us, Father, to see how you love us the same way and even better. Remind us that your love is UNCONDITIONAL and we don’t have to critique ourselves so harshly but trust what you have and are placing in us. Replenish our confidence, oh God!

Our children were placed in our hands for a reason, and while not perfect people, we are the perfect mothers for them. Let our mistakes become lessons from which we can teach them, and our frustrations become new opportunities to practice patience. We can only tell them they are fearfully and wonderfully made by you if we believe the same about ourselves.

So, God, please help us to believe your word with fervency. Every part of you loves us and shows us how to love others. Help us to go forward guiding with the same love we have so freely received from You! I pray for every mother’s strength, endurance, faith, and peace in the journey.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

~Sheera Berdecia


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Faith-Filled Moms: Trusting God in the Darkness

I am so excited to share my friend Deitra’s story this week. I have gotten to know her and her family over the years, and especially sweet Myles in Children’s Ministry, and he’s kept me and my daughters on our toes!

Be encouraged by her journey…


I have Jeremiah 17: 5-8 hanging on my refrigerator, for me to read every day:


Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.


It hits me so hard because the truth is, having a child with autism is not for the weak. It can be extremely hard. My faith is tested daily. I asked God why He chose me as I don’t always feel strong enough. And as usual, He asks me “why not you?”

There are good days and not-so-good days. Early on I had to decide that I was not going to allow the not-so-good days to consume me or define my son. I owed that to Myles and God. Every day I make a conscious decision not to define God by what I think He’s not doing. I choose to see Him as bigger and better and trust that He is working things out for our good. It’s a choice. It’s still difficult because there are days when I just want to be sad or angry. But I can’t. I must be rooted in Him. God has a plan for Myles and there’s work to be done for that plan to be accomplished. People say there’s no instruction manual when you have children. Well, that goes double for raising a child with autism. Trusting God is my only option.

I must trust God for Myles’ safety when he goes to school, as people aren’t always kind. I trust God that Myles will listen to his teachers and do what he needs to do in class. I trust God that Myles will be accepted by his classmates. I trust God that he will continue to learn to be independent and be able to take care of himself when my husband and I aren’t here to take care of him. These are the things that a parent with a child with a disability thinks about all the time.

I was an “older” mommy. I had my daughter Andrea after seven years of infertility treatments. Four years later, I was miraculously pregnant again with no fertility treatments. My pregnancy was uneventful, and Myles was perfect. He was such a cute baby with a wonderful temperament. Around 15 months, I noticed he wasn’t talking or trying to walk. I remembered for Andrea, developmental milestones came pretty quickly. I felt something was wrong, so I took him to the doctor, who dismissed my concerns. My maternal instinct told me something was wrong, so I called a developmental pediatrician. I think in the back of my mind I knew it was autism, though everything in me hoped it would be otherwise. After preliminary testing that included looking for eye contact, measuring response to his name, and other observances, we were recommended for additional testing to verify he was on the autism spectrum.

The doctor left the impression that my son would never do ANYTHING. I held my tears in until I finally reached my car. With Myles in my arms and my husband on the phone, I broke down. My heart was absolutely shattered. How could God do this after I waited so long to have children? I can’t even put into words the disappointment I felt in my heart.

At that time, I thought my son would never experience the things other boys experience – playing sports, going to college, getting married. Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.

When I got home, I called my mom for sympathy, and instead received her usual wisdom: she advised me to take a few days and cry and yell and be angry – and after that to get back up and ask God for direction. I didn’t want to talk to God. I wanted to wallow in sadness. When my husband came home, he took my hands to pray. I just stood there as my heart wasn’t in it. Eventually, I mustered up enough faith and asked God for guidance. I told Him that all I had was mustard seed faith, and I needed that to be enough.

We started on our journey of faith. Believing God for Myles to speak, we covered him in prayer and scriptures. We also prayed for the natural help he would need to develop. After Myles’ Early Intervention evaluation, God brought Dora into our lives, and we all worked together towards Myles’ goals. My whole family got involved: my parents, sister, aunts, and uncles all came together to assist us.

We wrapped Myles in prayer, love, and support while at the same time raising our daughter. We prayed Ephesian 4:32 for Andrea. As we were working and waiting, I desired for her to be as the scripture says “kind to one another, tenderhearted.” From all that I’d read, sometimes siblings of children with disabilities struggled with resentment. But not in our house, as we were intentional about giving Andrea the attention she needed as well.

Then there was the wait – all the time between us praying and the first time he spoke. I yearned to hear him say mom or ask me for juice. I cried a lot. We tried to get him to make sounds. I printed out pictures of everything and carried them around in a binder. If he wanted something, he pointed to the picture. We started him on educational videos so he could hear words and sentences. One day I was watching him look at the videos and noticed he was looking at the words. When the therapist tested him, we discovered he was reading! He couldn’t say the words, however he knew what they were visually. Seeds of hope were planted. Still no words, and I refused to give up. Day after day after day and nothing. We never stopped praying – even through the tears, frustration, and anger. My husband and I took turns – one of us had to be strong while the other could wallow in disappointment. We alternated pulling each other back to God.

Myles was almost 5 when he finally spoke. Honestly, I don’t even remember the exact word. I was just thrilled to hear his voice. And it was absolutely perfect – high-pitched and squeaky, just as a little boy should sound. I smiled at everything he said and did. He said his sister’s name, mom, dad and just kept going, each word filling my heart.  It was like a daily answer to prayer as he spoke words here and there. As we continued to pray and work with him, he began to talk more. By the time he started kindergarten, he didn’t need pictures at all to communicate. He was talking and reading on his own, and now he doesn’t stop!

As a parent of a child with autism, you realize that as you fight the good fight of faith for just one miracle, it gives you the confidence to believe God for another, and then another. Now that he’s older, our faith is growing and set on greater milestones and accomplishments. There’s no limit to what God can do, if He did it before, we believe He’ll undoubtedly do it again!

Moms – know that you have hope in God. In Him, we have everything we need. And just like that scripture on my refrigerator, we will be blessed with spiritual security because we believe and trust in and rely on the Lord, and our hope and confident expectation remains in Him.

Pray With Me:

Father, I thank you for all moms, and especially moms of children with autism. Raising a child is not easy and raising a child with a disability can be difficult. We pray for peace for those moms that need it. Your Word in Revelations 21:4 says you will wipe every tear from their eye. And Psalms 34:18 declares you are close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in the spirit. God, please hold them close and allow them to feel your love while on this journey, Let them always feel your presence.

Even in the difficult times and the times of waiting, you said you would never leave us or forsake us. We love you Lord and are thankful that you made our children and know what they need before we even come to you. Continue to equip us as moms to support our children with and without disabilities. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know you do God. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you declared the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you and plans to give you a hope for the future.” Father, we love you and give you all the praise and honor and glory – Amen.  

~Deitra Smith


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Faith-Filled Moms: When the World Stops Spinning

In this week’s installment of Faith-Filled Moms, I welcome my Sorority Sister, Kimberly Love, as she shares the story of her daughter’s life-changing diagnosis. It is our prayer that her story would encourage those experiencing similar challenges due to an unexpected diagnosis, remembering that God has a plan for each of our lives.


Where do I start?

My daughter Kymani was a sophomore at North Carolina State Agricultural and Technical University, majoring in Marketing.  She hit the ground running, participating in sales competitions around the country, studying abroad, and even earning a spot in NC A&T’s coveted Honors College. 

I was so happy to have her home for the semester break. It was a week before Christmas, and Kymani had just returned from studying in Panama.  After our lengthy separation, I looked forward to spending time with her over the next few weeks and celebrating the holidays.  We were snuggling while she shared pictures and stories from her trip. All of the sudden, she made a sound that I had never heard before; it was almost a screaming sound that pierced my ears. My daughter’s eyes rolled back in her head and her back locked in a position that looked like it was broken. She started convulsing and shaking as I helplessly tried to calm her.  I anxiously yelled for my husband then immediately began to plead with God to help her.  After the seizure was over, she fell into a deep sleep. This was the first time anything like this ever happened to her. Stunned, I continued praying, questioning God about what just happened and what I needed to do? I pleaded with God to protect my child. In response, God led me to seek medical attention. 

I roused Kymani up and convinced her to go to the hospital.  She had no recollection of what had just occurred, however, we soon learned that her back was severely sprained.  She was prescribed a seizure medication; unfortunately, the soonest a neurologist could examine her was four months away.  That week, she continued to have mini seizures, and then on New Year’s Eve, she had such a severe seizure that we rushed her back to the emergency room.

She was still having mini seizures as we pulled up to the hospital. My husband dropped us off and parked the car. The ER was full of patients waiting to be treated, but I tried to convince the front desk that my daughter needed to be seen immediately. It was a trauma hospital, so people were arriving in ambulances that were being prioritized over patients in the waiting room.  As my husband and I pleaded with the attendant, my daughter started seizing again.  This was the first time my husband had seen his baby girl seize, and seeing her in distress, he demanded someone see Kymani immediatelyWithin minutes, she was wheeled back to a room. 

After Kymani was stabilized, she was moved to the hall on a gurney. They squeezed her in between two elderly patients, a man, and a woman, both waiting for treatment, and rushed off to other patients.   Still in excruciating pain from her sprained back, and lockjaw from that latest seizure, my daughter would continuously scream from the pain, causing my mind to go wild with unspeakable thoughts.  What if I lost her? Lord where ARE you? While we were in the hospital, my husband also experienced a medical emergency, most likely due to the stress of the situation. It felt like my world had stopped spinning.

Amid my hopelessness, God was right there and sent me unexpected help in my time of trouble. A church member arrived in the ER to check on a family member and sat with Kymani when I had to rush and check on my husband. As I was having a meltdown in the hall, a complete stranger sensed my desperation and, on the spot, prayed for Kymani, the doctors treating her, and for my strength to get up and handle the crisis I currently found my family in. Her intercession revealed that God was in my midst even when I couldn’t even call out to Him anymore.  Revitalized by this encounter, I returned to my daughter with a calm spirit, determined to fight and advocate for the health of my child.


Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6–7


After a few days in the hospital, Kymani was officially diagnosed with Epilepsy.  The doctors could not determine the cause but mentioned an uptick in new diagnoses with young adult college women. I soon learned that epilepsy could develop in any person at any age.  Stress was a common major factor and Kymani was advised to get a stress-relieving hobby. 

Devastated with this diagnosis as she was just starting her life, Kymani struggled with this new part of her identity. Fortunately, she had a few weeks before she was scheduled to return to school, so I was able to observe her, care for her, and ensure she adjusted well to her new medication.

The next few weeks tested our faith.  As we started tracing back the past few years, we realized that the frequent visits to the ER because something ‘just wasn’t right’ or the time she had wrecked her car but really couldn’t explain what happened, were probably the result of seizures.  I believe Kymani had been sick for years and I didn’t even know it, which caused me to beat myself up for failing my daughter.

Furthermore, Kymani started questioning God.  She struggled to understand how as a completely healthy, active, young adult with a vibrant future ahead, that she could suddenly have this diagnosis.  She struggled with the detour in her life, as the meds weren’t working as quickly as we expected, and she was in a brace from her sprained back. Restricted from driving, her soul was drained and her spirit crushed. I continued to pray over her and did my best to encourage her, but nothing seemed to pull her through.

I helplessly watched as Kymani journeyed through the stages of grief as she dealt with the loss that came from this diagnosis. We observed the denial, followed by anger and bouts of depression. She also bargained with God to heal her.

Throughout this ordeal, I prayed individually, with my family, and engaged friends and our church family to bombard God’s throne on behalf of my daughter. Two weeks after receiving the diagnosis, Kymani moved back to her apartment at school. I spent the first week with her to ensure a smooth transition, given her new challenges. I met with the disability department at the college and was assured they were committed to supporting her in completing her studies and receiving her degree. A plan was made, accommodations were set, including a watch that could detect seizures and send me notifications.

When it was time to leave her and return home, I was a nervous wreck. She was still my baby! I implored God to protect her from all harm and danger and cover her through any sickness that came her way.  When I returned to Greensboro a few months later for a doctor’s appointment, I found a completely different person! Kymani’s apartment was full of cakes and meal preps; she took her doctor’s advice and found her passion – cooking and baking. Kymani eventually started a catering company called Quick Licks Kitchen, LLC, while continuing her studies to finish her degree.

I don’t know that she has accepted her diagnosis, but she has come to terms with it. Kymani has not had a seizure in over a year.  Recently, she let me know that she had reconciled with God and was no longer angry about her illness. She created a beautiful video to express her thoughts called My Illness is Invisible and shared it with the world on social media.  She is a spokesperson for the Epilepsy Society and has found a purpose from her pain – to bring awareness to Epilepsy.  She plans to create programs for college students, especially focusing on how peers can walk through this illness with their friends. 


God promises in Romans 8:28–29 to use all your experiences (good and bad) to help you become more like His Son.


I could not be prouder of my daughter. God continues to answer my prayers in His own way, and according to His own plan, and I have placed my daughter’s life and future completely in His hands. I continue to love her, support her, and pray for her, as she carves out her place in this world.

Closing Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
enjoying one moment at a time; 
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will; 
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next. 
Amen.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

For more information on Epilepsy, please visit http://www.epilepsyfoundation.com

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Faith Filled Moms: New Every Morning – A Memory of God’s Faithfulness

In this week’s installment of Faith-Filled Moms, I invited my friend Giselle to share her story. Giselle is a gifted writer and editor, and was a huge source of help and encouragement when I started on this blogging journey. I’m so excited to share her story with you!


I woke up in a cold sweat, unsure of what had just happened. Thankfully, I looked around my room and realized it was just a dream. Or a nightmare. At that moment, I wasn’t sure. But I prayed anyway. My middle son was attacked, in the dream. I had received a phone call from his school with disturbing news that he had been severely beaten by a bully. In my deep sleep, I could see myself rushing down to his school, running towards the office. I had to see my son, but as I approached the office, all I could see was a glimpse of his bruised face. He was hurting and I couldn’t get to him. I called for him, but a man blocked the door. It was my dad, and he held me back saying, “Don’t worry, I got him. He’s going to be okay.” I looked at my father’s face, yet I couldn’t see him clearly. My only clarity were his words, that resonated in my heart after I awoke. What could this mean? I prayed for my son, thanked God for his life, and went back to bed.

A week later, my middle son, Johan was complaining of stomach pains on Thursday evening after dinner. I have three children and, of all three, he is typically the one to eat more than he can handle. So, this was not uncommon for him. I gave him water and told him to use the bathroom. The next day the pain continued, but again, I thought it was something he had eaten. Now it was Saturday, and we had family over to visit. We decided to go out to eat and Johan’s stomach didn’t seem to hurt any longer. However, as we sat around the table, his expression changed, and I could tell he was still in pain. I had given him medicine and couldn’t understand why he was still hurting. My kids don’t usually get sick and, even when sickness does come on them, they bounce back the next day. This is how it’s always been, especially with Johan. He’s a good eater, the only one who will opt for fruit instead of candy or a yogurt instead of chips. I knew something wasn’t right.

By Sunday morning, my son could hardly get out of bed. He was in tears and couldn’t bear the pain any longer. This was the last straw. His father took him to the emergency room, and I stayed with our other two children, praying. Less than an hour later, my husband called me. My son needed immediate surgery as his appendix was about to burst and needed to be removed. There was no time to waste. I agreed with my husband and the medics prepped my son for surgery. I took my kids and drove to the hospital to be by Johan’s side.

By the time I arrived, he had already been given anesthesia and was knocked out. I stared at my boy and prayed as I held his little hand. He was only seven at the time, yet so brave. They took him to the O.R. and I waited patiently with my daughter and my youngest son. When the doctor came out, he took my husband and me aside and quietly broke the news. Before they could remove his appendix, it had ruptured inside of him. His abdominal cavity was covered in bacteria and severely infected. For an adult this was still life-threatening, although easier to treat. Because Johan was only seven, the doctor offered no signs of hope. He simply informed us they would keep him and treat him for a while.

A while? So many thoughts flooded my mind. Why did I wait so long? Why did this happen? What was going to happen to my baby? I sank into the chair in the waiting room and let my thoughts linger. The doctor was not comforting and did not give any signs of hope, probably because his occupation caused him to judge Johan’s outcome by what he had seen in countless other cases.

All of the sudden, Holy Spirit reminded me of my dream. This was it. My son had been attacked and his life was in my Father’s hands. I felt peace as I realized that the man blocking the door, the one holding me and comforting me with his words, “Don’t worry. I got him. He’s going to be okay,” – that wasn’t my natural father. It was my Heavenly Father, warning me of what was to come and assuring me that He was in control. The days passed in the hospital, my husband and I took shifts with Johan, and the doctor still offered no optimism in his reports. On day 5, I sat by Johan’s side, God brought a song to my heart.

Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

I held onto Lamentations 3:23 for the remainder of Johan’s time in the hospital. I prayed with him and showed compassion for the doctor who was shocked at my son’s resilience and healing. He had based his report on what he had seen. I had to base my hope on what I knew. God saved my son because He loves him, but not without first reassuring me because He loves me too. Ultimately, I had to surrender my worry, my doubt, and my trust to Him in exchange for His peace. As parents, we want to protect our children and would rather suffer ourselves than to have them suffer. But God showed me that He is the Best Parent not only to me, but to my children. He wants to know that we will entrust our children back to Him as Abraham with Isaac and Hannah with Samuel. And as I did with Johan. Whatever you’re believing God for with your children, I encourage you to offer them back to Him as His faithfulness is truly great!

Pray With Me

Dear God,

Thank you for your faithfulness. Help me to remember that your mercies are new every morning, and that your compassion will never fail me. I will trust you, even when things aren’t always looking good from my point of view, because I know you are you in control. I can always put my hope in you.

In Jesus name, Amen

Giselle Ogando

Ready Writer Services

http://www.readywriterservicesllc.com


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What I’ve Learned…A Year After Death

My brother has been gone for a year now. When I think about him, I always wonder what he is experiencing in his consciousness. I know his body has been laid to rest here on earth, but his soul is with the Lord. And as much as I miss him, I have never said that I wish he were still here.


To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:8


Why not? Because when I think about heaven, I think of a place where Tyrone is now complete with no more tears, no more pain, and where he desires nothing. He now has everything he has ever needed. I believe he is in a constant state of euphoria and heavenly bliss, where since April 13, 2020, he has not experienced pain, anguish, fear, anxiety, worry, agitation, frustration, or any one of the negative emotions we may experience each day here on earth. I honestly can’t think of anything greater than that.

While he’s in heaven living his best life after death, I’ve had to adjust. This week I decided to write about things I’ve experienced after the earthly loss of a loved one, and I hope to encourage someone else who may be dealing with death and struggling in some areas.


The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

Psalms 34:18a


If you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, just remember you’re not alone, and God is close to you. After a year, here’s:

What I believe…

I believe that if he had the choice, Tyrone wouldn’t want to come back – we know from the Bible that on the day they both died, Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Paradise is a place filled with joy, ecstasy, and complete delight. I liken it to a perfect Utopian society. After experiencing that, why would anyone want to come back to a world plagued with sin?

What I’ve learned…

  1. Sometimes families change after loss. A family circle is broken, and lives are irrevocably changed. Death can change relationships, friendships, and the family dynamics of those left behind. And that’s ok. Sometimes in addition to the loss of life, we must also mourn the loss of those close relationships. It’s best to figure out and define what those connections will look like going forward, and how you can best relate to those people in the future.
  2. Everyone grieves differently. We can’t judge a person by what we think they should or shouldn’t be doing during their grieving process. People have to deal with grief in their own way. We all are different and have no right to judge how someone else should be grieving.
  3. Grief counseling or therapy is extremely beneficial. If you are stuck and need to talk to someone, then do it. There are some things you won’t be able to figure out or work out on your own. Don’t waste another day, get a professional to help you.
  4. A strong support system is a must, you weren’t meant to get through this alone. Let your support system know what you need, if it’s a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to just sit in the same room. (If you are the Support System – refer to #2)
  5. A thoughtful text, call, or card goes a long way. This isn’t just for death, but for tough situations in general. If you know someone is going through a difficult time, when they cross your mind, it is for a reason – please reach out to them. It means so much to hear that someone is thinking about you out of the blue.
  6. Meals are a blessing. In those initial days when I couldn’t get out of bed, much less feed my family, my sorority sisters blessed us with gift cards that fed us for over a week. If you are looking to bless someone who has recently experienced a loss, bless them with a home-cooked meal, takeout from a local restaurant, or a gift card for them to order on their own. Trust me on this one.
  7. Memories allow our souls to smile despite the pain. Memories allow us to hold on to those special times that we spent together with our loved ones and keeps them alive in our minds.
  8. Tears can come from anywhere at any time. Let them fall, acknowledge the moment, and then keep going on with your day. Just be sure not to get stuck in the moment.
  9. Pictures are also a blessing. When we take pictures, we allow our loved ones to have physical reminders of us. Pictures also leave a connection for our future descendants that we may never meet. So don’t think you’re too fat, and even if you don’t like your outfit, or your hair, still take the picture.
  10. Grief is a reminder that your love for that person is still inside your heart. Again, embrace the moment, and then try to move on with your day. Refuse to stay stuck.
  11. Children are affected by death, sometimes in different ways than adults – don’t be so consumed with your own grief that you forget about them. Let them share their memories with you and talk when they need to. And if they need to talk to a professional, find one for them too.
  12. Every day is precious. Choose to honor each hour of the day you are blessed with. No one ever regrets that they didn’t work more hours or make more money on their death bed. Make those memories, spend time with those special people in your life, and take all your vacation days at work. When you die, your job will hire someone else to take your place. But your loss will be felt forever by those who love you.

What I know…

As a believer, I have the promise of seeing my brother again one day. It lessens the sting just a bit knowing that this is just a temporary separation and that after we are reunited, we will spend eternity together.

PRAY WITH ME

Dear God,

Thank you for the life of my loved one and for blessing us with time together on this earth. Thank you for the promise of everlasting life with both you and my loved one because you gave your only son Jesus to die for us.

Please teach me to how comfort others that have experienced a loss so that your love can be shown through me to someone who is hurting.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Share this with someone in your life that could use the encouragement!


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Faith-Filled Moms: A Difficult Road to Peace

This month I am kicking off a tribute to mothers! Each week leading up to Mother’s Day, I will be featuring a guest blogger to share a story of faith, and how each mother used their Playbook and believed the Word of God for their children’s future, despite the challenges they faced.

To kick us off, I invited my childhood friend Tamikia to share her story. I remember when Tamikia called me after her daughter Johnnah tore her ACL during a basketball game in her senior year. I remember calling my daughters in the room, and telling them what happened and the three of us praying together for Johnnah. I remember texting Tamikia and Johnnah scriptures of faith and encouragement during those weeks of uncertainty. Little did I know, five years later I would face my own challenging situation, and would need those same scriptures to help me get through.

Here’s their story… I pray it encourages you! ~Tonya


My daughter struggled with basketball in her early teens. I urged her to play the sport as she was 5’11” in the fifth grade. My goal was to teach her discipline, focus, hard work, give her a skill that would form bridges across any demographic, and ultimately afford her a collegiate scholarship.

She was discouraged from the very beginning as basketball was something she could not easily grasp, and she felt defeated after each workout. But she worked hard to become a student of the game, first tackling dribbling, then shooting, and playing defense, progressing as a formidable player. 

After seven years of working hard at her skills, along with undeterred determination, seasons of travel with AAU, middle and high school basketball, my daughter committed to a Division I college in the NCAA Northeast. We had just completed her final travel season of AAU with an Adidas-sponsored team. We were so proud of her accomplishments: Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player, Adidas Nationals Champion, countless local newspaper articles, and now a Division I commit.

She would cruise through her senior year, right? Or so we thought.

I had used all my vacation time the summer prior on the road with AAU travel as I was the team chaperone. When I couldn’t make her home high school games due to work commitments, my son would provide me updates via text.

One night in particular while still in the office, I anxiously awaited each play update. Early into the game, I received a call from my son. Every hair stood up straight on both arms. My son preferred texting over calling, so I was hesitant to even answer the phone. “She tore her ACL Mom.” I heard the anguish in his voice. I responded, “Don’t say that. Where is she now? What happened?” He continued, “A girl from the other team ran directly into her knee. She let out a scream I have never heard before. She is still on the floor, crying and holding her knee. Everyone is saying she tore her ACL.”

Fear took up residence in my mind. As I left work, all I could say was “God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind. Heal my baby, Lord. Please just let her be hurt and not injured.” I headed to her high school’s campus. I repeatedly called my son then my daughter, with no answer from either.

When I entered my daughter’s locker room, she just cried in my arms, her 6’3” frame leaning on me for support. During the car ride home, I listened to her recollection of the incident. We went to the local hospital that same night. She was given x-rays right away and an MRI two days later. The physician’s assistant reassured us that it may not be a serious injury as there was minimal swelling. We would have to wait to discuss the imaging with the doctor and determine the next steps. 

After the MRI, we received confirmation of an ACL, LCL, and meniscus tear that would require surgery and 6-9 months of rehabilitation. We cried as soon as we left the office. My daughter was frightened. She started to spill out all the questions that instantly consumed her mind. “Mom, what about my scholarship? Is my basketball career over?”

My father prayed for her, touching her knee, declaring healing, and we were determined to believe God’s report and not what others tried to speak over her knee. At church, we were in a series of healing and anointing, so my daughter constantly reminded me of these lessons, not accepting the diagnosis. She was adamant that she would finish her season, humbly asking for a second opinion, which subsequently confirmed the original diagnosis.

We proceeded to schedule her surgery for the following week. Her high school coach called to check on my daughter to see what the diagnosis was, and mentioned she was 48-points away from scoring 1,000 points in her high school career. After we hung up, my daughter said, “Mom, I have to play. I have to finish this season and my last accomplishment by scoring my 1,000-points.” 


“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” Deuteronomy 30:19


Knowing her desire, we had to speak life. I knew as Believers we were given the power to speak to our bodies and command each part to function according to its created design by God. We were to lay hands on ourselves and speak, declaring the powerful promises from the Word of God.

We waited on the Lord and exercised our faith. As a supportive mother, I had to let my daughter forge ahead in her own faith fight. I would watch her rub her knee, speaking life into it by declaring the scriptures we studied and committed to memory. I would watch her pray and do her knee rehabilitative exercises as she stood on the hope of returning to close out her high school career and achieving her 1,000-points.

We decided to cancel the surgery over her college coach’s objection, as my daughter wanted one more opinion after standing in faith for her healing. We consulted a local health system’s Bone & Joint Institute. I requested a second MRI as it had been 3 weeks since her injury, followed by a great deal of faith, prayer, speaking life, and declaring healing. We had a reference point with the first MRI film but needed a second one to confirm what we believed God had completed. 

We faced challenges from our insurance to get the MRI approved since there was no medical action taken but eventually received the green light to proceed. MRI results in hand, we went straight to the surgeon for review. Upon comparison of MRI films, the first one showed clearly where the injury presented as the areas of tears were visibly dark grey. As the tissue was absent. When he placed the second film on the review light board, the areas were bright, glowing, highlighted even, as if they were present and there, all the time. We asked if he could explain the changes, and he could not.

He confirmed that her LCL was attached and healing. He concluded that there was still a tear in her ACL that would eventually require surgery. I asked him to include this in his updated report as I needed to provide it to her high school and college coaches.

We took the report back to her school’s doctor who then referred her to the school’s physical therapist. My daughter received extensive therapy and rehabilitation from him directly. He was astonished at her physical tests that confirmed the strength in her knee and concluded that she was strong enough to finish out her season without surgery, but with bracing. He donated an expensive Donjoy® knee brace ordered from California for her injured knee. Upon its arrival and fitting, he cleared her to play, much to the amazement of her teammates and the school’s athletic director.

Seven weeks after her injury, she stood in the middle of the court and accepted her commemoration ball for scoring 1,000-points. With a torn ACL, she met her goal and finished her high school career.

Johnnah underwent surgery a week after scoring her 1,000 points. The same faith she used to speak to her knee was now needed to deter depression and surmount the pain during her extensive rehab, which led to her return to play. My daughter played four seasons of Division 1 basketball and graduated in 2018 with her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Rider University.

Closing Challenge:

We all face negative reports that impact our lives and our view of our immediate present and future to come. Sometimes, we even rehearse the negative report received in our minds despite the thoughts God has concerning us. 

I challenge you to speak life into and over every situation no matter how grave it is. I charge you to believe God’s word, align your will with His and prepare for His best for you.  Once you believe His thoughts concerning you, His promises are affirmed, and your purpose will be paved with victory along your journey for all the glory belongs to Him.

Prayer:

Father we thank You that your promises are, “yes and amen” in our lives. We give You all the glory honor and praise knowing that every trial we face in our journey of faith in You, yields a greater level of faith, understanding and increased power of your Word that we speak over our every circumstance.

Help us to continue to hide your word in our hearts so not only may we not sin against You, but we can speak your word to every trial and situation that presents knowing victory awaits. We worship you in spirit and in truth King Jesus giving you great praise for the victory You won for us on the cross, in your matchless name we pray, Amen.

Tamikia Johnson


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It Can Happen to Anyone – Protecting Your Child in a Perverse and Depraved World

April marks the observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I’ve invited Andrea Gadson to share this week, and she is a passionate advocate for sexual assault awareness and healing. In her book, Released: In Search of a King, Andrea shares a fictional story of healing for a survivor of sexual abuse. A companion workbook, Let the Healing Begin, is in development, which will empower victims of childhood sexual abuse with tools to enable their healing process.

You can follow Andrea here: http://www.surrenderedpen.com


Let me begin by painting a picture…

She eyes the uneven bars; determination coats her face. With a  leap, she soars into the air, grips the lower bar firmly, and pulls her body up and over the pole. From the top bar to the lower bar and back again, her body turns and wraps in a rhythmic dance of strength, balance, and precision.

Beautiful and breathtaking is her dedication and love for this sport.

You can see it, right?

But she has a secret. She was sexually abused by the doctor she trusted to keep her healthy and performance-ready for competitions. You can’t tell by looking at her face. You can’t tell by listening to the conversations she has with friends, but she is hurting.

In 2016, the USA Gymnastics Association was crippled when reports surfaced that several young women had accused Larry Nassar, a well-known Olympic team doctor and sports medicine physician of Michigan State University (MSU), of sexual abuse. His abuse pattern targeted female athletes, including Olympic gymnasts, and students. This was only the tip of the enormous iceberg as Nassar’s total victim pool would consists of over 300 females and one male. In the fallout, Nassar was sentenced to over 100 years in prison. Several officials, including the MSU president, resigned. The University settled a multitude of lawsuits and established a fund of $500 million for victims and those who may decide to come forward in the future. 

This article isn’t meant to explain how a physician can abuse women and children for over two decades and get away with it. While I could talk about the failures of a system that dismisses or diminishes abuse, I would rather focus on the victims. In the fight to bring an abuser to justice, we often lose sight of how to care for the victim. This is about the basketball player, the gymnast, the ballerina…this is about them.

Athletics is a great way for children to gain courage, have fun and make friends. Unfortunately, child abuse can occur within what should be a safe space for children. As a parent of an athlete, it’s important to be informed of the indicators of abuse, because the difficult truth is, it can happen to anyone. I’m going to share the warning signs of abuse and how to support your child – or any child in the aftermath.

Know the Warning Signs of Abuse

We don’t know what we don’t know, so let’s start by revealing the warning signs of abuse. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) provides a list of signs a child may be experiencing abuse. These include:

  • unexplained changes in behavior or personality
  • becoming withdrawn
  • seeming anxious
  • becoming uncharacteristically aggressive
  • lacks social skills and has few friends, if any
  • poor bond or relationship with a parent
  • knowledge of adult issues inappropriate for their age
  • running away or going missing
  • always choosing to wear clothes which cover their body

For an expansive list, visit the RAINN site’s page on warning signs.

Before you become alarmed, take a deep breath. You don’t need to jump to conclusions if you notice some of these signs in your child. As children morph into teenagers and grow into adults, any of these signs might occur on occasion.

But if you feel any of these signs are more than growing pains, it’s important to take action. If you suspect abuse, the first step is to contact a child protection agency to gain further guidance and information on how to look for and report child abuse.

What if you suspect something?

Start by believing a child until proven otherwise.

As a child, I was abused by my biological father. My parents were divorced, but my mother believed I was the crown of my father’s life and that he would never hurt me. When I told her about the abuse, she sprang – and I mean sprang – into action. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to see my father anymore.

But back then, society needed proof to believe the child. Before I knew it, I was sitting in a courtroom informing a judge what my father did to me on weekend visits.

Don’t make a child prove the harm done to them. Operate from a place of belief for your child’s sake. Please believe until proven otherwise. The potential long-term impacts of the abuse on your child are worth taking this stance.

If you suspect abuse, find a way to delicately talk to your child. Knowing where to begin is difficult. Thankfully, there are many resources to help guide you. NSPCC is a good place to start to find information on having difficult conversations with your child.

What if I find out my child has been abused?

Upon discovering your child has been abused, there is something extremely critical you must remember: this is about your child – not you.

It may sound harsh, but the typical gut reaction of any parent is to ask: how did I let this happen? But it’s not the right question.

Instead of asking how you let this happen, the first action to take if you suspect abuse is to confirm it with your child first. Again: this is about your child – not you.

Having lived through this experience personally, I recommend the following approach:

  1. Do not blame yourself and start looking for the way you missed something. This is about your child…not you.
  2. Do what you can to protect your child. This will likely includeremoving them from the situation or making access to the child extremely difficult for the abuser.
  3. Do not force your child to talk. Give your child the space and opportunity to share with you or a professional, but do not force them to talk. Discussing the matter will be extremely difficult for the child and they may want to sweep it away. Keep in mind: you cannot force anyone to heal. Instead:
    1. Remind them they are not to blame for what happened.
    1. Encourage them to talk to a professional if they don’t want to talk to you.
    1. Reaffirm your love for them. Remind them of God’s love for them.

I know this is a tough topic

Child sexual abuse is a tough but necessary topic. After all, it can happen to anyone. Now you know the signs and how to approach a child who has been abused with love and care.


The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Psalms 34:18 NKJV


In closing, please pray with me:

Lord, as I have prayed for the children in my life, I pray for the person reading this and their children. Please dear God, protect their child’s mind that nothing wicked would live there. Protect their child’s heart that nothing broken would dwell there. Protect their child’s body so no harm or danger will come near them. Protect their child’s soul so they would always be people of good character. Protect their child’s spirit so they would always seek after you.

My continued prayers are with you


Andrea Gadson supports adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. As a survivor herself, her experience guides her in helping others kickstart their healing. Find more resources and support on her website: https://www.surrenderedpen.com/surrenderedsouls.

Kickstart your healing through one of her workshops: www.surrenderedyou.thinkific.com

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A Story of Heartbreak, A Story of Disappointment, A Story of Loss, A Story That is Still Being Told…

A few days ago I was talking to my youngest daughter, Kassadi, about all the changes we’ve experienced over the past year. She commented how hard it was to believe how different things were now than from the beginning of last year.

It reminds me of the book title, The Interruption of Everything by Terry McMillan. She’s a great author and I usually read her books right when they come out. But for some reason, I haven’t read this one, and I can’t even find it on any of my bookshelves. Nevertheless, I’m sure I could write my own story using the same title.

My version would be about this family who spent most of the last ten years on the go, running from sport to sport, and season to season, with little breaks in between. The heroine would be this high-strung wife and mother, who meticulously planned out her family’s schedule, based upon her own dreams and desires.

And then, in 2018, her world came crashing down when her daughter experienced a season-ending injury at a track meet, right before entering high school. A torn-PCL paused the family, but she prayed fervently and trusted God to do what seemed impossible – to heal her daughter completely without surgery. She was referred to a great orthopedic doctor and physical therapy practice and her daughter was able to recover within a year.

During the rehabilitation time, when her daughter’s future was uncertain, the mother decided to start a blog and write about how her faith was getting her through the experience, which eventually transitioned into a ministry to encourage people that were going through difficult times and seemingly impossible situations.

Eighteen months after the daughter’s injury, the family received astonishing and unexpected news. The daughter’s PCL was miraculously re-connected and healed despite not having surgery. But the family’s joy was short-lived as the youngest daughter soon received a diagnosis of a knee condition that would require surgery.

The protagonist anticipated her oldest daughter’s triumphant return to track and field, while simultaneously preparing for her youngest daughter’s surgery and expected lengthy recovery. Then, everything was interrupted. The region was shut down due to a worldwide pandemic. Sports were canceled and the surgery was postponed indefinitely.

Sound like an interesting story to you? Do you wonder how it’s going to end? Yep, me too! The reality of everything going on has made me really question if I trust God’s plan, even when His plan seems to have completely detoured mine? Honestly, what do you do when you’ve spent years planning and dreaming for your children’s future, only to find yourself in a situation where your life is drastically different than you’d thought it would be?

I remember the great anticipation I had at the start of 2020. The start of a new year and new decade, new beginnings, and new opportunities. I guess it was foolish of me not to anticipate new challenges and new struggles as well. The roller coaster of an amazing and unexpected MRI report, followed by a devastating MRI diagnosis, the onset of a pandemic, which led to changes in every area of our lives, followed by the death of a loved one as a result of the pandemic had left me in an extremely vulnerable position.

Nothing about my life looked familiar, except that God was still there. What I had thought was the toughest situation I ever had to go through in 2018, prepared me for what was to come in 2020. The same way I had trusted God while not knowing what my daughter’s future looked like allows me to trust God even now. It’s been a full year with no sports, and I’m constantly wondering if we are making the right choice.

As Kennedi moved through her elementary and middle school years, I remember anticipating the day I would cheer in the stands while watching her run around the track in high school. I always joked I’d have a cowbell and would be the loudest parent there, completely embarrassing her. Kennedi is a junior in high school, and that day still hasn’t come.

Sports for the most part picked up during the start of the school year, and in some cases across the country, it never really ended. Every time I saw a post on social media about someone’s child playing their respective sport, praising an achievement, or celebrating a college scholarship, I felt something in the pit of my stomach. Not exactly sure how to describe it, but it’s… something.

If I’m not careful, that “something” can spiral to unbridled worry about how my choice to sit Kennedi out during this pandemic will impact her future. The added concern for a year of virtual learning and diminished social engagement also threatens to intensify the level of worry. To counter that, I remind myself to trust God, even through the uncertainty.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT


I often wonder – what if Kennedi’s injury never happened? What if she continued on her expected path, never experienced injuries, and progressed through her athletic career? What if I hadn’t found God so deeply in those dark days? I may not be in a position to encourage others who are hurting and fighting hopelessness if I never experienced my own pain.

I don’t know what the future holds – I don’t know where my daughter is going to college, or if she’ll play a sport like we always dreamed.

Do I need to know? It would be nice, but I’m in a place of peace, just following God’s lead because I still trust that He has an amazing plan for my entire family. So, although I’m in the middle of my interruption, it’s OK because God is in complete control. He’s in the driver’s seat, and I’ve moved all the way to the back. And now I need a book to read until we get to our destination.

Maybe I will finally read The Interruption of Everything. I wonder how that story will end. Just have to find it first…

CLOSING CHALLENGE

Has your life been interrupted unexpectedly? Are you experiencing challenges with the direction you are going in, or with the uncertainty of the pandemic? Or maybe you’re struggling with unfulfilled goals and dreams?

Resolve to trust God through any uncertainty, worry, or fear that you may be experiencing, with the reassurance that He is always directing your path.

PRAY WITH ME

God,

Thank you for the path you have me on. Even though it feels uncomfortable and uncertain, today I choose to trust you, in spite of how I feel, because I know that you are directing my path.

In Jesus name, Amen.


Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 


Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you walk through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!

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How Will I Know the Right Choice to Make?

In February of 2020, the girls and I had traveled over the President’s Day weekend for our annual vacation. We had traveled each winter for the last twelve years, and it was a welcome interruption to our busy schedule and gave us an opportunity to connect and make memories with our extended family.

But last year was…different. I remember watching the news as our vacation was approaching; all the initial reports about COVID-19 had me extremely concerned about taking the trip, but I decided that we would go and just be very cautious while traveling, since there hadn’t been many cases in the United States at that point. In the airport, the girls and I donned masks and gloves and got strange looks from everyone, including our own family. Little did we know that a month later it would become the norm.

Ove the next few weeks, I remember being glued to the TV, obsessed with the reports about the virus sweeping through different countries, and starting to impact the Northeast United States where I lived. Once professional and college sports started getting cancelled, I knew it was pretty serious. By Friday, March 13th, rumors were floating around about schools being closed and a possible national lockdown coming our way.

While my household was waking up for school and work that morning, I notified everyone that I was heading to the grocery store, which was unusual since I normally assisted everyone with getting out of the door on time and having a family prayer. But that morning I grabbed the box of masks and gloves that we had taken on vacation, and by 6:30am I was walking through the doors of my local supermarket.

There was a fair amount of people shopping for it to be so early the morning, so I guess others had been thinking along the same lines as me. I did something I had never done in my life before. I walked up and down each aisle of the store and purchased everything I thought I would need. It’s a funny visual now, but I remember struggling to push my cart to the cashier with one arm over the groceries to keep items from falling out.

As I reflect on all that has transpired since then, and look at where we are now, I can’t help but think, why did this happen and what am I supposed to be doing in the aftermath? Over the course of this past year, I’ve often thought back to stories in the Bible that we can learn a lesson from now, and I wonder what it was like for the people experiencing the event.

I think about the Egyptians going through the ten plagues – the frogs, the bugs and locusts, the darkness, the loss of property, and the loss of life. All because Pharoah’s heart was hardened towards God.  I question if the people knew it was Pharoah’s fault they were experiencing such a hardship, and if any of them cried out to God for assistance, or just decided to wait it out.

I wonder how the people outside the ark felt when the rain kept falling and falling, flooding their possessions, their homes, their fields, and ultimately taking their lives. I also wonder how Noah and his family felt knowing they were safe on the ark, but hearing the desperate cries of the people outside, pleading for them to open the door. At what point during their regular routines did they realize their lives were in danger?

In both of these situations, wickedness and evil brought these tragedies into the world. Sometimes I wonder if there is a similar reason for this pandemic. Is God trying to get our attention about something inside of us that needs to change? Is He displeased with the nations around the world? Is He trying to get our attention?

What are we supposed to do? All around me, I hear conversations and arguments that we need to go on with life and get back to normal. Some churches are meeting in person while others are still worshipping virtually. There are colleges, schools, and youth sports teams that are in full swing, and others that are still closed down. With all the different options, what IS the right choice to make?

Virtual or in-person school? Playing and coaching sports or continue to sit out? Summer vacation or hang out at home? As I work with my husband to contemplate what’s best for our family, I continually try to shut out the chatter and opinion of others. Only God knows what we are supposed to be doing, and I honestly only want to follow His lead. How do I get the daily instruction and direction that I seek? By communicating with the Holy Spirit who has been living inside of me ever since I asked Jesus into my heart.

Did I always know He was there? No, I didn’t. And it would have probably made my younger years much easier if I had. I once was blind but now I see, and every day I have to redirect my attention and focus inward for guidance.

Everyone has opinions on socializing, traveling, vaccines, and getting “back to normal”. I just want to be in a position that God is pleased with my heart, my responses, and my choices as I do my best to honor Him, no matter what everyone else is doing.

History is being written, both in the natural and in the spiritual. What will it say about you?

CLOSING CHALLENGE

There are times when it is tough to make a decision and to know what the right choice is to make. We know God wants us to come to Him about the big things, but what about the small things? The everyday things? Are you seeking guidance from God in every area of your life, only in some areas, or not at all?

PRAY WITH ME

Heavenly Father,

Help us to seek your direction in every area of our life, and especially during this pandemic. Help us to trust in what your Spirit leads us to say and do, and not what the news, social media, our friends and family, or society thinks. Only you know the plans you have for me and my family, even in a pandemic. Help me to trust only you.

In Jesus Name, Amen.


Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 


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How Do You Like Your Fruit?

Well, wouldn’t you know it? I had a situation happen that would ordinarily cause me to respond in a way that would have gone against everything I talked about last week.

We had to get the siding on our home repaired, and I provided a specific card for payment of the services. I also receive regular services from the same company that did the repair and have a monthly fee automatically deducted out of my checking account.

Background: Remember that ISTJ personality I talked about last week? It allows me to meticulously budget my income so that every dollar coming into our main household account is assigned – to pay bills, to savings, family expenses, and for our tithes or offering. I use the zero-budgeting method – look it up if you’ve never heard of it – it will change your life and finances if you don’t currently have a budget.

Back to my story – the day after the service was completed, I logged into my checking account and noticed a significant amount of money missing from the balance. After I checked the transactions, I discovered this company had deducted the payment from our checking account, instead of the card I had previously given for payment.

So of course, I contacted them immediately to inquire about why my directions weren’t followed, ready to voice my frustration, but the Holy Spirit gently nudged me. Yes, they made a mistake, however there was no harm done. No checks were bounced, nor were there any insufficient fund charges, and I was able to transfer money from another account to replace the payment.

By following the Holy Spirit, I had an opportunity to show grace to the person on the other end of my phone, not having any idea who she was, or what she may be going through that day. Responding that way wasn’t my intention when I first called. I wanted to blast someone for not following my instructions, and for… making a mistake.

You see, one of my personal struggles is uncontrolled anger over a perceived wrong or emotional injury.

Many of us struggle with the below behaviors based on our sinful nature. Some of us may be more prone to certain actions based on our learned behavior, personalities, or unchecked desires, but we all have areas in our lives that we need the Holy Spirit to help us overcome.


When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NLT.


All of these struggles are related to personal desires and selfishness. When we exhibit these behaviors, we are only satisfying ourselves. This is exactly what our flesh wants, for us to keep the focus on ourselves – on what we want, how we want it, and when we want it. This behavior not only separates us from God, but also causes separation and conflict with the people in our lives.

So, how do we get rid of those things in our lives, especially those behaviors that we have been exhibiting for so long? You know, the ones we try to excuse by saying, “That’s just how I am!

If we truly want to overcome our natural struggles, we must allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. When we let Him take over our lives, we no longer get a vote for how we should act. His influence will change certain characteristics, no matter how long we’ve been acting that way.

The evidence of His influence in our lives is called fruit. That encounter last week on the phone was evidence of my fruit, as I didn’t respond how I naturally wanted to. I overruled my desires and responded based on the influence of the Holy Spirit.


But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 NLT


As Believers, we will be known by our fruit. How we act, behave, and talk is a reflection of the fruit we are producing in our lives. Since these behaviors are focused on others, our fruit benefits those around us, and we are no longer making choices for self-gratification.

I want to share my personal checklist that helps holds me accountable for my actions toward others and allows me to monitor if I am indeed allowing the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in my life.


Am I showing love through my actions? Regardless of whether I feel it is deserved or not?

Am I joyful in the Lord, despite my situation? Do I trust that He is in control, or is my discontent with current circumstances visible to all that I encounter?

Do I seek peace and just let things go? Or do I respond to every fault and perceived wound?

Do I practice patience, especially during an extended period of suffering? Am I able to show grace to someone who has wronged me?

Do I have a kind heart, despite how I feel? Do I intentionally say or do something that will hurt another’s feelings?

Do I have a good nature, and bring out the best in my circle of influence? Are there positive intentions supporting my actions?

Am I faithful, even when it’s extremely difficult to do so? Can I be counted on to keep my word?

Am I gentle when aggression seems like a more natural response? Do I control the tone and volume of my voice amid conflict?

Do I exhibit self-control when my desires are not met, or rights have been violated? Does my anger get the best of me, or am I able to control the growing rise of ire inside of me?


That’s quite a list! But my goal is to be a beautiful fruit salad, full of the above behaviors, with every encounter yielding others the enjoyment of experiencing sweet, juicy fruit.

Fruit anyone?

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Are there any “Fruits of the Spirit” that come easy to you? Are there some that you struggle with?

Due to our sinful nature, we naturally want to satisfy all of our personal desires, but with the Holy Spirit’s influence, we must deny our selfishness and instead show behaviors that are focused on others.

What changes do you need to make to take the focus off yourself and put it on others?

PRAY WITH ME:

Holy Spirit, I admit that I struggle with selfish behaviors and don’t always allow the Fruits of your Spirit to work inside of me. Please help me overcome my natural desire to focus on myself so that others can benefit from the influence that you have on my life.

Help me to produce the fruit of your Spirit in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement.

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Extreme Makeover: Spiritual Edition

Have you ever met someone who claimed to be a Christian, but you found it very hard to believe that because of the way they spoke or behaved?

Or maybe someone has thought that about you?

I’m sure it’s happened to all of us at one time or another. There have been several times where I’ve lost my cool, and if I could look back, my behavior would probably cause me to hang my head in shame. Whether it was road rage with a few choice words slipping out of my mouth, getting upset with a customer service agent on the phone (probably the cable company), or losing my temper with my family, none of that behavior was very Christ-like.

Our actions are either going to be influenced by two things – our flesh or God’s Spirit. That means we are either going to do what we want based upon our natural desires or our spiritual sensing. Our choices are going to be made by how we feel or they’re going to be made by what we know is right to do despite how we feel.


Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit that which is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. Galatians 5:16-17 NIV


Sounds like an easy decision, right? Not quite, since our feelings heavily influence the choices we make. Sometimes our feelings can be so strong, that it can be hard to fight against the inner struggle to do or say what we know we shouldn’t. But if we are truly Christians, and have surrendered our lives to Christ, then we are instructed to live by the Spirit. Living by the Spirit is going to be evident in our actions, words, and choices.

I have a friend who is the nicest person ever. She is always sweet and kind to whoever she meets, When the girls were much younger, she came over to the house to bake cookies with them. I remember one of the girls spilling flour all over the place, and my initial response was to immediately fuss at them for being so clumsy. However, my friend just responded in her sweet, soft voice like it wasn’t a big deal. I remember watching them in shock because I would have never responded like that back then.

Why did my friend behave in a completely opposite way that I did? There are various reasons – our behavior can be a result of the way we’ve been raised, and we may be exhibiting learned behavior we’ve experienced or watched from other people.

Other times our conduct can be due to the temperament or personality we were born with. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a popular personality test that is commonly used in the business world to determine a preferred working environment based on natural tendencies.

If you’ve never heard of it, I’d encourage you to look into it, you may learn a lot about yourself. After answering a number of questions, it will produce an assessment of your dominant personality type, which can provide insight into your professional and personal life.

I’m an ISTJ, which means my personality tends to be internally directed (I), that I trust tangible and concrete information (N), and my judgments (J) are made from my perceived thinking and logic (T).

I used to be hardcore in my personality type, and I chalked it up to, “I am who I am”. The strengths of my personality worked well in Corporate America, but at home? Not so much. The honest and direct approach I took at work needed some modifications at home. Just because it was the truth, didn’t mean I had to say it. My strong will and determination had me running a pretty tight ship where my family often felt suffocated. The way I valued order stifled the creativity of my daughter. And the weakness associated with this personality type? Fuhgeddaboudit! A stubborn, insensitive, judgmental perfectionist is not an easy person to live with.

And all the while, I allowed myself to be led by those strong tendencies. Until one day I had enough. I was not allowing the Holy Spirit to lead me, and it was causing pain to people around me. And I decided to completely surrender my personality to God.

It’s been a couple of years, and I’m still a work in progress. But as I’ve allowed the Holy Spirit to work in me, there has been an evident change. Even as I reviewed the assessment, I’m no longer extreme to those traits, which means the personality that defined me for much of my life no longer does. I can confidently say it is nothing but the work of the Holy Spirit.

If we are serious about changing, once we release our opinions, our desires, our tendencies, our habits, and our behavior to the Holy Spirit, we allow Him to transform our lives.

Every morning when we wake up, we must choose who we will allow to lead us – either our feelings (flesh) or God (Spirit). What will you choose today?

CLOSING CHALLENGE

Are there certain personality characteristics or behaviors that you wish you could change? If you have been unsuccessful at managing and controlling your actions and/or your mouth, decide to walk in the ways of God’s Spirit and to turn away from your old habits and choices.

PRAY WITH ME

God, You know who I am, you know what my tendencies are, and you know what I struggle with. I want to live a life that is pleasing to you, that goes after your spirit, but my learned behavior and personality make it very difficult sometimes. I want my life to be pleasing to you, please help me walk in your Spirit. In Jesus Name, Amen.


Added Bonus

As I was listening to Spotify while I was writing this, the song Free by Kierra Sheard came on. As I listened to the words about freedom of sinful activities, a feeling of thankfulness swept over me and was so overwhelming that I had to stop writing. It was like a confirmation of what I had just been writing, and I thanked God for freeing me so many behaviors that seemed to have power over me for so long.

Once the song went off, I tried to return to my writing, but then Identify by Fiya came on. This is a powerful song asking God to change the part of our identity that’s not like Him so that people see Him when they see us. It was like God was acknowledging my heart for Him. Now there is still work to be done inside of me, but seeing the transformation that has already taken place is more than enough encouragement to keep working hard to deny my flesh and allowing God to change me.


Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 


Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you walk through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!

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That Difficult Thing You Are Facing? You’ve Progressed To The Next Level of Spiritual Difficulty

How many of us long for a perfect life – one with no problems or issues, with everything going our way? A life with no sickness or disease; one in which we have our dream job, with all of our bills paid and plenty of money left over. Maybe your dream is having the idea spouse, and straight-A students with perfect manners and behavior; or an athletically gifted child, or one that has a beautiful voice, or shines on the stage of their drama club?

We each have our definition of an ideal life. But if we had the life we dream about with no problems, where is the need for God in that?  I know when I’m facing a really tough situation, I find myself praying longer and harder than I would on a regular day.

When things are going well, I tend to just go on about my day with my routine prayer time, instead of the way I passionately seek the Lord when facing a challenging situation.  If there is a major issue in my life – whether it’s with my marriage, my kids, finances, health, or any of those big hitters that bring us to our knees throughout the day, there is a fervency and the intensity that accompanies those kinds of prayers.

Maybe our problems are a way for God to stay in touch with us to make sure that He has our attention? When we get to a point that things are going well for us, we may start to feel like we don’t need Him as much anymore. We falsely think that we can handle things by ourselves, and we push Him to the background in our lives, until the next time we face trouble and need Him again.

But He longs for us to engage Him on the small things in our lives, even those things we feel we have under control and don’t need Him for, He still wants us to seek His direction.

The next time you complain about a new problem you have to face; I want to challenge your perspective – what if we viewed each problem we face as another chance to trust God?


Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 NIV


Joy when hard times hit? How does that make sense? I’m not saying you should be happy about facing tough times. Joy and happiness are not the same things. Happiness is an external feeling, that changes with our circumstances. I describe joy as the internal contentment and satisfaction I have knowing that God is in control of my life, even when I don’t like how things are playing out. When I remember that He’s in control, it allows me to release my worries and fears.

I think this scripture means that joy should come from the building of our faith, and the strengthening of our relationship with God. Our troubles give God the opportunity to develop us.

What if each trial we face means we’ve graduated to a new level of faith, and the opportunity to go deeper in God? And just like a video game gets more difficult after each level is passed, each trial is a new spiritual level for us to overcome. 


Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4 NIV


The testing of our faith develops endurance and strength, especially for the next problem we face. Each trial develops maturity and completeness so that we are not deficient in any area. The trail of experiences we’ve faced in our lives is part of the path God designed that leads to our completeness.

Remember that movie Jerry Maguire, and the famous line, “you complete me”? Many people are searching and wishing for someone or something to complete them. But the truth is, there’s nothing on earth that can complete us.

The completeness we desire is through that path full of trials, challenges, and difficulties, but it is all required for us to reach our destination. As Believers, it’s important to note this scripture doesn’t say “if” we face trials, but rather “when” we face them. So, if we are not already in the middle of a difficult situation, we should be expecting one to come.

Take a moment to think about all the trials God has brought you through. What level of spiritual difficulty are you at today? As you think about your current situation, take joy my friend! You have been promoted to the next level. And once you reach the top, you will be complete, lacking nothing. Amen!

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

The next time you face a difficult situation, choose joy instead of the many negative emotions that come from tough times. Remember God is working on you through your trial.

When everything is going well in life, remember to continue to spend time with God and continue to seek Him for direction and guidance. That’s part of the maturity He is developing in you.

PRAY WITH ME:

God, thank you for each trial I face. I don’t enjoy the experience, but I realize they are needed for me to stay connected to you. When I find myself in an unfamiliar situation that I have no idea how to handle, help me remember to go to you first, knowing I can trust you to bring me through. Help me to keep my joy through the difficult times, knowing that you are with me and developing me so I can be complete in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you walk through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!

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Your Proper Level of Authority Has Been Granted – Don’t Waste It

Imagine that a man has come on hard times, loses his apartment and has been living in his car. Unbeknownst to him, a long-lost aunt has passed away and he is her closest living relative. As a result, he has inherited her house, and legally has authority to live there. But he continues to live in his car and in shelters, because he has no idea about his inheritance.

Believers who don’t read their Bible or know the promises found in God’s Word are no different from this man. Many Christians are walking around thinking they are powerless to the circumstances around them, because they don’t know the authority that Jesus has given them after they’ve made him Lord of their lives.

Authority is defined as “delegated power” in YouVersion’s Understanding Our Authority in Christ devotional. That power must be delegated by someone else who already has the authority.


And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Matthew 28:18

The weight of our authority as Believers is measured by the power of the One who has authorized it. I remember the first time I really understood John 14:12 –


Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater than these, because I am going to the Father.

As a Believer, I have delegated power from Jesus. I remember a couple of years ago when I exercised that power in a dire situation.

We were headed down to Greensboro, NC for the Jr Olympics, but fell way behind schedule due to an impromptu stop at a Civil War battlefield. It was my turn to drive, and I remember enjoying the beautiful sunset behind the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

Once the sun went down it was extremely dark and soon my family was fast asleep. I had my favorite playlist blasting in my earphones as I sang worship songs to God. It was just me, Him, and the dark road ahead of me.

After a while, it started raining and the navigation took me off the interstate highway and onto a winding local road. My smooth journey was now interrupted by traffic lights, sharp curves, and waves of torrential downpour.

I was growing slightly irritated as I had to continuously adjust the windshield wipers and my speed – the rain would periodically come down so strong that I could hardly see the road in front of me. But it would only last a few minutes and then lighten up.

When we were about 90 minutes away from our hotel, there was a particularly heavy downpour, complete with thunder and lightning. By then I was very agitated with my surroundings as the road was still quite curvy and it was hard to see. All I wanted was to find a place to pull over and wait out the storm, but there was no place that I could stop.

As I could feel myself on the verge of tears, I caught myself. I remembered John 14:12 and the years of teaching I had at my church about the dominion and authority I had been given through Christ Jesus. I could remain a frustrated and fearful driver on that road, or I could choose to do something about it.

I thought about a popular story about Jesus that was told in two different Gospels in the Bible. In Matthew 8 and in Mark 4 we find the story of Jesus and His disciples on a boat in the middle of a storm. Jesus was sleeping and the disciples woke him up in a panic, thinking they were going to drown. Jesus called out to the storm “Peace, be still” and the wind and storm responded and died down.

Whoever believes in me will do the work I do… Welp, what did I have to lose? I rolled down my window and yelled at the storm while the rain smacked me in my face. I remember saying something along the lines of… “Storm – I know you can hear me! I am the righteousness of God, and I have been given dominion and authority over you! Jesus said I can do what He did and even greater. So, I command you right now – Peace, Be Still!”

I woke my husband and the girls up with my yelling, and they just stared ahead, still half asleep. In what felt like less than a minute, the rain calmed down to a light drizzle and stayed that way until we arrived safely at the hotel. My sleepy passengers dozed back off – my daughters don’t even remember that small miracle.

But I do. And I will never forget it, as it will always be a reminder of the power that has been granted to me through Jesus. He’s given me the authority to do what He’s done…and even greater.


CLOSING CHALLENGE:

John 14:12 is a powerful scripture. But it can’t be properly applied in your life if you don’t know what Jesus did when He walked the earth.

Spend this year studying the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to learn about the amazing teachings and miracles Jesus performed while on earth. As a Believer in Christ, when we learn more about His life and works, we know that He has given us the same power to impact our lives, or the lives of those around us. Don’t let that authority go to waste, step out on faith and follow Jesus!


PRAY WITH ME:

Thank you for your life-changing words in John 14:12. Thank you for the example of your life, that shows me what I can do to make a difference in the world, and in my own life. Help me to remember everything that you did, so I can follow your example and use the power under the authority that you’ve given me in this world when I experience tough times. Amen.

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you walk through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!

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How Many Followers Do You Have?

Instagram. Twitter. Facebook. Tik Tok. YouTube.

No matter where you turn, there is an appeal for you to Like, Follow, and Subscribe.

Social media has led to the rise of a new phenomenon – The Influencer. An Influencer works hard to gain a following to connect with, inspire, and/or entertain. As a result of those connections, followers may then be influenced to make choices as a result of the Influencer’s persuasion.

The goal is to gain the magic number of followers so companies will take notice and pay for access to that audience following for the promotion of their products or services.

1,000 followers? That’s a good start.

10,000 followers? Companies are starting to take notice.

100,000 followers? You’re a legit influencer.

1,000,000 followers? Show me the money!

When you see your favorite actor, singer, or personality promoting products or services – they are most likely getting paid with the hope that you will be influenced to make a purchase.

And those times when you are watching a video and it gets annoyingly interrupted for a quick commercial? Sometimes you can mercifully skip the add after a few minutes, but other times you have to suffer through the entire advertisement. That’s the power of Influence.

An Influencer is also a thought-leader, and can influence actions, behavior, thoughts, or choices.

As a Christian blogger, I guess I can be considered a Spiritual Influencer as well. And with that comes a responsibility of being held accountable for everything I post. I would never want to influence someone to make a destructive choice, or to turn them away from God.

The rise of social media has expanded my reach to people all over the world. While I try not to get hung up on the stats of this blog, admittedly human nature drives me to peek at my numbers every now and then. So of course, I checked while writing this. And it’s humbling to know that after blogging for over two years, my words have been read in over 60 countries on 6 continents. (Antarctica – I am coming for you) 

Today ends the 40-day fast I started on January 2nd. As I was praying and fasting for God to increase my platform this year, I came across the words of a personal Influencer. Last month the author of Sacred Rest posted something on Facebook that caused me to pause and reset the foundation of my prayers concerning my platform.

[B]e writers who understand that building a platform is not about making a name for yourself, but an elevated place from which you can point others to Jesus.

Sandra Dalton Smith

After contemplating this message, I considered what I wanted to be known for influencing my audience to do? It didn’t take long for me to come up with my answer: To Just Trust God.

If you sum up everything I’ve ever written about in Destined 4 the Dub, it all points to the same message: God is good, He is in control, and He will do what His Word says, so just trust Him. My prayer has always been to remain humble, no matter how far God allows my reach to expand.

However, on the business side of non-fiction writing, platform is everything. But my commitment when starting Destined 4 the Dub, was for this to be a ministry first. Ministry drives everything. Ministry is what keeps me going at 2am when I may be delayed by procrastination or writer’s block.

Publishers may be looking at my numbers, but God is looking at the sincerity of my heart. Am I doing this for the audience, the followers, and to grow my platform, or is my priority to point others to Him?

Of course, the high numbers would be nice, and they are coming. But He is just as pleased to see that person who read a blog from an experience I had a year ago, and they are now encouraged to trust God in their own painful and difficult situation.

Regardless of what my social media numbers look like, Heaven is following me, and they rejoice over my writing that leads to a small change in one’s thinking, that leads to a decision to walk by faith. Or to not give up. And honestly, those angelic followers are probably expanding my reach in ways I can’t imagine.

If you’re a Believer, then you are also a spiritual influencer. Your numbers on social media may not get the attention of a big-time company, but you may have family, friends, co-workers, or classmates that you’re influencing.

We want to point them all to God. Our aim should be to influence them to choose right over wrong, love over hate, faith over fear, and light over the darkness.

Who will you influence today?

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Think about the influence you have at your home, church, job, and on social media. What changes can you make to ensure you are pointing those around you to God?

PRAY WITH ME:

Lord, I thank you for the influence you’ve given me over my family, friends, co-workers, classmates, and social media friends and followers. Please help me to remember that I’m always in a position of influence. I pray that my actions will always point others to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you walk through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!

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Those Dreams for Your Future? It’s Planting Time

January is the usual time of year when people start planning and creating goals, making behavior and lifestyle adjustments to influence the change they want to see in their lives for the upcoming year.

For many Believers, this month is a time of fasting, to deny ourselves of food, entertainment, and all those things we physically crave, so that we focus our attention on God to help us clearly hear from Him for guidance and direction. Additionally, we prepare the list of things we’re praying and hoping that God will do for us throughout the year.

I’m not a big fruit and vegetable eater. I never eat the recommended daily intake, except when I’m on the Daniel Fast. For much of this month, my grocery bill has been higher than normal due to increased fruit and veggies that we’ve been consuming as a family.

One day I was cutting up vegetables for a salad, I considered how things would have been different if I had to grow all of that produce instead of buying it from the store. I thought about all that it would take to have a successful harvest.

And my mind went to the biblical principle of Seedtime and Harvest. When planting seeds, there are steps that one must take to ensure a successful harvest. Since I had limited knowledge and skills on gardening, I reached out to my mom and aunt for guidance.

My grandparents moved from Georgia to New Jersey during the Great Migration. Their families were farmers down south, like many African American families during Reconstruction. As a child I remember seeing my grandmother out in her garden working tirelessly.

There was a small area behind her house that we could play, that was surrounded on two sides by the garden. When playing with my siblings and cousins, sometimes a game of tag or kickball may cause us to run into the field. Immediately everyone would grow silent and shift our eyes towards the house to see if my grandmother noticed. It would not have been a good outcome if she had!

Just as their harvest was critical for my family’s survival, the seeds we plant now are essential for the future we are praying for and desiring for our lives.

As I talked to my mom and aunt about their experience as children working with their parents in their garden, I was able to compare the steps they took to the process of planting spiritual seeds in our lives:

  1. My grandparents would clear the fields from rocks, stones, or anything else that would interfere with the growth of the plants.  During my fast, I also stopped watching Netflix, reduced my social media time, and eliminated many foods that provided no health benefits. This helped to remove any distractions from my fast and my focus on God through my prayers.
  2. Next, my grandfather plowed the fields by hand to break up the soil to ensure the plants would take root and have good drainage. This was a very labor-intensive process since he couldn’t afford a machine to make the job easier. Spiritually, this activity is emotionally difficult, as I had to break up much of the harmful and destructive thinking and behaviors that I’ve gotten comfortable with but could hinder my seeds from taking root and growing.
  3. My grandparents then planted rows for different seeds – peas, cucumbers, squash, corn, okra, lima beans, string beans, watermelon, and cantaloupe. This is our time to go before God, and there is no limit to what we can pray for. God doesn’t have a quota for the number of things you pray. We can plant specific seeds for each family member, for our job, finances, health, or whatever it is that we need God to move on. He wants us to come to Him for every request that concerns us. Seeds can also be planted by giving financial blessings or donating your time to the church, organizations, or individuals.
  4. After the seeds were planted, it was time to water them. My grandparents would carry a bucket down every row and scoop water individually for each plant. For this step, I keep a journal of prayer requests, and each day I pray over different things, and also determine what actions steps I need to take to ensure my seeds stay healthy and I don’t do or say anything to run over my seeds the way we did playing in the backyard at my grandparents’ house.

My grandmother was so protective of her garden because she and my grandfather labored so much over every seed. They didn’t have the modern-day conveniences available for planting, and her harvest was vital to sustaining her family of seven throughout the year until they could plant again. 

Just as their harvest was critical for my family’s survival, the seeds we plant now are essential for the future we are praying for and desiring for our lives. We shouldn’t expect a harvest later in the year if we haven’t planted anything.

It’s always planting season. If you haven’t sowed any seeds this year, you can start today, tomorrow, next week, or whenever you are ready to start clearing your field. Different seeds and different prayers are answered on different intervals. Just as all those seeds, I listed earlier harvested at different times, some prayers may be answered before others.

And this means some of your family and friends may have prayers answered while you are still waiting on yours – someone may have gotten married while you are still waiting or gotten a promotion while you are still stuck at the same job. God provides sunshine and rain on our seed according to His timeline. Some of your prayers may come to harvest next month, others later in the year, but some may take years to be answered. 

So, it’s important to always, Always, ALWAYS remember Galatians 6:9:

Let us not become weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not give up.

I think I have this planting thing down for my seeds of faith. Maybe I’ll try my hand at planting a real garden this year and continue what my grandparents started all those years ago. Maybe.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

What seeds have you started to plant for this year? What step are you on?

If you haven’t planted anything yet, spend some time in prayer and reflect on what you want God to do in your life. Then, start planting!

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you walk through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!

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Degree of Difficulty for God? Zero

My daughter and I love to complete the Brain Games at the back of my monthly Reader’s Digest magazine. I always look at the level of difficulty indicator before tackling each one. Sometimes a Difficult puzzle may be easy for me to complete, while one that’s labeled Medium may be harder, if not impossible for me to figure out.

Levels of difficulty are typically assigned by how challenging or tough it is to perform a certain skill, course, or task. But this is always a subjective measurement that depends on the viewpoint of the observer.


If we believe there is absolutely nothing too hard for God, then we should be able to approach Him with the same confidence for the big things as we do for the little things.


Some of my favorite Olympic sports are judged by level of difficulty, like gymnastics, diving, and figure skating. A competitor may have a perfect routine, but if the level of difficulty wasn’t high, they won’t earn enough points to win a medal.

Similarly, we seem to give God more points when He responds to a prayer that we consider difficult versus the lack of thanks and gratitude we show Him for something we believe was easy to accomplish. I’m definitely not as passionate in my thanks to God for waking me up in the morning as I am when He’s healed a loved one.

But why? Why do I exert so much passion when praying for a favorable test result to come back from the doctor, but don’t show that same level of energy when I’m praying for God to bless my food before I eat it?

Are there certain prayers that we feel are more difficult for God to answer than others? Do we pray with low intensity for things such as blessing our family or our nighttime prayers to keep our home safe while we sleep?

And maybe we show more emotion and effort when it’s a slightly bigger issue like when we desire a new job, or to get into that college, or selected on that sports team?

Subsequently, when we face a more difficult problem – a life-threatening disease, a child struggling with addiction, or a looming bankruptcy – we may find ourselves in tears, begging God to perform a miracle.

Why don’t we pray the same way for the easy situations as we do for the seemingly impossible?

Is it because we feel that some things are a little harder for God to accomplish than others? Is it hard for us to believe that God will answer the difficult prayers without our desperate pleading, and showing Him how badly we want a response?

I honestly don’t know the answer, but I do know if we believe there is absolutely nothing too hard for God, then we should be able to approach Him with the same confidence for the big things as we do for the little things.


This is the confidence that we have in our relationship with God: If we ask for anything in agreement with his will, he listens to us. If we know that he listens to whatever we ask, we know that we have received what we asked from him. 1 John 5:14-15 CEB


We can approach Him the same way, no matter what we are praying for. There is no level of difficulty in the requests that we make in prayer to God. As easily as He can heal a painful hangnail, He can heal stage 4 cancer. When we truly believe that we can confidently ask Him for whatever it is we need from Him.

I learned how to ski at a young age and remember the Green Circle slopes were the easiest. The Blue Squares were more difficult, but I could usually ski them without too much trouble. But the Black Diamond slopes? My heart would pound at the top of the mountain, while I decided if I had enough courage to ski down it. I never approached a Black Diamond slope with the same confidence I had for a Green Circle. That’s because I knew my skiing ability would allow me to take on the Green slope with no problem. ‘

Every request we make is like a Green Circle for God. Our challenge is to approach every prayer this week with the same level of confidence, no matter how easy or difficult we perceive our requests may be. There is absolutely no level of difficulty for God. When we truly believe that, it will change the way we pray.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Do you believe God is almighty, and there is nothing too hard for Him? If so, make sure your prayers and faith reflect that confidence.

If you are having a hard time believing that, ask Him to show in His own way how to help build up your confidence in Him.

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you walk through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!

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I Don’t Like to Fight, But…

I just want to live in peace, with no conflict, perfectly calm and content.

But unfortunately, that’s just not real life. Some of us have to fight – for our marriage, our children, our health, our finances, our mental stability, our career, our property… The list can go on and on.

We are all on a journey, and it requires that we fight to overcome opposition trying to keep us from moving forward. Our spiritual enemy wants us defeated, stuck, and moving backwards.

Many of us are fighting multiple battles at the same time and feeling pretty worn out. I know I am! But every day we wake up, there is another challenge to overcome. And so we fight.


For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12 NLT


We need to make sure we are fighting strategically, and that we are fighting the correct opponent. Our fight is not against people and things we can see, but instead we are fighting a spiritual battle in the unseen realm.

When we face any type of opposition, our natural instinct usually is to fight back, usually without thinking our actions through, which is typically a recipe for disaster. We have to start fighting smarter.

As I was brainstorming this topic, I thought about The Art of War, a popular book about achieving victory in physical warfare. It was written over two thousand years ago by Sun Tzu, who was a Chinese military strategist. Its principles have been modified time and time again to relate the strategies to high performance in business, athletics, and other areas.

I decided to review a few principles from The Art of War to help build a strategy to ensure we win each battle we face. Feel free to read the entire book on your own, it’s pretty short and shouldn’t take longer than an hour to finish.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Sun Tzu

Principle 1: Laying Plans – Have a plan BEFORE you enter the battlefield. If things are going ok now, please know that it will not always be that way. Anytime we are living for God, our enemy is going to try and destroy us since he hates God. Be prepared for continuous changes in battle conditions. There always seems to be a fight waiting for us. There’s an old saying – you are either in a battle, coming out of one, or about to go in one. The Armor of God found in Ephesians 6:10-17 gives us the purpose for the protection we have from God. Read this chapter in multiple versions or with a study Bible to gain deeper understanding.

Principle 3: Attack by Stratagem – Resolve potential conflicts before they arise. Anticipate moves and be ready to respond – the best way to accomplish this is by knowing your own weakness. Your enemy knows them also (as does your spouse, children, and those closest to you. Be ready to respond correctly when they push your buttons!) It is imperative that we know when and how to engage, and when to just be quiet (and pray). Patience is key for this principle. Refer to the book of Proverbs and the wisdom needed for this step. This comes from knowing yourself and your opponent.

Principle 7: Maneuvering – It’s important that you don’t give the enemy a clue on how to defeat you. Many times our words will tell Satan how he can beat us. How many times have we said, “If he/she does XZY one more time…” or “I can’t take XYZ anymore” We are basically broadcasting our weak areas. And guess what the enemy is going to do with that information? The solution here is to figure out how to have joy, even when you’re not always happy with the way things are going. Attitude is everything, and negative emotions will lead to negative choices.

Although more spiritual inference can be drawn from the book, these are just a few principles I wanted to highlight.

No matter how long our battles may last, it’s important to know that we’ve already won. Jesus is our champion and has already given us the victory. We just have to do our part, so we can claim the victory He won for us when He died on the cross for our sins.

Honestly, that’s what Destined 4 the Dub is all about. Encouraging others to stay in their battle, storm, conflict or however you want to describe what you’re going through. It’s important that you know that if you’re a Believer, your victory has already been guaranteed.

We just have to do our part: Trust God, Walk with Him, Read His Word, Pray, Lean on Him, Encourage Others, Share our Testimony, Walk By Faith, Fight the Good Fight, and most importantly Don’t Ever Give Up.

I pray that you are re-energized as you get back in your battle. Especially now that you know it’s a fixed fight.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

What are you fighting for? Do you believe that you will eventually win?

Which strategies based on the Art of War can you start using in your fight?

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement.  Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you walk through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!

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Mission Impossible? Accept My Family Just the Way They Are

I recently read an article about couples, and one of the men that was interviewed stated the thing he loved most about his significant other was that she didn’t try to change him.

WHAT? I paused after reading this. There was nothing about this man that she wanted to change? Wow, must be nice…

After thinking about it for a while, I already knew I had mistakenly spent a long time trying to mold my daughters into the perfect children that I wanted them to be. This enlightenment came after Kennedi hurt her knee, and I wrote a story about how it changed me for Guideposts magazine.

As I was working through the story with my editor, the deep and probing questions he asked me opened my eyes to how what I thought was helping them, was really hurting, and hindering them. I’ve been working hard to seek God and not my own personal desires about how to raise them ever since.

But husbands? For years I worked hard to try and change Kenny into the man of my dreams. But I was a complete failure because that reality only existed in my mind.

When someone posted something incredibly romantic on social media that their husband did, I would give mine the side eye, wondering why he couldn’t be so thoughtful. And the comparison trap when parents post the accolades, awards, grades, accomplishments of their children sometimes led me to wistfully wish my daughters could achieve the same.

And my Type A personality didn’t help at all. I had a checklist full of goals for my husband and daughters that I was working (rather hard) to check off, but unfortunately caused them to see me as a someone they would never be able to please.

The realization that my husband and daughters are my gifts from God and not my projects did not come easy to me, and thankfully my eyes were opened in time to deter me from mishandling them and impacting the purpose God created them for.

I’m finding freedom in acceptance. Not always agreeing but accepting, nonetheless.

But what I’ve come to realize over the years is that we are a unique family, and there is no other family in the world like ours. I am a partner in a one-of-a-kind marriage, and a co-parent to uniquely designed daughters. No one in this family is supposed to look like, act like, talk like, or be like anyone else on this earth.

I’ve never felt like God has ever compared me to anyone else. He has never made me feel worthless because I didn’t meet His expectations or failed in certain areas. So why did I have the audacity to walk around my household with my very own judging stick?

He brought Kenny and I together and blessed us with Kennedi and Kassadi. I was hand-picked by God to nurture and raise these girls just the way He created them. I wasn’t chosen so I could change what God put inside them, but to cultivate and develop every distinctive part of their personalities and temperaments.

Our identity as the Avent Family (or the A-Team as I like to call us), was comprised of our own unique identities. The only changes I needed to support was ensuring each of us found our identities in God.

And after I turned my focus inward, I found a pretty long list of things to work on. Even then, I still have to be careful not to be so critical of myself, and ensure I’m not comparing myself to anyone else. God didn’t create me to be a duplicate. He doesn’t need two people doing the exact same thing. I have my own special assignment to accomplish.

I’ve also learned not to measure my worth by the accomplishments of others – not the cleanliness of their house, not the politeness of their children, not the achievements of their spouse. We find our value in God, and we are always enough. And so are our family members. They are each enough. If there is one thing we’ve learned from 2020, it’s that life is precious and should not be taken for granted. Celebrate family, celebrate life, celebrate love. And celebrate being enough, just how you are.

As I thought back to that article, it didn’t say that she didn’t want to change him, but rather she didn’t try to change him. I guess she already knew that wasn’t her job. Smart lady.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Have you been struggling with feelings of dissatisfaction with your own life, or with some of your family members?

Are you caught in the comparison trap, and allowing it to steal the joy of how God uniquely created you, and/or your family?

Resolve today to live a life of acceptance. Accept those around you and receive God’s acceptance for yourself.

Link to Guideposts Story

https://www.guideposts.org/friends-and-family/parenting/teenagers/she-realized-her-kids-needed-a-mom-more-than-a-coach

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you walk through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!

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Don’t Ignore Your Navigation System – There May Be a Different Way To Go

About a week ago I had to drive out to a retail store for a return. I tried to avoid stores during the pandemic by doing all my Christmas shopping online. But one of my purchases was defective and I had to return it in person. In order to avoid other shoppers, I decided to leave my house in enough time to arrive right when the store opened.

As I was leaving my house, I turned on my navigation, even though I knew exactly where I was going and how to get there. I had been to this particular shopping center countless times over the years, but on that day, I wanted to track my arrival time.

As I was driving on my route and listening to music, I really wasn’t paying attention to the voice telling me which way to go. I would just periodically glance at my dashboard for the arrival time to make sure I was on track. During a glimpse, I noticed the system was directing me to go on a route that was different from the one I planned on taking.

Instead of following the navigation’s direction, I went the route I usually followed when going to that store. But as soon as I got off the exit, I immediately had a second thought:

You have a navigation system right here telling you the quickest way to go, so why are you not following it?

Thankfully, there was a way for me to get right back onto the highway and back on the original path that I had been directed to take. As I glanced at the system again, I only lost about a minute of my travel time.

The route I planned to take would have been the fastest way if it were the time of day that I usually traveled that way. But on this particular day I was traveling earlier in the morning than usual, so the traffic patterns were different. I didn’t realize that, but because my navigation had insight into what I could not see or know, its direction gave me the better outcome.

As I continued driving, I thought about how this was really a insignificant example, but how often does that happen in our lives for more important situations that have a life-impacting result?

We each have a personal map called the Bible and the Holy Spirit acts as our navigation system. Just like that computer voice was telling me the best way to go, the Holy Spirit’s voice also guides us, especially when we find ourselves in situations where we don’t know the best choice to make.

And I had a choice to follow what was right there in front of me on that screen, or go the way that I had always gone, because that was the most familiar to me.

Just because we’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the right way or that we should continue to follow that tradition or routine. Especially in today’s extraordinary times.

As we go into 2021, make sure you keep your spiritual navigation system on at all times. The way you may think is best, or the way you’ve always done something may no longer be the right way, no matter what kind of results you’ve had in the past.

As we all know, life is much different from what we’ve known. But no matter what your situation is, the Word of God will always provide the direction you need, and the Holy Spirit’s voice, whether you hear it in your ear, your mind, your heart, or your gut, will always guide you forward in the path that God has for your life.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Times are definitely not normal now.

As we go into 2021, the way we’ve normally done stuff may no longer apply. Are there choices or decisions you have to make about the new year? Have you consulted the Bible, and asked the Holy Spirit to guide you in the choice you should make?

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you walk through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!

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What Exactly Are You Celebrating? What is Christmas Really About?

Whether it’s due to the death of a loved one, illness, quarantine, travel restrictions, or gathering restrictions, Christmas will look different this year for many of us.

Black Friday and the weeks after would usually bring the hustle and bustle of shopping for Christmas presents, attending Christmas parties, and participating in events to bless those less fortunate than me.

But this year, most of my shopping was completed between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and on a much lower scale. This was the first Christmas that I didn’t buy myself a gift while shopping for others, even though I was tempted a few times. I knew something would be different about Christmas this year.

While looking for a new devotional to close the year with, my YouVersion app had suggestions for Advent devotions. I never knew what the word Advent meant until I was well in my adult years and began seeing people mention it on social media. All I knew was that Advent was the most common misspelling of my last name.

Originally Advent was a period of fasting leading up to Christmas, similar to how Lent is for Easter, but not as long. But over the years, Advent observances and traditions had evolved to different ways churches and families could prepare their hearts for Christmas, and also the second coming of Christ. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.

As I contemplated this markedly different holiday season, I really wanted to focus and prepare my own heart to truly celebrate and commemorate Christ’s birth, especially since much of the holiday busyness that usually overwhelmed me wasn’t present this year. I yearned for something to fill the space that the cancellation of traditional activities now provided.

Over the years I’ve heard complaints about Christmas, and how it’s so commercialized, it’s a pagan holiday, and the true meaning has been lost. Usually I dismiss those criticisms, but this year after I read yet another complaint about how Christmas was not even Jesus’ birthday and He probably wasn’t even born this time of year, I struggled with what I was truly celebrating.

Because of Immanuel, God is with you. God is with me.

Right here. Right now.

I always considered Christmas a celebration of Jesus’ birth and probably referred to it as Jesus’ birthday when the girls were younger. But if I’m being honest, my main focus for Christmas was the joy of being around family and friends, and His birth was a secondary celebration.

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I love decorating our home, the girls’ excitement as we approach the 25th, having friends and family over for our big Christmas Eve dinner, being woken up on Christmas morning and reading the 2nd chapter of Luke as a family before heading downstairs, and smiling with pride and contentment as everyone opens their gifts.

But during this time of Advent, each day brought a devotional to redirect me to the miracle of Jesus’s birth, and all the amazing gifts that we have been blessed with through His life, and the gifts of love and compassion that we can give to others.

So even if Jesus wasn’t born this time of year, this holiday isn’t about when He was born, but the fact that He WAS born. And the greatest thing about His birth is that He was born to die, so that we could be saved from our sins and live with him forever.

And while that is a blessing, this year I find myself frequently thinking about another often-overlooked gift from His birth. In these turbulent times where people are scared, lonely, depressed, despondent, and grief-stricken, there is an amazing gift tucked into the story of the angel telling Joseph that the virgin Mary would give birth to a son.

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ Matthew 1:23 NLT

What did that really mean? No sacrifices were needed, I didn’t have to do any special deeds, and no one had to pray to God on my behalf. I have direct access to God because He is now with me. When I invite Jesus into my heart, the presence of God is with me and will never leave me.

Because of Immanuel, God is with you. God is with me. Right here. Right now.

Despite whatever we are feeling, whatever we are going through, God is right here with us. And it’s all because of His son Jesus. He paved the way for God to be in the midst of whatever is happening right now in our lives. And this Christmas, that truth has brought me so much peace.

No matter what you’ve gone through so far, no matter how you’re feeling right now, never forget that God is there. He sees you, He knows you, and He is with you.

So maybe December 25th is not Jesus’ birthday after all, but it is the day we commemorate His birth and celebrate the gift that His life brings us.

The Creator of the universe is with us. What a gift!

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Do you believe God is with you? Or do you think He is off somewhere in heaven, beyond the sky, and you hope He hears you when you pray to Him?

Have you asked Jesus into your heart so you can have this amazing gift? This Christmas, I want you to really consider what it means to know that because of Jesus’ birth, God is now with you.

As we take this day to remember the gifts we have received from God, we can also find ways to bless others with the gift of love – be it with:

our time (giving ourselves)

our talents (sharing the unique abilities that God has given us)

our resources (giving our finances or tangible gifts)

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you travel through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!

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A Modern-Day Case for Tithing: I Dare You

To tithe or not to tithe?

Want to start an emotionally charged discussion? Just bring up the subject of tithing.

For those that have never heard a sermon or teaching on the topic of biblical tithing, it is the practice of giving 10% of your earnings or increase to the local church where you worship. It is not optional, but a debt that we owe to God, no different than the taxes we pay to the government.

I’m not going to get into a theological lesson about tithing beyond this. Some people argue that they tithe to those in need instead of directly to the church. The uniqueness of Christianity is that much of what we follow is based on faith, and different people believe and interpret the Bible different ways. While there may be many arguments and practices that people follow regarding tithes, going down that rabbit hole is definitely not the purpose of my writing today.

I was raised to tithe, and when we received birthday and graduation money, we paid our 10% the following Sunday in church. My mom taught us that however much we received, just move the decimal point over one space to the left, to determine our tithe. A $20.00 birthday gift resulted into a $2.00 tithe.

During the offering time, my father would read Malachi 3:8-14 every Sunday.

“WILL A MAN ROB GOD?”, his voice would boom through the microphone. “Yet you have robbed me…in tithes and offerings.” He read through the verses about robbing God, which would result in a curse. What kind of curse didn’t matter to me, I just knew I didn’t want it!

After I graduated from college and landed my first job, I continued tithing. I had already determined that I wasn’t going to ever rob God. A check was written in church the Sunday after each payday. And if I had to miss church (which didn’t happen very often), I would write the owed amount in my checkbook ledger to ensure I paid it the next time.

I can remember earlier in my marriage, when we had a new house, new baby, and the bills were mounting up, it didn’t seem like we had enough in our paychecks to cover our expenses AND pay tithes. I would pay our bills, and then whatever was leftover, pay a portion of our tithes, and once again write in my checkbook ledger how much I still owed God. I would keep a running tally until I received my annual bonus at work, from which I paid off the outstanding balance, along with the tithes from that amount. Then I would start again, and try to pay my 10% off the top, but eventually I would repeat the cycle again.

I was technically following the scripture, but there was a critical part I was missing:

Test me in this…[and see] if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be enough room to receive it. (verse 10 NIV and KJV)

I wasn’t fully following this scripture, as I didn’t always have the faith to first pay my tithes from my paycheck, and trust God to cover the rest of my expenses with the 90% I still had left over. But God is telling us to test Him by paying our tithes! He’s daring us to follow this scripture and see if what He promises will happen.

Technology soon helped with this – I finally decided that I was going to start showing my faith by taking my tithe out as soon as my direct deposit hit. Eventually my church had an online giving system, and I didn’t have to wait until Sunday – it came right out on payday.

I remember seeing a post that a friend, who was also a preacher, wrote about the rest of the scripture:

“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts. (verse 11 NKJV)

He shared that as a tither, God would handle my enemy by rebuking him when he tried to come for me, keeping him from destroying my possessions (fruit of my ground), and my vine would continue to bear fruit, meaning I would continue to be productive in my personal and professional endeavors.

And as a final promise:

“And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the Lord of hosts. (verse 12 NKJV)

Some desire to be rich, famous, or happy. There are a number of adjectives that can describe what people desire in life. Above all that, I’ll take being blessed, because there is nothing better than having God’s favor on my life.

I want to share a teachable moment that happened not long ago. My oldest daughter recently turned 16. Because we couldn’t have the big Sweet Sixteen birthday bash she had been dreaming about due to COVID-19, we had a Drive-By celebration instead and also invited family and friends to give financial gifts via the Cashapp electronic payment service. And many people blessed her financially for her birthday!

I wanted to open Kennedi an account with my bank, but because of the pandemic, some of the branches were closed. We had to wait for an in-person appointment, and a month later, we were finally able to open the account. But when we tried to access the Cashapp to transfer the money, it said no such account existed.

After trying multiple ways to access the account, I looked for a number to call customer service, but there was none – everything was handled online. What if I couldn’t get a hold of someone? I began to grow very anxious and prayed for God to help us with this situation. The next day we still couldn’t access the money and still hadn’t heard back from their Customer Service.

My frustration continued to grow, and as I was praying again, God reminded me of this scripture, and I prayed that he would rebuke the devourer and not allow her money to be gone. Then, I called Kennedi in and shared what just happened. I asked her to read these scriptures with me, and then explained because she paid tithes on all her birthday money, that she had these promises to hold on to, and that everything would work out.

The next day, we finally got a response from Cashapp, and within twenty-four hours she was able to access the account and transfer her birthday money over to her new checking account.

What a blessing it was to practically apply those scriptures in my daughter’s situation. I pray it is a seed sown for when she becomes an adult, she’ll remember God’s promise, continue to tithe willingly, and trust God to supply everything that she needs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to pay my tithes. And wouldn’t you know it, I still recite Malachi 3:10-13 before I press the button on my phone and send my tithe off to my church. Not that I need to, but I’m reminding God and myself of what will happen as a result of me obeying this biblical principle.

Next payday it’s your turn. Test Him… I dare you!

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Are you dealing with financial struggles and worries? Do you faithfully pay your tithes on any financial increase?

If not, won’t you make a goal in 2021 to trust the promises found in Malachi 3:8-14. What do you have to lose, except a window full of blessings that you won’t have room enough to receive, along with protective hand of God on your life. You can always trust Him to supply what you need.

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement.  Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!

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Why Should I Hope? What Exactly is it Anyway?

Faith.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this concept is actually the foundation of this entire ministry and blog. Most of the stories I write about are rooted in faith – believing God for things that have not yet happened.

Last night I started watching a series called Crazy Faith by Michael Todd. He reasoned that Faith started out as Hope, and it made me think of something I wrote almost 2 years ago about that very subject.

As loss, sickness, death, and hopelessness continue to spiral all around us, I can’t remember a time when we collectively needed hope more.

Hope is the seed from which Faith springs forth. It was impossible for me to have Faith without Hope.

I went back to my archives to find the blog I wrote. (you can find it here) I remembered there was a quote that had such a profound effect on me:

“Unlike the English word “hope”, the New Testament word contains no uncertainty; it speaks of something that is certain, but not yet realized…Without the clear and certain promises of the Word of God, the believer would have no basis for hope”. The MacArthur Study Bible

Luke’s Light, Facebook

All my life, I had been using ‘hope’ interchangeably with ‘wish’. When I said I hoped for something, what I really meant was that I wanted it, but I didn’t always fully anticipate it. Sometimes my position was – if it happens, then it happens. That was my definition of hope. And I didn’t always put too much weight on the things I was “hoping” for.

But the Hope that is needed to produce Faith required an expectation, and not merely a wish. I could no longer pray to God and then wish and cross my fingers that the things I prayed for would happen. I had to fully anticipate and expect what I prayed for.

As I read further down the blog, I reviewed my words declaring that I was expecting God to heal Kennedi’s completely torn ligament, even though at that point in early 2019 she was still in a brace, unable to jump or run. I had no idea that my hope would be realized ten months later, when an MRI would show her PCL completely healed, with no medical intervention.

But on that day, my mentality shifted, and I went from wishing she would be healed to expecting it, even though there was never any tangible indication that it would happen.

It was impossible for me to have Faith without Hope.

HOPE.

I could not get this word off my mind. Then I started humming the hymn, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less. I’ve heard this song since I was a little girl in church. Sometimes we sing songs that we’ve known forever but may not always focus on the words we are singing.

As I close out this week, I invite you to reflect on the words to this hymn, written in 1836 by Edward Mote, who grew up not even knowing there was a God. What a blessing that a beautiful song written so many years ago, can still speak to our very souls.

The chorus references the parable that Jesus shared in Matthew 7:24-27 about a wise man who built his house on a rock. And when the storms came, his house withstood because it was built on a firm foundation.

There was also a foolish man who built his house on the sand, and the storms demolished it.

As you read (or sing) the song, think about why you can have hope (expectation) about whatever it is that’s concerning you, worrying you, or keeping you up at night.

My hope is built on nothing less,

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly lean on Jesus name

When darkness hides His lovely face

I rest on his unchanging grace

In every high and stormy gale

My anchor holds within in the veil

His oath, His covenant, His blood

Support me in the whelming flood

When all around my soul gives way

He then is all my hope and stay

When He shall come with trumpet sound

Oh, may I then in Him be found

Dressed in His righteousness along

Faultless to stand before the throne

(Chorus)

On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand

All other ground is sinking sand

It is my prayer that you can exchange your worry and fear for Hope.

Hope in Jesus, and in the power of His sacrifice of giving up His life for you. He is the strongest and most secure foundation that you could ever build your Hope on, no matter what kind of storm you may face.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

What have you been hoping for? Praying for?

Have you built your foundation on Jesus Christ? Can you place your hope and security in His firm foundation?

If you don’t have hope in the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, consider inviting Him into your life today. There’s nothing or no one more secure!

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement.  Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!


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How To Be A First Responder In the Midst of Loss

As I was writing the story I planned to share this week, I received a text from an old friend. Her father had just passed away, and she was reaching out to let me know. Our families lived on the same block, and we grew up together. I knew him for as long as I could remember, and some of my earliest memories were of us playing outside together as children. Just last week I smiled after seeing him and his wife on my old wedding video.

Her next words caused a complete shift inside of me.

“I could sure use your words right now!!”

MY WORDS? I immediately stopped writing and prayed. My words are absolutely useless without God’s blessing on them. I asked for the right words to share with my friend in that moment.

Having been there 7 months ago, I recalled exactly how I felt the first morning I woke up after my brother’s death. My heart ached for the pain I knew she was feeling, and I just wanted to respond in a way that brought her a measure of comfort.

Sometimes when I write, I’m sharing a story of encouragement, or maybe a lesson that I’ve learned. And every now and then I find myself ministering through writing. Ministry doesn’t require a theology degree or authorization, but just a heart to serve someone in their time of need.

I don’t focus on what I’ve lost, but on what he gained. 

With my friend’s permission, I’m sharing those same words with you, and if you or someone you know is dealing with the loss of a loved one, or struggling during this holiday period as you remember loved ones, I pray this somehow lessons your grief ever so slightly.

My mind went back to that first morning I woke up and realized that Ty was gone. 

That feeling in your stomach that you just can’t get rid of, and the unbelievable space that you feel like you are in. Make sure you acknowledge every emotion you are going through as you grieve your dad. And draw upon that strength to be strong for your family. 

I pray that you come to know the comfort of God like never before. Know that He was not surprised by this and had been prepared for this moment since the day your dad was born. He will supply every intangible need that you have as you walk through this. Make sure He is your first option when you are overwhelmed. Give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to truly be what He is…your Comforter. That’s what He does and who He is.

I’m not going to be super spiritual because this is definitely a human encounter that we have to walk through, and we need to acknowledge both the spiritual and human aspect of it. Mr. Leroy saw the face of Jesus last night. He is chillin with Him today, and a huge reunion is going on with so many family members. I continuously thought about that after Ty passed and it brought me so much comfort. His race is done, he received his reward. And as he crossed that finish line, he heard the words, “Well done thy good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.” 

And sis, that is JOY he will experience forever more! And we bless God for this, in the midst of our pain.

I miss Ty, but I don’t focus on what I’ve lost, but on what he gained. 

By the time I finished writing, I had tears in my eyes. Grief is like that – it can creep up at any moment. But as I went through and re-read what I sent her again, my pain felt bittersweet. If only we could really know what our loved ones in heaven were truly experiencing. If we knew the level of euphoria that they were feeling in the presence of the Lord, the pain of their absence here may not hurt as much. And maybe we would anticipate the eventual day we will join them and experience it for ourselves.

As Believers, we know this life is only a temporary experience that we are passing through. We are literally living this life with the blessed hope of seeing our Lord in heaven when our designated time on earth has ended. When we take our last breath, our purpose in this human life will have been fulfilled and we’ll spend eternity in a place greater than our minds could ever comprehend.

As we are seeing unprecedented loss of life all across the world due to COVID-19, I invite you to be a minister to those who may be dealing with the death of a loved one. Maybe your ministry is listening? Or praying? Providing a meal? Recalling a happy memory? Sharing a scripture or encouragement? Or maybe sending a thoughtful card?

We are ministers of hope and comfort – God has given it to us, so that we could give it to others in their time of need. Won’t you pass it on?

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Today’s story is about the loss of life, but pray about how you can minister to someone who has experienced any kind of loss – Loss of homes, relationships, jobs, possessions, health, or even a loss of hope.

There is a minister inside of you. Ask God how you can meet their needs.

If you don’t have this hope in everlasting life that I shared today, as long as you are breathing, you have an opportunity to ask Jesus into your heart. Won’t you invite Him in today?

You can find more comfort at my previous blogs:

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement.  Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!


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What if God Had a Smartphone?

When I write, I want my words to be agents of change, causing my reader to re-think at least one aspect of their lives, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem. A long time ago in math class I learned that even the tiniest change in the direction of a vector (in this case, the path of our lives), will result in a much different endpoint or destination the further it is from the original location.

Every time we make a small adjustment in our lives, whether good or bad, it results in a significant change one, five, and even ten years down the road. And likewise, when we don’t make any changes, we shouldn’t expect anything to be different about us in the future.

When I first started writing, I would pray as soon as I sat down at my laptop – full of nerves, before proceeding to tell my story. But the more I write, the more confident I’ve become in my own abilities. The other day I was writing and realized that I forgot to pray first.

I NEVER want to write without inspiration from God, so when I realized my misstep, I immediately closed my eyes to pray and asked for guidance and anointing as I wrote, since only He knows the change that can result from my writing.

As I prayed, I smiled because I knew that I had immediate and instant access to God. I didn’t have to wait until He was ready for me to talk to Him. I didn’t have to stand in line while He was answering someone else’s prayer or take a number and wait for my turn. He was right there, waiting on me. I had immediate VIP access to His throne and His ear.

Now, how many times have I taken that for granted? For a long time I didn’t realize the extreme privilege of being able to talk to God any time I wanted and knowing that He is focused directly on me – my words, my heart, and my desires – and He intentionally hears me.

I’m not just saying words and hoping it gets to Him. I have His immediate attention as soon as I call His name. Now where else can I get that kind of response? Certainly not from my husband, kids, or friends. And if I’m being honest, I don’t give that kind of attention to them either. If I’m being completely and brutally honest, I don’t even return that kind of attention back to God.

Yep, there’s been times that I’ve felt Him leading me to do or say something, and I put Him on hold, as I felt the need to think through what I was being led to do. But I’m definitely working on responding with little to no hesitation when I feel Him leading me to do something.

It’s pretty embarrassing to admit it, but my phone does get a majority of my attention.

I’m sure this is a pretty common scene with parents: our kids call us, and we are busy on the phone and tell them to hold on until we are done what we are doing. Or maybe we keep our eyes on the phone while they’re talking to us, giving them our half-hearted attention?

What if we had to wait until God finished scrolling through Facebook or Instagram before He gave us His attention? Or until He finished His round of Candy Crush before turning His eyes to us? Or if He had to finish that episode of the Netflix series He was binging before answering our prayers?

Well, that’s something we will never have to worry about.

In Psalms 121 we learn…

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, not the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

What a reassuring reminder! We don’t have to wait until He gets off the phone or wakes up from His nap. We don’t have to follow a certain routine or perform a ritual to get Him to notice us. God is always watching over us and ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

It really is a privilege and an honor to have that kind of attention. Go ahead and utilize your direct connection to God often. He is standing by right now waiting to hear from you! What do you need to tell Him?

Make a small change today by talking to God regularly. Do it for your future self. 

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

When you pray, do you hope God hears you, or are you confident that His ear is dedicated to your voice, and He hears every word that you say?

Parents – how can we become more like God when responding to our kids? Are you putting down the phone or any distractions when they engage you to talk? Do they have your undivided attention?

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement.  Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!

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Why Would You Keep This Amazing Knowledge to Yourself?

Not long ago, I was driving on the highway with the girls, and as I glanced in my rearview mirror, I saw an absolutely beautiful scene unfolding in the sky. As the sun was setting, pink and purple streaks lined the clouds.

I’m an avid sky-watcher and when I see a magnificent sunrise or sunset, I whisper thanks to God for creating a unique picture of love just for me. The magnitude of His power and glory is reflected in the night sky filled with stars and dotted by planets.

I kept glancing out my window at that breathtaking sight. Usually I will point out a majestic sky to my daughters, but for some reason on that day, I was just content to enjoy it for myself.

It cost me nothing to share the beauty and joy of God’s creation with them. All I had to do was tell them to turn around, and they would have been able to enjoy that blessing with me. What was the point of selfishly keeping it to myself?

Telling someone else about Jesus is no different. He is the light of the world, who specializes in driving out the darkness and making beauty out of ashes.

I remember a time when I wasn’t as comfortable in sharing my faith, especially at work. About ten years ago I started managing a new team, and one of my co-workers was going back out on medical leave for chemotherapy after previous cancer treatments.

On the first day of my new assignment, he called me to introduce himself and during our conversation he bluntly told me he was not expecting to make it through this ordeal. In that moment, I felt indignation bubble up inside me, and I thought, ‘You don’t know who you’re talking to, but you’re on MY team now!’

And for the first time, I shared my faith at work. I don’t remember my exact words, but I do remember asking to pray with him.

My heart was pounding from nervousness, but I prayed a prayer of faith on that phone, imploring God to heal this man that I had never seen or met before. That day my life changed. I checked in with him throughout his medical leave, and when he returned to work, we became good friends.

And a decade later my friend is still alive. And I truly believe it was because I was courageous enough to move out of my comfortable “Jesus Zone”, where I keep Him all to myself and for my own benefit, while observing others struggling who would benefit from knowing about Him as well.

My friend refers to me as “having it in good with the big guy upstairs”, but my prayer is that he would have the same kind of relationship.

Some years later when I was managing a new group, a team member called me with devastating news – his family was being called to the hospital to say goodbye to his grandmother. He was audibly upset, and I remember feeling the same way that day, and I asked if I could pray with him before he headed out.

My heart was pounding again, but I reached out to the one I knew was a Healer. The next day, my co-worker called me and informed me that his grandmother’s condition had miraculously improved. And she was eventually discharged from the hospital.

As I think about my relationship with Jesus, He has been so many different things to me, which allows me to offer Him to others facing very different challenges.

How many times have we found an unbelievable deal while shopping, and excitedly pass the information on to others so they can benefit from it as well?

Are we that forthcoming when talking about Jesus, when He blesses us, brings us through a difficult situation, or answers our prayers? Shouldn’t we want others to benefit from the same blessings that come from knowing Him?

Because I know Him to be a Healer, why wouldn’t I tell someone who is sick about how He’s healed me and my family?

Because I know Him to be a Provider, I can encourage someone going through a tough financial time to take a chance and trust Him.

Because I know Him to be a Comforter, I can share His comfort with the broken-hearted who have lost a loved one.

And what about those who are completely lost? If I have found my purpose through Him, isn’t it my duty to share the Gospel with someone who is searching for meaning in their life?

If you’ve experienced the beauty and significance of a life with Christ, please don’t keep it to yourself. Why not share it with someone who would also benefit from such a connection?

That day while driving, I finally spoke up and advised “Girls, turn around and look out the window!” Their squeals, ‘oohs’, and ‘aahs’ confirmed that they were as impressed as I was. And in that moment, we were able to experience the delightful beauty of that sky together.

Just imagine how much more joy you could share with someone else. Go ahead and tell them your good news.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Do you really believe Jesus could change someone’s life?

Is there someone in your life that you’d be willing to share your good news with?

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement.  Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!

We’ve created these T-shirts as a great reminder for you to get through these trying times! You’ll not only be encouraged but you’ll be supporting this ministry by helping to send Hope and Encouragement through blogs, books, articles, and other media sources.

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How Was Your Behavior During This Election?

This past week has been one like no other. The 2020 US Presidential Election seems to have brought out the worst in some people. Parts of our country are bitterly divided by individual beliefs, values, and principles.

Civility was replaced with rude behavior.

Patriotism was replaced with partisanship.

Respect was replaced with contempt.

Courteousness was replaced with inconsideration.

This is the seventh Presidential Election I’ve voted in. If you’ve been keeping count, both parties have alternated in the highest office of the country over the past twenty-eight years that I’ve participated in the political process.

With some elections I was ecstatic with the results, and others not so much. One year I actually seriously considered leaving the country to work for one of my international clients at the time, because I was so unhappy with the person who was elected president.

But looking back, I realized I truly didn’t trust God with my life. My actions showed that my trust was in my anticipated earthly conditions and an unfound fear of the future. Looking back over all those years, it is so clear that regardless of who was in office, God’s hand was always on my life.

As I look at the current climate of our nation, I find myself often wondering, how did we get here? Where did the hate and animosity come from? Had it always been there, hidden just under the surface, or was this a new phenomenon in our nation’s history that we were experiencing?

Throughout this election cycle, I’ve had to continually check my heart’s condition. It’s very easy to get caught up with the harmful rhetoric going on in our personal circles – I don’t think any of us were immune to negative talk concerning the candidate we weren’t voting for.

People who call themselves Christians were (and still are) arguing with each other worse than the politicians on either side of Congress. How can people who read the same Bible, and serve the same Savior and Lord, walk such drastically different paths? I realize that different upbringings, different regions, and different experiences heavily shape our viewpoints, but how could we be that far apart from each other?

As I thought more about it, I concluded that this appeared to be a result of hardened hearts:

For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes – so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them. Matthew 13:15 NLT

Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. Ephesians 4:18 NLT

For those of us that claim to be Christians, we need to look in our Playbook for direction on how to respond in a way that will soften our heart. We are instructed to pray for our neighbors, community, country leaders and world leaders in order to bring peace to our world:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 NLT

When we pray for someone – I mean sincerely pray for them, God changes our heart towards them. There’s no way we can truly pray for someone with contempt in our heart for them. It just won’t work.

As we allow God to soften our heart when we pray for others, we will start to see them for who they are – flawed human beings – just like us.

We are all God’s children, no matter what someone looks like on the outside, how they act, how harmful their actions may be, or how badly they offend you. This doesn’t change the fact that God created them and loves them too. When we think of others this way, it should allow us to feel compassion for them, despite their shortcomings and failures.

Often when I’m in a crowd of people, I’ll notice a random face, look in their eyes, and remind myself that they were also created by God, and they’re just as important to Him as I am.

For some, it may be a hard concept to grasp sometimes, but in spite of someone’s physical features, family or personal history, level of education, or socio-economic status – God created each human being walking this earth uniquely and individually.

Some people (maybe even us if we’re being completely honest) walk around thinking they are better than others because they are not homeless, not strung out, not on government assistance, or maybe because they have a bigger house, drive a nicer car, are better educated, and have a well-paying job. Do any of those things really make you better than someone else? If so, in whose eyes?

For those followers of Christ, remember this all-important commandment He gave after instructing us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength:

The second [commandment] is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these. Mark 12: 31 NLT

I don’t think many of us are doing such a good job with following this all-important commandment. Are we putting equal importance and priority on loving others (especially those that may offend us or are so different than us), as we put on loving God?

When you love someone, you esteem them, and hold them in high regard. So, if we are following this commandment, we are treating others with a high regard. Even when we feel they don’t deserve it.

This week my sole purpose in writing is to remind readers to do a heart check.

Before you post, comment, or share that next post on social media, ask yourself:

Am I showing love?

Is there a more effective way to make my point?

Is my heart right? If it hasn’t been, it’s not too late to get it right. Make sure it stays soft, open, and loving toward others.

I have a sneaky suspicion that as soon as you consider praying for someone that you’ve never prayed for before – your heart will start getting softer.

So, who are you going to pray for first?

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Do you feel like you have had a cold heart during this election cycle against people who think differently than you? Do you have any relationships that need mending?

Will you commit to softening your heart towards others by praying for those that are so very different than you?

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!

We’ve created these T-shirts as a great reminder for you to get through these trying times! You’ll not only be encouraged but you’ll be supporting this ministry by helping to send Hope and Encouragement through blogs, books, articles, and other media sources.

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Not a Coincidence or Twist of Fate, But a Divinely-Directed Master Plan

After finishing a long week at work and virtual school for the girls, I was ready to kick off an extended weekend and celebrate my birthday. I had planned different things to do and foods (and desserts) to eat strategically throughout the next four days to mark another year of life.

Friday night, I planned to go to my church’s drive-by Harvest event for the children in our church. Due to COVID concerns with Halloween, our church wanted to provide a safe environment for the young people to celebrate.

I was running behind due to work and sent the Children’s Ministry team a quick note letting them know.  Then downstairs I heard my daughter calling me, as my aunt stopped by for a visit.

When I came down, she mentioned that she smelled gas in the house. I couldn’t smell anything but chalked it up to one of the girls cooking something on the stove. Kennedi just got her permit the day before and asked if she could go driving with my aunt, so they headed out and I went back upstairs to finish working.

When they returned, Kennedi called me back downstairs again. She smelled the gas too, and my Aunt Chris had a concerned look on her face. I walked around and sniffed harder, but everything smelled normal to me. After my aunt left, I went to shut my laptop down and planned to head over to the church, while Kennedi prepped to start cooking dinner.

My mind went back to an appointment earlier in the week for my washing machine. The technician mentioned a smell of gas when he entered our house. He had to go outside and get something and came back inside the house and mentioned the smell again. I was anxious to get my appliance working again, and because I didn’t smell anything, I left it alone. No one else in the house mentioned the smell of gas, so I didn’t think much of it.

As I sat at my desk, I considered blowing it off again, but then I reconsidered, especially given that this happened twice in one week. I remembered that my natural gas company had a section on their website for suspected leaks. I pulled the site up and called the number listed and explained what happened.

They advised us to leave the house and not touch anything, not even a light switch. They were sending an emergency technician to investigate. I advised the girls to get their coats and go outside. We got in the car and pulled away from the house (which I later learned was unsafe to do) and drove onto our street to wait. I called Kenny to let him know what was going on, and he advised that he was on the way.

I want to get to today’s lesson so I’ll make a long story short – we had a leak that was noticeable as soon as the technician and Kenny walked into the kitchen, and the fire department was called. Gas was turned off to the house, the gas was cleared from our home, and the source of the leak was identified. Our lives were spared that night; God turned the death angel away.

As I sat in the car while everything was transpiring, I thought to this week’s Play Prediction. Every morning during my prayer time, I ask the Lord to order my steps. When I pray this, I’m asking him to direct everything that happens, each step I take, and each decision I make. And I truly believe his ordering of my steps is why I’m here today to share my story.

When I trace back my path – and His ordering of my steps – to this moment in time:

  1. We invited my aunt to live with us back in March during the start of the pandemic as she recovered from a medical illness. She stayed with us for a little over three months and we taught her healthier ways to cook her food, which brought improvement to her condition. Because of our kindness, she stopped by Friday to secretly drop off a birthday gift for me – new pans to cook with.
  2. We had been trying to get the repair man to come out and fix the washing machine for over a week. Although I was irritated that it took so long to get the appointment, I now realize it was in God’s timing, as he would be the first warning for the gas leak.
  3. Kennedi turned sixteen almost a month earlier, but the driving school was backed up for appointments, so it wasn’t until three weeks after her birthday that she finally received her permit, the day before my aunt came over. And after my aunt took Kennedi out driving – they both were adamant about the smell of gas.
  4. If my aunt hadn’t stopped by, and if they hadn’t gone on their drive, Kennedi would have started cooking before the leak was discovered – using both the stove and the oven for her meal.

Steps Ordered.

Path Directed.

So many what-ifs in this story, and I refuse to believe anything that happened was a coincidence. Each and every instance was a step ordered. Because I asked God to order them and because I made a decision to acknowledge Him with my actions and in my life.

God ordering my steps also means no more procrastinating and putting off things when I feel an urge to do something or call someone. I don’t chalk anything up to coincidences anymore. If there is something for me to do, God will direct my path, and I must follow.

When we wonder why certain things are happening in our lives, and why other things are delayed, it’s important that we trust God, even when we don’t understand. This is actually the preceding verse to our Play Prediction:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 NKJV

These verses go hand-in-hand – First, we trust God. Then, we resist drawing our own faulty conclusions about our situation. Next, we acknowledge the Lord in everything we do. Finally, we allow Him to direct our way.

And the final lesson for today – if anyone ever says they smell gas, call the gas emergency line or 911. Better to be safe than…

May God bless and keep you.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Reflect over your life – can you point out areas where God has directed your path? Or have you believed all this time that it was a coincidence?

If there is a path or direction that you are unsure of taking, won’t you follow today’s Play Prediction and acknowledge God in your life and actions, and allow Him to direct the path you should follow?

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!

We’ve created these T-shirts as a great reminder for you to get through these trying times! You’ll not only be encouraged but you’ll be supporting this ministry by helping to send Hope and Encouragement through blogs, books, articles, and other media sources.

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A Gift or Weapon, What’s Your Intention When You Open Your Mouth?

My birthday is next week. For the last few birthdays, I have focused on a certain theme or character trait to develop in my life over the course of that year.

I remember year 42 was about being courageous, as a nod to Jackie Robinson, who wore that famous number when he had the courage to break through the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

One year it was setting boundaries, another centered on using wisdom in making choices. And over the last year I shifted my attention to living a ministry-focused life. The result was finally finishing the book I had been talking about writing for years. My work was also published in Guideposts magazine and this blog has readers in 31 countries! It’s humbling to know that people in Nepal, Slovenia, Niger, and Lebanon have read my words.

As I prepare for my next revolution around that great big ball of gas we call the Sun, I think I know what the Son wants me to focus on for this chapter of my life.

Last month my friend invited me to do a reading plan titled Living the Surrendered Life on the YouVersion Bible app with over twenty-five other people. It’s a 21-day devotional, and I’m on Day 14 even though we started over 40 days ago.

In my defense, I’m still trying to create a reasonable schedule within this new normal of the girls attending school virtually from home, physical therapy appointments, writing, and a plethora of other mostly virtual activities that pack my schedule.

Balancing that against my regular life of working full time and being a wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend among other roles; most days 18 hours is just not enough time to do everything. And yes, I know 6 hours of sleep is not enough. (Adding it to my list as well…)

But nonetheless, I’m making small tweaks to my life, and one day I will finish this plan. Being delayed is rarely a good thing, but in this case, it worked out in my favor, because Day 14 was written specifically for me and couldn’t have come at a better time.

The lesson is all about the words we use. Yes, the very words we choose to utter out of our mouths. I’ve struggled for years with controlling my tongue. A sharp retort, demeaning, hurtful and critical words, and gossip have always been my Achilles’ heel. I’ve worked on them over the years but they can still cause me to stumble some days.

But the tongue no man can tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:8 NKJV

That night, I heard my daughter crying in her room. When I went to check in on her, she was courageous enough to share with me some of her struggles, including how my words were impacting her. The words I chose to motivate her for school were having the opposite effect as it was just adding undue pressure on her.

We laid in her bed, both with tears in our eyes. I hated that I wasn’t doing a better job of guarding the words that came out of my mouth. And that I was causing pain to someone I loved so much, when I reacted recklessly, instead of responding thoughtfully.

I needed to do a better job developing kindness and self-control, those two fruits of the spirit that didn’t always come easy to me in the heat of the moment. But more than ever, I need to figure out how to hold my tongue, and not say anything that pops into my head without using a spiritual filter.

Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, but only that which is good for building up, that it may give grace to the listeners. Ephesians 4:29 MEV

Our words should be building up and encouraging those around us, extending grace. If only we can remember the power our words can have on someone else. Here’s another version of the same scripture:

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Ephesians 4:29 MSG

A gift. I never thought of my words in that way. We give gifts to those we care about, to show how much they mean to us, and to bless them. I want my words to reflect a blessing on those I come in contact with.

How can I speak with one voice in my blogs, inspiring people all around the world, and have a different voice in person that hurts those God has put in my everyday life?

Our words should be edifying – building up, not tearing down. This goes for family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and even political candidates. They are all God’s children – no matter how they act or what we think about them.

When we gossip, ridicule, tear down, or demean someone, we smell like rotten peppers (see last week’s blog here if you missed it).

It’s better to bite your tongue than to eat your words. Frank Sonnenberg

I fully intend to get this mouth under control, no matter how many times I have to bite my tongue, clench my jaws, and count to ten. I just hope it doesn’t take my entire journey on this next trip around the sun.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Each day evaluate the words you are using with the people around you.

Are you giving them the gift of kind and uplifting words? Or do you still need to work on getting your tongue under control?

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!

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Sin and Peppers at the Dinner Table

Lately when we head outside, an awful stench sometimes fills the air. You see, we live down the street from a major pepper processing plant.

I don’t remember it being this strong in past autumns, and usually we only smelled the odor when we drove by the plant after leaving the house.

But this year our noses seem to get attacked as soon as we walk out of our house. Sometimes it’s so bad that it makes me gag.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to the girls at the dinner table. We were discussing some of their friends at school. As we discussed one particularly close friend she has had since elementary school, Kennedi mentioned that he identified as gay. Then she felt the need to explain, “But mom, he still says he believes in God and the Bible and nothing has changed.”

I wanted to seize the opportunity to have this important conversation. In the past few years as they’ve transitioned from elementary into middle and high school, they have shared that different friends and classmates are identifying as LGBTQ.

It is important to me that my daughters do not judge people or treat anyone differently. I’ve always tried to instill showing the love of God to everyone, no matter how different they may be from the girls.

But in some Christian communities, same-sex relationships are somehow viewed differently than other sins mentioned in the Bible. Yes, it is mentioned in the Bible, regardless of what one’s interpretation of whether it is a sin or not. It is a personal conviction, based upon each believer’s personal relationship with God. I dare not judge.

Romans 1:26-27 is a common scripture referred to in the discussion of same-sex relationships. But if you keep reading down to verses 29-31 there are other behaviors called out: wickedness, fornication (sex with ANYONE you’re not married to), evil, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, God-haters, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, disobedience to their parents…

With a list like that, I’m not one to point the finger at anyone who exhibits a way of life found in those scriptures. If I’m being honest, some of my past and present indiscretions are found on that list as well. Between me and God, I’ve overcome some, but for others I’m still a work in progress.

I think it would be quite difficult to find someone that has never displayed any of those actions. It’s another reminder of this truth that we find in our Playbook:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 NKJV

Back to my dinner table: I responded to Kennedi that just because he likes boys doesn’t mean he didn’t believe in God. And that there were plenty of other sins called out in the Bible that people commit even though they claimed to believe in God.

One of the girls indicated that all sin was bad to God, right? I responded yes, and that I didn’t believe God categorized degrees of sin. I further explained that when they disobeyed me, it was as offensive to God as any other sin that they may think is much worse, like murder. Although society judged sins differently, all sin separated us from God.

To drive my point home, I thought about those smelly peppers. I explained that the pepper plant down the street probably processed different types of peppers – red, yellow, green, and orange. I told them to imagine that each type of pepper was a different sin. Maybe sex outside of marriage was an orange pepper, lying could be a red pepper, and stealing might be a yellow pepper.

I further explained that as we smelled the air, we couldn’t distinguish which type of peppers were distinctly contributing to that terrible aroma we were subjected to almost every day. We just knew the scent came from peppers.

In that same manner, all sin was repulsive to God. While we are down here trying to judge which sins were the worst, they are all emitting a disgusting odor to a Holy God.

So instead of judging others, let’s focus on getting ourselves clean so that our aroma is pleasant and pleasing to God. The only cleaning product we can use is the blood of Jesus.

When He died on the cross for us, the blood He shed has the power to wash us completely clean from our dirt, sin, and shame – all of that unrighteousness mentioned in this week’s scripture – which leads to our unpleasant odor.

Don’t forget this dinnertime lesson the next time a wretched scent attacks your sense of smell. After covering your nose, take the time to be sure you are not emitting an equally offensive spiritual smell to God.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Do you find yourself judging other people’s behaviors while excusing your own? Today’s lesson is a great reminder to focus inward on the behaviors that we need to change, while recommitting ourselves to show the love of God to others around us, regardless of their choices, behavior, or way of life.

If you find yourself judging someone, stop and then simply pray for that person.

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!

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2020: The Interruption of Everything, but Why? A Personal Reflection

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the ten plagues in Egypt in the time of Moses and can’t help but wonder if there is a lesson in that story that relates to what we are going through now.

There have been catastrophes across the country, unlike anything many of us have seen in our lifetime. An unprecedented number of forest fires burning through the Northwest, a record-breaking number of hurricanes causing widespread damage and flooding, and sightings of murder hornets and spotted lanternflies – each threatening our already delicate eco-system, to name a few.

We are also in the midst of a bitter election where sides have been drawn, friendships and families torn apart, and our country is divided by severe racial tensions boiling over after years of inequal and unjust policies and practices.

How did we get here? After a week of major sporting event cancellations, I remember waking up with a strong pull to go straight to the grocery story on March 13. Feeling that this was the Holy Spirit directing me, I headed out and went aisle by aisle to get food and supplies to last us through a couple of weeks. By the time I completed the last row, my cart was full, and I had to keep one hand on the top to keep items from falling out, while struggling with the other hand to steer the cart.

Later that evening, we received word that the schools were closing down for a few days. We cancelled all plans for that weekend, which included attending my sister-in-law’s bridal shower.

I’ve always described myself as having low-risk tolerance, meaning I’m not willing to take risks that most others wouldn’t even consider risky. That makes me a great project manager at work, but not so popular with family and friends as many thought I was being over-protective and over-cautious by my behavior.

Eventually our state, along with some others implemented curfews to keep people safe at home. The roads were clear, people were home with their families, spending time together like they never have before.

In my home, it was a reconnection that was long overdue. Every night brought an interesting discussion and sometimes a game at the dinner table, which hadn’t ever happened before COVID-19. Previously, dinner had usually been eaten individually and sometimes on the go as we rushed off to our separate activities.

As I contemplated what was going on around me, I continued to seek God for the purpose in halting and rearranging my life. Was there a lesson here? Was there something I was supposed to do? What did I need to change?

In those initial months it seemed like many areas had settled down and were just waiting. Reports showed that the atmosphere was cleaner due a to significant reduction in pollution. Social media showed new recipes being attempted, home projects being completed, and new ventures being started. Some people were using this life interruption to bring out positive changes.

But after a while, fatigue seemed to set in. Even though the threat of a COVID-19 infection didn’t decrease, the general tone of society gradually changed. I heard on more than one occasion, “I have to live my life” or “We just can’t stop living because of this virus.”

Every time I heard that, my mental response was always, “Yes, but what does God want us to do?” I’ve found myself wondering exactly how long did those ten plagues last? Each new plague occurred because the previous old one didn’t cause Pharaoh to change his heart.

What if God is trying to change us, but instead we are stubbornly trying to hold on to our pre-COVID life?

Throughout this pandemic, I’ve really tried to look at the bigger picture. God – what are you trying to teach us? What should I be turning from? What should I be turning toward? In which direction should I be going?

I’ll admit, sometimes I feel lost, but yet secure. I don’t know what’s going on, or what the future holds, but I do know God has it all planned out. So daily I just ask Him to order my steps, to show me what I should be doing.

For someone who is used to constantly planning her life – usually months and months ahead, to be living day to day is a new experience. But that is bringing out a new dependency on God. Instead of forging ahead until I get stuck and then asking Him to guide me from there, I’m first looking for guidance before I take a step.

This is a strange place to be in, but it is probably the most peaceful space that I’ve ever been in. So, I’m gonna keep leaning on God, seeking Him, and drawing upon His strength as I continue through this unpredictable season. And looking for the lesson along the way.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

How has your life been interrupted in 2020? What are you doing in response? Are you seeking God or your own convenience? Are there any ways you want to change your response?

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!

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Is This What Winning Looks Like?

It’s hard to believe I’ve been sharing our stories to encourage readers for two years. What a journey – one I clearly didn’t expect to evolve this way. Milestones are an ideal time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.

In 2018, we kicked off the club track season fully expecting the girls to excel, culminating at the Junior Olympics, which were being held at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro that year. In addition to watching the girls and their teammates compete, I was looking forward to traveling to a new city and its historical sites, along with visiting family and friends in that region along the way.

I really enjoyed the experiences we had visiting each city when we traveled for the girls meets, but they were not relaxing trips where we could rest and rejuvenate from our busy lives. So that year our trip also included a week at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This would be the first family vacation we had taken since Kennedi started running in 2012.

Back then, I just remember feeling so content about the direction our life as a family seemed to be heading in. I will never forget driving to track practice that day in June and discussing blog names with the girls. I wanted to start capturing all the challenges we were experiencing during their athletic endeavors.

My writing would be focused on victory, and I was going to invite the world into our joy of experiencing success with the girls’ sports.

We based the name on all the scriptures that I would declare over our family each week – whether it was for our finances, relationships, health, sports, or another concerning situation.

For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. 1 John 5:4 NLT

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31b NLT

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 NKJV

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2: 14a NKJV

The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4:b NIV

Those scriptures guaranteed our victory, right? God was going to win each and every battle, and I had nothing to worry about. Yes, I may face a bump or roadblock here or there, but I’d eventually get through it.

If you’ve been following our story since then, you’d know that we’ve had our share of difficulties, starting with Kennedi’s injury while competing less than a month later. The bumps were more like mountains, and the roadblocks turned out to be extended detours.

But when we received the miraculous report of Kennedi’s healing at the start of this year, I fully anticipated 2020 being full of powerful stories of the victories documenting her return to track.

So far, this year has not turned out the way any of us anticipated. I found myself reflecting on this blog, this ministry, and my life. Every week I was writing to encourage others, but I certainly didn’t always feel victorious.

Kennedi’s return was cancelled before she got a chance to run her first race. Then came Kassadi’s diagnosis and subsequent knee surgery, which brought some emotional struggles during her physical recovery. Our family was still dealing with the pain of my brother’s death from COVID-19, then the end of the summer brought destruction from a post-hurricane storm to our home. And now we were fighting with the insurance company to cover our loss.

I began questioning the very name of this ministry. Where was this Dub that I was destined for? In each situation I faced, I knew the Word, declared the Word, stood on the Word, but the outcomes were not what I was believing for God to do.

Maybe I had the wrong definition. I thought about Jesus’ very words:

I have told you all this this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NLT

“Many trials and sorrows” – that sounded about right. Despite all these challenges in my life, I’ve realized the name still holds true, and this journey has left me with a powerful message, one that I had not considered when first starting out. Victory means something very different than what I thought it did two years ago in my car.

As we open Chapter 3, our name is taking on a new meaning. Because we are Destined 4 the Dub, that means:

  • God gets the glory in every situation we encounter.
  • God’s victory may look very different than my definition of victory.
  • Victory does not mean all my prayers get answered the way I want, or the story ends the way I want it to.
  • Victory means I have surrendered my situation totally over to God and have released my will to His.

I think back to when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He did not want to face the brutal death that the cross would bring. But He still submitted to God by responding, “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.”  

A few days later, He woke up from His grave winning the greatest victory that mankind has ever seen.

May we all resolve to live confidently for our victory that lies ahead, that no matter what we are going through, what we are praying for, and what our situation currently looks like – we will still confidently and courageously end our prayer with, “nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.”

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

Do you have a milestone approaching, a birthday or anniversary of a significant event in your life? During your time of reflection, determine what you thought victory would look like. Can you leave the situation in God’s hands and submit your will to His?

Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement. 

Follow Destined 4 the Dub for the Inspiration each week as we journey through the highs and lows of life!

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