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God is My Spiritual Life Jacket

3 Feb

Life can be hard. What an understatement.

Day after day, the waves of life crash upon us – relationships, work, school, family, community obligations, finances, health issues, fears, worries, anxieties…never ending. For awhile, we can keep our heads above the commotion, but just barely. Like a duck swimming on a lake, what appears calm from the surface is nothing more than a charade as he kicks frantically under the water.

We too, may be frantically trying to appear calm and totally put together. In a world of social media, everything has to be picture perfect, just right. These impossible standards of perfection – in photos of our homes, with our significant other, of our children or pets, or even while on vacation – can leave many drowning in a sea of “I’m not good enough,” or “why can’t my life look like that,” or “this isn’t fair, that should be me.”

In these times of desperation, we find ourselves fighting to latch on tighter to the things we believe we can control, the very things pulling us farther under the waves. Fear and anxiety are debilitating and slowly we begin losing the battle to stay afloat.

But God…

As I was driving to church this morning I heard an analogy that spoke to me. God wants to be our spiritual life jacket, our ONLY life jacket. Too many times people cling tightly to work or friends or money. These things can too easily slip though our fingers, leaving us feeling alone and utterly exhausted in the waves of life. ONLY when God wraps his loving, protective arms around us can we fight less fervently to stay afloat, He is there to support us in our times of weakness and exhaustion. Lean on Him and find your rest. Trust that even in the middle of the chaos, God will be there to keep you a float.

I must have really needed this message today, because our worship band sang about it, too. If you haven’t heard Not Afraid by Jesus Culture, listen to it immediately.

When I go through the waters, I won’t be over come

When I go through the rivers, I will not be drowned

My God will make a way so I am not afraid

God isn’t looking for perfect people, He loves us just as we are, right now. For 2019 I have chosen Brave as my word of the year. I want to become more brave in all areas of my life – my walk with God included. As someone who likes to plan and be in control, relinquishing that to God has proven to be difficult for me in the past. I see now that I was refusing to accept Him as my life jacket. I am making a conscious effort to bravely trust that God has a plan for my life, especially if it is different than my “plan.” For many years I tried to do it alone, and wound up exhausted and utterly spent emotionally. It’s time to give it all to God – there’s nothing to fear because He is my spiritual life jacket.

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Forbidden Love at the Counter Bar

18 Sep

The following creative writing was based on Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

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Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, 1942. Public Domain

The September night air was chilly, but not wanting to wrinkle her new red dress, Mackenzie opted to leave her coat at home. She hadn’t wanted to go out this evening, but Spencer had insisted. Another contract had fallen through and he was looking for a distraction.

Knowing the way the evening would play out before they even left home, Mackenzie  mentally prepared herself. She would say all the right things, nod at the perfect moments and even offer an understanding hand squeeze from time to time, just as she had done the previous three times this quarter. It was always the same conversation. Repetitive. Predictable. Unstimulating.

Even the restaurant and the counter bar seats were the same. They each ordered their usual meals. After Spencer had articulated the unfairness of his situation for the third or fourth time, recognizing the conversation finally exhausted, each became lost in their own thoughts, seemingly forgetting the other’s presence. Mackenzie braced herself for another long, lonely evening, void of flirtatious banter and riveting storytelling from their early days of dating.

She didn’t notice when he walked in – staring unseeingly out the glass wall into the dimly lit street. Nor did she see him select a stool at the bar to her right. It was only when he spoke that her heart was awaken.

“Coffee. Dark please.” Three words, spoken quietly to the bartender, thundered through her ears. Without taking her gaze from the window, Mackenzie could visualize the speaker’s face. It had appeared in her dreams freaquently, always just out of reach. Her cheeks burned red, matching her dress. She shifted her gaze quickly to her plate.

Goose bumps raced up and down Mackenzie’s arms causing her to shiver – Spencer never noticed. Her heart ached. Jeremy. Out of all the restaurants in Cleveland, he was here. And so was she, with another man.

Jeremy and Mackenzie had met only a handful of times prior to tonight. While their exchanges had been short, somehow he had made a lasting impression upon her. An aura of confidence surrounded him. Sitting tall on his stool, he appeared relaxed and at ease in the nearly empty restaurant. Mackenzie longed to move to his side, wondering if he’d even noticed she was at the same counter.

Her breathing slowed, not wanting to make any sudden movements and draw attention. Mackenzie told herself she was content to fantasize from a distance, but knew that was a lie. In reality, she was terrified of Jeremy’s potential rejection. She chanced a glance in his direction – he was watching her. How long had he been staring? He surely isn’t watching me?

Her breath hitched as their eyes locked. Captivated by Jeremy, Mackenzie couldn’t pull her gaze away. He took his time studying her face, his eyes darkening upon noticing her somber expression and the way she infinitesimally leaned away from Spencer’s side, her hand a whisper away from his, not touching. Jeremy took a sip of his coffee. Fist clenched tight. What was he thinking? At last his eyes released hers and Mackenzie was filled with an emptiness like she’d never known before.

For the smallest amount of time, she had been the center of someone’s world once again. Her heart twisted and jerked, not wanting to let those warm feelings go just yet. Her mind raced for something to say to him, just to hear his voice once more. She longed to be his, and quickly wiped the tear that escaped while her emotions ran rampant.

Jeremy paid for his coffee and left without giving Mackenzie a second glance. She wished she hadn’t come out tonight.

 

 

Hello, Santa.

29 Nov

Did you have parents who would threaten to call Santa Claus at this time of the year if you started misbehaving? I sure did! There is no sentence quite as terrifying as “I’m telling Santa you’re being bad” to a youngster. Well, now that I’m the adult (haha, when did that happen!?), I had my first opportunity to play the “Santa Card” this evening.

On my way home from work I decided to call and chat with my cousin, Mandy, about our upcoming day-trip to New York City. She had just picked up her two little boys, Paul (nearly 5) and Ryan (3), from her mom’s and was heading home. However, she needed to make a quick stop at Goodwill to find a sweater she could DIY for her company’s ugly Christmas party. Not wanting to take the boys in with her, she asked if I would meet her at the store (it’s next to my apartment complex). Less than a 5 minute walk later, she was explaining that the boys were watching a movie and she’d only be a few minutes. Easy peasy, I’ve got this!

All was fine and dandy until the car turned off – you know, like the 10 minutes you have after turning off the car before the radio goes out. Thinking the boys’ movie would come back on like the radio by turning the key, I gave it a try – unsuccessful, although we were greeted by some lovely Christmas tunes! This is when the boys lost it.

At that moment they wanted nothing more to do with “Auntie” and wanted mom now. They began messing with the windows, which I had thought were locked. This wasn’t enough for them – they start chucking little pieces of bread and paper out the widows into the parking lot as I am frantically trying to figure out which buttons control their windows and which button will prevent them from putting them down once more. All the while, I can see Mandy waiting not-so-patiently in line with two sweaters.

Finally, FINALLY,  I located the right window buttons, and using the boys’ middle names, get them to keep their fingers and toes inside the vehicle. And just like that, the screeching and fake crying begins – “you’re mean. I don’t want you here.” Is that music to all disciplining adults? Ignoring them, I attempt to communicate telepathically with Mandy that her sons are having a meltdown. Although I didn’t get through to her, Scott must have sensed something was up, because he called at that exact moment and inspiration struck!

Me: “Hello Santa.”

Scott: “Santa? What?”

Me: “Why yes, Santa. I am in the car with two little boys who aren’t being very good right now.”

Scott: “Oh, I see what you’re doing now.”

Mandy has completed her transaction and is making her way to the car.

Me: “Santa, their mom is coming. I’ll have to call you right back.”

Jumping out of the car I quietly and quickly explained the phone call and that her boys might ask about Santa now. She just laughs, finding the whole situation hysterical! Back in the car, she asks her boys about their behavior and our phone call with Santa before proceeding to show me her sweaters. After a few moments, this little voice from the backseat pipes up.

Paul: “Riah, can I see your phone?”

Me: “Why do you need my phone?”

Paul: “I need to call Santa.”

Mandy and I just glance at each other and try desperately not to laugh.

Me: (thinking quickly) “I’m sorry buddy, we can only talk to Santa once a week and we just used our phone call. You’ll have to wait until next week.”

Paul: (considers this for a moment) “Okay, then we can tell him I’m being good now.”

Me: “Absolutely, buddy!”

Who knew playing the Santa Card could be so much fun?!

Come Gather at The Well 

4 Oct

For the last year and a half, I have had unbreakable evening plans for the first Tuesday of every month. You see, during this hour and a half block of time, I gather at The Well with women of all seasons of life who are each experiencing a uniquely different relationship level with God. While we don’t meet at an actual well that pumps water to drink, we meet at the spiritual well where the water runs deep. 

Where does that name, The Well, even come from you might be asking. It comes from biblical times when women would gather at the well, often in the morning, to draw water for their families. Without water they wouldn’t survive. In John 4 we read about Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. She was all alone, choosing to come get water in the evening when the other women had gone. This alone speaks volumes – she was not accepted by the other women because of the lifestyle she had been living. BUT GOD still loved her. He still pursued her. He still wanted to give her his living water:

“Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” ‭‭John‬ ‭4:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Our church’s women’s ministry was established by two women who felt God calling them to share their journey of building a relationship with Him with other women. It’s not always hearts and flowers – we dig deep, exposing fears, regrets, anguish, the lies we believe about ourselves, our hurts and hang ups. Many times there are tears. This living, running water, which is moving within each of us, reminds me that I’m not alone. Someone out there, another women, has felt, experienced, and grown through similar troubles. 

Each month our time together centers around a different theme. Last night we examined friendship. Our two hosts had invited their four best friends to join them on stage for a “round table” discussion. Picture this – stunning, long wooden table with six elegant and Godly women seated together. They were a beautiful group. Love radiated from each women as she spoke about their special bond of friendship, which was born out of a need to connect and rally around one another in times of heartache and pain, and is strengthened by each women’s individual love and relationship with God. 

As evident by the friendship that was before us, life was not meant to live in isolation. We need close companions and friendships. And those extreamly close relationships they likened to a table with limited seating. 

They asked us to reflect upon our own lives and think about the following questions:

  1. Think about your life’s table. How many seats are available and who is sitting in those seats? 
  2. What prerequisites do you have for those who occupy those seats? 
  3. What fruits are the people at your table bringing? 
  4. What conversations are you partaking in?
  5. Who do you trust with your life? 
  6. Who’s truth do you value the most? 
  7. How are you growing from this relationship? 
  8. What are YOU giving to this relationship?

The enemy wants to isolate us. We are easier to attack when we are lonely and I can personally attest to that. This stage in my life I would describe as lonely and because of that, difficult. Yes, I have my family, boyfriend, and some friends out of state to lean on, but I don’t have a friendship rooted in God’s love. 

The six friends described their friendship as a place of:

  • Trust
  • Depth (friendship and spiritual level)
  • Encouraging
  • Honesty (Ephesians 4: 2)
  • Real
  • Sacrifice 
  • Love
  • Willing to get uncomfortable
  • Fortify (Protect/strengthen against attack, provide, surround)
  • Patient
  • Steadfast
  • Guide in wisdom
  • Rejoice
  • Grieve together
  • Vulnerable
  • Interceding on their behalf in prayer
  • Permission to speak truth and love – I seeing you doing X and I love you too much to keep doing it, to keep ruining your life

Those women are willing to bare the scars of pain and uncomfortableness for their friendship because that’s when they grow. We were encouraged to be very selective of the friends we are relying on for the most strength and reminded the best relationships are made up of the best forgivers. 

We were reminded of the many women’s groups available through the church to meet fellow Christian women – MOPS (Mothers of preschoolers), Mom’s Next (mother’s of elementary school children), Wednesday Night/Thursday Morning/Sunday Morning women’s bible study groups, and so on. I struggled with this part because I don’t feel like there is a group of women my age, who aren’t married, who’ve never had children. I’m too old for the young adult class and not a mother (where the majority of the women my age are meeting). Yes I attend the Wednesday evening bible study when I can, but even in that class, I’m one of the youngest. I often find myself wondering where I fit in at church? Where are the other nearly 30, single, non-mothers like myself hiding?

We all need an honest, insightful, God-speaking friend, who in times of trial, will remind us,  “You can have your moment, but you can’t stay there.”

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Romans‬ ‭12:9-13‬, ‭NLT‬‬

Listening to their stories, there was one woman who described herself as an introvert and I could see myself in many of the things she was saying – difficult to meet friends, never felt 100% accepted by other women, always quiet, searching to fill a void. In my seat my heart was screaming – that’s me! I feel that way right now! Her next words stopped my mental anguish – “I prayed for God to send me a friend and I was blessed with five women who are extroverted. My life is a lot more fun now.”

Pray for a friend? Really? Could it be that simple? That innocent? Could I be that open, honest, and raw? It can. Surrender it to God. He will give you more than what you could ever even think to ask for.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians‬ ‭3:20‬, ‭NLT‬‬

 I’m going to be braver than I’ve ever been before. Tonight, Lord, I ask that you open my eyes to the people around me. Help me to form and kindle relationships with women who will be able to draw me closer to you through their friendship. Lord, teach ME how to be that friend for someone else. I am lowering my walls, Lord, so that your truth, light, and spirit may fill my heart and soul with a deeper peace, love, feeling of acceptance than I have ever known. Lord, I don’t want to do life on my own anymore – guide me to my tribe of women would will fortify me and I them. You know the plans you have for my life and I know that includes friends. Show me, Lord, where to find them. 

Just Breathe®

22 Aug

Disclaimer: I am not an essential oil advocate. Below is my personal experience using dōTERRA products. This post is not sponsored and I did not receive products for free to review. 

Some mornings you wake up ready to tackle the day…other mornings, you wake and feel the day tackling you. I have had such a morning the past two days.

After a night of tossing and turning, coughing and hacking, it’s hard to muster the energy to open my eyes, let alone stand. Standing sets off the alarm bells in my head – something isn’t quite right. That’s when I notice the pressure and tightness that have inhabited my lungs during the night. As a former asthmatic, these symptoms used to send my anxiety into overdrive as it was never long before my airways began to close and breathing became too difficult. Back then, I had to rely on man-made medications administered through an inhaler or nebulizer to force my lugs open once more. But those days are long gone!

Now, as the weather starts to get cooler, and the pollens start to fly, there’s no reason to panic. About four years ago, I traded in my man-made medications in exchange for God’s all natural medication in the form of essential oils. As an individual with a history of severe allergic reactions to medications, I feel so blessed to have all natural alternatives.

This morning, when I felt that tightness grip my lungs, I headed straight for the refrigerator. That seems like an odd place to go at that particular moment, doesn’t it?! Within that chilly fortress lives my saving grace during moments of breathing difficulty – my dōTERRA Breathe® vapor stick.

This amazing product eases discomfort through a cooling and soothing vapor. I like to keep mine in the refrigerator for a few reasons: 1. During the heat of the summer, I noticed it began to “melt” while sitting out on the counter, and 2. For me personally, when I can’t breathe, I often feel overheated at the same time. The coolness applied to my skin aids in lowering my body temperature and allowing me to feel like me again.

With just a swipe or two over my chest, relief is moments away. And it couldn’t be any easier to use – it honestly looks like a giant chapstick! While I don’t have children of my own yet, I imagine it would be so easy to use on a sleeping little one during times of sickness or discomfort. Another time I love to use this product is right before I exercise – once again it keeps my lungs functioning properly and helps to keep me a bit cooler!

Have you tried dōTERRA’s Breathe® vapor stick? Share your experience with me in the comments below! Let me know if there are any other ways you use Breathe®!

The Great American Eclipse

21 Aug

Every since I was a little girl I have been fascinated by all things space – the moon, stars, sun, I wanted to know about everything! I can remember many summer nights spent with my Papa in the field learning about the constellations and how to use a telescope. In elementary school, I even had this crazy idea that one day I’d become an astronaut (it was even my Halloween costume – my mom is crazy creative and talented!)

Sadly, math and science just weren’t my strong areas, and I let go of orbiting the Earth one day. However, my love for outer space has never waned, I have just found new ways to enjoy it – mostly through books and YouTube videos. 

As the country prepared for The Great American Eclipse of 2017, I too was excited. However, knowing I would be at work, and likely unable to be outside for the duration of the spectical, I decided not to waste money on glasses I wouldn’t get to use. But something amazing happened – I worked an event on Friday evening which meant I’ve have to use 4 hours of comp time this week. And what better day than TODAY to use that free time!

After a little investigative work online, I discovered our local library had Solar Eclipse glasses. After standing in a long line for almost an hour, I was lucky enough to get a pair for myself and to surprise Scott at work with his own pair. He’d been using a welders helmet one of his coworkers brought in. 

I Had the PERFECT viewing spot of the eclipse from our balcony. It was nice being under a bit of shade to protect my sensitive skin from burning. I also managed to capture one good shot of the eclipse by taping my glasses over my iPhone’s camera. 


What an amazing experience this was to see! I may not have been in the path of totality, but I did notice the birds stop singing and the temperature drop slightly. Our sun is so amazing! Experiences like this make me really appreciate the beauty and wonder all around us! 

Who’s ready for the next one on April 8, 2024?! I am – because when it’s time for that one, I WILL BE IN THE PATH OF TOTALITY! How cool is that?!

Ms. DIY

10 Jul

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a crafty nature. As a small child, I loved to color and draw, although just like my mother, I soon discovered I was not artistically inclined. Still, that has never stopped me from creating little doodles on scraps of paper or along the edges of my school notes. Writing came naturally to me, which is probably what prompted me to begin journaling and writing fiction stories at the young age of eight. Over the years I’ve discovered other creative outlets as well – scrapbooking, photography, gardening, and music to name a few. 

This past week I have enjoyed a much-needed staycation. During this time off, I discovered yet another creative pass time I enjoy – home projects! I don’t know why exactly, but there is something so satisfying about creating something new out of dozens of mismatched looking pieces.

I had two big projects and one small decor project to tackle. In the year and a half of living in our apartment, I have used plastic shelving to store all of my clothes and felt it was time to upgrade to a more functional and astetically pleasing solution. So I ran to Walmart and found a four drawer Sauder dresser in espresso and a Better Homes & Garden eight cube storage unit also in espresso. Single-handedly (and quite awkwardly) I maneuvered those long, heavy boxes from our parking lot, up a flight of stairs and into our bedroom. 

Then the fun began – assembling each unit.       


Others, who are more furniture assembly inclined, probably would have been able to put the units together much faster than I did. In my defense, this was my first go round, and I had never before seen a hidden cam and cam dowel, let alone had any idea how to instal them. Luckily for me, my instructions came with detailed step-by-step pictures and links to online tutorials. I also looked up assemble reviews on YouTube, figuring I could learn from the wisdom and mistakes of other who have assembled before me. 

In the end, the dresser took me just under four hours to complete. The most time consuming part – the drawers! I tried to build two at the same time, doing one step on each before continuing, but that seemed to slow me down even more. The eight cube storage unit only took me about an hour and a half, thankfully! Hardest part turned out to be keeping the cross sections connected and straight while adding and fighting the side pieces. In the end, I am very please with how each piece turned out and I love the clean, finished feel they add to the room. The next big decision is what kind of curtains to get, but that’ll have to wait for another day!


My decor project is one I’ve had planned since Christmas. I saw a photo of a Roman numeral clock with the flying silhouettes of Peter Pan, Wendy Darling, Peter and Michael in an Etsy shop. Rather than spend $30 – $40 for someone else to make me the clock, I decided then and there to make my own! It took a few months to track down the right clock and the one I found had a gold rim that I decided to spray paint black. When it came time for the silhouettes, I lucked out because my mom has multiple Disney Cricket cartridges and had all of the characters in the positions I wanted. I even opted to add a tiny Tinker Bell to my design. We cut the characters out of scrap paper to get the sizing right before cutting the final pieces out of black sticky vinyl. The end result gave me chills – I think it looks like a clock you’d find in a Disney gift shop!

Look around at my projects, each piece, the colors, designs and shape help to express who I am as an individual. Already looking for new projects to occupy my time during my next chunk of free time (last week in August when my summer class ends and right before fall semester begins). What projects have you worked on lately?