Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tis The Season

This is and has always been my favorite time of the year. I am a Christmas nut! I would be one of those weird people who would have decorations year round if I could. I have been playing Christmas music since October. I have already watched Elf and Home Alone more than once this month. I love the feeling that Christmas season brings. Excitement, wonderment, innocence :) I have great memories growing up of Christmas. It was always fun at my house. Never a dull moment. But I realize that this isn't the case with everyone. Your memories often set the tone for your feelings about certain events. It's hard to shake a bad memory and not let it effect how you view something.

This year will be a different Christmas for me. I have had to make a conscience effort to find the joy this year. I have had to exercise determination in making this a fun year. Life has gotten in the way a little bit and caused me to have to work extra hard to even recognize it was Christmas season. I mean come on...I have only watched 4 Lifetime Christmas movies at this point and it is already the 18th of December! hahaha I know I'm a whiner :) but I don't want to be without my son for Christmas. He is going to be with his dad and I am happy that he will get to spend that time with him, but I am not glad that it will mean I will have to be without him on Christmas Day. I hate that life is what it is and I can do nothing to change it! I am one of those old sentimental types who still wants to open presents on Christmas morning because everyone knows Santa doesn't come until the night before!

As I was sitting and sulking, I realized that I was being so hypocritical. I preach to people about the greatness of the Holiday season and what it is really about. I have had the privilege of being a part of some great outreaches this year during this season where we have got to show the love of God in action. The greatest gift known to man was given...Jesus and I have gotten to be a part of giving Him to others. This should be enough alone to make me happy and in the "Christmas Spirit". We can say it's not about the gifts but about Jesus, but we are all human :) We all have that part of us that loves to receive something. To feel valued and loved. God has shown a great sense of humor with me this year. I have gotten more unexpected gifts from the mostly unlikely sources. I am blessed to be able to fly home to be with my family and my nieces and nephews. Sitting and thinking this morning, I realized I really have nothing to complain about!!! Christmas is a state of mind and heart. It is an attitude of gratitude and giving. I get the privilege to share life with my son everyday! I get the joy of watching him grow into such an incredible young man with so many gift and talents (and yes I am biased!). Not being with him on a particular day is hard but not the end of the world. I wouldn't trade the everyday with him for anything! That is the gift that I get!

I woke up this morning with a son who was still with me unlike the grieving families in Connecticut. I get the opportunity to once again, hug his neck - in private of course, because he is a teenager and I can't risk the reputation :) I get the opportunity to tell him how I great I think he is, how I believe in him and how I know that he is going to do something so great with his life! What more could I possibly ask for? I have remembered the real reason for the season and that is giving! I had wonderful parents who gave me awesome memories growing up of Christmas. I owe my son that same privilege. I want him to look back when he has a family of his own and tell stories of how he loved the holiday season because his family knew how to make it special for him. I will not let my prejudices, my emotions or my disappointments color his memories! He deserves my best. What have you allowed to set the tone for you this year? You deserve the best! You deserve happiness and peace and joy. God gave His Son for you! How awesome is that? You may have suffered through loss this year. You may find yourself in a place that you never would have imagined that you would be. You may be like me and be in a place where you will be separated from your loved ones for the first time. ONLY YOU can decide what kind of holiday you will have. Make it one that you will want to remember! :) Life is so fleeting. The older I get, the more this reality becomes so clear to me. There are not a lot of do overs. And I have determined that there is not anything that should keep me from having the heart of Christ at Christmas.

You should know that you are worth it my friends! You deserve a wonderful holiday. It may not be memorable for what you get or don't get, but it can be memorable for what you give! You are a gift that people need :) God planted something special inside each one of us and something that only we can give...that is ourselves! My prayer for you this year is that you know that you are loved and valued and that the peace of God would reign over you and hold you. Don't miss an opportunity to give a hug, to show some love to someone else. Shake off the bad memories and make new ones! Know that I love you all and am thinking of you and praying for each and everyone of you! Have a very Merry Christmas!! :)
Your Friend in life-

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why Don't You Make Me?

Do you remember those times when you were a kid and you would play games with your siblings and then undoubtedly as it goes with kids, someone would get mad and an argument would start? Do you remember hearing or saying things like this..."Give it back to me!" "No..come take it if you want it" "Give it back or I'm telling mom!" "No I said..Why don't you make me?" Kind of sounds like I have been there done that huh? :) You have to laugh at this behavior now. We are so innocent as kids. Our mouths would often "write checks" that are bodies would never be able to back up. I even remember the occasional.."My dad could beat up your dad" :)

We laugh at this and chalk it up to childish thinking. And it is true. It is childish thinking. When you are young you don't think or see beyond that specific moment. All you know is you want what you want and you want it right now. As children, we didn't like to be told no or to be denied a request when we asked. And if we were truthful about it, as adults, it really still does not sit well with us when we are refused something. I guess it is just human nature to hate or struggle with the word No.

I don't know about you but I have been sorely tempted as an adult to say "Why don't you make me?" Life tests our character and our resolve. We are constantly called upon to do what is right. To respond in the right way, to "act our age" so to speak. We are challenged to act graciously and to defer to others on many occasions. Can you imagine the look on someone's face if we responded sometimes in the way they truly deserved and the way we truly wanted to? Someone out at the store cuts in front of you and then snaps at you for being in their way...can you imagine the look on their face if you said "Why don't you come over here and face me like a man?" or "You do that again and I am telling my mom!" I am thinking that we could have some award winning America's Funniest Home videos if we tried that :)

We like to think that we don't give into childish behavior, but in truth, we have just "adultified" our bad behavior. We don't say things like "Why don't you make me?" anymore, we just hold grudges instead. We don't threaten to tell our moms and dads, we just go gossip to our other friends. We like to think that we are so grown and wise and that we have come so far, but if we really took a close look at ourselves sometimes, we could probably spot that kid in us, hands on our hips, shaking our heads and saying dumb things :) That is the thing about life. It tests us everyday to respond in the right way. I don't know about you, but I can't say that I pass that test all the time :)

Probably one of the most important lessons that my parents taught me in life is the difference in reacting and responding. A reaction is a quick thing, off the cuff, blurted out. First thing on your mind...is the first thing out of your mouth. A response is a calculated, thought about decision. It is human nature to react. You hurt me, I hurt you back. You do me wrong, you deserve what you get. But the problem with reacting is you never consider the long term consequences! You temporarily feel better and you get it "off your chest" but then you are left to deal with the damage you have inflicted. When you respond, it requires discipline, preparation and keeping the old proverbial trap shut. But a well thought out response allows you to articulate what you are thinking and feeling without having to worry about how far you are going to have to go back to fix things afterwards or how many words you will have to eat once you have exploded!

I am pretty confident that now that I have written about this, something or somethings will happen today to make me have to put this to the test :) I would like to tell you that I am confident that I will respond in the proper adult fashion. But even now that little short blonde hair girl is smacking her lips and looking for a fight! :) hahahaha Jesus give me strength to keep her in her place today!
In this thing called life with you my friends!! ...anybody want to play hide and seek? :) - April Phipps

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Winning Attitude is Everything!

I have been blessed with a 14 year old boy who loves to play football. It has been so much fun going to his games and watching him play. I have always loved sports myself. You learn so much being part of a team. This year, CJ has been playing on the Union Christian Eagles Varsity team. This is a small Christian school here in Fort Smith, AR. Junior High is 7th - 9th grade and Senior High is 10th - 12th. At the beginning of the season, the decision was made to move the 9th graders up to varsity because they did not have enough players to play varsity. It has definitely been a learning experience for CJ. He has had a rough go of it because they have had a losing record. He has had to find the love of the game to keep practicing everyday and gearing up to play on Fridays.

What has made it even rougher, is the Junior High team has a winning record. Knowing that was the team he was supposed to be on, he has had his moments where it has been easy and justifiable to complain. I have been so proud because I have watched him week after week come out, be pumped up and give his best. After 7 losing weeks, he was rewarded last night with a winning game!! And on top of that, he was the lead tackler in the game (ok, now I'm just bragging!!) Seven weeks of day in and day out practices and losing games to finally score that one win! I remember telling CJ you have to go out there and keep your head up and play to win regardless of what the score says or there is no point in playing! It was so interesting to watch the difference in the attitude of every player, every coach and every fan last night when we were finally winning!

It got me to thinking about life. It is so easy to keep a great attitude when everything is going your way. It's easy to work hard and stay committed when you know it will pay off in the long run. It's easy to give and serve when you are recognized publicly for your efforts. Motivation comes easy when everyone around you is motivated too. It's fun to be part of a winning team. But life doesn't always work out like that. More often than not, you find yourself working while no one is watching, giving without a seen return and giving your best only to be met with the attitude of "what's the big deal, that's whats expected of you!" Daily you are put to the test - the attitude test that is. You don't have to worry about finding ways to express your bad attitude. That comes easy. More than likely, you will find yourself looking for ways to keep a good attitude.

But one thing that I have discovered.. having a bad attitude has never helped my bad situation get better. The big trap you can fall into is letting the stress of your situation become your outlook for the day. When you go into a game expecting to lose, more than likely you will. When you get up and expect nothing but bad things to happen, they usually do. Can just your attitude change things? I say yes. A good attitude doesn't make the problems go away, it just gives you the courage and the outlook to see beyond that problem. Problems come and go...attitudes tend to linger! And bad attitudes are contagious and toxic. When you live your life with a bad attitude, you will find that you can't enjoy a victory or an accomplishment as much because your bad attitude will want to rear it's ugly head and stomp on your joy. Just like I heard a fan in the stands last night..."well yeah we won, but it doesn't matter, we have lost seven already". I just shook my head like really?? I wanted to tell that person please just go to your car and leave these kids to enjoy the moment!! Because those boys on the field were not giving a rip that they had lost the previous seven games..they were relishing the moment of the one win! They were living in the moment..singing the school fight song! :)

Life brings enough hardship on it's own. It doesn't need our help!! I have decided that I don't care what may come, I am determined that I will face it with as good of an attitude as possible! My attitude is all I can control usually. I don't intend to give that up :) I am not saying it's always easy. As soon as you make the determination to keep a good attitude, you will usually be tested. But the Bible tells us that testing brings out the best in us.."the gold". You are golden! You are more than you think you are. You are stronger and more capable than you give yourself credit for. Let your attitude reflect that!
Your Friend doing life with you...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Prayer Changes Things

Everyone has heard those stories..those miraculous moments in others lives. You know the ones that tell of those just too awesome moments to be coincidental. They are contemplating a major decision in their life and get into their car and turn on the radio and the song that is playing has the answer to their prayer. Or they open their
Bible straight to the scripture that seems to word for word describe everything they have been going through! Or they go to the mail box and open up an envelope and there is a check enclosed for the exact amount of the bill they have due! I love hearing these stories. They are so inspirational and uplifting. I once read a book called God Winks and I was moved by all of the stories of ordinary people living in extraordinary moments. I love these moments but if truth be told most of us feel like these "God Winks" happen for everyone else and not us.

If you are like me, and you are honest with yourself, you have had moments full of faith and then just as many moments where you feel like you are praying to a brick wall. It is so easy to "believe" for someone else. To pray with conviction and have full confidence that God is going to come through for a friend or a loved one. It just never seems as easy when we are believing and praying for ourselves. I have never doubted that God loved me. I can honestly say that I believe that with all of my heart. But I have had moments of questioning why? Why did I have to go through the things that I have had to go through? Why did it seem like everyone else was being blessed but I had to work for every single thing I had? Why do I always have to wait on an answer? When is my instant answer coming? Why do I have prayers that just seem to be unheard or never answered?

Have you had those days like me where you just seem to wake up in that kind of mood? You know, not bad, not good, just a "there" mood. You are ready to face the day on auto pilot. You are confident this day will be just like hundreds of others. You have a sense of restlessness and you just can't put your finger on it. Well that was my day today. Woke up not really feeling all that well. Not really sick, just tired and unmotivated. That is when life is sure to hit you with all of the little irritations :) Those things that aren't really a big deal? No one would listen to you if you complained about them kind of things! Here's a little recap: woke up to have cereal, the milk was expired. Decided to go to the grocery, took a shower and my eye swelled up like I had been punch in a prize fight. Put in the visine and endured the burning and got ready to go grocery shopping. We all know that grocery shopping at Walmart on a Saturday is irritation enough. Decided to carefully budget because I had to be frugal. The minute I get in the store, my son starts texting to see if I can buy him an Xbox game. Frustrated, not at him, but because I have to exercise wisdom in my budget, I have to say no yet again. Decide to buy little "specials" to make it up to him. Get home and unload the groceries. Have a roast in the crock pot so I decide to make us a little snack to tide us over. Open the 2 liter of Dr. Pepper to pour CJ a drink and it explodes all over me and the kitchen, which I just cleaned yesterday!

Wipe up the mess and decide to take it easy for a little bit. Go out to check the mail, and there is a letter from a law firm trying to collect on an old debt from when I was married. It was in my name, so ma'am we need to you to make arrangements to pay. Go back inside and I can tell my kid is bummed so I decide to take him to rent the game he wanted me to buy. We are having a great time and are pulling back into our complex and for some God unforeseen reason I guess I cut the corner into my parking place too close and me and CJ hear a pop. He gets out of the car and I look in my rear view mirror to see him standing and holding the trim that goes over my back tire! Aaarrgghh!!! I don't know whether to laugh or cry!!! I control myself and tell him to put the piece in the trunk, I will have it fixed next week. Walk into the house and go to put something in the trash in the kitchen and my tennis shoes stick all across the floor!! So much for the great cleanup on the Dr. Pepper!! We eat dinner and then I decide that CJ and I should run and vacuum and wash the car. If it has to look Ghetto missing a piece at church tomorrow, at least it will be clean Ghetto!! :)

Get back into the car to go home and when we were wiping out the car apparently one of us hit the CD eject button. Push the CD back in and the precious voice of my mother comes through the speakers singing these words:
"I know what gladness is, I've had my share
I know what sadness is, I've been down there
I know the peace and joy the Lord can bring
Down on my knees I learned what really changes things.
The only way to God is earnest prayer
Just breath His holy name, He will be there.
He knows the grief you bear, you're every pain
Just go to God alone, Prayer Changes Things!"

I started smiling and realized that I was having my own "God Wink" experience at that moment. Nothing that I could do in myself could fix anything that I was going through the day. I got into that car just a few moments before saying to myself..What in the world am I going to do? And then that precious voice begin to sing those words. My son looked at me not knowing what I was thinking and said I'm going to download this to my phone! I love Mamaw's CD :) Simple, but just for me. Yes, I still have bills to pay, a car to fix, a budget to stick to and a messy floor but I realize that I am not alone in it. Jesus is there with me in the middle of all of the irritation :) He is listening and moving on my behalf. Not always how I want or as fast as I want, but moving none the less. All I have to do is take a moment to call on His name and He will be there :)

Don't know what struggles you may be dealing with or mountains you may be facing in your life, but I don't have to. Each of us in our own way has been there before. The truth is..Prayer Does Change Things. God is always listening, walking beside us, patiently waiting for us to call on Him. I know each of us would rather not have to go through the little irritations in life and would welcome those instantaneous moments of blessing everyday. But making it through something and coming out stronger speaks for itself! Learning to live a life full of prayer is worth it. He is there. He is listening. And even as I type this, He is moving on our behalf! Praying for you today my friend!! :) Here with you in this journey of life...
Your Friend-April

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Will The Real April Phipps Please Stand Up!

This past week marked a year to the day when everything changed for me. The direction for my life, the course that I was set upon, my companion,my faith and even my location. It's hard to believe that a year has already gone by. It's amazing how time changes everything. Sometimes it seems to drag, then other times it is so fleeting. My emotions have been through what I would like to call for a lack of a better phrase "severe trauma" :) I have felt like I have been on a non stop roller coaster ride for months. So up and so down. Around every bend, a twist, a loop, a curve. I want to stand up and scream "let me off this ride!!" But that is what life is sometimes - a ride. You can go along for it or get run over by it :) I have experienced both.

But one truth to this last year's journey, I have never been alone in it. I have felt alone, but have never truly been alone. I began to think about riding a roller coaster. I remember being scared and you always want someone else to be with you when you are trying something scary! I remember getting on the roller coaster and then spending the majority of the time forgetting my fear because I was too busy laughing at the person riding with me who was screaming their head off! They were just as scared as I was and they weren't afraid to show it.

That is how life is. The enemy likes to convince us that we are alone. That no one has ever had it as bad as we have it. That no one is thinking of us or even cares to see our pain. But that is simply not the truth. In fact, there are usually more people who can relate than not. We all just like to hide or mask our pain so others can't see. We have foolishly convinced ourselves that to show any realness or pain somehow equates to weakness or failure on our part.

Well I say to you today "enough is enough". No one is riding on Cloud Nine 100% of the time. We all deal with the ups and downs. And it takes real courage to be able to look at someone when they ask you "how are you?" and say "you know what..not real great today, but I will make it in the name of Jesus!" :) There is a vast difference in having a pity party and being real. A pity party person makes it as bad as it can get in order to gain the sympathy of others. A real person tells it like it is in order to gain the help of others!

I am not ashamed of what I have been through! I did not ASK for a single second of it, it just happened. But because it happened does not mean that it has to define the rest of my life. Truth be today? I am tired, I am lonely! I am sick of being broke and struggling. I am so tired of having to be the bigger person when I didn't do anything wrong in the first place!! :) I try to cheer myself up with all the spiritual lingo that I know..."I can do all things through Jesus", "The bigger person always wins in the end", "I am more than a conqueror" and so forth. But sometimes, even though you know these things, you don't want to hear them :) You want to vent, you want to cry, you want to let it all out! It doesn't make you a bad person or a person who is lacking in faith. It makes you a real person.

You have heard it said that admitting it is the first step! Well I don't know about you but I admit it!! I am not perfect. I don't have it all together. My life is not a fairy tale all of the time. Sometimes I could play the lead in "Enchanted" others times the heroine of "Nightmare on Elm Street" :) But I am me. I have decided to be genuine. A "what you see is what you get" kind of person. Love me or leave me, you will never have to guess about me! Wearing a mask and faking it is absolutely exhausting! It takes way to much effort. People usually see right through that anyway. So it's ok to say it's a bad day! The great thing about being able to recognize when you have a bad day is you are usually an expert at appreciating the good days then!! You have had enough of the others that you take full advantage of the good days.

Life will bring you plenty of every season. Embrace them and learn from them. It is what makes us who we are. It defines our character, our persistence, our resilience. I love, love, love good days. I appreciate the bad ones. Your life is your story. The stories with all the different elements are the most believable ones and the most enjoyable to read! :) Sorry if this blog today has been like a roller coaster...all over the place. It's just my feelings today. And hey pray for me!! I am so ready to go on a date! :) Not to have a relationship...just to get someone else to pay for my movie!! hahahaha...now how is that for real :)
Your friend in this incredible story that is life!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Living on the Island of Misfit Toys

Ok so I know that it is only September but I am already getting in the Christmas mood! :) I have always loved that holiday! Everything about it! The food, the family, the music and especially the christmas cartoons! For some reason today, I was pondering on the current circumstances in my life and the Rudolph cartoon came into my mind.

Have you ever seen the scene where Rudolph, Hermes and Yukon Cornelius are fleeing from the snow beast and they land on the island of misfit toys? All of these little toys are gathered around a fire and they are lamenting the fact that another Christmas is almost upon them and once again they will be looked over because they are "flawed". When our three travelers come upon them, they are greeted by a "charlie in the box", a train with rear wheels that are square, a fish that has bird wings, etc. Each of these toys are deemed "useless" because they are not qualified to do what they were created to do. There is a kind lion that has adopted these toys, but even in her kindness, she considers them second rate.

Rudolph and his friends are moved by the plight of these little toys and Rudolph promises to tell Santa all about them when they get home and assures them that Santa can find them a home, regardless of their flaws!!

I have so felt like one of those toys this last year!!! I knew what my purpose was, what I was created to be. I was a wife, mother, a help meet. I found my fulfillment in serving and helping my husband in the ministry. All of a sudden, that purpose was stripped from me and I was left to wonder what my use was? Here I was, pretty much middle aged, now single, trying to figure out where to go from here. For 17 years, I was serving my "purpose" and now my purpose was gone. Who could use a has been? Wouldn't people look at me and see somebody who had "seen their better days?" I really struggled with what was next. Everywhere I turned was reminders of what I had and lost. Happy couples, ministry couples...people in their prime. Fulfilling their destiny. It was so tempting to allow myself to be swallowed up in the pity and grief of it all.

But I was smart enough to realize that I was not alone. At just the right moments, God would send a "Rudolph and Friend" to remind me that I wasn't finished yet, that there was still a place for me! Think of how many people go through this. Mothers that have dedicated their lives to their children and now are suffering empty nest syndrome, another has been care giver to an aging parent and that parent has passed on. Someone has dedicated their life to a job, only to lose it in the last few months. Others are like me and have suffered the heartache of divorce and love lost. Even more unimaginable to me, there are those who have suffered the death of a love one.

How do you find your place when you go through these things? The only way I know how is by believing that God did NOT create you one dimensional. He did not bestow just the bare minimum of grace upon you to survive. But He created each of us with a plethora of talents and abilities. Most of us just don't ever have the occasion to have to dig deep enough to find the ones that don't sit on the surface.

Well, needless to say, I have had to find the shovel and start digging!! I have hit plenty of rocks and had to remove lots of dirt :) but every great once in a while I found that little box of dreams that I had buried deep down and have started sifting through what I thought was impossible to dare to reach for it again. My friend, today I feel compelled to tell you that you are not done. God is not finished with us yet!! Life doesn't always turn out the way that we always imagined it would!! But that doesn't mean that it has to be less than what God would have for us. I am determined not to quit, but to be reborn!! How about you? Are you game!! We can do this together. I will pray for you, you pray for me!! God loves me and WILL use us, flaws and all!!!

Taking it day by day and believing for bigger and better!! In this thing called life with you! Your Friend-

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Times They Are A Changin! :)

Well today was the first day of school for my ninth grader! Wow, even as I type this I can't believe I am saying this. I was struck at how different the first day of school has become. I can remember in vivid detail his first day of Pre-K, Kindergarten, first grade and so on. It used to be that he would get all ready and then grab mine or his dad's hand and be ready for us to take him in to school. He would always be excited about going, but always wanted us to go with him :) As I woke him up this morning and heard him getting ready, I heard a "yes, the hair is perfect" and saw him come out ready to go! Into the car we went, but as we pulled up to the school it was "Mom, let me out here!". I found myself getting a little nostalgic. He doesn't so much "need" me anymore. He was up ready to go and face this challenge all on his own.

That spoke volumes to me. He is in a new Season of his life. I should be happy not sad. That's what I have been working and raising him to be able to do. Stand on his own two feet and take life by the horns! I mean how ridiculous would it look if I dressed him this morning, gave him his blues clues backpack and a juice box and walked him in to the hallway by his hand..kissed him on the cheek and said Mommy loves you! Hello, can we say social suicide? :) I'm pretty sure I could count out ever getting any affection from him ever again after that. I mean come on people, there is a reason we don't walk around in December with our swimsuits on and we don't put on our gloves and hats on in July, especially here in Arkansas!! Those things would make us look so out of place because they are out of season. Sadly, we have all been guilty of hanging on too long at different seasons in our lives. We humans, as a norm, do not like change. We like comfort and when we find a season in our lives where we excel and have happy memories we tend to want to hang on as long as we can.

But I am reminded of that great 80's song by Expose "Seasons Change!". The words went..Seasons change, people change! And we do. We all have to be aware of what season of life we are in. How awkward would it be for the young marrieds class of my church if I kept showing up every week! I mean at one time in my life I was young and at one time I was married. I am neither anymore. Well maybe, the young part.... :) People would be nice to me at first but pretty soon they would start to fill awkward around me. Then I would begin to sense some discomfort. No matter how much I tried to make it work, I would still keep walking in single and 45. Those are factors in my life that no matter how hard I try right now, I can't change! And I shouldn't want too!! Every different season in life brings with it it's own challenges and it's own rewards! If I froze CJ in 2nd grade, sure I wouldn't have to be dealing with a teenager right now, but I would also be missing out on the joys of watching him play Varsity Football, write his first song, lead worship at church, discover the joys and heartbreak of his first love and so much more!!

You can be so busy trying to hang on to where you have been that you completely miss the awesomeness of where you are going!! When you get stuck in the wrong season, things become awkward for you and for those around you. You can pray all you want for certain variables in your life to change but they won't. Trust me, I have tried. They weren't created to! You were created to have cycles in your life...different ages. If you don't take the opportunity, you will miss out on the memories and the joys that each different age brings with it. And the only thing worse than being stuck in a wrong season in life, is living with regret! We only have one chance at this thing called life. It's normal to get nostalgic about the good times and to "grieve" when things have to change. But then we get up, dust off our shoulders and walk into the next thing waiting for us. Seasons come and seasons go. Some have been greater than others and some have been down right awful if we are honest with ourselves. But through them all, we have learned and we have grown into the people that we are because of them. Thank God that not everything stays the same. When we keep moving with the seasons, we don't become stagnant. Appreciate where you have been but look forward to where you are going!! I am sure trying to! And on that note, is anyone else already listening to Christmas music like me? :) hahahaha
As always, your friend in this thing called life!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Trading Spaces"

Have you ever been part of a remodeling project? Or watched a home makeover show? I have. I have always been fascinated by watching people take a room and transform it into something so beautiful! I used to love watching Trading Spaces. I loved the whole concept of that show. They picked the perfect host in Paige :) And it sure didn't hurt that they had a good looking carpenter named Ty Pennington :) What always cracked me up was watching the homeowners really struggle with getting rid of the old stuff in their room. What was the point of signing up for the show if you weren't ready for a change? Well I got to thinking about that because we are currently in the middle of a remodel project at my church. And the receptionist's office that I work out of is a part of this project. Mind you...it is long overdue and necessary.

But as I was sitting at my desk today and the workers came and starting tearing out windows and walls around me :) I found myself getting sentimental and saying "ah...now people can't come and talk to me through the window", etc. And I felt God speak to my heart! :) I have told you before people, God has to work that way in me...plain and simple! hahahaha But as I watched them tearing out glass and busting down bookshelves, it made me think. So many people are like this in life. They cling to the familiar and have a hard time when change comes. We even like to complain about things but then when those things are gone we struggle because our chief source of complaint is gone!

Familiar is comfortable. The same old same old is boring and predictable but safe. We don't fear what we know. But all of the above things can bring stagnation also. We can find our selves in a rut and doing things by the motions instead of living a life driven by passion. A "one car garage" will never be able to hold two cars. Sometimes you have to let go of something in order for something new to come in. You may not understand it or be able to see what God is doing in your life during the "process" but He never disappoints with the final product!! That was always the favorite part of the shows for me...the Reveal! Watching the homeowners come in that had complained or expressed doubt and watching them be blown away by what their new rooms looked like.

That is the way we are with God. We are often dragged along in the process "kicking and screaming" most of the way :) We fight to hold on to the familiar because we have found our place or identity in them. While all of the time, God is trying to rebuild us and show us what our true identity in Him is! We may not always be the most cooperative of children, but then we have a God revelation and our eyes are opened to what God has and can do!

Funny how a simple thing like watching someone tear something apart can strike such a cord in me. I started thinking about my life over the last several months. Sometimes events happen to us in life that our out of our control. We get a Life Makeover whether we ask for one or not :) I had to ask myself, what have I been struggling to hold on to that God is gently trying to pry my fingers away from. What am I allowing to "take up space in my heart and spirit"? While God is patiently waiting with new and better things...waiting for me to clear it out so He can move in!

It's ok to get sentimental and to reflect on things that have brought joy and purpose. But when you dwell past the point of something being beneficial that is when you need to learn to let go and let God. I can honestly say that God has never taken away where He hasn't given something even greater! Trusting is tough! Exercising faith even tougher! All of this "believing without seeing" stuff :) But I am a firm believer that if God showed us too much ahead of time, we would interfere and start trying to work our own plans out. His ways are not our ways! Thank the Lord for that.

Is it about time for a change for you? Is moving day coming close? It's hard to say goodbye to things, but it's always exciting to embrace the new. I am learning to walk by faith more than ever before!! It can be scary and anxious but it can also be exhilarating and fulfilling. If I can do it, you can do it!! :) I am praying for you my friends and I know that God knows what he has in store for us all! Plans to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans to give us a great hope and a future!! :) Looking forward to a new day with you!!
Your Friend in this game called life-

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Don't Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water

I am what I consider to be a relatively "cool" middle aged person! :) I love new technology and I love new music. I love seeing where the church has been and where it is going. I love seeing things advance. I am way in to the creative and unique. All things considered, I see myself as a progressive, forward thinker. Few things are not "changeable" to me. If there is a newer, better method that is more productive - by all means teach me. I am not ashamed of where I am from but I don't use that as a clique to make me stuck in the old ways.

With that said however :) - I am also a person of heritage. I got to really thinking about this the other day. A wonderful couple from my church and their daughter who is close to my age invited me and a lady that I work with to their house for dinner. Now this lady is a fabulous cook and an immaculate housekeeper. When I walked into their house, I felt welcomed and at home. She cooked a delicious dinner. While dinner was still being prepared, I got to go out into the back yard with the husband and he showed me their garden. They were so proud of what they had and were so gracious in sharing it with me. After dinner, we sat out on the back patio and they begin to share stories. It really made me homesick and nostalgic because they were telling stories about old youth camps and church trips and pot luck dinners and fellowships. Before we knew it, 2 hours had passed by.

When I left their house that evening, I began to reflect on that night. I am a proud mom to an incredible 14 year old boy! I do what I can to stay relevant to culture for him. We both love music, so I let him show me what he is in too. I look for TV shows that we both like like Wipeout and American Ninja Warrior and we will watch them together. I have a Facebook and I try to stay semi knowledgable to social media. He is an "techie" so computers, programming and video games come easy to him. I am confident that CJ will be able to make his way in the future! But I begin to think about his heritage and what he will look back on as "his" past. What kind of stories would take him back and make him nostalgic?

I can remember making mud pies, "playing school", dressing up, playing outside for endless hours, riding my bike with my sister all through the local neighborhood and cemetery and pretending that we were in some far away place in Europe or that my bike was a car :) My imagination was developed because I had to use it. Someone else did not pre-program what I did. And on that same note, I remember going home and me and my sister pretending to be different singers in the choir at church. I remember revivals, miracle services, dinners on the grounds, church fellowships. I remember going to the altar and staying there until I had "prayed through". I remember the older saints in the church who were legends in my mind and how I was in awe of how close they were to God. I never remember looking at them thinking they were old fashioned or out of touch. They were beyond me and people who should be respected.

What will my son look back on? Will he know the words to songs like Amazing Grace and not just the Top 40 on the radio? Will there be preachers and men and women of God that he looks up to and respects and not just members of a musical group in the poster frame hanging on his wall? Will he find God like I did in a youth camp or a special service. Will he have an encounter with the Lord that will shape his foundation? I believe so! Will he have a healthy "fear of the Lord" and exercise reverence? I am going to do everything in my power to help present those opportunities to him. I would not change where I am going but neither would I trade where I have been. Where I have been has SHAPED me into who I am today!

Now to get on my little soapbox for a minute :) I am all for the latest and the greatest! But I don't believe that we have to trample every tradition known to man to prove how great the newest thing is. I will always call my Pastor - Pastor. I will always keep a reverent respect when I walk into the house of God. There has to be a difference between walking into church and into the movie theatre. I will always pray and read the word of God. I will not ever allow myself to feel like I have achieved enough that I do not need the fellowship of other saints - meaning church attendance. I do believe that God is God and He deserves my best. I devote an entire week to my job and my fun. I can give God a few hours on a Wednesday and Sunday!!

In short, I am going to be CJ's biggest fan and rejoice when he achieves even more than I could have imagined doing. If possible, I want to ride in a space car :) I will marvel when everything around becomes operated by voice command and your car drives itself home. But I never want to get to the place where I am so accomplished that I can't sit in the grass, stare at the stars, stand around a piano and sing the old songs and be appreciative of all that I have gotten to experience in my life. The life of Smith Wigglesworth proves that it is "never too late to teach an old dog a new trick" but his life also exemplifies that what God said is what God said. Period. And that's what I want for CJ. The drive and motivation to become the best he can be but the heart and thankfulness to appreciate where he came from.

Sure there will always be a newer, better way to do things. But bottom line, it is usually the methods that change but not the message! And thank God for that. I am glad that He is the same yesterday, today and forever! Because where God is concerned, when you get it right the first time there is no need to fix it :) What has made you who you are? What built the foundation that your life stands on? Take a moment and reflect on that. Whether good or bad, you can use that to determine where you go from this moment on!! In this thing called life with you my friends :) Now...where is the ham, mashed potatoes and casseroles? All of this talk of church dinners is making me hungry!! :)
Love you- April

Monday, July 2, 2012

You Get What You Pay For!

Hello My Friends! I know it has been a few weeks since I have posted a blog. I have started and erased one about 5 times :) I just determined not to write unless I felt I really had something to say. Which is usually all the time for me! hahaha :) So this little "drought" has been weird for me too!

I am in the middle of a 21 day Detox right now. As a matter of a fact, I am on day 15 of this detox. It has not been easy and it has not been fun. I have had to "deprive" myself of some of the things that I love best...sugar and Diet Coke! I have only been allowed to have fruit, vegetables and chicken and fish. There are only so many ways to make this combination of foods exciting! I have had to walk past the work kitchen counter with the fresh donuts on it, had to sit at a wedding reception where the most beautiful and delicious looking cake was served. I have had to drive past Sonic each morning and wistfully look out my window as if I were driving past my long lost friend without speaking! It has been hard. Our flesh does not like to be denied! The headaches the first four days was my brains way of throwing a tantrum about having no caffeine! And isn't it just like life, when I decided to do this detox, there have been more parties, fellowships, cookouts than ever before on my schedule?

But in the middle of this process some funny things have happened too! I have rediscovered my ankle bones :) I haven't had to pray and pry my rings off at night. I have learned that I do have some self discipline down in there somewhere. And I have discovered that I do have the ability and the determination to set my mind on something and stick with it. Now don't get me wrong....I have literally had my mouth water watching someone else eat a chocolate cupcake hahaha and I have dreamed about what I could eat on "Freedom Day" (that's the first day after my detox is over). But all in all I have learned most of all that when you really truly want something bad enough..you will do whatever it takes to get it! Even if it means sacrificing something else to do it. I have to remind myself that I did not acquire these bad habits and extra 50 pounds over night, so no "magical diet" is going to come and wipe it all away in a few days. My impatience has so reminded me of how easy it is to want something for nothing. To want to put in no effort, but get maximum results!

We have all been guilty of exercising a lack of patience when it comes to purchasing things too. We have jumped on that big sale and then been disappointed when our "cheap" product did not last long. I remember being excited to get a pair of mango colored shoes for only $7 but then watching them sit in my closet for 2 years before they went in the Goodwill bag because I had absolutely NOTHING that matched anything mango to wear :) I was so jazzed when Cici's Pizza came out because I could take Masters and they could eat a buffet for only $3.99 a person! After a few bites of my "cardboard" pizza, I was longing for that deep dish from Pizza Hut! Or learning the hard way when I bought the off brand toilet paper and used 22 squares because it was so thin! Only Charmin for me now!! :)

Only I would find the spiritual parallel in cheap toilet paper!! :) But here goes...this detox has made me think about my spirit man as well. Why are we so shocked when we go through things in life and we don't seem to have the faith to face them? I have had to do a hard look at what I was "feeding" my spirit man! Going to church is awesome. Joining in corporate praise and worship is exciting and liberating. But to me these things are the "fast food" things of our spirit man. Don't get me wrong...they are necessary and they are God ordained. But hey let's face it..isn't it always easier to go out to a restaurant and let someone else do the cooking for you? This detox has really stretched me because I have had to prepare the majority of my food. It takes time and it is definitely more expensive, but the value of it has been worth it! The real meat of our spiritual diet comes from spending extra time on your own to seek and to learn. It's comfortable to come to church and fellowship together, it's a whole different thing to make the time to pull out your Bible at home and determine that you are going to find a moment with God for the day. We have all been quilty of saying those desperation prayers to God. But how many of us really take the time to develop a daily prayer life. One where we commune with God through the good and the bad!

I have decided through this detox that my life was out of balance. I was physically heavy and spiritually anemic! :) Sure I have 100 great excuses for why. Woe is me..my heart is broken, I just went through something tramatic, I had to move and start a new job...yada, yada... :) I am a strong, intelligent woman of God. What I put in is what is going to come out. What I fill my spirit with is what is going to show when the going gets tough!! I have decided that I am not going to let this 21 day "torture test" as I have so lovingly nick named it be in vain. I am going to learn something from this. I am going to take better care of my physical man, but in the same breath, I am going to feed my spirit man what it needs..what it deserves. God made me who I am. He made me to excel in life. I am determined to be a well rounded "fit" person who is ready to enjoy every God given moment!! :) On that note...how many calories are in an Oreo? :) hahaha... Living life with you!!
Your Friend-

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"We interrupt this vacation for a message from our sponsors!"

I am currently in Hamilton, OH taking a vacation with my family. Ah there is nothing like it. Just a time to get away, relax, play games and spend sometime with my family. When you go home to your hometown to take a vacation you usually make plans to eat at all of the places that you don't have where you live now. For instance, only someone who has lived where I live would appreciate wanting to have Frisch's! :) So I have made my rounds of having my favorite ice cream, getting to eat Gold Star - a Cincinnati original and more. Another thing that you do is try to see as many people as you can. There is no way to see them all, but you go to your home church, you run around town and in a town the size of mine, you are more than likely to run into someone that you know while you are out and about. I had been so looking forward to coming home because I miss my family and I just needed a break for a little bit. We have all been there right? Just needing a break for a minute? But of course, God never takes a break. He knows what we need and when we need it. When you have gone through something like I have recently, sometimes you just need a visible reminder of what God can do. I can not begin to tell you about the provision, the grace, the comfort that God has blessed my life with the last few months! I have believed in God my entire life. But the last few months, it has been taken to a whole new level. He never ceases to amaze me with His "on time" love. I didn't come home or go on vacation to learn anything. I wanted to take a "mind" break. But it is often when we are not "trying" that we truly learn the most. I have been so reminded about the POWER of relationships this week. While home, my sister and I have been going around and visiting family and friends with my mom. I never truly realized how "rich" my mother was. Rich because of relationship. I have been touched watching her interaction with her cousin. The power of the relationship between them. She had to inform him that he will be going to a nursing home this week. But I watched him listen to her and I began to understand how much he trusts in her. He knows that she has his best interest at heart! Then I have watched her with her mother. My grandmother is an extraordinary person. She is and always has been a fighter, that is why she has always been one of my heroes! She has always had real "grit" :) She is fighting a life ending disease, but you would not really know it looking at her. She has maintained her grace, her sense of humor and her determination. I watch my mom and my aunts with my grandmother and I am blessed by the love that I feel in the room. Last example, a dear, dear friend of our family is in the end stages of her life here on earth. My mom, sister and I went to see her. This lady is and always has been such a great lady of faith! I have great memories of her going back as far as I can remember. When we were in the room, she motioned for my mom to come over to the bed. She reached out her hands and grabbed my mom's face and began to tell her how much she loved her. Years of memories, feelings and relationship were gathered into that one single moment. They didn't need to give each other grand accolades. They didn't need to try to recount every single conversation that they had ever had or what each other had ever done for one another. All of the feelings of a life long relationship were put into that one single moment of love and to say it was POWERFUL is a grand understatement. God spoke to my heart in that moment and reminded me about the POWER of RELATIONSHIP. We can live our entire life and go through money and things. We can live with a lot and we can scrape by on barely nothing. These things are all in the physical. What we can NOT live without is relationship! These days, it seems we spend the least amount of time in cultivating what is the most important thing in our lives! We have all witnessed the power of relationships. We have watched our friends and family and even ourselves be involved in good ones, bad ones, ones that have lead to heartbreak and ones that have been built and sustained upon a promise. Relationships are powerful!! They set our moods, they help us dream, they take our insecurities and put them on display! There is a great thrill in starting new relationships and then there is something comforting about trusting in an old, established one. If our relationship with our fellow man has the power to do all of those things, how much more powerful is the most important relationship in our lives? The one with our maker! God gives us the most yet often we are guilty of giving him our "less". We fit Him in our lives when it is convenient and we call on Him when we are in need. How much greater of a life could we live if we cultivated our time with Him. If we made Him a top priority. In that one amazing moment sitting in that room with my mom and her friend, I got to witness first hand what comes from a lifetime of spending time with someone, of always being available to them and being there for them. God is so there for us. We are always on His mind. He longs to commune with us and to build that kind of deep relationship with us. I am determined to work on my part. To not make God an after thought, a last minute thing. I have decided that the most important time of my day is the time that I spent working on my relationship with Him. I long for the other relationships! I love my family, I love my friends and I love the idea of someday being in love again. All of these hopes and wishes and relationships will be second best if I don't spend the time investing in the most important relationship of all...my relationship with Jesus. When I get that where it should be, everything else just has a way of falling into place. I pray and cry to be wanted when all God is doing is praying and crying that I will want Him the most :) Funny it takes stepping back and taking a "vacation" to be quiet enough to be reminded of this most important message!! I get it God :) I LOVE YOU TOO!! :) And I trust you to know what is best for my life! Do you trust Him that much? He is waiting to spend time with you! I guarantee you it will be more than worth it! Your Friend in this walk of life! April

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"If you ain't first your last!"

The title of this blog is a saying that came from a funny movie called Talledega Nights. For as long as the main character, Ricky Bobby, could remember he wanted to be a Nascar driver and of course he wanted to be the best. The movie goes through the life of this character with his ups and downs and uses this quote a lot that Ricky's dad told him when he was little.."If you ain't first your last". He was obsessed its safe to say with winning! The movie is hilarious, but the principle behind it is all too true for a lot of us. We become obsessed with winning, succeeding. We feel like failures if we are not always "on the top of our game". We as humans compare ourselves a lot to others. What they have, what they look like, what they are. And when we don't feel like we are "measuring up" it makes us feel less than valuable. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I have been fighting the doldrums. You know where you go through the "I am this age and what do I have to show for it?" phase. It has been a lean season for my self esteem, for my purpose and definitely for my finances. You know the times when you feel bogged down like this is how it is always going to be! Where you worry about the fact that it feels like nothing is ever going to change for you...this is it. I am destined to live paycheck to paycheck. I'm too old to be as valuable as someone else, etc. But I felt God speaking to me today. He reminded me of a simple fact. If I never went through anything, how would I appreciate when God brought me through something? If I never had to do without, how would I recognize when God had provided? It made me think how different a few stories in the Bible would be. Think about these things. If they had not run out of vine at the Canaanite wedding, there would have been no opportunity for Jesus to perform His first miracle. If the guests had not drank wine when they first came to the wedding, the people who poured the water would not have been impressed when Jesus filled the vases. But they had been pouring wine all night so they were intrigued when they were told to fill the vases with water and amazed when they became wine. If Peter and his friends had been successful catching fish, what would the big deal have been when they pulled in their nets and they were full of fish? I mean the fact that they witnessed "empty" nets all night made it even that more spectacular when they pulled them in and they were full. And don't get me wrong, healing the sick is a big deal!!! Very significant. But Jesus had already begun to become known for that when it came time to minister to Lazarus. Yeah, I believe people would have been amazed and grateful if Jesus would have healed a sick Lazarus, but how much more awestruck were they when they KNEW he was dead and Jesus raised him up. And after three days no less?!! It is so easy to become lost in your situation. If you are not careful, your problems can become all consuming. It seems so easy to believe the worst sometimes. But let me encourage you today. There would be no such thing as a valley, if it wasn't for the concept of a mountaintop. There would be no race, nothing but a starting line, if there wasn't something waiting for you at the end called a finish line! There would be no verdict necessary if you didn't first have a trial. Seasons in our lives will come and go! We will have bad days and good days. We will win some and then we will lose some. I have learned through it all, whenever I am facing a time of adversity in my life, the more I find a different focus than my problem, the less I am consumed with the thought of it. I know what is going on in my life right now. I am aware of the challenges that are in front of me. I don't need to sit and constantly hammer them into my brain. I am learning right now to be ok with losing some, because it makes winning even that much more sweet!! So I have made a determination for this next week! I am not going to concentrate on the things that I am dealing with right now. Instead, I want to pray and believe for you my friends. I want you to email me, message me, Facebook me if there is something that I can stand with you in prayer about. Something that you feel overwhelmed by and just need to know that someone else is trusting God with you! And I believe by doing that, God will see me through. We are in this thing together!! I am determined to not worry but to worship. To not lose hope but to remain optimistic. To not let those things that would like to take me under succeed, but instead I will rise above. Let's do it together!! Your friend- April

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My "Woe Is Me" List

When I set about to start writing this blog I determined that it would not become my outlet to "rant" about all of the crap happening in my life. I did not want it to be a place where I passed judgement or spouted my opinion on things. That is the power of words. Once you put them out there...especially in writing...you don't get to take them back! :) So I have made it a point to use this blog as a place to express what I am experiencing, how I have decided to handle things, to encourage someone else to let them know that they are not alone! We all face life! It's how we rise to that challenge that makes the difference! Besides, I have learned that when you rant, you can wake up the next day feeling quite different and oops..too late! :) I was having a particularly rough day the other day (no details necessary) and I was complaining to God. I let Him have it. I started telling Him all of the things that were wrong in my life. Giving Him my best Woe Is Me speech!! I lost this, I was betrayed like that, nobody cares..yada, yada. And honestly, I really had some legitimate claims. I can't say that life has "dealt me a very fair hand" lately. I felt overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, hopelessness. Have you ever had those moments when you felt like the room was closing in on you? You "know" the truth, but the severity of your situation is blocking out that truth and making you feel "lost in the moment". I can honestly say for a little bit, I just could not seem to find the silver lining in my situation. I could not see past the present circumstance to believe that there is a greater future out there for me. I "deserved" a moment to get things off of my chest. To scream out to the world..this stinks! And you know, it is ok to feel that way. The problem starts when you stay that way. Most of us bottle up life's punches and try to handle them on our own. But we were not meant to live or handle things alone. We need each other. That is why random words of kindness from a stranger, a Facebook message from a friend, etc. can make a lot of difference. God always knows just what we need! And He sends it to us through various ways. I had to pick myself up and tell myself that this will not last forever. I have never been know to be a particularly patient person, so everything seems like forever to me :) You would think by now that I would know that God's timing is the best timing. It's never mine, but His is best. You would think that I have learned that His ways are not my ways. I don't think there are very many things that I would do the way that He does. But honestly, my way would be temporary solutions, where I have discovered God's ways are permanent steps on the path of my life. I had to pick myself up and tell myself to cut it out!! To pick my head up and stop staring behind me. What is behind me, is behind me. There is no going back and even if we could it would never be the same as before. I refuse to allow the enemy to "trap" me in that old familiar routine of longing for what I have lost. That is nothing but a distraction! And distractions can cause you to miss the now and the future! I have lost ... their is no denying that!! But in loss there is also an emptying. And when something is empty it has the potential to be filled. Only I will determine if it stays empty or becomes full. I want to be full. Full of God's love, His promise, His principles. I have to believe His word. And His Word has promised me a hope and a future. We have all sang the song..He didn't bring us this far to leave us! Those are more than lyrics to a song in my life right now. I have to trust in that...that it is true. I refuse to believe that the best is behind me. That my greatest days have been seen. There is still desire and purpose in my heart. I know that God sees that. What may seem impossible to me, is but a wave of His hand to God. What have you faced in your life recently that you have allowed to become a distraction to your next? What has been throw your way that has left you thrown for a loop and feeling like things will not change? Be encouraged. We have all been there. We have all had those moments. Feel free to get them off your chest. God knows anyway, you are not telling Him anything that He doesn't already know!! Consider yourself like a tea pot, and let the steam out! :) But then move forward. Anything that doesn't move, becomes stagnant. The longer that the enemy can keep you focused on your problem, the deeper he can make the quick sand around your feet grow, trapping you in your situation. The Bible tells us that the thief has come to steal, kill and destroy. And boy does he pick PEOPLE to accomplish this in our lives sometimes. But the Word also tells us that Greater is He that is in us then he that is in the world!! To quote a popular song.. "You were made to live for so much more!" God has always had great purpose and promise for His children. When He can get us to quit reading our Woe List, He can help us focus on our Wish List!! I don't know about you, but I would rather think about all the good things in my life and where I am headed any day over the crud that I have lived through. The crap got it's moment. It had its brief reign of glory in my life :) But now is my time!! I see a new day....Are you ready? Shake it off and let's head to a new destination together....and that is all that God has planned for us!! In this thing called Life together with you!! Your Friend - April

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Definition of a Hero

We are coming up on Mother's Day this weekend so I only thought it appropriate that I dedicate a blog to the subject. Mothers are pivotal people in the lives of so many. Being a mom is more than a title or a job. It is a calling. A divine appointment. It is one of the most important things that God ever created. A mom is one of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle in the life of a child. They are given the divine assignment of raising a child, of nurturing that child. Now don't get me wrong..Fathers are crucial also. But that will be for another blog. Say maybe June? :) I don't consider myself to be an expert on the subject of being a mother. But I do feel like I have been graced to be influenced by one of the greatest mothers ever to walk this earth. Being a mom is about caring, loving, believing and supporting. There are so many life lessons that I could share with you that I have learned from my mom, but then this blog would be a dictionary :) Instead I have chosen to pull out a few to share with you. My mom has made my life fun. She is one of those kinds of people who are "contagious" to be around. She always found the energy to be involved in the lives of her children. I look back and I recall the many times that we had good old fashioned "free" fun. It was never a chore to come home to my house. In fact, most of my friends wanted to come spend the night at my house because the Mills house was fun. Now don't get me wrong! I am not trying to say that my family is perfect...far from it. But that's what makes my family perfect to me. No matter what has come our way, we have always found a way to remain family and mostly due to the raising that we were given. My mom and dad always made us feel loved and supported. I can not tell you that countless times that I watched my mom go shopping and come back with something for everyone else but herself. I can not tell you the times that I would come home and find my room "cleaned and rearranged" just because. My mom is one of those people who you find comfort just being around her. She has always had an optimistic outlook on life. She has always had a simple faith. And that is so rare. My mom believes the Bible because it is God's word. Period. She lives by the same standards today that she raised us with. We used to get mad because when we were little if we started watching a movie and it said three cuss words, it was turned off! hahaha :) I will never forget being mortified because she made us get up and walk out of the movie Teen Wolf. At the time I could not fully appreciate what was happening. But now I do. My mother refused to say one thing and live another. What she said, she lived. And still does to this day. I always had faith that my mom would do what was right. Maybe not what I wanted, but what was right. I credit the faith that I have in God today to my parents. My dad was a minister and my home was a Godly home. But I never felt forced to have a relationship with God. I was shown what it was like to have a relationship with God. I can remember both of my parents instructing me on how to live and how to love God, but making it clear that that was decision that I would have to make myself. That I would need to find my own relationship with the Lord. I remember hearing my mom pray at night when we were asleep, or waking up and finding her devotional book opened on the couch. I remember crossing my eyes having to hear the Christmas story BEFORE we could open any presents. But that's what made Christmas so special! You may be saying Ah! This is sweet but April, we get the point. You love your mom :) But that's not it at all. I love my mom YES!!! A thousand times YES! But even more importantly I RESPECT my mom!! She is my hero. I am proud to say that she has been one of the most important influences in my life. As I raise my son, I am so thankful for my heritage and for the wisdom that was instilled in me. I can't tell you how many times I have reflected back to my own upbringing when instructing CJ. I have pulled from the wealth that was invested in me a long time ago by a great woman and a great man. And that brings me to the title of this blog...The definition of a hero. My mom is my hero. Not because she is famous, or has accomplished some grand feat that has changed the course of the history of the world.. But because she thought that the job of being our mom was the greatest job in the world! She took it seriously and was satisfied with not changing the world but changing 4 people. She embraced the God given role that she was given and made it her goal to do the best with what she was given. She worked day in and day out, often without recognition, to make sure that me and my sister and brothers felt loved, supported and wanted. She stuck in there with us even when we did not respond like we should. She patiently watched us fail because "we knew more than she did" and never said "I told you so" when we crashed and burned and came to her for comfort. I laugh because the words to the song "Wind Beneath My Wings" is playing in my head. My mom was content to let us shine, to walk behind us, to let us get all of the accolades even when she deserved them. And the greatest thing to me..is she is still like that today. We are grown, but she is still giving of herself everyday to make someone else's life better. For the most part, her life is dictated by the needs of others. That is what makes her my hero! If I can be half of what she has been to me to CJ, then I will be content!! Mom..did you ever know that you were my hero? You are everything that I wish I could be!! And I mean that with all of my heart!! I did not want to miss out on this opportunity to let you and everyone else know how much I love you! :) Friends take the opportunity this weekend to tell your mom how much you love her. If you have lost your mom, take a moment to reflect on how your life was made better because of the time you did have with her. If you did not have the same experience as I did, take a moment to resolve that you will become the hero that your children will need you to be. And for all of us..let's take a moment to thank God for the gift that is Mom! Your Friend- April

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Little Things Mean A lot!

Have you ever had one of the moments when unexpectedly someone did something nice for you for no reason at all? I have and it is an awesome thing! We all have an inherent need in us to be loved and needed. When someone goes out of their way to make you feel like you matter, it can change your entire day! :) Just recently my parents were in town to visit and my dad borrowed my car to take my son to eat. First of all, that made my day! Seeing my two favorite men together :) ....anyway...the next morning they left to go home and when I got into my car, I noticed that my gas tank was on FULL. Ok, with the price of gas now a day, that is a rare occasion in my car! hahaha That made me smile, not just because it saved me money, but because with out a bunch of hoopla or recognition, he went out of his way to do something for me. I can't begin to write on here all of things that my mom has done for me because we don't have the time or space, but I think she pretty much invented thoughtfulness :) I can recall the several times as a masters director when I would come into my office and find a pack of Peanut M&M's and a diet coke. This always made my day because it meant that my students paid attention to me :) They knew what I liked and they were going out of their way to say we love you in a small but tangible way. We, as a society, have become way to busy and to pre occupied. We are so concerned with what is happening in our world that we miss everyday opportunities to step outside of our "world" and show someone else that they matter to us. Showing care and love is not a costly thing but the difference it makes in the life of another is priceless! And even greater, the "return" you get as a person can not be underestimated. I have learned one thing in my life...when it seems like my problems are growing, I immediately look to see who I can help. By reaching out and helping others and taking the focus off of my own problems, I gain new perspective. I can't recall a single time where worrying and becoming consumed by the crap in my life ever solved a problem or helped me to feel better. But I can think of more than one occasion when I was having a really bad day and it became better because I did something for someone else. That is the greatest thing about giving...a lot of times you start out to give to help someone else feel better and the end result is you feel better! So this week's blog is going to be a little bit different. I am going to give you homework! :) I challenge you to start from the minute you read this blog and take one week to do something for someone else. Think of a different person each day and do something for them. Whether it be an encouraging message on Facebook, a candy bar on their desk, bringing them a coffee, a note sent by snail mail etc., do something that will help make someone else's day!! This is not something that has to be costly. But it will be more beneficial than you can ever imagine!! :) Hey "Give and you shall receive" is more than just a scripture in the Bible. It is a way of life, a practice that benefits everyone involved. Let this be your week to practice a little giving and see if what you get back in return isn't worth every bit of effort! Your friend in this game of life..... April :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Silence can be golden!

I am a creature of habit. Most of us are. I like to have noise going around me. My standard routine when I get into the office in the morning is to turn on music, and when I get home at night, turn on the TV. I don't always pay attention to it, I just like something going on in the background! In fact my son laughs at me because I will turn on the TV and start reading a magazine. He will come in and start to turn the channel and I will say "don't turn that, Im watching that!" :) Really mom?? :) hahaha But I have learned that there are reasons that we like the noise so much and even more reasons to learn to love the silence!!
When there are stressful events happening in my life, I like the noise because it drowns out all the commotion going on in my head! Sometimes I just don't want to have to deal with something or think about my problems and my circumstances. But the problem is the noise will eventually die down. Whether its when you lay down to go do sleep at night, or when you are sitting alone somewhere..there will come a time when you can not drown out the thoughts that lay waiting to be dealt with. Pretending that they are not there does not cause them to disappear! There will always be reminders of what you are going through...thanks to social media...mostly by logging on to Facebook now a days!
So today we got a rare day off and of course, I had the TV on. I started with the Today show which I love. I picked up around the house and eventually took a shower :) Then I came back in and sat down and started checking facebook, etc. all the while the TV was still going! Eventually Hoda and Kathie Lee came on..and I started laughing! Does anyone purposely watch that? And I decided to take a minute and just turn the TV off and sit and reflect for a moment before I started to run my errands for the day. A day off for me somehow has magically turned in to a golden opportunity for me to take my son something special for lunch to school :)
After a few moments of the silence, I began to hear the cry of my own heart. It is a hurt heart, a broken heart, but a healing heart. I still sit in this moment of silence and can't believe that I am in the position that I am today. But facts are facts. And trying to escape them will not make them less a reality. The Bible talks about how a man has his plans but that God looks at the heart. What does He see when He looks at my heart? Does he see the fractures and the bruises? I am not even in a place to make a plan right now. I am in survivor mode. But I am surviving!! Each day..I get stronger. Can I be honest enough with myself to allow myself the freedom to grieve what I have lost? Do I have the strength and the courage to pick up the pieces of my brokeness and to give them to God to allow Him to recreate me? Yes I do!! This is what I have learned in the silence. God knows anyway. He is patient with us. He allows us the time to process and figure out when and how we are going to admit where we are. And when we do, the Father side of Him kicks in. He is fiercely protective of what is His! He longs to heal the hurts and to help us to regain our ability to take the next step. He is patient, He is kind. He is not self serving, he doesn't rejoice in our pain, He doesn't brag about His strength...in short He is Love! He is all that we need. There are no quick fixes!! Quick usually equates to temporary. When we take the time and allow God to do what He needs, we find ourself permanently set upon a new path, a new direction! He will fill us with new dreams, new vision and new confidence that allows us to move past who we were and what we lost, to who He sees us to be and what great things He has waiting for us!
So I have gained a respect for the silence. I am thankful for that time when it is just me, my thoughts and God. He is the best listener ever! :) I look forward to hearing more of what He has planned for me!! Could it just be after American Idol is over?? Just kidding....silly!! I have DVR for that! :) hahaha Couldn't leave my friends on a down note!! Believing not only for a good week for you all but for a God week! In this thing called life with you!
Your Friend - April

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

You can spell the world Die in Diet!!!

Ok if you were blessed with naturally abnormal genes and you have never had to diet or try to lose weight in your life, then this next comparison may not mean as much to you. For the rest of us lowly, normal people who have battled the bulge off and on in life, you will totally get my point. Lately I have been trying to diet and exercise more. For a multitude of reasons. But the main reasons are that I want to be a healthy person and I want to live to enjoy my kid, my grandkids someday and just to aggravate people for as long as I can! :) hahaha
When I decided to start doing this, I knew that I would need some help. Hey if I could do it on my own, then I would have already! So I signed up to myfitnesspal.com and decided to track my food and my exercise. And the next thing I did was pick a few friends to have as my accountability partners. I need people that would push me, or give me that look right before I dug into my Oreo Peanut Butter Pie! :) You know the look? The "are you really going to eat that" look? I get transported back to the old SNL skit with Chris Farley, Adam Sandler and David Spade when they are dressed as the mall girls and Chris Farley is talking about going on a diet. He asks for David Spade's fries and David says "aren't you on a diet?" Chris Farley replies in his deepest voice..."Lay off me! I'm starving!!" Then he says "diet starts Monday!" :) hahahaha...been there done that! But anyway back to my point.
I knew that I needed some extra incentives to help me in this journey! I came to the realization that I did not gain this extra weight overnight and I will not lose it overnight! There was no "quick fix" to help me. It was going to take determination and self discipline! And a plan. I don't do good without a plan! :) I realized also that I needed to take a new approach to losing weight. It doesn't work for me to say "no sugar this week" or "no fried foods". What is it about us humans? I know that if I say no sugar..that is what I will crave all week! I decided just to stay under a certain amount of calories a day and to incorporate healthy things in to my diet. To make a permanent LIFE change, not a temporary diet fix!
This got me to thinking about my spiritual life as well. The Bible talks about us dying daily to our flesh. It's like God knew that we would have struggles and usually the same ones over and over again! :) That's why when you read Romans you see the chapter that talks about why do I continually do the things that I wish I wouldn't! Hey my life story when it comes to eating! :) Here is the similarities I have found: when you are dieting you have to stop eating things that will add to your problem! when you are renewing your spiritual diet you have to stop doing things that pull you back into the same old rut that you have been in! I'm not going to keep a cinnamon roll on my desk and stare at it constantly giving myself a pep talk about how strong I am!! No eventually, I will eat that cinnamon roll! When you have a struggle, it is foolish to think that you need to "exercise your faith" by continually putting yourself around what you have struggled with to test how strong you are! Eventually you will fall back into your old habits! When I am on a "diet" it messes with my mind set. When I focus on what I can't eat, or have to deny myself of, I want to die! French Fries never smell or taste so good as when you shouldn't be eating them! :) hahaha The same is true with our spirit man. If we keep our focus on what we shouldn't do, or what we have laid down at the foot of the cross, our mind will begin to justify what it really wasn't that bad in the first place. I mean come on, is it really hurting me or anyone else? And the longer we dwell in that place, the more likely we are to pick those things back up. Sometimes you just have to push away from the table!! And sometimes you just have to crucify those old habits once and for all and walk away. If you are like me, it's hard for me to do anything in moderation!! :) I'm an all or nothing gal! I am a super size it person! :) hahahaha But I have learned that moderation is the key. If I learn to balance my diet, a small fry will not kill me!! The same is so true in my spiritual life! I have learned to find the balance. I want to grow, to know God more. It is my sincere desire to read His Word and develop my prayer life. BUT I refuse to live in self condemnation if that doesn't happen every single day for three hours a day! :) God knows my heart, He knows my life. It's ok to have a piece of candy now and again, or to appreciate the hard work that someone has gone to and enjoy a sliver of that cake! ;) It's when you allow the desire for the food to overtake you, that you have a problem. It's the same in your spirit life! It's ok to miss a prayer or have a moment where you just don't feel like reading! :) But it's when you give in to the feelings and let them dominate your spiritual growth, that you will experience a problem! Find your balance. Have the courage to hook up with people who will hold you accountable! We have all been there before so we can help each other through this!! :) My prayer for you is that in dying to your flesh daily, you will experience new life like never before!! By learning the balance in your life, you will find freedom like you have never had! I'm ready for this are you? Love you my friends! Now I have to go so I can order my large diet coke! :) hahahaha Until next time....

Friday, April 6, 2012

An Easter Prayer

This is the prayer of my heart right now at this very moment. My heart is so full and overflowing. So I am going to just type it as it comes out and not go back and edit it or correct the spelling or anything like that. I encourage you to find time to do the same!!

Dear God:
I thank you for the sacrifice that you made for me. You gave your only Son. I have one Son. The thought of losing him for ANY reason is beyond my comprehension! But you went beyond YOUR feelings, your comfort, your love and you GAVE to save a world that was dying and in need!!! Oh God that I would have but a mustard seed size of your compassion and love for humanity! That in one small way my life would reflect that gift that you gave! I can not say THANK YOU enough. But Thank You is not what you want from me. You want a relationship. And I want that more than ever with you. Forgive me God for the neglect that I have shown to the most IMPORTANT relationship in my life. I don't want it to have to be the "Easter Season" for me to feel the depths of love and gratitude that I do for you at this moment!! I believe in you and I am NOT ashamed to show it!! I believe that you are the ONE true God and that you love us all in a way that no one else ever has or ever will. Your Word tells us that you so LOVED the world that you gave. You did not judge, you loved!! God let us find your heart! To love one another, not to judge one another. To see beyond the surface of a person to the core of who they really are! In every moment of my life, from victory to bitter disappointment, you have walked with me and listened to me and provided the guidance that I have needed to know the next step. God I am yours! Wherever, whenever, however!!
And on that point, let me also say that I believe in you too Devil. I know you are real and I HATE you with everything in me. I am sick and tired of sitting back and watching you try to destroy the people that I love. Haven't you figured out by now that I will NEVER believe that you are stronger than my God? That I will ever believe in you or serve you with the fervor and heart that I dedicate to God? Haven't you learned by now that you are messing with the wrong person? You have try to take my joy by watching me lose babies. You have try to steal the love in my heart by destroying my marriage and the man that was my hero and life long love. You have tried to put a roadblock in the road of my son's progress by breaking his family apart! You have lied to my friends that used to serve God and convinced them somehow that God is not real and that even if He was that He doesn't love them. You have convinced people that I once held in high esteem, that it is ok to live and act how you want when you are not in the limelight as long as you "preach" what is right with your life in the public eye. And the biggest kicker of all.......you dare to touch my family. You have tried to divide relationships, cripple them with addiction, devastate them with low self esteem and depression, you have had the audacity to touch my nieces and nephews with sickness and to cause pain to my Grandma and Harless. You have tried to suck the peace out of my family's home with an unholy vacuum. Because you know the name that we carry and the witness that our family's love for one another has carried over the years! WELL HERE ME NOW....people may think I am crazy but I am not afraid of you! You did not bring me into this world, you do not control me. You only have the power that I choose to give you.....And I choose to give you none!! If my God is big enough to send His only Son to die for me that I can have life and MORE ABUNDANTLY I MIGHT ADD!!! (P.S. Get your filthy hands off of my finances!!) He is big enough to give me the courage and the strength that I need to stand up against you!
God I vow publicly today to continue to use my life in whatever capacity that you see fit to spread your gospel to anyone that you bring across my path. I am not wavering in the calling that you have placed upon my life. I know that I have the capability to be anything that I want to be....but I feel PRIVILEGED that you have chosen to use me in your ministry!!
Thank you for bringing me to a place that is bringing healing to me and my son. To a people who have embraced us and have wrapped their arms around us. Thank you for making me take a moment to sit and let you love me!! And thank you most of all for the gift that I have in CJ. He is a man of God and his destiny is clear! He will be greater than his father or I ever were! He will be a mighty man of God who will rise up and take his rightful place in this world!! You choose to let me see the vision of an angel when I was only 5 years old. And you have chosen many times since to show me angels in the guise of my friends, Pastors, family and more! May I get the opportunity to be an angel of your mercy to someone who is in need. You are RISEN! You are not dead! So I will celebrate that this weekend and every weekend to come!! I love you more than mere words can express God!

Your child and servant!
April Phipps

Thursday, March 29, 2012

This Stinks!!! And It's Ok :)

Friends this is not a feel good blog :) This is a real blog. That is the thing about me! I will always tell it like it is. I debated writing a blog today even though I felt inspired. But then I realized that someone just might need to hear this! It's Ok to say This Stinks!! There are going to be many moments in your life that do not bring happiness. Don't feel condemned or faithless if you have a moment. Life is going to be FULL of moments. It is unrealistic to say it's ok to celebrate the happy moments but downplay the negative ones. NOONE is happy or on top of the world 100% of the time. NOONE has the answers to all of life's questions! It's being able to find that balance in your life that is key.
Have you ever walked into your house after being gone for the day and had a foul odor hit you? You walk into your kitchen and either discover smelly garbage or a sour dish rag! Both equally disgusting and equally potent!! You can spray rose scented perfume, put out candles, bake some brownies and more...but if you have stinky garbage in your kitchen...the stink is going to eventually win out!! You have to acknowledge that Hey something smells! Then work to discover the source of the stink! Then make the decision to get rid of the garbage. Covering it up never works! And the same is true for those moments in our lives that our just downright stinky! If we cover them up, they will resurface, and generally when they come back..they come back with a vengeance.
A young girl I know lost her father this week. She was full of good memories and expressions of her love for him for a few days on Facebook. The wishes of condolences and prayers were pouring in. I went on there today and she is expressing anger. Wanting to punch I am assuming God for taking him away from her when she still needed him. And people don't know to say :) Is God mad at her for expressing how she feels? Absolutely not! Is it God's fault? No. Death is part of life. But in my book it is ABSOLUTELY OK to express your feelings when you don't understand!! Why??? We have all been there! It stinks to be hurt, or to experience loss. There are moments that are not "fixed" by a quick prayer and a scripture.
You may be thinking oh my goodness! Somebody pray for Pastor April. She is losing faith :) No I am expressing my faith! My faith is a real and growing thing. I do not claim to have arrived. I am seeking! Seeking God's face in the midst of these stinky moments. He has NEVER let me down or forsaken me but that doesn't mean I haven't been let down or forsaken! Through my current journey I keep thinking that there is nothing more that can surprise me, there is nothing else that can hurt me more than I am already hurt. But then something else happens. You think you know people. People who were so important to you and it's like you were not even a part of their life at all. Have you been there? Have you felt like this surely can't get any worse, and then it does? It's ok! We all have. I guess the entire point of this blog is to say it's ok to think it's not ok! :) We have all had those times when we just can't understand how or why or what we have done to deserve something!
Even while writing this I am starting to feel better!! Just being able to put it into words! "How I am being treated is not right!" or "what they said is not true!" or "this whole situation is not fair and I just don't understand!" It's ok to express your REAL feelings :) God knows them anyway and He is right there with us every step of the way!! You never get an answer to a question that you don't ask! He knows how we feel and He wants to be there with us to help us work through. And trust me, sometimes it is a process of working through it!! :) I can honestly say though, I have never experienced God's grace and His love like I have during the Stinky Moments! Just when I am convinced it will never get better He does something to show me that it will. Just when I think I can't make it through this, He sends someone or something to encourage me to show me that better days are ahead and He has them prepared for me! He has proven to me countless times again and again. He loves me!! Truly loves me..stinky moments and all. And sometimes in life God LETS it start to stink a little to remind us that it is time to take out the "trash". :) You will never change what you will tolerate. So today I want to say This Stinks!!! But It will be Ok!! I am ready Lord. Let me learn what I need to learn through this. Thank you for letting me whine and loving me through it!! :) And thank you my friends for letting me vent and whine to you :) And for letting me just be me!! :) Pray for Happy Inspiration for me! hahahaha

Love to you! April

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"We Are The Apple of His Eye"

Inspiration can come from the strangest places! When I decided to start writing this blog, I thought I would probably write one a week, keep it to topics that I thought would be funny or interesting at least. But it hasn't really worked out that way! I have found that most of my blogs have come from a momentary inspiration that caused me to feel like I should share. This one is no different! :)
I was sitting at my desk this afternoon eating an apple. For those of you who truly know me, you know the stunning part of that last sentence is that I was eating an apple! hahahaha Yes, I am trying to be healthier and make better choices...but that's for another blog. :)
I was eating this apple in typical April fashion. First thing I normally do when I eat an apple, is "polish" the outside real good first, remove the stem if there is one and then circle the apple around to find just the perfect spot to take the first bite. I did the following things and then I began to eat the apple. Hilariously, it's been so long since I had an apple I forgot how juicy they are. So in the middle of eating my apple, I set it down for a minute to get a tissue to wipe the "apple slobber" off of my desk. When I picked the apple back up and started to take a bite, I noticed a little bit of brown peeking out from under the still uneaten part. After further examination, I found that there was a bruised or damaged part under the skin. I have never liked this since I was a little kid. So I set about using my teeth to pull out the bruised part so I could throw it away before I ate the rest of the apple. If I wouldn't have looked down and just started eating again, I probably wouldn't have really noticed!
That is when this thought came to me!!! We are so like that apple :) (And for me not just in shape! hahahaha) We can look so pretty on the outside. With just a little "polishing" we shine. But that shiny red peeling is hiding what lies underneath. Our secrets, our fears, our insecurities. We are certain that if others could see our imperfections that they would find us to be less valuable in some way! That if God knew what we really looked like on the inside, He would choose a better, more qualified specimen.
But here is the kicker...He already knows what we look like. We can try and hide it, disguise it, cover it up but that time and effort is wasted. He knows! And the funny thing is those are the parts that He likes most about us! You may say...April that makes no sense. But I say it makes perfect sense. Because God's ways are not ours. Our imperfections are what makes us different from everybody else. Our fears and struggles are the things that we usually give voice to and God is listening. He likes it that I am not a cookie cutter version of someone else. Yes, someone else may sound like me, or be short like me, or even wear cool colors in their hair like me :) But no one else has the combination of elements that make up me! He doesn't set me aside because He sees a slight failure here or a mistake there. In fact I think he sees my failures and thinks of ways to give me a chance to make myself better through them. He looks at areas where I have made a mistake and knows that deep down I can do better, I can be better. He looks at all of the things that I have been through or experienced and sees the opportunity for me to use "my bruises" to help someone else who is going through the same rough spot!
So in all truthfulness, we shouldn't hide our bruises or scars, because these are the marks that set us apart. The things we are often ashamed of, help to tell our beautiful life story. More than one place in the Bible, we are referred to as the "Apple of His Eye". It doesn't say anything about being a perfect, blemish or bruise free apple. It just says the apple. That is a great place to be! Right in the center of His vision. He knows and sees us for who we truly are...pretty and ugly, good and bad. And He could not love us more!
My prayer for you today my friend is that you see yourself the way that He does. Man looks on the outward but God looks on the heart. And you my friend have captured His heart!
Can you imagine how inspired I could get from chocolate???!! :) Nothing but love for you today!
Your friend - April