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 :)