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The Proposal (His)

Do you remember when the pandemic hit? On one hand it feels like a distant memory ago—like we’ve been caught up in this vicious cycle for ages. Yet, I remember where I was when things got real. I was in Decatur, Alabama eating at a restaurant with my buddy, Seth, when we watched a live NBA game get cancelled. I was baffled. I’m sure you can recount those early days that were accompanied with feelings of astonishment and confusion. Before long, the news was dominated with Covid-19 headlines. The beloved March Madness tournament was cancelled. Then society closed down. It wasn’t long before we were all working from home. 

The ability to work for home was thrilling, but the inability to see people weighed heavily after a while. I lived by myself at the time, so it was just me and my golden retriever, Winston in a one-bedroom apartment. It wasn’t long before I was going mad.  Loneliness and depression were real battles at the time. My heart questioned where God’s presence was in that time period. Oh, if I could have only seen the future. 

Let me provide a brief caveat. At the time, I was 26 on the cusp of turning 27. Things had not worked out relationally in the past for a number of reasons, but the ultimate one being that it was not God’s appointed time for me yet. However, that didn’t stop half of the congregation from trying to set me up. Aunts, grandmas and student ministry leaders all lined up to try their hand. A former boss would joke about trying to set up a church bachelor show. Honestly, I can’t help but laugh thinking about the thought and effort given my way.  Marriage was something that I had desired for a while. Desire might be too light of a word—I longed for it. I knew a Godly wife would be such a gift to me and would make me more effective in ministry. I had felt that God was withholding something good from me, but in all reality, He was just teaching me that He was sufficient. I didn’t “have” to have anything besides Him. This lesson had to get pounded into my head more times than I care to admit.   

Back to the COVID situation—I was back at my parents’ house about a month into the pandemic. I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across one of Bailey’s posts. I had followed her a couple years before because she was posting girls ministry content and I wanted to keep a fresh edge in that field. Okay, yes, it did help too that she was highly attractive. I’ve never quite been the shoot your shot guy… I’m a little more calculated than that, but I was bored and who knew when the pandemic was going to end? I mustered some courage and sent her a message asking if she’d be interested in Face Timing.  I’m a sports guy so let me use an analogy. This wasn’t an open lay up or even a contested three. It was more of a half court buzzer beater shot. There was no way she was going to say yes. She is beautiful, smart, entrepreneurial, wicket talented, and so much more. I’ve got a couple intramural UM championships under my belt along with an M.Div. degree. The phone dinged and I saw that she responded. I opened it up and she said she’d love to go for it. 

I’ll save you the details, so this won’t turn into a novel, but the brunt of it is that the chemistry was off the charts. Our hearts and callings aligned. She was and is so much more than I could ever hope for in a partner. She amazes me day after day and it will be an honor to call her my wife one day. To my single friends out there, hold on. It can feel like it’s never going to work out. Bring your frustration to the Lord instead of letting it embitter your heart. Trust the sovereignty of God. The pain of your past will only allow you to cherish your future partner even more.  In my situation, if God had not allowed me to walk in loneliness, I’m not sure I ever would have reached out to Bailey. Our stories are all a creative work in the hands of the Creator. In the words of Carrie Underwood, “Jesus take the keyboard.” Okay, that may not be the way it goes, but the sentiment is still the same—God is and will write your story if you let him. 

Social Media Tips for Small Business Owners

It’s the New Year- Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all the craziness of the holidays and traveling are over. Now time to get back to real life and make good on those New Year’s Resolutions!

2020 was a challenging year for small businesses, but I am confident that 2021 will be a breeze compared to last year! Businesses learned to adapt due to shutdowns and now are finding some sense of normalcy. Now, it’s time to grow!

For those of you who have not yet utilized social media or even those of you who are using social media, I wanted to share a few tips/reminders to incorporate as you look towards this year.

  1. Pay attention to your analytics.

Are you posting at the right time of day? Are you posting right type of content (photo, blog, video)? Social Media analytics can be incredibly helpful in directing marketing efforts. I will say something is better than nothing- but when you have these (FREE!) tools at your fingertips, why not use them?

2. Post relevant content.

You know what they say- You gotta give to get. What tips/tricks/info can you provide for your followers to keep them engaged? Sometimes you have to get creative, but the more you can give to your followers, the more they will continue to come back and share your posts. More shares/Engagement = More followers/Better organic reach.

3. Aesthetically pleasing content.

Essentially- Are your posts pretty? Now, I understand there are some industries and business that do not need “pretty” posts. However, regardless of your business, your graphics and posts should look professional and pleasing to the eye. Otherwise, people will keep scrolling!

I hope these few tips were helpful and help get you started in the new year!

If you have any questions on this or would like help with your digital marketing- feel free to reach out to me at BaileyEKennon@gmail.com or (251) 233-0654 and we can discuss your needs.

The Proposal (Hers)

When you’re waiting, it feels like the most exhausting and the longest season. Then in an instant, everything changes- You meet your future spouse (whether you know it or not) and the rest is history.

My story is an interesting one. From a very early age, I kew I wanted to give the Lord the pen to write my love story. I succeeded in this, but I also fell short a time or two. Before Clay, I had been engaged once before and it was the result of trying to write my own story. However, God is sovereign and knew there was something else meant for me. I went from waiting for my future husband to a broken engagement then back to waiting again. And, then I met Clay. It’s been a roller coaster, but there’s been purpose in every step (and misstep).

What is so crazy is Clay had been there for like two years before I ever noticed he was. He followed me on Instagram several years ago (but I hadn’t followed him back, oops) because he saw that I had a non-profit that was focused on students. The guy was there all along but didn’t even notice; however, it wasn’t time yet for me to know him. There were some things Jesus needed to teach me before I could be ready for our relationship.

I think this is the beauty and hilarity of Jesus. He knows so much better than we do and He loves to show off when we give Him the opportunity to.

Ole Clay slid into the DMs and asked if I wanted to have a FaceTime date (this was during the height of COVID). Thankfully, I was feeling adventurous and said yes to an almost stranger (we have a few mutual friends). We talked every day for about 3 weeks until we could meet and I would say it wasn’t too soon after I was convinced he was it. I still wanted to be sure, but I felt pretty confident.

When I look back on my teenage years, I spent so much time dreaming about my future spouse. I also spent a solid amount of time praying for him. I just always felt he would be tall (silly I know, but I like a tall guy), blonde, witty, strong, loving, and steady. So when I met Clay it was almost like I recognized someone I already knew. I know this sounds really silly, but I think this demonstrates the importance of praying for our future spouses, so when we meet them, we can recognize them. I think it also speaks the same of the opposite- when we’re with someone not meant for us, we can see it.

Neither of us needed much time- and to be honest- 2020 was a great test for a relationship! We made it through a pandemic, my dad’s election, new jobs/businesses, Clay moved to Mobile from Birmingham, and Hurricane Sally. We just honestly were ready to move forward with the dreams we had together.

I met Clay for the first time at the Orange Beach Waterfront Park. We got food to go from Anchor and had a picnic. He was sweet and tall and lovely and all the magical things you hope a guy would be. I fell real quick. I probably should have made him work harder, but if you have ever met him, it’s hard not to just love the guy.

He bought a ring in October- I know this, because I was there and I definitely picked it out. I love Clay, but I strongly believe you cannot leave something like an engagement ring up to chance so I came along to shop 🙂 We didn’t plan to buy a ring, but the perfect one was there (and on sale- thank you Jesus) so the stars aligned. I knew the proposal was coming, just wasn’t sure when.

I woke up on December 12th honestly feeling grumpy. I pulled a muscle in my back the day before (not sure how, must have been sleep-fighting) so I hadn’t been sleeping well. My parents told me to get dressed up because they were taking me to lunch to celebrate my college graduation. I came out of my room and they handed me a card from Clay.

Clay had planned a scavenger hunt for me- He involved several of our friends so a pair of them were at each stop to give me my next clue (Chris, Nick, Hunter, Hannah, Polly & Caleb- Love y’all). The first stop was at the Cotton Bayou Beach Access and then to the Backcountry Trail. We have spend a solid amount of time on that trail, especially the first time he came to see me so it’s special to us. The next location was Southern Grind at The Wharf- He told me he loved me for the first time outside of Southern Grind and we’re there about 2 times a week so we love that spot! The next stop was the last and where we met for the first time- And also the place where we’ll be married next year.

I pulled up and he was standing by the water at The Coastal Arts Center. He had ordered this blanket that had some of our favorite photos printed on it and then got down on one knee.

Our friend Jacoby was there to capture that special moment.

Clay and I are incredibly blessed and so excited to begin our life together. He’s truly my best friend and I love quite literally everything about him. I think what drew us so close was that we have the same dreams and we’re so excited to not just follow the Lord as individuals, but now we get to pursue Him together and build a life that we hope will glorify Him.

Perfection Doesn’t Equal Success

Broken to beautiful is a great description of what’s happened in my life and what I believe happens in any Christian’s life. Jesus takes the parts of us that are broken, messy, and hurtful and is able to restore us. Maybe not to the way we were before, but in a way that is much better than before.

Something has been made clear in my life as of late. I think in the past I have missed a very important step in redemption- and that is simply the fact that Jesus redeems. He sanctifies. He gives us the gift of grace- All we have to do is take it.

This is simple in theory. However, in practice, I find it much more challenging. If you know anything about the enneagram (which I’m sure most people at this point do), you’ll understand a bit of what I’m about to explain. I am a 3 on the enneagram.

To give a brief synopsis of what a three is like, I have provided a few bullet points from The Road Back To You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile (Great book & study, you should definitely read this after you finish my blog).

What it’s like to be a three-

It’s important to come across as a winner.

I know how to airbrush failure so it looks like success

The keys to my happiness are efficiency, productivity, and being acknowledged as the best.

The enneagram name for the 3 type is The Performer. 3’s believe they will be loved and valued through their successes/works. They can be world changers, but also workaholics. Somewhere along the way in their life, the 3 began to believe that their worth relies on their work. Their life’s purpose is wrapped up in their performance.

Given these things, grace is a difficult pill for a 3 to swallow- But I think it’s something (regardless of your enneagram number) people wrestle with. I know that my faith is not reliant on my works, but it’s hard for me to not shift into that mode when I mess up. When I make a mistake, my immediate response is to fix it and then run to Jesus. However, it should be the other way around.

Because of my desire to “fix” everything, my immediate response when I feel shame or embarrassment over that misstep is to find some way to fix it. There is nothing wrong with that, but it shouldn’t be my first step.

I was riding in the car one weekend with my boyfriend Clay. Clay is a student pastor and just honestly has an incredible knowledge of the Word. He loves the Lord and speaks a lot of encouragement and wisdom into my life. I often share with him my blog ideas and I told him that I had a new series in mind. I shared how I wanted to use parts of my story to help other women/young ladies find healthier friendships/relationships. I wanted to use my past to help them create a healthier present. I know I didn’t think this straight up, but somewhere in my head I felt making something useful of my missteps would redeem me.

Clay thought my idea was a solid one, but he began to say something that would really make me think over the next few weeks. He said “Bailey, that’s wonderful. But you have to remember that there is grace for you. You don’t have to do things to receive mercy and redemption, it’s already there.” Simple in theory, more difficult in practice.

I’ve been wresting with this conversation for a solid month and thinking about how I can better approach past and future mistakes. I think the first step is realizing my worth is not defined by my works. My purpose is not wrapped up in my performance. The Lord’s grace is not dependent upon my desire to “fix” what’s broken. His grace is freely given when I ask for it.

I would challenge you as I challenge myself. Do I allow Jesus to redeem me? Do I allow His grace to wash over me and know that it is enough? I am not saying you shouldn’t right your wrongs; however, sometimes wrongs cannot always be made right. You cannot always fix what has been broken.

If you can make wrongs right again, then you should. 100%. But, know that your first step should be towards Jesus and that His grace is enough to make you white as snow. You don’t have to work to receive it; it’s a gift. I think when I/we start viewing it that way, we will view ourselves and our relationships in a much healthier way.

Things Every Teen Should Think About Before Dating

It was a hot, muggy night in South Georgia. My heart was pounding out of my chest as my mom chauffeured me over to my crush’s house in her Nissan Murano. At 14 years old, I was about to embark on my first date—Mellow Mushroom and a movie. I picked up the cute, brunette girl and we cruised over to the dinner location. I was trying to play it cool even though being smooth is not necessarily in my skill set. We set a time for my mom to pick us up and then boom, it was just me and her. We sat down in a booth while I ordered a sprite and she ordered a sweet tea. Everything was going well for the first 5 minutes. The drinks arrived and like any normal human, I unwrapped my straw and put it in my drink. One piece of advice I had been given by friends beforehand was to make solid eye contact—so I did, to my chagrin. Instead of looking for the straw in the drink, I gazed into her dark brown eyes while attempting to partake of my drink. All of sudden, I felt a lot of liquid hit my pants. Sure enough, I spilled my drink in my lap. That was the coronation of many hiccups I would have over the long haul in my dating life.

The truth is that dating is difficult, and you will make mistakes, but there is a way to minimize the damage and maximize what God can teach you through it. This blog is specifically geared towards teenage girls, but it’s applicable to all teenagers. Girls, I’d like to talk about how you can avoid those dating hiccups (ones much more than just your date being a goober!) and find true love in its appropriate timing. 

Que the appropriate timing. Finding love is natural because God has hardwired us for relational intimacy. God gave marriage as a gift to man and woman and it should be pursued, but it shouldn’t be rushed. Our culture puts a lot of pressure on finding meaning through a partner, but you need to know that singleness is valuable. In fact, it’s wise when you’re young. There’s nothing wrong with waiting and choosing to allow that to blossom later in life. It may just save you some heartbreak and regret. However, if you’re going to date, here’s some things to consider. 

As a youth pastor, I talk a lot about social media, not because I particularly enjoy it, but because I see the danger it poses to students.  Likes have become everything in our culture and social media exposure is king. Often, I see middle and high school girls (guys too) derive their worth from peer approval. This mentality drifts into dating. Girls want guys to approve them and before long, their worth is wrapped up in a boy’s opinion. What happens if a boy changes his mind or says something hurtful? Dejection. Tears. I sympathize because I’ve most certainly been on the receiving end of a break-up. However, a lot of pain could have been avoided by one foundational thought. God determines my worth, no one else. Before you date, you need to have a healthy relationship with the Lord. You need to come to terms with the fact that you are infinitely valuable, regardless of what anyone else says about you. This can’t be overstated. 

To be honest, some of you will have a leg up because your dad has been a healthy role model in discerning what qualities you should look for in a man. You have someone you can look up to and respect. For those that don’t have that father figure, you can certainly surround yourself with godly men who can point you in the right direction. 

Another factor in determining who and when you should date is your parents. Like it or not, they are your spiritual authority and you’re called to submit. I can hear audible groans after that last sentence, but reason with me for a minute. They weren’t born yesterday. They’ve accumulated years of knowledge under their belt and could be a very helpful guide. Also, don’t forget about that they have your best interest at heart. If they say, you’re not allowed to date until you leave their house, then so be it. If they tell you that you’re not allowed to date a particular boy, then that’s the final word. You have to trust them. 

Now, let’s say that you’re in a position to date. Don’t let the Justin Bieber swoosh or skinny v neck entrance you. Attraction is important, but godliness is the most important quality. Let me be crystal clear… church attendance does not equal godliness. You need a guy who really loves Jesus and is committed to the church. Those guys are going to be the ones who treat you well and respect you. Another way to say it is don’t lower your standards. Granted, if your standards are that he must quote you the entire Old Testament, well, you might be single for a long time. However, don’t settle just because he’s the first guy that approaches you. You’re allowed to say no. If you’re not interested, that’s okay, just gently let him know.

Next, take it sloooooooooow. You aren’t going to the altar next week. If he’s trying to kiss you on the first date, you have my permission to karate chop him in the throat and run away. The best relationships are grounded in strong friendship. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be exclusively friends with him first, but it should mean that you’re going 15 mph even when the speed limit is 30. 

It’s also important to accept the fact that you have blind spots. Other people see things that you may not be aware of. Just because he looks like a 15 year old version of Orlando Bloom doesn’t mean that he’s incapable of character flaws. When your family or friends bring this to your attention, be quick to listen instead of dismiss. They might be seeing something that you aren’t privy to.

My last piece of advice is… drum roll please… don’t check your friends at the door. Whenever a new “boo thang” enters the picture, it can be natural to do that. Your friends are left bitter and flabbergasted when you drop them for someone that you’ve known for two seconds. Lean into their friendship. If things do work out with the guy, date in the context of community. Make sure you’re as visible as possible and invite accountability into your relationship. I promise you won’t regret it.  

Some of you have made mistakes in the past. Realize that there is no sin that is unspoken for at the cross. God’s grace is unimaginably deep. It can work to heal the pain of the past as well as safeguard your future. 

Miss Piggly Wiggly

I genuinely have laughed so hard writing this blog and honestly forgot that this even happened, but for whatever reason it came to mind a few weeks ago. Although it’s a serious topic, I’m grateful I can look back and laugh.

I think we’ve all at one time or another experienced unkind words, gossip, and ridicule. I was homeschooled, so I was spared a good amount of the ridicule that students face in school. However, having a father in politics certainly made up for the unkind words I may not have experienced from my time in middle/high school. I think by this point most people know my father has thick skin. You really can’t upset him by ridiculing him, so instead, people resort to criticizing or ridiculing my family. It’s not okay and it’s not right, but it’s the reality.

For whatever reason, our current culture seems to believe that social media is a free for all. You can say what you want, because you’re looking at a keyboard, not a person. Social media is a convenient portal between our honest, raw, and sometimes terrible thoughts and the reality of humans. It’s very easy to type up hurtful words when you don’t have to see the direct impact they have on real, living and breathing people.

I remember a couple years back I stumbled upon a Facebook feed of comments. It began with talking about my dad and then somehow ended up talking about me. Now, I had no idea who these people were. So, I’m not really sure how I found this feed, but I saw it (and remembered it) nonetheless.

There were several comments and said things like-

“Hasn’t she competed at Miss Alabama like 5 times? Shouldn’t she be Miss America by now?”

“She’s had every title possible… Miss Gulf Coast, Miss Hoover, Miss Leeds, Miss Piggly Wiggly….”

LOL.

Now, thankfully I have a great instinct for comedy and I think this is ridiculously hilarious. With that being said, it’s clear these folks don’t know me because if they did they would understand “Miss Publix” is a much more fitting title considering I’m there about five and a half times a week. I love me some Publix. But, I digress.

Now, 3-4 years ago I wouldn’t have thought this was funny. It would have ripped me apart to see grown adults feel it was OK or appropriate to ridicule someone they had never met. I’m incredibly proud of my accomplishments in pageants even though I was not Miss America and I did not win Miss Alabama (Although I did make top 12 😉 ). I’m proud of myself and any other woman who has the guts to step on a stage and be vulnerable. It takes a lot to put yourself out there and I doubt people would ridicule if they understood the amount of hours and dedication it takes to prepare for something like that.

Although several years ago these kinds of comments would have deeply hurt me, I now understand. I get why people write the unkind things they do. Often times, it has more to do with them than it does with you.

The truth is, a lot of people in this world are hurting. They are experiencing loss, grief, sadness, depression, anxiety, and worry. We’ve all experienced at least one of those things in our lifetime and I think we could agree we aren’t necessarily the best versions of ourselves when we have those emotions brewing. I know I’ve certainly not been the best Bailey to the people around me when I’ve experienced sad or stressful seasons. (Sorry fam)

There are some people out there who are just mean and they’ll be that way until the good Lord softens their heart. However, there are also people out there who are just hurting. I can look back and laugh about those comments now. I realize they probably didn’t actually have anything to do with me, but stemmed from something else.

When people make fun or hurt us, our natural first response is to try to hurt them in return in order to make them feel what we feel. But maybe we should first try to consider, what are they feeling? Why are they lashing out like this?

Now, words can hurt, there is no doubt about it. But, I think unkind words can be more easily be overcome when we realize what they are stemming from. We can then start to dissociate those words from ourselves and realize they are more about the person that said them and what they are going through. Often times, insults are a reflection of that person’s internal battle.

In my life, I’m currently in the process of learning to see past gossip and mean words and in turn, feel empathy for that individual. I’m not perfect and I’ve certainly said some unkind things in my life. I hope those people have had grace with me. And, I hope I can extend the favor of giving grace when people say unkind things about me.

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @BaileyKennon.

An Open Letter to the Girl Starting Back to School

Hello Lovely Lady,

I wrote this blog about 2 years ago, but for some reason the Lord sort of put it on my heart. I thought about just re-posting, but instead I wanted to come back and edit/add some things. The older you get, the more you learn. I know just in the last couple years- I’ve grown and learned more than I thought I could! I want you to know how loved and valued you are because as the next few years unfold you will go through many different seasons of life. Some good, some bad, some exciting, and some terrifying. And that’s ok, it’s all apart of life. However, I’m going to share with you some things people shared with me when I was younger as well as things I’ve learned in these short 24 years.

  1. Middle school and high school don’t last forever!

In the moment, some things seem so important. Everything seems finite. Who you go to prom with, what you wear the first day of school, the drama of middle/high school romance- but in retrospect, it is not near as big of a deal as you might think. Don’t get caught up on the little things, keep your eyes focused on your future and your goals. It’s okay to care about what you wear or who you go to prom with- just remember that high school is only 4 years. You have so much ahead of you.

2. The friends you have in 7th grade may not still be your friends when you graduate and that’s okay.

During your middle/high school years, you are going to grow and change and the people around you will as well. Some friends will weather the storms of life with you, and others will move on to other things. It can be sad in the moment to lose a friend, but know that you will meet new people wherever you are and in whatever season of life. God is going to put the right people in your path in the right time.

3. Being in a relationship is not a requirement.

You are not weird or a freak if you are single. There is nothing wrong with taking time to focus on yourself and give the guys around you time to mature and grow into the men they need to be. You don’t need a boyfriend to have value or worth. Don’t let anyone tell you differently! I went out on dates in high school, but I was 21 before I had my first serious boyfriend. There is nothing wrong with dating in high school, but you should never feel pressure to enter into or remain in a relationship simply because you are worried you’ll be looked at differently if you’re single.

4. A Kylie Jenner Lip Kit will not make you like yourself more or help the things you are self-conscious about (I’m talking to myself here).

Something I have never liked about myself is my lips. I know that sounds dumb, but every time I would look in the mirror, I would look at them and think they are too small. I always told myself when I got older I would get some type of filler to make my lips bigger. It made me feel better to think eventually this perceived “flaw” would be fixed. However, there came a point when I had to realize that I’m not Angelina Jolie or Kylie Jenner- I’m Bailey Kennon. “Fixing” or “covering up” something was not going to deal with the real issue at hand- which was my heart. Not saying there is anything wrong with lip kits (I like lip liners as much as the next person)- simply that before you attempt to “fix” yourself on the outside, you have to examine your heart on the inside. Then, real progress and transformation can take place.

5. You don’t have to make mistakes, but it’s okay if you do. 

The beautiful thing about having parents, older siblings, and mentors is that you can learn from their mistakes. You don’t have to make the same mistakes they do- you can take their advice and hopefully avoid many obstacles. However, it’s okay if you do make mistakes. That’s how you learn and that’s how you grow. I have certainly made my share of mistakes, but I’m learning I can’t mentally beat myself up for it. Understand that one wrong turn does not mean you have derailed your entire life- every day is a new day and a new opportunity to make it better than the day before.

6. You are not who you have been, you are who you choose to be. Choose to be someone good.

Change and transformation is normal. You’re going to go through many seasons of life. Sometimes you may not understand your purpose, you many not understand why God has put you on a certain path. But regardless of where you are, be something good. Learn to shine wherever He places you. One of my favorite quotes is- “Grow where you are planted”- learn to live by that.

7.  You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

In regards to this, I’m not talking about your parents or other authority figures- I’m talking peers and boyfriends. Just because someone asks you to do something does not mean you have to. Whether that be going to a party, going further physically in a relationship than you want to, underage drinking, smoking, etc. You have to know what your boundaries are and not allow anyone to push you past them. Just for the record, it is possible to get through middle school and high school without drinking, partying, or smoking. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Do what you know is right and let the chips fall where they may. Be strong and stand up for yourself.

8. Pray for your future spouse.

This is so important. Regardless of whether or not you meet the man you’ll marry in high school- he is going through the same things you are. He will have seasons of loneliness, happiness, frustration, and worry. Pray for his heart and for his relationship with the Lord. Ask God to give him the strength to stay strong in his faith and to put the people in his life that he will need to mentor him. You never know what is going on in his home or in his life- Make sure he has your prayers.

9. Words carry weight.

My primary love language is words of affirmation. My whole week can be made by a tiny compliment- as well as an insult can tear me to pieces. I’ve had to learn to toughen up, but I’ve learned that words carry a lot of weight. Use your words to build people up- not discourage or tear them down. In this age of social media, once you put something out there, you cannot take it back. Know the power of your words and your keyboard. Before posting something, remember that it will always be there and try to think of who it will affect.

10. Give grace.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life is that we’re all going to mess up. Today it might be me, tomorrow it might be you. Regardless, give grace. I’m not saying you shouldn’t defend or take up for yourself if someone is treating you poorly. I am telling you when a friend hurts you- remember a time that you hurt someone and how you would have loved to have been given grace. I am trying to learn to live a life that abundantly gives grace, because that’s what our Lord does and shouldn’t we try to be more like Him?

Above all, center yourself and your life in Jesus. Life won’t always be easy, but it will be fulfilling knowing that you’re walking with the Creator by your side.

Happy school year ladies- make it a good one!

“Her clothes are strength and honor. She is full of joy about the future. She opens her mouth with wisdom. The teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” -Proverbs 31:25-26 (NLV)

When The Burden Is Too Heavy

My heart has been so heavy recently in the light of COVID-19. People are scared for their lives and their livelihoods. We’re in frustrating and uncertain times- I know there will be a light at the end of the tunnel; but, sometimes it’s hard to persevere until we see that light.

This morning in my quiet time I read about Moses and chapter 11 in the book of Numbers. This was the passage given-

“And Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to desire the burn of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!'” – Numbers 11:11-13 (NLT)

To give a little context, the Israelites still have not entered the Promised Land. They are currently wandering in the desert and making Moses’ life pretty miserable. Instead of being thankful for being on their way to the place God has for them, the Israelites are too consumed with what they don’t have. So, Moses is frustrated and sharing his feelings with the Lord.

The first thing I really love about that passage is how direct and honest Moses is. The guy is just mad, annoyed, and over it! I think sometimes we feel like when we pray and talk with God we need to have our thoughts beautifully wrapped up to present to Him. But, I don’t really believe that’s what Jesus wants. I think He desires us to be real and raw because that is what comes with a deep and intimate relationship.

If you think about your relationship with your best friend- When you’re upset, do you tone down your feelings? Do you worry about being judged for having emotions (good or bad)? No- You’re real and honest. You’re upfront about being angry or sad or emotional.

In my opinion, our conversations with Jesus shouldn’t be any different. He desires to know the deepest parts of us and when we feel frustrated, He wants us to come to Him.

The second thing I think is very important in this chapter is that God not only wanted Moses to share the burden with Him, but also the people around him.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Gather before me seventy men who are recognized as elders and leaders of Israel. Bring them to the Tabernacle to stand there with you.  I will come down and talk to you there. I will take some of the Spirit that is upon you, and I will put the Spirit upon them also. They will bear the burden of the people along with you, so you will not have to carry it alone.'” Numbers 11:16-17 (NLT)

I don’t know why, but this just gets me. How marvelous is it that God gets it? He knows that we need Him, but He also recognizes that we need community. We need accountability partners, mentors, and friends to help us carry the burdens we have. Moses was a pretty impressive person and I would say had been through the ringer in his life. But, God knew he still would need others to help him through this frustrating time.

Taking this and applying it to our current state- I would encourage you to be real with God. If you’re scared or upset or mad or stressed- tell Him. Open yourself up to Him and invite Him to work in you to give you peace.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to need other people. Don’t be afraid to share your burdens and concerns whatever they may be. If Moses needed people and community- You do too. There will be an end to this very strange time we’re living in and I am choosing to believe we will be better people for it. But, in the mean time, it’s okay to not be okay. Be open and honest with yourself, Jesus, and the community He has given you.

 

The Quarantine Diaries: Part 1

It’s the first real few days of quarantine here on the Gulf Coast and I’m feeling a lot like Rapunzel. I’ve cleaned out closets and dusted book shelves and read just about every book on them. And it’s only been like 3 days.

The interesting thing about quarantine is that it makes you think. I think as a culture we’ve become very uncomfortable with silence- we drown out our own introspective thoughts with schedules, gatherings, and over-commitments because if our calendars weren’t full, we might have to sit and actually deal with the real things of life. It’s hard and we seem to avoid it like the plague. But in this situation, we’re having to deal with our own thoughts because we’re trying to avoid the actual  plague. “Oh, how the turn tables…”- Michael Scott

I used to be afraid of silence, but now I’m learning to appreciate it. I’m learning to not be afraid of time alone, but to embrace it.

I’m not married quite yet. I’ve been engaged, I’ve gotten un-engaged, I’ve fallen in love, then out of love, broken up with people and then broken up with by people. I still have a lot of life ahead of me don’t get me wrong (I’m only 24), but sometimes in the silence and the alone-ness I just wonder. The majority of my friends are married, engaged and some even are beginning to have children. All of this going on around me certainly starts to make me feel some pressure.

All my single/unmarried folks out there get it- it’s hard. I’m in no rush to get married or have children, but I do wonder when I’m going to find my person. Could be tomorrow or could be 3 years from now. Who really knows?

But here’s the place I’ve come to- I’m over trying to figure it out. I’ve found that there are a lot of parallels between this whole quarantine situation and being single/unmarried. We’re not going to be quarantined or single forever. One day soon (God willing), there will be a cure and we’ll come out of our house and go back to our busy lives. One day you’ll meet the person of your dreams and you won’t go back to it being just you on a Friday at home with a new book.

My point is- we’ve been given this time for a reason. What are we going to do with it?

I’m going to read, organize, and spend some time with Jesus and my family. I’ve also been saying for 2 years now that I’m going to try jiu-jitsu so when this whole thing is over y’all have to hold me accountable. Maybe I’ll YouTube some how-to videos until then.

On a more serious note, I want to make the most out of this time I have for myself. I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up, but I do know that somehow I want to change the world. Haven’t quite figured that out yet, but in the mean time, I’m going to push myself and hopefully grow into someone Jesus can use for big things- whatever those things may be.

Stay safe y’all. Wash your hands. Also, if you’re looking for a great Netflix show, try Love Is Blind (it’s a beautiful train wreck).

Something More

I’m a very goal-oriented person- I love working for certain things and then being able to check them off my list. I enjoy feeling like I am working towards something that is bigger than myself. I think that’s why every day of my life I’m either stressed out or bored- there is no in between. I’ve always got something going on.

I also think that is one of the reasons why I have continued to compete in pageants year after year. I have not won a state title yet (maybe this year will be my year lol) and I’ve had people make comments to me (and also behind my back lol) about why would she continue to compete? Hasn’t she done this like 5 times already?

Here’s the thing, I think many of us experience this in different ways. Maybe you’re not a pageant contestant, but you enjoy running 5ks. Maybe you’ve got a dream of building a business. Maybe you want to write a book one day. These may be big goals or they may be small, but you enjoy working towards them because it makes you feel like you are working towards something bigger. Who really wants to just sleep, eat, go to work, come home and repeat the next day? There’s got to be more to our lives than that.

I love competing in pageants because it makes me better as a person. I have a goal to work toward. I have a reason to not eat pizza 3 days a week- you wouldn’t believe the motivation you have for fitness when you know you’ll be wearing a swimsuit on stage in a few months. But beyond the physical aspect, competing in pageants has given me a platform for my non-profit and I feel like I’ve truly been able to make a difference in the state that I love so much.

I’ve been reading through the book of Ecclesiastes and it’s hit me pretty hard. If you haven’t read it- I would certainly encourage it because it really puts life in perspective for us. King Solomon (the author of the book) had wealth, power, status, and anything else a person could dream of accumulating in life. But, he writes about how every bit of it is meaningless unless you are doing something bigger with what you have.

I’ve learned that God doesn’t need me- He wants me- but He doesn’t need me to accomplish what He wants to do. However, I don’t want to miss out on what God’s doing. I desire to be apart of His plan in whatever way I can. Whatever gifts, talents, skills, or opportunities He has given me, I want to use those things to do something bigger.

I love my job in real estate, I love competing in pageants, and I also love being a personal trainer, but reading through this book has really challenged me to think deeper and ask myself what’s the bigger goal? What is the bigger purpose? I don’t want to just make a living- I want to make a life that that has depth to it. But, only Jesus can truly add depth to our lives.

So, I say all this to say- what are the things you’re doing (pageants, 5ks, building a side business) and what is the bigger goal in them? Some folks may not understand why I compete in pageants year after year- but it honestly doesn’t really matter what they think. Just like it doesn’t matter if people understand why you keep running 5ks or writing drafts to a book you’ve been dreaming about publishing. What matters is that you have goals, you have dreams, and you have purpose. If you aren’t sure quite yet what that purpose is, that is okay.

I would encourage you this week to start reflecting and praying on how you can take the things your life consists of right now, and use them to be a part of something more.

So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.25 For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from Him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please Him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.” – Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 (NLT)