Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Intentional Integrity

Intentional Integrity, by Dr. Garnett Reid, is a book focusing on the life of Job and the lessons that can be learned from Job's life and story.  The book covers many aspects of his life ranging from worship, loyalty, purity, confession, compassion, as well as other topics that deal with real life situations in Job’s time, as well as our own.

This is a book I highly recommend.  It deeply looks at the life of Job and at different angles I know I personally have never looked at for Job’s life.  It was eye opening and I learned many lessons throughout the book.  Dr. Garnett Reid’s book makes you question the type of life you currently are living.  It challenges you to ask yourself, “Am I living a life of integrity?  Am I living a life I am meant to live in front of others as well as hidden behind doors at home?  Am I living the life I am meant to live for God?”

Living a life of “intentional integrity” is a day-to-day challenge.  Not only is it a challenge now, but it was a challenge in Job’s world as well.  Job was not perfect but yet he was still able to live his life in a way that pleased God, regardless of the tragedies surrounding him. 

Living a life of integrity is something we should all be working and striving for, to be the best we can be for God and to live for Him.  We all struggle with different topics of life.  When you pick up the book “Intentional Integrity” and you start to read what is in between the pages, Dr. Garnett Reid provides not only examples from Job’s life and lessons to be learned from Job. He also provides examples of ways we may struggle in today’s world and ways to help you stay focused and that help you in your weaker areas.

Pick up and buy “Intentional Integrity” today.  Let me know what your thoughts are on the book and the lessons you were able to learn as you read through the chapters.  Bellow is a link to Amazon where you can purchase your copy today.  (It would even make a great Christmas gift for those that you know love to read!)

To Buy The Book, Click Here.

The Travelin' Chick,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful in 2011

It's easy to be able to dwell on events and things that we're not thankful for in life.  It's easy to focus on negative events and things that have taken place within the last year.  From sicknesses, to death, to more sicknesses - it's easy.

Lately I've actually done pretty well remembering to think everyday of at least one thing I am thankful for or how I was blessed within that set of 24 hours.  It's a habit I want to use for the rest of my life for everyday that I am breathing and am conscious.  Now, considering the fact that it's Thanksgiving week here in America, I feel it's appropriate to take a few minutes to focus on what I am thankful for from this last year here on my blog (with pictures!).

Here we go...(There are a LOT of things I'm thankful for so I know odds are, I won't get to cover them all in this entry.  I think the list would be endless.)

  • My Family -  (My parents, sister, brother-in-law, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents...You get the idea.  The whole family.)  Not only am I thankful for the people God has blessed me with to share some of the same DNA, but I am thankful for the tight-knit group that we are together.  We compliment one another really well in many ways.  When hard times do come, we aren't broken apart.  We grow closer together and can trust one another through everything.  Oddly enough - I've always known I was blessed to have such a cool family.  However, I never realize how blessed I am until this year and how unique my family is.  It's crazy that it took me 20 years to figure that out.

  • Ashley Elizabeth (My Niece)  -  Not once did we ever get to make eye contact.  She never even took her first breath or created her first cry.  There's a lot of hardship that has come at the mention of her name.  However...There are a lot of blessings that even an unborn child can make or be.  She was a blessing in the time we had with her before she entered the world.  She created happiness, smiles, laughter, and excitement.  And while my time with her was short while she was out of the womb, I am thankful for the chance I had to hold her before completely saying goodbye.

  • Rayna -  I'm thankful for all my family, like mentioned above, but I am specifically thankful for Rayna.  She's blessed me in ways she'll never completely know in many much needed times.  She lights up my life...makes me laugh and smile.  Just being with her has helped heal part of my brokenness from the year. Oh, and nap times?  They are the best when cuddled with her!!

  • Humor -  I love wit, irony, sarcasm, and I love cheesy.  I love anything that makes me laugh. (Even if it's not always intended to!! Ha!)

  • Doctors and the technology they have within the hospital walls.  They have saved many family member's lives this year and also have helped with issues that aren't life-threatening, but still in need of attention.

  • Traveling -  I was able to visit many places this year ranging from Nashville, to Japan, to Mexico.  It's neat to see the different cultures, people, and ways people live and do things.  It's a blessing to know people from different parts of the world too.

  • Ability -  There are a lot of abilities I have and can go towards and direction.  However, I specifically am referring to the ability of physical ability.  Yeah, yeah, right now I have a bum ankle from injury and surgery...But usually I have a good range of ability so I can go and help people when I travel.  For example: Disaster relief work in Japan.  Building houses when in Mexico.

  • My Dog Miss Ruby Ann - Out of all the things I can write about my dog definitely makes the list.  She is the best dog I've ever had.  She makes me smile through her goofy moments, excitement when she sees me, when she follows me around, or just goes to bed with me at night.  She's a cool dog.

  • My Dad - I am thankful he is still alive and with us today.

  • My camera -  And the ability to capture a few minutes of joy and happiness for a lifetime.

  • Pen and paper -  Or, electricity, keyboard, and screen.  Being able to write and tell stories to others through my writings via email, blog, or even just for my own personal records in my private journal.

  • Things I Accomplished from my Bucket List - Like riding a jet ski!!

  • Friends - local and distant...Old and new.  Friends who are willing and able to call and check on me from time to time.  Friends that make me laugh and smile.  Friends who laugh when I laugh, cry when I cry.  Friends who are uplifting and encouraging.  Friends who say they are praying for me, who do pray for me.  Friends I can be open and honest with while being myself.
    • There are some other specific friends I am thankful for...However...When thinking about who to post a picture of for this section, Josh and Alicia were the first to come to mind - and quickly at that (pretty much instantly)!! They fit the description above 100%. When I've cried they embraced me, and they cried. When I laugh, they both laugh - often being a source of laughter. I am thankful for my dear friends!! I am thankful for their friendship, their support, encouragement, and the time we had together in Japan in July. (The list could really go on why I am thankful for them!! But if you read the blog and you read the general list, you get the idea of the type of friends they are (AKA: The awesome kind! Ha!).) While the time in Japan was short and in a crazy crazy time, it was sweet all the same. I love you, guys!!!

  • New Experiences and Memories -   Everyday is a new self-building adventure.

  • My home - A home with windows, doors, locks, floors, and a roof.  A home with warmth and an AC, a home with a kitchen, electricity, and a bathroom.

  • Education - whether it be from life experiences or from a classroom.  Whether I am learning myself or teaching someone else something new (which in itself can be a learning experience while teaching!)

  • My Life -  Through it all, I am thankful to be alive.  I am thankful for my experiences, lessons, blessings, stories, family, and friends.  I am thankful for my life.

  • Operation Mobilization -  I am thankful to be able to have my upcoming opportunity to go with them to London.  While I haven't gone anywhere with them yet, I am thankful for the chance, the excitement it brings, and the experiences I've had locally while preparing to go.

  • Support for OM - The support has been uplifting, encouraging, and at times quite eye opening!!  I still have about $3,300 to go...I still need a lot of prayers...But the support that has been shown in both areas has been amazing...and I thank God and you for that!

  • God - I'm thankful for all that He is and all He has done in my life.  He is my Comforter, Healer, Shepherd, Light, Purpose for Being, Father, Encourager, Provider, and SO much MORE.  He is my EVERYTHING.

  • Prayer - Being able to pray...Praying for others...Knowing that I'm being prayed for!  Even by those that speak with a different language!

  • Creativity - My creativity, other people's creativity.  Creativity for photography, writing, scrapbooking, etc, etc, etc!

  • For 2011 - It was a bittersweet year.  While there was a lot of "bitter" and bad/hard times, there was a LOT of sweetness to my year as well.  A lot of trips, laughter, time with family and friends, encouragement, prayers, excitement, and more.  The year of 2011 was a hard year...but also a good year.

This is just a summary of things and people I am thankful for...I don't know the kind of year you've had.  You may of had a GREAT year, or a terrible year.  While I don't know the type of year you've had, but what I do know is - even in the worst of years there are blessings.  There are things and people to be thankful for.  What are YOU thankful for this year?  Feel free to leave a comment!  I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Travelin' Chick,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Our Village

They say it takes a whole village to raise a child. I completely agree with this statement. From an early age a child is easily affected by those that surround them in their life.

My aunt, Felicia, had a baby (Rayna) in September of 2010. She is the cutest kid I have ever met. She literally lights up my life like nobody else can. When spending time with her my family members and I can all see ourselves in her in the way she acts and in the way she talks. Granted, Rayna does have a BIG vocabulary, she can't talk in sentences or in very many phrases yet, but we know what we've taught her and shown her.

For example: My mom can see herself in her niece when she gives us Eskimo kisses or when she calls her toes "pigs" or "piggies" (This little piggy went to the market...This little piggy stayed home...). My dad can see himself in her when she says, "Rawr!!" when asked, "What does Uncle Jim say??" Grandma sees herself in her granddaughter when she says the words to "Jack and Jill". I can see myself in my cousin when she gives me a high five (she learned this at 7 or 8 months!), says George (Curious George), "London", or "Jamba Juice". We can all see what we've taught her this far in her life.

Tonight mom, grandpa, and I watched Rayna as my aunt took my grandma out to eat for her upcoming birthday. My baby cousin is currently 14 months old. She is as smart as can be. She knows all her colors, she can count up to about 10, knows some of the words to "Jack and Jill", knows what an oval is, all her animals and the noises that they make, and the list goes on! This kid can even spell "baby" and her own name without any help. She is super smart. If they had college scholarships for super smart babies she would make the list of receivers!

Not only is she very smart, but she is also very silly. Tonight we danced together. We sang songs (A repeated song of the night: The Wheels on the Bus go round and round...round and round...round and round...By the end of the night she had some of it memorized!). We read books. I built her towers that she knocked down. She gave me lots of high fives. We shared my cookie together. (Okay, she ate most of my cookie...) Tonight I was even able to put her to sleep with her bottle, switching in her binkie at the perfect moment before she woke up.

As we danced and sang together, a thought hit me. During our fun time I smiled and thought, "I would have been an awesome and fun aunt." It was a moment when I missed Ashley very deeply. I missed the moments I desired and had once planned to have with her. My heart ached, knowing she should be about a week old this last Saturday.

I often feel like I am carrying along with me lots of extra love...Love that I know belongs to Ashley (while she isn't with us physically, I still have love that consumes my heart for her), but don't know what to do with it or how to spend it. Had she lived I know how my love would of been expressed. It would have been expressed in kisses, "fighting" for my chance to hold her next, giving her a bottle, changing her diaper (you know it's love when you change a kid's diaper!)...and even in later years it would have been expressed by hugs, sending her a text, calling her, having fun crazy photo shoots, inviting her over to spend the night, etc.

While I miss her like crazy and my heart aches daily when her name comes to mind...I am thankful. I am thankful for my baby cousin. I am thankful to be in Rayna's "village". I am thankful that there is a child in my life that I can share my extra "aunt love" with that I carry around with me everywhere I go.

God knew what He was doing when He placed Rayna in our lives when He did. He knew how much joy and happiness she would bring to our family even in times of hardship.  Rayna is a physical example of God's perfect timing. She is a blessing to us all in more ways than one. It's a joy and honor to watch her grow up over time. In our lives she creates laughter...She has created laughter in my life when no one else was able. She daily creates smiles that are almost too big for our faces...Even making me smile in moments when all I've wanted to do is cry. With her, fun and unique memories are created. Rayna turns our moods up-side-down. While I can't completely speak for everyone in my family, I know of at least a few who will agree with me when I say: She has brought light into my own life when all I've seen is darkness. She creates healing in areas only a child can help heal. In just 14 months Rayna has affected my life for the good in more ways then she will ever know.

Rayna is only 14 months old. She has no way of understanding what happened to Ashley, or the fact that there should even currently be another baby in our family. At the same time, she has no idea how many broken hearts she has helped glue back together piece by piece each times she laughs or each time she gives us Eskimo kisses. My heart is extremely fragile and breakable. It often breaks many times throughout a day or week...While it's going to take a while for my broken heart to heal as much as it can (as I've heard hearts never stop breaking after a loss like this...instead they just get easier in time), Rayna has a way of fixing some of the breakage. Rayna has no idea about Ashley, but she does know that she is loved. She knows she is special. She knows she is the center of our world.

Not to sound big headed, but yes, I know I would have been a great aunt. There is no doubt in my mind about this fact. Until that chance arises again, I do my best to be a great cousin. A cousin Rayna can look up to as a role model...A cousin Rayna can come to for advice or help...A cousin that can make Rayna laugh and goof off with...A cousin that loves Rayna with all my heart - with an extra dose of "aunt love".

The Travelin' Chick,

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Busy Sunday

Today I had the opportunity to speak at two churches about my trip to London. The church I spoke at this morning was a local church in my hometown. The other church was in Bakersfield, about two hours from where I live.

It was a joy to be able to spend time with both churches and the people that attend them! I love being able to see people from other churches, meet new friends, hear their stories, etc, etc. If you attend either church: Thank you to all of you for your prayers, encouragement, and support - and thanks for having me! It was a joy to visit with you and I hope to see you around again soon. I can't wait until I return back from London and can tell you all about what God is doing in England. (Until then, I hope you are able to follow the journey through my blog!) :-)

Being in Bakersfield I had the honor of visiting with a friend and an OM prayer partner, Amberly. (She was also the Retreat Speaker this year for our California FWB Women's Retreat...I've said this before, but if you need a speaker, I highly recommend her!) Mom came with me so she could make the drive easier for my foot. We were able to visit with Amberly as well as meet one of her dear sweet friends and wonderful family. It was really nice to be able to catch up and to share some laughs together!

While in Bakersfield, after lunch with Amberly and her clan, an interesting situation occurred. I was standing outside Wal-Mart waiting for my mom to pull the car around to pick me up. (We had to park a ways away, and my foot was weary from walking.) Standing outside I noticed there was a guy running a booth. I'm not 100% sure what the booth was for, as I didn't go take a look. All I know is it had to do with Jesus and a mission.

As I was waiting for my mom I heard the man running the booth say to a woman, "May God bless you, ma'am!" Two seconds later I heard him say something like, "...No, not you! I was talking to the other lady! May God bless her!"

The comment definitely took me by surprise! I wasn't sure if I should laugh or be in shock...So I ended up doing a little bit of both. It is my prayer that God blesses both of the women he talked to today!

Oh, and if you've read my "Who am I?" page here on my blog, remember how I spent a year in Nashville, Tennessee, to go to the Free Will Baptist Bible College? Well, apparently the southern slang is still embedded in my mind and is mixing in my vocabulary. Here's where I admit: I used the phrase, "I'm fixin' to..." unintentionally tonight in my OM speech. Yes, I lived one year in Tennessee. Yes, I was born and raise in California...and have been home from Tennessee for a year and a half. I guess I embrace and cling to different cultures??

How did you spend your Sunday??

The Travelin' Chick,

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Weak and Broken

Recently I was able to talk to a friend on the phone that I haven't talked to in a while. It was a good conversation that I really enjoyed. It was a joy to catch up on each other's lives. While it had been a while since we last talked, it felt like no time had passed between our last conversation.

One of the first things she told me excitedly was, "Guess what!! I'm going to be an aunt!!!" My first question was, "Do you want a niece or a nephew?" She told me, "I'm cool with whatever...but a niece would be really cool."

I am truly excited for my friend. I remember being in her shoes, finding out about a siblings wonderful news. It's an exciting feeling and one that should be celebrated!

In my excitement for my friends, a thought keeps coming to my mind, "This week I should have become an aunt." I think, "I should be calling her in a few days to say, 'I AM an aunt!'"

My nieces due date has arrived. This upcoming Saturday was the day doctors estimated her arrival into our lives. Little did they know that they were a few months off, and the time of smiles and excitement would instead be a time of sorrow and tears.

This week I am reminded that grieving is a process and not just a phase. During the last month or so I've been mostly doing pretty well. Like I've mentioned many times before, each day is different. Each moment is different. But in comparison to the first few months, I've felt pretty strong and emotionally well. I've been replacing my anger with happiness, my tears with laughter, and my sadness with joy. I've been thankful for the change in emotional scenery thinking, "I am finally getting back to my usual self!"

Then this week came. Before I even found out my friends news I started to struggle. (And let me just add: It's not that she's becoming an aunt that makes me struggle. I am truly joyful about the addition to their amazing family and am SO glad she called to tell me!! What hit me was just the phrase, "I'm going to be an aunt"...) I started to struggle more around Saturday, literally the week before she was due. I struggle when I see my sister get an add for Babies 'R Us, I struggle when I see my sister's heart breaking, when hearing someone crying down the hall, when recently hearing the song they play in the hospital ER every time a baby has been born...I struggle.

I've been fighting my sadness and tears once again. During my grieving process I previously struggled with flashbacks of everything...The text messages of my mom wanting me to call her, the call of the news, the long flight home, holding her for the first and last time, looking into the ground where her casket would forever lay...Memories I wish I could erase have been embedded in the front of my brain. Not only have I been fighting my sadness and tears again, but my flashbacks as well.

Grieving isn't something you can just be done with, like a phase. Grieving is a process. Just like in any process some steps are easier than others. One part of a process can be hard, then easy, then to hard again. Just like my grieving.

This week is a reminder of how weak I still am. It reminds me that while I don't feel shattered like I did in the beginning, I am still so very broken and still healing.

If you know me well enough you know that I am usually not an emotional person. I usually do well suppressing the "negative" emotions that I feel. While I know that's not the healthiest way to handle emotions of that type, it's how I often cope. This week I've been in control of my emotions pretty well from the outside perspective. I've been "myself" as I put up a wall and mask of being completely calm, smiling, and happy. Most who have interacted with me or that will interact with me probably can't tell my current internal battle. On the inside, sorrow and sadness are tugging at my heart. Tears have almost started falling from my eyes many times for no reason at all, except for just the reason of feeling sad.

When you read my blogs describing my grief, please don't feel like you have to walk on egg shells when you talk to me or while you're around me. If you're a friend of mine becoming, and aunt, tell, me! I will celebrate with you. I want to celebrate with you!! While I've never gotten to experience the usual part of being an aunt, I fully remember the part of finding out the news, the excitement, and the shopping in expectation. It's a wonderful joyous time.

This whole grief thing in the aspect of death is new for me. While I've dealt with personal grief due to serious sicknesses in the family, I haven't really dealt much with death in a way that is so close to me personally. You may wonder, "How can I help? What can I do? What shouldn't I do?" As I have been grieving death and sicknesses from this year, here are just a few thoughts that have come to my mind from my experiences and perspective:

  • Pray. Let a grieving person know that you are praying. (Just don't forget to actually pray.)

  • Facebook comments/messages and e-mails are nice...however, a card, or even a phone call is even better.

  • Don't be afraid to call...especially if you've been in a simlar situation...and even if haven't been in a simlar situation. It's okay if you don't know the words to say...There isn't a script for tough situations. Sometimes a grieving person wants to talk to someone but doesn't feel comfortable calling another person to share their burdens (even if they've been told to call anytime). And even if they don't open up share their burdens, it feels nice knowing that someone has called to check on them as it is an encouragement.

  • When you're talking to a person who's family has been going through a hard time and a storm, don't just ask, "How is ____ (Fill in the blank) doing? And how about ______??" Remember to ask, "How are YOU doing?" If someone is the daughter of a sick father, or the aunt of a a child that now spends her time in Heaven, she is also affected - even if she isn't the parent of the child or the spouse of the sick. While this person may not mind updating you, this person is not just a reporter for their family. She (or he) too have also been going through the storm and more than likely been struggling as well, needing and wanting a pair of willing and listening ears.

Grieving is a process. It's a process where I learn and experience new feelings, thoughts, and emotions. My family has already been told many times, "You're going to be grieving the loss of Ashley for all of your life, especially with milestones and holidays. You will always love and miss her. However, with each year that passes the pain just gets more bearable and you learn to cope."

Often I've prayed, "Lord, break my heart with what breaks Yours." This year I've truly been learning what breaks His heart. It breaks his heart to see His creation hurting, for His people to lose those that they love, and to see us struggling. While going through these experiences hurt, I know that I have changed in some ways. I'm not sure exactly how yet, but I know that God has given me a tender heart in areas where while it was tender, it wasn't nearly as tender as it is now. Going through certain experiences I can now relate to many who are going through similar situations...While I am still hurting, I will be able to reach out to those that I before wouldn't be able to just because of my innocence in regards to the situations. God has given me a bigger vision for new passions I wouldn't have without my experiences.
My vision has expanded, new passions have grown, interests have increased, and my heart has been broken and in turn has made me more tender. Grieving is a process...and with this process I am growing as a person and trying to learn what God can show me through this experience.

I am weak and broken...But I am not letting this pain go to waste.

The Travelin' Chick,