A Glimpse of What God Has In Store

Yesterday I wrote a post about Raven Goff, just wanting to express how much the story meant to me. I posted a link on the Cravin Raven group, which the last time I saw the member count before posting, it was around 1200 people. I thought 20-30 people would see the blog, but really just wanted to express how I was feeling. After I shared it I noticed that it started getting likes and shares within the group, which had grown to THOUSANDS of members by that point. When it got 500 views, I thought, “God wouldn’t that be cool, if 1000 people saw it?” I went back to working on the book and checked an hour later. Over 1200 people had viewed the post. As someone who is just starting out in the social media and blogging space, I was overwhelmed. I have been praying for the impact on the ministry that God has put on my heart. I whispered, “God, are you preparing me? Are you trying to tell me that a thousand people will be reached by the message you have given me?” He told me to just wait. I went back to working on the book. When I logged in a couple of hours later, I was blown away.

I was speechless, almost THREE thousand people had seen my little blog. Again, I went to God in prayer, “God, are you saying that three thousand people will be reached in this ministry that you placed on my heart? Are you preparing me for three thousand people?” I absently thought, what if it hits 5000?

Then it did hit 5000. I began to feel the more humbled than I had ever felt in my life. What an honor to be a small part of such a powerful message. I went back to God in prayer, “God, I didn’t see this going this far. I am so sorry, I put my own limitations on you. I feel you preparing me.” Again, He said, “Just wait.” My son checked on me before going to bed, it was sitting around 8000 and said that there would be more than 10,000 by the time we woke up, but I brushed it off. I said, “No, son, I think it’s done.”

But I woke up to almost 11,000 views on the blog. Raven’s message continued to soar, and God continued to increase my faith little by little. It wasn’t about how many likes, shares, or blog hits. God was using the blog to help spread His message of hope and beautiful grace. He was also using the blog to show me that God’s thoughts and His plans go far beyond the distance of my imagination and are not trapped by the confinement of the walls in my mind.

See, not only have 15,000 people viewed that one blog post, when before I had never had more than 50 people read my blog, I am not most thankful because of the readership, I am thankful because God increased my faith. I am thankful that God showed me just a glimpse of his plan for Beauty From Ashes Media.

I launched the first episode of the Beauty From Ashes Radio Show today, and it was a success. It was God’s success. Guys, what could I have ever done to deserve a God who would not only forgive my past, but fully restore me? I could have never earned a love so great. The coolest thing about God, I think, is His perfect, unfailing love, and how He chooses each of us to love Him and to love each other.

Last Week I Watched a Family Do the Unthinkable

Burleson seems to have grown in leaps and bounds since we first moved here when I was six years old. I remember that year so clearly, because it was the year that I had Karen Sanders as my first grade teacher. It was the year that I met classmates that I am still friends with today. In the last thirty-something years, the town has changed. Restaurant chains have moved in, there are plenty of places to shop besides Walmart now. There are new churches, and double the number of schools as when I went to Nola Dunn. I-35 traffic is infuriating and speaks to the growth in the community. However, this town has never felt smaller and more close knit than last week when the whole town rallied together to pray for Raven Goff and support Tanner Trujillo and Shane Goff as they made the ultimate sacrifice. They are a huge part of the community and while I didn’t know them, I know their church, I know their friends, I know their work colleagues and workout partners, I used to work at the school Raven attended… it was all so close to home. Literally millions of people all over the world have been touched by this story and they all have a piece of our little town with them now.

The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust. I remember when Stephen Curtis Chapman spoke about losing his daughter and he said you start to buy into the hype that this couldn’t happen to you, you have done so much for God’s kingdom. Then he said, “But why not me? I am human and live in the same fallen world as everyone else.” I thought that was the coolest perspective, filled strength and humility.

With similar strength, the world watched Tanner’s updates from her daughter’s hospital room. After a tragic accident, Raven was declared brain dead. Tanner and Shane made the impossible decision to donate her organs. They chose to donate every organ that could be used. In a video I will never forget, Tanner sat next to her six year old little girl who was on life support. With a complete blanket of peace, Tanner shared an update on the organ donation. In this tremendous sacrifice, keeping Raven on life support for two more days after her official time of death as they waited for the organ matches to align for one perfect surgery where Ravens organs would be harvested and sent to save the lives of other children.

In that moment, when most of us would have completely shattered, Tanner said something that will stick with me forever. She said, “God is so good. He is so much sweeter than I could ever be bitter.”

There were other images throughout the story that solidified God at work. From Shane’s broken cry of worship after losing his beautiful daughter, to Tanner’s perfect peace and composure that God promised us all. To Tanner’s biological father and bonus father talking about not using the word “step” and how they are a united family. We have learned so much from this journey.

Lord, may I trust you, as much as Tanner. May I worship you with that kind of unconditional love that Shane displayed. May I always see your beauty even in my own tragedies. This, surely is your most beautiful creation from the ashes.

Confessions from a serious caffeine addict

I am currently on day three of a 7 day fast, in which I chose to give up one of my favorite substances on the planet: caffeine while only drinking water, and a little bit, I feel like I’m dying. The headache has been awful, and the brain fog is absolutely ridiculous. I am about fifteen minutes from a nap most of the day.

All that being said, I am actually glad I chose something that is so much a part of my every day life. I woke up and stumbled to the coffee pot each morning, then drank unsweet tea throughout the day. It was like a constant caffeine IV drip (although I’m not opposed to the idea).

The cool thing about fasting something I crave so much is that it is a constant reminder that I am doing this intentionally. I am believing for some really big things in my life. Fasting is supposed to be a time of prayer and focus. Every time I think about the headache or wish I could have coffee, I am reminded to refocus in prayer. It’s actually the most successful fast I have ever done – and the hardest by far.

I also chose to give up my time waster games that I used to play in my down time on my phone, focusing that time on writing, editing, reading, and podcasts. That is another part of my habits, but I felt like it was pulling on my time and attention. As I did my time budget for this month, that was the obvious choice, since it was an activity that didn’t get me closer to any of my goals.

It’s funny that the things that we think we can’t live without are the things that propel us forward when we separate ourselves from them. I believe in intentional focus. I believe in the power of prayer. I also believe that God honors our sacrifices. In his book Soar, Bishop TD Jakes posed a question, “What are you willing to give up for success?” That resonated with me. If it costs me everything to go where God has called me to go… will I still follow His voice?

Confession: I get terrible stage fright

This morning I spoke to a room of around 40 job seekers. I only talked for around ten minutes, and I knew what I wanted to say to them. I felt prepared, but as I stood in front of that room and talked, I could hear my voice shake and felt my hands and knees trembling.

Everyone gave me positive feedback, and I felt good about what was said, but I still get this terrible feedback that I have had for as long as I can remember. When I was in the youth group, I sang a solo one time standing on risers, They had to move me off of them because I was shaking so badly that the whole temporary stage was shaking, and the mic stands were shaking!

I don’t really know what makes me so scared, and I am not sure how it plays into those dreams I have of speaking in front of a room filled with women. I can see some of their faces as I share a specific message that God has laid on my heart. I can feel their hands in mind as we pray together. I can see their tears sliding down their cheeks as God heals their hearts. I know it is part of what I was designed to do, but I’m still scared.

I think what I am learning in this chapter is not that we have to be completely without fear, but that we cannot be stopped by it.

I think that it’s normal to feel scared, you just have to find a way to push through and do it anyway. Part of the victory is in overcoming everything that was thrown at you that could have made you stop… but you didn’t. Chase your dreams relentlessly, even when you’re scared.

Confession: I still struggle with anxiety

Anxiety has been paralyzing a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I still struggle with it sometimes. I am getting used to the newness of being out of my comfort zone, but it still makes my heart flutter to think about doing something that I feel unprepared for. Like writing, speaking, or opening my life completely up to strangers.

Today God used me to speak to someone…and it felt amazing. I have been so scared of that still voice inside forever. For years I have been lead to speak to people, but I was always afraid I would say or do the wrong thing. What if I missed it? What if I got it wrong?

Completely, blindly obeying God is one of the most beautiful experiences this control freak has ever felt. I think the biggest lesson in this chapter of my life is that if I will just stick with God and follow Him, and LISTEN, I can rest assured that He will not lead me anywhere that He will not bring me through.

Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t struggle or have hard times, because those are a guaranteed part of every journey we face. However, there is peace in knowing that God’s got my back. I am learning to trust. I am learning to trust Him, and I am learning to trust Him working through me. Maybe this is what it feels like to get out of the way… maybe.

And so, it begins

Today, January 12, 2020, I sent my first draft of my first three chapters to the editor. The process begins now. I am nervous and excited at the same time. I can hardly believe this day is here, but here we are, the girl behind the keyboard, typing away as she feels led.

Writing has been such an inspirational, healing journey, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to share it with all who dare read.

No matter what dream you are chasing, if you will keep moving forward, you will get there. It doesn’t matter how small the steps may be, keep taking them. If you fall, get back up and keep moving. If you quit, start again. Chase your dreams, because only you can make them happen.

Confessions from a Work-A-Holic

It’s currently 10 PM on a Sunday, and I am, of course, working. It used to be that I worked one job like I had 2-3 jobs, but now I divide my time between working 8-5 ish, family time, writing, speaking the radio show, building a social media brand, playing with puppies, spending time reading my Bible, reading 220 books in 2020, working out and trying to keep up with my house. That’s exhausting just to say!

Here’s the truth, work gives me purpose. My son has graduated high school and is working his way through EMT school. While he does appreciate a good home-cooked meal, he doesn’t actually need me for his day to day life. I’m not married. I am not ultra-involved in a church, although I have found one that I am plugging into. I love my six month old, sixty pound puppy horse, but after we play for about thirty minutes and go for a walk, he’s pretty much done with me and I don’t feel at all like I changed the world.

I used to feel incomplete without success at work, but now it’s the opposite. I have this pull towards a ministry that I know that God is calling me to. I am doing the ground work now to build the foundation that will sustain whatever he has called me to do. This time around, I am not defined by what I do. It’s different, because I have learned one important lesson.

I am not defined by what I do… what I do is defined by who I am.

I know that sounds simple, but for a girl who has always believed that her value and self worth were synonymous with what she could do for people, that is a huge paradigm shift. I am not defined by what I do, what I do is defined by who I am. I am not the person I am today because of the work that I do, in fact the opposite is true. I can do the work I do, because of the person I am. That shift in thinking enabled me to set boundaries, balance work load, and compartmentalize my time so that I could have both work and ministry and live a more balanced life.

Confession from someone who has struggled with faith.

Confession: I have never doubted God, but I have questioned a lot of His people. At one time, I left the church, and it was because of church scars.

I was told by a branding specialist this week that now is the time to start sharing my thoughts on social media, and to connect with an audience. I was given a list of social media platforms, to which I responded to the expert:

Facebook – check! This is my comfort zone – these are my people.
Linked In – check! I actually understand LI better than any of the others.
You tube – getting there, I overthink videos and delete them before posting, but I have a channel, so that’s something.
Instagram – check! This is an entire site dedicated to cute pics of kids and puppies, I’m in!
Twitter – yes, started it this week and Ugh! #ChristiansAreMean
TikTok and SnapChat – I refuse, this will not be a thing.

I feel like I am making some progress right? Turns out that I liked staying safely in my bubble, because people outside that comfort zone are mean to each other!

I happened to believe that we were called to be kind and love one another. We were called to be Christ like and if we take the name of Christ as our own, calling ourselves Christians (literally meaning Christ-followers) then we should definitely act like Christians. THIS is kind of what the Ten Commandments were talking about – Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain… ring a bell? Yeah, that has a lot less to do with saying, “Oh My God!” and a lot more to do with taking on the name of Christian but acting in a way that dishonors Christ. That includes tarnishing others in the church, especially on the Twitter.

The Bible is clear about not touching God’s anointed, and seeing the rage on Twitter these past few days from Christians against other Christians… I see a lot of touching going on!

How sad is it that this is what the rest of the world sees in us? We’re fighting for the whole world to see on the all to public, never eraseable world wide web, and we wonder why people are leaving and shunning the church. It breaks my heart, literally.

I know God is calling me to do something, but it is overwhelming.

It took me a long time to heal from the church scars and battle words of judgment and cruel words. The truth… we were called to love, and nowhere in 1 Corinthians 13 where The Bible tells us to love does it include judging or attacking others.

Confessions from someone who compares themselves to everyone else

It’s 11:53 pm and I tried to go to bed two hours ago, but I have stared at the ceiling recapping a day that I want to remember for the rest of my life. The day I first partnered with an editor for a book I wrote.

I partnered with Andria Flores, and she’s wonderful. We have two decades of friendship and deep deep rooted history. Our paths our intertwined, and our hearts speak in the unison that only friendship can decode. There isn’t anyone I would rather partner with on this book. I feel safe to be open and vulnerable and essentially say, “here is my life, edit it.”

The joy of this milestone is clouded by my dad being in the hospital. This is his second night. He has congestive heart failure and there is fluid on his lungs that is not responding to lasix. Praying hard.

Then there is the message board. I LOVE it. My mom asked me if I could use it to make social media posts, and I jumped at the chance. My first quote was something that I have been struggling with as I write, “Don’t be an extension of someone else, be uniquely and powerfully you.” Beaunique…. the beauty in being uniquely you.

Confession: that message is so powerful for me because I constantly compare myself to others.

I worry about what people say. I worry about what they think. Even in learning how to build a social media brand, I find myself over analyzing everything. Why did they like that post instead of love it? I didn’t have great engagement? What do I need to change up? It can become obsessive fast.

We weren’t designed to be replicas of other people. The world doesn’t need another Lisa Nichols or Brene Brown. I’m not supposed to be an extension of someone else’s message, effectively standing in front of my crowd to say, “Everything Mel Robbins said, and Jesus. The end.” That doesn’t help anyone in their journey.

The truth is that nobody else can tell my story. My voice and message are just as important as theirs. They have a bigger audience, and the business side of this business, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of anything I have to say.

When we compare ourselves to others, we tend to talk ourselves out of a lot of things. Once we realized that the only thing holding us back from being where our heroes are… is ourselves, then we will be uniquely and powerfully ourselves.

Confessions from an Overthinking Perfectionist

Confession: I overthink things, and anyone who knows me was not even a little shocked by that statement.

I don’t necessarily think that perfection is attainable, but I do always think it should be the goal. When I am writing something, I reread it more times than is healthy, and STILL make a ton of mistakes. When I record a video, you wouldn’t believe the number of outtakes and the horrible thoughts that go through my mind. “Is my third chin showing too much?”

I am even known for my overthinking, workaholic, perfectionism. Good thing that I’m relatively humorous in my approach to self criticism, because otherwise, I wouldn’t be much fun to be around.

One of my favorite LinkedIn recommendations came from my trainer, Megan. She had a lot of very humbling and flattering things to say, and it was the sweetest review ever. It’s also the nicest way that I have ever been called an overthinker. “She is a smart individual, who thinks outside of the box, thinks inside the box, thinks about the box, and ultimately makes things better. I highly recommend Andi and her compassionate and caring approach to the recruiting profession and the candidate’s needs.”

While I enjoy having an out of the box approach to problem solving, because I think it gives me a unique perspective, I have the tendency to get bogged down in the planning and analysis.

Confession: Sometimes I spend so much time plannings something that I am mentally and emotionally exhausted by the end of planning and I don’t start any of it.

Another Confession: Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by trying to make everything perfect that I give up before I start.

Often times, perfectionist don’t attempt things that they aren’t 100% sure they can succeed at. If we have failed in the past, it can make that tendency so much worse.

So that’s what makes this whole crazy journey of writing, radio shows, podcast, and social media-ing that much harder. I don’t know anything about building a social media brand. I don’t make youtube videos, I don’t know SEO techniques or how to make a killer website. I just don’t. Guess what, I’m stilling going to give it my best shot. I’m still going to start somewhere and trust that it’s going to get better as I go.

I went live on Facebook last night. I’m talking to people about the dream. I have failed at so many things, but I’m trying this. I meet with the editor tomorrow.

Let the journey begin.

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