What are you tethered to?

What we anchor ourselves to will ultimately determine how we respond to a crisis. So often we lose ourselves when we lose jobs, possessions or loved ones When our values is based on how others value us, then we feel like our worthiness is depreciated when others abandon or mistreat us. When we base our identity in our work, then our identity is stripped away when we lose a job or get passed up for a promotion. When we base our permanent beliefs about ourselves on temporary things, then we lose our identity when those things are gone.

If we tether who we are to outside influences, then we lose who we are when we lose those people. Who we are in Christ, who He created us to be, how He sees us is all that matters. Each and every one of us was created for a specific purpose, and it is crucial to our happiness and peace that we become who we were called to be so we can fulfill what we were created to fulfill. The only way to become that person is to see ourselves as God see us.

If we tether our faith to God based on Him giving us everything we ask for, then we lose our faith when we don’t get our way. When we base our appreciate of Him and belief in Him only on what we can understand, then we give up on our faith when tragedy strikes. But when we tether our faith to a God that is good, that loves us unconditionally, and the fundamental truths of His Word, then we are not shaken by trauma tragedy or loss.

God didn’t create us to be tossed about with the wind, to be changed by the storms, to be tied to our past forever. He called us to tether ourselves to Him. That he is the steady, unchanging God who sees us for who we are, accepts us, loves us, and wants only good for us.

They’re Supposed to be Christians

No Matter How Old You Are… Gossip and Bullying Hurt

“They’re supposed to be Christians” I have heard those words said about one person or another more times over the last year than I have heard in my whole life. Phrases that stem form one person judging another person’s actions, choices or behavior and determining that what they see does not align with their own view of Christianity, or being Christ-like.

There is a quote I read in the Ten- Day Word Fast, a devotional on YouVersion by Tim Cameron and Chrisma House, that says that judging others happens when we look at their actions or behavior from our own perspective, and make a decision about their entire worth based on what we see. We determine that we know the reason the other person did what they did and decide their value based on that one aspect of their life, or possible just one moment in time.

I can’t help but feel like we are on dangerous ground when we look at a snapshot of someone’s life and make a determination not only about their faith, but about their worthiness to be saved. God is clear in the Bible about not standing in judgment of others, and the more I study worthiness and judgment, the more I feel like God doesn’t want us to stand in judgment because we do not get to determine someone else’s worth – that’s HIS job.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is this quote from Brene Brown. We are worthy NOW. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.

Christ paid the price for our salvation with each of us in mind. We were bought with a price. As is. God did not design our worthiness on an accrual system. We can’t possibly earn someone dying on the cross so that we could have eternal life. We couldn’t possible do enough to be worthy of that kind of love. God chose each of us, just as we are.

While it is true that we will be known by our fruits (our actions, our words, our behaviors) it is also true that we don’t have a point reference for other people’s lives to measure where they started to where they are now. We may see areas that need maturing, but we have no idea what it took for them to make this far.

Gossip, judgment, and cruelty create church scars among people who are working to become who God created them to become. We so often derail them with thoughtless words or judgments based on our own perception and own perspective. We drive them away from Christ because of our words and because we cast them out of our inner faith circle and make them feel less than worthy of the love and grace of God.

God, may our hearts mirror yours. May our eyes see your people as you see them, beyond their appearance or behavior and into their hearts. May our ears hear beyond their words and into what they aren’t saying to hear the hurt. May our hands be an extension of your love. May our feet go where you have called us to go – to reach your people.

Amen.

The Crystal McGinley Story: Living Through Loss

Last night on Beauty From Ashes, we talked about living through loss. I was joined by Crystal McGinley, who has faced more loss in her life than most of us will ever know. We were also joined by Jessica Shipers, a lifelong friend of mine, coworker of Crystal’s, and one of the funniest and I have ever known.

“You can’t tell by getting to know someone on the surface, the losses they carry with them.” – Crystal McGinley

Crystal has survived the unthinkable losses of four of her seven children. In addition to that, she understands that the grieving process applies not only to the loss of children and loved ones, but to the loss of dreams, the loss of hope, the loss of love, the loss of marriage, and the loss of communication with someone you love.

Crystal became a mom at the age of eighteen. Just two weeks before her son Jason’s second birthday, Jason went went with his dad to the family farm, as he often did, playing in the yard as his dad worked nearby. Crystal arrived to the farm and asked where Jason was, his dad thought he was inside with grandma, grandma thought he was outside with dad. He had wandered off. Frantically, Crystal began looking for him, she got on the four-wheeler to search the property, hoping to find him playing on the acreage somewhere. But, she found him in an irrigation pond that he had fallen in. She pulled him out of the pond and started CPR. Crystal and her family spent five days at the hospital with Jason on life support. He had been declared brain dead. With an eight month old baby in her arms, hoping and praying for a miracle, at the age of 19, Crystal and her husband had to make the decision to remove life support and let her precious son go.

Crystal battled with grief and emotion after Jason’s death. She found purpose in living for her other child, pushing through the overwhelming emotions and clinging to faith. She battled most with reconciling that she had asked for a fence to be put around the pond, and it hadn’t been. The sting of that bitterness lasted for a long time.

“I remember praying, and in my 19-year-old mind, I was praying, “God let everything be OK. It took me a while to realize that even after Jason died, that everything was OK. It’s just that my OK looked different than God’s OK.” Crystal McGinley

With two sons and a daughter at home already, Crystal learned that her life long dream of having twins was coming true. She was ecstatic as she prepared for her two bundles of joy. Four months into the pregnancy, Crystal noticed that her stomach was shrinking. The doctor’s office laughed a little when Crystal called, knowing that she was understandably cautious during this pregnancy after losing a child. They explained that as babies move around, her stomach would change shape and appearances. However, her mommy heart knew that something was wrong.

The doctor agreed to do an exam to easy Crystal’s mind. Upon further examination, they found only one heartbeat, one of the babies had died the previous week. Normally when the baby dies in utero, it seals itself off, but in this case, it didn’t. So as the baby decomposed the waste circulated through the live twin. Her brain disintegrated due to the waste clogging her circulation. The sonogram showed that Kacey would be born with only a brain stem, but not the top part of her brain. The doctor tried to get Crystal to abort Kasey, and even called her cruel for making the baby live when Crystal declined the abortion.

“I did not make her life, I allowed her to live.” – Crystal McGinley

Crystal went in every week for bloodwork to make sure that the waste from the deceased baby did not endanger her own life. Kacey was born with only a brain stem. She had visible differences as a result, her skin was shriveled on the top of her head, and her head had a “walnut shape” to it.

When Kacey was two weeks old, Crystal’s two-year old daughter was severely burned and had to spend three weeks in the burn unit in a Denver hospital. There was a day when Crystal was in the store with Kacey, that a stranger gasped in horror at her, “What is wrong with your baby?” Crystal wasn’t fazed, in her calm, matter of fact manner, she stated, “She was born without a brain” The lady replied, “You must hate God.” Crystal stared in shock.

“It had never even occurred to me to hate God.” – Crystal McGinley

Kacey lived for eighteen months before she passed away in her sleep.

On February, 3, 2019, twenty five-years to the day from when Kacey died, Crystal received a call from her ex-husband. Her son Ryan, who lived in Colorado, and Crystal had been estranged from for fourteen years. Against advice, Ryan and his best friend took the Snowcat onto a frozen lake. The ice on the lake was not thick enough to support the weight of the Snowcat, a huge piece of equipment designed to move snow. Ryan didn’t come home the next day, so his dad sent his cousin out to search for him. Once he found the truck Ryan had been driving, he was able to follow the tracks from the Snow Cat across the lake to a giant gaping hole.

The first team of divers weren’t able to complete the dive because of the altitude and temperature. Through research, Crystal’s son in law found a diving team that had a specialized drone that had a retrieval mechanism attached to it. They were able to locate both boys bodies and retrieve them with the assistance of specialized dive teams and the drone.

One of the hardest losses Crystal faced was the loss of that hope of reconciliation with her son, which had a different, but very real grief process that proved to be harder than even the loss of a body.

Despite all that she has endured, Crystal continues to shine with compassion and grace. She lives out her calling every single day, working in education, pouring into the lives of children. Anyone who has witnessed her in action, knows that she loves kids. Crystal is recognized by all who are around by one word: grace.

“I have learned through everything I faced, I cannot control what happens in life, I can only control my reaction to it. My goal is to react with grace. I want to live gracefully no matter what happens.” – Crystal

One the most important lessons in this story is that death is an event, life is not. Going on with life means allowing the process of grief fully. Crystal’s advice for anyone who has experience loss is to allow themselves to go through the process of grieving in their own way. She recommends finding an outlet to express yourself, whether it is talking, singing, art, or. Talk about loss and tell the story. It brings strength and comfort.

“Grieve with a purpose. There is not a set of rules for grief. There is no time limit, or expectations. Just go through the process.” – Crystal

Crystal also found tremendous peace and strength in surrendering to God. The phrase has never rang truer, “Let Go and Let God” as when Crystal says it to describe her approach and coping with losses far beyond what many of us could ever fathom.

Perfection Is Not a Currency for Love with Andria Flores

The Beauty From Ashes Radio Show is officially here! In episode 1, I was joined by Andria Flores to talk about perfectionism, and her upcoming book “type A, plans B”. Andria is an author, an editor (I’m proud to say she is my editor) and an overcoming type A perfectionist.

The introduction: The Beauty From Ashes Radio Show airs live on the JoCo Community Radio Show Facebook page (click on the link to watch the show) and can also be heard on the Tune-In app every Tuesday form 6PM – 7PM. I started the show because I believe we all have a story to tell in our own way. The show was designed to facilitate conversations with warriors, overcomers, survivors and thrivers, to spotlight their messages of hope, healing and victory.

In the What Are You Reading segment, we highlighted what Andria and I were both reading. Currently, for me, it’s the The Boundaries book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I recently started this book, that is totally stepping on my toes! It starts with a description of what your life would be like without boundaries, and then, it describes my whole life.

Andria reads for a living as an editor, so she doesn’t always get to read for fun as much as she would love, but she has recently been moved by the poem She Let Go by Rev. Safire Rose, which has a powerful message about perfectionism from the point of view of people pleasing.

Andria’s powerful message on perfectionism:

Andria has struggled with perfectionism since childhood. From an early age, she connected love and approval with performing well. Her adoption of perfectionism stemmed from the belief that if she did well at something then she was worthy of love, but if she failed at something, that indicated that she was unworthy of love and acceptance. She formed a lifelong habit of striving for perfection in every relationship in her life. Until she realized that the very thing she thought would earn hear love, was the exact same thing that was preventing her from having deep connections with the people around her.

As an adult, I realized that the thing I wanted most, to connect with other people, was torn apart by perfectionism.” -Andria

Perfectionism can work for a while, it can even drive success, it just isn’t sustainable. Andria went on to share a very vulnerable message about how perfectionism impacted her as a mother. Andria has always been a proud mother and motherhood was the one thing she had dreamed of being her whole life. Take a look at the AHA! moment at 43:04 in the video that lead to her realizing that perfectionism wasn’t an effective parenting technique, it was actually going to break the spirit of her sweet little girl. Andria sought to find an answer through prayer, studying, and life transformation.

“When it all began to unravel for me, I realized pretty quickly, that I even had a perfectionist relationship with God.” – Andria

After the collapse of the white picket fence life, Andria maintained a white picket fence image for several more years. Even her mom, the closest person to her, didn’t know what was happening. A passing comment that Andria’s mom made about her being “one hell of an actress” led to a realization that even though she acted out of devotion to her marriage, family and faith, she had been playing the role of supporting actress in her own life.

“It never occurred to me that working so damn hard to be perfect, had actually made me plastic.” – Andria

Andria went through a journey of self discovery, traveling through the mess that brokenness and shattered dreams had left behind. As a natural planner caught completely off guard by sudden chaos, Andria found that you have to walk through the ugly cries, snotty noses, and a few cuss words to go through establishing new boundaries and figuring out who she was without the burden of expectations. She finally opened up to God in the realest way. She poured her heart out to Him, and unburdened all of the things she has held inside for so long.

“I knew that God was saying finally. I have been waiting so long for you to just be real with me.”

God continued to heal Andria as she found new ways to be honest with herself and those close to her. She gain the strength and courage to not only overcome perfectionist thing, but to open her life of in vulnerability to be be truly loved for the amazing person that she is.

At the end of her writing, Andria had an unexpected revelation… that she actually didn’t need a plan B at all. Jeremiah 29:11 said that God knows the plans He has for us, and she just needed to be open and curious about what those were.

ACTION ITEMS FOR FELLOW PERFECTIONIST

  1. Get honest with yourself and acknowledge that you are a perfectionist, and the ways that might fail you (it’s not all bad)
  2. Don’t take yourself so seriously
  3. Breathe, take a minute to inhale and exhale before making your next decision

For a sneak peak at Andria’s upcoming book release, download a FREE e-book “type A Parenting” on Andria’s website www.andriaflores.com

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.

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.

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.

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