Genesis 9:12-13 “And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.”
I was driving home this past week and it started to rain. It wasn’t a downpour, but just a good steady summer rain. As I rounded a curve, I looked up and saw the most beautiful rainbow - every color glowing in distinction. The rain continued as I slowed down and stopped to take a picture. Then, as I began to drive on, within less than a half mile, the rain stopped. The sun shone brightly through the clouds and the rainbow - His promise - remained unchanged glowing above me. As I stared in awe of God’s handiwork before me, it was in that moment, I felt God speak to my heart - “though the circumstances and surroundings change, my promises remain true.”
Friends, our lives change with every fleeting second. Our circumstances are continually changing. Our God, however, is not. He is the same God today that He was yesterday, and He will be the same God tomorrow. He is just as alive today as He was yesterday, and He will be just as alive tomorrow. His promises are just as true today as they were yesterday - as they were a thousand years ago - and they will be just as true tomorrow. Our circumstances change - our God does not.
I know - it’s a pretty basic concept. But if this basic truth is so, well, basic, then why are we still letting our circumstances shape our view of God? Why does our perspective of God depend on our situation or our surroundings? It shouldn’t. “Though our circumstances change, His promises remain true.” I've heard it before, but we can’t put God in a box. We don’t get to decide who God is and what God can do. Thankfully, the limitations that exist in our minds do not impede God - and He doesn’t want those limitations to impede our faith either!
Instead of letting our circumstances shape our view of God, our relationship with God should shape the way we view our circumstances. Our identity - who we are in Christ - should shape our perspective. If we let our circumstances define who He is to us, then we will never fully bask in the peace of His promises. If we let our circumstances define who we are, then we will never fulfill the purpose He has for us. We will never have joy and true contentment because we will constantly be on a rollercoaster battling feelings of supremacy and heartbreak - a never ending cycle of highs and lows, trying to prove ourselves and cover our inadequacies all while wearing a smile and pretending we’ve got it together and silently shaming others when they fall short because it secretly makes us feel better about the hot mess around our own doorstep. (For the record, yes, I know that’s a run-on sentence - but when you read it, isn’t that how we feel sometimes - exhausted, stretched, run-on?)
Oh, dear friend - please hear me, God is for you. He is not against you. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the valley, on the mountaintop or in the back of a cave unable to see the light of day - He sees you. He knows you. His promises are true for you...but you can’t let your circumstances define Him. To take it one step further, don’t let your circumstances define you OR what He can do through you either!
Our worth, if defined by our circumstances, will expire with the next season’s newest edition. Your worth is not defined by this world - if you are letting this world define your worth, God’s heart is breaking. Your worth, your value, your identity - is found on an old rugged cross, where because of His love for you, His son’s blood that was shed for you. That my friends - when our relationship with God begins to shape our view of not only ourselves, but of the world around us - is when we can truly start to live. And in living, we are certainly going to walk through the rain, but we remember, His promises are true. When we walk through the sunshine, we remember, His promises are true. The storms will come and go, and so will the sunshine. But when we are walking with the Lord, when we are clinging to the Rock, when we are clinging to His promises - the storms will rage (and the sun will shine). Though we may be shaken, He will not move. He will not change. When we build our identity on our relationship with the Rock, our perspective changes - our priorities change - our life changes, and you know what, the lives of others around us will change too. So, don’t just “let” God out of the “box” when you “need” him to “fix” something - take His hand and let him lead you on your greatest adventure - pursuing His heart and experiencing first hand that “though the circumstances change, my promises remain true.”
“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” - II Corinthians 1:20
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” - Hebrews 13:8
“For I am the Lord, I do not change…” - Malachi 3:6
“ The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” - Isaiah 40:8
“For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?” - II Samuel 22:32
Summer. There’s nothing like it. And if you haven’t experienced summer in Florida, you haven’t truly experienced summer: the humidity, the scalding hot car seats, the afternoon thunderstorms that resemble mini hurricanes, the flocks of tourists with their fanny packs and floppy hats and the crowded interstates where in any one mile stretch you can see car tags from 15 different states. If you have experienced the Sunshine State in its full mid-July glory, you know all of these to be true.
If you’re actually a resident Floridian, you can add several additional things to that list. For example, you know that weather reports during the summer are entirely useless for planning your day (except when you’re on hurricane watch), but at the same time, you also know, even the gloomiest of clouds and nastiest of storms will only last approximately 23.5 minutes, if that. You know that if the humidity is less than 85%, it’s going to be a great (well, great for summer-in-Florida) hair day. You know that while summer may bring an intense heat and wave of visitors from all around this land - and abroad - it also brings the bountiful harvest of our summer gardens. The sweetest of watermelons, the okra, the squash, the homemade ice cream with fresh peaches - pure deliciousness! It’s also pretty convenient that nature blessed us with countless spots to help squelch the intense heat (i.e. the beautiful springs, and a beach that’s never more than 60 miles away - as a crow flies, of course).
Despite all these typical summerisms, occasionally, Florida will surprise you - thus further proving her unpredictability. I’m currently enjoying my evening coffee on a porch swing somewhere in the middle of nowhere...there’s a breeze coming in from the south, it’s a mild 82 degrees and the humidity is hovering right at 79 percent. Oh, happy, cloudy day! In the midst of that breeze, there’s a slight twinge of cool - making my heart happy with the promise of “fall is coming soon.”
Even though I adore summer and all of its beauty, it’s no secret that fall is my absolute favorite (with the exception of Christmas). Yesterday, I about did a flip when I saw that Bath and Body Works released their fall scented candles. Then, I see that Paula Deen’s fall magazine filled with all of its pumpkin and pecan goodness arrived in the mail. Swoon!
Then in the midst of my rejoicing over the traces of fall that seem to appear - something hit me. Why is it that we are always rushing the next season? It never fails. Before 4th of July is behind us, pumpkin and scarecrows adorn store shelves. We can’t even get through August before Christmas ornaments and trees take their place. It’s a rat-race whirlwind of moving on to the next thing before we can even enjoy or “get through with” the present.
While this is certainly true of the calendar season, how true is it also for our personal lives and all the seasons that they bring? If we are in school, we are waiting to graduate. If we are in college, we are waiting to get a job. If we are working, we are trying to decide if our career is the right one. If we are single, we waiting to be married. If we are married, we are waiting until we have kids...and so on and so forth. There’s almost a sense of, “if I can only get through this season” when I sometimes wish there was more of a sense of, “what lessons can I learn during this season to prepare me for the next?”
Recently, as a twenty-something single, I found myself in a restless season of what just felt like I was waiting. On something. On anything. I spent a lot of time in prayer and felt God's perfect peace and reassurance - He showed me that this season is precious. It may not be filled with what I had hoped or thought it would be, but I shouldn’t be focused on what this season is missing. Instead, I should be enjoying what all this season has to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still filled with hope and faith that the next season will bring with it wonderful blessings, but at the same time, I’m trying to be more intentional about enjoying the blessings (even if they’re in disguise) of the present. For me, I’m spending this precious time trying to make a positive difference in the lives of others while preparing to be the best version of myself I can be. I’d encourage you to do the same! Make an effort to meet the needs of someone around you - whether that means smiling at a stranger or taking a trip to volunteer at an orphanage. Try out a new hobby, commit to getting in shape, make an effort to learn something new - but most importantly, use this time to draw closer to the Lord!
When we seek to honor Him with our whole hearts, regardless of what season we’re in or what season we’re moving into, He is walking with us, and will guide every step of our journey. And remember, He wants more for you than you want for yourself. His plans are better than our plans - His ways are better than our ways. So even if this isn’t your “favorite” season - know that it serves a purpose. There’s a season for everything.
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted…” - Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Mother, Mom, Mommy, Mama - regardless of what she’s called, a mother is a special soul. This weekend, we pay tribute to the women in our lives who have mothered us -- cared for us -- in some way shape or form. First, I want to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms and to those with a mother's heart out there, especially mine. I’ll be sharing a little about my dear mama later on in the post.
There’s something special that happens within a woman the day she becomes a mother. That something special doesn’t necessarily always accompany physically giving birth. For some mothers, that change occurs at the first stir of their heart towards loving a child, whether that child is present in that moment of not. For some mothers, that change comes after they have processed through their options during an unplanned pregnancy and chosen to parent. For some mothers, it’s selflessly choosing to give a precious gift to a waiting forever family. For some mothers, it happens when they hold their newborn for the first time or perhaps it’s at the first heartbeat during an ultrasound. For some mothers, it happens in an airport a world away as they embrace their toddler for the first time as their adoption journey comes to a close. And for some, it happens the moment they see a child in need -- even though their role is to only mother for a short season -- providing a mother’s love that is absent in the life of that child.
For countless women walking through seasons of singleness, infertility, loss, searching, waiting and praying, this Mother’s Day is filled with mixed emotions. For others, overwhelming joy flows from the very core of their being as they watch their littles and live out a weekend full of sticky kisses, messy pancakes, and handmade cards that melt their heart.
At the end of the day, my point is this: being a mother is simply so much more than giving birth to a child. Being a mother can mean longing for a child, loving a child, caring for a child, adopting a child, fostering a child, waiting on a child, or simply dreaming of the possibilities of a child. If you’re like me, you’re in a season of singleness (and loving being a puppy mother - isn't she cute?!), but practicing loving on all the littles around you until you have your own.
Regardless of the path God has you walking today, know that His plan is greater than ours, and more perfect than ours. He is the beginning and the end. He is and He always will be. He has walked this road before you and He is walking it with you.
If you’re single and happy, God loves you. If you’re single and longing for a husband and family, God loves you. If you’re battling infertility, God loves you. If you’re walking an adoption journey, God loves you. If you’re adjusting to your new forever child and working through the early stages of attachment, God loves you. If you’re a new foster mom or if you’ve fostered 50 children, God loves you. If you’re holding a newborn baby and are over the moon in love, God loves you. If you’re holding a newborn baby and battling postpartum depression, God loves you. If you’re a single mother struggling to make ends meet, God loves you. If you’re a stay-at-home mama giving every ounce of yourself to your family and you’re exhausted, God loves you. If you’re a working mom juggling a career and raising a family, God loves you. If you’re grieving the loss of a child, God loves you. If you’re grieving the loss of your mother, God loves you. We serve a mighty God and He sees you and loves you right where you are, in the midst of your perfectly organized life or your perfectly cluttered mess. Your situation and your circumstances in the past and present have not, will not and cannot define your Father’s love for you now and for all of eternity.
So to all the mothers out there, regardless of how or when that something special happened in your heart, you are a special soul. Your Father is the Creator of life. He is the author of life and He wants to lovingly craft your story -- and let’s face it -- He wants more for us than we can ever imagine. Trust His creative process and know that your story is one for the ages. After all, when we turn over the pen, the Author of all Creation is sure to do His thing and craft a story for us better than the story we would have crafted for ourselves. So to all the moms, and those with the heart of a mom, Happy Mother’s Day!
When it comes to moms, I know I’m biased, but y’all, I am blessed beyond measure. I’ve got the best mama in the world. I mean, that’s just my opinion, but she’s a pretty awesome lady. It’s a wonder I ever made it and she didn’t throw me out with the dishwater. When I was a baby, I screamed for the first year of my life because I had a severe case of the colic. When I was five, I cried every day she took me to school. I loathed it with every fiber of my being. Bless. At least I was good teenager, so she got all of her hard parenting out of the way before I turned 6. :) (I’m sorry and you’re welcome, Mama.)
In all seriousness, I am truly blessed because my mother is also my best friend. She is quick to listen, lend a helping hand and she always puts the needs of others before her own. Her sense of humor keeps me laughing and her words of Godly wisdom keep me grounded. She has been my rock, prayer warrior, taxi service, proofreader, counselor, and personal chef on occasion. She never ceases to amaze me with her selfless behavior and servant's heart. Growing up, I always knew she was amazing, but in the last several years, I have come to realize how incredibly blessed I am.
She was the one that wiped my tears. She was the one who cheered me on regardless of the venture. She was the one that taught me loving God first and loving people second come before anything else. She was the one that held my hand as I hopped around the ER on a broken foot. (Why on earth they didn’t bring a wheelchair I will never understand). She was the one that held my hair when I got food poisoning on my way home from China. (Y’all, that was a rough 36 hours. Seriously). She has picked me up, dusted me off and pushed me toward my goals. She has mended my broken heart -- not once, but twice. She has celebrated my successes and spoken truthfully about my failures -- or my “opportunities for growth.” She was the first one I was brave enough to tell about my dream for Crossing 413. And now that this thing is up and running, she is the one that makes my post office runs when I just can’t get there. She helps me tie bows and tape boxes. We jokingly say she’s the COO. These things are not what make her special, but they are an outward manifestation of who she is on the inside.
She is shy. She is kind. She is gentle. She is compassionate. She is strong. She is fierce. She is loving. She is selfless. She loves the Lord. Her beauty radiates from the inside out. She is everything a mother should be, and I’m blessed to call her mine. When people who really know her say that I remind them of her, no bigger compliment could have been paid.
So happy Mother's Day to the woman who has molded and shaped me into who I am today. Thank you for teaching me that Jesus comes first and family comes second. Thank you for giving unselfishly, loving unconditionally, and praying continually. You're my rock, my best friend, and I am lucky to call you my mama.
My absolute favorites - with a cup of Southern Pecan coffee!
I like to consider myself a true Southerner, which means I like to collect things. Not just things, but special things that have meaning to me. What can I say? It runs in my family. Granny Pris collects flowers and old photographs, Grandpa collects recipe cards from his time as a chef, Nanny collects cookbooks and Papa collects tractors. My dad builds fishing rods and has a collection of fishing tackle that would put Bass Pro Shops to shame. My sweet mama collects teapots and tiny shoes. (Don’t get me wrong; their house doesn’t look like a museum, Heaven knows my mama can’t stand clutter).
It’s these sweet little special things that make their house a home. But, the ironic thing is that it’s really not about the things at all. It’s the love behind memories, experiences and people that have somehow inspired these collections.
Now that I’m in the process of building a home, my own collections are really starting to take shape. Antique milk glass is a borderline obsession, cookbooks (especially family ones) are sacred treasures, Southern Living magazines have a special place in my heart, handmade coffee cups make me happy and a southern kitchen can never have too many cast iron skillets. (Right? Okay, I didn't think so either!) Once again, it really isn’t about the material things I find to add to these collections. The things in and of themselves are not important. It’s the people I love and memories shared with them that are behind these things that make them special, regardless of how valuable or not the world may consider them. You may think one of them isn’t worth a penny, but I wouldn’t take 10 million pennies for any of them.
This month I’m excited to share what is and will always be my favorite collection: cookbooks!
My friends, I’ve got a cookbook for everything. Tried and true divinity that turns out perfect every time - Paula Deen has me covered. Cinnamon rolls 100 different ways - Ree Drummond is my girl. The best fruitcake - The Southern Living Cookbook from 1993 can’t be beat. All time best meatloaf (even if you don’t like meatloaf) - Betty Crocker’s Cookbook circa 1987. I have to admit, I love having all of these classics on standby, but they all pale in comparison to my absolute favorite: our family recipe book.
If your family is anything like ours, everyone has their speciality, but no one has anything written down! One person always brings the baked beans, another always brings the sweet potato casserole, another the macaroni and cheese… and we never bring someone else’s speciality recipe. That’s just trespassing on hallowed ground!
So, when my Nanny was faced with her second battle with cancer and her time in the kitchen was scarce, it wasn’t long before we noticed that we simply didn’t have recipes for many of our Sunday and holiday staples. That’s when we decided to compile all of our favorite family recipes and we included everyone’s specialities (for us to use on un-sacred occasions, of course). This was no easy feat. To further enhance the difficulty of our situation, most of our family’s precious cooks don’t actually use recipes, and apparently not one of them owns measuring spoons. Bless. It wasn’t an easy task to convince these self-taught chefs to measure out and record all their secrets, but the proof was in the pudding and the results were well worth the effort.
Y’all, it may not be published, it may not come from a celebrity author, and I’m the first to admit that this thing isn’t fancy, but it is so special. The most amazing baked beans you’ll ever taste are “Aunt Karen’s Baked Beans” on Page 7 of Side Dishes. Simply the best quick (and easy) dessert bar has to be “Aunt Shari’s Cream Cheese Squares” on page 11 of Desserts. The perfect cornbread dressing is “Nanny Re’s Dressing” on page 2 of Meats and Casseroles. I know, I know, you wish you had a copy!
Despite all of the wonderful goodness that is contained in this book, I can’t tell you how many other wonderful recipes have been buried right along with our precious loved ones. I’m willing to go out on a limb and bet you’ve got a favorite family dish, someone’s specialty, that only they know how to make. If this sounds familiar, I’d like to encourage you to take the time reach out to your favorite culinary inspirations and make a recipe book for your own family. You may get some resistance at first, but just promise everyone a copy when you’re finished. Bribing a Southern woman with the promise of a new cookbook is a shrewd way to get things done.
Once you get started, you never know what gems might surface. I did a little digging in my Nanny’s cabinet and found a recipe in my great-grandmother’s handwriting, and it was her famous 12-layer chocolate cake nonetheless! I can promise you, it will be framed and displayed proudly in my kitchen. What a treasure!
At the end of the day, a collection of things is just that - things. It’s the people behind those things that make them special. The world doesn’t get to place a value on my collections. The worth of each treasure is in the eye of the beholder and my eyes see things money could never buy, like a pink plastic binder with a note from my Nanny that says it all:
“There is one ingredient that is not included in print in any of my recipes. You cannot measure it, weigh it, box it or buy it. It is called love. Nothing has given me more pleasure over the years than cooking for my family. Love was included in every dish I prepared.”
10 Tips for Creating Your Own Family Recipe Book
*Also, special shout-out to my Aunt Kristi who was the one behind getting our book done! Thank you for all the love you poured into this special thing that I now I cherish! :)
When I was five, I received the most glorious gift: a candy-colored bead set. (And y’all, it even had a monogrammed case. My mama knew how to do Christmas right.) I will forever remember that as the moment I fell in love with creating. I can’t even begin to tell you how many obnoxious stretchy-banded bracelets I made, but what I can tell you is that my sweet mama wore every one of them with a smile. Bless her heart - I was so proud.
The funny thing about creating anything, whether it’s making jewelry, painting or writing a blog, there’s an element of vulnerability that accompanies sharing your creation with the world. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel as though a tiny piece of me is exposed with each of my creations – a piece of my heart on my sleeve for all to see. It’s a beautiful thing to share ourselves with others - but friends, vulnerability is never easy.
As children, we are blissfully unaware of our vulnerability. If anything, we bask in it. As an infant, we like being held, we need comfort (any other colicky babies out there?) and we rely on those around us for our very existence. As a toddler, we start to develop our independence, but we are still unaware of how vulnerable we are to the dangers that surround us. We develop our own opinions; we pull the spoon away from mom and want to do it ourselves. We run toward the street with no abandon and we wear our princess gown to the grocery store because our other outfits are “itchy.” We eat with our fingers. We make candy-colored bracelets and we are proud of what we have made.
Hopefully, we have people in our lives that wrangle us in a bit and teach us to be ladies and gentlemen. These are the people that teach us the dangers of moving cars, of strangers and of eating 57 oreos at one time. As we get older, they teach us that our clothes should match, princess outfits are for Halloween or dress up parties and it’s not polite to eat with our fingers anymore. They teach us right from wrong and how to act - they teach us how to function as little members of society. They teach us to be self-aware.
I’m not exactly sure when the shift occurs, but as we enter adolescence, that self-awareness redefines itself as self-consciousness. Suddenly, vulnerability equals weakness. Instead of fearlessly sporting our princess dress as we peruse the cookie aisle, we want to look like, talk like and be like everyone else. This slowly begins to camouflage pieces of ourselves that were once vibrant during our childhood. (Now, don’t get me wrong, I am beyond thankful that my parent’s lovingly taught me to be self-aware; however, I am saddened that society taught me to be self-conscious.) I spent many precious years of my life trying to live as if I were someone I was not created to be.
As an adult, sometimes I still struggle with the idea that I am who God created me to be – in His image. The Creator of the universe, created me. He lovingly created me and He lovingly created you. I am far from perfect, but I am loved. You are far from perfect, but you are loved. He loves the you He created, so stop trying to be the someone you were not created to be. Stop being the one the society tells you that you should be. God exposed part of His image when He created you – you’re a piece of God’s heart – for all the world to see. Oh, how He wants you to recognize your worth, your value, your beauty! I challenge you to rediscover your heart – the piece of you that’s been hidden because of the fear of vulnerability. The most precious gift you can give the world is living your life as your authentic self – vulnerabilities and all.
Thankfully my materials of choice have received quite an upgrade, but I still love creating. Every time a new creation leaves my workshop, I catch myself scrutinizing every detail, and without fail, I always have a twinge of fear – self-consciousness, a fear of exposing a piece of me to the world. Then my heart quiets my mind and reminds me, that I should be proud – just as proud as I was of those candy-colored bracelets.
So consider this your invitation to come along on this journey with me as I share pieces of my heart with you. This blog is as much of a unique creation as each piece of jewelry I make. I can’t promise perfection – but I can promise authenticity. So here’s to leaving self-awareness intact, but throwing self-consciousness out the window and embracing vulnerability not weakness.
From recipes to DIY projects, devotions, and everything in between every post will reveal another piece of my heart, and hopefully, in turn, it will bless yours. And yes, sometimes when we Southerners say, “bless your heart,” we really do mean it. So, bless your heart -- I can’t wait to share more with you.