My Miracle: God Did What WebMD Couldn't

My Miracle: God Did What WebMD Couldn't

Nothing felt abnormal or different when I woke up. I did what I do every Tuesday morning. I grabbed my phone off the stand and checked the time. I begrudgingly sat up, perched on the edge of the bed with my feet dangled for a few minutes.

Moments later I made my way to the bathroom in a morning state that only my husband has the pleasure of witnessing, messy bun high and stray hairs wild. What I saw looking back at me was anything but normal though, not because of a hard night’s rest or a backwards sleep shirt.

No, what I saw in the reflection could only be viewed from a one-sided perspective. That’s because my left eye was swollen shut, and it wasn’t like that when I went to sleep.

Taking my dramatic introduction to this story aside, I did feel quite a bit of panic. My assumption is most people would experience a normal amount of concern at such an unexpected sight. Mine escalated for selfish but human reasons though.

It was Tuesday. My firstborn’s baby shower was scheduled for Saturday, an occasion sure to be well documented visually for years to come. All I could repeatedly think was “Dear God, I cannot look like this by Saturday.” (Take me as vain or relate to me as normal. I’m just being honest!)

My unofficial experience and training from WebMD and Google took over. I assumed a doctor’s visit was pointless because I’m limited in what can be given to me in almost my third trimester (this was later confirmed in a last ditch effort of an ER visit. They couldn’t offer me anything to help).

The next few hours were easily filled with anything therapeutic in my pantry or fridge ending up on my face (ice, honey, cucumber, etc.) while I practiced the art of sleuthing, mentally revisiting ever action I had taken over the last few days that led to this point.

What I had once thought were infected mosquito bites days prior was soon deduced to instead be a severe case of exposure to poison sumac – poison ivy and poison oak’s lesser known ugly brother-cousin.

What could have been contained to a normal bought of exposure grew continuously for four days simply because 1) I didn’t realize I had touched it and 2) I proceeded to do laundry… on my bed… right after gardening instead of showering. In short, I was using towels and sleeping in sheets for four nights that had the plant’s oil all over it.

Fun fact I learned through this process: Clearly I’m allergic to the poisonous trifecta. Clearly my husband is not. #imnotbitter

Pastors Were Never Meant to Know Everyone

Pastors Were Never Meant to Know Everyone

For one year, Kayla and I actively served on the Kids Team at a church in Baton Rouge, LA. We asked to be scheduled twice a month -- and in some cases three times. Although this commitment was more than expected, we loved it that much.

The more we were around and served, the more the leaders engaged with us. We knew the Kids Pastors and staff more than just a quick "hello" on a Sunday morning. We often talked about the church, the vision, and how we were challenged by the messages.

During our entire time serving and attending this church we never once had a conversation with the Lead Pastor. We never even shook his hand. 

... and I thought this was normal!

I had no church background prior to attending this church. When I committed my life to Jesus, I started attending a church, reading my Bible, and eventually serving. Through my discovery of Christianity and my experience at that church, I never expected to know the pastor personally.

Fast forward six years -- a couple of new churches -- and many personal conversations later and I've realized my prior expectation is in the extreme minority. In fact, I've often heard this popular statement: "I just need to go to a church where I know the pastor."

Can I lovingly nudge your perspective for a few paragraphs? My suggestion is that despite what we may think, pastors were never intended to have a close relationship with every person in their church.

I think that this perspective correlates with the fact that 90 percent of churches stay less than 200 people in attendance. I don't fault people for desiring a close relationship with other people -- however our expectations that the person should be our pastor is misguided.

Let's think about it.

The first pastor in the Bible was Moses. It was physically impossible for him to be close with his people. Why? There were millions of them. In fact, so overwhelmed by the administration of leading millions, his father-in-law suggested he develop other leaders to meet the needs of the people.

When Jesus arrived on the scene, many instantly decided to follow Him after witnessing His teachings and signs. As His followers increased, He always stayed close to his 12 disciples.

When the Church exploded on the scene in Acts, we quickly see the apostles couldn't handle everything and everyone. They had to raise up team leaders (elders) to lead areas of ministry.

As Paul started planting churches, he would arrive to towns, preach the Gospel, develop leaders and leave. As the churches continued growing, they continued to develop leaders. It's why Paul spent most of his time writing letters to leaders and churches. There was no way Paul could personally know everyone -- even in churches he personally planted.

In fact, the roles God assimilates in the church -- apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers -- were designed for this one functionality.

The Moment Our Marriage Became Better

The Moment Our Marriage Became Better

Five years married. I’m still processing that my husband and I have been married for 60 months, 1,825 days… however you want to break it down. Granted, we’ve been together almost a total 10 years.

Still – knowing my husband is about to be 28-years-old and that I met him when I was 18 makes me feel like time should take a breather on the sidelines for a minute. Chill, Time – this isn’t a race.

Yes, I hear it only gets worse.

Matt and I have always had much in common. We shared the same major and minor in college. We are both natural communicators and leaders who are passionate, expressive and competitive.

Our relationship blossomed from an intertwined love for LSU, history, our families, and Italian food. Over time that grew to jointly include dogs (him not a fan at first), Disney, Patriots football (not for me in the beginning) and Marvel movies.

Like any long-standing relationship, there’s also been a healthy presence of differences. Matt is an introvert with extrovert tendencies. I’m an extrovert… with very extrovert tendencies.

Matt is a strategist and builder with strengths in administration and structure. On the other end of the leadership spectrum, I’m an altruist and shepherd who guides from strengths of inspiration and insight. (Fancy ways of saying he likes working with ideas, and I enjoy working with people.)

After five years married, I can speak of our differences with thankfulness and appreciation.

Unfortunately, hindsight reminds me that this wasn’t always the case. I can certainly recall when our personalities and internal make-up worked against each other and not for one another.

More than just learning how to share toothpaste and schedules in the newlywed years, ministry brought on the additional adventure of learning how to serve together, lead together – basically, how to even work together outside of our family unit.

While some of the tiffs of the early years were from normal newlywed difficulties, I can also see how it was stacked with unhealthy responses birthed out of jealousy and rivalry. The attributes we admired most about each other were also the characteristics that drove us apart the farthest.

I won’t generalize and say that this is an issue for all couples in ministry. It really isn’t something everyone encounters. I would argue though that it happens more than talked about, especially in the marriages of strong leaders with shared, similar gifts. (i.e. Imagine in any business capacity working with the same person you live with, both having the same roles that oversee similar departments…)

At one time I thought, “This is just what marriage looks like. Everyone argues. Everyone struggles.” There’s some truth in in that – but that’s also a copout.

With some intentional effort and tools, I remember when the competitiveness wasn’t so evident. I remember when I was proud and not envious of my husband. I remember the season when our marriage became better.

Still growing in these areas every day that passes, here’s how it all started to change in our relationship, our friendship, and our ministry:

How We Paid off $70,000 of Debt in under 5 Years (BTW, we're not rich)

How We Paid off $70,000 of Debt in under 5 Years (BTW, we're not rich)

I remember when I decided to go to Dean Junior College in Franklin, MA. It was the only college that accepted me. In the midst of being ecstatic that someone actually wanted me at their college, I didn't care how much it cost because everyone had student loans.

One year at this junior college cost me $19,500. With the incentive to do well, I transferred to LSU, which cost around $18,000 over the next three years. Once Kayla and I got married and the grace period of student loans concluded, we owed around $70,000 to cover our four degrees (graduate and undergrad) along with one vehicle loan.

But, everyone had student loans. For the most part, this is accurate but it doesn't mean we necessarily liked it.

Newly married with multiple degrees we were staring at $70,000 of debt while making under $38,000 on two incomes. In fact, over the last five years we've never made over $60,000 in yearly income. This is important to note because we paid off debt while making under $30,000 per person. 

Before we talk about the lovely "B" word, I want us to talk about our perspectives when it comes to being financially free. The budget is the least significant part of debt payoff. It's a system. But, the system can't be executed without willing individuals operating it.

Let me also give a disclaimer: We never went through an organized financial process -- like Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey. In fact, I never heard of Dave Ramsey until years into our system. There's many things I agree (and disagree) with him and his philosophy.

The important thing is to find a system and strategy that works for you. That's the best one!

Here's four strategic things we did to pay off our debt:

Thank You Leader for Keeping it Real

Thank You Leader for Keeping it Real

More than a year ago I had the significant opportunity of working one-on-one with a character coach toward building a mission statement for my life.

Usually caught somewhere between who we currently are and who we want to be, a personal mission statement is meant to compass conscious thoughts and behaviors to be witnessed through a life lived out loud.

I’ll quickly give you the finished product of a three-month process:

“To exemplify a genuine and courageous life lived out for others with passion, inspiration and insight that propels people to take action.”

Every word in that statement has a purpose behind it, but the one that’s receiving our focus today is genuine. Through the sifting process of knowing who I want to be, I knew that included real and authentic.

As kind and considerate as many high-level leaders are, there is also an accompanying sense (real or perceived) of being unapproachable.

As my journey in leadership continues to mature, my mission is to remain accessible and candid about who I am as a person. In essence, here are my strengths and my weaknesses. Here are my ups and my downs. Here’s where I’ve succeeded and where I’ve failed. Here’s what I’ve mastered and here’s where I’m struggling. Open book would be the term to sum it up.

So here’s my “genuine” update on life…