Letter to a Daughter

10268563_10103605541303140_4585672498698503738_nI couldn’t make it through my good friend Desiray’s letter to her daughter Maliah on her 5th birthday without crying, so I knew I just had to share it. I know few mothers whose love for their children is this strong. But I’m blessed to have two close girlfriends in my life who do. Desiray is one of them. May this inspire all of us to love more and to encourage children to be all that God created them to be.

A Letter to My Daughter on her 5th Birthday

Today, you are 5. They said it would go by quickly. They were right. As I look upon you on this day, I am filled with awe … and my heart smiles.

And while it may seem trite, it really is true: my love for you grows stronger with each passing day. I am prouder than words can possibly express to call myself your mom. You are amazing, and I want to take this opportunity to tell you and the world why.

You are strong…

You handle everything with such fortitude and grace it blows me away. You never let a challenge or difficulty get in your way. You refuse to allow limitations to stop you. Through it al,l you keep a positive, can-do attitude.

You are brave…

So very brave, my sweet girl. You never let anything get you down. You have risen above all challenges thus far in life. Stood tall and stared them down. You take those difficulties, internalize their lessons and continue on a stronger, better person.

You are smart…

I don’t just mean you know things. Although you do. Many things. But you also exhibit a wisdom and wit far beyond your years. An understanding of the world that seems uncommon for one so young. You teach me things everyday and help others see the world from a much needed perspective.

You are inquisitive…

You have a strong desire to learn. The question “Why?” is not enough for you. You don’t settle for simple answers. You dig deeper; want to know more. You are constantly on a quest for knowledge. You aspire to make the world a better place, and understand awareness to be the path that will take you there.

You love Christ…

Your dad and I always say that if there is one child that pleases the Lord most, it has to be you.  Whether you are worshiping in the car, or just teaching us about the Christian principled lessons you’re taught at school,  there is no doubt that your faith is strong and secure and unmovable.  We thank the Lord everyday for you, one of our greatest blessings.

You are beautiful…

Some people don’t believe in telling young girls they are pretty. I do. But as I often explain, you are also beautiful where it counts the most, on the inside.  In that respect, you are gorgeous, my child. Kind and thoughtful. Compassionate. You display deep empathy for people, animals and the world we live in.

You are loving…

You love to give hugs, and do so freely. You make friends wherever you go and even have little girls fighting over your friendship.  Your compassion and empathy drive you to share love with those who need it most.  Family, friends, strangers benefit from your loving ways. You show others what a difference unconditional love can make.

You are silly…

We all know you have a million and one different silly faces, and you share them with us everyday.  You’ve begun telling us jokes, though they don’t make much sense, they still cause you to dissolve into great fits of laughter. And your laugh is the Single. Greatest. Sound. On. This. Earth. You also remind us of the importance of laughter and how being silly can make the difficult stuff easier.

You are fearless…

I’ve joked many times about how I inherited all of your fear, but truly I do feel that way.  Sometimes I watch as you run around at the playground, hanging upside down from the monkey bars and nearly giving me a heart attack.  I run to your aide but you assure me, “Everything’s okay mom.  I got this.”  Even knowing that you might have things under control, I will always worry for you, because of your Super Girl mentality.  I hope this trait never leaves you because you will find that it will push you to try things most would never dream of.

You are passionate…

You have intense interests. Strong emotions. An energetic personality that can sometimes overwhelm people.  You are fiery and feisty.  This will serve you well in life, I know, because you get this from me.  Strive to learn how to balance your passionate side with your softer one and focus your intensity to make a positive difference.

Next year you will enter kindergarten and a process will begin that will be ongoing your whole life.  You will be bombarded with walls, boundaries and stereotypes.  The world will try to change you and shape you into what it thinks you should be. Mold you to be “more like…”  Don’t let it.

At times, you may feel an internal drive to change in order to fit in, to be pleasing to other people, meet their expectations, or receive their approval, but stay true to who you are.

In these early, formative years, you have grown into an exceptional person. Yes, you still have a lot of growing and learning to do. Even with everything you have already faced, your most challenging times are ahead of you.  But you have established a very strong foundation.

Hold onto it. Build upon it. Don’t let it crumble. Trust in it, and yourself. Use it to steady you as you spread your wings and fly.  I love to watch you soar.

Be you, my sweet girl. Always. Just keep on being you.

Love Always Your Biggest Fan,

Mommy

Face the Book

MimiFacebook. We’re either all in or want nothing to do with it. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much time I spend on it. I’m not knocking Facebook at all. I think it’s an ingenious social media tool, if used wisely.

But I find myself scrolling for fifteen minutes at a time or more reading posts and looking at pics, “liking” this, getting upset over that. Sometimes feeling frustrated that I just wasted fifteen minutes or more. But I continue to check in periodically. Let’s tell the truth, many of us do. I’ve even vowed to stay away but when I find myself procrastinating on what I should be doing or have a little down time here and there, I tap on my Facebook app.

Facebook allows us to present our best side but it’s just a snapshot, at most. We have control over what people know and what they see. The real “us” is facing the screen, not plastered on Facebook. And we know it.

Some use Facebook to create a self they’d like to be and some are what my husband calls Facebook preachers, always telling people what they should be or shouldn’t be doing. Others are blatantly rude, publically threaten to “unfriend” anyone who sends them another Candy Crush game request or they let everybody know they’re purging people from their friend list instead of just quietly doing it. I never quite understood that one.

Facebook is making us act weird. I don’t want to be weird like that. That’s why I’m writing this post as a reminder.

But more important than acting weird to me is the question of priorities and time well spent. As I get older, the reality of the brevity of life sinks like a heavy weight in my soul.

Facebook serves as a reminder to constantly question who I really am and what I should be doing with my time, and ultimately, with my life. Spending time on Facebook isn’t going to really help me answer those questions. But sticking my face in another book will.

We can go around reading what others have to say about us, life, or God or we can go straight to the source who created us. I opt for the latter because we’re all really just searching for those honest-to-goodness answers that only He can provide.

The Bible is uncanny in reflecting an accurate image of us, and simultaneously providing the wisdom to transform that image as well.

It’s always time to face the book.

Suddenly

photo(89)I woke up this morning, looked out my window and was struck by the blanket of snow covering everything. Pure, milk-colored snow. I was expecting it but when I actually saw it, its beauty captivated my eyes. And it reminded me of God. The way He suddenly changes things in our lives. Suddenly, the waiting is over. Suddenly, the pain is over. Suddenly, hope shoots up like Spring in our hearts. Suddenly, God…

A few days ago a kindred spirit spoke to me of God’s “suddenlies” and to have an expectant heart. I’ve decided to keep my eyes peeled, and I hope you will too. Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t lose hope for that miracle. Keep believing because what He promises He fulfills. Take a moment to read the messages God sends to you through nature; all those subtle reminders of God moving all around you. He’s nearer than you think. Can you feel His breath?

You may be smack dab in the middle of a storm, but a sudden move of God can drastically change the course of your life at just the right time. I know this to be true in mine. Years of waiting suddenly turned on a dime. It was over and orchestrated with so much love that when the fog of pain lifted, I was able to look back and see God’s fingerprints molding it all for my good.

As time goes by, I hope to see more clearly, but not with my eyes.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for. You don’t have to see it to believe it. You have to believe it to see it.

Wait for His suddenly. It’s coming!

The God Watchers

TheGodWatchersDon Nori Sr.’s latest book release, The God Watchers, speaks of a simple yet profound truth to live by: Jesus did what He saw the Father in heaven do, and we can follow in His footsteps. Writing with a humble heart, searching eyes and spiritually sensitive ears, the author urges us to set aside our personal agendas for God’s plans.

Nori’s seamless, soul-stirring message produces in us a desire to hear the Spirit and perceive the Lord at work in our day-to-day lives. According to the author, God is a prolific talker. He is always speaking, but our ability to hear what He is saying requires a quieted soul.

The secret to being a God watcher is found in Jesus’ surrendered life, Nori says. When we’re positioned to see, sense, feel and hear God’s heart, we can then embrace a greater reality of God and of His manifest presence. In the realm of the Spirit, we see Him, discern His presence and participate in His earthly plans.

Nori writes that yielded brokenness allows God to build His church and radically transform lives that are seeking to do His will. The search for recognition, titles and authority are set aside to heed the call to decrease so He may increase. This allows God’s nature, passion and power to flow through our every living so it’s no longer “business as usual” in our personal and corporate lives as God’s Spirit leads us into a vibrant faith walk.

Nori has vested us with a revolutionary read that pulls the rug from under religious mindsets that have boxed God into theologies, church services and the structures of man. God watchers are those who have ears to hear and eyes to see the new things God is saying and doing.

The God Watchers is a provocative book—the sort that only comes along once in a while. And its immeasurable worth is inherently found in its focus: Jesus, the ultimate God watcher, becomes our example. It’s a simple path to follow that unburdens us from self-centered ways as we trust God’s heart and participate in His plans for the world.

This is a repost of my book review in Charisma Magazine’s January 2013 issue and their website.

Finding Your Heart’s Desire

Empower-Reviews-FindingYourWhat drives us to do what we’re called to do? Ambition.

R.T. Kendall’s latest release, Finding Your Heart’s Desire, explains this human propensity propelling our hidden agendas. Though ambition is neither good nor evil, God uses it to encourage us to please Him—to make pleasing Him the driving desire of our hearts. As we fulfill God’s will and plan for our lives, Kendall says, it yields a heavenly reward to be given when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Kendall motivates us to bypass the applause of man and seek the praise of God as we become aware of our hidden motives and develop into godly thinkers. The former pastor also challenges us to understand ourselves better, learn to be patient and non-judgmental with each other, and to use our ambition to glorify God.

Ultimately, true satisfaction will not be found in egocentric endeavors but in lives that position themselves to serve God’s interests. Self-seeking profit only forfeits the greatest reward of all—God’s approval. This book reminds us that more of God should be our highest aim.

This is a repost of my book review in Charisma Magazine’s October 2013 issue and their website.

Click LINK to read.

Letter to a Friend

Tree SwingDearly BELOVED friend,

I decided to stop what I was doing to encourage you.

You’re not alone. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. Even when there’s no one physically beside you. Even when you haven’t talked to any one for days.

I’ve been there. I know.

It was when the space around me felt so frigidly empty, that I was filled.

When all my friends scattered like wind-blown leaves, He was the deeply rooted tree that sat beside me; sheltering me.

His silent presence filled the empty space that burdened me. He was there. I could feel His warm breath whispering life to my naked and battered soul.

When I stopped filling my hands and stood empty-handed, He came.

It was when everything was stripped from me, that He gave me all of Him.

Don’t let your eyes fool you, my friend.

Close your eyes tightly to the reality around you and you’ll know the TRUTH.

You’re NEVER alone.

Loving you hard,

Ibelisse

Soul Comfort (eCourse) Giveaway

SOUL-COMFORT-LOGO-no-date-640-copy-450x404To the tired, the exhausted, the overstretched, here’s an invitation. Brave Girls Club has a new eCourse called SOUL COMFORT. And you, my friend, have an opportunity to win free tuition ($99 value) for the eCourse which begins Tuesday, September 24th. You will have online access to the course until January 2, 2014. Just in time for Autumn, as we begin to unwind, reflect, and prepare for a new year. What a relaxing, creative way to move into 2014! {I’m excited because I’ll be taking the course as well! See you online! Be sure to leave a comment below to enter!}


Life can be simple.

What if we celebrated the brave act of . . . taking a break?

What if simplicity,
comfort, and quiet were the goal?

What if there really was a way to quiet the chatter in our minds and let us recharge our body & soul?

And what if it was fun, too?

Introducing a new eCourse . . . SOUL COMFORT

Soul Comfort is a fresh new concept using art and journaling as a means to relax and comfort yourself and to get grounded while dealing with the craziness of every-day living.

This course if full of beautiful projects to fuel your creativity in very simple and easy ways that are meditational and relaxing , beautiful comforting things that will have your soul infused into them so that you want to keep them forever.

Melody (course creator and teacher) says, “I want to teach you some new habits of creativity mixed with simplicity that I have learned over the years. Being a recovering hoarder of supplies and techniques, this is really a new way to give yourself permission to do things simply but beautifully.

One of the most wonderful things about this course is that everything fits into one fabric tote bag . . . I wanted to create a whole course where all of the supplies fit into a tiny space so that you could take it everywhere you go…so that you could do it sitting on your bed, on your couch, with your family, do it with your children, in the car, wherever your day takes you. It’s incredible. This has changed my life. This has been something that I have used on my own and I can’t wait to share it with you.”

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You can count on this class to be . . .

  • enlightening, enjoyable, fun, & simple
  • customizable with many choices to fit your exact style
  • interactive, encouraging, and supportive with a private community on Facebook and weekly live chats
  • a beautiful experience that will help you relax, simplify, and enjoy your life 
  • a place to learn simple new ways to journal, plus the  ”Brave Girl” way to use stitching and such to create both beautiful things you’ll love AND peaceful relaxing moments
  • a place to learn exactly what nourishes YOUR body and soul, and how to fit comforting rituals into your day
  • something that you can finish without feeling overwhelmed
  • produced with the level of caring and  excellence and attention to detail that Brave Girls Club is known for

We’ve worked to narrow down things to quench the yearning of your soul…to be able to be creative but also to be sensitive to the mess that it makes and the time that it takes as well as the brain space it takes for complicated tools and  techniques. We will teach you fun ways to make beautiful things while relaxing yourself . . .and we’ll be participating in the class right along with you.

  • This will be relaxing, fun, and simple
  • You’ll be able to take it along with you, everywhere you go
  • Instead of overwhelming you with one  more thing to stress out about, this eCourse will help you relax, enjoy, and feel comfort and peace no matter what else is going on in your life.

Click HERE to watch a video about SOUL COMFORT!

It is YOUR time for some Soul Comfort. Join Brave Girls Club!

All you have to do to enter this giveaway is to simply answer the following question.

What do you think of when you hear the words “Soul Comfort”?

{Enter to win until Midnight (CST), Thursday, September 19th. Winner chosen via random.org.}

The Old Paths, The Good Way

Chicago Botanic GardenFinding our way back home isn’t always easy. We’ve wandered rather far. Actually, it’s in our nature to wander. We’ve been sidetracked. Our pride, shame, fear, guilt, anger, unbelief yanked us by the neck and veered us to the right and to the left. We’ve swerved down a lengthy, winding road, took a wild, treacherous one and even crossed some abysmal waters. We’ve even traveled down newfangled paths others have freshly carved, leading us to where we are today.

But where are we exactly? Some of us have been wandering around in circles for years and haven’t moved an inch. We’re clearly not where we’re supposed to be. Drained and dehydrated from the journey, we keep walking or running and not moving forward.

If we replay our thoughts we’d see how they guided every step we’ve taken, every stride made. Many of our decisions felt right, in their season. Some were complete dead ends. The blazing Do Not Enter sign warning us must’ve blinded us. Some were clearly marked Private Property, yet we trespassed anyway.

Whatever the case may be, here we are. But is here where we are to be? And where is here? Are you satisfied with where you are?

Most of us are just plain weary and burdened from trekking through life without some measure of purpose. We hear that promise from long ago, faintly. That there’s a future out there, a plan, a hope. We believe we can do it. We can get there. Wherever there is. Where are we going, anyway?

Are you interested in unearthing those old paths, the good way to get to where you’re supposed to be? If so, you’ll need a light for your path and a lamp for your feet. What path? The one that leads to that garden where you can hear the heartbeat of God. Where you smell His fragrance and breathe in His very love. You know. The one from once upon a time, in the land of Eden. The one where something unforeseen slithered into our lives. The one we left behind.

We may not be able to retrace our steps, but there’s a voice calling out to us that will lead us there, saying, Where are you?

 Thus says the Lord:

“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.”

Jeremiah 6:16

Why are the Angry Birds angry?

photo(47)Truth is I’m not a smartphone game app player. In fact, I’ve never downloaded one to my phone. I mean, really. Ain’t nobody got time fo dat! {smile} I prided myself on holding out on those timestealers but my curiosity got the best of me. Which one did I gravitate towards? Angry Birds, of course. And so have over a billion other users.

I’m greedy for any information about birds nowadays. So I asked myself, Why are the Angry Birds angry? I had absolutely no idea. I decided to find out before downloading the app. In my quest, I came across a blog post by Marwa Aly, a former Muslim Chaplain. Her post, Angry Birds or Self Sacrificing Soldiers? got my wheels turning.

My answer to her question is both. The birds are angry because some blue pigs kidnapped their eggs and ate them. Now they’re out for revenge, and losing their life in the process isn’t stopping them. Aly says that when we play the game, we are the angry birds. That blew my socks off!

By playing the game we’re subconsciously agreeing to the premise of the game; self-sacrifice to achieve an end. We’re not only applauding the mission of these angry birds, we’re stepping into their shoes, or shall I say their wings? Over and over and over again, we’re going after those blue pigs.

What about real life scenarios? What do we do when we’re offended? When someone steals something of value from us? Before we put on the angry bird super-hero(ine) costume and propel ourselves with a slingshot to squash our target, let’s pause and think about why we do what we do. Where does our anger take us? Would we die for something we believed in? Is it for justice or revenge, to save another life or for something entirely vain? Is losing our life ever worth it?

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be an angry bird. I’m attracted to the idea of a sacrificial life though. We don’t necessarily have to lose our physical life to live one either. A sacrificial life is meaningful, even if the days are shortened. Empty days trying to figure out why we’re here are drudgery. If done with a noble motive, it can be life-transforming and life-giving.

We give our lives over to something everyday, whether we’re aware of it or not. Either we lose our days to unworthy causes or we’re investing them in something other than ourselves. The latter is the kind of living that leaves a legacy. It gives us purpose.

I’m thoroughly convinced that the most widely known model of self-sacrifice in the history of history is Jesus. He laid His life down for the world. Not for the innocent either. For the guilty. For those that despised Him, rejected Him, spit on Him, and cursed Him. It was love that motivated Him to willingly lay down His life. He did it for His friends. He did it for His enemies. He did it for me and He did it for you.

Jesus teaches us that love should motive our sacrificial lives. Not anger. Not revenge. Love for God and love for others.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers

photo(46)I’m actually shocked I’ve never read a Chicken Soup for the Soul book until a few months ago! Their recent release was right up my alley and it came at the most opportune time. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers: 101 Motivational Stories for Writers—Budding or Bestselling—from Books to Blogs landed in my hands as I began to write my first book. It has encouraged, guided, and taught me, not to mention yanked tears from my eyes.

As a writer who’s never taken a writing course or attended a writing conference, the content of the stories and the different writing styles and voices were an invaluable tool. Written by a wide gamut of writers, from published to hopefuls, it’s a meaty read for insatiable readers. It makes a delightful gift for beginning writers.

The stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers help writers face their fears, overcome writer’s block, deal with rejection, manage their time and find inspiration.  It also stresses the significance of fellow writers, friends and family in the writing journey, and the role of mentors and writer’s groups.

The section that gripped my writer’s heart was how writing can impact others. For someone who hopes that my words will be seeds blooming life in others, these stories were encouraging as I embrace the exhilarating art of writing.

One of the stories I’m eager to highlight is that of my author-friend Amelia Rhodes. “The Surprise Party” was a tearjerker! In it, Amelia shares about the importance of her supportive friends and family as she was writing her first book, Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break?  Her story reminded me to put things in perspective. While writing is a passion, it shouldn’t consume our life to the detriment of our relationships. Cultivating friendships/relationships keeps our life in optimal balance, allowing for a healthy writing life.  It’s quite simple. Living a life of love will give our words breath. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a review copy of the above mentioned book from Chicken Soup for the Soul. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”