Friday, January 31, 2014

Just for Fun - Liebster Award

I use Grammarly's free plagiarism check because it helps you to say what you mean, and mean what you say!

Since I've been blogging, I've always wanted to receive a Liebster Award.  A Liebster Award would let me know that I'm being read, and someone, yes someone, actually likes what I write!!! I'm joking, but I do like the validation. So imagine my great surprise and pleasure when I was actually nominated by a fellow blogger - wooohooooo!!!

Thank you to the lovely Denise of Niecyisms for nominating me.
How it works: 
You list 11 random facts about yourself and answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
You then nominate 11 other bloggers (with less than 200 followers) and give them 11 questions to answer.

11 Random facts about me.
  1. I have a long neck; my neck is one of my favorite body parts, next to my legs.
  2. I had a stiff thumb for many years and suddenly one day it was no longer stiff.
  3. Have you ever heard of E-Rate? Most people have not but I manage this process as a consultant
  4. Cooking no longer brings me joy, though I love to eat.
  5. If I had the time, I would be a seamstress.
  6. The creative side of me remains dormant but it has shown up in my children.
  7. Being intellectual is sexy, so I enjoy conversations around deep thoughts.
  8. Always on the hunt for a good facial moisturizer I'm currently loving Hope In a Jar by Philosophy.
  9. Both my husband and I are the shortest ones in our families.
  10. Gospel music will do it for me every time.
  11. Folks are always amazed at the intricate hairstyles I do on my daughter's hair; I love natural hair and think it's the way to go.
Here are your questions-
  1. What was your first pet? I never had my own personal pet but our family's first pet was a German shepherd named Gilda. She was named after a hurricane.
  2. Who was your favorite childhood cartoon character? Mighty Mouse.
  3. Do you prefer tea or coffee? Tea all day!!!
  4. Where did you last vacation? Nassau, Bahamas and Jamaica.
  5. What is your all time favorite movie and why? An Officer and a Gentleman; it's when I first swooned over Richard Gere.
  6. What was your worst recipe fail what was the outcome? I have many; maybe baked spaghetti - the texture was really crunchy.
  7. What is your favorite recreational activity? Running/jogging.
  8. How do you get dressed both socks, then both shoes or sock, shoe, sock, shoe? Both socks then both shoes but I do not know the significance of this.
  9. Have you traveled internationally? Where? The Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua, Dominica
  10. Who did you last visit? Running buddy for a run this morning.
  11. What is a necessary luxury in your dream home? A bidet; or heated floors.

Unfortunately, I do not have 11 other bloggers to nominate so I accept this award in the spirit in which I was nominated.  Thanks so much.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What's That You Have In Your Hand?

This is what God said to Moses (Exodus 4:2) to demonstrate that he can use anything to show his Godness, His power, and His sovereignty. Moses was hesitant to do the task he was being called to, and God just wanted to let him know that he was not alone; that with Him, Moses could do what he was being called to do. We all know the story of Moses, how he led the Israelites out of Egypt. He's hailed as a hero but he started off very timid and got bolder as he saw how God worked. God doesn't need much to accomplish his purpose.
This song encapsulates what God can do with a little.

That's When He Steps In - by Alvin Slaughter

When we have a work to do
And the task ahead seems bigger than you
That's when He steps in

When you know in your heart that 
God's command takes more than can be done by man
That's when He steps in

He sees you at the point of your need
He sees you at the point of crossing your Red Sea
In the moment you call
When you've given your all
He steps in, He steps in
And He'll say

What's that you have in your hand
I can use it, if you're willing to lose it
Take the little you have and make it grand
I am El Shaddai and I'll more than supply your need

When all you have is oil in a jar
That's a reflection of where you are
That's when He steps in
A little boy's lunch of fish and bread
Is all you have for the need ahead
That's when He steps in

Let Him take it and bless it and break it and give it
He'll multiply it in the moment you live it
And in the moment you call
When you've given your all
He steps in, He steps in
And He'll say

What's that you have in your hand
I can use it, if you're willing to lose it
Take the little you have and make it grand
I am El Shaddai and I'll more than supply your need

(Repeat Chorus)

Are you willing to be used or are you hesitant like Moses? Is there something in your hand that God can use?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

25 on 25 - Unload Your Baggage

This series culminates on March 25th which would mark my 25th wedding anniversary. To read previous posts in this short series click here and here.

Twenty five years is a long time, and over that period of time I have recognized that we all come in to relationships with baggage - no one enters whole. Baggage is the stuff you carry with you on your life's journey that weighs you down. It can be remnants from childhood, a protective shell you built around yourself, pain from prior situations, or tactics for dealing with certain situations. These are all baggage in that they hinder your interactions with your partner. Many well-meaning individuals try to get rid of baggage before they enter in to a serious relationship, which is commendable but not complete, as you haven't met your life partner yet. Baggage becomes bulky and burdensome if not handled with care.

When I travel, I take luggage with me. My luggage contains the things I think I need for my journey. My luggage increases or decreases based on the length of my journey. When I reach my destination, I typically unpack, though if it’s a short trip I may live out of my suitcase, but to me that is never ideal.

In marriage, there's no need to continue to carry baggage that you've had all your life. Prior to meeting your spouse, some part of you felt it necessary to carry baggage, but the safety of marriage allows this baggage to be released. This is done carefully and with great consideration, for as you unload piece by piece you realize that you have greater freedom to love.

Baggage shows up in the ordinariness of life, like discovering you're disciplining a child a certain way only because that's what was done to you but seeing that it's not working in your situation. Unpacking of baggage is sacred; when you travel you don't want your luggage to be lost or mishandled. The same thing happens with baggage brought in to a marriage - it must be handled with care. If it is handled carelessly, you may feel entitled to holding on to your baggage even though it is weighing you down. It takes trust to allow your spouse to help you unpack. And unpacking can happen anywhere and anytime. When we travel we unpack when we have settled in. In life and marriage settling in can take a lifetime. The complexity of human nature is such that we may never discard of all of our baggage, but over time the load is lighter because you know you have someone to help you.

In our marriage we both have baggage around how we deal with money. It's not the money itself but what it represents to each of us. I'm frugal because I always want to ensure that I have. He's not as frugal as I, so sometimes we may butt heads over the most inane things. Over time we've both learned to look beyond the immediate situation and recognize each other's emotions so that we can handle the situation successfully.

Don't be afraid to release your baggage; the safety of marriage will allow you to do so. Trust the relationship, trust each other and trust God. If you think you are travelling lightly, ask your spouse to help you see what you're ignoring. Unpacking leads to greater love and intimacy.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)

P.S. This post is part of the Happy Wives Club Blog Tour

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Face of God

Jacob and Esau were twin brothers who were estranged. Jacob had stolen Esau's birthright and Esau vowed to kill him, so Jacob left home. Jacob was younger than Esau, and by law should have received the blessing from Abraham. And what a blessing it was:
"From the dew of heaven and the richness of the earth, may God always give you abundant harvests of grain and bountiful new wine. May many nations become your servants, and may they bow down to you. May you be the master over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. All who curse you will be cursed, and all who bless you will be blessed.” Genesis 27:28-29
Esau was very angry that he did not receive this blessing; instead Abraham blessed him with:
You will live away from the richness of the earth, and away from the dew of the heaven above. You will live by your sword, and you will serve your brother. But when you decide to break free, you will shake his yoke from your neck.” Genesis 27:39-40
It was almost as if Esau got the leftovers.

Over the course of time, Jacob ends up at Laban's house (his uncle) and marries Leah and Rachel. He has twelve sons and one daughter and everything he touches seems to prosper. Jacob had become quite prosperous. Eventually it was time for Jacob to leave his father in law's house and in doing so he knew he would see Esau again. Unbeknownst to Jacob, Esau had done well for himself also.

When Jacob and Esau first met, initially Jacob was tentative, but when Esau smiled and welcomed him, ah, it was like the face of God.

I'm sure a huge load was lifted off of Jacob's shoulders when he saw that smile, for to see the face of God means: peace, love, joy, forgiveness, acceptance, compassion - all good things that warm the heart, that excite, that bring abundant joy and to put it in much simpler terms - puts a perpetual smile on one's face.
Esau was wronged, but he chose to forgive; in doing so he displayed the face of God. As his father's blessing said, "when you decide to break free, you will shake his yoke from your neck."

But Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favor with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God! Genesis 33:10 NLT

Are you the face of God to others? Have you seen the face of God in others?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Family Portrait and a Giveaway

A picture tells a thousand words, but what you get from this picture may not adequately describe what's going on.

Family Picture 2014
I wanted one more group picture before one of the older children flew the coop; they all happily agreed!

In any event, I have a great Groupon for The Picture People that I cannot use which expires 1/22/14.

To get your hands on this:

  1. Leave a comment telling me what's your family picture tradition and 
  2. Follow this blog via email, bloglovin, networkedblogs or google friend connect (basically just follow if you don't already).

Here's the fine print on the Groupon:

Limit 2 per person. Limit 1 per session. Limit 1 per day. Not valid until day after purchase. By appointment only. In-studio only. Valid at any Picture People studio nationwide. Not valid for existing orders, reprints, enhancements, or special orders. Cannot be used in combination with this or any other offer and must be presented at time of session/purchase. Portrait sheets include one pose only. Good for 8 color portrait sheets plus photo shoot (1 10”x13”, 1 8”x10”, 4 5”x7”s, 10 4”x6”s and 16 wallets)

I'll select a winner using random number generator on 1/14/14.
Thanks for passing by; it means a lot to this little old blogger.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Notes From My Daughter - Pride & Beauty

My Daughter
Occasional notes from my 20 year old daughter. I never know what to expect when she writes, but it's usually a pleasant surprise.  Read on!

Another Note on Pride! Yes! And I will finish this series soon, but I'd rather go through it thoroughly than promote the notion that there is a shortcut to dealing with this stronghold. Now if you have a problem with the gaps in between my posts, I don't blame you (honestly I am sorry college is a beast and I'm still learning how to schedule my life properly).

 If you want insight on dealing with pride in a more consistent and timely manner I only suggest you do these things constantly: worship, pray and study the word of God. In doing these things you are "asking, seeking, and knocking" and the Lord is faithful to answer. I'm only showing you what He showed me overtime and while I am grateful for the lesson, and the ability to write, it is ultimately God who does the changing and provides revelation. He's a better writer than I am, He even has 66 books that have been on the best seller's list for centuries! I've only been alive for 20 years and I will never beat that track record.

However In my 20 years of life, God has used the aspect of change to teach me more than I could learn if I were to remain the same. God-led experiences are humbling and always provide a truthful perspective to whatever you face in life. One circumstance in particular is when this happened to me is when I decided to cut my hair off.

With Hair!

One morning I woke up about 15 minutes before my class, at this point I could still make it on time because my class was only 5-10 minutes away from my dorm. So I rushed out of bed, put on some clothes, threw on my glasses and as soon as I saw my reflection with 20/20 vision I stopped. I looked a mess. I tried little things to improve my appearance like swapping my bulky glasses for contact lenses.

"Better" I thought, but when you start off terrible better just takes you from looking. I looked at my clock and I had 5 minutes until class started; with those 5 minutes I thought "let me try and fix my hair and then I'll look good enough to go to class."

Now every woman with sense knows that getting your hair to look decent in 5 minutes is a bit unrealistic unless you're really skilled. Any black woman with natural hair knows you've lost your mind, but due to my Jamaican sense of time and my unhappiness with how I looked I proceeded to try to give myself a makeover.

It was then that I clearly heard God speak to me, in the midst of my confusion and frustration I strongly felt the Holy Spirit convict me "Why do you care what you look like?" and I promptly responded "I don't, but other people are going to think I'm crazy if I walk out of my house looking like this."

And right then and there in my freshman dorm room I had an "aha moment". Most people have an aha moment and change, I however kept on pulling and brushing my hair even though I just had a revelation. To be clear, I never worshiped my hair, I worshiped people's opinion. It held me like a mother holds a child to its breasts, making me feel secure whenever I cried. To start weaning me off this attachment would take an adjustment in my perception and identity. The thing about worship is whatever you worship you will allow to define you and at this point in time my identity was in the opinions of other people. When you worship God, He defines you.

It was now 20 minutes into my 50 minute class and I was still in my dorm, trying to look presentable. Even though God spoke to me already, I realized how serious the matter was at this moment (I had a Matthew 21:28-32 moment of delayed listening). I broke down, wondering what on earth was I still doing in my bedroom and how did my priorities get so screwed up. Why did it feel like I had to look a certain way to at least be considered good enough? I wasn't aiming for beautiful goddess but I didn't wanted to walk around looking like a troll. Once more, God spoke to me:

"Cut your hair Gabby"


"You've always wanted to cut your hair"; ( this is true, you can ask my mother I was a scissor happy child), "so why not?"

"I would be happy, but everyone else will…."

I didn't finish my sentence because there was nothing more to say. I realized I was basing my identity on conditional appreciation and not the love of my heavenly Father which is crazy because I'm made in his image. What does the opinion of another creation matter?

So that day I semi-committed and cut off 3 strands of hair, lol. (I had to do something to represent that I was going to listen). The only reason I didn't cut it all of immediately was because I wanted to figure out how to donate my hair. That same day, I went on a blog and saw a post about a woman who donated her hair. Feeling confirmation, I committed to cutting my hair in the summer when it would be long enough and giving it to charity. The actual ACTION of physically letting my hair go was for me representative of me caring more of what God thought than anyone else. I actually let my dad cut my hair since I thought he would be the only family member willing to do so. I went into the bathroom with 5 ponytails of thick hair and asked him to do it for me because I couldn't do It myself.

After he cut them all I said "Daddy, do you still think I'm pretty?" he looked in my eyes and he said, "You are beautiful."
New Hair do
I could only imagine if that's what my earthly father felt, how much more did my heavenly Father have delight in my obedience? This is not to say I'm obedient all the time, or that I'm perfect (you can even see my delay and hesitance in this story). However, in that moment of finally having short uneven unprofessionally cut hair I felt more beautiful than ever because I saw myself the way God saw me rather than thinking about anyone else.

Your identity has everything to do with how you behave, how you believe and whom you trust. When your identity is not in God it is so easy to be attached to sin and to be proud to the point where you are unwilling to change. Change is not even a thought, you don't see the beauty in it and you are unable to see the flaws in your ways. You are blind and that is why pride comes before a fall.
Change can happen immediately, through a long process, or by combination of the two. No matter which route it occurs by, be willing to let God make changes in your life. God is the only one who has the authority to say "I am who I am" and though you are made in his image, you still fall short and it's important throughout life to LET GOD make you look more like him every day as He is the only one who defines your image. Be open to his change. Be willing to see his vision. Beauty is made by God and he sees it perfectly so let him take you and show you what he has designed for your life.

Now that you've heard one of my stories here's my challenge to you:

  1. Pray: Ask God where your heart is hardened, where you lack understanding. "8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."- 1 John 1
  2. Repent: Repentance literally is a turn, and change. It genuinely comes from the heart when you see how sin really works and how much more you want God. It's responsibility for your wrong yet also a decision to live differently.
  3. Action by Faith: There has to be at least one thing you can do to change right now. Ask God one thing you can do to take a step in His direction. And then GET UP AND DO IT, find an accountability partner, and move swiftly. Don't let the thought sit there, be brave enough to bring it to a reality. Change is a choice and your choices are under your control so use them wisely.
  4. Repeat: You may have been consistently one way before, but now consistently walk in Faith. The difference is with faith LIFE IS PRODUCED and you can do more with it. Your growth plants new seeds. So continue in the faith, and see what God means when he says he can do exceedingly abundantly more than you could ever dream or imagine. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9
Psalm 139 is a great chapter to meditate on especially for the issue of identity.
Has it been all smooth sailing ever since I cut my hair? No. Once God matured me in how I viewed beauty and security he opened up my eyes to many more places that I invested my identity in. Our culture doesn't work in a vacuum and the devil doesn't just attack you one time and walk away, it is repeatedly ingrained in our mindset that our value comes from things outside of our creator and that's a lie.

This whole hair experience was a beginning for me and was a pivotal point of me understanding how God uses change for our good. The challenge I gave you all is the same one I am doing myself, but I am encouraged because I know my God is faithful and that He has the true vision of who I am and who I will be. My identity is secure in Him.

For curious minds, although I am growing my hair out again, I definitely plan to cut it again in the future. It's a blessing to have more freedom and I do not regret AT ALL cutting my hair, hence why I plan to do it again.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Room For Improvement

I run......often.

It never seems easy until I start.

I've learned some tactics from other runners, but ultimately I have to go out there and do it.

Friday I ran with a friend. It was one of the longer runs I had done in a while, yet very enjoyable. In this age of social media, I use Nike + to keep track of most of my runs (I use Runkeeper when I'm on the treadmill or elliptical). So now Nike + takes it upon itself to do goal setting for me and today my goal was to run 3.75 miles.

Once given a goal - I have to reach it. So today though I intended to only run 3 miles I ran 3.77 miles so that I could meet a goal that I did not set. Nike+ is just an app that has no power over me, but because as a runner I recognized the benefits of running further, I accepted the goal.  I didn't have to, but I did.

As I did this, I thought there is always room for improvement.

I can:
Run faster
      Run farther
  Conquer hills
      Breathe better.

Just as in running, in my life there is always room for improvement:
I can speak softer
      Be more positive
   Conquer a bad attitude
        Change my perspective

Nike + set the goal for me, but sometimes it can be a friend or even something you've read. It may be a one liner you saw, or just the last fragments of a conversation. For me it also has a spiritual connotation, as the Bible provides guidelines (goals) for living.

There's always room for improvement - you are better than you were yesterday, as you keep changing in to the person you are supposed to be.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, 
14 I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-13 NIV

Are you improving? Is it hard for you?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pray Requests


The Psalmist in Psalms 5 says,
"O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly." Psalms 5:1-3

It's early on my side of the world. As I read these words today I was struck by the rawness of the writer's heart - David. In his groaning, God is still God and he prays expectantly, knowing that God will hear and answer. In this Psalm, it is also clear that David chose to speak with God in the morning at the beginning of the day.

As I read this, I was encouraged in the following ways:

  • Continue waking up early to pray
  • To pray expectantly
  • Burdens may make us groan, but pray anyway
  • God is still in control

Do you start your day prayerfully?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Any Day is a Good Day to Be Alive

This morning at the crack of dawn, I got a call from a friend who had been thinking about me. She had been blessed with some provisions, and called everyone she knew to get rid of them.

I'm glad she called me.

I'm glad I took the time to get to know her.

While picking up the provisions, she spoke a word that was so timely.
She loves to garden, as do I, and she mentioned that she is very patient. I said, "Hmm, sometimes I'm more patient with plants than I am with people." She proceeded to tell me as only she could, that sometimes the person who seems impatient and difficult is that way because no one has ever taken the time to be patient with them. In these moments you have to ask the Lord, to hush your mouth and only speak what He will allow you to say; but you have to give it over to Him first. Because if you try to be patient with the difficult in your own strength, you will only fail.

At the beginning of this day, I had no plans but to relax and perhaps run typical Saturday errands. Because someone thought of me, I was blessed in word and deed.
Container planting of geraniums and dusty miller

I went home, planted, and tried to be a blessing to those around me.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalms 118:24

Were you blessed in unexpected ways today that made you grateful to be alive?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Just for Fun - Influenster Jolly VoxBox

When I started blogging, I had no idea what awaited me.  Through reading and following many blogs I learned about Influenster. I signed up, because it seemed fun (and I wanted free stuff)!

Well I signed up over a year ago and finally got my first box - the Jolly Vox Box in Mid December.

This box contained:

  1. Mini Ducklings Duck Tape
  2. Rimmel London Show off Lip Lacquer
  3. NYC HD Color Trio
  4. Puffs Plus Lotion Tissues
  5. Skinny Cow Divine Filled Chocolates - Peanut Butter

Items in box - skinny cow is missing because it's all gone!

The first thing to be sampled was the Skinny Cow Divine Filled Chocolates. These taste like Reese's peanut butter cups but aren't as fattening.  They were 6 one ounce packages that each contained 3 squares. I devoured all 3 squares in one sitting - they were that good, and then I tried to spread out the remaining packets so that this goodness could last as long as possible.

Believe it or not my youngest daughter makes duck tape wallets - so when we saw the Mini Ducklings Duck Tape, she grabbed it. It was the perfect size for trim on the wallets. If she didn't make these amazing wallets, I wouldn't know what to do with this item.
Women's Wallet with Mini Ducklings Trim
My nose runneth over, constantly - so the pocket size of Puffs Plus Lotion came in handy. It lives up to its name and is quite soft to the touch. My nose was thankful.

The Rimmel London Lip Lacquer in Celestial which is really pepto bismol pink was a bit too pink for my complexion, but the NYC HD Trio Eye Shadow kit made the perfect smoky eye. More than likely I will gift these items to my older daughters who will get more mileage out of this than me.

Overall, I was thrilled to receive my first Influenster Vox Box and for the most part enjoyed using the products. This box was perfect for me.