A Hamburger Smile!

Ellie loves to wear hats! She has so many. I was so proud of Ellie. At a hamburger restaurant she noticed a waitress wearing a hamburger hat. She was talking to us about how she thought her hat was so cute. We encouraged Ellie to go up to the lady and tell her how much she likes the hat she is wearing. Guys! She did it. She was so brave and used a voice that could be heard. The waitress had such a huge smile on her face. I’m sure that waitress day was made. My day was made too. I was encouraged to find someone everyday and encourage them with something as simple as a compliment. Find a reason to put a smile on someone’s face each day. Who can you make smile today?

To all my mommy friends!

To All my mommy friends….

Women love to celebrate their pregnant bellies! We post pictures almost daily, showing off our growing bellies. I know I do anyway. We no longer feel the need to suck it in because we want it to be noticeable and growing. We love it because we know there is someone beautiful on the inside growing and waiting to meet us. Then we give birth and suddenly we are fussing over the stretch marks, extra skin and mom pooch. We start sucking in again, planning diets and refusing to post pictures that make our mid section look like it just gave birth. Am I the only one? Look! I’m with you. I’m waiting for the moment I can feel less bloated after Jay is born but I’m striving not to let it consume me this time. I don’t want to allow that desire to ruin my day or determine my comfort level. I don’t want to allow the desire to get my pre baby body back to define me.

Ladies! We should still be celebrating our bodies after birth. We should be loving our bodies period! Those stretch marks, extra skin and mom pooch tell the story of the life you helped grow. This is a beautiful thing. I’m not saying it’s bad to live a healthy life. It’s not bad to want to shed a few pounds. It’s not wrong to want to work out. We should make healthy choices. It can become all consuming though and that’s when it needs to be put in check. I believe there can be a balance. There can be a point when we take it too far. I don’t know about you, but I want to love, appreciate and celebrate my body after the birth of Jay. Our bodies are worth the smile when we look in the mirror. As women we should strive to reach a place where we live unashamed of the changes that have taken place to our body. The truth is our bodies have not done anything bad but they’ve created someone beautiful. Let’s celebrate that!

Stop and smell the sunscreen!

We were traveling back from visiting family in Springfield Missouri! We stopped at a gas station and across the street we see a splash pad. At this point Ellie is begging to join in on the fun with all her promises to make good choices and not cry when it’s time to leave. She had been in the car for theee hours so we decided to let her get out and run around in the water. We quickly put on her swimsuit, @jessierayos shielding her with a blanket. We did our best to sunscreen her wiggly excited body before she took off. We told her she has 20 minutes and sent her off to splash and squeal. She had so much fun and it was good to feel the unexpected sunshine on our skin. Honestly, we just wanted to get home before dark. If it were not for Ellie pointing it out we would have never noticed the splash pad. It’s so easy to get caught up in where we are going that we often forget to enjoy the trip getting there. To keep it short and simple: stop and smell the roses or in this case the sunscreen. I’m sure glad we did!

When God shows up on a tractor trailer…

When God shows up on a tractor trailer….

At our outdoor worship service, one of our members brought his tractor trailer to use as a stage. As I stood worshiping along side my friends and family I was reminded that God will always provide all that you need to do what He has asked you to do! Yes! Thats what I thought when I watched our worship team leading our church on a trailer that was earlier attracted to a truck. When you can’t worship indoors take your worship outdoors. Never give up! It was encouraging seeing our church come together with the resources on hand to have a night of worship. I’m so thankful that although it was a social distancing style worship service you could still feel Jesus there. He even held the rain off long enough for us not to have to cancel. Jesus was not distant tonight nor is He ever distant. If we just call on His name He is there. He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) not even in the most difficult of times. If this season of life has taught me anything, it’s that God always shows up-even on the bed of a 16 wheel tractor trailer.

“The Lord is my strength and my song;

he has given me victory.

This is my God, and I will praise him—

my father’s God, and I will exalt him!” Exodus 15:2 NLT

Shine Daddy Shine!

Jessie is always teaching Ellie a life lesson just simply by living. He shines in that area. This weekend he taught her the importance of standing back and giving others the spot light.

I was so thankful that Jessie was able to stand back and let my dad shine as he taught Ellie to ride her first bike. Riding a bike for the first time is one of those big moments in life. It’s a moment a parent finds great joy in. However, Jessie was able to stand back and let someone else have that moment. He knew my dad could use that moment. It didn’t hurt his feelings. He didn’t feel betrayed. He didn’t feel left out because he knows there will be more opportunities to make moments like this. Guys! It was total sacrifice. He didn’t even mention it. He didn’t use his dad card, puff up and say “this is my moment!” He gave his moment away as a gift to not only Ellie’s Pop Pop but to Ellie as well. This is just who Jessie is. Jessie gives with his whole heart so others can experience with theirs. Jessie is always shining in many areas of life but you will never see him shining alone. He’s always looking for the one in the crowd who wants to shine a little in their life too. Pop Pop taught Ellie to ride her first bike and that’s a forever memory but Ellie will never forget the image of dad on the sidelines cheering them both on.

The bike ride!

The Bike Ride!

This week my dad surprised Ellie with her first bike. She was so excited and after first sitting on it she announced that she needs to gain a pound to be big enough to ride it. The next day Pop Pop helped her learn to ride it. He stayed near her the entire time saying “good job” and reassuring her as she was scared to fall off.

Recently, he was very encouraging to me as well. It was almost as if I was on a bike and he was encouraging me as I rode through life scared and unsure. As I was texting him some concerns he responded “you just keep praying and let God be in control of everything!” Growing up you could have never convinced me that there would be a day when I could have God conversations with my dad. I prayed hard for his spiritual healing and many times my prayers felt empty and unheard. That is until 4 years ago when sweet Ellie swooped in and gave him the desire to trust God again.

It was really nice to see him today in Pop Pop action. He was telling Ellie all the bike rules; look both ways, wear your helmet and don’t talk to strangers. 😂😂😂 He literally thought of everything right down to the knee pads and elbow pads.

Watching them together reminds me of that 8th grade year in junior high when I was estactic to have a bike to ride to school. My dad gave me the bike and I loved it for an entire 1 days trip to school and then it was stolen from the school property. However, I will never forget that bike or more importantly my dad giving me the bike riders 101 lecture. The biggest rule was and has always been “ride past all the strangers!” 😂😂😂

I cherish moments like watching my dad help Ellie ride her first bike. I know Ellie will never forget today and neither will I. I can’t deny the tough seasons in life but I strive to never forget or ignore the good seasons. Today was one of those good season moments. The kind that remind me that God never fails to restore what was once broken. Happy Father’s Day to my dad who chose to get back on the bike proving to the world that there is no such thing as too broken.

We need to do better!

We need to do better!

Ellie misses her friends from Texas so much. She points to this specific picture and says “I want to go play with these friends.” When we go visit Texas our plan is to pay the day rate and let her hang out with her friends for the day.

I know I haven’t posted on social media my feelings about where we are at in our world right now. I appreciate all of your patience as I have been looking for the right words. I haven’t known what to say. Forming the right words has been difficult because truly my heart just hurts. However, I have been praying. I have been reflecting. I have been listening! I have been learning. I’m realizing I will never have the right words. I will never be able to put into words the injustice that is happening right now. Honestly, I’ve been thinking I’m not so special that my words can change what is happening.

However, I know my words can bring peace to broken hearts. Me speaking out can help so many feel heard.

I’ve been asking God, what do I say? Where do I go? How do I show my black brothers and sisters that I see them? How do I let them know that I hear them?

Then I saw this picture. It’s of Ellie and her friends at Primrose. This picture reminds me of how ten years ago I walked into primrose for the first time and that summer I began to teach a group of 4 and 5 year olds. Several years later they were all part of the proposal and attended the wedding. I taught kids of every race. That first year I had a group of boys who are black. Now these amazing boys are 14 and 15 and I just can’t understand how they can be treated differently because of the color of their skin. I don’t understand it but I won’t pretend it doesn’t exist because IT DOES. Racism is still very much alive. These same boys are 14 and they are having a conversation with their parents that is confusing and heartbreaking. I pray for all my little friends everyday. I don’t care if they are 14 they will always be my little friends. I pray that God would protect them and their families. I pray that God would fill them with His hope. My heart breaks for each of you and I want you to know that I see you and I stand with you and I love you!

I asked Ellie why she misses the friends in her picture. She said, “we played and they are nice and love me cause they hug me!”

This is all I needed to hear to know we need to be better. All of us can be and do better.

“Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.” Amid 5:24 NLT

I’m not lucky IM blessed!

The number one question I get asked is …

“ Is it difficult being married to a pastor?” I mean, it has its challenges. No marriage is rainbows, unicorns and peach oatmeal all the time. However, I chose ministry before we started dating. Ive always believed God called me into full time ministry and in a weird way I knew I would marry a pastor. So it wasn’t that much of a difference when we got married. I find it more difficult being married to a man who makes so many jokes. Seriously! It’s so exhausting having to laugh all the time. He literally has to tell ten jokes before he can answer one question. 😂

I can remember, at one point in our dating relationship Jessie decided to call things off. He wrote this 5 page letter ( I still have the evidence) explaining his decision and cried as he read it to me. I cried from being so angry and walked 3 miles home refusing to get in the car as he followed at a steady pace behind me making sure I made it home safe. I’m still dramatic like that and he still cares that strongly for me. 😂😂😂

Can I be honest? I wish I would have handled that moment with a little more maturity. Obviously God knew what He was doing and it all worked out in the end. I didn’t know how blessed I was to have a guy who was willing to walk away if it meant pushing me closer to Jesus. Long story short, Jessie couldn’t keep his eyes off me and here we are today. ❤️❤️❤️ Dont worry I made him work hard to get me back! The truth is, we were both very scared to commit. We had a good Pastor friend tell us to break up and if we can’t stop thinking about the other and no one else catches our eye then get back together. His whole point, I think, was to say that Love is a choice. At some point “love is a choice” really sank in and boy does that make total sense now after 6 years of marriage. I don’t always feel like loving him and I’m sure I’m not always easy to love but we chose to love each other no matter what. I’m so thankful Jessie chose to love and marry me. I’m so thankful God crossed our paths. I’m not lucky to have Jessie. I’m truly blessed. I’m blessed to love someone who who loves Jesus so much, makes me laugh and still follows my crazy dramatic self home. Happy 6 year anniversary Jessie.

The Darkness!

There was complete darkness. I couldn’t see anything. I was sitting on the hard cold ground. I couldn’t see anything but a small light up ahead. I was entangled in some sort of rope that I could feel wrapped tightly around my wrist and ankles. My heart was pounding. I was terrified. I couldn’t get in reach of anything to free me. I had to pull my wrist as hard as possible to break free. I was pulling with all my might feeling blood drip from my wrist. All the while I’m screaming out for Jesus to help free me. Suddenly my arms covered in blood are free and able to untie my feet and without a thought I ran toward that small light. I was running. Fast! I felt I couldn’t run any faster but I was trying. Behind me was complete darkness and it was terrifying. The darkness felt inches from my heels. In front of me I could see a light. I knew I had to keep running. Eventually I reached a tunnel. It wasn’t so dark anymore. It wasn’t so terrifying but it was getting more difficult to continue running. The light looked bigger, brighter so much closer. I felt so tired. I felt like sitting down just long enough to catch my breath but something in me knew that if I stopped, the darkness would swallow me up again. So I continued to run. Toward the middle of the tunnel was a crowd of people cheering me on. I couldn’t see their faces.

You can do it. Don’t give up. Keep pressing on. Fight it. You got this.

Tears streaming down my face while I fought to continue running feeling so encouraged and full of hope.

I can do this! I got this.

I continued running while I thought about how I have fought so hard to be free from the darkness behind me. I can’t give up now. I ran and ran my feet barely touching the pavement. At last, I collapsed to the ground, but scared, I quickly used my hands to scoot myself away from the darkness behind me in fear of it swallowing me up. However, there was no darkness. I couldn’t see the darkness anymore. I woke up as a smile moved across my face. A sense of relief filled my chest. I was free. I wasn’t scared. There was a breath of fresh air and peace. I could breathe. I was free.

In the middle of the night, years ago I opened my Bible and flipped to Hebrews 12:1-3….

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

My dream suddenly made so much sense.

My childhood is filled with darkness. I’m not quite sure I’ll ever be ready to share it with the world. I fought hard to escape that darkness and be who God has called me to be. I didn’t ignore it. I didn’t pretend it was never there. However, I fought hard to not allow it to determine my future. It took a lot of time to allow Jesus to stop that part of my life from defining me. There are moments in my life when I feel like the darkness is still snipping at my heels but I’m always running toward the light…His light. I won’t lose heart now.

I had a counselor once tell me,

“You are no longer that scared little girl who had no way out!”

At first I was angered by her statement.

She was right though. That day I left feeling empowered and thinking to myself, “I am safe! I am free! I have choices!” It was after that counselling session that I was able to let go and with God begin to heal from the events of my childhood.

So many of us are trapped in yesterday’s darkness when we don’t have to be. I didn’t choose to ignore the past or say it never happened. I chose to not allow my childhood to define me. I chose to move past yesterday and enjoy the now. I pray this encourages you who are haunted by yesterday. I hope it encourages you who still have nightmares because of yesterday. I hope it encourages you who still feels they are fighting the darkness.

Mostly I hope it encourages you to know that you can walk away from yesterday and not allow it to define you. Your past might be dark but your future can be bright.

We can do this!

It can be easy to let covid get us down but honestly I’ve enjoyed the challenge of having to find ways to be creative when it comes to my book signing. I love this picture and to be real honest I laugh when I look at it because I can’t believe we are living in a time when we have to talk to each other through a window. It will always remind me to never allow anything to stand in your way. I handed Pat Cross my book through her window and Jessie snapped a picture. It’s different then your average book signing but it works. She loved the book so much she purchased another copy. Above all else, I’ve been continually reminded that God is still good in the mist of covid.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13