Grace Upon Grace

Recently, God has convicted me of not having enough grace towards the ones that I love. This includes my husband, especially. When I married him, I knew that we had completely polar opposite personalities. Nathaniel is a “fly by the seat of your pants” kinda guy. I am the “this must be organized and planned out to a T” kinda girl. You can already see where I’m going with this.

I know I have a long way to go, but it is important for me to start extending grace to those who may not think exactly like me. Although my head tells me one thing about their behaviors, my heart is convicted and telling me another.

When I think about God’s grace, so many examples come to my mind. All you have to do is open your bible to see an overflowing of Gods grace. We see verses constantly elaborating on how important grace was to God and how He gladly extends it to us. Without it, we wouldn’t stand a chance. How thankful I am to have a LOVING God, that constantly gives me another try – because I am a sinner, and I never deserve the kind of love that God offers to me.

My prayer today is for those who are struggling with extending and/or accepting grace. For me, that is sometimes both! Sometimes it’s a struggle, especially when the dishes aren’t put away, or the floor isn’t swept. Maybe it’s a friend I’ve been pouring into and trying to counsel, yet they keep running back to the one thing that’s harming them. Maybe it’s self worth – feeling like you aren’t good enough for anything or anyone, because you continue to mess up and make mistakes that you’re ashamed of.

God does not say,
“Well, they’re being lazy, so that does not deserve grace!”
“They’re asking for it, because they just don’t listen,” or,
“They’re just plain rude, and they don’t treat me very nicely!”

Do any of these sound familiar? They sure do to me! Each one of these thoughts have crossed my mind. That is why I need God’s grace, in order to extend it to others! God is doing a work in them, in His own way, that we don’t even know about! That is for Him to worry about, and Him alone.

Ephesians 2:8  – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God

Grace is a gift from God. He’s just waiting for us to reach out and take it into our hearts. It isn’t something that must be bought or earned. Jesus already covered it through His precious gift of the cross.

I want you to know that not only is grace a gift, it is a segue into so many other precious elements of life. Look at what Roman’s tell us in Chapter 5 : Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. …

So, Faith >> Peace >> Grace >> Endurance >> Character >> Hope >> LOVE.

Our God is loving, and He calls us to be just as loving and to extend grace to those around us, just as He has done for us. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. For your peace of mind, and for the benefit of those around you. Let them see you, in me.

John 17:23 – I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

 

The Bullseye

I recently began the “Armor of God” study by Priscilla Shirer with the women’s group at my church. If you haven’t yet done this study, I would highly recommend it! I’m only about 3 weeks in and I’m in love. One thing Priscilla told us, is that as we began this study we should prepare to have a figurative “bullseye” on our back. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant at the time, but now that I’m three weeks in – I get it. Did you know that Satan loves to target Christians that are working on strengthening their relationship with God? It’s not always the broken that he’s after. It’s the restored, healing, and encouraged. It’s those who have found their new life in Christ and want to begin living in freedom.

The past three weeks for me have been bizarre. I can’t say it’s the only time that I’ve felt like I’ve been a walking target, but as I dig deeper into God’s word, it’s like Satan is doing ALL that he can to distract me. He uses so many sly schemes and tactics to get right under our skin. Distractions and maneuvers  – anything to pull us farther and farther away from the Truth – from the Word.

I don’t believe that it’s just when we do a series of Bible studies that we should be thinking about the bullseye. I think it’s every single day that we live our lives in truth, while we walk deeper into our relationship with Christ! John 10:10 says, “ Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy.” Don’t let him have any more of your happiness. Don’t let him easily steal away your joy. We are sons and daughters of the ONE TRUE KING, and this life is just temporary. We get to spend eternity with our Creator, and that gets me so excited. So, while we may be moving targets for Satan here on earth, we prepare for battle and we armor up as Christians. He can try his best, but our hearts belong to the one true God!

**Spoiler alert.. Jesus wins this war!**

Just Live and Let God.

2017. How quickly this year came upon us. I have a good suspicion that some of us were not ready. This year brings so many new things. A new president, new jobs, new classes, new marriages, newborns, new adventures, and sometimes, even new heartaches. At the beginning of every year, I find myself being so thankful for a chance to “start over”, however, I heard something that really put things into perspective for me a few days ago. “When you’re serious about change, you won’t need a new year, just a new moment, so own it.” POWERFUL. How many times do we go into a new year or situation thinking, “this time will be different?” I am all for hope in change and new beginnings, but it’s time I start giving my worry and anxiety to GOD, and God alone. He is the only one that has the ability to instill change in me, thus giving me the opportunity to conquer and make things happen.

Philippians 4:6

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Begin to take one day at a time, and marinate in the seconds that have been given to you in this day. I have wasted so many precious moments being anxious about things that are so far out of my reach and control, that I completely forget about the amazing amount of time that has been given to me to live in right now. The harsh truth is that we may never see tomorrow. Don’t waste an entire day being anxious about something that may never even come.

My challenge for you is this:  just live life in the MOMENT. Don’t think about tomorrow. Don’t think about next week. Don’t fret about what could be. Just pray and give it up to God. He’s already gotten the story of your life w r i t t e n out word for word. He’s already there. He already knows. Just live and Let God.

Galentine’s Gift Guide!

Who says Valentine’s Day is just for lovers?! I’ve compiled a list of my favorites to gift your gals this year. After all, what’s better than spreading the love!?

galentines-gift-guide

LANCÔME || Juicy Tube Set

Givenchy || Le Rouge Perfecto Beautifying Lip Balm

Wholeheartedly || Large Geometric Heart Pendant, Yellow Gold Vermeil

K.Slade Brooklyn Foldover || Rose Gold

Williams Sonoma Valentines Day Mugs || Set of 4

RTIC || Custom Tumbler

OPI || Coca-Cola Collection

Transparent.

I have to admit I had a really hard time writing this. For the past several weeks I’ve just been… inspiration-less. I’ve been tired, worn out, overwhelmed, and quite frankly those are the finest ingredients for a nice little dose of writer’s block. I started to think about what my life has looked like over the past couple of months and figured out the secret- I just need to be transparent.

Life is hard. Anyone that says it’s easy is lying. I believe it was meant to be hard. In God’s magnificent design, His intention is not for us to slide by like a cute little kid on a playground ride. It’s meant to be messy, chaotic, up and down. I believe this was a grand design so that we must learn how to lean on Him. To be transparent. To open our hearts and let Him in to WORK.

As the year comes to a close, I’ve taken some time to just sit back and reflect. It’s easy to see that 2016 has been nothing short of a whirlwind. From settling into our first year of marriage, buying our first home, taking on (two) new jobs between the both of us, and finding my way in a new role as a “pastors wife.” There have been days when I so just want to quit. Hiding under the covers from sun up to sun down has been tempting many more times than I care to admit. Questioning God on why in the world He has placed me where I am today has been an often occurrence in my head. Wondering what in the world my greater purpose is and why our world feels so broken. Why can’t I rescue every child suffering in Syria right now? Why can’t I be a high level executive in my dream job? Why do I not look like the picture perfect platinum blonde on my Instagram Explore page? Why can’t I have all of the money in the world? So many questions and doubts.

The truth is, God already knows. He already knows my thoughts before I think them. He already knows my doubts, my questions, my worries. And, I need to be better at letting Him have all of the things that are in my head. He’s already there, and He wants my transparent heart.

My prayer is that 2017 will be full of transparency. Not just between God and I, but in my marriage, in my family, and my friends.  I am so thankful for new beginnings.

What types of things are you praying about for the new year?

 

 

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

It was an unusually warm day in the middle of October as I approached her home, nestled in a little manor near the south side. I quickly noticed the buzzing of the cars zooming by off of Interstate 69. I could hear the neighborhood commotion surrounding me and the fresh fall leaves crunching under my feet as I walked up to the front door. What I was greeted with was a beautiful woman, full of knowledge and wisdom, just looking for someone to share it with.

One of the perks of my job is constantly getting to meet new people from all walks of life. I love to hear how our work is changing lives. This woman, in particular, just received a new roof. She has lived in her home for 23 years, and it’s all she has left.

Over the excitement of two yapping little dogs, I got to know Miss Jo. I was captivated by her stories of the small little farm in which she grew up on the moment that I sat down. Being an outsider while listening to the realistic trials and tremors from someone else’s life truly adds perspective. I started to close my eyes and picture the America that she got the privilege of growing up in – all the way back to the Roosevelt years. We talked family, politics, pets, and a few other things, but what I walked away with was so much more.

Yesterday, I went back to see Miss Jo. We’ve become friends. She instilled in me how important it is to not lose sight of touch, true beauty and family.

“Touch people. Don’t be afraid to touch them. We [elders] sit in these houses day after day after day. The dogs are awesome to touch, but they can’t carry on a conversation. And it’s not human. They’re not a human hand, a human being, just to touch you. Spread it out to the older people because you don’t know that may be the only touch they’ve ever had in months. A warm hand. It’s cheap and it’s so easy to do and it’s so needed. So needed. If only people would just get back their love.”

She encouraged me, by her love for God and by her faith to find the good in people.  A struggling woman with a heart bigger than the size of Texas is still giving all of the honor to God, even throughout the trials that she’s faced.  She stressed the importance of hard work, which is scarce to be found these days. “Life is so short,” she said. “Enjoy the privilege of being able to work. You don’t know what it means until you can’t do it any more.”

As I listened to this woman, I started to realize what the true meaning of beauty was. It was found in the wrinkles on her face, as they told stories of precious memories passed. It was told in the depth of her eyes, as she longed for company and a desire for human interaction and touch. I couldn’t help but feel guilty for all of the materialistic things that come to mind when I think about beauty, or how many times I’ve reached for my phone this week to text, not talk, with a friend.

This meeting with Miss Jo was a perfect reminder for me. It brought me back down to earth. Back down to simpler things. Back to the meaning of love, interaction, feeling, and face-to-face conversation – what God meant it to be.

1 Peter 3: 3-4

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

As I was leaving and we parted ways, Miss Jo told me this:

“God has blessed me. If I never get another blessing, I’ve been blessed.”

What I hope she knows, is that she has blessed me.

 Proverbs 3:15-18

She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.

A Duckworth Renovation!

This summer, Nathaniel and I bought our first home together! It was an exciting, nerve-racking, life changing experience – and that’s to say the least!

I honestly had no idea how much work goes into the home buying process. At the time, I was seriously getting impatient. I hated to even look at houses that piqued our interest,  because of the way the market was. The houses we liked would sell within a day! It was a sellers market, and it was aggravating. Our lease was coming to an end, and we had to pull the trigger on something!

We finally found a 3 bed, 2 bath ranch in a quiet Newburgh subdivision, and I immediately knew it was the one. However, I knew it would need A LOT of work. I definitely think I underestimated the amount of work we needed to put in to make it what we wanted. But, being the impatient person that I am… the majority of it is already finished! I can’t believe that it took us only 2 months to get our house ready like this! I am completely in love with how it turned out.

We couldn’t have done this without the help of our family and friends that tirelessly spent hours on end helping us make this “home” ❤

 

We Rise By Lifting Others

Ladies. Now, more than ever, is the time to be lifting each other UP! It’s no secret, we live in a hateful world. Empowered women, empower women. Give a compliment. Be a mentor to a young woman in your world. Encourage and practice a positive attitude. All of these things go such a long way. It is especially important as we raise daughters, nieces, cousins and sisters. They watch closely.


There’s a woman that I see almost daily as I go through the drive thru for my daily Diet Coke. EVERY TIME this woman sees me, she never fails to tell me how beautiful she thinks I am. Every day. She doesn’t even know me! It doesn’t matter if I looked like I’ve just woken up, she still says it. I’ve begun to call this woman my Angel because she literally lifts me up every single day, no matter the circumstances. It’s little words and actions like this that go a long way. YOU have the power to lift someone’s day. YOU have the power to embrace your peers, and to lift them up.


As women, most of us experience the same struggles. We can relate to one another, and we should. The more we empower one another and LOVE one another, the better off our world will be.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4: 29 (NIV) 🌺


I love you all – Have a blessed day!

Seeing “The Good” in a Dark World

September 11 is a heavy day. Our American soil was rocked 15 years ago by senseless attacks that left many terrified, injured, and dead. It’s so easy to get caught up in the negative downward spiral that events like these bring. Eventually, it can even be hard to see past the darkness that surrounds us when we’re affected by tragedy and bad things.

My church has been moving through the book of Mark, and on September 11, our pastor landed on Chapter 14 – the scene where Jesus is taken away to be beaten and hung on the cross. As I was listening and that intense scenario was playing over and over in my mind, I couldn’t get over Jesus’s raw emotion in that moment. He said He was so full of sorrow to the point of death.

Oftentimes, I think we forget how real Jesus was. He was human, just like us. He felt things, just like us… even sadness and despair.

It’s so comforting to know that when tragedy strikes, when we lose loved ones, when we hurt, when we doubt … Jesus felt the same pain. It’s not uncommon to simply forget how close Jesus really is. I do this often, as I pray to a God that can seem to be a million miles away. \\

This week I had to write a sympathy card to a woman that unexpectedly lost her husband. When my pen hit the paper and I tried to spell out the words that are supposed to offer comfort and hope, I became so heavy thinking about the reality of death and hurt. Real life happens and it doesn’t wait until we’re ready.

Even Jesus lost a close friend, and with that came the shortest verse to be found in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)  In the moments of being caught up in sorrow, mourning and compassion, even Jesus couldn’t contain His emotion as He knew what the consequences would be for raising His dear friend from the dead. It was only days away. Jesus had things on His heart that no one even knew about at that time. How often do we walk through life similarly, with heaviness on our hearts? We aren’t alone.

The gospel is FULL of good news. These are some things within the gospel of Mark [alone] that serve as a simple reminder the next time it’s hard to see “the good”:

  • Jesus TELLS us to (Mark 1:15)

In the very beginning of Mark, we see Jesus proclaiming the good news of God. Jesus literally says, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” I don’t know about you, but when Jesus is this excited and boisterous about something, I want to get on board!

  • Jesus Calms The Storm (Mark 4:35)

With just three words, Jesus was able to calm the raging seas that terrified His doubting disciples. If He can do that, He can do ANYTHING in my life. Including calming my heart, bringing me peace when it’s hard to find, and commanding the personal storms that are raging around me.

  • Jesus Lives!!!! (Mark 16)

What’s better than the Savior of the world, rising again and dwelling among us?! This is GOOD NEWS, people! I am so thankful for a God that has taken the Cross for me, forgiven my sins, and is coming for me again.

 

Good, good news.

The Pursuit of Perfection

*Featured on : The Devotional Diva

It was two months after my wedding and I can still feel the sinking feeling of my heart as I clicked through image after image from the big day. Pictures of family, bridesmaids, groomsmen and wedding guests scrolled across the screen as I became more and more disappointed.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there were some beautiful images that were captured that day. But, the fact that our photographer was battling a nasty sickness on the day of our wedding (bless his soul for still coming to capture the day), and topping that off with an unseasonable 110-degree day in September did not make for the best photos. Bridesmaids were miserable in their long, black dresses.  We were racing the clock and being pulled in ten different directions. I didn’t fall in love with a single image of myself in my dress. This was supposed to be the perfect day! Of course I wanted those precious moments to be captured flawlessly.

Welcome to the world of perfectionism. Anyone that has scrolled through my album entitled “The Best Day Ever” on Facebook would probably tell you that I’m crazy. In fact, I hear this all the time from my family, friends and my husband. But, in my constant pursuit of perfection, I loathed them all.

There are so many things that I used to dwell on and regret about my wedding day. The ceremony, reception, and decoration itself was more than I could have asked for. My parents and wedding coordinators did an outstanding job.

But…. then there was the fact that my wedding dress didn’t fit me right at all on the big day. I lost close to 20 pounds before my wedding, and my chest seemed to take the brunt of it. I was pulling up on my strapless dress all day. How frustrating.

I don’t remember spending any time at all with friends out on the dance floor that night. I was too worried about getting around to make sure everyone else was having a good time. ARGH.

These thoughts continued to fill my head until it made me sick. Long story short: maybe if I wasn’t so focused on losing weight to have the “perfect body” for the wedding, my dress would have fit “perfectly”! UGH. See where I’m going here?!

Perfectionism is a tough thing. All of my life I have grown up in pursuit of perfection, and it is not fun. I have spent countless hours writing and rewriting thank you letters to potential employers because my handwriting was a little crooked.  I used to go to the hair salon every three weeks because the sight of my dark roots coming through drove me nuts. One chip in my nail polish, and it’s all coming off!

It wasn’t until a couple of months ago during a devotional that I realized, Jesus did not take my place on the cross in hopes that I would be in a constant state of worry and perfectionism, let alone the fact that it is humanly impossible to be perfect.

Jesus reminds us in 2 Corinthians: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21).

How cool is that?! We essentially received the perfection of Jesus when he took up OUR sin on the cross.  Now, don’t get me wrong- we are still called to be “Christ-like”. But, I think we should know the difference between living life in a constant state of striving for perfectionism, and living in a Christ-like manner to bring others to know Jesus.

Did you know? The Greek word for “perfect” = “teleios”. In the old testament, the word perfect is originally presented as completed, or finished.  Even though Jesus knew that no one would ever achieve being perfect in our human lives, He emphasizes having maturity and full completion in our faith.

So, Jesus would rather me seek His kingdom above all!?… YES!  Remember a special certain verse from Matthew?

31“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’32“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:31)

Maybe for you, it’s the pursuit of a perfect body, to be the perfect mom, to have a perfect marriage, or the perfect kids. There are many ways in which “perfectionism” can creep up in your life and lead to other things like depression, anxiety and self-doubt.

Be encouraged that no one but the Father is or ever will be perfect. Find peace and comfort in that He already took our place on the cross so we don’t have to strive for perfection anymore – and look forward to eternal life where we won’t know anything butthe perfect Kingdom that He has already prepared for us. As for our earthly lives, He will provide and give us everything we truly need.

At the end of the day- I’m still married to my best friend, my soul mate. There is nothing more “perfect” that that! ❤