Motivation

Motivation Monday | Rachel Bee

I've known who Rachel was the for the longest time but it took us a while to really get to know each other. The first time I saw her I remember being impressed by her musical talent. The fact that she was a female drummer and a KILLER one at that blew me away.  Over the years she started to show more and more of her talents and it really seemed like there was no end in sight.  She could drum, sing, play guitar...and then there's the kicker...SHE'S A NURSE!

When I attended Liberty I had a lot of friends who were in the nursing program and I remember how incredibly taxing the requirements could be. You'd never know that talking to Rachel.  This is no exaggeration.  She has never been negative with me about hard work or commitments.  She has such a beautiful outlook on life and is always willing to serve when she can. What warms my heart most about Rachel is she is will to volunteer when there's no praise involved.  I called on her to help me decorate the tree for church and Rachel was there.  We needed help planning a worship team party and Rachel was there.  Mike & Kristen even needed help repairing their basement apartment and Rachel was there with the biggest smile on her face.  I can't explain to you what an encouragement it is to see her serve but I am so thankful to be her friend. 

P1590733-2.JPG

Rachel and I are the class clowns when it comes to serving on the worship team.  Repetitive choruses and predictable rhythm sections could easily make us laugh to the point of tears.  This may seem like such a simple thing but it's so refreshing to be around someone who doesn't take life so seriously that she can't poke fun at the little things.  At our worship retreat Rachel fully committed to the hot wing contest and had horrible indigestion. Did she feel bad?  Well her stomach may have but she seemed incredibly happy that she won.  Covered in sauce, laughing hysterically, she won and that's all that mattered.

I'm so thankful that she and I were able to do this shoot because for the first time in our relationship I was able to put her in the spotlight.  Rachel doesn't have much but she has fullness of joy that lights up every room she walks into.  She is absolutely stunning and she has a way of making you feel like the most important person in the room.  Her honesty and humility is so heart warming.  You know if you tell Rachel how you feel there won't be an ounce of judgment in the room and when she says she's going to pray for you she means it.  I know that she has some big desires that God hasn't seen fit to give yet but her passion for serving him in the meantime is absolutely breathtaking.  I love to see the way she loves her husband.  Rachel is his biggest cheerleader and I'll be so happy for them both when he finishes med school.  There are very few people I can say truly live out the gospel in their daily life and Rachel Bee is one of the few.  She's funny, spunky, and LOVES tacky Christmas sweaters.  She's the best and she motivates me to love others unconditionally each and every day.

Ronnie B Brady Jr, a Testimony

There are times when I let my friends take over the blog to inspire & motivate others.  Today is Ronnie's turn.  No matter what you've been through, no matter what you've done, you are never beyond God's reach.  

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.
— 2 Timothy 1:9

Even when I was young, my family was always asking me to burst out into song and dance, or to put on a magical showcase. Being the crazy, over-imaginative child that I was, it was my pleasure to “make ‘em laugh.” After all, being serious was never an outfit I wore well. Jokes and laughter gave me life, and I was always the first to start a gathering or become the life of the party. To some that may be attractive, but to me it has been destructive and has caused many negative outcomes in my life. The crux of this story is that I am not who I was. This testimony, or story, is broken down into four distinct parts: beginning, middle, end, and the end of the beginning. My hope is that one of you reading this will be able to accept Jesus Christ and begin to see the transformative powers of God Almighty. God is good and God is great; God is sovereign and God is faithful.

The Beginning

My childhood, for the most part, was just an average life (if there is such a thing). I had the most supportive and loving parents you could ever wish for, and God was very much in the forefront of our family. Church on Sunday, prayers at dinner and before bed, and unconditional love all around. I received Christ as my personal Savior at the age of 14 and thought that was it: I was saved from something and I was free to start my young adulthood fearlessly. I was told that if I confessed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and believed in my heart that He’s the son of God who was sent to save us, then I would be saved. Simple, right? So I thought. From then on, my Christian walk was consistent but very basic. I would find myself going from journaling and reading to procrastinating in my walk with God. I was never the kind of person to get on a deep level and talk to friends or family, not even my parents, and as a result confusion (which God does not provide) took root and sin began to creep into my life. Things as small as entering a forbidden room, to lying to my parents, to stealing petty cash from a friend were all suppressed and quickly forgotten. I was convicted but never repented because in my pride I thought I could fix my own problems. My struggles only grew until the unimaginable led me to second guess my faith. To put it plainly, my young, impressionable mind had been exposed to pornography. Watching it, I was engulfed by the needs of the flesh and the different ideals of sexuality—all of which opened my mind to believe that there was something missing. This is where my attraction to both sexes took form and my deep desires for my sexual identity were acted upon, leading to a season in my life where I was confused by my own feelings. Why would God allow me to struggle with homosexuality? “Of all things, why this one?” I’d often ask. No one in my family understood homosexuality, so there was no one I could talk to, even if I had been able to have such a deep conversation. I pushed these feelings to the back of my mind, deciding that it was a phase I was going through and that it soon go away.

The Middle

Upon graduating from high school, I had no clue where I wanted to attend college. With the help of my parents and the encouragement of my youth group friends, I decided to apply to Liberty University—which was not even on my list and did not come anywhere close to providing the degree I wanted to obtain. It could only have been God working in my heart and mind that lead me to apply. My four years there were both good and bad and the balance of life and faith was never quite right. It felt as though I could never get ahead whenever I wanted something from the world. Confident in my talents as a performer, I attended open auditions for the school musicals and to my shock I wasn’t cast my first semester. Devastated and livid, I wanted to leave. I was done. Bitterness and resentment replaced what should have been humility and love in my heart, and there it dwelled until graduation. Instead of asking God for a new heart, I would pray for my bruised ego. Instead of praying that God would replace my passions with ones that pleased Him, I would pray for a role to be given to me. But even after the disappointment of my first audition, I gained confidence from my family and peers and stayed at Liberty, desperately trying to get into the department.

                Well, second semester rolled around, and I was finally cast. My need for attention from the world was being filled! I had made wonderful friendships that I have kept to this day, and which I began to see and appreciate as God’s calling for me being there. With social life came confidence, not only on a personal level but also in my performing. I’ll be the first to admit, I thought I was too good to be corrected. After the spring show ended, I began a perpetual journey of featured ensemble tracks, shin splints, and struggle. You must understand, at this point I had suppressed feelings, a big ego, too many friends and a few jobs to boot. In all that chaos, did I leave any room for Jesus? Hardly. I was beginning my journey without a spiritual walk and I went through just about every obstacle I thought I could handle. In the course of my four years at LU I dated two girls, but I also truly liked guys and was attracted to their personalities along with the physical attraction. I listened to the voice of the enemy and convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough, that I was too messed up to be with or marry a woman. I believed the feelings and thoughts that invaded my mind, I let my flesh win. Sure enough, my relationships with women flopped and I was left single once again. It seemed that each year, something major happened in my life. God was trying to communicate something to me but I always chose to fix the problem myself.

One incident that I wish to share is something I have withheld from a lot of people and have never included in my story. This unfortunate event broke me, but it also opened my eyes to God’s good grace and the proof that He had a higher calling for me. To set the scene: I was in a messy relationship full of insecurities and poor communication, I was working three jobs, my three roommates had been dismissed from school and left me with our apartment, I was the dance captain of a show that didn’t have that much dance, I had tons of homework, and I was leaving hardly any quiet time for the Lord. All that being said, I was in a state of desperation. I wanted to be the perfect boyfriend and lavish my girlfriend with gifts, but I was broke so I couldn’t be that person. I had the choice to communicate openly and be a problem solver or eat the forbidden fruit and completely mess up. Can you guess which option I took? If you guessed that I stole money from student accounts to get gift cards for my girlfriend, you were right. Long story short, I was fired from my job and put on probation as to whether I could remain at Liberty or be expelled. I can tell you, the odds were not in my favor. God, however, was not done with me. When I had no one else to turn to, I turned to Him and finally surrendered. I knew that He forgave me but I couldn’t forgive myself. No one knew about my situation, and carrying that secret around with me until my case was final was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I put on a big fake smile and prayed as often as I could. I reached out to the chancellor of the university and his wife, confessing all that I did, requesting forgiveness and a second chance. Being the kind, loving people that they are, my case was cleared within the week. I couldn’t believe it. I was forgiven for this heinous act? I could stay at school and not be ostracized? The theatre department never found out? That’s grace. Grace even to the point that my manager at the time would go on to hire me again two years later at a different store when I was in the darkest season of my life. Can you imagine that kind of forgiveness? It can only be the grace of God.

Yet even after this moment of surrender and grace, I graduated on a very sour note. I wasn’t too happy with the impression I left with the lowerclassmen and staff. I still had a serious problem with people not liking me, and I would lie to keep a friendship or put their feelings before mine because I couldn’t be alone and disliked. I also hadn’t developed into the performer I had hoped to be, so my future was looking a little scary. Yet even in the midst of my brokenness and bitterness and self-seeking lifestyle, God opened the door to the professional world and provided consistent work for the following five years. On the outside, I was successful and making it big, but on the inside I felt as if I were a big ol’ let down. God, I believe, put me through many a trial and tribulation with this profession. He provided work but He also provided the choices of right and wrong. Just like Adam and Eve, I was given a great contract but couldn’t resist the forbidden fruit that went along with them, thus ending in complete failure. I conformed to the world, sought fortune and fame, and listened to the mainstream lies of coming out and letting your freak flag fly. I thought to myself, “It’s time to be you, Ronnie, no one can tell you how to live your life, no one can judge you, no one will understand what you are going through, just share it with the world.” I wanted to be that person that everyone liked on Facebook for being comfortable in my own skin, but to be honest, I never really got comfortable. Something (God) held me back from opening up on social media or to my parents, and I never came out. I was confused by well-meaning advice from friends in contracts. Advice such as, “your parents will love you no matter what…. I will be here for you…Live your life…It’s about time you told the world, I’m so proud!” Because of my need for friendships and acceptance, conviction became a thing of the past and I chose the world. I found “love” in all the hopeless places, and while working on cruise ships where everyone around me beamed with talent and beauty, I was sought after and complimented and finally felt free. However, when promises of unconditional love failed to come true and my lifestyle got increasingly complicated and dangerous, I began to feel misplaced again. I couldn’t bring myself to pray because I felt that I was too far gone at that point. How could I get out of a hole so deep and a lifestyle so consuming? Have you ever experienced multiple rock bottoms? Have you ever asked God, “Why me? Why this again? When will I be free of these chains?” I asked myself those questions a lot, and each time I hit a rock bottom, I forced myself back on my two feet and continued on in my own strength again. It was like watching a baby seal trapped on an ice block, swarmed by twenty massive killer whales. No way out, just holding on for dear life.

The End

If it’s okay with you, this won’t be a happily ever after. My 2015-2016 year began with high hopes and new beginnings. In the midst of all my travels and lavish living, I went back to my alma mater and worked with The Alluvion Stage Company. It was a safe place for me to work and I had the reputation I had so long desired. There I performed in Disney’s The Little Mermaid during the summer of 2014 and then in Sister Act during the fall of 2015. Why did God have me go from one extreme to another? Cruise ships to Liberty? Not the best transition if I say so myself. God was trying to get through to me and gain my complete focus, yet I was blind to His will and sought my own reasoning as to why I was at Liberty for the second time. It was during this contract that I encountered many “concerned Christians.” These are people of faith who are troubled by another believer’s lifestyle of sin. They then feel the need to pray over the sinner and share their struggles with other believers. If not careful, things get muddy and genuine concern can take on the shape of gossip. No one in the theatre department wanted to talk about homosexuality and thought that if it weren’t brought up, it would fade out. At the time, I firmly believed that you can be gay and love the Lord, so I opened my life and pursued the wrong person. As a result, I was fired from the department and left Liberty on another sour note. How could God let this happen? Who were these people to judge me? How could I be left alone in this critical moment of my life? With no one who would hear me out, I fell into a deep depression and could only fall to my knees in weeping prayer. Good news, God was there! He had never left, in fact He had already provided grace that I had let go unnoticed.

God puts people in our lives to redirect us and accomplish kingdom work. You may often find yourself asking, “Why is this person speaking truth right now?” Please don’t ignore it, seek God’s voice through them! I met Dr. Voelker when I was performing in Hairspray out in CO. A mutual friend introduced us because we both had connections with Liberty. Little did I know at the time that I was talking to one of my future prayer warriors. We met again at the closing of Little Mermaid. It was just a brief encounter at dinner, some laughter, and then off I went to travel the world. When I returned to Alluvion, Dr. Voelker was such an encouragement throughout the run of Sister Act that I started feeling God’s purpose for her in my life was to be more than just a pal. She was the very first person I went to for help and guidance after being fired from Alluvion. There was spiritual work going on, and I discovered that she had started praying for me during Hairspray! I didn’t think I needed it at the time, so why was I on her heart? Not my will, but God’s was at work. In my last moments with Dr. Voelker in her office, she handed me a Bible that she had used at her own rock bottom and a copy of Mere Christianity.

It would be nice to end the story here and say that I was a completely changed person, but that’s not the case. Even with the truth in hand, conviction in my heart, God’s grace in letting me leave LU on a quiet note, I still felt the hurt, confusion, rejection. Instead of fully submitting to God and allowing Him to take control, I chose to figure out my life in the way I desired. I was a terribly broken individual. While I was closing the show, I had been talking with two guys and I allowed myself to express feelings to one and use the other. At the same time that I was having a solid moment with God and Dr. Voelker, I knew I was going to a place of sin that same evening.  The people there understood me and could talk me out of what was going on. They would advise me to stay true to who I was inside. Then, what had started out as a friendship ended up being my first real relationship with a guy. Knowing I was leaving Liberty in the dust and heading to Vegas to start another contract, I really didn’t want the commitment. When I got to Vegas, however, I felt like it was time and so I made it official. That was how quickly I slipped back into the ways of the world. When we don’t trust God and refuse to seek His will, He lets us wander, whether that be for seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years. God rescued the Israelites from slavery, performed many miracles, parted an entire sea and provided land to start anew. Sin was washed away, the past was in the past and a second chance was provided. God did all of that because He loved them unconditionally, but in return the Israelites lost faith and lived only for themselves. Because of their lack of faith, God led them to wander in the desert for forty years. Thank the Lord I wasn’t lost for quite that long, but I did feel as if I were on the brink of a life away from Christ. It would take a miracle to change my life for good.

My relationship with my boyfriend lasted for about 6 months and all along I was waiting for the complete peace to accept it and seal the deal. I had moments of certainty, but I had just as many other moments which led me to question everything and have little faith in our relationship. I thought the compliments and gifts and everything that came with the package of “love” would fill my heart with joy and I would finally be able to come out to my family with the person I thought would be my partner forever. But what I thought was love wasn’t love at all. Society today likes to spread the lie that “love is love.” But the love the world celebrates isn’t real love, rather it is infatuation. In that, you get hurt, others get hurt, and life sucks. Because I was finally working in an established theatre scene with another job on the side and future work lined up, plus a signed lease in NYC, I thought that I was destined for this life and all I had to do was accept it. Once again, however, God stepped in and provided much more than I deserve by introducing me to the person whom I now call my spiritual mother.

I was cast in Olney Theatre’s production of Carmen, and since I was not from the area I needed a place to stay. God quickly provided (#grace) and a friend from Sister Act told me that her house was only twelve minutes from the theatre, so I took the offer. Pulling up to the house, I had no idea what to expect with this family and I just hoped my time there would be well spent. Tammy Harman opened the door and welcomed me into her beautiful home with open arms. I knew there was something special but couldn’t put my finger on it, so I just handed her a bottle of wine and thanked her for opening her home to me. For four months, my relationship with the Harmans remained casual, and I only talked to them when I had an audition coming up or if my boyfriend (who they knew as my “friend”) wanted to visit or if the bathroom needed toilet paper, nothing truly personal. Now that I was back to a life that seemed too good to be true, I began to lose sight of what God wanted to do in my life and I stopped praying and reading. It felt so wrong to spend time with God when I was following my own way. The end of this phase of my life left me with two simple options: A) continue my life for the world and flesh or B) start my life with and for Jesus. Can you guess which one I chose? The answer is none of the above.

The End
of the Beginning

For those that have never heard, “The End of the Beginning” is a beautiful song by David Phelps that I felt God used to speak to me. I call this part of my story the end of the beginning because everything before this was like a preface that brought me to my lowest point. But God would pull me out of this and set my feet on solid ground. God was in fact teaching me a lesson, He was trying to tell me that love between two men is not real love at all and it was not something He had in store for me. Knowing the desires of my heart, He knew that I would have these feelings and He knew that it would take more than a verse to persuade me otherwise. Even after my breakup, I tried to seek love and acceptance for my weak flesh but God quickly stripped that away from me. Why did I have to endure such a life of complete disappointment, lies, false love and deeply rooted ideals? Why did I deserve that punishment and hurt? Why was I alone? God answered and presented His word with Psalm 40:1-3: “I waited patiently for the Lord, He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.”  My life and purpose had changed pretty instantly, my heart and soul were filled with the Spirit and God had my full attention. I read that verse over and over until tears came no more. This was my surrender. This was my deliverance from bondage and freedom from sin. I was not who I used to be and the Lord had started his work in my life.

In this moment of complete awe and wonder, I was still very in touch with my past so I began to doubt. But then God quickly chimed in and reminded me of what He had just done and who I was to be. I prayed for a new heart, a new passion, and a new lens. I prayed for God to free me from the temptation of performing and weed out all that would be a roadblock, because I was too weak to do it myself. The Lord responded quickly and I was set apart from the friends I had unhealthy relationships with, living in a basement, not performing, and alone. I took this opportunity as a huge blessing and started working on the many areas of weakness in my walk with the Lord. He pulled me out of a pit! Praise be to God that He knew exactly the people to bring into my life and what a blessing it is that He chose me for a higher calling.

This new beginning was so powerful that old friends who I thought I had lost came back into the picture. People who I worked with praised God for answered prayers and reminded me that God had been at work far longer than I had known, He had my heart on others’ minds so that by His grace I would turn to Him and trust Him completely. I thank you, the reader, if you have said a prayer for me in the time you’ve known me. The power of prayer is real and it was the first thing I started re-learning how to do. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus/Look FULL in His wonderful face/And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim/In the light of His glory and grace.” With prayer, I opened up and unknowingly became a blessing to Tammy—much to my surprise. I didn’t know that I was worthy of being a blessing, because for most of the time I was there I was living in complete sin. Tammy became a spiritual mother to me and helped me through my toughest questions and confessions. The Lord provided community amongst this family and what was once a surface value was turned into a new family of trust and honesty. Confession was something new at this point and I am so mad that the old me would hold in such heavy burdens. After confessing to another believer, accepting God’s forgiveness and walking forward was a whole lot easier.

I have been able to reconcile with many and finally talk to people about the real Ronnie Brady. The beginning has ended and now the rest of my story continues. I pray that God will use this to do wonders for His kingdom and I am thankful for the support I’ve received from my close group of friends. God has delivered me from a lifestyle that I can attest to be an awful lie (1 Tim 1:10, 1 Cor. 6:9), even though some can’t accept that truth. I was almost that person because I was deceived (Romans 7:11, 2 Tim. 3:13). Read the Word, be inspired and know that God is bigger than anything, the world is meaningless without Him just as the book of Ecclesiastes explains. God loves us and wants us to love Him back! I am currently living with the Harmans and what a transformative time it is, what a blessing, and what a mighty God we serve! Phil. 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

This past year has been the best worst year of my life and I am so ready to give 2017 to the Lord. I want to leave you all with some amazing truths about the God I serve. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” We can try and lean on our own understanding of what our calling is but we will always fail as said in Proverbs 3:5. We are human, imperfect beings since the garden and we will always fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Do not search for hope in this world because you will not find it, pray and keep your focus on the Lord. Faith is not the end of the story; you must believe, trust, and work on developing a consistently personal relationship with God. Once you have surrendered completely, His will starts to reign. I am not who I was, but I am who He needs me to be.

Motivation Monday | McKenzie Snavely

Jack of all trades, master of none.  I was absolutely shocked when these words came out of her mouth. When I look at McKenzie I see someone who navigates through life masterfully and this blog post is my little attempt to show her the "renaissance woman" I see when I look at her.

I'm typically good about pin pointing the exact moment a person enters my life.  For whatever reason my brain likes to retain that information and regurgitate it without warning.  Trust me, I'm not exaggerating.  I've been in Sam's Club buying fruit when my brain decided it would be a logical thing for me to run up to the owner of Putt Putt Golf and remind him how we met.  Oh and while I was at it ask him how his latest promotion was going because let's face it...I'm an odd bird.  

I say all that to say we all have quirks.  Beautiful, silly, unpredictable quirks that rise to the surface when given the opportunity but the world needs us quirks and all. 

P1560669-horz.jpg

When I saw the photo of McKenzie and her hubby I had NO CLUE whether or not she had ever done film acting but I didn't care.  I liked her look and that's all I needed to know. 

McKenzie showed up for the commercial shoot for Bowen (I believe this was the first time we formally met in person) and immediately said "I've  never done this before" to which I replied "ok...no big deal..I trust you".  Whatever we asked her to do she did it beautifully no matter how silly our direction.  "McKenzie can you caress the rings, McKenzie can you do exactly what you just did but half the speed"...you get the picture.  The point I'm trying to make is she was never phased.   

P1560652.JPG

The ability to navigate through whatever task life puts in front of you is an incredible skill that only a few people are blessed to have.  In my short time of knowing her I've seen her sing at White Hart, paint for a family member, bake for a downtown chocolate bar & do a fabulous updo for a formal occasion.  I would have to practice for days before I could perform in a coffee shop, my artwork looks like I have two left hands, everything I bake deflates & all I know how to do to my hair is wash and go.    

McKenzie you are stunning.  McKenzie you are talented.  Trust that the world needs you just the way you are.  Keep mastering life.  Just keep being you and you'll be just fine ;)

Motivation Monday | Azalea Faye

Years ago I was exploring Instagram and I stumbled across a tiny petite woman with huge bright pink hair. Her children were adorable, her videos were hysterical and they were all about the crunchy lifestyle.  As she talked about unschooling her children and not shaving her pits one thought would not leave my mind...HOW DID SHE END UP IN LYNCHBURG lol.

Azalea Faye has taken Lynchburg by storm showing people new ways to experience life and appreciate the little things.  Her breast feeding oasis was the talk of Get Downtown and she continues to show me time and time again that thinking outside the box is simply a better way to live.  It wasn't until I started hosting my meetups that I was finally able to meet this beauty in person.  Very few people realize that I have serious anxiety when it comes to doing something new, especially when that new thing requires me to put myself out there in order to succeed. My first meetup happened on the rainiest day I'd seen in Lynchburg literally ALL YEAR.  The flash rainstorm was so hard that it caused a car trunk to pop open because of the weight.  I was literally on the verge of tears as I knew in my heart I put myself out there on the worst possible day for success.  I did it all for nothing.  Who would show up in this mess even if they did RSVP online.

Enter Azalea Faye.

P1550873.JPG

True to her word she showed up wet.  Soaking wet.  I mean actually dripping wet.  Clothes sticking to her body, makeup running kind of wet...you get the point. I immediately thought "how could you possibly complain?  At least you were inside when the storm hit."  I rushed to her overwhelmed with pity trying to help dry her off.  I couldn't imagine having to make a first impression in her condition.  Then she rocked my world.  

She totally blew it off.  So what she was wet.  Life moves on.

I don't have kids but I can tell you Azalea's littles are so lucky to have a mom like her.  Her joy is absolutely infectious and she finds something to appreciate and be thankful for everywhere she looks.  Beautiful graffiti, a fun hat, a little laughter on a freezing morning.  I don't know how she does it but she challenges me daily to live my life to the fullest.  

P1550727.JPG

She encourages others to be confident no matter how small the minds are around you.  It would be easy for Azalea to thrive in Portland or Austin but I'm so glad she chose Lynchburg as her home base.  We need more people like Azalea.  People who are willing to commit fully to being uniquely you.  Azalea, I look forward to our friendship continuing to grow in the months to come.  You stole my heart at "crunchy".  So happy to say I know you ;)

P1550995-horz.jpg

You can read more about Azalea on her blog, www.crunchylynchburg.com

Motivation Monday | Kelsey Baker

It's so rare in Lynchburg for church folks to mix. Thomas Road & Rivermont.  Blue Ridge & Hyland Heights. Oil & Water. But somehow through God's providence this Redeemer Presbyterian girl ended up mixing with the beautiful Kelsey Baker from Brentwood & our friendship is officially on the rise :)

P1550428.JPG

When Robin invited me to be a part of the panel at her women's conference I had no idea what I was signing up for. She's just so darn charismatic that she can get anyone to sign up for just about anything.  When I arrived at Christine Kennedy's house for the panel get together I was immediately taken back by all the people I didn't know.  But I remember looking over at Kelsey and all of a sudden I felt right at home.  Robin said that we were all chosen to speak because we were at different stages of life.  I knew I was the married entrepreneur with no kids but I wondered what Kelsey's label was.  Then she dropped the bomb. 

ALMOST THIRTY & SINGLE.

P1550434.JPG

I'll be honest with you.  When I realized that this gorgeous amazon of a woman had not yet found a suitable man I was utterly shocked.  Then I waited for my cue on how to respond.  So often women in this position immediately start speaking negatively when the subject of marriage or relationships pop up.

But not Kelsey.

When it was her turn to speak she just started pouring the word of God out of her heart like a geyser.  She talked about how her heart broke for women like her.  She truly wanted them to experience freedom and comfort in Christ.  Through her time relentlessly pursuing the Lord, she became rooted in her identity in Christ and it was written all over her face.  She was complete. The glow of the Holy Spirit radiated all over her as she raved about what the Lord had done in this season of her life. Instead of placing her life in neutral while she waited for God to provide, she made the decision to keep moving & fervently serve the Lord with all that she had.  

A few weeks after the Relentless Hope conference, Kelsey's status switched to "In a Relationship".  As happy as I was for her I wondered how she was handling this new found relationship.  As I took pictures of her she dropped one of the most profound sound bites I've ever heard.  She said,

It's so easy to cry to the Lord & seek Him in times of want.  Now my prayer is that I will continue to pursue Him in this time of blessing because He's worthy of that.

That's Kelsey in a nutshell.  What a woman ;)

You Really Don't Want My Motivation

"I wish I had your motivation"  "How did you do it?"

I've known for some time that these need a more comprehensive response than what I've been giving.  Maybe it's the fear of sounding self-deprecating or opening a can of worms that's kept me from offering the truth about my fitness journey, "you really don't want my motivation" and "maybe I should tell you how I almost DIDN'T do it." The recent loss of a friend met with far too many I-had-no-idea's has helped me to realize it's time the lines be blurred between the "high-functioning" and "motivated" and the "struggling".

Blog1.JPG

To be clear, I could take a number of different angles-- relationships, spirituality, work, domesticity, entrepreneurship, hobbies.  These are all integrally related to my fight.  Fitness just happens to be the most ostensible, and I thought it was only appropriate to revisit the matter LaShonda graciously highlighted in our original "Motivation Monday" shoot.  If that element relates to you, fantastic.  If not, don't bail just yet.

P1100437.jpg

Since beginning her weight loss journey, Lindsay lost 1 pound, 65 times.  Lindsay's shoot was the inaugural Motivation Monday (L) two years ago.  Since then I've spent time on a few select Monday afternoons sharing the stories of incredible women to empower others. Now back to Lindsay's story.   

I battle severe depression, ADD, anxiety, and chronic physical pain. 

I've been medicated for this, un-medicated for that, diagnosed with this, needing re-diagnosis for that. I've struggled to isolate what's natural, chemical, emotional, and circumstantial.  I have very few answers. I was struck about three and a half years ago with life-altering circumstances that either affected my brain chemistry, or inevitable chemical factors just happened to manifest at an unfortunate time.  I'm not sure if I'll ever know.  Simultaneously, I was being drawn to seek healing and wholeness more deeply than I ever had before.  Thus began the trudging ascent I continue today. 

 

I know I look at fellow fitness-seekers and think "I'm still not like them." But if you're looking at me thinking anything like "She's doing something I can't," it's important for you to know that if there's anybody who 'can't,' it's me. I'd like to think that there are more high-functioning depressives out there, but until they become as open about the darkness as they are about their PR's, the divide remains.  Personally, if I waited for that kick-ass, caffeine-fueled, can-do moment to get out there and do the thing, I would spend my entire allotted gym time in the parking lot, daunted by the task of tying my shoelaces (or crying/shaking over it, caffeine depending. I can't do stimulants). 

Blog6.JPG

So enough of the dark stuff, How DO I do it?

Aside from the practical elements, which you can find in abundance on the internet (don't get me wrong, I'm still more than happy to share personally), I learn to function based on the truth versus how I feel.  Does it usually make me "feel" better? Not always.  Not even usually; HOWEVER, there are good days- days when my feelings and the truth reconcile, and I'm glad I spent that gray time moving forward. 

What is the truth? The truth is that my feelings don't necessarily reflect reality. The truth is that there's hope. 

The truth is that from my waking moments, when the anxieties of the nexthours of the day are nipping at my heels like rabid wolves and distorting my perception of my purpose and responsibility in that moment, there is serenity to be found. In that serenity, I commune with God who reminds me that in doing just that I am serving my purpose, and for the rest, I am free to struggle. The truth is I have no excuse to not tend and cultivate what I've been given, no matter how flawed.  The truth is I have to take an aggressive approach to wholeness in order to survive. The truth is I know this isn't all there is, and this isn't all I am.

Blog3.JPG

Truly, I'm still neck-deep in it, which is part of the reason I've been so closeted about it all.  I feel hypocritical.  But I know that's not the truth. The truth is that we simply need to know that there are others striving with us. Striving is a necessity; conquering is a luxury, but there will be some of that, too. 

It's time I allowed my journey to benefit others.  I'm still considering how to go about it, as I choose to keep personal and generally serious things off social media.  Until I figure it out, here's this. Also, I'm all about some old-fashioned, face-to-face, wine-and-cheese, conversational kind of support.  I'll cook you food. We'll do it together.

I want to give special thanks to friends who've shared battles and successes alike with me, my momma who instilled realistic expectations about what I can expect my hips, thighs, and metabolism to do and not to do, LaShonda for being the feminine embodiment of Getting' it Done and providing a venue to share my story, my personal trainer Jay and his wife Bettie with LocknLoad fitness, and my long-suffering, loving Michael who knows exactly when to say "get your butt moving" or "sit down and stop moving."

Motivation Monday | Robin Foutz

There are times in your life, if you're lucky, that you have a chance to meet a person who can find the silver lining in all situations.  They can stare in the face of adversity and say with boldness BUT GOD.  But God loves me, But God cares for me, But God still hears me when I cry...it's all good.  That's Robin. 

Robin Foutz

Every time I interact with her she fills my heart with the truth of the gospel and leaves me overflowing with the Joy of the Lord.  You would never know by the smile that seems permanently fixed on her face that she's faced hard times.  Her son was hit by a car and is still needs medical attention every day. But instead of staying down she devotes her time to sharing the promises of God with anyone who'll listen. 

P1460054.jpg

In the midst of working a full time job as a very successful employee benefits agent, she also found the time to launch a ministry called Relentless Living Ministries.  I see the tug on her heart to reach the lost and inspire the saved to embrace their purpose to impact eternity.  God is going to give her a platform...I can just feel it.  But until then, she hits the streets.  She shares the Word with everyone she meets. 

download (1).jpg

What motivates me most about Robin is that she doesn't waste a single opportunity to bring glory to God.  It's so easy to be career driven and lose sight of being purpose driven.  Robin seems to have that balance and that's why she motivates me.

If you would like to nominate a woman you know to be featured, comment below.  

Robin, on this beautiful Monday morning I want you to know, "There's something inside you that motivates us all" ~LaShonda