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“When I was in my 20’s,

I lived like a 40 something.

Now in my 40’s, I am living like I am in my 20’s.”

That is the thought I had one morning as I was getting ready for work. Scott and I were in the midst of training for a 5K. I have run them before, but after two ankle surgeries, I wasn’t sure if I could still do it. I decided I didn’t have anything to lose, so I decided to go for it.

As a young adult, I took everything in life too seriously, was a perfectionist and had very low self-esteem and self-confidence. I was afraid of many things, but my worst fear was the “f” word: FAILURE. Unfortunately, because of all these things, I did fail, and miserably. I spent years working on myself, making amends and learning that I couldn’t take myself too seriously. The biggest lesson though: I was able to do much more than I thought I could. I was stronger than I thought I was, and when I let Him, God redeemed me.

As I got older, while I was able to relax more, and even laugh at myself at times, I still didn’t always have the confidence in myself that others did. I was living life everyday but not really challenging myself because I still had that fear of failure in my gut.  Failure did come again, in 2001, when my marriage ended just shy of my 10 year anniversary. I moved back in with my parents. It was another dark time but I had to keep going, and I did. In 2002, I was blessed to marry the love of my life, my best friend, and my biggest cheerleader, Scott. He really taught me how to be spontaneous and enjoy life and live in the moment. He challenges me to be the best me possible.

Life went on with good times and bad times. We suffered the loss of both of our moms in December 2007, one week apart and then four years later, on March 19, 2011, my world changed forever. God took a very difficult time in my life to wake me up and show me a better path.

My dad passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. It hit me to the core of my soul when I lost my dad, and it made me realize that I wanted more out of my life, I wanted to accomplish more, I didn’t just want to “get through” life. At that moment, I began a journey of growth: physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

Life is a journey and everyday we each have to decide how we are going to live it. I had to decide if I was going to stay the course of status quo, or stop being afraid of failure and striving for better. I chose the latter and I am very thankful that I did. But I could not have done it alone.

In the past four years, I returned to school, earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Journalism studies, and a Certificate of Journalism. Scott and I left our church (I had attended for 20+ years) and began worshiping with a new church family. I left my long time retail job and started a new job, that has turned into a career that I love. My husband and I became determined to work our way out of our ridiculous debt that we got ourselves into, which meant cutting expenses to bare bones and working to create a budget and stick to it. The most important thing we decided to do is to read the Bible in a year as our daily devotions. It has made a huge impact in my life, Scott’s life, and our life as a couple.

One of my favorite passages is Philippians 4:4-7: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

God tells us to focus on Him, and Him alone. He tells us HE has the details in our life. He tells us to look to Him in times of joy and in times of trouble, and to trust Him and His plan. He never says to do it on our own, because we can’t. As we have read the scriptures daily and together, my focus (and our focus as a couple) is less and less on the things of the world, and more and more on the things of God. We realize where our treasure lies, and it isn’t here on earth.

I am thankful for the dark years, because I can look back and see where I was, and I grew from those experiences. I love that God continues to show me where my weaknesses are, as well as my strengths. I am glad for the lessons learned so I can help others when they are struggling with the same issues and situations that I have experienced.

Today, I don’t feel 46. I really do feel younger. I am not afraid to try new things. If I don’t succeed, then I can try again, or decide that it wasn’t meant to be and move on.

I encourage you today to decide to “go for it”.  If it is something you are meant to do, God will bless it and guide you. Pray about where you are and let yourself see where you can go. Don’t live status quo. Life is short, and the lessons are many.

What will you learn today?

God bless,

Until next time,

Tam

Dear readers, I have been longing to blog for a while now, but just could not find the words to write. There has been so much on my heart and mind, it truly has been difficult to express it all. But now, as usual, I ache to the point that I must get it “down on paper”, to share thoughts and feelings. When Christ calls us to something, we can do nothing but obey.

We are on the brink of another new year beginning. Four days from today, 2014 will be a memory, and people all over the world will be celebrating the ringing in of 2015, with new hopes, dreams, goals and resolutions. Some will look back to see only their failures, and strive for success in the new year. Some will be very pleased with their accomplishments and reach even higher for the stars. Others won’t care either way and go on with life as normal. Whatever the case is for each one of us, we have a chance to start new. The question for me has become this: What will I do in 2015?

2014 stretched me more than I thought possible. I have been learning more about what the Bible says about God and Jesus and I am continually in awe that Jesus was born to die for each and every one of us if we choose to accept him as the leader of our life. I have realized just how essential baptism is for salvation, and how much God wants that for us.

I have had wonderful moments with dear friends and family. I earned my Bachelors Degree in Journalism and Business Studies and my Certificate of Journalism.  I have developed new friendships that are precious in my life.  I have grown in my position at work, so much that I outgrew it and have recently started a new position that will challenge me more than I think I know. The next few months will tell the story, and I look forward to seeing how it unfolds. I realize I can do anything I set my mind too and this is no different. I have watched my son become more independent and grown up since he moved up here with us last October. It has been a joy.

There have been hard moments too. People I thought were friends gradually faded into the distance, important relationships were damaged because trust was broken by dishonesty and selfishness and events in our country have disheartened me. I have had my moments of being angry at the world and how people treat each other, the sense of entitlement and the “it’s all about me” attitude.. I have had to find ways to heal and move on from the hurts, and have worked hard to learn that there are times when something really is not my issue, and I can’t take things personally.

Life is not easy. It is a constant battle between good and evil. We fight every day, especially with social media constantly in our faces, breaking news stories at our fingertips, and extreme groups telling us why they are right and everyone else is wrong. We are overloaded with information and we are always connected in some way to the outside world but yet are in the so called privacy of our homes. It is hard to disconnect, but in 2015 my goal is to do just that, so I can reconnect in more important ways.

It is important to stay in touch and know what is going on in the world, but I don’t need to be in front of a screen 24/7. I want to make it a priority to have more REAL FACE-TIME with people, one on one, or in groups. I want to focus on helping others and not worrying about the next TV episode of Pretty Little Liars or big game that is on TV. Don’t misunderstand, I still enjoy those things very much, but they are not as important as I thought they were.

For the last couple of months, Scott and I have been cutting back on a lot of things in our budget. The last “thing” was the cable bill. We decided it was just too much money and time to cut back. We did the research, figured out what channels we “had” to have and what we could live without. I knew no matter what we did, we were going to lose NFL Network and Sportstime Ohio, which meant no more Thursday Night Football or Cleveland Indians Baseball in the spring. If you know me at all, you realize how important these channels are to me and my sports loving self. Nonetheless, we finally, after much discussion and research, decided to go down to the bare bones package and pick up Hulu Plus. Overall, we will save around $40 each month.

I made the phone call and downgraded our service. For the next week, I kept talking to my husband about whether or not we were really getting a better value for our money than we were before. No matter how I tried to slice it, the answer always came back as yes. It was hard and I didn’t like it at all. I missed football (we also lost ESPN so there went Monday Night Football too) and I wanted it back.

Then Sunday came and we went to church, and Allen preached his sermon. I cannot recall what that sermon was about specifically, but I can tell you he talked about the importance of our relationship with Christ versus our relationship with the world and all the stuff we think we have to have. Talk about timing and perspective. Here I was, acting like a two year old that wasn’t getting her way, over a stupid box on my wall. I was putting that before what was important, which is spreading the love of Christ and putting others before myself.

There is nothing wrong with my love of sports in general., However, there is a lot wrong with it if I let it get in the way of what is really important in life. It has now been a month without the full service we used to have. I am finding I don’t miss it like I used too. I am sure I will have my moments, but the reality is that it has opened up time to be with family and friends and spend more time doing things that mean so much more in life.

I do not make New Years Resolutions, but I do set goals for myself. My goal is to be more present and available to people in 2015. I want to do my part in making the world a better place, in whatever way God would have me do, whether it is in my home, my workplace, or at the grocery store. I am one person, but I can make a difference, and so can each of you. I know I will not be perfect in my efforts, but I will do my best to try.

So what will you do in 2015? Will you worry about having the biggest and best gadgets? Will you complain because you don’t get your way? Will you spend your time in front of the computer to see what everyone else is complaining about and agree or disagree with them?  Or will you come out from behind your computers, tablets and phones, and do what you can do to make a world in turmoil a better place for so many?

 

 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:14

I write with a very conflicted heart this evening.  I am saddened by the world we live in. I use social media for many reasons: to keep in touch with those who I don’t live close enough to see on a regular basis, to share photos with friends and family, and sometimes to just be silly and fun. Lately, I have used it more and more to be a light for Christ, and try to be an encouragement to others.

What I DON’T use it for is to be hateful, mean spirited or judgmental towards others. I will give my opinion on a topic and stand my ground on my viewpoint, but I refuse to get nasty and call specific people out on the carpet. If I have that much of a bone to pick with someone, I do it privately.

Social media has taken stating our opinions of things, people and issues to a whole new level and I am sorry to say, readers, it too often reaches a very ugly level. Personal issues are made public, and the claws come out. What is so worrisome to me is that too many really think this is ok because “we have freedom of speech.”

I have always told my kids that just because you CAN do something, it does not mean you SHOULD. Last evening I experienced a sad encounter. I stated my opinion on a post and was told that it was ok because the reason behind it justified the means and that people needed to know what another person was really like. I disagreed and knew I was not going to change the opinion. I chose instead to remove that person from my friends list. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life nor do I want it on my social media pages. I was (and still am) very bothered by the whole encounter.

We all mess up and we all make mistakes. Maybe that is why so many choose to point out the flaws of others, so they don’t have to face their own. It has become ok to do this all over the computer screen. Why? What is our true purpose? Are we really that shallow that we have nothing better to do with our words?

As Christians, God tells us to build each other up. “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. [ Final Instructions ] Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:10-12

I strive to be as positive as I can be and more than ever, look to Christ to guide my life and show me the path to take. I look to His Word to learn what is right and wrong, and attempt to the best of my ability to live by it. I realize more every day exactly how important it is to do this and how much more important it is to share with others, so they too can know and be baptized for the remission of their sins and spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

It is not always an easy way to live because I am human. I mess up like everyone else, so  I am thankful that I have a God who knows me and my heart and He loves me beyond my understanding and He forgives me when I repent.  I choose to pass that on to others.

It’s time to bring joy, love and encouragement back to social media and our everyday life. Build people up, don’t tear them down. Respect others. Treat others as you want to be treated. Is it really that hard? I hope not.

God bless,

Until next time,

Tam

 

Worship: Who Is It For?

In today’s churches, one of the biggest battles is one of my biggest passions – praise and worship through song.

Congregations are constantly arguing about which is better, traditional or contemporary. I remember several years ago the church I attended began singing some contemporary praise choruses. One would have thought we started worshiping someone other than God. The bickering, complaining, and criticizing got out of control. One day I walked into church to worship and I could have cut the tension with a knife, it was so thick. People stopped talking to people, it got that crazy.

Why do we concentrate so much on the “type” of song we are singing instead of the words we are singing? Why are we so worried about if it is traditional or more contemporary? I think there are a couple of reasons.

1. “We have sang the hymns for years – it’s what we know” – This is one of those “we do it because we have always done it”.  We are creatures of habit and when something new comes along it is hard to adjust, especially for those who are older. I find this to be true of myself at times. However, what we need to remember is that over time, things do change, and as people, we have to stretch ourselves, keep an open mind and move forward.

2. “I like the old hymns, the new stuff doesn’t mean anything” and “Hymns are out of date for today” – There are two sides to this one and I go back to keeping an open mind.

            Contemporary: I have had people tell me the new stuff is just “fluff” and they don’t say anything. I agree that in some cases that is true. But in a lot of cases it just isn’t. Some of my favorite artists/groups are Casting Crowns, Mandisa, Nichole Nordeman, Natalie Grant and Chris Tomlin, just to name a few (there are others). My husband’s favorite is Third Day. When you listen to the lyrics of these artists, they are powerful. They are praising a great and mighty God, they talk about living through the struggles of life and surviving when we turn the the One that is in complete control. They give hope and encouragement and inspiration.

            Hymns: I have heard people say they are old and don’t mean anything today. Completely FALSE! There are some amazing lyrics in the hymns of yesterday that touch me to the deepest of my core. One of those hymns is “It Is Well With My Soul”. What powerful meaning that song has. A man who lost his family in a tragic sea accident wrote these words: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll. What ever my lot thou has taught me to say, it is well with my soul.” Wow, what a comfort to know that no matter what we are going through, it is well with my soul. Some other favorites of mine (again, to name a few) are “What A Friend I Have in Jesus”, “When We All Get to Heaven”, “How Great the Fathers Love”, “How Great Thou Art” and “Amazing Grace”.

The bottom line: No matter what we are singing during praise and worship on Sunday morning, we are not singing for us. We are singing to God, the One we are thankful to, the One who gives us all things, the One who sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us so that we would be able to have eternal life. We are praising Him. So why do we get so caught up in what we are singing? A lot of churches have gone to a blended service, combining both types of worship songs. It’s not a bad route to go, but in the end, it still has to be about God.

I am on my praise team at church. I am certainly not the best singer out there, and sometimes I wonder why I am even on the team. I am there because God put it on my heart to be up there to lead others in one of the greatest ways to praise Him, to give everything we have to Him. The sad thing is when I look out to the congregation, they aren’t excited. They don’t look like people who are thankful to God. They look like a lot of congregations on Sunday morning.

Whatever you are singing, sing it with joy and praise and a grateful heart. Don’t get caught up in the type of song, or the instruments or what others are doing. People praise in their own way, but whatever way that is, make it alive. Jesus died for us!!! How powerful is that? Doesn’t He deserve your best, no matter what?

And one last thought: Don’t criticize your praise team or choir. They work hard to bring their best every week to lead you in that time of the service. Pray for them and encourage them. It is important.

Until next time, God bless,

Tam

 

 

Uncertain Certainty

I know the title sounds very contradictory, but it really isn’t. Right now, my husband and I are going through a little bit of a valley. It is nothing we won’t overcome, but we are UNCERTAIN as to how long it may take and how it will all come about.

The CERTAINTY is knowing that we will indeed get through it and we will come out stronger on the other side. We will do that by walking through it together and focusing on the One who will guide us to the mountaintop.

Trials can be difficult and scary, and sometimes very painful. A lot of times we think that if we keep ignoring what is right in front of us, it will just “disappear” and we will be able to go about our daily lives, business as usual. Sometimes we know the trial is coming and we try everything we can think of to avoid it. The truth is, ignoring the issue, or trying to fix it on our own, will only make it worse and prolong the victory of getting through it. Facing the tough stuff is what makes us better. Facing it together with God is even better.

As my husband and I walk through this small “bump in the road”, this thought came to me tonight: “maybe it is good we are going on this journey, maybe we NEED to walk this path. There is something to learn and we are being humbled.”

God guides us through life every single day, but only if we let Him in and look to Him to walk the walk. That is what I am supposed to do as a Christian. I belong to Him and should be focused on being Christlike each and every moment of my day. That includes completely trusting Him no matter what is going on in my life.

I am reminded of what Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13: “11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

It is comforting to know that I can be content in all things and wait on God to show us the next step in our lives.

Don’t let the trials get you down, let God lift you up. He sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross so we could have eternal life with Him in Heaven. What on this earth is better than that? Nothing. So as I pray for guidance, I look to the One who created me and wait for Him to show us the way. After all He is the way, the truth and the life.

I am blessed and am thankful to belong to Jesus and know that no matter what, I have uncertain certainty.

God bless,

Until next time,

Tam

Prayer is Powerful

Right now, at this moment, if I were to get on my knees to pray, I could stay there for hours, literally. I have family, friends, co-workers, church family, not to mention friends and family of those same family, friends, co-workers and church family that all need prayer, from small issues to very large issues.


We live in a world of turmoil and uncertainty. Lately, I feel myself becoming overwhelmed and frustrated because I see it all around me in the lives of those I love and there is not much I can do to help. The one thing I can do is PRAY. 


Prayer is the tool we use to talk to our Lord. The cool thing is that He is available 24/7. Need to talk to him when you wake up? He is there. Need to talk to him after a tough meeting at work? He is there. Need to talk to him on the way home? He is there. Need to talk to him when you can’t sleep at 2 a.m.? He is there. And He is ready to listen and he does listen. He also provides an answer. 


Oh, it’s not always the answer we want, nor do we get it when we want it, because of course we want it NOW! But God doesn’t work that way. He tells us to come to him, lay our burdens at His feet, and he will give us rest. He doesn’t say give it to me, walk away and pick it back up. He tells us to give it to Him and let Him worry about the details for us. He already knows our worries, our fears, our hopes, our trials, our joys and every little thing about us. So why do we act like we are hiding things from Him or like we are telling Him something He doesn’t already know?


Prayer brings peace, because we are talking to our Heavenly Father. He is the only one who provides that perfect peace. Phillipians 4:4-7 is one of my favorite verses. It says: “ Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


The last part is my comfort – my prayers are heard and God takes them seriously. He knows our hearts and He comforts us. 


So when we feel overwhelmed, like I have been, or anxious, like many of us do, or even thankful, which we should every day, take a moment, get on your knees or just close your eyes and talk to God. Trust me, it works, and trust Him, because He loves you and wants to be your Savior.


God bless,

Tam

A Time of Change

Change is inevitable.  Life is full of changes around us everyday whether we like it or not.  Some changes are small and petty and others are life changing and can be good or bad.

My name is Tammy.  I am one of four siblings and the oldest.  We are a very tight knit family and I would not trade it for anything.  My faith, family and friends are the most important parts of my life.  The rest is either necessary (like work) or a bonus (like football, of which I am an avid fan, btw) .  I am a Cleveland sports fan and Sundays are for God and football games from September to February.

For the purpose of this post, my story starts in 2011.  It was a year that forced me to open my eyes and my heart, turn everything over to God and stop being afraid of living the life He has planned for me.

The year started rough from the word go.  In January we had to put our 3 1/2 year old cat to sleep due to illness, we had to replace our furnace, I was having health issues due to stress and my daughter had decided to move back to Texas.  This all happened between January and March 18th..

Then on March 19, 2011 my world was rocked to the core when my daddy passed away peacefully but unexpectedly in his sleep.  My mom had passed away unexpectedly in 2007 and now it was all happening again and this time death took my last parent.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  Everything crashed in on me and I had to try to process it.  I had no understanding of why God decided to take him when I still needed him so much.  I was his “Tamara Jeanne” his “palm tree”, his firstborn.

I managed to get through the calling hours and the funeral, and I got my daughter on a plane to Texas a week later and found out that same day that a co-worker had died suddenly.  It was too much and I had to step back.  I had to get my bearings about me and breathe.  I had wonderful friends and my family to support me but I was fighting an inner battle.

I had to turn to God completely.  My husband and I needed a revamp of some things in our life and we couldn’t do it alone.  I had to give EVERYTHING to God.  He tells us to bring our burdens to him and he will give us rest.  He tells us that he knows our pain and he will guide us and he also tells us he is our provider.  There is a song “Enough” (see link below) that says it all.  My God is more than enough for me but I have to turn to him and TRUST him.  So I did.

One Sunday morning I was standing in the back of the sanctuary by myself and suddenly I heard four very distinct words: “Go back to college”. I turned around to see who spoke an no one was there.  I knew immediately it was God telling me what his plan was for me.  I was scheduled to have surgery on my left foot on September 1st and was off work for five months.  During that time I did my research, applied and was accepted into the Univ. of Massachusetts – Amherst and began classes in January 2012.  I just completed my second semester last week.  I love school and am majoring in Journalism.  I have always loved to write for the purpose of sharing my experiences and encouraging others on their own life journeys.  Writing is also a way for me to express myself and get my thoughts down on paper (or on a computer) to process things a little easier.   Hence the reason for my blog comes to light.

It is important to share with others because we are in this thing called life together and it is not easy.  So many people are struggling with so many things today and they don’t always know where to turn or what to do.  If I can help one person gain some insight or perspective or make him/her think about what the next step in life will be, then I will accomplish my goal.

In Summary 2011 was a year of learning to trust.  2012 has been about learning to obey, and that will be the subject of my next post.  Stay tuned.

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