Purpose Over Popularity

“Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.” 1 John 2:15 MSG

I’m not here to judge anyone. I have a lot of things that I am working on and praying for God to change. I recently got very angry and cursed. I felt convicted immediately. I didn’t even know those words were still in my heart and I repented right away. The very next morning, the verse of the day, Ephesians 4:29, was about foul language. Ouch

I can’t condemn you, only God can do that. What I will do is share revelation that I’ve received during my personal prayer and meditation time.

Memes like this have been circulating around the internet basically making people comfortable with the way they are. Which leads to being comfortable with sin, because, “The Lord knows my heart.”

What happened to 2 Corinthians 5:17/Romans 12 becoming new creatures and being transformed by our minds? Why are we becoming more and more like the world when The Word is clear that we are to be set apart? Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 4:3

Come as you are but at some point you should make lifestyle changes. That way, we can be an effective witness.  Keeping our spirits pure is essential to discipleship. You may think you can tolerate whatever filth you entertain, but know that every seed of wickedness that’s planted will grow. It can manifest in different ways like anxiety, depression, anger, lack of patience, etc.

In spiritual warfare, we need to be aware of what we are fighting against, be prepared by wearing the full armor of God and exercise the power we possess over the enemy. Luke 10:19, Ephesians 6:10-18

We can reach people in dark places without compromising. We can share our testimony, thereby planting a seed for God to water, without mirroring whomever we are trying to lead to salvation.

When Jesus traveled to preach, never once did He become like everyone else to be relatable. He routinely went against the status quo and did not care about what people thought about his unorthodox teachings. He set the standard to which people wanted to emulate.

We are called to be like Christ.

Stop trying to be like them, and be more like Him.

Cherish Each Day

I made a lot of plans for Labor Day weekend to close out the summer. The first set of plans were cancelled due to Hurricane Hermine. My back up plans were cancelled after I suddenly fell ill and had to be admitted to the hospital. I would like to walk you through my thoughts and revelations while I was literally fighting for my life. 

I work in the Emergency Room and it’s nothing like I thought it would be. I’m learning that I get way too attached to my patients. Not Izzie from Grey’s Anatomy attached, but more like Miranda Bailey-tough shell, soft heart-attached. It has taken a toll on my body to say the least.
On Friday, September 2nd, I was assigned one-to-one observation for a patient that arrived with a knife. He was checking in for mental health reasons, but he’s a veteran which tells me he’s also a trained killer. You may think I’m being pessimistic, but I think it’s being realistic. My stress level was through the roof. It was the second time I had to care for a patient with a weapon. While I was not in any immediate danger, the thought of that possibility frightened me. He told the triage nurse that he was suicidal and homicidal. Police were contacted, but had not arrived yet. What if he was not honest when staff asked him about weapons? The first time I had a patient check in with weapons was a month ago. He came in with a loaded gun, extra magazine of ammunition, knife, nun-chucks and who knows what else.
I’d been having severe migraines since August 20th and chest discomfort 9/1-9/2, but I kept pushing. I would tell myself things to refute the truth. Things such as…..Oh, it’s just really bad acid reflux/gerd from that Chinese Food-you know better than to eat that garbage! Maybe the headache is sinus pressure. Or from my glasses. Or from the filtration system in the hospital.
I came up with every excuse under the sun about what I was feeling. When I got home Friday night, I expressed to my husband how excited I was to be off work for a three day weekend. I vented about my rough week as usual. I had become accustomed to that routine. On a regular workday, I am mentally drained, but when I know I’m off the next day, it seems I run on adrenaline. Hubby just looked at me and bodly said, “I don’t know why you’re still there. I’ve been waiting for you to leave, but you must know what you are doing. I don’t think it’s worth it.”
Saturday night, September 3rd, I felt short of breath every time I walked in addition to the chest discomfort. We made a quick run to Target to get a birthday gift for my daughter’s friend. By the time I left the store, I didn’t feel right. We got to the friend’s home and when I tried to get out of the car just to say hello, I felt dizzy. I was so delirious I told my husband I would just stay in the car but he saw my face and took me home right away. Then, I began to have palpitations. I decided it was time to seek medical care. Grabbed a blanket, some footies and opted against extra clothing or my phone charger.  I figured I would be in and out. I wondered if I was a hypochondriac and considered not going. However, this feeling was weird. It did not quite feel like a heart attack, but I couldn’t say that it wasn’t my heart.
On the way out of the door, I told my husband to let our son know that we would be right back. For a split second, I thought to myself that I should go tell him. Then, I remembered that I had already told him that I love him before he went to his room. I stood on my porch staring into the dark, praying that I would see the light of day. I had no idea what was going on with my body. We finally got on the road and two miles into our trip was stopped by a long line of cars waiting for a train to go by. Imagine having chest pain, shortness of breath and being delayed on your way to get help. I started crying lol.
I went to urgent care, because I’ve had similar episodes of chest discomfort before and was told it was “just anxiety.” {insert side eye here} When I arrived, medical personnel hooked me up to the monitor and so the story begins.

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Knocked smooth out after that Morphine injection lol

My heart rate was in the 40s and systolic blood pressure was upwards of 130. My baseline (normal) vital signs are as follows: Pulse Rate-low 60s, Systolic Blood Pressure-no more than 110. This means that my heart rate was significantly lower than what it’s supposed to be and my BP was elevated. The doctor kept stressing that active people such as marathoners are known to have a low resting heart rate. Nah. I’m not that active. This wasn’t normal for me. I told the doctor of my 2012 Lupus diagnosis and was subsequently transferred to the hospital for admission.
While riding in the ambulance, I felt like I was having a panic attack. I made the paramedic sit beside me and talk to me; I felt alone and scared. (Hubby trailed the ambulance but I couldn’t see anything from inside). I arrived at the hospital and was briefed on my status. My intake doctor basically said that he wanted to redo labs because my liver enzymes were elevated. That normally happens if you have hepatitis, suffered a recent heart attack, or have some other kind of liver disease. I knew that hepatitis was ruled out and my Troponin test (helpful in identifying an active heart attack) was negative. My crazy behind was in the hospital looking up my lab results from my phone smh.

It was a very long night and since we got to the hospital at 3am, I was exhausted. As soon as I finally dozed off, the nurse runs into my room and wakes me up. She asks if I’m okay while putting a nasal cannula on my face. Once again, I’m scared, because… Just because. Why do I need oxygen?! Note: You cannot be a control freak and trust God at the same time.Apparently, my heart rate dropped into the 30s while I was sleeping. Now, I’m legit having a panic attack. Here’s the thing. I’m Advance Cardiac Life Support certified and the first thing I thought of was, “OMG that’s grounds to begin life saving interventions.” With eyes WIIIIIDE open, I sat up in my bed and suddenly was no longer sleepy. “Nope, not today. I aint going to sleep and not waking up. Not yet. I’m not ready. I have way too much to do.” My husband and I prayed together and specifically asked God to lead the doctors. To keep His hands on me and heal my body.

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Bedside reading in the hospital

 

The daytime doctor arrived early Sunday afternoon and discussed her plan of action. I felt peace in the fact that she was beyond brilliant. Plus, I understood medical terminology, so that eased my anxiety. She was an internal medicine doctor, well studied in widespread diseases and knew exactly how to treat my medical condition. For starters, she confirmed that my symptoms were in fact a lupus flare with labs instead of making assumptions. Most doctors look at me and because I’m young, healthy, fit and have no risk factors, they take shortcuts. *It is imperative that you advocate for your own health.

She started me on round the clock anti-inflammatory medication followed by steroids. I received two injections IN MY STOMACH to prevent blood clots. I drank a cocktail that had Lidocaine in it. Felt like my throat was closing and I was being choked whenever I swallowed. I can’t forget that the urgent care nurse gave me Morphine and I straight up lost it. That was the craziest interaction I’ve ever had after receiving a medication. My entire body felt like it was being paralyzed, my head became flushed and hot. My vision became blurred and speech slurred. It was a legit Twilight Zone feeling. Again, I had absolutely no control and had to trust God. Wholeheartedly. I began to feel better and my family kept me in good cheer. However, the funsnatcher Patient Care Tech would come in to do another set of vital signs and the realization repeatedly set in that my heart rate remained too low-in the 40s.
My faith went through so many highs and lows. Each time I saw those numbers I would sink into fear. At one point, I just sat on the bed and cried. I tried to hide the tears and even turned away from my children because I just couldn’t understand it. The whole time, my husband kept reminding me to remain faithful. Whenever I lost hope, he was right there encouraging me, never leaving my side.

 Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding.
 
I had to stop looking at the vital signs machine, throw away all of the information I had learned in my eight year tenure in the medical field and trust God. It. Was. Hard.
 I had to believe that I would be okay even though I did not feel okay. I placed my hands on my chest and prayed. I have power to lay hands on myself for healing, but what happens when you have to wait? What happens when your deliverance is delayed? I would soon find out :-).
I finally started making phone calls to family to let them know what was going on. I did not want anyone to worry, and I certainly did not want to call them until I had knowledge of my diagnosis. I had the biggest, most powerful circle of prayer. I knew I was loved, but jeese. The outpour of love I received was so very special. I am a firm believer of giving people flowers while they are still here. I know for a fact, prayer is what kept my heart going–slow as it was, it was still going nonetheless. Before doctors could determine what medication to give me all we had was prayer. When my body was not responding to medications we stood on prayer. I had people praying for me that I don’t even know. I had people praying for me that swore off church and religion. People prayed for me that thought they did not know how to pray. I prepared to face another day in the hospital and awaited results.
Monday morning, I got up and began posting inspirational pictures, replying to text messages and just surfing the web. Hubby asks if I read my bible, yet. I replied, “My plans aren’t good ones this time and I have to make myself read out of obligation. I like when I thirst for the word and can’t stop reading. I asked you last night to send me some of yours or give me recommendations.” He remained silent but that gave me the chance to correct my stance. Here I was bed-ridden and complaining about my reading plan not being captivating enough to hold my attention. Like, was I really in the position to pick and choose when I would read? Especially, when I normally read first thing in the morning. Ummmm, find a new plan. Duh! So, I started a few new plans, but the first one I read was soooooooo good tears of joy began streaming. I was much more confident that I would be okay and God would restore my health. Here’s an excerpt: “I am the beginning, my love. I am your beginning. There is nowhere else you need to look. There is nothing else you need to chase. I speak to your heart-in whispers. This moment now, my dear. This moment now. Each breath a testament to my life in you. I am right here, in the middle, child. You are held, and I can’t ever let you go. Let me show you what it is for us to do together. I have good plans for your life. Cling to me. I am steadfast. Cling to me. I give you words. Cling to me-a life of prayer, each thought and action in accordance with my spirit in you. You are not alone.” So, I did just that. I decided to let go of fear and cling to God. Tightly.
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Preparing to go home, by faith.
After reading and journaling, I washed up and let my hair down. I prepared to go home by faith, although I had not been given medical clearance yet. Hubby kept saying we would be discharged because he already made it up in his mind when he picked up our children and packed two outfits for me.”We aren’t staying a third day, you are in the tail end of this.” Me: I know, but my heart rate is still low. Him: You will be okay, you’re going home today. He was constantly reminding me to get my weight up and exercise visionary faith. Every time staff came in with unwelcoming news, he immediately rebuked it.
By evening, my doctor asked how I was feeling and orders for the Pulmonary team to measure my heart rate and oxygen while walking. For the first time since Saturday, my heart rate shot up to 75 beats per minute. I kind of stood there in shock and disbelief. When it finally hit me, I’m like OMG let me take a picture! The rest of the evening, my heart rate gradually improved, so I started packing. When I got official notice that I would be discharged I just repeatedly thanked God.
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I did not know if I would leave that hospital alive. That’s how bad I felt and how bad the reality of my situation was. Lupus had attacked my heart, lungs and liver. Guess what triggered the flare? Stress. I know that this is a lengthy post, but I really felt the need to share every detail. I hope that my story helps someone. I pray that you listen to your body and do not allow chasing dreams, or money or anything else get in the way of what’s really important. Most importantly, I hope that whatever it is you have been putting off or procrastinating to do, you decide to DO IT NOW. Once I realized my life was at stake, I immediately thought about all the things I had not done, yet.
 
Live each day like it’s your last. Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

Lastly, about two weeks ago, I decided to make a purchase from the Women of Faith nonprofit tshirt campaign I started to raise funds for homeless women. When I got home, my shirt was in the mailbox.  It’s the first official sell, too! The very thing I created to help someone else, turned out to be a blessing to me. The same goes for my pulse oximeter/pulse rate monitor. (A long time ago, I had a patient that presented with a collapsed lung, but all of the pulse oximeters I could find at work were broken. So, I purchased my own to never be in that situation again.) My husband was able to monitor me throughout the night while I slept. Furthermore, the same selfless care I give my patients was returned to me. I had thee best team at Atlanta Piedmont Hospital. 
 
This past Sunday, I was praying that I would live to see another day. My birthday is this upcoming Sunday–I’m about to have an epic celebration! Let’s not even talk about the praise dance I’m about to do in church haha. The best gift God could have given me was another day and an increase in faith. I will never ever ever ever ever take another moment or person for granted! As I struggled to breathe, it became so much more clear to me, that each breath really is a blessing. I’m still here.
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By faith, I am healed <3
This year my birthday is super special, because I almost did not make it. You wanna give me a gift? Help me to pay it forward for another woman. So, for a limited time, I am offering the Women of Faith tshirts at a reduced price.
Enjoy 15% off by following this link:

All my love,
Ciara
 

Good Samaritan

I love to tell stories through my writing. Did I ever tell you all about that time I thought my husband was crazy for getting in the car with a complete stranger, while I helplessly followed behind them? No? Well, I wrote a story about it. Like to hear it, here it goes.

I got off work late one night and insisted on going to Wendy’s. Judge me, if you will. My husband and I talked for a little while before heading out to the restaurant. Upon arriving, we kept hesitating about going inside or the drive through. This caused us to drive around the parking lot, before finally deciding to go inside since the line was shorter. *Laziness never pays off.

After we placed our order, one of the employees yell to his coworkers that there’s a medical emergency outside. Initially, I’m thinking that we should’ve stayed in the drive through line, because we would have been done. The man would have been two cars behind us. At the same time, I know that everything happens for a reason and that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.

I just worked twelve hours, so the last thing I want to do is work for free. I’m still in my work clothes with a big ole emblem on the back that says ER lol. Great. I stand there as if I was waiting to turn
invisible and my husband nudges me, “Get out there.” What the heck am I supposed to do? Wait. Is he seriously making me go out there alone? Alright, God…this one is on you.

I go outside to see an older Caucasian man standing up against the building in agony. Pause. No, everything is not about race. But this is Georgia. The deep south. During a time when racial tension is high. Resume. My husband was a few steps behind me. Sigh of relief. The man told us his name, but to protect his identity, I will call him Sir Sweat A Lot or Sal for short. Just wait for it. Sal had already given his keys to the employee that came inside for help. That employee parked his van and kind of gave us the “good luck with that” look. In fact, everyone that drove past us did the same. One person even gave us a thumbs up, but the look on his face was a complete contradiction.

I introduce myself and ask what his problem was while scanning his body for blood, injuries, etc.
Sal tells me that he just finished a several hour long tennis match and now has crippling leg cramps. Honestly, I’m thinking really dude? You seriously held up the drive through for leg cramps?  Get in your car and go home. Suck it up. Grow a pair. Call your wife. My fries are getting cold. If I had stayed in the drive through we would be at home. Sarcasm to follow: However, God has such a great sense of humor. The way our marriage is balanced, my sweet husband blurts out, “Do you want us to take you home?” Wheeeeeeet?! [Insert ‘are you kidding me’ obscenities here]. Sir Sweat A Lot says that he would love for that and was about to ask us. He went to his trunk and grabbed a banana. He even tried drinking water with a ton of salt packets. He said that when he sweats a lot, he needs to ingest salt. I had never heard of that before, so I asked about his medical history. I was so desperate to get out of this situation, I even offered my fries since they’re loaded with salt. I’m standing there trying to figure out the reason for this not-by-chance-interaction. [cue Matt 5:13, Mark 9:49-50]

My husband doesn’t even have his phone and all I have is a crappy 30 something percent with  no charger. Sir Sweat A Lot says that he lives a few miles from where we were and gave us the address while explaining the direction we were going to take. Unfamiliar, with the area, I said a prayer. Actually, I never stopped praying. I did not like the discomfort of losing control and seemingly handing my husband over to who knows what. An ax murderer? A secret clan member? The enemy had a field day in my mind. Finally, I casually walked over to my husband and told him, “Pray.” He said, “already did,” then kissed me. Duh. His eyes told me not to worry.

“but my prayers are 
more powerful.”

Sal called his wife and I sat in the car with 911 already dialed on my phone. We head off and I frantically pray: This doesn’t make any sense. Lord, are you really leading in this situation? Please, cover my husband and keep us both safe (followed by a whole lot of begging). I should be happy that he has such a big heart, but why does he have to risk our safety? Then, I snapped out of it and got an attitude. Wait a minute.

YOU have not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love and a sound mind. We have all power over the enemy. We are courageously helping your child. I am boldly proclaiming victory. My husband WILL return to me. No weapon formed against us shall prosper. You said the fervent, effectual prayer of the righteous availeth much, so I’m here praying for his safety. I’m believing you for his safety. I declare and decree that all is well. Besides, my husband aint no punk. I know how he rolls. Who am I to think that I have to protect him?! I thank you for this test. For showing me how important it is for me to pray as a wife. Even though he is the head of this family, I can pray that you continue to order his steps. If necessary, I can run Sir Sweat A Lot over should he try anything crazy, but my prayers are more powerful.”

The whole time, we are driving a lot further than Sal said his home was located, but I eventually have an overwhelming sense of peace. I begin affirming things. I’m locking in landmarks and paying attention to street names. My phone still has 911 on standby, so all I have to do is press CALL. But I’ve already called on God. We finally arrive to a house and the front door opens. I’m waiting for a family of cannibals to come out. Ya know, just in case. Watch and pray, right? Because, NOT TUH DAY! Instead, a loving wife runs to her husband and simultaneously thank us. She told him that he needs to stop playing tennis. Sal can’t imagine life without his beloved sport but he promises his wife that he will go to his doctor appointment later that week. We chat with them briefly, then get out of there, because it was literally in the middle of nowhere.

God will take you to unfamiliar territory to see if you really trust Him. It will be against your better judgment and will oftentimes not make any sense. You will even have to walk alone sometimes. That’s the purpose of it, though. In it, you will find your strength.
People oftentimes talk about the leap of faith. I always say that my walk consists of many leaps of faith. The beauty of this journey is that you will not always know where you are going, but if you hold fast, know that it will always be for your good.
You may not receive an actual turn by turn list of the route beforehand, like Sir Sweat A Lot gave us, but with your GPS (God-Purpose-Steadfastness) navigating the way, you will surely arrive at your destination better than you were when you first started.
You may even have to give up some things, but the small sacrifices will be nothing compared to the blessings that will be released on your life in exchange for your obedience. 2 Cor 5:7

Year In Review

Happy Blogaversary to me! This online diary as I like to call it has pushed me beyond the limitations I’ve placed on myself. I am so happy and proud of my growth.                                   As I stated before, Phineas and I grew up together. When he reached the milestone of turning ten (double digits whoo hoo) I decided to start this blog. Even though it’s no longer just the two of us, he will always be the umph needed when my motivation is running low.

I woke up and got to work before the sunrise
Tired, but keeping my eyes on the prize.
When I walk across that stage just to see the look in your eyes
Always, remember that mommy did this for you guys.”
 ~CiCi (the part-time poet/blogger, full-time working mom and wife).

Sometimes, I run off of negative motivation. When I first found out that I was pregnant with Phineas, a nameless person told me that my life would be ruined if I had a baby. And what would I possibly do about being newly enlisted in the military? I made it my business to prove that person wrong.

The moment I delivered a baby into this world and became a mother, my life had just begun. I served the duration of my enlistment and never considered giving up. I’m not a quitter and failure is not an option. No matter how high my goals may seem, I just take each day in stride and one step at a time.

A sniper is an elite marksman and even they use sights to help them focus on their target when it’s too far away for the naked eye. I have always aimed high with anything I’ve pursued. So, upon starting this blog, what I’ve learned most about myself is that I CAN  have it all. It will just take time…I’ve dubbed my journey the scenic route (no one has been in college as long as I have).

I did everything backwards as far as [cue theme song to Married, With Children] love and marriage. If I didn’t have Phineas at such an early age, I don’t think I would be as driven. Pre-babies, all I cared about was shopping and paying my cell phone bill. Now that I have a family they serve as the purpose behind everything I do.

I have an extremely supportive husband. He has been beside me even during rough waters, although I thought he’d jump ship a few times. He never deserted me and the times when the waves became too high knocking us over, he always made sure I kept my head above water. He taught me how to weather the storm and tread water. God has been an emergency raft for my family and our bible is the life vests.

courtesy of Cafe Gratitude

I couldn’t seem to find balance last month and had to take some time off of blogging. However, I am fully recharged now and ready to type my little fingers away :-). It is my hope that over the past year, I was able to offer insight, encouragement or even add laughter to your day. To all of my readers or casual visitors, thank you, for all of your encouragement and support!