A Close Encounter and 3 Little Reminders

“Watch your step, watch your step,” the voice said to me as I walked through the woods on an evening hike. And then I heard it. The rattling caught my attention first before seeing the rattlesnake’s head, inches from my ankle, posed to strike.

Though many would think this just happens in nature and would write off the experience, I can’t help but dig a little deeper with why almost stepping on a rattlesnake applies to my life in a bigger way.

This is a short post with three lessons learned in the one day of processing. Here goes!

1. The Voice

Some might call the voice I heard… something only a crazy person would hear; Some might call it an inner guide; some might call it a conscience (though typically that term is used for moral choices rather than something that occurs outside of your control); I call it the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides me daily—beyond my knowing how or why. Sometimes I hear Him clearly, other times not at all.

We are all guided by different voices.

Maybe we hear the lingering voices of our parents when they taught us right from wrong when we were children. The voices of our peers and friends with influence in our lives when we seek advice, stand out strong sometimes. Then there are the voices on ads with a constant drip of “buy this now.”

Voices are all around us, communicating, telling, sharing, influencing. And we need to be careful which voices we pay attention to and why.

I’m grateful for the quiet voice saying to me, “Watch your step,” as I hiked quickly through the woods. I would surely have stepped on the rattler’s tail. That and had I not heard the rattling tail itself. What are you listening for? Who are you listening to? Warnings of protection are there for us to learn and glean from if we’re willing to stop and listen.

2. Independence doesn’t mean I shouldn’t communicate plans

The second lesson of my encounter with the rattle snake is that I was 100% alone in the woods and had not communicated with anyone that I was hiking, nor where I was going. I’m used to the paths and trails around my community in the hills and mountains. The area is small and most people I bump into are healthy, kind hikers and bikers. I typically have SOME cell phone service; I never venture too far on my own, and genuinely feel comfortable and safe when I’m alone in the woods.

But no one knew I was there. And what if something HAD happened?

I take for granted my independent nature and safe surroundings. Until it’s not safe anymore.

I wonder if I had communicated other things through the years, would I have strayed so far down paths I didn’t belong? Would I have been more aware of danger with people and situations?

Maybe I’m the only one who just trusts that things will “turn out alright” as I act independently and go through my days… even if I am, I’m reminded once more to communicate with those around me better than I do. I can be independent with my time and plans, and still be safe with communicating said plans with those around me.

3. Don’t give into fear but, be wise and knowledgeable

This is HUGE. It applies to the rattlesnake and to me. The rattle was the snake’s warning. Thank GOD I heard and listened. But even after freaking out, (I’ll never forget seeing his head poised to strike just as I realized he was under my feet), I went back to the snake for a video and then continued on with my hike. I was jittery the rest of the hike, but didn’t just turn around and give up.

Yes, there are dangers in the world, unexpected ones that catch us by surprise even if we have the BEST communication and plans in place, but we are not to give up.

I’ve seen SO many people give into fear this last year and a half with covid. I’ve seen SO many people dismiss the dangers of covid like it’s nothing. Neither living in fear, nor acting unwise will get anyone very far in life.

We must continue on the path and journey set before us, as best as possible, despite the obstacles. And we must do so with wisdom and knowledge.

The rattlesnake reminded me I don’t know the best protocol with snakebites in the woods at all, let alone poisonous, perhaps deadly ones. So, I need to read up and be more prepared next time. I need to gain knowledge and insight into the woods that I think I know so well. BUT, I didn’t give up on my hike then, and I’m not going to just stop living my life because of potential dangers. I love hiking too much!

Wisdom, while moving forward with courage is where I choose live. And is the best reminder and takeaway with… that darned rattlesnake.

And honestly? I’m glad I bumped into it. I was able to warn others on the path to use caution. I was nervous for one woman with her dog because I wasn’t sure how the dog would react IF it encountered a snake beyond the point where I did.

Through my somewhat scary experience, I could alert and help others. Just like others have done for me in the past with other things in life.

I’m sure there are MANY other takeaways with the rattlesnake… but for now: Listening to the loving, guiding voices in our lives; Communicating with those around you/ not being so independent; and Not giving into fear while using wisdom and knowledge. These are my biggest takeaways to that VERY close encounter.

Have you ever had a close encounter with danger that taught you a lesson? What was it? What did you learn?

Consistency over Perfection

I’ve been caught. In some ways I’ve been unable to move forward with simple business phone calls and conversations through fear of messing up the information. I’ve been worried, questioning what if I confuse people, or the event I’ve been planning, even virtual ones, go wrong…

Perfection has been my trap in the past. Perfection has taken from me time and time again. Fearing over living. Stressing over moving forward.

But who can do anything perfectly? There is no amount of editing, preparation, and makeup that will cover writing mistakes, conversation hiccups, and the blemishes on my skin as I’ve tried to get to the weighty place of perfection.

And it does feel like a weight when you live in that room and place of perfection. There isn’t anything fun or enjoyable about trying to be perfect.

After years of letting go of layers of perfection and performance, I realize only a few things matter at the end of the day. In order to reach my goals, I’ve learned that consistency, dedication, and prayer are all I need. I can apply this to my whole list of goals- sports, nutrition, business, and relationships- it matters to be consistent in my behaviors and practice, improving 1% each day, rather than trying to do anything perfectly. I do what I can and let God handle the rest.

The dedication and discipline come into play while remaining consistent.

This is how once more, I’m reaching my goals slowly but surly with Bellia, my new Written Jewels, high end jewelry brand partnership… and with other business and fitness ventures. As I move forward, others around me will learn to see and know that I’m serious in my goals and plans and correlate them with me. I don’t need to do them perfectly, I just need to do them.

Consistency with determination to whatever you put your mind to, and doing it with excellence is key. And in the process learn to give up the idea of perfection.

My encouragement this Saturday morning is this: Let’s stay dedicated to enjoy the process of moving forward with what’s in our hearts to do. This is a way better alternative to holding onto our goals and dreams with a tight fist of perfection.

Life is good– full of joy, fun, and beauty. Let’s live with these things in mind. Let’s embrace the imperfections of each day and learn to walk in peace with a smile on our face, whatever the outcome.

What about you? Does perfection trip you up? If not, are there other mindsets you need to release?

Whatever those mindsets are, let’s move away from fear and choose to stay dedicated and consistent with every day actions. Let’s reach our goals one day at a time, knowing we’ve done our best and tomorrow is a new day, bringing us one step closer to the results we’re aiming for!

Held Back By Money… or Not?

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I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time. For two years now, I’ve pondered the words my older brother said to me when I was considering grad school, but concerned about the cost, he said, “Don’t ever let money be the reason to do, or not do something.”

It was a statement of freedom. Of empowerment. That money doesn’t have to dictate my choices. He followed the comment with, “There is so much money in the world, and if God really wants you to do something, He’ll provide the money to make it happen.”

I did end up going to grad school, and just five months out of student life, back at work, it seems I’ve settled back into a mindset of “well I don’t have money, so I can’t” and “I’m living a poor person life right now, sorry” and “I wish I could take trips like them.”

Money is important, and we need to live within our means. The repercussion of spending what we do not have could wind us up in a position of vulnerability, debt, and destitution.

That said, living like a “poor person” is a mentality and lifestyle that goes beyond mere frugality. It’s the opposite of empowering and is a self-inflicted state of being that gets rid of choices, and puts you at the disposal of others.

I feel the crunch of getting out of debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and wanting to save up in order to move on to a new market where I can make a decent wage for my degrees and experience. But, I’m not going to get there by living as a victim to my circumstances and with the mentality that I’m poor.

I’ve yet to see a paycheck for my work, yet I’ve published a book that a whole slew of people have bought. I’ve gotten engaged, and used mileage built up via credit, to make the flights possible on my most recent trip to see my fiancé in his country. I can buy groceries every week, put gas in my car, and pay all the car bills that make it possible for me to get to work each week.

I’m not poor.

Nothing about what I do in my daily life depends on other’s charity.

And after paying another round of payments off with my last piddly squat paycheck, I know that as long as I continue to dream big, and however slow or fast make moves of living my best life, money has no authority over what I can and cannot do with my life.

God knows the plans He has for me. And I will continue to prosper under His hand, knowing full well He has all authority to give me more or take it all away, like Job, the wealthiest man of his day from the Bible, who at God’s allowance, lost EVERYTHING including his children. Imagine losing your home, money, job, and children, and health all in the same week. Job lived through it and came out more blessed on the other side as he trusted God during the process.

God’s perspective is higher than mine, and He sees what I need and how he’ll provide, before I do. So far, He’s been gracious to give me a job to at least be making something during this transition period after grad school, but I know this is not the end. It can’t be. I need more and I ask him every day to show me the jobs I should be applying for that pay in a way that I can be a blessing to people, instead of a burden.

On the flipside, when a high paying job presents itself to me, I don’t want money to be the sole purpose of taking it. As my brother said, “Don’t ever let money be the reason to do, or not do something.” I want to be passionate about my work, not just take a higher paying one for the paychecks.

Money shouldn’t be the reason (a reason, yes, but not the ultimate reason) for making any life changing decisions. DO YOUR LIFE. Think about what you want, then go for it!

Live the life you want, now.

Be happy, now.

Be debt free, now.

Give generously, now.

Set goals, and then achieve them, now.

Money isn’t the mindset and lifestyle that will allow you or I to live your best life. It is a part of it, but money never needs to hold us back.

{October} Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Paula Biggs for Frog Prince Paperie

Photo Cred: Paula Biggs for Frog Prince Paperie

*I originally wrote this post for Wonderfully Made’s blog “Know Your Value” in October.

Have you ever been sick? Have you ever dealt with pain in your body or mind? Have you ever seen a loved one suffer, or maybe even die?

This might sound heavy, but take a deep breath and hang in there with me, because sometimes it is important to talk about heavy things.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Around the nation, people raise awareness about breast cancer, helping to erase stigma for the disease, and encourage early detection of the disease for treatment.

A study and article posted on the American Cancer Society website says that “an estimated 60,290 new cases” of breast cancer in women will be detected in 2015.

As we move through the year and find ourselves in October, it is important that we at Wonderfully Made address the pain and fear that women (and men too) find themselves in when diagnosed with cancer, disease, and illness.

Taking a step back, I want to shift your attention from our world today to go back in time about 2,000 years. Let’s look at one woman who struggled with disease for 12 years before finally finding healing through faith in one Man…

“A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, ‘if I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.’” (Mark 5: 25-28)

Now I want to take a moment to explain a bit about the culture of Bible times. Women were not considered equal to men, but deferred to them in the patriarchal society that fathers ruled their households, including their wives.

This woman was single, which already puts her in a vulnerable place, and on top of that, for 12 years she sought medical help for a blood hemorrhage. That meant that she spent her entire wealth on doctors to try to get healing, which left her in a worse spot. When this woman met Jesus, she was penniless, sick, and no one was on her side.

She didn’t have medical insurance. She didn’t have a husband to support her. She didn’t have people raising awareness for her. No one started a campaign to helping with the stigma of bleeding for 12 years. She didn’t have specialists she could travel to all over the world, when the doctors she consulted didn’t have an answer.

She was destitute and desperate. And when it came to meeting the most important, popular, and reputable Rabbi of her time, she couldn’t even approach him to tell her story.

She only had one thing, and that was her faith to just touch him. And now, her story is not forgotten.

“Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition. Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my robe?’ His disciples said to him, ‘Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, “Who touched me?” ’ But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.’” (Mark 5: 29- 34)

Jesus never changes, and to this day He wants to heal our bodies, minds, and souls. He wants us to know Him as our Savior and Healer. He wants to call us daughters and for us to seek Him when we need help, medical or otherwise.

As you think about Breast Cancer Awareness this month, and the many who have suffered breast cancer, are seeking help now, or might be diagnosed later, know that their stories matter. Their stories are important to the Father who sees and knows suffering to the point of healing a penniless, unnamed woman of the Bible so long ago. He calls these women His daughters, and He is ready and able to grant peace and healing.

So have hope, my friends, like this sick woman from the Bible. Keep the faith to look up and out. To not give up getting help. To just grasp on the fringe of His robes that He will save.

Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. ~Mathew 9:22~

If you want to learn more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or get involved in a deeper way, Komen is a national non-profit, with other great resources, centered on breast cancer.