More Freedom than America has to offer

We had a lovely, relaxing 4th of July yesterday.

It was about enjoying time together, simplifying our schedule and ending our staycation well. I was on social media and perusing how differently people posted about the holiday – so very American; we can hardly agree on anything. And yet, that is the beauty of it – we don’t have to.

We GET to disagree, even about our country’s history, its independence and what freedom really means.

I always feel a tug and want to jump in and share and respond but realize that kind of participation on those platforms open me up to being caught in a vortex of arguing. Which is also not freeing or even enjoyable. I would say that communicating on social media and posting things that are left to have people “think” or “get woke” about certain issues doesn’t lend itself to being super effective because it is often done with little vulnerability and even less transparency, making relationship and connection almost impossible.

I have a lot of feelings about our country’s independence, voting, the difference between Memorial Day vs. Veteran’s Day and people often not caring enough to distinguish the two. I care about the inequality in pay between men and women for doing the same work, the appalling acceptance of sexual, mental and emotional abuse in our workplaces, churches, schools and homes. I have strong opinions about people standing or talking or kneeling during the National Anthem; the flag means something unusually personal to me. And if those weren’t enough, I have even more to say about introversion, shame and the lack of talking about and dealing with the heart of people and how we allow the media to become and shape our version of the truth.

And I imagine everyone with a computer, tablet and/or smartphone does too.

The way we respond to all of these things and more says more about our own perspective of our independence and freedom than what’s happening in the world around us. I don’t mean to say that it’s “all about me” because I know it isn’t, but how I engage in the above circumstances is directly related to whether I believe in and am walking out the freedom that has been gifted to me in Jesus Christ.

We often say, “freedom isn’t free.”

It costs something and in the case of Christ, it costs more than we ourselves could ever pay.

….and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood… • Revelation 1:5

If you profess yourself a Christian and follower of Jesus, making the effort to grow under His discipleship – it means you spend some time in the Bible learning what His Word says.

As one who has been able to read it several times in its entirety over the past 20 years, I do NOT always want to stand up and give a rousing round of applause when I read many, many parts of it. It is challenging.

Especially this idea that the freedom that has been given to us in Christ, costs something and it enslaves us – if we allow it to.

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. • Romans 6:18

You can read that whole chapter if you really want more context, but overall, Paul is explaining that we were freed from ourselves for something better; relationship – very intimate relationship with the One who made us and loves us best.

He knows you intimately. Better than you feel about yourself, think you’re presenting yourself, better than your paycheck tells you you are or that cool crowd you hang with or huge social following you have. Freedom is not free. We are bound – if we are truly in connection – to the Giver of our freedom.

I am grateful to be an American. No matter who is in leadership, no matter how unfair for many of the people who live here, no matter how young and immature I believe we behave and present ourselves at times; I’m grateful to live in a place where I (and everyone else) can express our thinking and disdain – though I wish everyone would do it in a more constructive, connected way. I am proud of the sacrifice of SSgt. Chad J. Simon, USMC, who willingly trained and prepared with the 24th Battalion of Marines back in 2004 to fight for what they believed were the rights and freedom of this country. It’s brave. But it cost something. Him his life, me my husband and our son his father. It cost us some relationships, some of our reputation (people have opinions about everything y’all) and it cost me some of the very freedom he and the others fought for.

If I remain focused on that – what man can do – sacrifice alone, I would remain hopeless and trapped in grief and pain with no more hope beyond that devastating 9 months of our lives and the ongoing, dull pain of mourning and the difficult path it pulls you down.

I needed (and continue to need) the freedom, grace, mercy and love of Jesus.

America is ungrateful.

It will take all of the people willing to fight and sacrifice and let them lose their lives but is not willing to help those left behind be or make them better. America continues to fight amongst itself. Is that what our brave went to fight for? To give all of themselves for? Our memories are short and the freedom we splay across our chests in clothing that looks like the flag (which is actually incredibly disrespectful) is so not true freedom because it’s not steady. Not like that of Jesus.

I don’t begrudge folks the BBQs and fireworks (which I’ve not been to since the year Chad deployed 14 years ago) but all of your fun cost something that can only be found in righteousness of Jesus. It’s where true hope helps us walk through people in the messiest parts of their lives. Whether they are black, transgender, trapped in impurity or in debt. Even if they are acting happy but behind closed doors and not on their feed they are struggling with through to of suicide. People are craving rich connection. True freedom to walk in who they are. A desire to be free to be all that God has set aside for them.

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil; live as servants of God. • 1 Peter 2:16

God asks us to do some difficult things.

Like love that annoying, challenging, stressful, hateful person. And I don’t think America does that. We could. But we don’t.

Our news is “free” but so sad and distasteful and bent. Our social movements are wrought with hypocrisy and narrow-focus as if that one area of concern is the most important which leaves so many other issues that don’t have the financial backing or celebrity support feeling or seeming less important.

Our small bubbles of “freedom” that we’ve worked to create need to be controlled and they keep us from loving “the other” well or even at all.

When you receive Jesus and take steps to walk with Him through this life, you will be able to love and influence and impact under a larger banner for a lifetime and into eternity. You will have to give up some of your stuff, a lot of your self and instead place your focus and hope in His hands. It will become less about you and protecting those who look like you, live in your neightborhood, who can resonate with and agree with your thinking about the world and the people in it. And it will become more about doing what He would have you do. Which is where I believe true freedom and real change happens.

So when I see natural disasters, another mass shooting, black men being targeted by police officers, women fighting for their place in any arena or any imbalance or injustice, I do pray. And I believe it makes a difference. And it’s freeing. Even if I vote, call my congressman, join or start a social movement, educate myself on all of the things happening in the media, nothing compares to me walking in the freedom of Jesus – being able to approach Him from where ever I am at that moment and putting it before Him. There is freedom and peace in trusting in Him.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. • 2 Corinthians 3:17

Freedom is tied to some sort of responsibility. And oftentimes in our country it seems that people pursue freedom for themselves, not for the benefit of others who could enjoy it too. With God, the freedom is for everyone that comes to and into relationship with Him and His Son Jesus. There are things He asks of us, but there is so much more for us.

Whomever we accept our freedom from will dictate the responsibility attached.

I don’t have it all figured out – who does? But one thing I will tell you is that I am still practicing receiving the freedom that comes with prioritizing the Word of God and my relationship with Jesus. And while I appreciate many of the freedoms that come with being born in America, none of them afford me the freedom that comes with being a daughter of the One True King. And it is a freedom that can never be taken from me or lost. As I walk in it more fully, I want it for others – because there is plenty. No matter who you are, where you live, work, who considers you in or out, whether you’re trending or trendy or if you’re feeling less than and oscillated.

It’s a freedom that you can experience and draw on whether you live where you want to, are in the job you want to be in or not, if you are in deep dark pain that you believe no one else can see or cares about. It’s a freedom you can take with you and which can supersede the limitations and the social oppression, racism, hate and inequality. I know some will read this and be in disbelief, but I’m proof.

Rather than be trapped in thinking that my only freedom and independence is reliant on what America has to offer, I am instead putting my faith in the promises of God and the freedom He has continually offered me.

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Cultivating What Matters | June

I never want my goals and plans to be about showing off or proving things to people, but I do want to share my process for how to make things happen that are important to me.

At the beginning of the year, I shared all about my POWERSHEETS work in a very long Insta Story, but eventually deleted it because I wasn’t showing my work regularly.

With 6 more months in the year and a new clarity as to where I’m headed – as a result of my original planning and praying – I want to share my progress here each month on the blog. It is in the hopes of sharing the process so that you can see it and adapt it for yourselves. Let’s face it, we’re all better when we’re moving toward and making progress in the things that matter.

Here’s how it went in June!

MONTHLY

  • Get Driver’s License – NEW – Sather!!!

It came the very day I was planning to get up and go BACK to DPS to get another one. Due to some mix-up with the post office when I moved, my forwarded mail has been delayed in the most inconvenient ways. I had called and learned that they didn’t have it, that the post office does not forward federal ids and mine was probably lost someplace. I was in a lot of pain but was readying myself mentally to get up at 6a to be in line at the DPS on a Monday at 7a to get it taken care of – again – to have an DL before we travel in July; really wanna avoid the pat down I got when we went on our honeymoon and had a paper copy.

We praised God for His perfect timing. And I was settled in peace believing that other things we’re waiting for will be coming right on time. There are so many things y’all.

  • Theta (calls for alumnae chapter, two rec writing meetings, re-present ideas for member development team)

I’ve never written a letter of recommendation for sorority recruitment before this summer. Because I actually know a young lady and her mother, I braved the new and did it – pretty painless. I hope she becomes a sister!

I have not made my 15 calls yet and am waiting for the green, yellow or red light on my presentation about a potentially beneficial support team to serve the organization.

  • Father’s Day Plans (Pops, Mister + D)

We got our cards out in plenty of time for our dads to get them in Washington + Georgia. I was able to talk to my dad on the day and had a great conversation with him; I learned so much from asking a question and just listening for 35 minutes. It was such an encouraging experience.

I organized a Father’s Day celebration for Mister with our three young adult children which included brunch and a surprise visit to a bakery to satisfy his sweet tooth. He was not allowed to pay and was very encouraged. My only regret was that I didn’t build in time for him to receive words of affirmation (one of his biggest love languages).

I tried to help D – my son -work through Father’s Day without his dad. He kind of laid low and I covered his heart and loss in prayer.

  • AJ’s letter of recommendation for medical school

Finished but hope it counts because I forgot to sign it before submitting it. It was a pleasure to do this for this stellar young woman and I hope she gets to pursue her dream to be a doctor.

  • Read 6 books

You can see my progress here.

  • Finish 2 Corinthians Bible Study: Be Encouraged, Warren W. Wiersbe

After two and a half months, I finally finished this study and this chapter in the Bible for the second time. And it was really helpful to me being more encouraged after a lot of transition, confusion and disappointment. Even though every day did not bring me deep and powerful revelation, staying in it and reading a bit every day DID help ground me more deeply in the Bible and that stability made a huge difference to how I’ve responded to my circumstances.

  • Stones, beta-reader to page 225p

My sweet friend JF has written a book! A whole book y’all. And she asked me to be a beta-reader; so excited! This is a large part of what I’ll be doing the first week in July so it’s back to her – with notes – before the end of the week. So wish I could do this for an everyday job – read books and get paid to tell people what I think. A book nerd can dream…

  • New Laptop – MacBook

There was no $1200 to replace my “vintage” computer this month so I went MacGyver style and made my own makeshift computer with a keyboard from another non-working computer and my iPad mini 3. It’s my current hack and money saver until I have the money; so far, so good.

Thanks Dave Ramsey! And FPU. (Said less sarcastically than a couple of months ago.)

  • Plan, Share + Invite for the Pride + Prejudice Project

You can get details here and follow more closely on my Instagram feed @readwithregina

WEEKLY

  • Email Mister x 2

I did not hit this goal and I feel badly. This one will be added to next month’s weekly goals too.

The biggest thing for me to remember is that while pursuing writing here in this space, I can not replace this sharing here with the words that build him up in our private emails, which mean so much to him. I want to honor him in this way and continue to build a place where he can have his writer wife share her deepest vulnerabilities with him.

  • Dates: Date Your Spouse

We did it! Dates 3 + 12; you can read about them here.

  • Blog (Editorial Calendar – summer) x 2

I have GOT to get better at this. I have a lot to write about and share, but this is surely something that will help relieve some pressure and direct my posts better. For now, I’ve been so happy with publishing so regularly this month. I’m trusting that with more movement forward in an even more intentional, beneficial and encouraging way.

  • A Simple Year Coursework (1/2 May + June)

This was a no-go.

  • Instagram with Intention Coursework (1 catalog/week)

This was a huge win. I so appreciate how practical @hilaryrushford is in her presentation of the science and art of Instagram. I have one more week of modules before I complete the entire course. It was money well spent and as I get closer to preparing content that is marketable, I’m sure that I will grow a profitable platform that allows me to share my story and encourage others.

  • Family Love

This has been a mix of talking to mom and dad and even holding my son accountable. Quality time with the people are closest to me has made me realize how much I miss my brother and the relationship we started to develop but aren’t currently experiencing.

I am focusing on loving them and reconnecting with them in a deeper way; progress.

  • Encourage Women (4/week)

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Between my small group friends, setting up a couple of meal trains, pouring into women about dating, grief and a mastermind group, I’ve been able to encourage others. But I have to be careful that my time with friends doesn’t trump the time I take to put into continuing to build and strengthen the love connection in our marriage.

DAILY

  • Yoga

This was not doable since I pulled the connective tissue in my back about 5 weeks ago. I hope to revisit it soon.

  • Bible

Everyday. This helped me finish up an in-depth study of 2 Corinthians. It helped me work through some wounds and confusion about some things I wasn’t getting a lot of clarity about.

  • M+R Journal

Every night except for one. I love this practice. So much so that I gave a bride-to-be one at her shower recently. I brought ours and showed it to her with the hope of encouraging them to take 3 minutes each evening or the next morning to record what they learned or experienced or are grateful for. It’s been so great for us to have it to look back and remember.

  • #MillionMinutes

Hit my 20 hours! You can read about the reading challenge over here.

  • Hydrate

Y’all, I can’t even with this. I purchased some water bottles and got off to a great start but then got stuck with the lack of movement and energy I was putting out. I’ve gotten more specific and will be going after this one again in July. I am going to get it!!!

__

Already completed July’s POWERSHEETS and am ready to cultivate what really matters by breaking it down into manageable steps. I’m so grateful for this system that helps me tie back to the start of the year and the way I want my year to end and encourages me all along the way.

How was your June? What’s your July looking like?

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date your spouse | Do an inside or outside picnic

We had already had a date like this one so it was a good, simple repeat.

in Texas there is only one option

Because it’s summer in Texas, the winning option for us was clear: INSIDE PICNIC!!!

I so appreciated that Mister kept it simple – it was his turn to plan – and though I can like a little more flair to our dates, it was great. It helps that we take turns to plan because it takes the responsibility completely off of me and gives him an opportunity to grow in his party/event/date planning skills. He knows that one of my love languages is “acts of service”, so one time a month doing the bulk of the planning is not overwhelming for him and forces me to relinquish control and simply enjoy.

indoor picnic dinner for two – living room floor

We decided on the menu a few days before we were scheduled for date 3 and picked up the wine and sides while shopping at Target. Mister picked up the chicken from Popeye’s the day of, we spread out a blanket on the floor and we played the album we had sitting on the player.

garden state soundtrack, one of my faves

It was so nice not to have to wash dishes or do much clean up after our date.

In the midst of our simple date, we did have a tense discussion – yes, we sometimes have to work through conflict. I share this because though we love one another and want to have a godly marriage, we sometimes find ourselves at odds with one another while learning about the other. We are very similar in a lot of ways and have a lot in common, but when we don’t see eye-to-eye or one person triggers the other, we have to work through it; even on a date.

So we continued to talk while playing a bunch of rounds of Scrabble (he’s still winning) and just spent time in one another’s company.

ain’t he cute?

The conflict got fully resolved a couple of days later (after getting some advice and lots of prayer) but we were still able to find rest and gratitude in the rest of the date and the rest of that day.

Even with tension and conflict, the date was still a win. Spending time with one another, phones down, ears open and heart willing to see the other person; to hear their thought process, understand their perspective, learn about their heart – it is such a blessing and I’m so grateful that we can do the simplest things and still build our love connection.

one day, I will beat him at Scrabble

I encourage you to plan a simple picnic for you and your spouse and an activity that allows you to still interact with and learn about the other in the comfort of your own home. If you’re at a season where kids are involved, consider hiring childcare to watch and engage them in another part of the house, schedule it for their bedtime or meet one another during your lunch breaks to have your own version of this kind of picnic. However you can do it, make it happen, you won’t regret it!

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