Dec 29, 2010

Looking Back on 2010: A GIANT Year-End Review

Well hey there! I know, I know, long time no see. Or rather, long time no blog. Sorry about that...November & December were not very conducive months for blogging! Actually, this whole year has been quite hit & miss with blogging, so I wanted to take a compacted look back on the highlights of each month of this year, complete with pictures! Consider this the Reader's Digest version of my year!

Actually, January 2010 I reflected a lot on January of 2009. Everyone has turning points in their life, & the mission trip our youth group took to Peru was definitely one of mine. The months leading up to that trip, I was headed in the wrong direction spiritually. I believed that having a boyfriend & getting skinny were "it" in terms of satisfaction & I was determined to do whatever it took in both areas. One big problem: I was considered one of the "leaders" & a "good teenager" at church, & I was really worried about losing that reputation. I lived to please people; both my boyfriend at the time, & the people that I looked up to in my church family. As you can imagine, those are two very different groups of people & I ended up living a very hypocritical lifestyle. It came to a point where I needed to choose which path I was going to take: pursuing a godly lifestyle & a genuine, pure relationship with my Savior, or living to please my flesh. I remember very distinctly the depression I was in the week before the trip & the Lord in His goodness spared me from seeing my boyfriend that week & making a huge mistake. As we set off on our journey, I really only wanted to go for the warm joke. Great reason for a missions trip, huh? Shows you where my heart was. One of my clearest memories from one of our layovers in Miami is pretty pathetic. We were just about to board the plane to Lima, Peru, when I was overcome with the realization that I was in a relationship where I was sacrificing my convictions & still felt empty. I found a corner, sat down, & started sobbing like a little kid. I didn't want to go on the trip, I didn't want to go home, I didn't want to be me! The whole group was waiting for me to get it together so we could board, & one of my friends came over to pray with me & challenged me to leave my issues in the States & try to be open for what God had for me in Peru. Full of doubt, I agreed that I would try to be at peace & help however I could. I really didn't expect anything though....thankfully, God had other ideas. Through the whole experience; meeting the Peruvian believers, living with the missionaries, & being broken through all that the Lord was teaching me, my life was completely changed. It wasn't all at once, but God gave me different priorities through that trip. I came home & broke up with my bf, got rid of a lot of the things in my life that I knew were displeasing to God, & started pursuing the Lord with all of my heart. Yeah, January '09 was worth reminiscing about =)

One of the big highlights of this February was something called "Heart Conference" at Northland. It is a conference held every year to encourage pastors in the area. About 100-200 pastors & church leaders come & there are seminars & sessions with special speakers. This year's Heart Conference focused on prayer, but God worked on my in another area as well. He revealed that I had really been struggling in accepting God as my heavenly Father. I had begun to believe the lie that I had to perform & do all these things in order to gain His approval & love. When I messed up, I would feel ashamed to come to Him in prayer, but He taught me during this time that it's not about anything that I have ever done or could ever do, but it is all about what  Christ did for me on the cross.

In January of this year, Haiti was devastated by an earthquake & my heart broke for them. I had been praying about going on another mission trip for over a year, but the Lord never opened a door. When I heard about the earthquake, I asked the Lord to give me an opportunity to go to Haiti. I prayed for several months & then received word of a possibility to go in August. I prayed some more & it really appeared that this was a step that the Lord wanted me to take, so I began to prepare to go to Haiti. Little did I know the adventures that God had in store for me!

I have to say that my favorite memory of May was the concert at the Heyde center. My former piano teacher & her husband have a concert there once a year & she has invited me to play several times. Obviously, I was also in college at this time, so it was a little hard to learn an extra song outside of my required exam pieces, but it was worth it! Both of my parents came, & my brother, Jeremiah, was also able to come. That made it extra special since I rarely get to see him anymore. We had so much fun, and it was also a great experience to play in front of that big of a crowd. Here's to hoping I get invited back again in 2011!! Haha =)

Ahhhh, summer =) God was so good to me this summer. I was able to spend about 8-10 hrs a day at the pool, about 5 of those in the water, 5-6 days a week. I taught swimming lessons & lifeguarded. Oh, I also finally learned how to do the butterfly stroke, which is now my favorite. Lol! But I was also able to head up a Bible study with two of my best friends: Stephanie & Krystle. This is a picture of me & one of the girls that came, her name is Destiny. God just taught me so much during the preparation for the lessons, discipling, & also just through fellowship with the middle school & high school girls. It was such a blessing to see the girl's desire to grow in their relationship with the Lord & to have the privilege of having a small part in their lives for a short time =)

More summer!! I love summer....can ya tell? Haha =) In July I was able to spend a lot of time with my family in between work & everything else. My sister Rebecca was 8 months pregnant & I was able to take some maternity photos. I discovered I love photography!! Well, I've known that for a while, but I've never had a great camera, or such beautiful subjects! I still don't have the camera, but I borrow whenever I can. Lol! 
My niece, Aubrianna, also came for a visit over 4th of July, so I was able to do a quick picture session with her too. Only about 15 minutes though because she was grumpy. Haha! Still got some cute pics though =) I was also amazed to see how the Lord continued to make provision for me to go to Haiti, & how He was shaping my heart & preparing me for the blessing & challenges ahead. 

The long awaited month of August finally came. I set off for Haiti not really knowing what to expect. I only knew 2 other people going on the trip & would not meet with them until I got to Florida. I had all of the vaccinations that were required & enough hand sanitizer to last a year in the States, but about a week in St. Raphael Haiti. Haha! This week I had a lot of firsts: first time eating goat & not having to shove the meat in my pockets (long story, ask me later ;). First time finding a tarantula in a pickle jar at the breakfast table (it was found crawling on the curtains the night before). First time hiking up a mountain with a witch doctor's nephew & apprentice. First time holding a 4 foot snake. First time hearing voo-doo drums outside while trying to fall asleep. First time being near to witch doctor prayers (he prayed for a wife, & chocolate....weird. Lol!) And first time ever fully realizing just how incredibly good God is to us & just how powerful He is over all things!!! But I'll save that for another blog post =)
 The Haitians were so precious. The girls were very, very cold to us the first few days & had little to no interest in the gospel. But the Lord began to work & by the end of the week they began warming up & becoming more receptive to the Truth. The little girl in the green with the adorable smile is named Pafwinda. She was my little buddy for the week =)

 Malaria was in peak season & out of the 200 people that were on the compound that week, over 10% of them were suffering with the disease.
 Cuteness overload!!! This is one of the cook's sons.
The girl that is in the blue flower skirt is named Dolly. She spoke Creole, obviously, but also spoke some Spanish & English. We were able to talk quite a bit & became good friends. She was incredibly sweet, & I miss her a lot!
 Teaching Sunday school on one of our last days in Haiti. I loved it & would love to return again in the future. Please keep the Bower family, (the missionaries we stayed with), in your prayers as they continue to face many challenges in Haiti.

Me, Ashlee, & Jen!

Back to school!!! By the end of the summer, I was ready to get back into the busyness of school! I just didn't realize how insanely busy it would be!! I guess I was a little bit overly-ambitious because I took on some extra credits....and a job. Lol! But God was faithful in helping me accomplish everything, & not fail any classes =) This semester was a little bit different because 2 of my best friends didn't return this year. God had different plans for Emilee & Ashlee. But Ashlee was able to come for a visit, which I was very thankful for =)

Spirit week at school!! Our room was the "Nerd Herd." Lol....very fitting. I honestly don't remember a whole lot from October, except that it was extremely busy! For the first month and a half of school, I was literally in class, practicing, or doing homework from 7 am until midnight almost every day. So October was basically made up of piano practice, classes, piano practice, homework, work study, & did I mention piano practice? Haha! It was good though. I know I'm where God wants me & I am confident that I am in the right major, so it wasn't hard to put forth my best effort with the Lord's help.

Bri bri!! In November, I was blessed with visits! Lol. My sister Amber & my niece Aubrianna came for a visit one weekend. It was so much fun! We had some great talks, and ended up going out for dinner since Amber was even less fond of Northland food than I am. Haha! I also got to see an old friend that I hadn't seen in almost two years. The missionaries that we stayed with in Peru are in the States for a while this year & their oldest son came to Northland for a weekend b-ball tournament. So it was good to see him again after such a long time =) That was also around the time that it seemed like God started testing my dependence on Him. With the end of the school year approaching quickly, November was a very intense month. Projects, papers, & practice seemed never ending. I deal with stress in unhealthy ways sometimes, & so I ended up forgoing meals in favor of de-stressing with some P90X or time on the treadmill. But between Thanksgiving & Christmas cookies, I think it evened out. Lol!

The beginning of December was consumed with finals & music exams, and let me tell you....I wasn't handling it so well. I wish I could say that I was fully resting in the Lord's strength & finding my joy in Him, but that wasn't always the case. I was struggling with several trials that God had allowed to come into my life & trying to deal with the fact that He had removed one of my close friends & several of my most respected mentors from my life at the time. But God showed my that I don't have to "get" everything that He is doing. He can see the big picture, I just have to trust Him. And guess what? There was SO much peace when I finally just gave over all of my worries! I had joy during my last week at school because I was once again relying on God for my happiness, but I definitely welcomed break! I slept 12 hrs my first night home, which was more than 3 nights at school combined!! Lol =) I've been able to catch up with friends, & spend time with my family. I also got re-certified to Lifeguard & give CPR again. Yay! Tonight, I get to see my brother for the first time in almost 8 months, & tomorrow the rest of my family will be up to celebrate Christmas.

 It has been an amazing year. God is truly incredible, & faithful in all of His works. Even when I can't see or understand. 

Bring on 2011!!!!

Dec 3, 2010

The Love of the Father: Part 2

Remember back in part 1 when I said that the Lord began teaching me more about His role as my perfect heavenly Father when I was studying Hebrews 11 & Psalm 103 in tandem? I never really explained myself in the first post because I wanted to take the time to explore those passages a little bit more than I could have in that post alone. In that post I focused on God's fatherly love, but in this post I will be sharing more about what God has been teaching me about the way He lovingly disciplines His children.

Since February of this year, I have really been digging into Hebrews 12; it is a familiar passage, & I think that because it is so familiar that I sometimes have the habit of speed-reading, but it is such an incredibly rich chapter!
I hope you'll take the time to read through the eight verses that I would like to focus on. Verses 3-11 say:

"Consider him (Jesus) who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?       

'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.'

  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. "

God's discipline looks different in each of our lives, but His discipline always has the same purpose in every believers life: to make us more like His Son. It is often said that God loves us as we are, but too much to leave us that way. Verse 10 of this passage says that God "disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness." This passage is also honest in acknowledging the pain that comes with discipline. There are times when God is working in our lives to make us more like Christ, & we just don't understand what He is doing, or why. We can be hurt, confused, lonely, & afraid, & it is all for the sake of discipline. You might be thinking that this all seems a little unfair, but consider again God's love & purpose in transforming us by any means necessary. We already established in the last post that God as our Father loves us more than humanly comprehensible. It is in these verses that we are confronted by the fact that if God truly loves us, He must discipline us, otherwise we would be regarded as illegitimate children. Many of the sweetest times I have had with the Lord have been during some of the most difficult times in my life.

During the midst of trials, we have a choice. We can either accuse God of punishing us & then ignore Him, like we are somehow "getting even," or we can accept that trial as a chance to show Christlike-ness. To be steadfast in our faith & grow in grace & in the knowledge that God is enough in times of confusion & pain. He has promised to sustain us & comfort us in every circumstance, if only we will ask it of Him. This is where Psalm 103 comes in. I love this. I was in this passage one evening & actually getting a little bit bogged down considering the discipline of the Lord, when I turned to this Psalm & read verses 8-17:

"The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
  He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
  He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
  For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
  as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
  As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
  For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
  for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
  But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to 
everlasting on those who fear him."

Isn't it comforting to know that the Lord doesn't punish us according to our transgressions? To know that He looks on us with compassion & sympathizes with our weaknesses? I don't know about you, but I think that the word "dust" is the perfect way to describe our human fragility. Although God our Father must discipline us for our good, He also understands our weaknesses & has compassion on us. I encourage you to really study these passages on your own & find more about the Lord's discipline. It is an encouragement to understand God's purposes in allowing us to go through hard times. As I close out this post, I'm going to end back where we began in Hebrews 12, verses 1 & 2. 

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. "

Nov 20, 2010

"Word of God Speak"

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness 
Word of God speak

I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness 
Word of God speak

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay 

~MercyMe "Word of God Speak"

Nov 17, 2010

More Updates from Haiti

Hey everyone,
If you aren't up to date on what's been going on with the Bower family in Haiti, please see my last post.
Just as a very quick summary, over the past month their ministry has been undergoing an extremely difficult time: Tim had dengue fever just a few weeks ago, last week a school teacher & dear friend of their family drowned in the river, & now the cholera outbreak is ravaging the entire country. Here are their two latest updates:

"Tim and Pastor Vanier had to go to the peogn hospital tonight.Pastor Markelito is very sick and was taken to the hospital It's an hour and a half away. Normally Tim wouldn't go out right now, but, Markelito's family wants to take him out of the hospital and to the witchdoctor. Markelito is to weak to fight them so he called Tim.

Tim just made it back. Thank you for the prayers. He was able to get the IV's Markelito needed and had a talk with the family. Tim left Pastor Frisnel there to make sure the family didn't try any witchdoctor medicines on Pastor Markelito."

Please continue in prayer & intercession for the Bowers & for Haiti. They need the hope that only Christ can give. 

Nov 15, 2010


Hello friends,
I have a burden & prayer request to share with you all.
This past August I went to Haiti for a week & met many brothers & sisters in Christ and was blessed to form a lot of new friendships. The Bower's are the missionary family we stayed with while we were there & I am able to keep in touch with them through facebook. This past week has been especially difficult & emotional for several reasons, but on Wednesday an extra factor of stress was added when I saw this on Tim & Roseanne's facebook:

"Please pray for our 6th grade school teacher Professor Joslin he has been missing since yesterday 3am. He left school sick on Wednesday, went to a clinic and got medicine, that night he was starting to have delusions and wasn't talking normal saying that the people had come to get him ect. and then he disappeared early in the morning. We let school out at 10 today so everyone could go looking for him."

Joslin is a dear brother in Christ that spoke English fairly well, so our group was able to converse & become friends with him, especially on our last night in Haiti. He came by & gave us all gifts of handmade bookmarks, necklaces, & bracelets. 
In Haiti, if someone gets sick & starts hallucinating it is a very grim situation...and though praying about it gave some peace, it was a very unsettling report. Saturday, the Bowers confirmed what everyone had feared:

"Prof. Joslin's body was found today.He drowned in the river.Please pray for his family they are taking it hard. There will be no funeral because of the condition of the body.We received the neccessary papers from the police and buried him an hour ago."

It is just a heartbreaking circumstance...another update from today:

"Sad, sad day here. It's the first day of school since Prof. Joslins death. We had an assembly with all of the students, staff and teachers. He was well liked and had a good testimony for Christ."

Please, please pray for the Bowers & their ministry. Also for all of those involved in the school. God has a purpose in this, just ask Him to do a work through this tragedy. I really appreciate your prayers & I know the Bowers are grateful for them as well. 

((Update!! November 16th))
A few more urgent updates from the Bowers:

"We are all safe and at home. The riots in Cap Haitian are aimed at the UN. The UN is being blamed for bringing Cholera into Haiti. The epidemic has spread even to where we are and bodies are being dumped without proper burials The embassy has told all foreigners to stay at home and that's what we will be doing."

and from this morning...

"More burning of tires and the road is cut in town. About two miles from our house. Everyone is warning us to stay inside. We are fine. The cholera panic has hit. Please pray that we can get more jif(water purifying chloro) we have purified drinking water but our neighbors do not and need the drops. We have a half gallon left to give out."

Please be in prayer for Haiti & for the Bowers. This is an extremely desperate situation.

Nov 2, 2010

The Love of the Father: Part 1

Have you thought lately about your relationship with God as your Father lately? 
I don't mean just a casual knowledge that God is your heavenly Father; we all know that that is the relationship we have been given through Christ, but do we really comprehend it? I know I don't. 

When you think of the words "Heavenly Father," what do you think of? Do you immediately think of the attributes of God that He has laid out for us so clearly throughout His word? His goodness, holiness, mercy, steadfast love, protection, & provision? Or is there a disconnect between what you know & what you actually believe? AW Tozer said that "your view of God is the most important thing about you." Do you truly view God as your perfect, loving Heavenly Father, or do you feel like He has forgotten about you? The Lord has been bringing these questions & others back to me over & over this semester, and I am admittedly still working through everything that He's trying to teach me. But I just wanted to share what He has taught me so far. 

I'll admit it; one of the biggest things that I struggle with in my relationship with the Lord is truly comprehending that He loves me unconditionally. I didn't use to struggle with this at all. I heard it all my life, & I honestly didn't think I was that bad of a person, but the more I understand my own sin nature & the more I see how short I fall of righteousness, the more easily doubt creeps into my heart. I didn't recognize it until early this semester when I was in Hebrews 12 & Psalm 103 in my devotions. Although it wasn't a "lightbulb" moment, it started the ball rolling on understanding what was going on in my heart & in my view of God. Of course I know that God loves me more than anyone else does & that His love is unconditional, but that knowledge hadn't really, truly sunk into my heart. Deep down, I felt like I still had to earn it. It seems SO silly, because obviously I am a sinner. I could never, ever earn the kind of love that God gave to me when I accepted His gift of salvation & was made His child. But it's so easy to fall into the trap of feeling the need to do things to somehow earn God's favor; I mean after all, isn't that how it generally works in our human society? We have to do things, or act a certain way, & perform well to gain acceptance, a position, our grades, and even love. That's just the way we naturally think: I have to do _____ so that in return,  I will gain ______. But the cool thing is, God has completely gone against every one of our socially shaped expectations of "earning." Let's take a look at some examples:

In our world, you have to be a friend to have a friend.
But God has said, "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us & sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins....We love Him because He first loved us." (1 John 4:10&19)
"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. " (Romans 5:6-10)

In our world, you must be faithful, (whether it be on the job, in a relationship, or any other area of life), in order to gain trust & eventually earn reward for your faithfulness. 
But God's word has said, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself."   (2 Timothy 2:13)

Are you beginning to grasp how incredibly un-human God is? His rules for relationships are so opposite of what we're used to...thankfully! We don't have to earn His love. We don't have to worry that God will forsake us when we are faithless; did you catch the end of 2 Timothy 2:13? He cannot deny Himself. We have been redeemed the blood of Christ. Ok, you may still be thinking "I don't get it...what does God saying He cannot deny Himself have to do with me?" Here are some verses from Ephesians two that may help clear up the confusion: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." (verses 13-16) 

Pretty sweet concept there! If you have accepted the gift of salvation that Christ made possible through His death on the cross, then you have been made one with God. He sent His Son to die so that you would know His love! I know this is the whole foundation of the gospel, but it is so easy to lose sight of the truth. It is so easy to start thinking that God gives favor based on what we do or don't do, but that is such a lie. I heard a quote during Sunday school that past week that really hit home. John Owen said "The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that He loves you.” 

Are you convinced of your Heavenly Father's love for you? Really think & pray about it this week. Is there any area of your life where you're living like you believe God's faithfulness & favor is dependent on your performance? Focus on truth! God has really been teaching me SO much in this area, that I won't try to cram it all into one post, but I hope to post again soon to continue sharing. =) Thanks for stopping by & I hope that you are blessed & comforted by the reality of our Heavenly Father's perfect, steadfast love.

Oct 16, 2010

What's up

Hey ya'll! Well, by God's grace I made it through another week =) Woot woot!
Now I'm just sitting at work; 3 hours down, 5 to go! The Lord provided a job working at the switchboard here at school. It isn't usually busy during the hours I work, so I have plenty of time to catch up on homework....and blogging =)
These past few weeks have been really, REALLY busy, but there have been some really good things too.
Ashlee, one of my best friends from California came for a visit! I hadn't seen her since the end of May, & she stayed in my dorm room for the 3 days she was here, so that was a blast!

We went & hung out it Jen's room for a while, decorated a cake, laughed lots. It was so much fun & ended MUCH too soon. But I get to visit her in Cali in January, so I'm looking forward to that!

Then last Friday, we had Artist Series here with Dr. Gilliam & Dr. Renfrow from Bob Jone University. Dr. Gilliam is a singer with an AMAZING voice & Dr. Renfrow is an absolutely incredible pianist. It was a lot of fun to get all fancied up & get to listen to them both. I went with  my good friend, Jacob, who also happens to be hilarious, so we had a great time =)

Me & Juli...Aka, Velma & Daphne =)

This week was Spirit Week, which is always a little crazy here at Northland. Monday was dress up like your favorite cartoon character; Tuesday was Room Theme; Wednesday was Hospital Day; Thursday was Mailman Day; and Friday was Northland Wear. It was so much fun!
Me & my awesome roomie Sara=NERDS =)

All in all it was a great week; super busy, but great. That's all I have time for now, but hopefully I can update you all on more later. Have a great weekend!

Sep 22, 2010

Hello, My Name is Martha!

Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Have you ever been in a place where you feel like the busier & more scheduled you are, the more you are spending your time wisely & honoring God? Are you one of those people that has a hard time sitting still & just resting because you feel lazy? I am guilty of both charges. A professor here at Northland calls it "The Busy Badge of Honor." Dr. Fellars spoke on this topic last spring (you can hear the message here, I highly recommend it!), but I hadn't really thought about it too much until this semester. Those of you in college understand how hectic & impossible the schedule can get; for me there are almost no free moments from the time I get up at 6 am until I go to bed at midnight...or later if there's homework. Between the 6 classes I have back to back on Tuesday & Thursday, 2-3 classes each Monday, Wednesday, & Friday; piles of homework; 10 hours of music practice per week; work study; weekend church extension, & other responsibilities, I felt burnt out. I hit a wall last week. Although I was doing my devotions & praying each morning, & sitting under AMAZING preaching of God's word each morning in chapel, I felt SO dry spiritually. I didn't understand!! What am I doing wrong?!! ...doing, doing, doing, doing.....& doing some more. I was so focused on what I needed to get done, how well I was doing it, what I needed to do  next, that I had compartmentalized my relationship with the Lord into those moments I spent with Him in the morning. And let me tell you, if you are just "devoted" from 7-8 in the morning & then go the rest of the 16-18 hours you spend awake without being aware of the fact that God is your strength & without him you can do nothing, you WILL hit a wall. And I did...big time. I was never available for my friends & fellow classmates when they needed me, I was exhausted, considering dropping the extra class I had taken on, I was crying almost every day. Not a fun place to be. Then the Lord did what He always does & gave me just what I needed to hear.

Last Wednesday night, Coach Wehry spoke in campus church on the Lord's strength. More specifically, the Lord is our strength. Every Wednesday at campus church, Coach Wehry picks an attribute of God & we sing songs focusing on that particular attribute & then go around the room & many students read a verse or two about that attribute. It is an incredible blessing each time, but last week it was more. Coach gave a short challenge about how each of us need to rely on the Lord's strength for each avenue of our daily life. It isn't just for when "big" trials come. I know that I sometimes find myself believing the lie that God doesn't want to be bothered with the little things. SO not true!

 Psalm 68:19 says "Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation". Notice, it doesn't say, blessed be the Lord, who sometimes bears us up when he feels like it. Or, who bears us up when we have something really bad happen, but otherwise, you're on your own! Nope---Daily. Psalm 28:7 "The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him." I was so exhausted & spiritually dry because I was trying to be good enough on my own & accomplish everything in my own strength. (P.S. We'll talk about the whole "trying to be good enough" thing soon too....didn't turn out so hot! Lol. But I learned another big lesson =). Jesus even says in John  15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." Did you catch that last part? N O T H I N G. When you picture a vine, that is where the fruit gets all of its nourishment. It is constantly connected; the fruit doesn't just fall to the ground to do its own thing & then come back onto the vine when it needs nutrients. If the fruit falls away, it shrivels up & dies....which I think we all can agree that this is a fate most of us would like to avoid =)

 So to summarize; I'm not telling you to drop all of your responsibilities & just be still & sit around all the time, not at all! What I am telling you is this; rely on the Lord's strength. Prioritize what's important & always be mindful of His presence in whatever you are doing. Homework, talking with a friend, anything. Be open for the Lord's use & be willing to stop what you're doing to just be still & know that He is God. One last thing for all of you Bible College students out there; don't get so busy preparing for ministry that you miss opportunities to minister now. The Lord will give you opportunities to share the love of Christ & be selfless in sacrificing your precious studying time. I know it's hard, but it is SO worth it. Be a Mary, not a Martha =)   

Sep 8, 2010

What in the World?!

Okay, I know I've been back for 3 weeks & have only posted about the first 2 days of my trip. I also started a new semester of college & have yet to share a peep about it. I'm sorry, I really am. Truth is, I am absolutely swamped right now in just about every area of my life. The Lord is stretching me & growing me & hopefully I will find a few moments to update ya'll on my life, but I really just want to ask for prayer right now. Please pray that my focus will be on the Cross. There are struggles that are surfacing that I honestly do not have the strength to deal with right now, so I need the Lord's help, & I need the prayers of my family in Christ =) It's not all stressful though; there are some extremely exciting things going on in my life & around campus that i cannot WAIT to share with you.  Thanks for stopping by! Sorry for being a bad blogger. Haha! Hope you all have a fantastic week.

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Aug 25, 2010

Haiti Trip: The Experience

So I've been back from Haiti for exactly a week now & I still feel like I haven't even begun to process everything. It was an amazing, intense, challenging, heartbreaking, encouraging, stretching, & overall CRAZY week. The Lord taught me so much, & as I said, I'm still sorting through a lot of things that I saw, experienced, & learned throughout the week. Instead of trying to cram everything into one post, I'm going to break it into at least...8? Haha! jk. But I am going to break it up: the first several posts will be about the actual experience. What we did, where we went, what we ate...etc =) The final post I am hoping to sum up & express what the Lord did in my heart over the course of the trip. First of all, I want to thank everybody for your prayers & encouragement; there were times that I was nervous, or just doubtful about my decision to go, & I'm so thankful for everybody that supported me. You guys are the best =)

Shall we start at the beginning? Lol. I say yes, so starting with Day 1: August 9th...

Started out dark, & insanely early with a 2 am wake up call & 2 1/2 hour drive to the airport in Minneapolis. My flight didn't leave until 6:45, so I took the extra time to do devotions. I was so encouraged as I read through Ephesians that morning sitting alone in the airport. I have to admit that though I was excited & I love to travel, I was definitely nervous about going to a 3rd world country with 11 other people I had never met, to live with missionaries I had also never met. The Lord just used that passage & his Holy Spirit to really calm me & reassure me that this trip was part of His plan for my summer. My flights went well, although no day of travel is complete without a nice sprint through the airport to catch a connecting flight. Lol! I made it to West Palm Beach, Florida around 2 o'clock & met Dave & Carol Jean, the couple who organized the whole trip. I had nothing to worry about because they are both incredibly sweet & fun people! Carol Jean is the sister of the missionaries that we went to help in Haiti. We met the rest of the group (all AWESOME people), grabbed food, made several Walmart trips (I forgot tennis shoes...dumb. Haha!), & finally got to bed in the hotel around 1 am. Long day...

Day 2:
Again, started out dark & early! Lol....noticing a pattern yet? =)
Our group met for breakfast at 5 am in the hotel lobby & then set off to Missionary Flights International in Fort Pierce. If you have never heard of MFI, I encourage you to check them out; they are awesome! So we weighed all of our luggage & set off on our adventure. Let me tell you, flying over the ocean at sunrise was one of the most incredibly beautiful things I have ever seen. I got some great pictures, but....well, I'll save that sad story for later. Lol. We made a short stop in the Bahamas to refuel after about 3 hours in the air & then landed in Haiti about 45 minutes later. We landed in Cap Haitian, which is the second largest city in Haiti with Port au Prince being the largest. The airport was...well, I'll just say the airport was an experience in & of itself. Haha! It was maybe the size of a large garage & about that nice....& dirty. We shipped over A TON of supplies: food, soccer uniforms, balls, school stuff, crafts for the girls, materials for soccer goals, & other various things that the Bowers needed. The Haitian customs system is very corrupt...well, let me just make it clear now that the whole country is extremely corrupt on every level. More about that & the reason for it later...back to the story! =) Tim Bower has to go into a small room & "negotiate" with the Haitian authorities in order to be able to take our luggage.In other words, it required a bribe. Then, the airport staff went through all of the boxes. Thankfully, they didn't take anything, but in the past they have taken things right in front of the owners. There's not really anything you can do if they decide they want to keep something they see. After waiting quite a while to get everything sorted out, we made our way out to the bus. There was a large group of Haitian men lined on both sides of the walkway outside of the airport. I guess they wait there almost every day hoping for some rich tourists to come through. My first couple of steps outside of the airport, I was grabbed  by a Haitian man waiting on the walkway. I don't know how serious he was, but I just jerked my arm away & thought "oh boy...this is going to be an adventure!" Lol. After we got the bus loaded, our next goal was to go to the market for rice, sugar, & a machete or two. For being the second largest city of the country, Cap Haitian is VERY poor.
The roads, although paved at one time, are now just chunks of cement among dirt  paths. I didn't see a single divider, traffic sign, or anything of the sort the entire time we were there. The river is a murky brown that is lined with garbage. If you have ever seen pictures of India, that would be the most similar place I could compare it to. As we drove through town, there were men emptying the sewage right onto the street. When we arrived in the market, it reminded me a lot of the open air market we visited in Peru, except it was crammed into a stuffy building with too many people trying to get where they needed to go. I was thankful that Dave had made us all wear tennis shoes that day because to use his words,  there were A LOT of puddles & none of it was water...ewwwwy! All of those people milling about & all of the booths spilling over with stuff created mass chaos. Our group of 14 plus Tim Bower & 2 of his kids got separated more than once. I had one guy in particular from our group that was doing his best to stick close & make sure nothing happened to me, but it was hard to stay together while there were people trying to get our attention & push their way through the market. It was about 3 pm, none of us had eaten since breakfast, but we soon lost our appetite as we passed through the meat section; goats meat was covered with flies & green spots; the fish was rotting; goat hooves littered the puddled ground. Small children ran around by themselves trying to sell small, dried fish. All of the sights, smells, & craziness was overwhelming. But the thing that really got to me was the look of hopelessness in the eyes of the Haitians. They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, & there was just no hope. I don't know how else I can describe it, but it was heartbreaking. As we exited the building & entered a side street, our group got separated again. About 9 of them were 20 feet ahead of me, separated by a large group of Haitians. All of them trying to get our attention; they call white people "blancs" over there. Lol! I was trying to catch up with them & stay with my "body guard" Jon, but somehow he got stuck about 10 feet behind me for a few seconds & another Haitian man grabbed my wrist. I again jerked away & thankfully Jon caught up, but I was getting frustrated of having a big X on me just because I'm a white girl. Apparently in Haiti, the majority of guys have a fascination with white girls &...well I'm sure you can figure out the rest ;p

We made it safely back to the bus. The Bowers live up in the mountains, about 27 miles outside of Cap Haitian. Because of how bad the roads are, that 27 mile drive takes 3 hours!! But the mountains are absolutely gorgeous! Once we were outside of the city, it changed into the most beautiful place I have ever been, but marred with poverty. The landscape is dotted by shacks & huts made out of scrap metal, or plants from the jungle. Small children wearing rags could be seen walking around by themselves. Women were out doing laundry in a small basin with a rock, or carrying a heavy load on top of their head. After an EXTREMELY bumpy ride, we finally arrived at the Bowers at around 9:30. Our first thought was--DINNER! We still hadn't eaten since breakfast, & the long trip up the mountain restored our appetites. After dinner we received some general guidelines & instructions from the Bowers, sorted out our luggage & sleeping arrangements, & then finally hit the hay around midnight...

Stay tuned for the rest of the trip =)

Aug 19, 2010

To Know You

To know You is never worry for my life, and 
To know You is to never to give in or compromise 
To know You is to want to tell the world about you 
Cause I can't live without You 

To know You is to hear your voice when you are calling 
To know You is to catch my brother when he is falling 
To know You is to feel the pain of the broken hearted 
Cause they can't live with out You. 

More than my next breath 
More than life or death 
All reaching for, I live my life to know You more 
I leave it all behind, You are all that satisfies 
To know You is to want to know You more 

To know You is to ache for more than ordinary 
To know You is to look beyond the temporary 
To know You is believing that you will be enough 
Cause there is no life without You 

All this life could offer me, could not compare to You 
Compare to You 
And I count it all as lost, compared to knowing You 
Knowing You 

More than my next breath 
More than life or death 
All I'm reaching for, I live my life to know You more 
I leave it all behind, You are all that satisfies 
To know you is to want to know You more 
To know you is to want to know You more 

And I count it all as lost, compared to knowing You 
Knowing You 
And I count it all as lost, compared to knowing You 
Knowing You 

~Casting Crowns

Philippians 3:7-11
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.