T H Y W I L L B E D O N E

Bright eyed, bushy tailed, second cup of coffee in hand, I thought it was about time to put my thoughts to paper (figuratively of course). The first couple weeks of senior year classes have come and gone and I’ll tell ya, I’ve been invested in anything but. Binge watching The Office, making coffee date after coffee date, and spending time with my sweet roommates have caught my attention. BUT I’m guessing I’ll remember those memories more than I’ll remember Darwin’s famous publishing, “On the Origin of Species” from December 1859 (Sorry Prof. O’Brien).

As every year always does, the hype of newness seems to ware and responsibility and anxiety set in. With that being said, this week has sucked.

I got back a grade on an exam that I wasn’t happy with and I feel like I have no desire to dedicate myself this semester. I’ve been debating if I’m actually going to pursue a seminary or not, which has led to a lot of headaches and a lot of ugly-crying breakdowns. I question friendships and relationships and I’ve been dealing with a lot of sin and shame that keeps finding it’s way back into my soul. I just felt really in the dark, and filled with Satan’s lies.

I think the worst part about this feeling in the pit of my vulnerability is that I know the answer to what makes it go away.. Or at least I think I do.

I know to be patient, that God is working in HIS time. I know that I can leave all of my sin and shame at the cross to truly feel set free. I know that healing comes from finding the root of the sin that is weighing me to this world and asking God to cleanse me from that darkness. I know that grace is found through vulnerability and honesty. And it seemed like the more I asked to be set free, the more I got into scripture, the more I suffered in my pain, the further I felt from salvation.

I thought the way to feel free was by living through the advice I have given someone who felt pretty broken in the past. By assuming that if I said the words in a prayer, or if I really thought hard enough about the words, that God would answer. If I got into the Bible enough, there would be a hidden message placed in the right spot at the right time. That I would finally let go of what was keeping me hostage.

Truthfully, I thought that this feeling would come and go and I could use it as a learning curve for someone else another time. But the truth is, while I’m writing this, I still feel super broken.

And the more I talk to people, the more realize that this is a super common thing. There have been so many times in the last couple weeks that I have cried out to God asking, “What are you doing? That is not the way I had planned. Why are you changing everything now? Why are you doing this to me?”. And the more I talk to my brothers and sisters in Christ the more I feel reassured in the truth that there is a lot that we don’t know about our father. That there is a lot about His plans that sometimes we just can’t see in advance. And y’all, that’s hard.

In Mark chapter 10, a blind man named Bartimaeus sat beside the road — as he normally did — when he heard a commotion. He soon discovered the large crowd of people following Jesus. And they were all headed his way.

Bartimaeus had no idea what was going to happen. Having no sight, he could have felt threatened and anxious, fearful the crowd might trample him. He could have been concerned he’d be unnoticed and overlooked, yet again. Instead, he focused on what he could see with his heart rather than what he was unable to see with his eyes.

Pause: A blind man, with realistic worries left entered into vulnerability so that he might have the honor of meeting a man named Jesus. A man who Bartimaeus had no proof of being the true king that may bring salvation, but relied solely on his faith.

He excitedly began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47b, NIV)

When the people yelled at him to be quiet, he refused and continued to shout, saying, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10: 48b)

His shouting pricked Jesus’ ears.

Jesus stood still, and asked someone to bring the blind man to him. The Bible says Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up and headed straight toward Jesus. (Mark 10:50)

It’s okay to struggle with being patient, or to catch yourself falling back into the same sin you’ve struggled with for a while. The thing is, we’re human. We fall into sin and shame over and over and over again. It’s not about having it all together, or knowing what’s coming next. It’s okay if you feel disconnected, lost, and broken. Faith is about choosing to follow Jesus rather than let our blindness keep us paralyzed in anxiousness and pessimism. Just like the blind man, when we choose to follow Jesus’ voice, to trust that He has a greater plan in store for our lives, our faith can be life-changing, helping us discover peace and a path we never would have known to be so good.

If you’re feeling like me, I pray that you and I can find faith like Bartimaeus. I pray that you feel reassured that you’re not alone in your brokenness, and I pray that we find peace and hope throughout our week to come. I pray for the strength to live by faith even when we cannot see what is ahead.

Matthew 6: “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “Pray then in this way: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. 10  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11  Give us this day our daily bread. 12  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13  And lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen. 

 

Advertisements

Be Still – To Surrender.

Not sure how but summer is over and my last first day has come and gone. With all of the traveling and packed schedules I almost forgot what it was like to be home with nothing to do with myself. My last couple weeks have been full of missing Lawton and Hungary while flipping through memories held on my camera and stories shared with familiar faces back home. Netflix binges, days on the lake, eating lots of food that is NOT good for me, and soaking up all of the careless time with some of the sweetest in my life. Slowing down has also introduced me to some uncomfortable face-to-face time with God. While I spent the summer working in various ministries, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s really easy to neglect my personal relationship with God in the midst of movement.

As I’ve had a lot of time to myself, I decided to start one of my “interested but hold off till I have more time” books. Jenny Allen is one of my favorite Christian authors and speakers and wrote a book called “Anything”. It’s an intriguing and satisfying read that challenges what we think we know about God and then also how a new perspective can unlock our souls to a whole new relationship. I can say that I get so much out of this book that I can only read a chapter a day. Somehow this genius of a writer challenges me in a new way, with hundreds of possibilities to authentically deepen my connection with Christ chapter by chapter. This morning I read a sliver called “Inside Anchors”. Jenny writes,

“Often when I go to be alone with God- to really meet God, not just say a quick prayer or read some verses- I feel as if I can’t. I feel as though I would rather be anywhere but there. And I think other people feel that way too. I know good and well that God sees my sin, my junk, and that is not comfortable or easy to reconcile. So often I will say a prayer or read a devo and go along my way. And inside I feel like I am like King David in the Bible, after he had committed adultery and murder: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me” (Ps. 32:3-4). Even our bones hurt from the weight of our sin.”

As I kept reading the chapter I began to feel more and more at home. I think about the place I’m currently at with God. I notice that there is an absence when I go to meet with him in intentional silence. There is a longing to feel full of his grace but just can’t seem to find exactly where to go to receive it. A pull when I talk about faith and try to teach about his goodness. There’s a sense of weight that keeps me grounded from an authentically raw relationship with the one that knows my heart and deserves all my adoration. It’s a place where I know I will be uncomfortable and ashamed because I will be confronted with how hopeless I am apart from Jesus. I will be faced with truth that where I should feel a state of grace, I feel embarrassment. I’ll have to admit that I am just as broken as every other person. That my sin is embedded in the comfort of upkeep of my ego and face.

You would think that as everyone moved home from their summer adventures and classes and activities started up again I would be busy. That I would begin to move in a fast-forward motion once more. But there has been a longing inside, this week, to be still – to surrender. Among the distraction and the pace of a hectic season of life, God has been pulling me to reveal my broken pieces. To allow the weight of sin and shame to be left at the cross. To begin a year of devoted time spent glorifying God and simply spending more time in His word.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10) has a much deeper meaning for me now. Be still, really-intentionally still, and know that no sin is unforgivable or too embarrassing to reveal. Know that no matter how many times you fall, He will always be there to pick you up. Know that in the midst of silence and questioning, He is still for you and with you, always.

 

 

Our God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6–7)

Hungary, Here I Come! 

I have my chacos on, passport packed, and I’m ready to go! I’m off to continue my summer adventures but this time internationally. I’m on my way to Hungary! After weeks and weeks of waiting the time has finally come to take a couple (three very very long) flights to leave our sweet country for the first time.
A few short months ago I was approached by a woman who works as to Associate Regional Minister of the Christian Church in the Upper Midwest. She was offered a chance to nominate a candidate from her region to be a representative at the Starpoint Festival in Debrecen, Hungary this coming week. I’m thankful that she thought I’d have some fun stirring up some international trouble for a couple weeks. While I don’t have much information about what exactly I’m getting myself into, I do know that this Festival will offer worship, studies, and mission projects for international guests that are centered around controversial topics, action, and hope. After the festival a small group of us (meaning strangers I haven’t met yet) will take about a week to travel all around Hungary. Throughout this time we’ll hang out with people from all of the world, go sightseeing, go to The Great Church, worship, go to cultural programs, go to famous cities and popular tourist sites, and of course all of the things I don’t know yet!

Sitting in the Chicago airport headed to Zurich I was reading an article called “How Jesus Found Dory”. If you’ve ever seen the movie called Finding Dory you know exactly where this is going but if not.. Finding Dory is a Disney movie about how a fish named Dory (the Dory from Finding Nemo) finds her parents after years of searching for them with memory loss. This article speaks to people who have felt pretty lost in their faith and how we as god’s children can find Jesus in our everyday lives. While I have a pretty loyal relationship with God, I have been in a season of a struggle with pursuit in the last couple weeks. I’m praying as I arrive in Hungary that I meet more of god’s children and more of his creation. That I find Jesus everywhere I look. I pray that I can make relationships and learn from people of different cultures. I pray that I hear stories of God at work all over this world. But most of all I’m praying that I can intentionally be with God this week. God bless you, and prayers that you too feel God at work in your life this week.

Matthew 7:8 
For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

We are crowned with JOY.

2 Corinthians 4 – 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

This week I have been so blessed to spend a couple days at home with the sweetest people. As many of you know I spent my little holiday turning 21, and was surprised by being able to see so many of my sweet friends. After a long week of traveling and celebrating I have been on the road again, but this time to Indianapolis! The Disciples of Christ are hosting a general assembly where we focus on worship, stories, educational resources, conversations, messages, and connections. Pretty much a fun get together where we study leadership and outreach, worship with one another, and have some very exciting meetings to vote on new business (please tell me you could sense the sarcasm). Following a couple of days in Indiana I’ll go back to Oklahoma, then to Hungary, then back to Oklahoma, and then home for the school year. While that may sound hectic, I feel as though this summer is scurrying by faster than I can keep up. After several loads of laundry, 30 hectic minutes of packing, various hard goodbyes, and a seven hour drive, I can’t help but think about how stinkin’ good our sweet father is.

My last week in Lawton was spent worrying about flying by myself, how to prepare for Hungary, and how I was going to spend my week at home. Many moments spent in pure anxiety because all of a sudden my simple little world was out of my control. Sheila, my host mom for the summer, walked me through the airport and told me exactly where to go and what I would need to do as we approached security (Just a quick note reminding you I’ve been living on my own since I was 17, and I still needed my “mom” to walk me through the airport). Following security checks, I entered a room with two different gate numbers. Panic quickly permeated my body as I couldn’t find which gate I needed to go to on my ticket, there were no signs, and I was LOST. By the grace of God, Nydia, a middle-aged woman held a very confident demeanor, but also looked like the mom- type who would know by the look on my face that I was in deep need of help. I turned to her desperate for answers and before I could say a word she asked if it was my first time flying. If you have ever been to the Lawton airport or if you know anything about small airports at all, you’d know that after the security check anyone can sit anywhere in that room, as we’re all going on the same flight. So, if you’re laughing at me at this point, I don’t blame you. Anyway, she assured me I wasn’t the first to be confused about things such as Lawton’s gate numbers (still not sure if that was true or if she was just trying to make me feel better). Nydia told me that we would have to wait another half an hour until we could board so just like any good mom-type would, she entertained this lost kid until we were able to board. She told me all about her childhood in New York and how she got involved in the military. She told me about her husband, their 38 years of marriage, and their three children. She told me about her father-in-law who just passed away in Puerto Rico, and she is still grieving with his death. How her mother-in-law still lives there and even after 93 years of age she spends her days walking to the grocery store and making meals for herself and washes her laundry by hand. Nydia told me about her experience with marriage and advice to me for how she and her husband have stayed happy after years together. After we got off the plane in Dallas, Nydia showed me how to look for my gate number, what transit to catch, things that I would have been so lost without her guidance. She finally told me she had to make her way to her gate as her plane was about to fly out in 20 minutes and she was across the airport. I was shocked that she had spent all that time helping me find where I needed to go when she had such little time for herself, and she simply just said “what are friends for”. After exchanging numbers and making plans to grab dinner once we both made our way back to Lawton, Nydia was off!

The next flight was from Dallas to Chicago, the longest flight of the three. I was most excited about this flight because each seat was supposed to have their own individual tv screen to fly to. Well, as life has it, this plane had to be taken in for maintenance and we got to board an older model. Now I’m usually one that can sit down with a book and be perfectly content for hours and hours, but, this day was not one of those days. And thankfully I was greeted by a man sitting in the center of the three seats in my aisle with a gracious smile. Cody was originally supposed to sit in an aisle seat three rows up. However, he gave up his seat to a little girl so she could sit with her two friends. Now, Cody wasn’t a little guy by any means. He was a biker man who was easily 6ft and pure muscle. And even though he gave up his nice seat for a small little center seat, he still greeted me with a smile. The entirety of my flight was spent laughing and pondering worldly thoughts with sweet Cody, all the way to the windy city. Cody told me the trip he was taking to Wisconsin was for work, however, he was very excited to spend his nights roaming the city for good pubs. He told me about growing up in Reno but currently living in Tennessee. Cody works for Walmart and holds random construction jobs through his city. He loves playing on his pool league and recently won a state championship. Cody told me all about his plans for an upcoming vacation to Honolulu Hawaii in August and will spend his time biking on his Harley, hiking mountains, and visiting waterfalls. He told me all about his best friends little girl that has severe down syndrome, that inspired him to fundraise $3,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network in one day alone. We laughed about the shows we both love and ended up annoying the people around us with our outbursts of laughter. We ended our plane trip by Cody asking if he could pray for me and my trip to Hungary. He asked me to please stay safe in Europe and said I would be in his thoughts.

Thanks to Jesus, I’ve spent my life surrounded with some of the best company, unexpected fellowship, friends and family that have celebrated and encouraged me in all that I do and all that I want out of life. I’ve felt so incredibly blessed to live the life I do, with the best people. This last week I was fortunate enough to celebrate my 21st birthday with some of that company. Now, if you have a summer birthday (especially close to a holiday) you have simply come to terms with the fact that your birthday just isn’t fun. But I decided I was going to make the day the best I possibly could. I had the privilege of teaching at First Christian in Cedar Falls, then went out to lunch with my family. Due to my grandpa having some health issues he couldn’t make it to lunch so we decided to celebrate with cake out at his house. Thinking nothing of it I made my way home with Calvin, simply thinking I was going to celebrate with a few friends. When I got home I was astonished by THE BEST BIRTHDAY surprise a July baby could ever ask for! I was gifted with a surprise party where friends came from far and wide just to see me. While I’ve felt SO blessed within my life, I felt extra blessed that day knowing I had people who are so for me. My sweet friends had been planning this party for months, all because they love me so. Wow, God is so good and I’m so fortunate he blessed my life with the greatest people.

This last week on vacation, meaning the moment I left security at the airport, up until the moment I’ve been writing this, God has crowned my life with joy. Attending General Assembly as opened my eyes to the Disciples commitment to our covenant of peace, justice, and love, to learn about our duty to support and love one another. This conference has me thinking about all of the different ways I have felt absolutely inspired to seek how god works within the ministries I get the opportunity to see on a daily basis or even hear about in people’s stories. It has given me a chance to see how we as brothers and sisters in Christ do have every opportunity to take care of those around us, of seeking justice for the oppressed, to rise up with our neighbors and to answer the challenge to seek unity and compassion in this world. It made me think about why I am involved in ministry, why I choose to write here every week. The purpose of this blog is to show whoever stumbles across a post that GOD shows up in a fragmented world with joy. And I hope you can see by a short story of one little week in my 21 years of life, he has crowned my life with that promise. God says in 2 Corinthians 4 “8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.” If there is one hope I have for this world, it’s that we as humans can acknowledge that this life is hard but we are capable, in all walks of life, to stand up to the detrimental to say there is no darkness that our God cannot bring light. If we can intentionally seek joy from our father, we can prove that his love and light fully counterman all injustice and all discrimination and all prejudices. All stereotypes, all bullies, all accusers, all evil. God is peace, God is hope, God is salt, and God is alive. And God is working. God crowns us with joy. And my story is just a little remnant of Him working to heal a fragmented world.

 

What’s yours?

GOD provides.

There is something about the unknown that can change my greatest moods to a season of anxiety.

Tomorrow I begin my crazy traveling schedule by flying back home to Iowa for my 21st birthday! I’ll then head from Iowa to Indiana, back to Oklahoma, then to Hungary. Then from Hungary back to Oklahoma, then back home to Iowa for school! (deep breath)

As my last couple days in Oklahoma have come to a close I’ve been busy keeping up with the Agape ministries, Home At Last, Vacation Bible School, I had the awesome opportunity to teach last Sunday, and finally contacting the organization Global Ministries getting things ready for my trip to Hungary. Not only have I never traveled out of the country before, but I actually have never flown anywhere by myself. While I feel confident enough to travel as a single female alone across the world, I feel less confident in my sense of direction. Ask any member of my family, and they’ll tell you, I seem to be directionally challenged. People have been trying to prepare me for all of the to-dos before, processes, and procedures to flying and it seems to make me more and more anxious. Alongside never traveling by myself before, I truly have no idea where these travels necessarily lead me. And before you say it, yes, I signed up for a mission trip that I still don’t fully know what or where it entails yet. But hang on…

The more I understand that I have no idea what I am getting myself into, the more concern and agitation weighs on my heart. It seems like the older I get, the less I know, and the more I crave an insight on what the future holds. It seems effortless for anxiety to creep in at the worst times.

I noticed this became more apparent as I began trying to decide where to go to Seminary. There’s always so many factors and components when considering where to serve. Distance, accessibility to a Disciple of Christ church, finances and scholarships, family’s health, an understanding that I’ll be spending years on my phone trying to keep up with all of the relationships I have (which I’m already horrible at), where my gifts can really be nurtured through different programs offered from certain schools, where I can be challenged, energized, tested, and shifted, etc.

The more I invest in being stretched and invited to be molded diversely, the more I feel lost in how to embrace what I’m learning and how to put it into action in other ministries. I worry often about not only what my future clerical ministry will entangle, but many of those “big life decisions”. Or at least what seems like a big life decision through this season.

This week has been so full of internal high-stress baggage, I felt like there was no comprehending exactly what was all impaling my brain. And while I was so discouraged that my final week in Oklahoma was being spent in internal exhaustion and discomfort, I found out a lot about myself and those that wrestle with these same struggles. It may sound peculiar, but I found an abundance of who God is and where I want my relationship with Him to lead.

One of my new year’s resolutions is to read the bible in a year, which I have already gotten behind in schedule (figures, huh?). BUT I think that’s just a simple God wink because, this week I was reading from the Gospel of Luke where Jesus is talking to his disciples and later other friends about the pharisees. So many people were scared to challenge their authority because they were scared they would be punished, even put to death for their defiance. People had culminating anxiety and stress about this because they were torn over wanting to worship God with all of their being, but terrified to be vulnerable to the government over that time. It is through this strife that Jesus calls His friends to reestablish their hierarchy of vitality of what their mind perceived to what their soul and heart desired. This chapter in Luke says:

22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[d] 26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;[e] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his[f] kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

You see, Jesus is writing it out plain and simple that we are so valuable to God. Jesus was right. Worrying about where to go to school, or traveling, or those “big life decisions”, whatever your season of life looks like, won’t add a single hour to our span of life. It will only derive us from the kingdom and the treasure that we’re truly seeking. While it’s effortless to forget our worth to our creator, that promise we hear over and over again never waivers. For me this week, it’s been as simple as a sign from a lesson at VBS, or a birthday lunch with friends, or even an “I’ve been there” assurance talks from good stinkin people that have reminded me that God takes care of us, that He loves us, and God is SO for us. He takes that time to assure us, the nurture us, and that overwhelmingly succeeds all of our worries or our stresses or our struggles.

By faith I know that God has placed special adventures in my life that in the moment, I may have no understanding of why they’re there, but then later understand that they have shaped me and molded me into a person I am proud to be. Thinking about Hungary, or where I’ll go to seminary, or even how I’ll introduce new ministries to tough destinations has led to a season of anxiety. BUT if there’s one thing I know to be true, it’s that God is so much better at planning out my life than I could ever aspire to. I know that through a relationship filled with a confident trust and faith, God WILL provide.

 

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. // Philippians 4: 6&7

 

 

 

 

Go tell it on the mountains

Go tell it on the mountains… That Jesus Christ DID rest.

One of my favorite places I have found in Lawton (besides all of the coffee shops) is Mount Scott. The mountain is on a wildlife refuge, and has views that are absolutely breathtaking and quite relaxing. There is something about going on top of a mountain, all by myself, after a busy week that suddenly and quietly removes all of the small burdens, accentuations, or anxieties I might have. I’d like to call myself a self-proclaimed nature & small-local-unique shops lover, but what that really means is that it doesn’t take a lot to knock my socks off. However, Mount Scott has a view like I’ve never seen before with a stillness that can calm any exasperation.

After three weeks of finding the right tempo of the town, I have finally found the greatest rehabilitation for my soul. In this day and age, the word rest is like Voldemort to the wizard world, he who shall not be named (S/O to my Harry Potter fans). A word that many of us dream of but never take the time to invest in. Whether that’s sleeping a mediocre amount of hours, taking time for the things that give us a sense of repair, spending time with God, or even just sitting in silence. Our bodies were made to rest but we often find ourselves filling our schedules until we overbook ourselves completely.

After taking heavy credit hours, working 30+ hours every week, leading studies for my college ministry and FCC in Cedar Falls this past semester I was overjoyed that summer break had arrived! Not because I don’t love all that I do back home, but I felt in need for a different outlook and overview. I was ready to work just one job, spend time with God, read some “for fun” books I’ve been saving ALL year, travel and see unique places, and to meet new people! As the first couple weeks of the summer had come and gone, I was beginning to feel just as drained as I was throughout the school year. I hadn’t been sleeping well and I was drinking pots of coffee, and something just felt off. I knew it that I wanted to be here, so it wasn’t a sense of regret or homesickness, I was just simply drained. And it was a phone call with Calvin that I realized how much I needed rest.

I was telling Calvin about a couple Sunday morning’s ago, I met a man named Michael. Michael is a kind man who loves steak, loves old western movies, and served as a medic in Afghanistan. When I came up to his table I asked him if I could join him for breakfast. Before the poor soul knew it I was making myself comfortable in one of the seats. After the first couple moments of awkward silence, I asked Michael about his life. Simple things like “What’s your name” “How long have you lived in Oklahoma” “How has your weekend been going”. I remember his face being confused. At first he was confused as to why I was asking him questions about his life, wanting to talk about his interests and hobbies. That night I went home thinking about why he looked so dazed and muddled. The next Wednesday I was delighted to see he had come back. After getting settled at his table I asked him how he was doing and he replied “so, so”. I said, oh come on, why only so, so? Then he said to me, “Because I’m homeless.” I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. How do you respond with a word of encouragement or positivity after you’ve been blatantly served a load of horrible truth? So I asked him the only questions I knew. “Have you been looking for work?” “Where do you go to sleep?” “What happened that got you into this predicament?” “Are you living in a safe area?” “How can we help?” After our long moment of what at first seemed like uncomfortable conversation, turned into a friendship and sadness that broke my heart. We never came up with a tremendous solution, he just simply ended the conversation by saying, “Thank you for asking” and heading home.

On that phone call with Calvin, I told him stories of the people I have met. The people that are working with nonprofits, the people in the congregation that are sweet as can be, the guys who come around every week just looking to volunteer. I told him all about the men and women I meet on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings and how badly I wish it was one of the easiest things in the world to provide for another person. How badly I wish I could walk into these ministries and have all the answers.

But the sad truth is, that’s not how it works.

And in those moments where we feel as though failure has overcome all of the ministries we’re a part of, scripture tells us we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5). Working in ministry, whatever that look like: whether it’s working in the church, or teaching in a high school, working in a bridal boutique, or in a factory. Ministry is wherever you are, wherever you go. As my sweet friend Sydney always says, “The orbit in between your two feet are your mission field”. And we have to realize that there are going to be days when we feel spent, and that’s okay. Throughout our lives we will constantly undergo new experiences that will stretch us, mold us, and form us into a new people. God says He is forming us in his time through scripture time and time again but He also talks quite a bit about how we must be able and willing to know when we need to take time to restore our souls. Alongside new adventures and vocations it is crucial to keep spiritually healthy in order to serve in new ministries, in order to serve God’s children, in order to take on new adventures God has in store for us.

I’ve been looking a lot at the lives of those in this community and felt so overwhelmed with the people in need, but also so humbled by the encouragement and strong faith of my brothers and sisters. I have found that it’s not selfish to take time for yourself, it’s encouraged. God says in Matthew 11: 28 & 29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Every Friday I spend my day in the mountains. I take a FULL day to hike up to the top and just sit there. Overlooking God’s breathtaking creation and I’m able to meet him up there, lose myself in awe, and be so filled with joy, peace, stillness, energy, and I am restored. 

Whatever that looks like for you, whether it’s being active out in nature, dancing to blaring music in your living room, having a binge night with your best friends.  Mark the time in your calendar in permanent marker. Ask someone to keep you accountable. Whatever it takes, the bottom line is that there is no guilt in resting. Go tell it on the mountains (or wherever your happy place is) that Jesus Christ DID rest, and we should too.

 

 

 

Home At Last.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been exposed to numerous outreach ministries at FCC, which I didn’t know could possibly fit into one organization alone. First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lawton is up to some UNBELIEVABLE things. Some of which being: feeding crowds of hungry people on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings called the Agape ministry, hosting families in the church’s facility for a week at a time while they are going through a rehabilitation program called Family Promise, hosting a community health clinic, and SO MUCH more!

One of my personal favorite unbelieveable things is the mission which my friends Alisa and Patty introduced me to called, Home At Last. With the help of a big crew of people Alisa and Patty work with a project geared towards creating living spaces for homeless veterans. Over the past couple weeks this amazing crew has been working on lots of jobs such as painting, tearing out bathrooms, putting up walls, tearing out the fireplace, and putting in new floors. ALL of which being done without air conditioning with 90-100° muggy weather. (We all sweat, make a mess, and laugh at ourselves a lot. It’s great!)

I’ll admit, before working in Lawton, I haven’t been too exposed to many outreach ministries. Outreach is defined as reaching out to others, or becoming involved in a community or effort. When an organization reaches out to citizens in a community to help them find food and shelter, this is an example of outreach. I’ve worked with a couple food pantries and I’ve donated items for Habitat for Humanity dedications but I’ve never worked hands on with direct outreach groups. I’ve never helped build houses where it was the only opportunity for people to get off the street, cooked meals for people who rely on that food source throughout their week to survive, or worked in a field where you see many men and women who have served our country but are now unable to support themselves so they resort to a tent under a bridge or a park bench after the sun goes down.

Home At Last has brought awareness to the community that there are many homeless veterans who are in need of assistance. Whether it is cutting drug use and addiction out of their lives, or flowing grace through the PTSD victims that struggle with trauma that has taken over every moment/occurrence/interaction of their lives. Maybe it’s simply putting a face to that homeless man or woman. Integrating them back into a community that for so long has found it easier to ignore the problem rather than embracing their brothers and sisters and filling them with grace and kindness. Home At Last is on a mission to bring humanity back to a community of people that are valuable.

It’s common for us to look for our value in what we choose to see in our everyday lives. Whether its how to be that hip mom who serves her kids all organic, healthy dinners, while working full time, who makes time for yoga class. Or that senior in college who has the cutest boyfriend, who is known for being an amazing athlete, and has over 1.8k followers on Instagram. Or that neighbor that always has their yard cut, hedges trimmed perfect, never a weed in their garden, who has dinner parties every Friday night with their friends. We are ALL guilty of looking to the people next to us, whatever it may look like in whatever season of our lives, to compare our own value. Don’t get me wrong, if you fit into one of those categories, you’re killing it. But what a lot of us tend to forget, is that we are not meant to be just like the person we are comparing ourselves to. We’re not meant to have the same skills, the same sense of humor, the same IQ, the same level of interpersonal skills. We were never formed to be identical or to “outdo” the people around us. We are made to celebrate our differences and to embrace and take care of one another because we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

We can find truth in scriptures such as Isaiah 13:12 where He says He has made us more precious than Gold. And not only can we find truth in scripture about how much worth we are to God but we can also know the truth that we are found equal in His eyes. While our society may tell us differently, we know the truth that He loves and adores us all equally. Every walk of life every, season of life, made equal. He says in Galatians 3:28 “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

And if there’s one thing I’ve been having to learn the hard way, it’s that while we have a lot of brokenness to deal with within ourselves, we CANNOT forget our brothers and sisters that we aren’t comparing ourselves to. Maybe those that are homeless, or struggling with addiction, or facing the trauma of a past life event. We cannot forget those that are struggling to find a meal for their children or shoes for their feet. We cannot forget those that are struggling to find water in this heat and shade from the hot sun. We cannot forget that Jesus didn’t hang out with the people that “had it all together” or even the people that would have made his life very comfortable and easy. He sat with the people that knew they were broken, who the community deemed broken. The prostitutes, the sick, the outcasts. The people who DO live on the streets, who ARE hungry, who are in NEED of salvation. And Jesus didn’t call us to just be amazed by his wonderous works, but to get up off our butts and to follow in his image. To be uncomfortable, to talk to strangers, to see how you can be of aid to people in need. It’s knowing that sometimes you’re going to swim oceans for people who wouldn’t even cross a bridge for you, but to love them anyway. He calls us to get up and go where people are suffering and to put a face to the broken, and to bring value back to people.

I’m amazed at the work Alisa, Patty, and so many more are doing in the mission field of Jesus Christ. I’m amazed by the love and kindness I see flowing through fellowship on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. And I pray that throughout my entire life I can be amazed and surrounded by those those being served and serving God’s people. For they have ignited a passion and desire in my heart to look past what I have always held my value to, and to look up to the one who deserves it. And most importantly, to share the good news that every single walk of life has SO much worth to our Father, and they have purpose for this world.

Ephesians 2: But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Clear the stage.

After a long, long week here in Oklahoma, I thought it was about time update my followers! (can I use that lingo if only my mom and grandma follow this?) I was pretty silent this week on my social medias and texting/calling/Facetiming people back because I wanted to take a week to completely immerse myself in the community I’ve been SO stinkin’ lucky to be a part of. Lawton, seriously, already has my heart. I’ve spent the week exploring the mountains and reserves that have taken my breath away. I’ve worked in the office getting to know the AMAZING staff and giving this summer a little bit of structure and objective. I’ve been working with the Agape meal ministries where the church prepares and serves meals to the community where all are welcome, but targets homeless individuals and families. I have been able to observe and be a part of the Sunday worship, which if you have never heard Reverend Brandon Johnson teach, put it on your bucket list. I’ve explored the coffee shops all around town, yep all of them, and you could say they passed the test. I’ve had the most eventful week, running around feeling a little bit like my head may explode trying to keep up, but I’ve never felt more at home.

Throughout the last couple months I’ve been talking to God quite a bit about the potential of this summer. Being a stranger in a community where you have no option to have any expectations is a very vulnerable and new experience for myself. Working at my home church has been SUCH a blessing but it has also given me a sense of comfort knowing the energy of the members and the atmousphere. And as much as a I hate to admit it, it’s also given me a sense of pride in the work the ministies I’m a part of have produced.

The song “Clear the Stage” is a brilliant song recorded by Jimmy Needham. The version that touched my heart was about the struggles of allowing worship to become something more than glory to the Lord but rather a chance to gain glory for ourselves. Inspirational lyrics that challenge you to clear the stage for the one who deserves it. To the one who gave up his life for everyone’s sins. To glorify the one who knows our hearts, our deepest desires. A challenge to take ourselves out of the spotlight for the one we are claiming to worship. Something I have found, being in a role of leadership, is that it is easy to allow my good works to become praise for myself rather than for God.

In the book of Luke, Jesus talks to a large crowd that had gathered to hear him. He says to them, “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Later, His disciples were just as confused as I was about what Jesus meant by this parable, and for that matter why he speaks in parables. He said, “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. 16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

You see, I can see that somewhere I have steered from the thing that got me into ministry throughout my time in leadership. Pretty ironic. There have been quite a few times where I’ve felt SO driven by the passion God has placed in my heart but have performed just like the seeds that were eaten up by birds, that were trampled on, and choked by thorns. I’ve looked to how others approach ministry and have shifted all my gifts to how I see them using theirs. I’ve shifted to others opinions, to try to live up to an expectation that isn’t anything that I’m capable of. I’ve been so far away from the “good soil” because I’ve made a lot about me rather than the good father that made all that I have, possible.

This song is a perfect reflection and straightfoward message that brought me back to the main purpose for the ministries I get to be a part of . This life is more valuable, more precious, worth more than anything we can imagine. And it’s all because of Jesus. And he deserves ALL of the glory we have to offer, all of the praises. Away from other’s approval, away from others applause. Jesus is our greatest treasure. A king who knows all that this life has in store for you, the good the bad and the ugly, and STILL wants to walk with you through ALL of it.

After watching this community for one week, seven days of seeing how God has blessed this congregation, I have seen genuine pursuit of God. I have listened to small groups of people craving inclusion, desiring empathy, thirsting for equality. I have heard men and women in all walks of life challenging one another to be on pursuit of MORE for the ministry of God. Never for recognition, never for the dreaded “numbers”, never for admiration. But simply because they want EVERYONE to know they are welcome to the table and to a relationship with our Father.

So this summer I aspire to build my life according to GOD’S PLAN. To pursue HIM, new, everyday. To glorify HIM every day through every work. And while I already know this is going to be something I’m going to have to put a lot of work into, I have the greatest people around to show me the way. By the end of the summer I know God is going to send me home with lots of stories, new insights and outlooks, and with a similar, but re-sculpted, heart. This summer I want to work to clear the stage.

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols.

Oklahoma, Okay.

Welcome, to my very first blog post of the summer! It’s my goal to try to keep up with the wonderful blessings this summer is going to bring by writing about what I see and the stories I hear. So, first and foremost, on Wednesday (two days from now) I’ll be heading down to Oklahoma from small town Iowa for the month of June. Then I’ll be back in Iowa for my 21st birthday, then heading to Indiana, back to Oklahoma, then to Europe, then back to Oklahoma, then back to Iowa once again. Confusing, I know. I’ll be exploring God’s creation, meeting loads of new and exciting people, and spending time listening to how God has impacted people throughout the world. This will be my first time living in a different state, traveling outside of the US, and driving a long, long roadtrip by myself! With all of that being said, this will be a summer full of tests and trials, it’ll shift me, and mold me. (As my youth group kids would say) this will be a summer full of happies and crappies, roses and thorns, and highs and lows.

As my time at home is coming to a close, I am beginning to feel slightly nostalgic about leaving my life and everyone I know for a couple months. It may sound silly, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have any hesitations about what I’m leaving behind. I’ve been spending my last couple days, here in Iowa, with family, my sweet friends, my boyfriend and his family, and my wonderful church community. I’ve celebrated birthdays, graduations, home-comings, and of course going away parties. My days have been filled with bonfires, s’mores, coffee dates, family “yard pick-ups”, and my church choir even sang me a special send off rendition of “Oklahoma”. I am surrounded by the BEST people. People who are filled with joy, and bursting with love. People who enjoy the simple things in life, and celebrate everyday blessings. People who are so genuinley erupting with the Holy Spirit. Of course, I’m absolutely going to miss the heck out of these people! And what a blessing it is to have such wonderful people to miss.

It was in January that I accepted the job in Oklahoma, after very minimal time in prayer and my recurrent phenomenon of simply saying “yes” to everything I’m asked to do. After a couple months of thinking about what this opportunity meant, I began to wonder if I truly was listening to God’s call for me to GO, or if I was just simply trying to write my own story. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until the end of April (4 stinkin’ months after accepting the job) that I felt confident in my choice to move to Oklahoma for the summer.

UNI’s Christian communities joined together to hold an event called “The Unity Prayer”. This is where everyone and anyone was welcomed to join in prayer, worship, and fellowship in one place, for this night. The event was supposed to be held on Lawther field, a common ground for all of the ministries on UNI’s campus, that was open to any college student either personally invited, heard about it from a friend of a friend, or were just walking on the sidewalk and interested in what this event was all about. The forecast, however, had something else to say about it. That day, it poured, and it was cold. The event was moved to Heartland Vineyard church, off campus. So many people were deeply disappointed, thinking it would be tough to get people to come to an off-campus event, surely not people who didn’t know Jesus. Little did we know, this was a critical act in God’s plan for us to meet at this church this very night. You see, the prayer night was held on a Friday. And it was this Friday that the special guests from Momentum Ministries, were stopping by to see where they would be preaching that coming Sunday. As the group members from the ministry came by the sanctuary, they were intrigued with our event, and asked to be a part of it.

Momentum Ministries is a prophetic ministry where people bring others into a life of encounter with God, an encounter that will never end. That night, members of the ministry spent time with God and were given signs and symbols about paticular people within the room. People were being called out from the crowd left and right, encountering God through the words from the leaders. Stories about people’s deepest inner thoughts, personal memories, current struggles that these ministers would have absolutely NO IDEA about. My mind was absolutely blown. I was witnessing God speaking to people in a new way I have never heard or seen before. Although I was dazed by the truth people were receiving in front of my eyes, I was still a little hesitant about how this could be possible. After the worship was over, the leaders encouraged the audience to talk to the ministers from Momentum Ministry, ask them to pray for you, or to stick around for as long as they needed.

With an uncertain heart, my feet began approaching the front where the ministers were. I introduced myself to a woman named Amy and shut my eyes in anticipation to be let down. This couldn’t be possible, could it? There was no way this girl was going to be able to deliver a personal message, handcrafted by God, to me. In small town Iowa, wearing my casual jeans and a t-shirt, with a VERY hesitant heart. No way.

Amy sat in prayer for a moment, then began to talk to God. She thanked him that I felt called to come and talk to her and she was grateful that my heart felt that it needed to move. Amy started talking about the type of person I am. She began describing me, my actions, my life as though she had known me. Like we were old friends. She began talking about how service and outreach was a part of the many gifts God had planted in my soul. She began talking about how God was going to work so deeply in the battle field of service, in my life. She mentioned and time and time again that I was going to serve the broken, the homeless, people living in poverty. That I was serve this summer on a mission to show the light of God to masses of people I didn’t know how to serve. She left me with one final piece of advice: To trust in God, and to know that he trusts me too. 

You see, I was so worried that I was making selfish decisions to travel, to seek new ways of life, to do something I had never done before.. It was already in God’s plan for me to serve even before I said yes. It was in God’s plans for me to hear those special words of encouragement from Amy that specific night. When we are radically devoted to have everything in Christ, we see a radical transformation in our relationship with Him. 

In Matthew 28 it says: 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

When we take time to be overwhelmingly present with God, and we hear that call to GO, it’s much more than just a simple yes to travel, or to try something new. It’s to say yes to working in the battlefield for the ministry of our father. And after saying yes to His call for us to GO, the rest is pretty simple. God has a purpose for your life before anyone, even yourself, had an opinion. When we choose a life of obedience, we receive the power to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ and to witness all that He has for this world. 

Oklahoma? Okay.