Love Her Well

Teenagers.

Far too often they get a bad rap! Teenagers are really amazing individuals just trying to figure out who they are!

When I went to college, I started volunteering at my church in Bowling Green with eighth grade girls and got to be with them until their junior year of high school. I watched not just this small group of girls, but some of the teenagers from the youth group grow so in love with Jesus that they committed their lives to Christ and now that they’re in college or past college now, they’re doing crazy things for Jesus! It’s amazing.

Teenagers turn into adults!

And what I love about teenagers is that they’re learning to think for themselves!

After college, I started teaching in a middle school–with 8th graders! And I loved those students! They taught me so many life lessons, but the thing I loved the most about them is that they’re honest. They’re looking and seeking, and have all these weird crazy hormonal changes happening to them and they’re just trying to navigate it the best they can.

As their teacher, the only thing I could push them towards in the midst of tears is reminding them of the awesomeness I see in them! No matter if it was a disciplining conversation or a laugh-until-we-cried conversation, my goal was to point them to the things I saw them do right and well!


Not that long ago, Love Her Well by Kari Kampakis came across my email list of books! The subtitle says “10 Ways to Find Joy and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter” and although I don’t have teenage daughters, I thought this would be an interesting read because it’s about loving teen girls well!

AND. I. LOVED. IT.

Kari writes specially for the mom and daughter, but to be honest, I think this book should be read by anyone with teenagers in their lives.

She gives fact based information that makes Gen Z or iGen different than any other generation that I believe is imperative to understanding and being able to relate to teens of today. Each generation has had their fair share of trails that make them unique, but it’s good to see how the different generational differences shape people from their teens into adults.

Now, Kari has a heart for teens as well! She’s written two other books for teen girls, but this is her debut book for moms! It’s fantastic! I can’t say that enough!

Not only does she speak about the generation, but she gives practical tips of what the MOM (or anyone who works with teenagers) can do. This book isn’t about fixing the teenager–which I think is critical. Kari gives advice to the mom on how to Love Her Well (hints the title). She does this in the form of lists–and I just love lists.

For example she’s giving you TEN different ways to find joy and connection, but as she breaks down each of these ten, she’s giving you more lists. Some of them range from things teenagers are challenged with today to ways you can actually surprise your daughter to communicate and show her love. Check out these pictures:

Each chapter, she gives other ways for you to either grow in understanding a teenage girl or ways for you, the reader, to love her.

My favorite list comes in the last chapter–Kari saved the BEST for LAST–and it’s on prayer! She gives FIFTY ways to pray for your daughter! I snapped a few pictures just so you could see how awesome this is!

I think the thing that makes this book so powerful is that she talks about how perfection will never be achieved. Instead she encourages the reader to press into God’s perfection. God is the only one who can do parenthood perfect. God is the only one who can walk perfectly in relationship. Kari constantly pushes the reader back to God–knowing that on earth we’re striving for progress not perfection.

As she points others back to the gospel, she shares the importance of confessing our failures or the ways we’ve sinned against others. Just like with any relationship, humbling ourselves to seek forgiveness is key. Just like what Jesus says, repent and believe, that’s Kari’s goal. She wants moms to understand that if they mess up with their daughters, the answer is the same as Jesus’ repent and believe. As you repent not just before God, but desire to seek forgiveness from your daughter, it may open the lines of communication. And if our mistakes are owned instead of blamed onto others, better relationships just might happen.

I love this! I don’t think that is something that is JUST for teenage girls and moms, but for EVERYONE. The message is the same regardless of the audience–repent and believe. Seek forgiveness from God, but also let someone know when you messed up.

Even beyond owning mistakes, Kari’s desire is to equip moms to remind their daughters of God and how God sees HIS daughters. Far too often, the truth of what God says about us is replaced with a lie from Satan. Kari shares God’s truth throughout the book for us to focus on the One who loves perfectly!

And in order to apply these chapters to your life, Kari has included reflection questions at the end of each chapter. I love these because it really makes her words not just advice, but applicable. She even encourages the book to be read with a small group of women–but she cautions on how much to share about your teen girl in order to protect your relationship with her.

Regardless of whether or not you’re a mom or even if you have teenagers in your life, this book left me challenged.


How are you doing when it comes to loving well?

Do you desire more to be understood or to be right? Or do you desire to understand and LISTEN?

When it comes to love, only God does it perfectly.

Are we pressing into God to show us how to speak truth in love?

These are hard questions to think about simply because it challenges you to think beyond yourself and what you want. And when we’re confronted with the idea that we’re not loving others well, our selfishness is revealed.

What do you do with that?

Run to Jesus. Confess it before Him and leave it at His feet. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you to love like Jesus loves–pushing aside your selfishness.

God isn’t surprised by your sin, and He’s not expecting perfection. Instead He’s calling you and me into walking with the Perfector of our faith to make us more holy and more like Him.

It’s progress, not perfection.

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.

Hebrews 12:1-2

GIVEAWAY: If you’re interested in reading Love Her Well, click here for a chance to win the book!

PURCHASE: And if you want to snag a copy in the meantime, it’s pretty much available anywhere, but I love 2-Day Shipping from Amazon! So here’s the Amazon link! 🙂

FREEBIES: If you go ahead and purchase the book, make sure to go HERE to get all the FREEBIES that come alongside of it!

Happy Reading!! ENJOY!

M I G H T Y 🌊

Over the last few years, I’ve been able to visit the ocean and it never failed each time God taught me something new! There’s something about watching a rush of waves fall into the shore that completely demonstrates God’s majesty and I get lost in it! I press in listening and waiting.

This last visit was with my HUSBAND on our HONEYMOON! That statement alone is something I never thought I would say, but here we were sitting on the beach together. When I look at Alec, I’m reminded of God’s provision in His timing. If it were up to me, I would have been married right after I graduated college, but God had something else in store much later than my plans. ALEC!

I think it’s easy to get caught up in the world’s timeline of things, but when I look at the waves, they obey God. They do as God says. He says to BE STILL and the waters are still. The waters aren’t doing it when the world says to, but when God says it’s time, they listen.

So what does that mean for you?

What if you started living not on your timeline, but on God’s?

What if you started listening to His way sooner instead of the world’s timeline?

How would that change your life?

The answers to those questions are crucial. God doesn’t just want to be your God when you want it, but ALL. THE. TIME. He wants to lead literally every step of the way. The waves don’t sometimes listen to God, they always listen to God.

Are you sometimes listening or always listening?

At the end of this trip to the ocean, I see God mightier than ever. I think that’s why waiting is good and I think that’s why God tells His people to wait all throughout Scripture. The lessons He wants to teach you in the waiting are absolutely crucial, but you have to let God be in control always!

Do you believe in His might in and for every circumstance?? God is mighty! Rest in it!

Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!

– Psalm 93:4

Honeymoon Reads

Sitting by the beach has always been a great place for me to unwind and reconnect with God. There’s something about the sun, waves, and ocean breeze that draws me into the Lord.

It’s also a great opportunity to read some books!

The first one I want to share with you is The Gospel According to Satan by Jared C. Wilson. This book is a 10 out of 10. Throughout the book, Jared classifies different lies we believe in our culture. Some of these hit home more than others, but it’s convicting none the less. Jared takes lies Satan tries to convince us are truth and he counters each lie with truth found in the Word of God.

If you’re looking for a book that incorporates Scripture, this is a book for you! The verses are explained in the correct context and it’s a great read! This one will help you identify, uproot, and replace lies we far too often believe.

The other book I got to read on the honeymoon was Holy Guacamole by Carrie Stephens. This one is a little harder for me to recommend just because it provided some practical application, but it missed the mark on some interpretations of the Bible. At some points in the book, Carrie suggests some things that don’t line up with where I stand theologically.

I will say, reading this book shed some light onto some areas of my heart where I need to accept what God says about me instead of what the world will say about me. Carrie is also VERY entertaining. As an author, she has a very strong voice that makes reading her writing so enjoyable.

If you want to check this book out, you click here to enter to win one or click on the Amazon link to be hooked up with it! Make sure to read with eyes that stand on the authority of Scripture within its contest.

Happy Reading!!

Oh and hopefully I will be able to give you a life update plus JESUS update here soon!! Life has totally flipped and I’m crazy excited to share what Jesus is doing in my life with you!! STAY TUNED!!

Dream Guide 2020

Welcome to 2020!

Every single year, I find some time to go grab a good cup of coffee and fill out Jennie Allen’s Dream Guide! It’s one of my favorite things to do because it give s me an opportunity to see what all God has done in the past year, as well as dream with God about what’s going to happen the next year.

This year, it’s been cool to sit with my fiancé and discuss the dream guide! We’re reflecting on a ll that God has done in 2019 and looking forward to 2020 as we get married!

I would love for you to join us in this dreaming journey! The two main questions she asks us to reflect on in each are of our lives are: 1. How did you grow in the last year? And 2. What are your goals for 2020?


I am thankful for:

  1. Alec (the fiancé)
  2. God’s love that’s beyond what I deserve!
  3. An opportunity to go to Ecuador
  4. God’s provision
  5. The women’s ministry network in Evansville
  6. Wednesday nights around the kitchen table.
  7. My sister
  8. My church–pastors, congregation, and our community
  9. God’s perfect timing–even the way He says NO
  10. The way God speaks to me.

Spiritual

Alone Time//Connect With God

I think this year I grew an even bigger appreciation for my alone time with God. It truly is the stillness my heart needs in the midst of a crazy world.

If you’ve been following the blog for long, you know God usually reveals the focus:

2019 the year of celebration.

The word celebrate came from Psalm 27. It says, “I will sing and make melody to the Lord.” I remember reading this at the end of 2018 thinking, regardless of the circumstance, I will celebrate. As the year progress, celebration ranged from food on the table to an engagement of my own! In my own time with God, I was able to focus in on all God taught me and celebrate the blessings of life! He spoke in so many ways this year and grew and challenged me in new ways of becoming like Him. Each night when I prayed, I would intentionally look for things to celebrate–which was more or less having an attitude of gratitude regardless of the circumstance. 

2020 the year to treasure and ponder.

For 2020, I see God growing me in a way to treasure and ponder. Towards the end of the year, I started asking God to reveal to me what he wanted the focus of 2020 to be as we head not only into a new year, but a new decade. The next few days, we geared up for Christmas and we went through the Christmas story. BUT just like the Spirit, He revealed something new to me. In Luke 2:19, Mary looks at all God has done with the coming of Jesus as a baby, and Mary treasures up what she’s seen God fulfill and she ponders it. I can’t imagine what went through her head and even her heart. She watched God do exactly what He said he would do, and she stops to treasure and ponder! Wow!! Oh for us to be so aware of God to treasure and ponder!

This next year, I want to be like Mary, treasuring and pondering all God has done and will do! I want to not get over He is a God, the one who promises and keeps His word. I want to treasure God’s faithfulness and ponder it. When I looked up other translations, they exchange ponder for “thinking on” or “meditating” and this is what I want out of 2020. I want to think on the things of God and meditate on Him. These aren’t new ideas; they’re woven throughout Scripture, but the Spirit is using it to call me closer! This this, I want to treasure up more of God’s word this next year! That’s a  goal of mine! My fiancé is AMAZING at memorizing Scripture, and I definitely know he will help me in this endeavor! 

Church//Serve//Tithe

Church

The last few years, our church has focused on having ONE person to pray for and to share the gospel with. 2019 was no different. Our church’s goal was to have 1200 Gospel conversations, and once again, we met that goal! Another reason to celebrate! God moved through 1200+ conversations! Not only that, but by God’s grace our church baptized 32 people, 100 women signed up for IF:Gathering, 160 kids/students came during our Wednesday night programming, and 100 people in discipleship relationships! Y’all, God is on the move! I don’t want to miss celebrating God. He’s just so good!!

In 2020, I want to see God do more. I would love to see even more conversations, 150 women at our IF:Gathering, more students coming on a regular basis to our Wednesday night programing as well as helping our students feel more confident in sharing the gospel to their friends. I think more importantly, I want to see God glorified from the most mundane to the most extravagant!

So how does this fit with treasuring and pondering?

I can’t believe God allows me to do this. I can’t believe He lets me join Him in His work. So I want to treasure Him. I want to keep thinking this is because of Him and not because of me. Through the church, I want to make His name glorified through it all.

Serve

One of the verses that sticks out to me is Mark 10:45 which says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

We see in this verse the KING of KINGS coming to us not to be served, and that’s the very thing He deserves. He deserves our service, but what does He do instead? He serves us. How did He serve us? Through the cross. He gave His life for us. The LORD of LORDS came to serve me and you!

This is something God’s been stirring in my heart throughout 2019. If I follow Christ’s level of service, I need to be willing to give my life to it. There is no job too gross or mundane or hard.

I think of the story of Jesus when He washes the disciples’ feet. That’s a pretty nasty job, but He wasn’t too good for it. He’s the One True King, and if anyone’s feet should be washed, it should be His. Yet, He washed the disciples’ feet. This is service.

I say all this to say that for 2020, I want to serve like Jesus did. There’s always opportunities to serve, but whether or not we look for them is something I want to do this year. I want to serve like Jesus serves!

Tithe

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last six years is that money is fleeting. It’s only a temporary thing, but when placed in the hands of God, God can do whatever He pleases.

For 2020, my goal is to continue to give God what’s His first! It belongs to Him. I can give in a way that is joyful because I know God is provider! He’s a good, good Father!

I’ve watched Him provide financially time and time again throughout mission trips, houses, grad school, jobs, and other endless opportunities to grow in Him. It’s His! Everything is, so I will continue to joyfully give!

Outreach//Ministry

2019 as far as outreach and ministry goes that I probably won’t forget. See I had students in my class that followed me on social media and came to church events because of what they saw on Instagram. Then those same girls came to my house during the summer for Bible Study and I got to hand out Bibles and teach these girls not just English, but about Jesus! That was incredible! Reaching out to the sphere God has placed me in and just saying yes!

I watched women grow together through conversations happening around a table at our annual If:Gathering. I watched women get set free as they surrender to God!

We had church camp this year and getting to watch students give their lives to Christ and develop new relationships with them is incredible. Literally to think of all the ways God has reached out to the world around me is bringing me to tears as I write this. It’s His story of building a great kingdom, and it’s the best story! It’s the best journey! It’s the best adventure! Ahh!! Following Jesus is just so great!

I also went to Ecuador and watched God do amazing things in the hearts and lives of women there. I think the most unforgettable moment for me was hanging out at the orphanage. While the rest of the team was helping with the kids or fixing up the orphanage, I was talking to the women on staff. Getting to pour out to them was an incredible experience! But then getting to hang out and talk to one of the staff members and hearing her give her life to Christ was beautiful.

I’m even thinking back to conversations I got to have with different students during Fight Club about where they are with Jesus and seeing several of them coming to know Christ.

Then I think of our Fall DNOW where we got to watch our students learn the greatness of God. I remember one of our students running up to me after a prayer walk with her arms outstretched and tears streaming down her face. She said, “Rachel, I’m a sinner and I need Jesus.” I’m not sure it gets better than that. Just a few minutes later, she gave her life to Christ.

I can sit here and recount all these moments of God moving, but I want you to hear that I’m still praying for the people in my life who don’t know Jesus yet. And I think part of outreach is simply being obedient with those who are around you! Look at their life and ask yourself if there is anyway you can be a minister to them. Allow God to use you to minister to their lives. It may simply just be asking, “How can I be praying for you?” or “I see you, no, like really see you! You’re not alone.” Love people. They have hearts that beat. They are searching and seeking for fulfillment or satisfaction; help them to see what they’re longing for can only be found in Christ.

With that said, that’s what I want for 2020. I pray God will continue to give me moments to pour into others all around me. Giving me opportunities to reach out and minister through sharing the gospel!

Discipleship//Mentorship

There was a lot of discipleship happening and it was consistent! In the midst of crazy schedules, God made a way to meet with students of all ages to go through the Word together. In 2019, I wanted to find little ways to celebrate what God had done, and that’s exactly what happened. Listening for the littlest thing and saying, “That’s a win!” was so fun! I think that’s something to keep in mind as I continue discipleship.

I think one big thing I want to treasure for 2020 is the time with these girls. Sometimes I go into discipleship super tired and exhausted from the week, but God speaks and sets students free. In this next year, I pray God provides time, energy, and the words to teach what God has entrusted.


Relational

Friendships//Friends I Need//Friends Who Need Me 

My goal was to have friends over at the house more and that happened! During the spring and fall semester, every Wednesday our little group of friends came over to the house and we sat around the table or in the living room and talked about what God taught us that week. Honestly, I think that’s been one of the highlights of the week throughout 2019. It sustained me and showed me God working in the lives of my friends.

I also got to take the DREAM trip of traveling to California with some great friends! We got to experience Cali life and the very cold Pacific Ocean! It was a great time to grow together and experience new things!

My Proper friends are definitely still there, but now pretty much everyone is in a relationship and so that changed the dynamic a bit. We didn’t get to hang out that much, but coming together at Drew and Mikayla’s wedding and remembering all that God had done in our lives was crazy cool! I love that group so much! The way God used them to shape and mold me was completely necessary!

With 2020, I love friends and I love expanding the circle. I want to treasure those moments with us together and continue to bring others into that space.

Marriage

JUNE 20, 2020! I will experience the first six months of the year in the last six months of my singleness, and then come June 20, I enter into a completely new season of marriage. I am so excited to see what God is going to do through our marriage!

I think what’s so cool about God brining us together is both of us have prayed in our singleness that if we were to be married, that our marriage would be one bringing God more glory together than we ever could do separately. And here we are, about to join together, and that’s been the prayer for both of us!

I know marriage will bring new challenges and new encouragement, but I think the thing I want to focus on for 2020 as we go into this newness is to treasure Alec. Matt Chandler is one of my all time favorite pastors. One of the things he teaches is to be an expert in your spouse’s strengths. I hope to be that way for Alec. I hope to be pointing out what he’s great at and speaking encouragement to him. I want to treasure Alec because just like Mary looking at Jesus and treasuring and pondering, I completely realize that marrying Alec is a huge prayer request answered! God brought me a husband! I pray that both Alec and I will treasure that about each other and mediate on God’s goodness for how God brought us together!

Family//Neighbors//Coworkers 

In 2019, my relationship with my family and coworkers continued to grow! I’m so grateful to have the family I have (and the family I that’s not just by blood!) but also to work with some of the greatest people ever! I can’t wait to cherish more of my time with my family and coworkers in 2020 as well gather together to celebrate Alec and me getting married!

I do think with anything, I want to find ways to love and serve them in different ways! I want to share the peace of Jesus in everything! They are incredible people and being able to help and serve them is something I want to look for!


Personal

Food//Exercise//Health

I’m just putting this out there…. I worked our more in 2019 than I probably have in my entire life! I thought people were crazy when they said they felt better when they worked out, but it’s so true! I don’t think it’s just a placebo, but I definitely felt differently when I worked out than when I didn’t. I want to continue to push myself in getting into a healthy routine where working out does become a part of my routine daily, or at least for the majority of the week!

And this is a big attempt–to treasure working out in the moment. I always treasure it weeks later, but the goal would be to treasure it more frequently because it is important.

Books to Read

Grad school completely took over my life and then school and then working at church and then working a full time teaching job and well let’s just say life was chaotic. But one of the things I started getting good about was just giving myself 20 minutes to read even if it was once a week. I know several people do the audio books, but to me that’s not really reading because you’re not engaging in the words on the page. I like to underline, write notes in the margin, and basically mark that book up!

In 2019, I read through Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. I also went through Jennie Allen’s Made for This devotional book! Wow!! So good!! All about finding what I was made to do in this life with Christ. I also read Leading Small Groups  by Chris Surratt which was super helpful in leading small groups! It has tons of tools in it! Our small group went through Worship by A.W. Tozer which was  super impactful when it comes to how we view worship.

Currently, I’m reading Bianca Olthoff’s How to have your life Not Suck and Jennie Allen’s Get Out of Your Head (which is a pre-release book). Both of them have started off fantastic!

Needless to say, there’s still a bunch on the bookshelf that I have to read! I keep telling myself I won’t buy any more books until I read the ones that I have on the shelf, but that hasn’t really happened just yet. But my goal is to be more intentional with my time to read! Just like working out, it makes a difference in my day!

Dreams//Memories to Make

Well for two years now, I’ve had the dream of going ICE SKATING, you would think it would be an easy dream to make happen, but it hasn’t happened! I think 2020 could be the year!

Even though there was no ice skating, there were memories that happened in 2019 that I could not have seen coming. I GOT ENGAGED! That’s a story in and of itself, but that was a dream come true! I also swung over the top of a mountain in Ecuador! Feel free to read about that here, but there were some unexpected memories, but those were dreams fulfilled that could have only happened because of God! I watched one of my closet friends get married and then she left at the beginning of 2020 for a mission trip! I watched my first group of 8th graders graduate high school! I went tubbing for the first time. Got to hang out with Jennie Allen and the IF team when she came into town! I had friends over for Pumpkin carving this last year, visited a pumpkin patch, went to weddings, had friends over for an amazing Christmas exchange with some of the most thoughtful gifts that I was given! Not to mention the memories of Alec and I getting together as a couple! There’s just so much fun! And you know, I’m okay with that!

The biggest and most obvious memory to make in 2020 is getting married to my best friend! I can’t explain to you enough how much this is totally God at work, but it is! I love him so much and can’t wait to be his wife! I can’t wait to have all the people we love in one place getting to worship God through our marriage! That’s something I can’t wait to treasure!

I want Alec and I to continue to make memories together that will last a lifetime! But just making memories with friends is another big thing!

I also want to write a book some day! Maybe that will happen some year, I don’t know. Part of me is a little scared to do it because of criticism. It just doesn’t seem like it will happen. I would love to write and speak, but only God knows what my platform will be.

Travel

2019 was once again full of traveling! It started with a trip to Nashville right at the beginning of the year! It was great to catch up with one of my dear friends before she had her sweet baby girl! I went to Owensboro a couple of times (not a big travel), but the river walk is just so beautiful! Next was the big trip to California with some sweet girls!! I had never been to California so it was a trip I won’t forget! We ran a mile literally to the beach to see the sunset! Maybe my favorite memory from the trip! Made another trip to Nashville with some pretty cool people to watch Hillsong United! It rained the entire concert, but it was unforgettable! I love worshipping Jesus! Crossings Camp in Louisville, KY. Six days later, I hopped on a plane with some of church members and headed to Ecuador! Went to Lake Barkley with my sister and her boyfriend’s family, my family, and Alec during Labor Day weekend! Took a day trip to Louisville with Alec where we shopped and ate cheesecake on the Walking Bridge! I ended the year the way I began it with a last trip to Nashville to see ICE with Alec’s family!

Whew! I would say there were some miles there!

I’m not exactly sure what 2020 will hold, but I know Alec and I are planning our honeymoon! For now, that’s the only planned trip right now! But one of our good friends is interning at Disney! I’m keeping Spring Break open in case a trip to Disney comes up in the mix!


Work

Finances

I hit on this already, but everything is already God’s. He owns everything. All I have to do is be faithful with what He provides. I know grad school is expensive as well as a new roof, but God will make a way! He has been faithful in providing me with a fill time job I love! God just keeps providing! It’s what He does! And He’s way better at it than I will ever be!

Personal Growth//Education

One test away from having the Masters completed!! It’s pretty hefty reading material in the mean time, but I know God has me! Alec’s been so good because he’s been willing to help me study and that’s been super helpful! But the goal is to have it done this year!!

I didn’t get to blog as much last year as I would have liked to, but I’m hoping that 2020 will give me the time and space to do that! Talk about what God is doing in my life and how He is growing me!

I said this earlier, but ultimately I would love to write a book! I think God has been in the midst of that desire and would write it to glorify Him. We will see if that gets to be started but I love to create so I hope that’s something I get to grow in!

Projects

I keep talking about this Remembrance Board that I have yet to be completed. But with owning a home, there are so many projects! I want flooring in the basement, trim needs to be painted in the bedroom, hang some pictures, paint the vanity, paint the closet doors, build a bar for downstairs, and the list just keeps going on! Those are just some of the things on the inside of the house, and the outside I want to plant flowers and make it look all cute like it is on the inside!

Currently, Alec and I are in the process of updating the laundry room downstairs! Hopefully I will be able to provide an update on the house transformation here soon!


Treasure and Ponder

No matter what, God used 2019 to celebrate with Him and with others! I’ve gotten to see lives changed and redeemed. I’ve gone from single to engaged! And the list goes on! It’s been a good year.

The thing that I don’t want to forget is that God is a promise maker and a keeper of those promises. Watching God work in my life over the last year reaffirms what He says about Him coming back! Jesus is real and He is alive. I long for His return.

In the meantime, while I wait, I want to treasure and ponder that God is a God who says something and does it! We see this throughout Scripture, but I can see it in my life. God shares with me different things that I never thought would happen (i.e. marriage) and it’s happening! He’s working and I want to treasure it up in my heart! I want to spend 2020 pondering His goodness, His love, and His grace! He is a great God and so full of forgiveness and kindness!

Luke 2:19

 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Let Go

When I was in Ecuador this past summer, we went to this little park with different rides and activites. One of them was riding this big swing over the side of a mountain. Ecuador is the home of the Andes Mountains; it’s absolutely breathtaking, but this also means the mountains reach around 16,000 feet above sea level. So riding a swing over the side of a mountain, sounds a little unsafe. Let’s be honest, it probably wasn’t the safest idea considering the park was only $1 to get into, the swing was duck-taped together, and Ecuador doesn’t exactly have OSHA regulating the safety of these different rides. BUT I got on the swing!

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Since we are about 16,000 feet above sea level, you’re basically in the clouds. So it’s not uncommon for the mountainous view to be veiled with clouds and that’s exactly what happened when we went to the park. If it hadn’t have been for the cloud, I probably wouldn’t have swung out over the mountain, but I braved up and got on the swing.

Even though I couldn’t see the view, I still got pretty high above the ground—higher than any swing I’ve been on here in the States—and it’s scary. I held on so tight. With what seemed unsfe, I felt I made the swing safer by holding on. I thought I would have a better chance of surviving if I death-gripped the sides in case the duct-tape broke. It gave me a sense of control in the midst of something that felt so unsafe. Of course I had a friend taking pictures because I was only going to ride the death trap one time and wanted the fun to be captured.

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After I got off the swing, I looked through all the photos. You could clearly see the death-grip in the pictures. Meanwhile, the rest of our team got on the swing to enjoy their own ride—don’t worry, everyone made it off the swing alive. But I was captivated by watching them. Those of us from the States had a similar reaction to mine; we all held on for dear life. However, when our translators rode the swing, there was an enjoyment. They trusted the process and knew it was going to be okay so they weren’t afraid to let go. I remember one translator in particular, Patricio, having a picture of him on the swing with the biggest, freeing smile with his hands in the air completely enjoying the experience.

It hit me—I want that picture.

I got back on the swing for a second time—this time wanting to let go. There was still a little fear there—afraid of the unknown, unsure of what the outcome would be—but I wanted that freedom because that freedom produced joy. I had already survived once holding on, but I didn’t get to experience the joy. I watched others freely let go, and completely embrace the opportunity to be free. I wanted that too.

Sure enough, I let go! I have the picture to prove it. And on top of that, I’m here to tell you about it. That fear didn’t diminish completely, but I knew I would be okay because of my first experience and because of those who had gone before me. I surrendered that death-grip to expereince the freedom producing great joy.

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Immediately after the ride, I looked through the pictures, comparing the two photos. The first one with a death-grip and the second with a complete joy.

And it hit me–I do this exact same thing with God.

I can’t tell you how many times God has called me to get on a swing. He calls me to trust Him on the journey and to fully surrender—to let go—and embrace the journey. And when I’ve approached that unknown, I’ve held on with a death-grip thinking my hold on things helped the situation. I thought my control of that swing made the outcome better. I thought I would have a better chance of surviving whatever God was calling me to if I death-gripped it. It gave me a false sense of control in the midst of something that felt so unsafe.

But when I looked at those pictures of me on the swing, I learned that keeping a death-grip is absolutely robbing me of the freedom and joy I could experience along the journey God has called on my life. When I hold on and try to remain in control, I’m not demonstrating the freedom Christ has to offer.

Just like me riding the swing, I had to remember that I was okay the first time and others had gone before me and were free so I could trust it.

The same is true in our spiritual lives.

Sometimes all it takes to let go is remembering that God had you the first time.

Sometimes all it takes is others modeling what that letting go looks like in order for us to experience freedom in Christ.

Here’s what I know to be true: if we continue to death-grip our life swing, we are going to miss out on the joy filled freedom of life God has called us to experience. We don’t need to hold on tight, but rather freely surrender to the unknown, knowing God is there. Knowing He is not some duct-taped swing that could crash, but rather He holds us with His righteous right hand. He doesn’t let go of us. He carries us and brings us through the unknown territory whether it’s veiled or revealed.

LET GO.

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fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. –Isaiah 41:10

Different Seasons, Same God

Here recently, I flew to California and sat between two of my good friends pretty much looking out the window the whole time. I couldn’t get enough of the beauty we were passing over. Not only did I feel small in comparison to this big world, but I started to gain a deeper understanding of just how much God is in control.

When I looked out the window, I could see my little city, getting smaller and smaller as we took off into the air. Just like any other plane ride, the details of the city started to fade away and all I saw were big patches of green. Sooner or later, we made our way to the correct altitude, and the clouds over came the scenery, but I was just as mesmerized with being up in the midst of the clouds. A few hours passed and so did the clouds as we made our way to the Grand Canyon. From the sky it looked absolutely beautiful, so I can’t imagine what it would look like up close. But it didn’t take much longer for us to pass through the desert where there wasn’t much green happening, but more brown. And before I knew it, the mountains of California were covered with snow—then suddenly there was the Pacific Ocean. I could see it.

 

Now I know, there’s some of you out there who know good and well what you see when you look out the window of an airplane, and I’ll be honest, I’ve seen it before; but not quite like I saw it this go around.

This time I saw different places, different states, different seasons ALL existing at the exact same time.

Go with me here for a second; this means while some people are wearing swimsuits, some are clothed head to toe with all the winter wear. Or what about those who are enjoying a picnic on a nice warm day, and others are bundled up inside drinking a hot cup of coffee watching the snow fall. Or the plants that are just beginning to bloom, while other places can’t even grow plants because it’s so dry. And yet, no matter what’s going on in all these different seasons and places, they are all happening simultaneously.

The same is true with our lives. When someone is going through a horrible and unexpected circumstance, someone else may be experiencing tremendous amounts of celebration and joy. In the midst of deep sorrow, deep joy happens at the exact same time!

And yet, God is overseeing it all.

He sees the plants blooming and the ones that can’t grow.
He sees the pain and suffering alongside the blessing and celebration.
He sees the snow while seeing the sun.
He sees the wilderness and the promise land.
He sees.

No matter the season, God is there and He is not surprised by anything at any moment. God is with you in your place, in your season of life, in your circumstance; He is there.

When I looked out the window on the flight to California, what I saw was not just different seasons, but different seasons existing at the same time while God is in control over it all.

No matter what season of life you have been in, are currently in, or will be in the future; you can rest knowing God is there and in control–so you don’t have to be.

WILDERNESS

Right now, if you’re walking through a season of wilderness, let me encourage you that God sees you and He hears you. He sees the hardships you’re walking through and as much as you may feel forgotten, I promise you God remembers. I’m not just saying this from someone who has read it in Scripture, but as someone who has walked the wilderness and I’ve seen God’s deliverance. Your wilderness, is wilderness. It’s hard and it may be messy. It may be coming as a surprise to you, but I know and believe there is purpose in the midst of the wilderness. You may not know the answers you are searching for until days, months, or years later; but God is working it for your good–that’s a promise. So as you walk through this wilderness, lean in. Lean in real tight to God. Get to know who He is. Instead of worrying and complaining, rest in God’s never-changing character. As hard as it may be, thank Him for the wilderness. He stays the same. He does not change. He does not lie. He loves you. He cares for you.

CELEBRATION

Right now, if you’re walking through a season of celebration, let me encourage you to remember where the celebration is coming from. Remember the one who brings the blessing in your life. Talk to Him. Tell Him how excited you are and how great things are. Thank Him for the celebration He has given you. Celebrate His mercy and grace towards you. Celebrate Him being with you in the midst of the blessing. Celebrate how much He loves and cares about you. Praise Him for this season. But don’t forget your need for Him. You may be tempted in this season of blessing to think you can do it all on your own, but let me remind you that you can’t. Jesus said He couldn’t do anything without the Father, so you can’t do it without God either. Be desperate for God. Even when things are going great, you still need Him every step of the way. Continue to trust and rest in Him.

FOR EVERY SEASON

No matter what you’re going through, God is in control. The truth of God’s character remains the same no matter the situation, season, or circumstance. He sees you and knows you better than you even think you know yourself. Trust Him–His ways are far better than anything you could ever imagine.

I need you to know I’m still learning this. I’m learning how to trust God’s sovereignty in the midst of the wilderness and the celebration. But I can tell you, when I rest in God being in control of everything, it takes away any anxiety and is replaced with unexplainable peace. I’ve learned the only way I can make it through the changing seasons of life is by trusting God’s plan for me. To this day (and I’m confident my future will be the same way), God has not failed me–and I know He won’t fail you!

So as we journey through life, let’s remember these truths:

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Malachi 3:6
For I the Lord do not change.

Numbers 23:19
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Psalm 34:17-18
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lordyour God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Lamentations 3:22-23
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 12:9
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.

John 5:19
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”

Psalm 63:1
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Philippians 4:6
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Psalm 46:10
Be still and know that I am God.

Colossians 1:17
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Dream Guide 2019

Welcome to 2019!

It’s become an annual tradition for me to fill out Jennie Allen’s Dream Guide each year! I love it simply because it’s a great opportunity to reflect on some specific areas of my life in ways God has grown me in the past year as well as how I hope God will grow me throughout the coming year.

I would love for you to join me in this dreaming journey! The two main questions she asks us to reflect on in each are of our lives are: 1. How did you grow in the last year? And 2. What are your goals for 2019?


I am thankful for:

  1. My God who speaks to me!
  2. Family and Friends
  3. NorthWoods Church
  4. South Middle School
  5. The Little Sweet House on Villa
  6. Proper Coffee
  7. The Baristas at Starbucks–especially the ones in Henderson, KY
  8. Being able to Travel
  9. Books about Jesus
  10. Still Moments

Spiritual

Alone Time//Connect With God

I’ve said this before, but having a daily quiet time literally was the hardest thing for me to obtain. It seemed there wasn’t enough time in the day to read, and even if there was time, Netflix or hanging out with friends always sounded better. There was a great shift in my heart in 2016 when I really learned how to be still with God. Since then, I’ve been able to maintain a regular quiet time with the Lord. Let me tell you, this is only by God’s grace alone. This is not a desire I initially had, but rather something over time God placed in my heart.

My alone time with God has become the thing I look forward to the most. In different seasons of life it’s at different times of the day–sometimes multiple times a day. But if you haven’t gotten into a regular rhythm of spending time with the Lord, please let me encourage you–God speaks when we listen. 2018 was a hard year. Things I wanted to happen haven’t happened; and things I didn’t expect to happen (aka buying a house) happened. I couldn’t have prepared for or processed anything without the time I spent with God. He carried me through everything 2018 brought. I say all that to say that God is in control. He literally made me a conqueror through Him.

At the end of 2017, I knew the upcoming year was going to be a challenge, yet God knew what I needed to learn. God talked to me and prepared me. He told me in everything I went through I would be a conqueror through Him. Although I didn’t grasp this concept the minute God spoke it to me, it was something I learned over time. I watched God tell me, “You can do this through me because I love you.” I watched God teach me His love. I watched Him show me He never changes–He is the same. I watched God be what I needed when I needed it. I watched Him carry me in everything life threw at me.

So similar to what happened in 2017, I did the same thing at the end of 2018. I started praying about what God wanted me to focus on for 2019. My mentor gave me this great book to read through Advent and one of the first passages to read was Psalm 27. I’m not sure how this exactly related to Advent, but it was most certainly what I needed. There’s so much Truth about who God is and what He will do in this one chapter. There’s so much about how we should interact with God. There’s hope. There’s joy. There’s pain. And through it all, it says “I will sing and make melody to the Lord,” and I knew God was revealing a theme of celebration in every season.

2019 will be a year of celebration.

This was later confirmed–unexpectedly at that–while I listened to Louie Giglio preach a sermon live from Passion 2019. I went into listening with the hope God would affirm Psalm 27 as the focus for my 2019, and that’s exactly what He did. I always love it when God speaks so clearly. His graciousness is overwhelming!

In my year of celebration, I know life is still going to happen. But I’m looking forward to celebrating God’s goodness and His faithfulness in whatever the year brings.

As far as meeting and setting goals, last year, I wanted to work on memorizing Scripture. I started off working through different verses. I think I was able to memorize eight different passages, but come April or May–I slacked. I would definitely love to continue to memorize more of Scripture, specifically Psalm 27. But with the theme of the year, I want to be able to celebrate God every day.

Church//Serve//Tithe

Church

Our focus as a church in 2018 was to have 1000 Gospel conversations. We wanted to actually share the gift God had given us! The accountability aspect of this totally pushed me to share my faith more than usual. I knew I talked about Jesus, but actually sharing the Gospel on a weekly basis was pretty cool. Each week in church we would have a space on our connect card (a paper apart of our bulletin) to check if we had a Gospel conversation and how many. Each time I had a conversation, I remember being so excited to celebrate the opportunity God created!

This year our focus is on ONE. Who is our one person that we want to be intentional with? We have a card with a blank. I’m not sure who my ONE is yet, but I have a couple of names floating around in my head. Regardless, I love to be intentional with the people God places in my life. I feel like they are there for a reason, so I need to be intentional in those spaces.

Serve

The big areas of my life that I serve in are Student Ministry and a little bit in Women’s Ministry. Last year, I finished up the spring semester leading a small group on Wednesday nights, but due to grad school classes, I didn’t get to serve there in ministry. So this year, I’m so ready to get back in the swing of things. It’s going to be a bit different than in the past, instead of teaching a small group; I actually will be teaching our middle school students on a weekly basis. I’m excited to serve in this area, but also praying God will speak.

Beyond just the big areas of service, I really want to be looking for the little areas as well. How can I serve the people I am around on a daily basis? Maybe this is helping a student with homework or getting a teacher’s copies at work for them. Regardless, I want to extend the hand of service to them with a joyful heart. I’m praying my attitude will not be one of inconvenience, but rather gratitude.

Tithe

Money is scary if we let it control our lives. Speaking as someone who took a long time to surrender my fiances to the Lord, I missed out on God’s provision. But since letting God be God over my fiances, I have watched Him consistently provide for me. This year alone, He gifted me a house that is within my monthly budget, a brand new refrigerator FOR FREE (the original was growing mold on the inside of it), a trip to Ecuador, all these other little trips to go see friends or to be in community with others, and a way to pay for grad school. It’s literally amazing what happens when you let God be in control of your fiances. He is God over all, and now I’m just praying for finances for a roof–my house has to get a new one this year–and my plumbing needs to be looked at.

Outreach//Ministry

For me outreach and ministry go hand and hand. As I’ve stated before, I try to be intentional with everyone the Lord has me around. My biggest sphere of influence is at my school. I’ve had students ask me about my relationship with God every year, but in the Fall of 2018, I know there were even more conversations than usual. Part of me thinks so many kids are desperate for truth , they want it wherever they can get it. I even have conversations with different co-workers. I love being able to talk about Jesus because He gave me life. It’s this great gift!

I’ve also started to minister to some of the girls at Starbucks on my way to work. It’s not much at a time because our interaction is sometimes only a “Good Morning, have a great day!” but I love the crew there! I would love to be able to actually get to know them more and hear more about their stories! They definitely make my day by providing coffee, and I do want to serve and love them well.

My goal last year wasn’t really a “me” goal, but a God goal. I wanted to see God save 30 people, and I know He did just that. It was crazy to look back on all that God accomplished through the year, but even people I didn’t know, I was able to hear story after story of salvations. I love watching God work!

Discipleship//Mentorship

I have said for so long that effective discipleship is consistent discipleship. I firmly believe that. Part of consistency allows the opportunity to speak life. In 2018, I had several different ladies that I got to meet with, but I also hung out with some other girls as well. The intentional living was apart of our time together no matter how long or how short. In 2019, I want to focus more on celebrating all that my girls are doing really well at. I think sometimes I forget to celebrate what God is doing in them and that’s what I want to focus on this year. Find ways to celebrate them in all that they do and be more of an encouragement as we go through life.


Relational

Friendships//Friends I Need//Friends Who Need Me 

I have been fortunate enough to find a great group of friends from Proper Coffee. It seems every year we add more to our little group, but it’s so great to be able to do life with them. We are learning to be more intentional though because seasons are changing and we have to actually make an effort to hang out with each other.

I definitely want to make having friends over at my house a priority this year. Life is way more enjoyable when I have my people doing life with me rather than by myself.

Extended Family//Neighbors//Coworkers 

With my family, we’ve spent more time together, which has been really great. They’ve been such a blessing with my house and I’m thankful for that. I also was able to vacation with my sister, which was a cheap little get away. Any chance for us to get away somewhere warm and next to the beach is one of my favorite things to do! Bring on 2019 and hopefully another getaway!

I actually have neighbors! It’s so weird growing up in a neighborhood where you knew everyone, to living on a street where you only know one neighbor. I don’t exactly know how to go about being present to my neighbors, especially when I’m rarely home. Yet, I really would like to spend more time getting to know them!

I spend so much time with my coworkers and being able to serve them better is one thing I want to do better. I want to find ways to encourage them more and lift them up. We spend so much time together and sometimes it’s hard, but having each other makes it easier.


Personal

Food//Exercise//Health

A couple of years ago, I had a dream of losing 25 pounds and last year the dream was to keep it off. I managed to keep off the weight! In the past I have had a fear of gyms and became a member of Planet Fitness and really enjoy my time there! I like being able to work out! I still don’t like to sweat or even the moments of working out, but I enjoy the results of working out! There’s so many spiritual ties to that concept it’s not even funny! I’ll save that for later. But for 2019, I want to make it apart of my weekly life to go to the gym. I had my moments in 2018 that were good in consistent (like waking up at 5am everyday and worked out at home), but then stopped after straining my neck. This year, the goal is to find a routine that isn’t leaving me exhausted, but is still toning the little muscles I have!

Books to Read

Ahhh!!! There are so many great books out there that I want to soak up. Right now, I’m in the middle of Wild and Free and I love it. But I have so many others that I want to read on my shelf. Last year I was able to read two of Jen Wilken’s books and a couple of other ones. Grad school takes away some of my reading time right now, but that will be over come the summer! YEAH!!

Dreams//Memories to Make

Personally last year was all about the seasonal memories. I honestly forgot about that dream until rereading it, but it actually happened. I didn’t get to go ice skating though, but everything else was in there. I had all the seasonal memories! Maybe this year, I’ll take it up a notch now that I have a house! I love it when the house is all decorated for each season! Something about the little decorations just make it feel like home!

I also want to write a book some day! Maybe that will happen some year, I don’t know. Part of me is a little scared to do it because of criticism. It just doesn’t seem like it will happen. I would love to write and speak, but only God knows what my platform will be.

This year, I have so many friends having babies and getting married! I’m excited to be apart of all the celebrations and to celebrate new season in life! I can’t wait for one of best friends to get married! She’s been a huge part of my life the last five or so years and now I get to watch her marry her best friend! It’s so cool! Ahh!!! Cannot wait!

Travel

I remember last year people telling me every time they got on any sort of social media they found me in a different place. The more I started to think about it, the more truth I saw in that statement. I do travel quite a bit even for short little day trips to visit some of my friends or even to just do what we call a “picture trip”, but there’s something about being in the car and jamming to worship music that brings people together.

I’m not sure what this year looks like, after all, I started this blog in Nashville! And I received an invite to visit my friend in Chicago for her birthday! More little trips are probably on the horizon! Hopefully even a trip to Ecuador again! Last year, we had problems with our flight so we didn’t get to go, but hoping this year to go back!


Work

Finances

I hit on this already, but everything is already God’s. He owns everything. all I have to do is be faithful with what He provides. I know grad school is expensive as well as a new roof, but God will make a way! He has been faithful in providing me with a fill time job I love! I even get the opportunity to work at my church part time! God just keeps providing! It’s what He does! And He’s way better at it than I will ever be!

Personal Growth//Education

This section is super cool for me to talk about because God is capable of doing so much! Last year, I started my Masters in English in January. This month I start two more classes, and hopefully, this time next year I will be completely finished with my Masters! I have to take a test to finish it up; but otherwise, I have it almost finished. God is so good!

In addition to completing my Masters, I have started cooking so much at my house! During the school year, I rarely eat out (minus the weekends). I have a habit of meal prepping that works and I love it! There’s really nothing like a home-cooked meal! I’ve been able to try new things that I otherwise wouldn’t try! I even meal prep my breakfast! No more $5+a week for Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches–I make my own! 🙂

I have even blogged more in 2018 than I did in 2017! So I’m at a high right now! I’m excited to see what God will continue to do through this blog! Hopefully this year, there will be even more!

Projects

I keep talking about this Remembrance Board that I have yet to be completed. But with owning a home, there are so many projects! I want flooring in the basement, trim needs to be painted in the bedroom, hang some pictures, paint the vanity, paint the closet doors, build a bar for downstairs, and the list just keeps going on! Those are just some of the things on the inside of the house, and the outside I want to plant flowers and make it look all cute like it is on the inside!


Celebrate

No matter what, God has taught me I am a conqueror because of His love for me! There’s so much on the “To-Do” List for 2019, but I want to find ways to celebrate all that God has done throughout the whole year! I want to rejoice and make melody to the Lord because of His great Name! I want to wait well! I want to know and believe He is working a good plan for my life! I want to seek Him more!

All of these things are mentioned in Psalm 27. I’ve made this my chapter for the year. It has 14 verses, and I want to write two verses per day; in total that would mean that I have written this chapter once every week! Already, God points out different words or phrases each day! I’m into week 2 now, and God shows up!

Here’s to 2019 and all the work God will accomplish this year!

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
    to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
    it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
    be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
    “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
    Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
    O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
    O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
    but the Lord will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    and lead me on a level path
    because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

Through Him–A Year in Review

Last year when the Top Nine came out, it got me thinking about the whole year. I went back and reread what I wrote last year to refresh my memory and to kind of kick start the writing for this year. In 2017, I started with the importance of remembrance and how it’s a Biblical truth for us to remember. But there are some years where it’s just difficult and painful to remember. I can’t say this year was crazy difficult or painful, but it was full of change, yet so much maintained the same. The spiritual battle of doubt was strong, maybe even more than usual, so this whole idea of looking backward is definitely more challenging this year than it was last year. As I read through last year’s review, it was almost as if 2017 Rachel was preparing 2018 Rachel for the “A Year in Review” Blog:

But what if, the year in review wasn’t just about our life’s circumstances but about what God did? What would a year in review be like then?

It is a Biblical truth for us to remember what God has done in and through our lives. All throughout the Bible, God calls His people to remember all that He has done.

Remembering what God has done for you, helps you remember God is mighty–even in the midst of seasons of sorrow.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

This year may not have been the easiest, but God is still in control. He’s still good. He’s still consistent. Just because change occurred or things maintained the same, God is still working–whether I’m actively aware of it or not. Knowing seasons come and go, I knew the blessing of 2017 as sweet as it was wouldn’t last forever because there has to be be a change in season at some point. And sometimes season changes are hard.

Similar to the seasons we experience in nature, things are bright and enjoyable like summer. Then fall occurs, and we have the changing colors which is beautiful, but the leaves are falling. With winter, the tree only has branches and plants are in hibernation. Snow comes and may even kill off some plants. Yet spring is right around the corner. The colors are coming back and there’s new life in the plants that once were dead.

The same is true for our lives. Each season offers something different, whether in summer or winter, or the years full of blessing or heartache; there’s something necessary about each season.

Where is God working in each season? How is He working in you? me?

At the end of 2017, God prepared me for the season to change. He showed me Romans 8:37 which says, “in all these things we are more than conquerors though Him who loved us.” This verse became my prayer, my anthem, and my reminder for 2018. The more I started to meditate on this verse, I thought about it backwards:

  • Him who loved us“–Wow! God loves me! This was huge. When the season changes, this can be the first thing we forget, but yet God shares His love to us–to me! This was a midst in walking through a changing season. Remembering that no matter what, God’s love is consistent and never changing and always there.
  • through Him“–This was huge for me! I came to the realization that I can’t do it. I can’t change life. I can’t fight the war against doubt on my own. I can’t serve in the church in my own strength. I can’t do it!! But God said, it’s only THROUGH HIM. In fact, this was so influential on me, I have it painted above my bed. Through Him because He loved me! Not because I offered anything, but just because of who God is.
  • we are more than conquerors through Him“–God gives all who trust in Him a name here: CONQUERORS. This is a battle word. It’s not a dainty, “let’s go have a cup of tea” kind of word, but a word with vivid imagery of strength and winning after a battle. Season changes are hard sometimes because we have to fight things–maybe sin, relationships, temptations, or difficult circumstances. But I learned this year I am conqueror not because I’m super awesome. But because He loved me! It doesn’t say I’m a conqueror because of all the effort I placed fighting my sin or manipulating my circumstances, but rather God’s Word says I’m a conqueror through Him because He loved me.
  • in ALL these things“–All may be a small word, but it includes everything. No matter what the season brings, it ALL works out for my good and for His glory. When I face the change, that’s included in the word ALL. I can be a conqueror of change because it’s through Him who loves me. When I face consistency and I just want it to change, I can wait knowing I’m a conqueror through Him who loves me.

Regardless of season, God is GOOD! Rejoice in who He is and remember all He has done! Take a look with me through 2018, and I would love to hear what God did in your year! Let me know by leaving a comment!


Friends and Community

I’m super thankful for the group of friends God placed in my life through the coffee shop! They seriously are a safe haven! We don’t get together as much as I would like to see everyone because the season is changing. We have married, engaged, and dating couples and us who are single! There have been new jobs or promotions. Our Bible study didn’t happen like it did last year, but not knowing when I would see everyone next, made me cherish the moments we did get together. We had a random dinner at Azzip at the beginning of the year, moving me, Pumpkin Carving, and Gingerbread House Decorating.

 

One special shout out to Taylor. She and I joke, but it’s so true, that our friendship is life. We don’t stop and take pictures together because our moments together are us processing through what God teaches us, it’s the hard and celebratory conversations. This year, I bought a house (more on that below), and Taylor was in the works of doing the same thing. I bought a house in April, and shortly after, her and her husband Noah put an offer in on one they really loved. We paused and just prayed over the offer. They both really wanted it to be accepted, but we prayed for God’s will to be done, but I was quite confident (whether it was the house we prayed over or not) they would be less than a mile away. The offer was not accepted, but literally a month later, they found the BEST house and it’s 0.7 miles from my house! It’s awesome and there’s nothing like having a godly friend to walk through the difficult with and celebrate the joys! She is beyond a blessing! God has used her in ways to encourage and uplift my faith with her encouraging notes and texts. She speaks hard truth to me that’s grounded in God’s Word.

 

img_4064I could go on and on about the friendships that have happened from the coffee shop: The Beales being such a huge encouragement through Grad School and Ministry. They are just incredible people! They also bought a house this year (seemed to be in the air). I know I’m leaving people out, but know you are important and I am so grateful for you! No matter where the friends came from, they are the ones that I know that at any moment, they would encourage me in Truth.

If:Gathering

I love any chance to gather people together to worship, learn, and be in community. If:Gathering was and is that! Last year, we had about 50+ women gather together. It was absolutely beautiful. This was one of those faithful moments where God totally outshines Himself. Most people don’t know, but I contacted the church about hosting in November and needed to make a few more contacts before given the seal of approval. I hadn’t heard anything, so I went ahead and signed up thinking I would host people at my house because I was knew I should host the event! Literally on Christmas Eve 2017, I got approval and the event was in about a month. Planning kicked off quick as well as registration! And let me tell you, what I thought was only going to be a small gathering in my house ended up being a church/community event for women in the area to grow in their faith!

img_0301Not to mention the event itself was over the battle between doubt and faith. Things I had been battling spiritually were confronted head on through different speakers. Doubting God’s ability to change circumstances in the midst of everything changing, I started to doubt God. One of the speakers taught over Paul and Silas when they were in chains and I remember her saying worship was their battle cry. Since then, I’ve worship through the circumstances to see the Lord more clearly inspire of circumstances not changing.

Grad School

img_0518Oh the joy! NOT! This has been a true test of faith from beginning to present time. A couple of years ago, I started feeling the Lord press on my heart writing. I didn’t know what this meant as to whether or not I would be writing a book someday or simply working in publishing. But also as a teacher in Kentucky, I knew eventually I would need my Masters to keep my license, but I didn’t want to waste money until I knew it was what God wanted. I started looking into different jobs in writing and the job description requested a Masters in English–which makes sense. After searching through all the different degree programs in Kentucky, there was only one place to go–Murray State. I applied. I was accepted. I enrolled.

img_5414-1So as you read through all these different moments, remember I took classes through all this. I cannot do any of it–especially grad school–without God. I knew I would fail if I didn’t keep Him at the center. And taking these classes, I’ve had the opportunity to talk about faith whether that be analyzing Matt Chandler’s sermons or poetry (thank you Lord for taking that class).

Here’s the irony, and really how you know God wants me to get a degree in English–I completed 6 hours of classes in the Spring Term, 9 hours of classes over the Summer, and then took another 6 hours of classes in the Fall Term. Now, to keep my teaching license in Kentucky, I needed 15 hours of coursework by Spring of 2019. Then an email was sent to everyone in the state in September stating a Masters degree is no longer required to keep teaching. LOL. Really? So here I am, three classes and a test shy of a degree. Don’t worry. God’s made it clear I need the degree. It will be finished! But you have to love the humor!

Concerts

Worship is a huge part of my heart! This year, I was able to see Rend Collective, the Outcry Tour, and Lauren Daigle–not including the concerts I have on the weekly basis blaring the radio in the car or in my room.

img_0925There’s something about worshiping the Lord with others that is a glimpse of heaven. Rend Collective released their album Good News and hearing the album live was incredible! With life changing, their song “Weep With Me” stuck out to me so much. Their concerts are so full of celebration in God’s glory, but they took a second and understood not every season feels like a party, yet God is still good and can be glorified.

Outcry was great! So many different artists all in one place, but the worship was so real and authentic. Praising God focuses my mind on Him and not on the things around me. With so many new things in buying a house and grad school, and then things not changing, I was (am) desperate for God. Worship is a cure for my aching heart! Not to mention going with some good friends from church was a blast!

 

Lauren Daigle. I feel like that’s all I need to say! My friend Austin is her Production Manager and hooked me up with tickets! Although I missed his wife coming with me, it was fun to go with my sister! It was a great way to kick off the Christmas season, but I was so thankful she ended with “How Can it Be” and “You Say”! Two of my favorite songs from her that claim so much truth in them!

 

Church

img_1428Where do I start? I literally L.O.V.E. my church. The people are incredible. Don’t get me wrong we’re sinners, definitely not perfect, but they are so great! We had a church wide emphasis on sharing the Gospel. Can we just take a moment and celebrate a church encouraging and providing a means of accountability for the church to share the Gospel? It’s so awesome! The goal was to have 1000 Gospel conversations this year and as of December 23, we had 1198 conversations. This is exciting!

Our Women’s Ministry is awesome! Julie Greenbank does an awesome job organizing different events for all of us to get together. I went to Los Bravos a couple of times and to the big summer party at Julie’s house for a cookout! These women offer so much knowledge and wisdom coming from all different perspectives and places in life!

 

Student Ministry is a giant blessing as always! Pouring out to the students each week is always a highlight. We occasionally change up a Wednesday night for a worship/prayer night and those are some of the most powerful nights because students get an hour to pray, worship, and read scripture. They are so focused on God that He is able to speak to them! This year, I’ve watch our students lead whether that be at Easter Egg Hunts, VBS, or helping in the nursery. I’ve seen them grow at Crossings Camp–which is always full of memories including a Bob Ross birthday party for Matt, Goodwill Dance Party, and Trevor’s farts in cans! Also, we could potentially have the best dancers of the Church Clap!

 

No matter what event was being held whether I was leading, volunteering, or participating, God continued the theme of me being a conquerer through Him. Each Gospel conversation was a reminder of God’s love demonstrated on the cross. It didn’t matter what came my way because God’s love was and is always there.

 

NEW House

img_0895In January, I started looking for a new place to live because the gracious family I lived with for two years needed the barn for baseball practice (they alone are a blessing from the Lord). I cannot tell you how great it was to live there! The barn holds so many dear memories from tricycle rides to the kids coming down and making desserts! But after looking at several different houses, I settled on the perfect house! I knew from the moment I walked in the house, it was my house!

img_0900I closed on the house on April 4th and immediately started renovations. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted and with the help of my parents, the Gartons, and a few friends the updates were completed in two weeks. Literally in one night the house went from dirty yellow walls to an uplifted gray with white molding. Everything happened so fast and by April 14th, it was time for move-in. I had quite the little army helping me move from the barn to the house! It’s amazing how God provides the people in every season.

Even though the house is still going through a facelift, it’s no longer the scary house that Emily and Lauren first visited; but now it’s a home. It’s been a great place to host people and I’m so excited to see what the Lord does through this house. Since I started looking for a house, my prayer has been God would make it a place of refuge and strength for anyone who walks in. It’s seriously not my house because I never saw myself buying a home by myself, so clearly this was a God thing! It’s not mine; it’s His! I’m excited to see what He does!

 

Adventures

This year was so full of so many adventures. Every time I get out of Evansville, I try so hard to use it as a chance to rest my heart. I’ve learned over the years I have to find rest in God alone. As the seasons change, it’s so important for me to find those moments wherever I go, and sometimes it’s nice to get away. I went to Nashville and visited my dear friend Nichole! Although we aren’t together much, we pick up where we left off and she encourages me along the way. Together, we went to The Belonging Church, and it never ceases to amaze me how God speaks exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it. He used this mini adventure as a way to speak truth into my heart!

Fast forward to the summer, I made my second trip to The Keys with Mikayla and Drew and our friend Nick joined us. We drove this year. Note to self–it’s worth the money to fly! Don’t worry, I didn’t fry myself like I did last year! The landscape was slightly different with the hurricane that blew through the year before. It was crazy to compare pictures of our trip in 2017 to 2018. The highlight of the trip was watching Drew propose to Mikayla! Of course she said yes! I’m so excited to celebrate their marriage this upcoming year!

 

I ended summer with a quick trip to Chicago with Mikayla. We stayed with my friend from college, Kalli! I love every chance to see her. She was a mentor/best friend in college  so she was great to talk to about the transitions in life! She provides such godly wisdom no matter how difficult it is to hear. Kalli has this way of challenging me to be better and the questions she asks get me to think about the posture of my heart.

 

Fall Break my sister and I loaded up the car and went to Myrtle Beach. The Hurricane was coming through so we only had a couple sunny days at the beach, but we made the most of it by playing tourist and reading on the balcony. It’s crazy what God will teach you when you put away the phones and rest. I was amazed at how big God is. When I think about my circumstances being big, the oceans raging remind me God is bigger and in control. This was especially encouraging in this season of transition; just being at rest with who God is and resting in Him instead of anything I can bring to the table.

 

Right at the beginning of Christmas Break; Drew, Mikayla, Mikayla’s mom, and myself loaded up for a quick trip to Chicago to wedding dress shop! Chicago is already beautiful, but seeing Chicago at Christmas takes it up a whole different level. Before the dress appointment, we walked around the city, completed with a trip to The Bean. Shopping was a huge success for Mikayla landing a beautiful wedding dress! I’m so thankful to be apart of these moments as she prepares for her wedding.

 

Discipleship

If you’re ever wondering whether or not you should disciple someone, the answer should be a yes! There are so many benefits to it, including strengthening your own faith.  In the spring, I was able to lead our high school girls small group! I love them all so much! It doesn’t take long before they become a big part of my life!

img_1855Emily and Lauren graduated from North this year leaving our small group, but our friendship goes on! At this point, my house is like their second home! I love having them over, even if they take “Welcome to Rachel’s NEW House” videos! No matter what I can count on them for a life.

cbc4d048-6693-4d2c-a025-01b132c6e667One-on-one discipleship continued with Macci. She started her senior year in the fall and has applied for college (I’m only crying that another one of my girls is graduating and about to head off to college). It’s been awesome watching her wrestle with God over her future. I’ve watched her surround her plans to whatever He has in store! Her boldness in her faith, encourages me to be just as bold.

img_5823I also started meeting with Ashley this year! She’s so talented and way more intelligent than me! I have to ask her sometimes to dumb it down for me! Regardless, God is doing some mighty things through her. One of my favorite things about Ashley is her heart for people. It doesn’t matter age, intelligence, beliefs, or whatever else about you; she wants you to know you are loved and she offers it so well. She is gracious and kind. If anything, God has used Ashley to teach me how to be kind to myself and accept grace and compassion.

One very unexpected discipleship relationship happened with a long-time friend from high school, Sam. Sam and I have known each other for 12 years. We’ve not been intentional all those years mainly because she was a senior when I was a freshman. It was an unlikely friendship in high school, but God had such bigger plans. Here we are 12 years later, and I get the opportunity to go through Ephesians with her. It’s been a giant blessing, but we don’t have any pictures together yet! 😦 What went from high school, to random hellos, to an intentional coffee date, is now weekly discipleship. So many things have happened in those 12 years for us to be where we are today, but God used Sam to show me He is always at work behind the scenes. Literally, everything in life is on purpose and there’s not one thing God doesn’t see.

Salvations

I prayed last year that I wanted  to see God save 30 people this year–and I did. Our church saw so many salvations in Ecuador through the three mission trips there, and then at camp, I watched student after student stand proclaiming Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But personally I’ve seen God save 12 people I’m close with!

img_0054Shawn kicked off the year by getting baptized in January. Although baptism doesn’t save you, Shawn proclaimed Jesus as His Lord and Savior. Since then, he’s gone to be with the Lord, but watching Shawn share his story through writing was a commonality between the two of us.

img_0340I will never forget the day Ashley came to know Jesus. It was a random snow day and Lauren called me to come talk to a couple of her friends about Jesus; Ashley was there but wasn’t the one we were actually talking to. However, it was through this conversation God worked and revealed to her she wasn’t a believer. Ashley and I were in the car headed to Azzip when she said she needed Christ as her Savior and Lord.

img_6340Kayley is a special one! This sweet girl came to visit me in December at my classroom. I knew then she wanted to have a serious conversation, but I brushed it off. I left that conversation super convicted because I felt God encouraging me to have a spiritual conversation with her. It took until February for us to meet up, but when we did, she chose to place her faith in Christ!

img_0975Joe came to know Christ through Ashely’s story. When they say the multiplication process happens when you come to know the Lord–it’s real! You can’t help but tell others about what Jesus has done in your life.

img_5470Alex is a former SMS teacher and I love hanging out with him and his wife McKenzie at Proper. They are regulars as much as I am. But I got a text from McKenzie saying Alex had decided to follow Christ and was getting baptized! Of course, I had to be there! I loved celebrating and being God’s work in their family! I love them so much and am so thankful to do life with them–even if it’s the occasional basketball game or coffee!

Drake, Maelee, and Tristan! All three of these students were saved at camp this year! Drake and Maelee both came to know the Lord on the same day by talking to a leader. In both instances, they knew they could never do anything to save themselves, and they trusted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Tristan is a cool story! His sister, Chloe, shared the Gospel with Him outside and he put his faith and trust in the Lord, but I don’t have a picture with him either.

 

img_5890Alaina, Sophia, Kylin, and McKenna are two sweet girls! I’ve known Alaina for a couple of years now as she has come to multiple retreats and camps. She stopped me in the middle of our worship/prayer night and wanted to pray to receive Christ. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have someone stop you after praying and reading Scripture on their own and for you to see God move in them. It’s obvious and God can’t be stopped. His work is too mighty! Alaina was the first that night, shortly followed by Sophia. I don’t know Sophia super well, but she was one that after talking with her and Dana, she came to know Christ as her personal Savior and Lord. While conversations with Alaina and Sophia were taking place, Rachel got to have a conversation with Kylin and Matt had a conversation with McKenna. At the end of both conversations, they both came to know Christ!


I’m not quite sure what God has in store for 2019, but I have come to the place in life where God is it! He’s the greatest and most important. Nothing compares to Him. For awhile that was just something I sang until I believed it, but now I can sing it and proclaim it as truth for my life.

I’ve learned that no matter what the year brings, God has called me a conqueror because of who He is and what He has finished through the work on the cross. Life is going to bring curveballs because we live in a broken word, but the God over ALL holds it ALL. It doesn’t matter if the war is waging, God goes before, He’s with me during, and He comes behind me. I am not alone. All I have is Christ, and for that, I can truly say I am a conqueror through Him!

Plugged-In to Shine

bf746174-8526-410e-b2bf-1b583dd2277f-1I love having my Christmas tree up! There’s something about the Christmas tree with all the ornaments, garland, and lights that just make any place feel a little more like a home. It seems to warm the place up and make it more inviting. But when the lights aren’t plugged in, the tree sits there almost lifeless. The lights are on the tree, but since they aren’t plugged in, the tree isn’t the same. It’s not as inviting. BUT the lights (when plugged in) give the tree its life. It’s almost as if the lights only have purpose when plugged into the power source.

The more I thought about the lights on the tree, the more I started to see this in my relationship with Christ. I know that sounds a little farfetched, but here’s the analogy:

When we (as lights) are not plugged into Jesus (our power source), we sit in a world of darkness (the tree when the lights aren’t plugged in) forgetting our purpose.

BUT when we (as lights) are plugged into Jesus (our power source), we sit in a world of darkness bringing light (the tree when the lights are plugged in) remembering our purpose.

Now I know all of that is a mouth full, but read it again. And again. And again.

I so desperately want you to see this picture, so let me break this down.

Jesus is the Light

The first thing about these statements is whether or not the lights are plugged into a power source. The lights are giving off life and have purpose to the tree when the lights are actually plugged into the power source. Without the power source, there is the absence of light. I’m sure someone with more of an electrical background could help communicate this better, but basically there’s some kind of current running between the outlet and the lights. I know that’s not super descriptive, but I do know the power source is the ultimate light.

In the same way, Jesus is our power source. In John 8:12 Jesus declares this when He says, “I am the light of the world.” There is no greater light than Jesus. In fact, in Isaiah 60:19-20 we are told twice, “the Lord will be your everlasting light.” This is an incredible truth that we can hold onto. God is not EVER going to run out of energy. He’s never going to burn out. He does not tire. He is an everlasting light.

The awesome thing about John 8:12 though, is that it doesn’t stop with Jesus declaring He is the light; but it continues on with Jesus offering us His light.

Jesus’ Light Calls Us Out of Darkness

I think we can all agree the world is a dark place. We are at the end of the year, and some reflecting back through their year can think through all the horrific events that have occurred. It’s been a dark year. Or maybe the year hasn’t been dark, but you can just see the corruption of the world all around and it’s dark. But our hearts and bodies long for light. We don’t want to be in darkness, we want to be in the light. So after Jesus declares He is the light, he doesn’t say, “Na Na Na Na Boo Boo, you can’t have it,” but rather, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus provides a way out of darkness by following His light.

What’s this darkness?

For clarification, I’m not just talking about dark, pitch black, middle of the night kind of darkness; but rather I’m talking about the darkness of sin that rules over our hearts. God’s Word teaches our darkness is due to that fact that we were dead in sin, following the ways of the world because of the disobedience we were born into. This sin came in Genesis 3, when man disobeyed God. Ever since, that one act of disobedience has forever separated us from God. There was no way out. We couldn’t ever invent a time machine to erase that mistake. We couldn’t do enough good things to remove our sins. We couldn’t do it ourselves. The only thing our sin did was create darkness and separation from God, which ultimately is death.

Yet, we see in John 8:12 a gracious and loving Savior, someone who doesn’t want us to be separated, someone who doesn’t want us to be in darkness. We see Jesus offering a way out. He’s providing a light. Being full of mercy, Jesus let’s us know His light is the way we are no longer in darkness AND it’s the way we have life. He wants us to be alive in the light. 1 Peter 2:9 proclaims that we are called “out of darkness into his marvelous light,” but whether or not you accept the light is up to you.

You can choose to stay in the darkness of death, or you can choose to accept the light of life.

Going back to my Christmas tree for just a second, without the power source, the lights are useless. But when they are plugged in, the tree lights up and there is life to the tree. But if I go and unplug my lights from the power source, it doesn’t take but maybe a millisecond for the lights to go out.

So what about this idea with our spiritual lives?

I don’t believe you can lose your salvation, so if you’ve accepted the light I honestly believe you can’t lose that; but I also believe you need to stay plugged in. Similar to the lights on my Christmas tree, when you’re not plugged in, the light grows dull and darkness starts to grow.

Stay Plugged-In to Jesus’ Light

Jesus didn’t use Christmas tree lights to explain the importance of staying plugged into the power source, but rather he uses a vine and branches. Jesus tells us 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.” What Jesus says here is we are connected to Him like branches are connected to vines. When we are that connected to Him, we will bare fruit. If we aren’t connected to Him, we can’t do anything. Don’t run to quick past that because I think so often we fall into the lie that we can do it all on our own. Jesus literally tells us we can’t.

Unfortunately the part of living in a dark world that is unavoidable is brokenness. It’s everywhere. It’s not just the culture or the bad things you hear being reported through news and social media, but the brokenness is in us. Think about how many of us try to be perfect. We think we have it all together. We try and do it all on our own because asking for help is seen as a weakness. Or what about the lack of being accepted we feel, so we try really hard to be accepted by others so we do more things to get that attention or acceptance? How about seeking control? We are tired of things spinning out, so whatever we can control must be controlled because we can do it all. Or even the idea you can erase your darkness. You start thinking if you do one more good thing maybe that would eliminate that sin.

Newsflash: You can’t. You cannot do it all. You cannot save yourself. You can never be good enough. You will never be perfect. BUT JESUS IS!

When we abide in him, when we are plugged into Him; that’s when we are able to go about the broken and dark world and not let it overcome us.

What does this practically look like?

04b4bdc3-1f6e-4081-8226-c853c14d1534Read your bible. It’s that simple. Psalm 119:105 makes it even more clear to us that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We have God’s Word right at our fingertips. It’s readily available to show us the direction we should go in every season of our lives–single, married, kids, empty-nesters, etc. It’s all in there. God literally addresses everything. He lights the way before us so we don’t ever have to step into darkness because He is the light. Open it and read it. Stay plugged into Him. He can’t and won’t leave you. When you have Him as your light, He’s there with you at all times. Will you talk to Him? Will you let Him speak into your life? Will you hear what He has to say through the reading of His word? Will you be bold enough to share the light of His word to others?

Shine the Light

When I’m hanging my Christmas lights up on the tree, I plug the lights into the outlet. But when I run out of lights on one strand, I just plug another strand of lights into the lights that are plugged into the outlet. And you know what, the power continues to run to those lights as well. The light spreads, creating more light.

Y’all here’s the great news–Jesus is the light that calls us out of darkness and when we accept His gift of life, we become light. We radiate wherever we go. We cannot hide the light, but we shine the light we have received to others. When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14-16 says He calls us “the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others.” We can’t hide the light we have received, but we shine the light.

 

If you have never been to a candlelight service, let me encourage you to go to one today. If you’re in Evansville, my church (NorthWoods) has one tonight at 7pm and I would love for you to come join! This whole concept of us shining our lights to a dark world is demonstrated. During the service, all the lights go out in the sanctuary. It’s dark. But then the pastor lights one candle. This represents Jesus as THE light of the world. The pastor will walk over to someone in the congregation and lights their candle, and that person shares the light with someone else and within minutes, everyone in the sanctuary has a lit candle. Everyone shares the light with those around them. It’s a beautiful picture of Jesus being the light of the world and us sharing His light to those around us.

Looking back at Matthew 5, pay attention to what Jesus says. He calls all of us who have received the light to be a light to the world. He says we can’t hide, yet so many of us hide. We don’t want people to know we have the light of life. This would be like if you received the candlelight in the service and didn’t share it. You would basically be saying, I have this awesome light, but you can’t; but just so you know, that’s the opposite of what Jesus says. Yet so many of us live in that hiding phase. We want the life of the light, but we don’t want to shine the light. You cannot have the life, the freedom from darkness, without having a light. And if you have the light of life, Jesus tells us to let our lights shine before others.

This idea of letting light shine is not only towards pastors or leaders in your churches, but everyone who has received the light. Paul writes in Acts 13:47, “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” This commandment is for anyone who has received salvation. If you have received the light, you are to shine it. Don’t be afraid to share the light. You’re plugged into the great source of light. He is the one who shines. He does it all. All you have to do is be obedient to faithfully shine His light.

What Now?

I don’t know the status of your heart, only God knows that. But I want to challenge you to think about these questions and actually do something with them. Don’t let this be another blog you read, but actually let God do a work in you. The new year is about to start and it would be awesome to start that shift in your heart now to be plugged-in to the light and let it shine.

  • Do you believe Jesus is the light?
  • If not, what’s holding you back?
  • If you believe Jesus is the light, have you accepted Him to be light of you life? to be Lord and Savior?
  • Are you allowing Jesus’ light to expose any areas of darkness (sin) in your life?
  • Have you sought forgiveness for your sin?
  • How plugged in are you to God’s Word?
  • Are you listening to God? Are you willing to listen?
  • Are you letting His light direct your path?
  • Who are you shining His light?

“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” -Ephesians 5:8

 

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Happy Thanksgiving Every Day

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thankfulness is one of those things that shouldn’t just be one day a year! Don’t get me wrong, I love that we pick one day a year to gather the people we love the most to tell each other what we are thankful for, but imagine what life would be like if we shared what we are thankful for each day.

If your thanksgiving is anything like the ones I participate in, hearing what everyone is thankful for is so encouraging to me. I spend Thanksgiving Lunch with one of my mentors, and at the end of everyone sharing what they’re thankful for, she looks at each person at the table and explains why she is thankful for that person. This is radically encouraging to me, yet it’s so simple. Again, imagine what it would be like if we celebrated thanksgiving each day.

Scripture reminds us to be thankful each day in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where Paul tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Did you catch that? It’s the will of God for us to give thanks. I don’t know about you, but I want to walk in the will of the Lord. But let’s be honest, there are times where it is challenging to find something we are thankful for. Some of you, maybe even today are struggling to find something you’re thankful for. Paul reminds believers since we’ve “received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Paul tells us that we have something to be thankful for–receiving Christ. Even if every circumstance has been challenging this year, remember that you have received Christ. Christ willingly gave up his luxurious life to come dwell in this broken. Thankfully (did you catch that), He didn’t come to be OF the world, but to SAVE the world from their sins, my sins, YOUR sins. If you believe this in your heart and declare Him as Savior and Lord, then you have a reason to be thankful! In fact, your thankfulness is abounding. There is no limit to all that you could possibly be thankful for.

Now here’s the thing, when we gather together and share all that we are thankful for, we actually are remembering all that God has graciously blessed us with; even if that’s a roof over your head and food in your belly. But we also remember what God has done. See remembrance and thankfulness go hand and hand. When we remember what God has done, we become thankful. In those moments, we are reminded of our human limitations and how much we need an infinite God who is limitless! Which is why Jesus is capable of living the perfect life, to die the death you and I deserve, and graciously gives us life.

That is something to remember and be thankful for!

This idea of remembering and being thankful is not a new concept. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Moses told them to remember how God saved them from their old life in slavery; which led to a heart posture of thankfulness and turned into worship. Another example of this is when Jesus came, He told us to remember His sacrifice through the Lord’s supper; but then even while He called the disciples to remember, He told them to give thanks!

My challenge to you today as you’re eating your turkey, or spending time on your phones shopping; to remember, to be thankful, and then to worship.

We have an abundance to be thankful for, so let’s celebrate everyday and not just today! Let’s have a Happy Thanksgiving every day!!