Peru 2017

Peru 2017

My husband Michael and I had the privilege of going to Ica, Peru this summer. It was our first mission trip together as a married couple, which was super special. There are many things God graciously taught us while we were there, so I wanted to share them with you!

First, Michael and I were encouraged to raise support for the trip along with the rest of our team. Due to our pridefulness, both of us immediately started brainstorming ways to get out of it. We felt like we should pay for it ourselves since we are the ones wanting to go. However, we were told that by not trying to raise support, we would be robbing the body of Christ an opportunity to join in with the work that God is doing. This was eye-opening and convicting and so we decided to send support letters. The response truly amazed us! We were humbled and so thankful to God for giving us such supportive, loving friends and family who are so eager to support us and the work God is doing both financially and with prayer! Countless numbers of people told us they were praying for us. This meant the world to us as we knew we would need to be covered in prayer!

When we got to Peru, we went to a boy’s home called Casa Girasoles (Sunflowers in Spanish), which is similar to a foster home. It is part of the Scripture Union Ministry, who runs several boy’s homes in Peru. 25 boys live there right now, and they are sent there by the Peruvian government, typically when it is determined that the boys are in particular need of protection and nurturement. These boys all have different stories, and have all experienced traumas of different types. What stuck out to us the most was the love these boys have for each other, their houseparents, and us who they had just met. The Peruvian culture is so loving and caring!! That was something Michael and I didn’t know before we went until we got to experience it firsthand!

Anna & the Boys

All of the boys and houseparents speak Spanish, so we had a translator (well actually a couple throughout the time there) with us which was super helpful! I will say…the boys were SUPER patient with us as we stumbled through the few sentences and Spanish words we knew, and they taught us a lot of new ones! Somehow Michael remembered lots of Spanish from years ago, and was able to communicate very well with the boys which was a blessing!! Now we are both wanting to learn a lot more Spanish so that next time we go we will be able to communicate with them more!

Our friend Sabino–the House-Dad!

While we were there, our main purpose was to build relationships with the boys and love on them, and also encourage their houseparents, Sabino and Esther, who are local Peruvians. God was faithful to build many relationships with them, and we really hope we get to continue to strengthen those relationships in the future! It was beautiful to hear Sabino’s heart for these children, and how he and Esther love them intentionally in such tangible ways. They teach the boys how to cook, make crafts, take care of animals, and more! They are encouraged to pursue scholarships to help them with school after their time at the home, and go out of their way to help the boys look for jobs once they leave the home. Their greatest desire is for the boys to come to know Jesus and the unconditional love He has for each of them, and this is apparent in all the many ways Sabino and Esther pour God’s love into the boys.

Aside from doing life with the boys, eating with them, playing soccer with them, playing card games and learning each other’s languages, on two separate days we got to deliver water to an area that had transitional housing for people that were severely affected by the mudslides and flooding back in January. These people lost their homes, but couldn’t afford to rebuild them, so instead they have made tents, plywood dwellings, etc. until they can move into something more permanent. It was definitely heartbreaking to see their living conditions, and how they don’t even have running water. The water they use throughout the week is brought entirely by the boys or by a water truck (selling the water). For some of the residents, the 5-gallon jugs were all their family had to subsist on throughout the week. Something God continually reminded us of though, is that even if they had a big house with air conditioning and locks on their doors, they still wouldn’t be completely satisfied.

Delivering Water
The community we delivered water to

During the mornings, we got to learn how to make bricks and ended up making a couple thousand of them!! Some of the boys from the home taught us and worked with us which was really neat. We found out that the bricks were going to be used to build a church in an area that doesn’t currently have any em-placed Christian presence–the same place we delivered the water to!! So although they don’t have a great living condition, they WILL get to hear the Gospel and have a church home in their very neighborhood!! And THAT GOSPEL is what will completely satisfy them–more than any house we could build them!!!

Making Bricks!

One day we got to go on a bike ride with some of the boys and the house-dad which was really fun and definitely an adventure!! Haha we ended up riding through the neighborhood that they are going to build a church in, and at one point we were carrying our bikes on a narrow path that had a trench on the left that we could have fallen into, and a humongous fire on our right where they were burning trash!! Haha it was literally out of a movie scene!! It was really fun though and no one got hurt :).

This was much less hardcore than it looks 🙂

There are so many more stories to tell, so if you ever want to hear more please feel free to reach out to us. We would love to share more with you! I guess the main thing God taught me while we were there is that their greatest need and our greatest need is the SAME: which is to know God through having a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ! Another thing He taught me was that He is actively pursuing His people all around the globe…not just in Huntsville, AL!!! It was cool to see a glimpse of the work He is doing and has been doing in Peru! We have a BIG God who is very busy and intentional :). Lastly, we aren’t called to just go to a different country and try to “fix” all their problems as if we know all the answers and think we have the best way of doing things. It was neat to just enter into the way they are doing things, support them in that, and encourage them. They have got it goin’ on!!!

Thank you again for reading this and for loving us so well. We truly appreciate all of your prayers, and were blown away at how God used His Church to send us and support us financially and spiritually!!

God Bless!
Anna & Michael

P.s. We hope you enjoy the pictures below!

 

The boys, staff, and our team

 

Having fun in the sun making bricks!

 

And more bricks…

 

There was LOTS of soccer!

 

Fun activities with the boys

 

Loved these kids!

 

Michael’s buddy Sanchez

 

Balloon animals in church. How is this not a thing in the U.S.?

 

Our awesome living quarters!

 

The boy’s home had chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, and an eagle (see the cage in the background)!

 

Beautiful Peruvian sunset!

 

Sweet girl in one of the communities we delivered water to

 

Ica, Peru is known for it’s huge sand dunes

 

Some of our team on the way up a dune

 

At the top of the dunes

 

Heading down the dunes (quickly!)

 

At the bottom of the dunes

 

Our last night in Lima

 

The beautiful coastline in Lima

 

A fun early morning outing in Lima

 

Touring around Lima

 

Showing off our brick-making muscles!

 

Bye bye from Peru!

 

When You Lose Someone You Love

When You Lose Someone You Love

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Death. The weight of that word makes me cringe. That word is usually attached to lots of hurt, pain, sorrow, and tears, but the more I think about it, the more I believe that God hates that word too. Death comes from Satan, and originally had no place in God’s perfect plan. Simply put, Satan is the author of death. When sin entered the world, death entered the world, and because of that, everything (humans and creation) is suffering and groaning waiting for the Lord’s return.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
-Romans 8:22

Now I know that can be a little depressing, so I’ll also share the hopeful side of the coin as well. Although Satan is the author of death, God is the author of Life! Thankfully, when we are in Christ, death loses its sting, and has no hold over us anymore. And when we lose someone we love who is in Christ, we can mourn with a glimpse of joy that they are now experiencing true Life with no more suffering or pain, and that they get to be in a perfect, harmonious relationship with the One who created them. They are no longer in a broken relationship, but rather in a perfect one with God, the author of Life and Love.

“‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
-1 Corinthians 15:55-57

For most of my life, Heaven seemed like a foreign concept. It just didn’t seem real. To be honest, the fact that I would die one day never really (and honestly, still hasn’t completely) sunk in either. Although we are incapable of even imagining the beauty and splendor of Heaven, I am thankful that it is something I can grasp onto a little tighter, and hope in when life starts to look a little hopeless… or when I lose someone I love. I like how in Scripture, when someone dies, they say he “went to sleep”. That’s so true! Although someone’s body is “sleeping”, their spirit is very much alive!

Recently, my amazing Grandmother Suzy passed away. It was really, really hard, but through the pain and tears God taught me a lot and I wanted to share some of these things with you. I hope and pray that these thoughts bring you encouragement, and that if you have a loved one who’s health is deteriorating, or are dealing with the pain of their loss like me, that you will be comforted from some of these things listed below 🙂

1. If they haven’t passed away yet, go ahead and write that letter. Yep, you heard me right! Write a letter to your loved one about what you will always remember about them, and the things you love about them the most. Throw some memories in there too ;). I know that sounds sappy, but trust me…it’s better to share those things with that person face to face or through a letter rather than to other people at the funeral. Don’t put it off, because you never know how many more days they (or anyone for that matter!) have left. Oh, and don’t forget to add the hope of the Gospel in there too! There’s nothing I would rather hear on my death bed than the sweet Truth of what has been done for me and what lies ahead! (P.S. I do want to say that if you didn’t do this and someone you love has already passed, that is OKAY!! So don’t feel a tinge of guilt!!! This is not something that is everyone’s way of loving others!!!)

2. It’s tough. I know you had NO idea (sorry, I couldn’t leave a post like this without any humor ;))…but really, it’s hard and you can be real about that with others. Your friends want to be there for you and it makes it easier for them to love you when you are open with them about the struggle! Allow yourself to cry and grieve.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Also, know that Jesus isn’t some distant God, numb to your pain and emotions. He too has experienced the pain of losing a loved one. At the loss of his friend Lazarus, the Bible says:

“When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’”
-John 11:33-36

He can relate! He knows what you are feeling! He has been there too and has responded with the same grief that you and I experience.

3. Be intentional to spend time with your family. Cancel plans or take off work if you need to…it’s so worth it. It will be a time that you may treasure for the rest of your life, and a time that your family will appreciate more than you know!

4. Going through a loss has the potential to create a bonding experience among your family! It’s just nice for your family to know that you are always there in both the good times AND the hard times.

5. Though our circumstances are always changing, and we have no idea how many hours or years we have left on this side of heaven, our God never changes. It’s literally impossible for Him to be any different tomorrow than he was yesterday or today! We can be comforted that He is our rock and refuge when we have none. He is the only one we can REALLY rely on and hold on to when everything around us is changing!

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
-Psalm 18:2

6. At some point, you’ll probably feel lonely. I did, that’s for sure. I want to encourage you to come to Jesus as you are. Be honest with Him about your hurt, pain, loneliness, questions, etc. He is a big God and wants you to share what is on your heart and mind, even though He knows it all anyways 😉 God’s Word really is alive and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword cutting between our joints and marrow and revealing our innermost thoughts. Scripture is also our sword in fighting against spiritual warfare. So in those dark and lonely moments, read your Bible out loud or get your Bible app to read to you! When I stayed up with my Grandma the last night before she passed, I was feeling really lonely, so I listened to Ephesians and I can’t begin to tell you how much comfort that brought me. The recording then preceded to go to Philippians, Colossians, and I just let him keep going!!! 🙂 Those books will always be extra dear to my heart now if for nothing but the sweet memories of Suzy and God’s faithfulness that they bring!

7. Remember that we are saved by Grace (undeserved favor) through Faith! We can have confidence and security in our salvation thanks to the FINISHED and PERFECT work of Christ on our behalf. We can go through the depths of hurt and pain when a loved one passes with hope. Hope that this earthly home is not our real home. One day death will no longer exist, and on that day we will get to live in perfect relationship with God and his people in paradise! Now THAT is something to look forward to!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
-Ephesians 2:8-9

Finally, I want to leave you with some encouraging Scripture (as the last sentence says):

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
-1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

New Year, New Perspective

New Year, New Perspective

We have officially come to the end of our first week of the New Year!! The beginning of a new year is always so exciting and comes with many resolutions and hopes and dreams. It causes me to reevaluate the past year, and think about what I might want the next year to look like.

 

If you’re anything like me, you probably want 2017 to be trial-free. You probably don’t WANT to experience a bad diagnosis, financial struggles, or painful circumstances. I know personally that I tend to idolize comfort, safety, and health. I mean, who honestly  wants to encounter hardships? I know I don’t! This idol of mine can cause me to worry and sometimes even leads to fear when I think  of what could happen in the new year…

 

THEN I read something like Job 1 & 2. I highly encourage you to read those two chapters by the way! Basically, Job is a rich man who has 10 children, thousands of cattle, has pretty good health, and is “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1). He’s basically got it all together.

 

Well you can only imagine that satan wasn’t too happy about that. Satan was patrolling the earth and didn’t want Job to fear God anymore. So satan goes to God and tells Him that Job wouldn’t fear Him if he took away all of his possessions and killed his children. God disagrees and allows satan to take away all of his possessions and children, but tells him that he is not allowed to kill Job. After satan does all of that, guess what Job’s response is? (I love this part <3)

 

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and WORSHIPED. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God.” Job 1:20-22 (emphasis mine)

 

So satan goes BACK to the Lord, and says if Job’s health is taken away, surely he won’t fear God anymore. So God gave satan permission to take away his health, but again satan was not allowed to kill Job. Surprise surprise, through the grace of God, Job did not turn against God. His wife even tried to get him to curse God, but he responded saying, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job still did not sin against God with his lips.

 

Now there are many more nuggets in these chapters, but this just caused me to re-evaluate my perspective for this new year. As much as I want to be like Job in these chapters and worship God in the midst of heavy grief, I want even more-so to bask in the beauty of our God in all circumstances. Our joy does not come from how much money we have, how many children we have, how many possessions we have, or how good our health is. Our joy and strength comes from the Lord alone. I want to start seeing everything I have as what God has given me, loosen my grip, and hold it all with an open hand–including my health, loved ones, and possessions. I know I’m still going to fail at this, and still going to struggle to not idolize health and safety, but through it all I want to remember the character of our God.

 

Of course I don’t WANT anything bad to happen to me or my family in 2017, but through the grace of God, I know that all I need is the Lord Himself, and that my joy doesn’t come from safety, possessions, or even the people I love most. So we can enter into 2017 without trying to hold so tightly and fearfully to our resolutions and our desire for everything to be perfectly trial-free. Because honestly, Satan really is prowling the earth:

 

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

 

Thankfully though, while that is true, we can be confident that satan can’t do anything that God doesn’t allow. AND it is impossible for God to do anything apart from love. God has already defeated satan! While 1 Peter 5:8 is true, Jesus also says:

 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

 

No matter what we face this year, we can take courage in the character and sovereignty of our God, who is always at work, and who carries us through the trials we face. He is surely with us always! My challenge to you (I’m speaking to myself too!) is to draw comfort from God’s presence, and have confidence that there is purpose in our suffering! I hope that you find comfort in the following:

 

“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

 

P.S. While I was writing down my thoughts about Job and how His story relates to the beginning of a new year, these encouraging Scriptures “happened” to be on the bottom of the pages in my journal and wanted to share!

 

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

 

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love” Psalm 33:18

 

“And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” Mark 9:23-24

Happy Happy New Year!!!!!

Me and the hubs on New Years Eve!! Under the twinkle lights of course :)
Me and the Hubs on New Years Eve!! Under the twinkle lights of course 🙂

“As Iron Sharpens Iron”

Proverbs 27:17

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

“That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Romans 1:12

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20

As I sit here and think about all the people God has used to reel me back to Himself, I can’t help but smile. God has been teaching me and showing me a lot lately about the importance of having friendships that are rooted in Christ. So, I want to share with you what He’s been laying on my heart, and I pray that you will be encouraged to seek out Godly friendships, to be open and vulnerable with one another, and that ultimately those friends will continually point you back to Jesus for God’s Glory! 🙂

For most of my life, I downplayed the importance of Christian community. I believed I should be completely content solely through my relationship with the Lord.

Since then, God has showed me that that is totally not Biblical at all– yes, HE is all we need and we are most satisfied when we are in HIM, but to be alone is not part of His design or perfect plan for our lives at all! (Hence the whole life of Jesus being spent in community with His disciples and others who did not yet know him, as well as the Great Commission). He has called us to be the body of Christ together, The Church, to go out and share the Good News to the ends of the Earth, and to do so in relationship with Jesus and in relationship with others! Don’t get me wrong…our joy and sense of wholeness ONLY comes from the Lord, and He truly is all we need, but He did not create us for isolation!! See also Psalm 133:1, Romans 12:4-5, and Acts 2:42-47.

The past couple of months were one of those “dry” seasons for me spiritually. That happens every now and then, and I’m convinced one of the main reasons is to first keep me humble, and also so I can better be able to comfort and relate to others when they face trials. It all started when my hubby and I got to travel out West (which was BEAUTIFUL by the way), and we were literally gone every single weekend for the next 2 months…no joke. I really do love traveling, but it sure did throw my routine of being in the Word out the door. When I would spend time in God’s Word after we got back, I would find myself exhausted, and my eyes would get heavier every minute. I was upset that was happening, but just couldn’t seem to get myself back at it. I could tell that it was affecting my thoughts and actions in a negative way. I was more moody, thought more negatively, and just felt lazier with my time.

Well…thank goodness for those Godly friends of mine!!! God knew what I needed and He sure brought it to me. I had a dear friend from Auburn come visit for the day. She is one of those friends who just make you want to read your whole Bible and praise Jesus immediately after hanging out with her!!!! She’s so good for my soul. Meanwhile, we got to have another friend of ours stay with us for a couple weeks! It was such a blessing, and God used her staying with us to encourage me to not only get back in the Word, but to start having accountability with one another to go through the New Testament together this year!!! Last but not least, God used an amazing coworker to teach me that the Bible is like a love letter written straight from God to me. She reminded me that if my husband wrote me a love letter, I would read it over and over and over; I would dissect it and try to figure out what he meant when he said this or that, find out what He thinks of me, etc. I would treasure it. Well, that’s how God intended me to read the Bible!! Man did that change things for me. 🙂

God used multiple people to reel me back into an intimate relationship with Him where His Word rejuvenates my soul and sets me on fire again!! He is so faithful to always provide what we need when we need it, and to keep His grip on us tight even when we start to loosen our grip on Him. I’m so thankful God gave me my friends to keep me accountable and continue to point me back to Jesus when I start drifting away again!

Are you struggling with anything in particular right now? Are you afraid to let others know about it, and may be keeping it to yourself? Do you feel isolated in your faith? I want to encourage you to reach out to the Godly friends that God has put in your life. Spend some more time with them, share your testimonies with each other if you haven’t yet, and don’t be afraid to confess your sins to one another (James 5:16) and build each other up in the faith (1 Thessalonians 5:11)!

Also, feel free to reach out to me any time if you need some encouragement or someone to talk to. I would LOVE to pray for you and to be here for you in any way I can! You can email me at anna@lifelasalight.com. Remember that God is faithful, He hears your prayers, and He will bring people to your path who will draw you into a more intimate relationship with Him!!! Just ask Him 🙂

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

My Grace is Sufficient For You

My Grace is Sufficient For You

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

What comforting words these are. In a culture that tells us weakness is a bad thing, that you should be strong, look like you have it all together, and that you will only be happy if your home is perfect, your family is perfect, basically if you are perfect…then these verses can be a little shocking! You might wonder if you heard that right…is Paul saying to BOAST in your weaknesses??? Why yes he is:)

I think it is so interesting how Paul was given this “thorn” in his flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. We don’t exactly know what this thorn is, but it’s something that has become a weakness for him. Not only that, but he actually asked God to remove the thorn 3 times, and instead of removing it, God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God was more than capable of removing that thorn from him, but instead, the God who works ALL things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes, allowed Paul to still have this thorn in his side so that he would rely on God’s strength and not His own. He allowed Paul to experience His grace in a more powerful way than he would have experienced it not having this thorn in his side.

As soon as I read these verses, although I have read them and heard of them many times before, it resonated with me in a different way. I felt like my heart had just been calmed and soothed. Like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I immediately knew that the “thorn in my flesh” right now is my hearing loss. I got diagnosed with it 2 years ago, and the causes are still unknown. For being so young, it’s just really strange for me to all of a sudden have severe hearing loss. It can be a struggle sometimes, because I can find myself becoming isolated in conversations when I can’t understand what’s being said, and I can get insecure and down about it when I think I’m being an annoyance to others by not hearing what they’re saying. All that to say is, my hearing loss is tooooooootally a weakness! I have prayed for God to restore my hearing completely, as have others, and so far I still have hearing loss. But here’s the thing – I know God is more than capable of restoring my hearing at any point and without any effort. He’s healed deaf people in the Bible, and still heals today.

But what if He hasn’t healed me because it is actually for my GOOD to have this hearing loss? What if He’s not healing me in that area because through this trial I will have to depend on His strength and power more than I would have to with perfect hearing? What if I really did believe that He works all things together for my good…including hearing loss? It is so comforting to remember that God is still sovereign, even when we don’t understand our suffering. Isn’t it nice to know that when we don’t know what’s best for us, God is the One who does? Isn’t it nice to know that although the world tells us to never be weak, or at least never show it, that as we go through hardships and calamities, insults and persecutions, God says we should BOAST in those things? God tells us that when we are weak, then we are strong!!! Nothing in this world…not a single bad thing is too bad for us to be hopeless or not “good enough” for God. Because thanks to Jesus, we now get all the benefits from God as if we were the ones who lived the perfect, righteous life Jesus did. Because of Jesus, there is nothing you can do that would make God love you less, and there is nothing you can do that would make God love your more. Because His love for us is perfect and unconditional and constant. In the same way, there is no weakness “too weak” for God to use for our good. In fact, the power of Christ will rest upon you in your weaknesses.

Is there anything going on in your life right now that is causing you to feel weak? Any sickness, hardship, family issue, or anything else that is causing you to question God? Maybe you’re wondering if He’s listening to your prayers?

I encourage you to really evaluate your life right now and think about anything you’re struggling with. Bring it to God, and remember…if God doesn’t remove that weakness immediately, that doesn’t mean He’s not listening to you. Nor does it mean He doesn’t love you. Instead, maybe He wants you to experience His grace and strength on a totally different level than you would otherwise! He never promised that life would be free from trials, free from sickness and persecutions, free from hardships etc. (He actually promised the opposite – but I’ll save that for another post) but He did promise to carry us through those times and give us the strength we need. He just asks that we not rely on ourselves, and instead rely on HIM!!

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit The righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22

“casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Through the Big Things or the Little…

Through the Big Things or the Little…

My view from the Women's Retreat I just went on! So beautiful!
My view from the Women’s Retreat I just went on! So beautiful!

I have a confession to make…when I started typing this blog post, it was only going to be about how God wants to do BIG things with you. Thankfully, God stopped me in my tracks and taught/showed me that the little things matter just as much! (I am so thankful how He does that!) He not only used my wise husband, but then literally led my fingertips to this blog post the very next morning. As if that wasn’t enough, when I got in the car to go to work that very same morning, I heard the same message on the radio about not worrying so much about what your big purpose might be, but instead focusing on surrendering daily to God and seeking to give Him glory in the little things!!!! So this message is clearly from God and not from me 🙂 (Thank goodness!!!) I hope this encourages you to see that the little things in your every day life are just as important as the big things, and I also hope this encourages you to not be afraid to dream big at the same time!!!

So whether you are speaking to someone at the gas station or speaking in front of thousands of people, both are just as important in seeking to give God the Glory!

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the Glory of God.” -1 Corinthians 10:31

I have caught myself thinking a lot lately about how much I desire to one day get to share what Jesus is teaching/showing me to thousands of women around the world. To have a big platform and get to encourage LOTS of people to experience the love of Jesus and seek after Him with all they have. But I have to admit that that dream can be so easily twisted for selfish reasons. As much as I hate to even think that is true, lots of times throughout life I catch myself desiring to make MY name great, instead of HIS name great!! That’s how easy it is for me to turn something potentially God-Glorifying into something sinful!

That being said, I do want God to use me to show how Powerful and Glorious He is! Sometimes I wonder if He wants to use little insignificant me or not. And sometimes I wonder how He might want to, and what I can do to make sure I’m open and available for Him to use. I’m not sure if you have ever had those thoughts before, but regardless of any of those things, guess what!?! God is a BIG God, and has called you by name, and He loves to bring Glory to Himself! So that means He DOES want to use little insignificant me and you. 🙂 Not only that, but it’s not just the big things that matter. I have realized that instead of turning these dreams of mine into an idol, that God wants me to just live for Him and seek to give Him glory in even the mundane tasks of my daily life!

I want to encourage you in that God DOES want to use YOU, yes YOU, for His glory…In the Big things AND the Small things!! Here are some scriptures that show God’s passion and desire for showing His Glory through us:

“…bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” -Isaiah 43:6-7

**You were created, formed, and made FOR His glory!!!

“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” -Romans 9:17

**God has a purpose in putting you where you are, to be around the people you are around, to have the platform you have…whatever that may be, simply to show His power in you, that you might proclaim His name in all the earth!!

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:16

**Let your light SHINE everywhere you go!! Don’t hide it…shine your light so that others will give glory to God when they see your good works!!

Okay. So I hope you see in these Scriptures that God clearly not only wants to use you to bring Glory to Himself, but He created you for it!!! I want to give just a few examples in Scripture that show just how BIG God is, and how He is literally able and willing to do what seems impossible. So before you throw that big dream out the window, remember who is on your side. Remember who lives inside of you. Remember who calls you His son or daughter. Remember how much He wants to use you for His glory. And remember how powerful and faithful He is:

  • He created the whole world and everything in it – “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” -Psalm 19:1
  • Jesus did MANY miracles:
    • Turned water into the best wine (John 2:6-8)
    • Healed an official’s son (John 4:46-53)
    • Cast out demons (Matthew 8:28-32)
    • Raised the dead to life (Luke 7:12-15)
    • Walked on water and allowed PETER (an ordinary human) to walk on water as well (Matt. 9:18 & Matt. 14:25-29)
    • Calmed storms (Matt. 8:26)
    • HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD & appeared to the disciples (Matt. 28:1-6) and now His Spirit lives in YOU when you believe in Him!! (Romans 8:11)
  • God used Moses to part the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-31)
  • The Passover is incredibly powerful (Exodus 12)

And so much more!!! A friend recently shared with me her favorite verse, John 21:25, which says:

“Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

We serve a Big, Powerful, LOVING God, y’all. And He wants to do great things with you that He has planned before the world came to be (Ephesians 2:10). So, if you do have something God has placed on your heart that seems like it may be impossible, don’t be afraid to go for it 🙂 And in the meantime, throughout your daily life, remember that God still desires you to seek Him in those things too.

One word of caution: don’t neglect the small things in the pursuit of the big things. Luke 16:10 says:

“One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in very little is also dishonest in much.”

The small things have the potential to make just as much of a difference in someone’s life and are every bit as important!!! He has called all of us to different things, and has given each of us different and specific gifts!!! Whether we are called to mop floors or preach to tens of thousands, we all share the same purpose of loving God and loving others, and to give God ALL the Glory!!!

I will end with one more verse and a quote from John Piper.

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” -Philippians 2:13

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” ~John Piper~

I hope this encourages you, because it is all so true. Seek out Jesus from the moment you wake up in the morning each and every day, and I promise you whether you get to immediately see the fruit or not, He will use you for His glory 🙂 And just remember through it all, (because I can forget so easily), God’s love for you is not based on your works, but on what Jesus has already done for you, because He LOVES YOU!!!

How To Make 2016 Your Best Year Yet!!

Me and the Hubs on New Year's!
Me and the Hubs on New Year’s!

First off, I want to wish you a happy happy New Year!! It is always exciting to enjoy the first day of a brand new year!

I know that as we go into a fresh new year, we tend to bring a few resolutions as well. It’s like a clean slate, and a whole year of opportunity for growth and joy in our lives. Lots of times our resolutions may look something like being more successful or happy at our job, wanting to get married or have kids, wanting to hit the gym more (me), not eat so many sweets (again, me), wanting to be more organized and keep a cleaner house (you’ll never guess who…), etc., but what I have found in the past is that what I really hope will come from all these resolutions is happiness and self improvement. Sometimes I think that if even just one of these resolutions would come true, I would be a happier and “better” person. I would enjoy life more.

Unfortunately, or should I say fortunately, a better year doesn’t rest in any of those things. No matter how many of my resolutions come true, they won’t actually bring me true joy. All of those things above, while they may be good things to do, won’t necessarily bring me more joy. Thankfully, that means that even if we don’t get that job promotion or if we accidentally eat a few more sweets than we wanted… our joy isn’t dependent on those things. They are actually all counterfeits of TRUE joy.

If you’re curious how you can truly have the best year yet in 2016, and can’t wait for me to tell you, 🙂 here it is…..A deeper relationship with the One who created you will certainly bring you joy and a great year*. In fact, He is the author and creator of joy!!! It is only in Him that we find TRUE joy!! Which means that no matter what takes place in 2016, we can still have a great year because we will ALWAYS have access to God through Jesus!!! And all of our resolutions and great things for this year stem from having a personal relationship with Him. He makes our resolutions possible, and He

“works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” ~Romans 8:28.

“You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ~Psalm 16:11

Below I am going to list a few practical things you can do to help improve your prayer life and spend more time with the Lord. I personally always love to get more ideas on how to spend some good quality time with God, so I thought I would share some with you. My challenge to you this year is to spend just 10 minutes out of the 1,440 minutes you get in a day, praying to your Heavenly Father and reading His life-giving Word. This isn’t so that God will love you more; His love for us is not based on works but faith, (feel free to read more about it in the Gospel Here) but for our own sake and for the sake of living our lives for Jesus because of what HE has done, this is a great way to do just that 🙂 Start with something that’s achievable to you, and then go from there. You can replace that 10 minutes on Social Media (I’m speaking to myself here) with time spent with God. I PROMISE you you will see a huge difference in your life. I PROMISE you that you will start to get that TRUE joy in your life, and that emptiness you may feel in your heart will disappear. I’m speaking from personal experience here! The only thing and the only one that can fill up that hole in your heart is Jesus and His perfect LOVE for you! Pretty soon those 10 minutes will feel like 10 seconds!

So, here are a few things you can start with in those 10 minutes 🙂

  • First, I would go into a room in your home (I use our guest bedroom), to free yourself of any distractions and close the door to spend your time with God. I set an alarm on my phone to get ready so I do have my phone in the room with me but I keep it on silent and face down so I won’t be tempted to get distracted 🙂 There is no one magical place to pray, but the Bible says this:

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” ~Matthew 6:6

  • I like to start off my time praying before I get in the Word because it puts my mind back on God and helps me to rid my mind of distractions. I really like to journal my prayers, and also like to pray out loud. I also like to pray that God would help me to understand the Scripture I read, and that He would give me wisdom and lead me in my time spent with Him that day.
  • I love this “Pray” Acronym that Priscilla Shirer wrote in her book Fervent (pg. 22-23):
    • P: Praise. Thanking God for who He is and what He has done is so important! As Priscilla says, “His name and His fame are the only reasons any of this matters.”
    • R: Repent to Him sins that come to mind, with “the courage to trust, and turn, and walk His way.”  This is something I really want to work on and do more, because it helps me to see my need for Him and helps me to appreciate what Jesus did on the cross to pay for that sin. Through repenting, I also want to pray for God to help me hate my sin more.
    • A: Asking. “Make your requests known. Be personal and specific […] You’re not begging; you’ve been invited to ask, seek, and knock. God’s expecting you. He’s wanting you here. the best place to look is to Him.”
    • Y: Yes. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!'” “So allow your prayer to be accentuated with His own words from Scripture, His promises to you that correspond to your need.” To find Scripture that corresponds with your needs, you can look in the Index in your Bible, and also use Google!
  • Write prayers for yourself and loved ones on separate pieces of paper and stick them to your wall. Write a prayer for your home, and also anything you may be struggling with. Lately I have been struggling with fear, so I just spent some time looking up lots of Scripture on fear (through looking at topics in the back of my Bible and also using Google!) and wrote them all down and posted it to where I can see it and pray over it whenever I get fearful!
  • Listen. Just be still and listen for God. You probably won’t hear an audible voice in your room, but He will speak to your heart and bring Scripture to your mind!
  • Pray for Faith to not doubt the power of what God can do with your prayers! He is ALL Powerful. He can and will do the impossible!!

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the power at work within us” ~Ephesians 3:20

  • So I have not read through the whole Bible yet, but I really want to! I have started the One Year Bible plan so many times but never make it to the end because I get so far behind, and I don’t always pay attention to what I read because I can get so focused on checking off that I’ve read it! So what I do now is I’m going through the New Testament straight through (and then I will go through the Old Testament and alternate between the Old Testament and the Gospels) and just go as far as I go each day. I don’t have a specific plan or agenda as to how many verses or chapters to read, because I want to take my time to look up reference verses and commentary to really understand what I’m reading! But I think what I’m going to start doing today(!), is continue to do that in the mornings, and then at night read the One Year Bible plan chapters before I go to sleep so that I still read the Bible in a year, but dig deep with what I read in the mornings!
  • In order to better pray for my husband, besides praying for specific things he may be going through, I am going through the book, Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian, which is an increeeedddible book so far!!! I highly recommend it. It has a prayer and Scripture to back it up for literally every single aspect of your husband’s life!! So that’s something you can do during your prayer time too 🙂
  • I loved how in War Room, Mrs. Clara had framed her “Answered Prayers”! I want to make a sheet of Answered Prayers to look at and remember God’s goodness and faithfulness and power that He has already shown me in my life!
  • Speaking of prayer lists, I also like how in War Room, Elizabeth made a list of top things to pray for that were going on at the time. Just one sentence prayer requests!
  • I am reading a few books right now for Bible Studies, but I realized that if I just read the books for my quiet time I get super drained and not filled up. So before I start reading my Bible Study books, I make sure I read Scripture and pray first because I’ve got to be fed straight from Jesus and His word to get filled!

Well, I think that’s about all I got right now!! I hope this helps you and gives you a couple things you can start doing where you spend time with Jesus :). I do want to make sure to tell you to not feel guilty or like God is mad at you if you skip a day! It can be so easy to get legalistic about our time with God. He loves you despite how many minutes you have spent with Him that day, but I will tell you that your relationship with Him will grow sweeter and sweeter the more time you spend with Him! And then everything else on your resolution list will just fall into place. The more we rely on Him, surrender every part of our life to Him, and seek Him, He will guide you where He wants you to go, and will carry you through whatever you may face in 2016!! He is ALWAYS with you!!! He wants YOU!! I pray that we will CLING to Jesus and abide in Him more this year than ever before 🙂 and just get ready for an incredible 2016 because of it!!

P.S. I would LOVE to hear from you guys sharing what you really like to do in you your quiet times!! So please feel free to comment below!! I would love to know what you do!!

Grace and Peace to You and this New Year! 🙂

 


 

*I want to take a quick second to clarify that joy does not equal happiness. Our society uses the two words interchangeably, but happiness is a fleeting euphoric feeling, while true Biblical joy is a much deeper contentment through both the good and the bad in life. This true joy can only come through Christ.

What It’s All About

IMG_20151222_130953As I was praying about what my 2nd blog entry should be about, God immediately answered that prayer (literally right after I asked Him to show me what to write about). He revealed to me that He wants me to share the Gospel, because that is the most important thing I could ever share on here. It’s the foundation of all my other blog posts, and the one thing that has the power to give you LIFE!! Because if you don’t know the Truth of the Gospel…if it hasn’t transformed your way of thinking about God, yourself, and others, then all my other blog posts won’t really matter. The Gospel is THE MOST important thing I could ever try to explain/share, and the most important thing for us to grasp, know, trust, and have faith in.

So, here it goes.

If you live in America, it’s kind of “assumed” that everyone knows the Gospel. Where there’s a church on every corner, you would think people would have at least heard the Gospel at some point in their lives. The sad reality is that a lot of people—inside and outside the church—have never truly heard it. This is something I run into a lot where I work. Often times, even if our visitors have heard it, they have never quite understood what the big deal is. Or maybe it’s confusing to them. Or maybe they only heard it that one time and thought that was enough. That was me. The truth is, I grew up “knowing” the Gospel — well, knowing that Jesus died for me because He loves me — but I never knew exactly what that meant, why that was important, or how that could change my life or make me feel loved because I didn’t really understand why He had to die in the first place!

One day while I was in Haiti on a mission trip I started crying because I didn’t know if I was going to go to heaven or not. I was worried that I hadn’t done enough, wasn’t good enough, and didn’t really “get it”. That summer is when the Gospel truly became real to me for the first time, and my mind was blown…I grasped for the first time that God’s love for me isn’t based on what I had or hadn’t done. Me being in Haiti that summer wouldn’t save me, and neither would “following all the rules”. God used several people that summer in Haiti, as well as some friends I had from school to speak the Truth of the Gospel to me. I still have to remind myself of the Gospel every single day, because sin and the lies of this world easily cause me to forget the Truth of who Jesus is, who I am in Him, and what He has done for me. This is the greatest love story you will ever read. And the best part is that it is TRUE!!

The Gospel has 3 main parts. The very bad news, the very Good news, and then our choice to either repent and have faith/follow Jesus or reject Him. I’ll start with the bad news…just bear with me, because in order to truly appreciate the good news, you have to understand just how bad the bad news is. Romans 3:23 says,

“for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (emphasis mine).

That means that every single person that has ever lived, is still living, and is yet to come, has sinned. So from Mother Teresa to Hitler and everywhere in between, we have sinned.

Romans 6:23 says,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Read that verse again. For the wages of sin is DEATH, but the FREE gift of God is eternal LIFE in Christ Jesus our Lord. I like how John MacArthur explains it in the MacArthur ESV Study Bible

“This verse describes two inexorable absolutes: 1) spiritual death is the paycheck for every man’s slavery to sin; and 2) eternal life is a free gift God gives undeserving sinners who believe in His Son.”

Even if we had all just sinned one single time (which I sin every single day so that’s definitely not true), but let’s just pretend we had just sinned 1 time…we deserve to be in hell eternally for that. Which means we deserve to be eternally separated from God and everything good. That is the price we are to pay for our sin. Now to the 2nd part of that verse

“but the FREE gift of God is eternal LIFE IN Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So it is a free gift to spend eternity in Heaven. It is a free gift to be forgiven of our sins. We don’t have to earn it in any way…not through following enough rules, or staying away from certain sins, or going on mission trips, or anything else. Okay, don’t stop reading yet!

John 14:6 says,

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the ONLY way to get to God. When the Gospel “clicked” for the first time, I realized that my whole life I had taken God for granted, because I didn’t realize Jesus had to live the life He lived, and die the death He died in order for me to have access to God. And thanks to Jesus I now have complete access to Him 24/7!

Romans 5:8 says,

“but God shows His love for us in that WHILE we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus Christ died for us! His death paid for our sin! He took the complete wrath of God FOR US. Christ died for us WHILE we were dead in our sin. He didn’t wait for us to “clean ourselves up” before He came and died in our place. Because it is only through Him and what He has done that we are saved! This is how we know He loves us…He meets us right where we are and loves us. He loves us with a love we can’t even comprehend…He is the author of Love!

Romans 10:9-11

“because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Anyone who trusts in Him will not be disgraced.”

It is through believing in our heart and confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead, that we are saved and justified! Soak that in and really think about what that means. Jesus is the only answer. He is all we need. We are now justified in God’s eyes for our sins, because of Jesus. We can’t earn forgiveness and His love by doing works…it is strictly through faith in Him and trusting that His death was enough and is the full payment for our sins!

Romans 8:1,

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

and Romans 5:1

“Therefore since we have been justified by FAITH, we have PEACE with God THROUGH our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now, because of Christ and His death and resurrection, we have PEACE with God and are justified for our sins. He nailed them to the cross. John 3:16 says

“For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever BELIEVES in Him may have eternal life.”

God loved you enough to give His only Son for you. For

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Jesus is the real “Prince Charming.” He came and died in your place because He wants a personal relationship with you. Rely on Jesus Christ for your salvation…you no longer have to rely on yourselves! And God will help you to live for Him!

One last verse I want to share is 2 Corinthians 5:15 –

“and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Once we accept Jesus and the Truth of the Gospel, we are called to no longer live for ourselves and our sinful desires, but to live for Christ and give ourselves to Him. To see our life as a blank slate for God to fill and use for His glory. It takes a commitment. We are never going to be fully perfect in our bodies here on earth…we gotta wait to get to heaven before that happens. But every day it is a choice to give ourselves to God. To live for Him. To spend time with Him, get to know Him better, talk to Him, and do life with Him. And living for Him and with Him is the BEST life you could ever imagine. The best decision you could ever make. It really is for our GOOD that we live for Him. Just try it :). It doesn’t mean life will be easy, but God will get you through the deepest of waters, and will NEVER leave you or forsake you. When you have true faith in Him, you are now His child. He will take care of you, give you the strength you need to face each day…you just got to rely on Him!! Living for Christ (though I still have LOTS of growing and learning to do), is the best life I could ever ask for or imagine. Doing life with God and living in His freedom is a little glimpse of what Heaven will be like. It surely is an adventure, and it’s amazing to see God work. You’ll come to find that He is a very intentional and personal God. My joy comes from Him. Anything good that is in me or in my life is from Him and Him alone!!

Now, before you stop reading, please think about these verses I have shared with you. I encourage you to read over the verses again and let them speak to your heart. Take a moment to consider the following questions (taken from Share Jesus Without Fear):

  1. Are you a sinner?
  2. Do you want forgiveness for your sins?
  3. Do you believe Jesus died on the cross for you and rose again?
  4. Are you willing to surrender your life to Christ?
  5. Are you ready to invite Jesus into your life and into your heart?

If any of these questions even piqued a slight interest within you, feel free to contact me and I would love to talk with you more about it! If after going through the questions you felt they were all applicable to you….WELCOME SISTER/BROTHER IN CHRIST!!!! Jesus has been pursuing you, and I am rejoicing with all the angels in Heaven that you have decided to accept the free gift of Jesus, God’s love for you, and that you want to have a personal relationship with Him!!! I can assure you that you will NEVER regret it. The BEST is yet to come!!! This is only the beginning of an amazing journey ahead!!!! Jesus was born to die for YOU.