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A Letter to My Mission Team

When I first heard that there was a mission trip going to Haiti over spring break, I could feel it in my veins that I NEEDED to go on this trip. I do not exactly remember my motives for deciding I wanted to go on this trip, however. It could have been anything from getting to travel (which is a passion of mine), spending time with my sorority sisters, being able to play with kids, etc. Whatever my thought process was, I was pumped. The mission trip was put on by Chi Alpha, which is a christian organization on my college campus. I had met several people who were active here and even went on a super fun retreat with them before. I just knew that this trip was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Weeks before the trip, I started to prepare my heart. I wanted so badly to make a difference in Haiti. However, the more I tried to get my heart ready, the more doubtful I became of going on this trip. Everything seemed to not be in my favor: I was not raising enough money, I was getting very ill, I had very little details about the trip (which made me nervous), the Zika virus was coming out with reports that it was spreading more and more, Facebook posts went viral about “why mission trips to Haiti are not making a difference” and so on and so forth. What was worse was other people were getting sick and doubtful as well, which fueled the anxiety I was already having. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, was telling me that I should not go on this trip. I was scared.

I buried these feelings I was having and went anyways. I was still excited, I was just very nervous. I did not bring my fears and my worries to God like I should have. Instead, I just let them consume me… like the Devil wanted. Looking back, it all makes sense. The Devil hates this. He hates when people share the love of Jesus. He hates when people are getting their hearts ready for God’s great plan. He prowls and he attacks. He has no limits. Ephesians 6:11-12 says that we need to put on the whole armor of God…we do not know the schemes of the devil…and that we wrestle against the spiritual forces of evil. I can only thank God that I still decided to go, because let me tell you.. This trip was out-of-this-world and life-changing. But… I am not writing this to tell you about the trip. I am writing this about my mission trip team.

This team is silly. There is no other words to describe them. They are constantly laughing, constantly smiling, constantly joyful. On the outside, they seem nothing but goofy. I had only had recreational encounters with most of this team and thought that this was the only side of them they had. I even questioned how this trip was even going to mean anything because I truly thought they did not have a serious or emotional side. I mean.. I was always good at reading people, I MUST be right. But man, I was SO wrong.

I first want to talk about the men on this trip. Although the men were highly outnumbered by the girls on this trip, it was impossible not to constantly feel their presence. They were the one’s who set the tone for each day. Their energy spread like wildfires; when they were laughing, we were laughing, when they were quiet, we were quiet, when they became vulnerable, we become vulnerable. I saw a side of each one of these men I had never before seen in my life. The stories and testimonies that they shared were powerful and relatable; they longed to tell what Christ had done in their lives. They were not ashamed of their pasts- they were only thankful that God saved them. They were prayer warriors. They were constantly brought to their knees, constantly praising God with their bodies, constantly encouraging and uplifting others. They were the first to be outside every morning spending quiet time with the Lord. They were the first to help unpack bags, carry huge water bottles, hold open doors, let the women eat first, and to set up and break down. They treated all of the ladies with kindness and gentleness, always respecting our own vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses, and emotions. The Holy Spirit ran rampant within them; I could see it in their faces and hearts everyday. Thank you boys, for being leaders and examples of God-fearing men on this trip.

Now, my fellow ladies. It is impossible for me to generalize all of you. Each one of you all are so different, so unique, and so beautiful in your own ways. From worship and bible study leaders, to pageant girls, to prayer warriors, to the adventurers, to the jokesters, to the soft-spoken, to sorority girls, to the opinionative. If I had one word to sum up the women on this trip it would be “teacher.” There was not one woman on this trip I did not learn immensely from. These girls love with boldness. They are eager to listen, eager to share hard stories, eager to learn from others, eager to offer affirmation, eager to defend, eager to support, and eager to invest. A common goal of all of these girls was striving for better relationships. Multiple conversations came up where they wanted to connect with God and others more deeply. They wanted to love and be loved deeper. They embraced the people of Haiti with open arms, with adoration and acceptance. They connected with the Haitians despite the language barrier. They did not let anything stand in their way. These girls were DEPENDENT on God. They had experienced things in their life that they can only turn to Him to heal. They were more than willing to repent of their sins so they could be filled denser with the Holy Spirit. Some spoke quiet, intense prayers and others spoke bold and inspiring prayers. They talked about their hopes and dreams with such passion that made me excited for my own future. We had future women in ministry, mothers, doctors, engineers, service women, and so much more- all of these to further His kingdom. I have never felt so close to a group of girls more quickly. I will forever remember staying up late talking about the events of the day, being extremely silly, protecting ourselves from bugs via extreme bug nets, having rap battles, eating so many cheetos my stomach would burst (literally), singing together, praying together, and sharing our testimonies. I feel free and liberated because of each and every one of you girls lives and have so much love for you all. Thank you for serving the Lord and teaching me to trust in Him without any hesitation. Thank you for taking the road less travelled even when it means hardships. Thank you for not conforming to what the world wants you to be and being a light to so many other girls who are struggling everyday to choose between right and wrong. You ladies are so special, so beautiful, and so wonderful.

So here’s a little word to the Devil- you lost! God has won. Never will you win this battle. “…and if our God is with us, then what could stand against?” Nothing can stand against the men and women of God. Our God had a way of bringing completely different people together who compliment each other  Everyone on this trip was so unique and so different, there is no other way to describe it. We were each a puzzle piece, a different size, shape, and form, yet we fit together to create this beautiful, perfect picture that depicts what God wanted to happen on this trip so elegantly. God’s hand was with us the whole time- there is no doubt about that. I can only wait and see how God uses his people to further his righteous and divine Kingdom. I am ecstatic to see what the future holds.

 

Shout out to the team: Alia, Hallie, Bailee, Charles, Chris, Daniel, Gabby, Haley, Jeanne, Josh, Kaliya, Kandice, Kayla, Kelsie, Megan, Meghan, Michael, Rachel, Ryan (gimp), Carli, Stephen (with us in spirit), Sydney, and Taylor.

I want to say a special, special thanks to a few people: Gary for leading us, Russ for doing basically everything, Gabby for being a light, Carli and Charles for being bold in their testimonies, Kayla for being an awesome Bible story teller, Jeff and Suzanne and for being our parents for the week, the cooks for the incredible food, the bus driver for keeping us safe, and the wonderful people who let us stay in their homes.

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When God Wrecks Your World

God has completely wrecked my world. My comfortable, perfect little world. He has absolutely turned it upside down in a way my heart feels like it can not handle. To say I feel completely out of control is an understatement. The countless tears, anger, and sadness that have swept over me the past couple of days is crippling. When I have the time to just sit with my own thoughts, I tend to cry out to God, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why are you taking away every good thing from me?” As a human, it has been so HARD understanding what He is doing. It is HARD to understand that He knows exactly what He is doing. It is SCARY not knowing what the future holds. I use to have so much security and comfort, but maybe that was the problem.

Lately, I felt like my life could not have been better. I felt as if things were going so good for me. I was overcoming my fears, trying new things, making accomplishments- anything that was making me feel good about myself. I have been heavily relying on these external factors to give me feelings of worthiness. These things are GREAT, but was I really giving God the glory for these things? Was I even listening to Him as to whether He wanted me to have these things?

…..but if not, He is still good.

 

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:21

 

I did not come into this world deserving of anything. a n y t h i n g. That, to me, is a hard concept to grasp. We are always hearing things in the media about our human rights and what we deserve- but do we really deserve anything? We did not bring a single thing into this world, so what makes us worthy of having anything at all? God’s amazing grace and love allows us to sometimes receive these things if it be God’s will, but we should never take these things for granted. He can take back anything, anytime He wants. He does not take away to be a “mean” or “unjust” God. He has his reasons- and sometimes it is to get our attention.

Sometimes, God takes away the very thing that we thought was bringing us closer to Him. That is how blind we can be. He wants us completely dependent on Him. Not ourselves, not other people- fully and explicitly Him.

God, I am on my knees. I choose to open my eyes to You, where my help is found. God, I need you to heal my heart. I need you and all of your goodness to hold me in the palms of your hands during this new path I am about to take in life.You know the ultimate plan for my life. You know who it will include and who it will not.  I know that You give and You take away and I beg you take away anything in my life that does not steer me towards you. I trust in your promises.

Heal my heart and make it clean

Open up my eyes to the things unseen

Show me how to love like you have loved me

Break my heart for what breaks yours

Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause

As I walk from earth into eternity

He Will Always Be For Me

 

I have been getting increasingly frustrated with myself lately. Sometimes, I feel like I am in a never ending battle between myself and the world. I do things that contradict what I believe in. when I fall short of who I really want to be, I am hard on myself. I feel undeserving of having a “christian” title.  I start to feel waves of embarrassment and shame. I feel unworthy to come to god about anything due to my sin. yet, this is the opposite of what he wants.

This mindset of feeling “not good enough” to come to Christ about our sin is a losing battle. often, I feel like i can only talk to him when i have a had a “good streak” of being a good christian woman. If I fall short of this, I feel unworthy to come to his feet about anything. I know Jesus died on the cross specifically for my sins. I grew up in church learning about this my whole life, but that does not cancel out my human tendency to feel this way. I also know that I am not alone in feeling this way.

During my life on this earth, I have made more mistakes than probably the typical suburban teenager. To this day, I still carry around the baggage that came with rebelling against God. Although I have made radical lifestyle changes, I often fall short, and like I said above, it is hard to come to God.

BUT the word of God says…

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8

Through every season of my life, whether good or bad, God is always calling me to draw near to him. When I reach out to God, He will always be there. I need to be willing to bring my shame and embarrassment to the foot of the cross and ask Him to forgive me. He knows all of my imperfections. He know everything I will ever struggle with. He knows because He is the creator of the universe! He loves me for me and nothing could ever change that. He is loyal to me even when I am not loyal to Him.

He will always be for me.

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Hello, 2016

This has been a year of new beginnings. From graduating high school, climbing glaciers in Canada, joining the amazing sisterhood of Alpha Delta Pi, and finishing my first semester of college, it is safe to say that this year has been nothing short of incredible. It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that even more opportunities have been presented to me in 2016! God has definitely answered “yes” to my antsy heart that yearns for adventure after adventure.

Because of the multiple events that have happened, I feel as if I am a whole different person than I was at the beginning of 2015. I would like to share a few of the things I have learned this year.

Talk it out

I put this first for a reason. If you read my last blog post you know exactly why (which you can read here). I have never been good with expressing how I feel. I bottle things up, hold grudges, and sometimes explode at random times. My friends from home just kind of learned to deal with it, but in college people don’t know me like that. I had to learn to talk out the issues I had with people and resolve them with a… wait… real life conversation! And man, it sure does feel good. The weight on my shoulders is so much lighter than it has been in the past! Yay!

Take that Opportunity!

I often hear people talking about their “glory” days in college. Well they weren’t lying! As said earlier, I have been offered SO many opportunities and I am extremely excited for them! Take advantage of what college has to offer you. As of now, I am planning to study in New Zealand and Australia, do mission work in Haiti, and learn to scuba dive! I also plan on looking into internship opportunities, working on my resume, and exploring different career paths. This is an exciting time in a young adult’s life and it would be such a shame to not take advantage of the great resources a college or university has to offer.

Service Humbles the Heart

My family serves often, goes on mission trips, and always extends a helping hand to their friends. Growing up in this environment has definitely aided in my love for volunteer work. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside knowing that someone’s life was made better as a result of some of the work I had done. What I have also learned is that I can serve in my everyday life. Whether that means helping someone carry their grocery’s to the car, unloading the dishwasher without my mom asking, or giving a subway gift card to a homeless man, do it. I know that they are blessed, but I am blessed WAY more.

It’s okay to cry a lot

Okay this might sound bad. LOL. However, I have found that crying can be THE best stress reliever. Whether it’s before you start studying for a big test, while you’re taking a test, or even after a test, cry it out! You can pretty much take your tears with you everywhere. This year has been one of the best years of my life and I have cried more this year than any other. Thankfully I have a wonderful boyfriend who lets me cry to him all of the time and usually he has no idea why (thanks Riles!). Just do it. FUN FACT: crying not only relieves stress, but it lowers blood sugar and removes toxins.

Work Hard, Play Hard

This is one I had to learn the hard way a couple of times. My friends were going out ALL of the time and obviously I didn’t want to be left out of the fun! However, after a few bad test grades, I quickly learned it wasn’t worth going out the night before a big test. I would stress while I was out with my friends, stress the day of my test, and feel incompetent the next several days. TRUST ME, there is always something going on in college- staying in a couple of nights isn’t going to kill you.

Be Thankful!

Often, we go through life unaware of how blessed we truly are. For me, it never really hit me how thankful I am for certain things until I moved to college. I found myself longing for my mom’s company and my dad’s “dad” jokes, missing the “little red barn” I live in, and reminiscing on old memories. I really didn’t even think about those things until I moved away. Now, I cherish the times I get with my grandparents, a good home-cooked meal, or my sister telling me how annoying I am (even though I know she loves when I terrorize her!). I am so thankful to be surrounded by people who love and support me and who are always there to steer my in the right path.

Well, that’s a wrap 2015! Can’t wait to see what the next 366 days (yes it’s a leap year) have in store for me. Happy New Year!

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Forgive

Naturally being able to forgive others has never been a strong point for me. When someone hurts me, I find it so hard to just forget about it and move on. I sometimes take things personally when I shouldn’t.

I often wondered whether or not other people felt the same way as me. I know so many people that are able to forgive so effortlessly. They love people no matter what- I envied these people tremendously.

After some soul searching, I came to a conclusion.

I know I am not the only one who finds it hard to forgive people because God specifically had to touch on this subject multiple times throughout the Bible.

One example comes from the verse Leviticus 19:18 and says this:

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.”

Yes, some people in your life are toxic. They will make you question your sanity and will literally raise your blood pressure. It is HARD to keep them in your life. It is hard pretending like everything is okay when it’s not. And sometimes it’s okay to love these people from a distance (sometimes the farther the better).

However, I also came to another conclusion, one that isn’t so easy to do. One that is easier said than done.

To forgive and forget.

It might sound cliché, trust me, I would know. I hear it all of the time.

But here is the real and heart-wrenching truth.

People constantly spat in Jesus’s face, called him names, and mocked him to his face. Yet, Jesus LOVED these people, prayed for them, and continuously forgave them. Continuously.

He keeps NO record of wrong!

What a hard concept to wrap my head around.

It is so easy to stay mad at people. It is so easy to forget about all of the things I have done wrong and point out everything others have done wrong.

But what I have learned is that holding grudges hurts me more than it hurts them. It gives me more stress wrinkles than it does them. They aren’t the ones losing sleep… I am.

What is hard for me to remember is that no one on this earth is perfect. No one even comes close. Sometimes I expect people to be  this super human and that is an extremely unrealistic and unfair expectation.

Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Forgiveness comes naturally for some… for others, not so much. If you are like me, then God might have made this difficult for you for a reason. He wants you to come to HIM. He wants you to ask Him for help. Maybe, just maybe, if you ask Him to help you with this, you will have a better appreciation for the forgiveness He gives us daily.

I know that when I struggle with this, my initial thought is to stay mad at whoever hurt me. The last thing I want to do is ask God to give me a forgiving heart- one that keeps no record of wrong and loves unconditionally. But, I want a heart like Jesus. I want to be able to love and forgive like He can. And I know the only way I can come close to that is solely through Him.

Jesus, please give me a heart like yours!

Knowing Richt from wrong

Alternate routes

richtI love Mark Richt.

He deserves my love. He deserves my respect. He’s earned my admiration. Mark Richt has been kicked in the gut, and he is standing tall. Taller, in fact, than the very people who kicked him. During what has to be one of the lowest moments of his life, Mark Richt is a giant. Every time he opens his mouth, he sets another example of decency and virtue.

There is no need to continue the debate over whether or not he deserved to lose his job as football coach at the University of Georgia. That ship has sailed. What’s left is to cling to the standards he set. Mark Richt never compromised. He loved his players. He loved his school. My school. He knew the importance of pleasing wealthy alumni and fickle fans. He also knew it was far more important to honor and please his Lord.

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A couple of weeks ago, I decided to change my major. After discovering of all the courses I was going to have to take, I realized I was not really interested in any of it. I obviously want to love what I am going to be learning about, so I changed it. This did not exactly settle well with my friends and family. I got a lot of “you are going to get no money with that major!” or “just stick with the other, it’ll be worth it.”

I felt pressured to go back to what I did not feel comfortable doing. Maybe I am just an indecisive teenager who doesn’t know what I want in life (by the way, this is very true).

What I DO know is that God has blessed me with certain strengths and abilities. By this point in my life, I know some of the things I am good at and what I am not good at. I certainly know what interests me and what can put me to sleep in a heartbeat. So the question is this: should I capitalize on what I know I can be good at, or should I put forth extra time and effort into something I know I will never be more than mediocre at in life.

Stress is my middle name. Although I KNOW God ultimately has a plan for my life, it is hard to trust this at times, especially when time feels so limited. Occasionally I sit back and think “I’m young, I’ve got time to figure this out!” (although my academic adviser likes to tell me differently), but I still worry and stress and rip my hair out over this stuff.

And then one night, as I was having one of my late-night Pinterest binges, I came across this:

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Why do I sacrifice the time I am blessed with worrying about a future I am not promised? After reading this beautiful verse, I know that God will always lead me in the right direction. Actually, I’ve known this all along, I just pretend sometimes that I should be the driver of my own life.

My life is not in the hands of fate or luck or by random chance: God knows everything that has happened to me and is going to happen to me. As Philippians 4:6 says, all I need to do it pray and God will handle my life from there. It might not necessarily be what the world views as “successful” or “popular,” but He can use anyone for His glory in His own way.

I will wait for His good timing and I will follow where He tells me to go. 

I rest assured in this.

 

 

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Rest

“He lets me rest in green meadows.” Psalm 23:2

My weekend started today, on a Thursday. My classes were cancelled for today and fortunately, I have no Friday classes. Yay! I spent the entire week thinking how much stuff I could get done today; clean our apartment, pack for the weekend, study for my finals, finish all extra credit homework… the list goes on. On my “day off” that I was so excited for, I felt more stressed than ever. College life was consuming me and I was drowning in the countless responsibilities I had.

I need rest.

No, not the kind of rest where I try to squeeze in a nap in the middle of the day to re-energize. Not the kind of rest where I try to get more than five hours of sleep at night.

I needed the kind of rest where I spend time in absolute solitude with my one and only Father.

A noticeable trend has been taking place in my first semester of college. The closer I am to God, the better I feel. My grades are better, my mind is healthier, and I have little worries. I know God’s got me! It’s the days where I do not make time for God, my prayer life is lacking, or I just do not see the bigger picture he has for me- that is when I start to feel stressed, worried, and doubtful. In turn, feeling {stressed, worried, doubtful} makes me feel like I do not have the time to spend with Him, that I should be attending to other things.

However, I still manage to make time for my friends, boyfriend, socials, Netflix, etc.- these are not evil things taking over my time by any means. The fact of the matter is this: God comes first and everything follows. Christ should be at the center of everything I do in my life. When I am weary, I should come to God first. Peace will follow. God’s got me.

 “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23:2-4

God never fails to remind me that HE is the one who renews my strength. That HE is the one who lets me rest in green meadows.

On that note, I think I have the perfect excuse to curl up in my bed, drink some coffee, and spend some time with the One and Only.

 

(oh, and by the way… Daylight Donuts, as pictured, was my inspiration for this post. so great, so good, so blessed)