Life, Interrupted

“Every time I look down and see you’re calling or have called, my heart does a happy dance. Sweet dreams to my wonderful daughter and love forever!”

This was the last text I received from my mom before my sister called me the next morning to tell me she had driven herself to the emergency room (yes, you read that correctly). Going in for what she thought was either a severe case of pneumonia or a broken rib, the nurse saw something else in the X-Rays.

A suspicious shadow.

Cancer is not something that happens to OUR family. Cancer is seen from afar. I have watched  other families go through this. I have prayed for other families going through this. My mom and I have fund-raised and walked hundreds of miles for OTHER people. Not her. Not OUR family.

Initially, I was breathless. Suffocating. The words “cancer” and “more than we thought” are words that tend to do that to you. The phone call from my sweet daddy left me speechless and sobbing. This was NOT my mom’s life. This was NOT our family’s life.

Take a step back. Gain perspective. Pray.

There is boundless uncertainty because I am human.

But GOD.

With God, there is boundless certainty. He is not confused. He is not surprised. Let me tell you what He IS. Caring. Loving. Unconditionally sovereign. Healing. Powerful. Faithful. Invincible. Greater. 

Isaiah 54:4-5 (NIV) “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by His wounds we are healed.

My faith has not been tampered with. My faith is unwavering. My faith is zealous. My faith gives me peace that surpasses all understanding. My faith gives me no room for Satan’s lies and schemes. My faith gives me a boldness to pray BIG prayers. My faith makes me confident that my prayers will be answered. My faith convicts me that this trial will be used for a greater good (Romans 8:28). My faith gives me hope that my family will glorify the King’s name through it all. My faith gives me belief that miracles are modern.

Dear Mom: I want you to know that you are tenacious and unyielding. Your faith surpasses any mountain that could be placed in front of you. We are in the valley, but your heart is still dancing with joy. I have watched you give the glory to God in the most minuscule victories, such as walking to the door or eating a bite of grits. Your sociable persona makes you want to visit with every friend that walks through the hospital door, even though your body is weak and tired. Answering nearly 100 texts daily for you is a testament to the kind of woman you are. The influence you have had in your community and beyond is unmatched. My favorite part of this journey is listening to people tell me how much you mean to them. How you have touched their lives. How you have been their light in the dark. Whole congregations and small groups and offices have prayed for you. People who have met you once or twice have fasted meal after meal for you. Your importance in this world and to this family is matchless. You live life with spunk, newness, and adventure every chance you get. You put your family first. You love the people you work with and your clients so well. The phone calls and video chats we have mean so much to me because you have become my best friend, the one I confide in, and the one I seek prayer  and encouragement from. I hope you know that you have loved me best. You have loved this family unceasingly. You have never given up. You are a fighter for what you are passionate about. You have raised strong and confident women through your example. We are strong through this because of you. I love you to the stars and back, Mom.

Genesis 50:20 (NIV) “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

This is just a small detour, not the destination. 

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Trendy Christianity

The Bible has no disclaimer saying “this might offend you, read with caution.” Similarly, this post will have no disclaimer at the end telling you that what you read is “to each his own.”

Let me tell you something, Christian to Christian, believer to believer. Maybe you are not a believer, but you have noticed this trend with your Christian friends. Here it is: WE (Christians) ARE MIRRORING THE WORLD.

What? Let me explain.

In trying to be inclusive and loving to everyone, which in itself is a good thing, we are becoming no different than the world around us, except for the big fat Christian label we place on ourselves. This is dangerous.

With that being said…listen. The church is not for us. It is not a sanctuary for ourselves. The church’s purpose is to glorify the Most High, the Father of the Universe, the Creator of life. Its purpose is to learn about Him, to honor Him through our fellowship, to love in the name of Christ.

Hip music. Concerts. All black. MacBooks. Densely highlighted bibles. Big churches. Blogs. Coffee shops. Enos. Perfect Instagram’s. Bible apps. Cool shoes. Hebrew tattoos. Journals with pages and pages of calligraphy.

If you took all of it away, would you still be in love with Christ?

This has become a new and hazardous comfort zone for so many Christians (and non-Christians). Christianity now has a concrete “look.” We know what to do. We know what songs to sing. We know the cool bloggers and the trendy speakers. We know what to wear.

A couple of days ago, I attended the Passion Conference in Atlanta. A woman who I respect immensely, Beth Moore, came and spoke some powerful words. I was deeply convicted about something God had placed on my heart for months now. She alluded to this…

We, millennial Christians, are sacrificing the truth of the Christian faith for “love’s sake.”

The TRUTH that we are abandoning is this: we are no longer foreigners in this land. We blend in. We make following Christ easy, lukewarm, concrete, hip, and fun.

Let me tell you this. We are called to be foreigners, outsiders, temporary residents.

1 Peter 1:1 calls us EXILES.

1 Peter 1:17 calls us FOREIGNERS.

1 Peter 2:11 calls us SOJOURNERS.

I do not know about you, but I am tired of living “trendy.” I can never keep up. It is exhausting. It is like high school all over again. I want to live by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Book, my convictions, through worship and praise. What an adventure!

What I am NOT saying is this: coffee shop fellowship and intense Christian jam sessions are bad.

What I AM saying is this: when our lives no longer reflect the cross, when our lives are comfortable, when we no longer hurt, when worship becomes something to put on Instagram, when we value ourselves and our image more than Christ, when shortcuts in our Christianity become the norm, when we no longer reflect on our own sin, when we gain a taste for inclusiveness but lose a taste for God, when are motifs are self-righteous… that is when it all becomes blasphemy.

Yes, world, use social media and artwork for the glory of God. Use instruments and fill arenas with people to glorify God. PRAISE GOD FOR THAT. But also let us die to self. Empty ourselves of our own ambitions. Suffer for Jesus. Bear disorder. Become comfortable being uncomfortable. Lose our pride.

Let us Christians become like Christ in His death.

 

You Are Not Alone, You Are His (A Letter to the Newly Single Girl)

To Whom It May Concern,

I have seen you hurt and broken. I have seen you not want to come out of your room. I have seen you unable to throw away his things because you still believe the same loving boy is going to knock on your door with flowers and your favorite candy. I have seen you twiddling your thumbs over the send button hoping that text will bring him back. I have seen you look at his pictures and Snapchats wondering why he seems so much happier without you. I have seen it all.

My soul breaks and my body aches for you, because beautiful girl, I know where you are. I know you feel unlovable and unworthy and unhappy. It is such a fresh wound, even months out. You think you are fine and then you see him with someone else and your heart feels wrecked all over again.

I do not want you to fear the future. I want to look you in the eyes and tell you that one day you will be able to see him and not feel shattered. However, I know that is the last truth you can believe right now.

Here is my heart. I am writing this because I have seen my friends broken and depressed and alone. I speak that heart language. I can relate. I want to offer my two-cents on hope and empathy and truth.

You are not “replaceable.” In fact, you are very much irreplaceable. Every experience, all of the good and the bad, every fight, every laugh, and every memory is unique to you. There is no one in this world who will make him experience the same things that you did. God brings certain people into our life and He takes certain people away. That boy was taken away from you, but you will grow from the experiences you had together if you let God help you. Someone may be better equipped to be with him, but that does not take anything away from you. Him loving someone else does not mean you were unlovable. It means that God loved you enough to give you something better. 

One day, you will get those butterflies again. You will be able to invest in someone again. You will be able to be vulnerable without fear of getting your heart broken. Someone will love you with all of your quirks and flaws and goofiness and mood-swings. This was the hardest thing for me to grasp. After devoting so much of yourself to a relationship that did not work out, why would anyone ever want to do that again? Replace your fear with faith. My promise, you will have the energy and heart to love again.

Re-invent yourself in your singleness. Take a good, long, hard look at what worked and what did not work in your previous relationship. Focus on becoming the person you want to marry. Discipline yourself, ask God to heal your heart, and ask Him to help you grow in this season. Singleness is a time for immense spiritual growth. Do not underestimate what God can do in your season of waiting.

Lastly, there is no time limit on when it is acceptable to “date again.” I have had friends find their person two weeks after a break-up and friends who have taken years off dating. However, I know dating is scary. It can be the ultimate thing that affirms that our past relationship is over. Just make sure you pray that God has fully healed your heart before you do date. Do not “rebound” date when you should be using this time for healing and growing.

 Worth The Read

John 15:16

Ephesians 1:4

Deuteronomy 20:4

Remember that you are lovable. And you will be able to love again one day.

Inner Disposition

Let me fill you in on a little secret of mine.

Before I truly embraced my relationship with Christ, I would watch Christians. I would watch what they said, what they did, and how they treated others. To be honest, I was not that impressed. I did not have the best experiences with Christians. Often times, I felt judged, looked down upon, and excluded by them. They did not have much credibility in my mind. They called themselves Christians, but the only things that set them apart were their judgmental and close minded attitudes. I knew I never wanted to be that person. This completely turned me off of Christianity, religion, and Jesus.

When I started walking with the Lord, I knew I never wanted to be like that. But lately, I’ve been realizing how difficult that can be. It is difficult to love everyone. It is difficult to be inclusive. And sometimes I really suck at being a Christian. It really hurts to admit that. Sometimes I do things and realize that my integrity with people might have been tested. I am scared that others might look down on me. I fear that I am not set-apart. I get anxious that I might be the Christian that I used to dislike. It is a huge insecurity of mine.

I DON’T know how to be the perfect Christian.

But I DO know that I should pray these things daily

1. To love others well.

2. For my credibility to not be shaken.

3. To be set-apart.

This morning, I fell into that insecurity again. But God blessed me with some wise friends because they offered me the encouragement I needed. They reminded me that following Jesus is tough sometimes. Christians are held to a higher standard and sometimes we fall. It makes us human. That is what the cross is for.

In the wise words of my friend Alia… “When Christians fall, we don’t fall into an empty abyss to be lost and gone forever. We fall into a net that God placed there before hand because he knew we would fall. It’s kind of like a trampoline. We fall only to get right back up again.”

Here is some simple truth…

Psalm 103:12, MSG

“As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
    he has separated us from our sins.”

2 Corinthians 7:10, MSG

“But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.”

2 Corinthians 4:16, MSG

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Remember that God is radically renewing us and eternally changing our inner disposition. Don’t be discouraged when insecurities get the best of us.

 

 

Vulnerability Hangover

Once upon a time… or two times… or maybe 250 million times… I told someone something that I immediately regretted. I have walked away from certain conversations feeling naked and exposed. I have woken up some mornings with flooded anxiety about something I shared with someone the previous night.

This is what I like to call a vulnerability hangover- a.k.a. shame.

So what’s in a shame?

Shame is the ultimate fear of disconnection from people. It is the result of rejection or fear of others not accepting us. Shame is the voice in our head saying “if you share this, others are not going to accept you” or “because you told them this, they are going to see you differently.”

I am unworthy of love.

I am not pretty enough to accomplish that.

I am not successful enough to do this.

I am not good enough to talk to them.

So, I am here to tell you this- having a vulnerability hangover actually has… NOTHING…to do with vulnerability at all. This said “hangover” is a result of shame, which can lead to some other really ugly things.

depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders

Recognize the brutal lies the devil tells you and start believing that what makes you vulnerable makes you BEAUTIFUL! Rest assured that the darkest thought you could have, the lowest point you can feel, and the furthest place you could run… His grace will always meet us there.

  1. Remind yourself that you are worthy of love and acceptance.
  2. Surrender to your vulnerability.
  3. Have the courage to be imperfect.
  4. Your life is your art.
  5. Vulnerability is most definitely NOT a weakness.

But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” ~Francis Chan, Crazy Love

Stay encouraged!

xoxo

Turn Your Mess Into Your Message

There is something so neat about people sharing their stories with you. It is a way to connect, laugh, and cry with each other on such a deeper level. They can be inspiring. They can be heartbreaking. They can send chills down your spine.  But as much as I love listening to them, thinking about sharing mine terrifies me.

I was asked by my small group leader to share my testimony. WHAT. My insides were screaming “no” but I politely responded with a “sure.” My anxiety levels were through the roof.

How do I even share my testimony?

What will people think of me?

Is my story “too much?”

With a troubled and confused heart, I prayed and asked God to show me what to share and how to share it.

Ironically, Passion City Church had sent me a free trial of their new devotional called “Simple Pursuit: A Heart After Jesus.” Two days after I said that prayer, the title of the devotional that day was “Your Honest Testimony.”

How cool is God.

Through this, I was taught a couple of things

  1. I am not sharing my testimony to reveal all of my deepest darkest secrets.
  2. My testimony is not “too much.”
  3. Testimonies are for giving real examples of what being brought from death to life really means.
  4. They show how radical a life change in Christ can be.
  5. Our story is not meant to lie dormant.
  6. Reveal how he breathes life into us e v e r y d a y and how His grace is, was, and always will be enough.

Testimonies are stories of hope and redemption. It is so important to be honest- do not worry about covering ANYTHING up. Speak boldly and be enthusiastically proud of your rebirth in Christ.

He has chosen us for our weaknesses, not our strengths. This magnifies our need for Him. Our stories are meant to be told.

“But Paul and Barnabas didn’t back down. Standing their ground they said, “It was required that God’s Word be spoken first of all to you, the Jews. But seeing that you want no part of it—you’ve made it quite clear that you have no taste or inclination for eternal life—the door is open to all the outsiders. And we’re on our way through it, following orders, doing what God commanded when he said, “I’ve set you up as light to all nations. You’ll proclaim salvation to the four winds and seven seas!” When the non-Jewish outsiders heard this, they could hardly believe their good fortune. All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God—they honored God’s Word by receiving that life. And this Message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region.” Acts 13:46-48

I encourage you to share your testimony with someone. Ask Christ to give you the courage to share your story of being brought from death to life. If it encourages just ONE person, you are furthering the kingdom of God and that is wondrous. 

 

 

Getting High

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4

Well, what about when we are hurting, God? What about when the test and challenges seem like too much? What happens when we feel like giving up?

The first time I can ever remember my heart truly being broken was when my Poppie passed away. I had never experienced someone so close to me die. It all happened so suddenly; I remember the phone call I got from my mom when she informed me of the tragedy and all I could say was “No no no, I love him. This can’t happen.” I can still feel that perpetual gut-twisting moment when I thought about how he would never get to be the preacher at my wedding (as we always dreamed about together) or how he would never see me graduate high school.

The second time I ever had my heart-broken was not too much longer after that. It was my freshman year of high school, after the break-up with my first real boyfriend. I was soOoOoo in love and so head over heels with this boy and truly thought I was going to marry him. He was the first boy to ever shower me with love and affection and gifts and kind words. I was devastated when things did not end up working out. No matter what I did and no matter how much I begged him to take me back, he was gone. I felt completely and utterly out of control. He had moved on to the next better, prettier, and smarter girl and I was just “me.”

At this point in my life, I was unable to see past all of this. I chose to go down a completely destructive path trying to numb the deep pain that came along with rejection and loss. I soon realized that if you numb something long enough, it becomes cold- and that is exactly what my heart did. I made myself numb to feelings and emotions and intimacy. Instead of living life the way it is supposed to be lived, with zest and spontaneity, I lived it through boys, alcohol, and shallow friendships. I was constantly searching for something that would get my mind off of whatever hardship life threw at me or whatever sadness I felt. Eventually, I built a tolerance to these worldly highs and was left in a dark, cold, and scary place. Nothing could get me that good feeling anymore; I was emotionally exhausted. 

So many people can relate to the inner distress that comes with having their heart-broken. Whether it is a traumatic experience, the end of a long-term relationship, or the death of a loved one, not one person is exempt from the pains of this world. When your heart is broken, you have two options- you can choose to take the worldly, destructive path that brings temporary satisfaction or you can choose to take a different path. I want to tell you about the different path a recently took that really did help me be “okay”.

Heartbreak is inevitable. Recently, I rediscovered that painful feeling once again. Yes- the nausea because you physically can not eat, the anxiety that consumes your daily life and the exhausting thoughts constantly running through your head. I understand it from the core of my being because if you are anything like me, you feel things DEEPLY. When I love, I love hard and when I hurt, I hurt even harder. But something in me told me that I can not take that path that I did in high school. I can’t go to that dark, cold, and scary place again. I needed to do something different. I needed to FEEL better- physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

SOOOOOOO….

I ran to Jesus. Not only did I run, but I full on sprinted. During college, I truly found my relationship with Christ, but still felt some uncertainty when it came to trusting Him with all of my being. All I knew is at this point, I had to hand everything over to Him. I spent my days and nights in prayer, the Word, and in Christian fellowship. I asked Him to HELP me trust Him because it was hard. I prayed for Him to give me strength and peace and let me tell you… He was SO faithful.

There is no place so desolate that we cannot find Him there.

So after being vulnerable with you guys and gals, I want to tell you the ways I sprinted to Him in case you literally have no idea how to (because at one point I didn’t either). God works! He is the only one who can fully heal a heart and transform your mind.

  1. I started my very own War Room. I wrote down the desires of my heart. I wrote down comforting scripture. I wrote down long, deep prayers. I hung up pictures of people I needed to pray for during this time. I did this all in my closet (just like the movie war room:) and that became my place of comfort. I would sit in there all hours of the night just talking to God.
  2. I asked God to HELP me trust him fully. I never understood how someone just “trusts” God 100%. That was always a hard concept for me because I can’t physically see Him. So I asked! And once again…He was faithful.
  3. Open up. I love to bottle up my feelings and pretend like they don’t exist half the time. I have a bad problem of living in denial. Find someone to open up to and be completely honest with them. For me, that was my mom. Her and Christ became my ultimate safe space.
  4. Acknowledge God multiple times a day. Whisper to Him thankfulness. Sing to Him his goodness. Meditate on His sovereignty.
  5. Stay in the Word. It gave me instructions on how to make it through the days where I thought I couldn’t. Start in Romans! I found so much comfort reading this.
  6. Surround yourself with people who bring you joy! Even if you don’t feel like it… do something with someone. Don’t be alone with your thoughts too much. It is so easy for the Devil to speak lies into your head and heart if you are not constantly guarding them. Which brings me to the next point…
  7. Don’t let the Devil steal your joy. The Devil is real people. He is out for YOU and he is out for ME. I verbally tell the Devil that he can not have my peace, my joy, or my life.
  8. annnnnnd last but not least- God doesn’t offer a “quick fix” for the healing and restoration of our hearts. He offers us peace and comfort- but that does not make the heartbreak go away. He transforms us during this time. He builds our character, prepares our hearts, and builds our trust. When we feel weak and want to take the “easy” way out, remember that we are only hurting ourselves in doing so. He wants to make us stronger and we need to let Him.

REAL QUICK let me tell you about this miracle I had during this experience! At one point, when my anxiety was so bad it felt like I could hardly breath and move, I got on my knees. I prayed and begged for Him to take it away because it was so debilitating. And in that moment, I physically felt the anxiety leave me. LITERALLY, from my tips of my toes to the top of my head…gone. Now tell me that isn’t a full on miracle. I FELT it. That verified all over again what a personal and loving God He is.

Thanks for letting me share and be REAL with ya’ll! Hope you learned a little something and I encourage everyone to be more vulnerable to themselves, others, and Christ!

Check out my sweet, sweet friend Jenny’s blog for more love on this topic

Galatians 5:1

xoxo

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.

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!