Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Only Legacy

Day 30: List 5 things you would hope to be remembered for.

This is the last day of August's 30 Day Blogging Challenge!  If you completed this challenge or started late, post the link to your blog in the comments below.  This month has gone by quickly.

When I was younger, being remembered was a big deal to me.  I very much wanted to be remembered after I died.  Leaving a legacy seemed so very important.  I lost a friend at fifteen and I was so desperate to remember him.  When I woke in the night, when I got up in the morning, while I studied at school, when I spent time with my friends.  Whenever I forgot, even for a moment, I felt extreme shame.  He needed to be remembered.  

I still remember Gatlin and think of him often, but I have a different perspective of being remembered now.

After I die, I probably won't be remembered.  Of course I will for a little while, but what about in a hundred years?  Three hundred?  My name will only be a fading scratch on a gravestone.  It doesn't matter so much if I am remembered because I will be alive and worshiping the King of Kings.  He knows me.  He will remember me.  And I will know Him face-to-face.

But if I could think of five things to be remembered for, they would be that I was:

1.) Redeemed.  When people look back on my life, I would hope the thought would be, "Wow, God's grace was displayed in her. " 

2.) A lover of orphans.

3.) Kind. 

4.) One who loves well.

5.) A reflection of Him.

What are 5 things you would like to be remembered for?

Two years ago: Ruin Me
Three years ago: 30 Day Blog Challenge

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Misunderstanding.

Day 29: What do you think people misunderstand the most about you?

It took me a while to muster up the courage to share this.  I am afraid that my intentions for writing this post are going to fall flat.  I don't want this to be taken the wrong way.  It will be kind of funny if the post about what people misunderstand about me is misunderstood.

Before you read any other part of this, read these five words and take them to heart: Without Christ, I am broken.

Okay, here goes.

A perception that I receive from people I don't know well is that I am "good."

Usually, I get this from strangers when I am talking about Jesus.  They'll say, "Yeah, I get that Christ forgave your sins and all that, but it's different when you've never actually done anything.  It's obvious you grew up as a good, Christian girl.  Of course He can forgive you.  But you have no idea what I've done."

Once, when I was in high school, I was talking to a few friends.  One of them was kind of in my circle, but we weren't very close.  We were all talking about our quiet times, so I started to say how I had been awed that day by the vastness of the grace of God.  My friend kind of laughed, looked at me funny, and said, "Wait, what do you mean?  I know you haven't done anything that bad to deserve grace like that."  When I started to protest, she shook her head and said, "Don't try to argue with me.  I know how innocent you are.  You're almost perfect."

She could not be more wrong.  Her skewed perception of who I was left me feeling ill and confused.  On one hand, I was thankful of the transformation that the Lord had brought to my life.  I was growing to look more like Him, like 2 Corinthians 3:18 said, and people could see that!  On the other hand, I hated what she said.  I wanted God to get the glory for who I was becoming, because even if she did not see it, I knew very well the brokenness of my own self.

The most frustrating misunderstanding that people have about me is that I haven't done anything "bad" in my life.  That I've sinned at some point because everybody does, but that I've never truly sinned, that I can't understand someone who has screwed up, and that I can only relate to the life of a good, Christian girl.

Let me set the record straight now.

I have been broken, shattered, tangled in the mire of my own sins.  I know what it is like to be lost.  I have also been redeemed because of the endless and matchless grace of God.  I have been forgiven.

I have made mistakes.  My mouth has spoken hurtful things, lies, cuss words, denials about my Creator.  My hands have hurt myself and others.  My heart has been fractured by the sinfulness that I fell into because no part of me on my own is good.  Not even a little bit. 

I have tasted the darkness of depression.  I have felt thoughts of suicide and hatred and loneliness.  I know what it is like to crumble under overwhelming shame.  I so deserved to be punished by a just and holy God.  But He took my place.

I have glimpsed the glory of one who sent His only Son to die for a wretch like me.  I don't know why He chose to love me, but He does.  I don't know why He gave me joy, but He did.  I don't know why He would forgive me, sacrifice Himself for me, make me clean, forgive all that I have done, but He has.

Without Christ in my life, I am nothing but filthy rags.  Without Christ in my life, I was so very broken and yet He still loved me with an everlasting love and drew me with unfailing kindness.

Now I may live filled with joy and hope, but it's not because I'm good.  It's not because I fixed my life or because I'm a nice person.  No, it's because the Lord redeemed me.  I am righteous in His sight because of His astounding mercy, not because of anything I have done.  Every ounce of love in me is because He loved me first. 

Never think that you are too bad for God's grace.  You are loved.  He desires to call you His child and His bride.  He desires to redeem you.

I am not good, but I have been called righteous by a God who loves me out of His compassion alone.  And I do like to talk about that. 

"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." -Isaiah 1:18

Two years ago: Changing Priorities

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I will not flee from your hug.

Day 28: What is your love language?

If you do not know what a love language is, I encourage you to take the test here

I've taken this test a couple of times in the past, but I decided to take it again.  It's been over a year since I've taken the test and with each new month in college, I find a new piece of who God is creating me to be.

These were my results:

I actually did change since the last time I took this test!  Last year, my results were (in order): Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

For the first time in my life, Physical Touch is not my #5.  I'm not a touchy person at all, but it looks like I enjoy hugs more than I used to (and you know, I think I actually do)... and Receiving Gifts dropped to the bottom of the list for the first time, from being #3.

If you've never taken the love languages test, I encourage you to do so.  Take it with family or your circle of friends.  Seeing how the people around you receive love can be so beneficial in strengthening your relationships.

A game I like to play with a couple of my friends is to guess someone's love languages in order before they take the test.  I'm usually correct!  Being aware of other people's love languages helps you to understand ways that they might be showing love to you that you might have taken for granted before, and it also gives you a focus on serving the people around you in ways that they will understand best.

What are your love language scores?

One year ago: My Poor Head
Two years ago: I've discovered instagram.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One photo.

Day 27: A photo. Just a photo.

Photo taken by Travis Vaclavik
Two years ago: Breaking

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Miley Cyrus is Broken, Like Me.

Day 26: What popular notion do you think the world has wrong?

Obviously, we live on a broken and sinful earth.  There are a lot of things the world has wrong, but something in particular has been on my mind today.

If you've turned on the computer or TV at all in the last couple of days, you have probably heard or seen something about Miley Cyrus's performance on the VMA's.  Raunchy and hypersexual are understatements.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, I wouldn't recommend for anyone to go back and watch the performance.  I didn't finish the song, but I regret the amount I saw.

In a brief summary of what went down on stage, a bikini-clad Miley danced and twerked throughout the entire song, using a foam finger to perform obscene sexual gestures as she grinded against a married man.

I've seen a whole lot of things explode since this performance.  I've watched the Christian community fling judgments like hailstones at Miley.  I've watched my own friends use words like "slut" and "whore."  I've heard some people blow off her actions, including Miley, who calls the phase she's going through "puberty."

But here are my thoughts.

We live in a world where a girl is condemned for her actions, while the fact that an older, married man was an active participant is barely mentioned.  We live in a world where in order to portray oneself as an adult, a season of sexual liberation is expected and encouraged.  We live in a world where the fact that Miley Cyrus fondled herself with a foam finger on live TV is more shocking than the fact that millions of people watched live and did nothing but point fingers and judge.

No one at the award show stepped in.  Most people didn't change the channel; rather, they flipped open their phones to cast judgment while they gazed on every single step that went down on TV and then looked it up on YouTube later.  "Miley Cyrus" was sculpted by publicists and agents and managers and dance choreographers and costume designers, and how many people stepped in to explain that what she was about to do was nothing more than crude and profane foolishness?  Rather, they encouraged her, created her, heralded her decisions as brilliance, and then when judgment rained down, they took a step back to let it all fall on the lost little girl they left under the spotlight alone.

I'm not saying that Miley's actions were okay.  No, they repulsed me and broke my heart at the same time.  The lack of true reactions from anyone at the VMAs, including those behind the scenes, has left me confused and aching.

What I see is a girl who has completely forgotten what it means to be loved, a girl that is entirely unaware that she was created in the image of a beautiful and almighty God, and a girl who has so much more value than desperately rebellious sexuality.

Before I end this, I want to say that before you name-call Miley, remember that she's someone's little girl.  Remember that she is completely lost, whether or not she even realizes she is.  Remember that she is being encouraged by adults who basically control her entire life.  Remember that a married man allowed everything to happen around him while wearing an amused smirk, and few people have called him out on his actions.  Remember that Miley is broken

We live in a broken world.  So I cry out to the Lord.  His grace and unfailing love is so much bigger than all of these crumbling earthly things.  His redemption is so sweet.

A couple of perspectives on this topic that I've admired is this blog post and Christian singer Jamie-Grace's tweets from an artist's perspective.

Two years ago: Lizard in the Bathroom!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Just Redeemed.

Day 24: Describe your family dynamic from your childhood vs. your family dynamic now.

When I was a child, I was a much different person than I am now.  I was not yet a Christian and I was a captive to my fear.  I daily experienced an anxiety that would catch in my chest and overtake my mind until I was frozen in place, unable to speak or breathe or think clearly.

I was a slave to anxiety.

Throughout my life, I've encountered so many people who have faced a struggle with anxiety and worry.  Depression and anxiety and self-destructive thoughts were a war waged in my thoughts beginning when I was around eight years old.

When I was a child, I had trouble connecting with any person, in all honesty, even my own family.  I couldn't bear to be touched; I could bear to talk about the turmoil in my thoughts.  I was extremely lonely.

In other ways, I had a very normal childhood.  I have wonderful memories of my parents and my siblings and my experiences.  I don't want to sound like I had a horrible childhood, because I have hilarious stories to tell.  But there were struggles.

By Christ's power alone, I have been set free from my chains and bonds.  It's overwhelming to look back and see the transformation He has had on my life.  I have gone from terrified to free, from horribly shy to confident, from depressed to joyful.

There was a day when I started high school after a long summer of transformation.  Someone I had known for years looked at me and said, "Are you new here?"  The freedom the Lord had given me changed everything about me, even my appearance.  It's amazing the difference a smile can make.  Three months earlier, I was a timid 8th grader who carefully wore long sleeves to cover up the scars on my skin and refused to smile or speak to anyone.  Now I was redeemed.  That's the first word that comes to mind when I think of myself: redeemed.

Because without Him, I would not be alive today.

This started out being about my family dynamic, but I've gone off on a tangent.  I won't erase this, however.  God is good!

Now my dynamic with my family is very sweet.  I could not love or admire my parents more.  My mom and I confide in one another almost daily.  My dad is a spiritual guide in my life.  My little brother is a rock of both wisdom and precious spiritual growth.  My little sister is on a journey to discover who she is in Christ.  I have been blessed with a wonderful family.

I like the dynamic of my family.  When I look at my life and at my family over the last twenty years, I can only see the faithfulness of God.  He is so good to us.

What's your family dynamic like?

Two years ago: Letter to Juniors in High School

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Three Hobbies

Day 23: List your top 3 hobbies and why you love them.

1.) Writing.

Obviously, this is my favorite hobby.  Writing is the easiest way for me to articulate what's on my mind and what's pressing upon my heart.  It's one of my favorite forms of worship.  I so love writing letters to my Father.

Any kind of writing pretty much wins me over: poetry, songs, blogs, short stories, long stories, journal entries.  If a day goes by and I haven't written anything, I have trouble sleeping that night.  Writing is sweet to me.  I love it.

2.) Guitar.

I'm not a great guitarist, but I enjoy playing this instrument and learning a little more each year.  At my house, we have a prayer room.  I love closing myself into this place with my guitar.  Hours are spent playing music and singing to Jesus.  It's such a joyful time. 

Also, I get to lead worship throughout the year, which is one way that I can use this small ability to encourage others.  You don't have to be a great guitarist to lead worship; most praise songs have simple chords.  At the beginning of last year, the idea of leading worship with my friends intimidated me quite a bit, but the Lord has given me a lot of freedom in that area.  I now have so much more confidence and He has blessed me in that!

3.) Longboarding.

I'm also not great at longboarding.  If you've followed my blog for long, you may remember how just over a year ago, I was in a longboarding accident that actually made it difficult for me to blog for the next month.  However, I have now learned better safety and I still do longboard often when I'm back in my college town.

When I'm feeling frustrated or stressed out, one of my favorite things to do is go out into the open air and skate, even up and down my street.  I'm horrible at most sports, so longboarding may actually be one of the only things that I can handle!

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Two years ago: Letter to Sophomores in High School

Friday, August 23, 2013

Uncertainty and Satisfaction

Day 22: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?

I've thought and thought about this.  Even a year ago, I could have sat at this computer and typed out exactly where I saw my life headed, but now I've had to take a step back to reevaluate everything.

I have ideas and I have dreams, but looking at my life sculpted out over the next 15 years, I'm not sure what will happen.  Lately, I've been intentionally taking the time to sit quietly and ask God to reveal His will for my life.  I don't want any part of my future to be of my own purposes.  The Lord was the one who gave me the desires of my heart.  He best knows how to fulfill them.

Now, I do have passions and ideas.  I definitely want to work in missions and world relief projects.  I have a huge heart for orphans and an increasing desire for adoption.  But I also have questions that I'm waiting to be answered.

Also, a year ago I would have described without hesitation my desire for a godly husband, but now that my future is being laid out before me, I've become uncertain if that can happen.  How many men are actually interested in moving to a third world country or international adoption (or both)?  I don't know if my future holds marriage, but I do know that I'm loved unceasingly by the Creator of the world.  I'm in love, and whether or not He places another love in my life, I am satisfied where I am.

I don't know what my future holds.

Will I go or will I stay?  I'm not sure yet.  I'll most likely end up doing both at different points in my life.

In five to fifteen years, I may be serving orphans through a humanitarian organization located in the United States.  I may be living in another country.  I may be in heaven.  I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Two years ago: Awakening Love

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pranks on Pranks on Pranks

Day 21: 5 things on your mind.

I've had one of the most fun weeks ever, so I'm just going to share stories from the last few days.  The moment school starts, reality is going to hit like a freight train.  College life isn't actually this much fun when studying and exams begin.

1.) Last week, I had camp.  I was a Prayer Teamer, which meant that I spent most of my time in the prayer room warring for incoming freshmen and only a little bit of time sleeping.  The experience was heart-changing.  I learned a lot about God's faithfulness and sustenance, even when I thought I had nothing left in me.

There were a lot of physical attacks by the enemy: dehydration, turned ankles, colds, pain, and one prayer teamer was even bit by a copperhead!  But Christ holds the victory and He showed Himself to be so incredibly faithful.  

I met a lot of precious girls that are in the class of 2017.  Reuniting with my wonderful camp after a long summer apart was great too.  I missed my friends.  Living 9 hours away from my college town isn't always easy. 

2.) Sammy and I most definitely terrified Jevon.  We dressed up in all black with matching masks, knocked on his door, and then rushed to stand silently at the end of his walkway.  It was so dark that we were hardly visible, only enough to bring utter horror.

Last spring, we were watching The Strangers (my favorite scary movie) and Jevon left early.  That doesn't happen in our rulebook, so we remembered over the summer months and planned a lovely prank.

Don't worry though.  Jevon turned out okay.  After a long while of staring at us, he eventually kind of figured out who we were and even let us in his house.  We let him live. 

3.) Kelsey got a nose piercing!  In our friend circle, if someone gets something scary like a piercing, emotional support is necessary.  We filled up that tattoo parlor and held her hand.  Needless to say, she is beautiful with a piercing.  I was proud of how brave she was.  If I ever get a piercing like that, I'm pretty sure I'll tear up.
I've been teaching Kelsey how to longboard, so we're calling this her "week of rebellion."

4.) It was Bekah's 20th birthday on Tuesday.  Some of the girls in our camp gathered and baked her a cake.  Sammy and I were doing laundry, so we unfortunately had to miss out, so we decided to bake a cake of our own.  Isn't it beautiful?

We actually frosted a cereal box filled with little gifts, like bath markers and sidewalk chalk.  When Bekah cut into the cake, she had a surprise.

Also, we kidnapped Bekah for her birthday.  Our camp is known for its interesting pranks, so Bekah was terrified that something would happen to her.  I sent her an hourly countdown throughout the day to add to the suspense.

Thankfully, I'm close friends with Bekah's roommate, who helped us coordinate a time and location.  Dressed in hoods and all black, Sammy and I ambushed our friend.  Sammy pretty much tackled Bekah to the ground, put a pillow case over her head, and then we carried her to my car and drove off in absolute silence. 

Unfortunately, I'm directionally challenged and got lost, so our drive was about fifteen minutes longer than necessary.  It added to the suspense.  Sammy and I both know a little bit of American Sign Language, so it took some furious gesturing on Sammy's part to get me to find my way back to the froyo shop that was our original destination.

After two games of capture the flag on campus, our night was a success. 

5.) This happened more than a week ago, but Ali and I pranked my little brother Luke's bedroom for his 14th birthday.  We blew up 73 balloons and covered his floor with them and two giant balls we found at Walmart.  Ali strung streamers all over his bedroom.  We even made a poster.

I was mildly concerned that Luke would be furious at the state of his room, but he enjoyed the prank.

It always feels good to be remembered on your birthday.

I worked quite a bit this summer.  While I absolutely love my job, it's nice to have a typical "summer" during these last two weeks.  I don't have much longer in my life to feel like a youth, but during the days when my summer internship has ended and classes have not yet begun, life feels like a constant adventure.  It's been a refreshing blast.

What are 5 things on your mind? 

Two years ago: Letter to High School Freshmen

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The day my mother was a serial killer.

Day 20: Describe 3 significant memories from your childhood.

I'm a little frustrated writing this because I don't have my hard drive right now, which contains most of my childhood photos, poems, journal entries, and stories.  I was going to share some of these things in this post, but seeing as I have no idea when I'll get my "computer" back, I'll just come up with something today.

1.) My little sister, Amy, and I must have fought a lot throughout our childhood.  My parents were often creating ultimatums as consequences for our fighting.  As their desperation increased, so did their ideas.

There was a time when Amy and I were in an argument and Dad picked up the phone, dialed a number, and said, "Hello, is this boot camp?  I have two bad little girls that need to be sent to you.  Will you make them do lots of push-ups and yell at them?"  By this point, Amy and I were crying and pleading with him to not send us to this terrible place.  He said he'd call them back and cancel if we hugged and didn't fight anymore that night. 

Another time, I was being naughty, so Mom told me that she was going to send me to live with "the nuns" if I didn't start behaving.  However imaginative a child you were, multiply that by about three hundred and that was me, so the idea of being sent to live with the nuns sounded extremely romantic and fascinating.  I was already picturing myself wearing a habit and singing wistfully as I swept the floors or peered out of the garden gate at the rest of the world, sheltered and alone.  Mom saw my eagerness and quickly improvised, informing me that nuns are very cruel.  They not only make you work all day and all night, but they beat the children that come to stay with them.

This distressed me a little bit more, but I was still excited about the idea of becoming a nun.  I meandered over to Rachel and Rebekah's house and sat down in Rebekah's bedroom.  "My mom is going to send me to live with the nuns," I announced, making sure the inflection in my voice held an appropriate amount of sadness and martyrdom.  "She said they would beat me every day and make me do lots of chores."

Rebekah was horrified, just as I hoped her to be.  "Do you want to come live with me?"

"Your parents would never allow that, Rebekah.  They would tell mine right away."

"But I could hide you!  You could live in my closet and sleep during the day.  We could play all night long and I would sneak you PB&J sandwiches and notebooks so you could write your stories and read them to me."

This sounded far more exciting than being beaten by nuns.  Rebekah and I spent the rest of the afternoon planning out my life as a stowaway in her closet and by the end of the day, my mom had long forgotten her threat about the nuns.

All was forgiven. 

2.) Growing up, I lived next door to a family that had two girls near my age named Rachel and Rebekah.  We had interesting adventures nearly every day.

Once, Rebekah and I were walking in the park that was located about a block away from our houses.  We stumbled across a dead bird crumpled in the grass.

"Is it dead?" Rebekah asked.

I shrugged.  "I think so."

For some reason that escapes me now, we stared at the bird for several long moments.  "I don't think it's dead.  Its heart is beating," Rebekah whispered, and as soon as she spoke those words, I couldn't help but imagine its little exposed heart fluttering as it lay paralyzed in the painful throes of death. 

"We have to kill it," Rebekah insisted.  "We can't leave it there to suffer."

All I knew was that there was no way in a million years I was ever stepping closer to that disgusting bird in the grass.  "Go ahead and put it out of its misery," I offered, backing nervously away.

Rebekah hesitated.  She was a tender-hearted little girl.  We had yet to sit through a movie without her having to leave the room in tears.  Her heart for animals overpowered her fear of the dead bird, so she found a pointed stick and began forcefully stabbing the bird over and over again.  He lay in a bloody heap in the grass, unmoving as ever.  It was impossible for his little heart to ever beat again.

Sobbing, Rebekah collapsed into my arms and I tearfully led her home.  I'm pretty sure our mothers were very alarmed when they saw us and thought we'd been through a terrible experience.

3.)  For my final story, I'll describe the day I chose to run away from home.  I feel like most children run away at some point.  I had a legitimate reason; I thought my mom was a murderer.  All parents seem like potential killers, spies, and pirates to children with overactive imaginations.  Mine certainly did.  I was convinced my father was secretly an undercover agent.  And after one afternoon, I realized my mother was probably a serial killer.

One day, I was playing with my toy cars in the tiled entryway of our house when I overheard my mom on the phone with a friend.  She was venting about how many things she had to do that day; she was overwhelmed and tired.  The person on the other end of the phone suggested something horrible. "Yes, I think I'm going to drown all of my children and my husband too," Mom responded, sarcasm clear in her voice.

I overlooked the sarcasm with ease.  It was far more exciting to imagine my mother as someone who was out to kill me.  I envisioned a high-speed chase, hiding in a dark garage while my mother searched for me and dragged an axe against the concrete floor, a wicked laugh erupting from her usually gentle throat.

She was no typical mother.  She was a killer.  And I was a survivor unlike anyone who had ever lived before.

I remember pressing my cheek against the cool wall and inhaling deeply.  Was this really happening?  The day had finally come.  It was time to run.

"Amy," I hissed, drawing my little sister away from her baby dolls.  "Mom wants to kill us."

Amy was about four at this time and had no idea what I was talking about, but when I told her we needed to run away forever, she amiably complied.  I began to pack everything we needed: a tent, pretzels, bug juice (the drink of my childhood), a blanket, and a toy for each of us.  I even tied most of our belongings in a little blanket and hung them from a stick, determined to run away properly.

I said goodbye to my brother, Luke, choking back tears at the thought of his fate.  He was much too young to run away; he'd only drag us down.  Perhaps Mom's thirst for blood would be quenched after the death of my father and brother.

We wandered down the street and to the nearby park.  A playground, grassy field, and comforting streetlights seemed like the perfect place to run away.  We stayed there for a while, playing, until a man sat on a bench and watched us to the point that I felt uncomfortable.  That was enough of that.

Amy and I fled to our neighbors' backyard, but unfortunately, Rebekah and Rachel were out of town.  I felt a little awkward about moving into their yard without the permission of their parents, so that was out too.

There was a lot of gang activity in our neighborhood, and by gang activity, I mean pre-teen boys who would ride by on bikes and pelt us with water balloons, so we couldn't live in the alley.  Finally, I made the executive decision that we would move into my family's backyard towards the side of the house.  Since technically Amy and I were not a part of the family anymore, there would be no reason for Mom to go out there anyway.

We pitched our tent, rationed out our pretzels, and began the difficult life of runaways.

The world is a cruel place.  In half an hour, Amy and I were rugged and embittered by the harshness of the outdoors.  Mom came outside with Luke and began to push him on the swing set.  No one was dead yet, but it was only a matter of time.

A few minutes passed.  "Girls, it's time for dinner," Mom called, a hand on her hip as she watched Amy and I retreat behind the flap of our tent.  "Come inside."

"We'll never come!  You'll never win!" I shouted, motioning for my little sister to hide behind me.

Mom looked baffled.  "I made dinner.  You can play more after we eat."

"This isn't a game!  We've run away!  You can't kill us now!"

There was a long moment of sighs and shaking heads.  "Come inside for dinner, girls, or you'll have something to worry about."

"You said you were going to drown us."

"Emily, what are you talking about?  Why would I drown my own family that God gave me?"  This made perfect sense.  In that moment, I realized my mother probably wasn't a murderer.  She most likely wanted to give us legitimate dinner, without poison or anything.

After such a long and difficult journey as runaways, a world-wearied Amy and I moved back into our home and reunited with our family.

After re-reading these stories, I want to clarify that my mother is a woman of God.  I was a somewhat disturbed child with an overactive imagination, but I never truly doubted her love for me.

What's a funny childhood memory of yours?

Two years ago: Nice to meet you. I'm me.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Day 19: If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?

If I could live anywhere, I would like to be back in Kenya right now.  I feel my heart beating in my chest, but I also can feel it beating in Africa.  It's lingering in the smiles of orphans and in the hopelessness of the impoverished.

Jesus has placed my heart in a beautiful region of the world, but He has also left a whisper that says, "Wait."

So I'm waiting, some days impatiently, some days with total peace.  I'm waiting for the moment where His voice speaks again, this time murmuring, "Go."

Two years ago: Rock Star Pants

Monday, August 19, 2013

These Chains

Day 18: A poem.

These Chains

overwhelms me.
You are stronger, You are stronger.
Like a stone
cleansed by the current.
You sustain me, You sustain me.
Taken captive
by my fear.
You lift me higher, You lift me higher.
Chains are broken,
there is freedom.
Your love is bigger, Your love is bigger.

July 19, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Okay Enough for Jesus.

Day 17: What is the thing you most wish you were great at?

I wish I was an excellent musician.  I love to sing and play instruments.  Whenever I look across my room and see my guitar sitting neatly against the wall, whenever I touch the smooth strings of my ukulele, whenever I sit at the bench of my keyboard, delight flutters in my heart.  Music always brings my heart joy.

Unfortunately, I am not naturally a musician.

Let me clarify.  When I practice, I improve.  I can play the guitar decently.  I'm working on ukulele more and more each day.  I'm okay at all of these things.

I often have the opportunity to lead worship.  It's a wonderful experience to get to sit at the feet of my Creator and play music next to my brothers and sisters.  It's so sweet.

But I always wish that music came more naturally to me.  I wish I had a better voice.  I would love to be a "great" musician, in talent more than fame.  No, I would never want to be a famous musician, but I would love to be great at it.

It's alright though.  I'm okay at music, and if that's okay enough for Jesus, then it's okay enough for me.     

What do you most wish you were great at?

Two years ago: Young at Heart

And now I am me.

Day 16: What are your 5 greatest accomplishments?

I've thought for the longest time about what my greatest accomplishments could be.  I never really came up with a definite answer.

The things that are most important to me right now in my life aren't necessarily accomplishments; they certainly aren't things I would put in a list.  So I'm going to list five things I've accomplished.  Whether or not they're actually my five greatest, I have no idea.

1.) Over Christmas break of my junior year in high school, I wrote a nonfiction book called Set Apart that challenged youth to live fully for Christ.  Looking back through the pages, my writing was amateur and simple, but speaking out about my faith encouraged me so much as a young adult.  I printed a few hundred copies and sold them to raise money to buy mosquito nets for kids in Africa.  I even got to have a couple of book signings in my hometown.  It was so much fun and a good learning experience for me. 
2.) When I was sixteen, I wrote a novel called Before You.  It won a contest of sorts and was reviewed by Harper Collins editors.  This accomplishment was thrilling to me at the time.

3.) I am a full-time student at the university of my dreams.

4.) When I was about eleven, I was asked by an author to attend a creative writing class at West Texas A&M University.  She was so kind to me.  I was even allowed to join her at one of her book signings.  I signed a few copies of a book I didn't write as "future author," haha!  I did come out of that class with a lot learned about writing, but most of all, having that experience helped me to blossom as someone who loved to write.

5.) Several years ago, I got to spend nearly a month in Europe as a student ambassador.  This trip was so special.  I had the opportunity to do amazing things.  I was only in middle school, so this journey spurred on much of my love for travel.  Since then, I've been to multiple countries.  The Lord has cultivated in me a heart for the nations.

What are 5 of your greatest accomplishments?  Or better yet, what are 5 experiences in your life that have helped make you the person you are today?

One year ago: Love is Shining
Two years ago: My dog is evil!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Beautiful Places.

Day 15: Where is the most beautiful place you've ever been?

I'm blessed by parents who have supported my thirst for travel and adventure.  I've seen many beautiful places.  I considered listing somewhere like the snow-capped mountains of Austria, a flower-filled village beside a crystal lake in Switzerland, a white beach in the Caribbean, or the paintbrush stroke of a sunset in the Texas Panhandle.

But I think the most beautiful place I've ever been would be right here.  In Kenya, surrounded by the lovely, smiling faces of orphans who are so very cherished by their Heavenly Father.

So much beauty.

Where is the most beautiful place you have ever been?

Three years ago: My Prayer for this Year
Two years ago: Facing the Cliff of Courage

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Seeds and Flowers

Day 14: Five strengths you have.

This makes me laugh, but it's way easier for me to list out my weaknesses than it is for me to list my strengths!  It's uncomfortable, but it shouldn't be.  All transformation in me brings glory to the Lord.  I don't want to be ashamed to speak these things.

I recently took a test to see my top spiritual gifts.  I'll list those for my first three strengths.  The second two will be qualities others have called out in me.

1.) Mercy.  The Lord has certainly placed compassion for the needy on my heart.  In the same way, I have mercy on people who have often been cast out of society as unwanted or forgotten.  I have been given a huge heart for orphans, for the homeless, for the addicts, for the broken.

"This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.'" -Zechariah 7:9

2.) Knowledge.  I have been given a strong memory.  When I read, it's easy for me to understand.  I have a love for studying the Bible and memorizing verses.  This has been so helpful in being able to give sturdy, Biblical advice and also in sharing the Gospel.

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ." -2 Corinthian 4:6

3.) Evangelism.  I have been taught well in this area, by my parents and other godly leaders in my life.  I am confident in the truth and power of the Gospel.  It brings me so much joy to share the Gospel!  Of course, I still feel shy and uncomfortable sometimes, but I do love sharing the Gospel.  One friend called out in me once a quality of being able to share the Gospel in words that are easy to understand.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." -1 Peter 3:15

4.) Love.  Last year, I was a counselor for a Christian camp.  My prayer teamer sat several of us in a circle and described the fruits of the spirit she thought fit each of us best.  Mine was love.  One of the reasons she gave was because I was currently being persecuted by someone at school who called himself an atheist and daily mocked me for my faith.  My heart was broken for him; he was so lost, so loved by God.  I loved him so much, not in a romantic way but in a way that I could see a glimpse of Christ's relentless love for this angry, stubborn boy.  It's often easy for me to love people that are often unloved by the world.  I think this goes with my spiritual gift of mercy.  When I see people, I see the Lord's desire to offer them grace and redemption. 

5.) Quiet.  Yesterday, I shared timidity as one of my weaknesses.  I never want to call out being an introvert as a weakness.  Timidity is weakness; quietness is not.  The Lord created me to have a quiet spirit.  My voice is even quiet!  This was how I was created and the Lord created me with love and purpose.  If you were created with a quiet spirit, do not be ashamed.  This was something given to you by a God who often comes in the form of a whisper.  He is a God of peace and rest.  Quietness can be a very good thing.

...the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. -1 Peter 3:4

What are 5 strengths you have?

One year ago: Love Wins.
Two years ago: Unafraid, Yet Terrified

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I am free indeed.

Day 13: Five weaknesses you have.

At first, I didn't want this to be a post.  I mean, who wants to spend an entire day focusing on their weaknesses?  However, today I would like to clarify that I am a broken person.  I am not perfect, but I have been redeemed and made righteous in God's sight.

I still struggle with things and you can help keep me accountable in them!  So I am not afraid to share my weaknesses.  In all of these things, Christ holds the victory!

"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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." -2 Corinthians 12:9

1.) Timidity.  I am naturally a very shy person.  While the Lord has given me so much freedom in this area, it is still something that burdens me in many situations, particularly in large groups of people or meeting someone new.  I do not want to be timid.  God did not create in me a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.  I was created to be bold.

(Now, this doesn't mean that I was created to be an extrovert.  Having a quiet personality is not wrong at all.  God created my personality and He loves the fact that I am quiet.  However, I was not created to be timid.  And when being introverted gets in the way of loving people, that's when it is time for me to have a heart change.) 

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." -2 Timothy 1:7

2.) Anxiety.  I have struggled with this for my entire life.  Right now, I am in a place where the Lord has brought me out of so much anxiety!  I'm doing so much better than I ever thought I could.  But I still find myself worrying.  About small things and about big things.  Sleep and studying are big sources of anxiety for me.

I'm daily working to have complete faith in God's provision and control.  My anxiety is a source of pride and selfishness, me believing that I have shoulder my own problems instead of placing my future in Christ's hands.  

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." -Philippians 4:6

3.) Vulnerability.  It can be difficult for me to open up to people.  When it comes to sharing my testimony and talking about what the Lord has brought me through, I rarely have a problem.  These things are easy for me to share; they proclaim God's glory so well!  I love sharing my testimony.

On the other hand, it's extremely difficult for me to be open about what I'm struggling with in the moment.  I much prefer to talk about it when it's in the past.  I want to be completely transparent.  I want to use my own brokenness to show Christ's transformation in me.

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." -James 5:16

4.) Resistance to change.  Oh, man.  This one gets me!  I'm a person of habit and I love for things to be exactly the way they are.  The littlest things bother me, like having to park in a different place than I usually do now that I have new roommates or moving something around on my desk.  I love for things to stay the same, but that's not God's plan.

The Lord never changes, but I am not perfect like He is.  I have been made to transform to be more and more like Him.  If my life does not show daily change, I want to step away from my stubbornness and allow God to move my heart. 

"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." -2 Corinthians 3:18

5.) Impatience.  When I feel God's call on my heart, I want to move right then and there.  Sometimes that's what He asks; other times, He wants me to wait.  For example, when I get to serve children daily during the summers through Christian Relief Fund and then have to go to college, I feel so impatient.  I just want to be there, serving orphans and pursuing the passion of my heart.

God has told me to wait.  So I'm waiting.  It's so difficult!

I don't want to leap ahead with my own selfish plans.  I want to wait when the Lord tells me to wait and seek His face right where I am, even if I am in a place of "not yet" in my life.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" -Jeremiah 29:11

What are 5 weaknesses you have and how has the Lord been bringing you freedom?  How can we pray for you as you grow?

Two years ago: Goodbye, Comfort Zone
Three years ago: Before School Starts

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A "Typical" Day

Day 12: Describe a typical day in your life.

My entire schedule about to change completely when classes start in a couple of weeks.  I can't describe my day now.  When this is posted, I will be at a camp.  (Prayers are highly appreciated.)  Writing this in advance, I'll share what my day is like as a college student finished with my job for the summer, not yet in school, and kind of waiting around for the semester to begin.  So here goes.

I wake up rather late in the morning, around ten or eleven.  I do not have much time left before school starts, so I will sleep in while I can!  I'm living in my college home again.  One of my roommates, Daniella, has already moved in.  Another, Jackie, will be here in a matter of days.  The final roommate, Rebecca, will be here in less than a week.

The rest of my morning is spent unpacking my bags.  All my clothes must be taken from my blue suitcase and put on hangers in my closet.  I have a bag full of gifts from Africa to give friends and supporters of my trip.  My school supplies need to be organized on shelves and in my backpack so that I'll be ready when school actually starts.  My very first 8am class, I want to be able to roll out of bed, grab my bag, and go.  I haven't had an 8am since I've started college, so this should be fun.

I do a little bit of cleaning (are you impressed, Mom?) and organizing.  I just bought a little letter organizer, where I can place future cards I want to send to my sponsored kids and loved ones throughout the year.  I love this box.  I got it from Lifeway Christian Bookstore and it is pretty great.  I've even placed my sheets of stickers and stamps inside. 

Lunch is at my favorite Mexican food restaurant.  This place is the best in town.  It's inexpensive, high quality, and so yummy.  I ordered and paid for a half-pint of queso and they gave me a full pint, just to be nice.  This will last me a long time!

I take a nap.  Because it's summer and I can.

I spend some time writing.  I've been preparing a few blogs in advance because I have Impact camp for four days this month and work days preparing for camp two days before that.  I will not be able to blog during this time, but I want to finish the entirety of this 30 day challenge!  So this is perfect time to write and make sure something is posted every single day.

My favorite coffee shop in town is nearly empty because so few college students are back in town.  I came early so that I could unpack before camp.  I order my favorite drink, a caramel frap, and settle into a comfortable chair to have a quiet time and write a little bit more.  Everyone is friendly here.  I don't see anyone I know, but I make a few casual friends as I sit.  People just chat here, strangers or not.  

After my afternoon at the coffee shop, I have some soup and salad for a light dinner (and some leftover queso).

I go outside and longboard for a little while.  I can hardly longboard when I'm at my hometown.  Because I live out in the country, the roads are covered with loose gravel.  Now that I'm back, I'm eager to longboard, but it's so very hot!  I wait until the sun has gone down and the air is cooling slowly around me.  A perfect night to longboard.

I catch up with some beloved friends, watch a movie or an episode of Catfish: The TV Show, and then stay up reading.  What am I reading now?  Well, I'm studying my Swahili textbook.  I'm also finishing Peter Pan.  I've read this book every single summer since I was a little girl.  My very favorite book.

Bedtime comes for me in the early morning hours. 

My days are about to get much less relaxing with the start of school.  They will soon be filled with classes, studying, and over-involvement in organizations.  I'm ready!

What was your day like today?

Two years ago: Our Dumpster Diving Adventure

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Letter to Me

Day 11: What you would tell your 16-year-old self if you could.

To my sixteen-year-old self,

I wish you could see in this very moment the way that Christ is transforming your heart.  You are no longer the shy, broken girl who cannot even look in a mirror.  Now you are strong in the love of Christ.  You have been renewed and redeemed by Him.  I know that you know this, but it is easy to forget sometimes.  Never forget. 

Me at 16 (I know I look pretty much the same now.)
Do not be afraid.  The future holds so many beautiful, wonderful things.  College and moving out and making new friends all seem like scary things you don't even want to think about, but they will be good.  God is holding your future.  Do not fear.  Trust Him.  Don't let the anxiety keep you awake at night or keep peace from resting securely in your heart.

Gatlin's death was not your fault.

It is such a good thing that you are waiting to date.  It might seem frustrating at times, but you are so young.  It's worth it.  Keep waiting.

Pursue Christ with all of your heart.  Learn more about Him relationally.  Spend time in prayer, not just in studying the Bible or focusing on missions.  Talk to Jesus.  Get to know Him better.

Don't be afraid to be a leader in your high school.  I know you're shy and uncomfortable to step out of your comfort zone, but do it anyway.  There are so many girls at your school who are lost in battles with self-image and dating and deciding who they are.  Step up and share the Gospel with them.  Love them like Christ.  Befriend every single girl you meet.

Girl, your heart is about to be shattered and transformed by a trip to Africa.  Get ready.


What are some things you would tell your 16-year-old self?  (If you are sixteen or younger, what are some questions you would like to ask someone who has been in your shoes?)

Two years ago: Comfort, Oh, Comfort and Beauty
Three years ago: Can you be a devoted Christian in high school?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Five Songs

Day 10: 5 songs on your playlist today

1.) Stay by Sara Bareilles

2.) Thirsty by Lizi Bailey

There wasn't a YouTube video I could find with this song, but it is on iTunes, so you should check it out.

3.) God's Great Dance Floor by Chris Tomlin

4.) Big Jet Plane by Angus & Julia Stone

5.) Blood by The Middle East

What are some songs on your playlist today? 

Two years ago: I tend to be ungrateful.
Three years ago: Starting High School with a Smile

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Boy on the Road

Here is the result of an evening in a coffee shop.

Day 9: Tell a story.

I walked a long time before I saw the boy.

He was a small boy, with bare feet and heavy curls that fell over his eyes.  He stood very still and watched me, solemn and ecstatic at the same time, if that was even possible.  "Hello, friend."  His voice was sweet, quavering with what seemed to be pure joy at the sight of me standing in front of him.

I was not really certain how I had come to be in this place.  I had wandered for what seemed like ages, passing through valleys and rocky places.  My clothes were torn.  I was world weary and covered from head to toe in the dust that billowed from beneath my aching feet.  What a sight I must have been.

"Do I know you?" I asked the little boy, unsure how to approach the questions I so badly wanted to ask.  What are you doing here all alone?  Why do you seem to know me?  If you did know me, why would you be so happy to see me?  I had walked a long time.  The worn road stretched out before me reflected my own heart, torn and broken.

"You know me," he said, shrugging thin shoulders.  I waited for more, but he was quiet.

I hesitated, shifting from one foot to the other.  The soles of my shoes were cracked from my long journey.  How I yearned to sit down for a moment, but under the boy's long stare, I felt uncomfortable taking a seat in the middle of such a crumbling road.  "Do you know where we are?"

"We're here."  The boy paused for a moment and then grinned up at me.  "Together."

That was true.  "What's your name?" I asked him.  He looked so very familiar, but I could not remember ever meeting a boy as peculiar as this one.  Certainly a conversation like this one would have remained stamped in my mind, another thing to mull over as I trudged along this endless road.

The boy took my hand and began to walk with me.  "You know my name," he said, "and I know yours.  Your name is inscribed on my hand."

"You don't act like normal boys do."

"I'm a boy, but I'm also a king.  I'm a lion.  I'm a potter.  I'm a man."

Utterly peculiar.

"Why are you walking?" the boy asked me.

I didn't know how to answer.  I didn't know the answer to his question, so I stammered around it the best I could.  "Well, I've been walking for a long time.  I've just...  I've always walked.  There's nowhere else to go.  Nothing else to do.  I have to find my way."

"And has it worked?"

"It will."  I was certain when I first began to speak, but as my words left my mouth, they tasted sour with uncertainty.  Why was I walking?  Where was I going?

And here I was, holding a small boy's hand as he walked next to me.  His legs were short; it took two steps to match my one.  Yet I felt that this child was absolutely certain as to where he was going while I was entirely lost.

"I'm glad you're not running anymore," the boy said.  My heart stopped for a moment, overturning in my chest.  How did he know the way I had begun this journey?  Running blindly, gasping for breath, day after day.  I ran until my lungs burst, until my feet bled, until I fell hard into the mud and could not run a single step further.  I lay there for days, exhausted and grief-stricken, until I clambered unsteadily to my feet and began to walk.  And the boy knew all of this?  He held my hand and waited for me to compose my racing thoughts before speaking again.  "I have come to offer you rest."

Rest?  I barely remembered such a word.  How could I rest if I did not know where I was, where I was meant to go?  I could only wander.  I waved a hand around us, at the jagged precipices and cracked desert sands.  Laughter erupted from my throat, dry and bitter.  "Where am I supposed to rest?  There is only thirst in this place.  There is nowhere for me."

"There is rest.  You don't need to walk to find it."

"I don't know what you're talking about.  You're a strange boy."  I began to let go of his hand, to pull away from this strange anchor of security in such a broken place, but he did not let go.  He turned to face me, his nose inches from my own.

"Look at me.  Am I only a boy?  Am I not a father?  Am I not a king?"

His eyes brought terror and healing to my heart all at once.  Who was this boy?  Peace was in his eyes.  Wisdom was in his eyes.  There was love and joy and endless hope, all in the rounded eyes of a little boy.

"I died for you and still you wander away.  I'm offering rest.  My father wants to give you rest.  Let him."

"I don't even know your father."

"Then know him."

I wanted to.  The more his words sank in, the more my heart began to yearn to know this father who wanted to bring me what I could not find on my own.  My eyes filled with tears, but I could not stop looking at the boy.  Where was his father?  Where could I find him?  

We stood there for a while, looking at each other.  I trembled; he stood quietly.  The boy was still brimming with a joy I could not understand.  "Why are you smiling at me like that?" I demanded.

"You've stopped walking."  I paused.  So I had.  Not only had I stopped walking, but the crumbling desert had vanished.  I was now in a field that spanned far beyond what my eyes could see.  Soft grass grew beneath my feet.  The boy grinned at me.  "You stopped wandering," he said, "and you started loving.  I'm here to take you on another kind of journey.  Each day will be new for you.  But while you are on this journey, you will have rest.  You are not lost anymore.  You're found."

I sat down, overwhelmed by the gentleness of the earth around me, by the love in the boy's gaze.  "You will meet my father," he said, "and you've met him already because you've met me." 

I believed him.

"Rest and then follow me," the boy told me.  His eyes sparked with a joy that caused my heart to overflow.  "We have wonderful places to go."

And as the boy sat down next to me, I saw the face of a king.

Two years ago: Big Scary Dolphins
One year ago: Surviving High School

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Great Unknown

Day 8: What is your dream job and why?

As a college student, so many of my days are spent sculpting my future and career.  Everyone in my college time put so much effort and time into studying and stressing out over what the future holds.  You may be able to relate.

Here are some things that my "dream job" would have:
  • Purpose.
  • A focus on the Gospel.
  • Humanitarian work.
  • Writing.
  • Travel.
I'm asked about my dream job often by adults and professors.  This is difficult for me to answer because my focus isn't so much on my job as it is about what I do with my life, if that even makes sense to explain.  How has God asked me to serve?  In the States or in another country?  As a full-time missionary or working through a humanitarian organization?

I'm young.  I'm still figuring things out and keeping my eyes and ears open to what the Lord is asking me to do.  I'm learning. 

What is your dream job?  Are you living it now?

Two years ago: You are special.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I was an orphan.

Day 7: What are three passions you have? 

1.) Orphans.  I could talk about this forever, about how the Lord's heart is for orphans, how we are orphans without the grace of God, how so many children in this world feel completely forgotten.  I could keep writing until my fingers fall off and still not be able to accurately describe God's passion for orphans and for adoption, but I will say this.

There are more than 200,000,000 orphans in the world today.  That's a number bigger than what you or I can comprehend.  200 million is a number too big to grasp, but each of those numbers have faces and names and emotions.  Broken hearts.  Hopeful hearts.  The Bible says that pure and faultless religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress.  You've been called.  I've been called.  Whether the call is to adopt or to send someone else or to go or to sponsor, there is a call on your heart for orphans because it's on God's heart.

I was lost in my sins.  I was an orphan.  But I have been adopted as a daughter of God, as one who is cherished by the King of Kings.  Romans 8:15 says, "The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by Him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'"  I've been adopted.  I am no longer an orphan.

There are billions in this world who are spiritual orphans, running from God and lost in their own sin.  It's God's desire to adopt them, call them sons and daughters.  And it is your call and my call to speak His Name to all nations.

Orphans are my passion because they are a passion of my Father.  

2.) Writing.  I love words.  I'm not always a great writer.  Practice makes for great writing and I don't often have enough time to spend the needed hours writing and reading to sculpt my words in the loveliest way.  But I love to write.  I love the power of words.

3.) Redemption.  This one is difficult to explain.  I often meet girls who believe they have made too many mistakes to be forgiven by God.  They believe they're too far gone.  They've run too long to find their way back.

This breaks my heart.  I was once one of these girls.  I thought, "I turned away from God.  I made stupid mistakes.  I'm worse than the worst.  I'm past forgiveness."  And yet I was forgiven.  I was redeemed.  I was made into something beautiful by a God who could have thrown me away like rags.

When I meet girls who believe they are too far gone, my heart yearns with a desire to show them the redemptive love of Jesus Christ.  No one is too far away for His amazing grace to reach.  His love spans across the heavens.

What are your passions?

Two years ago: Looking for Prayer
Three years ago: Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Prodigal Daughter

First of all, I apologize that everything has been out of sync the last few days.  My computer has been in and out of the shop, but I think I've finally got everything just about under control now. 

Day 6: What is the hardest thing you have ever experienced?

I had to think about this one for a long time.  I nearly wrote about the loss of one of my dear friends to suicide a few years back.  I've shared that story on this blog before.  Losing Gatlin was a very difficult time in my life.

However, I think the hardest thing I've experienced was when I turned away from the Lord as a young teenager.  I'd grown up in a Christian home.  Even though I had not fully shouldered my faith on my own, I grew up hearing the name of Jesus spoken and praised all around me.  I struggled with several things growing up, like depression and anxiety, but as soon as I made the decision to stop believing in God completely, everything crashed to the ground.

I'd been wrestling with my faith for several months as depression and suicidal thoughts weighed me down.  How could God truly love someone like me?  Why don't I hear Him?  Why are there starving children around the world?  And with each new thought, I began to distance myself further and further from Him.

One day, I was talking to a friend and sharing how frustrated I was with everything, how I felt completely abandoned by God.  And that's when I said it aloud for the first time.  "I don't think I'm a Christian anymore.  I don't even believe in God."  Once those words left my mouth, I felt completely lost.  But I hardened my heart.  I took each of those words and gave myself a new name, not a child of God, resigned to walk alone.  As if I could handle my crumbling life with my own feeble strength.

My heart emptied.  I felt forsaken by the Lord, even though I was the one who had run from Him.  I turned to things that broke my Father's heart, like self injury and a suicide attempt.  I wanted to die.

A few months before my fifteenth birthday, Christ reminded me of the power of His Gospel and the relentlessness of His love.  I was a prodigal daughter who had run away as far as I possibly could, and still He ran to me, embracing me into arms more loving than I ever co uld have deserved.  He breathed into me new life.  He spoke redemption and transformation over me.  He called me "beloved" when I should have been called "enemy."

And that's how the hardest thing I've ever experienced became a testament of the goodness and mercy of the Creator of the universe.

But while the daughter was still a long way off, the Father saw her and felt compassion on her and ran and embraced her and kissed her.  "Let us celebrate, for this child of mine was dead and she has come back to life.  She was lost and now she is found."  And they began to celebrate.

Two years ago: A Little Illiterate
Three years ago: How to Survive High School

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things.

Day 5: What are the five things that make you happiest?

1.) Finding a new favorite song.  Don't you just love those moments when you hear a song that utterly captures your heart?  I have a few favorites right now, like "Africa" by Paul Colman, "Stay" by Jimmy Needham and Lizi Bailey, and "Rocks" by Imagine Dragons. 

2.) My little dog, Jack.  This dog makes me laugh so much.  I spent last weekend home alone while my family was in Ohio, but Jack was there to keep me company.  He's so much fun!  Jack is a smart little guy, so he loves to play games like Hide and Seek.  I think his favorite is when I tie his ball up in a blanket and he has to figure out how to untie it.  I'm always smiling when Jack's around. 

3.) Discovering something new and precious in Scripture.  One of my very favorite moments is when I'm having a quiet time in the Word and I stumble across something I've never noticed before, even though I've read it a hundred times.  The Lord is so good to give us a living and active Word.  It's amazing!  Best mornings ever.

4.) Spending time with my family.  I've got a very close-knit family.  We've been able to spend some good quality time this summer, playing miniature golf and geocaching and spending evenings together.  I've been very blessed.

5.) Loving orphans.  This is an obvious one, but my heart is at home when the Lord is allowing me to share His love with a precious child that He has not left an orphan but has loved relentlessly and unceasingly.  My heart still longs to be in Kenya, where I left many loved ones.

What are 5 things that make you happy?

Two years ago: Reasons to Smile