"I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever." Psalm 86:12

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Just Doesn't "Feel Like Christmas"

"It just doesn't feel like Christmas." I've found myself saying this phrase a few times over the past two weeks. Many of you know my mom has been fighting a battle with ovarian cancer for the past two years, and now her battle is coming to an end. Not because she's lost, but because she is winning and gets to go home and walk with Jesus soon. She has victory in Him. So this Christmas season has been a little...well, a lot different for us.

So, what makes Christmas "feel like Christmas?"
- cold weather
- sing-along Christmas songs
- putting up the Christmas tree
- buying and wrapping presents
- seeing presets under the tree
- spending time with family
- watching Christmas movies
- sitting by the fire

These are typically the things that make Christmas.... Christmas. No matter how much we may say that Christ is the center, He still gets put on the back burner. And in an effort to solidify our claim that Christ is indeed the focus, we might pull out our Bible on Christmas morning, read about the birth of Christ and pray before we tear into all the pretty wrappings under the tree.

This year has been a reality check for our family. All those things that make Christmas "feel like Christmas" really haven't mattered this year. For the first time I have truly seen just how meaningless and futile all the hustle and bustle really is. Fretting over that perfect gift or panicking over the last-minute ones. Getting the ribbons and bows on your tree just right. Being the most creative or "Pinterest-worthy" with your gift wrapping.


What does matter....is hope. When all the glitz and glamor are stripped away, it may seem like there is nothing left to celebrate. Somehow Jesus has become an afterthought, or a thought only saved for the Christmas Eve service at church, and then it's back to gingerbread houses, Christmas movies and candy canes. But what if all those things are taken away from you? What if your only reason to rejoice really is the birth of our Savior? Can you really rejoice in that? No presents. No stockings. No traditions. Just Jesus. 

This is basically what our family is experiencing this Christmas season - just Jesus.
These past two weeks we have been watching and waiting for my mom to enter her final days and final moments. What do you buy someone who will no longer be here in just a few short moments? It's an odd question. But the answer is easy. It's nothing. You don't buy them anything because you realize they are leaving this earth - going to another home where they can't take anything with them. This is ultimately the reality for all of us.


This earth is not our home. Nothing here can satisfy us. Nothing can bring us joy. Nothing can fill the hole in our hearts that is a Jesus-shaped puzzle piece.

So while this Christmas has been drastically different from any other I've experienced, I realize more than ever how thankful I am for Jesus. For the hope He gives us. For His peace and His grace. For without these things, there would be no reason to wake up each morning. And there would also be no Christmas morning.

Yes, I am losing my mom. Very soon. Much sooner than I would have ever imagined. But I still have so much to gain. Jesus has so much in store this Christmas. It's what He wants to give us every Christmas and everyday of our lives, but somehow we become too busy, too frantic and too distracted to hear or see Him.

My husband and I have still managed to find time to buy each other a few gifts. But this year I had to really rack my brain to come up with a short wish list. Because more than that new book and some new bath products, what I really want is peace. I want joy. I want hope. I want to know that everything will be okay. That all this really does work for my good and His glory. Those things can't be bought. And those are the things that Jesus wants to give us! That's why He came! That's what Christmas is really about.

So what SHOULD make Christmas "feel like Christmas?"
- rejoicing in the fact that we have a reason to hope.
- rejoicing because He gives us peace.
- rejoicing because He satisfies our hearts.
- rejoicing in the birth of Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying family time, putting up the Christmas tree and opening presents. But I hope for myself, and for you, that these will no longer be the things that make Christmas feel like Christmas. Jesus is what makes Christmas feel like Christmas - in the hope, joy, peace and salvation He brings.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Onion Water

This weekend David and I went camping at Roaring River. It was very relaxing and so peaceful. As we made preparations for our adventure - making to-do lists, gathering equipment, packing necessities, food, etc. - one of the small details was to chop up an onion. David chopped the onion on Wednesday and placed it in a baggy in the fridge. Well, this was no normal onion. Its fumes quickly filled the fridge and would plaster your nostrils upon opening. This thing was the epitome of POTENT.

When it came time to pack up and leave on Thursday, we decided to double-bag the diced bits of oniony fumes AND put them in their own tupperware container inside the cooler to keep them from contaminating all the other fresh foods. We got everything packed, and off we went on our exciting adventure into the wild.

We had chosen a camping site with no trees - our logic behind this was to allow for the prime star gazing experience. We thought we had struck gold with this camp site. (The experienced camper would immediately recognize this as the #1 rookie mistake). As morning dawned, the heat of the sun quickly turned our tent into a crock pot and we began the infamous game of "Dodge the Sun" - which involves laying on a blanket to read and moving every ten minutes as the sunlight shifts and bakes your skin. This was when we realized that picking a campsite with no trees was not among some of our "brighter" moments - no pun intended.

As the cooking events of the weekend had taken place, we let down our guard against the vicious onions and used their designated tupperware to store some leftovers, allowing the onions to sit in the cooler (now only single-bagged for some reason). But we used the rest of the onions for breakfast that morning and the onion fiasco was far behind us (so we thought). As the sun continued to blaze our campsite, we decided it was time to pack up and head home to the promising shade under our roof.

So the fun began - we packed all the leftovers, deflated the queen size blow-up mattress (that took up our entire tent by the way, but we also learned this is the ultimate way to sleep in a tent), folded both the mattress and the tent and successfully stored them each in the bags in which they originally came (score!), and worked up a near-drenching sweat in our no-shade zone which led to a dyer need for a drink of water.

Disclaimer for this next part of the story: Please keep in mind I just slept a whole night without my box fan (those of you who know me well know this is worthy of winning the Nobel Peace Prize), and I peed in the woods in the middle of the night, and I'm just downright incredibly thirsty and not thinking straight at this point. Let's continue...

David then pops the seal to drain the water from the cooler. All I can see is a crystal clear stream of ice cold water begging me to come and quench my thirst. The thoughts of how taboo this is quickly escape my mind and I'm overcome by my undying desire for a cold drink of this liquid that is so beautifully sparkling in the sun, and I just do it. I walk over to where the water is streaming from the bed of David's truck out of the red cooler, open my mouth, and the cooling sensation that splashes onto my tongue is DELIGHTFUL and REFRESHING... but only for a moment. The delightfulness and the refreshingness quickly vanish and I am overcome by an awful taste of... ONION. Yes. Onion. Flavored. Water. Those three words should never be side-by-side. That wretched onion had somehow managed to poison EVERYTHING it came into contact with. Its fumes permeated every drop of water that poured out of that cooler and now into my unsuspecting mouth. I immediately regretted my decision and spit it out as fast as I could. I couldn't find my toothbrush quickly enough to cleanse myself of this vile poison. Promising me something which I so desperately desired, but fooling me all too easily into its nasty scheme, this foul liquid only left me yearning for what I had originally desired even more.

Read the last sentence of that paragraph one more time. Sound familiar? All too often temptation lures us in with promises on which it can't deliver. Temptation plays upon the very things which we desire. It offers us fulfillment. It offers us satisfaction. And somehow it manages to appear in the exact form of the thing for which we are searching. The onion water itself looked NO different than the water that pours out of an ice cold water bottle. If I had paused for just a moment though, and considered the SOURCE (a dingy red cooler with melted ice that our dirty hands had dug through and that had been plastered with onion fumes) I would have chosen otherwise. My eyes deceived me, and my desire led me astray. I settled for the immediate, rather than waiting for the best (ice cold water bottles that, yes, were right inside the cooler).

"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." James 1:14-15

We must guard ourselves against the temptations this world has to offer us. We must first identify the deepest desires that lie within our hearts. We cannot be tempted by things which we do not desire. Once we have examined ourselves and have allowed the Lord to search our hearts, we must then take steps to keep those desires in check. I think that most of our desires can, in fact, be traced all the way back to God-given desires - the desire to love and to be loved, the desire to please and succeed, the desire for satisfaction and contentment. But from who are you seeking love? Who are you striving to please? In what things are you seeking contentment? When we take our eyes off of Jesus and begin to look at what the world dangles in front of us, this is when those desires get twisted and we settle for the immediate. This is when we get duped into drinking onion water rather than waiting for the Living Water. 

"Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you." Proverbs 4:25

Monday, December 20, 2010


After many years of struggling with my desire to truly fall in love with God's word, I finally came to the conclusion that
no matter how much and how hard I pray, "Lord, please let me fall in love with your Word," I will never fall in love with His Word until there is action along with my plea. Until I discipline myself to be in His word daily and show Him my sincerity of that prayer.

So I decided to start the One Year Bible reading plan. I determined in my mind that I truly desired and deeply craved falling in love with God more through His word. I knew that in order for the Lord to answer this prayer, I had to make a habit of spending time in scripture daily. And as much as I never want my time with the Lord to turn into something I simply "cross off my to-do list," I was okay with the idea of starting with it as something to cross off my to-do list in order to make it a daily discipline.

This simple step was the beginning of the Lord finally answering my prayer. He is finally allowing me to see more of Himself through His word, and it has been one of the greatest blessings in my life! I finally look forward to spending time in His word every morning. I'm excited to see how God interacted with His people in the Old Testament, and I love translating that into how He still moves in the lives of His people today.

Right now I am reading in Exodus, and I love the way God and Moses interact with each other! This relationship they share is so beautiful and intimate, and I desire that for myself!

Exodus 34:29-35 says, "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant... And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant."

I LOVE this! The Israelites could see on Moses' face that he had been speaking with the Lord. How incredible! Does this same thing happen to us? Can the people around us see a radiance in our face because of the love relationship we have with our Lord? This is something I long for - to be so intimate with my God that HE brings a radiance to my face. To be distinguished by Him (Exodus 33:16). For the world to know that I belong to the one true God. This is my desire.

I invite every single one of you to join me on this journey. To discipline ourselves to be in God's word daily. What blessings have we been missing out on due to our "busy" schedules?? Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus!!!

Copy and paste the link below into your web browser to download the One Year Bible reading plan and get started TODAY! What are you waiting for?


Monday, August 30, 2010


I leave to come home tomorrow...

:) :) :) :) :) :)

That's all I have to say :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What I Can See Now

Wow, it's so crazy, I only have 2 days left! There's a part of me that feels like I have been here for an eternity... And then the other part of me can't believe my two months is almost up!

I spent some time yesterday thinking back on these past two months and how much of a roller coaster it's been. I've hit some extreme highs and some devastating lows. I read back through my prayer journal and was reminded of all the different things I've been through, and how God has been so faithful to pull me through it all. There's no way I could have made it without Him.

I know God has a glorious purpose for why He brought me here to Niger, and I don't think I fully see it yet. But I decided to write down the things I am able to see already...

1. Opened doors for me to minister to people back home. And He opened these doors in ways I never would have expected.

2. I've seen the body of Christ come together for me. Never have I had so many people praying for me and asking how I'm doing. People I don't even know have sent me such encouraging words. (Something I was praying before I came here was that I longed to see the body of Christ function the way God originally intended it to, and I think He has been answering that prayer since being here.)

3. He used me to write 27 Bible studies. A huge task that I never could have accomplished without Him. I can only pray they will be used to minister to those young girls. I pray that He would use them far beyond what I can see.

4. He has blessed me through the beautiful children and their smiles and laughter - even though I had little time with them, I'm so thankful for those moments.

5. He pulled me out of my lowest times. He was faithful in my times of most desperate need.

6. He has taught me to be so thankful for the people in my life that I love so much. I've realized how much I have taken them for granted.

7. I see the importance of offering encouragement and showing appreciation for others.

I'm sure this list will continue to grow, but this is what I can see so far.

I leave to come home in two days, and I'm so incredibly excited about what the Lord has in store for me upon my return!! See you all very, very soon!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Secret of Being Content

So far I have completed 19 Bible studies! Praise the Lord! It really is only by His strength that I am continuing to muster out topics and studies and Bible verses to complete this task of completing 27. And my goal for today is 20, so I'm almost there :)

Anyway, just thought I would give you all a sneak peek at one of the studies... It spoke to me as the Lord helped me write it, so go ahead, take yourself back to the 3rd or 6th grade, and see how the Lord speaks to you (although I think this lesson is for all ages!)


Opening Activity: Begin to tell the girls how you have the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

What if I told you that I knew how to make the best chocolate chip cookies in the whole wide world? I mean, these cookies... mmm... the chocolate just melts in your mouth. Oh, and right when you pull them out of the oven they're soooo warm and gooey. I'm telling you. There is nothing like these chocolate chip cookies.

Would you want the recipe for these cookies???

Okay, I can tell you the recipe. But there's one ingredient I can't tell you. Because it's my "secret ingredient." Your cookies probably won't be as good as mine, but I'll tell you the whole recipe except for that one secret ingredient.

That wasn't very nice now was it? To tell you that I knew how to make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, and to tell you how delicious they are, and then to ask you if you wanted the recipe, and then to not give you that one secret ingredient!

It's a good thing Paul didn't do the same thing to us in the Bible when he tells us that he has finally learned the secret to being content!!!

What does it mean to be content? 1 Timothy 6:6 tells us, "But godliness with contentment is great gain."

But what does it mean to truly be content? And how can I truly be content?

Being content means to be in a state of peaceful happiness. To be completely satisfied with your circumstances and not wishing for more.

What are some areas in which you find it difficult to be content?

We learn from the Bible that the things on this earth aren't meant to make us content. Nothing in this world will ever fully satisfy our desires. That's why, especially in the States, you see so many unhappy people. Especially celebrities. You would think that they would be the happiest people in the world! They make so much money; they can buy themselves literally anything they could ever want. But these are the very people we see who are the most unhappy.

Why do you think this is?

Because when we have a lot of stuff, or when we finally get whatever it is we think will make us happy, we realize there is always something "better." We always want more.

Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' "

Look at that verse. It says to be content with what you have. Why? Because God is enough. He will never leave you. And he will never forsake you. This is how we know that the things on this earth aren't meant to satisfy us - because this verse just plainly told us that God will never leave us - and we can be content in that simple fact.

Now, being content isn't something that comes naturally. It is something we must learn.

It seems like when there is something you aren't content about, your mind seems to always think about that one thing. It consumes your thoughts every waking moment of the day. You go to sleep thinking about it. You wake up thinking about it. This thing becomes an idol in your mind and it steals your joy.

Just think, what is the opposite of being content?
Discontent - not satisfied with one's circumstances.

And when we aren't satisfied, we aren't happy. When we allow something on earth to steal our joy, it shows that we aren't putting our complete hope in the Lord. Because if we were putting our hope in the Lord, there would be nothing to steal our joy because our God is always consistent. He never changes! He never leaves us, and He never forsakes us!

Psalm 16:11 "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."

The things on this earth aren't meant to satisfy us. Whether that be toys, clothes, relationships, good grades, etc. Only God can truly satisfy us 100%.

And you know, there are those times when we think to ourselves, "There is no way I can be content in these circumstances! I failed a test. My dog ran away. My best friend lied to me. How can I possibly be content?"

Now, here comes the good part! Paul tells us the secret ingredient of being content:

Listen to what the apostle Paul tells us in Philippians. He tells us that he learned the secret of being content. The way he says that is almost the same as when someone tells you their recipe has a "secret ingredient." When someone has a secret, you instantly become super curious, don't you? With everything in you, you want to know what that secret is! Well... Paul tells us. This is a secret that he can't keep to himself! He has finally learned the secret to being content!

Philippians 4:11-13 "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

What does Paul tell us the secret is to being content?
Realizing that I can do all things through Christ!

This is what we were just talking about. The verse says -
I can do ALL things THROUGH CHRIST...


Doesn't this sound like what we just talked about? That nothing on this earth is truly going to satisfy your desires. Only God can completely satisfy you. In Psalm 16:11 we learned that God will fill us with joy in His presence.

When we finally realize that nothing on this earth is meant to make us content, that is when we will discover for ourselves the secret to being content, like Paul did. Realizing that, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Therefore, I will go to God, and I will trust Him to satisfy me. And I will wait for Him to fill me with joy in His presence. For only there will I be truly satisfied and content!"

APPLICATION: Think of an area in your life where you do not feel content. Choose this week to memorize the short verse, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Recite this verse in your head when you are feeling discontent and choose to allow God to satisfy you - because He is enough!

Praise God because He alone can completely satisfy you.
Ask Him to forgive you for the times when you have tried to let things on earth make you content.
Ask the Lord to help you look to Him to satisfy your desires.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

To Be Counted Worthy

Thank you all so much for the prayers you have sent up for me. I decided last night to go to bed super early (8pm) and get a good nght's rest. I woke up this morning still feeling a little defeated. But today is a new day. I stayed at the guest house rather than going to the school, and am going to work on Bible studies today! But first, I spent time with my sweet Jesus. Telling Him how I feel and asking for His help. I know a good attitude won't just magically appear. I can't ask God to simply give me a good attitude. Having a good attitude is a choice I have to willingly make.

As I was writing my prayer this morning, the "Desert Song" was playing on my iPod. "I will bring praise! I will bring praise! No weapon formed against me shall me remain... God is my victory and He is here!" So I have chosen to rejoice in this day. Here is what I wrote in my journal: (And please know I never write in my journal with the intention of making it public. My journal is a very private prayer journal between me and the Lord. I sometimes just feel led to completely open my heart and share it with the body of Christ - whether that is to ask for encouragement, or to be an encouragement)

Father, my God, my Savior, my Comforter, my Guide. I need you to come lift my head this morning. Today is a new day. A day where I don't have to laminate books. I get to work on the Bible studies and I might even get to go to the orphanage! Today is a new day. Today is a better day. Today is the day that you have made. I will choose to rejoice and be glad in it. I ask that you would use today for your glory. Use today to sanctify me. Help me to make the most of today. I have 12 days left in Africa. 12 more days of being in the desert. 12 days of just me and you. 12 days of less distractions. 12 days to make the most of. I will not sulk in these 12 days. I will choose to trust you.

Last night and this morning I found a lot of verses which speak of being counted worthy of the calling of Christ.

"As a prisoner of the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." Ephesians 4:1

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." Philippians 1:27

"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2 Corinthians 5:15

"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." 2 Corinthians 5:20

And this is what it means to live a life worthy of the calling we have received:

"...we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring... and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are now suffering." 2 Thessalonians 1:4,5

And this is the exact prayer I would ask each of you to send up for the remainder of my time:

"... With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12