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Well spent days in Africa

The road less traveled took me to the sewage-lined streets of Diepsloot, South Africa. There I learned that loving is the new black, and that a lion lives in the heart of every brave person. Rats ran the same streets the bare-foot children did, and disease was rampant, occupying the body of virtually everyone we met. But, come to find out, these people had nothing but grace and big welcome smiles to offer us strangers. It was there, among the hungry-for-love Africans, that I found more joy than ever before.

Nearly 280,000 people live within the 1.5 to 2 mile radius we ministered in. Of these 280,000, my group of 10 planted 301 seeds, sharing the Gospel with 301 people. The angels rejoiced as a whopping 153 of them committed their lives to Jesus.

Our hand’s became the Lord’s hands as a crippled woman walked and a blind woman saw again. Our whispers became shouts as we prayed not just for all, but for each.

I sat in the dirt with countless women, each one sharing in the same struggles. Not just one or two, but all of them lived in shacks the size of a garden shed or smaller. The shacks were built from wood, scrap metal and cardboard, pieced together like a puzzle. Electricity was a mighty scarce thing. Instead, open fires took the place of stoves, and there was no such thing as a hot shower. Dishes and laundry were done in buckets with water so cold it literally stung your fingers. This is what these people called home. This is how they lived survived.

But the women, oh the strong women of Africa. There was nothing more humbling than being seated at the feet of a woman bearing the hardships one bears in Diepsloot. Holding her hand and trusting that maybe for a second she felt all the hope she’d been robbed of. Sitting together, soaked in sweat-mixed tears, audibly crying out to the Lord. And as we cried, scripture says He bent down, leaning in to hear us. I write with Precious and Privilege and Agnus in mind. Nancy, Chio, Jo Ann, Gladys, Winnie, each one paving the way to greatness.

Africa is the swing of a hand caught by another, much smaller than yours. A baby in one arm, a child on the back, one on your shoulders, two pulling on your shirt, a few on your legs — you just never knew what kind of a balancing act you were walking into.

Here’s the thing – I’ve never been gifted with kids. So here I am, swamped with an innumerable amount of children, stiffly patting them on the back, trying my hardest to show them the love they are just so deprived of. Their noses dripped and their open sores were only growing. Most had ringworm, if not something worse. In that moment my heart softened as I thought of God’s love for us. Each of us, dirty and tarnished, are beyond loved by the Lord. And although we’re all “infected” by our own kind of ringworm, He still yearns for us, quick to pick us up with His grace.

I can’t express the state my heart was in. It was truly broken in a way that taught me my heart had never actually experienced heart break. But in the same hours, I sincerely fell in love too many times to count. I went with the intentions to change the hearts of the Africans, when in reality, I was the one that left with a heart change.

“It’s hard to reconcile the challenges they face, with the joy I see in them. The images spilling out of my television showed only misery, and I was fooled. I bought into the lie that circumstances define happiness in places that despair should thrive. I find adults dancing and singing. Children playing soccer with a ball of tied trash. Relationships and faith provide joy. My new reality… my joy should have no regard for my circumstances. I want what I have learned to trickle down from my head into my heart. I no longer want to need the ‘next thing’ to have joy. Africa does need our efforts and partnership, but for me, I need Africa more than Africa needs me.

So here I am, back at home, but I’m not so sure that home is a place that’ll ever be the same again.

 

 

 

 

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Beauty & Worth Applies To You

I’m sitting here in the quiet of my own bedroom, staring at a blank screen, knowing that the whirlwind of thoughts in my head are about to spill out in some way. I’ve got a Bible on my lap, and a desire to have my cup refilled and overflowing. 

This message goes out to everyone, not just the so-called humanity fearing outcasts, not just the tired, weary and broken, but literally everyone. Wether you’re 10 or 100, or some number in between, beauty and worth applies to you. “The Lord your God is with you. He is a hero who saves you. He happily rejoices over you, renews you with His love, and celebrates over you with shouts of joy.” Zeph. 3:17

I’m worn out and exhausted by the pressure to look right, talk correctly and dress according to Vogue. Society says, “Praise Adam Levine.” Music is telling us sex, drugs and applause should be chased after. But God tells us in Jeremiah 1:4-5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” He set us apart. He set me apart. He set you apart. He set apart your neighbor, your doctor, everyone. How beautiful is that? He made each person out of the 7 billion alive, different in more ways than imaginable.  Embrace who you are, guys. Be all that God created you to be. He only made one fearfully and wonderfully made you. 

Just because you weigh more than the person standing next to you in line at the grocery store, doesn’t make you any less beautiful. Your GPA, your muscle mass, the number of people that showed up at your birthday party last weekend. None of that makes up your worth or your character. When you get to the kingdom of Heaven, God isn’t going to say, “Sorry, I can’t let you in. You got a D in English your junior year.” He won’t say, “No, you can’t come in because you’re twenty pounds over the average weight limit for your age.” Zephaniah 3:19 says, “At that time, I will deal with all who have overpowered you. I will rescue those who are lame. I will gather those who have been scattered…” and continues on to verse 20 to say, “Yes at that time I will gather you together. I will make you famous and praised among all the people of the earth when I restore your fortunes right before your eyes,” says the Lord. 

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve popped a pill you know you shouldn’t have, partied and then went to church and pretended to be interested, or anything even remotely along those lines. The blood of Jesus washes away the sin, making you pure and beautiful and holy again. His sacrifice is what fills you full of worth and beauty. “By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14. You can never fall too far for Jesus and His cross to catch you. God spoke so much worth and potential into your life long before anyone even knew you. You are so, so loved. You have so much to give the world and all of the hearts in it. These hearts hear the world shouting profanity and lies. Speak God’s truth to them, and save them from all of this first world headache. The standards we’re told we have to live up to are man’s standards. And I kid you not, fifteen seconds after typing that last sentence about man’s standards, I picked up my Bible and the first thing I read was “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 Wow,  I’m in awe. God is good, isn’t He? I’m constantly finding Him hand picking verses to speak to me through. 

If you’re struggling, let me pray for you:

Lord, I thank You for this reader. Wherever they may be God, I just ask that you speak to them right now. Lay Your hands on them and give them peace and contentment with who You’ve made them to be. Give them Your eyes to see their beauty and worth in You. We thank You for Your sacrifice and the love and grace we’re continuously shown, Father. In Your Holy Name we pray, Amen. 

 

By the grace of God, I am what I am.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

 

 

 

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What odds?

I’ve been learning quite quickly that odds are non existent when we have a God so mighty. Sometimes I think we use obstacles, or “odds”, as an excuse to downplay God’s ability and power. And although we do this without realizing it, we’re merely telling ourselves that the odds are just too big for God to step in and change something. I’m just going to share a few stories:

I was recently thinking to myself about the odds that come along with having a child. Like I said in my last post, bringing a baby into the world is beautiful. But for the longest time I couldn’t see past the risks. I couldn’t see myself having the child that didn’t beat the odds. I was worried that I’d have a lovely little girl or boy who just happened to be the 1 in 150 with a heart defect. And my heart aches for all the parent’s that have children who can’t play sports like the rest, or don’t walk the same. And all the while, my heart is filled with joy, because I know the love they have for that child, and the happiness it brings them. God suddenly spoke to me and said, “With Me, there are no odds.” It’s stuck with me ever since, and what I took away from that was that God has the ability and power to beat the odds, or too diminish the odds. The odds are no more. Is there anything God can’t do? Never.

A year ago I came across someone on Twitter that I didn’t know the first thing about. I felt this overwhelming feeling telling me to talk to him, and ask if I could pray or do anything for him. Of course it was a strange idea, and I almost ignored the feeling. I went for it, and got ahold of him. I explained that I knew God wanted me to talk to him, and he said God was giving him the same feeling. We began writing letters to one another, always sharing this love we have for the Lord together. I thank God daily for him, I truly can’t find words to express the blessing he has placed in my life. Jesse lives roughly 5 hours away, and when I think about how much farther away he could be, it’s as if God placed him right next door. When the circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles, I feel tremendously blessed that Jesse isn’t even 300 miles from my driveway. I’ve thought about meeting Jesse many times in this past year, clinging to some kind of hope that we’d bump into each other some day. I sat down two weeks ago to pray about anything and everything with God. While I was praying, I asked Him for the opportunity to see Jesse before we met in Heaven. Even if it was just once, I just wanted to meet him. A week after praying that, I went on vacation to TN. On my way there, I learned that Jesse was also visiting. That night, I met him just as I had prayed to. On the streets of Gatlinburg, God beat the odds of two people out of the seven billion on earth, coming face to face in a tourist town. Image

I received this story from a woman name Toni, proving that God, yet again, beats the odds. “Right after my husband’s car accident, he had surgery and no one saw anything, but me and our 2 kids saw his toes/feet move a little. I declared at that moment that someday he would walk again. Within 6 months, the therapists had him up walking with a walker. Praise Jesus.”

In Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus feeds 5,000 men, not counting women and children, which may have placed the number at 10,000, or even more. What are the odds that with 5 loaves and 2 fish Jesus could feed so many? What odds can exist when we have such a powerful God? My friends, there are no odds.

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Living For Today

Living for today has been another thing heavy on my heart lately. I’d like to share my mind set and how I tend to think on a daily basis. I can’t say that my way of living is the same as yours, and I may just be spitballing when I say I think you can all relate to this in some way. I can’t say for a fact that this will be organized either, but merely me spilling my thoughts into paragraphs.

For quite some time now I’ve pictured myself graduating, going to a college near by for a year, and then moving from Indiana to Kentucky to be a dental assistant. I’ve always pictured myself marrying a pastor and being a preacher’s wife. We’d go into poverty struck countries to do mission work, and build friendships with people on the other side of the world. The two of us would live a halcyon lifestyle, caring only for the salvation of others. We’d pray together, and we’d stay together. I picture my future spouse and I having a Bible study together with a group of children in Africa. Singing their songs of praise in the early morning, teaching them just as much as they teach us. Sitting together on the red sand talking about Jesus, because that’s just what love is about. Loving God, loving His people. Telling these kids so filled with life that their Maker loves them, that there’s hope, and they have a reason to live. I can’t think of anything more beautiful. 

I want to spend nights staying up late because I can’t put down a good book. I want to plant a garden and then pick all the flowers for my hair.  I want to be inspired, and changed, and ennobled. I want Jesus to be the center of my life. I want to want more of Christ. There’s so much I want out of life, but it’s so important that we remember why we’re here. We’re here to be disciples of all nations, imitators of God, lovers of all people.

I hate that there’s been times in life that I’ve doubted God, but haven’t we all? I get so lost sometimes. I’m this naive little girl that doesn’t always see the troubled world. I forget life doesn’t go as planned all the time. I make all of these plans without thinking of the ones God carefully planned for me. I’m too busy planning tomorrow that I miss the bird building a nest outside my window today. I pull out of my driveway thinking about the yard I’ll have someday, and I miss the beauty of the changing trees in the yard I have now. I think about the future I have planned for myself and question if any of these things are what God has in store. 

One of my all time favorite women in history is Audrey Hepburn. She says, “Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present, and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.”

And even better, Jeremiah 29:11 “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.” So why do we worry so much about our future when God tells us His plans? God’s going to call each of us to our best possible life, the life that He planned. I encourage all of you to join me in really seeking Him, and praying that although we have self will, that we’ll use it to do what He’s called us to do.

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The Finished Work of Christ

“Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory. They receive God’s approval freely by an act of His kindness through the price Christ Jesus paid to set us free from sin.” Romans 3:23-24

 I think one of the biggest things that people tend to overlook is the last three words that Christ said on the Cross: “It is finished.” The work of Jesus Christ is done. Sin is dead; it has no power over us. Death is destroyed. Christ did all of the work on that cross, your chains were broken many, many years ago. You’re already free. It’s a matter of learning to walk in the confidence of your freedom. The battle is convincing your mind how free you are and seeing the beauty of grace. Because let me tell you, the chains have been broken already. You’re free to walk without heavy burdens; you don’t have to be a slave to sin. I really love Romans 6:14, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” I really recommend reading Romans and absorbing all of the truth in it. Romans was written by the apostle Paul around AD 57. It took place in Corinth when Paul was on a missionary trip. This book was written to the church in Rome.

 There is guilt, and then there is conviction. Guilt does in no way come from God, but conviction does. Conviction is completely different from guilt. When we read Romans we learn that not one person can get God’s love by never messing up or sinning. “Everyone has turned away, everyone is rotten to the core, and no one does any good.” (Romans 3:10-12) Paul makes it clear in Romans that through confession and repentance, we can be free from any guilt. If you think you’re still guilty once you’ve confessed your sin, you’re only believing a lie. Jesus is our savior. He saves us from sin. He saves us from guilt. Jesus Christ came to set us free, not keep us tied down to guilt. The one who has confessed and turned from sin is no longer guilty.

 If there is a place in your life filled with guilt rather than conviction, recognize it’s a lie. If you’ve accepted Jesus as the ransom for your guilt, you aren’t guilty. Paul wanted the Romans to know they were saved by grace but still called to be holy. Same applies for us! God bless you, thanks for reading. 

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This World Has Nothing

I had another topic in mind for this post, but I really felt God leading me to talk about worldly things. First off, when I say ‘worldly’, I mean things of this world, “stuff”, ect. This is something I’ve always struggled with, and I believe we all have at some point. It’s so easy to get caught up in society. We focus so much on what we want, want, want, rather than what we need… which is more of Jesus. 

The Bible say in 1 John 2:15-17, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

That’s a tough verse to take in, what a challenge. God wants us to want Him, not worldly things. We can gain the whole world, but if we don’t have Jesus, what do we really have? At the end of the day our salvation determines what we really have. I could have millions of dollars, live in a mansion, be famous, drive a nice car, I could have all the worldly things, but if I didn’t have Jesus, when my life came to an end, I’d have nothing but a burning pit in Hell. The world has literally nothing for us, this isn’t our home. Consider this life a test, because in a way it is. Heaven or Hell is our home, the life we live now just determines where we’ll go. We’re really here to save as many people as we can. Our main mission is to minister and witness to those without Christ, and those with as well.

Romans 12:2 tells us, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. I love this because it’s so straight forward. Don’t be conformed, but be transformed. The way I take that, is don’t let the world change you, but rather let Christ change you. As we let God change our minds and hearts, we stop craving the worldly desires like sex, alcohol, drugs, ect. We crave Jesus and not the world. 

The book of Amos is about caring for those that are poor and weak. Amos told the leaders and the rich of his time that God wasn’t pleased with their self-obsession. We can’t live immoral and greedy lives so life is comfortable for us. We’re on God’s time, we have to use the days here on earth to love, be kind, and show other’s God through ourselves. 

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 

We have to walk on the edge of this world, not of it. We have to love and be God fearing. 

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Temptation Talking

I was thinking to myself earlier about temptation. As Christians, temptations even harder to resist because we have this awesome God we want to please. Temptation can be God’s way of testing us. Jesus was tested with temptation. But God wants us to overcome it, not be a slave to it. And if you feel like a slave to temptation, Jesus can break every chain.

Satan uses temptation as a way to lie and tell us we’re failing, we’ll never be good enough. But this verse speaks truth, “The Lord your God is with you. He is a hero who saves you. He happily rejoices over you, renews you with His love, and celebrates over you with shouts of joy.” Zeph. 3:17 I love the sound of that. God is such an awesome, loving God. 

If temptation were talking it’d say, “You’ll never resist me.” But as the popular Philippians 4:13 says, I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Isn’t it great to know you have that support? 

Temptation says, “You’re alone, good luck getting out of this.” We learn the truth yet again in 1 Corinthians 10:13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 

Temptation tells us, “You’ll never be forgiven.” And then here comes the truth again, 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

My friends, please hear me, you are such a prized possession to God. Let Him get you out of the addiction hole you’re sinking in. Don’t think you can’t get over the alcohol addiction you face, or the temptation not to eat because you want to be thin. Don’t think for a minute there is one struggle God can’t get you through. God’s love is way bigger than any addiction, temptation, struggle, ect.