Oh, Mom…

There is a song I like to listen to. It is called “Love Remains.”

If you listen to country music, you know who Lady Antebellum is. And if you know the names of the members, you know that Hilary Scott released a worship album with her family, and it is composed of old and new hymns and worship songs. And, you guessed it, “Love Remains” is on this album.

It makes me think of my family, the love my parents show me every day. But it also makes me think of my mom. The song begins by talking about how we are all born, and our parents react to seeing us for the first time: “Momma smiles, and Daddy cries.” The song goes on and talks about how a boy will grow up and take a bride: “She stands faithful, by his side.”

When I think about my 23 years on this earth and the constant presence of my mom, I can say I saw her do primarily two things: She smiled (at us and because of us) and she stood faithful (by my dad’s side and by our side).

Over the last couple of months, I thought of my dad a lot. He has so many characteristics and traits (hard working, loyal, sacrificial, consistent, loving, respectable, etc.) and he works hard to make sure his children possess those traits as well. But my mom…I cannot begin to tell you how many of her traits are amazing and precious, and how I desire to have those same traits.

If I could use only one adjective to describe both of my parents, I would say this:

Dad is consistent, but Mom is steady.

I can honestly say that she has been a steady and faithful foundation my entire life. While Dad had to go make sacrifices and take care of the family outside of the home, Mom was with us, providing everything we needed. She is the picture of steady love.

At this point, I just want to write something personal to my mom so I am going to change up this post a little bit, but keep reading.

Mom, I am thankful for our relationship. I remember being a teenager, and if there was ever something bothering me it was rare that I talked to you about it. I was Dad’s girl no matter what. I remember you asked me about it one Sunday on our way home from church. I remember where we were on the freeway (driving under the Nuevo Rd. overpass). I remember what car we were in (the truck). I remember where we were going (Sam’s Club). I had a bad day at church, and I was beyond frustrated, and instead of talking to you about it I chose to sit in the passenger seat and cry. I stared straight ahead and refused to be talked to. You got frustrated because I think I told you I only wanted to talk to Dad about what was bothering me. You were quiet after that. It occurred to me that it did not make much sense that I was not taking advantage of your listening ears or your heart of love, and it hurt you every time I preferred Dad over you. Somewhere in my heart that day I made a commitment to start talking to you more. Our relationship grew from that point forward, and now I am just as close to you as I am to Dad.

And now that I live on my own, the lessons you poured into me have taken root in whole new ways. Dad worked tirelessly (and still works tirelessly) to teach me and Matthew and Chelsea how to work hard and respect people and earn respect in return and defend ourselves and fight for what is right and prioritize others over ourselves and how to make sacrifices and be smart and be wise. He always taught with the right amount of love and strength so we would get it. But your lessons were so soft and subtle that I did not really put much thought to them until recently.

You taught me how to use my time wisely. If there is something that needs to be done and you have a few minutes to do it, get it done. You always told me, “The things you love, you will make time for them.”

You taught me how to plan and how to be wise with the gifts I have been given. Whether that gift is financial stability or time spent with people, it takes a certain amount of organization and wisdom to use them.

You taught me how to be faithful. You have never let me question how much you love me and how deep your love for me runs. And even in those moments when I think I might have reached the bottom of the deep love you possess, you always assure me that there is more to be found.

You taught me how to be quiet and let things play out. I bet if anyone who does not know you could use one word to describe you, it would be “quiet.” You are quiet by choice. You choose the right moment to speak and the right moment to keep your words to yourself, and so much of that wisdom comes from how well you know me.

You taught me how to fight (in all aspects where a fight is needed or required). I still think of how hard you had to fight for me against insurance companies and doctor’s offices, and if you had not fought who knows what my life would have turned out to be.

You taught me how to love in small and detailed ways. Everything you have ever done for me, it has stemmed from the detailed love you show me. You know me well and you taught me to show that same love to others.

You taught me how to cling to the Lord every day of my life, and you taught me that He will communicate with me in a personal way, a way He does not use with anyone else. I am special to Him, and that will show in every part of my relationship with Him.

Most of all, you taught me how to put my characteristics into action. You taught me how to get to know myself, and surrender my gifts to God so He could use them the best way He sees fit.

Mom, the song “Love Remains” makes me think of our family. If there is anything more difficult than being a parent to a toddler, I would think it is being a parent to an adult child. But I think you and Dad have done a good job always showing us that love remains. So for that and so much more, thank you.

Love in Action

Quick note about the picture above: I found a place of peace. A Japanese friendship garden. You could say it helped inspire me to write today.

Let’s get to it.

This one is going to be raw and vulnerable, pretty much a #honestyhour for me.

One thing I always notice about my writing—it is present in my personality and comes across in my relationships too—I can be quick to offer advice or wisdom or an opinion about something, but when it comes to living it out I fall short. I lack the application of my own two cents to my life and situations. Since this topic has been on my heart for about a week now I plan on writing a more in-depth post about it, but right now I want to simply share about myself.

Three separate times this week I was told that I intimidate people. I am generally a quiet person around people I do not know well. This does not necessarily mean I have nothing to say or I have nothing going on in my head; likely, the opposite is true. I take my time with everything, especially people and relationships. My natural desire is to know a person well by observing their actions. What are they doing? What do they believe? How does that faith come across in their relationships and interactions with others? with me? How do they spend their time when they do not have a schedule? Are they more laid back or are they more structured? Do they like to be in control or are they more suited to take the backseat and yield control to everyone else? And how do I better relate to each of those characteristics?

These are only a few of the questions I ask myself when I am around people, whether it be for the first time or the 100th time. They are important questions for me to have answers to because they determine how much I will be able to give of myself.

I give 100 percent, and most times I give even more than that, to the people who matter most to me. I pursue connection—deep, uninhibited, vulnerable, real connection—with people. It is who I am. But I find myself in a season of growth and reflection, a season where all I have is time to lay my heart bear at Jesus’s feet to ask Him examine it. I yearn to hear His voice, I yearn to know His reasons, I yearn to know how to please Him as an individual first and as someone special to another person second. This season is hard, and it is lonely. But it is in my loneliness where God meets me and wraps His arms around me and tells me everything is going to work out exactly how He wants it.

In this season, there is an opportunity to respond, to improve, to be better, to be stronger, to have an even softer heart. This is where the application comes in. The application is an opportunity to commit myself to a set of standards that are pleasing to the Lord. The application is an opportunity to take action and make improvements.

Where do I begin, where do I set my “Start” line? I think the apostle Paul had the right idea:

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men (bold added), that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

I want to focus in on verse 22. Paul says he became “all things to all men.” In context, he is speaking about how he had to get down on the levels of all the people he talked to and formed friendships with in order that they would be saved, they would be won for Christ. What an example of love and selflessness!

(Normally I write my posts—an extension of my thoughts and content of my heart—in direct-address form, using the word “you.” This post is an even bigger part of my thoughts and heart right now, so I am writing in the form of a journal entry, simply writing about my life. It is part of the application step of life.)

When was the last time I could truly say I even tried to be all things to all people? The people I rely on most in this world, the small circle it is, do they feel I am all things to them? When they need a listener, not an advisor, is that what I give? When they need a hug, not a smack in the head, is that what I give? Do their hearts trust me? Do they feel closer to Christ when they are around me? Or do I pull them away from our precious Savior? Do I intimidate them into giving me what I want or need? Am I too selfish toward them?

If I asked myself these questions a year ago, two years ago, I would have said with probably a bit too much confidence (maybe a little sass) that even if I failed at doing this, I know I tried my hardest every single day. At the present moment, I do not have that same confidence. I can easily allow myself to spend a good amount of time on my high horse without evaluating my own actions, and there were a few good reasons why I stopped trying so fiercely to love those closest to me. It seemed like every day was an uphill battle and at the end of every day I was happy to simply lay in my bed and close my eyes. But the pain and the frustration turned my heart away from people. I ceased being all things to all people, or at least doing it to the best of my abilities and with the strength I know God lends.

The ultimate question: How can I get better? How can I commit to unconditionally loving all people in my life regardless of if it is given back to me?

First, I commit to relearning how to be a prayer warrior. Instead of being the first to have an opinion or a sassy remark, I will pray. If God tells me it is my place to speak, then I will speak.

Second, I commit to finding what someone truly needs and do my best to fulfill that need the way they deserve to have it fulfilled…not the way I see fit. For the ones in my life who are a bit more vocal, I will be their listener. For the ones in my life who are seeking counsel or wisdom or encouragement, I will do my best to offer those things. For the ones who want partnership, need someone to walk beside them through a storm, I will walk faithfully with them. For those who wish to reciprocate my efforts and be all things for me, I will graciously receive them.

Third, I vow to love as selflessly as I can. For love without action is not much in the grand scheme of things. People hold onto actions. When someone looks back on their life, they likely remember the actions done to them, not the words spoken. I hold onto actions. I will ask myself at the end of every day if my love for others was shown, not simply spoken. When they reflect back, will my actions be something they hold onto, will they state how much they appreciated it?

Fourth, I will give God control of all things, knowing He is sovereign and with Him there are absolutely no coincidences. Everything is for a reason.

I challenge you, my reader, to love selflessly. Evaluate and reflect. Are there areas in your life that need change, improvement, better effort? What small effort can you make for someone else today? Even if it seems impossible, and you think the action might go completely unnoticed, do it anyway. God sees it, sees you, sees your effort. He will honor your choice to love people and to be “all things to all men.” God has your back. Those small acts will pay off. And remember: There is something precious and amazing about someone who reaches across personality quirks and differences to better love another.

Just Be You

Disney movies are powerful. Yes, they can have negative effects at times, but if you look close enough you can find many hidden gems about relationships, individuality, strength and much more. I recently saw two Disney movies. The stories are on opposite ends of the Disney spectrum, but both spoke to me in the same manner about the same thing.

What is that thing? It is the power that comes when you are yourself and no one else. Individuality.

Back in December, I took my 4-year-old niece to see “Moana.” I like to think I have simple taste when it comes to movies, and most of the time I like watching kids’ movies more than a movie for my age group. As I sat in the small theatre in Texas, Moana’s story scrolled across the screen and pulled me in. I felt as if I was in Polynesia. As Moana struggled to find her own way and figure out what she was willing to risk in order to ensure her people’s survival, I realized I am a bit like her. She is brave and adventurous. She wants to make her family proud, but she feels torn between them and what she truly wants to do. She looked at her island dying around her and the food running out, she looked inside herself and heard the call to go find a way to help her island. (Yes, this is where the mysticism and magic components of almost all Disney stories come into play, but the gist of the movie remains the same.) She decides to set off, but she encounters the opinions and instructions and cultural standards and every other obstacle that could have come her way. Yet at the end of the day, she had to stay true to what she felt in her heart was right. She had to go and take a risk, a chance at success. Otherwise she would always be looking back, wondering what would have happened if she had listened to what she knew and believed to be true rather than what everyone wanted for her. (I will shamelessly admit I teared up quite a few times when I was watching this movie; it is somewhat emotional.) She was herself no matter the cost.

This past Sunday I saw another Disney movie, this time with my roommate. “Beauty and the Beast” is one of those classic Disney movies I had not watched when I was a child, and people always seemed genuinely shocked when I would divulge that little detail. (I did not grow up as a Disney kid, sue me. There are many other classic Disney movies I still have not seen, and I am not ashamed.) However, “Beauty and the Beast” is somewhat special because although I do not quite favor the old cartoon, I did love the stage version. When I was a sophomore in college, my best friend and I got dressed up and drove to Hollywood to see “Beauty and the Beast” live on stage, and it was amazing. So obviously I wanted to watch it in theatres since it was made into a live-action film. As soon as I saw the trailer however many months ago I added the movie to my list; I wanted to see it. And then it came out (no pun intended) that the film would have scenes depicting a homosexual lifestyle. Well, I decided to see it anyway; I am glad I did. Belle is portrayed as a fiercely loyal and loving woman, one who would much rather venture out into the world than settle down the way everyone thought she should. She desires more for herself than what everyone in her village was pursuing. She loves her father and sacrifices herself so he can be free in his old age. She is intelligent and loves to read. Even though she is living with the Beast, she never lets his horrible moods and cruel actions determine how she is going to feel or what she is going to do. She is also greatly misunderstood by the people who do not bother to look deeper into who she really is. But she never lets their opinions or criticisms stop her from being herself and doing what is right.

As I sat in this huge theatre on Sunday, watching Belle’s story play out on the equally huge screen, it struck me: People are drawn to Disney movies because almost every story line has a moment where the main character realizes they cannot do anything unless they are true to who they are. You can say these princesses were self-aware (the fancy term people use when they are amazed at how well you can evaluate yourself and your own life). Translated to the Christian life: You cannot do anything if you are not true to the person God created you to be.

Translating this into the present moment, why was I driven to write about this particular topic? Because it is important to know who you are as a person. I am not simply talking about knowing what you like and do not like (movies, music, values, hobbies, jobs, interests, political views and on and on and on). No, I am talking about the reasons behind each of those things. Okay, you like this genre of music and not another; why? You have this political view; why? What are the reasons, the deep reasons, you hold things in your heart? If you have a strong opinion about something, what is the reason?

Without knowing who you are, life is difficult. Without knowing the person Christ created you to be, you wander through jobs, relationships, churches looking for something or someone that is going to give you a purpose, make you feel fulfilled, make you feel on top of the world. And when you cannot find those things, you too easily move on without truly engaging.

Knowing who you are gives you wisdom. I could (and probably will) write an entire post just about wisdom in the future, but right now I will try to keep it basic.

Wisdom is security, wisdom is strength, wisdom is determination, wisdom is faith, wisdom is time. Operating with wisdom at the forefront of your thoughts and words and actions yields nothing but godly results. Wisdom can decide how a situation plays out, how your life plays out.

But what is wisdom’s opposite? Foolishness. I will give you some examples: when foolishness says to act harshly toward your friend who forgot to call you back and forgot about your plans, wisdom says to give them a chance to explain and forgive them; when foolishness says to give up when something gets difficult, wisdom says there is something bigger going on and control needs to be given to God alone; when foolishness says to make a spur-of-the-moment decision, wisdom says take your time.

In my last post, “Lasting Friendship,” I talked about selflessness, how all lasting friendships consist of two selfless people committed to looking out for the other person more than themselves. A huge amount of selflessness, though, can be attributed to knowing who you are and having the courage to simply be yourself. Moana and Belle both had joy in their lives because they knew at the end of the day they did what most people would never have the courage to do: They stayed true to who they knew they were.

Too often in this world we find reasons to compromise. We compromise on our ethics, values, beliefs, opinions, feelings because we encounter people and situations who tell us that what we believe, what we are pursuing, what we want, what we are praying for is not worth it. We take jobs we do not truly desire, we maintain friendships and relationships that only grate on our nerves, we decide to stay home when we do not have anyone to do anything with when really all we want is to be out. Knowing who we are gives us wisdom, which in turn gives us an expanded tool belt when working on lasting friendships. Knowing yourself also lends much self-respect and helps you respect others better. When you respect yourself, others will respect you.

There is something powerful and enchanting about someone who lives their life while staying true to who they are. (Maybe the magic in Disney movies is not anything mystical, rather the way they inspire viewers to simply be themselves.) They exhibit strength and determination different from the world around them. They have peace. They have hope for things everyone else fails to understand. They are the steady people who will walk with you through your storms. They are the people you want beside you.

I am not usually one who encourages people to be like Disney princesses, but be inspired by Moana and Belle. Let their characteristics and knowledge of who they are encourage you to do the same. And remember: The ones who truly love you simply want you to be yourself.

Lasting Friendship

What creates a lasting friendship?

These are my parents. I love them dearly. When you see a couple you do not know well smiling in a photo, it is easy to assume they are happy and enjoying their time with each other. Otherwise, why would they be smiling, right? But when it is a couple you know intimately, a couple you have seen experience extreme highs and lows, you do not simply see just their smiles; you see everything. You see their story written on their faces, you see the struggles that have been overcome in how close they hold each other, you see many years of laughter in the fine wrinkles around their eyes. It is a special connection you have with them that gives you a glimpse into a world most may never see.

Today is my parents’ 32nd wedding anniversary. They have known each other since the sixth grade, when they were in the same class in small town Ohio. I realize I am blessed to be able to say my parents have stuck together through everything life could have thrown at them. Every time I get to tell someone how long my parents have been together, pride swells in my heart. It is rare to see people still in love after they see each other at their truly worst and truly best moments.

But there is something to learn here about friendship. Hence the reason why I am writing this. It is not necessarily a congratulatory letter of sorts to my parents on their anniversary. Rather It is about the many lessons I have learned about friendship from the 23 years of their marriage I have witnessed.

So I have a question: What creates a lasting friendship?

You likely already know that opposites tend to attract. There comes a time in your life when you really begin to evaluate yourself, you get to know yourself as a person. Understanding dawns when you realize what you are good at, what areas you need improvement, where you need accountability, where you need encouragement and what special characteristics you bring to the table. And as you see all of these things about yourself and they take deep root in your heart, the evaluation process begins again, this time of the people in your life. The characters in your family and friend group…suddenly their characteristics begin to show. And it becomes outrageously obvious: Everyone has at least one characteristic that is the opposite of what you have.

Differences tend to draw people together. There is something attractive, secure, impressive, amusing, frustrating, intriguing about the other side of a coin when you are used to your own side. Your side is familiar; it is what you know. So when you finally see the other side, it is refreshing.

But think for a second about the people in your life. There is likely a spectrum of people you interact with on a daily basis. Family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances. Usually in that pool of people there are those you get along with 99 percent of the time, and those you can only take in small doses. For those you can only take in small doses, there is a reason for that, perhaps even multiple reasons. And that is okay. But think about why your contrasts with some people are more disruptive with others.

Why does it seem like some people you click with, and some people there is nothing but conflict? If differences are supposed to draw you closer to people, and opposites are supposed to attract, why is it sometimes the hardest thing you can do to form a lasting friendship with those people?

It is at this point I would like to weigh in.

There is something to be said about selfless love. It takes a big amount of selflessness to be able to look at the differences you have with another person, and at the end of the day be able to say your affection for that person has not changed even though you do not agree with what they are doing. For the person who is my best friend, I want to know I can rely on them to love me even when they do not agree with me. I want to know even if I am a complicated person to understand they will still make a solid effort to understand me, and at the end of the day remind me that nothing I do will ever change how they feel about me.

I look at my closest friends and family members, and there are many I would say I am close to. They know me well, and when I do things that worry them or grieve them or make them proud, it never changes how they feel about me.

For example, on the surface and even deep down, my sister and I could not be more opposite. Yet we have a close relationship because we respect our differences and love each other anyway.

The same principles for friendship can be applied to marriage. Marriage is meant to be a friendship that lasts a lifetime. And it takes a huge ability and a certain measurable determination to be selfless—to constantly lay down what you want and need in order to take up what the other person wants and needs—to make a friendship last.

And the most amazing thing that happens when you choose to be selfless in your friendships? The ones who receive your selfless love are better able to return that selfless love back to you. When you truly look out for the other person more than you look out for yourself, it opens you up to the truest form of love that two humans can experience outside of the eternal love they receive from Christ.

So be selfless in your friendships. Listen to what people are saying. Love them for who they are, not what they do. And never let them doubt how much you love them. Christ set the example for friendship when He died on the cross. Follow His example, selflessly sacrificing out of love.

“Friendship without sacrifice is no friendship at all.” —David Jeremiah

We’re all Judas at some point

“The word of God is living and active…” Hebrews 4:12a

In recent weeks, I have noticed something. The early morning hours, when everything is quiet, the sun has not yet risen and the street lights outside my window are still glowing, are some of the best times to seek the Lord and spend time with Him. Lately when I come to Him it is out of a desperate need for peace and direction. And it is in the quiet moments when He shows me something I need to know rather than something I want to know. Continue reading “We’re all Judas at some point”

Warfare Is Real

Hello friends, family and supporters! Just wanted to take a few minutes to update all of you on what has been going on with my training and my upcoming trip!

I never thought a school would be used in such a big way. If I had chosen to go to some other school, I know for a fact God would not have placed all of the people and all of the opportunities in my path the way he has so far. Because of my school, I have the chance to learn, grow and meet other people in both similar and vastly different places in their walks compared to me. I know for a fact that I would not be where I am right now—on the cusp of graduation and getting clearer promptings than ever before—if I were not going to school where I do.

I have written before about what my team and I experience on a week-by-week basis, and you know I have been going on and on about time and how I feel as though I have none left this semester. Let me further explain this…

Last week, we learned more about spiritual warfare. What it is, where it comes from, why it comes and what we can do to fight it. There was a designated speaker for the topic and he pointed out a few great things that are so astonishingly simple concepts. But so often with spiritual warfare, as with everything else that has a simple root, we blow everything up and make ourselves believe there is something more to it. There is not. Spiritual warfare is the simplest thing.

Who has power and dominion on this earth, to do what he wishes and pleases to those who do not trust in Dad? The enemy. He has a vast kingdom of darkness on this earth and he just lies in wait for those who are brave enough to go up against it to try to rescue the ones who are trapped inside. But he is a clever, strategic and cunning enemy. He sees our approach, he sees our strategies and knows how to plow us into the ground and send us running back to where we came from. And that is EXACTLY what he wants, that is his victory. Seeing us retreat like scared children instead of engaging him in battle ever again. His aim is to get us to give up, leave and never come back…ever.

This is spiritual warfare.

It is the act of going against the enemy and his kingdom of darkness so God’s kingdom of light can reign. Anytime we go up against the darkness, the darkness can and WILL push back. But it is nothing to fear. We have armor, we have deliverance and the battle has already been won. That’s great news!

But I would be hard pressed if I did not speak for just a few minutes about what this message said to me.

This path is rough, it is not easy by any measure of the word. Sometimes it feels like I am alone, or it feels like my team is alone. Sometimes I feel like I have done nothing but ask for direction lately, but I get frustrated when I have to look for more or go after a more realistic destination. It is exhausting to always step out on faith and relinquish complete control. But it is the only way to live in complete peace. It does not make sense to the outside world, to surrender control and somehow get peace in return. But think of it this way. How often in our busy lives do we want to throw our hands up and give all of our responsibilities and tasks to someone else? How often do we, do I, think that if we can have just one day where we do not have to do anything then life will be grand? I think these things all the time. It is the same with faith, except the only difference is that I can justify surrendering and no one will look at me like I am crazy or delusional for stepping away. Rather I will have peace because I am no longer in control. It is like taking a Sunday drive with God at the wheel. He has my back, he has our back. He will not let us down.

Even though spiritual warfare is real, and we so often want to blame it on people, we have to remember that simple people are never to blame for the darkness in this world. The enemy is to blame, and he is the one we aim to defeat. And not with our strength, but our father’s strength.

I have no doubt we will encounter a few struggles, a few trials when our time comes in just a few short weeks. But what is important to remember is that it will happen and the battle has already been fought and won. We will never be led into a battle that was lost.

Each of my teammates is struggling with something right now. Some of the struggles are physical, something going on with their health. Other struggles are centered on family or relationships, and they are struggling to navigate through some difficult times. With everything going on with my team, I am asking you to pray for us. Pray our health stands up, pray our finances will be taken care of, pray our team grows closer to one another and pray we are prepared for whatever might come our way. We know that regardless of what is ahead, we are not shaken rather we stand with resolve to do the very things that will challenge us the most.

An update on finances: I am struggling. This year is much different from last year, and it has been a struggle to get to this point. I have complete peace and faith that everything will work out, but I am asking all of you to pray and consider becoming a financial partner of mine. Please pray about it. You honestly never to know to what extent you will be blessed for your faithfulness and obedience.

Thank you all for reading! I will have more updates as training continues!

Continued Need for Support

It’s Thursday, and I finally had an opportunity today to sit down and update you all!
This week is actually midterm week at school, and I had one of my midterms this morning. I had a plan to write an update on Tuesday but I got sidetracked with a few other pressing tasks. So here I am, about to go to class for the last time today and I thought I’d take a few minutes to write some stuff down. So here goes…

 
It struck me just a few days ago that we seriously only have 10 WEEKS until we depart! That’s scary, nerve-wracking and exciting all at the same time! With our departure date getting closer, it’s reminding me of where I was at this time last year. Since I didn’t leave until mid-June last summer, I had tons of time to wait and think about the journey ahead. This year, it’s a whole different ball game. I am afraid, I am a little apprehensive, I am a little intimidated to go to a place that is the virtual opposite of where I was before. But even though I have these feelings, I have even bigger assurance that EVERYTHING is going to work out. It is a total blessing to be able to say that, and mean it with every fiber of my being.

 
My team and I, in training on Monday, worked on storying a little more. If at all possible, my mind is blown even more now than it was the first time I had ever heard about storying. It is such a basic concept, and such an easy way to share with people. It is a form of communication, bridging so many different gaps between cultures and people groups, and it is a challenge to memorize stories to tell. But it is a challenge I know my team is ready to take on.

 
In team time that night, my awesome leader took a slight detour from what team-time normally looks like and decided to share with us the reason why we are going in the first place. The reason is simple, and it is the commandment we all have placed on our lives. We are placed here for one reason, and that is to share love with every single person in the world. And not just any love, the one and only true love, the one and only everlasting love. The only love that has the power to save. It is exciting and challenging call we have chosen to accept, and we came away remembering the choice we made to resolve and commit to the call and to each other.

 
Our team is growing closer, but we all still need prayer. As our semesters go on, schedules are getting busier, exhaustion is setting in, and time to sleep is intermittent at best. But even as we are tired going to class, through training, to work and back home, we rest assured that the power of prayer is strong and prominent. Love is real, and support is powerful, and I would like to ask on the behalf of my team that you keep praying and keep us in your thoughts.

 
This was a short update, but I plan on updating next time with a video. Writing down everything I am learning is helpful, but I think everything would be a little bit better if I shared verbally why I go and what it means to me to have your support.

 
Thank you, and blessings!

More ISP Training

It blows me away how fast time has been going by this semester! I start every day of my life with a specific list of tasks I need to get done, and usually I come to the realization that there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done…unfortunately. And I think everyone realizes this at some point during their lives. It hits us like a ton of bricks when we realize that being an adult takes hard work and good time management skills if you want to accomplish things. I have realized this, and I have also realized something else: I should have listened to my parents when they told me to just enjoy being a kid. Life was literally the greatest when I was a kid. Days could go by before I got up and actually did something of value instead of watching T.V. all day.

BUT I have rambled long enough. I simply wanted to make a point that it is a busy life when you are a senior in college and going through training while still being involved in a ton of other things! It is hard work and days are always packed with long to-do lists, and I would not have it any other way!

Now to the fun stuff: Updating all of you!

For me and a small group of people who have experience in the program, our training revolves around storying. For those who do not know what storying is, it is a method used to communicate stories to people who speak different languages or are from different backgrounds and cultures. Storying is sometimes the only way to convey a story if the written form is not yet available in their language.

It is a powerful concept, and one I am very unfamiliar with since I only learned about it one year ago. However, learning to story and learning to do it effectively is challenging and makes me–as well as everyone else–realize just how much we rely on the written forms of the stories we love so much instead of knowing them from memory. Memory is a powerful thing when we utilize it for a greater purpose.

Storying is both convicting and edifying, both encouraging and a harsh reality check. It takes so much time to study a few passages and memorize THE CONCEPTS even if we cannot recall every word exactly as it is written. It is also risky because we never want to convey something to in an untrue way because the whole point of the story can easily be misconstrued–especially when being communicated across cultural barriers.

Even though it takes time and practice, storying has shown me that it is just one more reason to work on memorization rather than just reading on a regular basis. Because of this, I have decided to put more emphasis on memorization…and even though it is difficult (as I have already said, my days tend to get away from me) it still feels awesome when I memorize! My goal is to memorize quite a bit before May.

As for my team, we are growing closer with every week of training. We are all so different from one another–as we have now learned from taking the Myers-Briggs personality assessment–but at the same time we have ways we are similar. One reason I love building relationships with people is because it gives me an excuse to know things about them. Knowing someone’s personality type can tell me so much about them and it gives me a reason to know them on deeper levels, levels that cannot be revealed by a personality assessment.

When on a team in the program, one thing required of us if that we have one-on-ones with every person on the team. Going somewhere together not with the entire team gives us each a chance to open up to one another.

Something I have come to realize in the last year is that TRUST is so valuable in building relationships. When I was younger I always thought trust was this high and lofty concept that would come without any work…boy, was I wrong! Trust takes WORK! And a LOT of it! But the beautiful thing about trust is that when you give it to others, nine times out of 10 it will be given back to you. You have to be able to discern if a budding relationship is important enough for you to decide if you are going to trust someone enough to take that relationship a little deeper.

How do you decide t trust someone? You share a piece of your heart with them–something important to you, something you value, something about your faith you have struggled with for a long time. You put it out there. And I have come to realize that when both parties are open, trust comes easily when they are willing to put themselves out there.

Trust is a lesson I learned last year, and even though this year is a world of difference compared to 12 months ago, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning to trust my new team. I value each of them, and love each of them, and I am looking forward to deepening our friendships over the next few months.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to train and continue to grow closer. Please pray that we gain the right supporters and people come alongside us and lift us up. We are in need of help, and we know you are all praying. Please continue!

ISP Training Week 10

It is hard to believe that I only have four more weeks of training! This semester has flown by with such speed, I am absolutely amazed!

One thing I will always be grateful for is the 10 weeks I have spent training for my three-week trip to Japan. I am so grateful that God has taken such a firm hold of my heart, but I am also grateful that He brought me to a place where I could relinquish my heart to Him and allow Him to take complete hold of my heart. I have learned to be so much more thankful for His presence in my life and for His precious yet powerful Word, and its great influence on me.

Since training has started in January, I have grown in ways I never thought I would grow. God has shown me that I have a heart to do His will, and I have a desire to know Him more and to share Him with people who desperately need Him.

I will forever be grateful for this life-changing experience!

Now, I want to update you all on what happened during training last night.

Assumptions and Perceptions. When I saw these two words on the PowerPoint on the screen when I walked into the auditorium, I knew this training session was for me.

One of the things I am always battling is my perceptions and assumptions. I am always assuming way too much about everything and everyone. But I am a work-in-progress. It is a battle every single say. Still, I knew whatever Kristen White had to say, I would be listening intently.

She talked for a little bit about thoughts and perceptions and how we do not always have the greatest vantage point on situations. Sometimes we can blind ourselves with our own thoughts, and sometimes we let our own internal situations blind us from the needs we see in other people. Kristin really emphasized that we need to be able to spend a lot of time observing, being mindful and intentional while we are in-country.

Our own thoughts and our assumptions and perceptions of how things should be and how they should work can make us less effective when trying to build relationships that could potentially allow us to lead people to Christ.

Next, she talked about how Jesus was and is the ultimate example of stepping outside of Himself to minister. He became like us, He became a human and got down onto our level and loved us to the point of death. He led the disciples and counseled them, telling them to follow Him.

She segued from becoming like the people we are going to see, to figuring out if we were all followers of Christ or just fans of Christ. She went through five different ways to know a follower from a fan.

Ways of a Follower, ways you know someone is a follower of something or just a fan:

  1. Manner, mode, fashion
  2. Characteristic and habitual manner
  3. Method, plan, or means for attaining a goal
  4. Respect or particular
  5. Direction or vicinity

A follower is:

  1. A person or thing that follows
  2. A person who follows another in regards to his or her ideas or beliefs; disciple or adherent
  3. A person who imitates or copies
  4. An attendant, servant, or retainer
  5. A person who follows or subscribes

Looking at all of these criteria and hearing what Kristin was saying made me put some thought into my life. I have my struggles, and I sometimes lose my focus on what truly is important, but I know without a doubt that I am a FOLLOWER of Christ! I love Him with all my heart, and I cannot wait to share His story with people who have never heard it before!

BUT, once Kristin shared this criteria, she began talking about being a leader to other people, and finding someone who can lead you. The example she used was Paul and Timothy. Paul looked at Timothy as a son in the faith, and told Timothy to imitate him because he imitated Jesus. Paul followed Jesus and he wanted Timothy to follow Jesus. But he also realized that Timothy needed an example to LEAD him. Timothy then took Paul’s example, and became a leader himself so that he could lead someone.

Kristin then shared an awesome story, a story that made me look at leadership in a whole new way.

One time while she was in college, Kristin was in the Pacific Northwest at a cabin in the mountains when a blizzard hit. The people she was with decided it was best to get down off the mountain. Kristin decided to drive, but she was terrified the whole time because she could barely see the tail lights of the car in front of her while driving down the mountain. She said the only thing that kept her from stopping her car and parking during a blizzard was the knowledge that the person in front of her could not see anything either. She also knew there were people behind her who were relying on her to lead them. Once she got down to the bottom of the mountain and she looked at how many cars were behind her she realized that if she had stopped she could have put herself in danger as well as the lives of all those who were following her.

That story was so simple yet it blew my mind! I never thought of leadership in that way. And I never realized that even if someone labels you as a leader does not mean that you do not have someone who leads you. You do not have all of the answers, and that is when having leaders and other perceptions is helpful. When people are leading you and following you, it gives everyone more direction. It offers discipleship for everyone.

So simple and so profound!

During team time, we discussed our team covenant, and we all had the chance to learn more about each other as we all got to search out Bible verses that will uphold the covenant we will all be committing to next week.

It was an awesome training session! I am blessed by this discipleship program! I cannot wait to see how God uses us while we are in Japan! I will be amazed, always, at His wonder and glory! And is love!

Thank you for reading!

God bless 🙂

Grace