Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Pursuit of Happiness

The pursuit of happiness - this topic is kind of touchy for some of us. Is it good, or is it bad to pursue one's own happiness? As a Christian, is it okay if things or people other than Jesus make me happy? For those of you who don't yet know Jesus or His plan for you, does God want you to be happy... happy even if He isn't included in that happiness? These are thoughts that I have been wrestling with. It has taken quite a long time for me to actually put my thoughts on this subject into words. I have wrestled with it because I want everything I say to be straightforward and, above all else, to be true. But, alas, I think I am ready. Let's get started, shall we?

As a society, we have accepted and adopted the concept that we ought to always be happy. And, if we aren't happy? Well then, there must be something seriously wrong with us. So we constantly chase after the dream of happiness, and we pursue it (hence - the pursuit of happiness) at all cost. We believe having the popular brand of clothes will fill us, or being the "right size" will finally give us what we long to feel, or, better yet, we believe having a significant other will complete us. But when we finally obtain those objects, or reach the weight goal we set, or find "the one", we find we are still not happy all the time, or maybe even realize those things we tried so hard to obtain don't actually complete and fill us... Well... then what? We usually get confused or angry, and we ask God, "Why can't I be happy? Isn't it your job to make me happy?"

I came across this quote a couple weeks ago: "Jesus is in the happiness business." That is just full of crap! I'm sorry. But it is NOT God's job to make us happy. Plain and simple. Jesus did not die for us, so that we could be happy. Happiness is a fleeting feeling. One minute we may be happy as can be, and the next we become this awful grumpy monster that no one wants to be around. Feelings change, so why would God want something so mere and little as happiness for us? I believe, that instead of happiness, he desires for us to find perfect and deep JOY. Joy that touches our souls in HIM through times when everything seems hopeless and lost. 

"The bible teaches us that TRUE JOY is formed in the midst of the difficult seasons of life." 
 -Francis Chan

I love how Chan puts that, and I know it to be true! When we are stripped down to nothing, and are at our very lowest, I believe God is reaching down to us and asking, "So, are you ready to experience what it's like to be filled with beautiful joy?" With joy, you are given the ability to be content in hard places. Because even though you may not be happy, Jesus can enable you to be joyful and to worship Him -  for who He is and His promise to always provide and be with you. 

This is where it becomes a little confusing. This does not mean he doesn't want to see us happy. He just does not want us to chase after things that will only fill us for so long, only to then chase after another random thing that we think will complete us. 

"I do think our joy gives him joy, and our happiness makes him happy. Which is why he gives us passions and things we love to do and relationships and pretty sunsets. Because he does want us happy- but knows that hard times where we aren't happy are important for our growth too."
- Olivia Youngs

When I think of pure joy, I am almost always reminded of the people of Haiti. They have helped redefine joy for me. Joy is something that literally touches your very soul, it has the ability to spring up and out of you like an overflowing well. It is infectious! And to see "the very least of these," the impoverished, helpless, orphaned, BEAUTIFUL people who, to some, may look like they have nothing, have everything because they found Jesus. And because they have Jesus, they have a deep joy that flows through their entire being, so they really don't need anything else, because not only do they have joy, they have faith that God will provide.  Now, I would just like to clarify that not ALL Haitians know Jesus, that's why I go there. But a good majority do, and they are so deeply in love with Jesus, and their attitude towards life helps me learn something new every time I go down there. The difference between Haitians and Americans, is that Haitians are poor materialistically, but rich spiritually, which gives them that overwhelming joy, while we are rich in materials, but poor spiritually, leading us to become so extremely discontent in many situations.

If joy has the ability to get us through our lowest times, why in the world would we desire happiness, which will only tide us over for so long? Just think about that.

How about instead of chasing after empty things, which will only make us happy for so long, let's chase after Jesus, who heals, restores, and gives us unspeakable and unending joy!

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."James 1:2-3

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls."1 Peter 1:8-9

Thursday, September 15, 2016

8 Things I Have Learned in my First Year of Dating

Today marks one year of Jess and I's relationship. To say I am excited would be an understatement. I'm feeling so many kinds of emotions, it's hard to focus on just one.
I'm the kind of person who tries to see what I can learn in the various aspects of my life, because no matter what, you can learn something every single day, you just have to be paying attention. So, to say the least, I have been paying very close attention to my relationship, and I feel like I have learned a lot. I have learned things about myself, Jess, and relationships in general, and I hope that those who are reading this are able to take something away from it.
So here we go...

8 Things I have learned from my relationship:

1. We can CHOOSE to love each other through everything...

This was the very first piece of advice we received when we began our relationship, and I often have to remind myself of it. There are times when I get irritated fairly easily, and, I hate to say it, often times it's over nothing. So, I have to check myself, and humble myself, and CHOOSE to love him, through everything, and I have realized that by doing so, it allows me to love him even deeper.

2. DO NOT compare your relationship to the ones you see around you...

I had this problem our first few months of dating. Jess and I started dating after he had moved back to Colorado. I never thought that I would ever have a long distance relationship. So, having him being 6 hours away from me took a while to adjust to. But then, I also began to notice all of the couples I was surrounded by at school and it often made me upset. I wanted to be able to hold hands with my boyfriend, receive a hug from him, or, even better, be able to see him every. single. day!  But I didn't have those simple luxuries most couples took advantage of. I had to learn how to be okay with that, I needed to learn how to be content; which took a while to accomplish. But it all boils down to me being thankful. I had liked Jess since the 7th grade, and I had dreamed of being his girlfriend. God has blessed me with a handsome guy, who loves Jesus deeply, and who seeks to further God's kingdom. I couldn't ask for anything/anyone better than that.

3. If you think for one second that being in a long distance relationship makes it easier to NOT be physical, then you're an idiot...

Yeah, I am the idiot... This was probably the most ridiculous idea I've ever had. I thought for the longest time that because we were 6 hours away from each other, we wouldn't have any problem with being physical. It probably didn't help that I was being a bit arrogant and was striving to be "the perfect couple." I honestly thought we wouldn't WANT to be physical. I mean, it took us a while to even hug or hold hands, because we didn't know if we were allowed to do that! But, as we found out, when you like someone it's difficult not to be affectionate. There have been times where Jess and I have come close to crossing our boundaries, and yes, we have made mistakes (nothing too intense). We are HUMAN, and because we are human, we are sinful, and because we are sinful we have to repent, and once we repent we need to accept the grace and mercy that Jesus has given us. Jess and I constantly pray that we are able to flee from the temptations of our bodies and glorify Jesus through how we respect ourselves and each other, and we have even set new boundaries. Temptations are real folks...and they are cruel.

4. Long distance relationships are hard, but not impossible...

Probably the worst thing you could say to a person who is in a long distance relationship is, "it won't work out."  Yeah, thanks for the support. I know I had a few people question my relationship and how long it would actually last, and it hurt. Honestly. A lot. I knew if we were going to start a relationship, considering the fact he lives in Colorado and I lived in Nebraska, that it would be difficult. And it is! But, it definitely isn't impossible. Despite the fact that I have basically liked him since the moment I saw him, (not even kidding, people) I knew that if I for sure couldn't handle being in a long distance relationship, even if it was with him, I wouldn't have allowed it to start. We prayed for our relationship before it began. Seeking wisdom and asking if this was the wise thing to do, and we felt called to it. Thus, our relationship began, and I don't regret it for a second. If God knew we wouldn't be able to handle this, he wouldn't have put us in this relationship to begin with. There have been many trials, and many times where I miss him so much that I think I may die, (yes, I am a dramatic) but we get through them and we just have to face the fact that this is life and nothing in it is easy. If we assume that things are going to be simple, then we are in a world of hurt. And, just as a reminder, relationships in general are hard, not just long distance ones. You have to be actively working on them.

5. Don't be so focused on your FUTURE together, that you forget to be in the NOW...

My problem is, is that I am a dreamer and a planner. So yes, I constantly dream about what our future together is going to look like. But at times it gets a little out of hand. It's hard not to think about getting married, where we might to live, the small jobs we'd have before our careers started, etc. I mean, this is the guy I want to spend my forever with. But if I stay so completely focused on where we are going to be in a few years, then I am going to miss out on a load of important things that are happening right now. I want to be able to remember the simple moments we have together, instead of focusing on the milestones we will hit along the way. Plus, life happens and plans change on you, so don't get too attached to what you think may happen, because God's plan ultimately prevails.

6. Love IS NOT a FEELING...

It seriously isn't. Feelings are fleeting, and they constantly change. You can't trust them! My feelings for Jess, are a lot different now, than what I felt for him when we first started dating...or even way before we started dating. I love him more now than I did before...and tomorrow it is quite possible that I will love him even more. My point is, love is not, and cannot be a feeling. It is simply a verb. It is something you DO.  ~1 Corinthians 13:4-7  "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." My prayer is that we continue to love each other this way. I have seen a lot of this in him throughout this past year. I'm stubborn, and can be sort of hard to deal with, I will admit. But he is patient with me, kindly corrects me, and shows me love. And for that, I am thankful.

7. Don't feel as though you need to tell him every little thing...

I'm still learning this! Jess is my best friend, and it is so incredibly difficult for me not to keep him updated on everything that is happening in my life. I think the reasoning for this mind set is mostly because I want him to remain clued in on my life and vice versa. I don't see him everyday, so he doesn't know what is happening on my end, and I don't know everything that is happening on his end, and I don't want to miss out, so I don't want him to miss out on the things that I'm going through. That's okay to a certain point, I have just come to learn that there isn't much Jess can do for me in certain situations besides prayer and the ability to talk it through, since he is 6 hours away...and that is okay! But that is also what my girl best friends are there for. They are just as important, and they understand so much more considering the fact that they are females too. ;)  So hold on tight to your friendships, because they are SO important! Believe me, they are in your life for a reason. Your boyfriend, isn't your world. And if he is, then you have a problem, sister.

8. Jesus needs to be the center...

If you are a Christian, it is so extremely important that you keep Jesus at the center of your lives individually, and your lives together. Pray with each other and for each other. Make sure you spend time alone with Jesus and seek his will for YOU. And always remember that He is with you through everything...people will fail you. No matter what role they play in your life, but Jesus never will. So hold tightly onto him.

Here is the first photo of us as a couple, 2 months into dating (left), and one of our most recent ones together, 10 months into dating (right). I love you much, Jess Miller!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Through It All

This past year has been rough. I look back on it, and I am honestly in awe. I can't help but think, "how in the world did I make it through?"

In short, one year ago today, my boyfriend broke the news to me that he was moving away, which he did on August 22. The next month, on September 21, my grandma passed away after battling cancer for 8 long years. Then one month later, in the middle of October, my mentor and, then, youth pastor called me into his office and told me that he too was moving away - back to his home in California, as he and his wife had wanted to for nearly 10 years.

All of that happening one after the other really threw me through a loop. And I really wish it hadn't. After a while, dealing with all of the hard things that came my way, I stopped noticing the good things in my life and it drove me into a depression.

I hate even saying that. My depression wasn't mental illness, where it could be treated. It was simply a "broken world-view" depression. I felt as though everything was taken away from me. My boyfriend lived 6 hours away from me, my grandma passed away, and my mentor left as well. I loved and admired all three of these people, so this stung deeply.

I talked to one of my youth leaders about this, and she helped me realize that I was going through a "broken world-view" depression because Jesus was not on the throne of my heart. Realizing that scared me. But it also allowed me to run after God even harder, and redirect myself. It helped me to become more content with where I was, (even though at times I still struggle with being discontent) and focus and pray that I keep Jesus at the center of my life. Because without him, I am nothing. 

So now, one year later, I am looking back. I do see the rough spots--I mean, life is full of them--but I also see the blessings. I was able to get a real job, a job where my boss and my co-worker love Jesus deeply. I had another opportunity to go back to Haiti, a multitude of great new people have come into my life, Jess and I have been in our courting relationship for about a year, my grandma is in Heaven worshiping Jesus, I have mended many strained friendships, and I am still in one piece. 

Because God is good! He is faithful! And even though throughout the year I felt as if I were alone, I see now God was with me through it all. And for that... I am beyond blessed. 

So yes, this year has been rough. But it has also been good. I have learned and I have grown. I pray now that as I grow through this next year, my life remains focused on Jesus and that through the rough parts (because they will come) I look to Jesus and see the blessings.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

You Are Worthy

I was looking down at my knees one day while I was sitting in church, and the first thing that came into my mind was, "man, my knees look weird." Ever since I had entered into the third grade, I have been self conscious about my body. I vividly remember being in third grade at a new school, looking down at my thighs in disgust as I sat in my desk thinking to myself that my legs were too big. I grew up worrying if my legs were thin enough, my feet were small enough, my stomach flat enough, and my face pretty enough. Even now, as a seventeen year old, I will look at myself in the mirror and worry that my chest and hips may be too bony now, or my stomach still may not be perfectly flat.

But it doesn't stop there. I spent almost a majority of my high school career worrying not only about my appearance, but about my G.P.A. Why? Because once I had started my freshmen year, I constantly felt as though I was being compared to my older sister who had a perfect G.P.A. all four years of high school.

I remember sitting silently in choir as a freshmen, overhearing giggles and hushed whispers behind my back. I would turn and ask my friends what was so funny and they would nonchalantly tell me they were comparing me to my sister, informing me I wasn't as smart, or as pretty as she was. After hearing that, I worked myself into the habit of stressing myself out about having perfect grades, and looking "beautiful." (Even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with my looks before.) I felt as though I had to live up to a certain standard that I thought people had set for me, when really, I was the one setting those standards and expectations. I just didn't realize it.

I felt as though my worth came from my appearance, my G.P.A. and from what others thought of me.

That is so false, I laugh at the thought. I am not, and certainly will not be defined by any of those things. Because for one, such things DO NOT MATTER. They are earthly things that will pass away and be forgotten. And two, my worth comes from someone much greater than senseless things such as these.

My worth comes from the One who loved me so much, that He died for me, and I pray that I will only allow myself to be defined through my God instead of through the world.

Because according to Jesus, I am;

  • A Child of God
  • Loved
  • Cherished
  • Perfect
  • A Saint
  • A Masterpiece
  • Righteous
  • Worthy
and so much more. I can't think of a more precious and wonderful way to be defined. Despite the fact that I sin against Him daily, He still sees me as worthy to be His. He made me the way I am for a reason, and I firmly believe that He expects me to live as such.

"God made you to fill a hole and to do and be what only you can. Be that."
-Mikael Heck

So, let us strive to be our best authentic selves every single day that we are alive. Let us actively go against what society tells us what we need to be.

You are more than a grade, you are more than the number on that scale, you are more than the size of your clothes, you are more than the amount of money you get paid, you are more than what people think of you. 

You are more...

You are loved...

And you are WORTHY.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Avalon Jubilee Rose

Avalon Jubilee Rose.
That is what they called her.
Her skin rosy and pure.
Her hair yellow,
yellow like the sun,
beaming and bright,
as if showing off her magnificence,
showing off the joy that gushes out.
Her joy gushes out of her, streaming out of her pores,
displaying for all to see.
O, Joy!
The light of their lives.
Avalon Jubilee Rose,
long and lanky,
with bright yellow hair,
 blowing in the wind, dancing. 
Beautiful blue eyes,
resembling deep bodies of water,
such mystery, 
such boldness,
such intensity.
Stature with nobility.
People would bow,
onlookers would gaze in adoration.
Such beauty!
Her speech,
such eloquence! 
Her heart large and full,
with wild exuberance.
O, Joy!
But sorrow was cast down,
darkness lacing over her,
intertwining itself into her soul.
O, Sorrow!
"Why!" She cries out,
on her knees,
groveling in despair,
her heart heavy,
melancholy encases her very being.
Dragging her down into a pit,
her eyes vacant and lost,
shallow and pleading,
"Save me." They say.
Her once rosy complexion,
faded and lagging.
Her once brilliant smile,
that warmed hearts of many,
lost and nearly forgotten,
faint and remembered as though it was only a dream.
O, Sorrow!
Sorrow and pain,
neglected and forgotten,
isolation and anguish was deep within her. . .
But there was this man,
so beautiful,
so perfect,
his majesty,
utterly breathtaking.
And he loved her.
Why, he can't possibly even know her!
But this man, he brings life in his wake.
Healing the sick and dead.
Changing hearts, 
and loving the evil.
O, So lovely!
So Awesome!
Such humbleness,
and kindness.
He brought joy to her heart.
How great is he!
Avalon Jubilee Rose,
her beautiful joyfulness revived again!
She believed,
and she loved.
He restored her longing soul!
Avalon Jubilee Rose,
with beautiful yellow hair,
eyes brighter,
eyes deeper,
smile wider,
every inch of her laced with overwhelming joy.
O, Joy!
She is saved.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

When You Are Living In a State of Discontent

I have been struggling. I am going to be completely honest when I tell you that I have been struggling for quite a long time. I have been struggling to adapt and adjust to new things. I have been struggling to find joy and comfort in the simple things that God brings into my life. I have been struggling to be still.  Even at this moment, I am struggling to find the right words to speak, and I am praying that all of this will make sense in the end. But mostly, I am struggling with the fact that I have been living in a state of discontent.

This thought has been stirring around in my mind for a few weeks now, and it makes me uncomfortable to recognize that this fact is true. It even makes me sick. I am incredibly discontent with how my life is, which quite honestly is disgusting. The only reason why I am so unhappy, and even depressed is because I had a picture in my mind of how I thought my life should be. I was comfortable and I had no idea that so many things would be taken away from me, especially since those things were taken one after the other.

What is even worse about this is that the reason why I feel as though my entire world was thrown upside-down is because I was not firmly grounded in the word, and I wasn't putting God first in my life. I had idols that were sitting on the throne of my heart, and it was time that they were to be "debunked," and in order for that to happen, they had to be taken away. Even though they were taken in some way, they are still a big part of my life. They just aren't necessarily actively in it.  

Another reason why I am so discontent is because of my stress.  I am a high stress person, and all because I have the inability to say no, and because I allow the things in my life to overwhelm me. There have been a multitude of times where I end up crawling into a ball in the corner of my room and sob endlessly because I have no idea what to do. I imagine what it would be like if I didn't have a bunch of responsibilities I got myself into, which I quite frankly, don't even care about. I was longing to curl up and read, whether it be a good book, or the Bible, or even just sit in my room binge watching "Gilmore Girls." All I wanted was to have no worries, and to relax. I was feeling this way today during school, I asked one of my acquaintances if she ever felt this way, where she just had the urge to cry because she might be extremely stressed and emotional. I regretted asking her that question, because in return I got a weird look and an awkward laugh. 

But I am so tired of living this way. I loathe constantly being discontent and stressed. Life is a work in progress. Things happen, and you learn and grow. You just have to allow these things to shape you. I constantly have to keep reminding myself that this is how it is supposed to be. This is exactly where God has me for a reason, this is his plan for me and all I need to do is trust him and lay myself down. I have been learning to be content, I still struggle with it, but I pray that I will be content every single day. With my life at home, at church and at school. With my relationship with Jess and my friends, and life in general. I pray that I will lay my relationships and my worries and stress down, and that I will learn how to simplify my life, because once I am able to do that I will truly be able to worship and love Jesus. You can't do that fully when stress and discontent stand in your way. 

I find comfort with the fact that God knows exactly what he is doing. Who am I to question him? If this is how things were meant to be, then so be it. All I need to do is be still, embrace change, and allow him to work in me, so that he is able to use me. This is a lot easier said than done, but it is definitely possible, I just need to run after him.

~Philippians 4:11-13 "...for I have learned that in every situation, I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, and abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

~Daniel 3:17-18 "And if not, he is still good."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Perfect Utopia

// In my English class, we are in the Utopian/Dystopian Unit. A Utopia is an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. A Dystopia is the complete opposite of this, it is a place that is undesirable and even frightening. One of our assignments was to write a three page paper, creating our own perfect Utopia and what we believe it would look like. I had to think about this for a while, the only perfect Utopia that I could come up with is when Earth and Heaven are brought together again. So that is what I decided to write about, Heaven on Earth. I was so pumped about this paper that I wanted to share it with you all, and here it is! //
What is my perfect Utopia? Well it would be just that, perfect. It would not be anything extravagant or extreme, no crazy scientific experiments to make the “ideal human.” It would be simple, and would be exactly what this world was like in the very beginning: without flaw, and without sin. So this really is not MY Utopia, but rather God’s. I know that if I were to make my own Utopia, it would ultimately fail because it would become corrupt just as every other Utopia has. I know this is just for kicks and giggles, and that none of this will actually happen, but my mind just does not work this way, not for this at least. I would like to show you, or at least describe, with the best of my ability, what a perfect world looks like.
When God first created the world, everything was perfect. I can not even begin to imagine how amazing and beautiful it was before sin had come into the world and destroyed everything. God designed everything to be beautiful and perfect, and we ended up ruining his perfect world because we were ignorant enough to believe that our way was right. We attempt to live life the way that we see fit, instead of God’s way. Following our own rules, instead of his. This is sin, and this is what makes everything ugly. Yes, this world is still extremely beautiful, but it is a broken world. I long for the day when everything will be restored to its former beauty. Every single inch of this universe (which by the way is INFINITE) will be laced and covered with God and his Holiness. Not that it is not already like that right now, people will just be fully aware of his perfection, and they will be in awe of it. Everyone will be filled with unceasing joy and they will be amazed at his wonder, bringing him endless praises. Thinking about this gives me shivers, this is what a perfect world will look like.
Not only will we be in constant worship because we are so in awe of his glory and majesty, everyone will be filled with love. In our world right now, people are stuck in the mindset that love is something that you feel. But it is not, love is a verb. “1 Corinthians 13:4-7  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” In this Utopia, people will be kind to one another, they will be patient. Everyone will be humble and gentle, and ultimately, they will be perfect, because this is a perfect and flawless Utopia. There will be no crude language, no fighting, no murdering, and no stealing. If you are understanding the gist of it, there will be nothing in this perfect Utopia that is wrong, evil and sinful in THIS world right now.
Allow me to continue to paint this picture for you, this Utopia will be Heaven on Earth, literally. In the end, when all of the sin is destroyed, Heaven and Earth will come together as it was in the very beginning. Clothing will not be our typical clothing, it will be art and beauty. Food will be a constant feast and celebration. This will be us living out our eternity in perfect harmony with creation, animals, man, and our glorious King. There will be no pain or suffering, everything is perfect. Do not even attempt to try to comprehend this, because all of this is so beyond us right now, it is simply incomprehensible. Especially do not think that this is just a silly idea, because it is far from that. This is reality, and this is what is going to be happening in the end. My heart yearns for this perfect world, why would you not want to be a part of something as amazing and beautiful as this?    

// If you can't tell, I'm obviously extremely passionate about this subject. I was so thrilled to write about this that I was up past midnight last night trying to finish it all. I can not wait until we are able to be in the presence of God, especially when it is in the new Heaven and Earth. It will be absolutely magnificent! :) //

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Greatness of God

There is something that is totally crazy about our God, something that is so incomprehensible and mind boggling, and yet it's something that we often overlook regularly. That thing is God's love. Why is it so hard for us to recognize or realize the fact that God loves us? For myself, it's because He is God! God, our creator, the one who made us out of dust. The one who can build up and tear down nations, the one who can flood the entire world and destroy everything in a moment. God, the one who is mighty and omniscient, who has no beginning and no end, the one who we can't even begin to comprehend because he is so GREAT. How can it be that we have this awesome God who loves us...the puniest of people?
God's greatness is so vast, so beyond compare and so beautiful. Every time I think about it I am amazed and blown away. 
One of my favorite passages is Isaiah 40. I love it because it shows us a beautiful and terrifying picture of how truly great our God is! It talks about how he can "mark off the heavens with a span", (which is the entire span, or length, of his hand) and "he can measure the waters in the hollow of his hand." (The little cup of his palm) (Isaiah 40:12)   
The passage goes on to ask, "To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move. Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle o the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness." (Isaiah 40:18-23) 
You simply cannot compare God to anything. You would be stupid to even try to do something like that. 
As humans, we want the pleasure or self satisfaction of knowing everything. But our brains are so small that it's impossible. We are finite. God is infinite! So most often, when we try to comprehend something as as amazing, awesome, and incomprehensible as God it frustrates and sometime infuriates us. 
Francis Chan says; "Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating, but it is ridiculous for us to think we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of comprehending. What a stunted, insignificant god that would be! If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can. God is so much bigger, so far beyond our time-encased, air/food/sleep-dependent lives." This is all so true, and it proves that God is absolutely like no other.
And yet, knowing these things, and acknowledging how great God is, brings me so much joy, and again it boggles my mind. God is so great and so mighty, and yet he still loves us with a crazy kind of love. I know I have talked about God's love before, but it is something that is so important and so amazing that I can't get over it! I can't get past it or move away from it!
This is a God that surpasses all understanding, yet he desires to have a personal and intimate relationship with every single one of his children - US - despite all of our baggage, failures, and flaws. What makes this so crazy is that this is a God who doesn't need us at all... but he wants us. What's even crazier is that we need God, but most of the time we don't want him!
And yet, still, even through all of that he still loves us relentlessly. And rather than judge us in his righteous anger and pour out his wrath on us for our sin and rebellion, God has chosen to offer us an amazing free grace... because even though he is righteous and holy and cannot leave sin unpunished he is also a merciful God...a God who took our sin onto himself and died in our place. That leaves me speechless. How GREAT is our God?!

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Meaning Behind Christmas

So we are in the Christmas season. We have been for a while now...basically ever since we got done with Halloween. We LOVE Christmas. But is it for the wrong reason? We adore the family get- togethers, we enjoy receiving and even giving presents to one another. Snuggling up with a warm blanket and hot chocolate while watching Christmas movies is always the best. And we love telling little kids the myth of Santa Claus, and how "if you are nice, you will get what you want! But if you're naughty, you get huge lumps of coal." Oh, and with all of that, don't forget that Jesus was also born into the world to save big deal.

I feel as though that of all things, this is swallowed up by all the glamour of Santa Claus, and presents, and many other things that shouldn't be our main focus.  I know that many people think the same thing. It isn't bad, but it does become a problem when that becomes our main priority.

This is why I believe these things are what we SHOULDN'T be focusing on:

Luke 2:6-7, 9-14
"And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."
"And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!""

How amazing is that? The birth of Jesus Christ was a HUGE deal! Why? Because God had fulfilled the promise he had made to his people that he would send a savior to earth to save us from death. They had waited such a long time for this to happen and it did! I can't even imagine what it would be like to have actually been there and witness the birth of Jesus. What emotion I would have felt to have known that THAT CHILD  was going to take the punishment of my sins away. How mind-boggling is that? I'm becoming emotional just thinking about it. 

In Isaiah 53, it even tells us about what Jesus will do for us. 

Isaiah 53:5-7
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned -every one- to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

How GREAT is our God? How beautiful is this? This is why Jesus was born into the world. To "bear our iniquities". We had read in this passage a few weeks ago at church. Our pastor told us the significance of this. He said "From the very beginning, God had put the curse of our sins onto anything BUT us. He put the curse on the serpent (Satan), and he cursed the ground filling it with thorns and thistles, making it harder for us to work. Then, he put the very last curse, on his own son. Jesus died the most painful death, but as he did that he also took on all of our sins and paid the ultimate price so we did not have to." What is even more amazing about this, is that Jesus did this all because he loves us. He didn't have to die and take our punishment, but he chose to anyway, because he loves us so deeply. And Jesus didn't only die for us...he conquered death VICTORIOUSLY. This is something that is definitely worth celebrating, and it also shows that this is a God is is truly worthy of praise.

My heart is so full thinking about this. This is the ULTIMATE gift that we have ever been given. And it is even better if you receive this precious gift. God is good. I pray that you acknowledge this as you go throughout your Christmas season. Because this is the true meaning behind Christmas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I Will Never Leave You

I have a story that I want to tell you guys. It's a simple story, but it is one that holds a big place in my heart (and most of the time makes me very emotional).

In June of this year I was given the amazing opportunity to go to Haiti for a week. I went with some people from my youth group. Once we were in Haiti we met up with another youth group that was from Wisconsin, and we all bonded fairly quickly. We were one big team.

While we were in Haiti, we spent a lot of our time with some of the Haitian children. I've said it before, in my first post, these children, and adults, are so beautiful and kindhearted. Even in the direst situations, they are thankful. We went to a school, a few homes that had taken in orphans, and an actual orphanage. Today, my story is about the orphanage that we were able to go to while in Haiti.

It was the Sisters of Charity Orphanage that was started by Mother Theresa. Previous to this, I had never been to an orphanage, so I had no idea what to expect. Our team leader, Joe Rigelsky, had warned us that it was going to be tough and that we needed to spend time in prayer to ready ourselves for what we were about to endure.

He was right. From the moment we arrived it was heartbreaking. As soon as we got out of the vans a young mother was standing outside of the orphanage gates crying because they would not take her baby. The baby had some physical problems and she had no way of taking care of her child. But the sisters would not take the baby from her. We stopped and prayed for her. (Our leaders made sure her and her baby got to a hospital for proper care).  After seeing this mother my heart was already breaking. I could never imagine having to give up my baby.

We entered into the gates of the orphanage, sanitized our hands, and walked through a building and into a little courtyard area with surrounding buildings and a playground. The place that we were at was where all the babies were. I could not believe how many babies there were. As I walked through the buildings I would walk down the aisle of beds and cribs and look at all the babies. Some were healthy, but it was very few. 

To my disappointment, everyone I was with was so much faster than I was, so they got to all the babies before I did. There was another group at the orphanage already, and it was also the weekly visiting time for the mothers which was amazing, because all of the babies were being held! Joe said that that was very rare. He'd never seen that before.

I walked to the playground and watched as my friends were loving on some of the babies. After a while, someone came and handed me one of the babies - it was a precious little girl. As I held her in my arms, I would sway back and forth and I would smile down at her and I would repeat over and over "beautiful" in Creole. My heart felt so full, all I wanted to do was continue to hold her and love on her. I was able to do that for a while, just swaying and gushing over her. The baby would look up at me with squinted eyes and a half open mouth. I realized that she was hungry once she started to suck on my shoulder. After a while, she ended up spitting up all over my arm which surprisingly didn't phase me. But one of the mothers came up to me and kindly began to wipe off the spit up that covered my arm. She then took the baby girl to feed her.

Once again, I was left with no baby. I walked over to the fence, and began to watch everyone play and love on their babies. It was such a beautiful sight, but I wasn't left without a child for long. Joe came up to me holding a little boy in his arms. He placed him into my arms and told me that he was very sick and that today was one of his bad days. He had a hernia on his stomach so as I held him I had to be very careful. Joe informed me that he absolutely loved being sung to. As I looked into the babies face, I realized that he was indeed very sick. He started to cry right away, and squirm in my arms from discomfort and so I began to sing. I was determined to comfort him, but that took a long time.

I began to walk around the orphanage and sing to him, but he was still crying out. Once he started to push away, I got scared that I wasn't going to be able to hold onto him. I passed him to a couple different people, but then he would reach out to me. Happy and slightly confused I took him back right away. He did like me, he just wasn't feeling good. I held him in my arms again, being mindful of his hernia and I walked into one of the buildings and began to sing to him again. I would sing and sway, pulling him close to my chest. He started to doze off, and I felt so victorious. There would be the occasional outburst, but I knew that it was only because he was sick.

After a while, the mothers visiting time ended and everything became chaotic. The babies started to cry because no one was holding them, and of course their mothers were gone. We all tried our best to console them, but it was so difficult. Our hearts were breaking for them. What made it even worse was Joe told us after a while that we only had about 15 minutes with them and we were going to have to leave. That was the LAST thing that I wanted to do, I didn't want to leave any of them. Especially the one the I was holding in my arms. But Joe told us that we needed to spend this time praying over the babies and loving on them and placing them back into their cribs.

So that is what I did. I would reach into various cribs and smile down on them and pray. Towards the end, I walked off and sat in a chair and prayed, asking God to break my heart for what broke his. Right away I began to cry. I pulled the baby closer to me and kissed him on the head. I stood up and began to walk towards his crib. My heart was aching so badly, our time had drawn to an end and I couldn't handle it. I leaned over his crib and laid him down. I kissed him multiple times on the forehead as tears streamed down my face. He had a death grip on my fingers and wouldn't let go. I stared down at him. He looked so confused, as if he was asking me "Are you leaving too?" I took a deep breath and I kissed him one last time on his head and ripped my fingers from his grasp and walked away with some of the people from my group. But I made the one mistake of looking back at him, he was crying and reaching his arms out through the bars of the crib, seeing that made me cry even harder.

Everyone else in the group was having a hard time as well. Joe was right, this was an incredibly hard thing to have to see. All of our hearts were breaking for the children in the orphanage. They just needed someone to hold them and love them. We were thankful we were able to give that to them for a little bit that day. This was an experience I don't think any of us will forget, it definitely holds a place in our hearts.

Now, there is a point to this story that I would like to share with you guys.

I feel like a lot of us can relate to these babies. We can feel so alone and as if we have been left behind. We are all orphans at some point. Lost and alone. But Jesus...he is so good. He came to save us and make us a part of his family... so we don't have to be alone, and we don't have to feel as though we are unwanted. There is a song, No Longer Slaves, there is a part of it which says: "From my mothers womb you have chosen me. Love has called my name. I've been born again, into your family. Your blood flows through my veins." And another song, This is Amazing Grace, there is a phrase that says: "Who makes the orphan a song and daughter. The king of glory, the king of glory."  I think that that is so beautiful. God loves us! He will never leave us, and he wants us to be a part of his family. How crazy is that?

You don't have to feel alone and as though you are left behind and forgotten, you can be a part of God's forever family. God is so good. Even though people will fail you, and leave you. God never will, and he proved that by dying on the cross for us. I am so thankful for that!

Hebrews 13:5b "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Jesus' Amazing Love (Day 30 of #30daysoflittlethings Challenge)

This one I definitely wanted to save for last. I am EXTREMELY thankful for Jesus' love. It is so vast and incomprehensible. Through everything and with everything, he loves us. He died on the cross so we didn't have to die the death we deserve. It is so mind boggling, that he would love us. But he does and it is beautiful. Nothing on earth can compare to the love that Jesus gives to us freely. And for this, I am SO very thankful!

Gatherings (Day 28-29 of #30daysoflittlethings Challenge)

One thing that I have always loved is gatherings of any size. This one was tiny, we were able to get together as a youth group (some of us anyway) and worship Jesus together in song and in prayer. We ate good food, had good conversations and watched a Christmas movie together. These times are always the best. The fellowship is always great, and I am thankful we are able to have gatherings such as these.

Simple Dates (Day 27 of #30daysoflittlethings Challenge)

Because Jess lives in Colorado now, we are unable to go on dates. The only times we are able to is when he comes back down to visit (which I absolutely love), and when I am able to come up (which sadly hasn't happened yet, but soon! Very very soon!) Whenever we are able to go on dates, it's always amazing. We do the weirdest and most simplest things, but we always have so much fun! We love going to the park to eat food and talk, take pictures of our boots, drinking coffee, and we absolutely love dreaming about our future together. All of these dates are super simple, but I love them and I'm thankful I am able to share them with him.

My Family! (Day 25-26 of #30daysoflittlethings Challenge)

My family is so beautiful and I love them to pieces! I am so thankful for them! I can't imagine my life without them. They do so much for me which I can sadly take advantage of so easily. Even though we butt heads a lot, our love for each other is so strong! We are so imperfect, but they are so beautiful and wonderful to me and I am thankful. God has blessed me with an amazing family.

Antiques (Day 24 of #30daysoflittlethings Challenge)

I have always been so fascinated by old objects. I love the fact that they can have such an amazing story behind them! This coin above was given to me by a friend, who thought that I would like it. And I totally do! I have always loved history, and with this coin, I long to know what story is behind it.

So today, I am thankful for antiques and the history that is behind them.

My Bed (Day 23 of #30daysoflittlethings Challenge)

Oh, my bed...I am so very thankful for it! It's crazy how this can be so overlooked. It gives me comfort each night as I go to bed. And is so nice for when I have a long and stressful day. Not very many people have a bed, and I am just thankful that I do have one.

My Small Group (Day 22 of #30daysoflittlethings)

My small group at youth group is indeed VERY small. But that is perfectly fine! Because it is so tiny, we are able to connect better. We are able to focus in on each other and go into everything on an even deeper level. They challenge me and I absolutely love them to death! They never fail on making me laugh.

I am so thankful for these wonderful and beautiful ladies!

All-State Choir (Day 20-21 of #30daysoflittlethings Challenge)

I recently was allowed to experience what is was like to sing with 440 TALENTED singers. We were all in high school, and we were all extremely passionate about music. Our director was absolutely amazing. His heart was 100% into what he was doing and that really affected us. Everything sounded so beautiful, there were many times where I was moved to tears because I became so emotionally attached to the music. It was crazy and I am so thankful I was able to experience something like this!

The City Life (Day 19 of #30daysoflittlethings Challenge)

I have grown up in a small town my entire life. That in itself can be frustrating. But because of that, it allows me to appreciate the city life even more! I was able to spend a few days in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, and it was amazing! I was able to walk everywhere, there were coffee shops galore, and so many new and exciting things to see! I always have an adventure when I'm in a city.

I am so thankful for cities and the new things I am able to experience while I'm there.

My Dad! (Day 18 of #30daysoflittlethings challenge)

I am thankful for my dad! He is so wonderful and amazing. Growing up, he has taught me to show others the love of Christ, and has been such a huge example of humility and patience. I find that I can be like him in ways. Which I think is awesome, because I don't find a lot of similarities with my parents and I. My dad has a calming presence, and is always kind. It is so rare to see him angry. I am thankful for him, and for his love. :)