Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Blessings and Heartaches

As 2012 comes to an end, I realize just how much has happened over the last year....

The year brought many blessings. My marriage has grown deeper and I am more in love with my husband than I've ever been before. God revealed himself as provider over and over again in our lives as we trusted him for our financial support as missionaries, as well as provided a wonderful replacement car after an ugly hit and run that totaled our car. We were able to visit new places and experience fun events. For the first time in 9 years, I have a relationship with my daddy and I couldn't be happier about it! Tyler and I are now living outside of Florida (in New Jersey) for the first time -- and loving it! We began serving on campus at Rutgers with Athletes in Action! I have made new friendships that I am so very grateful for and enjoyed growing deeper in old friendships. We were also blessed with many fun moments that are now fun memories with family over this past year and I am so thankful!

On the flip side, 2012 had some heartaches and some moments I'd love to erase from my mind forever. The moments I chose silence rather than conversation with my husband. The days I chose to watch a TV show rather than dig deep into the Word of God. Days I spent sick on the couch. Hearing that Tyler had been in a car accident, resulting in the total loss of our only vehicle. Tears I shed because I was unhappy. Being deeply hurt, resulting in the severing of relationships, which truly saddens me. Having to choose the Truth over the lies whispered to me. Even getting a phone call letting me know that there was a mistake in the amount taken out for taxes all year and owing an unexpected chunk of money (never fun!) before the end of the year.

Looking back on 2012 brings a smile to my face as well as pangs my heart. It was a such an emotional roller coaster of a year! But through it all, I had the Lord, who is forever unchanging. And I had my loving husband by my side.

I am prayerfully hoping that 2013 brings unexpected reconciliation, new relationships, growth, love, and a deeper understanding of who God is. What are you hoping for in 2013? Lay it before the God of the universe. What pleases God and is his very best for you, he will fulfill. Happy New Year!

"May he grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans!" - Psalm 20:4

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

For Us, Why AIA?

During the my time as a student at the University of South Florida, I was introduced to the athletic ministry (Athletes in Action) of the campus ministry (Campus Crusade for Christ, now Cru) I was heavily involved with. I want to share with you about these missional organizations and why my husband, Tyler, and I chose to serve full time with Athletes in Action as campus staff.

Tyler grew up playing multiple sports and wrapped up his official athletic career as a wide receiver at USF. I, on the other hand, dabbled in sports here and there growing up but preferred to scream sideline. However, we share the passion for athletics. We also share a deep passion for Jesus Christ and the furtherance of the Gospel message. As we sought God, individually prior to marriage, we both felt God's calling to serve in full time ministry. And almost immediately after deciphering our calling, we knew God wanted us with Athletes in Action.

Here is Cru's Statement of Faith and some information about Athletes in Action. We are in complete agreement with their beliefs, that was number one for us. As we got to know the leadership, it was evident that they were in close relationship with the Lord and their humility was undeniable. I vividly remember Tyler telling me that trusting and submitting would not be a problem because of the humility displayed by our leadership. Hearing such confidence from my husband, spoke volumes to my heart. We have already felt warm and welcomed by fellow staff and we haven't been a part of this organization family for very long. Aside from how much we appreciate the people, we have seen God use the ministry of AIA to bring people into a new and deeper relationship with Christ. On our first week here at Rutgers, Tyler sat in on a meeting with our director, John, and a football player. During the meeting, the football player prayed to receive Christ! On a separate day, I sat in on a discipleship appointment with John's wife, Missy, and two volleyball girls. One of the volleyball girls shared that over Thanksgiving break she invited Jesus into her life for the first time! Now, these student athletes are being trained in the basics of the Christian faith. These are just two examples of how God uses the ministry of AIA to bring people to Himself.

As much as we love and support the organization of AIA, we are not claiming it to be perfect or above another [athletic] ministry. I stumbled upon these three articles not long ago and can say that measuring AIA against the bullet points, it is a solid (not perfect) organization with a long history of Christ centered service.

"...if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." 
- Acts 20:24 

Our personal beginning with AIA: I served as an intern with AIA from Nov 2010 - Dec 2011 at USF while Tyler finished school and was involved with AIA at USF as a student. During 2011, we applied for full time staff positions. This would require us to undergo two years of on-campus training by senior AIA staff. We were accepted and began our initial training in January 2012 with all of Cru's ministries at New Staff Training in Daytona Beach, Florida. While we were there, we found out our initial on-campus training placement -- Rutgers University in New Jersey! Beginning in February of this year, we began to trust God for our financial needs. By November, God had raised up all of our initial financial needs and we were packing for our big move! The day after Thanksgiving, we were headed north! We've now begun serving at Rutgers and are enjoying being part of a movement on campus that is centered around the Gospel.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Time in the City

As the semester closes at Rutgers and student athletes are bombarded with finals and prepare to spend their winter break at home, us staff took some time to bond and experience New York City! We hopped on a train in Jersey, and were in the city in about 45 minutes!!

I hadn't been in ten years or so, and Tyler had never been -- needless to say, we were pretty excited! John and Missy played tour guide for us, since they have been many times. We first toured Bryant Park where Christmas music fills the air, ice skating is center stage, and fun little shops line the outer edge.


Then we headed to Radio City Music Hall and were treated to the 85th Anniversary Special of the Christmas Spectacular show! My eyes literally filled with tears while the Rockette's danced in perfect unison. (Many of you probably don't know this fun fact about me -- but I wanted to be a Rockette so badly when I was growing up!) And the Christmas story was highlighted at the end with a live nativity! What an encouragement to see the story of Jesus told in the middle of NYC!

After the show, we had lunch and cheesecake at a traditional NY deli. We then walked and saw many different sights including the Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and Times Square. It was the perfect way to end out the semester together and bond as a staff team.

"...whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." - Proverbs 11:25

Thursday, December 13, 2012

When The World Whispers

When the world tells you that you are -- worth nothing, everyone hates you, you're unloved, you aren't beautiful, and/or you deserve what you've got coming... what do you do?

When I hear those lies from the enemy either in my mind or from the mouths of people, I am faced with two options. I can dwell on the evil and my own hurt and quickly spiral into a depression and self-focused pity. Or, I can recall all of the things that I know are true of me because of Christ!

In Christ, by the grace of God...

  • I am forever free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)
  • I have been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)
  • I have been made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • I stand perfect in God's eyes (Hebrews 10:14)
  • I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • I am in an intimate and personal family relationship with the Lord (John 1:12-13)

And the Word of God tells me that...

  • I am loved by God (John 15:12)
  • I am beautiful and flawless (Song of Solomon 4:7)
  • God rejoices over me with singing (Zephaniah 3:17)
  • I am chosen (John 15:16)

Because of who God is, I can confidently stand on who He says I am. The hurtful words people slam at me or that the enemy whispers in my head cannot compete with the Truth! I am who I am because of Christ and for that, I praise God!!

I hope that you, too, can choose to stand on the Rock when you hear lies - even when they penetrate deep. God is always good, trust that. I know I have to =)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Two Years Strong... & Young

Today marks two years of wedded bliss to the most handsome, Godly, loving, and admirable man I know!! I cannot believe that it's already been two years.

When Tyler and I got engaged in August 2010, we began planning for our wedding... for that December. That's right, a four month engagement. Many people responded with questions, wanting to know why we were getting married so young (as Tyler hadn't even graduated yet). I thought I'd share this post by Trip Lee's wife. I completely agree and praise God for blessing me with a husband to grow with! 

Happy Anniversary to the love of my life. Trusting God for many more <3 

"My beloved is mine, and I am his." 
- Song of Solomon 2:16

Monday, December 10, 2012

Nights to Forget

Many of us have had those nights that, in the morning, we would love to forget. Maybe for you those nights involve alcohol, sex, gossip, unleashed emotions, aggressive behavior, or time with the wrong people. But do you struggle with making those nights more common than not? Are you finding yourself constantly in situations that do not leave you feeling satisfied? Do you ever wish your choices were better, leaving you feeling better about yourself?

You're not alone. And there is hope for you. Hope in Jesus!

As Christmas is approaching, many will celebrate with gifts, Santa, and eggnog. But Christmas is so much more than that! Christmas is the beginning of God's redemptive plan for the world. Christmas is the celebration and remembrance of Jesus Christ's birth. And Jesus came into this world to rescue us! The Bible says, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. -- John 3:17 How awesome is that? Jesus didn't come to condemn us -- even though we are wretched sinners. His purpose was to save us!

Now, you may be thinking .... Jesus couldn't have come to save me. You don't know what all I've done. It's unforgivable and I am totally not worthy of being rescued by anyone, let alone by Jesus. Well, I'm here to tell you [kindly] that you're wrong. The Bible tells us that Jesus did not come to save the righteous, but the sinners! And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” -- Matthew 9:11-13

If all of this is hitting home for you, then I would challenge you to consider trusting Jesus and turning to Him for hope! This Christmas, receive the best gift of all... the gift of forgiveness and life in Christ! And begin having moments you'll never regret to replace the nights you'd love to forget.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Music

The other night, I attended a group event where we were led in song to worship the Lord! We sang "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and then discussed the meaningful lyrics. Then, today I put on a Music Choice channel and noticed that the Christmas music plays from the channel called "Sounds of the Season." This got me thinking how politically correct the world attempts to be with (all things but especially) Christmas.

Most store clerks wish us "Happy Holidays!" and signs spread "Season's Greetings" but the meaning of Christmas cannot be lost by all the cover up. I mean, just listen to the lyrics of the Christmas music on every radio station! Songs that used to be freely sung at every elementary school Christmas concert have deep, meaningful, and ministering lyrics. Songs like Joy to the World, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Holy Night, Away in a Manger, and First Noel are all popular, classic, and clearly depict the true meaning of Christmas. Faith Hill has a Christmas song that brings tears to my eyes almost every time I hear it; A Baby Changes Everything::

I hope that this December, the meaning of Christmas and the message of Christ reaches people's hearts in a new way or maybe for the first time. And I believe God can use even old classic Christmas carols to do just that! 

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! - Psalm 95:2

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Welcome to New Jersey

The long awaited move to New Jersey successfully happened this past weekend.

Tyler and I are now (almost) all settled into our apartment. So far, we are loving it here, although it is taking some adjusting. There are many differences from our Florida lifestyle. One of the first noticeable differences was the road. The rules of the road are different here, intersections look a little more messy (less defined, more lights, more signs), and it's like you can't turn left anywhere! We are already missing  grocery shopping at Publix. But on the bright side, there is a Hobby Lobby within 10 minutes from our place. Needless to say, I should be happy =)

We were welcomed to Jersey by snow! It was simply beautiful. I was like a kid on Christmas morning! I just couldn't stop staring out the window!

We have thus far attended our first Time Out (weekly Athletes in Action meeting) on campus, met several student athletes, and spent quality time with our new AIA directors. It's been a fun first few days! Tomorrow, we are looking forward to the football game, Bible studies, and our first NJ diner experience. As we continue to step into our new roles as full time Athletes in Action staff at Rutgers, we are eager and hopeful that God will use us in mighty ways to bring people into relationship with Him!

All in all, God prepared our hearts well for this and we are so thrilled to be on this adventure together with Him and each other!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Nostalgia

Five years ago, I was not right with God. I had spent about a year or so running from Him and His plans for my life. I thought I could find lasting satisfaction in life, without the Lord. I found out, time and time again, that I was very very wrong.

In early November 2007, I began to feel convicted and empty. I remember sending my friend Nicole a Facebook message asking about a verse in Scripture. She later told me that led her to continue to pray for me! And am I so glad she did.

On Thanksgiving evening, November 22, 2007, I watched the video below and it was life changing for me. Tears streamed down my face and my heart ached... I knew my life wasn't what it should and could have been.... there was SO much more and I had been missing out! Well, I wanted it. I wanted a life that was satisfied in Christ alone. At the same time, I was scared. I knew Nicole would understand and help lead me in this.

Despite that it was Thanksgiving night, Nicole and her parents welcomed me over with open arms. I remember sitting on Nicole's bed with her and our friend Jess as I sobbed. Through the tears,  I remember saying, "I need Jesus. Please help me!" And they did! Those girls stepped up and help shepherd me as I got back on the path the Lord had for me. And I have them as friends to this day. They will always hold a special place in my heart!

 (Pictured: Nicole, Me, Jess - Christmas 2007)

So, this Thanksgiving, this is what I am thankful for: friendships that have eternal value, God's grace and forgiveness, a fully satisfying life in Him, and God's all purposeful plan for my life. Because I was obedient 5 years ago to God reeling me back in, I have experienced His perfect plan for my life and many blessings!

Happy Thanksgiving and God Bless!

"Give thanks to him; bless his name!" 
- Psalm 100:4

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ten Reasons Why I Go to a "Mega Church"

Since my senior year of college, I have attended Exciting Idlewild Church in Lutz, Florida. Idlewild has about 10,000 members and an enormous building! I remember when Tyler and I invited our families to join us at Idlewild our first Easter married, the first thing they all said was, "it's so big!"

I have now been at Idlewild for almost 4 years and here's why....

1. Idlewild as a church, and the Senior Pastor, Ken Whitten, hold and preach Biblical doctrine. Jesus Christ is the reason the church exists and excels.
2. Even in such a large sanctuary, I found comfort in sitting in the same seats each Sunday morning. And because of this, I ended up connecting with those around me!
3. Tyler and I began attending our first Bible Fellowship Class, Engaged Couples, which also doubled as pre-marital counseling. We learned so much from the materials, our peers in the class, as well as the two couples who facilitated the class!
4. After we got married, we got connected into what we now consider our little church family -- the Bible Fellowship Class Newly Married 2. We have enjoyed every minute of our time a part of that class... from the other couples in the class to the guest speakers. But at the end of the day, Newly Married 2 is our place of deeper connection with a smaller group of people within the larger body of Idlewild.
5. Pastor Ken Whitten is a strong, wise, and personal pastor. Regardless of the size of the congregation he leads, he's approachable, personable, and knows the people of Idlewild! It's so comforting to know that you're not just another number to the Senior Pastor.
6. Idlewild is a great place to invite non-Christians to church. Because the sermon's are so Biblically on point, there's never any doubt as to what they may hear during their church experience. And like many other Southern Baptist churches, Pastor Ken does an invitation at the end of each service, allowing people an opportunity to talk to someone personally and/or publicly profess that they're placing their faith in Christ.
7. There is always something to do through the church. I think because of it's size, there is great success in hosting Christmas pageants, fall festivals, and Vacation Bible School. Idlewild even has a recreation ministry which is open to the community!
8. Service is a key focus of Idlewild's. Over the last couple of years, the church has adopted a local elementary school and encouraged the church members to donate their time and/or their resources to enable a Title 1 public school to see the love of Christ! And for years, church members have fed migrant workers on Thanksgiving Day!
9. Each school semester, Idlewild has what they call Life Change University. Bible studies, book studies, and classes are held for one "semester" and the topics cover a wide spectrum! I enjoyed attending a LCU course during Fall 2010, as it provided me with additional study of God's Word with the people of Idlewild!
10. I couldn't find a reason NOT to plant roots at Idlewild... so I did. I never saw a reason or need to leave.

We just attended our last Sunday morning at Idlewild as Florida residents. It was very bittersweet, as we are excited to be moving. However, saying good-bye to our Bible Fellowship Class was almost as hard as saying good-bye to family. I know I am going to miss the people, the teaching, the discussion, the prayer, and the genuineness of that class. I can only hope and pray that we will find another home like Idlewild.

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:24-25

Friday, November 16, 2012

Leave and Cleave

On December 11, 2010, Tyler became my husband, my partner, my person.

However, that has turned out to be more of a process than an overnight switch. Many older and wiser married couples shared their advice with us on the topic of leaving and cleaving. I am extremely grateful for the Biblical counsel and model that many couples we know have been to us during our time of marriage. However, all the advice (and even little comments here and there) we received in regards to leaving and cleaving left me very confused. I was left thinking of leaving and cleaving, in very simple terms, more spouse, less family. Ok, wrong! Here's how God's been working on my heart.... 

Yesterday, God laid the topic of leaving and cleaving very heavily on my heart. I got thinking about the blessings and challenges Tyler and I have faced living 15 minutes away from our parents over the last year or so, and how different things will look once we move to New Jersey. We've been able to spend quality time with our parents, very regularly while we've lived in Largo. But moving away won't mean we have completed the "leave and cleave" process. I came across an article by Sandra Lundberg this morning, that touched on the topic of leaving and cleaving, on the Focus on the Family website...

"This is not to suggest that children and parents should cut off their relationship under the guise of leaving and cleaving. But your primary human relationship now is with your spouse, not your parents. Your commitment to God comes first; then your bond to your spouse, then to any children you might have, then to your family of origin, and then to extended family and friends." 

Wow! That is so powerful and enlightening to me. My relationship with my parents, and Tyler's relationship with his parents, cannot be our most important relationships any longer. Our marriage relationship is priority, after our relationship with the Lord. Now, not that this is easy, but it all just makes so much more sense than it has in the past. I understand how my relationship with my parents must change, in order for me to best bring honor and glory to God as a wife. My mom can still be one of my best friends, but if I am seeking from her what I should be seeking from Tyler (getting my emotional needs met, heavily dependent on for decision-making, etc.) that's where I am in trouble. My husband comes first, before my parents, and he should always know that. But, at the same time, my relationship can flourish with my parents, so long as I remember God's desire of those relationships and healthy boundaries!

 (pictured: My mom & step-dad, Tyler's dad, sister, mom, and of course, us in the middle)

Without our families, we would not be who we are today. We have been molded, taught, and raised well by our parents. Tyler and I will miss our families as we embark on our new journey in New Jersey. We look forward to having them visit and taking full advantage of Skype technology! And I trust that by the strength of God, we will continue to cleave to one another as spouses and leave our parents in a healthy way, while continuing to cherish our relationships with them!

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." - Genesis 2:4

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day

Happy Veteran's Day!

I come from a long line of brave gentlemen who served our country in several military capacities and am so proud! 

Arthur Edward Bound Jr. - my grandfather who served in the Navy.

My brother, James, and I at the grave of our great-grandparents at Arlington National Cemetery. Thomas Francis Meagher, our great-grandfather, served in the US Navy. 

Not pictured, but not forgotten, include my late grandfather, Harold G. Marshall, who served in the US Army. 
My father, and Harold's son, John A. Marshall served in the US Army also!

"Freedom is not free."

God Bless America!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Limitless Love

Have you ever thought about the limits of love? We all have our limits at which we draw the line - whether in a dating or marriage relationship, a parent/child relationship, or a friendship. Maybe for you it's lying, cheating, gossiping, or stealing. Or perhaps you consider someone unworthy of your love if they aren't supportive of you, don't believe the best in you, manipulate you, or have a bad reputation that could damage your own. Whatever it may be, we all have limits to our love.

Some of you may not like to admit that... so I challenge you to think back through some of your relationships in life. At what point did you break up with your high school sweetheart? Maybe when they kissed your best friend or you found out they were denying your relationship all together. When did you give up on that friendship you had for years? Was it when she spread a terrible rumor about you or perhaps when she seemingly moved on to a new group of friends? When did you decide divorce was the best option? Maybe it was an affair, anger, or abuse. When did you stop speaking to your child or parent? Was it when they stole from you, or maybe when they said they didn't love you anymore? .... Ok, those are your limits.

My limits have changed over the years and I am seeking to love in a way more like the love God has for us! I want to aim for forgiveness, not revenge. I want to love unconditionally! But in my own strength, I cannot do that -- and neither can you. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to love others (and even ourselves) the way God loves. God has no limits in His love. As Shannon Ethridge writes in her book Completely Loved, "He promises to be faithful to you, even if you are unfaithful to Him. His love for you is unconditional. He will never turn His back on you, will never forsake you, wouldn't dream of slamming the door and driving away, or ripping your heart out and stomping on it." That's the kind of love I want to have for God and others, but I absolutely need Him to empower me to do so.

Can you readjust your limits in love to be more like Christ's? How can you seek to love others better? It could start with forgiveness, reconciliation, or it could just mean starting fresh in the next relationship with a makeover on your limits. I encourage you to seek to love others like God loves you!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Outward Appearance

Last night, on Instagram, I came across 2 photos that my (African-American) friends posted.  Here is one...

The other had some offensive language and I can't seem to find it anywhere but Instagram. It was like a screen shot of a Google search. Typed in the search box was "little white b**ch" and under the search box it said "did you mean Mitt Romney?" Well, needless to say, I was immediately on a roll.

Why am I posting about this? Because I think racism as America knew it decades ago is dead, but racism itself is still very much alive. Check out this article on Yahoo! News. I read that and could not believe my eyes. I am shocked that people have openly said they were voting for President Obama because of his skin color. Imagine if someone said, "I'm voting for Romney because he's white." Outrage would've broken out (and rightly so)!!

I have posted some of my views on Twitter and Instagram recently. I commented on the "My President is Black" photo my friend posted and said, "would you be less proud if he was white? #RacismIsAProblem" and the responses I received were that I am ignorant. On Twitter, I posted, "Vote for a candidate based on their stance & record and your beliefs & research, not their appearance. #RacismIsAProblem" which was reposted by one of my dearest friends, who is African-American.

But I want to move beyond the political and more into the issue I see at hand with racism. 

I was never taught to look at someone differently because of their skin color. All my life I have had friends from varying cultures and backgrounds, and with different skin colors. In pre-school one of my best friends was Jewish, in kindergarten one of my best friends was African-American, later in elementary school I had a close friend who was Native American, in high school I had a close friend who has Downs Syndrome, in college I had a roommate who was Jewish, post college I have been privileged enough to work with some of the most diverse people on the planet! My husband and I have even discussed adopting a child of another race! 

But it is extremely common for people to practice some form of racism. Maybe they discriminate against people from a specific country, religion, or culture for a specific reason... or maybe there's no reason at all. Maybe they believe their race is at a disadvantage. Maybe they believe their race is superior above them all. Or, perhaps they believe their race has suffered long enough and it's time to prove themselves, as a race, valuable. Anyway you swing it, racism is racism. And I am disheartened to see what has been brought to light during the election this year. 

One thing I am grateful for is that God does not look at ones skin color or culture! The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 16:7 that, "For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Thank goodness! In a disillusioned world where people focus so much on skin color, and economic and cultural background, we can all stand before a Holy God without fear of rejection based on any of those things. Our heart is what God sees, and what God tests. 

If only we humans could look passed the exterior and into one another's hearts. I personally want to seek to love, understand, embrace, and accept others -- who are different from me in how they look, worship, love, and live -- and challenge you to do the same. Heaven and hell won't be full of one race. We're all going to spend eternity together. Let's start supporting each other and living together peacefully, now!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

So You Call Yourself A Christian...

Many people today consider themselves to be a Christian. Maybe they grew up attending church with their family, perhaps they own a Bible, or maybe because they don't believe in any other religion they must be a Christian.... right?

Last week in our Bible Fellowship Class at church, the question "When you think of the characteristics of a Christian, what comes to mind?" came up. Individuals responded with their thoughts, which I loved and am going to share. However, I want to clarify that people may have these characteristics and not be a Christian and people who are Christian's may not necessarily have these characteristics. Words like servant, selfless, and humility were thrown out. I absolutely agree! And there are many more, these are just the few that were brought up in the last few minutes of our class time. 

My mind began churning and continued to do so as we sat in church service after class and listened to a sermon on being All In. "Jesus isn't looking for decisions, He's looking for disciples!" and "Jesus who gave His all for us, demands we give our all to Him." were some of the powerful words spoken by Pastor Ken Whitten that morning. 

The theme of the morning, for me, was overwhelmingly obvious... authentic Christianity. Too often, I see people who want their cake and to eat it too (if you will). They want to "be a Christian," while enjoying the fleeting pleasures of the world -- whether that be attending church occasionally while indulging in ... excessive drinking, promiscuity, living the "college life", seeking approval of others--no matter the cost, cheating, etc. That's called hypocrisy and I don't care who you talk to, but nobody likes or respects a hypocrite. 

As I left church that morning, I thought the first question posed in our Bible Fellowship Class -- "When you think of the characteristics of a Christian, what comes to mind?" would help us give ourselves good benchmarks. How would you answer that question? How do you measure up against the list of qualities that comes to mind? What areas could you grow in, to display more "Christian like" characteristics? It's easy to look at someone else and see how they are not living out those characteristics. We like to hold others to standards we're often times not willing to live up to ourselves! Give yourself a review and seek to grow in your relationship with Christ. As you press into Him, you will over time become more selfless, loving, humble, and serving.

"Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." - Philippians 2:2   

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Unknown

I have spent my entire life in the Tampa Bay area. I grew up in Seminole and went to college in Tampa. Which means, certain things have become the norm and a way of life... like family nearby, Publix, 80 degree Christmases, beach sunsets, snow birds, flip flops almost year round, Pinellas County parks, and much more.

All of that is about to change and I don't know quite how I feel about it.

At the beginning of this year, my husband and I went through training and joined full-time staff with Campus Crusade for Christ's athletic ministry, Athletes in Action. Following training was a season of raising our financial support, as missionaries. During our training, I would have told you how scary that seemed and there didn't appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The end of the tunnel, which I have been so eager to reach since February, is Rutgers University in New Jersey! Now, the light is growing in brightness as we are quickly approaching our goal with financial support! Sounds exciting, right?

Well, yes, it is VERY exciting! I cannot wait to begin ministering to student athletes full-time! But, the day to day life change is becoming a reality. My winter's will no longer begin in January, fall will no longer be an extension of summer, grocery shopping will not consist of BOGO deals at Publix, my family won't be just a short drive away, flip flops won't be my year round footwear, snow will be expected (no longer a dream), and people around me will sound different (New Jersey accents!). Again, I am very very excited to step into this next phase... but so much will be changing! I'm actually struggling to grasp it all.

With all of that change and looking ahead to much of the unknown, there are things that will remain the same (whew!). My husband and I will continue to love each other and seek to glorify God as a married couple. My relationships and friendships, although distance will grow, thanks to technology the communication shouldn't! And most importantly, my God will not change. "For I the LORD do not change" 
- Malachi 3:6 I can always count on Him, because He is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore! For that, I am so very grateful. I am thrilled to know that there will be consistency in the chaos, and familiarity in the unknown that lies ahead for me. My intimate relationship with God is not in jeopardy because of my location... 


"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." - Hebrews 13:8

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


This past weekend was one of the most refreshing weekends I have had in a long time! Saturday, Tyler and I spent the majority of our afternoon at the park, sprawled out on a handmade quilt. We enjoyed peaceful surroundings, cool fall air, and time together & with the Lord, and good books.

It was rejuvenating for me, to simply be outdoors! But to also get to spend that time with the two loves of my life... my Savior and my husband was simply marvelous. God wooed my heart, as He regularly does through His Word and the book I am currently reading, Gospel by JD Greear. Later that evening, we took out my mom and step-dad for a lovely dinner as a thank you, since they have let us live rent free this year! We spent our time over dinner laughing and making memories as a family. Sunday, was another beautiful day that we enjoyed together doing more "everyday" things, like grocery shopping and movie watching. As I reflect back on this past weekend, I am encouraged by how refreshed I felt. It was a combination of many things.... the weather, the events, and the people. I want to say, I wish every weekend was like that, but if they were, I wouldn't treasure them nearly as much.

How do you spend your weekends? Have you experienced a time of refreshment lately (a day, weekend, week, month)? What refreshes your soul?

"My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places." - Isaiah 32:18

Friday, October 19, 2012

Before the Future

Have you ever felt like God ordained opportunities are escaping you? Like, if you don't act now, they may soon be out of reach?

I was catching up with a friend recently and our conversation got me thinking.... she is currently engaged in a group setting that she will soon leave. She sees the importance of grooming others to take over once she's gone, but her time leading is not yet over and she's currently being slightly robbed of her opportunity! My immediate thoughts are, it's because of the eagerness of others that she is being robbed of her leadership opportunities. That eagerness is not all bad, for it is their eagerness that is pushing them to step up and willing to be the future leaders. However, their time is not now, but it will come. While they are all together there is such a unique time of growth and development, for everyone!

Where would you fit into this scenario? Are you being robbed of your leadership opportunities? If this is you, set appropriate boundaries and remember that you still have the chance to lead. In fact, not only do you have the chance to lead the group, you have the chance to lead and teach the future leaders. They need your help! Or, are you not taking the time to learn the ropes from an experienced leader while you have the chance? My advice is to step back and let those who have the experience lead. Learn from their example and allow them to develop you into the leader you're destined to be! Your time will come... your dreams and opportunities are not escaping you. Trust in God's timing and give others the opportunity to lead as well.

"Listen to advice and accept instruction,  that you may gain wisdom in the future." - Proverbs 19:20

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Quiet Time

When I first became a Christian, I was introduced to this thing, often referred to as, a "quiet time" -- a time to be still with the Lord. Jesus modeled this "quiet time" while he was here on earth. What happens during this quiet time, or devotional time? Well, there are many options! Keeping a journal of prayers, reading the Bible, praying, worshipping, fasting, reading a Biblically sound book, memorizing Scripture, and/or studying Scripture extensively are some of the possibilities. Whatever connects you to God.

For me, I enjoy journaling. It helps keep me on track and gives me the opportunity to go back and look at how God has answered prayers and grown me. I also enjoy reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture -- either straight from the Word or with the use of devotionals to help guide me. In the background, I often like to play worship music as I spend time with the Lord. Worship music is probably that one thing for me that connects me to God, like nothing else. And I once had a friend suggest differentiating worship music that was Christ centered versus "me" centered. When I'm seeking to align my heart with God's and worship Him, I try to look for the "Cross-centered" music. I will sometimes find myself caught up in song, tears flowing down my cheeks, hands lifted high or face on the floor, in complete awe of the God of the Universe!

Have you had this "quiet time" lately? If not, I challenge you to begin today! What's keeping you from it? What connects you with God? Is it music, reading, praying? God desires to connect with you, daily and deeply. Sit down with Him and enjoy the intimacy!

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." - Mark 1:35

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jehovah Jireh

Are you waiting expectantly for God to provide? Maybe you're waiting for finances, a relationship, reconciliation, transportation, pregnancy, a job, or healing.

I am currently waiting on God to provide, majorly, in the area of finances. My husband and I are missionaries, currently in the phase of raising our financial support before we report to New Jersey to serve with Athletes in Action. I recently came across this passage in Joel and was brought to a place of remembrance...

"Be glad, people of Zion rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil."
- Joel 2:23-24

God has provided before, in many different ways, for many different needs, and He will provide again. His timing will be perfect, in order to receive the glory He deserves!

Trust Him for your every need. He will show up exactly when is best. God is never late. And because He is Provider, He cannot fail to provide! He is Jehovah Jireh!!

"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul then I will send rainon your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil." 
- Deuteronomy 11:14

"Let us acknowledge the Lordlet us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” 
- Hosea 6:3

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Problem with Sport as Religion

A friend recently posted a rant on Facebook about not being able to purchase beer before noon on a Sunday, to go with his football plans. Several comments were made on the post and one said, "Football itself is a religion in this part of the country [the south]. What happened to freedom of religion?" This got me thinking....

Who or what do you worship? I have heard it said that sporting events are simply stadiums full of worshipers. Is this you? Do you worship sport? Maybe you are a spectator or maybe you're a player, or perhaps you're a parent or coach. Do you worship sport... the game, a team, the players, the trophy, or the "W"?

God warns us against worshipping anything other than Him. To many, that may sound restricting; just another one of Christianity's rules. But, God desires for us to worship Him alone, not just because He is the only One to deserve it or because He enjoys putting rules over us, but because He knows that worshipping anything/anyone else will eventually disappoint us and leave us dissatisfied.

"You shall have no other gods before me." - Exodus 20:3

"Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." - Romans 1:22-23

"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." - 1 Corinthians 10:14

Think about it. EVERYTHING, besides God, will fail us. A player whose top priority is playing time, will always be let down, especially if an injury ever occurs. A coach will likely never have a perfect season, let alone career. A parent (of a player) will see that there is an end to their players playing time. Referees will never call every penalty perfectly. A fan will be disappointed whenever their favorite team doesn't come out on top. In the athletic world, injuries happen, teams lose, coaches disappoint, parents don't show, even the championships fade....

I'd encourage you to take a look at your heart. Is sport, or maybe something different for you (a dating relationship, career/school, possessions, etc.) higher ranked than God? Are you worshipping something that will ultimately fail you or even shatter? Trust, worship, and love God. He will never fail you!

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." - Deuteronomy 6:5

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October Inspired

October seems to be a popular month. While it has a very different feeling than January, which often brings a feeling of freshness and newness, October seems to be inspiring people. I've heard radio talk about working out to get fit in preparation for the holidays. I've seen Instagram photo challenges to celebrate the month of October. I've seen blog posts about de-cluttering and refocusing. It just seems to be a popular month....

How am I feeling inspired this month? Well, thank you for asking! I, too, like my favorite radio personality Jayar, am feeling the daunting deliciousness that lies ahead with pumpkin baked goodies and Christmas cookies. So, I am continuing to push through more Insanity workouts than what is prescribed. It's very much a love/hate relationship I have with Shaun T. and his Insanity workouts!

I also am feeling motivated to read more. Over the last 40 days or so, I have gotten into a better habit of reading the Bible everyday -- which sustains me and fills me with the Truth I need to guide me through. But I've noticed that I tend to be more inclined to watch an episode of Gossip Girl or Grey's Anatomy than I am to pick up The Circle Maker, which I have been "trying to finish" for what seems like months now. That needs to change. I definitely enjoy relaxing and watching TV because it's mindless, I can just simply relax. But, I am not growing or learning as I veg out on the couch. With Shannon Ethridge, one of my favorite authors, coming out with a new book this month, I have decided to aim to read at least one book each month. At this point, it looks like a scary goal (since I've literally been working on reading The Circle Maker since August?) but I'm looking forward to all that these unread books have to offer!

And lastly, I feel motivated to pray through, to trust God, and to expect miracles! Tyler and I are in need of the last 19% of our financial funding, for our ministry. We're asking, hoping, trusting, and believing God to finish up our support, and get us moved up to New Jersey within the month of October so we can begin serving in full-time ministry up at Rutgers University. It'll likely be more of the same roller coaster we've been on during this process, since February, but we know that God provides!

How are you feeling inspired this October? Do you have any goals, dreams, or aspirations you can shoot for this month? Don't delay! 

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." - Colossians 3:23-24 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Happy, Holy, or Both?

This past Sunday, my pastor preached on World View vs. Word View. It was a very well spoken message! There were several points that jumped out at me. One was the world view of "hedonism" which is "pleasure is god." This jumped out at me because I often run into this world view today, especially on the college campus!

I often hear people say, "God wants me to be happy. He wouldn't have put this [person, situation, etc.] in my life if that wasn't what He wanted for me!" Well, how can you be so sure? Our enemy, Satan, disguises himself as an angel of light. So, what is tempting us looks shiny and "right" but is it really? Stop asking yourself, "will it work?" and ask yourself, "is this right?" because there is a big difference! "and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." 

- Ephesians 5:10

Another common argument is, "I'll just do this now, and get back on track later. I'm not ready now." or "This is the time of my life I want to have fun and live it up! God will be there when I'm done." The temptation of sin is so heavy that holiness is no longer the focus, but pleasure is. "You’re addicted to thrills? What an empty life! The pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied." - Proverbs 21:17 Beckah Shae hits on this point in her song Supernova"We all know what it's like to live the nightlife, mixin' wrong with right leads to nothing but a dead life." God will indeed be there when your time of sowing wild oats is over, but your consequences will be very present. We don't think about the possibility of falling into the wrong crowd, finding ourselves so severely under the influence that we don't remember important details, or being lured into seemingly romantic yet promiscuous situations that could end with disease, a baby or simply a broken heart. All of those things come with their own set of consequences that may last an entire lifetime. Is it worth "living it up" now to pay for it all later? "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." 

- Galatians 6:7-8

Jesus teaches us that there's nothing wrong with happiness, but happiness can't be the end goal. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 5:10 That world "blessed" = happy. Persecuted people don't feel good, but they do it for righteousness' sake. Happiness is always a byproduct of living out the purpose that God has called you to live. They're happy because they are holy. And that is what God wants for all of us, above all else, holiness! The feeling of happiness is temporary, but the joy of the Lord lasts forever. And when you are walking in righteousness with integrity, that joy will be overflowing and much more meaningful than any moment of happiness the world can offer.

"By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin." 

- Hebrews 11:24-25