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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

31 by 31 Journey: Part 2


Last post I began to unpack my “31 by 31” journey and how my relationship with food had to change. This post is devoted mainly to that physical workout/weight-training aspect of things, as well as the spiritual impact as a result of this journey. I’m excited to share, so let’s get started!
Before and After
 
In the Fall the only active thing I was doing was the “Couch to 5k” App and as I mentioned in the last post I wasn’t too consistent in, but I needed to start somewhere. Once I had access to the campus gym, I began swimming on a semi-regular basis (I heart swimming!). The next thing that I had in place was to run a 10k in February. In the midst of a new full-time job and my first semester of being a full-time graduate school, I desperately needed to have a mini-goal within a goal to keep me motivated to stay in the gym and have a consistent workout regime. Usually going to the gym is the first thing to go when the business of life happens. The reality of it all is that I could always excuse away my time in the gym; I needed to make it a priority. You always make time for the things you prioritize/value the most; this was an area that I could not afford to neglect any longer.

My dear friends, Lori and Emily, came into town just for the purpose of running with me in this 10k. It was FREEZING cold that morning and Emils already was sick and Lori got sick that next week, so I felt HORRIBLE! True friends right here to do this with me for the single reason of knowing that they wanted to come alongside me to attain my goal. How blessed am I!


Faithful, loyal friends!

 
Through the ebb and flow of the semester and the increasingly amount of assignments, the motivation to keep the gym a priority waned. I am certain that I probably added on a few pounds in the month of April. It was the middle of May when I began the 21 Day Sugar Detox. A lot of testimonials on the 21dsd spoke of losing some weight, so I was hopeful because I had a little less than 10 pounds to lose. I did lose a few pounds that first week, but then completely plateaued out. I was bummed with the realization that I wouldn’t meet my weight loss goal. I was still doing running and swimming quite consistently at this point (3-4 days a week), so I wasn’t sure what I was doing wrong. I confided in Hunter to voice my frustration because even though my scale (albeit knowing that it was not 100% accurate) was telling me that while my fat % continued to decrease, my weight remained the same. Hunter graciously responded and gave me insight to what most likely my body is doing and gently nudged me to incorporate weight-training into my routine. Have you heard of “Gymtimidation” before? It’s a legitimate (though irrational) fear of the gym. And while I am fine in the pool or on the treadmill or elliptical, but I just have always had an irrational fear for the weight room. I’m not sure why; probably because there are a lot of intimidating machines that I don’t even know what to do with half of them, or by being the only girl on that side the majority of the time. Regardless, now was the time to get over my silly fear and figure things out! Hunter gave me the best birthday present by giving me a 3 day a week total body workout for 3 weeks. It gave me the confidence that I needed to begin utilizing the kettle balls, free weights and the like!
Gym Selfie- Let's do this!
 
The spiritual aspects are far-reaching and I am still learning on a daily basis of how to fully embrace 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” In addition I have come to appreciate more than ever what it means to persevere and have self-control and be steadfast even if I don’t see immediate results. The book entitled Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas is an excellent read and I highlighted and starred these sentences in the book that said “We need a new relationship with food altogether, seeing it as an aspect of life but not the reason for life. While food ultimately is fuel for our physical vessel, it is also something we accept as a pleasurable and good gift from God. There is evidence of his care for us in that his provision of food goes beyond necessity to include aspects of his generosity and kindness. But we need to remember that our use of food is something that, due to our sinful nature, can imprison us, assault us, and take years off our lives” (53). Coupled with this book and Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning make for a solid foundation for who we are in Christ, rather than trying to perform to gain others approval. Hunter has conveniently written a 3 part series in regards to body image and how to find your satisfaction and value, worth and identity in Jesus alone. Anything else will lead you to a dead end and a broken cistern that holds no water.

Where do I go from here? Well, I continue to faithfully truck along and "eat clean" and continuing do cardio and weight-training as my daily routine. I might not have met my goal by my original deadline, but I have full intentions of looking towards the goal to completion, to the glory of God! Thanks for being a part of this journey with me!

Monday, June 24, 2013

31 by 31 Journey: Part One


I’m not sure which picture it was that I saw of myself in the midst of the entire wedding extravaganzas last Fall, but I know it was one like this:

 

And to be honest, I did not like what I saw of myself ONE BIT. I was aware that on the scale I was inching up TOO close for comfort to the 200lb mark; somewhere that I never wanted to be or ever thought I would be. All I knew was that I needed an intervention and FAST.

So I started brain-storming and trying to decide what my goal should be. It was a little daunting (to say the least) about what would be a feasible goal and what my time frame should be. So brain-stormed I did and I thought

“Well, this next birthday I’m turning 31 (let’s be real- I’m always thinking about birthdays- especially my own!), and I could probably afford to lose 31lbs…that sounds catchy, so maybe let’s try that for my weight loss goal!”

I talked it over with some people and they encouraged/affirmed me in it, so that is when this blog was posted in the form of accountability- because BOY, I needed it!!

My 31st birthday has just passed, so I would like to share a little bit of my “31 by 31” journey. I will go ahead and say up front that I did not meet the “31 by 31” weight loss goal, but was about 8-9lbs shy of it. As I was inching closer to my birthday, the more defeated I felt, until something changed (more on that later). So instead of feeling like a big fat failure, I can celebrate the 20+lbs that I have lost so far and the complete forever lifestyle changes that have taken place in last 9 months. You know when you begin a project and you have in mind how it’s going to be, but then in the end it is WAY bigger and better than you ever anticipated it to be? Yep- that’s my story.

Before I begin, there are couples of “thank you’s” that are in order:

[Pretend that I am in a camp dining hall and me standing on a chair and I yell to get everybody’s attention: “I have an announcement to make! Announcement, announcement, announcement, Sssssshhhh!”]

First of all (that’s first of all!- ok- enough with the camp cheers), I would like to thank my friend, Hunter. She has single-handedly been the biggest game-changer and life-changer in my life these last 9 months. And ironically, it’s only been 9 months since we’ve been friends (which is SOO hard to believe because I feel that we have already been through so many joys and heartaches- an instant heart-friend she is!). If I had to describe Hunter in one word, it would be fragrant, which comes from 2 Corinthians 2:14: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” She is vibrant and a magnet that draws people—not to herself, but to Christ. Hunter has been SUCH a resource- of knowledge, of wisdom, of encouragement, etc. etc. ETC.!!! I’ll refer to her and her blog frequently throughout the rest of this blog post, because like I said, she has been the main contributor to the lifestyle changes that I have made in the last 9 months. Thank you, Huntie, for living out your design so beautifully.

Next, I would like to thank ALL of my family and friends that have been my cheerleaders and accountability-partners in this whole journey (you know who you are!). More than likely if you are reading this blog post, you are of those said people. Those who texted, called, Facebook messaged, wrote on my Facebook wall, wrote letters and verbally asked/encouraged me along the way—it meant SO much to me- more than you know and more than I can express! I have felt SO supported on every side and truly have gotten a glimpse of what Hebrews 12:1 looks like played out: “Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” The words “thank you” seems like very inadequate words to express my depth of gratitude- but know that it is great!

Now onto my journey and big things that were big game changers in the process of it…

The first area that I knew I had to tackle immediately was the nutritional (or at the time, lack of) aspect. I knew that food and I were at odds with each other and really have never seen eye-to-eye on things. At one point in my life, it was actually my enemy (that is for another blog post for another day). But I knew things had to change. I looked at various things at what people were writing blogs about and posting on Facebook. What it boiled down to for me was that the diet or whatever you wanted to call it had to translate overseas, knowing that I have full intentions of being on the other side of the pond in a little over 2 year’s time. So, that meant that I couldn’t just drink shakes for x amount of days and watch the weight melt off of me, because that wouldn’t translate overseas since I more than likely wouldn’t have access to those kinds of shakes over there. And really- I abhor the word/term “diet.” What I really needed was a lifestyle change.

This is where Hunter came in and introduced me to Paleo. Paleo’s philosophy and emphatically says that it is not another diet; it is a lifestyle. I was honestly intimidated by it at first (just because of my insecurity- NOT by what Hunter said or by what Paleo actually is). Let it be known that I didn’t convert to Paleo overnight. It’s been a G-R-A-D-U-A-L process. It started by making a few of yummy recipes that she either put up on her blog or on Instagram. After I completed my first 21 day sugar-detox (more on this later) a few weeks ago, I vowed that I would not intentionally buy any more gluten or even whole grains to come into my apartment. I can’t control what other people put in front of me if invited over to someone’s house, but I would not put that temptation in my apartment- because if it is not even an option, then I just can’t have it. Have I had a couple of tantrums/pity-parties since I enacted this self-rule of mine? The answer would be an emphatic YES; but mainly because I didn’t have a plan in place or didn’t prepare beforehand (like have my veggies already chopped). Most of my unhealthy eating can be traced to both being convenient and emotionally eating, so that had to change. To find out more about Paleo, I would suggest hopping on over to Balanced Bites blog and go ahead and do yourself a favor by ordering “Practical Paleo”. It’s a cookbook, but really it’s SO much more than that; it gives a wealth of helpful information!

What was the result of gradually going Paleo? Within my 6-8 weeks I had almost effortlessly lost 15 pounds; and that was without a workout regime (besides trying to complete the “Couch to 5k” app- which honestly I wasn’t that consistent in). And that was in the midst of the holiday season! It was amazing!

The other nutritional challenge I endeavored was the 21 DaySugar Detox. It is basically a program to regulate your sugar level intake. Hunter has already done the hard work for me in explaining in more detail, check out her blog here. I got some of my co-workers to commit to 2 of the 3 weeks. Which I need to pause to give a shout to my co-workers right now. They have been the BEST about humoring me into listening to my new findings of food, of recipes, of workouts, etc. Grateful for the community I have at work to encourage each other on our personalized goals.
My support team!
 

The first week of the 21dsd was the most difficult for me. Headaches, the rage hunger (because lack of planning) and the additional fatigue made it a not-so-fun few days. Hunter was gracious with me being extra needy and texting in throughout those first few days. Cierra also jumped in for the challenge and so that was fun to be text-encouraging each other every day for support.

My biggest take-aways for the 21dsd was that I CAN, in fact, exercise self-control and say no to sugary sweets and 21 days proved that I could. It also gave me the challenge to find and try out new (yummy!) recipes and some have become a staple (like zucchini noodles for example). And when I go to Chick-Fil-A and McAlisters I can’t imagine drinking so much sweetness, so now I opt for the un-sweet tea (like I said it’s all about baby steps!).

Since this has become a rather lengthy post, I will soon write another post entailing the workout/weight training of my “31 by 31” journey, as well as some of the spiritual implications I got of this journey. Stay tuned!

 

 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Permission to Dream

 
“You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream.” C.S. Lewis
 
I’ve been talking with a lot of my friends- women that are in their mid to late twenties- about the reality of being at a crossroads in their life and unsure what the next steps should be. They’ve been out of college for a few years now and the newness of having a “grown-up” job has worn off. Some have gotten married, and then a few may even be pregnant or have an infant; others steadily plodding along in their singleness; all desiring to live the abundant life that they are called to.
In talking with these dear ones, I’ve seen a trend, a common theme as of late and somewhere along the way they have believed a lie that they are stuck. I hear the desperation in their voices and the helplessness in their eyes as they brim up with tears.
And I can’t help but scratch my head and wonder where this “feeling stuck” is coming from. I have heard this thing before in what is known as a “mid-life crisis,” but not someone in their twenty-somethings. If truth be told, I too have felt this way before: at a seemingly dead-end, or backed into a corner with nowhere to go.
Then immediately I remember that the Enemy, the Father of all lies, is the one whispering to them these lies, deceiving them and accusing them that they are “stuck.” The Enemy tells them that this is a dead end, there is no way to advance and that they might as well get comfortable, because this is as good as it’s gonna get.
Then the mama bear in me gets angry, because how dare he tempt these dear ones to despair?! My dear friend, Elizabeth, wrote this a few months back as we were e-mailing back and forth along these same lines of thought:
“I think Satan is a big fat jerk for bullying us into a corner with his LIES (aka, NO truth involved) that we aren't in a good spot, that we aren't going to make it to the place/position/purpose that we dream of living in (with God-given desire), that we are stuck in the 'wrong' spot and can't/won't get out. Satan = big ugly liar.”
 To which I say “Preach it sister!!” Once one recognizes these as lies, that is half the battle. Cierra, another dear friend, has a coined phrase that says “We fight not for victory but FROM victory.”  In one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible, Romans 8 shouts from the rooftops these rich promises:
33 "Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

As I continue the conversation with said friends, I encourage them to give themselves permission to dream again- the possibilities are endless! The Enemy wishes to derail you, because he knows if he can paralyze you with fear, then half the battle is won. I challenge them to identify those lies that are being said to them and treat them as weightless- going in one ear and immediately out the other- holding no weight or value in your life. I love Brennan Manning’s description of faith, hope and trust: “Faith arises from the personal experience of Jesus as Lord. Hope is reliance on the promise of Jesus accompanied by the expectation of fulfillment. Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.”

  Let’s trust in our Sovereign God and in the gifts, talents and abilities that He has so graciously given us for His glory. Let us have the courage that is needed in giving ourselves permission to dream.
 

 
 


Monday, January 14, 2013

That Actually Happened


Something got checked off my bucket list last month. I can’t believe that I am just getting around to blogging about it. You know when you have a few blog posts swirling around in your head, that you get a little overwhelmed to the point where it becomes a little debilitating? Yep- that’s where I’m at. But I am digressing…let’s refocus to the bucket list…

 My sister, Angie, told me in December 2011 to make sure that I kept December 2012 open because Sara Groves was coming in concert to their church. In December 2011 I was still in South Africa, so it seemed forever far away, though to go to a Sara Groves concert would just be so magical in every way. Sara Groves is who we listened to in the car on the way to the airport, tears rolling down our cheeks, before my sister and parents were to drop me off to board a plane to South Africa. I distinctively remember my first album I got of hers-“The Other Side of Something” in the summer of 2004. Then I found out she had two other albums prior to this album, so I quickly purchased them as well. And the rest is history. So from blaring “When the Saints” with the windows and sun roof down on East Texas country back roads, to the gratefulness that wells up inside when I hear “Twice As Good” because I can relate to the depth of friendships that are evident in my own life, Sara became a dear friend over the years as my (our) hearts identified with the lyrics in her songs. So yes- it was utmost importance that I keep December 2012 open for this concert.
It actually should say 97 songs, because I just downloaded "Hiding Place" from the "Songs of Deliverance" album. :)

Angie and I were like giddy school girls on our way to the airport to pick up Sara. After a little mix up on where to locate them, we found Sara, along with Melody and Ethan. Melody sang the harmony and Ethan was the sound guy. Where do we take them for a late lunch, to get “Texan culture” in? Well to Rudy’s of course! It was comical trying to describe what Rudy’s was like: “Well, ya see, it is bar-b-que restaurant set up in a gas station…” They were great sports and were not disappointed by their brisket sandwiches!
 
Decisions, Decisions...

What I loved about Sara is how “down to earth” she was and always thought she would be. She shared stories with authenticity. An example of that is when she spoke of a house they (her and Troy) and how it was just beautiful and just as the icing was to be put on top of a cupcake (she even likened the house that had brown walls to a cupcake), she felt the nudging of the Lord to sell the house and simplify and move into a smaller, quaint house and she did it is all the better because of it. She connected well with my sister and brother-in-law as they have kids around the same age. Sara even likened my brother-in-law, Andrew, to her brother-in-law!

Not the best pic, but still proof that we were hanging out with THE Sara Groves!
Melody, Sara and Ethan
The concert was fantastic and it was a nice blend of Christmas songs and all of her other songs. We made sure we got front row seats. We prayed with Sara Groves and the crew before the concert started and I felt like the whole team was in tune with the Spirit to make the concert not just a concert, but a worshipful experience as they lead people to the throne-room of God.
WORSHIPFUL
After the concert we headed to Pappasitos for some yummy Mexican food (once again sticking with the Texan cultural theme). There I got to have a good conversation with Melody and hear what makes her heart beat fast in the artist industry. The Lord is up to some big things in her life! What an honor and joy to be in the presence of some giants of the faith as they are making huge waves for HIS glory! It was one amazing night and one that we will talk about for years to come.

BEYOND grateful to hang out with Melody and Sara!
 
 
What are some of your favorite Sara Groves songs?

 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Faithful


The journey of faith is never dull and quite unpredictable where the path twists and turns will lead you. But one thing is sure to be constant: God is faithful and is the “same yesterday and today, YES and forever.” (Heb 13:8) It’s hard to believe that it’s been 4 months since I’ve returned from South Africa. In one vein it seems like I’ve been back forever and in another vein I felt like I just got off the plane. I feel that now that I have been settled for 2 ½ weeks in my flat apartment, reverse culture shock is showing up to be more prevalent than when I was living in a suitcase.

If you have talked to me at all in these last 4 months, if I shared any stories about South Africa, more than likely you also heard me talk about one-overarching theme that pervaded my life whilst in South Africa and especially what transpired within the last month of my life. That theme would be the faithfulness of God. Every step of faith (meager though it be) I took to get to South Africa and while I was there, God matched it a hundred fold! Because of the abundant love and joy I experienced (even on the hard days), upon returning back to the States, I resolved to the Lord that I would never again have need to worry ever again. I don’t say this flippantly or out of irreverence. I know the weight of such statement and the shift of emotions that would need to take place to live out such a bold statement. But really, at the end of the day- how do you define S-O-V-E-R-E-I-G-N? The Lord either is or He isn’t- there can be no in between. But let me tell you- I have already been tempted to worry or become anxious on numerous occasions and in those moments I have had to literally run to the Word for solace and comfort. “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26) I am also reminded of this quote by Robert Benson in Living Prayer :

“Most of the time, we are somewhere in the past or the future. The past echoes and the future beckons; the present just seems to be sitting on the edge of the bed leering at us when we wake up in the morning. It does not always seem like much, so we do not often pay it much mind. When we do visit the present from time to time, we are likely to wonder why it is not what it seems like it used to be or not what we had hoped it might be. We rarely are content to live in it just the way it is. ‘There is only now,’ wrote Merton. The daily prayer of the faithful can create places in our hearts and minds that can be filled with something besides worry and fear about the days that we can no longer live or cannot yet reach.”

Let me share my story that has taken place within the last month of November. After all of the weddings I had been to since I’ve been home, it was only then I could actually get serious and start looking for a job in Ft. Worth and waiting to hear back from campus housing to see if I would be able to get in sooner than later (even when I was coming at a random time in the semester). It was a God-sized task that only He could pull off. The first week of November I got an e-mail on Tuesday saying that I had been granted an interview with a church in Ft Worth for an administrative assistant job on that Friday. I was ecstatic! The next day I went to Ft. Worth to apply at every Hallmark card store that was in the area. “Why Hallmark?” you might ask. That’s a great question and to which I would reply, “I felt like the Lord put it in/on my heart to work there.” Plain and simple and no strings attached. It was the most random thing, but one I truly believe that was from the Father. And let me tell you, it is so vital to be called to whatever/whereve it is that is taking up the majority of your time (like a job), because in the hardest of days you can look back in reassurance to that call and be at rest. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a card-giver and love, love, LOVE to use my words of affirmations through the dying art of snail mail. I know the value there is in a card. Back to Hallmark- I applied at 3 stores and got an interview for one of the stores, which was also on Friday.

Friday rolls around and had a great interview with both places, but my heart was leaning to the Hallmark job. I got hired on the spot for Hallmark, whereas I would need to wait for a week for the church job to hear back. I then go to the seminary and prepare myself to BEG to get my keys from them, to which I didn’t even have to- I left with keys IN HAND!!! He gives and He gives and He gives!!! So that next Tuesday I move into my apartment and that following Monday I start my job with Hallmark. CAN I JUST TELL YOU how freeing it was to walk in confident trust- knowing that my Father would provide?!!

Thanksgiving week is when I started work. When you ask a Hallmark employee how long they have worked there, they always respond in how many Christmases they have worked; meaning they’ll say “I’ve worked 5 Christmases” because it is INSANELY busy around this time of year and people care A LOT (more than I ever knew) about their Christmas ornaments. Needless to say, I had (have) a big learning curve and just got thrown in there and trying to keep up with the pace. When stress level rises, your character is always in check and its true colors will show. And let’s just say- I’ve got a lot to learn. A couple of the lessons I’ve been learning are:

1. My people-pleasing tendencies will A-L-W-A-Y-S be futile, so now is the best time than ever to start working  heartily as to the Lord and not to men (Col3:23).

2. Reverse culture shock is real and is reverberating all the more because that I have now moved to a new city, a new apartment and started a new job. When people are transitioning, I am always quick to tell them that with all the “newness”= AT LEAST one melt down/break down for each “new” thing. It’s OK, it’s normal and I would be concerned if they didn’t. Now, it’s time to listen to my own advice and be ok with not being 100% whilst in this major transition. Change takes time and it also takes time to know people well and also be known by them.

3. When I am weak, He is strong (2Cor 12:7-10)!! This past Tuesday I had a day off and had a much needed time alone with the Lord and just some solitude. Henri Nouwen, in his book Out of Solitude penned this beautifully when he wrote,

“In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us. In solitude we can listen to the voice of the One who spoke to us before we could speak a word, Who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, Who set us free long before we could free others, and Who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It’s there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received.”

I was in raw form on Tuesday- feeling a little misunderstood at work and having only worked part time for my first 2 weeks, and that my December rent/utilities would be due by the end of the week. I could dip into my savings, but I didn’t want to do that. But before I could even begin worrying, 2 mighty displays of God’s provision happened:

1.       My friend Emily, was so gracious to send me an Amazon gift card as an appreciation/housing-warming gift. I “just so happened” (insert sarcasm because I don’t believe in coincidences) totally missed that e-mail when she sent it the Saturday before Thanksgiving week. I was long overdue on cleaning out my e-mail inbox and that’s when I noticed it! I was completely taken aback and completely grateful at the same time. I was able to purchase a George Foreman grill- that I so very much wanted because this sister loves to grill her meat!

 

2.       I went out to my mailbox to where I received my first piece of mail! It was from a kindred soul (who I know would want to remain nameless) and in her note was a check for the E-X-A-C-T amount, down to the PENNY of how much my December rent/utilities needed to be!!!! I would have likened to cry, but instead fell on my knees to worship my Jehovah-Jireh that provides!!!! She didn’t even know how much my rent is every month. He gives and He gives and He gives!!!

I am so thankful/grateful to the Lord for this reminder as the rubber hits the road at this point. Where He leads He always strengthens. I have just borrowed a book from a friend entitled Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning. I’ve only read the first chapter and it is already rocking my world. Manning states “Somewhere along the way, in the life of the maturing Christian, faith combined with hope grows into trust.” Also in the first chapter is a prayer I hope to make my own in the recesses of my heart:

“Uncompromising trust in the love of God inspires us to thank God for the spiritual darkness that envelops us, for the loss of income, for the nagging arthritis that is so painful, and to pray from the heart, “Abba, into your hands I entrust my body, mind, and spirit and this entire day- morning afternoon, evening, and night. Whatever You want of me, I want of me, falling into You and I trusting in You in the midst of my life. Into Your heart I entrust my heart, feeble, distracted, insecure, uncertain. Abba, unto You I abandon myself in Jesus our Lord. Amen.”

Oh for grace to trust Him more!! I am grateful that from one faith-walk to the next He will always be there, ever guiding and directing, being faithful to the end. Here’s to the journey!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Tank is Full

(Photo credit)
 
My tank is full. I’m not talking about my gas tank (though that would be nice to have a full tank of gas); I’m talking about my quality time tank. As far as love languages go, words of affirmation and quality time go hand in hand. Being on the road these last 2 months, I had the opportunity to see a lot of people, in between weddings (some multiple times). Let’s be honest, one can only have an in-depth conversation to a certain extent as you try to talk above the music at weddings. I would rather be in a home on a couch, or in a coffee shop or gathered around the dinner table to have an intentional, focused conversation. One of the first things I stress when coming to someone’s house: I’m not coming to be entertained, I’m coming to talk, to hang out, to just be in the same room together. After being on another continent, in another hemisphere and in a different time zone for 2 years, I now know the value of being together and in someone’s physical presence.
In between all of the weddings I attended, I get to see some old friends, as well as new ones. What a gift!! Here are a few pics and stories of some (though not all) of the people I got my tank filled.
It was such a gift to go to Lori and Emily’s birthday this year. I will never tire of celebrating the lives of people I love, but to make birthdays in person are the best! Please appreciate the  picture below- the first one is at their 27th birthday dinner celebration in 2008 and the one below that is of this year’s celebration- AT THE SAME PLACE- Pasados- a good ole faithful!
In 2008

2012
 
Next are Grant and Elizabeth Seifried! Prior to going and living in South Africa, Grant was such a great friend to have (and still is btw!) because we were both transitioning out of Pine Cove together and going to the mission field in different places and with different organizations. It definitely was a comforting thing to have someone remotely understand with you what one is going through/feeling/thinking. Within 2 years time Grant met, dated, got engaged and married Elizabeth! I did not know Elizabeth prior to meeting her at the end of September, but as I was about to leave Pine Cove in 2010, my friend Amy described Elizabeth and I replied to Amy, “Man, I wish I could be around here to get to know her because she sounds AH-MAZING and I am sure that we would be great friends!” Once I got home, I made it a point to meet up with them so I could meet Elle and get to know her beautiful heart and hear how things were with Grant on how the last 2 years were in South Sudan. I LOVED every second of it and was sad when our time was up. Grant and Elizabeth are now living in South Sudan. As you are reading this- please stop and pray for this newly-wed couple- as they transition to life together there- that the Lord would guide and direct their every step as they walk in faith and obedience and that His presence would be felt and experienced wherever they turn in their daily tasks and dealings. This is such a beautiful couple and the Lord is using them already in P-O-W-E-R-F-U-L ways for His glory. I am grateful to know them and already hinting to them that I would love, love, LOVE getting to do missions/ministry with them one day.
Grant & Elizabeth- Blessed beyond belief by their friendship
 
Then we have beautiful Hunter. Hunter is another who I should have met/known prior to leaving for South Africa. She worked one of the summers at Pine Cove while I was there. It is laughable when we discussed how many circles we ran in and yet it is only now that we have met each other. She is coming up on her one year anniversary with her husband Brooks. I know Brooks from the Forge class of 2010 (and Hunter was in the Forge class of 2011). GET THIS- Brooks is best friends with Grant Seifried and Hunter is best friends with Elizabeth Seifried. How AMAZING is that?!?!! It is so (and only) God to orchestrate something as beautiful as that. He gives good gifts!
I saw Hunter at Jenn’s wedding and knew that I must introduce myself to Hunter. She said that she would love to hear about South Africa and I knew I wanted to get to know her. I was Facebook friends with her and actually followed her blog when she would blog daily with updates about Brooks whilst he was in Ranger school. After the wedding, we made a plan and at the beginning of November I headed to Ft Hood to see her world on the post. We only had 5 hours together and we KNEW it would only be scratching the surface but I am so beyond grateful to have that time. She allowed me to share my pictures and stories of my time in South Africa- what a gift that was! My mentor, Lee, who had lived in Jo’Burg with me, told me over the phone later what truly a rare gift that was- to have someone listen to the ramblings that I am still trying to sort out all that the Lord has done in my life and heart over the last two years. I got to know her some too and her reputation preceded her with being passionate to use her giftings to be intentional to attract people  with her warm personality and point them to Christ. she has become a fast and true friend through and through and I am excited to see this friendship grow and continue!
Hunter- what a gem! Being in her presence is to be in the presence of a giant of the faith.
 
Then we come to Cierra. Cierra is now the Forge Associate Director, but we knew of each other before that. I won’t belabor the story here; ask me if you would like to know how our friendship developed- it's a fun story! I knew straight from the beginning that we would be best of friends. After giving my life away to the Forge Program for 3 years, it will always have a dear place in my heart. I wanted to be a resource for Cierra, while giving her room to breathe and grow. Her heart beats fast for the things of the Lord and it has been an honor to have a back row seat to see what the Lord is doing in, through and around her for His glory. Amazingly enough, Cierra I managed to somehow see each other at least once every week in the course of six weeks- and that is when we didn’t even live in the same city!! I even got the privilege to celebrate with her on her birthday (once again- a BIG deal!!)!
Cierra- she radiates joy bc she knows that the joy of the Lord is her strength!
 
This is only scratching the surface on the many people that I’ve seen since I’ve been back, but I just wanted to highlight these few. I know I’ve shared this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on my blog before, but I wanted to share it again, because it is so true and I am grateful for every friendship that the Lord has given to me by His grace:
“It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together
 
 
 



Monday, November 5, 2012

Rear-view mirror edition: Fall Weddings 2012


That.just.happened.

Seven weddings in eight weekends, that is. Inspired by my friend Lacey, I am going to do a rear-view mirror edition to highlight each wedding. I loved how every wedding had the fingerprints (of mainly) the bride with both the bride and groom’s personality from beginning to end. The main theme in ALL of the weddings was their commitment to Christ and desire for Him to be central in their marriage. My next post will be what occupied my time with meeting up with other friends in between the weddings. *A word of warning: You WILL see the same few dresses in these photos- No way, no how was I about to buy 7 new dresses.* Are you ready? Well fasten your seat belts and let’s go!

Wedding #1 September 15, Austin, TX

Lo and Stevo Parker- Reunion with the Forge class of 2009 is what happened here and it did not disappoint!! This was the first time I had seen a lot of friends since I had returned from the field. Some people didn’t even expect me to be back yet, so that was one of my favorite things was the expression on people’s faces. Grateful for friends to hug- my triceps was sore after this weekend from hugging so many people with the hugs I am known for- BEST. The rehearsal dinner was filled with stories and much, much, laughter. Both Stephen and Lauren love Christ and making Him known and love OTHERS well that makes Christ's love compelling.
Lauren was the most beautiful bride!!!

Forge Class of 2009 (and '08 & '10) representing!

Wedding #2 September 22 Houston, TX

Jennifer & Patrick Haskew- After Patrick and Jenn got engaged last December, I crossed my fingers and said a little prayer that I would be back in the States so that I could attend their wedding and to my excitement and joy, they did! Knowing how much preparation went into this wedding (and any wedding!) and loved seeing all the tiniest of details being played out. Because Jenn and I joke (but yet serious) that we “are the same person” it was fun to see all the d├ęcor and even down to the color of the bridesmaid dresses. If I ever get married, I know who to go to for wedding advice since we both have the same taste! It goes without saying that Jenn was a stunning bride and this was the first time (of many) to meet Patrick in person! The ceremony was so personable- one of my favs for sure! It goes without saying that it was another weekend where I could meet up with a lot of people and reconnect.
Mr & Mrs Haskew!! Love, love, LOVE!!!
 

Wedding #3 October 6 Clinton, MS

Kristin & Richard van Lieshout- Devastatingly to me, this is sadly the one wedding I had to miss out on and let me tell you, I was BUMMED. If you know me- I am a true, blue, loyal friend. Since I have been back to the States, I have found that huge crowds can overwhelm me and I use so much energy and concentration at weddings as I try to remember every single detail of every person I interact with. This wedding happened in Mississippi and my riding buddy wasn’t able to go in the end and I wasn’t having any luck in finding somewhere to stay for free and blah, blah, blah- the details were just not coming together. When I told Kristin that I wasn’t going to be able to come, she of course, was gracious. Kristin and Richard are now living bank in South Africa and during their engagement they had several parties (in which I hosted one of them), so at least I played some in celebrating their BIG DAY.
The van Lieshouts- a lovely celebration that I hate I missed out on

Wedding #4 October 13 Tyler, TX

Maria & William-WOAH. This was the wedding where I felt like all my worlds (to date) collided. The wedding was held in Tyler, TX where they both reside. I know Maria because I worked with her parents, Bob and Susan, in South Africa. Maria came in summer 2011 and shadowed/helped me in teaching ESL. So, not only did I get to see people from the Board, but also TCK’s that I’ve heard so much about, as well as members from my church I went to while I lived in Tyler and then other Tylerites in general. It was an outdoor wedding. So was weddings #1 & #7 and in God’s graciousness, and LHis providence, at each of the outdoor weddings, it rained either before or after but not during- biggest God sightings EVER. He gives and He gives and He gives, folks! This was such a sweet wedding from beginning to end. It was so fun to not only see Maria and William so in love, but to see the look of pure joy on Bob and Susan’s faces as they married their last child.
Mr & Mrs Ripley!!

One of my favorite pics that I captured that day! Bob & Susan are SO happy!!
 
Wedding #5 Blairsville, GA
Rachael & Luke Carter- Two years ago this wedding was practically set and it was the most anticipated reunion of the decade. My friend Liz and her sister Ruth (for at least part of the way)and I made the trek to Georgia starting on Monday and got there on Tuesday (after spending the night in Birmingham). Rachael, for the most part, was the most chill-laxed bride I have ever seen. Here she is trying to entertain us rather than worrying about wedding details. We had to convince her not to worry about us and let it be about her for once. I loved getting to know her parents and at the rehearsal dinner, there was not a dry eye in the room as people testified to the integrity that both Luke & Rachael possess and their commitment to go to the ends of the earth to make His name known. I am honored to know them. At the wedding Rachael’s mom insisted that I sit with/where the family was seated, so I got a front row view of it all and it was beautiful!
Their first look


Liz & Luke- best buds

Grateful to partake in Rach's BIG DAY

The look of relief- she's a married woman!!
 

Wedding #6 Houston, TX October 28
Kara & Jared Aucoin- Kara and I go way back to my college days (sad that my college days are now “way back”) and it was my joy to disciple her while we were there together at SFA. Throughout the years post college, both of us have been intentional, though we have yet to be in the same city, country or continent for that matter. It’s been over a year that I have been hearing about the “Jared guy” and how he has been in hard pursuit of Kara and how he dotes on her in chivalry fashion. It made it so special when Kara skyped with me the day after she got engaged and replayed the proposal step by step. It was fun to catch up with a couple of college friends as well. Once again, the first time I met Jared was at the wedding, but excited to meet up with them in the future to get to know him more!

BEAUTY!!!

Mr. & Mrs. Aucoin!!

Wedding #7 Caldwell, TX November 3
Mandi & Travis Adams- Last but by no means least! I know Mandi through the Forge Class of 2009. A free spirit with deep felt passion and convictions, I love being in her presence, because she is a breath of fresh air when I am around her. Her wedding was a whole weekend affair with the options of prayer & worship service on Friday, along with Two Stepping after the rehearsal dinner, an orchard tour on Saturday at the pecan farm where the wedding and reception was held. Although I was not able to attend the pre-wedding activities, I have no doubt that it was fantastic and so like Mandi to do. Though rain was in the forecast and it did rain a few hours prior to the wedding, in God’s sovereignty He did not allow it to rain and actually gave a beautiful backdrop of whimsical clouds and a beautiful sunset after the ceremony. Bar-B-Que, potato salad and pinto beans was on the menu for supper and we danced the night away and ended a magical evening with fireworks. Mandi and Travis will be living in Ft Worth, so I am elated to live life together again with her in the same city.

Forge Class of 2009 representing with Mr & Mrs Adams!

Well, we are finally to the end! Kudos to you if you are still reading! Congratulate yourself by taking a nap- you’ve earned it!!
"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude."
Colossians 2:6-7
I want my life to be flowing with an attitude of gratitude towards my Lord, Jesus Christ. How could I not? He has given me abundant life and it is my prayer that I clearly represent Him in every area of my daily life of what He did on the cross on my behalf.