Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What's so Great About Bread??

Ok, before you shoot me with that title, let me assure you that 90% of my life I have been on a carb diet (and by diet I mean, I EAT THEM ALL). There has only been one time in my life that I didn't eat bread or carbs, but that was during a very sick time...both physically and mentally, and PRAISE THE LORD He freed me from that awful bondage of a life and my thighs were quickly re-introduced to the joys of white starches and chocolate again!! :)

(By the way...I'm watching a CSI re-run while I write this, so if at any point I use a big medical word that makes no sense, forgive me...right now they are looking for someone that has killed 5 women already and they thought the killer was a woman driving a meat-packing ice truck, but have just figured out that it was the guy who is with her and she was just his helper to lure the women in with an emotional story about locking her kid in the car......uggg what trashy topics for my brain...why do I watch these mystery shows?! I'm scared of the dark!!! Let alone a serial killer!)

I wanted to share with ya'll today was what we talked about at Kairos (the Tuesday night worship service I go to) tonight. I first have to say that this service has become God's weekly way of speaking directly to my heart for exactly what I need in the next 6 days until returning to that place the following week. Sure, He speaks to me outside of that hour or two in different ways, but there He generally feels ok about getting all up in my face about things because He knows I won't be getting up out of my seat to walk through the maze of tables to the back door to avoid Him. Somehow I can always manage to find the exit of distraction when I'm at home or the coffee shop spending time with Him, but at Kairos it's different. I don't want to take my eyes off of Him. He moves in that place...and over the last 2 months of Tuesday nights, I've realized just how big a dude He is...cause no matter where I sit, He finds me and catches my gaze until I can't help but stare back. It always reminds me of that verse in Isaiah (50:7) that I often pray for Him to set my face like flint--trusting His power over my mistakes.

So when I arrived tonight in the very cool setting that is the Kairos worship service (coffee/tea bar, snacks, dim lighting, tables with candles and Bibles, a prayer station lit by artsy-looking floor lamps, and a stage where some of the most talented and humble musicians play and sing) I went over to my usual sitting area up front (otherwise I'm completely ADD with all the people in front of me) and begin journaling. I like to get there about 20-30 minutes before it starts and sort of collect my thoughts, leave distractions at the door, and just write whatever I need to get out in the open with the Lord that I haven't taken the time to do already that day...or sometimes unfortunately, that week. Sadly, this was one of those weeks where I had more to write than I would have liked to admit. I specifically wrote down some things about my quiet times that I know He has been asking me to change and add-to that I haven't done, and that I needed Him to speak to me tonight in such a specific way that I wouldn't be able to ignore Him and that it would be different. Different in a way that I couldn't not change. Can't wait to change. And don't want to wait.

Well, boy did He speak. Yell. Wave His arms wildly and say, "yes, I am talking to YOU!" And it was the sweetest thing. I just felt like I was sitting in His lap and He was answering every question, concern, and hidden desire that I brought to the table. The most awesome part of it for me was the way He allowed me to speak to Him through song. The songs that were chosen for us to sing echoed exactly my prayer to Him in the journal that I had just written. The words that I wrote were the specific cry of my heart and I was able to then again offer them in song as a genuine and honest plea of where I was with the Lord and what I needed. Amazing. That someone listened to the Lord's plan for that service and what they needed to prepare to play, and He helped me to be honest enough before the service to be straight out with Him about where I was...and then the two connected and served as my vessel for worship straight from my heart to His.

Then Mr. Mike came up and spoke, and the Lord SHOWED UP. We have been breaking apart the Lord's Prayer as found in Luke 11:1-4.

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’
He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:

Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sings,
For we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

This week we were down to “Give us each day our daily bread”.
Give us: This phrase implies 2 things.
1—We don’t have it.
2—We can’t get it ourselves.
We must be dependant upon the Lord to give it to us, and humble enough to know that everything that we have is just that—given/a GIFT from God—and we can not take credit for any of it because we don’t deserve it. This is the way that we should live—in gratitude. GRATITUDE. Because nothing we have is because of how we’ve earned it, but because it was given to us by God to enjoy. Material things, yes…but our breath, every heartbeat, the weather, intangible things that we take for granted and forget about. All given to us to enjoy life.

Mr. Mike brought up a very cool point from Luke 17 and the story of the 10 healed of leprosy. As I’m sure you are familiar with the story, only 1 man came back to say thank you to Jesus…and Jesus tells him to go return home, and that his faith has made him whole. (KJV & ASV use the word “whole” …most others say “well”.) There is a difference between being healed, and being whole. The other 9 were healed. But this man left whole. Whole because he was full of gratitude for what he had been given.

In Exodus 16, we have the story about the Lord giving the people daily portions of manna that they needed, and how they received specific instructions to take what they needed for the day. But some of them saved enough for morning…just in case they weren’t provided for, they wanted to be prepared. (Is this not like us?!?!?! Saying one thing to the Lord and then hanging on to our worries like He won’t actually take care of them!! We are silly! Does He not see every sparrow that falls from the sky! How much more does He watch and take care of us, His prized possessions!) God promised to provide for His people, daily. DAILY. He said trust ME, I WILL provide for you. And they hoarded their manna anyway because they just weren’t sure it would be there tomorrow. And HELLO…their manna spoiled. Nasty, moldy, maggot-filled manna. MMMMMMMMMM. TASTY. (not.) Anybody seeing this connection yet?

You get what you need from the Lord daily. DAILY. And nothing less than what you need—He will never leave you short-handed. But also nothing more…because He knows you’ll let it spoil.

When you go to the super market, do you just buy bread? No. You don’t see people pushing around shopping carts just full of bread and nothing else. Why? Because we desire more. We have to have stuff to put ON the bread. Meat. Turkey. Ham. Cheese. Peanut Butter. Jelly. Honey. (Dang I’m hungry.) Because we aren’t satisfied with just bread, we buy other things…and if we’re not careful, those things start to own us, instead of us owning them. We work over-time to be able to pay for those things we think we “need” so that we can enjoy life. But the thing is, we don’t enjoy the gifts that we already have. In case you didn’t noticed, YOU WOKE UP TODAY. Gift #1. Are you still breathing? Heart beating? Need I say more?

Give us each day, our daily bread. God gives us what we need for today. Lord, give us what your heart desires of us. Help us to live in gratitude that we may be made WHOLE, and not just settle for being healed.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
(John 6:48-51)

HE is your daily bread. Take. Eat. And be made WHOLE.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Should Get An Award...

...for the worst blogger this week!!! I can't believe I haven't sat down to catch ya'll up!! And unfortunately, this will not be the moment that I do that...I've still got to pack for yet another trip (one that includes a stop at my parents house and the church I grew up in!!) and take a shower in the worst way. You know when your skin practically grows arms and legs cause it wants to run away from you...I feel THAT kind of gross. I will catch you up on the retreat from last weekend soon, along with some really cool stuff I've learned in Bible study this week, and some more ranting and raving (in a good way) about how much I love being a nanny to this little boy. (OH MY GOODNESS!!!! *big cheesy smile*) Since I've been gone...the short version...I have bought more decorating things for my room--most of which were completely unnecessary, spent other money on deals that really weren't that great, consumed waaaaaay too much Starbucks (which will be stopping per my bank statement from this month...frown), cleaned my room, messed it up again, watched some of my favorite girly movies (The Wedding Planner, You've Got Mail...oh, and caught up on DCC episodes that I missed the last 2 weekends), failed to do laundry for yet another week, fell more in love with my Jesus as I heard a very special woman in my life sing at a worship service last Tuesday, and took a million and one videos on my phone of my little nannying buddy because he is just THAT cute. As soon as I get to the store to get batteries, and FIND my camera cord to upload photos I will bore you with an albums worth of that little guy. :)

And I'll leave you with this for now...a new fav of mine...there are so many things I could comment on...but I'll save my thought for now and let you make your own. It may be Sunday before I'm back again...and then hopefully I'll be back on schedule for a few weeks so I can catch up on all of your lives as well!!! Til then...

Colossians 3:1-17

"1-2 So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.

3-4Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

5-8And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It's because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn't long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it's all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

9-11Don't lie to one another. You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.

12-14So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

15-17Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way."


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Father of Lies

What in the world, I have been so slack with blogging this week! I hate not "talking" to you girls! I have just been so tired since I got back from last weekend...it has taken me a few days to get up and running again. Retreats are great, but when leading them, most off the time you feel like you need a retreat after it's over! Here is a picture of Laura, Katie and I, my two best girls that I sang and taught Bible study with. LOVE THEM.

And I started me new job yesterday!!!!! Ok, I know that most of you reading have children, as I hope to one day, but I must say, my nannying child is THE CUTEST little boy I have EVER seen in my life. And that includes one of my best friends who has 3 children that I couldn't love more if they were my own. But this little one definitely takes the cake on that one. OH MY GOODNESS!!! I could just cry thinking about him because I miss him already!! I'll try to put up some pictures soon...once I get my act together and buy some batteries for my camera...

I'm leaving in the morning for another retreat that I got asked to help with last minute, and because my nanny-boss doesn't need me for a few days I graciously said yes! Another opportunity to pour out to young girls...I would be silly to pass that up!! So I will be gone for another few days, and not sure I'll have access to the internet til I get back. (Your prayers would be appreciated...I was just informed that I'll be teaching middle school this time. Nuff said.)

But for now, I wanted to share something that stuck out to me from one of our Bible study days last week. I mean, a lot of stuff sticks out to me, but because of my past struggles, this one in particular hit home.
For 10 years I struggled with self esteem issues. I am only 22, so as you can imagine this started at a pretty early age...around 12 (about the time middle school hit, DUH.) I won't get into all of the issues I had (I think I wrote about them back when I first started the blog if you're interested...in the first couple of entries) but long story short, the devil got a hold of my mind and very quickly began manipulating my every thought through his filter of false information and lies of darkness.
So much of this Bible study has helped me with the bondage that I was freed from. What I'm finding is that yes, I most definitely was delivered from all of that stuff January 1, 2007, (Praise the Lord! I don't ever want to forget that day!). But I'm still very much in a healing process from it. I let Satan have TOO MUCH and the Lord is slowly filling in the cracks...every time I get to share my story with a girl or group of girls (like last weekend), a little part of that past is redeemed (oh I could just cry right now) and made into something beautiful, and the Lord is doing the very same thing through this study. Every time something strikes at the core of how those days affected me, I stand a little taller and stronger, with another weapon and snippet of truth to replace all those lies I once believed. One of the scriptures on the last day of last week really stuck out to me.

(Just before this, Jesus is talking to 'the Jews who had believed Him' and said to them "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." v31-32 and that if they really were children of God like they proclaimed, then they would love Him [Jesus] instead of trying to kill Him.)
John 8:43-44 "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murdered from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for his is a liar and the father of lies."

That in itself was awesome just to punch Satan in the face by being reminded and saying OUT LOUD that there is NO truth in him. That he IS a LIAR and the FATHER OF LIES. But the thing that got me good was the next verse.

v45 "Yet because I [Jesus] tell the truth, you do not believe me!"

Oh, how MESSED UP I was!!!!Because that was me!!! I remember days and days of reading the Bible knowing how God's love and those words applied to other people, but wondering where I fit in, because I was letting my heart and soul bow down to a crock and a phony. I was so turned around that exactly as this verse says, when I heard, saw, read, or spoke the truth of God I didn't believe it for myself. As (embarrassing is not the word...) but foolish as I felt when I realized that was me, HOW MUCH MORE glory I can give him now from bringing me out of such a dark world. There was a quote from one of Kelly's missionary friend's in china and it ended with this...

"...a healed relationship or person can reflect more glory than one who never knew brokenness."

Not that God wants us to go through mess, but we do...and when He allows us to get so far that we realize He was the ONLY ONE who could have pulled us out, how much MORE glory He receives, which is the whole point of everything!! It makes me sick to my stomach to think about where I've been mentally and with the way I treated myself physical speaking, but every day I choose to proclaim freedom in Christ from all of that, and make it known that He is the KING of my heart, every bit of that pain and junk is redeemed in His name.

I'm sure you and I have had very different stories in the last few years, and I can't help but think how much beautiful and stronger our relationships with the Lord are because of the MESS He allowed us to endure. Most of my 10 year struggle was completely hidden and an internal battle...a secret world I wouldn't have dared shared with anyone then. They were some of the darkest days I can remember. And I can only imagine some of the things some of you have dealt with that some of us will never know. But what peace and joy we can have at the thought that because we experienced brokenness in different ways, and allowed God to be the one to do the restoring, we know TRUTH and the author of it in ways we would have never imagined (or probably asked for if we knew what it would take us through).

God is so good. SO GOOD. And I have never been more in love with Him than I am right now. Stephanie (Ocean Mommy) wrote about something on her blog the other day that I just loved. (Check it out if you have a sec) But she was talking about how she was glad that she didn't love her husband as much as she did the day she married him. She loves him so much more now. Isn't that the way we should be with the Lord?! Yes the love that we feel for Him when we initially come to know Him is like nothing we've ever experienced. But think if it stayed there. I wouldn't want to go back to the days of those 10 years if you paid me all the money in the world. But I also wouldn't trade them for anything in the world. My prince of peace and the author of my salvation saved my scrawny (well, no it's not so scrawny...hahaha) butt from the meanest enemy you and I will ever know, and delivered me into the greatest love relationship of my life.

And by-george I'll be danged if the devil ever gets a piece of my heart again.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Hey girls!! We had an AWESOME weekend on our retreat at Caswell in North Carolina. Awesome, but tiring...seen in the fact that I spent most of the day yesterday sleeping or being lazy!! So sorry I didn't catch you up before, but it would have looked at lot like "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" had I tried to write anything Sunday night or yesterday during the day. Even now, two days later, I am struggling to keep my eyes open! I have a very cool thing the Lord showed me from one of our Bible study days this past week, but I'll catch you up on the weekend and then write about that next.

Daniel and I left early Friday morning to board our flight to Raleigh. I was so excited cause we got 2 packs of peanuts!! (It's the little things...)We were a little bummed on the way when we heard that our numbers were not the usual 700-800 (which is typical for our fall retreats) but instead we were resting somewhere below the 300 mark. But we just trusted that those were the exact students and adults that needed to be there, and that the Lord didn't have any less of a plan of showing up than He did before. One of these days we'll learn not to put Him in a box, and in the mean time, He'll keep blowing our socks off!!

The theme of these retreats that we do is "Reach Up" from Acts 17:27 ("God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.") The whole thing is focused around empowering teenagers and helping them to realize the POWER that they have in Christ when they reach up to HIM to find what they need, instead of reaching to the things of the world to be satisfied. There is also an element of 'sharing Jesus without fear' where we continue to teach them ways to talk to their friends about Christ as they live them out themselves.

(PAUSE......Ok sorry my roommate made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing...WHAT?!?!?! :) and I NEEDED one)

I had the great privilege of teaching the high school girls bible study with two of my very best friends, Laura and Katie. (Laura is my roommate here in Nashville, and all 3 of us worked together at Caswell summer '06. Laura and I worked together 3 years, and Katie and I for 2 years.) We had about 50 girls all together and it was just SO great. At the end of the Saturday morning session, we had them all write out questions they had about life--left it completely open to WHATEVER topic or issue they wanted to ask about. We have found over the summers that their youth group and leaders back home are sadly NOT the people they feel comfortable to go to to ask questions and so they just walk around aimlessly with all these unanswered thoughts about what's ok and what's not...and then look to the wrong things for validation. So we just threw out the last bible study session and just had a question-answer time where we answered what they asked about and gave them a chance to just be REAL and DEAL with stuff. We didn't want to just 'church-it-up' and make things watered down because unfortunately they get enough of that at home. We just flat out told them like it was on a lot of issues they had questions about, and made sure that they knew it was not us yelling or lecturing at them, but that it was from the most humble place because we have BEEN THERE and don't want them to have to go through junk like we have if possible. We also told them we wanted to be that real because chances are if they had the courage to honestly ask about it, then they are probably struggling with it. You could tell by the look on their faces that a lot of them were asking with a hopeful conscious that we were about to give them some justification about their past and tell them certain screw-ups were ok because we had done them too. NOT HAPPENING! I was blown away by the amount of girls in that room who at such a young age had either 'gone to far' with their boyfriends, had experimented with cutting, eating and self-esteem issues, had horrible family situations, and the list goes on.

At the end we ran out of time and sort of briefly explained what each of our testimonies were and told them if there was anyone that needed to stay after to ask us questions about more specific things that we would most definitely stay. All three of us had about 7-8 girls stay after to talk, so we sort of had a mini-bible study in 3 different corners of the room and each got to be even more personal to certain situations and hearts that needed more attention with these issues. That was such a blessing to be able to pour into these girls at this stage in their life, hoping we could save them some heartache by the time they are our age.

The other parts of the retreat were pretty awesome as well. Laura, Katie and I, along with 5 others made up the worship band, and then we also had a speaker--Tony Nolan--and if you've never heard him, you should...he's fabulous. He is funny, wise, real, and personal...and he wears really cool artsy shirts. :)

I LOVE Caswell. LOVE IT. It has been my home away from home for over 22 years now. My dad is the youth minister at the church where I grew up (he has been there for about 18 years now) so my brother and I always got to go on trips with the youth group...and to summer camp every year. There has not been a summer of my life that I haven't spent at least a portion of it at Caswell. And when the summer comes that I don't step foot through those gates, it will probably be a little hard to comprehend. For 22 years (including the summer I was in my mothers womb) Caswell has been a place of peace, restoration, joy, love, refuge, and some very monumental memories that have marked me for life. It was the place that the Lord let me know it was ok to follow my dreams, and showed me the beginning of my plan to move to TN. Back in the day (before technology started coming out of our eyeballs) they used to have this HUGE black speaker box in Hatch (the building where we have worship services) right above the stage in the middle of everything. In my early years, I could have bet my life that God lived in that box. (Maybe that's why I try to keep Him in it?!) I just knew Caswell had to be His favorite place on earth...all those kids who came to know Him by the hundreds and thousands every summer...and the genuine worship I experienced there was like no other. My body lived in Lenoir, but my heart stayed on that island inside those gates, waiting for me to come back every summer and meet back up with it. It just refused to leave.

This weekend WAS wonderful, but I'll tell you what, there was nothing like flying into Nashville at night and seeing the lights over the city. Absolutely beautiful. When we were in the van about to leave camp, I looked at Laura and said, "I'm ready to go home." And she said, "Yeah, me too."
When I came to visit Nashville for the first time last April to apartment hunt, I called Laura about 30 minutes into my trip and said, "The weirdest thing just happened. I just left my house, but I feel like I'm driving home." It was a very scary thing, but so exciting at the same time...and peaceful. To KNOW that God has appointed me to live here in exactly this time and place...and now not even my favorite place in the world could keep me from coming back here. God's way is always the best, and His blessings are just out of this world. Thank y'all for helping me to love Him more...

More on the Bible study thing later...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Late-Night Story Time

So it's late, and I need to sleep because I'm getting on a plane for NC in 8 hours (that would include sleeping and the airport madness somewhere in there) but I wanted to at least share one story from last week before I leave blog-world for a few days(*tear*). After having a couple of rough days (if you are lost...see previous posts from last week) the Lord so blessed me with a multitude of different things, but one day in particular that I wanted to tell you about. As I sit here typing I am still just amazed at the way He has completely changed my life in just a week. I will not tell everything because I do need to rest (I am RUN DOWN from keeping quite a rambunctious 4 year old for the past 4 days as a temp. job) but this is too good to pass up on the up-coming 3-day hiatus from my computer.

So last week, let's just be honest, I was STRUGGLING with some things. The waiting. The confusion. The doubt. The worry. Etc. And just about the time I was ready to make some hasty decisions for myself because I was afraid there would be a lack of provision if I didn't have plans for everything...and CONTROL of everything. (Like the Lord has ever given me a reason to doubt whether or not He would show up. Ha.) So I'm on the brink of just "settling" for a family because I desperately needed an income, and just some other decisions that I was ready to jump the gun on (but that was the main one)...and then the Lord straight up rocked my world with one of the lessons from our Bible study ("No Other Gods"). The reading for this particular day was from Exodus 24:12-18. I'll just type it for you because my paraphrasing abilities end around midnight. So this is when Moses is about to go up on the mountain with the Lord where He will receive the 10 commandments, etc...and he is about to leave.

"The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction."
Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, "Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them."
When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights."

If you fast forward to chapter 32, you see that the people get ancy waiting on Moses to come back that they ask Aaron to "Come, make us gods" (v1) because they don't know what is up with Moses and are afraid they have been abandoned, and so feel the need to make other gods rather than wait on Moses and his God. When the Lord see this, he says to Moses in verse 7 "They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them..." There is more to that verse, but when I read that, my entire day changed. You know when you watch cartoons and a character realizes something and they do the light bulb free-frame for a second so you know they got it. Yep. One of those moments. 40 days was an eternity for these people to wait. They thought he was taking FOREVER on that mountain, and because they hadn't heard from him they decided to take matters into their own hands. But when you read the Lord's reaction? 40 days is NOTHING to Him!!! Obviously He knows that we operate on time because we are human, but in the large scheme of things, even our entire life existence in comparison with eternity is nothing. So how much less is 40 days in the eyes of the one who holds the master plan.

So Moses went on up to the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. The people waited for 40 days and 40 nights. They don't know what has happened to Moses. They got anxious and turned away. God saw this and said they were QUICK to turn away. The Lord calls Abby to move to Nashville. (This part not in the Bible ;) ..) Abby moves to Nashville. Abby starts to struggle. To doubt. To wonder where the Lord's voice is; what she is supposed to do with her life; how she is going to pay the bills; why is she not getting answers. She decides to take matters into her own hands and try to "make plans" herself since she's not getting the help she thinks she needs. Then she does this Bible study. And she has a thought. "Hmm...these people waited for 40 days, to God 40 days was nothing...I wonder how long I've been in Nashville?"

Y'ALL. I am crying again just thinking about it. 40 DAYS. 40 DAYS. THE DAY I started struggling so bad, I had been in Nashville for 40 DAYS. I can't even tell you the humility and joy and peace and embarrassment and laughter and gracious heart that came over me all at once that morning. You never want to admit when you feel like God has left you, because you KNOW that He hasn't. But you don't always feel that He hasn't. (Thank goodness our relationship with Him can be based on what we KNOW about Him and not how we FEEL...I am so emotional sometimes I would have broken up and gotten back together with Him 12 times in one day. Anybody else there sometimes?) But if I'm being honest, that week was one of those times where I FELT like I had been left. Like He was withholding information about my life from me. Like He had brought me here to this new life and then forgotten about me. (Oh, the vain imaginations I can come up with!!) And that day He gave me the biggest hug I've ever felt from Him. I praised Him for His silence. I praised Him for the not-knowing. I praised Him for the chance to rely on Him more instead of my silly plans for how to map out my days in order to pay the bills. He just held me and said, just WAIT. Just a little longer. I'm here. I KNOW. And I've got a plan.

One of the larger parts of my struggling came with needing a job. Y'all I interviewed with 4 families for full-time nanny positions in the last few weeks. All of them great families. None of them are currently paying me a salary. Every time I left a house I just had this thought of "No I need to wait". I didn't know why, but I just didn't feel at peace with any of them. Never once did I stop and think that maybe it was the Lord saying wait because He had something better. I just chalked it up to it not being "meant to be". Well this past Tuesday I got my answer. Monday was my deadline to get back to my boss about this last family, and had I taken it, I would have made double what I needed every month, and had plenty to save for some things in the future. But again, it didn't seem right. Then Tuesday night I met with a woman who I have been in the process of talking to about a nanny job. I realize this doesn't sound any more exciting than the other 4 families I just mentioned, but just trust me on this. This is a woman that I met at the worship service that I go to on Tuesdays, and about 4 weeks ago, the Lord totally directed out conversation in a matter of minutes to her knowing that I was looking for a nanny job, and me knowing that she was looking for a nanny. In fact neither one of us told each other until this week, but in that moment we both had that stir in our hearts that just said "this is a God thing". I think the reminder of that in the back of my mind was why I haven't been able to commit to any other family, because something just told me this other possibility needed to be a priority in keeping my schedule open.

So Tuesday I made it official with this woman and her husband, and I will begin working for her this next week. It is my dream nanny job. NO JOKE. I wish I could describe in detail for you what it is I will be doing, because I know all of this sounds kind of vague and there isn't a way for me a this point to tell you exactly why this job is so distinct for me and different from the others. Because of the person I am working for, I feel like I don't need to go parading that information around, and in the next bit I will be praying about how to share why this excites me so much...but I just don't want to ever sound "braggy" about it or mention this family or their child just for the sake of saying "I work for ____". But let me just say I have NEVER been more excited about a job, or more honored that my Jesus would let me have it...and that this had been in his plan all along.

I'm still in a whirlwind of emotions--all of them amazing--and just completely humbled at how the Lord has SHOWED OFF for me in the last few days. As if He even needed to...but He has done it anyway, and I am on-my-face-grateful for it. He has provided my rent for 2 months now without a full time job, and just so gone out of His way to tell me that He loves me and knows my heart. I feel like I'm totally rambling and I hope some of this made sense. But just know that your prayers were answered, my prayers were answered, the Lord is blowing me away with his provision, and showing me sides of His character I've never seen before--and they are all beautiful.

If 40 days in the wilderness will bring me this kind of joy and adoration for my Jesus, He can send me there anytime. Love you...and see you back here Sunday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Random Fours

Beautiful Ladies, I have had THE MOST AMAZING last few days, and when I can get coherent thoughts together I can't wait to tell you how the Lord has showed off for me concerning the worries and silly (but real) struggles that I was having recently. Y'all, He is so good. SO GOOD.
But for now, I've been tagged by both Jackie and Patty to do this meme, so here it goes!! :)

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Housekeeper at Summer Camp
2. Singer/Keyboards/Bible Study Leader at Summer Camp
3. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (and yes, it was as good as it sounds)
4. Nanny :)

Four movies I can watch over and over and over:
1. You’ve Got Mail
2. The Parent Trap (newer version…but I think the mom in the old version is the definition of beautiful!! So pretty!!)
3. The Preacher’s Wife
4. While You Were Sleeping
(I have another one…The Devil Wears Prada…I am strangely obsessed with this movie.)

Four tv shows I like to watch:
1. F*R*I*E*N*D*S (yes, I DO own all 10 seasons )
2. Grey’s Anatomy
3. Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (why did I have to start watching this?!?! TOTALLY addicted)
4. Everybody Loves Raymond

Four places I have vacationed:
1. Virgin Islands (St. Johns)
2. Grand Canyon
3. New York
4. Outer Banks

Four of my favorite dishes:
1. Pineapple Casserole (my moms is THE BEST)
2. Chicken Casserole (hello, I’m from the south, and I grew up in a Baptist church…of course the casseroles would dominate this list) …oooo fried chicken too
3. Stir-fry (sp?)
4. Salmon anything

Four websites i visit daily:
1. My blog
2. Facebook
3. Hotmail (email)
4. Friend’s Blogs

Four places i would rather be:

1. Reynosa Mexico (at an orphanage we went to on a mission trip)
2. In my best friend’s kitchen, sitting on her bar stool...just talking and telling her how great she is :)
3. Africa
4. I don’t know...I don’t want to leave Nashville!!!

Who am I tagging?! Anyone who has time and wants to invite us to some random facts about their life! Let me know if you do it so I can come visit and see!! :)
I love all of my siesta sisters, aunts, and moms! Y'all are the greatest!

Monday, October 8, 2007

My first real heartbreak. Brace yourself.

[I have some awesome things to say about the weekend...later.]

I was having a pleasant Sunday afternoon walking the mall...notice I said WALKING, not so much SHOPPING...you have to have money to do that. Needless to say, invisible jobs don't pay well. So now let me back up.

Contrary to our air-conditioner's thinking, it is not the middle of winter. But you would think so by the way it insist on blowing out HEAT during these lovely October sweat-fests. The air is set on COOL, somewhere in the upper 60s, yet we get HEAT blown through our vents. The simple solution would seem to be just to cut it OFF. You would think. But the dern blasted thing won't cut off. IT WON'T CUT OFF. We are stewing in our own filth. (Which has the potential to make my friend Katherine gag if she ever reads this because she can't even stand the thought of taking baths and sitting in the dirty water.)
So after church I opted not to take a trip to the burning nunnery (we live on convent ave...it's ok, laugh it up ;) we've decided just to own the hilarity of that) and to spend it in the air conditioning some place where I would have plenty to look at and a place to sit and read for a while. So I happened upon the Mall at Green Hills which conveniently has both. :) My afternoon was full of looking at lovely dress pants and jeans 3 times as expensive as the ones I had on, shirts that wouldn't cover my BIG TOE, and way cute cards at the Papyrus store I have recently fallen in love with. Cutest cards ever. I refrained. And my wallet thanked me. (Until I went to Starbucks of course...I would hope that would just be an understood given though.) Life was good and cool...I was killing time...(ran into 2 of my 3 roommates who were undoubtedly avoiding the same thing I was)...my feet hurt, but I didn't care (I had Starbucks to walk off)...

And then IT happened.

I went to Panera. (Again, choosing to stay out of the house for dinner prolonged another work-out sized sweat job just to pour a bowl of cereal.)
I walked up to the counter.
I asked for a cinnamon crunch bagel. And the unthinkable came out of that sweet girl's mouth.
"I'm sorry we're out".
Politely I tilted my head toward her and said "Hmmm?" (I could not have heard her right.)

"We're out...of cinnamon crunch bagels."

Restrain yourself Abby. It is not her fault. Was the Lord telling me not to eat a bagel? Save my hips the trouble? Surely not.
But this was the day I learned trying to substitute a phony for the real thing is never a good idea. The Lord can not be replaced, and neither can cinnamon crunch bagels.
Mocha-chip is just NOT the same.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I'll take an Isaac please

"Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her."
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me."
"Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?"
"I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered.
The the angel of the LORD told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her." The angel added, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count."
The angel of the LORD also said to her:
"You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael [which means "God hears"], for the LORD as heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man' his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers."
She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi [which means "well of the Living One who sees me"]; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael." (Genesis 16:1-15)

This was part of the scripture reading for my Bible Study today in talking about idols. At first I was having a hard time figuring out how it was going to relate. And then I got me a word from Miss Kelly Minter. Ever get one of those NOW kinda words that you just KNOW is for you. If it's ok, I think I'll just add in what she had to say about this instead of trying to re-word it all myself.

-->After the hundreds of times I've read this passage, never in my life have I considered Hagar an idol of Sarah's. Until tonight. Until I read the simple phrase, "perhaps I can build a family through her" (v2). In those days it might as well have read, "Perhaps I can build a life through her." [During this time the ability to bear children was essential and viewed as a "need". If you weren't married and couldn't have children, you were basically seen as worthless in society. Your identity was through your family.]
In a way, this is staggering to me. Sarah was looking to an Egyptian slave girl to save her life. She was depending on someone she ended up hating. Just a passing thought--isn't it interesting that our false gods can even be things we hate?
Sarah's dependence on Hagar leads me to ask the obvious question: Other than God, who or what am I trying to build my life through?<--

(...This took me through some major thinking today...and the identification of a few other idols that need to be unveiled.)

Then we read Genesis 21:1-3...
"Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him."
(it was supposed to be v.1-6 but I think we get the point without discussing the circumcised word. ;) does that give anybody else the hebejeebes?)

(Back to Kelly)
-->Here we get the end of the story--God's way. We saw what happened when Sarah tried to build her family through Hagar her own way. It was disastrous. Everyone was hurt in the process, not just Sarah. But here in Gen 21 we see the fulfillment of God's plan. and this was going to happen with or without Hagar; with or without Ishmael; with or without Sarah's manipulation; with or without Abram's passiveness. But how nice if the story had simply been Isaac, without all the baggage.<--

When will we (I) ever learn? It seems like more often than not I forget that I can't do things on my own. I mean, sure I can try, and there is the illusion of things going right, but typically speaking, it ends up in a disaster. God's will, WILL be done. So why on earth do we add in the extra heartache by trying to do it our way first?
I'm sorry I keep talking about the same things...it just happens to be where I am right now, so I hope it's not boring you to death. Your comments yesterday blessed me so...I just can't even tell you. (Although some of you need to get in the bed a little earlier--I worry about you up commenting at 3:00am!! Your sleep schedule sounds like mine!) Coupled with your prayers and mine, and a lot of good words that were brought my way, my heart feels a little more at ease tonight than it did last night. I was waiting. I'm still waiting. And I've been given a good reminder of why. His way is always better. It may not make sense at the time...or even until you're at the end and can look back to see how the process itself was a blessing because of where you are now with Him verses where you began. But a blessing it will be, if we wait on Him. (I know these things...but sometimes I need to say them "out loud"..which translates to "typing" in this case.)

I am praying for each one of us that the Lord would help us keep to the "Isaacs" of our lives--and that we wouldn't be lured into trying to create our own "Ishmaels".

"Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." ~Ps. 27:14

"If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
If we are faithless,
he will remain faithful
for he cannot disown himself."
~2 Tim. 2:11-13

His character can not be compromised, and He will never fail. Love y'all. Mean it.

ps...please don't name your children Hagar.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Warning: Complete Rambling of Thoughts Ahead

So I’m in a new season of life. A new one that involves me not knowing a lot of things, which normally would completely freak me out because I like to know the order of things—I’m a detail person if there’s ever been one—but now there’s no way of knowing. And for the first time it’s ok that I don’t know.
For those who maybe don’t know, I just graduated from Carolina (that’s North Carolina—go tarheels!) with my degree in Elementary Education, and a scholarship/loan that binds me to teaching in the state of North Carolina for 4 years as a way to pay back the amount of $26,000 that was granted upon my entrance into the Teaching Fellows Program. All of this is great, except that about a year and a half ago my heart started breaking…and not for the students in my class. Don’t get me wrong—I LOVE CHILDREN. (Otherwise I wouldn’t be working as nanny now! And just for the record, I want about 100 of them myself one day when that time comes.) But as I got further into my major, I realized that teaching was not a passion of mine. Sure I could do it, and I was sort of naturally good at it which made it harder to conceptualize that what I had just spent the last 3 years working towards, was not only something I didn’t want to do, or something I really felt called to do, but I also wasn’t reaching my full potential doing it. So what began as an 18 year old happy to accept a scholarship covering 1/2 of her tuition for college, had now turned into a 21 year old scared to death because she knew she not only had to tell her parents that in a few short years after graduation we might owe the state $26,000, but for the first time she was going to have to not only say she was trusting God with her life, but also DO IT.

So a year and a half later, here I sit. Graduated. Not in North Carolina, but in Tennessee. Nashville, TN. With a degree I don't feel called to use right now. And to be honest, scared out of my mind. Maybe scared isn’t the right word…but whatever the opposite of confident is. That’s what I am. Well, that’s what I’m feeling at the moment anyways.
Back in May, I went to a Beth Moore conference in Boone, NC and the Lord made it SO VERY CLEAR that I was headed the right place, and that this town was exactly where He wanted me for right now. And I had never felt more at peace without a plan. I still do because He has daily reminders and confirmations that I am in the place He has called me to. This is a season of growth and a clinic in trusting Him. But let me just be honest. It’s hard. And at times a bit lonely. I do have 3 roommates, but they are all in school—and we all remember how busy college is—the season of never-ending assignments and papers due at the most inopportune times. So sometimes I feel like I live in this huge house (that was a total God-send to us because the rent is unreal just one house in either direction, and for the size of this place, ours makes no sense…except to say GOD DID IT) alone because as of right now, almost 2 months after moving, I’m STILL job-searching. I am employed by the Nannies of Green Hills, but I’m still interviewing with families to find the one that’s right for me. I really feel like this could be a great opportunity to pour into a family and really make a difference in some kids’ lives, and so I don’t want to just take the first job that offers the most money. In the meantime, the Lord has totally provided with random temp. jobs and belated graduation money that showed up out of nowhere (today actually! PTL!)…but it just works on your heart to feel like you’re not moving forward.

Uh…sorry I feel like I’m rambling, I guess I have just needed to be honest and get out some things that I don’t feel like I can share with many people here. It’s hard to feel like you’re not moving forward, even if you are in the destination you’re supposed to be. My roommate gave me a piece of paper with a scripture on it the first week I moved here, and today I pulled it off the wall beside my bed to look at it again. This is what it said:

“But those who live to please the SPIRIT will harvest EVERLASTING LIFE from the spirit. So don’t get tired of doing what is good.. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for He WILL REAP A HARVEST of BLESSING at the APPROPRIATE TIME.” ~Galatians 6:8-9

I couldn’t help but think of this today as I was pretending to be pitiful watching Grey’s Anatomy on my bed. (ps…tv in my bedroom was probably the worst idea I ever had…between that, my computer, my books, and my ipod I could potentially never leave this room…much less the house) This scripture was a timely reminder for me today. DON’T GET DISCOURAGED AND GIVE UP, for HE WILL REAP A HARVEST OF BLESSING. I know the Lord is going to open doors and pave the way and show me exactly where and what to do. The part I always forget to cling to is the Last phrase… “He will reap a harvest AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME.” Appropriate time. Not when I think a “God-blessing” would fit well into my day, not the day that I’m feeling the worst or least confident, and not at all because of anything I will miraculously do to deserve it. In the mean time I’ve got to learn how to be better in the small things. Faithful in the valley…confident in my Jesus because He is worth me believing Him. He has never broken a promise to me, and I know He’s not going to start.
I am most definitely in a period of WAITING. And even now as I sit here typing, I’m reminded of the NIV version of the Psalm I just put up a few days ago…”I am still confident of this: I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. WAIT for the Lord; be strong and take heart and WAIT for the Lord.” (v 13-14)

Other places that I’ve received a timely blessing today…
“So do not throw away your confidence, because it has great reward. For you need endurance in order to do God’s will and so receive what is promised…we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” ~Hebrews 10:35-36; 39

“But you, keep your head…endure hardship, do the work…discharge all the duties of your ministry.” ~2 Timothy 4:5

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” ~2 Peter 1:3

I know the passions that the Lord has placed on my heart to use for Him. I know them and I love them, and I am so excited for Him to continue to mold my passions to match His heart. But in a town like this where everybody is good at their gifts and talents (and I mean GOOD), is it hard to be sure of your own. But I know what the Lord has given me is to be used for Him, and when I get up from here I am pledging to stop being silly and trust His timing for the development of those things in me. One of my dearest friends sent me a card in the mail today (again, I don’t think a coincidence with all I’m thinking through tonight) with this quote on the front..

“To find your talents and nurture them, to imagine your dreams and live them, these are among life’s most precious gifts…Always remember that you are unique in your talents and abilities—so never be shy about the gifts you bring to a welcoming world.”

I’ve always been scared to be confident about the things I’m good at—worried that others will see it as cocky or showing off or something. But in a recent conversation with a friend of mine we concluded that if we are being HUMBLE and OBEDIENT to that which Christ has called us to, and we don’t use what we’ve been given to our fullest potential, we are selling ourselves and God short. He GAVE you your gifts and me mine, and by shying away from the very things we were meant to bless others with is with-holding that blessing that was meant to be given, and the joy of serving Christ that is meant to be ours.

I was again blessed by a portion of the Nashville commissioning that I needed to speak over myself (and I’m praying over each one of you as well)…so I’ll leave you with that. Sorry for writing so much…guess I needed an outlet more than I realized…and thanks to anyone who made it this far and is still “listening”. I love y’all…I really do.

“…No matter what awaits you
Or who doesn't believe you
You are at a crossroad
Don't miss God for the world!
Move past your offense
Forsake every stronghold
And go with God.
You are dearly loved
Completely forgiven
Deeply called
And thoroughly equipped
When you study God's Word!...”

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Stay with God

Sometimes there's just no need to add your own two cents...

"...with Him on my side I'm fearless,
afraid of no one and nothing...

...I'm asking God for one thing,
only one thing;
To live with Him in his house
my whole life long.
I'll contemplate His beauty;
I'll study at His feet.
That's the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
far from the buzz of traffic.

God holds me head and shoulders
above all who try to pull me down.
I'm headed for His place to offer anthems
that will raise the roof!
Already I'm singing God-songs;
I'm making music to God...

...Point me down your highway, God;
direct me along a well-lighted street;
show my enemies whose side you're on...

...I'm sure now I'll see God's goodness
in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
Take heart. Don't quit.
I'll say it again:
Stay with GOD."
from Psalm 27, The Message

You precious gals have a great day.
...contemplate His beauty...study at His feet...take a few minutes and "get away" with God...let's stay with HIM today. :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Love of My Life

(And no it's not my Boaz!!! yet...)

I am SO excited right now!!!! Why?!?! Because as of 6 minutes ago (my time) (maybe longer once I actually get this posted...and don't look at the post time cause it's messed up) and an hour and 6 minutes ago (her time...she's in North Carolina) it officially became October 2nd!!!!!!! My BEST FRIEND in the whole world's BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Y'all...THIS WOMAN...you just have NO IDEA. What a thing the Lord did when He brought us together. If I have an ounce of the Jesus that she does when I die I'll be doing alright. She is the spitting image of an angel, and everything a Godly woman should be.
You may recognize her as the other girl from my profile picture.)May I present to you....

Kathy Jean Cottrell Johnson :)

From my heart to yours: Top 25 reasons why I Love You

1) You were my elementary school music teacher...duh, that's just awesome. :D
2) You taught me how to forgive...and then lived it out yourself.
3) We laugh about things no one else would even care about.
4) Prayer partners, and our "I love you a million..."s
5) Your first ever lunch order at Davenport...over 5 years ago: Subway. Tuna on whole wheat. Plain. Water to drink. Baked Lays. (I still have your stationary paper that you wrote it on.)
6) Talking in the car for hours.
7) When you ask me how I am, I know you really want to know the answer.
8) You are SO stinkin' talented on the piano. SO STINKIN TALENTED.
9) And there might not be a piano-playing Travis Cottrell were it not for your crazy-awesome lesson-teaching skills. Such a sweet big (but younger) sister you are...[I mean, the Lord MIGHT have worked something out for the miracle boy had you not been there...maybe.] ;)
10) You're allergic to dairy, and you ate a cheese pizza last week anyway ;) (even though it made you sick.) ...that's a girl with priorities :D
11) Your heart is THE most precious thing I've ever experienced, and I will commit a homicide on the next person who messes with it. [Or just throw rocks at them];)
12) Your nickname and favorite color are the same word.
13) You taught me how to eat barley powder...and LIKE IT.
14) You always know exactly what scripture to text me, and when.
15) You like to drive the car crazy when we ride together.
16) Late-night emails that make me laugh so hard I'd wake the neighbors.
17) You are twice my age [we'll keep that between us], twice as beautiful, and you make me want to love the Lord twice as hard.
18) We don't even have to explain...we just KNOW.
19) CHOCOLATE...as much as we eat, it just needs it's own number.
20) You have played/sung at a BREATHING man's funeral.
21) You have a tooth-man...and I love him ;)
22) Kathy J. Beth M. Abby H.
23) You've seen my heart at it's ugliest and you love it anyway.
24) WULL..... (oh, what does Webster know anyway)
25) You are my Jesus with skin on.

Happy Birthday Orange!! I love you a million jumps in the parking lot of Wild Oats...