Our 2014 Video Christmas Card

Anyone else LOVE Christmas cards? Is it embarrassing to admit receiving Christmas cards is one of my top 5 favorite things about the holiday season? I know so many of us keep up with one another through social media now, but there is something glorious about knowing a friend intentionally thought of you, wrote your address, and stamped an envelope just for you. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to get dressed up and have a photo shoot? ;) {if we were home we would have hired Ashley Monogue Photography in a heart beat!}

Growing up my family always put our Christmas cards on {an incredibly cute reindeer} display near our front door. Last year Caleb and I kept the Christmas cards we received and prayed for the different individuals/families/couples after the holiday season ended. I am baffled that we actually received a few Christmas cards this year in Thailand. But we are that much more thankful for the people who took the time to send us a card half way around the world.

img4324-2If we wanted to get Christmas cards to each of our family and friends in America, we would have had to send the Christmas cards out in early October. And let’s be honest… that was just not realistic. So in lieu of sending a Christmas card this year, we created a little video.img4324

My students and I have a Bible verse of the week. And sometimes, difficult words from our verse of the week end up as a bonus on our Friday spelling tests. So for the past couple months we have been reviewing a few verses that lead to the birth of Jesus. Can you guess which students are mine and which students are Caleb’s? Hint- Caleb’s students are older.

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My Looney Tune Moment

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Wednesdays have become a bit of a special night for me. Every Wednesday Caleb plays soccer with a bunch of men in our city. While I love spending every minute with him, I have always found this alone time very sweet. I grab the equivalent of $2 USD and my kindle then take myself to one of my favorite restaurants {if a dozen street vendors collected under a tin roof on a concrete slab counts as a restaurant}. I spend just under $1.30 USD on my meal, read, sit and people watch.

It is almost impossible to forget that we live in Thailand. Bugs no longer bother me, cold showers make me thankful we have water at all, I carry toilet paper with me everywhere, driving our bike in the pouring rain is a daily occurrence, and I am now FREEZING when it gets below 85. But there is something so sweet about the hour I spend sitting in my plastic chair eating my Thai soup. My heart is so filled with thanks during my time alone that I find myself sitting, staring, and smiling like some kind of looney tune. Just soaking it in. My heart is overflowing with gratitude and tears form in my eyes. The Lord is so faithful. And the reward is so grand when we just choose to listen and say yes to His calls.

While there are days I am itching for Western comforts, this is home. These people are my neighbors. And I love them more than I could have ever imagined. The Lord is teaching me about a new type of love in Thailand. A love I had never experienced. My heart aches for my new friends- my family away from family. I don’t know if I could love my students more if they were my own. {Caleb has heard me say I would adopt every single one of my little nuggets if I could at least a dozen times}. 

So thank you. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for being part of my community. The Lord has been so obvious in so much of this adventure. I pray that you too find the strength to be still, listen, and say a big hearty YES to the adventure God is inviting you on. Trust me, it might get hard and lonely, but it is worth it.

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You Need This

“People accuse me of going overboard
in preparing for my first ten million years in eternity.
In my option,
people go overboard in worrying about
their last ten years on earth.”
Francis Chan

If you have followed along my journey for any amount of time, you probably know that I love to read. At the moment, I am currently reading “You and Me Forever” by Lisa & Francis Chan. While technically this glorious little book is about marriage and what a marriage between two Christians should look like, I believe everyone should read it. Singles, engaged, married, or any in-between. To encourage you to pick up this incredible little book, I thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes thus far. Get ready- there are A LOT! Trust me, you need this book.

{oh, and as if you needed a better reason to purchase this book- all proceeds go to a village in Africa- learn more here}

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“Think of all the awards, promotions, accolades, and accomplishments you would love to receive in your lifetime. Go crazy in imagining it all. And then answer this: Could anything be better than hearing ['Well done, good and faithful servant'] from Jesus in the first moments of eternity?”

“I am crazy about Lisa, I want her to have a great life. But more than that, I want her to have great eternity. I want get to look back at her life without regret.”

“I love my wife. I love marriage. I love love. They all point to the brilliance of Jesus, who created them all.”

“Christians in America have become experts at conviction- and failure at action.”

“As we get convicted by a message, we should be asking, “What should I do in response to this truth?”

“Why not default to action until you hear a voice from heaven telling you to wait?”

“We criticize the guy who fed too much sugar to starving children rather than critiquing the thousands who fed them nothing.”

“Most people underestimate how terrifying it will be to see God.”

“If we don’t stare at God, we’ll spend our time staring at lesser things. Namely, ourselves.”

“If I could read a manuscript of your prayers over the past month, what would I see as the ‘one thing’ your repeatedly ask for? … Our prayers reveal a lot about us.”

 ”Our prayers reveal a lot about us. Our requests show us what we treasure, and our tone reveals our opinion of Him.”

“Our marriage problems are not really marriage problems. They are heart problems. They are God problems. Our lack of intimacy with God causes a void we try to fill with the frailest of substitutes. Like wealth or pleasure. Like fame or respect. Like people. Like marriage.”

“When we actually stare at Him, everything else fades to its proper place.”  

“What do you pray for? What do you meditate on?”

“Many people forget that after the moment of salvation comes a lifetime of sanctification (the process of becoming holy).”

“Does your marriage stand out in this generation?”

“We either shine a light that makes sense as a child of God or we take part in the crookedness and depravity of the world around us.”

“Marriage is one of the most humbling, sanctifying journeys you will ever be a part of.”

Did any specific quotes speak to you?

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I Will be Fierce

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Anyone else thinking about what is to come in 2015? I certainly have. Thoughts of who I want to be, how the Lord will transform my heart, how I can serve, places I want to see, and so so much more.

As I think about next year I can’t help but think about a podcast I recently listened to. In the podcast my home pastor was listing attributes he hopes to teach his daughters. Matt even goes as far as stating that he wants his daughters to be ferocious, like his wife. Now ferocious is NOT a word normally used to describe a Godly woman. Matt continued to explain that he would not be half the man he is today if it wasn’t for his wife’s strong personality. You see, Lauren (Matt’s wife) is not afraid to call Matt out. She knows that by calling Matt out on his sins (in a loving way of course) gives him the opportunity to become more like Christ.

I am currently reading “You and Me Forever” by Francis Chan and his wife {another book you must read}. Francis repeatedly encourages us to imagine the first time we will stand before our Almighty God. He points us back to the Bible and reminds us of how terrified and humbled some of the most ‘godly’ men in the Bible were at that moment. Francis states that he wants to hear God say, “well done, good and faithful.” But not only does he want to hear it, he wants to be sure his wife hears it as well.

I know I want to hear God tell me ‘well done.’ I want my husband to hear it as well. Quite honestly, I want nothing more than for each of my students to hear our Heavenly Father say the same thing to each of them. And you know what the beauty of this desire is? I have the chance to help them get there. I can be a ferocious, fierce woman of God. As a believer and as someone who yearns to see others succeed, I have to power to call other believers to a higher standard out of love. By being bold with our faith we have the power to make a difference.

So in 2015, I want to be ferocious, fierce, and bold. I want to speak rather than bite my tongue- even when what I have to say might not be the popular answer. I want to show others I love them deeply by showing them I care about their eternity. I yearn to help prepare those  I love for their first encounter with Yahweh.

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Worth Remembering

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Happy Friday everyone! Anyone else thrilled the weekend is almost upon us?  While I am excited for the weekend, I am most excited that in 11 days I get to see my parents and brother! Praise the Lord. Eight months without seeing family face-to-face is far too long. {Praise Jesus for Skype!} I cannot wait to spend Christmas and New Years exploring Asia with them. Then my Grandma and Grandpa are coming out to visit us in January! {goodness, I hope Caleb and I are like them when we are their age!}

While I cannot wait to see them and to travel with them, the Lord keeps reminding me to return to the present. Enjoy the moment I am in- because these moments are fleeting. We will never get to relive this day ever again.

“Live in the moment and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering.”

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Are You Living a Good Story?

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“The stories we tell ourselves are very different from the stories we tell the world.” Donald Miller

The past few days I have been thinking about stories. Stories we grew up hearing, stories we have read, stories we have dreamt… anything story related. In “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” Donald Miller shares that he became so intrigued in the art of creating a story that he researched what it took to build a good story. {yes, we have to specify a good story… because let’s be honest- not all stories are good}.

Miller attended seminars, read books, and spoke with movie producers. Then finally, he began to write. But this time he wasn’t writing a book or a movie- he was simply writing about himself, about his life, about his story. And you know what he admitted? He didn’t think he was living a good story.

But the beauty of life is that each day we are given a blank page. God’s grace is new each morning. We can start writing our story today. We just have to choose what we want our story to look like. Praise the Lord, we can make plans and God will direct our steps.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” The war has already been won. There will be battles along the way, but what kind of hero doesn’t go through conflict? Let’s start living good stories.

If you could write any story for your life, what would it look like?

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Planning a Good Story

Donald Miller

Anyone else out there adore reading books? There are few things I love more than finding a new book that inspires my soul. But sometimes, it’s just nice to reread an old favorite book. I am always surprised by how much I had forgotten. Currently, I am reading through “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller. Almost every page in my book has a highlight or a note.

The entire book is about the story we tell. As a self-proclaimed dreamer, adventurer, and writer, I always seem to find myself dreaming about Caleb and my future. What will it look like, where will we be, when will we start a family, etc. But in this book Miller reminds us that our lives tell a story. So rather than thinking about what our future will look like, I should be focused on what our story will look like. What story will our lives tell?

Miller points out that “good stories don’t happen by accident… They are planned.” Yesterday I set aside a good chunk of time to just sit, read, and reflect. Miller’s book is a book you could easily fly through. But I have learned that I glean more wisdom from a book when I take time to sit, reflect, and journal what I am learning.  While I was reflecting yesterday, I began to think of individuals whose lives tell a story. I could imagine movies being made about the lives of these men and women. And I know the movies would be inspiring. I want that.

I want my life, my story, to inspire. I want to listen to the Lord’s whispers so I can follow His direction. Because God is the ultimate author. He is the ultimate story teller. And God writes the best stories.

Can you think of any inspiring individuals who are living good, inspiring stories?

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Kisses from Katie

 

a-lot-of-jesusIf you have followed this blog for a while, you probably know that one of my favorite books is “Kisses from Katie” by Katie Davis. Katie is one of the most inspiring, courageous women of our time. After high school she moved away from the comforts of her home in Tennessee and made Uganda her new home. If you haven’t read her book already- you MUST! Truly. If you aren’t convinced already, here are a few quotes from the book that may inspire you!

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One Important Question

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The past couple weeks community has been on my heart. I miss community. But what I miss the most about community is accountability.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

While at the Kankakuk Institute, each student was paired up with a friend with whom we were to meet weekly. We could go for a walk, get coffee, grab lunch… anything we pleased. Regardless of what activity we chose, we had to be vulnerable. We had to dig deep. We had to share our darkest, most vulnerable moments. It was rough. But it was also one of the greatest blessings.

One question that we commonly asked was, ‘what is God teaching you right now?’ In this season of life, in this week, in this day- what is God teaching you? How are your current circumstances molding you more into His image?

During my off period at work a grabbed a cup of tea and spent time reading through my prayer journal.  I love reading old prayers and recognizing how they have been answered- even when God answers them in ways I had not expected. Ever few pages the theme of my prayers changed. I could see what Abba was teaching me and how He was molding me. As I sat in my chair with my warm mug in my hand I pondered, what is God teaching me right now? I haven’t had someone ask me this question in quite some time. And I am embarrassed to admit, I struggled to come up with an answer.

Sure, Caleb and I talk about Jesus multiple times a day… But there is something about having a same-sex accountability partner who knows how a woman’s heart works- who knows how to ask the hard questions in a loving way. I miss intentionally meeting up with someone regularly purely with the intention of having these difficult conversations. Meeting to spur one  another with love. Meeting to encourage growth- even if it gets messy.

It is so easy to glide through each day. I so easily check off my morning quiet time and our couples devotional and assume I am growing in Christ. But am I? This humbling moment with my prayer journal and tea reminded me that I cannot be growing if I can’t answer this question easily.

How do you make sure you are growing in Christ?
What is God teaching you right now?

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The Blessing of Community

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While I would choose spring or summer as my favorite time of the year, there is just something magical about November and December. The crisp air as the leaves change, the gathering of family and friends, the celebrations, and the joy that seems to fill every room. Yes, the holiday season is simply magical. But what I have always loved the most about this season is the community. Friends always gather together to celebrate and family time seems to be in abundance. And I love every moment of it.

But this year is a bit different. The 90+ degrees and 90% humidity does not feel like the holiday season. And if I am being honest, I busted out Michael Bublé’s Christmas album on November 1st in an attempt to get into the holiday spirit {and I’m not even ashamed- it’s starting to work ;) }. But all the Christmas music simply cannot make up for a lack of family and Christian community.

I began really walking with Jesus almost 5 years ago. I knew Jesus before, but I never really gave Him control of my life. Over the past 5 years I have been blessed to be surrounded by an incredible community of believers. From roommates, to the Institute, to our home group… the Lord has truly blessed me. But now, for the first time in years, my closest true Christian community is overseas… and it’s tough. Especially in this season.

We visited the 2 Christian churches in our city. The partially English church taught the prosperity gospel and the other spoke Thai. And while hearing others worship Jesus in another language is beautiful, it doesn’t help build community.

So in this season I want to say two things. The first is thank you. Thank you to each of you for reaching out and for connecting with me via comments, care packages, emails, and skype. Thank you for your love and your friendship. Thank you for your words of encouragement and prayers. I am thankful for each of you. Even the smallest gesture is appreciated. You are a bigger blessing than you know.

Second, I want to encourage you to take advantage of your community. Reach out to that someone who has been on your heart lately- let the know you are thinking of them and praying for them. Be intentional about getting coffee with others. Meet with your accountability partner- or even FIND an accountability partner for this next year. Host a dinner so your friends or family can join together around a table and break bread.  Enjoy it. Embrace it. Community is a blessing. Use this season to celebrate!

Hope you all are having a blessed holiday season!

{for inspiration on hosting a dinner,
check out my friend Sarah’s incredible company
Neighbor’s Table : a love mission.
truly inspirational}

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