Monday, December 31, 2012

A Year In Verses

Hello Lovelies!
Before I even begin to write about Haiti, I wanted to end the year with a little tradition. For the past 7 years I have written a verse-a-day in my journal. I leave you with the verses that sustained me, encouraged me and got me through 2012. From the pages of my journal, I share with you one verse from each month. Remember, the Word of God never returns void, it accomplished what it sets out to do! Make it a new year's resolution to get God's word in your heart and mind daily!

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January 31, 2012
You are altogether beautiful, My darling, beautiful in every way. Song of Songs 4:7

February 24, 2012
The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22

March 12, 2012
He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Job 8:21

April 19, 2012
Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs. Proverbs 19:11

May 6, 2012
You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. Psalm 71:20

June 13, 2012
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise. Hebrews 10:23

July 22, 2012
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 1 Timothy 2:1

August 14, 2012
When the storm has swept by, the wicked are swept away, but the righteous stand form forever. Proverbs 10:25

September 22, 2012
The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know His name trust in Him, for He will not abandon those who search for Him. Psalm 9:9-10

October 6, 2012
My child, if your heart is wise, My own heart will rejoice. Everything in Me will celebrate when you speak what is right. Proverbs 23:15-16

November 19, 2012
Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. His faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God was able to do whatever He promised. Romans 4:20-21

December 15, 2012
I rejoice in your Word as one who discovers a great treasure. Those who love your Word have great peace and do not stumble. Psalm 119:162, 165

Year in verses: 2009, 2010, 2011

Friday, December 21, 2012

Lyrical Friday - The River

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Happy Friday! The day has finally arrived. I am all packed and ready for Haiti. Our team flies out midday. Please keep us in prayer. A few prayer points: that all our luggage arrive safely / team unity / safety from illness / a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit / safe and smooth arrival and departure with plane ride, customs and transportation / also, no stomach situations. THANKS!!!

Since I won't be blogging, probably till to the new year, I wanted to leave you with one last lyrical post. Today's song by Meredith Andrews is for anyone. Because everyone is in need of saving. God not only provides our very need but He invites us to it. What'a Gentleman! Why not respond to a God that is so loving? Yes, He loves you and accepts you just as you are. Won't you come? I invite you too! Come!

The River, Meredith Andrews 

Everyone is broken
And in need of a Saviour
So He came and was broken
For the mocker, for the shamed

Still our eyes are blinded
By the culture, by the lies
We can't see that we're filthy
We're fallen and so dry

But He invites us
Can you hear Him say?
He invites us
Hear Him call your name

Welcome to the river
Come drink, come wade
Come find your very life
Welcome to the river of God
Where your brokenness
Is washed away

Everywhere is the sorrow
And the pain of empty living
You can see it; look in their eyes
All the hopelessness of the world

But look closer, He is right there
In the midst of every fear
Living water is the offer
Restoration is the call

Find your healing
Find your freedom
In the river of God
Your healing here
Your freedom there
In the river of God

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Waiting. Delighting.

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Earlier this week I was chatting with a friend. She asked me about my upcoming trip to Haiti. As I shared with her the minor and major details, I found myself saying, “This is different. It’s not something I was anxious about, or waited for. I truly believe that the Lord has seen my delight in Him and is now granting me my heart’s desire.”

Two years ago the desire to go to Haiti was planted in my heart. And though I prayed, I was not consumed by it. In my years of waiting, I could have hustled God, nagged Him, thrown fits, and questioned His purposes, or made attempts to make it happen. But for whatever reason, beyond myself, I did not. Looking back, I delighted in the Lord and now, well now I am about to experience God granting me the desire of my heart.

It seems that we are always waiting for something: a job, a raise, a deal to go through, a spouse, a child, deliverance, a response from Heaven, or, you fill in the blank according to your situation. Basically, we are waiting for life to get better. I do believe that most of the things we are waiting for are not selfish, but God planted desires that will satisfy the “abundant life” that is promised to us in John 10:10. I ask for us to stop and consider this question: How are you waiting?

In considering my waiting for Haiti and my waiting for other desires, I see a difference. I normally wait and wait and wait and continue waiting. Somewhere in between waiting and waiting, a series of happenings begin to unfold:
I over think
I doubt and nagg God
I become anxious
I am led by emotions
I contemplate methods of manipulation
I try to help God and accelerate His purpose
I grow weary, burdened and discouraged
Bitterness kicks in

Hold up! You too?! When we wait and our expectations aren't met within our time frame or in a less favorable manner we can spiral into a series of ugly and rebellious attitudes. Therefore, learning what delighting in the Lord is and it's benefits is instrumental for our waiting season. Delighting cannot happen if we are not in God's word, committed to prayer and active in His service. Delighting removes our constant fixation on the desire and causes us to focus on the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Delighting on the Giver will enable us to wait joyfully and patiently. Delighting through the waiting process will also guard our hearts from losing hope or lacking faith. Lastly, Delighting will change us, for it may be that the very outcome we are waiting for could differ from the outcome God has already chosen for us (which is always the better of the two). 

Whether you have begun to wait or have been waiting for x amount of time, know that God is fully aware of your desires. He has not forgotten you. He loves you and is working all things out for your good, and ultimately for His glory. My encouragement to you as you wait for ____________, is to not delight nor glorify a desire or its outcome, but delight fully and wholly in the Lord (not for what He can do or give, but for who He is). In His perfect timing He will grant you your heart’s desire and give you the abundant life He intended for you to live. 
May we be delightful people with delighting hearts. 
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:3-5 
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalm 37:13-14 
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sentence Tuesday

Just because you can't see or imagine 
a good reason why God might allow something to happen 
doesn't mean there can't be one. -Stephanie Landa 

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Thursday, December 13, 2012


Because of the tender mercy of our God, 
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven (Dayspring)
to shine on those living in darkness 
and in the shadow of death, 
to guide our feet into the path of peace.

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Monday morning I read  Zachariah's song found in Luke 1. His song ends with these two verses. There is one phrase, one word that can not escape me: Dayspring (the first appearance of daylight in the morning; the beginning or rise of anything; advent). God has given Jesus to us as our Dayspring, this is an accurate and appropriate name for Him. For He is the first and only appearance of light in our darkness that can deliver hope, mercy, grace and truth. Through Him there is a rising from the shadow of death, and with it a new beginning. He is our only guide into the path of peace. 

I have to say, if there is a Christmas name for Jesus that I favor, it would have to be Dayspring. I pray that these two verses may never escape you, and be a reminder that in your darkest hour Jesus is your Dayspring! May you celebrate Jesus every day. Merry Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sentence Tuesday

If people depended on your words for nourishment, 
would they be dying of malnutrition. -Brian Houston 

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Lyrical Friday-Laughter Comes Upon Us

Miami, Fl sunset
 Has life been difficult? For the most part, many of us can answer a loud and resounding, "Yes!" Perhaps this year has been more challenging than others or it may just take a nose dive into darker days. I've had my share of troublesome days, and through each hardship I've had a choice: to receive God in the midst of the trial or reject Him. In every situation, both good and bad, you too have been given a choice to acknowledge God or reject Him, to worship Him or reject Him, to trust Him or reject Him. And yes, lack of trust is a form of rejection even if you claim to love Him. It is my desire that both you and I be a people who not only say we're Christians but live as Christ-followers everyday, in every situation.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25

For you dear Friend who is caught up in a fiery trial, I encourage you to wrap yourself in God's word. At times you will not receive a word fitly spoken, which is not a bad thing... God still speaks to us through the beautiful mystery of His Spirit. But oh when you read those words that penetrate your heart and seep deep into your bones and your spirit is rejuvenated, refreshed and restored nothing compares to these moments. The good news for you is that God yearns to speak to you. And never forget that what matters to you, matters to God; not matter how small or how big the matter may be. I encourage you to not give up on God, His word or praising Him. 

For you beloved who is found in the days of peace, sow for yourselves seeds from God's word in the vineyard that is your heart. Seasons will come where you will need to pluck a harvest of hope, encouragement and truth. Better to have a reserve of God's word than to find yourself helplessly begging for any word, any help, any truth. If you are not prepared for these difficult times, you may be easily swayed in the wrong direction. Enjoy these days of peace in the presence of God, in His word and in His praises.

Praying for you to know God's presence, His embrace and His strength. Oh, and here is a Psalm that I hold unto for dear life when I am in the midst of difficult times: Psalm 126

"When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, 
we were like those restored to health. 
Our mouths were filled with laughter, 
our tongues with songs of joy. 
Then it was said among the nations, 
“The Lord has done great things for them.” 
The Lord has done great things for us, 
and we are filled with joy. 
Restore our fortunes, Lord
like streams in the Negev. 
Those who sow with tears 
will reap with songs of joy. 
Those who go out weeping, 
carrying seed to sow, 
will return with songs of joy, 
carrying sheaves with them."
Sarah Macintosh's song is so fitting and right on.
He is for you, He is with you in the fire and He will get you through this! Many blessings to you.
Laughter Comes Upon Us, Sarah Macintosh 

I've wept until I made a visible trail
This path has not been kind or ever friendly
But if I thought I’d want it another way
I’d surely find that nothing else is for me

Cause He is closer to me this way
Drawn by the tears and pouring rain
Right here clutched in His embrace
Whispering breath against my ear
Tucked up against His scarred ribcage
Right here is where I want to stay

Laughter comes upon us like its lightning
Striking without wind or cloud or change
In knew that if I’m with Him it’d be this way
‘Cause promises are promises to Him

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Birthday Surprise. It's Melissa!

Hello there Friend! With great joy I re-introduce to you Melissa. God has given me the wonderful privilege of serving alongside Meli at youth group. She is fun, full of life and absolutely lovely. Her wisdom though, sets her apart as a pillar of faith for all who know her. May you be blessed mightily through her words. 
[photo credit]
Atelophobia and Failed Expectations 

We all have this idea of how our lives should pan out if everything goes according to the plan. Whether it’s marrying the man of our dreams, or getting that dream job, or traveling the world. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes it is a tree of life”. So often we find that instead of the happily ever after we always dreamt of, life hands us a not-so-perfect husband, a mundane job, and maybe a trip to Disney (Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney, but it’s no Italy). So often we are disillusioned when reality doesn’t line up with our expectations. So what’s with our expectations anyway?

A few days ago, my mother called me over and said to me, “Hey, Meli, I learned a new word today! Atelophobia, it means the fear of imperfection. There, I’ve diagnosed you!” All my life I’ve struggled with this mental plague many like to call “perfectionism”. Okay, before you start rolling your eyes and thinking, “Oh great! One of those women”, bear with me. I have no intention of whining about how hard being perfect is. Trust me, I wouldn’t know! If you’ve begun to mentally check out because you feel like you can’t really relate, stay with me because I’m going to focus on a particular aspect of my struggle that I think every woman can identify with.

I’ve been analyzing my mental processes lately in an attempt to understand why I drive myself crazy trying to get everything just the way I think it ought to be. And here’s what I’ve concluded, my condition is quite simple really, it boils down to the fear of not living up to the expectations – the expectations of others, those I place on myself, and those the Bible makes clear for a woman of God. Not all expectations are bad because by all means, we are to do everything as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). But to be honest with you, there are times I read Proverbs 31 and think to myself, “That sounds exhausting! I’m just trying to make it through college.” I’m sure the circumstances are different for everyone, but I hope you understand where I’m coming from. Because of all that’s expected of us, we are forced to juggle our responsibilities while trying to be everything to everyone. Ironically, as a result of being spread so thin, sometimes I feel more like I’m hardly being anything to anyone. When the desire to please others or ourselves takes precedence over our desire to please God, we have lost sight of our purpose and we will eventually burn out.

Jeremiah 2:13 says, “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.” These cisterns are things we place our trust in to satisfy our needs; things we put our hope in to meet our expectations.
Tragically, what usually ends up happening when those needs are not met, we begin to resent those who we feel let us down. We sort of play the blame game and in our minds we’re telling ourselves things like, “if this thing had never happened” or “if he were just more ______” or “if I had just been better” or “if God had only done something about it” then maybe I would be happy and I could be a better wife/servant/friend/mother.

Within the last few years, God has been revealing bitterness and resentment that I’ve allowed to creep in to my heart. I have resented myself for failures and shortcomings. I’ve also known what it is to resent others for not being what I wanted them to be, and in a way I resented God for not making everything right. Remember that part of the proverb that talks about the heart being made sick? Well, yeah, it got ugly. At certain times in my life, I had allowed it to affect me so much that I became very critical and cynical. Before I knew it, I could hardly recognize myself. I felt like a Pharisee – a white washed tomb. In my attempt to get everything just right, I had become self-righteous and cold-hearted.

God allowed me to have that experience so I would know how awful it is to be so far from him and so that I could understand where leaning on anything other than him will lead. I still struggle with perfectionism and self-resentment but God always reminds me of 2 Corinthians 12:9 “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 

My prayer for you is that you trust God regardless of your circumstances and that you would always remember His faithfulness. I copied one of my favorite prayers (Not that I believe in reciting prayers, but I love how this was worded):

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
-Reinhold Niebuhr

You can read Melissa's Birthday Surprise post from last year HERE. You won't be disappointed! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Birthday Surprise. It's Ziemely!

Happy Monday! Today's birthday surprise comes from Ziemely, or as we call her, Zee. I met her this year in our ladies small group bible study yet I feel like I've known her for a lifetime. Though young in the faith, her faith, love, and zeal for the Lord are as contagious as wild fire spreading. Her post is one that we all can identify with and be encouraged by. God bless YOU. 
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I am going to be honest and just say it; I use to like being in control. Let me rephrase that, I use to like thinking I was in control. I say “thinking I was in control” because in reality I have never been in control. Even in those moments in which I thought I was, God was always the one managing the situation.

There are many verses that come to mind when I think of control and letting go of the idea of having it. These are verses that God has used to speak to me in times when I was trying to control situations and/or outcomes in my life. 

You can make plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail. – Proverbs 19:21

A perfect example of this can be found in Genesis when Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Although he experienced difficult times along the way, God was always with him. God turned what an outsider would have thought was going to be an awful life into a life in which Joseph was able to show others what trusting in the Lord looks like.

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, 
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. – Matthew 19:26 

There is NOTHING that is impossible with God. I would venture to say for the majority of us, the reason we like “being in control” is a sense of security we get when we think we know how things will turn out in our lives and what will happen next. There are so many opportunities I have had in my life that if it weren’t for God being in control of my life they never would have happened. I never thought I would have passed that class, gotten that job, paid that bill, or traveled there.  I will be forever grateful for all the times I have been wrong; that it was not me that was truly in control. I would miss out on so many things, if only what I thought possible or was capable of doing on my own would happen.

 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. 
Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” – Mark 14:36

If even Jesus – God incarnate prayed, we should be praying all the more. Not only did Jesus pray to God, He prayed that God’s will be done. At times, I find myself praying for what I believe is best for me. If we think we know what is best for ourselves, just imagine everything the Lord knows IS best for us. In reality, the best thing for us is for God’s will to be done in our lives. He knows the beginning, the end and the beauty that is the in-between. He wants to give and teach us so much, and the only way that can happen is for us to surrender all.

I pray that we can all remember to let go of that need to be in control and allow God to truly work in our lives. That we not turn to God as our last resort, but as our only resort.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord
thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Birthday Surprise. It's Stephanie!

My favorite holiday is here and with it a very special post by one of my favorite people. For those who don't know Stephanie, she is vibrant, enthusiastic and encouraging. And to those who know her, we can all say we are better people because she is in our lives. May this special Thanksgiving post speak comfort and joy to your heart. 
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To be completely honest, I wanted to decline Raquel’s offer when she first asked me to be a guest blogger. Why? I let fear paralyze me at that moment and I had no idea what to write about, BUT I heard a firm response from God, “Yes, you WILL write and you WILL share what you have learned!” I immediately knew exactly what He was talking about. So here it goes…

Back in February, I attended an amazing conference. Prior to this conference, I was ecstatic to volunteer and serve at the conference, but God gave me a clear “No!” I was crushed and confused because my heart’s desire is to serve others, but I knew that God wanted me to be still, sit back, and hear from Him. It would be me and Him, nothing else!

Throughout the conference God was moving in my heart. The night Hillsong United led worship, God revealed something to me. You see, God exposed  the ugliness of my heart to me and unfolded a deeper layer that I had no idea was lying inside of my heart. I knew then this was one of the reasons God wanted me to sit out, and not volunteer at the conference. I suddenly broke out in tears and felt my knees suddenly collapse.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed. God revealed to me that I was angry. Angry with Him! “What?!? How could this be? I’m so head over heels in love with Him! How could I have been angry and in love with Him all at the same time?

Rewind …

Way before attending this conference, I had been trying to pass one of the tests to become a teacher. It had taken me a little well over a year to pass it. While many eagerly waited to start the New Year, I was taking into the New Year a heavy burden of frustration. Throughout that time of test after test, I felt like I done everything humanly possible to pass. I bought books, hired tutors, listened to cds, attended workshops, and more. My next train of thought was, “My failing MUST be because I’m not spiritual enough?” (At this point, I had no idea where my head was at.) I then proceeded into trying to do all the “Christian stuff” so that I can hopefully gain God’s favor and mercy to pass the test. (Side note: This is so far from God’s truth…We do NOT have to gain His love, it’s unconditional nor do we have to work to receive His favor/mercy/grace) I fasted. I prayed. I went to church. I sought Biblical counsel. I read my Bible. I had done anything and everything. I knew for sure God was going to hook it up and open the door for me to pass. Yeah, NO! The next time I went to take it, I read in big fat letters, “Not pass!” “What? God, how could this be? You MUST be mad at me!”

Fast-forward to the conference …

“Angry? Why would I be angry with God?” It then dawned on me that I was angry because the thought of God forsaking me, and not giving me the desires of my own selfish heart, had been lingering inside of me. I had been feeling let down by God. I felt like my prayers were hitting the roof and not heaven. Why wouldn’t God turn to me and allow for me to pass the test? “C’mon God, You created everything in 6 days... Can’t you just make it happen and allow this miracle to take place?!” I would have never imagined, in my wildest dreams, that I would reach the point of being angry with my God.

After I left the conference, I confessed to my boyfriend all that I had been hidden in my heart. We prayed, and I instantly felt God’s love and healing hand over my heart and life. God’s faithfulness revealed to me yet once again. “CONFESS your sins to each other and pray for one another so that you may be HEALED.” James 5:16.

Thanksgiving is here! What am I thankful for? Well, I’m thankful for God’s strength. He gave me strength to push forward even when I thought I could not take one more step or one more test. I took that test 7 times! If it was not for Him, I would have easily given up probably after the 3rd time of not passing it. I was stubborn (hence me having to take it 7 times) and God wanted me to gain radical faith in trusting Him with my life even when things don’t “fall in place.” I’m thankful that though this sin had been residing in my heart, God’s love did not change.

I learned many things during that season of my life. I can honestly say that though storms may come, and they will come, there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. I encourage you to dig deep and pray even when it seems as if you can not mutter out a single word to God. Prayer not only changes things, but it changes YOU!

for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” -1 Thessalonians 5:18

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. 
Tell God what you need and THANK HIM for all he has done.” –Philippians 4:6

“When everything seems like it’s falling apart, 
that’s when God is putting things back together just the way He wants it.” 

One last thing, though God did not answer my prayer on my timeline to pass the test, He did do something far more imaginable. He gave me the gift of faith! Faith to truly trust God with my life, with my future, even when all else fails.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Birthday Surprise. It's Alejandro!

Happy Monday! I am so excited to share with you today's birthday surprise! Alejandro is a talented photographer but most importantly a devoted man of God. He proved to be worthy of my friend's affection and love, therefore, making him worthy of my admiration. Without further ado, here is his post... from the heart of God to Alejandro's heart, and now to yours.
[photo credit]

Good morning readers!

I wanted to first thank Raquel for allowing me to post my thoughts on her amazing blog. I got to meet her through my lovely fiance Jessica. Raquel is a true encouragement to those around her and I am glad to know such an awesome woman of God.  The ideas on this blog post are mine but some of the information was derived from a bible study I also attended called 'Men’s Fraternity'. It truly revolutionized my view on who I am and how to live as a man.

The real secret of meeting the man of your dreams: This post is to let you ladies in on a secret, the true secret to find the right man in your life; and that is no joke. Men may be upset that I am sharing this with you, but oh well. I will share with you not from a general standpoint but from personal experience.

In order to find this amazing man, you have travel back in time to understand where the good men could be found today. Since America began the Industrial revolution to move our society forward, it pulled men away from their homes for long and strenuous hours in factories, mines, and other types of industries which were very time consuming. In doing so, the boys were left at home with their mothers to raise them. There is nothing wrong with a boy being raised with mom, but until this point boys worked alongside their fathers and the values of being a man were instilled in them by the their fathers. 

Fast forward a few years to the First World War. Men were sent off to war, and experienced horrific things, only to return home jaded. They became closed off to their boys at home. They couldn't the terrible things they saw and more importantly kept an emotional distance from them. A few more years into the future, we are starting to bring equality to women. (Women stay with me here, I am all for the equal rights. But if you see how it truly turned out you will understand where I am going.) What happened in the long run wasn't just the right to vote, drive a car, and equal pay for equal jobs, but men felt that meant a woman was asking to be left to do things alone. It became “what you can do I can do better” and women were now left to raising kids and working multiple jobs to keep up. Men just closed out after so many years. 

The result, well you see it, men are acting like boys with facial hair: living with mom, standing in line for hours to get the latest video games, not committing to anything of importance, even worse, not standing for anything.  This is the sad state we are currently in and it is not that there isn't any good men in our churches, men are not present anywhere.  Ladies your pick in men has dwindled down to a kid’s pool and they are not the ones ready to lead you in your marriage. 

And here you started to read this blog post and thought that I would give you the magic bullet to find the perfect man.  Sorry, I didn't come through in the way you might have thought, but what I will do is give you four things to look for as FRUIT of a real man.

1.     A real man will lead courageously:  This doesn't mean he will boss everyone around implying he is right.  It means he will take guidance from those above him, respect everyone’s opinion, and lead his family or those around him with unconditional love, sacrificing his own desires for the good of those entrusted to him. Ephesians 5:25 

2.    A real man will accept responsibility:  Men have a tendency to excuse themselves quite often.  I struggle with this myself and realize it is because it is easier to explain why I did something instead of accepting responsibility for my decisions.  Men have to be willing to own up to their actions/decisions.  Not shifting blame by doing a matrix move out of the way.

3.    A real man rejects being passive:  He isn't indifferent about life or God and the things of God.  He is always the initiator and is never a spectator. Jesus is our example in that He wasn't a watching bystander; He got his hands dirty when the moment called for it. John 2:14-15 

4.    A real man expects the greater reward from God:  He is not looking for a quick fix satisfaction but delays the gratification with an eternal perspective.  Not acting out of the desire for the approval of those around him but only seeking the words from God, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21 

I would like to say that this is not easy for any man to accomplish on his own.  He needs to have a team of brothers alongside him, praying and fasting for one another. A man, who is a “loner”, is a weak man.  He cannot stand alone. He needs to have a healthy relationship with God and desire God on his own will, not yours. I know this is a lot to read, but trust me when I say they are men out there but you need to just “wait and see”. Jesus spoke of waiting to see the fruit from people who claim to be prophets:

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matt 7:16-20

Sometimes you just need to wait and see for those four indicators of a real man. This man will not be perfect because believe me, I am working at these and I fail, but knowing I have Jesus on my corner helps. The support of those who also are pursing God is a GREAT. I hope this encourages and gives you hope as God takes you on this journey.

May God’s peace cover your hearts and guide you to a new place in your journey with Him. God bless. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Birthday Surprise. It's Nicole. part 2

Welcome back to Nicki's hope story.
Part 1 (click here) was a great read, yet I tell, part 2 will be even better! May the Lord speak mightily to you!
[photo credit]
Here is a piece of God's hope story: 

She is eight years old. Her brown face contains a smile that can brighten the darkest of moments. Her big black eyes have potential to catch anyone’s attention, and keep it. She is timid at first glance but once she feels comfortable you have nothing more than a young girl full of joy and laughter and smiles dancing around your waist and holding onto your hand for dear life. She is smart, she is kind, and she is beautiful in every way. She has gone through much more difficult struggles in her short eight years than I have in my twenty-two. She is a daughter of the King. She does not know her earthly father, but she is learning to trust in her heavenly one. Her name is Alijati, she is from Kamonkoli, Uganda, and I am her sponsor.

The Lord has used this precious child to teach me lessons I never knew I needed to learn. Lessons on love that go beyond barriers that we put up around ourselves. Lessons on patience and trusting in our God in Heaven that promises to be our strength, our guide, and our help in times of trouble and need. But most importantly, a lesson on how important it is to be obedient to what the Lord is asking of you, in order to not miss out on the will He has for your life.

God had purposed for me and Jati to connect with each other, and because of this and the desire He placed in me to want to do something bigger than myself, her need and my ability intersected. I am able to provide food and education to a worthy child who would have not fully known these things otherwise. And it goes beyond that. In providing for her and being there for her, I am able to give her the opportunity to know Jesus and experience His love and hope in a tangible way; a way that she has never known because of the struggles she's dealt with.

I have my own dreams that start with love and the desire to glorify God, and end with wanting some precious brown faces in Uganda to know about their Father in Heaven who loves them and is intimately acquainted with them. Maybe your hope story isn't a needy child that you can provide for from across the world. Maybe it’s a stranger across the city or a sibling in the next room. My prayer is that our mighty God would strengthen and equip you to do what you may not even know He’s called you to do yet. Allow your ability and the need He places before you to intersect, so that He may be glorified. Open your eyes, open your heart, allow His love to flow through you and watch your hope story, which is really His, unfold right before you.

"We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our hope and our shield. 

In Him our hearts rejoice as we trust in His Holy name." Psalm 33:4 

photo of Nicki and Alijati, Uganda 2012

photo of Nicki and Alijati, Uganda 2012

Alijati is the beautiful girl wearing the white top. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birthday Surprise. It's Nicole! part 1

Hey Friends. I am so excited for you. Fun, enthusiastic, and sweet are just a few words to describe my friend Nicki. However, it's her contagious love for Jesus that draws others to her. I pray you may be blessed by today's post. Here is part one of a two part series Nicki has titled: Hope Story. 
[photo credit]
A Hope Story

Despite the fact that so much appears to be so very wrong with this world, all is very right with God's plan for it. Where I see a world full of hatred, selfishness and tragedy, He sees people in desperate need of His love. Where I see families that have been torn apart by wrong decisions, He sees His sons and daughters in desperate need of His grace. Where I see a needy village in the eastern side of Uganda helpless, desperate and both physically and spiritually hungry, He sees a people that are in need of the hope that can only be found in Him. 

I'll be completely transparent with you. Sometimes it’s quite difficult for me to grasp the concept of people not eating a single meal for the day before they lay their head down at night. (I'm grumpy if I even miss having my lunch.) Or, how some kids go to sleep next to goats and chickens because they've been ostracized by their own families due to some treatable illness they may have. The fact of the matter is, this is real and everyday life for so many around the world. These lives that precious in God's eyes, just as much as you are to Him. 

One evening in a time of prayer, I was really struggling with God. As always, He wins, but I love that He even allows me to talk to Him the way that I do sometimes. This evening in particular, I was having the classic case of the "but whys". But why this God and but why that was all that was spewing from my mouth and draining from my heart that night. It wasn't until I finally shut my mouth and left Him room to speak to me that He gracefully just answered me, and with a still quiet voice in my head, I heard, "You tell me why, Nicki. I'm asking you the same questions." 

I literally sat for a couple moments as I so graciously had just received a spiritual slap in the face. You see, just the week before I had returned from a missions trip to eastern Uganda where I witnessed so many of the real and everyday life stories of tragedy, abandonment, hunger... and the list goes on and on. I was battling so much with why these things are going on and how so many were just in desperate need of HOPE. They need a hope in knowing that God has not left them orphaned and widowed, but that they can trust in Him, who will protect them. The same hope in knowing that the God who created the universe, who flung the stars into the night and who knows them each by name, has a purpose and plan for their lives and will provide for their every need as they put their faith and trust in Him. 

So the question begged to be answered, "Why Nicki?" With so many problems in this world and the amount of solutions there are, why are these things still going on and what am I doing about it? 

I was reminded of the passage where God set a beautiful example of not blaming the victim or even the circumstance, but instead He shows that we are called to take action to help those in need of His hope, love, and healing, ultimately for His name to be glorified.

John 9:1-3 "As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him."

click here for part 2. I promise you, this story of hope will get a whole lot better!!!

picture taken by Nicki , Uganda 2012

photo taken by Nicki, Uganda 2012

photo taken by Nicki, Uganda 2012

photo taken by Nicki, Uganda 2012
photo taken by Nicki, Uganda 2012

Photo taken by Nicki, Uganda 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Birthday Surprise. It's Denise!

Hello there. Today's guest blogger is none other than my cousin Denise. She's no stranger to the Birthday Surprise tradition, and you can read her post "Trials and Adoration" here. Denise is one of the few people that I can trust and say is a woman of her word. May her story inspire and encourage you to choose contentment over bitterness.
[photo credit]

Bitterness and Contentment
It was 3:30 am again. I had to be up for work in a couple of hours and my head was throbbing, I was wide awake and I was losing all hope of falling asleep again. Laying there, staring into the darkness of my bedroom, thoughts began to swim through my head, and then, the tears came, burning my tired eyes. This was starting to become a daily thing. I couldn't stand it anymore. My life had been turned upside down and it felt like it had all happened overnight. Was this really happening? Was I still dreaming? Please God, let me fall back to sleep so I can wake up and this nightmare can be over.

Except it wasn't a nightmare, it was very real. I had lost my mother, and my father was marrying a much younger woman, even younger than I. Too many things were happening around me that I could not control. And every time I thought one trial had finished, another one immediately took its place. Everything was spinning out of control and I couldn't make it stop. The truth was, I couldn't stop it, not any of it. This was my new life and I was going to have to live with it, or stay miserable, stressed out, broken and wounded. The good news is that there was a way out and I knew it. I realized that the one who saved me, the one who had been there for me through everything, was still there. My God, who loved me dearly, was waiting with His arms wide open. He would be my comfort, my strength, my sanity.

Everything happened so fast, I should have been grieving but instead I was dealing with things beyond my control. There were times when my emotions took hold of me and I could barely breathe. I realized that if I let my emotions continue to control me, I wouldn't be able to breathe again.

More than any other emotions, what took over me the most was bitterness and anger. I think what shocked me was how quickly it all had happened. I didn't understand why or how it was happening, I just wanted someone to make it stop. However, deep down, I knew that all of this would be used for God’s glory. 

I felt like I couldn't trust anyone else on this earth. My real father was my God. He loved me more than anything. Isaiah 43:1-4, became my passage during this time.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.” ~Isaiah 43:1-4

I have a God who loves me and I couldn’t be more content in that thought. He loves me dearly. He can get me through anything. He was more real to me than He ever had been. He did not want me to be bitter and resentful. By holding onto my emotions and feeling bitter towards those around me, I was only hurting myself. No one else was losing sleep over this except me. But most of all it was hurting my testimony. How could I show the love of Christ and be an example to others if all they saw in me was sadness and anger. This is not the way God wants me to feel. It wasn’t easy but by staying in the word of God and keeping an open relationship with Him, everything became better. He spoke to me and comforted me tremendously. I was His daughter, His princess.  I was able to sleep at night and my bitterness slowly melted away. I was able to face things I never thought I would be able to face before and I was able to come home at night and actually enjoy being there. My situation did not change but my attitude toward it did.

We need to be content in all our circumstances. They are there to mold us and make us stronger. I heard a pastor use this analogy this week, he mentioned that when he was a child, his mother would bake and she would have all the ingredients laid out on the counter. He proceeded to try each one, the sugar, the oil, the flour, etc. He said he remembers trying each ingredient one by one. Individually, they tasted horrible, they were not appetizing at all. But when his mother put the ingredients together and baked them, they were delicious. When we look at each of our circumstances individually, they seem horrible, they are not good, but when you look at your life as a whole, these are the things that have made you who you are today, they have made something good.

In the end, I learned that I need to praise God no matter what, whether I am up or down. He loves me and knows what is best for me, even if I don’t understand it. He suffered for me, more than anything I will ever go through on this earth. If there is a situation that you are in that you feel you can’t control, surrender it to God, let Him handle it. If there is a person that you need to forgive, pray for them. You will be surprised at how much your attitude and heart changes toward a person when you are asking for God to work in them. Most of all, never stop worshiping Jesus. He loves you.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” ~ Colossians 3:12-15

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