Thursday, November 13, 2014

Everything You Have: Be Brave

Everyone once in awhile while I read a book a find myself nodding yes to every story, every sentence. I find myself underlining and adding my conversations in the margins.  The author becomes a very real person who is for me and whom I would much prefer to sit next to at a coffee shop. A book that I want to shout about and at times throw across the room. Lets All Be Brave by Annie Downs is that kind of book.

The whole book was fantastic, but the chapter that impacted me the most, and made me want to throw the book across the room, was Everything You Have.

If you know me at all, you know that I am single. If you know me a little more, you know that I absolutely want to get married and have a family. And if you really know me you know that I have really only been single.

In this chapter Annie write about her singleness. About how it is something that she never wanted to talk about, much less write about, yet, God was pushing her to, and I am so thankful she listened.

The world, (and internet!), is full of stories of singleness. However, most of these stories are either superhappy or supermad. Both of those stories annoy me. Then there are the stories that while they are good, come from people who are no longer single who have found their "happily ever after." That's not Annie. Annie is raw and in the midst of her singleness. She is choosing to be real and to be brave, and that is what this world needs to hear.

She says, "It's not just about being alone at the dinner table or in the bed; its about unanswered prayers and how to face a God who can do something about those unanswered prayers but doesn't."

I could have written those same words.    

Since I was little, while being a complete tomboy, I dreamed of my wedding. I prayed for my future husband and wrote him letters in crayon after seeing that Jessica Simpson did that (ridiculous, I know). I included him in journal entries that involved my dreams and hopes for the future. As I grew I continued praying for him and also praying that God would continue preparing me to be a wife and a mother.

Now, all those years later, those prayers remain unanswered.

Yet, my hope remains the same.

My hope remains in God alone. I am able to hope in the one who knows what He is doing.

Annie says, (and I echo)
You are going to survive this, friend.
God has not forgotten you.
Your life and your desires are important to God 

Sometimes thing are going well and it's easy, yet so many times it is far from easy. What do you do when you have to make major life decisions alone? What about when everyone around you is getting married and having kids and you feel left behind? When your life begins to look like a real life version of 27 Dresses. What do you do when you feel like you can't take that opportunity because it may cause you to miss out on the one who just might be around the corner?

I have found myself in all of these situation, and have cried many tears at unexpected times.

When I  was thinking about going back to China these fears were very real in my mind. In my thoughts committing to go back to China meant I would be putting off potential marriage for at least another year. That somehow moving to China directly related with the possibility of marriage and I couldn't see how the two could possibly happen simultaneously. I believed the lies that I was in this by myself, that moving on with my life would mean the things I so desperately wanted to happen never would.     

As Annie says, "That became my biggest fear - waiting for a marriage I'm not guaranteed, keeping me from doing the good things that bring glory to God right now." 

I don't want to stay stagnant. When things are stagnant it doesn't stay the same, it rots, it deteriorates. 

Staying stagnant doesn't bring God glory.

Knowing that God is always with me means I don't have to be afraid. I don't have to be afraid of being alone or the unknown that may or may not happen. I am able to have hope and walk forward in the hope so that I can do His work and from Him glory. I have faith that God hears my prayers and He knows my desires.

Knowing God means I can be brave in every season of life, no matter what circumstances surround me
And I continue to walk forward.   

Right now I am walking forward towards time in China

In the future I hope walking forward means marriage and children

No matter what I am able to walk forward because I know the one who is always walking with me, and He will never fail me and will always love me   

This is my "rewriting" of this chapter. Do yourself a favor and read the book yourself!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thankfulness 11.12.14

123. the act of stirring risotto that forces me to slow down

124. collaborating with friends on fun new ideas

125. red cups 

126. veterans day and the freedom that was fought for

127. My dad, grandpa, and pop pop and all others who were part of that sacrifice

128. Harry Potter references

129. the unmistakable smell of yeast

130. how excited 4 year old get when you tell them you'll read 3 stories instead or 2 at bedtime

131. ice cream in the living room

132. sunsets

133. sunrises

134. secretly awesome people, and the ability to be secretly awesome

135. recipes sent over twitter

136. She Reads Truth walking through what hospitality really means and resetting my mindset from the way of the world

137. hymns and the years of meaning they contain

138. the words of the creed that bind us together

139. encouragement that comes in the most unexpected ways at the most unexpected times

140. pumpkin spice candles

141. the last beautifully warm days of Autumn

142. snow in the forecast

143, planning wedding roadtrips

144. books that are read in a day (eight twenty eight, you should read it!)

145. walking into the classroom and being told it'll be a super easy day

146. dinner with friends, no matter how short they are

147. struggling with feeling like a human contradiction, but realizing Paul was too

give thanks with your whole heart

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thankfulness: 11.4.14

104. apples being an excuse to eat massive amounts of caramel dip 

105. the ability to vote

106. pumpkin spice coffee creamer

107. falling leaves

108. subbing at an elementary school on Halloween

109. friends like Beth that are so worth celebrating

110. sitting in 30 degree misty/flurry weather during trick-or-treating made so worth it by the adorable kiddos that came

111. carving pumpkins 

112. sunsets that could only be painted by God

113. orphan Sunday and the heart He has given me for the orphans of the world

114. the faces I've seen, the hands that I've held, and the children who are forever ingrained in my heart 

115. friends who know its you without saying a word

116. talks with people who share my heart for missions

117. pumpkin pie chai

118. digging deeper into hospitality and how it can always be a part of my life

119. people who advocate me and remind me that I am on the right track

120. having much to write thank you cards for

121. unexpected warm days

122. warm apple juice to sooth sore throats

What are YOU thankful for? What would happen if you took time to be thankful for the little things?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Orphan Sunday: Two Girls

*This was written shortly before I went to China for the first time in 2009. As I am currently preparing to return to China to serve at a foster home the story of these girls and their impact in my life rings even truer. 

One of the hardest parts of being a Christian can be having faith. The idea of having faith in something that we can’t see can be hard to understand, and even harder to grasp. One of my friends at college shared her favorite quote with me on many occasions, Faith is not knowing that God can, but that God will. - Norm Patton.  Throughout the Bible we see examples of how important faith really is.

Imagine being a shunned by society, never being able to go out on your own, if at all, but, you know that if you close enough to touch this man they call Jesus you will be healed, and finally after so many years be able to live a normal life. Or you are a prominent man whose daughter is very sick. The only thing you know to do is find Jesus, for He can heal your daughter.

These who people come from completely different backgrounds, completely different lives. The one thing they have in common is their faith. Jesus says to the women, “daughter, your faith has healed you” and to the father “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” They both believed not that God can….they knew that God would heal, they had faith when those around them lacked.

Having faith often happens when you have no idea what the end result will be. The story of the little girl who everyone thought was dead in the Gospel leads me to introduce you to two little girls who have played a vital role in keeping my faith strong, and even testing my faith. These two girls started their lives very much the same, but I came to know them in very different ways. These two little girls were placed in orphanages on opposite sides of the world, which began their journeys toward me.

My journey toward the first of these girls began in high school when I desperately wanted to go on a mission trip. Opportunities came up, but just as quickly passed as I had to have faith that God was planning the perfect trip for me to be a part of. Finally my chance came, and I was ready to head to Leon Mexico, not fully knowing what to expect, but I had complete faith that God was planning awesome things, and was ready to use me and the rest of the team.

That was when the first little girl came into my life. Her name is Luz, and there is still not a day that goes by that I do not think of her. She captured my heart, and even though I didn't know it at the time, she worked her way into my life, opening my eyes to the world around me, and planting the idea of mission work deep inside of me. When I returned home, I knew my life had changed forever, but only God knew where it would go from there.

Shortly after I returned I babysat for dear friends of mine. I had prayed for their sweet little girl for months and was beyond excited that she was finally in her forever home and thriving. As I held and played with this little girl, who had been adopted from China, my thoughts drifted back to a few weeks before, when I was doing the same things with my little girl from Mexico, and how much they reminded me of each other. That day I had no idea how much their impact on my life would be intertwined.

Before Kristen was adopted I really didn't give much thought to China, other than it would be pretty cool to get a chance to visit there someday. After praying for her, and then meeting her I knew that had changed. She captured my heart as quickly as Luz did, and I began to hear a small, still voice. God had placed China in my heart, counting on me to have faith to follow His lead. My thoughts quickly gravitated towards giving another child a chance, by adopting a child from China in the future. Little did I know that God was already planning to use me in much bigger ways, and was slowly preparing my heart for this life changing experience.

Nothing is possible without faith. In Matthew Jesus tells us, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” We are not called to have all of the faith in the world; our faith just has to be the size of a mustard seed. God can, and will work through any situation he has to when we have faith that He will. By taking just one small step of Faith, God takes as many steps necessary to see His will completed for those who believe.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thankfulness 10.28.14

87. Handwritten letters in the mail! In an age of the internet and typed words I treasure my friends who take the time to write with pen and paper all the more

88. heavy duty cough syrup 

89. the community and encouragement found in #fireworkpeople

89. fall leaves all around

90. pumpkin patches and apple picking with the cutest nephew ever

91. unseasonably warm October Mondays

92. sweater weather and giving away the ones I never really wore anyways

93. the clarity that only comes with prayer, journaling, and the word

94. finding the perfect print for a friend

95. knowing the no matter what happens, God is still faithful

96. coconut creamer that you can only find in the large sizes

97. fleeces and flannels 

98. painting the porch and the uninterrupted time it gives me to think 

99. coffee in the morning and tea in the evening

100. hugs from little people who you just met

101. joy that is always found in the middle of frustration and disappointment

102. unexpected messages full of words that hit my heart in just the right place

103. knowing that I have an amazing group of supporters behind me every step of the way

Come back next week for a special November thankfulness link up and giveaway!!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Two Hands

"Just marvel at the good two hands can bring the world." -Hannah Brencher

Two hands. We all (well the vast majority of us) have two hands. Just two hands. I don't know how many times two hand have seemed so ineffective for the task at hands. Moms want more hands to do chores and care for their children. Teachers want more than two hands to grade papers and write lessons plans. Students want more than two hands to do homework and take notes. Yet, no matter what you do, you are still left with just two hands.

That leads to the question of what you are going to do with those two hands. How are YOU going to choose to use them?

We are limited by our two hands. We can only carry in so many groceries from the car (even though I'll always try to carry more!) We can usually only do one task, be it writing or cooking, at the same time. And on top of that we only have on dominate hand, making it more difficult to so many tasks (fingernail paining I'm looking at you!)

It's so easy to be focused on the limitations that are placed on us. The limitations that make life harder or more inconvenient.

But what can you do with just two hands?

You can hold an orphaned child and rock them to sleep
You can make a pot of soup for the mother who struggles to feed her children
You can write a letter of encouragement to a friend
You can share your story with the world
You can cook dinner for your family
You can study the Bible
You can paint a homeless shelter or help build a habitat house
You can read to your little brother or sister
You can hug your mother or father
You can plant flowers to make others smile

With just two hands you can make a difference.

Yes, two hands are a limitation, but they are a beautiful limitation, because they allow us to focus on the task at hand.

Two by Two two hands can change the world

How will you use your two hands? Let me know in the comments!

#fireworkpeople is a beautiful community of people who are using their two hands to change the world! we would LOVE to have you join us!

Monday, October 13, 2014

I need Jesus

Everyday I need this reminder
I don't need to understand
I don't need to have more followers, more friends
I don't need more success
I don't need my own house
I don't need relationships
I don't need to be perfect

All I ever need is JESUS

print by Lara Casey Shop

Monday, September 29, 2014

Support Raising Isn't for Wimps

Right now I am deep in the world of support raising. It's a world I've entered before, and now more than ever I'm learning that it isn't for wimps.

  • Support raising requires asking people to come alongside you and believe in your vision
  • Support raising is putting yourself on the line
  • Support raising is setting yourself up for possible rejection
  • Support raising is entering the land of the unknown
  • Support raising is going against the worlds idea of success
  • Support raising can be seen as selling yourself

Yet, I've learned support raising really is a huge honor

You are able to continue a long line of people of God who were supported by others to do His work. In the Old Testament the Levites were set apart to do the Lords work, and God provided for them through the tithes and offerings of the Israelites.  God promises that He is their portion and inheritance and that they could trust in Him to provide all the needed (Numbers 18:20). Throughout the Bible there are countless examples of how people set apart for Gods work were supported by Gods people.

"If it were wrong to be supported by the personal gifts of others, Jesus Christ would not have allowed it in His own ministry. If Jesus became vulnerable enough to be supported by others, you and I must be willing to as well." -Scott Morton (via The God Ask

Jesus, our ultimate example shows us that is it perfectly ok to be supported by others, and if we are not ok with this, are we really following His example?

Having a support team is a huge blessing. You have a group of people who are behind you and are invested in the work that you are doing. These are people who will pray for you and celebrate each victory. By choosing to support raise you are choosing to allow people a chance to partner in Gods work throughout the world. You are allowing people to be a part of the Great Commission by sending you, which is just as important as the going, as one couldn't happen without the other.

Support raising requires faith, it requires confidence. If you approach support raising questioning if you'll raise the money, you never will. But, if you have faith that you will be fully funded, you will. "We never utter the weak phrase, 'If I raise my support,' but only the strong and faith-filled, 'when I raise it.' (The God Ask. The weak and wimpy say if, the strong and faith-filled say when. And that is why support raising isn't for wimps!

I have taken the leap and am full of faith that God will provide the supporters I need to serve Him in China. I have chosen to believe in Gods perfect plan and not to listen to the lies the world tries to tell me. I feel privileged to be set apart for this call and look forward to the huge responsibility God has given me to steward His resources well.

Do you believe this?

Do you believe God wants to use you as part of His plan to reach the nations?

Would you join me by becoming part of my support team

*If you want to know more about Biblical Support raising I can't recommend The God Ask by Steve Shadrach enough!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Influence Meet Up!

I am so excited that it's Influence week! This weekend was so refreshing for me last year and I know this year won't disappoint!

First, I have to share God's goodness, because it's all because of Him I get to go again! Because I am in support raising mode I'm focused on spending as little money as possible, so the ticket to Influence seemed to be completely out of reach. Yet, there was so much of me that really really wanted to go. As I was praying about it I told God that He would need to make it possible if He wanted me to go, and I left it at that. The next week I was scheduled to sub for the whole week (pretty much unheard of for the beginning of school!) which would more than pay for the ticket! So, God is good and I know He has something awesome in store for me this weekend!

A little about me: 
I'm 27, single, and living with my parents (it's not as bad as it sounds!) I'm super passionate about orphan awareness and love China, which is why I am preparing to go serve at a foster home in China starting this fall! So, I'm busily support raising and preparing for that! I love reading, cooking, the great outdoors, and really love long conversations over coffee! I'm a major introvert who is constantly amazed by the community of God! I may freeze in huge groups, but thrive in small group conversation.

What I'm excited about:
First, Lara Casey! Her talk really convicted me last year and has impacted this past year in huge ways! She has so much wisdom and grace and I can't wait to soak it up again! Also, last year I didn't know a single soul who would be attending! (crazy for a mega introvert!) I'm so excited to be attending with some great friends this year and to meet new ones!

What I can't leave home without:
Journal and pens are huge! And not just any pens will do! Pilot precise v5 if I'm feeling black or lePens if I want a little color in my life! Also, chapstick, a water bottle, and boldness!

Excited to see you there!!!

Monday, September 1, 2014

DIY Passport pictures

Passport pictures are so expensive! 6-10 dollars for 6 little 2x2 pictures, no thank you! I recently had to renew my passport and obviously didn't want to pay so much for my pictures, so I came up with a simple solution. (and you have so much more control over which picture is used!)

1. Take your picture. Make sure it is in a well lit area and in front of a white background. I used a pull down blind in my living room with the rest of the windows wide open. 

2. Edit your picture using the editing software of your choice, I use lightroom. Do not crop!

3. Load your picture onto the convenient website the government has provided for us

4. Click on start photo tool and crop your photo to the required settings. Save cropped photo

5. Open cropped photo in paint (or similar program)

6. Add approximately 1/3 white space at the bottom of the picture, save

7. Load newly cropped picture with white space to a photo printer of your choice (I used Walgreens)

8. Choose wallet sized photos (2x3)

9. Print your photos, trim the white space, and you are left with 2x2 passport pictures for a fraction of the cost!

Friday, August 29, 2014

I'm going back to China!!!!

Over the past several years I have had amazing opportunities to serve God throughout the world. God has led me on so many adventures both internationally and domestically and has really ignited several passions in my heart. As many of you know, once I set foot in China I immediately fell in love with it, and my heart was continually captured through my experiences there.  While teaching and serving at orphanages in Mexico, South Africa, Swaziland, and China I fell in love with the children and found it to be such a privilege to care for those the world has forgotten.

Those experiences and passions have led me to my next journey, serving at New Day Foster Home outside of Beijing, China. New Day truly serves the least of these. Their core mission is to provide life-saving surgeries and a loving home to orphans with special needs. They believe that every child deserves a healthy start and to know the love of family. I am so excited to partner with them to continue to make this a reality for the children they provide a home for.

While at New Day I will specifically be partnering with the preschool program. At the age of 2 all of the children who are medically able attend a bilingual preschool during the week. Using my special education background I will be able to add new dimensions and try new things as well as working with the children one on one performing evaluations and providing extra support and instruction. This makes me so excited as it really encompasses so many of my passions!

I hope to leave by the end of October. In order for this to happen I will need to raise start up and monthly support and obtain a visa from China. Your prayers in these endeavors are so appreciated!

As things progress I will be posting more ways that you can be involved, but the first way is through t shirt! I will be selling shirts to help with my start up and visa costs. 

Click here to place an order!