What’s in Your Hand?

Something that I have been struggling with is understanding my purpose and my calling, as well as how to use the gifts that I have been given to further the kingdom of God. Lately, Matthew 25:23 and 29 have been on my mind and heart a lot. It has also been brought up a few times recently through other people. In the parable of the talents, the master gives his servants each a specific amount of money. It was not necessarily a large sum. He had asked them to take care of his money for him while he was gone.  The first two servants took the money they were given and they invested it, so that when their master returned, they had an even larger sum to give back to him. The third servant simply took his amount and buried it in a field because he was afraid of how his master would react if he did anything else with it. The master was far more pleased with the first two than the third. To them he said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibities. Let’s celebrate together!” (Matthew 25:23 NLT) Later on, in verse 29, he says, “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”

Growing up, I really had a hard time with sermons about talents and gifts. I never felt good at anything. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Talking about using your gifts for the kingdom really stressed me out and made me feel awful about myself because, in my mind, I had nothing to offer. I felt useless.

At this point, I have a fairly strong grasp on my giftings and strengths. Yet, even now, I struggle with this. When people find out that I go to a leadership college/ministry school, usually their first question is, “What area of ministry do you feel called to?” To be honest, I’m not completely sure. I watch everyone around me and all of them are here for a specific area of ministry, whether it’s pastoral, children’s or youth ministry, worship… They all know their calling. I don’t feel called to preach, I can’t sing, and I’m not the best with kids. I never had that “summer camp” moment where I had a specific calling placed on my life. Here is what I have learned though, sometimes our callings aren’t huge. They don’t have to look like everyone else’s. Our gifts can be the same way.  My gifts are often small scale and more “behind the scenes.” Just because I don’t speak or sing doesn’t mean that I can’t use the gifts God has given to me for His kingdom. My spiritual gifts are Discernment (“The divine strength to clearly recognize and distinguish between the spiritual influences and motivations at work in a situation.”), Exhortation (“The divine strength or ability to encourage others through the written or spoken word and biblical truth.”), Shepherd (“The divine strength or ability to care for the personal needs of others by nurturing and mending life issues.”), Prophecy (“The divine strength or ability to boldly speak and bring clarity to Scriptural and doctrinal truth, in some cases Fortelling God’s plan.”), and Mercy (“The divine strength or ability to feel empathy and to care for those who are hurting in anyway.”)* All of these gifts are ones that I operate in on a daily basis. Some more than others, and sometimes, I’m not even aware of when it is happening. For instance, I use Exhortation a lot more than I realize. I know this because I often have people tell me that God used me to speak to them and encourage them. Most of the time, I don’t even know what they are referring to. I do know that gifts combined with the power of the Holy Spirit are so much more powerful. Not to mention the fact that when gifts are used in the Holy Spirit, then He will work through the Holy Spirit. So then, it is not through us, but through the power of the Spirit. 

My gifts ARE important and God IS using them. When I get discouraged and start feeling like I don’t have enough to give, God reminds me that I have to be faithful with a little so that He can put me over much. Not only that, but my reward is also far greater. Sometimes I feel like what I do isn’t enough but my gifts are used to invest into people individually. I think that this is an area that is not often reached. At times, it can mean far more to have someone encourage and invest in you, to hold you accountable and to help you grow in your faith. I know that I appreciate it when I receive it from others. What a blessing it is to be that person for people! I am thankful that God is helping me to realize my gifts and talents and to be appreciative of them as I learn how to use them to further His kingdom. He has given me glimpses of how my gifts have been used and reminded me that I am valuable. It is now my job to be faithful with what He has chosen to give me.

What has God given you? How are you being faithful with it, in order to multiply it? 

*To help you find out what your giftings are, take the spiritual gifts assessment

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Wait.

I debated on sharing this publicly or not, but I know a lot of you have been praying with me so I’d like to let you know what God has done. This is not to brag, but on God.

So, at the beginning of the month I was dealing with a lot of doubt on whether I was really supposed to be at James River College or not because my financial situation was impossible. I was supposed to pay over $1,000 for 4 months. There was a small mistake with some of my scholarships that benefited me, but it still wasn’t enough. I prayed a lot over the situation and what to do. I could have gone to live back at home, but I don’t have a car at the moment. So, either way I moved I would be paying for either housing and meals or I would have to buy a car. During this time I was praying I felt a peace on my heart with continuing to live on campus. At the same time, God would whisper one word to my heart in my times of prayer: Wait. I knew it meant to wait to register but I’m the kind of person who does everything as soon as I can to get it done as efficiently as possible. Telling me to wait until last minute to do something is going to do nothing but make me very stressed. I suppose it was His way of making sure I gave Him control. So, I waited. Well, I stressed while I waited mostly. And, I’m not going to lie, I did take things back into my own hands a few times.

Fast forward to only 6 days before my registration payment is due…

First of all, payday came a whole week earlier than I thought it was supposed to, so I was very excited to be able to finally register. I had recently gotten the amount down to something much more manageable. I logged on to register and the numbers looked all weird. It said that I had a prior semester balance of -$1,000. I triple checked everything because I didn’t understand why that would be the case. I continued to register and went all the way through without paying anything at all. I finally found out that someone anonymously paid $1,000 on my bill. I didn’t even know how to react. I’m pretty sure I was in shock. That was a HUGE unexpected blessing. The Lord truly does go abundantly beyond all that we could ask or imagine.

And My God Will Supply All Your Needs


Guys. I just finished paying off my first semester of college. (Not including student loans of course, but that is not to be worried about now.) I am in awe, because this is something I never expected to be doing, much less, able to afford. I shouldn’t be able to afford it, but God made a way where there was no way. (Do It Again by Elevation Worship… go listen to it.)

I’m not going to lie, this has been a season of doubt on my part. I’m not proud of it. Doubt is something I’ve never struggled with before, but I suppose there’s never been a real reason for me to doubt.

I never planned on going to college, so I didn’t have much money saved for school. There was only 3 months between the time I applied and the time I got accepted, not nearly enough time to save. I had planned on attending the Fall 2016 semester, but I was walking in blindly, refusing to look at the cost. It wasn’t until a few days before classes that I really looked at the big picture and realized that there was no way I could afford to go. I had missed the deadline for Fall scholarships so I would have had to pay more than I make in a year, out of pocket, to be able to attend that semester. Not only that, but I was also taking a huge trip out of the country that September and I was still paying on that. So, I made the decision to wait. It’s not the choice I wanted to make, but I really didn’t have a choice. Looking back, it was much better that I waited. It freed me up to take my trip and not worry about school work. I could have my whole 16/17 loan applied to one semester. I could apply for scholarships. It also gave me time to save more. (Word of advice: Listen to your momma.) Sometimes God puts something in our hearts, but it’s not for now. It’s a hard thing to grasp in the moment, but trust me, waiting on His timing is worth it.

I knew that if God truly called me to JRLC that He would provide. But towards the end of the summer, I started doubting this calling. I started fearing that it was just something that I wanted, rather than something He called me to. I still owed quite a bit, more than I wanted to. I had also made the decision to stay in summer housing, which cost me an additional $600. I originally planned on going home for the summer to save the extra money, but I really didn’t want to. By the time I asked to stay in summer housing it was past the deadline. They said they would consider it. I prayed that if I was supposed to stay that there would be a reason for it, and I understood that if they said no, there was a reason for me to go home. They said yes. In the beginning few weeks it was really hard and I doubted my decision to stay a lot. I couldn’t understand why the answer was yes if there was going to be so much conflict and hurt that came with it. But now I know what the reason for staying was, and I’m so glad I did. A friend needed me to be available for her in a way that I could not have been if I had gone home.

I still began to doubt whether I should continue school though. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was working 30+ hours a week, sometimes hitting overtime, as well as babysitting. I’ve learned how to live on $20 a week, sometimes two. I was making payments, paying bills, and tithing. I was getting by, but when I calculated everything out, I wouldn’t be able to pay off last semester in time to register for the next semester.

Here’s the thing though… I was trying to figure out how I could afford it. I stopped trusting that God would provide supernaturally. Because I have to pay for my schooling on my own, I took full responsibility for it. I’ve heard tons of stories of people getting random payments made on their bills, but I never imagined that would happen for me, because it never has. I had stopped walking in faith and had started walking in sight. I wasn’t seeing anything. But God. God still moved.

A few weeks ago, during an altar call at church, I felt like God spoke to my heart. He told me to let go and to give everything back to Him. Later the same day, a friend text me completely out of the blue to tell me to stop worrying and to stop trying to take control of my life and to give it back to God. She reminded me that God has a plan for my life and that I needed to stop questioning it. That was honestly a breaking point for me.

Today I paid off my bill.

I want to recognize God’s hand in this and point out the little things that happened to bring it all together.

  • Last semester I was able to get a meal plan scholarship by working in the kitchen.
  • Food has always been provided. I haven’t gone grocery shopping in over a month. I eat free at work, and on the days I don’t work, someone has bought me food.
  • I worked hard over the summer, making faithful payments and continuing to tithe. (Always tithe. Always.)
  • I was given more birthday money than I expected. (You know you’re an adult when your birthday money goes straight into paying tuition…)
  • Someone paid some money on my tuition anonymously. (WHAT!? P.S. If you are reading this, THANK YOU! That made me cry.)
  • I was given a raise at work.
  • I got a second job that I can work after school hours.
  • I got almost all the scholarships I applied for for this semester and next.
  • Not to mention other random things that happened along the way.

I still don’t know how this next semester will work out, but God made it pretty clear that He still wants me here, so here I am. If this wasn’t a lesson in God’s faithfulness and provision, I don’t know what is.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S.


I’m going to be pretty vulnerable in this post. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, but I never really felt like actually doing it. I wasn’t ready to be publicly vulnerable. One of the biggest things I struggle with in life is friendships and having healthy relationships. I’m about to explain why. 

Growing up, I had pretty good friends. Early on, my two closest friends (not including my brother who was actually my closest friend) were my two girl cousins, Kaitlyn and Samantha. Seperately, I was close to both of them and got along really good with them. Kaitlyn is older, so I felt like I could have “big girl” conversations with her.  She was cool to be around. I really admired and looked up to her. Samantha was younger, the same age as my brother. She was fun to play with and I didn’t get to see her quite as often, so I looked forward to the times I got to see her. However, when it was the three of us together, things always went very differently. Kaitlyn and Samantha had a lot more in common, because they both went to public school and I was homeschooled and couldn’t relate to the things they were talking about. I was often not included in their conversations and left out. I would get angry and throw a fit. This happened more times than I care to admit. I just didn’t fit in, but it hurt because when I was alone with one of them, things were different. 

I never felt like I fit in anywhere. I was always the weird, quiet homeschooler. The only time I was able to make friends was if there was a mutual interest in horses. Even then, I had a hard time making friends. I wasn’t outgoing at all, so starting a conversation with a random person was way too far outside of my comfort zone. I only really talked to people if they approached me first. I didn’t like to talk, and when I did, it was very, very surface. I didn’t let anyone into my world. I hardly even let my family in. Horses were the only thing that got me talking. 

I did have two best friends in elementary, Tori and Kimmie. We went to church together and did everything together. We were close and had sleepovers and stuff, typical girl stuff. We were friends for probably about 4 years. They both started attending different churches and we just kind of drifted apart. It just sort of happened, it was natural. I didn’t really think anything of it.

The longest running, and closest friends I’ve ever had were the daughters of my mom’s best friend. Tricia and Kylie. My brother and I were incredibly close to them for most of our childhood. We spent nearly every day together for several years. They have seen sides of me that even my close friends now haven’t seen. I was never that comfortable around anyone else. After Tricia left for college is when relationships started going downhill for me. I was really upset when she left. I felt like she had betrayed me. I knew things weren’t going to be the same again. 

I was 15 and upset, desperately searching for a new friend. A new best friend. There was a girl in the choir at church that could tell that I needed a friend, so she became my friend. She was ten years older than me and married. This relationship became a huge turning point in my life, and a mile marker in my mind. For a while things were going good. I really looked up to her. But then I took things too far. I texted her every moment of every day, even when I knew she was at work. I went to see her at work a few times. I got more upset than I should have if she didn’t come to church or choir rehearsal. I posted statuses about her daily. I was legitimately obsessed with her.  I idolized her. I didn’t see it at the time though. I made up excuses, like that she was mentoring me and drawing me closer to Christ. But I wasn’t focused on Christ. Then one day she told me that she couldn’t be friends with me anymore. I was an absolute wreck. For the longest time, I was angry at her, not having any idea what I had done. I held onto my pain and hurt for a very long time. It wasn’t until a few years later that I started to see what I had actually done.  I realized that not only did I have to forgive her, but I had to forgive myself. But after that, I was terrified to have friends. I had messed up big time and told myself that I was incapable of having friends. I clearly couldn’t control myself. I didn’t want to hurt anyone again. I didn’t trust myself, and I didn’t deserve to be trusted.

Then Brooke came along shortly after. I was more cautious, but still not enough. I had gotten myself stuck in this endless cycle. I was so terrified of people leaving than I would cling tighter, which would turn into obsessiveness once again, which would in turn push people away.  I didn’t know how to get out of this cycle. I was tired of hurting people, and of people leaving. Brooke had a lot more patience with me than I deserved. She continued to stand by me and encourage me. 7 years later and we are still friends. We don’t talk often, and she’s now married and about to have her first child, but I know that she’ll always be there and that I can call her if I ever need anything. 

Next came Liz. Our relationship was different because we actually hated each other a few years before we became friends. We were really close for several years, but without going into details, we got in a fight because I confronted her about something and that was basically the end of our relationship. We’ve talked since then, and I’ve forgiven her, but we don’t really talk or have a relationship anymore. From this, I dealt with some hurt.  I had considered her my best friend, and all of a sudden she was gone. I vowed to never have a best friend again. Clearly, it wasn’t for me, because it always ended up in hurt, either for them, or for me. However, I didn’t even let myself have friends in general. Sure, I had a few “friends” but they weren’t deep relationships, they were just people that I saw that I liked. None of them invited me to do things, or came to my birthday, or text me, they just were people that I hung out with occasionally. I didn’t even try to invest into them because I didn’t want to go any deeper. 

It wasn’t until two years later, when Ashton told someone that I was her best friend, that I even considered doing the friend thing again. Even then, I waited a whole day before telling her that I considered her my best friend as well. I wanted to be sure that I was ready to try again. I had hoped that I had learned whatever lessons I needed to learn. There’s been moments where I have fallen back into old habits, and we’ve hit some speed bumps along the way. We’re currently on a break, a mutual decision after some frustrations on both ends, but we are still friends.

Now, I have three of the best friends I’ve ever had.  They’ve taught me what a true friend is like. They are encouraging, supportive, loving. They push me, but in good ways. It wasn’t until I stepped back from my relationship with Ashton that I realized what God has placed directly in front of me. I had been praying for godly friends, to teach me how to have a healthy friendship, but I hadn’t realized that they were already in my life. Having more than one best friend has helped with the issue of obsessiveness. I feel like I’m finally at a good place in this sense.

Some things I have learned regarding friendships:

  • Never, ever put anyone on a pedestal.
  • If they aren’t drawing you closer to God, limit your relationship. If they are drawing you away from God, consider cutting ties.
  • Evaluate your expectations. For me, I have a tendency to go far above and beyond people’s expectations for me, which is fine, but then I get frusterated when people don’t “give back” to me. They do give back to me, just not as much as I give to them. I cannot hold my expectations of them to the same standard that I hold myself.
  • On the other hand, relationships are not one way.  If you are the only one giving, then chances are that they don’t truly care enough to invest back into you. That being said, there are times where one person may be in a tough season and may need you to give more than they can give back. This is okay as long as it’s not this way all the time. They should be there for you as well.
  • Be cautious of manipulative and emotionally abusive relationships. They sneak up on you.   
  • Guard your heart. Jesus comes first. Always. Every time. 
  • It’s okay to have more than one “best friend.” In fact, be cautious with the term “best friend”, it makes it a lot easier to put someone on a pedestal.
  • Whether you feel like it or not, you deserve to be treated right. Your friends should treat you right. Don’t let them walk all over you.
  • Friends are for a season. I’m not going to lie, I hate hearing this. But it’s true. This is one of the toughest lessons I’ve had to learn. I want nothing more than to have a lifelong best friend, but I may not ever have that. But I am thankful for each person that I mentioned in this post because I learned different lessons from each of them, and they were the right person for the season I was in. You have to trust that God knows what He is doing, because He does. 

Here are two other articles that I found helpful regarding friendships. I highly recommend reading them. 

More Than BFFs – When Friendship Goes Too Far  

7 Characteristics of a Good Friend

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I’m gonna be real honest right now. I’m struggling. I don’t even really know what I plan to write… I just need to. Writing is how I work through things. It’s how I think best. I have a journal, and a prayer journal, but I felt the need to write here instead. 

I feel like a big storm cloud that is brewing but it’s not the right time to let it all loose yet. This season of life has me confused, and I don’t like to feel confused. I like to have a plan, at least a simple one. It doesn’t have to be detailed by any means… It just has to help to get me to the end goal. However, right now, I don’t even know what the end goal is. The whole semester of school, I was doing really good. I definitely had some things to work through, but I was extremely motivated and eager to grow. Things changed about two weeks before the semester ended and it felt like everything went downhill from there. It’s an exaggeration, but I felt like the world was crumbling around me and I was just reaching out to grab on to something, but only getting air. I feel like I am drowning. I know that God will bring me through, and I know that He has a plan, but it’s been a rough few weeks. 

Over the semester, I had three of my closest friends lose very close family members. This is the most experience I’ve ever had with death before and I don’t handle death well. Not only that, but I don’t know how to deal with grieving people either. I’ve never dealt with a close death before, so I can’t relate to them, which I fear makes me come across as careless. I’m not, I care more than they probably know, I just don’t know how to respond. I also have learned that people grieve differently, so they need different things at different times, and what may have been comforting to one person is offensive to another. I also have this problem, where I feel like I need to fix things, but you can’t fix death, and honestly, you can’t even fix a person who is mourning. It’s so hard for me to step back and realize that all I can really do is be there to listen and to pray.

I’ve had to deal with people moving away, and with relationships changing; two things I don’t handle well at all. My brother is getting married, so we’re adding a new sister into the family. This is a good thing, and I fully support them, but our family dynamics are changing, so that’s another thing to get used to and learn. There’s just a lot of change going on at once.

One of the biggest things that I’ve been dealing with is the realization that things aren’t always the way they seem. I had a conversation a few months ago with my best friend about how sometimes you think that someone sees you one way, but they actually see you a totally different way. I recently dealt with this in a bigger way than I would’ve wanted. It was really hard, but it also slapped me in the face and kicked my butt into gear to change some things. Some things were said that really hurt me, and caused a lot of doubt in my mind about who I am. Satan took hold and used it to make me feel condemned and unloved. It put strain on a relationship because I felt lied to. A relationship that I thought was good, turned out to have some underlying issues that were not being addressed. It made me realize just how important communication is. It also reminded me that I may think that I’m doing alright in a relationship, but they may not see that the same way. Things cannot begin to change if they go unnoticed. I had some issues to address in myself and the way I handled things within the relationship and had caused more hurt than I had even realized. My intention is not to make the other person look bad, but to point out that I let words cause wounds and I let those wounds fester because I was bitter. It’s much easier to get an infection in an open wound than one that has been flushed out and had time to heal. Because I left the wound open, Satan infected it and healing is taking longer than it should have if I had dealt with it properly.

I feel like I am going through this all because there are some things I need to deal with and lessons I need to learn. I feel stuck, but not in the typical way. I just feel restless because I know that something big is going to happen soon, but I have to get through this hard stuff first. I’m between a rock and a hard place, but I’m also between the Rock and a hard place. One of my roommates for the summer, Tauri, has a saying, “It’s when you hit rock bottom that you realize that Jesus IS the Rock at the bottom.”  Sometimes I feel like I’m going backwards, but another friend made a good point when I said that to her once. She said, “The good thing about going backwards is you know you have somewhere to go forward.”

This post is a bit different from my others. It’s less of an encouraging post and more like a journal entry. I don’t know why I felt like I needed to write here, but maybe somebody will get something out of my ramblings. God’s not finished yet. 

Alabaster


I know it’s been a while. I’ve been really busy with school and life and tons of spiritual growth over the past three months. I have started posts a few times but then get sidetracked and don’t finish them, ultimately deciding not to share them. However, I’ve been learning a lesson lately and decided to share it, because I feel like I’m probably not the only one who needs to hear it. 

Have you ever been in a service in which the pastor points out that if something is repeated in Scripture that means it is important and something we should pay attention to, especially if it is repeated three times. Well, that seems to be how God has been speaking to me lately. Apparently I don’t listen well the first time or something… In this specific instance, it took three times before I finally got the picture and broke down, and then a fourth time as a little reminder afterward. 

Do you know the story of Mary and Martha? Specifically, Mary. Well, in Luke 10:38-42, it talks about how Jesus went to the home of the sisters Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Martha was a woman with a servant’s heart and wanted to make sure everything was prepared and well taken care of before she sat down to listen to Jesus, but Mary realized that it was more of a priority to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him. They only had so much time with Him. One sister chose to spend her time doing work and the other chose to spend every minute she got with Him. There is another story that highlights Mary’s character again. Mark 14:2-9 tells about how the disciples, Jesus and a few others were dining together and Mary came and once again, knelt at Jesus’ feet. She had an alabaster flask of very costly perfume and proceeded to break the jar and pour out all she had on Jesus’ head. This would have been a huge waste, especially regarding how expensive it was. But Mary didn’t care. All she wanted to do was worship Jesus, so she gave it all.

Our pastor preached a message on this passage and reminded us that this is how our worship should be. God used this at first to speak to me about how I was worshiping, because that’s what I needed to see first. But the more important lesson here was when He started to show me how I was serving other people. 

I have described myself several times as the most selfish self-sacrificing person I know, but I didn’t really bother to try to fix it. I figured that as long as I was serving other people, with a happy heart, I was cool. 

Yeah.. Not cool.  

So, through a few sermons, God moments and a conflict with my roommate, I managed to begin to see the error of my ways. One of the best ways to describe myself is a people pleaser. If you are familiar with Gary Smalley’s animal personalities, I am a Golden Retriever/Beaver. I want nothing more than for people to be happy, but I’m also a hard worker and will do what it takes to get the job done. I am also HIGHLY empathetic. These all can work very well together. I am very good at sensing people’s needs and knowing what needs to be done, and then taking action. But, here lies my problem… I do this all selfishly. See, it makes me FEEL good to take care of people’s needs. What God showed me was that I was serving others because it felt good. I was giving to them because of what I needed. In the instance of my roommate, I had given all that I had and I was exhausted and began to desire some form of payment back. I hadn’t truly given freely. I thought I had, but deep down, there was more that I needed. She was in a place where she honestly couldn’t give back, so I was forced to give without selfish motives, except they were still there… After this was brought to my attention I realized how selfish I had been and the verse came to mind in Philippians 2:3-4 where it says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” At that point I had realized what I had done. I was giving, and giving with a happy heart and good intentions for the other person, but I was giving because it made ME feel good. So, I have begun to evaluate how I serve, and trying to serve for the sake of others rather than for myself. The crazy thing is that He reminded me what it’s like to do it the right way the other day and how much better I feel when I give to them rather than to me. It’s so closely related but not the same. I took a friend out for coffee, because she was having a bad day and I knew she needed to escape.  But my mindset wasn’t, “If I make her happy, then I’ll be happy.” It was, “I want to serve her and help her have a better day.” Now, I still got the same result, which was happiness for both of us, but I was only seeking her’s. Mine was just a bonus.

I’m not saying I’m there yet, but you can’t fix an issue if you don’t realize it’s even there. I just want to learn to be more like Mary, in both my worship and in my self-sacrifice.

Walls


I’m laying in bed this morning, unable to continue sleeping, even though I should be taking advantage of the chance to sleep in today. I can’t stop thinking about what God is doing right now, not only in my life, but in the lives of my fellow students. This semester has already been amazing, and we’re only one week in. This is more than a school. So much more than I even thought. I’ve been around the church for 14 years of my life, and I’ve been around JRLC since its beginning, and even before that when it was Master’s Commission. So I have seen the changes in people as they go through this program, but I never expected this for me. I wanted to share my testimony and go over some of this things I’m learning right now. I’m gonna be real, but maybe it will be an encouragement to someone. 

I was born in Arizona in July of 1995. I am the first born of 5, one brother and three sisters. My dad came from a conservative Christian family, he went to church every week and he can’t remember ever not being a Christian. My mom came from a white collar, slightly more liberal family. Her dad was a lawyer and her mom was a teacher. They went to church, but they weren’t believers. My parents met in high school and fell in love. They got married, and neither of their parents approved of the marriage. My mom was saved the day I was born and now is one of the strongest believers I know. So, I was raised in church and in a Christian home. I believe there were both positives and negatives to this. The positives were that I knew the Bible, I knew truth. I was in church every week. My parents love me and they love each other. But, the negative of this is that it was all I had ever known. I could tell you every Bible story, I could tell you the Gospel, I knew all the right answers. As far as I knew, I was a Christian and had been since I was born. I thought that since I believed everything I heard and readily accepted the Bible as absolute truth that I was saved. 

We moved to Missouri when I was 8. The first church we ever went to was James River Church (James River Assembly at the time.) We all fell in love with the church. We came from a very spiritually dead church in Arizona, so to attend an alive and spirit filled Pentecostal church was a new experience for us. I become involved in Missionettes in my elementary years. If you aren’t familiar with the AG church at all, Missionettes and Royal Rangers is basically like a Christian version of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. In junior high, two different things had a huge affect on who I am. I wasn’t allowed to go to the youth program, and frankly, I had no interest in going anyway. I hated the drama that came from people my age. So, instead, we found this class for kids my age that met in the main building. The class was called Metamorphosis (try getting a bunch of junior high kids to learn how to say metamorphosis…) The lady that lead it, her name is Jodi. She is one of the most crazy, but godly women I know, and her heart for serving God is just incredible. I don’t remember anything she taught on, but she poured into my life big time. She invested in me in a way no one else had ever done. I was extremely introverted, and often got looked over because I never spoke up, but Jodi took the time to notice me. She is a huge part of the reason I am where I am today.

The other thing that had such a big affect on me was the church’s junior high choir. I can’t sing well at all, but I loved choir. It was my favorite thing in the world. Every year the choir took a trip out of state to preform at inner city churches. The first year I went, I was 11 and we went to Oklahoma City. I was scared to go. I hated being away from home at all, and never went to any church camps because of that, but this felt different to me. As scared as I was, I wanted to go. It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had. Of course, I know I was only 11, and I know there’s emotional highs that come into play with any sort of event like that, but still, God moved. The last church we sang at was the youth pastor’s home church. We attended a youth service before we sang in the main service. In the youth service, during worship, they sang this song that proclaimed the Gospel in a way I hadn’t heard it before. And suddenly it all made sense to me. I finally understood the significance of what Jesus did for me, and I realized that there’s more to Christianity than just knowing the facts, there’s a relationship. And I didn’t have that yet. I started crying and praying. When I came home that weekend I was the happiest person alive. Mom could instantly tell that I had changed. I was on top of the world. And to this day I don’t remember a time when I was happier than I was then.

Of course, that doesn’t stick around, because we’re human. I struggled for a few years after that, but I was continually seeking after Christ. The age of 15 was the worst for me. I thought I was great, I thought I was happy. But, looking back, I was completely blind to reality. I became friends with a woman who was 5 years older than me. But I took advantage of her friendship and began to rely on her more than God. I idolized her. One day she told me that we couldn’t be friends anymore. I was hurt extremely bad. One of my biggest fears in life is people leaving me. And because of this, because of my fear, I get too close to people in a desperate attempt to hold onto them. But, doing this is the very thing that pushes people away. I struggled with being angry and heartbroken over the relationship I lost for way too long. At first, I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. So I was just angry with her. A few years down the road, I realized what I had done and was no longer angry at her, but at myself. I apologized to her for how angry I had been and I forgave her for what she had done to me. I thought it was over. But I tore myself up over how bad I screwed up. I didn’t offer myself any grace at all. I didn’t even let myself have any friends because I was so afraid of messing up again. Only recently have I forgiven myself. But I still have that fear of pushing people away and being the world’s worst friend. But God is teaching me that He is the only one I can truly count on to never leave. He is the only one who will satisfy whatever desire I keep seeking in relationships.

God called me to JRLC in May of 2016. If you want to know how that came about, there is an earlier blog post about it. But basically, I homeschooled all the way through high school. I had always felt dumb when it came to school. I was horrible at math, and I often found myself comparing myself  to my brother, who is 18 months younger than me. The only thing I ever felt good at was writing. I love to write. Clearly^. I graduated a year early because I hated school and wanted to be done, so I got two years done in one year. Then I worked for four years. God called me here. I applied, took the SAT very last minute, got a good enough score, and got accepted. My plan was to come in the fall semester, but things didn’t work out. Which turned out for the better anyway. It gave me time to save up and get prepared. And little did I know that God had a lot He wanted to do in me through conversations with a close friend during the month of Decmeber. Walls that needed to be broken down that I didn’t even know that I had built. 

I had been praying for revival in my heart for a few years. I have felt very stagnant for a while. It had been so long since I had been so overwhelmed by the presence of God that I cried and I craved to experience that again. I didn’t realize that in order to move past the point I was at, that I needed to have those walls broken down. It hurts. Boy, does it hurt. And I have cried so much since the start of school. I have cried more this week than I have cried in probably 3 years. I’m an extremely emotional person, but I don’t like people to see me cry and I’m afraid to cry. But the more you bottle it in, the harder it is to let it out. And that release is good. I’ve needed that release for so long. I’m emotionally exhausted. I’m worn out. But God isn’t finished with me yet. It hurts right now, but it’s a good hurt. A healing hurt. I compared it to working out yesterday. When you finish working out, your muscles hurt. They hurt because you’ve torn them. You put little rips in them. But what happens with those tears? They get rebuilt. And when they are rebuilt, they are stronger than they were before. 

We took the CliftonStrengths test at the start of school. My highest strength was empathy, which means I can feel people’s emotions and take them on as my own. It’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I know when people are hurting and I can take on that hurt in order to understand them, share their burden and sympathize with them. It’s a curse because I can feel more than one person’s emotions at one time and feel the need to bear everyone’s burdens. It gets very overwhelming at times. But I have a feeling God is going to use this gift this semester. I know that God has called me here. He has made that clear to me this week. I’m excited to see how I grow. I’m really excited for two of my classes, Psychology of Healthy Relationships and Spiritual Formation and Discipline. God’s gonna move this semester. It’s a season of growth and change.