Wednesday, August 5, 2015

First Rwanda Update

View outside of the New Testament Church of Christ

           As some of you may know, right now I am in Kigali, Rwanda on a mission trip to help teach others English by utilizing the bible.

          Being here in Kigali is kind of indescribable. I cannot even begin to explain the magnitude that I feel God in every corner of this place. First of all, being disconnected from all of these distractions (social media, Netflix, and the busyness of everyday life at home in Lubbock) has made a huge difference. At night when we get back to the hotel, instead of just going to my room to watch Doctor Who on Netflix, I have been playing card games with David and Ali! I have been reading my bible, studying, and reflecting. I have sat and took time just to soak it all in. I have woken up early just to go sit outside and watch the morning unfold. I haven’t thought about dorm shopping even one time while I have been here! (except for now of course…) I am not stressing out about needing to rush to places just to leave one thing early to get to another thing late.

           We begin each day with a 30-minute breakfast eating Nutella-covered bread and coffee (and other things, I just named the best two)! During this time, we are not talking about all of the things we haven’t yet gotten done at home. We have a devotional, and ask God to be with us throughout the day as we are telling all of these precious people about Him.

            Once we arrive to the church, I pray for God to be with me as I attempt to help my readers learn English. I pray that He guides me every step of the way, and that my readers will find Him as we work through the lessons.

             We have only been doing lessons since Monday. Only 2 days and I can already feel such a “hunger and thirst for righteousness” within my readers! God has helped me so much, and I feel confident in the lessons because I know that He is the one working through me! All I have to do is be here and let Him take the wheel from me.

             The lessons I have been through so far with my readers have been such an encouragement to me, and I hope the lessons have been an encouragement to them as well. I can see God stirring within these precious hearts, and it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced!

             I cannot wait to see where all of this takes my readers. I know that God has a beautiful plan for the next couple of weeks here, a plan for each and every one of my readers’ lives, and spiritual lives! I am also quite confident He has a plan for me in this experience; I just have to be patient and let Him work.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Anniversary Party

Well, for the last few weeks I have been pretty busy. I have been planning a surprise Anniversary party for my parent's 30th. I am still living at home with them, so it has been pretty difficult keeping the whole thing a surprise.

I worked on signs, printed out pictures, bought frames, food, ordered a cake, and made about 70 cookies. I planned for about a month, and I was so excited when the time finally came for the party. (Mostly just because I was so tired of trying to keep this whole thing a secret from my Mom. Keeping secrets from that woman is not easy let me tell you). I had to make up a lot of stories about where I was all of last week. (I apologize again for this)!!

When the time for the party did finally come, everything really came together.

 I made little place cards for each food item. I found these little shapes online and then just put text inside of them, and cut them out. I found the little place card stands at Hobby Lobby.
 All of the banners were just individual letters (each on a separate sheet of paper) printed off, cut, and attached to twine with clothespins.
 I went through all of the old photo albums and scanned a bunch of pictures to attach to twine for some decoration.
 All of the frames were from Hobby Lobby. And the little trays had Mad-Libs inside for all of the guests to fill out.

 I decided to go with a big "W" for the guestbook. The guests signed with silver sharpies.

 I ordered a small cake topper and had three different flavors of cupcakes. (All marked with the proper tag of course)

 The chalkboard was a little more difficult than anticipated. It turned out all right, but next time I will definitely try to make the words straighter/bigger. It is just words I printed off from Pages. You just pick the text and words you want, print them off, cut each line, and put chalk on the backside of each one. Once you have the chalk on the back of the words, you just flip it over and tape it where you want it on the chalkboard. Trace the words with a pencil and when you lift the paper, you will have a perfect outline to trace.
 Here are my surprised parents right after they walked in.

 My mom was sort of in shock for a while.

 These are just a few of the (70) Ball jar cookies I made. A few of them said "Having a Ball since 1985" (The year my parents were married).
 Here they are cutting the cake just like they did 30 years ago! 

The inside of the cake was so pretty! 

Here you can sort of see my "How Sweet it is" sign for the dessert table.

A wonderful picture of the party!

Artsy photo of a cookie and a couple of strawberries. 

My silver spray painted Ball jars, put some pink daisies in them and they turned out so cute! 

My mom was happier with me when she found out what I had really been doing all week. 

My awesome family! 

And finally, the hostess and the guests of honor. 

The party was awesome, and I owe a lot of these ideas to Pinterest! It was a lifesaver as always, and helped me get my head wrapped around everything I wanted to get done for the party! Everyone who helped; thanks again! It is very much appreciated! (And a special shoutout to David Young, for taking all of these fantastic pictures! They all turned out really good.) The night was a success, and my parents were overjoyed and very surprised! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Can I turn my mind off too?

So you know the previews in the movie theatre you always see at least 3 times before the movie even starts?
 Yes, I am sorry. You just endured that for the millionth time. 
But, really it is a great reminder. I think we are all way too focused on what is going on in the technology world. (Be it Facebook, Candy Crush, or The ESPN app, yes Dad that is for you...) And I am talking about this as I am typing on my MacBook to put on this blog to be read by people on technology! Yeah, this was well thought out. 

Well, anyway. I wish I could somehow turn my mind off during the movie. Is there a Cinemode for my thoughts maybe? No? That is honestly too bad.

My mind is constantly going off at a hundred miles per hour. Be it over-analyzing everything that ever happens, or just thinking too much of other things during a movie, or often finding myself thinking, "I really wonder what this person thinks of me right now. I bet they think I am an awkward freak"... (Which I am sure they do, because this is true) Thinking of such things too often can make watching a movie stressful. It can make conversation very stressful. It is hard to carry on a decent conversation when you are awkward, but even worse when you are thinking of the awkwardness during the conversation....

Anyway, I am trying to make these posts shorter for the sake of all of you. Which I will probably fail at. My over-thinking leads to wayyyy over-writing which leads to bored people and often decent essays that are so long that by the time the teacher reaches the end of reading them, they want to punch themselves in the face... And that often leads them to deduct points.... 

Okay so here is the point now. As I was watching the fireworks tonight (at the early celebration) I found myself not even able to focus on the beauty and majesty of the fireworks. My mind was running a mile-a-minute, and the last thing I could focus on was just how pretty the fireworks were. I was reflecting on the past, thinking of past 4th of Julys, writing mental checklists, feeling sorry for myself, and then being self-aware of thinking too much while watching the fireworks, and it was all just a vicious cycle. Basically, I was seeing the fireworks in front of me (they were very wonderful) but I wasn't even comprehending how pretty and sparkly they were. My mind was in a different place and I couldn't even take in the beauty of the moment. (It's kind of like how I am when forced to watch sports)... I have this look in my eyes that says 'I am totally paying attention to this game' but probably a little bit glossed over, and while I am watching I have no idea what is even going on. 

Well, I feel like this whole year has been like that for me. I have experienced so much beauty over the past year. I went to England, I experienced a wonderful senior year, I graduated, and yet I barely stopped to just "take it all in" for even a moment. I have sat around all summer feeling sorry for myself, planning way too much, and then freaking out that I haven't actually made use of any of my plans! Instead of enjoying what could be my last full summer at home with my family, I have only been thinking about the future and about what to do for college, what to pack for Rwanda, what am I gonna do for my future? Do I have clothes for college? And a bunch of other stuff that I can't even think of BECAUSE THERE IS SO MUCH. And yet it seems like I have nothing to do. 

I know I will look back and wish that I had taken it all in when I could. I know that things will not always be like this. I end up dwelling more on that fact than just enjoying the time as it is here. I want to encourage each of you to enjoy the moment and take it in right now. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, or the next week, or the next year, and goodness knows we only have so much life to live. God wants us to live life to the full and enjoy His rich blessings. He also wants us to share our joy with others and bring them to Him. That is really what it is about. But, like I said, he wants us to experience joy and show true joy to others. So, make the most of your time and do some things that you love, because the time is short. 

I am leaving soon to move 11 hours away from my parents and right now I am ecstatic. I know, however, that one day I will wish that I enjoyed this time a little more. Put your thoughts aside for a moment, take in the beauty of the fireworks, enjoy your two and a half hour movie, eat that piece of cake and savor it, because we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Nothing will ever be the same as it is now, maybe you are thankful for that... But someday, this time will be a memory for you. Please make it a good memory. Everyday has the chance to be a wonderful memory if you make it that way. 

Oh, and I am sorry. I really tried to find the "off" button for the mind and I couldn't ever find it. That sure would come in handy right now so I could maybe go to sleep. But, when one of you does figure out how to make that work, let me know, okay? 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Loving God, Loving others

     Well, I am just here to say, I am no one important. I am honestly just a boring person with a pretty boring life sitting at home this summer. And I feel like because of that, I have no right to post anything. If you aren't important, famous, or at least memorable, then what is the point? I think that this summer God is teaching me that it is okay to be unimportant or forgotten. We can't all be famous or amazingly talented, right? And that is okay. That is more than okay. Because even though we feel boring and inadequate, Jesus has made us so much more than that. Each and every one of us. It does not matter what color of skin you have, how much you weigh, your religious beliefs, how introverted or extroverted you are, whatever it is, I don't care. And I promise God doesn't either. He may not like all of your choices, He doesn't like every choice that any one of us make.

       I think that is an important thing to remember. It is kind of an equalizer. I guarantee that not a one of us have the right to shame or judge anyone else for anything. I do not care what it is. 

      What I have been thinking about these past few days through all of this is Jesus. Jesus loved. Jesus loved everyone. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, it says, in Matthew 9.

       9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

        Jesus was not concerned with labels. He did not care what others thought about Him. He was not saying He liked the way these people were living. But He loved them, ate with them, and showed them mercy just the same. I don't think that this means Jesus died only to forgive those who appear to be sinners, those who appear to be imperfect... It means all of us. We all mess up, we all fall short, none of us are "special" in that way.

         43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48

         1“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. Matthew 7:1-5

         Right now, I want to focus on one thing. And that is to love. Love everyone. I want to shine God's beautiful light and show the world that He loves each and every one of us. No matter what. There is always room for God's mercy, and His love. So stop hating someone because of how they have treated you, or may even be currently treating you. Do not hate anyone. Try to empathize and see from their point of view. All of us are struggling. Even the ones who look like they have it all together. So, for today, stick with love. Love as Jesus loves, and show the world that there is room for all of us in God's kingdom. That doesn't mean that every choice we make is perfect. Or every choice they make. It isn't up to us to make choices for someone else. It is something each and every one of us have to do for ourselves. I am almost positive though, that once you give it over to God, the right things will come in due time. I'm not saying every choice is going to be perfect. Of course not. God is perfect. His plan is perfect. His love is perfect. That is all that matters. Just show love to others as you would want to be shown love. That is the important stuff, people. Make everybody feel like a somebody. 

        34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
Matthew 22:34-39

        So, in conclusion... If any of you have anything on your heart, or if you just need someone to listen, I am always here. (And really, don't ever feel intimidated, I promise I am probably more intimidated by you than you are of me). Please don't ever give up on God's plan for you. Trust me, I know it is difficult sometimes. His plan outweighs all of these present struggles though. I pray we all focus on loving a little more each day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Look on the Heart

1 Samuel 16

Samuel is sent to go find a new king. Because obviously Solomon is a crazy guy and is not fit to be the king anymore. He goes to Jesse, to look over his many sons and pick out the one that God has chosen to be king. Samuel looked over every son, or so he thought, and God still had not chosen someone to be the king. Jesse sent for David, the youngest son, whom no one thought had a chance. Of course God picked him. He saw the potential inside of David and chose him for that. None of the outward muscle, athleticism, or looks swayed His decision.

When passing people in the hallway at school or work, or even church, (yes I said it) are we looking at what really matters?

Example: wow I'm sure that girl would be lovely if I could just get to know her. She is a daughter of God, in fact. I wonder if she is aware of that fact today.

Or: that guy might look goofy on the outside, maybe a little weird, but he is a really nice guy. He has a big heart for people and for God. He is always smiling at others and offering a word of encouragement. He could probably use some encouragement himself.

Now, I'm just as guilty of this as you are. If not more guilty. That's why I am choosing to write about it. It's a subject that weighs deeply on my heart. I have a hard time seeing others as God sees them, and that leads to judgment on my part. This side of the issue isn't where my real problem lies, though.

It's focusing too much on my outward appearance. If I'm not on the next new diet and feeling slim, I feel awful about myself inside. I obsess over every bite. I obsess over what I will wear. I obsess especially what others will think.

If I'm not being told by someone that I look good, I automatically assume I look terrible. And why am I focusing so much on that? Why do I spend so much time hating the woman that I have to live with for the rest of my life? That woman is me. She may not be a Victoria's Secret model or "Jennifer Lawrence" material, but she is, after all, a daughter of God.

You don't need friends all around you constantly reassuring you. You don't need a boyfriend, husband, wife etc. to tell you that you look good.

No. Reassurance does not come from other people, from a relationship, or even from you.

It comes straight from God. The creator of the whole universe. He cares enough to listen to each and every one of our struggles, and to get to know each and every one of us on the most personal level possible. He thinks you are amazing. No matter what size you are, how many designer clothes you have, or what your haircut looks like. He doesn't care how much weight you can lift at the gym, and I promise He doesn't care what anyone else thinks about you.

Can we please stop hating ourselves and looking for reassurance in all the wrong places, and instead looking within, at what God sees? Can we stop making snap judgments based on appearance, social status, or general awkwardness?

Start looking within and seeing a wonderful piece of God's creation. Start looking around you, and begin to see the beauty in all of God's beloved children. No matter if they have wronged you, what their reputation is, or how they might appear on the outside, God sees them as a wonderful piece of His creation. When we begin to see as God sees, maybe we will stop focusing so much on the negative aspects of ourselves and others. Maybe then we can focus on the potential, and the wonderful spiritual gifts of each and every one of us.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (‭1 Samuel‬ ‭16‬:‭7‬