Friday, August 29, 2014

Why Your Words Matter

When I first started blogging, I was 22 years old, and a completely different version of myself. I had no idea that by starting a blog, I was really doing much more than just claiming a spot on the interweb. I was really taking the first step towards finding myself

Almost 6 months after starting Sweet Home Santa Barbara, I surrendered my life to Jesus. Like, real deal, no more of this "you can have 10% of my life, and I'll run the other 90%" biznass. It was full on "I have no hope except in You, so take my life and do what you want with it." 

It was the most liberating feeling I have ever felt. 

Except, I had no idea what that really meant. Besides the fact that I knew my entire life had to change. 

You see, no part of my life before was Christ-centered. And now I suddenly wanted Him to have my whole life, but I had to figure out what that meant. 

I have no idea how, but one day I found myself reading a blog called The Williams Post (now Life On a Mission). I was soooo attracted to the words I found there. Post after post after post seemed to just ooze Jesus; it didn't matter if He was the subject, or not. It was clear that this woman lived for Christ, and everything she did seemed to shine for Him. 


I want that, I thought. 

I wanted to be bold enough to talk about the changes going on in my life. I wanted to share the love I was feeling for this Man named Jesus. Something in me desired to be known only for Him, not for wine or cheese or food or beer or nights out or funny drunken stories or any of the things I was currently known for. I wanted to be known as a woman who's life was turned upside down by the love of Jesus. 

But I was afraid. I just wasn't bold enough for that yet. 

Until Kerrie unintentionally gave me the push that I needed. 




 She started a weekly link up called the Tuesday Challenge. Each week, she would give a prompt providing an opportunity to live our your faith, a little challenge of sorts. Something like pay for the person behind you in line, or write a letter to encourage a friend. The goal was to go out and love, and then come back and write about it. 

It became the one day a week that I talked about my faith. One day, I thought, I can manage that. 



Blogger statues ;)

Writing just that one day a week started a fire in me. I felt a passion writing those posts, that I didn't feel while writing the others. I felt more myself writing about Jesus, which was odd and unfamiliar and wonderful all at the same time. 

Kerrie's boldness was contagious. Her fire for the Lord, her genuine love in her marriage, her passion to love and serve others, I knew it was the life I was created to live, too. I knew it was the life that I wanted to live, too. 


Almost 2 3 years later (woah, just realized it's been almost 3 years, not 2. time flies), I can say that by the grace of God, I am living that life now. This imperfect girl is living with a fierce passion to glorify her loving Savior. The fear of talking about Jesus? That's long gone. {Praise the Lord}

Kerrie's words sparked something in me. And I want you to know that your words carry the same power that her's did. Because words are powerful, aren't they? They change things, they do things. They inspire, and encourage, and motivate. 

Your words matter. And if you're ever feeling discouraged, if you're ever doubting that, remember the profound effect that Kerrie's words had on me. All she was doing was coming and pouring her heart out on her corner of Blogland, and Jesus took that and used it to drastically change the course of my life. 

Keep writing. Keep pouring out your heart. You never know who's life you're changing. 

{All pictures are from this past weekend, when I finally got to visit Kerrie & Wade in their mission field of Reynosa, Mexico after years of talking about it. Thank you, blogging, for the amazing friendships and experiences that you've brought into my life!}

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

All Things Seminary

I made a teeensy announcement on Instagram last night. 


I'm so excited to let you guys in on something that's been brewing in my heart for a while.
Seminary school. 

My heart beats for ministry. Jesus is literally constantly flowing through my mind, whether it's at a Bible study, in Lower Body Blast, on a coffee date, or sitting in a work meeting. He's just always there. And because of that, sometimes it feels like this heart and this mind were created to work in a full-time ministry position. 

But can I let you in on a little secret? On days where I dream of being able to devote all of my hours each day to speaking and teaching and writing and studying and counseling and praying and doing life on mission, I have to remind myself that I already am in full-time ministry. Because I am. And you are too

If you carry the Holy Spirit in your heart, then you're on full-time ministry. Period. It doesn't matter if you work at a church, at a non-profit organization, or at an engineering company {like me}. You're on mission for Christ where ever you go. 

And that being said, yes, it's a dream of mine to one day work in a more ministry-focused role. But, I have a bigger, more important dream first. 
It's to be obedient to God where ever I'm called. 
Whether that's in a ministry role, a corporate America role, or a stay at home mom role. I want to be obedient, first and foremost. So I gave this not-so-little dream of mine to God, and said "not my will, but yours."

And He responded: seminary school. 

Cuuuue the fear. And excitement, don't get me wrong. First came the excitement, "I'd get to study the word of God??? Like, really study it and get a grade and all that jazz??
Ohmahgoshhh!" 

For a nerd who loves school, and a girl who never went to private Christian anything, that just sounds like Disneyland for me. Disneyland, I tell ya.

But then, came the fear. "What does this meannn, God? Do I go to school full time? Do I quit my job? Do I take out student loans? Do I move?"  And God was all "Woahhh, slow down child. One thing at a time. Just wait." 

And so, I did. I assumed this was a distant future thing, and did what any normal, waiting person would do. I researched the heck out of it, and made an appointment to meet with my pastor and talk all things seminary. 

See, normal waiting. {sarcasm font}

In all honesty, I didn't expect anything to happen quickly. I expected this to be a labor in prayer type of thing, one that would take years of preparing and praying before anything really happened. 

But then, since my pastor had recommended Fuller Theological Seminary, I decided to check out their web page. And while checking out their web page, I browsed their programs. And while browsing their programs, I came across the Certificate of Christian Studies program: a 6 course certificate program that can be done entirely online, at your own pace. 

And then, again, I did what any normal, waiting person would do. 
I applied immediately. 

Everything about it felt right. I could do classes online, so I wouldn't have to make any rash decisions about my career or location. It's an introductory certificate, something that's perfect for a girl like me with no formal Biblical education background. And most importantly, my heart just jumped at the opportunity to learn more about Jesus, and what it means to live life for Him. 

So there you have it, starting on September 29th, I will officially be a seminary student.

Oh, Jesus. You sure know how to romance a girl. I love You, and I love this life that we're doing together. It never gets boring, that's for sure. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

On Purity

First off, happy Friday!! I figured what better way to kick off Friday than with a super light post on purity. {read: sarcasm}

If you've been around for a while, you may know that this topic is a special one for me. It's the only topic that I've written about for 31 straight days, so there's that. It's one that I love for so many reasons, but for starters, because I can't possibly talk about purity without talking about redemption

The fact that I even get to have a voice about this is straight up God's grace at its finest. As a girl who lost her virginity in high school, I never, ever, thought I would get a second chance at innocence. I never imagined that purity is a gift that is given from God, not a title removable by a sexual act. 

I can vividly remember the moment God opened my heart to the idea of sexual purity. I can remember driving home to San Diego, hearing a familiar voice on the radio share a sermon about dating, and boom. It didn't matter that I had already "lost my shot" by the world's standard, I knew that I wanted to save myself for marriage. 

I've learned so much since that moment. God has been faithfully teaching me about purity, and I'm gonna keep it real here, some of it was through my own trial and error. 

Through that trial and error, I saw my own weakness. I saw that if I wanted a God-glorifying relationship, I couldn't do it alone. I needed a man equally committed to protecting the purity within our relationship, and praise Lord Jesus Himself, He gave me just that. 

I want to share the things that I'm learning here. I want to share to tell a story of God's redemption, to testify of the fact that He truly does make all things new. He forgives, and He restores, and He gives new life. 


I want to share to testify of His faithfulness, to reveal that He truly is strong in our weakness. Purity can never come from self-effort, it is always a result of the Spirit. And I, for one, want to see more of the Spirit in my life. I want to see and experience sexual purity that comes from a heart changed by God. That type of purity exists in singleness, and it exists in dating, and it exists in marriage. It's not meant for one season of life, it's meant for all of life. Period. 

I wrote about it in singleness, and now, I have the privilege of writing about it in dating. I have the privilege of sharing my struggles, and my lessons, and my victories. 

I share for one reason: to give Him glory. I share because it is only because of Him that I have this story to tell. And I share because He has given me a man who truly loves my passion to share it all to praise His name. I love him for that. 

Purity has nothing to do with physical actions, and everything to do with the heart. It's not something we do, or we find, or we achieve. It's something we experience through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. It's something we find through surrendering our whole heart to our mighty God. 


Purity is two fold, the desire and the power to do what pleases God. If we have the desire, and not the power, then we constantly find ourselves falling into sin. We want to live a life of purity, but without the power to do so, we're stuck in our fleshly habits. 

If we have the power without the desire, it does no good. What good is having the physical fitness required to run a marathon if I don't have the desire to run a marathon? 

It takes both; we must find both the desire and the power to do what pleases God. And those, my friends, are gifts from Jesus. Those we find when we accept the gift of relationship with God that was given to us when a Man hung on a cross for us. It wasn't earned, or deserved. It was given, and when we receive it, we feel the life-changing surge of the Holy Spirit, which gives us the desire and the power to do things we never imagined possible. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hello!

So, I figured something out. I figured out that I pretty much stopped blogging because every time I wanted to write, I felt like I had so much to explain first. 

I felt like I couldn't write about regular life before I fully explained Africa. I felt like I couldn't write about changing churches because I wasn't quite sure how to explain it in words. And now, I feel like I can't write a blog post without first explaining all the life that has happened in the last few months. 

I've finally decided to just plain write. Because I miss it. And because even if I can't find the right words, or enough time to fully explain things, that's okay. I'd rather write something than nothing. 

Because what's happening in life right now? All the good things God is doing? They deserve to be documented. 

So here we go. 

***

Hello! Life right now has been looking an awful lot like this:








Can we all take a moment to appreciate that the above picture proves that I'd be lost without the sorority arm? Apparently, the last 7 years have completely conditioned me to have no clue what to do with my arm, unless it's on my hip with my elbow angled juuuust appropriately to make my upper arm look slightly smaller than it really is. 

Note to self: just lay your arm by your side. 








I had two weddings to go to this year, and then somehow managed to inherit two more when I left the first one with this dapper man. 


I'm not complaining. He looks super cute as a groomsman. 


Adorbs. I know. 

Funny story, I managed to catch the bouquet at both weddings. But I gave it to a sweet tiny girl at the second, because I was a bit scarred after the first time. I'd like to say I gracefully and perfectly naturally caught the bouquet, but that would be completely false. I entirely intentionally dove, yes dove for that thing. I immediately regretted that decision, especially when I caught it with the maid of honor, who ever so politely offered it to me. Something about the volleyball dive must have screamed "I just got a boyfriend, I want that bouquet!!!!"

Don't worry though, PJ was thrilled. The dj announcing "hey PJ, better start saving up!" had him fist pumping like any proud boyfriend would do. Bless his heart. 

Also, allow me to tell you a fun fact about me. If any song comes on that I know the words to, any song at all, you can fully expect that I will sing along out loud without even a conscious thought. 

Similarly, if "Let It Go" or "Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?" or "Call Me Maybe" comes on, you can fully expect that I will not only sing along, but bust out interpretive dance moves. 

Thankfully, I have a roommate who indulges this behavior. And a boyfriend who documents it. 




Busting out dance moves and singing along (loudly) to Frozen? Fighting girls for the bouquet? Well, if I don't win Best Wedding Date Ever, I don't know what does. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

When Life Happens

I've been neglecting this space lately. Honestly, I feel like I've been neglecting it for the majority of 2014. I kicked off the year going to Africa, came back, and something shifted. At first, I thought it was just the Africa thing. I thought I was avoiding coming to jot down my thoughts, because I couldn't figure out what my thoughts were. I couldn't possibly get out the words to capture what happened in my heart over there, so I kind of just didn't

I tried writing about other things, and yet I still found myself not writing. I still found myself consistently choosing other things over blogging, whether it was time with friends, or time alone with God, or time with sleep. 

2014 marked a shift. A shift that left me with more living, and less writing. And at a certain point, I became okay with that. I knew writing was a big passion of mine, but I knew following Jesus where ever He took me was an even bigger one. I knew that if He was calling me to invest in my real world community instead of my online one, I had to be okay with that. 

I think it helped that part of me knew I wasn't done with writing. 
Part of me knew that He wasn't done with my writing. 
It was just a shift, and I gave into it, trusting Him fully. 

While there are many things that I miss about regular blogging, one of the biggest is the documenting. I love looking back over the years, and walking through the memories. Some things that deserved to be documented, and plenty that probably didn't, but I love that it all was. 

Some things just hands down deserve to be documented, and this weekend, one of those things happened.  







I don't even care that I look ghostly in these pictures, they bless me more than I could even express. This weekend, I had a brand spankin' new view at church. I stood behind the pulpit for the first time, instead of sitting in front of it. I had a mic strapped on for the first time, spoke for multiple services for the first time, and busted out all my best hand gestures (those are a fairly regular occurance). 

This weekend, I got to preach the gospel. I got to share the story of how Jesus has transformed my life, and was privileged and blessed to encourage others in their journey with Him. 

There are no words for what happened in my heart on that stage. All I know is it's what this heart was made to feel. 

I've been speaking at a Wednesday night gathering I'm a part of, and the passion I feel for teaching about the Lord is unreal. There is so much to the story of how that even started, how I even got to be in this body of believers, and on that pulpit in the first place. Maybe one day, I'll share the whole story here. It's a likely possibility. 

But for now, here's what I have to say. Our God makes dreams come true. Our God creates each person so uniquely, and places specific desires in their heart. He delights in fulfilling those God-given desires.

Growing up, I had a passion for speaking. In my high school youth group, I asked if I could speak one Sunday and share my testimony. It never happened, and I was disappointed at the time. I can look back now and realize that it was most likely because my testimony hadn't even begun yet. 

Somewhere along the line, the teenage insecurity kicked in and pushed out that passion for speaking. You put me in front of a classroom in high school or college, and my knees would start shaking like no other. Being in the limelight had no appeal when the voice quivers came in full force. 

With Jesus in the picture, that passion slowly started coming back. I'm not sure when it even did, but somehow, I was speaking and teaching and loving every minute of it. Somehow, the desire to share my testimony publicly resurfaced, and lo' and behold, our pastor asked me to do just that. 

Sunday was a day I will forever remember. It's a day that I hold onto as the beginning of something big, dreaming with expectant faith that my God has a plan here. 

Because my God makes dreams come true. 

Dream big, my friends. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Better

I don't often hear audibly from God. I always feel His leading, constantly experience His peace, and I know He's there. But tangibly hear a voice that's not my own? That's pretty rare. 

So when it happens? You bet I hold onto it. 

***

It seemed like a typical Sunday. Besides the fact that I was coming off a church conference high, everything else seemed normal. I woke up, got ready, made my way to the high-school-turned-church down the street, embarked on my usual round of greetings/hugs, and went into the theater for service. 

Worship started, and I was whole-heartedly worshiping, while utilizing the spiritual gift of multi tasking. {you know you've done it too}

My mind was in two places, half focusing on the powerful lyrics of praise, and half focusing on a potential love interest. Thoughts were swirling as we sat for a slower song, which is usually my prime time to channel my inner rebel and stand. But for some reason, this time I sat. I sat, and I thought. 

When I was just about to reach a personal record for the amount of over-analyzing performed during a worship set, a voice stopped me. Clear as a bell, I heard the words that I haven't since forgotten. 

Amy, I have better for you.

The sentence repeated itself a handful of times, as my mind just soaked in that moment. It took me a while to come back enough to realize I had missed the cue to stand, and was now the sole individual sitting in the midst of a raised audience. 

Dang, I thought to myself. 


I wrote it down. I let that promise sink in good and deep, because I knew there was no other alternative for processing a word like that from God. 

It had nothing to do with the person on my mind, and everything to do with a loving Father trying to get His daughter's attention. Mission completed, Big Guy. 

I didn't know exactly what "better" was, but I knew my God was revealing to me that He had a different plan. And praise the Lord, I was finally at a place of trusting Him enough to know that
His plan is the only one I want. 

***

We were driving in the car, stuck in San Francisco traffic. I knew I was falling pretty hard when I didn't want the traffic to clear. I was enjoying just being with him, miles of break lights and all. 

There were moments of silence, and I actually enjoyed them. They gave me time to soak up everything that was happening, the butterflies and the magic and the jitters of a new relationship. The stuff that you never want to go away. 

In one of those silent seconds, that story came to me. I went back to that moment of hearing that promise from God, and I smiled from head to toe realizing the truth of that statement. 

I looked down at our holding hands. I've got a story for you, I said. 


I finished, and paused. With the biggest smile on my face, I squeezed his hand a little tighter. 

You're my better, I said. 

***

He has so much better for us, guys. I never want to forget that promise that was given to me that Sunday morning, because I never want to settle for less than His plan. 

It's not just with relationships. He has a perfect plan for me, and a perfect plan for you. So easily we can look to this world, and try to figure it out on our own. Try to accomplish our dreams, go after our goals, strive to be the person we want to be. 

Guys, He's got better for us. So much better. And I hope, and I pray that none of us miss it.