Thursday, December 16, 2010

as one season ends, another begins

Sorry I haven't updated in a month. A lot has been going on. I went home the week before  Thanksgiving. I was back at Shelterwood for a week before flying back home for a weekend to celebrate my Grandma's 80th birthday. I enjoyed being home with my family and seeing some of my closest friends. I also went to a UT graduation. I can't believe I graduated from college a year ago. I can't believe I turned 23 yesterday, and tomorrow I am graduating from Doulos as a Big! :) This year has been life-changing to say the least. And I am in denial that it is coming to an end...too many emotions to feel if I admit it! :)

Lately, I have felt overwhelmed - in a good way. The community that has developed around me here is such a blessing. There are 3 other girl Bigs with whom I have stayed up to late hours in the night having incredible conversations with. These conversations have been filled with laughter, tears, silence, and words spoken to bring life, healing, encouragement and challenges. It has been such a beautiful time together and they have become very dear to my heart. I feel so loved and encouraged by them. When we hang out together, I am very aware of the presence of Christ and enjoy how I get to experience who He is through each of them.

I have continued to grow closer to my two Littles that I spend most of my time with. Last night I got to take them with me to my birthday dinner with the other Bigs that were off and other house staff. I sat right between them and felt so blessed they could be with me. I can't tell you how much I enjoy them and how precious they have become to me. They are my sisters, not just here at Shelterwood, but in life. I start thinking about the relationship I have with each of them and how the Lord is allowing me to see Him working in their lives so intimately, and its hard to believe that the Lord would allow me to know them this way. They know me well, too. You can ask them questions about my heart and they will tell you what makes it hurt and what makes it happy. It is unbelievably crazy to me that I get to see them everyday and to be so close to them. They are beautiful and I love them so deeply.

As I said earlier, tomorrow afternoon I will be graduating! This is a time to reflect on the past 11+ months where the Lord broke me into a million pieces then put me back together. I have never been so broken before, but I have never felt so free. I have experienced so much healing this year. It is incredible! I don't even know where to begin to process all that happened and I know the Lord will use this year to continue to teach me things the rest of my life.

So as this year comes to an end, I am sure many of you are wondering - what's next? I am hoping to send out a letter over Christmas break to all of you who have supported me this past year. I am so grateful for the countless prayers, words of encouragement, phone calls, facebook posts and time listening to my stories, before, during and now after. I could not have walked this year without each of you and I am so grateful.

As the Lord has strengthened relationships I have here with other Bigs and Littles, I decided a couple months ago that I was not ready to leave Shelterwood at the end of the year. So, I have decided to stay here for another 8 months in a different role. Starting in January, I will be the new Doulos Discipleship intern. Instead of mainly focusing on Littles, my main ministry focus will be on the Bigs. I will be involved in their classtime, teaching a class at some point, recruiting new Bigs to come, living in the house with one of the house directors, and getting to invest in and encouraged the Bigs as they pour out to the Littles. I am so excited!!!! I basically feel like I will just get to by myself. :) I will still be on coverage in the house sometimes and can spend time with Littles when I am off. I will have a more regular schedule of only 40ish hours a week, which I am looking forward to. I will be raising support to cover extra expenses but I am looking forward to what God has planned. Joe is the Doulos Discipleship director, and I am looking forward to working with him and seeking what Christ wants to do in this ministry. My heart is for Bigs to truly experience all that Christ is and the power of the gospel and through that to reach the hearts of the Littles. I love the vision of this ministry for discipleship - to see lives changed by Christ as He restores broken families and brings hope by the power of the cross and His amazing love grace. He is so faithful and I find no greater joy than being a part of what He is doing in people's lives to bring freedom, joy, hope and peace - true life.

So that is what is next for me. I a driving home in a week for the Christmas season. I hope to get a chance to actually sit down with many of you and share stories and catch up in person. I truly am so grateful for you all and thank God for the many people He has brought into my life to reflect who He is. I love you all and miss you very much. I hope that you are blessed and drawn closer to Christ as we reflect on His humility as He entered out world and lived among us so that we might truly know Him. To Him be all the glory, honor and praise forever and ever! Amen. :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

beauty in the brokenness

Hello! The days are counting down to the end of my time here as a Big. It is absolutely crazy! I think at this point I have more days that I am off then I am actually on before I go home for Christmas! That is crazy. I have a week off for Thanksgiving and I took 3 vacation days and my regular two days off a week! Crazy! I am not ready to say good-bye to so many people here...Lord, prepare my heart for whatever you have planned for me. This has been my life for almost 11 months! Its weird to think of leaving...and it freaks me out. So I try not to think too much about it! :)

I am going to miss some people over Thanksgiving break! I will be gone 8 days, but that seems like so long. Days here are so filled - its like you're gone a week if you are off for a day. Seriously. I don't even know how to explain it. I am driving home on Wednesday to Austin to see friends and family. I will celebrate Thanksgiving, however I will actually be here on Thanksgiving Day. I am actually kind of excited about that because a lot of the other Bigs will be here, too, and in ways, they have become like family. I mean, we do all live in the same house! :)

I spoke in chapel last Thursday. I played the song "Healing Begins" by Tenth Avenue North (my fave!) and talked about stepping out into the light, finding healing from our shame possible only because of the gospel of Christ. I read the story about the woman who was caught in adultery and brought before Jesus. The crowd was about to stone her, but as Jesus pointed out that they were all guilty of sin, one by one they walk away until only Jesus is left, and He does not condemn her. Its such a beautiful story because it reflects the rich grace and compassion of our Lord. Only before His grace and mercy can we deal with all our junk openly and honestly. However, as we do, we find healing, freedom and life. Its amazing! I was really encouraged by people's feedback, and especially touched by a handful of guy Littles who told me they really liked what I shared. I just pray that the Lord uses it as He wants to to draw people closer to Him.

So there is one relationship with a Little here in particular that the Lord has been growing each day and overwhelming me with by what He is doing. I get to learn something new about her everyday and am amazed and blessed to get to watch Christ literally transforming her heart. Last week I went on a walk with her. The weather here has been beautiful - cool, crisp autumn air, amazing sunsets and beautiful fall colors. (The reds are my absolute favorite! I wish fall in Austin was like this...) We walked and talked a little bit, but we were quiet at times, too. Its nice to be able to just walk with someone and not have to say anything and it not be awkward. On our last lap around the loop around property, I picked up a leaf and explained to her a metaphor I came up with because I love metaphors. :) I explained how the leaf was dead and it had fallen off the tree. It was dried up, and it seemed hopeless. However, there is the hidden hope of spring. We have different seasons in life - fall leads to winter, which is often a depressing time of the year, everything dead & dormant. But under all that lies the hope of spring, of new life. In life, sometimes things have to die before they can truly be alive. We go through times where we feel like we are dying, but there is the hope of new life, of healing, beauty, peace, and grace possible in Christ. Amen.

I gave her the leaf to keep. I found a note from her on my bed later in the week, where she made a new metaphor. The leaf was torn in pieces and in her note she talked about how she felt like she was falling to pieces. It broke my heart to read, but I also loved her honesty and metaphor that she said was more relevant to her. So I gave her another metaphor! :) I tore the leaf into even smaller pieces then glued them on a note card in the shape of a heart and wrote out Hosea 6:1-3:

"Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

This is what God does. He tears us apart then puts us back together in a more beautiful way. It can be painful beyond belief, but He is good and He has the power to heal, redeem and restore. This is my prayer for her, to truly come to know Christ and to experience the power of His love, grace, forgiveness and healing from her shame and hurt and find true peace in God. She gets closer each day and leaves me encouraging notes that make me really excited. The Lord is so faithful and overwhelmingly good to me. As He has brought healing, hope and freedom to my life, I get to show others the way to Christ to find the same hope. He alone is worthy and I am humbled to be able to do this with my life.

I pray that you are coming to know Christ more. Whether you are in the process of being torn apart or being put back together, or anywhere in between, I pray you know that you are being held close to His heart. The Maker of the Universe is making something beautiful out of you for all the world to know Him more. How incredible is that? Only Christ can take what is broken, bruised, tattered and turn it into something beautiful. Only a holy God can takes the things in our lives that have brought so much shame and hurt and use them for His redemptive purpose and glory. This is the Lord who I want to give my whole life to. To Him I owe my life, my everything. May you know Him more today. I love you & miss you all. Thank you so much for following me on this journey, for your prayers, love & support. I can not walk this alone and I am so grateful for each of you. Hope to see you soon! :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Love is here, Love is now

Hey y'all! Sorry I haven't updated in a it seems impossible to explain all that has happened in the past month. I don't even remember the past week sometimes...

A couple weekends ago we had Parent's Weekend. All of the Littles parents came in for a weekend retreat where they had family counseling, parent groups, time to hang out together and we as Bigs got to hang out with some parents and watch Littles with their families. I loved the night all the families showed up and was in awe watching the Littles hugging their parents and playing with their siblings. It was beautiful. I enjoyed the weekend, but parts of it were tough, too. The brokenness the Littles struggle with extend to the parents and entire families, and it was interesting to see how different families relate. It causes me to pray BIGGER prayers for the family as a whole and I have a better understanding of why girls relate the way they do. Overall, it was a great weekend, and through some of the tough stuff God has done some incredible things!

One of my favorite times here is still Tuesday nights with Bible study. It is awesome to dig into the Word of God with the Littles and to see their incredible faith in God. It humbles me and encourages me more than I can say. There is also a couple girls here who I have been blessed to get really close to. One is a strong believer and her faith inspires me everyday. And we laugh so much together! haha. I love being here.

There is one Little here who I get to have incredible conversations with. Through my relationship with her, I have come to thank God for things I have struggled with in the past, things I used to feel so much shame for, because through them I can connect to her and share how the Lord has set me free and healed me from shame. I have been so humbled and in awe to see the Lord changing her heart in unbelievable and amazing ways to bring healing. I get so EXCITED - like excited to the point I literally jump up and down and run around the house with a huge smile on my face. The Lord is so faithful! I feel like I am getting to see Isaiah 61 play out in her life as He sets her free from captivity, turns her mourning to joy, bestows beauty for ashes and brings her new life, restoring what is broken. I cannot even imagine what God has in-store next, but I simply thank Him for bringing certain girls into my life and ways He works that I can't explain but leave me speechless - and dancing around! :)

I love the community I live with now. I know that has been a struggle throughout my year, but I really enjoy seeing each of our gifts and personalities come together to allow us to connect with the girls in different ways. I love the diversity and how we are different parts of the body of Christ, but all necessary for the work we are doing. I have really connected with some of the Bigs who started in August. I am not ready to leave them yet or the Littles I have connected with. It is hard to believe I graduate this program in 6 weeks! What? Thats crazy. And some of that will be Thanksgiving break. This year has gone by so fast.

I am not sure exactly what is next. I have several ideas, from taking a few months off, looking for a job in Austin, or a new possibility of potentially staying here in a different role, but still able to invest in the relationships the Lord is growing now. Nothing is set and I honestly have no idea, but I have great peace that the Lord will lead me exactly where He wants, and I am excited about that! I was overwhelmed yesterday thinking about how Christ has worked in my life this year, walked me through trials, struggles, joys, times of laughter and great tears. I am not the same. I am walking in so much more freedom and confidence and have so much joy! I have come to this place of great peace and trust in my Savior that I know no matter where He leads me, He will me with me to provide all I need. He is faithful to the end. I can cling to nothing but Him, but I have everything in Him. To Him alone be all glory honor and praise forever and ever! Amen.

I love you all and miss you! Thank you so much for your prayers and support. They mean so much to me and encourage me to continue to pour out and live as best I can for the sake of the gospel! May you know more of Christ today. Much love!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

livin the dream :)

This place continues to provide the highest of highs and lowest of lows. It's quite a roller coaster. I find myself in beautiful moments and then in huge despair. But through it all the Lord is with me and its quite a journey.

Right now I am filled with so much joy. Earlier today, I cried. Such is the life. The tension in the house at times is quite overwhelming, and there is often an overlaying sense of negativity. It is draining and really affects me at times, with so much complaining and people upset and angry. I sadly found myself being pulled into it and having a bad attitude and wanting to just complain. But the Lord graciously revealed to me my selfish heart and is giving me strength to simply trust Him even in the chaos and frustration. He will be faithful in it all. Pray that I will trust the Lord and know that He is working for good even when things seem messed up.

There are several things I am REALLY EXCITED about right now! Well, I have started a Bible study on Tuesday nights going through Ephesians and it has become my favorite time of the week. Last week four girls came and we got to sit and talk about the Word of God and His grace and how He gave us His Holy Spirit as a promise and security of His return and so much more. It is awesome to sit with girls here and see their relationship with the Lord and excitement to know Him more! It encourages my heart more than I can say. Tonight I had four girls again, with about 3 or 4 other who would trickle in and out. We read Paul's prayer to the Ephesian in the first chapter and talking about knowing God and His power displayed in the resurrection and how He has supreme authority. Then we talked about heaven and laughed imagining how we would get there. We shared metaphors and stories and worshipped the Lord as we read the Word and talked about it together!!!! It was absolutely amazing and so humbling to sit with them. I felt so honored just to share in that part of their lives and to hear how they pray each night. It was beautiful to listen to our simplicity as children of God praying at night and just talking to Him like He is our Daddy! I cannot even begin to describe the excitement I felt and how much I enjoyed being with them, laughing, talking, praying. Beautiful moments. Living the dream! :)

Last night I took two girls on a walk at night. The weather has been cool and the night sky was incredible! After we walked for a half hour, we laid down in the middle of the driveway and stared at the sky. It was so beautiful!!! Those are the best moments here...just enjoying being together and being amazed at the wonder and beauty of God.

I have come to really love the girls here. There are some that have found such a special place in my heart. One of them is so hungry to know the Lord, I decided I wanted to take time on my days off to really invest in her as much as I know. We are going to meet each Wednesday and talk about as much as we can so I can challenge her to teach others. True discipleship! I am so pumped and she is such an encouragement to me. I am going to miss the girls here when I leave for sure. I am so grateful for the relationships the Lord has allowed me to develop with them and for the chance to know them. Its awesome now to enjoy being here because it was my dream for so long, and now I see it being fulfilled - to the praise and glory of God alone!

There are times when I hurt so much here for the brokenness I see. I feel it in my own life as well, and I long so desperately for the redemption of Christ in all areas of my life. I see how deceived these girls are into what they think will fulfill them, and sometimes how hardened their hearts are. Other times I see them in so much pain and just want to take it away, but I can't. I've become pretty close to one of the girls here, and last week I held for an hour after beds while she just cried. One of her roommates came out and cried with us. I loved it! Strange maybe, but having the gift of mercy, I felt alive because I knew the Lord was there. And I wish there were more moments like that to just sit and cry with them. Things here are insane crazy busy and so to have time to slow down and feel was great. Mourn with those who mourn, right? I pray that she found some healing and comfort. I realize I can't take her pain away, all I have to offer is Christ the God of all comfort who carried our sorrows and by His wounds we are healed. Its exciting to see what God is doing, though sometimes I get discouraged because I feel like nothing changes. But He promises to be faithful to complete the work He began in us, so I can rest in that!

All that to say, God is good - all the time! Each day here is a struggle, but it makes it worth it. Praise the God who is faithful to work for good in all things and whose grace and love surpass understanding! I miss you all and love you so much! Please update me on your lives and know that I am so grateful for your encouragement, prayers, love and support! Be blessed! :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

clinging to the promise You're not through with me yet...

Hey y'all! I hope you are coming to know our incredible Savior Jesus Christ more through whatever He may be leading you. I am learning that I can only run to Him each and every day to find the grace and truth I am so desperate for. I am so grateful for His faithfulness, even in the face of my failures, struggles and fears. To Him alone be all glory & praise!

Things here have been a mixture of things - as always. I have enjoyed some incredible moments with girls - laughing so hard I cried, sitting in silence under the weight of pain and heartache, talking about life or the Lord or listening to frustrations, and overwhelmed by the chaos and emotions and drama that goes on everyday. Its quite the life!

Beneath all the stuff that goes on here, I have found a sweet peace in Christ. He is everything. People say it's all about Jesus - sometimes it seems cheesy or a church answer, but it really is the truth. All reality exists in Him, and He is the only source of true life. I have been blessed by some recent conversations with girls lately. A couple of them have really encouraged me by their response to the truth and desire to know Christ. I started to go through Ephesians with the girls last night. Only one of the girls came this week, but it was sweet one-on-one time. She shared part of her testimony with me and I did the same. Then we looked at the first 10 verses and talked about how God chose us before the creation of the world and has blessed us with everything! Its hard to really grasp and take in such rich truths about God's grace - and to think about how He has revealed the mystery of His will to us and plan to bring everything back together in Christ. I wanted to just sit in the awe and silence of the moment. Wow! It is too good to be true, but it is true and amazing! It was exciting to just worship God together and to enjoy the stillness of the night and then pray together for one another. I am really excited to continue to dig into the Word and a few other girls said they want to join us. I am so encouraged to see Christ working in their hearts and their desire to know Him. One girl here has recently told me that she wants to know the God I know. I am humbled, and so excited! I want my life to be an invitation to know and worship Christ. I want to draw other people into the heart of the Lord, to worship Him together. I think that is what life is all about. I am so grateful for the opportunity to do that here. :)

I love getting to see truth in the everyday experiences of life. I love metaphors and analogies, and my girls joke around with me about how I have a God analogy for everything. I am okay with that! Last week one of them fell out of her bed and broke a side table I have by my bed while I was off. When I came back, I realized that it was a bit lopsided...haha. They just giggled at this and I found the story out later the next day. However, the next morning I examined the table to realize their feeble attempts to fix it. They had taken scotch tape and wrapped it around the legs, then colored the tape with black permanent marker. I removed the tape while laughing. I asked them why they didn't tell me, and one girl said she thought I would be mad. Clearly, they don't quite know me yet. :) I thought the whole thing was hilarious! And I was quite glad my Little who fell off her bed didn't get hurt. And I saw a perfect example of how we relate to the Lord...

We as people are clearly broken. We are sinful at the depths of our hearts and completely depraved. We have a desperate need for a Savior. Yet, even though we know this, instead of coming to the Lord with our brokenness, we try to fix ourselves. We try to tape together the broken pieces of our lives and dress it up to pretend like everything is okay and we aren't broken. Sometimes we think God is going to be so disappointed with us and angry, when the truth is He is very aware of our brokenness, and has great compassion. The whole reason He left the throne of heaven to enter into our pain to rescue us from ourselves, our sin and shame. However, instead of experiencing the life Christ has to offer, we just walk around is pretty ridiculous. But we do it all the time. I shared this analogy with my girls and other Bigs because I love metaphors! ;) My girls thought I was crazy, haha, but I know the Lord is working in their hearts and I really enjoy them a lot.

I am very aware of this intense battle being fought over my heart right now. It has been very painful lately and overwhelming at times with the intensity of the emotions I experience in it. Hurt, pain, frustration, anger, confusion. I think Romans 7 clearly defines the war being waged. I see these idols my heart creates - longings for love, affection, attention, affirmation, approval, acceptance and comfort or control that turn quickly into demands and take me captive to my flesh. I absolutely hate it and am disgusted by what I see. And I feel entirely helpless and unable to change it and fix it, because I am. I am slowly learning to lay this all before the Lord, to not try to tape myself together, but to face the feelings I am experiencing, to feel the hurt, disappointment and pain and allow those things to draw me closer to Christ. I honestly don't want to face them. I want to go around the pain or avoid it or find a quick fix, but I feel the Lord beckoning me to enter the darkness, the valley and the unknown of the confusion because He is there and He is inviting me into it. He is patient with me as I am slowly being obedient to go there with Him. It reminds me of the song "If You Want Me To" by Ginny Owens - Currently on every playlist I am listening to right now. I may not know where He is leading or feel like He is there, but I will go through it clinging to His promises and trusting even when I don't understand and I can't see. Extremely difficult, but I know it will be totally worth it! You can pray for grace and obedience to this for me if you want. :)

Yeah so thats me & my heart right now. I am a beautiful mess as always. :) I know this entry was a bit long, but I felt the need to share what has been on my heart, I pray it will encourage your heart and spur you on towards Christ. He will meet you where you are and is faithfully working out what He began in you. May you experience more of His amazing love & grace today. I love you & miss you all. Feel free to tell me how you are or what is going on in your life. Much love always! :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

a beautiful collision

The past couple of weeks have been challenging. I can't count the number of times I have wanted to breakdown or run away, but I am still here and pushing through by the grace of God, which is enough.

So much change creates a lot of chaos, and I feel like I am in the middle of the mess. Since only 3 of us girl Bigs have been here for awhile, I feel like there has been extra responsibility. While people are getting used to working in the kitchen, we have been helping out a lot in there and also help out with everything in the house. One day, I wanted to scream because I felt stretched beyond my limits. After almost 7 hours in the kitchen, I came back into the house to be asked to do 3 different things in the first 2 minutes I was there. I was exhausted and drained in every way possible. Littles were frustrated with other girls, how things were in the house as new Bigs are learning how everything runs, and the house directors come to me for information and to do things, too. I was comfortable just going along with things before, but now I have been forced to really step it up. I think I prayed for this...and its a good thing, just hard. I never thought it would be easy, just actually walking through it makes me more aware of my own humanity, as well as my pride. Yikes! But God is graciously opposing that in me and breaking me down. Hallelujah!

I am growing in my dependence on Christ. I think that probably the greatest thing that could happen - the purpose in all of it. As more of my own selfishness and pride is revealed, I must draw near to Christ and ask that He change me and work in ways that only He can. Right now I feel so distracted by everything I have to do, that I think I miss Christ in it all. I want to be able to sit and engage in rich conversation with other Bigs & Littles. Lately, I feel like I have been running around like crazy doing things, making sure people have what they need. I have been blessed to really connect with other people at moments, but I wish I could do that more. Now that we get 2 whole days off instead of just 12 hours (hallelujah!), I think I will try to take a Little out each week for some one-on-one time. I did that last week and I loved it! Precious time without feeling pressure to be somewhere or do something.

I want to slow down...but its hard to walk into a house with 25 Littles who all want you to take them somewhere or get something for them or to simply love on them. I want to hold each of them, help them see who Christ is, that only He can satisfy those intense longings in their soul and that the other things they are chasing after is going to leave them more thirsty and empty. I don't know the best way to show them the gospel, but I am seeking what this looks like. I know I fail everyday at loving the people around me, at staying focused on Christ and resting in His grace. In the past, I would probably beat myself up for not living up to the standard I have set - but praise God that I feel more free to be okay with where I am, struggling, searching. Not knowing all the answers. Its not about the standard I set anyways. I still experience heartache and disappointment and frustration, which at times is overwhelming, but I have security and peace in Christ and can be okay not being okay knowing that Christ holds me together - if that makes any sense.

The Lord is faithful, even when I am not. He will complete the work He began in me, in other Bigs and Littles, in all of us. His purposes cannot be thwarted, so I am free to love, to risk, to hurt, to cry, to fail. I long for more. And I will as long as I live on this earth. I have a desire in me that nothing in this earth can satisfy. That is a scary realization, but its true of all of us, and as I begin to face this deep thirst, I can run to the One who satisfies. Christ is all I need. I won't be fully satisfied, not in the way I long to, until He returns to take us home. And so there is this ache in my heart, this longing for something, somewhere. I know it is for my sweet Savior, and I wait in eager expectation for the day I see His face. Until then, I know there is work to be done, people to love, and trials to teach me how to love the way Christ has called me to.

I want to love deeply. To love well. To love freely, passionately, powerfully. To give life, to reflect Christ, to offer Him in the midst of my own brokenness, weakness and failure. His love never fails, and He is what we are all so desperate for. Lord, teach me how to love - You and others. This is my prayer and heart's desire.

I miss you all and love you very much. I would love to hear how you are doing if you would like to share. Feel free to call me or email or whatever! May you know Christ more each day. Love, love and more love! :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

we are family - get up everybody & sing

Hello everyone! Hope you are doing well!

Right now is a time of transition for so many people. School is starting. Many of my friends are starting new semesters of school or new jobs in schools. Now is a big time of change and transition and new beginnings. Along with that comes excitement, sadness and uncertainty. But I praise God and our Lord Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday and today and forever! (Hebrews 13:8)

Lots of transition is going on around here, too! We found out early last week that the Branson property was closing and their Bigs and Littles were moving here. New Bigs from both Branson and here arrived last Wednesday and have been involved in training since then. The Bigs who have been here since last August will be leaving this coming Sunday and the new Bigs will begin their year. There have also been several changes in our program as Bigs, and there will be many more people on property. We will almost have a full house with 13 Bigs and about 21 Littles! Crazy!

I have been involved in some training with the new Bigs, which has been good. I am so excited to get to know a new group of people and have been so blessed by them so far. It will be weird and sad to say good-bye to the rest of the old Bigs this weekend - women with whom I have lived for the past 8 months. They have taught me so much and their presence will be missed greatly. However, I am looking forward to the new community that the Lord has already created with us as a new group and how He will work these next 4 months.

Last night, we went over to the director's house for dinner. Afterwards, we all sat around and shared our testimonies with one another for almost 5 hours. It was incredible to sit in a room with 20 of my brothers and sisters and listen to how the Lord has brought us each into a relationship with Him in unique and personal ways. It was this beautiful picture of Christ, the many ways He works in our lives, through struggle, sin, pain, loss, anger, deception and gives us grace, forgiveness, love, hope, life, comfort and freedom! People were willing to be vulnerable and honest in ways that they had failed and struggled, doubted God or denied Him at times, all brought together to this place ready to see what His is going to do in us and through us. I felt so blessed to be there with them all, to feel united in a single purpose, each with different gifts and personalities that I know He will use for His  purposes. I know the next four months will be tough at times, we will come into conflict with one another, but I know there will be fun times, sweet fellowship and a beauty as we are broken together. I am so excited and grateful! I have already enjoyed the time I have been able to spend with them and look forward to what we will get to experience together in the months ahead! This has been such a strong desire of my heart and I can only praise the Lord for His faithfulness of the community here!

With all the transition comes a wide variety of emotions and fears. There is still a lot of details to be worked out and inconsistencies to be worked through. Through the merging of two different groups of people, I am interested to see what the interactions between Littles and Bigs as we all join at one location will look like. Pray that we would remain focused on Him as He provides all we need through this time of transition, that we would all be transformed to look more like Him in the process!

I miss you all very much and am so blessed by your willingness to follow me in this journey. May you be blessed wherever the Lord has you and know Him more intimately today! Much love always! :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You are a shelter for every misfit soul

Hello! I can't believe it is August. I have been here for about 7 1/2 months now. Crazy!

Right now we are in the middle of a BIG transition. Next week new Bigs come in to be trained for the upcoming year. The Bigs who are here now will be leaving at the end of this month and then we will move forward with a new class. This will change the dynamics of the house for sure, which always change anyways as girls come in and out of the Shelterwood program. This week we had 2 new girls come, one came last Friday and one comes early next week. As new girls have come in, the number of Bigs has gone down. We will soon have about 15 Littles for 7 girl Bigs. This makes things a bit more stressful in the house, but the Lord is working in the midst of that.

Through the challenges ahead, we will learn to come together more as Bigs and really support each other. I am excited to see what the Lord is going to do. Change is always tough, but the Lord is always faithful and the only constant in our ever-changing lives. It will be a bittersweet time the next few weeks - meeting new Bigs, saying good-bye to the old ones, walking through the transition with the girls, and readjusting to the new roles and dynamics in the house. Since 2 other Bigs & I will be staying, the new Bigs will look to us to lead and help them learn how everything works. I praise God who is faithful to provide all we need and guide us each step of the way because honestly I have no idea what that is going to look like. :) Sometimes I feel overwhelmed thinking about things, but I am also really excited. If I keep my eyes on Christ and remember that He is my strength, that it is about Him and not me, I can stand firm. Pray that I would keep Christ as my focus and humbly obey where He leads. Pray for the Bigs who are leaving as they transition out of Shelterwood and seek the Lord for what is next. Pray the Christ would make Himself known and move in the hearts of the Littles and Bigs. He is what we all need.

Last week, I met my brother in Memphis and was able to drive down with my brother, sister-in-law and nephew to Florida, where I surprised my parents, aunt & uncle and grandparents! We spent some sweet time together, went to the beach, were blessed to see old friends from Florida, and celebrate my grandparents 60th anniversary! I am so glad I was able to go and blessed to have such a great example of faithful marriage in my family. I enjoyed my time on break, but it was honestly hard, too. When you live in such an intense environment and bubble, its strange sometimes to be away. Right when you get used to being in the 'real world', you have to go back. I actually enjoyed coming back. There are moments when I absolutely love what I do, then moments where I want to leave. There is a moment for everything, just as there are seasons in life. It is just crazy when you feel so many different emotions in one day. Thank You Lord for never leaving me and being with me through all of the chaos! :)

Before I left for break, I was blessed to lead Bible Study for all the girls in our house. I taught about how God is our Lover, the way He pursues us and loves us so deeply. I loved it! What is greater to talk about than that? The girls asked some great questions which was really exciting! Then I shared some of my life story and testimony. I was able to be open and honest about some things I have struggled with and how the Lord faithfully pursued me even when I was seeking other 'lovers' and places to find my identity, security and comfort. Through all that I have walked through, God as a jealous lover, has drawn me to His love and grace and shown me that only He can provide me with the things I so desperately desire. I felt blessed to share my life with them and pray that the Lord will use it to draw their hearts closer to Him as well. It was also really encouraging for me to personally to reflect on what Christ has done in my life and the depth of His love.

This past weekend I wrestled a lot thinking about sin and the gospel. I felt like lately I had failed to love & obey the Lord the way He desires, choosing to do things that don't glorify Him. As I wrestled with feelings of confusion, guilt, frustration and fear, I came to see how I often try to find my security in my faith, my ability to obey instead of Christ and Christ alone. My faith sometimes fails, but Christ remains faithful. I am not righteous, but Christ righteousness has been accredited to me through His sacrifice on the cross. The salvation of my faith is not based on the strength of my faith - but the object of my faith - Christ. It was rough to process and remember the depravity of my own heart, but I thank the Lord for humbling me & drawing me back to the depths of His grace, love & forgiveness. He never gives up on us no matter how many times we seem to wander. What love, compassion, grace. He is so worthy of all our worship, affection, attention, our very lives. There are times when I fail to acknowledge that and sometimes wrestle to believe it, but through all of the struggle, He is Lord. He is Savior. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all my inmost being. Christ is King.

I pray that you are coming to know Christ more. Thank you for following me through this year of my life. My prayer is for Christ to be known and glorified, that He may become greater and I become less. Be blessed! Much love and grace to you all! Until next time...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

i don't know, and it's okay! :)

Hello everyone! It's been 3 weeks since my last update. I would have updated sooner, but there is so much that happens all the time that I don't get to process. I didn't want to process here - because that would be too much to read! I still have a lot to process, but I can still talk a little bit about the past few weeks.

The house trip was a blast! We went horseback riding, to a water park, hiking, swimming and a day-trip to Branson where we saw the other Doulos/Shelterwood property, walked around the Landing (shopping place where I went to Build-A-Bear :) had dinner together, then went to a Branson show. The show was called Legendz and featured impersonations by Little Richard, Alan Jackson, the Blues Brother, Britney Spears and Elvis. Our girls were like a side-show - screaming, dancing, laughing, and even got kissed on the cheek by Elvis! Haha they were so funny and I think we all had a great time. Being on the other property was exciting to me - just to think that people in a different location are doing the same thing was nice. Overall, the trip was a fun time to hang out, laugh, process some things and have some good conversations.

The next Monday we said good-bye to one of our house directors. She is about to start a new ministry opportunity working with girls coming out of the sex industry. I am so excited for her and looking forward to hearing about what Christ is going to do! We all miss her a lot. I have loved getting to know her heart, I know the Lord has great plans for her and am glad I will still get to hear about it!

The next week was very long because the girl's didn't have school while the boys went on their trip - which meant no alone time for us! It was tiring. We had fun though. We went to a Royals (baseball) game one night, watched movies, went climbing at a rock gym, hung out and slept in a little bit. Saturday we had to say good-bye to one of the Bigs because she decided it was best to go home with back treatments and so much stress that is experienced on a daily basis here. She was one of the Bigs I was closer to and I miss her, but I know we will keep in touch! There has been so much change here with people coming and going, and that is going to continue for the next month.

A Little graduated yesterday! She is awesome and I was blessed to get to know her a little bit, though I wish I had gotten to know her more. I am excited for her to go home and how the Lord will continue to work in her life. Graduations are always exciting and encouraging to reflect on what the Lord does and how He is faithful to heal brokenness is these girls and their families. It inspires me to invest more, go deeper, and continue to seek the Lord.

Yesterday, we also were told another Big was leaving. She was the Big I was closest to here, and it was all a shock. I still don't know what to think about it all, but I know that regardless the Lord is faithful to work for good in all things. I have already enjoyed hearing and seeing how the Lord is using it in all of our lives. It is definitely not easy by any means. However, I got to see her today though and we talked for over 3 hours. I love her very very much and have been so blessed by her friendship. She doesn't live too far away so I will get to see her still. Hallelujah!

Another Big took a week off before coming back as a wing director - kind of like an assistant house director. We will have another wing director coming in August or September who was a Big last year. A lot of changes are about to happen in the next month as the Bigs who have been her since last August will be leaving and new Bigs will come. Lots of change and transition - and lots of chaos and emotion go with that. Praise God who holds everything together! I am sad and excited about everything. I will miss the Bigs here now, but I am excited for the newness of things and opportunity to make changes as well. I know the change will mean I will need to step up and be a leader. I feel like the Lord has been calling me to that all year - which I have honestly been pretty resistant to - but now I won't really have a choice much. If you don't choose to get out of the boat - Jesus will push you out! Haha not really - but His plans can't be thwarted! So in a way this is true. But I am glad for that. He will provide the strength and wisdom I need. Courage. I should post Joshua 1:9 on my wall. :) "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

I was reading Psalm 18 earlier today and got stuck on verse one. "I love you, O Lord, my strength." I realized that the Lord does not just give us strength, but He is my strength. Wow - the depth of that truth. Jesus lives in me. That is so crazy for me to comprehend. I just think - "God, are You serious? You live in me?" I want to live in that truth. The Lord will not just provide me with strength, grace, love, power and wisdom, but He is strength, grace, love power and wisdom. And He lives in me. Therefore, all those things are already in me. It is simply a matter of letting them come out - to shine the light of Christ within me instead of hiding it, which I do sometimes. Lord, give me the boldness to shine brightly for You. Amen.

So I continue on this the midst of the chaos and confusion and brokenness and joy and healing - the Lord is faithful. There is so much I don't know, and the more I know the less I understand, but I can find all I need in Christ and I can rest in the arms of the One who holds everything together. When it seems like everything is falling apart, all we can do is cry out to the One who holds it all and has the ability to put everything together - and more beautifully than it was before. So sweet it is to trust in Jesus.

Thank you for your continued encouragement, love & prayers. Each of you are a gift of God's grace in my life, and I thank Him for you. Much love always! I know I am busy, but I am always longing to know how you are are and to hear how Christ is transforming Your life. To Him alone be the glory because He alone is worthy. :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

His are the hands i've grown to trust

Trust. Faith. Believe. How I want to trust God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. To believe all that He says about who He is, who I am and what He can and is doing. I am learning to trust.

The Lord is giving me plenty of opportunities to do that here. There are opportunities everyday where I feel challenged and am humbled. And everything changes, which isn't always easy for me. We had a new girl come last week, and then we had one today, one tomorrow and one Friday. That is a lot of new girls who must be attached to a Big at all times. We are also leaving on Monday to go on a house trip to Arkansas to camp for a week. I am excited! We actually can stay in a house and aren't legit camping, but we get to go hiking, swimming, horseback riding and fun stuff like that! Oh camp fire and s'mores! Maybe I will bring a jar and we can catch fireflies, too! Yay for summertime!

I sent out a bunch of update letters the past few weeks. I have been so encouraged by so many people who have sent me texts or messages and shared some truth and just blessed me. Thank you so much! I am constantly encouraged by so many people who tell me they are praying for me or who take time to talk with me or ask how they can pray. You have no idea how much that means to me and renews my heart when I often feel discouraged or worn down. I am reminded that I am not alone and I praise God for it all. It is almost overwhelming at times to think of how many people are praying for me and supporting me. Thank you for joining me on this journey and allowing me to share with you. I am also so blessed by the friendships I have and people who are willing to share their lives with me. Oh heaven - how sweet it will be to all live together with Christ! But for now - I am so ridiculously blessed!

My heart breaks sometimes for the community we have here. I long for so much more for us, more connectedness, unity and love. I struggle sometimes to know if this is from the Lord or if I am missing what God is doing now. I think its a mix of both. I really want to see things from God's perspective - situations, Bigs, Littles, myself. To live out of that is to live in the truest reality. It is hard sometimes to do. It is easy to get caught up in the schedule of things, in the responsibilities. Do this, be here, always being with the Littles. I feel like I lose perspective because I am with people all the time and love the moments I am alone to step back and regain perspective. I want to be able to stay focused on Christ in the busyness of each day, but its challenging. He is faithful!

I also have become more aware of how I allow fear to hold me back from offering my heart to people. Sometimes I like being vulnerable, but sometimes I hate it. It hard to offer myself knowing that it could be rejected. But as I learn to stand firm in who I am in Christ and know my worth and value come from Him alone, He empowers me to love without needing anything in return. He can be my only motivation to truly love, or else I am seeking others for my worth. But the Lord is so patient with me as I learn how to trust Him and stand firm on what is true, to really believe what He says. Oh what a mess we all are...but there's a beauty to it. I am so glad that Christ holds everything together and works for good in all things and makes things beautiful. He invites us to be a part of it, but He does the work in His own mysterious and amazing ways. He is worthy, so worthy.

That is all I really have for now. I pray that your are growing in your faith and trusting Christ. He is so faithful and will give us all we need. Know that you are dearly loved! :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

the more i know, the less i understand

I hope you are all enjoying your summer! It is hot and humid here - but we get to go to the pool most days which is nice. The summer schedule is a bit crazier than during the school year here. As Bigs, we plans more activities with the Littles and have less time off each day. That has been a bit challenging for me these past few weeks. I realized how much I need alone time to really be still and process things and re-energize. I have felt pretty good for the most part, but I also feel like I've just been going with the flow of everything and haven't stopped much to really know what is going on deeper inside. I also feel like I am becoming a little too comfortable where I am, and now is the time to be challenged.

Just some rambling about what I've been thinking about the past few days...

I've been praying for discernment lately. I have so many questions about the way things should be - especially relationships. I want to find the balance that brings the most glory to God. I know we are called to live in community and have interdependent relationships. I don't know exactly what that looks like. I have seen myself become too dependent in relationships, and then also isolate myself and not allow people in. I want to find a healthy balance. As I am learning that only the Lord can satisfy all the desires in my heart, I am wrestling to understand where my relationships with people fit into all of this. Jesus prays that we would be one as He and the Father are one. So what does that mean for us?

I'm wrestling with what my relationships with other Bigs and Littles should look like. Its easy to want to look at the relationships other Bigs have with the Littles and think mine should look like theirs. But we are all different and have different personalities. I know I long for depth, however I want to meet people where they are. I know I can sometimes intimidate or overwhelm people with my depth, and so I think I have held that back more now. I really want to surrender who I am to Christ and allow Him to show me how to be all I am and use the gifts He has given me for His glory. I think it is more of a moment by moment dependence on Him than knowing exactly what it looks like and going for that. Every relationship is different, and situations are different. There are no formulas, these are relationships. I think there is this mystery to relationships. I think it adds to the beauty of them, but it can also be hard. They take patience, forgiveness, communication and listening. I love listening to other people, asking questions and hearing their hearts. I also feel so loved when people ask me good questions and really are interested in what I have to say. To be loved is to be known...

I had an evaluation last week with the LeadTime directors, intern and one of our house directors. We talked about areas I can grow and what some of my strengths are. It was an encouraging time and I felt known and loved as they affirmed who I am and challenged me in different areas. One ways I was challenged was to offer my heart more and my perspective. I wrestle with this a lot. Sometimes I feel like my heart is too much to handle and don't want to offer it in fear it will be rejected or overwhelm people. I feel deeply and can be very passionate about things. I don't always like to feel that way or show it because its so deep - which means I am capable of hurting deeply as well. I want to be all the Lord created me to be, and I know that involves my depth and what people have described as an extra big heart. I don't know what to do with it most of the time. It's easier sometimes to not allow myself to care so deeply, but I don't want what's easy - I just want what will draw me closer to the Lord. I also want to be closer to other people, too. I say that, but when it comes to being vulnerable and sharing my heart, I often choose the safe route of being quiet and simply thinking about things before I take action. Love is a risk. I want to love well. C.S. Lewis says, "To love at all is to be vulnerable." I think that's true. I pray that Love will teach me how to love like He did - His vulnerability exposed on the cross, the depth of His love, the intensity of the pain He experienced so we could know Him. That is the only motivation to truly love even in the face of the heartache. Love is hard. I don't understand it a lot. Lord, teach me how to love. Amen.

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement. I pray you would know more of His love today!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

beautiful the mess we are

The title of this blog entry is from a song my mom sent me called "Better Than a Hallelujah" by Amy Grant. And since I feel like I am a beautiful mess all the time, I love the lyrics. :) But I have found so much freedom in being that mess - its been so sweet.

My break home was perfect! I saw more people in Austin than I was planning on or could have hoped for. I saw a friend on the drive down and drive back. I felt like I was able to spend good quality time with my closest friends & my family. The entire time was filled with my favorite things in Austin - live music on a beautiful night, Kerbey Lane breakfast, kayaking on Town Lake right by the downtown skyline, some good ol' tex-mex at Chuy's, good time driving down the Mopac, worshipping our Creator with the body at Austin Stone and HCBCnw, and I got to visit T Bar M camp in New Braunfels!!! It was a week where I constantly was blessed to proclaim the gospel & the faithfulness of the Lord. I was so encouraged by everyone. I ran into people everywhere who said they were praying for me. I laughed, I cried, I partied! :) I had one night alone where God decided to bring healing into areas of my life that have held me captive since I was little. It was beautiful and painful, but so so sweet and continues to orchestrate freedom in my life. The last night I witnessed an amazing lightening storm. Then I came back to Missouri and spent the first couple days longing for Austin and missing home. Seeing everything and everyone reminded me of how dear it all is to my heart. But I know the Lord has me here. :)

I don't know if break was perfect or if God has really changed my heart and set me free to enjoy who He is in each moment. I definitely think the latter. :) I feel like my eyes have been opened to things they missed before - and I love it! Being back here at Shelterwood has been great! I have had some incredible conversations with Bigs & Littles. I have laughed so much, and been so encouraged. And I have cried, and my heart has broken. But through the highs & lows, I know the Lord is near. I know He will provide. I know His love never fails and His grace is sufficient. I am free because of what Christ has done for me, and so I can rest. I always loved Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus invites us to come to Him and find rest. I always longed to experience that but I didn't understand. I think I do a bit now.

This place is hard. Each day you see the brokenness of our world, as you can everywhere, but yet Christ is holding it all in His hands. And so He provides the grace to find joy in the midst of sorrow and comfort in the midst of pain, and somehow for reasons I cannot comprehend, He reveals Himself to me and allows me to offer Him to others. His love for me is ridiculous - and that same love is available for each of us. Oh how He loves us! There is nothing greater than that. Everything comes down to love. And Christ is love.

We have a Little leaving tomorrow. She was one I got pretty close to, but I also realized a month ago that she isn't mine to hold - she belongs to the Lord. And I have great confidence in Him and what He has planned for her, and she is pretty strong. Good-byes are still hard though. When I came back from break, we had a new girl here. She is younger than most of the girls here, which has been a challenge, but I have enjoyed time with her and we were able to have some good conversations already. Another new girl is coming on Thursday, so change is always happening. I know a lot of us are tired. But I also know that God is the ever-lasting God and provides new strength to rise on wings like eagles! I pray we come to know Him more through all that we experience here.

Thank you for your constant prayers, love & support. I cannot tell you thanks enough for all the ways you encourage me. Please continue to pray for everyone here as Littles come & go - that we would remain focused on Christ and trust Him in all we do. I pray that you are walking in the freedom we have in Christ and never forget the you are dearly loved!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Your love sets me free

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. :) Today is the first day of pre-summer break and so most of the girls are leaving today and tomorrow to go home for some time with their family and friends. Most of them are really excited to go home!

And I am also driving home to Austin tomorrow - so excited! :D The fun part about driving is that I can also make some stops and see people along the way - like in Oklahoma or Dallas! I'm looking forward to catching up with friends, enjoying the city of Austin, visiting camp (I miss T Bar M!) and spending some quality time with my incredible family. Mmm yes I am so pumped about this next week!

I am happy! And I feel so free. Hallelujah! The Lord has been doing some serious healing in my heart and it has been awesome to really experience ways I knew the gospel intellectually finally play out in my heart and mind and bring much more peace and freedom. I feel so much more secure in who I am in Christ. I feel confident and can rest in the grace of Christ and His unfailing love & forgiveness because of the cross. Even this past week I have made mistakes and felt like such a mess at times, but I have been able to just laugh and be okay with it. I am learning not to take myself so seriously. But I am serious about how amazing Jesus is! :) And how the gospel has the power to transform lives. 

I went on Wednesday to drop one of the girls off at the airport. It was kinda stressful for her - I was fine but she was a bit worried about being late and missing her plane and whatnot. This was one of the times I felt like a mess. ;) She got on the plane just fine, and then as I was walking back, someone said my name in the airport and one of the pastors from Austin Stone was in the airport! It was so crazy. I then found out that the pastor of the church I go to here, Redeemer Fellowship, is good friends with another pastor at Austin Stone! It was so encouraging, just to realize these connections, and feel like a part of the body of Christ transcending different cities. Thank you Lord for Your sweet reminder in that way! 

We had to say good-bye to 2 girls this week. One was the girl who was going to be in my room. We all cried as we hugged her good-bye. Another girl turned 18 a couple months ago and made a deal with her parents to leave at the end of the school year. So she went home yesterday. We now have only 8 girls here, but may get a few more this summer. We don't know really. I think I have learned to let go a lot here, because the only thing you can count on is change. People come and go. Emotions are constantly changing. Plans change, the weather is crazy. The only constant is Christ, and as I have learned to cling to Him, I am okay if everything is chaotic. Christ is the only constant in our ever-changing lives. I had a friend write that one time - and its been something I have come to find so true. Praise God for His peace that transcends understanding. 

Summer schedule looks a bit different. The kids only go to school for half the day, and then we plan different activities in the evening. I am in charge of game night every Monday, but I am most excited about Tuesday! We get to do Bible study with the girls every Tuesday - and I think it might be my favorite! Friday we get to teach them some class - and I think I might be helping with guitar - even though I will be learning myself! I am hoping this summer will be fun and look forward to what God has planned.

I am blessed. The Lord is faithful, and His love never changes. Christ has come to set us free and we are free indeed. Thank you all for you continual prayers, encouragement and love! It is a joy to know you and to celebrate who Christ is together and we seek to glorify Him with our lives! Much love to you all - and Happy Summer! :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

this is where the healing begins

It has been a few weeks since my last update. Sorry for that! It is easy to be consumed by this place. The month of May has seemed to fly by! This Saturday starts my pre-summer break and I will get to go home for a few days and I am so excited!

About 2 weeks ago, we took everyone up to Camp Galilee, a camp about 2 1/2 hours away. We spent time doing work projects, had a campfire, worship, teams where we played crazy games, made up skits, and did team building activities together. It was great to get to build relationships more with some of the kids and to get away from property. It rained a lot during our time there...and several of us came back with poison ivy! And I am pretty allergic to it!!!! I am on meds for it now, so hopefully it will go away soon. Having poison ivy just reminded me of the broken relationship we have with creation because of the fall...yes that is how I think. :) But it makes me excited for God's restoration of all things!

Last weekend I flew home to be in a good friend's wedding. It was such a nice trip and fun to get to celebrate marriage with her and stand beside her at the ceremony. I am excited for how God is going to work in their lives and through their marriage for His glory! Its a fun time to celebrate the incredible love of Christ and His covenant with us. And it seems like so many people are getting married or engaged lately...I feel like I am out of the loop being here though - and not at that place yet. But at the same time, the Lord has been showing me so much in my relationship with Him, how marriage reflects that, and how He wants to change my heart and realize that the greatest source of intimacy and satisfaction is found in Christ and Christ alone. He is the source of love and affection, and He is deepening my roots in His love so I can stand firm in Him - which I am so excited about!!! I have felt so broken here, and I finally feel like He is really beginning to heal me at such a deep level. Hallelujah! I feel a new freedom, a new joy, a new peace. But it is also just the beginning and I know He has much more work to do, but overall - I am pumped!

I have been listening to the new Tenth Avenue North cd a lot lately. Oh my! One of the most healing things I have ever listened to. Music tends to be the language of my heart - songs lyrics are, too. I think that is why I love the psalms so much. But the lyrics on their album are raw, real, and honest. And I love it! Megan, one of the other Bigs with whom I have developed a good friendship with here, picked me up at the airport last Sunday and played a song for me that had my name written all over it. I wept of course, but absolutely loved the truth and felt so encouraged. I bought the cd for myself, and every song has some truth I need to hear. It is sweet sounds to my soul! :)

Sometimes I feel so exhausted here in every way possible. And I feel like I shut down and turn off in a way. Which I hate. I realized that beneath all of this my heart hurts and I am sad. However, I don't always have the opportunity to feel this hurt and pain and let it out. I try to deal with it in my mind, but sometimes I just need to cry and really feel the hurt. If I don't, I start to feel not much of anything and become hardened. There is so much pain and hurt here. But - I have been spurred to pray harder for Christ to make Himself known and pour out His mercy and healing. He can heal. He wants to heal our hearts and set us free from the things that hold us captive. Isaiah 61 is a perfect display of that. I long so desperately for these girls to truly know Christ and to experience the depths of His love, grace, acceptance and healing. I know our healing won't be complete until Christ comes back, but I hope and pray for God to be glorified here. In the mean time, I am praying and seeking for wisdom and discernment on how the Lord wants me to be involved in that. I know He is faithful and He is enough.

All that to say - life here is never the same with each moment. Last week we had another cutting incident. I don't understand why that happens and its heartbreaking to see. She might not be coming back sadly. I was able to visit her yesterday, and I just wanted to cry with her. I just pray she will know how deeply loved she is.

We also had room changes this past weekend as well. Things are always changing, and I miss home a lot, too. I am coming to rest secure in Christ, the only constant in the chaos. He is our only hope, but He is also alive and can do immeasurable more than we could ever ask or imagine! And I am ready to see Him work. He has strengthened my faith and deepened my desire for Him. I love the Lord oh so much! Because He has such great affection for me, it sometimes overwhelms me and I just weep. Oh how He loves!!! I pray that you would know more of Christ's love for you today!!! I love you all and miss you so much. I would love to hear from you and know how I can be praying. I am so grateful for all of your encouragement, prayers and support. I am so blessed by the way the Lord has loved me through y'all. Grace and peace to you all! :)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me

I am hurting and struggling a lot right now. I am just going to be honest and say I don't think I have ever been so broken as I have been here these past four months. I feel like everyday the Lord strips me down and I realize I have nothing to hide behind, nothing to cling to - I am completely empty with nothing - except for Him. He is still there, somewhere inside, working deeper than I understand, doing something to take the mess I feel that I am and turning it into something beautiful. But I often can't see in the struggle...and I have to really stop and step back, breathe, rest and surrender.

On Sunday, some clouds were darkening and I just wanted to lay down and let the rain fall on me. And so a few hours later it started to rain. I laid out on the back porch of our house and let the cool rain fall down on me. It was refreshing, especially to have the drops fall on my faces. They were like little kisses from heaven, as the Lord dropped each drop, similar to the tears that rolled down my cheeks. It was as if the Lord was going to cry with me, He understands my pain, and His raindrops outnumber my tears by far. The power I could feel in the thunder was a comfort, and the lightning flashing across the sky was beautiful. It was a divine beautiful moment.

After a few minutes, I didn't want to get soaked, so I curled up in the corner of the porch where it is covered and simply watched the rain fall. I felt safe and secure, thinking about how God is our refuge and place to hide even in the midst of the storms of life. After the rain stopped, the sun came out, shining warm and bright. There is hope. There is a coming joy. Healing will come. He is the God of all comfort.

Parent's Weekend went well. One of the guy Littles graduated and it was awesome to see him and to know that the Lord has the power to transform lives. It is only by His power that we can be changed, healed, made new. I think parents were encouraged. It was fun to see Littles with their families. I felt a lot of the emotion of everything. There is still a lot of hurt and pain. Broken people, broken families. I wept several times throughout the weekend. My heart is so tired. But I know God is faithful to His promises, and it is His hope I cling to, and Christ alone that keeps me going. In my moments of weakness, I feel so completely helpless, vulnerable, and exposed. I just think of the words of Christ talking to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you for My power is made perfect in weakness." I pray that the power of Christ is revealed in my weakness. Only by His amazing grace. Grace that I am so desperate for. I just beg God for His grace to fall on me like rain. :)

The past few days I have felt so openly broken. Its hard to hide the tears I so easily shed. One of the other Bigs here told me that is her favorite thing about me. Oh man! I have felt really blessed and encouraged by others here lately. As I have let them see my brokenness, several of the other Bigs have really come around me, to encourage me, just sit with me, pray for me. It has meant so much to me and been such an answer to prayer. Being here can be really challenging for all of us and we can't do it alone. We were created for community - to worship God together, to remind each other of the truth of the gospel everyday, to build each other up and spur one another on. And I have learned more of the importance of that here. Before I always wanted community - now I realize how badly I need it. I need other people to point out where I am wrong, to help me when I struggle, and to point me back to grace and to Christ. I pray I am able to do the same for others. I know I have so much more to learn and more that God wants to do in me, but today I want to rest. I want to be still and praise God for who He is, for His faithfulness, to trust so deeply in my heart that I am loved and accepted by Him because of who Christ is - not because of anything I do or don't do. I want to enjoy God - all that He is. Just to be with Him and laugh and fall more in love with Him. So off I go to a park soon to enjoy this beautiful day that He has made!

Thank you so much for your prayers, love, encouragement and support. I cannot express how much it means to me. May you be blessed today and rest in the amazing love and grace of our Perfect Savior Jesus Christ! :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

what the world needs now is love. sweet love

Hey! Sorry I haven't updated in awhile...its overwhelming to think about sometimes because its impossible to really explain things here. But I will share just a little. :)

I took the past 2 weekends off, which was nice, but also bittersweet. I went to Austin for the weekend to hang out with my family for the first one. I miss them so much. I also saw a couple friends, but the trip was short and it was like a tease to be in Austin but not see everyone I want to. I miss Austin so much, the people who I love there, and Austin Stone! But I got to go to church, which was so encouraging. I love the passion and the heart to truly worship Christ.

This past weekend I went to Memphis to meet my new little nephew! He is so adorable, but its still crazy to believe my brother has a kid! I also am just encouraged by my brother and sister-in-law, the way they live their lives for Christ and seek His will for them in every area of their lives. They are intentional in really reaching out and praying for their neighbors and other people in their path. I love how they live out the gospel with such boldness. I am blessed by them for sure and was glad I could be with them.

Getting away is nice, but also hard. Slowing down a little bit is great, but then the emotion of this place hits me as I have time to actually process some of it. I wept at some point both weekends. Just an emotional release. I can honestly say being here in Missouri is hard. Really hard. The one word I would use to define my time here is: broken. Again and again and again. Most of the time I have no idea what God is doing. But I am learning to trust, and I may not see the fruit of this year until after it is over or years later. So right now I am seeing the importance of trusting Christ, even when it doesn't make sense, or its hard, or I feel like He is far off. The truth is He is always with me, He is so faithful and He is working beyond what I can see. That is my hope, my hallelujah and the only thing that keeps me going: His grace is sufficient.

Next weekend is Parent's Weekend! The littles' parents come on Thursday and hang out through the weekend. We get to go out to eat with their parents as well! I am excited, but I will probably get a little nervous, too, as time gets closer. The Littles have mixed feelings. Excitement, fear, nervousness, joy! I can't imagine being in high school and being away from my family for so long! Pray that the Lord will work and bring healing to these families. Pray that I will glorify Christ in whatever way that means as well.

I came back last Sunday night to find out one of the girls had been picked up that morning by her parents and isn't coming back. She had been here about 2 months. Most of us didn't think she was ready to go home, but I know God has her. Another girl is leaving in the morning. She found out today. Craziness. She has been here about 6 months. She is at a stronger place, but she will probably also struggle some at home. But we all struggle don't we? We will be down to 9 girl Littles after that. We also lost one of the guy Bigs last week, too. The constant changing and intensity of this place is really hard on my heart. I'm afraid I'm being hardened because I can't handle it all. I don't know how to handle it really, and things keep going and moving along. There is no time to really stop, rest, process, breathe. So I just keep going. My favorite time each day is the time I get to spend alone with the Lord. It's almost as if we are underwater, in the midst of a storm - waves crashing down. Feels like you are drowning at times here. Time alone with Jesus is like catching a breath - gasping for breath some days. It brings me life. Without that, I don't know what I would do. He alone is my hope and my salvation. I still feel like I don't love Him as I should, but He loves me more than I can comprehend, and I try to hold onto that.

I have been thinking about love lately - how to truly love these girls, love the other Bigs. The girls act like they don't want much to do with us, unless they need us to go with them somewhere or get something for them. I don't think that is actually true - I think they do want us around, but they are teenagers, too. One of my littles actually really does like me around. She and I get to have good conversations a lot and I am really grateful for her. She encourages me a lot, is fun, respectful, positive, laughs a lot, and we get to talk about Christ, too. She might be leaving at the end of May though. I am going to miss her.

I want to love like Christ loves me. To not give up when I am rejected time and time again. To not live in fear and let the anger of others push me away or cause me to shut down. I want to trust Christ with everything. I want to speak the truth in love, even when its hard. I want to encourage those around me when they are struggling. I want to know Christ more and make Him known. I want to see Him move in this place, in my heart and in the hearts of those around me. We are struggling. All of us. And right now I feel like we are all feeling pretty defeated. I know the truth is that Christ has defeated the enemy and is greater than him. I am grateful for friends and family that remind me of the truth - often through little texts messages! :) It means so much to me, especially here and now. Your prayers and encouragement mean more to me than I can express. Right now I simply hold onto grace. The Lord is faithful. He will provide. He is mighty to save. He is all I need. I thank Him for each of you! I miss you all so much. You have no idea! Please let me know how you are or how I can be praying for you. Grace, peace and love in Christ our Savior! You are loved more than you will ever know by a God who never fails and holds the Universe in His hands. :)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

but He said to me,"My grace is sufficient for you..."

I am tired and drained. The past couple of weeks has been rough. I have come to the end of myself, been faced with my inadequacy and weakness, and come to a place where all I have to cling to is the grace of Christ.

I've learned a lot about myself and been weighed down by the sin, hurt and brokenness I see in myself and those around me. I realized that in high energy situations, I have a tendency to shut down. When people get escalated and angry, I have no idea how to respond. I feel alone, weak and helpless. It is overwhelming at times. The girls have a lot of hurt and pain, and they put up walls and push people away with their anger. They don't know what to do with their pain so they lash out, and I feel lost as to help them. I am learning, but I realize how much I don't know and how out of control things can get sometimes. It has been humbling and hard. But I praise Christ who holds all things together and is faithful to work in me. He is patient as I learn to be all He desires me to be, and I am grateful for His infinite wisdom - God knows what these girls need and is faithful to provide. He also has the power to change hearts, to change my heart, and allow me to be more bold, giving and compassionate as I continue to learn how to love well.

Yesterday was one of the craziest days here. One of the girls here has been making violent threats to other girls and staff. She also was inappropriate most of the time and had earned herself over 80 work hours in consequences. She never acted out on the threats she made, but she wouldn't stop making them, so staff made a contract with her over the weekend. Yesterday, they told her she was being dismissed from the program. She was going to be allowed to stay until a more appropriate placement could be found, but she asked for them to call the cops, who came and took her to a hospital. The hospital wouldn't admit her, so last night I went with another Big to sign her in at another facility at 2:30 am. It was a strange experience to sign her paperwork and place her in the care of another place. I didn't feel like I had the authority to do such a thing, even though legally we are their 'guardians'. I am 22 - what do I know? I feel so unequipped and unqualified sometimes in what I am doing. We got back at almost 5 this morning, so I slept for a couple hours, then got to sleep again for four hours in the middle of the day.

I haven't really been able to process it all. It was really tough to watch everything happen. A lot of the girls were intimidated and afraid of the girl and were frustrated in the house. It was affecting them a lot, and even harmful at times. However, I had some great conversations with the girl who had to leave - one-on-one we got to talk a lot and she had great insight and was very loving. Around everyone as a group, she was a completely different person. It was hard to see the way she lied and manipulated things. When confronted individually, she would apologize and understood she was wrong, but later she would deny it. I feel confused, my heart hurts for her, because I know she is really struggling. I just pray the Lord will do an amazing work in her life and that she can get the help she needs. I was glad I could go see her last night to say good-bye, but I still don't know what to think about it all.

One of the girls graduated from the program this morning. She was a fun girl who I really enjoyed getting to know. She really encouraged me a lot and would give me huge hugs everyday and we had some really great conversations. She has been here 19 months, and I am really proud of her and excited for what she will do.

We are now down to 11 girls. The house seemed much calmer today and quieter, but its weird. There is a lot going on with everyone, Bigs and Littles, and I just pray that the Lord would unite us in it all. Sometimes I feel like we are so disconnected and trying to deal with everything on our own. I desire to see us truly learn how to love one another and support each other. I know I fail other people a lot, but I am seeking the Lord on what my role is here and how to best love the other Bigs, and the Littles as well.

I am a bit weary, but I also have hope in Christ. I feel weighed down at the moment to be honest, and discouraged. But I will cry out to Jesus and wait upon the Lord. He will be faithful to come, renew, restore and redeem. So I will wait...

Thank you for your continued encouragement and support. I love you all so much and thank the Lord for you and ways He pours His love on me through you. I would love to hear from you all. May you learn more of the grace of Christ in your own life. Even when things are rough, His grace is enough. Amen.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

You know my shame still You call me beautiful

Hello everyone! Sorry it has been awhile since my last post. Things around here can be crazy at times and are rather busy. I don't like how I feel disconnected from people back home while I am here, but I trust that the Lord holds us together even when we are apart!

After Beyond Week, there was one week of school for the Littles before Spring Break. We had another bad cutting incident that week, which was a bit traumatic for some of the girls. It's hard to see how one girl's actions affect the other girls so much. However, I know that the Lord is working in the midst of these difficult situations, its just hard to watch the girls wrestle with so much. I just pray that they come to know the Lord more and that He will grace them with understanding in their pain. I asked to speak in chapel - which happens Thursday mornings with the Littles, Bigs and staff. I was going to talk about being different, but I might talk about suffering and why God allows and sometimes brings difficulties into our lives. We shall see...

As for Spring Break, most of the girls went home for the 10 day break. Some stayed here though because they can't go home on the first break - so we had about 6-7 of the newer girls around property. I enjoyed taking some of the girls to the airport to drop them off! It was a fun time with them and I feel like a parent sorta. I was here for about 3 days of break. The first night we went to see The Princess and the Frog before everyone left and then we went out for pizza another night. One day we went roller skating, another day we were going to the zoo, but we couldn't find it, so we went downtown to a mall and then got ice cream. I left the next morning for my spring break and drove to Texas!!! :)

I spent the next 5 days in Texas visiting friends, celebrating my mom's birthday, enjoying all my favorite things in Austin - including going to Mt. Bonnell to spend some sweet time with the Lord. I even got to have lunch with one of the Littles who lives in Texas. The weather in Austin was so perfect and absolutely beautiful! The time I was able to spend with friends was so encouraging and such a blessing from the Lord. I got to see people I hadn't planned on and loved every minute! :) On Sunday I went to Austin Stone (oh how I miss that place & the people) and then drove up to Memphis. One of my friends from camp last summer happened to be there on a mission trip that week - so I met her at her hotel and caught up with her for a couple hours! I was so excited! Then, Monday was my brother's birthday, and also the day Aubrey, his wife and my amazing sister-in-law, was scheduled to be induced. I didn't get to spend much time with them unfortunately, and I left Memphis on Monday 2 hours before my nephew was born. BUT Bradley McKray Laws was born at 5:25pm and weighed 8 lbs 5 oz. Yay! So excited. I can't wait to meet him! Hopefully I can take a weekend off soon to go visit. I am so excited for my brother and sister and can't believe I am an aunt! :) My parents were in Memphis the same time, so I got to spend some good time with them. I love my family so much! My spring break was amazing and I praise God for it all!

Now I am back in Missouri and its been a bit rough getting back into the swing of things. The girls had a lot to talk about from break - and a lot of crazy things happened with things on property while I was gone, but I think I am used to things always being unpredictable. Thankfully, I feel pretty calm during things, though sometimes I question why I am so calm when everything around me is not - but I'm grateful for His peace that transcends understanding! :)

When I got back from break I found out that one of the Littles was leaving on Friday. On break her family decided she was ready to go home, and so they came to pick her up yesterday. She is an awesome girl who is so strong and really cares for all the Littles an Bigs around here. She is also so much fun and just great to have here. Thursday night we had a goodbye group for her, where we had a chance to tell her what she meant to us and she talked to everyone. It was a tearful time, but also filled with lots of laughter and love. She affirmed everyone in the house, which was so incredible. I am excited for her to go home because I know she is going to do great things, but she will also be greatly missed. It's hard to say good-bye, but I realize that will happen several times while I am here. You love and then have to let go - it hurts, but its the best way. Love hard, hurt hard - but its all worth it in the end.

Today its been snowing all day - crazy! The weather all week has been so pretty and beautiful - like spring! Until we got a lot of snow last night. Happy First Day of Spring with snow! I spent the morning taking all the recycling to the recycling center, going to Wal-Mart to pick things up for the girls, and then going to Walgreens to pick up meds. Now its nice to be inside and rest a little bit. :)

Thats a summary of things here - I probably missed some things because so much goes on everyday - I don't even know how to keep track of it all. Pray for the Lord to make Himself known here, and for the girls to come to know Him more. He is the only one who   can make change happen and to really have an impact in the lives of everyone here. I know He is faithful and His love is what we all need. Also pray that God would really bring us together as Bigs. I miss you all! Thanks for your prayers, support and encouragement. I am so blessed by each one of you! Love.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

His compassions are new every morning

Right now I just want to praise God! The first two months I have been here I have felt distracted by personal struggles, brokenness, and confusion - but the Lord has been so faithful to bring healing and so much freedom. I can look back and praise Him for what He was doing, but in the midst of it all, I was quite a mess and sometimes in despair. Now I am excited and looking forward to what He has planned next! Hallelujah!

Last week for Beyond Week, I stayed here and we did some projects in the community. My group went to a local church and food distribution ministry. I made about 2,000 copies with one of my Littles for 2 days and put together information folders. It wasn't the most exciting job, but we got to talk a lot and I really enjoy her! She has been here for about 2 weeks now and has a lot of wisdom to offer the other girls. On Thursday and Friday last week, we went up to a camp called Gods Mountain, and helped them with construction and cleaning. It was nice to stay away for a night with the 7 other Bigs and 7 Littles that were here. Its crazy how the Lord has given me a special heart for them, and I laugh so much! I really do enjoy being here and am so blessed to have this opportunity.

One evening last week, I was hanging out with some of the girls in their room and started talking to one of them about God and what she thought about Him. Through our discussion, I just started sharing the gospel with her. She said she has gone to church, but after I talked about Christ and how we can have salvation through Him and how loved we are, she was so excited. She said she had never heard that before! It was so exciting, but also made me realize how foolish it is for me to assume people have heard the gospel. She said it was a lot to think about. I decided I wanted to take some girls and really dive into Scripture - so she is going to do it with me, along with one of the Littles in my room and another Little I've gotten closer to. I am looking forward to listening to what they learn from the Word and excited about what God is going to do! :) Please pray for wisdom and humility as we read the Word together, that the Lord would draw these girls to really know Him.

The rest of the people here went to El Paso on a mission trip last week. I heard some cool stories of things that happened, and 3 of the Littles got baptized! It sounds like they had a lot of fun - and I was a bit jealous they got to go to Texas! But Spring Break is next week and I am going to get to go home to Austin!!!! I cannot wait! I also will go to Memphis for a few days to see my new nephew! He isn't born yet, but any day now - and I am going to be an aunt!!!! What a precious blessing. :) I might also see one of the Littles here while I am on break in her hometown - which will be so fun! I also am looking forward to spending some good quality time with friends and family! I miss y'all so much. I am so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who are supporting and praying for me in this ministry. Thank you all so much! Be blessed and know you are loved!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

its a brand new day - the sun is shining

I just finished another dinner shift tonight - but this time was sooo much better! :) I didn't feel stressed or overwhelmed at all, but really enjoyed the time I had in the kitchen. I worked with girls this time, and they worked hard, and I got to talk with them and encourage them, too. Dinner was on time and everything worked out well. Hallelujah!

This past weekend we had room changes. The girls had to follow string that was strung all over the house to find their room. It looked crazy when it was all set-up. The day was long as we all moved everything - some girls were excited, and a few were upset, but its working out. Two new girls came this week - so we are now up to 14 Littles. One of them is in my room, and I have loved getting to know her this week. I did math homework with her yesterday for two hours and have enjoyed the time I've been able to spend with her. Now my room is full with 2 Bigs and 2 Littles. :)

Next week is Beyond Week here, where the girls are challenged to go beyond what we do normally. Some of the Bigs and Littles are going on a mission trip to El Paso, Texas. Oh how I miss Texas! The rest of us will stay back and do work projects in the community, and go up to a nearby camp for two days to help them there. It will be different only having half the girls here, but I am looking forward to serving alongside the Littles. Pray that God would do big things in the hearts of these girls and really draw them close to Him.

I have been sick this week, and spent most of yesterday resting. I am starting to feel better though. I am taking this weekend off to go to a women's conference in Memphis. I will get to spend time with my whole family there as well! I am excited. :) I have an 8 hour drive there tomorrow and Sunday coming back, so I am looking forward to that, too. I love driving!!! :)

I continue to feel more comfortable here. I feel more a part of the group here now. It was interesting coming into a group where 8 of the Bigs had already been here 4 months. It was hard being one of the "newbies," but I feel like we are not so new anymore. As new Littles come and time passes, we fit right in. And now that we are kitchen trained, most of our training is complete!

The Lord continues to work in my heart. I felt really broken earlier this week, but I am learning that the Lord is the only thing that can satisfy me. It has been a hard process of learning and being broken, but I am so grateful for it all. Sometimes I think I am crazy, but I am who the Lord made me to be and well...I probably am a little crazy. :)

All that to say, I know the Lord is faithful. Pray that He would continue to work here and that we could keep Him at the center of everything we do. I pray you are all blessed and coming to know Him more. Feel free to call me or write me. I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

perfect love drives out fear

Last night I hit the highest point of frustration in my time being here - my first observation shift in the kitchen! :) As Bigs, we are responsible for working in the kitchen. We are responsible for preparing breakfast everyday and cleaning up after, serving lunch and then cleaning, and then preparing dinner and cleaning the entire kitchen and dining hall. The kitchen is a large, industrial kitchen with a good size dining hall. I've been learning what all the responsibilities of the kitchen are over the past few weeks. The kitchen manager here works really hard and we have to meet government standards for everything. So the work in the kitchen is tedious and extensive. Last week I did breakfast all week with another Big, but it wasn't too bad - I actually really enjoyed it. Monday and Friday we have hot breakfast, and are in the kitchen by 6:30 am making food. We made bacon and eggs one morning, and then muffins. The other morning we get to the kitchen at 7:15 am to serve cold breakfast, like cereal, yogurt, bagels, etc. We have to count everything we serve and measure it, There is a lot to remember so I won't explain it all - its a complicated process. And then there is dinner...

Dinner involves 2 Big and 3 Littles each night. Last night was my first time, and the kitchen manager was there to help observe and coach us in what to do. We have to make dinner, clean/sanitize every surface, scrub, rinse and mop the entire floor, clean the bathrooms - everything needs to be spotless. At the same time, there are Littles who can help, but we have to watch them and make sure they do it right and just get to know them. I like hanging out with the Littles and don't mind cooking or cleaning, but I didn't know where anything was, have no flow of how to get everything done, I worked with guy Littles who I don't know very well, and the guy Big who worked with me was on his training shift, too. Needless to say, I felt overwhelmed. Dinner was 20 minutes late, the Littles weren't excited about working and I had to consequence one of them for using inappropriate was stressful. I wanted to break down and cry, but I didn't somehow. Afterwards, the kitchen manager coached us, encouraged us in what we did and showed us where we went wrong. I got to the kitchen at 4:30 and left at 8:40...with my plate of  dinner I didn't eat when we served cause I wasn't hungry from being stressed. I have another observation shift next week. Hopefully it will go better. I just need to be patient with myself as I learn it all and I think I will eventually enjoy it. I mean we can play music the whole time - and if I have good music - then whatever I am doing is usually good. :) I also remind myself of Colossians 3:23-24 - "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." I remember my mom putting that verse on our chore chart growing up - comes in great handy now. Thanks Mom! :)

We have rooms changes on Saturday. I am moving across the hall to a room with another Big and one Little. We have a new Little coming next Wednesday, and she could possibly be in our room, too. I think I would like that a lot, but we will see. Room changes could be a bit crazy and intense - I think some girls are going to be frustrated...but I know God has a purpose in it all - but I am worried about how some of the girls will respond. They know we are changing rooms, they just don't know who they are with yet. Change is hard, too, but I know the Lord works in it all.

As for my heart, I feel strengthened and renewed. However, I see areas of fear that hold me back. I have been learning how God desires me to be who He created me to be - to not hide parts of who I am because I am afraid of how people will respond. I have felt comfortable here, but I haven't fully been all that the Lord has made me to be. I have tried to contain my passion and depth, which I think needed to happen at first - the Lord has taught me a lot about myself and I think I needed that time to deepen my security in Him. I feel like I need to step up though and really allow Him to use me and all He has made me to be. I feel like I need to stop holding myself back and allow my heart to love deeply, to speak the truth and wisdom the Lord has given to me, and to freely be all I am in Christ. The Lord has created me to be deep, passionate, and loving. He has given me wisdom, discernment, and truth - which I need to speak.

I kinda feel like the Lord is calling me to be a leader. I am comfortable as a follower. I like to have someone to look up to who I try to be like and seek for what I am supposed to do and for feedback on how I am doing. I have been blessed by people the Lord has brought into my life to teach me and lead me towards Him, showing me more of who He is and how to be like Him. However, He has taken those away from me, and I am left with only Him to look at - which is how it should be.  He has been teaching me how to look only to Him now to follow and to know how to be like Him. There are people here who I have been learning from, who speak truth and wisdom and encourage me. People reflect God, but it is only a poor reflection and so I need to look directly at Christ. I have been reading the gospels more lately and examining more of who Christ is and how He leads His disciples and interacts with people. It's been incredible...

And I think He wants me to step up and lead. I mean I am in LeadTime. Now is the time to lead right? But that scares me...and leaves me with so many questions and doubts. I think one struggle is having confidence and courage to do so - but He has faithfully been growing me in confidence in Him. And then I am afraid of becoming prideful in that - like who do I think I am that I can lead? There are Bigs that have been here for 6 months - I have been here 1 1/2 months. How am I qualified? What do I know? There is a lot of responsibility in being a leader - what if I lead people the wrong way or wrong direction? I think of Moses in this, and Jeremiah. Moses didn't understand God when He spoke that to Him, and Jeremiah questioned God when He told him to speak. But God used them in mighty ways to lead His people. The people didn't always respond well to them - which is another fear I have. Giving consequences to the girls is not fun. So far when I try to redirect them in inappropriate conversations, or correct them on something - they usually get frustrated and upset. But I know I need to seek the Lord and follow Him and be obedient. I have been placed in authority over them, which I need to embrace, but I also want to love them and let them know I care. I have been learning that discipline is a form of love if its done right, and I pray that the Lord will teach more how to love like He does. If He calls me to lead, He will provide what I need. So I pray for clarity, discernment, wisdom and boldness. Sometimes I feel like I have no clue what I am doing...but I just need to trust and follow Christ. I have been reflecting a lot on God's love, and it has been healing and freeing.

Thanks for reading my blog. I have been so encouraged by prayers, letters, phone calls, messages and texts from y'all. The Lord is faithful, and I know He has great things in store. I pray that you may be blessed wherever you are and know more of the Lord's deep love for you. May Christ be glorified in all things! Hallelujah and amen. :)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear... 
1 John 4:18