Monday, October 26, 2009

Overcoming Apathy

Funny that the title I felt was appropriate has the word "apathy" in it and it's also my first blog posting in months. No coincidence there.

I was reading Ann from A Holy Experience's blog posting about Falling for God and it really opened my eyes to how I've been the last few weeks. If you have a chance, read it. I recommend no distractions and a solid chunk of time before clicking that link. 

Jesus, forgive me for finding joy in anything but you. 

"Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you."-Psalm 63:3 (ESV)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One Year!

A year ago yesterday (August 10th), I started going to Fountain of Life. Upon the suggestion of a friend who could tell I wasn't happy with my current church (where I was raised and never intended on leaving), I went to FOLF and never looked back. It was an instant awareness that this was the right thing for me. As hard as it was to take a step in a direction opposite of what I had planned, it had to be done. It has seriously been the biggest blessing and such a sign of grace on my life. Why the Lord continues to rain down blessings on me, I will never understand. His love is unfathomable to me.

I've honestly learned more in the last year (not only about the Bible, but about myself), than I did in the 22 previous years of my life. I believe in the leadership, I trust the teaching, and I love the congregation. One of my biggest desires was to be a youth group leader and I knew that would never happen before. Now, one year later, I have grown to love the FOLF youth group and can't wait to see it grow, grow, grow (physically and, most importantly, spiritually). 

So grateful and so blessed to be part of this group, the body of Christ!

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."-Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We're Baaaack!

This past Monday, 32 of us (25 kids, 7 leaders) loaded up into vans and headed to Big Sur & the American River for the annual youth summer trip. For those who are wondering, we came back yesterday with all 32 people. Quite an accomplishment!

In all seriousness, the week FLEW by and I'm bummed that we're not still there (although I do feel cleaner and less sunscreen-ish here in my house). My hope for the trip was to grow to understand and relate to the kids in the youth group more (particularly the girls) and after 15 hours in a's hard to NOT know them better. :)

I'm excited to continue working with them and to see them grow...not only in physical and emotional maturity, but in their love and desire for Christ.

Praise God for a safe, fun, and enjoyable trip!

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to be self-controlled and pure..." -Titus 2:3-5 (NIV)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Big 2-3 is Here!

#1: Fountain of Life Fellowship

IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!! I'm 23...eeek! It's already been one of the best birthdays, by far. At midnight, I was walking out of a hilarious comedy show with Scotty (who is seriously a CHAMP for putting up with so many birthday festivities...yikes) and this entire day has been exciting from the beginning. Definitely can't complain about a thing. Ever.

At the beginning of this walk down memory lane, I said they would be in no particular order. This one is the exception to that rule. This time last year, I was going to church because I knew I needed to but I was not spiritually fed as much as I was needing. To see the path that God took to get me to where I am now is incredible. I would've never guessed in 100 years that I'd leave the church I grew up in and take a leap of faith in this direction. I'm a huge fan of NEVER CHANGING ANYTHING EVER, so to uproot myself like this was definitely not in my plans. However, it ended up being the best thing that's happened. In August I began attending FOLF and the Lord has blessed me abundantly through the change. He has taught me that my plan is definitely not the way that's least not ALL the time. ;) I feel so so so blessed everyday for the church, the members, the lovely ladies in my accountability group, the relationships made during Life Together Group, the God-fearing leadership, the opportunity to be a deacon, the truthful sermons, the youth, the young adult group, the women's ministry...pretty much EVERYTHING that it entails. Praise God for his guidance and his plan, despite our best efforts. :)

Our Pastors, Matt and Scott, standing outside of our church in Fountain Valley, CA.

22 was definitely an amazing year and I look forward to what's in store for 23!


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#2)

#22: My Job

As I'm writing this ON my actual birthday (cheating because I am a blog-slacker), I can't help but be overwhelmingly thankful for my job and my co-workers. I'm currently sitting in a heavily-decorated office (it's like the color pink exploded everywhere and I love it). I'm so thankful to have a job in this tumultuous time and even more thankful for the amazing people that I work with. We have SO much fun, SO many laughs, and we are a great team. As much as it can be stressful and overwhelming, it's just as equally fun and enjoyable.

Monday, June 8, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#3)

#3: Bass Lake

A huge highlight, by far! My family (everyone-aunts, uncles, cousins, everybody) and the Atkins fam packed up and went to Bass Lake this summer. It was a vacation should be!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#4)

#4: Angel Games

This is a highlight of every year, but the Angels had a good season so it was especially fun!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#5)

#5: Wine Tasting

I'd never been wine tasting before and I was stoked when Genesee made plans to go for a bunch of people's birthdays! It was so much fun and I highly recommend it if you've never been. A party bus is also a great idea. ;) We went to four different wineries and it was a blast! We all definitely recommend "Hot Lips" at Faulkner!

Friday, June 5, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#6)

#6: Youth Group Leader

In April, I started as a youth group leader at church. This has always been something I've wanted to do but never thought I'd have the opportunity for. It worked out perfectly and I'm so excited to get to know the girls (and boys) better. We are going camping on June 22nd, so if there are no posts after that, I probably didn't survive.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#7)

#7: Some Not-So-Fun Stuff

As fun as it is to reflect on the good times of the year, sometimes it's the trials that make the most impact.

Everyone makes fun of me for taking the death of Angel's pitcher Nick Adenhart so seriously, but it really impacted me! I guess because it was so sudden and he was exactly my age. He had his whole future ahead of him and it was wiped out by someone who decided to drive drunk. I can't imagine being on top of the world and then being gone in an instant. It's such a reminder to take every day for what it is and to be joyful. We can be called home at any moment. Each day, each minute, each breath is a blessing.

Another tough moment was hearing that my good friend, Roy Atkins, was diagnosed with a very rare blood disease. There is a light at the end of this tunnel as the disease has no spread to his marrow or his major organs, so he'll be undergoing chemo to kick this in the butt. Genesee and Roy are handling this hard situation with joy and hope in the Lord, which is always encouraging. Roy is one tough cookie and will pull through this! However, it's reminded me that we need to keep our faith and hope in Christ regardless of the circumstances. Roy's website is if you want to check out his status!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#8)

#8: Cara Coming Home!

My really good friend Cara was in Tokyo for 7 months of my 22nd year! She was working at Tokyo Disneyland as Jasmine, Belle, and Pochahontas. I'd post pictures of her doing it, but she would literally murder me and it's way too close to my birthday to be murdered.

Although we talked on iChat and all that fun stuff, it's not the same as having "car chats" (sitting outside of our houses in the car to vent) whenever necessary!!!

I'm so glad to have my friend back!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#9)

#9: Holly the Highlander

I'm soooo excited about this one! My car was SUCH a blessing that I definitely was not expecting to get anytime soon. All the pieces totally fell into place and she's PERFECT!!! I'm such a lucky car-owner! :)

"Holly" is a 2006, 7-passenger Toyota Highlander! I've had her for a month and am still so excited!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#10)

#10: Finding Out My Friend Was Pregnant

My dear friend from church had been wanting to have another baby for a long time--ever since I met her. She has an adorable son already and it's obvious that he's the light of her life. We were all praying for another miracle baby to come along and IT HAPPENED! A precious little baby boy is due in September and I'm soooooo excited! This is truly God's baby and I can't wait to meet him. It's no secret that I love this year also brought the blessed arrival of Katie Ford, Amaris Cabral, and Savannah Rustulka. I want to SQUEEZE all of their little faces. Babies are such a blessing!

This may or may not* be a dramatic reenactment of actually finding out she was pregnant.

(*It is.)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#11)

#11: Wicked at the Pantages

For a Girl's Night Out, we decided to go see Wicked while it was still in L.A. Besides all of the homeless, drunk people and the extremely uncomfortable shoes (which ended up in some of us walking barefoot down Hollywood Blvd.--no big), it was SO MUCH FUN. We went to an awesome restaurant for dinner, the show was amazing, and the company was irreplaceable! :)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#12)

#12: Mexico Trip 

In December, I had the opportunity to go to Mexico with my church. We went with a group called Spectrum Ministries (who are there every weekend) and we basically went into a little area, set up tents and a bathing system with stations, organized clothes, etc. The girls were in one tent and the boys were in another. Two girls in our group and I were in the hairstyling section. We'd give the girls a braid or a ponytail, along with the hair "doo-dad" of their choice. 

Going on mission trips never ceases to amaze me because I always go thinking that I am going to BE blessing them, but in reality, I am infinitely more blessed BY them. The girls were so appreciative and joyful about what we were doing. It was so humbling to see how little they have and how easy it was to make them happy, when we are blessed with abundantly more than them and are constantly whining. It really showed me that true joy does come from something greater than the crap we surround ourselves with. I say "crap" because that's all it is. It's just junk that fills our rooms--stuff for next year's garage sale. The state of our hearts is so much more important than what the world places value on. I'm definitely excited to go back to Mexico; it's a lesson that can't be learned enough.

My sister and Sara setting up the girls' tent. 

Friday, May 29, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#13)

#13: Meeting James Denton

When I tell people that I'm shy, they usually laugh in my face. However, I do have my moments and this was one of the only times in my 22nd year that I actually was speechless. James Denton (an actor primarily known for his role on Desperate Housewives- a show I no longer watch...ya, kinda trashy) is a co-owner of the OC Flyers baseball team. My friend's family has tickets and we'd go all the time. Well, James was there one day and I almost had a heart attack. I seriously was so star struck. When we went up to meet him, I almost died a little. So here's the picture of us with him. Ya, his arm is touching me in this picture. Don't hate.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#14)

#14: Life Together Group

I remember when the mention of Life Together Groups (LTGs) occurred in our Friday night bible study. I was not a fan, mostly because I didn't go to the church where the rest of the ladies went. Basically, LTGs were going to be taking over our Friday night study. Well, long story short, I ended up joining an LTG and it was such an amazing experience. Being a newbie at the church, I signed up for one that had the most names I didn't recognize so that I could get to know people better (not typical for me). We just wrapped up our "trimester" and I'm so sad to know that our groups are going to be switched up in the fall, but excited to see what the Lord has in store!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#15)

#15: Seattle

I had the AMAZING chance to go visit one of my good friends in Washington in early December. Washington is seriously the most beautiful state and I would move there in a second if I could. We took a day and went up to Seattle. It was sooo fun and I can't wait to go back!

I love this picture of the Space Needle because it shows how gorgeous the sky was. It was the first weekend in December and no rain in sight! We got lucky. 

In front of the original exciting! It's so tiny inside; there are NO tables or chairs and the line is always so long. There are also a ton of other coffee places (including other Starbucks) in that area, but of course this one is the most popular!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#16)



Monday, May 25, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#17)

#18: Driving Scotty to Work

Ok, I'm not going to lie--this wasn't one of my *favorite* memories, but it did have a big impact on my 22nd year (and on the tires of my car). For 7 weeks (so 13% of my year), Scott and I were basically BFF since we had to see each other first thing in the morning, intermittently all day at work, at lunch, and until about 9 pm. You'd think he would've been dead by now but I practiced self-control. ;) But in reality, we had some good times and we are even better friends now. I was kinda sad when he started driving again because I was so used to having someone to talk to while sitting in traffic! Bonus: now whenever I want/need anything, he owes me his life so it was totally worth it and will greatly impact my 23rd year (and 24th, 25th, and so on).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#18)

#18: Women's Retreat at the Hot Springs

A small group from our church went to Calvary Chapel's huge women's retreat in September. It was sooo much fun. I can't even really explain it; it was just fun to get away and do something different. Plus, the venue was beautiful! We're all so excited to go back! (Sidenote: Heather's face when she won the raffle prize was hilarious--"SZILAGYI!!!")

Saturday, May 23, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#19)

#19: Camping (...IN A TENT!)

I went tent-camping for the first time (outside of church camps when I was younger, and I think that was only once). Ok, if you know me well, you know this is NOT my thing at all, but it was SO much fun. I am actually looking forward to going back. Miracles do happen. (Oh ya, minor detail: I slept in the car because I was LITERALLY freezing my butt off. I was not at all prepared for how cold the evenings would be. But come on, miracles happen... just not overnight.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#20)

#20: Get Carded by Rachel

I made a website, ordered business cards, and even had a little party at my house. It's exciting to have people enjoy something you enjoy--so THANKS to everyone who's shown support and encouragement for my mini-business.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#21)

#21: Graduating

Technically I graduated exactly one month before I was 22, however...the benefits of being a graduate resonated well into my 22nd year! Seriously, not having to deal with homework, papers, tests, professors, and knowing that it was DONE was the best feeling ever.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

22 Memories of Being 22- (#22)

There are 22 days left of my 22nd year on this Earth. I figured I'd do something exciting, since 22 is my favorite number and I'm extremely sad to have seen this year go. :( BOO!

I'm going to blog my Top 22 memories of this year (in pictures...and not *really* in any particular order).

#22: My 22nd Birthday

I say this every year, but seriously, my 22nd birthday was my favorite. Rosa and Natalie decorated my office in all pink (I still find pink heart confetti in some of my drawers), we had a fun time at Yard House, and went to the Improv. Such a fun day!

(Seriously, how cute is this office?! I wish it always looked like this!)

(I *might* have made everyone wear pink, or it could be a coincidence. ;) I can't remember.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Why I'm Glad I'm Single (Right Now)

I was reading Emily from Unfurling Flower's post about being single. She seriously stole the words from me. A year ago, I was the saddest single person ever. I thought surely life would be 100 times better if I was married. How the Lord has changed my perspective!

I am so grateful to be single right now because the man I would've thought to be perfect for me a year ago is a LOT different than who I think would be perfect for me now. I want the man I marry to love Jesus so much that it's overflowing. I want us to be able to lift each other up in our walks with Christ and have Him be the center of our relationship. I want God to be glorified by how we treat each other. I don't think I can honestly say that I felt this strongly about this a year ago.

I am so grateful to be single right now because I have learned so much about being a wife in the last year. I want my marriage, and particularly my role as a wife, to glorify God. I've come to understand and love the idea of marital submission. (Ephesians 5:22-24-"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.") The reasons I want to be married have become less selfish and more focused on growing the kingdom of Christ.

I am so grateful to be single right now because I have an extremely valuable resource: time. I want to serve others in ways that I might not be able to if I was in a relationship. Relationships take a lot of cultivating, and while I will be more than willing when the time is right, for now, I am enjoying molding and shaping other areas of my life.

I know the Lord has impeccable timing. It's evident in all areas of my life and it's also evident in scripture. I know the Lord has me at this stage of my life at this time in my life for a purpose. While I sometimes wish I could make my own path, I know and trust that our God is sovereign and has something much better in store for me than I could have for myself.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Book Recommendation

I'm not a big fan of recommending books to a large group of different people. Reading a book takes time and there's nothing worse then starting a book and waiting for it to be relevant or interesting to you. However, I have to recommend this one because I've honestly found it relevant and interesting in every stage of my life thus far. I read it when I was in high school and have referenced it MANY times since then. I recently pulled it off the shelf for a little refresher.

For ANY young woman (or mama of a young woman or potential mama of a young woman), this is for you. We live in a sex-crazed, superficial world and, although we might think we are coping, we are constantly being inundated by the media, celebrities, and even our peers. It's everywhere! This book called Every Young Woman's Battle (link takes you to Amazon for reviews and summary) will show you how to take a sex-saturated world and overcome it with Gospel-mindedness. It hits on some major points that we women face all the time.

It also answers the question, "How far is too far?" when it comes to sustaining virginity and purity. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked that question...and the age of the asker keeps dropping! Whether you are struggling with body image, relationship temptation, past sexual sin, or just want some motivation to live a pure and glorifying life, I highly recommend this book.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Single Minded

I really can't speak highly enough of this sermon on singleness by Paul Matthies. He nails so many important aspects of leading a God-glorifying life as an unmarried person.

Please, please, please listen to this! Even if you are in a relationship, engaged, or married, it's still beneficial. 

"To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."-1st Corinthians 7:8-9 (ESV)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Who are you living for?

Between a Mark Driscoll sermon on hypocrisy and my pastor's message yesterday, I feel inspired to write something about it.

My pastor discussed the difference between knowing about God and being in a relationship with him. Big difference. I confuse the two all too often. Being a Christian shouldn't just be a proclamation, but a way of life.

I was listening to a sermon by John MacArthur and he discussed how Paul never changed his message. It didn't matter where he was or who he was talking to- the message was the same. He preached the Gospel. It made me think about how many times I change my message.

It reminds me of when I was a teenager and I'd think it was cool to sneak in a cuss word here and there while I was with my friends, but I would never have imagined doing it while my parents were around. Are we the same way with the Gospel? It's easy to talk about it with your Christian, church-going friends. It's easy to be sitting around the table and pray before a meal when you're with your family, but would you do it with your friends? With non-believers? Would non-believers know that Christ is the center of your life? These questions have been on my heart a lot lately.

Christ should be apparent in all aspects of our lives, not just certain parts where it's convenient. Our message shouldn't change depending on who we are or who we're talking to.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."-Colossians 3:1-10 (NIV)

*Emphasis added.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Seeking Christ Through Trials

I'm not a generally emotional person. When A Walk To Remember came out, everyone left the theater all swollen-eyed and bawling and I had no idea why. I guess I'm not a big crier, especially in movies that aren't even real. But tonight I cried...for a long time. Tonight I feel broken. I am not blogging about this because I want sympathy or to vent my frustrations, but because I think there's a lot of misconception about being a Christian.

It's not all roses.

Becoming a Christian doesn't switch a light in your head and heart that makes your life pain-free and sets you on the easy street. I actually think it's quite the opposite. Being a Christian takes a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of changing the way you look at things, react to things, talk about things, and so on. I think it gets easier as time goes on, but there are always going to be setbacks. 

When everything seems to be going right, I await the bomb that's about to go off because it's only a matter of time. I wish I could say that, in those times where bombs are dropping, I turn to Christ for peace and comfort. Unfortunately this isn't always the case. It's easier to tell someone else to do it than to actually practice it. Tonight's a great example. 

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall."-Psalm 55:22 (NIV)

Lord, make me into a woman who seeks after you, desires your will for my life, and turns to you in times of trial. Make me real. Make my heart clean. Create in me a right spirit.

*After I posted this, I saw that my friend had posted quotes about brokenness on his blog. Check them out; they say it better than I ever could. :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Christ the Solid Rock

It's been a while since I last posted; things have been BUSY! Busy, but good. God continues to work and mold and shape my heart and I'm so thankful. Every day that passes sheds more light on the fact that I am saved and I should be suffering an eternity of punishment but I'm not because Christ took that on for me.

Lately, I've seen (in my own life and in other's) the desire to place earthly things above heavenly things. It's so easy to get wrapped up in these earthly relationships that will fail us every time. Why is it so easy to want to cultivate a friendship or a relationship with a boyfriend/girlfriend, but require so much discipline to cultivate a relationship with the Father? I went through a phase where I had to seriously be strict on myself to spend time with the Lord. That's not the case anymore, by the grace of God, but I see others struggling and sometimes lack the words to encourage. So if you are reading this and you are discouraged and/or discontent with your relationship with God and your desire to study his word and spend time with him, I pray you will be awakened to your need and want for a close, personal relationship with your Savior. He loves you more than anyone on this earth can. Spending quality time with him is the only way to keep your feet firmly planted in what's right. It reminds me of the song lyrics: "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." Friends, be encouraged!

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.-Titus 1:7-8 (ESV)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shedding Your Old Life

Growing up in a Christian home definitely had its advantages; I wouldn't trade it for anything. One of the advantages was that, as a young kid, I learned that the Bible was true, Jesus was ruler over all, and that our lives were to be lived for Christ, and that's it--no questions asked. Even through my "rebellious" years...I had those truths instilled in me. I know this wasn't the case for everyone, so I'm praying for compassion and understanding when my fellow Christian friends act like (or sometimes flat-out say) they miss their old lives and are gripping on to their past like a 90-year-old grips the steering wheel while driving in the rain.

In Galatians, we are called to be crucified with Christ and thus give up our past and our old life, take up our cross and follow him. It's definitely never expressed as an easy task. Dying to our old lives can seem impossible at times. Our old lives, our old friends, our old activities, our old traditions--those can be hard to give up. They bring us comfort and change can be difficult. Part of the resilience to even acknowledge a religion or a God (i.e. atheists) stems from not wanting to give that up or be accountable to our actions.

Let's take a look at what our "comfortable" old lives symbolize: selfishness, pride, an eternity of punishment and separation from the one true God who gave his life for us. Is that really a life worth hanging on to? Is that true comfort? Does hanging on to an old lifestyle really bring joy and satisfaction? Is being one person on Sundays and another person on Monday through Saturday really a fulfilling lifestyle?

Any change will take time, discipline, and patience. Anything that's worth it does. Seek first God's kingdom and a joy beyond comprehension will be shown to you! A real, honest, perfect joy from the only real, honest, and perfect person to have ever lived.

"For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."-Galatians 2:18-20 (ESV)

Don't rebuild what you've torn down!

(*By "old life", I'm referring to life before the realization that Christ is sovereign and our lives are for his glory, not our own. It is the life that some continue to lead after the realization, just with an underlying guilt due to consciousness.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Power of Prayer

In The Holiness of God, a book by R.C. Sproul, the point is made that before the death and resurrection of Christ, not even Christians had access to God. "The moment Jesus was slain, the instant the Just One died for the unjust, the veil in the temple was torn. The presence of God became accessible to us. For the Christian, the 'No Access' sign was removed from the gates of paradise. We may now walk freely on holy ground. We have access to His Grace, but even more, we have access to Him."

In our sinful state, all we deserve from God is his wrath. As we know, Jesus stood in our place and took the punishment for what we deserve. Not only do we now have eternal life, but we have access to the presence of God in our current lives.

God yearns to have a personal relationship with us. We are his children and he's passionate about our lives. So what does a personal relationship look like? It might seem odd to compare it to any relationship we have here on Earth. Usually we can pick up the phone and talk to someone we are in a personal relationship with. We can grab coffee, shoot them an e-mail, give them a hug, whatever it is. We can't really do any of those things with Christ, but it's still so important to maintain a personal relationship. In my opinion, the most powerful way to do that is to be in constant prayer.

Carolyn McCulley said, "[God] didn't just make us all and then stand back to have a good laugh. He is Lord over his creation, lovingly ruling over all things..."

Being in prayer and communication with him, even over things that we may feel are insignificant, is so important! He cares and wants to hear from us. This is something that I struggled with and continue to need to remind myself.

"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit."-James 5:13-18 (ESV)

Pray in all things!

(Mark Driscoll had an excellent sermon on prayer--click here to listen.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Detrimentality of Gossip

The Lord has really been speaking to me in a multitude of different ways lately. It's funny the ways that he works to get our attention. Sometimes I feel like sermons, chapters of books, and blog posts are written just for me. There's a book that I'm reading with a friend, and we both swear that a chapter was added to address the last 6 months of my life, even though it was written a few years ago. Hey, it could happen. :)

In my devotional time, I've been reading James (one of my favs- I can't read it enough) and I was struck by this verse: "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." -James 1:27 (NIV)

This is pretty powerful and there is not room for much negotiation. James 3 goes into much more detail about taming the tongue.

Proverbs 12:18 says, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."

Gossip and slander are detrimental in general, but especially for the church.

Everywhere we go, we are to be a representation of Christ. Non-believers should see the way we act and speak and know there is something different in our lives- something they desire to have as well. How are we representing Christ if we are talking negatively or behind the back of someone made in his image? How can we be inviting friends to church one minute, then participating in the latest gossip the next?

Obviously nobody is perfect and situations arise where we lose control of our tongues. I am definitely guilty of this. I let my emotions override my desire to glorify God. In realizing that, I pray for the ability to refrain from gossip and glorify the Lord in all ways-especially through speech.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Undeserved Favor

As I've mentioned before, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around God's magnitude, holiness, love, grace, mercy, and so on. I feel like I'm not worthy, and I'm absolutely not. But the fact that I still experience all of God's goodness and that his mercy is poured out on me and his love is present in my life is a lot for me to take on sometimes. I struggle with the fact that I can't repay Christ for what he's done for me and what he continues to do for me. 

We live in a world that is pretty much give and take. We give hours of work, we get a paycheck. We give money, we get groceries and clothing and a place to call home. We earn much of the abundance we receive, and how much you get is correlated (in most situations) to how much you give. 

This is not the case with Christ's love.

Recently, some wonderful things have been happening in my life and I've been struggling with not feeling worthy of these things to be happening. What did I do to deserve these things? Surely they're too good to be true and they will be wiped out from underneath me shortly. I haven't done anything to deserve the Lord to bless me.

What he did for us over 2,000 years ago cannot be repaid by anything that we do. It was and is a gift of a life that will be eternally spent with him. I was struggling with this concept recently and my friend told me that what I was struggling with was pride. It seemed weird that she would use that word, considering I was telling her that I feel too sinful and too disobedient and unworthy of God's blessings. That doesn't sound prideful...but it is! It's thinking that Christ shedding his blood on the cross wasn't enough to pay for MY sin. It might've been enough for this person and that person, but it wasn't enough for me. She used this analogy, which really cleared it up for me:

Let's say a husband brings home a bouquet of flowers to his wife. He's so excited because he wants to show her how much he loves her and he wants her to feel happy and cared for. When he gets home and gives her these flowers, she responds not in joy, but in sadness that she hadn't done anything nice for him to deserve this gift. She has nothing to offer him in return. He tells her that it's ok- it's a gift and he wants her to just take them and not try to repay him, but she insists on wallowing in the fact that she didn't have anything to give in return.

Psalm 107:21-22 tells us how to rejoice in thanksgiving:

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.

Living our lives in a way that glorifies and honors God is the best way that we can show him thanksgiving for what he's done and what he continues to do in our lives. I pray that, in everything I do, God is glorified and praised.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Be Joyful Always

At the beginning of this year, I decided that the resolution I was going to work on the most for the year was to be more joyful. I can't really say whether or not I have or haven't, but I've been praying for it and prayer works.

I was talking with one of my "mentors", and I was talking about my week and he said, "Where are you finding your joy?"

Yikes! I had never thought in those terms before. I know what makes me happy and what makes me sad...but I never thought about those things being where I derive my joy. Joy that comes from the Lord is unwavering, because he is unwavering. If we find our joy in the Father who loves us, will never forsake us, created us fearfully and wonderfully, and has a zest for our lives that goes above and beyond our own, then we will be constantly joyful. Finding our joy in earthly things will lead to disappointment, frustration, and discontentment. Can you name even ONE earthly pleasure that is constant and never changes or becomes less pleasurable? I can't.

My friend posted a series on Biblical Joy on his blog and it's been really helpful to me (over and over and over and over and over). I definitely recommend it!

Paul is my favorite Biblical figure, mostly because he is joyful in situations where I know I would be a whiner. In Philippians 4, he says (while chained to a Roman guard):

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

If Paul can find joy in this situation (that is far worse than anything I've had to face), I think it's plausible to be able to do the same thing. 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us, "Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances." (ESV)

I pray for the discernment to know when my joy is coming from somewhere else, and for the wisdom to find my joy in the one who will never falter in his promises.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mark Dever Quote

I just wanted to share a great quote from Mark Dever. Dever is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist church in Washington D.C. and is currently speaking at a Pastor's Conference. You can watch the video of him preaching on the need for evangelism here.

In his message, he said (amongst many other GREAT things):

The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian:
When a non-Christian is convicted of sin, he sides with his sin.
A Christian sides with God, against himself.

The idea of us siding with God against ourselves is so awesome to me. With Christ, we can do anything- even battle our own demons that dwell inside of us and cause us to sin. The imagery is beautiful.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Soup Kitchen

On Saturday morning, a group from my church (and my AMAZING friend, Katelyn, who is always generous and willing to tag along with me) went to a soup kitchen about 10 minutes from our church to serve the surrounding people in need.

Honestly, I'd never been to a soup kitchen before and I had no idea what to expect. I'm a morning person, but the idea of waking up at 6:30 on the weekend wasn't too appealing to me. Saying that now is so disgusting to me, but I'm being honest. The night before, I was praying that this would be a good experience and would take us out of ourelves for a little while. Be careful what you pray for because God is powerful! ;)

We arrived and everyone was already shuffling around and getting ready for the flow of people. Everyone who was there to volunteer was either court-ordered or they needed community service hours for school. We were the only group that was there just because we wanted to be there. There were tons of volunteers, which was great. We wiped down tables and chairs and then started to organize the donations. I don't know exactly how helpful we were in the beginning; they pretty much have their duties down to a science (many of the volunteers are there weekly).

The real experience began (for me) when the people started to flow through. Our group was lined up, ready to serve. The guests are not allowed to touch anything for health code reasons; we scooped their eggs, we poured their syrup, we handed them their jelly.

In my judgemental human nature, I had expected most of the guests to look haggard, like they had slept in a box on the street and hadn't shaved in months. (Again, I'm not proud of this fact but honesty is key!) I was totally wrong. What really struck me about this was that many of the guests looked like they could be my dad. I saw my friends, my family, and myself in all of the people that we served. This could be me. This could be my mom. This IS somebody's mom. This isn't the life that they wanted or expected to have. They don't want to be at a soup kitchen having a meal, possibly their ONLY meal of the day.

There was a young girl there, probably 8 or 9, and she was probably the most polite girl of that age that I've met in a while. I wanted to take her home. This girl is wearing handed down clothing and probably has next to nothing compared to what her friends and peers have, and she's thanking ME for pouring her syrup. I should be thanking her for making me see what a selfish brat I am.

It's only by the grace of God that I am not in their shoes. It's only by his mercy that my family doesn't struggle as much financially as the guests there do. This is life. There is a world outside of iPods, name brands, and reality TV shows. I'm so thankful that my prayer was answered 100 times more powerfully than I had expected.

At first, I was really worried about being patronizing. I felt like the fact that we had to hand them everything and they couldn't touch anything was looking down on them or something. I snapped out of it and remembered why we were there. I was also reminded of Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."(NIV) We were there to show God's love and God's glory. How am I showing God's glory if I can barely look these guests in the eye? So I slapped on a smile and kept serving and it ended up being an amazing experience overall.

For anyone who is interested, the soup kitchen we went to is called Someone Cares in Costa Mesa, CA. If you are local, they accept donations (food, clothing for all ages, and books) on Fridays.

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered."-Proverbs 21:13 (NIV)

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Sometimes it's really hard for me to wrap my mind around how big Christ is. His words could calm a treacherous storm. His hands could heal a blind woman. He walked on this Earth as a human, felt emotions, was tempted, was tortured, yet never sinned. 

Possibly the hardest thing for me to comprehend is that HIS blood, that was shed for MY disgusting sins, is the only reason I won't be suffering through eternal punishment. There's nobody else that we have known or will ever know that has that power.
In my Life Together Group (LTG), we were discussing how all of our sins are recorded and we'll be face-to-face with God and there they'll be. All of them washed away by his grace, but still, all will be there. But the part that really got me was that all of our "good deeds" will be shown to us for what they really are. Yikes! As humbling as it is to know that not even the best display of kindness, love, thankfulness, or selflessness is considered good compared to our Almighty God, it does give us more appreciation for the pain, wrath, and punishment that Christ took upon himself to spare us. Not even the purest of humans could enter Heaven on their own accord. 

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."-Romans 3:22-23 (NIV)

I seek to know so much about the Lord and I strive to grow daily in my desire to understand him, but at the same time, I feel fine with the fact that sometimes I can't fathom it. The lyrics from "Indescribable" by Chris Tomlin say it better than I can:

All powerful, untamable
Awestruck we fall to our knees 
As we humbly proclaim
You are amazing, God

I pray the power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of eternal life in Heaven with my Creator never ceases to amaze me.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Love of Money

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I send a text message to 13 women at 6:30 a.m. The goal of this text is to get everyone up and out of bed in time to spend some quality devotional time with the Lord before shuffling off to work, school, or whatever mom/wife tasks they have that day. I include a verse to kick-start the day.

Today's verse is Hebrews 13:5.

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” (ESV)

Living in Orange County, this is not an easy task. ;) People love their things. Big houses, expensive cars, lots of bling- whatever it is. I'm definitely guilty of this! I can't afford a big house or an expensive car but I catch myself desiring to have these things "when I'm older". I'm not saying it's necessarily bad to want or have these things, but when our love and desire for these things goes above and beyond our love and desire for Christ and His glory, it becomes idolatry.

Lately I've been trying to keep my priorities in check. I want to make sure God's glory is first in my life. Sadly, that's definitely not always the case. I am prayerfully hoping that it becomes easier and easier to just naturally desire God's glory above anything else. After all, the promise that Christ will never leave or forsake me is way better than anything I could buy.

"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."-Matthew 6:20 (NIV)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration 2009

Regardless of my personal feelings about President-elect Barack Obama taking office today, I am resting in God's sovereignty over the situation.

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."-Romans 13:1 (ESV)

If this wasn't part of the Lord's perfect plan, it would not be happening.

Please join me in praying for the future of our Nation, the decisions that are yet to be made by Obama and others in Washington, the outcome of those decisions, the health of our economy, the war and impending changes regarding it, and also for the safety of our new President, his wife, and his two daughters. To read Dr. Albert Mohler's prayer for today's inauguration, click here.

Also, though everyone has a different opinion about President Bush and his wife, Laura, I think it's important to be grateful for the past 8 years that he dedicated to our country. He took office during a very tumultuous time in America and despite differing opinions on how situations were handled, his reign as President was also part of a plan bigger than we can know. I pray for health, peace, happiness, and a huge sigh of relief for President and Mrs. George W. Bush.