Thursday, December 25, 2014

His Presence Amidst the Presents

"There is no need to produce or perform or perfect – simply become a place for God.

When we think we're the ones who will have to produce Christmas, we only half-wrap the notion that we think the saving of the world begins with us. There is a name for this, and it is called idolatry. 

Only one thing is necessary–be a space for Love to come. You simply have to receive Love. Let yourself be loved. 

Your greatest gift is not your gifts, but your surrendered yes to be a space for God."

{Ann Voskamp – The Greatest Gift}

That's what I've been learning this Christmas. Truly coming to understand the meaning behind that sacred day of December 25th.

For those of you that don't know, half of our house is in under construction. 

We had to replace the hardwood floors in our dining room, kitchen, and breakfast room. 

It has been quite the ordeal. 

We've hardly decorated for Christmas. All we have is one little tree and two stockings hanging on the mantle. 

I can't bake Christmas treats like I normally could due to our basement kitchen being small.

Y'all, there is nothing I love more than to do "all the things" for Thanksgiving and Christmas! 

I love to order Christmas cards, to decorate the whole house, to bake treats with my mom, and watch all the Christmas movies and TV shows I possibly can. 

But, as I was reading in Ann Voskamp's advent devotional, I realized it's not about all that.

It's not about the "fluff"of Christmas. 

Advent is about the prepping, the waiting for His coming. 

And not in how we think to prepare.

"I will simply become a place for God today. There's no need to produce, perform or perfect - simply become a place for God."

It's not the presents to look forward to, it's His presence. 

Jesus isn't going to judge who had the best lights, the best cookies, the best decorations, or the best parties. 

He's going to judge the attitudes of our hearts. 

Are we more focused on the presents, the fluff of Christmas? 
Or are we more prepared for His presence, the reason for Christmas? 

It's something I've come face to face with as I've gone through this season. 

Maybe it was a good thing to have our house under construction. 

It has made me really think about the whole reason for this special day –
Immanuel: God.With.Us. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Undiagnosed, but not Ungrateful

5 and a half years ago, I sat in the doctor's office anxiously waiting to hear my diagnosis.

I didn't know what I had or what was causing the painful symptoms.

All I knew was that, whatever "it" was, it hurt and I wanted to know why.

I started running track in the spring of 2009.

Like any other teenager, I experienced the normal pain you get after you've worked out.

But, I also began to notice another symptom that none of my peers experienced after they ran.

24 - 48 hours after exercising, my brain would tell my right or left leg that it was heavy, like dead weight. I could move it just fine, but my brain would tell me otherwise. The signals in my brain were right that my leg hurt, but wrong that my leg was heavy.

It was so weird and abnormal especially for my age.

So, I told my mom about it and off we went to the doctor.

I honestly believed it was nothing that a simple pill couldn't fix.

But then, I found myself going through a series of tests and multiple trips to specialists all to have them say, "I don't know what's wrong with you."

That's been my life for the past several years…doctor visits, MRI's, Nerve Studies, etc.

It's been 5 and half years of "I don't know's."

This spring, it began to wear on me.

I began to get frustrated and upset.

Point blank: I just wanted answers.

I remember driving home one night thinking about this journey I have been on and wondering how to make the most of it.

It was in that moment I was reminded the LORD commands us to rejoice.

"Rejoice, always." {1 Thess. 5:16}

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." {Phil. 4:4}

"Rejoice that it's not cancer, lupus, MS, ALS, etc."

People come to the doctor and they are actually diagnosed with one of the aforementioned diseases. I haven't been. All of my tests have come back 100% clear.

"Rejoice that I am the ultimate Healer."

Know that whatever I have, whatever is causing the problem, the LORD can and will ultimately heal me. It just might not be in my timing or in this life.

"Rejoice that I have used this for good in your life as a witness to my name."

Through this whole process, I've been able to talk with people and share my story with them. I don't know how many people have been impacted or will be impacted because of this problem I have. But, I do know that the LORD will use it for His glory in someway.

"Rejoice. Always."

Rejoicing isn't possible without thanksgiving either.

side note: this is my current lock screen for my phone

Rejoicing produces thanksgiving and vice versa.

I need to be thankful that this is not life-threatening.

I need to be thankful that it doesn't hinder my day to day life.

I need to be thankful for parents who care enough about me to take me to the doctor.

I need to be thankful for insurance that covers the expense of tests and multiple doctor visits.

So, as I continue to walk through this process, I need to constantly remind myself to rejoice and be grateful.

Maybe one day I'll find out exactly what's wrong with me.

Until then, I'll continue to embrace the life God has given me with complete joy and thanksgiving.

* * * * * *

"That suffering nourishes grace, and pain and joy are arteries of the same heart… Can I believe the gospel, that God is patiently transfiguring all the notes of my life into the song of His Son? Take the pain given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness." 
– Ann Voskamp – 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Note On Your Calling in Life

As I was studying the Word this morning, D. A. Carson had the following to say about 1 Corinthians 7.

"Unlike pagans and secularists, we cannot make our chief joy turn on marriage, prosperity, or any other temporal things. There are responsible ways for Christians to enjoy these things, or mourn, or be happy–but never as if these things are ultimate." {taken from For the Love of God Vol. 1}

I think often, especially in the Christian homeschooling circles, we place marriage as the end goal for young women. We think that we should raise our daughters to become wives and mothers. When, in reality, that's not what we should be preparing them for.

No, I am not opposed to marriage in anyway. I think marriage was created by God as an earthly picture of His relationship to the church and for the advancement of His kingdom. But, when we elevate that to a higher position than following God's call on our lives, we have a problem.

photo credit: pinterest 

I have learned over the last few years, that my goal in life is not to get married and have a family.

My goal in life is to know God and make Him known in whatever capacity He has placed me.

So, if the LORD chooses for me to have a husband and children, I will gladly accept them.

But, if he doesn't, that's okay.

No where in the Bible does it state that we are less of a man or a woman if we don't get married.

We were created by God to glorify God as an individual.

photo credit: Marvelous Things Photography

Elisabeth Elliot sums it up so eloquently…

"But we do not choose gifts, remember? We are given them by a divine Giver who knows the end from the beginning, and wants above all else to give us the gift of Himself. It is within the sphere of the circumstances He chooses for us – single, married, widowed – that we receive Him. It is there and nowhere else that He makes Himself known to us. It is there we are allowed to serve Him."

So, my charge to you today is this: Serve the LORD wherever He placed you because everyday is truly a gift from Him.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Party in Pittsburgh {Part 2}

{In case you missed it, here's part 1 of my trip to Pittsburgh.}

After a wonderful, fun filled day, we headed back to the house and celebrated some more by watching the Lego Movie.

{Side note: If you haven't seen that movie, you have to watch it! Beautifully done!} 

The next morning, I awoke to a wonderful surprise – a birthday breakfast! 

stone's birthday was that Monday so we celebrated together on Saturday!

Y'all, I felt so loved and special. They really know how to make someone's day! 

the whole crew minus Mr. Brennan and Tillie. 

Later that day, we headed out to eat at the local Mexican restaurant because you all know I love me some queso! ;) 

For the past several years, I have avoided the "Sombrero–Singing–Fried–Icecream–Eating" part of a birthday dinner at a Mexican restaurant. 

And this year, it finally caught up with me. 

You could totally tell I was excited. 

It wasn't that bad considering we were in a corner of the restaurant, therefore, not a lot of people were watching. I may be an extrovert, but that doesn't mean I like to be the center of attention all the time. ;) 

Sunday, after church, we headed east to Maryland to work with the organization that hosts the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. every year! 

Did you know that in Pennsylvania you have to travel through tolls and tunnels? I didn't. 

These were all new & exciting experiences for me! :) 

When we arrived on location, I was surprised to find out that we would be staying in a sorority house! 

And now this answers your questions about my instagram post. ;) 

This is as close as I will ever come to staying in a sorority house so, I soaked it up as much as possible.*

I probably couldn't survive anyway because of those BRIGHT FUCHSIA COLORED WALLS. 


It was actually pretty nice and that was just one hallway in the entire house.

But really, I did not realize how nice sorority houses could be. It almost makes me want to rush next year. ;) 

Anyway, the next day, a few of us ventured into town to help clean a house. 

Isn't it positively charming?! I wish I could live there! 

That night, we had a cookout on a rooftop terrace in Annapolis, Maryland. 

The view was absolutely breathtaking. 

Honestly, it was the perfect way to end the trip. 

* * * * * * 

I so enjoyed my week with Laurence. 

She is one of my dearest friends and I hope we will be friends till the end. 

Yes, long distance relationships are hard. But, in the end, they're so worth it. 

Take the time to invest your long distance relationship and, I promise, you will be blessed. 

I know I am.

* * * * * *

*I have nothing against sororities. I have just realized they are not for me. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teenpact Alabama I {One Day Class}

Way back in March, like 6 months ago, I staffed the first week of the Teenpact Alabama State Class. I did blog about the Staff Team, but not the week itself.

I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the week as a whole and not leave y'all hanging. ;)

I'll start with the end of the week, only because it was my favorite part. :)

For those of you that don't know, Teenpact has a One Day class specifically designed for 8-12 year olds. I went to a couple of classes several years ago and so, I absolutely loved staffing the One Day class this past year!!

Yes, that is 9 year old Giann.
She was so excited to go and little did she know that, ten years later, she would be staffing a One Day class! :)

Anyway, enough down memory lane, let's move on to the actual day.

The One Day class is not as intense as the Four Day class, but it still covers a lot of material.  

The day started with a prayer walk around the Capitol Building, followed by a scavenger hunt. 

During the Scavenger Hunt, my committee girls and I were able to tour the Governor's office! 

This was such a neat opportunity for all of us! 

fun fact: our governor will not take a salary until everyone in the state has a job. 

I even got a pencil! 
maybe I was little excited… haha 

As if the day couldn't get any more exciting, I helped lead the Alumni Track for the returning One Day students and served as Clerk during the mock legislative session!

photo credit: Mrs. Peaches

Ever since I attended the One Day class many years ago, I had always wanted to be the Clerk! You have no idea how excited I was when Christian read off the assignments the night before! It was definitely a dream come true. :) 

I did enjoy the day as a whole and leading my little committee with Zach! I hope some of the kids will consider coming back or possibly attending the Four Day class next year! 

If you have a little one between the ages of 8-12, consider attending the One Day class. I promise you will not be disappointed! 

And, in case you're wondering how us staff celebrates the end of the week, we take the traditional staff pictures and go out to dinner. 

photo credit: Christian

And we sleep, because by then you're exhausted. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Party in Pittsburgh {Part 1}

Last week, for my birthday, I ventured up to Pittsburgh to visit my friend, Laurence.

I had told my parents that all I wanted for my birthday was to travel and see my friends.

I really didn't want anything else. Seriously.

So, they offered to pay a certain amount of my plane ticket and I took advantage of their offer. :)

{I may have picked Pittsburgh because the flights were about $200 cheaper than if I was to fly to Portland. Don't worry, it's next on my list. 21st, anyone?}

Anyway, I booked my tickets and the countdown began…

I was so looking forward to seeing Laurence! We had a tearful goodbye at National Convention not knowing that we would be seeing each other again real soon.

I really love this girl and our friendship.

We just talked and hung out at her house for the next day and a half. I mean, after all, talking in person is so much better than on the phone. It was nice to see her face and hear her voice at the same time! 

my first view of the city… 

I did manage to introduce her and her siblings to my Starbucks addiction within 24 hours of arriving.

The little ones had hot chocolate while I had the classic Oprah Chai.

{Which, if you haven't tried the new Chai, you're missing out.}

Thursday, we decided to get our nails done which only lasted for about 4 days instead of the desired 7-8. {I don't have picture, but just imagine a French manicure on both of our hands.}

Thursday night, on the other hand, I have several pictures documenting our endeavor – Raspberry Cheesecake. 

We picked up the necessary ingredients at the local store… 

…and decided at midnight to make it. 

Smart, I know. 

We had two other other people helping us which made it easier. 

Teamwork, that's how I roll. 

It wasn't that hard to make at all. I think I was more surprised than anyone else. 

They came out quite tasty, if I do say so myself. 

Of course, I couldn't have done it without this crew… 

Reed, Gabe, Laurence, and I. 

Thanks y'all for making it a memorable, last night of being a teen. 

The morning of my birthday, I met up with a sweet friend of mine. She was in town modeling for American Eagle! 

See if you can spot her the next time you venture into an American Eagle! 

Yeah, she's pretty cool. ;) 

After dropping her off at the airport, Laurence and I had brunch at the famous Pamela's Diner. 

I ordered the ham and cheese omelet with their famous hash browns. 

It was a very filling and delightful breakfast. 

Fun fact: The President of the United States has also eaten here. 

Laurence then took me to a place called Washington Point. 

It has such a spectacular view… 

If you ever find yourself in Pittsburgh, do yourself a favor, and take a few minutes to enjoy this view. 

I'll be back in a few days to share with y'all Part 2 of my trip which may or may have involved a last minute road trip to Maryland! 

* * * * * 

While you're waiting for Part 2, tell me if you've traveled anywhere this summer! Where have you been? Did you venture to any places new and exciting?! Let me know in the comments below! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Life in 10 Days.

So, I'm still working through the changes on my blog amongst other things in life. Hence why you get another life update two weeks later. :)

* * * * *

For the Fourth of July this year, my family and I ventured down to Louisiana to visit with our extended family. We haven't visited in the middle of the year in a long time! If I'm not mistaken, this was my first time in 5 years!

It was great to see everyone and take updated pictures, too!

Grans, great grans, and great–great grans. :) 

3/4 Brothers with their fabulous wives… 

Momma and 3/4 of her boys…

Bonus: My cousin and I share the same enthusiasm for Independence. 

okay, maybe she's just a little camera shy. ;)

The week after the Fourth was pretty slow, but my weekend has been crazy busy! 

Friday, I met my newly married friend, JEN, for coffee. 

We talked about all things marriage related – the wedding, honeymoon, what it's like to be a wife, etc. I so enjoyed catching up with her! 

A little later in the day, I received my absentee ballot in the mail! 

 It was definitely an interesting experience voting absentee! 

Later that night, I met my internet soulmate for Frozen Yogurt. 

I mean, she really is. We had connected on Twitter months ago but we had never met in person. We had tons of mutual friends so it wasn't that sketchy to meet her alone. :)

Bonus: We're birthday twins, too! 

Saturday, I spent the morning at our local art museum helping my friend with her school assignment. 

We celebrated our survival with a Pancake from a local cafe. 

I know, it's not Paleo. But, who says you can't splurge ever so often?! :)

I came home to find my free prints from Shutterfly had been delivered! 

These are just a few of the friends I have made over the course of my teen years. They're all uniquely gifted by God for a specific purpose and I can't wait to see how the LORD uses them! I know they've already blessed me so much! 

* * * * *

Anyway, that's what I've been up to this week! 

What about you? How did you celebrate the Fourth of July? What have you done this past week?