Lately…

So recently Chris and I did something crazy.

Like, pack up a UHaul and move halfway across the country crazy.

The last few weeks have been full of boxes, paint, and stress, but we are getting settled into our new little home (apartment) pretty nicely. We are loving our little area of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but getting used to the HUGE lifestyle change.

The Good–

Dog parks, a million and one restaurants, getting to see my parents and brother, a new super awesome little apartment, finding a church

The Crazy–

Traffic, ALL the options, being away from Chris’ family and my sister

Overall, we are so excited about all that is going on right now. God is so good. There are about a million things I want to say, but those are other posts for other days. We are so thankful for you, family and friends! Stay posted as I write about our new job and new city adventures :)

-A

5 Ways the Social Justice Movement Will Change the Church

The Millennial Generation’s heartbeat is that of justice. Our generation craves action and  hates injustice. We want the captives freed, the orphans adopted, the hurting healed, the lonely loved. 

This is evident in both the secular and church world, but I truly believe that this movement is huge factor in the next church culture shift.

5 WAYS

1. Giving will increase, while tithing will decrease. Overall, Millennials are a giving bunch—of their time, money, and voices (83% of Millennials gave to charity in 2013).  MIllennials will give money—but not only to the church. Tithes will most likely be split with child sponsorship organizations, mission trip donations, feeding programs, etc… The reason for this is two-fold: 1) The passion to see change in the world and 2) Distrusting the church to use the money for those in need.

2. The scope of what jobs are considered “ministry positions” will expand. Baby Boomers worked for money, while Millennials will work to be fulfilled.  When committing to ministry, MIllennials won’t just be committing to a church job. The field has expanded to include parachurch organizations, nonprofits, and mission organizations.

3.  Church attendance will continue to decrease unless churches uphold action as much as they uphold small groups and Sunday worship services. Millennials are done with talk and teaching (partly because they think they already know it all)—they are seeking people who walk the talk.  If the church isn’t meeting the needs of the local community and loving those who have traditionally been rejected, Millennials won’t have any part of it. The most talented speakers and musicians won’t capture us for long if there aren’t actions focused on meeting physical needs locally and around the world.

4. Church membership looks different to them. Part of social justice is including everyone, especially the least of these. I am sure more churches will grapple with controversial questions, including homosexual Christians in church membership, and many MIllennials would be in favor. According to Thom Rainer’s survey of this generation, “Millennials will exit quickly from churches whose members are shrill and unloving toward those with non-biblical views on sexuality.” To some Millennials, love would mean acceptance and that, in turn, would mean membership. It is just a matter of time before churches deal with this question and more in terms of membership.

5. Diversity will be a measure of church health. Ethnically, socioeconomically, relationally—diversity is seen as evidence of an active church body that is actively working in the community.  Millennials will judge a church on who it attacts. Are there many races? Family structures? Are people from “both sides of town” there? Is Jesus depicted as a white, suit-wearing Republican? These are all questions Millennials will ask as they look at churches.

When Marriage is like Muscles

 

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Someone once told me when you exercise your muscles tear a little bit. How you proceed then decides if your muscles rebuild stronger or if they get worse.  I’ll be honest, I have no idea if this is 100% true, but it does make sense to me! (And for the purposes of this thought, just stick with me, deal?)

Well, I’m no exercise expert, but I’m starting to think marriage is a whole lot like exercise. This week, Chris and I had a kind of fight heated discussion about something, and said a few things that weren’t very kind. Okay, let’s be honest, we came with words flying.

I walked away, stubborn and not wanting to apologize, and then God stuck that stupid thought about the muscles in my head. He likes doing that, right? Humbling us and showing us what is right when we just want to stomp around like babies. And I thought…Hmmm. Marriage is a lot like that.

When something mean is said that cuts Chris, it’s easy for me to just think, “Well, he’ll get over it. We’re married, so we’re stuck together no matter what.” But I bet that attitude is pretty dangerous. When we have a fight, our bond is torn a little. Just like Mr. Weightlifter told me muscles are torn.

Now, I have a choice:

1, Hang on to my pride and just assume it’ll all be okay, or

2. Look at what I did wrong. Apologize. Try not to do it any more. Be humble. Admit I was wrong.

I can choose the first, hanging on to my anger, and maybe it will work out or maybe the bond will be severed so badly that one day, all this little things add up and we can’t stand each other. Just like a runner who keeps running on a torn ligament, who instead of resting and growing stronger just keeps making it worse.  Or I can choose the latter, and swallow that dang pride God doesn’t seem too fond of, and our bond can grow stronger as God sanctifies us.

The second choice is so obviously the better one. All it takes is letting go of that pride, but man, isn’t is so hard when you’re mad? When you just wanna be mad for a little while longer?

But, shew, when I look at the marriages I want to emulate, they sure as heck aren’t the people who are simply stuck with one another, but the ones who seem like every day they grow closer. The real picture of marriage (and redemption), friends, isn’t clinging to pride, but letting our fleeting emotions go in exchange for a love that really lasts. Now that’s a marriage where Christ is glorified, and isn’t that the ultimate goal? I sure hope so!

God, may we just Let. It. Go. and grow stronger instead of weaker. Help us choose Your way, the hard way, the life-giving one. Amen.

Goals for Ghana

Well, I’m SO excited to be headed back to Ghana in less than 1 month! I cannot wait to go back and soak up as much as I can in two weeks. Here are my goals for the trip!

30 days

 

  • Love who God puts in front of me—without fear of illness, assumptions, anything holding me back.
  • Soak up as much wisdom as I can from the staff at CORM and GMI. Last time we visited CORM, I was so amazed by their vision and how clearly they communicated it to everyone! It is clear God is directing their paths, and they are great at sharing that! I’d love to learn more about how to do this. I’d also love to learn more about how adoption works from John and others at GMI!
  • Keep a Kingdom focus. It’s so easy to get caught up in one thing that I could miss out on other opportunities to serve, or I could try and serve someone in a way that isn’t very helpful.

On World Vision

 

One time, when I was in middle school, I had one of those morbid assignments to write my own obituary (why, English teachers, why???). My middle school self wrote about me becoming a woman with a loving husband, two kids, a glamorous job as a magazine editor (ha) and when I died I donated all of my money to the Christopher Reeve foundation because at the time I was obsessed with Smallville and Superman (hahahaha).

Anyways, my teacher read over it and very nicely told me the Christopher Reeve Foundation did stem cell research, and I nodded, proud of my future humanitarian self.  Then my teacher told me stem cell research uses aborted babies to do their research. Oh…

Lesson learned—research charities before I jump on board just because a celebrity endorsed it.

Well, friends, It’s the statement heard ‘round the internet, issued by World Vision, a child-sponsorship nonprofit:

The organization previously required its some 1,100 employees at the American branch to abide by a policy that required fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside of marriage, and only recognized heterosexual marriages. However, now World Vision is allowing gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be hired as well as gay Christians who follow their policy of abstinence outside of marriage.

World Vision’s senior director for media contacts, Cynthia Colin, shared a letter from Stearns to World Vision employees with The Huffington Post. Stearns explained, “I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue. We have chosen not to exclude someone from employment at World Vision U.S. on this issue alone.” (Huffington Post)

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(Source)

The firestorm that happens after debates like this in the Christian world sometimes kills me. Personal attacks are made. People tweet faster than they can think. Feelings are hurt.

Some bloggers and figures I deeply respect have staked their claims on sides of the issue. Some are burning the books, calling for a boycott, demanding Christians cancel all sponsorships and support.

Others say people shouldn’t care because WV is loving all and the kids would be hurt if you pulled out.

It’s hard because I agree with part of this latter statement (I’ll talk about the former in a bit). The kids and families are the ones who are hurt. I hate seeing people so blasé about cancelling their sponsorships. Boycotting World Vision means kids are not getting help they need. Not saying that is the wrong position to take, but let’s not oversimplify things by putting them in the strictly “right” and “wrong” categories: pulling out means the community isn’t getting that money. Let’s not take our first knee jerk reaction (which may be right or wrong) and pray. I don’t know what God will tell you about it—that’s between Him and you.  Please, friends. Do what you think is right, but for goodness sakes, please don’t forget you aren’t sticking it to WV, you are hurting the communities they help.

BUT.

And it’s a huge but.

I would NEVER want anyone to consider giving to a charity without first looking at what they are giving money to. What are they teaching the kids in their program? How much of your money is going to overhead costs vs. to those in need? Is the charity saving or empowering? Are they in debt? Do they have a board in place? Where is the accountability? (Check out Charity Navigator for a great resource for this!)

You have the right to know. In fact, I’d say it is your responsibility to find out. If you are merely throwing money at a good cause to make yourself feel better without researching the organization and the work they do, well, that’s not helping people in need, it’s helping yourself.

But when you look at the charities you want to sponsor, you do have the right to pick one that aligns with your beliefs. One that spreads the message of Jesus if you so choose. You have the right to cancel a sponsorship or donation when an organization does a 180 or does something you think is harmful to the work you supported.

In the same breath, Christians, we have the responsibility to do it with love and understanding. In our speech, in our actions, in our typing on social media. Knowing the world’s eyes are on us. Knowing there are believers who struggle with sins of all kinds. Knowing Christ has loved us all at our very worst. And He has and can and will save those jwho repent and believe.

I sponsor with Compassion, and I personally want to know if they are sharing the Gospel with the children in their program. I want to know how much money is going to the community and how much is going to the president.  I do want to know their stance on gay marriage, because that effects what they teach the kids. I can’t tell you what I would do if Compassion followed suit. I love the kids Chris and I sponsor, and I truly believe in the work Compassion is doing, but I also want to know the kids were being taught what I believe the Bible says.

So, basically, I have no answer. Just ALL THE FEELINGS. What are your (respectful and loving) thoughts?

Update: World Vision has reversed its decision following advice from sponsors and leaders and a reported loss of 2,000 sponsored children.

I’m Forgetting Something…

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This Easter, I’m forgetting something.

I’m gonna forget the drive to the mall, the searching through stores. I’m gonna forget about the $30+ I could spend on a new dress.  I’m going to forget about the pressure to look perfect in order to celebrate Jesus.

Easter

But I’m going to remember her:

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And him:

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I’m going to remember this group:

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And them:

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I’m going to remember Isaiah 1 and Isaiah 58. I’m going to remember Matthew 25 and James 1:27.

Nothing’s wrong with dressing up. There is respect and good intentions and love in that. But this year, I am trading it in to feed an orphan!

Forget the Frock, started by Emily, whose husband used to pastor in our town, is about leaving behind the dress and instead buying a shirt from Feeding the Orphans (or another organization that provides food and water and empowers people!). Feeding the Orphans is awesome because all their sales go towards those in need—overhead costs are fundraised separately (and needed! You can donate to those costs here!).

What about you, friends? Do you want to leave the frilly dress and studly suit behind? Love an orphaned child this Easter…what better way to show respect and love towards Christ who loves orphans so deeply? Forget the Frock!

Friday Finds: One Day Late Edition

Okay, friends, this weekend has already been super busy! Yesterday and this morning I attended Imagine Children’s Ministry Conference, hosted by the KBC, and it was fantastic! I learned so much, and the Lord reminded me that programs and details are great, but the main thing is the main thing that that’s showing kids Jesus!

A few quick things I’m loving!

1. Nourish by Special K

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I hate oatmeal, but this stuff is delicious. I love a big, hearty breakfast, so I really didn’t think this little cup would keep me full, but it has several days when I ate breakfast at 8:30 and didn’t have lunch until after 1. I’d highly recommend it to other oatmeal-skeptics!

2.  New pictures of one of our Compassion Kids

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I love Compassion and the work they do that works beyond charity and into empowerment.  We got new pictures of Sonia, who lives in Togo. We’ve been sponsoring her for almost two years, and it is so cool to read her letters (we get several from her, less from Richard in Ghana). I was like a kid on Christmas morning ripping the letter open to see the new pictures!

3.  Venus Embrace Sensitive Skin Razor

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Yay for crooked pictures!

The first time I ever shaved, I cut a four inch long gash down my shin bone. This set up the past ten years of hating shaving.  I have the most sensitive skin in the world, so when Influenster contacted me to review this product, I wasn’t so sure it would actually work. Wrong! It was so smooth to shave, and I didn’t have to press hard to get a close shave. I usually get underarm bumps, but with this razor I didn’t! If you have sensitive skin, I would definitely check this out! Bonus, it even comes with a stand that suction cups to your shower wall, which I love because I don’t have to worry about it sitting in water and rusting.

*I received this product free in in exchange for my honest review!

5.  The Branch Podcast

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This is my parent’s church in Texas. On a walk today, I listened to Game Changer-What He’s Meant for Love, and it was just awesome. I highly recommend Chris Seidman. The sermons are great and happen to be the perfect length for a 30 minute walk. Plus it makes me feel closer to my parents, which I love!

Friday Finds

You know those weeks that are wonderfully exhausting? I’m having one of those right now. I am exhausted from hard work, but also really enjoying it!

I thought it would be fun to list a few things I’ve discovered recently that I love. Introducing…

fridayfinds

1.  Smartfood Parmesan Herb Popcorn

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Really, guys, this stuff rocks! It’s a healthy snack, but really, you’re going to want to eat the whole bag. I’ve bought a bag every week for the last few months and haven’t gotten sick of it yet!

2.  This fabric (similar)

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I happened to find this fabric at Wal-Mart, and I’m using it for my phone case and a few wall art pieces. I love the blue and red—two colors I wouldn’t have put together on my own.

3.  Beer Creak Tortilla Soup

Bear Creek

This stuff was delicious. I love that the packaged soup doesn’t have meat in it (because bagged meat—enough said).  I added some shredded chicken and a can of chili ready tomatoes. It was absolutely delicious. Paired with cornbread, it was a great meal.

4.  All Sons and Daughters

All Sons and Daughters—Brokenness Aside

Chris got me two All Sons and Daughters CDs for Christmas, and I have been listening to them on repeat. Their harmony and lyrics and beautiful. Some of my favorites are Brokenness Aside (above), God With Us, and Reason to Sing. Basically all of them!

5.  Peanut Butter Fingers Lightened Up Meatball Casserole

I didn’t get a pic of this, but check her blog out for this yummy recipe!  Super easy, quick, filling, and delicious. I used Greek yogurt mixed with Tastefully Simple’s Garlic Garlic seasoning and mozzarella cheese when I couldn’t find goat cheese at our local grocery store. Sooo good!

What about you? What are some of your fun finds for this week?

10 Christian Women Young Adults Should Know About

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton

You know those women who just seem to have something special? Of course their lives can’t be perfect, but they are joyful, full of life and wisdom. The women we want to emulate in our Christian walk?

Here are 10 women who you just wanna be best friends with.  They are some of the giants in the faith, especially for women. As a young adult/college girl (now graduate, but close enough!), I love finding new women leaders to learn from. These are some amazing champions of the church, Bible teaching, social justice, reaching others, and using passions for Jesus.

My recommendation? Check out their blogs! Better yet, sign up for BlogLovin and add them all so you can read all of them on one webpage! (P.S. Follow me here).

10 Women

1. Beth Moore—Writer, speaker, Bible study leader, founder of Living Proof Ministries.

Well, who didn’t expect her to be at the top of this list? But get this, friend, she isn’t just your mom’s Bible study leader.

Her Bible studies are more time-intense (think 45 minutes-an hour a day) than you might be used to, but were also my first wake up call that my one chapter a day to do check off doesn’t cut it. Bible reading should be passionate, visual, deep, and connected, and she shows you the way to Jesus.

Read: These 10 books that are FREE on Kindle!

Watch: Do Not Throw Away Your Confidence part 1, 2, 3, and 4 (This friends, every woman should watch. Multiple times. I don’t say that lightly; it is THAT annointed)

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2. Katie Davis—Author, founder of Amazima Ministries.

I first heard of Katie Davis when Chris got me her book the winter before I left for Ghana. Shew…let me tell you, she changed my vision. She isn’t writing to preach or to tell you you’re doing it wrong. She is just telling the story of how God changed her life by telling her to forget expectations and love his people in Uganda.

Read: Kisses From Katie

Watch: Katie Davis

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3.  Jen Hatmaker—Author, Speaker

Who knew sarcasm and a deep passion for Jesus could meet so wonderfully? Jen Hatmaker is HILARIOUS. She has big feelings and big passions. 7 is the story of her mutiny against the American dream, where she limited what she consumed and learned so much about Jesus and about Christian culture today. She probably the funniest Bible study leader you’ll ever read. Side note: Like her on Facebook for hilarious stories about her family, but NEVER read the comments. People get nitpicky on that thing.

Read: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Watch: Here

JA

4.  Jennie Allen

I love hearing Jennie Allen talk about empowering women. She talks a lot about being willing to give up everything for Christ, resulting in finding your passion and purpose.  Love it!

Read: Anything, Restless (<—can’t wait to read this!)

Watch: Idea Camp

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5. Bianca Juarez Olthoff—Chief Storyteller for the A21 Campaign

This is the woman I think everyone wants to be best friends with! She is funny, down to earth, and passionate about setting captives free and letting the church know that’s God’s heart.  Definitely check out her blog for funny stories!

Watch: Scandalous Message of James

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6.  Rachel Held Evans—Author, Blogger

Rachel Held Evans is a champion for diversity in the church, women in leadership, and being careful not to alienate people who think differently.  Her viewpoint is different from most other people who I read, but I love reading her opinions (she is super smart) and her encouragement to look at our words and how we as the church treat other people.

Read: A Year of Biblical Womanhood (Part satire, part exegesis, part historical commentary, highly recommended for both egalitarians and complementarians), and check out 101 Christian Women Speakers for more women to learn from!

Watch: My Year of Biblical Womanhood (hilarious! And definitely makes me look at my definition of biblical)

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7.  Rebekah Lyons—Author, Cofounder of Q Ideas

Anxious? Depressed? Feeling like you shouldn’t be since you’re a Christian and shouldn’t you just have joy? Rebekah Lyons has been there, and she has dealt with the surrender and grace in those moments. She is honest and vulnerable, and I love knowing we are not alone.

Read: Freefall to Fly

Watch: Biola University chapel

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8.  Christine Caine—Speaker, Pastor, Author, Founder of A21 Campaign

Fiery. I first heard Christine Caine at Catalyst in 2010. I remember thinking, “Oh cool! A Hillsong person is going to sing.” Well, sing she didn’t, but she did get the place going when she told us to “Stop going church and start being the church.”  Check out her free podcast here.

Read: Undaunted (Kindle Edition)

Watch: Catalyst 2010

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9.  Emily Freeman—Author, Blogger

Church girls, have you ever felt like grace was such a foreign concept? That the prodigal son maybe should have gotten what he deserved? Grace for the Good Girl reminds us we’ve all been lost and just want to be found.

Read: Grace for the Good Girl

Watch: Grace for the Good Girl

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10. Esther Havens—Photographer, Speaker

I love how God gives us all such different talents and tells us to just go and give him glory. Esther Havens takes gorgeous pictures for nonprofits that tell the story of hope in the midst of poverty.  Her work reminds me that missions isn’t just smuggling Bibles; it’s using whatever God has given you to spread His word.

Read: The Personal Note at the End of this Post

Watch: Bestowing Dignity in Photography

 

Here are just a few of my many favorites!

So what about you? What Christian leaders are you admiring lately?

Resolve

2014

Some people hate on resolutions, but I personally LOVE them. I have always loved the idea of a fresh start. For the last few days I have made a mental list a mile long of resolutions, but yesterday, as I stopped and prayed and reflected, I realized I just have one goal for 2014:

Listen to God. Do what He says.

Okay, maybe two goals.

This is a year of big dreams. It is a year of leaving behind hesitations. It is a year of anything. It is a year to go, to love big, to forget about containing my passion and just go for it.

A year of FREEDOM.

Freedom from my own rules and insecurities. Freedom to revel in the grace God has given me. Freedom to do crazy things in the name of Jesus. Freedom to forget about my pride and people pleasing ways and just DO IT.

(Nike should hire me for an ad campaign, right?) (Probably not)

So what about you? Do you need to focus this year on freedom? If not, what other word are you proclaiming over your year?

Happy 2014!