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Sweep Over Me

“I hear the tumult of the raging seas as Your waves and surging tides sweep over me. But each day the Lord pours His unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing His songs, praying to God who gives me life.” –Psalm 42:7-8

 

Whenever I think about the unfailing love of God, my mind races back to an experience I had a year and a half ago in Piura, Peru on a quaint beach at high tide.

It was like the Spirit drew me away from everyone and deep into the water. The waves started to crash in on me so high that they swept over my head. Normally in this situation, I would be panicking, but this time there was perfect peace. After the waves crashed in, I would float to the top of the water into about a half a foot of sea foam. I started to dance in the water a dance of joy as my senses came alive. The presence of God was more real than it had ever been to me, and I was free – free to dance, squeal, giggle…to be me. There was no dignity about the way I was acting; I was a little girl safe in her Daddy’s arms.

Over the past few days and weeks, God has been pouring this same love over me. To say that He has been surprising me would be an understatement; I am discovering in the deepest parts of me that He is good. Even though there are so many desires inside of me that are yet unfulfilled and a multitude of questions still unanswered, I am learning to praise Him once again…to hope in Him and to simply be a child in His presence, dancing for joy because I am safe in my Daddy’s arms. I am learning that joy is readily available but is still a choice that I can choose in every situation and in every day of my life.

I am thankful that God gives us moments in our experience that establish our understanding of who He is. Whenever I am tempted to doubt God’s love, my heart flies back to Piura, Peru to the quaint little beach where He met me in all His radiance. There can be no question anymore of His love for me, because that day marked my life forever. I discover that He is never far away. I discover that not only that day, but “…each day the Lord pours His unfailing love upon me…”

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Looking Back

The other day God reached out and used some wonderful people to meet a very real need in my life (shout out to Eileen and Troy Easterday and Juanita Smith). As I sat in tears at God’s goodness and willingness to provide for His children, I started to look back and think about all the hundreds of people that God has brought alongside me in my journey and calling. I wanted to write a post to thank just a few of these hundreds of people, because I, like many of us, do not always do a good job of conveying to others the impact that they have had in my life. A lot of people come and go in our journeys, but some people stay and make a lasting mark. If I were to highlight everyone, it would be a very long blog post. If I did not mention someone important, I apologize.  Know that you are so very important to me!  In all of this, I encourage you to look back and not only recognize the key people in your story, but also thank them for the role they have had in making you who you are today. 

I grew up in a wonderful family with great parents (David and Marlys Weber). They have been very involved in my life and have given me many opportunities to learn and grow in a variety of ways. Throughout everything, they have been not only my biggest supporters, but also faithful and wise advisors. I am so blessed to have them in my life. I admire them because they live lives worthy of admiration, and anyone who knows them would agree.

Some people that I consider my “second parents” are Stan and Eleaner Aubrey. They were my pastors for the first several years of my life, and Eleaner was my first Spanish teacher. These two people adopted me as their spiritual daughter and invested so much of their time and wisdom in my life. Much of what I learned about ministry and life I learned in the first few years of my life with them. I love them like I love my parents, and I miss them terribly when I cannot be with them.

Obviously, both sets of my grandparents had a big impact on my life as well, and I was probably closest to my mom’s dad, Lauren Blincow, who passed away when I was a junior in high school. I grew up in his carpenter shop, sweeping sawdust in my free time and painting toys that we would make together. We would go for drives singing silly songs and we went fishing and golfing (and when my grandma wasn’t there, he would even let me drive the golf cart). He taught me different card games and also how much I do not like fried green tomatoes. We spent time in his garden and at the park. I loved the weeks that I would spend at his house, and as an adult now I am amazed at the energy level he had to spend time with me. It makes me appreciate so much more the times we spent together.

I also loved spending time with my Uncle Russ and Aunt Lanita Evans. I loved “helping” with my aunt’s paper business and doing electrical maintenance runs with my uncle. We would play games at night and watch movies together. I remember going on walks and hikes with my uncle and we would talk about the deep mysteries of life. They also taught me so much about love and marriage by their example.

Another childhood friend that I consider one of the most important people in my life is my friend Bonnie Bley. Although she is probably in her 80’s now, she continues to be not only an example of what it means to have a vibrant relationship with God, but also someone in whom I can confide absolutely everything. She has challenged me to always seek to go deeper with God and to love people as God loves them. I could honestly write a book on all the ways this wonderful lady has touched my life. Perhaps someday I will.

I spent a lot of time in my growing up years with my neighbor Marion Young, an elderly lady who took me under her wing. We spent all our time PLAYING. She had a cocker spaniel dog named Tinkerbell and we would take her for walks and drives and taught her all kinds of tricks. I would spend hours at her house every week, and considered her one of my best childhood friends. She passed away a few years ago, and I miss her so much.

Joe and Susan Sukraw have been in my life since I was born, and they have been a constant encouragement to me. In high school when I was trying to figure out matters of spiritual warfare and other things that I couldn’t share with just anyone, they were there to talk to and to point me to wise teachers and theologians who have greatly influenced me. I am so thankful for their continued friendship (and their kids who I have adopted as my brothers and sisters – Josh, Ben, Hannah, and Nathan).

In high school I had some teachers that made a great impact on my life – for example, Tom Hammond, my favorite English teacher who passed away while I was in high school. He encouraged my writing and critical thinking in ways that no other teacher ever has. He saw something in me, and he graded me hard because he knew that I had potential. Kelley Hansen, my Spanish teacher who is the only reason I still speak Spanish, modeled to me a love for the language and the Hispanic culture. Bob McFarland, my biology teacher, invested so much into me in a personal way. We had such a good time with him that my group of friends would often meet in his classroom after school and laugh until our sides hurt.

College was a difficult time for me on many emotional and physical levels. It is true in my case that few friendships have been closely maintained from that time. However, two of my best friends – Joanna Henry and Brandon Chapman – came into my life during that time. These two people mean so much to me. Joanna – you and I have been through SO MUCH together. I am sure we will be friends for a lifetime. I also spent a lot of time with my mentor at the time, Martha Latham. She taught me so much about passion for ministry and how to love kids that struggle.

While I worked at Mount Rushmore one summer during college, I went through a season of big growth. Who would have ever thought that one of my best friends Rachel Hull would still be such a good friend today? I remember those nights we would stay up late outside in the woods in the dark talking about EVERYTHING, that time we almost died, and how much we complained to each other to keep each other sane. HA…we are such different people now, but I am so thankful that we have grown up together. 

One family that means so much to me are Benny Sánchez and Yussepy Leonardo, who I lived with in the Dominican Republic for four months. These two people invested so much into me, and they loved me although I was going through a very difficult time in my life and was not very mature in many areas. I am so blessed and honored by them, that we have stayed good friends throughout the years, and I am excited to see them again in September!

My Kansas family – Steve and Linda Weber, Andy and Ashley Weber, Jamie Rice (and BRIE) and Tom and Gracie Ewing – truly took me under their wing not only while I was in college, but have continued to be a constant blessing and encouragement to me. I consider Steve one of my main mentors, and the ways that he has invested in my life are so valuable to me.

I am so thankful for Derri Smith, director of End Slavery Tennessee, who took me under her wing while I was in Nashville and believed that God can and will use me in my calling to work with victims of human trafficking. She showed me what it means to have passion and love for those who have been so broken. She also taught me what it means to have hope, and to know that our God can heal any wound, break any cycle, and use anyone for His purposes.

You want a reason why I was able to come to South America to serve as a missionary? First of all, when God calls, He provides. One of the main ways that God provided for me was through Pastor Cliff Transmeier, who not only supported me financially and rallied the Nebraska District behind our church plant, but he also went WAY OUT OF HIS WAY to encourage me personally and in ministry. I am so thankful for his influence in my life.

Now that I am with Extreme Nazarene Ministries, I have many more people in my life that have made and are making a huge impact on my story and journey. I am so thankful for Brian Tibbs, our director and also my friend and mentor, who is one of the most genuine people I know. He has been such an encouragement to me and has shown me that I am more than just a number in the organization. He has invested time in helping me develop and grow in my calling. Sheli Gartman has made a HUGE impact in my life. We have spent hours talking through and working through so many things. Through the Holy Spirit’s leading, she spoke firmly and powerfully into places in me that needed to change, and they have. I consider her one of my dearest friends and mentors, and one of the reasons for the many changes that have taken place in me. I am thankful especially to Amanda Duerre, David Morrison, Brandon Doerksen, CJ Childs, and Sheena Green for being such amazing friends and confidants through the ups and downs of ministry. Also, thank you to my sponsors who have not only given money, but have also stayed active in my life. You mean more to me than I could ever express.

So many people have encouraged me to develop in my gifts and talents such as Rod and Debbie Miller, who have always encouraged me to sing, Carla Freeman and Rhonda Swanson, two amazing piano teachers and friends, and Karen Ramsey who is a constant encouragement in my writing. Thank you so much for making such an impact on my life.

I feel like I could write Hebrews 11 for my story…there are so many more people who have been integral parts of my journey, but I do not have time to tell about them all. It truly takes a village to raise a child. All in all, thank you to the many people who have invested in me in the past 26 and a half years. I love you so much, and I hope someday that I can be as much of a blessing to others as you have been to me. Keep it up!

All For Love

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This morning I had the opportunity to listen to a devotional given by one of our disciples. This lesson had not been pre-prepared for him; he gave it out of the overflow of his own personal relationship with God. And it was powerful.

In life, it is a common temptation for things to become routine, and ministry is no different. We attend and lead several services and Bible Studies a week, with some at odd hours like 4am on the day after our day off. I can’t count the number of times I have resolved to simply survive, my eyes on the clock just waiting for the moment when I can make my grand escape and do “what I want to do.” As the time draws closer to the end of our contract, that temptation grows stronger as our hearts start to make the transition from here to wherever we will go.

However, today God used my disciple to remind me of the heart of the mission: love. It should be the reason for everything we do. It should be the standard by which we govern our lives, and the motivation behind even the things that we wouldn’t personally choose to do. Am I serving out of obligation, or out of a supernatural awareness of God’s love for the people to whom I am serving? Am I leading because that’s what my contract tells me to do, or am I aware of the honor that I have been given to even be here, doing what I do?

Perhaps it’s easy to look at someone in ministry and say, “Of course it’s an honor to be there,” but I have held many different kinds of jobs that I didn’t like one bit. It was a drag to get up in the morning and go to work. Does the concept still apply in these situations? Absolutely. Once we have given our lives to Christ, every moment should be an overflow of the love we are constantly receiving from Him. After all, our lives are a gift that God gave us out of His love for us. Does the life we give back to God share the same caliber of passion?

Great reminder. Much easier said than done.

And what about our hearts? We can serve God on the outside, but on the inside be harboring bitter feelings toward God or our leaders. People can only see so much of who we are. We spend a few hours in public, but many more hours behind closed doors. We can fake a good face, but at the end of the day our relationship with God is only between Him and us. Am I giving Him my love or only my reluctant obedience? Does the sacrifice I am offering smell pleasing to Him or is it offensive? We can walk a good walk, but God knows the intention behind the actions. He knows the heart behind the service.

I want every moment of my life to be all for love of my Savior. I pray that I would not seek to simply survive my tasks, but that I would offer my Lord the best of me. God, please forgive me for often serving out of obligation rather than love. Please change my heart to reflect Yours.

As I Really Am

“You see me, and You know me, and You love me through and through.”

-United Pursuit Band “Through and Through”

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Generally when I go through a time of spiritual attack, Satan goes after one specific area: my perception of who I am. Why is that?

There are different struggles that we face as humans in a broken world. One of those would be the comparison game. Am I as thin as the girl next to me? Is my skin that flawless? Am I as smart as the other applicants? Am I as talented as other people at my job? Like it or not, questions like these cross our minds probably more than once in a while.

Sometimes we find ourselves at a different point where it doesn’t even matter to us as much what other people look like or are good at, but we start to have misconceptions of ourselves based on past actions or perceived flaws. Maybe they are based on true weaknesses. These statements generally have the words “always” or “never” in them. “I always mess things up.” “I am never right.”

So we pretend. Usually we don’t even know we are doing it. There’s the simple thought inside, “Well, if I just let myself go, I would be too much for someone to handle.” “If I truly was myself, I would be rejected by this certain person whom I really want to like me.” “Last time I was vulnerable, I walked away feeling like an idiot.”

I heard the story today about this guy in the Bible named Jacob. You can find his story in Genesis. His name means “deceiver.” You could say the jealousy that he had toward his brother got the best of him, but it most likely was simple human nature with the desire to be special and have the best that fueled his deceitfulness. One day, his dad decided that since his time was short, he was going to bless his older son, Esau. He sent him out to hunt, and Jacob used the opportune moment to steal from his brother what was rightfully his brother’s to have. He dressed up in Esau’s clothes, mimicked his brother’s stew, and claimed another identity. That day, his father blessed him, but as Pastor Steven Furtick says, “God can’t bless who you pretend to be.” 21 years later as Jacob was heading back to reconcile with his brother, he had a wrestling match with God. “I won’t let you go until you bless me!” he cried. God responded, “What’s your name?”

There comes a point when we must confront the “face in the mirror”, whether we like what we see or not. Last night in our Bible study as we talked about the subject of our fears, one of my disciples said, “It’s a scary thing to go too deep with God, because you are confronted with who you really are.” I wonder how many of us maintain a busy lifestyle or several superfluous friendships simply because we are running away from having to confront who we really are?

The day that Jacob wrestled “the angel”, he was given a new name: Israel. So why does the Bible continue to call him Jacob sometimes? Why, many years later, when God gives Moses instructions on what to tell the Israelites, does He tell Moses to say, “I AM has sent me to you. I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and JACOB”? Why not the name He Himself gave Jacob: Israel?

Could it be that God loved him as he really was, character flaws and all? Could it be that God blessed Jacob, not for who he pretended to be or who he could be if he changed, but as he really was?

I have often dreamed of someday maturing into a person that I would like. I would be that charming girl who never talked too much or shied away from intense situations. Inadvertently, I dream about someday becoming the girl that God could love and use for His purposes, when the truth of the matter is, HE LOVES ME AS I REALLY AM, not who I pretend to be or who I want to be. He loves the girl who is maybe a little too honest and innocent. He can use the shy girl who would rather be a wall flower than in front of a group of people. God is not limited by my perceived “character flaws.” He is only limited by my reluctance to accept His love for me as I am.

So I will wrestle the angel and I won’t let go until He blesses me. Why? Because I want to be done with the desire to be different in order to be loved. Because I recognize that God can’t have His way in my life until I allow Him to love me as I really am. Quirks and all.

What could that mean for you? Have you accepted His love for you for who you really are? Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable before God; you might be surprised by the outcome.

Hidden Talents

Yesterday, God broke my heart when He shared with me a parable from Matthew 25:14-30:

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Coins

Many call this the parable of the talents. Would we ever imagine ourselves to be the wicked servant who hid his talent in the ground? I wouldn’t ever want to imagine that…but that’s exactly where I was for the past four months.

I am called to write, and I have known every day in the past four months that I have been going against that calling by not writing.

You see, it’s simple. I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel like doing it. However, obedience has nothing to do with feelings. Obedience has everything to do with decisions.

I know that God has a plan for my life in writing. And Satan has thrown everything he can against me in relation to this calling. Tonight a few arrows got through. However, I am fighting back with obedience to what God has asked me to do today. I will no longer keep my talent hidden.

Sometimes we are afraid to make a decision to obey because we don’t know if we can consistently, day after day, do what we are asked to do.

You know what? I know that I can’t. I have come to the end of myself so many times to realize that I need God’s leading and push every single day. And you know what? I’m just going to be obedient today and trust God to help me to be obedient tomorrow.

Lesson for today? God has given you a talent. He has invested something inside of you. Are you hiding it or investing in its growth?

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