Monday, December 31, 2012


Everyone loves a hero.

There have been so many wonderful ones too. Unlikely heroes. Heroes that are larger than life. Heroes that don't even know they're heroes.

The stories of the world are saturated with them. Atticus Finch of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockinbird. Katniss from The Hunger Games. Indiana Jones. Robin Hood. Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings. Superman.

We love heroes, each and every one of us.

And, in our lives, there are two opposing forces: the need to be rescued by a hero and the desire to be one.

The foundation of humanity, admitted or not, is that, fallen, depraved and utterly base, a Hero came to our rescue. An unlikely Hero, but that's what made the story all the better. A Hero that was humble, kind, forgiving. One who fought battles not with angry words or lashing weapons, but with excruciating sacrifice. A Hero that fought hard, fought bravely, and won.

Our story of redemption is the original story of a hero.

As a child, I watched The Lion King so many times that eighteen years later my parents still know it word for word. One of my favorite scenes was the one where young Simba and Nala go to the elephant graveyard. I was extremely imaginative and rather liked to think that I could be a lion if I wanted to. In fact, I could be whatever lion I liked. So, in this particular scene, I would switch back and forth from pretending to be Simba to pretending to be Nala. I always loved the part where Nala gets stuck in the bones, being chased down by the hyenas, and calls to Simba for help, and he responds, giving the vicious hyena a good, hard scratch on the face.

This particular moment was such a hard one for little me to decide who to be that oftentimes I would completely miss it while trying to choose. On one hand, I very much wanted to be the courageous, albeit reckless, Simba, dashing in to save his friend. On the other, Nala was a girl, which turned the tables considerably in her favor. And there was something I relished about Simba saving me. But then I did enjoy doing the saving... And so I would argue with myself until another scene arrived and the character of choice was easier to determine.

Even as a child, this fundamental question haunted me. I wanted to be a hero, but I needed to be saved.

We forget sometimes when we're living out our stories that the role of hero has already been cast.

We are minor characters, extras in the sea of civilians who were saved from an impending comet by Superman. Not Superman.

We are the lowly peasants, given food and money by Robin Hood, who has forfeited wealth and power to provide for us. Not Robin himself.

Heroes are brave. Heroes are noble. Heroes can and should be emulated, just as I emulated Simba as a little girl.

But we must always remember that we are Nala too. And, of course, just after that scene in the movie, what happens?

Mufasa rescues them all. Even Simba, the little hero.

Somehow, I could never pretend to be Mufasa.

There is only one true Hero.

The rest of us are just pretending.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Lately, I had someone ask me why I care about people with special needs so much.

The answer that came to mind was simple: my brother and sister have special needs. I can't just sit around and do nothing while kids like Levi and Evan are being horribly mistreated and misunderstood.

While that answer makes the most sense, and came the most naturally to me, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there had to be something more.

Of course having siblings with special needs made it an area of particular interest for me, but having siblings with Down syndrome doesn't necessarily reshape your life into a mission for orphans with special needs. I think of Levi and Evan as a kickstart.

But what's the real reason? There's something that drives me to special needs orphan care that is not so simple and easy as being related.

Reading my Bible last night, I realized with amazement for the millionth time that God does not love me because I've done anything special. He loves me because He chooses to love me. He sees worth and value in me that are completely unrelated to what I am and am not able to do.

And then it struck me.

How can I accept the worth and value God places on me by no merit of my own and yet be unwilling to extend that same worth and value to others?

I can't. It would hypocrisy at its finest. To accept the love that God has for me is to accept the fact that I am just as broken, just as "disabled," just as helpless as any other person on the planet. If this is the case, I have no right to judge the abilities or shortcomings of others. Whether they have a special need, are in prison, or are addicted to drugs. There is nothing I have done that can rise me above anyone else.

Even as I am saved and become a daughter of the Almighty God, His will for my life is not for me to stand above all of my spiritual siblings, but to walk alongside them, loving them in their imperfection as God loves me every day in mine.

For my value is not in what I can or cannot do, but in what God says of me. And that truth is for everyone who believes. Everyone who holds Christ dear to their heart. The convict. The prostitute. The alcoholic. The liar. The popular girl at school. The man in a wheelchair. The child with Down syndrome.

All can find value and worth in God. You just have to accept it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Joy in Uncertainty

For someone who struggles with anxiety, there is no worse feeling than that of perpetual uncertainty. And I feel like lately it's all I've been living in.

While I am excited to be going to college next year, I'm also terrified. Change, for me, is not an adventure. It's a letting go of something that I have loved and I have known and having to accept that it might never be the same again. It's the fact that I can never be sure that what's coming will be better than what's passed.

I have put all sorts of imaginary pressure on myself in applying for college. I've always been a perfectionist, but there is this need, this drive, this urgency now that I absolutely have to be perfect. Perfect ACT scores. Perfect essays. Perfect answers to questions. In reality, I've already done extremely well in all of these areas, but there is this drive in me that always says, I can do better. Many times, this drive has made me do things that I never would have done, like Worthday, but at times like this, it's a drive that instead of being positive is negative, and maliciously whispers, Still not good enough.

I can't tell you how many times in the past months I have thought (rather selfishly), If only we were filthy rich.

If we were rich, I wouldn't have to worry about us being able to pay. I would be able to go where I wanted without concerning myself about scholarships. It would be certain.

And perhaps we could have been rich, but the price for that would have been Levi and Evan. And I would choose not to go to college before I traded them.

I know in my head that God is in control. That He will put me exactly where I'm supposed to be. But I also know that where I'm supposed to be might not be where I want to be. And that frightens me. Sometimes I get mad at God for this. I feel like He's already thrown so much uncertainty, so many things I didn't want at me.

Levi's diagnosis of autism shortly after Evan came home, his behavior, the toll it takes on our whole family. Sometimes I want to scream out, Why, God!? Why can't I just have what I want, just for this. Just for college.

And maybe He will give me what I want. Maybe He won't. There is no way to be certain. And that is the hardest thing of all.

In the midst of all this, I've realized that I've been living in a training ground. The first summer I went to Peru was the summer after we decided to adopt Evan. Shortly thereafter, I decided that it was on my heart to somehow, someway go into special needs orphan care. I don't know if things would have turned out like they did with Levi anyway or not, but perhaps when I decided that was when God decided to let things happen with Levi. Maybe that was His way of saying, This is what you want to do? Here's a trial run, just to make sure.

The past year and a half since Evan came home has been the hardest of my life. But it has also been the most beautiful and the most redemptive. There are days when I triumph in the progress that Levi has made, that we've made as a family. There are days when I think things will never get better. But there has never been a day when I wished Levi and Evan away. There has never been a day that I wasn't absolutely sure this is what God wanted me to do. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's painful and heartbreaking, and frustrating. But I see the love of God more clearly with Levi and Evan than I do anywhere else.

I think regardless of where God puts me for college, it will be a respite, a break. I still fully plan to go into special needs orphan care in some way, form, or fashion after I graduate. But perhaps God is having me go to college to rest, to rejuvenate. For a time, I will be able to leave drinks on the counter without having to worry that someone will knock them down. I will be able to watch a movie with friends without having to worry about Levi and Evan wanting to watch something else. I will be able to live day to day without having the responsibility of two little kids on me. For most people, adjusting to college is difficult. I think it will be a relief for me.

In all of this crazy uncertainty, though, God has given me something that brings me joy, gives me a break, and makes me feel purposeful. I started volunteer tutoring at a local elementary school for kids who have trouble in reading and math. Fourth graders, to be exact. I've only done it twice and, already, I've fallen in love with those kids. They are beautiful, smart, funny, and sweet. Each one of them. And it gives me great joy to be able to know them, to cherish them, to instill in them that they are special. I thank God for giving me this opportunity. Of course He knew how stressed I've been. And so He gave me this outlet, this place that I can go where I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile, where I feel important, where I feel all the stress and pressure of college preparation slipping away.

What a merciful, knowing God we have. Even if we don't always understand Him. Even if things are uncertain to me, they never are to Him.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chinese Food and Sister Dates

I can't tell you how many days I've opened every cabinet and looked in the fridge and found "nothing" to eat for lunch. Obviously there is plenty to eat; we are blessed to never have had to go hungry. I'm just a peculiarly picky person, and I sometimes forget to put it in perspective. I have a strange affinity for warm food. I don't like to eat food that's cold (unless, of course, it's ice cream). I like hot meals. Being homeschooled, I generally have leftovers to warm up. But having two 5-year-olds running around the house, Mom doesn't always have time to make dinner. Which means no leftovers.

Every Wednesday night, Jace and I go to youth church, and every Wednesday night (without fail) Mom and Dad bring in Chinese food. Without us. It's sort of like a date... with Levi and Evan.

I opened the fridge this morning to see what we had to eat (I prepare early for lunch). No leftovers. Except... Dad's leftover Chinese. As he walked out the door, I asked him what he'd gotten from Great Wall of China, our favorite place to get Chinese.

"Chicken fried rice," he replied. "I got it so you could have the leftovers."

My day was made.

It's the little things in life, isn't it? It's so strange; we always understand this concept when someone does little things for us. But how often do we translate that into doing little things for others?

A few weeks ago, I was getting ready to go to the library. As a side note, the library is one of my favorite places in the whole world - the quiet, the smell of books, the sound of pages ruffling - but I digress. I was going to the library and to get lunch while I was out, but before I went, I looked at Evan.

Mom was already at her wit's end, and Evan would probably really like the library. I asked her if she wanted to go (the answer was an emphatic "yes"), put on her shoes, and strapped her into her carseat. I took her to get Mexican food (her favorite) and then we spent nearly an hour and a half at the library.

She grabbed books randomly from the shelves in the children's section, sat in her little beanbag corner, and read, read, read.

Not only was it wonderful for me to see Evan love to read (a girl after my own heart), but it was such a blessing to me to know that I had helped out my mom and gotten a little closer to my sister.

It really is the little things that count.

Monday, October 8, 2012


There are definitely perks to homeschooling. I can sleep in until 9:00. I can do school in my pajamas. I can watch a TV show at lunch. The one downside?

You're alone a lot. This is less so for me because Levi and Evan get out of school at 11:30, so they're home about half the "school day." Mom is gone for a lot of the morning though.

Today, I was carrying my breakfast to my favorite chair where I was going to start my Bible study when I spotted something small and brownish on the carpet. I froze.

Hoppy bug.

Alright, so they aren't really called hoppy bugs. They're cave or camel crickets. We've had them around since I was younger though and because they jump like crazy, we call them hoppy bugs.

For anyone who doesn't know, I have an extreme fear of bugs (a phobia, if you will). Hoppy bugs are one of the worst anxiety triggers for me because I had experiences with them as a child when my phobia was just forming.

So, needless to say, the hoppy bug in the middle of my path caused me great distress. I could feel my heart start racing. My breathing became shallow and quick. I felt tears forming in my eyes.

What was I going to do?

I was to afraid to get close to it with a shoe or a book - it would hop. So I ran quickly and got out the vacuum.

Plugging it in, and taking out the suction extension, I turned it on. I shakily extended it to the hoppy bug. I was so close then - HOP!

I screamed. I broke down. The tears streamed down my cheeks, and I was sobbing harder than I have in quite some time. I gathered up my courage and jabbed out at the bug again - and again it jumped. This time behind a chair where I couldn't get it for fear of it jumping on me.

I stood for a good twenty minutes with the vacuum on in front of that chair, hands clenched, hyperventilating, waiting for that bug to come out. It didn't.

So slowly I went and sat back down in my usual chair and started to eat my breakfast. After about half an hour I was convinced that maybe it had left. Or maybe it wasn't coming back.

I looked down to my left and jumped. Right next to my chair was the hoppy bug. I leaped off the chair on the other side and ran to the vacuum. I tried again and again and again to kill it.

No luck. It was simply too fast. And I was terrified. You do not know terror until you've suffered from a phobia. Blinding, paralyzing fear overtook my body. I cried and cried and cried.

Finally I picked up my cellphone and called my mom. I don't know what I expected her to do. She was out. She couldn't come back just to kill a bug for me.

She told me to calm down and take my work up to my room. She would try to find the bug when she got home.

But I wanted to try just a few more times. And I did. And it didn't work.

Finally, so scared I wanted to fall on the ground and curl up in the fetal position, I ran up to my room with my work and lay on the floor sobbing my guts out.

It was the providence of God that just a few moments later, my mom walked in (in between going to the store and picking up my brother and sister from school), found the hoppy bug, and killed it.

When I came downstairs, my body was still shaking with leftover panic. I kept looking around for movement, locking onto anything small and brown I saw. When I had calmed down a bit, I wondered, 

"Why didn't God let me kill the bug?"

It would have been so much easier and so much less stressful and manic if I could have just sucked it up on the first try.

Why did God put me through all that? Why didn't he let me kill it?

I then realized how big of a step in overcoming my fear I made today. I did not run, at least not at first. I did not cower in panic.

I tried. I tried multiple times to kill it myself, despite how terrified I was.

And that is more than I have ever done in my life.

So even though in the world's eyes, this would have been a failure, I consider it a success. I consider this God's message to me saying, "It's not hopeless. Baby steps."

And I have faith that God will continue to eradicate this fear from my heart, because He's already started to.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
          - Philippians 1:6

Friday, October 5, 2012

Up Close and Personal

For the past five months or so, I've been learning how to study my Bible. I mean really study it. I'm talking about little drawings over certain words, cross-references, and looking things up about history. It's called the inductive study method.

There are days when I love it, and there are days when I think, "Geez, can't I just read it?!"

The answer is yes. I can just read it. And it is still God's word, and it will still speak to me whether I am reading it Kay Arthur's way or not. But there is a point to inductive study. It is good to focus on a passage of scripture and study it so that you can know what it really, truly means. Not what a pastor says it means or the internet says it means, but what God says it means.

Needless to say, my Bible has been getting a lot more use since I started doing these studies. Half of the time, though, it seems like a chore. Like I should be studying the Bible because I'm a Christian, and that's what Christians do.

Many times I won't pick up my Bible for a week, and I've finally figured out why.

The Bible is hard to read.

And I don't mean hard as in Shakespeare, although for those less inclined to reading, the Bible might seem like it. Those obstacles are relatively easy to overcome. Download the free Merriam-Webster and Blue Letter Bible apps on your iPhone, and you're pretty much good to go on that front.

The Bible is hard to read because what we read doesn't always make us feel warm and fuzzy. Sometimes it convicts us. It takes what we try to ignore that we're doing wrong and throws it in our faces as if to say, God knows too, and He wants you to acknowledge it. Not the most comfortable of experiences. For instance, there was a point in my walk in faith that I was harboring a lie. A deep, dark, hidden, sinister lie that was taking its toll on my emotional, spiritual, and physical health. I knew exactly who I was supposed to tell the truth to, and that it was God who wanted me to do it, but I kept constructing loopholes for myself and convincing myself that there was a way around it. Then I happened upon this verse:

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
              - James 4:17

Ouch. Talk about a spiritual slap to the face. God had just revealed to me that I was directly in sin. On purpose. And there was only one way I could make it right. And I did, shortly thereafter. That's the power of the living word of God. And that is what makes it so hard for people to read.

But the Bible doesn't stop there. God didn't give us the Bible so that we could feel guilty and convicted all the time. Sometimes it does convict us, but it also was created to give us great comfort.

As anyone who has read my blog for any amount of time knows, I struggle quite a lot with anxiety. Fear. Dread. Any of the above. Last night my family watched a TV show, not uncommon for us. In fact, we've been watching this particular show for almost a year, and we love it. Its something that we can all watch together (rare in this day and age). Not too scary or violent for me and not too inappropriate for my little brother. However, this particular episode disturbed me. Bothered me. Scared me.

I've had many nights where I've been so scared that I can't sleep. Shaking. Breathing heavily. Heart racing. And it seems like I can't stop it. It's happened enough that I can "feel" it coming. I know the symptoms of when I night like this is coming. I know how to alleviate them a bit, but not stop them. Only delay them.

Last night I brought my Bible to bed with me - a habit, and not a bad one, as I'm about to prove. I read a book for about an hour before deciding to try to sleep. I turned the lights out, and back on in about thirty seconds. Not working.

As a sort of last resort, I opened my Bible. I remembered reading something that had comforted me in Proverbs 3. And then my eyes fell on it - the perfect verses for me at this particular time. It soothed me, it comforted me. I felt anxiety running out of my body like a river.

When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet,
Do not be afraid of sudden fear
Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;
For the Lord will be your confidence
And will keep your foot from being caught.
            - Proverbs 3:24-26

It seems like God put those verses there just for me, they're so perfect, just because He knew I'd need them. And for all I know, maybe He did. All I know is that He did give the Bible to me. He did direct my mind and my thoughts toward those verses that He knew would help me. He did make His word up-close and personal so that we could feel close to Him even though we can't see Him with our eyes.

So I encourage you not to be afraid to delve into God's word. Bored with it? Try reading Acts - it's anything but boring. Convicted? Maybe God's trying to tell you something... Tired of feeling empty? Breathe in God's word. No, it's not all sunshine and roses, but even with the things that are hard to swallow, God's words will fill you up.

     "Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you." Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.
     Then He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, "Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you." Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.
          - Ezekiel 2:8b - 3:3

Give God's word a try. There's a reason He gave it to you.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dear to Me

I never thought I'd say this, but I can't wait to wake up early tomorrow.

It seems a strange thing to say, doesn't it? For a teenager? For anyone who's not six? I agree.

I certainly wasn't excited to wake up early this morning and go to "Sunday school training" at church. We have a large body, and nearly a thousand children come through our doors to learn about Jesus every week while their parents go to church. Because we have so many children to teach, we have to have lots of volunteers to do the teaching. Today (this morning in particular) was the big training, teaching old volunteers new curriculum and giving new volunteers the orientation of sorts.

I've taught kindergarten at the Saturday night service for the past three years, and I have to admit that at times I have been far less than enthusiastic. I go because I feel that, as a Christian and a member of the church, it's part of my job to help teach the next generation of children. But the fact that I was diligent about serving did not mean that I had a servant's attitude.

In fact, many days I arrived at class tired, frustrated, and unable or unwilling to communicate the love of God to the kids who came in to hear it.

This year, I felt God calling me away from serving that same kindergarten Saturday night class, and moving on to something different. They needed volunteers for third grade at the 11:10 Sunday morning service, so I decided to go for it.

I don't know what happened today at teacher training, but it was like a switch was flipped on inside of me. I cannot wait to teach third grade.

I don't know what exactly got me so excited about it. Leader training was fun and interesting, but nothing to change my attitude and heart so drastically. It must have been God, opening a facet of my heart for these third graders that I didn't even know existed.

I am ecstatic about teaching these kids how to be a light to the world around them, about showing them that the Bible is your sword and that prayer is like a lightsaber (the class is outer space-themed). I can't wait to pray over these kids individually, to be able to invest in their lives, to be able to show them that God loves them, and that they, in turn, can love others like He does!

I consider it an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to teach these kids about God's love. It is my prayer that God would continue to prepare my heart to teach these kids, and to learn from them too. I pray that He guides each of them with His hand, through each and every day, and that they can use what they discover in class to be ambassadors for Jesus in their own schools, in their own homes, to their own friends.

Children are such an important part of the body of Christ. They are the next generation, the innocent, the least of these. The Bible says that they will "inherit the kingdom of heaven."It's our job as growing and maturing members of the body to lead them and support them and encourage them. I hate to think that while I haven't been neglecting this job, I haven't been treating it with the reverence and respect and effort it deserves.

"Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us."
                  - 1 Thessalonians 2:8

It is my prayer and my hope that God will transform my heart and the hearts of everyone serving the precious children at my church, and at churches around the world into hearts full of "so fond an affection" for these kids that we couldn't help but share both the gospel and "our own lives" with them. 

I pray that God's precious third graders that He has placed in my path will become "dear to me."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What the Wiggles Taught Me About Life

Chances are, if you were a child in the last ten or fifteen years, you've heard of the Wiggles. Comprised of four men, a strange flower-eating dinosaur, and a pirate that tickles people, the popular kids' TV show, The Wiggles has been entertaining children and driving their older siblings insane for years.

Before last night, the Wiggles was pretty much the bane of my existence. The thought of hearing "toot-toot chugga-chugga big red car!" or "fruit salad... yummy! yummy!" again made me want to bang my head against a wall over and over again.

Levi and Evan, however, do not share my feelings. In fact, Levi adores the Wiggles. He even has an Anthony doll (it's even creepier than it sounds). So you can imagine our excitement when someone gave us tickets to see their live show at the Ryman. Our excitement for Levi, that is. I had no interest in seeing the Wiggles live. Actually, if there's such a thing as negative interest, that's what I had.

Even I didn't quite know what I was thinking when I said I wanted to go. I was surprised at myself. I couldn't' quite believe I was voluntarily putting myself through hours of the Wiggles. My best guess is that it really had nothing to do with the Wiggles themselves, but rather with Levi. I was excited to see his reaction, to see how happy it made him.

So last night, carrying a red backpack, and holding one small, but very excited hand, I walked into the Ryman with Levi and Dad to see the Wiggles live.

I don't know that I've ever seen Levi as surprised and excited as he was when the Wiggles came out on that stage! He was dancing and clapping and singing and yelling. He was a very happy boy.

But never so happy as when Murray Wiggle came up to the balcony to collect the roses that some members of the audience had brought for the strange flower-ivore dinosaur. I was praying with every fiber of my being that Murray would even walk past us, just so Levi could get a glimpse of him up close. I nearly lost my breath when Murray came right up to Levi, gave him a high-five, and told him he liked the guitars on his t-shirt. Levi was overjoyed! "Murray, Murray!" he kept saying over and over.

Truly, there are few times that I remember being happier. Seeing the joy on Levi's face just nearly burst my heart wide open! I teared up. Yes, at a Wiggles concert. A Wiggles concert is the last place on earth I thought I would cry, but there you have it.

My respect for the Wiggles, especially Murray, skyrocketed. And, would you believe it, Murray deliberately sought out each and every one of the special needs children in that balcony and talked to them. My heart was so full. When I got home, I wrote Murray Wiggle a thank-you note. I don't know if he'll ever read it, but it was well worth writing it.

What struck me the most about the whole thing was Murray's intentionality. He intentionally spent time with those kids who had special needs because he wanted them to feel special.

How often do we forget to be intentional in our lives? Focusing only on how other people treat us instead of how we treat other people? How often do we neglect to be intentional with our friends, our families, and those that look up to us?

I've had the incredible opportunity to help mentor a group of rising ninth-grade girls this year at my church, and intentionality has really been brought to the forefront with me. I remember being their age, and having a "big sister" who was an older girl in the youth church. I remember how special it made me feel when my "big sister" would seek me out and ask me how I was, or take me to go get coffee.

I've realized that regardless of whether I continue leading these girls or not, I need to be intentional with them. I want them to feel as special as I did when my "big sister" took me to Starbucks. I want them to feel as good as I did when my summer mentor texted me to see how I was. I want to be that for them.

More than that, though, I want to be that person for everyone in my life. I don't want to be the person that waits on other people to come to me. I want to be there for them. So that they know that they are loved, they are special, they are worth my time and energy. Because God thinks they're special, that they're worth it. And if they can see just a tiny glimpse of who God is through me, any amount of time, energy, money, or anything else will have been completely and totally worth it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Christian's Bread and Butter

In your day to day life, there are things that you can't seem to live without. Microwaves, cellphones, a car, etc. But then there are also things that you really can't live without. Food, water, rest.

These are the essentials of life, the "bread and butter" of our existence.

As Christians, though, we have a different kind of bread and butter. Necessities to a prosperous spiritual life that I think perhaps much of the church goes without, and so are spiritually starving.

Prayer and the study of God's Word.

It seems a simple answer, but it really isn't. Most Christians can go to church on Sundays, say a prayer at the dinner table, and hold their hands up during worship. Bust most don't really know how to study God's Word, or how to pray.

Prayer shouldn't be five-minutes of recitation at dinner every night and before bed. It shouldn't be a chore for us. Prayer should be a continual conversation between you and God. Just as you never cease to think, you should never cease to pray. Just as you never cease thinking, you should never cease praying. When you're not doing the talking, you should be listening. Your ears should always be open to hear a word from God.

Prayer shouldn't be one-sided either. If you went to coffee with a friend and the whole time you were there, you simply talked and talked and talked, never letting them get a word in, and, worst of all, most of your talking was asking your friend for favors.

If I found out this description was of me, I would be mortified. What a terrible friend! And that's the sickening part, this is a description of me. It's a description of you, it's a description of nearly all of us! God is our best friend in the entire universe and we won't stop talking for even two seconds to let Him speak to us! How shameful, how rude, how utterly inconsiderate.

We, as Christians, need to step up in our prayer lives, or perhaps rather step down. We need to be still and listen and allow God to speak to us instead of allowing the constant flow of chatter to come from us.

One of God's most useful tools, in fact His very words to us, lie in His Word. The Bible. Thinking of the Bible as a Living book can be a little terrifying, but I think it's time we were a little more awestruck with it.

How many times has your pastor preached on a single Bible verse? Or a few different verses from different places in the Bible? Did you look up the verse when you got home to make sure that what was taught is really what God says? Did you read the context to make sure that one verse would still mean the same thing? Do you even know what the words mean?

The reason the church has lost its passion is that we're being spoon fed baby food. Many of today's church leaders teach us what the Bible says without even encouraging us to go to the Bible and learn for ourselves! The Bible was not created so that God could speak to you only through a pastor. God's Word was created and put together so that God to talk to you directly through its pages!

Reading the Bible for yourself, sitting down and analyzing it and studying it for yourself, learning truths from it that you discovered for yourself will give you such joy, such communion with God! And the best part? The truths you learn for yourself from the Bible cannot be taken away from you.

If one preacher says something and a different preacher says another, how will you know which to believe? If you simply compare the two, you will go with the one you like the best or perhaps the one that "sounds better". But what's to stop one of them from convincing you that the first pastor you heard was wrong and this one is right? What if neither of them are right? How much more grounded you would be if you knew what God himself says about it. You know the truth of what God said because you read it and studied it and discovered it for yourself.

The church is dwindling. Our passion is burning out. We need more than entertainment, than feel-good music, more than pastors spoon-feeding us. We need God. We need the bread and the butter to fill us up. We need prayer and devotion and study.

I beg of God to raise up a church that is grounded in Him. A church that has such deep communion with Christ and such passion for His Word that nothing can stop us, nothing can deceive us, nothing can lead us astray. And He can do it, if His people are willing.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Power of Words

God has given words incredible power. It was words, when God spoke them, that brought the earth and everything in it. I give you today, messages that have incredible words. Allow God to speak to you through them. Allow them to seep into your heart and teach you. Allow them to change you. Watch a few of them. Watch all of them (trust me, they're worth your time). Watch one of them that looks interesting to you. This is a reference for me, of all my favorites. I hope it can be a reference for you as well.

"Run" by Carter Conlon

"Prayer" by Leonard Ravenhill, E.M. Bounds, and Charles Spurgeon

"The Manly Stuff" by C.T. Studd

"Come" by Paris Reidhead

"Go" by Jackie Pullinger

"The Glory of God" by Paris Reidhead

"A Call to Anguish" by David Wilkerson

"Battle Cry" by William Booth

"This Is War" by Paul Washer

"Judgment Seat of Christ" by Leonard Ravenhill

"Christ's Call to Follow in His Footsteps" by K.P. Yohannan

"And They Crucified Him" by Art Katz

"Obsessed" by Stephen Manley

"The Spirit Is Willing" by Eric Ludy

"The Call of God" by Steve Gallagher

"The Call of Christ" by Danita Estrella

"Salvation" by Ian Thomas

"True Beauty" by Leslie Ludy

"Intercession" by Eric Ludy

"Three Questions" by Leslie Ludy

"Seek My Face" by Richard Owen Roberts

"Depraved Indifference" by Eric Ludy

"The Gospel" by Eric Ludy

"I Will Veil Myself in You" by David Wilkerson

"The Ancient War Cry" by Eric Ludy

"Asking the Tough Questions" by Eric Ludy

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Waiting, Listening, Dreaming

Right about this time last year, I would have been shifting into hardcore fundraising mode. I would be leaving for China in a little over month. And Peru in about two and a half.

I was planning like crazy for Worthday at the Sagrada Familia Orphanage. I was trying desperately to raise all the funds needed to get me to China and that wonderfully magical Big Blue House.

This year is so different. The biggest thing on my mind right now is exams. After that... nothing. I'm not going out of the country. No mission trips. No orphanages.

And, honestly, it's really hard. It's hard seeing all those Facebook statuses and tweets of "95 days until Peru," "47 days until Haiti," and "can't wait to be back at Maria's".

I don't miss Peru or China. But I do miss Carmencita. I do miss Tabitha. I miss the feeling I got in those places. Although, it was more than a feeling really. It was this overwhelming peace, satisfaction, and fulfillment. A resting place. A time where I knew without a shadow of a doubt, "This is where I'm meant to be."

The difference between this year and last year is that last year, where I was meant to be was where I wanted to be.

This year, where I'm meant to be is not where I want to be.

Sure I'm enjoying the break from stress about fundraising, organizing, etc. But I miss being with orphans. I miss feeling so full of purpose.

But, what I misunderstood is that my purpose is not to care for orphans. My passion may be to love special needs orphans, but my purpose is to follow God.

And right now, God wants me to wait and listen. And that is much harder than raising $1000.

But in the midst of waiting and listening, He also wants me to dream. He created me to dream. To see what could be instead of what is. Used at the wrong place and the wrong time, this gift can be used to destroy both me and others. But used in God's way in God's time, there is no limiting it.

My dreams are as colorful as a canvas painting and as far-reaching as the sky. My biggest dream is to create a Maria's in Russia. In the region my sister was adopted from. Evan's Big House of Hope. There, I could take care of all the kids like my sister. I could give them the hope and the love that they are so desperate for. I could be an instrument for God's glory by showing people the beauty of His creations.

Sometimes it seems so far-fetched. Most teenagers want to get married and have a family and a nice house when they grow up. I want to up and move to another country and live in a huge special needs orphanage. Marriage relationship optional (let's be real, how many guys would want to uproot to Russia?).

But I know in my heart that my dreams did not come from me. They came from God. God knows the desires of my heart. He knows where my passion lies. I just have to learn to trust him with it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Flee Immorality

1 Corinthians 6:18 says to "flee immorality."

When most people read or reference this verse, they view it in a context of sexual sin. They use it to safeguard themselves, or encourage others to "flee" from pornography, lust, adultery, premarital sex, etc.

However, in the modern day church, these issues are generally widely addressed. When Christians fall into these sins, they know that they're wrong, and can either fight the problem or find resources to help them. The main factor is that they are aware of the sins and repent of them.

One of the biggest problems I see in the Christian youth population today is not pornography or lust or premarital sex, although I'm sure these problems are very present. The problem I see that no one tries to hide or discourage is causing others to stumble.

When we think to flee from immorality, we forget that it means not only fleeing for our sakes but also for the sakes of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

This is especially a problem with girls. Tank tops with the bra just visible. Shorts that should really be called glorified underwear. Bathing suits that are skimpier than pajamas. Wearing sports bras to football games.

Ladies, these are stumbling blocks for our brothers. We are so offended when we hear of guys lusting over girls, especially in the church body. But, in reality, we are just as much at fault as they are. If you're flaunting your body, you might as well consider it an invitation for a guy to look at you in a way he shouldn't.

"Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this - not to put an obstacle or stumbling block in a brother's way."
        - Romans 14:13

Ladies, it's time for us to step up. If we're so desperate for guys to be men of God, then we need to act like women of God.

Choose to help your Christian brothers. Every time you put on an outfit, think "Could this be an obstacle for a brother in Christ?"

I encourage you to check out this survey. It has dozens of questions about all kinds of clothing that girls have asked, and hundreds of responses from solid, Christian guys. They tell you what causes them to stumble, what's appropriate, and what heightens their respect for you because you're trying to protect them.

Ladies, if you really want the right kind of guy to like you, dress so he doesn't have to look at your body to find something attractive about you.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Painting a Picture Over Reality

I've always been an idealist, a dreamer, a romantic. If I don't like the way things look around me, I create something new. I change it. It's simple.

Or at least, it was.

My method of changing things was usually to remove the discomfort from the situation, or to get over it. If I couldn't move it, I would wait until it was over, and move merrily on with my life.

But sometimes things happen in our lives that we can't wait out. They don't go away in a day, or a month, or a even a year.

Levi's behavior is awful sometimes. He's aggressive, he spits, he doesn't initiate conversation. He's hard. He's different.

There's dissatisfaction. Murmurings and whispers that things aren't as they should be. Anger and tears. But there's also joy. There's also laughter.

But I tend to ignore the bad in my life. I like to remove it from the equation, just like I do with everything else that makes me sad or angry or uncomfortable. Only, its very hard to remove.

I'll go upstairs to my room and put on headphones, playing piano for hours. I'll immerse myself in books to get away from my problems and focus on other people's for a little while. I'll go hang out with friends, trying so hard to put on my old smile, and be the person I was a year ago, but I just can't.

I'm weighed down. I'm sad. I'm tired. I feel lost. I don't know what I'm doing, or where I'm going. And the lack of direction is driving me insane.

But, more than anything, I hate to let on how much I'm struggling, how much we're struggling.

So I paint a picture of my life. Through Facebook, through pictures, through any means necessary.

It's like I've got a camera and I've taken a picture of my life, but I don't like what the picture looks like. So I simply paint over the screen. That way, it doesn't matter what truth the screen shows, I can't see it. I can only see the perfect picture that I painted.

The danger in this is not only leading others astray when it comes to the facts about the trials of adoption and special needs, but also leading myself astray. I'm so used to looking through my painted-over screen that when I put it down and see what's really going on around me, I find I'd rather look at my fake picture.

This teaches me to be discontent, and to live apart from reality. And it's not what God intends for my life or for anyone else's.

Sometimes it's hard to come out of the "flowery fields" that I live in within my mind. It's hard to give up my "Garden of Eden" hopes. But relinquishing those far-fetched, dream-world hopes might just help me to enjoy the reality God has placed me in. And learn to trust Him with it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Hardest Decision

Choosing not to go on a mission trip this summer was one of the hardest I've had to make in a long time.

It's impossible to fully explain my thought processes. I've been so back and forth the last few months.

In February, I finally made up my mind to go back to Carmencita's orphanage with a church in Texas. It was when they gave me a deadline for the money that I started to have doubts.

I was incredibly, overwhelmingly stressed out. How was I going to get enough money in time? But I had to stop myself: God had provided before, He would do it again. But, then, I couldn't just expect the money to land on my front porch. I'd have to work for it.

And all that planning. I knew the time that went into preparing for a missions trip.

And even the trip itself. In past years, I've felt nervous, yes, but also an unwavering joy and excitement to go. There was none of that this year. In a way, I feel like I was choosing to go simply because that's what I was supposed to do. If I didn't go on missions trip, wasn't that missions girl, then who was I?

But God spoke to me gently, and harshly to me at the same time. He told me, through His word, through prayer, and through many others in my life, that this was not the time for me to go. My spirit, my mind, and my body are all exhausted. I'm tired, and I've forgotten how to take care of myself. I'm so worn down; I'm running on an empty tank. And if there's no fuel left in me to fuel myself, I can't possibly fuel other people.

So in a quick email, with the push of a send button, I decided not to go to Peru. God and my dad quenched my thoughts of guilt. I had been walking a mission field in my own home for the past year, waking up daily to show Jesus' unconditional love to the people it was hardest to show it to: Levi and Evan, and the rest of my family.

And in deciding not to go, I felt a weight lifted from me. A burden taken off my shoulders. It was one less thing I had to worry about.

My one regret, the one thing that still hurts my heart every time I think about not going to Peru this year, the one thing that still makes me genuinely, horribly upset about it is Carmencita.

I still miss her just as much as I missed her the day I got back last summer. And the thought of not seeing her this year, by my own choice, is heartwrenching. Thoughts of guilt and betrayal flash through my mind. Does she think I don't care about her? Does she think I don't want to see her, that I don't want to take care of her?

But all I can really do is take these things to God, and pray with everything in me that even though she can't see me, she knows that I love her, that I will do everything in my power to take care of her, and that God loves her even more than I do.

And finally, when all that weight came off, I could really understand the meaning of one of my favorite verses from this past year. It was starting to make sense, to feel  right:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
          - Matthew 11:28-30

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I've always been a dreamer.

I like to reach for the stars, and I'm not ashamed of it. I like to think big.

But sometimes, I think a little too big.

Do you ever wonder what God has in store for you? What plans He has for your life?

I do. I do more than I should. In fact, my dwelling on the future has left my present dull and unsatisfactory. You see, my fault lies in pride. That sin that we all struggle with, but the sin itself keeps us from admitting it to ourselves.

My pride makes me want attention. I want to be recognized. Known. But not just for anything. I don't want to be known for being the best composer in the world. I don't want to be known for writing the best books. Those would all be great, but I want a higher glory. I want to be known for doing something great for God.

My friends jokingly call me Mother "Torisa". What they don't know, though, is that she is exactly who I aspire to be. I want so badly to be known, like her, for doing incredible things to advance God's Word.

I want it more than I should, and not always for the right reasons.

And sometimes, I get so caught up in wondering what big plans God has for me and how I can prepare myself for them, that I simply get tangled.

I leave God out of the equation. I want to do big things for God, but if I can't even do little things for Him, why would He entrust me with big things?

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.
            - Luke 16:10 (NASB)

I was completely forgetting about God. The one who gave me the mind to dream. Who gave me the ability to live them. My cheeks grew hot with shame as I realized I hadn't given God a second thought in all this.

I hadn't thought about what would be a big help to Him. What would bring glory to Him. All I was concerned about was what would bring glory to me.

I realized that maybe God didn't want me to be the next Katie Davis. Maybe God didn't want me to be known for freeing the special needs orphans from the oppressive system in Russia and Eastern Europe. Maybe God didn't want me to be the next Mother Teresa.

Maybe God wants me to grow up and write. Maybe God wants me to care for orphans quietly. Maybe God wants me to get married and be a mom.

Just a mom!? I think.

But I have to stop myself. I'm distorting God's view of accomplishments. To God, raising kids that are devoted to Him and follow Him may very well be just as important and just as worthy of the statement, "Well done, my good and faithful servant," as being Mother Teresa.

Who is to say that the people who are known are better or "more godly" than the people who are unknown?

Our society tells us that in order to be important and reach the "top tier" of accomplishment and approval in the world, we need to be known. We need to be famous.

Sadly, I apply this to my relationship with God as well. In order to be considered one of those "good and faithful servants" I need to accomplish some great thing or another in my lifetime.

And I forget that my purpose in this life, my only purpose, is to glorify God. Not become the next biggest thing in orphan care. Not be the next Beth Moore. Not any of that. Glorify him.

When I change a diaper.

When I'm sitting in precalculus.

When I'm laying my head on my pillow at night.

When I'm texting someone.

In whatever I do, I glorify God. And that, not any earthly accomplishment, is what will make me a "good and faithful servant."