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Additional Writing

Currently, these examples only include carefully curated content from my personal blog. However, I hope to expand this selection soon with other projects I have been a part of.

Voyage Together Blog

This probably accounts for about half of my blogging. Some of this content is from speaking engagements, others are solely blog posts.

This has been a recent addition to my blogging. I love to read and I love to share a good book, so it just seemed to fit! Example coming soon.

These are personal stories from my life which include creative musings, stories about my kiddos, and more - but they all usually involve some sort of life lesson!

Faith Based

...So what should our response be when God does give us a vision?  Nehemiah was a man of vision.  Before there was ever a vision, he spent a lot of time in prayer (more on that here).  Prayer is vital to any vision God gives us, both before and during the implementation of that vision.  We can't carry out God's plans if we aren't in daily, constant communication with Him.  If we aren't communicating with Him then we are doing nothing more than making the plans of God the plans of man.  Prayer is essential.

Once Nehemiah is sure of God's vision, he sets himself to plan for the task.  He has to evaluate the situation, see the reality of what needs to be done.  In the second chapter of Nehemiah, verses 12-16, he mentions twice that he doesn't tell anyone what God has put in his mind to do.  When God gives you a vision, it isn't to bring glory and fame to your name.  When God gives you a vision, it is still HIS vision.  If we ever use that to bring attention to ourselves, we have missed the point.  So Nehemiah quietly moved forward without attracting any attention.

In the midst of that planning and preparation, the vision or the problems that arise within the vision, may seem insurmountable.  Nehemiah was surrounded by ruins and disappointment (quite literally).  He was given a vision for a problem no one else seemed to want to fix.  And in the middle of the night, as he was planning, he literally came to an impasse: "Then I passed on to the Fountain Gate and the King's Pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass" (vs. 14).  So what did he do?  He found another way!  Nehemiah didn't give up at the first sign of difficulty.  The vision seemed impossible from the start, but he didn't let that stop him.  And even when it became even more difficult, Nehemiah kept moving forward.  Why?  Because this wasn't a vision of man.  This was a God sized vision.  And only with the power of God could it be accomplished.

Finally, Nehemiah feels it is time to cast the vision (vs. 17-18).  He explains to the Jews the situation they are in, the why.  Then he gives them a solution to fix it and says, let us fix the issue, together.  He doesn't cast the vision and say, 'Okay, God gave me this vision, I'll be over here working on that.  Can you guys pray for me?'  No, a God-sized vision requires that His people come together in unity to accomplish the task.  And He also explains how God has been in the mix.  It's one thing to cast a vision of how we see things.  It is another when we are able to point to God in the process.  I love how Matthew Henry  looks at Nehemiah casting the vision: "By stirring up ourselves and one another to that which is good, we strengthen ourselves and one another for it; for the great reason we are weak in our duty is because we are cold to it, indifferent, and unresolved."   If we are weak it is because we have become indifferent.  When God gives us a vision, it is our responsibility to stir ourselves and others up.  And no matter how crazy or impossible the task, we can't take the time to worry about what other's think, "The man who is in dead earnest has no time to be self-conscious, he does not indulge in sickly reflection on the effect of what he says on other people's opinions about himself, he will not care what they think about him so long as he moves them to do the thing it is laid on his soul to urge upon them" (Expositor's).

And lastly, when faced with opposition, Nehemiah doesn't give up on the vision God has given him.  Instead, he clings more tightly.  We will face opposition.  When God gives us a vision, it is usually something that can't be done by the hands of man.  In order for that vision to succeed, God will have to be in the mix or it will fail.  That way we can't take the credit.  Because of that impossibility, there will always be naysayers.  And there will always be obstacles to overcome.  Nehemiah's response to that opposition is this: "The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build..." (vs. 20).  In other words, we are determined to make this happen, we will not give up because God Himself will grant us success.  When you know you have a vision from the Lord, there is no need for doubt or discouragement, there is only moving forward.  If He has given you a vision, He will provide the means.  All He requires from you is faith.  I have been reading through Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson (I highly recommend it).  He notes at one point that it is "Our job is to hear [God's] voice.  His job is to establish our steps.  And if we do our job, God will do His" (pg.25)!

So stand firm.  Push forward.  And never forget to pray - "We need to work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on God" (Batterson, Draw the Circle).

Book Reviews

1- Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and Claude King

 

  • For Who: Anyone who wants to truly experience God's movement in their lives. From the "beginner" to the more experienced Christian - there is something for everyone here!

  • Group Study: Yes! I've done this as a work study at a faith-based pregnancy crisis clinic as well as in a Sunday school class. Both times were eye opening - SO much to learn! Recently, Lifeway developed an actual study to go with the book. Though I personally don't have any experience with it, I imagine it would be a helpful tool: the leader's guide can be found here and the study book can be found here.

  • Reading Difficulty: This is a rather long book, so not for the faint of heart. However, the reading itself isn't too difficult, I'd put this one somewhere in the middle, between an easy read and a hard read. Additionally, if you want something a little easier to digest, there's a 365-day devotional that breaks the book down into daily bite size pieces - it isn't exactly the same but still holds all of the main ideas (I've gone through it twice!). You can find that version here.

  • Why I recommend it: No matter where you are in your faith walk, this book will help you grow closer to the Lord - as long as you let it. Theologically sound, wonderfully written, full of great metaphors and stories - you will walk away changed.

  • Three of my favorite quotes:

    • "God wants you to live an abundant life (John 10:10). When God gives you a command, it is to protect you and lead you toward His blessings. He does not want you to miss out on the fullness of life He wants you to experience. God's instructions do not restrict; they free you. God's purpose is that you prosper and live..."

    • "My primary concern should not be, 'What should I do with my life tomorrow?' but rather, 'What does God want me to do today?' As you follow Jesus one day at a time, He will keep you in the center of God's will."

    • "If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you have no choice. You will have to make significant alterations in your life...Until you are ready to make any change necessary to follow and obey what God has said, you will be of little use to God."

     

2 - Everybody Always by Bob Goff

 

  • For Who: Literally, everyone. I would even highly recommend this to people who don't yet know who the Lord is.

  • Group Study: Absolutely! I've read this together in a group setting where we discussed each chapter as we finished it. There is an official bible study with DVD included, here - but, again, no personal experience with it.

  • Reading Difficulty: Easy! Justin and I are very different when it comes to reading. He needs a light, easy read, with tons of illustrations (visual and/or metaphors). There aren't any actual pictures in this book, but Bob Goff is fantastic at painting a picture for you. Justin loves this book. I would certainly qualify this as an easy read - but, most definitely, still hits hard when it comes to the Gospel!

  • Why I Recommend It: I cannot tell you how many times I have referenced the illustrations or stories in this book. It is, besides the Bible, probably one of my most recommended books because of this very reason. The illustrations stick with you, shape you, and open your heart at least a smidge more than before. I read this shortly before or during a season where I helped to launch a maternity home for pregnant young women, some homeless, some fresh out of prison, some recent addicts. The stories in this book helped me to see the women that walked through our doors with a different perspective. This book will help you love the people who are hard to love. It will peel away some of the misconceptions and assumptions we have about people. Mostly, it will help you love better. And, honestly, who doesn't need that?

  • Three of my Favorite Quotes:

    • "I've concluded we can be correct and not right...I do this most often when I have the right words and the wrong heart...I'm trying to resist the bait that darkness offers me every day to trade kindness for rightness...Arguments won't change people. Simply giving away kindness won't either. Only Jesus has the power to change people, and it will be harder for them to see Jesus if their view of Him is blocked by our big opinions."

    • "Catch people on the bounce. When they mess up, reach out to them with love and acceptance the way Jesus did. When they hit hard, run to them with your arms wide open to hug them harder...Don't just gather information about people who have failed big or are in need - go be with them. When you get there, don't just be in proximity - be present. Catch them. Don't try to teach them. There's a big difference."

    • "A lot of people think playing it safe and waiting for all the answers before they move forward is the opposite of dangerous. I disagree. If our life and our identity are found in Jesus, I think we can redefine safe as staying close to Him. Don't get me wrong. Playing it safe and waiting for assurance in our lives isn't necessarily bad; it just isn't faith anymore. Playing it safe doesn't move us forward or help us grow; it just finds us where we are and leaves us in the same condition it found us in."

BONUS: I actually just finished Bob Goff's latest book, Undistracted. I can't rank it as one of my favorites, but I still highly recommend it! Justin is reading it now, so I'll let you know what he thinks soon!

3 - Story: Recapture the Mystery by Steven James

  • For Who: Creative types! Steven James addresses the Gospel in a poetry like fashion with bits of short form poetry sprinkled throughout the book.

  • Group Study: Honestly, I think you could turn just about anything into a study, kind of like a book club - but I've never done this in a group. The more artsy feel would require a unique group for a fit - but if you had the right people, it could be great!

  • Why I Recommend It: First of all, it is different than most traditional Christian reads. But mostly, I wanted this on the list because it is a book I have kept on my shelf after multiple moves, multiple seasons of life, multiple "clean outs" where I've let some other books go (*ouch*), and so much more. For whatever reason, it resonates with my soul, as it did when I first read it as a teenager, and I always feel the need to keep it. Whatever that reason may be, I wanted to share the beautiful way that Story paints the gospel, with you.

  • Three Four of My Favorite Quotes:

    • "i am drowning in awareness, / and yet never quite aware / that the chains i fashion every day / are the very ones i wear."

    • "So God's children became rational, realistic, reasonable, practical, pragmatic people who abandoned faith for sight and traded worship for religion."

    • "It's so absurd, this king of the galaxies lying in a feed box for animals, this Creator crying in a stable. Anyone can see at this point that the story isn't man-made. Who would ever believe it? If I were making up a religion that I wanted people to believe in, I'd never insert stuff like this. Only God could tell a story this ludicrous and then claim that it is true."

    • "judas betrayed you for thirty pieces of silver. / forgive me for all the times I've done it / for free."

     

 

Happy reading friends! Never stop growing. Never stop following Him. Never stop voyaging

Personal

Written in early 2020, the day we found out schools, and much of the world, would be shut down for two weeks...

As I sat on the couch, it became clear that I was not okay. I was not myself.

The shelves sat half empty, but as I walked through the aisles, as I heard the whispers and saw the face masks, it became very clear to me that the world would be different now. No matter what, none of us would be the same. It wasn't about not having bread or milk, or heck, even toilet paper, it was the fact that history was, no is, being made. Tomorrow we will wake up to face a future that no American has experienced before. We may be entering an era much like the depression. Fianances are going to be hit hard. The economy is rapidly tanking in a way we have never seen. Or it could blow over and we will look back at this as a time we overreacted to a bad cold.

But today, I was going to remember how it was. I was going to remember the way I could pick up my phone and connect with anyone I could dream of in a matter of moments. I have to remember the look of joy as my kids had their season's first ice cream, or the giggles as they spilled some in the midst of sharing even though I've reminded them 100x that sharing isn't the best idea right now. I want to remember the hope of opening the coffee shop and wanting to make a difference right here where we are. I want to remember the innocence of my children - they have no fear, no worrries, no second thoughts. They haven't been to the store and heard the hushed whispers of the unsure or seen the terror of a group of teens (maybe 20 somethings) wearing face masks and debating how they are best going to spend their $50. Would it be name brand medicine (all thats left) or their favorite snacks? My children don't see the overwhelmed widow who is staring at the empty shelves and wondering what tomorrow is going to hold. They are oblivious to the severity of the week's events. All they know is that they get more time to play at home, that Mommy is home a bit more - and that's all good for them.

My thoughts are jumbled, jumping around like the jumping beans I used to play with in grade school. One moment I think its all silly - we're going to wake up and realize it was all an overreaction - like when I get angry at my husband for not rinsing the dishes. I say something ridiculous, we end up fighting all night, and then realize it was all over a dish, a simple, silly little dish. But then I look at the world around us and the turmoil that are already facing and I fear that we have underreacted. I fear that we haven't done enough. In two weeks, I hope I'm not laying on the couch finding it difficult to breathe while my kids lay in the other room coughing and hacking because we've been carrying around COVID-19 this whole time. And while I'm 95% certain we would all survive, what about all of the immune compromised individuals I ran into in that time frame? The eldery? Those currently undergoing chemo or on other life-altering drugs? There is such a fine line between being smart and being fearful. Just as their is a very find line between being selfish and common sense.

We may never know the direct impact we each have had with our choices. But the consequences remain despite our knowledge. Just because we don't see the consequences doesn't mean that they don't happen. Just because I don't see the elderly couple in despair in the canned good section of the grocery store or the new mom staring at empty diaper shelves, doesn't mean it didn't happen. Every choice we make has ripples of impact.

It is an easy time to forget that the world is so much larger than just us. Do I bunker down or do we go out and help? What is tomorrow going to look like? What about a month from now? Or 6 months? Or even a year from now? I have a feeling our lives are going to look completely different for so many reasons. Our healthcare system is probably going to be getting an overhaul and be seriously backed up dealing with the side effects of now. Anxiety is heightened, depression , inflammation, and lots of other things. All the non-essentials are going to be pushed to the side for now and its going to take some time to catch back up. We already have 6 month waiting lists for things like genetics, infectious disease, or even rheumatology. It's only going to get worse. We have ORs being turned into ICUs! Surgeries are being postponed so that we can care for the critically ill. I keep pinching myself because this has to be a dream. Or a movie. I'm just an actor in a new version of The Truman Show, right?

Not to mention, our economy is going to take a long time to get back on track...

I don't know if I will ever forget this feeling of the unknown, of how unsure I am of the next week, of how much I truly have to depend on the Holy Spirit for peace. And I'm not just pretending to do that because of the stress I put on myself. Now, I HAVE to depend on Him, on His Word, because almost everything is out of my control. I literally, maybe for the first time in my life, have no clue what tomorrow holds. I don't know if we will have enough food or enough money. I don't know if we will all stay healthy or if we will still be able to keep our jobs or our house. My head tells me to be afraid, but my heart know that God is here. He is still in control, He is holding my hand, my heart, and my family in the palm of His almighty hand.

It doesn't mean that it won't be difficult, but it does mean that the worst thing, the very worst thing, death itself, in a way, is actually a gift. If the worst happens, it will be the best day of my eternal life. My head just wants to know what comes between now and then. How hard will it be? How many people will I lose before it is my turn? Will I outlive my children? Will my parents outlive me? Will I get to see my children grow? Or what about little things - will we get to go to the beach this year? Will Justin and I get to travel next year? Or ever? How different will our lives be in 2021 - after the virus? What will we have endured? Who will we have lost along the way? Will everything we've worked so hard for at R&P suddenly be gone? I don't know.

And while my mind is constantly playing these questions on repeat, I really do have a peace that surpasses all understanding. For, as cliche as it might be, though I do not know what tomorrow holds, I do know who holds the future. He loves me, He loves my parents, my grandparents, and my children more than I ever could. And He is working all things for our good and His glory. I may not be able to see Him weaving all of the mess together, but I have an assurance that He is. He always has, He always will. Until eternity He is weaving a tapestry that will shout His name, show His love, and open our eye in wonder. I just have to trust Him in the meantime. And today, I am. I hope that stays the same tomorrow and the next day and the next. I hope I remember to rely on His peace in the coming chaos like I have in today's turmoil.

He is good. He is God. I am not.

And neither is COVID-19 or the media or the fear that has caused complete chaos at Walmart.

The irony in all of this - I type all of these thoughts on a typewriter made by Smith (....wait for it....) Smith-Corona! Ha!

It will be okay.

That doesn't mean it won't be hard or that it won't hurt. It simply means that God is still on the throne.

He loves you.
You matter.
And you are never alone.

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