Leaning into God

I haven’t posted since February– a good 7+ months. There are days that I’m like, “Oh! I should blog about that!” …. but then something new comes along and I don’t. But tonight, I told God that He gets my whole evening (something that I’ve been struggling to do lately), and words are just FLOWING.

If you don’t know by now, my brother and I are teaming together to lead our church back to the Dominican Republic once again. I am SUPER excited about it. I haven’t felt this much purpose in my life since I was there last June. Don’t get me wrong– my daily life gives me great FULFILLMENT, but my heart and soul feel so close to Jesus when I am doing this. Plus– my logistics/marketing brain THRIVES on things like this! It has become increasingly evident that God has created me in such a way to serve Him in this kind of way and I’m excited for what lies in store for me.

When you are endeavoring for the Lord, Satan likes to attack you even more, because he HATES seeing God win. It has been pretty clear in the past 2 months for me. The day I agreed to lead this group, I began to feel doubt and concern about it. And I was SO frustrated. Like, why does Satan get to do that?…

But then I began thinking about it: Satan has ALWAYS used doubt and discouragement in my life to get to me because it’s an avenue that WORKS for him. When I was little, I didn’t try new things because Satan used discouragement to stop me. I remember thinking “I’ll never be as good as my brother or sister, so I shouldn’t try.” I also remember Satan using my peers to deter me from doing things. “Her voice is weird.”  “She’s not skinny enough to be our friend.” “She’s a goody goody. No fun!” “Don’t invite her to your house! She’s annoying.”  It’s crazy how big of an impact these negative voices can make in your life when you’re 12,13,14 years old. I’m not saying my peers are Satan, and I don’t hold those words against those people to this day. Some kids are just mean at that age. But what Satan has done—what I have done– is allow Satan to echo those words in my mind for the past 10 years. DISCOURAGEMENT. DOUBT. It works for me. It always has.

Each morning for about a week, I woke up discouraged and doubting all that God has been doing in me. “Abby, you’re not good enough to do this.” “Abby, God didn’t call you into the ministry vocation, so this is NOT your place to be doing this.” “Abby, what do you know about this kind of thing? Your last trip was out of character. God doesn’t work like that.”  And each day, I trudged through the day, barely keeping my head above water. I remember one night I went outside trying to find stars above the glow of the Mount Vernon lights. When I found the only star in the sky, I just began sobbing. “GOD! WHY CAN’T I DO THIS? WHY AM I NOT GOOD ENOUGH? WHY ARE YOU PUTTING ME THROUGH THIS?“….. I was at a really low place.

The nighttime sky has always provided solace for me. Growing up, I used to beg friends to go on walks with me through town so that I could bask in the beauty of the sky. At church camp each year, I would find a quiet place in the middle of the night, away from lights and people and distraction, and just BE with Him.  Even to this day, when I go visit my parents, I like to go outside and stare at the sky. Out there, in the country, it feels like the stars are just feet above your head– like you and jump and grab them. On those nights, God seems closer to me than ever. 

“We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Not even a MILLISECOND passed after my tirade before God put me in check. “Abby, I am taking care of this.”  That weekend, I went home to my parent’s house to visit, but I was still mighty discouraged. I was doing all I could to fight the demons in my head, but it just felt like I had a weight around my ankle that kept pulling me under.

That Sunday when I went to church, I was asked to sing with the praise team. I wasn’t really in the mood, so I went to the restroom and prayed about it (because who DOESN’T do the occasional potty prayer?) On the days that I feel like my heart isn’t the right place to lead worship, I try to consult God to see if my heart can handle that. So I decided that it was okay. During our prayer song (Lord I Need You by Matt Maher), I just felt God tugging at me. “Abby. Come to me. It’s okay to need me. I have CREATED you to need me.” So I put my microphone in the stand, left the stage, and fell on the altar. I hadn’t been to that altar in YEARS, but it has never led me astray before. I just started sobbing. “God, I DO need you. What am I DOING here? Am I supposed to be leading this trip? What’s happening? HELP.And clear as day, I heard Him say “Abby, Have I Not Called You to This?” That’s ALL He had to say. Hasn’t He? Did I NOT hear it plain and clear one night at Stoutsville this summer–when He said “Abby, it’s time to return. There is more waiting for you there. Your church isn’t finished in the Dominican Republic. Time for you to step in.” It was as if someone were physically standing beside me, speaking those words to me.

To be honest, I was one more discouraging situation away from calling off the trip– that’s how discouraged I was. But even though I felt discouraged, I decided to take those steps of faith and proceed with the trip. The cool thing is– God doesn’t require you to be a theologian or to be a world-class athlete or to be a Mensa-certified genius to do His work. God has used the smallest of the small to do His work from the beginning of time. I feel blessed to be in the ranks with people such as Moses, Elijah, Nathaniel, Zaccheus, Paul, Peter, John Wesley, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Jr, Billy Graham, Lisa Harper… the list goes on. So many of these people have stories like mine–a broken life that was glued together by the King of Kings. And I’m thankful.

Tomorrow is the day that our deposits are due for our trip. For the past two weeks, I have been stressing over the number of people who will be going. So far, we have 4 confirmed. We were hoping for a group of 15 so that we could do more work than we did last time. There are SO many people who I really feel like God is trying to call to go on this trip, but they allow our poor, worldly excuses to get in the way. “It’s too much money.” “My boss won’t let me.” “I’ve never been out of the country.” I guess it’s so easy for me to brush those excuses to the side because I KNOW God is bigger than all of that– I’ve SEEN it happen time and again- if you follow His will, He will NEVER lead you astray. I have been in fervent prayer for these individuals. I know that God would use this trip as a way to not only change their lives, but to change the lives of those around them.

If you are reading this, will you please join me in prayer? Pray for those that God has called to be a part of this team. Pray for strength for them to rise above the excuses Satan is throwing at them and follow God. Pray for them as they begin to step into uncharted waters.

And if you feel like God has tugged at your heart in this blog, will you pray about what He wants to do with you? Maybe He wants you to be a part of our team. That’d be GREAT! Maybe He wants you to trust in Him more. Maybe He wants you to stop feeding the demons in your head and cast them out!

At any rate, I am excited for what God has in store. I trust that His plan is good. I pray that I have the strength to follow Him even in the rough spots.  But more than anything, I pray that through my faithfulness, others will know Him and come to a relationship that will lead to an eternity in bliss– with the One who calls us to Himself.

The Melting Pot

If you know me… like, know me in virtually any capacity, you know that I am not a sports fan. Outside of  the Cincinnati Reds, I find sports to be a drag. I enjoy going to sporting events—hockey games, football games, soccer games… but not for the sport itself. I’m in it for the high energy and for being around all those people (it’s the extrovert in me). But watching sports on TV is about as close to a root canal as I can get without the Novocain.

With that being said, I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday. And when I say “watched,” I mean that I played Sims 3 on my computer and paused it to watch the commercials. Everyone in the WORLD (or at least America) loves watching Super Bowl ads… but it’s a little different for me. Having a marketing background, I sit there and pick apart EVERYTHING about the ad: from the choice of colors (Sonos) to the voice of the announcer (Chevy) to the background music used (Budweiser). But my favorite commercial was a Coke commercial. It came on and had people singing “America the Beautiful” in all different languages.  Tears welled up in my eyes. It was BEAUTIFUL.

Since I was playing Sims, I wasn’t on social media for the entire game. And then I left my parents’ house right after halftime in order to beat the imminent 6 inches of snow. So I got back to Mount Vernon and checked all my social media outlets: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. And you know what it was full of? 1) How wonderful Bruno Mars did (HECK YEAH-I LOVE THAT MAN) and 2) How awful that Coke commercial was. None of this is word-for-word, but let me highlight some of what I saw:

  1.  “I am throwing out all the Coke in my house and will never buy it again!”
  2. “Coke is gonna pay for this.”
  3. “ I shouldn’t have to press 1 for English. I live in AMERICA.”
  4. “ Them Spicks don’t belong in America.”

There was so much more that I saw, but I honestly don’t even want to get into all of that. But I do feel that, as a Christian, as an AMERICAN, and as a human being, this DOES need to be addressed.

I love Mark Twain. I think he had a brilliant mind. And one of my favorite quotes from him—one that fuels a lot of who I am and what I am passionate about—says this:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

It’s so true. When we travel, we see the beauty that lies beyond the small sphere around which we function. Our minds are opened. Our horizons are broadened. Because we see that, just because one culture is different, it doesn’t make them bad. But instead, many Americans stay within the close-minded, narrow world we’re born into.

I think it is so easy to be of this mindset when we are in America. We have EVERYTHING. We brag about being free and being proud of it, but really, we’re not free at all. We are slaves to SO many things: to money, to sex, to social status. We deny a need for God because we don’t have to rely on Him for our daily needs. I mean, really, do we?  If you’re reading this, there’s a mighty chance you’re not praying and trusting that God will provide for your next meal because at the very least, you have a bag of rice, some green beans, and a Hot Pocket in your freezer. We have fully functional, 24/7 electricity, our government does not regulate our power supply, and we have a toilet that flushes into a septic tank, not a hole in the ground.

It’s easy to have this mindset because we are ENTITLED. We think we deserve everything. And we get what we want. But have you ever been anywhere where people DON’T have that? I have. I’ve seen a man sleeping under a tarp on the streets in Italy. I’ve seen a child living in a house made of cinderblocks and mud in the Dominican Republic. And I’ve seen a mother with 5 children feeding her children Ramen noodles on the street in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Abby, What does this have to do with Coke?

Do you REALIZE that people come to America because of the opportunities here? We have so many things that we take for granted: a government that allows people to make businesses for just about anything. International Food Markets where you can get gourmet food from every country in the world. Relatively inexpensive motor vehicles. Amusement Parks where you can go inside a castle that is built for an imaginary princess. Even the littlest things.

Do you realize that 90%+ of us wouldn’t be here if, at one point, people didn’t migrate to America—most of whom did not speak English? Personally, I have Scottish, German, Irish, English, Native American…. and probably other things in me. I’m a mutt. I am not a purebred. If I were a dog, I would not get the AKC Stamp of Approval. And I’m grateful. Now don’t get me wrong;  sometimes I HATE this country. Not because of the freedoms we’re afforded, but because we fail to recognize how truly blessed we are. And as a Christian, it drives me crazy that we would rather spend extra money on fancy cars, new houses, etc.  just because we can, when there are people all over the world DYING because they don’t have the basic necessities. I am NOT perfect by any means, but I am trying to do my part.

Now my question: what would that video look like if it portrayed what YOU think America looks like? Would it have a white couple, with blond hair and blue eyes? Would a soldier just be coming home from war?  Would there be men hunting in the field? Would there be teens playing video games? Would there be women doing yoga?

None of that is special to America. Swedes are blonde haired with blue eyes. All countries have loved ones coming home from war… actually, many other countries have a higher soldier mortality rate than America, so many of their loved ones DON’T come home from war. Almost EVERY country hunts—except most of them don’t do it for sport like America. Many of them RELY on that food to provide for their families. We can live without hunting—we have grocery stores. Tribes in Africa do not.

So what makes America DIFFERENT? What makes us different is that we have people from every walk of life in our country. Most other countries do not have the amount of diversity that America has. But we are fortunate—we get to experience all of this in ONE place. America was called the Great American Melting Pot. Does anyone remember that from “School House Rock?” We all come together and melt together into one big beautiful stew.

Now, time to combat these issues from before.

  1.  “I am throwing out all the Coke in my house and will never buy it again!” That makes no sense. They already have your money. They could care less what you do with it. Drink it. Mix it with Mentos to make an explosion. Clean the rust off your car. Dissolve a nail. Whatever. At this point, it’s YOUR money that you’re wasting.
  2. “Coke is gonna pay for this.” Doubtful. Of the billions of dollars they make a year, a few thousand angry Americans will probably not hurt their revenue. 
  3. “ I shouldn’t have to press 1 for English. I live in AMERICA.” You are LUCKY to be able to live in a country where you get to learn new languages. Sometime, try pressing 2 for Spanish. See what happens. It may be fun. 
  4. “ Them Spicks don’t belong in America.” First of all, it’s “Those”… not “them.” Secondly… if you said this, I don’t want YOU in America. 

Finally, if you don’t want to live in this America, then please do not eat rice, pasta, pizza, plantains, bananas, feta cheese, Greek yogurt, mangoes, strudels, burritos, falafels, curry, gyros, masala,  quesadillas… etc.. the list goes on. If we didn’t have diversity in this country, it would be a pretty boring place, don’t you think?

What Do YOU ask?

Sometimes I ask God for huge things.

Like for a husband that isn’t too obsessed with sports but overly obsessed with Jesus.

Or for all of my student loans to be paid off in an instant so I can travel into places where God’s light needs to be uncovered.

Or an iPhone that doesn’t die 3 hours after you unplug it so that you can communicate with friends in other countries.

Or for all 200 million orphans in the world to one day have an earthly parent who will look into their eyes and say ” I am yours and you are mine.”

Or for my face to stop breaking out ALL THE TIME.

Or for family members to know the love of Jesus as a REAL THING- not just an abstract idea.

Or for a machine that can just whip your body into shape and instantly drop all the weight off of you.

Or for Mandisa to call me and ask me to be her tour manager.

Okay, so maybe that last one isn’t an actual prayer of mine– just a cool thing that could happen.

Here’s the deal: the God I serve is a God of big things.

  • He made Peter walk on water: physically impossible.
  • He turned a few loaves of bread and some fish into a smorgasbord for thousands: not even Martha Stewart herself is that much of a miracle worker in the kitchen.
  • Joshua marched around the walls of a building for 7 days and the walls fell down as he blew a trumpet: scientifically speaking- a trumpet and concrete don’t resonate at the same frequency, making this a scientific miracle.
  • Daniel hung out in a lion cage and didn’t get eaten: have you BEEN to the zoo? Lion food is a dead ringer for human flesh. No way that guy could survive without something else happening behind the scenes.

I don’t ask God these big things for no reason– I ask them because He has a TERRIFIC track record in accomplishing the impossible. (The movie “Mission Impossible” should really have been a biography of the history of God.) I ask them because when I am not dreaming outside of my comfort zone, my fallen brain thinks that I don’t need God. So I MAKE Myself rely on God in the best way I know how: to hand to Him the things that I can’t do… Because when I see Him effortlessly deal with my BIG issues, it reassures me that He can EASILY handle my small issues.

So what big things do you ask for from God? What things can only HE accomplish in your life? Please comment below. Let’s make a huge list of everyone who reads my blog– that way, we can all be praying for God to be accomplishing big things all over the place!

Goals

I am a very goal-driven person. If I don’t set a goal out in front of me, it is hard to find purpose in what I am doing. In the next 2 years, there are many things that I want to accomplish.. .so I’ve made a list. 🙂
*This is all contingent on the fact that I will still be living in America. I figure, as long as I’m here, I might as well do some cool things.*
The deadline for this list is February 11,2016.

  1. Run a 5k
  2. Go back to the DR at least twice.
  3. Be fluent in Spanish.
  4. Boyfriend.
  5. Lose 75 pounds.
  6. Make my own recipe from scratch.
  7. Crochet/quilt a blanket.
  8. Becoming a regular blogger (once or twice a week).
  9. Pay for a Stranger’s Meal.
  10. Send a thank-you note to Paul Gamertsfelder—the man who created Work & Witness.
  11. Volunteer for the Salvation Army at Christmastime.</

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  12. See a Musical on Broadway.
  13. Go to Niagra Falls.
  14. Go to Rockefeller Center at Christmastime.
  15. Read 50 books and keep a list of all of them.
  16. Swim 1000 yards at one time.
  17. Keep my nails painted for 2 weeks without chipping them.
  18. Go 1 month without eating any fast food (Subway and Chipotle do not count).
  19. Read all of the Harry Potter Books. Then watch all 8 movies in one weekend.
  20. Meet a new celebrity.
  21. Visit an orphanage.
  22. Write a book.
  23. Volunteer at an animal shelter.
  24. Tip 200% at a restaurant.
  25. Swim with manatees

You can follow my progress with this list at https://brokenvases.wordpress.com/25-before-25/  (or click “25 before 25” at the top of my page)

She.

She wore black most of the time, except for one day a year that she “dressed normal” and wore zero black to prove that what you wear doesn’t matter.

She loved screamo music, but also enjoyed NSYNC and Backstreet Boys and loved the Disney Channel.

She hung out with the punk rock/scene/emo kids, but she had friends who were jocks and “preppy.”  She didn’t care about labels; she just cared about people.

She went to church each Sunday and every Wednesday and would gladly tell you that she loved Jesus.

She reveled in making people laugh and would do anything it took to get a smile out of even her worst enemy.

She didn’t HAVE enemies.

She was in love with her nephew and couldn’t stop talking about him anytime his name came up in conversation.

She loved spending time with her friends, but always told us that her mom was her best friend.

She lived every day as if it were her last.

She passed away on December 17, 2006.

 

 

 

 

BUT. That wasn’t the end.

She was an organ donor and gave others a second chance at life.

She left a wonderful legacy behind her.

She tore down walls between cliques that existed and make Crooksville Schools a better place.

She helps college-bound students each year by providing a scholarship that will assist in paying for college.

She serves as a constant reminder that every moment is precious and sacred.

She pushes people to be better in the hopes that we will be reunited one day.

She leaves little reminders around that remind her friends of her daily.

She is never too far away.

She didn’t die in vain. She has brought her family and friends closer to Jesus.

Missing one of my best friends today. Although it has nearly been 7 years, not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and thank God for the time I was fortunate enough to spend with her.

Treasure every moment you have with your loved ones.

kayla

A New Blog

Hello All, and welcome to my new blog! I am so excited to get this guy going. I plan on being a lot more frequent in posts and updating on everyday life, rather than just “big life happenings.”

I’m still developing it, but in the meantime, you can read my final farewell post on http://ancientcallouses.wordpress.com