Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 2: Thump Thump Thump...


Thump thump, thump thump… the sound of my heart. My world starts to spin as I feel unable to suck enough air into my lungs. I fell first for your good looks and then your charm, but I was completely taken by the way you handled yourself with people. This way that drew people in and made them feel comfortable; a sense of challenge combined with what seemed like a secret knowledge that only you possessed believing I could do it. These were the things that drew me to you.
As I think back on all those years ago, I knew nothing. I thought I understood your handsome face, but I hadn’t even skimmed the surface of the beauty that you possess. I was taken by your charm and, but who would have guessed I would be captured by it.
Now some eight years later, you still make my heart beat fast. I long to be near you and to be forever yours.
Some would say that there are a plethora of men that one could find to be good husband… but I have always known that for me, there was only one. You were hand-picked. You fit with me, and I with you. My hand fits in yours, my heart fits with yours. Thump thump, thump thump… do you hear that? This is my bridegroom, this is my friend.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 8: The Glory belongs to our God...


Over the past 22 days, I've told you stories about Steven and all the fun we've had together. Today I'd like to tell you about what a good God we have and how he has taken care of us.
As most girls, I've been planning my wedding for much longer than I've actually been PLANNING my wedding. But when it became a reality, I started freaking out. How in the world was I going to pull this off?
I remember laying in my bed one Saturday morning trying to scheme my way into an answer when I cried out to the Lord and told him it wasn't possible. As clear as was possible, I heard the Lord ask me, "What do you want?" And to be honest, I felt a little selfish asking for my wedding. I should ask for world peace or something. With all the details swirling in my mind I told him that I wanted Him to receive glory through our wedding. He asked again, "What else do you want?" And again, I felt selfish, but I told him all the majors... photography, place, flowers, dress.
Over the next 6 months, the Lord answered all of my requests. And when I say ALL, I mean ALL. If I were to tell you EVERY detail, it would last all day, so I'll give you one example. My mom and I had tried on dresses and I found the perfect one, but it was outside of my budget. Three days after I got engaged, it went on sale, half the price of the original! That is just one of a million ways the Lord has provided for us.
"Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare." - Psalm 40:5
In 8 days, when you step into the church, our prayer is that you would not notice the flowers, the decorations, or even the dress, but that you would sense the prescence of the Lord in that place. May He receive all the praise, honor and glory for our relationship, our wedding and our marriage.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 3124 or Day 9... depending on how you look at it


It has been 3124 days since I met Steven and thought it would be fun to tell you a little about that event. I had just finished my second year in college and had come to the big city of Dallas for my first internship at Prince of Peace. I was invited to go to a college pool party at the King's home. Since I knew no one, I figured it was good way to meet people in Dallas. I met a ton of people that night... very few that I could actually remember their names. But I meet one guy who caught my attention. I will never forget a hispanic-looking guys in bright red lifeguard shorts. I remember thinking that this tanned mexican was very attractive until I asked him what school he went to. His answer: The Colony High School.
Oh my goodness, I thought a High School boy was CUTE! I was supposed to be there to WORK with the youth, not to date them! As I explained that I was the new intern and that I was in my second year of college, he said he ALSO was in his second year of college. After a little confusing moment, I realized that he had told me what school he WENT to.
What a sigh of relief... everything was right in the world again.
The weeks following that one, Steven and I began to hang out more and more. One day we were talking and he said that a bunch of us should get together and see a movie. Since I knew very few people, I thought that sounded like a great idea. Later that week he called me and asked if I wanted to see a movie. I made the connection with the conversation before and said sure! That Friday he pulled up to my house and knocked on my door. As I opened the door, I was suprised to find just him standing there. I asked, "Is everyone else going to meet us there?" And he said, "Who else is coming?"
To this day, I say that Steven had it planned all along and he says that he had told me from the beginning it was just us. Eh, it doesn't matter who is right... just that we're getting married 3133 days later :).
9 days and counting...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 11: Peru - Take 2!


At a recent shower, we did one of those "How well do you know your man?" type of quizes. One of the questions they asked him was "What was your favorite day with Jamie?" I asked them for a hint: Give me the country. They all laughed and said, "Only the two of you could ask a question like that!"
His answer was our trip to Peru. In August of last year, my two roommates, Nicole and Britney, friend Paula, Steven and I all made a trek to Peru to visit the beach. It really was a TREK to get there! Seven hours into Peru, weird layover/finding a new bus station, a couple more hours and we finally arrived on the beaches of Peru. We had a blast laying in the sand, eating seafood, playing in the crazy waves and making big bonfires.
In Steven's first 8 months on the field, he had acquired some stress... between the rooster, living with a family, teaching and some other crazy happenings, he was ready for a vacation. After the first day or so, he was a new man. His stress had melted away and gave way to a crazy kid. He was determined to build a huge sand castle, which everyone pitched in to make. Then we walked up and down the shore counting all the dead things we found... I think we counted 35+ seagulls, 2 sea lions and 1 blue-footed boobie.
Yet one more thing I love about Steven: he's a little boy at heart - jumping around, building things and poking at stuff. He sure does keep my life fun!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 12: Turkey Time!


Last Thanksgiving, Steven and I decided that we wanted to do something for all those in Loja who were missing in the good ol' US of A. So we invited all the English teachers, all the peace corp peps and every American missionary we could find that didn't have somewhere else to be over for lunch. Then we proceeded to buy the biggest turkey I have ever seen. I believe it was 12 kilos (translation: 26.5 pounds!).
I had never cooked a turkey before, so to say the least, I was a bit nervous. One of our friends informed us that we should lather it in butter and herbs, so the night before Steven came over to help me pull all the skin away from the turkey in order to smear butter and garlic all over it. We almost dropped it once, it slide into the sink a couple times, but we did it!
I was so stressed that it wouldn't cook that I woke up at 5:00 on Thanksgiving morning to put it in the oven.
Several hours later, we pulled out that beautiful turkey and it was ready to feed the 25 people we had invited. It was such a fun time of sharing Jesus with people in a way that was real. Steven blessed the meal and thanked the Lord for each person he had brought to us that day. We ate together, laughed together and were Jesus' hands and feet to people who wouldn't otherwise darken the door of a church.
One more thing I love about this man I'm going to marry: He's real with people... he meets real needs and loves people where they are.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 15: I'm with him...


The countdown continues. As I’ve counted down the days, I have also been reading the Psalms. Today is Psalm 15…

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken.

As I read this psalm, I thought of Steven. Yesterday his tire on his truck popped in the middle of Preston. As he relayed the story how people kept honking at him, how two cops passed him and how he had to use a screwdriver to pry off the lock on his spare, I felt so much empathy for him and told him how sorry I was. His next words reminded me how lucky I am to be marrying this man: “The whole time I was just thanking the Lord that the weather was nice, that no one had gotten hurt and that it had happened so close to home.” I was amazed at his positive attitude.
I think of the many times he has stopped to help people on the side of the road when it was inconvenient for him. I remember the times that he has kept his word despite others not holding up to their end of the bargain. I see his love for those who are lost and his deep hatred of those who take advantage of people when they are in need. “He who does these things will never be shaken.” I’m with him…

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 16: The List...


Every girl has a list of the "must haves" in a future husband... I was no exception. After a few years of not dating, my list went out the window because I realized how futile it was to MAKE someone fit in a mold. Its funny, however that Steven fits the
bill in so many ways.
Here's what I SAID wanted in a man before I would marry him...
1. Speak Spanish
2. A man's man... not afraid to get dirty and can fix stuff
3. Has been on the mission field with me
4. Sings and plays the guitar
5. Loves Jesus

Check, check, check... but he doesn't play the guitar... (Well, I guess that one is negotiable!) and check!
I remember very vividly the first time I saw him after he had moved to Loja. It was a rush of emotion: happy to see him and afraid at what this would mean for my live and ministry in Ecuador. I remember telling my best friend Allison, "If it doesn't work, I'll lose my friend!" And she reminded me, "Yes, but if it does, you'll get to marry your best friend." Those were wise words.
The next year brought lots of laughter but also lots of frustration. My favorite memory is of The Rooster. He came into the cafe one afternoon looking haggard and tired. I tried to remain straight-faced as he told his tale of The Rooster.
Steven had a rooster that lived 5 feet from his window. It did not crow like a normal rooster, but more like one that was dying. It also did not crow at normal times, but at 2 in the morning.
Finally, Steven had had it. He had already tried yelling at it, whistling at it and ignoring it. That night he decided to drag himself out of bed and get a pot. He filled it with water and walked into the back yard. He waited until the rooster was about to crow and then threw the pot of water on its head. After a flutter of wings, Steven breathed a sigh of relief as the rooster settled into his spot. He gathered up his pot, walked back in the house, but the moment he laid back down, the rooster started again.
Maybe #6 on the list should be: Can come up with creative ways to kill annoying roosters. :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 18: My gift...


My heart and my mind were in conflict with each other as he stepped off the plane. 'I like him. Yes, I think I like him. But what if it doesn't work out.' The what-if's were looming and the confusion was mounting. A decision had to be made. Why? Because he was meeting my family for the first time.
I had just spent a year in Ecuador and had come home for the first time to meet my nephew and spend Christmas with my family. But, to make life a little more interesting (and by that, I mean stressful) Steven and my sister's boyfriend were coming to Colorado to meet the fam.
My brother promised to not give "this one" a hard time due to the fact that I was getting older and that if he scared them ALL away, I would end up an old maid. Oh family, they sure do keep life interesting.
We went on our very first date to a Japanese steakhouse, where Steven showed off his mad skill by catching, not one, not two, but FOUR shrimp thrown to him by the chef. We got to play in the snow and go to a house concert.
Tim and Laurie Thornton amazed us as they skillfully played, sang and told stories of what the Lord had done in their lives. At one point in the concert, my mind started to drift and the thoughts began to eat away at my brain, "What if it doesn't work out? What if he breaks my heart? What if this isn't right?" And in that moment I heard the Lord whisper to me, "He is your gift." All of the sudden a million other questions entered my mind, "For now? For this year? Forever?" But no answer was given... just that he was my gift.
Today, almost 2 years later, I can guarantee that Steven is the best Christmas gift I have ever received. Jesus does give the best gifts, doesn't he?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 19: Peru, take 1...


It had been decided before I ever left for Ecuador, that Allison would come and visit me and that we would go traveling. Over the course of the first 8 months, Steven and I began to talk more and more to the point that he decided that he too, wanted to come and visit. Then my friend Julie realized that her friend Scott was living about 4 hours from where I lived, so it was just natural that she would come too.
In August of 2008, all three of them came to visit and through a series of events we decided to go to Machu Picchu in Peru. They had a night in Quito and a day in Loja before we left. We then took a 7 hour bus ride to the Peruvian border, spent like 5 hours waiting for our flight and then another night and a day before we arrived in Cusco. A day later, we had planned to take the train to Machu Picchu and had worked out a taxi to come pick us up. The morning of our great adventure, the taxi didn't show up when it said it would... so we waited... and waited. By the time it got there, we were going to miss the train. If you don't know, there is only ONE train to get there and if you miss it, you're just outta luck. We were praying all the way there that we would make it/yelling at the taxi driver to hurry.
We made it 2 minutes before the train left. Pure relief flooded my body as we plopped in our seats. As we pulled up to Machu Picchu, we realized it was all worth it. It was one of the most glorious sites I've ever seen. How the ancient Incas created all of this on the side of a mountain, I will never understand.
Our travel package came with a guided tour, but instead we chose Julie to be our tour guide. For the next several hours Julie walked us around Machu Picchu and pointed out the different things we needed to know. "Here is where the ancient Incas had their Olympic sized pool. And here is where they had their lama races. And over here were the olympic gams." Needless to say, there was much laughter and we learned very little about the ancients, but we did have a lot of fun on our adventure to Peru.
Over the years Steven and I have learned how to roll with the punches. We have become fellow adventurers. He pushes me to take risks and try for the impossible... I keep him organized. We're a good team.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 25... well day 24... who gets the credit for us?

As I write this at 12:48am, I'm realizing that I indeed am at 24 days and not 25! Today at 10am, we are going to get our marriage license. This little piece of paper has lots of stipulations on it: you have to get it over 48 hours BEFORE you can wed, but it cannot exceed 30 days before your wedding. You must bring both persons and passports in order to get this small paper as well as cash only to pay for it. All this to get a little piece of paper that says you are now connected forever.
I thought today would be a good day to discuss all the people who swore this would happen WAY before either of us ever let it enter our minds. In 2003, my middle school girls, at summer camp were convinced that one day I would be Mrs. Steven Rungaitis. So, Kathryn Ryan, Paige Hennington, Rachel Malecek, Kimmie Cockcroft, Rachel King and a host of other 12-year-old, now 21-year-old girls put money on the fact that we would one day be in marital bliss. I, of course laughed it off.
When my mom met Steven for the first time in 2005, she thought he was a FINE catch and that I should set my sights on him. I told her that if she was so set on him, SHE should marry him. That ended that discussion.
Then comes my good ol' roommate and best friend, Allison. In 2007, she stated matter-of-factly that I would indeed marry Steven. I told her that was impossible since I didn't like him. She stated, again in a calm tone that YES I would marry him. And I responded in an irritated fashion that I would not. And yet a third time she said, "It doesn't matter what you say, you're going to marry him." In my anger, I yelled at her, told her I would NOT marry him and slammed my bedroom door.
And then came that day in July of 2009 when Steven asked me in regards to our future, "So where do you see us down the road?" I answered him as sure as I have ever been about anything in my life: "I want to marry you, Steven Rungaitis." That's when I knew.
Good thing God's plans don't have time restriction on them, like our silly marriage license... Good thing God does things in his way, on his time line.
That's another thing I love about Steven... he waited on the Lord's perfect timing.
So really the LORD is the only one who can take the credit... sorry girls.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 26... how many cups of coffee?


When your foot is shaking too bad to drive a stick shift, you know you have had too many cups of coffee.
From the first summer until present day, our favorite thing to do is sit and drink coffee together. Once, Steven and I sat at Ihop and drank coffee for hours. We drank pot after pot, laughing and telling stories. We would silently (or not so silently) chuckle at all the funny people who walked through the doors at 1am. This was the first, but not the last time that I had a hard time driving home due to the massive amount of caffeine pumping through my body!
After a few summers we upgraded to Cafe Brazil and finally to closing out Starbucks. With every cup of coffee, I learned more about Steven... the things that made him laugh, made him tick, made me smile.
One day Steven called me to drink coffee when I was already at Starbucks, so I told him to just meet me there. Before he arrived, a guy sitting near me started talking to me and asking me questions. Needless to say, he was not too happy about Steven's arrival, which he did not bother to hide. Steven joined in on the conversation like he had been there all along. I couldn't help but hold back a smirk as I watched this guy's face go from thinking he had a chance to realizing he had none.
Over the years we have probably shared 1,000 cups of coffee. We just love hanging out and we always have. There are very few people that I enjoy being with as much as I love being with Steven. He's my best friend. I love that about him.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 29 reminds me of May 29th...

When thinking of what story to tell for today (day 29), I thought it only fitting to tell of some of our birthday experiences together (May 29th being my birthday).
If you know me at all, birthdays are a BIG deal. I love birthdays! When my 21st birthday rolled around, I was working at Prince of Peace and hadn't made a lot of friends yet in the Dallas area. Since I was doing youth ministry, I had opted out of drinking for my 21st, so Steven said he would take me to a movie instead.
As we went to purchase our tickets, the lady asked me how old I was. I thought it was a little strange, but told her that today was my 21st birthday. She looked surprised and then told me that I needed to show ID. In my confused state, I didn't realize it was because it was an R-rated movie and she didn't believe that I was over 17!
We both laughed (though I do believe Steven laughed a little harder!)...
That's always been us: we love to laugh.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

30 Days and counting...

Since day 150, I've been counting down. To be honest, I just can't help it. I decided in these last 30 days, I want to share some stories that maybe you've never heard. Steven and I have have known each other for 8 years, been in 5 different countries together, spent countless hours with teenagers and even more over cups of coffee laughing and telling stories. So for those who only know us apart, I thought I'd give you a little insight into some of our fun together.

Let's call this one: Middle School Camp...
My very first summer in Dallas, Steven offered, or rather got tricked into helping me at middle school camp. Between us, I believe we had 20 crazy kids to chase after and try to keep them from killing each other. If you know Steven at all, you know that he has a real way with pushing boys to step it up. That was probably the first character quality I saw in Steven that really intrigued me. Steven has a way about him that guys respect... not out of fear, but out of a gentle strength.
One of the boys on that trip had never made it through an entire week at camp. He would either freak out and be sent home or refuse to speak. He refused to be involved in the games or to participate in any way. Every time I pushed him he would retreat further into himself, so I finally just let him do what he wanted.
As per usual, he chose to sit out when the kids were playing tug-o-war. We had a bunch of girls and a couple small boys, so of course we were losing. Steven, standing next to this kid, leaned over and said, "They need your help." The kid flippantly said, "They don't need me." Steven responded, "They won't win unless you are their anchor." My mouth dropped open as this kid, who I couldn't get to do ANYTHING walked over, grabbed the rope, put it around his waist and pulled them to victory.
Over the course of that week, I saw Steven willing make a fool out of himself to get others involved. I saw him eat the most disgusting concoction just to get a rise out of the boys and I saw a gentle leader. At one point, I was freaking out and I said, "Steven make the decision for me!" And he looked at me in his calm Steven way and said, "I can do it for you if you want, but you're in charge of these kids and I believe you can do it." I loved that he was willing to step in for me, but believed wholeheartedly that I had the ability to do whatever I put my mind to.
That's what I learned about Steven at middle school camp... and I am still following that gentle leader.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Let your glory fall...


Glory... have you ever stopped to think what it means when we say "His glory fell" or "Be glorified in me" or the millions of other ways we throw around the word glory?
I hadn't... until yesterday. In his sermon, Matt laid out the mission statement of the church and when he came to the part that says, "That God would be glorified" he began to explain what that meant.
If you have a huge boulder at the edge of a cliff with a puddle of water at the bottom, and you push it over, what will happen to the water? It will spray everywhere. The water will be changed. It has no choice because the weight of the rock forces it to be changed.
The glory of the Lord is the same. Glory means weight or heaviness. So when we ask for his glory to fall, we are asking for his weight to fall on us. The problem is, many of us see God as a concept. If you see God as a concept and not a reality, you are heavier than God. Some people think that the glory of the Lord is like a glass of water and I am like a rock that it falls on. He is only a concept, so He can be molded and manipulated into being whatever I want (or don't want) his to be.
If I allow the true weightiness of His Glory to fall on me, I have no choice but to be changed. May I be crushed under the heaviness of Him so there will be less of me and more of him.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's time...


On my way to school the other day, God laid something on my heart and then wouldn't let it go. My purpose for being at my job. When my job isn't ministry related, I find it easy to walk in, do my job and leave... affecting no one's life and having no one affect mine. I'm just doing my job, right? Wrong.
As I sat down to coffee with one of my friends here at work, she explained to me that every day teachers were coming into this building broken, alone and lost, only to put on a smile and act happy for the kiddos they teach. They put it all out on the line for these kids. They give their heart, soul and every bit of strength they have to teach these kids and show them the love of Jesus. So, who's putting it on the line for them?
That's where Jesus began to pull on my heart strings... to be the one who would battle for the teachers as they battle for the hearts and souls of these precious ones.
I think back to the women who have commited to praying for me. My grandmas and mom who prayed me through my childhood (and on!), my mentor who prayed me through high school, ladies in my church who prayed me through college, women who literally prayed me through my trials in Ecuador, and finally older godly women who prayed an amazing man into my life. They battled for me when I couldn't do it for myself. They may have never stepped a foot onto foreign soil or crossed paths with crazy high school kids, but if not for their prayers, neither would I.
So maybe now its my turn. Maybe I won't ever step foot into a classroom to touch the lives of these children, but maybe its my turn to go to bat for the ones who do. As I began to ask the teachers their prayer requests, I began to see what's really going on. Getting involved in people's lives is messy business, but by the grace of God I'll battle for them like some many have done for me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Love the honesty...


Question from teacher: What's your cat's name?
Answer from 4-year-old: Heartflowerstar

Question from 4-year old to teacher: Are you Hispanic?
Answer from white teacher: No
(Puzzled look from 4 year old...)
Question: Are you black?
Answer: No
(Even MORE puzzled look...)
Question: Then what are you??

There are just a few tidbits of the conversations I have (or hear about) on a daily basis. Yesterday was a story that blessed my heart. While M'Kayla was waiting for her mom to show up with her gym clothes, she started the barrage of questions. The first of which was: what did you do before you came here. No sooner had the words, Missionary in Ecuador come out of my mouth that she launched into her 11-year-old travels.
"I've been to Mexico on a mission trip! We went to help poor children and to play with them. I have a picture of me and my friends from when we went!" She continued on in the most precious way, to tell me how her parents wanted to take her and her 2 siblings on a mission trip to Guatemala. As I listened to her and saw her face light up as she talked about her Mexican friends, I started to think to myself, How many ADULTS don't even understand this? We serve out of LOVE for friends, not out of obligation to help "THOSE" people.

I love the things these kids teach me...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Come and See!

Say to God: "How great are your works! All the earth will worship you and sing praise to you; they will sing praise to your Name." Come and see what God has done!

No news is good news. Why do we say that? Because when it comes to letting people know what's going on with us, it is much easier to gossip, speak ill of someone or say how we've been hurt. The words that come across our lips are much more likely to be negative than possitive.
As I read psalm 66 this morning, it not only said: How great are your works, it went on to TELL of his great works... how the Israelites crossed the red sea on dry ground and how God came through from them time and time again.
But it doesn't stop with the Israelite. Jesus himself said to those who wanted to know who he was and what he did: Come and See! Paul tells us to TASTE and see that the Lord is good. His desire is not that we would stand at a distance, but that we would engage with the Holy One; that we would come to the place of stepping out, jumping in and seeing with our own eyes the goodness of the Lord.
So here's to God! The One who brought the sun up this morning and gave us the coolness of morning. Here's to God: who gave us friendship and laughter. Here's to God: who is with us when things are good and when we can't take one more step. Here's to God: who without Him, my life would be in utter shambles due to my own pride and stubborness.
So I will stop loving at a distance. I will stop observing what other people are talking about and I will choose to ENGAGE. With my lips I will praise him and call others to the same: Come and see what the Lord has done!

Friday, October 8, 2010

My daddy's hand...


My dad's birthday is tomorrow, but since he is currently in China, it is tomorrow! This is my tribute to the best dad a little girl could ever ask for...

One of the most vivid memories I have as a child is holding my daddy's hand. After being pulled out of my car seat, a finger would descend in front of my face and I would grab on. I knew that wherever I was being led was a safe place because of the hand that led me. But, I always thought I was holding onto him, I never realized he was holding me. He held me when tears streamed down my small cheeks. He held me after much needed disciple and after my heart got broken.
The older I've gotten, the more I've realized that he's had to get good at not just holding on, but letting go: the goodbyes as I walked through the door of my college dorm. The long hugs before I stepped foot on the plane to Ecuador. But none of these moments will compare to the moment when he says: "Her mother and I do"... and puts my hand into the hand of another. What will flash through my memory in that instant are the moments I've been held.
Thank you Dad, for being willing to holding me with laughter and through tears... and for your willingness to let go and entrust me to our Heavenly Father. I love you!

Monday, September 27, 2010

4 stories... one theme


A big tough business guy, an ex-druggy from Kentucky, a good girl, and a west african man who used to practice voodoo. These were the four who stood up in front of our church yesterday to confess their love of Jesus before they walked through the waters of baptism.
I was amazed as I heard their stories: each unique and completely opposite, but with the same ending... Jesus saving them from their complete and utter depravity in the face of a holy and awesome God.
On the face of the first guy was a look of total control, but as he went on to describe what the Lord has done in his life, humility overtook him. He said, "Humility is not one of my strong suites, but I stand before you humbled because of God's grace."
As the next lady entered the waters with her husband, she gave a sweet testimony of how she was raised in the church and always throught her testimony was ordinary, but recently God has revealed how his grace is never ordinary. One thing I love about our church is that each one is baptized by someone who has lead them in their walk with the Lord. As the husband took his wife by the hand, I was overwhelmed by the picture of our Great Bridegroom who leads us to the waters from wherever we have been.
Up next was a West African man from Benin. English was not his first language, so it took some consentration to understand what he was saying. I know what its like to speak in front of people in your second language and it is terrifying, so I was really impressed. He shared with us how he grew up in a place where witchcraft and voodoo ran his life. He began to have a reoccuring nightmare of people flying around him while he was on the ground burning. He went to every witch-doctor and paid any price to be rid of the dream, but to no avail. Finally, he met a Christian man who invited him to church. After he had gone to church several times, the dream left him, but that did not mean that he was done with church. His friend shared the gospel with him and he came to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Last, but not least was Kentucky... which was how he was announced,though it was not his name, just his place of origin. He spoke matter-of-factly about his past life in drugs and alcohol. He told us of his rehabilitation, but that it came with a lack of peace. When he moved to Dallas, he met a bunch of guys from the Village who spoke truth into his life and shared the gospel with him. This is where the straight-face stopped and the tears began to flow as his voice waved. "Jesus saved me by his grace."
I share these stories today to remind you to share yours. Whether good, bad or ugly, God has given us a story to tell, but they all should end the same, He saved me by His grace and for that, I am forever thankful!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Out of the mouths of babes...


As their smiling faces come pouring in at a quarter past seven, I am reminded of where they have just come from. One would assume that these nicely groomed children with backpacks in tote would come from the highest classed families in Dallas. They politely smile and greet me with, “Good Morning Miss Eng,” from the very smallest that stand no higher than my knee to the very oldest that are most likely taller than me.
As I listen in on their stories, I am reminded of where they actually come from. Two little girls were waiting for their mom to pick them up from school and began talking about their home life. Yes, they do share a room was the answer to another girls inquisitive questioning. For that matter, they all shared a room, but mommy got to sleep on the bed. They giggled and smiled as they said, “And it REALLY gets crowded when daddy is there too! But it’s ok because we are all squished in together!”
I am amazed at what the kids pick up on from their own family life. A fellow teacher told me of one 2nd grader who was complaining of a hurting side. His teacher asked if he had told his mom and he said, “No, I don’t want to make her more sad than she already is.” When the teacher inquired as to why, he poured out his sad tale. “My mommy is sad because my daddy left. It makes me sad too. That’s why I don’t want to tell my mommy because it will make her more sad.”
As I hear these children’s stories, it breaks my heart and makes me want to hold them just that much tighter. Their childhood is so much different from my own, but they want what every child wants: someone to love and care for them.
I overheard a little boy tell his teacher, “At my last school they told me they wished I had never been born.” The teacher put her arm around him and said, “I don’t know what I would do without you.”
This is West Dallas Community School and I am proud to be a part of it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Creative Response to Galatians 5:1


For Bible study, we had to write a creative response to Galatians 5:1...
Here's mine:
A heavy metallic ball rolls across a stone floor, followed by the sound of chains rattling and a small humph. I am a slave. This is how it is, day in and day out. It slows me down, wears me out and keeps me from being who I was created to be. Burdensome, heavy, weighed down… I become depressed and overwhelmed wondering if there is any end in sight. I am a slave. The small moments of happiness that I do have are quickly tossed to the side and replaced by this chain that keeps me from running, jumping, dancing…
I have tried to make it pretty, build a cart for it to ride in, or just plain ignore it… but nothing works, nothing helps. It follows me around and haunts me. I am a slave.
But then He showed up. I tried to hide it, but he pulled it out in the open. Tears flowed freely as I tried with desperate attempts to explain it away. He stopped me mid-excuse, wrapped me up in his arms and said that I was never meant to be this way. In my tired state, I gave in to his arms and wept shamefully. I could feel his breath on my cheek as he whispered, Do you want to be free?
I couldn’t make my lips form the words, so I just gave a silent nod through snot-nosed sobs and handed him my chains. He lovingly took them upon his own shoulders and exclaimed, “You’re free!”From the very beginning he had never wanted me to be a slave, he wanted me to be with Him… I wanted my chains… HE wanted my freedom. It was all gone, the pain, guilt, and shame was replaced by joy, hope, and love. I jumped emphatically into his arms and kissed his cheek. What else could I do? Words could not express the thankfulness in my heart for what he had done for me.
His only request: that I wouldn’t go back. But why would I? I was a slave, now I’m FREE!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Heart Language


I’m constantly perplexed by the concept of wanting what we can’t have. We take things for granted when we have them every day, but complain when they are suddenly ripped always.
Living in Ecuador was no walk in the park. There were very difficult moments where I wanted to throw in the towel and walk away. There were moments of tears and frustration. But there were also moments of pure joy and gladness. Moments where I got to watch my friends fall more in love with Jesus or accept him for the first time.
Before I left Ecuador, I made a list of all the things I WOULDN’T miss so I could laugh, reminisce and remember that it wasn’t perfect or better than this place I am in now.
As the weeks have turned into months of living in the States, I have come to the realization that I am pulling away… not because I want to or because I don’t love my Ecuadorian friends, but because it’s safer. It’s safer to not call them all the time and not know every detail of their lives because then I can’t miss them so much.
Last night, as I was worshipping in church with eyes closed, a familiar sound came to my ears: Spanish. Steven and I looked at each other in stunned amazement as we threw our hands in the air and praised God in what had become my heart language. Tears blurred my vision as I recalled the words that had been sung and the Word that had been preached over the past two years living in Ecuador. I miss it.
I will never forget May of 2008 when I sung my first English worship song in 5 months. Tears would not stop streaming down my face as I cried out to my Creator in the language of my heart. Who would have guessed 3 years later, my heart would cry for a different language, a different people and a different city. Investing your heart in a people, a city, a country is not safe. Your heart breaks and then is permanently stuck in that place. So I guess it would be easier to play it safe, to never invest and to hold people at as much of a distance as possible… I’m glad Jesus didn’t do that and I pray I will always follow His lead.

Friday, August 27, 2010

My Sunrise


I think I am officially "Grown Up." For the past 8 years, since I have been out of college, I have never had a "normal" job. I've always worked weird hours, stayed up late, woken up late and worn whatever I want. Those good ol' days are behind us now that I wake up at 6, "dress up" every day for work and am in bed by 10. The only plus is getting to see the sunrise.
Yesterday morning as I turned on 35, the sun creapt out of the ground and its rays poured through the clouds. As my voice sang "Wholly Yours," a tear came to my eye realizing that that sunrise was for me. I couldn't help but thank him for being such a beautiful creator. I always used to say that God was in the sunset because I was never awake to see it come up, but I guess the plus of being a grown up is that I get to see the beauty in my sunrise.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Here comes the Bride...


Picture it with me: the doors fly open to reveal a grinning bride dressed in dazzling white. Her eyes are brimming with tears as she sees the one her heart loves. Her butterflies disappear as she settles into his gentle gaze. A sweet giggle escapes her lips as she takes the first step down the aisle. Her long awaited day has finally arrived. Soon they will pronounce husband and wife... Mr. and Mrs... the two becoming one.
As I lay in my bed the other day making mental preparations for my wedding coming up, I began to think about this moment... walking down the aisle toward the rest of my life. And honestly, I couldn't help but smile and giggle in excitement. I am marrying my best friend; the one who holds me when I am sad and makes me laugh so hard I think I might cry. But preparations need to be made... over the next 4 1/2 months, we will prepare spiritually, emotionally, mentally... we will make preparations for the cake, the dress and our lives. Though the preparations are many, the outcome is the same: we are married. And its a day I wait for in joyful anticipation.
As I was reading in 1 John this morning, I began to think of our future wedding with no date. The doors fly open and we, the church, the bride of Christ walk through. All nervousness and butterflies disappear as we settle into the gentle gaze of our Savior. He's been waiting for this day for so long. Instead of sauntering, I take off in a full sprint into the arms of the One my heart loves. He whispers in my ear, "I am so excited about being married to you!" This is a day we are waiting for, but right now, we prepare. We know that one day we will be united as one, but for now he calls us to this: "And now, dear children continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming."
Right now, I am Steven's bride-to-be. I have finally come to understand Jesus' impatience being united with me, the one His heart loves. I understand his jealousy for wanting all of me and no desire to share me with anyone or anything else! I understand the longing He feels in waiting for that great day when we will be ONE. Just as I can’t wait for my earthly bridegroom, I smile and my heart beats faster as I think of the day that two shall become one for eternity.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Over a mop and a bucket...


Last week as I was waiting nervously for my job interview, a man came out into the waiting room to clean the floor. We exchanged pleasantries and then I went back to looking at the paper in front of me. He began to clean the floor and talk to me. Come to find out, his name is Clifford and he's one of the janitors there.
What started out with a casual hi, suddenly morphed into an animated telling of how Jesus saved him. Clifford was just like one of these west Dallas kids who had a hard life and got mixed up in a bad crowd. Drugs, alcohol and the works came next. One day he was talking to his mom about his desperate need of SOMETHING to save him and she told him he needed to go to some sort of rehab. Through strung out eyes he said, "No, God is going to deliver me." Shortly after, he went to a Dallas homeless ministry to listen to a preacher. After it was all over, someone said to him, "Go shake the man's hand." Clifford stood up to see who was talking to him, but saw no one. So he sat down again. This time the voice was more forceful,"Go shake the man's hand." You didn't have to tell him 3 times... he walked up to the preacher, shook his hand and said thank you.
The preacher looked at Clifford and began to tell him things about himself that only God knew. The preacher began to pray healing and deliverance over him. He shared the truth of the gospel and the love of Jesus Christ.
I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear as Clifford said to me, "And I was healed! God healed me of my addictions!" Just at that moment, I was called in for my interview. I looked back to see Clifford mopping with a joy that comes only from the One who heals body, mind and spirit.
Who would have guessed I went in to get an interview and I walked out blessed beyond measure by a story over a mop and a bucket.
p.s. I got the job and hope to hear many more stories from this amazing man of God.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Stories over a Sushi Bar...


World Cup 2010 "Spain versus Netherlands" put us at a Sushi Bar in Frisco hanging out with our friend David. Little did I know that God had other plans for me being there.
Most people thought Steven had to drag me to go watch the game and eat sushi. I actually ENJOY watching soccer... I think it comes from being forced to watch it in Ecuador. Anyway, as the game began a woman sat down at the bar next to me and we started making small talk. Its started with the normal, "What's good here?" and "Who's playing?" but before you know it we started digging into deeper things. Come to find out she has a 4 year old son and a set of 2 year old twins! (yikes!) The reason for the outing was just that, to get OUT. Her gracious husband allowed her a "Mommy Day" where she could do whatever she wanted to relax. She randomly chose this sushi place to sit down for a bite and a couple beers.
The more we talked, the more connected we became. The more I listened, the more I realized that there was something different about this woman. Through a series of comments, I ended up asking, "Do you go to church around here?" and she came back with, "Yeah, I go to The Village." By this time the game had started and the guys were engrossed in the television.
I flippantly asked her how she became a Christian and she got that "do you really want to know" look on her face and said, "That's a really long story." I told her stories were the one thing I could never hear too many of.
She started her story with growing up in an Episcopal church and knowing all the "right answers" but not knowing what any of them meant. That was the best life got because by age 11 she was dabbling in drinking, drugs, sex, you name it. By the age of 19 she had moved out of her house and in with her boyfriend. Together they did more drugs and and opened more doors for Satan to rear his ugly head.
His mom was a Christian and always talked to her about Jesus and his salvation but she blew it off thinking the mom was a bit crazy.
Through a series of events, she came to the end of her rope. She sat in her car gripping her steering wheel. As she closed her eyes, she decided she wanted to die. When she opened her eyes again, she was sitting in front of her mom's house, not knowing how she had gotten there.
Her mom helped her check into a psychiatric hospital and so began God calling her to Himself. One night as she cried on her bed, her roommate (who had not said much before) came over to her and began to say the Lord's prayer. After that she began to tell her about Jesus' love and salvation.
The next day her boyfriend called her and said that he had come to know Jesus and was now a believer. He said he wanted her to know Jesus too. She called her mom to pick her up and the three of them went to the Episcopal church to talk to the pastor.
He explained the Gospel of Jesus and asked her to repeat some of the things he was saying. She told me, "I couldn't say the words. I couldn't even comprehend them. There was a block in my mind that was keeping me from understanding." As she struggled within herself, they began to pray over her. She closed her eyes and said it was as if something was reaching its hand deep into her stomach and puling apart something connected to her soul. As it was pulled out of her body, she saw a bring light, more beautiful than she could ever begin to describe. Suddenly she opened her eyes and it was 3 hours later. They told her that over the last three hours, voices had spoken through her that weren't her, she had yelled and screamed and then suddenly she opened her eyes and it was done.
At this point in the story, I was sitting with mouth agape, having no clue what was going on in the game and not caring. She said for the next 2 years she had a hightened sense of awareness of the spiritual realm. People who had done drugs and been with them before were now afraid to sit next to her. They said that when they were near her it was like sitting next to a fire.
I sat in awe at what the Lord had done in her life. As I looked at the woman before me, I saw a normal, beautiful, wife and mother... but she had at one point experienced hell and then had walked into the arms of a loving Father.
I thought of the passage where the immoral woman brings a bottle of expensive perfume to pour on Jesus' feet and everyone rebukes her, but Jesus says, " I tell you, her sins -- and they are many -- have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love." Then Jesus said to the woman, "Your sins are forgiven."
Whether your sins are great or small; whether your story raises the hair on my arm or only gets a smile and a "Oh, that's nice;" whether you have been forgiven much or litte, we are all in the same boat... dying in desperate need of a Savior. It is only by the blood of Jesus Christ that our sins are forgiven! Isn't it time we rejoice in the grace we have been given?!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How much is your integrity worth?


The other day at work, I gave a guy $2 more in change that I should of. When he realized the error, he walked back to the counter and handed it back to me. I thanked him for his honesty and he said: My integrity is worth more than $2.
Starting there, I began to think more and more about how much people would sell their integrity for... $100? $500? $1 million? Or $2 for a cup of coffee? (p.s. someone printed off a fake starbucks coupon to get a free $4 drink... what does that say about you?)
As I was flipping through the channels, a show caught my eye: True Beauty. The show consists of 10 beautiful people competing to work in Vegas. What they don't know is that judges are ACTUALLY judging them on their INNER beauty. They stay or are kicked off depending on how honest they are, how they help or don't help people, and the amount of people they step on to get to the top. They also don't realize that the judges have set up these little "character scenarios" to test their true colors when no one is looking. It blew me away at how heartless and ruthless they truly were when no one was "looking."
For me, God boiled it down to this: Colossians 3:22 "Obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the LORD." How many times do I do the "right thing" when people are watching and do what is most convenient when I think no one is looking? All of these little snap shots have challenged me to ask the question: How much is my integrity worth? Will I do what is right, not just when their eye is on me, but at all times to show a sincere heart and reverence for the LORD, not for man. Something to think about...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Insignificance...


Abraham picked up and left all he knew in order to wander around before he became the Father of a great nation.
Joseph was a slave and sat in prison before he saved his brothers from starving to death.
Moses watched sheep in the dessert before he saved the Jews from Pharaoh.
Jesus was a carpenter for 30 years before he saved the world.
The list of people throughout history who waited in insignificance is overwhelming. How many times do you think Jesus thought: 'Why do I need to walk back to Jerusalem? I could just fly. Or better yet just BE there.' Or the 100s of times that Moses looked around and said, "I'm watching sheep. Wasn't I just the prince of Egypt? REALLY?"
Recently I've looked at my life and said, "I'm a barista at Starbucks. Really God?" My life has felt small and insignificant. And all of the sudden I realize that I am BACK to where I was 4 years ago when I said to God, "You have nothing for me. You have no plans for my life." That statement was followed by the most amazing experience in my life and falling in love with the most amazing man. But even AFTER learning what a great God I serve, I still ask the same question, "Really? I'm supposed to be HERE?"
Today I was reading in James and the famous, “Consider it joy…” when? When you face trials. And I thought to myself, I am NOT facing trials like the early church! I’m not being persecuted, tortured or fed to hungry lions… I seriously have NOTHING to complain about. The interesting line comes in the next statement… “For you know that the testing of our faith DEVELOPES perseverance. Whether our trial is physical, spiritual or emotional… James says that you are developing perseverance. I am developing a deeper trust for my Father when I wait on him instead of take life in my own hands.
During my time at Starbucks, I haven’t felt like I’ve done much for Jesus. I just go to work and go home. No big deal, right? I heard this weekend at the Family Life Conference that being a parent is a “Character Job”… and I’ve decided that EVERY job is a character job. If you are ministering to people at your job they watch every move you make, every careless word and judge your “Talk about Jesus” by your ACTIONS. In the past week, I’ve gotten the opportunity to talk to two of the guys I work with about Jesus and what He wants for them. I do find it amazing that both of them mentioned that they had been IN the church and left due to hypocrisy and legalism. So I guess it IS a big deal what kind of life I live in front of my co-workers.
Next time you think you’re stuck in a holding pattern with your life, ask yourself, ‘Am I considering it joy? Is Jesus trying to develop something in me?’ Someone is always watching and Jesus is always working.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Please don’t send me to Africa… or my neighbor

I remember hearing that song when I was a kid…
Please don’t send me to Africa
I don’t think I got what it takes
I’m just a man, I’m not a Tarzan
Don’t like lions, gorillas or snakes
I’ll serve you here in suburbia
In my comfortable middle class life
But please don’t send me out into the bush
Where the natives are restless at night

This has never been my song or my fear. I’ve always been the opposite… Jesus don’t make me stay in suburbia, send me to Africa!
Recently I’ve been hanging out with my friends Jess and Mike and they have inspired me to consider Africa AND the suburbs.

Last year Mike and Jess tried to sell their house in order to move to a bigger house for their growing family of 4. No matter how hard they tried or what gimmicks they used, their house wouldn’t sell. So they just figured that meant God wanted them to stay there for a while longer. They realized that they had lived in the same house for 6 years and the only way they knew their neighbors was by an occasional wave or “How’s it going?” That’s how Mission 5 started. They decided to be intentional in their outreach to the 5 neighbors they have on all sides of them. Mike began taking the boys to go and say hi, Jess baked cookies and they began to invite people to church one by one. As Jess and Mike were telling me this story, I got super excited to see what God was doing in middle class suburbia through two of his faithful servants who were willing to love people.

Just a month ago, Jessica told me, “I’ve built a protective Christian bubble around myself and its just about time I got out!” She and Mike have decided to live missionally. For Jess, that means she wants to take a short term mission trip to another country, but more than that, she wants to take her CHURCH. And for Mike, that means Mission 5. The greatest part about this story is that they are NOT just talking about it, they are doing it. They have approached their pastor and said it was just about time that they had short term missions and the pastor said, “GO! You’re in charge!” For most people, that would stop the idea in its tracks, but not these two. They are stepping up to the challenge though they don’t know how they are going to swing it financially or gather people to go. BUT they are stepping OUT and trusting God who began this work to complete it.

Just yesterday I was asking Jess how Mission 5 was going and she told me that Mike decided to just be up front and ask one of their neighbors, “So what do you believe?” As the family explained their dislike for religion due to the massive amount of hypocrisy found in the church, Mike chimed in, “Me too! I hate religion and hypocrisy!” I can only imagine the man’s stunned face as Mike went on to say that Jesus wasn’t about a religion but a relationship and that he never meant for his church to talk one way and act another. Wow, talk about saying it how it is! As Jess and Mike have committed to pray and love on all 5 of these families, I cannot wait to see what God does with their faithfulness…

Be careful when you tell Jesus to burst your “Christian bubble,” he might send you to Africa or worse yet, your neighbors.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's time we get off our phones and look at the people around us...

I think that every person should be forced to work the food industry at least once in their lives. I have people come into Starbucks all the time on their phones. No big deal, right? Except for when you ask them what they want and they shoot you that glare like you're interrupting their phone conversation. To make matters worse, they whisper their order to you so as to not disturb their conversation which of course is always life or death.

I think we forget who is behind the counter. I know it is easy to think, 'They work here so they must be __________ uneducated, can't find anything better, without experience…' fill in the blank. But do you realize that in the time I've worked at Starbucks, I've met single mothers who are putting their two children through college, working two jobs and are going to school? I've met people who have degrees, have worked high paying jobs, managed big business… you name it.

Why am I telling you all of this? I want to tell you a story about my friend Patricia and how someone made the effort to know her. I met Patricia 3 years ago my first time around at Starbucks. She had just transferred from California and had very little. From day one, I knew we would be good friends. I soon found out that Patricia was a new believer and really desired to grow though it was hard in this new environment where she knew no one. I did what I could to get her involved and to minister to her before I left for Ecuador. Just yesterday, Patricia and I went out to lunch to catch up. I found out she was going to Bent Tree Bible Church and loving it. As I inquired as to how she started going there, she told me about one of her customers. The customer had taken the time to get to know Patricia as she came in every day. The week before Easter, she invited Patricia to go to Bent Tree with her. From the very first time she walked through those doors, she felt at home and so did her 5 year old daughter. Now it is her church home, she goes every Sunday, her daughters are involved in the children's ministry and Patricia helps out. Not only that, but she is meeting with a group of women who also work at Starbucks to have a weekly Bible study. I don't know who that customer was who began to minister to Patricia, but God used that to advance his kingdom.

We are all creatures of habit. We like to sit in the same seat at church on Sundays, go to the same check out at the grocery store, and the same Starbucks, so why not see each of those places as opportunities to love people to Jesus? Jesus calls us to go out into all the world, so how are you treating the world that is directly around you? Do they see Jesus in you or just someone holding a cell phone?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's still about Jesus...

What is the easiest comment to give any problem: Trust God. We throw this comment around like it is easy to say and to act upon, but in reality, this might be the single hardest thing we do every day.
I'm going to try right now and be real; not shiny, plastic, have-it-all-together Christian, but the real deal, I-struggle one who struggles to do what is right even when I want to!
Just the other day, I was telling my sister that we shouldn't freak out about wedding things, because they were so temporary. God even gave me an illustration: High School Graduation. As I was sitting at Baccalaureate I realized, I've been out of High School for 10 YEARS and it feels like forever ago. When I hear the kids say, "we finally made it" and "the next decisions of our lives are going to impact the rest of our lives," I just smile remembering the stress we all went through... the right grades, the right scholarships, the right school, the right graduation party... you name it, it all had to be RIGHT because THIS is the most important time of our lives!! But is it?
Fast forward 10 years and we are at a new stage of life: Getting married. And all the sudden I find myself worrying and stressing and planning. I need the right dress, the right place, the right food, the right people and all of the sudden we are back in high school again trying to keep up with our friends and make ourselves LOOK important.
This morning I heard Matt Chandler preach from Colossians 3:1-4. One of the things he said stuck out to me: We are so consumed with how God needs to fix our problems that we don't see the people around us and how simple our problems actually are (or something to that affect!) As we sang the next songs, I just reflected on how glorious our God is... that its not about me or my problems, but God STILL cares about them. Its like the Psalm that says, "He who forms the hearts of all, who considers EVERYTHING they do." He knows and understands us and the things we do far better than we know ourselves!
In all this goodness, you would think this "knowledge" that God had bestowed on me would work itself into my actions, right? God blessed me with something little and stupid, the dress that I loved for my wedding. Not only did he give it to me, he gave it to me on a silver platter... $200 off the original price! As I drove out to Mesquite to get it, I told God that if he wanted me to have the dress, it would be there. But if it wasn't than I knew he had something better. Oh, how spiritual I sounded in that moment... but just seconds later as I put on my perfect, "fits me like a glove" dress, my countenance changed as I realized my perfect dress was stretched out and not able to be ordered. Did I do what I had been learning all day? To trust God... NO. I freaked out and panicked and said, "WHY GOD!?" I am embarrassed even as I write it knowing that my life should be more important than a dress and my trust in God should last longer than it takes to try one on. At that moment, all I saw were my "big problems," not God's provision. For some reason I thought, 'THIS time God is going to screw me over. I knew his grace and provision for me was too good to be true.'
My sister brought me back to reality, prayed for me and off I went all the way across town to look at another store... in that 40 minute ride it took to get there, the Lord spoke to me, "This is part of your story... let me use even the dumbest and most trivial things to bring glory to myself. I consider everything you do." And I honestly believe that all this junk was to get me in the car for that long so that I could worship the Lord and sing, "So may the words I say and the the things I do make my lifesong sing bring a smile to you..."
And what did I find at the store? My dress waiting for me... why do I doubt? May he be given glory for even the smallest blessing. Though sometimes I loath the moments I fail, I am overjoyed that he calls me worthy to learn these truth, even if it is the hard way.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How it happened...

Due to the massive amounts of response, I’ve decided that it is time to tell the story… how did Steven propose?
Before I say anything else, I want to thank Jesus for bringing me the most amazing man I’ve ever met.
It all started exactly 8 years ago, when a much younger, inexperienced Jamie met a dark, handsome, Mexican-looking man at a college party. We immediately hit it off until he misunderstood my question, “What school DO you go to?” and thought I said, “What School DID you go to?” The answer was “The Colony High School” and my heart sank, being semi-grossed out that I thought a high school boy was cute. Much to my surprise, he was actually 21 and at Texas Tech.
That is when our friendship began… six and a half years later, we started dating. God is the only one who can take credit for the amazing story of how we got to this day: the day he asked me to marry him…
My birthday is in two weeks, which in Dallas means 120 degree weather, so Steven told me he wanted to do my birthday picnic a couple weeks early. We agreed that Sunday would be a good day and after church we headed off to the Nature Preserve, our favorite park. We had everything… good food and appetizers, sparkling cider (since I can’t drink because of the meds I’m on!), and chicken Caesar salad (chicken that he grilled at 2am the night before!). The day was beautiful and it was perfect. After that we walked around for a while looking for the perfect two trees to hang the 2-person hammock I bought him for valentine’s day. What I didn’t realize was that he had already scooped out the perfect spot. He proceeded to hang our hammock and we spent the next couple hours just hanging out.
At about 6pm, he said we should go up to this lookout and take pictures (our favorite thing to do), on the way over there he was telling stories and I was laughing. What I didn’t know is that he was talking really loud so that Allison, my roommate would know we were coming, so that she could hide in the bushes and take pictures of the whole event! When we got to the look-out, we started taking pictures and waiting for the sun to go down a bit. There was a girl on the bridge taking pictures by herself and she asked if we wanted her to take our picture. I politely declined… little did I know that this was actually Holly, the fiancĂ© of one of Steven’s friends. He eventually convinced me that a couple pictures from her would be a good idea.
He put his arm around my shoulder and I caught a glimpse of something sparkly out of the corner of my eye (see picture to the above). At the same time, I could feel his heart race. I was confused. She took the picture. Steven bent down like he was tying his shoe. As the words, “What are you doing?” come out of my mouth, he held up a beautiful ring, told me he wanted to spend his life with me and asked the four words I’d been dying to hear, “Will you marry me?”
A million times yes. There are so many clichĂ© things people say about the one their heart loves… but for me they are all true. He is the one who brings joy to my eyes and a smile to my lips. He is a man that I have trusted and respected from day one. He is the one who takes care of me, loves me when I’m unreasonable, but overall, loves Jesus the most. We have seen each other through good times and bad. We’ve been together through laughter and tears. I don’t know how I could ask for anyone better… than my best friend.


Dates have not been set, but we are tentatively looking at the weekend of December 18, 2010! We'll let you know asap...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Daddy’s Shoes…


No one has to teach a little boy to put his dad’s shoes on. No one has to tell a little girl to don her mom’s heels and fumble down the hall like a runway model. It all comes naturally. The desire to be like their parents is built in. How do we lose that as we grow?
Jesus has called us to be his disciple; to take up his “yoke” (teaching), leave behind everything and follow him. In word, these things sound so simple, but living it out is a different story completely. These are big shoes to put on… ones that don’t seem like they fit that well. But if we truly want to be like our Father, we must slide our little feet into his big shoes and follow after him. But as we take the first step, we get tripped up, “What if he asks me to TRULY give up EVERYTHING?” He is. “What if he asks me to step outside of the things that JUST effect me and step INTO someone else’s life… someone I can’t control?” He is. “What if I fall?” You will. But he will not leave you alone. As a parents finds joy in their small one following after them, so your Father delights in you.
Yesterday as I was getting ready to go to work, I read Psalm 30, “When I felt SECURE, I said, ‘I will not be shaken’… but when you HID your face, I was dismayed. Hear, O Lord and be merciful to me; O Lord, be my help. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will give you thanks FOREVER.”
And the Lord showed me, once again, “You need not be SECURE, you need to TRUST me.” Begrudgingly, I started work at 9:30 in the morning. At about 10am, I prayed turn my wailing into dancing, and an overwhelming sense of joy flooded over me. For the next 7 hours, I have never felt so at peace and with so much energy! I kept telling my coworkers, “I am in SUCH a good mood!” The last hour, I began to feel very tired, but still a joy that I could not explain rushed through my veins. He continually reminds me that he desires to walk WITH me; that He smiles as he watching me put on these big shoes and tromp around. The thing I always forget is that HE wants to put on the shoes and CARRY me as only a Father can do.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Anxiety...

"If only..." Two simple words that can cause you a world of hurt...
Your list could look something like this: If only I had a job. If only I DIDN'T have a job. If only I had money. If only I had MORE money. If only I had a house. If only I had a BIGGER house. If only I had a husband. If only I DIDN'T have a husband. If only I had kids. If only I DIDN'T have kids...

Not two weeks ago, I sat on this couch "If only I had a job..." and now I'm wondering how to juggle a job and all the random "events" I have that keep me from work. As I thought about the flights, the bridal showers, dresses and weddings, I found my breathing begin to shallow and my heart rate go up. Discontentment had begun to swallow me whole. The poisonous "What ifs" float to the front of my brain and anxiety wraps its slimy fingers around my neck. Before I know what is going on, BAM, I am in full fledged Worry Mode: mind reeling, chest hurting, breathing inhibited.

So what just happened? I forgot. "Do not be anxious about anything. But in EVERYTHING by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the God of peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Last night as my heart beat wildly out of control, I sat down wondering whether or not Jesus wanted to hear my stupid problems. How is it possible that the God of the Universe cares about a flight? Or a dress? Or a silly job? In that moment I heard his gentle whisper, "Jamie, what do you want? What have I NOT done for you?" I started rolling all of God's goodness over in my mind... he gave me a job without much effort whatsoever. He found me a box spring and a frame for $20. He turned a $20 donation into $200 back into my pocket. He gave me the opportunity to start a Bible study. He gave me all green lights on the way to work when I was running late. He pours out rain on the grass to make it green. So, what are you complaining about? The job he has given you? The wonderful friends he has put in your life? The ministry he gives you every day? I think the "with thanksgiving" is the KEY to the not being anxious part.

Maybe instead of saying, "If only..." I'll start saying, "Only if you go with me..." The God of peace promises to be with us.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Calm in the midst of the storm...

“Be still and know that I am God.” I do not sit well nor am I good at being still. So when God told me to be still for the week instead of looking for jobs and trying to figure out what I am doing next, it made me crazy. As I was reading in Matthew the other day, he gave me this:
After Jesus fed the 5000, he went away to a place to pray and be alone. He sent his disciples ahead of him and it was during that time that a fierce storm arose to toss them about the sea like a toy boat. He went to them… walking on the water. What did Peter do? In his hast to know that it was Jesus, he asked for the impossible. “Tell me to come to you on the water.” He received the answer that was the one he wanted and dreaded at the same time, “Come.” So he went, stepped out to do the unimaginable and in doing so was faced with his biggest weakness, his own fear. He barely had a chance to get out, “Save me!” than Jesus was there holding on to him, putting him back in the boat.
I felt like emotionally, I was having the same battle. But instead of waves, they were people. And I, like Peter must stand in the midst of them rushing all around me. There was an inward struggle of wanting to just run with them, but a gentle voice that whispered, “Be still.” I felt them around me, nudging, pushing, shoving… all moving forward and me standing still. Finally, I would throw my hands up in complete frustration and scream out to Jesus, “Save me! I can’t do this alone!” My eyes were opened as I looked down to see his arms wrapped around me. I saw his bruised and broken body covering mine. When I felt a small nudge, Jesus was actually taking a deep blow in my place. I thought I was getting pushed around, but really he was taking the painful beating. Through the noise and chaos, I heard his gentle voice whispered in my ear as his arms were covering my fragile self, “I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake you, nor relax my grip on you, assuredly not.”
My word from Jesus through all of this: Enjoy this time of calm, because pretty soon I’m going to call you to jump into the sea.
I think that time has come… it’s good to know I’m not alone.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

To commune with the lover of my soul...

How often do you do it? Once a week, once a month, the first Sunday of every 3rd month? It might just be something you take for granted... thinking its nothing too important or meaningful. In the past 2 years, I've only had the opportunity to take it three times. So as I heard the call to Communion on Sunday morning, I could not slow my rapidly beating heart.
As I thought about the words spoken, "Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me..." my Lord drew me to communion with him; not just on Sunday morning but every time my body is sustained by a piece of bread or my thirst quenched by a drink of water. This is what my Father is doing for me each time I commune with him. I am allowing His broken body to keep my earthly broken body moving forward until the day He calls me home. I am letting His blood quench my thirsty and dry soul.
This Sunday, unlike any before, as I chewed slowly on a small piece of bread, I asked the Lord to be the One who sustains my life every moment of every day. As tears mixed with the juice from this small cup, I asked that He would refresh me and give me a deeper thirst for him.
Jesus, thank you for drawing us to commune with you. Thank you for not leaving us alone and in our own filth. Thank you for your cleansing power and making a way for us to be with you. Thank you for WANTING to commune with ME, O Lover of my soul!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Peace in the face of death...

In the past two days I have been overwhelmed at the prospect of death and the peace that ONLY Jesus brings.
George rode 83 miles on his bike less than a year ago on his 83 birthday. Today, he has a hard time keeping track of time due to a brain tumor that has ravaged his body. Yesterday, George described to me what it was like to have a helmet on your head as radiation pumped mercilessly in. "I laid there asking Jesus, who can I bless? Who do you need me to forgive? What do you want me to do?" Tears sprung to both our eyes as he shared, with joy on his face the testimony he has been to the doctors and nurses that have treated him. "Everyone deserves to hear a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." In the face of death, George smiles... neither afraid to die nor anxious of the life he lived.
Ann-Brit, his beloved wife is a testimony to me of a woman who will serve her husband at any and all costs. "Through all these years we have so enjoyed a closeness that has come with both having the same passion for the Lord and people and love of life .... I had a wish list of what I wanted my husband to be like .... George has so exceeded that list." After 24 years of marriage, the love between them is so apparent. George leaned in real close to give me the secret to marital bliss... "Now here's what you gotta do. When you wake up in the morning and his hair is all messy and his eyes are half open, you gotta say, 'WOW! I am so lucky to have a husband like you! Today is sure to be a great day!"
This is the life they lived, in love, laughter and the Lord. As they talk about George's illness and the possibilities of things to come, you see a peace come over them. There is no sense of anxiety or nervousness, only the peace that passes all understanding and the joy that one day they will spend eternity together, as best friends in the arms of the Father.
Today, my parents' friend shared with us the loss of his 7 and a half month old unborn son. I was surprised at the calm way he described laying the small coffin in the ground. "I knew that this was just a body in a box. I knew that he was with the Lord. So I told the Lord, I want you to be glorified!" As he stood over this small hole, he bowed his head to pray with his wife's family who are not believers. He grinned widely as he said, "The Spirit of the Lord came over me. I don't even remember half the things I said... but Scripture has never poured out of me like that!" As he finished, a peace came over him and it was known by all those watching. His brother-in-law commented that he had never seen anyone pray like that before.
Peace that passes ALL understanding... Oh death, where is thy sting??

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rantings of a jetlagged lunatic at 4 in the morning...


Well, jet lag is about to kill me. I guess it's my own fault since I took a 3 hour nap yesterday. Oops. I decided that this was the best time to start telling stories about what God did in Asia. For those of you who didn't know, I have been in Asia for the past 2 and a half weeks and during that time, Jesus began to heal me.
For the first week, Allison, my parents and myself taught a group of pastors, singles and widows. If I'm going to be honest, I was not really looking forward to this trip. I had been traveling, living out of a suitcase and generally being out of place for the past several months and adding one more trip, with more living out of suitcases and jet lag didn't sound good. I had planned the trip 6 months ago, so it was a little late to back out now. But can I tell you that Jesus just knows. His timing is not delayed nor is it out of place. It comes at just the right time, when you need it the most. During that time, I saw 4 singles ladies, ranging from age 19 to 51, open up their hearts and share their struggles.
Dorcus, 19 years old, was by far the shyest, and getting her to talk was like force feeding a 2 year old. But we just keep encouraging her, asking her questions and loving on her. When the time came for her to share the things she was struggling with in ministry, it was as if the floodgates had been opened. "I'm only 19 years old, I have no experience, most people don't want to listen to me. I feel discouraged. How do I get people to respect me? My parents are both sick, how can I provide for them? My father isn't a believer, how can I help?" As I heard her pour out her heart, my heart broke for her. How do I even begin to answer these questions? Anything I said, any explanation I gave seemed inadequate. But she didn't need my words, she needed to be heard... to know that Jesus had no forgotten her, that her cries had not fallen on deaf ears. So that's what we did, we encouraged her with the truth and listened to hear heart's cry.
Dorcus is just one or many women that are living in a difficult situation; wondering how to get respect, how to provide for their needs and those around them, how to truly teach the youth of today, and a cascade of other problems and questions. These women inspired me. They reminded me that its not about me, my problems or my issues, but its about Jesus and what he can do with nothing.
I don't know how to explain to you what happened next, but the Lord did something in me. I haven't been able to sit in one place or call anything "mine," so I haven't really been dealing very well with reverse culture shock. I've been crabby, angry, sad, miserable, you name it... but through this trip, the Lord revealed to me my immense inadequacy, and his continual adequacy in every and any situation.
He has flooded my heart with his truth and has begun to heal my heart from the loss that I felt leaving Ecuador. Even at 4 in the morning, I want to scream at the top of my lungs, "Your GRACE is enough for me!"

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'm afraid... Jesus, do you care?

New experiences always come with new fears for me. Before I left for Loja, I wrote out my top three biggest fears. Here they are:
1. What if I can't learn the language? What if I can never communicate my heart with the people I am there to minister to?
2. I am going to miss my family and friends so much. What if I feel completely alone every day I am there?
3. (Here's the dumb girl fear) By the time I get back from Loja, I will be almost 28 years old with absolutely NO possibility of boyfriend, let alone marriage. What if I have to do this alone for the rest of my life?

After I wrote these, the Lord spoke to me and said: I am all you need.

Now, two years later, I want to share with you how he answered each one of these fears.
1. I'm not going to lie and say that the language learning was easy. It wasn't. One day I would feel completely sufficient in my Spanish and the next day I felt like I couldn't even say my own name. But you know what? God had me start a Bible study in Spanish two months after I got there. Every week when I walked through those doors to meet with those three girls, it was as if the Lord turned a switch and my Spanish was more than sufficient to do what he had called me to. We would study His Word and I would understand and be able to respond to about 80% of what was said. The interesting thing is that He didn't make my Spanish wonderful and easy all the time... most days I would have to rely on him completely for every word that came out of my mouth, but when I was doing Bible study or sharing the gospel, it was there... so that I could share my heart.
2. At the beginning, I shared Jesus with the people of Loja because they were my "ministry." But over the months, they became so much more. I shared Jesus with them because they were such dear friends that I cannot imagine spending eternity without them. I spoke the truth of the Word with them because I loved them, not out of obligation. I can try and communicate the depth of love I have for my friends there, but mere words will never do it justice.
What does family mean to you? To me they are the people who love me no matter what, who take care of me, who will fight for me and I for them. By this definition, my family lives just as much in Loja as they do in the States.
3. This is one that I thought was too far beyond the power of the Almighty... if that's possible. But Jesus did the impossible and brought my friend of 7 years to Loja to minister along side of me. This man encouraged me, listened to me, supported me and was my best friend for the past year. Who would have guessed that the man I want to spend the rest of my life with was walking beside me for so long?

The same God who said, "I am the bread of life. I am the good shepherd. I am the way, the truth and the life," also said to me, "I am all you need." I didn't know how He was going to answer the scariest questions for me, but he did. One by one, He took care of them. One by one, He calmed my fears and said, "I am... and that should be enough."
Now my new adventure is so open it's scary. I am going back to Dallas and asking, now what?? But even in this the Lord is saying, "Give me your fears. I will answer them one by one. Fear not, for I am with you."