Day 6: En Gedi, Masada, & Dead Sea

Today was a blast! We did so many fun things and went to so many cool places! We started our day in En Gedi where David hid from Saul (1 Samuel 24), and then went to Masada, a fortress palace built by Herod. The history of this place is really cool. Today we talked about family & marriage and how they exist to put the Gospel on display. This was really sweet for me because I’ve been learning so much about that recently, and I’ve seen evidence of redemption in my heart & life is those areas (not marriage because obviously I’m not married.. haha. but just the thought of one day being married & my attitude, perspective, & expectations towards it..) So being here, in Israel, talking about how Jesus wants to use our families to reach the nations was really awesome. I can’t wait for that day when I get to have the opportunity to do that with my own family.

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Here in the once fortress of Masada, we also talked about how the Lord is our fortress, rock, and cornerstone.

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Yep, we took one of these cool things again.. so fun! IMG_8743

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Next, we got to do some more hiking! My favorite! We hiked up to this beautiful waterfall! Here, we studied Numbers 15:37-41, Ruth 3:9, Psalm 17:8, & Luke 8:41. We talked about how kingdom people trust a sovereign God, endure suffering, can stand alone, and model submission. Where Jesus is the example of submission to authority, Satan is the example of subversion to authority (what got him thrown out of heaven). When we are submitting to authority, we are modeling submission to God. (Ouch.)

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FINALLY, we went to the DEAD SEA! SO. MUCH. FUN! Because it is 30% salt, you are able to float in it! I didn’t exactly know how this would work, but let me just tell you, it was awesome! The water & mud have a ton of minerals that are really good for your skin.. better than any lotion you can buy in America! My skin has never felt so good! (Obviously we had to take a million pictures.. sorry I’m annoying)

Look how gorgeous it is!!

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Look at how gorgeous that view is.. Also I love this sweet family! IMG_8822

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And because I’m actually a 7 year old, I had to bring my paper out there for a typical Dead Sea picture.. enjoying a nice read while floating.. Hehe 🙂 I was really excited to say the least

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Before the mud..

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After the mud.. (RIP my new bathing suit 😥 )

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After such a fun day, we headed to Jerusalem, & on the way, I got to ride another camel!! This was the best day ever.

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Once we got to Jerusalem, we went to see a gorgeous view of the Golden Dome (Dome of the Rock)/ where the Temple Mount is. This is where Abraham brought his son Isaac to be sacrificed until God told him that he didn’t have to (Genesis 22:1-19). Here we discussed how kingdom people and our worldview. We learned that kingdom people have a worldview rooted in faith, defined my action, built on the eternal, and anchored in the promises of God.

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(excuse my Dead Sea hair)

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The Lord is using this place to give me a better understanding and deeper love for the Old Testament, and I’m loving every minute of it.

Today we prayed specifically for Israel; please join us!

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Day 5: Beit She’an, Jericho, Mt. of Temptation, & Bethany

Yay! It’s my birthday! Such a cool place to spend it..

We got to visit an old Roman city of Beit She’an, and learned how to engage culture. Again, we discussed how Jesus & Paul did not fear culture. Paul came to this place and didn’t see the prostitution, sexual sin, and child sacrifice. He went into cities (including this one), preached the Gospel, discipled believers, planted churches, and transformed culture. He didn’t see barriers (these people will never repent and trust in & follow Jesus), but He saw Gospel opportunities (wow, look at all the people who need Jesus! And I can tell them!!). We should do the same!!

(Saul & Jonathan were decapitated here and hung on these walls.)

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I may or may not have sang Frozen’s “Let it Go” with a 6 & 7 year old on this stage..

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We went to Harod Spring/ Gideon’s Spring, the place where the story about Gideon took place.. It was here that Gideon chose his best soldiers to fight the Midianites, according to the way they drank from the stream.

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Then on to Jericho! We visited the desert for a little while. Absolutely gorgeous.

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I got a little birthday Popsicle 🙂

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At the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized and the waters were parted. Here we talked about baptism and how it is a picture of grace: the freedom we have in Christ, and a picture of being united with Christ (His own death & resurrection). (Romans 6 & Gal. 2:20)

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While in Jericho, we got to ride this cool go kart in the sky.. I think it’s called a cable car, but whatever.. It gave a beautiful view of Jericho! We took it up to the Mt. of Temptation (where Jesus was tempted). We went into a couple shops here, and I talked with some of the guys who worked there. My heart was sad for them because they told me they have never/ can never leave Jericho. They told me to be thankful that I live in America because “freedom is beautiful.” I will never forget my conversation with them.

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Here we read Matthew 4:1-11 and talked about how even struggling is missional. This helped change how I look at struggling and helped me realize that it is to do a work in me to shape me to bring God more glory. Our usual reactions to struggling or hardships are, “how can I get out of this? When will this be over? Why me? angry at God, etc..” But instead, we should thank God for it, and ask Him what He is trying to show us, and ask Him how He is using this struggle to prepare us for something else.

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The Lord revealed a lot of selfishness and pride in my heart today. The phrase “it’s not about you” was brought to mind often today.. Not today, not yesterday, not tomorrow.. It’s all about Jesus, all of the time. Man, I need that reminder often.

Today we prayed specifically for Egypt; please join us!

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Day 4: Tel Dan, Caesarea Phillipi, Mt. Bental, & Korazim

We went to 5 big locations today, but I only have time to hit on some highlights.. I am really trying to record what I am doing here because I don’t want to forget anything. We are learning so much and doing so much that I’m already forgetting what I learned 2 days ago, and it’s all running together already.. It’s really helpful for me when I come back to my room at night to reflect and pray through my day & all that I learned and saw. But since we get up at 7am, are on the move all day, and don’t get back until 6:30pm-ish, I’ve been so exhausted to write anything most nights.. But I’m trying..

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Today was really fun (obviously)! We visited Dan, a city along the Jordan River, which is mentioned multiple times in the bible. Solomon had a fortified city here. Today was my favorite day so far as far as the teaching goes! My favorite talk so far was here in which we discussed idols. We read Exodus 20:1-6 and 1 Kings 12:25-33 and talked about how people who lived here worshiped golden calves.

There are 3 different categories of idols: the idol of approval (I seek from someone/ something, other than God approval & acceptance); the idol of pleasure (I seek from someone/ something, other than God, happiness as the desires of my flesh are approved; & the idol of comfort (I seek from someone/ something, other than God, a sense of security as I try to control the world around me to avoid trouble and pain).

Ouch. These hit me hard. I can easily see how everything I struggle not to put before God falls into these 3 categories.. I especially struggle with the idols of approval and comfort.

But thankfully there is a solution to idols, and that solution is the Gospel of Jesus.

It addresses the idol of approval because God is gracious, so I don’t have to prove myself. In Jesus, I am identified, approved, accepted, validated, adopted, forgiven, and redeemed.

The Gospel addresses the idol of pleasure because God is good, so I don’t have to look elsewhere for comfort, peace, or joy. He is all things to me.

The Gospel addresses the idol of comfort because God is great & sovereign, so I don’t have to be in control.

I’m SO unbelievably thankful that the Gospel continues to address and redeem areas in our life as believers. It was interesting to read about idol worship in the old testament and realize that we are not removed from idol worship today.

We all choose the things we love the most and the more we choose them, the more we love them. So I want to choose to love God. Day after day, even when no one is watching.

I found a new friend today.. I wanted to take him with me 😦
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When kids get the camera this happens.. Cute angle girls..

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Another one of my favorite stops today was Caesarea Phillipi. This is the place that Jesus took his disciples to and asked them the question, “Who do you say that I am?” This is also the place that Jesus told them that if they wanted to follow Him, they had to “take up your cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16)

I learned a TON here, specifically about the context of this story and this place that really helped me understand this passage and the Gospel better. No Jew would come to this place during the Old Testament time period.. It was a place of pagan worship. This is the place where people worshiped the god, Pan. It was a very dark, underworld, wicca-like religion. Why would Jesus drag His disciples here just to ask this question, say a few things, and come back down? He tells Peter here that he would be the rock on which He built His church. We discussed how Jesus is the foundation & cornerstone. Jesus says “on THIS rock”- where it’s tough, where no one wants to go.. That’s where His kingdom will come. Places like Caesarea Phillipi didn’t intimidate Jesus, and I am so thankful for that. I’m grateful that Jesus was willing to go to places and talk with people who everyone else was afraid of or didn’t like.. This place doesn’t even compare to the idolatry in my own heart. I’ve seen Jesus bring down strongholds in my own life, so I’m confident He can do the same for others who are far from Him all throughout the nations. (I thought about India often here.)

This is in Caesarea Phillipi, and it was known as the Gates of Hell.
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It rained a little today, so that explains our cute ponchos.. We got to visit Damascus, the place where Paul was converted, and we talked about that story. I’m grateful for Paul’s life & example, and I’m even more grateful today for the transforming power of the Gospel!

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We went to the hill by the Sea of Galilee where Jesus cast the demons into the pigs and they ran down the hill and fell into the Sea. We read Luke 8:26-39. We have been commissioned for a mission to manifest the kingdom of God here on Earth.

This afternoon we got to visit an Olive Oil shop! (I don’t even know what it was called..) It was so cool though! Olive oil has a ton of minerals in it that is really good for your body, skin, and hair. A family owns this place, and we got to talk with the husband/ dad/ owner of it briefly. He asked us if we were enjoying Israel, and after we told him “yes, of course” he said something I’ll never forget: “Good, good.. we love you all and America as well. We are glad that you love Israel because we love to have you here. We want you to know that when we get up, we want to eat and drink and see our friends and family just like you, not kill someone like everyone thinks.” Wow. So saddened by the perception Americans (and other nations) have on areas of the world other than that which they come from just because of media, rumors, LIES, exaggerations, etc.. The world is beautiful, people. Absolutely beautiful. Don’t be scared. There are beautiful people all over, in every place. If you’re not going to go somewhere overseas because of things you’ve heard and violence, then don’t go to Memphis, TN either..

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This was totally all over the place, but I don’t even care..

Today we prayed specifically for Syria; please join us!

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Day 3: Mt. Arbel, Sea of Galilee, Mt. of Beatitudes, Tabga, & Capernaum

Today was literally one of the best days of my life! I’m not kidding. Our morning started off with a 2-3ish hour hike/climb up and down a mountain (Mt. Arbel) in Galilee (where Jesus called His first disciples and where He restored Peter). It was literally one of the coolest and most fun things I’ve ever done. I will definitely be taking up rock climbing more seriously when I get back home. I loved every minute of it, and it was absolutely beautiful.

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and obviously we had to stop and go into every other cave we saw.. IMG_1695

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this is probably what Jesus’ crown of thorns was made from.. IMG_8189

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Then on to the Sea of Galilee.. Crazy that Jesus walked on this water! I tried, but it didn’t work.. IMG_8196

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Then we went to Caparnaem, the home of Jesus after Nazareth.

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While walking back from Caparnaem, I ran into a friend I know from Memphis! How insane! We were both freaking out.. IMG_1690

Once again, I don’t eat food in this country.. Or at least it’s really hard for me to.. Sooo when we went to this DELICIOUS restaurant and there was grilled chicken, I (and my tummy) was ecstatic! And while we ate outside in the flawless weather, we enjoyed a nice view of the Sea of Galilee.. No big deal.. IMG_8238

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Next we went to the Mt. of Beatitudes where Jesus gave gave the Sermon on the Mount. IMG_8253

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Lastly(yes this was all in one day), we enjoyed a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus & Peter walked on water. IMG_8260

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Got to love those awkward tourists pics.. IMG_1672

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Today was seriously perfect in every way. That night, we went to McDonalds.. I know, typical Americans.. I don’t eat it in America, but my tummy is so hungry here.. Haha. While there, I got to have a wonderful conversation with the wife of the leader of the trip, and it was just great. I’m so grateful for today & all the awesomeness it entailed.

Today we prayed specifically for Lebanon; please join us!

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Day 2: Caesarea, Meggido (Armageddon), Mt. Carmel, & Nazareth

Our first stop today was Caesarea. We talked about Paul’s story in Acts 26. We talked about how every Christian is/ should be an outpost of the Kingdom of God. Often we think that our salvation is just for us and is all about our walk with the Lord and how we can grow, etc.. but it’s actually the opposite! God’s plan is from one man to bring the Gospel to the entire world! So know that your salvation is nothing about you, but everything about Jesus and He wants to use you to reach those around you!

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These are my little buddies for the week 🙂IMG_1625

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Absolutely gorgeous view of the Mediterranean Sea from here! Pictures just don’t do it justice. IMG_7782

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Next we went to Meggido (Armageddon) where we discussed Solomon & the importance of not placing our trust in our stuff, our strength, or our self, but instead in Christ.

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On to Mt. Carmel where we read over 1 Kings 18 which is the story of Elijah when he asked the Lord to bring down fire to prove that he is the one true God.

Lastly, we visited Nazareth, the place where Jesus grew up. This was the most beautiful view we have seen so far.

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The Ross family has been absolutely amazing to me already, and I am so very grateful for them! IMG_7963

 

Today we prayed specifically for Palestine; please join us!

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Day 1: Joffa & Antripatris (Old Testiment Aphek)

Our themes for this trip (what we will be learning about) is what is/ how to be a “kingdom person” which can be defined as someone who embodies the character of Christ, intentionally lives out the mission of Christ, through the Spirit of Christ for the glory of Christ manifesting His kingdom here on earth, and our other theme is God’s mission which is to bring redemption to His people through His son Jesus.

In the airports on our way to Tel Aviv, we talked a lot about the purpose and goal of this trip. Our team leader, George, reminded us that is is not to just gain a lot of head knowledge.. but we want to leave here changed. And that truly is my desire. Just because we are in Israel, God’s not trying to say anything new. His Word is His Word. We talked about the purpose of our life and asked ourselves this question: How is my life a testimony of the change that only the Lord Jesus can bring about? If we are in Christ, our life is an opportunity to manifest God’s glory here on earth because of the reigning power of Jesus in our own life.

We arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel around 9am so we began our tour right then. Exhausted is an understatement, but I’m glad we are getting the most out of our trip!! Day 1 was a great day of meeting and getting to know everyone on the team. We visited the city of Antripatris where the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4:1-11). And Paul made a stop there while being escorted by Roman troops going from Jerusalem to Caesarea. (Acts 23:31-32).

IMG_7682^reading about the Philistines capturing the Ark of the Covenant WHERE the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant.. So crazy..

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Next, we went to Joffa. We got to walk around the city and visit the house of Simon the Tanner. Here we compared Peter & Jonah and got to see a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea! While talking about the story of Jonah and how he didn’t want to go from here to Nineveh, our leader asked us where was our “Nineveh?” Where is the place that you don’t want to go tell Jesus to, the people you think will reject it, the people you don’t like, the people you don’t think deserve the Gospel, or the people you are scared to bring the Gospel to, etc..? Immediately India came to mind for me.. This was convicting, but exciting because just like Jonah, the Lord still wants to use me (and you!) to bring the Gospel to the nations.

The greatest thing I realized today was that the mission of the Gospel breaks down barriers. It broke the barrier of Jews and Gentiles, it broke/ breaks our sin barrier, it broke the barrier of Jonah and the Ninevites, etc.. That’s good stuff!

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India to Israel

Since I have been back from India, I can honestly say my life is different. From my perspective on the world and the way I deal with life & people (and myself).. it all looks completely different. I’m not saying that the day I got back from India I was a completely different person than when I got there. But there hasn’t been a single day since I’ve been back from India (7 months ago) that I haven’t reflected over my time there this summer, and the Lord has used this time to change me.

I want to write about life since I’ve been back from India because I want to remember this time and what the Lord taught/ is teaching me through it.. and hopefully encourage someone else. So I apologize for this really long “hey I’m going to Israel” post that isn’t even about Israel at all until the end.. (you can skip down to that if you’d like 🙂 ) This is going to be long and all over the place, so I apologize in advance.. 

Sooo, even if I didn’t realize it, I had a lot of expectations about India and my experience there before I left.. but of course it wasn’t anything like I could have expected (shocking). Unmet expectations lead to resentment, and as weird as it sounds, that is completely true in this case. If I’m being real, most of last semester, until Christmas break, was spent mad at my time in India, with bitterness towards the country as a whole, and also angry at God and doubting who He was. And not a single soul knew it. I spent 4ish months doubting my faith and didn’t talk to anyone about it because I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and guilty. And I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t spend hardly any time with the Lord at all. Now, a lot of this has to do with my time in India, but a lot of it also has to do with just growing up.. and some from classes I’ve taken since I’ve been in school (as silly as that sounds), religion courses and a ton of sociology courses that have told me that culture shapes every part of you.

When I got back from India, I started to really think about that. “I’m just a “Christian” because I live in America. But if I lived in India, I would be a Hindu.” Some other thoughts were, “Every religion has the same basic characteristics, so who am I to say that I’m right?” This was especially hard because I lived among Hindus for over 2 months, so I not only heard or learned about another religion, but I walked among them, saw them going to temples multiple times a day, praying fervently to their gods, talked with them in depth about the Gospel etc.. day after day after day. It was draining. So it kind of became the question of “how do I know what I believe is truth” kind of thing. And I didn’t read the Bible because the whole time I would be I was thinking, “I don’t even know if I believe in this so why am I reading it?” So when I read the Bible it reminded me of my doubt, so the easiest thing to do was just to not read it at all.. 

I really struggled with this. I didn’t realize how much until I finally went over to the house of a wonderful family and talked with them about it. These people have become dear friends of mine because of our time together (talking about India) recently, and they are actually preparing to possibly move there soon! I avoided going to their home all semester because I knew we would talk about it. But on Christmas break, I finally went to visit them, and a remark about India was made… One look from the wife/mother at me, and I was in tears. Not cute, sweet tears. I mean the ugly cry, y’all. It was bad and embarrassing, but now we make jokes about it, so it’s cool. ANYWAYS, I finally vocalized what was going on with me, and a lake of water (my tears), a box of tissues, and 5 worried/ concerned kids later, my heart and head were so relieved. Through our talk, I gained some wisdom and acountability and community. After that (long) talk, I began to actually think about and work through these things instead of ignoring them. I began to realize some things about myself that I’ve never paid close attention to. For one, how logical I am. I want everything to have a reason and an x-y-z answer to it. I just want things to make sense, and I want to be able to figure it out. Secondly, I analyze everything. EV-ER-Y-THING (it’s the trait I most despise about myself). (Both of these are issues of needing control. I know.. The Lord and I.. we’re working on it..) So I really struggled with thoughts like, “I ‘feel’ like the Gospel is true and that I have been walking with Jesus and my encounters with him are real, but how do I know it’s not some psychological mechanism I have come up with myself to fill the need to feel loved and have purpose??! How do I know that’s not the reason the whole world does this, and it just looks different because of our different cultures?” The only thing holding me together a little bit was that I knew my life had been changed. I knew that my desires were different. I knew that specific areas of my life that once seemed hopeless and destroyed had been redeemed.. Something in me kept saying that it couldn’t just be coincidence, and none of that heart change and mind renewal could have come from myself.. (Because I know myself and how broken some areas of my past were.) So again, I struggled with a million different thoughts, but at the same time, I really didn’t struggle because I didn’t let myself think about it at all. I completely avoided it at all cost.. I’m not sure why. Scared of what I would come up with if I did think about it or scared of the frustration that I would feel when I couldn’t come up with anything.. I’ve been warned about all of these things, and even talked other people through it, but I’ve never struggled with it myself until a few months ago. And for me, that was extremely frustrating. But over the past couple months, the Lord has been teaching me about faith. Something this “church girl” has heard (and taught) about for years and years.

I began reading that I am “saved by grace through FAITH” differently. It’s faith. That’s it. There is no tangible “Because of ____ proof, we know that this is true,” etc.. And the Lord has given me that faith!! So long story short, I decided to trust the bible as truth. I’m choosing (not really because God has sovereignly already chosen me- and chosen for me- it’s only from Him that I have faith.. but that’s a whole other novel) to believe the bible is God’s Word, and it alone is truth. I’m not always going to “feel” saved or “feel” like God is with me, but my emotions and feelings are so wavering, inconsistent, unstable, and not dependable at all. “Facts trump feelings” has become my motto the past few months. And I trust the bible as fact. So whenever I start to think something contrary to God’s Word, my thoughts are what is false, and God’s Word remains truth. Always.

Just like with loving anybody, it doesn’t come naturally (at least it won’t forever..) to love God because we’re sinful and selfish people. I have to choose to actively love God, even when I don’t “feel” like it. 

The Lord has really been teaching me a lot and increased my faith dramatically over the past couple months, but I know that there will be other times in life, whether thats a few months from now or 10 years from now, that I will doubt if God really is who He says He is again. And when (not if) that time comes, I will choose, by God’s grace, to love the Lord, remain faithful to Him, and trust His Word as unwavering truth. Again, it’s really not me choosing anything.. God decided this for me a long time ago, and I am so thankful for that. The reality is, even if I was born in India and regardless of who my family was or what culture I was surrounded by, the Lord would have still saved me because “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He predestined us (me) for adoption as sons (daughters) through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:4-5). My God is not limited by culture or anything else. He is completely sovereign over all creation, and according to His Word, He has chosen me to be his daughter, and He would have made that happen regardless of anything in or around me.

So as the Lord is sanctifying me, other struggles have arisen like even though I know the Gospel is true, and I know that the Lord has saved me, what about the people in India (and other dark and extremely lost places around the world)? Now I’m starting to feel guilty almost that the Lord has saved me (in a place where it seems easy to), but all my friends and other people I shared the Gospel with in India will never know and follow Jesus.. and a lot of it has to do with where they live. But again, I have to remind myself that, just like with me, the Lord is not limited by our location or anything else around us. And remember that, before the Lord saved me, I was just as lost as my friends in India. I also have to trust that our God is one “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The Lord wants every single person know Him a whole lot more than I, or anyone else, does. So why do I not trust that He will go to all lengths to make that happen? I have to know that just like in my life, the Lord is completely sovereign and in complete control of the country of India as a whole and also in each of the hearts of ever single person there.. and that’s exciting stuff! What a HUGE yet PERSONAL God we serve!!

I have been clinging to Acts 17:26-27 as I think about and pray for India and Nepal daily: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him though he is not far from any one of us.” (Still struggling a bit with this, so prayers would be appreciated).

So the Lord is continually changing my heart and attitude towards India and bringing to mind the wonderful times there instead of the ones that were draining and discouraging (and I’m trying to forget about the weeks I was sick there.. ew). The first few months after I got back, if/ when people asked me if I was going back, I would reply with a sweet, “Ummmmm, no I don’t think I would..” But inside I was thinking “HECK NO ABSOLUTELY NOT NEVER IN MY LIFE.” But now, the Lord (truly, it is all Him) is doing wonders inside me, and I am planning on going back in the near future 🙂 (just maybe not get sick this time). I love India, and I am extremely thankful for how the Lord used my experience there to deepen intimacy between He & I and how He used it to mold me and shape me to look more like His Son. I’m praying that God would allow me to see the world like He does.

I realize this is a lot, and I would be surprised if anyone actually got to this part of this long winded post that probably didn’t make any sense and doesn’t have any pretty pictures.. BUT if you did, I truly hope and prayed that this didn’t cause anyone any doubts of their own in who God is. (Please don’t stop now because this is the good stuff!!) My prayer is that it would encourage someone. I went months without talking to anyone about my unbelief because I felt ashamed and embarrassed because I have been a lot of places around the world as this “missionary,” and now I was doubting it.. I felt like something was literally wrong with me.. It’s exhausting pretending like you have it all together when on the inside everything is a train wreck because you’re doubting in the only One who gives you peace. So much pain and insecurity could have easily been avoided if I had just brought it to the Lord and then to the believers around me. I had created a standard for myself of this perfect Christian girl that I can’t even live up to. So if you’re reading this, and you can relate in any way, please know that it is normal, and I believe everyone has struggled with this.. even those who are seemingly unwavering in their pursuit of Jesus. Be encouraged that there is SO much grace and freedom in the Gospel. And run to Jesus. Don’t limit God.. He can handle your doubt/ unbelief/ insecurity/ whatever it is! Don’t ignore whatever thoughts are damping your walk with Christ because you are afraid of what will happen when you start to work through them.. Don’t think that He is ashamed of you, embarrassed by you, or that you are now somehow less of His child. Thankfully, God’s love for you isn’t based on your performance. It’s based on Christ’s performance, and His performance was flawless.

The incredible thing about the Gospel is that, since our salvation has absolutely nothing to do with us, who we are, or what we’ve done/do, we can’t “lose” it.. We are never saved by our performance, never sanctified by our performance, never finally delivered by our performance. It’s all done by grace.  When you sin or doubt God or whatever (which we all will daily, even after the Lord saves us), you’re slate before the Father is still that of perfection and righteousness and holiness. You know why? Because it has nothing to do with you! And that’s a GREAT thing! Because of what God made possible through Jesus, our record of sin and screw ups and regret is completely taken away and it is replaced with Jesus’ record! That’s INSANE! So you’re not perfect, you’re never going to be, but the Good News of the beautiful Gospel of Jesus is that you don’t have to be!! There’s so much freedom and grace!! So whatever it is.. Take it to Jesus. He really knows you. He understands you. Every part of you. And He still loves you an unimaginable amount. He desires to be in relationship with you. So stop feeling the pressure of having to have this perfect relationship with God and feeling like you’ve failed when that doesn’t seem to be the case. Ask him to increase your faith. But know that your hope is not found in the purity of your faith, but in the power of God’s amazing grace. It’s all about Him, and what He has already done. And talk with other believers about it(I would be MORE than happy to talk with you about it..preferably at Newks 🙂 ). ….Soooo basically, do the exact opposite of everything I did! All of these struggles I have been warned about, and all of the things I’m talking about I have heard so many times before, but there’s just something about “lightbulb” moments that certain experiences bring about, and it’s just wonderful. I’m thankful for these moments when Jesus gives a little more clarity to us 🙂 

The past 2 months have been the best. It’s been hard, but seriously I’ve seen Jesus in every moment. From seeing my sorority sisters decide to follow Jesus to seeing evidence of redemption in areas of my life I thought redemption was impossible and would never come.. And the intimacy I’m experiencing with Jesus is unlike any other time in my life.. It’s been so sweet. My expectations for my trips are always wrong. And by wrong, I mean I actually experience the exact opposite of what I assume I will. But it’s so good. It reminds me that I’m not in control, that I never will be, and honestly, that I never want to be. My Father knows far more and far better than I do. Even if it’s not until months or years that He shows me the “what”s and “why”s, it’s always perfect. And it’s always so He gets every single bit of glory from my experiences/trips/ life.. and what else do I want? Absolutely nothing. So I am loving this season of life (something I would not have said 3-4months ago). Not to say life is perfect right now by any means because that is definitely not the case.. But I am walking closely with Jesus, and that’s all I need and want. Through my experiences last summer (in all 3 countries), I learned and saw just a little bit more of what it really means/ looks like to really follow Jesus.. Truth makes us responsible. & Now that I know truth.. there’s no going back. I’m learning that my life and the goal of my life is not about making myself happy (shocking, I know..), but it’s about bringing God glory.. So in the midst of struggling, instead of trying to get out of the situation or fixing it so the struggle isn’t there anymore & I’m happy, I’m learning to embrace the struggle, depend on Jesus, and desire that He gets the honor and glory regardless. My happiness is just a by-product of walking closely with Jesus & resting in Him. & He’s so worth it. Christians, we don’t read our bible, spend time in prayer, go to church, etc to become this better person/christian, or even to make/prepare ourselves to be an awesome wife or husband to someone one day, or anything like that.. that’s not the goal. The goal is Christ Himself. To know Him better. He’s the goal. He’s the reward. And it’s totally worth it. I’m grateful for my time in India and for how the Lord used my time there to teach me so much about myself, Himself, and the people around me, that I might not have learned otherwise. I’m really grateful for the times of refining and sharpening even when it’s hard.. I’m so grateful for how He chooses to mold me to look more like His Son.

OKAY, so ISRAEL!!! I’m going in less than 10 days!! I’m really excited for this one. It’ll be different from any other trip I’ve taken for several reasons. First of all, I’m actually going with a group of people instead of by myself this time (I know, I’m weird). So that’s exciting!! I don’t know any one else going.. but I’ll make new friends, and that’s so fun!! Also, this is the shortest trip I’ve ever taken (12 days) (besides Honduras).. I always go places for months, so it will be weird feeling like I’m leaving right after I get there.. I don’t know how I feel about that because I won’t get to be submersed in the culture and get to build relationships with people there 😦 Also, it’s a tour of Israel, so there won’t be much evangelism or public “ministry” per se. (anyone who knows me knows how I feel about tourists/ the whole idea of “touring,” so I might just go a little crazy..) But we’ll get to walk where Jesus walked, learn where Jesus taught, pray where Jesus prayed, take the Lord’s Super where He did.. like oh my gosh, HOW AMAZING! I’m so pumped. Oh, and we’ll get to float in the Dead Sea on my birthday, so how awesome is that? I’m so excited. Can you tell? I don’t know how I’ll update/ document this trip, but we’ll see..

If you would like to know how you can pray for me/us as we go, first of all, pray that God would get glory in every part of the trip. Pray that we would meet people/ houses of peace and someone would decide to follow Jesus! Even though this isn’t exactly a “mission trip,” that should always be our aim and mission, even in Memphis, TN. So pray that we would somehow be able to engage the locals and that our conversations with them would be intentional and that people would hear the Gospel & decide to follow Jesus! Pray that the Lord would continue to increase my faith. It’s seriously creepy how perfect the timing of this trip is.. I know He has been preparing my heart before I even knew I was going, so pray that he would continue to. (A few months ago, I was planning on going somewhere else for the summer again, but randomly-as all my trips seem to come about- this trip was made available for me to go, so I decided to do this and stay home for the summer.. it’s weird how often my plans don’t happen.. haha). Pray that intimacy between the Father and I would deepen. For those praying, I truly appreciate you and your prayers so much. They mean so so much to me! Thank you!