Tag Archives: Grace

Day 10: {Jerusalem} Bethlehem, Israel Museum, & Garden Tomb

Today started off with a couple short stops, then to the Israel Museum.IMG_9301

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Original Dead Sea Scrolls!! (They were found by a young shepherd boy in the 1940s I think.. just less than 5 miles from where we stayed one night.) These provide proof of the Old Testament.. even though God’s Word needs nothing to validate itself, it’s still pretty awesome. 

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So crazy! I ran into someone else I know! I met & have only seen this friend in Nepal, and saw him here in Jerusalem! How weird! We’ve yet to see each other in America..

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On to Bethlehem, birth place of Jesus.. (This will definitely give me a different picture when I sing all of those Christmas songs about the birth of Jesus in this place.)

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Waiting in line for an hour & a half to enter the cave at the exact location where Jesus was born.. IMG_9319

The original stone floor of the (now) Church of Nativity, the oldest church in the world still being used today. This church is owned by 3 different religions, Roman Catholics, Greeks, and Armenians. All 3 have services here throughout the day, every day.

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Well, there it is..
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Okay people, this is worth documenting! My first Israel meal that was actually Mediterranean food! It’s called chicken shawarma. Okay, so I got it completely plain with just chicken in bread, but it’s a start, right??

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and some kind of dessert that I kind of, sorta liked.. (don’t judge my ugly finger nails, I’m in Israel, ok)

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We made a quick stop to the Shepherds Field where we talked about the incarnation of Jesus. We read Luke 2:1-21 and Philippians 2:5-11. A lot of times when we think of the birth of Jesus, we think of a barn or stable with hay & wood, but in actuality, all around Him was stone/ rocks.
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The incarnation, the way Christ took on humanity “in flesh,” is beautiful. The mission of the incarnation is to redeem a broken world, rescuing sinners. The manifestation of the incarnation is that we get to live the life of Jesus in the world, on mission with God! We are fleshing out Jesus’ model here on Earth. We are His hands and feet! How awesome! (2 Corinthians 5)

Next we went to the Garden Tomb. Some believe this is where Jesus’ tomb was, but that is most likely not the case. The church of the Holy Sepulcher is much more likely to be the location. The real purpose of this place is to give a mental picture, to show a model of what it would have looked like, with the tomb the way the tomb would have been. But again, just like I said in a previous post, the exact location of the tomb is pretty irrelevant. He’s not in it, He is RISEN! We don’t need proof.. His Word is enough.

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I’m really thankful that “the tomb” is empty, that Jesus is alive, and that He is coming back!! 🙂 I long for that day!!

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We took the Lord’s Super here. Such a sweet, sweet time reflecting on the cross and the Gospel. Being in Israel has been awesome, and I’m thankful that this isn’t just a place with a lot of history and made up stories, but that Jesus really is who He says He is, that He did what His Word said He did here, and that He’s going to do what He says He’s going to do. I’m beyond thankful for what God accomplished through Jesus is this place, and that in Him fulfillment for everything is found!

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Our last stop for the night was the IMB prayer house. Missionaries live & come here often for rest and encouragement. This is also where It Is Well’s writer’s family lived. We sang that song here. While we were there, a believer from the Czech Republic, a pastor at a church in Nigeria, and a missionary from Thailand came by. The pastor in Nigeria told us about how people are dying, getting their kids taken from them, kicked out of there communities, and losing their families where He is pastoring because they are deciding to trust in & follow Jesus. The Lord reminded me here how small I am, and how big He is! There are people following hard after Jesus all around the world, in places where following Jesus costs them everything (some, even their life)! Yet still, it is well.. because He’s worth it all.

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They have a huge prayer room with maps and encouraging signs and prayers filling the walls. It was good to stop, reflect, and pray here.

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Tomorrow is our last day, and I don’t even want to think about leaving 😦

Today we prayed specifically that we would be obedient to the Great Commission and Acts 1:8; please join us & pray that you too would be obedient to the command that is to every follower of Jesus!

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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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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!


Video from India & Nepal (Summer 2013)


Grace like rain

Just a little over a month ago I got back from India. [Apologies before you even start to read this because it may just be my longest post ever…. sorry.] I lived in Himachal Pradesh, the northern most state in India (aka the foothills of the Himalayas). It was a summer I will NEVER forget. Lots of memories made- good and bad. But overall, I absolutely loved my time there. It was a huge learning experience. Every time I go out of the country, I feel like I’m face to face with all my sin- all my selfishness, pride, self-righteousness, etc.. It’s a love/ hate relationship sometimes, but I am so thankful for how the Lord chooses to teach and mold me to look more like His Son.

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Once I got back to India from Nepal, I only had 2 days there before I flew home. This was very sad for me because the decision to come home early was not made until I was in the capital of India the week before we had to fly to Nepal. So my luggage, with most of my things, were still in HP- about 6-8 hours away from where we were. So once I got back to India from Nepal, there was no time to drive all the way back to our home to get my things, and definitely not any time to see and say goodbyes to any of the people I met 😦 I am still really sad and missing them, but I am hoping to be back and see them again! (Facebook helps too.)

Leaving was definitely bittersweet, but I was ready to be home in a sense because I just wanted to get to the doctor and get better (and who likes being away from home & familiarity when they are really sick?). Thankfully, the flights were smooth back to the U.S., and one of my best friends, Calley, picked me up from the airport! I was overjoyed. She took off work that day so she could hang out with me the entire day to make sure I would stay awake and hopefully get over jet-lag ASAP. We went to my favorite places, Newks and Jerry’s Sno Cones 🙂 and also to get pedicures. My sweet friend Bree met us for our 3 hour lunch. They are 2 of my favorite people, so it was SO good to catch up and talk with them about our summers. I didn’t get to see my family until that night when I got home, but I was so glad to be home. I was SO excited about seeing my baby brother after a whole summer without him!

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The best way I can think of to wrap up this trip is to answer the most frequently asked questions I have gotten since I’ve been home, but if you don’t care to know any of the answers to these questions, just skip to the bottom and read the good stuff- how awesome the Lord is. Plain and simple. None of this really matters.. it’s just to answer questions if you’re curious 🙂

How did I get to go to India? Who did I go through/ with?

-Since last summer, I have been planning on spending the summer of 2013 in Uganda, the same place & with the same people I did last Christmas. I was having some major withdrawals and really wanted to be back there. Like my trip to Uganda, I went by myself to India. I didn’t go with or through any church, organization, or group. I have some friends who have lived there for 4 years, and I have kept up with them since they’ve been there. Facebook stalking them went to an all time high last summer, and that was when I started really fervently & consistently praying for them. I’ve honestly have never really been super observant/passionate about this part of the world. I didn’t know too much about it before preparing to go. The thought of going to visit and serving along side them there in some way came last September/October- ish. I started communicating with them more about the possibility of going to India soon after that, and in late January, we talked over Skype and decided I would come for the summer!

How did a broke college kid like yourself afford it?

-By the grace of God, for real. I wrote about the financial struggle of getting there in a previous post, but sending out support letters are great. I probably won’t do that again since I’ve already done it twice, but I really do believe that is a great way for other people to partner with you in the spreading of the Gospel. Thankfully, I already had money for a plane ticket set aside since I knew I wanted to be somewhere overseas for the summer (I thought it would be to Uganda and/or Kenya at the time). The key really is to just plan ahead and save up. It’s possible. Want to go somewhere? Plan ahead! Set a realistic time frame before you go and budget well until then. (and raise support if you need/want to. The Lord has used the church to meet needs in my life in crazy ways.)

Why travel?

-Why not? Haha no, but really. This is one of my favorite questions. I love to travel because I just LOVE seeing/ learning new things. It’s not so much the places I go as it is the people I meet there. The world is so incredibly different and similar all at the same time, and it literally fascinates me.  I love experiencing different cultures and doing things I could/ would never do in my every day life in America- whether that’s bungee jumping over the Nile River in Africa, backpacking/ climbing the Himalayas, or hanging out in the slums deep in the jungle talking with people I would otherwise never have the opportunity to meet. And obviously, the #1 reason I love to go overseas is because I want to tell people near and far about Jesus. I really really try, though I fail every single day, to live my life exactly the same in Memphis, TN as I would/do overseas. The Gospel compels me to tell others about Jesus and make disciples. I am so unworthy. So unworthy. But the Lord has chosen to use me, and for that, I am humbled and grateful- and I want to go. I want to do exactly what the Great Commission commands all followers of Jesus to do, but that is whether I am in Olive Branch or across the world.

Why now?

-I am absolutely convinced that college is potentially the best time of your life. First of all, college campuses are a minefield for disciple making and rocking the whole world for Jesus. Second, there are not going to be many other times in life for me or most other people to travel completely free of responsibilities and other people relying on you. The independence you have during your college years can’t be beat by any other time in life. I am trying to spend my summers between my college years going to different countries because I know that even though I want to spend my life doing things like this, it will look much different in the future than what it looks like for me right now. Anything can happen. The Lord could completely close one door and open another that was completely off my radar, but in my opinion this is absolutely the most perfect time to do this. I am so so so beyond thankful to have had the opportunity that I did this summer, and I am expectant and available to go wherever He leads next.

Did I/ do I ever get scared when traveling/being in a foreign country?

-I don’t know why, but no, not really at all. Even in India, I never feared for my life or anything. Once I am there, I learn more about the culture and always have someone that has been there who can tell me what to do, what not to do; what to say, what not to say; where to go, where not to go; etc.. And I just have to trust the Lord. If I go overseas and am scared to go anywhere and too scared to talk to anyone, I will miss out on SO much! Obviously you have to be cautious and learn about where you are at and the people there before you go roaming around the whole country by yourself, but for real, I’m pretty confident it’s not any more dangerous than America would be in some places. When I go overseas, I just become this totally different “whatever happens, happens”, go with the flow person. I have to trust that the Lord has gone before me and will protect me, and if not, then He will get the glory from it. No matter what happens, my Father knows far better than I do. He knows what I need long before I even know I need it. So no matter what I try to prepare for, the Lord is the sovereign One.

How does this trip differ from Uganda? And which did you like more?

-This is almost an impossible question to answer. I literally could go on and on about the similarities and differences (mostly differences) in each place and experience, but honestly, I love them both. They were so different that it seems impossible to compare the two, and say which one I “liked better”. Read the 2nd to last post, “Keepin’ it Real”, to hear my heart on my trip to Uganda.. It truly is about the people I’ve encountered. But the Lord taught me SO MUCH before, during, and after each trip. He’s still teaching me so much through my time in Uganda over a year and a half ago. I would say I had more fun in Uganda because I did more touristy things like white water rafting and bungee jumping and probably enjoyed my time there more because hanging out with kids all day was comfortable and fun for me. But on the other hand, I would say that the Lord showed me what it means to live in complete abandonment and reliance on Him more so in India. I just love both places so much, and the people I have gotten to meet. It truly is the biggest blessing.

What did you learn about yourself?

-Ohhhh weeee. Hmmmm. This is a hard and embarrassing one. I learned, yet again, how selfish I am. I learned how I truly have set the comforts of life that I am used to- air conditioning, structure/ organization in life, good food- above the Lord. Really, I have set these things to be gods in my life without even realizing it. And when those are gone, man is my sin right in front of my face. And when I realize it, even more sin shows up because I get defensive and prideful and start to justify it. How silly. Many, many time this summer, the Lord has broken me and brought me literally to my knees and made me realize how much I need Him. How much I need His grace on my life. How much I need to Gospel. When things go wrong, or not the way I plan or expect, I have a tendency to doubt God and think I know what’s best for my life, not Him. How crazy of me. Not that I have mastered this now by any means, but the Lord is continuing to show me different sin in my life that I have to be repentant of- some that I didn’t realize before now.

What was the culture like?

– Oh goodness, this is a big one. One that I don’t really know how to answer.. If you read all of my blog posts you will get a bit of insight into the culture in each one. Asian culture is crazy different than ANYTHING I am used to. There’s so many different things I could say to answer this question, so I will be brief and give you just a few examples. Men don’t approach women. At all. I didn’t talk to any guys the entire time I was there, besides those I lived with. Even if a guy was interested in a woman, he would have to go through her friend. So it was hard to get used to not making eye contact with, not smiling at, not talking to any guys. If a woman did, it would give a guy the wrong impression. And if any man approached you, then it would be completely out of line. India is so populated. There are a TON of people there. All (for the most part) worshipping false gods. And the entire culture/country reflects that. This is hard to explain but let’s just take a small thing like traffic for example.. Their gods are gods of chaos. Whereas, in America there is organization because our God, THE God, is a God of structure and order. It’s okay for them to do certain things in their culture (sleep with multiple partners; smoke harmful things) because their gods did/do it. It is a very dark place.

Favorite thing you did?

– I didn’t really do too many overly exciting things while I was there, so it’s hard for me to think of one specific thing that was my favorite. But I did have a ton of things that I loved while I was there before I got sick. One of my favorite things I got to be apart of while I was there was house church with the people I lived with. We studied 1 Thessalonians while I was there, and the Lord taught me so much about community and loving other believers. I really enjoyed going to the Tibetan Temple on my 2nd full day in India. It was Buddha’s birthday, so there were TONS of people there. We got to meet a lot of girls and even got to go into a home of a few of the girls we met. My favorite day the entire time I was in India was one in which NOTHING went like we planned. I went with the 3 other college students I was working with to go to a college campus in hopes of meeting and hanging out with students there. Once we got there it was pouring down rain and no students available to talk. At all. We ended up riding busses all day, and sharing with whoever sat next to us. Over 10 people heard the Gospel this day. We were made fun of, told to get off a bus, and received awkward/confused looks. This whole day was filled with one awkward, tension-filled conversation after the other, but let me tell you, it was the most rewarding day ever. The Lord taught me SO much. SO MUCH. When I was getting off my last bus ride of the day after a discouraging conversation with 4 women, the Lord gave me the most overwhelming, satisfying peace. Not because I felt better than them, but because the Lord truly did give me confidence in the Gospel and in who He is in that moment. He reassured me through His word that no matter what people’s response is, He has commanded me to make disciples. That I am not responsible for how people respond to truth, but to give it. To go to the ends of the earth. And to share with whoever I come in contact with, simply because He is worthy of it. As silly as it sounds, as I was stepping off that bus, I felt like Jesus was right there with me.

What was a typical day like for you in India?

– My goal for each day was the same: to meet college aged- girls (maybe older) to befriend and share the Gospel with them.. and hopefully spend my summer discipling them. Even though almost every day had the same objective, each day looked totally different. Sometime I would be at a college campus, sometimes a temple, and sometimes just riding busses all day and sharing with whoever I sat next to. For the first month or so I got to work with another team of 3 college students. We lived together & went out together, so that time was the busiest time for me. We traveled to different cities in India, one 10 hours away, and did different things, but no matter where we were we were trying to meet girls and share the Gospel with anyone we could. When that team left, it was a little bit slower just because I couldn’t go out alone and the rainy season had started. There’s no way I could try to tell you what each day looked like. Each one was so different.

Did you get homesick?

-Surprisingly, not hardly at all. Definitely not the first month or so I was there. I guess I did end up missing certain things- the luxuries of America- but I don’t think I got homesick really at all. Once I got sick, I started Facetiming my mom and friends often, but I think that just made it worse. I love my family and friends, but I knew the plan was to be there for 3 months, so home was just off my radar.

How did you get sick? Are you okay now?

-Well, I ended up having a type of parasite/ worm. I know that’s totally disgusting and none of you wanted to know that, but that’s what happened. It was not fun at all. I’ve never been so sick in my life. I could have gotten it from anything. It could have been the water, but it was probably the fruit. I ate a lot of pineapple that didn’t look too appealing, so I’m thinking that was probably it. Whoops. BUT I got home, went to the doctor, and about 2 & a half weeks later I was all better! I am feeling 100% now, and I am so thankful!!

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It feels almost like I wasn’t even there now.. I know that sounds totally outrageous to some, but I’m hoping those who have traveled to do ministry like this will understand it. People stop asking you about it. And when they do, for the most part it’s questions like “How was it?” Then you answer, “Good..” And then it’s over. I longed/long to talk with people in depth about India and my experience there, but the truth is that most people don’t really want to know. They ask about me getting sick and the heat and the food.. But when I start talking about the difficulty of trying to do ministry there, making disciples, and church planting, people (for the most part) shut down, and I can tell they have lost interest. The only people I’ve really talked with in depth about it all is 2 of my best girl friends from home, but besides that.. it’s just surface level conversations that honestly leave me feeling dry and discouraged. Again, this is one of those thing that I have been putting off writing about because I feel like my brain cannot adequately form words in the right order to convey what I’m feeling and what reverse culture shock & the “post India blues” is like, etc.. much less type them out without feeling like I sounds totally ridiculous. But I will still write nonetheless.

Now this is partially out of my longing for close community and largely out of my selfishness. This relates to one of the questions above, “what did you learn about yourself?”  I am so selfish. SO prideful. And for absolutely nothing. Every day, but especially when I go overseas, the temptation to think that I am better than anyone & everyone else, to think that I understand the Gospel & the Great Commission more than other people, to think that I am this super awesome Christian is right in front of me, and I am SO quick to give in. Eeeeek, I am honestly wanting to hit the delete button on every single word as I’m typing this. But the truth is, that I am so stinkin’ quick to believe Satan’s lies. I even want to believe them. It’s so easy. The truth is that when I want to go overseas, it’s largely for my own selfish gain.

I am just scratching the surface here on my prideful tendencies and selfish agendas. I am brought to tears even as I’m typing this just thinking about the grace the Lord has on His children. All of them. No matter what we’ve done or will do, no matter how many times we turn away from Him, no matter how many times we take glory that is His, He still loves us. Not only does He just love me, but He wants to be close with me. He wants a relationship with me, and He pursues it every single day. I wrong Him every minute of every day, and yet a perfect and Holy God still loves ME!? Why?!

It’s so hard for me to even believe that. It’s so hard for me to lay down my pride and my independence to realize that I need a Savior. That I deserve nothing more than Hell. That I really do desire and long for something more in life because one without Him is miserable and unsatisfying. But it’s even harder for me to believe that a perfect, righteous, Holy God would want a relationship with someone like that. Someone like me. Much less just offer me a relationship with Him that requires nothing in return. My entire life, I have felt like I have to do all of these things for people to like me and that if I do anything wrong, they won’t like me anymore.. and then there’s not anything I can do but be really nice to them and impress them, trying to earn their favor again, for them to love me again.. Whatever I do will determine my standing with a person because that’s how earthly relationships are. Since I have decided to follow the Lord, I have struggled with trying to prove to Him and others that I am somehow worthy of Him. That I am worthy of salvation and a life with Christ. He has had to chip away the parts of me that feels like my salvation has anything to do with me.. that I have to do all of these things to earn His love. That I need to go all of these places and lead all of these bible studies and go to church & Sunday school every time the doors are open and be this perfect little Christian girl every where I am. But the truth is that I don’t have to be or do any of those things. He will love me the same regardless. Nothing I can do will make Him love me any more or any less. The Lord knows me. Every part of me. And loves me despite all of me. I was Hell- bound, deserving life & eternity apart from Him, and the Lord chose to save me. He chose to give me the faith to know Him. I can’t earn it. No matter what I do, I cannot and will not ever be good enough, but the good news is that I don’t have to! That’s the Good News of the Gospel, y’all! There is SO MUCH GRACE! The Lord has already given us more grace than we could ever need.

The Lord of the entire universe created me & YOU for Himself, and when man fell, we were completely separated from Him. There was no hope for any of us. But thankfully, our Father provided a way. He sent His Son, perfectly righteous and Holy, to take our sin upon Himself and experience being forsaken by His Father so we would never have to. God did this, not to save us from a hot place with fire, but so that there would be a way for us to be in right relationship with Him. Yes, He wants YOU that much. There was no other way. God’s word says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that “no one seeks God” (Romans 3:11). And in Romans 6:23, God’s Word tells us that because of that, we deserve death (Romans 6:23). So where is there hope? Is there hope for us? YES! Romans 5:8 says that “God demonstrated His love to us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Not when you were acting like you had your stuff together, not when you were in church reading your bible, no, Christ died for you in the midst of your sin and filth. When you were manipulating that guy, when you were at the frat house wasting your life away to alcohol and sex, while you were still a sinner, Christ died. That’s when. He knew all of your sin, and in the midst of that, He died for you. HE. DIED. FOR. YOU. All because the Father wanted to be in right relationship with you. This is not of ourselves. We couldn’t do anything to earn it. And we can’t do anything to lose it. So stop feeling guilt and shame over your past or sin; repent & follow Jesus. Through the cross and the payment He’s already paid, He has already forgiven you. So if you’re like me, stop trying to be “good enough.” You won’t ever be good enough, but the good news of the beautiful Gospel of Jesus is that we don’t have to be. There is freedom and grace in Christ. We do all of the things that God’s Word tell us to because this Gospel compels us to, not because we have to for God to love or save us.

So if you want to follow Jesus, I plead with you to turn from your sin and follow Him! There’s not any special prayer to pray, Jesus just wants you. I would love to talk to you if you have any questions about this Gospel. I know, it sounds too easy. Too good to be true that God would do this. But it is true. He has offered us life and life abundantly through His Son. We just have to take it.

I am in desperate need of the Gospel everyday. I need to be reminded of it every second. It has changed me. I am so grateful for the new things the Lord made me realize about the Gospel this summer in India. He is so abundantly gracious. If you would like to know how to pray for me one last time, please just pray for this time of reflection on my summer and that the Lord would continue to reveal His self to me through it every day. I’m still working through things that I don’t really understand, so I would be so grateful for your prayers!

ALSO- If anyone wants to help me send a package to the family I stayed with in India, please contact me! I am planning to send it in late August/ early September.

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Lastly, but most importantly, PLEASE join me in prayer for India.

  • Pray for the M’s who are currently there and the challenges they have to face on a daily basis: the very real risk of persecution, steep mountain trails to be hiked, and frigid temperatures. Pray that the Lord would give them grace and His strength to press on and remember that their home is not here. Not in India. Not in America. But their home is in heaven with Christ. Pray that they would be reminded of that daily and really trust that truth.
  • Pray for the government and for the leaders of the country.. that the Lord (who is the sovereign one regardless) would put in place leaders who follow God. Pray for the current leaders, that they would come to know Jesus and follow hard after Him.
  • Pray for Bible translation and distribution.
  • Pray for more people to be sent to India to live among the people & spread the Gospel.
  • Pray for the believers there. New and old. Pray that they would be strengthened and encouraged.
  • Pray that Jesus would be lifted high and the millions of idols and demons enslaving this nation would be brought low.
  • Pray for those who heard the Gospel this summer for the first time. That the Gospel that they heard would not be able to leave their mind. Pray that every time they enter a temple to worship one of their false gods, that they would doubt them & be curious about the truth they heard about Jesus Christ. Pray that the Lord would use this to draw them quickly to Himself and that they would turn from their sin and to Christ.
  • Pray for others who do not know Jesus in India. Pray that God would, right now, soften their hearts and prepare them to hear the Good News of Jesus. Pray that they would be receptive and come to know Christ. Pray that people would come to know Jesus and follow hard after Him, reaching the people around them. Pray for churches to be planted, that they would be healthy, Gospel-centered, and reproducing.