December 29, 2015

Embracing God's Design



Image credit: Johanna Kautt

Recently I watched an ad by Google®.  It was a very well made advertisement (not surprising, they’re Google®, right?).  It presented a “man” who was born and grew up as a female, but had always felt like a male.  So, after several years of struggling with who she was and who she felt she was, she decided to have gender reassignment surgery.  Breast removal and then lots of hormones injected to deepen her voice and cause facial hair to grow, and all that.  

This sickened me and sadden me.  And, yet, I felt like I could relate.  Because I’ve always felt more masculine, and was a definite tomboy as a younger person growing up, and even thought I’d be a boy when I grew up (that was when I was a lot younger).   And I still struggle with how my body looks, and the lack of femininity, at least as to how I view it.

But, then I really think about it, and wonder how God feels.  He made me, and this woman, how we are: as women.  Female.  We may not have the biggest chest, skinniest bodies, or the prettiest faces, but He made us uniquely, distinctly, female.

And so I thought: If I’m not okay with that, then I’m not okay with who God made me.  If I change the way I look with multiple surgeries, trying to change into something I’m not – then I’m essentially slapping God in the face and saying, You didn’t know what You were doing when You designed me as a female.  So, I’m going to fix Your mistake.  What a thing to say to the God who created the universe with the very words of His mouth, and designed the intricate human cells and DNA!  To think that He isn’t smart enough to “get it right,” and that I, a fallible and mistake-prone human, am somehow more brilliant and wise!  

No!  He knit me, and that lady – and every other woman (and man) – together in our mother’s womb just the way He wanted us to be.  (Granted, sin does come in and mess things up a lot, but that’s a different topic altogether.)
 
Image credit: Johanna Kautt

And I can choose to either embrace that – and thank God for how He made me – or, I can reject it, and slap God right up side the face, and try to change who I truly am.

No removal of body parts or injections of hormones is going to change the design of my DNA and chromosomes.  My DNA tells me I’m a woman.  My fallen, sinful mind, and the deceived world, is the one telling me I’m something other than a woman.  They’re telling me I am who I feel I am at any given moment. 

I’ve chosen not to listen to what the world is saying, but, rather, to embrace my womanhood.  To enhance my femininity.  To allow God to mold me into the woman He designed and destined me to be.

The only kind of changing I’m going to do to myself is to adorn who God has already made me to be. 

“Let your adornment… be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit: which is very precious in the sight of God.”  1 Peter 3:3-4

People look on the outside.  God looks at the heart.

Image credit: Johanna Kautt

December 9, 2015

Singleness, Invisibility, and Perspective


Singleness really does equal invisibility sometimes. When your well-meaning friends say things which only make you feel worse, and ask again "why not me God?" That irrational fear you experience because you don't know how else to be faithful, or to do God's will. And what am I doing wrong to still be here?
So, next time you talk with your single friends, keep in mind that they too have dreams and aspirations and fears and hurts, and make sure your words are wise and considerate.

December 7, 2015

Out + About

A few times this Autumn, my sister Jo and I have taken some time to get photos from our small town, and each time we have returned with a treasure trove of great shots.  Saturday was no exception.  I will share just a few of the several I took, at a local cemetery, and around town.


















December 2, 2015

Let Truth Ring Out

I wrote this short article back in June of last year.  But, I thought I'd share it, seeing that it is just as relevant today today as it was then.  

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Image credit

Talking, in today’s culture, is over-rated.  Everyone does it.  There seemingly are talk shows about every subject imaginable.  In the midst of all this clamorous chatter, though, how much truth is being proclaimed?  While politically correct verbiage seems to be like Walgreens®: on every corner – truth and truth-preachers are few and far between.  Sadly, Christians, who have been commanded to speak the truth, all too often have been dolefully silent.  Paul, as the Holy Spirit inspired writer of the Book of Ephesians, wrote in chapter four, that “we should [speak] the truth in love.”  Because of this, and numerous similar Scripture passages, Christians must speak out the truth.  But, in order to do so, we need to know why we must speak, how we should go about speaking, and what may keep us from speaking. 

To understand the importance of declaring truth, we must first understand what truth is.  Jesus, speaking to His Father, said, “Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth.”  But why is it imperative for Christians to speak the truth?  Speaking the truth needs to occur because, while lies are being promoted left and right, truth is not being spoken.  Truth frees, but lies enslave.  Consequently, our society has become one full of slaves, as if ‘comfortable slavery’ is more desirable than God’s freedom.  Speaking the truth is important because it combats lies, and may keep people from being led astray into the lies of Satan.  And just because others are not speaking the truth, doesn’t take away our responsibility.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.”  Using God’s truth, the Bible, we must speak truth and light into a society of lies and darkness, even if we must do so in the very face of evil. 

Quote source

But simply blaring out the truth is not good enough.  The motivation driving us to speak the truth must be correct.  To speak motivated by the need to always be right is ungodly.  While you may get your point across, the hearer will likely disregard the truth of your message because of your detrimental motivation.  Coupling correct motivation with a gentle, loving manner of speech is a much more effective and God-honoring method.  Paul the apostle wrote later in Ephesians chapter four, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that is may impart grace to the hearers.”  Speak the truth in love.  Graciously present the truth to someone who is in error will keep them from stumbling over the messenger or the way the messenger presents the message.  Our manner of speech should draw the listener to us, like two magnets are drawn to each other.  But if we just carelessly blurt out truth, we will repel people, precisely like two magnets are repelled when you turn one around. 

Into this picture enters a complicated problem: you and me.  We are the problem when we allow things like fear to drive us, and to hamstring us from boldly declaring the truth.  The voice of the fear of man says to us, “People are going to think you’re crazy,” or “You’re going to offend someone.”  Although that may be true, we must learn to fear God, who sees the heart, more than we fear man. 

Another fear we tend to cave in to is the fear of persecution.  Speaking the truth may not be politically correct, and in turn you may get kicked off your own T.V. show.  Or, your business might go bankrupt because you insist on proclaiming the “offensive” truth.  This is real persecution.  But, like the early Christians facing torture and gruesome death for preaching the truth, we must choose to obey God rather than man, and leave the results up to God. 

Sometimes we think that what we do or say has to be big, and if it isn’t then it’s ineffective.  The truth is, though, that change will occur when each of us “speaks truth with our neighbor,” and when we consistently, with our words and our actions, are salt and light to those around us on an everyday basis.  Oddly enough then, the very same thing that is too often the roadblock to solving the problem can be a part of the solution. 


You and I, when we understand the importance of speaking the truth in love, and decide to not be hindered by our fears, become part of the enlightening and preserving medicine for this illness of wicked, dark and artificial chatter.  Even amongst a culture full of clamorous babbling, truth will ring out loud and clear when it is courageously spoken.  

November 19, 2015

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving

My blogging friend and email-pal, S.F. from On Solid Ground has nominated me to participate in the 12 Days of Thanksgiving project.  Thank you, S. F.!  

Happy Thanksgiving!!



1. Jesus - my Hope, my Anchor, My Lover, my God.  Without Jesus, I would be nothing, or even dead.  He has given me a reason to live, to sing, to love, and to help others.  I try to live my life each day with Him in mind. 

2. My family - not just my parents, siblings, and niece, but my extended family including Poppy, Grams, Grandma, uncles, aunts, and loads of cousins. You all make my life brighter and I love you dearly.

3. Books - a true gateway to greater knowledge and understanding on a host of topics.  Right now I am studying to become a Nouthetic counselor, so books are my best friends.  But I enjoy reading for a whole lot of other reasons, and I am so thankful I know how to read. 

4. Music - which is a large part of my life and always has been.  I am especially grateful for the Christ exalting tunes created by All Sons & Daughters, my favorite band.  I am also humbled and grateful that each week I get to help lead worship.  

5. A comfortable house which keeps me safe and sound from the weather and scary things in our world.  I feel rich just thinking about all the things which are a part of my life, and how blessed I am to have been given them.  I hope and pray that I never take them for granted. 

6. My job - I work as a nanny for the sweetest little boy (soon to be two sweet little boys), and I love my job so much!  It is not something I dread, or hate at all.  I get to work from my home which has allowed me to not only care for baby B., but also continue to pursue my education, and sharpen my life skills.  

7. Friends - God has blessed me with a host of strong friends who help me to continue in my growth as a Christian.  I want to say how especially thankful I am for: Lizzy, Bekah, Chris Beth, Adrean, Sina, Brenda, Jessie and S.F.).  Each of these relationships have blessed me this year as I have gotten to know them better. 

8. One Thousand Gifts - I didn't include this in my 3rd reason, even though it is a book, because it is way more than just a book.  It is really a movement, a way of life, an unfolding story as I choose to practice gratitude daily, and thank God for my countless gifts.  

9. Hurt - this has been a year full of new things for me, some of them (especially recently) have been deeply hurtful and painful to go through, but God always has a reason for our pain, and in my case it had to do with breaking me of pride and bitterness I was holding onto. 

10. Food - in all its lovely, wonderful forms.  Whether sweet or sour, hot or cold, new or old, food is such a gift, but also such a necessity.  I have been blessed every day of my life to have 3 square meals + snacks and plenty of clean drinking water.  There are a lot of people out there who don't have that, so I am thankful for God's provision through these means. 

11. The ocean - even though I have only experienced the Gulf of Mexico, which may or may not count as the ocean, there is something so calming, and yet so powerful about the great bodies of water we call oceans.  One day it is my dream to visit both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and behold their vast beauty. 

12. Last but not least by any means - The Holy Scriptures, the very words of God almighty revealed to humanity.  My appreciation and understanding of them grows each year as I devote myself to their study.  One verse which has meant a lot to me of late is 1 John 2:2 and I will leave you with its powerful message:   He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

November 4, 2015

Why would anyone want to marry me?

For the last 8 years I have had an intense desire to get married, settle down, and start a family.  All with a good, kind man.

As I left my teen years behind, my ideals and expectations shifted, or completely changed.  What was once a long list of desired qualities in a "future husband" became shorter and shorter as I realized there are really only a few REALLY important deciding factors when it comes time to find a mate.

Those things which have not changed are:
  1. Godly, Jesus follower 
  2. Able to provide / mature
  3. Hard worker / responsible 
  4. Kind, compassionate, caring, generous
  5. Has a good relationship with his family
And that's about it.  In those "five things" his faith, character, relationships, and manhood are all affirmed; and not in some superficial manner. 

All this "future hubby" stuff got me thinking, and as I approached my 21st birthday, still single, and with no apparent prospects on my radar, it made me aware of this thought: "what type of guy does my lifestyle attract?"  

So, my early twenties passed as I tried my best to be kind, caring, mature, friendly, responsible, hard-working, etc.  To build a stronger relationship with my family, and with God, all the while keeping my "ideal" in the back of my mind.

It was seemingly all for naught as year after year, nothing changed on the "relationship front." 

Next March I'll be 26, the beginning of the downward slope towards 30.  And I am still single; and feel generally unnoticed by the good male population.  There was a nice young man who showed interest in me, but for several reasons I didn't go ahead with being more than just friends.  Because, deep down I already liked a nice young man (who I've liked for 3 years, but who is apparently unavailable).  So, I'm trying to mend a broken heart, because, yes, I gave some of it to him.  As the quote says, "sometimes, pain is all that lets you know you're alive."  

But that's not why I'm writing this.  It's not a sad lament to unrequited love, or to my single years, to lonely years, or the fear I'll grow old, alone.  No, the real reason I'm writing is to expound on why someone wouldn't want to marry me.

Let me explain. 

When a couple goes on a date, they get cleaned up, shower, shave, slick back their hair, apply make-up, wear something fancy and fashionable.  Basically, they put on a certain 'look' to be more attractive to the other person. 

And then the conversation, over the meal, or walk, or drink is all about their respective accomplishments, goals, and aspirations.  Rarely, if ever, will you hear them say, "now let me tell you about my biggest failure, my flaws, or my faults."  Why not?  Because we want to present to the world, to them, the best version of ourselves.  The version you see in the carefully selected, creatively edited profile picture on Facebook.  Of the flawless, airbrushed content provided on Twitter, SnapChat, or Instagram.  

But is that an accurate portrayal of our real lives?  Will we have to keep hiding all the mess, the broken dreams, the unhappiness, or disappointment, or (gasp) our failures?  When did we become OK with only accepting "perfect" people? 

So, "why would I not want to marry you?" you might wonder.

Here's why. 

For one thing, I have wrestled with anger and bitterness for well over a decade, and even though I have been victorious in both areas, I still deal with periods where I'm not much fun to be around, due to these problems. 

Trust is another biggie I deal with.  Trusting God to provide for my needs, trusting my family will still love me despite all my screw-ups, trusting friends won't betray or abuse me, and the things I have shared with them.  

Another hurdle I'm trying to overcome is all the lies I've told myself (and believed) since age 15.  Lies such as: "you're not smart enough to be in this family," or "you're just a failure," or "everything I touch, dies," or "why don't you just do yourself a favor and end it all.  I mean, c'mon, who are you kidding.?"  Some of these thoughts, and self brands are demons I fight regularly.  The failure one especially.  There are still times I feel as if I'm walking around with a big red F stamped on my forehead. 

And last, but not least, my extremes.  I was just considering this aspect of who I am, and why I hate it so much.  I'm a fairly cautious person, but when I find something I like, look out world!  As I almost tweeted recently, I'm either totally distracted, or totally committed.  This is bad because it has negatively effected my walk with God, my family relationships, friendships, education, and work.  When I'm 'in' I'm all in, and when I'm not, well, you get the picture.

I'm also no good at math, unkind, selfish, loud, I don't love God enough, stingy, not the greatest baker, and oh yeah - I still live at home, don't own my own car, and have a job which pays about $400 a month.

So why did I want to put this "all out there?"  For the sake of honesty.  I've sometimes portrayed myself as one with all the right answers, who has it all together.  But that's simply not true.  I have some dark struggles which I deal with every day.  And although I may not marry soon, or ever, I'm glad to know that God loves me and is more than willing to help me solve my problems. 

October 28, 2015

Jo {Portrait of a young woman}

Yesterday I had the honor of photographing my drop-dead gorgeous youngest sister - Jo.

She is really photogenic, and her outfits are always fun to capture.  Even though we were both disappointed in the lack of Autumn colors, we were still able to take a lot of nice pictures.  Here are a few of my favorites.
The many faces of Jo - I love capturing candids and was happy to catch her other than posing

This girl has great fashion taste - I mean look at those Argyle socks; and her gorgeous locks completed her outfit 

I love how this picture captures her youthfulness.
To me it's a picture into the girl inside, while she is blooming into a woman on the outside. 

Since Jo is an ardent + talented photographer we incorporated some of her antique cameras in our photoshoot

Girly 
Pure beauty 
Fun-loving girl 
Johanna is such a lovely, open girl who I am blessed to have a sister and best friend.  I also think she looks stunning in blue.

Photographing Jo was an enjoyable learning experience, since my role when it comes to photo-shoots or videography opportunities is usually "gopher" so I am pretty pleased with the results from this portrait session.

October 9, 2015

25 Things

In less than 6 months, I will be 26 (which feels wayyyy closer to 30 than 25, but I digress), and as I have looked back at this year, I thought I would share 25 things I have learned in the last 10 months.

So, 25 things:



  1. Gratitude is super important, key to real Joy, and the oil of life
  2. Traveling is fun and there are lots of free adventures to be had, just be curious
  3. Staying in shape now is kinda essential to a good quality of life later on
  4. There is more to life than entertainment
  5. Family relationships are a priority
  6. God cares about even the smallest things in my life
  7. Faithful, godly friends are few and far between, so value them and invest time in those friendships
  8. Worship is not just a Sunday morning activity but a daily calling
  9. Study the bible to know it, but more than that, to believe it
  10. Books are still a good way to learn new things
  11. Challenges are not always a bad thing
  12. Hard work is good
  13. Baseball is still fun to watch and play
  14. Babies are a huge responsibility and blessing
  15. Adulthood isn't as bad as some people want me to believe
  16. Weddings are a great place to meet new people, and have a good time
  17. Sunrises and sunsets are not appreciated enough
  18. Trusting God doesn't come easy, but it's a must
  19. Honoring  parents DOES get easier the older I get
  20. Home cooked meals are so much more delicious than restaurant food
  21. Volleyball is my favorite sport besides baseball
  22. Working with teenagers is exhausting, but rewarding and fun
  23. Being an aunt rocks
  24. Learning to take joy in keeping a tidy house makes the job easier
  25. Making friends with older people adds a wealth of wisdom and perspective to my life.  They are a real joy to be around as well.  

October 5, 2015

Picture Post


I haven't posted anything really personal on here in a while, and so that's kinda bad, and boring and I'm gonna fix that asap.  Pictures, I find, are one way for me to connect with other people's lives.  I don't know about you, but I enjoy looking through old pictures, new pictures, never-before-seen pictures, because I can catch a hint of what that person's life is made up of.

So, some pictures from my life lately.

Sunsets and Sunrises here are beautiful + breath-taking 

I've been doing lots of studying as I prepare for my first counseling class 

A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad example of some ink lettering I've been experimenting with, using my new calligraphy pens and ink. 

I framed this cute owl for my niece 

A thought I've been pondering of late 

My new Teva sandals - LOVE them. 

Was supposed to finish this book in September as part of my 12 books in 12 months project.  Failed miserably.  I have read maybe 2 chapters?  

My motto for the last 2 weeks 

This little foot belongs to Baby Bear who I nanny 5 days a week.  I love him!

Phoebe, Jo and I went to see War Room opening night - great film!  Go see it and take a friend. 


I completed this course in just under 6 months.  Learned so much practical wisdom from it.  


One of my outfits - the vest is new 

THE message to share with the whole world 

Foggy morning
A lovely card with an equally lovely and uplifting note from a dear friend 
My pretty little cactus has grown wildly over the summer.  

October 1, 2015

Let's be raw

Being in the ministry is sometimes a thankless, grueling job, with lots of hours, and little appreciation for all of the effort put forth into whatever project you are currently working on.  It is easy to get burned out, and burned by this vocation, to be bitter or distant, to grow cold in your faith because it doesn't seem like God cares. 

But really, ministry is life and life ministry, and so if we treat the ministry we have been called to in the above manner, we will soon grow tired of our life, and maybe even God, and perhaps turn our backs on both.  This is a dangerous choice.  

"Life is tough and then you die" someone once said, but I disagree.  Life is tough, and eventually we will die, but even on a bad day life is still good... especially if God is the foundation for your life.  I have had a lot of bad days in my life, but my overall life has been great.  Full of blessings and amazing God-opportunities which I couldn't have orchestrated.  

That is one reason why I am still in "the ministry" - because I know that God is using my life to somehow effect others, and even when I feel burned out or lonely, I can still be used by Him, as long as my heart is leaning towards Him.  

I don't want to sound cliche (I pretty much hate cliches, especially "Christian" cliches), but the best is yet to come in all our lives.  Even when things are dark, and we are undergoing trials and hard times, God is working.  He is always working, in fact.  We just can't see the mysterious way He works.  

I love what Jesus had to say in the Sermon on the Mount about the different kinds of people and the rewards they would get, it really makes me know what to aim for in my life, and ministry.  I hope that it will give you hope and encouragement as you think about how God can use your life for His kingdom. 

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"He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Matthew 5:3-12

August 26, 2015

For Such A Time As This

I– like many other young women– have struggled off and on with my self-worth. Especially recently.

It’s easy to feel that way. Friends not putting in much effort into being friends. Making slow progress in school. Failing at money-making endeavors. Struggling with a mysterious illness for over a year.

At certain points, I had trouble keeping my eyes fixed on the Author and Sustainer of all life. As though God wasn’t there for me.

At certain points, I felt lazy (I couldn’t do a lot of my chores because of my illness). As though my worth was in the things I accomplished.

At certain points, I was ashamed– I hated the way I looked, acted, and felt. As though my family loved me less because of those things.

At certain points, I felt depressed. As though my life wasn’t worth living anymore.

Several times, I was to the point of breaking. In His mercy, God prevented me from doing anything rash.

He prevented me by sending me encouraging friends. By showing me that ultimately academics are nothing in light of eternity. By reminding me that He will provide for all of my needs. By giving me patience (by way of the Holy Spirit) through my illness.

God showed me that I was walking through this fire so He could refine me– could mold me more into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Peter 1:6,7). He showed me that I didn’t really believe He loves me and that I have to daily choose to believe that He does.

I was assured that not only God loves me, but my family does too. They don’t find me burdensome.
God called me beautiful when He fearfully and wonderfully made me (Psalm 139:14). And even though that beauty was tainted by sin’s curse, He has re-beautified me by the death of His Son (Psalms 149:4). I’m no longer a slave, I’m His daughter! (Galatians 4:7)

And just like Esther in the Bible, I know God has placed me on this earth “for such a time as this…” Already, God has used this trial to draw me closer to Him, and to use it as an encouragement for others who struggle.

So be encouraged! Keep your eyes on God– He began a good work in you and He won’t give up on you! (Philippians 1:6) He can use your “such a time as this” as a spring-board to draw others close to Him. Daily choose to believe He loves you!!! He has proven it so many times, and ultimately by giving up His only Son on the cross!!!

August 19, 2015

Youth Ministry + Church Membership

As a youth leader in my church, I am experiencing first hand the upsides and downsides to youth ministry in the modern church setting.  And even though I didn't grow up in a youth group, I can still see the good and bad parts of this extension of the local church. 

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I understand why parents like youth group: it gives their kids an opportunity to mingle with other like-minded youth, in a safe, God-centered (hopefully!) environment, which encourages spiritual growth, ministry, and fun.  And while I spent years opposed to youth groups (and still am to an extent), I appreciate their value when it comes to outreach.  However, one concern I have is for the mindset it may put into the hearts of young people, who grow up with a typical youth group experience. 

At my church, the youth are treated as an extension of the larger church body, and participate in the service.  We don't have a separate youth service, just for the young people.  That is what I find to be dangerous, when the youth are removed from the context of the church, separated by themselves, worshiping in a different area.  

And while there may or may not be something more to this method, I think we should consider the fact that the youth of the church will one day be the 20-somethings, young marrieds, middle agers, etc., and so should have the same worship experience as everyone else.  I believe this brings a certain maturity to their spiritual lives which cannot be achieved if they are isolated. 

The church is a whole body, not segregated into different parts which function separate from each other - everything has to be connected in order to fully function.  So, when our youth are separated from the rest of the church body, they suffer, everyone suffers.  Organic interaction between all ages is the healthiest option, and the most biblical.  

I really appreciate the mindset of our youth directors - each Sunday morning the youth meet in the "prime timers" class to sing hymns and prayer before going to their Sunday school class.  This breeds unity among two groups who would ordinarily (sadly) not cross paths much.  I hope that our church will continue to seek opportunities to bring "groups" together to work side by side, since we are all on the same team! 

The youth are the future leaders and members of the church, and I want them to be truly committed, passionate Truth seekers and sharers who know what they believe and aren't afraid to proclaim those things in their communities.  We need to seek to spur our youth towards spiritual maturity - and I believe that incorporated worship is just one key to this growth.  

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 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12