Girls Moving Mountains: Hannah

Happy Monday! It’s time to hear from another girl who inspires me with her faith! (If you missed out on what Girls Moving Mountains is, check out this post to catch up! And don’t miss hearing from Jewell too!)

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Today I want to introduce you to my friend, Hannah! Hannah is a junior in high school that I grew up with in my youth group back home! Hannah loves to laugh and has a big heart, and she’s also a very talented and creative writer. Here is what she had to say when I asked her some questions about her faith:

Her story and her journey with Christ: “I was born into a family of Christians. My parents and my grandmother Thelma were huge spiritual inspirations for me. They’re the people who made sure I was in church every Sunday and Wednesday.  When we lived in London, Ohio that meant going to two different churches in one day, one for Sunday morning Bible study and one for Sunday night, but they taught me that that was important. I have to cite my grandmother and my older brother, however, for the reason I was baptized. As my older brother is only four years older than me, there was always a sense of, he did this, now I’m going to. When my brother got baptized my entire brain switched on. I knew that I had faith, and I was trying to figure out when was the best time for me to get baptized. Unfortunately, I thought I needed to wait. I set a time: I’ll be baptized when I turn ten. Of course, I wanted to do it just like he did, in our apartment’s pool, but it didn’t happen that way. Another thing that was very important to me was making sure my grandmother Thelma got to be present for my baptism, as she is one of the most important role models in my life. So when I was nine, about two months before my tenth birthday, on August 31st in 2009, I went up in front of my grandmother’s congregation in Indiana and became a Christian. Since then I’ve been trying to be an active Christian, with some success and some not so much. I’ve gotten more involved as a leader in my youth group, and have been attempting to keep a grip on my faith throughout the struggles of high school and reality.”

On her favorite Scripture: “I really am in love with Galatians 1:10, ‘For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.’ It’s probably one of the ones I have the hardest times with, especially since starting high school. There are a lot of times when I find myself slipping up on this. I have strong feelings of not wanting to be of the world, but I also have strong feelings of wanting to have friends and fit in, which is why that verse is so important to remember. My favorite book of the Bible is probably James, because you can never read it so many times that you don’t get something new from it.”

On Bible study: “I have to admit that I’m not the best at studying the word of God. So, other than just reading it every day, my main tip is to hold on to it. Get verses in mind regarding the things you need to work on and don’t let yourself forget them. Repeat them to yourself whenever you’re struggling with it.”

On her prayer relationship with God: “My prayer life is super important. One of the best things a person can do is spend time in prayer with God. Whenever I’m anxious or stressed out, I make myself talk to God about it. Sometimes it’s just reminding myself that he is there and that he has always gotten me through things. God is always listening and he always cares. Even the little things in life you don’t really think matter, he cares about. And he can always do more than you thing he can or will. My mother recommends praying when you can’t sleep, because talking with God is so much better than counting sheep. It’s important to bring your worries and cares to him constantly, but, of course, it’s also important to thank him always. So I spend a lot of time talking to him, thanking him for the good things, or asking him to help me deal with the bad things.”

Her personal take on Girls Moving Mountains: “I think ‘delighting in the Lord’ means to put him first, and to always find joy in him, above all the gloom of the world. We should constantly be focused on how good things are, because we have a God that loves us, and because he made us specifically and wants to spend eternity with us. That’s hard, however, because the world is full of gloom. We often either can’t find joy in him at all, or blame him for the bad things.”

On the “desires of her heart:” “As for mountains in my life, I’ve mentioned a lot of them already. Wanting to fit in with people of the world, getting worried and anxious, and not spending enough time in scripture. I would love to be a better, less worried Christian, who managed my time perfectly, had control over my mouth, and worked actively to convert the non-Christians in my life. I want to do all that I can to spread the gospel and be an example of Christ, but that is one of the hardest things in my life.”

To others seeking to grow their faith: “Never ever miss out on a chance to be with God’s people. Every time the door’s open, go. Go to Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and everything you can make time for in between. And don’t miss out on chances to listen to people who know more than you do. There will always be people who say something about the Bible that you’d never really thought of before, and it’s important to keep learning and getting new perspectives.”

In Hannah, I see a girl who delights in the Lord! I’ve gotten to watch Hannah grow up right before my eyes, and hearing what she has to say about her faith, with such honesty and sincerity, is such a blessing and an inspiration to me. I know it is to you as well!

Hannah writes about life, faith, God, and Scripture on the Facebook page Talking About the Bible, which you can check out here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/247646755404688/

 

Until next time,

Amelia

Beauty vs. Beast: Some Thoughts

Can I be honest here? I don’t really want to write this. I feel a little defeated today. And anything I say about this feels like setting up a time bomb that’s just waiting to explode. What could I add that could possibly be helpful? But I can’t not write it. Because it’s too important, and it’s weighing my heart down.

All I have to do is say, “Beauty and the Beast” and you know where we’re going. When I first found out about the”exclusively gay moment” that’s going to be part of the new movie, a lot of emotions hit me at once, not all of which I am proud of. To be completely honest, at first, I was horrified. Then disappointed, then not that surprised, then angry. Then sad. Then at a loss for what to do as I watched people duke it out over social media.

Then I came here. I don’t have much wisdom or experience, but I know who does. If you would take a few minutes, here’s what I’m trying to learn from Him.

1.Sin is sin. I don’t know why, maybe because it’s easier for us to pretend like we’re not sinning, but we’ve categorized sins into “Really Bad” and “Not so Big of a Deal” and homosexuality has somehow topped the list as the ultimately worst most horrible Really Bad sin. Yes, God has said that homosexuality is wrong, there’s no way around that one. But He’s also said that gossip is wrong, and so is lying and cheating and being disobedient to your parents. So is greed and drunkenness and stealing. All of the “little sins” are on the same level as homosexuality. No one sin is better or worse than another. All sin is the same. It’s all sin and it all separates us from God.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices…” Colossians 3:5-9

“For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.” 1 Peter 4:3

2. People are people. We all have souls, and we are all worthy of respect. It doesn’t matter what we have done. We have all sinned, and all sin is the same, so we’re all the same sinners. That’s how God sees us, so that’s how we have to start seeing each other. Someone who is struggling with homosexuality deserves love and respect just like someone who is struggling with pride or with gossip. We don’t start spewing hate against all the liars the second that someone lies on our movie screens, do we? I’m afraid we need to reevaluate the way we treat people.

“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality…have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” James 2:1, 4 

“…For there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:22-23

3. We have to be careful with our entertainment. So you’re not going to see Beauty and the Beast? Okay. But please tell me you’d be just as quick to avoid entertainment where profanity is prolific and God’s name is used in vain over and over. Where violence is gratuitous. Where gossip and lying are normal. Where disobedience to parents and blatant disregard for authority is celebrated. Where sexual activity that’s not God-approved is called love and seen as perfectly okay. But wait, you’re thinking, that’s everything. That’s in all of my entertainment. Hmm. Maybe we’d be better off throwing out our TVs (or Netflix or movie tickets) then.

Well those things aren’t that big of a deal, you say. I’m not giving up my entertainment for that. I’m fine with watching all of those things. Okay. Then why are you making such a big fuss over Beauty and the Beast?

But it’s Disney, you say. Disney is safe, Disney is good, Disney is untouchable. Really? I started thinking back to the original animated Beauty and the Beast, one of my favorite movies, and realized the sin that’s present in that “kids” movie. LeFou, Gaston, and company drink alcohol excessively, but it’s not just the villains who make use of it, drinking alcohol is encouraged as a normal part of dinner in “Be Our Guest” (“wine’s been poured”?). Furthermore, Gaston’s shameless comments toward Belle and inappropriate treatment of women in general is obvious. There is sin in this movie, just like there is in many of our favorite Disney classics. So why is it then, that a character who is possibly “exploring his sexuality” sends us into a frenzy, but none of these things do?

I created this blog with the intent to find lovely things. Sin is not lovely. In fact, it’s the ugliest thing there is. It’s a beast. But people are lovely, and they’re worthy of respect and love. Jesus died for both. He died so we could be free from sin, and He died so we could be loved and then love people like He loves people. So what about my entertainment? Avoid sin? Yes. Hurt people? No. We have to open up our hearts to understand where people are coming from and take the reality check that we’re all sinners, no matter what sin we’ve found ourselves entangled in. Jesus didn’t die so that I could entertain myself with the sin He died for. But He also didn’t die so that I could bash all the sinners with my arrogant righteousness. We make a declaration against one movie which will probably be one of the more wholesome entertainment options this year, if you want to see it like that, and we call that Christianity. We make ourselves ugly beasts.

There are so many levels to this issue, but for now, it comes down to this. What if we would keep away from sin—all of it, no matter what kind—and yet love people, no matter what kind of sin they’re in. It’s a hard balance, but we just might find Beauty yet.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” 1 John 4:7-9

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Girls Moving Mountains: Jewell

A month ago, I shared this article about the power of faith that delights in the Lord, faith that is so powerful it can move mountains! As girls struggling to seek that kind of faith, I wanted to highlight some of the faithful girls I know who inspire me, in hopes that it will help us all grow and work even harder for a faith that allows God to do awesome things with our lives.

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Today, I want to introduce you to my sweet friend Jewell! Jewell is a senior in high school who is getting ready for a big transition in her life—college! But God has prepared her for this new phase because Jewell has already transitioned a lot in her life, including moving back to the states from Romania (how cool, right?) I asked Jewell a few questions about her faith, and here’s what she has to share with you.                          

On her spiritual journey: “The start of my relationship with God was natural. My parents are Christians and my dad is a minister, and we were also missionaries in Romania for 7 years of my childhood, so I have always grown up in the church. It was when I was 12 that I really began seeking for myself. I remember a period of time when I cried myself to sleep almost every night because of my remorse for my sin. Those nights were spent in prayer to God and logical reasoning through all of the points I needed to believe to be a Christian. I was baptized on July 4, 2012; my spiritual Independence Day. Since then my relationship with God has grown greatly. I have more faith in His power and I am more committed to communicating with Him through study and prayer. God has been working in my life in thousands of ways, and I’m sure I’ll never fully understand all of them. He helps me be able to succeed academically, He keeps my family safe throughout all of our travels, and He blesses me through my family’s move to Michigan, where I have so many opportunities to grow in my faith.”

On her favorite passage of Scripture, and her personal Bible study: “It’s hard to choose a favorite verse when there are so many wonderful ones, but Nehemiah 6:9 has been my theme verse for this school year. It reads, “For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” As I have gone through all of the changes in my senior year, Nehemiah’s prayer gives me a lot strength- to fight against sin, to do my best in my academics and other pursuits, to do the spiritual work God wants me to do, and to rely on Him. I think it’s very important to establish a routine for Bible study, a set time and place every day where you can just be with God’s Word. Since I’m homeschooled I have some flexibility with that, but even with a busier schedule it’s vital to study the Bible every day. Getting into a routine of doing that is extremely helpful. Also, take advantage of the multitude of Bible study material available. I am currently using Cindy Colley’s In The Shadows Digging Deep study for women, and I would absolutely recommend it. Find good Bible study books that will get you excited about delving deeper into the Word. I would have to say that Philippians is my favorite book of the Bible. It’s a very encouraging and joyful book, and has lots of practical principles that we can apply to our lives. My favorite passage is 4:4-8.”

On her prayer life: “Prayer is vital to my relationship with God. I know I have room for improvement, but I consider my prayer times to be some of the most important moments in my day. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing, so I try to pray whenever a needy person or situation crosses my mind. A fantastic supplement to my prayer life is my prayer journal. It helps me pray as thoroughly and deeply as I should, and keeps me focused on talking to God.”

Her thoughts on Girls Moving Mountains: “I think “delighting in the Lord” means that you not only find intense joy in your relationship with God, but also that you put that relationship above all other things in your life. The difficulty lies in the fact that truly delighting in the Lord requires a lot more sacrifice than we may think at first. We have to lay aside every sin, distraction, claim on our time, negative attitude, and human relationship that comes between us and our Heavenly Father, and that could mean giving up a lot of things that we enjoy and love. But if Christians are truly delighting in the Lord, we will find every thing we need (and more) in our service and obedience to Him.”

On the “desires of her heart”: “Personal mountains that I want to move include worry and comparison to others. I sometimes let my fears and negative thoughts stand in the way of really trusting and obeying God, and I work on that part of myself every day so I can be a more focused Christian. It comforts me that Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33), so I have no need of worries or negative thoughts. I only need to lean on Him who has overcome those things. “

To other girls who are striving to increase their faith: “In Mark 9 we read of a father who brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus, begging Him to cast out the spirit which causes his son such harm. In verse 24, the father cries out and says, “‘I believe; help my unbelief!'” I think this is the key to growing our faith as children of the Father. We must take the faith that we already have and ask God to help the unbelief that remains. We must seek Him through His word and through prayer, and spend so much time with Him that we cannot help but fall in love and put our faith in Him completely. Then our faith will grow in strength and we will be able to move mountains that we had never before thought we could move.”

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In Jewell, I see a girl who delights in the Lord, and I know you can see it too from the way she has shared her heart here! I hope that Jewell’s words have inspired you to strive even harder for that a faith that delights in the Lord and anticipates His great power to work in us.

Jewell is a talented writer and poet. Check out some of her beautiful, thought-provoking work on her blog here: https://blissfullittlewonders.wordpress.com/

Until next time,

Amelia

Girls Moving Mountains

Matthew 17:14-21

And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

When I was little, I used to always imagine what it would be like to literally move mountains. I would think about this passage and then I would think really really hard and scrunch my face up and wait for some literally earth-shattering thing to happen. But it never did.

Then I started to grow up and to learn more about faith and what this passage means. I’ve learned that there’s an even more powerful meaning to the faith that Jesus is describing here. Jesus uses this image of moving the mountain as a metaphor to describe how truly strong faith can change things in our lives and in the lives of other people. In the context of the passage, the “mountain” Jesus was describing was the disciples’ casting the demon out of the boy. But we have all kinds of metaphorical “mountains” that we encounter every day. Maybe it’s a personal challenge or struggle. Maybe it’s something happening with your family or friends. Maybe someone you love a lot is really sick, and that could be physically or spiritually. Maybe it’s our culture and our society. There are challenges that we face daily, but the power of faith in Jesus is that it changes things—it can move those mountains!

But how do we attain that faith?

We know what faith is, but how can we increase our faith so that it can move metaphorical mountains? Jesus says that the faith we need to move mountains is like a mustard seed— it may start out so small, but it grows and blossoms into an enormous tree! So how can we make our faith blossom?

Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

I’ve read this verse before but, as I was thinking about moving mountains, it just all sort of clicked. It just made so much sense that this was the key. Because those mountains are things that we really want to move. They are things that we want to change and accomplish— those are the “desires of our heart”! And it’s clear that to attain faith that will do something towards those desires—that can move mountains—we have to first delight ourselves in the Lord.

What does it mean to delight in something?

Something that delights me is something that brings me great pleasure. I delight in Hallmark movies, chocolate milkshakes, warm laundry, a good book, and baking cookies. But do I really delight in the Lord? Is that the word that I would use to describe my relationship with God? Because I think that it should be. I think too often we see our relationship with God as a chore, like I have to read my Bible today and I should probably try to pray sometime today and I have to go to church, and I have to serve people and we have it all wrong! That’s not delighting in the Lord, and consequently that’s not real faith! That’s not going to move mountains at all!

Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.

Truly delighting in the Lord is not just something that makes God happy, it’s a non-negotiable attitude that demonstrates our commitment to Him. And like most things when it comes to what God commands us to do, it’s for our benefit! Delighting in God means that we love to do anything that has to do with Him. Delighting in the Lord means we love to help others, we love to give, we love to read His word, we love to worship Him, we love to talk with Him in prayer, and we love to tell others about Him. Delighting in the Lord allows us to move mountains. An attitude of delighting in God is joyful and hopeful and peaceful and loving and kind, and it draws us close to Him and inspires us to be like His Son.

But it’s not easy.

It’s hard to delight in the Lord, and why? Why is it so hard when it’s something that we want to do?

Romans 7:14-24

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Paul writes this relevant, honest passage about this struggle in wanting to do what’s right and fighting against our human nature to do what’s wrong. And it’s so true, right? It’s a constant battle to go beyond our human inadequacies and to truly delight in the law of God, even when we really want to! But that’s the point: we are inadequate. That’s why Paul finishes with verse 25:

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Thanks be to God because He is everything and more! He is always enough when we never are! It’s that choosing to delight in Him and to continue to strive for more than our human nature that matters. It’s a struggle, but it’s a struggle that is worth it because God is enough and He is greater and He will provide. We have to choose to pursue a faith that is greater, and He will offer and create the spiritual power of moving mountains!

Making a choice to delight in God is the catalyst for everything else that we do. Is God our everything? Is God alone our heart’s desire? Do we long to be with Him? Do we long for Him to return? Do we truly delight in Him? Because we’ll never be empowered until we choose to reach for and to work for that kind of faith. And without that faith, we’ll never move mountains.

I’d like to start a series on this blog about girls I know who are really on fire for God, girls who truly delight in Him and who are moving mountains with their faith. I hope it will be an inspiration to myself but also to you, sweet reader, as we find encouragement in each other in our collective seeking of God. Check back in to hear from some awesome mountain-moving girls really soon!

I love you and God loves you so much more!

Amelia

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Best of 2016

Wow, y’all, can you believe we’re only a few hours away from 2017? This year has just flown by, and I wanted to capture a few of the highlights here before it’s over.

If I had to pick one word to describe this year, I would say change. This was undoubtedly the biggest year of change in my life, as I graduated from high school and started college six hours away from home. I turned nineteen this year, and I lived away from my parents for the first time. I learned how to do all my own laundry and get stains out and fill out an absentee ballot and get my car repaired. I’m sort of a grown-up now, or at least a pretend one 😉

Here are some of my favorite memories from this year:

  1. My very last Lads to Leaders convention

Oh wow, this was most wonderful weekend of the year. It was so beautifully filled with all of the things I love about L2L and also so emotional, knowing I will never experience Lads in the same way again.

This was the weekend that inspired my biggest post of the year, Blessed: An L2L Tribute. I was so humbled and honored to have so many people read and share that post, and to have it published in The Christian Chronicle (which I still can’t believe happened!). You can see it here: Lads to Leaders: Ten Years of Speaking About God

2. The Princess Project

My senior project, which still feels like a dream that happened to another person, finished up in March with the most fun Princess Party ever. Read all about it here: Happily Ever After: The Princess Project Final Update

3. Graduation

I know graduating from high school isn’t that big of a deal for some people, but it was a really big deal for me! I worked really hard to graduate from the Liberal Arts Academy and it was just such a joy to celebrate that work with my family and my friends and classmates. Graduation itself was just so much fun! I couldn’t stop smiling through the whole ceremony and looking up into the stands in awe of the moment! I’ll never forget how amazing that night felt.

We also got to celebrate more at our really fun graduation party. It was so fun to pull out all of these old memories from throughout my life, and put them together for the party. My old kindergarten teacher was able to be there, so it was like everything came full circle!

4. Summer trips to Philly and Chicago

Cool places with fave people. Check it out: What’s going on

5. My last week of summer Bible camp ever

So much fun, such a special place, such special people. I’ll always cherish summers at Rolling Hills.

6. COLLEGE

Wowowow what a HUGE life change. It’s hard to imagine all of the people I didn’t know that are so important to me now or all of the experiences that I didn’t know were coming just five months ago! It’s such a blessing to honestly say that I LOVE it!

On the very first night of Freshman orientation, we had a devotional and our speaker told us to take a selfie of that moment. Here’s mine:

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Not the most glamorous picture I’ve ever taken, but it brings back so many emotions for me. In that moment, my parents had just driven away, leaving me holding back a major breakdown and wondering what on earth I had done to myself. I didn’t know anyone (technically not true, but that’s how it felt) and I had no idea how I was going to survive the next few minutes, much less the semester. The next morning (at which point I was not feeling much better), I started a mantra: ups and downs, ups and downs. I knew that if I could make it through the rough spots, there would be lots of great things that God had in store for me.

And wow, did He ever. Over the semester, I met so many amazing new people, joined an awesome social club that I love, and had so many opportunities to do things I never even dreamed of doing!

I was also incredibly blessed to step into the role of Editor-in-Chief for our Odyssey community on campus. Here are some of my favorite articles from this semester:

The Meaning of Home

Stop Beating Yourself Up Over the Election

What American History Has to Say About the 2016 Election

A White Girl’s Response to Black Shootings in America

7. Turning NINETEEN!

It’s one year closer to 20, which kinda makes me wanna go hide in a blanket fort, but I’m so grateful for the friends (old and new) and the family I had to celebrate with.

8. Thanksgiving and Christmas Break

Yes I love college, but I sure love being home too. We had the best holiday season together.

It’s almost time for 2017! I’m so excited for a new year and the things it will bring. I can’t wait to see what God will do with my life, and I’m praying for big things to happen, including some that will take this blog to the next level. More to come very soon!

Happy New Year!

-Amelia

The Memory Cupboard

To the sweet children of Mrs. Bertrand’s 2nd grade class at Veterans Park Elementary,

Thank you for letting me come visit you today. It was such a special hour just to be with your class, to meet your sweet faces, and to be a part of the magic that’s happening in your classroom. You let me come into your special space and you reminded of what it means to be a kid. To be alive, and to think creatively, and to have an imagination that is limitless. To love animals and dragons, to be endlessly curious, and to dream about the world. You brought me back to a special space today. I love your special space because when I was second grader like you, a long time ago, I felt the same way. I had the power to do anything. I could write stories and dream and create.

I want to tell you about why your special space is special. It’s the same reason it was so special for me all those years ago.

It’s because you have the very best teacher in the whole world! I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t for her. She looked me in my shy little second grade eyes and she said, “You have the power to dream anything and to express it with your words.” She told me that what I wrote was important and that it was unique and that it was good. And she let me write about all kinds of things. Whatever I wanted to write, wherever I wanted to take my story, she would let me, and she would follow with her own ideas, her own inspiration and art. She would let me draw covers and staple together my “books” and read them to the class. She let me be an author.

Sweet little friends, that is a good teacher. And guess what? She is your teacher. She is the best teacher I have ever had, and I know you won’t forget what she will do for you either.

Today we read a story called, “The Memory Cupboard,” about a little girl and her grandmother who stored broken things in a cupboard, where their memories would live on. You opened up my own Memory Cupboard today, and I found a lot of wonderful things there—memories that were not so much broken as they were a little dusty. You’ve reminded me of the treasures from my childhood, treasures that can’t be held in my hands, but rather, in my heart.

Today you let me be a kid again. You reminded me of how much I love to dream and share my words. But you did all of those things for me because your most wonderful, precious teacher has allowed you to do the same.

A classroom has the uniquely glorious opportunity to become an amazing place for its students. But it can only do so through the power of the right individual—the right kind of teacher. Sweet boys and girls, you have that teacher. Be so very thankful for her, and for the ways she will influence you. Ways that you won’t even realize until ten years later, when the reason you can’t decide what to do with your life is because the two things you want to be so badly are both inspired by her: writer or teacher?

I hope you find your dreams. I hope you never lose your childlike spirit. And I hope that whatever you accomplish in your life, you realize that Mrs. Bertrand wanted that for you most of all.

Thank you all for today. And thank you, Mrs. Bertrand, for everything.

dscn1082

Amelia

Too Much Noise: Election 2016

Hello friends

Guess what? It’s another article about the election. But hear me out on this one.

Last night was one of the craziest nights ever, not just because of the election, but also, yes, because of the election. We were checking poll updates all night and then my roommate who loves politics (hi Samantha!) and I stayed up too late watching the results come in.

I went to bed last night relieved, to be honest. Because I personally believe that we have kept someone who directly opposes the Christian faith out of office. But I was so focused on that relief that I forgot about some things. And I woke up this morning and I realized that people across this country, including many of my friends and my peers, are angry, hurt, and confused. Not only that, but they are terrified of the future. In relief that one candidate lost, I forgot about what the winning candidate has done. He has not been kind. He has not been good. He has not been humble. He has not been a peacemaker. He has ostracized people with his embarrassing bigotry. And now I am not so relieved.

I am seeing hateful, hurting words all over my social media. People who feel abandoned and betrayed. People who are fearful and worried. People who are overbearingly supporting our President-elect in an unkind way. I am heartbroken. I have spent so much time in the last 24 hours, in the last month, in the last year thinking about this election. Now it’s over, and it’s not even over. People are still talking, still arguing, still divided.

Have you ever thought that maybe this is all a really good, really cleverly designed distraction?

Satan is super good at lying. Jesus warned us about him in John 8:44, saying, “When [Satan] lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar, and the father of lies.” Satan is great at making us believe that something is important when it’s really not. He’s great at making us worry when we should be trusting God. He’s great at taking our eyes off of our mission and getting us consumed with something else.

I think Satan is lying to us right now. He’s saying, “This election is the most important event in your life. This election is only way to change things. This election will decide your future.” He’s saying, “Your political stance is the only right one. Fight for it. Anyone who believes differently is stupid.” He’s saying, “Don’t listen to the other side. You’re the only person that matters.”

LIES! He is LYING and we are believing him! We’re letting him into our hearts and we’re letting the lies take over. We’ve let him convince us that this election is the most important battle ever—he’s even made it look important spiritually!

In all of the noise, we have forgotten what our true purpose is. We are not here to promote a candidate to win an election. We are not here to live in a society where Christianity is the accepted way of life. We are here to accept the invitation of Jesus, to obey God, and to serve others as a light of God’s love in the world.

I’m not saying that this election isn’t important. Of course it is. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t discuss our opinions. We should. I’m just saying that when all of this noise about politics around us is what’s consuming our every thought and action, then maybe something is wrong. Satan has provided a good distraction. He’s provided the noise. But it’s time we got out of it. It’s time for us to put on some headphones and get to work.

Nothing is going to fix this except Jesus. And who are we as Christians but His hands and feet? It’s our job to show others the only real solution—the only hope, the only joy, and the only peace to be found in this life that comes through His salvation. Let’s live to understand and appreciate others. Let’s live to serve and to love. Let’s live to keep doing what we should always be doing, no matter what’s going on around us.

There’s too much noise today. I just want to choose Jesus.

 

-Amelia

Facetime with God

One of the most important parts of college for me has been being able to Facetime my parents and talk to them. It is so amazing that we have this technology to be able to see each other face to face and talk with them through a screen. Being separated from my family is hard, but Facetime is a gift that makes it so much easier.

I can video call my parents and talk about anything. If I’m upset or having a bad day, I call them. If something wonderful just happened or if I had the best day ever, I call them. Just being able to see them and talk to them about whatever is going on is a necessity. I seek them out regularly for their encouragement, strength, and love. They are always the first people I want to talk to.

So why is it not the same way with God?

“Facetime” with God is a necessity for the Christian life. If I want to do the best I can for Him, I have to seek Him out on a daily basis for His encouragement, strength, and love. He should be the first person I want to talk to when anything happens to me, good or bad. I should be able to tell Him anything, and I should want to know His answers in return.

I think it’s so easy for us to lose the realness of spending time with God when we talk about “prayer” and “Bible study” as kind of intangible terms. But in essence, what we mean is Facetime God. Talk with Him. Tell Him about what’s going on. And then read what He has to tell you in response from His word. It’s that easy.

I want “Facetiming” God to be my first reaction in all situations, my go-to in every moment, and my source of support every day. I hope you do too.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” -Colossians 4:2

“Come close to God and God will come close to you.” -James 4:8

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” -Psalm 62:8

 

-Amelia

Dirt in the Water

Last weekend, we traveled up to a campground in the middle of nowhere for retreat weekend. It was a blessedly wonderful time—except for the whole camping part. The woodsy, campy, nature-y deal has just never been my thing. As my sweet friend reminded me on Saturday, I am unfortunately a bit high maintenance (okay, more than a bit). I’m sorry camp-loving people, but the outdoors and I aren’t friends.

The water from the camp tasted like dirt. It just did. And it was pretty obvious. Even if the water looked clear, you could just taste it. At one point, a bug fell into my cup, making the water even more obviously dirty. Totally gross, right?

If we had scooped up a handfuls of dirt and dumped into the water, it would have been completely ruined. The more dirt we scooped, the less and less we would want to drink it. You’re probably thinking, duh, why are we even talking about this? Bugs, gross. Dirt, gross. Obviously I’m not going to drink water that’s full of dirt.

“How much less man, who is abominable and filthy, who drinks iniquity like water!” –Job 15:16

The thing is, if there’s dirt in the water, we notice it right away. So why is it so much harder for us to notice the dirt of sin building up in our lives?

With sin, it’s so much easier to let it slip into our lives a little bit at a time. Just one little thing, one little speck of dirt, can eventually build up into a nasty, dirty mess. But it happens one speck at a time. We would never be okay with it if someone were to say, “Here’s some water. It has a little dirt in it, but it’s fine with you, right?” Of course it’s not fine! Even if it’s just a speck of dirt, we don’t want to drink it! But why are we okay with letting the dirt of sin build up in us?

Get the dirt out! It’s filthy, it’s nasty! It’s absolutely ruining the beautiful purity of God’s creation! It’s not okay!

Whenever we find ourselves thinking along the lines of, “Well, it will be okay this one time,” or “Just a little bit won’t hurt me,” when it comes to sin, we are in serious trouble. The things we allow to influence us, even if we don’t realize it—TV, movies, social media, even our friends— if they are filled with sinful thoughts and actions, the dirt can slowly seep into our souls, one little bit at time.

“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” -James 1:21

“…having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” -2 Corinthians 7:1

God wants us to be holy, set apart for him. That means He expects us to get the dirt out of our lives—and keep it out. He wants our souls to be clear water for Him! Don’t let any dirt get into the purely washed water of your soul, not even a little bit. Because dirt in the water is gross.