Rachel Awtrey

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Lifestyle | Travel | Faith | Marriage

Posts in Faith
DaySpring Planner
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You can laugh but I still think of life post-grad in semester increments. Spring semester has ended and Summer has started - the only difference is it's no longer a "Summer break." No, no friends. Summer is definitely still moving at full paced. To-do lists remain the same length, reporting for work, dishes, meals, families to tend to, chores to complete, schedules and meetings to consider...yep. It's all still there. Add the occasional pool breaks, beach trips, tan skin and you've got your adult summer!

It's not all bad though if you have systems in place to make your days the most efficient so you can get to those pool breaks and beach trips a little quicker. I've always been a huge fan of old school planners but I'm also pretty particular about them. I have a planner for my calendar and dates/meeting, a notepad for my todo lists, a journal for my thoughts and prayers - and yes, all of these go everywhere with me! That's why when my friends at DaySpring partnered up with Studio 71 to create a planner (and must I add, it's gorgeous), I had to get one! It has your calendar laid out in a year, month and week with places to add your to-dos, errands and things to accomplish. It has a folder to add any receipts or business cards in the back, tabs so you can't get lost or lose time flipping to the right date and all of your favorite agenda features.

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But, what makes this one a winner is that it keeps me centered while I work. Every week has a distinguished scripture to reflect on or memorize. It has a page in the back with scripture references for any mood or feeling that may be keeping you back, it has a place for goals and dreams, prayers and more! It keeps you motivated, accountable and driven to end each day in excellence and reminds you of the bigger Purpose.

I'm all about that. I hope you join me in getting this 18-month planner to experience beauty, color design, a playful style that's as rich as your faith. It's the perfect place to stop, gather thoughts, and plan your day.

I color coordinate my planner (pink is work, blue is personal, green is family) to help me keep track of everything needing to be accomplished that day or week. What do you do to make your planner your own and keep it organized?

Let's do this, friends! I hope you find this helpful!

This is a sponsored post by DaySpring. More items/products of theirs can be found here. All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.

It's just not over, yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this picture. But I hate it, too, all at the same time.


It doesn’t look like what it’s “supposed” to look like. It’s missing someone. One person short of the “family wedding picture” I thought would always be in our wedding album.


When I see it, my eyes get narrow, my head tilts to the right and my lips get pushed to the side. Every time.
I can get hung up with the fact that dad’s life was just too short, I can get mad at circumstances or try to find someone to blame.


Instead, I lean into the pain instead of running away from it. I scream “I’m not scared of you” right in it’s face when it reminds me of future moments he won’t be a part of. I smile knowing that it’s just a piece of my story, not the whole one.


Instead of looking at my story and asking “why this?” I’ll ask “how can I use it?”
I’m no expert and I’m not perfect, I’m just tired of trying it my way.
You have the same choice too, friend.
And trust me, it’s much more fun His way.


So why would you fear the future if His goodness and love pursued you all the days of your life (Psalm 23:6)?

100 Days of Declarations
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If words spoke me + you into existence “in the beginning” (Genesis 1) then I think we should be careful with what we say about ourselves.


So to put that into practice and to speak life into my heart, mind and spirit, I’m joining my friends on a challenge to declare 100 scriptural Truths over myself. I’m a few days in and dang 🔥. I’m able to sort through Truth + fake news so quickly. I feel empowered and bravery to speak life into others.


My friend (@theeverhome) put together a google doc of 100 declarations you can start with and I have the link for this clicker!


“The power of life and death is in the tongue” Proverbs 18:21


Who wants to join me?

Trying this new thing...


I’m trying this new thing.


Instead of looking to the next best thing, waiting for that upgrade, trying to get to Friday or a longed-for day, I’m looking at the “right now.” I think a lot is missed in the hustle. I think we miss out on moments, conversations, friendships and opportunity until we hush the noise and open our eyes. So, I’m dancing a little more, eating that cookie, taking the longer route, sipping slower and lingering.


You should try it, too.

Suffering does not mean the absence of God. In fact, lean in. Perhaps, a breakthrough is right around the corner. After the death (and what they thought was a defeat) on Friday, the Saturday was still but He came through on Sunday. Your “Sunday” is coming, too, friend!
Happy Easter from the Awtreys and this beautiful sunrise service at the beach. He is Risen! ☀️

No need to hustle - Matthew 6:26
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No need to hustle. No need to stress. No need to get ahead of God thinking He forgot about you. He is taking care of you and has already thought of all of the things that are on your mind.


Think of all of the times that “things just worked out” and give Him the credit for those moments instead of giving Him grief when things “aren’t looking so great.” 🙌🏻

Behind the Bliss Podcast Pals

“God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called”

Honored to share something super special with this girl. Every week, we release a podcast episode on @behindtheblisspodcast where we talk all things funny + address the topics others may steer away from. If you listen you might say “oh dang”, “that’s good” or “me too!” all in one episode. 🖤🎧
Now we have thousands of listeners, new friends, opportunities like I would have never believed and a friendship I cherish all because this gal called me one day a few years ago and asked “do you want to start a podcast?”
Just say “yes.” Take that step, start the blog, pick up that camera, call that friend, ask that question, do that thing that you’ve always wondered about. Our God smiles and blesses our obedience even when we don’t know what the heckie we’re doing I promise.

Daily Devotional
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My thought this morning:
What if my obedience assists in someone else’s breakthrough?
What if my boldness brings about someone’s freedom?
It’s bigger than us. ✨ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Also, loving “New Morning Mercies” by Paul David Tripp - if you’re looking for a daily devotional, look no further! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
And if you’re looking for a Bible, try the @shereadstruth Bible! It has devotionals throughout with maps, helpful information to fully understand scripture and other fun stuff! 🙌🏻

Keep dreamin’ 🤘🏼
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Let me tell you a quick story.
About 2 years ago, right after we got married, Thomas had a dream to become a pilot.
We sold a lot of what we had, lived on pb&js + potato chips, and would ride his motorcycle to the end of the runway at a tiny local airport and watch planes fly over us.


Fast forward a few years later filled with other’s generosity, Thomas’s discipline and countless “God stories,” Thomas is a private pilot and able to fly us to places we’d like to visit. 


I’m not telling you this to show ya how cool (and hot) my husband is (even though he is) I’m telling you to point every mile in the air, every flight pre-check, every time we put on our seatbelts and head down the runway back to the Ultimate Promise Maker and Promise Keeper. 


It wasn’t on our timing and it didn’t happen the way we would have liked at every point, and our journey isn’t even finished - but friends, He will fulfill the promises and desires He has planted in you.


So maybe you feel like your dreams are financially, logistically, physically impossible + hopeless. But we serve a God bigger than our hang ups and bigger than our dreams. He created them and He tells us this... 


“that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6


Keep dreamin’ 🤘🏼

Embrace the Pain
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Have you ever been so dang grateful for everything that you just want to cry because you don’t know what else to do to express it?? Maybe it’s just me 😂 take a moment and write a list (or think of one) of all the things in your life that you’re thankful for: stability, a family, memories, the ability to dance if you wanted to, people that love and support me, you get the gist.

All of a sudden, the things that stress you out or make you mad seem to sort of dissolve. Funny huh?

Reflecting on the blessings we have and don’t deserve, the grace that’s been offered to us, makes all the stretching (😉), all this discomfort, all of the tension and pain worth it. Because stretching makes you more flexible and flexibility allows movement.

So if you’re wanting movement or strength in your life, embrace the stretch.

Faith Based Books, Apps, Podcasts, and Playlists You'll Love
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This past weekend I heard a quote from Louie Giglio of Passion City Church: "it's easy to be a person with information but lack wisdom." So true! It's so easy to take details and moments in but to hang on to them, share them with others, compare them to scripture and see what the Lord has to say about them is often neglected. These few books, podcasts, and other knick-knacks have really propelled my "free time" into a whole other ball game. I feel like I've been soaking up good Truths, replacing the old with new and identifying lies I thought were true all along.

Here are a few of my favorite things:

Devotions

If you love devotions, these are great for you. New Morning Mercies is a great one for an everyday thought provoking 30 minutes. It gives you further scripture to read and approach after the devotional. Praying the Bible is so so good if you are seeking to learn more about prayer and the power it has in our lives. It walks through the Bible and when + how scripture tells us to call on the Lord. So good! Shauna Niequist is one of my favorite authors and speaker so this 365-day devotional, Savor, is an easy one to display on a coffee table and flip through when you need a little pick me up. If you're a doodler I have a devo for you: All in All is a journal devotional that allows you to write (or draw) your thoughts while reading. Flourish is supposed to be a 52 week devotion (one devotion a week, duh) but it's so hard for me to not just read the next for the next day. So so good!
Also, I do not read all of these at once, it may sound like it but that would be a lot and so crazy and too much for me to handle. Me sharing all of my favorites is not me advising you read all of them at once. Pick one, finish it and then pick another - that's how I do it!

Apps

 
 

She Reads Truth
Has the Bible on the app but it also has short devotionals and screen savers for your phone. How cool!

ESV Bible
A great Bible tool for the ESV translation of the Bible. It allows you to highlight, make notes, look up words - great for studying!

Bibles

She Reads Truth
I have the linen hardback covered book and it's beautiful! I use it as decor just as much as a Bible - it's just so beautiful! The front page of every book has a beautifully painted verse from the book. There are maps and timelines easy to study as well as devotionals throughout by some of our favorite authors. 

Illuminated Bible
Again, another gorgeous Bible! The gold foiling stands out among the rest. It's a journaling Bible so it's great for note takers. The beginning of every chapter has a piece of art about the book. It's more traditional and classic looking - it reminds me of a vintage Bible and the chronicles of Narnia illustration. 

Podcasts

 
 

I wish I could go through every single podcast but these are truly just the best I've found. Glorious In the Mundane is a podcast you listen to in order to relax but also pick up nuggets of truth or "aha" moments. The Happy Hour is a mixture of hilarious episode and episodes that send chills down your spine. Each one leaves you feeling like a "better you."  Crazy Love Podcast who doesn't love some Francis Chan?? He always leaves everyone's jaws dropped, a true gift of speaking directly to people's hearts. Francis speaks with Holy Spirit lead conviction - get ready because he also is talented enough to "call you out" via podcast. You'll leave with one more part of your life identified that the Lord wants you to change.

I'll leave The Next Right Thing and The Shauna Niequist Podcast up to you to listen to and observe for yourself! Just know that they're wonderful and will rock your world.

My Worship Playlist

I'm really proud of this playlist - it's a fun combination of soothing and songs to dance to! I'm always adding to it so you can bet on it changing and not hearing the same songs over and over again! With 300 songs, you're bound to find a song that moves you on days you need to feel loved.

 
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What are your favorite faith filled resources? Any favorites I should know about??

 

California Campfires

Have you ever been to a campfire alone? Of course not, it's meant to be shared with the ones that you love, singing and dancing - it's a celebration. It's a warm "togetherness" of sharing stories, testimonies, and songs. It's a safe place to share and to be freely loved. It's a place filled with laughter, the sweetness of chocolate and marshmallows and the gift of friendship.

This openness of a community is what we were created for: to invite, to include and to share our lives with one another. A campfire so perfectly describes the Greater Community in the Church and what responsibilities we are given to start campfires and send out invitations.

Beautifully, it's understood that there are no outsiders to a campfire. The circle get's bigger, the crowd get's warmer and there's more ears to listen and mouths to speak. Likewise, are we called to pursue others, to invite them into our community/campfire and love them well by always opening up our circle to them.

I'm thankful that this type of community and worship is exclusive to the four walls of a church. It's meant to spread, to carry warmth and to always be growing - like a campfire.

Start the spark, set open a flame, let the embers burn with warmth. Send out your invitations and rest in the safety and community that's provided.

5 Lessons I've Learned in Marriage

Woah, today, Thomas and I have been married for one whole year. It's been a year full of fun, adventures, traveling, moving, graduating, and so much more! Through it all, we've learned a few key pieces that we use practically almost every day. Out of a spirit of vulnerability, we wanted to share those with you all because no marriage is perfect but there's so much we can share with one another.

1. You don't meet each other in the middle

For so long, I've imagined marriage as a "you give 50% and I give 50% and then we'll be at 100%." But, I was so wrong. Most days, I can't give 50%, much less 10% so, with my theory, that would mean Thomas is giving more than 50% a lot. That's not "fair." At least, that's what the world will tell you. But, if our motive is to serve each other well and out-give the other, it becomes fun to "out serve" one another. So when I aim to give 100% of myself and he aims to give all of himself. Then there's more room for improvement, for failure, for grace. And that's what marriage is all about: tons of grace.

2. Marriage is a covenant, not a contract

Along the lines of "meeting each other in the middle," the world tells us that we signed a contract when in reality, we are apart of a greater thing: a covenant. A contract can be broken when one doesn't uphold their part of the deal. It goes void. However, when I fail or I get upset or grumpy, Thomas still aims to love me well. Likewise, when Thomas isn't having a great day, that doesn't give me permission to give up on him. What binds us together is not the words, "I do" or signing a marriage license, it's the commitment that we made to do life together and believing that we can go farther together even though we may be able to go faster alone. Farther is better.

3. You can't love on your own

So many times I try and give love, give love, give love. But, y'all, that's exhausting. I try and cook meals, clean the house, make sure that Thomas is feeling respected and loved, that he has clean clothes, that I'm hugging him and greeting him with a kiss and gosh! That's a lot when you're doing it out of your own strength. Sometimes, I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and don't feel like hugging anyone, I don't feel like doing the laundry or the dishes, I don't feel like respecting Thomas, I feel more independent and not dependent. Those times that I feel like doing something other than what I've been called to do as a life leave me selfish and Thomas feeling unloved. Most of the times that I feel those ways are because I am relying on my own heart rather than overflowing from the Lord's. When I tap into the resources that I have with God, he gives me the strength, the desire and the craving to want to serve Thomas better than I ever would have wanted to if I tried it on my own. For so long I had it backward. I have to love Thomas so that I'm doing it right so that I'm a "good Christian." When really, I must first be in love with Christ so that I can then love my husband.

Just like a car, we have to fill up with gas and then we can run. When your gas runs out, your car doesn't work or go anywhere. The world and it's culture tells us, "your car isn't working" so you need a new car" when really all you need is to get to a gas station and fill up with some more gas. A car can't just run on its own just like we can't love on our own. Just because we're feeling empty and our gas tank is out doesn't mean it's time to go searching for a new car or give up on the spouse that we have.

4. You're constantly learning one another

I'm still learning what makes him tick, what grinds his gears, what he loves, what his childhood was like and it's a fun adventure! We're constantly "taking notes," discovering new things about one another that make us more efficient in fighting fair, conversations, daily routines and such. So the times that are hard and we're having to jump some hurdles in a relationship can't be times that we get discouraged. Instead, we should celebrate that we know each other more deeply and that we are making progress!

5. Community is key

Without the community that we've made in Birmingham, being a part of our small group, having people over for dinner and going to other's homes for meals, we wouldn't be standing still. It takes people to encourage you, rebukes you, reminds you of what marriage is. A community should be full of vulnerability and freedom! To be able to say "yeah, last week was not a good week for us, we were really struggling" and someone to respond, "it's okay, us too" or "yeah, we've been there" is a great relief! We are not doing this whole marriage thing alone. Hallelujah! You must have a community of people to uplift you when you need someone to pray and lift you up, someone to remind you how great your spouse is when you're just too frustrated to see through the clutter, to release the enemy's grip when you feel weak.

So, no. By no means do we have this figured out. However, we have learned so much and are still learning! From glory to glory, it keeps getting better and better. The best is yet to come!

The Grand Canyon

I expected the Grand Canyon to make me feel so small, so insignificant, so microscopic compared to this Canyon, itself. In reality, I felt strong, valuable and significant when this thought overwhelmed me: even after all of this was created, God didn't see the Earth "complete" or "beautiful enough" without me + you.

My God isn't the kind that would create something to make me feel small and insignificant. He made it to give us strength, to be empowered and to remind us we weren't made to climb mountains but to move them.

I made this video as a reflection and reminder for y'all (and myself) that I was created to be far bigger and more loved than these incredible mountains were.

 
 

O U T  O F  H I D I N G //  (the Father's song)

Steffany Gretzinger

Come out of hiding
You're safe here with Me
There's no need to cover
What I already see

You've got your reasons
But I hold your peace
You've been on lockdown
And I hold the key

'Cause I loved you before you knew it was love
And I saw it all, still I chose the cross
And you were the one that I was thinking of
When I rose from the grave

Now rid of the shackles, My victory's yours
I tore the veil for you to come close
There's no reason to stand at a distance anymore
You're not far from home

I'll be your lighthouse
When you're lost at sea
And I will illuminate
Everything

No need to be frightened
By intimacy
No, just throw off your fear
And come running to Me

'Cause I loved you before you knew it was love
And I saw it all, still I chose the cross
And you were the one that I was thinking of
When I rose from the grave
Now rid of the shackles, My victory's yours
I tore the veil for you to come close
There's no reason to stand at a distance anymore
You're not far from home
Keep on coming

And oh as you run
What hindered love
Will only become
Part of the story

Baby, you're almost home now
Please don't quit now
You're almost home to Me

 

Listen to the entire song here

So you want to hear God's voice?

It's frustrating and I've been there - you pray for an answer and you feel like all you hear back is loneliness and silence. Or, you sit still and wait for some huge revelation.

It's easy when we feel like we don't/can't hear God's voice to simply stop listening. It's a frustrating topic for many believers that want to encounter the love of the Father, to experience all the goodness He promises. 

I prayed for Truth to write to those that may also feel stuck in the lie that they, "can't hear God."

One of the most practical stories in Scripture is when Moses encounters God and His voice through a flaming bush. (Exodus 3)

"Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God."

Moses led. He led others to the literal mountain of God. And in addition, went into the quietness of the wilderness - not the busy streets of the city or the crowds of the public. Are you leading others (or even yourself) to the mountain of God? Be intentional with your direction. When you set your direction towards Him, you'll see Him and hear Him more clearly than you ever have before only because you're making a decision with your direction. 

"There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire, it did not burn up."

The Lord is always appearing to us; it's our choice whether we want to look and find Him. When Moses saw something miraculous and extraordinary, he didn't just stand there, he didn't doubt it, he didn't turn to his phone or his friend - instead...

"Moses thought, 'I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.'"

Moses approached. Are you approaching what you see to be good or what you see the Lord doing?

"When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, 'Here I am.'”

Moses encountered the Lord and he knew it because he was seeking Him the entire time by aiming his direction toward the Mountain of God. When the Lord spoke to him, Moses responded. Are you responding to what the Lord says to you? Are you actions and words a response?

I can guarantee you this: God is craving to be heard by you and to hear you. Friends, don't fall into the temptation to trust the enemy's lie that you won't/can't hear from the Lord and what He has to say to you. The enemy thrives on acting as a boundary, or a wall, between you and the Lord's message for you.

This world is complicated: it has so many distractions to throw at us to catch, so many lies and truths to filter through, so many people and things to listen to and then we feel like we have to rank the priority in which order we should listen to them. If I'm honest with ya, many times my priority of listening to what He has to say falls short and falls on my list of to-dos.

There's no "method" to hearing the Lord's voice but here are some practical actions we as believers are not only encouraged but called to take, daily:

1. Set aside time to spend with the Father. Set aside the distractions, the phone, even the music if you see it as a hinderance. 

2. Pray and set up this time with an invitation. 

3. Listen to everything that he has to say to you. Ask Him, "who do You say I am" and/or "what do you have for me?" Our brains have been created so intriguingly. The encouraging and kind words that are put on our hearts and minds, the ones that we hear clearly, that's no "happenstance." That's real and comes from the Creator. 

When I asked these questions for myself I got "victor, daughter, beloved, creation" and "goodness." This isn't random. This isn't fraud. 

I encourage you to write these words down as a testimony to a season or trial you may have later - these words act as the greatest reference in another time of need to hear truth. Because, the greatest sin of a blessing is forgetfulness. 

If you look through the rest of Scripture, God's presence is manifested through nature over and over and over again - so, that's one place to look. He uses clouds to speak to us (Exodus 13:21 ), fire and smoke (Judges 13:20), a rainbow (Ezekiel 1:28), thunder and lightning (Exodus 19:16) and wind (Job 28:1). 

Ask yourself:

1. Where do I see God most?

2. Am I alert and seeking Him?

3. If He shows himself in an incredible way, do I doubt it or do I approach Him?

4. Am I constantly in a seeking posture to see and hear Him?

Y'all, Moses didn't stumble upon God, he sought Him out and when he saw God, he responded. Be like Moses. 

Jesus said it Himself: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7

10 books to add to your bookshelf

1. Uninvited

There is so much power in the two words, "me too." In Uninvited Lysa Terkurst shares her stories of rejection, self-doubt and the situations that act as triggers to these overwhelming feelings. So many times I feel as if us women keep our feelings secret and hidden, we fear vulnerability because of what someone may or may not think of us. This book beats all fear of rejection, "being left out, lonely or less than." Highly recommend. 


2. Wild and Free

 

Ugh, y'all...this book. It's freeing, enlightening, inspiring and releases your heart from captivity. Jess and Hayley talk about freedom and finding it with your walk with the Lord. This co-authored book switches from chapter to chapter sharing great words and wisdom from both Jess and Hayley. They cover all the bases: living to our fullest purpose of creation, setting free ourselves from the bondage we enslaved ourselves in to begin with, understanding God's calling on freedom and living free. So much truth and such a great read, you'll get through it in probably 2 days. 


3. When Sinners Say I do

Thomas and I were hit by this book like a wrecking ball (as Miley would say). We read this as our "premarital counseling book" to go along with counseling and gosh dang, it hit us hard. Dave Harvey isn't afraid of any topic and talks about respect, sex, your lifestyle together, knowing Jesus and His grace more because of the ways that you sacrifice differences for each other. We wouldn't be where we are in our marriage without referencing this book weekly. 


4. Boundaries

So many times I've found myself saying, "yes" to things that I absolutely should not have because of feelings of obligation or pride. This book breaks down all the barriers and helps you come to an understanding of what boundaries are needed in your day to day life: in work, in friendships, in family, in everything. It teaches us "yes" people to say no and then goes further to explain why. 


5. Captivating

Oh, Lawd. Don't read this book with a highlighter or pen or you'll mark up the pages so bad you can't ever read it again. Everything in this book reclaims womanhood from it's true Scriptural meaning. It releases a triumphant feeling instead of a terrified one that I'm a woman and created in the image of God. 

If you've ever felt that you're "too sensitive," trying to understand guys and their brains, want to know God's heart for you in a greater capacity -- John and Stasi Eldredge share both a man and woman's perspective on all of the above. 


6. The Best Yes

Decisions, decisions. Lysa is at it again. Similar to boundaries (yet offers more of a specific, personal perspective), The Best Yes talks all about decision making and making sure that whatever decision you're making or facing, you're stepping into the Lord's Will for you. If you feel as if you're worn out and feel pulled in every direction, grab this book and a coffee and don't come up for air until you're finished. 


7. Bread and Wine

Understanding food is really hard for me. It was created for a purpose: to nourish yet to entertain. Shauna gives a wonderful Scripture based perspective on food and how we were meant to live with it. Something that hit home for me that I'll always remember from this book is the thought that taking communion isn't for once a month at Church. Communion should take place everytime you eat or drink, we should be remembering what Christ did for us. As if that's not enough, every chapter has a recipe -- a good one too. 


8. Radiant

A really great book to read with friends or a Bible study. It's targeted towards women to teach them how to be radiant in everything they do. It emphasizes that the only way to actually be radiant is to believe you carry a light and then to turn it on. Super powerful read for any young woman that needs a kick of confidence or a boost of beauty. 


9. Love Does

Oh gosh, who doesn't just love Bob Goff. His stories of the Lord's excellent power are endless and he uses this book to describe them and how it's lead him to love and serve other's to his fullest ability. You get up from reading every chapter thinking, "dang, how can I love someone better today?" If you're in a community that you'd consider yourself a leader, read it -- now.


10. Mere Christianity

Oldie but goodie. These words are simply heavy. They sit on my heart for the longest time and I marinate in it for the entire day; normally coming to some conclusion at night as I fall asleep about how to apply what I read that morning to the next day. This is the "steak and potatoes" of all books. I know people that give this book to their friends that aren't sure about God because it's written with a theoretical approach with a lot of proofs. So, if you're analytical (like me) this will do your mind and heart lots of good. 

You're more than finals.
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An anthem for you college peeps:

This is a balance. A tricky one at that. We have the opportunity to show what we have learned this semester through written exams handed to us by others. It's a tough situation because you, my friend, have learned so much more than merely inside a classroom. You have learned to grow, how to love, how to manage time, you fill in the blank. Regardless of the grade that you receive back, you are worthy. You are worthy of more knowledge, you are worth of acceptance. 

Be careful, these grades easily attack. They attack our identity, they attack our joy and sometimes, our hope. However, no matter the return on investment, your investment was seen in the eyes of the Father. 

Yes, studying for exams is an investment, for sure. It must be an investment to see fruit. It's easy to write off, as believers, that we are not defined by numbers and throw away responsibility with an eternal mindset. However, we have been called to be faithful with what we have been given. This involves opportunity in academics. The capability we have been presented to learn from one another is remarkable and not something that should be swept under the rug or excused because of our faith. 

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord" Colossians 3:23

We use these opportunities as gifts to show other people the Lord's providence and glory. This can only happen though if we step into responsibility and understand stewardship.

So, cast away all fear, anxiety and doubt and replace it with confidence, hope and joy with the knowing that Christ holds your future, not your grades or professors. 

My life: death, loneliness, and victory

I was raised in a great home with a wonderful family. We prayed over meals, watched Veggie Tales, went to church every Sunday, we were involved in multiple church plants, we prayed for the missionaries we supported as a family, we met the "Christian criteria" and I thought that was enough. I played the part the other days of the week too, had great friends, never touched alcohol, had an occasional boyfriend but that was about it. So when I'd hear about forgiveness and Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I was frustrated because I had a hard time grasping at anything in my life I needed forgiveness for. (HA!) I only saw sin as the things kids my age were doing on the weekends, not the pride and lying and disobedience in my heart. 

I also heard all about how God was our comforter in time of need. I had a hard time with that one too because I had never really been in a "time of need" where I had to lean on the Lord more than the day before. My life was "normal", my family was together, I got along with my friends and I didn't really have any regrets. The only "catastrophe" I could ever think of was one time when I was in a car accident.

Because my "lack of tragedy," I was left really confused. The confusion led me to lean heavily on my parents as my rocks and providers when it came to faith and what I knew about it. There was no pursuit on my own, nothing that I was really initiating on my own because of my own curious desires. 

Then one day I woke up, got dressed and headed to the orthodontist with my mom to get my braces removed. We went to lunch afterwards to celebrate and order and eat all of the foods that I hadn't been able to enjoy before. My mom's phone rang, it was my dad. Actually, it was my dad's phone but it was his friend. My dad left for a rock climbing trip the morning I was headed to the orthodontist. On the other end of the phone came some news that we are never prepared to hear.  News that still to this day is hard to believe it actually happened because it happened way too fast. 

My dad past away in a rock climbing accident three days before my 17th birthday. All I remember is all the flowers, all the smells of food and meals being brought over when I felt nauseous. I remember that huge birthday party my friends threw for me in the backyard so that I felt celebrated in the midst of tragedy. I remember the bagpipes at his funeral and all the support and love that came that week. 

I remember laying in bed the next week, house quiet, thinking "so this is life, huh? This is what they talked about, needing God as comfort." It was sort of humorous to me that when things were well, I felt him near and when I was closest to despair, it was hardest to know He was comforting me. 

I used this confusion as an excuse to grieve unhealthily. I turned to things to take my mind off of what was really happening. I pushed away my friends, pretended to be someone I wasn't, made some really poor decisions that progressively impacted me until I got to a point I just didn't care anymore. 

Obviously my family life looked a lot different and some people came into the picture that really hurt me when I was vulnerable, they too were capitalizing on the situation. It was all too much. It became much easier to be silly and immature than face what was really happening. I started to pity myself. It got to a point, my freshman year of college, where I started to feel like I was in a box and I was watching other people, outside of my box, have a lot of fun, they were free. I was frustrated and pouting in my box watching them. I became bitter towards them and realized it was easier to stay in the box than it would be to get outside of it and join in on the celebration. 

I then realized a lie that I had always believed. I saw Christianity, Jesus and faith as rules and regulations and the things I can and can't do. I saw it as a restriction on my freedom to live the way that I wanted to live my life. I'm giggling even writing this because it's just the opposite. 

Jesus came to set me free, to take off the chains that were holding me down, to pick me up out of the box that I just went and climbed back into again. A relationship with Jesus is the definition of freedom. I was being held down by my own grief, my anger, my confusion, my obligation to continue to be this fake person and live the way I thought I was expected to in the midst of tragedy. I was held down by depression and bitterness. I was held down by my inability to forgive.

I realized the only person that was holding me to that box was me. 

I had always considered my relationship with Jesus to be me, Jesus and my dad. Or me, Jesus and my mom. Or me, Jesus and (whoever). When really our relationship with Jesus is just between the two of us. The day has come where my dad is no longer able to support that relationship here on Earth. There will be a day when I lose someone else that has had a huge impact on the way that I view Jesus. But, if the way I see Jesus is based on the emphasis of someone else, I will never have ownership of my own faith. 

Being a believer isn't meeting the checklist. Because I'll be the first to admit many days pass by where not only does the checklist not even get marked, I forget the checklist exists!

Thank God for a graceful and forgiving God who just wants us to want him back, that picks us up out of our misery and who fixes the typo we made from "victim" to "victor."

The coolest part, my story isn't over-my heart is still beatin'. So I say, "bring it on!" Who knew death could bring so much Life?

This is not meant to intimidate to you. The last thing I want is for you to read this and get to the end and think, "gosh, I don't have a testimony like that" because that is not my heart. I once was that girl. I was the girl that would hear and listen or read someone's testimony and think that my life wasn't extraordinary because my story wasn't extraordinary like the one I was hearing. If you're nodding your head in agreeance, you're story isn't over. Your story is extraordinary no matter how many details it contains or how many details it lacks. There's no way we can compare our testimonies to the other and think that somehow one is more marvelous than the other because the God that wrote my story is the one writing yours and He is marvelous, therefore your story is marvelous and that should be enough.

This is for my friends who think that Christian music is boring + those that just want to dance out of their box.