Finding intentional, vulnerable, and consistent community can be a scary thought. In Florida, I have an authentic Christian community. Most of these friends are from Cru, a college ministry at USF, or my church. But this summer I will be leaving my community in Florida and moving to Pittsburgh to attend Pittsburgh Theological Seminary for my masters degree. I’m incredibly sad to leave the people in Florida who have shown me God’s love, forgiveness, and grace over and over again.
In Lean On Me, Anne Marie Miller describes how important it is to find intentional, vulnerable, and consistent community. Anne was going through a dark time and desperately needed that community. In her book, she shares her story of how community brought her out of darkness and into God’s light. (more…)
Do you spend time thinking of your past mistakes? Do you beat yourself up over your failures?
If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, he has saved you from your past mistakes and sins. We can not keep beating ourselves up. Scripture tell us, “He (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24 (ESV). God has forgiven you. Jesus died for you and your past. Every part of your past, even the things you hide away in the dark closet of your mind – Jesus died for those sins. Jesus died for our sins to make us righteous. (more…)
Looking for an activity for the next women’s time at your church or in your college ministry? Here is a great topic, activity, and craft that is perfect for a women’s event! No matter the crafting ability of each attendee, this activity will be empowering and turn out beautifully. We all believe lies, and we all need to shatter them.
Crafting brings women together and provides an opportunity to introduce Jesus to non-believers. (more…)
God’s love for us is complex, fascinating, and beautiful. His love for us could only happen through the death of Jesus. It is hard to comprehend that we humans are so sinful that another person had to die for us in order for a perfect God to love us. Jesus had to die for us, and his death was God’s largest act of love. As this Christmas season is approaching, I wanted to share scripture that explains God’s love.
Here are 6 passages that show us a glimpse into the amazing love of God:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” – John 15:12-16.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” – 1 John 3:1.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” – 1 John 4:9-12.
As Christmas draws near, ask God to reveal his love to you. Ask him to show you his love in a powerful and personal way.
Today I will graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida. Walking across the stage, I will be wearing medals, cords, and a sash representing my awards and accomplishments. You could say I learned a lot in college, but the awards I recieved and the academic knowledge I learned is not what stands out the most. Yes, I’m thankful for the academic knowledge I have learned, but I am even more thankful for the 30 life lessons that God has taught me throughout my college experience.
Here are 30 life lessons that I learned during my 3.5 years in college: (more…)
Since starting college, I have lost a few really good friends because of my faith. Both of them told me we could not be friends because my beliefs did not match up with their beliefs. This is something that is incredibly hard to hear. Even though the Bible warns us that we will lose friends and people won’t like us, it is hard to have someone you love turn their back on you.
Here are 5 lessons I took away from both experiences and from the story of Joseph:
1) God’s plans are still perfect even though we might not understand them.
Early in the story of Joseph, his brothers desert him. Essentially, Joseph loses the only friends he knows. In that moment, Joseph had no idea how God would use the pain of being deserted for his glory. We may not understand why losing a friend is part of God’s plan, but we can put our trust in God and believe that good things will come out of the pain.
In Genesis 43, there was a severe famine in Canaan. Imagine how confused all the people were. How long will this last? Are we going to die? Why is God doing this? No one could see God’s big picture – this famine would reunite Jacob and his sons with Joseph. The brothers were going to be given food in plenty and taken care of for life, but in the moment they felt only pain and hunger. In the end, Joseph and his brothers understood why God had the famine – to reunite father and son and to give an opportunity for Joseph to show his brothers forgiveness.
2) No one can change God’s plan.
Here is Joseph’s response to his brothers: “…I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” – Genesis 45:4-8
Joseph’s brothers tried to control the situation by selling Joseph to Egypt, but Joseph realized that God had sent him to Egypt for a reason. God used Joseph’s brothers desertion to save lives in Egypt.
3) God’s plan is hidden to unbelievers.
“We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” 1 Corinthians 2:7.
We don’t know if Joseph’s brothers were Christians or not, but their actions of selling their brother and lying to their father are not very Christ-like. Thus, God’s plan for Joseph remained hidden.
4) We have to continue to love them.
How easy would it have been for Joseph to hate his brothers? Instead, he choose to love them. Joseph blessed his brothers with gifts, food, and spared their lives. Think about the friends who have turned their back on you. We have to continue loving them.
When we are confronted with conflict, we usually respond by defending ourselves and our actions. What if we responded with the gospel? We should respond with grace, love, peace, and mercy. When my friend said goodbye, I wanted to defend myself. I practically listed all the ways I had been a good friend to her in the past. I wonder, would the situation have ended differently if I responded with the gospel? In a loving way, I should have apologized for hurting her. In a graceful way, I should have asked how I could be a better friend. In a peaceful way, I should have said I will not change my beliefs, but I don’t love you any less for your beliefs.
5) Always return to scripture.
As humans, we tend to get self-righteous. An amazing thing happened because of the situations with my friends – my faith grew stronger. Before I was confronted about my beliefs, I knew what I believed, but I did not know why. Confrontation forced me to turn to scripture to find the answers. Any time we are questioned, return back to scripture so you will understand why you believe what you believe.
God warns us that people will hate us. “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 10:22. It hurts when people, especially people you love, hate you. God warns us that this will happen, and he commands us to endure.
Friend, I know how hard it is to lose a friend because of your beliefs. Remember that God has a perfect plan for you. He will use this situation for his glory. Surround yourself with a community of believers who will help you through this challenging time.
Christmas is quickly approaching. Think back on the year and all that Jesus has given us – life, friends, family, education, safety, protection, The Holy Spirit, freedom, forgiveness, mercy, grace, healing… I could go on and on forever. This year I am especially grateful that I have been blessed with the gift of learning and growing. As my undergrad experience comes to an end, I pondered on everything God taught me while I was in college. I entered into college as one Joy, and graduated a whole new Joy. All the glory to God!
Since God has given us countless gifts, what can we give him this Christmas?
How will we give him a gift that compares with his blessings that he freely gives us? It is soon Jesus’ birthday, but what can we give him that he hasn’t already given us?
Our lives? He created us. “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” – Job 33:4
Water? He gave us living water. “Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:10.
Love? He loved us first. “We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19.
Money? Everything is already God’s. “Peter answered, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!” – Acts 8:20.
The only gift we can give Jesus is the unconditional sacrifice of praise.
No matter if you are in a valley of life today, stop what you are doing and tell God how much you love and adore him. No strings attached. God has given us everything. God sent his son Jesus for us, and this is the biggest gift we will ever receive.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” – Ephesisns 2:8.
This Christmas season, I want to praise God for being the BEST gift giver in the world.
I LOVE TO JOURNAL! Our journals are filled with beautiful stories and words of God’s redemption in our lives. When I read through me journals, I picture my life as one of God’s beautiful masterpieces. I fill my journal with prayers, God moments, and more. Want to know why you should journal? Read more here!
Today, I am participating in December’s Random Journal Day, hosted at Enthusiastically, Dawn. The first Friday of every month bloggers open their journals and let their readers see into their hearts. Almost all of my blog posts are inspired from my journals, so I wanted to share a prayer I wrote last week. I am in the process of making important decisions about the future and deciding which seminary to go to for my masters degree. Decision making is revealing my fears and doubts. I’m struggling giving this decision to God and trusting in his perfect plans. Our prayers to God reveal our true heart conditions. Here is my prayer:
My life is yours, not mine. Help me trust you. Help me fully believe that your plans are better than anything my mind could ever create. I’m sorry I don’t trust you. I’m sorry I constantly choose my desires over yours. I’m sorry I sometimes doubt that you will fill all my needs. As your adopted and chosen daughter, you have given me everything. Help me believe this. Daddy, sometimes fear takes over my mind. I fear making the wrong decision. I fear how others view me. I fear that I’ll never loose weight. I fear that I make you look bad. Take away my fears and fill my mind with the truth of your word.
I know that my fears show my doubt and unbelief. They show that I don’t believe you are 100% faithful and powerful. Will I ever have more faith? Jesus, give me more of you. Jesus, give me victory and peace. Sing it over me. I need to fully believe that you are still holding me in your hands. I need to know you more Jesus. I want to know you more. “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.” (Psalm 43:2-3.)
I love you Jesus. Help me love you more and more each day.
Hey friends! With the new year approaching, I wanted to give away 2 free planners! Using a planner helps me stay organized and helps me accomplish my To-Do list! I wanted to share 5 ways a planner can enhance your day to day life and ministry. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway to win a beautiful FREE 2015 planners! (Two winners will be chosen.)
Prioritize. Planning out your days will help you realize how you prioritize your activities. After you finish a day, look back and see what you spent the most time doing. Did you spend time with God? For some people (myself included), it is important to plan quiet times into their days or else God is easily forgotten. This helps make God a priority.
Efficiency. Planners help you use time more efficiently. Use your planner to set aside specific time to blog, meet with women, prepare for Bible study, etc. As a college student, you have a lot to juggle. That could include school, sports, clubs, and ministry. When you map out your days, you can see how you are using your time. Are you spending multiple hours each day watching Netflix or are you using the time that God has given you as a gift?
Remember. Planners help you remember all the important dates in your life. You will never miss appointments, birthdays, or when your bills are due. I also use my planner to write all my school assignments out each semester.
Plan. Use your planner to look into the future and set short and long term goals. Where do you want to be at the end of the month spiritually, physically, and emotionally? What about at the end of the year?
Accomplish. One of my favorite things is to cross something off my list. I get so much pleasure and accomplishment when I get to use a sharpie to cross off something I finished. If you happen to not finish everything that day, don’t beat yourself up. Stay positive and focus on what you finished. You always have tomorrow!
Using a planner will help you accomplish more and lower your stress. I wish I could give you all a planner, because I love them that much. Good luck and hope you win!
A lot has changed since high school. It has been almost 4 years! Can you believe it? I wanted to write a letter to you all and apologize. I openly proclaimed to be a Christian, yet my life said differently. I called myself a Christian because I went to church every Sunday and tried to be a good person – later I realized these two things did not make me a Christian. I gave Jesus a bad reputation because I was not living out Christ’s love. Instead of living for Jesus, I was living for myself. I made decisions based on what would benefit me, please me, and promote me. Everything was about me.
I had everything wrong, and as a result was a horrible example of Jesus’ love and life change because I had yet to experience it. Here are some examples of how my life did not reflect Jesus:
My high school boyfriend told me I was a “bad Christian” because my thoughts on boundaries constantly changed. (Read the story.)
During our relationship, I would push physical boundaries and try and get as far as I could without having sex. I had no idea that even making out can lead to further thoughts, actions, and sin when outside of marriage.
I had no idea why I shouldn’t date a non-believer, so I dated them.
I didn’t care what the Bible said – I did what I wanted because I was king. I was in control. The Bible as authority had no effect on my life.
To gain approval, I was a different person around different groups of friends.
Jesus needed to break me in order for me to realize that I was not living a fully surrendered life. As painful as my freshman year of college was (Read the story), I can look back and be thankful because that was a turning point in my life. I decided to stop living for myself and live for Jesus.
I had experienced Jesus, but not fully. I did not understand important aspects of him: the freedom he brings, the life change, the love that constantly pursues, the feeling of worth, and the countless other blessings he pours on us. Since I did not truly understand Jesus or have a personal relationship with him, I sought approval and satisfaction else where. I changed who I was to gain approval.
Friends, Jesus has changed my life. Do you remember the Joy that needed the love from a guy? The Joy that obsessed over a certain boy? The one who took me years to get over? Do you remember that Joy? I remember her. She was never satisfied with life. She thought this boy would complete her. She thought this boy would give her worth, beauty, love, and completion. She did not know that only Jesus would give her all that she needed.
I called myself a Christian, yet I never spent time with God reading his word. In college, I learned it is impossible to experience life change or be able to love others when I’m not getting filled with God’s word.
I’m sorry for being a bad friend. I’m sorry for giving bad advice. I’m sorry for pressuring you into doing things you might not have wanted to do. I’m sorry I invited you to church, but never shared the gospel with you. I’m sorry I cared more about myself and what others thought about me than you and your salvation.
Jesus has healed my wounds. The wounds from desiring to be loved, from being emotionally abused, from never feeling good enough, and from so much more. Jesus loves me. This love is like no other love. And he feels the same towards you. Jesus loves you.
Thankfully, your salvation is not based on what I did or didn’t do, it is based on what God has done. God can redeem these situations and he can change your life. I’m so thankful for each one of you, if we are still friends or not, because you all impacted my life in some way. I pray that Jesus would come into your life and change your heart the way he changed mine.