What is your word for 2019?

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As we came to the end of the of 2018, I found myself reflecting on the last year. There were so many joys and fun memories, as well as challenges and struggles. Moving into 2019, I have many dreams, hopes, and desires. Quite a few people around me, were talking about the word that God gave them for 2019…so I started praying to see what God wanted for me this upcoming year.
 
I have dreams for a home (more on that later), paying off loans, working in ministry, traveling, and growing even more in my relationship with my husband (Phil). But it’s easy to get carried away and forget to ask God what He wants. So as I was praying I kept hearing one word, “MORE”. Specifically “More of Him”. God has wonderful plans for me and I have so many desires to serve him in my life. But more than anything, God wants to give me HIMSELF.
 
There is nothing wrong with having plans, and wanting to do things to help others and serve the Lord…but more than anything I (we) need HIM. So even if I don’t get the home I’m dreaming of, even if finances don’t start looking up, even if ministry and traveling seem on hold, even if I have difficulties in my marriage, I have God. And that is more than I even deserve.
 

So what about you? We all have dreams and desires…you may have specific anticipations for what the new year will hold for you. But what is God speaking to you, What word does he have for you this year? What does he want you to strive for this year? Maybe it is healing, maybe it is renewal, maybe it is adventure. Whatever it is, God wants to give you MORE of himself throughout the journey.

 
“Slowly, I was beginning to understand that it wasn’t my productivity that God desired; it was my heart. It wasn’t my ministry God loved; it was me. God was glorified, is glorified, when we give him our hearts, give him ourselves, and faithfully do the thing right in front of us, no matter how small or trivial.” -Katie Davis Majors (from Daring to Hope).

 

Clean Slates

F034E2F5-31E5-4F23-A4E4-BF851B6E5E25Do you ever say something and immediately wish you could take it back? Or are in the middle of a situation that is going wrong and realize it started off with some little mistakes a few months back? I think that many of us have moments that we wish we could take back or start over. For many people, thoughts of fresh starts are especially on our minds as the new year starts. We have New Year resolutations, want to make new habits, and might even find ourselves wishing for a clean slate. 
 
The idea of a clean slate is actually pretty interesting. Imagine a blackboard that was covered in all colors of chalk from white to green to red. It has been written and drawn on over and over for months or even years, and even when you erase it there are still shadows or bits of smeared dust, left as evidence of what has been on it before. No matter how much you try to erase the slate there will still be evidence of previous use. To truly be clean and look like new, someone needs to use a sponge and clean water to clean the entire blackboard. 
 
There are times that I just wish I could have a clean slate with somebody, or even with my life in general. I have seen people agree to a “start fresh” with a “clean slate” with somebody in their lives, and I know that I have done this before as well. But it is so much easier said than done. We are humans. No matter how close we are with God we are still broken. I think of the saying “to forgive and forget”, in reality it is more like forgive and let go. 
 
Because no matter how much we try to forget, even if we have forgiven, things that happened in the past still affect our responses and how we see certain situations. I often get irritated when someone responds a certain way because of something I’ve done in the past, and I think “Can’t you just forget it? Can’t you give me the chance to change?”, but then time goes by and I find myself guilty of the same thing. 
 
This is discouraging because it makes it much harder to change when you or other people cannot let go of the past. And it often makes it hard to have healthy relationships. I look around and realize that there is no human that can give me a completely clean slate. But there is God. Our amazing Creator who made and CHOSE each and everyone of us. I am so undeserving of His love. 
 
The choices I have made have hurt Him even more than they have hurt myself or anybody else. But He, our omnipotent, perfect God, has the ability to completely forget our sins. His son took the burden of all of our sins upon himself, yet can also give us a clean slate and wipe away all reminance of our pasts? I am in awe just thinking about this. So yeah, I will never find a person in my life who I completely have a clean slate with, but I do have God. And despite everything I’ve done, He forgives me and hands me a clean slate with no evidence of my mistakes from the past. With Him, we can always start fresh. 
 
Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sin no more.”

A Journal Entry: Christmas Reflections

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I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t have ideals for what I pictured for this Christmas. Going out to a tree farm to pick the perfect tree, together. Celebrating our first Christmas as married couple, in our own cozy little apartment. Decorating our tree with twinkling white lights, popcorn garland, and handmade ornaments. Wrapping colorful packages to place under our tree. Wearing cute matching pjs on Christmas Eve. You name it. I’m all about the traditions. 
 
I’ll stop myself there…because I know that’s not what Christmas is about. But I couldn’t help it, I wanted the family Christmas traditions that I’ve longed for to start this year. However, that’s just not where we are. For the most part I was trying to have a good attitude, but was still in denial about the state of my heart. Until Saturday morning. We were sitting in a church auditorium, beautifully decorated for Christmas with many people that we didn’t know. All of us were there to mourn (AND) celebrate the loss and life of our friend, Bryant. A man that Phil and I only knew briefly through our church…but he had an immediate impact on us. 
 
And we weren’t the only ones. There were hundreds of others that had been impacted by this dear man (there weren’t even enough seats for everyone). To many people in the world the atmosphere full of both grief and loss, but also joy and hope at a funeral would be quite foreign. As we stood to sing and worship God I was struck by the lyrics of a song, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…look full in his wonderful face. And all the things of this earth will grow strangely dim. In the light of His glory and grace.” I felt my heart drop a bit, and I knew it was time to examine my heart. 
 
Even though I desire to follow Jesus closely and be all about him, I can still easily get caught up in the ways of the world. And none of the holiday traditions that I had in mind were wrong in themselves, but I had let these desires get in the way of what really mattered. As we finished up the song, with tears running down my face, I confessed and apologized to the Lord for my attitude. With as disappointed as I had felt about not having my dream Christmas, I cannot imagine the disappointment and pain that God was feeling to see his beloved daughter take her eyes off Him and allow the things of the world to be her focus. 
 
During the remainder of the service I continued to hear more lyrics, stories, and a message that point towards Jesus as the center of everything. You only had to know Bryant for a few minutes to see that he was all about Jesus. From his marriage, to his zest for life, to his laugh; Bryant examplified how the broken and imperfect can be made beautiful and redemptive through Christ. That is what Christmas is really about. Jesus who sacrificed his perfect life, to enter into the pain and hardship of the realities of this world. Not for himself, but for you and for me and even for those who choose to ignore the depth of his love. 
 
 Through both tears and laughter, I left the memorial service with a refreshed perspective. I found joy in our little plastic tree, ice skating with friends, painting, playing games, and time with my wonderful hubby. We have the rest of our lives to develop traditions; we also have the rest of our lives to grow in our marriage and lives, exemplifying the love of Christ for each of us and choosing to “Keep our eyes upon Jesus”. I have often heard people say “that Jesus is the reason for the season”, and this Christmas season I needed the reminder that Jesus is the reason for THIS season that we are currently in, and every season. 
 
“Oh soul are you weary and trouble? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior and life more abundant and free” 
 

Sight & Sound

Another year of marriage is definitely a reason for celebration (especially in our culture). So this year for my in-laws 28th anniversary, all of us kids pulled together to get them Sight & Sound tickets. Last week my in-laws flew in and my husband and I took them to see Sight & Sound‘s current performance, “Jesus” on Friday. Sight & Sound is a theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (there is also one located in Branson, Missouri).

I grew up in Lancaster County so I saw numerous shows including Noah, Jonah, and the Miracle of Christmas. Jesus is a new show that they put on for the first time this year, and it was by far the most spectacular and my favorite show that I have seen. If you have never been to Sight & Sound it is definitely worth adding to your bucket list. The prices can be a little steep, but you won’t regret saving up for it. I’ve heard multiple people say that the performances rival those on broadway.

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The large theatre accommodates 2,000 guests; however once the show begins you will feel like you are part of the story. From wind throughout the theatre, to a rain curtain, from live animals in the isles and\ to angels flying in from above you; the performance is like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere. You will be in awe of the beautifully handcrafted scenery and the movement of the different sets on stage. And I haven’t even mentioned the performance of the talented actors and actresses; They will captivate you from their first words, bring you to tears with their singing, and give you goosebumps with the beautiful harmonies.

For those of you who enjoy singing and acting, Sight&Sound also presents another opportunity. They offer a postsecondary conservatory program, where students take part in classroom instruction and gain professional experience. Learn more here —> My in-laws were beyond impressed with the show and hope to take the whole family at some point. Not only are the shows incomparable, but they share a clear gospel message and use their production as a way to share God with all who enter through the doors. Sight & Sound is a definite must see for whole family-the young and the old!

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Gifts that Give Back

As Christmas Day approaches, many of us are overwhelmed with all of the shopping and detail prep that goes into the Holidays. There are a few days left where you can still order gifts online that will arrive in time for Christmas. Why not purchase gifts that will give back, while you finish shopping? All of these business give back in various ways. Such a fun way to show people you love them, while also helping to make a difference! (Note: Individual businesses have different dates you need to order by to recieve them in time, most found on their website).
Accessories:
5569499C-017F-4865-90EB-A0D15F1F18ACMudlove
These clay creations help to spread hope and love. Every product sold by Mudlove provides one week of clean water (through Water for Good). They have a variety of products including bracelets, necklaces, pottery, and other fun extras like apparel and stickers!
4D2D5644-AA15-49C9-B1D4-0E905D09F675Binding Love
These upcycled, one of a kind scarves are helping to fight against trafficking. Half ($10) of every scarf purchased goes to provide aid, healing, and hope for girls rescued out of slavery in Thailand. Their new winter collection has arrived on the website and is going quickly!
6A642F9E-76D1-4422-927B-2A13AC9F64DCHouse of Light Goods
This non-profit business sells beautiful blankets, scarves, headbands, and pillow covers. 100% of proceeds are use to provide empowered employment to single mothers in Primo Tapia, Mexico helping to bring positive change to vulnerable families and children.
Household Decorations:
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Tiny and Twitch
This company crafts charming signs and handmade pieces designed to brighten up any home. Plus 50% of their profits from their tabletop collection go to IU13, a program that works with refugees in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Clothing:
D0D06C74-5B9A-49BD-B48D-6DAB0C94B0D5My joy tribe
Choose from different merchandise including sweatshirts, shirts, hats, and mugs. Joy Tribe’s mission is to spread joy and cultivate a brave, loving, and joyful community. Also, 10% of every purchase goes to one of the  listed charities on the website and YOU choose which one charity to support!
415FE7D9-EACD-41A0-8C77-7B09B2D407B6The Happy Givers
100% of the profit from The Happy Givers goes to help relief work in Puerto Rico, Peru, and Ethiopia. They share positive messages of hope and love through men, women, and children’s apparel, as well as extras like hats, stickers, and mugs.
For babies:
6A4B2BBA-DB8D-4E78-BC73-432B3729A7DDMatimati Baby
A family-owned business that sells baby bandana bibs, burp clothes, 5-in-1 covers, and bamboo towels. A percentage of every Matimati bandana bib sold is given to Chain Reaction, an organization that fights against human trafficking and proactively rescues, feeds, and give children hope for a future.
Variety:
52C284E7-CC32-474F-B47F-F069AC6FC0CFTen Thousand Villages
This company is a maker to market movement. Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade company that sells a large variety of items from all over the world. Their intricately handcrafted items are something to cherish. Shop from jewelry and accessories, to home and holiday decor, dishes games, candles, and more.
Other gifts:
Compassion International and World Vision
For those people who just seem to have it all, consider giving a donation in their name. Both Compassion International and World Vision are organizations that are helping to change third world countries through child sponsorship. They both have gift catelogs where you can purchase things like chickens, mosquito nets, educational classes, clean water systems and more for families around the world.
Child Sponsorship: Speaking of Sponsorship, this is an amazing gift to give a child. Getting them a sponsored child for a gift gives teaches them responsibility, love for others, and about the world outside of their own backyard.
B50C1CC0-D9E3-4CF3-8611-F38074A9E589Amazon Smile
For purchases on Amazon…make sure to use Amazon smile! By typing smile.amazon.com into your browser, you can select the charity of your choice (you still can use prime from logging in). Amazon will donate .5% of all eligible purchases to your chosen charity!! (As of October 2018, $105, 515, 619.04 had been given to charities through Amazon smile!).
These are many organizations and small businesses that have amazing ways to give back; these are just a few. Consider checking out these as part of your Christmas gift shopping this year. And please share with other people-many people can be impacted through your shopping this Christmas Season!

Off of the Paper and into my Heart

Two years ago, on Thanksgiving 2016, I had the opportunity to meet one of my sponsored children. It was a life changing experience. These are my thoughts from shortly after meeting her: 

I have been sponsoring children for quite a few years now and I really like what Compassion International is doing. But for the most part the children that I sponsored were a picture that I looked at and a letter that I received a few times a year and prayed for sometimes, and then went back to my everyday life. I’m guessing that’s the way it is for a lot of people who sponsor a child. 

Recently I have gotten more passionate and involved with Compassion so I jumped at the chance to have the opportunity to meet my child, Ruzeya, from Ethiopia, to see what the Compassion Projects actually looks like, and to see what difference my sponsorship is making. With the current situation in Ethiopia I was not sure if I would have the opportunity to meet her. But by the grace of God, I found myself traveling to meet her on Thursday.

It’s honestly hard to put into words what I experienced, but I will do my best. We first arrived to the Compassion Project where Ruzeya attends. Obviously not all projects are the same, but this project is blessed to have a lot of land with offices, the church, the project classrooms, and a school located on the grounds. There was also playground equipment and this project has a school for KG1 and 2 (prek and kindergarten), this is for children who are both Compassion Children and other children who live in the community to get a head start on their education and have better opportunities. 

I had a tour of the office, the church, and learned more about what the children do at the project and how all Compassion children attend Sunday school on Sundays, as well. After the tour, they took me back to the multi-purpose room where a group of students were gathered to sing to me a Welcome song. Ruzeya was at the front holding some pretty red flowers. At the end of the song she brought them to me and then hugged me. It was hard for me not to cry. 

Then the other children left and Ruzeya’s grandmother arrived to meet me. She hugged me for so long with tears in her eyes and I began to realize how much I mean to her whole family. The Compassion workers who weren’t with the children, the Pastor, and his family joined us for coffee and popcorn. Even though they have so little, I felt like I was treated like royalty. The told me a lot about the project and Ruzeya would sit shyly smiling at me. But she didn’t say a word.

Eventually I asked to go outside and they warned me that all of the children would rush over to me; which if you know me at all, you know that is something I would totally be fine with. Hand and hand Ruzeya and I walked outside, and sure enough the majority of the children rushed off the playground and surrounded us (probably 60-80 children). They hugged me, shook my hand, touched my hair, and some of them even fought over me. Not once did they push Ruzeya though, they knew that we belonged together. I was overwhelmed and wished I could take every single one of them into my arms. 

After a little while the Compassion workers, Abraham, myself, and Ruzeya and her grandmother headed off towards her home. The area where she lives is not currently being effected by the drought, especially thanks to rainy season and it actually rained the night before I arrived. We took the little taxis that are typical to the area but because of the rain the ground was muddy and we kept getting stuck. We walked part of the way and I learned that Ruzeya made the 25/30 minute walk to the project each day with just the other young children who attend school with her. 

Upon arriving to her home I met her mother, two little sisters, and her grandfather. She lives in a mud hut with her father, mother, and sisters, while her Grandmother and Grandfather live in the hut next door with her four aunts and Uncles who are still in school. They invited me into the little hut which had mud walls covered by newspaper, a grass floor, and two mattresses covered in thin blankets. They told me about how her father works a patch of land and her mother walks into town each day to clean. Ruzeya’s grandmother looks after Ruzeya’s little sisters and takes care of the family. 

As I talked to them and saw them interacting together I could feel my love for this family grow as if they were my own. blood family. Even though Ruzeya had hardly said a word, her mother told us that the previous day all day long she kept saying, “Do you know who is coming to visit me tomorrow?” I began to see just how important I was to this beautiful little girl and her family. I had the opportunity to bring her gifts and I brought her a backpack with some things including a blanket and a stuffed animal. The happiest moment of my life may be the smile that the little stuffed elephant brought to Ruzeya’s face. They even gave ME a gift of a traditional bone spoon with beads on the end!

Before I left they took me outside to show me the goat that they were able to buy through my sponsorship. There were many hugs and kisses and I struggled not to cry as I said goodbye to each one of them. Ruzeya and her little sister held my hands and walked me down to the entrance of their land. As I walked away the tears began to flow and even though I already had loved Ruzeya, she was no longer a picture on a piece of paper, but a piece of my heart. In fact, every single member of her family has now stolen a piece of my heart. 

 

I was really impressed by what I saw through my visit . I am only one person, but the 260 children who are being sponsored in that project each have one person behind them that God is using to change lives. A lot of the families in that community are Muslim (including Ruzeya’s), so for some of them, Compassion is the one opportunity they have to learn about God. The opportunity that I had to provide Ruzeya’s family with a goat can help to positively impact their financial future not just now, but also longterm. The tutoring, medical care, and other basic needs that Compassion provides on top discipleship aren’t just meeting short term needs, but impacting the future and the ETERNITIES of those children. 

I have now seen with my own eyes that Compassion is not an organization that merely gives a child a fish (feed them for a day), but it teaches them how to fish (feed them for a lifetime). What is happening cannot only transform the life of the child in the program, but also of the family, generations, of that family to come, entire communities, and the future of that community. By giving these families and children hope, Compassion is allowing the “least of these” to come into the Kingdom of God. And when that child (Ruzeya and others), is no longer just a picture on a piece of paper, but a part of my or your heart, thats when the possibilities become endless! 
Jesus said, “Let the little Children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” -Matthew 19:14

Sponsor a Child Today!

Thy Will

As I am writing this, my heart is hurting. Sometimes I make mistakes and know that the consequence is a result of the mistake, but there are other times where I’m belwildered. I know I’m in the center of God’s will-It doesn’t make any sense. As I fall to my knees I’m at a loss for my own words and these lyrics come to mind…..
“I’m so confused
I know I hear you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t want to think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words.
Thy will be done.”
This is the beginning of the song Thy Will Be Done by Hillary Scott. This is a song that my heart often cries out when I can’t put it into my own words. The song goes on to repeat “Thy will be done” over and over and I find myself clinging to these four words.

No one ever said that life was going to be easy, and God especially never told me that following him would make my life easier. But sometimes as Christians we put off the message that accepting Jesus as your savior will make your life easier- Sometimes people even think that if something bad happens it must be because you are not in God’s will. But in reality “picking up our cross and following Jesus” might be the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. There are going to be times when you are in the center of God’s will when everything made sense and then suddenly it falls apart. The song goes on to say…
“I know you’re good
But this doesn’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not”


The song goes onto express exactly what my heart is thinking…and sometimes the part I forget. Yes, it doesn’t feel good. Yes, it makes absolutely no sense. But God has the bigger picture and He is God, I AM NOT. Ultimately He has allowed this to happen even if it doesn’t make sense to me. And Yes I am hurting, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care and it doesn’t mean that He isn’t hurting with me. So whether it is a relationship, a job opportunity, or something I have been been praying about I cling to Him and..
“like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
And I choose to trust in His promises even though I might not understand right now. Someday I will and now I choose to accept His will in my life.

Hillary Scott-Thy Will Be Done