Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No Weeping, No Hurt Or Pain

On Sunday, Matthew taught Sunday school because Derek wasn't there and he talked about heaven. He made a very good point when he said that so many times heaven is only talked about in 2 ways in the church: as the place your loved ones are when they die and as a place you want to go because you don't want to go to hell. For the longest time I was rather apathetic about heaven. I mean I know I'm going there and I'm not too concerned about the questions many people have about it. I have never really taken a look at what heaven will be like and have always just accepted the fact that it will be perfection, whatever that looks like.

In the past few months I have become much more curious about heaven and what it will be like. This is most likely the effect of Derek's obsession with heaven that comes out through most of his Sunday school lessons and also his obsession with the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn, which he also uses a lot in his lessons. Matthew chose to focus mostly on the new earth that will be created. I didn't really understand the whole "new earth" thing until we did a study on it in Bible study my senior year, so for those of you who also don't know, the present heaven is the heaven that people are in now and the new earth is what will be after the second coming. Revelation 21:3 says "now the dwelling of God is with men." Many people have compared the new earth to the Garden of Eden, but in the Garden God walked with Adam and Eve, but it never says He dwelled with them. I mean it's cool enough that they walked with God, but one day we will get to have Him live with us, all around us. How cool is that?!

There are many references to similarities of the Garden of Eden and the new earth (which I did not write down so I can't really cite them, sorry), but there is never any mention of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Evil won't even be a possibility on the new earth. There will be no temptation, spiritual warfare, sickness, disorder, sadness, or pain. No affliction whatsoever. Satan is not allowed to enter! I can hardly wrap my mind around a single day without any kind of adversity from Satan, much less eternity. (well, I can't really comprehend eternity either, but you get the point.) That right there is enough to say "send me now!" How wonderful that will be!

In Revelation 21:14-21 there is a list of all the substances that the 12 foundations of the new Jerusalem will be build on. Jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst. At first glance, it honestly just feels like a long list of words that I can hardly say, but these are some of the strongest substances, next to the diamond. This new Jerusalem is permanent. These substances that it is built on show that it is not going anywhere. They stand firm. They are solid. The security that we all long for is found.

Revelation 21:22-27 mentions that there will be no temple in heaven. To us, that's no big deal. We don't go to a temple to worship. It has no place in our everyday life. But one of the most important things to do with a passage of scripture is to look at it's historical context. For the Jewish people, the only person who could enter the temple was the priest and he could only enter once a year. He had to go through extensive cleansing processes and if he did one things wrong he would die upon entering. They had to tie a string to his foot so that they could pull him out if he was struck dead. Take a moment to put yourself in his shoes. I feel like no matter how precise I was about the cleansing rituals I would be terrified to walk in there. What if I missed a small detail? What if I accidentally skipped one? I mean one mistake and you're dead. Ok, that's not the point of this, but just a thought. Anyway, the point is that we won't need a temple. There will be no central location of God, He will be everywhere!

And now, the grand finale (of this post at least), comes in Revelation 22:4. "They will see His face." Until this point, it has been impossible to see God's face without dying. (Death seems to be a common theme here. God's a pretty powerful guy. Don't mess with Him. He means business.) But there we will get to see His face! Me and Jesus, face to face, just like I'm sitting down with an old friend. Our wildest imaginations can't even comprehend how beautiful He is. What has always been impossible becomes possible. There are no limitations.

This whole talk just really sparked my interest in heaven even more. I'm going to start reading Randy Alcorn's book. I've heard it's not an easy read at all, and will probably take me forever to get through, but what I have read is awesome and I really recommend it. I am in no way saying that I want to die or anything, but I mean this place sure does sound pretty awesome, and that's only he beginning. It's incredible to think about the incredible plans that God has for us even after death and for all of eternity. I can't wait to see what they are; it's so exciting. And if that doesn't get you just a little excited, well, you might need to check your pulse.

You Hold Me Now- Hillsong
On the day when I see
All that You have for me
When I see You face to face
There surrounded by Your grace

All my fears swept away
In the light of Your embrace
When Your love is all I need
And forever I am free

Where the streets are made of gold
In Your presence healed and whole
Let these songs of heaven rise to You alone

No weeping, no hurt or pain
No suffering, You hold me now
You hold me now
No darkness, no sickening
No hiding, You hold me now
You hold me now

In this life I will stand
Through my joy and my pain
Knowing there's a greater day
There's a hope that never fails

When Your name is lifted high
And forever praises rise
For the glory of Your name
I'm believing for the day

When the wars and violence cease
All creation lives in peace
Let the songs of heaven rise to You alone

For eternity
All my heart will give
All the glory to Your name

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime. -Martin Luther

Amicalola Adventure

Saturday I went with the Tottens on a little adventure to Amicalola Falls. It was an absolutely beautiful day and it was fun to have them up there in my neck of the woods, literally. None of us really had a desire to walk up 425 steps, so we drove to the top of the falls, had a picnic, laid under the tree and talked for a long time, and Kati, Tammy, Marcus and I decided to walk back down. Turns out those steps are see through and I am not so much a fan of that. My legs were shaking so bad and I was clutching that rail for dear life. What we saw on the way down was totally worth it though. One of those moment where you just stop and stand in awe of God. It was such a wonderful day. The only way it could have been better is if Timmy had been with me.

at the top
picnic time!

taking a break on the way down
told you it was worth it. beautiful.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Aqui Estoy Yo

Today has been one of the best days I have ever had. Ever. I spent wonderful time with my precious cousins (it hardly feels like babysitting or like I should be getting paid for it), laughing and playing. Little boys are so funny and so much fun to play with. Went shopping with my mom and enjoyed time with her so much. Had a not so nice workout with Jillian Michaels, but one day I will appreciate it. Then took my Bible and went to the park by my house and just spent time with God for almost 2 hours. It was the most refreshing thing, being out there alone, just kicking it with God. Brings a smile to my face just to think about it again. Headed to Starbucks with the newest Karen Kingsbury book when it got dark and just sat there and read and drank coffee. Then it was off to the Totten household and I got to spend the rest of the night with some of my all time favorite people (still missing one very important person though. 3 days!!!!). And to top it all off, had a little of a conference call with Kelly, Derek, and Allee on my way home. It was such a wonderful day and my heart is full of so much joy in this moment that I can't decide if I'm going to just sit here and smile real big or possibly even cry.

But as I was sitting here thinking, my heart felt rather heavy all of a sudden. I was listening to my itunes and this song came on by Matt Papa: "here am I, send me, I'll follow wherever You lead. I will tell the world that Jesus is the way. won't You send me, Lord, here I am. I offer my dreams, my plans. I will give my life, a living sacrifice. here I am." That's when I decided I was, indeed, going to cry. I have really come to a place where I can say that I am ok with being here. I know that I am exactly where God needs me and He will use me here while He has me here. But there are still days where I feel like my heart is so far away from here. I haven't left the country in 2 years and haven't been on a mission trip in almost 3. Every time I have tried, the door has been shut in my face. I have tried to go so many places and it just never works out. God obviously doesn't want me there. I know that God has called me to go. Where? I don't know. And I'm ok with that. I don't need to know right now. But tonight I find myself so torn. I am trying to focus on knowing that I am where I need to be while still fighting the urge to just jump on a plane and go somewhere. Perhaps it is because so many people who hold so many different parts of my heart have been all over the world this summer: Sara, Kaitlyn, and Mary are all in Africa. Timmy is in Costa Rica and Kati was with him for 10 days. Jessica was in Haiti. Coach and Carrie were both in Russia. I have invested so much time in prayer over all of these people that I almost feel involved.

Even when I began typing this, I wasn't so sure where it was going to end or what my purpose was, other than it's 2 am and it's not like I have anyone to talk to about this. But it has occurred to me that all God is asking of me at this moment is that I be willing. I need to be willing to go when He says "go" and stay when He says "stay". Maybe all this was really just a test of my faith. He wanted to see if I could be content and comfortable here because He knows I am content and comfortable in another country. Maybe this is a test of my dedication. And maybe when I get to Mexico in September all of this waiting will make sense. Finally. There it is again, waiting.

Wait on the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Year In (Mostly) Pictures

In a few days, I will no longer be a resident of Owen Hall. It has been such a wonderful yet difficult year. As I look at the first picture of move in day, I almost feel like I'm looking at a different person. Yes, I mostly look the same, but only I can really know and remember what was going on inside my heart, and it's not something I really enjoy remembering. Though I finally had some friends by then, I still didn't feel like I belonged anywhere, not even in Alpha Gam really. I loved my friends and my sisters, but I always felt out of place. I was confused and didn't even know who I was. I was literally clinging to God to get through every single day. I cried more than I laughed. My heart was hurting, and I couldn't figure out why. I don't know exactly when things started to change, but I'm happy to say I am not that girl anymore. I have learned to define myself totally and completely in Christ, not in friends or a boyfriend. I have found joy in every circumstance. I feel like I hardly ever stop smiling, and most of the tears I shed are because something is sweet, not out of heartbreak and despair. I have some of the greatest friends a girl could possibly ask for. I don't know how I lived so long without them in my life. I have never felt the Lord working in my life so much before and I love it. I absolutely love spending time with Him; my whole day feels off if I don't and I am restless until I do. I am the happiest I have ever been in my entire life, and I can't wait to see what this upcoming year holds.

move in day

Athens to see baby Max

our favorite Sav face

noodle square

reading the last book about the Baxters

PIKE Halloween party

cheers for charity

fall sisterhood retreat

tacky family Christmas dinner
dying our hair (mostly mine) at New Year's Conference
bid day!

she didn't know it yet, but I was going to die if she wasn't my little
big/little reveal... round 1
then we added little #2, sara, to the family
spirit night

my 20th birthday in Destin for spring break

spring break

Feast of Roses

lapboard reveal...
I haven't slept in almost 40 hours at this point

spring formal

sisterhood retreat
preacher's rock

Do Not Worry About Tomorrow

Lately I've really been struggling with worrying and anxiety. About anything and everything, but mostly the future. I start worrying about school, trying to move out of one place and into another, Timmy while he's in Costa Rica and about him going so far away to school, how I'm going to handle teaching and classes. You name it, I've probably worried about it. After a while, it really started to weigh me down. I found some verses that I have been memorizing and I also went back through my good ole Jesus Calling book and found all the parts I had underlined about worry and anxiety and the verses that go with that part. I combined all the parts to be like one big letter of what God's word has to say to me about worrying. These verses and this compilation from the book have really helped over the past few days.

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

Cast all your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall. Psalm 55:22

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2 (I like how it says "the Lord" twice. like in case you didn't get it the first time, here it is again. and He is the only source of strength. good stuff)

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 (I just skimmed over this at first because I've heard it so many times, but it's a good one)

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 Amen to that!

I left my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

An anxious heart weighs a man down. Proverbs 12:25

Waiting on Me means directing all your attention to Me in hopeful anticipation of what I will do. It entails trusting Me with every fiber of your being, instead of trying to figure things out yourself (Lamentations 3:24-26). I am taking care of you. Trust Me at all times. Trust Me in all your circumstances. Trust Me with all your heart. When you are weary and everything seems to be going wrong, you can still utter these four words: “I trust You, Jesus.” By doing so, you release matters into My control, and you fall back into the security of My everlasting arms (Proverbs 3:5-6, Deuteronomy 33:27). Trusting Me is a moment-by-moment choice. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Hear me saying, “Peace, be still” to your restless heart. No matter what happens, I will never leave you or forsake you. Though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the sea, you need not fear (Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 46:2)! Do not resist or run from the difficulties in your life. When you start to feel stressed, let those feelings alert you to your need for Me. Thus, your needs become doorways to deep dependence on Me and increasing intimacy between us (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). Welcome challenging times as opportunities to trust Me You have Me beside you and My Spirit within you, so no set of circumstances is too much for you to handle. When the path before you is dotted with difficulties, beware of measuring your strength against those challenges. That calculation is certain to riddle you with anxiety. Regardless of today’s problems, I can keep you in perfect peace if you stay close to Me (James 1:2, Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 26:3). Rest in Me, My child. Give your mind a break from planning and trying to anticipate what will happen. Pray continually, asking Me to take charge of the details of this day (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Thank Me for the very things that are troubling you (Psalm 116:17). Hold my hand and trust. Fearful, anxious thoughts melt away in the light of My presence (Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 62:5-6). Don’t worry about what is on the road up ahead. I want you to find your security in knowing Me, the One who died to set you free (John 8:32). Whenever you start to feel anxious, remind yourself that your security rests in Me alone, and I am totally trustworthy (Psalm 56:3-4). Stop worrying long enough to hear My voice. I speak softly to you, in the depths of your being (Deuteronomy 30:20). Do not worry about tomorrow! My grace is sufficient for you, but it’s sufficiency is for only one day at a time. Throw off this oppressive burden with one quick thrust of trust. As you affirm your faith, shackles of worry fall off instantly (Matthew 6:34, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Psalm 62:8). Bring me all your feelings, even the ones you wish you didn’t have. Affirm your trust in Me, regardless of how you feel. Bring your anxieties out into the light of My presence, where we can deal with them together. Concentrate on trusting Me, and fearfulness will gradually lose its foothold within you (Ephesians 6:16, 1 John 1:5-7, Isaiah 12:2).

While I'm Waiting

North Point Community Church is doing a series called 'The Waiting Room' right now and I've been watching it online. It's really great so far. I think that waiting is something everyone can relate to. It seems like everyone is always waiting for something. For their prince charming to come and sweep them off their feet. For that coveted diamond ring and the promise of forever. For the knowledge that forever is even part of the plan. For a job to pay the bills. For the economy to turn around so they can support their families. For God to tell them where to go. For some direction in life. If it's not one thing, it's another. We're always waiting.

There always comes a point where we wonder if God has forgotten us. We ask "how much longer will this last?" and "are you even paying attention to me?", but how often do we ask "what do you want me to learn here?" When we focus on the first two questions, we unintentionally build up anger and resentment toward God. We aren't interested in what to do while waiting, we just want out. We don't see the purpose in waiting.

We have a choice when it comes to waiting. We can look at our circumstances and say that God has forgotten us, or we can say that He is preparing us. We have the choice and the ability to turn frustration into perseverance and worry and anxiety into endurance. God has never forgotten His people, and He's not going to start with me. Trying to take matters into my own hands will only make things worse. We would never assume we know more than a doctor and start operating on ourselves. They are educated and we are not. That's where scars come from. But we do the same thing with God all the time. Waiting isn't the hardest part, the aftermath of not waiting on God is.

God hasn't forgotten. He is preparing you. He is preparing me. How will you look at your circumstances? What will your life look like if you believe and act like God is preparing you?

a friend of mine posted this on her blog and I just love it. thanks Jennifer!

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried.

Quietly, patiently, lovingly, He replied.

I pleaded, and I wept for a clue to my fate,

And the Master so gently said, "Child you must wait."

"Wait? You say wait?" my indignant reply.

"Lord, I need answers, I need to know why.

Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?"

By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming your Word.

"My future, and all to which I can relate

Hangs in the balance, and you tell me "wait?"

I'm needing a 'yes', a go ahead sign,

Or even a 'no', to which I can resign.

And Lord, you have promised that if we believe,

We need but to ask, and we shall receive.

And Lord I've been asking, and this is my cry

"I'm weary of asking, I need a reply!"

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate

As my Master replied once again, "You must wait,"

So I slumped in my chair; defeated and taut

And grumbled to God; "So I'm waiting, for what?"

He seemed then to kneel and His eyes met with mine

And He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign.

I could shake the heavens, darken the sun,

Raise the dead, cause the mountains to run. "

All you see I could give,

And pleased you would be.

You would have what you want,

but you wouldn't know Me.

You'd not know the depth of My love for each saint;

You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.

You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair;

You'd not learn to trust, just by knowing I'm there.

You'd not know the joy of resting in Me,

When darkness and silence was all you could see.

"You would never experience that fullness of love

As the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove.

You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,

But you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart. "

"The glow of My comfort late in the night;

The faith that I give when you walk without sight;

The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask

From an infinite God who makes what you have last. "

And you never would know, should your pain quickly flee,

What it means that 'My grace is sufficient for thee'

Yes, your dreams for that loved one overnight could come true,

But the loss! if you lost what I'm doing in you.

"So be silent, my child, and in time you will see

That the greatest of gifts is to get to know Me.

And though oft' may My answers seem terribly late,

My most precious answer of all...is still...wait.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Favorite things as of late:

1- being in my apartment with Savannah
2- my summer songs CD and Sav's CD entitled "Cait Moss you're so boss"
3- the interesting foods Sav and I always end up eating
4- coffee on the couch
5- Saturday mornings on Monday afternoons
6- watching Millionaire Matchmaker, NYC Prep, and Miami Social for... well, too many hours.
7- late night talks with Kristin, just like old times. accompanied by a text from Sav (who was supposed to be sleeping because she has a 7:30 am class) at 2:30 asking me to turn the air on, and then she joined us around 3 am. all went to bed at 4. perfect night.
8- talking to my boyfriend on facebook chat (Thank You Jesus for facebook chat!) and the fact that I get to see him in one week!
9- the new journal I'm in the process of making. it might be my favorite one I've made.
10- triathlons. especially with the Totten girls. so much fun. and Marcus is awesome.
11- reliving camp in my car complete with a little too much enthusiasm every time Undignified comes on and the strange looks I get from the people in the other cars.
12- facebook chatting with Sav from our rooms. with our doors open. as in we could talk to each other if we wanted, but we choose facebook.
13- Karen Kingsbury's new book, Take Two.
14- sitting around the drill field with my Bible and having such great time with God that I lose all track of time.
15- having a best friend who pulls the gray hairs out of my head. yep, that really happened earlier today. I'm officially old.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Home Sweet Home?

I've been home for about 4 days now, and I can't shake this weird "funk" that I'm in. Being at camp, life is so easy. I was surrounded by godly men, women, and students for 15 days. I was covered in prayer before I even woke up most mornings and more than I will probably ever know. I started every morning praying with one of my closest friends. I spent all day, every day engaging in deep, meaningful, spiritual conversations and growing in my faith. We started and ended every single day with a time of worship that was always incredible and powerful. For 2 weeks, I was totally and completely focused on God and not on a single thing of this world. It was literally my job to focus on Him. How cool is that?! Of course, camp always has to come to an end, but for some reason adjusting to real life has been so hard. Church on Sunday was really wonderful. Mr. Steve did this awesome thing where he integrated worship and the message, which was about worship. Like I said, it was wonderful, but I looked around at everyone and just wanted to shake them and scream, "what's wrong with you?!" I absolutely love my church with all my heart, but where is the passion? Where is the happiness and the joy? I just feel like most people just don't get it. And most of our parents' generation was taught that you just stand there and sing and that's all there is to it, and I understand that it's hard to get out of that when it's what you've always been taught, but I just feel like there is so much more to it than that and that God doesn't care how we worship. That being said, some people genuinely worship like that, and I am all for that, but can you maybe just smile a little? I guess I just wish that all of church could be like camp, and maybe that's unrealistic of me. At least I can still rock out in my room or my car by myself. Being out of the real world for so long just makes me see how sad it really is.

Of course Timmy is still in Costa Rica, too, and I promise to try not to talk about it too much. I want him there because that's where he wants to be and where God wants him right now, but I miss him so much. I haven't had a real conversation with him in over 2 weeks, and that sucks. Anytime anyone asks, I just keep saying "this just isn't how it's supposed to be" The good thing is that this will make him being at Liberty in the fall no big deal because at least then we are in the same country and I can talk to him.

If home is where the heart is
Then my home is where you are
But it's getting oh so hard
To spend these days
Without my heart

Summer Songs

Because Boo Mama, Big Mama, and Linds all did it... 

1. Someday Soon, Francesca Battistelli- I'm obsessed. I think it has the most precious lyrics and is so sweet and certain parts are exactly what my heart feels.
2. Marry Me, Ed Cash- again, obsessed. Cissie showed me this song during registration at camp and the tears just started falling. It's so sweet and because it starts out "I knew the moment I first saw you, our love was meant to be, it was only a matter of God's time" Perfect? I think so.
3. I Cannot Hide My Love, Cambridge- this was the song of VBS. I really cannot hide my love for Jesus! "My heart will have to sing!" And boy does it sing. Loud and proud every moment of every day. Sometimes I feel like my heart is just about to burst.
4. Two Weeks In Africa, Cademan's Call- because even if I can't be in Africa, my heart is there with Sara and Mary.
5. All That We Are, Hello August- It is truly my prayer that I become desperate for His love.
6. Undignified, David Crowder- over the past year I have really found what it means to be undignified for the Lord, and this was the song for FCA leadership camp. our legs were sore from so much jumping around!
7. Crazy Beautiful, Chasen- it reminds me who I am in Christ on the days I'm not lookin or feelin so hot.
8. Take To The World, Derek Webb- what we learn at camp or in church means nothing unless we take it to the lost!
9. Just Wanna Be With You, HSM- thank you, Troy and Gabriella. I just love to sing this song, and also, I do just wanna be with him. Timmy that is, not Troy, though I am a fan of him too.
10. Mi Dios Puede Salvar (Mighty to Save), Hillsong- I love being able to worship in 2 different languages. most of the time I switch back and forth, but I don't think God minds.
11. Close, Rascal Flatts- it's just really fun to sing! loud and with the windows down!
12. Must Have Done Something Right, Relient K- I don't know what I did to deserve this great guy in my life, but this song says exactly how I feel.
13. Vision of You, Shane and Shane- I want to keep developing my vision of Him. and I think there is so much power in the statement, "let the vision of You be the death of me"
14. In Christ Alone (with The Solid Rock), Travis Cottrell- this song makes me tear up almost every time. I love being so dependent on Christ to get me through every step. And there is just so much power in this song!
15. At Least We Made It This Far, Relient K- because I am sure that if Timmy and I can get through a month of barely talking to each other then we will be just fine when we are 7 hours apart in the fall. It reminds me to stay positive.

oh summer, how I love thee.

Break My Heart For What Breaks Yours

Every time I go to camp or something as a leader, I know God is going to do something great in my own life, but I always underestimate exactly how great it will be. These are just some things He taught me over the past 2 weeks.

I think it's very important for girls to know who they are in Christ. So many times we get so wrapped up with what the world says we should look like and be and lose sight of who God says we are. I always made sure that I told the girls at some point during the day that they are fearfully and wonderfully made and beautiful and perfect just the way they are. Every day. Week 1 was great, but, as I've already shared, week 2 was rough. I struggled with discouragement a lot. I was so used to my huddles wanting to hang out with me all the time and basically just thinking I'm awesome that I wondered what I was doing wrong. Satan really attacked me with discouragement in every way possible. Half way through week 2 I realized that I had invested so much energy in making sure that these girls knew how beautiful they are that I forgot about myself. I let Satan fill my head with lies about how I look and my capability of leading these girls. My sweet friend Lindsey reminded me that the truths in Psalm 139 are true for me too, not just these girls. I had to remind myself who I am in Christ. I am beautiful. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am perfect, made in His image. I am equipped for everything that God has called me to do. I am never alone. I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ. I am His daughter. And the list goes on and on and on. I think that sometimes we all lose ourselves in our current ministry, but it's important to remember to take care of ourselves too.

I have said a thousand times before that God really uses music to speak to me, and these 2 weeks were no different. One song that Hello August sang is called Let It Rise and the chorus goes like this: "let it rise, let it rise, the sound of redemption" I started to think, what does redemption sound like? As I looked around at over 500 people worshipping all around me, I realized that scenario is exactly what redemption sounds like. It's signing at the top of your lungs. It's hands raised and hearts overflowing with love for God. It's being in total awe of what God has done. What a wonderful sound redemption is! Another song says "all that we are, all that we are, desperate for Your love" When I hear desperate, I mostly think of someone being desperate for a relationship, and mostly girls. I think about a girl being so desperate for a relationship that it consumes her every thought and every conversation. Isn't that how we should be with God? Want Him so badly that we know we cannot function without Him? So badly that we cannot even carry on another day if He doesn't give us the ability? That is total dependency on Him. That is what I strive for. And last but not least, the song Hosanna. For months now I have really been drawn to the part that says "heal my heart and make me clean, open up my eyes to the things unseen, show me how to love like You have loved me. break my heart for what breaks Yours, everything I am for Your kingdom's cause!" I kept praying that God would make that real for me. I feel like He really did heal my heart of a lot of things over the past 2 weeks and made it clean again. He opened up my eyes to all kinds of things that the girls in my huddles had been through that I had never experienced before. And most importantly, I learned how to love like He has loved me. I have never pleaded for someone's salvation like I did for Alex. I have never felt that kind of love for someone who I hardly know. I have never cried over someone like that before. I just wanted her to get it. I wanted her to see so badly that it hurt my heart to think that she wouldn't be joining me in heaven. I realized later that that is just small taste of what God felt like before I came to Him. I had no idea why I had been praying that for so long, and now I see. I love how God does that.

Most importantly, I was brought back to the basics. I think so many times we lose sight of the cross. When we sang Lead Me To The Cross (here we go with a song again), I really made that my prayer. I was able to see the cross and Jesus' love for me in a whole new way that totally blew my mind. I love how He just shows up like that. You're never too old to get back to the basics, friends.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What I Will NOT Miss About Camp

-wiping dirt out of my bed

-never being able to keep my hair straight

-checking every girl’s bed for bugs at night


-wearing a backpack for over half of my day

-the heat

-morning workouts

-mosquitoes. At one point I had 15 bug bites. I never get bug bites

 -not being able to shut the door to the bathroom stall because my knees hit the door

-wearing shoes in the shower

-sand/dirt everywhere

-having to wear shoes even in the cabin

-being responsible for every action of 8 or 9 other people besides myself

-having dinner type meals for lunch. I can’t tell you how many times we said to each other, “can I just have a sandwich please?”

-having 1 shower for 10 girls

-showering in an area so small that it is nearly impossible to shave your legs

-feeling dirty 10 minutes after showering because the humidity and sand

-never wearing anything besides gym shorts and a t shirt. While this is comfy, it gets old, especially blue and white shirts for 2 weeks.

-wearing a name tag

-being hit on by high school boys because they think I'm 16

-waking up 9 girls in the morning

-making 9 girls go to bed every night

-counting to 9 at least 50 times a day to make sure everyone is there, and looking for the missing ones

Oh Thank Heaven for Huddle 7

Saturday morning Cissie, Lindsey, Casey, and I got up and went to the beach for the morning. We took our Bibles and had an awesome quiet time on the beach and it was so awesome. We were the only people for a long time. I really built great relationships with these girls. Casey, Lindsey, and I all worked last year and Cissie is just incredible. She truly has the gift of prophecy and I had never experienced that before. The girl speaks Truth like nobody’s business and it’s awesome. She encouraged me so much. We had some training that afternoon and then all went to Kemper’s family’s condo (another huddle leader) and grilled out and hung out til time for fireworks, which we watched at the pier. We had a wonderful night, but by the time we got back, I wasn’t feeling so great and was really worried about being sick.
Sunday morning started out with our own church service lead by Natalie and her husband David. The rest of the day was supposed to be beach day, but by this time 4 of us were really sick. Our awesome trainer Kenlyn (I’m obsessed with her name by the way. As in I might steal it for one of my children one day) took Kristen, Cedric, and I to immediate care where we waited for over 2 hours just so the doctor could talk to us for 2 minutes. Ridiculous. The verdict was that we all had bronchitis. Awesome. I basically spent the entire day in bed. Our verse for the week was Romans 12:2 and obviously the year is 2009 so we somehow started calling the sickness R12209. By the time we left camp today, over 20 people had been infected. The good news is that none of us were contagious anymore by the time campers got there.
Monday came all too quickly and I was really struggling. I was feeling miserable and just didn’t think I could lead these girls and was so worried about what they would be like. I had 2 amazing huddles both last year and the week before and I was terrified this would be the nightmare huddle that apparently everyone has to experience at some point. At first the girls were not as receptive to me and I would have liked. They were really quiet. I didn’t really have any extreme leaders that stuck out and just took the lead and that was really hard considering I felt like I was dying. On the bright side, they were getting along with each other great, but that’s not so great when you’re dying and just want to sleep and they have no respect for you at all and don’t listen and won’t go to sleep. Yeah, we had a lot of respect issues those first few days. But don’t get me wrong, not all of them were like that! Just some. Enough to make being sick 10 times worse. Tuesday and Wednesday were still pretty rough. I was really trying but I just felt like I wasn’t getting much from them.
Tuesday at the very beginning of the service one of the girls in my group, Jeannette, leaned up and reached over to me and said “Miss Caitlin can we please go outside” and when I saw how much she was crying I just grabbed her and we ran outside. (yes, they called me Miss Caitlin. Funny how the week before everyone thought my girls were my leader and this time they acted as if I were 15 years older than them) She just grabbed onto me and just collapsed and couldn’t even talk. I finally figured out that one of her friends had been shot and killed and she had gotten a text message right as the service started. We sat on the pavement outside, in the rain, and just cried together for a while. It just broke my heart to think that she was experiencing something like that and that she lives in an area where that could ever be an issue. After a while we went back inside, but it was a rough night. Our group was supposed to go on the prayer walk but she didn’t want to go and had gone back to the cabin so I had to go and talk to her and get her to come. I just felt like she needed to be with us and with her sisters in Christ so that we could pray over her and with her. I was really hoping that the prayer walk would change my relationship with the girls, and I wish I could say it was something drastic, but it wasn’t. It did, however, bring them closer, but it was hard to see them getting closer and not be allowed to be a part of it. I just wanted them to like me and want to hang out with me and talk with me about things.

Wednesday I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had been having some dress code issues with some girls and had to make them change on multiple occasions. Dress code is a big deal down there. No short shorts or tank tops, and we have the say on what makes shorts short. One girl was ridiculous about it and was constantly disrespectful about everything I said. Some adult staff had even said something to Jennifer and Lindsey (our coordinators) about it and that just set me over the edge because not only were they putting out a bad name for themselves but for me. I was talking to Linds after skit practice and before dinner one night and she told me I just needed to go back to my cabin and give them all a little talk about it, so I did. I was so mad, and I am not generally an angry person, so they finally got it. I was still very distracted and discouraged even as service started that night. I also had a girl, Alex, who wouldn’t answer any questions, wouldn’t have a conversation with me, and would sit and stare during worship. I had tried everything and just couldn’t do it anymore. At one point during worship, Lindsey and I just hit our knees and started praying for her. I told God I was done and it was in His hands and I needed Him to do something that night because I couldn’t do it anymore. I have never prayed for someone so hard before in my entire life. I was hysterically crying because I just wanted her to get it. That night the message was about overcoming adversity and hard times. He ended with a clip from The Passion of the Christ. I had seen it once before, so I knew what was coming, and I immediately burst into tears and just sat with my head in my hands. I could hear it all still, of course, and I found myself saying “I’m sorry” over and over again and begging them in my head to just stop. All I could think was “just stop.” Of course I know and understand what Jesus did for me; that’s what I live for. But God really allowed me to see it in a new light that night. I realized that not only did Jesus get up to heaven and look down at the earth and say, “That was definitely worth it” but He would do it all over again. For me. I am not worthy of that. I am not worth someone dying, especially in such a horrible way. It was as if God was allowing me to see His love in a totally new perspective. Pierre (speaker man- awesome man) asked that everyone who was already a believer to just start praying and at that moment I just started praying for Alex and literally begging God for her salvation. I don’t think I have ever prayed for anyone or anything like that before in my life. I just wanted her to get it. I wanted her to know and experience God like I do on a daily basis. When we finally looked up after Pierre asked them to stand, 3 of my girls were standing, and one was Alex. I just could not believe how quickly God answered that prayer. Pierre told them that their huddle leaders were going to talk and pray with them when they got back to the cabin, and then I started crying even harder. I just felt so inadequate and unable to be a part of this. I don’t deserve to be a part of God’s huge plan in their lives like that. I felt so humbled and in total awe of what God had just done. We went back to the cabin and I sat outside with them and made sure they understood what exactly was going on, and they totally got it. I’m not a big believer in the whole I say this and you repeat kinda thing, so I told them to just tell God, out loud, what was going on in their hearts and ask Jesus to be their Savior. Their prayers were so precious and sincere. It was the most amazing experience of my life. I am so proud of them and so happy that I have 3 new sisters in Christ. I have never seen a drastic change in someone like I saw in Alex. The next day the girl would not shut up. She started opening up left and right and was having fun and bonding with the other girls. Side note: at our last huddle, Alex told me that she didn’t want to be here for the whole first half of the week and thought I was weird during worship and too happy, but now she knows why I’m always so happy. Thank you Jesus!
I have always believed in spiritual warfare, but I have never experienced it like I did this past week. It all started with the R12209. It had so many of us down and Satan really used it to get to me. I felt so discouraged and beat down and like I couldn’t lead these girls. I really struggled to get through our first day together as well as our first huddle meeting and just knew that they weren’t opening up because they basically hated me. I subconsciously allowed Satan to fill my head with lies and I believed them and fought that all week long. Lindsey had a girl in her huddle who used to be in a gang and whose mother had been stabbed by her step dad only 3 months earlier. She told Lindsey that she used to see demonic visions and described them rather vividly. Lindsey had the hardest time sleeping the next few nights. One night she woke up at 2 am and had to grab her Bible and read Psalm 91 (it’s about protection) over and over until she could go to sleep again. Wednesday night a bunch of us gathered around her cabin to pray for her and for her girls and for the war for these campers’ souls that was most definitely going on. Even while we were praying, the devil was still at work. The same girl (who was also saved that night, praise Jesus!) came out of her cabin and told Lindsey that her stomach was hurting. She could hardly stand up because it hurt so bad. All week Pierre kept saying that the biggest tool the enemy will use against us is distraction, and that’s exactly what he was trying to do there. We sent Linds to go take care of her and kept right on praying. At the same time, in Kemper’s cabin, he had a middle school boy under the bed with blankets all around him terrified because he said he felt like the devil was trying to get inside him. Seriously? What next? We just kept on praying and praying and praying until the girl felt better, the boy was out from under the bed, and we all finally stopped feeling so uneasy. After that, Linds was finally able to sleep. In fact, her and her roommate Lauren both slept through their alarms the next morning and both of their huddles totally missed morning workouts. Thanks, God. The whole week we all just had this sense that there was this huge spiritual war going on and we were so unaware of all that Satan was trying to do.
There is an all girls FCA camp in North Carolina called Black Mountain. It’s a sports camp where teams are brought and aren’t told that it’s an FCA camp until they get there. And it’s in the inner city. Kinda rough. A lot of the girls hate it when they first get there and hate the huddle leaders too pretty much. Week 1 Lindsey and I talked about maybe working it next year and by the end of week 2 we were pretty much sold. Alex actually came from Black Mountain and I feel like God put her and diva in my huddle to prepare me for just a small taste of what is to come at Black Mountain.
I spent Friday night at Jessica’s house with her and the boys (Coach is in Russia). It was exactly what I needed. I love those boys so much. Kirkland is so much fun and Charlie is just too cute for words. I love playing with them and being with Jessica. It’s so nice to have a friend who is older and knows so much more than I do but can still talk to me like a friend, not like someone who is above me. She had a shower to come to in Atlanta today so I rode back home with her. I just love talking with her. I have said this before, but I pray that I can be even half of the wonderful woman of God, wife, and mother that she is. I’m so blessed to have that family in my life. And Coach, if you read this, I missed seeing you! Guess I’ll have to wait til December. :(
Let’s revisit the R12209 for a moment. Friday during our lunch meeting after the campers left we found out some very interesting information. Apparently a camper from week 1 was hospitalized on Monday with swine flu. His best friend was at our week 2 camp and had to be quarantined for 24 hours and tested. Luckily, his results came back negative. Long story short, our R12209 is suspected to have legitimately been a mild case of swine flu. There was a possibility that we were all going to have to be quarantined at Epworth and they were actually figuring out how things were going to go down if we had to stay past Friday. Crazy stuff, my friends. This also really shows what a great sense of humor God has. First of all, Daddy told me, jokingly, that I was going to get it at camp. Second of all, I said 100 times that I would be livid if I got it in the US. Third of all, God used it to keep me here (where I really needed to be) instead of going to Mexico. And then gave it to me at the exact place I felt Him calling me to be and still brought me through it. What a funny God we serve. By the time we actually found out about it, all we could even do was laugh.
And so concludes week 2! 

We Don't Need No Money, Salvation Is Free!

Here it is, friends. The blogging goodness you have all been waiting for. Ok, maybe just Linds. After the first day of training, I wrote 6 pages in my prayer journal that night. It was then that I realized that there was no way I could keep up that kind of pace for 2 weeks and started keeping my journal on my computer. So consider yourselves lucky, because you are about to get a very in depth look at my heart and what God has been doing over the past 2 weeks. Yes, it will be very long, but for those of you who do care and like detail, it's all there. Well, I may have used a little discretion and kept some things to myself, but for the most part. So here goes week 1, starting on June 27th. (please note that it is all very random paragraphs and possibly not in correct chronological order, but it's my journal so deal with it)

Training just began and I am already so overwhelmed. There are so many huddle leaders! Last year we had about 20, this year we have 50. That's a lot of people and I only know 5 of them. Of course there are people here who don't know anyone, so it could be worse. I am definitely a close knit small group kind of person, so I hate to say I'm already looking forward to that part of week 2. I will say that it has been incredibly awesome to be back with my sweet friend Lindsey Locke. She is so dear to my heart and I'm so glad we have these next 2 weeks together! I can't wait to see what God is going to do!

Stuart Hall was our speaker and definitely brought the Word from the very first night. He talked about how many Christians stay in their little comfort zone and never do anything that might be a little more difficult in life. Take Jonah for example. We all know the story: God says "go to Ninevah and tell them that everything they're doing is bad". Jonah says, "no" and takes off to Tarshish, which was 2500 miles away. God found him (He's good like that). A whale ate him. He finally went to Ninevah. We criticize Jonah for not going, but we do the same thing. When God tells me to do something hard, I run the other way because I think that my plan is better and don't want to miss out on the great things that I have planned for myself. I show that I don't trust Him. I show that I don't believe that His way is better. I can run from God, but I can't outrun Him, and it's only going to get worse. Trusting Him means doing what He says no matter what, because I literally can't go on if I don't. If I try something hard and am successful, the glory can only be God's. Why would I not want to be a part of something that can bring Him that much glory?

Different groups went on a prayer walk every night, and I really didn’t want to go because I felt like it would cut into our huddle time, but God really took those feelings away quickly! He totally changed my group and changed my prayer life. In those moments, I felt God closer than I ever have before. Lindsey and I were able to pray for our girls’ schools, for their walk with Christ, for their purity, for their future husbands, and for their self esteem. Praying out loud doesn’t bother me at all, but the way I began praying when we were on our walk was different.  I wasn’t timidly asking God to do something, I was fervently begging Him, knowing that He can do it! I really learned to be more confident in my prayers. I felt like He was standing there, giving me the words to say and telling me what to pray for these girls. And my girls really stepped it up too. They took the lead without even being asked and I am so thankful that they were able to experience God in the stillness of the woods like that. It brought us closer as a group and brought Linds and I closer. I feel like it really changed my prayer life dramatically.


Worship every night was incredible! I am a very passionate person anyways and I hate feeling confined or like I am being told how to worship. I don’t like to be still. I like to do whatever I want. I am passionate about Jesus and I don’t care who knows, and in those services, none of it mattered. You could stand up and jump on the chair if you wanted (which I did not want) and no one would care. It’s so rare and so incredible to be in that kind of environment. Some of my girls had never even experienced corporate worship like that before and were a little thrown off by all of our energy and jumping around and raising our hands and probably thought I was weird for a little bit, but by the end of the week they were loving it! When we sang Hosanna and we got to the part where it says “we’re on our knees”, they stopped for a minute and we all literally got on our knees. It’s so humbling to just stop and be face first in front of God in total awe of what He is doing. I love being in an environment without judgment, where I can sing and dance if I want and worship just as I please and I’m so glad my girls got to experience that too. The band was called “Hello August” and they were an incredible group of people. They were there for both weeks so we really got to know them well. They hung out with us all the time and prayed with us and were just awesome. The best thing was how Natalie (lead singer) always tied scripture into what she was singing about and really showed us her heart and what God was telling her. She was so genuine and transparent with us and it allowed us to be the same way with her.

If you want to know about the girls from week 1- huddle 16!-I will send it to you, but I would hate to have said something that would offend someone and one of them come across it on here off of my facebook or something. They were awesome though and it was so sad to see them leave! I was ridiculous to even worry that they would be anything less than awesome.

One day after dinner we were all sitting around a picnic table outside and saw a wedding. I am basically obsessed with Epworth by the Sea and kinda sorta really want to get married there one day. It was the sweetest little ceremony. Of course it led me to think about my wedding day and it was also the day we were talking about purity so I had really been praying about it a lot that day. I am so thankful that, when I am in her shoes, I will be able to say that I have kept my purity intact for my husband and what a glorious day that will be. It also opened a lot of doors for me to talk to the girls that night. It was such a beautiful thing and I can still see it so vividly in my mind. My mom says we can’t afford a “destination wedding”, but I hardly deem St. Simon’s as grounds to be classified as such.

Friday afternoon we all went out to eat together and then the people who weren’t staying for week 2 left. I must admit that I struggled to get to know people the first week because there were 50 huddle leaders. I don’t deal well with large groups like that. I am very much a small group of intimate relationships kind of person, so I was ready for week 2 where we would go from 500 kids and 50 leaders to 170 kids and 18 leaders. We were all so exhausted and just needed to rest, so they gave us the whole day to basically do whatever we wanted. Jessica came and picked me up and I spent the afternoon with her and her sweet boys. I needed that so much. It’s hard to be confined to such a small campus for so long. I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually worn out and needed to have some time with someone like her who just pours into me, encourages me, and rejuvenates me. Not to mention she let me use her shower. Oh man, I hadn’t felt that clean in over a week. I only got to spend a couple hours with her, but it made the world of a difference. When I got back to camp, we all went out to eat for Meg’s birthday. We ended up staying at the restaurant until almost 11:00 just talking and laughing. It was so rejuvenating to be with these people and build these relationships without having to worry about our kids and what they were doing. When we got back, Cissie, Lindsey, and I went into one of the buildings to get our stuff and move into a new cabin. We were greeted by giant cockroaches. Needless to say, I freaked out, but Lindsey and Cissie just started throwing tennis shoes at them. We say it was our first bonding moment that solidified our friendship between the 3 of us. I have never screamed and laughed so much before and we met a whole new side of Cissie. Ya know when you laugh so much that you get that feeling like there’s stuff in your throat? Sav and I call it “flim”. Well we definitely had a bad case of the flim, only it wasn’t gone the next morning. So began the sickness which came to be known as R12209, but more on that later.

So concludes week 1.

Huddle 16: Reesa, Lauren, Alexis, Karis, Kristen, Jessica, Sarah Beth, Elizabeth, and Kalli- you guys were amazing. I could not have asked for a better group. Thanks for thinking I'm actually kinda cool and loving to hang out with me. Don't forget that you are remarkably and wonderfully made, perfect and beautiful. I love you girls!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

One Week Down...

Half way there! Of course I don't mean that like it's a chore at all, it's just exhausting! I am physically, spiritually, and emotionally totally and completely exhausted. Week was one incredible. Great huddle, great girls, and God did such a work on their lives as well as mine. I can't wait to share it with y'all, but I'm still not done journaling about it quite yet and still need some time to sort it out in my head. For those of you who have asked how you can be praying for us, pray that we find some energy to keep the kids just as excited as last week. Pray that God begins to prepare our campers' hearts as well as ours and keeps us from comparing to last week in any way. Also, we're all pretty sick. This horrible cough and achy body and are honestly just miserable right now. Pray that we can get some rest and get rid of this junk so that we can gear up for next week! Love and miss y'all!

ps- for you Bachelorette friends, there is a boy here named Kemper an I keep calling him Kiptyn. haha.