Hey y’all!  I just wanted to let you know about a book giveaway that 1 Love For Christ is hosting this week (well, until tomorrow)!  1 Love for Christ is a website put together by young people who have a heart for the Lord, and want to encourage other young people to follow Him with ALL of their hearts.  I have been following them for quite a while now, and I’ve been convicted, motivated, and encouraged by their articles.  So if you are reading this after the giveaway ending date, you should STILL head on over there and look around.  God is using their ministry in powerful ways!

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Oh yeah, and about the giveaway.

There are quite a few ways you can get points for this giveaway, including liking them on Facebook, sharing their blog post (not mine) on FB, Google+, or your blog, and more!  Once you do that, head on over to the giveaway post and let them know what you did!

If you already have a copy of this book, don’t think you shouldn’t try to win it.  I’m sure there’s someone in your life that could use it, don’t you think?  😉

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Hey, y’all!

As many of you know, Jamaica has been on my mind a lot lately.  I went on a two week mission trip in June-July 2013 (I was fifteen), and it changed my life.  I could go on and on about what went on in my mind and heart before, during, and after my Jamaica trip – God used it mightily and is still working in me through that experience.  For now, though, I want to share the summary I wrote shortly after returning home.  This is the raw report – no changes, edits, or additions.  🙂  Enjoy your raw taste of Jamaica!

Our mission team was pretty small.  Dave and Louise Street organized this trip, and Mr. Street has been there 8 times.  Neena Wilson is a VBS teacher and has been to Jamaica 9 times.  I, the youngest member of the team, am your friend (hopefully) and have now been to Jamaica once.

We stayed for two weeks, doing mission work in various schools, Vacation Bible School, churches, and wherever we got the opportunity.  It was definitely a new experience for me, traveling without any other family members and living primitively for two weeks.  But we could all sense God’s guidance the whole stay there, which was a real blessing.

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Sister Street and I giving the Bible lesson

Because of a modification in plans once we got there (Jamaican plans change almost every day), we were able to get into 15-20 different public schools in the area.  We did the same presentation at each school, sometimes dividing the students up into groups and doing it for each group.  Mr. Street would do some magic tricks and a little show with his puppet, Sister Street would lead in a couple songs, and then she and I would do a flannel graph story about Elijah.  Neena would come in with some review questions and a memory verse.   The kids loved it, and we loved them!  I made quite a few sweet little friends at one of the schools!

In Jamaica, the motto is “No Problem!”  They are much more laid back than Americans, never in a hurry to do anything or go anywhere.  We worked with the Jamaican Holiness churches down there, teaching Sunday School at one and VBS at the other.  Due to the school year being extended a week longer than expected, we decided to have VBS both Saturdays (two sessions each) and the first Sunday we were there.  We got a pretty good turnout, considering the late and lack of advertisement. 

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Pastor Simmonds giving Neena and I “bunny ears!” :)

Mr. Street told us about several young people who truly gave their hearts to Jesus last year.  They loved the Lord and were sincerely trying to follow Him.  However, partly because of the lack of discipleship and follow-up, they have backslidden since then.  A couple will openly admit that they are not Christians anymore.

If we look at it from man’s perspective, the spiritual future of Jamaica does not look encouraging.  There are many people “serving Jesus,” but their spiritual lives are built on emotions or what others think of them.  However, we serve a living God who is all-powerful and has a plan for Jamaica.  He has several true servants in that country, people who are TRULY loving Him and willing to follow Him, no matter what the cost.

I feel that God led me to Jamaica so that I can come back here and pray.  Prayer is so powerful!  It is easier to pray specifically now that I have been there and understand the needs better.  I am also very thankful for all the opportunities I got there to witness and serve.  I know that God used this trip to show me that only He can fully satisfy.  Praise the Lord for being with me through all and giving me the privilege to serve Him.

In the email I sent out before I left, I asked for specific prayer for myself and the team.  Thank you so much for praying and for letting me know you would!  While I was down there, the thought came to me that I should have asked you all to pray for the Jamaicans instead!  I would greatly appreciate it if you would continue to pray—not only for me, but for those who don’t know Christ.

And as an added bonus, here is a short description of our living habits that I wrote to a friend soon after our return:

We stayed in a four-room mission house (two bedrooms, bathroom, and living/dining room.  All the kitchen we had was a refridgerator/freezer and a small table area to put food on.  
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A glimpse of the “kitchen” and living room

It was challenging, as there were ants everywhere.  One morning I poured some cereal into my bowl and was about to go on preparing it when I saw it was moving!  There were ants ALL over it and in the rest of the box!  That was a little disapointing!  Another time they got into the peanut butter jar…yuck.  🙂 
Pretty much all we lived on there (besides little things here and there) was peanut butter and tropical fruit!  The mangos were delicious, but they turned my blue braces green.  We also took cold bucket baths each day because the shower head didn’t work.  
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This was during one of our school presentations…my favorite school for obvious reasons!

To be continued…

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Helloooooooo, friends!!!!

So here I am again!  Life has been busy, but settling out a little.  And I feel like doing a fun post for once, so here ya go!  🙂

Seeing… the beautiful snow outside today.

Hearing… little sisters giggle their heads off while supposedly cleaning up after supper.

Tasting… Mom’s delicious blueberry lush (and it’s even sugar free!).

Needing… sleep, and a lot of it. 🙂

Wanting… to go on another mission trip to Jamaica…really bad.

Regretting… all the days I skipped prayer time in order to get sleep :/  Convicted for sure!

Feeling… thankful for the Lord’s blessings.

Thinking… about everything at once. Literally everything, if that’s even possible.

Laughing… at all the funny things little children say.  😀

Believing… that the Lord is and will always be faithful to His children.

Anticipating… the visit of Cal Zastrow (an awesome pro-life missionary speaker) and his family to our church on March 8, drama camp, and SUMMER!

Praying… that we would keep our priorities straight and always be open to the Spirit’s leading.

Reading… Miss Manners’ Etiquette, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Wrestling Prayer (the latter by Eric and Leslie Ludy).

Singing… Your Grace Still Amazes Me by Phillips, Craig, and Dean.  Love that song!

Wearing… Sunday clothes, minus the scarf and an with extra warm jacket.

Preparing… for the next week of craziness.

Remembering… last night’s crazy, fun, and hilarious activities with friends after our Bible study.  🙂

Trying… to learn to try new things.  I’m not the change-loving type, so it’s a stretch!

Loving… my awesome group of friends and my crazy siblings (and the weird one…you know who you are).  😉

Choosing… to hold each area of my life in an open hand.  It’s not always easy, but it’ll be worth it.

Holding… my one-year-old sister.  🙂 mg mj j p.vm  (that there was her two cents, by the way)

Texting… ha!  I have six contacts, people.  And all but two of them are in my family.  🙂

Turning… into a zombie because I always crash on Sundays.

Recognizing… the children’s geography song my older brother and sister are singing with great drama. Did I mention that my siblings are crazy?

Checking… my email a TON yesterday to see if the homeschool drama play was casted yet from auditions on Friday.  We did get the parts this morning!  🙂  I may or may not have woken up at 4:13 AM and checked for it…but I didn’t wake up on purpose!

Organizing… is nothing an answer? :/

Practicing… guitar, especially fingerstyle.

and

Smiling… because I’m alive and HE is faithful and worthy of praise!

(inspiration for this post and the included quote from www.freshmodesty.blogspot.com)

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Watching young children draw, especially reproductions of people they know, is quite entertaining.  Cara drew the sweetest little sketches of our family members the other day…and I thought you might like to see them.  She did well – some of these are pretty good resemblances!!IMG_4686

Note that all the guys have Menards shirts on and all the girls have Style J skirts.  🙂  It’s also fun to see the different characteristics she gave us!IMG_4675

IMG_4676Sisters are a blessing.  <3

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Happy Winter, y’all!  It’s definitely snow season around here.  Though at the moment the snow is just beginning to melt again, I thought I’d share some photos I took on a couple different recent snowy days.  Snow is so beautiful – I love to watch it sparkle in the sunlight…or the moonlight!  Whether it’s snow laden pine trees, slick roads, or long icicles hanging from rooftops, snow is beautiful.  Cold, definitely, but beautiful enough to make a quick photo shoot worth the freeze.  So thankful for God’s beautiful creation!  Isn’t it awesome that He washes our hearts “whiter than snow” {Psalm 51:7}?  Now that is clean.  🙂IMG_4361

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IMG_4470  I love seeing sun rays making their way through branches on a tree, but you can’t do that beauty justice by snapping a simple photo.  There’s an art to taking good pictures of the sun….and I’m gonna learn it.  Someday.  🙂IMG_4533 IMG_4498IMG_4508Aaannnd, a hot double mocha cappuccino was in order when I returned inside to help take the chill away.  Oh, the perfection and the yumminess… 🙂IMG_4544 IMG_4547

Have a great week!  🙂

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”

-Psalm 107:8

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I don’t always feel like smiling.  I don’t always feel like being polite.  I don’t always feel happy.  And I definitely don’t always feel like praising the Lord for and during the trials.  But often, those periods of trial are the most important times to praise Him.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

-James 1:2-4

Praising the Lord is important even when we don’t feel like it.  Praise is not a feeling – just like love, it is an action.  We can praise God anytime, regardless of our feelings, simply because we know that He is God and that He is worthy of our praise and adoration.  So on those rainy days when we just feel like giving up, when nothing seems to be working the way it’s supposed to, and when we’re just plain tired, we need to lift our heart to Jesus and, through the carnal feelings of despair and discouragement, tell Him that we love Him, and that He is an awesome God…because He really is!

Not too long ago, my pastor pointed out that even if we come out of a time of true worship, out of a pure heart, with absolutely no feeling of a spiritual experience, we can still rest in the knowledge that we have worshiped the Lord.  Isn’t that cool!?  We can worship Him no matter how we feel!

So a few weeks ago, I decided to try it.  I was at work and feeling pretty blue and ready to go home, being tired and a little stressed.  I had to force myself to put a smile on my face and thank Jesus mentally as I worked.  As I began to thank Him for every little thing that crossed my mind, my smile slowly became less forced and more real.  He gently gave to me a joy like no other as I simply told Him what I was thankful for.  Though I don’t always feel a burst of energy as soon as I start to praise Him, I do know with all of my heart that He has heard me.  And, as the old song reminds us, counting our blessings always helps to cheer us up!

So why do I smile?  Not just because I feel happy…I smile because Jesus loves me!  Because He died for me, He’s given me a beautiful day, and He answers prayer! And even the because of the little things, a cup of hot coffee on a cold day, or a safe trip in the bad weather.

Sometimes, we just need to smile and thank God for the simple things. Praise Him not only in the moments of peace and contentment, but also in the moments of despair, discouragement, and confusing moments.  It is then that He desires and enjoys our praise the most. And it is then that He rewards us with unspeakable joy.  So come!  Let us worship the Lord together!

“Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”  

Psalm 32:11

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