Who I Am in Him

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates

Last night God led me to Hosea. He not only broke down walls but healed my heart as well.

Hosea 2: 14-20 “I will win her back again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.”

He is jealous for me, eager to pull me away from all that distracts me from Him. Even something as simple as food can pull me from time with Him. This week he is leading me to a dry place where He can speak tenderly to me, telling me all His intimate secrets, like a Lover’s whisper.

I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.”

The very place that is dry and empty He will turn into an oasis, open to others to receive peace, healing, and restoration.

“{18-20} You can live unafraid in peace and safety. I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine.”

He supplies peace to relieve my stress and safety to battle all evil that may befall me. He will always be just, ruled with relentless love and compassion towards us. He is faithful – every promise He makes He keeps. I am His and just as He proudly proclaims it over me, I boast of my dad who never lets me down.

This morning He continued to work in me and open my eyes.

Hosea 6:6 “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”

8:13b “to me their sacrifices are meaningless.”

What an amazing verse to meditate on all day. So many times people go on a fast and just sacrifice the food. They work on their self-discipline rather than their identity. Something we learned in leadership class today:

Character: our identity + our emotional security + our core values + self discipline

Our priorities should be in that order because we are human beings not human doings.

Identity: being before the Lord, becoming like Him.

Self-discipline: out of the overflow of my heart is connected to my doing.

God has been working on my identity in Him immensely. I’m beginning to know Him even better. After reading this verse I was challenged – God doesn’t want this to be a situation where I go without. He wants me to grow. A lot of times, when I’m hungry especially, I can be grouchy. The Lord really challenged me to walk in love even when I’m irritated, even when I’m overwhelmed, even when I will be hungry.

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Strong in the Father

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates

Getting ready to start a juice fast with some of the girls this week and I’ve been diligently seeking the Lord on His will for this. He spoke to me and showed me nothing like I’ve seen before, just as He always does.

Daniel 9:3 “I turned to the Lord in fasting and in prayer..{20-25} As I was praying, Gabrielle…came swiftly to me. “Daniel, I have come to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given, and now I am here to tell you what it was for you are very precious to God. {10:11-12,17,19} You are very precious to God. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your god, your request has been heard in heaven. “How can someone like your servant talk to you, my Lord? My strength is gone and I can barely breathe.” Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. “Don’t be afraid,” He said, “For you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!” As he spoke those words to me I suddenly felt very strong.”

Daniel knew his city was in danger of being destroyed and so he began to seriously intercede on their behalf. Fasting is a time of intercession and instead of ignoring his call, Daniel stepped up to the plate. God stepped behind his action and worked through his faith. The words Gabrielle gave to Daniel continually repeating how precious He was to God is so inspiring. What a reminder that every time we pray the Lord hears as well! “Your request has been heard in heaven.” God doesn’t ignore us, He listens to our words, takes note of every thought.

This passage encouraged me so much in my decision to take part in my first week long fast. The times I’ve spent with the Lord so far have been so uplifting but I kept feeling a wall. There was something more. When one of the girls approached me telling me she was taking a week to fast and asking me to join, I knew this was what the Lord was telling me to do. After reading in Daniel the next day, it was set in stone. God can move in anyone. Fasting is not the only way to hear God better. For this season I feel this is what He has for me. Taking this time before we have a lot of teams come in and seeking Him on how to more effectively minister, its a time to set myself apart. I am very precious to God. He hears what I say and in my request, He sent an answer. “Don’t be afraid,” He said, “For you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!” As he spoke those words to me I suddenly felt very strong.” He gives me the strength. Not just while I’m on the fast, but every day. He’s going to take care of me, all the time. 

SA sunset

Love the sunsets God designs for me 🙂

First Day of Ministry and God is moving!!

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates, Missions

Monday was the first day in the squatter camp, Msawawa. I was so excited to enter the squatter camp and minster to the people. As we began to have conversations with those who resided in the community, one of the interns quickly made connections and seemed to easily have conversations with them. I stood in the background snapping photos, feeling defeated. I wanted to interject in the conversation and share His love. That was all, I simply wanted to break mindsets and spread his peace and wisdom. All the courage it takes to live one day here drains me. I’m not homesick. I’m getting along with the girls in my house. The Lord has been giving revelation after revelation in my quiet times in the Word with Him. Why was I feeling bound by a spiritual rope?

As we left the squatter camp for lunch (our house is between five and ten miles away, making it easier to drive home for lunch and rest up) we began to talk about our favorite and worst parts of ministry so far. I didn’t feel the need to interject since I felt that I had barely made an impact on the day so far. It was slightly discouraging, being the fact that I have been here before and yet was left unsure of what to say, how to continue conversations, and effectively witness. I had the head knowledge, but I didn’t have the experience. We were all sitting around the table eating lunch together when suddenly the Lord pulled at my heart, “Seek me for the words to say. I will tell you what makes the biggest impact.” I sat there in the middle of eating my ham and cheese sandwich, heart’s jaw on the ground at this awesome word. “God, you are so right! I have been so focused on seeking you and forgot to ask you be a part of the biggest reason why I’m here!” We prayed before heading out for another 2 and a half hours of ministry and I encouraged my fellow interns. “Listen to what they have to say. They can be talking and go on so many rabbit trails but the important thing is to remember the big picture and bring it full circle. Let them be heard out. They’ll hear you out in return.” With that we locked up and loaded in the car.

I climbed out of the van with a fresh perspective and as we walked through Msawawa and joyfully greeted everyone I came in sight with, ready for God to move through me. The first man we talked to was restoring an old wicker table. With one eye gone from a fence post falling and removing it, old raggedy clothes, and many missing teeth, he was a sight.

But God had intention for us to talk to Him.

Sixty-three and very much present for apartheid, Cori (one of the second year interns) began to strike a conversation with him. As we find out he restores furniture for a living, a skill his father taught him while growing up, Cori and I immediately saw a connection to the gospel. Unsure if I should jump into telling Him God’s Word or continue to relationship build with the man, I left Cori continue to get to know him better. She then began to share the similarities of how God fixes our hearts, just as he fixes furniture – that when He fixes us, we come back a few years later with scratches and dents, asking Him to restore us.

Cori & the man

We then prayed for him for healing and a deep revelation and relationship with God, that He would spread the Word of God, as well as turn a deaf ear to false teaching. When we finished, another man called out to us at a shop next door. He asked us to pray for him and as we began to ask him questions he told of us how his back was in pain. The many children that surround in a squatter camp can be overwhelming. Another girl, about the age of 10 turns the corner with a pile of corn on top of her head and makes eye contact with me. She approaches me, asking what we are doing here. I tell her a little and the group calls me over to pray for the man with pain in his back. After we finish I turn to talk to the girl, {I later learn her name is Beautiful}. In my heart I feel she is supposed to take us to her mother, but I feel a hesitation. Am I being silly? I don’t want the rest of the group to think I’m being weird… Alexa (another intern!) speaks up and asks Beautiful to take us to her house. She quickly winds through the streets and alleyways, each house we pass we wonder if it could be this girl’s mother. When we finally arrive we see an exhausted, frail mother standing with a tiny baby in her arms. Her name is Edith and her two month old baby, Noise.

We learn more of each other, exchanging life and laughter we began to get into the deeper things of life. Edith shares she is trying to start her own business because her husband does not have a job. Families not having jobs are a common thing in the squatter camps so we elaborate on that for a moment. She wants to send her daughter to school but does not have enough money. We learn she is originally from Zimbabwe, where she married her first husband and gave birth to Beautiful. She then explains that when she moved here three years ago she remarried and now has another daughter. We ask why she moved from Zim and she tells that her husband was brutally murdered – six stab wounds by a screw driver in his skull and several kicks to the jaw, knocking most teeth out. “He lived ten days after”, she tells us. Edith continues to share that her first husband’s killer lives in a squatter camp not even 15 minutes’ drive from Msawawa. “Do you see him sometimes?” Cori asks. Edith nods and we’re all in shock as she begins to weep. We begin to comfort and pour God’s love on her and one by one, we start to pull out verses to edify her. Alexa, who has been missing her family and clinging to this verse personally, flips to Psalms 91. V2

“He alone is my refuge, my place of safety, he is my God, and I trust him. 4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. 9 If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, 10 no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. 11 For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.”

Cori jumped in and shared (my personal favorite to hear her share) the story from EZ 16. It is the story of a woman who was left in a field to die as newborn. A man discovers her and sees how dirty and disgusting she is, yet believes in her potential. He takes her, nurses her back to health. Adopting her and giving her every desire of her heart, treating her like the princess she is.  She became vain in her beauty and began to give her body to men, prostituting herself to anyone who came along. 16:16 “You used the lovely things I gave you to make shrines for idols..” She went to sangomas and gambled, sacrificing to idols. Her father was so hurt that she did those things when her created her to be so much more. Yet he still loved her and wanted her to return to him, repent of what she had done.

Edith, Beautiful, & Cori

At the end of this story Edith began to sob again and began to tell of how she often felt God did not hear her prayers. “We are an answer to your prayers. We are here to tell you God hears you. He’s listening to everything you say.” Cori confirms.  I began to feel a pull to share this: “If Beautiful wanted a piece of bread, would you give her the bread she asked for?” Edith nodded and I continued, “Because she is your daughter, right? God is the same! You are His loved daughter, He wants to give everything He has to you! He hears what you say and has a perfect and great plan for you.” We embrace and all the team comes in to pray for her and her family. She repeatedly thanks us and asks us to visit next time we are there. We promise and take a deep breath as we walk onto the streets of Msawawa. God is so good. Never underestimate the little things.

If that little girl had not stayed to watch what was going on, we may not have been able to minister to Edith and her family and certainly change her life for eternity.

Jeremiah 9:12 “…Why has the land been so ruined that no one dares to travel through it?”

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates, Missions

Hi partners, family, and friends! Hope you are all doing well and God is moving in your lives!

This past week has been the last bit of training sessions, and we finished the week off with a trip to Diepsloot and Kya Sands for kids ministry! It was an awesome time of loving on kids and teaching them about their wonderful Creator. Earlier that week we also went on a trip to Soweto where Nelson Mandela grew up as well as Reverend Desmond Tutu. We learned a lot about the uprising that influenced the end of apartheid and visited many historical spots. It was mindboggling to think it was only 25 years ago when everything changed. Nelson Mandela is still alive today. Most of the time in America, monuments are not resurrected until the death of someone who did something. It did open my eyes that the violence, drinking, and drug addiction that is prevalent here, is not the only idol.

As I was seeking the Lord on verses to pray over the nation, He opened my eyes to so many other things and I would love to share them with you!

{Just as a preface: Monday we went out into the squatter camps to share the gospel with the people who live in the shacks, for many of the interns first time. I was so excited to read these verses that I pray they opened eyes to see all the Lord has promised them and the lies that have been told – and see the real truth!!}

Malachi 3:2

“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes.”

One of the ways we relate to the people is while they’re doing laundry. So commonly you can strike a conversation up with a woman cleaning laundry, learn more about her and her family and begin to make connections. One of the ways you can bring the Lord into the conversation is by contrasting how the soap that cleans the laundry is just like how God cleans our hearts. This verse is so true – no one can endure till the rapture occurs and certainly face God with a clear conscience.

V13-15

“You have said terrible things about me”, says the Lord. But you say, “What do you mean? What have we said against you?” You have said, “What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the Lord of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.”

Many of the African people seek a tangible God. They want something to show up right now, they want to hear, see, and hold God. So many cult churches offer a tangible power, but it’s not the truth. I have encountered people who question Christians and the church. “Some men create churches just for the tithes and offerings, preach and drive from church to church all day Sunday, and collect tithes and offerings for themselves.” We have learned from the Africans and many are upset by that. “Does God allow that? And if so, why? Wouldn’t it just be better to do our own thing than sacrifice our hard earned money for something fake?”

This is where I find my answer:

Deuteronomy 7:5b-6

“…You must break down their pagan altars..burn their idols. For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on the earth; The Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure!”

His own special treasure…wow. I am called to tear down those strongholds that hold the people of God back from Him.

For that reason I find this scripture so special:

Jeremiah 9:12

“Who is wise enough to understand all this? Who has been instructed by the Lord and can explain it to others? Why has the land been so ruined that no one dares to travel through it?”

Psalm 49:6-9

“Let the praises of Go be int heir mouths and a sharo sword in their hands. To execute vengeance on the nations,.bind their legs with shackles…this is the glorious priviledge of his faithful ones.”

Psalm 21:6

“You will capture all your enemies. Your strong right hand will seize all who hate you…”Although they plot against you, their evil schemes will never 12 For they will turn and run when they see your arrows aimed at them.”

What a verse of edification! {encouragement, declaration} I just felt God pouring into me that nothing was impossible through Him. He can do anything through me – I am a vessel in His hands. While the enemy may try to attack me with physical, emotional, and mental pain or scramble my WiFi so that I am unable to communicate with my family for a week, he can’t knock me down because God is my comforter. God’s word and blessing on my life gives me power to resist the enemy in all of his attacks – be it having communication problems with my roommate or a discouraging day on the mission field. Being a missionary is not just when I am out in the shacks talking to people – I am just as much, if not more, of a missionary in my own home.

Sweet, South Africa

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates, Missions

Ladies and gentlemen, I have arrived and am so excited to be here!

I was unsure of what to expect housing wise but when we arrived at our home for the next 11 months, I was in awe. Nice rooms with their own bathroom and a pool in the backyard. We don’t have everything set up yet (we gather groceries on our own for the first time this Sunday!) but it is coming together really nicely. All the interns are getting along and enjoying the company of everyone. Last night we hit the sack early, about 10:45pm and yet I woke up at four in the morning! The mornings are gorgeous here, though (as is most of the weather because it’s summer currently!) Sitting outside and watching the sunrise while spending time in the Word felt so refreshing.

Maybe it was the peacefulness, maybe it was the early hour of the morning, or maybe it was the full-hearted pursuit of God and completing His will – but I had an amazing devos this morning!! As I opened various devotionals, God began to speak to me about praise. Praising God can move mountains – even city walls! {Joshua 6:1-5; 20-21} “And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants.” {Jeremiah 32:39} Praise creates hope. Psalm 145 (and the last couple of chapters) brags on God and revives your spirit. “But joyful are those who the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord God.” {Psalm 146:5} “The Lord’s delight is in..those who put their hope in His unfailing love!” {Psalm 147:11} Praise generates peace (Psalm 147) and it also reminds us of His goodness things you’ve come through –He brought you out of- (Psalm 103:2). My favorite is one later on: “Violence will disappear in your land; the desolation and destruction of war will end. Salvation will surround you like city walls, and praise will be on the lips of all who enter there.” {Isaiah 60:18} Praise opens the gates to the kingdom of God – in church, in your home, in your car, and yes, even in another country. How awesome that we can praise God and exalt and He will open doors and grace us with His mercy every morning. Hallelujah!

Since the trip down here can be so strenuous, Impact Africa is breaking us in slowly with briefing and allowing us to gradually take everything in and adjust to life as an intern in South Africa. They took the interns to the first (of many) malls in South Africa and we purchased our phone with air time as well as participated in the third annual Pick N’ Pay Scavenger hunt! {Pick N’ Pay is the equivalent of our Walmart}. I didn’t win…but it was still rewarding to find a few different things that sound like one thing but are actually completely different! “Baby marrow” isn’t what you think it is…it’s actually zucchini!

Pick N' Pay Scavenger Hunt!

Wouldn’t be a trip to South Africa without chicken feet! Notice my grossed out grimace.. and yes this color is just from being in the sun during the morning. It’s so intense!!

Yesterday was our first full day of training which included going to the communities walking through the creshes (daycare) and learning more about the Baby Safe (which I was SO excited about from the beginning!) The more I learn about the programs Impact Africa has, the more I partner with them. Impact Kids is set up so strategically by Michelle Franzen. Based on the statistics in South Africa, she has orchestrated a very effective system. South Africa estimates that 4.7 million of its people are totally illiterate and another 4.9 are functionally illitierate (meaning adults who left school before grade seven.) Three million households, almost eighteen million people live below the poverty line (set at an income of only $35 a month!) Research shows that up to half of an individuals capacity to learn has been established by the age of four. With that mindset, Impact Africa opened up a preschool from ages 2-6. Most African parents send their children off to first grade without any training beforehand. They don’t know how to sit still, their attention span is short, and they lack the motor skills to excel. Impact Kids is well rounded with separate classrooms for the 2-3 year olds, 4-5, and 6 (sometimes 7 depending upon their educational development.) From 8-1 they are being taught with play breaks and gym in between lessons, after 1 they have free time and the cresh turns into more of an afterschool care, making the most of their attention span. Every lesson incorporates Christian values, scripture memorization, bible stories, songs, etc. They go above and beyond the requirements of the Gauteng (how-tang) school system. The school has really taken off and even in the beginning of the year (most of the parents wait to send their children to school till the beginning of February) the creshes are almost at capacity!

Some of the gals and I have shared stories and already encouraged and challenged each other in our faith. We’re enjoying each other’s company. The second evening before dinner we all stood in a circle hitting the volleyball back and forth. There is such peace in the household and we all are meshing so well. After dinner my roommate and I spent some time together and prayed for each other as we begin to settle into our new home here in South Africa. Last night we went to a braai (barbeque) with the Impact Africa founders, Rich and Michelle Franzen. We played games, swam, and at the very end were able to Skype with our families! It was so nice to be able to talk to everyone! Once we arrived back at our home all the interns gathered to pray together for our ministry and unity as a team. All in all, I’m enjoying my time here (you know, in the two days that I’ve been living in South Africa.) I will update you soon on more things that we are doing and how we all grow, as well as stories of ministry (which are in the weeks to come!!) Thank you all for your support and prayers, they are much appreciated and they have (and continue to) made a difference!

Almost There!

Life updates, Uncategorized

Just a couple of weeks till I leave for the internship in South Africa!

I am so excited to begin this next chapter of awesome ministry and growth!!

In the past two months, I’ve already raised 4,805 dollars. WOW –  thank you to all my awesome supporters!

(if you have not sent your pledges yet, please send them so that I may effectively calculate how much more support I need)

However, I still need $11,195!!!

Some of you may not know about the internship, so here are the most commonly asked questions I receive:

What exactly will you be doing down there?

So many things!! The purpose of the internship is to learn how to more effectively minister and spread the gospel cross-culturally. Just as I did on my last missions trip, I will be going to the communities and sharing God’s love with them. So many churches and ministries have a script that you read to people and at the end, they receive the Lord. It’s not very effective, and while it may push you out of your comfort zone, it’s not equipping them for the journey of a lifetime.

With Impact Africa we create relationships. Instead of preaching at someone telling them they’re going to hell, we sit down and take the time to get to know them. The purpose is to create disciples and world changers instead of “converting” someone and leaving them to figure out their faith alone. As interns we will also train other groups (like they did with me last time) to effectively share the Word of God. Impact Africa also has daycare centers in the communities (both Kya Sands and Diepsloot) that I will also be helping with. They have a kids outreach in each community once a week where we get to share the Love of God and love on the kids.

Where will you be staying?

All of the interns will have houses to stay in 11 girl interns in one and between 5-6 (i can’t remember how many) guys in another house.

What do all of the finances cover?

The funds will go toward housing, air fare, visa, food and living expenses, as well as international health insurance and any unplanned needs that may occur.

How can I help?

Please prayerfully consider partnering with the Lord’s vision by enabling me to carry out His work. You can do a one time gift (if writing a check please write it to Impact Africa) or even sponsor monthly (by clicking here , reoccurring donation, using paypal and typing my name in the notes). If you have any other questions I would love to answer!! Email me: ashleybbridges(at)gmail.com

You guys have seen the change and growth that was implemented in the last trip and I would love to partner with you in this awesome ministry opportunity!

God bless and happy New Year!

Blessed Mouths, Mighty Works.

Challenge & Revelation, Missions

Today was another awesome day! I just wanted to take a moment though and thank all my supporters who helped send me here. Words cannot express my gratitude and I am so excited to see all the blessings God does in your life because of the great seed you sowed!

Once again in Diepsloot, we headed out early this morning, around 10ish. (This would be 3 a.m. your time.) Our group leader, Lynae informed me I would be the one choosing who to talk to and have most of the conversation time. After a day like yesterday, I was so fired up, I became even more excited! God was going to give me an awesome opportunity to lead someone to the Lord today and sow into their life. After walking for a minute we saw a shack where a woman was strumming the guitar. Intrigued by the music drifting through the air, we approached the shack to say hello. We asked if they were busy and they invited us in their one room shack, welcoming us into their small home. As we exchanged names we discovered there were three brother and three sisters all living in this one room shack. They came from Zimbabwe to find work and talked about how the conditions in Diepsloot highly contrasted the conditions in homeland. “The shack we live in would be for chickens,” They tell us, “It’s much cleaner in Zimbab, here people walk outside and throw sh*** in the streets.” We listen, intrigued to hear someone tell the truth so vividly. We exchange more, them asking us how America is different (most conversation include this question), what do we like here, etc. As the conversation lulled, I asked them if I could tell them a story. They nod their heads and even the brother, who seems to be somewhat of a jokester, turns and begins to pay attention. I tell them of the story of Joseph and the trials he faced.

As I open the story, I tell them of how this man had eleven older brothers. He was his father’s favorite, and his brother despised him because of that. Joseph had a dream that he told his brothers, telling them, “I dreamed that you will bow down to me!” They began to hate him even more saying, “Are you going to reign over us or are you going to have us as slaves and work us hard?” But Joseph told them another dream later, jealous and envy began to build inside of them. Joseph’s father sent him to take care of his brothers one day and when they saw him coming from far off they came together and created a plan. “Let’s kill him and throw him in the well, tell Father a wild ferocious animal devoured him, how then will his dreams come true?” An older brother stopped them and pleaded for his life. As he explained that they should not touch him, he secretly wanted to save his brother. Once Joseph approached the group, they stripped him of his coat and threw him into the well, sitting down to lunch. A caravan of sellers passed as they were eating and they decided to sell Joseph because there was no gain in killing him, but it would be more profitable to sell him. They took Joseph’s long coat after he was gone and killed a young goat, spilling it’s blood on it. Sending it back to their father they said, “Is this not your son’s coat?” The caravaners sold Joseph to Potiphar, the man in charge of overseeing executions for Pharoah.

Potiphar saw that the Lord was with Joseph and put him in charge of everything over his own house, even though Joseph was just a slave. His wife began to long for Joseph and would call after him to be with her. But Joseph fled and refused to listen. When he ran, she grabbed his coat and lied to husband, telling him, “He tried to be with me!” Potiphar was furious and threw him into prison. But God was continually with him and gave him favor, the prison guard promoted Joseph to be in charge of the prison and all that was done there. Two men were in the prison with dreams, but they were sad because they had no one to interpret it. As Joseph saw their long faces, he asked what was wrong and they told him their situation. One man told Joseph his dream and he interpreted it saying, “In three days you will be restored to your position with Pharoah, but do not forget me when you do.” The next man’s dream interpreted that he too would be reinstated with the Pharoah, but would die after three days. Even after interpreting the dreams, these men did not remember Joseph. Two years passed and Pharoah had a dream with no one to interpret. The man remembered him and they sent word to bring him out of the dungeon, and as Pharoah requested an interpretation Joseph replied, “It’s not in me but God will give you a favorable answer of peace.”

Joseph gives Pharoah the things he needs to do to prayer for a famine, exactly what his dreams call for. He tells him to find a man wise and proficient, even describing the containers needed and portions. Pharoah asks his advisers, “Is there anyone like him that we could find that match his character?” To Joseph he says, “Your God has shown you all this, there is nobody as intelligent and discreet and understanding and wise as you are. You will be in charge of my house and you will govern everyone.” Joseph prepared for the famine and once it hit, he distributed the food to everyone. Joseph’s father sent his brother to find the food in Egypt –The sister cut me off and finished the story with a smile, explaining she had forgotten the story but remembered it from 1st grade. (If you want to finish the story it goes all the way to chapter: link) They told us how they went to Salvation Army church in Zimbabwe. As we continued to share, the brother (who once had been a little smart-mouthed with us earlier) began to pour questions.

“It says in John 3 we are to be born again of water and spirit to enter the kingdom of God. Does that mean I have to get baptized in order to go to heaven?” We explained to him that “of water” is of physical birth, spiritual birth the second. Baptism is a public declaration of your relationship with God and laying your old self dead to sin, waking up a new person in Christ. It was such a divine appointment, God destined us to be there today, I know it. Sorry, no pictures for you guys today! Hope you enjoyed the update, “see” you guys tomorrow! Have a blessed rest of your day!

A thankful heart is a peaceful heart.

Challenge & Revelation

Last night, God reminded me how blessed I am. To do what I do with the people that surround me. i cannot express my gratitude to the friends that have been with me in some season in life. It doesn’t matter if we simply grew apart or became strangers in a short amount of time. Everybody goes through stages in life, and we’re all constantly changing. The key to friendship is you never point the finger. Whether they did something, it was a happenstance coincidence, or you messed up, friends are there to pull us back up and support us in our lives.

The most amazing people surround me. Musicians, moms, ministers, and mentors.  I don’t have words to express my gratitude to these awesome individuals.

I’m nearing the almost a month-away-from-going-to-South-Africa mark. Woohoo! I have a meeting this week to meet everyone I’ll be traveling with and to discuss the almost-three-week-expedition in-depth. i cannot believe how much time has passed already!

I’m super excited for all adventures approaching!

Some really great things were said in church yesterday. They were so inspiring to me, I’d like to share a few with you. Bear with me, they may seem a little jumbled but it will all come together in the end.

Found this in my time in the Word this morning:

Mark 10:21

1} He saw this man and immediately loved him. He did the same for you.

2} Upon seeing this man, He knew his heart.

3} The man’s wealth would only became heavenly wealth if He set aside and followed God.

God’s will for us is that we trust Him with our every need, and He’ll provide it.

He would never ask us to do something he wouldn’t:

John 13:3-17

Jesus took off his status and served his disciples, making himself humble.

  • Your influence is not determined by numbers {how many connections you have, the experience you have gained} but by your heart.
  • Confidence in your walk creates influence.
  • We lose our influence when we become self-centered.
  • Your relationship with God keeps Him near.
  • Be thankful the Lord is near.
  • A thankful heart guards peace.
  • Putting hope in the wrong place robs you of peace.
  • Peace is the resting trust in the middle of turmoil.
  • Don’t be governed by circumstances.
  • Bitterness is rooted in lack of gratitude.

Now for the kicker.

  • When you’re bitter, you’re bitter towards the Lord because the situation did not go how you wanted it to.        

Hope this encourages you in the week to come. I think this is enough for me to chew on for a good month!

God bless!

Trust. Faith. Destiny.

Challenge & Revelation

This wasn’t the really the first idea I thought I’d write about for my first blog post. It’s supposed to be quirky, fun. But, these are my thoughts, too. I hope you’ll continue to read my feelings, convictions, and adventures. There will be plenty of those I’m sure. Let me tell you where my story has been taking me lately.

Most kids “know” what they want to do when they grow up. Heck, I thought I was going to be a worship leader when I was 16. Toured colleges for it. I loved the classes, the teachers. But it was missing something.

A tech department.

No photography courses? I turned my back on that college and continued to pursue God’s bigger plan for my life.

As months passed, my passion for photography grew. I was given a Nikon D3000 for Christmas and little Ms. Amateur was born. That camera was glued to my hip. A few months later, I began doing little “shoots” with my friends, learning more about camera angles and techniques. Summer rolled along and my church deemed me the event photographer. At 17, that was a HUGE honor! I interned with the tech guys during that summer as well, constantly expanding my knowledge of lighting, camera settings, and post editing.

By the time October came and passed, I had a few professional shoots already on my belt for families and seniors. I was in my element and blossoming. Not to say that I didn’t get discouraged. Believe me, there were times I was discouraged if I could really take this to another level. What if I was always going to be the amateur with a nice camera? I certainly didn’t want to be the kid who delivered overpriced point-and-shoot prints. So I pushed myself to continually grow, I was where I needed to be and that was all that mattered.

The drastic difference from where I was when I first had my camera to now is amazing.

April 2011Image

June 2011

ImageImageCompared to my latest shots of June/July 2012

ImageImageImage

Hard to believe just a little over a year has passed. I love what I get to do. The hard work, time, and money I put into this is well worth my while. And I’m excited to see where God takes this. I’m striving to be the best I can be. His favor surrounds me.

As of the past year, my heart has been calling me to Africa. An organization, Impact Africa , visited my church and I was drawn to their year long internship program. As a kid, I was intimidated by missions. You hear so many horror stories, you never want that to be yourself or someone you know in such scary situations. That’s where God changed my heart. Those that are meant to stay and minister to the people here, in America, that’s okay. Because it’s their calling. I feel a pull in my heart to travel and minister, capture the realities that many Americans don’t even know about today. Even I know that I’m not completely aware of all that is surrounding me.

As of May this year the opportunity was presented to me to go on a missions trip for several weeks with the same ministry I had felt a pull towards before. A family friend from the church we attend is heading up the trip and is aware of my passion for photography. Not only do I get to go to Africa, I get to take pictures, too! What a blessing. God has shown himself in every way. You see, fundraising for the trip had started before I graduated. I decided that if I was supposed to go, it would still be possible to raise funds after I graduated.

As I sent letters out and deadlines passed, a fraction of the payments needed came in. A big deadline was approaching before I left for a week long vacation and if I didn’t make this payment they wouldn’t be able to hold my seat on the plane for South Africa. A day before we left, the several hundred dollars I needed to make the payment was sent to the church offices in my name. If that isn’t the hand of God, TELL me what isn’t!!

Trusting God was always a hard thing for me. Completely handing something over to Him and saying, “I’m not going to worry about this anymore. I’m resting it at your feet, standing in faith, and speaking those finances in. But I won’t waste my time worrying about it.” is a VERY hard thing to do. But why do we make something so simple as refusing to worry, so complicated? I didn’t fully grasp trusting Him until just recently. Honestly, I don’t think I completely understood until my dad sat me down and began to tell me how much he cared for me and wanted to provide for me in the future. Teenagers, much less, adults, don’t seem to fully grasp how much their parents care about them until they’re gone.

If the God who created the whole world, couldn’t handle or solve our problems, wouldn’t we know already? Try it out. Turn something over to Him and when it crosses your mind, pray about it. Thank Him for giving you wisdom and favor in the situation.

Those are my thoughts for the day/week/whatever.