Gratitude 2017

Last year I summed up my year with things I was grateful for in the past year. I decided to do that again this year. There are a lot of things I’m grateful for. First and foremost, God and how He has always stuck with me – through the hills and valleys, even when I was running away. My year began wrought with turmoil and many annoyances, but I feel like I grew a lot as a person thanks to those trials and God carried me through. However, there were many extraordinary opportunities placed in my life that I am grateful for.

  1. Family. I am grateful for a family that is super supportive and close. Apparently, not everyone’s families climb in trees for pictures with them. I’ve always grown up in a family where we did ridiculously silly things, explored the woods, and had many game nights. Also, I love having an extraordinarily large amount of grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, and cousins. My family is pretty special (perks of having young parents:)).
  2. Church family. There was a time in my life when I could not have imagined going to church. I grew up in the church but did not go for several years. When I moved to Milwaukee, I worked with mainly people who were older than my mother. I found a church with a young adults group so I could meet people and ended up loving the church. I have so many awesome friends there that I could go on and on about. My pastors also happen to be amazing, Godly men who inspire me to be better. However, the lady in this last circle, Mandy, is my very favorite. Her daughter is in the first circle and I could not imagine life without their whole family! Mandy has taught me to be gracious, kind, and loving. She has taught me about life, hospitality, family, and marriage. Her daughter has been my biggest fan and an absolute joy (I also happen to be one of her biggest fans!)! I look forward to the years ahead with this awesome family and my church family.
  3. Friends. There are so many amazing friends in my life and I love them all! I could go on and on about each one of them for days. However, these 3 ladies have brought something special into my life. Robin is my fighter friend. Everyone would describe her as the goofy one but I see her as the one who fights beside me. Anytime I tell her about a cause I’m fighting for, she jumps onboard in a way only Robin can! Leah is my intellectual friend. She and I could talk for hours about philosophy, academics, and travel. Lately, we’ve been taking each other to experience different cultures in our city, which has been a blast! Lindsey is the youngest of the group and the best way to describe her is the dreamer. When we’re together, we bring our love of inspiring others, dancing, and writing together. She has so many dreams and inspires me to dream even more. All of us together, encourage each other to serve God more and discover the best part of ourselves. We are also always bringing a lot more people because we love meeting new people!
  4. Travel. This year I had the amazing opportunity to go to two countries! First, I got to go to Canada with some awesome friends from church and that was an amazing opportunity! Next, I got to go with an awesome group of people from church on a mission trip to Panama. In between all of these trips, I was able to meet and hang out with friends in Northern Wisconsin. I was also able to go to St. Louis, Chicago, Kentucky, and more. In my younger years, I could not have ever imagined having the opportunity to leave the country and now I am blessed to say I’ve been to three!
  5. Tirzah. This has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. I cannot even believe I have the opportunity to be associate editor of a magazine! Especially with such an amazing woman as Yelena being editor! I never believed there was someone who I would have so much in common with until I met her. Tirzah is the magazine where I truly discovered how much I loved writing and that I wasn’t half bad at it. Where I met other young women around the world who were doing amazing things such as completing the World Race, filming documentaries on sex slaves rescued from Isis, writing books, and being a lawyer. Most importantly, I learned about God and the Bible. In order to be associate editor, I had to really be in tune with what the Bible said. Every article had to be Scripturally backed and include Scriptures. There have been many nights where I’ve flipped through the Bible looking for the perfect verse. Yelena has been such an integral part of me learning to study the Bible for myself!IMG_5920 2
  6. Work. I am grateful to be able to do what I love and get paid for it. When I started graduate school, I knew I wanted to work with pregnant women. I also knew that most of the jobs counseling pregnant women were volunteer. However, I am grateful to have a job that I got right out of graduate school working with pregnant women and helping them be the best moms they can be. I know a lot of people say that they would love my job because you get to hold babies all the time. My favorite part is actually all the time I get to spend investing in the lives of some really awesome women!WI-office-color-tint
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What’s on my Shelf?

FullSizeRender 136This seriously is what’s on my nightstand. As a child, I used to read one book at a time. In my adult years, I find myself reading chapters of multiple books at a time. The other day I was explaining to my friend how I try to spend an hour a night reading. Even if it means losing sleep. For me personally, there’s something great about unwinding in the evening by learning something new. Here are a few of the books I’m currently reading:

  1. Quieting Your Heart: 6-Month Prayer Journal  This prayer journal is a really cool way to keep track of daily prayers. I’m a writer more than a speaker, so I appreciate the ability to write out my prayers. It’s also amazing to see the prayers that God answered over time. PeekInside
  2. Sex and the Single Girl by Dr. Slattery. This is a six week Bible Study by Dr. Juli Slattery who is an expert in issues regarding sexuality and women. I’m 4 weeks in to the Bible study and have found it incredibly thorough. As well as being insightful. I highly recommend it to every woman.  sexandthesinglegirl
  3. Blogging for Writers by Robin Houghton. This book is all about being an effective blogger as a writer. I recently got it from Barnes & Noble. It looks great but I’ve just started it so I can’t give a full review. So far it has had a lot of helpful tips!blogging
  4. List Your Self. This book is incredibly fun! You open the book, pick a random page, and start a list. The top of the page gives a statement such as: “List your favorite foods”. All of the rest of the lines are for writing. It’s a fun way to think about the things that you like. I enjoy making random lists every night as a way to unwind.list
  5. Horses for Dummies. This book gives an incredibly thorough guide to horses. Last winter I spent some time at Stepping Stones Farm learning about equine therapy. This is an area I find extremely fascinating. One of the sessions I assisted with had me talking to a nonverbal autistic boy. That is the power of horses and therapy. I learned how little I know about horses during that time. This book has so much knowledge on everything from horse care, feelings, and business. I highly recommend it!horses
  6. Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley. Emily does a great job of teaching about SIMPLIFYING life. This is a book for the overachievers. People who are doing too much. I just started it and relate so much. Throughout the chapters, Emily has journal exercises to help simplify your life. If you’re a perfectionist, you will love this book. A friend was listing the organizations and groups I was a part of. Then she apologized for probably overwhelming me. I told her not to worry because I was learning that less is more. This book has helped with that!grace
  7. She Reads Truth Bible. I love this Bible! It has note lines all along the side for studying. The pages are clean and crisp. Of course, it’s the Bible so it’s the best book. I really appreciate the creative designs placed throughout it as well.shereadstruth
  8. The Very Next Thing by Mark Hall. I was talking to a friend a couple of weeks ago about dreams. We are both visionaries, dreamers, and planners. It can be hard for us to see the immediate future when we see the big dreams/visions. I was working with Compassion at a Casting Crowns concert in Illinois and ended up handing this devotional to new Compassion sponsors. While the concert was going on, I found myself flipping through the book and was very impressed! I really appreciated Mark’s vision for focusing on God’s will now. Living the very next thing now and not in the future. I’ve enjoyed reading it and plan on passing on a copy of it. Also, it accompanies Casting Crowns latest album, which is pretty neat!castingcrowns
  9. Staying Stylish by Candace Cameron Bure. As a disclaimer, I received this book for free from Zondervan and Candace as a part of the launch team. It releases on November 21, 2017. It is an awesome book on style and being fit. I’ve enjoyed reading all of Candace’s tips, as well as the box full of goodies she sent. I’m not that big into fashion but I appreciate her advice. Instead of saying dress like me, she emphasizes finding your personal style and embracing it. She also talks about the importance of confidence in yourself and loving who you are.CCB-StayingStylish-CVR
  10. In the Middle of the Mess by Sheila Walsh. So this would be the social work book I’m reading right now. I received a pdf version of it before it’s release as a part of the launch team for the book. This is an amazing book. Instead of sugarcoating life, Sheila delves right into what it’s like to be in the middle of despair, anxiety, and depression. How to survive the day to day. As well as her personal journey. If you’ve ever struggled with mental illness, this is seriously the book for you.in-the-middle-of-the-mess.jpg

Hope you enjoyed the little taste of what I’m currently reading. I do recommend all of these books and hope you see some that interest you:)

 

Share Your Life

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One of the most important things you can do is share your life. In the Bible, Paul talks about sharing His life with others around him. He says in 1 Thessalonians 2:8:

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to SHARE with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

Paul was following Jesus when sharing His life with the many people in the communities He found himself in. We should follow in the steps of Paul and Jesus and share our lives with the people God has placed in our lives. Whether they be friends, strangers, foes, or family.

Jesus is an example of sharing your life. Ultimately, He sacrificed His life for His family, friends, and foes. Scripture actually says:

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for His friends.

John 15:13

What I’m proposing is NOT a sacrifice of life. It is a sacrifice of SELF. “A pursuing of that which besets us and striving for the life you have ahead”. One that desires a life ahead for friends, families, and foes.

In Jesus’ life, He SHARED all of it. Daily life was lived in community with His brothers – the twelve disciples. They break bread together. Traveled together. Most importantly, wept together. During His final hours, Jesus asked some of His disciples to pray with Him. He did not hide in His brokenness. But instead asked for it to be shared. In the same aspect, when Jesus rose from the dead. He appeared before His disciples so they could rejoice with Him in life.

I’m reminded of different friends in different seasons who have walked through life with me. People who rejoiced and mourned in different areas. One friend and I spent two years incredibly close. We moved to the same town, started the same positions at the same company at the same time. Only a few years apart in age, surrounded by women much older who had different personalities than our uniquely similar ones.

During bad and good times this friend banded with me. There were bad times where clients were homeless, hospitalized, or worse. We would walk back into work and find little gift bags filled with treats of our favorite things and know it was from the other person. There were road trips to different states for training. Fun stories of life. Joy shared in moments of excitement. Maybe our paths were not meant to cross forever. But sharing our lives for a season was worth every moment.

Jesus shared His life in the moments with the strangers around as well. He frequently broke bread with people in foreign lands. No matter their background religion, crimes, or ethnicity, Jesus hung out with them. In the Bible, there is a story where Jesus walked a long journey with two men. That became an opportunity for the man to ask why Jesus would spend so much time with them and learn more about Him.

Currently, there is a group of individuals I know who hung out at the popular college student areas around a town. They hang together as friends in unique places. With arms wide open, they welcome new people that come along. Not just into their meeting but to do life with them. These people keep growing because of their willingness to simply share life with others.

Perhaps that is our biggest calling – to share life. By doing this, we share Jesus. Many of our greatest longings stem from the desire to be fully KNOWN. Jesus knows and loves us. Close friends and family hopefully KNOW us. One of the hardest and greatest things we can do is KNOW and be KNOWN. Break bread together. Cook together. Mourn together. Be broken together. Rejoice together.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. – Rom. 12:15