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What My First Missions Trip Taught Me About Humility

God is in the business of growing people and making us into the people he created us to be. The entirety of our lives will be spent growing and learning as Jesus in moves in our lives. We also have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others and the work God is doing in their unique story. Ro is sharing a time that God was working on her and the lessons He taught her are invaluable in my own life. It's an honor to have Ro share her story.

I had just returned from my very first mission trip. It was a summer camp in an urban city where we were all there sharing the gospel through various activities, bible studies, and in our daily actions. It was my first one and I know that throughout the two weeks that I was there, God really worked through that camp and even through me.

Entering into this camp, I really prayed and asked for God to prepare me, but to also humble me, change me, and transform me while I was there. I am not perfect, so I knew that there were parts of me that still needed to be disciplined by the Lord and areas of my life where I desperately needed transforming.

Whilst praying for these things, I also walked into this camp with previous experiences in my mind and a little too much confidence in my ability to reach students. At the time, I had experience working with 7-12th graders as an educator and a paraprofessional. I had successfully planned and presented a mini-unit on the Harlem Renaissance that culminated in a project that related to Twitter, which the students loved. With that said, I figured that because I've worked with 7-12 graders before, that teaching God's word to them would be a piece of cake.

Maaaaaaaannn, did God prove me wrong and teach me otherwise.

Four Dreams That Have Changed My Life

The heart of Sacred Stories is to help others experience a "Me too!" moment as the learn that they aren't alone in their experiences, to point them to their hope in the Greatest Story Ever Told and to help those who can't understand, understand a little bit better. Jessica's story gave me a "me too!" moment and pointed me right back to Jesus. If you have ever experienced infant or pregnancy loss or know someone who has, this is a life-changer. It's an honor to have Jessica share her story. 

Are you a dreamer?

Dreaming means many things to many people. Some view dreaming as a childish pastime, removed from reality. Some people associate dreaming with adventure and passionate pursuits. Others shy away from the word because of disappointments and letdowns they have encountered. I have felt all of these things. Dreaming is a loaded word. 

Here's the thing. God created you to dream. Not only does He care about your dreams and desires (because He put them there) but He wants to partner with you and dream along side you. 

What is a dream?
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, 'Always do what you are afraid to do.'"

Facing Fear and Taking Flight: Learning to Overcome Helicopter Parenting

So many of us can identify with the burden of fear. It impacts each of us in different ways and has a direct influence on various areas of our life. Bethany has learned to face fear head on both literally and figuratively. As a flight nurse and a mom, Bethany has turned to Jesus to overcome fear and is sharing her story of freedom with us. It's an honor to have her share her story. 

Psalm 23 is a particular favorite for me. One of my earliest memories of this passage was in 4th grade and I was officially old enough to go to summer camp… overnight summer camp (super big deal to my 9-year old self)! Our church offered a $100 scholarship to all the kids who were able to memorize a certain number of verses and then recite them by memory. My mom picked Psalm 23 for us to learn.
To this day I remember spending hours in that springtime at a local park working slowly on hiding these words in our hearts. We’d pick up a boy who went to our Wednesday night classes as well (Earl was his name- super weird that I remember that since I’m terrible with names!), and spend a few hours playing and memorizing. We did this for a number of weeks. I remember these sessions like they were yesterday and I’ll never forget the sense of pride and accomplishment when I stood up and recited this chapter. What a day it was! At the time, I felt like the passage was at least 100 verses long- you know, one verse for every dollar earned? It would only be years later that I went back and noticed it is actually only six verses in length. Ha!

Learning to Love Someone With Mental Illness

In spite of what we might hope for, Mental Illness continues to be stigmatized both in and out of the Church. Statistically, it is likely that you either suffer from mental illness yourself or love someone who does. Laurisa's courage in sharing her own story of learning to love someone with Mental Illness is inspiring. It's an honor to have Laurisa share her story.

Everything I learned about loving someone with mental illness, I learned from my parents. It might sound a bit obvious, but it is the truth. I learned by watching them love friends and family members with mental illness. More than that though, I learned by watching them raise a son with mental illness. Their unconditional love shone through the struggles and social stigmas, and changed the way I see mental illness and people who live with it.

I recently read a brilliant quote from actress Lysette Anthony. “Mental illness leaves a huge legacy, not just for the person suffering from it, but for those around them.”  Mental illness has left a legacy of love in our family. Yes, there have been hurts and heartaches along the way. No, it hasn’t been easy. Anything but. Ultimately, though, it has been a legacy of learning to love through the struggles and coming out stronger on the other side. Looking back over the years, there are four lessons that stand out the most to me. Four lessons that had an enormous impact on how I have learned to love someone with mental illness.

My Children's Grief for the Grandmother They Never Met

Grief is a painful, complicated process that is unique to each individual. Bethany has experienced a unique perspective on grief through the eyes of her children. Both children and grief have the tendency to surprise us and Bethany's story points to the beauty in both of them. It's an honor to have Bethany share her story. 

When my mom passed away from her long battle with cancer, I was a sophomore in college. In the midst of finals, I was burying my mom. I was a Residential Assistant and I didn't feel like a leader. I felt like was drowning. The grief of losing my mom hit me hard. For a long, long time I felt like I had a gaping hole in my life where my Mom should have been, but wasn't.

How I Learned The Sacred Art of Hospitality

The gift of being truly welcomed into someone's home is one that has the power to change is from deep within. While we love being welcomed, the work of welcoming others is often one we struggle with. Whether fear or shame or business plague us, we can be hindered from opening our hearts and homes to others. Bailey has experienced being welcomed and doing the welcoming and she is sharing her story of transformation as God renewed her heart and mind and showed her the impact of Gospel-centered hospitality. It's an honor to have Bailey share her story.

I overestimated my ability as a young woman. Pinterest and registering for wedding presents left me planning a perfect house with elaborate meals spread across beautifully spread tables. This hosting would lead to deep, heart-probing conversation and a deeper love for God. Mostly, though, if you dug deep into my heart, you would have seen a desire to be the perfect wife and hostess. I would be the Pinterest woman.

Being a military spouse, my husband works with many single guys, and he opened our home to them. It caused fights like I never anticipated. He would arrive home from work with a smile on his face, letting me know that a friend would be joining us for dinner. If the house wasn’t clean, I’d frantically implore him to start working harder and to delay or cancel if possible. Then bitterly, once he had insisted that he would not cancel, I would chop more chicken and peppers to add to the fajitas I was making. Nasty comments would pepper my speech, then the doorbell would ring and I would smile.


The Reason We Disrupted Our Son's Adoption

Sometimes there are parts of our story that are just plain hard. No one can truly understand unless they have walked a similar road. This makes sharing incredibly difficult because we might be judged or ridiculed or misunderstood. There are so many risks to sharing a difficult or even controversial story. Sandra's story is one of those. It's hard, it's controversial and it's honest. Her courage to share such a difficult part of her journey is commended and it's an honor to feature Sandra's story in this space today. 

A piece of my story began nine years ago when two little boys entered our home via the local foster care system. Joseph and Barry were 6 and 17 months old at the time they were placed with us. These little boys came starved for love and nutrition. My husband, Dean, and I poured our hearts into filling their lives with love and their tummies with food. We were court ordered to attend twice weekly visits with their bio parents as is typical for children in the foster system. Barry quickly grew to hate those visits. His little body would grow stiff in protest while silent tears rolled down his cheeks as we drove to the visits. I bought a side by side stroller to use at their visits with their bio parents. Barry would reach over and hold his little brother's hand as though to comfort him. It broke our hearts to see them in such pain but there wasn't anything we could do about it. Those visits continued for two years.

Knowing the pain and neglect they suffered prior to coming into our home increased my desire to show the boys what a godly, love-filled home is like. But Barry rejected that love. At first, I thought it was just me. Maybe his negative experiences with his birth mom made him unable to trust women. However that thought was crushed when I saw him reaching out to other women, it seemed it was just me that he fought against. I couldn't understand it and tried my best to get close to him but the harder I tried, the more he pushed me away. He didn't let me hold him, would struggle when I hugged him and grew stiff and anxious if I placed my hand on his shoulder or tousled his hair. Barry allowed my husband to get a little closer emotionally but not much. He seemed determined to hold us at arms length.

Disrupting Adoption God's Faithfulness