I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.
- 2 Corinthians 6:18

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Looking Back: 2015

 Every once in a while, I'll share a "what I learned" post. Typically these posts relate to what I learned during a certain month, but with a new year in full swing, I wanted to share what I've learned over the past year. This is a post for me to really just reflect on the complete sovereignty of our Lord; it's a post for me to look back on and say, "God was there every step of the way."

 If I accomplished one thing in 2015, it would have been learning to cling to the complete goodness of God. 2015 was hard, y'all. Yes, it was a year filled with some wonderful mountain-top experiences, but alongside those came times in the valleys. If you care to read the long, long journey that was 2015, feel free to do so. If you don't have that much patience {because let's be honest, I wouldn't either}, go ahead and skip to the last couple paragraphs. This post is really just to be a visual reminder of the work Christ has done in me this past year.

January // The year started off pretty simply- watched the ball drop from the comfort of my own couch due to a case of the flu. Signed up to take a week-long mission trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. Started raising money/preparing for said trip. Spent a weekend at the Student Life youth conference. Got wrecked all over again for the world & ate the absolute best cupcake in the world {no lie}. Read through the book of Ruth which revived a passion for His word.

February // A whole lot of the same old. Except Georgia got some snow {!!!!} so that was fun. Also ended up in the ER with {another round of} the flu. Probably not worth noting but it was one of the few things that stood out in February so you're welcome. Spent the whole month really studying the book of Exodus {now one of my all-time favorite books in the Bible}.

March // March brought my favorite youth event of the year {aka Disciple Now}. It was a weekend full of God stories and deep prayers and eating donuts and having girl talk at 2 in the morning. Learned again how earnest prayers strengthen faith and how having people pray over you connects your heart to the heart of Christ like few other things can. Finished reading Exodus and went on to read Hebrews.

April/May // Easter weekend. My absolute favorite of the year. Also starting running again so that was fun. Learned that sometimes the things we think are good aren't truly good and from God. Ran my second 5k. Got to go shopping for the sweet girl I would meet just one short month later. Read through Proverbs and Matthew. Witnessed 90+ people go public in baptism. These two months were ones of learning to rely wholly on Christ & His faithfulness.

June // Got some sweet letters and pictures from my parent's trip to my heart's home {Ethiopia} and spent three whole days away from my sister {the longest we've ever gone without seeing each other}. Had to cut ties in an area of my life and in doing so, opened my heart to receive more of my sweet Lord. Learned that we can allow the hard times to either drive us deeper into God or push us away from Him. Saw God's love displayed in the most beautiful way as I wrapped my arms around my Compassion International sponsor child, Mari Leiny, during the week I spent in the Dominican Republic. Embraced the nations with Him. Never have I laughed more, loved harder, and smiled wider in my life. Also formed unbreakable bonds with five lovely young adults whom I know are going to just set this world on fire for Him. Missing my Dominican translators more every day. Also spent a week at one of my favorite places on earth {also known as the beach}. Bought a cookie straw from Starbucks that was worth every penny. Yum.

July // Finished up a Bible study on defending my faith, led by two wonderful mentors in my life. Spent a week at Student Life Camps in Texas. Got to draw closer to the Lord while providing a VBS event to some children who might not have gotten one otherwise. Played games and did crafts and learned stories with a group of precious hearts whom I will never forget.

August // Worshiped with a couple thousand people at the Outcry Tour. Truly one of my favorite moments of the month. Was finally thrown a surprise party and I may or may not have cried.. Celebrated my 16th birthday with cookie cake and Chick-fil-a. Began one of the most difficult seasons I've ever walked through {more on that in the coming months}. Started off the school year with high hopes and major perfectionist tendencies. Went to my first ever Atlanta Braves game and even though they lost it was still fun.

September/October // My oh my. Easily the two most difficult months of my life. A handful of things caused me to slowly drift. It felt as though everything precious was being ripped away from me as the God I'd always known felt so very far. There were some bright spots- such as homecoming with the beautiful souls I get to call friends and my youth group's Fall Retreat. Unknowingly taking control from the only One who is truly in control threw me into some deep waves and I struggled to keep my head above it all. There were many nights of broken cries for God to restore my heart to Him. Stepped out in faith, even though I could not see Him, and led large group for my church's children's program and it ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences.

November // God slowly but surely started to draw me back to His heart. I began again to hold my heart and my life in open hands up to Him. Learned to accept imperfection. Started praying about & seriously considering a two-week mission trip to Guatemala. Spent time with family for the holidays & said goodbye to my parents as they left for a week in Haiti. Took finals. Signed up to go to Ethiopia for a week with my church & began the application process to go to Guatemala with Adventures in Missions. Also splatter-painted for the first time ever and had a blast.

December // Finished off the year by just simply "being". Spent more time with family & celebrated my sweet sister's 17th birthday. Visited a bunch of pet stores with my cousin. Oh happy day. Also took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Florida with my daddy & spent NYE on the beach. Bought Adele's new album and made him listen to the whole thing on the way home.

January 2016 // Including this as well since the month is already finished. Was officially accepted to go on the Guatemala trip and have seen God's hand in the whole entire application process. Enjoyed several girls' days with some sweet friends. Invested in my first pair of chacos {because they were on sale and all I wear in summer is sandals}. Spent time catching up with my Dominican translators via Skype. Nearly broke down during worship one Sunday night because for the first time in months I felt as if the words I was singing were an overflow from my heart. Thanking God for drawing this heart back to Him. Spent a weekend at the Lift Tour growing closer to a group of people that I will forever call family. Forever thankful to have a small group that I can laugh with and be open and vulnerable with. These people are such a blessing in my life. Got to go back to Steel City Pops which was a definite highlight. Started this blog back up with a new vision.

 And there you have it. My year in review. If you made it this far, all I want you to leave with is a remembrance of our Lord's faithfulness. He is always faithful. And He is always good. If this past year had not played out the way it did, I would have never seen such a perfect example of how completely Christ pursues us when we are lost. Looking back, I am thankful for the struggles. I am thankful for the valleys. They have brought me deeper into Him than I ever imagined possible. He is relentlessly, passionately in love with you, friend. Let's hold tightly to that today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Re{new}ed Vision

  Let's be real here. I almost opened this saying, "Here it is. My annual post." But I didn't.

 I'll let you in on a little secret, friends. I actually have plans to revive this old space again.

 Two dozen posts linger as drafts- words in my heart to be shared with you here. They just haven't been shared. Not yet. Soon, I will recap the last year- not because I think you want it, but because I need it.

 There lies my ongoing problem. I crave creating a space for you all to relax and maybe, just maybe, become inspired to dream again, hope again.

 I want a space that you, friend, want to visit because you leave with your soul feeling just a few pounds lighter and the God we both love feeling a little bit closer. And in these desires, I've sacrificed my original vision for this blog.

 On the altar labeled "to please others" I sacrificed delighting my sweet Jesus with the words I type. I neglect posting because I fear it's not what you, my readers, want.

 Maybe we've all made the same sort of sacrifices on this altar, yeah?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Here Is What I Know

 Dusting off a corner of the blog today to type a little note... It's been six months too long. But I'm back, armed with a cup or two of Ethiopian coffee {thanks for speaking my love language and bringing 12 pounds back, mom and dad}, some encouragement from a dear friend, and this stirring in my heart, ready to put something out.

 These past six months have been beautiful and challenging all at once. God has drawn me into this sweet, intimate awareness of Him; He has shown me the beauty of spending time alone with Him. Having time with my Savior alone put this public space on the back burner for two months.

 The initial two months were needed. I began to crave writing again. But then there were many days I sat down to write with a burst of inspiration, only to stop after a paragraph or two with an oh, I'll get back to it. There were also days I sat with fingers hovering over these black keys, trying to think of something, anything worth writing about.

 I think somewhere along the way, I bought into the lie that I did not know enough. I didn't know enough about what I wanted to write on. I didn't know enough about blogging. I didn't know what people would want to read, or if anyone would even like what I put out. This quiet fear just slowly overwhelmed me.

 And while it's hard, typing these words is such a relief to my soul.

 Here is the thing I'm learning: the unknown should not hold you back. Yes, it is scary- fear and insecurity will hold you captive if you let them. There is a lot I don't know. And that fact hindered me for a while. But God is beginning to remind me again of what I do know.

 I know that God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness.

 I know that He calls us to boldly proclaim His name.

 I know that He has given me this desire to share my heart through the power of words.

 Again, there is a lot I do not know. But I'm committing to share what I do know. And in doing so, God continues to reveal more of His truth.

 Tomorrow morning, I board a plane to the Dominican Republic. I have the amazing privilege to spend a week working alongside Compassion International and loving on some precious kids. I'll get to meet the girl I sponsor through Compassion, nine year old Mari who ends her letters saying "goodbye with a big hug." During the week, I will run into a lot a don't know. I won't know the language. I won't know the people, city, or culture. I don't know what I'm going to see and experience.

 What I do know is that whatever happens, whoever I meet, wherever I go, God is with me. I know Christ is calling me to love, to serve, to learn in this country. I know that He is going to show up in unexpected ways and that I will be shown more love than I could even think about giving.

 I'm holding to His promises, and in Him I will not allow the unknown to hold me captive.

 I'm stepping out in faith, clinging to the One who knows me best. What I do not know will not hold me in fear because I know Him.

 Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

God is Good.

 Well Christmas day is here and sometimes it's really not hard at all to get caught up in all the baking and the wrapping and the last-minute-planning, so sometimes you just need to take a break and open your hands and open your heart and remember that y'all, God is so good. If I have learned one thing this year, it would be the simple, profound fact that God is good all the time. So here I am reflecting on this year {with links to some of my fave posts!}, giving myself some space to breathe.

 This year has been hard. This year, I've been broken. But this year I've learned that every day, life is beautiful, because there is this beautiful redemption taking place and my Lord adores me- even when life gets messy and I turn away.

 This year I began to catch glimpses of what it really means to live radically- halfway across the world and right here in north Georgia. {by the way, 500 dollars raised in a month?!?! God is so good. You can continue to give until December 31st- the money raised beyond my goal will go to provide safe water for life.}

 I've said goodbye to some precious, precious children this year- goodbye-for-now to the children of Ethiopia and goodbye to two absolutely sweet sponsor children {because sometimes God needs to show me that he is sovereign and working even through the pain of people you love moving away}.

 I've struggled through perfectionism and learned that failure does not define me. I've seen extreme poverty firsthand and how Christ can shine through broken people in a broken world. Sometimes though the brokenness would overwhelm and I'd lose sight Him, but our Lord longs for intimacy with us and He has shown me more and more of Him in the most profound ways. I've felt so closely the peace and joy of Him. 

 And just like that Big Daddy Weave song says, I delight myself in You. In the glory of Your presence, I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed by You. 

 Merry Christmas, friends, and have a blessed new year.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sometimes God Answers Prayers Quicker Than Expected.

 I thought about titling this post 'In Which I'm Going to do Something Crazy and Pray that God Comes Through,' but it seemed a little wordy. But you see, when I was writing this previous post just a few days ago, I honest to goodness had no clue God would answer my plea for radical living in the here and now in such a... Well, in such a crazy radical way.

 If you don't know by now, I am passionate about the ministry of Compassion International. But even more so than that, I'm passionate about the children, teens, and families whose lives they are changing. Poverty feeds lies to these children and teens- lies that tell them they have no potential. That they aren't worth anything.

 I mean think about it for a second. Most teens here in first-world America don't have to worry about dropping out of school so they can support their families financially. But for that 15 year old over in Columbia, it is a very real possibility. With little schooling though, it's hard for them to find jobs that will provide substantial income. So they're left to rummaging through garbage, begging on the streets, drug dealing, prostitution. And that breaks my heart.

 Christ calls us to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. He calls us to holy burdens for those living in poverty- right here in America and to the ends of the earth. And Compassion is giving us a simple, but so incredibly important way to respond to the Great Commission and combat the poverty in the lives of His children.

 And it's as easy as giving twenty-five dollars.

 That's all it takes for you to change the life of a child in poverty. Because there's this thing called vocational training. Compassion is providing teens with training in fields that interest them, teaching them skills to secure jobs as adults. Compassion is working alongside these teens to give them the confidence and skills needed to break the cycle of poverty.

 The cost to provide teens with vocational training, such as cooking, tailoring, and computer skills, is $500. And when I first looked at that number, I thought, "That's way too much, God. I couldn't do that." But our relentless Lord continued to press this on my heart and I truly believe He will see it through to completion.

 Here's where I need your help, friends. All I need is twenty people to give $25. That's it. Just twenty people to skip dinner out for one night and instead support this mission. If you're not sure yet about the monthly commitment of sponsoring a child, but want to do something, this is for you. If you already sponsor a child and want to do more, this is for you, too.

 My goal is to collect all 500 dollars by December 31st. If you want to walk alongside me and this incredible ministry in releasing these teens from poverty, would you please consider supporting this cause? We have set up a secure PayPal account to make giving as easy as possible for you. Any amount is of course appreciated and needed.

 Also, please be praying with me through this. This is God calling me to radical living and I'm not taking it lightly. Pray for the teens that will receive this training- that God would open doors to break the cycle and open hearts to know Him. And most importantly, pray that this would be used for His glory and to further His Kingdom. Because that's really what it's all about.

 So, give through our PayPal account here, send a check (email me at conversefamily{at}yahoo{dot}com for our mailing address), or hand it directly to me if you see me around. If you have questions, leave a comment below, send me a message, or find me in person- I'd love to chat! Thank you in advance for partnering with me for His glory!

 To further His Kingdom,

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

When My Comfort Zone Became the Third World

 Dear October + nearly half of November, where did you go? Really. I feel like I blinked and it just flew right past me. Once upon a time I thought I could blog on a single topic for 31 days straight with no planning whatsoever. We all know how well that worked out. But although I only wrote 11 days out of 31, change happened. This heart of mine was opened and broken. It was brought to a deeper understanding and awareness of God's great love. And in this awareness of Him, He placed this little question in my heart.

 What if I asked you to stay?

 As in stay here. In Georgia. As in no mission trip next summer. The question literally stopped me in my tracks while I was fixing lunch a couple weeks ago. I mean seriously. Come on, God. You're the one who placed this passion for the world in my heart. And now You're asking if I would stay?!

 I've just been so positive I'd be going somewhere. Whether it be Ethiopia or the Dominican Republic or somewhere else. So here I am shaking my head at God because how could I not go?

 A sweet friend of mine kinda brought this revelation to a whole new level when she told me, "When we talk about stepping out of our comfort zones and doing the hard thing, our comfort zones have become the third world. The foreign country. And sometimes the hardest thing and the place we'll end up being stretched the most is here."

 At home.

 I'm all about stepping out in faith and going outside my comfort zone. But what happens when the foreign country becomes my comfort zone? Because no matter how heartbreaking and challenging it is, it's where I want to be.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hello, Failure. {When You Feel Like Not Enough}

Well, Failure, I really didn't think we'd meet up here. I have to say, you surprised me. 11 posts out of 23 thus far? Wow. Why don't you just go ahead and put a big red X over this 31 day challenge. Put another tally mark on the board of "Abigail's Failures" for the month.

 Hear my sarcasm, Failure, when I say thanks for pulling through. I thought you were gone, but you showed up yet again. I guess if there is one thing consistent in my crazy life it'd be you. And you know what? That really sucks.

 Really. Can't I have a break already?
 Failure, you make me go crazy. You stress me out. This perfectionist can't stand the sight of you. But it's this perfectionist that keeps drawing you back.

 The perfectionist in me tries to do so much. I need to blog more. I need to be a better friend, daughter, sister, Christian. I need to do better in school. I need to be a more committed sponsor. So-and-so is asking some tough questions about God; I need to have the right answers so I can keep her persevering in the faith.

 This is where you come in, Failure.

 Better, more, not enough. 

 Why do I let myself believe the lies?

 Time and time again, Failure, I usher you in. I get so caught up in the "not enough" that I forget to listen to the God Who has redeemed.