My Life Verse

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Will Follow You.

Follow: to pursue or go after; to imitate or strive for

The word follow kept coming to my mind last night. I thought about the song titled "I Will Follow" by Chris Tomlin. (see video above) When you listen to this song and hear the lyrics, it speaks for itself. I believe God is teaching me right now what it truly means to follow Him. My biggest desires are to follow God, encourage others who are following God, and bring others to know God and follow Him. I love how the definition (found in the concordance in the back of my Bible) uses the word pursue in it. Pursuing Him is what I believe life is all about, which is why I chose that as the title for my blog.

Over the past six months or so, I've seen this pursuit of Him in a new way. I'm learning that following Him takes complete surrender. (yes, I'm that lame and use this to find definitions) states that surrender means "to give (oneself) up; to give up, abandon, or relinquish." I'm learning that as I Pursue Him daily, I need to let go of control- to surrender my life to God. I have a sticker on my car that says "Let Go Let God" and I bought it because I always joke with my girlfriends about this idea of letting go and letting God. It sounds so simple, yet it can be so difficult at times. I'm finally learning what it truly means to let go and let God, to surrender. (see video below of Jesus Culture- I surrender)

Another thing I've learned as God is revealing to me what it truly means to follow Him is that it won't be easy. The Bible says "In this world you will have trouble." John 16:3 Not too much further it states in John 16:33 "But take heart! I have overcome the world". With this knowledge, we will experience trouble, but we can walk confidently knowing God is with us in the troubles and will help us overcome them. We also know that blessings and the fruits of the Spirit will abound in us when we follow Him. We are also promised an eternity in Heaven with Jesus Christ.

I have been praying about church and seeking God's guidance recently like never before in my life. I can firmly believe that I'm where God wants me to be right now because through my pursuit of Him, He's confirmed that to me in many ways. God is clearly calling me to follow Him, which entails leaving behind relationships and a church that I've been attending for the past 3 1/2 years. He's leading me into something new that is slowly coming together. I'm a very relational person (as most of you know) so this transitional period has not been easy. As I've pursued Him through this transition and change, I can look back and see how by following Him, I was able to truly surrender. I experience a new sense of overwhelming peace because of my obedience to Him despite the challenges in change.

(Video above - Where You Go I Go by Kim Walker from Jesus Culture that pertains to all this and is one of my favorites)

Yesterday I visited the church I went to for about 3 1/2 years. God used a couple of people to speak to me and encourage me as I follow Him in a new way. One person shared with me that when we truly surrender our life to God, it is then that He reveals to us what He created us to do. It is then that He begins to unravel His big plans for us. This is right on target with where I'm at. God called me to stop serving in my church, led me to a new church, told me to stop going to my Monday Night Women's Bible Study and to get connected with those at the church I am now attending. All of these decisions took time, faith, and much convincing to myself, but after being obedient to Him, I'm now experiencing the incredible peace and blessings that come with following Him. *Please note- When I say follow Him, I know this will look different for each of us. God has a different plan for each of us, so I don't expect you to follow Him in the same way that He's leading me, but I do pray that you are choosing to follow Him and seeking His will for your life.

For all you Movement peeps: Thank you for all that you have shown me and taught me. Thank you for encouraging me and growing me in my walk with God. Thank you for all your support and love. I'm so blessed to have known each and every one of you, and I hope that we can continue to keep in touch. Without each of you, I wouldn't be where I'm at today. I wouldn't have persevered on the path to teaching with all those tests. Something cool that happened yesterday when I was visiting was God gave me an opportunity to talk to the Pastor of the church I'd been attending. I had the opportunity to encourage him in the things God has for them and express my sadness in leaving. I think God knew I needed this moment with the pastor to help bring closure. It all started for me at that church (The Movement) and that is where I found God and truly came to know Him. It was then that I understood and began to grow so much in my faith. It was neat to see God growing their church, having them step out in new areas (giving to Missions, which in turn is a blessing and excitement for me to see), and continue to follow God's will for this church. The pastor told me they'd miss me, said I can come back and visit anytime, and gave me a hug. I firmly believe He is doing a great job leading that church, and admire the leaders there. I will highly recommend people to go there if they are church hunting. I'm thankful God gave me this new sense of peace that I'm headed where He's calling me into and I left on a good note, with the blessing of the pastor and his wife. (Thank you, Jeremy and Sunny! And all the leaders there who helped shape me into who God created me to be)

Since I've been Pursuing Him, I can see God's hand in everything. I prayed before student teaching began and I know that God placed me right where He's purposed me to be. Again, I'm blessed with a wonderful Master Teacher to learn from and I'm at an excellent school in a great School District. I'm now at a church that is the best fit for me in order to grow in my faith and move ahead in National Missions. I'm getting connected with the Young Adults and making new friends as time goes on. I'm going to Africa this summer and wondering if God will keep me there longer than two weeks. (If I do not have a job lined up, maybe He wants me to teach or work at the orphanage in Ghana) Or, maybe He just wants me to be open to that as an option.

I looked at Biblical examples of how people followed God. (Red writing is Jesus speaking in the Bible)

The first example is in Matthew 4:18-20. "As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 'Come, follow me.' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him." They knew what kind of man Jesus was and were willing to follow him. Jesus told them to leave their fishing business and become 'fishers of men', to help others find God. Jesus was calling them away from their productive trades to be productive spiritually. Jesus' call motivated these men to get up and leave their jobs- immediately. They didn't make excuses about why it wasn't a good time. They left once and followed. (taken from Study notes)

The second example is found in Matthew 8:19-20. This example is about how there is a cost to following Him. "When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then the teacher of the law came to him and said 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.' Jesus replied, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.' Another disciple said to him, ' Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.' " Study Notes: Following Jesus is not always easy or comfortable. Often it means great cost and sacrifice, with no earthly rewards or security. Jesus didn't have a place to call home. You may find that following Christ costs you popularity, friendships, leisure time, or treasured habits. But while the cost of following Christ is high, the value of being Christ's disciple is even higher. Discipleship is an investment that lasts for eternity and yields incredible rewards. *A friend and I were just talking about this today. She mentioned that we follow with a purpose in mind. Our purpose as Christians is to be trained to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. It takes discipline to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We have to die to our flesh/self because naturally we want things that aren't of the Lord. This leads me right into the next example in scripture.  

Matthew 16:24-25 states: "Then Jesus said to the disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.' " Study Notes: When Jesus used this picture of his followers taking up their crosses to follow him, the disciples knew what he meant. Crucifixion was a common Roman method of execution, and condemned criminals had to carry their crosses through the streets to the execution site. Following Jesus, therefore, meant a true commitment, the risk of death, and no turning back. The possibility of losing their lives was very real for the disciples as well as Jesus. Real discipleship implies real commitment- pledging our whole existence to his service. If we try to save our physical life from death, pain, or discomfort, we may risk losing our true eternal life. If we protect ourselves from pain, we begin to die spiritually and emotionally. Our lives turn inward, and we lose our intended purpose. When we give our lives in service to Christ, however, we discover the real purpose of living.

The last scripture is about how we are called to walk in light when we follow Him. John 8:12 states: "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' " Study Notes: Jesus was speaking in the treasury- the part of the temple where offerings were put and where candles burned to symbolize the pillar of fire that led the people of Israel through the desert. (Exodus 13:21, 22) In this context, Jesus called himself the light of the world. The pillar of fire represented God's presence, protection, and guidance. Likewise, Jesus brings God's presence, protection, and guidance. Is he the light of your world? What does it mean to follow Christ? As a soldier follows his captain, so we should follow Christ, our commander. As a slave follows his master, so we should follow Christ, our Lord. As we follow the advice of a trusted counselor, so we should follow Jesus' commands to us in scripture. As we follow the laws of our nation, so we should follow the laws of the kingdom of heaven.

So, I leave asking you, are you following Him? Do you want to follow Him? Be prepared as it is going to take sacrifice and letting go of your control. Get ready to experience immense blessings and eternal life if you choose to follow Him. Start today by Pursuing Him and asking what His will for you is. I challenge you to pick up your cross and follow Him.

I conclude with a song titled "Let the Waters Rise" by MikesChair. This is my new theme song for life right now. Check it out below. :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Devotional

Hi friends,

Here is a devotional I read this morning from Daily Disciples Ministry. I wanted to share it with you because it seemed like a great way to sum up today.

Today's Reading: Leviticus 15-16; Matthew 27:1-26
Today's Thoughts:  As Christ Loves Us

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Valentine's Day is celebrated as a day to express love and most notably, romantic love. The history of Valentine's Day, along with the saint for whom it is named, is shrouded in mystery. Both Christian and ancient Roman traditions make up its origins, but the exact details of what happened to St. Valentine are uncertain.  What is certain is that through a series of events dating back to the middle ages, February 14 became the date to commemorate Valentine's Day. Roses and chocolates will be sold at exorbitant prices and in massive quantities, all in hopes to express our love in that special way. What is the most special way to express our love?

The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians is known as the love chapter of the Bible. The apostle Paul writes about true love, what it is and what it is not. It "suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;" (verse 4). It "does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;" (verse 5). Paul puts it very simply in verse 8, "Love never fails." Flowers fade and candies melt, but true love never fades, never dies, never fails. The most special way to express our love is to practice these qualities Paul speaks of as we learn to love beyond ourselves. 

Romantic love is a wonderful feeling and being in love is truly a gift from God. Those feelings of heightened joy and excitement seem to make everything else less significant.  But today, let's ask the Lord to help us love beyond the feelings of the gifts and the favors. Let's pray that we can love as Christ loves us and that we can express that love in ways that bless those around us more than anything else we can give. Why not make today a day to take love more seriously than you ever have before? Pray that love becomes the motivation for all that you do. Enjoy the flowers and candies and candlelight dinners, but remember to keep love in your heart, not just in the festivities

Happy Valentine's Day! Know that you are loved by God and by me! :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Romans 8:28

Romans 8:28 says: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

This week, God reminded me of this scripture. So often, I hear it, but don't acknowledge the truth in it. I encourage you to really stop and think about this verse today as you pursue Him. What areas of your life is is hard to see God working things together for your good in? Reflect on times in the past that you've clearly seen him work things together for your good. Ask Him to help you see His hand in everything that you are going through, and trust Him to work all things together for your good.

Here are some of the things I've briefly reflected on that I've seen God work together for my good.

Student Teaching:
I prayed prior to my student teaching placement that God would place me where He would want me to be. I hoped to be placed in Poway Unified School District because it is one of the top districts, and I grew up in it. I prayed though, that His will be done, not mine. In doing so, I found out that I was placed in Solana Beach Unified School District. This, too, is a wonderful school district. It truly is a blessing! I even have a phenomenal Master Teacher/Cooperating Teacher, which is a blessing after hearing horror stories from other friends. God worked this Student Teaching placement together for my good. I don't know what the future holds, but what I do know is this school and district is great, and God has me there for some purpose. I would love to work in the Solana Beach School District if God opened that door for me. In the meantime, I'm just simply being myself and enjoying this blessing.

God confirmed that he wanted me to go back to Africa this summer in many ways. (See previous blog-The Journey Begins...Again!) Soon after I made my deposit to go with CCO again this summer, I found out that my team was put on hold.To be honest, at this time I was very discouraged and didn't see how God could work this together for my good, because He told me to go and now I wasn't sure if I'd be going at all. About one month later, I found out that my team is now going to Ghana, Africa instead of Mozambique, Africa. We are partnering with an Orphanage there and teaching Vacation Bible School. We are still giving away Talking Bibles to those who still need to hear, but our primary focus on this trip will be children!!! And, if you are reading this, most likely you know my love for children. God turned this trip around for my good. Now, I get to go back to Africa and use the gifts He's given me and work with children! I look back on that month of waiting and praying and wish I spent more time trusting God to work all things together for my good and believe in this truth.

Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA):
The TPA's are a very long assessment online that Teacher Candidates must take in order to show their knowledge of particular things. The biggest focus is differentiating curriculum to meet the needs of all students. They are literally 20 pages long, no joke. They are a pain in the you know what because they are time consuming and won't ultimately determine how someone is going to teach. Taking tests in general is not my strongpoint, and both times I've taken the TPA's so far, God has blessed me with a ton of help. I met with friends who helped walk me through each section. It is time for TPA 3 and 4, and the Lord again worked this together for my good. He provided me with someone who has helped me tremendously with these TPA's. The hardest part for me is getting started. I also need to work on them a little bit each day because otherwise it is overwhelming. This person who is helping me also encouraged me to get done a little bit each day.

I encourage you to listen to this song. I heard it when we were driving in Africa when someone was playing their ipod int he car. We drove often and this song stuck out to me. There is one part that talks about God working all things together for our good. :) Puruse Him and reflect on the truth in this verse.

Monday, February 7, 2011

God's beauty to and from Student Teaching.

Here are some glimpses of God's beauty on my way to work or on the way home. He's so beautiful. It amazes me, and I couldn't help but take pictures.

Sunset last Friday evening in Solana Beach.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Belated Friday Flashback

I intended to blog much more often than I've been able to. Since I have less time, I've decided that the Friday Flashback can be a short, brief (if that's possible for me) ;) flashback of the highs and lows of my week. I'll mention any teaching moments I had or anything that really stood out to me, instead of writing about each and every day.

-Monday and Friday were great days. I was filled with His prescence and anxiety-free, focused only on the day.
-Monday God confirmed to me through friends that it is okay to move ahead into new things if God is calling me somewhere new, that they understand and support me.
-God spoke to me multiple times through my devotional this week. Almost everything was dead on to what I've been experiencing.
-I found out this week that I'm going back to Africa again, this time to a new country (Ghana) with CCO but connecting with an Orphanage and doing VBS with children. (My team was put on hold and leaders were praying for direction)
-I won a speed monopoly tournament and got $100 to BJ's Restaurant
-I got to do what I love on Friday-> sit at a coffee shop, enjoy a beverage, read, and journal.
-I got to have dinner with my amazing mentor, Andria, on Thursday night.
-Kid Sing for K-2 at school. There's something about kids and singing that melts my heart. I just wonder why God didn't give me a good voice. :) haha.

-Tuesday-Thursday were difficult days at "work" student teaching because I was tired and not filled with His prescence.
-Anxiety/Stress is still very present in my life.
-I syllibicated a word incorrectly in front of the students one day and they called me out. I was pretty embarrassed but just said "Miss Elder really needs to brush up on her syllibication skills" and learned how to ensure I was correct with the rest of the vocabulary words.
-I'm still itchy and whenever I itch somewhere, they turn into bruises. (I've had it before, I think it's stress related) I may try to go to the doctor soon since it hasn't gone away.

This week, here are my goals:
-Try to get to bed earlier again.
-Get a few Africa support letters done each day.
-Pray more.
-Give my anxieties to God, the first time.
-Ask Him how to use my time each day after work and be obedient to what He tells me.

Remember to Pursue Him this week, every chance you get, with all that you have.

"Look to the Lord and his strength, seek his face always." Psalm 105:4