NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

A Great Day

Yesterday is one of those days I don’t want to forget, so I thought I’d share about it on my blog. I know I’m not writing as much now, but I’d still like to occasionally share what’s going on in my life. So on to yesterday.

It all started with this really cool dream. Most of my dreams I don’t remember and I don’t remember all of this one either, but I do remember the feeling it gave me of being excited about sharing God’s truth with people and being used by Him even when I didn’t feel adequate. I think it had something to do with giving a sermon (something I’ve never done) and the topic boiled down to sharing our faith. And what kept going through my head, is sharing your faith isn’t something you should be guilted into doing, it’s something that comes naturally when you love God. You can’t share what you don’t have yourself, and if you really do have a faith in God and love for Him, it will spill into your other relationships.

Anyway, it was a cool way to wake up and it reminded me that God is at work and being a part of His plans are exciting. And I think having that dream prepared me for more of what God was going to do that day.

I went to church, and our pastor shared a heartfelt message of honesty and when we were singing I felt like I was joining in praising God with every believer around the world and every generation that had gone before me and followed Him. It was awesome. And in the middle of the service, I got a text from an old friend I hadn’t talked to in months. But more about that later…

As church was letting out, my phone buzzed with the noon text message. (Every day at noon our church sends a text to all our members to pray for someone). I didn’t look at the text but as I was leaving, someone told me, “Lydia we’re praying for you today.” And it was nice to know God was with me and was covering me in prayer for all that was happening to me that day.

I came home and got to meet with several freshman girls for our weekly discipleship group. We read in James together and prayed for each other and my fellow leader stayed late to just talk and share about her life and how God has changed her from who she was to who she is.

The afternoon turned into a nice family time of talking and laughing at a funny movie and just being together. But then I texted my friend who had originally texted during church. We decided that since we were both free for the evening, we would get together to eat dinner and talk. And as we talked I got to invite her to my church and try to encourage her in her faith. It was just so cool to me that we got to actually meet and talk on a day when I’d already been thinking about sharing my faith and being used by God.

I ended up dropping her off in a neighborhood right where my brother and sister-in-law live, with her mother. So I thought I’d stop by and say hello. My brother and his wife weren’t there, but the mother-in-law was and she was going to have surgery the next day. So I got to end my day visiting with her and praying for her about her upcoming surgery.

It was like God had all these things lined up for me to do that day and He had everything prepared in advance for me to do it. And it was just so fun to be a part of. So I don’t know what God has planned for me today, but I’m excited to see how He’ll continue to work in my life and my friend’s lives.

I hope you have a blessed day and I hope this post encouraged you to share your faith and be available to be used by God where you live.

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A Texas Hoedown in London

I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t had much time to blog or tell stories from my trip to London. But I finally had a free Saturday, so I thought I’d write about one of the cool things our church group got to do.

On our 2nd Friday in London (the first one was when we were still jet-lagged and trying to stay awake) we hosted a Texas Hoedown for the community at the church. It was funny to me that we called it a Hoedown because I can’t say I’ve ever been to a Texas Hoedown myself. I live in the city and although I’ve been to plenty of Barbecues, Rodeos, Concerts, and Dances, I don’t think I can say I’ve been to a Hoedown.

But we gave it our best shot and tried to include anything Texan we could for the community to experience and enjoy. We had BBQ (though it was just burgers and hot dogs not brisket and ribs like I usually think of for BBQ), sweet iced tea, country western line dancing, and a mechanical bull ride. Lots of people came and I enjoyed seeing our students running booths, serving food and interacting with people.

I helped with a yard game called “Hillbilly Golf” or “Ladder Golf.” Several kids came over and wanted to try throwing the golf balls on a rope. I showed them how to swing it and let it go at the right time so it would spin and could wrap around the poles. A few kids got a bit too enthusiastic and threw the balls over the fence or into the tree, but we laughed it off and got some older men to help us figure out a way to get them down.

I especially enjoyed seeing people learn line dances like Boot Scoot Boogie and Copperhead Road. It can be a bit intimidating to try something new, but our team member Joy did a great job of including people and encouraging them to try out the dances.

So many people were laughing and having fun, and some of them had never been to the church before. Relationships were built, and one lady, Eileen, told me how thankful she was for this church and how it’s changed their community. It has provided a place for kids to have fun in a safe place and bring people together.

I learned a lot about how God’s church should be open and welcoming to all kinds of people through this trip. And that He really does want us to connect with our communities, not just become a click that stays separate from everyone else.

Here’s a few pictures from the Hoedown! I hope they inspires you to reach out to people in your community and get to know someone who is different from you.


I hope all y’all have a great weekend!

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Thankful

Me and my Mom

This month always reminds me that I should be more thankful and not take things for granted. But I am particularly thankful this year because my family has been going through some hardships recently and the response from my family in Christ has been so amazing.

So to start the story, back in October, the 23rd to be exact, my mother woke up with very bad back pain that was shooting down her right leg. She has experienced something like this before, and thought as long as she went to the chiropractor, everything would be fine. So she went, and used all her normal tricks to relieve the pain, but it didn’t go away, it just kept getting worse and worse.

The next day the pain was bad enough that she couldn’t drive and it was torture to walk. So we borrowed my grandma’s walker and I drove and then wheeled her to another chiropractor appointment. He ordered an x-ray and MRI scan since the pain was still not going away. We got the x-ray but had to wait a few days for the MRI.

The next day was probably one of the hardest days of my life. I woke up to a phone call from my mom. She was ‘sleeping’ downstairs in our living room, since going up the stairs was too painful. She hadn’t slept and she was in the worst pain I’d ever seen: crying, screaming, and breathing like what a woman does when she’s in labor. She said she couldn’t take the pain anymore so we were going to the doctor’s office so they could give her something for the pain. She didn’t even want the walker or a jacket because it was cold outside, she just wanted to go. So I drove her to the doctor and we ended up using a wheelchair, since she couldn’t walk without crying. They gave her shots and a prescription for the pain. And finally, after she got the pain pills, she was able to get some relief.

The next days were a whirlwind of more appointments and prescriptions and finding out from the MRI that she had a herniated disk that was pressing down on the nerve. Adding this to the normal routine of caring for my grandma, working for my Dad, driving my sister to her appointments, and serving at church and I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.

But God is faithful and my church family is amazing. First, one of my friends at my small group offered to bring a meal. Then one of my oldest friends called to check on me and let me just talk and cry and see her cute baby on the phone screen. Then as time progressed, more and more people said they were praying for me and my family and checked to see how we were doing. One family even set up a Care Calendar for our church to bring us meals.

It was a little weird for me to be the recipient of help, because I’m usually the one giving it, but it made me realize just how blessed I am to have so many friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who care. So I am thankful for all of them today. And I’m happy to report that my mom is making progress. The injections, and chiropractic treatments are slowly helping. She can now walk for short distances and today she drove a car for the first time since all this started.

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My Story

My church has been encouraging our congregation to think about our story and answer three questions about our life. I thought it would help me if I wrote out my answers and since the whole point is to be able to share our stories with others and listen to theirs, I thought why not share it here? So here’s my answer to the three questions.

1. Why Do I Follow Jesus?
There’s a lot of ways I could answer this, and it might change some depending on the day or what I’ve been reading in His Word or learning at the moment. But one of the biggest overarching reasons that I follow Jesus is because He has promised never to leave me or forsake me. When I was a kid, I was terrified of being alone. I didn’t want to be forgotten or left out. I clung to my family like a lifeline and never wanted to be left somewhere. I had terrible separation anxiety. In fact many times my parents would let me go with them to the adult church services because it was just easier for all of us. But when I learned about Jesus, that He would never forget me or let me down, that I would never be alone if He was with me, it calmed a fear in my heart that nothing else ever has. Because deep down I knew that even though my parents loved me, they wouldn’t always be there for me. One time they forgot me at school, and I know one day they will leave this world and me. But Jesus promises over and over again in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us. No matter what I’m going through, no matter how I feel, or what I’ve done, He is there. And when I remember that I can have peace.

2. How did you get started following Jesus?
Well my older brother was telling me about Jesus and how if I believed in Him I could go to heaven. And when I found out all of my family believed in Jesus and was going to heaven, well I didn’t want to be left behind. So I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart. Even before that moment, my parents had always taken me to church, but this first step started me on the path of following Jesus for myself. And as I got older and began to understand more of who God is and who I am and what He’s done for me, my faith grew and strengthened and matured. I learned how to trust Him, believe his promises, and obey Him.

3. What has changed since you started following Jesus?
Gosh so many things have changed. I used to be terrified of speaking up, like talking to people I didn’t know or giving a speech in front of people. It’s still my preference to listen rather than talk, but I can talk to people now, especially when I feel God prompting me to do it. And I’ve learned to trust Him in my weaknesses and learn that even though I don’t like to speak in public, He can use if for His glory. And if I rely on Him in it, it’s not as hard. I’ve also grown in not worrying as much. I can still get stressed about things, but it’s easier for me to stop and remember that He is in control and has the best plan. I don’t have to do everything perfectly or know all the variables because everything is under His control. I’ve also learned to be more patient. I always thought I was pretty patient and easy-going, but God has stretched me and grown me in it, especially when it comes to helping people with anxiety. My sister went through and continues to deal with panic attacks, severe anxiety and sometimes depression. And in the course of learning how to encourage, comfort, pray for and come alongside her, I’ve learned how to help when other people in my life also get nervous or anxious. I guess I was the anxious one when I was a kid, but as I’ve grown, God’s shown me how I can trust Him in the midst of it and also help others to trust Him. It’s been really cool to see how I’ve changed but also how He’s grown the people I’ve helped and prepared them to be used by Him as well. I love getting to be a part of God’s family. He’s shown me that not only is He always with me, but I also have a family in Christ, even in other countries. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without Jesus. He is my everything and I couldn’t do it without Him.

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A Glimpse of Heaven

You may think this post is going to be about the solar eclipse. I really did enjoy getting to see the moon blocking part of the sun (I didn’t see a full eclipse). But this post is about something else.

The past few days have been a crazy whirlwind of activity. I am not going to school this year, but enough of my life revolves around the school system, that it can’t help but get a little crazy at this time of year. One of my favorite things about the new school year is that the church I attend moves up the students to their new grade on the Sunday before school starts. So I got to have fun meeting, laughing, and playing games with our new group of 6th graders.

But what was even better was the surprise appearance of so many old friends on the same Sunday. One of my former students who is now in high school, came back to visit from New York. I haven’t seen her in a year and it was so good to just see her face and hear her laugh. I also got to see a family that has moved to a different church and just adopted 3 kids. We got to celebrate with them and give them hugs. And then my brother and sister-in-law came with their friends too. It was just so cool to see all of these relationships, old and new converging on our time of worshiping Jesus. It felt like I was getting a small taste of what it will be like in heaven when we get to see the generations who’ve gone before us and celebrate together.

And then the next day I got to hang out with my family and watch the solar eclipse, with the right equipment, of course. My aunt from our of town, even came to stay with us.

With so much togetherness, it really made me thankful for all the people God has put in my life and that even though we may live miles apart, or don’t see each other in years, we are still connected through Christ. And one day we will all worship Him together. So anyway, I hope this little post reminds you to be thankful for the relationships God has given you.

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Going to Church

Recently I’ve been thinking about why so many people don’t go to church anymore. There can be many reasons for it: getting scheduled to work on a Sunday, moving to a new town and not connecting with any of the churches there, being hurt by someone at a church, or having a baby and not having the energy to go. I don’t know everyone’s reasons for not going but I’ve noticed several of my friends and acquaintances struggling to make it to church on Sunday. It seems to be a widely spread phenomenon. So, I just wanted to share a few reasons why I think going to church is important for believers and if you’ve been struggling to go to church, or have a friend that is struggling, maybe this can help in some small way.

1. It’s important because God’s Word says it is important.

In one of the early letters written to the Hebrew church, the author writes “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Jesus also says “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) He doesn’t tell us to follow Him by ourselves, but with other people. In fact He even says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) People should be able to recognize us as followers of Jesus by how we love other believers. But that doesn’t work so well if you cut yourself off from gathering with fellow believers at church.

2. It’s important because the Church is a body that supports each member.

As Paul writes, “so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5) We all need help. Even if life is going well for you now, eventually something will happen. It could be losing a job, a loved one, getting sick or depressed, or a number of other things. When you have a tight knit community around you, there are people to support you emotionally, financially, or in whatever way you need. And if it’s not you who needs help right now, it could be someone else in the church community who needs your help, encouragement, or expertise. But if you’re not there, the whole church loses out.

I’m sure there are many other reasons to go to church, many other passages in Scripture to support going but ultimately, each person has to make their own decision. I can’t force anyone to go to church. But in my own life, I can’t imagine trying to follow Jesus without the help, support, encouragement and guidance of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I really do feel like they are my family. They know me better than some of my relatives in my blood family. But feeling a part of the family means investing in relationships, it means going to church consistently and getting involved in groups outside of Sunday. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it is worth it in the end.

So if you’re still looking for that community, keep looking. If you have a church, keep going. And if you have friends that don’t come, keep inviting. Don’t give up.

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Jesus Changes Things

Now that summer is getting closer, I’ve been thinking about how it’s going to look different than past summers. For the past thirteen years (since 2003) I have taken part in our church’s summer outreach called Great Adventure. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’ve seen some posts about it in the past. Looking back, it really has had a huge impact on me personally. The first year I attended a Backyard Bible Club as one of the oldest children. (I was going into 7th grade). It’s similar to a Vacation Bible School except that the high school and middle school students from our church would go into different neighborhoods to run a club for a little over an hour. Adults helped drive the students and host the clubs but the students did the teaching.

The next year when I was going into 8th grade I joined one of the student teams and helped teach grade school kids who came to the clubs. It was a huge growing experience for me. I learned how to talk in front of a crowd, connect with kids, share the gospel with different illustrations, and be a part of a team. The next year I was stretched even more. I was going into high school and old enough to be a captain or leader of one of the student teams. It was intimidating, but I felt like God really wanted me to say yes, so I did. I went to several training camps for the first time (I should have gone to one of them the year before, but was on a vacation during it). That summer I learned so much about relying on God, trusting Him, and stepping out in obedience. I got to see kids come to Christ and see my own growth in sharing the gospel and doing what was uncomfortable.

After that year, I was hooked. I wanted to do Great Adventure every year. It had changed me, made me more confident in what God could do if I trusted Him and obeyed. It was exciting to see Him answer prayers, give us energy and work in the lives of the children we were teaching.

Although I wanted to be a part of it, I didn’t exactly want to be a leader again. I thought I’d done my time and now that there were more high schoolers in our youth group, I could let someone else be the captain. But God had other ideas. I ended up being a captain every summer after that up until I graduated from high school and went to college.

You know how when something really works for you, you think it should work the same for others? Like you don’t want it to change? It’s easy to make a good thing into a tradition. I totally do the same thing with restaurants. I keep going back to the ones I’ve been to before and am more hesitant to try new places. But anyway, for the next four years I always returned home for the summer and helped however I could with Great Adventure. It usually meant going to the training camps, taking pictures at the clubs, organizing supplies, and just helping others with what I had learned.

I started seeing changes though. When I had done Bible Clubs, we had gone to two clubs in the morning and 2 in the evening. At one point we even had clubs Monday through Friday and then a huge carnival called Summerfest on Saturday or Sunday. It was a pretty huge commitment and it took a lot of hard work.

But as the years passed, things changed. We ended up switching to only evening clubs, stopping on Thursday, and instead of a huge party at the church, we had individual block parties at each club. We also started writing our own curriculum instead of using other church’s scripts. And we changed the name to Summer Bible Clubs instead of Backyard Bible Clubs. Some of the changes I liked, others were hard to accept. But each year it seemed like God wanted to do things a bit differently. Those “good old days” I’d had in my high school years weren’t the same. But somehow it was still good. I guess God has a better plan than me.

After college I was able to intern at the church and help write the curriculum for several years. I brought all of my experience from the past but tried to be open to doing things differently. We added new games, changed how we shared the gospel with personal testimonies, and just tried new things to make it more friendly to unchurched families.

So that brings us to today and now the latest change has come. Instead of doing Bible clubs for one week, we’re going to connect to neighbors at parks throughout a whole month, and have groups within our church plan their own outreach activities. And instead of teaching students how to run a club, we’re going to teach them how to share the gospel with their friends and to view their schools as their mission field.

It’s kind of hard for me to let go of Bible clubs. I learned so much from them and they were a huge part of my life for the past thirteen years. But as I’ve seen Jesus change our plans every summer and still be faithful to do even greater things, I will trust Him in this. Because I do not worship a curriculum, a tradition, or my own preferences. I worship Jesus Christ. His ways are always best. He is always making things new and changing us from the inside, so I can’t expect Him to do things the same way forever. His purpose is unchanging. His goal is fixed. But His methods can be quite surprising and unconventional. So wherever He leads our church, I know it’s best, because He is always right.

Anyway, I hope you learned something from my ramblings about change and learn to trust Jesus in what He’s changing in your life too.

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I am a Teapot

So I was sitting in church on Sunday and for some reason I started thinking about a teapot. Maybe it’s because I had been reading/watching some movies and books based in Wonderland and tea seems like a big deal there. But anyway, I started thinking about how God pours His love into our lives but it’s not meant to just stay in our hearts, we in turn should pour out His love to others. It’s kind of like how a teapot is pretty useless if you just put warm tea in it and let it sit there. But if you pour it out into other people’s teacups, everyone can enjoy it. I know it’s not the greatest analogy, but for some reason it came to mind and I thought I’d write a poem about it. Also, I kept noticing references to pouring throughout the church service, so maybe God was trying to tell me something. In any case, I hope you enjoy this short poem.

I am a Teapot

I am a Teapot
short and stout.
Not meant to sit pretty
but to be filled and poured out.

God pours in His love
and I pour it back out.
And find I’m most full
when I’ve shared love about.

But I must never forget
the love that I give,
comes not from myself,
but from Him who first gave.

And so I return to be filled once again
and pour out His love that never ends.

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Rich in Christ

img_4205

I’ve heard the phrase “family in Christ” a lot and often think of my friends as being my “sisters in Christ.” But a few circumstances in the last 24 hours have broadened my view of what that really means.

It started with a few people’s random comments. The first one comes from one of my dear friend’s relatives who said she felt like I was one of ‘hers’ too. Like I belonged in her family. That felt really good. Then later, someone on Facebook commented that me and my friend look like sisters. We have no actual relation, but we are very close friends. And I was tempted to say, “Of course we look like sisters, we are sisters in Christ after all.”

Then this morning, I read this passage: “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.'” Mark 10:29-30

And on top of all this, on Sunday my pastor really emphasized that God’s definition of riches is very different than what we usually think of. Instead of riches meaning money and wealth, God sees riches as relationships. That really comes across in this passage and from what I’ve experienced this weekend.

So today I am thankful for how rich God has made me. I have so many deep and lasting relationships in my life. I can really see that my family in Christ makes me rich.There are so many people in my church that I see as another grandma or grandpa, or sister or brother, or mom or dad. And now that I’m getting older, I can even see how the kids of my friends almost feel like my own. God really knows what’s best for us and what is truly means to be rich.

So I hope you stop today to think about all of the relationships you’ve been blessed with and how rich God has made you, and maybe even say a little prayer of thanksgiving to God for all that He’s given you.

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A Reminder to be Thankful

a thankful heart

As the Thanksgiving Holiday is approaching, I’ve been trying to be more thankful for things. But this past weekend, I got a surprise moment of thankfulness. So I hope you enjoy this little story and that it reminds you to be thankful this month too.

So, when I was growing up, I went to a church and our youth pastor had all of these events for us to invite our friends to. He wanted us to bring visitors and give us chances to invite friends who didn’t believe in Jesus. It sounded like a good idea and a great way to share the gospel. But unfortunately for me, I was a home schooled kid with no friends that didn’t already go to church. So I always felt a little guilty when he told us to invite our friends to these events because the only people I could invite were already Christians. Well, I did my best and invited some people I knew from other home school groups even though I didn’t think what I was doing had any significance or would make an impact. I thought the only good that could come from inviting friends to a church event was them becoming a Christian and following Jesus.

But the other day, I realized just how wrong I was, how big God’s plan is, and how thankful I am for His work in my life. One of the friends I invited to these church events was named Lindsey. We had one class together in High School and that was it. I was never in any other home school classes with this girl. With those odds, we wouldn’t have stayed friends. It would have been like a lot of other friendships that lasted for a year while we were around each other and ended when we no longer saw each other at school. But, that didn’t happen. I invited her to those church events we were supposed to invite friends to, and she actually came. We spent time together outside of school, and that gave us room to grow our relationship. Then we started hanging out at each other’s houses even when there wasn’t a church event to go to. And when I left for college, we emailed each other, and when I was back in town, we would meet up. Lindsey has remained one of my closest friends to this day. I even got to be maid of honor in her wedding last year.

As we were reminiscing about how we had met this past weekend, I realized how pivotal those church events had been to my relationship with Lindsey. I wondered if we would have ever stayed friends if I didn’t invite her to them. So now I am so thankful for those random events, like Super Bowl parties, and Christmas scavenger hunts, because they provided opportunities to grow relationships.

So today I want to say thank you to Jake Box, my old youth pastor for organizing all of those events and let him know I am thankful for what he did and amazed at how God used them in my life. And I want to say thank you to my friend Lindsey for her constant friendship and her willingness to say yes and go to another youth group’s event.

And I want to encourage my readers to say thank you to someone today and let them know how much you value them.

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