Thursday, February 27, 2014

Rainbows & Butterflies

You ever wake up, and just think "nooope"? That happened to me yesterday, must have been some sort of humpday funk. What started as simply not wanting to get out of bed spiraled into all sorts of negativity. Fun stuff, huh?

I dragged myself out of bed after hitting more snooze alarms than I'd care to admit, threw an outfit together, debated putting make up on, decided against it, and went on my way. There may or may not have been multiple moments of getting on my knees to ask Jesus for help getting my spunk back. 

The second I walked out of my apartment complex, I saw it. A gorgeous, bright pink sky, perfectly painted from top to bottom. My whoppin' 7 minute commute was spent smirking at the Lord thinking "You would God, you would." 

I pulled into my work parking lot, and prepared to muster up ever ounce of joy in my lackluster system. I gathered my things together, stepped out of my car, and glanced over my shoulder. Still in awe of the gorgeous sunrise, this most definitely made my jaw drop. 


Excuse the poor photo quality, and the fact that my work backs up to telephone poles and autoshops, and direct your attention to the huge. giant. rainbow. 

Ya'll: It wasn't even raining. 

"I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. 
It is the sign of my covenant with you, 
and with all the earth."

 Genesis 9:13

Our God is an awesome God, alright. You best believe I found my joy when I saw that rainbow. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Love Languages

I feel like everyone and their mother have heard of this by now, but if you haven't, allow me to explain it to you. There are these things called love languages. There are 5 of them, and they're supposed to be the 5 different ways that people can receive love. 

They are:

Words of Affirmation
Physical Touch
Quality Time
Gifts
Acts of Service

Each of us receive love in different ways. Something that makes you feel extra loved may not necessarily make me feel extra loved, and vice versa. Maybe you feel the most loved when somebody surprises you with a gift, or perhaps when someone randomly washes your car, or makes you dinner during a particularly busy week. 

I feel extra loved when someone wants to carve out time in their schedule to spend time with little ol' me. Or when they walk up and give me a big giant hug. Or when they affirm me with their words, especially that one. 

Apparently, I have 3 love languages. I'm gonna look at that optimistically and say it'll make life much easier for my future husband when trying to show me love: bam. 

The point is, we each have very specific ways in which we feel loved. And the way we receive love is usually the way we give it, because you know, we think that's the best one based on our personal experience. 

I often show love by making coffee dates with my friends, and I always greet people with a hug. I do my best to affirm others with my words, because I know how far that goes with me. 

But what happens when the person I am showing love to has a love language of gifts or acts of service? A disconnect forms when I feel like I'm going above and beyond to show my love, but they aren't receiving any of it. 

So clearly, the key to a healthy relationship is communicating about love languages, and clearing up that disconnect by being attentive to the ways you each receive love. 

And clearly, I would know this because you know, I'm in a healthy, thriving relationship, and all.
{ba dum chhh}


I was sitting at church on Sunday, when a serious truth washed over me. I was thinking about this season of singleness, which can often feel like a season of waiting. The truth is, I'm waiting on the Lord & His perfect timing, but sometimes, it feels like I'm just waiting for Mr. Amy's Future Husband to appear. 

I'm finally learning what it means to be still. I'm learning how to soak up all that there is in this season, and not simply let my mind race to the next. I'm learning how to not just wait for marriage, but thrive in singleness. 

So as I'm sitting in church, I'm thinking about this whole waiting thing. I'm thinking about how one of my biggest love languages is words of affirmation, and how I'm not receiving that right now. 

But then it dawns on me: I am. I'm actually receiving it more than I ever have in my entire life. Because my ears are finally tuned to hear the words of affirmation that I receive from God. And that's huge. 

Baby tears welled up as I thought of all the ways that He affirms me daily. 

He calls me beautiful. {Psalm 45:10-11}

He tells me I am precious to Him. {Psalm 72:14}

He tells me I am strong. {Psalm 84:7}

He calls me His. {Jeremiah 32:38}

He says I am important, and I have a purpose. {Acts 26:16}

He considers me righteous. {Romans 4:23-24}

He calls me wanted. {Romans 8:15}

He tells me I am loved. {Romans 8:38-39}

And the list goes on and on. It's a little mind blowing, huh?

He is constantly showering us with love, encouragement & affirmation. But sometimes, just like in our relationships here, we don't receive it because we're on a different wavelength. 

Ya'll: let's receive it. Let's open our hearts to it. And if we don't know how, let's ask Him to help us. Let's ask Him to teach us to respond to the love language that is Him. After all, He is love, right? {1 John 4:8} 

He affirms us, holds us every step of the way. He is always desiring time with us, constantly showering us with gifts, and never ceases to serve. 

What will happen when we start receiving that Love? I've got two words for you. 

Game. Changer. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Lady Friends

Here come's another Monday! Hope your weekend was a great one. Mine definitely was. One of the ones that I walk out of just simply praising the Lord for this beautiful life He's blessed me with. 

I was always a girl who wanted a boyfriend, who didn't feel complete without a second half. Or rather, who didn't feel complete without a second half to fill her mind with reassurance and affirmation. 

I'm so thankful for how things played out in my life. I'm so thankful that I'm 24 years old and still 100% single. I never would have imagined feeling so happy, fulfilled, and complete without a relationship. 

You know why that is, though? I'm about to gush on the seriously amazing lady friends in my life. But as amazing as they are, they aren't the reason that my life is fulfilled. I went through a season of looking to my friends for that, and it wasn't any different than turning to a relationship. Just put a heck of a lot more pressure on my friendships. 

The reason is because that's just who our God is. He truly, truly is all-sufficient. He truly can satisfy every single craving or need in our little human hearts. He really does fulfill our ever desire. Sometimes, we just can't realize that because our hands are busy grasping things we can find down here. Like relationships. Or friendships. 

Having always been a girl who was terrified of being alone, I am so thankful that the Lord radically restored my heart to see that no relationship can fill me like He can. It allows me to truly enjoy singleness, and all of the blessings that come with it. 

Like these seriously amazing lady friends that I was talking about. 



Saturday was filled with time with these incredible women that I am blessed to call friends. A group of us took a morning hike, trekked up to the top of a workout-of-a-mountain, and enjoyed the gorgeous view of Inspiration Point. 


After a good shower and some party prepping, we opened our doors to a dozen+ of our gorgeous lady pals to enjoy a "We Love You Too Much To Only Celebrate Once" Post-Valentine's Party. 



When we were looking for places back in the holiday season, we would simply dream of a perfect house. One of the main dreams we had was to have a place where we could entertain and host others. This has been the third big event we've hosted in less than 2 months of living here, and each time our living room and kitchen are packed to a brim, I can't help but praise the Lord for how perfectly He brought all this together. 

I looked around at all of those women in that house, and felt thankful for each one. Some I've known longer than others, and some I may know more about. Some I may see weekly, and others not as much. But I am thankful for each one. 

I'm walking into this new work week full from a weekend packed with friends, fellowship and fun. I hope your weekend was packed with all sorts of good stuff, too!

Friday, February 21, 2014

HAPPY Friday!

Haven't done one of these in a while, but there's always a lot to be happy about on Fridays, am I right? So let's celebrate a bit of that today. 

*The fact that I'm not working today makes me happy.*

TGIFlexday, indeed. 


If you're wondering what a flexday is, you can read all about the amazing-ness here. Just a little over a year ago, I started tracking flexday festivities with the #tgiflexday hashtag. Now, there's a whole group of us using it, and I love looking back on all the fun ways we've spent those free Fridays. 

*The fact that I'll be getting a free kick in the butt workout this morning makes me happy.*


If you're local, I can almost guarantee that you've heard this name around. Maybe you've seen her shirts, or her posters, maybe you've heard people raving about her program, or maybe you've heard her yelling encouragement at people running on the side of the road {probably that one}, but let me tell you that Jenny is the real deal. Her classes are some of the hardest I've taken. Ever. 

Anytime Jenny offers a free class, I'm there. If you're a Santa Barbaran, and in need of a killer work out, check out her schedule today. All classes are free! What's stopping you?

*Living with these ladies makes me happy.*


The way the Lord brought this house together was just such a blessing. It feels like just yesterday, we were dreaming up everything we could possibly want in a house. And now, boom. Here it is. And it's called the Hideaway. 

Last night was the first time we were able to have a legit roommate night. It included Yogurtland, Friends, and practicing Minute to Win It games. 



video

I really, really love living with these girls. 

*Finding verses that speak straight to my heart, at just the right moment makes me happy.*

It has been happening quite frequently lately, and each time it's just a sweet reminder that God is here. That He sees me, and He knows me. And He's rooting for me. 

One of the verses that spoke to me this week was this piece of gold:

But God's discipline is always good for us, 
so that we might share in His holiness. 
No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening - it's painful!
But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living
for those we are trained in this way. 

Hebrews 12:10-11

So. Darn. Good. 

***

What is making you happy on this Friday?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Some Lace & Some Navy

Happy Monday! Hope you had a wonderful weekend. I'm so excited to kick off this week by reviewing my first eShakti dress, especially considering I'm pretty much in love with it. 



If you aren't familiar with this company, be prepared to meet your new favorite dress site. Online shopping can be pretty tricky, am I right? I used to be a major skeptic, only buying shoes or something I was positive would fit. 

eShakti makes online shopping a whoole lot easier with tons of possible customizing options. Want longer sleeves? You can ask for that. Want shorter sleeves? You can ask for that. Want to change the length of the dress? You guessed it, you can ask for that. Heck, you can even enter in all of your measurements and have it completely custom made for you. Like I said: tons of possible options. 



I ordered the Illusion Lace Crepe dress, and I couldn't be more happy with it! I chose a standard size, didn't change a thing about the sleeves, and made it a tad shorter at the "above knee length." It fits like a glove, and I am so happy with the material and length!



I now consider myself a huge eShakti fan. Head on over to their website to check out their huge selection of cute, classy dresses. That'll definitely be one way to make your Monday better!

*Product provided by eShakti. All opinions are my own. Photos taken by Alicia Nelson Photography.*

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Oh, hey there! Hope you're having yourself a mighty fine Valentine's Day. I love that it falls on a Friday this year, don't you? 

I wanted to carve out a chunk of time today to just sit and be present on this here blog. That hasn't been happening as much ever since I got back from Africa, and I miss it. So here I am, sitting in my regular spot at Starbucks, sipping my new favorite drink of a skinny vanilla latte with half sugar free vanilla, half sugar free hazelnut, and soy milk. Nothing too specific, or anything. 



Life has been really full lately. Full in the best possible way, and it leaves me just praising the Lord and trying my very best to soak it all up. I'm thankful for Monday nights that are now devoted to going through the Breaking Free Beth Moore Bible study. There are some familiar faces in our group, and plenty of new ones as well. There are almost 100 women, divided into 6 small groups, all marching towards finding freedom in the Lord. It's a beautiful thing, really. 

I'm thankful for Wednesday nights that are devoted to Restore Santa Barbara, this sweet new ministry that the Lord has greatly blessed me with becoming a part of. It sparked a whooole lot of change in my life. Did you know that I switched churches? I might have mentioned it once, but I really want to take the time to write about that. It was really a beautiful thing God did. 

I've been dabbling with public speaking more and more, which really blows me away. It's something that's been on my heart for a while now, and watching as the Lord so intricately crafts together this path for me to simply walk on, it's humbling. I spoke this past Wednesday and shared my testimony. It was my first time sharing it in front of an audience, and let me tell you, God showed up. Still processing that one. 

It makes me so sad to be posting so infrequently, and it makes me even more sad to not be able to go visit you guys in your corners of Blogland. I am so thankful for twitter and instagram, and the way that it allows me to stay plugged into your lives. 

I'm praying over this little blog. Is the Lord leading me to take time away, to really pour into the people and ministries around me here in Santa Barbara? Or, is it wise for me to be more diligent with my time? Do I need to start being more protective over chunks or time to pour into this blog, and the ministry that I hope it will be? 

I honestly don't know at this point. But I will continue to pray for clarity, and I will do my best to surrender it all to His leading. I know what I want to do. I want to make it all work, the real life ministry and the online one. And I have no doubts that if that's what God wants too, that's exactly how it will go. 

All this to say: hi. I love you. Do you know that? I really, really do. 

You are incredibly, passionately, furiously loved. 

And not just by me. ;)

Happy Valentine's Day, my dears. Thanks for spending part of mine with me. You're a real pal.

<3

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weekend Rundown!

This weekend was just the kind that's needed to be the pb&j between two slices of busy work week. A whoole lot of peanut butter, and enough jelly to have some fruity flavor. And by that, I mean, a whoole lot of good time with friends, and enough relaxation to be refueled for a manic Monday. 

The weekend consisted of: 

~A stop by Lorna Jane to visit my favorite little LJ model employee.~



A selfie photo shoot was most definitely necessary. If you haven't tried their work out clothes, I hiiighly recommend them. Yes, they're a bit pricey, but they are amazing. Incredible quality, gorgeous color, and they make you feel great while you pump that iron. 

And no, they didn't pay me to say that. I just really, really love their clothes. 

~A Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony party.~


Totally rep'ed both Uganda and America. Even though Uganda wasn't participating. {minor detail}

~A trip to the Getty Museum.~


A group of us women from church got together to road trip it down to LA for the day. It was so fun, I'm a big fan of mini-road trips. Really thankful to have such a lovely community of Spirit-filled women!










There aren't words that could capture the power in that painting. Or rather, the power in the Man that's in it. 







Sorry for the picture overload, but totally warranted, right? Such a beautiful place. 

~A pit stop for Yogurtland.~


Best decision ever.

~An afternoon full of fellowship.~


After an amazing message at church, parked myself in coffee shop central for the rest of the day. First, it was Panera with my roommates + one for an afternoon of finishing up our Breaking Free Beth Moore study homework. This is an incredible study. Just one week in, and already feeling that God has some serious freedom to deliver. 

Last stop was at Coffee Bean for a meet up with a group of us going through Tim Keller's The Meaning of Marriage. This one's also incredible, for single and married people alike. If you want to have some serious Biblical truth poured into you about God's design for marriage, pick up a copy stat. 

***

Hope your weekend was equally wonderful! Never long enough, are they?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Him, not Me

We had four church planting teams, and one medical team. The medical team rotated between the four church planting locations, and because our team was up on the mountain near multiple villages, we were blessed to host two different medical clinics. 



As we set up for that first clinic, I just about lost it. I was so overwhelmed, in every sense of the word. I walked around the entire time with tiny tears welled up in my eyes. 

I was overwhelmed with watching God work in a mighty and powerful way right before my very eyes. Overwhelmed with His goodness, and the massive weight of how much He loved these people. 

In that picture above, you can see people lining up in the background. As I tried to process all that was about to happen, the amount of people who were going to tangibly experience the provision and love of Christ, my heart couldn't handle it. And apparently, my tear ducts couldn't hold it together either. 

But you know what else I was overwhelmed with? Me. On this day, I became incredibly aware of my own sin. I couldn't ignore my own self centered nature that was staring me in the face. 

I became aware of this because of how many times I thought of myself on this day. 

"I want to do something important."

"I want to do something radical."

"I want to serve."

"I want to be used."

You may read that and think "But those are good things to think, right?" And to a certain extent, I would agree with you. But the thing is, we have to look deeper than the actions. We have to look at the heart, the motivation, what's beneath the surface. And on that morning, setting up for that medical clinic, I became extremely aware of what can be underneath my surface. 

I became aware of my competitive nature. I became aware of my insecurity, and my jealousy. 

But guess what? There was purpose for that. 

My competitive nature could have won. My insecurity could have won. My jealousy could have won. Heck, the enemy could have won. 

But none of those things did. Because I took those nasty feelings, and I owned up to them. I acknowledged them, I confessed them. I opened my hands with all of my sin, and the Lord graciously washed them with His mercy and grace. 

On that day, I learned a valuable lesson. I felt His powerful voice whisper to me, "Amy, what is the purpose here?"

For people to experience the love of Christ. 

Did it matter who was used in that? Did it matter if they experienced Jesus through a nurse, or through our amazing Ugandan evangelism team, or through a different member of my ministry team? Did it matter if I was used in that, or if someone else was? No. 

Because it's all about Him! It's not about me. 

The second I recognized that, peace fell over me. I was free to serve where the Lord led me to, without needing to compare myself to where others were serving. I was free to rejoice in what God was doing through my team members, without feeling insecure if I hadn't been a part of it. 

I was overwhelmed that day, all right. Overwhelmed by an incredible God, and His incredible grace. I hope to never stop being overwhelmed by that. 








A special note to those who financially supported this trip: 

You helped give those wheelchairs away. You helped give those crutches away. You helped give those reading glasses away. You helped give that medicine away. 

And every single person who came through those medical clinics made their way through an evangelism station afterwards. The station was filled with native Ugandan believers sharing the gospel with their fellow Ugandan brothers and sisters. 

So yeah, you helped with that too. Thank you for letting God work through you!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Same Love, Different Place

Hey, remember that time I went to Africa, and it took me nearly 2 weeks to actually sit down and write about the part where I was in Africa? 

Yeah, about that. 

Time to start writing. 

***

I love the world of blogging. I love that I can meet someone for the first time in a Washington DC airport, hop on a plane to Africa, and spend nearly 2 solid weeks sharing every awake and asleep moment together, and it feels totally normal. 

I love that Christ can bring someone into my life from across the country, and somehow, despite many differences in our lives and our testimonies, we just get each other. Our friendship just effortlessly flows over gchat or texting or phone conversations, and the first time we hug feels like any other reunion between long time friends. 

I love Diana. And I'm thankful that she allowed me to share in this amazing adventure that God cooked up. 

{Also, it's her birthday today. So wish her the happiest of birthdays!}





I wore that outfit for a lot longer than I'd care to admit. And luckily, I couldn't admit it if I tried. Going between so many different time zones, your guess is as good as mine. 

Getting off that plane in Ethiopia was beyond surreal. For a girl who has never gone out of the country (besides Mexico and Canada, and I don't remember either trip very well so that totally doesn't count), just being in a place where English wasn't the primary language was a big deal. 

Add in the fact that I was heading off to share the gospel in Uganda and mind = blown. Why God chose to bless me with this opportunity, I will only be able to ask Him in heaven. Lord knows He didn't need me to accomplish anything that He accomplished on this trip. 

I so wish I could time travel back to myself. Not to change anything, there's God's glory written in every detail of my testimony. But I wish I could just go back and look that girl in the eye, smile, and say I know what you're looking for. In that drink, or that man, or your friendships. I know what your heart is yearning for, and you just wait. You're going to find it, and so much more. 



We drove from Rwanda to Uganda, ate a quick dinner, packed up some medical supplies, and went to bed. I think all of us were praising the Lord for a bed and a pillow after all of that traveling. 

The next day, we spent time together as an entire team before breaking off into smaller ministry groups. That day was devoted to experiencing Fuel Uganda's pygmy project. Just the other day, I watched the video on their website. Tears fell from my eyes as the gravity of what I witnessed came back to me, and more importantly, the reminder of what an incredible blessing it was to see this in person. I don't think words can truly capture what God is doing here, but that won't stop me from trying. 

The pygmies were living in the forest until the government relocated them to create a gorilla refuge in the 90s. They're currently living in the slums of Kisoro, understandably struggling to adapt to their new home. If you watch the video on Fuel Uganda's webpage (link above), you can see the conditions.

The relocation effort is completely changing the lives of these people. We were able to visit some of the families that are in the transition process, and we were blessed to hear them share.



As I listened to this man share, the world felt a whole lot smaller. Sure, he was beyond thankful for Fuel Uganda, and for the help of everyone involved with the relocation efforts. But you know who he was mainly thankful for? God. 

Not only are homes being built, but scripture is being shared. These people are not just given a new home, they're given Living Water from the King of kings to run in that new home. They know who is responsible for the transformation that they're experiencing, and it's no organization. It's Jesus Christ. 

Hearing about how Jesus is transforming these lives, I couldn't help but reminisce over how He has transformed mine. It may be a different continent, but it's the same love having the same crazy, life changing, powerful impact. 

My restoration process might look different than theirs, but restoration is restoration.
Transformation is transformation. 
And freedom is freedom. 

And on that day, standing in Kisoro, Uganda, I was thankful for all three.