Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Dear Mrs. Joanna....If you could see me now

I force myself to remember you as I knew you before October 6, 2011; and refuse to believe things told to me after you weren't alive to defend yourself. 

If you could see my now, I think you'd be so proud of me! God's been good in my life, I've been blessed beyond my wildest dreams when I go to sleep each night!

I graduated bible college! I know me leaving was hard for you and I understand why now; but you knew it was the best thing for me. You helped push me to find my identity in the Lord, and it helped me to spiritually survive as long as I have. Bible college graduation was so bittersweet! I had such an amazing crowd of loved ones, but not having you there for another milestone reminded me you won't be there for any more milestones. But I know there's "so great a cloud of witnesses" and I like to believe you were cheering me on as Bro. Ryan Thompson called my name for my diploma and I shook Dr. Trieber's hand. I hope I made you proud. 

I found someone! And wow is he amazing! His name is Anthony Black and he's the most incredible man I've ever met! And he's from Napa! He was so close and I didn't meet him until we both went to GSBC! Our story is so cute! It's my favorite but I'm biased. ;) I walked into the Golden Grille, you know, that 50's diner at the college and I asked if anyone knew how to drive stick so they could get my car for me. Anthony was the first to speak up. That was in September 2011 but we didn't start "talking" until April 7, 2012. I wish you could've met him. He means the world to me and you do too. He's godly, selfless, athletic, encouraging, sweet, caring, hilarious, a leader, and all around fantastic and brilliant! He actually reminds me so much of you now that I think about it. And he loves basketball just like you did! That would be a fun conversation! Luckily you both like the same teams! Well, fast forward a little! We got engaged on February 21, 2015 and we're getting married November 13th! I wish more than anything you could be there. I'm hoping to find a picture of you and frame it and place you on a front pew. You'd be so proud of me. I hope so.

You'll never believe it! I moved to Oregon! I'm not sure if you knew the Pastor while you were here but I'm positive you would've got along with his wife so well! Her name is Mrs. Vicky Mutchler and her husband is Pastor Mike Mutchler. This church is amazing and has a fantastic bus ministry! They have a huge school I get to work at as a 7th-11th grade history teacher and 9th grade science! I get to be in the ministry! How great is that?! You'd be so proud of me! I hope so! 

God was so good to give me someone like you for 10 years. You taught me everything I know about being a good Christian. You gave me more of your time than I deserve from anyone. You're a remarkable human being and Christian who I wish never had to leave to be home with the Lord (selfishly of course), but I can see as time passes how God worked it all out and it was a blessing majorly in disguise. 

You've been with Jesus for 4 years now and it's like I can still hear your lovely laugh, and feel your strong, loving hug. Nothing is the same without you but I know you're so much happier and safe now at the side of our King. I love you, Mrs. Joanna Lewis and I'm thankful I always took the time to tell you. 

Your Bus Kid who "made it"

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Speak When You're Angry

Go ahead! Do exactly what they title says; speak when you're angry. There is a lot that can come from it and God's has a lot of promises tied to doing just that.

Anger is an uncontrollable life-ruiner...simply put. And all of us have anger, but some of us are simply angry people. Which ever category you fall into, there are great consequences that stem from being angry.

No matter how often you read my blog, if you read at all, I love breaking things into lists and categories. So I'm going to rant on today about a few things that anger kills:

  • Joy
    • What exactly is your joy? There is an acronym for joy that I'm going to use because I think it accurately portrays what leads up to us having anger. Joy stands for- Jesus, Others, You. This is where it all begins. If you're not putting God and other's first then you're going to lose your joy and that will lead to anger. Doesn't it frustrate you when things don't go the right way, or aren't in the correct order? Or am I the only slightly OCD person here? Frustration usually leads to anger, right? When you get your priorities out of order this is the first step to being angry and it ultimately comes because you're probably being proud and putting yourself first. So, are you angry? Maybe you need to rethink your priorities before you lose your joy. (:
  • Walk with God
    • I don't know about you, but when I'm angry I don't want to talk to anyone. I want everyone to leave me alone so I can stew in my anger. {Like that's going to change anything} BUT there are some people that when they are angry they don't push people away and they just yell! Those people freak me out. So how do you treat God when you're angry? Do you ignore Him? Yell at Him? Blame Him? Remember, if you're angry it's probably not His fault and you definitely have no right to yell at Him. Don't allow your walk with God to be hindered because you're angry. Talk to Him about it, ask Him how you should respond to whatever is making you angry, and ask Him to take the anger away....He can do that, you know that? It's a lovely thing.
  • Relationship with Others
    • "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:" -Proverbs 22:24 {King James Version}. God knows angry people can be a cancer to those around them. Because their joy is gone, its an unconscious goal to make other's joy disappear. If you're an angry person or just having anger for a moment...be careful who you're around and what you say, you can sever a friendship with one slip of the tongue. Remember when you were a kid and you wanted the bullies to stop picking on you? What would you say? "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Well, that's a lie. Bones heal. But words pierce a soul forever. When you're angry you can hurt someone so indefinitely that they may even refuse to be your friend again. Be careful to not lose the ones who love you because you haven't asked God to help you control your anger.

Anger is a killer. You will never be as joyous, or have as great a walk with God, or have as healthy of friendships as you should if you allow yourself to be angry.

I want to leave you with one quote and it's my most favorite quote about anger- "Speak when you're angry and you'll make the greatest speech you'll ever regret."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Are You Trying To Change Me?

Have you ever been in a relationship where you feel that person is constantly trying to change you? Its as though nothing you do is good enough for them? Do you also know that there are two sides to every story? I've learned that there may be a difference between them trying to change you and them maybe teaching you to speak their language.

In a relationship, there are love languages- whether you've been dating 10 weeks or married 10 years. There have been books written about the different love languages (5 of them) and how they desire to be treated. It's such an important faucet of a relationship to figure out what the other person's love language is so that you may love them how they want to be loved.

A lot of the times, we love people how WE want to be loved and not how THEY want to be loved.

I'll briefly explain the love languages so you can know what I'm talking about...

  • Quality Time
    • This person wants your undivided attention. This isn't selfish, its how they feel special. Turn off the T.V., set down your phone, and make eye contact. Show that you love and care about them by looking at them and responding thoughtfully to what they're talking about. Take them out on one on one dates- they love the personal quality time.
  • Physical Touch
    • Everyone, regardless of love language, needs hugs and physical affirmation, but this person will particularly thrive off of it. They are probably touchy themselves- always hugging people, and grabbing arms out excitement when they talk. This person takes touch as a connection that you are lovingly there for them.
  • Words of Affirmation
    • This person loves to hear how you feel, they love talking about feelings and discussing thoughts of the future and plans together. They thrive off of hearing "I love you" and "I'm proud of you." To them, words actually do speak a little louder than actions. It is built in them to need compliments and praise. They love random notes and texts knowing you're thinking about them. (This is my love language :P )
  • Receiving Gifts
    • We all love gifts, but this person loves the thought and time put behind the gifts as well as the gift itself. They know you love them by what they give them. They aren't materialistic, but they know that things mean time, money, and effort, and that speaks volumes to them about how you feel about them.
  • Acts of Service
    • This person isn't lazy or needy, but when you offer to do something for them they take it as a huge sign of you love for them. They know that if you're taking your time out to personally do something for them than you truly love them. Always try to offer a helping hand, or take a burden off of them, or run some errands for them. They will know you really love them.

So now that you know what the love languages are, you can try to figure out how other people like to be loved and love them that way. How they like to be loved typically comes out in how they try to love others- so observe the things they do for people- do they always compliment people (word of affirmation), do they always help around (acts of service),  do they always grab peoples' arms when they tell stories, or hug people a lot (physical touch), give gifts (receiving gifts), or want to spend one on one time with you or make you feel very special by zeroing in on what you're talking about (quality time)? 

Realize that someone may not be trying to change you, they may just be trying to teach you how to speak their language. Take the time to figure them out and be patient as they guide you. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

That's Easy For You To Say

Have you ever poured your trials and troubles out to someone and all they say is, "I'm so sorry, I totally understand."? Is that not one of the most frustrating things ever? At the heat of the moment, you truly believe that they have no clue how you feel. If I'm being honest, I have to admit that I am guilty of saying that more times than I wish I had. I'm seriously awful at helping people when they're in the middle of a storm- I'll be there to listen for hours, and my heart will sincerely break for you, and I'll do everything in my power to help you fix the problem, but more times than not I will not have the right words to say.

A friend of mine is going through quite the storm. And as a side note, never ever ever underestimate the gravity of someone's storm; its completely real and huge for them. Now my friend's storm is actually pretty big, and him and I are actually both going through storms at the moment so its sort of back and forth encouragement to each other. I made the mistake of texting him and saying, "I totally understand..." WOW! What a HUGE mistake on my part. No one wants you to think they understand, they want to know that you care. Be very careful when it comes to trying to give advice during someone's storm; you could anger them and push them away. Unsolicited advice is rarely heeded and often resented. Only give advice when they want it.

If you're listening to someone's trials, and you don't know what to say, just be honest. I have found that saying something along the lines of "Honestly, (insert name here to show sincerity), I have no idea what you're going through and I'll never try to act like I do, but I can promise you that I'm going to pour my heart out to the throne of God for your sake."

Be oh so careful and sensitive to peoples' problems.

And if you're going through a problem, don't confide in everyone. Confide in a few; God, your parents, your pastor, a wise & honest friend, or maybe someone specialized in that field or has gone through that same issue. Pick any of those to confide in but always make sure God is the first one.

I was recently reading a blog and this thought was so simple but it smacked me pretty hard, when you're going through something- you need to remember to be thankful. I know that's such a cliche thought because it's November, but I promise you it will make you feel loads better. Go through the whole alphabet and figure out one thing for each letter that you're thankful for. And then give your burden to the Lord and leave it there. Understand that worry is a controlling sin that will rob your walk with God, your sweet spirit, and it may hurt your relationships. Worry truly won't change anything, the only thing that changes anything is God.

Also if you're going through something, rejoice in it. Realize that God chose that specific trial specifically for you at this specific time for a specific purpose. God has something so special for you to learn. But be patient, you may not learn that lesson right away. For example, I had a friend in college who never had a car all through college. This friend hated it- hated asking for rides, hated being dependent, hated all of it. It was a trial my friend faced all through college. But my friend also got a job later on where they were given a company car. Other people applied for that job and got it but they were later let go because their background check came back and they had a couple of speeding tickets. I pointed out to my friend that maybe it was a blessing in disguise that through college they didn't have a car because maybe they would've got a ticket in that time and would have been disqualified for that job.

What we go through will usually not make sense while we're going through it but there is always going to be a purpose for it. God won't send something your way without it being a profitable lesson afterwards- so long as you endure it godly.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Morning Bible & Coffee

May I confess something? When it comes to reading my Bible, I'll admit that I struggle with my consistency. Being in college and working two jobs, and studying, working out, and being with friends I tend to let my walk with God fall by the wayside. But even as I type that I think to myself "How could I possibly put all of that in front of the God who loves me so dearly?" Truthfully, I can't; at least not with a good conscious.

But I have a friend in my life who is beyond consistent in his walk with God. He reads faithfully every morning, and prays for so much longer than I think I've ever prayed in one sitting. And the best part is I know that he prays for me specifically every single morning. His walk and consistency convict me so much to be better. 

Well, with that small rant over, I would love to share with you something that God hit me with this morning. I'm not 100% sure why it stuck out to me because this isn't a topic I struggle with (thankfully). 

Most people at least read a Proverb-a-Day. I try to correspond my Proverb & Psalm with the date; so today I read Proverbs & Psalm 30. And there were two verses today that stuck out to me more than any other and I can't believe I had never noticed them before. And that just proved to me how alive and applicable God's word really is. Sometimes in reading my Proverb a day I get to thinking "I've practically memorized the book of Proverbs, how could I possibly gain anything else from it?" But that's the amazing thing about God and His Word, for whatever reason He will make a particular verse jump out at you on a particular day for some particular reason. 

These were the two verse God gave me this morning:

Psalm 30:9 "What profit is there in my blood, when I go down into the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?"

Proverbs 30:5 "Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him."

For whatever reason, when I read my Bible I read Proverbs first and then Psalm, don't ask me, I have no idea why. 

So Proverbs stuck out to me first and I got a mental picture in my head of me being out a battle and God is covering me as a shield, but in my imagination this shield for some reason was clear so I could see everything that was coming at me. Sometimes we can see the bad that is coming at us, but God is the strongest, most persevering shield that there ever was. No ironsmith, blacksmith, or metal worker could ever made a shield that is stronger than God. He is going to protect me from everything that is thrown at me that He doesn't will to get my life. And because its God and He is the most Almighty, that shield is never going to wear thin, or break down or fail me- I am forever protected by my Father. But there is a condition, I have to trust Him. If I were guarding someone in battle and they didn't trust me, I would honestly probably just walk away from them. God will never do that so long as we are His own and trust Him.

You know how sometimes you can think, God, why are you so good to me? We do nothing but fail Him, let Him down, break His heart, and grieve Him on a daily basis and He is still our shield. Well, for my heart that question was answered in Psalm.

I never really noticed this verse before but simply to me David is asking, what is the point of my enemies striking me dead? As long as I still have a purpose on this Earth, it is pointless. What is going to happen for the glory of God if my enemies prevail over me? Is the dust going to praise God? Is the dust going to go to the uttermost parts of the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature? Most certainly not! So if God still has use for my life and a purpose for me living, then I have nothing to worry about. Throughout Psalms we can see that David was questioning of God and fearful of his enemies many times, but then he has mountain top statements like this where he's really just saying, whatever happens will happen because its going to be for God's glory.

If God allows something to happen to you; financially, physically, emotionally, socially, or maybe even a death, its because it was for His glory. He is going to be a persevering shield to protect you because what will it glory Him if your enemies prevail? 

Everything that will happen in your life, as long as you're trusting God, is going to happen because God allowed it to get passed His shield, not because it slipped, or He forgot, or His arms got tired while He was holding the shield- no, but for His glory.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Be the Best Cupcake You Can Be

Last night I got a text from a sweet, sweet young girl. She's honestly such an encouragement to me; so wise beyond her years, zealous for God, and excited to serve Him with her life. But even with that, she's going to go through the same struggle that all girls do: boys. 

She text me last night and asked, "Ate, how do you get over a boy?"

It made me sad that she was going through something like that, but then I remembered every girl will in her life and I was thankful she entrusted me with the responsibility to help her out a little. So that's just the question, How do you get over a boy?

I told her its different for everyone. For me personally, I don't particularly get over people, I just simple have to move on. It's certainly a downfall of mine and I don't suggest anyone be like me in this aspect, but when I'm into someone, I'm full-fledged into them. I give all my feelings, and I give them too quickly. I'm very loyal when it comes down to that, so getting over people doesn't really happen for me. I explained to her that I learn to have a peace about not being with them.

She reminds me so much of myself so I let her know that she may not ever get over this boy, especially since he was the first boy she liked. It comes down to just keeping busy and staying focused.  When another crush comes along the feelings for the first boy will diminish and when the right one comes along, she won't be consumed with having to get over anyone because it will just come naturally. 

Something that I feel goes hand in hand with being able to get over someone is how much jealousy you harbor. Your jealousy will keep you somewhere longer than you want to stay. Her and I are both extremely jealous people. If your a jealous person, there is a lot in your heart you must work on- and it has to be daily and consistent. Personally, I ask God for self-confidence because my jealousy will usually stem from insecurities and comparison. Jealousy is an important thing to tackle as soon as possible because it is a slippery slope to hatred. But not only that, jealousy can/will ruin relationships and it's entirely unattractive. God can remove your jealousy and give you confidence in His will that He will give you the right man and confidence in yourself to know that you are perfectly made how you should be- completely and uniquely designed by God. 

Your jealousy can also come from a lack of trust, not just lack of self-confidence. A lack of trust is going to strain any relationship you have. 

We can all use our inability to get over someone, our lack of self-confidence and trust, and our jealousy as a spiritual thermometer for where we are in our walk with God. It's so peaceful knowing that when your walk with God is right and you're doing His will for this moment, that everything is going to fall into place as it should. 

One of the last things I left my young friend with was that yes she knows everything she needs to do to move on from this boy, but she needs to apply it. It is one thing to have all the ingredients to make the best cupcakes, but its nothing if you don't put the ingredients together to make that cupcake. And I told her she just needs to apply it (put the ingredients together) and be the best cupcake she can be. Your future husband is counting on you right now to be the purest, best servant of God you can be. That means really working hard while you're single with no distractions.

And just like I said to her last night, I'm "preaching" to myself too. Like I said, her and I are a lot alike so this is something I have to daily work on. But I've learned first hand that giving your insecurities, boy situations, and lack of trust to God and applying what I already know to do, makes like a whole lot easier. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Mrs. Joanna Lewis | 10.27.74 - 10.6.11

Have you ever just had that one person that impacted your life remarkably, to the extent that if you had never met him/her you wouldn't be the same person in any way at all? I had a person like that in my life, my late pastor's wife, Mrs. Joanna Lewis (Hunter).

(This is actually going to be the first time I've ever talked about her on social media because I have needed these past 3 years to sort my emotions about her death and not only her death but things that happened at my old church in general)

It was when I was in the 4th grade, my friend invited me on the church bus to go to Vacation Bible School with her and the captain of her bus was Mrs. Joanna. It was during that VBS that I decided I would keep going to this church because I thought it was such a fun, loving, and inviting environment.

When I would go to church I got to see Mrs. Joanna all the time because she was my bus captain and she was in charge of Jr. Church, so it was only during the Sunday School hour I didn't see her. And instantly I clung to her right away.

6th grade I wanted to start working in Jr. Church with her as a teen worker, but at the time, I definitely didn't dress the part. But my desire to help was huge so it was then that Mrs. Joanna started taking me under her wing to teach me how to dress and act like a Christian in general. She lovingly explained to me why we need to be a certain way and always backed it up with the Bible. I say lovingly, but anyone who knew Mrs. Joanna knew that she had a loving but VERY stern way of going about things. But it was only because of how much she loved you.

Around that time I got to start going soul winning with her and visiting bus kids, and going to the 99 cent store to prepare for the bus and Jr. Church the next day. I was spending entire Saturdays with the woman who changed my life.

Shortly after, she started a teen choir, and even thought I can't carry a tune in a bucket, she would encourage me anyways. Teen choir is some of the greatest memories I have with her and everyone I grew up with. Teen choir was the elite of the elite teens and we all grew close....needless to say, with lots of drama of course! But Mrs. Joanna always kept us in check and made sure we were all held accountable.

When I was in 8th grade, Mrs. Joanna planned a trip for all the teen workers, adults workers, and kids in Jr Church that memorized the memory verse every Sunday for a year to go to Disneyland for free! That was definitely an experience.

One of the most amazing things about Mrs. Joanna was her selflessness. There was one youth conference in particular we went to and I got disgustingly sick. I was throwing up all day for like 3 days. She gave up going to Great America and a baseball game just to take care of me. She could have had one of the other lady workers take care of me, but I knew she loved me and that's why she took such good care of me.


I'll never forget what it was like the closer it came to me leaving for Bible college. Our relationship was so strained and I look back on it now and I'm sure its because she didn't want me to leave, but she knew in her heart it would be the best thing for me.

When I was saying my goodbyes to her, I think it was the most I had cried until her death. She never could have children and she told me before I left that "I was like the daughter [she] never had" and that meant everything to me. She had invested her life into treating me like a daughter and loving me, and caring for me physically, mentally, spiritually....in every way she was there for me. I could call her or text her whenever.

I left for college and I felt so alone without her. I had no friends there except my friend Jacob, but he had a girlfriend at the time so we didn't talk much at all. I missed her more than anything.

Her birthday was October 27, but at my school October has always been blacked out so we can't leave. The first week in October wasn't blacked out so I decided I would go home and visit her on Wednesday, October 5, 2011. I wanted to be able to see her before her birthday and bring her some birthday presents.

I remember walking into the part of the church she was at and she just started crying. I started crying too but that was because I was so happy to see her. But her crying seemed so different that time. It was a mixture of being happy to see me and a myriad of other emotions I couldn't figure out until the next day. I remember her asking me why I was there and me telling her I wanted to see her before her birthday and this was the only chance I had.

I remember exactly where we standing, the smell, the lighting outside, everything. Little did I know when I hugged her and said goodbye that I would be hugging her and saying goodbye for the very last time.

The next day so many people from my church were texting me asking if I had heard from our pastor or Mrs. Joanna. I didn't think anything to epic about it but I was so far away and I knew there were tons of people there that could figure out why neither of them were replying.

I got a call from another teen girl at my church that night.  I was at the Valley Fair Mall with my friends in the food court walking around. The girl that called me never calls me, and ordinarily I wouldn't answer but I decided I would this time. She called me and told me that Mrs. Joanna had died. I felt my heart fall to the floor and I fell on my knees in the middle of the food court right with my heart and started crazily bawling my eyes out. It was the most uncontrollable crying I have ever experienced, but I couldn't stop regardless of who was around. I begged her to tell me she was kidding but she started crying too so I knew she was serious.

My friends came over, picked me up off of the ground, and helped me back to my car. I called my friend Jacob and told him what I had heard. He was acting strange that day too. When I had got back to the college to talk to him, he informed me that his mom let him know earlier but that he didn't know how to tell me.

3 Years later and I still miss her every single day of my life. Everything reminds me of her. Especially the color purple, that was her favorite. She was there through every milestone of my life, salvation, graduating high school, driving, dating, leaving for college. Everything. I lost my best friend, the one person outside of my family who cared for me more than anyone I had ever met- and with nothing in return but to live for God. I have a desire for ministry because of the change God has made in my life, but a large portion of my desire for the things of God comes from Mrs. Joanna and the undeniable impact she made on my life. I could never pen words descriptive enough to express my love, appreciation, and missing her. There is so much more I could say about her, but I'm sure I've bored you already. There are so many questions I have, so if there's one reason above all that I'm excited for Heaven it is to see Mrs. Joanna and know that she was proud of me for finishing my course right because of what she instilled in me.

I love and miss you Mrs. Joanna. Happy 3 Year Birthday in Heaven.

The picture below was taken on my last Sunday before leaving for Bible college. Everyone I worked with on the church bus wore Oakland A's stuff because that's my favorite team. Mrs. Joanna is on the far left- my friend, my spiritual leader, my confidant, my counsellor, my other mom, my trainer, my role model......my fondest memory.