His Spirit would come upon her and cause her to be pregnant.
She sang Him a song of gratitude.
His decision meant that her fiancé might leave her... Because really who would believe that God took her virginity? She would be an outcast. Life as she knew it would be dramatically different from this point forward.
She exclaimed, "... The mighty One is holy and He has done great things for me!"
He told her that her child would be the Son of God. And she would have to believe this... That her crying, pooping, helpless baby, the one that would require all of her attention... Was actually the Son of God.
She cried out, "Oh how my soul praises the Lord! How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!"
He told her that her son would be king and that his kingdom would reign forever and ever... But really? Not even her family was going to believe that. And even if her fiancé did choose to still be her husband, she was being set up to have a bumpy start to marriage.
She lifted her voice to God, "His mighty arm has done tremendous things!"
God was coming to earth. The most monumental event this world had ever seen. Yet His entrance onto the scene was so completely contrary to how I would have predicted it. The most glorious moment in history... Took place in the most glory-less of circumstances.
Yet Mary got it. And she praised Him for it. She was so filled with faith that it didn't matter how life altering this would be for her. She was all in. She believed in God's word and trusted that He had a bigger better picture than what she had planned for her life.
Sure this baby would change her life upside-down and likely ruin her reputation. Every dream of hers would be halted for the sake of birthing Jesus.
But she was confident that nothing in life is better than fulfilling the plans of God... So she praised Him.
And good thing she did. Because she didn't know it then, but her joyful obedience to God would bring about the saving of all mankind.
She joyfully obeyed because she had faith in God, even before she saw it come to pass.
Makes me think of my own life. If its God's style to flip things upside down... To halt the plans of His people... And radically change the course of history through inviting people to lay down their reputations for the sake of Jesus...
Would I be willing to let Him do that with me?
...I think so...
But how do I actually live that out?
I think the answer is found in having a heavenly perspective. It is looking upward and seeking God's plans and purposes, over my own.
He knows the whole story. He has the bigger picture. AND He delights in communicating with His children.
So as we seek Him....
He will tell us what to do....
And even if it seems crazy....
We can praise Him like Mary did....
Believing, by faith, that He will come through in glorious ways.
Recently Shaun and I decided to move out of our little house on the YWAM campus and into a room at a church. It's a long story but basically- this will enable us to fulfill our ministry roles more effectively and with more freedom in our schedule. It's great but it is a sacrifice. Nothing like what Mary faced... But we are certainly downsizing.
In making the decision to do it I could feel the Lord telling me that it was the right idea. But it was scary. I enjoy having a living room, kitchen, and bathroom of my own. Decorating is fun. Privacy is nice. Not to mention... I was comfortable there. But reflecting on Mary's responses to God makes me want some heavenly perspective of my own. I know that God's plans are better than mine. Better than any living room or kitchen. Better than comfort. And I want to be like Mary as I joyfully give up my home and move into this amazing church that he has provided for us. I'm learning to do that.
Just as Mary embraced the plans of God and praised Him before the glory of Jesus had even been revealed... I want to do that too. I want to praise God now for the opportunities He will open up by having Shaun and I move into this church. I want to praise Him for the lives He will touch and the depth of intimacy I will have with both Him and Shaun.
"... The mighty One is holy and He has done great things for me!"
((this story and the scriptures have been taken from the book of Luke in the Bible))
"Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1
Here are some things I've learned about myself recently and am happy to share with you. I pray you will be strengthened in your own journeys. Read the last post for the full story.
You ARE beautiful... And its likely that nobody else is unsure of that fact about you. It's not like trusting God means that you admit that you are actually hideous but that God is like a Grandma with bad eyes who couldn't care less how you look because either way she thinks you are perfect. It's not like that. You actually look great. You have lovely features and we all see it. Even the devil sees it. He is called "the father of lies" which means all he does is tell you lies that will lead to your destruction. Lies like:
- you are unattractive
- you are not desirable
- your friends are better than you
- no ones wants you
- you look too old to be beautiful
- you look too fat to be beautiful
You get it.
But really, physically, you are quite lovely. The Bible teaches though that we are not to merely get our beauty from outward things, like makeup and nice clothes, because those things are fleeting. They are fun but ultimately they are meaningless. Looking to the world to determine what beauty is will be exhausting because it is constantly changing and few ever meet "the standard".
You don't have to prove anything. No one is looking at your photos to decide whether or not you are beautiful. They won't be clicking on your next profile picture and think to themselves, "oh wow, now I see that she is beautiful". And IF there are people doing that, it is undoubtedly because they are struggling with insecurity more than you and I are. Photos are simply to capture fun moments. It's okay to want to look great in them... But a photo DOES NOT determine your beauty. You can take the most physically attractive people and toss them into a photo with some harsh lighting and a strange angle and I promise even they will look strange. Photos are just photos. You do not need to freak out when you see a bad photo of yourself. It doesn't mean anything.
You also don't need to walk into situations wondering whether or not you are good enough. You are enough.
My friend told me once, "Who you are in Christ is exactly enough for what He has called you to."
Don't worry about what the people around you are thinking, most everyone is thinking so much about themselves that they don't even have the capacity to think about you too. We all struggle. The best thing that I have learned to do is to speak out the positive things we see in other people. It changes the atmosphere in a room. Try it! When you are in a place and you are tempted to feel insecure, look for something to compliment in someone else. If there is someone in the room that makes you feel particularly inferior, compliment her.
Smiling, encouraging, laughing, loving, serving... These are all beautiful qualities. Focus more on these things than you do on outward things. People will remember you more for these things than they will for your thin waist or clear complexion.
As females we are carriers of beauty. Taking care of ourselves physically is a big part of that. Enjoy it. God loves to adorn His daughters because it brings Him glory. Like when I see adorable little baby girls, dressed in the cutest outfits ever, I don't compliment the baby as if she picked out her clothes. I compliment the mommy. The baby girl is a reflection of her mommy. Well it's like that with God too. I often pray for Him to dress me. To take care of my hair. My skin. My makeup. My shoes. I want everything about me to reflect Him. It's more fun that way. If He can dress the flowers and the sunsets and the snowflakes here in Michigan... Surely He can help me know what to buy and what to wear. And actually most everything I own is a gift. In September I prayed for jeans and was given a garbage bag full of designer jean samples. Every pair fit either me or my sister. I'm wearing a pair of Michael Kors boots. A friend gave them to me. Shaun and I often laugh about the fact that it is not rare for me to have days where literally everything I wear has been given to me by someone else... Undies and all. He provides haircuts too. In the last few years I have been totally blessed with great haircuts and coloring.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying God always blesses me with designer products. I'm also not saying that nice hair and clothes are a sign of His blessing. I could be dressed the same way but actually have a heart that is greedy, and wasting my money on things He doesn't intend to give me. I have had times of God dressing me in places like India but I was makeup-less, dirty, and definitely not a style icon. But the joy I felt was the same... Because even dressed like that, I was bringing God glory and He was affirming my beauty.
Jesus tells us not to worry about things like clothes because God already knows what we need. He says to "Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven (the plans and purposes of God) and His righteousness (meaning being like Christ) and all these things (like clothes, food, material needs...) will be added to you."
So my beautiful friends... I know this post was all over the place but I'm praying that you will be encouraged by it. Insecurity issues distract us from the greater things in life.
I pray that especially in this Christmas season you will be able to see yourself as God sees you. Totally capable. Qualified. Lovely. Beautiful.
And as He reveals these truths to you may you be strengthened to share the love of Christ with others. Be bold sweet girls. Don't hide the light of Christ within you.
Life is short. Press on toward the goal that has been set before you.
"Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that."
1 Corin. 1:7-9 the message.
Sending you Christmas cheer from Rochester Hills, Michigan!
We are in Michigan! Hooray! My Christmas dreams are coming true! Snow! Lights! Family! Friends! Hot drinks! Cozy clothes! Even a life-size gingerbread house! It's all so beautiful!
Every other year Shaun's brothers and their wives come spend Christmas with Shaun's fam. This is one of those years! Our niece Siri is almost 2 years old and her mom, Megan, is weeks away from welcoming the next little baby Hover into the world. (I am definitely praying that baby will come while we are here!)
I feel like there are a million things I want to tell you. Like about the Models For Christ Christmas party last week... Or the amazing story of the celebrity Shaun and I prayed with Tuesday night... Or our flight here and the precious people we met on the way...
But instead I'm going to share something less glamorous... Less sparkly... And honestly even a bit embarrassing for me. I'm going to share AGAIN about a recent struggle I've had and the way God has met me in it.
A large part of my time is spent talking with girls about the painful things they face in life. We sit, often over coffee, and I listen as these beauties share their aching hearts with me. Often their hurts involve messy relationships with guys. Splintered friendships with girls. Fear of the future. Lack of finances. Dreams that have yet to come true. Loss. Insecurity. Body image issues... You understand. No matter how good our circumstances are, we all have areas that need a little extra love.
Well recently God has allowed me to spend time hearing the struggles of some brilliantly beautiful professional models. They bravely relayed to me the negative messages they have heard about themselves in castings, from different agents, and even from random people online who felt it necessary to write negative things about their photographs. Critics have literally picked apart their bodies. From head to toe- someone has something bad to say about every part of them. For wisdom's sake I will not tell you some of the specific things they have been told... Because I wouldn't want any of you to go looking for your own supposed "flaws". But you can trust that the words they have heard cut them deeply... And somehow I am believing God to use me to help restore them back to truth.
So this leads me to my own struggle... After I listened to these girls share... I started to hold myself to the same impossible standard that they have been held to. It was subtle, but none-the-less, I started to be my own disgusting critic. For the last few weeks I have been quietly picking myself apart, trying to believe God's truth, but actually allowing the devil to tell me what "beauty" is. I allowed situations to tell me whether or not I
was beautiful, rather than standing firmly in what God had already told me about that.
It was crazy but I seriously started to question every part of myself. Nothing about me met "the standard" of beauty that was in my head. I began to treat as ugly the very things I have been affirmed in over and over.
Anxiety set in. Insecurity. Fear.
Typical symptoms of satan being involved.
So when did it all finally surface?
Last Monday. We were quickly ordering our Christmas cards online from Walmart, before driving to Santa Monica to pick up furniture that had been donated to us.
The silent pressure in me to be beautiful had convinced me that the ONLY way to prove I was really lovely was to take good photos. I had two photographer friends offering to take Christmas pictures- but we had been so busy we couldn't use either of them. This meant that ordering Christmas cards was a rushed event, quickly trying to find pictures from this fall that were nice enough to send to our loved ones. By the end of ordering them both Shaun and I were totally drained AND I still felt unattractive.
As we drove to Santa Monica I cried. Poor sweet Shaun was probably confused- But God had used the Christmas card situation to surface the garbage I had been suppressing. Because I felt devastated that I was sending photos that weren't my favorite. Not that they were bad, I just didn't think they were special enough. I had hoped for photos that would wow people... But these were just normal photos. Seriously God is so good, He was showing me that I was trying to prove my beauty through a silly photo, rather than trust Him with my beauty.
I explained my mixed up feelings to Shaun and the Lord used his precious wisdom to set me back on track. By the end of our 30 minute drive I felt free, confident in my beauty again, and I'm pretty sure the devil felt kicked in the face.
In order to keep this post from being a novel. I will split it up. See the next post for some treasured wisdom that the Lord has been teaching me. But all in all I have just been reminded how much I need Jesus. Sure He gives me amazing opportunities to pour into people that in my opinion are some of this world's most incredible... But it has nothing to do with me. I have a whole mess of my own issues. But Jesus still uses me. He teaches me and enables me to teach others... Because in doing that, He gets all the glory. I never have to wonder if I'm qualified to do the things I'm doing, because I know that really I'm not qualified at all. But then again, because I know it's ALL God, then I actually am totally qualified. Because He will be faithful to work through me.
"26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy[g] when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world,[h] things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God." from 1 Cor. 1
And now I know to be on guard more when I'm ministering to people, because I'm not strong. I'm just as weak as the rest of us. If I am going to minister to fashion professionals I need to guard my mind just like they do... So together we can live according to the truth of God's Word and not fall into deception.
And now here are a few photos from the MFC Christmas party in Hollywood last week. They don't tell the whole story but you will be able to see that it was a very merry affair :)
A young bride-to-be has finally found her dream wedding cake.
Not every bride has a dream cake, but this blushing beauty does.
Her mother was a baker. Not in career, but in passion. She loved it. Not only was she excellent at baking but she was even better when it came to decorating the delicious treats. She handled frosting the way Picasso handled paint, every dessert of hers was a masterpiece. She would dream with her sweet daughter about one day presenting her with the most beautiful wedding cake anyone had ever seen. The cake would sparkle. Covered in flour, wearing their matching aprons, mother and daughter would laugh and dream about that wedding cake. It always seemed so far away... Considering the daughter was only 14 and her future husband was no where in sight.
But that was then. And this is now. 6 years later and the future husband is very much in sight. In fact it's only 2 days until he will marry the darling daughter from the story. The tragedy though, is that her radiant mother will be celebrating this wedding from heaven. She was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago... And last November went Home to be with the Lord.
Which brings me back to her dream cake. She finally found it. Unlike other brides, for her, the cake felt like the most important part of the wedding. In her heart this cake represented her mother's life. It had to be perfect. It had to be exactly like the one they dreamt of when she was a little girl. She drew sketches of what she wanted. Her Dad and fiancé travelled the state with her to find someone who could make this cake happen in a way that would satisfy her aching heart's desire. the process was deeply emotional for her, because it was about so much more than just a cake.
Today she visited the baker she had chosen, to see the finished product... she wept... It was perfect. It looked exactly like the one in her dreams. When she saw it, she said that she could physically feel her mother's pleasure. Relieved, she left the shop, feeling ready to have the wedding.
A few hours after she left, a renowned photographer for a national bridal magazine came into the shop, asking to see some of the bakery's work. Unfortunately the only person working was a new girl, who knew very little about the shop and really knew nothing about the "dream cake" other than just how exquisite it looked.
She led the photographer to the back of the shop to show him the cake. He was blown away. Never having seen anything like it, he made a strange proposal... Let him borrow the cake to take and photograph, and in return the shop will get free advertising in this famous bridal magazine and he will pay them a large amount for any damage that could potentially come to the cake.
The shop attendant called the owner of the store but could not get through to him. After trying to call and text multiple times, she trusted her own judgement and agreed to the deal. She thought that even if the cake gets ruined, surely the money and notoriety will make up for it. So she helped load the dream cake into his car.
The photographer was thrilled. He made quick work to get as many photos of the cake as possible. Models had already been hired for a bridal shoot so he brought the cake over there to use it as a prop. The photos were unbelievable. Different backdrops. Outdoors. Indoors. With models. Without. The final shots were of two models, dressed as bride and groom, cutting the cake. Yes. They cut the cake and smashed pieces into each other's faces.
To them, it was just a beautiful cake. But to the motherless bride getting ready for her wedding, this was a treasure.
Obviously when word got back to the baker that the cake had essentially been sold, chaos ensued.
Though the baker knew what an amazing opportunity this was for his shop to gain fame... He recalled the young bride fighting to hold back tears as she described her dream cake. This was about so much more than just a cake and money.
This was about a daughter that missed her mother deeply. A daughter who was excited to get married, but at times wrestled with feeling like being happy with her new husband might make it seem like she doesn't miss her mama anymore.
The baker knew that it would not be possible to recreate that cake in such a short time. His only option was to call the young bride-to-be and explain what had happened.
Few things in his life were as painfully difficult as that phone call.
The bride was crushed. She dropped the phone and melted onto the ground in a weepy puddle. Her heart was broken.
To some, this story doesn't make a lot of sense. All of this hooplah about a wedding cake? But if you are like me... That story made me so sad for the bride. She didn't get her cake after all. And it wasn't fair... It wasn't her fault.
But as I thought about this story, I was pained with the feeling of how devastating it is when you know the value of something... Or someone... But you watch it... Or them... Get destroyed because someone else doesn't know the value.
I'll give you an example.
I have a best friend. We grew up together. She taught me to receive compliments. She taught me to be brave and not worry about what people think of me. When she laughs in a movie theatre everyone knows, because it is SO loud. She is an all star athlete, good at pretty much any sport she tries. She is creative, smart and artsy. She is fashionable, wise, and has known God since she was a little girl.
But a few years ago she started to get caught up with people who didn't love her. Maybe they thought they did, but I don't think so... Because "love always protects" and they didn't protect her.
She was taken advantage of sexually on multiple occasions. She partied. Not a little. But all the time.
Black out drunk... Waking up with people she didn't know. Dying inside... Being judged by those same friends who invited her into that crazy lifestyle. The God she thought she knew, seemed more distant than ever.
Each time I heard about a new crisis she was facing I would literally cry, right there, on the spot.
Someone else hears about her life and is quick to judge her... Or not think too much of her... Because she is a lot like every other young 20-something.
But not me. Because I KNOW her value. I know what she is worth and I know her potential. So while someone else might think nothing of her... I am the weepy mess on the floor because of her the devastation in her life.
Or with Karl. I watched him impact others. I know his potential to change the world. I know what he did in Haiti and Sunland to share Christ's love with people.
So while others didn't think twice when he started doing drugs again, I was heart-broken. And while others were suddenly sad when he died of those same drugs last year... I went crazy... Because I know his worth. I knew it the whole time. I knew that he was made for so much more than that kind of death.
And when I see girls. Valuable. Beautiful. Precious. Worthy. Purpose-filled girls... Choose to act like they aren't all of those things. Freely giving their bodies to anyone who wants them. Taking any guy who looks twice at them. Choosing that it would be better to be slightly less lonely in the moment, than to follow God's call and purpose for their life.
I turn once again into a weepy mess. I imagine that my sadness is just a glimpse of the sadness God feels in that situation. He knows our value better than anyone. Jesus counted us worthy to die for.
And yet we treat ourselves like those people treated the cake... Kind of nice... But not nearly what we are worth.
Leaving us destroyed and leaving the ones aware of our value, heartbroken.
Please show us the true value that you have instilled in each of us. Help us to see ourselves and others as you see us... And give us grace to live according to what you see and not what we see.
We love you.
"But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Others were given in exchange for you.
I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you."
*these are some photos from our YWAM Christmas party. I'm honored to have such VALUABLE people in my life. :)
Since 1953 churches in Santa Monica have set up stationary nativity scenes to celebrate Jesus at Christmas time. Last year, however, an atheist group opposed the nativity scenes and eventually the city banned them all together.
This year a new tradition began! The city of Santa Monica granted permission for churches to have a living nativity scene in the park where the scenes had been banned!
I was given the honor and responsibility of organizing the first week's festivities. Beginning Monday, December 3rd, through Friday, the 5th, we were out from 7-9pm sharing the love of Christ, and the joy of Christmas!
As the director of Models For Christ here in LA I was able to help mobilize fashion professionals to be a part of the outreach. A leader at MFC generously sewed the costumes of the Bible characters, and a local film studio let us borrow whatever costumes we didn't have time to make. Our MFC family acted as the nativity characters each evening!
Along with our live nativity we had free coffee, cocoa, and baked goodies. YWAM students sang carols and ministered to people. On Tuesday night the beautiful Paradosi Ballet Company from Washington performed. Shaun's skaters from the Calling All Skaters DTS dressed in full Christmas garb and evangelized like crazy- Everyone LOVED watching them skate. My Beauty Arise girls directed the evenings' events and also handed out candycanes with scriptures to pedestrians. It was a party every night!
It didn't take long before the media got involved. Monday and Tuesday news crews came to interview us and document the event. Tuesday night Jay Leno talked about the nativity scene on his show. By Friday our nativity scene outreach had been talked about on CBS, The Today Show, the Yahoo home page, The Christian Post, Huffington Post... And other news stations.
Friday night we met a gentlemen who had intended to commit suicide by jumping off the Santa Monica pier that night. On his way to the pier he passed through our celebration, where he was offered cocoa and a cookie. After a few minutes with one of our volunteers he revealed his intentions to commit suicide and was surrounded by Christians who were able to pray for him. By the end of the night he was relaxed, laughing and excited to help us serve. I overheard him exclaiming, "Jesus loves us so much, and the devil sucks!"
Every night from December 6th-December 23rd a different church or Christian group will be put on a live nativity scene for the community of Santa Monica to enjoy! The party for Jesus is still going strong!
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20
Well first... With some early morning black Friday shopping and some wonderful friends.
Next... (NOT on the same day :) )
We piled into two cars and drove a couple of hours to Big Bear to touch snow and see Santa. It was all glorious except there wasn't a single snowflake to be found. But SANTA WAS THERE! And Mrs. Clause too! They were stinkin adorable.
(Fortunately I DID touch some fake snow... So that will hold me over until I go to Michigan in a couple weeks for the real thing.)
Anyways... the skaters loved the lake. We girls loved it too... But mostly we EXTRA loved the Christmas decor, the warm holiday coffees, and the beauty of being in a mountain town.
So here is a bundle of photos from our time there. It would have been great for you to join us... But we would need a bigger car. Maybe next year! ;)
Ps. You will notice there are lots of photos of me and Dorothea... That's because she is a treasure... And because she moves back to Switzerland in a week so I am soaking up my time with her.
"Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter
in the shadow of your wings.
You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
letting them drink from your river of delights." psalm 36:5-8