Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year of Inviting

A year ago I joined a group of dreamers...a word that still sounds so foreign to me. But we spent the year getting to know each other, sharing the wins and the setbacks, encouraging each other, and yes, dreaming.

In 2013 my dream focused on inviting others into our home and into our lives. Community is often messy and hard and inconvenient, but it's also refreshing, vital, and life-giving. And so we invite each other in.

2013 was a year of learning what this looked like for us. We did little things like sharing meals and throwing a few parties. A summer intern working at our church lived in our basement. Another friend stayed for a week while his family moved. We had friends stay in our home even though we were out of town. Our backyard filled up with people we love and people we hadn't yet met.

A year ago I didn't know who I would be inviting into our home, but I knew what I wanted our guests, our friends to find when they arrived. A place of comfort, of grace. A place of equal parts deep conversation and light-hearted merriment. A place of peaceful welcome.

A place that reflected our hearts.

My home is far from perfect, and my heart has so much room to grow. This year saw quite a few failures and forgotten goals, but the yeses we said in 2013 are producing growth that extends into 2014. And that's how I'll measure my success.

Happy New Year, dear friends. Looking forward to seeing all God has in store!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

6 years.

6 years ago I walked across campus to meet my guy while the snow fell.

Today I decorated for Christmas with that same guy while the snow fell.

6 years can change a lot of things, but he is still my favorite.


Our relationship, our marriage is still just a baby, but reflecting on our few years shows me that we're changing and growing and writing a great story. And since it's the season for favorite things, here's 6 reasons why I just can't stop loving him.

1. Those honest eyes.
I may tease him for his inability to hide a thing. But it's his transparency is what drew me to him 6 years ago and I still love he shows me everything with a look.

2. He makes me laugh.
He just does. It's the best.

3. He holds me.
The last three years have thrown a lot at us, but he's carried me through the hardest parts.

4. He makes me better.
Nate's a planner. I am not. Nate's organized. I am not. He loves me despite my rough edges, but he also smooths them out.

5. The way he works.
Nate is faithful in the little things. He works hard and remains humble.

6. He loves Jesus.
And he spurs me toward loving Jesus more, too.

*          *          *

Happy six years, sweet man. I love that I get to keep dating you, 
and I can't wait to see what the next six years will bring.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day 31: United States of America

We made it to the end of the month! Hopefully this has been a learning journey for you. It definitely has been for me! If you have stuck around throughout this little challenge, do you mind leaving a comment? I'd love to know your thoughts!

When we began the month, the United States government was shut down. And yet the order in our day to day lives stayed relatively the same. There are still too many living in poverty within our borders, and yet just yesterday we saw that an average Haitian earns $790 annually. We face extremely real foreign threats, and yet we don't think about anyone invading our city on a daily basis.

The United States faces many significant issues and challenges that break our hearts. And yet we must remember that we are part of a world in which the majority of our brothers and sister live in very different circumstances.

And perhaps that's where we'll land with this 31 day experiment. My prayer for my home country is to live with an awareness of others. Others living in our neighborhoods, living in our cities, living in the world around us. Lord, let us not be consumed with ourselves. May we be satisfied solely in You.

American Quick Facts:
Population: 317.7 million
Primary Industry: Technology, Industry, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Service
Annual Income per Person: $47,440
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Christianity
All facts found in Operation World.

Papa, let Your name be made great in our country, let it change our heart and the way we live our lives. Take away our complacency and replace it with an authentic care and love for others. In a nation that loves to celebrate celebrity, may You be known as the only one worthy of glory. Amen

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 30: Haiti

Though I've never been there myself, Haiti holds a special place in my heart.

The Haitians have endured so much poverty and corruption and natural devastation, but their spirit seems to penetrate those who visit in a unique way. It's a place that's stolen the hearts of dear friends and revived my mom.

This is a special nation facing many complex, challenging issues. The public has been made aware of many, but the reality of life in Haiti is not one to easily grasp. We do know there is Someone who does know the intricacies of these hardships. Let's turn our attention there.

Haitian Quick Facts
Population: 10.2 million
Primary Industry: Aid Relief
Annual Income per Person: $790
Political System: Unstable
Primary Religion: Christianity (Typically coupled with voodoo and witchcraft)
All facts found in Operation World

Lord Jesus, we pray for Haiti tonight. So many of our prayers this month have echoed one another, and we ask that in the midst of repeated sentiments and incoherent thoughts, You would hear the heart of our prayer...free the nations from oppression and let them walk in the light and truth. We want to make Your name great, and we love how the Haitian church loves You. Let us learn from our brothers and sisters and give you glory. Dear Jesus, You deserve it. Amen

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 29: Syria

Syria...

I've been avoiding this one hoping I could fill the month without trying to articulate any coherent thoughts on this broken nation.

But when I read things like this and watch things like this, I just can't fill this space with anything else tonight.

But here's the deal. I have nothing to offer on the topic. No new ideas or thoughtful perspective. No perfectly chosen words or nice arrangement of argument. All I have is hurt and angst, and come, Lord Jesus, we desperately need saving.

These are our brothers and sisters. Let's cry out as though we truly believe it.

Syrian Quick Facts
Population: 22.6 million
Primary Industry: Agriculture, Oil, Tourism
Annual Income per Person: $2,768
Political System: Civil War
Primary Religion: Islam
All facts found in Operation World

Father God, we have no words for the things happening in Syria. It would be so much easier if we could be contentedly ignorant of all that is happening halfway around the world, but we are not. Therefore, we are responsible. We ache for Your people, for the violence, the disease, the displacement, the seemingly unending conflict. We pray that they would know the Prince of Peace. We plead that You would be their comfort. Lord Jesus, we need saving. Show Your strength to Syria. Amen

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 28: Belgium

Today our lead pastor is taking off for a missions trip to a few partnerships is Europe. One of the places he is visiting is Brussels, Belgium. Belgium doesn't exactly get a lot of attention, especially compared to its power-player neighbors: Germany, France, and the Netherlands.

But Belgium has is quite unique. The city of Brussels has a population of 1.1 million people, and is home to over 45 different nationalities of 1,000 people or more including Eastern European, North African, Turkish, and Kurdish populations. This is a clear case of God bringing the nations together!

The spiritual climate of the country tends to be one of apathy. Faith issues are not typically a part of the public sphere. Let's pray for the gospel to take root in Belgium, for the many nations to find their hope in Jesus, and take that hope to their home countries.

Belgian Quick Facts
Population: 10.7 million
Primary Industry: Engineering & Metal Products
Annual Income per Person: $47,289
Political System: Constitutional Monarchy
Primary Religion: Christian
All facts found in Operation World

Lord, we praise You for the work You are doing in Belgium. We see You moving despite the apathetic spirit that is so prevalent. We ask that You would ignite a passion for You among the people of Belgium and that this passion would spread to all the different nationalities and people groups currently calling this country home. Our finite minds cannot comprehend the impact You can create, so we just ask that You would do more than we can ask or imagine. Bring glory to Your name. Amen

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day 27: Scripture

Today has been the day of rest we've needed for several weeks. Instead of moving on to another nation tonight, let's focus on the purpose of this month's adventure.

"Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
   make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
   tell of all his wondrous works!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
   Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
   his marvelous works among all the peoples!"
1 Chronicles 16:8-9, 23-24

We give thanks to You, Lord! Shape our heart to reflect
 and declare your glory among the nations! Amen

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day 26: Argentina

I realized today that haven't given South America enough love yet this month, so let's chat about Argentina!

Argentina is the eighth largest country in regards to land mass, and is home to both the Andes Mountains and the Pacific coastline. It's history is as diverse as it's landscape. Ancient civilizations gave way to colonization, which in turn led to the independent republic it is today.

In recent history the country has persevered through a tumultuous economic crisis from 1999-2002. While great strides have been made in this area, we can continue to pray for increased political and economic stability. The Argentinean Church has grown steadily since the 1980s, especially showing unity and strength during the economic crisis. They also have a well-developed prison ministry throughout the country that has led an estimated 25% of inmates to profess Christianity.

Argentinean Quick Facts
Population: 40.7 million
Primary Industry: Natural Resources and Agriculture
Annual Income per Person: $8,171
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Christian (Primarily Catholic)
All facts found in Operation World

Lord, we thank You for Your sustaining power in the nation of Argentina. We ask that You would continue to heal the nation from the other injustices that came to light in the economic crisis. We praise You for the amazing work You are doing in the prisons and ask that this impact would reach beyond the confines of the prison walls. We praise You for the diverse land and people You have created and ask that You would be made great in this land! Amen

Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 25: Saudi Arabia

Tonight we watched the movie 42, and we once again marveled at the courage of those who boldly and steadily crossed the lines of segregation (and the awesomeness of baseball, but that's another post for another time). Then I read an article about women in Saudi Arabia protesting their inability to drive. Again, people courageously crossing the lines of oppression.

Women's rights is a hot button issue for me, so that's where I primarily focus when it comes to Saudi Arabia. It is important, however, to remember that the Church is under persecution in this country, as well. As the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia is a dangerous place to be a Christian and imposes many challenges to witnessing and growing the Saudi Church. While we enjoy our freedom to practice religion, let us remember our brothers and sisters who are courageously crossing the lines of faith.

Saudi Quick Facts
Population: 26.3 million
Primary Industry: Oil
Annual Income per Person: $18,855
Political System: Monarchy
Primary Religion: Islam
All facts found in Operation World

Father, we thank You for the nation of Saudi Arabia and for the millions of people whom You love dearly. We pray Isaiah 61 over this country-that the Spirit of the Lord would be upon it, that the good news would be brought to the poor, that the brokenhearted would be healed, that the captive would be set free. Lord, we pray especially for the women living in Saudi Arabia. Let them know they are loved by You, that they are free in You, that they are Your daughters. And encourage Your Church. Give them courage to stay faithful, and give us courage to stay faithful to them in prayer. Amen

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 24: Indonesia

When I was in middle school we hosted a foreign exchange student from Indonesia. Learning about an Eastern culture was fascinating and has continued to leave quite an impression on me.

Indonesia is an island nation that consists of hundreds of distinct ethnic groups. The Joshua Project states that there are 780 people groups in Indonesia, and several hundred of these people groups are considered unreached. Islam is the primary religion of the nation, but the evangelical population has steadily increased over the last 50 years. Let's pray for this growth to continue and increase!

Indonesian Quick Facts
Population: 232.5 million
Primary Industry: Service Industry, Natural Resources
Annual Income per Person: $2,239
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Islam
All facts found in Operation World

Lord, we praise You for the many diverse people of Indonesia. I love how 
You love them all and created them each with a purpose. Help us to love 
them like You do. We ask that You would be working mightily in the nation, 
that their poor human rights record would begin to change. We praise You 
for growing the Indonesian church and ask that Your Truth would be made 
known in big ways. Place a heart of discontent among the people, and 
set their minds on seeking truth. Draw them near to You, Lord. Amen

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 23: Germany

Today has been full of serving at a church event and hosting dear friends, so we're once again going to keep things brief.

Since we've covered Nate's country of origin, I thought we'd cover mine, as well. Germany's post-WW2 history is quite familiar to us. Let's praise God for the increased political stability! Christianity has been declining in recent history, however, leaving a great need for spiritual reawakening.

German Quick Facts
Population: 82.1 million
Primary Industry: Industrial Goods
Annual Income per Person: $44,729
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Christian
All facts found in Operation World

Father God, I lift up Germany to You. They are placed in such a strategic location and position of influence that it excites me to think of what could happen if Your truth and love took root and multiplied throughout the nation. And yet as much as I can dream, I know You can and will do more than we can ask of imagine. We praise You for the work You've done in Germany and ask that You would draw our brothers and sisters near to You and show them just how real You are. I thank You for my family history and the line of people in which You placed me. You bless beyond measure. Amen

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Day 22: Uganda

Uganda holds a special place in our hearts, as it is the home of our other Compassion child, whom I (Nate) sponsored while in college. His name is Emmanuel, and he's awesome.

The nation itself faces many problems as civil war and disease, particularly AIDS, have historically crippled the country economically and socially. According to Operation World, the Lord's Resistance Army has displaced nearly two million and taken lives in excess of 120,000 people. Within this movement, children are susceptible to "recruitment" as sex slaves and/or child soldiers.

Emmanuel

The church in Uganda has experienced a lot of growth over the past few decades, and we can praise God for renewal movements and the presence and planting of churches throughout the country. Superficial Christianity is a problem faced by the church, and there is a growing population of Muslims in the country, challenging the further growth of Christianity.

Ugandan Quick Facts
Population: 33.7 million
Primary Industry: Agriculture
Annual Income per Person: $455
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Christian
All facts found in Operation World

Lord, we pray for the people of Uganda. You have created every square inch of this beautiful nation and you know and love each and every one of its people. We ask that you would, with your power as the Great Physician, allow the success of the work of those laboring against AIDS and other diseases that plague this people. Would you please continue to allow the growth of churches and prayer and church planting movements in Uganda that your gospel might be known throughout the land and every knee bow and every tongue confess and praise you as Lord. Amen.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 21: Australia

Australia is one of those countries that has always intrigued me. I've never traveled there, but it's on my dream list. I love the iconic landmarks, the spunky people, the accent...and much to my brothers' amusement, I even love the movie.

I admit I hold a romantic view of the country, but the reality is that it's a nation that is home to 149 different people groups, and 15 of those groups are yet to be reached, according to the Joshua Project. Not necessarily as high of a number as some nations, but each group is certainly just as worthy of hearing the gospel.

Currently eastern Australia is enduring extensive brush fires that have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres. Let's pray for our brothers and sisters who are already in their tomorrow as they face rebuilding and recovering.

Australian Quick Facts
Population: 21.5 million
Primary Industry: Services, Mining, Agriculture, Industry, Tourism
Annual Income per Person: $46,824
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Christian
All facts found in Operation World

Jesus, we pray for those affected by the brush fires in Australia. Though the devastation is extensive, we pray that they would know You as their provider. We pray that Isaiah 43 would become real to them...that though they walk through fire, You are with them, they will not be burned. We lift up all of the peoples living in Australia. We praise You for the amazing work Your church is already doing in the country, and we ask that the impact of Your gospel would be multiplied over and over again. Only by Your power and Your grace can this be done, and we praise You because You can and You will. Let us live in light of Your promises. Amen 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 20: Refocus

We were traveling for a wedding and to see friends this weekend (hence the late posts). This morning we had the special privilege to hear one of my good friends and college classmates preach this morning.

He spoke on Malachi 1, which teaches about the type of worship that is pleasing to God. Verse 11 just popped out at me, so I thought we'd settle here tonight to refocus as we head into the last 11 days of our challenge.

Malachi 1:11 reads as follows:
"'My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,' says the Lord Almighty."

In the midst of this chapter rebuking the Israelites for sleepwalking through their worship checklist, God reminds His people of the bigger picture. God is holy and worthy of worship. His name will be made great in every nation, tribe, and language in the world. These are not words from a conceited deity. Instead God is clearly stating His holiness and is prophesying about a day that will come. And what a day that will be!

Father God, we praise You for accepting our worship, as imperfect as our best attempts may be. We praise You for grace. Lord, You remind us over and over again about Your ultimate plan for this world...that Your name would be glorified in every tribe, nation, and tongue. Let us not forget that we are to be a part of that plan. Help us make Your name great! Amen

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Day 19: Mayanmar

As Anne and I were taking Perspectives, it was amazing to see God speaking through both Scripture and the stories of the speakers about his love for the nations and to see that love percolating into the hearts of our classmates and ourselves. One such classmate and his high school-aged daughter were taking Perspectives together, and on one of the last weeks of class, Joe announced he was presented with the opportunity to travel to Myanmar for a microfinance trip, helping locals start and run sustainable new businesses.

There may be an opportunity for me to take the same trip to Myanmar this coming spring, which I'm prayerfully considering. I'm sure Anne will blog more about it later if it materializes, but nonetheless, I thought Myanmar would be a great country to cover this month.

Myanmar is a dictatorship, which holds "elections" and has a history of finding a reason to detain the often-elected, opposition leader. The regime has recognized Buddhism as having a special status in Myanmar, as about 80% of the population practice the religion. Constitutionally, freedom of religion exists, but some Christian minorities often suffer at the hands of the military (who refer to Christianity as the C-virus). There is a lot of ethnic diversity, and the government deliberately understate minority ethnic populations in their official figures.

All-in-all, Buddhism is strongly entrenched and the Christian church is impoverished, isolated, and persecuted. However, we can praise God for continued growth and strengthening of the church in Myanmar through this persecution.

Myanmar Quick Facts
Population: 50.4 million
Primary Industry: Natural Resources
Annual Income per Person: $446
Political System: Dictatorship
Primary Religion: Buddhism
All facts found in Operation World

Lord God, please bless the nation of Myanmar. We pray that the persecution of the church there would cease, and that in whatever capacity it must remain, that you would use it for the overwhelming spread of the good news of your gospel. Lord, please encourage the missionaries living in Myanmar and continue to strengthen your church there. We ask this all for the glory of your name. Amen.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 18: Netherlands

Note of transparency tonight: This week absolutely kicked me in the shin. I'm limping across the finish line, but finishing is still a victory, yes?

All that's entering my mind tonight is tomorrow's trip to our college hometown, which proudly displays their Dutch heritage. So tonight, let's pray for the Netherlands.

Dutch Quick Facts
Population: 16.7 million
Primary Industry: Industry & Agriculture
Annual Income per Person: $32,105
Political System: Constitutional Monarchy
Primary Religion: Non-religious
All facts found in Operation World

Lord Jesus, I thank you for the Netherlands and the Dutch culture that provided me a memorable college experience, the best of friends, and my dear husband. While I praise You for the rich history of Christianity in the Netherlands, we lift up the present state of apathy toward You. We pray that Your Truth would be revealed in the Netherlands and a fresh breath of Your Spirit would wash over the Dutch. Let them know You are not just a piece of their past, but the glorious source of their future. Amen

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 17: Greece

Tonight in Bible study we studied Daniel 8, specifically how it tied into the Grecian empire. I can't seem to get it out of my head, so I thought we'd focus there tonight.

Lately Greece has been in the news for it's failing economy. The financial instability of the country has had a far-reaching impact across Europe and around the world. Greece has also proven to be a difficult country for the gospel take root and spread. I realize these are very general statements, but to be honest, I do not want to presume understanding of complexities far more nuanced than I know. :-)

I recently had a friend form college move to Greece to work with a non-profit organization. She and her husband have been writing about their experience, and just today she wrote about how she sees her accounting expertise and her love for Christ intersecting in their work. Let's pray for more of this type of work to grow in Greece!

Grecian Quick Facts
Population: 11.2 million
Primary Industry: Tourism, Agriculture, Industry
Annual Income per Person: $32,105
Political System: Parliamentary Democracy
Primary Religion: Christian (Greek Orthodox majority)
All facts found in Operation World

Father, we humbly admit that we do not understand all that's happening in Greece and in any of the countries we've prayed for this month. Yet we acknowledge that You are fully knowledgeable and in sovereign over each of these complex issues. We pray that Greece would find stability economically, but we also pray that their people would find their strength and stability in You. Let You name be proclaimed and made great! Bless Bobbie and Mike as they work in Athens with Hellenic Ministries. Let their light shine bright and may neither they nor the people they work with be the same. Amen

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 16: United Kingdom

I had a great night of hanging out with my high schoolers, but that means much less time for blogging!

Tonight I'm going to let the A21 Campaign tell the story for me. They just finished an 11-day freedom bike ride from Sofia, Bulgaria to London, following popular human trafficking routes as their course. You can check out more of the details about the ride and all the work the A21 Campaign is doing to prevent, rescue, and restore those trapped in human trafficking.The bikers just arrived in London today, so let's focus there for tonight.

British Quick Facts
Population: 62.1 million
Primary Industry: Financial and Business Services
Annual Income per Person: $43,734
Political System: Constitutional Monarchy
Primary Religion: Christian (Church of England majority)
All facts found in Operation World

Lord, we pray for a revival in the United Kingdom. We ask that You would make Yourself be known again as the living, active, powerful, loving God we know You to be. We ask that You would show them that You have a purpose for the United Kingdom, and they, and all of us, are a part of Your story for the nations. We ask specifically for a blessing on the A21 Campaign and all their efforts to fight human trafficking across Europe and around the world. We ask that this freedom ride would be a catalyst of awareness and that Your people would no longer tolerate the unspeakable reality of slavery today. We rest in knowing You are sovereign and all powerful. Thank You for knowing and loving each man, woman, and child currently in bondage. Help us to love like that. Amen

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 15: Philippines

One of the basic methods of praying for nations we've been following, as you may have gathered, is praying through the news. While there are may issues to pray about in our own nation, (We'll get there.) it's too easy to completely miss the news going on throughout the world. Intentionally checking international news sites is a great way to keep tabs on what's going on outside the U.S. and to remember the nations in our prayers.

Tonight we have a great opportunity to do just that for the Philippines. Today a magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck the the central part of the nation. Dozens were lost, many more are missing, and the infrastructure took another major hit. The Church has a strong presence in the nation. Let's pray that the Filipinos can clearly see the hands and feet of Christ as they recover.

Filipino Quick Facts
Population: 93.6 million
Primary Industry: Agriculture & Industry
Annual Income per Person: $1,845
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Christian (Catholic majority)
All facts found in Operation World

Lord God, I pray for the people of the Philippines. I cannot fathom the amount of panic and uncertainty that comes with this type of national tragedy, but I praise You for knowing their hearts and minds completely. Meet them in the midst of the hurt, and reveal Yourself as Provider. Let the Church show Your love in its purest form, without our humanness messing it up. We pray that Your gospel would spread and Your Church would bring glory to Your Name. Amen

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 14: India

Cyclone Phailin made landfall this weekend in the state of Odisha, in India, so tonight, we're praying for the many people of India.

According to CNN at the time of this post, the death toll is at 21, which is tragic, but far less than the 10,000 who were killed the last time a storm of this magnitude hit India's eastern cost. We can begin by praying for the families and friends mourning the 21 as well as the many others affected and displaced by the storm, while also praising and thanking God for keeping so many safe from the storm.

Cyclones aside, India is a country with many intricacies and challenges. Since economics is my gig (Nate writing again tonight), I'll cover that aspect of the country for this post, and we may come back and revisit the country later in the month, as there is a lot of ground to cover in a discussion of India.

The country as a whole has experienced a major economic boom over the past decade, however hundreds of millions still struggle with poverty, inadequate infrastructure, corruption, prejudice, and a very dense population. To put the country's population density into perspective, the figure for the U.S. as of the 2010 Census was 33 people per square kilometer. The same figure for India is 384 people per square kilometer.

Almost 40% of Indians live below the poverty line, and 40% of children are underweight. As a result of the rampant poverty for many, the country struggles with building and maintaining infrastructure such as public transportation and sanitation services, which leads to health problems for many.

Indian Quick Facts
Population: 1.214 billion
Primary Industry: Industry and Services
Annual Income per Person: $1,017
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Hindu
All facts found in Operation World

Father God, we praise you for the beautiful country of India. We thank you for your protection of many from Cyclone Phailin, and pray you would provide aid to the people who are in need and hurting. We thank you for recent growth in India's economy, and pray that improved conditions there would provide a clearer path for the flow of people and ideas, especially the gospel, that the people of India might know the joy of serving and loving you. Amen.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Day 13: Spain

Today has been a great day of resting up during a very busy season. So to maintain that theme, we're keeping things short and sweet tonight.

My aunt and uncle just completed El Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, which is an ancient pilgrimage across Spain to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela. Aunt Nancy did a great job of documenting their journey! So we're offering up some prayers for the nation of Spain.

Spanish Quick Facts
Population: 45.5 million
Primary Industry: Tourism, Agriculture, Industry
Annual Income per Person: $35,117
Political System: Constitutional Monarchy
Primary Religion: Christianity (Primarily Catholicism)
All facts found in Operation World

Lord, we praise You for Spain. The history of Christianity in Spain is rich, yet not without trouble and pain. We ask for a blessing on the current Church, that You would send a spirit of revival and reveal Your power and grace and glory in a fresh way. We ask for a special blessing on the pilgrims walking the Camino. Keep them safe and meet them in a tangible way as they walk. We praise You for Your goodness and for Your perfect plans for all nations. Amen

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day 12: Guatemala

I'm spending some time loving on the nieces today, so you get the chance to read some words by my sweet man! You should feel lucky, friends. This doesn't happen often!

Nate here, filling in for Anne as she has a packed schedule this weekend. A great excuse and opportunity for me to share with you all my heart for the people of Guatemala!

As my senior year of college came to a close, I had the privilege to travel to Guatemala and serve the people of El Cajón, which can mean "the box," but in this case, the local translation was "the coffin." Poverty is a glaring reality for most folks in El Cajón, but you'd never be able to tell from the smiles that overwhelmed their faces. My host family is fortunate enough to have electricity most of the time. Thus, they are viewed as one of the most privileged families in town, second only to the family that has electricity and a car.

The most striking of these smiles and grateful hearts is that of Pastor Abrám, the leader of the local church. Hurricane Rita caused devastating flooding in this area of the country, and swept his home, all his belongings, and the building where his church met into the river. That week, we were able to contribute to the construction of a new church building and attached home for Abrám, his family, and his church. I have never met a more grateful man.


Please pray against the continued devastation of poverty and inequity of income and living standards in the nation. Many of the Catholic population are actually syncretized Christo-pagans, meaning they simply shift their previous Mayan gods to being Catholic "saints." Violence is a nationwide plague, and must be dealt with often.

On the positive side, many of the 38 Amerindian native peoples have a New Testament translation in their native tongue, and Guatemalan believers are currently taking charge of the dozen or so language translations remaining.

Guatemalan Quick Facts
Population: 14.3 million
Primary Industry: Agriculture
Annual Income per Person: $2,850
Political System: Democracy (with deep history of dictatorships, military governments, and civil war)
Primary Religion: Christianity
All facts found in Operation World

Heavenly Father, we thank you for being a God of justice and mercy. We pray against the negative effects of poverty, inequities, and violence that persist in Guatemala. We pray that your light would shine in the darkest corners and expose distortions in people's understanding of the Gospel. We thank you that many have access to the New Testament in a language they understand, and we pray for the continued translation and distribution efforts of the remaining languages, that this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations for Your glory! Amen.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 11: Ecuador

Can you believe we're already one-third through our 31 day challenge? I've been learning a lot through writing, and I hope there is something here for you, as well. I'd love to hear your thoughts! (Yes, it's true...shameless ask for comments!)

Today I'm excited to introduce you to a very special girl who is inspiring tonight's post. She and I don't share a language or a homeland, but we do share a birthday and part of our names. Our childhoods haven't looked the same, but I'm so happy to be a part of hers. Blogland...meet Liz, our Compassion kiddo.

She loves music, likes to dance. She sends hugs through letters, and draws a picture every time she writes. I've never met her in person, but I know I'll get to someday because she wrote a few months ago to tell us she believes Jesus is her Savior. She included a butterfly drawing on the back of that letter and reminded me why Jesus calls us to have the faith of a child.

She faces struggles and poverty that I can't relate to, but when she writes that she wants to take piano lessons, I know what she means. I struggle to understand the fear of not knowing if your dad will have work, but when she says she loves to write, I get it.

And in the midst of this strange tension--so foreign and yet so familiar--I'm reminded that God is creative, and yet we all bear His image. We are each diverse expressions of the One Source. So I don't need to fully understand Liz's life to connect with her. I don't have to speak her language to love her. And I don't need to have met her to call her my sister in Christ.

Ecuadorian Quick Facts
Population: 13.8 million
Primary Industry: Agriculture
Annual Income per Person: $3,928
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Christianity
All facts found in Operation World

Lord, we praise You and thank You for the way You created us. We may lead lives that look very different from each other, but You still gives us ways to connect with others, and it is beautiful. We pray for the nation of Ecuador. We pray for increased political stability and growth of job opportunities. We pray for families like Liz's who are struggling in poverty. Thank You for Compassion and the opportunity to make these numbers and statistics more than text on a page. Help us to live connected to others and stir in our hearts the desire to see Your gospel take root in our own neighborhoods, in Ecuador, and beyond. Amen

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 10: Pakistan

I know I am only one of many who are intrigued, captivated, and inspired by the story of Malala, but while I don't have anything new to add to the conversation, I do want to take some time to pray for her, for the many girls seeking to gain education, and for the entire nation of Pakistan.

In recent history, the nation of Pakistan has persevered through times of military rule, political instability, and conflicts with India over land. The people of Pakistan, particularly women, endure the absence of many freedoms we take for granted, such as that of education, the cause Malala is championing. According to the Joshua Project, Pakistan is home to hundreds of different ethnic people groups, and the majority of these groups are unreached, meaning under 2% of the population are believers in Christ.

As we've seen so many times already during the first 10 days of this challenge, there are many issues to pray for, yet we see change stirring. The Lord never ceases to work!

Pakistan Quick Facts
Population: 184.7 million
Primary Industry: Agriculture, Light Industry & Service
Annual Income per Person: $1,022
Political System: Islamic Republic
Primary Religion: Sunni Islam
All facts found in Operation World

Father God, we praise you for the work You are doing in Pakistan, that which we can see and that which we cannot. We praise You for Your faithfulness. We ask that You would break the chains of oppression...that imposed by the government and by poverty and by whatever forces we are unaware of. We thank You for the courage of people like Malala who are seeking freedom through peace. We ask that You would show us how to love each of the people groups present in Pakistan, and reveal Your Truth to them. We praise You for the power of the gospel, and ask that it would be shown mightily. Amen

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 9: Brazil

I am feeling the drain of the week, so we're going to keep things brief tonight. On Wednesdays I get to hang out with high schoolers, and this year we have a foreign exchange student from Brazil in our small group. I just love her to death, and she reminds me of another sweet and sassy Brazilian who lived with us when I was little. So tonight, Brazil, we're praying for you.



Brazilian Quick Facts
Population: 195.5 million
Primary Industry: Natural Resources & Agriculture
Annual Income per Person: $8,295
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Christianity
All facts found in Operation World

Lord Jesus, we thank you for the people of Brazil. I thank you, specifically for those Brazilians who have a piece of my heart, and I ask You would give a special blessing to them tonight. As a nation, we pray that You would continue to strengthen the country and the local church to help the millions still in need. We thank You for the way spiritual things are accepted and talked about within Brazilian culture, and we ask that in the midst of those discussions Your Truth would be made known and clear. Let us all be overwhelmed by You as the One True God. You are more than we can ever know, and You love us more than we can ever feel. Thank You for Your grace. Amen

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 8: Russia

We spent quite a bit of time watching the President's Cup this weekend, as we're avid golf fans and my guy wasn't up for much for than hanging out on the couch. Every time we saw a commercial for the 2014 Olympics, we got so excited! Can't wait. Makes for a great reason to focus on Russia tonight, right?

Russia has a rich and complicated history, and perhaps that is still an accurate description of the nation. There is much about the country that is worth praising and celebrating, and yet the people of Russia face hardships such as inefficient healthcare, economic threats, and a severe decline in population. Many ministries are taking root in Russia. Let's pray for open doors, growth, and unity.

Russian Quick Facts
Population: 140.3 million
Primary Industry: Natural Resources
Annual Income per Person: $11,807
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Christianity
All facts found in Operation World

Father, we lift up the nation of Russia to You. Lord, there is much about this country and its history that seems to be a confusing and contradictory, and yet You understand all of the complexities. We ask that in the midst of this, You would make Your Way, Your Truth, and Your Life known simply in their lives. We pray for the Russian church. Please grow Your body of believers to be one of strength, unity, and grace. We praise You for the work being done, and ask You to encourage Your workers currently serving Russia. Thank You for these brothers and sisters. Amen

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 7: Kenya

Tonight I'd like to take some time to focus on a country that has become very dear me, though I've never been there myself. I do have the pleasure of working alongside two people originally from Kenya at a church that partners heavily with various Kenyan ministries. And let's just say, it's easy to fall in love!

Kenya was under British rule until 1963, and the political climate in recent history has been strained to say the least. Currently the government is riddled with systemic corruption, which leaves a significant portion of the country in need. But it is a beautiful country full of beautiful people who are building a beautiful piece of the Church. There are many reasons to give thanks, and many needs for petition.

Today is a great day to feature Kenya, as two of my favorite bloggers are featuring a special project. Kristen Welch opened a maternity home called Mercy House for teenagers who were pregnant due to rape or prostitution for food and had no place to go. They are currently fundraising to build a classroom for the girls to continue their formal education and learning trade skills for their future. And you can be a part it!

Kenyan Quick Facts:
Population: 40.9 million
Primary Industry: Agriculture
Annual Income per Person: $838.00
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Christianity
All facts found in Operation World

Lord Jesus. we thank You for the country of Kenya, for the spirit of the Kenyan people, and the amazing work You are already doing there. We ask that You would grow leaders of integrity, those who will fight corruption and advocate for those in need. We ask that You would continue to grow Your Church and spread the gospel to those unreached peoples in the country. We praise You for the Mercy House, and we ask that all of Your daughters would know their worth as Your child. Show us how to love Your people, Lord. Amen

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 6: Libya

We've made a great progress with the hubs' recovery, but we're still pushing the wire on the blog posts! I'm keeping things brief tonight, but not because Libya is in need of lesser attention.

In addition to being in the news this week, Libya has received significant news coverage in recent years due to civil war and NATO intervention. Their government is undergoing significant reconstruction, but there is still much need for stability and aid to the nation.

Libyan Quick Facts:
Population: 6.6 million
Primary Industry: Oil
Annual Income per Person: $14,479
Political System: Emerging Democracy
Primary Religion: Sunni Islam
All facts found in Operation World

Father, as we start a new week, we pray for a new chapter in Libya's history. 
We pray for doors to be opened to evangelism, for the Libyan people to be open to 
Your Truth, for Your name to be made great instead of another ruler. We ask that 
the government would stabilize and for this stability to spread to every level of society. 
Show us how to love Your people. Amen

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 5: Somalia

It's another late-night post, but I think we can get it done before the day ends! Tonight we learned about two US raids: one in Libya and one in Somalia, so let's take a little time to focus on Somalia.

Somalia has endured a great amount of instability over the last 20+ years. War, violence, and lack of government structure have led to the great neglect of the Somalians' needs, especially medical needs. Somalia has the lowest health budget of any nation and the highest infant mortality rate at 12%. Lord, hear our prayers.

Somalian Quick Facts:
Population: 9.4 million
Primary Industry: Livestock Herding
Annual Income per Person: $282.00
Political System: Islamic Union of Courts, significant warlord domination
Primary Religion: Islam
All facts found in Operation World

Father, we plead on behalf of the nation of Somalia. My mind can't fathom the amount of chaos and disorder that normal life entails for the people of Somalia, but I thank you for being present with them. We pray for peace, for stability, for godly leaders to arise. We pray for aid to reach the right people, and for skills to be passed on and built upon. We pray for the families mourning loss that is all too common. Forgive us for any time we have missed opportunities to help, and open our eyes to be a part of bringing Your gospel to this part of the world. Amen.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 4: Italy

Today has been a full day of finishing up my work for the week and taking care of my guy recovering from his wisdom tooth extraction, so tonight will be brief. :-)

The shipwreck off the coast of Italy claimed the lives of over 100 people, including a large number of migrants from Africa. Though this happened thousands of miles away, we are called to mourn with those who mourn. Let's take some time to do just that.

Italian Quick Facts:
Population: 60.1 million
Primary Industry: Manufactured Goods
Annual Income per Person: $38,996
Political System: Democracy
Primary Religion: Christianity - Catholicism is claimed by 84% of the population, though only 15% actually practice.
All facts found in Operation World

Lord, make my heart tender toward that which You love and cherish. 
We pray for the families of those who lost their lives in this shipwreck, 
and we ask that You would be very real to them in their grief. We pray for 
the nation of Italy, that they would no longer be apathetic toward Your Church,
 but would see You are live and active today. Bring revival. Amen

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 3: Iran

Iran has been in the news quite a bit lately, so I thought we'd take a little time to talk and pray.

Iran has one of the longest histories of civilization in the world. The first noted kingdom on this land stretches back to the 2800 BC. It has a rich, yet violent history, and that continues today.

Currently the Iranian government is an Islamic Republic, which is a result from the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Though it is easy to fear this country based on what we read and hear in the news, I ask that we instead pray for the people of Iran and trust in the sovereignty of God. We read about Iran's pursuit of nuclear power and the threat of nuclear weapons, yet we pray for the Prince of Peace to reign. And I don't mean pray this in a cliche manner, but rather in a way that declares the full power of the Lord we serve!

Iranian Quick Facts:
Population: 75.1 million
Primary Industry: Oil and Natural Gas
Annual Income per Person: $4,600
Political System: Islamic Republic
Primary Religion: Shi'a Islam
All facts found in Operation World

Lord, we do declare that you are the Prince of Peace who can immediately bring rest to Iran. We trust your plan for the people of Iran, and we plea for Your gospel to be embraced by them. We ask that you would use their religiosity to reveal to them that You are The Truth and The Life. Encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ working to build your church, affirm that though they are small in number, Your power is great. Help us to seek understanding of a culture that seems so foreign to us. Help us to love Your people like You do. Make Your name great. Amen

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Day 2: Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic stole my heart last year, so it seems like a natural place to start our journey. While the country's rich beauty lends itself to a thriving tourism industry, there is a very high disparity between the rich and the poor.

Operation World states that there are 4,000 villages on the Dominican side of the island who have no exposure to the gospel. Many of these villages are unincorporated, meaning that those who live in these areas are not recognized by the Dominican government as citizens. Village residents typically are born, raised, and stay in the village throughout their lives. There is no structured industry in these areas, so work is primarily comprised of day labor or reselling purchased goods.


We traveled to one of those villages last summer and worked with Ina York, a missionary sharing the gospel through community development in Cercadillo.



Through God working through her efforts, the people of Cercadillo are being transformed by the gospel. Though the bondage of poverty and native voodoo are still highly prevalent, the freedom of Christ is growing! Please pray for that the Spirit to move in the people of the Dominican Republic, for them to understand the Truth of the gospel, as opposed to the voodoo influence, for the men to step up in faith and in their actions with their families, for encouragement for the missionaries currently serving, and for more to reach those who have yet to hear.

Dominican Quick Facts:
Population: 10.2 million
Primary Industry: Tourism
Annual Income per Person: $4,992
Political System: Democracy (prone to corruption)
Primary Religion: Christian (tends to blend of Christianity and voodoo)
All facts found in Operation World.

Lord Jesus, we lift up the people of the Dominican Republic. We see the beauty of Your creation, both in the land and in the people, and we ask that they would open their eyes to the beauty of Your salvation. We pray against the corruption of the government and for Your Name to be made great. We acknowledge that each tribe, nation, and tongue play a unique role in completing Your Glory, and we ask that the Dominicans, and all of us, would embrace our part of worshiping You. Amen 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

31 Days of Praying for the Nations


My world was rocked earlier this year when I took a class called Perspectives. Through this experience, God revealed so much more of His heart that seemed so new, and yet so perfectly aligned with the God I knew and loved.

God's heart for the nations is evident throughout scripture, from the Genesis through Revelation, but Matthew 24:14 is one of the most striking passages: "And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come." 

This is what our Jesus is waiting for! He will not come until the whole word has heard the gospel of the Kingdom! And when that day comes, Revelation 7:9-10 will comes to pass: 
"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
     'Salvation belongs to our God,
          who sits on the throne,
          and to the Lamb.'"
It just gives me tingles! But as glorious as that day will be, we're not there yet. And when we look around, it's difficult to imagine that day ever coming. So what can we do? How can we be involved today, right where we are? I'm going to humbly ask you to join me in 31 days of praying for the nations. Not because I have a great understanding of it, but rather because I don't have a clue. But if God loves the nations enough to write them into His Word, then I want to love like that, too.

So why am I focusing on praying for the nations?
Because I'm not good at it.
Because it scares me.
Because my head knows prayer is powerful, but my heart needs to know it, too.
Because I'm selfish.
Because we're called to love as God loves.
Because I believe God wants to show us something.

Will you join me?

Day 2: Dominican Republic
Day 3: Iran
Day 4: Italy
Day 5: Somalia
Day 6: Libya
Day 7: Kenya
Day 8: Russia
Day 9: Brazil
Day 10: Pakistan
Day 11: Ecuador
Day 12: Guatemala
Day 13: Spain
Day 14: India
Day 15: Philippines
Day 16: United Kingdom
Day 17: Greece
Day 18: Netherlands
Day 19: Myanmar
Day 20: Refocus
Day 21: Australia
Day 22: Uganda
Day 23: Germany
Day 24: Indonesia
Day 25: Saudi Arabia
Day 26: Argentina
Day 27: Scripture
Day 28: Belgium
Day 29: Syria
Day 30: Haiti
Day 31: United States of America

Friday, August 16, 2013

Refresh and Refocus

Summer is storming past us, per usual, but I am still amazed by its hastiness. May and June were characterized by significant road trips to five different states. We embraced life on the road, found great detours along the way, but were more than ready for July.

A few favorites from our Dexter trip.
Falling in love with the Smokey Mountains
Simply stunning
July was primarily spent hosting friends and family. We loved the many opportunities to open our home and practice hospitality, but July definitely kept us on our toes!

Our smallest but most wonderful guests
Celebrating the Fourth with Aunt Nancy and Uncle Andy
Our first 5K with friends and family
And this leads us to August. I'm kind of loving August. If I may be so selfish, August is for us. Time with dear friends. Conferences to feed the soul. An empty house. Dreaming. Planning. Talking. Facing the hard things. Stretching. Growing. Starting.

I'm a terrible goal setter, mainly because I don't like the obsessive, over-achiever I become when I do. But I'm feeling the tide turn, just a bit...like the Spirit is whispering that I can trust God to change me, that there is more out there if I'll let go of maintaining the safeguards I've built and put that energy into doing the work.

So watch out, world. The Summers are setting goals.

Summer flies, months push forward, but today I can pause and reflect and refocus. Today I can say yes to commitments and goals and trying new things without fear of who I've been in the past. Today I can remember what writing does for my heart, for my soul, and not feel bad about making it a priority.

August is for advocating the person God made, is making me to be. August is going to be good.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Trusting the Process

My draft folder is full of stalled ideas. This one jarred loose. You're joining 
me in pretending I didn't take over a month off, right? You're the best!

I am not a runner. I can barely be considered a person who can run. My fight-or-flight response is stuck on fight, as my brain is aware of my inability to escape. But at some point, the desire to run a 5K grew beyond the strength of my excuses, so I'm in the midst of a feeble attempt at becoming a runner (jogger is more accurate...let's be real).

My encourager with me on a walk.
These trails are the best part of this running thing!
My problem with running is not so much the physical toll as it is the mental panic that sets in when I do feel challenged by the run. I can psych myself out before during and after run. I have talent. So when I looked ahead in my training schedule and saw a jump in the length of intervals, the anxiety started creeping in.

But here's the thing. I ran my scheduled workout, and I had the stamina to complete it. The following workout was more difficult, but again, I had gained the stamina to complete it. Can I run a full 3.1 miles yet? No. But I'm trusting the process.

And that's where I find myself in seeking my God-sized dream. Did I accomplish everything I hoped when we started this journey in January? Nope. We didn't host nearly as many people as I had planned. We still don't have many home projects completed. And I know I'm still heavily lacking in my homemaking skills.


But I also know that I'm in the process. We did choose to invite when we could have avoided. We made progress when we could have stagnated. And I'm gaining confidence where there has been great insecurity. We're sharing our home for the summer and figuring out how to turn friends into community and trusting that this step will lead forward.


I don't have to panic about the full distance. I just have to be faithful with the task He's given to me now and trust that my perseverance will grow. I am challenged to dream, to step out of my comfort zone, to invite God's leading above my own. But I'm also challenged to be present, to love fully, to seek the graces right in front of me. And my, there are many.

Linking up here today. Join us?