New Roads New Rivers // turning the page

I am so thankful.  (Ok first, play this video while you read this post,)  *P.S. all the photos are from my recent trek to Mt. Wilson in the Fall ❤

Autumn Season Series-3These last 5.5 years have been a longer-than-anticipated chapter, “Student Life” – a chapter in which I was completely undone – all I knew and didn’t know – and then slowly, with every moment, He was rebuilding me. Every part of the process intentional and meaningful, all of this filled to the brim with the love of the Father, my Father, who I never knew loved me so deeply until now.

These are the writings and a mere scratching of the surface of a heart and life that has been transformed these last several years as a student at Hillsong College and a family member of Hillsong Church who, officially, is done studying and will receive her Bachelor of Theology (apparently that’s a paper that says I’m more qualified and know things haha).

After all the studying, the classes, the assessments, the chapels, the serving, the relationships that have both come, gone, and stayed, the character building, the intimate time with my Jesus, the working… how is my heart now?

I found that Psalm 40:5-8 (TPT) summarises the process and my life well, so much so that my heart seems to leap as I read and prayed these words on the pages of my bible: (and no I didn’t first exegete the passage or read commentaries…hahaha but there is due time for this)

“O Lord, my God, no one can compare with You. Such wonderful works and miracles are all found with You.  And You think of me all the time with Your countless expressions of love for me far exceeding my expectations.

It’s not sacrifices that really move Your heart. Burnt offerings, sin offerings (Christian type things,  routines and plans, accomplishments and degrees) – that’s not what brings You joy (though these are good).

But when You open my ears and speak deeply to me, I become Your willing servant, Your prisoner of love for life.

So I said, ‘Here I am! I’m coming to You as a sacrifice, for in the prophets scrolls of Your book You have written about me.

I delight to fulfill Your will, my God, for Your living words are written upon the pages of my heart.”

Words that were written by a man after God’s own heart, David, so so many years ago, yet they resonate within me as if I’d written them myself.

What can I say after all these years at Hillsong College?

Autumn Season Series-7I have seen and felt and known and intimately experienced the Lord’s hand on my life. Never for a moment was I alone. The Lord has been such a faithful Father, Lover, and Friend. I am absolutely convinced there’ll never be a Love like His in all eternity, so I don’t have to look anywhere else.

I have a passion and a love for the Church that I never had before.

I have a desire to see people become who they were truly made to be more than ever.

I love God more than I ever have before. He has been the best thing that has happened to me. He has been with me through so many seasons here. He’s the One seeing each one through. He’s been gracious, kind, extravagant and beautiful. He has taught me so much.

I’ve grown into a woman I can be proud of… He’s always been proud of me, and now I see His handiwork and help in my life. I am blessed. Blessed to be a blessing to everyone around me, regardless of status, religion, appearance or reception. I am equipped to go out and love the world.

The Lord believed in me and helped me do things I never thought I’d do (like get a BTh, now wake up every day at 5am, make plans (and be excited about them) to stay and settle in Australia for now… the list goes on).

Autumn Season Series-15It’s hard to believe this student season is coming to an end. No more school fees to be paid, no more essays to write, and soon no more college people to be living with.

But now, taking a deep breath, I will be stepping forward into this next stage of life…Adulthood.

Sure, I’ve been an adult technically since 18, but not really feeling like it till I was about 23…but now, at 25, graduating, moving into a truly Adult-let’s-settle-down HOME with a friend, probably getting a car (after 5 years can anyone say AMEN), and will soon start a full time job – I feel like I’m truly stepping into Adulthood, at least another layer of it. More maturity, literally and also in the Lord.

Proverbs 14:1 says Wisdom builds a lovely home and 16:15 says wisdom is worth more than money and better than an income and 19:8 says to grow a wise heart. This is what I’m setting out to do. I’m not setting out to build a career or be called ‘successful’ or make a name for myself, but to grow a life that says I love the Lord and that His heart is leaning toward those who would open up and let Him in.

Autumn Season Series-16I’m ready. Ready to dream, envision, plan and strategize for the future however the Spirit leads. Ready to build the Church, ready to keep creating Home for people, and discovering home along the way (which I believe is the theme for my next season); opening my heart to people and withholding nothing back. Pouring out the love of Jesus lavishly because I’ve freely received to freely give.

So I can close this season with confidence…that the Lord accomplished what He set out to do in my life during this time, and as we embark together into this new chapter of Discovering Home I trust and believe there will be new challenges, changes, blessings, and surprises met along the way… but now, met with an increased capacity, strength, wisdom, love, peace, hope, wonder, desire, gentleness, reverence, contentment, gratitude, trust, and joy.

So as I conclude, I say thank you. Thank you to anyone and everyone that has been a part of my journey, no matter how small or big, you’ve all been used by God to help me become the woman I am today.  I pray God has used me to speak to you how much he really loves you.

And I thank the Lord… for all these years… for believing in me, for being there for me, for his availability, reliability, his steadfast presence, for loving me when I felt unlovable, for seeing me, for never giving up on me, for singing over me, for interceding on my behalf for me, for trusting me, for providing, for the surprises and gifts, for knowing me, for forgiving me, for choosing me again and again, unwavering, for helping me grow into my truest self, for disciplining me,  for strengthening me when I was weak, for being my peace, for having better plans for me than I could have ever had for myself.

The Lord is GOOD.

I am who I am because of Him. His love changes everything.

Autumn Season Series-14For those of you still on this journey, know that you are in good hands if you’ve entrusted your heart and life to your Creator, the One who formed your heart and calls you by name. He is Love.

Scroll for some Before and After Shots…

 

Me when I was 19 upon arrival in Sydney in January 2013:

 

 

 

 

And me now, at 25, G R A D U A T I N G ❤ in June 2018:

 

 

 

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Biblical Hospitality

I love hospitality. You say that word and I will get happy on the inside. Something in me has always leaned into a major aspect of hospitality that I believe will burn in me for the rest of my days…valuing and caring for the needs of others, welcoming people, making them feel at home… Oh I could just go on! But I’d rather not, I’d rather just do it. And let you read this or watch the video haha and be moved to open yourself up again to another.

I studied hospitality last week on one of many levels, seeking to convey one of its many layers in a helpful way. (Below is the script I wrote for this video)

Defining Hospitality 

Home.
Where authenticity and vulnerability can have no filters applied.
Where the ones closest to you experience you at your best… and your worst.

But much more than a physical space, home is belonging.
We experience this firsthand through hospitality.

Hospitality has been cheaply thought of as merely hosting a dinner party once a year or the hospitality industry that makes your daily cappuccino. But hospitality is far more than this.

Hospitality is a theology of recognition, where, through simple acts, we convey the truth that wayward sinners are made in the image of God, where we say to those who might doubt their worth or purpose, ‘I see you! You are welcome here…pull up a chair’

Hospitality is much more than providing a meal or a place to sleep for a night. It is a tool that has the capacity to meet the core need in the human heart – a need for belonging. Hospitality is an answer that tells the lonely they are seen, and, more than hungry bellies, it feeds starving souls.

Hospitality is a welcoming; an open embrace, ready to receive anyone, especially strangers and those who cannot reciprocate, and inviting any who has need into one’s heart: open access to both the mess and the lovely.

Hospitality is what nourishes, nurtures and sustains life and beauty.
It allows you, whether the host or the receiver, to take one step closer to coming home…home to your true self, who God created you to be.

Hospitality in the Old Testament

All of Scripture is about the overarching story of God’s hospitality and every pattern has core themes which are developed throughout Scripture, ultimately with the intentional purpose of leading us to Jesus.

The theme of hospitality starts in Genesis where we see its origins stemming from the very heart of God Himself.

After breathing life into his most prized creation, relationship and love in bodily form,
28 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
29 Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened. (Gen 1:28-30).
The creation narrative is a picture of God’s hospitality toward us. He gave Adam and Eve EVERYTHING they could ever need or want. Abundant provision, beauty, and joy. Everything that would nurture them, give them life and sustain them. “The most gracious Host in the world is welcoming you into His castle, ‘Look! It’s all yours. Everything!’”

God’s hospitality illustrated in the creation narrative was counter-cultural.
His creating a space in which he desired them to be fruitful and increase counteracted other stories in ancient times of gods in Mesopotamia who were known to discourage multiplication with plagues and infertility. When we see God richly providing food for his people this counteracted Mesopotamian mythology in which the people were expected to provide their own food.
We encounter a loving God that wants his creation to flourish and he wants to provide and care for them.

All it took was one seed of deception, one moment of question for humanity to believe in Genesis 3 that their Host was withholding good from them, and it was up to them to get it for themselves.
And just like that, we have all since been birthed into a broken Home in need of hospitality.
After this exile of humanity, of being forced to leave the only perfect home of complete intimacy with God into a not yet redeemed earth, we will see throughout the rest of the biblical narrative God wooing us back to himself as he offers and extends hospitality to those who would enter. Offering us the hope of the future, in which he will bring the new heaven and new earth…but until then, we are all in a constant state of exile, including the Church, for we are not yet home.

This redemption of Home is bigger than just you and me, it is for the whole world.
God told Abraham, the father of our faith in Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

God’s plan was to use Abraham’s family and future descendants to show hospitality to every other nation.

In Genesis 18 we see a picture of the hospitable heart of Abraham:
GOD appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them.
3-5 He said, “Master, if it please you, stop for a while with your servant. I’ll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. I’ll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path.”
They said, “Certainly. Go ahead.”
6 Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. He said, “Hurry. Get three cups of our best flour; knead it and make bread.”

7-8 Then Abraham ran to the cattle pen and picked out a nice plump calf and gave it to the servant who lost no time getting it ready. Then he got curds and milk, brought them with the calf that had been roasted, set the meal before the men, and stood there under the tree while they ate.

It is here we see Abraham with no reservations, no hesitation, no thought of self and no inclination to see these men as inconveniences. He held nothing back in his embrace and his care.
It was AFTER Abraham’s extravagant act of hospitality toward the three strangers that a renewal of the covenant promise of God came forth.

Hospitality is shown throughout the Old Testament time and again, with Lot in Genesis 19, Gideon in Judges 6, Manoah in Judges 13.

Hospitality was embedded in their culture.
In Leviticus 19:33-34, we see that hospitality was an expectation of the Jews.
When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am GOD, your God.

Equal in status to the command “love your neighbour as yourself”, equality among the diverse classes was a law the Jews, though set apart as they were, kept, because, as God reminded them, they were once foreigners in need of God’s hospitality.

Consider also at the phrase, I am the Lord Your God, who brought you out of Egypt.
This is echoing his words that he stated in Exodus 20:2 right before he delivered the terms of the covenant- right before he would state “you shall have no other gods before Me.”
It was common in their time that with treaties being made, prior to the terms, the overlord would state the acts they did for the people, and this is what Yahweh does here.
Look! Look at what the Lord has done for you, and, as we will see later in Scripture, because of the new covenant we are in Christ, we can do to others as he did for the Israelites in the Old Testament.

Hospitality in the New Testament

Philoexnia:
Love of strangers in Greek.
To love a stranger implies a willingness to open yourself up and give of yourself whatever is needed, without consideration of yourself first.
Jesus Christ set us the ultimate example of receiving the stranger. He did this everywhere He went, and He preached it, too.
As the Israelites were reminded that they can love the stranger because they were once estranged, we are shown again in the New Testament the hospitality of God in which Jesus comes to embrace us and offer us Home in Himself…

Jesus again found himself with a hungry crowd on his hands. He called his disciples together and said, “This crowd is breaking my heart. They have stuck with me for three days, and now they have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they’ll faint along the way—some of them have come a long distance.”
4 His disciples responded, “What do you expect us to do about it? Buy food out here in the desert?”
5 He asked, “How much bread do you have?”
Here we see Jesus’ compassion that led to his hospitality and the example he sets on how to do it. We needn’t get overwhelmed by one’s need or the size of it, or even so consider our lack or inabilities, for the bounty of Christ is always ready. He drew power and strength from the Father through the Holy Spirit. We, like he was trying to show the disciples, can do the same.

In Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells his disciples that whenever we quench someone’s thirst or satisfy their hunger or meet them in their prison cell or care for them in their illness, He considers this as being done to Him! We then, as it were, act as the one who hosts the Lord, what an honour! Later in Colossians 3:23 we see this encouraged again – that whatever we do, we do it as unto the Lord.

“If ever there has been a stranger in need, someone completely excluded and hopeless, fully dependent on the grace of another – that is us. We were out in the cold, victims of our own folly, freezing to death from the coldness of our own hearts. And all throughout history, God opens the door, rescues us, and welcomes us back into relationship through sheer, inexplicable grace.”

Jesus’ sacrificial death was the ultimate act of hospitality. Romans 5:6-11 tells that story well.
Verse 6 says, “For when the time was right, the Anointed One came and died to demonstrate his love for sinners who were entirely helpless, weak, and powerless to save themselves.”

2 Corinthians 5:18 tells us as Christ has reconciled us to himself, he has given us the ministry of reconciling others back to Him, too.

The church in Corinth, as well as most churches in Rome were very hospitable.

Martin William Mittelstadt said of the Early Church, “Hospitality was no small matter for early Christians. Jesus both gave and received hospitality generously. For Luke, failure in hospitality leads to a fractured community and, if left unattended, hinders kingdom exploits. From the gospels, Christians are called to the practice of hospitality for the sake of themselves, their neighbours, and the kingdom.”

Hospitality starts within us.

Phil. 2:3-4 says, “Be free from pride-filled opinions, for they will only harm your cherished unity. Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves. 4 Abandon every display of selfishness. Possess a greater concern for what matters to others instead of your own interests.”

Paul writes the Church in Philippi, and he desires that this be their foundation, the bedding of their heart, and he would say when God’s people are one in heart and mind, they will seek to put others’ needs first.

We see Paul also encourage the church to actively pursue hospitality, indicating it should be a constant attitude, action and way of life.
In Romans 12:13 he instructs,
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

This is what an outworking of love looks like.
As we ourselves are fuelled and set aflame by the love of our Saviour and most gracious Host, we too, from a full cup, can eagerly pour ourselves out for others in the act of hospitality.

Romanss 15:7 instructs us by saying to welcome one another as Christ as welcomed you.
In a culture where it was easy for Jewish Christians to look down upon Gentile Christians and vice versa, Paul writes and urges them to embrace each other as family, even amongst diversity.
How wide could our embrace of people be if we didn’t cast a judgment on anyone but saw every person as loved of God and therefore, to be loved by us.

If you read 1 Tim. 3:1-2 & Titus 1:7-8 it is commanded also that all leaders must be hospitable.
In 1 Timothy, we see discussed the type of character that should be evident in a pastor and church leader’s life. The way a leader conducts their home life is extremely important and being hospitable to strangers was no exception. Especially since travellers would frequently come through and need a place to stay. It was expected that a church leader would freely open his home to them.

Hebrews 13:1-2 says to keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

While hospitality to strangers was an expectation of believers and church leaders, it went without saying that they would be blessed by doing this (as their Father Abraham had been).
“In the ancient world it was expensive to stay overnight at an inn, and such establishments usually had poor reputations. Thus, an aspect of Jewish and early Christian piety, as well as etiquette in the broader Greco-Roman culture, involved taking people in for an evening.”
By their doing this, with the foundation of Christ’s command to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, they would bring joy and refreshment to weary travellers.

In 3 John, we see the need and the blessing it is to show hospitality to those who are ministers of the gospel : “Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters,[a] even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.”

Hospitality is not a gift reserved for a select few, it is a command and a way of being that, as we are growing into Love and more into the image of Christ, each follower of Jesus will be hospitable.

1 Peter 4:8-9 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
Stemming from a time of great persecution for the Early Christians, as well as a time where they believed the return of Christ was near, Peter’s encouragement for them to love each other deeply was needed in a time where their current trials and testings could cause them to be stressed or overwhelmed.
For authentic Love is expressed in hospitality. it is a command, but not one that can just be followed, it’s a command to BE a hospitable person, it must flow from the heart.

John Piper says of hospitality, “It is not just a command that can be legalistically fulfilled with a quota of guests. It is a command to be a certain kind of person, namely, the kind that doesn’t resent having to be hospitable. The kind of person who doesn’t look at the extra dishes and bedding and bother—and grumble. “Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another.” Without murmuring. As the next verse (4:10) implies, let your hospitality be an extension or an overflow of God’s hospitality to you. Be a good steward of God’s grace.”

Even in James we see that true faith must be evidenced by hospitality.
4 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
Why is there a command to be hospitable? It has to do with ‘brotherly love’ – It’s what love looks like.

The church in Galatia was encouraged that in their caring for those around them, to not grow weary, for even for them a harvest would spring forth out of the sacrificial love they’ve sown.

Lastly, John’s vision in Revelation 21 gives us insight into our future hope:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

God will at last bring our eternal Home with Him to us. The final extension of his hospitality, where we are invited to the ultimate wedding feast with Jesus Christ, our Host who bears the scars marking his deep love for us in his hands, feet, and side.
Where we come Home to Him and to our true selves, where at last, his redeemed people are fully restored and finally home.

Hospitality Today 

What of hospitality today?

We live in a society that craves privacy and lack of involvement. There is a huge deficit in our culture in that it lacks genuine, deep relationships.
Too wrapped up in our own worlds, we hardly notice the people around us, let alone having an inclination to reach out to anyone in need.
In a time where we’ve never been so connected to information and of such high calibre, we have never been so disconnected and so empty, devoid of a quality life.
Due to an unending state of busyness – our hectic work lives, our families’ bustle of activities, the expectations of society to keep up with the latest events and trends have made home for the western Christian a place of peace where they don’t want anyone else intruding and disturbing that peace. But I’m not simply talking about our physical homes, though this is true. But we have essentially become our own personal and private fortresses. It could almost go without saying that most people do not welcome people easily into their physical homes where amidst affluence and abundance we became prideful about our homes and let our fear of man (and man’s judgement on our houses, decor, & food) override our Biblical command to practice hospitality.
But, as difficult as it has become, we must embrace Jesus’ hospitable heart toward us once again to then extend his invitation again to others.
Exposure of oneself has never been so readily achievable, and yet people are only showing what they deem worthy to be viewed,
While we are in a time of having more access than ever before to a person at the click of a button, people are more hidden than ever.
With every post and every image, they are crying out, “see me. know me. want me.”

We change our worlds not just by starting a successful ministry, writing a hit worship song, etc. but by BEING representatives of Jesus in this world…including, and especially, in our own homes.
The extent of our reach toward others is seen in our capacity and ability to love and receive broken, messy people into our own fragile, imperfect lives…and homes.

Hospitality is so much more than just inviting people to your home.
It is inviting people to yourself.
To see you, know you, and receive of Jesus from you.

I’ll end with a challenge from St. Benedict:

“You want to be open, you want to let others into your life – what do you do? Whatever plan you devise, one thing is undeniable: such a change starts within… Here is the core of hospitality: May I know you better? Will you come closer, please? No, it will not be easy, but make no mistake about it, your life depends on this saving stranger coming to you and stretching your tight little heart.”

This is radical hospitality.

 

 

SOURCES:

Bruce, F. F., ed. The International Bible Commentary with the New International Version. Rev. ed. [London] : Grand Rapids, Mich: M. Pickering ; Zondervan, 1986.

Carson, D. A., ed. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England ; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Clarkson, Sally, Sarah Clarkson, and Inc Recorded Books. The Life-Giving Home: Creating A Place Of Belonging And Becoming. Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2016. Accessed May 24, 2018. http://rbdigital.oneclickdigital.com.

Ennis, Pat, and Lisa Tatlock. Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others. Wheaton, Ill: Good News Publishers, 2007.

Guthrie, George H. Hebrews. The NIV application commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

Homan, Daniel, and Lonni Collins Pratt. Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love. Glasgow: Wild Goose Publications, 2007.

McKnight, Scot. 1 Peter: The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text…to Contemporary Life. The NIV application commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 1996
.
Mittelstadt, Martin William. “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: A Theology of Hospitality in Luke-Acts.” Word & World 34, no. 2 (2014): 131–139.

Pohl, Christine D. Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999.

Strauch, Alexander. The Hospitality Commands: Building Loving Christian Community: Building Bridges to Friends and Neighbors. Littleton, Colo: Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1993.

Tenney, Tommy. God’s Favorite House: If You Build It, He Will Come. Shippensburg, PA: Fresh Bread, 1999.

Water, Mark, Matthew Henry, John Wesley, and C. H Spurgeon. Multi New Testament Commentary. Alresford: John Hunt, 2003.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill: Victor Books, 1989.

Willis, Dustin. The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017.

“(1) Design Patterns in Biblical Narrative – YouTube.” Accessed May 25, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkqsQpck8YU.

“Hospitality Through the Bible: Old Testament.” Young Wife’s Guide, May 14, 2013. Accessed May 24, 2018.
https://youngwifesguide.com/hospitality-through-the-bible-old-testament/.

“Strategic Hospitality.” Desiring God. Last modified August 25, 1985. Accessed May 24, 2018. https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/strategic-hospitality.

Under Pressure

God delivered a word to me just in the nick of time for my need. And I believe it will speak to you also if you’re in a pressing.

This final semester of my BTh has been the most difficult and challenging time in my academic experience to date (and just in life really).

I’ve literally had to rely on the Spirit for every moment. It’s been a literal ‘no worrying about tomorrow because today has enough trouble of its own’ (Matthew 6:34).

And while on the outside it can appear like, Oh essays are hard, academia is out of my comfort zone, this class or that essay is beyond my interest and I just wanna get it done. But it is far, far deeper than this. And if these kind of things are all I was to focus on, I’d miss it.

And I don’t want you to miss it. I don’t want you to miss why you’re under the pressure you’re under, feeling the weight of it. Because if you miss the unseen reality and you just focus on the seen reality of the circumstance and the season, you’ll miss the gold. You’ll get caught up in the schedules, the checklists, the task, the time managing, the whatever.

So last night 3 essays were due, and the final one I was submitting yesterday was one I’d been pretty stressed about most of the time I was working on it, until I let go and let God’s grace fill me with peace and help me endure.

And today I started to collect research/books for my next major essay due in less than a week, and the weight of the assignment just hit me hard. I saw the limited time I had to do it, and my inability to do it and I started a minor freak out inside just asking, “seriously! how will I do this?! Lord you HAVE to help me!” (because I’ve realised by this point that there’s no getting a thing done without the Spirit).

And as I got on my knees and surrendered he spoke this so clearly:

Lift your eyes off the external realities to see the unseen.

Don’t allow the pressure you’re under cause you to look at the external realities – this will only make you fearful or anxious (as you know from past experience).

This pressure is of the Lord, and it is a refining. It is not there to make you lose your peace or make you stressed.

This refining, this pressure, is pointing to an UNSEEN reality.

Do not try to get out of it prematurely because you want to be comfortable. It won’t be comfortable.

Do not focus on the outward things.

“Obedience is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22) – I don’t want you to go through the motions. I want your all. Don’t offer Me that which costs you nothing (2 Samuel 24:24).  Be like the poor widow and give me everything you have (Luke 21:3). (Flip that was huge for me… He really wants our everything and nothing less).

Keep your eyes fixed on Me (Hebrews 12:2) and what I am doing in the midst of your external realities.

Walking by faith and not by sight – the whole point of it all is to set your eyes on things above and not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2)! So why are you so fixated on what you see/feel?! L I S T E N to Me.

Your life is hidden with Christ in God. This life of faith involves the unknown and mystery and hiddenness.

The Enemy would distract you with external realities (your circumstance/burden/challenge/struggle/season/need).

But I say, Lift up your eyes.

This is a refining.

The higher the heat and the higher the pressure

The purer you will become.

This isn’t about what you think it’s about.

I’m doing something IN YOU.

Don’t resist it, My child. Rest in it.

TRUST ME IN THIS.

 

 

I Hear The Chains Falling

Last night I had a dream in which I was with all the Hillsong College students outdoors.
Hundreds and hundreds of missiles came straight at us. They were hitting some of us.
In the dream, I knew it was a ‘terrorist attack’.
Everyone started running away from the missiles. I too started to run away from them.
But then I turned around and thought, “No. I can’t run from this.”
I stayed and knew I needed to gather all the Hillsong students together and sing Break Every Chain. I knew if we did this, the terrorists could hear us and we would be vulnerable to the enemy, and I started to be fearful.
But then I knew, I had nothing to fear because of Who was in me. Then I woke up.
All day I’ve felt under attack, and it got stronger when I got to church tonight.
I just knew I needed to lean in because the Lord wanted to do something.
As I sat in my seat upon arrival, the Spirit told me “you’ll sing Break Every Chain”
Rick Godwin preached about vision and seeing with eyes of faith instead of fear.
I knew I needed to stand firm in my faith and not back down in fear from anything God asks of me. Because it was bigger than me.
And then, we were going to pray for people with sickness in their bodies and believe for healing.
Dave Ware started singing Break Every Chain.
Immediately God’s revelation swept over me, the entire attack I was feeling all day lifted, and I now know in the dream the Lord was telling me to intercede for people (esp. Hillsong peeps) who are under attack (and perhaps also specifically in areas of illness).
God doesn’t want his kids running in fear of the enemy, he wants them standing confidently in Him and His Word (which is our weapon!) and unafraid because we are wearing HIS armor! Worship is our warfare.
God has been telling me all week that He gave me the gift of healing and that I just need to be bold and step out and pray for people.
So if you’re reading this and you have any sickness in your body, I am praying for you.
I see all these illnesses as missiles sent from the Enemy to take you out, but the Lord wants you to stand firm. He has more for you yet.
If fear has been gripping your heart or mind in ANY way regarding this, I am praying and declaring in the name of Jesus that fear will go and Peace will come.
If you want prayer, let me know.
You’re not alone! Don’t stay isolated in this. Freedom and healing is your portion in Jesus.
If you want to hear my testimony of being healed, just ask!
Ephesians 6
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
There’s a lot of power in this song, and I believe God is using it. I suggest listening to it and declaring it over yourself and others.

The Secret’s Out…

God and I have a secret together.

Well, I’m about to tell you, and it won’t be a secret anymore, but I’m relishing this time where I can sort of be like Mary after she got news and “treasured and pondered these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

At this moment, in my heart, I believe I am

STAYING IN AUSTRALIA 😀

Even just typing it makes me smile.

There’s been a wrestling happening in my spirit recently about what’s next, and I realized it was due to some fear and insecurity.

I find myself restless at times here, wanting to go somewhere else, be with someone else, be doing something else.

And today, I got quiet before God and he told me,

“Maria, this place is your home. You are at home in this church, you’re at home in what I’ve put in your hands to do, you’re at home in this land. But there are still parts of you that haven’t put down roots here because you’ve been afraid to. You’ve been holding back and resisting it because you thought you were just passing through, but with every passing year, you’ve seen that I haven’t told you to go anywhere else yet. And even though you’re finishing your degree, I still haven’t told you to move. I know leaving has made sense to your logic, but don’t you see, I haven’t opened up a door? But recently I’ve been opening up slivers of doors here, not completely, but partially, because I want you to trust Me and say yes and take one step forward. I know you’re afraid. I know you have questions. But I am just as present here as I would be if you were anywhere else. I have more for you here. Consider how I brought you here.”

He told me all that, as I was lying by the pool, by myself, and sobbing with the things he was telling me. I then proceeded to look back at glimpses of moments along the journey that brought me to this place… to Australia.

It started when I was thirteen.

I was sitting at a youth conference called Acquire the Fire. That session they left brochures on our seats and proceeded to tell us about a branch of their ministry called Global Expeditions. You could go on a mission trip for 2 weeks up to 2 months in one of many countries to choose from. I remember sitting there, in a quiet moment, turning page after page and looking at the countries. I’d never left America before. After looking through them all I landed on the page: Australia. “This place looks amazing.” I filled out the interest card and they called me a few weeks later.

I can’t remember exactly why I changed my mind and ended up going on a mission trip to the Bahamas that year (maybe it was cheaper or something), but I pressed pause on Australia until the next year. This next year I was sure I was called to Australia. I thought I was called to be a missionary to the Aboriginal people. I remember getting library books out about Australia and the Aboriginal culture and reading them. (Bear in mind, God never told me I’d be a missionary to Aboriginal people, I logically made this conclusion myself one night when God spoke to me and gave me prophecies for Australia.)

I remember organizing an incredible fundraiser the following year for this trip to Australia. I’ve always been a great planner/organizer, full of ideas and enthusiasm. I organized an event that was well advertised (even on the radio/newspaper), and you know what? Not a single person showed up for the concert. I was about fourteen years old, and I remember at the event that night not being disappointed. I knew immediately the Lord was saying not to go to Australia yet. That year I went on a mission trip to New York instead and I was healed on that trip of a 5-year sickness I’d gone through. That trip was a monumental time where I was emboldened in my faith like never before and saw God do amazing things in me and through me.

The following year I remember thinking I’d go to South Africa because my sister had gone to Africa and it sounded like an amazing place to go.  During this year was when I stumbled across a video on Youtube…

I can’t seem to find the exact video, but it was something like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbyk1L6HbxM

And at this point, I’d always known Hillsong’s music, played it in church all the time and sang it since I was twelve years old, but I never knew they had a church or a college. I saw the video and I remember feeling a massive stirring in my spirit and knew, “I just HAVE to be there!”

Around this same time I was also looking into a leadership school in Texas that my sister went to. I got accepted to attend as well.

When I went to South Africa, God stopped me in my tracks as he spoke to me through Abraham’s life in Genesis and the way God called him. He told me I’d be settling for less if I went to the school in Texas because he put Australia in my heart and gave me a desire for Hillsong College. Just as God told Abraham ‘Leave your country and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), He told me the same. I said yes immediately. I told the team I was with that night and they laid hands on me and prayed for me. One of the girls saw a vision that I will never forget because it has remained true to this day. She saw me standing in darkness (not darkness as in ‘bad’ but darkness as in unknown/mystery). But as I kept my eyes locked with God’s eyes – which were eyes of fire, then when I’d take a step into the darkness where I couldn’t see where I was going, angels would literally come and put their hand under my foot and turn it in the direction I was meant to go. This happened with every step.

That night I (in Johannesburg, SA) called my Mom back in Tennessee and told her I said yes to the Lord and I’d be going to Australia for Hillsong College in a few months.

When I got home from South Africa, God kept speaking. He reminded me that after He called Abraham, it took 25 years of character building before Abraham truly became a father of many nations. And just like Abraham, it would take time with me. So even though I was eager and was ready to jump on the plane the next month, he had me stay in Tennessee almost two more years to work, save money, plan, prepare, and build my character some more. I was thankful.

The following year, I’d found out through my girl I sponsored that the Horn of Africa was experiencing a major drought. And I’ve always been the girl that always believed God could use my ideas and my gifts for whatever, so he planted a movement in my heart. I called it the Empty Bellies Movement. I won’t go into that whole story now, but I’m saying it to say, God put Africa on my heart at this time. (South Africa I went not because I felt called there but more to ‘check it out’, and after SA I wouldn’t have said I was IN LOVE or called to Africa.) I was so moved by what was happening in East Africa that I wanted to go there. So I went to Ethiopia and Uganda and there was just something about Africa I loved. Was it the air? The culture? The people? The land? I don’t really know what it was, to be honest. But I felt like I could go back. Wanted to go back. I encountered a lot of spiritual warfare there but I saw God do a lot, too. It had a small piece of my heart. And even though it seems distant to me at times, it still holds its place there.

So two years later, I was nineteen, I left my home, my family, my country. And to be honest, when I left, I wasn’t looking back. I didn’t know how long I’d be in Australia, but God had my yes. I thought maybe I was going to college to be equipped to be a missionary in Africa. These thoughts intensified when he would give me dreams at night of specific countries, or dreams where I’d catch glimpses of me ministering to young girls and orphans in certain places. But he never said when. And I’m still waiting. Whenever God opens that door, I’ll go. But I know it’s not right now.

So, fast forward 5.5 years, and I’m still here. And with each year, God continues to solidify my deep trust in Him and my Yes remains. Every time I think I might leave and he has me stay. And then today, I realized how much I want to stay. This week he showed me how the passions and gifts he’s given me, He wants me to use here for now. And He wants to build on them, help me grow and strengthen them, and use them for the Church.

Some of the fears are still present, but I know He will help me deal with them as we go. His track record of faithfulness, tenderness, care, and provision are so vast, I wouldn’t dare doubt him for a moment.  So I’m praying He will help me to put those remaining roots down into this good soil, and that I’ll continue to become who He sees me to be.

I know my faith in Him, His power, His ways, His love, His heart for me is bigger than my inability, my lack of understanding, my questions, my insecurities. Even in remaining here, I still feel like I’m stepping into the unknown.

But I know He is with me, and so I step forward.

Psalm 16 I declared ‘my life chapter’ a few years ago, and this specific verse has been the verse for this season:

Lord, I have chosen you alone as my inheritance.
    You are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion.
    I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands. 

Psalm 16:5

 

what’s my next step?

“What will you do when you graduate?”

A question I’m asked often.

I remember being asked this when I was graduating high school and I was planning to come to Australia. All I knew was I’d go to Australia, and it was open-ended. I didn’t have a plan, I had a word from God. And it’s been unfolding ever since I gave him my yes. A yes that is given again and again, day after day, moment by moment, ever since I gave him my whole life when I was young.

We love to do stuff. Checklists, goals, achievements, accomplishments, progress. Yes, it’s wired into us, our very beings – to grow and flourish. We also love to be busy, I don’t think that’s really intrinsic in us as much as it is a cultural immersion you get thrown into and go with.

God has clearly told me at the start of this year that He wouldn’t tell me the plan till I needed to know, and that I needed to focus in these months remaining in Sydney. He hasn’t changed his mind. But the occasional, “what are you doing after?” that inevitably comes, has me sometimes go in that circle of, ‘God are you sure you don’t want to tell me anything?’ and then I start on a little cycle of going through my ideas and passions and how I could DO something with them this year. What ministry I could join, what country I could go to, what thing I could do…

Sometimes, when God hasn’t given us our next step, we like to jump ahead (insert impatience here) and make a decision or make some plans because we think, surely I can’t just wait, surely I need to be DOING something!

I am doing something. I’m in my final semester of my Bachelor of Theology and my fifth and possibly final year living in Sydney, in preparation of whatever is next.

That is no small thing. Preparation, discipline, training, and a time of trust is never a small thing.

The power of focus is a powerful thing. #obviously

But sometimes inside there’s this voice (not the Lord) telling me, ‘you should KNOW what you’re called to, you should have a ten-year plan, you should just KNOW…’

But God was never into us just doing stuff.

Our hearts have always been his priority. He doesn’t need us to do stuff for him.

I know that’s a shock to us sometimes.  But it’s true.

And tonight He reminded me yet again of the purposes He has in mind.

I thought it might speak to you as well, especially if you’re in a time when you can’t see what’s up ahead, you’re dying to know but He’s purposefully not telling you yet… I feel Him say

I don’t want you committed to an assignment.

I want you committed in love to Me.

Our relationship is primary.

Any fruit that comes out of this love relationship, this intimacy, is a treasure indeed, but it is not before you and Me.

I love you so much, I don’t want you to choose doing something for Me over loving and knowing Me.

This is eternal life, that you would know Me.

“and don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, [or your ministry] defines your life.” – 1 Cor 7:17

So don’t be apologetic for not knowing what’s next. You’re right in My will. You’re on your own faith journey with Me. Let the others chase tasks and ministries and plans and agendas. Keep chasing Me. I’m more than able to give you a unique assignment – trust Me. I’ll do as I please. You are following Me, don’t doubt. You’re not missing it.

Remember, I know where to find you when I need you.

It’s okay to Be. To enjoy this season and give yourself to this season without thinking about the next one. I’m present with you here and now.

You are not lazy, misguided, unpassionate or foolish. You are My faithful, Beloved.

As you run toward Me, dreams will happen to you.

 

God does have a plan, even if you don’t know it fully yet.  I’m not undervaluing the task, for we are given a mission and it is indeed important. I’m speaking to a specific season in life. 1

Stay present with Him. He wants you more than anything.

 

25 Things

I turned 25 today.

And I like lists. So here’s a few…

25 Things I’ve Learned

  1. God isn’t in a hurry, so I don’t have to be in a hurry. I can be gracious and patient with myself and others. Time and seasons are gifts to be sipped slowly, like a good cup of coffee. Enjoy the season you’re in and don’t be living in the next thing all the time.
  2.  Undivided attention is worth far more than my ability to be two places at once. What I mean is, be in the moment. With people, and also in the times you’re resting or being in God’s presence. These are the best times.
  3. To really love people is a sacrifice and it isn’t easy.
  4. My key to productivity, never being tired and being my best self: Getting 8 hours of sleep most nights, keeping my morning routine of 5am exercising, spending time with Jesus, reading, journaling, and cooking breakfast and listening to podcasts.
  5. Anytime someone needs something I have, I give it.  Holding onto things because you think you might need/want it later is individualistic when we’re meant to be a community. This is pretty easy with material possessions but your faith in this area is tested most in finances.
  6. God wants willing people, not talented ones. 
  7. Listen when people are talking instead of thinking about what you’ll say next. I’ve also learned about myself how much I value when someone is really listening to me. I appreciate that more than anything.
  8. Look people in the eye. 
  9. It doesn’t really matter how much I know or how long I’ve been doing life with Jesus, but what does my life look like? Who am I? How’s my heart? Am I becoming more like Love? 
  10. Never stop reading because it’s a key to growth and learning. 
  11. Stick by my convictions, even if they’re not popular. Just an example, but I have personal strict convictions about what I’ll watch or listen to, and this makes my entertainment scope very narrow, but I don’t apologize for it. Either watch a family feel-good movie with me or find another friend 😂 Leads me to the next one…
  12. Whatever you feed yourself will determine the fruit you’ll see.  Learned this in the area of food as well as spiritually, emotionally, mentally. I don’t have time to feed my eyes/mind/heart with rubbish, negativity, anything that isn’t uplifting. If you don’t like what’s coming out, change what’s going in.
  13.  Every sunrise is worth watching. It’s a constant reminder of God’s grace of a new day, a new morning. It’s like He’s whispering quietly, “we can do this”.
  14. Don’t hold encouraging words in. If you are ever thinking about a good thing you see in someone or love about someone, just tell them. Don’t wait for it to be fancy or convenient or whatever, just tell them.
  15. Don’t allow fear of what people will think to stop you from being your whole, truest self. Chances are really good that by you unashamedly being your real self, they will feel the freedom to be themselves, too.
  16. No person is an inconvenience or of less importance
  17. I don’t make decisions based on money but on faith. If God has put something on my heart to do, I will say yes and make the decision to do it. I personally find it that simple. If the money isn’t there yet, I’ll pray and seek God for that aspect. That’s pretty much how I’ve lived my whole life and I haven’t been unable to do anything I’ve decided to do, even when I didn’t have the money at the time of the decision (or realistic prospects of getting the money!). It’s amazing what we are capable of, or the opportunities that will come, or the miracles that will take place when we just say yes.
  18. I can be disciplined and flexible at the same time. A daily tension of responsibility/personal leadership and relationships.  You need the balance of structure and margin.
  19. Be kind to yourself. You’re doing better than you think and you are loved more than you know.
  20. For me, actions mean so much more than words. Don’t tell me you care about me, show me. This is how I tend to love people as well. (which isn’t ideal for those whose love language is words haha)
  21. I’m a whole person and am living the dream right now. While of course, I desire to marry at some point or live somewhere else or whatever, I don’t need to wait for anything else to come to pass, I’m living life to the fullest right here, right now.
  22. Every person is uniquely beautiful. Find out what is lovely about them and appreciate and tell them. Bring out the best in people this way.
  23. Integrity is in the smallest things. 
  24. Make decisions based on convictions, not feelings. 
  25. Find joy in everything you do.

 

25 Things I Love

  1. Dancing
  2. Photography
  3. Writing
  4. Designing jewelry
  5. Sunrise at the beach trips
  6. Making coffee
  7. Making people laugh
  8. Laughing
  9. Watching happy movies
  10. Playing board games
  11. Reading
  12. Baking
  13. Spending time by myself
  14. Spending time with one close friend
  15. Traveling
  16. Discovering the best way to do something (strategy)
  17. Coming up with ideas
  18. Pedicures, massages, getting a haircut
  19. Making prophetic collages for people
  20. Little things/details, like listening to the birds, looking at clouds, ambient lighting, cleanliness, etc
  21. Steffany Gretzinger’s music/worship/heart
  22. Dreams, literal ones in the night.
  23. Gifts!
  24. Questionaires, exams, tests, competitions
  25. Op shops / thrift stores

 

25 Random, Possibly Unknown Facts About Me

  1. I like spelling.
  2. I only speak English, want to learn German, used to know some sign language (took a course in the US)
  3. I speak in many random accents, unintentionally
  4. Atmosphere is very important to me. Yes, making other people feel comfortable, but also having the right atmosphere is imperative for me.
  5. I like wildflowers, I don’t find the flowers wrapped in plastic from stores very appealing. My favorite flower is a specific kind of rose that I had at my old house, and I don’t even know what it’s called, so not sure how I’ll grow them at my future house.
  6. I love organization and need it to function, but I’m naturally messy. A daily tension I live with.
  7. 98% of the time I don’t eat till I’m full. I also eat every hour (ha could be related… but I do have a fast metabolism)
  8. I’ve only pulled 2 or 3 all-nighters in my whole life.
  9. I despise cockroaches more than most things
  10. Fragrances are very important to me.
  11. I don’t love dogs
  12. I love cats
  13. My whole childhood (like literally almost all of it) is on film
  14. I love making videos (don’t think I can call it filming)! You’ll find some weird videos on my youtube channel.
  15. I basically never edit anything I write…not even my essays (shh…) that might be a terrible practice that needs to change…
  16. Rainbow lorikeets are my favorite birds
  17. I love chocolate.
  18. When I have a random question, I generally google it before I ask a person. This also may need to change…
  19. I enjoy researching coffee
  20. I will go to a movie by myself
  21. I grew up in a town of 5,000 people
  22. I hate texting conversations. Please find me in person or just call me.
  23. I’ve had a blog since I was 13 years old.  I’ve also kept every journal since I was the same age, they’re all dated on the outside and I keep them to re-read them later.
  24. I’d rather have a couple of close friends than a group of friends
  25. I like to live in the moment