Spoken Love.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the power of spoken words. I mean, it's hard not to with all the opinions floating around the world today and finding myself in a leadership role at a discipleship training school. Words are important. Which is funny, because I’ve also been very passionate about people being quiet long enough to honestly listening and hear what is truly being said by someone other than themselves.

There’s power in both, but back to words for the moment (and this blog).

I’ve discovered there’s almost an unknown dichotomy within words. In fact, I would say words are the most commonly unnoticed paradox in our world today. Let me explain. When you use the human vocabulary to describe a situation, an emotion or experience, those words have the ability to completely encompass an atmosphere and deeper sentiments. They fulfill this unspoken need to connect and be understood. Words can naturally cultivate an environment of acceptance and freedom. On the other hand, they so concretely define that in which they describe to the point of restriction. They have the ability to hinder the human need to go beyond what’s before them, to search, discover, and learn. We use one word to reference anything and it’s hard for us to allow our minds to go outside that box of definition in relation to what is being described. In one word you can ultimately invite others to continue the journey of discovery or compel an irrevocable mindset. Words hold weight and we, the writers, hold the responsibility of the words we choose to put into script. Words have the power and authority to dramatically change the world, for the better. They can take a hopeless frame of mind and transform it into a passionately hopeful perspective. Unfortunately, they also have the power and authority to destroy what was never meant to be broken. As I’ve thought about this concept recently, the creation story kept coming up in thought. Our Heavenly Father created us through the power of spoken word and it’s evident throughout the Bible that God doesn’t take the meaning or intention behind words lightly. In Proverbs 18:21 He tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” As Christians, we have the opportunity and responsibility to follow in Christ’s footsteps. In John 12:49 Jesus says, “I have not spoken on My own, but the Father who sent Me has commanded Me what to say and how to say it." If you are a Christian, you hold within you the Spirit of Christ. You have a direct connection to the Author of Life through Christ’s death on the cross. This is incredible news because the following verse tells us this: 
“And I know that His command leads to eternal life. So I speak exactly what the Father has told Me to say."

Somehow God has entrusted us, as His children, to listen and then speak eternal life into those around us. We are the vessels in which Heaven is being released on Earth. Ask, receive and be faithful. We get to be guided by love, to a place of love, in order to speak and be love to those placed before us. This world will never stop needing love and we get to play a part of making love a reality. We are called to release that agape love through both actions and spoken words. I'm praying God increases our capacity to love well.

Spoken love.
What a gift.


“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
-Isaiah 55:11

Silence.

Wow. I am sorry for pushing my blog aside for so many months. In all honesty, I haven't had much to share. These last few months have been filled with an overabundance of questions, a beckoning for clarity and the desperate cry for humble boldness to be a pattern of life. I had done a lot of talking with (at) God, but received very little to no reply. Through the frustration, I have been shown how to embrace the sincere intimacy silence offers. I have discovered a true mark of any deep relationship is found within the silence shared between two individuals. Are you comfortable in the silence? Do you trust someone enough to share in the silence with you? Will you be faithful in the waiting? When it comes to our Heavenly Father, silence is not a display of disconnection. Silence is not selfish. Silence does not create distance. Silence is not a lack of effort or things to say. Silence is powerful. Silence is intimate. Silence is a moment of enticing stillness. Have you ever noticed how you become more mindful the less you speak? I had taken for granted the quietness and forgotten to enjoy the silence. God used these last several months to graciously remind me of the joy found within the stillness of Him. He's taught me to chase after Him, rather than an answer and He's shown me the beauty of simply being with Him. 

Through the stillness I have somehow found my way back to the land of Kiwis. I'm not sure exactly what God is up to next, but I know it's worthy of my attention, time and effort.  


I wanted to share a few photos of my life here in New Zealand, because what's a blog of mine without photos? Enjoy!

This sunrise was the first thing I saw in New Zealand as I was walking outside to catch my last flight.

This sunrise was the first thing I saw in New Zealand as I was walking outside to catch my last flight.

Our lodge.

Our lodge.

My room.

My room.

Our driveway.

Our driveway.

Hoatu means "to give" and Kaimua means "first fruits". This is the lodge I get to call home. I can't complain(:

Hoatu means "to give" and Kaimua means "first fruits". This is the lodge I get to call home. I can't complain(:

Our driveway.

Our driveway.

The rest of these photos are from our day off at Waihi Beach.

The rest of these photos are from our day off at Waihi Beach.

Trevor & Barker...I mean, Kaylee.

In September, I went home for ten days. Most of the trip consisted of birthday parties, weddings and photoshoots. I definitely did not mind! Especially, since that meant I got a chance to photograph this couple. Kaylee is one of those incredible individuals that never ceases to amaze you with how generous, kind, compassionate, wise and fun she can be in any given situation. I'm so happy she found someone who appreciates all of who she is and decided he just couldn't live without her. Trevor, you have won the lottery, and I'm sure she feels the same way about you. 

Mr. & Mrs. Klym

Allison, AKA: Ally-sone, and I go way back. In middle school, I don't think there was a single summer day that our friends weren't either at her house or mine. I have a box full of "secret" notes with her name on it and a handful of photos from our awkward phase that will never be shown to the outside world. She is an incredible friend and I would bet everything on her being an even better wife. Chris, treats her so well and it is very evident to see. Being at this wedding was a privilege. I'm so thankful to have be invited in on this special day and to play a small role in it all. Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Klym! 

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Patience, Humility & Self-Reflection

What do you do after an experience has left you completely speechless, yet with so much to say? What do you do when you come home to comfort everywhere you turn after living without electricity, showers, a toilet, or the typical freedom you find within American society? What do you say when you are asked how it feels to be back home, two seconds after stepping foot onto American soil, when your heart is still with those you met along the way? Left with those who quickly became family, your brothers and sisters who pushed past cultural and language barriers with their captivating laughter, compassionate glances, and warm smiles? What do you do when you feel completely numb, yet you have almost every emotion known to the human mind running through you all at once? What do you do when you're surrounded by mass amounts of technology which connects you to everyone, everywhere, at all times when everything within you just wants to curl up into a ball and fall off the grid? Unplugged, untouchable, and undetectable. 

Before I go further, I would like to state a few things:
I often use writing as a tool for self-reflection and that's why I want to be clear. I do not claim everything I have stated to be ultimate truth. That can only come from the Lord, and I trust what He desires to teach you through these words will become apparent while everything not from Him fades away. I genuinely feel like the things discussed in the blog are things God has been teaching me. I encourage you to talk to me over any disagreements or questions you may have. I love feedback!! Especially if I have missed or stated something unclearly. I know there are a lot more things that could be discussed, however, I don't feel I have authority to discuss those topics. Also, some of these things may seem to be "old news" or common sense to you, but recently God has been shedding new light on these topics for me, personally. 

#1. Don't Drift Away:
I've recently been reading through Hebrews and in the second chapter, a particular verse stood out to me: "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it."  (Now, I know this verse is talking about neglecting your salvation, but I took the opportunity to apply it to my short time away.) In a commentary I read on this particular chapter an old story about a deceased, ungodly farmer was mentioned. In his will, the farmer left his property to the Devil. The court struggled with knowing how to properly fulfill the farmer's demand, but finally the judge came to a conclusion: "The best way to carry out the wishes of the deceased is to allow the farm to grow weeds, the soil to erode, the house and barn to rot. In my opinion, the best way to leave something to the Devil is to do nothing." Drifting is a direct consequence of being idle. We don't have to do anything to drift away, it just simply happens through the lack of action when action is asked of us. Take the time to reflect back on your experience. Don't allow different experiences, newly gained knowledge or curiosity to go untouched. Whether your experiences were substandard or exceptional, we always have something to learn, gain, or discover.  

#2. Don't Isolate or Be Silent:
Back in October I told a friend, out of everything, I was most nervous for returning home. He gently responded with clarity and wisdom, "When you get back, jump into community. Surround yourself with people who love you and you love back." Immerse yourself in community. Isolation, only makes things worse. How do I know? Because I wasn't smart enough to listen to his advice. I was so overwhelmed that I hid away. Isolation allowed my unrighteous emotions to cultivate bitterness in my life. That bitterness encouraged me to become unproductive and silent. Don't let the Devil have that power over you. When the Devil rebukes you and tells you to be quiet, "Cry out all the more!" (Mark 10:48). Don't let the Devil tell you those truths spoken to you were invalid or invaluable. God speaks to His people and often times that's not meant to be kept to yourself. 

#3. Don't Create False Expectations:
I'm not going to lie, when I thought of coming home and talking to various people about my time away, it caused me a great deal of anxiety. Let's be honest, it's mostly my fault. I'm infamous for placing inaccurate expectations on myself. I worried about having the right thing to say or the right stories to share. Thankfully, we have a Heavenly Father who told me, "I am enough." He showed me I don't have to embellish a story to make it memorable. I don't have to hold back details of a story to make it relatable. As long as He's in the story, it will be remarkable. God doesn't need me to defend Him. He doesn't need me to talk Him up. He just wants me to reflect and be true to the work He's done in my life. To allow Him to feely move through those encounters. Whether those encounters meet others expectations (even my own) or not, that doesn't matter. It's all about being true to the encountered movement of the Spirit in my life and in those I met along the way. 

#4. Don't Stop At Emotions or Forget:
Often times I hear, and have said it myself, how different experiences were so impactful that they led to tears. Tears of sorrow, joy, laughter or all of the above. For some reason, our society has created this false perception that if you are moved by deep emotion it proves you have authentically been affected and changed. Going through the emotions has become enough to show adequate effort. I'm sorry, but I think that's ignorant. When we fail to push past emotions it encourages us to miss out on all of what God has to offer. God is more than our emotions. I think it's more important to look at what happens when those overwhelming emotions and tears are gone. To look at what one does when those experiences turn into past memories and the distractions of life are beckoning. As Christians, we need to be tenacious. We can't let those tears fall and allow that to be the last action taken. I'm learning to allow everything I have personally experienced to create greater intimacy with the Lord and change me. Use what once moved me to tears to eternally impact my life and the lives of those around me for the glory of our Heavenly Father. I'm learning what it practically looks like to partner with the Spirit in the ordinary of everyday. To create an invasion of the Holy Spirit in a world full of individuals who are constantly seeking an escape from all their worries and pain. "On Earth as it is in Heaven." We should desire to make this a reality in whatever season we find ourselves. Look back on the faithfulness of God in our lives for motivation, because it is everywhere. 

#5. Don't Rush:
Don't be so quick to have your mess fixed. We need to be cautious of opportunities to obtain immediate satisfaction. I've learned I should never feel ashamed of where I am at in my journey, as well as being humbly authentic about my frustrations and questions. We aren't called to have it all figured out, but to seek the One who brings indescribable understanding and peace. Life is messy. There's honestly no getting around that, but there's something to be said for how we react to the mess in which we find ourselves. How we get through the muck and filth. Don't diminish your discontentment simply because we live in a world that tells us we need to either have our act together or pretend like we do. Diligently seek Him while being brave enough to ask the hard questions. Come as you are, lay your mess at His feet and ask, "What would you have me do next?". Walk by His pace. His pace that's set in love. 

I'm still learning. I'm still reflecting. I'm still pondering. I'm still dreaming. 
But I'm okay with that, because I'm not doing it alone.

These photos may not mean much to you, but for the past several years I have taken this photo in various places I've been blessed to visit and explore. These photos represent God's faithfulness, His ability to cultivate awe and wonder in my life, and to give me a deeper passion for His vision for all of mankind. I often sit there in reflection, gratitude and prayer. I will always look back at these photos and remember the faithful promises God has spoken over my life. 

Closure

"Closure is the art of bringing to a satisfactory conclusion the passage of life through which we have just passed. Closure enables us to move from one passage of life to another without carrying burdens of guilt and false expectations. It allows us to build on previous experiences rather than camping in the emotional fog of past memories." -Peter Jordan

I wish I could say I have found closure, but I haven't. Not yet. These last five months have been full of new experiences, love, & growth. On a deeper lever, I have fallen in love with another country, remarkable individuals, the diverse Body of Christ & our relentlessly personal Heavenly Father. Although it's been a challenge coming back to America, I am determined to not let something so beautiful turn into something that cultivates sorrow or bitterness. Closure will come, it's just a matter of time.
 

Through these photos I want to invite you into my home away from home. Where I met God in a beautiful place and had incredible people by my side the whole way. 

Tasted and Seen

I'm still speechless looking back on my life these last five months. I have seen things I've only dreamed of witnessing, experienced cultures that have graciously expanded my view on life, met strangers who quickly became family and have fallen madly in love with our Creator. I'm still in the processing stage of my time away, but these two things are certain: this world has beauty far deeper than we are aware of and the presence of the Lord is here, moving with all authority and power faster than we acknowledge. Every single individual I came into contact with, on this journey, is deeply loved by our Heavenly Father in such a beautiful, tangible way. Every single place I have walked, whether that be a buddhist temple, a hindu sanctuary, the trails of the Himalayas, throughout the Taj Mahal, or the garbage-filled streets of Kathmandu's red-light district, God is here and holds preeminence. Because of Him, these last five months will be something I get to look back on for the rest of my life. Yes, there were extreme difficulties and times of discomfort, but I wouldn't trade those times for the world. I've tasted and seen that the Lord is good in a new, personal, undeniable way and there's no going back. I'm all in. 

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Mount Maunganui

The last three days have been full of crazy adventures. Christmas day was a blast! We all spent most of the day together, eating lots of food, and running down the slip-n-slide. It's an odd experience having Christmas in the summertime, but it's something I will never forget. A group of us went to the beach for the sunset and a couple of us ran up the mount, literally ran, to catch the view from the top. Thankfully we made it just in time for one of the most breathtaking sunsets I have ever seen. The next day a group of us went paintballing. I definitely got hit the most, and the majority of my body is swollen from welts, but it was so worth it! Today, we had three vans leave at 4:15 a.m. to try and catch the sunrise from the mount for one of our leaders birthday. Although the sun didn't really come out from behind the clouds, the city lights before dawn were an incredible sight. This Christmas break has been one for the books. I am so in awe of this part of the world and this time of my life. Here are some photos of the sunset and sunrise(:

Karangahake Gorge

I don't think I have ever loved a place more in my whole life. This historical hiking spot was exactly what I needed this weekend! These last few weeks have been pretty tough. Physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. There has been a lot going on, not just here in New Zealand, but with various things back at home as well. Long story short, I needed a day in nature, tramping through the woods (Kiwis call hiking tramping) and taking a ton of photos. My dream day. I couldn't stop smiling! I was like a little child, eager and amazed the whole day. Anyways, I wanted to share with you all how incredibly breathtaking the north island of New Zealand has been for me. 

New Zealand: Update Two

I think we can all agree that I'm terrible at writing blogs and keeping everyone up-to-date like I promised. The truth is I've been finding it challenging to not only process everything I'm experiencing and learning, but how to distinguish between the moments I truly want to share and the moments I want to keep private. I think that's why I tend to lean towards photography more than writing. It's a way for me to invite people into a moment and create an atmosphere of interpretation for each individual while keeping the true emotions behind the moment personal and sacred. Nonetheless, sometimes words need to be spoken and experiences need to be shared.

New Zealand has by far been one of the best decisions of my life. I don't take this time for granted. I am genuinely in awe of the reality of my life at the moment along with the evidence of God's grace. The fact that I have so many individuals supporting me through finances and prayer is something I thank God for constantly. I genuinely mean that. Me being here hasn't been of my own doing. God has provided this incredible opportunity through the obedience and faithfulness of so many individuals in my life. It has been a community effort to get me here and because of this truth it has been difficult for me to understand why so much of my time has been focused on myself. To put it plainly I've felt selfish, but God has been showing me New Zealand is a time to focus on myself in light of who God is and who He has made me to be. I need to be made aware of the areas in my life that need to be revamped, renewed, redefined, and regenerated. This is my time with God to focus on personal growth and self-reflection. With all that being said, I want to share a glimpse of how God has taken statements I've heard throughout my entire Christian life, transformed them and has given them a foundational permanency in my life.

The last several weeks have been hectic to say the least. Jumping from one thing to the next, moving and living on a ship for over a week, along with hosting a couple Christmas parties and starting outreach prep on top of lectures, one-on-ones, small groups and finding alone time. It's all been a blur. But thankfully it's still been a time of growth and renewal. One thing God started to share with me before starting this journey, and has continued to show me in detail through my DTS lectures, is the joy of repentance. I don't know about you, but growing up I formed an extremely skewed understanding of repentance. When I heard this word I subconsciously changed my view of God and His character. I formed a mind set around this word that twisted my mentality to view God as someone who sat high on a seat shaking His finger at me. I approached the throne as a small child in trouble and full of shame. Throughout relationships and my time here, I've come to realize I'm not the only one with this frame of mind. God hit me hard with this reality a couple weeks back, to some it might seem obvious, but to me it has taken 23 years to believe: repentance is meant to be an act of joy. God wants His children to stop trying to be the Holy Spirit. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to do His job by bringing repentance and conviction. God will never allow conviction to come into our lives in a hindering way, that's condemnation. Rather conviction is about freedom, empowerment, and relationship built on a foundation of love.

So I personally aspire to live a life of joy-filled repentance in light of God's character, His nature, and His desire for my life. "The Lord is compassion and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love." God always comes from a place of love. Instead of looking at the sins in my life and seeing myself as a failure, I choose to look to God and see a Father who is cheering me on to become my true self. He is inviting me to rest on His lap and dangle my feet from His knees. He has never come to us with a hidden agenda. He is and always has been for us. He wants the best for you and He knows the best for us. He wants us to get past the junk in our lives in order to see ourselves in light of who He is and who He has made us to be. When it comes to God we have nothing of value to lose but everything of worth to gain. Nothing within you, not one thought, not one action or emotion has ever surprised Him. You have never let God down, because you were never holding Him up. He knows all of you and still chooses to pursue you. He is jealous for you. You are seen, you are heard, you are valued, and you are unforgettable to the King of all Kings. He's not just simply with you, but He notices you. He takes delight in you. You have His attention and affection. You are never put on the back burner in His heart or life. You have never been a face in the crowd, a statistic, an interruption or an inconvenience to Him. You are a dream of God that He has given breathe, life, flesh and bone to. He wants to be woven into every facet of your life. We serve a very personal Creator. Everything aspect of God's character is inviting us into a closer relationship with Himself so He can redeem us through His love. Repentance is just that, a way to bring us into closer intimacy with our Father. It's never done in condemnation or confusion. His love isn't complicated. So learn to come to the Father boldly, in humbleness, expecting to be wrapped in His love and develop a joy-filled life of repentance. Repentance brings change. Good change. He loves you enough to correct you, always. 

Here are a few more photos of my time here. The first photos are of the valley, it's where I do a lot of my thinking and talking with the Lord. The last portion is our week spent on a ship.

Life.

There's so much I could talk about, but my brain is fried at the moment so you will all have to wait. For now, here are some random moments of my life off the base. It's really nice to get a change of scenery after a long week of lectures & community life. The first part of this blog has photos from Hobbiton and the second part has photos from around Tauranga/Mount Maunganui. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them(:  

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A Whole New World

(I know...cheesy name for this blog, but I committed to it.) 
Here are a few photos of my time in New Zealand so far. It's so hard to capture ALL the beauty and excitement, but I'm trying. If these photos don't work for you, I guess you will just have to come here and see it all for yourself(:

This was the plane I took from Auckland to Tauranga. It was a blast! One seat on both sides and extremely small, but full of adventure!

This was the plane I took from Auckland to Tauranga. It was a blast! One seat on both sides and extremely small, but full of adventure!

New Zealand knows whats up when it comes to coffee. 

New Zealand knows whats up when it comes to coffee. 

On our base we have orange trees & avocado trees. We really want to make guacamole, so we went avocado picking one day(:

On our base we have orange trees & avocado trees. We really want to make guacamole, so we went avocado picking one day(:

This is our Valley!

This is our Valley!

This is my family here.

This is my family here.

I'll See You Soon

These last few weeks have been somewhat of a blur. I was in Minneapolis, then home for a few days before heading to Minot for a night, from there onto Sioux Falls, then Denver, and eventually back to Sioux Falls before coming home to Bismarck with only 11 days left until I head to New Zealand. Thankfully, I have some incredible friends that I get to do life with in all of these places. I like these fools a lot. I will miss everyone, but I will see each one of you again soon. 

I hope you enjoy random photos of my travels featuring several rad humans. 

(Photo credit: Andrew)

(Photo credit: Andrew)

(Photo credit: Andrew)

(Photo credit: Andrew)

(Photo credit: Bryce)

(Photo credit: Bryce)

A 5 Year Old

Before you get too emotionally invested, I feel the need to warn you about the cuteness overload you are about to visually experience in this post. By looking at these photos you are choosing to put yourself at risk of the following emotions: anger because Trinbear is just THAT beautiful, potential joy and pride in the form of tears (since, let's be honest, all of the FB and instagram world has had no other option than to follow along via photos on my feed of her growing up), or envy over the fact that a five year old has better style than most of us. 

In all seriousness. These last five years haven't always been the easiest, but Trinity has made them worth it. She has shown our family a lot about what it means to simply be a child of God. I can't believe she is five. It seems like it was just yesterday that this photo was taken (please excuse the bangs, it was a very questionable time in my life... I don't want to talk about it). Turning five never looked so good on a child. She is loved beyond words, cared for by more people than she could count, and valued by the Creator of this world. Man, she is living the life!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TIKE! I love this one something fierce. 

Okay, now onto the good photos(:


Okay, now onto the good photos(:

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