Friday, November 21, 2014

Christmas and my Quest to Never Miss the "Seemingly Normal"

I confused a lot of people this past Sunday when I decided to put my Christmas decorations up and listen to Christmas music. Typically I am not an overhyped, Christmas fanatic and I definitely have been known to roll my eyes when people play Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Most of the time I'm just sick of it by the time Christmas actually comes and so I have been known to wait till the last minute to 'join' the Holiday fun. While I still hate commercial Christmas and the consumerism that has seemingly consumed people; I would be lying if I said that I haven't genuinely, myself, instigated Christmas early.

For the past 2 years I had the honor and the torture of working retail. I've seen people act more crazy than I thought was possible. I've been yelled at, sneered at and also, treated as a savior when helping people find gifts during this time. It is remarkable how close I was to just wanting to boycott Christmas altogether the last few years when thinking about Christmas being associated with the person who just walked away from me, having been so degraded simply because something was out of stock, which is totally out of my control.

And I literally almost cried when I found out that said retail store was opening at 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving day this year. I can't describe how sick this is. You see, when a store opens at this time, this means that most likely the people who unload and stock shelves will be there all night (we already were last year when we opened at 10pm) But then the people who have to set up all of the Black Friday (though now it's THURSDAY!) displays will most likely be working all of Thanksgiving day. So...no Thanksgiving for them. For me, this is a tragedy for Americans. We are teaching the next generation to devalue this day and the purpose of it. We are teaching them to replace being Thankful for all of the MANY blessings we've been given as a nation with consumerism, chaos, discontentment and displeasure. I've worked retail one Black Friday and it is literally the craziest thing I've ever encountered...and I've seen crazy things overseas.

Something is broken in our society. We are no longer teaching future generations the values of kindness, gentleness, thankfulness, patience, responsibility, etc. Sure, you might be within your home...but not society at-large. I don't mean to guilt anyone who goes out on Black Friday...that's not my intent. There are good deals. But think about what you're buying into, and think about how much you are encouraging these stores to just eat more and more into Thanksgiving. As I think about all of my co-workers who are still working retail, I just get sad. Sad that they will not have a Thanksgiving; many of them working just to get by and make ends meet for their families. More and more people are not getting holidays off simply to feed our consumeristic wants.

So, Christmas. I guess somewhere last year in the midnight shifts of retail I started losing the magic that Christmas brings. The wonder and the joy, the passion and the hope. Last year there were no decorations until December 8th. No presents bought, and no peppermint mochas until December 16th. I love giving gifts. I love dreaming about what I can do to bring someone joy and yet, I struggled last year just to get myself to a store. I guess this year I've just started to be determined to experience all that I know that God has for me in this very precious season. I don't want to miss the seemingly ordinary moments of beauty that He has set aside. I refuse to get caught up in all that Christmas shouldn't be (the consumerism)  and to focus in on the preciousness of what it is. A time to slow down, to celebrate deeply, to richly experience the preciousness of the gift that Jesus is to us.

When you think back to the birth of Christ...it was seemingly normal. He was born in a stable surrounded by animals to a probably poor family who was certainly disgraced because of Mary being pregnant outside of wedlock. Shepherds came. It was normal, if not a little pathetic. And yet, it was in this event that the very Savior of the world came to be with us. It was the most profoundly 'normal' moment that ever was.

Let's not miss any 'seemingly normal' moments in this Christmas season. Let's work to prepare our hearts for however He would want to encounter us in this time. Of course we work to do that in all seasons; but especially in this season let's take some time to just reflect on what it's about apart from the consumerism, apart from the business. Let's celebrate life. Not just His, but our own. If you have kids, take time to marvel in their little (or grown up) lives. If you have a job take the time to be thankful for what that's adding to your life. Let's not miss anything in this season...allowing ourselves to celebrate down to the last strand of tacky tinsel.

That's why my Christmas decorations are up. I'm working to rediscover the wonder, the joy and the delight we ought to feel as God's kids. I'm trying to slow down and to allow myself to be encountered by the reality that I am thankful for every seemingly normal and mundane moment. I'm thankful for my family, for the life I get to live. I'm thankful that I get to encounter Christ every day. I'm thankful for Christmas, and the rediscovering of it's beauty.

So as I sit drinking coffee, listening to Christmas music, staring out into the California "cold" I'm praying that this would be the most blessed Christmas season of your life. I pray that you would rediscover the wonder and the joy. The hope and the passion. I pray that you would be overwhelmed by God's goodness in every moment. And that you would truly be able to encounter His presence in the 'seemingly ordinary.'

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sound joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders and wonders of His love

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Responsibility. What's that?"

It's Tuesday. I'm sitting on my couch, in sweat pants and the work that I'm supposed to be doing is sitting besides me in a nice, neat stack. This morning I've been successful in washing my sheets and blankets, cooking delicious food, updating my finances, writing a few emails, getting my winter clothes out and putting my summer clothes away (finally!!) and yet I feel like I've done absolutely nothing.

About an hour after eating lunch I started to feel the Lord wooing me to come away with Him, to read His word, and to just be before Him. I felt the urge to write because that tends to be one of the most powerful ways that I connect with Him. I am sick to admit it but my thought was, "Oh, but I need to be responsible and get my class work done. I have too much to do and it needs to get done. "In that moment, I heard the Lord ask, "But what are you responsible to?"

Ooo, dang. I wish that I could explain the conviction I felt at that moment. I am all about responsibility. It's actually a strength of mine, to be 'responsible.' If I say that I'm going to do something, I do it. When I don't do something to the standard that I know I can do it, I feel it and it haunts me at times. But since when did it become ok for me to not be responsible to obedience? Since when did I become 'too busy' or 'too grown up' to be wooed away by God, Himself? Since when did my own agenda become more valuable or validated than His?

I know that I have a job that I do have to do, that I have classwork that has a deadline but doesn't God know that? And isn't coming into His presence and encountering Him the most important and valuable thing that we will ever do in our lifetime and for all of eternity? It grieves me so much to say it, but in the midst of life I have to schedule times for Him, and it could never be enough. I do know and recognize that His presence is with us wherever we are, that we can encounter and talk with Him in every activity. But are we so busy that we miss the small whisperings or the special moments where He wants to tuck us up under the shadow of His wings and love on us, and encounter us?

There is nothing more important that I will ever do on the face of this earth; nothing of more value than to hear Him, to recognize His voice, and to respond to it in obedience. So today, I slowed down. I'm sitting on my couch, encountering His presence and trying with all I have to hear His voice. My work is sitting beside me, right where it ought to be...2nd in line. I am responsible to respond; to His voice, to His wooing, to His romancing and the moments He has set aside for us.

Slow down.
Take some time to ask these questions for yourself. And with no shame involved answer honestly. I pray that these questions lead you into a deeper encounter with the one who loves you more than you could ever fathom. May He woo you away, today, and may you allow yourself to be loved by Him. He doesn't want you just surviving...rushing from one thing to the next. He wants you thriving, and fully alive in a love relationship with Him. He wants to hold you, to beckon you to a freedom you can only dream of. Oh to be free, and oh to be "response-able" to Him.

Am I responsible to obedience? 
Or am I content to just do my own thing? 
Am I ok with making my own way and not to being in tune with Him in every moment? 
What is the balance of being free and the recognition that I cannot and do not want to do anything apart from Him? 
How does He try to woo me, and how have I missed it?
What does responsibility even look like to you, Lord?
What can I lay down and what is not mine to carry or do, that I have made mine to carry?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mozambique 2015

To Africa!
As you all know, I am in my 3rd and final year at the Bethel School of Ministry in Redding, Ca. One important part of our experience, and for me personally is the opportunity to go on missions trips with 1800 other students from all over the world. The heart and passion of the Bethel Mission Trips Department is to see the sons and daughters of God in all the nations awaken to His goodness and love. As children of Heaven, we have access to His Kingdom and demonstrate His love, glory, and power in all aspects of society. Our strategy is to raise up a generation of world changers in their own nations to begin to run with their God-given inheritance to bring heaven to earth and transform their nation. This trip, through Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM), ultimately reflects the vision of the Bethel Mission Trips Department.

This year, I am excited and honored to announce that I will be traveling to Pemba, Mozambique to serve Iris Ministries. Iris is an amazing ministry with bases all over the world. Established by Rolland and Heidi Baker; they focus on serving the poorest of the poor, establishing churches and training and discipling leaders. Since around April I have felt the need and desire to go see how Iris functions at some point before I begin my own journey in missions. Through prayer and discussion with the leaders of this trip, I decided that now was the time to do so. I am so excited to continue my missions experience here and am blessed to continue to serve Iris in a different and deeper way. (last year in school I helped in their office on their U.S. base, which happens to be in Redding)  Check out Iris Global at: www.irisglobal.net

Below is a short description of the trip written by our leaders:
“Love must look like something”, Heidi Baker. We will join Iris Ministries in Northern Mozambique, to bring transformation to a nation, one child at a time. We will stay at the Pemba base, home to the children rescued from the streets. We will feed, hug and hold the children, love the widows, travel to the bush bush, invest in local Pastors and encourage and lift up the local missionaries. This trip is about becoming a tangible expression of the love of the Father to the people of this nation.
My trip will take place March 18-March 31, 2015. I ask that you please pray for my team as we begin to plan and prepare our hearts for this journey. There are 22 of us including my leaders and we are from all around the world. This will be like no other trip I've ever been on as we will be traveling to the remotest villages and will be living without most common amenities. I'm excited to join with Iris' vision in bringing love to the hearts.

I appreciate your prayers and interest in this part of my life. I will be experiencing a lot of new things with vaccinations, malaria pills and all that comes with traveling to Africa. If you would like to partner with me in any way, please let me know. I would love to hear from you!

For the glory of His name,
Lara Hochstetler
larahochstetler@gmail.com















Financial gifts can be made online at https://missiontrips.ibethel.org. If you wish your gift to be anonymous, please check the anonymous box. This will allow you to receive an end of year statement, but will not allow the student to see your name. This is a non-refundable donation to the Bethel Church Missions Department for the benefit of the trip specified. 

(If online payment is not an option, check donations can be made payable to Bethel Church and mailed to the following address: Bethel Mission Trips Department, 915 Twin View Blvd., Redding, CA 96003. Please include a note with the donation designating which student’s trip you are supporting.)

You can also send checks to World Indigenous Missions:
World Indigenous Missions 
P.O. Box 310627
New Braunfels, TX 78131-0627
Make checks payable to WIM and write “Missionary 276” in the memo or give online at
-If you give through WIM please let me know so that I know to use the funds specifically for this trip. 


Friday, November 7, 2014

Why I'm obsessed with this word: Heritage

Well, it's another 'Heritage' Friday.

I love my Fridays. As many of you know Heritage is a local coffee shop which has incredibly good coffee along with a great environment. Heritage also happens to be something that I am completely captivated by. Not Heritage the coffee shop, but heritage-the thing in which my heart is obsessed. It started last Spring. I was in a season where I was working about 30-35 hours and doing school. I was exhausted and totally in survival mode. I felt like my emotions were always fried and my capacity for deep interaction with people was at an all-time low. I found myself frustrated with life even though I was seemingly living my dreams. I was living in beautiful northern California, going to an amazing school and church where the presence of God is like no where else I've ever been. Learning from amazing teachers, living with wonderful people. Having wonderful favor at work, minus great pay. But, to be honest I was miserable.

To make matters feel worse, I have an incredible standard that I hold myself to, and I was making myself miserable. For some reason it's perfectly fine for other people to be in process and make mistakes, but oh no not me. Also my environment wasn't really helping my already great dislike of myself. You see, in my culture it is not uncommon for people to pray for the sick and for them to be healed. I've seen legs and feet grow in front of my eyes. Felt backs pop back into place, cartilage pop back into being. It's also not uncommon for deep emotional needs to get healed, people delivered, etc. But last year during school? Nothing. I saw absolutely nothing.

One night I was at my assigned service and I was exhausted. The service was going long and my 4:05am alarm was set already for the next morning. I was about to leave when the leader asked us to gather around specific people to pray. To be honest I just wanted to sneak out but something made me stay. As I approached a man who was standing for prayer I asked the Lord, "What do I pray for? What do I possibly have to give that could have any effect on him?" I honestly didn't feel in that moment that I possessed one thing that could have any positive effect. In that moment, gently and sweetly I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, "You can release to him your heritage." It was the seed I needed. I took my small seed and I laid hands on him. I started to release my heritage to Him, I started calling in every family member that wasn't in the fold of God. That man started weeping. I went to a woman and started praying for my heritage to be established within her family... the same response. I found out at that point that she had 2 children not following God.

Now, of course we don't measure things by people simply weeping but you could tell it deeply impacted the desires of their hearts. Over and over again last year after that I got to pray for people who had kids that weren't following the Lord. My dislike for myself was caused by a lack of seeing what it was that I had. I looked at myself and only saw lack. A few weeks later I was laying in bed, asking the Lord to show me who I was. It was the eve of my leaving for the Middle East for the 2nd time. I was questioning what I had to offer, what I had to give. I asked...and God responded. (I should mention here, that another thing I'm obsessed with is the idea of being in covenant not only with God but also being an actual covenant to the people)

"Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands with for his law. 'I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness." -Isaiah 42
-then a few weeks later in worship:
"Thus says the Lord: 'In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, 'Come out,' to those who are in darkness, 'Appear.' They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them." -Isaiah 49

I can't tell you how much that fueled me. I have something to give. I have something to do. And more than that, this is who I am! And for me, it centers around the heritage I've been given, the heritage I've stewarded and the heritage I am to 'apportion' and establish. That started a crazy journey. I started seeing the word 'heritage' everywhere; on signs, billboards, businesses, in books and always when I least expected it. This past summer I was in California, Arizona, Texas, Indiana, Iowa, then in New York and Ireland in September and I saw it multiple times in each place...and 2 of these places I was only in the airport!

Needless to say, God is stirring something deep within me. I guess the short of it is, I've been given my heritage to give it away. My hope is to see Kingdom heritage established wherever I am, and most specifically within the Middle East.

Heritage to establish heritage.

I'm totally enthralled. And while I will visit this topic again and expound on what I think it even means and what it looks like I just thought I'd give you a peek. This is who I am. A covenant to the people, just as Jesus was, to establish the land and apportion the desolate heritages. I think it's what all missionaries are called to be...but we'll save that for another blog, too.

What is the heritage you carry? And what does heritage even mean to you? I'd love to hear!
L

Friday, October 31, 2014

Psalm 111

Have you ever had a week where you feel like no matter how hard you try, and no matter where you look you are reminded of your depravity? You can plan and prepare, analyze and think about how to make things better but you always seemingly fall short? You're late, can't seem to fully engage even though you keep beckoning yourself to 'just be better already'? And the more you can't seem to live up to your own standard the worse you get, falling deeper and deeper into frustration and becoming more and more aware of the way you 'should' be and where you actually currently are.

Yep. That's been me. This week started like any other week. I had a beautiful list of all of my events set out in a row. I had my perpetual list of things to do and accomplish. My ducks were in a row and I was 'ready.' Until, I wasn't. There's been no astounding event that has caused me to disconnect. No 'monster' has showed up to steal my motivation. And yet, I don't want to do anything. And when I do do something it feels totally and completely inefficient. It feels drab and underwhelming. Even this blog is starting to become a nuisance...

And in the midst of it, I have begun to question who I am, who I'm becoming, even my sanity at times. When you're handed who you're not and it's in your face in every moment, how do you respond? I can honestly say that I have not done well-I have just wanted to curl up in my bed and eat ice cream all week.

It's been a week, that unexpectedly, and for seemingly no reason has brought me face to face with my human-ness. I am a human. I make mistakes. I am broken. Even when I have all of my affairs in order I can do nothing apart from the perfect one. Human organization, reasoning and analysis can only get me so far. I am really good at self-management but this week has reminded me that He is the author of that, not me. He should have the pen of my every moment and unless He's running the show I will always come to the end of myself.

But when I am anchored in Him, even when I'm at the end of myself, I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of all that He is. Why do I so easily forget this? Today, I pray that if you are feeling overwhelmed at the lack that you see in yourself, you will begin to become more fully aware of all that He is not just for you, but in you. His character is unchanging. He is always fully engaged, He is always for us. Perfect in nature, perfect in every way. And even when we don't feel we can trust ourselves, He is completely trustworthy.

Though I forgot this throughout this week, usually ending in frustration at myself for not being 'better,' I am beyond thankful for the passage below. If anyone knows me, they know I see 1's everywhere I look. I always know when it's 11:11 or 1:11 because I see that time everyday, every time it shows.

Well, this is Psalm 111. It's mine, but I'll let you access it for the day. ;) This is the passion version. As you read it over yourself, let the fact that God's character NEVER changes wash over you. Allow the passage to effect you in every area of lack you've been experiencing. Because we are humans. We are going to have moments where we are fully aware of how far we have yet to go. In those moments, are you going to beat yourself up? Or are you going to fall into the never-changing, everlasting arms of the one whose love for you knows no bounds?

"He satisfies all who love and trust Him 
And He keeps every promise He makes. 
He reveals mighty power and marvels to His people 
By handing them nations as a gift! 
All God accomplishes is flawless, faithful and fair; 
And His every word proves trustworthy and true.
They are steadfast forever and ever,
Formed from truth and righteousness.
His forever-love paid a full ransom for His people
So that now we're free to come before Jehovah
To worship His holy and awesome name! 
Where can wisdom be found? 
It is born in the fear of God. 
Everyone who follows His ways, 
Will never lack His living understanding! 
And the adoration of God 
Will abide throughout eternity!"

I'm trying to rest in this today. My emotions still want to beat me up, but I will let these words nourish me instead.
God, thank you that in the midst of our instability you are completely stable. Thank you that you know and understand our humanity and that you don't call us to be perfect but holy. Set apart unto you, and just simply obedient. Help us to release ourselves from the pressures that we put upon ourselves to be righteous because it's you who makes us righteous. We love you and we want to make you known in the earth, help us to recognize that you are the author and perfecter of our faith. Thank you that you delight in us, and that we are free from the power of shame that would try to suck us into thinking that we can never be good enough. 

Thank you that you are stronger and greater and that I get to come to you when I'm feeling great and when I've just had a week like this one. Amen

Here's to a new week.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Who Knows?"

Last night I was looking through some of my old posts...I was on my brother's Facebook and for reasons I cannot possibly understand other than God wanted me to see it, I happened across something I wrote what seems like a lifetime ago. 

May 12, 2010:
I should be doing my calvinism vs. arminianism homework but I just can't get myself to do it. There's something much more important going on in my heart tonight.

What's been eating at me all night is a passage that David Perkins talked about tonight at _tag tonight. It comes right after David's been confronted by Nathan after he sinned against God by having Uriah killed and getting Bathsheba pregnant. Nathan said that no matter what Bathsheba and David's first child would die. After Nathan said this David went into an intense time of fasting and weeping for the child's life. He would not take food or even get up off the ground for 7 days! When the child died however, he got up, cleansed himself and ate. His servants were very confused as to why David would mourn for the child while it was still alive and yet not mourn for it after it died.
To this David replied,
"While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me, and the child may live.' But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."

Who knows?
Man, I wish I had faith like that. You see in those days Nathan was the very mouthpiece for God. What he said was final. And yet David shows that he is a man of great faith, for when he hears the baby's fate he still gets on his face before God and pleads with him for the baby's life because, "Who knows? Maybe God will be gracious to me."

I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't starting to worry about what's next for me. I feel like God brought me here to Colorado for specific reasons and specific purposes. But now I'm less than 3 weeks from graduation and I have no idea what's next. SO it struck me tonight, this one little tiny phrase..."Who knows?"

Who knows? I could lead worship in a church for the rest of my life or I could never touch a piano again.
Who knows? I could travel the world or I could live in the midwest, being the best wife and mother and never see an airplane again.
Who knows? I could write a best selling novel that inspires the next generation to finally dream again or I could write a picture book that only my grandkids see.
Who knows?

One thing is for sure. Our God is Faithful.

So, SO freaking faithful. And therefore, I have nothing to worry about. All of the options suddenly become exciting again and not something to stress out about. I know that in God's perfect timing I will know what's next. I will know where I'm supposed to go. I will know eventually who it's supposed to be with. It's resounding in my soul so I'll say it once more...
Faithful, OH so faithful is the Lord on high. With Him ANYTHING is possible, so 'Who knows'?


Now, I shortened this version but the truth remains. Last night this totally gripped me, yet again. I had just made a list of all of the 'added' cost that I have coming on my plate this next month and though I would like to say I was making that list in faith-I totally wasn't. After reading this post though, I can't help but think, "Who knows?" Why not ask for crazy things? Why not dream excessively? Because, "Who knows?" Our God is so much bigger than we give Him credit for a majority of the time and He is definitely someone we can TRUST. 

Do you have a 'baby' that you're pretty sure you know the fate of? Have you doomed yourself and stopped asking for things that seem impossible? I do understand and see that David's child did, in fact die. But I wonder what David's heart would have been doing if He wouldn't have asked. Regret? Shame? Anger? Self-abuse? We will never know because David knew...there was hope. He anticipated good. In what ways have you stopped asking, and why have you? Because "Who knows?"

And sure enough...today as I was typing this God crossed off the biggest cost on that list. He does know, and He is good. He's not threatened by our petitions, He's not overwhelmed by our questions. Maybe He's waiting for you to ask. 
-Lara-

Friday, October 17, 2014

Praise for Heaviness

Heavy.
If I had one word to describe my last 2 weeks, it would be heavy. Though I am absolutely loving everything I'm doing, everything I'm learning and the people around me-everything I've been doing has felt heavy. It's like I've been walking through muck. This probably has nothing to do at all with my circumstances and everything to do with the fact that I can't seem to get 2 nights in a row that I actually sleep. It's crazy how lack of sleep can make everything feel so much worse than it actually is.

So. For this blog I've decided that I need to do or write something that's not heavy. We'll see how it goes...

Gratitude has this way of disarming things that seem to be threatening our growth or current circumstances. Gratitude has this way of taking our focus off of what's not happening and placing it on the extravagant things that are happening. Gratitude, I believe, is one of the things that our generation is missing on a fundamental level, and may just be the key to us becoming all that we want to be.

So, come on a journey with me. Think of your life right now, and no matter how 'bad' things feel work to look for the things you can and should be outrageously grateful and thankful for. Make a list and cultivate it in your life every day. I think you will be amazed and surprised at the dreams you are currently living out that you didn't even know you had. I know I am living out some things that I wouldn't have even known to ask the Lord for to begin with...but that's another blog for another time.

Let's cultivate gratitude.

Today...I am beyond grateful for:

  • My love for really good coffee and people that make it for me.
  • Beginning to put legs to my dreams concerning mission work
  • my brain; the way I think, organize, strategize and even obsess over certain things. I am learning that I love the way that I think and that when I use my mind under the leadership of the Holy Spirit it is a powerful tool. 
  • Being able to serve a Father at my church. I am learning so much just watching, observing and interacting with Paul
  • My beautiful mission agency who loves so well, asks all of my questions and gives such beautiful covering.
  • How the lord is providing in interesting, though unpredictable ways. The fact that for the first time in my life I don't have a physically taxing job that hurts my body. That though I have the lowest amount of income I've ever had, I still have enough to pay bills and eat well.
  • My crazy awesome, incredibly talented fellow intern team. I mean, we are the dream team and could probably conquer the world with our gift mixes. Just saying.
  • The power of healthy confrontation. It is so good for us to grow deeper through confrontation and holding 'accounts' for our abilities. It's uncomfortable but I am so thankful that God is teaching me to voice needs, concerns and to go to a deeper level with people. 
  • My family...the promises we are walking into and even that there is nothing that can keep us away from each other.
  • Getting to go to beautiful places.
  • Friends who love to walk excessive miles and talk excessively while doing it. 
  • Having a Christmas coming up that I will NOT be working retail for. (PTL!)
  • My inherited ability to be able to bake, cook and create in that way....food should NOT be boring.
  • Resounding hope that never stops because it is anchored in eternity.
  • IT'S FINALLY FALL!
  • The ability to grow, and God's grace when we get it wrong.
  • My Swiss sister and our Saturday Skypes. She is constantly challenging me to be better and loving me when I'm not better. 
These are just a few of mine today...what are some of yours? It seems silly but I just feel like it's so necessary. For me, it's all too easy to constantly see what's not right, to see what I'd love to be different or to change. But today, may you see the potential everywhere because you see all the things that you are blessed with. 

I kind of view it as beauty for ashes. I know God is the one that exchanges beauty for ashes in our circumstances but I think it's time that we (and I'm talking to ME!) stop focusing on the 'ashes' of our lives, and start to focus on the beauty. Let's see the beauty and know that the ashes aren't too big for God to overcome. Let's exchange our heaviness for Praise. Let's be thankful and grateful for what is and continue to go on a journey trust Him for what is not yet.

Let's be overwhelmed not by heaviness, but by gratefulness today.

Blessings,
Lara