Becky over at From Mrs. to Mama really inspired me tonight. After reading over this post upon returning home from a girls wine night, I just want to talk about friends. Specifically, how important it is to have girl friends. Friends that know your darkest secret, that you can talk to about your mistakes in your relationships, that you can laugh with and smile with, that you can be  yourself around no matter what and know that they are still going to be your friend. I am lucky enough to have friends like this. Just a few of them, but even more special because of that.

I have never been a girl to have a TON of girl friends. That was just never me. But lately, as Matt and I talk more about taking our relationship to the next level, I am really starting to realize the importance of having good girl friends. The importance of making time for those friends, no matter how crazy life seems.

It is SO vital that you, as a woman, have outlets. Whether it is just to discuss nail polish or your week with , YOU NEED THAT. I am starting to realize how uplifting it is to spend time with other girls. It doesn't matter how similar or different we are, what backgrounds we come from, what current stage we are in in our lives, just BEING women together is so powerful. Having that support system is something you cannot find aside from a good group of friends.

I would really encourage you to reach out to friends that you maybe have not spent much time with lately, to plan a coffee date with them just to catch up. If you don't feel you have this, shoot me an e-mail and I would be happy to talk with you. Again, I don't care if it is a friend halfway across the world, or your roommate, you need female companionship. On the flip side, I would also encourage you to think about those friends that might not be healthy for you. I have weeded out a lot of friends over the years, and although it was not easy, I know it was for the best and that I am fulfilled and happy now because of those decisions. Amen.

Also, Bush of Sage Ad space is HALF OFF this month with the promo code: MAYBUSH. See my sponsor page for information on this month's cause.


Sponsorships: A Cause Worth Mentioning

I am really happy to announce that instead of just discussing causes I feel passionately about each month, I am offering an opportunity to donate! Your donation will allow you to secure an ad space of varying sizes for 30 DAYS! Read more about how you can help HERE or see below.

Additionally, I have an exciting offer for this first month! The first 5 people to purchase the "Bush of Sage" ad place (a 30 dollar value) will receive it for HALF OFF! This ad space also includes a guest post and social media shout-outs. All you have to do is enter the PROMO code: MAYBUSH. 

I can't wait to raise some money for these great causes! Read more about May's cause, Treasures, on my sponsor page.

Come to the River

Good morning lovelies. I have a full day of church-related festivities ahead of me, so I just wanted to leave you with one of my favorite songs as of lately. Enjoy!


Why I Blog {A Link Up}

Today I am linking up with Leslie from A Blonde Ambition to talk about why I blog. I could go on and on about this, but instead I'll highlight a few of the main reasons.

Why I Blog:

1. To glorify God and all the wonderful things He has done in my life.

2. To find fellowship with others and build a supportive community that strives to put Jesus in the center.

3. To be more vulnerable and express my feelings more openly. You can read more about that here.

4. To organize my thoughts and express them in a way that I help is beneficial to others, or challenges what others already think or believe.

5. To give you all some thoughtful reading material. 

6. To share my spiritual journey and nurture it as it progresses.

7. To have something to look back on in the years to come so I can remember special, as well as not-so-special events better and see how I have learned and grown since then. 

Why do you blog?! Link up so we can get to know each other a little better!


What My Boyfriend Thinks of Me

Let me just start out by saying that my boyfriend is a champ for putting up with me. I have been bothering him to do this post for days and days. I have been seeing so many bloggers joining in on this link up lately and I have really loved hearing what their loved ones have had to say about them. So, after much pushing on my part, I am linking up with Becky at From Mrs. to Mama to share what my boyfriend, Matt, thinks of me.You'll find my comments in bold below his.

She is amazingly clean and it is gonna be tough for me to meet her standards. True story. I am a freak, but I like to think I am getting better.

She has embraced Christ more quickly and fully than anyone I have met. I bet you it shocked me more.

She loves being healthy in mind and body. Totally true. A friend of mine, Hannah, today said, "All you do is exercise!" Well, I don't only exercise, but if you follow me on instagram you might think that.

She loves her sweet potato. I LITERALLY HAD ONE FOR DINNER!!!! I love all forms of sweet potatoes. Fries, mashed, baked, in smoothies (don't judge me). YUM!

She is practically the best cook I know and she likes to cook for me even though I am more picky than she is. WHAT! I never never heard those words of his mouth before. I love to cook, but I definitely make some weird things. I also like vegetables A LOT, which Matt isn't the greatest fan of, but I like to think he's getting more adventurous. Sometimes I disguise them by chopping them up really little and putting them in dishes (shhhh).

She has the biggest heart to volunteer to help charities wherever needed. I do. I never really noticed this until my parents and Matt started pointing it out. I'm really comfortable with giving.

She puts up with me. 'Nuff said. 'Nuff said.

She hasn't run away after seeing how messy my room gets... yet. Lord please save me.

She is the most driven, focused individual I have ever met. As he once said, "I have never met anymore more driven or focused than me." Very accurate, though sometimes to my detriment.

She can match my wits, probably better than I could do against myself. This results in some interesting conversations and interactions. I feel sorry for the people we work with.

She has become everything I could hope for. I love this man. 
What a gem. This was so fun, I can't wait to do it with someone else in my life! I would encourage you all to link up as well! 


Spiritual Gifts

Do you have a clearly defined spiritual gift that you believe God desires for you to share with the world?  One or two talents that he put into your heart so that you could follow Him more fully? I ask myself this sometimes. I know I love to help people, and I think that has really become clear since I have started volunteering to help with my church's youth group and mentoring undergraduate researchers. Still, I am not sure how clearly defined this gift is to me yet. 

 Some of the youth on Palm Sunday.

Earlier today, I came across Jessica's post on spiritual gifts and talents. In her post she shared a short ministry survey that indicates different facets of spiritual gifts and where you fall on each. You can find that survey here (it's really short, only took me a few minutes). As Jessica did on her post, I would like to highlight some of  my own results. 

Spiritual Gifts


Showing Mercy13

Now, I am not going to lie. I was a little shocked. Although serving, my highest strength, confirmed my belief that I was meant to help others, I was really shocked at how high I was on Pastor/Shepherd and Exhortation, and honestly, I was a little confused about what these actually meant. 

According to my results, "...we are actually discussing the GIFT of shepherding, not the POSITION of pastor. Though a good pastor must have the gift of shepherding, everyone who has the gift of shepherding is not called to be pastor. The gift can be used in many positions in a church. As a gifted shepherd, you have the Spirit-given capacity and desire to serve God by overseeing, training, and caring for the needs of a group of Christians. You are usually very patient, people-centered, and willing to spend time in prayer for others. You tend to be a "Jack of All and Master of ONE," meaning you are usually dominant in one of the speaking gifts (evangelist, prophet, teacher, exhorter) as well. You are often authoritative, more a leader than a follower, and expressive, composed, and sensitive. Your pleasing personality draws people to you."

DEAD ON. Literally. This was really eye-opening and allowed me to put words to gifts I feel I possess. I would encourage you all to share your spiritual gifts, or if you are unsure what they are, to explore them in prayer and maybe even this little survey!


DIVORCE: the four letter word

To divorce: "Legally dissolve one's marriage with."

Divorce, to me, is a four letter word. I cringe every time I hear it, not because it's something unfamiliar to me, because honestly, it's something I'm really accustomed to, but because it is easily one of my greatest fears in life.  

My parents were married very young, divorced before I was three, and both remarried one or two times following. When I lived in California, all my friend's parents were divorced, but when I moved to Arizona that was not the case. It's often difficult for people to understand that I'm technically an only child, but have numerous people I consider my brothers and sisters. To me, brothers and sisters don't have to be blood. I have a very different understanding of family, but I love it and I wouldn't want it any other way. The people that are in my lives are very special, and I work to create meaningful relationships with them. To me, it doesn't matter if we share the same DNA or not. 

 Myself and the bro-sefs
 Myself and Jenna 
Myself and Laren
Myself, Laren, Jenna, and our dudes. 

These wonderful people are my brothers and sisters, whether that is by marriage, was by marriage, or never lead to marriage. We have shared our hearts and memories with each other over the years, and grown together. They are my family.

That being said, divorce terrifies me down to my core. A few years ago I told myself I never wanted to get married. My reason for that was simply because I was so terrified that it would lead to divorce, as it does in over 50% of marriages these days. Many of the families I knew that weren't divorced, were those that were religious- Christian, Jewish, what have you. To me, I saw this as a binding force that forced people to feel as if they had to stay in unhappy relationships, because their religion told them it was wrong to escape it. I thought my friends who were getting married after dating someone six months and not even being 21 yet were insane. Psychology teaches that you do not even know your full identity until you are 30. I was convinced if I ever did marry it wouldn't be until then. But honestly, you can know your identity before 30. You can know that your identity is in Jesus.

I now realize that being brought together under God as husband and wife is so sacred. He has brought you to that person, with the intention that they will be your partner for LIFE. That doesn't mean giving up when the going gets hard. I do want to note that if the marriage is an abusive (verbal or physical) one, divorce can be the best thing for the safety of the two parties, and often their children. For example, in my case, I see my parent's divorce as a positive thing because they were not happy, and I know it could have lead to a really unhappy home life for me growing up. I don't hold that against my parents at all. Besides this I really can't advocate for divorce.

I think because I am so opposed to divorce, I have been terrified to get married for the fear that I would end up with the wrong person. When I met Matt I was SO not even ready to be in a relationship, while he knew that the next person he dated he wanted to marry. I didn't understand this at first because I hadn't really grown up in a nuclear family as he had. I wasn't totally sure how a husband and wife were supposed to treat each other. I felt that dating was positive for me because I was able to learn what I did and did not want in a person. Did I give my heart away? Yes. I failed to guard it, but it did make me a better person. It was hard for me to understand that Matt did not need to date to learn these lessons. It confused and terrified me that he wanted his only relationship to be with the person he was going to marry. But now I completely understand.

I no longer fear divorce as I used to because I know that Matt is going to fight for me. That respects me and loves me, and always puts my best interest first. That God brought us together and that he does not intend us to be separated. We are not married yet, but when we do get there, no matter how hard the going gets, I know divorce will not be an option. With Jesus at the center of our marriage, I know we will be just fine. Things will not always be perfect, but we can rest assured that we are allies and that we are both in the relationship to make it work and to glorify what God has created. I never want anyone to lose the hope in marriage that I had, because it is a great thing that should not be feared.


The Evening's Events

I can't exactly find words for the emotions I have felt this week between Boston and the Waco explosions, as well as the ricin scares. These emotions reached a real high last night after learning that a Boston University Police Officer had been shot and killed, somewhere inside me I just knew this was connected to the Marathon bombing. My heart sank. Then, this morning when I woke up to all of my CNN alerts about the shoot out, the car hijacking, and the death of one of the suspects, I could feel myself take another blow. I'm sure many of you are feeling the same way, and I encourage you to share these emotions with God, as well as others whether it is with a loved one, a friend, or the blog world. Whatever you do, remember God is your stronghold and your strength, and that you can find refuge in him during this rough time.

I think it is important that we all take a minute out of our day to pray for all of the first responders that have risked their lives for our safety over the past week. Those that have left their families behind knowing that they were going into a possibly dangerous week ahead of them. Those that, despite of this, still went to work prepared to do their jobs to the fullest. I find myself really inspired by our first responders and military forces. They are so selfless in my opinion. Please, take time today to thank those individuals in your life that put theirs on the line everyday so that you might feel more safe.


Psalm 18

As I mentioned previously, I have been doing the 40 Day "Jesus is _____." Video Journey with Chelsea and Judah Smith. Day 11 talks about Psalm 18:

This Psalm has such special meaning to me, and it is terribly marked up in my bible.

18 I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
20 The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his rules were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
23 I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
28 For it is you who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
41 They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
43 You delivered me from strife with the people;
you made me the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
foreigners came cringing to me.
45 Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling out of their fortresses.
46 The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
47 the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
48 who delivered me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you rescued me from the man of violence.
49 For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
50 Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.

Now, I could go ON and ON about this chapter, but I just wanted to touch on a few verses that really stand out to me. I recently read about how to pray through scripture, thanks to a resource posted by the lovely Kate at KATEandKUBY. This really helped me see the Psalm in a different light. As I was praying through the Psalm this morning, each chosen verse stood out in a new way.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

What in this verse speaks to you? Day 11 (video above), touches on this verse specifically. Judah and Chelsea Smith go deep. In rough times, who do you typically turn to? Your parents, your friends, your roommate, your boyfriend, your pet? Or do you ALWAYS turn to God? Yeah, me neither. I am very guilty of forgetting that God is my ROCK and my stronghold, and instead I turn to Matt during times of unreasonableness and stress, expecting him to somehow know how to make me feel better.  Let me tell you, this doesn't always work, and although he is VERY understanding, supportive, and patient, often times we just end up frustrated with each other. So, why is it so hard for us to run to God during our troubled times? I think the answer is that it's sometimes easier for us to hang on to the tangible things in our life, those we can see and touch. But that takes little to no faith. I think this verse really tells us that we need to have more faith. Faith that God is always with us, that He can bear the weight of our struggles, that He can shield us from troubles, and that He will always be faithful to us-- although it may not always be OUR way. I can promise you, however, that you will get the fulfillment you need from God before you will get it from something tangible. Because that material things will fade away with time, but God won't. So, I encourage you to seek Him during difficult times, even when it isn't always the easiest. I also encourage you to ask yourself: what is preventing you from turning to God first?

In my distress I called upon the Lord;

to my God I cried for help.

From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry to him reached his ears.

If verse 2 didn't convince you, maybe verse 6 will. I think the reason that it is unrealistic to expect someone or something to make you feel better comes down to the fact that they might not know you inside and out. They might not understand your heart. Well, I have the solution-- God. God knows you inside and out, He knows where  you're coming from, and He knows what will heal you. The New King James Version of the bible says, "He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears." Your voice, your troubles, your tears reach DIRECTLY to God's ears. He hears you, He knows you, and He wants you to come to Him. So, if verse 2 didn't convince you that God is your true stronghold, I hope this verse does. Also, take a quick look at verse 32. This tells us not only does He give us strength, but that only He can make our way perfect. Another convincing reason to let go of other items or people.

Then the earth reeled and rocked;

the foundations also of the mountains trembled

and quaked, because he was angry.

I have a hard time with this verse. Seeing God as "angry" is not always the most comforting image. I am going to be honest and tell you that I do not live in ENOUGH fear of God. I tend to lean towards the New Testament image of God over the Old Testament image. Sometimes, I justify my shortcomings with the claim that even if I mess up God will love me. But, I don't really think that's the best way to live my life. Instead, I need to remember that God can be angry, so angry that He can make the foundations of mountains shake. That's serious (If you're not convinced keep reading through verse 15)! Therefore, this verse has recently made it very clear that I need to be more God-fearing. That I need to live to please Him more fully, so that I never have to have my mountain shaken (haha).  I challenge you to ask yourself if you need to be more God-fearing, or maybe even less.

16 He sent from on high, he took me;

he drew me out of many waters.

17 He rescued me from my strong enemy

and from those who hated me,

for they were too mighty for me.

18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,

but the Lord was my support.

19 He brought me out into a broad place;

he rescued me, because he delighted in me.


So this is where things get really personal for me. I literally have these verses blocked in my bible. Next to them I have written, "What God did for ME before I was saved despite being unworthy; remember I NEED Him for what I cannot do." I cannot remember when I wrote that note, but I still feel that way. God drew me out of some deep waters when I met him. I probably wasn't the most pleasant person, most honest person, most giving person, or most kind person. Although I will never be perfect, things are SO much different now. He really did rescue me. I remember reading a book very early on in my faith, and reading about how the author did not feel worthy of God's love, because she had never felt truly loved in her life. I think I can relate to that. I still am not sure that I know how much God delights in me, and that is why I am doing the 40 Day Overcome the Lie Challenge. I need to somehow learn that He does delight in me, and I am worthy, no matter what my past holds. What does this verse speak to you?  

46 The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, 

and exalted be the God of my salvation-- 


Amen, literally. I need to remember that God is my rock every single day. When I'm being pleasant, when I am being miserable, when I am being annoying, He is still there. Therefore, we really need to learn how to trust in Him more often, and exalt Him as he deserves EVERY SINGLE DAY. So finally, friends, I challenge you to do just that. Find a daily study that you like, join one of the many challenges I have mentioned, read a Psalm a day, just do SOMETHING to exalt God for being your rock just one more day.

What are your favorite verses from Psalm 18 and why? I would love to hear from you all! 



Whenever I hear the story of Doubting Thomas in the bible, I think of myself. But when this happens, I don't see it as a negative thing. So many Christians are scared to talk about doubt, but I think it is SO important, because it is something that we struggle with as humans. Doubt pops up in everyone's lives, whether you doubt your intelligence, your faith, or your ability to do something successfully-- we all know how it feels to doubt.  That being said, I think doubt is a good thing, something that one can grow from.

Some might say the opposite of faith is doubt, but I don't see it that way. If you haven't already noticed, I am very logical. I like to get down to the meaning of things-- to see proof. As you can imagine, it can be very hard for me to remember to have faith, especially in the absence of proof. But, I have found that no matter how much doubt I have, God always finds a way to show Himself and counter that doubt. I think doubt is a part of being Christian. I know that James 1:6 teaches those who doubt are "like a wave of the sea that is driven as tossed by the wind," but why does that always have a negative connotation?   Doubting has only brought me closer to God. I know that doubting sometimes pushes people away from Him, as it did for me for a LONG time. But I think when you choose to give up your life to Jesus and trust in Him, He will always come through for you, even in times of guilt. It is nothing to feel guilty about.

Take yesterday as an example. My heart sank when I learned of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, even more so when I learned about the death of an eight year old boy. A few years ago, I might have reasoned that if there was a God, why would He let something like this happen? But since I have learned more about this, read about that here, I no longer even think to ask this question. Instead, I saw the work God was doing in the first responders, and the bystanders. The images and videos of the service men and women, and race staff rushing towards the wounded. Hopping fences, running people away from the scene in wheelchairs, sacrificing their clothing to clot a stranger's wound. God is good, even when horrible things happen in the world.

All of this being said, I encourage you to talk about your doubts. Fellowship is a great tool for growing from doubt, and can often clarify some of the reasons you might have the doubt in the first place. Sisters, talk with your pastor or church leaders. Talk to your friends and family. Leave me a comment, or shoot me an e-mail-- I would love to chat with you! The reason doubt comes to be seen negatively is people are scared to share it, and churches sometimes condemn it. I think if we all become more comfortable with the idea that doubt is a healthy part of faith, there will be less people doubting in the first place, and we will all grow closer to Christ. If you look in the bible, I think you will find that God is a tolerant God, much more so than many churches. Lift up your doubts to Him, you might be pleasantly surprised.

If I haven't convinced you, maybe this passage from Philip Yancey, the author of "A Skeptic's Guide to Faith," will:

"As a child I attended a church that had little room for inquisitiveness.  If you doubted or questioned, you sinned.  I learned to conform, as you must in a church like that.  Meanwhile those deep doubts, those deep questions, didn’t get answered in a satisfactory way.  The danger of such a church like that—and there are many—is that by saying, “Don’t doubt, just believe,” you don’t really resolve the doubts.  They tend to resurface in a more toxic form.

Inquisitiveness and questioning are inevitable parts of the life of faith.  Where there is certainty there is no room for faith.  I encourage people not to doubt alone, rather to find some people who are safe “doubt companions,” and also to doubt their doubts as much as their faith.  But it doesn’t help simply to deny doubts or to feel guilty about them.  Many people, after all, have been down that path before and have emerged with a strong faith." I encourage you to read more from him here.

Overall, hang in there. When in doubt, pray. Reach out to others. Know that you have nothing to be ashamed of. If you think no one else in your life doubts, they're putting on a good show.


Weekend Recap

I know I shared a little bit about my first day in Denver with everyone, but SO much more happened that I'm dying to share. Here are some photos from our BEAUTIFUL drive there through Utah.

Although the first day began with a FABULOUS run, SO much more followed. The day started off with a talk from ROBERT STERNBERG. For those psychology nerds out there, you understand how exciting this is. This was BY FAR the best talk I attended all weekend, he was so fun and witty.

Following his talk I attended some poster sessions, a workshop on how to get published, and another talk by Ron Comer.  It was such a full day, but it ended with some fabulous Mexican food at La Mariposa by our hotel, where we shared a great dinner and margaritas with our fellow NAUers.

Now, the second day was really the best. I started the day with another early morning workout, followed by my poster presentation. This was my first presentation at a professional conference. I was super excited, and it went REALLY well!

 My seriously official name tag. 

The conference program and the page with my poster information on it!

My presentation get-up for the day. 

My finished product!!! I'll spare you my nerd explanation.

After my presentation, I was able to relax a little. We attended a Positive Psychotherapy Workshop put on by some undergraduates. We learned all about the importance of sleep and exercise, flow, character strengths, and savoring our lives.  I can chat about this for DAYS if anyone is actually interested. 

The workshop slide handout. 

The remainder of the afternoon was spent in poster and oral sessions, and at a talk by Tom Greene, an environmental psychologist. NOW the best part of the whole conference was the final hour and a half. SOMEHOW and SOME WAY, for the closing ceremony, we ended up at a table with FOUR of the RMPA's past presidents. I'm not going to list names, but they were BIG names in the field. God was working some sort of miracle there. We all got to share a glass of wine together, and chat about Flagstaff and our interests. I even met the mentor of one of my own mentors, crazy!!!!

After this GREAT closing ceremony, all us NAUers finished off our trip at Bruno's Italian Restaurant in Denver. FIVE STARS!!! So great. 

 My tasty Eggplant Parmesan! AMAZING!

Sunday morning was another early start. We left Denver by 6am and drove all through the day. We were able to stop off in Albuquerque for lunch at a cute little brewery, then it was back on the road. And now-- the week begins!

On a side note, I decided to sign up for the 40 Day Overcome the Lie Challenge. I encourage you all to join me on this journey!
I've also been following along Judah Smith, the author of "Jesus is ______." on his 40 Day Journey. I'm loving this simple, quick devotional. Here is a little sample of that. 


Denver Day 1: Chasing the Sunrise

After 11 hours of driving yesterday, we made it to Denver for the RMPA conference in one piece. Just in time for the conference kickoff, a few glasses of wine, and my "Jesus is _____". book. Totally look into this book if you haven't (more about this when I'm not posting from my phone).

My morning started with a 5 mile run around our hotel. I got to chase the sunrise through a beautiful suburb filled with parks and trails-- God is so good. The sunrise is such a great reminder of the beauty He represents. What a wonderful start to my day.



For those of you that don't already know, about a year ago now I was awarded with an undergraduate research grant through my university. I have been slaving away over this research for quite some time now, and let me tell you there were some serious ups and downs. Although I still have some things to do, and possibly a paper to write (dreading that one), yesterday I was able to finish one of my posters! I HAVE RESULTS! I will be presenting at the Rocky Mountain Association Conference in Denver this weekend.

I can't wait for this little road trip with one of my favorite mentors and her research assistant. Today I am thankful that part of my research grant funds this entire trip. That it is supposed to be a high of 70 Saturday there (while there is snow on the ground here). That I will have the opportunity to get to know these two a little better. That I will be able to further my professional career in the field of psychology (I will have FIVE presentations to add to my CV this year, while a year ago I had ONE). Most of all, I am thankful that I will get a little break for a few days. Let the countdown begin.


A Cause Worth Mentioning

So, after yesterday's heavy, controversial post, I figured I would share something a little less touchy. Once a month or so, I will try to share information on a cause that I really believe in.

April's cause is the African Children's Choir, and more specifically, the "Imba Means Sing" film.

In February, on a flight home from a stressful weekend of graduate school interviewing at U Memphis, I met Erin Levin, the producer, and two of her filmmakers. We had a great time just chatting about life in general, God, religion, marriage, Flagstaff, you name it. We also had an opportunity to talk about her film, "Imaba Means Sing."

The independent documentary follows the journey of 20 Ugandan children all over to world as they perform. When I met Erin and her crew, they were headed to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon with the kids. These kids are amazing, they are even Grammy-nominated! If you haven't seen them perform, I suggest checking out this video, they will melt your heart:

African Children's Choir - Lord I Lift Your Name On High from ourgodisforus on GodTube.

"The film follows the children over the year and a half that they spend visiting three countries, more than 100 cities and stay with multitudes of host families along the way. The children have had a vastly different experience growing up in extreme poverty in Africa—many responsible for the care of younger siblings, some of them orphans and all of them unable to afford any consistent, formal education. Yet they are wise and disciplined beyond their years, realizing the enormity of the opportunity they’ve been given and wanting desperately to do a good job. They realize that the stakes are high: their own futures and the futures of their families hang in the balance. At the same time, they are brimming with joy—at the new sights and experiences they are encountering on this grand adventure.

Imba Means Sing highlights the issue of the global education crisis and explores it through the themes of the power of music and dignity across cultures. These extraordinary kids are ambassadors of Africa’s children to the world. There is hope, dignity and potential in each one of them, uniquely."

Erin and her crew are truly passionate about these kids and doing all they can to support them. You can help by donating to the film, or to the African Children's Choir (either through a one time donation or a sponsorship).  

I hope this cause touched your heart as much as it did mine.  


Misconceptions about Christians Part II

As I mentioned in my previous post, here, I met with my Pastor (Tim Swanson from Shepherd of the Hills in Flagstaff, AZ; disclaimer this is from a Lutheran [ELCA] point of view) to discuss some misconceptions about Christians. Remember we each have our own theological lenses, and they may differ from your own. The following is a Q&A with him.

Misconception #1: All Christians are Conservative

This was one of my preconceived notions about Christians. Matt was the first Christian I [knowingly] met that was liberal. Before I met Matt, I was pretty convinced I could never even become a Christian if I wanted to because I was so liberal politically. 

Here is what my Pastor had to say about this (I have mostly paraphrased him here, adding quotations when exact statements are used): If people were to actually follow what Jesus taught, they would find themselves very liberal. Unfortunately, fundamentalists that are conservative often try to find places in the bible to back their political decisions. As a matter of fact, Jesus was very political-- but political in a very liberal, reaching out to everyone, sense. "The only people He condemns are those that are condemning others." 

Misconception #2: Christians [and the Bible] are Against Gay Marriage
Being liberal, and Christian, I believe that everyone deserves to be respected, loved, and to love whomever they choose. Before I came to the faith, I told myself I could never love a God that stipulated whom He loved based on who you were attracted to. Boy was I wrong. And sadly, I think many people hold this misconception because so many people try to use the bible to justify their hate. 

Now, this one is tricky because many Christians are against gay marriage, but the bible isn't.One can be homophobic, but one can't use the bible to justify that. The term "homosexuality" wasn't translated into this until the last century. In Corinthians, Paul condemns homosexuality using a word that is better translated into "pedophilia." Plato had taught that man-boy love was the greatest form of love, and that love of women was only good for children. He saw taking a young boy and having sex with him as a noble deed. Paul didn't think this was proper, and he saw it as taking advantage of a young boy, so when he condemns it in Corinthians, that is what he is referring to. Unfortunately, that gets translated into "homosexual." Another area of the bible that touches on this topic is in Leviticus, where there are two things going on. First, they are building a new nation and it is important for men to produce children so masturbation and sex with a man are discouraged because it is a waste of the man's seed. Second, when one went to war with another during this time, the winning nation would rape the opposing nation as a way of humiliating them, but this was also seen as a waste of the man's seed, so an end was put to this. There is nothing in the bible that condemns a loving relationship with people of the same sex. 

Misconception #3: To be Christian, you must only believe in Creationism. 
Again, being so scientifically minded, I just couldn't get on board with the creation story. To me, evolution was pretty solid evidence, and creationism was lacking that evidence. Now, it makes more sense and I feel there is room for both. 

Pastor Tim shared with me that creation is story, that's right--- a theological story. It is not scientific at all and is in no way meant to be. Therefore, to compare it with evolution or see it as an alternative is flawed in itself. Pastor Tim shocked me with this next one, "I would hate it if they allowed the teaching of creation as a science." Because again-- it is not intended to be. "It's like this... God creates the world in 7 days, 7 is the number representing the perfect amount of time, there are 7 paragraphs, it is a play on the number 7." It's a theological story. Therefore, if you think about it, science and creation are totally compatible, and it only tends to be the fundamentalists that push creationism. Sadly, justifications of this are made out of ignorance.

Part of my mistake was trying to find the PROOF. There simply is no proof, and that is why being a Christian takes so much faith. It goes against everything society teaches us about the ultimate truth and the scientific method, but that's OK. 

Misconception #4: Jesus wants Christians to follow the Old Testament
Some of you might recognize this quote from Part I, "In Matthew 5:17-18 it states that Jesus wants Christians to follow the old testament word for word. What’s the deal with this?"

So... what is the deal with this? Although this wasn't a misconception I had, I did read "A Year of Living Biblically," in which the author actually attempts to live by the Old Testament for a year. Now, the answer to this question is a tough one for me to understand, so I will try my best to get across what Pastor Tim shared with me. These verses are the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. He's taking the Old Testament laws and turning them inwards so it becomes you have to love your enemies. Jesus takes an eye for an eye away and says your relationship with God has to go above the scribes and Pharisees because they reject people that don't follow their rules (meaning the Old Testament). He wants us to look beyond that. He wants us to go past the words in the Old Testament and by doing that we skip over a lot of them.  

Misconception #5: Christians are Judgmental
Although this was a misconception I found online, I totally would have held this belief two years ago-- easily. I had this idea in my head that Christians were "holier than thou," and that they weren't afraid to make that clear to you. As I have read more of the bible and learned more about God, those individuals who do behave in this way have some serious praying to do. The bible teaches us that we are sinners, that we will never be fully free from that sin, and that we shouldn't judge others because our sins are equal to theirs no matter what they are. If you look at the model Jesus gives us, as mentioned above, the only ones he judges are those that judge others. "Christians that are judgmental are being just like the Pharisees." We need to leave the judgment up to God. 

Misconception #6: There Can't be a God with all the Horrible Things that Happen in the World. 
So, why does God let bad things happen? The book of Job talks about this, and although it is not a true story it is a parable story. Job feels that he is unjustly treated, so he challenges God to go to court. God responds by asking him who he is to ask him about when bad things happen. This kind of conveys the point that God is so big and the mystery is so big that there really aren't any answers. That we shouldn't condemn God for these things, but instead trust in Him. The author of "Love, Power, and Justice," Paul Tillich, says although God has the power to not have anything bad happen, if nothing bad happened we wouldn't have any freedom. We can't experience life without getting hurt along the way. Since we have the freedom to make choices, there is a chance that accidents can happen. For example, think of all the bad things that happened to the disciples despite their faithfulness to Jesus throughout parts of the bible. 

Misconception #7: The Bible Can't be the "Word of God" because Man Edits and Translates it. 
Wrong. Since translations can mean so many different things, and it is especially hard to translate into the Western Language, many of the misconceptions we see come from incorrect or out of context translations. Martin Luther said we don't worship the bible, we worship Jesus who Himself is the Word of God, and that the bible reveals it. It is just a book. Although the different denominations see this differently (The Missouri Snyod would say it is the infallible Word of God while the ELCA would say it is the inspired Word of God), there are poor translations regardless. Take the example of Palm Sunday. Luke and Mark say Jesus rode in on one donkey, while in Matthew it says there were two donkeys. Since Matthew couldn't read the Hebrew text at the time, he quotes a Greek translation (Pastor Tim is well-versed in both languages so I'm not just spitting this out) and that is what he bases his story on (quoting Zacharia). If you feel the need to take the bible as the exact Word of God that has no discrepancies, you might have a difficult time explaining these errors away, because there are many versions of the same stories throughout. 

You might being to see a pattern here. Sadly, many people base their ideas about Christians on extreme fundamentalists that in no way, shape, or form represent Christians as a whole. I hope that this post was helpful to you, and that it works to counter your misconceptions, or that it is helpful when talking to someone who might still have them. I know this is some sensitive stuff, and you don't necessary have to agree with me on everything, but it is my hope that it will help someone maybe see past what they think they already know. If you disagree with any of these statements, I would really love to know your opinion! I'm not trying to create a hostile environment, and I really like to learn about what others think, so by all means, please share.

I also found a great website that aims to combat some of these issues we are struggling with, learn more here

I want to leave you with a quote that I was hoping to elaborate on, but I think it speaks bounds on its own. 

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”--Ghandi

I would like to thank Pastor Tim Swanson for taking the time to meet with me and talk about these issues.