Top 10 Albums of 2015

Hey guys, it’s me, Christy. I see that it’s been a while since my last blog. If you’re wondering where I’ve been, the answer is that I’ve been living under a rock — the rock of everything Accounting. Since my last blog, I have started and completed a master’s degree, tacked on a few more international travel destinations to the list (sorry for not blogging about those travels — it was mostly school anyways), become 75% of a CPA (still working on that last 25%), and completed a year-long internship with the company that I’ll be starting full-time with in January! So I’ve been busy. However, now that I have some time on my hands again, I’m really hoping to get back to blogging at least a few times a year. It’s such a great outlet for me to express my faith, share stories about traveling, or just writing about something else I enjoy. In order to get back to it, I have compiled my annual list of my top 10 favorite albums of the year! I have gone one step further and even created a Spotify playlist with some of my favorite songs from each album that you can listen to here. (Adele is popular enough to not put her whole album on Spotify, so the only song you get from her is “Hello.” A couple other favorites include “I Miss You” and “River Lea.”)

1. Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface…I’ve been listening to this constantly since I discovered it back in May. Also fantastic is TOP’s previous album, Vessel. What I didn’t know about this duo was that they’re actually Christians. Their lyrics indicate that they are fully aware of the brokenness of mankind and the battle for the soul that is constantly raging. An interesting blog about it can be found here. I also had the chance to see them perform live for the first time this year (after almost going to all the Nashville shows they’ve had for the past three years). They killed it. It was probably my favorite concert I’ve ever been to. The guys were so creative putting together their set and making visual representations of their lyrics. Not only that, it was way hype!

2. Justin Bieber – Purpose…You might be asking yourself, “Self, how did Justin Bieber make it all the way to number 2 on Christy’s top 10 albums of the year list?” I would’ve been asking myself the same thing last year. But it seems that the Biebs has made an attempt to turn around his life. If you ever watched his documentary from a while back, Never Say Never, he claims to have been raised Christian. Based on the things his mother said in the documentary, I believe it. This year, Bieber has attempted to go back to his Christian roots to get his life back together. Apparently he even spent a little while living with a pastor in New York by his own choice to help this process. I think his change is genuine, and I think it’s apparent in this album. Songs like “Life is Worth Living” and “Purpose,” are just two on the album that I feel demonstrate this.

3. Ellie Goulding – Delirium…According to one of Ellie’s emails to her fan group, she released this album in honor of her best friend and the times they were “delirious” together. If I had a best friend who was an internationally known pop sensation, I know I would be feeling pretty darn awesome if she released an album entirely based on our relationship. What follows from it is, of course, super catchy songs that just make you want to get up and dance your heart out with your BFF.

4. Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors…Soundtrack of my winter. I must say I didn’t fully appreciate Imagine Dragons’ talent until this album came out. I thought they might’ve been a one-hit-wonder for their song “Radioactive,” but, alas, they released a killer album after that. I’ve really grown to love their sound, and I think they would probably be incredible live! (Shoutout to school for making me miss their last concert in Nashville — you stink.)

5. Adele – 25…Oh how I missed Adele. After going on a five year hiatus to do stuff like get married and have a kid, Adele is back! Whereas this album has gotten some flak for not being as good as her previous album, 21, I’m just so thrilled to have new Adele material again. My car singing got to be at a whole new level when 25 was released, but unfortunately, I don’t think my voice will ever have that awesome, strong, raspy sound that comes out of Adele’s mouth so effortlessly.

6. Zella Day – Kicker…I probably went to way too many Live on the Green’s (a music festival held on Thursday nights in the fall in Nashville that very well might be why I’m only 75% of a CPA) this year, but discovering Zella Day was definitely a perk of my heavy attendance. I would put her in the category of singer-songwriter with a sound somewhat similar to Lorde’s, and you guys know how I feel about Lorde. If you don’t, see my previous two years of top 10 albums. Kicker is Day’s debut album, and I would say that it does, indeed “kick” you know where. The chick is a lil’ weird and is a wannabe hippie I think, but she’s excellent at songwriting.

7. Bethel Music – Without Words: Synesthesia…Synesthesia is when you see certain colors when you hear certain sounds, for example. Whether you have this condition or not (it is a very real neurological condition), this album has a way of making you have it. They have a few videos out for some of the songs of a ballet dancer throwing different colors of powder along with certain sounds. It’s pretty cool — you can watch one here. Regardless of the meaning of the name, this album is probably one of the most beautiful sounding things that has ever come out of my speakers. Just as the title suggests, there are no words; it is simply the music behind many of Bethel Music’s songs.

8. Jon Foreman – The Wonderlands…Jon Foreman (lead singer of Switchfoot) did a thing this year where he played 24 hours of music straight to raise money for charity. As part of this event, he periodically released a series of four albums to make up The Wonderlands: Sunlight, Shadows, Darkness, and Dawn. To elaborate, each album is a collection of songs representative of that phase during a 24 hour period. Pretty creative, huh?

9. X Ambassadors – VHS…X Ambassadors pretty much took alternative radio by storm this year with their hit, “Renegades.” It also didn’t hurt that Jeep now has a car called the Renegade, and an ad campaign was created out of it. Not too shabby for a way to get your first single out there! The band now has a second song off VHS playing on the radio called “Unsteady,” and that’s when I was like, “Man, I gotta listen to the rest of this album!”

10. Brick + Mortar – Dropped…This was the band’s second 7-song album they’ve released in their tenure. I discovered them rather recently, and I certainly like what I’m hearing so far! If you’re looking for a good song to run to, “Train” works fabulously as such.

And there you have it! Another year coming to an end, another 10 albums worthy of making it on my list. And if you’re reading this, congratulations on surviving another year – may you see the end of many more!

Happy New Year!

“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make melody! Awake my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!”

Psalm 57:7-8

10 Best Albums of 2014

1. Various Artists, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Pt. 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Props to Lorde, one of my favorite pop artists, for curating this outstanding soundtrack.

2. Bastille, All This Bad Blood
You really can’t beat getting 25 unique, catchy songs for $10. This album is an extension of Bastille’s album, Bad Blood, which was released in 2013.

3. Judah & the Lion, Kids These Days
J&tL hit the nail on the head with their debut full-length album, which was funded via Pledge Music by the way. Every song still has me singing along and doing my hippie dance. Not to mention their set for their headlining tour was so sick that I traveled three hours just to see it again. Also check out Judah’s solo worship EP he released this year, Harp & Arrows.

4. NEEDTOBREATHE, Rivers in the Wasteland
NTB has released several killer albums throughout their existence, and Rivers in the Wasteland is yet another one. Every single song is fantastic, and you should definitely see them live if you get the chance.

5. Dan + Shay, Where It All Began
I awaited this album for quite a while, and it did not disappoint. Love me some Dan + Shay.

6. Florida Georgia Line, Anything Goes
This album didn’t make as big of a boom as FGL’s previous album, but it stays true to their sound overall. I’m glad to have some fresh material of their’s to jam to.

7. Ingrid Michaelson, Lights Out
Two words: fantastic collaborations.

8. Nick Jonas, Nick Jonas
Two of the best things Nick Jonas could’ve done for his future career is to man-up a bit (as in shed his cocoon of teenage Disney Channel star and boy band member) and release a solo album that demonstrates the new phase in his life. I’d say he succeeded at both.

9. Elevation Worship, Wake Up the Wonder
It’s not often that a CCM album shows up on the charts, but this one managed to, and for a good reason at that. It combines worshipful lyrics with beats that you can actually tap your foot to…maybe even dance a bit. I’m not super into hymns or overplayed CCM songs, so albums like this one give me something that I can worship to and actually enjoy listening to all at the same time. On that note, Elevation Worship also released an album called Only King Forever this year, which is another winner.

10. Anberlin, Lowborn
It breaks my heart to say that this is Anberlin’s farewell album. They were a band for a good 15 years almost, so they decided it was time to pursue other things in life. But at least they decided to give fans some good, fresh music and a farewell tour before they disbanded. I was thankfully able to attend one of the last shows of their tour in Nashville, and I am so glad I was able to make it. Anberlin also released a Best of Anberlin album this year, which I would highly recommend checking out.

Honorable mentions because some decisions are just hard:

Nickel Creek, A Dotted Line
I was heartbroken when Nickel Creek broke up a few years ago, so I was ecstatic when they decided to release a new album and go on tour. A Dotted Line temporarily quenched my thirst for Nickel Creek’s sound, but it is so hard to beat the magic of This Side.

Ellie Holcomb, As Sure as the Sun
This was Ellie’s first full-length album, and it is beautiful. It’s not one you would jam out to, but it’s great if you want to hear truth sung from one of the greatest female voices on the planet. This album was also funded through Kickstarter, so shout-out to the fans who sponsored it!

Total Depravity

Total Depravity (n): the Calvinist doctrine that humankind’s entire nature, including its reason, is corrupt or sinful as a result of the Fall and that people are therefore completely dependent on God for regeneration. (Dictionary.com)

I don’t think I’ve ever noticed the evidence of “total depravity” more than I have over the past few weeks. I look left, and I see it. I look right, and I see it. I look ahead of me, and I see it. I look behind me, and I see it.

I see the news about Ferguson. Some people are doing everything they can to be heard. Great. Others are taking advantage of the situation and using it as an opportunity to commit crimes and wreak havoc.

I see how the holidays have become so commercialized. We spend Thanksgiving supposedly being thankful for all of the blessings we have and then turn around the next day (or even the same evening) and trample people for the things we don’t have. It’s truly appalling how materialistic America has become, which begs the questions: Are those material things really what matter in life? Do they matter enough to hurt people over?

I see the administration at universities across the nation, including my own, making claims about being transparent and student-centered. Yet when a question is asked, an answer is not given. When students express a need for something, it is ignored. What it comes down to is an obsession with making money. Again, is that what really matters in this life?

I see the South’s obsession with football. Don’t get me wrong, football is a great thing that brings the community together and is fun to watch. But we are a people of extremes. I see much too often people who get so into the games that their tempers are released, and they spend time provoking others and practically vomiting insults. It’s just a game…Does it matter so much as to ruin relationships over?

I see politics dividing the nation. I definitely have set stances on many political issues, but how many of the political actions that are being taken are sinful? Yet no one seems to see it?

In Mark chapter 12, a scribe asks Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all” (v. 28)? Jesus replies, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (v. 29-31). So what is love? It’s certainly not stealing from others. It also isn’t making sure you get the new Xbox before someone else. Nor is it idolizing money or football. It’s also not arguing with someone about what the right political action is. According to 1 Corinthians 13, the way of love is this:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

So how do we conquer total depravity? Well we can’t, but God can. It is only through Him that we can pour out the love we’re commanded to share. It makes my heart ache to see people who lack love, who are only living out of their depravity. I definitely don’t claim to not be the same way; I’m a living example of living out of depravity! But the difference is that I have the Holy Spirit living inside of me, and He allows me to see the sin in the world and draws me right back to God whenever I get distant.

May the Gospel be on our lips and in our hearts at every moment of every day. After all, that’s what matters in this life. Love is the key to living out the Gospel, starting from when God sent His one and only son to die for us sinners. Now, we are commanded to show that love to God and others. As He is the creator of the universe, He knows the best way for mankind to live, and that way is to spend life sharing the Good News and loving all, even your enemies, with all of your being as you pursue a relationship with God.

I yearn for the day that everyone can see God’s love and each other’s love no matter which way they look.

Cheat Sheets: 24 Ways To Be Happier

Ashlin Boyles

CH2

1. Learn to be confident. Not cocky, not in a I-think-everything-I-do-is-epic-and-incredible way. Be a humble sort of confident–the kind you can wear comfortably like an old worn out sweater, the kind that fits you just right.

2. Stop spending time with people who throw water on your fire. Stop pouring your dreams out to people who tell you they’re impossible and try to make you shove them out of sight. Walk next to people who are carrying their own torch and pushing you to keep running with yours.

3. Wear comfortable and reliable shoes. Really though, I know Target has super cute and affordable ones, but you need to invest more than $14 in something that you’ll be wearing to all the places you’re headed. Take it from me, it is really inconvenient to try and super glue the soles of your shoes back together in a foreign country.

4. Live with…

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The Words of a Thunderstorm

Ashlin Boyles

LJIZlzHgQ7WPSh5KVTCB_Typewriter

They called me a hurricane and said that my love would destroy every one in its path.

They told me to settle down, dry up, stop spinning. They begged me to stop shaking up their perfect little homes that hold the secrets and lies they’ve grown comfortable to keep.

They used to point to the ocean, telling me that’s where my kind comes from. In their not-so subtle comments and struggle to tolerate me, they would dig their shoulders into mine and try to scoot me back out to sea.

I knew I was a force, that I was strong, that something about my presence always seemed to be accompanied by wind and rain.

What I found out later was that, I’m a thunderstorm.

Lightening causes a rumbling sound; that thunder is the after effect of a really bright light. There is a roar that comes with that light. Things get loud…

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The Hardest Thing to Accept About God

Be Malleable

I write this post to me as much as I am writing it to you. Because no matter how much I tell myself I understand this, I know it is against my human nature to actually live in it.

You know how you believe things in your head, but for some reason it can’t seem to go down to your heart? This is one of those issues.

I need this post.

Becasue I worry. I worry a lot.

Heck, people just worry a lot.

“Which major do I pick? What will my job be? What am I going to do with my life? How will I leave my mark in this world? How will I live up to what people think of me? Should I be in a sorority? And if so, which one?”

So much of my life is spent on worrying about decisions I have to make. What a waste.

What I worry about…

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Bem-vindo ao Brasil

Brazil Team

Day 1: Here I am sitting on a balcony in Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil. Is this real life right now? I feel so incredibly fortunate and thankful that I’ve been able to travel as much as I have…My team arrived in Campinas around 10:45am or so. That was after having our flight to Charlotte delayed so much to where we would miss our flight to São Paulo, rushing onto an earlier flight that, by the grace of God, had room for us, and then finally making the overnight flight from Charlotte to São Paulo. We were able to see a lot of the Brazilian landscape on the drive from São Paulo to Campinas. We saw a bit of the jungle and a lot of hillside villages. It’s definitely different from the excavation and subdivisions that we see across the U.S. After grabbing some lunch at one of the many buffets in Campinas, we checked into the hotel and spent the afternoon making up for the sleep that we didn’t get on the airplane. Some of the members of Igreja Batista Nova Campinas (the Providence church plant that we will be working with for the duration of our stay) came and picked us up from the hotel to take us to the church. Once everyone arrived at the church, we worshipped a little bit, and then we mixed, mingled, and ate dinner for the remainder of the evening.

Campinas Sunset

Day 2: Today was basically our tourist day. We left the hotel around noon to go to another buffet for lunch, and then we drove around Campinas for a little while to see different areas of the city. When we were all ready to get out of the van, we stopped at an ice cream shop for a mid-afternoon snack. It was pretty much the best place ever. It probably had around 80 flavors of ice cream and probably 30 different toppings. It was self-serve, too, so we could get as many flavors as we wanted. Some of the church members met us there, and then we headed over to Parque Portugal – the main park in Campinas – to walk around and enjoy nature a bit. After we had returned to the hotel and rested up a bit, everyone (my team and the church members) went out to this pizza place for Forrest’s birthday. It was unlike any pizza place I have ever been to. It was sort of like a buffet, except that servers bring the different kinds of pizza to you one at a time, and you tell them how many slices of each kind of pizza you want. Fun fact: People in Brazil don’t eat the crust of the pizza or put sauce on the pizza! I was sitting next to Marina, one of the young women of the church, and she told me that in Brazil, each person has to eat 12 pieces of pizza, and you keep count by your uneaten crusts. She actually had me fooled for a minute.

Parque Portugal

Day 3: We started our day early today as we headed out to a soccer school at 8:30am. There, Jesse spoke to a group of elementary-aged boys about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and then we got to play soccer with them! That was definitely the highlight of my day and maybe even the highlight of my trip. After grabbing lunch at the local mall and then resting up a bit at the hotel, we went back to the soccer school, where Jesse gave the same talk to older boys. We didn’t get to play soccer with them, though. A couple hours later, we went to this huge mall, which I think was called Parque D. Pedro. We ate dinner there with some of the church members and then did some shopping.

Soccer School

Day 4: Today was very interesting. We started out the day going to another school to do a third drugs and alcohol talk. This school, however, was a normal, coed, public school. The kids were probably around 13 or 14 years old, and they treated us quite different than the boys at the soccer school did…mainly because there were girls at this school. It all started when Jasper got down from stage to help hand out flyers, and the girls were almost immediately grabbing him to get pictures with him. That was pretty funny. But it didn’t stop there! Once we were all done on stage, the kids, girls and boys, wanted pictures with everyone and they even started asking for our autographs. So in other words, we all got our 15 minutes of fame. It took a while to get everybody out of there because the kids kept stopping us. I guess they don’t see gringos very often! I’m probably never going to ask any famous person for a picture or autograph ever again, though…well, I might, but maybe less often. We went to get ice cream after that, and then we spent the afternoon at the local mall again for lunch and to just hang out and walk around. We went to the church afterwards, worshipped a bit, and then Jesse spoke to the congregation about discipleship. While that was going on, the older women of the church prepared dinner for us, which was hotdogs cooked in a red sauce on a bun with corn, mashed potatoes, and potato sticks on top. It was SO GOOD. After we ate and chatted with everyone for a while, we headed to our host homes for the first time. I am staying with Jão Carlos and Nice, one of the older couples at the church, along with Jesse, Forrest, and Sidnee.

Public School

Day 5: Today was more of a sit and listen day for everyone. After lunch, we headed to SAB Jardim Nova Europa to set up for Jesse’s talk on self-worth and missions. We were able to play with Pastor’s kids for a while before the talk started, which was quite entertaining. We broke down the room after the talk, and then headed to the church for Brad’s talk about seven financial principles. That probably ended around 9 or 9:30pm, and then we all went out for pastels afterwards. A pastel is basically a hot pocket. The restaurant had pretty much every kind you can think of! (I had a banana and Nutella pastel.) Our group pretty much took up the entire restaurant, so we really had some fun times!

O'Pastel

Day 6: We woke up this morning and went straight to a market. I love going to those things and just looking around at all of the unique crafts and other items. I kind of wish I would’ve bought something there, but I just couldn’t decide on something! After the market, we all headed back to my host home for a churrasco, which is a Brazilian barbecue. They basically will grill for a good two hours straight. The food was AMAZING. We had steak, different types of sausage, potato salad, rice, garlic bread, and more. The churrasco was simply a fantastic time of food and fellowship! We had a couple of hours to rest up after the churrasco before we had to leave for church. (They do church on Sunday evenings. I wish we did that, too.) Jesse gave the sermon, and then the congregation had a few treats for us: 1) Leo, Vic, and Nana (the greatest set of siblings ever) sang Revelation Song in English for us, 2) someone had put together a slideshow of the week for us, and 3) many of the church members each expressed their thanks and appreciation for us coming all the way from Knoxville to guide them in Providence’s mission. This was the last time we were going to see many of the people, so we took a lot of pictures and spent as much time as possible with everyone before we all left to retire for the night.

Igreja Batista Nova Campinas

Day 7: Today was our last day in Brazil. After we woke up, ate breakfast, and exchanged gifts with our host homes, we all headed over to Polly’s sister’s family’s condo in Parque Prado, a very up-and-coming area of Campinas, for lunch. The complex almost looked like a beach resort with all of the high-rises and palm trees. The condo was also very nice on the inside. They made chicken stroganoff for lunch, which was incredible. I think I might try to make it for myself sometime soon. After a couple hours, we said our final goodbyes and headed to the airport. Overall, this mission trip was not anything I expected it to be, which they had said when we initially signed up. As Campinas is not an underdeveloped area at all, the service aspect wasn’t there. Instead, the trip was focused on building relationships with the members of the church plant and helping to further the Providence Church mission of “making, being, and unleashing fully devoted followers of Christ.” I’m pretty sure many of us, if not all of us, really want to return to Campinas someday soon to visit the church and our new friends. Those people have such great community, and their hearts are so big! We all miss each other already!

#WranglerLife

The road to Pine Cove was a long one, literally speaking. It was supposed to take us 11 hours to get there, but it ended up taking 16 hours because of a dead-stop traffic jam as soon as we entered into Arkansas. I rode there with Grace, one of the senior counselors at Towers who just so happens to go to Belmont! I had never met her before we left for the road trip, so we ended up having a lot longer to get to know each other than we had originally anticipated. Once we arrived, she showed Jordan (a fellow wrangler and Tennessean who followed us there from Tennessee) and I around camp before we unpacked and headed off to bed. Every day thereafter, I recorded events, thoughts, epiphanies, etc. in a journal my friend, Diana, gave me right before I left for camp. Instead of trying to type all of that out in blog format, I decided I would pick and choose some of my favorite things I wrote down and put them in list format here. I’ll also add my current commentary in brackets right after it.

Day 4: I’ve prayed aloud two days in a row! That’s a record! [Saying an honest, passionate prayer aloud and with people seems to make prayer so much more powerful. Why has it taken me so long to realize that?]
Day 5: We went to the Woods (a Pine Cove family camp) and ended up seeing a two year old mare, unbroken, begin to be trained. She was absolutely beautiful, and her name was Stormy. The trainer began by running her in the round pen. If she stopped running from the lasso he was throwing, he would invite her to him. As this whole process was going on, our barn manager, Laura, was relating the whole situation to us and God. A horse’s nature is to flee when they’re afraid. They aren’t the predators of anything, just prey. So Stormy was afraid of the lasso, so she kept running and running just yearning for a way out. She would occasionally pause at us, the audience, and look outside of the round pen with eyes of fear and just wanting a way out. It broke my heart! But it is just like us. We will often do anything to avoid submitting to God, because submitting to God means giving up control. But submitting to God actually means we have rest, just like when Stormy submitted to the trainer, she would have rest. She eventually did just that, and the trainer tacked her up to get her ready to ride and be USABLE. When we submit to God and let Him prepare our hearts to be open to His control, we will also be USABLE. If we aren’t usable in this life, we just live and die; our lives do not have purpose. But if we let ourselves be useful to God, our lives will have ENDLESS purpose – to glorify the great name of Jesus! [This was a fantastic way to prepare everyone for camp by inspiring us to be intimate with the Lord again.]
Day 9: We really do all have an inner five year old! [This is describing Towers staffers in response to this epic Frozen sing-a-long we had. If you’re going to be working with 2nd through 5th graders all summer, having an inner five year old is pretty much a requirement.]
Day 10: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” – John Piper / Being a Christian means finding a treasure that is more valuable than anything this world could give us. Nothing satisfies on this earth that is without Christ. [This is from a message the camp director of Timbers, the Pine Cove camp for 8th and 9th graders, gave to us.]
Day 11: “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 1:3 [It wasn’t a coincidence at all that I happened to read this verse in my quiet time right before the long, hard, hot days of camp commenced.] / The theme of identity has been very prevalent. To speak identity into someone is to tell them who they are under Christ – free. [So many people have identity crises, but we can prevent that by letting them know what we see in them.]
Day 12: Pray for the boldness that Paul, Timothy, and Silas had when they shared the gospel to the Thessalonians. In order to make the gospel more acceptable, alter the method of sharing it, NOT the message! [This was inspired by 1 Thessalonians 2:2 that I read in my quiet time. Another not-a-coincidence-at-all message that I needed to hear to prepare me for camp.] / Once the Lord establishes who you are, that CAN’T be taken away from you. We are who God intended us to be. He can’t do something imperfectly. His Word calls us sons of God, coheirs with Christ, and the righteousness of God. It is because of Jesus that we can be all of these things. He died on the cross not FOR us, but AS us. Jesus went through 30 years of process for 3 years of ministry for 3 hours of purpose. [These words are from a message the Towers camp director gave to us. This is another example of the identity theme. Let this be an encouragement for you.]
Day 13: I literally just prayed last night for the Lord to teach me about giving words of affirmation. This morning as I was reading in 1 Thessalonians 3, the theme of encouragement stuck out to me. Coincidence? I think not. I need to make sure I focus on celebrating others’ faithfulness in addition to growing in my own. [So cool.]
Day 14: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 / How are we to share the gospel if we are not respected and are reliant on others? / We’re all mentally, spiritually, and physically exhausted. When we had an evening of corporate prayer, the room sounded like a hospital because everyone was sick and coughing. [I needed every bit of encouragement from the Word I could get to work hard despite my exhaustion. This was still during orientation, so I didn’t know how I was going to last five more weeks of actual camp.]
Day 15: “Jesus is fully human. Although he is also fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being. He is just the first to do it to the uttermost – the first to absolutely trust my life within him, the first to believe in my love and my goodness without regard for appearance or consequence.” – God, The Shack by William P. Young [This was such a cool thing to read. I had never thought of Jesus like that before! I thought his miracles were to prove his divinity. I didn’t realize they were proof of his faith.]
Day 20: “You can never know God fully, but you can know Him truly.” [I can’t remember who said this, but it really stuck with me.]
Day 21: Some of my campers from the week said they received Christ at camper share. HALLELUJAH! This is what it’s all about! [This was when I truly saw the fruit of our labor for the first time.]
Day 24: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:37-39 [This is my absolute favorite passage in the Bible ever. It was important for me on that day because I was almost late to the barn because I didn’t actually wake up when I was woken up. Doing things like that really hurt my pride. I hate making mistakes! So I needed to remember that no matter how many mistakes I make in this life, which will definitely be numerous, nothing can separate me from God’s love or take away my salvation. That’s all that matters.] / Suffering should not drive us away from God. It should help us to identify with Him further and allow His love to reach us and heal us. In the storms of this life, God is still faithful. [A thing we had in the barn was that cardinals represent God’s faithfulness. There was a storm going on outside, and what do you know? A cardinal shows up in the middle of the thunder, lightning, and pouring down rain. What a cool reminder!]
Day 28: Lightning struck our well pump yesterday, so we’ve gone about 24 hours without water. It made me realize how much we actually idolize water, but we need not do that. Jesus is living water, which will quench our thirst. If it is not our time to go, the Lord will provide the sustenance we need to survive. [The kids got a good lesson in this as well.]
Day 29: “You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” – Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth [Cue homesickness.]
Day 31: Sometimes joy is really hard to find. Here, I’m most joyful when I have one-on-one time with the kids and when I’m dancing for Jesus. My prayer is that I will find joy in the grunt work as well. [It was hard to be joyful on this day because we faced a lot of criticism regarding our work in the barn. Just remember, joy is a choice!]
Day 33: “I see your face in every sunrise.” – Phil Wickham [This is a lyric from Wickham’s song, “You’re Beautiful,” and it’s just so true.] / “Faith never knows where it is being led. But it knows and loves the One who is leading.” – Oswald Chambers [The topic of faith was a theme on this day.]
Day 35: The feeling you get when a 10 year old kid shouts your name and waves at you with a huge smile on his/her face is just heart melting – childlike joy at its finest. [This may seem like a small gesture, but it really made my heart so happy. This week was probably my favorite group of campers.] / “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” – John 14:13 [I recommend you read this verse in context. It really brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “in Jesus’ name I pray.” It makes you think about what you’re actually saying instead of just saying it because we’re “supposed” to tack it on at the end of our prayers.]
Day 38: God is my rock, the breath of life, and freedom. [The wranglers went around in prayer saying what God is to us. These are the things that I said.]
Day 41: My spiritual gifts are discernment, wisdom, and teaching. [We told everyone at our morning Bible study what we thought each other’s spiritual gifts are. It was so cool. If you’re close to a group of people, I would highly recommend going around and doing this. It’s a great way to speak identity into someone!]
Day 42: We talked a lot today about listening to God. I firmly believe that God has told me many times to do or say things, and I disregard Him because of shyness. I’m going to try my best to act on His words now, though! [Be USEFUL to God; listen to Him, and do what He says!]
Day 45: There was a prayer on my heart that I was just itching to get out, and I finally prayed it with my partner for the week: “Lord, bless this partnership this week. Let the gospel be on our lips; let no child leave here without hearing the gospel. Spirit, come and fill this barn. In Jesus’ name, do not let Satan enter these gates!” [Wow! Did God sure answer that prayer! Read on to see how.]
Day 46: We had to spend 15 minutes cleaning because a room in our cabin was not clean enough. I spent the whole time being bitter about being punished for someone else’s mistake. But how much greater was the punishment Jesus took on for our sin! [That was certainly humbling.]
Day 47: Wow. That’s how I feel about today. God did some mighty things for sure! I prayed with my partner this morning that the Lord would speak through us and that the gospel would be on our lips. I also prayed specifically for this little boy who was scared to death of horses that God would give him the courage to mount a horse today. Last time he rode a horse, he fell off and broke his arm. Yesterday, he touched Twang and then ran away crying. God SO answered our prayers today; He went above and beyond, actually. First, a little girl received Christ with my partner. Then, that little boy we prayed for received Christ right before coming to horses, and then he not only mounted a horse, HE RODE A HORSE ALL BY HIMSELF. He said that he changed his mind about riding horses because he knew that God would protect him. Later on that day, another little boy received Christ with me! I have been waiting for that moment since week one. God is just so faithful. It was one of the best moments of my life by far. [My partner and I were so giddy the rest of the day. You guys, PRAYER IS SO POWERFUL!]

So that’s a glimpse of the things I learned and the experiences I had while at Pine Cove. That was a lot longer than I thought it would be, so if you’ve made it all the way down here, thanks for reading! I hope it encouraged you in some way, shape, or form. I know the experience collectively has encouraged me to get involved in children’s ministry again. It’s so fun and rewarding…I don’t know why I ever stopped… 

Welp, it’s off to Brazil for me in a few days, so there will be another blog coming soon about my experiences there! Yay!