Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday ten: on Uganda

Well friends, I cannot believe it, but in one month I will be in Uganda! God has been so faithful to provide what I need for this trip financially, and now I am attempting to be prepared spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Here's ten things I want you all to know about this trip:

1. Our team is small, but God is mighty. I will be going with two men from my church. Our trip leader, Robbie Woelfl, is the discipleship pastor at my church, Watkinsville First Baptist. The other team member is a student at UGA. While our numbers seem small, we know that God is able to do a mighty work in and through any two or three who are gathered in His name.

2. We will be working with an organization called In Mission Ministries, which seeks to train up Ugandan men to work within their own communities. Part of our time will be spent working through a curriculum for pastors that will help them grow in their understanding of the Bible.

3. The spiritual atmosphere there can be dark. Pray for our hearts to be filled with joy and peace.

4. We will be able to visit some of the refugee camps in the Gulu district. I have no doubt that this will be a difficult day, and I pray that it will be one that leaves me changed.

5. There is a thing called "Africa time," thus we will be learning to be quite flexible. :)



6. The people there love music. This was so exciting for me to hear, since I can hardly sit and read without background music.

7. We will be able to visit several different villages and see the work that is being done there. There is a school in at least one of the villages, so with the assistance of a translator, I may be able to teach!

8. At some point, we will be able to baptize new believers, which I know will be so poignant and special.

9. The time difference is seven hours. They are ahead. I'm pretty sure my body is going to hate me. I'm leaving two days after school ends here. Please. pray. hard.

10. I'm excited and eager to see what God has for me to learn and see on this trip. It has been so amazing to watch Him work in the past few months, and I know that He is going to be with us as we go.


*Photos are from last year's team.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

on living the life you want to live


Y'all, I absolutely love to travel. I wish I could go somewhere new every month. Traveling to a new place is exciting for me, because I love to see how other people live and take in unfamiliar sites, begging them to find a place in my memory for later. I believe that everyone who can should travel out of the country at least once in their lifetime, and if at all possible, should live in a place unfamiliar to them. The wealth of customs and traditions found in other places that pushes us comfort-seeking Americans out of our comfort zones can be a blessing in disguise.

The Lord speaks to me through repetition and patterns. For instance, when I was preparing to move back to the States back in 2011-2012, He continually brought Isaiah 43:18-19 before me, making it clear that He was going to do something new in me and through me in the next season. The past few months, I have been bombarded through books, blogs, and movies with one idea--the life I have is fragile and must be lived with intention. No matter where I am. 

Each of us wants a life that matters. We want to know that what we do while we are here counts towards something beyond ourselves. My purpose is to give God glory in all that I do. I am a daughter, sister, friend, teacher, and mentor. These roles cannot be taken lightly. And so I seek to fulfill these roles with intention. My temptation is to run away from situations when they become too difficult. I like to think I'm strong, but the truth is, I am so, so weak. And emotional. And dramatic. There have been seasons for me in which I wanted so badly to just quit. I wanted to run away from the hard parts of the place God had me. I came to believe that I must leave the place I was in order to find what I was looking for. That's not always the answer, though. I can find joy in the everyday of where I am. Right now.

A few months ago, I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It came into theaters Christmas Day, but being the cheapskate I am, I waited until it was at the dollar $2.50 theater. Obviously. The film tells the story of an average man, Walter, who notoriously daydreams and zones out through normal activity, wishing he lived a different life. Being a dreamer and idealist, this story deeply resonated with me. When Walter realizes just how unsatisfied he is with his current life state, he takes a leap of faith and decides to do something about it. His epic adventures completely change who he is and shift the trajectory of his life.

All of us want adventure and a life well lived. The question is whether we are willing to do the hard work of getting there. Living the life we imagine for ourselves often is a matter of intention, not time or money. Sitting down to evaluate our choices about how we spend our time and what matters the most to us can inform us and show us where our priorities lie. In this social-media infested age, we can so easily fall into the comparison trap. 

OMG they're on another vacation? In Europe?! I hate my life.

Does she seriously love her job that much? She gets paid to do that?

These thoughts can overpower us and send us into a downward spiral if we aren't careful. But we always have another choice. The better portion- to sit at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to show us how to love the life we have right here and right now. And if there's something we just don't like about the life we have, let us have the boldness to ask for the courage to change it. He who called us is faithful, and He will surely do it. 

via

Friday, April 18, 2014

on Good Friday

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to His own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 

He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. By oppression and judgement He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?

And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence and there was no deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; he has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.

-Isaiah 53

So very grateful for a Savior who came for me and keeps saving me. This scandal of grace is one I hope to never get over or take for granted. Thankful for a God who wrote an epic love story that keeps on giving.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday ten: on teaching

While it is hard to believe, I am about to finish my fourth year of teaching. We have 23 more days, but who's counting? It feels strange to type that, and I have a hard time processing and thinking through all that I have learned as a teacher and a person in these last four years. So of course, with the  mindnumbingly boring and difficult  CRCT this week I've decided to think about the reasons why I love teaching- those things that keep me going on the hard days. In no particular order:

1. Kids are just plain funny.

I mean, they say some crazy things. Last year one of my students said to me, "Hey Ms. Miller, do you know how vegetarians take a dog's temperature? They stick it up their butt!" I think she was a little confused. But I got quite a laugh out of it.

2. Kids are sweet.

Honestly, kids can be downright adorable. They are thoughtful and more perceptive than we realize. And when given the chance, they can be much kinder than we adults are to one another.

3. I love people.

If I had to work at a desk with a computer/numbers/paperwork all day, I would roll into a little ball and die. Read: dramatic extrovert speaking.

Free Cone Day with kids from Broadacres Children's Ministry,  spring 2009.


4. Jesus valued children.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." -Matthew 19:14

5. Education opens doors.

It is a well-known fact that a solid education is the foundation for a life that is set up for success. Without education it is difficult to advance in today's world.

6. Kids need stability.

With all of the awful injustices kids today face when it comes to family dynamics, school can often be the only stable place a child knows. Some of my students see more of me than they do of their own families. While it is a big responsibility, I am grateful to make school a place where they feel safe and loved.

Kids at the brickyard in Chihuahua. Be still my heart.

7. The summers off are not too shabby.

Obviously, this needs no explanation. Having the summers off gives me the freedom to travel, rest, volunteer, and to be with friends and family.

8. Kids have something to teach us, too.

I am about three times the age of my students, so I've lived a lot more life than them-seen various situations and walked through things they have yet to face. But the truth is that they, too, have walked through situations I will never understand or be able to, and I can learn from their resilience.

9. Did I mention that they're fun?

I love building relationships with kids and watching them grow. One of my favorite parts of teaching is when kids come to visit me or when old students from years past email me or write me on Facebook. I love hearing about their lives now and how they have grown.

Fifth and sixth grade class from Colegia Binimea, Chihuahua, MX; 2012.

10. Teaching makes an impact on the future.

By far, the most important (and my favorite) reason behind why I teach is that what I do-the things I teach that are officially or unofficially tied to the standards/curriculum-are things that will mold and shape the future. It sounds idealistic and far-fetched, but teaching is tied to the future-on this earth and in eternity. I was privileged to have some amazing teachers. The ones I remember most were believers who shone with the light of Jesus. That's what I want to be for my kids-someone who loves them fiercely, and who they can think about later and realize that the love they felt from me was supernatural and from a worthy and holy God.

Friday, April 11, 2014

on speaking the truth

Hey friends! I hope your week has been splendid. I'm linking up with She Reads Truth again to be a part of #SheSharesTruth in order to connect with other women and share our thoughts on a passage of Scripture. This week's passage is 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 

So often it is easy to stay silent about the most important things. It is easier to sit still and keep your mouth shut when you want to save face. But living as a follower of Christ is not about saving face. It is about making Him known. Even when your desire to be well-liked is stronger than your desire to bring Him glory.

As an outgoing person, I find it easy to talk with others. I love learning about people's backgrounds and finding common ground with those who look nothing like me. But as a human being, I have times when I just want to be left alone. When I want to not be bothered and want to stay comfortable. Jesus never asks about my comfort, though. He doesn't want me to find strength in my perceived safety. He wants me to find strength in Him.



Not speaking words of truth can be an act of prideful disobedience. God has done great things for me, and I believe that it is worth sharing with others. So why don't I more often? Well, I worry about whether my words will come out right. Will I offend someone? Will I say the wrong thing at the wrong time?

All of the above are excuses in God's economy. Paul, the author of 1 Corinthians (and like, most of the New Testament,  #winning) writes to the people in Corinth to simply state that the Holy Spirit was the One who inspired them and breathed new life into them. Nothing he said could have made a difference if not given to him by God Himself.

So friends, when you find yourself in a situation where you know that you've got the words to say to someone that would help, encourage, or challenge them to look to or walk more like Jesus, say them. Our words, eloquent or uneducated, are not what save people. Jesus saves. So glorify Him in your speech and watch how people take note and are drawn to the Savior Himself.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuesday ten

So on Saturday, I ran my fourth half marathon. If someone told me about five years ago that I would type that sentence and it wouldn't be a joke, I still would have laughed out loud in disbelief. Jessica Miller and runner are words I thought would never belong together in the same sentence. But here we are, five years later. People ask me all the time why I run and how I run. First of all, I'm really slow. So it's not like I'm out there winning races and racking up prizes. But I still enjoy it and need it. Thus, this week's Tuesday ten is dedicated to the ten things I've learned through and gained from running.

After my very first half with Lyndsey, one of the best runners I know.

1. Running takes endurance.

I'm not fast, but I can run for a while before I get tired, as long as I don't go too fast. The same is true in life. I can go for a while, but if I try to go too fast, I exhaust quickly.

2. Running is much more enjoyable when you start slow.

Back when I first started running, I had to realize that you just can't go out and run ten miles. It's a process that takes time.

3. Running requires purpose.

Are you running (or trying to run) to lose weight? For your sanity? To take care of yourself? You've got to have a purpose, just like anything else you pursue in life.

Before the Peachtree Road Race 2012 with my daddy. 

4. Running is better with a soundtrack.

My running soundtrack ranges from Jesus Culture to Justin Timberlake. It's all dependent on how I feel that day. The steady beat of the music helps me pace myself.

5. Running requires discipline.

Training for anything necessitates a plan. Just as Jesus said that a king must evaluate the cost of war and deliberate to understand his assets, so must a runner evaluate the plan needed to train and be ready for the race.

6. Running requires a loss of pride.

I like to be good at things, and while I definitely would not consider myself to be a competitive person, I don't want to be last. So when I came to grips with the fact that I was not going to be as fast as my other friends, I was able to enjoy running much more.

After my second half marathon, where I ran in my best time!

7. Running brings strength to one's body.

It is amazing to see what your body can do when you push it past your expectations. The very first race I ever did was a 5k, and I walked the whole time. Then I did a half marathon and ran (almost) the whole thing. I skipped the 10k stage. Go big or go home, right?

8. Running is great, but sometimes it's okay to walk.

Sometimes you just need to slow down and listen to your body. It's that simple. Most runners will tell you that there is a definitive difference between a good pain and a bad pain. When you are truly struggling, just stop and walk. It's not the end of the world.

9. Running requires you to sometimes rely on others.

You may have a situation where you do not think you can finish a race. You just cannot make it one more step or imagine running 1,2, or 5 more miles. Enter running buddy or BFF. Just the presence of a familiar friend can help you draw strength from a place where you didn't know you had it.

After the Chick-fil-A half this weekend. Hilliest course but still a blast.

10. Running helps clear your mind and allows you to recognize your need for Jesus. 

I often run after work, because it allows me to decompress the day-the good and the bad. And when I do that, I can think so much more clearly and am able to gain the perspective I need-that I am not in control, but He is. And that is better than any runner's high.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

- Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

on courage

The She Reads Truth online community is for women who read the Word together, gleaning what they can from the inspired breath of God. This week's Scripture to share was Joshua 1:8-9, which I found appropriate considering where the Lord has me right now. I'm linking up with the #SheSharesTruth community to share what the Lord showed me about these words.


There are many things going on right now in my life personally that will bring about change. And while I love a new season, change can be excruciatingly difficult and frightening. This year, I prayed and talked with the Lord about what my word for the year would be. The word fearless kept coming to mind, and I adopted it as mine for 2014. I don't consider myself to be a person who is generally filled with fear, but as I have grown and gotten older, I think I have come to understand consequences of choices, thus weighing them more deliberately than I may have when I was younger.

One of my favorite stories that my dad tells me about myself as a child is one of summer bliss. He says that he watched in awe as I climbed up to the diving board at the YMCA and jumped into the 10-foot deep end, smile on my face and no doubt laughter in my throat. He thought to himself, "This girl is fearless." Being the oldest child, I've always had  fierce sense of independence and responsibility. If I don't do it, it won't get done. That's the way it is. Or at least that's what I like to think.



But God's economy is different. He says to me that it's already been done. He's already paid the price, made the way, and counted the cost. He just asks me to trust Him enough to see the fruition of His plans. What I love about the Lord is that He is constantly molding me. I think I know what is best for me until I see the way He moves. And in this Scripture, He reminds me of the importance of renewing my mind with His thoughts in order to move into the the calling He has spoken over me. Not just "the life calling" but the everyday life choices of walking with Him. And while it is sometimes scary and uneasy, it is so worth it. Because He deserves it all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday ten

Yesterday was a crazy day for me. I received some very good news and then some very disheartening news within hours. It caused me to reflect on how I can know and believe that my God is trustworthy and good. Over the years, the Lord has shown Himself trustworthy to me in myriad ways. These Scriptures are just a small sample of the words He has used to encourage me and reaffirm my trust in Him as my only constant. I pray they encourage you wherever you are today.

1.       Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
-He always delights to give us good gifts.

2.       Psalm 18:28: For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
-He gives us exactly what we need for that minute/circumstance/situation and not for what is yet to come.

3.       Philippians 4:19: And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
-His riches are bountiful for His children.

4.       Lamentations 3:22-27:
22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
    the yoke in his youth.
-His faithfulness is unfathomable because we are often faithless.

5.       Isaiah 43:18-19: “Remember not the former things,nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
-He’s always doing a new thing, especially behind the scenes and in ways we never thought possible.



6.       Ephesians 3:20-21:  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
-His plans for us far surpass anything our feeble minds could dream up for ourselves.

7.        Genesis 50:20:  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
-He can use literally anything for His glory and to fulfill His purposes.

8.        Psalm 34:5: Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
-Those who look to Him need not fear shame.

9.       Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
-His plans are always for our good, even when (especially when) we cannot understand them.

10.   Ezekiel 37:4-6: Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.  And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
-He can breathe life into the most fatal of souls. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

#100happydays

As an avid reader, I follow and read various types of blogs. One of my favorite lifestyle blogs is A Beautiful Mess. Upon reading through their recent posts, I discovered a new project called 100 Happy Days in which participants attempt to capture something happy each day for 100 days. It's a simple thing that can change perspective and is closely aligned with the practice of counting gifts that Ann Voskamp so eloquently describes in One Thousand Gifts. 

Here's the crux and purpose of the project:

We live in times when super-busy schedules have become something to boast about. While the speed of life increases, there is less and less time to enjoy the moment that you are in. The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, is the base for the bridge towards long term happiness of any human being.

71% of people tried to complete this challenge, but failed quoting lack of time as the main reason.These people simply did not have time to be happy. Do you? 

Read more here.

So, my friends, my challenge begins today. My platform of choice is Instagram. Are you with me? For the next 100 days, my mission is to look for the happy. 

Day 1: Celebrating wedding #4,345 with these two.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tuesday ten

1. Roasted Cauliflower and Mushroom Quinoa

OMG delicious. They say that when you make three changes to a recipe, it becomes your own. Well, I made a few. I didn't have enough quinoa, so I used Israeli couscous as well. I also was low on EVOO so I tossed the veggies in coconut oil. Didn't have thyme, so I used basil. And finally also added some chopped garlic cloves. It was, in a word, divinity.

 


My BFF Katie and her hubby Will just moved in to their first house! It is adorable and gorgeous, and I am over the moon for them.



Our sweet friend Haley married her love, Brandon on Saturday, and it was such a joyous time. 


3. Provision

The Lord has provided so abundantly for my trip to Uganda! It is insane how I've watched the numbers go down. Right now I only need $230 more to buy my plane ticket by March 30. Then the remaining $750 is due on April 13. So many people have been so kind and generous. I have full confidence in His ways. :)

4. Sunny spring days. Need I say more? Boy am I glad winter is behind us. 




Y'all. This book was so. good. I am a huge Hunger Games trilogy fan, but after seeing the trailer for Divergent in theaters several times, I knew I had to read the series before I saw the movie. The first book did not disappoint. Ever since reading Brave New World in high school, I have had an interest in dystopian societies. The disparity of humanity is fascinating to me. Anyways, I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading this Friday night/Saturday morning. Amazing. I'll have to read the other two before I decide which series I like better.

6. Rend Collective's new album, The Art of Celebration

I just adore Rend Collective and have been so blessed by their music. Both times I saw them live, they made it clear how important it is for followers of Christ to sing with abandon and to truly rejoice and be free in their worship. Here's one of my favorites from the album:



So I've been trying to "eat clean," and while I have my moments, it is something that I hope to make a lifestyle. This company sends yummy, healthy, non-processed snacks to your door each month for about 20 bucks! When I consider how much I spend on snacks each month, that is not too shabby. I just got my first box today and everything in it is so delicious! You can be surprised or customize it according to your preference/dietary needs. They even have vegan options! Definitely worth it to me. 

*If you want to sign up, email me at jess56@gmail.com and you can get $10 off your first box! :)


I absolutely love my church. The community there has been so good to me, and there are so many special people who have invested in me there. If you're a local friend and need a place to go on Sunday mornings, let me know! Watkinsville is wonderful. :)

9. Early release days

This week is parent teacher conference week, which means kiddos leave at 12:20 on Wednesday-Friday! *cue happy dance*

10. This quote

via
Have a great week, friends.
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