Mango Mark 

There are many fond memories of my childhood, and most involve my dad. Daddy didn’t miss soccer games and piano recitals and was at every pageant with a bouquet of flowers. He played with goats and baby ducks too and taught me to fish and thrift. We spent Sunday afternoons swimming, and every morning he made me breakfast. 

Some of my favorite memories, especially as I got older, were that Daddy chaperoned trips at school and with our youth group. One trip during middle school, everyone came up with nickname alliterations to help us memorize names. Daddy picked “Mango Mark,” and to this day, people I went to school with will ask, “How’s Mango Mark?!” Daddy has a gift of making the ordinary fun and exciting. He can turn a bus ride, a plate of scrambled eggs, or a day at the pool into something you will never forget. 

I am so blessed and thankful to have such a father, and it has made me think about my time and my impact on others. Fifteen years from now, will people want to know how I am doing? Will people remember me for being intentional? Will I leave a positive impact? 

On this Father’s Day, I am reminded of a few things:

1. Maybe you haven’t had a “Mango Mark” of a dad, and memories with your earthly father don’t have as much joy. Know that you have a Heavenly Father who desires to dote upon you. 

2. Maybe you have a “Mango Mark” of a dad too. Be thankful, but also know that your Heavenly Father loves you that much MORE!  

3. Just like Daddy did for me, your kids, students, neighbors… The people in our lives need our presence and time. 

4. We have an opportunity in our parenting, teaching, and all of our relationships to represent God. 

5. If we claim to be Christians, we are representing our Heavnely Father- rather well or not. How we spend our time and how we love is noticed and reflects God to the world. 

This year, I want to be a “Mango Mark” in my faith. I want to volunteer with joy and make the ordinary fun and exciting. I want the world to see that my Heavenly Father is loving and full of surprises. I want my time in my home, classroom, and community to reflect well the love I have been shown. 

Hummingbird

I summoned my inner Snow White today. This morning, a hummingbird was trapped in our screened-in porch, and it took about 20 minutes to get the sweet creature out. Over and over again, I watched as the bird hit against the ceiling trying to escape with no luck. The door was open, and I tried to get it to understand and see where freedom lies, but it would not, could not, exit. 

On my way to church this morning, as I’m running behind and preparing the details of my dramatic hummingbird rescue story for my husband, I could not stop thinking about how the bird would not try other ways to escape. The hummingbird only tried the ceiling, for twenty minutes. Over, and over, and over again it ignored the open door. 

How often do I do the same? 

I choose the same chains of sin, temptation, and complacency. God, everytime, opens doors that I too often ignore. I like to try things on my own and often believe that my ideas, plans, and decisions will work for the best. But just like the sweet hummingbird this morning, my plans are not best. May I focus this week on the open doors God places in my life. May I trust His guidance above any of my own instincts. 

The Greatest Bargain

I have a deep love for thrifting. I enjoy, sometimes too much, finding great deals at thrift stores, antique malls, and flea markets. I love bartering and getting vintage finds for cheap. I like finding places to decorate in our home. Yet, in all my many years of scouring for treasures, I have never once had a vendor give me an item for free. For a good deal, often, but free? Never. 

As I found new homes for my vintage finds this Spring break, I was reminded of the greatest bargain I have ever received. While I have 100 year old mason jars and a peg board of 1960s kitchen gadgets and crates and lanterns and chairs that were found at a steal, none of the items in my home are my greatest bargain. 

You see, when I was eight years old, and interested in Lisa Frank and scrunchies, I was busy pleasing myself and others. I disobeyed my parents. I was boastful at school. I was mean to my sister. I had sin in my heart. 

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And also when I was eight, I recognized the weight of my sin and that because of my choices, a perfect man, the Son of God, had to die. One Fall night in my bedroom, I received the greatest bargain. I gave my guilt and shame to a Holy God, and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I was able to exchange my sin for eternal life… for free. 

“for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Now, almost twenty years later, I have life. I have hope. I have salvation. I received these not as a 3 for $10 bundle, but for FREE. This Easter Sunday, don’t let the greatest bargain pass you by. You may have sat in church services before. You may have heard the Gospel before, but maybe you haven’t accepted the greatest bargain, the gift of salvation. 

You don’t have to barter. There is no money to exchange. Jesus paid on your behalf. Simply ask a Holy God to forgive you of your sin, accept the sacrifice of Jesus on your behalf, and live in freedom. 

The greatest bargain is awaiting. 

L-O-V-E

“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.” (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13‬:‭1-3‬ ESV)

Going to church, mentoring teens, teaching littles, reading my Bible… all of these are good things, but without love, what am I truly doing for further the Kingdom of God?

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭22‬:‭36-40‬ ESV)

The two greatest commandments are not deeds but rather matters of the heart. True love is selfless, without pride or agenda, and stems from the unconditional love of God.

“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.” (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13‬:‭4-7‬ ESV)

Who do you need to show true L-O-V-E to this week?

Our Top 10 Biggies of 2016

In our home, we use a memory jar to record moments throughout our year and read them together on New Year’s Day. We also write big God moments on stones and place them in our Ebenezer Jar. This year, we started the new tradition of reading all the stones in our jar to look back and see God’s faithfulness and provision throughout our marriage. This year, three  stones were added! God is good.

1. We purchased our first home.

2. Justin accepted a position at Journey Church.  

3. I transferred schools and grades.

4. Hurrication called for much needed time with Upstate friends and family. 

5. Quite a few sleepovers, dinners, and hangouts with a fabulous group of teens.

6. We got a new dog, Nala. 

7. We celebrated three years of marriage.

8. Visits from both sides of our family.

9. Two of my dear friends welcomed new little ones, and another a fiancée. 

10. Opportinity to serve teens in Hondurous has arisen.

2016 was good to us Hoos, and I look forward to what 2017 will have instore! 

Lowcountry Family 

We have been showered with love from our Lowcountry friends. From helping with unpacking, to inviting us over for dinner and gifting us with homemade cookies, it has become more evident the past week that this is exactly where God desires us to be. I feel like we have as much “family” here as we do in the Upstate. ❤️ 

Too Excited to Sleep

I am 27 years old, and I still can’t sleep on Christmas Eve. I love everything about Christmas. Seeing family, opening presents, eating a big breakfast at Granny’s, singing Happy Birthday to Jesus with my sister, every aspect of the Christmas season brings me joy.

I am the same way with other things in life, like moving into a new house. Tuesday night, I could not go to sleep because I was so excited to close the next morning. My normal sleepy self has been wired each night this weekend staying up until late decorating and settling us in our new home.

The anticipation of events is often just as fun as the event itself, isn’t it? In church, we are talking about Advent, and I know that I am excited about Jesus, that He came and we can celebrate His birth, death, resurrection, and His coming, but am I excited about the anticipation, the here and now?

It comes narural for me to decorate and organize, but do I stay up late at night thinking and planning how to better prepare the people  around me for Christ’s coming, inviting neighbors into our home and chatting with coworkers? Do I think as thoughtfully about Gospel  conversations as I do the perfect Christmas gifts for my family?  

May I this season, and every season, be about the Kingdom more than the wordly stuff that seems so inticing. My to-do list is long this week, filled with new home and Christmas fun, but Jesus is coming again, and there is a lot of work to be done! I am learning more and more that spreading His message of love and redemption must be at the center of my busy.