The Hometel

My life is insane in a lot of ways right now, but I have this overwhelming feeling it’s going to be okay. And it is.

One bit of the insanity:
My house is severely damaged by a crazy flood that started from the teeny weeniest pipe in my upstairs bathroom, ran all day, and flooded all the way through to the first floor and the basement. I was house sitting, went to work, did my normal Monday night thing (Bible study, hang with friends, etc.), come home=house destroyed. A clean up team has ripped up floors, tiles, and eventually some walls will have to come down. 75% of our house is effected.

This was a couple weeks ago. Now insurance has me sharing a room in a hotel with my 17 year old brother…who I love. Who smells like teenage boy. All the time. Who loves ESPN. All the time. Who loves the temperature of -3 degrees in our room. All the time. But this hotel IS super nice! For real! Can you say continental breakfast? YEAH!

However, we can’t be here forever. Our insurance company is trying to find us somewhere to live for the next 4-6 months while the house is being renovated, but they’re having a hard time because not a lot of people want to rent out short term.
SO, if anyone knows of any 2-3 bedroom apartments for rent, especially in the Guilderland/Albany area so the Kid can go to school in the same district this year, let us know! Also, if anyone (anywhere…though between Albany-East Greenbush-Castleton would be ideal) could even just rent a room to me for a few months, my parents will probably have a lot easier time finding a 2 bedroom place for just them and my bro. I’m clean, friendly, respectful and don’t have a lot of stuff (anymore! …it’s almost funny now :p)

We’ve lost a lot of stuff…but it’s just stuff! God has turned everything around for our good like He does and we are so grateful. Churches and friends have come through in incredible ways, and even our insurance company has been really great.

If you know any way we can tackle this last bit of uncertainty with our housing situation right now it would be such a help to us.

Thanks friends. Be blessed.

These are a few photos of our house POST flood clean up guys tearing up everything!

K

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MONEYYYYY

So yesterday Pastor Lon spoke about money and I just wanted to share my financial testimony with everyone because it’s a miracle I’m witnessing and want to encourage my friends with 🙂

Around February I was freaking out about my finances. I knew I had a lot of student loans but I had no idea how bad it was, and on top of trying to keep up I had my car insurance to pay the next month and was worried I would not be able to afford it. ENTER GOD.

I felt like God wanted me to get on top of my finances, not just because they were making me anxious, but because He is teaching me how to finish things and to be faithful, as I’ve talked about a lot in this blog. Finances are one area of your life where responsibility, faithfulness and wisdom can be easy to measured–then those principles bleed over into other areas of life!

So back to Feb:: I met with Pastor Lon and we went over what I spend, what my expenses were, and what my new budget would be. He taught me some principles that might help me get ahead and also laid out a spreadsheet for me where I could factor in everything every week and there were no surprises.

The best advice he gave me:

1) TITHE. It’s not my money, it’s God’s.
2) Look at my bank statement and see what I’m really prioritizing
3) A budget is not just “what’s leftover.” Factor in things like gifts and vacations. Stick to it.
4) Make a goal of paying off small debts, then bigger and bigger ones.
5) Make a goal of saving at least $1,000 of emergency money.

After that first meeting I was really scared. Even though I had a plan, we had determined that I would need a supplemental income at least to give me a financial bump to cover my car insurance in March. I was worried, but God told me not to be.

As I was faithful and still tithed and stuck to the plan, God provided: 3 freelance clients called out of the blue that month! I hadn’t even been advertising, they just remembered that I do freelance web/video/graphic design from conversations or friends! It was exactly what I needed.

The next month, my tax return was much higher than I thought and I was able to put that money right into savings!  In May, by prioritizing it, I totally paid off my credit card debt! Last month my mom found an insurance check for a medical debt I’d been avoiding paying because it was so overwhelmingly high. That check covered 3/4 of the bill, and after negotiating a little the rest was manageable.

I went from avoiding phone calls and having zero savings to paying those bills from the crazy phone people and having over $1,000 in savings…within 3-4 months!

I still look at my overall finances and shudder a little sometimes  (I’d taken out a lot of student loans in college), but when I see what God has done so far I can’t help but have faith that He will continue to provide in the future!

SO I just wanted to encourage everyone: give your worries to God and be wise with what you have.
Remember Matt 6:26

Stop The Traffic Drive

This is an event we’re having August 1st. TELL YO FRANDSSS

http://www.kaltura.com/index.php/kwidget/wid/0_zm57ecd3/uiconf_id/4792432

Let Him Pt. 2

At the C3 conference in February, Steve Furtick of Elevation Church said this, “God doesn’t see dead situations the way you do. He sees the opportunity to ressurect.” I know in living this life of accountability sometimes we get caught up in how terrible we are, but aren’t then caused to look at the cross with an overwhelming thanks for the grace of God. We say, “Jesus, I let you down again!” and then forget why He came. We throw out the free gift of grace as if Jesus’ entire investment in us was supposed to be earned through the course of our lives and He didn’t know when He made us and drew us to Himself that we would let him down. As if He gives us a high five every time we don’t have a sip of our friend’s birthday margarita and chains Himself to His throne and needs a Kleenex every time we watch an episode of True Blood. Jesus is probably up there interceding for us like this, “God, can Joe finally accept the present I gave him when we met because this whole act where he is scared to tell his friends and Pastor about his Olivia Munn obsession and then looks at her Playboy spread again and cries about it after is getting old. I wish he was more concerned with accepting My grace than the approval of his peers so he could be accountable to someone and be able to move on.”

*I’m not saying by accepting grace it’s okay to sin. I’m saying receive God’s grace and move on from your sin. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. A son or daughter of the living God. Walk in that freedom!

When Michael Franzese came to speak at House Of Praise this weekend (you can find the whole message here ), he made the statement, “If God didn’t use sinners he’d have nobody to use!” AND IT’S TRUE! Yes, we have to repent and move on and listen to God when he tells us to go one way or another but we MUST ALSO rejoice in how good God is to redeem us and STILL call us righteous just for following Him.

And when it comes to judgment: I can be just as religious as the more liturgical denominations I have judged. God is showing me His standards for me, but how disgusting of me to try and put that on someone else. Me looking at an old person and saying they don’t love Jesus as much as I do because they don’t pray with “fire” and they love their hymnals and go to a completely mapped out 45 minute sermon is totally religious. Contemporary church culture can be just as religious as old school church. Who am I to tell you you can’t drink or listen to that music or watch that movie or smoke a cigarette. None of that stuff is in the Bible, and it’s not a barometer for how much you love Jesus.

I have to stop judging people. We have to stop judging each other, otherwise how are we supposed to be transparent with each other? We’re supposed to help our bros and sistas through life, which usually just means listening to them, not constantly condemning. Usually by the time someone is confessing what they’re battling with THEY ALREADY KNOW ITS WRONG THAT IS WHY THEY ARE SHARING IT. !!! . So, my challenge for myself in the coming weeks is not to judge everything that comes out of people’s mouths or actions, and just listen. Just be a friend. A loving friend. And to be way more transparent myself. I can’t walk around pretending like I don’t sin like all the time. I suck. But Jesus still loves me, enough that He DIED for me.

Let me tell you what this love is like: You marry some person. You sext escorts from Las Vegas all the time…but deep down you love your spouse the most, and you beat yourself up over your sextual indisgressions. Then in some crazy bank robbery going on around you while you’re checking your phone your spouse takes a bullet for you. They’ve known you haven’t been faithful to them, but they would DIE for you. They love your unfaithful, unworthy, self that much. Multiply that by the love a parent has for the child they have given everything-and that child still hates them; the teacher who pours their life into a student-and that student doesn’t show up for their final exam; the nation shown more grace and mercy than any country that every existed-and still choose to glorify it’s inhabitants over God. I AM DISGUSTING. I AM UNWORTHY. My God looks at me and says, “Child, you are beautiful and you are what I want. I want you.” I say, “God, I am not good enough to show others who You are. Jesus, how can I ever show others the power of Your name, of Your resurrection and of Your love?” He says, “Any level of “perfection” YOU strive for would be instantly overshadowed by My perfect love, be humble. You are what I want. I want you.” I say, “God, I’m afraid. I’m a hypocrite and I can’t hear You.” God says, “Perfect love casts out all fear. I will never leave you or forsake You. Through my Spirit I will draw people to myself. You are who I want to use. I choose you. Choose me.”

Receive His love. He is the lover standing at Your door. Let Him in. Seat Him in Your house. Let Him reside there and let Him do whatever he wants in that place. Don’t be afraid of what people think that place should look like. Let Him decide.

Let Him Pt. 1

I have this feeling that God is working on a lot of us in a way that is HARD because we haven’t had to endure these kind of working before. I know personally I haven’t had to because I’ve never been in one place long enough to have to endure workings on my character. A lot of the time I ask God to work ON me or expect Him to work FOR me but hate when He tries to work IN me.

Apparently a lot of people around me are going through the same thing and wondering why. I think right now God is stirring up this urgency in me: Keep running the race, keep enduring, if you run away–you’re going to have the same problems and issues deep within your heart waiting for you someday.

What does it take? It takes doing what God is telling you even if it doesn’t make sense or seem fun. It takes honoring the authority God has placed over you right now. It takes being honest with God, yourself and those around you.

That last part is the hardest for me I think. I’m noticing how extremely prideful I am and how I can really justify anything…and not tell anyone I struggle with anything. There have been things that God is bringing up lately that I’ve tried to ignore for a while, and He’s challenging me to be transparent with others about them. It’s funny, because since I work at a church and am in the leadership there I feel the need to be more private about my life for some reason…and I actually struggle more now than I ever did before I was employed there. I’m not getting wasted and bringing dudes home every night, but I have become super critical, spent less time listening to God, and not always shown others the love God wants to pour out through me–which is just as bad. Jesus’ two greatest commandments were to love Him, and to love people. In my favorite verse, John 17:23, Jesus prays for his disciples (and I consider myself a disciple of Jesus Christ) and says, “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” I don’t feel I’m loving God or people enough to exemplify to anyone how much God loves me. To exemplify how Jesus died for me. For this I am repenting today, and being transparent about it. Being a prideful person, it takes me being open about the things I’m struggling with to be humbled and allow God to work on me. It breaks down my sinful nature: I am self absorbed and image obsessed…and my heart is desperately wicked.

What are you wearing?

One of my best friends called me last week and told me about a situation that was both exciting and conflicting for her. She has been working as an intern for months and just took a paying job two weeks ago at a place that has benefits, a decent salary, and would give her steady experience in her field. Then she got a phone call from another company she used to work for: she has the opportunity to work as the right hand lady to someone with a lot of influence. This the job she was “working up to” with the one she just accepted, and BOOM, opportunity granted. The problem is, it pays a little less and will probably be a bit harder. In the long run though, it may be a better career move.

When she was asking me for advice, we were making pros and cons lists for her: staying at her current job VS. taking on a harder job for a while that could set her years ahead. We went back and forth for a while, then after a while I asked her:
Melissa,*  it’s five years from now and you are going to work. What are you wearing?

This question really helped her out…and then I started thinking about it for myself. Before Christ, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I just tried literally everything and weeded through my options. When I let God into my life, I had an even harder time having vision for my life.

At a panel discussion at the Gospel Music Association’s Immerse Conference last year, I asked, “Everyone here is talking about vision. I’m confused because I just want God’s perfect will for my life, and I’m scared of dreaming because…well…what if my dreams don’t line up with what God wants for my life?”

The panel went on to quote Psalm 37:4 (Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart)  and explain how God actually PLANTS dreams and visions in our hearts. I was even more confused when I left, but over the last few months I’ve come to learn the following:

1) As we focus on God, our vision starts aligning with His vision.
2) Never be so attached to a dream or a hope in anything on this earth that you couldn’t give it up for His will for your life. If you do need to give it up–remember what an exciting thing it is to have the chance to prove your love. Love is sacrificial.
3) Allow God to do what He wants. He plants vision inside of us, but sometimes we have to step back and let Him move the pieces together. Other times we have to put in the work. It is important to be sensitive to which of those times it is.

I guess the most important lesson I’m learning is that it IS okay to have vision…so long as it is submitted to God and our hope is in HIM and not IN the vision itself. I’m finding that having that vision keeps me from being foolish with today, but I can only do my best with today and trust Him to lead me towards that vision. Nothing I can do is going to propel it forward or cause it to be. I HAVE to be content with today. For me, my state of mind about today is usually indicative of how much I’m trusting Him about tomorrow.

I really don’t know everything (SURPRISE!) but based on what I’m learning I present the following challenges that have helped me:

If you’re having a hard time imagining your future: close your eyes and imagine what you’re wearing in five years. Are you working towards that goal? Also remember that you can turn your life around until you’re dead. The word “vision” doesn’t just apply to 20 year olds.

If you do have (Godly) vision: Sincerely evaluate if you’re still trusting in God to bring that dream to fulfillment. Remember the character of God. Is He not faithful? Have you been?

THE RETURN

Hey friends!

Took a little break from blogging due to wallowing in self pity over dumb circumstances…writers block.

Here’s the deal:

I haven’t felt as inspired by life lately. But you know what: I just turned 23, I’m blonde again (aka MYSELF again) and it’s time to make some “New Year’s” resolutions.

In the last couple of months I’ve felt wrung out, like I’m running a race and I can’t see the finish line, and my legs are uneven so I keep falling down and the gatorade guy kicked me in the head on his way to get delicious blue flave to someone else. Something like that.

I felt like this despite the following things totally being true/coming together in the midst of it all:

My friends are great. Seriously.
My parents love and support me and are wells of wisdom.
My mentors are the best. I cannot believe how amazing they are.
My financial situation is turning around in a way that HAS to be God.
Opportunities are opening up right and left.
I got an amazingly gorgeous FREE guitar. SENT to me.  Blessing parade.

God is totally stretching my faith and building my character. I can say in the last year I have grown into a WOMAN. That word used to gross me out. Actually I still don’t like it, but it’s what I am. I think cause it reminds of “womb.” WOMB-man. Ew. Though the word “wombat” doesn’t freak me out at all.

For now, lets stick to “WHOA-man.” Cool? K thanks.

ANYWAY

God is good. He is faithful. It’s me that’s such a complaining HO…sea’s wife. My Pastor told me this a few days ago, “God is working on you with the practical things, and not as much the spiritual, so He feels distant and it’s painful. But you’re probably growing more now than you ever did in the super spiritual times.” And you know what…he’s totally right (again.)

It just isn’t FUN right now. I remember when life was FUN. But really, my problem with fun has been I’m not allowing myself to have it. I’ve had this mentality like “Here I am waking up in everything sucks world.” AND ITS SO DUMB. Everything God has for us is ours for the taking, including JOY. So lately I have a new mentality: CHOOSE JOY. I wrote it on my hand to remind myself…and it’s working. Seriously try it:

When that same person uses you as a receptacle for their negativity again– CHOOSE JOY
When some unforeseen task gets in the way of the goals you set our for your day– CHOOSE JOY
When your bank account says $67 and your phone bill says $82– CHOOSE JOY BOO!!!

Because really, what can you do?

Yeah sometimes life just isn’t fun. But God’s promises are for you and if you aren’t living with the faith that He is going to come through, then you might want to ask yourself what you’re actually living for. Putting my faith and hope in the Lord are becoming the keys to my JOY. 

Hebrews 10:35-38

Do not let this HAPPY TRUST  in the Lord die away, no matter what happens. Remember your reward! You need to keep on patiently doing God’s will if you want Him to do for you all that He has promised. His coming will not be delayed much longer. And those whose faith has made them good in God’s sight must live by faith, trusting Him in everything. Otherwise, if they shrink back, God will have no pleasure in them.

So my B-day resolution this year: Trust God, choose joy.


The joy of the Lord is my strength. Neh 8:10
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart Psalm 37:4
…etc

We wait so much for our strength to bring us joy, or for the fulfillment of our desires to bring us joy. Why not be joyful first? 

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.Phil. 4:11

It’s not easy, but I’m giving it a shot.

2 Artists I’m really into

So when I started this blog I said I’d post artsy stuff, but then I started getting all these life revelations and I had to write about them somewhere. But I’m going to try to get back to the theme of this thing.

Here are a couple of artists I’m really into.

BLU

http://www.blublu.org/

This street artist has the SWEETEST videos (stop motion pieces involving paintings on ENTIRE BUILDINGS please do yourself a favor and watch.)

Ericailcane

http://www.ericailcane.org/sito/?cat=8

If you like sketch art and animals then I probably like you. Also, check out this dude.

God wants it Facebook official.

OKAY. Hear me out people. I had this revelation about my relationship with God, and people+God in general…and it relates to SEX. Dig it? Of course you do. It’s not that inappropriate and I think you smart/mature people can grasp it. Ok, here we go.

Yesterday I woke up and the first thing I think is, “Wow, I’m really getting to know who God is now, I’m not just experiencing little jolts of His presence here and there and deciding that’s enough of my knowledge of Him. Hmm.” THEN it hit me. I’ve been learning a ton about WHO Jesus is. I’m actually reading the Bible and it’s awesome. *Jesus-related Bible lessons to freak out to*: Jesus was there when God created the world. Jesus came into the world as a baby, and next time HE IS NOT COMING AS A BABY! He’s coming in His glory! I have no idea what that means but I know it’s gonna be sweet.

Anyway, I’m learning so much about Him through the Bible that I’m like, wow…how did I ever love you before I knew this stuff? This is like if you have sex (or whatever) with someone, it’s easier to have these strong feelings for them before knowing them that well because you’ve had this experience…but when you get to know someone, over time, it develops true love–realization of who they are, what they really want and the foundation to stick it out through anything, even death. This is just one of a bunch of reasons why God wants physical intimacy to happen only in marriage, but that’s a blog for another day.

So before I was content with just the physical aspect of my relationship with God: miracles, overwhelming presence, words of knowledge through prophets, etc. That was enough of an understanding of who Jesus was for me. But lately those things haven’t been as present in my life I’ve had to rely on my faith that God exists, the Bible, and the commitment I’ve made to Christ. God’s been making me chase Him a little, and I’ve had to be faithful in doing just that. It’s been a hard season, because I’m not getting everything I want out of my relationship, but God’s like, “Hey, why don’t you get to know me a little instead of asking for these experiences all the time.” ***

This got me thinking: so many Christians do this. We love God without commitment. We love God when we feel His overwhelming presence, but we don’t want to put the commitment into knowing Him. This is why this doesn’t always stick. This is actually really dangerous. Even in the New Testament, everyone believed Jesus was the Messiah when He was performing miracles, but few stuck by Him when it got rough. Personal relationships are supposed to be a model for Jesus’ relationship with the church (aka us), so this is a really practical lens to look at our relationship with God through: God doesn’t want to be a booty call. God wants commitment. God wants to be known.

***I am not saying that His presence, miracles, and other God experiences do not show us about who He is. I’m saying we should not rely on those things alone as the basis of our commitment to Him.***

Rise Up!

Right before I go to take my Sunday Afternoon Week Recovery Nap, I have this thought, “Wow, God never speaks to me in dreams,” then of course I have this crazy dream and I wake up all stirred up. God showed me how much influence the enemy has in culture, and how the church needs to rise up. Our weapons of warfare need to be stronger. I felt God was specifically talking about the arts to me. We need to get outside of our four walls. We need to stop claiming we are making art to have influence but gear it towards each other.

We need to stop conforming to patterns of culture and instead be creating them.

I am not saying we need to make better music and media to retaliate to the works of the enemy—I’m saying we should be making better music and media because we serve a God that is greater than any creative mind in the world, and we should do our work as unto Him with excellence and boldness. We have made excuses for far too long.

 

For more of this call and URGENCY to rise up, I encourage you all to go to this website:

http://www.comeandlive.com/CLD/MattieMontgomery/index.html

and download Mattie Montgomery’s full album for FREE. I’m not too into the actual music in the background but his spoken word/prayer is edifying and encouraging, and kind of relates.

Mattie’s words about the album:

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” I have released this album in hopes of encouraging my generation – my brothers andsisters, my family – toward their destiny in laboring for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe that we are the generation that will usher in the second coming of Christ, but I also believe that it will take a radical, electrified movement of young people whose words, actions and prayers are energized by the Holy Spirit through true, passionate connection to the Creator God.”