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Our little Oliver is 11 months today. My how time flies! It’s hard to believe he has been adventuring through life for one whole year now. His personality is really shining through. Everyday we see more and more of who God created him to be and it’s just so sweet to experience it.

He’s quite the lover of nature. I’ve been around lots of children and I’m not sure I’ve known any of them to study the wind blowing through the trees. Since Oliver was about 4 months old, the wind captured his attention. Whenever we go on a walk, he loves to have a “treasure” to hold—any sort of flower or leaf. Just the other day we were sitting on a blanket and we found a roly-poly (you know, those tiny black bugs that curl up as soon as you touch them!). Oliver kept studying it as it crawled and then he was super excited to hold it. We went camping recently and he discovered rocks. Every parent’s nightmare. He was so sneaky and quick to shove one in his mouth and just suck on it like it’s nature’s candy or something!

I’ve begun to realize that whenever I take him outside, all of life slows down as we start to pick apart everything we see in detail. Today it was butterflies. Simple, white butterflies fluttering from flower to flower. I’m reminded of the moment God made creation. In the Bible it says after every time the Lord created something, “And God saw that it was good.” My hope and prayer recently has been that I take notice in the world God created. May I be in awe of the tiny veins in the wings of a dragonfly. May I allow myself to be refreshed when the rains come. May I take time to make silly shadows with Oliver due to the warm sun shining its light. May all of us view what God created as treasures we get to enjoy, including the people around us. And may it help us to slow down, soak in life, choose peace, and enjoy God forever.

Make some time to adventure sometime soon! It’s so good for the soul to disconnect from regular life for a while. Allow God to bring refreshment as you set time aside to marvel at His creation.

  • August 1, 2016

Hello dear friends. It’s been quite a while since we’ve had our Monday times together. Know that I’ve missed you and that I’ve been praying for you!

Here I sit listening to the birds chirping outside, drinking coffee out of my Europe mug, and reminiscing on the month of June. Ben, Oliver, and I were scheduled to be at a month long missionary training in Missouri for the entire month. We had classes everyday usually from 9am-8pm with a few breaks in between. Most days I could hardly catch my breath!

Every moment was wonderful. Every dinner, banquet, class, session, meeting. I was on information overload! I can’t even begin to explain the things I have learned on how to be effective in building the kingdom of God. Our leadership is beyond compare. I am so happy to be a part of the Missions family, Europe family, and someday live in Montenegro sharing the truth of Jesus.

Our month, in a nutshell, was exactly what we needed. I could go into detail of the sessions that changed my life and nuggets of wisdom that I learned everyday. I could tell you stories about Oliver loving his time making other missionary kid friends and learning to dance. But today, my heart is overwhelmed for other reasons. There were times where the new missionaries and the veteran missionaries (those who are already serving in their countries) had worship times together. On this particular day, as the band played, I found myself in a room filled with people who were singing, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow.” I watched families sing aloud that they would follow Jesus no matter the cost, knowing they were going to countries where they would probably be persecuted and even killed for their faith. A room full of people who decided that the call of God on their lives was more important than their own plans. A room full of people who had a moment of knowing they had to leave their family, friends, and everything comfortable. A room full of people who, knowing that they may never come back, willingly had given their lives so that those across the world would find hope in Jesus like they had.

I watched as hands were raised in worship to Jesus and voices proclaimed the greatness of our God.

What an honor it was to be in a room filled with missionaries to all different countries. My prayer during that time of worship is still my prayer today and will always be: that I would continue to follow Jesus without turning back. No matter what comes my way. I pray the same for you. If you already know Jesus and have experienced his forgiveness and grace, I pray that you would be strong in your faith. Whatever season of life you’re in, whatever it is you may be facing, may you continue to follow Jesus. May you continue to experience His forgiveness and grace. And if you have not yet decided to follow Him, I still pray the same for you. That you would open your heart so that you can experience His forgiveness and grace. If those who follow Christ are willing to leave their families behind, learn a new language, learn a new culture, just to adequately share of their hope in Him, it must be a pretty great thing 🙂

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this Monday. As you sipped your coffee this morning, what was it you thought about? Are you hopeful today? I hope you find encouragement in the beginning of a new week!

  • July 11, 2016

Hello my dear friends! It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write and it’s caused me to miss you! Consider this our moment of sipping coffee and enjoying some “me” time together.

Our church had an outreach this past weekend and it was incredible. People were getting healed—PHYSICALLY. I mean come on, how often do you see someone pull out their oxygen and trach tubes and run up and down flights of stairs because Jesus healed them?!

This particular passage in the Bible has just been constantly demanding my attention. It’s found in Luke chapter 6 and verses 18 &19. Jesus had been praying on a mountain and when he came back down, he was surrounded by his followers and crowds of people. Luke states, “They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases, and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.”

The reason my attention keeps being pulled back to these verses is because it’s not a common thing to see someone pull out their oxygen saying that Jesus healed them or for someone who has been experiencing back pain for years be able to reach down and touch their toes. But here’s the thing: the Bible says that Jesus healed everyone. And if you follow Christ, then you believe that he is the same God now as he was then. So if that’s the case, wouldn’t Jesus want people being healed to be a common thing?

Like I said, I’ve just been going over that passage like crazy, studying it and trying my best to understand it. I don’t know why sometimes we can pray and believe for something and it just doesn’t happen. But I do know that from my own personal experience, even just this weekend, sometimes in order to actually receive healing, you have to admit that you need it. That was my case. Yes, pride crept in like crazy and I began to deal with insecurities (ugh, get away from me) and what ifs, but nevertheless, I had a moment of sheer desperation needing God to move in my life or I couldn’t live in the full potential he has for me. 

And God HEALED ME.

Is there something you need healing for today? Anything? Physical, emotional, mental, whatever it is, I believe that Jesus wants to heal you. We hear all the time that nothing is too big for God, but you know what else? God cares about the really small things, too—the things that are so small they seem unimportant and go unnoticed. Nothing goes unnoticed by God. Be filled with faith, admit to God what you need freedom from, and believe that He wants to heal you and will.

  • May 23, 2016

As I sit here in the living room trying to get my thoughts together, I am feeling the whole “Monday vibes” thing. My coffee is cold because I couldn’t get to it in time, dishes need to be washed, and Oliver has been refusing to nap for at least an hour (I’m being generous). I even got up early to get to Aldi’s and do my grocery shop before the day actually started. I was there at 8am, ladies! Talk about feeling accomplished. Sad to say they don’t open until 9am. So like I said, I’m feeling the whole Monday thing.

On the other hand, our front door is open and the birds are chirping so loudly that you’d think they were in our house, I’m sitting in a chair that’s directly in the sunlight pouring through the windows, Ben and Oliver gave me glasses as an early Mother’s Day present so I can actually see, and Ollie is just needing extra snuggles today—something I know won’t last forever.

If I were to hold all of the happy things in one hand and the “Monday things” in the other and weigh them, the “happy” hand would definitely be higher than the other. It’s just one of those days where I have to remind myself that my schedule for the day may not get to be a priority and that’s ok. For those of you with kids, I’m sure you’ve experienced this—possibly more than you’d like! Even if you don’t have kids, sometimes life just happens and your day gets all twisted up.

How many of you are thankful that coffee can simply be reheated?! I don’t know how great of a thing this is, but the dishes will always be there for whenever we can get to them! What a privilege it is to live this thing called life. It’s days like these that I’m almost gasping for breath and in the still moment when I can actually catch it, I’m reminded of the grace that I’m given to live each day. I truly believe that Jesus doesn’t give us grace just to make it through the day, but to live in our full potential for every set of 24 hours He gives us. Such a beautiful thing to soak in His peace, love, and compassion for us.

I’d love to hear how your day is going! Has it been hard to land on your feet today? Don’t hesitate to share how you’re able to stop and catch your breath during tough days.

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of Jesus and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:6-8

  • April 25, 2016

Throughout all of last year, I found myself in a place of really needing to be reminded of God’s love. I’d begun to forget His love in its entirety for me, you, and everyone else.

Here, I’ll explain a little more.

I wasn’t questioning God’s existence or if His love were real (because I know both are true). It’s just that due to circumstances in our life at the time and the difficult season Ben and I were immersed in, I felt like all around me I was watching God’s love being taken in vain. Not realizing it, I began to think, “I’m not going to accept God’s love in vain. I’ll make sure I work for it.” Y’all, that’s totally not how God works. But after days and days of the way I was feeling, I subconsciously made that decision—that God loves me depending on what I do.

I spent almost an entire year forgetting the true love of God. It wasn’t until the end of the year that I had a conversation with Ben realizing my current situation. Then came the constant prayer and asking God to remind me of who He is and His love for me and all people. One day in January, Oliver had woken up from his nap crying. I headed up the stairs, reached in to pick him up, and started to sing a song that is on an album that he loves (For Our Children EP by The Brilliance—it’s the most precious music written by a band to their children and Oliver’s in love with it. You should check them out!). I started to sing, “And as you sleep my dear, know that I’ll be near…” and instantly everything inside me broke. Through my tears of joy I said, “Ollie! That’s what God says to me! He feels about me and all other people the way I feel about you!”

It was one of the sweetest, most real moments I’ve ever had. I love Oliver with a precious love that only moms can relate to. His protection, well-being, and needs are always on my mind. Every giggle, coo, and even every cough is just the best thing to me. He has caught my attention and will keep it forever.

THAT is how God feels for us! He is a gracious God, filled with love for people who really are so undeserving. He loves us and that can never change. As much as I love Oliver, God loves us with a love that is so much more intense and passionate. So much love that He sent His only son, Jesus, to die for the sins and wrongdoing of all humanity (yours and mine) so that our sin would no longer separate us from God. Only when we recognize our sinfulness, acknowledge and believe what Christ did on the cross, and give our lives over to His leading can we step into a life filled with worth and love in God.

As you scroll through this today—wherever you are and whoever you are, no matter your situation in life—know that God loves you. Your protection, well-being, and needs are always on His mind. Every giggle, tear, and breath doesn’t go unnoticed by Him. You have caught God’s attention and will keep it forever. I encourage you to ask Him to show you how He loves you and I promise He will answer you.

If you’re needing to be reminded of God’s love today, check out the book of Psalms chapter 139 in the Bible. Absolutely incredible. And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!”

Psalm 139:17

  • April 18, 2016

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to do great things for God. At a young age, I remember thinking I would do whatever it took for people across the world to hear about the life of Christ and how to have hope through Him. In the 8th grade, God asked me if I would be willing to give my life as a missionary and I said yes.

When I was in school at Central Bible College, God continued to confirm how He had created me to give my life in overseas missions. My heart burned with passion for those who had never heard of Jesus. The thought, “if I don’t go and tell them, they will die without knowing” continually ran across my mind. At times, I felt guilty because of having experienced the love of Christ on a daily basis while others were living in desperate and scary situations with no chance of receiving what I had. And though I don’t believe God would place guilt on me for having experienced His love and power (since He freely gives it!), I do think it was a good reminder to not allow myself to be comfortable and forget that others deserved the same chance.

Though I was confident in God’s purpose for my life, I had several moments of being afraid to do it alone. And you know, in college everyone is at the age where you start “looking” for someone to spend your life with. Let’s just be real, the thought of being single and going across the world alone sometimes distracted me from keeping my eyes completely on Jesus—knowing He had everything under control. Sometimes I found myself not wanting to go into missions without being married. I’m sort of a romantic and it was easy to allow myself to dream of what I wanted instead of what I knew God was asking. What was it that He was asking? Simply that I be willing to follow His voice and do whatever it took that others would hear the Gospel of Jesus.

In chapel at CBC, I had this beautiful realization. The fear of not finding someone to spend my life with was crippling me. I wasn’t created to fall in love, get married, and live in a Disney movie the rest of my life. No! God created me so that I could enjoy His presence, He could enjoy mine, and that I would know Christ and share what I knew about Him! Early in life, I had experienced feeling physically safe in the presence of Jesus. I knew what it was like to be insecure and find worth in Him. At CBC, I really began to understand why Jesus—who lived a perfect life—chose to die for all of mankind who was so far from perfection. The God who encounters nothing too big or impossible, the God filled with love and compassion for a people so undeserving, the God I had given my life to as a young child promised to empower me as a witness of all of these things to all people. I made a declaration that day. No longer was I going to put God’s perfect plan for my life on hold because of thinking I had planned it better. No longer was I going to sacrifice that others would know Jesus because of my own desires. I had chosen to give my life over to Jesus and there really was nothing more I wanted than to live completely in His plan. Besides, He knows me better than I know myself. Wouldn’t He take care of my desire to get married? I left chapel that day declaring I would go overseas alone and do whatever it took that others would know Jesus and I meant it.

Be encouraged as you strive on in the life God has for you. More often than not, He asks us to sacrifice our desires for the sake of His purpose for our lives. I’d love to hear how God is leading you. Have any similar situations? Maybe God is asking you to let go of something and trust Him.

  • March 14, 2016

I haven’t started off a post this way, but I feel the need to this time. Below is a Scripture from the Bible that has totally been my life recently. I have the Scripture listed and then my explanation will be underneath that.

In the book of Romans chapter 8 and verses 5 and 6 it reads:

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”

How many of us would raise our hands in saying we don’t think evil thoughts? That our sinful nature doesn’t control our minds? I’d probably be the first in raising my hand, however, the Lord has really been revealing my sinful thoughts to me lately. Our minds run at a capacity that we can’t actually keep up with. Have you ever had those moments where your thoughts are so far out there and you can’t figure out which train you took that led you there in the first place? Sometimes we allow our minds to say that something is happening or that someone is thinking a certain thing about us when it’s not even true or that we are the one thinking evil thoughts about someone else. Our thoughts really can be so tricky and truly drive us crazy.

What the Lord has been showing me is that every one of my thoughts has a motive. Now, looking back at the verse, we see that either our sinful nature controls our thoughts or the Holy Spirit. It’s one or the other. So if I’m not thinking about how I can bless others, looking for the good in people, or just simply being positive, then my thoughts aren’t pleasing to God which makes them evil thoughts. Something I have begun to do is question my motive for every thought I can capture. Was my motive to boost my self-esteem or try to get someone to do something for me? If my motive isn’t pure, then something about my thought has to change. And check this out! While analyzing my thoughts and doing my best to keep them positive, that helps to control what comes out of my mouth! It’s just this great cycle of being uplifting to those around me, and keeping myself in a positive mood. Just like the book of Romans says, “letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”

Any thoughts? Experiences you’d like to share? I’m all ears! Thanks for reading.

  • February 22, 2016

The title of this entry is not going to be your usual thought of “unexpected blessings”. Bear with me.

Living close to my family currently, we try to have family nights once a week. This past Sunday night we had scheduled to get together. My mother was going to cook and we were all going to her house for dinner and games. Well, just this week we have started the phase of “Oliver needs to be comforting himself at night—so just let him cry until he does”. We’ve been pretty strict at putting him down at 8 until he gets the hang of nighttime. This particular Sunday night I was feeling very adamant that we should host everyone at our house instead. That way Oliver could be in his normal routine, have a bath, and be down in his own bed at his regular time. Everyone was fine with it. My mother brought food over, my brother came along, and my friend Nicky even joined us for the evening. Talk about a house full of great people!

As the night went on, we got Oliver down in bed and decided on dessert and some games. Almost immediately after we’d begun playing (Phase 10 for those of you who are curious!), something in me began to feel pretty uneasy. I tried to push through and continue playing, but the feeling just got stronger. I gave up, gave into the feeling in my stomach, and excused myself from the game. Boy, was I grateful I left when I did! Only minutes later did everything I ate resurface. It was pretty ugly. All of the guests left pretty quickly once they realized the events happening and Ben was my hero (as always) in taking care of me.

Where in all of that was the blessing part? When has a nasty stomachache ever been considered a blessing? I’ve said this forever and I’ll say it again, I’d rather be sick in any other way for way longer than have to deal with an upset stomach for an hour. But remember I said to bear with me for the blessing part?! Here goes:

 

  1. I was so adamant about being in my own home for the night to make sure Oliver could get used to his new night routine. Could you imagine having to be sick in another home with your husband to take care of an exhausted baby and also drive home with a wife who couldn’t even leave the bathroom? I was able to be sick in my own house, crawl my way to the couch, and sleep there for the night.
  2. Oliver had already been tucked away for the evening. He was safe, sound, and asleep in his own room. He was completely taken care of already.
  3. My mother cooked and brought dinner over so there was very little clean up involved.

 

Obviously getting sick is never a blessing. However, the Lord helped me see past my inconvenience and see how He blessed me and took care of the situation that He knew was coming. So you say, “If He knew you were going to be sick, why didn’t He just stop it and let that be your blessing?” And you know, I’m not 100% sure why God allows certain things to happen. But I do know that you can always find His love in the midst of chaos. Instead of stopping it, He allowed me to see the ways He brought comfort during my body needing to purge all that went into it. Be encouraged today. It may not be a stomachache that is plaguing your day, but know that in the midst of chaos, sickness, hurt, frustration, God’s hand is there. His love is there. Be on the lookout for His blessing and the way He takes care of those who trust in Him.

Ever experienced “unexpected blessings” during the midst of chaos and turmoil? Please do share! I’d love to hear how you’ve seen God’s hand and felt His love during the not-so-happy times.

PS – Soup is always a great choice when one is “under the weather”. Click here to find the recipe to a tasty pumpkin soup Ben made me while I was recovering.

  • February 8, 2016

Well, hello! I suppose you’re reading this to know a little about me. For the shortened and condensed version: I’m a wife, a mom, and a missionary currently living in PA (soon to be eastern Europe!). I drink coffee consistently and I love treats (like when you’re proud of yourself for working for an hour straight so you treat yourself to an ice-cream or something). I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and I not only believe, but have experienced the power of his death and resurrection and live specifically to tell of the hope found in Him.

Now, for those of you who need a little more.

I grew up in southern Alabama so don’t be alarmed if you read “y’all” a couple of times. Growing up in church, I knew the love of Christ at a very young age. When I was in the 8th grade, God asked me if I was willing to give my life as a missionary and go wherever He asked to share the good news and hope that is found in Jesus. I had always wanted to be a missionary, so I couldn’t believe He would ask me to go! Without hesitating, I said YES!

A few years after graduating high school, I went to college at Central Bible College in Missouri. It was the best 3 years of my life. The friendships I made were incredible. Some of the best people I’ve ever known were my professors and my classmates. The absolute BEST person I met while in school is Ben, my husband, who also attended CBC. Though he grew up in Spain as a missionary kid, God was asking him to continue in that and be a missionary for life. Ben grew up under the ministry of his parents, Ontheredbox. You should check it out online. It’s incredible.

We met Ben’s first day on campus and he asked me out on a date 3 years later. Our first date was in February 2013, we were engaged in April, and married in September. Yes, it was all in the same year. Yes, it sounds crazy, but that’s part of the joy of following Christ. No, I wouldn’t trade our timeline for anything!

Just a few weeks after getting married, we were asked to be student pastors at a church in Delaware. After praying about it, we packed up our home in Missouri and moved to the east coast by the first of January 2014 (Ben and I with our students is pictured above). During our next two years in Delaware, we encountered a number of situations that required intense trust in God. We had situations come our way during those two years that many times caused us to want to run from where God had us. Although we knew that missions was our longterm goal, we knew it wasn’t time to pursue it at that time. God had us in ministry in Delaware and that was where we stayed.

During those 2 years, our darling Oliver was born and shortly after that, God let us know that it was time to pursue missions. We stepped out of student pastoring in December of 2015 and began as full time missionaries in January 2016. For the next year, we will be traveling to different churches throughout PA and the states to raise our support in order to move to the Balkans (southeastern Europe—countries such as Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, etc) and share the Gospel across that area. You can always check out our Facebook page for more info and sign up for our newsletter: facebook.com/benandjessi

All of this is to say stay faithful to what God is asking of you. He hasn’t forgotten about the desires He’s placed in your heart. Stay faithful, stay joyful, do your part while trusting in God and He will do His part. He always does. He’s always faithful.

  • January 25, 2016