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  • My Writer's Declaration

    My writer's group from the year decided to keep meeting throughout the summer to encourage each other's summer writing plans. We've recently challenged one another to write our own declarations - a sort of mantra to speak over ourselves as we continue honing in our craft. 

    If you're a writer, consider writing your own and then plaster it somewhere you have to see it. Begin to believe in your talent. (Do this for all sorts of areas in life.) What we think we are, we become. Here is mine:

    I am a poet laureate, a voice to a nation both in America and England. I write local color, the flavor of my people and my time. I am a ghost writer only I get credit. God planted words in my spirit, but He asked ME to nurture them. I write with pith and purpose, and those things will get me noticed. My craft is a work of redemption, reconciling a desperate world of hope deferred to an abundant Kingdom of dreams restored and creativity that breeds more of the same. My words, then, are mulitiplied into a collective much bigger than them or myself, so, Christie, here this: your writing is not a solitary act. I write with rhythm and occasional rhyme, because there is also this infinite song within me. I am a novelist with projects that stick and fruit for my labor. I write and culture shifts one word at a time because of my patience and longevity. My words are not merely marketable - they are timeless and universal and they will not be forgotten. 

    Now you can hold me accountable to these words I've written about myself. If you begin to see me as I have described, then surely the hope within me rises. Please direct me to your own declaration, if you choose to write one about yourself for whatever capacity you desire. May our words bring life to our spirits. 

  • Living Out Transition

    This week has been the real start to my summer in Redding. It’s taken a month or so to transition out of first year at BSSM, which was a shock in some ways. I went from my days being intensely scheduled to wide open. It’s been eight years since I graduated college experiencing that shift from classes to summer. Not to mention that BSSM is spiritually intense, and the culmination of the year there at the end, as I’ve written about, was brilliant and fulfilling and happy. But then there was suddenly nothing. I quickly realized if I wanted to still be connected this summer, I was going to have to be intentional. People talk about Redding/Bethel in the summer – they say it’s slow, it’s weird, it’s more of a representation of what Bethel is without its students. Well, it’s definitely different, but I’m liking it.

    We moved house literally the day after graduation. When you only own your clothes, some books, a few knick-knacks (because what is a woman without her knick-knacks?), basic linens, and a suitcase, it’s not that hard. It took us 2 hours or so to pack up, and 5 max including transport and cleaning. But out of the move, we were given two futons for free, simply because I threw it out there on the good old facebook that we were looking for one. But God works from abundance, and one of those two was only a few houses down from our new place so we literally carried it down the street to our new home that day. If I can just pause here for a second: I live in absolutely no doubt anymore that God takes care of His children. Friends, you know the scriptures that talk about this. Well, they bear witness with me. This whole journey was a leap of faith, but God has filled me with so much of it that it’s becoming easy. His burden is light, my friends. This whole thing is often not like we imagine it has to be.

    So we moved in to a cute townhouse in a more central location with a smashing couple from Oregon. They have all the stuff! Couch, recliners, entertainment system, kitchenware, even the bookshelf and table in our new bedroom is theirs. Their willingness to share their stuff and a home with us is so Kingdom minded – I mean, most of us in the BSSM community do this to live out here on a budget. But this is their first time as last year they lived on their own – and rightfully so – they are only coming up to their 2nd wedding anniversary this autumn, so they were smart to have time on their own in First Year. Anyway, they were only here for a week to settle things in the house before they left for Oregon for the summer to work his Dad’s farm to finance their second year here. After that week of transition, we had about 5 days on our own in which our housemate for the summer (another fellow student that is renting out the couple’s bedroom to help financially until August) moved her things in, but then went on a trip to So Cal to visit her family. She’s currently back and living here now, and as we get to know her, we all get to play house with our friends’ things. We’re just so taken care of, and it’s sweet, because our summer housemate said she had prayed she could live with a married couple a bit older than her to glean from. What a privilege to get to pour into someone else just by living together! My mother was going to make a surprise visit in the midst of all this since my parents couldn’t make it out to our graduation, but our life was a little too crazy at that moment, and she couldn’t get the logistics to work on her end either (that makes North Carolina seem so far away to us), and we had our friends from England scheduled to come out on May 22nd as well.

    Steph and Michael are from David’s hometown and the place we lived when we were there last year. They attend and lead worship in our church back there, and they were afforded the trip to come see us and get as much from the Bethel environment as they could in their 10 day stay. Only they can speak for what took place in their hearts, but from my perspective, God really surprised and showed up for them. They learned a lot, received some beautiful ministry time here in our home from our friends, and Michael was healed of his lactose intolerance right before our eyes as we got to watch him eat several milkshakes and cheese as he pleased with no adverse effects anymore! It was our first time having visitors and therefore the first time two of our worlds (it seems we have three: Redding, NC, and England) collided. It was an intriguing experience. As we’ve not left Northern California since we arrived last September, we haven’t seen what it’s like to be “out of the Bethel bubble,” if you will, and we still haven’t, but it was fun to see how we experienced old friends after having gone through the intensity of First Year. I have decided it made me feel antsy. Part of me felt a responsibility to make sure they got everything they came for and anything else that could come their way. Some of that is just my personality, but some of it is probably the pastoring side of me that I’ve seen grow in my heart this year. Thank the good Lord that Steph and Michael are some of the most laid back people we know, because they were just as happy when there wasn’t anything very “spiritual” going on. I don’t want to be antsy around people though, so I’ll be working on that. The other part of me experienced a great excitement and affirmation of our planned move to England in January 2016. We see so much greatness in this couple and are excited to partner with them and many others in ushering in revival to Thanet, the area of England we all have a heart for.

    I explain all of this to say: this past month has been, looking back, amazing, but at times it felt a little hard. The entire time during the stuff mentioned above, I was also looking for a job. I’m still looking for a job. If you’ve been there, you know how tiring and, frankly, annoying it can be. I feel a job is just around the corner, but when you don’t have one and you aren’t a student for the summer break, your mind starts messing with you. What are you doing with your life? What’s your purpose and identity? How are you going to finance second year if you’re still just covering rent? And you beat yourself up about it because You shouldn’t have these thoughts; you are a BSSM first year graduate, you’re not supposed to feel down or discouraged or unclear about things. And it’s true, I don’t have to live there, but it wasn’t until I realized I just needed to give myself some grace before I stepped out of the fog a bit. The truth is transition takes time and emotions and processing if you truly want to transition healthily and get yourself fully able to move into the next season. If you skip that and suppress your process, you’ll just be going through the same stuff the next time around, and living in the same emotional cycles year after year sucks. It holds you back from doing the stuff you want to, the stuff God wants to partner with you on.

    So here I am: one interview down, another resume to a job I really want submitted, and a heart full of expectancy for this summer and the rest of this last year here. I turn 30 this month, a new season for sure. Who am I? What am I doing with my life? How am I going to finance second year? I am a daughter of God. I’m continuing writing my book (have made some progress already this summer). I’m living every day following the Spirit. I’m meeting new people in the community. I’m applying for jobs. I’m celebrating my birthday, and I’m trusting God for each day that brings me closer to second year or whatever it is He has for me.

  • This is not the end. This is the beginning.

    I knew it would come. The year would finish, and we’d be one step closer to completing this entire season at Bethel, but it did come quickly. I may have said it before, but it’s liked we’ve lived in a time warp since we left Asheville, NC, but here I am in almost summer 2014, a graduate of BSSM first year.

    The year ended with excitement and fervor. I mean, I was so done with the routine, and I hate to admit it, but I was bored of the homework. They were never bad assignments, just the same kind of assignments week in, week out. The intensity of the end of the year came in the last few days: last Tuesday, we had what we call a day of impartation. David and I were in full receive mode as pastors and interns in the school as well as head pastor Bill Johnson imparted spiritual gifts to us by the laying on of hands. Someone took an extra moment when they got to me to release a word of encouragement and prophecy over me: that I would move in the gift of public speaking. Another someone spoke of radical love over David and I. It was a fun afternoon of sealing everything we’d received and learned this year. Music playing in the background, you could hear the giddy laughter of those who enjoy the Lord through silly giggles or shouts of glee. I felt a tad more solemn during this time, and I cried. I used to cry almost every time I felt Holy Spirit, but that seemed to die down a bit here. I think because the environment is so saturated with the Spirit that I just acclimated to that level of “heaven on earth.” Fresh tears fell during that time, though, and I’m sure some of that was purely an emotional cry as I thought back to what God has done here and the sweet folks I’ve met along the way. No matter – I’ve always welcomed emotion.

    Wednesday, we were each “knighted” by Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton, the two main pastors and fathers of Bethel. The word I heard as they lowered the two shiny swords on each of my shoulders was “warrior princess.” I had prepared myself for the day to be marked. I wore a head piece that had been given to me by a Dutch girl in my revival group. She had told me it represented my royalty. From the moment I was knighted, I felt crowned and thus commissioned. I was impressed by the level of intensity in Bill and Kris’s eyes. It was recommended to me to keep my eyes open and look at them as they placed the swords on me instead of bowing my head. I felt the nudge of the Lord to have my Bible in my hand during my turn; with it pressed upon my heart, I looked up into the eyes of these respected and well known men of faith. My smile was wide, and I felt such love and sacrifice pour from their countenance. They did this very act for 1100 students on the same afternoon, so how do they honor each one of us with that same amount of intensity? They know that it is not either of them that we seek but the face of God when we as students come to BSSM, but they honor the fact that we do respect and have great admiration for them, and so I don’t discount the great privilege of mine it is to be where I am. We stood in line like happy teenagers waiting for the most radical roller coaster at an amusement park as we had gathered a group of us to share the experience together. We took photos to commemorate the time, and I pressed my heart to receive more than just a chance for a photo with these amazing men. After all, as Kris Vallotton said, “It’s just us laying a sword on your shoulder…or is it?” That was the ultimate prophetic act of the year to seal the deal.

     

    Thursday was the last somewhat “normal” day of school before our graduation on Friday. We had a worship set like always, but I couldn’t help looking around at the worshiping faces of my friends. I walked around the auditorium to find those special people to worship side by side with one last time – in this setting at least. We danced and jumped up and down and stood still with hands raised and shouted – the whole gamut – because why wouldn’t you put together the most epic set list for the last day? Mark Brooks, overseer of first year, gave us an inspirational and beautiful talk to end our last class session. It was the best talk I’ve heard this man give. He’s been the one who honestly if you don’t get it, you might think he’s crazy, but he’s so in love with Jesus. I believe he spends so much time in the secret place that he really is that disoriented in normal life, because what does this life really have to offer when compared to Jesus? I mean, yes, it has so many wonderful things – I love this world! But when you see Mark and how he operates out of such intimacy with the Trinity, you want that, too. Anyway, that was a wonderful day. I am almost felt silly, but I came home and David checked the mail and I had received The Lion King on DVD as a surprise from him, so I watched it almost immediately. I’ll back up a bit. I obviously had the VHS as a child, got the DVD in college, but someone who borrowed it never gave it back it seems, and I had mentioned this recently. David picked up on it, and bought it off eBay for me – He gets me. I feel no shame watching that beloved movie after my last day of school at BSSM. It was rather fitting, if you ask me: “Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king,” Mufasa says. I am a daughter of the one true King, and I have a responsibility to reclaim my “homeland,” – this world is territory we BSSM-ers are taking back for the Kingdom. It can sound so militaristic, but it’s just love and freedom and responsibility and honor and truth that we conquer with. If I have learned anything this year, it is to love more deeply, give more freely, and serve more genuinely.

    Graduation was a bit hectic at first. We arrived later than we should have, but weren’t at all late for the ceremony, but that’s a different story. I was out of sorts, to be honest, because of it, but once it began, I was ready. The most fun part was being able to text my parents throughout it as they were watching live from the Bethel TV stream. Though they couldn’t be there with us in person, we were able to experience it together despite the distance. We walked across the stage, well, David moonwalked first – my fun goofball of a husband (he’s basically the best) – to receive a hug from the dean of BSSM, Dann Farrelly, Kris Vallotton, Bill Johnson, Jason Vallotton, and our revival group pastor. Just getting to thank each of them face to face was a wonderful privilege. I whispered to Kris that I didn’t know how they do it for each one of us but that I am so thankful they do. He chuckled and gave me a hug. When I hugged Bill, saying thanks, he took the extra second to make sure he looked me in the eye to say you’re welcome. What love they really have for each of us. It reminded me this is the best school ever, of which I’m a first year graduate. Thank. You. God. That doesn’t seem sufficient, but He receives it.

    A new season begins now. We’ve just moved house over the weekend, just a bit closer to town and church with a couple from Oregon we met here in school. Still on the hut for a job, but ready to work and serve and write. Hello summer, where the heat in Redding is rising.

  • Coming From a Creative Heart

    I’ve just come off of two incredible weeks of creativity being sealed so tightly around my being. Coming from a creative heart, that is life-giving.

    During spring break (the week before last) Bethel hosted the School of Creativity, an annual four-day intensive conference. I mean, it was the works. Teresa Dedmon, the creative arts director here and my “track” leader at BSSM, with her intern team and her students (that includes me) put on an amazing week of workshops, creative expressions (performances), guest speakers Darren Wilson (documentary producer/director) and Shawn Bolz (pastor in LA with a huge heart for the entertainment industry), and also opportunities for attendees to explore their own creativity and be ministered to through the creative arts. It was…well…intense.

    My main assignment during the conference was being a part of a worship team created to set the environment in the ministry rooms. We did two sets a day for two days, one in a room where people were being ministered to by the Bethel team and one in another room where people could minister to God through worship or art. It was my first time on a worship team, actually. I’ve sang for years, many of you know; I grew up singing in church. Along the way, in college, I picked up a bit of guitar, and since then it’s been a back-burner hobby that only allowed me to lead worship in quite small settings: the youth group and occasionally the Sunday service at our first church after David and I got married or with the girls in the group home we worked at after that. Then, to be honest, from the time we moved to England last February and I left my guitar in NC to this February when we formed the aforementioned team, I picked up that old Washburn only twice. So here I was being the guitarist for this worship team accompanied by the keys and a cajon and two amazing voices from two girls in our group. The keyboardist and I sing, too, so we were layered with tight harmonies, and altogether, a pretty sweet worship team. But apart from three songs that I was lead singer of with my guitar, I was solely on the guitar, and that was new for me, a real stretch, actually, because I wouldn’t have ever considered myself a guitarist. I didn’t know I had in me. By no means would I consider myself a great guitarist in this endeavor, but a decent, that-will-do, oh-my-goodness-I-pulled-that-off kind of guitarist. There were mistakes, but we all made mistakes, and I was proud that while not absolutely excellent in craft, we were most definitely capable of bringing the presence of the Lord to those rooms we were in.

    At the end of the week, probably because I was so tired from full-time volunteering all day each day and also probably due to the way we naturally criticize ourselves, I was feeling a little insecure about what I had just been a part of. This is Bethel – music is key for them and their high value for excellence in the music department is slightly intimidating. Plus, I had witnessed another student in the music teams get highlighted one night with the amazing opportunity to prophetically sing on the main Bethel stage over the conference attendees at the end of one of the services. I asked God why that couldn’t have been me. A natural question from someone who knows she has it in her to do that, too, I think. I had to choose that night to celebrate what God was doing in that person despite my feelings on the matter, and it wasn’t easy, but it was right. Then, on top of that, our leaders of our teams were too busy to really give us feedback on our sets in the middle of the conference week, and for someone who thrives off of words of affirmation, I was feeling a little low.

    But God, in his grace and pure love showered me with one of the most massive prophetic words I have ever and may ever receive. The details of which are too personal to me to share here. It was a holy time reserved for my husband and I and those that were there in the moment, and I’ve made the choice to keep it in the ponderings of my heart for the time being. I mentioned it only to express that God is intensely loving to give us the word we need to hear at the right moment, and after that, I had the God of Heaven’s affirmation on my music, so I needed no one else’s. But these are truly special leaders here at Bethel, and a few days later, our crew got together at a leader’s house, and we spent the evening celebrating one another for the progress each of us made musically and spiritually.

    Then this past Tuesday night, we recorded a live, home worship album of two songs each from the four teams that played the conference. I got to borrow a guy’s Martin to play my team’s two songs. I don’t know what the recordings sound like yet, but this mostly known to myself as a vocalist was a guitarist on a recording done by a guy who is apart of the Bethel music community and captured with the exact same room microphones that got the audience on the latest Bethel Music album “You Make Me Brave.” I don’t say it to brag; I say it to make sure I understand the weight of the opportunity I was just a part of, the fulfillment of a dream I wasn’t sure I’d be able to accomplish here, let alone during first year. But it was my husband who just kept saying it leading up to coming to school – that I would record music here. What he says now? A personal album by next year. I think I might believe him.

    I can’t finish this post without also sharing about the writing bit. Writing was a part of the conference over spring break for me, too, but it was my last writer’s group of the school year that left me undone. We were all in a puddle on the floor by the end of it. I know that sounds odd and maybe a bit silly to some, but when Holy Spirit moves, you can’t exactly sit still if you’re yielded to Him. Our leader Emma was experiencing a heat in her stomach, something she hadn’t ever really gotten before, and she felt a real sense that something was being birthed out of our group. Well, that is clearly the books coming from these gifted friends of mine and myself. But it’s more than just the books – it’s the impact the words will have on both individual lives and mass culture. We blessed each other that day last week to write the things the Lord says to and to not hold back. A guy in the group told me he felt God has a supernatural editing process for me in store for my novel. There’s a coming productivity, I feel, that I’ve never experienced before. God, give me grace and endurance for it!

    Tonight, a few of us gathered to celebrate the year at Emma’s house – the loveliest writer’s home you can imagine, very cottage-like and quaint – and to experience company together before some move back home to distant places. We had veggies and meat and cheese and cheesecake and tea, and talked about bookish things to our hearts content. Oh, the life of an artist, and how we appreciate the smallest of things in life and the beauty in every nook and cranny! It was exactly the sort of evening I needed to refuel for the coming change in my heart and spirit. Like I said in the beginning, I’m sealed with creativity of the Kingdom, and it is eternal.

  • In Pursuit

    It's not uncommon for me to get a little personal on my blog. If you've followed it for a while, you've seen a fair share of my deepest thoughts and desires. I am coming to the close of a season soon - finishing BSSM first year. I can't believe we graduate May 9th. That means it was a whole nine months ago, I was leaving England and preparing a cross-country trek that would change my life forever. 

    Many of the people I have met and come to cherish will be going back home for the summer, whether that be some other state or international location, but David and I will be staying in Redding. Though our surroundings will remain the same, our season will be different. We're changing up our living arrangements moving in with another couple, so we will go from a house of 6 (plus everyone's visitors) to just 4 (with more control of visitors). I am happy to have experienced living in community this year, but I will be equally happy to settle back down to fewer people in the place we call home. 

    For me, the summer will look like a full-time job (please, God, provide a job! I'm still in the application process), pursuing opportunities at the church as a local instead of a student, and writing. The thoughts proceeding these pursuits, though, are a combination of heart ponderings and prophetic words. (I didn't mean for that sentence to have so many Ps in it, but it turned out quite cool.) I'm preparing for something new and big, some aspects of it I know clearly, others are less tangible. What I mean to say is that David and I have been thinking of our future, and it more or less looks like this: completing second year, getting pregnant during second year (you probably know this has been a long time coming - just the idea of us actually beginning to try), moving back to North Carolina after second year (May 2015), having a baby, staying in NC through Christmas, and then heading back to England early 2016 (yes, with a young infant).  I've wrapped the scenario around my heart and mind dozens of times, and it feels right with my spirit. It feels right with what I've heard the Lord say to me, too. 

    I'm also wanting to finish my book as I have my first child. I think God is on this project. It might be naive to imagine my first novel actually being published, but it's my dream - so I can't think that aim is too high. I've been trying to sort my thoughts on the matter, and it's hard when I live in such an encouraging culture here at Bethel, but beyond kind words from my writing group here or my obvious hope for this thing, there is a calling I've accepted to be in the coming media and arts reformation for the Kingdom. My biggest desire for my words are to be culture shifting - words that are read and then spark discussion and heart transformation. The subject matter of my novel is certainly something the world is currently craving, and I want to impact both a Christian and non-Christian audience. 

    It is all so massive seeming. I'm clinging to this prophetic word I got while I was in South Africa. One of the pastors at one of the churches we ministered at spoke to me of an acceleration in my life. Like something I might think would take five years, for example, would take 5 months with God, and that I was going into a scary season - not fear, he clarified - but that scariness with the Father that blows your mind, and you feel like you might not be able to handle it, but then it just becomes fun, fun, fun. 

    There are other words I've received that reiterate this new season of taking care of myself - seeing to my own heart's needs and desires instead of just everyone else's around me. What joy this brings me as David and I prepare to embark on something very new and not altogether understood by some closest to us. But it is this walk that we take with God, and it is Him alone who we answer to, and so we shall always consult His desires first and then our own. He likes to hand it right back to us, though, in my experience, and He happily asks me what is it that I desire. This things listed here are those I desire greatly. May God blow His abundant grace on them. 

  • On Writing

    I sat down with a coach today to get my butt in gear. I mean, if you don't, your dreams will sit on the back burner untouched for who knows how long? I've written 65,000 words of a novel so far. That's a dream I don't want sitting on the back burner anymore. 

    So, this coach, a fellow classmate of mine, sat me down and got me talking about my goal with this novel. It was a dream to sit for an hour and half and have someone listen to me about a huge passion and this little baby of mine the book has become. In brilliant coaching style, he affirmed my dreams and told me it was certainly possible. 

    I have a plan now - at least a plan that's forming. I have a goal for this week even, and that's one step closer to achieving the ultimate goal of finishing this first draft. After it's all written, I can start working toward getting it published. But for now: write, write, plan, write, outline, pray, write, plan, write, outline, and write some more. I'm so hopeful about it I'm writing a blog about writing my novel. I don't think that's a waste of time. This is building anticipation for both you and me. 

    More than anything, I'm going to need support. I have quite a few writerly friends that I know will offer me guidance when I ask for it. I'm going to need readership, though - like when it's all said and done. I hope that anyone reading this write now would actually be willing to buy a book I wrote. 

    Here's to the next 14 months or so of seeing this novel come to fruition in its entirety. Oh, God, breathe on it! 

  • I Found the Lion - Part 2

    I found the Lion in the healings that took place as we said simple prayers of faith wherever we went. For me, personally, it was the first time someone's ear opened after I prayed for them. It was so casual, too: "Jesus, we release healing to her ear in your name, come and open the ear now," I prayed. "Do you feel anything?" "Yes, it's opened. I can hear out of it now," she said. No exclamation. No surprise. Just a smile as wide as her ears.  "You can? Oh my goodness!" I cried. "Praise the Lord!" And she praised the Lord, too, then got so happy - the kind of delirious joy that makes you laugh and sway. We just happily praised God in that moment for what He does. All smiles.

    There were many healings and salvations just like that throughout our trip, and countless people were encouraged and strengthened by our pouring out of love and individual ministry. It's a wonder how many people just need to hear that God knows them and loves them. Even people in the church. 

    The Lion was perhaps a bit more discreet at times. Our second night in South Africa, my world was turned upside down. That was the first time we went to a township, which is where the poorest of the poor live. It's literary thousands of shacks for homes lined up on top of each other with dirt roads in between. We met up with a pastor who has a church in the middle of it, and he took us through narrow alleyways and dirt pathways to the place they pitch their tent to have church. As we walked along, hoards of children - barefoot and smiling - came and grabbed our hands to walk with us, ready to follow us wherever. Some as young as 2 or 3 walked with us. I had no idea where their parents were. Somewhere nearby, I supposed, but that is life there. I was seen throughout our trip with a nice camera around my neck, courtesy of one of my teammates who let me use it to photograph our journey, but it was suggested that I not bring it here. We captured some moments on our iPhones, but I wish I was more aware of what to take shots of that night. I was more inwardly processing as it was my first time being in such a place - a real third world type environment in the midst of a first world country, which blew my mind. My friend Ciani noticed I was one of the only ones not holding the hand of a child as we walked through, and she encouraged one of them to take my hand. I gladly accepted the little one, but I was just undone. I began to see the Lion more clearly as we got back to where we had parked our van. A team from the church had brought their sound system and keyboard, and we were led in a time of true South African worship - fast paced and fun. 

     

    That guy on the keyboard wasn't holding back, huh? From there, we spoke the message of God's love, and we saw people healed and saved that night. When some of the men asked for prayer, it was for a job. I guess anyone anywhere wants to get out of poverty. Knowing I was only there to bring a bit of joy was hard, because as the sun set, we couldn't stay. For our safety, they said, we needed to get out of there before dark. But those children were left there. What of their safety? I shuddered to think that bad things happen there at night. But I had to move on. I knew on a trip like ours, we wouldn't be rescuing anyone out of that life. But we shed light on the ultimate Savior, and I believe the Lion waits there and shows himself to those who will see. 

    I saw an actual lion (and lioness) on safari halfway through our trip at Pilanesburg National Park. It was a lifelong dream to go on safari (although I'll have to go again since I experienced this one without my husband). We also saw giraffe, zebras, an elephant, hippo, warthogs, black rhino, wildebeest, springbok, kudu, interesting birds, and monkeys. We slept in a "tent" on a concrete slab with a bed, refrigerator, and tea kettle in it, but we were out in the wild. On the way back from the bath house once, we saw a zebra and countless springbok just hanging out. I kept waiting for Timon and Pumbaa to come and sing to me. Although, we think Rafiki visited one of the guy's tents overnight hitting the side of it and making noises! These were certainly memories I'll cherish with my team. A huge storm rolled in the night we arrived at the park. By the time we hit the sack, huge thunder and lightning strikes sang us to sleep. But Ciani and I were awake chatting about life and love and God and BAM! A thunderclap seemed to hit right over us. "Wanna push our beds together?" she asked. "Yes!" I replied. Even grown women get a fright in the middle of the South African wild at night! 

    A safari sunrise: 

    I'll post the other safari photos in an album. 

    The last thing I'll share about my experience in South Africa is the personal breakthrough I received in going on a trip without my husband. The first thing to note is that it will never need to happen again! We missed each other so much, but we both received revelation about our union as we ministered separately. For me, when it comes to ministry or stepping out in faith, I have often hid behind David. I put myself in his shadow in the name of godly submission. Never did he ever put himself over me, but I would gladly choose to see Him be the one to do or be in front. I've done my fair share of ministry, don't get me wrong, in our youth ministry or when we were house parents, but I knew in my heart, that I had come to a place of settling in my heart: if it was David who saw big and amazing things happen for God then no need for me to go after them, because I'd get the side effect anyway. Part of my whole journey at BSSM has been to rid myself of this sort of thinking.

    But I found the Lion once more within myself, his roar a little more ferocious this time than ever before. I saw myself show up and be powerful on this trip to South Africa. I saw what I can bring to my marriage and our ministry together. There's no more need to hide! I've got everything it takes to be a Kingdom-bringer, too. David is thrilled I've caught sight of this new confidence, because it's only going to empower him all the more as well. In short, my faith has risen to a more equal playing field with my husband's. I can't wait to see how much fun we have from here. 

    I thank South Africa for all it brought to me - the new experience, culture, and self-confidence. In many ways, I found home there, a place I know I could belong. But that's always the case these days. Each new place the Lord takes me to, I see His heart for that place, and I fall in love. 

    I reserve a special thanks to those who supported me in this journey through donations and prayers. As I've said before, I was completely overwhelmed by the financial support raised. Back in November, I really wasn't sure I'd be on this trip, but when it came down to it, the money came through. What a blessing to know so many people wanted me on this journey as much as I wanted to be. Thank you, God - it is all because of You!