An Unforgettable Shelter Pup (Sharing Petra)

   If I could, I would spend all day every day volunteering at the animal shelter. My passion enlarges in every experience, as another day is added to the many wonderful moments I've spent volunteering. I am a huge dog lover. But more importantly than that, God placed a calling in my life, a seed in my heart, that is growing and growing as I answer His callings for my life and strive to change the lives of the shelter dogs. Oh, how much I enjoy spending time with them! Recently, I've been hanging out with one particular dog frequently, and my love for her is so big!

    Petra is an absolute cutie. A dog like her astounds me by staying in the shelter this long. She loves every single person she meets, has a personality that is out of this world, and is a girl that is inevitably unforgettable. I love her. She rolls over every time I look at her, with an adorable little smile, and shows that all she wants to do is cuddle, snuggle, love, love, love! She wants nothing more but a family to adore and call her their own.  Every time I sit down, she runs over, gives hugs and kisses, and makes clear that all she wants is to be by my side or in my lap. She's constantly reaching out her paw, placing it up against my hand, as if to say, "Thank you for spending time with me." I cannot get over how sweet she is.

   I'm sharing Petra in the hopes that she'll receive the best home at the best time, the perfect family that she deserves. She's selective about other dogs (although any aggression towards them seems to be out of fear),  so a family that places all of their attention on her, as an only dog, would probably be best; however, with proper training and introduction, she would likely be fine.

  I love Petra. She has left a mark in my life, as my passion for dogs continuously enlarges (if that's even possible!), and my hopes are that she'll receive a home soon, leaving a mark in a family that loves her as much as she loves them!


Reflecting His Glory (Meaning of Life)

    It's a question that's been debated for centuries, a question that changes lives and will affect the future of every single person in this world. What is the meaning of life? What is our true purpose of living on this earth?

The answer is simple.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus..." Colossians 3:17

   From the beginning of time, we were destined to be with the Creator. We were born to glorify and serve God. Due to the first sins of mankind, we have been separated from God. But His love is so much larger than we could ever imagine, and through the death and Resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we have the opportunity to be reconciled to Him! No love is stronger than the love of our Father!

   As I was reading about how to daily exemplify "holy living" in Colossians 3, I stumbled upon the sum of the entire section, the true formula for holy living. We were meant to serve God. We were destined to glorify Him. We weren't born to live for ourselves and do what makes us happy. We were born to please and glorify Jesus.

   These words are controversial and will lead to disagreement, but I'm holding onto the promises of His Word. My prayer is that, just as verse 17 is written on my mirror for me to see every time I witness my reflection, so my life must reflect the glory of God, rather than my own. I hope the world senses the love of Jesus in my presence and that all glory will be given to Him as He works great things in my life.

Life isn't about us. It's about Jesus. Is your life reflecting Him?


True Contentment

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

   A world filled with a people of contentment, a people who find satisfaction in what they've already been gifted with and most of all, with the Savior, is a world that is only a fantasy. This world is searching for something more and more every day, something that they can find peace, satisfaction, and contentment, a way of "finding themselves", but it is all so temporary. Only in Jesus can we find satisfaction, true contentment. Only in Jesus can we truly find who we were made to be. No wonder so many people end up drowning in all their hurts as life goes on. Money, fame, drugs, relationships...it will only satisfy temporarily.

    This past week, I challenged myself to a 4 day social media fast. Oh, was it a challenge! I desperately needed it though. I realized my unhealthy addiction to social media and knew that the only way to regain focus on the right things was to take a break. Four days wasn't long enough to completely get rid of the addiction, and as I suffered from withdrawals the first two days, the last two days started to feel so good. No more wasting time, consistently checking for notifications. No more mindlessly scrolling through my news feeds on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. 

   It was during this fast that God spoke to me through His Word, Philippians 4. He revealed to me the true reasoning of why I needed to do this fast, and why I should do it again in the near future. 

Via Pinterest
   I learned that I need to be content in every situation, that I need to be able to say that "my God is truly enough". When I follow Him, live every part of my life for Him, I must learn to believe and really live out the belief that nothing else in this world really matters except Jesus. Jesus is all we need to be completely satisfied. When there is something I learn that I can't live without, something that I turn to for satisfaction, that I rest my identity in, that is a sign of addiction, of an idol. Social media is a major addiction that I needed, and still need, to take a break from. 

    What are you addicted to? Is there something that you are placing before Jesus, something that you are turning to for satisfaction? Do a fast. Learn to depend on Jesus rather than the addiction. He will provide His strength to overcome when you let Him take the wheel and learn to live for Him. Outside of these addictions, placing your trust in God will enable you to get through every struggle as He provides His strength. Don't muster to thrive by your own strength when you serve the God of the impossible. We can truly do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us when we learn to rely on His strength rather than our own. 

    That starts with learning to be content with just Him. Only Him. Placing all of our addictions at His feet and realizing that we will never be satisfied unless we run to Jesus. Let us find true contentment in knowing and serving a God who loves us so much that He died for us, a God so powerful that He rose from the grave!


A Shelter Dog & Unconditional Love (Sharing Poppy)

    From the moment I saw Poppy at the shelter's adoption center, I realized what a special girl she was. Her tail was going a mile a minute while greeting me with lots of kisses through the cage door. She had a personality that lit up the room. I loved her. All she gave was love, an unconditional love that wasn't dependent on our flaws or our past, but a love that continued no matter who we are. She made it evident that all she wanted was love in return.

   Taking her on a walk, I noticed how well she did on a leash. Smaller build but only seven months old, she walked calmly. She snuggled when I sat down with her. She was absolutely adorable.

    A few days later, I met her again at the main shelter. Every time I sat down, she climbed into  my lap. Not only that, but I was overcome in how smart she was. She knew how to sit, shake, and lie down on command, and I wouldn't be surprised if she knew other commands as well. She had a heart that desired to please and obey. All she wanted was to be surrounded by acceptance and love as she sought to make me happy.

    Poppy was an owner surrender when she was brought into the shelter. Such a sad reality, but a reality that is all too familiar. So many dogs are given away by their owners every week, dogs that give all their life to please and love their owners, yet the opposite is returned to them. I'm not sure what situation Poppy was in, but she does not let her past nor her current situation determine who she is or how she'll react. She continues to love, shine, and be the cutie that she is.

      Her unconditional love is inspiring. She shows the traits of God's love and the way He redeems us and cares for us despite what we've done, where we've been, or how we have treated Him. We really are loved. Not only that, but she motivates me to love others unconditionally, just as she loves people despite whatever she's been through, and again, just as God does for us. What would it look like if I lived a life filled with God's love so much that people noticed when I walked in the room? How much change would occur if I had a heart so willing to obey and please God that no obstacle in my way can stop me? What would happen, if one by one, we all learned to love each other despite our flaws?

     Poppy is an amazing pup, ready to be in a home where she can love her family unconditionally, just as she does with each and every person she meets. She doesn't like other animals (possibly why she places so much of her heart and love solely into people), so she needs a family who is willing to just focus their attention on her, rather than multiple pets. She needs a loving home, as do many of the other dogs at the shelter!

    This is a piece of a larger story, a story that is only at the beginning. I know the perfect family is out there for Poppy. I'm blessed to be a part of her life until then!


A Night I'll Never Forget (Winter Jam 2015)

    What an amazing weekend (particularly Friday) in attending one of the largest tours in the country, Winter Jam! I am so blessed to have been able to attend and manage to make it through the doors despite the thousands of people in line!

    Surrounded by thousands of believers worshiping and having fun for the glory of God, every year's show always leaves me with a larger passion for Jesus and a craving to go back the following year! The crowds, the long lines, the music, the sermon, everything about the event makes it unforgettable. It was my third year returning to Winter Jam, and every year is one that I'll never forget.

     Singing "Where I Belong" by Building 429, worshiping with Jeremy Camp and his song, "The Way", and overwhelmed by the glory of God shining through the talents of For King & Country and Francesca Battistelli was some of the many amazing moments of the night. Meeting Joel Smallbone from For King & Country (along with his wife, Moriah Peters, who I had no idea was going to be there!) and Jeremy Camp was an added bonus. Although my phone died in the middle of my picture being taken with Joel and Moriah, my phone saved one picture that was taken (hence my awkward position) that I am still so thankful for! Not only that, I was beyond blessed that my sweet friend Victoria attended the show with me, along with my mom, little sister, and my sister's friend. Victoria is one of the sweetest girls I know and I cannot stop thanking God for our friendship!

    So many mishaps, yet everything put together made the night an amazing one. Most of all, I left wanting more. I left excited for the day in Heaven where all the believers will gather and will sing praises to God just as a small portion do in Winter Jam every year. I also left analyzing the way I've been living my life. I gave my life to Christ several years ago, yet I mess up. We were all born with the sinful nature; thus, a life lived for Christ will not provide perfection. It will provide grace, love, and a reason to live,the true purpose we were all destined to live for: the glory of God. The words of Pastor Tony Nolan have been ringing in my ears consistently since hearing his inspirational and moving message: "I choose Jesus above me."

    I have chosen Jesus above me, yet I don't always live up to my promise and surrender to God. My sinful nature sometimes leads to selfish actions. Living for myself will get me nowhere. Living for God will lead to true satisfaction. Why live for anyone other than Him when He is the only One who can truly satisfy in this life? He chose me, and in discovering His act of love, I chose Him and surrendered years ago. Though I mess up, I am reminding myself recently to question my actions before I proceed, to analyze my heart and motivations, and to make sure every move I make brings all glory to God, rather than myself.

    As Tony Nolan talked about, God sees us as we are. He sees through our happy "selfies", sees past the good moments, and knows every negative trait and memory of our lives and our hearts. Yet He loves us, and sent His Son to die for us. Despite our dirty hearts of sin and our selfish ambitions, His love is unfailing and doesn't depend on anything that we do. There's no love higher than the love of our God! All He asks is for your heart and your life surrendered to Him, a life no longer lived to make yourself happy but to make Him happy. His plans are so much better than our own, so why not live for Him? Jesus chose you despite everything that you've done.

With that being said, will you choose Jesus above yourself?

Let that be our declaration for the rest of our lives, our motivation to change any action in the future that brings glory to anyone but Jesus.

I won't stop thanking God for a night that I will always remember. He uses Winter Jam to change lives. Even more, He's moving in your life. He loves you more than you could ever imagine. Will you choose Him?



They've made me feel like a prisoner
They've made me feel set free
They've made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king

They've lifted my heart
To places I'd never been
And they've dragged me down
Back to where I began

Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You
I wanna speak Your love
Not just another noise
Oh, I wanna be Your light
I wanna be Your voice

"Words"/Hawk Nelson

   The power of words is limitless. Words can encourage, words can discourage. Words are the heartbeat of life. Without words, there wouldn't be a way to communicate, a way for relationships, love, or learning. I've been reading in Ephesians 4 over the past two days. God spoke to me about living in the 'new self', living differently from the rest of the world and in a way that pleases God, and as the passage continued, several verses were descriptions of ways that pleased God, ways that Christians should follow that make us different from the rest of the world. One of those ways is the way we speak. Reaching verse 29, I couldn't help but think about Hawk Nelson's song, "Words", and to question my own obedience in regards to God's calling to speak beneficially.

   Words are such a blessing. When we take away the blessing of it and use it for deceit, expression of anger, or any other way that discourages others, we misuse God's purpose for words. Yes, a lot of people (especially teen girls!) gossip. Many people cuss. Many people lie. Many people talk about others in ways that discourage and bring them down. But as His child, we aren't called to be like the world. We are called to be different. We are called to stay away from our former ways and use words carefully, words that encourage, build up, help others, and most of all, share His love.

    By no means do I always do this. I struggle. Sometimes, I slip up. Other times, my shyness kicks in and my words may be taken the wrong way. This week, I'm striving to use words that encourage others, words that set their hurts free, that make them "feel like a king". I'm praying to use words that speak life, truth, and bring others to Him.

   The question is: are your words building others up or tearing them down? Are your words helping and benefiting others?  We are called to speak life to others. We are destined to use our words for His glory, to speak with kindness, love, and gentleness. We were made to converse, but when we misuse His purposes for words, that's when hearts are broken, hurts are established, and relationships are torn down.

    This week, I'm hoping to work on being kinder to others and to use my words to encourage and build others up. The power of words is limitless. May we use its power to speak His love, shine His Light, and be His voice!


A Blessed Year

   2014 was one of the best years of my life. I was blessed abundantly with so many memories, God-given gifts, and people that I will never forget. My faith grew as I learned to trust in God. I became a part of new experiences that I never would've imagined I'd be a part of. God's plans for my life are good, and while I never would've predicted the outcome of this year, He made it so much better than I could have ever dreamed. So here's to a reflection of the blessings of the year:

   I started the year worshiping God at Winter Jam with friends and family. It was such an awesome experience, surrounded by thousands of other believers singing songs to God as well as having a night of fun and music! It was such a glimpse of the future in Heaven.

   Starting on February 1st, my life changed as my mom and I attended the volunteer orientation at the animal shelter. My original plan was to volunteer at an animal hospital for my veterinary assisting class project, but because I was under 16 at the time, I was restricted from doing so. The only place I could volunteer at was Clay County Animal Care and Control. Because I knew they were a kill shelter, I didn't want to go there, but after prayer, God led me there. He provided a sense of knowing in my heart, a sense that told me to trust in Him, that He wanted me to go there. We did. Since then, I can't even count the number of blessings that have occurred as a result. I've volunteered almost 200 hours of my time since then. I've met amazing animals that have changed my life and whose stories have touched my heart. My experiences led my friend to begin volunteering and gain a new family member. It has started the idea of training my own dog, Minnie, who for the past nine years I've considered "not trainable", but with work this year, I've trained her to do eleven tricks so far! I could go on forever.

   The spring brought lots of fun (and unexpected!) memories that will be treasured for a lifetime. In March, a group of friends, my little sister, and I traveled to the theaters to see the release of the movie, "God's Not Dead". What a powerful, inspiring movie! I will never forget the surprise on one of my friend and I's faces towards the end of the movie...no spoiler in case you haven't seen it yet!

   At the beginning of April, the animal shelter was extremely overcrowded, and I felt led to contact news stations in the hopes they would do a story so that the community would take action and adopt. Little did I know that my prayers would be answered and that I would become a part of it! After emailing, my mom and I returned to the shelter to volunteer, and as I was telling my mom about not receiving a response back from any of the stations, I turned around to the shout, "There she is!". First Coast News had been at the shelter, and they wanted to interview me! No preparation or time to think, I was placed in front of a camera and microphone and somehow managed to answer without my nerves showing! Thank God! I wouldn't trade that moment for anything.
 If you want to check it out! http://www.firstcoastnews.com/story/news/local/2014/04/03/overcrowded-clay-county-animal-control-help-needed/7273483/

  Also during this time, I became extremely close to one of the shelter dogs, Daisy, so much so that if my dog liked other dogs and if she had liked other dogs, we would've adopted her. Every shelter visit donated at least some time with her. She began to know me well and would give me hugs every time I saw her. Despite her size, she loved to sit in my lap and provide affection. Eventually, we volunteered at our first Mega Event. I was able to spend my last moments with her up until her adoption with the PERFECT family for her the following day! I am so blessed to have gotten to know her during that short time, as well as several other "Daisys" that showed up at the shelter, dogs I fell in love with (Candice, Lucy, the list could go on!). 

    Summer 2014 was the best summer I've ever had. Between trips with family, photo shoots, birthday celebrations (limos, vacations..so much fun!), concerts, another Mega Event, and a week-long vacation, alongside online classes and other things that made time fly by, I couldn't have had more fun. I went from a Hillsong Young & Free concert one weekend to Freedom Fest the following weekend, where I was blessed enough to meet my absolute favorite band, Anthem Lights! I had been tweeting them several times, with responses back, and the experience meeting them alongside the worship and music was great! It was one of the best days of the entire year. 

    Traveling to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to meet up for the second time with my long-distance friend Kara and her sweet family proved to be such an amazing time! Despite tornado warnings, broken-down vans (therefore, squished mini-vans!), and other mishaps, everything that happened made the vacation all the better! I originally met Kara through an online Bible study several years ago and have been so gifted to have been able to keep in touch with her and meet up with her family (including her sweet grandparents!). We are like sisters separated at birth and it was so much fun hanging out in one of my now favorite cities!

   Eventually, the school year started once again and I officially began my junior year of high school! I started college classes through dual enrollment at the state college and was able to enjoy a shortened high school schedule (4 classes, where I was able to come to school later and leave early!), and take part in two college classes at night and in the afternoon on various days throughout the week. I had the least amount of workload I've ever had in my life and the experience was awesome! At the same time, the college classes served as a trial in my life as the professors graded much harder, with less grades and a lack of them being entered into the gradebook, so I had to learn to trust God and rely on His strength to get by. I focused on Psalm 94:18-19 and with prayer, I managed to get all A's by the end of the semester! I know I only did that through God's strength, not my own. 
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:18-19
  At the high school, I was gifted with the title of being one of the editors of the yearbook staff, which has been lots of fun (as well as stressful at times!). It has strengthened my writing, editing, and communication skills and may prove to have prepared me if I end up going into journalism in the future.

  Thanksgiving came, Christmas came, then New Years, and I was able to spend so much quality time with family and friends! 

    2014 was a year I'll always remember. One long blog post isn't enough to talk about all the blessings God has given me this year. I've grown closer to Him. He's taught me that He is faithful, that He really does care about me and will answer my prayers if I learn to place my trust in Him, and most of all, He's strengthened my heart and has grown the fruit of patience in me. In June, He spoke directly to me about sacrificing everything for Him through His Word and a book by Lysa TerKeurst, "Made To Crave", where I fasted from social media for about a week and was able to focus on a daily time in the Word with Him...and this is the first year I've been able to keep up with the daily Quiet Time since then! He's blessed me with tons of new friends this year and has grown friendships with others. He allowed me to start this blog and share my love for writing and encouraging with those who wish to read!

2014 was one of the best years of my life. As we start 2015, I'm praying for His blessings and presence as we all begin with a new year!