Love DOES.

I love being a Psychology student for many reasons. Besides it being one of the most fascinating studies, the relevance it has to every day life is intriguing. In one of my Social Psychology classes we just wrapped up a study on love, romance, and affection (romantic and non-romantic) from a neurological standpoint. In a particular area of the study there was some pretty enlightening findings that I couldn’t help but draw a little insight from.

So let’s start with a pretty basic life observation. Take a look around. What is every song, movie, and book written about and centered around?  Not too hard a question, it is love. Whether it be the love between lovers, brothers, friends, or family, love is a driving force that all people of every walk of life crave and live for. In love, people find meaning in life. And in lack there of people lose meaning. In child development, babies can be fed and kept warm yet die from not receiving adequate physical touch and affection. Even the Bible is about a love story between God and His children. We were made for just this purpose.

In studying this topic, we took a full lecture to look at romantic love. This activates the cerebral cortex which is the reward center of the brain. After being signaled, the ventral tegmental releases dopamine, the same chemical released by cocaine use.  Like a drug, a person will experience a high or “honeymoon stage” when they are newly in love. This continues for varying periods of time depending on different couples (months or years) until couples reach a baseline. At this point, dopamine release is regulated and a balance takes place causing chemically induced intensified feelings to level.

Makes sense right? Now why does this cool psych info matter and what does it mean in every day life? Stay with me.

As part of this lecture, our professor asked us what we believed about love being a choice and then challenged us by redefining our idea of just what that “choice” is. Most of us related to this idea as “choice” translating to a commitment to remain loyal to whoever it is you love – a spouse, a child, a parent,  God, ect – EVEN when you don’t want to. We were all missing something though.

The choice to love is the choice to act.

Even research  showed that when married couples engaged in activities that they had enjoyed in earlier parts of their relationship, the same region of the brain was activated and released dopamine, giving life to the relationship and rekindling love and closeness. This trickled down to one important factor though – what made each individual feel loved and targeting that area to strike the neurological magic.

In different surveys and forms of research different men and women reported feeling most loved at times when their individual love language was used. Some responded most to quality time, while others to physical touch, others to acts of service, others to words and acts of affirmation, ect. The key was each partner understanding ways in which the other person received love, acting on it intentionally and often, and triggering the reward center of the brain that in turn motivated the other person to respond as well. Ultimately this was a key in creating a healthy cycle of reciprocal loving acts.

This struck me as incredible. It also struck me as something that made a whole lot of sense but was that much more intriguing when looked at from within the functions and chemical balance of the brain.

But what struck me most was the profound simplicity of this data that was relevant to the most vital part of our being; our relationships with others. Aside from being useful knowledge to be aware of in dating and marriage, this was applicable to how we relate to people in general.

Love is a verb, an action.

We love people by not only caring for them, but showing our care in ways they understand. We also show love to people by doing things that activate and cultivate that relationship.

For example, I adore my father. I want to love him well and be the best daughter I can be. My dad loves to talk about sports, especially golf. He lights up at the opportunity to talk about his day on the course. I don’t always want to listen, but by doing so and choosing to make what is important to him important to me, my dad gets to have a moment of fulfillment and I get to love him by putting his interest above my own.

When I feel far from God or distant in my relationship with Him, I seek Him through His Word, prayer, or other things that cause me to feel closer and more connected.

My best friend loves surprises and sometimes just bringing by Starbucks can make her day. When life goes haywire and we can’t even find time to grab lunch together, sometimes a caring act in her language bridges that gap.

The little girl I nanny loves quality time spent reading princess books or playing with dolls. Sometimes when she is misbehaved and rebellious, a little quality time is what she needs and suddenly she feels loved and accepted and in turn is motivated to be kind to me and her siblings.

I could go on. But for the sake of not becoming more long-winded, you get the point.

We all tick to something different and need different things at different times. And we obviously love with more than just the chemicals in our brains, though studying these biological responses is pretty mind-blowing . But how impacting would it be if we used this insight to better and more intentionally love the people in our own lives?

Intentionally generating love is the biggest difference we can make in our world. It is more than a feeling, but a choice to put ourselves second and sacrifice for the sake of others.

My motivation to love is because I was first loved and shown the perfect example of love by Jesus Christ. He put Himself second and humbled Himself to the point of bearing a cross and bleeding His blameless blood on my guilty behalf. Love causes us to escape from ourselves and focus on others. And in a world that will one day fade, it is the power of love, the impact of love, and how we chose to love that will matter.

So today I propose a challenge to us all, one to put this force into drive in our own lives. Whatever that may look like for each of us individually, let it be measured by a willingness to put ourselves second and go the extra mile for those we are privileged to share life with.

Love does not just feel, love does.

xoxo, Bri

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Are You Satisfied?

Let’s start with that question. Are you?

That question can open quite a can of worms and have a variety of answers as satisfaction can mean many different things for different people. So I’ll speak for myself, the only person I can speak for.

Before I answer though, I want to give some background information that shapes the way I think about everything. If you’ve followed my blog before or are a first time reader but have read the general info at the top, you know I am a believer in Jesus Christ. But I want to share what I believe is the single greatest evidence of the existence and reality of God. If you take a moment to step back and watch the world, watch people, and watch life, you will find a pattern consistent everywhere. Human beings are constantly seeking the pleasure, satisfaction, and fulfillment that EVERY person hungers for. Or in other words, we come with a void and that is undeniable.

But have you ever noticed how difficult that void is to truly fill? There are multi-billion dollar industries that exist because of this. I’ll just use one example that we are all familiar with- sex, which PS I believe to be an intended gift from God and one thought up by Him himself. Matt Chandler once joked and recalled the epitome of this in our overly sexed culture. I mean, admit it. Our culture is OBSESSED with sex. But yet every magazine advertises for how to have better sex, because apparently it’s not good enough. And the real thing also isn’t cutting it, so the next step would be of course to capture it on film for consumers to watch and replace reality with fantasy (Yeah ps, I happen to NOT be a fan of porn). But really, does that not reflect a little bit of desperation in the human soul?

And of course success brings ultimate happiness, right? I don’t know, why don’t you ask Miley, Lindsey, Brittany, Madonna, or the sweet souls that rest in peace due to excessive drug abuse and eventual overdose. Looks like success wasn’t enough.

What about money? Also, another GOOD gift from God, but not one that was intended to be our ultimate god. Have you ever noticed that despite the great success people may reach, there seems to be a nonexistent point of “enough”. And for those who seek “life” in this alone, they will go to endless measures to satisfy themselves only to find that satisfaction is a destination they cannot seem to reach. I’ve watched people I love destroy themselves in the pursuit of “life” found in money.

Now, before I go further. Hear me say this. I believe sex, money, relationships, success, ect are all GOOD gifts from a GOOD God, given to us to enjoy. Do you hear me? He wants you to enjoy the rewards of hard work leading to success, He wants you to enjoy HIS idea of the intimacy and pleasure of sex between man and wife, and He wants you to enjoy all other things He puts on this earth. But they in of themselves cannot satisfy the deep yearn of [every] human soul, the place carved out for He who created that soul. And this is where I get back to my first point:

Why do I believe with everything in me that there is a God? Because it is so evident that we were created for something bigger than ourselves and if that “something” doesn’t exist, than neither does hope.

I say these things so passionately because I have passionately come to believe them, not only by watching the world, but by falling victim myself. There are pleasures, riches, and wonders that The Lord has put on this earth that I love to enjoy. But in His mercy, He has allowed me too to come to a point where I feel the starvation of my own soul. In His mercy, He has allowed me to see how even what I love most is not ultimately “enough” to satisfy me.

My faith is not about following rules, or abiding by some man made standards for behavior. It is about NEEDING true purpose that stretches beyond what I accomplish in this life. It is about NEEDING a hope that can never be taken, when all other things can. It is about NEEDING a relationship with the God of the Universe, because I need a satisfaction that only He can supply. And it is about responding to a God who loves me where I am, and chose to purchase me with His blood despite my imperfections.

And in response to having this relationship, the way I live changes. NOT because my merit or God’s love is earned through works. But because I begin to trust the God who created life and in my attempts to live it to the fullest, I choose to trust and follow His guidelines for how His life, His joy, His earth, and His gifts (sex, money, relationships, the list goes on) were created to be used and fully maximized.

Do you understand that God does not want to take pleasure and joy from us? He wants to give it. And when we fill a Jesus shaped void with cheap counterfeit gods, we will run ourselves into the ground trying to get filled, only to end up hungry and broke. His guidelines are given to show us how to use these gifts how they were intended. Seriously ask yourself, do you think that you know better the use of the created pleasures over He who created them? I have to remind myself of this constantly but when I speak that aloud, I realize how dumb I am to consider myself smarter than God.

So let me end the way I started, with a question. What are you living for? When all is said and done and you are buried behind a tombstone, will you have lived for something that outlasts this temporary life? Or will your life have been spent in pursuit of things that no longer matter. And lastly, what is your God? Is it the God of the universe worthy of your life and giving of His own? Or is it the failing pleasures of this life that WILL fade?

As for me, I choose to accept the grace of my Lord and Savior and live this beautiful life with a purpose that can never be robbed. I choose to live and enjoy this life richly satisfied by the true Giver of satisfaction, and free to enjoy life’s gifts without being a slave to them. And I choose to say yes to the eternal promise of one day living in an unimaginable paradise, free of brokenness, sadness, pain, and everything else short of perfection, forever in the presence of my Creator.

Friends, I invite you with all that is within me to do the same.

xoxo, Bri

It’s been exactly 10 days that I have been home state side after what I am realizing more and more to be a remarkable summer, and an amazing adventure.

I always say that I experienced two distinct times of homesickness. The first was on the 4th of July when all I wanted was to throw on a red/white/&blue swimsuit, be in the pool with family and friends, eat grilled hotdogs, set off fireworks and substitute my outstanding German beer for a bud light, just for the sake of the American tradition of the greatest day of summer since 1776. The 2nd time was the day I arrived at my Bulgarian hotel to find what folk around here like to call “number two” on the floor. That one should explain itself.

In these two instances, a friend of mine said something that has proved to be true. That in the end of experiences such as these, it is not the hard times you think on. In fact those often times fade quickly from our memory. Rather, it is the rich and life-giving overall experience that you remember. And that is what makes the entire thing worth the challenge after all.

Even better, such experiences often times give way to amazing growth and give birth to a person within you that you didn’t quite know before. After what was my “dream summer” serving an amazing cause and exploring an amazing world, these are just a few things I discovered.

When you learn to live without the emotional comfort of control, you open yourself  to unlimited opportunity.

Early in the game I began to realize that between cultural barriers, foreign transportation, limited resources, and unpredictable circumstances, I not only had “given” up control but rather control in every sense was gripped and taken from me. The uphill journey of learning to let go, live presently, and simply “be” with or without control brought me to a place of such freedom. When our joy and happiness are no longer contingent on our ability to control things around us, we become able to experience a rich and organic fulfillment and we come to the amazing realization that little in life is to be feared. And without the element of fear, there are few things we are incapable of.

You learn what you are made of.

I always think back to a particular day that everything that could go wrong did and I was absolutely terrified as to how to solve the situation without a working cell phone or anyone to “save me” by fixing this issue. But I didn’t have an option. That day I was alone in Berlin and if anyone was going to solve this issue it was going to have to be me. Being placed in a situation where I was separated from familiarity in every sense yet in need of a resolution forced me to act on my own and find a way. This day and many others confronted me in the same way and forced me to reach within myself and find strength in moments where I’d rather bail. And it’s situations such as this that prove to you that you are stronger than you think you are, smarter than you think you are, and more capable than you think you are.

You discover the beauty of surrendering your comfort zones.

Plain and simple. When you are willing to give up what is normal and comfortable to you, you discover great lengths and depths of life that are available to those who choose to live ungoverned by fear.

You realize that experiencing moments that bring you to life is what life is about.

Any hesitance to serve in Europe as I did this summer came from a place of wondering if I should be home taking classes or making money instead.  After all, could it really be responsible to do something so expensive? Could it really be smart to do such a thing that could interrupt the flow of my college-going-career-seeking life? Or maybe leaving my entire community and being amongst a community of new people from all over the world for a summer was something I simply couldn’t handle. Let me tell you, I think it costs more to NOT do such things. Maybe for you it is not traveling, but art. Maybe it is a quirky hobby, or a sport that you aspire to become a champion at, maybe it is writing a book, or pursuing your dream to make a difference in some way. Maybe it is nothing out of the ordinary at all, but something that is simply dear to your heart.  We each have different things that make us feel alive and it is our responsibility to go after them. We must work hard and we must invest ourselves in matters that will reap a harvest. But we can’t take life so seriously that we forget to live it. Some of the greatest things in life come with huge risk and sacrifice, but at the end of our lives the only person we will answer to with our life is God and ourselves. Do what brings you life.

The world is big.

The world and the people in it reflect the amazing dynamic of our Creator. Losing yourself through giving your life away to others is the greatest gift you can give to yourself. Indeed, it is better to give than to receive.

My adventure continues even here in beautiful Dallas, Texas. I hope I can apply these new and rich lessons and see my own world through such lens. I don’t know where or what my future looks like, but I know I must be true to the call within me, wherever it calls me at different points in my life. For now, all I know is I am thankful. Thankful and in awe of the gift these last two months were, and the way this gift continues to give. And for each of you who continue to love and support me from 5 miles away and 5,000 , I am incredibly thankful to share life with you.

I was able to put a short video together in attempts to capture as many beautiful moments as possible. The quality on youtube is poorer than on FB. If you can’t get a clear picture, feel free to watch the video there instead. Enjoy 🙂

Let the adventure continue.

xoxo, Bri

An Eternal Companion

As I write this last update from Europe, it feels like it was just yesterday that I was writing my first post from Rome. I remember writing that post and feeling like I was at the start of a very long ride, one which has turned out to feel much shorter, as all good things in life do.

Well as I assured you I would, I have nothing but wonderful things to report. After a challenging start to our final camp in Bulgaria, big things happened both in kid’s lives and my own.

In Bulgaria, we encountered the toughest language barrier of all our camps. Yet these kids were so love giving, so affectionate, and so joyful simply to be at this camp and with us. Hugs were flying all over the place and you couldn’t help but wonder what you were doing to deserve such enthusiastic love from these kids. Regardless of the language hurdles, there was such a language of love that each person understood. How beautiful that this language is truly universal.

As we were ministering to kids and praying for God to break through to them, a reality came to mind. I began to think about how one week at camp could change the eternity of these kid’s lives and potentially it’s trajectory as well. However between now and eternity, “life” would still happen and these kids wouldn’t live perfectly because of one week at camp.  I began to think hard about this and even how in my own life, though I was impacted by powerful moments of being ministered to, I  still had bumps to get over and things to figure out the harder way. Especially growing up in a believing home and one that raised me in the ways of God, I pondered what the true worth and impact of this week was for these kids and what we were truly contributing o their lives. In the midst of my many season’s of life, I began to think of what Christ was to me and one word came to mind; a companion. Though I have known Jesus, my life has still had plenty of winds and twists in it’s road. Yet BECAUSE someone told me about Jesus [and for me, at a young age], I have not had to go down a single one of these roads alone. In every victory, every trial, every struggle, and even every rebellion, I have yet to be alone. I have had always had someone to lean on, someone to call upon, someone to depend on, and someone to hope in. And in the most glorious seasons of life and in the darkest seasons of life, THAT is the difference knowing Jesus has made. And it suddenly became clear to me. THIS was the glory and beauty of our mission that week. It wasn’t to preach the message of The Gospel in hopes that kids would forever forsake the ways of sin and live some perfect life for Christ, never stumbling again. It wasn’t too give them such a compelling message that they never would have room to struggle or doubt again. It wasn’t to give instructions for how to live and walk away, crossing our fingers that the hype would not wear off. These are all good things, but God’s job rather than ours. Our job was simply to introduce these kids to the Jesus, to the Savior, to the friend, and to the companion for the road ahead, whatever it may look like. And to introduce them to that amazing news that the creator of all life offers the free gift of forgiveness and entrance into this relationship with Him. The sooner this relationship begins, the sooner the greatest journey of one’s life does. To introduce these kids to this everlasting friend, that is why we were there.

Well camp happened, and it was simply amazing. Kids responded eagerly to the message of Christ and were so excited to hear this news, most for the first time. Not to mention, these kids had the time of their lives. And so did we.

As I watched the gratitude of these kids during and after camp, I was confronted with how incredibly blessed I am to have been given the life I have been. Comparing the American life to that of post-communist Eastern Europe, we are abundantly and richly blessed in more ways than one. To simply give our lives to these kids because of what we have been given was more fulfilling than anything else could be.

The last day of camp, most of the kids hysterically cried as they hugged, kissed, and thanked us again and again for what they said “was the best week of their life”.

For many of us, we could easily say the same. My heart was so touched by these children and the memory of just their smiles may forever be burned on my heart.

As I wrap up this journey, I thank you for being apart of it. The experience this summer has brought is more than one blog post can tell. I look forward to continuing to share the many things I have been taught through it.

But for your love and support along the way, I am deeply thankful.IMG_2101

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Next stop, the Land of the Free.

Let the journey continue.

Every Game Has a Curve Ball

Hello Bulgaria and my oh my what a change from Wengen, Switzerland you are. The culture shock here is one of many changes that have taken place in the last 5 days.

This week’s update will openly discuss challenges, but don’t mistake any of this for negativity. All journeys involve moments of resistance and challenges to be overcome. If this was not a part of our journey, neither would growth be.

This week has been a great challenge, and I have a feeling we may be going uphill from here. And this is good. A very real aspect of the amazing opportunity to temporarily live overseas is the willingness to give up comfort zones. After almost two months of living out of a suitcase, sharing beds, showers, and at many times a pocket full of Euros, one can begin to long for things of familiarity and consistency. Moving around so much, jumping from one culture to the next, and constantly meeting and saying goodbye to groups of people every week, I have come to a [temporary] phase of emotional fatigue.

Upon leaving a first world country and stepping into Bulgaria, I have confronted the circumstances of less desirable sleeping conditions, less sanitary facilities, way crazier language barriers, and food that often comes accompanied with flies. I also said goodbye to four teammates who in many ways have been my world this summer, and the one unchanging element up until this point. Needless to say, I have had my fair share of moments where I wanted to pout and cry for my mamma.

Let us not forget that we are all human, and all run out of fuel before being filled back up.

But there is a beauty in this, and one that I insist on finding. Campers will arrive to our facilities in two days, and though everything in me wants to stop pushing forward, I can’t wait for them to show up. I have had the amazing privilege to serve in fascinating parts of the world this summer and with much pleasure and joy. But the times that we feel empty, homesick, and NOT in the mood to serve are the times it really counts. Right? Jesus was a servant when His heart was aching, when His body was weak, when He wasn’t appreciated for who He was, and when it would have been much easier for Him to throw in the towel. In fact, Jesus stepped out of paradise and into our dirty world, to serve. And to serve to the death. So as part of my personal character development, what better way to learn to be like Jesus than to face this very issue myself?

Secondly, as I have my days when I long for comforts that have been removed, friends and family who are distant, and conveniences that allow me to feel safe, what an opportunity to call upon my Father who is constant when all else is not. As I long for the quick fixes that these things bring, I will rely on the giver of life and stability to fill my every void.

What a privilege I have to be here this summer and to be embracing the amazing beauty, adventure, and fun of ministry and culture exploration. And what a privilege to encounter challenges that remind me of the life of Christ and give Him opportunities to do great things in my own heart.

And let me say, through working side by side with Bulgarian stationed YoungLife workers, I am blown away by the love and beauty of God’s people here in this place.

I look forward to bringing back an amazing report.

Let the adventure continue.

Out of The Tunnel, & Into The Alps

Outside my window is a world I never thought I would come in contact with.

My YoungLife Expeditions team and I had the privilege of coming and spending a week in a Chalet in the lovely town of Wengen, Switzerland and in the heart of the Alps. After wrapping up our recent camp, I wasn’t even in retreat mode. But quickly upon arriving, I realized the huge blessing this week of rest, fellowship, and devotion was and how greatly I was starving for it.

A quick story I would like to share inspired me and will hopefully encourage and inspire you. On our drive up to the chalet and through the mountains, I was captivated by what I saw. Immediately I began to think of the greatness of God. It’s hard not to when facing this kind of beauty. As I was listening to my favorite song and settling into a spirit of awe, trees began to cloud my view. Then we began to encounter rails and power lines. I anxiously awaited reaching a point of the road where my view was clear as it once was. But all that awaited me was a tunnel, and one that seemed endless. I was so frustrated and just wanted to  see the mountains in full view again as I had before, especially before the very fitting song I was listening to ended. Eventually, the tunnel lightened and the mountains were there once again, in all their glory. Eventually, we would reach the top of our route and retreat in our beautiful chalet where the presence of the mountains would be available to enjoy without end and without interruption.

As I encountered this momentary frustration and listened to the lyrics of my song, I began to realize something very beautiful. This 2 hour trip up the mountains to our destination was so symbolic to our walk with Christ. The times that we feel most close to Him are the times that we see Him and feel Him without interruption. But life has a way of quickly bringing about trees and power lines that cloud our vision of Him, His love, and where He might be. Worse than that, on our journey we travel through tunnels, where He cannot be felt or seen at all and when faith is the only thing that allows us to know He is still there, not sight. In the same way the mountains did not cease to be outside of the tunnel, God does not cease to be present and presently loving and carrying us through our own tunnels. And we have the hope of knowing that though different tunnels are different lengths, they all have an end. There is also a grace and mercy to the flow of life that allows us to cycle through tunnels, cloudy days, and days of sunshine. The true hope lies in this though; that as we drive through the beautiful views, the clouded views, and the tunnels, we come closer and closer to the chalet that awaits us and the unending splendor and glory of the mountains that surround it. If meeting our creator is anything like reaching the top of this hike, I can guarantee it will be worth it.

By the way, this song that I was listening to is called “All I Want” by The Robbie Seay band. My favorite part of the song goes “All I want is confirmation that you’re gonna see me through to the end”. What a relief to know that for the believer, God will see us through till the end.

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“Who has measured the waters in His hand, or marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket or weighed the mountains on scales? Who can fathom the spirit of The Lord?” Isaiah 40:12-13. Let me tell you, after seeing this creation, I cannot.

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And though He reigns over the mountains, He also clothes the flowers of the field, and yet His greatest delight is in you and I.

IMG_1917Here my heart is glad. xoxo, Bri

Without Limit

Howdy friends,

It’s feeling a little bit more like Texas today in Germany as we finally get some weather above 65 degrees and finally have some sunshine to break through the overcast. In fact, we have had a few days and are in for a few more days of beautiful sun and warmer numbers. My cold blood and fair skin are rejoicing.

Coming from a land of summers that last from April to October, my skin has never been so light in July. Self tanner, you are becoming more and more of a temptation.

This past week we wrapped up another camp here in Berlin, which will conclude my time in Germany come Tuesday morning when we depart for Switzerland. It’s crazy to think my time here is up and the time has come to adapt to another country and culture.

My experience in these last two weeks has contained more lessons than I thought I would be able to absorb. Between watching God do big things through me and others, in me and others, and around me and others, it has been quite a ride.

Different experiences give us different glimpses of God and His power at different angles. In my last post I wrote about God being capable of “exceedingly more” than we can imagine, which was an understatement for how we watched God move. Here recently, I have seen God as a God who works in the midst of things; our weaknesses, our struggles, our unpredictable circumstances, and even our assumptions which so often are limited by our human-sized faith.

Partnered with both “News Release” (an American basketball ministry) and a German basketball organization in Berlin, we helped run a basketball camp for kids in Berlin. Being the furthest thing from a basketball player, I was humorously interested as to what this would look like. However, God is always capable of working “in the midst”. Throughout the week, the American basketball players ran training sessions and folded in their testimony of Christ as they helped eager kids improve their playing skills.

As YoungLife workers, our job was to mix in and build relationships with kids, but to also handle the programatic aspect of this particular camp, and play the background by making ourselves available to serve these other two organizations. Once these areas were covered, all spare time could be used to dive into fellowship with these kids. I knew this would be a week where many things functioned differently than camps previous. I knew there could possibly be days where I saw more dirty dishes than I saw kids, days where our time was spent planning, as well as days completely spent with kids. I knew that whatever work was up ahead, I needed to position myself where I was willing to serve for the sake of serving and where I was eager to do anything and everything for an audience of one and as unto The Lord. There were times where in order to best serve the camp, our YoungLife team needed to stay behind the scenes and finish dishes. And there were times that The Lord completely opened up opportunities for us to be with kids and build relationships with them.

Throughout the week, my prayer was that God would allow me to be used in the lives of campers, regardless of what element I was in. At the cost of making a fool of myself, I got to do just that. Oh if only I could include footage of me trying to play basketball. Whatever image just came to mind of me butchering this game, I promise it was far worse and far funnier. Regardless though, God was faithful in allowing me to be a vessel for Him, all while having a ton of fun and a ton of laughter.

Regardless of what we were doing, one amazing reminder I was given this week was that God knows where every opportunity lies. Though God had no plans and no need to use me as a basketball star this week, He had every intention to take my own uniquely crafted gifts and fit them where He knew there was an opening. Not only does God know where these opportunities lie, but He also will lead us to them when we ask. Some of this looked like doing tasks as simple as running errands between stations, yet running into a camper on the way and having a conversation that led directly into the Gospel. Other times, I would feel God challenge me to make myself available somewhere that I perhaps wasn’t 100% comfortable, yet immediately would have an opportunity awaiting me when I got there.

Some interactions with campers were deep and encompassed the full message of the Gospel, while other were opportunities to simply laugh and connect to kids and just love them. Regardless, God provided each one. Even in a camp setting where our responsibility stretched us thinner, God’s ability to use us was not contingent on that, but rather on our willingness to be used.

Isn’t it funny how when we do not place a limit on God, we quickly realize He has none?

As we concluded the week at camp, great friendships with both campers and new teammates had been made and The Gospel had been spoken through words and action. Seeds were planted that The Lord will continue to water.

My challenge to you is to consider the same thing. How often do we limit God and shut down opportunities for Him to use us in our present context? I encourage you to do the simplest thing you can do and ask Him how you can be useful where you are planted right now in life.

To the many of you who continue to support me through prayer and resources, I cannot thank you enough. I ask you to continue praying for myself, my YoungLife teammates, the Berlin kids and seeds that have been planted in their lives, as well as our new friends from News Release ministry who will also continue ministering to athletes throughout Europe this summer.

After spending some follow up time with campers from this past week, I spent some follow up time with myself. I spent the day at the Spree River in Berlin making up for all the lost rays this summer. I think I went up about three shades. There is hope!

Next time I come to you, it will be from the beautiful Alps of Switzerland. Until then, let the adventure continue!

Exceedingly More

Hallo Freunde,

Or for the 100% of us who don’t speak German, hey friends! The curtains are pulled back, the German morning sunshine lights up my room, my coffee is fresh, my heart and mind are eager to share, and my fingers are ready to go. As huge things have taken place in the last week and a half, I have longed for the moment to sit down and share them with you.

So as you probably assumed from my broken Deutsch, I have said farewell to the beautiful motherland of Italy and have been in Germany for almost 10 days now, and in Berlin currently. Here is where we hosted our first YoungLife camp of the summer in which I was able to rekindle many relationships with kids who I worked with last summer. Crazy to think if I would not have signed up for my 10 day trip last summer and fallen head over heals for the kids and cause of YoungLife, I would be spending my summer very differently, emotionally and geographically.

I am constantly learning and being stretched here. I am falling more and more in love with the beautiful inconvenience of simplicity and nomadic living. Not to mention the beautiful challenge in leaving a support system and diving into a brand new world of multicultural community, foreign transportation systems, and a “it’s not about me” attitude. Being stripped of security in every sense and having it replaced with adventure in every sense. Being uncomfortable is a beautiful thing. And boy is it fun.

I titled my blog “Exceedingly More” because that’s exactly what this week was. Through an English training program that yielded much space for fun and relationship building, we spent a whole week with a group of students whose school YoungLife has slowly but surely built a relationship with. Each day after the fun yet educational portion of the day, all the kids rallied together, sang fun songs, danced, and let loose during the part of the day that we call YoungLife Club. The craziness of Club each day would lead up to  “Club talk” where a slice of the Gospel was shared. Allow me to paint a picture. As we broke down the Gospel, the kids left on Wednesday with a haunting reality of our sinfulness and separation from God. And coming from a culture where the Gospel is NOT widely known, there was a sense of anticipation in how this could be fixed and what the next part of the story could possibly be. As we presented the “Cross Talk” on Thursday, some kids for the first time in their lives heard the message of hope in the forgiveness of Christ. Whereas this idea is very familiar in some cultures, especially the American, this was news to these kids and they knew two things. They were sinners and left in a state of hopelessness and now someone was telling them there was a second chance, nothing added or taken away. This Gospel was anything but old news to them. As we diligently prayed over these kids, many of us including myself wondered if The Lord could soften hearts of a culture who had a “no need for God” mentality. But we prayed. And we prayed. And we prayed some more. And we sent out emails for people to pray. And they prayed. And then we prayed some more. We prayed with everything in us. And then we waited for our God to do what only our God could do.

After the amazing [and to many students unheard of] news of The Gospel was revealed, the kids were given a stone and given an opportunity to lay this stone before the Cross and accept not only this gift of Grace but also the call to follow Jesus. Contrary to the American “church camp alter call”, in a very matter-of-fact individualistic culture as Germany, there is not the likelihood to respond out of emotion or peer pressure. We knew that no kid would rise from his seat or even have an incentive to do so unless he meant what he was doing. We took a deep breath, prayed again, and waited.

One kid stood up, walked over to a leader, spoke the words “well, someone has to go first”, and laid down his stone. Then another kid,  who happened to be the toughest, troublemaking, too-cool-for-school kid rose to his feet to lay down his sin and accept the Grace of Jesus. Then 41 others followed.

I was astounded. I was speechless. I was in awe of my God and His mightiness to save.

In the midst of my doubts and little faith, Our God did “exceedingly more than we could ask or imagine, according to His power at work in us”, just as Ephesians 3:20 tells. And oh how that promise and scripture came alive this week. All we had to do was ask.

So to my friends, family, and all my loved ones, I challenge you. The same God who parted the red sea, raised Jesus from the dead, and reclaimed 43 German souls is the same God at work in your life, and the same God who loves you unconditionally. The unbelievable power of prayer is made accessible to us and the power of God’s immeasurable capability is a sealed promise to us. A promise to us in our lives, in our hurts, in our relationships, in our family, in our marriages, and in every space of our brokenness and in our need for a healer, provider, savior, and friend.

All we must do is ask.

As for me, my team and I are enjoying a few days of rest and follow up hang outs with our YoungLife kids before we hit the ground running prepping and putting on our next camp in Berlin. We plan to take in more of the city of Berlin, as well as Munich and Wittenberg, Germany. Ah the unlimitedness of public transport. I also hear it’s a 19 Euro bus ride to the Baltic Sea. I am a Texas girl after all and my skin is crying out for some rays and a tan. Count me in.

Until next time, let the adventure continue.

Auf Wiedersehen (and goodbye!) 🙂

Keep Your Eyes Open

Has it really been a week? It’s like I blinked and 7 days passed. If week 1 has been like this, I can’t imagine how 2 months will fly.

Well I have been looking forward to blogging since day 1, but I forced myself to actually wait until I had a week’s worth of adventure to write about. I can tell you now that the word “adventure” will be used frequently throughout my blogs this summer. Actually it will be overused frequently. It’s simply the only word to describe this experience of unknown events and new exposures.

So week 1 has been just that, an adventure. A mentor of mine always says “flexibility is the best ability” and man has that been my theme this week. It’s been a week of truly going with the flow and rolling with whatever punches come my way. A huge aspect of my first week has been lack of control. Here I am with nothing to my name but a suitcase, a modest and budgeted amount of Euros, a [minute-less] but internet enabled iphone, and an eager spirit to embrace and survive the ride. Talk about being outside your comfort zone. It’s amazing how much security comes from A. relying on weekly paychecks, B. Having a walk in closet over a piece of luggage, and C. Having the instantly gratifying access to unlimited communication and community. But this is the heart of my adventure, learning to put myself outside these things, cling to my creator’s constant presence, and dive into a new world of new people, new culture, and new opportunities.

Let me tell you, I am being stretched. But let me tell you, I am having the time of my life. There’s something about journeys like this that make you come alive, and that’s the best way to describe how I have felt these past 7 days, tremendously alive and tremendously free. But back to that “being stretched” part…it goes a little something like this. Being on such a tight budget and a limited amount of resources is teaching me one of the most valuable lessons, that being how to richly experience joy without the help of a loaded Mastercard. At first, having to stick to my strict budget was one of the most dreaded things about my trip and trust me, my parents received plenty of emails of me freaking out. But while sitting on my balcony in Rome and overlooking the city, it hit me that I was the only one who could rob myself of the joy that is free in this journey. That breathtaking moment from outside my five-story hostile was priceless, as many of the other rich moments I would encounter and forever treasure. Sure, I can’t buy every beautiful pair of italian leather shoes, or have gelato and homemade pizza four times a day. But can I tell you how much excitement is in grabbing a 0.70E loaf of bread and cheese and breaking it with teammates while sitting on the streets of Venice? It’s the simple things that take the most attention to appreciate but are most fulfilling. Being stripped of convenience and comfort has easily been the biggest blessing thus far.

Lastly, living in the moment has been crucial. This is actually something we should do in every day life, right? But especially being here, I am catching myself every time I begin to think ahead or be present somewhere different than where I am. I take seriously the blessing this summer is to me, and I want to soak in every moment. I am learning that doing that takes massive intentionality and I am so thankful to be positioned in a way that is teaching me just that. Living in the moment makes the eye more keen to what is actually happening right then and there, something we so often miss. In each city, being present has opened opportunities to truly engage with people and culture.  I’ve heard it said that those most interested in your life are those who are strangers to it. This is true when it comes to meeting other travelers. With this said, twice now we have been given the opportunity to share the Gospel with nonbelievers in such a comfortable and natural setting, folded into the context of genuine laughter and conversations about life. It’s amazing what you’ll find in the moment if only you keep your eyes open. It will be interesting to apply this post-Europe, and in everyday life in Dallas, Texas.

After a week of touring Rome, Venice, and Munich (and to my generous supporters, I promise your donations did NOT go to this week of touring, HA!), my ministry with YoungLife is about to begin. Tomorrow, I’m off to Berlin to hangout and love on some awesome German kiddos. Can’t wait to embrace this next step of my experience.

Let the adventure continue and keep your eyes open.

The Freedom of Grace

As I type up this entry, I am sitting in the DFW airport, just an hour from boarding a plane to Rome-my starting location on a two month adventure in Europe. Which by the way, I plan on documenting every moment of. But before I start this new adventure, I owe credit to the one I am presently in. As hallmark-like as it may sound, I truly view life as one big adventure. I promise you, if you are on a road with the Lord, it is simply just that. Some parts are fast, some are slow. Some are bumpy and some seem mundane. But He is always present in our life, connecting the highs and the lows and fulfilling a beautiful blueprint. 

Grace is something I have become captivated by in the last few years of my life and walk. By the Lord’s goodness, I have come to actually “somewhat get it”, and I when I say somewhat, I mean it. None of us will ever fully grasp grace. The Lord has been actually allowing me to, like the apostle Paul, “rejoice in my weakness because His strength is made perfect” and every time I mess up, I realize how desperate I am for this grace, which makes me overwhelmingly grateful for it.

But I have wrestled with a concept. Living in a land with such religious freedom as the U.S. (And shout out to those of you who also reside in the “bible belt”!), has it ever occurred to anyone else that at times we can so hyper focus on the BEAUTY of grace, which I am in no way denying, but so much that we dismiss the pursuit of righteousness? I have been apart of this at times in my life, as I’m sure we all have been.

Let’s discuss a parable in the Gospel of Luke. We all are familiar with the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. To summarize, the younger son of a father takes all the wealth and blessing of his father and “squanders it in wild and sinful living”. He abandons his family and pursues a life of sin, adulterous lovers, and self indulgence. In modern terms, the son hits rock bottom and comes to a broken place where he has nothing left. He plans to return to his father and beg him to accept him back as a servant.

Now, here is the beautiful part of the story, which Jesus uses to illustrate our heavenly father’s mercy and love through the earthly father’s. When the son returns and sheds his excuses and regrets, the father cuts him off only to embrace him, clothe him in the finest rings and robe, and prepare a feast of celebration with the finest meats. The father immediately accepts his son back with love, grace, and celebration for his son “who was lost and is now found.”

Now Jesus would never have told this parable if it wasn’t exactly how he wanted us to view God the Father’s mercy, love, acceptance, and celebration of our return to Him. 

So the picture of grace here is absolutely astounding. We have that down. But now let’s look at the younger son. Will he continue to make mistakes? Yes. Will he continue to fall short as a perfect son? Yes. But after seeing this beautiful illustration of forgiveness, how sad would the story be if the son took off and ran away right after? Is it possible that he could? Of course, there have been far to many times in my life where this has been my response to my heavenly father. Would the father’s love and forgiveness be there even in that case? Yes. But how much greater of a story and happier ending for the son to accept the mercy and be changed by it? How much greater and joy-filled of a life would he experience by choosing to live under the blessing of his father rather than self destructing his life again? The father wasn’t out to “take away” the good and fun things in life from his son. He simply knew the consequences of his son’s participation in such lifestyles that his son was previously engulfed in. The father’s motivation was not to overwhelm his son with rules and restrictions but rather love and desire to give his son the best life possible.

Isn’t this how our heavenly father is? Though his grace is unconditional, unending, and sufficient for our many downfalls, aren’t we better off and more likely to live a satisfying and rich life by responding to His grace, coming home and staying, rather than turning around and running again?

As I have struggled with this idea of the rebellious nature of people, including myself, I thought of a sister in Christ in which I believe basks in both grace and righteousness. Because after all, I want to share the message of grace, not works-based living. It simply has NEVER been about that. Yet I do not want to disregard the fruitfulness of righteous living. So, back to my friend. I thought to myself, how would I describe her? Ahhh, there it was! She is a woman FULL of conviction, yet FULL of grace. What an amazing type of character to aspire to build. I thought to myself, that’s it. We as believers and lovers of Jesus and His beautiful Gospel should be the greatest advocates of grace and humble bearers of it, knowing and confessing our dependency on it. But as a response to the Holy Spirit living within us, we should respond to His convictions and lovingly submit to our good shepherd, trusting fully that we serve a good God whose ways are good and fruitful. And notice that none of this involves our own good works or efforts, but rather loving and willing submission to God’s spirit which is daily sanctifying us to be more like Christ.

We will all continue to be pathetically desperate for our sweet savior’s grace. But as he welcomes us home and lavishes us in it, let us draw deeper into fellowship as He shapes us into greater followers of Him. And as the body of Christ, let us carry one another and together journey closer and closer to His beautiful cross, for OUR joy and His glory.

 

“…It is His kindness that leads us to repentance.” -Romans 2:4

Grace frees us not to indulge in sin, but in freedom from sin. This is my prayer for us all.

 

Signing off. Next stop, Rome.

 

With all my love,

Bri 🙂