Thursday, February 27, 2014

I'm a Goer

I'm leaving in two weeks for New York, where I will be sharing the gospel of Christ to an unreached group of people. What an unreached people group means, is that less than 2% of the people living there are Christians. Because we are going on a short term trip, we are partnering with a non profit group that has established a long term mission organization there. They will be training us in the mornings on how to reach this people group, how to make connections, and how to talk about Jesus with them. Then in the afternoons we will be sent out to the streets where we will spend time walking in prayer through their neighborhood.

By physically putting ourselves in a place, we are more likely to become aware of the specific needs of the area, more than we could praying alone in our room. Prayer walking is also an act of confidence in God's power over a particular situation. We are praying and banking on the fact that God will use us because we are THERE. It will be awkward. It just WILL. We will get right to the point with people, "Hey I like your shoes, you wanna talk about Jesus?".

My number one fear is the fact that I am still struggling with hearing from God. My knowledge in the truth of what scripture says about God has increased, but I still struggle so much with doubt and lack of faith. I'm worried that this will hinder me while trying to share Jesus with people. I want to believe, and most of the time I do believe. But sometimes I don't believe what I'm saying. And that's a scary place to be in right before you are supposed to be sharing your beliefs with other people. If you could please be praying that God would clearly speak to me, that he would increase my faith, and that I would trust the Holy Spirit to do the work. I need those prayers, they count, I know they can change me.

Because of the sensitive nature of our trip, I can't share a ton of details on the WHO until we return. I've learned a lot about unreached people in general as I've prepared for this trip and it's only increased my drive to bring the GOOD good news of Jesus to them. These people believe in the oneness of God, they believe in Jesus and think he is a great prophet (they love him!), but they don't believe he is the Messiah. The savior for us, the sacrifice that took our place and saved us from God's due judgement. They believe that at the end of your life, if the good deeds outweigh the bad, then you go to heaven. It's 100% a works based religion. If you make sure and pray 5 times a day, give your alms (donate to poor) to the needy, make your pilgrimage to Mecca. All of these things seem to have a point value, and if you wrack up enough points, then you are good enough to get to heaven.

The hang up with this is the fact that we serve a HOLY God. Even if we did amazing deeds every day, we will NEVER, I repeat never, be ok on our own to come to God. He is too holy, he is too pure and good and just. This is why we need to Jesus, there has to be a covering of our sin so that God can look at us. When he looks at you, he only sees Jesus' perfection (if you believe Jesus is the son of God, and he died for you and rose again). This is not the case with these people. They don't accept Jesus as savior, and so no matter how many good deeds they do, even one blemish is too much for a holy God to look at.

I am dying to share this good news. That you don't have to be perfect. You can rely on Jesus and then just accept the love that God wants to give! Pray that ears will be opened, that we will speak with fertile soil that is ready to take root this truth. Pray that we would speak with leaders and strong minded people, that would open their hearts to believe and then continue to spread the truth back to their families here and families overseas. That it wouldn't stop with us sharing the gospel with them, but that it would continue to multiply, and reach places we didn't even travel to reach!

I have so much more to say, hopefully I can continue to process this trip over the next week and a half and gain even more hope and understanding of what my purpose will be to these people. I just want to end with talking about our call as believers in God. There are so many people in America that apply the term Christian to themselves. But their lives don't reflect it. There is no product of that belief and all that it entails. It isn't enough to just believe in God and believe that Jesus died for your sins! Even the demons believe that! James 2:19 "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder!" BELIEF ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH. Let me take it straight out of scripture:

"What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say; stay warm and eat well- but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless."- James 2:14-17

I'm BEGGING you, Christian, to ask yourself these hard questions. To examine your faith in God and see if it's about you or if it's about Him. Spoiler Alert: It should be about him. HE is the creator! We are the created! It's about Him, and serving His will. That's life.

If you want to know more about my trip, or any of the things I talked about here, please feel free to shoot me an email! It's clearly a topic I am passionate about and I'd love to talk more. And please know, this is by no means coming from a ground higher than the one you are on. I'm right there with you. The commands of the bible are TOUGH. But they are commands none the less, and as long as my focus remains on it not being done by my own strength, I know it's possible. Please join me in prayer for this trip, for the Muslim population of this world, the unreached people of the world, and for the Americanized Christians that just don't know that there's actually more to it.

- Bethany

Thursday, February 20, 2014

To Remember: Recording @ the studio

I think I am going to start a series on the blog called "To Remember". They will just be short posts with a picture or two or a short story, purely for the sake of cataloging my memories! If you know me at all, you know that my memory is very poor and I forget so many life moments! This is why I have to keep my lifelong friends close ;) (shout out Mallory and Sarah!).

Today's thing to remember is the month of February 2014, when Levi and the band guys started recording their first album together. Jimmy McNeal will be releasing his first solo album and Levi recorded all of the drum and percussion tracks for the album. I cannot wait to see the end result! Hopefully the CD will be out by this summer!

Because I know we will be friends with these people for the rest of our lives, it makes this picture that much more fun! I love the idea and look forward to looking back on this picture in 10 years! Who knows, maybe they will have a whole other album by then :)

- Bethany

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Date Night + Busyness + Cheeeese

Gosh, I feel like since the day I graduated college I have said this statement at least once a week: "Life is just so busy." During the height of our wedding photography business, Levi and I let busy-ness trump all. We glorified being busy, we let being busy own us and our lives. Last year we worked on reclaiming our lives. Resetting our priorities. Here's where I want my weekly priorities to be (in no particular order except the first one):

1) Time in the Word
2) Time to come up to speed with Levi every day about how we are
3) Time to build our relationships with our friends and community
4) Time to respond to emails and work daily
5) Time to be outside and play with our animals
6) Weekly "date night" with Levi, which can even just look like eating a frozen meal together at home, as long as it's intentional time set together.

We realized that when work got busy, when commitments piled up, when we got tired...we got lazy with our priorities. It's WORK to make the things listed above happen every week, and sometimes they don't all happen. But it's my goal to keep those priorities in mind.

What's funny is that we are probably more busy NOW than we were a few years ago. We have just shifted our weekly priorities to where it doesn't rule our lives. The past 2 weeks Levi has been in the studio recording tracks for Jimmy McNeal's first solo album. It's a really important time for him, and an exciting time! And a time consuming time! We realized after the first week that we HAVE to keep making these priorities happen, otherwise things get ugly. Which all of this is just a really long winded intro into my blog post about our date night this week....haha.

We grabbed a bottle of wine, cheese, crackers, salami and tennis balls (for Mosely...) and headed out to Purgatory Creek Park in San Marcos. Levi came up with the idea to take a picnic out there because there is this cool fieldy valley area that we could sit in and Mosely could run around in. The weather has been so perfect this week that all I've wanted to do is be outside!

Mmmm, Gouda and Cheddar + Port Wine Cheese if you were wondering.

Mosely particularly enjoyed our outing and was way more well behaved than I expected! I could not believe how filled up I was after just 45 minutes outdoors hanging out! All in all, we had such a relaxing evening and I hope it won't be the last time we do this!

Now my goal is to convince Levi we need a hammock in our backyard so that I can lay outside every evening :)

- Bethany

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Annual Valentine's Day Party 2014

Our annual V-Day Party has turned into one of my favorite days of the year! I look forward to getting everyone together and being ridiculous in front of a camera for 2+ hours! I think this years set up was our best yet! These are just the highlights, I have almost 230 favorites from that night. But here's the 40 images I could narrow it down to.

We started off just posing in the photo booth and then later that night we played Ellen DeGeneres iPhone game called Heads Up. It's sort of like charades and so we just had everyone act it out in front of the camera. GENIUS IDEA LEVI!!!! You will want to see those below :)

Here is where the Heads Up fun began...I have very...expressive...friends.

Until next time!

- Bethany

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Pre Party | Valentine's Day 2014

A few years ago Levi and I started throwing a photo booth party on Valentine's Day and it's becoming sort of a yearly tradition! This year we went all out and I think it was our best set up yet! I will be sharing my favorites from the photo booth soon, but for now I thought I'd share the prep work/baking we did!

I made some box cupcakes (Duncan Hines is my favorite), and then made a simple homemade buttercream from my girl Martha. We topped the cupcakes with cut out brownies (also Martha's idea). It was such a simple touch but added so much to the look!

As many parties as we throw at our house, I still can't seem to get the timing of everything down. Luckily Ashley and Brandon were in town early and so we put them to work. They made all of the decorations happen for the photo booth!

Riggins break!

I told Levi his Valentine's gift to me would be to take over the technicalities of setting up the photo booth...I'm so glad he came through! It was PERFECT and I didn't have to do a thing ;)

Testing, testing....more to come soon!

- Bethany