I'm a writer, and I've got a story to tell.

Why I Write Christian Fiction

     One of the most amazing truths that a person can know is that they are made in the image of God. This beautiful reality shows us just how special we are to God and reminds us that we were created to be His children. God’s unique, creative, and personal creation of human beings, detailed in the Genesis account, is not only an remarkable testament of His great love for us, but it is also prompts us to live as reflections of God’s goodness, love, and glory. Personally, I believe that God has called me to serve Him through a ministry of writing. It is my desire to become an author, writing books in the genres of Christian fiction and devotionals. In this ministry and vocation it is absolutely crucial that I remember the truth that we are all made in God’s image. I must show this belief not only in the ways that I interact with others, but also in how I write. Above all, I want my stories of faith to serve as examples of God’s love to my readers, and I pray that my writing ministry will always bring glory to God.
     Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NIV). No other creature was made in God’s image other than mankind—His creation of us in this way was personal and purposeful. We bear God’s likeness and that is a huge gift, blessing, and responsibility. It does not mean that we are perfect. We are still sinful and fallen humans, but as Christians we are saved by God’s amazing grace. Knowing that we are made in God’s likeness, chosen to be His image bearers, we should feel compelled to represent God well and show His love to others in all that we say and do. By shinning God’s light into the darkness of this world through our actions, words, and ultimately our lives, others are able to see Jesus in us and may come to know Him as their personal savior too. Though we are created in God’s image, we must be willing to live in such a way that honors God and allows His light to shine through, revealing that image in us.
     As a Christian author it is my hope to write stories that reflect Biblical truths. For example, in one of my stories the characters face various trials that test their faith, but they learn to trust God despite the storms they encounter in their lives. One Biblical passage that I kept in mind while writing this story is Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (NIV). This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, and I feel that it is an important truth for people to know. Though the story I wrote is fictional, the truth of the message it conveys is very real and applicable to the lives of my readers. The characters I create can demonstrate how one can truly reflect God’s image in their lives or what life inevitably looks like when one is not walking in God’s light and bearing His image in a way that honors Him. Writing stories that show characters trusting God, showing His love, and forgiving other people are effective examples of how we can bear Gods image in real life.
     Jesus often used a kind of storytelling known as parables to convey important Biblical messages. For example, in Luke 15 Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son, a story of a father’s love that reminds us not only of our Heavenly Father’s unconditional love for us, but teaches us that we should also show love to others even when they do not deserve it. The father in the story bears God’s image and likeness and is a representation of how God will always welcome His children home even when they run away. His love never fails, ends, runs out, or gives up on us, and His mercies are new each morning. In the same way, as God’s image bearers, we are to be loving and forgiving to those around us. The parable of the prodigal son is especially dear to my heart because I have lived a version of this story in my own life. Growing up with a prodigal sister, I have learned what it means to love someone and pray for them even when they rebel and run away. Despite all the hurt I feel as a result of my sister’s wayward choices and absence in life, I know that in a heart beat I would welcome her back home with open arms and celebrate her return. I hope to write a book about my experience and show how God has worked in my life. It has strengthened my faith and drawn my family closer together and most importantly, closer to God through this storm.
     As a Christian, it is my ultimate goal that my life will be a testimony of God working through me for His glory and showing His love to others. I believe this is important because 1 Corinthians 10:31 commands us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (NIV). Also, in 1 Corinthians 13:1 it says, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (NIV). In all I say and do, I want to point others back to Jesus. I want to represent God well by bearing His image and reflecting His light. As a Christian author, I pray my writing ministry will be fruitful, helping others to realize that like the characters in my books, they can always count on God and trust in Him no matter what they may be going through in their lives. I believe that faith based entertainment is a great way to convey messages like this to a wide audience. Christian fiction books can remind people of God’s love, grace, and mercy. A good story is memorable, and audiences can relate to the characters and scenarios. With this in mind, I want to write in a way that will help readers to remember the true Biblical messages and themes within my stories and be able to apply them to their own lives. I believe that a book that tells a story of faith can be more than just entertainment, it can be a ministry tool. I hope to create stories that show my readers God’s love and teach them how they can walk in His light as the image bearers of God that they were created to be. Through my writing, it is my ultimate desire to glorify God. We are all created in God’s image, and He has given each of us unique gifts that we should use for His purpose and His ministry.

Not Goodbye...Just See You Later: A Tribute in Memory of my "Adopted" Grandparents

Yesterday, was my first experience attending a double funeral. The service was held for our dear family friends, Alice & Delane Harris, who both passed away this past week. I had known this sweet, loving North Carolinian couple my entire life, and my parents had known them for 22 years. They meant so much to me that I considered them my "adopted" grandparents.

Before I was born, my parents met Alice and Delane while on vacation at a resort in Tennessee. We have a home video of that moment--they were singing a funny song from "Hee-Haw" at a potluck party the resort was holding for all the guests. They were always so full of life, and very funny! They became instant, life-long friends with my parents and my older sister, Shelley who was about ten years old at the time. I grew up knowing them all my life. We went on vacations to Tennessee together for many years.

We would visit them in North Carolina many times, and they also came to stay at our house. When I was thirteen years old, I asked them to be my "adopted" grandparents. They had no children and I had no grandparents who were present in my life so we were good for each other. They were so loving and supportive. I had even stayed with them for a week in the summer twice when I was a little girl. They remodeled a guest room for me at their house so that I would have my very own room to stay in whenever I came to visit. They let me pick out the paint color--purple. They bought me a big fuzzy, purple chair to put in the room and put my name up on the wall above the bed. Alice and Delane truly were my "adopted" grandparents. They came to see my in my ballet and theater performances, attended my high school graduation, sent me care packages at college, and would often call me up just to talk and tell me they loved me. I'm going to miss that.

Alice and Delane really loved each other. They grew up together and were inseparable. I know that it was God's plan for them to enter eternity in Heaven together because they would not have ever wanted to be apart.

We learned that on Friday, April 25 they both fell in separate incidents at different locations within fifteen minutes of each other. From our understanding, Delane fell at the house and hit his head. He had been fighting a long battle with cancer and his last chemo treatment had really made him weak. Alice was at the dry cleaners at the time and also fell. They were taken to two different hospitals. We got a call on Sunday, April 27 that Delane passed away earlier that day. My dad even talked to Alice on the phone about it--she told him, "I don't know how to tell Samantha. I don't want her to be upset." In all her pain of losing her husband, she was still thinking of me in that moment.

My parents called and gave me the news, and I could not believe it. It was my final exam week at school so I tried to focus on studying and spending time with my friends and not think about it much. Alice was still in the hospital and seemed to be doing as well as possible. She was scheduled for a hip replacement surgery and struggling with depression. We later learned that she had stopped eating.

On Friday, May 2 I got up early and took my 8:00am Philosophy exam. After the test, I went to the dining hall to eat breakfast. I checked my Facebook and read a status from my mom that she had received some bad news and would give more details soon. I immediately called her and asked what happened. She said, "Oh no. I forgot to hide my status from you. I wasn't going to tell you yet with your exams going on." With just that, I knew. "It's Alice," I said. She confirmed, and explained that she did not make it. She had passed away that morning.

Thankfully, I was surrounded by good friends the entire day that comforted me and distracted me from thinking about my loss. It was my last day on campus for my junior year, and I thank God that my friends were there to help me enjoy it.

I went home Saturday and Sunday we attended their funeral. It was really hard to travel to North Carolina without being able to visit them at their house. It was eerie. The whole way there I thought back about memories of going to visit them. Those times were over now. When we got to the funeral home it really became real that both of them were gone. I've never cried so much at a funeral before...I didn't realize how hard it would hit me.

I thought back to the last times I had seen and talked to them. We visited them in March, and exchanged late Christmas presents. Of course, I did not know that would be the last time I would see them. The last time they called me was on my birthday, April 1, when I got back to the dorm from my party. Since it was April Fool's Day my hallmates wanted to play a prank on our RA so we were all hiding in one room when I got the call. They wished me a happy birthday and told me they loved me. I thought back to that last conversation with them.

At the funeral I talked with Alice's neighbors, Alica and Blanca, who had become good friends with me over the years. Alice and Delane had done so much for these girls and their family who were from Mexcio. They were a true ministry to the whole family and shared God's love with them. Alice took Alicia and her other sister Karla under her wing when they were little girls. She treated them like her own, invited them in to her home anytime, and even had an entire drawer of snacks for them to enjoy when they got home from school. She also hired them to help clean her house so they could make some extra income for their family. They encouraged them to stay in school, and Delane paid them  dollar for every A they made. He was surprised when they came home once with straight A's on their report cards. I was happy to see the difference they made in these girls' lives. Alicia is now even studying to be a nurse, and I know that Alice (who also had a medical degree) played a major role in influencing her to choose this career. I grew up playing with Alicia and  Karla when I went to visit my "adopted" grandparents, and I got to know their family too. I remember swimming in Alice's pool with them, having sleepovers together, drawing pictures at the kitchen table, and having them teach me Spanish. Alicia told me at the funeral that they had visited Alice in the hospital earlier that week, and they thought that she would be okay. Their brother Louis lived with Alice and Delane at their home, and even went on vacations with them. They took him in, he worked as a kind of ranchhand for them, and he was like a son to Delane. He was also at the funeral, and I could tell that it was really hard for him.

The moment that hit me the hardest at the funeral was when they brought in Alice and Delane's beloved dog, "Peanut." Their dog was like a child to them. Peanut came in and immediately recognized my family and I. Peanut used to sleep with me when I stayed at their house. Seeing him there made me realize that not only were Alice and Delane gone, but I was never going to see Peanut again either.

I want them to be remembered for their kindness and generosity that they showed to so many people. They truly lived a life of serving others. My dad and Blanca had the chance to share about their love for others during the funeral service, each saying how much they meant to them.

I will never forget Alice and Delane for all the love and attention they gave me over the years. I hope that they know how much I appreciated them being my grandparents when I had none. I will miss them so much. I'll miss being able to visit them at their North Carolina home or just talking to them on the phone. I will miss hearing Grandma Alice telling me, "We think about you everyday, Samantha," and Grandpa Delane saying, "We love you, Shug." I'll miss all the little things like their funny sayings such as "home again, home again, jiggity jig" and playing scrabble with them for hours! I'll miss reading cards and tags on presents that read "From Grandma, Grandpa, and Peanut." There are so many things I will miss about my "adopted" Grandparents, but I am comforted by the truth that we will be reunited one day in Heaven. I know that this is not goodbye...just see you later.

Revelation 21:4 "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'"

Let It Go, and Let God!

     Okay, be honest...when you read the title of this post, did you automatically think of the popular song, "Let It Go," from Disney's new, beautiful, animated feature Frozen? I thought so. :) I admit I was slightly inspired by this song for the title, but I promise it is not completely random or just because I love Frozen...it actually relates to the topic of my post.
     More importantly, tonight God has laid it on my heart to write about one of my favorite passages of scripture, Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take" (NLT). These have become some of my 'life verses.' They are a constant reminder to me to completely rely on God, knowing that He has a perfect plan for my life. This can be hard when I may not always be able to see the big picture from where I'm standing, but that is why we are to "not depend on [our] own understanding." God knows what He's doing, and we can trust in Him to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). That His comforting promise to us. After all, He is a good God who is good ALL the time. He loves us and wants what is best for us. Therefore, we can trust in His plan for our life, and when we are faced with anxiety and fear about our future we can just let it go and let God lead you knowing that He is in control! That is a comforting truth.

     When we seek God and His will in our life, He promises to guide us and "show [us] what path to take." As a writer I sometimes think of God as the author of my life. I know that He's written a beautiful story for me, even though I cannot see beyond the 'page' that I'm currently on in my life at the moment. I can 'reread' (look back) on all that He has done for me so far, and see how He is brilliantly connecting  all the details of my life together in a way that is so perfect and ultimately brings glory to Him. Like an author plans out their story to write, God has a plan for our life. He sees the beginning, middle, and end, though we cannot see the whole story yet. Therefore, doesn't it make more sense to trust in Him who sees everything and knows what is going to happen, rather than to rely on our own extremely limited understanding? Another connection I've made is that like writers care about their characters and know them better than anyone else, so God cares about us and knows us perfectly more than we even know ourselves. He knows the desires of our hearts and He has written a story that is going to work out everything in our life for our good, for a purpose, and for His glory. Trust Him. Let go of your fear of the unknown, and have faith in His story for you because it is better than anything we can write for ourselves.

     I have included a link to an encouraging song by one of my favorite Christian artists, Jamie Grace. "The Waiting" is a song that often helps to calm my fears about how things are going to turn out in my future by reminding me that God is in control. Enjoy.



     Its been a long time since I wrote a blog post, but I felt inspired tonight to write. I want to talk about loneliness. It is an emotion that everyone experiences from time to time, but it's important to know that we are truly never alone. God is ALWAYS with us. Deuteronomy 31:6 says "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
     I want to focus on one aspect of loneliness in this post--the loneliness and hurt we feel when someone we trust abandons us or fails to meet our expectations of our relationship with that person. I will be honest...I sometimes struggle with trusting people and fearing they will abandon me. Abandonment, unfaithfulness, and broken trust are tough, emotional, experiences in life that can leave you scarred and cause you to be fearful of trusting anyone again. However, it does not have to be that way if we have the assurance that we are never truly alone when we have Christ in our life. God's not going anywhere. :)
     People may leave at times. People may change. They may not turn out to be who you thought they were. Some friends may not be a true friends. Its not easy to experience these things. I know...but I also know an incredible, comforting, beautiful truth: God will NEVER leave me. God will never forsake me. He will never change, He will never abandon me, and He will never give up on me. We can trust God to be there for us no matter what and that He will keep His promises.
     Now, I'm not saying that all people cannot be trusted. Those true family and friends who are trustworthy and reliable are real treasures. God gives us people like that for a reason, and we should be that type of person to others too. We need to pray for each other, fellowship together, provide comfort, consistently be there for one another, do life together, and sincerely care for each other! That's a true friend that we can trust.
     Other people might abandon us at times or let us down, and that is extremely hard to handle. When you trust someone and expect them to be all they said they were or who you thought they were, that trust becomes broken. That relationship becomes tainted. We feel uneasy with that person because we cannot trust them again. Sometimes, we can see when a person is really sorry that they have broken your trust. We can forgive them and give them another chance. It will taken a lot of time to build that trust back up, but it is possible. However, sometimes people continuously let you down time and time again. We can still love these people in Christ and forgive them, but we can't really put our trust in them.
     Thankfully, we can be sure that God will never break our trust in Him. He is trustworthy. He has proven that too us. God is always with us...He's there to listen, to help, to guide, to comfort, to love unconditionally, and to be the most amazing friend you could ever have! We sung a song in a worship service this morning and one of the verses that stuck out to me went along the lines of this: God has never failed us, and He won't start now. This is a beautiful truth...God will not fail us. EVER! What comfort it is to know that even when people may fail us, God will not--He loves us and wants what is best for us.
     When people break our trust, abandon us, or leave us, we can confidently turn to God for comfort and guidance, knowing that He is always there and always will be there. We must "be strong and courageous," not "afraid or terrified" in these situations because we have no reason to fear. God knows what He is doing...He has wonderful plans for your life. Put your trust in Him. You won't regret it because our God is a God who will never abandon us. In Christ we are NEVER alone.

Positive Living: Embracing the Full Abundant Life God Has Granted Us

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." John 10:10 (ESV)

     Positive living...what does this practice mean to you? Having a good attitude? Not complaining? Always looking on the bright side of life? Relying on hope? Thinking of the best possible outcome in a tough situation instead of thinking the worst? What about when you ponder the idea of a full and abundant life...what ideas come to mind?  Living in the moment. Dreaming big? Trying new things? Living "out loud?" Being adventurous? Embracing every new day? These all might sound cliché, but they are a pretty good start in the right direction when considering what it means to live positively and embrace the full and abundant life God has granted us. Life is such a precious gift. Knowing this fact, it is important that we live our lives to the fullest, and most importantly...live a life that is glorifying to God. In my opinion, this means not wasting time stressing, complaining, and worrying so much. (If you've read my other blog posts...you know this is something I talk about often.) Instead I believe we should cherish moments more...love others and show them we care...have fun and laugh at ourselves! Ultimately, we need to live in such a way that people who are not Christians can look at us and see the difference Christ has made in our lives. When we are joyful despite painful circumstances, hopeful regardless of uncertainty, and loving towards others even if they are not the easiest people to love or may not always show love to us in return, the world will notice that we have something special. That special something is Christ in us, for us, and working through us. Therefore, we should look for ways to be a light to others by allowing God to shine through us into the darkness of this world. That is what I consider living positively and embracing the full abundant life God has granted us.

{Okay, so that's my short and sweet little spiel. Now, I'm going to have a little fun by giving ya'll something funny to watch that goes along with this topic, plus a pretty cool little list of tips for living a more positive, abundant life. Enjoy!}

Jessica's "Daily Affirmation"

     The video above has become an ongoing joke between me and my roommate. We found this little girl's enthusiasm and positivity both funny and adorable! We watch it often for a good laugh and sometimes will quote lines from it to remind ourselves to be positive. "I like my school! I like my hair! I like my whole house! My whole house is great! I can do anything good!" Okay...so it might sound silly, and I'm not saying we should all stand in front of the mirror each morning and recite our lists of "likes" as Jessica has demonstrated...(Though it may make you a YouTube star if you record it. ;) hahaha!)...BUT the point is we should think about things that we are grateful for each day.
     I don't know about you, but I know that sometimes it can be easy to take things for granted. It can also sometimes seem easier to complain and be negative rather than think positively. But why is that? I wonder why we often find reason to complain or think the worst when we have so much to be grateful for and positive about. Take the "simple" things that may seem like a given to most of us, but to many people in this world they are not as easy to come by...food, water, health, shelter, clothing, family, friends, education, work. How about even the fact that we are ALIVE? (Again, life is a gift) For Christians...what about remembering EVERY DAY to be grateful the sacrifice Jesus made for us by dying on the cross in our place, for our sins, so that we may have the gift of salvation and eternal life in Heaven with God forever. THAT is something to always be thankful for...THAT is a reason to always be positive. Even if we had nothing else in life...we have God. That's a really good reason to be happy. We have the blessed assurance that God will never leave us nor forsake us. We have the hope of His many good promises to us. We have the gift of life that He has granted us--a life that He has intended for us to have fun with, embrace it, reach others for Christ, live fully and abundantly, and ultimately bring glory to Him in all that we say and do. Overall...God LOVES us and wants us to have this amazing life that He has written for us in His grand, unfathomable, perfect plan. That being said, there is always a reason to be positive.

{My 10 Tips for Living a More Positive, Abundant Life}

  1.  Be Thankful and Count Your Blessings, Not Your Problems (As cliché as it sounds...it works)
  2. Worry, Stress, and Complain LESS (aka...be POSITIVE. Have a little hope...have faith in God's plan. Put your worries in God's hands. Leave your problems at the cross. Stop trying to control everything and just let the stress go. I know it is harder than it sounds. Trust me. I struggle with it too. But I also know what  a difference it makes when I simply take a deep breath, throw my worries away, and trust that God will take care of me, every little detail, working all things together for my good.)
  3. Be HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY (Yea, I really love Duck Dynasty. I just had to throw that one in there. lol. But hey, its true, Jack!)
  4. Spend time with God (See my post "Be Still" for more information on quiet time with God.)
  5. Serve others (Caring for the needs of others will not only help them and show them God's love, but it will also bring you joy as well. Remember JOY--Jesus, Others, You.) *Suggestions: hold the door for people, write a handwritten note of encouragement to a friend, offer to pray with/for people, serve at a nursing home, etc. 
  6. Enjoy the simple things in life...a quiet walk, reading a book, listening to music, etc. Check out my Pinterest board for more ideas: The Simple Life :)
  7. Go out in nature! Okay, I know I'm a country girl and I just love being outside, but even if you're not an outdoorsy person take some time to enjoy God's creation. Think about it. God created this amazing, beautiful world for us to enjoy and explore! Wow! For me, I feel close to God when I'm up in the mountains or when I see a beautiful sunset/sunrise sky. The fingerprints of God are everywhere you look. Take the time to just be in awe of God's creation.
  8. Love people! God loved us first and has called us to love others. Show your love to your family, your friends, your neighbors, etc. Show God's love to strangers by just being kind and polite...and really show God's love by loving your enemies. Make good friends! Fellowship with other Christians! Tell people you love them, but also SHOW them. That's important.
  9. LAUGH!!!!! It's good to laugh! God has a sense of humor too. Don't always be too serious or too hard on yourself. Have fun and enjoy life. That's the way we are meant to live. There is a time for everything...so yes, there are times to be serious, but there are also times to have fun! Even be silly once in awhile. ;)
  10. Challenge yourself & try new things. Don't get stuck in a rut or be content with boredom. Be spontaneous sometimes. (But be wise about it too--aka don't do something dangerous just because you want to "live on the edge") Just change it up every now and then. For me this can be something as exploring a new place to hangout on campus...or something as challenging as trying out a new sport (aka color guard)...or even something as thrilling as going zip-lining! There are so many opportunities that God puts in your life. Why not embrace them?
Grace & Peace,
Samantha (The Hat Girl)

Be Still

Psalm 46:10 (NIV) "He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

     Be still....this command sounds so simple. Just to be and know...to rest in God's presence...easy, right? Sometimes this task can be a lot harder to accomplish than it seems. However, it does not have to be that way. I don't know about you, but when I think of resting in God's presence that concept just sounds so relaxing, freeing, peaceful. As Christians it is important that we strive to attain this status in our daily lives regardless of our circumstances. Whether we are having a good day or a bad day, it is crucial to set aside time to just be still and reflect on what God is doing in our lives, what He is trying to tell us or teach us, and to trust Him with whatever is our worrying us. This activity is often referred to as "quiet time," and it is an essential element of our daily walk with Christ.

     Being still and just simply knowing that God is in control is a challenge. If you have ever tried to consistently commit to a daily quiet time at a preset hour, you've probably found that it is sometimes hard to discipline yourself to stay committed to it in the midst of a busy life. However, daily quiet time with God is important. Many people choose to do this in the mornings to start their day off right with a peaceful and focused state of mind. Reading scripture in the morning can help prepare you for the tasks of  day ahead and give you something to reflect on throughout the day. Spending time in prayer before you start your day reminds you to give your day to God, turning it over for Him to use it to His glory. Though prayer should be a lifestyle--consistent throughout our day--praying in the morning allows us a chance to ask God to guide our steps, help us through any trials we may face that day, and ask Him to show us what He wants us to know or learn from the events/experiences that we will go through. Another popular timeframe for "quiet times" is at night. This is beneficial as well because it gives us the opportunity to reflect on our day, thank God for His blessings, ask for His wisdom in situations that may be trying. Overall, the best option for quiet time would be a combination of both. Now the effectiveness of a quiet time is not in the consistency of having it always at a set hour for an allotted amount of time. The truth is, you can have quiet time at any hour of the day. It is a personal choice based on your schedule and when you know you're most alert, receptive, and effective. For example, you may choose to have your quiet time in the mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays because you do not have a class until the afternoon, but on every other day of the week it may work better for you to have it at night. It doesn't have to be an extremely long amount of time, but it should not be too brief either. (This is why having multiple quiet times throughout the day may also be a good option--you might choose to have a few brief quiet times if that's the best way for you to fit it in to your schedule.)
     Quality is the key. You want your quiet times to be meaningful and effective. In the midst of our busy lives it can be tempting to just go through the motions in our quiet time and not really go very deep or get very much if anything out of it. You know those times when you open up your Bible, read a few quick verses and go on with your day? You technically did have quiet time, but you know that is was not a true, quality quiet time. Okay, I'll admit that I'm guilty of this too. Though reading Scripture throughout our day is a GREAT way to stay in tune with God, it is important that we do not do this in a way that is almost automatic and subconscious just to say that we did our quiet time and assuage our guilt. When we take the time to truly dwell in God's Word, we are not only showing respect to God and appreciation for the gift of His Word, but we are also doing our selves a favor by allowing ourselves to be Spiritually fed. It makes a huge difference. Now, I know what some of your are thinking...how am I supposed to fit in quiet time when I am so busy? Okay, let's take a moment to talk about busyness. The other day I heard a speaker give a profound thought on this topic of business regarding how does one go about fitting in ministry into a busy schedule. Her reply as simply, EVERYONE IS BUSY. This should not stop us from committing to daily quiet time. We make time for other things...Facebook, Pinterest, hanging out with friends. (Okay, I'm guilty too. No lie.) And those things our great! But its all about priorities. We should not let these things which are temporary take place of something like spending time with our Heavenly Father which impacts us eternally. When you think about it that way, it kind of puts everything into perspective. Like I said before, quiet time doesn't have to take up a lot of time...it just has to be quality quiet time every day. It is essential because it impacts everything else that we do in our lives. If we have quiet time with God, it can put us in the right mindset so that when trials come or we are called upon to help others through a difficult situation then we will be spiritually minded and may be able to think back to what God was teaching us in our quiet time. Other than personal benefit, quiet time truly is an act of worship to God. It's a way of saying, "God, I trust you. I give you my worries. My mind is racing. I've got a thousand things on my plate to day, but I just take this time to give those concerns over to You. I ask you to guide me, and I give this day to Your glory that You may use it to teach me the things You want me to know and to use Me to be a blessing to others as a vessel shinning Your light into their lives."
     I often think of how small the sacrifice of having quiet time really is when you look at in retrospect to how much of a sacrifice God has made to have time with us. Think about it. The God of the entire universe, the one true King, the Most High wants to have time with us daily. Why would we ever pass that up? When I think about this I think of Psalm 8:4 (ESV) "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" Out of all the people in the world God chooses not only to think of us, but also love us, care for us, work in our hearts. How crazy awesome is that!? Yea, I'm excited. haha! It is exciting. It's like if God could send us text messages then He would be texting us to say, "Hey, let's get coffee and just talk for a little while. I want to hear how you are doing right now." That's what quiet time is all about. Just being with God. Therefore, be still and know that He is God. We are back to our first verse. Quiet time is a time to voice our concerns to God, to thank Him for His blessings, to ask for His help in difficult situations we are facings, and to just listen and rest in His calming presence.
     Now, here's the awesome thing...God knows all those things already, yet He still wants us to talk to Him about everything that is going on in our life. He knows our name, our thoughts, our feelings, our fears, our hopes, dreams, desires, needs, worries, weaknesses, strengths, problems. The Bible says He knows the number of hairs on our head! God knows all of that already. He knows us better than we know ourselves. That is just amazing, right!? Yet, the beautiful thing is He knows, but He desires for us to still talk to Him about it. He even knows what we are going to say to Him in our prayers before we say it. He knows what we think, but don't say and the things we cannot quite seem to put into words. You might be wondering...so if God knows all that, then why is it important for me to pray and tell Him anyway? Here's what I think...by voicing our praises, requests, fears, worries to God we are saying, "God, I trust you. I know you are in control." We are not granting God permission to work in our lives or giving Him control...He already has that too. God is in control of our lives whether we know it or not, but by recognizing and acknowledging His control...by thanking Him for His presence in our lives, we are showing God that we are trusting Him to work out everything in our lives from the big things to the small things. God cares about them, all and He is always in control of every situation. God has a purpose and a plan for our individual lives, and He will work out everything for His glory in His own perfect time and in His perfect way.
     In reality, I could go on and on about this topic. haha. But I'm going to bring it to a close with one last illustration. Think of your life as a book...YOU are the main character of your story, but God is the author. God is in control of what happens in the story He has written about you. God, as the author of our lives, is the only one who knows the entire story. He knows how it's going to end, whereas we can only read on page at a time. God sees the whole story from beginning to end and He is WITH US every step of the way. We just have to TRUST that God is the good and kind author of our lives, and He will work all things together for our good. It's not always easy to trust, but this is why we must simply be still and know that He is God. He is in control. He knows and wants what is best for us. He knows our every need and thought and desire of our heart. He will work out everything for our good because He is a kind and loving Father who knows what He is doing. So take the time to just simply be with God...a God that desires to spend time with you. We might often take that for granted, but we should remember what a blessing it is to have a Heavenly Father who cares SO MUCH about us and every little detail of our life. Now...I'm not saying I've got quiet time down to a science and that I am perfect about keeping consistent with it in my own life, because that is far from true. I'm not perfect. No one is. The important thing is that I am striving to spend time with God. I am craving to spend time in His presences. Yearning to learn what He wants to teach me. We will make mistakes...we will forget to do our quiet time sometimes...we might even accidentally fall asleep while doing our quiet time! haha. The thing is, God knows we are not perfect. (He made us.) He knows we are trying. He understands. God just wants us to spend time with Him daily and know that He is with us no matter what we may be going through. God is for us and He will never fail. Quiet time...it may sound like something so small, so minuscule, but it can have a major impact in our lives. So today just take some time to just rest in God's presence and dwell in His Word which is such a gift to us. Pray to God and listen to what He is telling you too. The God of Heaven wants to spend time with you....so what are you waiting for? :)

Grace & Peace,
Samantha (The Hat Girl)

One Puzzle Piece at a Time: Trusting in God's Faithfulness When You Can't See the Big Picture

     Hey readers! Sooo it's been awhile since my last post and A LOT has happened since then. For starters...COLOR GUARD SEASON has officially begun. For those of you who may not know this is my first season of color guard EVER and I'm on a collegiate level team...talk about a challenge! haha. Today I'm going to talk a little bit about my journey on the guard team thus far and how it relates to some pretty awesome life lessons that I've learned through my experience. This is post is all about overcoming fears and trusting in God even when you may not understand His calling because that is seriously what got me through these past two weeks of color guard & band camp. Believe me...it wasn't easy, but it was worth it. :) I am focusing my message on a Bible verse that has recently become very special to me: 1 Thessalonians 5:24 "God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful." (NLT) Basically, it means that if God calls you to it...He WILL get you through it.

     Okay, to begin...let me just give you a little backstory to how this whole guard thing suddenly became a wonderful new part of my life. At the end of last semester I heard that my school was having auditions for their color guard team. Now as I mentioned previously, I had never done color guard before. No experience. I have always liked watching the guard perform at the football games...it looked pretty fun! Also, guard involves a lot of dance...I've had years of dance training and I really missed dancing sooo I was like, hey why not give it a shot. Anyway, to make a long story short...I contacted the band director & guard instructor, told them I was interested in auditioning but I knew nothing about guard, and asked them if they knew anyone who would be willing to teach me some basics before auditions. They referred me to one of their team members who graciously taught me a few guard basics: drop spins, speed spins, backscratchers, stirs, and a single toss. This was over the course of the two weeks prior to auditions. So with this very helpful yet limited knowledge and skill I choreographed a routine for auditions and performed it. :) We also had to learn a routine and perform it in groups. Annnd I made the team! Praise God! I believe this was totally a God thing because I did not expect it at all. This brings me to one of my first life lessons I've learned: God always has a greater plan that is beyond our imagination.
     My color guard adventure had felt like I'm going a million miles per hour: two weeks of training...auditions...made the team...went to beginner camp for one week...LU guard camp...LU band camp...and now our regular rehearsals begin today. Phew. It's been tough, but it's also been fun cultivating a new skill! It's like God gave me this desire, but I wasn't quite sure why I wanted to do it other than it was a way to get back into my love of performing. Overall, I feel like God called me to it and I'm just trusting in His faithfulness. I've had this idea confirmed many times now, and this much needed confirmation seems to always come at the right time. For example...whenever I was having a really rough day of practice it seemed like out band director would gather us together and remind us that God called each of us to this team for reason and that although we may not know what that reason is yet, we just have to trust that God is going to be faithfully in bringing his plan to completion. These words were extremely comforting and empowering...especially when I just felt like I didn't have the strength to keep going.
     There were times when I felt like I made a mistake by joining the guard team because I felt like I wasn't good enough. I questioned why God had placed this desire on my heart or if maybe I had misunderstood his calling. But I did not give up. I prayed. I kept trying...and trying, and trying annnnd trying again, and eventually I got better. Overall...I had to learn to put my trust in God even when it seemed like what He was calling me to do was impossible. I could not see the whole picture, but I had to believe 100% in God's faithfulness and His timing. This brings us back to the verse I mentioned at the beginning of this post: 1 Thessalonians 5:24 "God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful." (NLT) It just so happens...Dr. Elmer Towns gave a message on this verse during our band camp devotionals one night. :) God really spoke to me that night through this verse and Dr. Town's devotional. I was beginning to realize God really did have a plan for me being on this team and that it was not a mistake. Every time I did something right during rehearsals (got my flag work right, caught a toss, remembered my drill, etc.) it was like a piece of the puzzle coming together, and I could begin to see God's big picture. One of the biggest puzzle pieces was put into place for me just the other night. It was our last night of band camp...the final rehearsal of the day. It was cold and rainy out on the field, but we were determined to finish strong. We ran through everything we've learned so far with the marching band and it went AWESOME! All our hard work paid off...our adrenaline was high...we gave it our all and performed it like we had a crowded stadium. Personally I was excited because I CAUGHT MY TOSSES! lol. That was a big struggle for me, and it felt amazing to accomplish it.
     After the rehearsal we had a "graduation" from band camp and our induction as official members of the university band. It was all real now. It was really happening. God was faithful. At that point...I forgot for a moment about all my bruises (aka battle scars), aching muscles and joints, and exhaustion. It was like crossing the finish line after a big race. Life is kind of like that too. On Earth we will endure trials and pain, but as Christians we know that one day we will cross that finish line into Heaven and hear our Creator, God say "Well done, good and faithful servant." That is a victory that cannot be compared. :)
     I know that my journey in guard has only just begun....we have not even performed at our first game yet. I still have tons of work ahead of me...more to learn...more bruises probably, but now I have an idea of where God is leading me through it all. That is the strength that pulls me through the hard times to the moments when I perform and I feel amazing out there on that field spinning my flag. I've also met some incredible friends through color guard and that is a blessing of it's own.
     Whatever you're going through...remember that in order to see God's big picture you've got to put the puzzle together one piece at a time. In the meantime...trust that God will be faithful in bringing it to completion, and don't give up.

Grace & Peace,
Samantha (The Hat Girl)