Leroy

After ten years of being homeless, he decided it was time to settle down. Although he now travels around the country to live with his children, Leroy stays faithful to the homeless community in Knoxville, Tennessee.
When asked for his personal piece of advice, Leroy, 71, said “Even if you’re stuck in a situation that you can’t get out of, if you believe in your heart, He will pull you out.”
Leroy has been a Christian for fifteen years or so, after one specific frightful night. While staying in someone’s home, a fire began to erupt in the kitchen. After failing to put it out, Leroy prayed to himself “if Hell is this hot, I can’t do it.” To this day, he prays on his knees each morning and night, thanking God.

Leroy has fourteen kids spread around Tennessee, California, Florida, and Delaware. Although he travels to stay with all of them, he somehow always returns to his home city, Knoxville. Whenever he is in the area, he volunteers at Love Kitchen and local churches, using his experiences and faith to encourage other homeless people.
“Being homeless, you shift yourself from place to place. Often, people are addicted to drugs and alcohol because they have given up. They think life is not worth it, God doesn’t love them.” This is why Leroy dedicates his time spreading God’s message throughout the city, to tell others his story and spread encouragement.
Like many others, Leroy used to have drinking habits. He would make his own moonshine, continuing to make and drink it until one day, he began to get sick. Throwing up, he begged God to “take the taste out” of his mouth. The next day, as he lifted more alcohol to his lips, he felt the sudden urge to pour the entire bottle out, so he did. He hasn’t had a drop since.
Leroy has dozens of fascinating and scary stories from living on the streets.

According to him, the most terrifying moment was in 1972, when he got lost in the Everglades. By the time he realized how lost he had become, it was dark with nothing around but a small empty fruit stand. Barely able to see his hands in front of his face, Leroy managed to make it to the stand for the night. Looking around, he noticed two pairs of glowing eyes from about 30 feet away. He was being watched by two panthers. Luckily, they didn’t come close enough to hurt him, only scare him. In the morning, he was arrested by state troopers for endangering his own life. After two days in jail, the state department got him a ticket to Orlando, Florida.
Leroy is currently waiting to begin living in his own apartment, with the help of local church, Redeemer. As much as he loves living with his kids, he says he wishes to have a home of his own. He also claims that if he ever gets enough money, he would buy a house and let other homeless people live there, as long as he trusted them.
Leroy and I met each other at Lost Sheep Ministry, a local organization that feeds the Knoxville homeless community each Wednesday. He has become a kind friend to me, someone who always smiles and gives me a hug. His story is the first of many volunteers and homeless people from Lost Sheep.

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God, Give Me Guidance!

I can’t express how many times my journal has read ‘God, give me guidance’ over the last few months. It pains me to ask for answers time and time again, knowing in the back of my mind that He is constantly giving them to me. Instead of constantly asking for guidance, I should be seeking the ones that are surrounding me daily.

But here I write, once again, God…give me guidance!

As many of you know, I just spent the last two months in Europe exploring the countryside as well as myself. I learned so many things. I learned that I have a knack for finding kind strangers to guide me in any country, that I love traveling more than anything in the world, that being away from everything does nothing but pull me closer to God, and so much more. In addition to the plethora of things I learned, I also came back with many questions. Will I ever see Italy again? Will my new relationship last? Will I continue to seek God everyday? When will I be happy to be back?

Don’t get me wrong, seeing my family and Mikey (of course) took so much weight off of my shoulders. Being away from them always reminds me of how blessed I am in so many ways. I hoped that being able to reach out and be with my family would take this longing away, this longing to return. To travel. To explore.

With this in mind, I pray. I pray not to travel but that God will show me what my purpose is in life. Instead of praying for a successful romance, I have prayed for God to show me his purpose in this relationship. I constantly pray for the Lord to be with me, to let me think of Him in all that I do. I have asked, pleaded, and cried out to God. I have gotten on my knees in over seven countries, all asking the same thing from God.

God, why do I feel so unanswered? Give me guidance!!!

The thing is, whenever I sit to write a blog, I begin to write whilst very emotional and clouded. I almost always come out of writing very clear-headed and smiling. I wouldn’t claim to be quite clear-headed right now, but I sure am smiling.

God has been guiding me this entire summer. He guided me to a random island in Italy, where my romance began. He guided me to my best friend and roommate this summer, who helped me grow so very much. He is the reason for my life changing summer. He pursued my heart. Although He kept me questioning, which at times gets a big annoying, He kept my eyes on Him.

I guess what I am saying is, by asking God for guidance, I am exactly where I need to be. And that puts a smile on my face, no matter what continent I am in.

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Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People

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It was a morning unlike any other.

I was woken up by a phone call. Seeing it was from my mom, I became slightly irritated that she would call so early in the morning.

“Hello?” I managed to grumble out while still adjusting to the morning light.

“She lost her baby,” my mom said quietly.

It took a few seconds for the sentence to process in my mind, so she repeated it.

“She lost her baby.”

How does this happen, I thought to myself. I laid in my bed feeling sick to my stomach, still unable to fully process the seriousness of what had taken place. I couldn’t understand why bad things happen to good people. Why my cousin, whom I have always looked up to for being so strong, deserved to lose her baby. Why did she, who already had been dealt so many hard hands in life, have to be the one who God would choose for this to happen to? Didn’t she deserve some happiness? Couldn’t God have shown Himself some other way? Why did He choose this for her?

As the next few days drudged by, I continued to be amazed by her strength. I stood by watching, still in a daze. The memory of holding her thirty-four week old stillborn baby a few days ago still burned in my heart. I couldn’t help but to be angry with God. If I was in this much pain, I couldn’t imagine what she was going through. She must hate God.

Finally, the day of the funeral arrived. I grimaced as they pulled the tiny, white casket out of the vehicle. My eyes teared up and I felt sorrow for anyone who has gone through this.

Concluding the service, I placed my hands on the casket and closed my eyes. I prayed for my cousin and her family. I prayed for the innocent baby and that he would be happy in Heaven. I prayed that there was a reason for all of this.

As for my cousin, she assured me that there was a reason and God had a plan. While I was sitting here wondering why God would let something so sad happen to such a good person, my cousin, who was suffering far worse than I, was leaning confidently on God.

In times of trouble, it is hard to remember that God has never promised us an easy life, but instead a perfect eternity.

We will never know why God chose to take away an innocent baby before he had taken his first breath or why He allows us to feel such pain, but we must continue to grow in the fact that He loves us and will continue to.

Until then, I will continue to pray for my cousin and her family. I will continue to remember what it felt like to hold that precious baby and how my heart hurt so badly in that moment. I will continue to pray that God shows His plan for her. Most of all, I will pray to God and thank Him for His Love.

John 16: 33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

What’s Your Self Worth?

It was a typical Friday night. My best friend and I were standing in front of the mirror, applying our makeup, fixing our frizz-balls of hair, and listening to pump-up music. All of a sudden, she cracked some joke saying “Man, we make ourselves look totally different for boys. If only they could see us before all the makeup, I bet they wouldn’t even talk to me!”

Of course, we laughed at this. I mean, why wouldn’t we? Its totally true. We spend hours making ourselves fit the image of what we should look like on the weekends, when in reality that isn’t who we are. (Don’t get me wrong, I find nothing wrong in applying makeup, however; I do find it wrong when we let our image define who we are). We spend so much time, money, and stress on our self image in order to increase our self worth. Without even realizing it, we are making our self image a huge idol in our life, hoping it will increase our self worth. 

When I mention self worth and image, I am not just talking about being “pretty”. We also make decisions in our life, all in hopes to fulfill that hole in our hearts. We think if we do certain things, be a certain person, we will feel complete. 

Our self worth cannot be measured by boys, how pretty we are, how often we go out and drink, or how many friends we have. None of it matters in the end. We cannot continue to allow ourselves to change who we are and purposefully sin in order to feel and look better. We need to trust that God will fill our hearts and our lives with His grace. That should be enough for us.

So, we should stop saying “I will be happy when…” because Jesus’s heart stopped beating so our hearts could beat in His place. His heart stopped beating so we could continue living in our beautiful imperfections. He loved who we are so much, that He died.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel really good about myself. I was worth that much. I have a God who loves who I am. God has made my self worth infinitely high.

So whats your self worth? Is it worth doing something you will carry in your shadow for the rest of your life? Is it worth the money you spend to make yourselves look better? Will it be worth it when you stand before God?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 

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Dating in College

I’ll start off this post with a bit of a personal story. Recently, a boy brought to my attention that he was pursuing me with intentions to date soon. I was taken by surprise when he said this, because although we had been on a few dates and stuck to each other’s sides at parties, I had never had the intention to date him. I can’t exactly give a valid excuse for me not wanting to date him, he is a great guy. But in the moment that he told me he wanted to date me, I knew I was going to end it.

Later that night, I was running the list of reasons why I wanted to end it through my head. I realized later on that none of it mattered. The most important reason, and the reason I have to end it, is because I cannot see myself marrying him. God doesn’t want me dating someone for reasons other than marriage, and to be honest neither do I. 

And this brings my whole reason for this post, dating in college. Every time I think about it, I remember the pastor of my church flat out telling me that I will not find my future husband during my first year of college, so not to look. That statement went in and out of my ears at first. I didn’t want to listen, I wanted to go find a cute college boy and date him. But now, I am being forced to re-evaluate what my personal opinion on dating in college is.

It’s funny how God showed me that I need to focus on Him. He showed me by giving me exactly what I had been looking for, all knowing that in the end I would realize it wouldn’t be enough.

If you had asked me a month ago if I wanted to date someone, I would most likely interrupt you mid-sentence with a loud YES, however; if you asked me now, my answer would be the same..yet different. I know I sound like a crazy person right now, but let me explain.

Yes, I do want to date someone. Two people actually.

Firstly, I want to date God. If I gave God half of the attention that I have been giving to boys, I would be twice the Christian that I am right now. I need to be going on dates with God, giving myself one on one time to get to know Him. Unlike college boys, God will not ignore me, He will not blow me off, He will not cheat on me, He will not hurt me. I need to give God my whole heart, to date Him and eventually marry Him. In Hosea, God tells us to do just that.

14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. 16 “And in that day you will call me ‘Your Husband’ and no longer ‘My Baal.’ Hosea 2:14-16

Secondly, I want to date myself. Why in the world am I spending hours on hours wondering about boys, when I barely know who I am? College has brought out so many new parts of myself that I never knew before, and I have not taken time to explore them. College is supposed to be a time for me to grow up, become the woman I will be for the rest of my life. How can I do that when I am constantly trying to be the woman other people (boys) want me to be?

I will not look for a boyfriend my freshman year. I need to trust that God will bring my husband to me in due time. In the meantime, I am giving God my heart.

And someday, when God does bring me a worthy man of which whom I am supposed to be with for the rest of my life, I can be proud that I spent my first year as an adult focusing on the one who loves me the most and becoming the woman my husband is falling in love with, not chasing after meaningless part-time things.

So, here I go. But I am not worried, because I know I have God on my side holding my hand and guiding me the whole way.

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A Sermon I’ll Never Forget

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A few years ago, my family and I were in constant search for a home church. (We had recently left our old one.) If you have ever been on this seemingly never ending journey, of looking for a new church, you know how exhausting it can be. If not, let me explain why it is so. Having a church that you attend every Sunday is comfortable. It allows you to see warm smiles from friends, know who the speaker is and have heard them on more than one occasion, and it is easy to fall into the Christian behavior of deep thoughts and prayers on Sunday mornings especially.

When you are visiting new churches, the beginning isn’t all that tiring, it can even be exciting and fresh, however; after a few visits to different churches that aren’t for you, you begin to lose hope. This causes you to go into the next few weeks with a bad attitude, assuming upfront that you will not belong in that church. Eventually, you just begin to lose the energy to even wake up in the morning, because what is the point? You will never find another church anyways.

This doesn’t just cause you to lose hope in finding a church.

You also lose hope in God. You stop believing that He will lead you to where you want to be. 

This is what searching for a church can do to you. And it is exhausting and spiritually draining. So, this is how I felt. I’m not positive about my family and whether they felt the same, but in my opinion, it is hard not to.

I believe we were going on about four or five months of searching when we first visited this church, Highland Church of Christ. I didn’t really notice anything special about the church or the sermon, although I did like how they provided coffee. I told my parents that I didn’t care to revisit it again.

I am so glad they didn’t listen to me. 

We revisited the church a few months later. I remember it specifically, where I sat, what I was wearing, etc. The man who spoke was the assistant preacher. He was a younger man, newly married, and very energetic. I have never been so moved by a sermon in my life. It was like I had been blindly visiting churches for months, and his sermon was God telling me to open my eyes and let Him lead me to where I am supposed to me.

Mark 10: 46-52

The passage that opened my eyes. My quick summary of it, Jesus was on His way to die on the cross. He passed through a crowd of followers, one of which was a poor blind man. The blind man shouted for Jesus, even though others told him to stop. Jesus stopped and called for the blind man, who threw his cloak down and went to Him.

There are SO many things about this passage that blow my mind. Let me start by saying that in no way will I be able to explain this as well as the pastor did that day, but I strongly encourage everyone to study it themselves and gain a new perspective on Mark 10.

First of all, Jesus was on His way to die. For us. Why would he stop for a poor blind man? Or anyone for that matter? He was on His way to save the world and He still took time to heal an irrelevant, poor, blind sinner. This assures me that He will always find time for me. No matter how little my issue is, how pathetic I feel, or who I am, Jesus will stop whatever He is doing to help us.

Secondly, the faith of the blind man amazes me. If you have ever been to an outside concert, you know how hard it is to find anyone in the crowds. If you drop your phone, you may as well accept the loss because you will never find it again. This is how big the crowd was outside  waiting for Jesus to pass through the town of Jericho. Now imagine you’re blind. This is how the man must have felt. Not only was he blind, but he was poor. He had so much faith in Jesus, he was confident enough to drop his cloak and walk to Him. His cloak, his one possession. Like a phone at a concert, he must have known he will never find it again. If thats not faith, I don’t know what is. I can barely scrounge up enough faith in my life to trust God for the tiniest things, let alone trusting him with my most treasured possession.

Thirdly, the blind man called for Jesus “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”. Although men and women in the crowds told him to hush, he refused to stop. That is a true example of boldness, and it inspires me. It makes me want to find the boldness within myself to talk about Jesus on my college campus and show others my love for Him. Not stop when people tell me to hush.

Lastly, if you recall from earlier in this passage, I compared my church visiting to me being blind. That is how I felt, I was walking around churches, listening to sermons, but not seeing what God wanted me to see. God wanted me to open my eyes and see that I need to trust Him, be bold as I searched for churches, and to follow Him. I was the blind man in the crowds and Jesus was telling me what the blind man was told. “Take heart, get up, Jesus is calling you.”

My eyes are now open and willing to let God lead me to where I need to go. I eventually found a church, I found that place where I could comfortably worship Jesus, and I found the boldness to show others in college who I love and follow. As I just moved from Memphis to Knoxville, I am once again on the never-ending journey of finding a church. But this time is different, because I know I will end up where I need to be. I am taking heart, getting up, and listening to Jesus call me.