Communication and accessibility are basic human rights.
Will you join me in the fight for equality?
Will you join me in the fight for equality?
As a Christian, my quiet time is the most important time of the day. It's the time that I set aside to read God's Word, pray, and listen for God's still, small voice. Quiet time is essential if we want to become more like Christ and grow in our faith. God is always speaking to us, but we can't hear Him if we don't take the time to listen. God is always willing to work in us and through us, but He won't force himself into our lives; we must surrender ourselves to Him first.
The question is, if quiet time is so important, why is it often the first thing that gets pushed out of our schedule when things get chaotic? In our minds, chaos and quiet time cannot fit together, but nothing is impossible with God; His ways are higher than our ways.
The most ironic thing about our misguided priorities is the fact that when life is chaotic, we need our quiet time the most! In life's most difficult seasons, we need God to guide our decisions and our actions more than ever. We need His love, peace, strength, mercy and grace to sustain us. If we don't take time to read the Bible and listen to God, we cannot receive everything that He has for us.
While adequate quiet time is very important, it's also important to remember that none of us are perfect. I have yet to meet someone who has a perfect quiet time every day, without fail. We are human and failure is a part of our life on this earth. But, God's grace is more than enough for all of us. If you truly love Him and trust Him, you can rest in that. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
Do you have a daily quiet time? Are you happy with the quality of your quiet time? Do you have any goals to improve your quiet time? Let me know in the comments! Let's share our goals and ideas and encourage each other!
The book of Exodus contains the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, where they were slaves, so that they could travel to and inherit the promised land. When the Israelites are first freed, they rejoice and worship the Lord. But, it doesn't take long for them to realize that, although they are headed for the promised land, the journey will not be easy. They're traveling through the desert. They're tired, they're hot, they're hungry, they're thirsty. As the Israelites face these less than ideal circumstances, their perspective becomes distorted.
"In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death" -Exodus 16:2-3.
These people were freed from slavery and they want to go back to being slaves! They forgot, in a relatively short period of time, how bad their life in Egypt really was. But God didn't abandon them, despite the fact that they had a limited, distorted perspective and felt frustrated. Instead, He lovingly provided for His people, even in their lack of faith.
"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day' Exodus 16:4.
The bread that the Lord provided is called "manna". Notice that God didn't provide the Israelites with an abundance of manna; he provided for them each day with what they needed for that day.
This concept still applies today. While I have never eaten bread that rained down from Heaven, I find that God provides me with different forms of "manna" in my daily life. And I'm learning to notice these provisions when I'm in the most difficult circumstances. This modern day manna comes in many forms: a Bible verse that speaks to me in a way that it never has before, an encouraging word from a friend, a random act of kindness, extra time to rest--the possibilities are endless!
The reason I compare my experiences with the manna in the Old Testament is because God provides me with exactly what I need to get through that day rather than an abundance to store away for the next difficult day. Why does God offer his provisions in this manner? I know, for me, it reminds me that I need to take life one day at a time. And, also, that I need to be completely dependent on God. In my weakness, He is strong. Those two truths make it possible for me to continue to navigate this crazy life.
It's so comforting that God never leaves us or forsakes us, even when we're emotional or irrational. Even when we don't feel His presence, He is with us. That's the Truth we need to stay focused on always--that is our candle during our darkest days.
This past week, on Thursday November 2nd, I was incredibly blessed to be able to hear Sheila Walsh speak AND to meet her after the event! My best friend attended this event with me. My best friend's dad was kind enough to drive us all the way to Fredricksburg, Virginia so that we could attend. It took us about 7 hours to get there from here in Upstate New York.
This particular event was called "The Beautiful Broken Life Tour". Sheila Walsh just released a new book called "In the Middle of the Mess", which is what prompted this tour. Sheila Walsh has written several exceptional books, but this book is different from the others she has written. In this book, Sheila shares some very personal details about her life that she has not shared in the past.
Sheila Walsh has been open about her struggle with clinical depression for years. However, she had not, until writing this book, addressed her struggle with chronic suicidal thoughts. She has taken one of the most taboo topics in our society and tackled it head on. The need for this type of honest, raw discussion about mental illness within the Church is so desperately needed. As a person who also struggles with depression, I am profoundly grateful to Sheila for being brave enough to tell her story both in her books as well as over and over in person.
Here is a video of Sheila discussing her battle with depression for those who have never heard her story. It's extremely powerful and I highly recommend it!
As if hearing Sheila speak (and being super close to the stage) wasn't already amazing, I was able to meet her after the event! She signed my brand new copy of her new book, took a picture with me and my best friend, and even talked to me for a few minutes. When I told her that I was a fellow sufferer of depression, she wrote in my book "Don't give up." It meant so much to me that I cried (it wasn't the first time I cried during the event but, small detail.)
This event was accessible for me. In fact, it was perfect for me because the setting was fairly small and intimate, which lessened my anxiety. For those with more prominent physical disabilities, I didn't see any reason that the event wouldn't be accessible. However, there was no ASL interpreter, which was unfortunate. My cousin was considering attending the event as well, but she is Deaf and, understandably, did not want to attend without an interpreter. Hopefully this is something that can be arranged for future events. I hate for anyone to miss out on the awesomeness that is Sheila Walsh because of a language barrier!
It's very rare that I let anyone see anything from my personal journal (ok, journals. Yes, I have multiple!) But I thought this was worth sharing. As I was struggling with my own health, mental and physical, one of my friends asked me "what can you think about right now?" We talked about reading the Bible and listing things I am thankful for. We also talked about how helpful it is to get our thoughts down on paper rather than relying solely on mental lists.
I opened my Bible to Psalm 119 and started reading where I had left off. This verse stuck out to me: "My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life" (Psalm 119:50.) Well, it was certainly no accident that I was at that particular point in that particular Psalm this evening!
I wrote that verse down in my journal, but then felt uninspired to write anything else. So, I started leafing through my journal, backwards, looking for circled verses. Ever since I read "The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson, I've made a habit of writing down verses that contain one or more of God's promises, and drawing a circle around the promise (this was the author's suggestion, hence the title). Essentially, I was looking for promises to cling to while I was feeling needy. These are a few of the verses that stuck out to me.
"The Lord will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord" Isaiah 40:30.
"Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron" Psalm 107:15-16.
"Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them" Hebrews 7:25.
These verses, along with a few others inspired this list I made in my journal. I wanted to focus on different characteristics and attributes of God that I know are true because of His promises.
Now, I want to be clear--I'm not saying that everything is fine and dandy now after that worship exercise. Yes, it was helpful. Yes, I believe it glorified God. Yes, it was comforting. Yes, it got my mind off other things for awhile. However, that doesn't mean that my problems went away after one session of quiet time and worship. But, I placed my mind on things above and not on earthly things. I took my thoughts captive to make them obedient to Christ. Those are two things that God commands us to do. I can thank God for helping me to be obedient even when my emotions are not following suit; that alone is proof to me of growth in my life and that is my victory for tonight.
Here's the list I made in my journal. I've since thought of a few more things to add to it. I pray that these attributes of God bring you comfort and encouragement, as they have for me.
Description of the list for blind and low vision readers:
The title of the list is God. . .
The bulleted list reads:
is strength life
intercedes for me
takes care of me/provides for me
lives within me
shows me grace and mercy
loves me exactly as I am, unconditionally
wants me to have an abundant life
listens to me
speaks Truth to me
wants me to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise
has a plan and a purpose for my life
In my last post, I shared about the annual women's retreat that I attend. I focused on where the event is held, why it's special to me, how the event is structured, and accessibility. And then the post was already so long that I didn't feel I could talk about what I learned at the retreat this year. So, that's what part two is for! If you haven't had a chance to read the first post yet, you can read it here.
The ladies who plan this retreat pray fervently about who they will ask to speak each year. They never give the speakers a topic; they simply tell them to share whatever the Lord has put on their heart. The speakers generally don't communicate with each other about their messages prior to the retreat. However, there never fails to be multiple recurring themes throughout the entire weekend! This is one of the many ways that I am assured that the Holy Spirit is at work and present at this event.
These were some of the recurring themes this year:
1. The Holy Spirit is underrated.
Our first speaker on Friday night set the tone for the weekend with a great message about the Holy Spirit. She spoke about how vital the Holy Spirit is to our lives as believers and how so many churches don't teach enough, or at all, on this part of the Trinity. Then, other speakers throughout the weekend continued to build upon this theme. One thing that the Friday night speaker talked about that really stood out to me was that we can (and should) pray directly to the Holy Spirit. I had honestly never fully realized that! I always thought I had to pray to the Father to guide me with the Holy Spirit. But, the Holy Spirit is 100% God, just like the Father and Jesus. So, why wouldn't we pray directly to Him? This has really changed my prayer life!
Verses referenced by the speaker:
Acts 1:1-8 (emphasis on verses 4-5)
2 Corinthians 3:6
2 Corinthians 5:5
2. We need to surrender our thoughts to Christ
On Saturday morning, one speaker's message was about "thinking about what we think about". Much like Friday night's message, this speaker's points continued to be emphasized throughout the rest of the weekend by the other speakers. This speaker's main point was that "we create mental imagine of thoughts that have no basis in Truth [and] these do not produce fruit." And, the anecdote to this is to "marinate ourselves in Truth". I love the way she phrased that! This speaker referenced Philippians 4:6-8 (with an emphasis on verse 8). This verse must have came up at least 3-4 other times over the rest of the weekend!
3. We must encourage and build one another up.
One of the speakers on Saturday evening spoke about peacemaking and encouraging, which largely tied into the Saturday morning speaker. She also referenced Philippians 4:8. She began her message with a powerful quote: "How do you know if someone needs encouragement? If they're breathing." This quote fit perfectly with the speaker that had gone just before her who stated how vital it is that we be kind to one another because, most of the time, we have no idea what people are going through! People can look like they have it all together while being a physical, spiritual, and/or emotional mess on the inside! We need to pray to be able to see people as God sees them!
There were so many other important things spoken about over this weekend, but, for the sake of brevity, I tried to pick the three themes I felt were most pervasive throughout the entire event. Have you ever been on a retreat, either a one day event or multiple days? How was your experience? Would you attend another?
Every fall, I attend a local women's retreat. It's a fantastic event where women of all ages, from different backgrounds, and from different churches all come together for a weekend of growing in our relationships with each other and our relationships with Jesus. The event starts on Friday evening and ends in the late morning on Sunday. This is my third year attending this retreat. The first year I attended, in 2015, I made the decision to surrender my life to Christ sitting on the couch in the cozy fellowship hall directly across from a beautiful fireplace. I had about five women surrounding me and praying for me. We ended up praying and talking until about 1:00 in the morning! I had gone to church and considered myself a Christian for as long as I could remember, but I knew that I was forever changed that night. This annual retreat has become very special to me and I consider it my favorite event of the year!
The venue is a beautiful Christian retreat center located right in the middle of the beautiful mountains here in upstate NY. It has an incredible view--especially in the fall!
See? Wouldn't you love to wake up to that in the morning?
The event is structured roughly like this:
Friday night, between 5:30-6:30 PM, everyone arrives. You are given your room assignment and then you have time to unpack and settle in. Then, you can go back down from the dorms to the fellowship hall for some fellowship time before our service starts at 7:00.
Our opening service is usually about 2 hours. We start off with praise and worship, and then we listen to a speaker. After our opening service, we have an ice cream social and hang out for a bit before going back to our rooms.
On Saturday we have a morning session that is similar to the Friday night session, except there are two speakers. Then, after lunch, we participate in workshops that we chose ahead of time. There are two workshop sessions and we get to pick which workshops we want to attend. After dinner, we have an evening service. Then, like Friday night, we have snacks and hang out until we go back to our rooms (there are breaks in the schedule but, for the sake of brevity, I'm just giving you the highlights).
Sunday morning, after breakfast, we have a wrap up session. Then, there is a typically a prayer session and people can choose to stay to pray for people, ask for prayer, or both.
This event does very well with accessibility, considering its size and its attendees.I feel very accommodated in terms of my personal disabilities. The event is structured in such a way that I can rest if needed. There is also a pervasive non-judgmental attitude that makes me feel that I can take a break if I need to, which may not seem like a big deal, but it really helps me a lot!
Physical disabilities can be accommodated as well. There are rooms available that are downstairs. Furniture in all areas can also be moved around to accommodate for equipment, if need be.
Accessibility for Deafness and blindness has not been largely addressed because there hasn't been a need thus far. There have been one or two times that someone was hard of hearing and they were offered a seat in the front and all the speakers made sure to use microphones (these HOH individuals did not sign). Because of the attitudes of the women on the planning team, I know that they would do everything in their power to meet any new accessibility needs that may arise.
I had originally planned to talk about some of the things I learned over the weekend, but this post is getting lengthy already. So, I think my next post will be a part two where I will share some of the topics that the speakers addressed and what I took away from it.
Part two is now published! You can check read it here.
About the event:
Last weekend, I was blessed to be able to attend Beth Moore's Living Proof conference in Springfield, Massachusetts. I have watched Beth speak on TV and online, so I knew that she is a powerhouse and that she's extremely passionate about speaking Truth into the lives of other women. Sadly, I have not had the chance to read any of her books yet, but I definitely will! I was so excited to see her live!
The event was incredible! It's hard for me to even explain it; but the Holy Spirit was very present and very active in that arena. There were 2,000 women attending the conference. To my surprise, Beth said this was the smallest conference that she has had on this year's tour. Seemed pretty crowded to me, so I said a quick prayer of thanks to God that this was the particular conference I found myself at!
Even though there were 2,000 women there, the event had a small-group Bible study vibe.I was not expecting that at all--and I loved it! Beth taught mainly from Colossians 4, adding in other scriptures throughout her teaching for additional support. Her theme was "Staying afloat the fellow ship." (Get it???) She talked about how important it is for us to be in constant fellowship with other believers and that, at the same time, our main goal is to reach outsiders, or non-believers.
I was seriously impressed with Beth's teaching skills! She used lots of visuals, which helped me remember her main points. She actually had a (filled) salt shaker in her hand constantly and would shake it when she was reminding us how to Biblically season our conversations with non-believers with salt! Everyone was cracking up! I plan to attend this event again next fall, and I can't wait!
Whenever I go to an event, I'm always scoping out how accessible it is to different needs. I like to continue to support events that are accessible and help events that are less accessible understand why accessibility is so important. Plus, I like reporting back to all of you! From what I could gather, Beth Moore's conference was very accessible. There was an ASL interpreter in the front of the arena. There were several areas of seats that were reserved for attendees with special needs. I saw a few people in wheelchairs that seemed to be able to get a good view of what was going on on the stage, as well as enter and exit the arena comfortably. So, Living Proof Ministries gets an A for accessibility from me!
My personal challenges:
I don't go to large events like this very often. One of the biggest reasons for that is the fact that my disabilities can make it challenging. In order for me to go, it has to be something/someone I am really interested in and I have to be able to plan a lot of things ahead of time (how long the days are going to be, when I can rest, a plan for an escape from visual and/or auditory stimulation if needed, etc.)
So, what challenges did I face at this event? First of all, crowds of any kind are difficult for me. I feel trapped and claustrophobic when there are too many people and I can't move around. Also, arena sitting is not typically my friend. My body protests those hard, squished together seats every time. By the time we left the 2 1/2 hour Friday night event, my back and my legs were SCREAMING at me! I couldn't wait to collapse into my hotel bed! And, the 2 1/2 hour car ride there did not do my body any favors either. Travel is also extremely hard on my body. And most events involve travel and those arena seats. So, yeah...
A large amount of visual and/or auditory stimulation can be challenging for me too. Of course, I mentally prepare to take in more stimulation than normal when going to an event like this, but I'm typically still exhausted and overjoyed by silence at the end! Crowds and high amounts of stimulation can make it difficult for me to focus on my surroundings. And, there were these "speed bump" like things on the floor of the arena. Yup, you guessed it. I tripped over one! Also, my hands were shaky and achy (didn't mean to rhyme that, but whatever works), so as I tried to open my iced tea, I ended up spilling a bunch of it.
Was it worth it?
Short answer: yes. This was a great event. Beth Moore is an amazing teacher. Her praise band is fantastic. I had good fellowship with family and friends. But, that being said, there's a reason I only do these types of things once a year or so! It typically takes me at least 3-4 days to get back to my "normal" energy level (which isn't normal anyway).
I highly recommend this event to all women who love Jesus: able-bodied and disabled people alike!
I was prompted to make this video after watching a video on YouTube where Rikki Poynter (a fairly large YouTuber that I follow) described a recent experience of having a "Christian" comment on her social media pages and claim that he was able to cure her deafness, as well as cure all of her deaf and blind friends. He then started to talk about Jesus in a way that made it clear that he was not trying to share the gospel or lovingly offer prayer, but instead to draw attention to himself. When Rikki asked him to stop commenting on her posts, he did not stop. I made this video to apologize to Rikki, as a Christian, and to let her know that we do not all take that kind of approach to offering prayer or talking about our faith. I also wanted to challenge fellow Christians to make sure that we are not falling into this trap! If we come off as arrogant, condescending, and/or confusing, what's going to attract people to God? In this video, I offer some tips of how we can be the prayer warriors that God calls us to be, and to do so with gentleness and respect, which God also commands.
Even though English is my first and primary language, this was my first English vlog (it is closed captioned)! I need to work on not saying "um" and "like" so much! It seems that it wouldn't be weird to make a video in English since I speak English all day long, but it was actually a little weird talking on camera because I've never done it before. I definitely want to continue branching out with vlogging, both in English and ASL (videos will always be captioned). I plan to continue written blog posts as well; I enjoy both platforms and the way I can mix them together to compliment one another. I've got some ideas for both platforms that I look forward to sharing with you all soon! I'm continuing to learn more about both blogging and vlogging, and I'm so grateful to all of you who stick with me through this journey!
Here’s a list of things I “should” do today:
Here's a list of things that will most likely occur today:
Sometimes, we have to put our "shoulds" off to the side for a time and give our bodies, our minds, and our spirits the rest that they need.
I’m weak today. It’s been a long, tiring week, physically and emotionally. But, this verse helps me to remember that, in my weakness, He is strong! So, here I am, admitting my weakness and praying for Christ’s power to rest on me today! I know that my weakness is covered in His grace, and for that I give God praise, glory, and honor!
Hopefully by next week, I’ll have my next post done. It is outlined, but it is an ASL post, so I need to film it, caption it, and get feedback from Deaf friends on it before posting it. ASL posts take a more time and effort, but I believe they’re important for me to include since the principles of this blog include acknowledging communication differences and creating accessibility. It’s important to me to expose my readers/viewers to sign language in order to promote awareness and sensitivity. So, stay tuned! God bless!
It's hard to believe that it's been three weeks since my personal "retreat week"! If you haven't had a chance to read my previous post about the details of that specific week, you may want to read them before reading this one.
How my Habits Have Changed Since "Retreat Week":
Changes in my Spiritual Life as a Result of Changing my Habits:
I'm sure it's obvious from the specifics I've shared above, but my retreat week was extremely beneficial and I'd do it again in a heartbeat! In fact, I'm sure I will do it again at some point. Taking a time-out from different things in our lives to examine our spiritual condition is very important. If you've never done so, or it's been awhile, I encourage you to pray and ask God what may be distracting you from Him. If you earnestly seek God, you will find Him and you will hear His voice!