College Students: Why They Don’t Serve Pt. 2

maine4In August of 2005,  my mom along with my aunt and uncle made the 2.5 hour haul to my new home where I would attend college as a first time freshman. I really had no choice but to experience enormous growth as I learned how to become the independent, responsible adult I was raised to be.

As the baby of the family, my parents had gone through this before – this was not their first rodeo. They lovingly had a “sink of swim” approach to parenting. Of course I always knew they would be there for me but I was expected to take care of things all on my own. For instance, a few weeks into that first semester I noticed that my bank account was a little lower than I’d like after purchasing all of my textbooks. I wanted a little extra money to go out and spend time with friends off campus. My first thought was to just give my mom and dad a call and ask them to put a little extra money in my account – ha! Totally kidding! That thought NEVER entered my mind! No, I went on campus and found a job. I knew they would have a good laugh at that request. I had a place to sleep, I had a meal plan, anything outside of those essentials I could work to earn on my own.maine

As I mentioned in pt 1 of this series, my faith came alive for me as a college freshman and my parents could see that. When I told my mom that I wanted to go down to Biloxi, MS just 6 weeks after Hurricane Katrina to do relief work, she was supportive but very skeptic of what I’d be able to do to help these family whose homes we would be gutting so they could rebuild. To be honest, I was skeptic too but I wanted to serve. When I returned, she told me she could see a real change in me. And she was right.

Now fast forward a year —> I shared with my mom that I felt I wanted to go and serve in missions somewhere for the whole summer. She replied, “Oh I don’t know Case, you really need to work. You have bills to pay… Hey! Why don’t you go back to Mexico for a week like last year? You loved those kids and had such a good time!” The time came around and I applied for a one week trip like we had discussed. My mom was right. I needed to work again that summer. Except she wasn’t right at all. My mom was a great mom who helped me keep my head on straight and make logical decisions but this was no matter of logic, it was one of faith.

maine5I arrived at summer missions interview weekend ready to tell a panel of campus ministers why I felt led to go on a one week trip but it wasn’t long until I realized that wasn’t true at all. God had impressed on my heart to give my entire summer to serving Him, not just a week. And so on faith that’s what I told the panel. And at the end of the day, I had been selected to spend my summer in Maine, where there are more evangelical churches within a 5 mile radius of my current Nashville home than in their entire state.

When I got home, I sat down with my mom absolutely terrified as I told her what happened at Interview Weekend, where I would be spending my summer and laid out my plan of how much it would cost, how much I would need to save to cover my bills for while I would be gone and how I planned to raise all of the money. I just knew I would hear her lists of all the reasons why I needed to stay home and work but instead she said, “ok”.

My mom knew that this change in me that she had seen for over a year was not going away. She knew I was an independent, strong, determined woman and that I would find a way to make this happen because that’s who she raised me to be.

I write all of this because during my time in campus ministry, I have been heartbroken for students who do not have that same support from their Christian parents when they feel God calling them to serve in missions.

maine3And so I write this to parents of college students. I can only imagine what a tough season this is for you. You have raised these babies under your roof for their entire lives and now they’ve moved away from home and they are making all of these big plans and life altering decisions without you. But I beg you to take a step back and look at the child you have raised. All of that pride that you feel, you should because they are strong and beautiful and God has created them for a specific purpose. Please don’t stand in their way. Trust that you have raised good kids who are now adults and you have to let them be just that and let them make their own decisions.

You children are going struggle with not having your full support because they have honored you as God commands their entire lives but it is God who has ultimate authority over their lives. When they go and do these things without your support, they are not being disobedient to you – they are simply being obedient to God. You have to step aside and allow them to follow God’s direction for their lives even when it is different than what you think is best. This is just as much a step of faith for you as it is for them. Trust that just as God has taken care of you, so He will take care of them.

maine2Before I left to serve in Maine, I received a couple of checks in the mail from churches I had never attended. I had no idea how they had learned of my summer in Maine and so I asked my mom if she knew anyone from these churches. She said, “Well I didn’t want to tell you and get your hopes up incase no one sent you any money but I made copies of your support letter that you sent to our church and I sent it to every church in West TN.” Even when it didn’t make sense, she supported me whole heartedly. And when I got home from Maine that summer, she asked, “so where will you spend next summer?”

I often question what my life would be like if I had just went on a one week trip that summer. Sure I would have worked and made money but God worked in my life that summer in ways that have completely shaped me into who I am today. I will forever be grateful that my mom took that leap of faith with me despite our best logic. God took care of every detail and is still taking care of me today just as she had always prayed He would.

You have raised incredible kids. Now let them rise up into adulthood and follow God’s will for their lives like you have always prayed they would.

College Students: Why They Don’t Serve Pt. 1

It was during my freshman year of college when my faith truly came alive. I went on my first mission trip that first semester and I was hooked! I began applying for every mission trip that I could and I truly fell in love with serving God in missions. And I wanted everyone else to experience it too! (Just ask my husband!) I made friends across the  state through our state convention’s college missions program and I would encourage them to seek God in how He could be leading them to serve.

I truly believe that has played a vital part of how I came to this place of serving in campus ministry today. Now, through my time of mobilizing students to serve, there’s always one reason that always comes up of why students don’t feel they can serve – money. And of course they don’t have money. They are in college where they have limited time to work a minimum wage job in which the majority of their expenses occupy the entirety of their paychecks.

nepal3As I spent time encouraging students to serve, I heard two different responses in regards to the money issue. 1. “I don’t have the money but I know God is calling me to do this so I’m going to talk to my church, work extra hours, start a couple of fundraisers and do whatever it takes.” I was in that boat. I wrote support letters, sold tupperware and worked long hours to pay for each endeavor along with the bills that would come due while I was gone. But then there was a second response that I would hear in regards to money and that was one simply of defeat – “I don’t have the money nor do I have a way to get it.” And I have to be honest, that response always broke my heart because I knew that God is faithful to provide our means when we step out in faith to walk in obedience.

Today as I work in campus ministry, I still hear the same thing and get the same response but I see it in a different light. Even last week as I was having coffee with a student and I shared with her the various missions opportunities available this year. I wish I could show you a picture of how her eyes lit up with every detail that was shared. She has felt God stirring in her heart to serve yet the question came up, “Do you feel like your church would support you if you talked to them?”

No. She said,”no, they’re very tight with their money and they never go or send others to do missions.” And that broke my heart even more and I began to wonder if that was the sense of defeat that I felt from those students just a few years ago. Maybe they, too, grew up in a small, country church that kept to themselves and only did VBS every year as their way of reaching out to the community. Or maybe they attended a larger church but didn’t feel they had any grounds to ask for support. nepal

Church, there is a real problem when our young people do not feel supported. And I must say that burden does not only fall on the shoulders of church leaders but on each of us. The Lord has blessed us greatly and we should give greatly back to students in our churches and to organizations that are sending students out to spread the Gospel.

In 2010, I was preparing for a summer abroad and I had never been so sure in all of my life that God was calling me to go to Nepal for that summer. Yet, it was two weeks before I was flying out and I was $1000 short of what I needed to cover the costs of my summer. I had exhausted all of my resources and had no idea how God would show up but I knew that we do not serve a God of confusion and that He would prove himself faithful.

It was Mother’s Day 2010 and I promise, I will never forget this day as long as I live. I had just visited my mom when I received a call from my friend Laura. I had just talked with her the day before and asked her to pray with me that God would provide the remaining funds needed for my summer in Nepal.

nepal4I was walking next door to visit my grandmother when my phone rang. Laura shared with me that that morning she felt God leading her to go up in front of her church and tell them of my need. She asked them to pray for me and that if they felt led to give, they could come see her after service. I remember her saying, “Casey, I don’t even know what happened exactly but all of a sudden, I had all of these people walking up to me with checks in their hands. I just stood there crying with my hands stretched out. So I’m going to need your address because we need to send you this money – it’s $1200. Does that get you close to what you need?”

That summer after I returned from Nepal, I had the beautiful blessing of visiting that small, country church, sharing with them all God had done in Nepal because of their support. I hugged sweet old ladies and shoot hands with older men and thanked them with tears in my eyes that trickled down my face. And that my friends is the church! They did not know me, nor any of my story but they knew I had stepped out on faith and that God had given them an opportunity to impact God’s Kingdom work by sending me.

Church, how can you rally around college students and young people in your community and support them as they step out on faith in obediently responding to God’s call for this season of their life.

Maybe you were that student who stepped out in faith and God provided in miraculous ways for you to serve in missions? It’s time for you to give so that others receive that same blessing.

Or maybe you were the student who didn’t feel supported and never served. It’s time for you to rally around those young people who feel God calling them to serve and make sure that they do not miss out on these opportunities.

And maybe you don’t have any college students in your church but you want to give, PLEASE contact me and I will give you faces and names of students who are desperate to serve and who are stepping out on faith just waiting for God to use someone just like you to provide the way. I will gladly come stand in front of your congregation and share how you can support college students who are willing and ready to go.

We have been praying for workers for the harvest and that spirit is alive in today’s college students! Let’s empower them with our support and send them out with the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.nepal2

Don’t Miss It…

The snow came through Nashville yesterday and I sit cuddled up in my “window seat” with my (now) cold coffee and my Christmas tree still lit <– I have no shame–> As pictured, Bailey thoroughly enjoyed her first snow! I woke up this morning with a message on my heart and I could not wait to put my pen to paper (yes, I still do that!) and hear what God was writing on my heart.img_7287

This message is for the 20 something girls both single and in a relationship as a plea to not left your life pass you by. As I write this, I pray you take this as a word of encouragement from a big sister. The one who is still processing and learning from the mistakes I made in my early 20s. The one whose heart and true intent is to inspire, encourage and to empower women to seek God’s best for your life over all of the things that this world – both the secular world and Christian world – say is best for you.

Sweet girl, I say this with so much sincerity and truth:  your singleness is not a disease. Some of you are rolling your eyes at me and that’s fine, I get it. It’s hard to hear that from the girl that’s married with her cute little Nashville house and her perfect dog… I get it. But really lean in and listen close. God has gifted you WITH this season for a purpose. I hear you say that you’re just waiting for God to bring the perfect man into your life but your worth is not in the love found in a man that may one day be your husband. And I’m afraid that if you are not careful, you might miss out on a whole big, full life you could have because you were waiting/searching for a man.

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Sister, you were created for more than that! You have gifts and passions that are in you for a purpose! Don’t waste them or this time you’ve been given. God gives us seasons of waiting but it’s what we do in the waiting and what we learn in the waiting that are often the lessons that really stick with us if we’ll take the time to just listen.

I went off to college with a feeling in my gut that I would find my husband. I had my list of qualities I wanted in a man practically laminated in my back pocket ready to whip out against any guy that made a pass at me like a 20 questions measuring stick. Yall, I WAS THAT GIRL and maybe that’s why I feel so inclined to write on this topic. But it’s not just to the single girls. You may be in a relationship right now but I beg you, listen in. This message is for you too.

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So here’s the thing, that purpose that I keep talking about that has been crafted within each of us… it’s so much greater than just being someone’s wife. And when we are living out the purpose that God has for us, sometimes our paths cross with someone else who is also living out God’s purpose for their life and you might come to a place where God shows you both that maybe you’re supposed to live out this journey you’re on together. {Because the man you’re praying to come into your life to be your husband was created for more than that too.} And it’s not a guarantee and sometimes we think that we are entitled to a spouse and we get frustrated that God hasn’t brought that person into our lives and what we’re doing is putting all of our hopes and dreams and all this stock into another {imperfect} human being when God is looking down at your sweet face saying, “My beautiful child, won’t you just lay all of that down at my feet and follow me?”

At the age of 20, I met a guy who I thought would be my husband. I had everything planned out, my whole life around this guy. Everything was perfect until a year later when he ended it out of no where. And then for another year, I held onto this hope that our story wasn’t over. I look back at that time of my life and I don’t even recognize that girl! That was until the summer after I turned 22 when I went and served in Argentina for two months. I lived with 5 other college students from 5 different states and all with different gifts. We had no internet, no cell phones, we had a roof over our heads, running water (most days), no appliances, no real beds – just leaky air mattresses and a pump without working batteries. We walked everywhere except when we took a bus to the city. And every day I wonder what it would be like to go back to my little village and live in my concrete hut where all I had was Jesus, His word and the purpose he had given me.

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That summer, I fell in love with myself,  who God had created me to be and the life God had created me to live. And when that old boyfriend emailed me after I returned and eluded to the idea of us getting back together once he returned from his time abroad, I heard God remind me, “You were created for more than waiting on a man.”

So I didn’t. Instead I lived the life God called me to live. I got plugged into a new church where I was loved and empowered to serve. I invested in others like I never had before. I made strong friendships with people who still today are the ones I refer to as “my tribe”. I spent the next summer in Nepal with sweet friends telling precious men and women about the love and redemption of Jesus Christ. It was there that God prepared me with His strength for the hard journey that awaited me when I came home where I lost my mom, and then my dad, and then both grandmothers and an uncle all in 3 years time but He never left my side. And neither did that tribe of folks He gave me – one of which became my husband way down the road but it wasn’t because I sat around waiting for a perfect man – No, it’s because I got up and followed a perfect man who walked me through some high highs and some low lows and he hasn’t left me yet. Me and my Jesus have been around the globe and this ride I’m on as a daughter of the Most High King, living out the life he created me to live has been so much more than that perfect fairytale love story I was striving for. Even now that I’m married, living out this #wifelife for Jesus is so much more than I had ever dreamed before.

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So sister, don’t miss it. Don’t miss the wild adventures that God wants to take you on whether you’re waiting on a ring or a man himself. All of those passions that are like a fire in your belly – don’t ignore them. Seek Jesus and the journey He wants to take you on and I promise that He will show you that a life more abundant doesn’t start with our eternal life promised in Glory but in letting His abundant Glory transform your life today. Don’t miss it.

You can spend your days just going to class or work or binging shows on Netflix just waiting for your chance to be someone’s wife, maybe even “preparing” to be someone’s wife or you can recognize the beautiful life God has already promised you as His child. Go live your life and do it fiercely in the light of God’s grace! And if along the way, you find that your road intersects with a man also seeking the life God created Him to live and you both feel God leading you to do this thing together, then do that. And do it fiercely. But the more time you spend searching for a husband is time your eyes are not on Jesus and girlfriend, that’s not living in the freedom of God’s grace.  Live out your life with the purpose God planted inside of you and I promise, it will be so much more vibrant than you could ever capture on instagram or save to your pinterest board. You don’t want to wake up one day, take a look around and wish you’d lived a little more in your 20s while you had the chance.

You were created for more, sister. Don’t miss it. img_7205

Faith over Perfection…

This is part 3 of a 3 part blog series over 1 Peter 1:3-9

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Salvation is available because of our faith, not our perfection.

As a type A, slightly OCD, complete control freak – I have this innate, unhealthy, even sinful desire for perfection. I don’t even notice it sometimes but I strive to control, organize, and micromanage everything to go as planned and when I mess up, I have a really hard time forgiving myself. While I’m grateful every day for the grace I have received through Christ and while I’ve learned through that to extend grace to others, I’m not so great at extending it to myself when I mess up. I hold myself to a standard of perfection in so many areas of my life when Jesus wants me to see myself through his eyes and He holds me to a standard of Grace.

Maybe that’s you too? Or maybe you’re just like me about 11 years ago? Maybe you, too, carry an invisible (or maybe even sometimes visible) check list of do’s and don’ts to be a perfect Christian or perfect wife, daughter, employees, mother, Sunday School teacher, etc. This is not living in freedom and this is not living as God has called us to live. Until I got to college and plugged in to a community of believers on campus, I had always lived such a legalistic life and held others to the same; a life of judgement on myself and others. God calls us to more. Perfection can no longer be our standard – GRACE must be our standard if we are to live the life of Freedom that God has given us the authority to do  through our salvation!

In 1 Peter 1:8-9, Peter writes, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of your souls.” <—- Salvation = the outcome of our faith!! 

Because of our faith, we obtain salvation! Salvation is not the byproduct of our perfect Christian lives, ladies! It’s by our faith! So hang up your checklist, hang up your obsessive need to control, your perfect big plans for this big American dream life because God is not concerned if you have gotten married yet, bought that dream house or climbed that next step on the corporate ladder. God is not concerned where you are in life compared to others your age. God does not want our perfect plans or our tired attempts, he wants our hearts and he wants our faith and it’s only through faith that we will obtain salvation.

Your Pain is Valid…

Part 2 of a 3 part Blog Series on 1 Peter 1:3-9

Read part one here.

Your pain is valid.

Whatever is is that you are feeling, it is valid. God is not surprised when you are hurting, He is sovereign so just as He sees your pain, he warned us that trials would come and he allowed it to happen.

1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Peter speaks of the trials we face and of our faith that is refined in these fires we walk. I know for certain that my faith in Christ is stronger because of the trials I’ve faced.

You won’t recognize the brightness of the sun if you’ve never wandered through the darkness. 

In the book of Exodus, the Israelites wandered through the wilderness for 40 years before they made it to the other side for Joshua to take them through to the Promised Land. When the crossed the Jordan River, Joshua instructed them to lay down an ebenezer, a stone of remembrance, one for each of the 12 tribes, so that for generations to come, all who came upon these stones will be reminded of all that God had done for the Israelites.

I’ve written this to you before but I feel it important to say it again. I was always told growing up that “God will not give you more than you can handle” and I need you to hear me when I say that that is not true. It’s a down right lie. God allows us to endure trials that are much more than we can handle. He does that so that we are drawn closer to Him, to refine our faith, to teach us to cast all our worries at the feet of Jesus, to depend on His strength and not our own, and to recognize that He is in control!

When my friend said, “I know that my problems are nothing compared to others but it still hurts.”, I realized just how common it is for us to feel this way. We think to ourselves, “There are people who are without a home and are going to bed on a cold street tonight hungry, my problems are not that big of a deal, I can handle it, I’ll get over it.” and we don’t deal with our pain. Is it true that others are hurting in ways that are different and seem more dire that what we are facing and maybe they are? But the pain that you are feeling is real and it’s valid and it needs to be worked through.

A few weeks ago, I was dealing with some pain that I wasn’t sure how to work through it. It happened at church, my feelings had been hurt and it was keeping me from wanting to go to our church for a few weeks. I sat with my friend Anna one day and shared this all with her and the most beautiful thing happened. She listened. She validated my pain but acknowledging that those situations are painful. And after all that was said and we had changed the subject a couple dozen times, she said something in a completely different context that opened my eyes in a new way.

She said, “I believe that sometimes God allows certain painful situations to happen so that you can be a part of the solution and help make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else.” 

God spoke to my heart right there as I sat in her recliner and Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians came to mind.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” -2Corinthians 1:3-7

Sisters, we are not alone in our suffering. Jesus suffered and it is by that suffering that we have grace and can rejoice in our salvation. Recognize your pain and your brokenness, seek the God of all comfort and allow Him to heal your pain.

This is not our home…

Last week I received a call from my life long best friend – you know, that friend that you grew up with, knew you during your awkward middle school days, cried with you during your high school breakups and who made 5 walmart runs for more hair dye because orange was not the desired shade of “summer blonde” you were going for when you were 19 – yep, that’s her! We live a couple hours away from one another and now have “adult” lives and do not talk every day or even sometimes every week but you would never know it, we pick things up right where we left them each time and never miss a beat. She held my hand as we buried my mom and she stood by my side on my wedding day. When she hurts, I hurt and vice versa. She’s the Cristina to my Meredith. The Lane to my Rory. The Rachel to my Monica. Through thick and thin, she’s my girl.

Now when she called, I was out running errands and as I pulled up in the Kroger parking lot, I could hear her tone shift as she said, “Case, I know that God is good. Like I KNOW that He’s good! But with everything going on around me – I’m just having a hard time seeing it.”

I sat there in my car in my cozy parking spot for over an hour just listening to my best friend tell me of how her heart hurts for so many people and families that are going through unthinkable trials in our community back home. I sat and wept as we talked about families who are spending their first Christmas without loved ones that are no longer here. We talked about the pain felt by those who know they are spending their last Christmas with a loved one who is sick and also those who are sick and are walking through fire as they fight for their life. And then she shared areas where she is hurting and she said these words:

“I know that my problems are nothing compared to  what others are dealing with but it still hurts.”

I’ve been mulling over this conversation for several days now and as I flipped open my bible to one of my favorite passages, I felt the weight of this scripture a little differently. I’ve written a few ways that I have heard God speak to me through this passage and it will be shared over the course of a 3 part blog series. My prayer is that whether you are currently walking through fire, just came through it or you’re headed towards it, you’ll find peace and comfort in God’s word.

Our Inheritance is Worthy of Rejoicing!

In 1 Peter 1:3-5, we see a beautiful depiction of the Gospel. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

I LOVE the description given of Heaven –

  • English Standard Version – our inheritance, imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in Heaven for you.
  • In the Holman Christian Standard Version, it uses the word “uncorrupted”.
  • In the King James Version it says, “incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.”
  • The New Living Translation puts it this way, “an inheritance that is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”

Y’all, this is our inheritance and through it all – every dark day, every valley, every fire – we can rejoice! This road is hard but through it all, our salvation is worthy of rejoicing! This world in which we are living is the exact opposite of what awaits us in Heaven with our Jesus. This is not our home! This is just a temporary stay – that cheap motel where you lay your weary head on that long road trip. This place is perishable, it will fade away, it is defiled, it is corrupt – the exact opposite of our eternal home reserved for us in Heaven. And whatever is bringing you pain today, no matter how hard your circumstances, it’s only temporary because this world is only temporary! This world is not our home!