Sunday, January 27, 2013

Adventuring with God

For those of you who don't know much about me or what I do, this post is for you.

If I had to describe myself in one sentence I would probably say that I am extremely adventurous but with a strong conscience. :) Let me explain. I grew up always trying to be just as tough, fast and cool as my brothers and all the boy cousins. In the summer we were racing dirt bikes and always moving the trampoline under the next highest tree. When it came to heights, speed, critters and pain, I found myself always trying to get over my fears and/or face them.  If it wasn't for ballet (which my mom enrolled me at the age of 6 after I failed the cartwheel test in gymnastics) and my conscience I would most likely have spent a lot more time in the ER, or be dead. Between my strong conscience always making me re-think the latest competitive endeavors and ballet (involving contracts for injury prevention in high school) I was never quite as adventurous as I wanted to be.
All the while, God had his hand on me. Thankfully, from the time he placed me in the family he did with the desire for adventures He gave me, He was weaving a path and sovereign plan for my life that was beyond my imagining.

Skip ahead.
Shortly after I was baptized in 2002, I had the opportunity to attend a month long summer dance program with a Christian ballet company in MS. More than the dance training it helped ground me in Christ and upon graduation, I heard the Lord clearly calling me to join the discipleship and training program of Ballet Magnificat in Jackson, MS.  At first I thought this was crazy and that this couldn't possibly be God's plan.  After all, I wasn't in love with ballet and planned to stay close to home, quit ballet and go to school...something more 'normal'. :) God slowly chiseled away at my heart those months during the application process and brought me to a place of surrender knowing that I would only be truly happy inside His will. I moved to Jackson in 2005 thinking I was only committing two years of my life and that I would move home and carry on with my plans after that. 
Now, almost 8 years later, I can look back and say that I could not have dreamed or imagined this life for myself. I wouldn't trade these past 8 years for the world. 
"The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." (Prov. 16:9)
Invited to join the Omega touring company in 2007 I entered a whole new level of stretching, growing and living by faith.  Working a job (or two) part time on the side to make ends meet, while juggling touring 2-3 weeks of every month, it was overwhelming at times to say the least.  I learned a lot, experienced a lot and grew a ton.  My first year touring, I had the opportunity to minister across the US and in Honduras and Belize through worship dance classes and evangelistic programs and then spent 6 weeks in a boot after tearing all the ligaments in my ankle during a program in North Carolina.  The following season I was humbled to share the story of Corrie Ten Boom in Israel. It is a powerful story of hope in the midst of suffering, a WWII story of  Christian who survived Auschwitz and was able to share the hope and forgiveness of Christ with thousands around the world and even those who personally hurt her. Meeting hundreds of Holocaust survivors and hearing their stories was incredible and very humbling.
The following 5 years proved to be more of the same. Stretching, growing, serving and learning.  Each year I took on more and more responsibility not only on the road but in Jackson as well.  I have had the privilege of discipling the younger girls coming into the program and watching them as they grow, blossom and even pass me up in their faith.  I became a head counselor in 2010 for our annual 4 week summer camp. This entails a little of everything, but mostly listening, relying on and walking in the Spirit and His wisdom.  With 12 counselors under me and over 175 students in my dorm (split into 2 - 2 week sessions) it is a busy time of teaching, discipleship, little sleep and tons of fun. 

As I approach the end of my 8th year with the ministry, I believe God is calling me on. I don't yet know what is ahead, but His word is enough for me. "Walk by faith", He said.
  My time with Ballet Magnificat has been very full.  I have served with the most amazing group of like-minded, amazing, Spirit filled/led people and feel like it has been a spiritual oasis for me to grow in. I couldn't have asked for a better leadership covering and am so thankful for their guidance, correction and encouragement. I have been blessed to travel with 12 other amazing women of God (in VERY close quarters) and have many stories, memories and testimonies as a result.  I have been to over 14 countries, sharing the Good News and my testimony cross cultures and language barriers.  I have taught ballet students across the US, Canada and overseas, always praying before class and sharing my faith.  I have witnessed the power of Christ to change peoples lives. Healings, freedom from bondage to sin and addiction, the demon possessed restored to sanity, salvation, and many other miracles of Christ's all powerful, all loving hand. 
And to think....there is SO much ahead!  I am looking forward to this last touring season, to every performance and ministry time, every long van day with the girls, every drop of sweat in the studios etc.  We are gearing up for just 2 large tours this season.  The first will include Florida, Georgia, Ohio, New Jersey, Indiana and Connecticut and will last about 4 weeks.  The second will be to Switzerland, Poland, Czech, Ukraine, Russia, Kenya, possibly Botswana, and South Africa.

God, who orchestrated my salvation (another story, for another day) and who called me into fellowship with His Son, is weaving a grand tapestry with my life.  He is using all sorts of things and all colors of threads and weaving them together.  What it will look like, I don't quite isn't finished.  One more square is almost finished as this chapter of my life closes, but there are many more to go. Something tells me, they will involve more growth, more stretching, and require more leaning on Him and His strength. Walking with Him is always and adventure! I may not know what's next or what is ahead, but I do know who is already there.
And who knows, maybe I'll get to check off some of my bucket list items that have been put on hold all these years. ~

“The way for me has certainly not been conventional or
predictable…..but I have sought the will of God,
and in this I find rest…
….I find His approval and seal in the smallest and unlikely things.”
-Jim Elliot

Alpha and Omega International tours 2013

We're going overseas again!!!
You may be wondering why this is often the most popular topic of my updates, but our international tours are definitely a highlight of our year. Much planning and preparations go into these tours as they can be a logistical nightmare. We allot 3-7 weeks for international tours each year, typically in the Spring. The Lord has worked in miraculous ways each year in the past to work salvation, healing, freedom, and forgiveness to many all over Europe, Israel, the Netherlands, South America and the Balkans. I was just going through my pictures from this past year and was marveling at God’s power to work salvation for all men of every tribe tongue and nation. His love is so amazing! I am humbled to think that the Lord has allowed me to travel to the nations to share HIS Good News. But how can I keep this joy, peace, hope and offer of abundant life to myself?! Each member must raise their own support to cover their air fare since we treat overseas tours as special missions and do many concerts for free. We seek the Lord diligently for our destinations. Many doors are open for us overseas at this time (more than we can logistically cover) and we believe the Lord is calling us to walk by faith and in obedience to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations. It is our desire to join Him where He is already at work. For 2013 we will be splitting the European cities with the Alpha company, then we hope to break ground in Ireland, Russia, Ukraine, Kenya, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa. We covet your prayers and support as we launch into a new season! Check out the Ballet Magnificat facebook page for video updates and prayer requests which we will post throughout the spring as well as when we are overseas.

"Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country."  (Proverbs 25:25)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Starbucks and Salvation

I was in Starbucks with a friend this week when an old man approached the table where we sat and asked, "Does ballet make you beautiful?" 
This man was one of many older men who have too much time on their hands congregate at our local Starbucks. (Yes, there is still only one in Jackson, MS.) Being that it is the only Starbucks in town and located close to our studios, you will ALWAYS run into someone you know there, and the other locals have gotten to know this group of ballerinas who read their Bibles, or meet their prayer partners, or have counselling sessions at the quiet(er) tables in the corner.  Several of the dancers have built relationships with several of the other regulars there and are always talking about Jesus and the hope we have in Christ with them.  So, the question didn't take me by surprise. Rather while my friend just laughed at the question, I replied without a second thought.

No! Ballet doesn't make us beautiful, Jesus does!

He bumbled about and after a "humph", with a furrowed brow said, "well, I suppose that could explain some things... like your general peace, and the happiness that you carry". 
For me, it is just that plain and simple. Where else on earth can you find lasting joy and fulfillment, peace and happiness? What other source, never runs dry but is always flowing, filling and satisfying?
I was once DEAD in my sins and trespasses when Christ redeemed my life. Dead! Condemned, an object of wrath. Hopeless and helpless, condemned to hell. BUT Christ, who is rich in mercy and abounding in love, saved me by grace. Not only did He pull me out of the pit, but He gave me a firm place to stand.  Not only did He give me a firm place to stand, but He ransomed me. HE took my place. He took on my sin and shame and filth and paid the penalty of death that I deserved and made a way for me to stand in purity before the Father, forgiven and free. Thankfully, the story doesn't end there.  God is sovereign and on the 3rd day Jesus rose from the dead, conquering sin and death for anyone who would call upon His name and making a way for us to be with Him forever!  Not only did He save me, give me a pure standing before the Father, forgive me, pay my penalty and rise again, but He's also coming back for me. Is there anything greater? Is there anything more worthy of talking about in the streets, at Starbucks and on here? 

What concerns you today?  What things or burdens of life have you down that His Sovereignty and grace cannot cover? I pray you find strength in the all sufficiency of Christ today.

"What'er I need in Jesus dwells,
And there it dwells for me;
In Jesus Christ the King of grace,
In whom I stand complete!"

Sovereign Over Us - Aaron Keyes

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Jericho

"When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, ‘What does my lord say to his servant?’ And the commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, ‘take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.”        Joshua 5:13-15

Why was Joshua “by Jericho”?  I can imagine him alone, praying, away from the hubbub of the feasting that followed the Passover. Much of Joshua’s training for battle was spent in the presence of the Lord. Now I can imagine him thinking back over all the manna God provided for the Israelites as they wandered and how good this first meal of produce from the land tasted, then marveling at a God who provides and keeps all His promises.  Chapter 6 proceeds to tell us that Jericho was a great fortress, “shut up inside and outside. None went out, and none came in.”  They knew that God was with the Israelites and they feared them. One translation says that there was “no longer any spirit in them” (vs1) as they watched God Almighty work wonders for Israel.
I love the next part of the passage when the “commander of the army of the LORD” arrived with his sword drawn in his hand.. Why?  Was it to intimidate Joshua? NO! Ever since Joshua was called to lead the Israelites, he had been told to be strong and courageous, for God was on His side. I believe it was the Lord’s way of saying, ”I’m fighting with you and for you! I can and will deliver Jericho into your hands!” Before getting down to business after Joshua asks what the command is,  He tells Joshua to take off his sandals for the ground where he’s standing is holy ground!  Sound familiar?  When in the presence of the Lord and His command there is an element of Holy fear.

Where am I going with all this, you ask?  I have been borrowing a roommate’s bicycle a lot lately and cycling a big loop in our neighborhood. The other day, with lots on my mind and wrestling in my spirit, I started out to “clear my head” as I often do.  It soon turned into an amazing time with the Lord as He met with me. Recognizing the battle, Joshua 1:9 came to mind. I began counting 7 loops (which turned out to be like 12 miles) and my legs seemed to be increasingly fueled as I discovered many parallels to the Israelite’s march that day.  The first several laps were just fine. I started out with fresh vigor and an excitement to see what the Lord would reveal to me.  As the 5th lap came around, I was getting tired, slowing down on the hills and becoming really sick of the clicking noise it made every time I pedaled. (I can only imagine how sick of those trumpet blasts they got by the 5th day, not to mention the 5th time around on the 7th day!)  By the time I was completing the 6th lap I wondered what they were thinking as armed warrior men, nearing the completion of their march. I can hear them now… “We’re supposed to just shout? Why would God command us to march for so long before we take Jericho?! All our strength is gone!? Something tells me that Joshua marched with peace in his heart. Assured that the Lord would fight for them once again. In the same way, the Lord calls us to be strong and courageous. We do not fight alone. He is on our side and the battle belongs to Him. I pray that you and I will rest in this amazing truth as we enter a new year. Let us not forget the faithfulness of God in 2012 but step into the new year remembering that the Lord our God is with us wherever we go! §



Hi friends!

    I got a little overwhelmed trying to keep up with updates and emails, newsletters and facebook this season that I decided to start a blog.  I know, I know... I've never really been an advocate of them as the world is turning into one giant, social media spider web.  (Instead of "just shoot me", I've found a new way to express my feeling towards this web with a new phrase. "Oh, just pin-my- twit-face-you-blogger!" This combines, twitter, myspace, pinterest, facebook, youtube and blogging in one colorful expression! You're welcome. ) But, back to the reason I started this thing...

Basically, I hope to post updates throughout this busy season, about life, tour, the Word, as well as prayer requests, in the hopes of recruiting some prayer support. With 3 fundraising events and a 5 week tour to kick off the year and a 5-6week tour overseas in April, I'm sure there will be plenty to share.  I pray it will be a blessing and encouragement to you as we run this race together, looking to Jesus the author and perfector of our faith.

All that to say that I will have many adventures to write about, but more than just wanting to share cool stories, I covet your prayers and support throughout this season as I follow the Lord's voice and partner with Him. Seeking His kingdom, following His voice, partnering in His work, and going where He leads, as I give my heart, soul, mind, and strength ..."for the praise of His glory".