It's Not Who You Know

This is the Devotional I wrote and shared at the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild Fall Conference hosted at Maranatha Chapel in Rancho Bernardo, CA.

Morning Devotional ~ Saturday, September 24, 2011

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!’(Jeremiah 9:23-24, NLT)

Writing is a journey. I can say this with full confidence because I remember sitting at one of the back round tables many years ago when Jerry B. Jenkins was the main speaker. When his “Left Behind” series was in full storm. I was 19. With newly healed skin and a fresh heart to share God’s truth. I hungered to be seen. Heard. And read.

It took many years of obscurity to bring me to this place for such a time as this.

I stand before you now a broken individual full of God’s grace and hope. I am a walking miracle of what it looks like to walk in the Spirit. I am ready to be blessed. I want you to know that I waited seven years to get my first book published, more than two years to get my second book published, and over five years of waiting on my third. Not to mention the 12 years, 10 months, and 24 days I waited on God before He blessed me with a future husband.

Writing is a journey. Remember and don’t forget that. Along the way God may ask you, “See! I am going to do a new thing. Do you not perceive it?”

Last year when I accepted the Nancy Bayless award for my first book, “Faithbook of Jesus” the verse from Isaiah 43:19 was inscribed on the plaque. I cried inwardly as I accepted the award because days/weeks before one of my book contracts had just been canceled, but not before I had heard the words “I am going to do a new thing.”

Friends, let us never be afraid of the journey. Of new things. New places and new people. Let’s be confident in this one thing that it is He who makes us lie down in green places. It is in the valley of vision when we come to know the Savior, Healer, Friend. And even more so the Author, Himself.

Today—let’s not walk in the flesh. It’s not whom you know, but Who knows you. Instead of saying “I know Him” may it be said of you, “He knows and delights in me.”

It’s not who you know.

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Uniquely You

Growing up, being uniquely you was considered a bad thing.

I should know.

I was the shy home school kid (yes, I said SHY) with no friends and very little social interaction. I mostly read–a lot and practiced piano for hours a day.

That all changed when I entered college and finally found myself. I learned how to be comfortable in my own skin. Literally.

The reason WHY I write and am heavily involved ministry is because I lost the skin off my face and feet due to severe eczema when I was 15, and it took me over 6 years to recover.

Basically the years when a girl becomes a woman.

I never thought a man would ever love me.

I never thought I would have a normal life.

I never thought my skin would heal.

But God did all those things…because He loves me…and because I’m His daughter.

I am unique.

This past weekend, my parents threw my fiancé and I a wedding shower. It was an amazing time for Marc to meet my parents international friends including a few pastors.

One of them had a word for us.

Normally, when someone says that I get excited. Why? Because I’ve learned to test everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NLT).

But I always pray about it because I want to see if the Lord confirms it. That’s how prophecy works. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work and if our eyes are opened we shall see it (2 Kings 6:17).

So I share this word with you for a number of reasons.

First, it’s been a while since I’ve given any update about how I’m doing in this whole engagement process. It’s been a blur because we’re also moving Marc into a new house.

Second, I’ve been VERY emotional (as I should be and with good reason too). I didn’t want to share during this time purely for hype to get more blog hits. It’s easy to do this at times, and I wanted to wait it out.

Third, I wanted God to speak. Wait, shouldn’t that be first?

So the “word.” It came from 1 Samuel 2:30 that says, “…“I will honor those who honor me.” Then he said that Marc and I are “unique.” As in created for a eternal purpose, for each other, and because we honored the Lord and waited for one another.

I was reading Song of Solomon in my One Year Bible and came upon this verse and it HIT me…

“Sixty queens there may be,
and eighty concubines,
and virgins beyond number;
but my dove, my perfect one, is unique,
the only daughter of her mother,
the favorite of the one who bore her.
The young women saw her and called her blessed;
the queens and concubines praised her.” ~Song of Solomon 6:8-9, NIV

I am unique.

Instantly, I felt like cowering in fear. “Do not stare at me because I am dark” (Song of Solomon 1:6a, NIV). I hate what my health has done to my body. Sometimes I am so insecure about my weight and other emotional issues like fear that I feel unworthy of receiving love.

I have been processing through this the past week and asking God to help me overcome my fears. And He HAS. Today, I came across a post by Mary DeMuth called “Don’t Live Your Life in Fear.” She said something about being unique. AHH! I let my fingers run as fast as they could back to WordPress. I knew I had to write this NOW and not save it for Monday’s blog.

I wonder, Did you know you are unique? Like me, Have you ever felt ashamed or embarrassed about it? Today (or ever) is not the time because “the Lord honors those who honor him…”

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV).

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Find Your Own Promise

“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood. For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth” (Isaiah 54:4-5, NLT).

Every once in a while I come across a passage of Scripture that makes my hair stand up. Gives me the chills.

Sometimes I start weeping.

Sometimes I giggle until I am laughing uncontrollably.

Either way.

I just found my own promise, and I can’t wait to show you how to find your own promise!

I love how Scripture is used for the benefit of all things (2 Timothy 3:16), and it is the only offensive against the enemy of this world (Ephesians 6:17).

Recently, I shot this is the video for my upcoming book, “Not Another Dating Book.”

I returned to an old office building I used to work at during the most difficult years of my singleness. I remembered past mistakes. But then I remembered my promise, Psalm 37:1. “Don’t worry about the wicked, or envy those who do wrong.”

That meant no more worrying about Elevator boy or Miguel.

If you’re wondering who those guys are, watch this video I gave at Brick House, the young adult ministry of The Potter’s House in Dallas, TX.

The important thing to remember is…I kept reading the Bible until I found my verse. The verse that promised to help me overcome.

I wonder what it is for you.

Are you single? Are you in a relationship? Do you need a job? Do you hate your job? Do you have health issues? Is your marriage in shambles? Do you have a healthy marriage? Are you wondering how you’re going to raise your child–single or…?

So many BIG questions and an even BIGGER book.

My challenge to you this week? Find your own promise.

What makes you sing? (Did you know that God sings over you and comforts you with His love?)

What makes you cry? (Did you know that God records all your tears in a bottle?)

What makes you feel strong? (Did you know the joy of the Lord is your strength?)

Find your own promise today by reading the Bible and putting it into practice.

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20-somethings need a home

In today’s economy it’s pretty rare for a 20-something to own their own home. Especially in California. At the very least it’s even more rare to live in a stable living environment (that’s not their parents).

A safe place.

Tonight, after leading another week of the Summer Book Study it hit me.

20-somethings need a home.

My friend Summer’s graciously allowed us to meet in her home the past three weeks, and it’s fostered so much more than a Panera or a Starbucks ever could.


Because there’s less people.

Less distraction.

Less noise.

No interference.

You get the picture.

Remember those drawings we used to make when we were a kid of a house? It’s like that.

We need a place to belong.

To feel at home.

A place to share our deepest, darkest fears…usually stemming back from our childhood. It’s super painful and if not dealt with in a safe environment…one might never share.

Or find help.

This group that I’m leading this summer was totally impromptu. It wasn’t affiliated with a church. I didn’t ask for a pastor’s permission.

I just did.

I asked around who wanted to be involved and those who came, came.

“You get what you put into it” is our motto.

And you know what? It’s refreshing. Those who are committed show up. On time. Every week.

I love it.

So much.

If you’re wondering how to lead young adults at your church…the best place to start is in a home. It doesn’t even have to be official.

“You build it and they will come” is your motto.

Over the past three years I’ve had the privilege of leading discussions, small groups, spoken at conferences, attended conferences, launched and re-launched a 20-somethings ministry at North Coast Church in Vista, CA…and let me tell you…it’s rough.

Once you think you’re building any sort of momentum it changes.

Someone leaves.




Falls away.


That’s why I think the importance of building a Christ centered community starts in the home. It’s what my parents taught me from such a young age. Not one night has gone by in the Johnson household where dinner wasn’t being served. Together.

In community.

That’s why I take such great responsibility in finding a tool that will work with an age group that is always (and will always be–for that matter) in such great transition.

So here’s where you come in.

Suggest meeting together.

Find a home.


Keep meeting.

The end.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you God for the opportunity to continue to lead my generation and be a facilitator. Wake up those who are capable of leading and provide a home for those who are willing to host. Amen.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11, NIV).

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Silence Speaks

“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? – Malachi 3:1-2a, NLT

In my own version of the Bible–Renee 3:16 says “when” and “how long” I must wait. But in the days of Malachi, they didn’t have anything to go off.

And all we see is a single white blank page in our Bibles. Silence speaks.

But all too often, it’s thousands upon thousands of days and single blank pages filled with our tears and fears. Full of “What if’s” and all our musings on hope, anxious waiting, and God’s promise to fulfill.

We must not give up.

In the silence God still speaks.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline: Let them sit alone in silence beneath the Lord’s demands. Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last. – Lam. 3:24-29, NLT

“When a soul is under a deep sense of sin, the more it can be alone, the better. That sense of sin will be increased by the loneliness; and when it becomes intolerable, it is highly probable that, in that loneliness, the way of its removal will be discovered in this age, we all live too much in company; and in a great city like this, we are busy from morning to night, and we do not get the opportunities for quiet reflection which our forefathers were wont to take. I am afraid, therefore, that our religion is likely to become very superficial and flimsy for the want of solitary, earnest thought. Men, nowadays, usually go in flocks; someone leads the way, and the rest follow him like sheep that rush through a gap in the hedge. It would be better for us if we deliberated more, if we used our own judgment, if we drew near to God in our own personality, and were resolved that, whatever others might do, we would seek to be personally guided by the Lord himself.” — Spurgeon

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Daddy Issues

“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me” (John 15:15, NLT).

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father'” (Romans 8:15, NLT).

Last week I posted 34 Pre Engagement Questions that Marc and I have been going through. I wanted to highlight truth I learned while using another tool “Family Matters.” It has questions like “List what you feel are the positive qualities of your father/mother” or “Describe how you feel about your father/mother.”


Do you have daddy issues?

I wrote, “Once I had to tell [my dad] that I had a hard time to seeing God as loving because of how unemotional [he] was. That was the toughest and worst conversation I’ve ever had with my dad, but ever since then things have gotten way better because I addressed it with him.”

I didn’t think much about my answer until my Summer Book Study group this week. We were discussing El Roi. “He Is My God Who Sees.” When one of the girls shared a major family issue and it hit me.

I feel it’s crucial as a single person to accept and take responsibility for your own family before becoming “one flesh.”

I cannot tell you how grateful I am now for having had that VERY difficult conversation with my father when I was in my early 20’s. At the time, I was going through The Father Heart of God at DTS (Discipleship Training School).

I realized I couldn’t press forward with my relationship with God until I told my dad how I felt, and it was super disappointing to me to have to tell my dad I couldn’t feel God’s love for me because of his lack of emotion and how we related to each other.

My dad came back to me a few weeks later and apologized.

He didn’t have to.

But he took the blame for his part.

And I did the same.

Since then, my relationship with Jesus has flourished. Instead of blaming my dad for my relationship with God–I work through the emotion until I feel God’s love for me. It honestly took me a few years to not wince at the fact that Jesus loves me, and the last thing I want to do is repeat the same cycle in my future family.

Of all the characters in the Bible, Ruth had reason to complain. Her husband died and as a result she lost her income. In Biblical days the man took care of the family. He was the head of the household (literally, physically, whatever!). She decided she would go with her mother in law to a foreign land…

“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!’” (Ruth 1:16-17, NLT).

Did you catch all the “I” statements? Ruth owned her family issues. I love this woman!!! Because of her faith, God used her to as  redeem her family…

“May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband. That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers” (Ruth 2:20, NLT).

Ruth married this man and they had a son named Obed. Obed was David’s grandfather. God used a pagan, foreign, homeless woman named Ruth to redeem his people..

“This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham…Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David” (Matthew 1:1, 6-7a, NLT).

That is my heart for you.

Jesus calls you His friend and as our Heavenly Father He tells us to come to Him without fear.


We are no longer slaves.

YOU have a voice. YOU have a choice to speak up about the issues you have. I challenge you–as I did–to take responsibility for your life.

Is this the life you’ve always wanted?

Then change it. Work on it. Go to counseling. Seek therapy for your family issues.

No matter what kind of family you come from, wish you could forget, are running from, or love dearly–take a moment and reflect.

Do you have daddy issues?

And if so what are you going to do about them?

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When God Says No

I wanted to dig up this blog post from 2004, but I’ve been so busy with life that it took me longer to find it. I did a clean sweet of my blog a few years ago and removed all blog posts from my beginning years of blogging, but I felt God impressing this one on my heart to share again–a key principle that most (if not all) will learn at some point.

Do not be afraid.

You are not alone.

[What happens when God says no? -Previously Posted, November 23, 2004]

This Thanksgiving will be a one-year anniversary for me. Last Thanksgiving is when the bumps on my right pinky finger got infected and started rapidly spreading. I let it spread for 2 months before coming home from my mission’s trip. At the time I just thought, “well, God is God and He must heal me.”

I was SO offended when God didn’t heal me.

Well, if I would have taken proper care of myself I would have come home immediately and gotten off my high horse and humbled myself, swallowed my pride that I F-A-I-L-E-D at being the missionary I wanted to be, and thought God wanted me to be. I would have spared myself lots of needless suffering.

I feel like screaming!

I am realizing that life is not always about this big spiritual high.

Yes, God is sovereign and He is in CONTROL OF EVERYTHING, but I cannot analyze everything and say things like “God said” or “God told” or whatever.

I want to be Holy Spirit led, yes.

I want to be God’s child and obey Him, yes.

I want God’s will for my life, yes.

Sometimes I get so caught up in my pride and my life and where I want to go that I can’t help but making a big fool out of myself.

Who the heck knows where my life is going now! I have to re-build. It’s only been about 4 months that my life has been in an okay, and somewhat stable position. I am working now, barely, and surviving okay.

My soul yearns for more, yes, but I am not letting myself get to the point where I was before.

I’ll never forget being on the phone with my dermatologist (whose only reference to God was the cross warn around her neck) over the weekend. I had called her home in an emergency because my rash was now all the way up my arms. I felt so helpless that I wanted to commit suicide, and she told me “well, sometimes God says NO!”






Seek God FIRST, and then all these things will be added to you.

Two weeks later, I gather enough courage and physical strength to go to church, ask the pastor to pray over me.

I believe that I need God first and if I die, I die.

If I can’t use my arms, I can’t use them.

If another man finds me attractive again…

If I never work again…

If I never write again, I will be okay.

Not my will but yours.

From that Sunday on, God removed the rash from my arms, and has been helping me deal with any flare ups on my right hand where it started.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good (and faithful). His love endures forever.

Pictures from 2004: Finger & Hand before it spread all the way up my arms.

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Love Speaks

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 14:1, NLT).

Love speaks. It doesn’t clang. Or give off false hope. It doesn’t come up empty or count how many times you’ve come up short. Been embarrassed. Failed.

Recently I started a book study called “Lazarus Awakening” by Joanna Weaver with my friend and author, Lisa Velthouse. It’s been a while since I’ve done a one-on-one study with someone and I’m really excited to dive in.

We discussed Chapter One: Tale of the Third Follower last week. One of the things that stood out to me was a study on Ephesians 3:17-19.

She wants us to pray, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that SURPASSES KNOWLEDGE—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (NIV).

Did you catch that?

You can’t understand fully (NLT) the love of Christ. No matter how wide, long, high, or deep you can imagine–God’s love is deeper still.

So what does love have to do with the story of Lazarus you ask? [I challenge you to read the entire story in John 11:1-12:11].

In her study in the back of the book, we’re supposed to write out to what stands out the most in this passage and why.

I said, “amidst His [Jesus] ministry, He made time for love.”

Jesus was about ready to go to the cross. It’s not like He wasn’t busy. It’s not like dying for the sins of all mankind left him with plenty of free time.

Of all people Jesus knew what it was like to have “places to go, people to see, and things to do.”

…And yet He made time for Lazarus.

I love that Joanna makes us think in this book. She pointed out that Lazarus had no speaking lines. Martha (Lazarus’ sister) is the one who gets all the crap for making Jesus (or trying anyway) to get her sister, Mary to help her with the dishes. And Mary is the one who famously broke her perfume jar over Jesus feet and WORSHIPED Him. Or Prepped Him for burial really.

So what did Lazarus do?


At least we’re not told exactly what it is.

We have to guess it was something.

“So the sisters (Martha & Mary) sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick'” (John 11:3, NIV). Verses later it says after He went and saw the place where Lazarus was buried, “Jesus wept.” Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” – John 11:35-36, NIV

When was the last time you felt God’s love?

Experienced it perhaps?

Was it because you did something? Because you were famous? Maybe you even wrote a book like me. According to the Bible, you don’t need to do anything. God already loves us and died for us.

Thank God today for His glorious resurrection, and that even when He was faced with the single most horrifying event in His life–He still took time to let love speak.

“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go'” (John 11:43-44, NIV).

Heaven awaits for those who’s names are found in the Book of Life. In the end it’s not about if love wins or not.

Will Jesus speak your name?

“And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15, NLT).

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Are you a people pleaser?

“When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!'” – Exodus 14:5, NIV

Sometimes the reason why we please others is because we owe someone a service. Maybe it’s a boss at your job, a spouse, or your kids. You’ve made promises and even though it’s become a difficult situation–you’re comfortable and that’s just the way it is.

How do you tell someone who has a slave mentality they need to fear God, not man?

In other words…

Are you a people pleaser?

It says in Exodus 14:8 that, “The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly (NIV).”

Did you catch that?

The Lord’s hand was on the opposition. The Israelites (or us) didn’t realize (yet), the Lord was setting them up for an even bigger miracle.

No pressure, right?

It’s not like the Israelites (or us) were already feeling hemmed in. Trapped.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’” – Exodus 14:1-3, NIV

Don’t you hate it when you don’t understand what the Lord is trying to tell you? Sure, Lord. I’ll go (fill in the blank) to do (fill in the blank) with (fill in the blank).

That’s a lot of blanks!

Regardless of where you are now: between jobs, unable to afford rent, roommate-less, friend-less, or broken up, God is still there! He no longer wants you to be of “service” to the enemy. AND HE’S TIRED OF YOU SERVING TWO MASTERS.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell. It’s just that it took me many years to get this far.

God knows your heart. He knows that you can’t (shouldn’t, sorry) serve two masters. “Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24, NIV).

Do you currently hate where you’re at?

The good news is, even though the Lord is allowing fierce opposition in your life–it says in Exodus 14:18 that even your enemies will see the glory of God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah. Whoa.

“The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:18, NIV).

Sometimes God takes us through the hard way just to show us His glory. It’s not just about you in particular, but those around you too.

So, check yourself.

Today is the day to choose self respect. Throw off your prison garb and refuse to put on slave clothes any longer. You are free. You are not trapped, and God is planning your way of escape as we speak.

“Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. – (Exodus 14:12-15, NIV)

And if those verses weren’t enough here are a few more to jump start your day!

“I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.” – Psalm 139:11-12, NLT

“Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.” – Psalm 112:4, NLT

“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” – Psalm 30:5, NLT

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” – Psalm 34:8, NLT

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29 Things

Everyone who knows me, knows how excited I get about my birthday, and that I celebrate my birthday month! So on the last day, I wanted to share with you 29 things I’ve learned in my short lifetime in the hopes that you’d be inspired and most of all encouraged!

1. Your spiritual birthday matters more than your earthly ones. ~ I proudly accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of my life and became born again on my 5th birthday, June 24, 1987.

2. It’s never too early to get a Bible concordance. ~ When I was 7, I balled my eyes out when I saw how horrible the conditions were for orphans in Romania. I yearned to help the orphans, and my parents bought me my first Bible concordance so I could give them same hope and faith I had. Why? Because God is the only one who can guarantee 100% spiritual adoption!

3. It’s okay to grow up under a rock. ~ I was home schooled, sheltered, and grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents in full time ministry…need I continue?

4. Living without cable TV is not the end of the world. ~ I didn’t have a TV until I was 9 years old, nor did I have cable  until I was 15. During those years I learned how to read, write, play piano, and many-many-many more things! I do not regret the years without it, although I know I’d find it more difficult to go without now…

5. Be creative. Pick up a hobby and practice until it becomes perfect. Even if it takes years to master the piano, or water coloring, or writing–someday it will be worth it and you might even be able to make a career out of it. It’s okay to do what you love!

6. Pray. One of the most beloved gifts I received from God as a child was my cat, Lemon. My dad was never going to buy me a cat, so I had to wait on God’s timing. The day my life fell a part Lemon showed up on my door step. NEVER STOP PRAYING!

7. Hug others; Pets are allowed too. Life is too short; It can be challenging, difficult, and begin in brokenness. God has placed others around you for a reason. Value someone today through the power of touch and show someone you care!

8. It’s okay to cry. I was the shy kid growing up. When our family moved to CA from NE, I didn’t have any friends. I spent my afternoons crying and feeling alone. Adolescence was painful, but nothing compared to the suffering that was to come during the ages of 14-24. God’s used every season of isolation to bring me closer to Him and give me new life. Not once, not twice, but many times!

9. Find freedom in Christ and you’ll find everything else. ~ My parents did a good job of helping me find freedom in Christ at a young age. They had me go through Neil T. Anderson’s “Seven Steps to Freedom in Christ” which helped me overcome anxiety many times. My favorite verse to pray over my anxious thoughts is, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT).

10. Being broken doesn’t mean you’re actually–broken. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt less than, believed I didn’t measure up, and didn’t feel a part of the cool crowd because of my health limitations. Years later I realized this was a bunch of crap. I am my own worst enemy!

11. Take Sunday naps. Whether you’re a kid at heart or you hate taking naps–naps are important. One thing I’ve learned in all my life is if you don’t take care of your own health, no one else will. It’s important to rest–after all–that was the first thing Jesus did with His creation.

12. Memorize Scripture. I grew up in a Baptist Church and loved going to Awanas. I learned Scripture like nobody’s business, and was always the first to win at Bible sword drill. (Give me a verse and I’ll prove it to you!) Seriously though, the verses I learned as a little girl have carried with me throughout my adulthood. I don’t know where I’d be without my foundation and knowledge of the Word.

13. Have a daily quiet time. No adult has made a bigger impact on me than my mom. Every day she starts her mornings with God in prayer and reading the Word. Growing up, she would ask me, “have you spent time with God today?” If the answer was no, I’d have to go back in my room until I had spent time with God. At first I resented her, but the more I saw her in action and admired her character–I realized I wanted what she had. Now, I model my life after her mission to impact my generation and connect them to Jesus daily.

14. It’s okay to be afraid of boys. I was always taught that a guy should be the one to make the first move. If I could boil down all the words of encouragement from my upcoming book on dating and relationships–it would be this: purity matters. I always hated the fact that popular girls got boyfriends and I didn’t. I have seen over the years that it was God’s hand to keep me pure.

15. Invest in relationships. I cannot say how grateful I am for friends and mentors who have stood by me and encouraged me through bad times and good. Without them I wouldn’t have priceless memories, uncontrollable laughter, and lots and lots of pictures!

16. You are what you eat. I have struggled with food my entire life. I gained 100 pounds from taking prednisone for my eczema (rash). It took me a few years and a couple thousand miles later to bike off the weight. I still struggle with controlling my anxiety and how much food I eat. Food is a daily reminder that keeps me humble!

17. Family matters. Every night I eat dinner with my family as long as I’m living at home or don’t have other plans. My mom cooks and my dad cleans. I cannot tell you how many problems have been worked out over the dinner table, and how blessed I am to be a part of such an amazing family.

18. Be ministry minded. My parents have been in ministry as long as I can remember. Their legacy has left more than just an impression on me, but a rich spiritual inheritance that drives me to my knees to leave the same for my kids!

19. Be kind to strangers. Love is action and Jesus told us to give to those in need who can’t give back to us. By giving to others we’re actually giving to God, Himself and this pleases Him (Matthew 25:31-46, NLT).

20. Your money belongs to God. My family wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for people who gave to missions fund or personally supported us over the years. Now that I’m raising personal support I value the gift of money more than ever. We are called to be stewards of the resources He has already given to us whether that’s tithing to your local church, a missionary, or ministry.

21. Set and obtain goals. Whether small or large, setting goals is important. It took me five years to achieve the things I set out to do and never thought I’d accomplish. Without those goals starring me in the face (hanging on my wall, actually) I never would have made it. My life map verse is Proverbs 4:25-27 that says, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.”

22. Find your promise. When I was in the hospital, my mom read a verse over me from Hosea 6:1-3. It made me want to read the Bible for myself and find my own promise in Scripture. I didn’t want my parents faith anymore, I wanted my own. Eleven months and twenty six days later, I found it in 1 Peter 5:10, NLT. “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.”

23. Nothing good happens after 9 PM. I never want to think that I’m strong enough to stand up underneath temptation. We’re supposed to run away from temptation and stand up to trials and NOT the other way around!

24. Unbelief is a killer. God healed me when I thought I was a dead woman. Other times He made me lie down in green pastures and walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I had to learn how to trust in Him and not lean on my own understanding. Every time I doubt God I hinder Him from working in my life. (Note to self: don’t doubt!)

25. Do what you love and keep doing it. You have to start somewhere. (Long before anyone will ever see, notice, or appreciate YOU!) I started my first website on geocities in 1995 and blogging in 2004 on blogspot years before personal websites or blogs were cool.

26. Live passionately. I love what God has done in my life and I’m never going to stop shouting it. Even on my worst days when my health is killing me, I know God is still faithful.

27. Love others. Because God said so and because people are the currency of heaven (I can’t remember who said this).

28. Forgive, and forgiven often. People hurt people–all the time. You won’t end up with many friends if you can’t forgive others. Moreover, if you don’t forgive your Christian brothers and sisters, God won’t forgive you (Matthew 18:35)!

29. Live one day at a time. “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV). It wasn’t until struggling with health issues that I realized I couldn’t live in my own strength. I needed His grace daily. Yes, I make goals and I DREAM BIG, but I no longer take life for granted. I give God the day and live for Him as best as I can–TODAY!

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