Tag: Thanksgiving

Day Twenty-Seven: I’m Thankful For…God’s Creativity.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new :)

I have had the immense privilege of being able to travel extensively around the U.S. (38 states),
and to five countries (#6 in February!) outside the U.S. on
three continents (and counting) thus far in my life.
And everywhere I go, God’s creativity is displayed so abundantly!

God could have made the world black and white.
He could have made everything flat and boring and we all could look the same.
And we would have never known the difference.

Instead, He CHOSE to use vibrant colors, thousands of plant and flower species,
mountain ranges, deserts, valleys, islands, trees, lakes, oceans, and so much more.

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We have drastically different seasons, providing new landscape every few months.

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He created sunrise and sunset to delight and inspire us.

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He created so many variations of hair, skin, and eye colors – all beautiful.

Haiti 2010

He created the zebra, the giraffe, the squirrel, the platypus, and thousands of other animals
– all so unique in appearance and purpose.

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God is the ultimate creative.
I’m so thankful that He created all of this for us to enjoy, and even more thankful that He instills some of His creativity in each of us.

Day Twenty-Six: We’re Thankful For…Our Home.

Preface:¬†Last year I decided to¬†express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that‚Äôs my goal this year. I am¬†re-posting¬†the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new ūüôā

In September 2012, we were very content to continue renting and not be “tied down” anywhere. Our rent was cheap, our apartment was in an amazing location, and we were happy. But that all changed the following month…

Our landlord had recently placed a brand new manufactured home on our property and told us that he would be renting it for close to $1,000 per month. I was really surprised that anyone would pay that much to rent a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom home (our rent was $550 for a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom top floor of a house)…so I started looking at property around our area to see if that was comparable or high. Turns out it was high. ūüôā

During my search, an ad appeared on one of the websites that said something like this: “If this were your home, your mortgage would be ____.” Whatever that number was, it was low, and it made me consider the possibility of buying a house so that we could actually SAVE money.

Brennan and I started talking seriously about buying a house in October 2012. We had very few “requirements” – natural gas heat, central air, and lots of space. We saw six houses, and the last one that we toured became our first home together.

On November 1st, with my parents and his mom and step-dad, we toured a bank-owned, not pretty house. It had plenty of space (1,800 sq. ft, 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms on a 1/2 acre), it was in a good neighborhood, and it was incredibly inexpensive. It needed a lot of cosmetic work, but nothing major. So, on November 1st, 2012, we made an offer.

We closed on December 21, 2012 and immediately got to work by tearing up all the carpet in the basement. We moved in on January 20, 2013 and that’s when the work really began.

We are so thankful for the opportunity that we had to buy this house – especially because it is worth approximately $55K more than we paid for it. Selling this house will allow us to be debt-free as we could pay off our student loans with the profit.

We are also thankful for the amount of space that we now have for housing/hosting people! It was difficult to have many people over in our little 600 sq. foot apartment; now we can comfortably sleep TEN PEOPLE on couches and beds (and even more if we had more air mattresses!). We recently had a church event at our house and had over 30 people there, comfortably. This house has created such an opportunity for ministry (RYFO, church, etc.) and we LOVE it.

We are even more thankful for all of the people who selflessly donated their skills and time to help us do the work that was needed (my parents, Dan, Kim, Dean, Jason, Courtney, Tim, Stacey, Shannon, Jana, Billy, and so many more!) – we couldn’t have made as much progress without help!¬†There is still quite a bit of work to be done (and yes, we still need a lot of help!), but as you can see in the pictures below, we’ve already accomplished so much.

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Thank you, Lord, for our beautiful home…

The Results of Being Thankful…

Yesterday, our pastor was discussing prayer and worship (1 Timothy 2: 1-8), and he said something that I had never thought about.¬†Since I’ve been in church my entire life, it’s always great when God uses familiar Scripture to teach me something new!

Ephesians 5: 1- 4:

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. ¬†Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us¬†and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.¬†Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God‚Äôs people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes‚ÄĒthese are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.

Instead. This is how you could live, but instead, “let there be thankfulness…”

Paul is saying something so simple, yet so profound:
If we are thankful, it will be much harder to sin.

Think about it:

  • If we are thankful for all that God has done, we will love Him and no other false gods.
  • If we are thankful for our spouse, we won’t cheat.
  • If we are thankful for our job, we won’t be lazy.
  • If we are thankful for our “neighbors” and family, we will love selflessly and won’t harm them.
  • If we are thankful for what God has provided, we won’t covet/steal what others have.
  • If we are thankful for the mercy that God has shown us, we will show mercy to those around us more freely.
  • If we are thankful, we won’t be selfish.

I did a quick word study to see where the word “thankful” or “thanks” appears in the Bible, and this is what I found:

Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,¬† and keep the vows you made to the Most High…giving thanks¬†is a sacrifice that truly honors me. (Psalm 50:14, 23a)

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. (Colossians 4:2)
And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)
Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:7)
  • When we are thankful, we recognize that God is the provider of everything we have, which also humbles us.
  • When we are thankful for what we have, we are less likely to sin.
  • When we are thankful, we recognize that apart from God, we can do nothing…that He alone is God and we are merely human.
Sometimes being thankful is a natural response, and sometimes it is a sacrifice (as we see throughout Psalms) because it goes against our human nature and how we feel at the moment. Nevertheless, God is pretty clear about this concept: Be thankful ALWAYS, even when you don’t feel like it.

Day Twenty-Five: I’m Thankful For…Dave Ramsey.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new. :)

In January 2009, my church offered a class called “Financial Peace University” by Dave Ramsey. I had never heard of Dave, but I was in desperate need of financial peace. I had a lot of debt (both credit cards and student loans), I didn’t budget, and I was always uneasy when it came to money matters.

I can truly say that this class changed my life. 

Throughout the thirteen weeks of this class, we learned about the importance of having an emergency fund of at least $1,000, how to budget, how to prioritize our debts to pay them off in what Dave calls a “Debt Snowball” (smallest to largest debts), what types of insurance we should have, how to save for retirement wisely, and many other practical tips.

We learned that it’s important to “Live like no one else (meaning to make sacrifices now) so that later you can live like no one else (debt free and able to do whatever you want!).” This simple phrase makes it easier to sacrifice things that we may want right now for the long-term goal of being debt-free.

My favorite lesson was the last one, the one that focused on giving. Dave emphasized that the greatest thing about being debt-free is the ability to “give like no one else” because you don’t owe anyone anything.¬†

Since going through FPU, our financial outlook has changed completely:

  • We LOVE budgeting and the peace that it brings. Seriously. We tell our money where to go – we don’t wonder where it went.
  • We have NO credit card debt (paid off our last one in August 2012) AND no credit cards!
  • We were able to buy a house last year.
  • We are hoping to be completely debt-free in a couple of years (if we sell our house, we can pay off our student loans with the profit).
  • We give so much more than we did before, and it is such a blessing to be able to do so.

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to take one of Dave’s classes or read his books, please do so TODAY. He’s having a huge sale from now until Christmas (I believe) and most of his books are drastically discounted. It will be the best investment in your financial future that you have ever made!

Day Twenty-Four: I’m Thankful For…RYFO.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new. :)

I was introduced to RYFO a couple of years ago through a link to this video that a friend posted on Facebook. It immediately grabbed my heart, and I showed it to Brennan (along with this one) as soon as he got home from work that evening. We knew we had to join.

To put it simply, RYFO exists to serve musicians. To serve the voices as “rebranded fans” – seeking to serve and not just to take. It is a network of host homes, services, and resources for touring musicians across the United States. Host homes provide shelter, meals, fellowship, a place to do laundry, and a place to rest.

I have always loved serving people in my own place of residence. I love being able to provide a warm bed for the weary, great food for the hungry, and a place of rest for the weary. So when I saw that there was an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with musicians who are touring, living in their vans, trying to make a humble living, simply by opening up our home, we knew this was perfect for us!

When we began our house search in 2012, one of our biggest motivators was a desire for more space so that we could host bigger bands. Our house provides so much more room for our guests than our tiny apartment did! It is not big, it’s not fancy, but it’s a warm, safe place for road-weary musicians to rest and be fed.

Mouth of the South

Since we became a RYFO Host Home, we have hosted 4 bands (forgot to get a picture of the first one РIlia) for a total of 20 people. There were several more bands that had intended to stay with us but whose travel plans changed last minute.
Each band has been so unique and has blessed us so much.

Leaders

If you have the gift of hospitality, or a heart for musicians, please consider becoming a RYFO Host Home.
It has richly blessed us as we have given what we have to serve these precious men and women.
If you have any questions about this amazing ministry, please let me know!

Lauren Mann & The Fairly Odd Folk

Day Twenty-Three: I’m Thankful For…The Start Experiment (and Jon Acuff)

Preface:¬†Last year I decided to¬†express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am¬†re-posting¬†the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new. ūüôā

Meet-up in the food court!

If you had told me a year ago that in the summer of 2013 I’d willingly join a community of people I have never met, and that I’d be sharing openly and honestly with them about my passions, dreams, and struggles, I likely would have laughed at you. But that is exactly what happened this past July (and continues in the present).

In late June, I received an email from Jon Acuff inviting me (and all of his readers) to join him on an adventure. He said it might require a passport and a machete. He sent the email to 250,000 people, and only 2,500 responded.

I was at Christian Retreat Center¬†doing camp photography the day I received the email, and I knew immediately that I wanted to be in on this…that I needed this. It resonated with me. So, even though I had no idea what was about to happen, I said “yes” and dove in.

The first round started on July 15, and my world was changed in some fantastic ways.

Here’s how it worked:

  • Jon Acuff created a secret Facebook group and invited those who responded to his invitation to join.
  • Each day for 24 days, Jon sent out an email with a challenge for the day at 5am.
  • A community was formed that is so hard to describe because it’s so awesome.
  • We all worked hard toward our various goals and helped each other along the way.
  • There ended up being a “Round Two” so that we could invite people to do “Start 101” while the “alumni” did “Start 201” – and it was awesome. Same format with emails being sent daily (and the theme was “audacious”).

(To read my blog posts about “The Start Experiment”, click here.)

When Jon sent out that email, I was in the perfect position to accept the invitation. I had been unemployed for almost two months. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life in terms of a career. I didn’t know what my dream was. I was just taking one day at a time, hoping that God would give me some direction.

Through the course of Round One, while I worked on being more self-disciplined, I was able to discover what I believe I was created to do: missions photography. I was able to take steps forward and bring this dream a little bit closer to reality. And I couldn’t have done this without Jon’s leadership/mentoring AND the amazing community that he built in The Start Experiment.¬†

My dream...

This community is real, open, honest, a little silly, loving, supportive, encouraging, non-judgmental. It’s a safe place to share your fears and your successes (“brag table”) without fear. It’s the closest thing to Heaven that I’ve experienced here on earth, by far.¬†

A literal brag table

I had the amazing privilege of being able to attend The Start Conference in Nashville in September, during which I strengthened these friendships “in real life” and made connections with people who are doing what I want to do (like Jeremy Cowart). I left that conference feeling so inspired, empowered, fulfilled, and energized.¬†

Punching Fear in the Face

If you are struggling with finding your dream, or if you know what your dream is but are struggling to make progress, please check out Jon’s website¬†and his books – Quitter and Start. Both of this books have really impacted my life and have given me wise and practical advice about chasing my dream. If you’d like to join our Facebook community, let me know and I can talk to you about it!

If it weren’t for The Start Experiment, I can honestly say I’d be in a totally different place right now in terms of my career and plans for the future. I have gained so much confidence and have overcome so many fears through this community!

I am so thankful for Jon and for his leadership through example.

A place to type our fears...and then destroy them.