Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Year of Trust

Trust is a simple five letter word that can be so difficult to do sometimes.
Webster defines trust as: someone or something that is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc. 
Simply defined yet not always simply done. 

On the road in January our leader had each team member pick a word we were going to focus on for the year. After a lot of prayer God clearly directed me to pick the word trust. 

To say I didn't have to think about that word this year would be far from the truth. 

I spent the spring semester finishing the road year, the summer serving at Life Action Camp, I moved back home to Phoenix, and finished my first semester of college!

I've also been stretched beyond my belief, cried more than I ever have, (hopefully) grown in character, laughed more than ever, and seen that through all of this I just need to trust in my all knowing Savior. As completely difficult as it can be that's the simple truth.

As I've gone through different trials this year God would quickly remind me to trust Him. There were times that I would just have to blatantly admit that I didn't. That I didn't trust what He was doing and that I was hurt or scared about what was coming next and all the change happening. Then I would be reminded of the man that told Jesus, "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief" Mark 9:24. It's like knowing what you should do but not being ready to do it yet or by yourself. God has given me continued grace to trust Him! 

I look forward to 2016 with all of the unknowing adventures ahead! 
I wish you a Happy New Year and may your trust in our Creator grow beyond belief. 

"Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior" 

Friday, November 27, 2015

People Are More Important

In light of my last post about extending kindness beyond our normal comfort zone, I have definitely been challenged this November.
So this may sound repetitive but I felt it was important to share, so stick with me for a little bit and let me know if you can relate.

Do you ever have those times where you finally get to sit down and get some work finished? It's been piling up and there just hasn't been the time. There's maybe an hour or so in your day to just knock it out and check it off your list. You have time to do it in the next couple days but you don't want to wait too long, and you want to have some of your weekend work free. Then, the door opens and someone comes in to chit chat. They don't need something important they just came to say hi, and before you know it a few minutes goes by and they're still just talking about shoes and whether or not they should have insoles for their flat feet. They aren't sure if they should use Dr. Scholls or go generic and get something cheaper.
As you know how irritating this is because you're smiling and nodding while inside your head you're thinking, "PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE. I don't want to be mean but I procrastinated and I need to get this done so that I can have free time this weekend. This was my alone time, and you're interrupting to talk about your flat feet. I hate feet!"
Still nodding your head, fighting your flesh and then you remember...
People are more important.

People are more important than papers.
People are more important than emails, or math homework.
They are treasured by God just like you are and God wants you to listen.

As I've had similiar scenarios come up often these past few weeks I have often been reminded by that still small voice, that people are more important. Every time He reminds me of that I am able to relax, know that God will give me the grace to get that work done later, and I am able to listen to that persons heart which is really saying, "I don't care what you think about which insole I should use, I just need to know that someone will listen to me, talk to me, and put me first. I just need to know that someone cares about me."

And you know what happens when you listen to people?
Your ministry grows, and lives are changed. People have seen you care about them and put them first when you could have put yourself first. Your platform to share Christ with them has grown more than it would if you had turned them away.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves."
Matthew 7:12

Monday, October 5, 2015

Extended Kindness

One of my dear friends from Life Action sent me a, "Package of Happiness" the other day. It was completely unexpected, and kind. I am thankful to have such a friend that goes out of her way to express her value of me. Which got me thinking...

Luke 6:35-36 says,
"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."
Whenever I read a verse about being kind in the Bible I tend to think, "Yes! Be kind just like Jesus was. Only... not to some people right?"
This may be more of a subconscious thought rather than something I say out loud. 
However, I think God has been trying to get ahold of me on this. Today as I read about being kind in my devotions Luke 6:35-36 you could say, poked my heart. I heard the word surrender. God wants me to surrender bitterness as an excuse to refuse kindness to others. 
 I only want to be kind to those whom I believe deserve it. When you give out kindness and people are ungrateful, my instinct is, 
"Oh, well in that case, you won't be receiving anymore kindness from me!" 
Why? Because, who in their right mind would be kind to the unkind and ungrateful.
God.
God is kind to me when I am ungrateful for the blessings he lavishes on me. 
God is kind to me when I am ugly in my heart and think unkindly of others. God is kind to me when I don't deserve it. Which let's face it, is all the time.  
People go to feed the homeless and believe they are doing something really good for going out of their way to give someone a sack meal. But when a family member, or a neighbor asks for help the umpteenth time, forget it. They need to learn how to be responsible. 
Maybe.
Maybe they do need to learn how to be responsible but why not teach them? This issue is moreover a posture of heart than it is your actions.
You can have kind actions but an unkind heart or motive behind those actions.
Yet, when your heart is aligned with God's and he gives you the grace to have a kindness within yourself, kind actions will flow without thought, but instinct. 
Being kind is going above and beyond. Not for yourself or for how others will see you. Being kind is to be done because as believers we are called to be, "kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."
As excruciatingly hard as this can be, it can be done with the grace of God. 
"Be kind to one another tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you"
Ephesians 4:32

Monday, September 14, 2015

What is College?

A fair question when you're in the middle of it. Or better yet if you've never been.
College is sitting in front of a computer.
Typing all of your math answers.
Staying up late to be social.
Procrastinating.
Hating that you procrastinated.
Planning out your next week so that you don't procrastinate.
Drinking lots of coffee.
Catching the shuttle to work immediately after class.
Getting sunburnt walking to class (maybe only Phoenix).
Not caring about how you look.
College is complicated, and altogether simple.
It's work for your education.
College is an outlet for your career.
It's a building place.
Where you make friends and learn about what you aren't good at.
While learning about what you are good at.
Realizing you're in the wrong field of education.
Then changing your mind.
College is the same daily conversations.
It's good.
And that's where I am.
At college.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Honesty is the Best Policy...

Today ends my first week in college. A sentence I never thought I would have the privilege of saying. However, I would be lying if I said it was easy. 
There are so many thoughts that come to me as I walk on campus or try to do my homework. There's quiet a variety to what I think.
Usually it sounds something like this...
"I love my roommate we get a long so well, I'm glad this worked out."
"I feel so privileged to be at a University to learn! Especially knowing why I want to be here."
"Wow, home is only 25 minutes away instead of 2,500 miles away. I can visit almost whenever I want!" 
Or I might have other drastic thoughts such as...
"Why am I doing this? This is hard? I should quit"
"I forgot how hard it can be to make friends. Maybe I should just commute to campus."
"Did God want me in college or was this just my decision?" 
"I just want to sleep and watch movies. I want a break" 
"I just finished a three and a half year journey of almost constant traveling, maybe I should've started next semester."
"Don't give up, keep speaking truth into your life. Satan is dumb and annoying, I can do this by the grace of God."

As you can see I've had a lot of opportunities to keep speaking truth to myself. The moments that become hardest though remind me of a couple I stayed with for one night, that have made a lasting impression on me. We (Life Action Road Team) were in Charleston, SC for the night and a church we had been with the year before set up host homes for us that night. 
An elderly couple I had never met volunteered to keep two girls in their home. They were very nice, we stayed up late chatting, and we were up early chatting again. However, it wasn't until we were getting in the car to leave that my host dad said something I've never forgotten. It was something to the affect of, "Girls, life is hard and the older you get, the harder it becomes. Keep your focus and trust in God." 
To which my host mom, was embarrassed for him not having said something nice, encouraging, or sweet to wish us goodbye. However, I have often thought of what he said. 

In the short two years it's been since he said that to us, these have been some of the most trying times in my life. At some of the most discouraging moments I would remember sitting in the car with the door open, a nice elderly man standing in front of me saying, "Life is hard, and the older you get the harder life becomes... focus and trust in God." 

So even though, he did not wish us a general or cliche kind of goodbye... He spoke truth. 
And that truth, has meant so much more to me, than all these fluffed up (yet truthful) God has a plan for you goodbyes. For that, I'm grateful.  

His honesty was something that didn't give me false hope, it put reality in place, life is hard. However, it also reminded me of 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says, 
"The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure."

I know God's opened so many doors for me to be here. I'm here for a purpose, even though I can't see that purpose, I have to continue to trust Him. Fighting back against lies that I come across or I'm tempted to believe. 

It's only the beginning of school, I know as I get into the groove of this new chapter everything will be much smoother and better. I just wanted to give you some truth today and remember that Christ loves you, he sees where you are, but He won't give you anything you can't handle with His grace. 

Be encouraged. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Not-So-Perfect Servant Girl...

For the past three years I played the part of the servant girl in a children's musical we do on the road. We tell the story of Naaman from 2 Kings 5. Naaman's character has a couple problems. One being that he has leprosy, the other is that he is incredibly prideful. Naaman had a servant girl that he had captured for his wife. The servant girl explains that there's a prophet from her homeland who know's God and if, Naaman, could meet him he could be healed.
The servant girl is supposed to be the example of an honest humble believer.
However, it wasn't until after being the servant girl for nearly two years God showed me how prideful I was in being the servant girl. I get to be in the spot light, with lines and sing a song. I've always enjoyed being the center of attention. Most of the time doing Naaman would make me feel important and like I had talent (In reality, I am not an actress whatsoever, and would mess up my song what felt like almost every time).
I portrayed the servant girl and yet my heart was completely full of pride.
When I realized this not only was I shocked, I was ashamed of myself.
I was so blind to the condition of my heart.
I hate pride because God hates pride.
"The Lord detests the proud; surely they will be punished."
Proverbs 16:5
I was surprised to hear that I would be the servant girl for a second year and even more surprised when they gave it to me for a third time.
Now, I know that God wanted me to see the ugliness of my heart.
I'm not sure if I will ever be completely cleared of pride but becoming humble is like Christ.
And I want to be like Christ.
"For me to live is Christ and to die is gain..."
Philippians 1:21

Saturday, June 6, 2015

2014-2015

Hello, from Life Action Camp.
A couple weeks ago we finished the road year. 
I just wanted to send you an update.
On our way to the last church the bus broke down so we had to all pile into different vehicles to get to our destination (3 hours from where we had to leave our bus).


We made fun out of the situation. 
It wasn't until the night before we had to leave that they had the bus fixed.
The church we were in had a considerably large amount of attendants for the size of the building. However, there was no room for two kids clubs. Just one.
Which means we combined our age groups and taught just one large Happy Heart City.
It was a blast!
We all had fun being able to teach together, and it was an experience I never thought would happen. 


It was surreal finishing up what had become just regular life for me these past few years.
However, now I am in Buchanan, Michigan.
I get the privilege of serving families while they come to family camp for a week at a time.
Last week I had the sweetest, fun, family. I was very happy to serve them and it was great connecting with them while they where here.

I look forward to serving five more families and moving back home next month.

For now I'm resting until camp starts again on Monday.
If you'd like to see more of what my last travel year looked like here's our end of the year video:
YouTube.com

And just for fun, I made this video: I Can't Cook while I was here waiting for families to arrive.

Until next time,
Marina Nellie. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

An Unexpected Surprise

While traveling on the road full time you end up going through luggage pieces more often than you'd like. The constant packing, unpacking, and pulling of your suitcases from place to place takes a toll on them. Here you are only allowed to have one big suitcase, and a duffle. You also have a personal closet on the truck to store things which helps a lot. However, when you have to pack for all weather circumstances, and you're traveling for 10 months, it just never feels like there's enough room.
That is, I am speaking for myself.

Yet, everyone has their own system for how to travel and mine seems to change more often than I'd like. For all my travel time I have not used a duffle. I would use some type of travel piece smaller than a duffle. At the beginning I thought I would be ok. Until a few months in, I wished I had one of those Vera Bradley duffles. I've never been a fan of how they look but moreover how well they function. Basically just being able to cram anything into it and having a side pocket that never seemed to let anything slip out.

While we were in Florida about a month ago I was able to stay with a family for two nights that I had previously stayed with on the road last year. It was great being able to visit and catch up with them. They are such a sweet family. My roommate and I grew very close with them when we were there for a summit last year. So it meant a lot to be able to see them for just a couple days.
While we were talking on the last night my host mom asked about how our luggage works. I mentioned the big suitcase, and duffle bag. Now, I wouldn't normally mention how I'd like a Vera Bradley duffle bag over what I did have for a couple of reasons. Sometimes people just really want to bless you and if they hear you want something they will go out and get it. Other times, if you say it in such a way they might feel like you are hinting at wanting them to get something for you. So I never mention things like that. I despise it when people are free loaders and I do my best to not come off like one.
However, I knew them and we were just having a conversation, I happened to mention it.
No later than ten minutes she tells me she had something for me.

A Vera Bradley duffle. She had it for when she gave birth to her son, James who was a three month old at the time. She used it once to take what she needed with her to the hospital.


I had no intention of hinting about it, I was purely just sharing about my life and how traveling works. To say the least, I was incredibly shocked and yes, the cliche christian "I'm so #blessed" sentence. But hey, I wouldn't say it if it wasn't true. That bag has been so nice to have. Every time I look at it I'm still shocked.
It may seem silly to you, but I'll be forever grateful.

You never know when or where God is going to bless you next.
It may not be something like a duffle bag, but it could mean just as much to you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Live in the Moment





We just finished a full summit in Aledo, Illinois where I was able to sit through all the services and just soak in for a break. It was awesome. I had not sat in but one service since last spring. Granted that’s my fault because I’m in charge and could have made time for myself to get in service but… life.
The other night while in service it dawned on me all of the “last time” moments I am about to have. The last time I will wear the team dress I’ve had since my first year. The last time I’ll get to teach my favorite lesson. Or the last time I’ll tell a story that’s made the most impact on my life.  The last time I get to go out to lunch or coffee with my close friends. The list is endless and I can’t help but get emotional over some of these things. So I asked my boyfriend, to help me come up with a word or phrase that I could say to myself to keep me from slipping into sadness.

And yes, I did say boyfriend. Like how I snuck that in there? His name is Nathan, he’s from Michigan, and he leads the older kids club called, Base Camp.  Now you have enough information to stalk him, so in the words of my father, “Get crackin!”


Anyways, he took some time to think about it and called me later than night. He told me about how it can be easy to compare travel years and nitpick at what you do and don’t like between all of them. But rather than doing that, just live in the moment. Enjoy the blessing that moment is.

Since then there have been so many times I’ve had to say to myself, “Marina, just live in the moment. It’s going to be OK.” It’s been so very helpful. Just reminding myslef not to get anxious over it and pray for grace.

Now we are in route to The Barn at Buladean. A place you may have heard me mention before. We’ve spent a couple of Thanksgivings there since I started traveling in 2012. We’ll be staying there till Sunday then going to a conference at the Billy Graham Center in North Carolina.  We’ll be helping and attending with some of it. So that’s my update on life for you!
Thanks for reading!



Monday, March 9, 2015

When Crayons Make You Cry...

Hi from the Blue Team in Harrison, Tennessee!
Services just ended yesterday and I just had to share with you something God did for us teachers!
The other night as we were signing in kids a little girl gave us a hand made card. 
It expressed how she had loved coming to Happy Heart City and that she was thankful for all she had learned. Along with the card was a little box of 24 brand new crayons. I immediately was filled with love and joy. Feeling incredibly grateful for a brand new box of crayons. She knew we needed them because our old ones are so shot and gross. Many of them 1/4 of an inch long. We had been needing new crayons for months. Just a week or so ago I put a request for 192 new crayons. Which can take a long time to get. Like maybe by May sometime we would get them. No joke. 
I was already starting to try and figure out how to use them. 
Should I just add them to the bucket? 
Or should I look for our worst crayons to through away?
How can I best use these without ruining them?
Every night when we do craft and we have to hand out little bits of crayons for the kids to use I feel so bad. But now we have some new ones to add to the group. So it will be a little better. 
Then another little girl came in with her own little baggie of crayons for the same reason. She wanted to bless us with some new crayons, knowing we needed them.
How sweet can they be?
That was so thoughtful of them. 
When the kids were signed in we got started with the rules. 
When the children's minister from the church came in and said,
"Stop! I need all the teachers to the front! The kids have something they want to bless you with" 

She was holding a huge box in her hands and she said, 
"Kids what are the two things the Happy Heart City teachers needed the most?" 
The kids shouted, "Crayons and markers!" 
At that point one of the little girls Caris (5 years old) had the biggest grin on her face and she said, 
"This is going to bless y'all's life so much!"
Kerri handed us the giant box filled with hundreds and hundreds of new crayons and new sharpies. 
Never in my life has a church been so thoughtful and sweet.
I stood there with the other teachers just in complete shock. 
I may have shed some tears. May have... ok I didn't but I definitely wanted too!
Their kindness was huge to not only our teachers but for me personally... my heart was full. 
Even after that night parents would come in with more and more crayons, highlighters, and sharpies. 
This was huge, and all I had hoped for was 192 crayons by May. 
Thank you God for going above and beyond our needs. 
"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19

Friday, February 20, 2015

Snow, Ice, Sleet, Repeat

This half of the year we tend to run into cold weather often. However, at the moment the cold weather has taken a toll on us. Our four-day conference for a church in Bartlett, Tennessee had three out of four days cancelled due to weather. We set up on Saturday had services on Sunday and then cancelled Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we came in to tear down, and left Thursday. Now we’re traveling to Harrison, Tennessee where there’s also a storm coming in tonight.

At this point it feels like you can only have so many off days.
  

Of course I was productive though. You know me; I can relax for a little while but only to a certain degree or I’ll go crazy.
So, I finished engagement pictures for a couple of my friends Kendra and Mark…







Then, I worked on a video for my friend Matthew’s birthday which is entirely made up of inside jokes so you may or may not get it but in case you wanted to see it here it is:


And then tried to relax a little bit!

I’m looking forward to finally have a full summit though. We’ve been out of our normal routine for almost a month and traveled to five different place, had five different beds and families to connect with. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to be able to invest in so many people but I’m only human and desire to land here soon.

Other than that, I’ve registered for my college classes and picked out my dorm that I’ll be living in come the Fall. Oh yeah, and I was accepted to GCU. Which in order to accomplish what I just said you probably figured that out.

Thanks for reading, I’ve been working on more super amature and random videos of road life I hope to get to you soon.

Until next time!

Monday, January 26, 2015

1/26/15


My current battle is to keep the door open. 
God has opened one big door filled with many opportunities for me.
Which consists of going to college, moving back home, pursuing some other dreams of mine.
 However, it never occurred to me that Satan would try to close this door directly on my face.
I am constantly having to fight to keep it open. This is totally a bipolar battle.
Everyday looks different. Sometimes it's a spiritual gun fight... other days it's a thumb war.
And why does it surprise me that Satan would want to keep me from going through that door?
Stupid girl.
You should remember that he's out to get you.

At first I considered all this as maybe a sign that God was telling me I heard Him wrong. That I shouldn't leave Life Action and continue teaching the kids.
Which would be confusing, because he was so clear a few months ago that my time here is coming to a close.
One thing I will always remember my mother taught me is that God is not a God of confusion.
Therefore, I am putting on my spiritual armor and fighting for my future.
Thankfully I know what the ending of this battle looks like.
As I think about life after Life Action and what I would like to do,
there are some dreams I'd like to pursue.
I've also never shared with you what those are...

At a young age I learned my love for fashion. Going to thrift shops with my mom. Finding great things in unexpected places. Creating something new with something old.


When I was twelve my mom bought me my first sewing machine at Penny's.
It's a light blue little powerful machine. I've crafted some fun things with it.
Not soon after that I picked up a camera (just like dad) and learned a love for photography.
Later in life I learned a love for blogging.


Now it's time to put them altogether.
At least I'm going to try.
I didn't know that until the other day. My likes and interests aren't necessarily something that I knew how to
I was watching a youtube video of a fashion blogger i've followed for years.
She discussed her love for fashion and sewing. How making a fashion line she sewed on her own, as well as fashion blogging is what got her through college. She lives in New York and has certainly made a living off of doing what she loves.

Whilst watching it, I realized, I myself have a lot of potential as a seamstress.

(This is a shirt I sewed for my brother this Christmas)

I also love blogging and fashion. For a long time I have loved all these things.
So I have decided to pursue all of these loves of mine.
I want to go to school for business, and while i'm there I can fashion blog, travel a little bit, try sewing some new projects and see how it turns out for me.
All the things I love, and I'm going to pursue it.
Thanks,
Marina.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It Could Be Your Turn


Three years ago Life Action headquarters had some of us team members be interviewed about traveling on the road as a promo video. I knew that it maybe would never go anywhere and could be shelved kind of a situation. However, apparently the video's been on Vimeo for awhile now and I saw it for the first time the other day! It was really fun for me to watch. God's brought me on the journey of a life time and maybe it's your turn.

There are always new opportunities out there just sometimes we don't know what they may be.
Maybe you just graduated and aren't sure if you want to go back to school or if you should take a break. Or maybe you want to travel and see America. If you want to try something different, meet a lot of new people, and grow spiritually then you should considering joining a road team.
Just ask me about it, or go online to lifeaction.org/onemission to read more about. 

Also, here's the video...
enjoy watching me from three years ago.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Tucked In...

Tucked in my bed at my new host home with three blankets, a heater, and hot rice bag under my covers. Tennessee's a stickler in the winter. 34 Degree's may not seem much, but for this Arizona girl it's a struggle. When I left home the temperature was in the glorious 70's range. 
For now, I'm getting by.

It feels amazing being back with my good friends, teaching the cutest kids, and just soaking up the bittersweet feeling of my last semester in Life Action.

Not much else has been going on. However, I will say that I love this Memphis, Bartlett, Arlington, Collierville area. May sound crazy to some people but I have now had four families I enjoy being with here. That's a lot. I consider it a blessing.

Fun facts: I got a ukulele for Christmas from a friend of mine. So, I've been practicing and I so enjoy playing it! Maybe one day I'll post a video of my amateur abilities.

Leading into this new year 2015, we as a team were challenged to pray for a word of the year. So I personally prayed and asked that God would show me what my word is. I thought trust would maybe be my word... but I wasn't sure. I kept praying and asked for some confirmation one night. The next morning I pulled out my Jesus Calling app for a quick devotion before I started my long Sunday. The title of the message that day was "Trust Me" then I knew that my word was trust.

This year I am being stretched to trust God with a lot of new changes in my life. I'm leaving a ministry that changed my life and made some solid life long friends. Moving back home, and starting college in the fall. I'm sure there are going to be a lot more "Trust Me" moments with God and it's going to take a lot of faith for me. I don't know about you, but when change comes, I cringe. Big change that is. So here I go into the rest of this year... learning to trust God more than I have had to before. Just a little scary.
 Until next time,
Marina