I’m going to seminary!

As I am typing this, I hear the sounds of crickets chirping and birds singing their sweet sonnets, and I see the sun setting in the distant trees. Something about sitting outside reminds me of the wonder of God and the beauty of His creation. I realize that I am immeasurably blessed by this magnificent creator.

If you were to ask me what gives you joy in life, I wouldn’t be able to narrow it down to just one thing. When I am teaching, the smile of a student, the laughter of another when he has a joke to tell, the delight another has when giving me a work of art she drew just for me gives me so much joy. In the past two years, I have gained joy in engaging wonderful students as they have also taught me a thing or two about the joys of life.

I have also been blessed with amazing church families over the years. These church families have mentored me, prayed with me in my darkest moments, sent me cards when my young self struggled with depression, sang with me in rejoicing in the goodness of God, placed their hands over me when I first announced my desire to pursue ministry, and when I chose to place my trust in Christ Jesus and follow Him for the rest of my life, it was a fellow church member who first mentored a young christian. My church families have meant so much to me, and I will always be grateful.

My friends have also given me immense joy. Each of them have meant so much to me over the years. We have lived life together. With trips to the movies, football games, church camp, the State Fair, dances, escape rooms, Bible studies, and lip singing in the parking lot of the UMHB Baptist Student Ministries, and so much more, the Lord has blessed me with countless memories with friends. Seeing two of them get married from the perspective of getting to be the best man last year was a great highlight of my journey with these friendships. I am absolutely blessed beyond measure.

Of course, it goes without saying, but my family has given me so much joy. Visits from relatives who live in San Antonio, Goshen, IN, and elsewhere always brings a smile to my face. My grandparents have guided me in both the mountains and valleys of life, and their love for others has rubbed off on me and I am so thankful for that. Their adopted kids have blessed me beyond measure, and my Dad, who has faced some of the toughest battles, reminds me daily what a true servant of Christ Jesus looks like. He will always be my Superman.

In all of these categories of those who give me joy, one thing is constant, and that is God. Lord Jesus has given me joy at home, at church, as a student at Florence ISD, a student at Mary Hardin-Baylor, a teacher at both Georgetown High and Academy Middle schools, and in every encounter with those who meet me along life’s journey.

In every one of these encounters, in everything I do, I place my hope in Christ, and my ultimate desire is to please and serve Him. So I’m sure it does not come to a surprise to some, especially those closest to me, that I am excited to share the news that I will be attending Truett Seminary at Baylor University in my pursuit of honoring God through full-time ministry. I have loved serving in various capacities in church. I have gained immense joy in doing ministry at UMHB. And the most rewarding aspect of teaching these past two years have been the personal connections with my students, and the smiles their faces bring when they realize how much teachers care for them. God placed me at various points throughout my life, including Georgetown and Academy, so that I might show His love to others, and young people certainly need to encounter the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In case you are wondering where I see myself in ministry, the honest answer is that I’m not entirely sure. I love engaging youth, college students, and young adults with the Gospel. Maybe someday, I will work on a college campus or maybe even pastor a church. I’m not entirely sure just yet. I just know that I want to serve Christ in whatever I do. One of my favorite verses is 1 Thessalonians 2:8. It says this: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” I love sharing life with others, and in so doing, sharing with others the love of Christ.

I am excited for new adventures yet to come, and thankful for experiences which have shaped me into who I am today. If you want to pray for me, I welcome it. Pray that whatever I do, I only do it for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ. This is my prayer each and every day!


New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 26 April. 2019.

Broken Vessels

It is not often that I become emotional while listening to a sermon, but when I do, it’s because God is showing me something He knows I desperately need to hear and pay attention to.

Over the past several months, my pastor at FBC Belton, Andy Davis, has preached a sermon series on what every Christian should know. What God has shown me through these messages is that God can use me and every part of me. This past Sunday, Andy preached a message on what every Christian should know about temptation. Throughout my journey as a believer in Christ, like anyone else, I have faced temptation. This temptation can come in many forms, such as having a desire to gossip, use language I know I shouldn’t, or to jump to conclusions and react harshly without seeing the complete picture. These are some examples that come to mind, but it certainly is not a definitive list.

I think what really struck a chord with me as Andy was preaching was that when we repent, God is just to forgive. Throughout my life, I have struggled with the idea that God is ashamed of me when I sin. I know this is untrue, but it is something I have struggled with. God doesn’t want me to sin, and He hates it when I sin, but that doesn’t mean that He is ever ashamed of me. There have been times in my life I have felt so ashamed that I questioned why God would ever want to forgive me or love me. The truth is, He is always there. He is always with me, and when I stumble, He awaits for me to turn back to Him in repentance because of His deep and unfathomable love for me.

I was also moved by the points made that temptation comes to all and it is not sin. I have often felt guilty of being tempted. The truth is that Jesus was tempted in every way, yet He resisted all temptation. Temptation doesn’t make you weak, and temptation itself is not a sin. It becomes sin when we say yes to that temptation, and we are the ones responsible for how we react to the temptation. It was in this moment I felt the Holy Spirit convict me by encouraging me to resist temptation, but also remind me that God is just to forgive in those moments I fall short by giving into temptation.

Throughout Andy’s sermon on Sunday, I was reminded of earlier messages he preached on what every Christian should know. The concepts preached about in these series don’t happen in a vacuum. They are all connected in our continuing relationships with Christ. Another important concept in my walk with Christ is the reality of God’s grace.

The beautiful reality of God is that I will never understand why He gives grace. I most certainly don’t deserve it. I am imperfect. I am sinful. I fall to temptation on a daily basis. So why does God shower me with grace, His unmerited favor? Honestly, I don’t know. Christ gave everything for it when He gave His life for us on the cross. I most certainly didn’t give anything to deserve grace? So why does God show me grace? What I do know is that I don’t have to understand why. He gives it anyways, free of charge to me, because Jesus already paid for this grace.

In the midst of my brokenness, God shows grace. In the midst of my sinfulness, God shows grace. In the midst of my faults, God shows grace. In the midst of every weakness I see in myself, God makes me a new creation through his most AMAZING grace.

Upon driving home after Andy’s sermon about temptation, while also remembering the grace God shows me daily, I was listening to a song, Broken Vessels, by Hillsong Worship which helped reinforce that while I stumble to temptation, God grants me His grace. And because of this, God can use every part of me for His glory. I am still amazed that the same God who created everything as small as the atom to everything as large as galaxies and beyond is the same God who views me (and you) as His greatest creation. And even in the midst of all my brokenness, it is through His grace, that I can be used for His glory.

All these pieces
Broken and scattered
In mercy gathered
Mended and whole
Empty-handed
But not forsaken
I’ve been set free
I’ve been set free

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me, oh
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

Oh, I can see it now
Oh, I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

You take our failure
You take our weakness
You set Your treasure
In jars of clay
So take this heart, Lord
I’ll be Your vessel
The world to see
Your life in me, oh

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me, oh
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

I cried as I drove home as I was reminded that even when I stumble, and even when I feel empty and broken, God can use me as a testimony to His amazing grace. It is my hope and my prayer that God uses me, this broken vessel, to share His love to others.

As believers in Christ, we should remind ourselves of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:4-10, NIV):

4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Fellow believers, never forget the grace God shows us. Even when we fall to temptation, it is through our faith in Christ and the unbelievable grace given to us that we are made one with Christ. God can use us broken people to carry out His message of hope to the world around us. It is because of this that I am committed to be used by God to share His gospel with those around me. For “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24, NIV).

So Lord, use me this broken vessel, so that others may know of your AMAZING GRACE!


Hillsong Worship. Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace). By Joel Houston and Jonas Myrin. Google Play Lyrics. Web. 08 Oct. 2018.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 20 Nov. 2018.


Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) by Hillsong Worship


Notes taken during Pastor Andy’s sermons:

God IS In Our Schools (A Poem)

As I drive to work each morning

Listening to my playlist of songs about Christ Jesus

I pray to my Heavenly Father

Lord let me make an impact today

Let me reach that one kid and show him or her of your love

Let me encourage that coworker who might be having a bad day

Give me strength to engage and inspire those around me

Let me be the teacher you have called me to be

Then as I enter that school building

With a laptop and lesson plans under my arm

A kind coworker opens the door for me and smiles

Another goes out of her way to pray with me

Another asks how I am doing

Another smiles and wishes me a good day

As I press onward throughout the day

I see that one kid struggling

I help guide that kid to understand the lesson

He smiles and says, “Thank you Mr. Stewart”

Another student smiles and asks how my day is going

One student smiles and asks, “Guess what happened to me today?”

Before telling me the good things happening in his life

Another student walks into class listening to Hillsong

She’s the one who will gladly tell you that she is a Christian

As I see the smiles and hear the good stories

As I see those “lightbulb” moments when a child “gets it”

I thank God that I am a teacher

I thank Him for the many hats teachers wear

Teacher

Counselor

Role model

Mentor

Tutor

I also thank Him for those kids

Every single one of those kids deserve a good education

Every single one of those kids should know that people are there for them

Wanting them to succeed

And ready to rejoice in that success

As I think of my calling to teach

As I think of the teachers and students

Who encourage and inspire me daily

I thank God for His presence in our schools

Yes, God is in our schools

You may hear people say from time to time

“I wish God was back in our schools”

Well let me just tell you this

God IS in our schools

He has been in our schools

And He has never left our schools

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

When I see another teacher go out of his or her way to engage a kid

To inspire a kid

To counsel a kid

To uplift a kid

To teach a kid

To let that kid know that someone cares for him or her

I see Christ’s love revealed

I see God at work

When that kid smiles at me and thanks me for encouraging him

I see God at work

When another kid goes out his way to ask how I am doing

I see God at work

When I get to rejoice with a kid in his “good things”

I see God at work

When that one student asks me, “Do you believe in God?”

I see God at work

So don’t tell me that God is not in our schools

Don’t tell me that He is not welcomed here

Because what I see day in and day out paints a completely different story

I see God’s hand move

I feel God’s presence sweep over me everywhere I go

And that includes our schools

When teachers, many of whom struggle from paycheck to paycheck

Still provide food and supplies to students

How is God not at work in our schools?

When students who “get it” help others who don’t “get it”

How is God not at work in our schools?

God IS at work in our schools!

It would be misguided to think that we could ever keep Him out

God doesn’t require teacher-led prayer in order to be in our schools

God doesn’t require that teachers preach in order to be in our schools

God is much bigger than that

God can’t be put in a box or a bottle

He’s not a genie in a lamp that only comes out when teachers lead prayer

He is the almighty, everlasting, omnipresent God

You can’t keep Him away

Even if you try to run from Him

He is still there just waiting for you to turn your eyes back to Him

He is always there

He is there in the good days

He is there in the bad days

In the classroom, He is there

In the hallways, He is there

In the cafeteria, He is there

In the meeting rooms, He is there

In the gyms and locker rooms, He is there

On the practice field, He is there

In the stadiums, He is there

In the principals’ and counselors’ offices, He is there

In the janitor’s closet, He is there

In the parking lots, He is there

Even in a tragedy

Especially in a tragedy

He is there

I honestly don’t have the slightest idea why bad things happen

I will never understand why humans target other humans

Especially in our schools

But know this,

God was there in Colorado

God was there in Connecticut

God was there in Florida

God was there in Texas

God wept with us as countless kids have been slaughtered in our schools

God was there as students comforted one another in the chaos

God was there as teachers and students went out of their way

To help others to safety

God was there as unsung heroes died protecting others

No greater love exists

Than the love of laying down one’s life to save others

God was there in the aftermath and is still there

To comfort those whose lives have been torn apart by tragedy

So please, don’t ever say,

“Well if only God was allowed in our schools, this wouldn’t happen.”

God has not left!

Nothing and no one can keep God away

As a teacher, I know God is there

In the students I engage

In the coworkers I encounter

I see God at work

God was at work

God is at work

And God will continue to be at work

With every fiber of my being

With every ounce of faith I have

I know in my heart

That God IS IN our schools!

 

Note: This poem was updated to include mentioning the tragedy in Santa Fe, Texas. I pray I do not have to update this poem to reflect future tragedies.

Just As I Am: My Salvation Story

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Over the past several years, God has shown me that even in the midst of painful trials, disappointing circumstances, and daunting challenges, He is always right there with me. He constantly showers me with His unconditional love. He reminds me that His plans are always greater than my plans.

I have shared various parts of my testimony the past several years, and I still remember the first time I shared it at UMHB at the Worship in the Quad ministry I was so passionate about. Side note, it was in the BSM that night because of the cold weather. I remember friends approaching me afterwards, thanking me for inspiring them with my story. Each time someone would thank me for sharing, I have tried to remind them that they too have a testimony worth sharing with others. Every believer has a story worth sharing, so don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

A few days ago, the world learned of the passing of the Reverend Billy Graham. Social media was filled with people from all walks of life paying tribute to one person who helped inspire so many around the world through his charismatic evangelizing of the Gospel. As I sat in my little office space at work, getting ready for another day of teaching, I was combing through social media, and I came across a quote attributed to Graham. It read, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” Rev. Graham has now changed his address and is alive in the presence of God Almighty for all eternity.

As I have reflected on Graham’s impact on the lives of so many people, I remembered the impact he had on me growing up. I also remembered my own story of how I came to Christ. So, I thought I would share it with you here in this blog post.

On July 19, 2000, about a month before I started the first grade, I was at a Vacation Bible School at a church in Georgetown, TX. At a young age, I knew that Christ loved me more than I could possibly imagine and that I loved Christ more than anything else in the world. What I didn’t know was that the most important part of loving Christ was accepting Him into the heart, an act commonly referred to as becoming “saved.”

I still remember my bible school teacher approaching me and asking me if I wanted to become saved. I honestly didn’t know what that meant at the time. It sounded cool and I figured that it would probably be best to become “saved,” although I wasn’t sure what I was being saved from exactly. When I returned home, I couldn’t understand why my Nana was so excited. I remember asking her if all of this was really that important. She certainly assured me that it was.

Over the next several years, as a young kid, I had so many doubts. At one point I doubted if God really existed. That didn’t last long once I looked at all the nature around me and the stars in the sky and thought, “Well of course He exists.” Even then, however, as I understood more fully what salvation meant, I had doubts as to whether I was truly saved. After all, I didn’t understand what was going on at that Vacation Bible School. For the longest time I thought as if perhaps I wasn’t the person actually making that decision, rather someone made that decision for me. I wondered if I was genuinely a Christian.

These doubts were daily and consistent. I realized that the only way to erase these doubts was if I came to accept Christ into my life as my own decision, now that I knew what accepting Christ truly meant. After so many sermons, there would be invitations for anyone willing to take that most important step and accept Christ into their hearts.

Growing up, I remember watching various preachers in person and on television, and the one who seemed most encouraging on television was Billy Graham. I remember him sharing the Gospel in the simplest ways so that anyone could understand the beauty of God’s love and the plan of salvation. I remember hearing “Just As I Am” being played as hundreds of people walked to the stage to accept Christ. I remember understanding that this was something that needed to be done in my life, but always telling myself, I’ll do it next time. Next time. Next time.

The summer after my 7th grade year was one of the most depressing in my life. I was so miserably depressed that summer that although I never considered actually carrying it out, suicide became a recurring thought in my young mind. Before I continue, if you ever have these same thoughts and you wonder if life is worth living, let me tell you that you are important. God would not have made you if He didn’t have a purpose for your life. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are made in the image of a God who pursues you every second of every day. Please reach out to someone and remember that your life is worth living!

Also, if you have ever battled depression or anxiety, know that there is nothing wrong with you. It is not your fault that you are going through this. God is not punishing you. God loves you. I too have battled depression throughout my life, and I am here to tell you that even when I battle depression, I fall to my knees and ask God to guide my every step. I have hope and joy in these circumstances because I know of the unfailing love God has for me.

In the middle of this summer, I went to Youth Camp with some friends in Brownwood, Texas. One evening, a man who went by the name of Runks Runkles gave a sermon. I don’t have the slightest recollection what the sermon was about, but what I do remember is what happened afterwards. He asked if anyone wanted to pray a simple prayer, asking God into their lives. I prayed that prayer. He then asked those who prayed that prayer to stand. I stood, and as my friends, with their jaws dropped, looked at me, I understood right then, to this day no longer having any doubts, that I was saved. That night I had more joy than I have ever had or ever will have until I meet Jesus in Heaven, because I knew that I was a believer in Christ.

There are too many people in my life who inspired me to reach that point that I could never thank every single one of them. Billy Graham was one person who planted that seed in me that would later lead me to asking Christ in my life. Singers and songwriters, Bill and Gloria Gaither, were two others. One of my pastors growing up, Roy Smith, was another. Paul Cherry, an evangelist friend, was another. And of course, my awesome Dad and grandparents also instilled in me the value of trusting in Christ and putting my faith in Him alone. To everyone else, not mentioned here, I thank you as well!

Throughout my life since then, I have still faced many trials. From being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, living with constant pain since my freshman year in high school, watching my Dad struggle with cancer multiple times (and beating it multiple times), other loved ones struggling with pain and disease I could never possibly imagine, and still battling depression off and on, I have faced many hurdles in life and will continue to do so. God never promised me or anyone an easy life.

What He did promise me was that when I fully trust in Him, I can feel joy in the midst of pain. What He promised me was that even when I doubt, He still loves me unconditionally. Even when I question why bad things happen, He is still there, and He feels my pain, understands what I am going through, and He waits for me to once again turn back to Him, a Heavenly Father who loves me more than I could possibly fathom. Even when I ask for healing, ask for trials to end, ask for the desires of my heart, and He says “Wait” or just flat out “No,” I still trust that He is sovereign and that He still has a plan for me and will use me for His glory. And this gives me joy.

People may ask me why I have so much hope, so much joy, and so much peace. I would tell them that the answer is JESUS. If you’re reading this now, know that the answer is Jesus. For you and me, and for every other human being on this planet, He died a very painful and brutal death. He rose from the dead, and He will return one day to bring those who have accepted Him to live with Him for all eternity.

My Dad has definitely been an inspiration throughout my life’s story. To give you an example, I was struggling one day at college (Mary Hardin-Baylor) with my health problems. As I was struggling with this, my Dad, who was battling an infection after having beaten cancer the first time, text me some encouragement. Even as he was battling pain far worse than I can imagine, Dad texted me, “It came to me in my weakness, that God moves strong. He is shaping me into something awesome for His glory alone. Show me this text in a month and we’ll praise Him [Christ] together. Love you boy!” With Jesus Christ by his side, Dad overcame that infection in addition to beating cancer at least 3 times. What this example shows me is that even in the midst of painful trials, we can have hope in Christ Jesus. My Dad still reminds me of this daily.

I will tell you right now that you will still face struggles, but even in the midst of those struggles, you can still have joy in Christ Jesus. It all starts with accepting Him into your life. If you do this, you will still face many challenges, but you will have that assurance that Christ goes before you, that He is there to guide you throughout those challenges, and that one day, we will spend eternity with Christ and without any pain or sorrow. All you have to do is accept Christ into your life, trust in Him, and live for Him.

Please do not wait. You may not have tomorrow. You may not have the next hour. The time to accept Christ in your life is always right now.

If you are unsure of what to pray, pray this prayer.

“Lord Jesus, I come to you today, and I thank you for loving me so much. I understand that I am a sinner. I am truly sorry. I want to turn away from those sins and start following you. Please forgive me. I believe that you are God’s son, and that you died to take away my sins. I believe that you rose from the dead and will return for me someday. I understand that the only way to spend eternity in heaven is through you, Jesus. Come into my heart and save me. I love you and I want to follow you for the rest of my life. I ask you into my life. In your name, I pray, Amen.”

If you prayed that prayer, welcome to the family of God. Now, go tell others that you have asked Jesus Christ into your life, and share your story with others. Share what Christ has done in your life. I also encourage you to frequently read God’s Word. If you can’t afford a new Bible, biblegateway.com is a great resource that has the entire Bible in numerous translations. Always remember that you are beautiful and you are constantly pursued by a God who loves you so much.

If you still have questions, contact your local pastor, or you can email me at morethanconquerors839@gmail.com. I am praying for you and I love you.


Some words of encouragement:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 (NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. – Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy. – Zephaniah 3:17 (HCSB)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 (NIV)


Forever by Kari Jobe

Because He Lives by David Crowder Band (song originally by Bill and Gloria Gaither)

Our God is SOVEREIGN!

Three years ago today, I started this blog. At first, it was a weekly thing where I would post about topics every seven days about what the Lord was showing me. Over time, I have blogged less and less. My last blog post was in August of last year. Although, it’s been a while since my last post, God has revealed His majesty to me time and time again. So with that, here is my first blog post of 2018.

For a few months, I have wanted to write this post as a reflection of the past year. I wanted to share about the good and the bad, and how I have pushed myself to rejoice in God’s goodness in each of those moments. This is something that has been true in my walk with Christ for some time. I have witnessed moments of pure joy and moments that were quite the opposite. In each circumstance, I have desired to do one thing, and that is to trust that God is sovereign.

God has a plan for each of our lives. He is the Sovereign King who knows how many hairs are on our head, how many grains of sand are on this planet, and how many atoms make up the vastness of the never-ending universe. Sometimes our plans don’t always pan out the way we had hoped. Take it from me. When I was in the 5th grade, I told one of my all-time favorite teachers, Mrs. Ross (now Mrs. Standridge), that I wanted to be a tap-dancing evangelist. Needless to say, those plans have changed. About a year and a half ago, I wanted to pursue a PhD in Political Science. That ended when I thought God was calling me to go to seminary. And that ended when I realized… NOPE… God was calling me to a life of teaching. Knowing how awesome God’s plans are, that can still change, however little the change or however dramatic the change.

2017 reminded me quite often that God is sovereign. There were certainly some trials and sad moments along the way. Last year, my Dad was battling cancer after having beaten it multiple times already. There were a few funerals I attended of people close to me. And in the beginning of the year, I was still struggling with what my future was going to look like. In each of those moments, God reminded me that He has been in control, He is in control, and He will always be in control.

I was reminded of God’s goodness when He surrounded me with Christ-like people along the way. When I lost loved ones, scores of people encouraged me in person and through social media. When I found out that Dad’s cancer came back, the BSM director prayed with me that night. The same night, 4 other friends prayed with me after we worshipped together under the starry sky. Throughout my life, as my plans continually changed in accordance with God’s plan for my life, countless people have encouraged me along the way.

While there were sad moments, 2017 also afforded me with joyous moments, and in these moments, God reminded me again and again that He is sovereign. I student-taught some awesome kids at my old high school, witnessed friends graduate, graduated myself, got a teaching job, and watched countless football games with friends and family. One of the best highlights was meeting up with some friends for the 2017 NCAA Division III Football National Championship game between Mary Hardin-Baylor and Mount Union after having travelled for about 1400 miles through the Deep South with my Superman Dad. Side note, Huey Lewis and AC/DC make great additions to any road trip playlist! After my alma mater’s team lost, they tweeted a verse that emphasizes that God is truly sovereign.

Even if things don’t go your way, remember that God is still good!

Like any other year, 2017 had moments of joy, happiness, excitement, sadness, and disappointment. Since a new cancer spot appeared on my Dad’s lung, it has since shrunk to the point that there really isn’t anything left. While I have delighted in the opportunity God gave me in my first year of teaching, I have shed tears for each of my students because of how much I care about seeing them strive to reach their fullest potential. I have also rejoiced with them and have encouraged them when they have received those “lightbulb” moments and when they have shared the good things happening in their lives.

2017 also reminded me that there is still so much darkness in our world. Natural disasters ravaged parts of Texas, Florida, Montana, California, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Mexico, and South Asia just to name a few. Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Christians in the Middle East are being persecuted, hate marches took place in Virginia, innocents were murdered at music festivals and in places of worship, homelessness still exists, human trafficking still exists, sexual assault still exists, and many children in the United States and around the world still don’t have quality access to a good education.

While I don’t have all the answers, while I don’t know for sure why bad things happen, and while I strive to become a voice for the voiceless, I still trust that God is sovereign. Even in the midst of tragedy, I am reminded of the goodness that humanity has the potential to display. When I see communities rally together to help those affected by hurricanes and fires, teachers advocating for the needs of their students and their schools, men and women empowering victims of sexual assault, religious leaders speaking out against racism and hate, and others raising awareness to those escaping war, famine, violence, and trafficking, I am reminded that there is always light in the midst of darkness.

No matter the circumstances in my life or in the lives of others around this world, I trust that God is sovereign. I trust that He has a plan. I trust in the promise that one day all nations will bow at the feet of a loving Heavenly Father and will rejoice in Christ the King.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

– Revelation 7:9-17 (NIV)

2017 reminded me, just as I know 2018 will continue to remind me, that no matter what comes in this life, good or bad, I serve a mighty God, and that all who believe in Him will one day rejoice with Him for all eternity. This is my hope. This is my prayer. That we learn to trust in God’s sovereignty!


New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 10 Feb. 2018.


Sovereign by Chris Tomlin

Trust in You by Lauren Daigle

The Plans God Has for Me

If I were to summarize the past year or so in one word, that word would be trust. As I have learned time and time again, it’s that oftentimes, God says no to your plans, and occasionally, you have to wait and wait and wait for His plans to be revealed. In the midst of all of these changed plans, I have learned to trust that God’s plan would be revealed to me at the proper time, and that his plans are always greater than any plan I had on my own.

Around this time last year, I just knew that I would graduate from UMHB and go on to pursue a PhD in Political Science. That is what I wanted, and that is what I worked to achieve since before I even graduated from high school. I did all of the right research. I narrowed my list down to a handful of universities, the top one being Baylor. I met with professors, graduate students, was given tours of the campus. I was all but certain that this is what I wanted to pursue and eventually become a college professor.

Then I signed up for the GRE. I thought to myself, “I’ve got this.” After all, I had not made anything lower than an A in college. Taking tests was what I was good at, however, as I studied and prepared, I began to question if pursuing a doctorate was what I really wanted to do. I realize now that God was trying to show me that He had different plans for me, but of course, I did not want to listen. I was determined to get a PhD in Political Science. Even as I was stressing over the GRE, failing each practice exam, I thought that surely someone would take me even with low scores, or maybe, just maybe, the actual test would be easier. Then I took the GRE.

I failed miserably. I told myself, well I still have time for a few more tries before application deadlines. It wasn’t until after I met with a graduate professor that I realized God was saying to me, “You’re not going to get a PhD in Political Science.”

I was disheartened. After everything I had been working towards for the previous 5 years, I finally realized that God had different plans for me. Even though I was uncertain as to what these plans would be, I decided to trust in God and to finally give up trying to think that my plans were better than His.

Later that day, after meeting up with a friend who attends Truett Seminary at Baylor before learning all there was to know about the seminary, I thought God was radically changing my plans and calling me to go to seminary. I visited again multiple times, filled out all of the paperwork, and I told everyone of God revealing to me that He was calling me into ministry. I told people that I wanted to become a youth or college minister while also teaching at a public school. I thought for sure that God had revealed His plans for me.

Then, in December, the decision came. The answer was no. I would not be attending seminary the following fall semester (what would have been this upcoming academic term). For a few more months, my future seemed uncertain.

Then, I had the opportunity to be a student teacher at Florence High School, the same high school I graduated from nearly 5 years earlier. It was an absolute blast. The lesson plans, the projects, the interactions with students, and so many other aspects of teaching gave me so much excitement. It gave me a purpose beyond my own ambitions in that I was able to teach, encourage, and pour into the lives of young people.

During my time at FHS, I realized that this is what God wanted me to do, and that was to find a full-time teaching position, and devote my time solely to educating young people. Instead of teaching after getting a PhD in Political Science, thereby being both a college professor and a part-time public education teacher, instead of becoming a youth or college minister on top of being a school teacher, God revealed to me that He wanted me to devote all of my occupational time to showing His love to others by educating young people. I also realized that I didn’t have to attend seminary in order to do ministry. I could be an integral part of my church regardless.

After much job searching, I was recently hired to teach at Georgetown High School as a Social Studies Resource/Inclusion teacher. I could not be more thrilled about this opportunity. Through God’s faithfulness and infinite wisdom, I know now that this is the plan God has for me. I’m not saying that these plans can’t or won’t change, because I have learned that God is capable of doing anything for His glory. What I am saying is that God has shown me what His current plans are for my life in this moment. These plans did not include a PhD, and I’m okay with that. These plans did not include an MDiv at Seminary, and I’m okay with that. These plans DID include me becoming a teacher at GHS, and I am beyond excited! It is my hope that I will be teaching for years to come, especially at this wonderful campus, because I truly believe that God has called me to this place, to engage, encourage, inspire, and pour into the lives of my students so that they know that there is no limit to what they can achieve.

As I prepare for the upcoming year, ever mindful of God’s faithfulness, I am encouraged by so many as I embark on this next chapter in life. It is my goal that students know that Mr. Stewart is not only there for a paycheck, but he is there to challenge them, to encourage them, to meet their needs, to help them grow, and to help guide them along their educational journey. I strongly advocate the position that every child has the ability to learn and make a difference. I truly believe that every kid, in their own way, can truly change the world!


Some words of encouragement:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace! – Acts 20:24

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. – Colossians 2:2-3

Take Me To The King!

Every week, I watch NBC’s The Voice. If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably figured that out by now. And every week, I am amazed by the talent that these artists have. Last night was far more amazing than usual. Last night, two artists took me to church in my own home as I watched them perform on television. Hearing their music reminded me of how awesome our God truly is. I will come back to that in this blog post in a bit.

So. It’s been five months since my last blog. Since I started blogging, I have never gone that long without posting. So much has changed in that short amount of time, including the fact that I am now a college graduate from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor! Go Cru! My last blog post was about being denied entrance into seminary and how God continues to radically change my plans. I’ve come to realize that He always has better plans for us than we could possibly imagine. Having said that, as God continues changing my plans into His, I have decided to go straight into teaching and mentoring young people in the public school system. More details to come in a later blog post.

When the semester started, I was getting ready to begin a career of teaching through my role as a student teacher from the same school I graduated from in 2012! Not knowing what to expect, I went to Office Max, purchased more supplies than I could count, and started lesson planning for World Geography and World History. The time finally arrived. I now had the opportunity to do what I always dreamed of doing, teaching history and mentoring young people. The kids were amazing and life was going great!

Then, in mid-January, came the word I never ever wanted to hear again. Cancer. For the third time since my sophomore year in college, Dad had cancer. By the grace of God, he beat colon cancer not once, but twice. This time, the third time, it wasn’t in his colon, but in his lungs. Thoughts raced through my mind as I tried to grasp, “Why?” It was the same question as the first two times. Why?

I remember leaving a few hours after Dad told me the news to go to UMHB for Worship in the Quad, a ministry I had been blessed to help lead for the past 4 years. Before going to the quad to set up for worship, I went to go see Shawn Shannon, the Director of the Baptist Student Ministries and the most wonderful lady on campus. That night she prayed over me as tears streamed down my face, and then she showed me funny YouTube videos. She is without a doubt one of my favorite persons in this world.

After worship was over later that night, having cried during half of the songs, I shared with four of my closest friends, Katie, Mike, Taylor, and Alexis, the news. One by one, as I struggled to not get too emotional, they laid their hands on me and prayed right there under the stars. I will never forget that moment as I realized, as I have noticed time and time again, that we never ever walk alone.

Weeks later, after a number of radiation treatments, Dad got to ring that bell once again to signify that he was done with radiation. Although he has not had recent scans, I declare in my heart and with every fiber of my being that he is cancer free, and I can’t wait to blog all about that when it happens.

MyDadIsSuperman

My Dad is Superman!

As my Dad, a.k.a. Superman, battled cancer, along with so many other things going on, I noticed my faith drifting away from God somewhat. Living off-campus for the first time in my 5 years at UMHB, along with all of the other newness, I was overwhelmed with the drastic change of pace. I was not in the same environment any more. And while my family continued show their steadfast love for Christ and others, and while the many students, teachers, and college professors brightened my days, my faith was still struggling. Every time I did anything the least bit sinful, every time I fell short of God’s glory, I felt as if God was ashamed of me.

This lasted until UMHB’s Spring Revival, where for the first time, God revealed to me that He was not, has never been, and never will be ashamed of me. How dare I, even for one second, assume that what I think of me is exactly what God thinks of me!? Even though I have more shortcomings than I can count, Christ loves me, and He constantly yearns for me to turn back to Him.

I began feeling renewed. I felt His overwhelming presence sweep over me. While I still struggle with my faith from time to time, the Lord is still working in me, and no matter the sin in my life, no matter the trials my family and I face, God is still in control, and I should give Him my everything. My life should be for Him, about Him, of Him, and with Him.

When thinking about renewal, a couple of verses came to mind:

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV)

In all of life’s many circumstances, Christ renews us. He loves us. He changes us and molds us into His image. And He uses us for His glory. He uses every part of us even when we don’t realize it, which leads me back to watching NBC’s The Voice.

As the program started at 7PM Central time, I would not have imagined that I would eventually be lifting my hands high and praising God in the middle of watching a talent competition, but that’s what happened. And throughout the following day, I have been listening to those songs over and over. I’m still amazed.

At the end of last night, Aliyah Moulden performed an amazing rendition of MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine.” While I strive to serve King Jesus in all I do on this Earth, one thing is for certain, I cannot wait to see Him face to face. It will be so amazing and breathtaking that I truly “can only imagine what it will be like” when I see His face.

Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine!

What a day that will be! Aliyah certainly gave me goosebumps as she sang that song, as I was reminded of how awesome Christ is and what a wonderful day it will be when I finally get to see Him face to face. I can only imagine!

The other song that made a huge impression on me and brought me closer to Christ last night was Chris Blue singing, “Take Me to the King,” by Kirk Franklin and Tamela Mann. Earlier today as I listened to it again on the way home, I felt tears stream down my face. God was reminding me as He always does, “No matter what, I LOVE YOU!”

As I listened to the words, I realized that this song illustrates my thoughts perfectly. In the midst of the joy and pain, ups and downs, good times and bad times, my ultimate desire is to follow my Savior, my God. And so these lyrics are lyrics I cry out to God.

Take me to the king
I don’t have much to bring
My heart’s torn into pieces
It’s my offering

Lay me at the throne
Leave me there alone
To gaze upon your glory
And sing to you this song
Please take me to the king

Take me to the king
I don’t have much to bring
My heart’s torn to pieces
It’s my offering

Take me to the king!

And so with every part of me, with all I have, with these broken pieces, I give myself to God, my Lord, my Savior, my King. I want every part of me to be about my Savior, the King of Kings. I can only imagine what that day will be like when I see Jesus face to face.

Lord, until then, take me to you, lay me at your throne so I can gaze upon your glory. And use every part of me so that everyone may know that you live inside of me.

TAKE ME TO THE KING!


MercyMe. I Can Only Imagine. By Bart Millard, 1999. Google Play Lyrics. Web. 16 May 2017.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 16 May 2017.

Tamela Mann. Take Me To The King. By Kirk Franklin, 2012. Google Play Lyrics. Web. 16 May 2017.


“I Can Only Imagine” by Aliyah Moulden

 

“Take Me to the King” by Chris Blue

I was just told no, and I’m okay with that!

If you have been around me at all the past several months, you have probably heard me tell you about all the exciting plans I have. I just finished my last semester of classes as an undergrad at UMHB, I’m about to student teach back home in Florence, and then my plans were to go to seminary.

Not one bit of me will question God’s judgment in the plans He has for my future. Earlier this semester, He dramatically changed my desire from wanting to pursue a PhD in Political Science to a MDiv at Seminary. I thought that perhaps I finally discovered God’s will in my life. I am learning however, that I still don’t know for sure what my future holds, but His ultimate will for my life is to continually follow Him down any path He takes me.

Earlier today, I finally received feedback on the admissions process from Truett Seminary, where I thought I would be going after graduating from UMHB. In their discernment, the answer was “not at this time.” For a few minutes, I was overwhelmed with disappointment as I thought that it was certain, with my GPA, ministry experience, and my passions, that I would be accepted. As of now, however, seminary will not be in my immediate plans after graduation.

Although disappointed at first with their answer, I quickly became okay with it. As I did when I was pursuing the idea of a PhD in Political Science, I thought I knew what my plans were. I thought this is where God called me to be. And perhaps, He will at some point. And maybe He won’t. I can’t say for sure. What I can say is that I fully trust in whatever plans He has for me.

While I may not be going to seminary in the Fall of 2017, this doesn’t mean I can’t serve God by serving others. I have learned over time that God was calling me to ditch my plans for grad school in Political Science, as I have fallen more and more in love with in engaging and ministering to young people. God has blessed me with so many opportunities during my time at UMHB. I have been able to help organize Worship in the Quad for the past 3 1/2 years while encouraging students to share their testimonies as living examples of God’s great love, power, and grace. I have also had the opportunity to be a Cru Leader for the past 2 years, as I have been able to mentor these students, and now as I see them become excited about their success, my heart leaps for joy with them. These experiences and others have established in me the desire to uplift and encourage young people on a full-time basis.

When I was pursuing the Political Science PhD option, I had the desire to bring with me Worship in the Quad to any campus I went to. I also wanted to get plugged in with the BSM and other local ministries so that I could engage and pour into college students. It wasn’t until several years of these ideas that I realized that a PhD in Political Science was not for me.

The desire to engage young people is still a desire deep within me, and while I thought I would be doing this through going to seminary next year, I won’t be. As I am praying and discerning about my future plans, God may still have me going to seminary at some other point in the future. Yet if He doesn’t, I will be content with never pursuing seminary as long as I am pursuing Him.

In the meantime, I will student teaching next semester in the school district I spent 12 years of my life in. After I graduate in May, I will be certified to teach Social Studies anywhere in the State of Texas. And you know what? I couldn’t be more excited. Why am I excited? I don’t know what my plans are at this point, but I am excited because I know God will direct my steps. I will give everything I have in student teaching next semester, and if God blesses me with a teaching job after graduation, I will dedicate all my energy into pouring into the lives of my students. I want them to know how much I care for them. I want them to know that no matter what they set their hearts and minds to, they can achieve their wildest dreams.

To my future students, you may not know me yet, but I am here for you. I love and care for you. Whatever goals you have in life, pursue them and never let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve your dreams. I am achieving my dreams, because my dreams are to pursue God and to encourage and lead others in knowing how great the God I serve truly is.

And to my beloved university, I do not have sufficient words to describe how much I love the support you have given me. I love UMHB. I love the faculty, the staff, and the many friends I’ve made.

So with God in my corner, into the future I will go, with faithfulness and devotion, to you my Purple, White, and Gold!


Some words of encouragement:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace! – Acts 20:24

When God radically changes your plans…

So it has been about two months since I last blogged, and so much has happened since then. I am currently in my last semester of undergrad classes before I student teach in the Spring. As graduation approaches, the question of what to do next comes to mind. For the past 5 years or so, I thought that this important question was answered. I was going to pursue a PhD in Political Science after my time at UMHB.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a love for the fields of History and Political Science. Topics such as Prohibition, the Civil Rights Movement, the American Presidency, among others have gripped my fascination for quite some time. I love studying History, and I love studying Political Science, and the ways in which the two intersect are endless and absolutely captivating. Even before I graduated from Florence High School, I just knew that I wanted to pursue a PhD in this field after I received my Bachelor’s Degree from Mary Hardin-Baylor. I just knew that I would become a high school History teacher and eventually a college professor, conducting research and writing lots and lots of books.

As my undergraduate career began to wind to a close, I started looking into graduate programs. In February, I visited Baylor. I met with a fascinating graduate professor and was given a tour by some wonderful PhD students. I’ve also considered the programs at the University of Texas as well as Texas A&M, all of them with different concentrations, but still, it was in the field I absolutely loved.

At the start of this semester, I began the process. I conducted extensive research into various programs, and I signed up for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), which is essentially like the ACT for grad school, except much more difficult. A month ago, I took the GRE, and the week before taking it, I became more and more nervous. It was difficult failing practice after practice, knowing that I had to earn very competitive scores. And then I took the GRE. Needless to say, it was well below the threshold I needed to reach. This caused me to begin wondering, is this really what God wants me to do in life? Over the past month, I have struggled at times about not knowing what I was going to do after graduation, and this sometimes led to mild depression as what I had planned for years slowly drifted away.

Although I knew that I was allowed to retake the exam as many times as needed, and I could improve my scores with much more preparation, I still questioned God if this is really what He wanted of my life. I thought of alternatives. Maybe I would pursue a different graduate program. Perhaps I would pursue Public Policy and Administration, perhaps a Master’s of Education at UMHB, or perhaps I would go straight into teaching after graduation. For the first time in a long time, I was unsure of what I was going to do in life.

Then, a week ago today, I visited Baylor University once more to gain more knowledge about the graduate program in Political Science. As my meeting with one of the graduate professors went on, I thought that this program would fit me perfectly. Then, he mentioned the GRE scores. I would have to obtain super-high scores to even be considered for the program. Leaving that meeting had me thinking, perhaps God doesn’t want this for me. I began to think that perhaps I should visit other graduate schools.

While I was on the Baylor campus, I thought I would meet up with my friend Jake Raabe, who recently graduated from UMHB and is studying at Truett Seminary on the Baylor campus. So, I went to the office where he works and we conversed on a wide variety of things going on in our lives. I mentioned that I was unsure about my future. “There’s always seminary,” Jake assured me. I smiled and in the back of my mind, I thought “Yah sure. Seminary. That’s a good one.” For my entire life, I assumed that one needed an undergraduate degree in Christian Studies in order to attend seminary. He told me that that was of course not the case. Plenty of people go into seminary with other backgrounds, and they learn how they can use their backgrounds in ministry. So I thought, “Why not? Tell me more.” He gave me a book with Truett’s program information, and I took that book and started to leave. Then, wanting to know even more, I went back and asked if anyone would be willing to tell me all about the program. So, I was able to learn a lot about the program that day. I thought, “Wow! This could be an option.”

As I left Baylor to return to UMHB, I prayed and prayed and prayed. I prayed that God would show me what He wanted me to do. I prayed that He would remove all of the desires that I originally had and replaced them with the desires He had for me.

After continued prayer and just really thinking about my options, I ultimately came to the conclusion that I have been called, in some way, to pursue ministry, and to use the knowledge I have obtained thus far in that pursuit of ministry. After my official visit to Truett today, which included getting to sit in a Scriptures class, learning more about Truett, and having lunch with another seminary professor, it has been confirmed to me that my desire is to now apply to attend Truett Seminary for next Fall.

And so, that is where I am at in my journey. As of Wednesday morning of last week, my plans were completely different. Now God has shown me (an example of His continued, never-ending faithfulness) that ministry is what His desire is for me. And that is what I ultimately want. Not my own desires, but His. My ultimate want is His want. My ultimate desire is His desire!

While I am not completely sure what ministry will look like for me (possibly eventually college or youth ministry while working in the public school system), I know that whatever I end up doing, God will be right there every step of the way. God has guided my family and me through so many obstacles, difficulties, sickness, among other things, yet He has always remained faithful. And as a public school teacher, I would still get to show my passion for History and Political Science through the art of teaching students! Plus, the more and more I have thought about it, this would be the most fulfilling option for me. I could pursue a path teaching students while also mentoring others and helping them grow spiritually.

As I was arriving back at UMHB today, God reassured me of His faithfulness. K-Love’s encouraging word for the day came from Psalm 100:5 (NIV), which says, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” I am constantly amazed by the Lord’s goodness, by His love, and by His faithfulness. It never changes. It never ceases. He is constantly pursuing us, and will continue pursuing each generation after us. We truly do serve a wonderful and magnificent Heavenly Father!

I would ask that whoever reads this, that you would pray for me. Pray for discernment for me, that I would fully pursue God’s best desires for me. I have never been so excited about my future than I am now. God’s not finished with me yet, and He has so much in store for me.

So, if you ever find yourselves unsure of what your future entails, just turn to Jesus. Ask Him what He has planned for you, because when He shows you those plans, your future can look so much sweeter than anything you could have possibly imagined on your own.

To UMHB, thank you for everything. These past several years have been the greatest of my life. I can never thank this wonderful university enough for all of the love, knowledge, and support that the faculty, staff, and fellow students have shown me.

So soon into the future, I will go, with faithfulness and devotion, to you my Purple, White, and Gold…


New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.


Help Me Find It by Sidewalk Prophets

Thy Will by Hillary Scott and the Scott Family

Then sings my soul!

About one week has passed since Dad and I returned home from the Grand Canyon. After an entire week of reflection, I am still amazed, still in awe by God’s beautiful creation, and am eternally grateful that God allowed Dad and me to take this journey together. Not only was the Grand Canyon spectacular and absolutely amazing itself, words and pictures alone cannot fully grasp the grandeur of it all, but probably the most breathtaking aspect of it was that God has brought Dad and me through so much and has allowed us to witness His creation together.

As we drove to the Grand Canyon National Park for the first time two weeks ago today, excitement increased as we got closer and closer to the Park entrance. Every 5-10 minutes, the inner-kid in my Dad was revealed as he asked me to look at our GPS and tell him how much longer until we reached the Canyon. 50 minutes, 45 minutes, 40 minutes, and so forth. Both of us were brimming with excitement.

When we finally reached the entrance, we became more and more anxious upon seeing parking lot after parking lot full to capacity. We even saw part of the canyon off in a distance as we were trying to find a parking place. Once we did, we got lost trying to find a trail leading us to the rim of the Canyon. Then finally, we made it. We were there. After so many trials in our lives, God finally brought us to one of His most beautiful masterpieces. Needless to say, I was in complete awe.

It has certainly been a long, rocky road that Dad and I have traversed to reach this point to where we could enjoy the amazing vastness of the Canyon. It doesn’t seem all that long ago when I sat in a small cubicle at Scott & White as I watched poison drip ever so slowly into my Dad’s tired body as he battled his second round with colon cancer. It wasn’t that long ago that I sat terrified as heroic nurses, to whom I will forever be grateful, responded to a violent reaction Dad had with his chemo treatment.

Going back even further, I remembered my own struggles with Crohn’s Disease. I still remember my sudden hospitalization and surgery in 2012, just one week before I was set to give the invocation at my high school graduation. I remember being in so much pain, yet Dad was there, waiting on me hand and foot as he constantly encouraged me while I feared missing my own high school graduation. Although I missed my baccalaureate service, Senior Awards, and Senior Trip, by the grace of an amazing Heavenly Father, I got out just one day before graduation practice. I still got to give the opening prayer.

While my battle with Crohn’s Disease continues to this very day, my faith has grown stronger as I have been encouraged by my family, my hometown, and by all the new friends I have made at UMHB. My faith grew even more, by leaps and bounds, as did my relationship with Dad, when he was diagnosed with cancer right before my sophomore year of college.

So many emotions filled my heart with agony and pain. There were nights when I cried myself to sleep. Somehow I wanted to be able to take Dad’s pain away. I wanted for at least one day to endure Dad’s pain so he wouldn’t have to. Yet I know like any father would, my Dad wouldn’t let me, and even though he was battling cancer and chemo treatments, he still had a smile, he still had those corny and sometimes morbid jokes, just to let me know that everything would work out according to God’s plan and that God was using my Dad for His glory in ways that only God could understand.

And so my faith in the Lord grew. Challenge after challenge, my Dad has never given up, even when he had plenty of reasons to do so. The Lord gave him strength, and Dad’s faith in God’s sovereignty in turn gave me the encouragement and strength I needed to face my own challenges. Christmas Eve 2013, Dad beat cancer. The following Spring Break, he finished chemo. In May 2014, he finally walked to receive his degree at UMHB. In the Fall of that year, he beat another painful illness. A year later, he battled cancer once again, only to be declared cancer-free in late-March of this year. And after multiple exams, he has finally met the necessary requirements to be a full-time Special Education teacher starting in just one week. It seems like every single time, God has been telling Dad and me that “Hey. Just wait. I’m not finished with you yet.”

Truly, God wasn’t finished with either one of us. Visiting the Grand Canyon became the very rich, yummy icing on the cake that was everything God helped us overcome. It’s like God was saying, “See. I told you so.”

And so, as I sat on the rocks overlooking the Canyon that first day, I wept. I wept tears of joy. I wept because God not only allowed us to overcome so many challenges together, but He also allowed us to do so in order that we might have the opportunity to enjoy what truly is a GRAND Canyon. When I sat there looking at the amazing depth and vastness of God’s creation, I sang to myself, in a quiet voice…

 
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, 
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made; 
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, 
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

(Chorus)
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, 
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, 
How great Thou art, How great Thou art! 

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander, 
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing; 
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; 
That on a Cross, my burdens gladly bearing, 
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, 
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration, 
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

(Chorus)
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, 
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, 
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

I sat there at the rim, absolutely amazed, and as I looked at the never-ending depths of the Canyon, I couldn’t help but rejoice in how far God has brought us. Easy lives without trials were never promised to us, but if we trust God with our lives, there will be moments like these in which we can enjoy just how marvelous and powerful He is. It’s a reminder to me that He has a purpose for each of our lives.

Words in of itself cannot describe just how awesome the Grand Canyon is. Pictures can never help one grasp the vastness of the Canyon. And that’s part of the beauty of it all. How Great God truly is. When I consider all the worlds Thy hands have made. When I hear the rolling thunder, as there was thunder the second day of our visit. When through the woods and forest glades I wander as I walk along the pine trees alongside the trails leading to the rim of the Canyon. As I hear the birds sing sweet melodies and look down from mountain grandeur. When I feel the breeze and see the mighty Colorado River look so small from the top of the Canyon. When I take in all of this marvelous beauty, how can my soul not sing for joy!?

And as I looked at the wonder that is our Heavenly Father, I was constantly reminded by God that while He created all of the awesomeness that is the Grand Canyon, He sent His Son to die and conquer death for me, because I was His greatest creation. After the first two days, it was hard for me to imagine how much sweeter this vacation would turn out to be. Then on the third day, God was like, “Hey. Look what I can do!” The third morning of our time at the Grand Canyon, Dad and I left our hotel (which was about an hour away from the Park) at about 3:45 AM to see the sun rise over the Canyon, and it was well worth it!

If you ever travel to the Canyon yourself, seeing the sunrise is an absolute necessity. As we waited for the sun to emerge over the Canyon, Dad and I could hear people speaking in German, French, and Chinese, among other languages. Throughout our trip, we also heard Spanish, Dutch, Hindi, Middle Eastern languages, and so many others. The diversity of the thousands of people at the Canyon was also a great reminder of how awesome God is. It was a reminder that the magnificence of God’s creation can bring together people from across the world to enjoy His masterpieces. That too, represented the beauty of God.

There are so many other experiences I hope to share with others about our journey together. I love that the Grand Canyon is now a part of Dad’s and my testimony. The Grand Canyon is now part of my life’s story. It’s now a part of Dad’s life story.

This reminds me of one of my favorite verses in the Bible. 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (NIV) says, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”

When we share our life’s story, we share both the Gospel of Christ as well as how He has made an impact in our lives. The Grand Canyon is a part of both Dad’s and my life’s story. And it truly is Grand!

♪♪Then sings my soul, My Saviour God to thee, How great Thou art, HOW GREAT THOU ART!!!♪♪


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Boberg, Carl. “How Great Thou Art.” Trans. Stuart K. Hine. Hollywood, CA. Manna Music, Inc. 1955.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 1 Aug. 2016.


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