Do I love God?

And this is my prayer:
that your love may abound more and more
in knowledge and depth of insight,
so that you may be able to discern what is best
and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—
to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

So, I had this conversation with one of my girls recently:

Me: "You know that I love you, right?"
Her: "Yeah."
Me: "The next time I see you, what if I punch you in the face, laugh, and make fun of you... Will you still know that I love you, or will you have some doubt...?"
Her: ((laughs)) "I'm gonna have some doubt........"

We finished our talk, I hung up the phone with her, and was left staring at ME, asking myself some questions......

Do I love God...?
Do I even know what it means to really love God?
How often do I punch God in the face.... and laugh??
If somebody were to ask God if He knows that I love Him, would He have some doubt?
Do I fully understand what happens to people who don't love God?

Oh man..... Heavy stuff.....

Then... more questions................

Do I understand what Jesus did for me, in my place, so that I wouldn't have to experience the consequences of not loving Him?
Do I love what He did for me?
Have I taken advantage of what He did for me by not living as though I love Him?
Can I change that?
Do I know how to change that?
Do I even want to change that????

Do I love God?????????????

Ugh.... it didn't stop... it went around and around in circles............
and here's my understanding of it all...

Jesus came into this world all those years ago... in a barn... in a feeding trough...
Jesus. Is. GOD!!!!! ...that's important.
He did amazing, incredible things while He was here, and taught us about love, and peace, and lots of other good stuff.
Then He died.... for ME... and for YOU...
Instead of me dying, HE DIED.
It should have been me.... because of my ridiculous sin, my unbelievable lack of love for my Creator and God...
But even though I haven't loved Him, He loves me.
Enough to be beat and scoffed at.... punched in the face and laughed at!!!
Enough to be slaughtered in my place.
And did He ever once question His love for the people (ME!) who punched Him, laughed at Him and didn't love Him???


As He breathed His final breaths, His words of His murderers were: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)

So to answer my questions....

Do I love God...? Yes.
Do I even know what it means to really love God? I think so...
How often do I punch God in the face.... and laugh?? umm.... A LOT!
If somebody were to ask God if He knows that I love Him, would He have some doubt? ...........probably.
Do I fully understand what happens to people who don't love God?
Do I understand what Jesus did for me, in my place, so that I wouldn't have to experience the consequences of not loving Him? Maybe not as much as I thought I did...
Do I love what He did for me? Of course.
Have I taken advantage of what He did for me by not living as though I love Him? Yes!
Can I change that? Yes!
Do I know how to change that? ummm....?
Do I even want to change that???? .................................

Do I love God?????????????
Maybe I need to reevaluate... Maybe this requires a choice... Will I love Godenough to CHOOSE to change my life, and live in a way that honors Him, in a way that those who come into contact with me will experience not only love for Him, but even more so, His love for them...? He certainly deserves it... He died for me!

Oh, God, help me overcome my lack of love for YOU, my Creator and my Savior! Help me love you with all of my thoughts, my words, my actions. Help me to CHOOSE LOVE.

This is my conviction, and conviction leads to change... "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret,
but worldly sorrow brings death." (2 corinthians 7:10)

Today, God is showing me how little I have trusted him, and He's asking me to love Him through the joy and contentment found in TRUSTING Him. So today, I choose to stop whining, give God my future and trust Him with it.

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
show me the way I should go,
for to You I entrust my life."
Psalm 143:8

How will He ask me to love Him better tomorrow...? I don't know... One thing I know for sure, I'm not short on options!!

Will you choose to love Him today, however He asks you to?

I hope you have a beautiful Christmas, and that each of you is sweetly reminded of why this holiday exists..... as the beginning of a beautiful rescue mission for me and you!!!

Thank you all for your prayers for Chris and I and the ministry the Lord has trusted us with here in Louisiana. He is so good to us, even when we seem to forget all about Him...

Merry Christmas!
Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God every time I remember you,
in all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy!"
Philippians 1:3

crazy, awesome, life-changing... lazy?

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 40:2-31

This summer........ this summer was crazy, awesome, life changing! I think if any of you looked at our calendar for the summer, you would have first thought "Fun!" and at second glance, you would have wondered how we kept our sanity! Any given week during the last three months we had 5-7 youth events/bible studies/dinners/appointments/meetings.... all of that on top of work! Craziness! NOT complaining... We would not have planned it that way if we didn't think we could handle and enjoy every minute of it... and we did! It truly was crazy,awesome and life changing!!

...all of this activity and yet, this past week I've found myself feeling unbelievably LAZY!

.......which is so funny because just the other morning on the radio at work I heard about THIS:

"In a new ranking by based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Louisiana claims the top spot as the country's laziest state." (

I find this SO interesting, because if you recall from a few emails ago, Louisiana is also the HAPPIEST state in the country... Apparently, we are so happy, and content that we just sit here in our happiness, refusing to move forward, just....... lounging in our laziness...

So after I heard that, I was totally blown away by the implications this new finding has for my faith! And completely in awe of the awesome people in my life who have become incredible role-models for me of what it looks like NOT to be content with where your faith is, and to get up off your butt and let yourself be used to change lives and the world!

This summer with our college group we read "The Forgotten God" by Francis Chan. I highly recommend it! It was incredible, totally convicting and challenging! I found myself totally frozen in fear every week reading about this awesome Spirit that dwells INSIDE OF ME(woah!!), and can enable me to do anything within His will... that's right... ANYTHING! My lazy self is too fearful to get up off the couch and let God grow me and use me... Really, half the time, I'm too lazy to even open my Bible and read it everyday... When I heard about my new home state's lean towards laziness, I definitely realized my place in that, and began to wonder about my Christian community here in the Pelican state... Do you realize that we could literally CHANGE THE WORLD if we weren't too lazy and afraid to let Him grow and use us???? That is incredible!!!!!

So to end the summer on an awesome and life-changing note, we took 6 of our 'babies' to Camp Eagle, my new home away from home! Y'all, really, this was an absolutely AMAZING week, in every way possible! Aside from the very comforting and amazing events following Arissa's death, I have never ever experienced the presence of God so visibly before me, and I will never forget the things He did that week. He changed our kid's lives, and He used them to change ours, and that's a pretty awesome feeling! So, in the aftermath, we have gotten to enjoy seeing our amazing youth in intense combat with this whole laziness factor that is SO easy to give into, and I just couldn't live with myself if Ididn't share what God is doing here!

There's a 16 year old boy in our group named Blake. Blake is an inspiration to me and to our whole group. He is autistic, he's afraid of deep water, he doesn't like staying up late, he hates school with a passion, and he utters red-rum (The Shining; it's murder spelled backwards) under his breath very repetitively throughout the day. He loses his temper and gets very frustrated when doing something he doesn't want to do or doesn't think he should have to do. But let me tell you, this kid loves Jesus, and despite his disability, his love and trust in Jesus is totally apparent and rubs off on everyone around him! Our group became so close because of Blake, and Chris and I saw parts of our kids personalities come out that we never knew about before! Helping Blake, praying with Blake, pouring love out on Blake... it was incredible! Blake conquered every one of his fears at camp, and in his journal writes that when he prayed to God he was able to do the things he was afraid of. He also stated often at camp that when he felt like satan was tempting him to leave an activity or session because he was tired, he prayed and God helped him stay up late at night. Every time he did get frustrated and lose his temper, just moments later he was praying for forgiveness and apologizing to the group. Blake prayed almost constantly. Just about anytime we knew he was getting agitated, we could look over at him and see him in prayer. What if we all lived like Blake does?? What if we weren't too lazy to ask God for help and to conquer our fears...? What do you think He would do through YOU? The possiblities are limitless!!

That kind of fearless prayer continued throughout the week, as we heard stories of our kids laying hands on other kids and praying, and those kids accepting Christ! As we drove home, our kids requested that we take a meal to a homeless man we saw on the exit ramp and pray for him. At one point on the trip, one of the vehicles began acting up, and didn't look like it would make it the rest of the 10 hours home. One girl requested to pray over the truck, and within about 2 minutes the driver called us and the truck was running perfectly! It didn't experience any problems the rest of the trip!! And to top all of that off, one of our boys who accepted Christ on the trip was baptized this past Sunday despite his paralyzing fear to stand before the congregation! Awesome!

There are so many more stories I could share, but I think I'm just gonna leave y'all with a couple 'before and after' stories to ponder...

One of our girls admitted that she had NEVER prayed before. On the last night of camp, she stepped outside of worship and prayed by herself for the first time in her life. This is just days after giving up and burning a silly book she had built her own religion out of. She came home from camp and shared her new faith with all the friends who she was smoking pot with everyday before we went to camp! She can't stop talking about, singing about and thinking about how God changed her life in Texas, and she sang the prelude at church this past Sunday! It was AMAZING, I couldn't stop crying as I watched this brand new child of God worship her Creator! Totally cool! Don't think I was ever that brave!

Another girl had given away her purity a little over a year ago and had decided to change that part of her life last March. She and I went through a 7 week purity course this summer and memorized Psalm 51. She couldn't afford to go to camp, but God is AWESOME and made a way for her to go. This 17 year old girl, who also used to smoke pot often and struggle with sexual sin is literally a new person! I am in awe of her beautiful faith that grows stronger and stronger daily! The first thing she did when she got home was call her best friend and share Jesus with her.... and she hasn't stopped sharing! In fact, after girl #1 sang this past Sunday, this girl stood before the whole church and shared her testimony and her excitement about how God has redeemed and changed her life! She is a true inspiration to me and I know I was never that brave!!

Both of these girls plan on being the opposite of lazy, and enrolling in the Walkabout gap year program (a 9-month discipleship program) that Camp Eagle offers after they graduate next year. ( Totally awesome program I wish I could have experienced when I was between 18 and 24, and doin nothin but being lazy! Please be in prayer that their faith will continue to grow and that they will continue to seek God daily.

Every job I've had and kid I've worked with I've been excited to have the opportunity to change their lives, but it never fails that my life is the one that ends up being changed! I challenge you to be changed by these high schoolers and their stories as well, and to get up off the couch or whatever your chosen spot of comfort is and let God do some awesome stuff through YOU, without fear and without hesitation.

I love you all very much!!


Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God every time I remember you!

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy!"

Philippians 1:3

Oil Diving

For I will take you out of the nations;
I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
-Ezekiel 36:24-26

The past 50+ days have been a nightmare for the people of South Louisiana. The oil spill is affecting our shoreline, our wetlands, our wildlife, our food, and our people... And somehow it seems unfixable! It seems like there is no end in sight, and that's scary, especially as the oil moves toward the gulf stream, and we start looking at the Atlantic coast being contaminated as well. You can't turn the TV on without seeing horrible pictures of dead or dying oil soaked wildlife, hearing stories of the men on the oil rig who lost their lives, or of the fishermen who are losing their livelihood one day at a time. Katrina was horrible for South Louisiana, but everyday we hear more and more people making the claim that this is worse. When we walk out of our house on a windy day, the stench of the oil makes it seem even more real. We can't escape it... We can't fix it... It just seems to be absolutely destroying us!

This situation desperately needs your prayers, and every one of them is much appreciated! The spill seems soooo out of control, and yet I know that I serve a God who is in control of all things... We have tried and tried to volunteer with the clean-up of animals and beaches, but there doesn't seem to be anything they will let us do to help... and so we pray.... and we pray, and we pray, and we pray... we pray for this awesome God-made creation that is quickly being destroyed by human error... we pray for His protection over His wildlife, and His children who have to deal with the aftermath... and we pray that we will be changed for the better through this catastrophe and that God will be glorified.

In normal Anna Kathryn-fashion, I feel the Lord teaching me already through the oil spill... I'll try to share what I'm learning with you as short-winded-ly as possible!

When I look at the images of the pelicans on the news, I can't help but think about myself, and my own stench, the sin-soaked slow death that I was once stuck in. No matter how much I tried to clean myself, no matter how much I did to try to mix this sinfulness with the God I love, I couldn't... In the same way the oil in the gulf will not mix with the pure water out there, neither would my sin mix with my perfect and holy God. I couldn't escape it... I couldn't fix it... It was absolutely destroying me!

Can any of you can relate? It feels hopeless, doesn't it? Like the pelicans, the sea turtles, the manatees and dolphins.... we will die if we're not cleansed by something bigger and better than ourselves!

I've attached some pictures of the process the pelicans are going through, from contamination to being cleaned... I hope you'll look at the pictures and see the awesome example that the wildlife workers give us of our God's cleansing work in our lives! First we see these hopeless birds, just soaking in the filth that they can't escape from on their own. Then we see the workers seeking them out and bringing them to safety where we see them being cleaned and made healthy again. Finally we see the final product, a healthy pelican regaining his strength until he is ready to be safely released back into his pelican community.

How perfectly does this depict our journey toward faith!? While we were still sinners, Christ sought us out! (Romans 5:8, Luke 15:1-7) He shed His blood for us, cleansing us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), so that we can be clean and prepared to go into our communities and the nation to teach about Him and His awesome love for each of us! (Mark 16:15)

Unfortunately, one of the organizations that is rescuing the pelicans is releasing them in Tampa after they've been cleaned... If and when the oil reaches the gulf stream, the very same pelicans that were rescued and cleaned, will be in danger again. Does God send us back into the world after He has rescued us and transformed us? Yes! ....does He send us out there unequipped to face the dangers and sinfulness we will face? No! He doesn't allow us to be tempted beyond what He has given us the capacity to stand up against! (1 Corinthians 10:13) So what does this mean for us? ...for our future? Does this mean when we go out into the world, we shrivel under temptation and dive right back into the oil...? Or do we show gratitude to Him for rescuing us and use the tools He's given us to remain clean?

I guess that's a decision you can make for yourself...

For me... Some days I feel like I do a lot more oil diving than actually using those tools and being grateful to Him for what He's done in my life. Seeing those pelicans everyday is serving as a great reminder to live a life of gratitude. I hope they do the same for you!

Again, your prayers for our people and our coast are greatly appreciated!

I love you all so very much!
--Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God every time I remember you!
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy!"
-Philippians 1:3

He oinks for you!

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rom 8:35-39

Last week I ran into a friend who asked: "Why don't you send emails anymore?" My immediate and not-thought-through response was "lack of content..." Over the following few days, I found myself ashamed before my God for making such an absolutely false claim that He has withheld content from me in this amazingly blessed life He has given me! In those moments, I was flooded with months of content, and today I hope to accurately (and dramatically) recount one little piece that has meant a lot to me and our youth girls over the past few weeks.

It was a cool spring evening... The nine of us were nestled in the back of Chris's pickup truck as he navigated the rocky terrain in the depths of the Texas hill country. We were on a safari! ...hoping to catch just a glimpse of something remarkable! After seeing literally 1000's of deer of varying species (a dream come true for me!), some antelope-type creatures, and a couple of horses, the truck came to an abrupt halt!There it was! ...our remarkable sighting! A little pig family was making its way across the road just ahead of the truck! In silence we watched Daddy Pig lead his baby pigs across the dangerous roadway and into safety. But wait! What's that sound?? It seems that two of his baby pigs strayed away from the family and were lost on the other side of the road! They were so scared because of these strange humans that separated them from their Daddy Pig, and they oinked in desparation and regret for having strayed away in a moment of thoughtless adventure seeking... Suddenly, out of the brush came a loud "Oink!" ...and another! Daddy Pig was calling for them! And he wouldn't stop, he oinked and oinked for them until they safely found their way around us and back to their pig family. A multitude of "Awwwwww's" resounded from the bed of the truck as we realized we had just witnessed a beautiful reunification of lost children to their Father.

Later, we sat around and talked about the implications this little reunification has for our lives, and how this adorable little pig family so closely resembles our own relationship with our Heavenly Father.
How often do each of us stray away from Him, hoping to find some great adventure, or excitement in the worldliness that attempts to separate us from His loving embrace? That's an almost daily experience for me! ...something that I'm learning to overcome as I continually witness His constant calling for me.... Just like Daddy Pig oinked for his lost Heavenly Father, He oinks for me! And Hewill not stop until I find my way back to Him!

How awesome is that? So.......... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? .............Nobody and nothing! Even our own evil desires cannot drown out His constant calling for us!
We are a sinful people and we will drift away, that's for sure... But in your drifting, listen closely... You'll hear Him, He will always be there calling you back towards Him. It's in those moments that we have a decision to make... Will we continue to wonder on the other side of the road...? Or will we hastily return to our Creator who loves us?

I choose to return... I hope you will too! And be assured, just as Daddy Pig led his baby pigs to safety and prosperity with him, so will your Heavenly Father!

As far as life in Louisiana goes... it's been a fantastic 2010! Our little group of kids is becoming a beautiful family of friends for each other. We spent a week in Texas with our girls at an absolutely amazing place called Camp Eagle, and out of that trip came beautiful relationships and awesome growth that we continue to witness in our girls lives. I have fallen in love with the ministry opportunity I have with the girls in our group, and I can't get enough time with them! I keep begging Chris to let me quit my job so I can use my energy loving and spending time with them! ...that's not going to happen in the near furture, but there are prospects available that hopefully will broaden my capacity to speak into their lives. I ask you to pray for that and to pray for the girls to continue to listen for their Father's "Oink!"

I thank you for your prayers and the encouragement you constantly give me! Even though I have not written much recently, I have thought of each of you often, and have thanked my God upon every remembrance of you!

Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God everytime I remember you!
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy!"
Philippians 1:3&4

Risky business!!!

Our mouths were filled with laughter,

our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations,

"The LORD has done great things for them."

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are filled with joy.

Psalm 126: 2-3

Happiest U.S. States Pinned Down

A new study found that a person's self-reported happiness matches up with objective measures of state-level happiness.

The results are based on an examination of two data sets, one that included personal reports of happiness for 1.3 million Americans and the other that included objective measures, such as how crowded that state is, air quality, home prices and other factors known to impact quality of life.

Click here to learn more about the survey and what it means.

Here are the 50 U.S. states (and the District of Columbia) in order of their well-being:

Drumroll please..................................

1. Louisiana..............................? Really??

Since we moved here a year and a half ago, we've heard many sob stories about high murder rate and currupt government, so needless to say, when I clicked on that link, I fully expected to see my new home state at the far bottom of the list..... When I saw it at #1! I was shocked to say the least! Of course, now people around here would probably say we were so happy last year because we just knew the Saints would be going to the Super Bowl!! :)

Nevertheless, despite the murder rate in New Orleans and the corruption, Chris and I love Louisiana and had an amazing 2009! It wasn't always an easy year, I miss my family and friends back in Georgia more than I can begin to express here, and we have certainly shed many tears over many different circumstances over the course of the year. However, we are filled with joy! We may not have always felt like the happiest people in the happiest state in the country, but "the Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!"

From some Biblical curriculum Chris has from long ago, he shared with me this description of happiness vs. joy:

"True joy is far deeper than happiness; we can feel joy in spite of our deepest troubles. Happiness is temporary because it is based on external circumstances, but joy is lasting because it is based on God’s presence within us. As we contemplate his daily presence, we will find contentment. As we understand the future he has for us, we will experience joy. Don’t base your life on circumstances, but on God."

This challenge, to not base our life on circumstances, has become an exciting adventure for Chris and me, and as we have entered into a new year and a new decade, I pray that we continue to look at life and joy in this way. I pray that we contemplate His daily presence in our everyday circumstances, and I pray that we continue to find contentment, even if things aren't always so easy.

One thing that I have been convicted of recently is the lack of risk in my life, which, to me seems to indicate a lack of true faith. I know, I know, it took a lot of faith and was a big risk to move out here not knowing anyone, every hurricane season is a bit of a risk, working with youth and being transparent with them is always a risk.... But you better believe all of our ducks are in a row, just in case something crazy and unexpected happens!

Just in case.........? Where is the faith in that phrase? If God called us to do something radical for Him, would we be willing to risk our financial or physical well-being? Of course if He calls us to to it, He will take care of the details, but are we ready, and are we even open or willing to hear Him calling us to risk our comfort or reputation for Him? I know I've passed up on many opportunities where I have felt the calling to risk something, but I've been too scared.... I think I'm ready now to take some risks for Him in this new year, I believe He's calling me and all of us to do that every day..... If you don't believe me, open your Bible to Hebrews 11, where the author chronicles the many risks that believers through history have taken because of their faith!

This is one story, in particular, that we've been talking about in Sunday school with the youth recently, and it's the kind of risk-filled faith that I desire and pray for: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:16-18) I don't know how many times I've read this story, but until we went through it with the youth group, I never realized theHUGE faith it took to actually put this into practice. I highly recommend reading the whole story if you never have....

So... I'm ready to do it! I'm ready to skydive without a parachute, jump into the will of God, and instead of pulling strings or rip cords myself, I'm ready to allow Him to do all the work, and to find joy and contentment wherever and however He lands me! I hope you'll join me this year, so that by 2011, each of us will have our own "By faith...." chapter that we can share to encourage others and enhance His kingdom! I think that's where each and every one of us will find true joy and contentment, despite whatever craziness surrounds us!

I challenge you to join me in this: live in prayer and in His word, ask Him what He wants you to do for Him today, ask Him for strength in that and then just do it! No worries, He holds us in the palms of His hands! He will bring us peace, He will bring us joy!

Thank you all for your love, and your continual prayers for Chris and me and the ministry we've been entrusted with! We Love you all very much!


Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God every time I remember you;

in all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy!"

Philippians 1:3&4

Click here if you would like to see the rest of the "happiest states" list: