I LOVE WELCOMING IN A NEW YEAR. I LOVE TO WATCH SUNRISES. I LOVE MONDAYS. I LOVE STARTING NEW THINGS. I LIKE THE FEELING OF ANTICIPATION AND EXCITEMENT THAT COMES WITH STARTING AFRESH. THAT’S WHY I’M SO HAPPY THAT ANOTHER YEAR IS HERE!
As I stood with thousands in downtown Brisbane between the Brissy river shore and SouthBank watching an epic fireworks show on New Years Eve, I began thinking about 2019 and more specifically, how I hope to use my words this year.
WORDS HAVE INFLUENCE.
I can speak life or death with my words. I’ve been realizing lately that the thoughts that are inside of my heart are what eventually take shape and become what I speak into existence.
If I’m perfectly honest, not all of my words that came out of my mouth in the past year have been words of life. Now I realize that some situations do require ugly honesty in order to resolve a problem. But what I’m talking about is when the overflow of my heart is constantly negative and my words lift me up and tear the people around me down.
This year, I don’t have a long list of goals. Instead, I hope to make achievable goals at the beginning of each month. But one goal that I do have for the whole year is to S P E A K K I N D L Y to those around me.
GROWING IN 2019
I like digging around in the dirt and getting my hands dirty and watching things grow. And that’s what I want to do this year; to dig in the soil of my heart and to make it a fertile place for growth to happen.
“If speaking kindly to plants can make them grow, imagine what speaking kindly to humans could do.” -Simran Kalra
Imagine what would happen if we all agreed together to speak kindly to each other? To choose kindness even when we disagree. What if we would all keep our thoughts and words constantly filtered through truth?
“Gentle words bring life and health.” Proverbs 15:4
My days here at YWAM Brisbane are full to the brim with scheduled school activities, meetings and responsibilities. If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t always feel like doing the things that I am asked to do. I have to constantly die to self and check my attitude to keep my heart at a place of recognizing that I signed up for a life of joyful service rather than a life of drudgery and duty. Don’t get me wrong; I love living here but I guess I wasn’t quite prepared for how much the enemy would attack my thoughts and my attitudes.
It’s forced me to run to God in humility when I mess up. It’s made me realize how measly my own efforts are to live a holy life in my own human power. I’ve come to understand how desperately I need Jesus every moment of every day to renew my mind and to be my joy and my strength. Because on my own, I’m weak.
Oftentimes by the evening here, I am exhausted from the heat and activities and sometimes I just need a breather. Thankfully, I live in a beautiful little suburb of Brisbane, surrounded by a lot of tropical beauty. When I get out and enjoy the cooler evening air and pick little bouquets, I am refreshed by the beauty that surrounds me.
But I don’t think that plants should just live outside. One of the first things that I bought for my room here was a rubber tree plant. I’ve enjoyed caring for it and watching it grow.
Rubber plant care: The rubber tree plant needs the right balance of water. During the growing season, it needs to be kept moist. It is also a good idea to wipe off the leaves of your rubber tree houseplant with a damp cloth or spritz it with water.
Last month, I read the book of Hosea during a week of intense ministry to Schoolies and one thing that God highlighted to me personally was this verse,
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14
Deserts are places of thorns and pricks and snakes. Deserts are dry and barren. When we’re in the desert, we have to find ways to stay hydrated, just as a means of survival. There have been times in my life that have felt dry and barren. But what’s surprised me in those moments is that when I quiet my heart, what I hear are kind words spoken tenderly to me by my Creator.
Stepping into a new year, there is always excitement and celebration. But there is also the real element of fighting against the fear of the unknown. You might be dealing with feelings of disappointment at things that weren’t fulfilled in the past year.
If you are feeling alone or sad as you step into the new year, I hope that you will be reminded that God promises to never leave you or forsake you.
If you’re in a desert place in your life, quiet your heart and listen to the voice of God. I believe that He is speaking tenderly to you. He loves you and cares so much about what happens in the upcoming year.
One thing that God has been challenging me to do is to E X P E C T good things to happen in my life and in my future. It’s easy to recognize how God is working in other people’s lives. Yet making it personal, I find it hard to let myself get my hopes up for good things to happen to me, knowing in the back of my mind there is a very real possibility of being disappointed. But I believe that God does have good things in store for those that He loves. Sure, our lives can have trials but even in the middle of our desert places we can experience His kindness carrying us through.
And that’s one reason why I’ve created another T-shirt campaign. Not only to remind us that in our desert places God speaks kindly to us but also that we can use our words to speak kindly into other people’s lives when they may be in a desert place.
NEXT MONTH, I AM HEADED OFF TO MALAYSIA TO CO-LEAD A 2-MONTH MISSION’S TRIP. WE WILL BE DOING MINISTRY IN THE LOCAL CHURCHES (LEADING YOUTH GROUPS AND KIDS MINISTRY) AND ALSO TRAVELING OUT TO THE VILLAGES TO SHARE THE GOSPEL IN PLACES THAT ARE CUT OFF FROM THE REST OF CIVILIZATION. I’M REALLY EXCITED TO SEE WHAT GOD HAS PLANNED FOR OUR TEAM OF 10 PEOPLE. I’M IN THE PROCESS OF TRYING TO RAISE FUNDS (APPROXIMATELY $2,500) TO COVER THE COST OF THIS TRIP. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PARTNER WITH ME IN PRAYER OR FINANCIALLY, I WOULD BE SO GRATEFUL!
I’m so grateful that you are here and that you show interest in my life and what God is doing. I am breathing a prayer for you right now because even though I might not know your name, God does and He cares so much for you. He has beautiful plans for your life this year!
The Australian sun rises early! I sit up and twist my blinds open, rubbing my eyes as I slowly awake. I shut off my alarm, hoping that it hasn’t woken my roommate up. I grab my Bible from the nightstand and head outside to our front steps where the sun bathes me in warmth as I read.
“Whenever you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice behind you that says, “This is the way, walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21
Even before coming to Australia, I sensed that God wanted to do “A new thing.” So I’ve been reading through Isaiah and I’ve drawn into the newness of who God is to me as a Father, a redeemer and friend to me.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Is. 43:19
The Discipleship Training School has been underway for nearly a month! It’s hard to describe how it felt to go to the airport and get to finally meet all of these people that I’ve been praying for from before I even knew their names. It’s been fun to not only put names to their faces but get to know them as individuals and watch as the personality of the school develops and evolves.
With the phrase, “I’m doing a new thing” I had the hunch that even though I care so deeply about Australia and its beautiful people, it was likely that I would not lead the mission outreach there. Not this time.
Last week, our school leaders approached each of the staff members individually and asked to pray about a specific country where would like for us to lead a team of young people on a missions’ outreach.
The night before they told me the location, I was praying and asking God to prepare me for the place that I would be going. I had a flashback to a conversation that I had with a friend a year earlier, when I was choosing where to go on my outreach for DTS. We weren’t supposed to talk among ourselves about the two locations that we had written on a piece of paper and given to our school leader but this friend was just being cheeky and said, ”I bet you chose Asia!” Hoping that my reaction give it away. I played along and said, “How did you know?” In reality, I had chosen to stay in Australia even though I have such a heart for overseas missions.
Isn’t it funny how God works? Last year, I would’ve been thrilled to go overseas to do missions but felt strongly that I should stay here in Australia. This year, I would’ve been thrilled to stay in Australia but God wanted me to go overseas.
For a day and a half, I heard that phrase running over and over through my head, “I bet you chose Asia.” The next day when my leaders called me into the office and revealed the location that they wanted me to pray about, I wasn’t surprised when it was indeed an Asian country.
God had already been preparing me to go there by highlighting to me how you can underline the “A-S-I-A” in “AUSTRALIA” to spell, “Asia.”
I had never felt particularly called to Asia before but one thing that I’ve felt God putting on my heart is a flexibility to go wherever He calls me, even if it’s a place that I don’t feel particularly drawn to. I’ll admit, it took some praying and research for me to gain a heart for this nation. I was willing to go, I just needed some time to think about it. I took a day to pray about the location and felt so much peace.
I came back to the leaders to give them my answer. “Yes, I’ll go there!” But they said, “Hey, can we talk for a minute?” “Sure?” I said, not sure what they might say.
They sat me down and said, “Plans have deteriorated for us to go on outreach to the country that we originally asked you to pray about. Would I consider this other Asian country instead?” I sat there, shocked by the news. They connected me with some people and resources that gave me more understanding of the situation and the dangers that they were trying to protect me and my co-leader and potentially our team from by closing down the first option and asking us to pray about a second option.
I needed some time to process, so I went on a walk through my beautiful neighborhood to pray about it. This news didn’t disrupt my peace; I still had peace to move forward. I just needed time to let the changes settle over me.
As I walked, it was like I suddenly had an “Aha” moment with God and understood more fully why He had highlighted “Asia” to me. It helped me to shift my “yes” from the first location to the second since it was still within Asia. So I told them, “I’ll go!”
Last night, we planned a really fun family night as a school, giving the music and dance students the opportunity to perform for the rest of us. It was loud and hilarious and everything that a “Music, Art + Dance” night should be.
Then we amped up the suspense of finding out outreach locations by theming the rest of the evening around the TV show, “The Bachelor.” All 10 of us staff that are leading outreaches to six different locations came forward and were given an envelope with names inside. Then one by one, we’d open our envelope and invite that person forward to “Accept” the outreach location, along with a chocolate.
Even as staff, we had no idea who was going to be on our team until we were announcing their names into the microphone. Then at the very end, we called each team up onto stage and announced where they were going! Do you want to know where I’m going?
I’m going to Kuching, Malaysia!
Me and my co-leader, Nathan, will be leaving in early February for eight weeks and taking eight students with us. We will be working closely with one pastor in particular who will connect us with opportunities to teach English, lead kids and youth ministry and go to remote villages to spread the gospel. We’re really excited to see what God is going to do through all of us in this new place, where none of us have been before.
Pray for me if you think of it, the next few months are going to to be really busy as I sort out logistics and prepare our team for going overseas to Malaysia!
As I prepared to return to Australia, I kept expecting that there would be an obstacle in the way that would prevent me from going. I know, I know – “Oh ye of little faith,” right?! I didn’t vocalize my doubt until about a week before I left when still, no obstacle had emerged.
It took a hurricane for me to stop and realize what God was really up to. The doors for me to go kept flying open and not just because of the hurricane!
I got an email less than 24 hours before I was scheduled to fly, stating that my flight was bumped up 12 hours because of Hurricane Florence. I hadn’t packed my bags yet and the next few hours were a haze of emptying out my closet and dresser into my plaid suitcase, while my nieces watched with wide eyes. Suddenly my plans had been rearranged but not in the way that I was expecting. I had been watching the news regarding the hurricane and had even called the airline earlier in the day to make sure things were still on schedule. At the time, they were.
But when that email came, I stared back in amazement.
God had gone ahead of me, knowing that the storm would cause flight cancelations and He paved the way for me to leave early so that I could make it to Australia in time to start orientation and training on schedule!
My 12-hour layover in Houston turned into an 18 hour layover as a result. But that ended up being a bonus because my Aunt Nancy dropped everything to come and pick me up, giving me the chance to spend all of my layover with my Aunt and Uncle and cousins. It was wonderful!
When my Aunt dropped me back off at the airport, I found the Air New Zealand ticket counters empty. ‘That’s odd.’ I thought. I walked over to the screen to see look for the flight status and I got nervous when it said, “Flight canceled.” I got on the phone and talked to an airline agent and was put on hold for two hours until I had my flight completely redirected and rescheduled for 5:30 the next morning and a voucher for a hotel stay and free dinner for that night!
I set my alarm for 3AM and fell into a deep sleep. A little too deep perhaps because wouldn’t you know it?! I didn’t hear my alarm! I woke up 4:13 and leapt out of bed, struggled into clothes and grabbed my suitcases and ran, praying desperately all the way that I would make it to the gate in time. This was my last domestic flight (IAH to LAX) but still, I knew that I needed 60-minutes prior to departure time to get my suitcase checked to my final destination – Brisbane!
It was at 65 minutes before my flight when I was stood at the delta desk and I wouldn’t be exaggerating at all if I said that I had been fast asleep 8 minutes prior to that. A boarding assistant who looked almost as sleepy as me printed my boarding pass and lugged my suitcase onto the conveyer belt and wished me well on my trip.
The security line was nearly empty and I weaved my way up to the officer standing at the security station. He glanced down at my suitcase as I placed it on the conveyer belt and then up at me, “Gretta!” He said, without missing a beat. “It’s been so long. How are you doing?” I stared back. Did he know me? “Great!” I answered feebly, still searching his face to find familiarity. My family and I used to live in Houston, so it was possible he might’ve known us from way back then? But I couldn’t place him. “Is Hurricane Florence affecting you in North Carolina?” He asked as I struggled to take my shoes off and extract my laptop from the case to send through the scanner. “Well, not at the moment” I said, and then I realized how stupid that sounded. Of course it wasn’t affecting me; I was in Houston! I stumbled on in my early morning delirium, “Thankfully, my family won’t experience much more than strong winds and rain.” I said. Just before I walked through the monitor, he threw back his head and laughed and said, “I’m just playing with you. I read your name and address on your baggage tag.” “You got me.” I said with a laugh. His humor was just what I needed to ease the stress of the moment, as I frantically gathered my things and ran to my departure gate. I arrived at the gate at 4:38AM. Just in time for the first boarding call!
Ever since the email that I received about my flight leaving earlier than planned, I’ve been mulling over this misconception that I have carried with me for most of my adult life. I’ve expected obstacles to block me from doing the things that I feel called by God to do! All of a sudden it became clear that so many times in the past, the enemy had rigged me with disbelief to keep me from accomplishing the very things that God was calling me to do!
But as I have begun to recognize these lies, I’ve started to stand in opposition to them. And that’s when I can hear God speaking!
One thing that God spoke to me was, “Gretta, I want you to start expecting Me to do good things for you!”
I never had any trouble believing that God wanted to do good things for other people but I did have a hard time believing that He had good things in store for me too! Until recently…
I began to carry that expectation of good things to come and to my delight, it eased the weight that I had carried on my shoulders for so long. I started to see that expectation being met because I was constantly looking around and thinking, “I wonder what good thing God will do next?”
Returning to Australia wasn’t an easy decision for me. It took from last November until early March to even tell anyone other than my Mom that I felt like God wanted me to come back.
In November, God had spoken directly,
“You’ll be back here in Australia at this time next year.”
And I responded with an adamant, “No, I won’t!” Because that wasn’t my plan. But immediately afterwards, I had a moment of curiosity where I thought, “How would it be to come back?!” All of a sudden it looked less impossible and more appealing that it had previously. I started to pray for peace if that was the right decision.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Australia and I loved my YWAM family. But I knew that coming back would mean giving up my own personal time and space and resources and that looked really hard. I knew that I would need to grow and learn new things and in that moment when I was right in the thick of learning and growing, it looked scary. In retrospect, I think that God spoke to me right then because He knows me well enough to know that I process things slowly.
The peace that I prayed for has been so real to me as I’ve prepared to come back to Australia.
These verses have become especially precious to me,
“Be strong and courageous…The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut. 31:7-8
As I write this, I’m jetting over the Pacific ocean, headed to Brisbane Australia. I have no doubt in my mind that it is God who has gone before me. And God was right! I would be back in Australia, “At this time next year!”
On that note, if you haven’t yet claimed your COURAGE T-shirt, you can do so now!
The LOVED T-shirts were such a big hit that the campaign automatically relaunched! So if you haven’t claimed yours yet or if you are needing ideas for Christmas or birthday gifts, go check it out!
A huge thank you to all who have supported and encouraged me to continue to follow God by returning to Australia to do mission work! It means so much to have you along on this journey!
Have you ever struggled to grasp that you are loved? I have.
My struggle to grasp love wasn’t as difficult in my human relationships and friendships; people that I could see with my human eyes. But I struggled to grasp the fact that an unseen Creator loved me unconditionally. For most of my growing up years, God felt distant to me. And so although I wanted a relationship with Him, I didn’t know how to go about it!
I remember praying one time that God would give me spiritual eyes to see, thinking that I would get some sort of perception of what other people were going through. But instead, God started showing me how He saw me. I was loved. I was worthy. I was accepted. And that’s what started me on this journey to go deeper with God.
God revealed the lies that I had believed to blind me from the fact that He not only loved me but He adored me and was so proud to call me His daughter. I’m learning that when we know that we are loved, it transforms the way that we live.
Now that I know that I am loved, I want everyone else that I come in contact with to know this LOVE as well!
So I’ve designed this T-shirt to remind you and me of the fact that we are loved. Click on the link below to go get yours!
I realize that some of you are new here and aren’t familiar with why I went to Australia in the first place! So let me explain… I wanted to attend a Discipleship Training School (DTS) with “Youth With a Mission” (YWAM) ever since one of my friends, Joy, attended one in Europe. I watched her life change in beautiful ways and I wanted to have the same passion for Jesus that I saw in her when she returned.
In early 2017, I found out about “Art Focused Discipleship Training Schools” and I began doing research to figure out which one would be a good fit for me. I narrowed it down to two different schools that both had a photography focus. One was in Mexico and one in Australia. I had already been to Mexico before and really wanted to go someplace new and so I opted for Australia!
What is a D.T.S.?
It stands for “Discipleship Training School.” Essentially I learned to know God on a deeper level and then I learned how to make Him known among the nations by going out and telling people about Him! It’s like a spiritual greenhouse and I grew so much!
I went with no idea of what God would do in me or through me. I simply wanted a more solid foundation for my faith. Over the course of the six months, as I learned about God, healed from my past, and continued to ask God to reveal more about His individual calling on my life, it became clear to me that this D.T.S. was a stepping stone into the future! God began to call me back to Australia. It was a process of unraveling as my own plans (and stubbornness) dissolved and God patiently waited for me to say, “Yes!” with all of my heart to His plan for this next season in my life.
What will I be doing in Australia for two years?
I will be a staff member at Y.W.A.M. Brisbane, which essentially means that I will be coming alongside of people who will be attending the next D.T.S. schools, just like the one I graduated from this Spring!
My time in Brisbane will be broken up into three phases starting in mid-September, 2018!
Training and prep for School #1 (1 month), School #1 (6 months)
Logistical Phase (5 months), Visit home (approx. 1 month).
Training and prep for School #2 (1 month), School #2 (6 months), Wrap up (approx. 1 month).
The school that I’ll be helping to staff is “Art Focused” so we’ll have all sorts of creative people there using their gifts in: music, art, dance, photography, film, coffee and communications! In short, we call it the “M.A.D. school” which is short for “Music, Art and Dance” even though it has since expanded to include the other arts that I mentioned above.
In less than a month, I’ll be going “down under” to join in on what God is doing through YWAM Brisbane.
I want to invite you to come along and share in this time with me, as I share stories and pictures on this blog, but also through my newsletter, where I will share more personally about what God is doing in my life. You can subscribe to both on the sidebar of this page.
It means so much to have you along on this journey!