Celebrate GOOD Times

SO much life has happened.

I have no excuses or apologies but I will say that I absolutely miss writing – I miss updates and thinky thoughts. I miss having time and making time to do what I’m passionate about. This semester of school is full of doing things I need to do, which is fine haha I just miss the other stuff.

It’s so beautiful. I have the MOST beautiful friends here.

I think lately I’ve forgotten to celebrate the things that deserve a celebration. Life feels a whole lot like life lately and not quite like it’s exciting or BIG but honestly it’s freaking huge.

  • I’m engaged.
    Phill asked me to marry him a few weeks ago, or maybe it was a month or two – (Honestly this is my issue, school has been so full and fun this semester that it has been THE HARDEST thing ever to actually keep up with my own life.) So we are getting married at the end of November (just a few days before I graduate Hillsong College) and we begin more life together. He makes life feel like it was always meant to be this way, both very normal and very exceptional at the same time. He makes awesome feel like it is a standard that should have always been tied around my days, weeks, months… That is why I say we will begin MORE life together 🙂

[The Engagement: It was a Saturday and Phill and I were supposed to be spending the evening with a few friends but I text them to confirm and they bailed on us. The reason I didn’t think anything of it was because it had already happened the same way the week before as well haha. So Phill asked me if I wanted to drive in the mountains to go get some spring water (I don’t really think any of his requests are weird anymore although I realise how odd that sounds). So off to the mountains we went – we got some McDonalds on the way because we are really classy. I forgot to tell him I had to pee (this is relevant I promise) so when we pulled off in the middle of no where I told him he had to wait on the other side of the car which gave him the perfect opportunity to sort out the ring in his pocket. I did my business behind some bush and thanked the Lord for our Maccas (McDonalds) napkins. We walked down to this beach thing inside the mountains where we fist EVER hung out together. We weren’t even dating at this point although Phill was totally trying to date.
I saw a random fire set up and told Phill how irresponsible some people are to set a fire and leave it unattended. I didn’t drop this for a while. Phill told me this is where he knew he wanted to date me (no surprise, I’m pretty awesome) and said since this is where he decided he wanted to date me that maybe this is where I wanted to tell him I’d spend the rest of my life with him (awwwwwww). I was in disbelief, I knew the ring would be coming sometime but I thought it was still being built or designed or something, I believe my first response was “Wait you don’t have the ring?!” and then a few more sentences expressing my concern for the people who bailed on the fire pit. It all felt very surreal. I said yes and we sat out on the beach for a little while before decided to get pizza and celebrate with some housemates 🙂

The fire was set up by some of our friends and they even cut down a tree to build a seat.]

  • We had just about the most irritating month ever as soon as we got engaged; things just weren’t going our way (for lack of liberty to share the details).
    But if you can imagine the best soccer player you know was running straight at you but then instead of actually playing soccer he is just kicking you in the gut. It was like that for about a month. But thank the LORD for undeserved favor and stuff is getting back on track.
  •  Which brings me to my next thought: marriage counselling was awesome. We had the most amazing couple to talk us through all the marriage things and we did so well that they thought we cheated.
    ((Another thought: you deserve someone that you’re compatible with – so compatible that the online survey thinks you’ve cheated. I get that some opposites attract and as far as Phill and my personality goes we are quite opposite. But we ARE like-minded, more than I think we realised.)) It was such a relief to walk into conversations with a couple that had been married 35 years and for them to give us their blessing on our lives. I think too many people settle. Heck I’ve done it. We all have. So stop judging. But also stop giving up on the ‘someone out there’ who is perfect for you. I have as many reasons as many other to think otherwise but guys GOD IS GOOD and has stuff under control.
  • Another exciting part of my life is that 8 (EIGHT) of my family members will be here with me in a very short amount of time to celebrate this three-year journey of college and the lifelong journey of marriage. I seriously don’t know how I get to be so blessed. Seriously. I could cry. I feel very loved and honoured and SO EXCITED to show them this place. Australia has been so wonderful to me.

  •  Which brings me to my next point
    – lets be real this blog is an intro back into writing and the form is all over the place –

This one is a little nerve-racking.

I’m staying for a little while.

In January 2018 I will transfer into my Bachelors degree of Theology with a focus on Biblical Studies.

BIG GULPS HUH.

Australia has felt like home since the first few months of being here and although it still sort of throws my head for a spin I’m happy to announce that I’ll be here a bit longer. Phill and I will continue working here in OZ while I work on my degree.

  • FINALLY – PHILL AND I SIGNED A LEASE ON A COTTAGE!

How adorable is that sentence? Phill moves at the beginning of October and I’ll move after we get married. I forget what a miracle life actually is. What is my life that I get to live in Australia in a cottage and marry the man who spoils me with breakfasts on the weekend and support for all things my heart dreams up.

Life should be celebrated and I am thankful.

Thanks for letting me update.

I’m organizing my chaotic life to let me do what I love (actually writing more than once a year). As I said… no excuses, no apologies. It’s just how life has been

(ABSOLUTELY FREAKING CRAZY… and so SO wonderful)

“Z Best Is Yet 2 Come”

So, I’ve been reading the Bible lately as previously stated in my last blog. I’ve finished Exodus and started reading all the introductory information on Leviticus (the avoided book) which is extremely helpful in creating expectation on a previously perceived “boring book”.

Exodus has been helpful in opening my eyes to more of the details of our story as Christians. For example, you have ‘The Exodus’ (the exit or leaving) of the children if Israel out of the land of Egypt and of slavery. THE PASSOVER – which I couldn’t write enough about – full of symbolism and justice that makes me cry when I think about it. The Israelites were to take a pure, spotless lamb once a year for their passover feast and slaughter it and place the blood of the lamb over their doorposts to be safe from the judgement of G-d. GUYS. Jesus, our pure and spotless lamb spilled his blood over that tree at Calvary to forever cover the price of our sins so that judgement would be replaced with mercy in our lives.
I cry. I weep. I write blogs about it. 

The Law was given to Moses at Mt. Sinai and then immediately broken (literally and literally) by the people sinning downstairs and when Moses threw the tablets to the ground in a hissy fit of justice-rage. But, Moses was given reminders of the covenant promise of G-d redeeming His people and Moses reminded G-d of His own promises as well. We see redemption over and over in this narrative.

The BEAUTIFUL and precise instructions were given to our main man Moses for the construction of the Tabernacle (The Holy meeting tent that the Lord decided to dwell in so that He could be with the children of Israel and that they could worship Him in). Peoples hearts were overwhelmed with gratitude and generosity and began to give to the building of the temple to where they had far more than they needed. The Lord showed his compassion to this group of people by sending His Spirit (end of chapter 35) to equip His people with SKILL to complete the building of the tabernacle.

I find it reassuring to know that the Lord doesn’t always EQUIP the CALLED but He equips those in the line of His COMMANDS. We find two men here in chapter 36, Bezalel and Oholiab, along with others in ‘whom the Lord put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary… in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded’ (v.1 ish). We see no reference to the Lord speaking directly to them and telling them that they are ordained to build this sanctuary… We just see them in the path of a need that the Lord was going to accomplish. By being willing to help with whatever, they were equipped by the Holy Spirit to be useful.

G-d I want to be in line of your commands. I don’t have to be ‘called’ but I do need to be available and I trust that in my availability and being where You are that You’ll equip me for whatever YOU have commanded on the earth.

After all of this is said and done in Exodus it leaves me with such a reassured ease as I try and read Leviticus. You see, I know the end of the story and the completion of the prophecies in the New Testament. I know of the New Covenant and our immediate access to G-d and the lack of all animal sacrifices I’ve ever had to perform in my life. I can look at the Israelites wandering the desert and think, “The best is yet to come! Just hold on and keep believing!”

This all ended up rolling through my head as I made my way downstairs
to see our house sign say “Z Best Is Yet 2 Come”.

I think G-d often smiles at me, I feel it when I’m laughing at myself after ‘ah-ha’ moments come and I realise how blind I am without the guidance and revelation of the Spirit. I was reminded of the expectation I’m bringing to Hillsong Conference. I was reminded of MY story with Him and how much I’ve grown in the last 5 years. I was reminded of all the prayers that I’ve prayed and still pray and the ones I’ve forgotten that I asked for. I think G-d smiled at me and reminded ME that The BEST is YET to come…
I can look at the past all day and mentally help those people in hardship and tell them, “Wait, your story isn’t over” but in looking back and reflecting I can sometimes forget that the Lord is looking at me saying the same thing.

Moving into Hillsong Conference ISN’T same ol’ same ol’. Starting another semester with a whole flock of new students isn’t same ol’ same ol’. Each and every service and chapel isn’t the same… it’s progressively THE BEST.

Pastor Brian Houston coined that phrase for our church but I’m just starting to REALLY GET IT. It doesn’t matter if your last week was crap or the best thing ever. It doesn’t matter if you’re still sitting in emotional slavery waiting on deliverance or you were just given everything you’ve been asking and praying for. THE BEST is still to come.

Hillsong Conference is another opportunity that we as college students have to refresh and serve our hearts out – I pray that our expectation is heightened and that we follow where we feel the Spirit is leading. I pray that we end up in the path of the commands of G-d and even if we don’t feel called that we begin to accept the equipping of the Spirit and move forward knowing we have what it takes to change something. I pray that no matter how difficult it is, or how tired we become that we don’t lose sight of the BEST that is still coming. I pray that no matter how amazing and life-changing it is for us that we realise that there IS STILL more.

Many of those reading this aren’t college students here in Sydney, Australia and to those I pray that your jobs come through – I pray your children come back to Christ or find Him for the first time – I pray that you are set free from emotional bondage of an abusive partner – I pray that you see a little bit more hope in your situation but also that you know that even in the beautiful times, the birth of your children, the promotion at work, the marriage of your best friends… that there is STILL more.

Thank G-d for hindsight and THANK G-D that I don’t know everything.


The Exodus and Leviticus links you find in this blog are from guys called
‘The Bible Project’ – They summarise the books of the bible along with explaining other key topics in a comic sort of way that keeps us creative types entertained.
Check them out.

We GET to Make 45 Fruit Platters

Colour Conference 2016 is more than halfway over for our Australian gatherings and has 5 more conferences to go worldwide. Please pray for the growth, development and empowering of women across the globe as our team continues to minister and carry this cause. Everything about serving the women at these conferences changes some bit of you and also shows you just how much you have to change still.

I think some of the things I’m learning this week have been balancing trusting in the Lord for strength and waiting while you’re working your feet numb.

My schedule the last 8 days consisted of a few 12 hour days of serving, early mornings, having to look fresh 8 days in a row, an overnight film shoot for our Easter production as a college and about 45 fruit platters (I wish I was kidding).

Only about 17% of me telling you that was humble bragging and 25% of that was me reflecting, wondering what the hell was I thinking saying yes to all of that – the rest (58% for those who will be bothered by it not equaling 100%) was a reminder to myself that I prayed for this. I had to remind myself of that today.

I flipped back in my journal to a marked page at the beginning of February that read,
“You asked for this, you prayed for this – REST in the midst of giving your all. I asked to grow and be challenged. I asked to be challenged and to need to rely on my Saviour. I asked YOU to teach me faithfulness and allow me to tarry with You. Lord, I want to spend my time praising You in the waiting.”

I asked G-d at the beginning of this year to have a year that I look at and wonder how I’m going to do it all, and then get to the end of the year knowing I couldn’t have done it all except by G-d’s grace, provision, wisdom and favour.

And let me tell you, He hardly let me finish my sentence before giving me more of a year than I was expecting.

I ASKED for it but I still needed to work on my EXPECTATION.

So, let’s break this down – 17% Humble Brag

I was proud I made it through this haha, there were legitimate moments I was thinking I was going to drop (asleep) and moments where my brain would tell my body to do something and it just wasn’t having it. I grew my capacity beyond what I thought was possible and I firmly believe G-d carried me through a busy week. And I don’t feel bad for being proud that I drank enough water and said ‘no’ to other things so that I didn’t get sick halfway through.

25% reflection –

I pondered if I did the journey well… I wondered if I should have had more moments with Christ (the answer is yes) and if I should have had a better hold of my attitude (the answer is yes). I remember early into coming to Australia, one of the Team nights was led by Autumn Hardman and she spoke about preparing for the season. Her point was taking notice of what was coming and making sure that even if it’s a crazy season, you can make it if you know what’s coming. Thankfully with Colour they gave me dates to serve so I knew what was coming. I knew Easter was RIGHT after and that we’d be cramming to get everything done. I think I prepared ok, but after reflecting I could have done a few more things to ensure I ended better than I started.

(or I suppose I still could because I have three more full on days until breach (break on the beach))

58% – I prayed for this, and now I GET to do this.

I had a beautiful and short conversation with a friend over these last few days about the phrase, “We GET to do this”. It’s helped reform my thoughts on a lot of serving days where the work load doesn’t seem fair, the attitudes are off the wall, and on the days when it all seems a little bit ‘not my thing’.

We GET to do this.

We GET to serve.

I GET to be a part of Sisterhood and Colour Conference and Hillsong Church. I get to learn from people that I respect and love more each and every class I sit in with them. I get to be a part of a college that is literally training some of the future leaders of the world. Who the heck am I and how did I get here? How was I blessed enough to learn about Jesus from a young age and kept close enough to Him that even when life went sour I still heard Him loud enough to want to return?

I used to LOVE Philippians – I thought it was one of the kindest, most encouraging books in the Bible. I just re-read it and pray over my friends, classmates, ministers that I know so that they are covered with longevity and that they walk always with Christ. I love Philippians so much that I straight ignored Colossians. Haha. Dumb. I know.

In Colossians the other day I was wrecked again by what Christ has done for me,

“G-d made you alive in Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, what was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross… Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of G-d. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in G-d. When Christ, who IS YOUR LIFE, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.”
Colossians 2:13b-14; 3:1-4 (NIV)

GLORY

I GET TO DO THIS

I get to be a part of His plan and share in His glory.

Read Colossians in the Message version… it talks about letting your prayers overflow with thankfulness – which is firmly where I’ve landed at the end of this very busy week. I’m overwhelmed with my schedule and all the more with HIS GRACE.

I’ll end with this, because it’s beautiful and true. You should read this out loud and literally FOR THE LOVE OF G-D don’t skip it just because it’s a large portion of scripture attached to a blog.

((I’ve been there… I’ve done it… No judgments but READ IT))

Photo Credit: Megan Russo
Thougths for the blog credit: Megan Russo

“David’s Praise
 I lift you high in praise, my God, O my King!
and I’ll bless your name into eternity.
I’ll bless you every day,
and keep it up from now to eternity.
God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough.
There are no boundaries to his greatness.
Generation after generation stands in awe of your work;
each one tells stories of your mighty acts.
Your beauty and splendor have everyone talking;
I compose songs on your wonders.
Your marvelous doings are headline news;
I could write a book full of the details of your greatness.
The fame of your goodness spreads across the country;
your righteousness is on everyone’s lips.
God is all mercy and grace—
not quick to anger, is rich in love.
God is good to one and all;
everything he does is suffused with grace.
10-11 Creation and creatures applaud you, God;
your holy people bless you.
They talk about the glories of your rule,
they exclaim over your splendor,
12 Letting the world know of your power for good,
the lavish splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal;
you never get voted out of office.
God always does what he says,
and is gracious in everything he does.
14 God gives a hand to those down on their luck,
gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.
15 All eyes are on you, expectant;
you give them their meals on time.
16 Generous to a fault,
you lavish your favor on all creatures.
17 Everything God does is right—
the trademark on all his works is love.
18 God’s there, listening for all who pray,
for all who pray and mean it.
19 He does what’s best for those who fear him—
hears them call out, and saves them.
20 God sticks by all who love him,
but it’s all over for those who don’t.
21 My mouth is filled with God’s praise.
Let everything living bless him,
bless his holy name from now to eternity!”
Psalms 145 (MSG)

Can I Tell You Something?

I hate posing during conferences. Partially because they’re extremely busy and then you add not being able to process all that is happening and it just makes for some crappy posts. 

 But this is not a crappy post. This is a consistent post and a learning post for me. Today, I’ve learnt that a few of the things I want to get better at are holding my tongue when I’m tired, being a better encourager, and releasing and trusting people. Now, I don’t say that because I think I’m bad at those things but rather because I value those things and because I value them I want to be the best at them. 

I had to learn this the long way and I think I’m still on the process of understanding that when I desire to be better or grow in an area it isn’t always because I’m bad at that. I’ve written before and discusses wth close friends what some of my blind spots are, they weren’t all this positive but this is my blog and this is the one I’m going to share: they said I didn’t realize how well I saw people. I notice people and include people. 

Mate I loved that, because it’s one of the things I’m self conscious about how much I can grow in that area. 

Don’t EVER think you’re awful at something but rather, figure out how you really are with outside sources (family, close friends, employees) and find a way to grow. 
So, those are my short thoughts for today. We are in the beginnings of a beautiful Colour Conference and Easter season in the life of college and church and it’s going exhaustingly beautiful. I love my team and the opportunity we have to serve- even in the long hours. We have a freaking blast and I love them. 
And I love you.  

List This

Things I’ve discovered while doing a 100-day creative challenge:

1. I love waking up and asking G-d if I can create with Him

He is a forever and eternally THE CREATIVE G-d and this challenge to create something or play every day has opened my eyes to all the opportunities that we have to learn from the Author and Creator Himself and co-write with Him along this journey.

2. I am creative

I’ve noticed that it isn’t a matter of, “oh I need to do something creative today for the 100-day challenge” but more “Oh my goodness, I read today, wrote, went diving with sharks, colored a page in, packed a suitcase that shouldn’t have been able to hold all that it did”.

WE ARE CREATIVE BEINGS and it’s awesome. I’ve realized that by spending copious amounts of time with G-d that He has granted my request to be more like Him and less like me. Life is full of beautiful things and we do beautiful things all the time, sometimes it’s just a matter of slowing down enough to realize you’re actually close to who you want to be.

3. People are inspiring

Lets get some facts straight: I spend a lot more time on Instagram now BUT it’s typically to scroll through the #100daycreativechallenge tag and see all the wonderful things that people are up to. Some of my friends have some insanely creative minds and what they are producing sparks my imagination to make even more unique things. I’m (clearly) a firm believer in producing your work and sharing and inspiring others so this whole challenge has me frothing*.


 

Things I’ve discovered while being at Hillsong College:

A. Relationships Matter

I knew it would take a miracle for me to love and get along with 7 other women in one house. I prayed that we would all get along and G-d gave me even more than I prayed for. I have lived in a house full of challenging, encouraging women who have shaped me this last year. My friends at school and in my tutorial have been a vital part of me trusting, giving and breathing through tests and assessments and full on pout fests. They are all wonderful.

B. Miracles Happen

My house. Provision. Healing. G-d reminding me in the DAILY that He is real. Relationships restored. Salvation. Blessing on blessing. I’ve seen so much this year. I began writing in my planner the miracles I saw on the daily near the beginning of the year because I just wanted to remember. I wasn’t awesome at keeping up with it but as I look back on the year I can tell you countless things that I have seen and life-changing experiences I’ve been through that have absolutely changed the way I see prayer.

C. You Can’t Explain All You Go Through

I wish I could… I so wish I could. The best way I can explain life here is with the metaphor of a garden.We as students literally plant ourself inside of this fertile soil here all the while trusting that G-d the father is at work. And OH He is. He seems to take no time to root out any weeds in our lives and continuously water us and give us sunshine to grow. As quickly as a flower in our garden begins to brown, there is Jesus with some sharp garden tools to make sure that we take no extra time to produce a flower even more beautiful than before. Our rocks are removed so that we have nothing to hide in and nothing to stunt our growth.

But also. It’s so much fun.


Things I’m excited to eat in America

. Chili’s

If you didn’t see that coming, I DON’T KNOW YOU.

.. Taco Bueno

Very few things divide the innocence of Owasso, OK like the Bueno vs. Bell debate.

… Anything that resembles holiday food

Cream Corn, Apple Pie, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Soup, Holiday Little Debbie Snack Cakes… guys I’ll take anything.


 

What a weird season to have walked through, what a weird season to leave.

I can’t wait to get back.

 

*Frothingif you’re frothing over something you’re really excited.

 

Many Thanks! Sincerely, Jane and Michael Banks

People Appreciation Post

Thank you is all I have to give but I feel like it is an unlimited resource (or that it SHOULD be). I’ve seen immense acts of service in my life and the only thing I can do is say thank you.

Thank you to my parents who I wouldn’t be here without. I wouldn’t be WHO I AM without you both and I’m unbelievably blessed and thankful that you are both married to each other. Your marriage and communication skills entertain me (in the best way). Thank you to my brother who shows me constantly what it is to have a friend that will always be there. You protect me often and correct me even more. You’re one of the few I trust to call me out and even when you can’t stand me I know you’ll stand by me and I know that you love me.

Thank you to Gracie who has shown me and continues to show me how big love can really be; who has challenged my view of G-d more times than she will likely realize until she has children of her own.

I know you aren’t my baby.

But you’re my baby.

Get over it.

Thank you to anyone who has financially blessed me in coming and staying in Australia. Truly your gifts have changed the very structure and reception of my heart. You’ve not only let me see G-d’s hand out working but you’ve placed so much more weight into how I view myself.

There are no words to thank the people who believe in you.

It gives you super-powers.

To Katie, I’ve never had someone stick as fiercely or for as long as you. Your opinions and convictions and joy have shaped a large portion of my brain and heart and doing life with you is always painfully funny. Our seasons and locations don’t always align but currently we both live in Australia and that’s pretty cool. I actually have no idea what life will look like with us in the same country again but I’m already too excited to articulate. You deserve a better, wiser, more fashionable friend – but you got me. Thanks for keeping me in check and asking the hard questions.

(Shout out for being my gym buddy again and lookin’ HAWT – you get to be the feature pic today!)

My housemates, I can’t clump you guys together because you are ALL so different but you’ve all shown me so much this last 8 months on how to live with community that you can’t escape. (It’s a good thing). You’ve all shown me how to give and receive when I need. You’ve given me a space to create in and the challenge to do so. You’ve allowed me to cry and dance and encouraged me when I felt like I wasn’t in the right place.

You’ve all taught me the benefits of keeping butter around for impromptu brownie baking so that we might all stand in the kitchen and talk about boys and how much we need to work out. I wouldn’t be the same person without you girls.

And to way too many friends here in tutorial and classes and leaders that I have – I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) to live a little more openly. I’ve been given an opportunity to rely on you all and live without a guard and allow this process to happen. I’ve been trusted with more than I feel I can accomplish and yet also the encouragement that I can.

In the words of Kid President “Things We Should Say More Often”:

THANK YOU!

(ref. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5yCOSHeYn4 )

((I want to meet this kid… #LifeGoals))

I wish you all understand the heart behind what I write and why, I actually ache sometimes to get my point across. I wish you all understand the awe I have over what I’ve been blessed to do and who I’ve been blessed to love. I am so thankful for the beautiful life that I have (even when it isn’t actually all that beautiful) and it wouldn’t be fair to allow you all to read these every week (or every month) ((or once a year)) without telling you all how much it really means to me that you do.

Concluding thoughts… Maybe say ‘thank you’ to someone where it’s overdue or maybe where it is right on time.

www.gofundme.com/storytimewithlaina

If you will pray for me or feel it in your heart to give or maybe you want to pass the link along.
All I have is thanks but I pray that will always be enough.