VOLZ with Engage City Church

As I’ve said before, I love my church. I feel so blessed that God has brought this amazing church to my community and that I get to be a part of it. Engage City Church is a family. I feel home when I am with all of these amazing people. And this weekend we got to come together and celebrate all of the church’s volunteers at their semi-annual VOLZ event.

We gathered at a park and had a big cookout with burgers, hot dogs, and The Little Pink Bakery’s amazing cake balls! The party was a throwback to the 90s, and we had 90s music, trivia, and costumes. It was so much fun to get together with my church family and celebrate.

Engage’s lead team honored the volunteers and Pastor Doug reminded us all why we do what we do. We get to serve at this church. We get this wonderful opportunity to love on and serve people in our community. And each and every one of the volunteers is such an important part of the church as a whole.

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When we came home after the party I was thinking about how much volunteering means to me. I love being a part of this church. I love taking care of the babies in the nursery and holding open doors and greeting people when they arrive for the worship experiences. I love getting to love on people and spread the love of Christ to my community. Engage City Church is doing big things, and I’m so happy that my husband and I are a part of it.

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Why I Love Engage City Church

I love my church.

My husband and I looked for a really long time to find the right church for us. We had been involved with a church on campus at Wright State, and we really loved spending time with the people of that church, but we knew it wasn’t quite the right fit for us. We also tried going to a local non-denominational one for a while, but when its lead pastor left we did too.

Church-less, we struggled in our young marriage. We both wanted God to be the center of our lives, but we didn’t have the right home to go to to feed that relationship with our Lord.

All of that changed mid-September last year.

Our good friends and then neighbors posted about this brand new church they were going to—Engage City Church. I checked out their website and knew that Jacob and I had to try it out. And our lives haven’t been the same. So I want to brag about my church for a little bit.

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Engage City Church launched on September 18th, 2016 with the lead pastor Doug Wampler and the worship pastor Zach Cogley. What started out as two families coming together with the call to start a church and bring Jesus to the city of Huber Heights, Ohio has turned into an incredible church body. In the seven months of Engage, 148 people have come to Jesus and 74 have been baptized. On April 16th last year they had their first team meeting about the church, and a year later on the week before Easter over 400 people attended the Worship Experience. Engage is changing lives. But it’s not about the numbers. Engage is all about spreading the love of Jesus.

Jacob and I get so much encouragement every time we go to our various small groups—City Men, City Ladies, and our newlywed City Group. We have recently started serving during the Sunday Worship Experiences and we love it. Jacob helps out with the tech crew and I take care of little ones in the nursery.

One of the best parts about Engage City Church is all of the community outreach and serving they do for the city of Huber Heights. Engage has delivered Thanksgiving meals and Christmas presents, had a pink out for breast cancer survivors, given food for students to eat over the weekends, created Blessing Bags to give to those in need, collected winter coats and socks, had a For Our City walk, and so many other things that I can’t think of all of them right now. I’m blown away by all of the good our church has done. I’m so glad I get these chances to love on and serve people.

And next weekend I am so excited for Easter. Engage is putting on Egg the City, a 50,000 egg Easter egg hunt. There’s even going to be prizes for the parents that bring their kids to the hunt, and special prize eggs for kids to find. I am so excited to help out with this event.

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As you can see, Engage City Church is incredible. If you are in the Dayton area, come join us Sundays at Wayne High School at 11am and see just how amazing this church is. And definitely be sure to check out the Egg the City Easter Egg Hunt Saturday, April 15th starting at 10am and Engage’s Easter Worship Experiences Saturday, April 15th at 6pm and Sunday, April 16th at 11am.

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Coloring God’s Word

Coloring books for adults have been trending for a couple years now. Coloring is a great way to relax and give your mind a break, and it also helps you be more creative and have fun.

I liked the idea of coloring for a while, but I didn’t really get into it until a couple months ago. That was when I found coloring books that included God’s word. I do think coloring in general is a relaxing experience, but when I found coloring books that included scripture, it became a much more fulfilling experience for me.

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I have two regular Christian coloring books and one that is a devotional with a coloring page related to each week’s devotion. Some of the pages have scripture on them, some share God’s promises, and others have spiritual quotes. I love these coloring books because not only do you have the stress–relieving activity of coloring, you have God’s word included in it, and so while you’re coloring you are reflecting on the good messages.

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I usually color when I’m watching TV with my husband. I don’t watch that much TV to begin with, but now I no longer feel like I’m wasting time when we do so. I like to have something to do with my hands, and I’m thinking about God’s word while doing it, so it is a very enjoyable experience.

The pictures in this blog post are some of my favorite coloring pages I’ve done. I’m not an expert artist or anything, but coloring is something I really enjoy doing and I highly recommend it.

Top 10 Reasons I Love My Husband

Today is Valentine’s Day, and I am so excited to celebrate it with my wonderful husband, Jacob. I was never really a fan of Valentine’s Day growing up because I think you should make an effort every day to show how much you love your significant other. But now that I’ve been married for a year and a half I’ve come to appreciate this holiday as a chance to go a mile extra than the normal extra mile to show each other how much we care for and love each other. So, to help me celebrate, here are the top ten reasons I love my husband.

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  1. He always offers to help around the house.

Jacob is always willing to help out with daily chores. He takes our dog out, takes out the trash, dusts because I’m allergic, vacuums because I hate it, and will always ask if there’s something I need done. He’s not much help in the kitchen though, but that’s okay because I love to cook for him.

  1. He’s not picky.

I’m a really picky person, both about food and about having things done a certain way. Jacob is one of the most easy-going people I have ever met. Together we make a good team. He’s easy to please with my picky tastes.

  1. He loves our dog.

Jacob used to not be a dog person. (Gasp!) I’ve always connected better with animals because of my introverted nature, so I had to fix this right away. His parents got us our dog, Molly, as a wedding present, and it wasn’t long before I saw Jacob transform into a dog lover. He’s so loving towards her, and is always willing to help take care of her.

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  1. He’s great with kids.

I love kids. I’ve been babysitting for half of my life, and I always love taking care of kids. I would like to have four kids of our own eventually. I love watching Jacob interact with children. He’s always so playful and caring. I can tell he is going to be a fantastic father one day.

  1. He’s fun to be around.

When I’m with Jacob, I am always having a good time no matter what we’re doing. Our favorite activities together are to go do work at the library on Saturday mornings and to go window shopping. We don’t have to be doing anything exciting, but we always have fun when we spend time together.

  1. He’s fine with spending Friday nights on the couch with me.

I’m a very introverted person. I do like going out and doing things occasionally, but by the end of the week I’m always exhausted. I love spending Friday nights on the couch watching movies, and, though extroverted, Jacob is always willing to be there with me.

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  1. He supports me.

No matter what we’re going through, Jacob is by my side. He never gives up on me and never loses faith in our relationship. And when it comes to my writing, Jacob is my number one supporter. When I’m doubting myself, when I feel guilty about not having a “real” job, when I hate everything I put down on paper, and when what I’m writing makes me too emotional and I want to quit, he’s there to remind me that this is what I’m meant to do and that I’m good at it.

  1. He supports me financially.

Every day I think about how blessed I am that my husband’s career allows me to stay home and do what I love—writing. Jacob works so hard to support our family, both in his career and now in grad school, and I am so thankful for that.

  1. He’s a strong Christian.

Jacob loves the Lord, and that love and devotion flows into our marriage and makes it strong. He makes me want to be a better Christian. He’s always had this unshakeable faith, and he has become my role model for faith.

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  1. He shows me he loves me.

Doing the little things to show we love each other is something we’ve had to learn in our marriage, but now Jacob is always going the extra mile to show me he loves me, whether it’s making sure I get my coffee, bringing me home a little treat, or leaving me a note on the fridge every day when he goes to work. I always know that he cares and that I am loved.

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I love you, baby! Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

The Little Things that Inspire Me

I love my desk. My husband and I never used our kitchen table as an actual table, so, since we live in a small apartment and I didn’t yet have my own space for my writing, I claimed the table as my own. And now that I’ve gotten used to my big table, I don’t think I could ever go back to a normal, small desk.

Having my big table gives me plenty of space to spread out with my computer and notebooks, but what I love most is that I have lots of room for little trinkets and things that inspire me. I thought I’d share some of the little things that inspire me and explain how they help my writing process.

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Writing Textbooks: I have a lot of writing textbooks and references on my desk. Some are from college, some I’ve read after school, and others I haven’t gotten to yet. I have everything from a book about outlining to a baby name book. I don’t read from these every day, but just having them there in front of me reminds me of the helpful information they contain and inspires me to do better.

GenZ Publishing Swag: I love my publisher. If you haven’t check them out yet, you definitely should. They’re looking for young, new, and innovative writers. It is so hard to break into publishing, but GenZ is giving new writers a chance to share their stories with the world. So of course I have to have my GenZ bookmarks and business cards on my desk so I can remember how awesome they are every day.

Faith Reminders: My two wooden block signs are probably the most important things on my desk. One says “You are Loved,” which is something I need to remember every day. Writing is a very solitary thing, and often leaves you feeling alone. But God is with me, and I am loved. The other sign asks, “Did you think to pray?” Writing is also a very hard thing to do. Along with feeling alone, writing can also make you frustrated and make you doubt yourself. I keep this sign here so that whenever I get frustrated I can stop and remember to pray about it. And I always feel better when I do this.

Jacob: A few of the things on my desk are from or remind me of my husband, Jacob. He’s the most important person in my life, so I need reminders of him on my desk. I have a picture frame that he gave me for my birthday a few years ago, a stack of encouraging sticky notes that he’s left me, and a little jar of M&Ms from our wedding that have our names on them.

Les Misérables Lyrics Book: Of course I need something on my desk that reminds me of my favorite story ever, so I have a lyric book to the musical Les Misérables. This story inspires me so much and has had an influence on everything I’ve written, and so I have to have the lyrics close to me when I write.

Buttons: I have three buttons on my desk. One says “A Whopper of a Writer,” which I got back in middle school when I won a writing contest, and the other two are Wright State University buttons that I got when I won their 2014 writing contest and placed in their 2015 contest. I like having these reminders of times I’ve succeeded as a writer.

3D Printer Items

My husband is an engineer and works with a 3D printer. He gave me these little test pieces that he didn’t need. Two are butterflies and one is a rook, and all three have intricate designs. I know there’s a story in them, and so I keep them on my desk so I can one day find their story.

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Somewhere Only We Know Cover: I have a framed picture of my book cover on my desk. I love to look at it and remember how blessed I am to have published this story.

I love everything about my desk. It is so important to surround yourself with little things that inspire you. I keep things that remind me of my books, my husband, my faith, and my sources of inspiration. What do you keep around you that inspires you?

 

The Power of Worship Music

On Saturday I got to go to the annual Christian music tour called Winter Jam for the third time. When my then fiancé took me to this concert back in 2015 I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t been listening to this kind of music for very long, and I didn’t know any of the artist’s songs very well. What I found then and at the subsequent two concerts I’ve gone to was amazing performances, inspiring speeches, and thousands of people standing together and worshiping our wonderful God.

I grew up Catholic, and so I thought Christian music consisted only of the boring hymns you sing in church. I had no idea that there was modern, exciting, and amazing music out there. I didn’t know that there were artists out there proclaiming the word of God and sometimes even revamping those hymns into modern songs. Now those songs are all I listen to.

Of course I still need my movie and musical scores blasting through my head phones when I really need to concentrate and get some words out. But most of the time I have this worship music playing on the radio in the background. I listen while I read, do the dishes, play with my dog. I’m listening to it now as I write this blog post.

Having this music on changes you. Even if it’s just in the background, the songs have a way of pushing God’s word, promises, and love into your mind and heart. Worship music is powerful. I can tell when I go a day without listening to it. When I don’t hear this music, I’m not as close to God and I have trouble focusing and getting my work done. For me, music has always been a big part of my life, and so worship music is the easiest way for me to spend time with God.

Across the three years I’ve gone to of Winter Jam I’ve gotten to see some of my favorite artists—Matthew West, Skillet, Crowder, Lauren Daigle, and For King & Country. I’ve gotten to sing worship songs with thousands of people. And I’ve gotten to experience all of those people proclaiming the name of Jesus. If you’ve never been to Winter Jam before, you have to check it out. See just how powerful worship music can be. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

One Word – My New Year’s Resolution

Two years ago I found out about a different way to do New Year’s resolutions from a young adult author I like – Heather Demetrios. I never really liked the idea of New Year’s resolutions before as no one seemed to keep them. The kinds of resolutions people make (usually to lose weight or get healthy) all seem generic and not very specific or goal-oriented, which is probably why no one seems to keep them. But then I heard about picking One Word for the New Year.

This word should be something to guide you throughout the year, and you can create a kind of inspiration board about the word. These are my words for the last two years.

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2015 – “Change”

 

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2016 – “Grow”

For 2015 I picked the word Change. I had a lot of changes happen in my life that year—graduating college, moving out from home, getting baptized, and getting married—and I wanted to make sure I was ready for all of those changes. I picked Grow in 2016 because my life had just undergone a ton of changes and I wanted to make sure I grew in all of my identities—as a writer, as a wife, and as a Christian.

For your inspiration board, you can pick quotes, images, Bible verses, and song lyrics that inspire you. I use a 12in by 12in piece of scrap paper and then decorate it with my images, quotes, and stickers. And then I put it right next to my mirror so I see it each and every day. I think this is the most important part—look at it each day. At least read one quote or verse off of it every morning so you are ready for the day.

Picking one word instead of making traditional resolutions helps me stay focused on the one goal I want to achieve for the year. And 2017 is going to be Joy. I’ve undergone a lot in the last couple years, and I want to make sure I make time to be joyful. I want to continue to grow in all of my roles, but be joyful in doing so. I want to find joy even when times are hard. And I want God to be at the center of my life and my joy. This is my word inspiration board for this year. I encourage you to make one for yourself.

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2017 – “Joy”