Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Prison Ministry||On My Heart

I have no pictures. No "visible proof" of what happened last night.
But that's okay. I have what is in my heart, and that is all that counts.
And because this blog is, very simply, a reflection of the things on my heart, I will dig in deep and share with you, in words, about my God Who is still in the business of healing and freeing the souls of men and women. My God Who specializes in REDEMPTION. My God Who so gently shows me how very ungrateful I often am, and how much I really have.

Last night I had the privilege of representing this ministry and going with my family into a women's prison here in Montgomery, Alabama. We had not been to this particular prison in three years, and we were so excited when we heard that it was on "our list" for this year, as it is one of our favorites. =)

Every year I think I understand. I think I understand what I have, how blessed I am, and all of that. And yet every year without fail I have to fight falling apart when I get up in front of that room full of women. Now, you have to understand that I am not an emotional person. At all. I have a very strong personality, and qualities like gentleness and compassion are ones that I have to work on daily. They do not come very naturally for me.
I honestly only cry about once a year. And that once a year is the night I sing in a women's prison. Being in prison and seeing so much pain up close and personal like that, gets to my heart like nothing else. It breaks me and touches the deepest parts of my heart.

Our first song was "Almighty God". I've always loved this song but last night it hit me in a whole new way when we got to the second verse:

"Well time marches on, with the innocence gone, 
and the darkness still covers the earth,
But His Spirit still dwells, and He speaks 'IT IS WELL' 
and the hopeless still offered new birth,
He will break the leash of death, it will have no sting,
 let the prisoner go free, join the dance and sing!"

As I was singing those words and looking out over that crowd of prisoners the message hit me like a ton of bricks:

INNOCENCE GONE   
DARKNESS STILL COVERS THE EARTH
HIS SPIRIT STILL DWELLS
HOPELESS STILL OFFERED NEW BIRTH
HE WILL BREAK THE LEASH OF DEATH
LET THE PRISONER GO FREE
JOIN THE DANCE AND SING

then the tears began to come, as I thought of how exactly this verse applied to the lives of these women. It was obvious just by looking at their faces that some had experienced that new birth. but there were also faces that were covered in darkness, spiritually speaking. there were those that were bound by the leash of death, and then there were those that had broken free and were literally fitting right into the dancing and singing category. =)
Trying to sing and keep from sobbing at the same time wasn't easy, especially when I could hear my sister and mother's voices quivering as well and I knew that they were having the same struggle I was. And then came the chorus again:

"Almighty most holy God, faithful through the ages,
Almighty most holy LORD, glorious, almighty God."

and I was awed anew at the thought that this ALMIGHTY GOD has placed me in the world's best family, given me a beautiful life, saved my soul, and blessed me in every way imaginable. I deserve no different than any of those prisoners. My sin is just as great as theirs. I could have so easily been one of them, BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD.
Just thinking of all this was overwhelming.

later, I sat back along the side and observed their faces as my little siblings sang for them. I cried just watching them. There were women who were shaking with laughter one minute at Rebecca's expressions, and sobbing into multiple tissues the next. The pain and joy mixed on their faces was so raw, so deep. I watched them just drink in the sight and sound of little faces and voices, and then I saw their cutting pain as they remembered that they had once had this joy of children but had lost it because of the decisions they had made, that had gotten them to the place that they were at.

As I played the invitation hymn I watched the women getting out of their seats and coming down the aisle to get saved. I could hear them praying and weeping as they knelt all around the front and cried out to Jesus. I felt the peace that just settled like a mist over that whole front area. I saw the joy in their faces when they got up and returned to their seats. I really can't describe it, but it is the most amazing thing to watch.

After we got back and were eating dinner with the other volunteers and singing groups, one of the volunteers told us he wanted to meet with our family. As we gathered around he began to read a letter to our family. It was a letter he had been given earlier in the day, by an inmate who came to our service at his prison three years ago. In the letter the inmate told us how he had always stayed away from God/Christian services and things like that, but that particular night that we came to his prison he decided to come out. In his letter, he told us how God had used Rebecca to touch his heart and show him his need for a savior. He told us how he got saved that night, and how he still reads his Bible every day and is living strong for Jesus.

touching lives like this-it is so worth it. so worth the homesickness, the little petty trifles that I have to give up to be on the road. I think I sacrifice? My sacrifice is nothing. Just thinking how Jesus sacrificed so that I CAN KNOW HIM, puts it all into perspective and I see how blessed I am to just be in His service.

Honestly there is no place I'd rather be this week. Prison ministry has been one of the greatest blessings in my life and I am eternally grateful to my Jesus for showing me His heart for these prisoners, and giving me the opportunity to share His truth with them.
The joy it gives me is indescribable, and I am so grateful.

-chels

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Life on Board

people ask me often what it is like to tour in a bus with my family.
the first word that comes to my mind is always "crazy". 
and then I say, "well...let me think about how to describe it". 
every day holds something new. no two are exactly alike. there is always something going on.
inevitably, every day holds a bit, more or less, of the following:
cooking. meeting people. cleaning the bus. doing laundry. meeting people. visiting friends. navigating cities and churches. occasional afternoon naps (if we're driving during the afternoon). scoring schoolwork for the little brothers. occasional coaching with siblings schoolwork. coordinating concerts, arrival times, etc etc. counseling late into the night. organizing and reorganizing bays that are filled with everything from spare towels to canned chicken broth to volleyballs, and everything in between. =) using the handy-dandy GPS to locate everything from Walmart to Costco to coffee shops. (the latter-for wifi, not hangout. just to clarify)
cooking on the bus is pretty primitive. we do the best we can, but I miss our oven!
(above: cooking Taylor's birthday dinner last night-a mexican crockpot cassorole, broccoli, salad, fresh salsa w/ chips, and ice cream cones)

someone mentioned to me the other day that they don't know how I keep up with this blog while we're traveling. I have to admit, I wonder the same thing at times! I so rarely get fast wifi that when I do its not uncommon at all for me to frantically load pictures to blogger, just so they will BE THERE next time I actually have time to post something. =) 

wishing y'all a happy Tuesday, from San Antonio! =)
-chels

Friday, January 17, 2014

SisterStyle||Cream,Lace,&Polka Dots

I'm sharing one of my sister's outfit creations today!
My sisters and I love style, clothing, and accesories. It is so fun to celebrate womanhood by putting together beautiful, feminine outfits.
We don't share much as far as clothing, just because our styles/sizes are so different.
Occasionally, though, we do borrow an item or two.
With this outfit, it just so happens that half of it came from my wardrobe. =)
Watermelon Polka Dot Blouse: (thrifted-hers)
Belt: (thrifted-mine)
Cream Cardigan: (thrifted-mine)
Pearls: (thrifted-hers)
Ring: (made by Alli-hers)
Skirt: (Rue 21-mine)
Boots: (6pm.com-hers)
I love this skirt. Gorgeous, lace, just-below-knee length..it is perfect! I hardly ever shop at Rue 21 but I was there with some friends last fall and found this skirt for the amazing sale price of $8.99. (!!!!!!!!)
If you don't have thrift stores near you, the mall does have some great options right now. Skirts are very "in" currently. (esp. lace and maxi) That same night I was out shopping I saw more beautiful skirts at Rue 21, Wet Seal, & Old Navy. Modesty IS still possible-don't settle for less, ladies!

-chels

Monday, January 13, 2014

Schedule&Upcoming&Such

{smiles w/ my lovely cousin Tess @ her brother's wedding last saturday}
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As many of you know I'm touring the country currently with my family. (in Oklahoma at the moment, headed to Kansas tomorrow)  Our schedule for the month is posted here on our family's blog. Its always fun to meet my blog readers at our concerts, so please check out the schedule to see if we're going to be nearby you-I'd love to meet more of you on down the road!
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And on a side note, if y’all think of it, I would appreciate your prayers as I plan and prepare for several upcoming blog posts I’m working on right now. To be honest, I’ve been putting these two posts off for quite a while now, for a variety of reasons. Mostly because I don't feel like I have it all together in these areas, and then also because they are somewhat sensitive issues to talk about to a mixed guy/girl audience. (that would be y'all!)
But...I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm supposed to jump in and talk about it anyhow, so it is all in process. And I'm very excited about the thought God gave me the other day to include some male perspective as well! So, stay tuned to hear more from me and my "guest posters" in the upcoming days!

-chels

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Laughing Currently..

A friend sent this to me yesterday.
My siblings and I sat in the front of our bus and positively howled with laughter.
Gotta have a good laugh in your day! =)

-chels

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Sisters||Expressions

 this girl is growing up SO fast, right before my eyes, into a beautiful little lady with such a big heart. and big eyes. and a big fan club. 
yes, that kind. =)
Alli may or may not kill me for posting this picture.
I choose to take the risk. =)
Just a little trivia question for y'all..out of the four girls in our family two of us are renowned drama queens/life of the party and the other two are..more normal. 
(haha)
In other words, we love each other to death but we are a super diverse foursome.

what is your guess on which are the drama queens, and which are not? 
it might not be what you'd think!

{Answer - 1/11/2014: 
good guesses, people!
those of you who guessed Alli & Liz are the winners!
They are the sanguine ladies in our family, and sanguine typically goes hand-in-hand with the drama queen idea. =)
Rebecca's personality is melancholy/phlegmatic, and mine is choleric. I may have to post more about personalities later-our family has started studying them more in depth in the past seven years and it is totally fascinating!}

-chels

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Missing Iowa

Tearing around in the snow with my sista/siblings the night before we left on tour.
memories...=)

-chels

Friday, January 3, 2014

Welcome, 2014!

Happy New Year!
I'm excited to head out into 2014 and do all I can for God! I want this to year to be a year like none other-just full of total abandonment to whatever Jesus calls me to! 
Here are a few thoughts/verses that describe my heart for the coming year:
THINK POSITIVELY
EXERCISE DAILY
EAT HEALTHY
WORK HARD
STAY STRONG
WORRY LESS
DANCE MORE
LOVE OFTEN
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"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23
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"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
Isaiah 40:30-31

The first quote is typical of most new year's resolutions. I'm not committing to the "exercise daily" one. =) But other than that-I'm gonna give it the rest a valiant effort! And I'm planning to work more on the exercising deal too. Just not necessarily every day.

I love those two verses in Lamentations-His mercies are new EVERY MORNING. What an incredible promise! I like to think of it that His mercies are new for this year; that He knows everything that is coming and He is totally faithful to take me through whatever it may be!

And then the verses in Isaiah-there's so much work to be done for the Lord. And He promises to give us strength, as we wait on Him, and trust Him for everything!

I'm excited for the coming year! Last year went by way too fast and I want to be even more intentional in making each moment count in the 2014.

And as far as new year's resolutions for me personally, I prefer to call them goals...and I usually don't have mine solidified until the end of January. =) So I may be posting about that later. My Hannah friend had the awesome idea of monthly goals/resolutions, which greatly appeals to me and sounds much more achievable, so I may jump on that bandwagon this year too!

-chels