You Make Me Brave

God is the One who makes me BRAVE.  It is almost ironic because brave is not an adjective I would naturally find next to my name.  Vanita the Brave is not going to be in any history books.  But when I decided to follow God into the world of full-time missions he began to call me into crazy adventures with Him.  These adventures are voluntary and I’m not usually required to go, but when I say yes amazing things happen.

This is my most recent example of how God made me brave.

I started with fear of the zika virus and ended on the top of Machu Pichu literally walking on the clouds.  Are you curious yet?!?  Keep reading.

My husband had committed to one of his roles in missions that has become routine and some what easy for him to do.  It is the role of leading youth groups from the United States into unfamiliar terrain to serve God on the mission field.  This role requires logistical planning, translation and of course lots of energy-all things my husband is great at!

Suddenly, they needed another person to join in this team to lead this group down to Peru.  It would not just be one week but three.  I was asked to join.  I immediately said no way because I had a list that was too long to ramble off of reasons why it would be a bad idea for me to go.  Included in this list were the usual ones,  “I have two kids, I can’t go!” and “We don’t have the money for that!”

I was told that our whole family could go and that our organization would cover two of the tickets if we could cover the other two.  By that point in time I was already decided and my fears had already taken root in my heart and they would be tough to pull out.

Our organization, YWAM-Minneapolis, continued their search to find another translator and they couldn’t find anyone.  They came back to me and I continued to stand firm that it was too hard and I couldn’t do it.

psx_20160512_162445.jpgGod began to soften my heart through passages in His Word-The Bible and different words of encouragement from people who are influence in my life.  There was a worship song by Bethel Music that I have been listening too alot over the past year.  During this time it had my attention in a new way and as I sang in my kitchen and in the shower I believe the Holy Spirit was working.  Here are the lyrics.

You Make Me Brave by Amanda Cook with Bethel Music

I stand before You now
The greatness of your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of you
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

My husband informed me that we had the finances to cover two tickets because God had already provided the extra money.  I realized that this trip would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for our two boys and our family as a whole.  It seems silly looking back now, but God even gave me peace about the Zika virus and those annoying mosquitos.

The final push was when God used my husband to get through to me, yes it does happen!  Sometimes we need to really be willing to listen to our spouses.  The next morning I woke up puffy eyed, because I was crying before I fell asleep, and I told my husband “I’m ready for our family to go to Peru for three weeks.  I’m ready for us to take this next step in ministry and do missions as a family!


Our boys building houses

Wow God!  You made me brave!

We had a great time working with the team of 36 people.  Together we built three houses for people who were using a hung sheet for their wall.  And did six kids programs where kids had the opportunity to have fun and learn about Jesus, and my kids were there too!



When we were done with the ministry our family had the opportunity to see Machu Pichu!  god didn’t just make me brave, He went above and beyond my expectations.  How could I not join Him for more adventures in the future?!?



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Our family at Machu Pichu



Creative Bible Journaling

Are you looking for a new way to engage with your Bible?  Recently, I came across this idea of Creative Bible Journaling and I LOVE IT!

The basic idea is that you read your Bible and doodle in the margins.  You draw pictures, draw designs or add titles with fancy lettering.


This has been great for me because it helps me process what I’m reading in my Bible.  It causes me to take time to think about what stood out to me in the passage I read.  As I come up with a creative way to display what God spoke to me, I am processing God’s written word which then helps me actually remember what I read.

My journaling is basic yet I am enjoying it and my Bible is getting a makeover in the process.

If you are looking for a new Bible study tool you can click here to find out more.

It may seem simple but I look forward to my Bible reading time more now than I ever have before.  All it took was a sharpie, some crayons or colored pencils, stickers and a little creativity.



If you have any experience with creative Bible journaling please comment below!  I would love to get some pointers.  🙂


Seasons in Missions

11783917_10153321727545589_50429033_oI have mentioned that I am a missionary.  Together, our family serves on the mission field.  I have learned that there are seasons in missions just like anything else.

When I was newly married it was Spring.  I was just getting started as a full-time missionary.  I was full of energy and excitement to start new things.  I was willing to do any activity that was needed.  I had only been living in Mexico for two weeks and I found myself working with groups that came from the United States and Norway.  Four weeks straight of long hours in very hot and humid weather and I loved what I was doing.  I loved it because I knew I had made it to the place God wanted me to be.  That is a wonderful place.  I was with the husband God gave me and we were working together in our calling as missionaries.  We were in full bloom just like flowers in Spring.

Summer was right around the corner.  We found our routine in ministry.  We were learning alot and becoming pretty good at what we were doing.  It didn’t take long in Mexico to be able to share a quick testimony on the street without much thought.  Setting up a speaker on a street corner for a drama was second nature and learning a fun kids song in my second language was my new norm.  It seemed like I had it all figured out.  I thought it would be like this forever.11782509_10153377576035465_6886709845642063920_o

Then I started to feel tired.  The season of Fall had begun.  I was really homesick and I was having a hard time adjusting to the culture. I was getting tired.  Looking back I can see it wasn’t a bad season, it was actually quite beautiful.  In my tiredness, I realized that I can’t do missions alone.  In missions you will get tired and you must rely on God to give you strength.  I learned to depend on Him.  Just as the leaves fall off the trees to make way for new growth in the Spring, realizing my dependence on God made way for new growth and greater things in the future of ministry and my family.  Not because of what I could do in my own strength but because of what I allow God to do through me with HIS strength.

Winter was and is a tough season.  I found myself in Winter because of some changes in the ministry and my personal life.  Some structural changes were happening in the ministry and it was feeli1383424_627935193896560_71516180_nng like the enemy just had a victory.   My dad was sent to the hospital because he was cutting something and the knife slipped and hit a major artery in his arm and I couldn’t see him or visit him because he lives two or three airplane rides away.  As a couple newly married and new to the mission field we were having a hard time fundraising and were wondering where God the Provider was when we were following His calling.  This is the season of doubts.  Every person in missions and ministry goes through Winter.  Winter is the season when you pull out the promises that God has shown you in the past.  It is the season when you need to find a way to survive and push through until things begin to thaw.  Spring will come again and you will be stronger for it.  You will be stronger in your faith because you saw how God brought you out of Winter into Spring.10440168_10152993706295465_8254143686063624835_n

My husaband and I were stronger in our faith because we saw how God took care of the ministry despite the many changes that were happening.  We were stronger in our faith because we saw how God took care of my dad and he came out fine after many stitches.  We were stronger in our faith because we saw how God provided again and again in unexpected ways.

Every time we cycle through these seasons we come out ready to take on larger challenges that need more faith.  When we started in full-time missions we trusted God to take care of us as individuals and as a married couple.  Now we are learning how to trust God to take care of us as a family of four!  God is always faithful.




Is That Really You God


Many times it is hard to know if God is speaking to me or if I’m just going off of my feelings.  It has been a journey for me to recognize if God is speaking to me.

I grew up in a traditional church where you never heard things like, “Let’s pray to see what God tells us to do.”  Or this is another one I heard even less, “Let’s pray for Joe and share the words from the Lord with him”.  Don’t get me wrong, the people in my church prayed and believed God would give people guidance it just wasn’t done that way.

When I got to a different phase in life and actually needed to make some big decisions, I tried to ask God.  I wanted to follow His will.  I wanted to “hear” a response from Him.  I didn’t expect it to actually be an audible voice telling me what to do, but it just never seemed like a got an answer.

Years later, it occurred to me that God was speaking to me but I didn’t recognize His voice.  I hadn’t learned how to recognize when He was speaking to my soul.

I was alot like like Gideon in the book of Judges in the Bible.  God was speaking to me and I was willing to listen.  The problem was I didn’t know it was Him.

In Judges 6,  you can read the story of how Gideon went back and forth “testing” God.  The angel of the LORD sat down next to Gideon and he still wasn’t sure it was God.  Something I noticed in this story is that Gideon doesn’t just sit back and say, “I’m not sure so I just won’t do anything”.  He took action.  He did something to find out if it was really God.

Many times we hear that doubting God isn’t okay.  We need to walk by faith.  Yes, this is true.  What happens when we don’t know it’s God in the first place.  If we wrestle with this idea, we see in Gideon’s example that God was patient with him.  He continued to communicate back and forth with Gideon until…

“Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”

I believe God speaks to all of us differently.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple formula to find out how He speaks to each of us.  In my personal experience, we just need to be like Gideon-willing to follow God!

If we are unsure if it is him, test it!  Give someone a word of encouragement that you think might be possibly from God and depending on their reaction you will see if it encouraged them.  Slowly you will become more bold and more familiar with how God normally speaks to you.

I tend to get all sweaty and I can’t stop thinking about what God is placing on my heart.  If I speak up I feel at peace!

Becoming more familiar with God’s voice is worth the effort so we can recognize it’s Him on the other end of our calling!

It would be so fun to hear how God has spoken to you or where you are on this journey!  


Life In A Community

wep6As a family, we are a part of a large community which is found in Youth With A Mission, also known as YWAM. We have been with this organization since before we were married. We survived the tough first years of adjustments as newly weds in this community. We have raised our kids in this community.  And more importantly, we have been molded to disciple the nations in this community.

Life in community is a core value of YWAM. It is stated as a value to be Relationship-Oriented.  YWAM is dedicated to being relationship-oriented in our living and working together. We desire to be united through lives of holiness, mutual support, transparency, humility, and open communication, rather than a dependence on structures or rules.

Over the years we have experienced many things living in community as we have strived to be relationship-oriented. Some of those things have been negative but by far the majority have been very positive.  

My purpose in writing this blog today is not to talk about our personal experience, but to talk about a reality of life in community that I have just recently discovered.  This discovery started with reading my Bible.  I encountered this new treasure when I pushed through the first few books in the Bible for the first time ever in my life.  These nuggets of gold were found in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  I know that for many people just reading that list gets you snoring.  Believe me, I use to feel the same way.

I remember sitting in my chair and I had my Bible on my lap.  I opened my Bible and began to read.  I would look at some of the short notes in the columns to help me understand more of what was going on.  As I took time to read through these books to get a continued feel to the story many things began to pop out at me.  One of these things was how it is God’s guide to His people for living relationship-oriented life in community.  Wow!  I didn’t know that was in the Bible.  Isn’t it just a bunch of rules that don’t apply to us anymore so we can ignore them?  (Unfortunately, this is what many Christians think.)  NO!  It is amazing how God took such good care of His people, even down to the details (these details seem boring because we don’t understand them but it is amazing!).

God tells you how to live in harmony with those who are different than you.  Believe me, after years of living life with people who are different than me, some guidelines are VERY helpful to build a foundation of how decisions are made and to know what is expected of each other.

There are many things that we can apply today!

One of my favorite ideas is how God told them over and over and over again to take care of the foreigners around them.  They were told to LOVE the foreigners-the refugees, the immigrants, those who do not know the language or the customs of the culture.  

Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV) says:

“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.”

Community was designed to encourage us to be relational.  As human beings we are made for relationships.  Let’s make sure that these relationships help those who need a little extra support– our neighbors, co-workers, the foreigners around us!


Three Ways To Have Influence That Makes Waves

Last week, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to teach on influence with students in the School of Ministry Development at Youth With A Mission-Minneapolis (YWAM).

It was so much fun to see their enthusiasm to learn! We talked about ways to not just be good leaders, but how to be people of influence that makes waves!  It was a great week of learning and encouraging each other to step out and take risks.


We talked about three main things that will cause us to have great influence.

1.  Accept who you are as a Child of God!
Ephesians 5:1-8

It is not enough to just know with your mind what the Bible says about your identity.  You must accept this identity so that it can transform who you are and how you act.

2.  Be wise. Ephesians 5:15

Know who God made you to be.  He gave you special strengths from the time you were in your mother’s womb. He created you with a purpose!

You will NOT influence anyone with your weaknesses.  You must know what your God given strengths are if you want to be an influence that makes waves.

3.  Seize opportunities. Ephesians 5:16

 You are given opportunities to influence people on a regular basis but you may not recognize them for what they are.  Other times you are too afraid to step out and seize them.  When you look back on life you don’t want to be left with regret from all things you could’ve done.

The Power of Words

In February, my hubby and I sat down on the couch to watch the movie “He Named Me Malala.”  My husband began to explain to me the basic plot of the movie and he was left in shock as he quickly realized I had never heard of the young girl named Malala.

That night was the first time I learned who Malala is and what she had done to change the world.  Malala is a young Muslim girl who stood up to the Taliban-fighting them with just her words.  Her words were those of empowerment as she gave a voice to young girls who were being denied an education.

Malala was only 15 when a gunman shot her in the face while she was on the school bus. At 15 years old her voice became infamous and known around the world.


After watching the movie, I decided to read her book. I Am Malala is a motivational story for anyone who believes they are too young or too weak for anyone to hear their voice. Malala is the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

I also loved Malala’s story because it was a window into a world that is different than mine. She is from a different culture and religion so her eyes see things in a different light than mine do.

Looking through her eyes gave me a person and a name to be the face of Islam. I consider it a great privilege to be one step closer to understanding a religion that is not my own.

This is a privilege because it helps me be more compassionate and respectful of other people. I may not agree with all of Islam’s beliefs, but I can still be respectful.