Month: August 2013

Our first official video from this summer!

We had a summer series this past June where I (Cristina) taught the Bricklayers 101 class. Evan Walker filmed this series and made a couple shorter videos for us to also feature on our website. We are so grateful – he did such a great job! You’ll see this video on our website’s Home page too.

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August Spotlight: Audrey Milburn

381192_10101081760100915_1537262551_nSince we are a community of women, we want to put you, Bricklayers, in the spotlight. Every month we will interview a Bricklayer (either married, single, engaged, or dating) so you can share wisdom and encouragement with one another. This month we interviewed Audrey Milburn: a lovely, radiant woman of God! We hope you enjoy this glimpse into her life.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in Uganda for 17 years and then worked in Rwanda for a few years, which is where I met my husband. He was out there doing Business As Mission and I was developing children’s ministries in Rwanda. I’ve been married for 2 ½ years and have lived in the U.S. for a little more than that (I came to the States to marry David). I currently am a counselor at a Christian counseling center called CIFT and just recently graduated with my Masters in Marriage & Family Therapy. Other than my passion for families, I enjoy reading Sci-Fi books, swimming, interacting with any type of animal, playing tennis, watching Star Trek, and eating fondue.

How did you start dating your husband?

I met David in Rwanda one summer while driving him and another missionary to a missionary conference. I led worship that year, and as I stood up front, I

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found myself drawn to this man who worshiped God with such authenticity and pursuit – just like David in the Bible. We spoke a few times during this one-week conference, spent two days talking after that, and then he left to come back to America. We corresponded by email and Skype for about 6 months until he flew me to California so I could meet his family, and we began dating. That began 2 years of long-distance dating, using email, Skype, letters, and phone as our modes of communication.

Being that you are no longer in the season of singleness, but now married, what would you do differently in your single years and what would you do the same?

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I would have memorized Scripture more and been on my knees more, praying for the man who would eventually come into my life. I also would have journaled more and recorded my spiritual and emotional journey with God. What I would keep the same: stay intentional with my girlfriends in singlehood, let the Lord- not the world- define relationships, and develop disciplines in my life (time for God, exercise, ministry, friends, sleep, etc.).

How did your girlfriends support you in singleness and now in marriage? How do you stay intentional in your friendships?

Some of the best experiences I had were in Bible Study groups or small groups

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with women. These were places where we could share struggles, fears, prayer requests, and praises, and really lift each other up. This also solidified in me the desire to wait for God’s best and to not water down the standards I knew God wanted for me in a husband. Some of my favorite single times were in working out with a friend at the gym and talking about life, disappointments, and relationships. Now, in the U.S., friendships take a lot more intentionality, especially since I’m married. Friendships now take more courage and purpose in seeking out people at church, Life Group, or social circles that I desire to get to know better. I cut back an hour or two of work, or a workout, or an extra hour of sleep to be intentional in friendship.

When do you feel closest to God (activity, place, interaction, etc)?

I feel closest to God when I’m serving others (I’m an extrovert, by the way) or when I’m spending time with Him in nature. I also have had some of the most intimate moments with God while driving my car and talking (or crying) to him out loud. So turn off those radios, roll up your windows, and pour out your hearts to God while you’re on your way somewhere!

What has your friendship with God taught you how to be a friend to the girls and the special man in your life?

The most important thing: I can’t just talk – I need to listen a lot! Being an extrovert and having a naturally outgoing personality, I can talk to God or my husband or a friend for hours. But the challenge, and the key to a healthy vibrant relationship with anyone, is to be still and listen. My ability to listen and then empathize has grown one hundred fold since being married (and also pursuing counseling)! My advice to each of you is to practice this now – to listen and wait upon God, and interact with what He might be telling you. My friendship with God has also taught me how to be selfless in a way I never understood until I entered marriage! God is stretching me so much in these past years to seek the benefit of others over my own, to love others in the way they need to be loved, and to forgive like never before!

What would you say to your sisters in Christ who are experiencing heart ache and longing for marriage?

I would remind you that marriage is not the end goal – there is more beyond. The things that will last are what will exist without or beyond marriage: your relationship with Jesus, your love for and serving others, and your unique God-given gifts. You think your quest for purity ends on the wedding night? By no means! I’m learning what it means to be a pure married woman, in my thought life, in my interactions with men, in my speech, and so much more!

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Also, I would tell you this: that man that you’ve asked God about, that man that you believe God would want you to marry, that man you’ve dreamed about – he does exist! Don’t give in or give up when someone second-best comes along. I found this illustration of a guava tree when I was single and in the middle of Africa. In this picture, there were all these ripe guavas within arm’s reach of me on the lower branches, and all I had to do was pluck one and eat it. But these lower-branch guavas were rotten or pocked by hail, or pecked by birds, or infested with ants. But through the trees, way on the highest branches, a dangerous climb upward, I spotted some beautiful, sweet, perfect guavas. I wanted one of those! But was I willing to take the climb, be patient, get leaves in my hair, and pursue the better one? I sure was! Does that make sense? So don’t lower your standards. Don’t talk yourself down or doubt your prayer life or your heart’s cry. That man exists.

August Book Review: Embracing the Love of God

Every month we would like to give you a glimpse of a book recommended by a fellow Bricklayer.  Melissa Pena shares below about how this book helps us understand more about friendship with God and how that translates into our relationships with others.

In the book Embracing the Love of God, author James Bryan Smith explores the gentle heart of God for His people; His tender heart for us and those around us. Smith gives a fresh take on familiar Christian themes of acceptance, forgiveness, and care through the use of anecdotes, scripture, and moving insights.  In each page, Smith guides the reader through how deeply knowing God’s love for us impacts all of our relationships- with God, ourselves, and others.

My first read through of this book was a very timely one as I read it during a time when I found it very difficult to accept myself and extremely challenging to forgive someone in my life.  I was convicted, transformed, and healed through the words found in this book. While initially the themes sounded so commonplace to me, Smith provides such profound insight that I found myself truly learning about God’s great love all over again. I highly recommend this book & hope you enjoy!

Some stand out quotations from the book:

“For too long, I was impressed with my ‘commitment’ to Christ; now I am only impressed with Christ commitment to me.” 19

“Real, genuine acceptance begins at the point of weakness.” 51

“Accepting God’s offer of forgiveness humbled me because I could do nothing to earn it. All I could do was stand in awe, which, incidentally is a good place to stand.” 70

“It is not our offender’s desire to be forgiven that has prompted us to forgive, it is our desire to be free.” 104

DIY friendly stationery

Snail mail is somewhat of a lost art. Thankfully, we can revive the joys of sending and receiving a handwritten letter for a very affordable price. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE getting personalized mail when I open the mailbox.

Consider spending a few minutes to share a few encouraging words with a friend. In this post, I share what my husband and I do to make fun, personal stationery for every occasion.

Step 1: Make or buy custom word banners (Thanks, Happy Birthday, Congrats, etc.)

Step 2: Bring them with you on a trip or simply in front of whatever backdrop you prefer.

Step 3: Have someone take your picture or set up your camera to self-timer.

Step 4:

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Print your pictures (ideally in 4×3 inch size and we print about 25 of each banner)

Step 5: Buy panel cards (we got ours in assorted colors at Target), photo adhesive, and colored paper.

Step 6: Cut colored paper to desired size and shape, adhere photo to paper, and paper to panel card.

Step 7: Write your note, stamp, address, and send it with love!

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

PS Yes, you are seeing braces on my lower teeth in the video. In the next couple of months look for the full set!

wisdom to heed

The Bible is not silent when it comes to this month’s theme of friendship.  Proverbs, especially, drips wisdom and offers many helpful words of instruction to us.  This sermon is one I listen to and recommend over and over again.  See if you might be able to identify some application to your own life.  Once you sit in on this one, you will probably want to listen to the whole Proverbs series.

You can listen or watch it:

Friendship (Proverbs, 2009) by Mark Driscoll

Questions for consideration:

  1. How is Jesus a real friend to you?
  2. How can you be a better friend? To whom?
  3. Whom (if anyone) would you consider a good friend to you? Why?
  4. In light of our study, what is changing your thinking regarding friendship with whom do you need to no longer be friends, and whom do you need to pursue more intentionally?

Be the friend you want to find

As many of you know, I am in a new community since I moved halfway across the country last month away from my family and friends.  Here are a few quick things I’ve learned all over again in my efforts to make friends:

–          Be yourself: If you want true friends, you have to be a true version of yourself. If they don’t like you, that’s okay, bless them in your heart and move on.  If there are things you can learn, then apply the lesson and pray that God would give you wisdom and discernment in making healthy, safe friendships.  Be honest, sincere, and genuine and you will be more likely to receive that treatment  in return.

–          Be intentional: I needed to make a decision that I would pursue friendships and any time I felt sorry for myself for not having friends I remembered that I needed to “be a friend” in order to have friends. I texted women that I had met through various circumstances and asked to get together.  I asked if we could go to church with them so we could find a home church.  I asked questions about their lives and shared about my own.  I didn’t sit back and hope God plopped good friends in my lap, I am keeping my eyes open and asking God for opportunities.  When He brings them, I do my best to be intentional about reaching out.

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–          Be available:  Building quality friendships takes time.  Our lives so often get filled up with activities, work, ministry, and life circumstances that we can easily put time for friends to the side.  I’ve been guilty of this. I’m realizing that a good heart to heart talk with one of my girlfriends is so edifying, uplifting, and life-giving that it’s a priority worth keeping.

–          Be patient: with myself and with others as they get to know you.  Every friendship needs to be nurtured and trust needs to be built before getting to the deeper layers. Give it time, attention, thought, prayer, and you will be on your way to more fulfilling, purposeful friendships.

because of friendship

May I introduce you to my best girlfriend?

Pena Family Love__Sister Smiles

This is my dearest one and the one I have had since I was about 3 years old.  Melissa is my sister (biologically AND spiritually). We are knit together at the heart and I literally cried on the phone with her yesterday because I miss her so much (she’s in CA and I’m in AR).  She is creative, loyal, passionate, generous, wise, and all around beautiful.

It’s because of this friendship and several others that I am challenged to grow, pointed to Jesus, enjoy companionship, and am an overall better woman. I think she might say the same too.

This image is a completely accurate description of how I feel about my girlfriends… especially my sister!

We are declaring August to be Bricklayer’s friendship month. You can expect posts twice a week that will address questions, give biblical insights, highlight ways to enjoy and appreciate your friends, and help you be a better friend too.

Who are some of your best friends and what do you love about them?  Join us this month as we explore the beauty of friendship.

Don’t know who took this adorable photo, otherwise, I’d give that person credit.

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”

Proverbs 27:9

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