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Throughout my walk as a Christian, I have heard various versions of the saying "Your ministry comes from your misery." Many people have said it. I am not quite sure who coined the statement, but it is powerful and truthful from my experience. I have had the opportunity to meet many beautiful young women over time that God has allowed me to mentor. These women's lives are a mirror image of my own life in so many ways, and it is simply mind blowing. God placing a reflection of who you are in front of you and magnifying your entire life completely takes the focus off of you.

I truly believe the things we struggle with the most can serve as a blessing to others. There are always going to be situations in our lives that take place and serve as nothing more than hurtful or tragic. But if our hearts are still beating after these shaping experiences, it is important to share them with others. Our experience can factor as a guiding light at the end of a dark tunnel for someone in need. This light becomes our testimony or the evidence of overcoming the adversity that could have left us damaged or no longer here to tell our stories. Going from victim to victor is a huge deal.

I often encounter artists or people in many different vocational fields that say they are ready to be out in the world sharing their gifts, but they do not fully understand what this means. It means you have to share yourself with others. Sharing means that a part or portion of who you are is divided among a number of people, as well as showing a willingness to be open with the people who contribute to your life. Many times we only like to give of ourselves in a way that is convenient to us, but that is not how it works. The question I always ask them is, “Are you ready to share your story? Because it is no longer about you."

Recently, I was on the train and I saw a man eating. I did not want to stare too hard but I do enjoy observing people in their own element. As I was watching him, I could feel tears welling up in my eyes and I said, "Lord what is going on?" I realized that what I was witnessing, was not just a man who was physically hungry and eating but instead I was watching a man eat whose soul was hungry. You may be wondering, "How can you tell the difference?" I have struggled with overeating long enough in my life to know the difference. It was as if I could see this man’s spirit or soul extending and reaching beyond what he was physically doing. He wanted intimacy or simply someone to just talk to. What I saw was confirmed when a woman turned to him to ask a question and he leaned in towards her very quickly to answer. I even noticed that when she was done talking, he kept asking questions to engage her, and when she shared with him, his whole demeanor transformed. I was happy that, in some way, it seemed as if his soul was being fed.

This made me think of the lyrics from India Arie’s song “God is Real,"

Smaller than the eye can see,
Bigger than the mind can conceive…
That’s how I know that God is real…

We never know what people are hungry for. If we have been blessed to see another day or have the ability, we should be sharing our lives with others. It is tough to do when we are layered with hurt and pain of the past and searching for answers that will sooth our souls, but with God’s guidance it is worth it. Sharing the life that has been gifted to me is where I have encountered God the most.

God shared with me this week that His word is the framework for which we experience Him. It is where He reveals Himself, and it is this revelation from the Holy Spirit that sheds light on everything else I read and encounter in life. If we truly know and have a relationship with God, no matter where we go, we will find Him.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever," (Psalm 23: 4-6, ESV).

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About the Author :

Francine E. Ott is truly thankful to have a relationship with God and is seeking Him daily for guidance and any opportunities to walk closer with Him in truth and love. Francine is a choreographer/dancer, teacher, and soon to be counselor who has a heart to see God's transforming power, renew, restore, and heal the minds, souls, and bodies of people's lives.

In life I have found that the old saying is true, “If it weren’t this, it’d be that.” This phrase means that in life things and issues are always going to arise. Things are going to happen and how you deal with these immediate issues and challenges is a direct reflection of your relationship with Christ. When things are happening, when the going gets tough, when it all hits the fan what do you do? Do you complain? Do you yell? Do you blame your anger on others? Or do you quiet your mind and silence your raging emotions and call on Christ? Are you roused easily or do you choose to not be easily moved by the occurrences and day to day events in life? Do you rest in God’s promise for your life, believing that regardless of the circumstances, that God will always bring you through the valleys and deliver you onto your mountain top?

To not be easily moved is to discipline our emotions and rely on the truth of God’s word in all situations. In a sense, you must seek and pray for contentment in any situation that life presents. Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22) Christ knows that life is hard and he empathizes with us, He lived through the hardships and overcame the world. Instead of stressing out and worrying cast every care and anxiety on the Lord. With God in your corner, He won’t allow your spirit to be easily moved and affected by negativity and its purpose to conquer and destroy you. 

The apostle Paul tells us, "I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24) Even though Paul experienced times of great trouble and tribulation he recognized that nothing could keep him from his purpose that God had called him to.
Sometimes in life we finally recognize our purpose, we begin our work with God’s plan in mind, and we feel the guidance of the Holy Spirit at work in us constantly renewing our minds, bodies, and spirits. Yet it is at this very time when you truly begin your work for the Lord, that the devil is most busy. It is at this time when things will arise to throw you off track to convince you to quit. He wants your emotions to overtake you and become your sole motivating purpose rather than God’s purpose for your life.

Being easily moved also takes into account allowing our emotions to get the best of us. In order to take authority over our emotions we must first.
  • Recognize what triggers you to make emotional decisions, identify them, and list them.

  • Write down scriptures to carry with you to use as a defense against these attacks and thoughts. Memorize them if possible. 

  • Decide that whatever your triggers are that you won’t allow those emotions to get the best of you using positive self-talk.

  • When you fall short, ask God for forgiveness and then immediately begin trying again through faith to persevere.
I encourage each one of you to discipline your emotions. Do not rely on them as your spiritual compass; instead rely on God’s word and the Holy Spirit that lives within you to give you direction in life. Know that God is always the first and last answer to any of our concerns and practice daily speaking and quiet times with Him to learn His voice and to keep your spirit grounded. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Keep this scripture on your heart today, and know that even when things are good God is working in your favor and when things are bad God is still working in your favor. Stand firm in faith and your spirit will not be easily moved.

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About the Author :

Cortnee is a 26 year old TV Host, for her television show, City Savvy based in Philadelphia. She enjoys going to the beach, cooking, shopping, traveling, and visiting with her family that lives out-of state. Cortnee is best described as bubbly and outgoing. She works by day as a substitute teacher. Jesus is her best friend who provides for and protects her.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches the rush that accompanies this season begins. But even through all of the craziness this season brings, we must never lose sight of the special meaning behind it.

Thanksgiving is more than just a holiday. It is a day of reflection. Reflecting on the goodness of the Lord and His blessings, and more importantly expressing gratitude towards Him for all that He has done and continues to do in our lives.

There are so many ways to celebrate God's goodness and His many blessings, and I wanted to share a few tips I gathered while perusing the internet.

Tree of Thanks – Take advantage of the fall leaves to build a Tree of Thanks. Send the kids to the back yard for a tree branch and some fallen leaves. Plant the branch in a pot filled with craft sand. As family members arrive for Thanksgiving dinner, let the kids give each person either a real leaf or a cut out leaf from paper and ask the guests to write something on the leaf for which they are thankful. Use either paperclips or Christmas tree ornament hangers to hand the leaves on the branch.

A Servant's Heart: Spend the Day Volunteering – Nothing will remind us more of how much we have to be thankful for than spending your day at your local homeless shelter or food kitchen serving Thanksgiving dinner.

Adopt a Family - This one is similar to "A Servant's Heart, but with a a more personal and heartfelt touch. Get together with friends or your small group and find a family, a widow, or single mother currently struggling with unemployment, unplanned emergency bills and other hardships. Adopt the family for Thanksgiving, and bless them with food supplies, thanksgiving dinner, clothes, and toys or even help with unexpected expenses. Want to make it extra special? Prepare the entire Thanksgiving dinner at your home or theirs and spend Thanksgiving with them.

Blessing Book – Start a blessing book by buying a simple journal and have each family member write down one blessing from the past year. Keep the journal from year to year and have family members add new blessings every year. For those children that are not yet able to write, a simple picture will do.

The Wall of Gratitude - Pick out an entire wall for posting words of thanks throughout the Thanksgiving season. In your church or in your home, clearing out some wall space for “family” members to contribute thoughts, show gratitude and express thanks in writing and is perfect for cultivating an environment of thanksgiving as well as a place to reflect on some good news, for change. Get creative!

A Family Cookbook - Create a family cookbook by asking family members to bring their favorite recipe to Thanksgiving dinner. After you have finished your family cookbooks, give them as gifts to your family for Christmas.

Thanksgiving Communion - Have a family Communion on Thanksgiving to give thanks by reflecting Christ's life, death and resurrection.

A Thanksgiving Offering - Collect a Thanksgiving offering for a family in need or one of your favorite charities.

Make Thanksgiving Dinner Together – Give everyone small tasks like cleaning and peeling the potatoes, setting the table, and rolling out the crust for the pumpkin pie. Remember kids love to help, so use the opportunity to involve and enjoy them. The Thanksgiving meal may not end up meeting your standards, but the time well spent as a family is definitely well worth it!

Make a Memory Video - This year for a fun Thanksgiving activity, break out the video camera or camera phones. Have each person at the table talk about their favorite event, memory or blessing from the past year, as well as a hope or wish for the upcoming year. Be sure that every person at Thanksgiving dinner participates. You can even send a copy of the video to any family members who weren't able to share the day, or upload the video to your family website or digital scrapbook. Next Thanksgiving, play the old video and make a new one. Keep the tradition going!

Day After Thanksgiving Brunch - Host a brunch the morning after Thanksgiving. It's a great way to get rid of all those yummy leftovers, and enjoy a little extra time with family and friends.

Create a Gratitude Tablecloth - Create a plain tablecloth transformed into a family heirloom that will be cherished for generations. Place fabric markers around the Thanksgiving table and encourage guests to sign the tablecloth. They can also write a short blessing or message, and be sure to include the year. Each Thanksgiving, add more to the tablecloth and read over the notes from the previous years.

Share with us some ways you celebrate Thanksgiving with your loved ones?

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About the Author :

Carmen Miller is happily married mother of 5 and wife to Jarrad. As Founder of Whole Magazine, and Co-Founder of God Over Porn; Carmen's heart's passion is to see broken women made whole through the power of Jesus Christ.

When Hezekiah became king of Judah, his first order of business was to turn the heart of the nation back to God and rid it of idolatry.

During the first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah opened up the doors of the house of The Lord, gathered the priests and the Levites and gave them instructions.

Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the LORD our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and turned their backs on Him. They have also shut up the doors of the vestibule, put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the LORD fell upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He has given them up to trouble, to desolation, and to jeering, as you see with your eyes. For indeed, because of this our fathers have fallen by the sword; and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity. Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us. My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him, and that you should minister to Him and burn incense. (2 Chronicles 29:5-10 NKJV)

King Hezekiah was definitely a man after God's heart. And when you are a man or woman after God's heart, worship is always a priority. It grieved the heart of Hezekiah that the very people God had chosen for Himself repeatedly turned their hearts away from Him and worshipped other gods. 

So, he did what a true worshipper does. He aggressively dealt with everything that was in opposition to God. He wanted to make sure that the nation of Judah was once again in a place of covenant and right standing with the Creator.

He started in the house of the Lord, giving specific instructions to the priests and the Levites. They were to sanctify themselves, sanctify the house of the Lord and to carry out the rubbish from the holy place.

In order for worship to be reestablished, they had to cleanse the temple of the Lord. It could not be neglected. 

These same instructions hold true for the body of Christ today. The Spirit of the Living God no longer dwells in elaborate tabernacles of brick and mortar with stained glass and steeples.

1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us that we are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (I Corinthians 3:16-17 NKJV)

Our assignment is the same assignment given to the priests of Hezekiah's day; sanctify ourselves and remove all rubbish from the holy place; God's temple.

There is no room for rubbish in the temple of the Most High God. Rubbish defiles the temple and hinders worship.

For some, it has been allowed to accumulate for years: the opinions of man, hurt, fear, and much other garbage. It is all rubbish, which defiles and contaminates. 

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. (2 Corinthians 7:1 NLT)

It is our responsibility to make sure we cleanse ourselves and pursue holiness.

This rubbish has controlled and affected your worship long enough. Remember what true worship is...

Your lifestyle; the way you live before God.

Worship is being fruitful and honoring God with your life. We are made to live from the inside out; to be led and controlled by the spirit of God. However, rubbish often adversely affects this kind of living.

There is a whole new level of worship that must take place. We must worship God with all that we have and all that we are.

As His sons and daughters, we must live righteously in the Earth, with dominion and authority, while being fruitful. This life is a life of worship, and pleases the very heart of God greatly.

In order to release this level of worship, our temples must be cleansed of everything that is not God. We cannot afford to neglect the temple that He inhabits daily.

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters," Says the LORD Almighty. (II Corinthians 6:16-18 NKJV)

Why not invite the Lord to cleanse your temple of anything that hinders your lifestyle of worship?

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About the Author :

Pastor Pamela Bell is a passionate, lover of God, who desires to see God's people walk in the knowledge of who they are in Christ. She resides in Mobile, AL and serves as an Elder at her church, Gulf Coast Christian Center. Pastor Pamela enjoys reading, spending time with friends and all things chocolate.

I have struggled with what I can only name as the Martha Complex. I have often spent my time spinning my wheels and running around like a chicken with its head cut off “serving” the Lord. My idea of serving was completely distorted and included “doing” instead of just being. I wanted to do more for God as if I was earning His love, attention and grace. I wanted to do more for people to show my love for God through my actions.  I was making a huge mistake and misstep. I had to ask really ask myself, “Who am I really serving, God or myself?” I have found myself making demands from God and including a list of all I had done and asking the same question that Martha asked, “Lord, don’t you care?”

We can learn a lot from Martha and Mary. We live in a world with more Martha’s than Mary’s. Let’s refresh on the short story with a big lesson.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.  (Luke 10:38-42 NIV)

Let’s first look at what Martha did:

  • She opened her home to Jesus.
  • She was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. 
  • Asked Jesus if He cared that her sister had left her to do all the work herself. 
  • Made a demand from Jesus; “Tell her to help me!”(vs. 40) 
  • She was worried and upset about many things.

Now let’s look at the opposite approach Mary took:
  • She sat at the Lords feet listening to what He said.
  • Did the one thing that was needed.
  • She chose what was better.
My initial reaction looking at the two lists above is that Martha did a lot more but was left with no peace, while Mary did less and yet was thoroughly able to be worry free and at peace basking in the presence of her Savior. I don’t know about you, but I want to be the latter of these two ladies. 

Are we distracted by all the work we are doing?  If we are, it will only leave us feeling cheated, frustrated, overlooked, unappreciated and/or jealous. Did Jesus ask Martha to do all those things she was doing?  Where did we get this attitude of always having to go and do?  The world.  The world tells us that we must always be going and doing, and if we are not then we will be unfulfilled and lazy. As Kingdom people, we should know better. The Bible is very clear on this:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:9 NIV)

My favorite part of the story is the way in which Jesus responds to Martha. Jesus saw that Martha was upset, and He addressed her concern and complaint compassionately. He did not get angry and dismiss her, but instead calmly acknowledged her and explained what the priority was. He gave Martha a heart and attitude check, but in the most lovingly way possible. It makes me fall even more in love with Jesus. Even when we are acting childishly and demanding things while wallowing in self-pity, the Lord is still so kind and gentle with us. He is the most patient and loving father. 

What can we learn from Martha? 

  • We know she was hospitable and loved Jesus because she opened her home to Him with no questions asked.
  • She was a hard worker, but overlooked the most important things; time with Jesus and listening to what He had to say. Time with Jesus trumps everything else. 
  • Her worries multiplied when she was doing too much and if she would have instead sat at the feet of Jesus, those worries would have dissipated. A distracted heart will leave you anxious and out of tune with what Jesus may be trying to tell you.
  • Our attitude and hearts priority should be continually asking, “Jesus, what do you want me to do?”

Our proper perspective should always be this: 

“Salvation isn’t about what I do; it’s about what Jesus did.”- Joanna Weaver

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About the Author :

Leilani is a single mom to a beautiful 4 year old little girl. She is in love with the Creator of the stars. Her mission is simple yet so big, to encourage and bring Jesus to all in need. To bring hope by loving people, writing, photography, music, poetry/spoken word and meeting people right where they are. Gods Grace is her air.

No matter what stage of life we are in, I am sure we are all well acquainted with the groggy feeling of waking up in the morning after having very little sleep. Whether you are a busy mom, a student during exam week, or an employee off to work, dark and baggy eyes can be a challenge.  Since the busy holiday season is right around the corner, the time is perfect to let you in on my quick and easy tips to help you look like you have had a full, dreamy night’s sleep, when Lord knows you haven’t.

Treatment Regimen:  As soon as you wake up, try to drink a glass of water while you are getting ready.  Hydrating will help detox your body and flush out toxins that can contribute to the problem.  To de-puff your eyes, put two spoons in the fridge for a few minutes, and then press them under your eyes. The cold spoons restrict the blood vessels and zap the puffiness. Next, be sure to moisturize your under eye area, as dry skin will only enhance the bags. If you have red, bloodshot eyes, try using moisturizing eye drops to reduce the redness.

Conceal:  A great trick to adding light under your eyes is to apply a little shimmery eye shadow. Next, apply a brightening concealer in a triangle shape and blend, blend, blend. Be sure to conceal in the corner of your eyes, though, since this is a sneaky place where darkness can show up. Lastly, apply the same shimmery shadow in the tear ducts and brow bone to bring light to the eye area.

Brighten:  When applying the rest of your eye makeup, remember that brightening and widening is a key. First, curl your lashes to add a little perk to the eye. When applying eyeliner, stick to the very top of each lash, as this secret will draw attention upward. One of my favorite little tricks is to apply white eyeliner on the inner lash line on the bottom lashes to brighten the eyes and reduce the look of redness. Then, apply 2-3 coats of mascara to the top and bottom lashes for that polished look.

Distract: When you are finishing up the rest of your makeup, remember that adding focus elsewhere can do wonders in hiding your tired eyes. Opt for a brighter blush to add a nice pop of color.  If you are feeling extra bold, add a bright lip color, such as a red or berry lipstick, to bring focus to the lips. 

Now, you’ll be ready to put that sleepless night behind you and face the day with confidence.

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About the Author :

Ashlyn is a small town girl with a big heart for family, laughter, and all things beautiful. This history nerd enjoys taking walks, yoga, delicious food, and of course, fashion and beauty. She desires most to see a world where women have true and deep relationships with themselves through Christ.

As a twenty-one year old college senior who is on her way to graduating in May of 2015, thoughts of the future are very reoccurring nowadays.

When I write, I love to paint visuals with my words. However, when the only words I have regarding my future are questions, they can't exactly paint a picture. I have no visual. What I do have, though, is confidence. And I have placed my confidence into the hands of an almighty God who has laid down my path before my very feet.

A God who loves because He is love.
A God who calls us by name.
A God who knew exactly what He was doing when He molded us in His very hands.
A God who places His calling upon the hearts of His children.
A God who provides deliverance and restoration out of His true, abundant love for His creation.
A God who provides hope in the hearts of the hopeless.
A God who provides direction to the hearts of those who are seeking.
A God who may not give answers when preferred, but whose guidance is, and always will be unfailing.

A God who longs for us to trust Him with a steady heart.

Having a steady heart does not cross out fear, but it does overpower it. Having a steady heart recognizes that although looking ahead may be a very large blur in our eyes, it's a very clear picture in the eyes of God because He is in control.

The only type of fear that belongs to the Lord is one out of deep love and respect for Him. The fear that makes you run belongs to Satan.

Don't run. Don't leave everything behind to start something new just because you cannot see what lies ahead. This could range anywhere from a dream you've always had to taking the next step forward in a relationship. Maybe you are afraid of chasing your dreams, or maybe you are afraid of commitment. Whatever it is that you are slowly stepping back from, stop.

Stop allowing the fear that you have to grow inside you. This will only spark negative emotions. Know that you are equipped to face your fears, but only when you feed them with your faith.

Listen to the steady beating of your heart.
Remind yourself of the love of God that keeps you holding on to Him.
Think of the grace He shows you with each new day.
Feel the faith flooding through your very veins that holds your belief in the God who created you.

Allow these things to steady you.

Whatever fear you may have, approach it steadily. Walk toward it and confront it. God does not forsake His children when they stray from Him, so why should we run from fear initiated by the enemy? Well, that's just it...we shouldn't.

Allow the fear you have for the Lord to plant courage in your heart. God will give it to you.

Maybe it's the courage to end a relationship, to confront someone, to accept the hard truth of the matter, or just the courage to trust. Whatever you need, allow the Lord to supply it. Don't run and allow walls of fear to be built within you. Take it to the Lord, obtain a steady heart in doing so, and face your fears with your faith in Him.

Faith doesn't come in a bushel basket, Missy. It comes one step at a time. Decide to trust Him for one little thing today, and before you know it, you find out He's so trustworthy that you'll be putting your whole life in His hands.” ―Lynn Austin

Fear is the glue that keeps you stuck. Faith is the solvent that sets you free.” -Shannon L. Alder

When you can't see God's hand, trust His heart.”  -Emily Freeman

The staunch belief on an invisible Almighty is the sole relief for a soul at the time of despair.” ―Anuj Somany

You are not the only one who fears, dear sister. Fear versus faith is, and always will be an ongoing battle. However, what can change with the battle you may be facing, as well as the battles that are yet to come, is your battle strategy. When you armor yourself with and fight out of your fear, you lose. However, when you fight your battle with faith, you overcome. This is because your strength to fight also comes from the Source of the faith that you are fighting with. God will always lead you to victory.

For the word of the Lord holds true,
    and we can trust everything he does.
He loves whatever is just and good;
    the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.
The Lord merely spoke,
    and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word,
    and all the stars were born.

(Psalm 33:4-6 NLT)

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About the Author :

Emily Lauren Townsend is a 21 year old southern girl who has a heart for loving Jesus, loving others, and serving the world. She is currently pursuing a career in ministry as she continues to fall madly in love with Jesus by the day. Emily Lauren has a heart for worship and women's ministry. Her daily dose of life consists of a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus. You can find her sharing her delight in Jesus by following @DaughterofDelight on Instagram.