Happy Sunday!

Snapped a picture of this corner while downtown on friday because there is something about the colors that seemed quintessentially "Pensacola" to me...

Snapped a picture of this corner while downtown on friday because there is something about the colors that seemed quintessentially "Pensacola" to me...

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope you have had a fantastic weekend! We sure have! We celebrated our friend Cort's birthday friday night at our apartment, which was a blast. The best part was that his girlfriend, Katherine, came all the way from San Diego to surprise him! The look on his face was priceless. It was so special to have John's wonderful friends, who have become my wonderful friends, over to our apartment. As I was standing by the stove I looked out into the living room and saw six happy men and one lovely lady kicking back and enjoying our home. I remembered that we take pride and put effort into making our home comfortable and cozy not just for ourselves to enjoy every day, but to share and invite people into

The Birthday boy and his wonderful girlfriend.

The Birthday boy and his wonderful girlfriend.

Got to use one of my favorite Christmas gifts for the first time on friday night! 

Got to use one of my favorite Christmas gifts for the first time on friday night! 

This morning I have to admit that I was fighting a rare impulse to want to ditch church, but John dragged me out of bed. (And so one sharpens another...) Boy, am I glad he did. When we arrived at church we realized that there was a guest speaker today, a Chinese Pastor named Shi Weihan. Shi Weihan was tortured and imprisoned in China for distributing bibles and heading a house church. He served his time from November 2007 to January 2008, and then from March 2007 to February 9, 2011. As Pastor Shi shared with us his story, through the mouth of his young daughter, Lily, we were so humbled by his faith in the midst of persecution. While Shi was imprisoned, his wife continued to preach in his place every Sunday in their church. Meanwhile, at one point Shi was put in a detention center of the highest security, and every one of his cell mates was there on the same charge: murder. Slowly but surely, Shi shared the Gospel with each of his cellmates, and each one met the Lord. 

I could write pages about what we heard today, but instead I am just going to share one more story of Shi's time in prison. While imprisoned outside of Beijing, Shi was made the leader of his cell. So, he oversaw and made sure each prisoner in his cell stayed in line essentially. Beijing can be very cold in the winter, similar to New York, and many of Shi's cell mates did not have enough clothes to stay warm. He wrote his wife and asked for her to send him more clothes, and she, thinking he just needed more clothes, quickly complied. When he received the clothes he distributed them to his cell mates, but it was no where near to enough. After receiving two or three more post cards asking for clothes, his wife realized what he was up to. She then asked their church to give, and clothes began arriving for Pastor Shi by the load. His guard, who was stumped by Pastor Shi, took notice and came to speak with him. He asked him if he kept asking for more clothes because someone in his cell was bullying him into giving them up to others. Shi replied, no, in fact he had asked specifically for his cell mates. His guard was uncharacteristically moved by Shi's compassion, and told Shi he had never met anyone like this 'Pastor man.' 

The next week his guard returned, and brought his own old clothes for the cell mates. 

The week after that he invited Shi into his office to ask him about his faith, and where his joy and peace came from. 

A few weeks later he gave Shi a bible he had confiscated from another Christian prisoner, so that Shi could begin having bible study with his cell mates.

By the time Shi was released, his friend the Guard had given his life to Christ. 

Hearing Pastor Shi and his daughter speak today only did more to confirm the tugging on our hearts that John and I both cannot deny we feel towards China. Hearing Shi speak, with John quietly translating beside me, gave us unspeakable hope, and overwhelming joy. As we walked to the car John turned and said to me, "Makes me can't wait to go back."

Happy Sunday everyone. Be grateful today for your loved ones. Be grateful for the snow up North. Be grateful for the winds whispering of Spring down here in Pensacola. Be grateful for the blessings you have been given, and share them. 

Here are some fun weekend links to check out if you are having a lazy Sunday afternoon:

  • We are heading to New Orleans for Mardi Gras at the end of the month, and since we are going to meet our good friend Austin's family, I've got hostess gifts on the brain. Check out this awesome list from Refinery29. I'm digging the incense pyres, recipe cards, and rose gold salad set...
  • Feeling crafty? Check out my best friend Lindsey's awesome blog Mac & Marlborough. She made me that great cheese platter from earlier in the post! I love what her latest post says about Valentines Day. 
  • I've been studying this book from the editors of Garden & Gun. Its chockful of fascinating southern history, recipes, and sage advice on things like manners and hostessing. Would be a great hostess gift as well!
  • Looking for a little inspiration in the midst of winter blues? My friend Lily has the most beautiful instagram. See for yourself--follow her @lily_shiland