MinistryMy work with Living Bread Ministries has given me some great opportunities, including the chance to travel to Brazil several times. Here we were visiting a community where Living Bread has planted a church and is working to help alleviate spiritual and physical poverty. Learn more about my ministry here.
HomeI love home. Spending time at home and making a house feel more like home are a couple of my most favorite things. The home I share with my friend Miranda is called ChezMK, and we love to have fun doing life there! Join the fun at ChezMK!
FamilyThe people who share my last name are the best! I am blessed with a wonderful family, even though we're seperated by several hundred miles most of the time. This is most of the Finch clan: Paul, Mom, Dad, Me, Yuri, and Peter. Not pictured here is my oldest brother Stephen and his family, Natacha and Alexandria. Check out more of our family fun!
FriendsI am spoiled beyond reason with such wonderful friends in my life! I have a great crew here where I live and a bunch of others peppered here, there, and everywhere. Here are a bunch of my local peeps at my birthday dinner last year! Jump in to the friend fun!
Something about the Christmas season is magical. I don't know what it is, but I like it. It has been pretty warm the past couple weeks, so it hasn't really felt like it's Christmas time. But somehow there's still some Christmas magic in the air. This year, Miranda and I are determined to do something Christmas-y every day. You just can't be too festive! Here are a few of the festivities that have made the list (and have been checked off) so far:
Choose a beautiful Christmas tree.
Decorate and name our Christmas tree - This year, she is named Belle and is as beautiful as she sounds.
Make swags out of extra tree branches
Put up lights on Chez MK (the affectionate nickname for our house) Aside: We actually get some of our wonderful friends to help out with this one.
There's so much for which to say thank you this Thanksgiving season. There are a few things that I have been appreciating more and more lately. And by things, mostly I mean people. I am so blessed with so many people in my life who love and care about me. Some of them I know a lot; some I know only a little, but all are special to me. These are some of the people (or rather groups of people) who make me so, so thankful this year. (Note: the list that follows is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of imagination. There are many more than could be named here!) My family - this is often the standard answer to the "What are you thankful for?" question, but they earn the standard response position for a reason. Though they are miles and miles away (and it's during times like this that I wish Virginia and Florida weren't so far away from each other), my family is pretty much the best ever. We Finches have some interesting quirks and oddities, but I wouldn't trade our crazy crew for another any day of the week. Being a Finch is one of the highlights of my life! My far away friends - in addition to my family being miles and miles away, I have several dear friends who don't live anywhere close to where I live. They're all over - Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, North Dakota, Utah....you get the picture. Even though we don't see each other ever day, week, month, or even sometimes year, each of my far away friends holds a special place in my heart. My up close friends - some days I forget that not everyone is blessed with a group of people with whom to "do life." One the days that I remember that, I am even more thankful for "The Group," those people who are in my house every week, who invite me to their house every week, who I see on the weekends (when I'm not out of town visiting a far away friend), who will catch a late movie with me, who will help us decorate for Christmas, who will watch football with me, who will make a Starbucks run with me. You know? Just doing life together. That's what we do, and I dig it. My church family - I feel like I have a couple of these since I've moved from place to place and have had the opportunity to get involved in multiple great churches. Either way, I love the people who worship with me on a weekly basis, and I'm learning to appreciate them more and more. So there are a few highlights from my "Thankful For" list. What tops your list this year?
So, I like football. I didn't grow up watching (or understanding) it, so my affection for the sport is recently acquired. Though I have three brothers, we weren't really a sports family. Tennis was our most frequently watched and played sport. We're more of a mental exercise family. We play board game and card games and correct each others' grammar and know way too many random facts. Give us a word game, and we'll give you a run for your money. Challenge us in a team sport, and you'll [probably] win (probably) every time.
So, being the only girl (well, one of the two, if you count my mom) in a family of six, you'd think me liking football would be pretty expected. However, I'm the anomaly in the family BECAUSE I like football. Seriously. My dad teases me about it.
My team is the Steelers. This is important for you to know. I love me some black and gold.
I went to my first pro football game earlier this year - the AFC Championship in Heinz Field. Pittsburgh beat the Jets. Yay! It was 6 degrees. Literally. Great experience, but very cold.
Last month, I went to my second NFL game. Also in Heinz Field. Also won by Pittsburgh. It was significantly warmer. Here's a little glimpse of my fun in Pennsylvania:
Heinz Field in the lovely Pittsburgh, PA
The teams getting ready for their next play. Please note how close the Steelers are to the end zone.
The lovely view of downtown Pittsburgh from our seats. So good.
Your name says a lot about you. I know you don't get to pick your name, but somewhere along the line, it becomes part of who you are, and you become part of it. So, I've been thinking about my name and different nicknames I have accumulated over the years. Here are my thoughts on a few... Kristi: the name most people I know call me. In fact, some people don't even know my for-real name is Kristina. I like my name. Cute. Short. Happy-sounding. My mom calls me Kristi Beth sometimes. First name shortened. middle name shortened. I love it. I feel like a little girl again just hanging out with mommy when she uses it. To some people I'm known as Miss Kristi. This is one of my favorite nicknames, probably because of the people who use this term: kids at my church when I'm teaching a class or just hanging out with them and kids I babysit. Something about a sweet child being so excited to see me and calling out "Miss Kristi!!" just makes my heart smile. Kristina: I have mixed emotions about being called Kristina because two types of people call me that. 1) People who don't know me worth beans and have only seen my email signature or the name plate on my desk. (Me no likey.) 2) People who know me well, know that I usually go by Kristi, but call me Kristina anyway knowing that not many people do. (Me likey.) Finch, Finchy, Finchworthy (or any other variation of my last name): I also like these nicknames. I think what I like about these is just that when they are used, people want to call me something other than my first name but don't want to get too crazy. I see this as them using a term of endearment. I like that. Another not-so-expected nick name I have is Pookie. That's right, Pookie (or the ever-popular variation, Pooks). A couple of my close friends share this nickname. Just typing it out makes it sound silly and funny, but in real life, it feels totally normal, and I probably use this just as much as (if not more than) my friend's real name. I love nicknames because what someone calls me is a bit telling about my relationship with them. If you have a special name for me, then I feel like I am special to you. Not in a ushy-gushy-lovey-dovey way, but in a I'm-glad-you're-my-friend way. There's something fun about having a name that just for you or that just used by one special person in your life. In fact, I fully intend to name my future children in such a way that is conducive to having a great nickname. Do you have any special nicknames in your life? What's your favorite? Why do you like it?
The arrival of fall is imminent. Before I know it, I'll be sure not to leave the house without a jacket and will reinstate hot tea as my breakfast staple after its hiatus for the summer. There's something special and magical about fall. I can't put my finger on what is it exactly, but I think that's part of what makes it so great. Something involving the cooler (but not too cold just yet) weather, the crisper air, the leaves changing colors, trips to an apple orchard, enjoying warm drinks on the front porch, pumpkin flavored everything....there's just something about fall.
One of the things that makes fall so refreshing might be that things seem to slow down a little. I know the schedule is still full, but somehow, things just seem a little slower. My summer was a bit busy, to say the least. I was traveling more weekends than I spent at home, and those times I was at home, there were often out of town guests to entertain or other exciting activities happening. Either way. Busy. There are a few fall trips planned but not as many, and they seem fewer and farther between (ok - now that I look at the calendar, they really aren't fewer or farther between, but somehow it seems that way).
All that to say, now that I'm on the doorsteps of fall (and having spent a few hours of alone time driving to and from Pennsylvania this past weekend), I've really been thinking about all that happened in my life over the summer. I don't know about you, but this summer has been one of learning and growing and stretching and challenging. Through several different situations and opportunities, the Lord has really been teaching me to have a different perspective and different priorities in my life.
I plan to share more about these challenges and how they have prompted some changes in future posts. BUT I really want to hear if there's any ways you have been challenged this summer. Now that summer is coming to an end, what do you see when you look back?
I haven't posted in a while, but there have been several times when I've thought of something profound and wanted to post but haven't quite gotten around to it. I think that's one of the symptoms of the ridiculous busyness of my life. But, that's a whole different story.
The Lord has really been working on my heart and in my life in the past couple months. I'm not sure where he's leading me, but it is evident that we're headed somewhere. I'm excited to see where that may be.
One of the things God has used in my life to challenge me and help me reshape my thinking was my recent trip to Brazil. This was my second time to travel to Porto Alegre, Brazil with Living Bread Ministries, a ministry working to plant churches in poor communities. I was challenged in several ways throughout the trip, but the first challenge happened while I was packing. Though it's a sweltering summer here in Lynchburg, in south Brazil it's the beginning of their winter, so I was trying to pack layers to prepare appropriately for their weather: warmish (upper 60s, maybe low 70s) in the day, cool (50s) in the evenings.
I decided that flip flops or sandals wouldn't be wise since it would be chilly, and we'd be walking all over dirty streets. Thus my need to pack socks. So, I stood in my bedroom counting out how many days we'd be traveling pulling that many pairs of socks out of my so-stuffed-I-can't-always-close-it-properly sock drawer. Then I decided I didn't want to wear certain pairs of socks, so I swapped them for other pairs I like better. I have so many pairs of socks that I could be choosy about which 12 pairs I packed for the trip. More. than. 12. pairs. of. socks. Really? Who needs that many socks? I mean, I do laundry often enough that even if I wore a pair of socks every single day (which I don't), I wouldn't need that many.
I know there is nothing inherently wrong with having a bajillion pairs of socks. But, I think my ridiculous number of socks is one indicator/symptom of my oh-so-comfy lifestyle of excess, convenience, instant gratification, and self-ward focus. I don't live so selfishly on purpose, but it happens by default, by lack of intentionality to live selflessly.
So, I realized that I have too many socks. And too many most other things in my life. I was packing to go on a missions trip to serve people, many of whom don't have ANY pairs of socks, and I was being picky about which 12 pairs I was packing.
I'm betting you can probably guess where I'm going with this. I haven't cleaned my sock drawer out yet, but I am actively reevaluating how I am using my resources and what I am doing to be intentionally outward-focused instead of inward-focused. There are so many people who have various needs in my neighborhood, in my town, in my state, in my country, and around the world. What am I doing that will have a positive impact on them? I have been blessed with so much, but I so often just enjoy these blessings myself without sharing them with others.
So my sock challenge is to use my resources to bless others, to use what I have to the benefit of someone other than myself.
....and this was before I even set foot on an airplane headed to Brazil.
At present I am sitting in an airport waiting for my next flight to board. At the current time, I expected to be home and hopefully napping by this point. However, things don't always go how I plan or expect them to go. Our red eye was running late, so we missed our connection, so here we sit.
Waiting. This seems to be a common theme for my life and, as I've come to observe, for really everyone's life. We're all waiting on something. A new job. A new house. A ring from that boyfriend. A baby. The next step. Something that we want that we don't have now.
As I sit here in the airport, I'm reminded of the little (if any) control I have over my waiting and when the reality for which I am waiting comes to fruition. Now, for instance, I can't change that we missed our flight. I can't change when the next one will leave. I am not responsible for these things. I am, however, responsible for what I do during the waiting. Sitting here in the airport, I am catching up on a couple emails, chatting it up with one of my favorite people on gchat, thinking about the fun times that were had on our trip, and day dreaming about my bed. These activities sure beat complaining about something over which I have zero control.
So it goes with the big things for which I wait. I don't know when or if I'll see those things come to reality. (Unfortunately, you don't get a boarding pass with the exact time and location of your next move for those big, life events!) So I just have to make sure I'm doing the best that I can with what I have while I'm waiting.
A wise pastor I know once said, "What you learn during the waiting is just as important as what you're waiting for." This a good reminder for me on a consistent basis. Am I wasting this time I have waiting for something bigger and better? Am I missing the opportunities I have right now?
So, like my dad always says, "Hurry up, and wait!" ....but be determined not to miss what's going on while you wait.
You know that feeling after you complete a sizable task? Getting to check something off the ol' to-do list. A burden lifted. One less thing to worry about. That's how I feel after I submit final grades for the course(s) I teach. Papers have been graded. Scores have been calculated (not by me, thanks to Grade Center in Blackboard). Done. Check. Moving on.
The exciting part is thinking about all the things to which I can look forward now that I don't have (as much) grading to do:
Upcoming trip to California - I haven't really spent time on the west coast, especially not in my adult life so far. Other than a trip to Oregon as a kid and a few layovers in LA and San Fransisco, I'm a first-timer and very much excited about it!
More time to read - I'm about a million books behind Miranda on our reading list (ok, not a million, 4, I think). Not that it's a competition, but tracking together helps us both stay on pace to finish the list. I'm about 170 pages into 1000+ page Gone with the Wind, so I better get moving!
Catching up on life - Am I the only one who feels like I'm always one or two steps behind? I think it's my chronic problem with over-committing myself to everything and not leaving enough downtime or buffer in my life that is to blame. Either way, I'm learning to say "no" more (not my strongest suit) and not feel guilty when I have nothing to do.
I get so caught up in doing things that I often forget about being. I don't want to have a million things to do and no time to do them. I would rather have one or two things to do and plenty to time to do them to the best of my ability. But unfortunately, the list of things to do keeps growing: organize/print pictures for albums, clean the office, plant flowers out front, sort through closets to weed out things I don't wear, buy luggage, start thinking about packing for upcoming trips, etc., etc.
As silly as it may sound, I really am looking forward to getting these things done. It is an opportunity to worship through my activities and my time management. I have largely failed in this area thus far, so I'm praying that I can take steps toward being a good steward of my time. I want to glorify the Lord in all things including (especially) the way I spend my time. His desire is for me to be filled, not for me to be burnt out. Yes, I need to do the things on my list, but I don't need to become overwhelmed and stressed about them.
This is a constant battle I fight, so reading Oswald Chambers' words a few nights ago really struck a cord with me. He says this relating to Matthew 6: 25 and 33:
Jesus did not say that the person who takes no thought for anything in his life is blessed— no, that person is a fool. But Jesus did teach that His disciple must make his relationship with God the dominating focus of his life, and to be cautiously carefree about everything else in comparison to that.
I like that. "Cautiously carefree." These are words that I would like to be used about me someday. I want to live with a certain wisdom and caution, but I also want to be able to have a light, carefree air about me. Do things on a whim knowing that I haven't neglected any of responsibilities. Prayerfully, that's where I'm headed.
So, here's to being cautiously carefree and light as a feather!
There has been a significant amount of uncertainty in the last couple weeks of my life. I have been faced with a sizable decision and was largely unsure of how to respond or what choice to make. I enjoy change and surprises, but this one really caught me off guard. I ended up making the decision (an at-least-for-now decision, anyway) on Friday. I'm a little apprehensive about it, but I'm glad to have the decision behind me and the living-it-out ahead of me.
All that to say, I have been a bit (read: really) uncertain about all this. Did I make the right choice? Did I wait too long to make it? Did I make it selfishly? Did I weigh all the options appropriately?
On Friday night, after I'd made my decision, I was reading that day's devotional in Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highestas I do every night (ok - almost every night). I'm pretty sure that entry was strategically placed on April 29 for me to read that night. Though all of it was spot on with what I needed to hear, here are the portions of it that especially jumped out at me:
Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life - gracious uncertainty is the mark of a spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. [...] We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task he has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. [...] We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. [...] Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in - but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.
I'm so thankful that despite all the uncertainties of life and any of the decisions I could have made, I can always be certain that following the Lord is the way to go. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but I'm looking forward to the surprises of abandoning my ideas of where I should be for faithfully following. Though following can be scary (I can't see where I'm going; I just have to trust that He can and does), I know it's the best choice every time. And I really do like surprises.
Thank you, Taylor Swift, for this lyric that so accurately speaks my feelings right now. Lately, I've found myself wondering how and when did I grow up? I have such a big-girl life now. A for-real job. A house. A car. Car repairs. Responsibility.
It seems like just yesterday I was running around in shorts and shanilas (Tagalog for flipflops), climbing trees or riding bikes with my brothers. Or learning to swim. Or itching to be old enough to get my driver's license. Or studying for my first college final exam. Or counting down the days till commencement.
But this morning I woke up in a bed that I bought, in a house where I pay the bills (well, not REALLY cause I'm housesitting right now, but normally, I would). I go to work all day, come home from work to some evening commitment or grading for the online classes I teach. No playing out in the sunshine or climbing trees. Not that I don't have fun, but it's a different kind of fun that you get to have as a 20-something than you had as a kid. A less carefree fun. A yes-I'm-having-fun-but-I-know-I-have-responsibilities-to-keep-in-mind fun.
This is seeming a bit depressing as I'm rereading it. It's not that I'm not enjoying this chapter of life and the independence I have. This is the time when I'll have the most flexibility and the most means more than any other time. So I really do enjoy this time. Honest! I like being able to up and drive to PA for the weekend without having to ask anyone's permission. I like being able to go shopping online and buy something just because I can. I like calling my own shots. It's just that some days and weeks (like this one), I miss the young innocence and freedom of the kid version of myself. I mean, who wouldn't miss this?
I just keep reminding myself that fireflies can be caught by big girls, too.
My roommate Miranda and I recently crafted a list of 50 books we would like to read in the next year. You can see the list (and read more about my wonderful roommate) here. If we want to finish the list within a year, we're each going to have to read about a book a week. That's a lot of reading, but that's also the point of the list - for us to read a lot. We came up with the list on April 6. So, we have until April 6, 2012 (with a little room for give or take) to finish 50 books. I've already been able to check one off the list.
Unbeknownst to me, Miranda had already chosen to give me a book from the list for my birthday which was the day after we came up with our list. Needless to say, I started with that one, Water for Elephants. I finished it this week (within seven days, so I'm on a good pace for a book a week) and am looking forward to Miranda reading it soonish so we can talk about it. (I say soonish because she started with the whopping 1024 page novel Gone with the Wind.)Once we both read it, we'll see the movie. One of my favorite things to do is to compare a movie to the book on which it's based. And it's always more fun when there's a friend with whom to do the comparing.
So, about the book. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is the tale of an accidental member of a traveling circus. Jacob looks back on the events of his life from the nursing home where he lives. After unexpectedly losing his parents just before completing his final exams for vet school, he stumbles (ok, more like leaps) upon a circus train and ends up traveling with "The Most Spectacular Show on Earth" as the circus vet. Torn between his developing affection for one of the performers and his moral obligation to respect her husband, Jacob struggles with the lifestyle and culture of a traveling circus.
I can't give away anymore of the plot (and I'm bad at cliffhangers), but I will say that the story didn't turn out the way I expected it to. Not being sure what to expect, I was surprised at parts of the story and how the conflict was resolved. I'm looking forward to how the movie will depict this interesting series of events and character development. A bit of a warning - the novel is quite graphic in parts, so I can't fully condone it. I hope the movie is more tasteful, but I'm trying not to set my expectations too high.
Have you read Water for Elephants? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
It seems like you just have to dive into a blog. I've been pondering how the first post should look, but there are too many ideas and too many directions I could go with this. Do you give a bio about yourself? Do you explain what the blog is going to do? I don't know, but either way, you have to start it off somehow. So, here's the obligatory first blog post.
I'm enamored by blogs. I follow about a bajillion of them. Most of them are by people I know; a couple are not. I like hearing other people's stories and thoughts. You get to see into someone a little more with a blog. How do they write? Do they use capitalization? Punctuation? Proper grammar? How do they design this window into their lives? Serif fonts? Sans serif? (Seriously, I notice these things.) Because I like observing others through blogs, I decided that it would be fun to create one myself to allow others to notice silly details about me.
Another reason I thought the whole blog-writing deal might be good is my intermittent desire to say something to an audience, any audience really. I'll think of something, want to verbalize it somehow, but not have the appropriate medium in which to do so. A blog solves that problem. I can think of something to share, type it out, read it over to prevent anything embarrassing or grammatically incorrect from going public, and click "Publish Post."
So, there you have it. First post. Hope you enjoy!