A blog of thoughts by Kristi Finch

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

All the Single Ladies

(Two things before I get started.  1.  This is not just for single ladies.  Single gentlemen might appreciate this, too, though I apologize in advance for my female perspective.  Sorry, it's all I've got.  2. It's long.  I'm sorry.  I kind of got to rambling.  But it's all good stuff, me thinks.  Ok, here we go.)

I recently listened to a podcast that was hosting an interview with Steve DeWitt, a pastor in Indiana.  His unique story of being a pastor (a senior pastor at that) and single until he recently tied the knot at age 44 gives him a platform to discuss singleness and ministry on a level that most can't share.  Just before he got married, he gave a sermon titled The Bachelor Pastor that touches on some important points of singleness that really resonated with me.  I encourage you to listen to/read his story and be encouraged by it.  Here are my thoughts on some things he said.

Having been single (in an I'm-not-married way) all my life and single (in an I'm-not-dating-anyone way) for the last six years, I could relate to a lot of thing things DeWitt said and experienced.  He wanted to get married and was verbal about it.  I tend to be that way, too.  He was consistently having people ask him about why he's still single.  I get that a lot.  And by a lot I mean a lot more than a lot.  (I have yet to come up with a really good reason...) He perhaps overvalued marriage in his life.  I think I do that far more that I should.  

While marriage will be a blessing that I will prayerfully get to experience someday, more often than not too much weight is placed on marriage as a precursor to "real life" or "being a grown up" or the like.  And I'm to blame for that as much as anyone.  In the grand scheme of life, what is most important? Living for the glory of the Lord.  Is marriage required for that?  No.  DeWitt said "We tend to celebrate the gift of marriage more than we celebrate the gift of singleness."  He makes good points about weddings and anniversaries being super exciting and sweet celebrations (and they should be), but there is a significant disparate when it comes to parties for those of us who have not yet tied the knot.  (Thinking about this makes we want to throw an I'm-still-single party.  Do you think people will still bring presents?)  "The Bible does not look down on singleness," notes DeWitt.  I think that's good for me to remember because sometimes it seems like the church does.  

All that to say, we tend to focus on the blessing of marriage, but not on the blessing of singleness.  And yes, I actually believe singleness is, and should be, a blessing.  Don't ask me on a day when all I see on facebook are people getting engaged and I've just watched the sappiest chick flick in my library, but most days, I do see my singleness as a gift.  [Disclaimer to any future boo of mine who might be reading this:  I do see my singleness as a gift, but I will so look forward to different gifts that come with dating/marriage and will welcome them with open arms.  And hugs.  Hugs require open arms, too.  The gifts of singleness are just different than the gifts of non-singleness, so I'm just trying to enjoy and be thankful for what I've got while I've got it.  I do not value these things over being with you, but I am trying not to value being with you over these things.]  Because I'm single, I have more opportunities to be flexible with my schedule and when I travel and how I spend my money.  Because I'm single, I can more easily serve in ministry (both at my church and otherwise).  Because I'm single, I don't have to shave my legs as often (sorry for any dudes reading this, but it's true, and it's a perk).  If I had gotten married fresh out of college like I expected I would, the last few years of my life would look drastically different, and I have loved the last few years and would be sad to miss out on the memories I've made.

Then there's the whole spiritual side of things.  I think marriage is certainly a great opportunity for men and women to glorify the Lord in that specific context.  Selflessness, unconditional love, you know, all those good things.  But marriage is temporary.  It's a fleeting institution in light of eternity.  It only exists in this world and not in the world to come.  Yes, it's important here and should be a beautiful picture of Christ's love for the church.  It's a means of having the most intimate of human relationships.  But it's scope of impact doesn't last beyond this life.  My relationship with the Lord and the fruitfulness of my ministry should have zero correlation with my marital status.  Though a marriage would certainly impact my ministry and change it in many ways (and these changes will be met with open arms, as I previously mentioned, you may recall), I alone am responsible for how I invest the resources that I have been given and my personal commitment to Christ.  Yes, a marriage will have a significant impact on these things, especially being the woman who will have to submit to the leadership of a husband, but I cannot expect my husband to do the heavy lifting of MY spiritual walk.  

But I'm so lonely sometimes!  And won't marriage fix that?  (I'm not proud to admit I think this sometimes.)  DeWitt asserts, "God never intended marriage or singleness to be the sources of our contentment."  I've often heard that some of the loneliest people are married.  (And I believe that can be true. As a single person, I don't expect there to be anyone holding my hand through things.  I go it alone, and it can be a lonely road.  But I cannot imagine the loneliness of having a person who SHOULD be going through something with me but still feeling alone.)  But it's hard to internalize as a single chick.  I would expect that having a husband would be awesome.  Someone's always there to take the garbage out and watch a movie with (ok - let's be honest...and be a pillow for me while he watches a movie) and pray with me in the morning and all the other nice things I imagine could come with marriage.  These may be realistic expectations, but they may not be.  And I am always the one responsible for how I feel or for how I respond to a situation like loneliness.  My contentment depends on me and my Jesus.  Not me and my hubster (or lack thereof).

So where do I do go from here?  I just been mulling over these things in my head for the past couple weeks or so and rambling on this blog for the past couple paragraphs or so, but now what?  DeWitt doesn't leave this part out of his message.  He says, "Be the kind of Christian man or woman that a godly Christian man or woman would find attractive: a life that is lived to the love of God."  I can do that.  I can depend on Jesus for my contentment.  I can invest in my relationship with Christ (which hopefully my future Mr. will totally dig).  I can spend my time in a way that brings glory to the Lord.  I can work to weed out sinful areas of my life like pride and selfishness.  I can learn patience as I wait on God's timing for my main man to make his grand appearance.  After all, "There's nothing more annoying in all the world than whiney, single Christians," knowingly notes DeWitt.  

So if the Bachelor Pastor can wait until he's 44 to marry his leading lady, my 25 year old self can continue to love on Jesus until the time he brings that special someone into my life (or until the time he comes again or calls me home, to get all churchy).   I can keep living my life not in a waiting-for-it-to-start kind of way but in an I'm-already-living-to-the-fullest kind of way.   I can serve the Lord with my singleness while I've got it.  I can pray hopefully and expectantly for the Lord to bless me with a wonderful Mr.  At the end of the day, I may be a single lady, but I don't have to be a miserable, lonely, bored, and single lady!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Resolution Revisited


I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
    to you, O Lord, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless.
    Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
    within my house;
I will not set before my eyes
    anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
    it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall be far from me;
    I will know nothing of evil.

Psalm 101:1-4, ESV

A couple New Years ago, I decided to make these my theme verses for the upcoming year.  I read them again this week and realized they are just as worthy a goal for my life now as they were then.

These words are more challenging than they may seem at first glance.  How many things do I ponder that are "blameless" or what might I spend time thinking about or looking at that is of no eternal value or "worthless?"  Do I really spend time praising the Lord for his steadfast love and his justice?  Do I live every day "with integrity of heart" and flee from a "perverse heart?"  Do I truly "know nothing of evil?"  

All these things are easier said than done, but the benefit of closeness with my Jesus as a result of my personal holiness and purity in my life more than outweighs the challenge.  These are fights well worth fighting because the victories are so worth it.  

New Year's resolution?  Not really.  Daily resolution?  Absolutely.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Kisses From Katie

On a day when there are so many things to distract me and discourage me, I am trying to keep my focus on what is true, on what is beautiful, on the hope I have.  So, this is what I thought of:  a book I recently finished.  I am notorious for starting books and losing steam about halfway through, but this one got picked back up at Lodge Weekend and actually got finished!

Kisses from Katie (Howard Books, 2011) is a beautiful, challenging account of a young lady's determination not to settle for the status quo and what would be expected of a bright, college-bound high school grad.  A year of ministry before she started college turned into a new life in another country where Katie Davis would impact others in ways she may not have ever dreamed.  What started out as a trip to Uganda to teach Kindergarten for a year turned into so much more.  After falling in love with the Ugandan people and seeing the extensive needs spread before her, Katie chose to stay there and continue to love people like Jesus has loved her.  Long story short, she dropped all the comforts and conveniences of her normal life in the States and exchanged them for a houseful of girls who call her Mommy, a community where she is a vessel of the love of Christ in practical ways, and a ministry Amazima that cares for hundreds of children in Uganda.

I got this book for Christmas last year, and looked forward to reading it.  But it took me months to crack the cover.  Not because I didn't want to, but because I was too busy.  My days were too full of commitments, running here and there, and trying to get some good sleep once in a while (and I do love me some good sleep!).  A beach trip this summer finally provided the opportunity to start the book.  Sitting in a lounge chair next to a pool at a huge beach house isn't exactly the most convenient time to be challenged about a lifestyle of excess and superfluous comforts.  Talk about conviction.  But the beach trip ended, and the book went back on the shelf, unfinished.    

When I finally finished the book last weekend, all the ways it had challenged me before came flooding back a hundredfold.  The "big" things in my life aren't really that big at all.  I am well fed, well clothed, well housed, well spoiled.  There are things I have to excess what so many lack all together.  If this doesn't impact my lifestyle, how can I call myself someone who walks in Christ's footsteps?  

And then this past Sunday was "Adoption Sunday," and a couple from my church who had recently traveled to Uganda and are now in the process of adopting a brother and sister from an orphanage there mentioned Kisses from Katie.  Coincidence?  I think not.  The Lord has put adoption in my heart more and more over the past year or so.  But I have always thought it was a waiting game since I'm single.  When I'm married I'll be able to adopt.  But does it have to be?  How in the world could I move this a long without trying to rush the whole getting married thing?  I don't know what that looks like, but just opening the doors of thought in that direction might be the start of something bigger than I thought was possible.  Maybe a little like Katie.  Maybe I just have to carefully listen the Lord's leading, follow Him there, and let him do the rest.

Beyond the ways Katie's life challenges my own, I have to fight the temptation to mimic her calling.  She's two years younger than me, but she's done so much more than I have.  Should I pack up and find some orphans to take care of?  Should I give up all that has become normal to me for the sake of an obedience adventure that's glamorous in the eyes of the Christian community? No.  Not necessarily. My obedience to the call of God doesn't have to look like Katie's.  The way she moved across the world to care for orphans makes me quitting my job this summer to live in the same place to work for a ministry seem much more insignificant.  But it's not insignificant.  My ministry matters.  And that's a way the Lord has called me.  But he's not done with me.  I can't just keep living my comfy life, working for a nonprofit, and calling that "following."  I can't settle for that.  I need to poor my heart and energy and life into Jesus and the ministry where he has placed me. I need to have a critical eye of my life choices and fight living in excess.  I need to support others' calls, but I need to follow only the one the Lord has spoken to me.  And I need to make sure I'm listening.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Traditions

I love traditions.  This is a bit of paradox in my personality because I also love new things for the sake of new things.  But there is something delightfully familiar about having something on which you can count, something upon which you can rely, something that is consistent.  

Lots of my favorite traditions are connected to holidays or a special activity.  Here are a few of them:

  • The Filipino breakfast the fam eats every Christmas morning
  • Getting iced, blueberry coffee at Dunkin Donuts
  • The little song my little brother and I made up for whenever my dad travelled
  • The shopping trip Mom and I take every time I go home to visit
  • Naming ChezMK's Christmas tree and having all our friends over to eat cookies and help us decorate her
  • Playing caroms with Peter
  • Playing cribbage with Dad
  • My birthday trips to Pennsylvania
  • And the list could go on.
One of my favorite traditions is at the forefront of my mind this week because it just took place over the past couple days: Lodge Weekend.
A view of Claytor Lake from the dock in front
of our favorite Lodge: Number 15

This is the sixth time we've taken two-ish hour treck out to Claytor Lake State Park for our legendary weekend at the lodge.  Six times is more than enough for it to merit tradition status, me thinks.

It all started back in 2008 when a few of us were invited to spend a weekend with a couple of our friends' parents at this lake.  This was one of my first times hanging out with The Group, so it was a monumental occasion in my life.  

Since then, we have had a winter lodge weekend, a few fall lodge weekends, and even a Christmas lodge weekend.  

Whatever the weather or season, our times at the lake have been characterized by book-reading, by the fire-sitting, meal-cooking, nap-taking, game-playing, and friend-bonding.  The lodge doesn't have a TV or internet (well, internet that actually works, anyway), so we spend our time pretty much unplugged.  Somehow, the weekend always seems to fall on a time when we could all use a weekend of relaxation without the hustle and bustle of normal life.  There's just nothing like having no agenda and no responsibilities for a day and half and getting to spend it with some of your favorite people.

The Crew from Lodge Weekend V, December 2011 on the front porch
Miranda, Jeremy, Clif, Jenn, Drew, Natasha, Dennis, Josh, Deborah, Jimmy, James, Jeff, Steve, Heather, Kristi


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Status Quo

I love the way the Lord works in my life.  So often there will be a lesson he is teaching me, and it seems that everything I experience points directly toward the specific message I need to hear or truth I need to internalize.  

Right now that lesson is...well, it's hard to label it precisely.  But here's the gist of it.  Don't settle for "normal."  Don't settle for what the world says is normal or right or good.  Strive for what the Lord says best.  And that looks weird to the world.  Even to most Christians it might look weird.  And weird is ok if that's what God says.  

Most 25-year-old ladies are working to establish a career, set up a 401(k), get married, set goals for their future, buy a nicer car, expand their wardrobe, and buy more shoes.  And I want all these things (except maybe the 401(k), but that's a completely different issue).   None of these things are inherently wrong, but if these things are not solely for the glory of the Lord, then wrong would be an appropriate descriptor.  If what I do is anything other than glorifying the Lord, it is wrong because my purpose in this life and for all of eternity is to bring glory to God.

A friend and I are reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan together right now.  This is one of the avenues the Lord is using to drive home this message in my life.  He challenges the accepted norm of the American "Christian" life that sees complete commitment to the Lord as crazy with these words:


"If one person 'wastes' away his day by spending hours connecting with God, and the other person believes he is too busy or has better things to do than worship the Creator and Sustainer, who is the crazy one?  If one person invests her or his resources in the poor--which, according to Matthew 25, is giving to Jesus Himself--and the other extravagantly remodels a temporary dwelling that will not last beyond his few years left on this earth, who is the crazy one?" (p. 136)

This is amid a chapter of his book describing some indicators of a life that is genuinely obsessed with Jesus.  I love the description of obsession as "a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated" from urbandictionary.com (Disclaimer: I do not find urbandictionary.com as an authority on definitions or pretty much anything).  Maybe being labeled as obsessed wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Francis Chan goes on to say this, which summarizes the challenge of my life as of late:


"Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo.  A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don't always make sense in terms of success or wealth on this earth." (p. 136-137)

A devotional I read recently reinforces this point:


"Though I [God] have brought many pleasures into your life, not one of them is essential.  Receive my blessings  with open hands.  Enjoy my good gifts, but do not cling to them.  Turn your attention to the Giver of all good things, and rest in the knowledge that you are complete in me.  The one thing you absolutely need is the one thing you can never lose: my presence with you" (Sarah Young in Jesus Calling, 2011, p. 298).

I'm not sure exactly how this should play out in my life or what it needs to look like in my specific situation, but I do know that it looks significantly different than the life I currently live.  I do know that it will take me out of my comfort zone.  I do know that it will require some hard decisions.  Decision that are hard because they go against what is accepted as "normal" or "sensible."  Decisions that are hard because I'm not used to trusting God on a literal, practical level.  My "trust" in the Lord has basically only been on a theoretical level my whole life.  I have trusted the Lord for my next meal, knowing that my kitchen is full of food.  I have trusted the Lord to cover my bills, knowing that my next paycheck would be direct-deposited into my bank account at the end of the month.  But living a life of complete commitment to the Lord requires real trust and may be out of the area I have determined to be my comfort zone.

It's countercultural to hold loosely the things of this world.  Materialism is normal. Being busy is normal.  Being selfish is normal.  Being independent and self-reliant is normal.    But these are the opposite of the Lord's calling for my life and for the lives of all those who claim the name of Christ.  First Corinthians 1 explains that the world sees the life committed to the Gospel of Christ as foolishness and folly.  

So this is the lesson I'm learning.  And I fear I will need to keep learning this lesson over and over again on a daily basis until the day Jesus calls me home.  But until then, I will fight the urge to do what is expected.  I will fight the urge to settle for the status quo.  I will fight the urge to avoid being called weird or foolish by the world.  I will fight to live a life obsessed with Jesus.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thailand

This is a little shout out to my ministry, Living Bread.  Today we announced our expansion into Thailand.  I am thrilled to be part of this ministry at such a time of growth.  With a vision for serving the poor around the world, we are excited to expand into another continent.  Prayerfully, this will become our hub of ministry in Asia.  

Read more about it here!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On a Day Like Today

Have you ever had a day when you feel uninspired and unmotivated?  I'm having one of those days.  Not sure why, but it happens every so often.  I have no reason to be more unmotivated today than any other day.  Perhaps on the contrary.  I have lots of reasons to be motivated today.  I have lots of work to do, lots of great blessings in my life, lots of people who surround me with love, and a wonderful Savior who gives me breath each day.  Still today, focus and productivity escape me.

Days like this provide a good opportunity for me to sit back and remind myself of all the reasons I have to take action against the doldrums in which I find myself.  There's one specific reason I have in mind at the moment, and it's something I haven't shared on this blog as much as I should have yet.

As you may have gathered through earlier posts, I went through a pretty big transition this summer.  I quit my day job and traded it in for a position at a support-based ministry, Living Bread.  I share a little about my transition here and here.  

Living Bread Ministries is an organization that exists to plant churches among the global poor, addressing not only the spiritual needs of poverty stricken communities, but also their physical, social, and emotional needs.  It was founded by Patrick and Barbara Hubbard, a couple I have gotten to know and love over the past couple years.  

My role within the ministry is that of administrative coordinator.  I am trying to take over the office duties to allow the Hubbards to invest their time and energy in expanding the reach of Living Bread, ultimately changing more lives for the sake of the Gospel.  Though I have some experience in administration, this is still a new adventure for me.  I went from a scheduled 8-5 desk job to a working-from-home, as-flexible-as-I-need-it-to-be role.  This newfound freedom has been the biggest adjustment by far.  I enjoy some aspects of it (like wearing jeans if I want to and not having to set my alarm as early), but I struggle with other parts (like resisting the urge to spend my day doing laundry and housework instead and not having an office full of people with whom to interact all day).  I am not good at alone time, and suddenly, I find myself with a lot of it.  Over all, I've been doing ok, but some days (today for example), I can think of about a million things I'd rather do than sit at my desk working all by my lonesome.  

When I get stuck in one of those moments of a I-can't-be-by-myself-for-any-longer-or-I'll-go-crazy mindset, I try to refocus on why I do what I do and how my investment of time and energy will have an impact on eternity.  I didn't quit my job so I could be my own time-manager.  I didn't quit so I could have a job that could travel with me.  I didn't quit so I could stay up late and sleep in the next morning if I want to.  These are all great benefits to this new role, but none of them is the primary reason I do what I do.  I do what I do because I want to support this ministry.  Because through the ministry of Living Bread, churches are being planted, the Gospel is being taught, families are coming to know the love of Christ, lives are touched, and forever is impacted.  I do what I do because it matters.  It matters today.  It will matter tomorrow.  It will matter for eternity.  

And if that isn't motivating, I don't know what is.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Weekend Later

Weekend projects are fun and rewarding.  A short time commitment (two days usually) and a sense of accomplishment (assuming the project gets finished).

My weekend project:  repainting my porch rockers.  




I got these lovelies a couple years ago, and they have gotten lots of good use.  There are few things I enjoy more than a cup of tea and my Bible study on my front porch, sitting in the sun with a good book in the afternoon, or chatting with a friend in the evening.  I have loved them as long as I've had them, but I decided that since the paint was mostly chipped off, it would be in all of our best interest (mine and the chairs', that is) for them to get a new coat of paint before the winter rolled in.  

I found some new cushions on sale a few weeks ago while I was out shopping with my mom.  A trip (or two, cause I might have underestimated how much paint I'd need) to Lowe's for some spray paint in a coordinating color later and I was ready to go. 

Here's the end result.  Lovely.  Fresh.  Clean.  Favorite.  Complete with new fall flowers.




Bring on the cooler weather and another cup of tea!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Scout

I just tucked the sweetest little girl into bed.  I should be grading right now in the first quiet, not kid-filled moments of my day, but I just can't help but think about the precious moments she and I have shared together over the past two days.  

My wonderful friends Brendan and Hannah let me steal their daughter for a couple days.  She and I have been friends since the very beginning.  Quite literally.  As in, I was in the room when she was born, and mine were one of the first pairs of arms to cradle this sweet child.  We have been tight ever since, and I'm fairly sure her favorite color is purple because mine is.  

We lived in the same town until she was one and a half or so.  Four hundred miles have separated us ever since.  Though it might mean fewer in-person interactions, the miles haven't put a dent in our relationship.  There are plenty of weekend visits, Skype chats, and, now that both her mom and I have iPhones, Facetime!

Now that she's about a month shy of her fifth birthday, we (her mom and I) decided we would try a few days at Kristi's!  She loved the idea and apparently spilled over with excitement when she was told the visit had been scheduled.  I was in town for her little brother's birthday, and she came back to my place with me. After a longer-than-she-expected seven hour drive with a little bit of a carsickness incident, we arrived at Chez MK for a lovely time together.

The last 48 hours have held some of my most precious memories with this sweet child.  We have read books, laid on a blanket in the sunshine, hung out with a bunch of friends, ate burritos for Moe Monday, gone for a walk, splashed in water fountains, colored, snuggled through movies, sipped hot chocolate on the front porch in our morning robes, played in a bubble bath, took pictures, gathered leaves and acorns, named a pumpkin, worked on Kindergarten, gone grocery shopping, quoted movies, sung along with the Tangled soundtrack, and giggled a lot.  

Tomorrow we will meet her mom halfway between her house and mine for her to go home.  The days have gone by far too quickly and with not nearly enough napping (She has informed me on multiple occasions that she doesn't take naps anymore and that she can't have red dye.), but I wouldn't trade them for the world.  This little girl holds a very special place in my heart, and there just aren't enough minutes in the day to spend together.  She's been my pretty ever since I first held her in my arms, and I savor each precious moment we spend together.  

Meet Scout.


Ready for the oh-so-long drive from her house to mine.

Rockin' the shades cause the sun was just so bright.

How does this tiny little girl take up a whole queen size bed??

Crossing the Wards Road bridge together.

Starting the day off right with a cozy robe and some hot chocolate.

After finding my wide-brimmed hat.


Splash park fun!

Our pile of leaves and acorns.

My goofy girl!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Feels Like Home

This weekend I'm in Pennsylvania.  It amazes me how much a place can feel like home even when you don't live there.  It amazes me how much a place can make my heart smile.  It amazes me how a place can just feel so right.  

I lived here for five years while I was in middle and high school.  My family moved away from here, so it isn't even the "home" I visit for holidays, but it still holds a special place in my heart.  It's a good six and a half hour treck from where I live now, but it's worth the drive every time.  This is the place where I have a wonderful church, so many great memories, and friends who are practically family.  

This weekend, I'm here for a special little boy's third birthday.  My good friend Hannah's little people are a couple of my all-time favorites.  Her almost-five year old daughter and I are especially tight (she'll be hanging out with me for a few days next week; I can't wait!), but it is her little guy turning three that we're celebrating today.  It make me so happy that he knows me even though we've never lived in the same place.  A weekend visit here and there with a few Skype dates sprinkled in are the ways we've bonded.  Apparently it worked because yesterday as we were lounging on the couch watching a movie, he proclaimed, "Kristi, I love you."  There is about nothing as sweet as those words unashamedly coming from the mouth of a little one.

I make it a point never to miss their birthdays, so every September and October (and other times as I make excuses/reasons to make the trip) I head north for a wonderful weekend in PA.  I mean, tell me Buzz Lightyear isn't worth it!  

They say "Home is where your mom is."  And I have to agree with that.  But you can have more than one "home," right? Cause I know I do. And this place is one of them.  As I love to say: YAY PA!


My pretty Scout; my Buzz Lightyear, Jude; their mom, my PA sister-friend, Hannah

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

I'm bad at this.

As much as I hate to admit it, I'm bad at this.  Blogging, that is.  I neglect this poor thing for weeks at a time.  I feel like every post has to be some sort of literary genius packed into a few words.  I always want to have something profound to say, but the truth is, I don't.  I don't always have a great insight into life, love, and everything in between.  I'm self-admittedly bad at this.  

And, as was aforementioned, I hate to admit it.  I'm a perfectionist.  A frustrated perfectionist, if I'm honest, but still a perfectionist.  I always want things to be just right.  And, well, most of the time, they're just not.  (Hence the frustration.)  So I have set a goal for myself: not to be perfect.  Just to be.  This applies to everything, not just by blatant neglect of this blog for purposes of not wanting to encounter my imperfection.  How this should look:  writing more frequent posts, even if they're not long enough, profound enough, witty enough, insightful enough, or inspiring enough.  Sending more cards, even if they're not on time, the card doesn't perfectly illustrate the event or my relationship with the recipient, or it doesn't have the prettiest lettering I've ever done.  Calling friends more, even if I don't always have at least 15 minutes to chat, don't have a really funny anecdote to share, or can't remember exactly what was going on in their life the last time we talked.  Being a better friend in general, even if I don't always know the right thing to say, forget their favorite color, or miss their birthday.  Pouring myself into my ministry, even if I don't have a life-changing breakthrough about how it will change lives, don't always feel like I'm doing any good, or struggle to know what is the biggest priority or what to do next.  And then some.

There.  It's out.  I'm not perfect.  (I'm sure you're about as shocked as I am.)  But if I keep holding out for perfect, I'm going to be holding out a long time.  I don't want to miss out on something really, really great just because it's not perfect. 

(Also, just so you know, this post is filled with fragments, and I know it.  And I'm not going to change it.  It's not perfect.  Boom.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blessed II

(Part two cause I titled a previous post "Blessed."  Apparently I need to get more creative with these things!)

Tonight, I'm feeling so blessed.  I'm not sure how to articulate all the different thoughts swimming around in my head, but one word keeps surfacing.  Blessed.

I just got back from a trip to Brazil with Living Bread.  It was a great week of serving beside pastors who are in the trenches of ministry day in and day out.  It thrilled me to think that shortly my life will be an even greater investment into this organization that encourages and supports these servants of God.  Blessed.

This is my last week of work on staff at Liberty.  It's a bittersweet week because I'm definitely going to miss my Liberty family and the familiarity of my days on campus.  I've been there every day (with the exceptions of summers during undergrad and my student teaching semester) for almost eight years.  Crazy. Looking back at my time there, I am overwhelmed with the opportunities I have been given and the people I have gotten to know.  Blessed.  (See, there's that word again!)

I just got home from an evening of VBS at my church.  I love getting to share a few crazy moments with a crowded room full of energetic kids.  I get to bounce around and act slightly insane and totally get away with it.  It's often tiring, and sometimes I don't feel like it, but having a small child run up to hug my legs or catching a little one I don't know yet grin from ear to ear when I smile at them makes it all worth it.  Blessed.

I keep reminding myself that I need to remember these days of immense blessing so that when dark days come and storm clouds brew, I can know that my same Savior and Lord today is my Savior and Lord through the valleys of life that will inevitably come my way.  Thankful and blessed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hit the Road, Jack

I like to think I'm an adventurous person.  I think I might have proven it to some doubters recently.  On the spur of the moment (with about a week of planning), a wonderful friend and I roadtrip-ed across the country.  Utah to Pennsylvania.  1900 miles.  30 hours of driving. 8 states.  3 time zones.  3 days.  2 fun-loving chicks.  1 '96 Honda Accord.

A few superlatives from the trip:
Most sought after tune for the drive:  Call Me, Maybe (Not sure how proud I am of this, but it is what it is.)
Most flat/boring state:  Ohio
State with the most antelope: Wyoming
State with the most FedEx trucks: Nebraska
State with the prettiest rainbow: Illinois
State with the most tolls: Ohio
State with the prettiest views: Wyoming
State with the most people who knew the town where we were going in PA: Wyoming
State with the most bird casualties: Wyoming
State with the biggest farms: Iowa
State with the most time zones: Nebraska
State with the most pigs: Indiana
State with the most sheep: Wyoming
State with the most cows: Iowa
State we were most excited to see: Pennsylvania
State with the highest penalty for construction zones: Iowa (10,000 fine and up to 14 years in jail if you hit a construction worker.  Yikes.  In PA we just have to turn on our headlights!)
State with the most snow fences: Wyoming

My road trip buddy!

The story of our weekend.  I-80 East

The prettiest part of the drive - this gorgeous stretch of Wyoming right before Cheyenne. 

Our favorite road trip song.  Don't judge.

Across the country adventure? Check.  Next up?  Brazil! 




Thursday, May 24, 2012

I quit.

I quit my job.  That's kind of a big deal.  I didn't just up and walk out, but I did let my current boss know that I will be leaving my position over the summer.  The exact timing is not yet concrete, but it's been nailed down to sometime in July.

I quit my job.  But I love my job.  It has been a huge blessing in my life, and I have had the privilege of meeting lots of interesting people because of this position.  I have learned lots about myself, my strengths, and my weaknesses.  I can look back at the fresh-out-of-college girl who started working at Liberty four years ago and thank the Lord for how he has grown me and taught me more of himself over the four years and three positions I've held here.  I am so thankful for this job, so it is hard for me to leave.  It's hard for me to leave what has been so good.  It's hard for me to leave what has become so comfortable and normal.  I'm sad about it.

I quit my job.  And I am so looking forward to the new opportunity I have in the days to come. I will be working on staff at Living Bread Ministries.  They are based here in Lynchburg, so I don't have to move.  But I will get to travel often and enjoy the flexibility of largely setting my own schedule.  I am excited to share more about Living Bread and their ministry and why I'm so excited to join the team, but for now I just want to share the big news and let that sink in.  I'm happy about it. 

So this is one of those happy/sad times.  My family has used this phrase ever since I can remember.  We moved a lot and had lots of new beginnings while I was growing up.  We looked with anticipation toward the new opportunities ahead, but we left behind the familiar, comfortable life we'd grown to love with a tinge of sadness.  So this summer will be one of a happy/sad transition, but I am confident that the Lord has great plans for me ahead.  He has ordered my steps to this place, and I trust that he will continue to lead me through the places he wants me to go.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

May Days

It's May.  Where has the time gone?  

It seems that each month of 2012 so far has brought some very exciting things into my life.  I am often overwhelmed by the ways I am being blessed.  

It's the small things that are speaking so loudly to me lately.  An evening with friends becomes a time of precious memories with people who love me and who love the Lord.  A commute to dinner becomes a meaningful conversation with my dear roommate.  A child's birthday party becomes an inspiration as little ones are playing together and loving each other with innocence that isn't found anywhere else.

What little blessings do you have in your life?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Overflow

This weekend my heart has been in a constant state of overflow.  I took last Thursday and Friday off work to participate in all the wedding festivities of my dear friends Jennifer and Clifton.  Jenn and Clif are two of my closest friends, and they have been a big part of why I love my current life/work/friend situation.  Getting to push pause on "real life" and indulge in a fairy tale wedding weekend was nothing less than magical.

I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed all weekend.  Overwhelmed with joy.  Overwhelmed with awe.  Overwhelmed with love.  And I wasn't even the one getting married!

First of all, Jenn and Clif are a special couple.  I've gotten to watch them grow together and figure out the ins and outs of establishing a romantic relationship in the context of being best friends first.  Their relationship is fun and endearing.  They are a picture of love in its ultimate sense:  forgiving and patient, caring and genuine.  But most of all, they love Jesus, and this love is reflected in their relationship.  They desire to reflect the love of Christ through their marriage.  Getting to observe this in Jenn and Clif has given me an even greater appreciation for marriage and made me more excited to experience it some day.  It's easy to get caught up in the romance of weddings and of relationships in general, but the true romance is one that chooses love even on days when someone is unlovable, one that is selfless when it's much easier to be selfish.  I was super excited about the wedding this weekend, but I am also super excited to watch Jenn and Clif continue to grow in their love in the context of marriage.  Love them.

Secondly, the whole weekend, I was surrounded by people I love.  The wedding party was made up of some of my closest friends, and we had way too much fun spending the days celebrating!  From planning and coordinating different things with Miranda, my wonderful roommate, to bonding with a couple of the bridesmaids from out of town, to the "after-party" with a few friends after dancing the night away left us tired and blistered.  It has come up several times in the last couple weeks how blessed I am with the friends I have.   The community of young adults who love the Lord and are passionate about glorifying him with their lives is worth more than I often realize.  So, so thankful for these people with whom I get to share life.  

With the lovely couple, Clifton and Jennifer!

My heart is so full, it can't help but overflow...



Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Blessed

This is a big week.  Well really, it's a big couple of weeks.  Within the next two weeks a handful of big things are happening.  Good things.  Really big and really good things.  

First, this weekend I will turn 25.  A quarter century.  Part of me doesn't think it seems that old because I am the youngest one of my friends.  But on the other hand, 25 years is a long time.  I have been incredibly blessed in my 25 years, and I look forward with excitement toward the 25 years to come.  

In 25 years, I have lived in 2 different countries, spent time in 6 or so others, lived in 5 different states, and visited a lot of others (feeling too lazy to try to count them up at the moment!).  I have finished two degrees and have flirted with the idea of getting another.  I have held three different full-time jobs and a handful of part-time ones.  

I have witnessed the marriages of many people I love.  I've snuggled with the babies of some of my closest friends.  I was the first person to hold my friend's precious daughter; she and I share a special bond, and I love watching her grow up into a sweet, creative little girl.  I have built close, meaningful friendships with so many wonderful people from all the different places I've lived.  I spend a few precious minutes on the phone with my mom each morning.  My dad and brothers are the best a girl could ask for.  I know I don't deserve the support system I have, but I am highly blessed by it.   

I've been privileged to be part of several different ministries in churches in Pennsylvania, Florida, and now Virginia.  I've gotten to work with missions organizations serving people here in the states and around the world.  

I feel like I have a lot to show for 25 years.  I also feel like I have a lot of room to improve for my next 25 years.  I want to spend more time reading things like the Bible, classic literature,  biographies, and other things to broaden my horizons.  I need to practice patience and humility and kindness a lot more.  I need to make people and relationships more important than things.  I could use a lot more discipline in a lot of areas of my life.  

25 down, who knows how many to go.  However many it is, I pray that the Lord will continue to be at work in my life and bless me with more opportunities to know and serve him more.

I will be debt-free. After getting paid for my last round of online teaching, Sallie Mae and I are breaking up.  Forever.  And I'm not going to miss her.  I am a little wary of talking about dollars and cents and financial stuff on here, but this is too exciting not to share!  I didn't have any debt other than my student loans, but getting rid of them is certainly reason to celebrate.  I can't wait to see what doors are opened as a result of being debt-free.  The opportunities are endless!  I have also been told being debt-free will increase my marketability in the dating/marriage arena, so I'm looking forward to those benefits as well.

Sunday is Resurrection Day (aka Easter).  I don't often spend as much time as I should remembering the importance of this day and the reasons we celebrate it, but this year, I am more in awe than ever of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the victory of his resurrection.  So this weekend, Sunday is more than just another day of the week, or another get-up-and-go-to-church day.  This Sunday is a celebration of my living Savior!  This Sunday, amid the church services and meals and fun, I will sing the praises of the risen Lord and remember with humility and gratitude his ultimate sacrifice so that I might have life.

Next weekend, there's a wedding.  Two of my closest friends are tying the knot in just a few short days!  This wedding has been anxiously awaited for sometime - officially for only four months, but we've suspected this was coming for quite a long while!  The closer we get to the big day, the more I am excited to see these two begin their new life together.  It's kind of a big deal and a wonderful reason to celebrate!  

I am baffled by all the big, exciting things happening in and around me these days.  Often I have to just push pause and remind myself that this is real. This is my life; these blessings are true.  I don't deserve any of it.  So these next couple weeks, I am being reminded over and over of the good, wonderful, beautiful things in my life.  Blessed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring

Today is the first day of spring.  March 20.  Why it's not tomorrow on the 21st which I thought was spring equinox, I'm not sure.  Either way, a new season is upon us!

I love new seasons.  I love spring.  I won't say it's my favorite season because I can be largely noncommittal when it comes to favorites.  I LOVE spring, but if I say it's my favorite, what about summer? And fall? And winter? (Ok - definitely NOT winter, though I like a good snow once in while, but summer and fall would give spring a run for its money!)  

Favorite or not, spring has something wonderfully special about it.  There is something about the new beginning and fresh start of it that stirs my heart.  I love these lines from Nichole Nordeman's song Every Season:  



And everything that's new has bravely surfaced, teaching us to breathe.  
What was frozen through is newly purposed, turning all things green.  
So it is with you and how you make me new with every season's change,  
And so it will be as you are recreating me...summer...autumn...winter...spring.



There are a million things about spring that leave me a little speechless:  the beautiful, flowering trees we have here in Virginia (The dogwoods haven't bloomed yet, but they're my favorites!), the bright green color of brand new leaves starting to appear, the smell of lawns being mowed for the first time of the season, the promise of the warmer weather and the longer days to come, the power of a thunderstorm bringing the rains that keep things growing, flowers popping up in places they were all but forgotten like little surprises all over, and most of all, the picture all this is of the amazing redemption of the Lord.  

Just like the season gets to start new, so do we.  When we invite Jesus into our hearts and let him wipe our sinful slate clean, he lets us have a spring of our own.  I don't have to live in darkness or gloom.  I can have the joy of sunshine and the beauty of the most stunning spring blossom.  Forgiveness is overwhelming.  I don't deserve it ever, even for a minute, but it is so freely offered to us to are willing to accept it.  I am beyond thankful for the steadfast love of Christ and the forgiveness He offers.  New leaves aren't just for the trees in my yard; they're for people, too.  And it's not just a one-time deal either.  He doesn't give up on me, and he's there to offer me a new beginning every morning.  These are the things that stir my heart in the springtime.    

So today ushers in spring, and it was a perfect day for it complete with a day of sunshine and an evening of those strong and loud thunderstorms.  This spring, amid these sunny-rainy-cheery-blooming-green-growing days, I am especially moved by the peace I find in the forgiveness of my Lord, the promise of new beginnings, and the surprises of the future.


"Let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth."
Hosea 6:3

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

...

Sometimes there are thoughts and prayers and excitement welling up in me, but I can't seem to find the words to express them. Like right now for instance, there are a handful of things going on in and around me that I just want to sing about or be mad about or rejoice about, but the ability to express them seems to escape me. 

There are people I know who are hurting, who seem to be making wrong choices, who are facing unimaginable challenges, but I feel at a loss for words to reach out to them or to support them or to confront them.

There are answers to prayers that have been prayed for a long time that seem to be coming down the pipeline, that are beginning to make themselves known, but I can't even express my excitement and thankfulness the way I feel like I want and need to.

I know this is all vague and what not, but, like I said, I can't seem to find the right words.  In lieu of my own words, I will sing the song of praise that Daniel sang when the Lord revealed to him the king's dream and its interpretation and spared the lives of him, his friends, and all the wise men of the land.

He has everything in his hands.  The good.  The bad.  The confusing.  The exciting.  The times.  The seasons.  The kings.  Wisdom.  Understanding.

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, 
to whom belong wisdom and might. 
He changes times and seasons; 
he removes kings and sets up kings; 
he gives wisdom to the wise 
and knowledge to those who have understanding; 
he reveals deep and hidden things; 
he knows what is in the darkness, 
and the light dwells with him.  
To you, O God of my fathers, 
I give thanks and praise, 
for you have given me wisdom and might, 
and have made known to me what we asked of you, 
for you have made known to us the king's matter.
Daniel 2:20-23



Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Dream Come True

A few of my thoughts from last week about this time...

It's a rainy Thursday afternoon.  In the morning, I'll be packed up and heading out for a weekend with three ladies who are very precious to me.  I'm excited about our trip and about the opportunity to do things like this with people I love.  I spend a lot of time thinking about things I want and what I need to do to get those things.  I spend so much time thinking about where I want to be that I forget to really enjoy the things I already have.  I don't let the beautiful, nearly perfect imperfection of my current situation sink in.  I have it good.  I'm about to embark on a fun weekend trip without a care in the world (or at least without a care that can't wait until I get back).  No matter what dreams I have for the days to come, the days I already have are nothing less than dreams that have already come true.  I used to dream of the days I'd have a grown-up life and a place to call my own.  I have those things and so many more, yet I sit here wishing for days where I will have this job or that car or a different house or this or that.  In reality, my life is made of dreams come true:   
I used to long to have a drivers license and my own car.  Got it. 
I so much wanted my own place I could decorate however I wanted.  Got it. 
I desired a big-girl job where I could wear professional clothes and heels to work. Got it (and don't always love having to look nice for work everyday!). 
I wanted houseplants.  And an office plant.  I have them. 
I've dreamed of having an eclectic collection of mugs.  You should see my mug cabinet. 
I wanted to have friends I could just call up when I wanted someone to spend time with.  Check my phone. 

Now, not everything is rainbows and butterflies all the time, but I need to be more intentional about appreciating all the great things I have wanted and now am blessed to have.

Monday, February 06, 2012

My List*


  • Go to Australia and scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Visit all 50 states - not just driving through, but actually doing something in each state.  
  • Learn another language or two - for real learning it, not just "Hola, je m'appelle Kristi."
  • Visit all the continents - can you tell I like to travel?
  • Learn to cook more, from scratch, sans recipes
  • Spend a New Year's Eve in New York City
  • Go to Punxsutawney, PA for Groundhog's Day
  • Read more books, including, but not limited to, the reading list Miranda and I made
  • Go skydiving, but NOT bungee jumping
  • Go whitewater rafting
  • Learn how to spin pottery (Is that even what it's called?)
  • Grow my own veggies in a garden
  • Go to the Olympics (to spectate, not participate)
  • Go to the Superbowl
*Note:  Not an exhaustive list, but it's good to get these written out.

Monday, January 02, 2012

2012: Withholding Nothing

I hate to admit this, but often my relationship with God is casual at best.  He's blessed me with a great life:  good job(s), great friends, a nice place to live, a car to drive, a good church, etc.  So, I go about my normal life, living it up:  spending time with friends (read: hanging out), taking trips, dreaming big, and I usually make a half-hearted effort to incorporate God into these things.  I read my Bible, I journal, I have accountability, I take mission trips, etc.  But it sometimes feels like my relationship with God is something I work into my life, not my life itself.  

Saturday night (ok, Sunday morning) after spending a fantastic evening with friends ringing in the New Year, I got home and promptly went to bed.   Instead of sleep coming so easily and unavoidably as it usually does, I found myself laying awake with my mind going a mile a minute.  Not sure if it was the coffee I'd had after 9 that night that was to blame or if God was trying to get my attention, either way, I was very much NOT asleep!  

As I laid in bed wishing for sleep, I began to pray, mostly for sleep, but also for the Lord's blessing on this new year of life.  I looked back on 2011 and saw the many evidences of God's favor in my life, but I also saw so many ways that I have failed him.  Both were sobering.  I want to be whole-hearted in my pursuit of my Savior not halfway committed or casual in my relationship with him.  After not too long, I found my prayer turning into this song:


Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow'r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.


Take My Life and Let It Be, Frances R. Havergal 

I was challenged to make 2012 the year of "Withholding Nothing."  The Lord deserves my everything, my all, and I desire to give it to him, holding nothing back.  This song is my reminder of the areas that I need to remember to commit entirely to him.

My life  - No explanation needed.

My moments and my days - My time.  This is a problem area for me as I struggle to be a wise steward of my time.

My hands - Is what I do with my hands always glorifying the Lord?

My feet - Swift and beautiful?  Should I be taking up running more seriously?  

My voice - When I sing, my voice should put the focus on the Lord, not myself.

My lips - My words are often sarcastic and hurtful.  This is not the best use of the voice I have been given.  My mouth should be full of edification and encouragement.

My silver and my gold - Am I using my financial resources the way I should?  I need to commit my money to the Lord.

My intellect - God has given me a mind to use.  Am I investing it in His kingdom as I should?  

My will - This is a tough one.  Giving up what I want for what God wants is so much easier said than done.  

My heart - My emotions, my relationships.  It's difficult to give up control of this area of my life when I think I know what I want and what would be best for me.  God has the best plan and the best timing.

My love - My affections should belong first and foremost to Jesus.  Do they?

Myself.

So, needless to say, I have quite the battle cut out for me as giving up control of all this and holding nothing back for myself will not come naturally.  But it's a battle worth fighting, and I won't be fighting alone.

Here's to 2012, withholding nothing for the glory of God!  Happy New Year!