The Thrill Of Imperfection

I've been a little {a lot} obsessive compulsive about this blog lately. Nothing seems "good enough" or "right". In fact, I admit to writing and rewriting, only to fully delete whole drafts multiple times {more than the amount of fingers and toes I have} in the past 2 months. Hi, my name is OCD, have we met? Just so you can grab onto a reference point here- I was the kid who turned in tests second to last. I was never the first to speak out in a large crowd {observer/internal processor of course}. I was {am} the procrastinator. I am an over thinker, over doer, over reactor... Nothing is ever "good enough" to me, it can always be improved upon {I'm learning}. Ok great, moving forward.

The last six months my list of new normals has taken its toll on me. As I write this in bed {way past my bed time} {who am I kidding}, I am surrounded by piles of wilted tissues... It's not what you're thinking. No weepy episodes here {at least not today}. I am actually just getting over a "24 hour bug" that started last Thursday. Yes, I am in denial. The irony of a 100% stuffy, can't breathe in or out of, nose that won't stop running is completely beyond me. I am the worst sit-still'r in all the land. One of them, at least. 

Back to being obsessive compulsive and new normals, the last six months feels like both yesterday and 20 years ago all at the same time. If you read the last post or know anything about our life, you know that we are in Alaska now. Yay for adventure- the good, bad, and ugly of it all! 

 
 

I can honestly and happily say it has been nothing like what I expected. The people are kind, most shower, and probably unbeknownst to them, there are quite a few similarities between this state and my former, Texas {aside from climate, moose, volcanoes, dozens of trending reality tv shows, mountains, mountains AND more mountains}. Not just with the state itself but life as well.

Upon moving here, the sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns associated with unrealistic expectations disappeared real quick. Actually, the sunshine literally did disappear for a couple months. Maybe we set the bar too low for our "year zero", but I like to think that the Lord just had bigger and better plans for us. My husband and I, along with a team of six other incredibly gifted individuals and their children, are pioneering a campus ministry at a university up here. I did as much mentally preparing for culture shock as one can do and it still didn't put a dent in how hard the change has actually been in my heart. All military families and fellow missionaries can most definitely attest to this- some of which have it significantly harder than I do. I commend you. Through all of this, I'm realizing how incredibly grateful I am for the change and poorly preconceived ideas I had because I've been given the opportunity to grow more because of it. However, the fact that I can no longer drive a couple of hours in any direction to see family stings deeply and disrupts my thoughts every now and then. I don't foresee that "sting" changing or slipping away in the near future, but that's okay. This transition of life and being obedient to what the Lord has called us to has pleasantly thrown me into a new season of self awareness. 

 
 

I'm not perfect, nor will I ever be perfect... the perfect friend, decorator or minister. Perfect in the sense that all my ducks are in a row and I've got this- you know, Martha Stewart meets Southern Living meets REAL SIMPLE style. I don't have it all together AND I never will. Insert deep breath and sigh of relief here. I feel better already. I had plans to sift into Alaskan life with plenty of time and ease. I foresaw, at the very least, a full month's worth of rest and recovery from the ten day trek up here. I imagined a very dark and lonely first winter. I visualized a university campus crawling with partiers and "loud life". Instead, we drove across the North American continent, moved into a house and began our ministry all within the first fifteen days of September 2014. My first Alaskan winter was indeed dark and cold {still cold}, but it was the furthest thing from lonely because the Lord had prepared a place for us here and it's in its beginning stages of finally feeling like home. Also, the campus life at this university is not full of partiers and doesn't really compare to any typical American college in the lower 48. It's just different, and we have had to rethink strategies. And that's ok... growth. "Proverbs 16:9 says, "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." And can I just say amen to that because the world would be a horrific place if it functioned according to my terms and presuppositions.

 
 

All the planning and perfecting I attempt in my own timing or in my own way internally or externally will fall short. The biggest lesson I have learned and will continue to learn from the past six months is that imperfection is quite thrilling when surrendered to the Lord. "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Friend, if this is something you're walking through as well, I encourage you to let the Lord "ruin" your heart's plan, it will be prove to be one of the most freeing things you can do for your day to day life, marriage, family, ministry and career. 

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight,  and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..." Hebrews 12: 1, 2 {ESV}

I'm raising my coffee mug to rolling with the punches of this life and the discipline of allowing the Lord to continue to direct my steps as He sees best. On that note, below are some more pics I wanted to share of our drive up here!

 
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It was a pretty spectacular trip!

 

He Can Be Trusted

"Whether you look to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it." (Is. 30:21)

 
 

This season of transition and fundraising has been an absolute whirlwind. The kind where you are already half way down the road when you look down and realize you are wearing two different shoes again. Yes, again… The kind where you are in the middle of explaining something that is very dear to your heart and all of a sudden your thought processes are sliced in two and you just stare blankly. The kind where you live out of a suitcase and eat meals on the go. The kind where you get heavy news one week, sad news the next, only to be followed by, more uncomfortable news the week after.

Not to mention, we are now in a full blown moving phase- the kind where EVERYTHING. MUST. GO. Every ledge and sill wiped, every hole filled and touched up.

 
 
 
 

Oh, except for this one, this one has to stay until we hand over the keys. It's been a constant reminder to take things one at a time during this season. 

 
 

I wish I could say it was my own work, but it belongs to the lovely LemonadeMakinMama. She writes a cheery and encouraging blog too, so gifted! It's easily in my top five to read over a cup of coffee in the morning.  

 
 

OK, OK, all of this to tell you beautiful people where my sanity has been coming from. In the midst of opposition or frustrating weeks, I have grasped strongly to the verse Matthew 8:13, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." 

 
 

Since May, this verse has met me every morning as I fill my coffee maker with oh so sweet smelling grounds. It's in a booklet of verses I received at a conference last year. It was due a page turn a while ago, but I had grown attached to the comforting words that pulled courage and determination from my innermost being. It helped me know, "Yes, you are inside my will, and you are going to do ministry in Alaska, keep pushing through." 

This morning when I read it, I thought, "Kristen, you really ought to turn the page and see what's next"… followed by, "No, what could possibly be better than these words that I've held on to all summer?" 

I turned the page...

"I trust in you. O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in Your hands." (Ps. 31:14,15) Sometimes, I find myself choosing to stay in one spot (that is a perfectly good spot- it may even have been from HIM), when HE is trying to, in fact, guide me into the next… which is actually better than the good!

I needed a push.

He lights our path as we walk. This verse is speaking of our circumstances, but the Lord has a sense of humor… and so this morning, I took it quite literal. "My TIMES are in your hands."

We are at 82% of our budget needed to leave for and live in Alaska. With mounting excitement and a flood of encouraging team members that believe in what we do and have partnered with us- we have begun thinking more seriously about leaving dates, goodbye trips, driving routes, when is the right time to trade in our vehicle, the right time to get a moving truck, etc. I found myself getting anxious yesterday about "timing"… Well, my times are in your hands Lord, there is nothing to worry about, I will choose to trust in You, God. "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith… let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for HE who promised is faithful. (Heb. 10:22-24) He guides us steadily, and He has been my sanity. 

Dear ones, wherever you are right now, don't be afraid to take the next step.

He who began a good work, will complete it. 

HE CAN BE TRUSTED. 

 
 

Full of love and joy, she was always the life of the party,

always so willing to give, always your biggest fan. 

 

 
 




Last But Not Lost

This has been an inherently exhausting season. May, for us, marks the end of a university calendar and the beginning of planning for a new one. This usually includes, but is not limited to: the year in review, event planning for the fall, think tanks, brain dumps, fundraising, traveling and sharing our story, rearranging lives and bedrooms (I'm an addict, I confess… my friends know this about me and it is not uncommon for them to come over and say, 'Oh you changed things again!'), the list goes on. My point is that it's a season of shifting gears for us and it usually comes at the perfect time. The time at which you find yourself repeatedly saying, "OK if I triple book myself one more time, I am physically going to combust." Ministry is bliss... in a very serious sense. I love my job and I can't imagine doing anything else with my life right now, but, at times, it is HARD in the fullest sense of that four letter word. 

Something is very different about this season we are shifting gears into though. It is filled with a lot of 2nd guessing. That may sound startling to those of you that know the direction we are headed. But, hear me… I mean 2nd guess in the sense of, "We shouldn't get that because it won't pack well." or "Yes! That's the one absolutely, wait, no, never mind… we should save that space for something else instead." I'll find myself dreaming about packing a Uhaul… the perfect way, to get everything that is "necessary" into the truck and into our new home, thousands of miles away. All my fellow A-type organizational freaks have my back on that one. The WORST or, rather, the HARDEST… has been all the "lasts". 

Not to be dramatic, but goodbyes are hard. We can never prepare enough for them… no matter the form they come in. I have spent a decade in this small college town. Working full time for the past three years for this ministry has been the best decision of my life. It is FULL and RICH of lives changed and reborn in the name of Jesus. 

This shot was taken at our last Chi Alpha service of the year. 44 students were baptized! 

My last resource group here at Sam. That's Annie on the guitar. Couldn't be more proud and excited to hand things off to her and see where she takes the group next year. 

 

In this ministry, we count it a privilege to see the fruits of labor and the Spirit in an individual. Sometimes our blood, sweat and tears over a student can seem relentless and even null. Then there is the strange and even rarer occurrence that we see whole families changed over one student's obedience and courage to follow after the Lord. The young man getting baptized below is a result of this sort of courage, that his sisters first took about seven years ago. These stories are my absolute favorite. 

 
 

My wild resource group that I led. I am going to miss this bunch of crazies! I wish I could stick every one of them in a suitcase with a one way ticket to AK. I wish you could know each of them personally, their hearts are massive and lovely. 

My last super source meeting of the year. Follow me here… small group leaders have a resource leader and resource leaders have a super source leader. It's healthy, and it's more people we get the opportunity to share life with! It was a beautiful night. 

I have shared an office with these hard working folks for a couple of years now and they will be greatly missed. They are seriously some of the greatest humans I know. In the fall, David and his wife will be headed to Chile to help plant a student ministry, Lisa and Scroggins will be joining a team in the Czech with the same heart for student ministry, and for now the rest will stay here at SHSU. 

We took this at our last staff meeting. Lisa Lou is what I call her. She has been a dear friend to me for several years. This woman wears patience like a glove. I will miss our mid day desk chats and bike riding dates. The Czech is about to get a gem. 

 
 

My man snapped some shots of my resource gals and I last week. Brytnie on the left just went through our leadership training class and will be taking over for Johonna and Gwen's small group in the fall. They graduated and are heading full steam into their nursing careers. These girls have the best work ethic I have ever seen in a student. Long hours of clinicals, studying anatomy and care plans only to be followed by hours of pouring into girls and hard conversations. They are my heroes. 

 
 

These winners below are handsome with bright and bushy imaginations. They aren't a "last" in my book, in fact the two on the left will be with us in Alaska. They are just a sweet reminder to take every day for what it is. I know my time here in Texas is coming to an end but I am hopeful and excited for what the Lord has for us in Alaska. We get to start all of THIS all over again. From the ground up. We will be the first Chi Alpha group in the state of Alaska. 

This season has spurred me to hold fast to the passage in Isaiah 61. The life we lead is truly an everlasting joy. Using the words of the William Borden, missionary to China, "May there be no reserves, no retreats, no regrets." This has been my list of "lasts" but they are not lost. They will be carried in my heart into this next season of life. They will push me to new lengths and new opportunities in the last frontier, and for them I am eternally grateful. 

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.

Mad Dogs and Mudbugs

This past weekend we were invited to a crawfish boil that some friends were putting on. Who could resist an afternoon of friends, heel thumping zydeco jams and the perfectly spicy satisfaction that one's tastebuds usually encounter after a few pounds of crawfish, taters, and corn pass along them???

For obvious reasons we went… and upon arrival, jumped right into the prep work! There's the lemons, the oranges, the onions, garlic, potatoes, corn, mushrooms, spices, etc. All very important! If you're from East Texas and Louisiana {maybe even further east?} you know EXACTLY what I am talking about. All others might actually be completely repulsed by these pictures! Oh well… we like mudbugs- what can I say?!

Well, most of us do at least…

{It seems like almost every backyard party in Texas ends with a bow coming out. What is it with men and their bows?}

There is something to be said about mad dogs and mudbugs. Although they seem completely unrelated I found myself sitting amongst both of them this weekend. Crawfish bring the crazy out in folks. We talk, we laugh, we feed each other, we shout across tables, we are eating off of newspapers with our hands for goodness sake! Double and triple dippers galore! Border line barbaric! All respectable dear mother manners are out the window and it's 100% face to food… After all, why bring it to your mouth when you can meet it at the table? 

Oh, the luster of them all! {Truth be known, the potatoes are my absolute favorite at these things.}

Friends... Don't they just make the party sometimes? You could be at a perfectly good and entertaining party when suddenly your close friend shows up and your heart can't help but smile. A jump for joy, even if the last time you saw them was for church an hour before… I am always so blessed by the community that we live amongst. Some of the most servant-hearted, find a need and meet it men and women that I know in this world. These dear ones challenge me to live out 1 Corinthians 13 every day. 

"Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, it rejoices with the Truth. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It always perseveres. Love never fails."

I'm not sure about you, but I don't know where I would be without the beautiful people in my world. I pray you have at least one honest and dear friend in this life. And I pray that our eyes would never be closed to those that don't. May the Lord use you in someone else's life to instill honor and trust. To affirm patience and kindness to the seemingly unloveable. To protect and project hope in wounded hearts. To persevere and truly love someone in need today. To be a friend to the friend-less. Chances are you might have more in common with that person than you'd like to think. We were never meant to walk through life alone.

Isn't this guy a cutie? His name is Niko, he was eating crawfish... raw… YUCK! I love my mad dog friends and the Sunday fun that mudbugs bring out of us! 

Fancy and Free

Here we have 2 things I love- FANCY and FREE. Well, for me it was… If you do this fun and simple project you might need to run down to the dollar store and grab a cheapo mug in the color of your choice- white {because that's how I roll}, pink, blue, green, etc! I saw this on Ann Marie's blog last month and thought "that will take all of 30 minutes, why not?!" So my dear friends… I give you- Fancy.

First, you will need a clean mug, a sharpie, and an oven set to 350˚. 

Write your uplifting or inspiring {or both!} message as clear as possible across the mug. Leave at least an inch of room from the rim to where the top of the lettering will go. 

Stick that bad boy in the oven and bake it on 350˚ for 30 minutes! As soon as that timer goes off get ready to feel… well… FANCY! I couldn't wait to fill'r up with a cup of joe! Oh, and I over do things sometimes. It's a blessing and a curse, of course. Confession. I might have thought of another potential project while doing the first project… SO I did the totally rational thing and made extra fancies with the second project in mind! That one is to be continued, but I was, however, very pleased with how project number one came out! 

Then comes the moral of the story, a warning that possibly goes without warning. Friends, do not, and I strongly mean DO NOT touch the mug when you have just taken it out of the oven. Please take those judgement pants off, I was CLEARLY entirely too excited to feel fancy for my own good! Like I said, a warning that goes without warning for most, but not all. My fingers were one step away from having Fire superpowers. I ran for my purse and grabbed Lavender from my bag of essential oils. I doused my fried fingers, as you can see in the picture below.

And now, my shameless plug for Young Living Essential Oils. I carry them around with me everywhere I go. I use them for headaches, allergies, soreness, arthritis, insomnia, burns, cuts, cooking, baking, anxiety, stress, fevers, nausea, sore throats, long days, you name it! I'm a distributor for this wonderful company and I would be thrilled to talk oils with you where there is interest. Email me! 

Back to Lavender, it is the "GO-TO" of essential oils.

It works great with burns, allergies and relaxation to name a few. 

I continued to rub the Lavender on my fingers every couple hours for the rest of the day. No more stinging or throbbing! When I woke up the next morning all blisters that had began to form on the tips of my fingers were completely gone and feeling was back in my hand. Voila! 

Enjoy your new mug folks! And resist the pressing temptation to try out your new mug immediately after it's been removed from the HOT oven. 

After All These Years

I'd be lying if I said I hadn't started 3 other entries throughout the past month before settling on this one. I think entirely too much for one's own good. It's true. Vulnerability is a funny thing. Here in our ministry, our definition for it is "capable of being wounded". To be vulnerable is to expose a piece of your heart that is very much human and prone to wander. I have a poor habit of internalizing things. I realize I am not the only one out there to plead guilty on this account… I think vulnerability is clutch, the closer, the encore, an open invitation for HIM to really touch people's lives exactly where they're at. Especially being in ministry, I have ample opportunity to be vulnerable. I am grateful for HIS grace that helps my mouth and heart connect for HIS sake, for teaching moments, accountability moments… It isn't always easy but HIS nudge is right and gentle and seeks to bring out the best in each of us, no matter how uncomfortable HIS timing may seem. 

Close to a month ago we had a goodbye party for a dear friend and her family who moved to a seemingly dangerous area of the world for ministry. Many could not understand their decision, others were supportive, for them it was written on their hearts to be there. Her courage and strength buffers my spirit and propels me to TRUST in HIM better. What is fear after all, but mistrust.

"If I hear the call of God and refuse to obey, I become the dullest, most common-place of Christians because I have seen and heard and refused to obey." - Oswald Chambers

At the party, 9 of us slipped off to a nearby park so we could capture these winners. My man was behind the lens… He is so gifted at seeing IT, that shot that reaches out and grasps the moment, the joy, the beauty and life caught in a click. I just love him. 

After all these years we are a wild and crazy bunch that are scraping our 30's. In a sense, we have grown up together. Many of us met 9 years ago when we went to college. We met in Chi Alpha, the ministry that the majority of us still work for today. They each carry a piece of my heart with them, and they always will. The things we have fought for and fought through together over the years are now beautiful wrinkles and lines that have scratched the surface of our heart. These women taught me vulnerability in its rawest form. Each of us has made poor choices in the past, and during those times the others have stepped in and carried the burden, carried the hurting one, the broken one, the vulnerable one. WE have taken turns covering each other in love and finer things. We bring out the best in each other, we are also capable of bringing out the worst. We have belly crawled in the trenches of life together and I love each of them… very DEARLY. They are my sisters. And SHE will be missed. For now, she and her husband are exactly where they need to be. 

This is their daughter, a bundle of JOY and LIFE, her laughter is contagious. And she is absolutely loving her new home and friends in another country. 

I encourage you to be vulnerable today, maybe to a new friend or a faithful old. It may be just the boost your soul needs in this day or season of life. HE will bless it, and you! 

"If God has called any man or woman in this place into His service, as He undoubtedly has, never allow anyone to interfere with your obedience to His call. Let God do what He likes, He knows exactly where you are, and when the time is fit to make you broken bread in His hands."

 

a longing

It's not often that you wake up peacefully without an alarm buzzing in your ear. It's also not often that you can sit down- windows open, perfect candle lit, every fork, knife, spoon, cup, bowl and container tucked away in their corresponding spaces… I mean EVERY dish {well, ok- there are two coffee mugs missing… one brings warmth to my hand as I write and the other sits on a lonely stump in our backyard. I noticed it just before sitting down- I'm sure… the evidence of my sweet husband chopping wood yesterday.}

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I was wiping down the tables and counters with lemony goodness when I heard it… "Kristen"… me, {typical, of course} "Hold on, I'm almost done"… "Kristen"… me, "I know, I know, I'll grab my bible and journal in a second just let me finish this." … "Come here my child."

And there it was… that check in your spirit, where you just know… it's gentle, of course, but it's also stern. The laundry can wait, I can pay the bills later, I don't really need to reorganize the closet for the second time this month… right now I must sit down. 

It's so still outside, I hear the chimes cling and bangle as the breeze orchestrates them. I hear the dog down the street barking at its shadow and I can just barely hear the hum of an airplane in the far off distance… I wonder where it's going… My phone is not next to me, in fact, it's two rooms away from me. The baby birds one yard over chirp excitedly as their momma flies breakfast into their nest.

My heart is full folks… full of memories from the night before when my resource group that I lead on Sunday nights was huddled around praying over each other. Hoping it was a tone-setter- the more I think about it, the more I realize last night might have been the best one all year! …School year that is. My husband and I don't live the ordinary life. We live in a small{er} house with an open door policy. It's rare to have this place all to ourselves. Someone is always stopping by… and we love it. There is always enough food for thought and our coffee machine might as well be on tap! We are campus ministers affiliated with an organization called Chi Alpha Campus Ministry {XA}. We focus our program on the method and mission of Jesus Christ. In one word- Discipleship. We love our job and could tell enough stories of young women and men that have come and gone to fill the bookshelf that sits in that corner of your home.

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So my heart is full… full of wonder of the what, where, and when of that which encircles this next season of life. My man and I have sought the Lord endlessly for the last six months, "yes, no, maybe, that's just crazy, what if…" But there has been peace with affirmation and we have just committed to joining a Chi Alpha pioneering team to Fairbanks… Alaska. Our teams vision is that every Alaskan be impacted by the gospel, and that a movement will sweep across Alaska, which will center on individual discipleship focusing on depth and sending, as well as, to be a catalyst that plants discipleship hubs all across the state. As stated in our team leaders newsletter last month, "We believe that Fairbanks is the crossroads for the rural and native peoples of Alaska and that the University of Fairbanks {UAF} is the key hub for strategic, reproducing discipleship. It may be cold, but we can put on a jacket!" I think Helen Keller was on to something when she wrote, "Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all". I am excited, and a little nervous… but mostly excited, to take what I have seen and learned here at Sam Houston State University {SHSU} over the past nine years and duplicate it in Alaska!

So yes, my heart is full friends... full of thought over a word the Lord gave me for the 2014 year. FOCUS. It's so hard isn't it?? For me it is. Twenty days and counting and just yesterday I was thinking, " Geez Lord, I have already failed at it!" You might be wondering, "didn't you just say your job is ministry… how hard can it be to sit and read and think and focus, just you and the Lord…?" Well, it is hard and it gets harder the older I get. There are always things to do, always phone calls to answer, always girls to meet with, always issues to address. It goes on. This morning my heart is full because something clicked into place. I found myself singing the words to an old song,

"How lovely is your dwelling place, oh Lord Almighty.

My soul longs and even faints for you.

For here my heart is satisfied, within your presence.

I sing beneath the shadow of your wings."

Psalm 84 goes on to say, "My heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young- My King and my God... Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; They will still be praising You. Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage... For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. Blessed is the man who trusts in You." No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly- blessed is the man who trusts in You… It is with this that all else fades away. A word for my morning- FOCUS. Finally. 

Where has your dwelling place been? It belongs in the courts of the Lord. What needs to give? What can wait? Praying this verse meets your heart at least once a day, - "As the deer longs for the fountains of water, so my soul longs for you, O God." And may you sit and listen to His voice, even if just for a few minutes.