Changing Slowly…

Lately I have been taking time to reflect on where I am internally compared to where I was almost five months ago.

Throughout each year, there are markers that serve as points to pause, reflect and compare to a year ago… Yet, this time, rather than reflecting on a year ago, I find myself processing how much has happened inside of me since July of this year. I went into Uganda struggling very much internally, but not even really in a place to recognize it because of how hard and hectic May and June had been in every regard.

Before we left, I had begun asking God to reveal the lies I had been believing, and to restore hope where I had lost it… Then I closed that box of my heart, and got on a plane and launched myself to another continent.

Twice on the flight over I was asked how my heart was doing because people who know me, are aware of how much I struggle and have to actively work to link my head and heart well. I have had a habit of locking my heart up and setting it aside, especially if I am uncertain or overwhelmed by what I’m feeling.

Perfectly timed, around that same time before we left for Uganda, I also began asking God to help me navigate my head and heart well together. I had started to realize that Grace and Truth as well as Head and Heart are the balance of the Holy Spirit. God is perfectly both sides in unison, and in order to be more like Him, and more sensitive to His guidance, I too needed to start learning how to balance these things rather than setting one aside.

I was not prepared for the answer God was going to give me, nor the longevity of what it would mean to get the answers to these prayers.

I actually think if I had known how long and hard this all would be, I would have peaced out and quit right from the beginning. I am fairly confident I  would have shut my heart down and opted out of the process to protect my heart had I known the pain and struggle involved. Yet, one of the many graces in this whole journey has actually been my lack of knowing God’s timing. – I struggle with it all the time (as in allllll the time), but not knowing has also created a reliance on Him that I simply did not have before. Not knowing God’s timing has been so good too because I was unaware of the depths of intensity it would take to fix and heal certain areas of my heart, and just what it would mean to restore the trust and hope in God that I had lost. – Back in July it was as though my prayer for help balancing my head and heart caused God to lock my heart in the open position; it has been exhausting and overwhelming almost every single day since.

Even still, almost five months later, I regularly feel overwhelmed by how I am feeling, the ways I am changing, and how far I still have to grow. About once a week I have a late night meltdown over how exhausted and weary I feel internally due to actively processing every day. I am given the option to choose to grow and learn more about who I am supposed to be in Christ, and to face the ways in which I lack in trust/faith/fruit of the spirit (throw a dart at some character trait and I’m probably working on that too)… I assure you, it is Not. Easy. Nor. Fun.

But, God does not force me, He allows me the freedom to choose to face these things or quit… However, because of who God has made me, I will not give up, and I will choose to daily engage in this process of growth and change.

My journal of prayers is getting record use (literally). The current one (each one is 40 sheets/80 pages) is my 4th one in just about four months…

But so that there is no patting me on the back with congratulations: My prayer journal just makes me look like a crazy person.

Seriously, going back and reading the day-to-day prayers, they just swing widely back and forth, it’s embarrassing, but also they are incredibly intimate and real. These prayers reflect my struggle, my anxiety, my fears, my heart wide open and effort that it all takes, but also the ever so slow changes that are taking place, and just about every emotion possible finds its way into my prayers.

These journals are very how I am choosing to press closer to God and processing all of my tension, thoughts, and emotions.. But, in all honesty, they just really make me look like a wackadoodle. I wish I could share about how sweet the prayers are, but no. The sheer level of back and forth my prayers exhibit is ridiculous; the overwhelming emotions, the joy, thankfulness, the over analyzing things, the confusion and uncertainty, the copied scripture trying to help me grasp onto solid truth amidst the chaos of feelings, the waffling ebb and flow with how I feel vs what my head knows… EXHAUSTING.

Yet, I am also currently reading through the book of Psalms: I feel like my journal looks a bit like David’s prayers and hymns.

Some are so sweet, loving, encouraging, full of thanksgiving, while others are all raging and demanding that God do something (usually an overreaction to an emotion or situation). Some are declarations of praise, faith, love, and hope, while others are full of anger, sorrow, and despair. – This could literally be the description of my prayer journals AND the book of Psalms… So, I guess that is comforting?

At the end of every journal (about every six weeks currently), I go back and review it. I re-read things I have prayed for, asked God about, passages of scripture I copied, and then compare them to my calendar and remember what was going on that day. Every few weeks I am amazed at all that the Lord has done, how I feel about those days after the fact or in light of things that happened a few days later. I marvel and thank God again for answers to prayers, and for His continued patience, grace, and tenderness as I try to press in, learn, and grow.

But, let’s be honest: It. Is. So. Hard.

Several months ago I felt like God told me three things:
Hold Steadfast.
Persevere.
Be Obedient.

Then about a month ago I felt like God added Faith, Hope, Love.

As I review my journals, I am amazed at what it looks like to hold steadfast, persevere, and be obedient, and how these three things play out (and don’t). Previously I never would have been able to accurately identify what it truly looks like to hold steadfast and persevere, because I struggle each day with them. – Before all of this, I would have felt as though the level of my struggle daily would clearly indicate I was not in fact holding steadfast; yet as I go back over my prayer journals, I realize in the long haul it absolutely does. Holding steadfast and persevering doesn’t mean a lack of experiencing emotions or struggle, it means turning to God with every single little bit of it, and remaining there with Him.

I have learned that holding steadfast and persevering throughout scripture leads to faith, hope and love… but also proven character. It is in the journey, the long haul, the process that we refine, create, and prove who we are at our foundational core. But, let’s not dismiss how much proving character takes time, and is incredibly difficult and oh so awkward of an imperfect process.

In the last couple of months I have begun to see the transformation, and just how much I am changed forever because of the time pressing into the Holy Spirit and expressing all the things to God. Choosing to return back to Him with every little thing has changed the way in which I handle joy, hope, failures or despair on a daily basis. Because of the difficulty of modifying who I am on the inside, there has been an increase in desire to spend dedicated time every day with God; I am not entirely sure I can name any period of time in my entire life that I felt this way for months on end… I am so incredibly grateful (and hope it continues, recognizing seasons of life and all).

I long for connection with God, I need time to tell Him how I am, ask for what I want, and process everything that I’m struggling with. Every day there is a nuance to the areas He is work on growing in me, and whatever is heavy on my heart or mulling around in my head that day also gets some much-needed time laid before Him.

Now months into this whole process, I realized this week, on one particularly intense and emotional day full of stress, frustration, anxiety etc.. I still had the clarity and presence of mind to actively choose my responses. I was not swept away in any explosion of emotion and even the intensity with which I experienced my feelings was still there just like before, but despite it all, I found myself able to actively chose grace and patience. – Well that’s new… and not easy.

I have started to realize over the last couple of weeks that the force with which I feel and experience my emotions has not changed at all. God has not lessened who I am or the passion and intensity that I process, feel or express things; instead, He has changed my ability to see perspective, have understanding, and respond in grace and love. It is as though the spring that feeds into my heart-well is different, and therefore what is coming out is also distinctively changed, but that I am who I have always been in many ways, just a better version of that person.

A couple small excerpts from one of my prayers at the end of a particularly difficult day recently:
Thank you for being with me and giving me the extra measure of grace, patience, and presence of mind to choose my responses…
Help me to follow your leading better tomorrow. Give me more wisdom and understanding, and bless me with a greater capacity to love well…
Forgive me for the things I said and did today that did not line up with you. Forgive me for the things I missed…
Show me how to trust you more and be confident in your faithfulness more…

It has been an interesting experience reading through my prayers over the last few months, I would never have chosen this ahead of time had I known how hard it would be. I also have realized that I would never have been able to predict beforehand the ways in which I would respond (good or bad) to how God would grow and make me new. Yet, through it all, I am starting to recognize the small ways He has shown up and proven Himself trustworthy and faithful. But, above all, recognizing this gaining familiarity with Him as I spend more time communicating with Him. His presence and “voice” feel different to me now than they did in July (or previous to that).

My daily struggle to hold steadfast, persevere, and be obedient is still going strong.
Learning how to love well is not easy.
Finding and growing my faith and hope feels ambiguous, but slowly I am realizing that it is creating a foundation I did not have previously.
Making decisions against my own insecurities, and choosing to share my heart rather than shut it down and set it aside is still incredibly hard.

I am not the same person I was a few months ago.
My heart has changed. I have changed.

It has been a slow sometimes arduous process, and it certainly is nowhere near complete, but I am also incredibly grateful… and exhausted.

I am learning that the process and journey is full of challenges and pain (there are good and joyful times too, but let’s be honest, we don’t need people to identify with our good times as much), but it is worth it to become more of who God intends for you to be.

Choose to face it all head on, experience every emotion, and sift through them with the creator of your heart; it will change you forever and it will be so good.

Cultivating Patient Endurance…

I have always said “I am not known for my patience…”

I don’t recommend identifying yourself as even a simple thing that is not from the Lord.

I naturally tend towards the side of being a bit of a whirlwind, charge ahead, figure it out as I go, and fly by the seat of my pants type person. I like to keep moving, feeling progress, and feeling stuck or stagnant feels more like jail than anything else. Can you imagine how I feel when God forces me to stop, pause, dwell, abide, and wait on Him?

Struggle.

On one hand, I desperately want to be obedient. But, on the other it is fighting my natural instincts. I feel a bit like a caged horse just anxious to move, to do something, to go, to take off and make progress.

Ahhh, but you see, patience is essential. Patient endurance is actually key to life with the Lord. – Crap.

I have been learning so much over the last couple of months, my themes get progressively harder and more nuanced. Each theme takes on a compounding weight with the previous themes…

But, true to form, here I am to share some of what I am learning.

Patient Endurance – It means the tolerant and even-tempered perseverance. It is the capacity or state of withstanding a hardship or stress, the act of persevering. The fact or power of bearing pain, hardship, or adversity.

If you have not, you may want to go read more about what I have been learning about Perseverance and Grit, or just a few of the themes God has given me to process.

For the longest time (aka pretty much my entire life) I have sorta separated out the Fruit of the Spirit. I have split them into two categories: the ones I am good at, and the ones I’m bad at. Naturally a lot of my life and actions are done through the lens of Kindness (pre-meditated thoughtfulness, consideration, and care for those around me)… Every single day, I am typically keenly aware of how what I do impacts those around me (sometimes for the worse, but also for the better).

Because honesty matters; what Fruit of the Spirit am I naturally bad at? Gentleness and Patience. – Shocked is no one ever.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, depending on the day, if I’m in a particularly unhealthy place, I’m bad at most of the Fruit of the Spirit!.. But, overall, on average, Gentleness and Patience are the struggles.

(A couple of years ago, my church did an “Elements” series. It was awesome, and I highly recommend checking it out to give you a good starting place too!)

So, I keep coming back to this:

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
– Galatians 5:25

When we are in-tune with the Holy Spirit, the evidence of that is each and every one of these descriptors:
Love,
Joy,
Peace,
Patience,
Kindness,
Goodness,
Faithfulness,

Gentleness,
and Self-control

Yet, throughout scripture I’m realizing that these qualities are not all equal. Some Fruit of the Spirit are gifted, others you actually have to work towards diligently, still others are primarily an overflow of time abiding with God, unfortunately some are straight up a willful decision in moments and situations, and then some are just cultivated over time.

Awesome. Not easy.

Self-control is cultivated.
Gentleness is a choice response; usually after wisdom and compassion have had a chance to work in and through us.
Patience, oh sweet dear patience is cultivated through difficulties. Repeatedly throughout scripture patience is linked to humility, gentleness, kindness, tribulations, proven character, hope, faith and love. – Ouch. There’s really no great and wonderful rainbows and butterflies; this one is a matter of grit.

Patience is cultivated.
Patience is learned and created through difficult situations, learning, growing and choosing the response.
Patience is born out of some of the worst seasons of our life that create compassion and love for others.

Also, just so we are clear, there is a huge element of patience that is connected to pressing into the presence of God. I have started to actually see the shift and change within me as I continue to spend more time abiding, dwelling, and going to God open-handed with every bit of who I am with the situations I am facing.

Here are a few things about patience that I am learning about in this accidental growth in patience processing season:

Patience cultivation is so freaking hard. – Like truly, learning patience means being aware of your mindset, your heart, the stress and situations you are facing, and being aware enough to know how to respond well… Even if that means actually not responding at all.

Patience is equated with perseverance, which means there is a longevity associated with it. There is nothing quick about patience cultivation.

Patience is a process. As in, I have realized that as I respond poorly in situations with little or no patience, I absolutely must spend some time processing what and why I didn’t have patience and learn from it.

I have realized that when I do not have capacity for patience, I am stress and overwhelmed, and likely tapped out. My only option and saving grace is for me to force space for myself to spend some time with God. – Over the last couple months, I have come to realize, no matter how busy I am or how pressed I feel, if I do not create daily time and space with God, patience is going to dwindle alarmingly quickly for me.

God is continuing to tell me to hold steadfast, to persevere, and then issuing the challenge of “are you going to be obedient?”… Only, the challenge has shifted slightly to “do you have the patient endurance to persevere through the process?”

What process?

This process; the re-shaping, learning, growing, and creating a new foundation within me.
This process is changing me intensely and incredibly from the core of who I am outward.
God has changed the game, He has adjusted the way He and I communicate, and He is teaching me about patient endurance day by day.
A huge part of this process has been God restoring the credibility I didn’t know had been damaged. I have started learning how to recognize my need for time with Him first before reaching out to someone else for comfort… It’s a huge step for me.

Each day, I feel as though I am living out and learning that in order to actually have patient endurance, I have no choice but to live by the, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” command in Matthew 6.

What’s coming soon, the stress of tomorrow or two weeks from now, it is literally too much to handle and it sends my fear, stress and anxiety over the edge… And graciously, lovingly with more tenderness than I realize, the Lord calls me back to today, to this moment, to Him, and asks me to Trust Him. – Allow Him to navigate the process and restore my faith and His credibility as I learn patient endurance. Some days, I easily do this with the feeling of contentment and grace, other days I am a waffling crazy person in my head and heart…. Who’s to say which way I will go each day!

Patient Endurance is intensely difficult because there’s a decision to choose steadiness that requires me to resolutely and dutifully hold firm and unwavering regardless of how I feel or see before me.

Patient Endurance begins to create a peace within your soul because of the time needed in abiding and dwelling with my Sweet Savior.

Patient Endurance forces me to confront my fears and the things I do not have control over and hand them over to the Lord trusting that His timing is better.

Patient Endurance changes you and slowly creates a calm confidence that God can be trusted.

God can be trusted. His timing is better than mine.

It will all be worth it in the end.

Wisdom and Foolishness

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
– James 1:5

“The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord.”
– Proverbs 19:3

Since I was a child, literally 11 years old, I can remember praying for two things for and over myself: Wisdom and Understanding. – If that gives any insight into the type of child and person I am! haha I realize and love that I’m a bit of a weirdo haha

I remember, and continue to feel like if only I have more wisdom and understanding, then I can and will do better at life. I will handle situations better, I will see people differently, I can assess and respond to various things that I encounter more effectively, I can keep the best and most important things in perspective… But, ultimately, I can just love others well.

Occasionally, I will also swap into my prayer mix, clarity and knowledge for myself before the Lord.

The opposite side of wisdom is foolishness, so it is no surprise that I want to perpetually stay as far away from that as possible.
One of the big things I process and struggle through before making decisions is wanting as much information and perspective as I can get to ensure that I do not make a foolish decision. – I don’t want to ever look back and feel like I had been foolish, hasty, thoughtless, or stupid in my decisions or actions.

So, given the way the Lord and I are working through things lately, Foolishness was the theme a few days ago, and Wisdom was soon to follow… As in, the next day.

I was amazed to realize that when you look up “foolish” in scripture, and when you read through the passages one right after another; it is actually very clear about who is considered foolish and what is considered foolish! And then, because God has a sense of humor, there’s one section of verses that throw a little wrench into what man considers wise vs foolish and what God does. (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Just so we are all on the same page, other descriptors of foolishness are: thoughtless, senseless, stupid, mindless, unwise or incautious actions… The level with which I do not want to be or ever be described as these things is intense within me.

So, I began to dig deeper in scripture to get a handle on what it means, and compare myself authentically to see if I am foolish.

Here are some of the things I learned reading through the 88 passages that talk about foolishness in scripture:
Those who are foolish don’t even try to understand or seek wise counsel.
Foolish people are quick-tempered.
The Foolish have eyes but do not see, ears but do not year, and they do not honor or give thanks to God even though they know him.
Foolish people speculate futilely knowing it will lead to arguments and strife.
The foolish seek riches, fame.
Foolish people, who do not believe and follow Christ are actually enslaved to their evil thoughts, coveting, deceit, sensuality, adulteries, envy, slander, and pride… They are even described as having qualities that are evil and proceed from within them.
Foolishness is something that comes from within, it produces actions that harm ourselves or others, and entirely disregard the Lord.
Foolish people operate in pride and don’t even attempt to see or care about what is right, nor do they give thanks to the Lord and honor him in any way.

But also, interestingly enough, believers and followers of Christ are described as righteous, and that they previously were foolish but are no more…

However, I find it interesting that Paul won’t let believers sidestep people who are foolish. We must seek after them with love too. He says that we are actually under obligation to both Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and foolish. We must love and follow hard after our Lord making disciples of all people and all nations.

(You can read more about where I’m getting this information from here.)

One of my favorite things about the really hard, and honestly exhausting season that the Lord and I are currently in together right now is that I spend all day every day mulling and praying through things that He is teaching me. I feel as though in my head, in conversations, in my prayers, and journaling, in my seeking, in my rising and laying down I am working out my salvation with the God of the Universe. That, while He has already saved me, He is taking this season, and making me new. On a foundational level we are re-evaluating things and removing lies and insecurities, and also replacing and building new hope and faith in the process. – It is draining in every possible sense of the word, but it is intensely good and rich.

I feel like daily I am consumed by this season. I spend every spare moment reading and digging deeper. Exhausting.

As I get my Theme’s of the day and begin to dig deeper and try to wrap my mind around them, I have realized there are a lot of thoughts and assumptions that I have that are not actually described in scripture… or better yet, other things that are incredibly clearly defined that I was totally ignorant of!

There was so much internal sigh of relief when I realized that while I certainly have plenty of foolish moments and have done foolish things, *I* am not foolish by any stretch of the imagination.

This whole internal process of mulling and praying my way through this topic was sparked because I have been trying to figure out whether it is considered foolish to hope and pray for things that are more just “wishful thinking” when I do not know if it falls within the will of God.

My everyday struggle is that, I want intensely to do things well in the eyes of the Lord. I want to follow the Lord, and pursue Him with everything I am. I desire for my prayers and actions to be in alignment with him.

So, what did I find out as I dug deeper into wisdom and foolishness?

No, it is not foolish in the slightest to hope and pray for things that we don’t know whether they are or aren’t in the will of God… There is actually nowhere in scripture that foolishness even comes close to touching praying and hoping for things in the Lord. – Instead, it is actually the opposite, wisdom and understanding slide up right next to hoping and praying for things we want. It honors God when we go to Him, foolish people do not give Him honor, nor do they care about the things of His kingdom.

Throughout scripture, wisdom and understanding are intimately acquainted with every type of communication between us and the Lord.

In fact, the more we press in, the more we seek and ask for wisdom, the more we are actually changed by the Spirit. We find ourselves in alignment with Him as part of the process, and even if we don’t get what we want, we are content and continue to hope and build our faith throughout the journey.

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom… But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”
– James 3:13 & 17

I do not know that I’ll every consider myself “wise” but, the more I learn about wisdom, the more I want to pursue it and also just find it fascinating. I seek the Spirit of Wisdom that is talked about throughout scripture. I want the blessings that come with having knowledge and understanding that is only given from the Creator of the Universe.

I also find it interesting that wisdom is given a gender, and that gender is female.
I also find it interesting that wisdom is ranked above coral, crystal, silver, gold, and any other riches or desirable things cannot compare.

Also, I very much am drawn to the fact that the righteous utter wisdom and their tongue speaks justice.

If your mouth speaks wisdom, then the meditations of your heart will be understanding.

Fearing the Lord is the start of wisdom, and it is pleasant to the soul within you.

Did you know that in scripture, wisdom is better than weapons of war?

And, just when I didn’t think it could get any better, the wise make the most of every day and every opportunity, especially with people who are not believers of who Christ is.

So, what is the biggest key marker between wisdom and foolishness? One seeks the Lord, the other does not care in the slightest.

My loves, be wise in all that you do.

#NeverDull2016 Year in Review

At the beginning of the year I was asked by several people, and challenged by several more to come up with a word or theme for 2016. I am not really a goal setter. I do not have enough organization as a personality to plan things out well…Nor do I enjoy it. I more often than not fake being organized, and typically use all of my organizational capacity for my job.

However, this year I decided to try to pick a word or theme. So, I picked “Never Dull”. It felt like a way of focusing on all the big and little things, noticing how interesting and worth while life can be. After having a few hard years, I needed a year not focused on healing or regrowing, but instead a year focused on the life I have, the good, bad, interesting, growing, and adventures that can be found every day!

Thus, #neverdull2016 became my social media hashtag.

You can read my 2015 year in review posts here.

So, what a year 2016 was!

January

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We had a record-breaking snowstorm in DC, with over 30 inches of snow in 24 hours.
My sister came to visit, and I surprised her with a whirlwind trip to NYC.

February

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Uganda team meetings started! #Ugandaexcited
I studied Romans with a group of other leaders.
I got to tour the Capitol building for the first time.

March

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Threw a bachelorette weekend for one of my best friends.
We continued our Easter tradition and several college best friends came and stayed. – We failed again at going to the top of the Washington Monument lol
I started my big side tattoo!

April

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One of my girls from MI came to visit for her Spring Break.
I went to Philly and got to hang out with some of my favorites.
Threw a super fun fundraising house party for clean water wells in Uganda.
I also started having much more regular meetings with other churches to talk about First Impressions things.

May

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One of my best friends got married! #Howboutthemappels
Our Uganda meetings started happening twice a month!
People continued to join us at the gym haha

June

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We had the 2nd Annual Race for H2Ope Run/Walk fundraising event for our Uganda mission.
I went to Nashville, did a whirlwind visit, and helped her drive back to DC for the summer.
I continued my tattoo process.
I got to help teach dance classes throughout the summer with a super fun group of ladies!

July

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I finished my tattoo just in time for it to heal before going to Uganda!
Our team went to Uganda and dug 2 clean water wells! You can read more about it here.
Our house shifted as one roommate left and a new one began living with us.

August

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I spent the first 8 days of the month in Uganda.
I went on my first date in a year – Had a great time, but it didn’t go anywhere.
We did a presentation at the Fairfax JDC about our work in Uganda.

September

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I went to Disney World for the first time! – With a ton of my family! It was awesome!
Family Dinner Mondays started up again for the fall. – It has been such an amazing weekly time!
College friends had a free weekend, so they came to visit and we all headed to the beach!
A group of us undertook project get Amy’s iron up.. which meant a more strict diet than normal; it sucked and was great all at the same time.
I put all of my roommates on a traveling ban because we travel SO much…. it failed miserably. lol

October

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I went to visit 6 churches to learn from them and deemed it my #tourdechurches – It was amazing!
Our church celebrated its 20th anniversary.
My little brother’s wife had their first baby! – She’s so cute!

November

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I was able to go to Puerto Rico for free cause I have lucky friends haha
I had to say goodbye to friends who followed a God-given dream across the country.
My roommates and I are now fluent in food as a love language.
I finally finished my “corner office” for my consulting work!

December

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This is always one of my favorite months in DC. There’s so much happening, fun parties and sweet time with friends.
I got to spend a lot of time with my family for Christmas, it was amazing.
I got to snuggle my new niece.

Overall

I feel like this year was full of adventures, big, small, and everything in between.

How did this year compare to what I thought it would be? – You can see some of my goals and predictions here.

In some ways I feel like it was pretty spot on… In others it was close, and obviously in some ways it was totally different.

In general, my sentiments are: What a beautiful year it has been.

I find myself grateful. Incredibly grateful that I was able to experience such amazing things this year with so many wonderful and amazing people. I feel rich with friendships and people I love. I am grateful for the adventures and the laughter. What an incredible year full of ups and downs and everything in between.

#Neverdull2016

The Beauty in Music – @JoshGarrels

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This is a bit of a hike of a story, but I went to my first Josh Garrels concert last night, and I had such an immense amount of emotion throughout the evening that needed to get processed. So, here is the quite long process…

Some back story first.
Several years ago, I was introduced to Josh Garrels Music. I heard a couple of songs, loved it, then realized, I listened to his music all the time and became slightly obsessed.

His music was the perfect easy listening music that I could tap into or out of throughout my day as I worked. His music is soothing and comforting, sharing emotions that I felt or understood with unique sounds and amazing vocals. I have always said, his style is the perfect blend of life, theology and literature with music.

So, I bought every album he had off of Noisetrade. I listened to his music virtually every day for a solid year.

During that year, life was hard, life was good, and life was busy. I felt an immense burden to keep carrying on, pushing through difficulties and making it through my journey well, no matter what I faced.

Then, I had about $9,000 worth of stuff stolen from my apartment from someone I was helping, while I was on mission out of the country. It was just stuff, I could handle this, and I’ve never particularly been attached to my things… But, let me tell you, police reports, insurance, detailed lists.. Who steals 3 bottles of shampoo but neatly lines up the expensive weapons you had stashed around the house?!

Then, in the midst of dealing with the insurance company, I was let go from my job. Thankfully, I was given a stipend that would get me through the end of my lease in a couple of months.

I felt crushed, like my life was literally crumbling before my eyes and I was too weak and small to stop it from happening.

I went home after finding out, and despite putting on a brave face for everyone else.. I sat on my couch with my puppy wanting to play, and I just sat. Feeling no emotions except disbelief… How had I gotten here?

How do I follow God halfway across the country, only to a year later be sitting in my apartment with so many things that were just stuff to me missing? What do I do now?

The job I thought was pursuing Him now gone. And in its place, just nothing.

No direction, no peace, no confidence.

So, in Krista fashion, I got up from that place, I had stuff to do, no one was going to help me. I went to my newly replaced computer, re-downloaded my iTunes music, surfed for Josh Garrels and almost cried when I realized none of his music was bought through iTunes. I uttered a little “Come ON God” prayer and went to Noisetrade again silently pleading that I would find something.

All of Josh Garrels’ music was free.

Every. Last. Song.

I could replace every album without having to pay a for it second time. I had one of those huge sighs that gets stuttered when you’re about to cry. So, I once again downloaded his albums, put them on blast and proceeded to start cleaning and packing.

Fast forward several months.
I had applied for several hundred jobs around the country, I no longer lived in my own home, but instead stored my stuff with one aunt and uncle and moved in with another aunt and uncle. I knew how blessed I was because I was being so amazingly taken care of by people who made me feel like it was the simplest thing in the world and that I belonged. I knew I was given precious time with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews that all lived close by.

Yet, I had been told by God that life would get worse… and worse it got.

Months went by and I spent every day all day applying for jobs and doing freelance work to pay my monthly bills.
Winter was the worst one in MI, with snow storms every three days for months, no sunshine, and I was alone all day long trying to force movement in my life that simply wasn’t budging.

And, every day, Josh Garrels music played in the background.

I often would crawl into bed at night, and my heart would be aching, feeling abandoned by God, fearful of tomorrow, stressing about every dollar I had to spend, trying to rationalize the season I found myself in, and feeling nothing but pain. So, I created a sleeping playlist hoping that the music would wash over me, and usher in peace as I slept. The playlist had everything from Hillsong and Enter the Worship Circle, to Brooke Fraser and Josh Garrels. Anything that said something to my heart softly was played.

For months this went on; my head knowledge was full on at war with my heart knowledge.
My head knew full well that my savior is always faithful, always has been, and always will be; but, my heart-felt none of that. I struggled to understand, but always came up short.

Then, in a horrible series of events, a friend needed help, and I had the availability to go. So, we spent months together in both of our utter brokenness trying to help the other in different ways, while leaning on the support we offered each other. But, for the first time in almost a year, I had purpose, I was needed, I finally was capable to do something productive. I still spent hours every day applying for jobs and seeking out freelance work, and never quite let go of the deepening feeling that despite how I looked on paper, I was not enough.

All the while, Josh Garrels music played in my headphones. Other music was certainly a part of my life, For King and Country was played often, as was Brooke Fraser’s music. But, the constant that I returned to was Josh Garrels.

Then, last fall, I got an interview, then a second, then a job, moved, and began slowly rebuilding my broken life in DC again.

Still feeling as though I was building a house of cards that would come down, surely life was not yet good. I enjoyed my new life, friends and job, but I was confident deep down that the other shoe would fall and I would be once again useless. Fear began seeping into every small facet of my life. Not once before would I have described myself as a fearful person, I have always loved to dance in the unknown and “see what happens” because after all, what is the worst that could happen? Yet, here I was trying to push through, hoping deep down that eventually I would feel safe again.

Josh Garrels released his new album Home a couple months ago, and it is perfect. It reflects such a peace, joy and comfort that home has. That safe feeling that you belong, are known, and that it’s ok to mess up because that doesn’t change who you are or how much you are loved.

I’m fairly confident I have listened to the album every day since it’s release.

Last night at Josh Garrels’ concert in VA, he talked about the emotions of Home. He described the season of life he was in, and how on paper it was good, yet he was struggling through these feelings of fear but needing to know things were going to be alright. I could have spoken every single one of those words (except for being married and having three children haha).

I love his new album immensely, but his old work carries deep inside of me cause it was the backdrop of so much pain, life, wrestling, and working through who I was and my worth when all else was stripped away.

My Abba Father and I have been sifting through where my identity rests. What worth do I have when I am incapable of helping someone else? How do I accept my good when I mess up so often, handling things so poorly more often than I ever care to admit.

Throughout the concert, Josh Garrels played some of his new music, but also much to my delight, some of his old music as well. So, in the course of an hour and a half, I felt all the feels of the old life of the last few years, and the hope that is slowly seeping into my new life.

So, today, I find myself feeling an immense amount of thankfulness.
Thankful to my friend who gifted me with tickets to the concert.

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Thankful for Josh Garrels, his wife, his music, and how he shares his journey towards Christ.

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Thankful that God is working, and moving, and creating something new in me.

Thank you for letting me share my story and unpack another layer and element of what is happening inside of me.

Looking Ahead: 2015

So, I do a year in review every year, and it is my favorite blog post to do annually because it forces me to pause and reflect on where I have been, what I have done, and the people and things that have changed me. I also have found that taking time to remember tends to cause and overwhelming feeling of gratitude to God for all the things He has done and ways that He has once again proven his faithfulness. You can read about the 2014 review here, 2013 here, and 2012 here.. Beyond that, if you’re still interested you can look in my December archives for each year 🙂

My second favorite post of the year is the one where I look ahead, make goals, resolutions, plans, and share the things I can see (or not see) coming, as well as any thoughts or insights into what it feels like God is up to in my life.

This year I turn 30!

I am stoked.

It may seem odd that I am so excited, but for some reason I am.
I am looking forward to starting a new decade of my life.
I am looking forward to feeling like there is less pressure at 30 to prove yourself.
I am looking forward to enjoying life in a new way.

  1. The year I was 29 was incredibly difficult, but it has only caused me to resolve to create healthy habits across every aspect of my life.
  2. This year I am excited about starting a new job and continuing my consulting work, learning, growing, experiencing, helping others, and leading well.
  3. I want to read like crazy this year. I want to learn from other people’s experiences and then figure out how to apply them to what I am doing.
  4. I need to get new running shoes (my other one’s are broken), but, as soon as I do I want to get back to running and weight lifting.
  5. I want to eat healthy and properly hydrate myself. I feel like I made significant progress over the last six months, but I still need make better choices moving forward, so I plan on it.
  6. I am looking forward to walking. I am within walking distance of work, have a dog who needs exercise, and live in a highly active city.. I want to experience and take full advantage.
  7. I want to dance often. I miss Salsa dancing (or latin dancing in general) immensely whenever I do not get to do it regularly… So, now that I have returned to a city that has a great dancing scene, I plan on jumping back in regularly!
  8. I want to be better at mailing letters and cards. I plan on making it a weekly habit to mail at least one letter or card, whether long or short… (That being said.. send me your address if you would like to get added to my list!)
  9. I need to get back in the habit of praying regularly and for extended periods of time for friends, family, and situations of others… So, my mirror 3×5 cards are going back up!
  10. I took a significant break from blogging many times throughout last year. I just felt like I had nothing of value to share, so I said nothing at all. But, I missed it, a lot. So, regularly weekly blogs are getting put back into the rotation of schedule.
  11. I want so badly to travel internationally this year!
  12. I have 5 years to pay off a stupid ridiculous amount of debt, but I am determined to keep my focus there. Even if I do not attain my goal (which, at this stage, I’m not sure how I would) focusing on it will ensure that I am being diligent and making wise choices.
  13. I want to put money in savings!
  14. I want to add to and cross things off my before I die bucket list year!
  15. I need to carve out space in my schedule to read and actually study scripture.
  16. I am going to keep a jar full of daily things that were blessings, positives, good moments, things I was thankful for that day. — I did this for about 5 months of last year, this year I aim for the whole year.

I think this year is going to be jam-packed and I am so excited about it. I cannot wait to look back at the year and marvel at how many things I crammed into each week.
I feel as though this year I am going to be trying to drink out of a firehose all year. I am looking forward to the laughter and ridiculousness of things that are surely going to happen in the process of trying to absorb it all.
I have a feeling that I will get really good this year at owning up to mistakes and apologizing for the things I dropped the ball on.

As I start 2015, I am at a place of marvel and wonder. I am totally amazed at where I find myself after having moments of wondering if the difficult and painful things would ever end.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the marvel and wonder won’t go away for a while, and I’m totally ok with that.

 

2014 in Review

I love reviewing my year and looking forward to the next one to come. Each year the review looks different and takes on a vast array of feel and styles. But, I love taking the time to pause and really look at how the year went, what I did, learned, went through.. friends I made, experiences I had, but mostly the growth that happened.

I think this year was one of the most difficult, different, and unique years I have had to date. So, to prevent a bit of rambling, here are 29 things from the year I was 29:

1. I was unemployed or not full-time employed for 50 of the 52 weeks this year. – I applied for more than 400 jobs, got rejected from almost 100 of them, didn’t hear back from 200 something of them, and finally got a job!

2. I started pursuing consulting work in February, and made the transition to doing it full-time in August. I discovered that I absolutely love consulting work. So much so, that I plan on continuing it part-time on the side even with a full-time job.

3. I made a list of 29 things I wanted to do this year, I accomplished maybe half of those things.. Some of them were hopeful, some are sad that I was unable to do them just because of my financial situation, and others I am surprised and pleased that I was able to do them.

4. I had three late payments this year, but didn’t miss a single bill all year. I actually have no idea how this happened. Knowing my lack of money all year, I am totally and completely blown away by this fact. Astonished.

5. So. So. So. many people literally stepped in and prevented me from:
being homeless,
starving,
without a car (three times),
pursued for the money I owed the IRS,
in severe neck/back pain,
and a plethora of other things.
I am so shocked and amazed at how so many people stepped in and helped me with so much love and support that came out in so many ways.

6. I was able to have so much fun this year despite lacking finances to have any fun. I played for my birthday, went to New Orleans with some of my favorite people in the world, visited friends, grilled out, game nights, long talks, surprised friends for their birthday, and I got to hang out and watch movies and tv shows with family and friends.. Just so many fun things.

7. I had my sense of self and identity destroyed by being incapable of taking care of myself. It literally shattered my understanding of who I was, and what I had to offer the world to not be capable.

8. God strategically placed old and new friends in my life this year to slowly speak life back into my heart and soul. And, with their voices over the course of many many months, he slowly began telling me and showing me who I am and what my identity is once again.

9. I got more family time in the course of the last year than I have in probably the last ten years combined. Just so many fun memories, long conversations, laughter, joking, annoyances, tv shows, movies, date nights (with various family members), good food.. Literally so much wonderful quality time.

10. I have watched more tv in the last year than I have in probably the last ten years combined.

11. Last year, I had someone give what I have come to describe as a prophecy over me.. It was the awful hope that I clung to throughout the year.. Things were going to get so much worse, and I was going to look dead, and then I would grow back more fruitful and with more blessings than I would have otherwise been capable of beforehand.

12. I gained weight and was incredibly unhappy with my body.. Then I made some changes to my lifestyle and lost weight, and became much more content with how I look.

13. For the first time in my life I decided to be intentional about properly rehydrating myself. It was one of the best decision I made this year.. That is until the days I forget or am unable to consume the water my body needs/is used to.. those days I now feel awful.

14. I drove hundreds upon hundreds of miles this year. I loved every mile, and the time I got to catch up with friends or pray or contemplate and mull over things going on in my life.

15. I was able to see and re-connect with several old friends, and make a bunch of new friends.

16. I didn’t dye my hair for TEN MONTHS. Ten whole months I went (mostly cause I was poor) without dying my hair.. I spent the whole time telling myself I was giving it time to “heal” haha

17. Vormund and I spent so much time walking and traveling throughout the year. I am amazed at how much a dog can become such a place of comfort and stability.

18. I was able to spend quite a bit of time dancing this year! It had been more than a year since I was able to dance consistently so it was so nice to finally get to dust off my shoes and practice!

19. I got some pretty cool clients that are super fun to work with/for… Plus, it’s given me such great insight and knowledge into so many other industries.

20. I was reviewing my Facebook timeline for this blog post, and kept laughing at things people posted on my wall that were funny, insightful, interesting, and just overall engaging. I love the things that make my friends and family think of me, and how much they go out of their way to share those things with me! So much fun.

21. I got to take my two nephews out for birthday adventures. We had so much fun. I think I am going to try to make that a new tradition whenever possible!

22. Vormund put on around 30lbs this year, and turned two at the end of August.

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8.5 weeks old

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Just over 1 year old.

 

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Just over 2 years old.

23. I feel like this year was a year of pain and hurt.. but with a purpose at the end (that I do not currently entirely understand). Throughout the course of even just this year I have been able to encourage someone and completely understood what they were going through. It was weirdly encouraging for me as well to find people who we had struggling in common, as if not being the only one experiencing the issues helped.

24. My faith and relationship with God has been dramatically different in 2014 than it has ever been previously. We did very little actual talking, but a whole heck of a lot of sitting in silence together experiencing pain and just being in each other’s presence. I did a lot of sharing my heart, but more just pushing my heart towards Him and with a distinct lack of words to describe how I was feeling. My comprehension of who He is, and my faith in His unfailing love has grown into an unmoving solid understanding

25. I have never in my entire life stressed and worried or stayed up at night with straight up fear as much as I have this year. I spent countless nights just laying in bed physically stressing over money… I hope to never repeat those feelings or nights.

26. I gained a greater understanding of how frustrating cliché answers can be to someone truly going through a season or situation. There were days that cliché answers just made me see red and want to punch someone in the throat. When something is so profoundly emotion, cliché answers are not encouraging, but rather frustrating.

27. I learned so much about hope, hopelessness, strength, faith, pain, joy, anxiousness, stress, peace, and patience even without understanding. I would never choose to repeat this year, but I also am very thankful for how I have grown because of it.

28. It is hard to explain the level of relief I felt when I got the job in DC… To be moving back to a city I love, and to have a job, to work for a place I have loved for so long, and to finally feel like I have direction.. Huge amounts of relief… Followed by the stress of trying to figure it all out. I have been cycling through relief and stress on a regular basis for about a month now. Repeating to myself, God has carried me this far, He cannot let me go now.

29. Despite everything, love has been overwhelming this year. Friends loving me. Family stepping in and loving me, even when I was about as interesting as a little blank grey piece of paper. Loved when I couldn’t love well in return or had nothing to offer.

As I reflect on 2014, I am amazed. So many things went wrong, yet I am in a state of awe for the way that God has done things this year. Thank you to those of you who reached out and loved me, supported me, encouraged me, gave me money, did fun things with me, talked to me for hours, told me how much I mean to you, prayed for me, hugged me, took care of me and/or my dog.. Thank you for loving me strongly, gently, fiercely, and when I did not deserve the love. You all made this year possible (as in actually made it possible). I do not deserve the love and I am humbled knowing how little I had to give in return.

Thank you.