On Funky.

Well, it has been almost 11 months since I have last posted. There are a lot of reasons for this, some that I’m still figuring out. I’ll try not to bore you with a long list of reasons, but I hope that some of my reasoning will serve as encouragement. I’ve come to call these past 11 months my “funky” season. That is really the only way I know how to describe it. While it has not been my most favorite season, I am beginning to see how much there is to learn from it (isn’t it funny the way God works).

I’ve had a really hard time writing over the past year, not just in terms of blogging, but in my personal time too. I am usually an avid journalist, but there are not many pages that make up the past year. In this, I have kept saying that the Lord has been quiet. I have felt that I have had a hard time hearing His voice.*

Along with this, the whole year has been full of transition and not feeling settled. Many times I have felt as if I was standing in the middle of a room with open doors surrounding me on all sides, not knowing which one to enter.**

Over this past weekend, I had the honor of playing at a conference. Needless to say, the Lord wrecked me and showed me some things regarding my “funky” season.

*On the last morning of the conference I was sitting and listening to the speaker, when she said something that the Lord has been telling me over the past year. However, up until this point, I thought what I had been hearing over the past year was crazy. I sat there on Sunday morning with tears streaming down my face and the Lord said to me, “Kirsten, I’ve been talking the whole time, I’ve never gone anywhere.” My friends, the Lord is never far, He does not hide Himself from us, and He gives us all of Himself. When we are living in and through Jesus, we have to be confident in the Lord’s voice.

**I’ve heard this next part many times over the past couple of months, but I love confirmation and new perspectives. “God is not afraid of mistakes, just step out and do it.” Yes and yes. Sometimes I think the Lord is asking us to just do something, we get so tied up in waiting and thus miss out on so much. If we move to the wrong place or choose the wrong job, we best believe that our God is powerful enough to fix it. We serve a God who is full  of adventures, don’t get stuck in the waiting, move!

Well there’s much more, but that’s enough for now. One quick update, I took a Second Grade teaching position at the charter school that I have been working at. I envision that this blog might start shifting to what I’m doing in my classroom, of course with what the Lord is teaching me through all of it too!

And, this wouldn’t be a true blog post if I didn’t include some pictures!

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The Simple Gospel.

Don’t you just love when the Lord smacks you in the face multiple times with a truth He wants you to try to grasp? Over the past week or so I’ve been reminded of the Simple Gospel. I think sometimes I get overly focused on trying to understand all the details, that I miss out on the overwhelming grace and mercy of the simple gospel story. Not a day should go by that I don’t acknowledge and find myself on my knees in worship thanking the Lord for the work that He completed on the cross.

We live in this weird space with the gospel because it is such a mystery. “It’s so plain a child can see it clearly, yet so mysterious the most educated theologians will always have more to learn.” I think it’s important for us to live in both of these spaces; never letting go of our child-like viewpoint, but always pressing forward to learn more.

The other day we were sitting around and singing some songs and my friend started singing the song “Lord I lift your Name on High.” If you don’t remember the lyrics, let me remind you:

Lord I lift your Name on High. Lord I love to sing your praises. I’m so glad you’re in my life. I’m so glad you came to save us. You came from Heaven to earth to show the way, from the earth to the cross my debt to pay. From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky, Lord I lift your Name on High.

I sat there listening to the lyrics remembering how much I used to love this song as a child and how I would use to actively engage in the hand motions. The other day I was left in awe by the words of this song and realized how amazing it is that such simple lyrics can have so much depth and meaning. I turned to my friend and said, “it’s amazing how powerful the songs that we sang as a child are.” He replied saying, “exactly, remember, we are told to humble ourselves like children.”

I was talking to my best friend the other night and telling her about what the Lord as been reminding me of and she goes, “Kirsten, I’m pretty sure United Pursuit just released a new album called “The Simple Gospel!” I encourage you to take a listen. I have found myself in tears and laughter as I have engaged with the words being sung. For now, here’s a sneak peek into one of the new songs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcJV7j5D3PU

First and Everything.

Tonight I got home from school and told my brother, “there’s a blog post that the Lord is stirring on my heart, but I’m not good at writing at night so I’m going to wait till the morning…”

Well, as you can guess, the Lord got me out of bed and here I am writing a blog post (yes, at night). What I am about to write may not come new to you, but the Lord has taken me to new and deeper levels over the past couple of weeks in what I’m about to share.

My friends, it is seriously all God. Yes, that’s what I’m sharing, it is seriously all God.

I could stop there, but I’ll expand some. I’m realizing on deeper levels that it all comes back to being with God. It’s our intimate relationships with God that change everything. It all comes back to spending time with Him and carrying Him with us always. You see, I think I overanalyze my walk with the Lord too much sometimes. My focus often turns to wanting to be humble and wanting to show love and wanting to be joyful (which are all good things), but I strive after these things instead of striving after God’s heart FIRST. If I don’t put God first and in everything, I’m going to have a hard time being humble, showing love, and being joyful (the list is a lot longer than just this), because God is all these things and if I want to become like Him I have to be with Him.

And I’ve learned recently too, when there are a lot of questions and pain, it all comes back to worshipping Him. No, the questions might not get answered (at least right away) and the pain might be a process to walk through, but when we dwell in His presence He becomes our peace, joy, and strength, among a bunch of other bazillion things.

I don’t think I’m even close to beginning to wrap my head around some of this. But, His presence changes everything. When we’re with Him, we become like Him. Let’s walk hand-in-hand on in adventure with Him each moment of everyday.

I’ll leave you with this quote from my dear friend C.S. Lewis: “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

On Transition.

This is a hard, yet exciting post to write. A year ago I could have never imagined that I would be sitting here writing this post, but I guess I should know by now that we serve an adventurous and “unbound by time” God. Currently I am walking through a pretty big series of transitions. As announced a couple of weeks ago to my students, and then this past Sunday to the whole congregation, my time as the Youth Director will be coming to a close at the end of this month.

Over the past few months the Lord has been stirring up a lot of things in my heart and in the places  around me. It would take way too long to write about everything, but know that there are some really cool Jesus stories that have taken place and that there is usually a process in everything. As most of you know, along with working at the church I have also been working at a Charter School over the past year. Long story short, over the past year some pretty remarkable opportunities have opened up and the Lord has begun to lead me through those doors. And then, a few months ago, the Lord started stirring up the idea of going back to school. Another long story short (but REALLY cool story), about a month ago I started a year-long post-bachelors program in which I will receive my teaching degree for 1st-8th grade. This program, as you can imagine, fulfills a lot of my time.

As these things started brewing, I quickly became aware of what the Lord was asking me to do. I wrestled with the Lord asking if I could have the strength to work two jobs and go to school. Of course, the Lord just shook His head no. Then I began to wrestle with the question, “what about my degree in youth ministry and my heart for youth ministry?” That’s when the Lord very gently spoke to me, “Kirsten, working in a school IS youth ministry.” And it’s so true, the opportunity to get to work with students who may not know Jesus  is indeed youth ministry.

And so with all of this, like I said in the beginning, my role as the Youth Director at the church will be coming to a close. I will still be involved at the church and  helping with the youth ministry as much as I can. My heart is still very heavy in all of this though. The initial decision was made a while back, so at first I was not that emotional because I still had so much time left. As the weeks have been approaching though, it is so much harder than I ever thought it would be, especially after just returning from camp. The tears hit when I least expect them and I’m holding on tightly to these last few days. There has been a lot of points of humility in all of this. I don’t want to make this too sappy, because like I said, I’m still going to be around and somewhat involved in these student’s lives. However, I do want to say this to my students:

It has been such an honor and joy to walk side-by-side with you over the past year. You have taught me so much and the Lord has used you to blow my mind in so many ways. I have watched your hearts for worship and intimacy with the Lord take root over the past year. I have heard you step up and not be afraid to ask the hard questions. My heart has exploded when I see the way that you function in unity and community with one another. You have brought me countless laughs and tears. My instinctive mother’s heart has developed for each of you and my understanding of care has been taken to a whole new level. My friends, don’t stop pursuing the Lord. Don’t stop asking the hard questions. Seek Him daily in Spirit and in Truth. Worship Him hard. Be lights that shine His Name brightly everywhere you go. Lean into the Lord and lean into each other, you have a beautiful community in which to support and encourage one another. You guys are awesome, and I cannot even begin to describe how proud I am of each and every one of you.

On Youth Camp.

I know that my writing has not been very consistent and I am hoping for that to be changing shortly. I will share more in upcoming posts about why I have been more “quiet” over the past few months, but it’s not quite time yet. For now, I want to take a few moments to brag on God, some incredible leaders, and some awesome youth group students.

This past weekend was youth camp! Those of you who know me well I’m sure can imagine the internal battle that took place inside of me in the months and weeks leading up to camp. And on top of all of that there were a lot of other very unexpected things that seemed to continue get in the way in those weeks and months leading up to camp. The funny thing is, I should know by now that when there is such a battle going on, the Lord is at work and He is in control. I won’t go into all the details, but I will have you know that there were many important details that kept changing right up until the day before camp, and again, those of you who know me, know that I am a big planner. It’s in these reflecting moments that I see how the Lord loves to stretch us out of our comfort zone to help us rely on Him and gain a deeper trust in Him.

I should mention that I have a love/hate relationship with youth camps. I love that youth camp is a place where students (and leaders) can be removed from distractions, are surrounded by community, get to witness the beauty of God through creation, and spend many hours learning and engaging with the Lord. I hate youth camps because as soon as they are over you are thrown right back into the distractions, home life, and so on.

Regardless though of my attitude towards youth camps, I cannot deny the fact that the Lord did some pretty awesome and amazing things this past weekend. My fervent prayer is that the things that took place this weekend would have a deep impact and that transformation would continue to take place in each life.

First, I want to brag a bit on my leadership team. In the beginning-planning stages for camp I would have never guessed that the people that the Lord brought together would be the 2015 youth camp leaders. It was an honor and a joy to have Zach and Kendra join us as guest worship leaders. Their passion and joy for the Lord is remarkable and I’m so thankful for the way that they stepped right in not only to lead worship, but in building relationships with the students and much more. They truly went above and beyond. My dear friend Sarai has been my right hand girl and such a huge encouragement and help through the planning and executing of camp. I would have had a really hard time pulling this all together if it was not for her (and of course the Lord). I’m so thankful for her obedient and servant heart. Luis and Marina, first of all, if you do not know this couple, you should. I love the friendship and relationship that the Lord has built between us over the past year. Their excitement, passion, and unity astounds me. They recognize the voice of the Lord and act on it without hesitation. Their caring hearts and humor bring peace and joy to a room. I have to mention two specific things that I am extremely thankful for from them this past weekend: One, the car ride with Marina and the conversations that the Lord led us into. Two, the way that Luis went above and beyond in helping care for a student. Last but not least, Robert. Shout out to this guy for being so willing to some what last minute (actually last week, technically) join us at camp as a leader and drive one of the vans for us. Robert is a new friend and I can’t even begin to say how thankful I am for the way that he stepped in, cared for the students, and shared the love of Christ.

The other thing I want to mention regarding the leaders is the unity that took place. A lot of the leaders had not even met each other until the first day of camp. The unity that happened though and the friendships that formed was so cool. I heard students multiple times ask different sets of leaders, “how long have you guys been friends,” not knowing that we/they had just met recently. Not only was there this “friendship unity” but there was also a “spiritual unity.” The theme for the weekend was worship and we broke the days down into: Why we Worship, What Happens When we Worship, and How we Worship. Apart from that, not much other detail was discussed concerning the messages and the worship. And wouldn’t you know that everything flowed together in a way that only the Lord could have planned. In fact, the part that I am still teary-eyed over is that all of the messages incorporated the verse John 4:23, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.” It became our theme verse of the weekend without us even planning it.

Anyway, enough about the leaders for the time being, let me brag on the students for a little bit. Man, these guys are awesome. One, their capacity astounds me and two, their hearts for the Lord blow my mind sometimes. I’m not going to share too many details about what the Lord did, because a lot of it is more personal to the students. I highly encourage you to talk to them and ask them what the Lord did, they will be able to tell you a lot better than I would be able to anyways. I will tell you this: chains were broken, hearts were changed, healing and redemption took place, and of course a lot of fun was had.

I also have to take another bragging moment and tell you that right before lunch on Sunday I was talking to the Program Director, Jake, at the camp (who was our main contact and help during our stay) and he said that he was “very impressed with our group and sad to see us have to leave so soon!” I’m so stinking proud of these guys.

Personal Camp Highlights:

  • “Blameless” – look up this song by Dara Maclean if you have not heard it
  • Meal times and reflection times with the leaders
  • Inside jokes and laughs
  • Morning prayer
  • Free time- getting to play games and have cool conversations with various students
  • Workshops! I was not sure how this was going to work, but it was so neat. There were three workshops that took place and the students got to pick which one they wanted to participate in. The workshops were “Worship Dancing,” “Worship Doodling,” and “Worship Shredding” (aka prayer and confession).
  • Getting to watch the Lord’s hand at move
  • Seeing the stars
  • Girls small group and panel

I have to give just a couple of more shout-outs! First, to my dad who literally, the day before camp, became a van driver for us. He went above and beyond in sacrificing his time for us. Second, to Wayne, Judi, Wannetta, and Pastors Len and Sharon for all of their help in the planning and prep. Third, to everyone who was praying for us before and during camp. Fourth, to everyone who contributed financially, I’m so glad to say that we received all of the funds that we needed! So thank you deeply from the bottom of my heart. Fifth, to the YMCA Triangle Y Ranch and all their staff, especially their kitchen staff for going above and beyond and being so accommodating. Lastly, a huge shout out to Jesus for taking control and center. His grace overwhelms me.

On Three and One.

This past week marks some pretty monumental “anniversaries.” It has been three years since I started my adventure on The Experience and a year since I moved back to Arizona. I find it funny that I am spending this current week in Colorado and getting smacked in the face with a lot of joy and emotions as I process some of this. I’m going to attempt to share some of my thoughts and the things that the Lord has done and is doing with these marks.

Three years ago I was just a couple of days into a pretty crazy adventure. I was just getting acquainted with some people that would soon rock my world, teach me more about community, and become some of my best friends. Last night, as I was sitting around with friends representing four Experience teams, I realized that I don’t talk about the Experience that much anymore, yet there are so many areas in my life that I live and function in because of what the Lord taught me that summer. We went around last night and all shared our highs and lows from our summers. It was so neat to hear such familiar things, yet from different perspectives. Later in the evening Jon, Mackenzie, Julia, and I were talking (we were all on the 2012 team) and I realized how cool it is that even when we all don’t always keep up with each other as much as we would like to, we always have such a common ground to come back to, and that common ground is only something that our 26 other teammates can fully understand. It’s quite beautiful and special when you think about it.

Then we come to one year ago. It has been a year since I graduated from CCU and moved back to Arizona! What!?!? I know I talk about time going by fast a lot, but seriously, I have no idea where this past year went! I still find myself trying to say that I just graduated, but there’s now a whole other group that has graduated a year after me. I think that the theme of good-hard has continued over this past year of being in Arizona. Honestly,  I think part of it went by so fast because I was pretty checked out and not wanting to be in AZ for about the first six months. I’m not thrilled with myself for having the attitude that I did, but the Lord has taught me much through it. There’s a lot more that I could say and will say, but that will be for a later blog post. With this though, I was talking to my friend Stacey yesterday and we were talking about these first  years after college in terms of grade levels in school. So for instance, I just finished my freshman year of life. And you know, when I think back to my freshman year of college it was a lot of settling, trying a bunch of new things, probably extending myself pretty thin, and finding a lot of who I was. For now, that it is a pretty good summary of what this past year has been.

On Family and Band and lots of Jesus.

Almost a year ago I wrote the following in a blog post: “I was recently reminded that I have not written in a while. Honestly, it is not because I have forgotten or have not had time, it is because I have not known what to write.” And I sit here tonight and start off this blog post the same way.

To begin, I am constantly reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness and sweetness. To be honest, there is a lot going on right now, but in the midst of it all the Lord is so good. I’m not going to write about the details of everything that is going on, but I do want to share something that the Lord did over this past week.

I have had the opportunity recently to reflect more on community. If you know me well, you know that I have a passion for speaking into the importance of community as followers of Christ. I’m left in somewhat of awe as a look at the rest that I found in community and being with people that I love so dearly over this past week. Let me tell you a little bit about my week and the sweet and masterful God that we serve.

Over my spring break last week I had the lovely opportunity to go up to Oregon and Washington state to visit some of my siblings and nieces and nephews. All together there were 18 family members that I got to spend time with. The time spent with them was way too short, but filled with so much joy, laughter, tears, celebration, prayer, and much more. I so dearly would love to find a way to be with them more often. There are a lot of pictures below to that capture more of my time and joy with them.

In the midst of all this, it just so happened that the CCU Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band were touring in the same area. Again, those of you who know me well, know that my time in band was the most influential part of my college career and has shaped a lot of who I am in the Lord. Each year when it would come time for band tour, multiple friends who were not it band would comment on how band tour was my “favorite thing” or “the most wonderful time of the year.” And I would fully agree with them and just about all of the band would for that matter.

Getting to spend a couple of days with the band while they were on tour was something that I could have never imagined actually happening. I knew a few months back that they would be touring in the northwest around the same time I would be visiting my siblings, but had high doubts that I would get to see them. But, it just so happens that they were staying in the hotel and playing at a school less than a few miles away from my sibling’s house during the same time that I was there! I wrote an Instagram post after saying goodbye to them, that “only the Lord could have planned [this].” I was reading in the book of Ruth this morning and doing a Bible Study along with it. A quote from the study said, “what appeared as a coincidence was God’s hand at work.”

And you may ask, was seeing the band really that big of a deal? And for myself I can say that it was a huge deal, and I don’t know how to thank the Lord enough for it. Let me try to explain a little more:

You see, in college, band is where I was smacked in the face with what the meaning of true Christian Community is. A friend wrote (and I hope he doesn’t mind if I share this): “There, I found true community. There I found people who loved one another coming together for a single cause, to glorify God through their instrument; not as individuals, but as a single group.” And it goes further than this, it is where we experienced sacrificial love- through one another and our Savior.

So, to get to experience a small piece of this one more time, is again something that I do not even know how to begin thanking the Lord for. I know it may seem small, but it is a reminder to me of how sweet the Lord is, and how well He really does know us. I think for me, it allowed me to have some closure (in a really good way) with this event and group of people that I miss so dearly. Never did I think that I would get experience band tour again. And so, to sit on that bus for one more quick ride and call out my number and hear the sweet, beautiful fragrance of music, was so good. It felt so right and natural to be there, and yet, at the same time I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be there and there were a lot of things and people missing from the way that I had known it before. And so, I walked away – overjoyed, thankful, rested, and knowing that my time has come to an end. It is now that  I can reflect on what I learned about community over my four years in band and strive to teach and find that in the places that the Lord calls me to next.

The Lord calls us to live in community with one another as believers. In an article written by Drew Dixon he says, “In fact, so many of the ways we are called to pursue spiritual growth require community. We are called to grow by loving one another, suffering and mourning together, serving one another, bearing each other’s burdens, and using our spiritual gifts for the edification of the body.” And when we do all of this with the Lord at the center, bringing Him glory in everything, that is where community happens. My friends, community is a beautiful thing, but it is hard and it requires sacrifice and vulnerability.  We need to be brave though, because it is here that the Lord is inviting us in to know Him on deeper levels of intimacy. And it is here that we find true rest and joy in the Lord.