Friday, April 29, 2016

on impatience and perseverance...

One thing that I have learned to be true about Jesus? He is not subtle. When Jesus wants you to do something or learn something, you know. And lately, I know.
At the beginning of this month, I read Annie Downs new book, "Looking for Lovely". I may or may not have finished it in two days and everyone needs it in their personal library. Please go to your local bookstore and pick up a copy right now. She speaks A LOT into the idea of what perseverance looks like in her life, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. She even got a tattoo (which is not happening for me because I am indecisive and hate all kinds of pain). 

This year, I studied through Acts with a group of women at my church. Paul and the early church knew what it meant to persevere in every sense of the word. 

Twenty one days ago, I started Whole 30 and running (again), which, enough said.

For the next few months, my church is making our way through 1 & 2 Thessalonians. This past Sunday, we were encouraged in the way of perseverance. 

Are all these things a coincidence? Absolutely not. Jesus is purposeful and intentional and answering big heart prayers. My theme this year is cultivate, and He is doing just that, building parts of my faith that I didn't really know existed, strengthening parts of it that already do. Perseverance seems grueling and exhausting; the connotation always seems negative. We tell people to persevere when they are weak and hurt and amidst a trial, but what about persevering through normal things? Like maybe young motherhood, singleness, a mediocre job, financial problems, the last semester of high school, a transition in ministry, or cleaning your house after a long day of work? Is perseverance only reserved for the hard seasons in life? 

...underneath the normal is the hum of God doing the unseen, 
and to see that, we must keep going.

Right now, my life is not hard. My money is spent on normal adult things, morning coffee, and the occasional adventure or new dress. My time is spent with people I love and who make me laugh and remind me of truth. My relationship with God is good and abundant. And still, there is this quiet whisper underneath all of these studies and sermons and seasons... "Keep going." Sometimes we need that for our everyday, run-of-the-mill lives because underneath the normal is the hum of God doing the unseen, and to see that, we must keep going (because I don't know about you, but I want to see that stuff, the stuff that Jesus is working on underneath it all).

Perseverance is good and necessary regardless of your season or status because it's a means of sanctification. He uses it to make us more like Him, to mold us into strong, loving, gracious, truthful people. Because we don't know what the middle of the story holds and we don't know how the story finishes, but we do know the God who does. We persevere because we know Him. 

The opposite of impatience is not patience, it is perseverance...

And recently, my heart has been so impatient and full of questions and wonder. I sat in my chair a few weeks ago, letting the truth of Scripture wash over me, contemplating the lives of the early church, and it struck me... The opposite of patience is not impatience, it is perseverance. When I focus on being patient, I feel stuck and trapped, but when I focus on perseverance, I feel hopeful and aware of what God is teaching me. Patience is birthed out of places of frustration, perseverance is birthed out of places of focus. For me, patience is seen as the last straw, almost like a coping mechanism for when my personal desires are not met. Maybe the goal isn't to become patient, but to build up endurance, to persevere. 

God never calls us to begin, He calls us to finish and to finish well, and by His grace that is actually possible. Perseverance is good. For the student turning in their last assignment of the semester, perseverance is good. For the man who is waiting until marriage and fighting the temptation of pornography, perseverance is good. For the woman wanting a husband or babies or grand babies, perseverance is good. For the new mom who is washing milky bottles instead of washing her hair, perseverance is good. For the person who is interviewing for job after job and facing rejection, perseverance is good.

And so, we persevere, I persevere, because He who calls us is faithful and will give us the grace to endure and to finish. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

a coffee date...

If we were on a coffee date, it would probably look more like big cups of vanilla almond milk and a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. 

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about influence and impact. This weekend, I was reminded of the weight of shepherding the hearts of and showing my high school girls Jesus. It's a good weight, but a weight nonetheless. Who are you shepherding? Who are you showing Jesus to?

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you about the hard places that my heart has been in the past couple weeks. The prayers that are being prayed are new, and not just new for the situation, but new to my whole 26 year old life. It's a little scary, but God is in control and is in the business of being sovereign (unlike us).

If we were on a coffee date, I would gush about Paul E. Miller's "A Praying Life". This book has changed my theology of prayer in all the good ways. I would ask you about your prayer life... How do you pray? What are you praying for? What are you afraid to seek God about?

If we were on a coffee date, I would also gush about "Looking For Lovely" by Annie Downs. Y'all, I bought this book Saturday morning and I was finished by Sunday night. Her writing just gets me, and the best part? IT FEELS LIKE A COFFEE DATE. If you want to borrow it, just let me know, but you should probably buy your own copy because you will want to highlight all the things and write little notes in the margins. 

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about "Fixer Upper: Season 2". That coffee shop couple? HOLY MOSES THEY ARE PRECIOUS. Joanna and Chip, can you a.) make me a house and b.) be my best friends? 

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you to read "When Nothing is New" by Greer Oharah. Everything she says here is so good and needed, especially in a culture that expects, creates, and yearns for constant movement and mountain-top experiences. "We find depth when we walk along the same path everyday." YES. SO GOOD.  

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about money and how I am really trying to be a responsible adult with my tax refund, loans, etc. 

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that Scrivener is hands down the most brilliant software to ever happen to my life. It is built for writers and is so dang simple. I actually got really emotional about it. Does that make me a nerdy girl now? 

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about my relationship with my dad. We would talk about the new hope that I have, that maybe the path to redemption is near. 

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that my heart is longing for the summer. For those of you who know my inner most being, you know that summer is not my jam, so this is new for me. My heart is craving the beach, a good book, a big acai bowl/balboa bar, and bonfires. Really, I am just so excited for summer adventures. 

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask you how you are doing, what you are reading, and are you just as obsessed with Joanna Gaines as much as I am? (Honestly, I may need an intervention.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

on grey areas & temper tantrums...

Confession: I have temper tantrums with Jesus.

I think that He is big enough to handle me, so it's what I do, I have it out with God. King David taught me this; when I look at the Psalms, this man was not afraid to tell God about his emotions, and because I serve that same God, I can do the same thing. But this time was a little different... I told Him I rejected His answer because His answer (to me) isn't an answer at all. I have never done that before. It was a little scary, honestly. But, being real with God is scary because it’s real in the most real way.

In one little big area of my life, God is giving me a lot of grey, a lot of maybe and wait, a lot of limbo. And by a lot, I mean A LOT. We don't like when the answers are grey, we want black and white, we want guidance and plans and clarity. For the past week or so, I have been asking God for clarity, to remove the grey and replace it with black. Or white. Or even red. Just something other than grey, please. The grey-maybe-wait-limbo area is NOT comfortable or fun and I have been asking God for a semblance, a shred, a little something. But He keeps giving me more greyAnd then, God was faithful to bring me to this piece of writing by Emily Freeman a couple days ago and it completely wrecked me in the best possible way:

"...we’ve developed a bad habit of praying for clarity. We want to know the plan before we agree to it, but we’re beginning to understand that’s not really how You roll. You never promised clarity… You are not a God who offers clear steps. You invited Abraham outside and told him to look up at the stars... You gave Moses a vision of a Promised Land flowing with milk and honey... No, You never promised clarity. But You always gave a hopeful vision. And You always promise presence…."

I read this truth and God reminded me that hope is not contingent on clarity. We have hope regardless of sight or knowledge. We have hope because He is hope. My poor, fickle heart has been striving to find clarity and hope in earthly ways, and it is just plain exhausted. I am the modern day Sarai, wanting to take plans into her own hands.

...hope is not contingent on clarity...

I came to God with this exhausted heart, the one that is reeling from sin and strife. I felt like God saw my temper tantrum, met me in it, and said "Child, just because its grey, doesn't mean it's not being worked through or that I don’t have a plan, because I do." I don’t know about you, but I am desperate for those moments with Him, for Him to tell me that He is in control and that I am safe in that place.  

So, where do I go from here? I trust Him. I surrender. I pray. People, please know that it is so much easier said than done. I am not the person who writes those words flippantly; to trust God is hard and weighty and it is different for everyone. I will continue to trust and hope and pray, because He has a plan, and just because I don't know what the plan looks like doesn't mean that it is non-existent. #ouch

What are the hard things you are bringing before God?
Do you feel you can be honest with Him?
How do you remind yourself to hope?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

on llamas, friendship, and South America...

It has been almost a week and a half since I have been back in America, and I think that I am finally back into the swing of things! I finally got around to unpacking, doing two loads of laundry, packaging gifts, and writing this little (big) post!
This trip was my first international, non-mission trip vacation. I learned a lot about who "Kristi the International Traveler" is and about how I approach other countries on my terms. Nothing like a little international travelling to lead you to self-discovery! I went to Ecuador to visit my sweet, kindred friend Tiffany while she works for a study abroad program; she returns to America in May, so I had to make plans to visit fast! Last year, we took a road trip to Big Sur and the the California Coast, and this year I went to Quito, Ecuador... We are thinking March will be a yearly thing for our friendship. I can't wait to see what we do next year! My mind is already brainstorming through so many possibilities!

It was amazing to be able to visit her and see her life there in Quito; her community, how she loves others, her daily grind, and to experience a place that is so close to her heart and so deeply woven into God's story for her life. It's amazing that now, I can even call some of them my friends! Over ten days, we spent our time hiking through local parks, debating on whether I should get a tattoo, getting my hair cut, running around with wild llamas, getting a great tan, eating all the empanadas, drinking all the coffee, and talking about all the things.
I will always remember the empanadas de morocho from La Ronda, the dark chocolate pie and lattes from Lucia's, the not-so-Indian Indian food from a local restaurant, standing in the middle of the world, and the popcorn we ate for two hours while we waited out a thunder and lightning storm on my first day. 

My favorite adventures? The Basillica, The Parque Metropolitano, the Jardin Botanico, and Mitad De Mundo. The Parque Metropolitano is a beautiful park full of beautiful hiking trails, monuments, views of Quito, and WILD LLAMAS. Yes, you read that right. Also, did I break into the little fenced off area to hang out with said llamas? Yes, because when in Ecuador you do as the Ecuadorians do. On my last day, we drove three hours via bus and taxi to spend the day in Mitad De Mundo (The Middle of the World/ The Equator) and to a little jungle city called Mindo. We had lunch at a place called The Dragonfly Inn (just like "Gilmore Girls"!) on the river and ventured to a Mariposeria (Butterfly Garden) where we laid around in hammocks and watched the hummingbirds and butterflies fly around. It was one of the most beautiful, relaxing experiences. Another treat? The Jardin Botanico De Quito! A beautiful garden of greenhouses filled with succulents, hanging plants, tropical flowers, and cacti. We felt like we were walked through the most whimsical fairy neverland.

Here's to Quito and to many more adventures ahead!
PS: What have you been up to? Tell me about it!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

a mid-trip update...

Hola from Ecuador!
A quick update from South America:

One: If you ever find yourself in Quito, make sure that you drink your weight in coffee. Also, stop by Lucia's Pie & Grill for the best chocolate pie you will ever have in your life.

Two: You are closer to the sun, so you tan really easy (and burn faster). But the good news is, I am going to come back looking like a tan South American goddess. 

Three: This trip has already been full of fun, life-giving conversations and those are what I will remember about my time here. 

Four: ALWAYS LOOK FOR THE WILD LLAMAS, even if that means you sneak into their pen. (Question: are llamas violent? Also, did you know they are really fast?)

Five: The views are beyond gorgeous. I'm blown away by the mountains and lush trees.

Stay tuned!