The Most Authentic Me

On Saturday I had the honor and joy of being able to share my heart with a handful of Youth Leaders/Pastor and volunteers at a NextGen training; the whole day was incredible!  As I drove home that day I couldn’t help but feeling as though I had experienced deja vu, there was something in my experience on Saturday that seemed familiar.  And this morning God reminded me…

Skydiving.  About 3.5 years ago, on a sunny day in June I went skydiving.  I read all the FAQs, carefully chose my outfit and headed out the door.  There are experiences in our lives that change our lives forever and skydiving was one for me.  Skydiving for me was my first experience of joy without fear.  As I was free falling towards earth there was only room for freedom and joy.

Niger.  Niger was another adventure that changed my life forever because of the people I met, the things I saw and the God that I encountered.  But my life was also changed because I found myself ministering and living out of a deeper trust in God and security in myself.  Although I wasn’t free falling to earth this time, my time in Niger was filled with freedom and joy.

And this Saturday as I drove home it was as though I was reminiscing of these two adventures.  Saturday was filled with a sense of freedom, security and joy.  Driving home I realized that in those three instances I had been the most authentic version of myself: passionate, vision-filled, secure, free, joyful, but mostly, confidently reliant on God.

These are just the start as I continue journey living more of my life as the most authentic version of myself.  Today though, I celebrate and hold dear these adventures where God invites me to encounter the real me.

Have you had moments where you could say that you were the most authentic version of yourself?

Have you experienced times where all you knew was freedom and joy?

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Concrete Impressions

In my last post the miraculous in the mundane I shared about how last weekend I went for a run and God showed up in some pretty awesome ways.  What I didn’t share in that post is that due to God’s revelation I was crying so hard that I had to stop running.  The crying was happy crying but as I can barely run when breathing regularly I didn’t attempt to try to run while crying.

Since I only ran halfway I decided to take a longer route walking home.  And while I was walking I passed a corner of the sidewalk that had recently been recast.  In the new concrete you could see some impressions of footprints. It appears that before the concrete was fully set people began to travel across it.  I chuckled to myself as I passed and kept walking.

But I couldn’t get those foot impressions out of my head. 

You see, the night before at youth group, we had a few salvations.  And every week when we have salvations I am in awe of God’s goodness and frustrated with what seems to be a disconnect between the number of salvations and the number of youth being discipled we have.  I desire to see youth not just meet Jesus but choose to come and follow Him as well.  And so I have been contemplating and discussing with God if we are missing something, if I am missing something.  I want to be obedient to the call that God has given and adjust and submit to what needs to be changed.

As I walked past these concrete impressions this wrestling came to mind with a memory.  A memory from 19 year old Kaitlin.

When I was 19 years old and at college my parents were discussing allowing a youth from our youth group live with them for a while.  He was 17 soon to be 18 and he needed a covering.  As they were discussing the idea they wanted my sisters and I to pray about it as it would affect us as well.

And so one night while at college I was spending time with the Lord and praying about this decision.  I still remember where I was at: behind the classrooms, sitting on the concrete sidewalk with my legs dangling off over the alley way.  As I was praying for this specific situation I began to pray for others who needed to be loved and fostered.  I prayed for those who needed healthy and loving boundaries, who needed to experience the love of the Father from earthly parents.  As I prayed in tears God quietly asked me this question, “Do you want this?  Do you want to be this person to those who need it?  Do you want to foster?  If you want to, you can.

God’s question ignited a passion in my heart and I quickly said yes.  But as I began to pray my yes became very specific.  I prayed:

  • that God would bring me those who were unable to be adopted.
  • that God would bring me those who would end up back with their parents.
  • for those who may get stuck in the system and never find a forever home.
  • that I would love on those kids with His love so that no matter how long they were with me, when they left they would always have that experience of God’s love to call back to mind.
  • for kids that needed to know they were loved by God and that they could have relationship with their parents.

And as only God could do, He linked for me that memory, with our discussions with those concrete impressions.  You see although I hadn’t realized it, I’m fostering.  Many of the youth that we encounter in some way or another need to be fostered.  They need to be loved on and cared for, if even just for one night.  Just like the concrete impressions I saw on the sidewalk, we to are leaving impressions of God’s love on each of their hearts.  In the days to come, whether soon or far away, they will always have that encounter and that decision to come back to.

And so I pray, for the impressions that have already been made, that it would often come to mind. 

I pray for new and fresh and unrelenting experiences of God’s love in their lives that draws them back to His impression on their heart. 

I pray for the impressions that have yet to begin, may we never shy away from sharing His reckless love with them trusting that it imprints even if we don’t see the evidence.

the miraculous in the mundane

This past weekend I went for a run.  The day was warmer than normal and I needed to get outside, move around and breathe deeply.  The ran started out as normal, with some huffing and puffing, but as I hit my halfway mark something hit me.  I was listening to my current favorite album, “Where His Light Was” by Kristene DiMarco and there is one song called “Could You Be this Good” that resonated in a new way.  The chorus says:

“Could You be this good, 
Could You be this good, 
The way that You forgive me
The way that You hold on to me
Could You be, could You be this good

And it was in that moment, with those words ringing in my ears that I was struck by the miraculous nature of this mundane moment; the miraculous nature of the mundane act of running.

To understand why this one act, running, is so miraculous you have to look back at all of who I have been in the past.  Looking back you would realize that runner has never been a part of my identity.  Broken, self conscious, perfectionist, yes but runner, no.  I have never desired to run and I  have never been able to run; both body and brain stopped me from running.

But thankfully that was the past me, and it is there that the miraculous can be seen.  Over the past three years God has been doing a deep work of healing in my life.  Who I knew myself to be and who I saw myself as has been shattered and God has begun to introduce me to who I really am.  It started with Him healing me spiritually and emotionally but it bled into healing the physical.

And so this past Saturday, while participating in the mundane act of running I was overcome with the miraculous nature of God.  I was hit by a wave of understanding God’s love in setting me free and introducing me to the me He knows and created me to be.  The me who runs (albeit not fast nor very far), who owns athletic apparel, who…. fill in the blank on so many new aspects to my identity in Him.

Last month one of my pastors, in talking about our trip to Niger, said a simple statement that has stuck with me.  I had been sharing how I had felt different in Niger, how it felt as though I really was me and ministry just happened out of my security in Jesus.  She responded that although I may have felt different, to her, I was just being me. 

My prayer for myself and for those who read this is that we would all begin to allow Jesus to introduce us to our real selves. 

Would we allow God to strip away the hurt and anger and brokenness to reveal who we have always been underneath?

 

The uniqueness of His gift

Can you believe that another Christmas has come and gone?  Thankfully all around there are still the lingering effects of Christmas to be seen.  In my house I still have a few presents to mail (whoops), my Christmas tree still stands tall and there are presents waiting to be put away in many rooms.

I love Christmas.  There is something about the possibility of snow, of friends and family surrounding me, and the reminder of God being with me that I can’t help but love.   One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the gifts.  What I love about gifts at Christmas is the time and intentionality behind them.  Personally, I probably love giving gifts more than I love getting them.  I find great joy in spending time thinking of a gift, making or preparing the gift, wrapping it and seeing their face when they open it.  If I see something and it makes me think of you… you will probably receive it as a gift.  To me giving gifts is an extension of my relationship and knowing youGiving gifts is personal, and unique to each person.

This Christmas there are two presents that stand out to me just due to the nature of the gift.  Over the past few years I can tell you each year the specific gift that really hit and impacted me.  This year there were two: a hand crafted nativity set from Niger and a hammock.  As much as the importance was in the gifts themselves, it was more for me about the personal story and background to each gift that touched my heart.

This Christmas at our church we choose to focus on the gift that is Jesus, God’s love to us.  As Pastor Heidi was sharing on the gift of God’s love, she shared that God’s love for us is individual, unique and special for each of person.  Just as God made each of us uniquely in His image, His love for us interacts with each individual in much the se same way.  Much like my love of giving gifts that are specific and unique to the people I hold dear, God’s gifts of love to us are the same.  How Jesus covers us with His love and salvation is unique and specific for each of us; He know us, He sees us, He loves us as we are and His love meets us in ways that covers us and our peculiarities just right!

I’ve been thinking about this for the past three days and I am so thankful for a God who loves me uniquely.  He loves my silly sense of humor and my odd quirks.  He doesn’t just love the uniqueness of who I am, I am a part of who He is and His love for me covers all of who I am.  His love meets, mirrors and covers who I am completely and uniquely.

My prayer this morning for you is that:

  1. You would know that you (and your eccentricities) are a part of the character of God.  You are made in His image… your quirks included!
  2. That God’s love for you is as unique as your personality is.  His love can handle all of you and covers every nook and cranny of who you are.

God’s gift of love in Jesus is for ALL, and yet, He uniquely is gifting you with a love that can meet you just as you are, where you are, and encompasses the vastness of your idiosyncrasies.

Niger: Love goes beyond language.

I just returned from a 10 day mission trip to Niger, Africa.  It was an incredible trip that I believe has changed me.  Over the next few weeks and months I will be working to write out different instances and moments where God opened my eyes in a new way.  May God speak through me as He spoke to me to change your heart as well.


Less than a week ago I was in 100 degree weather with people whose skin pigment was a tad darker than my own.  They didn’t mind my awkward dance moves or my sweaty skin.  Their deep smiles and clammy hands quickly captured my heart.  I was in the midst of men, women and children whose deepest desire was to be known and loved.   And if I’m honest, that too is my deepest desire.

During a mere 10 days, I witnessed God’s love for these people in tangible, miraculous ways.  And as God showed up I experienced a love for these people that went deeper than I thought possible.  I wept as they wept.  I laughed as they laughed.  And as they held my hand they also held my heart. 

There were two moments where I was  struck with the truth that love goes beyond language

The first moment was during our second morning at our women’s conference as we spent time in worship together.  The only instruments were a small drum, a noisy tambourine and twenty something voices lifted in praise together.  And as we sang in French (a language I still don’t understand) there was a tangible expression of joy and love between the women.  We danced and sang and laughed together as we praised God for all He is and has done.  In the midst of a dusty and hot room my heart burst with praise; the thankfulness to God echoed in all our hearts regardless of the language we spoke.

The second moment was on that same day.  Midway through the day as we waited for lunch a few members of our team played with some of the school children outside of the church.  As I joined a circle playing “pass the water bottle” I noticed the little girls starring at me.  Now I’m a blonde haired, blue eyed, glasses wearing lady and so I chalked the starring up to those factors.  As we continued to play the game one little girl standing next to me continued to stare.  After a period of time lunch showed up and we had to go inside to eat.  As we walked to the door the children followed and this little girl grabbed my hand.  Such a simple gesture and to have such trust put in me as a stranger was sobering.  I didn’t speak her native tongue but I did speak a language that went deeper: love.  And so as we waited for the meal to be served I held her hand and loved her.

Love, God’s pure love, is not confined by language.  His love that encompasses joy and peace and praise is a language all its own.  I won’t soon forget these two moments where love spoke louder than any language.  One moment where hearts were one in overwhelming awe of the One who loves us all and another where hearts were connected by simple trust and sweaty hands.

One foot infront of the other.

Tonight I went for a run.  It’s been nearly a month since my last run.  But I did it, I went for the run.  It is a very weird thing for me to sit here and write about running.  You see until about 4 months ago I did anything but run.  Sure occassionally I would have to sprint around at youth group as all the youth boys tried to get me out but run, on my own, without teenage boys chasing me?  Nope that just wasn’t me.

But then something began to stir in me.  Some of it was a realizing that my health, although not spiraling out of control, wasn’t what I wanted it to be.  Some of it was realizing that with more to do I had less energy to give.  I felt as though far too often I was running on empty and filling up on quick pick me ups to just survive the day.  But then there was something else, something else was stirring and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

And so, a few months ago, in my quiet private moments with God I began to shared my frustration.  My frustration over my lack of energy.  My frustration over my lack of movement.  My frustration that I felt confined by my flat feet and the pain they produced.  I cried out that I wanted to want to run.  I not only wanted Him to meet me in my feet but I wanted Him to stir something I had never had before.

And as I shared the something that I couldn’t name and couldn’t quite pin down continued to stir within me.

And then God did something.  Without any prompting God healed my feet.  Then He reminded me of my request to move and to desire to run.  And so I did.  Over the past few months I have made small progress but I do run.

And as I have continued to make the effort, continued to make the choice no matter how long it has been, continued to put one foot infront of the other I haven’t been able to get this thought out of my head:

I am learning how to wait.

The stirring I had been feeling was this desire to remember what it’s like to wait well.  To keep pushing on even when it doesn’t look like anything is changing.  This may seem strange but in a world that is full of instant things I had forgotten how to wait.  

And so, I’m learning how to keep at it… no matter how long it takes or how slow I am.  I’m learning how to give myself grace and to trust the process.  There are so many things in my life that seem to be up in the air; so many things that I’m waiting for God and His promises in, so many things that I want and need to change.  But so many things that I need to not be instant and temporary.

And runnning is teaching me that this all takes time.  What God is doing in me and through me is not instantaneous but it is everlasting.  It takes time but it is worth it.  And so, in my running and in my living, I am putting one foot in front of the other; choosing to do it again and again until I see things change.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly…”
1 Corinthians 9:24-26

 

With no training wheels.

Earlier this week I was hanging out with my neice and we were talking about bike riding.  She dramatically exclaimed that she WOULD NEVER ride her bike without training wheels.  She is my mini me so no one should be surprised that this was dramatically stated.  But as she made the statement I knew there had to be more going on and so I asked why she said that.

“Because it’s scary.  I need someone to always be holding on because it is just too scary.”

And with those words my heart broke.  I remember those times, the fear and the life that those fears stole from me.  I also know that fear still tries to steal life from me.

“Did you know that Auntie gets scared sometimes too?”

“You are?”

“I am.  Do you know what Auntie does when she is scared?”  Auntie prays because even when I am scared God is with me.  I don’t have to wonder or question if He is always there because He is.  And so even when we are scared we can ask God to help us and thank Him for being with us.”

There was so much more I wanted to say and to share but I prayed with her, hugged her and watched renewed joy come into her face.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”    2 Timothy 1:7 

What caught me about this exchange was how I can see areas of my life where my reaction is the exact same as my neice.  I want the training wheels of life to stay on and I want others to be with me holding the bike balanced so I don’t fall and get hurt.  I’m afraid to fall, to fail and to get a little cut up.  But it is in the being willing to fall and to fail that I find out that I can do what God has called me to do…. because He is with me and has given me all I need.

He is with me as I wobble to get started and start down the street.  

He is with me to pick me up when I fall and brush me off.  

And He is with me to celebrate as I go further and faster with every try.

And so, as I prayed with my neice and encouraged her to continue trying to ride without her training wheels I was also speaking to myself.

Keep trying even if it means falling and getting a little cut up.  

Keep going forward even when it means getting a little dirtier than I had intended.  

For God is with me and He has given me His Spirit, of power and love and self-discipline.

Where do you need to risk and begin riding without training wheels?

Face of Failure.

This may seem surprising to many who know me but there have been many different periods in my life were I struggled with feelings of failure.  I always felt as though I didn’t measure up and I wasn’t good enough.  I felt as though I wasn’t doing enough to make an impact.

The most recent of these seasons was when I first moved to New England and had just become a youth pastor.  There are so many things about that season of life that was hard for me.  I was struggling to gain a voice, to trust myself again and to see that God could use me.  God lovingly placed me in a job that both challenged me to become myself and cushioned me as I tried and sometimes fell.

Almost three years ago life shook for me.  I was transitioning out of my job and God was calling for me to step down.  Step down from a church that was going through turmoil.  To walk away to an unknown future both for myself and for those around me.  Mostly He was asking me to trust those I loved and cared for in His hands even when it didn’t make sense.

My youth group at that church had always been small but I had seen God show up in some mighty ways.  At this very moment three girls from that youth group are in bible college and I am amazed at the women of God that they are.   God was faithful in it all AND YET I walked away feeling like a failure and have carried that with me for the past few years.

Looking back at that season and that transition was hard.  I struggled with being able to reach out to those girls because I felt as though I had failed them because I had left.  I prayed and I loved them from a far but my heart ached.

But thankful, if we press into Him, God doesn’t want to keep us in those places.  And while I have wrestled with those feelings of failure God has been doing a deep work in me.  A work based on understanding that if I did nothing but come to Him, that would be enough.  That I don’t have to try and “succeed” but instead if I just love Him, love others and follow His lead then I am following Him in this life.

God began to dig up that I had always felt like a failure because I was always trying to live up to and earn His lavish gift of grace for me.  I was trying to pay God back when I didn’t need to.

And as God has shown me this trying to succeed for Him part of me He brought me back to this period.  This time of feeling like a failure and quietly said,

“You only failed at living up to your expectations.  To me you did not fail, you did all I asked of you.”

And in one simple statement all my striving and my hurt and my failure melted away.  I had done what God had asked of me in both the staying and the leaving.  It had not looked as I had expected or wanted but I had been faithful to follow my King.

Often our view of failure is based on our own expectation and desires.  I wanted to leave that church with everything tied up in a bow and better than when I arrived.  But I left when God prompted; I left and had to trust He knew and cared for them more than me.

 “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and don’t depend on your own understanding. Remember the Lord in all you do, and he will give you success.” Proverbs 3:5-6

We all deal with feelings of failure at times.  Are you willing to allow God to show you the reason why?  Sometimes we have failed and we have to get back up and try again but sometimes, our failure is only not living in reality.

The fire within us.

Over the past month or two I have been thinking a lot about fire.  You see although I currently live in New England I grew up in the deserts of Eastern Washington.  I always find it interesting to try to explain what dry heat feels like and I often forget that where I live the scare of raging fires doesn’t exist.  You see I grew up with fire season.  I grew up with summers ending with fires raging across the country side and families loosing their homes.  And this summer as I prepared to come home to visit I was again reminded of the reality of these fires in our lives.

Scripture has a few things to say about fire as well…

Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden.  For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” 

Deut. 4:23-24

“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Or else My wrath will go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds.”

Jeremiah 4:4

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.”

Isaiah 48:10

“For the LORD will execute judgment by fire And by His sword on all flesh, And those slain by the LORD will be many.”

Isaiah 66:16

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

Zechariah 13:9

“And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.”

Acts 2:3-4

“So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:7

What I see here are two types of fire.

The first type of fire is an all consuming fire of God’s vengence and wrath.  It is a fire that utterly consumes and destroys.  It is a fire that snuffs out hope and consumes life.

The second type of fire is a refining type of fire that is birthed in God’s love and care for His people.  It is a fire that consumes the unnecessary and dangerous to create a space of renewed life and dedication.  It is a fire that encourages true growth and protects life.

The same is true in life.  The fires that I grew up witnessing were much like the first type of fire.  Each fire consumes all in it’s path without care of who are what was involved.  Once a wild fire starts it is hard to control due to uncontrollable wind, dry underbrush and hot air.  A wild fire doesn’t care what or who is in it’s way but will rage until subdued and then conquered.

Thankfully there are precautions that can be made.  Often unnecessary fires are kept to a miniumum and people watch both their land and those around them for signs of fire.  There is also something more proactive that people can do and that is something called “controlled burning.”

Prescribed or controlled burning is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, or prairie restoration. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for foresters.

Fire is a natural AND necessary part of life, both physical and spiritual.  Controlled burning clears away what a wildfire would consume and encourages the true vegetation to take root.  

In our lives we must allow the Holy Spirit to control burn the things that are not of Him so that the truth life in our lives can take root.  We must allow God to burn away our hurts and our pains, to burn away our sinful nature so that the true life can take place in our lives.  If we don’t allow God to control burn in our lives then we will experience devastating wildfires that will rage and consume all in their path.

In our lives fire will come.  The question is will our land be ready for it?

Will we allow God to do the hard work of burning away the unnecessary so that the fires of life will not consume and so we can experience truth life?

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