Defining Moments.

In our lives there are moments in time that change us and redefine us.  You know those moments I am talking about, where something inside of us changes or clicks and we are never the same again.

In my life I could probably pick out a handful of moments that have changed my life.  Most of those moments I can honestly say have changed me for the better.  They are moments where God showed up, broke me free of lies and released me in new ways to be who He created me to be.  They were defining moments.

As I look back over the past few years I can pinpoint specific prayers, moments with God and words spoken to and over me that have brought me to where I am today.  And as we enter Thanksgiving week I am struck with great thankfulness for the amount of joy, peace, freedom and excitement I feel in both my life and my ministry.  And as I have been communicating this thankfulness to God, I have been contemplating the moments that brought me to today.  Although I could write about a vast number of defining moments today I would like to focus on just two…

Over four years ago, in the months leading up to the launch of #faithfellowshipyouth, we went to camp.  I knew that after returning from camp we would be announcing the launch of youth group in the fall but the youth did not.  I had experienced many years of struggle at camp but this year was different.  My struggle came from knowing that God had called me to those youth and yet feeling so inadequate for the job.  I wrestled and I struggled feeling inadequate.  There was voices in my head telling me to give up.  But thankfully I knew as I struggled that I didn’t have to hide or do this on my own.  I didn’t have to struggle alone.  In the middle of camp, after a leaders meeting I pulled my pastor aside, shared my struggle and asked for prayer.

There are not many prayers that I remember as vividly as this prayer.  She didn’t condemn me or make fun of me.  She spoke truth into the lies and prayed simply for the lies to be broken, for me to be set free and for the truth of who God saw me to be to be made real to me.  As I write this there are tears in my eyes because every word she prayed over me has come true.  In that moment, as she simply prayed, something in began to change.  That defining moment, that prayer, pushed me into a path that has lead me to experience more freedom and security in God than I ever thought possible.

The second defining moment is married to the first.  Two months after we started youth group and four months after that prayer I stood in front of our district receiving my ordination certificate.  Not many know the internal struggle that came with my ordination.  The months leading up to ordination was full of doubt and unease.  I struggled with becoming ordained because ordination was supposed to be a confirmation of the call on your life due to fruitful ministryAlthough I was confident in God’s calling in my life, I could not see fruit in my ministry.  My first youth group never grew to more than maybe 6 consistent youth and I was only there for about 2 years.  And my second youth group was only two months old.  Where was the fruit that called for ordination?

As I wrestled and prayed about ordination there was a sense of peace to trust the sight of those in leadership over me instead of my own broken and fractured sight.  I am so thankful for pastors and leaders who didn’t allow my own image of myself and my abilities to hinder God’s plans.  There is something to be said of confirmation in what God has called you to do and to be.  Standing before a district, supported by leaders far brighter and wiser than myself, I began to see myself as God did.  I was by no means perfect and by no means was this the peak of my ministry, but it was a needed confirmation that I was exactly who God wanted me to be and where He had been calling me to be.  And in that defining moment I learned to trust God’s call even when my eyes could not see.

There are other defining moments both before and since that I could share.  There are even moments yet to come that will change me for the better.  But as I look back over the past four years, these two moments were pivotal in bringing me to this very moment in time.  These defining moments ushered me into a new journey in healing and strength and trust that I had yet to experience.  And as I sit here today, I eagerly await the defining moments that have yet to come, that will take me beyond what I can imagine my journey to be.

May you also be aware of the defining moments from before and that will come beyond, where God will change you for the better.

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Expecting without Expectation.

Expecting without expectation… or in other words, not allowing your expectation of God’s ability/willingness to move to come with a prescription of how that will happen.

If you had talked to me a few weeks ago I would have thought, maybe not said, that I had learned this lesson.  Been there, done that.  Had God blow all my expectations out of the water.  Been overcome by His provision, His care, His blessing, His desire to give me more.

The reality is that although I had let go of many expectations on the practical side, I had been expecting with expectation in different ways.

A year ago God spoke to me about wanting me to live abundantly, that He was going to bring me to a place where I didn’t have to settle for less in life.  I’ve talked about it before here and then again in a different way here.  I’m not talking prosperity gospel but I’m talking about how God as my provider isn’t bound by small measures.  He ultimately knows my needs even better than I know them myself, but I should never feel bound to only either having “just enough” or praying small prayers.  He is Father God, and Father God doesn’t want to just give us the bare bones, He wants to lavish us in His love.

The thing is, when He spoke that to me, I believe it.  And for the past year I’ve clung to His Word and waited for the promise.

And waited.

And waited.

Meanwhile, attempting not to fret under the weight of finances, relationship, etc.  I trusted God and knew He would show up, but…

But I expected Him to show up in crazy, out of left field ways.  Why?  Because I knew it would be something He did and not me.  i knew it was going to be something outside of my control, not dependent on how hard I worked or how many jobs I took on.

Here’s the thing though…In believing it had to be in a crazy, out of left field way, I placed God in a box.  I expected with expectation.  The box I put Him in made me not share the burden with others.  The box I put Him in limited who I knew Him to be.

And then my box was blown up.  It started with one honest, vulnerable conversation.  Which turned into two and then three.  And God did the crazy impossible, through a very real and ordinary place.  He used people already in my life to show up and change my circumstances.  He used a piece of my every day life to bless me beyond compare.

He didn’t have to make something magically appear, but instead He took the little I had and multiplied it.

How often in scripture did God use the ordinary, the seemingly mundane to do the miraculous, the impossible.

Water into Wine.

Loaves and Fish.

Dirt.

In my life, He did the same and revealed to me a box I put Him into and the areas of my life those boxes are birthed out of.  He is still working on those areas and challenging me to believe Him for more, whatever that may look like.  And through it all He is challenging me to be willing to be vulnerable with people in a new area; others may just be a part of Him doing the impossible in my life.


What areas of your life are you expecting with expectations and where could God be asking for you to expect with open hands?

More than a Coincidence…

Tonight I was looking through my drafts for blog posts and stumbled upon this draft that has to be nearly two years old.  I added a bit but wanted to finish what I had already started.

Sometimes in life we can get so caught up in the moving from place to place and people to people that we see life through the lens of coincidence.  As we go about living we come across situations and people and think that it is by some coincidence that in that moment these things have happened.
co·in·ci·dence: kōˈinsədəns
Noun meaning “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.”
But can I believe honest with myself, and with you, the truth is that when I stop to rest for a moment, when I allow myself to hear God speaking, I know these are anything but coincidences.  They are encounters – face to face meetings where the Truth and Presence of God can be made evident.  My dad growing up called these divine encounters, they are moments in life that if we choose to risk, God’s love and power and presence can be made known.
I’ve always believed this, but there are moments where it is more real than others.  Over the past week I have had two of these encounters.  Two encounters that easily in the moment could have been seen as “right place, right time” but when pondered upon, can only be explained through God’s love.
One encounter was in a Target parking lot.  A moment where two complete strangers embraced with teary eyes and one faithful individual was ministered to from another.
The other, and the one that prompted this post, was through a phone call.
Two mornings ago, while I was on a call with my boss, I received a phone call from an unknown phone call.  Normally I don’t call back numbers that I don’t know unless they leave a message but this phone call seemed different.  The number was from the town I had grown up with and there was something within me that prompted me to call them back.
Once off my call with my boss I called the number back and was sent to voicemail.  I didn’t recognize the name or voice but left a voicemail just in case.  A few minutes later I received a call back.  Long story short, the woman on the other end didn’t recognize calling my number but what could have been a short conversation opened into something more as we talked about family on both sides, foster care and then ministry.  As the call was coming to a close there was something that prompted me to ask if I could pray with her.

I don’t remember what was said as we prayed but I remember being amazed a small thing like a wrong number would lead to a moment of ministry.  There are moments that we chalk up to coincidence that God intends to be moments where His presence is made real through His people. Don’t be too quick to count something as an accident, pause and wait for God, it may be in that moment that someone’s prayers are answered.

 

6 years.

6 years ago a young 22 year old moved 3,000+ miles.
I can’t even believe that it has been 6 years since I moved East. 6 years, wow. These past 6 years have been harder, more fulfilling, and more filled with people and growth and opportunities than I ever thought possible.  These past 6 years has been chock full of adventures, both big and small, where God poured His love over me. These past 6 years was full of many firsts, a handful of lasts, the spectacular and the seemingly mundane.
In the last 6 years I have fallen deeply in love with the people and places and history of New England. I think about the individuals who I call my friends and family on the East Coast and I am overwhelmed by God’s love to me evidenced in each of them.
There are men and women who have covered me in motherly and fatherly roles. They have walked me through firsts and lasts and helped me to not run away from both my past and my future.
Then there are those my age (give or take a few years) who I have been learning to do ministry and life with.  Many of you I have watched trust God in finding your spouse and getting married.  I’ve learned from you that God is faithful in every season and I can be safe to love you both uniquely in your marriages. We have experienced figuring out and following God’s leading in church and jobs and home.
Over the past 6 years I have learned a new thankfulness as I have learned how safe I can be with the people God has given to me.
And then there are the young leaders who I am still in awe I get to spend time with whether it is weekly at church, through social media or at camps. I still have a hard time believing how much God loves me in you. I didn’t fully understand the joy of watching someone grab hold of your Word, or hear your voice for the first time until I met you. You challenge and inspire me more than I could have ever known.  Knowing you has deepened my understanding of God’s love for me. And I have learned that although I am not a mother yet, I can be a part of the village who is raising you and mother you as you grow.
In the last 6 years..
I have learned to not let fear define my path.
I have learned that every day holds adventure; some little and some big, we just have to be bold enough to grab it.
I have learned that we are always in process, and that is okay, as long as Jesus is in that process.
I have learned that real, deep ministry happens when we show up, love deep and then get out of God’s way.
I have learned that whatever situation seems dire today or in this season, it will pass and things will get better.
I have learned that often my feelings of failure are based on my expectations not God’s requirements from me.
I have learned that I am exactly who God has made me to be. In all my fullness and muchness. I need only be me and I can trust Him to do and be who only He can be.
I have learned that this is just the beginning. 6 years is just the start of all He has for me. I am so excited for this adventure to continue as I continue to experience just how wide and deep God’s love truly is.
And so New England, Happy Anniversary!  Here is to the days to come where I will continue to get to know both myself and you in a more true and deep way.  Here is to the adventures that have yet to be dreamed up.
<3
(See some snapshots of the past 6 years below!)

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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?

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.

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