On purpose, with purpose.

It’s been so long since I’ve visited this little corner of the internet that I feel about 100 different forms of angst as I’m writing this. I’m not completely sure why that is. Or why I let it keep me from hitting that Publish button for over a year now. Thankfully, I am reminded of great words like these..

“Self doubt. Instead of letting it silence you, force it to work for you.” – Emily Freeman.

Back when I use to write this thing rather regularly I often found myself feeling all sorts of vulnerable as I wrote. Often times, those posts meant the most to me. So I’ll take the nerves in my keystrokes as a sign that I’m on the verge of something good over here.

A few weeks back Clint and I had the honor of standing beside our friend, Chrissy, as she stepped out in obedience and stepped up in a big way. She did something big. She did something bold. She did something that others couldn’t even imagine. And she did it on purpose, with purpose. Chrissy shaved her head.

If you’re like me, those words immediately make you reach up and make sure your own pony tail is still in tact. And now you’re probably wondering how a shaved head and a calling from God end up in the same story. So, let’s bridge the gap.

About a month back Chrissy shared her idea to shave her head with us. With the weight of a worldwide problem on her heart Chrissy felt called to create awareness about the horrifying reality of modern-day slavery.

Did you know that there are more slaves TODAY than any other point in human history?
Did you know that over 27 MILLION people are enslaved across the world?
Did you know that human trafficking affects EVERY country in the world?
Did you know that the average age of someone being enslaved is 12 YEARS OLD?
Did you know that human trafficking is the fastest GROWING criminal industry across the world?
Did you know? Because now you do.

Now you know that human trafficking is a HERE and NOW issue. It’s in our country. It’s in our state. It’s in the heart of our city and the soul of our suburbs.

This is not the kind of problem you want to wait to start caring about until it affects someone you know. This is an issue that demands prevention and is all too often only met with reaction.

When Chrissy shaved her head she did it on purpose.

A shaved head is common in slavery. An action done to break a person down to the core. To make an individual feel exposed. A practice performed to inflict shame. But on Chrissy – a shaved head is a symbol of strength – a shaved head is a platform for a purpose – a shaved head is a beacon to let the beauty of God’s Holy Spirit shine bright.

So, what’s it all for?

Chrissy shaved her head for a purpose.

First of all, to raise awareness. To get people talking… or typing. To help kickstart a conversation that needs to be happening. Between families. Between friends. Between total internet strangers! This is an issue that gets swept under the rug, but you know what.. it’s time for some Spring cleaning. It’s time for some people’s hearts to be set ablaze with a passion for awareness, a passion to end human trafficking.

Secondly, it’s to assist in the effort of the A21 campaign. A21 is an incredible foundation that is actively working to abolish injustice in the 21st century. They do this through what they call the 4 P’s. Prevention (Education + Awareness). Protection (Rescue + Restoration). Prosecution (Enforcement + Legislation). Partnership (Supporters + Partners).  A21 has been an outreach partner of our church for several years now and I’ve been blessed to hear their founder, Christine Cain, preach several times. The work they are doing is nothing short of incredible. Rescuing people ALL OVER the world. (Yes, that means right here in the “land of the free”.) I strongly encourage you to check out their website. Read their blog. Follow their Facebook page. Their updates about rescues and prosecutions will serve as a harrowing reality check I can guarantee it.

So here’s what I’m asking you to do.

Donate. So far Chrissy has raised enough money to send a rescued individual on a flight back home. She’s raised enough to hire a lawyer to prosecute someone responsible for these heinous acts. So far.. she’s raised enough to change a life.. and the best part is.. she’s just getting started.

Go visit her donation page right HERE!

Her goal is to raise $21,000. That’s a lot of money and that’s a LOT of lives changed.  So let’s start small. $21. Donate $21. I promise you won’t miss it. I promise the world will keep spinning if your wallet gets a little lighter. And I know that God can take a small amount, multiply it, and deliver on BIG promises.

A promise to overcome…
“And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
– Psalms 50:15

A promise of salvation..
‘And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked,
and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible. “
– Jeremiah 15:21

Let’s stop pretending this issue doesn’t exist and let’s start working intentionally towards ending it. Let’s start doing great things on purpose, with purpose.  

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Farewell 2013.

2013

Psssst. You can check out last years farewell here.

When I initially thought of writing my little 2013 farewell I thought I might do a highs and lows recap of sorts – a highlight of the peaks and pits of the year. What I realized as I began listing my moments was that 2013 was the year where each low met its match with an unfailing high. 2013 was a year filled with great optimism, and even greater moments in between the milestones. 

In 2013…

In 2013 we moved… twice. (I, in fact moved three times, if we’re getting real technical and including that month I moved back home with my family to start my job while Clint wrapped up life in Raleigh). And it was unbelievably stressful and hectic and overwhelming, and on one particular weekend there in late February we had a mere seven days left on our lease and no idea where we were packing up our life to go . I cried… a lot. But after packing up all our stuff, unpacking it, then packing it back up 2 months later and unpacking it again, we’ve been blessed to finally have found ourselves in the place we had been yearning for, for so long… home.

In 2013 I finally stopped looking for jobs… because I found one. I started the year exactly how I ended the later half of 2012, searching and applying, searching and applying, searching and applying, and beginning to get awfully good at throwing over the top pity-parties for myself. After many, many months, I found the one, and it found me, and we’ve been pretty darn happy together ever since. It’s kind of like a match made in CareerBuilder heaven. I’ve been blessed to find a job I love.

In 2013 Clint celebrated his two-year work-anniversary in November… and subsequently quit his job. But only because he had an even greater opportunity awaiting him. An opportunity that doesn’t involve being out-of-town 20 out of 30 days of the month, or working until well after-hours the nights he is home, and it even means I can take back that little nook in my family room that’s only ever been the “home office”. He’s been blessed to be able to walk away from one experience and seamlessly into a new one that holds great promise.

In 2013 we celebrated a year of marriage… and I was attacked by yellow jackets to mark the occasion. On our anniversary we truly put “in sickness and in health” to the test (which actually, was not even in our vows) but “I hope others see His heart and love in the way I care for you” is, and boy did I realize on our anniversary, the day after I got stung, and the day Clint was supposed to head out-of-town for work but chose to stay with me instead, that my husband loves me with a love so strong it could only be a love that was gifted from God.

In 2013 we also celebrated eight years of being together… and had ourselves a little photo fun. I had actually wanted to do first anniversary pictures but as fate, and the yellow jackets, would have it, it was a pretty good thing I didn’t schedule to have those pictures taken. Instead we opted for an eight year anniversary shoot. You can (and SHOULD) go check some of those pictures out HERE. Because these photos show exactly how we spent the greater part of 2013. Together, and in love. I’m so grateful for this time of marriage with Clint – the time in between newlywed bliss and parenthood, the time of just the two of us.

2013 was a year filled with blessings and with that,
2014 will be my year of greatest praise. 

Getting Uncomfortable.

It’s that time of year again. The time where people go out searching for comfort in any form they can find it.  Whether it be in those deliciously southern comfort foods, the comfort of going home to be with family, or the comfort of wrapping that scarf around your neck one more time to keep that chill from sneaking its way in. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what brings people comfort, what, for many years was the root of my own comfort. And I have found the wrinkle in the comfort- the very thing that so many people root their comfort in, is the same thing that makes those same people so uncomfortable.

Let me backtrack a little. Recently I was thinking about how much life has changed over the past year. How this time last year I was in such a different place, physically, emotionally, spiritually. So much has changed. If ever I had a shadow of a doubt, this past year showed to me over and over again that my God is a God who answers prayers. He is faithful, He is loving, He is the greatest place of comfort. He is everything, for every moment, that I’ll ever need. For me to truly get to this place it required getting uncomfortable. Seriously uncomfortable. Financially uncomfortable.

I haven’t shared this with anyone- part of me knows why and part of me doesn’t. I’ve lived most of my life with a spirit of humility. I’ve always lived out that sacrifices, offerings, “good deeds” belong between myself and God, and that sharing those things with others makes them less about God and more about myself (and let’s be real, we all know one of those people, the one who does something just to receive praise from others, and we all probably roll our eyes the same way at them). Yet, I occasionally find myself hearing or reading about others sacrifices and being so inspired, so touched, so in awe of how God works in others hearts. I’m hoping that’s how others will read my story. Don’t see the me in it, see the God in it.

Around this time last year God blessed Clint and I with a spirit of generosity. I say he blessed us with the spirit because anyone is blessed with the means to be generous. Anyone, has something to give, but not everyone has the spirit to give. As two newlyweds living off one salary I’d say we learned that God will place the spirit of generosity on even those who appear to have so little.

Without getting too detail oriented (because really, if you’re looking to get an amount out of me, you should probably start this thing over and remember, it’s not about me..) we gave, and we gave, and we gave bigger than either of us had ever given before. I found myself feeling so conflicted. You see, I have faith in God. I will let him take the reigns in every moment of life. Yet, I have pride. I have greed. And only God truly knows the bounds of my envy. Yes. I want what others have. The adorable house, the new car, the really really cute new pair of boots. I want the Christmas with the monogrammed Pottery Barn stockings. I want, I want, I want. On one hand it can feel so vulnerable to share those things, to admit how truly materialistic of a life I can live. To express how frequently I look outward and admire, rather than inward. On the other hand, it can feel so freeing. So liberating. So when it came time to remain obedient to the spirit of generosity God had placed on our hearts, it was especially difficult for me. With every dollar that we chose to give, I found myself slipping further and further away from all those things I looked towards. It was hard, and scary, and I believe that God knows if it were not for Clint being the one to actually send those checks on their way, I never would have given the way we did. I am confident that God created my husband with a heart of unrelenting generosity just for me, He is so intentional.

When all was said and done, and when the new year rolled in and every bit we’d given had been pulled from our account, we had officially given away more than we kept for ourselves. Slightly crazy, probably a bit irresponsible, terribly scary,  but 100% obedient.  I found myself in a place of financial discomfort. Not only had we just given away most of what we had, I was still feeling helplessly unemployed and now our financial safety was almost entirely eliminated. I often think I don’t know how we made it through that season of life financially, but I do. I was always under the impression that when you give, something is taken away. But His word shares the truth,

“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”Matthew 10:42

We didn’t lose because we gave. Oh, how we gained. I’m not saying God takes one and gives you back ten. But what I am saying is when you’re left with one, you start to appreciate every penny, nickel and dime God does give you. And like I said in my last post, when you can praise him for every little bit, he’ll begin to entrust you with a lot.

This time a year ago we had intentionally left ourselves with very little. We had not much to our names, but oh, how our spirits were full. Oh, how rich our faith became. My comfort had been rooted in finance. My roots had been chopped and they were searching, looking for a place to grow. So I watered them with faith, with fervent prayer. And what do you know? They found themselves a place to grow.

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ…”
Colossians 2:6-8

When you give in faith, nothing is taken away. When I found myself getting farther and farther from all my worldly desires all I had to do was turn around. With each step I’d been getting closer and closer to God all along. I’ll be honest, it took me many months to realize this. Because let’s remember, this is real life we’re talking about people. It’s not like the movies where the results present themselves at the end with the perfect soundtrack and montage. In real life you live out those hard moments of doubt. The difficult moments of feeling like you weren’t a joyful enough giver. You can go on for weeks on end asking yourself if you did it right. You can even end up like me. Where it takes a year and the most golden of all the golden sunsets to open your eyes to see how purposefully God had His hand in it. Because it was when that sun lit up the sky with the most perfect streaks of gold that I thought back to the generosity God called from us last year and I realized how He put me in a place of discomfort so that I would HAVE to turn to Him, so that He could come into my heart and shape it, reshape it rather, to understand what kind of generosity he had blessed me with.

I developed a generosity that is not rooted in the willingness to help others,
but rooted in a faith that God provides. 

 

And truly, I would have given it all away if meant learning that. I have no doubt in my mind that if every heart was filled with that kind of generosity we could change the world. What if all just stopped being generous, but started getting uncomfortable?


Please and thank you.

These are, according to our world, the magic words. They just might get the salt passed at the table, they just might make someone feel good about holding that door a beat longer to let you in behind them, they just might be the words every parent conditions into their child wondering endlessly if they’ll ever actually be said back to them without being prompted. I’ve been saying the magic words my entire life (with an exception to a particularly sassy phase in my mid-teens) and despite my usage of the words I must admit, I have never seen any resemblance of a magical outcome. Because really, the waitress is going to bring you your drink whether you say please and she’ll refill it even if you don’t say thank you.

Lately I’ve found myself thinking about thankfulness a lot. I like to think I’m an appreciative person. I know the blessings that fill my life, and as best I can, I give thanks for them. I have always had such a pet-peeve about people who are ungrateful. And honestly, I used to compare myself to them, validating that I’m far more grateful for the things I have than they are. They, are the brat who hardly acknowledges the $200 pair of jeans that just came perfectly wrapped under the christmas tree. I’ll admit, I was a judger. Recently though I’ve come to realize that often people aren’t just “spoiled” or “ungrateful”, rather, they are unaware, and I’m one among them. It’s always been so easy for me to look at someone who clearly has so much and think, they have no idea how good they have it… and their not even thankful for it! And now I think, how many people have been looking at me and saying the same thing?! And worst of all, I think of how God must look into my heart and see the things I’m thankful for and think… is this it?

The other day Clint and I were in the car when we passed a bus shelter. It was a chilly, wind-filled day. The kind that stings just a touch with each deep breath. Your hands feel tight, as if you couldn’t straighten them out or ball them into a fist. You back gets tense as the chills rise up your spine. When I saw the people standing under the sorry excuse for a shelter I was brought back to all those times in college where I stood shivering, shaking, and covered in snow from the top of the pom-pom on my hat to the toes of my insulated boots. I can so vividly remember the cold mornings and even colder nights standing at a bus stop just wanting to scream, cry, and fold in on myself as the winds tumbled into me, and doubting if the bus with the scrolling yellow words POP 105 would ever come to rescue me. As the growing warmth of my seat warmer brought me back to my current reality I thought of how thankful I was to be in the car at that very moment. As we drove on, I found myself thanking God for this car, at that very moment. I was thankful for that warm mode of transportation that took me only to my destination and I could literally feel the thankfulness pouring out of my heart straight up to God. I voiced to Clint my thankfulness for his car, and it felt so nice, to knowingly, vocally, acknowledge something that we’ve been blessed with. Generally speaking I’m thankful we both have cars, it would be a much different lifestyle if we only had one, or even none. But I realized on that particularly cold day, God doesn’t want us to just acknowledge our gifts in a general way, He wants us to acknowledge them every single day, in every single way. I now have prayed, spoken, and written my thankfulness for that one single moment and as my life finds more ways for me to show that thankfulness I shall do just that, be thankful.

You see, I’ve realized, as aforementioned, that most people aren’t truly ungrateful, they are unaware, am unaware. As much as I like to tell myself I know my blessings, I’m so unknowing of all the things God has specifically blessed me with. I doubt I’ll ever truly know how much I have to be thankful for, many of us won’t. But I now know how much I want to be made aware. I want to be aware of all the things I have to be thankful for, from the people to the things themselves.  If I came face to face with Christ today I would thank him for everything I have, from the loving relationship with my husband, to the fan that gently keeps me cool as I sleep each night, and every last thing in between. While I likely will not being coming face to face with Him today, He thankfully is in my heart, which is even closer, even more intimate, and even more important.

So how do I go about actually becoming more thankful, more aware? Well, this was kind of step one. Today I read,

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples!”
-1 Chronicles 16:8

Part of being thankful to the Lord is sharing that thanks with others. Each day I want to sit down with my journal and write something I am thankful for, I’ll force myself to be aware of my blessings. And every so often I’ll share them with you all. In doing this I hope it does two things. One, I hope it pushes me to realize my blessings on a more day-to-day level. Two, I hope it allows others to open their eyes to their surroundings and blessings and create an atmosphere of thankfulness. Today, the Lord also directed me towards this verse,

“Give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:18

Life is made of valleys and peaks, and most of us, myself included, live in a state of in-between. It is all too easy to thank God for the promotion when it finally comes. It is too simple to thank God for what you do have while you slowly lose what you’ve always had. The time it’s hardest to say thank you is when you’re just living life, day by day, moment by moment. Not many of us want to say, “Thanks God for this horribly long commute each morning on the way to work.” But I contend that if you thank God for that hour-long drive of time alone He just might use it to your advantage. We’ve all been there before, the moment someone thanks you, truly, genuinely and without any convoluted intentions, and you find yourself wanting to do more, and give more to that person. We were made this way, in a reflection of God. He is faithful, and He is able to give us everything.

Another way I hope to create a more thank-filled lifestyle is to vocalize my thanks more often. When God blesses me with great conversation at dinner with my sweet husband, I want to thank Him for it, and I want to say it. I won’t lie, this is going to be hard for me. While it may be surprising to hear from someone who writes a blog (and has more than once written about my faith) it’s hard for me to vocalize my faith to other people. I didn’t grow up that way and it’s not something that’s been easy for me to develop. There are certain people I feel comfortable discussing my faith with and others where the thought is already making me cringe. But, nobody ever got good as something without trying. While not everyone in my life may share the same beliefs as me I am held in the arms of a God who will equip me with strength and bravery. I’m sure it will offer up a few awkward moments, but Jesus died a sinners death on a cross wrapped in nothing but God’s love, if He could do that for me, then I can risk adding a few more awkward moments to my life for His glory. After all, if I find myself becoming the person who people think of as the “God-thanker” I think I’ll be just fine.

The thing about things is this, we often forget we’re not entitled to them. Everything we have is a gift from God, and we’ve all been caught up in stealing his credit. For me, it’s about time I started doing more than just saying those magic words, it’s time for me to start living them.

The Last Day.

Terrified, worried and obedient. These are the three words I would use to describe my first day of work. Almost exactly nine months ago I walked into my first day at my first post-grad job and somehow, hours later, I walked out alive.

When I graduated in May of 2011 I had no desire what so ever to get a job in the field in which I had just earned my degree. I had completed four years of college and the entire time I was there I was itching to take a trip somewhere to do service work. When I graduated and was officially obligation free I knew I had a unique period of time to do something different. I wanted to go somewhere and do something amazing, gain perspective on life, see a world I never knew existed, one so different from my own. Little did I know I’d find that place at the heart of the town I’ve always called home. Unemployed and directionless I turned to the outreach program at my church. They had pages upon pages of tutoring positions available at a local children’s ministry. I clicked past these pages quicker than you can say kelly’s not a kid person. However, Clint, also unemployed at the time, took a second look at these opportunities and investigated further. I guess this is fitting for someone who would soon land a job as a special investigator. While Clint was looking for service opportunities there, I was revisiting the Peace Corps website ever other day and attempting to tell myself it could be just what I was looking for. Long story made a bit short- When Clint went to the ministry to start tutoring they mentioned that they had a teaching position open that they needed to fill. Apparently he saw something in me I had yet to see in myself, and told them he had just the girl they needed. I hesitantly went in to hear about the position, filled out an application and soon after went for an interview. Days later I received a phone call offering me the position and that I would have a few days to consider. This is where I stand there in my driveway with a quizzical look on my face and think, what am I doing?! I am far from being qualified to be a teacher. I always thought the closest thing I’d ever get to being a teacher was having college roommates who were education majors. One thing I can now certainly attest to be true, and the mentality that led me to take a job in which I had no background or experience is that

God doesn’t always call the qualified
But he will always qualify the called

I have spent the past nine months doing something that in my heart, I felt God call me to do, and in only a way He can do, it has been the most incredible, rewarding, exciting, enriching, and life-changing thing I’ve ever done. It didn’t take a trip around the world or cold-showers in a hut off a dirt road. It took a drive ten minutes down the road and a bold faith that God had something great in store for me. Something far greater than what I could have ever hoped for.

Today I say goodbye to my students but I will be forever grateful to them. They taught me incredible lessons. They opened my eyes to the purity of a child’s faith and reminded me what it’s like to live in today, worry free of tomorrow. I can only hope that I’ve played a positive role in their lives. I hope that they become the teacher, vet, performer, artist, illustrator, soccer player, doctor, carolina panther, lego designer, and author that they dream of being now. But more than that, I hope they continue to dream big, to thank God for the individuals they are blessed to be and to be as kind and open-hearted to the next teacher as they were to me.

They’ll never know it, but I do believe they changed the course of my life. I don’t have a map of what’s to come, but I know where I’ve been and what I can do. And I am more confident now of my ability to accomplish anything I dream of than I have ever been before.

I am sad, I am excited, I am grateful and I am blessed.