Tuesday, April 30, 2013

a new season

A week ago today I signed a lease for an apartment. In Illinois.

It feels a little bit like I'm about to move to a different country.  

In September of last year I joined the staff of the Metro East Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  When taking the job, I thought I'd be able to commute back and forth between St. Charles, MO and Shiloh, IL. I thought it would be simple to just come to work, do my job, and go home. Case closed.

Then God was like, NOPE.

I think I knew when I accepted the position that at some point in my life I would need to move. I just didn't think it would be this soon. I LOVE St. Charles. I love the people in my life in St. Charles. I love my church in St. Charles. I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to step into a world where I was alone, didn't want to step in to the unknown.

But the awesome thing about God is that He already knew that about me. He knew that would be the biggest hesitation in following His lead into this new season in life. So, He brought some amazing people in to my life that I can now call lifelong friends. He's brought people in to my life that are making this transition so much easier, and confirming that this is the right move. 

He has provided so many opportunities for me to connect and grow with like-minded people around me. He's caused me to fall in love with the 618. 

My "job" with FCA is not just a job. It has been the place where I've met some of my closest friends. It was the vehicle that God used to bring me back in to right relationship with Him. It is where I've been blessed to work alongside athletes and coaches to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ (vision statement drop...no big...). It is through FCA that the Lord brought those lifelong friends I mentioned earlier into my life!

With all of the "little" things that have been happening in and around my life--ministry opportunities, new/deeper friendships, etc.--it would be disobedient to ignore them as a nudging from God to plant myself where He is calling me to.

It feels like just yesterday that I told someone I was thinking about moving. And now I'll be an Illinois resident in 11 days.

I'm so blessed to have experienced life in St. Charles for the past 5 1/2 years, but I'm also extremely excited about what's going to happen in the 618!! This new season in life will be hard, but it will also be worth it. 

[Disclaimer: If you're a Refugee and reading this...please know that I'm not leaving our church...just our zip code :) I need to be where I can love God & love people the best, and that is still Refuge!]

Saturday, February 23, 2013

game day.

Today is a big day in the little town of Licking, MO. Both varsity basketball teams are going to take the court tonight for a winner takes all show down in Class 3 District 10 basketball.

7 years ago, I had the privilege to be on a team that was on the road to our third 20+ win season and second district title. At the time, it was the greatest thing I thought I would ever be a part of. At the end of that night, I had the ball in my hand as the buzzer went off, threw it up in to the rafters and ran to celebrate with my team. It was one of my favorite games to ever play in. 

For a long time, I lived in that identity. I lived in the fact that I was an athlete. My win/loss record on the court reflected how I felt off the court. 
If I failed as the point guard, I felt like I was failing as a friend, a daughter, a sister, a community member, a student...everything...I failed.

Luckily, I've come into the saving knowledge of God's love and grace and my identity is not wrapped up in how "good" I used to be on the basketball court, softball field, or discus ring.

If my identity were left to sports, I would be a miserable person. 
I loved being a Wildcat. I loved playing in Sherman Hill Field House. I loved wearing #33 on my back for 4 years.

But I love Jesus more. And He loves me more than the trophies no one really looks at anymore.

My challenge to the Cats today: don't let tonight become your identity--win or lose. Know that life is bigger than basketball.

Now. Go kick some butt.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

opportunities to forget

This morning at church (www.seekrefuge.net) we had Dr. Dan Fink join us for a Q&A session on the Biblical ethic of sex. (que Salt'n'Peppa)

Man. It was good.

Of the many things Dr. Fink talked about, the one that I've been wrestling with all day, is this statement: All temptation is an opportunity to forget.

To forget our worth.
To forget God's goodness.
To forget Jesus' sacrifice.
To forget our satisfaction.

When I really think about why I sin, or why I give in to temptation, it's because I want to forget. I may want to forget about a feeling at the time, such as guilt or shame. I may think that indulging myself and my temptations may make me feel better; it may satisfy me.

But that's a lie.
It adds to the guilt and shame.
It cheapens God's grace.
It. Doesn't. Satisfy.

Hosea 2:7 reads: "She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, 'I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.'"

When I was a freshman in college this verse revealed deep idolatry in my life and lead me to take ownership of my faith. To return to Christ.
Now, it does the same. And it reminds me that it is better with my first husband than it ever could be with my temptations.

It is better with Jesus.
It is better to remember what Jesus does in sanctifying me daily.

Don't seize the opportunity to forget.

Remember Jesus.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

when friends smack you in the face

I talk about my friends. A lot. Mainly because I have amazing friends.
One of the attributes that makes my friends so amazing is that they aren't afraid to smack me in the face. Figuratively speaking.

Recently a friend REALLY smacked me in the face. I was dealing with some junk in my life, feeling extremely guilty for mistakes that I have made. In the midst of me saying how crappy I felt, my friend stops, whips out her Bible, and reads from Isaiah.

"And I said: 'Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!' Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: 'Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.' And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here am I! Send me.'"
Isaiah 6:5-8

Pretty much every time I've read that passage (aka: every youth camp/conference I've ever been to...), I read it as Isaiah just being super pumped about being sent by the Lord. I read it as if this man was too legit to quit, so he raised his hand and was like, "Don't voluntell anyone, I'm your man!"

However. HOWEVER. Isaiah was in the same place I was not too long ago. He was sinful. He felt guilty for whatever it was that was going on in his life. Just like me. 
Yet, as soon as the coal touched his mouth, as soon as the angel declared that his sin was taken away, he believed it. And he was consumed by the amazing grace that the Lord had bestowed upon him. And that truth changed him.

I lived in my guilt. I knew that God is big enough to forgive me and to toss my sins as far as the east is from the west. But I wasn't willing to forgive myself. I hung on to that guilt like it was the only thing that mattered.

Two days later, the same friend sent me this text message: "Guilt feelings after confession and repentance have a satanic origin and are designed to hinder our spiritual growth." Boom.

If I (you) have truly confessed and repented of sin in my life, then it's done. Be willing to forgive yourself because the Creator of the universe already has. God's grace and Jesus' sacrifice are sufficient. 

Live in that truth today. 
I know I am.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

what's with all the voices?

March 2-5 I had the awesome opportunity to go to Louisville, KY for the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Or if you followed me on twitter at that time (@kacoustic89) then you saw a lot of #symc going across your feed. And probably decided at that moment it would be a good life choice for you to stop following me. However I did give the disclaimer that I would be over-tweeting. So if you did unfollow me, shame on you.

Now that I have that out of my system...

SYMC was incredible. 

(for the youth worker reading this, go to http://conference.youthministry.com/ and look in to next years conference. We could carpool. It would be a grand time.)

I met some amazing people, formed great friendships, and was poured in to by some of the most passionate people I've been around in the field of youth ministry. The conference is "by youth workers, for youth workers" and this year they wanted us to breathe. Only being in vocational youth ministry for a short while, I initially went in to the conference thinking I was going to get a lot of to-do lists, or 7-steps-to-grow-your-ministry talks.

But I didn't. 

I was told to slow down and listen to Jesus. And only Jesus.

Saturday night's keynote speaker was Jon Acuff. If you don't know who he is and you have me as a friend on Facebook, I now know that you pay no attention to the links I post. Shame on you again. So go check him out at www.stuffchristianslike.net. You can thank me later.

Jon spoke about voices that we all hear. We all have internal and external voices that tell us who we are. At least we let them speak to who we are. 

Here are some of the tweets that people sent in toward the end of Jon's talk. Many that made it to the screen that night were lost in twitter land by the time I was able to get a screen shot...

As you can see, insecurity is a common thread. And this isn't just in youth ministry. This is in life. 

"I'm not making a difference"......"Your work isn't worthy".....You. Aren't. Good. Enough.

The interesting thing in all of this is that these are lies. These voices that we allow to speak to who we are, internally and externally, do not mirror the Truth that God has and does speak in to and over our lives. 

Zephaniah 3:17-"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."

His voice alone has the right to speak to who we are.
His voice alone gets to tell us we are worthy.
His voice alone gets to remind us that we are loved.

His voice causes us to be quiet and rest in His love.

That blows me away.

Of all the voices we can hear, may we learn to block out the lies of the enemy and rest in the Truth of our Creator, Sustainer, and Lover. 

He is the only one that has the right to tell us who we are. So let Him.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

what college actually taught me

9 semesters.
4 1/2 years.
171 hours in a classroom.
2 degrees.

And my biggest take-away? Grace.

I learned what it meant to accept and live through grace, and I learned what it meant to extend grace.

Pride has always been a struggle of mine. I want people to notice me and notice my accomplishments. I want people to see the good things I've done and tell me how awesome I am. I want to be able to tell people I graduated with a 4.0 and multiple honors. I wanted to be the star athlete that was mentioned in the papers week after week. But I can't. And I wasn't.

Why? Grace.

The grace of God knocked me to the ground and took me off of the pedestal I put myself on. And I'm so thankful for it.

The grace of God showed me that my life is not my own. It showed me that, "by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God." (Eph. 2:8) The grace of God allowed me to not own my life. It was long process. It cost me almost 5 years, multiple tears, countless hard conversations, nights of restlessness, and my life.

But, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Is the process of learning grace and how to live in it over? Absolutely not. It should never be. But college for me wasn't about being able to tell you about Henry VIII's wives (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived....in case you were wondering), it wasn't about being able to discuss the changes in warfare after WWI, or talk about the change in Europe's borders during the 19th & 20th centuries. 

College was about learning grace. About learning how to be a friend. Learning how to be Christ to people. It was about learning that my life and my salvation is a gift from God.

I can't rely on myself. I must rely on Christ. I must continually learn and know that by grace I am saved, and by grace I am made whole.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I don't have a good before story.

One of the most effective tools of relating with people is through your story. I love to hear people's stories. Lunches that last for 2 hours, dinners that turn in to hanging out until midnight, and coffee that sees at least 2 refills are my favorite. My problem is, for a long time, I didn't want to share my story.

I didn't think it was good enough.

My story wasn't radical or life changing so there was no point in sharing it.

I grew up in a Christian home with loving parents, I never went cold or hungry, and I always got more than I needed at Christmas time.

I never got drunk at high school parties, tried drugs, or gave myself away to a bunch of different guys.

In my mind, I was way better off than some people I grew up with and my story was simple and ineffective when it came to impacting someone else's life. I've met many people that were caught up in sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll that had met the Lord and had a total 180 life change. That wasn't me. And in my mind my story wasn't good enough.

The reality is I'm not perfect, I sin daily, I struggle with pride, I struggle with anxiety, I don't trust the Lord as I should, I'm not always content in singleness, and I stress about my future.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
2 Corinthians 5:17-21

I'm a sinner, saved by God's amazing grace. That makes my story valuable. The old in me has passed away and the new has come! I am reconciled through Christ to God and am given the ministry of reconciliation. I have been commissioned to share my story; to share with those around me the amazing love, and grace of God that has brought me near to Him and pray that those around me come to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge and be filled with the fullness of God.

Take away? Your story matters. Because of Christ in you, you matter.

Don't be afraid to share your "before." You never know who might need to hear it.