Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Plans Plans Plans

This question, from a still small voice, pierced my heart last night and again this morning and I wanted to share it with you: "What plan do you want to be a part of Kristen?" Here's how I searched scriptures and answered that question. (Be warned, the answer was a little challenging, but that's a good thing!)  

For we live by faith, not by sight. 
~2 Corinthians 5:7

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 
~1 Thessalonians 5:38

We were created to live by faith ... not by sight. I'll say that again, we {Kristen-humans-insert your own name here} were created {by God} to live by faith ... not by sight. When I think about this I feel freedom. And for that, I give thanks! It's not because I immediately feel good about not knowing what's in store in the future, in fact, not knowing what's in store gives me mild heart palpitations! The freedom comes in knowing that it doesn't matter whether or not I know the future. 

It's a freeing thought that if I just trust, daily, that God's plans are bigger than mine, everything will work out alright in the end. 

It's a freeing thought that if I just trust, daily, that God's perspective is wider than mine, everything will work out alright in the end. 

It's a freeing though that if I just trust, daily, that God's all powerful, everything will work out alright in the end. 

Man! It sure does relieve pressure! Notice that I put a little 5 letter word in each of those statements. 
~ daily ~
It's a struggle for me. You see, I'm a genuine type-a person. I like everything to be a certain way. I like my closets to be labeled and my clothes are hung by color on matching hangers. I like to have a short range, long range, and weekly lesson plan. I thrive on regular feedback and constructive criticism as well as affirmation. So, as you may well imagine, letting go and stepping into a blind faith type of lifestyle is hard for me; in fact it's downright terrifying sometimes. My comfort, though, comes from God. He's a God that can give "peace that passes all understanding." With the personality that I have, there's no way I could be ok to just "Let Go and Let God" without a myriad of emotions, not the least of which would include worry, fear, and stress. That cliche statement, though, is what I need right now. The peace I feel when I do hand things over to Him and blindly trust truly does pass all understanding. It truly does give me a feeling of freedom that I don't have to make and carry out the perfect plan.  God's plan is already in place, and that's the plan I want to be a part of!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Just when I thought it couldn't get better, 'Guacamolians' happened!

A few weeks ago, our church hosted a Global Missions Conference. It was more than amazing. Liz Eckbreth, our Missions Coordinator, did an outstanding job planning everything - from coordinating global missionaries to transforming a gym into a flag-decorated conference center to managing a lot of volunteers! It was amazing! And, I was involved, of course, on the kid-front. We had a Missions Adventure! 

One of my passions, aside from all things kids, is global missions. Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations ..." If you follow my blog, you know that my husband and I go to Guatemala every year. We feel called to the short term mission field outside of the US. We know that there are opportunities here, but we've learned that the opportunities in other countries are often times exponentially greater! We've seen it. Our hope, as we pray hard & work in another country for a week each year, is found in the book of Revelation in the Bible. It says that one day, "a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, [will be] standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb." What an encouragement ... too many people to count, from everywhere in the world, in front of Jesus! Well, combining these two passions was probably one of the most rewarding things I've done since I started this job! Our trip looked like this:

First, kids received a plane ticket when they checked in with their parents. Once they got upstairs, they were given a passport and were welcomed aboard! We started our large group time with some songs, some introductions, and some prayer. Each age group was split up into a "Mission Team" with a "Team Leader." These terms were used because that's how our church's teams are organized - the kids acted out what we actually do. Next, the teams "flew" to the different adventures: Guatemala, India, Operation Christmas Child and the In-Flight Snack. These adventures were chosen strategically because our church partners with Guatemala & India to send teams 4-6 times per year. We also have a big Operation Christmas Child push around the holidays & the church planting video in the In-Flight Snack is the end goal and/or focus of why we do what we do.

So, the details...
In the In-Flight Snack Adventure the kids had juice in a bag (the way you get a coke on the side of the road in Guatemala) and actual cookies from India (the ones our teams give out to orphanages!) While the kids ate, we showed a video about church planting from the North American Mission Board website since this is our goal when we go - to help plant churches! You can watch it here ... it's really good! 
In the Guatemala & India Adventures we spent time telling the kids a little about the country, what our church does when we go and how they can pray! We  did a craft based on the country (henna for India, Paper weaving for Guatemala) and then spent time praying for our partnered missionaries. 
In Operation Christmas Child Adventure, the kids learned about what happens when the shoe box gifts leave our church. They also made some crafts that will be kept and put into our boxes this year! 
Also, each adventure ended with getting a souvenir - India: Henna Tattoo, Guatemala: woven fabric, OCC: small box. These souvenirs were stored in luggage (a cardboard crafty suitcase!) that they picked up from a Baggage Claim station after all the Adventure rotations ended. 
The theme worked perfectly and the rooms were transformed is such a fun way! The kids walked in and couldn't help but focus on the Adventure at hand. Our volunteers in each room and on each team were also amazing - they kept the kids focused and were so encouraging about fostering a young love for the nations! 
All in all, the morning flew by and the kids left with a deeper understanding of what our church does in global missions and how they can help: Pray, Partner, Participate! Pray for the countries - Partner by making a shoe box  - Participate by telling some one about Jesus.

So ... two quick stories!

I lead the Guatemala Adventure and boy was it amazing! Each group was attentive and had awesome questions about the people of Chanco and the missionaries. We discussed that once we help the village of Chanco establish a church, we will hopefully go to a new Unreached People Group. When it came time to pray with the 4th & 5th Grade Team a boy named Sullivan offered to pray. His words, so simple, direct, and so sincere. They inspired me. They reminded me that the message of Jesus is simple enough for anyone to understand and powerful enough to want to share everywhere! He asked God to protect our missionaries from harm every day. David & Glynis - we love you! He asked God to make them feel happy because they are doing what God wants them to do. He asked God to 'raise up a church among the Guacamolians in Chanco.' We'll have to work on the word 'Guatemalans', but that's ok - God knew who he meant. Sullivan understood, at 5th grade - 11 years old, the need we all have for Jesus. Seeing the children understand that the world is big and in need of Jesus is amazing to me! 

A couple days after the event, one of our sweet kindergarteners responded. Her mother told me that each night, before bed, she asked to pray for India and Guatemala. She, outside of church on Sunday morning, had internalized the need they have and acted upon what she had been taught. I know that her prayers were helpful - God loves when we come to Him! No matter what we are coming to Him about ... even if we are 5 years old and can't go on a mission trip, God hears our prayers for the nations! 

My heart is full! I thought this job couldn't get any better! Kids + Missions = Love!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

December to March...That's A Lot ...Of FUN!

My life (in pictures) seems to be the best way to get it out there on this blog lately. I have, however, not only been on "GO" at 90 miles an hour this whole time, so I hope to post some wordier updates soon as well. The Lord has been doing some great and awesome things lately and I don't want to leave that out. Just don't have time today! I sincerely hope that you and your families are doing well and having a wonderful beginning of 2014!
Much Love & Blessings,

The 2nd Annual Gingerbread House Contest
 We were supposed to host this year, but our house rented at the last minute just before Christmas and we had to be out the very next week so everything was in boxes.
 My sweet sister and her (clearly very mature hubby) graciously hosted again and we had a blast!
 Even Lily joined in on the fun - she doesn't do well with boxes, but that's another post for another day! Ha!
 I decided to get creative and make a Circle K Gas Station!

The next week we spent all of our time packing ...
 There were drawers filled with cords and cables (from my computer nerdy hubby)
 As well as boxes that were a fun surprise to open!
 But, we got it all done, all clean, and said a bittersweet goodby to our first home! Also, this marked the first of two full weeks of homelessness ... we couldn't move into our new place until Jan 3 SO we shacked up on my sister's couch, an air mattress with my parents and the guest room at my in-laws house. It was an adventure and we were definitely thankful for family in town!

At church we had a Birthday Party for Jesus - Have I told you lately that I love my job?! Well I DO! Seriously, who throws parties as work?!

We spent Christmas Day in Mt. Pleasant with my parents (still currently homeless, and on the 3rd wear of that outfit, haha) I love this low key fun day - has to be one of my all time favorite times!

Merry Christmas from Lily!

So, on New Year's Eve, David fell asleep around10pm with a belly full of chili and oysters, but don't worry, I woke him up to see the ball drop!
 Happy New Year 2014! David's nice & rested - please ignore my sleepy eyes!

Finally, MOVE IN DAY - January 3rd we got our (oversized, lol) keys! It's so nice to be back in Mt. Pleasant and centrally located to a lot of great places. We can ride our bikes to Pitt St and even to church if we want! I only have a 5 minute commute now, and we're just loving it!
Yep - it's that color green. Pea Green. The inside colors aren't much better (insert a shocked noise when I say the bathroom counters are purple ... no joke!) but the layout is great, the location is greater, and the price is the best we could have hoped to find! God had a plan and this was it!
 AAAND our wonderful first wedding/house gift from my sweet cousins Elizabeth & Ben made it through the move! This is the 3rd front door it's graced and I hope they can come visit sometime!

Then, as a slight break in unpacking, I went to Virginia! Not on vacation, per se, but with our Missions Coordinator, and we did have a lot of fun! We went to the International Mission Board (IMB) Missions College where we learned how to make global missions even better at our church. We learned some valuable information that we can apply to what we are currently doing ... which makes me pumped to go to Guatemala in the summer!!!!!!!
 Working with native Spanish speakers about learning Bible stories and passing them along orally.
 Their dedication was amazing - the guy in the beanie hat had brain surgery the week before we got there and still wanted to participate because of is love for the Lord! Amazed!

While I was in VA I got word that one of my Kids Village little boys met Franklin Graham - so proud of  Joshua and his passion for Operation Christmas Child. He alone donated 50 boxes this year! Such an inspiration - I love the kids I work with!

Aaaannd ... this is what I do on Tuesday mornings! Childcare for the Girls of Grace Women's Bible Study. Yep, I'm a broken record, but I LOVE MY JOB! Not only are these the cutest, but I get to tell them about Jesus!

THEN... Snowmageddon 2014! Charleston shut down for a couple days with a very bad ice storm. We were more than fortunate to not have ever lost power. It was nice to have a Tuesday - Friday home alone with my husband. By the end of it, however, we were antsy to get outside and did manage to build an iceman. Seriously, it wasn't snow, just teeny tiny ice pebbles that were very hard to get to stick together. Twas fun though!
Twig arms, mini carrot noses and chocolate leftover from Christmas for the eyes!
 don't forget that silly beanie baby penguin that David loves - he calls it the family mascot or something ... love him and his quirkiness!

DISNEY! Before the second round of icy mess hit, we took off! My 30th birthday happened this year and I chose Disney World. David thought I was crazy but obliged and planned a Thurs - Sat trip on Monday! We had a great time and even ate at Iron Chef Cat Cora's restaurant on Valentine's Day!
 Sweet birthday present from a sweet husband - Come Thou Fount is one of my favorite hymns. He done good!
 In Orlando traffic with only 20 min to go!
Apparently this is not only for cruises ... nice welcome in our room at Port Orleans French Quarter!
 Waiting for Mickey's Philharmonic Orchestra 4D Show!
 The Little Mermaid ride on Valentine's Day!
 Fireworks at 11:00 pm with another 2 hours left to enjoy the park - open until 1:00pm for resort guests, eeek! Fun!
 At the parade in the Animal Kingdom - the last stop before heading home! Best way to not feel old on your 30th birthday!

Came home to some sweet cards from my kiddos at church! I really really love them!

Last surprise birthday gift - necklaces were the theme and I just LOVE this one! Yall go get one on Etsy! (thanks for giving David the tip Courtney!!)

Got VBS in the mail ... so that's coming up! Join us if you can: July 7-11!

Also got a Thanks for Visiting print in the mail! It says come again and I think we just might ... when we have kids!

 Last ... some great questions for Jesus from our preschoolers this past Sunday! I think it's safe to say I like what I'm doing here at church. I'm impressed with these kids and still get to see learning happening even though I'm not in a classroom everyday. Makes me think about what I'd ask Jesus. There's a lot I'd ask, but after counting my blessings this much, I think I'd like to say thank you first. He is so good. I hope you see that too. God loves us more than we know and far more than we deserve. What a comforting and encouraging thing!

Well friends ... Like I said before, I'm gonna post some wordier updates soon. In the meantime, have a great beginning of 2014! I love yall!!