Sweet ’16: December

Honestly couldn’t have asked for a better way to end 2016. 2016 began with a rough start but I can confidently say it really has been a sweet ’16, one of redemption, healing and wholeness, thanks be to God. December was the end of a busy season and I am now being ushered into a new season where God says to dive in, that I am being positioned on His team, that He is developing me into a visionary to help bring the vision from heaven down to earth.

ADS Graduation: We finished our discipleship school and graduated this month!

The beginning of school, Jesus gave me a picture of the banquet table, with Him seated at the head of the table, and an empty spot next to him with my name on it. He was beckoning me to come sit with Him, because I was crouched in a ball in the shadows of the corner, too full of shame to be sitting next to Him. Over the course of the school, in a gentle and tender process, layer by layer God tenderly removed my shame, shed light on lies I’d believed about myself, spoke into my heart and healed places that were broken. When He was speaking to me about what next season would be like, He gave me a picture of a candlelit dinner for two with us seated at it, communicating just by looking deeply into each other’s eyes without a word, depicting a season of greater intimacy beholding Him and allowing Him to behold me, as His beloved daughter.

(I just want to say, if anyone resonates with this story, I would love to encourage you that Jesus died to rid us of all shame and guilt! He will have His Bride rid of all her shame!)

I am envisioned now more than ever to partner with Him to set the captives free and see the lost come to life through His love!!! He has called me to youth ministry and I couldn’t be more excited! 😄😄😄

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ADS Graduation Night with my D Group

 

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ADS Graduation Night with Joyful Jenn 🙂 

Christmas: I failed to take a ton of pictures during this time unfortunately, but it was a sweet time with family, lots of games and of course, food. Our family came to our house to celebrate Christmas Eve and then we had relaxing Christmas Day at home with just us four.

Outreach Trip – Dominican Republic: God told me that I would be returning back to the DR when I went 3 summers ago, so when they announced our class would be going to Santiago for our outreach trip I wasn’t the least bit surprised! Especially because of the word God gave me our first day of class – that He would bring me back to the simple place of being a daughter and operating out of overflow of the Spirit. When we got there, it felt as if I was transposed into another world, but one I was very much familiar with, where I was reunited with old friends – it didn’t feel like it had been 3 years but maybe a few months since I’d seen them. It was the best feeling to be so welcomed and invited in and be able to see my class meet and interact with Stanley, his family and amazing team.

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One of my favorite people to meet in Pontezuela was Alta. She was in the middle of celebrating her birthday with family when she invited us into her home, and she shared her birthday cake, coffee and wine with us! The Dominican culture is incredibly welcoming. It was an honor to pray with her for her family – her daughter will be having a baby soon!

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We nicknamed the town we were in Salon de Pontezuela. These girls looooved playing with our hair! I didn’t mind it either, of course. 😉

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These sweet Haitian girls were sisters who lived in Pontezuela. Our team got to meet their mother and pray with her while we were there. This was taken in the middle of our Pato, Pato, Gonzo (duck, duck, goose) game! 

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Our d-group with Manu, the team leader. We had just ministered to a Haitian woman and three young men in a neighborhood in Santiago.

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At the monument in Santiago

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We were partnered with Irlene while ministering in a park in Santiago. 

Stanley and his wife Amarfre lead the local church there in Santiago. I can’t honor them enough! What incredible people advancing the kingdom of God to partner with!

I have never thrived more in evangelizing than I did in this trip. The fear of man was nonexistent as God allowed a spirit of boldness come over me. Which is really encouraging, but also makes me question what it is about America and my own people that there is still a spirit of fear I struggle with. I am confident that God will continue to work in me until He allows fruit to bear in this area here in my homeland. 🙂

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We got to attend a playoff baseball game in Santiago – which was basically like a giant dance party! 🙂 

Our free day we went to Sosua Beach to soak up some sun rays. 🙂 Beautiful…

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Last but not least… we got upgraded to first class on the way there and I got to toast Larry with my glass of Sprit and his glass of Coke! 😉 

Sweet ’16: November

November… The month of thankfulness! I love this quote from Graham Cooke: We don’t enter the presence of God with prayer. We enter the presence of God with thanksgiving! The beautiful Psalm 100 is my most favorite passage of thanksgiving:

1    Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
  Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

3   Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4  Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5  For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

I find this to be so true in my own life. When I first come before God declaring His worthiness and praise His name, oftentimes my “cares” seem to melt away when I realign my mind and heart to recognize His sovereignty and greatness.

This month has been one of experiencing the power of God more and more. I’m finding myself more and more hungry for His presence and realizing more and more that literally nothing else satisfies the yearning of my heart and soul but Him! It’s truly a wonderful thing to see my heart’s desires shift to only wanting more of Jesus and nothing else. Once you get a taste, it is like nothing else! This is another psalm that has been on my heart these last few weeks, and my heart’s prayer for my generation – Psalm 34:8:

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

A couple of sweet Saturdays from this month will be imprinted on my heart for awhile.  One was our local outreach day, when we visited a nursing home which was literally a dream God had put in my heart for a while now, so it was truly my heart’s delight to finally visit one! Before we went out, we asked the Lord for direction on where He wanted us to go. I got the colors purple and blue, Chad got blue, and Laura got blue and Quality Care Nursing Center. We arrived just in time for bingo! I talked with quite a few ladies dressed in blue or purple. I met such wonderful souls there, one of which named Linda, a joyful lady in a purple pantsuit whose birthday was that day and my friend Chad and I got to pray a birthday blessing over, and David, a sweet man who got choked up when my friend Keekee and I were chatting with him, of which he told me, “I just love hearing about Jesus.” AH! Heart melted. These people were so grateful for company and hungry for companionship. We promised to return soon to see our new friends.

Another sweet Saturday I was able to spend visiting Rachel in San Marcos. We went hiking in a couple of places and had lunch at a yummy Thai food truck!

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Rio Vista Falls | San Marcos

 

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Rio Vista Falls | San Marcos

I was blessed to celebrate Thanksgiving four times this year! A couple of “Friendsgivings” with church friends, a pot luck at work and then the usual dinner at Uncle Dale’s house, of course! We played a giant human-sized Jenga tournament in which I ended by clumsily falling off the step stool and into our tower – ha!

 

We celebrated dad’s birthday early with a dinner at Gringo’s and then playing Top Golf! The unlikely champion was… none other than my mom! It was a fun time.

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Happy Early Birthday Dad!

Another fun testimony to end the month: I met with our discipleship school director one on one about some things, which was a great conversation, and then at the end he asked if he could ask me one last question. And he asked me if I had a fear of male authority in my life because of an incident that I went through last year. He said he could sense it all the way from the beginning of school at retreat when he gave me a hug and I tensed up. He said I do it every time. And it was as if God was touching a pain point in my heart I didn’t even realize was there, like he lifted the rug I tried to shove that piece of my heart under I didn’t want to address, saying softly, “I see that. Even that doesn’t leave my sight.”

See, I subtly have noticed this fear before, but did not think he could actually sense it and that it was an actual problem, so I minimized it in my head, thinking it was just something I had to “deal” with as a result of the incident. But, I remember Holy Spirit whispering to me in the beginning of school to tell the director I was scared of him because he was going to be a part of my healing process, but I ignored it because I thought it would be too weird to ask him that and thought it would be too embarrassing. And then, as we are nearing the end of school, God brings it up, showing how persistent He is that I be healed from it! AND the director asked me if he could be a part of my healing process by being a safe place and inviting me over to spend time with him and his family.

Cue the opening of the floodgates: I wept all night at how much God pursues me. It was literally amazing. I felt so known and seen by God.

And here is my encouragement to you from this story: that very same pain you may be carrying in your heart that you don’t want to bring up with anyone and think no one sees it: God sees it. He sees right down to the depths of your heart! And He wants you to be healed and whole way more than you want to be!

He is FOR US, friends, and that truth is weapon enough for any lie the devil throws at us!

 

Sweet ’16: October

October was full.

Full of hope, full of discovery, full of new experiences… a very full schedule, indeed.

It was my third month in the discipleship school at my church, which basically was the halfway point (crazy!) Going in I had this fear that whatever God wanted to teach me I would miss it or mess it up somehow. I confessed this at the beginning to a fellow student, and she gave me the verse Phillipians 1:16 to hang onto: “be confident of this: that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” It was incredibly encouraging, and when she told me she feared she would not be able to remember all the verses we had to memorize because of the effects a stroke had on her two years ago, I gave her Phillipians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” And I told her that she did know verses, she just recited one to me that encouraged me deeply!

Anyways, I was sort of got into this funk of believing the same lie I was messing up what God was trying to teach me again, and really struggled with a performance mindset. Praise God for bringing me out of this dark hole and truly flipping my heart upside down (I honestly legitimately felt something in my being flip upside down. There is a saying that what happens in the physical is a mirror image of what happens in the spiritual, and I think it was a feeling representative of a moment of absolute surrender with God).

We had an assignment to do a 30-day journal, seeking the Lord’s direction and guidance on where He what He was calling us to after the school. It was a stretch for me: I don’t claim to be the most disciplined person ever and I struggled with doubting hearing the Lord’s direction for me. He spoke many things, starting out encouraging me that this next season after the school would be “teaming with life and established in Love.” A surprising thing I was not expecting was for Him to give me such a huge passion for the nations and bringing the gospel there. He spoke a couple of countries for which I am having faith to travel to someday. At the end of our journal, we had a couple of prophetically gifted church members come pray over us, and I received the encouragement to stop doubting my ability to hear God’s voice! It was as if he was inside my head. 🙂 I also received the same picture twice, one of a field where I was being positioned among a team, with the message from God that I am on a team, not meant to be benched or looking on from the sidelines. The night was so encouraging and truly incredible, as he prayed over the baby of one of the ladies in class who he did not even know she was pregnant beforehand, and getting the word of a near-death experience for another lady who had a stroke a couple of years ago, with the message God wasn’t done with you yet, He still has much in store!

I also went through prayer ministry as well as another prophetic ministry, which was truly healing and revitalizing. I received word that I am gifted in teaching and youth ministry, which I hadn’t heard of before, but when I found out from a spiritual gifts assessment test that shepherding is one of my top three, it made sense! A woman who led a small group I was in during high school had a huge impact on my spiritual journey so I’ve always had a dream to do high school ministry eventually… it was great to learn I have been gifted for it!

Last but not least I have to show off the artistic talents of my roommate who insisted on doing my makeup for Halloween and turning me into a deer. Kids at the church fall festival loved it! She could truly be a professional. 🙂

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Amazing Halloween makeup by my roommate Whitney, such a  deer!

 

 

Sweet ’16: September

Sweet Redemptive September! The Lord did such sweet, such amazing work in my life to redeem an event that caused so much destruction in my life last year. Though there was apprehension and fear for going to the event again, many prayed over me and got words from God that it would be “a breath of fresh air” and “joy-giving”. It definitely was!

I have so many pictures to share in this post! My friends Hannah and Grant had a beautiful baby! It was so fun to visit them at the hospital with Lindsay and meet Elijah Shepherd.

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At Hannah’s baby shower that was hosted at her house in August. Sweet reunion with sweet college friends

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Lindsay and I just admiring Elijah’s preciousness!

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One of our Sunday sermons, we heard Chip and Joanna speak on their “story behind the story” which you can watch here and at the alter call they invited people up who felt like they had a dream die and that God wanted to resurrect it. I felt God tug my heart to go up and ask for prayer for my future family and husband. Because of past failed relationships and lack thereof here lately, I kind of pushed that dream aside and in a way gave up on it. I had the amazing honor of being prayed over by an older couple as they prayed over my heart as well as whoever my future husband is. It was faith-building and encouraging.

Another big thing in September is my company had our annual conference with all ten brands. This year it was in San Antonio. It was my third annual conference to go to, but my first one to present at! Eek! Praise the Lord for His favor, my manager and I had franchisees coming up to us and telling us it was the absolute best marketing presentation they’d ever attended for our company. Wow! We were blown away. Another fun thing that happened: my dad had a work conference the same exact dates in the same exact city I did! I got to meet up with him and my mom for a yummy dinner and the first night, they got to come meet a lot of my coworkers, which was amazing. I had asked Jesus probably a year ago for Him to miraculously provide a way for my two worlds to come together so my parents could meet my coworkers after meeting someone’s dad I worked with. He did it! How sweet!

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Vendor Reception with two franchise consultants, Robyn and Mark

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We had to get a picture with Dina Dwyer-Owens! Our Co-Chair and company celebrity – she has been on the show Undercover Boss.

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The local marketing ladies! Brittany and Mary started this summer and I love them.

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Our team all dressed up for the Awards Banquet

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Our team with honorary member Dusty – he was on the local marketing team until he was promoted to a brand manager last year.

Sweet ’16: August

August was characterized by a new season, experiencing a longterm dream come to fruition and the wondrous taste of freedom in many areas of my life.

On August 8, I started classes with a discipleship school at my church. This was a long-awaited dream the Lord had put in my heart during my senior year at Baylor, so it seemed a bit surreal when the day finally came. I even had butterflies the night before.

The wonderful thing about God is while His timing doesn’t make sense to us, we can trust that He sees the big picture and knows exactly what He’s doing. The Lord confirmed the timing of the school for me in such a special and unique way:

The summer before my senior year at Baylor, I had a life-transforming time during a mission trip in the Dominican Republic. The Lord revealed the gospel to me in a fresh new way that captured my heart like never before. Here is the story if you’d like to read it.  

The morning of our first day of school, I was browsing Facebook and its feature of “On this Day” showed me it was the same day I posted that story of Ricardo, two years ago. I smiled but didn’t think too much of it at that time. 

Later that night at school, a girl on staff shared a prophetic word for our class she received: that God was reviving old dreams inside us and bringing back to life giftings we received. Immediately the Holy Spirit took me back to that moment of the morning when I saw the On this Day post with Ricardo, and He spoke this to me:

It is not coincidence that you are starting the discipleship school two years later from this time with Me. I want to bring you back to this place of simple joy, where you are sitting at My feet and I am looking upon you with adoration as My beautiful daughter I love; a simple place of just sitting at my feet being loved, and then loving others.

He reminded me of how easy it is operating out of abundance and overflow of the Spirit rather than my own striving and efforts. Wow! I am sure you know what happened after that: breaking down in joyful tears as I stood amazed at not only the Lord’s perfect timing, but also His sweet sweet kindness to reassure me and remind me of His perfect sovereignty. Ah!!! So kind!!!! 🙂

Some other prophetic words I received for the school during ministry time: for when life feels upside down, to remember that God is my foundation to stand on; through gentle encouragement, God will rid me of insecurities and place identity over me; a picture of a heart God sews up in broken places – it looked different afterwards but it was sewn up perfectly the way He wanted and those places that were healed became a ministry to others.

During our weekend retreat, I also received that I was entering into a “harvest time”, that even though the last two years have not been easy (yes God spoke this through someone who didn’t even know what my past two years have been like!) it was a period of planting seeds and going through hardship where God ministered to me. He is bringing me to a place where I can speak identity into others, and a period of God opening their hearts for me (Jesus in me) to press in. Another picture I received was of a hole that dirt kept being piled into, and Jesus came and gathered the dirt and put it on a sack on His back and walked with me through the desert, with the message of Jesus carries my burdens and walks in the hard places with me.

An incredibly powerful activity we did on retreat had to do with identity. We were given two blank name tags. With the first, we wrote down how we saw ourselves. I wrote down insecure for mine. Then we had to stand up and share them with the class – some of them truly were heart-wrenching: overlooked, a hindrance, stupid, not good enough. Next we asked God how He saw us. For me, He told me radiant. Wow. The God of all creation sees me as radiant. Ah! Then we got in a circle and affirmed each identity the Lord had spoke over us. A classmate said, Kellie, not only are you radiant, you are brilliantly radiant. I was floored at the Lord’s kindness! I truly encourage you to go through this same exercise with Him – you will be surprised at how He sees you. 🙂

 

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Iron on Iron Group:  In addition to class, we meet weekly with our Iron on Iron Groups for accountability and encouragement from our peers. The vision behind this comes from Proverbs 17:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” It’s been a joy walking closely with KeeKee Murphey (Left) and Lindsay Belus (Middle) this fall!

 

One of the daunting tasks during retreat was sharing our unedited testimony with our Iron on Iron Groups. I had only shared this with a handful of people during times I was confessing hidden sin in my life, so this was a bit of a stretch for me outside my comfort zone. There is always fear of rejection and condemnation when you share parts of yourself you are ashamed of, but when you share your story – your whole story without holding back – it does something truly beautiful. It breaks down walls as you discover others share similar struggles with you. I learned that feeling of freedom and acceptance all of our hearts ache for can only be met by sharing our entire stories with each other.

Even though this was a required task for the school I had to do, the Lord challenged me to keep sharing my story, and let in other friends on struggles they didn’t know I went through. Make it a practice to make yourself as intimately known as possible, He said. So I scheduled calls and meet-ups with friends and shared. And you know what I received? Even more empathy and compassion I could’ve hoped for, and sweet times of rejoicing with friends in all The Lord has done in me! 🙂

I love this quote from Brené Brown, and I hope it inspires you as it does me. 🙂

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A life altering truth I learned was that not only did Jesus pay for our sin, He also paid for the shame attached to it. So, in truth, we are able to live FREE from shame. Wow!

But [in fact] He has borne our griefs,
And He has carried our sorrows and pains;
Yet we [ignorantly] assumed that He was stricken,
Struck down by God and degraded and humiliated [by Him].

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing];
The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him,
And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed.

Isaiah 53: 4-5 AMP

 

Sweet ’16: July

Whew, I literally feel like I looked down for a second and then looked up and summer was over! July went by lightning fast, mostly because there was so much going on, and I still don’t feel like I’ve quite caught up just yet.

If you remember the end of my last post from June, you’ll know I left off needing a place to move into in 14 days. Well, my friends, the Lord is F.A.I.T.H.F.U.L. In that short time period, He provided a new roommate, my dearest friend Whitney I met through my sorority at Baylor, as well as the cutest and quaintest new place to live, near the beautiful Lake Waco area. We may have felt like we toured all the apartment complexes in Waco, Texas but we finally found somewhere! I stayed with a friend during the two weeks my leases didn’t overlap which I am soo very thankful for and my parents helped with the move in day. Unfortunately, the first apartment we moved into was infested with roaches and spiders, so I checked into a hotel the first night and stayed with another friend for a few days afterwards until the property management got us set up in a new building.

What I’m most excited about is Whitney’s artistic abilities and creating a beautiful space to enjoy and live in. Here is probably my favorite part of our apartment – the beautiful sign my mom gave us as a housewarming gift and Whitney’s record player along with the flowers and vases to add some additional detail.

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Another fun thing was my sister’s vet clinic rescued a baby deer from the side of the road and she bottle fed it while it stayed in a pen in our backyard for awhile. Unfortunately it died a week after, but it was such a fun surprise gift to see a baby deer up close!

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I also spent some time reading the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and Dr. Townsend, which has proved to be life-changing and amazing so far. It truly has been a summer of greater self-discovery. I’ve learned that I am both “The Compliant” feels guilty and/or controlled by others; can’t set boundaries as well as “The Avoidant” who sets boundaries against receiving care of others. Meaning I have a hard time saying no and hearing yes. Definitely helpful to learn and process through with Jesus.

Sweet ’16: June

To be completely and utterly honest, I didn’t want to write about this month, hence the few days I took avoiding publishing something about it. I wanted to skip over June and never look back. June was filled with the pangs of loneliness, betrayal, heartbreak, disappointment and rejection. And it would almost have been more bearable if the month ended on a high note, but, it didn’t. Nonetheless, I committed to blog about each month of 2016, and if I skipped over it, not only would I be breaking a promise to myself, I would be skipping over some key lessons that I learned, regardless of how painful the experiences were to learn them.

On a world-scale, I spent several nights grieving the sins of the world from the aftermath of the Orlando shooting and countless other acts of terrorism that occurred during this month around the world. Truly horrific and heart-wrenching to read about it all, and hard to find words to pray about it. In these times, I am thankful for Romans 8:26-27:

“In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” 

In my own world, I spent time grieving the sins of my relatives, and realized just how broken my family truly is. Not a fun realization to be sure, but it also came with another: Jesus is the only hope for my family’s restoration, as well as the world’s. It made me convinced that now more than ever is the time to be sharing and spreading the gospel. To be living and acting it out. To be salt and light. To be Jesus’ hands and feet. To fight evil with good. And I am inspired now more than ever to prayerfully intercede on behalf of my family. Because as I previously mentioned from a sermon earlier this year, people aren’t the problem – we can’t forget who the real enemy is, who has come to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10)

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

And now for my latest crisis: I need to find somewhere to live in 10 days. Yes – 10.

News that my landlord was renting to a family friend for the next three years and hearing a housing opportunity that I felt so hopeful about falling through came within days of each other. It felt as though I finally saw a shiny glimmer of hope in the distance and then it was snatched away all in an instant, like a rug being pulled from under my feet and then landing face-planted on the ground. It was hard to not let feelings of rejection sting my heart and let my mind wander in the direction of so many “what if” thoughts. I remember texting my mom about my disappointment and telling her after she told me to not give up faith and pray on it that I felt like that opportunity was so right when I was praying.

She said: Kell, your spiritual life has nothing to do with your emotions. Just because you feel it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Bam. Truth hit me right in the gut. No arguing with that statement. I pondered that for awhile, reflecting on all the times I’ve felt unloved or without purpose, and how it couldn’t be further from the truth. So many times, our emotions can be our own worst enemy. We have to remember to fight it with the trusty Word of God. Good ‘ol lessons from Mom. 😉

As I’m studying the book of Numbers this month with the First 5 team, it couldn’t be more ironic that the grumbling and doubtfulness of the Isrealites about entering the Promised Land after countless times of God displaying His faithfulness towards them proved to be a mirror which reflected my own attitude towards God based on my current circumstances. I was deeply convicted and very thankful for this holy setback. Having an angry, doubtful and complaining spirit is the outward projection of a disbelief in the sovereignty and faithfulness of God.

In Numbers 17, God commands Aaron to place the budding staff outside the tent of meeting as a reminder to all the Isrealites to keep them from complaining. This has inspired me to set something up in my home and office to remind myself of the authority of God and avoid complaining as well. I’ll have to brainstorm some creative solutions but am excited about some of the possibilities.

In the meantime, I’ll be praying for an increase of faith for God to lead me in whatever “Promised Land” He has for me to move into in the next 10 days… 🙂

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