I can’t remember another year that I was more envisioned, excited and inspired to enter into. Processing 2017 really well was a big cause of this I think, but also I really am so thankful to God that He has given me new opportunities to dream with Him about in this season and step into with faith that made me excited to enter into a New Year and see these opportunities blossom into life even more.
Antioch Youth Ministry – Winter Retreat – In January, my church held a winter retreat for the youth ministry I serve in. It was exhausting, fun and sweet to spend a weekend with my junior high girls in a cabin in LITERALLY freezing cold weather playing random games (like this hilarious mattress relay game in the picture) and spend time in worship, prayer and learning about God together. I would say was the hardest part for me was physical, as I was getting over flu-like symptoms from the previous week and the cold weather made my sinuses / allergies / asthma a lot worse to where I was just really tired a lot of the time. It took a lot of persevering and pressing into Jesus and practicing joy, to be honest. The Saturday night sermon was the peak of the retreat, and by that time of the evening, I was very tired and worn out. There was a call for ministry time to grieve disappointments or losses while our youth pastor shared that his favorite uncle had just passed away the day before, so it was very emotional for everyone. The leaders were invited to pray for students holding their hands up requesting prayer for this area. Since my girls were all OK, my attention was caught by a high school girl on the front row across the aisle. As I approached her, she was weeping, and I was at a loss for words of what to even say or do for her. What do I have to offer this girl, I thought to myself. I placed my hand on her shoulder, and internally began asking God for any insight or words He could give me to comfort this girl. (I actually had NO idea what to do.) The Holy Spirit started giving me different things to pray over her, and so I prayed them and then she opened up about her mother’s miscarriage and how she was grieving the loss of a would-be baby brother. Ah – cue the heart break! I continued to pray over her what the Holy Spirit was impressing on me and gave some space for her to ask God what He was saying to her also. After I stayed with her for awhile and gave her a hug, I went back to my chair, honestly doubting if that even helped the situation at all because she was still in tears as I left, and as said before, I was so exhausted and “out of it” that I didn’t feel it was one of my “best” prayers I’d prayed. Then later that week something truly amazing happened. On Fridays my church hosts “Encounter Worship Nights”, an extended time of worship and ministry, and although I didn’t feel like going that night I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to go, and He gave me a picture that there would be a young girl there that I would connect with. In my mind, I was thinking it was someone He wanted me to pray for. I was wrong! During the first few songs, a young girl approached me from across the room and tapped me on the shoulder. I opened my eyes and she asked if I remembered her, and that she was the girl I prayed over at youth retreat last weekend. I exclaimed YES! Of course I do! She then proceeded to say that ever since she received the prayer the Lord gave me to pray over her, everything was different – She said she even signed up to go to Asia for a mission trip this summer! She said she felt led by God to share it with me and thanked me for obeying the Lord to pray over her. I was shocked and overwhelmed – how KIND of the Lord to allow me to be there at that place and receive that encouragement that even though the prayer didn’t “feel” powerful to me, it was incredibly powerful for her and her life. It was such an incredible reminder that even though I am tired, God is STILL God – His power doesn’t diminish as my energy level is diminished. He can still move in POWER even when we are weak and weary. It was so, so COOL to have this sweet revelation once again.
What’s brought me joy – Two unexpected things have brought me SO much joy this season. One is leading the young adult life group I was asked to lead the end of last year – my saying “yes” in the midst of feeling scared/overwhelmed came with a promise from God that I would experience breakthrough from fear of man and I have definitely seen this to be true, not just in leading in ministry, but also in other areas of my life, such as leading out in the workplace and being able to see it as more of a ministry opportunity as well. Margie also has enjoyed life group, and made to decision to stay in her home rather than move to a retirement assisted living home because the Lord asked her “would you like the last years of your life to be fruitful or comfortable?” and she chose the first, with the idea that young people were easier to influence than older people – LOL – so she has decided to stay put in her home so we can continue hosting life group here and she can keep pouring into my generation. Praise God for living with a woman who sets the example of choosing a fruitful life over a comfortable one – let it be true of us also, Lord! The second thing that’s brought me joy is babysitting my sweet friend Zelyna’s adorable baby boy, Judah, each week. Here is a collage of pictures of him for your enjoyment. 🙂
Turning 26 – On the morning of my 26th birthday, I woke up and started spending time with Jesus. I very sleepily asked Him, Lord, what do you have for me this birthday morning? And the Holy Spirit instantly whispered to me, “read Psalm 18“. And so I obediently pulled out my Bible app to begin reading it (I only had a New Testament Bible packed with me), looking for anything that the Holy Spirit wanted to highlight to me. Then I came across verse 19 and immediately got excited – I was still half-asleep and completely forgot that Psalm 18:19 was an incredibly meaningful verse to me, especially throughout my college years (so much so that I *almost* got it tattooed on my foot – ha!). Here is what the verse says:
“He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” – Psalm 18:19
As I was in the middle of thinking, ‘Ah God, I see what you’re doing here!’ my phone vibrated that I received an email, and I got a little distracted and went to check out my inbox (the downfalls of using your phone for time with God -ha!) Then an email immediately caught my eye that was entitled “A wide open, spacious life” from Propel Women Ministries. Spacious…. the same word that is in Psalm 18:19. Hmm. I clicked to open. What I read next stunned me and resonated so much that I knew this was the exact message The Lord wanted to communicate to me for my 26th year of life:
The life God is calling you to isn’t mediocre – it is meant to be extraordinary. There’s nothing average about it. 2 Corinthians 6:11 tells us: “Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter into this wide, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small but you are living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can, and with affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively.” Our life on earth is not meant to be boring until we die and go to heaven. Our job is to bring heaven to earth. As Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” This is an active, participatory adventure you’ve been invited to join. If your days feel unremarkable or if your faith has become a stale religious obligation, you may have to fight beyond what you feel. Stir up the gift of faith – there isn’t a step by step behavior modification plan to follow – it’s heart transformation, driven by the Holy Spirit! When the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts, our smallness and self-imposed limitations are renewed by God’s possibilities. Where we see lack, God sees opportunity. Where we see failure, God sees potential. Where we see containment, God sees refinement. Where we see weakness, God sees strength. Where we see death, God sees life. Where we see what has been, God sees what will be. So step into this wide open, spacious life and the adventure of life following Jesus!
The same is true for you, friend! Step into this adventure with me. 🙂
And last but not least, I will answer the question, Where did the phrase “hallmark year” come from? Well let me tell you! The evening of my birthday, I was watching a new episode of my favorite Hallmark show When Calls The Heart, and live tweeting with other show fans or #Hearties (I know, I know, obsessed!) and tweeted my favorite actress Erin Krakow that the perfect way to spend my birthday was watching the new episode and eating homemade chocolate chip cookies…and..she tweeted me Happy Birthday back! I mean..can’t get any better than that, right?! So my friend exclaimed, Kellie, this is your hallmark year! And I said YES! Love it – And now it’s the title my blog series this year. 😀