THE TREE.

Eliza, I need to tell you something. This tree is really important to me.

Instantly tears started welling up in my eyes and emotion overtook what I thought would be a simple moment. I couldn’t even get the rest of the words out as I spoke to my 7-month old daughter. 

I looked up and saw my two-year-old, Lydia, ahead, climbing on rocks with her dada. I held Eliza close and blinked through tears as I looked back at the tree and tried to get my words out. 

Do you remember our friend Jackie? Well, three years ago we came here just two weeks after her dada died. 

I paused again. Instantly my mind was filled with memories of those few weeks. The call from Jackie. The hospital. The funeral. Her decision to still come on our Work Week at Young Life’s Clearwater Cove—leading up to the clearest memory of all. A few nights in, during the scheduled “15 minutes of silence,” we sat down and wept together under the stars. I had no words, only prayers. 

This tree was planted in memory of Jackie’s dada.

I finally got the few words out, took a deep breath, wiped away a few more tears, and continued to tell Eliza the rest of the story. How Greg, who oversees landscaping at Clearwater Cove, came to me with the idea to let Jackie pick out the type of tree and the location to plant in memory of her father who had just died suddenly in a car accident. I remember seeing Jackie pick it out and plant it into the ground.

The tree.
a sign of life,
in the midst of
grief.

More than just showing Eliza this tree for the first time at this special place, this week at camp wasn’t supposed to happen. It was supposed to get canceled, just like everything else. I was overcome by tears in many moments throughout the week just being there. At Young Life Camp. In the midst of a pandemic. Not taking a single day for granted.

The losses of this season haven’t been easy for any of us, and some of us have lost more than others. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. 

THE TREE IN THE GARDEN.

The Bible starts out telling us about a different tree. The tree of life that holds the knowledge of good and evil. God created humankind through Adam and Eve and gave them complete freedom in the garden with only one rule: do not eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15). Yet they were convinced by the Enemy’s promise for God-like wisdom and chose to eat the fruit from the tree and disobey God (Genesis 3:6).

The Enemy was wrong. The Enemy had deceived them. Instead of becoming like God, Adam and Eve were overcome by guilt, shame, brokenness, and fear. 

Because humankind turned away from God, sin entered the world. And because we continue to turn away from God every day, choosing to listen to the voice of the Accuser and give in to the desires of our flesh, sin reigns.

I don’t think I need to convince you that we live in a world still today where guilt, shame, brokenness, and fear reign. From a competitive pressure to be the best, the smartest, the prettiest or have the most—and we fall short of unreachable expectations—we are covered in guilt (you haven’t done enough) and shame (you’ll never be enough). Within a country that is so polarized that we are making the simple fact of ending racism or wearing a mask during a pandemic something that’s political—and no systemic solutions in sight—we are broken. And in the midst of it all, we are consumed by fear

I was listening to a new PitBull song recently and his words struck me: The only thing that spreads faster than any virus is fear. I think I shouted an “Amen!” back at PitBull through my car stereo the first time I ever heard that song. There’s never been a time in my life where I’ve seen this more present than during COVID-19. Our world is controlled by fear.

where is our
hope?
Where is our sign of life
in the midst of our
grief? 

THE TREE ON THE HILL.

When sin entered the world, God had a plan for restoration that involved another tree. Jesus was killed on a Cross, a tree stripped of roots and branches. In this undeserving death God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Hallelujah. 

Through faith in Christ, we are made right with God and our relationship with Him is restored! He frees us from guilt, shame, brokenness and fear through His blood shed on the Cross.  

This tree is now our
sign of life
in the midst of our
grief. 

And friends, this is good news. We have life and hope in the midst of the never-ending trials of this world because our hope is in a God who rose from the dead and is making things new. We believe that we were not merely created for a comfortable and happy life, a life that comes and goes like a breath in time, but we believe that God created us for a greater purpose. He has promised for those of us who believe in Him that as we put away our sin and love others, He will produce in us love, joy, and peace in place of our brokenness. 

He doesn’t just remove our sin. He redeems it. And as He rose from the dead, He calls us to rise.

Will you rise redeemed with me in the midst of your fear? Will you choose positivity and gratitude in the midst of a dark season of guilt, shame, or brokenness? Will you strive for peace with those around you, instead of division? Will you choose to believe that “He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)?

Will you hold on to our sign of life (Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection) in the midst of our grief? 

He has called us higher than simply getting through. Just as He is the vine, and He has called us to be the branches and to bear fruit—fruit that will last (John 15:1-17). He has called us to pursue hospitality and love in the midst of physical distancing (Romans 12:13). He has called us to fight for racial justice in the midst of racism in our systems (Romans 2:11). He has called us to stand firm in our faith and use our voices to speak the truth in love, being a light to the world (Ephesians 6:13, Matthew 5:14).

I read this quote recently, written before COVID-19, but I believe it applies well: “Our goal in life is not simply to survive the current hard thing in hopes that it will be our last. Rather, we endure whatever God has for us to the very end, believing God’s promises even when we can’t see the outcome” (Risen Motherhood).

If you’re still reading, I pray there is something God has for you in all of this to encourage you. Take a deep breath. Go outside and sit in the shade under a tree. My friend, as He speaks, listenHe is our life

work ahead.

“You’re only as loved as your last success.”

My husband Kevin read those words aloud and they brought instant emotion and conviction. He was reading the description of an Enneagram Style-3 from the book The Road Back to You, a required reading for our upcoming Young Life staff conference.

There is no denying the truth: I am prone to live by this lie every single day.

The trouble is that this lie is a never-ending cycle. It doesn’t matter if one day I’m a professional athlete, or getting married, or having a baby, or starting a new job. Days or sometimes hours after achieving the goal, the same lie creeps in: that was yesterday’s success… but what are you doing now? Who do people see you as today? Are your accomplishments today worth others loving you?

As a 3, my heart question is Who am I to this group? I am constantly aware of my public image, and when my accomplishments don’t match the public image that I seek to have, I feel deep shame. In believing this lie, I am fooled into thinking that my public image is all that I am. I can let my drive to succeed overpower everything else in my life. As a 3-wing-2, I am especially sensitive to whether others notice or approve of my successes or accomplishments.

Fortunately, this isn’t the end of the road for me. What I enjoy about the Enneagram test is it exposes your internal motivations but also says this: don’t stay there. Through self-awareness, confession, repentance, prayer, and accountability, I have the opportunity to choose God’s truth and seek healthy change.

 

T R U T H .

I am more than my success. I am more than the image others see. I am a child of God, loved not for what I do but for who I am (1 John 3:1).

Failure simply reminds me that I have a God who never fails. It reminds me of my utter dependence not on my own power, but on the transforming power of God (1 Corinthians 1:9, Romans 12:2).

I don’t need approval from other people, only from the Lord. Because of Jesus’ death on the Cross, God’s wrath was already poured out for my sin. There is no condemnation. The debt has been paid. Because of Jesus’ accomplishment on the Cross, God approves of me. His love for me is not contingent on my worldly or holy accomplishments (Galatians 1:10, Romans 8:1).

I don’t have to cut corners for the sake of getting things done. I can seek the Lord and seek patience, trusting that His timing is perfect. I can be present with my family and friends and trust that the work will get done (2 Peter 3:8-9).

 

T I M I N G .

The timing of this staff conference and the processing that followed came in the midst of a season of accomplishments: finishing a master’s degree and moving forward with a dream job opportunity doing marketing and communications for Young Life College.

As many of you know, I left a career in college athletics days before my daughter Lydia was born because my heart was in ministry. Without having a set job, I knew that God was calling me to wait and focus on learning to be a mom and finishing my master’s before asking the question: What’s next? I wondered what life would be like as a stay-at-home mom. Will I enjoy it? Will I go crazy?

About three weeks postpartum, I found myself creating work. In the midst of a financial deficit for our local Young Life area, I started putting together a team of people to support Kevin and our other local staff and came alongside my husband in support raising. Four weeks postpartum, I was ready to start back up my master’s program after a brief leave of absence. I looked forward to school work and any Young Life project I could get my hands on. I was quickly affirmed: I genuinely enjoy work.

All of this said, I had plans to finish my master’s degree around the same time as Lydia’s first birthday. The vision of walking down the University of Kansas campanile hill on graduation day with my one-year-old daughter cheering me on became my motivation. I surrendered to the Lord: I won’t try to discern what’s next for work. I will wait, pursue patience, and focus on family and ministry. When grad school is done, I will discern God’s will for what’s next.

 

T O M O R R O W .

Ironically, this Young Life conference for staff and their spouses came the same week as my finals. I almost didn’t go, but I’m so glad that I did. I had the opportunity to get away for a few days and seek the Lord on what was next.

Through learning about myself over this last year, balancing part-time work and grad school, I found that this was actually really enjoyable and healthy for me as a “Style-3.” If you know the Enneagram, this statement comes at no surprise to you as a 3. On the positive side, I desire productivity and efficiency, bringing projects to completion, and accomplishing goals. I am driven, motivated, energetic, and enjoy being busy. I am a multi-tasker who is able to think about and balance several things at once.

Pursuing advancement and more hours in my ministry career doesn’t just have to happen because my family could use the finances, but because I actually, really and truly, enjoy work.

I prayed to God for an opportunity in ministry that would provide finances yet also have the flexibility needed as a pastor’s wife and a mom to littles.

I prayed that my heart would be genuine in wanting this not out of my default, self-promoting motivations but because it’s God’s will.

I prayed that my natural motivation to accomplish goals would be used not just for my own benefit, but to serve the Kingdom of God. I want to compete for His glory, not my own.

God has and is continuing to answer those prayers in the work ahead.

With my Master’s in Business Administration out of the way, it feels so good to move forward in freedom with being a working mom, even with Baby #2 on the way. I love my job doing communications, marketing, and event planning for Young Life College and I can’t wait to see where the Lord takes my career in the future!

 

.

One of the best ways that I can love my daughter is by modeling for her a woman who chases the dreams that God places in her heart.

How can I possibly teach her to chase her dreams if I’m not chasing my own?

Thank you, Lord
for
dreams
and
dreams
come true.

make me new.

There is something in us all that loves the idea of a New Year. Perhaps it’s because God is in the business of making things new. The New Year is an opportunity for us to turn the page, set goals, and dream dreams of what could be.

This New Year’s Eve was very nostalgic for me for several reasons. Mostly because I thought a lot about where I was exactly a year ago and how different life is now. I was halfway through my pregnancy and, by way of a New Year’s Eve, all-out gender reveal, we found out that we were having a girl and named her Lydia Evelyn.

This year, I spent New Year’s Eve at Young Life Camp with my 7-month-old, beautiful, healthy, mobile and joyful baby, Lydia Evelyn.

Not only was 2018 about realizing and living into a call of motherhood, but for those who have followed my journey, you know that it was also a year of me taking a leap of faith and pursing a call into full-time ministry. After a long ten months of trusting God in 2018 with no idea where obedience would lead, being unsure if this path would equate to an actual job, the Lord provided a position within Young Life working part-time from home as the Young Life College Midwest Divisional Admin. It seemed only fitting, then, that I spent New Year’s Eve literally living out this calling, working as a Camp Director for a student weekend at Young Life’s Clearwater Cove while having a baby in arms through it all!

 

L I S T E N .

I struggle to sit still. As an achiever, I thrive on busyness and completing tasks. Even “rest” for me involves listening to a podcast while folding laundry. And, might I add, having a mobile baby and a new job doesn’t make finding time to rest any easier! So, I’ve been finding ways to trick myself into sitting still. (Whatever works, right?) My latest trick has been painting my nails. After you paint your nails, what do you do? You have to sit still to let your nails dry. If you try to do anything too quickly after, they chip. So, I packed my nail polish to camp. And, during one of Lydia’s naps, I painted my nails to keep me from doing anything else, from touching my phone, or computer, or even my pen. I pulled up a chair by the window, overlooking the lake, letting my nails dry, and just sat still.

I thought a lot about the New Year. I thought a lot about 2018 and wondered where I would be a year from now. What excites me about 2019 actually isn’t change. (Without a doubt, 2018 was about change!) But 2019 will get to be a year where I grow and settle into my new job while also watching my beautiful daughter grow. Yes, I hope to reach some milestones, specifically in finishing my master’s degree in May. But, Lord willing, I like to think that I have an idea of what 2019 holds. (Maybe I’ll look back at this statement a year from now and laugh, but here’s where I’m at now!)

So, as I sat down and asked the Lord for a word or phrase or vision for 2019, the word that came out of nowhere that He placed on my heart was the word: support.

 

L I V E .

As I prayed into this word “support” more, sitting still and overlooking the lake, I felt the peace of God. In 2018, I relied on others for an immense amount of support. Multiple baby showers and help through the last half of pregnancy, preparing for a baby, and not to mention child birth and recovery! I let others serve me and accepted numerous meals and gifts. My husband Kevin was my chief encourager, reminding me to trust God in pursuing full-time ministry, even when I doubted. Regularly, he encouraged me to finish my master’s degree, reminding me that it will be worth it, and meanwhile serving me relentlessly so that I could do so. Kevin has truly laid down his life for me this past year, as God calls all husbands to do in Ephesians 5:25, supporting me through pregnancy, postpartum, and job transitions.

And now, feeling like I have settled into a routine, a new lifestyle, and a new calling, with joy I get to recognize that it’s my time to give back and to support those around me.

Supporting Lydia will take much more of my attention now that she’s mobile. Productive hours have dwindled down to when she’s asleep or with a babysitter, and you know what, that’s OK. I have the privilege of letting go of expectations and enjoying her for the few hours of awake time I get with her each day, knowing that the work will always get done.

Another dream for 2019 is being able to support my husband more this year. He also has dreams of graduate school through seminary, and I want to be able to offer him the same support that he has offered me through these last few years. I want to help him to have the space that he needs to work, read, study, and do the things that give him life. Such is marriage, I know that there will be seasons where one of us has greater needs. I am determined in, as much as I can control, to make this year the one where I get to serve and support him.

And last but not least, I want to support my ministry, my friends, and extended family. I want to love people well. But like, really well. I want to celebrate people’s birthdays and accomplishments and milestones with a party. I want to be generous in hospitality. I want to serve without reservations. I want to attack the bitterness in my mind and be the first to see that it’s a “me-issue” and love even those that are hard to love.

In writing and reflecting, I am brought back to one of my favorite passages in Scripture:

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that One has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised… Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-17)

May I let the love of Christ control me as I strive to pursue what it means to support others in my life. Just as He, who lived a perfect and holy life, died for me, may I no longer live for myself, but live for Him who created me, saved me, and sustains me.

And again,
in 2019
Lord God,
I need your help.
Make me new.

 

“And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelations 21:5)

promotions.

Last November I tagged along with my husband to the annual Young Life College conference in New York City. Almost 13 weeks pregnant, I’d just recently had a conversation with my boss informing her that at the end softball season, I would not be continuing on as the KU Director of Softball Operations. I wasn’t leaving for another job nor was I leaving to be a stay-at-home mom. I knew that my vocational calling was in ministry. There was no job waiting for me, but I needed to have faith and trust the Lord in this calling even if it didn’t make logistical sense.

At that conference, we got to hear from a profound speaker who is on the executive leadership of Young Life. He told a compelling story of how he took a professional demotion to follow God’s calling in his life. His words have stayed with me through this season:

“A promotion in this life is getting one step closer to the thing that God has ultimately created you to do.”

God gave me confidence and clarity in that moment. Yes, I’m leaving a career that has a clean and clear road to professional prosperity and financial security. Yet it feels like this step out of college athletics and into full-time ministry is a promotion.

 

T H E . B E G I N N I N G .

For the past eight years, I have been serving in a ministry called Young Life. I became a student leader as a sophomore in college while I was also a student-athlete at the University of Kansas. My husband Kevin, who I was dating at the time, also became a volunteer Young Life Leader in the same year. Pouring our lives into college students, building relationships with them, mentoring them, and helping them grow in their faith has always been a passion that both Kevin and I have shared. This ministry is what kept us in Lawrence even after we both graduated from the University of Kansas and got married. In 2014, when we realized that full-time ministry with college students in Lawrence was our long-term calling, I was interning with Young Life and Kevin was preparing to transition out of personal training and into a full-time, paid role as KU Young Life College Director. The following year, I was a private softball coach and pursing this joint mission with most of my time alongside Kevin.

In the spring of 2016, I was offered the position as Director of Operations for the KU Softball Team and a chance to work under my former Head Coach, Megan Smith. Since I was already established in Lawrence, this opportunity was too good to pass up. I knew that taking this job in college athletics ultimately meant that I would be sacrificing Young Life, but at the same time, this job still fit into my primary calling to serve college students at the University of Kansas. In my mind, this just narrowed my focus to serving the softball student-athletes. I was excited to be around the game again at a high level and wondered what God had for me in the world of college athletics.

 

T H E . P R E S E N T .

During my two years as Director of Operations, I learned a lot about a career in college athletics and a lot about myself. I loved working under Coach Smith and of course working for my alma mater. Being around the game again was energizing and exciting for me. The Director of Operations job was difficult and tedious, but after my first year, I felt like I settled into my role and was thriving. However, I also quickly discovered that a career in college athletics meant sacrificing my gifts and calling to be in full-time ministry. While I was serving college students in a sense, I was more behind the scenes instead of in a direct mentoring and leadership role.

I missed the ability to build deep relationships with college students.
I missed leading Bible Studies and teaching students about Jesus.
I missed our weekly Young Life Clubs and engaging with new students.
I missed helping students find a community where they would be accepted and loved for who they are.
I missed spending my days working alongside my husband to reach students with the gospel of Jesus, build them up as leaders, and launch them into the real world.

Additionally, my administrative gifts that helped me succeed as a Director of Softball Operations were also needed in Douglas County Young Life. Kevin is such a natural pastor, teacher, and evangelist, but he needed help with the event planning and fundraising that comes with vocational full-time ministry. As his wife, who also feels a deep calling to this mission, I’ve felt compelled to come into more of a direct role by his side to help out in these specific areas.

We had dreamed about the upcoming transition even before the exciting news that I was pregnant with our first child! Our daughter Lydia’s anticipated arrival only confirmed that the time was now to pursue my calling because of my ability to work from home or bring Lydia on the job with me in ministry. In God’s perfect timing, Lydia’s due date was in mid-May, just after the conclusion of softball season. Sure enough, I packed up my office on May 11 and went into labor three days later! I’ve had the great joy of easing in to my new role with Young Life and in full-time ministry ever since.

 

T H E . F U T U R E .

Already, this summer has been filled with ministry to students who are in town and planning ahead for the upcoming school year. Our Young Life students love to come over to our house and hold Lydia while we talk about Jesus and life, and this brings me so much joy!

I also took over as the volunteer chair of our Young Life Committee for donor care and am using my gifts to serve on the financial side of our non-profit organization. Additionally, I am serving the greater mission of Young Life as a Personal Donor Development Coach, mentoring new Young Life Staff in their journey of fundraising personal support. While these two roles give me titles and direction, they don’t pay much. My dream is to help our organization get in a place financially where my role would turn into a part-time paid position that would be more sustainable for our family long-term. But this dream is ultimately uncertain and not guaranteed.

Regardless, I have learned this:

Permission to pursue a calling
does not come from a job title or a paid role,
but from a personal prayer life.

Seeking the Lord in prayer for the last five years since graduating college has put me on a path that has lead me here. I am more confident than ever in my gifts, my calling, and where the Lord is asking me to work and serve with the best of my time.

 

T H E . B O T T O M . L I N E .

As I step forward into this new season of motherhood, I wanted to share this important part of my journey too. Not only am I fulfilling my calling as a mother, but I’m also living freely in my calling to pursue the work that God has before me. The Enneagram-Type-3 “Achiever” in me has battled through a false need for having a paid job to be in ministry, but the Holy Spirit reminds me that’s not how the kingdom of God works.

So yes, I’m a stay-at-home mom perhaps by society’s standards. But to me, I went back to work the day I got home from the hospital. My work simply doesn’t look like the world’s work. There’s no paycheck transferred into my bank account right now, but my reward is in the joy and satisfaction of knowing that I’m walking in obedience to God’s calling on my life.

So here I am
by no means have I arrived
and yet
I’m one step closer
to what my Father in Heaven
ultimately created me to do
for His glory
and my good

Cheers to promotions.

 

“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

rise redeemed.

As the first official blog post on my new website, I will explain my heart and the meaning behind the title,  rise redeemed. 

 

R I S E .

This word and I go way back to my days as a college softball player at the University of Kansas. In the midst unceasing pressure to perform at an elite level, day in and day out, I had two options. I could let the pressure debilitate me, or I could rise in the midst of it.

The word has gathered momentum since then, featured in popular songs, or perhaps I’ve just noticed it more. Yet words that the Lord gives are never unique to us, they typically belong to Him. The idea of rise, rising, risen, or arise, is mentioned in the Bible at least 30 times.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)

The good news of Jesus is that we, who were dead in our sin, through the life of Christ, have the opportunity to arise from our darkness, guilt, and shame, because the glory of the Lord has risen upon us.

“He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.” (Matthew 28:6)

Because Jesus, who was crucified on a Cross, rose from the dead, we also are promised that we will rise with Him.

 

R E D E E M E D .

A few summers ago while serving at Young Life’s Clearwater Cove camp, we did this powerful exercise with our group of college women. Each person had a slice of wood and we each had the opportunity to engrave a word on that piece of wood. Yet the catch was this: it couldn’t be just any word, the word was specific. The word was to answer the question: how does God define you?

How you answer this question dictates what you believe about yourself at the core of your identity. This belief affects how you treat yourself, how you let others treat you, and who you surround yourself with. It reveals the level of shame that you live in. It reveals if you believe lies about yourself, or the truth. As I prayed for women around me, into the name they had chosen, among the words were worthy, known, loved.

You can probably guess at this point what my word was: redeemed.

Look y’all, I am a mess. Time and time again I strive for perfection, I strive to find my own way and do it on my own. I have made a lot of mistakes, as we all have. I spent years wallowing in guilt and shame, seeking out truth yet refusing to accept God’s grace in my heart. Yet through the years, I have come to let this word define me. I am not used or dirty or a mistake or worthless. By the blood of Jesus, I am redeemed.

Of course any word that the Lord gives to us is not unique to us. The word redeem is used in the Bible almost 70 times. It was clear from the beginning of God’s people that they fell short and were prone to turn away from God, in desperate need of a redeemer. While Old Testament laws and rituals provided temporary redemption of sins through sacrifice and sin offerings, the prophets foretold of one Redeemer, a Messiah, that was to come. He would take away sin once and for all (Romans 6:10, Hebrews 9:28, 1 Peter 3:18).

The good news of Jesus is that we, who were slaves to our sin, through the life of Christ, have the opportunity to become adopted sons and daughters of the Most High King!

“But when the fullness of time has come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

 

R I S E . R E D E E M E D .

So this is my calling. At a young age of 27 years old, married, living in a college town in Kansas, and with a baby girl on the way, I have been renamed redeemed. Even in the midst of my shortcomings, I am called to rise up out of darkness and into the light and security rooted in the person of Jesus Christ.

I write as the Spirit leads, both for Christ to reveal Himself to me, and also that He might reveal Himself to you through stories, photos, vulnerability, and Scripture.

May God bless you, and may you believe in your heart that you are redeemed, and have the strength to rise and walk in the midst of your circumstances.