Monday, October 28, 2013

Fall Retreat

Yep, it's that time again. Time to break out the L.L.Bean Boots, hop in a 12 passenger van, and flee the city for a weekend away in...what do they call that...oh yes, nature. 
'Twas our annual Cru Fall Retreat and this year was just incredible. 
Here I am with Old Faithful. 
They have me drive students around in one of these every year. Half of me is fearing for our lives that I don't tip it while turning around some sharp corner, but the better half of me enjoys it so much. I love being one of the first people to greet students as they enter into their Fall Retreat weekend. 
I think this might be one of my favorite pictures of the weekend. I laugh so hard every time I look at it. Thank you, Katy for the warm welcome. And thank you Emily. Just thank you. Haha!
The theme of the weekend was Love Never Fails. We got to hear from Detroit pastor Kevin Butcher and lemme tell you what, the man has a gift. He is one of those people who just gets it. He understands the difficult stuff and this weekend he reminded and taught us how to let the Lord into all of that. It was perfect for the season God has me in. I left some of the lies I was believing at the camp and came back to Chicago letting truth about God fill the gaps the lies were filling. I left feeling freedom in continuing to let Him into my grief and not rushing the process. I left encouraged to take off the masks I wear that prevent people from seeing and knowing the real me. I left with a challenge to step into my full femininity, and to not hold back in giving the to the world a beauty that compels it toward knowing God more. 
The man himself, Kevin. 
Soaking it all in. 
Cru DePaul killing it at Ultimate Frisbee! And Debbie with her Christmas blanket. #nevertooearly
^^Clay figuring out his next move. ^^

^^The classic Sully action shot^^

^^These socks. No explanation needed. ^^
^^LOVE these women!^^ 
^^Let's be honest, I can't get enough of this woman and her Christmas blanket.^^
^^One of my favorite parts of the weekend was taking a long walk with this beauty.^^

So pretty and autumny!
Watch bird. 
^^My little Tipi Wakans^^
^^Gettin' our breakfast on^^
Here's me and my action group. Daaaaaaah stop it I love you all so much! #tearyeyed
Allie, the girls, and half of that beautiful face of Kiersten's. You might be cut off in this picture Kiersten, but you're not cut off in my heart. 
^^Marcelo, Katy, and Sanna with bangs. This pic makes my heart happy.^^
Bless the Lord, O my soul. This weekend was much needed. 
Thank you, Lord that your love never fails. Thank you for meeting all of us right where we were at. In our grief, in our celebration, and everywhere in between. We walked away more in awe of You. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chicago Marathon 2013.

 The 2013 Chicago Marathon. 'Twas a bittersweet event for me this year. 
PK and I signed up at the beginning of the year determined to run it together once again. Then in March, wonderful news came of a sweet little baby that was to be born in November. As much as I would have loved to run that marathon alongside my husband, I was all the more excited to be a proud pregnant wife cheering on our baby's soon-to-be-dad. Then May came around and the Lord decided that Heaven would be a better place for that precious baby. 
PK and I then began to train together. Weekday mornings before work. Rising early on Saturdays before the sun. It was our time. No phones. No computers. Just us and the trail. Training for marathons together has been one of the best things for our marriage. Conversations are real. They are raw. They are undistracted. Sometimes difficult. Sometimes light-hearted. The Lord met us there and it's there where we've grown.

As training was taking place this year, so was physical therapy for me and my shins. After months of exercises, correcting how I run, crazy painful leg massages and the like, the doctor put the kibosh on me running the marathon. I find it odd I was so sad I wasn't going to be able to run 26.2 miles. But it was more than running 26.2 miles. It was a significant symbol for PK and me of persevering through an incredibly hard season. Together. But, the Lord decided that we were to do that in a different way than we expected. With me cheering and him running. The sweet thing is that we still persevered. Together.
Here are a few {or more than a few} snapshots of marathon mania 2k13.

^PK shaved a lucky marathon mustache the night before. ^
^This girl ran on Dunkin that day.^

^I joined up with some of my faves to cheer everyone on. Here's Kassie, Stephanie & Neal^
^Best poster ever^
#1 fans.

^Here's Clay. Nope! Not gonna stop!^
^I cannot believe how happy our friend Steph looked at mile 20!!^
                   ^There's Kanani!^                        ^Sanna & her proud Mama!^

^Here's one more^
^When Jeff finally heard us screaming his name. Pure excitement!^
^Saw PK for the first time at mile 20. I think we both needed this smooch. ^
Thank you Jenna for snapping this sweet lil pic! 
^The man. The mustache. ^

^Neal. Tee Hee^
^Here's lovely Stephanie as we were waiting for the runners at the end of the race.^
^Jenna. Ain't she so pretty?!^
^PK owning Chicago. And automatically aging 20 years due to faint mustache. Thumbs up.^

I am so so so proud of my people. {And everyone who ran that thing} As much as it was a bummer not running this year, I feel like the joy and excitement for everyone overpowered that. It was so fun cheering and hopping from el train to el train with people I love to find the people we love who were running. It was a great day. I felt such a togetherness and I think that's exactly what was needed. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

He sees us.

At DePaul, we've been going over the names of God in my Bible Study this quarter and I didn't think it would have as much of an impact on me as it has. How sweet of God to be near to my heart in this way during this season of life. We studied the name of God called El Roi which means "the God who sees".

It's just been an incredibly difficult year and my heart needed more than ever to be reminded that God  sees me. He knows where I am at. He loves me. He is near to me. And He wants to be in this with me.
And it is the same for you too. He sees you, my friends. He knows. He loves.
 He holds your heart and will not let go.

Today I am excited to be writing and sharing my heart about El Roi over at my sweet friend Jill's blog. We were on staff with Cru together for a year here in Chicago and it was one of the sweetest years for me. We did life together, we baked countless Pinterest recipes together, we told college students about the incredible love of Jesus together, we cried, we laughed and everything in between. I look back on my year with Jill with such sweet memories. She and her hubby just moved to the far away land of Michigan, so I LOVE that she has started her blog Radical Everyday Living. Now I can keep up with her life and all of her and the hubby's Michigan shenanigans!

Happy Friday, friends!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Influence Conference Wrap-Up

A few weeks ago I attended The Influence Conference and once again my heart was rocked in the best ways a heart can be rocked. From my incredible roommates, to the speakers, to the seminars, to meeting Shauna Niequist, to singing worship, to hearing about incredible organizations who are the hands and feet of God in big time ways, to seeing old friends and meeting new ones. It. was. all. so. great. 

I was just thinking 'Oh man, where do I begin'? But, let's be honest, I already knew where I wanted to begin and that is with the sweet women I got the privilege to room with. It seriously feels like we've known each other forever. We laughed harder than I have laughed in a really long time and we got to the deep places of our hearts as well. Oh, what a good reminder that with great depth comes great joy! Thank you for that reminder, sweet friends. Thank you for letting the Lord use you to make me feel normal and loved right where I am at. Thank you for encouraging me to be a woman who strives to be more like Jesus. Thank you for your listening ears as I processed my heart and mind and thank you for laughing at my jokes.
I am a changed woman because of all of you.
Here are the beauties themselves. Oh, I just love you all! 

I can't forget Ali and her daughter, Emma! They were still on their flight to Indy so that's why they weren't in the photo above. Let's talk about Ali. She is my sister from another mister and it's not just because we bought the same headbands. 
Meet Emma. This is only one of the many baby selfies I had her take. If you are my friend, and you have a baby, baby selfies will be happening. Dah! Look at that chin! She is so stinkin' cute! 

Not only were my roommates the highlight of my life that week, also hearing the incredible speakers was so so good for me. They kicked my butt, reminded me of Truth, and put me in my place about my identity being in Christ and Christ alone. And they did all of that with a beautiful grace. 

Something everyone and their mom knew I was excited for was to meet Shauna Niequist. 
If you're wondering if I cried, the answer is "duh." God has used this woman in my life to speak so sweetly to my grieving heart. She made me feel like I wasn't alone after losing Elston, and that what I was feeling was normal and okay to feel. So, go out and get her books: Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine.
 You'll love them. 
In Shauna's interview at the conference, she spoke of being intentional with the community God has given us. She reminded us that we have to work at that intentional community. We gotta log in the hours if we want it to be rich. She also spoke of writing and the gifts God has given us. If you want to be a good writer, you've got to do some reading. And lots of it. Even if it's not the particular genre in which you write. She encouraged us to not let someone else's rules determine and define what we love and how we do what we love. We need to do our thing and do it well. Keep honing in on our giftings. We don't want to look back one day and say "I had an opportunity to do that and I was scared, so I didn't." Lastly, she reminded us that the world needs to hear what we have to offer and if it costs something, that means we are on the right track. 

Another seminar that hit a soft spot in my heart was when Annie Downs spoke on our words having a great impact on others. Proverbs 18:21 says "The tongue can bring death or life." Every time we speak we are either creating life or death. My generation can be the generation that leads the next to be women who are life-givers and life-speakers. My generation needs to be this for the next generation. What we write on our blogs, on social media, what we say when we engage in conversations, what we think, the thoughts in our minds that don't come out of our mouths but affect our actions. We can bring life with all of these things and we need to fight for it. You all, I don't think there was a dry eye in the room when Annie spoke. Lord Jesus, change my heart, change my thoughts, change the words that come out of my mouth because I want to be a woman who inspires, encourages, tells Truth, and I don't  want to sit back and just watch. I want to be a part of this change. Thank you Annie for being willing to get up there and speak these crucial and essential words to my soul. Thank you. 

{Here's the whole gang loading up on coffee, Jesus, and our sweet lil friendship.}

There were so many more incredible women who spoke, but this post is already a novel as is. Perhaps I will do a round two of this Influence Conference wrap up. Because I just don't think it's wrapped up all the way yet! I am excited to tell you more! 

I pray that even these snippets I wrote of what these women taught me sink deep in your heart today. 
Join me in believing the truth about God and who He is, about who we are, and let us let our words be a sweet song to the hearts of others today.