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A Bear Introduced Me to Jesus

February 11, 2015

Young woman waiting for the train

I began my relationship with Jesus via a bear…not a real one but one that was a man dressed up like a bear. Now that is not the way most people start their journey with Christ, but what I know is that when I was 6 during a show at church for kids, God drew me to Himself. That’s where it began but certainly not where it ended.

We all have struggles that we just can’t seem to get past, sins that we pray would go away but are still lurking in our minds every day, and the guilt of that specific time when we really messed up. Or maybe it’s something that happened to you that wasn’t necessarily your responsibility, but you feel like you’re still tainted, scarred, and you just want it to be erased.
I grew up being the church girl, and I really did love God! I wanted to to grow in my relationship with Him and tell my friends about Him. But, probably just like you, I still remember the countless times in high school and college when I thought to myself, “Why do I keep doing this? Why can’t I stop? If others only knew how bad I really am for what I do and think…”

I wanted to obey God because I knew he saved my life when I was 6 years old. But still I would have selfish, lustful, straight-up-mean girl thoughts about others. I knew it was wrong because it wasn’t “Christian”, but I didn’t know how to stop.
I would fight myself to get rid of these “dirty” thoughts. I hid my sin because I knew it was not honoring to God, but it was just making me feel worse and worse.

I wanted a way to restart. I wanted a way to go back when I first decided to follow Jesus, to be able to STOP doing what I didn’t want to do, and to erase all the sins I kept committing. I wanted to be the girl that God wanted me to be. I knew that I would find joy and freedom there, but I didn’t know how to get there.

I began to really search what it meant to be a follower of Jesus despite my sin and the struggles I faced. I read a lot of books on what the gospel really means. I went to a church that explained the gospel so clearly in a way that I had never understood it before even though I grew up being a “church girl.”

Something began to click and I felt like I had been given a restart every single day and even every single moment. Even on my worst of days, God revealed to me how I could have a clean slate, a do-over. I knew I would still struggle with sin, but I realized that even in the midst of my struggle, Jesus gave me a gift when I first received him when I was 6 that trumps any gift I could ever receive.

One of my favorite Christian authors explained the gospel in a way that made total sense to me…

When you make the decision to receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord, he not only forgives you by wiping your “slate” clean, but then he takes your clean “slate” and writes on it “RIGHTEOUS”. So not only have your sins been completely forgiven, meaning God chose to completely remove your sin, but then he chose to mark you as PERFECT!

Stop for a second and just think about that paragraph above as deeply as you can. If you understand it, it should revolutionize your entire LIFE!

He doesn’t just forgive and forget. He literally makes you a perfect daughter in His sight, and he wants you to believe this even more so on your worst of days when you feel like a complete mess up because those days will still come.

It’s ok if you don’t have it all together. It’s ok if you mess up and just don’t understand why you still struggle even though you pray every day. God knows your struggle. He knows your pain. And he is with you the entire way. It’s a journey, and it’s all for your good.

The difference is that you no longer have to feel guilty because you aren’t!

You no longer are damned or screwed because God sent Jesus to die in your place so that you could receive Jesus’ perfect life AS YOUR OWN! There is nothing you can do to screw it up once you are His. The gospel is a mystery and entirely beautiful because through the gospel, Jesus gives us a new life, a do-over, a restart forever.

I want to end with what the Bible says about this since it actually has power compared to my mere words :-)

Here is what Romans 8:22-25 says about this with my added comments in parenthesis,
“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction

(no matter how bad you think your sin may be or how good you think you are):

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified

(or made “right”)

by his grace as a gift

(nothing we could have ever done on our own to earn this),

through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation

(which means Jesus bore all God’s wrath IN YOUR PLACE)

by his blood, to be received by faith.”

 

This amazing news will change your life the more you begin to understand it and give God the praise and glory for it.

Will you let it change your life?

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Introducing Stephanie!

December 18, 2014

***ATENTION!!! Due to our lack of tech savvy…and the stupidity of the internets, this video is the same interview posted back to back. So once you get to the end of the first interview, stop watching!!! Man…we promise to get smarter in 2015 ;) ***

 

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Same God

June 18, 2014

Do you ever study different characters in the Bible and find yourself in awe of how the stories weave themselves into a series of intimate relationships with God, massive battles, years of waiting in deserts, prisons, and the wilderness, courageous obedience to take on giants and powerful kings…and read as though it’s a different world?

I often find myself, without meaning to, seeing the God in the Bible as a different God than the one I pray to today. I see the characters and with no ill-intention set them on a higher level and think of it simply as the past.  I think of myself as just a somebody…who has had some pretty crazy encounters with God, has seen Him work miracles in my own life, bring redemption to my story, write it against all my own human planning, and yet I still separate Him from the God I read about. Every once in a while I get drawn back to this earth-shaking realization that the God who ask David to kill a giant and still chose to use him when He sinned greatly, the God who asked Esther to face a powerful ruler and risk her life, the God who made a promise to Abraham that didn’t seem humanly possible, the God who told Moses, the man with a speech impediment to demand that God’s people be let go….the God who sent his son…it’s the very same God. And then I’m reminded that in all of those stories, these “characters” on a page, were real. They were young people sitting in a field watching sheep all day,  young girls just going about their daily chores, a mother protecting her baby’s life by sending him off in a basket.

They were just people.

People who chose to step out in obedience when God called, who chose to believe with such reckless abandon that they opened the door for God to work…people who were probably scared, unsure, and sometimes maybe even stressed out. But they chose to take on the adventure. And often they chose to forget…they chose to disobey after everything God had done.

Again, I read these stories separating myself from the reality of the human beings that actually played the roles. I wonder why in the world the Israelites could forget so quickly what God had done….surely if I had walked straight through the sea I would never forget God’s faithfulness….right? Surely if I was stuck in the middle of a desert with nothing to eat and food started falling from the sky I would never complain about the provision like they did….right?

We serve the same God. They were just people. I am just a person.

I so often forget. The God who wrote those stories and asked His people to walk  in obedience is the same God who today is writing my story and asking me to walk in obedience. He is the same God who has been a comforter in loss and grief, a miracle worker in times I shouldn’t have made it, a provider in times of need, and the writer of great adventures.

How easy it is to forget in times of waiting or uncertainty. To lose sight of His faithfulness and the intricate detail that has been put into the twists and turns of my life. How many times will I have to kick myself and run back into His arms like a toddler who just realized she threw a fit for no reason? How many “Lord give me patience” prayers do I need to pray before I realize that the waiting I’m sitting in is to teach me that patience? Then I’m reminded again…of that same God who sent a son to fulfill my need for a savior. My need for redemption.

This may be just me, needing to write out a reminder of the fact that God is so much bigger than I tend to allow Him to be, that I often to put things in their neat little “Kelsey made” boxes so they fit into what I can comprehend…but I want to encourage you to take a moment today and realize that you are a part of something huge. You play a role and have the choice to step into that role, take on courage in the midst of fear and doubt, obey and accept that you are a Child of God just as much as those characters on a page. You get to choose to be patient in the waiting for promises, be courageous in the face of seemingly impossible battles, and be comforted in the times when it seems like you have been forgotten.

 

 

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The Distraction of Being Influenced

June 4, 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how much we are influenced by everything around us.  We are all pretty aware that media has a huge influence and it’s talked about often. But when I really start breaking everything down, conversations I have with girls, my own desires or insecurities…I start to notice a pattern. They all stem from some sort of influence.

As I scrolled through Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter today with the mindset of how things influence….several things started to stand out…Ads about ways to use makeup to completely change your face, diet testimonials, girls status’ joking about being single and “needing” a boy, scripture being used out of context to fit and justify someone’s desires….

And then I see other influencers…a business birthed out of someone’s pain and desire to encourage others, Mom’s reaching out to other moms for support, encouraging ads trying to shift what the media tells us our bodies should look like, single girls embarking on adventures across the globe to live life and serve others…influences that tell us to be encouraged where we are and live fully with what we’ve been given.

If we truly took a moment to strip away the negative (sometimes disguised as positive) influences and ask ourselves if we would make the same decisions or have the same desires if we hadn’t seen those ads or read someone’s status, or listened to that well-meaning advice, I think how we live and the steps we would take would be drastically different.

By now you all know that I am a huge advocate for living your single life well and living it fully, so I’ll go with that example for the moment.  I am constantly shocked with how bombarded single people are with the pressure and push to find a mate. Whether it is through media, during family gatherings, or very commonly…in church…the typical questions are spilled out with all good intentions, however sad repercussions…”So, do you have a girl/guy in your life?”, “When are you going to settle down and get married?”, “I’ve been praying for a spouse for you”, You’re being too picky”…. or there are the sadly misleading comments from married couples that lead you to believe that marriage is a fixer, a completer or a fulfiller…. “She’s my better half”, “He completes me”, “Now that we’re together, I’m happy”, “Life was miserable, until he came along.”

Then there are the ones that always ruffled my feathers and made me feel like I was diseased after I responded with “no, I do not have a romantic interest in my life”…”Oh, that’s ok, I’ll be praying for you”, “Why would someone like you still be single?”, “Maybe you aren’t trying hard enough”, “I’ll set you up”, “If you keep working and traveling so much , you’ll never meet someone.”

These cause us to feel pressured, unworthy, weird, or not living up to what is expected.

Girls, I would like to apologize to you all for the times you’ve been made to feel like you aren’t complete, valued, and seen due to your lack of the opposite sex clinging to your arm. And I would also like to go out on the ledge here and say that all the ads that are constantly bombarding you with how to put your make-up on to look better, or what swimsuit to wear to look sexier, or what you should and shouldn’t do to get the prize that apparently many think is a spouse….they are one of satan’s greatest tools- distraction; used to get your eyes off Jesus and the full, adventurous, crazy life He has set before you. It’s a distraction to keep you from living, growing, challenging yourself, and becoming a more beautifully, independent, identified, complete in Christ, human being.   I know that if I sat down with the majority of you, you would argue that it is something that you can’t help but desire, or you can’t get your mind off of it, or you just want companionship….or that God has put it in your future to have that spouse.  I want to challenge you to do some stripping away and digging. Some real diving into your heart, by yourself, without anyone else. Ask yourself “why?”…why do I have that desire or longing. Ask “where?” Where did that come from. Ask “who?” Who has been speaking into my life. And ask “how?” How are those voices influencing my desires.

Hear me out…God may very likely have someone for you. He may want to gift you with that companion and teammate, He may have someone who will allow you both to live out His plan for your life even better together. BUT….that person He may have for you….may need you to walk through some lessons in patience so that you can help challenge him, maybe you need to travel and experience new cultures because you will be more prepared and mature when God asks you and your spouse to move to another country, maybe you need to live with friends and experience the conflicts and difficulties of sharing life because you grew up an only child…..I could go on and on with examples of the maybes and what ifs. My point is that if we serve an almighty God who loves you so much that He created you just as you are and wants the best for you….than maybe, maybe we should set aside some of those influencers and get back to the heart, ask Him what He wants to do in YOU, as an individual, during this season of life.  You can choose to make your single years some of the most beautiful, treasured, growth filled years of your life…which will allow your possible future spouse to have a more complete, well-rounded, secure individual to walk the other seasons of life with.

There are some girls I grew up with who have decided to live fully and as I’ve recently been watching their social media and reading their updates I’ve found myself wishing I could display their journey for all of you to see…I’ve been watching them travel together to the other side of the planet, give up the comforts of life as young girls and go love others, serve the orphaned, watch sunsets on safaris, face travel issues and miss their families. But mostly what I see is girls finding their fulfillment and identity in Christ and taking hold of the season by the horns. It’s beautiful to watch and I pray that if it is in their future, that their future spouse would be doing the same, living life fully, because they are going to make an awesome team with great adventures to embark on.

Don’t let go of desires….don’t just ignore longings, but search where they are coming from and why they are there.  Find solid married couples who will walk with you as an individual and be honest with you about the challenges and joys of marriage, search your weaknesses and be intentional about working on those, challenging yourself. Explore! Go out and explore this big world…maybe God is just waiting for you to take the step so He can reveal to you a whole new passion for your future. Don’t wait to start life. There are so many opportunities waiting, don’t take timing and control into your own hands. Walk forward living life now, with whatever circumstances you are in and know that God is so big, He doesn’t need our help rushing timing or trying to twist things in our own control, He needs your heart, willing and obedient, free of distraction, ready to run with abandon towards a full life He has laid out before you.

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The Friday Overflow: DIY Curtain Facelift

May 23, 2014

There is always a project going on at our house whether it’s for us or a project for a friend or client…I recently did a full decoration job on a friend’s office and had several fabric dying projects….so since I had the stuff out and the mess made, I figured I would give our curtains a little facelift and add some more color to our room.

I had two plain, pure white, sturdy curtains that I had found years ago on sale…Ikea also sells perfect curtains for this project. I love white curtains especially when the light shines through, so I didn’t want to fully take away that feel. You can go as full coverage as you would like or as much of an ombre as you want.

Supplies:

  • tarp or plastic drop cloth
  • large bucket
  • salt
  • Dye (I use Tulip or Rit)
  • stir stick/plastic spoon
  • hot water
  • hose
  • curtains

 

Directions for the dye may vary depending on the brand you get, but generally you fill the bucket with hot water and sprinkle in some salt. Then add the dye.

I dampened the curtains with cold water first, it helps the dye soak in more evenly.

If you are doing a faded style dip it in all the way up to where you want the dye to end. Timing will vary depending on the richness of color you want. I started out dipping and only leaving it in for a couple of minutes and then pulling out a few inches, adding more time for each layer so it gets darker as you go.

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When I was done I liked most of the teal, however it was a little too bright still. I already had a bucket of dark grey so I dipped a few layers in the grey to add a deeper tone. Don’t be afraid to mix colors, just allow it to dry between.

When you are finished with each color hang it over a railing and hose it off, being careful to not splash any on the white or un-dyed section. Hose it with the cold water until you don’t see color running out anymore. Then leave on a railing to air dry.

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Once it’s mostly air-dried throw it in the dryer to set it al finish up the drying process and ta-da. You are done.

Enjoy your easy, face-lifted curtains (or whatever else you get creative with)The finished product. A fun splash of color


 

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Our Beautiful Mess

May 21, 2014

We walked down the well-worn path telling story after story as Matt listened in, getting a glimpse into our past life. It was a weighted feeling of joy mixed with emotion and pain remembering the many life altering moments…standing in front of the dorm where Jenna and I first met freshman year…where we immediately became best friends, walking by the steps into the woods where I got the call that hit me like a ton of bricks, stepping into the quiet library where I spent late nights trying to cram as much information as I could into my exhausted brain, driving past spots where Jenna and I took study breaks to have random photo shoots…

It was a reminder that we have conquered many obstacles and had too many memories to count…

We walked down the hall of the Science center…again, spilling our stories to Matt about how we made up songs for an exam in this room, we had a night class in this room….our favorite professor that we nannied for has her office here…And then we noticed the door was opened. We stepped into the doorway to knock and the reality that we had stood in this same place together so many years ago hit hard….we have stood in the trenches, in the struggles, through the fights, through the tears….and we are still standing…here…together…I think our professor was just as emotional when she turned her chair and saw the two of us…five years later…standing together. She had watched us struggle through group projects, have fun outings with her little girl, and go on international ventures as best friends and at times….somewhat enemies.

It was a short trip and short visit to show Matt the college we went to, yet packed full of years of memories that continue to solidify the weight of having a best friend.  Which led us into the next day…My little brother graduated college and I could not be more proud, but that is another story for another time. A few months ago we had let two of his friends stay at our house in Nashville, however, we weren’t there when they stayed so it was our first time meeting them. Two, sweet, best friends who reminded me so much of the college best friends from long ago. I knew they needed to meet Jenna so they came over late that night and we all cozied up in the living room with our bowls of ice cream to share stories. It was like passing on a legacy of friendship…sharing our stories and the hard times, letting them know there are obstacles that seem like they are impossible to jump over and it may be the end…but that a friendship like that is worth fighting for….especially as the transition out of college and into the next chapter begin. It was encouraging to hear stories from other best friends that they have often felt misunderstood or made fun of for being a cutesy little pair. People not understanding how deep-rooted that friendship is. We shared stories of what it looks like to bring a boy into the picture, the challenges with one best friend leaving for a new season and adventure, and the little moments that take place that should be treasured….

I’m sitting here writing to you girls, trying to figure out some profound thing to share, instead just rambling on about stories from my weekend as my best friend Jenna works across from me studying for school. I’m amazed at how different life looks now compared to when we met almost 9 years ago. We are still working to reach the next dream or goal, many of our dreams and goals have changed, our locations have changed, we have changed. But the one steady thing…the one thing that hasn’t changed from that fateful first hang out in my dingy freshman dorm…is that we are meant to live life together. We are best friends and always will be. And not just your “split heart necklace” best friends…but raw, emotional, messy best friends. Often times I think we are alone…and then we meet others like last night and we get to challenge and encourage each other to keep fighting for the thing that has been lost in our society and generation….true, loving, real relationship.

Whether you are moving to the next grade, graduating high-school and heading into the scary college or new job years, or graduating college and heading into what we like to call “real life” (as if college wasn’t real life enough)…I challenge you to fight for the people God knit into your life, the people who see you for you. Jesus gives us the perfect example of community and relationship. He had his relationship with the Father first and foremost, but then he had his two closest friends/disciples, and then his 12….You will lose touch with many, some will drift apart, others will be gone for a season and come back in down the road…but then there are those unique, special ones that continue to grow with you as you maneuver through life’s obstacle course. Hold tight to those. Those are the ones that will challenge you, keep you accountable and help you grow…while bringing a richness to life and knowledge of love you never knew existed.

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the friday overflow: buffalo dip

May 16, 2014

all right y’all.  this recipe is a favorite amongst so many i know.  it is the one thing that i make for any BBQ, any dinner party, any picnic, and really anytime i need to bring a dish to an event.  my husband can eat this as a meal and has already given the recipe for this glorious dip via instagram… but if you haven’t seen it yet… hear ya go.

ingredients:

1 rotisserie chicken

2 8oz packages of softened cream cheese

1 package of shredded cheddar cheese

1 jar of “wing time” buffalo sauce (of course you can use another brand if you prefer… but i’m tellin ya that this specific kind makes all the difference in the world- you can find it at whole foods)

1 bag of delicious chips of your choice

 

shred all of the white meat on the chicken

blend together the cream cheese and buffalo sauce until smooth

fold in chicken and 3/4 of the bag of shredded cheddar

once all mixed together pour into a 9×13 pan and even out

top with the remaining cheddar cheese

bake at 350 degrees for 35 min

enjoy!