Friday, April 9, 2021

Filled Up to Pour Out


 SPRING IS HERE!!

     With that in mind, I'd love to encourage you guys to go check out one of my favorite worship songs- Springtime by Chris Renzema. Give it a listen! It points me towards God in the small things like sunshine and flowers during this time of year.

    I've been sharing a lot in my blogs about the growth that is happening internally in our ministry- how the girls in my core are growing, learning, and maturing- but it's been really powerful watching the external effects that come along with that.

    About a week or 2 ago we had an entire week devoted to outreach at UTA. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision mid-year and forget that there’s still people all around our campus that God wants to meet and bring into his kingdom. Maybe it’s easy to feel like that in your workplace or school too. For that reason, I’m so glad one of our pastors at UTA, Emily, proposed that we spend a week focused on reaching new people.



     We had a display propped up by the dining hall with the question, “What do you think God is like and why?” People passed by and some had no interest whatsoever, but some were willing to stop for a conversation! Sometimes it seems like not much comes from something like this, but I don’t doubt that God used multiple conversations by these boards to plant seeds. Some people we’ve even gotten to invite into our cores and fellowship times too! Beyond reaching new students, it was a neat opportunity for our current students to practice evangelism and boldly make new friends. I was so thrilled to watch some of my girls step out of their comfort zones and engage in conversations with people they didn't know. Often, it was weird and awkward, but I don’t think God needs people with expert social skills or eloquent words to do something significant.  

     During our core time on Tuesday night that week, instead of having our usual discussion/worship, we went on campus and invited new people who passed by to play games with us like volleyball, Uno, and corn hole. 4 girls came by and played volleyball with us for a while. Their names were Laura, Janae, Allie, and Aubrey. They all expressed difficulty making friends this year and were so shocked to see something happening on campus. I was able to get their numbers to stay in contact- please pray for the spirit to place desire in their hearts for God and/or for community! Another guy named Scott came too. Scott doesn’t believe in God, but he seemed to enjoy his time spent with us that night (and again on Wednesday night when he hung out with another core while they were eating on campus). Please pray for him also!


    Pouring out was good and fruitful work, but I’m so thankful we had the chance to fill up before hand. My core took a weekend trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma! It was such a fun time and I genuinely believe God used it to deepen relationships in our core so that the girls have more freedom to be vulnerable with one another and experience community to a fuller extent. 








Prayer:

  • For your own outreach- ask God to put someone or a group of people on your heart/mind in your office or break room, your neighborhood, or wherever else you find yourself often, to reach out to; invite someone new into your life that you can reflect God’s love to
  • For the people we met at outreach this past week
  • For our last month with students to be impactful!




Monday, March 8, 2021

Real Growth

Hey you guys!

February was a SWEET month and not just because of all the Valentine's candy. (Comment your favorite Valentine's candy!! Mine are Reese's Hearts for sure.)
This month was one of growth for my girls, so I figured I would just use this blog post to talk about how I’ve seen all that growth. I know this post looks like a lot of words, but I really think this one has some neat stuff in it!!

    Let’s start with Lizzy. Lizzy is a girl in my core who has been meeting up with my co-fa, Sam, weekly studying the Bible, but recently I have been spending some time with her too. I had noticed her attitude and heart slowly shifting throughout the year in core, but I’ve gotten a much closer look at that transformation as I’ve spent one on one time with her. I asked her how involvement in campus ministry has changed  her life and she said this: “In high school, I never really cared about my faith. I was definitely a Luke-warm follower of Christ. But ever since joining campus ministry I have felt like God was calling me back. I have seen God work in my life by pushing me to dig deeper into myself and my relationship with him. I have never felt more worthy as a person. I talk to people about my faith which I never used to do, because I want them to feel loved and worthy too.” I mean…WHAT. Are you crying too? Lizzy is from Connecticut and has kept in contact with a few of her friends from there. They saw things she posted on her social media and noticed her bringing God into their text/phone conversations that didn’t quite match up with who she was in high school. She’s been able to share her story of coming to know God intimately with her friends all the way across the country and some of them are even expressing an interest in beginning to take their faith more seriously because of her!!! It is definitely not a mistake or coincidence that Lizzy ended up at UTA of all places over much more convenient, local school options! I think that is divine intervention- God’s pursuit of her heart and of those she has and will impact.


Lizzy, Sam, Me, Sarah
Gal-entines event!
(masks taken off just for a quick pic!)



Lizzy also has a roommate- Sarah! I’ve been studying the Bible one on one with Sarah for this whole school year. Sarah had a very real relationship with Jesus before getting involved in FOCUS, but recently I’ve seen things start to click in her mind and heart in a whole new way. Not only is she developing as a disciple of Jesus, but now as a leader in the kingdom. I’ve noticed recently as we have been meeting that she is taking more time to think and reflect on the questions asked in our bible study. She is really letting things simmer in her brain before giving a “correct” Christian answer. Upon reflecting on her school year, she decided to make a goal of meeting and befriending new people both inside and outside of the FOCUS community because she sees the value Jesus places on discipleship and relationships- which is SUCH a great goal for anyone, but especially for someone more introverted. The following week she came to an outreach event on campus! She also said upon reflecting that right now is the most engaged she has ever been in her faith, and I’ve had the honor of a front row seat in watching this! I continue to see her step out of her comfort zone as she takes initiative. She recently brought her journal to core and asked each of us there to tell her something she could write down to be praying over throughout the week. 
GOD IS AT WORK HERE Y’ALL!

I wish I had time to talk about every girl in my core, but I think I’ll wrap up with just a few shorter thoughts. You’ve probably seen these names thrown around in my blog before. Vanessa has expressed difficulty in interacting with some of her old friends from high school because her values and lifestyle have changed so much. I am saddened at the tension she’s experiencing, but I am encouraged by how drastically God has changed her heart in just a few months. Melina has been initiating conversations with me about specific events in which she wants to intentionally think and act like Jesus.
I am blown away at what God is doing. Those of you who support me financially and prayerfully- thank you so much!!! The Lord is using what you give to move in radical ways over here in Arlington. You are so appreciated.






Sunday, January 31, 2021

Back in Action

Hello Everyone,

I cannot believe another month has gone by!

    To start...because our work on campus gets a little slower in the winter with students going home for the holidays- our staff takes a retreat that equips us more as ministers before they get back for the next semester.
I love my fellow apprentices!

    So quite obviously, large group events are more complicated this year. Planning something like an all-staff retreat had its difficulties, and over half of our staff chose to participate in our discussions via zoom, but luckily all of the newbies on our FOCUS staff team (as pictured) were in a healthy and safe position to attend in person! It was an incredibly restful experience and reignited my passion for campus ministry after not having students around for so many consecutive weeks in a row. 
We had a devotional time in the mornings where each staff person told their story of how they got involved in campus ministry and some common themes stuck out to me. Currently for me, these themes apply to campus ministry, but I think they could apply to wherever you choose to do your own ministry..so DON'T MISS THIS READERS! Here's what kept coming up: being warm and welcoming, being relational, and inviting people into day to day life. These are things I often get sloppy on and take for granted, but God has used these things OVER and OVER again to impact souls, draw them into community, and more importantly, into His kingdom. 
How are you living out those themes? What does that look like to be warm and welcoming at your school? To be relational in your work place? To invite your next-door neighbors into your day to day life?

Can you tell I'm becoming more comfortable with this whole "pastor" thing?


    Shortly after we got back from our retreat, students came back to campus! It has been so good to get back into meeting up with people face to face!


    Cores and one on ones have started up again and I've been encouraged by the girls' eagerness to be back in community with one another. Some of these girls are really developing an authentic love for God for the first time in their lives and I would love if you chose to pray alongside me for that work in their hearts to continue this semester. As I've watched this unfold, my goal for a few of these girls has transitioned into developing them not solely as women that love Jesus, but ones that are also strong leaders and disciple makers.

Big News!!

    I am BEYOND excited to announce that I am officially staying on staff with FOCUS for the 2021-2022 school year at UT Arlington! I know God will continue do awesome things here and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. I will continue fundraising my support and if you are excited about the idea to either continue or start supporting me financially, feel free to text me, email me, or comment on my blog! I'm so thankful for those of you who have chosen to support me this school year during my apprenticeship and I am eager to partner with some of you for longer.

PRAYER:

  • For our FOCUS staff and students to be wise with Covid-19 precautions and also for protection from the virus so that ministry will not be any more hindered
  • For my ministry to be purposefully extended to my roommates (who are also students) rather than just to my core and the girls I study the Bible with











Sunday, January 10, 2021

Half Way!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (Kind of..)

    First I would like to say that I am deeply saddened at the events that have taken place in our country. This spiritual and political climate is one that brings me to my knees in prayer. We are in deep need of the hope Jesus promises. 

    While there certainly is bad news in the world that I do not wish to ignore, I do still think there is space to share good news. SO...I'm about half way through my 10 month commitment with F.O.C.U.S. and man this is both exciting and scary. I really think this year has been a catalyst to growth in my faith. 
December was an interesting month because hardly any students were around. Most of them went home and stayed home after Thanksgiving, so we met up with students virtually. This was a bummer, but I know it was wise considering we would be seeing our families for Christmas and over our breaks. 
I miss my girls a bunch, but here are some highlights of virtual meet ups:

Sam and I "hung out" with Sarah for a while just catching up, sharing about our breaks, reflecting on time with our families...and looking at funny sheep. I know it's silly, but I am convinced that God loves humor and can use it as a way to do ministry and soften people's hearts. That is my honest justification of how that sheep picture is spiritual.



    Another neat thing done over the course of this past month was a book club! Our UTA team decided to offer students opportunities to engage with community in purposeful ways. Each staff member led a different activity- some through scripture and some through books. I've been leading a book club through Love Does by Bob Goff. I have been so in awe of how God is using these simple stories to foster deep conversation and convict myself and our students to love the people around us more and better.


    This is Thu and I on a Face Time. This is her dog Tuna that I got to meet over the phone. I love them both!! I know I've introduced Thu in my other posts. It was sweet to see her on FaceTime, but I'm ready to get back to studying scripture with her in person! Honestly I've had a bad attitude in the past about technology, but getting to use it to maintain so many relationships recently has made me so thankful for the gift it is.


In other news...

I learned a lot through our Holy Spirit class. We read Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God by Gordon Fee and the book along with our class discussions really brought to my attention how often we pay lip service to belief in the Holy Spirit, but don't actually live in a way that expresses or acknowledges that belief. God is so gracious and humble to work through his spirit on Earth so frequently, yet not get hardly any recognition for it. I'm growing to attribute more of the things around me to the Holy Spirit and I am working to bring even just his name into conversation more.


CAN YOU PRAY?

 - The biggest thing we can ask for right now is just prayers over this spring semester- for God to use FOCUS to bring the Kingdom to this campus despite the obstacles present. Pray for myself and our 6 other campus pastors to be well rested and excited to pour into students around us over this next month. Pray for God to show up in BIG ways this semester and move in the hearts and lives of students that greatly surpasses our expectations and shows us more of who God is.




Hope you all had a wonderful holiday,
I can't wait to share about the rest of this semester as it begins to get rolling!











Saturday, December 12, 2020

Much to Celebrate

MERRY almost CHRISTMAS, YOU GUYS!

    It's getting very close to the end of the semester, so we had to have our last in-person core right before Thanksgiving. We reflected on the year so far and I was touched by how these girls expressed so much gratefulness towards what I call our "little pocket of community" (or our core). They talked about how thankful they are for the friendships they've made here and for a place to experience Jesus together. This was encouraging to me because that really is the vision of FOCUS coming to life- bringing students into an environment that loves God deeply and loves people well. I've seen each of these girls grow in how they think about and live out their faith in Christ. I'm sad to have an extended break because of the pandemic, but we will continue to meet virtually in December.

Sam and I  started this fire for s'mores by ourselves with no instruction.
Are we ridiculous for doing so? YES.
Am I very impressed with us? Also YES.

In other news...


    I AM ENGAGED! 

    (Eeeeeeeekkk!!)


    For those of you who have never been introduced, this is Austin! He is thoughtful, servant-hearted, and such a goofball. He also is involved in campus ministry with FOCUS. He leads and loves on other students so well and I am ecstatic about calling him my husband one day! The Holy Spirit has taught me so much about being a selfless disciple and a faithful friend through Austin. 

Love you, pal!


   

 

    And here's something sweet to bring the conversation back to ministry- This wonderful girl brought me flowers and a card to say congrats on engagement! 

This is Thu. I'm studying FOJ (Focus on Jesus, a one on one bible study) with her this year. She grew up in a Buddhist home, but is exploring Jesus right now. She's great. I can't wait to tell you more about her!

Student in the Spotlight: 

    It has been so neat and refreshing studying the Bible with Thu because she's seeing so many stories about God through a fresh lens. I often breeze over familiar passages of scripture, numb to the impact they may have, but Thu is reading a lot of these stories for the first time. My favorite thing is when she told me that she found a lot of hope in Jesus and the things we talk about in core- AND SHE MEANT IT. It was so convicting to me. I don't know how often I sit and experience the hope Jesus offers because it's just my norm. Thu's hunger for the word of God is life-giving to me and I am so happy to call her my friend. Pray that God continues to work in/through this relationship.


PRAY PRAY PRAY:

  •  For the students in our ministry going home to hard family circumstances and/or isolation from Christian community over the holidays. Pray for our leaders to love on them well from a distance/virtually.
  • For the book clubs, scripture readings, and fun events we have planned virtually over the break. Our pastors have thoughtfully prepared things for our students over the next month or 2 that we think could really serve them. I'll be leading a book club!
  • For Austin and I! Please pray that we are selfless and honoring to our friends, our families, and God as we wedding plan. Pray that we are doing things now that set us up for a successful, godly marriage.


Seriously appreciate you guys!
























Tuesday, November 3, 2020

God Works Through Friendships

Another Month, Another Blog!

October was an incredible month in ministry. I can't wait to share all about it.

    To start, we had our Fall Park Day. Typically we have a Fall Camp around this time of the year where students will spend an entire weekend at a retreat center to worship together, play games, and make new friends...but this year with Covid in the mix, of course we had to change some of that. UTA put on a single "Park Day" instead of a weekend retreat where we incorporated a lot of the same ideas. We spent a whole Saturday at Mount Lebanon in Cedar Hill and I was SO encouraged by the fruit that came from this. Six girls from my core came (plus Sam and myself) and it was so clear that this event was impactful to each of them spiritually and relationally. They shared with me after about how the mini-sermons and some of our student leader's testimonies convicted and encouraged them in their own walks with God. It was also evident that our whole community at large felt more connected to one another and got to taste the goodness of real community and build deeper friendships within our ministry. God is so good for the clear weather he provided for us to be able to be outside for most of the activities. The indoor activities we cautiously approached with masks and, PRAISE GOD FOR 0- I REPEAT, ZERO- COVID SCARES in response to this larger event!!!

Here's some pictures from Fall Park Day!
An exciting game of volley ball, if you couldn't tell

    The community building continued amongst my core throughout the month. These girls have eagerly pursued relationships with one another. They hang out multiple times per week even when neither Sam nor I facilitate anything! It is so clear that God is moving in this group and is using our ministry as a platform for his work. I hear about conversations they have about Jesus with each other when their curiosity is stirred in our core or in our Thursday night "Deep Dives". My personal highlight within our small pocket of community would be our trip to the pumpkin patch though! It's such a simple thing, but God really did use this gathering/field trip as a time for Sam and I to communicate love and friendship towards these girls. It also gave them a space to practice those things for themselves. There was a difference after our little adventure in our next core- girls began to share more deeply and more personally than ever before, and I think that's because they felt loved, safe, and accepted in our group- the way I think Jesus' presence makes us feel.

My beautiful core, my sweet friends!

Student in the Spotlight!   

    For the next few months, I've decided I'll share about a different student I've gotten to have a personal relationship with. This is Melina! 


    Melina and I are studying FOJ. She has been so hungry for God's word and truth. She has been humbly seeking guidance in multiple areas of her life and I think the Lord is really using her humble attitude and teachability to mold her to look more like him. I adore spending time with her and I think God has given us a really special friendship. I asked her if she would tell me what's been impactful to her about FOJ so I could share it with others and she said, "how vulnerable I can be...Throughout my life I truly struggled with opening up to people but having FOJs with Taylor have been really helpful towards my spiritual and mental health. I also love how we both have this big love for Jesus!" This girl is the sweetest and God is doing work I cannot even begin to take credit for. He has been so strategic in aligning our struggles. I've been able to minister and speak into Melina's life by sharing truths God has pointed me to in my own hardships.
    I'm excited to share in the future about the work God is doing in other girls!

Prayer:

  • Over my one on one studies with Melina, Sarah, Vanessa, and Thu
  • For our last cores to be impactful and for our ministry to be thoughtful and creative in loving our students while they're at home! We won't really see anyone after Thanksgiving until January
  • Safe travels/healthy bodies as people go home for Thanksgiving celebrations
  • For my teaching certification tests! I plan on taking them in December and am still deciding if I want to go into teaching after this year or if I want to stay in ministry for a little longer- so please pray over that decision too!


Here's our monthly student testimony. Read and pray please and thank you!

    Thanks a ton for reading and supporting me financially, in prayer, and with your words!


 


 






Saturday, October 3, 2020

Fall Update!

 

Hi sweet friends and family!!

   Well here we are, 2 entire months into my apprenticeship!!! I can't tell if these months have gone by really fast or really slow...but either way, they have been so good. First let me introduce you to my core because that's where I currently am seeing God's hand at work the most. Cores are small groups of men or women that come together to worship, share life, study scripture, pray, and build deep friendships. 

Here are my girls!!
                            
    They are the BEST. And that's actually not even all of them. This picture was taken at my 2nd core and we have 3 more students who have started coming since! Mine and Sam's core is made up of 7 freshmen girls, 1 new Sophomore girl and 1 senior who is returning to our ministry- it's quite the group. I am so glad the Lord put our community in front of these women! I also get the opportunity to meet up with a few of them one on one to study the Bible  I've been so in awe of the questions these girls bring. God is clearly doing work behind the scenes that neither Sam nor I could do. 
Thank you so much for praying for me, my core, and the F.O.C.U.S. ministry at large- God is answering abundantly!

We now do "Deep Dive" in place of Thursday Night Fellowship (TNF) and we have been able to reserve a room on campus that fits about half of our ministry! So we rotate each week who gets to watch in person (socially distanced) and who watches from online. The arrows point toward one of our pastors, Austin, giving a sermon.

    I adore my core and I see God moving there, but I also think God is doing quite a bit of work in my own heart personally. I can't pin down one single theme that God is currently emphasizing in my life, but I can see a bunch of smaller things God is doing to further mature as a disciple. 

    One thing I'm learning about and actively growing in is assertiveness. I've learned that my natural tendencies are to people please, avoid conflict, and always be polite...but how often in the gospels is Jesus just polite? Of course I don't think it's always bad to be nice, but let's take a real look at how Jesus lived- he said some very controversial things, stepped on people's toes and often offended people! He called people to hard decision making points. Do I look like Jesus in that way? I realize to the reader who cannot see the fullness of the work happening in my heart right now, this maybe seems concerning, but Jesus is making me into someone who can be assertive and confrontational when necessary out of deep love for God and care for his people. This already has had challenging, but rewarding implications within some of my closest relationships.

Here are a few other things I'm learning about, growing in, and experiencing: 

1)  How to be a better spiritual friend and disciple maker- not just in college ministry but in all spheres of influence I'll have in my life. What are good questions I can ask? How do I approach people with sincere care for them and their relationship with God? 
2)  My identity and value to the Lord that's not based on my thoughts or feelings about myself, nor is it based on any of my efforts, accomplishments, or failures. Truth about who I am comes from God and his word alone.
3)  HUMILITY. Can I be honest with people and with God about where I'm at even if that means they see my imperfections? Will I choose to ask questions or say things that might make me look foolish? Will I serve without expectation of recognition?

    I look forward to sharing more about the above and other things not mentioned that the Lord is doing inside of me right now. I know there's a lot happening in my heart and mind this season, and it's hard to recognize it all, but I am confident that the Holy Spirit is heavily using this time to shape me.

How you can pray:

  • Continued growth and maturity amongst the women in my core and wisdom for Sam and I to be able to foster that; also for our core to be a genuine group of friends in life-transforming, loving relationships with one another!
  • For my own intimacy with God and leaning into what he's teaching me and how he's healing me
  • For all of the current apprentices in F.O.C.U.S. who are busy and tired- that we would manage time well and be re-energized by God's spirit, people, and rest!
    This month's student Testimony:




    Thanks for reading and praying!