Friday, March 27, 2015

That Time I Tried On A Wedding Gown

It was the first appointment I made to try on wedding dresses. The whole process was rather daunting and foreign to me. I hadn't really set a firm budget on a dress but I had an idea in my mind. So when I came into this one bridal shop with my sisters-in-law one evening, I probably seemed rather flustered and overtaken when the attendant asked me, in front of everyone in the store, what my budget was.

I stuttered something out, looking back at the ladies, and proceeded to feel unsure of my answer. The lady noted it and then moved on to find me some dresses. While trying to figure out where to put my things and find a way to undress in the dressing room without being seen, I kept feeling unsure about this whole process. What do I even like in a dress?

The attendant brought several dresses that were alright. I really did not feel good in anything and even when she brought a bridesmaid dress, that was in white, and told me it was a good deal I shrugged. But while I was standing up on the pedestal surrounded by mirrors, I spotted a dress on a mannequin by the door. I quickly mentioned to my sister-in-law that I wanted to try that dress on, while the attendant was mysteriously away for what seemed like forever.

When she came back we pointed to the dress and to our dismay the attendant said "That is way out of her price range. You won't want to try that on." My sister-in-law quickly shot back, "She will try the dress on, PLEASE."

This whole situation was rather humiliating and rather weird. I felt like I was in the way and inconveniencing this woman. I also felt that if I really liked a dress I would do what I could to pay for it, even if it was "out of my budget or out of my price range." The funny thing was, I did not even feel like the shop was all that extravagant or posh. So what was wrong with this situation? Didn't the lady want to sell her products?

Let me tell you about what went RIGHT at a different shop. On another occasion, my mother-in-law thought I should check out this one last shop before we were done for the night. We knew that this shop was "by appointment" but she thought we should give it a try anyways. I was at the end of my rope in feeling encouraged and felt like it did not matter either way what we did at this point.

As we walked into the shop the ladies were very accommodating and gentle with us. While we had just walked in, they fit us into their schedule even though they had another bride-to-be in the dressing area, created especially for brides. Without hesitation, the manager of the shop, ushered me over to another area and said, "I know that this is a dressing area for bridesmaids but this is all we have for now since we already have a bride here." She showed us where to put our things and proceeded to make sure the room was prepared for me to change in. I immediately felt welcomed and special, even though I wasn't up in the bridal section.

She asked me what kind of dresses I liked and showed me around to different ones. I don't really remember the prices of everything or what all I tried on, but when I tried on the one that I would soon purchase I did not care that it was over the price I had initially set out for myself. Despite the fact that it was probably the cheapest dress in the shop, it was beautiful to me and the woman made sure that I felt good about my experience. I never once was made to feel like I did not have enough or was out of my league. Never before had I felt like a queen in a store. When I finally had the opportunity to try the dress on again, in the special area, I loved it even more. I loved the way the light would hit the little glass crystals and how silky smooth it looked. My dress didn't feel stiff or stuffy, I felt pretty darn good in that thing.

So if this shop had not treated me with such kindness and value, I would not have had this experience or this dress.

We can see here that the later shop had real salesmanship. They knew how to sell a product quickly and efficiently, while pleasing the customer and making them feel valued. At the first place, I was made to feel insignificant and under valued even though the establishment was less refined. What I am discovering about this situation is that it applies to our Christian witness and how we make others feel when they "step into our shop."

We label others and put them in boxes, when we should be encouraging them to discover the most valuable "purchase" of a lifetime. Our closed minded thinking and judgmental placement of who they are sometimes inhibits them from really finding what they have been wishing for all along. They will come into our lives not really knowing what it is that they are looking for, but if we help them they will spot it right away and do what ever it takes to obtain it. No matter the cost.

It is our duty as Christians to help others find Christ, the perfect fit to their life. No matter how simple or refined they are we need to be available for them. It is a little crazy that I had to use a sales lady as a metaphor, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. As Christians, do we really know what we are selling? Or who we are selling to?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Being Available: Where God Met Me In A Room of Six

It wasn't till I made myself available that I discovered God.

The word "available" has been playing itself out in my life lately. Since moving to the suburbs of Philadelphia, everything has been new. Not only is my environment completely different, the people are all new. With this comes the opportunity to be given a new task or adventure. When you meet those in ministry, you will find that they are constantly offering opportunities. At first it feels rather invasive. Over time you begin to realize that the asking is not really about you but about the need, the STRONG need.

I like to feel needed. I think we all do. What has really taken my purpose in this life to another notch is realizing that I cannot say no to something until I have tried it. I was asked if I could tutor some kids. Never really did that before. Now I am doing it. Just that simple. So, through all this growing and vulnerability I have gotten used to the idea of being "available."

This does not mean that I am not shaking in my boots or that I have it all together. It only means that I am willing to fight the fear and claim the promises of God. What is a little stretch and ache in my own growth, for someone else's freedom or need of love? Honestly, through this whole process I have discovered that I am not really a shy person. Go figure.

So with that being said, when I say that I agreed to lead out in a breakout session for a weekend of spiritual reflection and focus, we can all know why. I have never facilitated a discussion. At the time I had no idea what it would take to ask a question and wait for a response. I also had no idea what I should be doing while listening to a response. I know that it is supposed to be a conversation, but there are certain elements of staying on track and keeping the main goal of the discussion in check. I also had no idea what it took to prepare for a room full of people or a one-on-one conversation. I just prepared what I could and moved forward. Shaking in my shoes.

I was asked to speak about a post I made a few weeks ago on 3 Ways to Get Consistent in Devotions, but I titled it "With Us Is God: devotions in a practical light".  While I was preparing I discovered this relationship with God that I did not realize I had. Strange, isn't it? How the one who is going to talk about having a relationship with God can feel so unsure? Well, that was me. I had the doubt and fear bouncing back and forth in my head as I prepared. I am not certified or qualified. I am searching just like everyone else. What makes it all worth the effort? My availability. God isn't asking me, or us, for credentials. He just wants us to be ready for His leading.

So I presented my talk and wrote, on a whiteboard, the three guidelines that took me from point A to point B in my relationship with Christ. When I had initially thought of these guidelines, I had thought they were something I had come up with to get closer to God. It was like, "Oh sweet. I made an action and God came through. Awesome!" I seriously, thought I had something there.

Halfway through my testimony, this sudden rush of adrenaline flooded my body. Like a eureka light bulb flashing over my head I had this realization. Those three points that I so carefully came up with weeks ago and decided to write on a whiteboard? They were NOT my own points, they were God's recipe for drawing me in. He so humbly decided to enlightening me with these concepts, sitting back as I claimed them as my own demise, and waited for the light to finally strike in my heart.

I am sure He smiled as I embraced this new concept and spoke out in front of the 6 people I had in the room. He did not want this revelation to be kept inside my heart. He waited for just the right time to share, not only with me, but with those six people. HE is the one that comes up with the formula to gain a relationship with us. HE is the one that has the 3 step program designed just for me.

I then went on to discuss with those six people that God has a formula for each one of us. We just have to be available. And if I had kept myself from being available... just think of what I and those 6 people would have missed out on?

Devotion. We think we have it when we try to keep up with our devotion-als. God is really the One that is devoted, not us. This is my testimony.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

7 Blessings Vol. 3

Yesterday I was watching this film that started out with a summer scene. I immediately thought of New England. Those yards! I knew exactly where it all was. It is strange how different parts of the country can have different looks, no matter how much you claim it to be just woods. What makes it nostalgic with those woods are the cruel months of cold, snow, and ice that hibernate the landscape. When the summer does finally come the world ignites with green beauty and delicate flowers.

What strikes me about this whole process is that even though the earth goes through such stress for months at a time, it still pulls through with such simple and lush beauty. You would never know that the trees that grace the country side have held loads of snow and ice or that the ground was frozen solid. All those vines, ferns and wild flowers come up each time. Even in other parts of the country where nature isn't so harsh with the snow, it does not compare. 

This all reminds me that though we go through great seasons of harsh reality, there are still moments of light reflection and anticipation. As Christians we have a future to hope for that we cannot even imagine. Just thinking about it can give us such courage. But while we are here on this groaning planet, we are encouraged to think of the blessings we have been given. No matter how bleak the circumstances, God does provide. Just think about all the beautiful rainbows that are created when the sun pierces through an ice crystal. That is where God touches our hearts.

I hope that you are taking the time to make a list of blessings this week. Here are mine:

1. Having the opportunity to work with a wonderful church group.
2. Enjoying the warm sun for longer hours in a day.
3. Knowing that God is just a talk away, when I need Him.
4. Gaining peace and calm in the middle of experiencing change.
5. Almost every Christian song on Pandora has been hitting my heart today, in a good way.
6. Eating blackberries with my soy vanilla yogurt (its awesome soy yogurt exists!).
7. The reminder that when I fall, God is right there to pick me back up.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Evidence Of Hope

I like to avoid the word Faith. It seems vague, inconsistent, and pretty out of reach. I have used it to explain that I have beliefs. I have read the Faith chapter in Hebrews and have even had it read to me. Faith. It is strangely ambiguous in my little mind. 

While going through the beginning part of Hebrews 11, I was struck by how direct and literal the definition for faith was laid out. There was no room to imply that it was defined. It clearly starts out with "Now faith is...." I had to stop my mind from drifting into philosophical definitions and applications, and just read.

... the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

That's it. Where I got all befuddled I am not sure. The words substance and evidence imply that there is something solid and tangible, yet the words "hoped" and "not seen" clearly define that we cannot visualize what faith is representing. We can see the faith, but we can't see who it is technically working for. 

I wanted to understand hope a little bit more so I turned to Romans 8:24 (a link detailed in my study Bible). It too gave a clear definition of the word hope, which can be vague as well. 

For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?

Here it is defined that hope cannot be seen. That what we see is not something hoped for. Joining these two words together creates a potential to understand how faith works. We cannot necessarily see hope, but faith we can! Faith is what we see when we want to obtain something out of reach. It is the action and demeanor we possess when hope drives us to our goal. 

The more we hope (go for something unseen) the more faith stands out in the crowd as evidence. When we have our minds focused on things we cannot yet see (God or eternal life) our faith is what shows that we are headed on towards the prize. It is what shows others that there a thing called hope (something not seen).

Wow. It definitely is difficult to discuss something so abstract or even unseen! I hope that in my attempt I have shed a little bit more light on what it is to have hope exemplified through faith. Faith attracts others to the hope we have as Christians.

What is is it that you hope for? Is it unseen? 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hey You, Give Me Your Mess

So I happened to be waiting to make my purchase in Barnes and Noble when a magazine/book caught my eye. It had a vintage camera on the front so I thought, why not pick it up and look through it? I flipped through the pages quickly and saw that it had some pretty cool imagery and several places to write thoughts and answer questions. It looked like some sort of self help booklet. Cool, I thought. Maybe I would want to put out something like that some day....

Well, instead of buying it I decided to check it out online. I found it on Amazon and it gave a little description, trying to reel me in. It conveyed being a magazine to help you let go of perfection and embrace the mess of your life. Hold up! What? In my mind I took a step back and evaluated my reaction. This is how it played out:

I considered perfection and that trying to attain it is near impossible. I can fake it, we can all fake it. So I thought, "Ya, it is pretty impossible to accomplish perfection." Then I thought about the proposal this magazine was trying to make. Embrace the mess? Hmmm... it kind of freaked me out. I have no idea about the ways in which they were suggesting you embrace the mess, but it got me to thinking. Yes, I think.

What part of accepting our messy lives applies to Christianity? Is it all really ok? It made me think about the times I beat myself up about stuff. Where I have failed miserably. I remember wanting to get passed the endless circles of wallowing in my fears and failures. I wanted to live again, in a way that would only prompt me to be a better self. Yet perfection just wasn't working for me. This is where God comes in and says, "Hey, I have a solution for you. Give ME your mess." Here is where God spoke.

I was needing some inspiration before going into an interview. I have a tendency to ramble on and get side tracked when I am nervous. I didn't want to do this. I didn't want my weakness to shine through, I wanted to succeed. So I found the following verse that not only blew me away, but snapped me into place. It transformed my fearful heart with confidence.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to (or acknowledge) Him, and He will make your path straight. 

As clear as day, He spoke to me with reassurance. God was clearly asking me to give up the mess AND perfection! He wanted me to lean in, all the way, and submit everything about me to His own plans. That promise to make my path straight? Oh ya, He later blew me way passed infinity and beyond. He took my life and said, "Krystal. This is how I designed you to be. This is what I created you to do. Watch and learn." BAM.

As I went through my interview I felt my vulnerability. I knew that I was going to be honest about who I was as a person, but at the same time I could feel God working through me to show what He had planned to use me for all along. Despite my momentary brain freeze at the beginning, I picked up and moved on. Despite my nerves I didn't feel myself floundering. When it says that God makes your path straight, it is NO joke. That path might not have been paved but I could look forward with anticipation and expectation.

In order to give you perspective, I want you to know that this acknowledgement of God did not come easily. Before I became aware of the fact that I needed God's assistance, the devil was there behind me hissing in my ear. He was grounding in the past failures. The screw ups. The downright pitiful mess that I thought I had become. He wasn't there to offer a solution or a cure. He just wanted me to buy into the fate that he possesses. Folks (haha), it was like a splash of cold water to the face when I realized what I was walking into.

The battle is real, but the tools to conquer are an endless supply. From here on out I have taken the words in Proverbs 3:5-6 and have used them to accomplish much in such a short time. This mind of mine has been revitalized, renewed. So the next time your mess gets 'all up in yo face', remember this,

"Hey, I have a solution for you. Give ME your mess."

(the above photos I took myself. first time setting up the tripod, focus, and timer all together to take a selfie with the D610!)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Single Dilemma

You would think that after being single for 28 years, one would have GREAT tips on how to "survive." No one is ever satisfied with advice given out about how to handle being alone. It doesn't seem fair that the married folk should hand it out nor does it really feel good when a single soul decides to list the coping mechanisms. If they are making a list, then they must be thinking about it a lot. And if they are thinking about it a lot, are they just as unsatisfied?

Since I have only been hangin' with my husband for 5 years and married for 2.5, I still remember what it was like to be in single status. The relationship I have with him is the longest and most serious, so before that I pretty much was straight up single. I know the drill people.

The other day I thought about advice for single folk, for some reason. It hit me like a bomb shell realizing that I had just placed that thought in the forefront. It made my old self want to cringe. Who wants to hear it really? But then I thought about something very sobering. I had what I consider the ultimate advice. One that has nothing to do with coping or waiting for someone to come along. It had everything to do with JUST me. Hey, now don't think I was getting all selfish. This is a legit advice portal that is about to happen.

All that time I spent dreaming, thinking, pondering, consulting, trying out, wondering, sulking, revolving, crying, smiling, what have you... about some boy or any boy, I was forgetting about what I did have. Seriously. I never really talked about it with girlfriends or got all googly eyed. I didn't have major plans for my hypothetical wedding. I just wanted a friend, a companion. Sounds normal right? Ya, until I realized later that I hadn't even thought about taking the time to really cultivate what I had, and that was my own person.

This is slightly embarrassing and cruel to expose myself. Or maybe it is just normal for a 20 some year old to have their head stuck in guy/girl-mode. I think back (from my 31 year old self) and wish that I had taken the time and energy, in my mind, to enhance my gifts and talents. Oh, ya I studied hard in college and did well, but that isn't what I am talking about. I am speaking about a real commitment with yourself.

Know yourself well. Find out what you like to do when everything is caught up and your're just chillaxin. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses, then apply them to how you communicate with other people. Get involved with a ministry. Start a ministry. Find a place that is missing something and fill it with your skill set. Once you know yourself well, it doesn't stop there. Enjoy it. Let it evolve and unfold into something practical and tangible. See how others react to your strengths and then even your weaknesses. Spend time cultivating relationships with EVERYONE. See what makes them tick. See what makes you laugh or annoyed around other people.

I am not saying you gotta suck it up and deal with being single. We weren't made to be alone. What I am saying is that the person inside of you is interesting and deserves your attention. It deserves to grow and mature. That even goes for the older folk. I like to say folk apparently. I know that I haven't lived a very long time, but I do know that there is always something new to learn. Those hours you spent thinking about something you don't have, isn't yours at the end of the day. It wisps away in the wind and is gone. All that is left is your agony or whatever.

So ask yourself, what really is yours? What are you doing with it? Where can you go with it? And stop asking, WHEN, HOW, WHY. Look at those 3 words. Can't you just see someone throwing a fit? So tackle the life you have and make it thrive.

Lastly, this post is not just for all you single FOLK out there. It is also for those who have lost themselves along the way with their careers, raising children, supporting their spouse, taking care of their aging parents, or just haven't taken the time to, again, THRIVE. I am glad that I am figuring this out now. It actually makes things easier for my husband. It puts less impossible expectations on him and more fire under my own butt. :)

**And here is the REAL news breaker.... of course the guy/girl always comes when you least expect it. Do you know the future? doh.**

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blessings Vol. 2

Last week could have been one of those weeks where you just can't really think of blessings. I spent hours in the hospital waiting with family members for my grandmother to return to her natural self. She had had brain surgery to remove a growth, the size of a golf ball, that was crowding out the pituitary gland. We would ask questions, predict the best, and wonder what was coming next. Is there room to count your blessings in a situation like this? You bet.

1. Spending time with family. A past time I forgot as a young 20 something year old.
2. Enjoying fresh warm air after being cocooned in the ICU.
3. Watching as we got scolded, as a family, for being too loud in the ICU. Priceless.
4. Catching glimpses of what I remember most about my grandmother, from my childhood.
5. Having time to contemplate and improve my "being in the moment" attitude.
6. Being reminded that my health is important and should be maintained. Yes health is valuable.
7. Hugs. There is mercy in a hug. Despite my reservations, I still receive them.

And to show that I am happy about all the blessings, here is a picture for proof.

Oh, and thank you to everyone who participated last week! I was blessed to see all the good things that are happening in your lives. Keep it up! :)

**photos taken in Greenville, NC**

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Exercise: My Fickle Friend

Have you felt like you just can't seem to get over that hill called exercise? I am the wishy-washy participant in the exercise department. I will spend months running 2-4 miles a day, 4 days a week just to end up sick and letting it all go.... go.... go....

I think that the hardest part is trying to pick up where I left off months ago. My respiratory system wants to quit, my body feels like lead, and my heart cannot seem to keep up. The older I get the more conscious I feel about my health. What does one do in this situation? Well fortunately for me, I went for a 2 mile walk this afternoon in the RAIN. I now can give some advice since I am so educated in staying motivated after a severe case of the Inactive. *insert sarcasm*

Motivation is an exercise people. In order to physically exercise your muscles, you need to determine in your mind that you are going to tell it who's boss. Your mind is never going to like it initially. Your feelings are going to tell you to eat ice cream instead. Just like lifting your foot and bringing your leg forward, you need to tell your mind that you have to get in shape. Those darned excuses like to talk you out of challenging your mind. So join me in the adventure of getting our WHOLE bodies up and moving.

Oh, and to conquer the excuse about staying in because it is OH SO COLD, I found a pin on Pinterest that gives about 20 exercises to do indoors. I did them a few times before I went on my trip to NC and MAN did I hurt afterwards. Now I just have to take my own advice and tell my mind that the boss (me) wants to do them EVERY-DAY.

Maybe I should have my readers hold me accountable? What are some ways that you keep yourself working those muscles during the winter months?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Travel Wish List: National Parks

After having been on the west coast and seen how different it all can be, has made me really want to discover more places. I know that I have always had the desire to visit places in Europe, but for some reason I finally see that there is so much within our own country that needs to be discovered. One does not have to go far to see beauty. 

A couple of years ago my dad gave me this little National Parks Passport book. Having it along with me on different trips has made it easy to pass up on expensive souvenir and just stick with a simple stamp in my book. I think we like to have evidence that we have been somewhere, and so I like this space saver. Oh,  and having pictures helps as well. :)

I have a couple of National Parks under my belt, but there are a few more that I would like to see. Glacier National Park, Bryce Canyon, and Yellowstone are just a few of the ones that I would like to see. Glacier will be fun to see because both Chris and I have not see it. I am also anxious to see Yellowstone because of all the wildlife. Bison! Here are some pictures that I found online that give an idea of the three parks. What are some National Parks that you would like to see soon?
Glacier National Park

 Picture taken from

Bryce Canyon

Picture taken from


Picture taken from

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

7 Blessings Vol. 1

We cannot stop thinking of what God has given us. Our hearts need to continually dwell in the foundations of His love. One way that I want to make an effort to recognize the blessings that God has given me, through this tough life on Earth, is to list out those gifts. I challenge you to try it at least once a week, if not every day to make a good list of 7 things that have really made your life meaningful and full. Here is my list for this week:

- Meeting new faces who are passionate about doing God's work.

- Having a husband who is understanding when I am weak.

- Being able to purchase produce at a decent price and eating to my fill.

- Hearing the sound of birds despite the cold winter months.

- Understanding that missing others means I love and am loved.

- The power of sight, it expands my creativity.

- Having the ability to give, it makes me see the blessings more clearly.

- Finding a church family so quickly in a place we started out knowing NO ONE.

It is important to not only feel these blessings that God gives us, it is also good to communicate with others how good He really is. It is not about bragging about how good your life may seem, it is meant to be an encouragement and a way to help others see the perspectives that are all around. We need to help each other. This is one way to do it. :)

*The above photo I took while driving Rt 1 in California during our honeymoon. Awesome views. All you Californians have it good with the scenery.*

Monday, March 2, 2015

Happy Birthday Michelle!!!!

Birthdays are for celebrating life and today I am celebrating the life of my sister-in-law Michelle. Without you in our lives we would not experience your generosity, compassion, openness, and spirit. The fact that you love to surround yourself with others tells that you love life and people. Your positivity is infectious. Thank you for your cooking/baking tips, emoticons, and for being my sister.

Stay beautiful, crazy, passionate, and colorful. :)
Love you.