Monday, May 8, 2017

It's May!

Hi y’all’!

Ashley, myself, Tirzah, Maria, and Amber nursing Sarah! This was such a
fun and sweet group to work with this year on the TWUD campus!
Happy end-of-the-semester for my school friends! This past month has felt relaxing compared to the whirlwind of a month in March, so there is not a whole lot to share event-wise. However, this month has been surprisingly full of bittersweet moments for me. With the end of the semester, we wrapped up our Friday Night Fellowship (FNF) meetings and Cores, as well as our weekly leader meetings. We celebrated at the end of the month with a party that included a sweet ceremony honoring our corefas and graduating seniors, as well as yummy cake, dancing, and fun. At each of these events, I realized that it was my last time getting to do these things with the FOCUS community at UT Dallas. The sad thing is that I completely took each of them for granted until the event/meeting was wrapping up. That is where bittersweet came in.

TWU Dallas girls at the End of the Year Party

We had our last leader meeting at a park near the school!
The idea of leaving this community I’ve known for the past few years and moving into a new phase of life scares me. However, I know that my community isn’t stopping when I wrap up my apprenticeship or move an hour away. God has graciously given me a community that encouraged me to build wonderful, deep friendships that last beyond the boundaries of place and time. So although I will no longer have the time to hang out with friends on the whim, and will have to make a deliberate effort to make plans to drive down to Dallas or schedule time for phone calls, I will continue to maintain these friendships. This is the power of God’s love in our ministry and our lives!

Our Leader Team for Dallas

One of my favorite verses this year comes out of the story of three of God’s people being thrown in a blazing furnace in Daniel 3 (I highly encourage you to read it if you have time). In fact, I think it has been my wallpaper on my phone for a good portion of the year. Each time I read it, I’m challenged in my level of trust in God and obedience to God. This year, a prayer of mine has been, “God, if it is your will for me to move to another school, then please close all other doors and opportunities for me to not be obedient to you.” That requires a level of trust from me that I’m not naturally comfortable with. Which is why I chose to hold onto this verse as a truth of God in my life. “And if not, He is still good.” So although I can praise God that I’m not being thrown into a burning furnace, I still resort to questioning His goodness in terms of meeting my personal wants and desires. But I want to grow in obedience to the Lord, and instead of prioritizing my wants and needs, I want to prioritize His plan, regardless of what it will look like for me. In my life, that looks a lot like repeatedly surrendering my will, plans, and pride at the foot of the cross, and embracing God’s will for my life joyfully.

2 of my sweet roommates that I got to build
amazing friendships with this year!

The girls I got to spend the year with in Peer Team!

So with that said, I am excited to share with you guys that I will be enrolling in graduate school at the University of North Texas in the Fall and moving up to Denton, TX at the end of the summer. Along with excitement, I am also slightly nervous and unsure, but I know that God is so good. I am looking forward to being in a new community, having new roommates, attending a new church, and getting to grow in my trust in the Lord even more!! Along with going back to school...because I kind of love school. Please be praying for a smooth transition back into school and into this new environment!

TWUD reppin' at the Rangers Game
But before I go back to school, I am going to continue working on staff with FOCUS for the summer! This will look like a lot of coordinating incoming student orientations for Dallas and Denton, planning summer outreach and Welcome Week for Dallas, Summer FOCUS on Thursdays, continuing to meet with girls from TWU-D, and other various tasks. I’m so excited to be able to continue working on staff for two months - especially because it will allow me to continue meeting with girls at TWU-D and get to know people in Denton before I move up there, in addition to it being a ton of fun. God has generously opened these doors for me and I’m excited to continue to trust Him in that! With that said, I will continue to fundraise support for these two extra months - please prayerfully consider continuing to support me over these remaining months on staff before I return to school. If this is something you are interested in or are willing to do, please give me a call or send me a message. I would love to talk!

As always, thank you for remaining steadfast in your love and kindness, and for praying over this ministry. Please let me know how I can be praying for you. I love you all a bunch!

The staff I got to work with this semester!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

April's Update

One of our TWU-Dallas cores meeting during the week!
Hey friends!

I’m so excited to share with you all the fun things this crazy month was filled with! The Lord has really blessed me with fun memories and by allowing me to participate in His work, and now He is blessing me with lots of sleep.

Spring Break:
The second week of March, I got to fly out to Nashville to see my family! Almost all of my immediate family, excluding my mom and stepdad who live in Florida, live there.  It was so fun getting to spend time with them and to have the week to relax some before the upcoming weeks of SSI and Spring Showcase planning. We watched a lot of college basketball, and my sister and I got go see my older brother and his family, as well as two of my stepsisters. I am so thankful for my family, and that I am lucky enough to have a nice break off in the middle of the semester to go see them.
We did an Escape Room together, and had so much fun doing it!
Student Spring Impact (SSI) Week:
We visited the Dallas Aquarium for their fun day in TX!
The week all of our students returned from their spring breaks, we hosted a group of 12 (10 students and 2 leaders) from Bellingham, Washington on their spring break. They came down to spend the week with us on our campuses doing outreach and connecting with students. The SSI students had fun-filled days, with some days going from 9am to 10pm! It would be fair to say they were exhausted, but they did not let that overcome them at any point. They prayed for each other, fearlessly went out onto our campuses and invited people in to play a game or have conversations with them, and laughed together a lot. I was honored to get to spend a large chunk of time with them, by driving a few of them around, going to dinner with them to a family’s home who provided our meal for us, and by having conversations with them and other students around our campuses. They brought me so much joy by how kind and vulnerable they were, and how they began the trip not knowing each other well and us at all, and left with deep friendships. It makes me thankful for social media, because now it’s a lot easier for me to maintain friendships with them across the country.

The group on their trip down to DFW
Two of the girls I got to know during the week, Alena and Emily
Students playing four square on the Mall.

Spring Showcase:
This was just a few days ago, and it was amazing! For those who got to come, I would love to hear how it went for you. For those who didn’t get to make it, let me tell you some about it. This year we are sending 89 students to SICM in Washington, and the Spring Showcase is our big annual fundraiser that we put on to help cover the costs for students attending. The church opened their building to us free of charge, and our performers and artists shared their talents and gave their time for the cause as well. It was a phenomenal show, and I was amazed by the kindness and generosity of everyone who attended. Thank you for any contribution you made towards the showcase and our SICM students in any way. Whether that is buying a ticket, purchasing art, volunteering your time, performing, or a donation – Thank you! It means so much, and it will go a long way in the investment in these students’ lives and those around them.
This group did an amazing job performing an Adele song.
Jordy and Kylie performing "That's What's Up".
This was such a fun performance to watch, and a little different than most of the others. But everyone loved it! I included a video recorded of the performance below for you to watch if you'd like. It is "Trashin' the Camp" from Tarzan.
(Spring Showcase photos from Sean Do.)

Thank you guys for reflecting God’s love and faithfulness to me throughout this year. Each one of you are such an encouragement to me, and I love when I get to see you. Thank you for being willing to make sacrifices to support myself and this ministry, and for taking the time to be in prayer over what God is doing. Please be in prayer for myself in the next month, as I come to a decision in regards to graduate school next Fall, and continue ministering to the girls God has placed in my life. Also, please pray for staff and the new 2017-2018 apprentices as they began this fundraising season, and for the staff transitioning off. It is exciting, but also a little frightening when we adventure into the next phase of life.

I love you guys so much. Please let me know how I can be praying for you. I am so thankful for each one of y’all.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Springtime is here!

Hi ya’ll!

Happy (soon-to-be) Spring! Texas has a reputation for inconsistent weather. I would support that statement, especially since I feel like we hit all 4 seasons this past month. However, spring is my absolute favorite season so here’s to hoping it sticks around (consistently) for awhile! Spring in this year of apprentice-ing is a busy one though. Mix that in with a big bowl of “what will next year be like?”, we have an exciting time to look forward to that will need a lot of prayer. With that said, thank you so much for your support and prayers! I ask that you please continue praying often this upcoming month over what God is doing on our campuses and in my life.

Pizza Theology
One week ago, we held our spring pizza theology of the year -  this time on the topic of race. We spent about half of the time listening to two lectures, and the other half listening to student testimonies from various walks of life. This one, without a doubt, was one of the most thought-provoking and emotionally challenging Pizza Theology that I’ve had the chance to go to. And I know I wasn’t alone in that. I think this effectively gave students some language they can use when having conversations about race and ethnicity, and helped students begin or encouraged them to continue thinking critically about important questions surrounding the topic. With a topic as sensitive as this one, I think the talks and testimonies enabled us to begin safe conversations with one another and allowed us to be vulnerable and honest about our experiences. I highly encourage you to take some time to listen to the audios, if you can. The audio can be found here!

Tirzah and I before core
TWU Dallas

I am so encouraged by how God is growing the small community He is building at this single building campus in Dallas. The core I am leading this semester with Tirzah is a core of mostly first semester nursing students who are figuring this deal out. The first semester is often thought of as the most difficult of the four semesters of nursing school due to the transition and commitment that is required of them. It is such a blessing that we get to build friendships with each other in this time of adjustment, and be the prayer and support for one another that we need. I pray that God continues to deepen these friendships and use them to strengthen our relationships with Him, as well as to minister is whatever way He calls us to.

Spring Showcase
Our annual Spring Showcase SICM fundraiser is fast approaching! This concert and art show is a huge event that we put on every year to help support a group of FOCUS students that we are sending to Student Institute of Campus Ministry (SICM) in May. SICM is a week-long ministry training program put on by our friends at CCF in Washington that helps develop leadership skills for ministry and deepen their relationship with their Creator. I would love to invite you to come join us for this event on April 1st! You can get your tickets and find additional details here. We will have very talented people performing and selling their artwork! I hope to see you there! Here's a teaser video.

Prayer Requests and Praise!
  • March is a busy month for us as a staff! We are actively preparing for Spring Showcase and to host a group of students coming down from CCF, a campus ministry in Washington, to do outreach on our campuses. Pray for the preparations being made and that it the work is glorifying and pleasing to God.
  • Safety for our students during their spring breaks over the next week and half. Many are traveling out of town to go see family or to take a mini vacation. In addition to that, a lot of our students have midterms the week before and after their break. Pray that remain diligent in their studies, continue getting rest, and finding strength in God!
  • I received my first acceptance letter to graduate school this past week. Praise God!! I am still waiting to hear back from the rest of the programs I applied to and will make a decision next month for where I will go. Please join me in thanking God for His goodness and faithfulness, and pray that He will give me discernment and wisdom in this big decision. I ultimately want to please Him and be obedient to where He is calling me.

As always, thank you again and again for your kindness and love. I appreciate all your prayers, and I hope you are able to catch a glimpse of the impact of them. Please let me know anytime of ways that I can be in prayer for you. I want to be able to serve you guys in the way that you all serve me! I love y'all a whole heck of a lot and hope you get to enjoy a load of sunshine soon!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February update!

Hope and I at Winter Camp - Hope is a TWU-D student who I
get the pleasure of spending time with and a roommate! (PC:Katy Jordan)

Hey y’all!

We are officially one month down, eleven to go for the year 2017…time really does fly! In our first month at FOCUS, a lot has been happening, and I am lucky enough to get to witness it and share with y’all how exciting it is. Thank you for being a part of this, and for praying expectantly and supporting joyfully the work God is doing on these campuses across DFW.

Winter Camp:
Everyone at Winter Camp Group Photo (PC: Sean Do)
We started off the spring semester with our four-day annual winter camp (maybe even retreat?) to Sky Ranch. It was a sweet time as a whole community with students from all 9 of our campuses together a long with ~30 students from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls and alumni. The weekend was spent in time of worship, fellowship, sermons, fun, and relaxation (at least for those who chose to sleep). The theme for the weekend was Church – the church as exiles and the remnant (much like we see in the Old Testament), as the family of God, and as the temple of God. Talking to the students, I got to hear how God used different speakers and their message to impact them and challenge their way of thinking. We had over 600 students there alone, and I know this weekend was a blessing to many – thank you so much for the prayers you said over this weekend. God answered them in so many good ways and His presence with us was undeniable.

Our first Worship session of the weekend. (PC: Sean Do)
I asked a TWU Dallas student, Laura, to share about her experience this year at Winter Camp. I hope this gives you a small glimpse into what God is doing.
“I am a true believer that you only get out of an experience, what you put in. In all honesty, I was not very excited to go to Winter Camp, unlike everyone else I encountered. However, something changed that first night we had praise and worship. I decided to let myself be loved by God and forget about what people might think if I dare raise a hand or two in the air. I made an effort to open my heart, my mind, and spirit to what God wanted for me. Although, I still struggle in my daily life, I now continue to struggle knowing I have a loving and powerful God by my side. I went to Winter Camp hoping the hours would go by fast and I left Winter Camp wishing the hours hadn't gone by at all!”

TWU Dallas:
All of our students from TWU-D at dinner at Winter Camp.
TWU Dallas picked up their spring semester the week after Winter Camp, so they’ve only been back in session for a few weeks now. With the new semester, we also have new cores starting up. This semester, Ashley (our UTD student leader who attends graduate school at Callier Dallas) and Amber (a TWU-D alumni) will be leading core together Monday afternoon with the help of Maria (a senior at TWU-D graduating next Fall). I will be leading with Tirzah (a new graduate from TWU-D) on Wednesday afternoons with the help of Hope (a senior from TWU-D graduating this May). We also have Sarah, another woman from the Dallas FOCUS staff, helping us with growing community at TWU-D. I share all of this with you guys because I want to ask for specific prayers for all of these ladies. We are all working together as a team to build close community centered on God at a school, and my prayer is that God would grow our friendships among each other and use us to help grow deep friendships at TWU-D that last outside of nursing school. I already am getting to see how God is using this new semester to strengthen us as a team, and how that is being used to grow and deepen the community He is building. I’m really excited to get to see this all play out over the remaining semester and in the coming years.

Other ways you can be praying:
Celebrating a birthday!

  • For graduated and graduating students. Several of the leaders and students that I work with either recently graduated in December and are starting new jobs/entering into this new stage of life, or are graduating this upcoming May and are beginning their job hunt. 
  • For me! I recently finished a whole bunch of applications for graduate school, and I am currently in the stage of the unknown and waiting. Please pray that I do get into one of these schools, preferably UTD, for many reasons including the chance to continue working with the TWU-D students. Also, pray that throughout this whole process, no matter what the outcome, I continue to stand firm in the knowledge that God is a good God with a good plan, and that He continues to strengthens me and gives me peace. Ultimately, I ask that His will be done, and not mine (and that I am okay with that). 
Thank you as always for your love and support. Your investment matters and I hope you are getting a small glimpse into how God is using it.  Please let me know how I can be praying for you.

I love you guys a whole bunch and thank you for your prayers. Happy month of February!

More pictures for your viewing pleasure!

One of the first girls I met in FOCUS as a freshman, and a sweet friend and supporter now. 
Amber, Hope, Christina, and I all cramming into a bunk at Winter Camp for the memories.
Our UTD students and alumni Whooshing! (PC: Sean Do)
TWU Dallas representing. (PC: Sean Do)
Some of our UTD students grabbing dinner together after an event. 
Behind the scenes at worship. One of my favorite things is hearing a group this big praising God's name without shame. It's loud but beautiful. (PC: Sean Do)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Happy New Year!

Hi friends!

Happy 2017! I hope that you were able to spend time this holiday season with friends and family, and that you got to reflect on God’s love and kindness to us through it all. I am praying that God will bless you in this new year, and that you will get to experience His love more deeply and grow in your relationship with Him.

The apprentices did a gift exchange for each other at our Christmas party!
We are more than halfway done with our 10 month apprenticeship! It blows my mind how fast the time has flown, and it’s bittersweet because I feel like the end of May will be here before we know it. However, I am so thankful I have gotten to spend so much time with this group of people getting to know them more personally. I love getting to see how God is growing each of them and hearing about their reflections on what we’re all learning. It is very encouraging and I really cannot express how grateful I am to you guys for supporting me so that I could have the opportunity to devote a large amount of time to learning and growing myself. Thank you!

The TWU-Dallas girls who dressed up as ladies in our 80's from the 80's!

 The FOCUS communities at the Dallas campuses wrapped up the end of 2016 with a fun "Very 80's Christmas" party. We spend the night hanging out with one another and then we get to enjoy a show of core skits put together by each core. The two TWU Dallas cores decided to dress up "as ladies in their 80's from the 80's" or maybe just the Golden Girls. We wrote a rap song and got to perform it up front. It was so much fun getting to work with them beforehand and share our work with everyone! I loved wrapping up the end of the semester with this party full of laughter and smiles, and I know all of the students really enjoyed themselves (especially the ones who go all out). I think I might even start wearing curlers more often too.

This upcoming weekend, we have our annual FOCUS Winter Camp at Sky Ranch in Van, TX. All of our campuses from across DFW come together to spend 4 days away from the "normal" to devote time to extensive learning, worshipping God, resting and preparing for the year, and growing deeper friendships. It is probably one of my favorite times of the year and is always so rewarding in the memories I leave camp with. I want to ask y'all to pray expectantly this weekend for every student that takes the time to come to encounter God and to make and grow new friendships. It really is such a refreshing weekend, and I am praying that God uses it to get our students on fire for what He is going to do in the coming year. I know for me, Winter Camp was a defining moment in my desire to invest in campus ministry and grow more intimately in my relationship with God.

My core the first time I went to Winter Camp!
Thank you guys so much for your continuous love, prayers, and support. Please let me know if there is any way I can be praying for you and how I can bless you this year.  I love you all so much!

P.S. Check out this student testimony. Not only is it very encouraging, it is a testimony to how God uses people in our lives. Autumn Priestly introduced her to FOCUS, and she also later on studied the Bible with me and invested a lot of time into my spiritual growth. God is so cool.