Sunday, May 16, 2021

Encounter Jesus in the Noise...

Almost 2 years ago, I prayed one night that Jesus would send me someone who could speak truth and help me connect with Him more...

Two days later my friend Merri Ellen sent me a text, inviting me to a gift of a session with her. I knew He was answering my prayer, and that session lead to a year of meeting with Jesus while meeting with my friend. She faithfully and joyfully led me through prayer in which I got to be in the presence of Jesus and hearing from Him. There's a lot I can share about the images and promises Jesus gave me in those sessions, but more importantly, the practice renewed my passion for spending time in the Word, in prayer, and in spending more time listening than speaking in my time with Jesus. My journal looks completely different today than it did 2 years ago. I think I've navigated COVID differently as a result.

One of the images Jesus gave me connected to Matthew 11:28-30, just before COVID hit.

I am often asked, when sharing about the time I spent with Merri Ellen: "How did you hear Jesus? and...How do I hear Jesus?" I have actually referred many friends to sessions, and today, I'm also excited that Merri Ellen is doing something new - for 5 days, starting May 27th, she is running a "kickstart" online. The cost is $27US, she will provide worksheets and videos...and I'm excited for what Jesus will speak!  

Here's the link to find out more and to sign up - 5 day kickstart - Encounter Jesus in the Noise

Feel free to send me any questions you may have!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A white flower and a pandemic...

The last few years, during the week of New Year's, I have asked Jesus to give me a word for the year ahead.

2018 was steadfast.
2019 was joy.

2020...The word that came, I hesitated to accept. In fact I asked Jesus if he might have a different word, cause I wasn't thrilled about the idea...

2020 was surprise.

My boss, Stan, had just announced his resignation effective June 15th, and I knew our executive assistant, Marlene, was about to announce her retirement. These were difficult announcements for me.
I had had enough surprise.

Marlene looked at me and said, "yes, but there are good surprises too, Kathleen - this doesn't mean only difficult things!"

Enter January semester. Lots of questions and encouragement for me to apply to be the Dean of Students, but I knew in my heart that it wasn't the role for me. I've always loved my role: the opportunity to lead, but be #2 (I love being #2), the flexibility to teach and plan events, while journeying with our students through one-on-one connections.

A good friend said, "I agree, I see you moving more and more into leadership opportunities and maybe teaching than I see you moving more into Student Development."

Enter early February: difficult conversations with students, the anniversary of the death of a student (which I sense in my bones before I even look at the calendar), questions around the needs of students and how do we do all of this better? I felt the weariness, and started to reflect on my friend's earlier statement. Maybe it was time to pray about my own timeline in this role.

I sent an email to a number of friends and family who pray, who listen, who share what they hear (and who have very little connection to the college and therefore would be unbiased in their listening). I simply told them I was wondering about my timeline, and would they pray?

Within days, I was somewhat shocked by how clear the response was: "new beginnings", "transition", "the time is now". Not one person encouraged me to stick it out, to remain, to hold on, which was perhaps actually what I was expecting to hear.

My friend Nate sent me a voice memo (not unlike him), and as I drove to work, I listened to his message:
As I pray, I see you holding a flower. It has one petal left, and as that petal drops to the ground, you see that the ground before you, which used to be a field of flowers, is now barren. It's desert.  
Jesus leads you up to a watchtower, shows you the land you came from, and reminds you, that even though it looks barren now, it was rich with flowers, it produced much, and you need to remember that.  
He then turns you to look out over a forest. He points out a campfire, and he says, "they're fanning the flame, and you need to go find them". 
Nate then laughed (one of those "I know, this is a lot" laughs), and said, "well, friend, I think you might be done!?"
My niece-friend illustrated this for me...and I cried.
The craziest part of this was not the image he spoke to me that morning. It was actually the fact that this was an image that he had shared with me 4 years earlier.

In 2016, I had been working on class prep one night, and Nate sent me a text: "You're holding a white flower, and as you give it away, you continue to have it. I think the message is that you don't have to worry about giving of yourself in the season: God will continue to provide."

A week later, our student passed away, and I entered into one of the most difficult seasons of my professional life.

8 months after that, my boss was on sabbatical, I was working with a brand new Residence Director, and within a week of Stan taking time off, we had what felt like multiple "fires" happening in the dorms. (Remember, I love being #2...) I texted Nate and said, "please pray - I can't tell you why - please just pray!"

Nate texted back: "You're holding a flower, and it only has one petal left...but the petal isn't going to fall, and God's going to restore you. Hold on."

And so, on that February morning just weeks ago, as I drove to work and heard Nate speak again of a flower, I knew it was the continuation of a story that Jesus had been weaving in me for the last four years; a permission to say that it was now the end. (And of course when I told Nate about this, he had no memory of it...because it wasn't his message to remember).

When I arrived at work, I told both Stan and Matt (my co-director for our Applied Leadership program)...Matt looked at me and said, "Ok, so if you're not going to be the Associate Dean anymore, what will you do?"

I looked at him, and said, "I have no idea!"

And then I told him three ideas I had (because apparently I did have ideas, but hadn't realized they'd been stewing in the background of my thoughts). 

Within a week of that sharing, those three ideas all became realities to some extent or another: I had divinely appointed conversations and invitations. They were all so surreal that by the end of that week, I looked at Matt and said, "I think I have enough reason to say it's time. Whether or not these three things pan out, He's showing me that He can provide the next thing."

I promptly booked an appointment with the President of the college (Bryan also happens to be my former boss, and I consider him a mentor and friend), and wrote up my experience and my thoughts, along with a pitch for a new role (one of the three ideas).

The morning of our meeting, as I walked between buildings with Stan, we were chatting away, and suddenly something caught my eye.

There, on the concrete circle in the middle of campus, was one white flower.

I stopped and took a picture of it; Stan, not realizing I had stopped, turned around and said, "what are you doing?" I replied, "Oh, nothing, just taking a picture of a random WHITE FLOWER!" Knowing the importance to me of this imagery, his eyes got big.

I looked at him and said, "Well, if there was any hesitation about this conversation today, it's gone."

The results of my meeting with Bryan (which I cried through most of, just to ensure you understand this wasn't as easy as it sounds through my written version...) led me to a presentation to our Leadership Team one week later, in which I pitched the new job idea; I felt it was enthusiastically received and that there was hopeful optimism.

And then three days later we shut the school down, sent all our students home, and started online learning due to COVID-19.


I sat in a team meeting (the final one we had all together), and heard all the implications of this pandemic reality for us. And I knew. My job pitch was done. I chose in that moment to release the picture.

Thankfully, Jesus had prepared me well. Not only had he spoken through my community and given such a clear illustration for me (we still make jokes about looking up the video footage to see how that white flower appeared...), but I had also been attending spiritual direction/prayer counselling sessions since September. In one of those sessions, Jesus had gifted me with an image in alignment with Matthew 11:28-30.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
As this verse spoke over me, the image was clear: Jesus in a hammock, inviting me to join Him, lemonade on the side. He, being omnipresent, could both work and rest; I could not. That was my lesson.

I had asked a former student to illustrate this for me (long before covid), and the arrival of it in the mail in March was a perfect reminder. He can work out my work situation mid-covid. I cannot.
A Sarah Torres Original - this girl has a gift - let me know if you need her contact info

And so, this is what I know.

I will be Associate Dean of Students until August 31, 2020.
As of September 1st, I will reduce to part time loading as Co-Director for the Applied Leadership Program and teaching.

And the rest is unknown.

And I'm ok.

Because He is the hope that anchors us.
Not the plans.
Not the connections.
Not the finances.
Not the work.
Just Him.

And I'm excited to see what He does next.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Ruined for the ordinary...Costa Rica 2.0

Fifteen years ago, I travelled to Costa Rica for the first time.

I was a wide-eyed, eager-to-see-Jesus-work, energetic 20 year old. (To be fair, I still think of myself this way.)

I remember getting off the plane, the humid air catching my breath, and knowing that this experience would be special…but really having no idea what I was in for.

“This stuff ruins you for the ordinary,” DeLynn (my ministry leader for Vida Missions) would often say in the years that followed, as we witnessed God work in incredible ways.

He was right.

Year after year, I returned to this dear place. We developed relationships with local churches, welcomed summer staff who stumbled through hard days and rejoiced together in the good ones, and hosted scores of youth who returned home to try and apply what they had learned in a foreign, yet familiar, land.

I developed sisterly ties with my own Costa Rican family. I learned a ton about the way in which God speaks and reveals Himself. I learned how to speak Spanish (roughly), and lead in a new context. I had to adapt, I had to have plan B’s, and I had to ask for a lot of grace. I made incredible friends. 

Iron sharpened iron.

In 2009, I said good-bye to Costa Rica. After much soul searching and prayer, I had decided it was time to pursue my MA studies, which meant releasing my time down south…and choosing to stay in Canada.

And then, as only God can, the story changed. In 2012, a coworker and mentor approached me, about a new idea he had for a program at our beloved Columbia Bible College. He was
(and continues to be) a man of vision. A man who empowers the next generation. And so he gathered a few of us younger staff members, and we began planning.

It would be a leadership certificate.
First semester in Canada, second semester in Costa Rica.

As it launched, I felt my own story with Costa Rica was coming full circle.
I thought it had been a good-bye, but it was really just ‘hasta la proxima vez…’

The LEAD students would be working in the community of Shiroles, Talamanca, alongside students from the mission program I had volunteered with all those years. Their own ministry would coincide with that of my friends Raul and Kimi.

After a couple of very successful years with our LEAD program, the vision continued to deepen and expand (as it often does). Through many brainstorming sessions and a few kicks-at-the-can, this coworker/mentor of mine eventually revealed his longer-term dream: that us younger staff would move into the leadership positions he had held, as he lessened his involvement in his retirement. (It is important to note that this meant 100% loading instead of 200% loading; as I said, he’s a visionary…)

And so, this last year, Matt Kaminski (our Athletics Director) and myself became co-directors of our new Applied Leadership program at Columbia.

As we re-worked this program from the original LEAD design, we knew that the Costa Rica piece was still an incredibly vital experience for students who desired to learn in a new context. Glenallen, a student who had served as the Costa Rica Coordinator for the two years prior, agreed to continue to serve in this role. In the time that had passed, we had seen Raul and Kimi’s ministry grow. We knew that while our students would go and serve with them, they would learn a great deal from these friends about what we are seeking to teach our students: the authentic, transformational, servant leadership that our friends exemplified.

This leads us to today.

On April 24th, six of our Applied Leadership students along with Glenallen (who is about to be an Applied Leadership BA graduate!), are travelling to Costa Rica for 10 weeks.

They will be serving, learning, and sharing their gifts with the ministry that Raul and Kimi have been leading for the past 10 years, Esperanza.

Esperanza’s ministry involves teaching and caring for local children, meal delivery and visiting with the elderly, craft time with women (which has evolved into a sewing enterprise for the women to build an income), soccer tournaments, ongoing home builds, Bible studies, worship nights…and this ministry continues to expand into other remote locations in the local jungle. This year, the local leaders are continuing to grow their ministry as they plan a missions trip to Thailand. Many of the young adults have participated in discipleship training, and, through Esperanza, are continuing to develop their gifts of leadership.

In addition to all of these amazing things, one of the opportunities that our students have in this context will be to connect with these local young adults and share with them about what they have been learning in classes at Columbia thus far. I am beyond excited for our students to journey with these dear people. I cannot wait for them to go and learn more about leadership in this context.
The wide-eyed, eager-to-see-Jesus-work, energetic team of 2018.

In Canada, we can dangerously believe we know “the way” to do leadership, as if we have cornered the market; I long for these students to be ruined for the ordinary…as they share their learning, I am confident it will be refined. They will see Jesus at work. I believe they will return home with new understanding. Their leadership will be stronger, their impact broader, as a result.

In the next few weeks as our students prepare, would you join me in supporting them?

We need your prayers! There are many details to still finalize, Spanish lessons to work on, cultural preparedness to consider, and finances to raise. These students are full time in their classes, and doing all this work on top of their current schedules, in anticipation of what is coming. If you are willing to be added to a prayer list, comment below or message me.

We also need financial support! As a project of the college, these students are raising the costs; would you consider helping us by making a donation? You can do so online by following this link, select "other" for the designation, and note that it is for the project “Applied Leadership Costa Rica”.

I love seeing how God knits our stories…I am reminded tonight as I write this, that He uses all together for His glory, and our good, and we don’t always get to see how it comes together. I am thankful for the glimpse I get into His work in Costa Rica, and the opportunity our students have to be part of it for this season in time. You never know what the next full circle will be for them in this. 

Thanks for reading, friends.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

When God writes you a new chapter.

More than seven years ago, Carleigh called me one evening and asked me if I wanted to live with her and Gary, and their little one, Charlee.

I said yes.

It was an easy answer; I needed a place to live, they needed a boarder. I was 25. I honestly thought it would last for a year or two and then I would *ahem* get married, or move to Costa Rica.

And then it seemed like I blinked.
And seven years had passed.
And I am neither married, nor in Costa Rica.
 (My first pic with Charlee prior to me moving in with Carleigh and Gary)
 (First pic with Bodhi - still at the hospital)
(First pic with Jane - also still at the hospital!)

These years have been full of incredible moments, both heart-lifting and heart-breaking. They have been full of conversation, family dinners, babies home from the hospital, stories enough to fill a blog (or two), joy & grief, conflict & restoration, many many kitchen conversations that have included both laughter and tears...and I could go on.

So five months ago, when we found out Carleigh and Gary were expecting twins (and there was no more room in the inn), we had the conversation. It was going to be time to transition. And it was a hard fact for me to face; I knew this current situation wouldn't last forever, but this was the place where I learned what it took for a family to become a family. As an only child, I got to see what it looked like for siblings to grow up together, and for parents to raise them. Coming from a small family myself, I started to gain "new family" through their extended family. I personally learned what it meant when the Psalmist wrote that God sets the lonely in family. I learned a heck of a lot.

I came home from our supper together, and I started googling new homes. (Side note: When you are emotional, never ever google.) All I could see were condos and apartments that looked incredibly lonely, or offers for a roommate (for a college student who was 20). I shut my laptop and decided I shouldn't have googled. And so I prayed.

The next morning, I was brushing my teeth, and instantly thought of a friend who I wanted to debrief my new phase of life with. She and I had done our masters' degrees together; she was a huge supporter of me, a logical woman, and I knew she'd be able to help me process what I should do next.

But then, something funny happened (and I was still brushing my teeth); I remembered that she and her husband would be moving to Abbotsford this summer, and it dawned on me: maybe they were looking for a renter?

It is totally my strength, and my weakness, to plan.
And so, with this newfound thought, I stopped planning.
And I let it sit.
I knew this situation needed me to take my hands off, and let God guide me.

Four days later, as I got ready for work, I sensed God was urging me: "Email them tonight!"

After a couple of weeks, and a visit with my friends, the plan was in place: I would have a new home, in their new home. I could hardly believe it (in fact, I am tearing up as I write this), that God would guide my steps like that.

As we talked through what it could look like, I sensed a space opening up in my life for something new and unknown. In my new home, I will continue to enjoy the privilege of friends living together (i.e. grocery shopping dates, potluck style suppers every once in a while, and their freedom to go out in the evening while I watch the monitor)... and I will have space for my family to come for dinner (twins included!) and for the kids to sleepover. (And did I mention it's a 2 minute drive from my current place?).

It is the best of both worlds.
A continuation of the good, of the friendships that have been built; a new deepening.

There's more.
I will also have space to host others.
Family, friends, students, and yet-to-be-discovered others.
And that, honestly, makes my heart swell.

I believe God gave me a home with Carleigh and Gary (and their kids) all those years ago, because He knew I needed them and needed to learn so much through them, and from that place, I am able to now continue forward, with their love and support, into a new chapter.

And as Bodhi (all 6 years old of him) said to me tonight, "so, like, I can call you and you can come over and have talks with me...right?" When I assured him yes, he asked me to write down my number. I have a feeling I'll be getting a few calls.

I moved in with friends.

And as I pack, I am thankful that they became my family.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

a moustache and a beard...

It's 9:50pm on a Sunday night, and I have a number of papers I'm supposed to have marked by tomorrow morning. And the number left is still big. So I have tea. And some chocolate. And I figured it's time to blog...right? (Those of you who read my blog while I was doing my Masters' degree know that my prime blogging time is exactly when I'm nearing a deadline for something else. aka. I procrastinate. Big time. And I've accepted it as a strength.)

This last week has been full of epic kid stories. I've had more time to take the kids on dates, and they've been hanging out in my room more, so undoubtedly that leads to awesome stuff. Enjoy.

One night last week, I took Bodhi (6) and Jane (4) to the library. The car ride there was hilarious.

Bo: Um, Kathleen, do I have the right cards for the library?
Me: Yup, Bo, mom put your library card in your wallet, so you're good to go.
Bo: Kathleen, how much money do I have for the books?
Me: Oh, Bo, you don't need money for the library. You just borrow the books, but you need a card to show the lady at the desk. 
Bo: Huh?
Jane: Yup, you just go and she goes "beep" and then you get to take the books home.
Me: Yeah, and then she will tell you, "you can have these books for two weeks!" or something like that, and then after two weeks, you have to bring them back.
Bo: What if I forget, and bring them back late?
Me: Well, then you'll have to pay money for being late. It's called a fine.
Bo: What!?! I don't have any money!

Hearing the panic in his voice, I assured him his mom would take care of it.
Once we arrived at the library, Bodhi had a plan.

Bo: I'm going to find all the science books! I want books on science.
Jane: Well that's a great idea, because you are a scientist Bo!

We walked in, and a young man working in the children's area asked me if we needed any help. I told Bodhi to ask him what he was looking for, and Bo enthusiastically asked for the science books.

Library guy: So what kind of science are you interested in?
Bo: Well, like, zoology. But not like fossils and stuff.
Library guy: Wow. Well, I'm not quite sure where the zoology books kid has exactly ever asked me for that. I'll look it up.

(He comes back and directs Bo to the animal section, which Bo decides isn't really what he wants. So library guy patiently starts going through one book after another in the science section and asking Bo if that's what he's interested in. This guy deserves whatever pay he's getting. In fact, I should have tipped him...what's the going percentage for library tips? Anyways, Bo hits the jackpot with the "crystals", "minerals", "electricity", and "rock formation" books. As you can tell, he's totally into zoology.)
Here's a photo intermission: I took Jane to the car wash yesterday. There was a long line, and so I distracted her with apple juice and taking pictures in her 3d glasses with the lenses popped out. I told her, "pretend we're in line for Disneyland!"
And then there was the glorious moment today where Charlee (7) and Jane popped into my room for a visit. I had put up a new display of pictures on my wall, and Charlee upon entering and see this declared,

"You are just living the life."

I laughed and tried to dig for more info.

Charlee: If you didn't live with us, Kathleen, I would have your room. 
Jane: And I would share it with you!
Charlee: No Jane. No you wouldn't. (Someone already shares a room...and someone who's name rhymes with Lane, snores. She's actually confessed it to me herself). 
Me: Oh, but Charlee, I really do love living with you. 
Jane interjects, insisting that I just can't die. Please don't die! I assure her I have no plans to...
Charlee: Kathleen, we really do love living with you. Please don't get a boyfriend.
Me: Why?
Charlee: Because then you'll get married, and you'll move away, and he'll be your husband, and I might hate him!
Me: (admittedly chuckling) Woah, why might you hate him?
Charlee: Because he might not have a moustache and a beard. 

So, future husband, here's hoping you can grow some facial hair. I've got a 7 year old who's love for you depends on it.