Monday, April 5, 2021

March: A Devotional


I thought today I could share a small devotional over some things I've been thinking about. I hope this is encouraging to you!

"A good person brings good things out of the good stored up in their heart, and an evil person brings evil things out of the evil stored up in their heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
Luke 6:45

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
Galatians 5:22-23

I've been thinking about what seems to reside in my heart most often and a lot of it has to do with myself. My natural state seems to be about making sure I feel secure and in control. Which means I'm more often concerned with what's going on with me most of the time. And that leads to worries, fears, and frustrations in my heart and flowing out of my mouth. I realize that worrying about myself isn't producing good fruit. 

I've been praying for God to show me how to rely on him instead. To give him my security, control, reputation and emotions so that I am free to join him in his work in the world. I'm asking him to produce good fruit in me and to help me be obedient to him.
What flows out of your heart?

Along these lines, I've also been reflecting on God as a good father. God is not a micromanager or or an impatient teacher. He doesn't seem to want to rush me or make me feel bad for not getting everything right. Instead, he's patient with me. He sees me as a whole person, not just looking at my weaknesses, but sees my strengths, weaknesses, personality, and quirks all together. Like a good dad, he doesn't try to make me what he expects me to be but he equips me to flourish. 

So often I find myself believing that God is like I tend to be - scared to be out of control. I start to believe that he is as critical of me as I am of me. And I believe that he's frustrated with my progress. The more I do ministry, the more I see how much I have to learn. But that doesn't mean God is frustrated with me. That'd be like being mad at a toddler as they're learning to walk and they fall down. I'm learning he loves me as I am and is ready to teach me more of how he leads people. When I miss the mark, God is right there to help me stand again. 
In what ways do you make God in your own image?

So many times I find myself in the midst of some problem and I desperately start trying to find the solution, any solution. But when I find a solution, I quit looking to God for help; I've got my game plan and I don't need to question it. That very resolution closes the conversation with God. What if God wants me the stay in the tension a little longer? To sit with the unknown and keep the conversation with him open a little more? That seems to be more along the lines of surrendering and practicing humility. If God is a good father, then he'd probably much rather have that kind of relationship with me.
How do you seek resolution over quality time with God?

My thoughts are still sort of a jumble as I think through these things and reflect on where God seems to be leading me. But I trust him to be shaping me in his own timing, and not to be impatient with me.


Ministry Update!
We've been heating up community building and doing different events outside now that the weather is nice. We knew getting people connected outside of their small groups was going to be a challenge this semester. We don't have any regular large group meetings and a lot of people don't realize the scope and rootedness of our community. That makes it hard for us to cast a vision for our work on campus sometimes. So, we've been encouraging people to plan hangouts and we're doing a couple of events to help people meet others.

Along those lines, we did a Social Justice Questions & Response with some deep thinkers in our community. If you didn't know, Denton is a hot spot for people to really get on board with various social justice movements. We took time to answer questions on what it looks like for a Christian to care about the people and world around them while not blindly subscribing to what culture says is true. This was very thought provoking. Something that stood out to me was that we are called to love the Lord with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. But sometimes when we try to figure out what God cares about and follow suit, we only use our minds. We don't love God's people with our hearts because we're trying to figure out the politics, the exact perfect way to walk through the tensions we see and experience. What would it look like for us to fully commit to fully love the people God sends us to with our minds, hearts, souls, and strength?
 

Photo Dump!



I hope y'all are well! Let me know if there's any way I can be praying for you. Love y'all!








Saturday, April 3, 2021

Join Us For Showcase Tonight!

Showcase '21 is tonight, April 3rd! Pay what you can at anyfocus.org/showcase. Virtual doors open at 6pm and the show starts at 6:30pm. 
Make this a night in with friends and family or a fun date night!

Prepare to have your mind blown by the illusions and mind-reading abilities of David Magee. Get ready to be serenaded by the vocal talents of singers like Clint Sherman, Kaylee Killingsworth, and Zoë Randle. You’ll be enthralled by the beats and bars of Rhett Hayes and Xael. You won’t want to miss it!




Friday, February 12, 2021

January: Freezing on Campus

 I hope y'all are staying warm out there! It's cold in Denton for sure! 

The start of the semester has gone so so well. We've really been heating up the importance of evangelism/outreach and of community building. And there's been a great response! I've played a lot of volleyball (poorly, without any real rules) over the last couple of weeks with our students and random students we meet on campus. That's been such a fun and easy way to meet people and invite them to take a break from their studies for a few minutes!

We also got to get a couple of cores together to hang out at the Denton Square!


What a fun time! 


Here's the final installment of introducing my peer team!


Meet Taylor! Many of you know her or you might remember she was actually in my peer team two years ago during my first year on staff! She's a senior this year, about to graduate and move to Boston to go to law school. Taylor has been such a blessing to me and a sweet friend. She is a steady presence in our community and she actively serves the people around her. We have the kind of relationship where we get to joke around and be mean to each other, all in good fun. Taylor has been growing so much in perseverance, in walking through hard things by turning to the Lord for help. I know the fruit God cultivates there will bless her for the rest of her life.


And here's Katelyne! Taylor and Kate lead core together. Kate was actually in my core last year and I got to study the Bible with her! Her heart for God and for people is so evident in how she thinks about the world and looks for what's best for the people around her. She is also graduating this year, looking to teach, and is getting married this summer. The Lord has been teaching her a lot about obedience and abiding in him; she is learning to obey him without overcomplicating things and trust him to provide for the details. We can't remember which one of us said it but something we've talked about is looking more to the painter than the painting, meaning that we shouldn't get distracted by creation but would instead look for the artist behind everything. 
Kate has also become a sweet friend, I'm so glad I've gotten to spend the last couple of years with her.

Here's a few other fun pictures for your entertainment!




This is my new favorite picture of Blue Belle.


I'm praying for you all! Your thoughts, prayers, and encouragements mean so much to me. Thank you for continuing to support God's work on college campuses. If there is any way I can be praying for you, please let me know!

Love y'all,






Monday, November 23, 2020

November: Let's Keep FOCUS Growing!

Happy November, y'all! I hope you are having a great month so far! I wanted to send this November update a few days before December because we are in the middle of our Keep FOCUS Growing campaign and I wanted to let you guys know about it! 




Every year, we have a fundraising campaign to raise money to support the operational costs of keeping our ministry going. This year, we are trying to raise $100,000. So far, our students have raised $8,000 which was matched by a generous team of donors! Those generous donors have also banded together and agreed to match up to $42,000 in total donations during this campaign. So if we receive $42,000 in total contributions, they will kick in a SECOND $42,000! If this is something you'd like to participate in, your first chance to give will be on December 1st, which is Giving Tuesday! So please, would you consider investing in this opportunity? Thank you so much for considering this, especially in the midst of a crazy year and season.

You can give on Facebook with no processing fees at https://www.facebook.com/anyfocusministries
or you can go to anyfocus.org/kfg


Updates!

Overall, things are going well! It seems like most people are super willing to continue to meet outside and distanced if it means they get to see people in person so it's cool to see them prioritize that. We've had a few students face being exposed to COVID but everyone has been responding so responsibly to really limit the spread. Please continue to pray for protection and wisdom for our ministry to be able to continue doing the important things!


My sweet peer team and I decorated pumpkins - but with a twist! We did this as a worship activity, so we reflected on the Lord and what He's been teaching us and then painted about it. It was so cool to see how the Lord is shaping each of these girls to know and love Him more and more. 



I know I've introduced y'all so some of these girls but I thought I'd do that a little more over the next few months because I love these girls a lot. These are the student leaders I get to spend time with each week, talking about life, ministry, and discipleship. My time with them is probably my favorite time of the week!
 



This is Katherine and Veronica at our outdoor peer team meeting. They lead a core together, so they are cofas (co-facilitators). Of course, as they were warming their toes by the fire, they claimed to be toe-fas and laughed for five minutes😊. 


This is Veronica! This sweet girl is a sophomore studying a crazy assortment of things (I think along the lines of business, nonprofit, and Spanish, but there's too much to remember). This is her first year as a corefa and I have loved getting to know her and help her learn to love her peers well. Veronica grew up in church and has a really good foundation in discipleship and knowing the Lord. Along with being a corefa, she is also an RA (resident assistant) so she invests in 40 girls outside of her core. And she is so stinking committed! She really makes a point to get to know everyone in her spheres and she's one of those people who almost can't help talking about Jesus. Currently, she's been learning to really rely on her community to know her and invest in her. It's so cool to see God lead her to trust Him and others more and more!


This is Katherine! Katherine is studying drawing and painting and this is her second year being a corefa. I really love my time with her because she's very thoughtful and has been learning to filter through her strong emotions to find truth. Katherine has such a heart for people to know the Lord deeply and she herself has grown in loving God fully in the last year. This year, Katherine and Veronica have a large core, which can be overwhelming. But they both have taken on that challenge and Katherine been growing a ton in being consistent with people and being disciplined with her time. What a sweet friend who is humbly doing her best to serve God and her community. 

Ways to Pray:

- Please pray for Keep FOCUS Growing, that God would provide for us this year like He has in the past.
- Please be praying for these students as they go home for thanksgiving and Christmas, that they would be able to serve their families and be wise about what precautions to take.




Love y'all lots!


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

September: Pizza and Friendship

    Here's how September went in ministry! Honestly, the days are blurring together and time is strange but God has been consistently showing up. Meeting with each of the girls in my peer team every week has been so encouraging. They are each learning what it means to surrender their whole lives to Jesus and to serve the people around them selflessly. 


    This is Mo (above). I have the pleasure of meeting with Mo every week. This is her first year being a corefa over at TWU and I have loved getting to know her and see her love her campus. She is learning so much about real friendship and has really started opening up to people. Mo has a deep love for Scripture and our conversations are so fun! She asks incredibly insightful questions and has an eagerness to face hard things. I've just been really grateful to become her friend! 
    And pretty much all of my one on ones with these girls are just as encouraging. A lot of September has just been building friendships with them. Each one is unique and so fun.


    
    This is Maddie (and Blue Belle of course)! Maddie and I lead a core together at TWU, so we spend a ton of time together. She is funny, sweet, and sassy and has become a really good friend to me. She's learning a lot about asking good questions, both with people and Scripture, and she's grown so much in each area. Maddie's grown up being pushed to be really safety-conscious because of some health issues. God has been leading her to see her identity outside of her health and to even sacrifice the safest option for the sake of others. She can get tired easily but still chooses to put herself in exhausting situations - what an encouragement! 


    And here's our core at Pizza Theology! Pizza Theology is an event we have every semester where we eat pizza and hear lectures about a deeper theological topic. This semester, we talked about how Christians can start developing helpful thoughts around the political world. We had some really insightful speakers share about their experiences and thought processes. They offered some helpful framework for approaching politics. One idea that has stuck with me is the difference between thinking in terms of power (What's the most effective or useful solution?) and thinking in terms of love (What's most loving for the people around me?). God is not always about efficiency and often does things in a roundabout way. Yet, I want to find the perfect solution in politics, the answer that will fix everything. If that's not what Jesus does, why do I try to do that? Definitely thought provoking!


    And here's a slightly blurry bonus picture of Blue Belle! Overall, it's been a super solid and encouraging month! Thank you guys for your prayers and support!



Love y'all!



 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

August: Ministry in a Pandemic

Happy September!

Y'all, the Lord is working on these campuses. 

We kicked off the school year with Corefa Prep! We gathered our student leaders (corefas) to this super convenient park by my house where we were able to stay socially distant. Any people you see sitting together here live together. We have more corefas this year than ever before in Denton. God has really opened doors during this pandemic for these students to be able to commit their time to building His kingdom here. 


Gathering together meant that we were able to really cast a vision for campus ministry this year. We talked about discerning what necessary risks we might need to take and what unnecessary risks we can avoid for the sake of others. We get to really emphasize outreach this year because we don't have the normal flashy events that attract people. (None of our events were actually that flashy anyway 😆.) So, this year we're focusing on meeting people on a personal level and inviting them into a community that we have benefitted immensely from.


We knew doing ministry in the middle of a pandemic was going to be challenging. Our staff has been preparing for this all summer. And now that we're actually in the middle of it, I could not be prouder fo these students. They have responded prayerfully to each challenge they come across. One of our major themes as a ministry this year is suffering and sacrifice for the sake of Christ. These corefas are consistently choosing to suffer for the sake of others. Especially during our Texas summer, they are literally sweating it so they can protect their cores by meeting outside. They are sacrificing their preferences to hang out with their friends like they normally would and instead choosing to follow safer practices (distance, outside) - and for some of those physical touch people, that is absolutely a sacrifice. They are choosing to consider how they can be most effective and if the risks they are taking are worth it if they end up with COVID and are severely limited in their ministry.


So, we are rolling with the punches and God is so faithful!
The following week, we got to work! We went out on the campuses the week before school started to meet people as they moved in and were getting ready for the year. So many people were so receptive to what we had to offer. We met so many students who really just craved community and friendship and in person interactions. So many students have most of their classes online and the professors are having to change the format of the classes often - it was a stressful week for many as they kept waiting for information to come in. I think a lot of them were excited for the change of pace and for a chance to experience some normalcy and fun!

Becca, Jenna, and Shayla ready to do outreach at TWU!




We have 23 cores total this year and we may need to add more. The first couple weeks of core have gone so well and many of them have had to split up because more than ten people came! We're still working out some kinks and getting creative about how we can keep those cores safe but I've been so encouraged by the turnout. More than numbers, the people who are coming seem to really want to be there!


Here's my core's first core picture! Maddie, my cofa in the pink mask - Maria, under the checkered blanket - me, under my lawn chair - Aileen, in the back. We've had some interesting weather so we had to make a run for the union when it started raining on our core!

I also got to start meeting with my peer team! We met all together and I just had to snap a polaroid!


! also get to meet some of them in my backyard for our one on one time together and that means Blue Belle gets lots of pets! This is Kate!

So far so good! God has been tugging at hearts and showing us how to rely on Him over and over again. When things don't go according to plan, when I have to be flexible, God comes alongside me and gives me those chances to turn to Him for strength and comfort. 





Love y'all! As always, let me know if there is any way I can be specifically praying for you!





Monday, August 10, 2020

Getting ready for a new year!

    Hello! Since this is the start of the 2020-21 school year, I thought I'd take this chance to catch everyone up on what I do and what we expect this year to look like. If this is your first time on my blog, welcome! 

This is my peer team from last year!

    I am a campus pastor in Denton, specifically the UNT and TWU campuses. I found FOCUS (Fellowship of Christian University Students) at the end of my freshman year of college at UNT. I absolutely love the friends I was able to make as I became more invested in the community. I'm still close friends with many of the people I met during those three years. During my junior and senior year, I had the opportunity to learn more about ministry and serving people by being a corefa. (That's a core facilitator. And cores are our small, same-gendered groups where we learn to live out Scripture together and develop friendships.) I absolutely loved getting to build friendships with the girls in my core as we studied the Bible together and got to hang out around town! I was also invested in and developed as a leader by the campus pastors. That experience meant I grew a ton in my own relationship with God and in helping others pursue Him.

My core at Fall Camp 2016

My core at Winter camp 2018

    As I approached graduation in 2018, God consistently kept nudging me toward ministry. I was studying chemistry to go into forensic science and I care a lot about doing ministry in secular workplaces. But the more I prayed, the more I felt called to stick with FOCUS after I graduated. FOCUS offers an apprenticeship program where post-grads can commit 10 months to on-the-ground ministry with students and student leaders and intense classes that help develop ministry skills. So I got the opportunity to do this! I worked closely with our campus staff to plan events, think pastorally about students and leaders, and learn to guide our community as the Spirit leads us. 

This is the Denton staff I got to work with during my apprenticeship year.

These are the 2018-2019 apprentices I got to have classes with and learn from!

    I really fell in love with ministry during that year and ended up committing to four more years with FOCUS. Last year (2019-2020) was my first year of that commitment. I got to be a corefa again and a peer team leader. (Peer team leaders are usually staff members who lead a group of corefas. The group together is a peer team. I meet with each corefa once a week and we talk through core, leadership, discipleship, and life things together.) I really loved being a corefa again but I think my favorite part is being a peer team leader. I love getting to know these girls who have committed to serving God and their community while they are going through so much growing up in college. They really bless me so much and teach me again and again about faith.

Jess and I put together some care packages for the homeless.

    All that to say, I really am so pumped for the year! We'll face unique challenges as we figure out meeting new people during a pandemic. But the Lord is faithful and He is up to something. Maybe this year isn't about having lots of new faces around, although there is a big need for community right now and I pray that the lonely on campus will find friendship. But maybe this year for all of us is more about God solidifying His people to be ones marked by stability and perseverance. Instead of us finding our stability in routine, maybe God is teaching us to really put our faith in Him. We know that the Lord uses times of suffering to produce perseverance (Romans 5:3-5). This is a time for us to persevere, to really take the opportunities God gives us seriously, and to trust Him with the outcome.

    Already, some surprising blessings have come out of this time. Our plan for the year is to mainly focus on cores, keeping them small and taking the precautions necessary. Because we're limiting their size, we needed more corefas to step up so we could have more cores. Before we could even worry about that, God provided close to 15 more corefas than last year! So many students have more flexible time with online classes that they can commit to leading! Also, TWU tends to have fewer corefas but this year we have almost the same number of women's cores at each campus! I think God is preparing us now to really bless these campuses, and we haven't even started the year yet.

Ways to pray:

Please join me in praying for this year, for the students we need to encounter, and for the leaders God has given us.
Please pray for the universities to communicate their plans quickly and clearly so we can plan accordingly.
Pray for our staff to move with wisdom adn to strike the right balance of caution and boldness.

More about me:

Here's a few quick things you should know about me!
I have a doggo. That's it, that's all you need to know. 



Meet Blue Belle!

    Just kidding! You should also know that I am married to Jon Smith, who I met through FOCUS. We got married a year ago July! Does that mean I'm no longer a newly-wed?



    I'm so very excited to partner with each of you in ministry and to share with you what God does on these campuses. Please always feel free to respond to these updates and let me know how you're doing and how I can be praying for you!

Love y'all!


Here's some other fun photos from ministry life: