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Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Thorns. The Buds. The Blooms.

So thought this would be a good format for sharing just a little bit of what's been going on around here the last 3ish week... can you believe I've already been here for a month! So, "The Thorns" are somethings that have been a bit hard. "The Buds" are somethings that I'm excited for, relationships that are forming, upcoming possibilities. "The Blooms" are things that have blossomed into wonderful things already :D

The Thorns:

There is no doubt in my mind that this is where I'm supposed to be. Everyday I connect a dot and realize just how much God did to prepare me for things I would do/encounter here. All that being said, it has still been hard in some ways. The end of week 3, when a lot of people had settled down and homesickness started to creep up for a lot of us, I was feeling it pretty bad. I've found a lot of comfort in the last week through connections with home (I loved getting to FaceTime Epic last Sunday! and get chats in with the beautiful ladies Natalie and Chelsea!) and have had a lot encouragement here but I'm still, I guess you could call it, grieving the loss of a few things. I don't want to imply at all that my hands aren't wide open and I didn't willingly give up the things I needed to, to be here, but I finally allowed myself to realize just how much being here (and maybe returning) could mean for my future.

One things I miss most is the ministries I had the privilege of being so involved in before I left. I miss my students and I miss my leader friends! I had to face the reality a few weeks back, that my future with these ministries may look a lot different than what I had been hoping. For example, I was hoping that dates would line up so I could come back here for a Ministry Development School (phase 2 they call it, it's the prerequisite if you'd like to work anywhere on staff with YWAM) or the School of Worship, and still be around next summer for some of the things I missed this summer. I knew it was a possibility that I would miss another summer around GV but it didn't mean it didn't hurt I little to have it seem more like a possibility. There's SO MUCH good stuff back home but I'm learning that the high level of involvement I had was probably more for the season of healing before I would come here than for a lifetime. Home will always be home though! And my heart is already so excited for the times when I can be back hanging out with ya'll!

The Buds:

Outreach preparation is coming along! My whole team and I are excited and expectant for the wonderful things that are set up for our times in each country.

Guatemala: We will be working and staying with a ministry called The Street Revolution. Their main goal is to ministry to at risk youth and people out on the streets of Guatemala City. There will be the opportunity to do street drama's and music plus some of the ladies of the group may also be able to go and minister to people in the sex industry downtown, led by our assistant outreach leader Bekah. From Guatemala City we'll be traveling to Antigua (look up pictures, it's beautiful!) where we will be helping out in a coffee shop ministry.

Here's a link:

Hungary: We will be with the YWAM base in Budapest (one gorgeous city!) doing a whole bunch of different things including street ministry, coffee house, some work around the bases, some feeding of the homeless and intercession for the city. Myself may be able to take part in some concerts and music nights held at some venues around the city. I'm super excited for this leg of the trip because it feels like it'll be a natural fit for my ministry style and giftings. Both the Hungary and France bases really focus on relationships above all else. We will be probably be doing drama and evangelism stuff but in Europe it can be less well received compared to places in Latin America or Africa. Here is an piece of an info email sent to our Outreach Leader Matt.

"Our vision is reaching the lost and discipling believers.  There are different ways we do this, some of which are listed below.  We have two facilities.  One is called King's Gate and this is where your team will be staying.  KG is also where some of our staff live and where students are housed when we are running a school.  Our other facility is downtown in the cafe and arts district.  This is where we have our office and where our coffee house is located.  We have just completed a renovation project to finish the ground floor so that it can be used for many kinds of events involving music, theater, and the arts.  This is an exciting season for our base as the Lord has provided everything needed for the completion of this major project.  Now we are in a position to expand our ministry to reach Budapest.  You can explore that further if you'd like on the Rezkigyo Coffee House facebook page."

France: So excited for this! This is the base our leader Matt will be moving to (I think next year) and he has gotten us all very excited about the base, it's style and it's leader (whom is a friend of Matt's.) We'll be staying at the YWAM base in a French Chateau in St. Hippolyte Du Fort south of Lyon, close to the Mediterranean. Matt has told us the base here is VERY focused on community life led by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Here life will slow down and become even more free flowing as we focus on the building of relationships and hospitality. At this base I may also find myself playing some music and doing coffee shop ministry.

Here's the link:

South Africa: Here we will be working with Iris Globals "Footprints" base outside of Johannesburg. It is a home ran my a woman Yolanda, her family and staff. Yolanda opened up her home to adopted children. It isn't an orphanage but a home full children that are part of a family. This is the part of the trip with LOTS OF KIDS! We will be partnering with the Footprints team to take care of the kids, play, and maybe do some work for them around their compound.

Here's the link:

Nepal: This leg of the trip is going to involve some travels up into the mountains helping different ministries and doing evangelism in some not often reached places along the way. More details to come. Me and my team are really excited for this leg of the trip because it is probably the most culturally different and spiritually saturated place we will visit in our journey. There is heavy Hindu and Buddhist influence in these areas and not a lot of knowledge of the hope found in the gospel of Jesus. I heard last night in a clip from a documentary that Christianity differs from other religions in that it isn't about us doing, about us seeking God. Christianity shares about a God that seeks us as His children from the very beginning. Lastly, I just have to say that I AM SO EXCITED FOR THE MOUNTAINS!!! I can't wait to be romanced by God's creation.

Hong Kong: This is the leg of the trip that as the least amount of details and will probably involve lots of mornings where we get up and simply ask okay God what do you want to do today then following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It is here that both Heidi and I will get to celebrate our birthdays so we're looking forward to maybe a co-celebration hopefully including LOTS of tasty foods!

Some other buds including the further building of a lot of friendships here along the compound. This season has been a great time to learn about the area and collect some more info about the ministry opportunity's available not only through YWAM but other local ministries and churches. I've been able to connect with the student ministries pastor of the church across the street and even hit up that churches Young Adult group. I've really been trying to get off campus at different points and meet new people, knowing that it would really help me out if I were to move back here for another school in the future. I've really been able to feel like I can do me here and operate how I would naturally even though I'm often on base and don't have a care. Ultimately I just want to continue to explore if this could be a good long term fit for me.

The Blooms:

I really feel like I've come more fully into my identity the last month or so. I left Grass Valley feeling like I was in a good place, like I said above He had led me through lots of healing and I was excited for the growing that would take place as I set out to give up good for great. I'm been really affirmed here in my passions and gifts, especially when it comes to my heart for students and my desire to continue following my calling toward a School of Worship in the future. I'm also learning to further operate in the present, knowing that God has me here for the NOW just as much as for character development for the future. It's nice to just BE. I was talking to my small group leader Clara on commitment night (during the middle of our second week) about how I from the first day was all in. That what she was seeing was what see was getting. That I really had nothing left to give (with open hands I walked away from relationships, jobs and ministry) and no where else to go at this point, YWAM was it and I was committed. The first week here we talked about how we would discover a "new normal" here and be "ruined for the ordinary." I'm feeling it to be sure and after this standard of living and moving with Jesus I only want to continue to grow and grow in it.

Lastly, we were able to spend this last week up at our Eagle ROCK campus in the mountains outside of Denver. What a week it was! It was so good for my soul to be up in the mountains and on top of peaks. Got to experience a sunrise hike that blew my mind! Because it's an more intimate setting and more isolated, it was the perfect setting for us as a community as we worked through our lecture week on the Father (and Mother) Heart of God. Lots of growth and healing took place as a lot of us were able to extend forgiveness to those that had hurt us in the past, embrace our identity as sons and daughters, be refreshed with uncontrollable laughter from the Holy Spirit, and embrace that it's okay to be weak because God wants to use the weak to glorify His kingdom.

After such a full week though I'm sitting here just trying to stay cool and get hydrated.... Maybe a pushed it a little hard haha. But in all honestly I didn't think our serve Saturday was going to be as strenuous as it was (landscaping, racking, weeding, hauling rock...) So it's time for rest. Some people went hiking (figured it wouldn't be the wisest choice for my physical state), some to the river and some are playing frisbee (it's 100 degrees outside tho) and some are doing homework (feeling grateful that I've made it a priority to get my work done before the weekend.) Tonight I'm heading into Denver for our usual Sunday Jazz in the Park outing. Really looking forward to it!

All and all, even tho I'm a little worn out, I'm super well. If you have time though here are a few things that you could pray for.

1) Continued unity within the Discipleship Training School

2) A continued outpour of financial blessings for some of the other students here, including myself. I'm almost there and honestly the stream of support from God has been so steady I'm not worried. It is crunch time though (less than a month before I leave) so I pray God prompts those who wanted to give but have yet to, to give as they feel called.

Some of the other students here have until Monday evening to get there first payment for outreach in, and without an approved reason for an extension  (I've approved one with Matt), they will have to leave our YWAM family and return for another DTS sometime in the future. Some of us are a little worried and would hate to see anyone else have to return home (we've already lost a few of are original group due to varies reasons.)

3) Continued wisdom and intentionality for me as I seek to keep engaging in relationships here (sometimes I can be a bit introverted/independent) and start getting promptings from God as to what my next year or two could look like!

Thank you so much friends, family and church family! Please know that you are in my thoughts and heart always!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Perfect Fit

God really knew what He was doing when He put me here (Duh!) But really my first week at YWAM Denver has been such a good mix of down time, get to know you activities, "awkward week" orientation, Spirit filled worship, prayer, sport, testimony sharing, and lecture periods full of Godly insights. It's hard to believe I'm been here less than a week! Where to start.... It's all kinda a blur honestly...

Monday was a very early morning but so full of excitement and newness. My flight was quick and painless and from the first encountering with the staff that picked me up from the airport, I knew I was going to be in a community that strived for a God like family atmosphere. They focus on the individual to call out their true identity and calling. If there's one thing I'd have to say about the staff is that they CARE. Our director Eric is so caring, wise and down to earth. I would definitly follow him into battle. They all work and serve us because that's where their heart is, to see us each our full potential. No paycheck. It's humbling. Even before all us students arrived they prayed over each of our packets, asking God to work in us and for His guidance as we were placed into our small groups. Our drive from the airport was so uplifting as us students in that airport run shared a little bit about why we had come and how God has redeemed our lives.

We got to campus and since our group arrived before "check in," I had time to head up to my room, rest and unpack. The first student I met at the airport, Joelle turned out to be in the same room of 8 (there is also a room with 15!) as me, so it was nice to have the company as we relaxed, processing this new adventure. We headed to registration and all I could think about as I was filling out paperwork, buying books, and getting my picture taken was, "So this is what going back to school feels like! Man, am I out of practice." Needless to say it was a lot for someone 2 years out of collage to take in. I am NOT used to these early mornings either! But I must say that my roomie sisters are awesome. It's been less that a week and we already feel so close and are already praying together, checking in, and just loving on each other. Very encouraging!

My first afternoon was pretty relaxed after the check in really, I ended up in the dinning hall watching soccer with a ton of the guys (per usual), met a girl from Columbia named Paola (whom I now get to speak spanish with as she would approach me when she had a question/didn't quite understand), and I rallied people to toss a frisbee (I'm already known as the "sporty girl" and one of the guys Reid likes to tell people I'm a "professional frisbee player." I'm no longer asked to play volleyball, I'm kinda just told.) There's also DTS school Director Eric's son Malachi (I think he is 4) that will run up to me almost every time he's around and say "your the friend that made a sand volcano with me!" (He doesn't remember my name but I don't even care as long as he keeps doing that!) Dinner was fun and I was the only girl that got up for seconds.... see a trend forming here?

Since we headed to worship that evening i'll just talk about worship in general now :) It's awesome! Love being in a room with a whole room of people who get into worship like I do. During worship we not only sing, but we may (as people/leaders feel called) break out into prayer for each other. There is even a mic that they have up front that people can use to share a "word" that they fell God has placed on their heart for the whole community. It's pretty special and a unique experience. I received a "word" from God just yesterday, Song of Solomon 8:6, and my heart was beating SO HARD (a good sign that it's from God, we all joke ;) That first night I was able to come up for the alter call and lay everything down fresh, anything that was still holding me back from being all in here, and an addiction. I feel so free!

Some amazing testimonies I've heard so far...... The director of a YWAM base in Chile told me a story during dinner about how his daughter with Downs Syndrome was swept up in a current (as a family they are always in or around the ocean) and was saved by dolphins!
A guy who, 2 days before needing to leave on outreach, did not have any of the money he would need to go. He then got an envelope in his mailbox (on a day mail doesn't get delivered) with $1,000. He was wrecked. He went up stairs to his room to pray and as he grabbed his pillow there was money under his pillow. He then walked outside, even more wrecked only to be approached by a guy that handed him another check. I think this story stuck with me because I still have about $2,000 to come up with for my outreach. God provides so I'm trying not to stress (easier said then done of course) and I honestly look forward to more cool ways he moves to fulfill His calling in my life!

Random other things... hmmm... have had a few times where just my Around the World DTS group has gotten to hang out (normally we are all combined with another school, the compassion DTS.) It's a blast, our team is very cool and so diverse. We laugh a lot. We only have 2 guys and that's including our outreach leader Matt. A little note about Matt and Bekka (his assistant for outreach.) They both very laid back. It's super refreshing. Matt in particular believes that outreach should operate a lot like real life, not forced, using peoples natural giftings. Always focusing on harboring real, authentic, relationships with the people we minister too. He also has a red beard like Xabi Alonso (Soccer player on the Spanish team).... and if I were a guy I think I'd have beard envy! 

Some other aspects of the school: 

Daily quit times with God. Every morning after breakfast we have a 50 minute period to just go on a date with Jesus. Sometimes people read, sometimes they pray, some listen to worship music, some people sing (like me.) Others may take a walk around the pond, some may draw, and the first morning I  started reading a book my mom gave me "praying in color." and drew my prayers. It was COOL! 

Small groups. My leader Clara is hilarious, genuine, and loves to go deep. Also in my group are Amanda and Nicola (both in the around the world DTS) and I just can't wait to see where we as a group go together! God definitely put us together for a reason :D There was a very special time on Thursday evening called the "commitment service," where we were asked (if ready) to allow our small group leader to wash our feet and pray over us. It was essentially symbolizing the allowing of our leaders into the deeper, sometimes dirty, more vulnerable sides of our lives. Just as the disciples were served by Jesus, they wanted to serve us. It was pretty wonderful. While some were having a more emotional time, I actually didn't feel overly emotional/moved. I more so felt calm and joy. Which I honestly thought was weird (I normally engage on a more emotional level, but then thought "no Aubrey that's dumb, let yourself move how you're naturally moving and own it.") I felt I had already committed to go all in on the first night and felt like "well, I'm here, and I don't have much else place to go, so yup, I'm all in." Clara and I spent the remainder of the time just sitting against the wall in the back laughing and sharing. We talked about music. Clara loves David Bowie! 

Work duties: I'll be doing housekeeping around the campus 10 hours a week.

Lectures: We'll have a different speaker each week talking on topics like the character of God, Fear of the Lord, Relationships, Voice of God, Missions, etc etc.

Book reports: We have 2 written and 2 oral book reports due throughout the term based off of the four books we choose to read at registration. (more on those later)

We also have our weekly journal, weekly tests, weekly verse meditations and "creative presentations" based off of certain assigned topics. We have many options including dance, painting, poetry, music, teaching etc.  

Phew! So that's a "little" bit about YWAM Denver and my first week! Hopefully more to come soon! Love and miss you all!  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Giving Up "Good," For "Great!"

Yes, yes, it's true. I'm leaving for Denver on MONDAY. That snuck up fast didn't it? I'd say that even I keep forgetting but that would be a lie, haha.... I could leave tomorrow if asked. I'm SOO excited, feeling ready and California summer satisfied. But there are a few awesome things I still get to do this week around here and for that I'm grateful. God knows what's up :) He really has brought everything together (I've seen it even more clearly in the last couple months) that it leaves me in awe every time I think about it. It's impossible to know where to start with things such as this... so maybe I'll start with answering questions...? Settle in, this blog read will be a little bit of a time investment but I hope it worth the time :) 

How the heck did you end up in an Around the World Discipleship Training School at a campus out of Denver?

Well... as some of you already know, I moved home a year and a half ago at an all time low. Heart broken, defeated, tired, broke, disillusioned. I set out on a long and much needed refining process and actually started to accept the fact that if I was really being obedient to God's nudging, then Grass Valley was exactly where I was supposed to be. Man did that hurt my pride..... But God knew what He was doing and I saw (like He already knew) that I needed to be home to heal, to rebuild my foundation, and foster the relationships that would later help me launch out again, healthy and closer to Him than ever. Don't get me wrong here though, it wasn't all smooth sailing.... the year 2013 was relentless, not just for me but for my family as well. God's provision through all of it is what really shines through all of it though and I know those hardships only served to refine me further into the person He was shaping me to be leading up to YWAM.

It was around Christmas 2012 that I was researching “what’s next?” options, mostly in regards to Schools of Worship, YWAM kept popping up! I discovered that in order to attend a YWAM School of Worship, you need a Discipleship Training School (DTS) program first (it’s a prerequisite for any of their secondary programs.) My interest in a DTS was peaked again! You see, while I was visiting Twin Cities Church’s sister church in Uganda on a weekend trip from Kenya back in 2010, my team stayed at a YWAM campus. It was there, at only 19 years old, that I encountered an Around the World DTS team. They let me sit in with them during their evening worship and also listen in on their daily debriefs. To this day, I remember sitting there in that tiled common room and thinking “These are my people!” They were young adults, around the age I am now, traveling the world completely sold out for Jesus! I really see this DTS as a culmination, a celebration, of all He has been doing in me this year. It’s my sacrifice of time, energy, money, jobs and heart to thank Him for all He has done, is doing and has yet to do in my life! Oh, and I picked the campus in Denver because I visited CO earlier that year and thought it be a good fit ;) It'll be 2 months in Denver doing my lecture phase and team building then 3 months of outreach. The countries that we have lined up are Guatemala, France, Hungary, South Africa, Nepal, and Hong Kong!  

What have you been up to this past year?

Oh goodness... since my last post I've been on mission to Mexico, was asked to join the Twin Cities Church Celebration Arts Team, started and then finished up a year working at TCC as their facilities care ministry assistant, rocked a summer, traveled up and down the west coast and half way across the country, was in and out of a great but short lived relationship (an experience that God really used for good), became an NC Campus Life staff member, one of my best friends got married and up until this point I've raised up to 70% for my program tuition. Pure beautiful chaos! 

Highlights: God is GOOD!

- My mom and I were given a house after being semi-homeless because our post fire damaged house was still being remodeled.

- During one of THE HARDEST weeks I'd had since moving home God showed up so big! 
It's such a crazy story, writing it here wouldn't give it justice but it started off with me stepping back (due to some discomfort) a bit for the amount of time I was spending caregiving. It was a big step of faith for me, seeing as I didn't have another source of income. The very next day another client joined the network that needed just the type of care I'm comfortable giving (which is basic care and we don't often see a lot if need for that.) It was amazing timing and after an interview it felt like a perfect fit.... I started on a monday and then my week took a turn. That night I got a phone call that ended very poorly and left me worried for a friends safety. It rocked me emotionally and by Wednesday I was exhausted and fairly defeated. I was sitting in my mom's office crying, trying to get up the energy to head to my second shift of the week at my new job site, when Kim Thompson from TCC called and asked on behave of Dave Bollen (the worship pastor) if I'd like to be a member of the Celebration Art's worship team. "Think about it, pray about it, and get back to me?" Uh? The very ministry I'd wanted to be apart of for so long (but asking isn't really my thing) just offered me a spot! It was such a pure God moment, I was in shock! It perked me up enough that I was able to head to work and completed what I thought was a good shift. 

After work I spent some time with the beautiful girls I have the privilege of being a leader for at TCC then we all headed to the Church for our midweek HS small groups. As we were climbing in the car, I got a text from my mom saying that I needed to call the client, it looked like things were not good... I was shaken but got the girls to the church before calling the client from my car in the parking lot. Long story short, because of a few small "strikes" I was laid off... And while I'm not proud to admit it, I cried. I felt exhausted and defeated, like I couldn't win. Like I had nothing to give. Something that felt like such a God thing just completely crumbled and I was at one of my all time lows....

But then I got a text from pastor Brett... He has texted me earlier asking if I could meet him early before groups and so was letting me know that he could meet me in the reception area. So I wiped my tears, tried to put on a strong face and went into the church to meet Brett. He started off our meet by handing me something to pass along to my mom (I thought that was why he wanted to see me) but then he paused and said something along the lines of "Hey Aubrey, I know this sounds kinda crazy, but there is a job opening at the church... and us pastors were praying today about it, and your name popped up... and it just made sense... I ran it by Pastor Ron already and he says 'that's the best idea i've heard yet.' So here is the job description. Think about it, pray about it, and let me know what you think?") Well doesn't that sound familiar! I started crying.... Brett looked surprised. "Brett I know you don't normally offer jobs to people who are crying but I literally JUST got fired, like 5 minutes ago in the parking lot, before I walked in here." 

Needless to say I was shellshocked by the week. God, in one day, during a painful and hard week, open doors for me toward the longings of my heart. You see, a few weeks earlier I'd been praying and talking to God about my desire to work at Twin Cities again (I'd been an SM intern back in 2009) but it didn't feel right to ask the church about a position so I let it go... And then I got offered a job at the place I wanted to work 5 minutes after being fired! If I would have still had that client, I wouldn't have been able to accept the job at the church. WOW!!!!

- I got gifted with a miracle. God provided a way into a locked house when I was in the middle of an emergency (my dog was having a seizer due to heart complications, her meds were inside and I had locked myself out.) I managed to stay calm, to pray, asking God to show up and I received a huge affirmation of the power of prayer. When God doesn't open a door, He may just open a window! And a locked one at that!  

How are you feeling now?
Oh my... I'm rambling!!! Ah! Honestly there is just SO MUCH I could share. I guess I want to wrap up in saying just how incredibly thankful I am to all the people God has brought into my life to guide me through this season. 

To my TCC family, I don't know what I would have done without my church home to come back to. Thank you for always being there.

To my new Campus Life family. God really gave me a gift when He led me to you. Your support, as I've been gearing up for this YWAM trip, has been over the top and I KNOW God placed you in my life at this very season for the support and the love you added to my life.

To my family and my besties: I honestly appreciate you all more than I could ever put into words. You are a gift from God and I'm praising Him for each of the special moments I've been able to share with each of you pre me taking off for parts unknown. My heart is just so full! I know I can leave satisfied and ready.

Thank you for everyone who has prayed, supported, etc. etc. to help get me so far along on this YWAM adventure. The Showcase and Silent Auction was so humbling as I saw so many people I love rally together to help me follow my dreams. I still have a little chunk left to go on my tuition but I have no doubt anymore of God's calling. Thank you for believing in it, for never doubting for a second that I would be going to Denver, even when I panicked (you know who you are ;) and almost gave it all up. Never has it felt more right. Never have I felt more supported. Thank you for being apart of the foundation God has been crafting. For being apart of the healing. I know I'm most likely only going to be gone 5 months but I miss you all already. 

I may not know exactly WHY I'm going on this trip yet but I know WHO it is I love and serve. The sacrifice of some really good things, things I love, sometimes makes me scratch my head, but God is jealous for me and He deserves my all.

So here is to giving up "good," for "great!"