but a breath

I’ve been on Facebook a lot over the last few days because of the For the Love launch team Facebook group, reading messages and helping with designing a t-shirt. So much has been posted that it’s been easy to miss things from other people or to only see things briefly. One of those things popped up a couple of days ago and I saw it was from a blog-friend I’ve know for a few years and had a picture of her boyfriend. I thought it was an engagement post (I’ve been waiting for it to happen!) and I made a mental note to look at it later. I forgot, and last night as I was going to bed I saw that several people had posted on her wall. And a chill ran through my body.

It wasn’t congratulations they were posting.

It was condolences.

I clicked over to my friend’s page and scrolled down to the post I’d only seen briefly that morning and held my breath in disbelief as I read that her sweet, kind, Godly boyfriend died earlier that day.

A young man. A beautiful, faith-filled life.

I feel sick writing that here. Because even though I’ve never met this woman in real life, she is a friend. And when my friends hurt, it cuts me to the quick. I ache with them.

I am just devastated for her. For her boyfriend’s family. For their friends. I want to cry out to God at the injustice of a life lost so young. My mind cannot comprehend it. It is tragic and horrifying and crushing.

Death comes too fast.

It’s made me think, though. It comes too fast for all of us. We never have enough time. I hate that my friend didn’t get to spend a lifetime with the man she loves. I hate that our time here on Earth is never enough with the ones we love.

But. I think about my friend’s boyfriend and I am convinced of one thing.

He is with Jesus right now. He is literally worshiping the True and Living God. He is healed. He is whole. He is in Paradise for eternity. He ran His race to honor God and now he sees Him face-to-face.

Here we mourn, but underneath the sadness I also remind myself the mourning is paired with a rejoicing.

I am now, more than ever, acutely aware of the urgency of living my life on purpose for God. Not for me. Not for my glory or fame or honor but FOR HIS. Even in the simplest of my days, I want to live a life that points with steady hands and heart to the Man who saved me.

Please pray for my friend. Pray for God’s peace and for Him to be ever-present in the midst of her grief.

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Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites graphicI just ran two miles. I don’t like running because it’s always hard when you start up (because I always stop!) and it makes me hot. I hate being hot. So before I jump into a nice cool shower, I am going to cheer myself up with some Friday Favorites! What are your favorite things right now?

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This is a Netflix original produced by Tina Fey + someone else, a guy whose name I can’t remember. (Too hot to look it up.) It is so, so funny. The whole first season is on Netflix and my friend Megan and I burned through it in a little over a week.

For the Love launch team
I was super stoked to find out last week (has it only been ten days?!) that I was chosen to be part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker‘s new book For the Love that comes out in August. I’ve already read an advance copy of it and trust me, you want to preorder it. I think it’s a really great book that tons of women will relate to. I laughed, I cried, I did some more of both — and that is the honest truth. One thing that I think is especially amazing about the book is that it has the 500 members of the launch team together in a private facebook group and (wo)man oh (wo)man! People are being so truthful and supportive of each other, sharing burdens and prayer requests and the joy and struggle of everyday life with one another. I am a words person, and I know this sounds weird but when someone gives me encouraging words, I love to reread them over and over and over again. I had a professor write me this amazing email in college in response to an email I sent her, and it gave me such great hope and light in a dark time that I still carry it folded up in my wallet. I shared some stuff in our facebook group and the words — oh my GOODNES — the words! I am blown away!

One thing that just makes me all #bless is that 5,000 people applied, but only 500 could be on the launch team. Jen and her publisher were able to give the other 4,500 four chapters of the book to read in advance, and those ladies have banded together as #the4500. I am literally like FOR THE LOVE over here because if that isn’t awesome, I don’t even know what is! Ladies. We are one tribe. And I freaking love all of you. I’ll leave all 5,000 (and then some!) with this:

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Cross stitching
Sometimes it feels like my mind can never turn off. Anything that gets it to stop racing makes me happy. And that is were cross stitching comes in. I found Satsuma Street a little more than a year ago and they make my nerdy, grandmaesque heart so happy. I love their modern take on cross stitch — loud. bright. bold. Currently I’m almost done with their Pretty Little City and Pretty Little New York designs with many more in the que!

– – – – – – – – – –

There are too many other things to list, but my shins are hurting and I am so hot and sweaty so it’s time to sign off for the night. I have a really exciting evening of chips, Aztec sauce, and rereading For the Love on my plate. Whoo!

hair: a long reflection about being short

left: 1 yr ago | r: today

                left: 1 yr ago | r: today

One year ago today, I shaved my head to raise money for St. Baldricks, an organization that supports pediatric cancer research. For weeks my family suggested I do it (my mom was the one organizing the event at the school where she teaches) and for weeks I said “No no no!” And I meant it.

Until.

Until I watched the younger sister of one of my high school classmates shave her head to support her sister. Her my-age sister who was (and continues to) struggling with cancer. So many kinds of cancer it breaks my heart.

It hit me like a ton of bricks – “I would do this for Charisse.”

And then I thought…

Why not do it for Charisse now?

To honor the fact that she is healthy. To honor the fact that she is well. To honor those who aren’t, so there is hope that they may be.

So I did it. (Funny enough, the single person who freaked out and sobbed and didn’t want me to do it? Charisse.)

It has been a crazy 365 days. Shaving my head taught me so much about so many things. Here are just a few, because what I really learned in my heart I cannot articulate.

I am and was brave.
I remember in high school I said “I’ll never get my belly button pierced and I’ll never wear contacts.” I did both. I was so fearful of the pain (my belly button) and of touching my eyes (contacts). But I did it and I got so used to those things. Shaving my head felt so much scarier though. I could quit wearing contacts if it bothered me and if I didn’t like the piercing, I could just take it out. But shaving your head? That takes a long time to undo.In fact, it didn’t feel brave. (I wrote about it here if you’re interested.) I felt oddly detached, calm, unemotional, etc. when I was doing it. And afterward I had the adrenaline of disbelief to carry me through. But then it wore off and I was faced with the stone-cold reality of being bald. And I had to go out, every day, in a job that requires me to interact with people all day, every day. I had to deal with funny looks (and judgmental looks, but see below for that!). I learned to tough it out, to give grace, and that ultimately — it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be because I had a whole lot more courage than I ever imagined I possessed. I realized that I was indeed brave for daring to do it, even if I felt calm and collected during the actual doing.

I love long hair.
By long, I mean to my shoulders. I have zero regrets about cutting my hair (not even when it went through this ridiculous phase where it would stick straight up in the back in the mornings!) and I love that other people, like my mama, can rock the short hair. Me? Not so much. I miss ponytails and braids and buns. I miss straightening my hair for special events and curling it even more than it’s curled naturally (thank you, Jesus, for letting it come back with its original curl!). Every day, people tell me “Your hair is so cute!” and “Your hair is so long!” It doesn’t feel that way to me, but I know that it is cute now that I can style it and it is surprisingly long for the year that it’s been growing. I am at the point where I need regular trims and haircuts to keep my hair healthy (and if I’m being honest, the thought of cutting my hair to keep it healthy enough to grow long again makes me freak out a little on the inside), but I’m aiming for another five-six inches my this time next year. I can already put in a little ponytail. Now I’m aiming for the whole shebang!

People can be rude.
I got asked a lot of questions by people. Sometimes people were tactful. 95.3% of the time people were not. What drove me crazy about this is that the people asking the questions were not close friends. They were people I knew in passing. To quote from a blog post I wrote last year: “I’ve gotten funny looks from people – on Saturday, a woman walked past me twice at Target, blatantly staring while I talked to a friend in the aisle. Others have assumed I’m sick and have asked me outright. And last night at church someone said ‘So what happened to your hair?’ very boldly. Others still think I’m making a statement about my sexuality.” These looks and questions didn’t stop in the first few weeks. I had people coming up to me for months saying things like that and looking looks like that. One lady said to me at Coffee Bean “I love the statement you’re making.” Even though she said it to be kind and supportive, I kinda wanted to punch her in the throat. I wasn’t making a statement, aside from the fact that CANCER SUCKS and cancer in kids ESPECIALLY SUCKS. It wasn’t a political statement. It wasn’t a social statement. It was a shaved head. The end. I felt like people were asking questions they weren’t prepared to hear answered truthfully – I had the crazy strong urge to answer bold questions like “Are you ok?” with “No, I’m not, actually. I have stage four [fill in the blank] cancer and the doctors only think I have about six months to live. I’ve been in chemo for a few weeks now to prolong my life and my hair just started falling out.” I mean, for the love. You should not ask those kind of questions to people you don’t know well!

People can be awesome.
Some people tactfully asked me, or asked me in a funny way, about my hair. They didn’t act like I was sick or weird or crazy. And I so appreciated them for it. My favorite was the groom from the wedding I was coordinating the day after the shaving. He looked at me from across the room the night of the rehearsal and said, “Hey, Krista? Didn’t you have more hair the last time we met?” For every person who rubbed my head (weird, but ok, I lived through it), for every person who joked, and for every person who got teary-eyed and told me their story of their cancer survival or of someone in their family who was battling cancer or who had lived or died with cancer, I felt like I could handle the rude questions and judgmental stares because they reminded me why I did it in the first place.

It’s just hair!
One of the things people asked me the most was something along the lines of “Don’t you miss your hair?” My answer was so hard to articulate. Of course I missed my longer hair, but I had no regrets shaving it in the first place. I’ve thankfully had the same person cut my hair since I was 20 years old (except for one haircut while she was on maternity leave with her second baby, and the girl who cut my hair was the person who my stylist recommended!), and I have had all good haircuts. Some of been too short for me to repeat, but she’s never led me wrong, and as we always talked about when getting my hair done — it’s just hair! It grows back! I’ve truly lived that out during the last 12 months It is just hair! It does grow back! It’s short and funky and can be really annoying and frustrating in the growing out process, but it does grow back.

an end and a beginning

In February 2013, I started this class at church called School of Ministry. I thought it was basically a Bible study that would teach me things like every book of the Bible and Greek syntax and how to be a Christian speaker. I knew one person in the class, and he was graduating three months after I started. I didn’t care because I wasn’t there to make friends. I was there to be be academic and win the award for most intelligent Jesus follower.

A week or two passed and I started quietly talking to people. I had to get involved in ministry as a requirement of the class so I started with children’s ministry because a) there will always be a serious need and b) it was the easiest and most immediate thing. Something funny started to happen: I started learning people’s names. And they knew mine. And on Sunday mornings I recognized more people. And I liked those people.

One night, about three months into the class, Pastor Bruce (our lead pastor and the teacher of SoM), pointed to me and said, “Krista WIlbur, open us up in prayer.”

I looked right. I looked left. Surely he meant the other Krista Wilbur in the class?

That night, I realized he knew my name. I couldn’t blend in any more. So I made friends. I took risks. I did things that scared me. I quit my job at Ventura College and God brought me to work at the church where I took the class.

When I graduated, I started the following week as a Teacher Assistant in the same program. I never would have imagined that I would be sitting in what we called “the holy of holies” 18 months after I decided that I didn’t want to make friends at church.

It’s been three years and ten days since I started as a student in that class. Tonight, I watched 18 students graduate. And tonight, I said farewell to my remaining six students as I stepped down from my role as a TA. I’ve known since January that this would be the night I said goodbye, but it came much more quickly than I anticipated.

I’ve been looking forward to stepping down so I could start doing a few other things that God has been calling me to do. I had a great time as a student as a TA and I’m so thankful for that time, but I was ready. But a funny thing happened… Tonight was a lot more bittersweet than I anticipated. I’ll miss those familiar faces every week. After three years, it’s weird to imagine that my Tuesday nights won’t be tied to School of Ministry. It’s just a weird transition.

One of the valedictorians tonight was talking about how God closed a door for her and then opened a different one. I had this beautiful realization:

It depends on which side of the door you’re facing.

This door has been closed. But I’m standing on the other side of a door that is opening. I don’t know exactly what it’s opening to, but surely as I can see it’s opening. I know that God has given me some promises of things to come and I’m holding on to those, and I’m praying for direction and clarity and wisdom in the season that is coming.

Some things excite me.

Some things scare me.

Some things do both.

Some things I wish I knew but I just don’t yet.

But I know that my God is faithful. He tells me over and over again in His word: Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

So as this door shuts and I stand facing the door that is opening, I trust in this faithfulness. God has never led me astray and that confidence gives me excitement as I look forward, even to the scary and the unknown.

IMG_6053I am looking forward to sharing some of what’s coming as it arrives. For now, most of it is something I’m keeping close to my heart because God hasn’t given me the details yet. Yet. Because I know the time will come when He does!