Best Nine (Extreme Selfish and Extended Edition)

This will be rambling and lengthy. Come along all the way if you can make it, or leave me halfway if you must - no hard feelings, I just wanted the first blog of 2018 to be a monument. I have copied the "best nine" concept from Instagram and pasted it onto a media platform where I might expound upon it in greater capacity. There will be more than nine pictures. (And likely more than nine experiences, if we're really honest.) 

2017 was such an incredible year for me. It was also incredibly hard, but you know what's funny? No element of hardship sticks out in my mind whatsoever. I just remember He was there, He held my hand, and it was wonderful. He took care of my every need down to the most minute detail. I mean, I needed a driving instructor that I could trust, and He provided that. (We haven't talked about my ridiculous and groundless fears regarding driving, but we will.) I needed a personal trainer I was willing to be vulnerable with, and He provided that. I needed a car. Done. I needed a new laptop. Provided. I needed my mentor and my person still present in my daily life. Got it. (The last of which is forever and ever the best part of 2017. In fact. Let's just begin with that as a bonus.) 

I literally added this picture, got up from where I was sitting, and danced in praise because there are no words to express my gratitude for this. None could come close. 

I literally added this picture, got up from where I was sitting, and danced in praise because there are no words to express my gratitude for this. None could come close. 

While we're taking a pause at the start for "honorable mentions" lets just include these as well: 

My Madeleine continues to be one of the best blessings I'm given. This year brought her back to me multiple times. During one of the darkest weekends she was delivered to me care of Michigan, with a full suitcase and she stayed with me until there was sunshine again. 

My Madeleine continues to be one of the best blessings I'm given. This year brought her back to me multiple times. During one of the darkest weekends she was delivered to me care of Michigan, with a full suitcase and she stayed with me until there was sunshine again. 

Elyse Brielle finally got here. Nuff' said. 

Elyse Brielle finally got here. Nuff' said. 

Preambles aside, let's get down to it. The nine major events of 2017. 

9. 

Blog and Domain

At the beginning of the year, I purchased a domain. My word for the year was "invested." It was my goal to become more intentional, to do just that - invest in my writing, to put my money where my mouth was. So I bought the domain. Brianna Oliver crafted the website, streamlined my branding, designed my business cards and updated my head shots. On this new, professional, and perfectly presentable platform I published a pitiful thirteen blogs total. (Guess what my goals for 2018 include...) 

This was one of many memorable days spent working on my "branding." I am so grateful for the skilled and giving friends the Lord has populated my life with. I am truly rich in people, especially this gem. 

This was one of many memorable days spent working on my "branding." I am so grateful for the skilled and giving friends the Lord has populated my life with. I am truly rich in people, especially this gem. 

8. 

Nayc Monologue

Y'all. This was remarkable. Not for the reasons one might suspect. Yes, it was an honor to be chosen, and yes it was an incredible opportunity. It was just also a situation where I was nauseous, nervous, and possibly neurotic. So many questions: Do I want to stand up in the arena and be visible and videoed from every conceivable angle? Will anyone even be awake? (In that vein: Shout out to my MKs, Fusion, and all my loves from Lancaster, Ohio for dragging yourselves out of bed and being present.) WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS? (I never actually figured out what to do with my hands. I was also holding a paper I did not need.) 

I had walked to my sister's hotel room after yet another bout of emergency intercession and collapsed to the floor tangled up in my purse strap and lanyard. Here is photographic evidence of my stellar job applying moisturizer that morning.

I had walked to my sister's hotel room after yet another bout of emergency intercession and collapsed to the floor tangled up in my purse strap and lanyard. Here is photographic evidence of my stellar job applying moisturizer that morning.

Dear Larissa: Thanks for sticking with me during the nerve wracking moments right before this. If you had not come all the way there to play I assure you I would have run. 

Dear Larissa: Thanks for sticking with me during the nerve wracking moments right before this. If you had not come all the way there to play I assure you I would have run. 

The best thing about this experience was this: I was sitting in my Youth Room at church when I wrote the monologue. I sat down and wrote it just like it was, from start to finish, without stopping and I really felt that it was for NAYC17. I felt it enough that I actually applied for NATS, which I would for sure never have done otherwise. I didn't make it. I was not on the list. I would not be presenting this monologue at Youth Congress. My pride was a small casualty, but my spirit was understandably confused. Did I comprehend the voice of the Lord at all? I was so sure of what I'd heard.  I let it go and moved on. After all, what other choice did I have? When I arrived home from my trip to Scotland there was a voicemail on my phone from L.J. Harry. The monologue was for NAYC after all. 

Not one time during practice did I say this all the way through without mistake. Not. One. Time. This moment on that platform is the only instance where I did. What it looks like is my face on a jumbo tron. What is actually happening is Him holding my hand. 

Not one time during practice did I say this all the way through without mistake. Not. One. Time. This moment on that platform is the only instance where I did. What it looks like is my face on a jumbo tron. What is actually happening is Him holding my hand. 

7. 

Ann

There is no way I could ever tell what this moment meant to me. I have been reading Ann's work for a long time. I have been changed as a person and challenged as a writer by her words, her heart, and her love for God and His people. Meeting her was a dream come true. It was an event I never imagined would actually occur, and one of those things that was built so far up in my mind that I thought the reality could not possibly compare. My hopes were surpassed. 

Ann Voskamp people. New York Times Bestselling Author (my favorite) and beautiful, authentic, human being. Look her up. 

I clearly kept breathing. I'm just not sure how. 

I clearly kept breathing. I'm just not sure how. 

It was such an enchanting and godly moment too.  I just. Ugh. 

It was such an enchanting and godly moment too.  I just. Ugh. 

.6

Scotland

I didn't want to go to Scotland. I was so completely confident it was the right thing to do, and so honored at the opportunity, but I did not want to go. By the end of it, of course, I didn't want to leave. We couldn't talk about the actual reason for our visit on social media at the time so had you viewed my Instagram feed it looked as if I was spending the majority of my time drinking milkshakes and chasing pigeons. Ya know? I did a lot of that. We were blessed with the most delicious days where sunlight stretched on forever. There was teaching - of course. Love given for sure. Hopefully there was even some wisdom imparted. But there were also long rambling walks through a new city, hot tea, excellent coffee, fish and chips, bus rides, gorgeous scenery, impressive architecture, and giggles. Giggles without end. Giggles galore. In this place I experienced what the phrase "high on life" truly must mean. 

Oh you know, just traveling the world with my girls. (Insert hair flip emoji here.) 

Oh you know, just traveling the world with my girls. (Insert hair flip emoji here.) 

This was the most delightful Italian dinner with the most delightful American (and Canadian) women in Scotland. 

This was the most delightful Italian dinner with the most delightful American (and Canadian) women in Scotland. 

I'm always thinking I have enough people and there's no room in my heart for any more. I'm always wrong. I was especially wrong about them. 

I'm always thinking I have enough people and there's no room in my heart for any more. I'm always wrong. I was especially wrong about them. 

View on my train ride back to Scotland from Liverpool. 

View on my train ride back to Scotland from Liverpool. 

Seeing my best friend (French and First Edition) after a decade and finally meeting her husband. 

Seeing my best friend (French and First Edition) after a decade and finally meeting her husband. 

5. 

England

I did teach one Bible study, and it was, in fact, quite a spiritual trip. However, my mission in Liverpool was not missions. Someone's best friend took it upon herself to marry a real life prince. As princes do, he tends to live in Europe. 

I WENT TO PEMBERLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (This is Wikipedia's photo. None of mine did it justice. I sat on that grassy bank right there by Darcy's lake and in such contentment I cried. 

I WENT TO PEMBERLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (This is Wikipedia's photo. None of mine did it justice. I sat on that grassy bank right there by Darcy's lake and in such contentment I cried. 

Liverpool Cathedral is the first of its kind I had ever visited. I had set foot in a building built for worship, but this was almost built  by  worship as though the carving of every crevice itself was praise to God. 

Liverpool Cathedral is the first of its kind I had ever visited. I had set foot in a building built for worship, but this was almost built by worship as though the carving of every crevice itself was praise to God. 

We spent the most precious Father's Day in Deandra's new home with both our fathers present. 

We spent the most precious Father's Day in Deandra's new home with both our fathers present. 

The Beatles invited me to join their band but it was too little too late. 

The Beatles invited me to join their band but it was too little too late. 

Seat at the top of a double-decker bus during what was quite an interesting day in London. 

Seat at the top of a double-decker bus during what was quite an interesting day in London. 

Prior to this photo, we had been served a sumptuous meal by the sweetest refugees. Here I am pictured with the physical embodiment of most of my sweetest memories in any location. 

Prior to this photo, we had been served a sumptuous meal by the sweetest refugees. Here I am pictured with the physical embodiment of most of my sweetest memories in any location. 

4. 

Greece

Barak and I went to Greece to represent MK Ministries and to take care of the MK's present for the EME Regional Retreat. Preparing to go, and getting there, was one of the most stressful situations of my life to date. (Special thanks to the Poitras clan, Kaeli, and Amanda for providing oxygen when my own breath was coming up short.) Once we got there though? How do I put this... I got a facial once. The entire experience in beautiful Thessaloniki was like getting a facial at the most luxurious spa with the most pleasant and skilled attendants imaginable. Even the part of it which was work was wonderful. 

This. Hotel. Though. 

This. Hotel. Though. 

The morning view our complimentary breakfast afforded. 

The morning view our complimentary breakfast afforded. 

#tribe 

#tribe 

Pausing for prayer amid the ruins of ancient Philippi. 

Pausing for prayer amid the ruins of ancient Philippi. 

This woman. That place. My heart. I can't. 

This woman. That place. My heart. I can't. 

3. 

New York, New York

Women Ministering to Women

Sis. Jess Marquez allowed me to preach my first conference. What an honor and a privilege. It was such a powerful, anointed, spirit fused event that changed my life in forever kinds of ways. It also happened to be held in New York City, which I was not complaining about. 

These wonderful women were so powerfully used by God during this conference. They were also a joy to be around. 

These wonderful women were so powerfully used by God during this conference. They were also a joy to be around. 

Also powerfully used by God. Also a joy to be around. ;-) 

Also powerfully used by God. Also a joy to be around. ;-) 

I don't know how many times a person can say "My. Heart." in one blog post but I'm going for a record. 

I don't know how many times a person can say "My. Heart." in one blog post but I'm going for a record. 

Kristen casually drinking fancy water on a New York Uber ride. These bottles were perfect for a visit to MOMA. Which we crammed in. In fact. We did Times Square, souvenir shopping, Anastasia on Broadway, the subway system, the Empire State Building, New York slice pizza, and the Museum of Modern Art in the span of eleven magical hours. 

Kristen casually drinking fancy water on a New York Uber ride. These bottles were perfect for a visit to MOMA. Which we crammed in. In fact. We did Times Square, souvenir shopping, Anastasia on Broadway, the subway system, the Empire State Building, New York slice pizza, and the Museum of Modern Art in the span of eleven magical hours. 

2. 

Urshan college cataloging

At this point you are probably thinking (especially if this is your first time surviving a blog post - which would be unfortunate. They are not all like this, I promise.) "Does this woman even have a job?" She does. I have an AMAZING job in a BEAUTIFUL building in a GORGEOUS, spacious office which allows me to travel when needed but also is in an area I am SUPER passionate about. 

I catalog books. Which are used as resources to fuel the minds and academic endeavors of the future of Pentecost. As far as jobs go I am only completely in love with it. NBD. 

Would ya just look at my fancy nameplate? 

Would ya just look at my fancy nameplate? 

1. 

Books

This is the goodness of God, that when I am not cataloging books I am editing, contributing to, or writing them. This year there were two which fell into that last category. 

This is a textbook. A TEXTBOOK. Who even thought me capable of that? (Dorsey Burk. That's who. Grateful forever.)  It's in its final round of editing as we speak. 

This is a textbook. A TEXTBOOK. Who even thought me capable of that? (Dorsey Burk. That's who. Grateful forever.)  It's in its final round of editing as we speak. 

And this one. But y'all have heard about this one. (And your responses have been humbling beyond belief. I couldn't thank you enough.)   #casualphoto because Jennie Russell is #presidentbyday #professionalphotographerbynight

And this one. But y'all have heard about this one. (And your responses have been humbling beyond belief. I couldn't thank you enough.) 

#casualphoto because Jennie Russell is #presidentbyday #professionalphotographerbynight

These are just the highlights. They barely scratch the surface. 2017 brought me so much to be grateful for. "He's done so much for me I cannot tell it all." Nor, to be fair, would you want me to.