Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Miriam's November Update

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!   Psalm 107:1


I love Thanksgiving. I think it's such a wonderful holiday of friends, family, food, and (if you do it right) remembering the goodness of the Lord and what He's done for us throughout the year! Especially as I think over this last month, I have SO MUCH to be thankful for in my life. So in the spirit of giving thanks, these are some of the cool things that happened this month and why I'm thankful for them. 

Preaching

I preached my last sermon of the semester towards the beginning of November. Preaching is one of those things that has been a major growing area in my life! I love the learning that goes into preparing for a sermon. I love getting the opportunity for the Lord to speak through me to our community. I love the way the Lord speaks directly to my heart as I prepare and study His word in depth. 
 

But it's definitely not an easy task preparing for a sermon! It's been a growing experience to know how much time I need to set aside to prepare and read before writing anything. Then figuring out what needs to be said to our community and THEN sitting down and writing how I want to convey that information to them. 

I'm really thankful for this opportunity to grow as a leader, scholar, pastor, and teacher. It's been so wonderful to learn how to think through the topics I've been assigned to preach, get advice and talk to older, wiser people about those topics, and to take away personal growth through preparing for others. 

Moving

So Austin and I moved at the beginning of this month to a sweet two bedroom apartment in Denton. I'm thankful for this change for a number of reasons! One, we had so many wonderful friends step up and help us move! They were so kind, encouraging and helpful on a day that could have been a stressful disaster if it had been just me and Austin. 

Two, this apartment has a much bigger living room. This is awesome because Austin and I love hosting people, but with the old apartment, any more than two extra people started feeling quite cramped. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were able to have a burger night with two sets of couple friends, one small child and an extra dog...and we all had room to enjoy each others' company! 

Three, it has space for our full-sized washer and dryer!!! Wooooo! Never did I think I would be SO excited about doing laundry. But as I write this, I have a load in the wash AND I'm sitting on my own couch. That is a huge blessing that I'm thankful for! 

These might seem like weird, insignificant things, but I'm incredibly excited for what having a spare room and decent sized living room means for our ministry of hospitality. It's so rare to be invited into someone's home these days, especially in a college town! This is a way that Austin and I can be a blessing to our friends, the students we work with, our neighbors, and anyone else the Lord brings into our lives.

Happy Anniversary!

Lake de Gray, Arkansas
The next week after moving, we celebrated our anniversary! Let it be known to all: I am incredibly thankful for Austin Freeman! It's amazing to me that it's already been one year. Most of the time it feels like time went by so fast!

I was able to take off a Friday and we spent the weekend at Lake de Gray, Arkansas. We had the best time! I loved getting to spend a whole weekend with Austin in a beautiful place without a to-do list or an agenda. For the most part, we didn't really do anything. We went on a lot of walks...we laid on blankets in the sun playing Bananagrams and reading...we ate the cake from our wedding, which had been frozen for a year! It was delicious!


Can you spot the eagle?
On Saturday, we went on a bald eagle watch! We got in a boat and cruised up and down the shore of Lake de Gray with a bunch of elderly, pretty serious bird watchers (which Austin and I want to be just like when we grow up!). We got to see three fully grown eagles and four immature eagles. Did you know it takes four to five years before they gain their white head and are no longer considered immature? SO interesting. 

There are few things that turn my mind to the Lord and remind me of how incredibly creative He is the way that nature does. It reminds me of what Romans 1:20 says: "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." I'm thankful that He shows Himself in that way and that I can enjoy what He's made.

Pizza Theology

Austin and I got back in town just in time for me to head off to Pizza Theology! This is one of my favorite semesterly events that we do. The topic this year was "How to Think Like a Christian," which in our day and age is quite the tricky thing to accomplish! 


If you would like to listen to the audio for this topic, you can click HERE. 

One of the reasons I really loved that we talked about this subject was because I have one corefa (student leader) that I meet with weekly that is in the process of deciding what she thinks about different topics and how she's going to interact with others regarding these topics. She's thinking through all of the current events, like ISIS, the Syrian refugees, and the upcoming presidential election. She wants so badly to have thoughts and opinions about these things that are in line with what would please God, and she is doing a stellar job of seeking that out in her life! I feel like this year's Pizza Theology really met her in an important place and will be a tool that she will use the rest of her life. 

I hope that other students, even the adults and staff, that attended this year were as impacted as she was. I'm thankful for opportunities to learn and explore how to approach some of these hard things that we're all smack in the middle of right now. I'm thankful that students are seeking Jesus instead of what our world tells them to think about these things. And I'm thankful that God has given us tools and equipped us to be able to "think like a Christian!" 


 Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!


Gosh, what a fun Thanksgiving this was! Moriah and Tye came from California and my Dad drove up from Midland. I miss my family a lot, but getting these small bits of time with the different ones of them is wonderful! I'm so thankful for several kinds of family...biological, marital, friends, church and more! Deep and healthy relationships truly are a gift from God. 





My Ministry Partners

I really hope you all understand what a blessing you are to me and how thankful I am for each of you. Without you guys, I wouldn't get to be on campus with our students at the University of North Texas. I know the Word of God would still be going out, but I wouldn't get to be as much of a part of that as I am right now and that is a HUGE honor. 

I'm so thankful for people who care about college students enough to be excited about giving financially and spending time in prayer for them. Thank you for all that you do. 

 



Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Learning Month

I woke up this morning and came to the realization that it's NOVEMBER! Somehow it slipped my mind yesterday that we were in to a new month...which also means my monthly freebie from Chick-fil-a never got used for the month of October.  :'(

But other than that sad fact, October was a terrific month! There are two really great events that I look forward to each year that happen in October (Fall Camp & the Leader Conference at church), as well as some other fun things (Halloween Party & Dating Talks!). I feel like God has really been reminding me of some important things and has used different ways all month to really drive His point home with me. I'll for sure share some of that with you, but I think the easiest way to do that will be chronologically! So let's go back to the beginning of the month and start with...


Fall Camp!

Denton FOCUS Fall Camp, 2015      











Look at all of those beautiful people! I loved Fall Camp so much this year! Granted, it got off to a rocky start...who knew there was another Mount Lebanon Baptist Camp also an hour away from Denton, but 30 minutes away from the location I was ACTUALLY trying to get to? Once I finally arrived at camp, it was smooth sailing from there on out! 

Peer Team 2015
The theme for the weekend was "Defining Moments" and we had a special guest speaker, Amy Knoles. Side note - she's my mentor this year...she's pretty great! The students really connected with the idea of being aware of defining moments in their lives and striving to be the person they would want to be when those moments happened. 

We had several students share about their personal defining moments since being in college and those were the most impactful of all. After hearing how one student chose to give up being part of ROTC in order to have more time for friendships and to deepen his walk with the Lord, one of the girls I meet up with made the tough decision to step down from a position of leadership with an extra curricular club. She had been feeling like the Lord was asking her to do so for a long time, but hearing about another person's sacrifice and submission to the Lord gave her the peace and confidence to move forward. 

One of our main goals for Fall Camp each year is just for the students to have fun with each other, get to know their cores and other members of the ministry better, and to have a weekend away from typical distractions to be refreshed by God. I really do think all of these goals were met this time and I love getting to be part of that! 

The next big event of October was...


Leadership Conference 

This is one of the most fun days because the leaders from each of our three sister churches and all of the FOCUS campuses get together for one full day of learning together. This year's theme was "Friendship," which may sound like an odd topic for a leadership conference, but let me tell you! It was so great and very much needed. 

"Yay, you're my friend! Catch meeee!"
Friendship is something that I've always really valued, but until this weekend, never really gave it a position of Actual Importance. Sure, it's super nice to have friends, but it's also super easy to allow friendship to slip to a back-burner in the midst of all the other "Important" things that have to be done on a daily basis. My biggest take away from this conference that deep, meaningful friendship is a Spiritual Discipline. I had never thought about it in that way before! To be told that "you can't be like Jesus if you don't invest in friendships" was such a kick in the butt! 

It makes sense though...Jesus was all about friendship and really building relationships with people. Without deep, meaningful friendships, who's going to know what's going on in your life and how to speak loving truth into it? Who is going to encourage and uplift you when things get hard? Who are you going to love and invest into? We just can't do ministry well and be lone wolves. That's not how it works. 

I'm so glad for this new insight! It almost gave a sort of legitimacy to my pursuit of deep friendships. Like taking time for this person is not selfish, but it's good and much needed. This is definitely one of those areas I'm learning how to balance in life and I'm excited to go forward from here. I don't think I'm alone in needing to learn how to continue investing in friendships past college. It gets much harder to be intentional with people when you don't live 5-10 minutes away from each other and aren't involved in a lot of the same things anymore. I'm curious to see how this particular conference impacts our community in the upcoming months. 

Our last big event of October was the...


Halloween Party!

This is such a fun, silly event and I love it. We present the Halloween Party each year not as just another fun thing for our students to participate in, but as a "Bring Your Own Friend" event. This is something that they can invite their friends who wouldn't normally come to a "religious" event to have some fun, get to know some other Christians and experience a party not focused on your "typical" college idea of fun. 

Jessie & Mrs Potatoehead
We're so blessed to have four different houses in one neighborhood that people from FOCUS or Denton North Church live in who are willing to host for us! This year, we had a snack house, a board game house, a dance party house and a pumpkin carving house! The weather was soggy and could have been a real downer on the party, but everyone had the best attitudes. We put down towels at entryways and borrowed umbrellas to get from place to place with each other! 


Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy
Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon
Just a bunch of Grandmas!
Kronk from The Emperor's New Groove
Lots of strange looking folk at Friday Night Fellowship before the party


My friend from Pakistan came for just a little bit and was so intrigued by the party. As an anthropology major, I think she may have been slightly disappointed that it wasn't a "real college party" for her to observe, but I loved that she came!

You know, it's not Halloween without something scary, so what better time of year to have...


The Sex/Dating Talk 

(dun dun dunnnnnn)

It happens every year, at least twice if we can make it work! Today's (and yesterday's and tomorrow's) college student is bombarded with secular ideas of what normal sexuality and dating relationships look like. So while it's not the most fun topic to hit on, and always results in a LOT of follow up conversations with people who may or may not agree, I actually really like getting to talk with our students about healthy sexuality and dating! I think it's so important that we build a community that is open to talking about what is biblical, good and healthy regarding these things because it's a huge area of many students' lives that they keep hidden.

Last week, we had all of our cores (small groups) read through this dating article. From there, they had some discussions about dating and will continue to have deeper conversations hopefully in some one on one situations. These are such important things to talk about because it impacts our future. I love talking about healthy dating because hopefully that eventually will lead to healthy marriages.
I would love for you to be praying for the students as they think through these important topics and try to make smart life decisions. Pray for open hearts to do dating in a way that pleases God, not themselves. Pray for obedience to do what God is asking of them in current relationships. Pray for conviction of sin if they are still not aware of how sex and ungodly relationships can affect their lives. 


And lastly, one very important UPCOMING event...

The Second Annual Keep FOCUS Growing Initiative

I mentioned this event last month, too and it's finally here! This initiative is to raise money so that we can continue bringing the Kingdom of God to different campuses in the DFW Metroplex. Last year, a lot of the funds raised went to planting a new campus ministry at NCTC (North Texas Central College) and UT Arlington. We're going to be posting testimonial videos on this Facebook link, so if you would like to be updated or participate in this event, go here and "like" the page: 


As always, thank you for reading, praying, and supporting me in this time of ministry in Denton! I really appreciate each of you and it's such a comfort to know that I and my students are covered in prayer. Love you all!



Thursday, October 1, 2015

Learning Balance

"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven." - Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

This last month has been one full of transition and of me trying to learn how to balance well in this new staff position. I love being on staff! But there is absolutely a learning curve and I'm right in the middle of that curve right now! 

How I feel about my schedule!
At the beginning of the month, I was floundering in too much time! Oh, the Horror of TOO MUCH TIME! I was getting all of my work done...but considering I didn't have intern classes that took up 24+ day light hours each week and wasn't having to plan a wedding, I had a ton more time this year than last! This led to me to start believing mental lies about my schedules: You're not working hard enough! You're not pulling your weight! DO MORE! 

Even though none of that was true, naturally, by the end of this month, I had swung to the opposite extreme and had filled every little hour of my week. Oh boy.  
I'm now learning how to balance my schedule in such a self-directed, fast-paced job. This isn't anything new, but I feel like it's more important to me now that this is what I know I'm going to be doing for the next three years of my life! It's no longer an option to just "sprint" through 10 month internships...I have to learn how to pace myself and come to a more sustainable lifestyle all round.
So if any of you "responsible, balanced grown-ups" have any good tips, please feel free to share those with me! Please pray for me as I work towards maintaining balance, practice saying "no," and use my time wisely.


Spending Time with People

Hanging out with a New Friend!
This really is my favorite part of getting to do campus ministry. This year, I have eleven girls I'm mentoring and they are awesome. We've spent a lot of this last month really getting to know each other and learning how to work together as a team for our shared purpose - reaching our campus for Jesus. 

Each pair (and one set of three) leads a small group Bible study throughout the week and this is where one-on-one Bible studies with their peers are generally started! This is going outstandingly well! Each of my girls is doing 2-3 studies with girls in their cores. So just with my peer team alone, that's 22-33 people who are studying the Bible in a one-on-one setting!

That's not even counting the five other peer teams, or the other students within the Cores that are studying the Bible with people. That's amazing to me! Please be praying with me that each of these studies results in true life change in our college students!
 

No Big Deal...

So this is my favorite story of all time. Definitely my favorite story of September! One Tuesday night, my neighbor, Jesus, texted me and Austin, asking if we would come to the courthouse with them on Thursday to be legally married, so they could start the adoption process with Arielle (who is Naidia's daughter from a previous relationship). Of course we wanted to be with them as they committed to this relationship for the long run! 

Thursday morning, Austin and I got ready, bought some flowers (shout-out to the awesome Kroger clerk who made sweet, individual bouquets), and arrived at the county courthouse before everyone else got there. The security guards were welcoming, but confused..."No one gets married here, usually! And you have to have an appointment! Do you have an appointment?" Well, Austin and I sure didn't...and neither did Jesus and Naidia! 

They were able pick up their marriage license, but then what were they going to do about getting married that day so that they could move forward with the adoption? Well, it just so happens that I am a legally ordained minister and could do it for them! I never would have thought that I would perform a marriage ceremony, but that is exactly what happened one Thursday in September, 2015. 

I called Brandon (my boss) to make sure that I really could perform the ceremony and that it would be perfectly legal for them to move forward. It was, so I started googling marriage scripts and we headed outside to "get them hitched!" It was a sweet, little ceremony. Naidia's grandparents and some other friends were able to make it! I loved getting to be part of their lives in this way. I'm excited to continue growing in friendship with them. Please continue to pray for them as they move forward in this adoption process and for their new marriage! 


Fantastic News

I wanted to thank each of you for your continued prayers for my fundraising efforts! God is incredibly gracious and provides wonderfully for His kids. I got news from my church home in Midland that they wanted to continue supporting me, and another family here in Denton joined my support team! I am now only 8% away from being 100% fully funded for this year! Praise God and thank you for your prayers in that! 
Another thing I want to thank you for is from last year...Do you remember the FOCUS140 initiative last year? We were able to raise $31,000 from that "First Annual Keep FOCUS Growing" campaign! This is a link so that you can see everything that the money went towards this year. 
I was really amazed and blessed by looking at what we were able to do because of everyone who was so generous! Thank you! 
We'll definitely be having a "Second Annual" this year, probably starting next month, so I'll keep you posted on that. Please start praying with me now for that initiative so that we can do even more on our campuses next year! 

As always, I am so thankful for each one of you, my dear supporters! Thank you for your prayers and for making the Kingdom a priority in your life in this way. Love you all! 

 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Welcome to the New Year

 

 

 It has begun! 

Welcome, September! Fall is seriously my favorite time of the year and I've felt hints of it creeping closer within these last few weeks! It's such a subtle, yet drastic change from the beginning of August to September...subtle in the ways that the temperatures seem to be evening out and not horrendously hot each day! Subtle in the way that some of the trees in my apartment complex have started changing colors and even dropping leaves! Ok, maybe they're dropping from heat exhaustion, not autumn...But a girl can dream, can't she?
This last month has been a drastic change for me in my work focus. We started out in August with our staff retreat, which I'll tell you about in a sec, and have ended with being two full weeks into hard core campus ministry! I'm so excited to be back with students and to get to be on campus more often now! God's done some awesome things this last month, which I am thrilled to get to tell you all about!


Staff Retreat

FOCUS Staff 2015
So this was just an insanely fun couple of days! Our whole staff carpooled down to Port Aransas, Texas, where we stayed in a large beach-house just a short walk from the beach. 
Last year, this staff retreat was good for helping me get over my nerves about working on a brand new team, but was still so out of my comfort zone that I felt more stressed than relaxed for the majority of the time. This year was night and day different! I think it says a lot about how this team functions that I felt like I was on a giant family vacation with people that I really loved all week.
While there was a lot of playing together and getting to know each other on a "fun level," there was also time for deeper reflection and preparation as we all look forward to a year of bringing the gospel to our different campuses. 

Movie Night!
One of my favorite times of the retreat was when we spent an entire evening telling our individual FOCUS stories. To hear how FOCUS was started in the mid-90's with just a few key people and then to continue chronologically with each staff member telling how they got involved with FOCUS and how their life has changed as a result of being part of this community of believers was beautiful. So often in the Old Testament, God reminded His People to remember their past, where they had come from and how He had worked it all for good...I felt like this was a time of precious remembering and seeing how God has already led us this far. How encouraging to know going forward into a new year that He continues to go before us and that He will complete the good work that He has started! 



 Baptisms

 

Happy Re-Birthday!
 We had two girls this month decide that they wanted to get baptized! I love getting to watch students as they make their faith their own and then step out in obedience to get baptized. For one of these girls, she had been baptized as a child and felt like she hadn't fully understood the commitment she was making. As she's grown in her relationship with God, it became heavier and heavier on her heart that she needed to be baptized again, as an adult with full understanding of what she was doing. For the other girl, this was her first time to be baptized and did so in response to becoming serious about her faith. 
 
I am so proud of these girls and they ways that I've watched them grow and mature in their faith this last year. It's so good to see God working in individual's lives and then to see them turn around to make public declarations of their allegiance! Praise God for what He's doing at UNT! 

 

 

 

 Corefa Prep

Leader Team 2015
Thank you for your prayers for this weekend of preparation as we trained our new student leaders to be Core Facilitators (Corefas). We have a team of 50+ students who dedicate fifteen or more hours each week to leading a small group, studying the Bible with their peers and to attending various leader meetings. I'm amazed at their dedication and zeal for reaching their campus for Jesus! 

This weekend got off to a bumpy start with us finding out two days before that we didn't get approved to have a room on campus because it was finals week for summer classes! EEP!! Thank God for a local church that graciously allowed us to meet in their youth room on Friday. After that the weekend flowed smoothly as we talked about the vision for the semester, how to do Welcome Week well and spent some time getting to know each other as new leaders in this together. Please keep praying for these student leaders throughout the semester, as they're really the rockstars on campus...they can meet people and build connections through classes, age, etc that most of us on staff just can't anymore. Pray that God moves mightily through them and gives them stamina for the whole year.




Welcome Week

Move In Day
This is probably the busiest and most vital week to campus ministry that we have! Starting on Sunday, our whole staff, leader team, and other student volunteers help move new freshmen into the dorms. What a sweaty and practical way to meet new students and make them feel welcome! After that day comes a whole week where the university puts on fun "get to know you" events. The new freshmen are required to attend various orientation classes until around 1pm, but from that time til probably close to midnight each night, events are happening that encourage students to make friends and get involved. Our student leaders, knowing why this is such an important week, work their schedules to try to be able to attend the most strategic events and to meet as many people as possible. 

After Move In Day
You might be wondering "why is this such a big deal?!" It's because within these first couple of weeks, everyone is new (whether legitimately new or starting a new semester) and it's not weird to go up and start talking to someone. We have this amazing window of opportunity to connect with people before they've made their decisions of what they're going to be involved in on campus. 

This is not just a big ploy for bulking up numbers at UNT. It's statistically proven that about 25% of students stop attending church or any other religious function when they move away for college. That's incredibly sad to me. But maybe by reaching out and befriending early we can help stop that trend and start a new one of students staying involved in the church and become mature disciples of Christ! That's my prayer for our campuses and I hope you'll join me in that!



Welcome Week Stories

These were two of my favorite stories that happened to me over the course of Welcome Week:

All Because of God (and my dog) 

Tuckered out from meeting students
 So two weeks before Welcome Week, a friend from Midland had texted me saying that the daughter of a woman she worked with was going to UNT this fall and that I should met her! She gave me a name, but no number to contact her. I asked for one and she never responded. I figured on a campus of 36,000+ students, my odds of just running into this chick were really just impossible and then kind of forgot about it. 

Sunday evening, after Move In Day, I went up on campus with Camilla to meet students. What better ice breaker is there than a cute puppy, especially when all of these freshmen have just left home and their pets behind, right? Pretty soon these two girls walked up to me and asked if they could pet my dog. As we stood there talking, we introduced ourselves by first name only and chit-chatted about how the first day had been. I offered to exchange numbers with them so that I could let them know about events that FOCUS was having throughout the week. As they told me their numbers, one of them had a Midland area code! I asked her what her last name was to see if we had mutual friends at home and when she said it, I almost had a heart attack. 

She was the girl that my friend had texted me about two weeks earlier! WHAAAAAAT!? Just think with me of how very impossible of a "coincidence" that happened to be. What makes it better is that she's come to some events and is starting to get involved! I'm simply amazed by God and how He works all things to His glory! He is going to do what He wants done, regardless of having phone numbers! 


International Lunch Time
 
Mmm. So true.
As we've been trying to get more engaged with the international students on campus, we've had some terrific opportunities this month to serve and befriend new students. One of these opportunities was simply coming to their lunch time and making conversation with them in between their various activities on campus. I loved getting to attend these lunches, not because I love pizza so much, but because I saw the same couple of girls from Korea three days straight! Each time I would walk in, they would flag me down and ask me to come sit with them, which I did happily. On the last day, one of the girls told me as we were leaving, "Miriam, I think we are...how do you say...DESTINY to be FRIENDS!"

What a unique opportunity we have to really love and serve these students through the friendship and hope we have to offer! I'm so excited about the doors that are opening up to do this more and that our students are catching a vision for the world!  



I hope that these stories encourage you about what all is happening on our campuses. God is moving and it is so wonderful to get to be a part of that. Thank you for the ways that you support me in this, through your prayers and financial giving. I appreciate each of you so much and am incredibly thankful for you!



Saturday, August 8, 2015

Finishing Summer

 It's almost time! We're so very close to when school starts back up again and life gets crazy in the typical way. I'm so ready! I love summer, but I also really love structure and am so excited to get this year started. It's going to be awesome and I'm jazzed that you'll be partnering with me throughout this new journey! Thank you! 

So let me tell you about July! 

 

 

Fourth of July 


Family!
 This is one of my favorite holidays! Just think about it...freedom, bbq, friends, and fireworks! That adds up for an awesome day! 

Austin and I drove up to Oklahoma to visit my oldest sister for the weekend and had a blast! I love being around family and that doesn't happen as often as I wish it did. 

 Oklahoma doesn't have a burn ban, so the guys just set off fireworks in the street in front of my sister's house. The whole neighborhood was doing the same thing and the effect was fantastic!



Fundraising

Old Friends in Midland

This has been such a growing season for me this year. I've learned a lot about God's provision and it is so humbling to me. It's easy for me to get puffed up in thinking that fundraising is just about putting in the time and effort (which is important), but God really is the one that makes things happen!

There have been so many instances this summer where I was feeling so discouraged because MY efforts weren't having the desired results. But then in His timing, He would do something terrific (like connecting me to an old classmate that I haven't really talked to in five years) and show that He is very much still in control and has a plan. I just have to remember that.

One really fun part of fundraising was getting to go out to my old hometown, Midland! I got to see so many old friends and reconnect with them. Midland has changed a lot but there are still so many wonderful people out there...which I ran into literally everywhere I went! I don't think there was a single place I went where I didn't run into someone I hadn't seen in years. It was terrific!



NEXT Camp

 

While I was in sweltering Midland, Austin was in "Oh it's almost 80 degrees today" Golden Bell, Colorado! He went with our church's teen ministry, Northeast Extreme Teens (NEXT), to lead worship for their camp. I got to go with them last year and it was amazing. Not just because it's beautiful and that's where Austin proposed, but because teens' lives truly are changed during this time. The opportunity to get away from the every day crazy of life and to be up in the mountains, surrounded by God and people who deeply love these teens does something amazing for them.
video 
The teens worshiping at camp. Gave me chills!!

It's tempting to chalk the changes up to a Camp High, and sometimes that is true. But one of Northeast Church's values is "from the ground up," meaning they invest in their young people to build up a strong ministry that will continue growing past when all of the current leaders are gone. I've seen this in practice as many of our current student leaders and staff with FOCUS and several of my close friends (including my Austin) had "life changing experiences" that truly were Life Changing for the long haul.  What a blessing to be part of a church that values teenagers like this and get to help grow the future leaders of the world!



International Interactions

 

End of the Year Celebration, 2013
 Praise God, things are happening!! You know it's been on my heart for a long time to be reaching out to the internationals at UNT and things are lining up SO well to do just that this year!

One of the other girls on my team, Kelly, also has a strong heart for internationals. So we met up with the two of the coordinators for the Intensive English Learning Institute (IELI) and the International Students Department.

That was an exciting meeting. They have a great need for volunteers and we have a great number of willing students! Most of the things we'll be able to get involved with this year are conversation hour and conversation partners. Both of those are great opportunities to build meaningful relationships with international students, which can have deep impact on both parties. I'm so excited for this year to begin and to see what God does in this area!

Ways to Pray For August

 

Corefa Prep Weekend
August 14 & 15 we will have a training for our student leaders. Pray for them to really catch a Vision of what God is doing on our campuses and what their part is in that.  

Welcome Week
This is one of the most vital weeks of ministry! New students come pouring into campus and are all open, looking for friends and for places to get involved. If each person on our leader team in Denton this year met five people a day Monday through Friday of this week, we would be reaching out to 1,250 new students!!

New Interns
The 2015-16 interns started on August 1st! There are fourteen of them scattered around our different campuses. Pray for them in this first month as they read the ENTIRE Old Testament, start classes and their weekly ministry tasks. It can be an overwhelming time! 



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Miriam's July Update

Well, hey there! 

Doesn't it seem like we were just here, at the beginning of a new month? June was a flash of activity! I'm sure it's been busy for each of you too and I hope the summer has been great thus far! This month was full of just a couple of things for me, but when I say full....I mean FULL!

~Driving~ 

Are we there YET?!
 My sister, Moriah, moved out to California this month! And what better way to start out a new chapter in life than with a 25+ hour long road trip?! Me, Moriah and our Dad got to drive a 15' moving truck, plus Moriah's car towed behind, all the way out to her new abode in Cali!

While it was a tight squeeze in that front seat, it really was so much fun! I'm incredibly glad to have gotten to spend that time with my family and to see Moriah off to a good start in her new home.

Made it!

I'm going to miss her so SO much, but I know God's got great plans for her out there and will do wonderful things in her life. This next year I'll have to be much more purposeful in peer friendships, since I won't have my go-to girl close by anymore. Be praying with us that God really strengthens our friendship, even being so far away, and with other people who live near us!











~Conversations~


This has been my most encouraging and favorite part of the summer so far! I'm right in the middle of fundraising and helping to build the leader team for Denton next year, both of which require many conversations!

Fundraising - I've gotten to talk to so many of you, my dear ministry partners, over the course of this last month. Each time has just been so encouraging to me as we get to catch up and share what all is going on in our lives.
You are just the biggest blessing to me! Fundraising can be a frustrating and intimidating season for me to walk through, but when I get to talk with you, it helps me refocus on why I'm spending the next three years of my life in campus ministry and to remember that God is always fully in control. THANK YOU for your financial and prayer support in my life! I would not get to be on full time staff without you guys! Please continue to pray that I will be fully funded for next year by August 1st.

Side Note, God Deal Story - This year has been such a hard one for fundraising for me! There have been many times where I've felt pretty helpless and unproductive in all of my efforts. But there have been a couple of really sweet times that God reminds me that it's not ALL about MY efforts. One that particularly blessed me lately was a conversation I had right after getting back from California. I hadn't been able to do too much work and I had been feeling the pressure of time slipping by me quickly! I spent my layover time in the airport sending out messages to people that I had been praying about contacting, but hadn't been able to just yet.

One of those was to a family that had quite an impact on my older sisters and who I have fond memories of, just haven't seen since I was maybe thirteen or so! They responded QUICKLY and we had a meeting set up to talk within the next couple of days. I was so nervous about that meeting, but as we talked, she just put me right at ease. At one point, she mentioned "You know, this timing is crazy. My husband and I had been praying the morning you messaged us about where to start investing in some other ministries. And then I got your message!"

Whoaaaaaaa! That was just a huge reminder that God is going before me and is still in control and has even better plans than what I'm aware of. I'm so thankful for Him revealing Himself in little ways like that and for the peace that brings me. Our God is soo good, right!?

Leader Team 2014-2015
Leader Team - These conversations have been so much fun! I get to talk through the leadership/spiritual qualities FOCUS looks for in its leaders, the amount of commitment it will require and the standard of life that is expected. So far, I'm really impressed with the caliber of potential girl leaders that I've gotten to talk to over the course of this month. It's been exciting to see the different strengths they are coming with and for them to be open about areas that God is working on in their lives. This last month, I've clearly seen the spiritual fruit of many of the girls that I've mentored over the course of this past school year! God is clearly at work in these college students' lives and I'm thrilled to get to be part of it again!




~Summer FOCUS~


My prayer for our students!
This summer has been a stellar one for the Summer FOCUS Sermons! The theme this time around is "Ministry in Community." It's been a very practical and impactful series. We started out with reminding students that the point of being in a Christian community is to minister to each other through Christ. Helping them remember that it's everybody's responsibility to be ministers to each other, not just the ones who have the Official Title of minister or leader, was key in moving forward with the other topics. So far we've talked about battling depression, body stewardship, controlling your thoughts, and emotional regulation. By the end of the summer, we'll have covered comparing ourselves to others, addiction to entertainment, body image, and porn and healthy sexuality. I've heard such good feedback from students about how they've really been ministered to through some of these harder topics. Please keep praying with me that the Spirit continues to move in their lives and that real life change happens this summer.




~Team Bonding~

We had our first "Denton Staff Retreat" this last weekend! Shout our to our campus director, Matt Clark's, parents for opening their lovely home to us! This was a great couple of days to really get to know each other better, spend some time in prayer and worship, plan our goals for next school year and play a million games of croquet. I think this next year is going to be awesome. We have a great team with such diverse thoughts and talents being brought to the table!
From left to right: Cody McCarty - loyal pal, deep thinker and mortal enemy of all croquet players. Kelly Schlitz - extreme organizer and straight talker with a big heart. Aaron Hollingsworth - residential artist, eye for detail and pastoral thinker. Matt Clark - campus director boss man, positive critical thinker and long term plan maker, also astoundingly good at croquet. Me - the sweet one and #2 cryer in all things emotional. Sarah Hubbard (aka Shubs) - the out-loud brain-stormer, driver, and #1 in the reception of friendly heckling as the baby of the team.

Take some time to check out their blogs, too! I'll be working with this bunch for a while,  for which I'm totally stoked! 




~Mom Update~

Mom's doing well! She got to go back to Kansas just before all the tropical storms hit Houston, which was a major blessing. She's about to start her 3rd round of chemo in a couple weeks. It seems to really knock her down for about two weeks after and her immune system is still so low that she can't really see many people even after that, but she seems to be responding well! And she got to drive herself for the first time in six months last week!! Yay Mom!!
Thank you for your continued prayers and support for me and my Mom!

Love you all and am thankful for each one of you!

Monday, June 1, 2015

One Final Month

Happy June 1st!

It's official as of today! My internship with FOCUS is over and I am now a full-time staff person in Denton. We had a final prayer and reflection day this last Saturday and I was just so blessed to be able to think back over this year. It was good to remember the things that God has done and the many, MANY ways that I feel like I've grown and been changed just in these ten months. I know I say it every single month, but I am just so thankful for each of you supporting me and I pray that my internship has encouraged you! You have been so integral to this year. 

 THANK YOU!!!

 

Winding Down 

So this last month of the internship...I don't really know why I thought our schedules would lighten up once our students' classes were over, but I should have known better! We doubled up on classes these last few weeks, which was intense, but also really good. I think because I didn't have as many other tasks or distractions, some of these classes have been my favorites. 
Camilla ate "Elmer Gantry" =(
One that was very impactful to me explored the use of fiction in ministry, where we read "Elmer Gantry" by Sinclair Lewis.  I wouldn't recommend it for just funsies reading, but I would recommend reading it at some point. Through the discussions we had about the book, I came to recognize a lot of pride in my life. I realized I don't like sharing the ugly parts of who I am as a fallen person, so I'm really good at putting on a smiley front that is good at deflecting when others get too close to those parts. Learning how to allow others to see those parts and letting the Lord work in my life through others has been a big theme this year.
Another class I've really enjoyed these last few weeks has been an audio lecture about the Sermon on the Mount from Regent College. I've never explored the Sermon in depth before! Listening to the audio and then discussing different questions and take-aways has been a really great way to end the class part of the internship. 

But It Wasn't ALL Work!

We got to "Play and Pray" for a full five days in the middle of May! Two of our interns went to SICM (the student conference in Washington), but the rest of us were blessed with a week of refreshment, encouragement, worship, learning and fun at a cabin in Oklahoma! Every morning, our senior pastor, Ronnie, would lead us in a time of praising God through prayer and singing to Him. We had an in-depth study of First and Second Timothy and Titus about what it means to be a young, godly minister. It was a great topic for both the ones of us continuing in ministry and the ones who will be going out into the work force now. We are called to be ministers whatever our actual titles are! 
Buffaloes are a thing in Oklahoma.
I am so thankful for this week of time away from the hustle and bustle of everything. It's really hard for me to stop everything and just relax or rest in God's presence, but this time was just so precious to me. I realized (again!) that week that when I get caught up on all the busyness, I lose a heart that praises and blesses God, focusing only on all the things that need to get done. I become a Martha waaaay too easily. It was a good week of becoming refocused on what the ACTUALLY important things are in my life.   



Other Happenings in May 

 Here are some of the highlights in May and how to Pray this month!

Christian, Miriam, Sarah H, Stephen





Denton End of the Year Formal was a blast!
We celebrated our graduating seniors, Sarah King going to UTA next year, and all of us interns at TWU or UNT this year. 
 Please pray for each of us as we transition into our new jobs!






Sarah K, Matt, Stephen, Sarah H, Christian, Kelly, Miriam







Denton Staff 
2014-2015
Please pray for the 2015-2016 staff as we raise our support for this next year.
Haven't changed a bit.







 

Moriah, Austin and I got to go see Mom for Mother's Day!
Please pray for Mom as she starts her second round of chemo June 10th.


Josh's Mom (Shanda), Austin, & Josh







  



Praise God!!!!
Austin got to baptize his best friend this last Sunday! 
Please pray for Josh as he learns how to put God above everything else and to be a Disciple of Jesus. 

Way to go, Mo!








 
My sister, Moriah, graduated UNT! 
Please pray for her as she transitions out of the college life and starts a new adventure in California!







First Sumer FOCUS!
Please pray for students to continue to be changed by God! 






Our Upcoming Interns!
Please pray that they will be fully funded by August 1st!



Thank you for praying for these things that mean so much to me! 
You're a blessing!