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I like getting swept up in traditions. I am constantly meeting people and a question that I love to ask is what are some of your most treasured holiday traditions with your family. That is what the holidays are about right?! Being jolly with those whom you love and sharing moments that turn into memories that shape who you are.

I began to understand about 4 years ago that all of life was meant to be lived for God’s glory. As the holidays were approaching I was trying to think through how I could make a thanksgiving feast Gospel saturated all the while dripping with love for others. My family was spread out and each member was dealing with their own fair share of difficulty and hurt mostly due to someone bearing their same last name. Sooo..I excitedly thought I would invite my whole family and closest friends over to my house for a thanksgiving feast and a time of reflection called “a penny for your thanksgiving day thought” the saturday after Thanksgiving.  Each year I would pick a verse and plaster it up all over the walls, adorn the tables with burlap and cranberries and orange and purple long stem candles, send out the invitations verbally or by email and on the Saturday after Thanksgiving they would come. I think one year we had at least 30 people packed into my little house on Seawell Ave in Raleigh. I would cook the Turkey and everyone else would bring a side. We were a ragamuffin of a gathering but each year my family came.

Before we would eat we would grab two thoughts of thankfulness. One to share and one to throw in for next year. Each person would share their thankful thought for that year and we would get to hear someones thankful thought from the year prior that was or wasn’t there! I have this black box that I store all the Penny for your thanksgiving day thoughts in and after the last person drops their thought and penny inside the box it stays shut until the following year’s Thanksgiving Saturday! It is so RAD!! I am excited thinking about it while I type.

My parents were able to see the genuine love of God through my friends at Church and my mom repented of her sins and trusted in Jesus in 2008 and said that Happy Thanksgiving Saturday played a role in her seeing God!! I am really excited just remembering.

This year is the first year in 4 years that I will not be able to host it but this tradition I started has buried it’s head in the hearts of all those that came. Happy Thanksgiving Saturday has definitely Not seen its last day!

Without the bird and the chatter here are your “Penny for your Thanksgiving Day thoughts” from 2009.

Dana Cordell: I am grateful that Mercy is healthy-that my boys are growing and serving me and our family so well. I am also thankful for my hubby (my best friend) Jesus has been so good to us.

Jadon Cordell: My family.

Joy Hughes: Grace that doesn’t run out.

Elijah Cordell: I am glad I have a family.

Andy Carlson: I am thankful for God’s patience with me as well as His perseverance in insuring His will to be done and the family of believers.

Andrew Joyner: For me to be able to go to sleep!

Rich Hughes (Joy’s Dad): For God’s unfailing faithfulness toward me and my family. He never fails to meet every need no matter how small.

Cathi Taylor: Thankful that God’s spirit is enabling me to want to know him better!

Joy’s Mom: His everpresence.

Aimee Struchen: God’s continuous protection over me and my children & having the heart knowledge that God hears, sees and acts.

Larry Cook (my dad): Jesus, wife, children and life.

Alicia Christie: Thankful for the friends that God has blessed her with and that I am Learning to be content in all circumstances.

Paige Struchen: I am thankful for God.

Robin Long (my mom): I am thankful for so many things. This paper is too small for my list.

Mike Neff: Moving to Raleigh with my son, Luke, and going to a great church.

Mercy Cordell: Ice Cream, shoes, baby dolls.

Sean Cordell: Thankful for my family, our church and Jesus’ patience with and forgiveness for my sins.

Jill: I am thankful for my friends I have made in this room and the love that they show me.

Bradley Joyner: I am thankful for everyone coming and bringing food to eat!

Panama (Alex) Batista: I am thankful for the mercy and grace that the Lord displays through his family. Also I am thankful for knowing real and true beauty which is my treasure Jesus Christ.

Kristin (me): Thankful for the promise that Jesus is coming to make all things new-me- I need much help and He has helped me.

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For those of you who didn’t hear or found themselves wondering why the sudden move to Texas..here is the story in black and white with some splash of color. Have you ever felt like you just lived in the future? Your mind actively fast forwarding to the next segment in your life where you see your self participating in life the way that you desire. Maybe this daydream is filled with wants that are out of reach or maybe they are filled with stuff that isn’t important but would add some cushion to your life… I don’t know what yours is but I know mine well.

My head would tilt to the side, eyes glancing in an upward motion almost as if I am in the same thought communicating with God, asking Him to make these wants a reality. Some of these mind wanderings take me into a marriage where I get to be a wife, a lover of my husband, a mommy with a chex mix of kids, bio and adopted, a lover of people in such a way that we get dirty in loving them and a home where the gospel is the radiant light and misfits and skeptics are welcomed. In this grand narrative I am a photographer who gets the freedom to shoot, create and give lasting memories to many. The soundtrack is playing so nicely. The sun is setting, painting the sky with robust colors and all is happy.  I kept hoping that all of these would become a reality but I couldn’t keep living with my head tilted waiting for these sequence to line up before any of these actually occurred. Something had to change.

One day I was sharing again with Casey, who I really can’t accurately put into words what she means to me..the word best friend just doesn’t do it for me, but  I was asking for prayer. I had been working 40  hours a week at my amazing church, Treasuring Christ, while shooting full-time during the afternoons and weekends.  I barely had  time for community or for loving the church and was sinking. She mentioned that in order to make a change and really do what I wanted I needed to consider doing something drastic. That was to quit my full-time job and consider moving in with a family while I worked on making a name for myself as a photographer. I thought, okay I will pray, but was like, no way can I not work full-time and really do this. I must have income and I don’t have a husband to fall back on. The next morning I woke up and there in my inbox was an email with a plan beginning with me quitting TCC and moving to Texas.

After much prayer and a lot of council I decided to take the risk and do it. I packed up my house, stuffed my car and moved to Fort Worth, Texas. Dan and Casey opened their home up to me. They have been dreamers with me and a true gift of provision.  I have been here for about 4 weeks now. I have a partime job at Starbucks while I work on my  photography business. My head still tilts, I am definitely still dreaming but I am close to making some of those sequences a reality.  I don’t have to be married to just be a photographer, nor care for orphans and participate in adoption. I hope to use photography to help give kid memories that otherwise they wouldn’t have known or been given the opportunity to know. These are just part of a much bigger picture that I get to be a part of.  I am living a new segment, full of change, hope, fear, excitement and a ton of color.

come with me.

In order to CELEBRATE (can you hear that Lionel Richie song in your head?) getting hired at Starbucks I wanted to bake something that I hadn’t baked before. Most recipes that I choose to try lure me by their photographs. The pictures themselves suck me  in and my mouth for real begins to water. I love all things sweet and instead of making a huge salad, I wanted something uber chocolatey. Casey and I found this recipe for Almond Joys from  Joy the Baker.  Look at those photographs and you will want to make everything she posts. My next baking adventure will be those pumpkin poptarts.

She interacts with her food and I think that she and I would be pals if she lived closer.

Memories of my dad taking me and my sisters to our grandmas house and digging our grubby little hands into her candy jars fills the kitchen as I measure, stir, pour, melt and mold these little yummies. She always had all kinds of junk food. I think most Grandmas do. I wonder if that is in a handbook somewhere? In order to be a grandma you must pump your grandkids up with an abundance of all things sugary?

This little guy, Jack, was desperate to get the goods. Much like me. Arms stretched up and hands spread wide. He’s wearing Dora undies..he belongs in the kitchen ;0)! He actually has a bit of a rash, that is the real reason he is wearing Dora.

I made them a wee bit fat, so the almonds were smashed deep into the coconut. I decided to pound some almonds and cover the joy’s for that perfect balance of almonds, coconut and chocolate. Yum.

My pants are a little tight now but Lionel Richie would be proud.

.:kristin:.

Where to begin..other than the highway.  A road trip that took me across 6 states in 3 days, a small car packed tighter than a can of sardines and the iPhone 4 that kept me connected to all that I had left behind and introduced me to the future while driving in the present. As I sit here in Texas and look back across the experience of firsts, I am overwhelmed with the beginning yet hopeful towards the end. Settling takes time. In my mind I had imagined arriving and jumping into a fast paced lifestyle, meeting new people, being swept up into the Village all the while creativity raining down on me. Those mental pictures haven’t become a rocket ship yet and I am realizing that I am 2 weeks old and  unwinding a bit.

For the first time..in a long time I am..

the new girl at church who knows 3 people and is swallowed up in masses of people. Like Time Square at New Years.

the new girl at small group  looking and longing for someone to connect with, to love and to serve.

the new girl at social gatherings who no one knows, maybe noticed, but at the end of the evening hasn’t been spoken too.

the new girl driving around town, looking for common everyday places.

the new girl looking for a place to exercise, parking, running and getting lost.

the new girl looking for a job, calling, dressing up, looking up adjectives in dictionary.com to find new and interesting ways to describe myself.

the new girl who sees beauty and gets to capture it whenever I want.

the new girl who cries out to God constantly for comfort, help & security because all other “things” of comfort have been taken away.

In light of all of the firsts, I know that the ideas that are gripped in my hands are slowly becoming unleashed and my handwriting isn’t as rushed. I am slowing down and that is a first.

kristin (all of these pictures were taken from my super rad- iphone.)

This week has been a walk of passing bye. I have taken long walks that were accompanied by tearful visits and well wishes. It is here. Saturday I begin my drive to Texas. I feel like I am frozen but at the same time moving in a fast forward motion. Friends have remembered stories with me, laughed with me, visited my favorites with me and encouraged me. When I listen I hear love. I often at times don’t feel as if I really know this girl that they speak of..but then it is not I but the grace of God in me that is the constant acting goodness in me. There are no words in my vocabulary to describe the bounty of excess love that has been poured out upon me. I am thankful to have unwrapped all these wonderful gifts here in Raleigh. I love Raleigh and the people who are home for me here.

Here is a glimpse of home for me with some of my lasts..in Raleigh.

Ang is going to kill me for this photo..but I love it and she makes me laugh! I will miss her dearly! She is one of my photographer comrades and dear, dear friend. To her I will always remain..COOKIE!!!

-kristin

This morning I slowly started pulling clothes out of my closet and off their hangers. It is setting in as I fold shirts that have found their home inside 309 Seawell for years,  now they too are moving on to a new home. It is fitting that it would rain so frequently my last week here. The skies have opened pouring water forth. It is almost like God knows I almost don’t have any tears left. At random moments I cry. In those moments I reach out for comfort and I am reminded that Jesus promises to be my unshifting constant as I say goodbye and as I say hello.

Last weekend was a weekend of parties, tears and not good byes but see you laters. My mom hosted a party for me on Saturday with family and my church, Treasuring Christ Church, had a shin-dig for me on Sunday.

I don’t know if my heart could be any fuller. I am often surprised by love. It surprises me, overwhelms me and when fleshed out in extravagant ways leaves my mouth wide open. This morning I got up to pray to thank God for his abundance that He has poured out on me and as I sat my mind, like a pin ball that bounces back and forth trying to find its way, continually became filled with faces, conversations and amazingly sweet ridiculous acts of kindness that can only be motivated by the finger tips of the Father working in a new nature. I am so surprised.  Bowed down yet exalted at the same time to be surrounded by sacrifice motivated by love..such a clear picture of the gospel. Living in me, aware of the ugliest parts of me, yet I am loved. A rebel, I am loved. I still can’t believe it. I began to pray and just thanked and thanked and thanked God for you all. I long for you all with an affection of Christ. I thank God for you. For all of you.

My mom put a lot of effort in the details. I am a details girl. She made me a dark room and everyone dressed in western garb. I cried and cried. My mom has been a follower of Jesus for almost 2 years now and the labor of love that was displayed made me thank God more and more. He has and is doing such an amazing work in her. She just keeps getting better.

It poured on Sunday..but friends still came out to say goodbye. There were tons of people, tons of food, my favorite cake and an amazing surprise… They gave me the Canon 5D Mark II. I have been saving for this camera for a long, long, time. I still can’t believe it.

My sweet families:..