Wrapping Up A Year-Long Spring Break

Spring Happenings

We made it to the end of the year! And what a very odd, but very blessed year it has been.

Our first indoor group!

Remember back in March of 2020 when we went on Spring Break and it didn't end until now? I'm not sure if that's what COVID was like for you, but that is sort of how it was for me. It's SO STRANGE referring to "this time last year" and remembering how we hadn't seen other people in over a month, we went outdoors most days just for the sake of getting out of the house, and we were having to learn all kinds of new skills (like I learned to cut Chris' hair, for instance). Though it seems like it's been no time at all, when I say things like "this time last year," I remember that it has indeed been a year and that we did school and ministry for a whole year. I thank God that COVID is sort of beginning to come to a close!

Summer FOCUS Kick-off
We are so excited to have been able to meet in person indoors more and more! We got to close out the year of UTD Deep Dive (the large-group meeting we were streaming on Friday nights) mostly indoors, and then we had our very first Summer FOCUS all together indoors just last week. There is something so moving about being able to worship together (without road noise) in person and stand close to the people you're worshipping with. There is something about being able to see the faces of the Body of Christ around you. I saw many students wiping away tears off and on through the night! God has been good to us through the whole year, but the ending of a global pandemic and the isolation we were all still straining against was something BIG to celebrate.

Peer Team

My peer team (the group of small group leaders who I meet with twice weekly) met for the last and first time a few weeks back! We have met virtually all year long, but with the majority of our group vaccinated, we decided to celebrate our final meeting of the year in person! I have just loved seeing the things God has done in and through these girls this year. They are committed to loving people well out of a devotion to Jesus. They have entered into unusual friendships--meeting classmates exclusively on Zoom and building a relationship that way; they've pushed past the discouragements and exhausting conditions of this year to try to be faithful with what they have; they've loved the girls in their small groups so well! They've taken hours upon hours to just be their friends, to study the Bible with them and ask big questions, to challenge them where God is leading. These girls have also done a lot of growing themselves. I was talking recently to one of them who has been doing some counseling this year. She was reflecting on some of the big changes God has made in her heart and mind through counseling. She said "I feel like if I hadn't gone to counseling, my relationships with my friends would be so different. I wouldn't be able to sit with them and talk with them the same way and hear what they were saying as well. And I've noticed I've been able to talk with my mom about some of the things that have been hard for her as she and her family are going through her dad's passing, which I think has been really good. I've seen God grow all those things through it."

Janelle's bridal shower <3
I also got to watch this sweet peer team girl get married just about a week ago, and it was one of the most meaningful ceremonies I've gotten to attend. It was so touching to hear the way each person who spoke at the wedding talked about the ways God had blessed others through the newlyweds. Both of have chosen to make a lot of sacrifices (career-wise, financially, emotionally) to be able to serve others out of their hearts for God. It's one of the things that I value most about this particular kind of ministry--getting to be a part of the season where young people are thinking seriously about the kind of marriage partner they want to be and want to find, what kind of marriage they want to have, and helping them start off on a footing that will allow them to maintain a healthy, God-honoring marriage for the rest of their lives! I know these two will bless more people together than they did apart, and I'm so happy for them!

Thank you so much for praying and investing in these leaders along with me. Because of you, I have been able to spend hours this year with these girls getting to know them, praying for them, encouraging and challenging them, and doing kingdom work alongside them. My prayer is that your generosity be blessed for many years to come in the outpouring of what God has done in their lives on the various places they will all go.

UTD End of Year Party:
Tie Dye and Parachuting!

Looking At 2021-2022 Leaders!

We have already begun the long process of talking to potential leaders for our team next year! As a peer team leader of mostly online cores, I have love getting the chance to meet a lot of these girls in person for the first time. When we are looking for leaders, the things we try to assess fit into the acronym FAITH. 

  • Faithful is the first quality: Are they faithful friends? Do they faithfully fulfill their responsibilities to their studies? Are they faithful with their commitments to core, 1-on-1s, and our larger community? 
  • Of equal importance at a high-achieving campus like UTD is availability: Do they make time for Jesus? Do they make time for God's people? Would taking on a 15-hr/week commitment as a leader in our ministry be sustainable and good for them?
  • Initiative (this is the one that always bothers me since it does not fit grammatically with the others): Are they someone who will initiate friendship, conversation, spiritual growth, etc. with others? Do they take initiative in their own walk with God?
  • Teachability is one of the most telling things we look for in a leader: How do they respond to healthy, loving challenge? Do they take advice? Do they seek advice? Are they still growing?
  • Heart for God, Heart for People: Do they love God? Do they love people?

Wrapping up the year creatively
 with some peer team girls.
We illustrated something God
had taught us in the past year!
Please be praying over the conversations we are having with the potential leaders for the next year. There are 11 girls I am meeting with over the next couple weeks to ask them more questions and try to assess if leadership with FOCUS is a good fit for next year. It's more challenging this year because of the very limited interactions we've had with these girls. Please pray for discernment both for us and for them so that we can ask the right questions to understand them well, and for them to catch a vision for the kind of role God wants them in next year.

Other Things
  • I preached a couple sermons recently! One on teachability (fitting, as I was a teacher), and one at my church on vocation. If you want to take a listen, you can check them out by clicking on the links!
  • This weekend, my friend Lindsey and I are heading up a Senior Retreat for all our FOCUS Graduates for the first time ever! I've worked with our seniors for a few years now, but this is the first time we've ever gotten enough interest to do a retreat. Please be praying that they have a blast and that the time together would help them get a vision for transitioning into the workplace and adult life well.
  • Chris and I are moving to Wylie! Back before we got married, Chris already owned a house, and we decided when we were engaged that we'd postpone trying to sell and move to a different one until we had our feet under us a little more--which apparently is now. We've always wanted to move closer to some of our family and friends, so in a whirlwind, we have both sold our house and bought a new one and are set to move at the beginning of July. We feel incredibly blessed by God to have had our offer chosen in this ridiculous market.
  • I am continuing with FOCUS for another year! My original commitment in August 2020 was for one year. With how odd 2020-2021 was, I am really looking forward to this next year of ministry being back to normal! I think God is already doing big things in the way of lighting a fire in the hearts of our students after COVID life. I'm excited to be a part of it!
Fully vaccinated!

I'm hoping that this summer I will get to see some of you in person and catch up on the last year of life. Thank you so much for your investment in me and in the lives of these students at UTD! God has used your generosity to bless so many students who were very lonely during this season with real community and love. I hope you get to meet some of these students one day and hear them say thank you, too!

Much love,


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