Honesty Hour.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” -Colossians 1:24

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Since becoming a Jesus follower at the age of 22, I have explored and discovered many churches around my town and surrounding areas.

In the short span of 4 years, I have found, loved in, and left many churches.

If there ever was an actual definition of a rebellious Christian, they’d probably have a picture of me for it because I have struggles, and doubts, and I will leave when I can’t take it anymore. I don’t tough it out because I have been burned.

I usually find a church and I stick around for a while. I feel happy, am called to get involved, find myself spending all Sunday at church, find myself spending other nights running Bible studies, then other days being “a light” to others in need in the church.

Before I realize it, I am deep into church and no longer deep into a relationship with Christ. I begin to doubt what it really all means, and find myself doing things out of obligation or selfish means.

Then the gossip begins. Then the political hidden agendas start to begin. I feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

The one big church that I came to love and know so deeply, turned on me. I started getting the literal messages from people who knew me as acquaintances and let me know their disgust with the way I lived my life. The sermons that silently screamed that the way I lived my life was not one that a child of God’s would live. It broke me on top of everything else.

& I RAN.

I rebelled, I kicked, I screamed, I ran. & lately, I am not even giving church a chance. I don’t stay long because I can’t go through with it again.

The church hurt.

I still love God. Churches that are home or not home to me couldn’t change that. But I felt closer with him away from church than I did in His house. 

I stayed away for a while. I started to think, it’s okay, I will just wait for a while until I can get my act together in the eyes of the church. Then I can go to one and feel okay and not feel shameful and can feel happy.

But Rachel Held Evans’ book about the church struggle rocked my world, and made me remember that church is not for perfect people. It’s for sinners like me. And sinners like you. And for pastors and church goers who struggle secretly like us and need church and Jesus just as much.

The thing is I don’t blame church for how I feel. I don’t blame people. I blame sin. It is a sickening piece of us that makes us hateful and judgmental of others, but it is something we can’t help. But its not easy to take the brunt of it.

I am sick of waiting. I am sick of the pain. I am sick of the exhaustion.

But I want Jesus. And for now, I find Him everywhere but the church.

I know that someday, that feeling will be felt in church for me, and I can’t wait to feel it again. But for now, I am where I am, and that is okay.

-Kristin

On My Way.

“Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins.” -1 Peter 4:8

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My Lord is just the best.

I find it hard to use words to describe the incredible love story that He and I have.

He has saved me from myself. He has saved me from the evil thoughts that the Wicked One puts in my head. He has saved me from the belief that I was not worth the fight, the ridiculous notion that I was not worth this life I have been given.

I have been surrounded lately by questions about my faith.

I have been asked why bad things happen. Why horrific, sad, earth shattering things exist in this world that we live in. Why, oh, why?

I have said it before, and I will say it again…

The Wicked One rules this world right now. He will continue to have horrible things happen in order to try to tear us away from God. But God has an incredible response to these horrible and sad things that happen:

He sends us people.

He sends us people we did not even realize we needed.

People who will be strong for us when we are not able to be. People who will hold our hand when we feel like depression is going to swallow us whole. People who will be the light to us in a sea of what seems like never-ending blackness.

So if you’re feeling a little lost today, I ask that you send up a prayer to God. Tell him you are in need of some love and help.

I can guarantee, someone will come along to be just that right when you least expect it.

Have faith, pray, and never give up hope that God is listening always!

-Kristin

For You.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?“-Romans 8:31

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It is so easy to praise God and love on Him when things are good. It is easy to the point where we do not even always think to praise Him because life is just going so well.

Not so easy when things are not so good, right?

That does tend to be the reminder of God then though. Like where the heck are you? I am going through Hell. Aren’t you supposed to be here?


I want to share something with you that became the most important and influential piece of knowledge I have ever come to realize.

God is for us, not against us. It is the Devil who does the wickedness and evil that happens to us in this world.

He is the one who puts death, sickness, injury, anger, frustration, and heartache into our lives.

Not God.

Not God ever.

Because those are evil things, and God has no evil in Him.

Once this piece of knowledge came into my heart and I accepted it for what it really was, my life changed.

Bad things still happened, and let’s be real…bad things will continue to happen.

But when they do, I realize where they come from and who they come from.

And that God is for me.

You see, God and I become a team now especially during those times.

He sends me the people I need to overcome my obstacles. He sends me His strength. He breathes His love into me. We get through it together.

I no longer jump to complete anger with God anymore when bad things happen.

I jump to having the pleading heart of a child asking for Her father, and He comes running every time.

I praise the God who is for me, not against me, in all times, and in all ways.

-Kristin

 

She is Fierce.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce.”-William Shakespeare

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This is our cousin, Stefanie.

She is beautiful, funny, and smart – she’s the real deal!

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On June 30, 2018, she and her mother, sister, step father, and family friends were on a tour boat in the Bahamas when the boat suddenly exploded. After a harrowing rescue which included friends and strangers coming to their aid, they were all taken to a nearby (which was actually really far away) hospital there which tried to stabilize them. They were then transferred to another bigger hospital in the Bahamas where they stayed for a few days.

Stefanie’s mother sustained many serious injuries. Her step father and sister were injured and shocked as well.

Stefanie sustained serious, life threatening injuries. In order to save her life, part of both of her lower legs had to be amputated.

A few days later, the whole family was Medevaced over to Florida to be treated and taken care of in the United States instead of the Bahamas.

It has been weeks since the boat explosion happened. Stefanie’s mother, step father, and sister are all doing better physically today. But Stefanie is still in a Florida hospital today, going through the ups and downs that come with healing and recovery.

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She hopes to get back up north soon closer to where she lives in the Northeast. ***

Forth As Gold is based in Florida, so our family has been able to go down on the weekends and spend time with Stefanie and family these past few weeks.

We’ve seen the good and the bad. We’ve seen the strength of the family and the love of her friends. We’ve watched Stef fight for her life. We’ve felt the love of strangers, including her caring nurses/doctors who love her like family now.

We’ve seen God through all of it.

Sometimes He’s quiet, and other times He’s loud. But we know without a doubt that He is here with them even when they cannot feel it. He always has been and always will be. We pray that He continues to show His love to the family because it is not always easy to believe in His presence and power when you’re in the midst of a time of living Hell.

We ask today that you think of our girl and the family as they continue on this journey. We know Stefanie is going to survive and thrive. She has come so far and we have no doubt she will continue to fight to get back to her normalcy of school, family, friends, and home. 
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There is so much you can do to support Stefanie and her family/friends during this time:

-Pray for her physical and emotional healing and well-being

-Pray for her family’s emotional healing and strength

-Buy a bracelet (email me at forthasgold@gmail.com) as seen above for $3 to wear and support Stef, all of the proceeds go directly to her

-Donate to their Go Fund Me account directly.

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Through their journey, we’ve all been taught some brutally honest, but necessary life lessons we’d like to share with you: tell your people that you love them every day, appreciate even the things that seem insignificant in your life, make time to spend the limited time we have here on their earth with the people that you love, never forget that every day we are alive is a blessing. And talk to God. Always.

With Love, Kristin & Sarah

***Update November 4, 2018.

Stacey and Stefanie were air transported to Massachusetts from Florida in August. They spent quite a few weeks there at Spalding Hospital Cambridge where Stefanie fought like crazy to get her health better. It worked and she was able to come off of dialysis permanently (finally!!) while there.  She has since been transferred to another rehabilitation center in Massachusetts where she is thriving and improving every day. She is determined to walk again someday with the use of prosthetics, and despite what doctors say, we know she will find a way no matter the obstacles ahead of her.

We got to visit Stef and family while they were in Cambridge and can say for certain that they are stronger than most of us will ever have to be.  Other friends and family have been visiting as well, and I believe that is probably more healing than any medicine/therapy out there. 🙂 She also gave a beautiful interview that showed everyone just how far she’s come.

Keep praying guys, it’s working!

#StefStrong

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Love, Timothy.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”  1 Timothy 4:12.

 

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When I was a student teacher a few years ago, I had a student in my  fifth grade class who had this Bible verse written on his binder by his mom. ^^^ The verse has stuck with me forever because it is short, but so powerful!

For those of you students (of all ages) who are headed back to school or already in school, Timothy has given us some great words of advice that you should bring to campus with you each day:

1.  Speak only words that you are proud of.

Everything, and I really mean everything, will come back to you.  Every word that you speak will effect someone or something, and it will always, always, always come back to you.  Make sure that whoever you communicate with, whether it be a teacher, friend, or stranger, that you always speak the truth and use kindness with them.  This is something I wish I had realized when I was in school. Gossip hurts everyone involved, including the person who spreads it. Be the better person in every conversation you are involved in!

 

2.  Act appropriately and respectfully at ALL times. 

Let’s be real here…it is not always easy to act righteously all the time.  Sometimes we want to be cool or rebellious and go against the rules.  Though, just like spreading gossip, acting inappropriately will only hurt you in the end. Skipping class will negatively affect you, staying up all night (though it may be fun) will probably cause you to not do so well in school the next day.  Also, be kind and respectful to people even if they do not show it back (Jesus did the same thing).  I know its cliché to say to pray for those who hurt you, but honestly, it is the best thing you can do.  You never know what that person may be going through, and you may be the ONLY person who will pray for them.  Think about the impact this may have on someone’s life.

 

3.  Treat others with love.

People are going to be crazy and ridiculous at some point this school year.  They are going to annoy you and make you angry.  Love them anyway. Show them kindness anyway. Seriously, like I stated before you may be the ONLY person to show them any kind of love or kindness. We need more people like that in this world!!!!

 

4.  Keep your faith.

There are going to be great times, and not so great times during the school year.  During both of those times, remind yourself that God is in control.  He wants you to do your best and be yourself, but at all times He is in control. Keep the faith even when it seems like everything is falling apart; He’s got you!

 

5.  Don’t give into peer pressure. 

Y’all it is HARD out there.  It is way too easy to give into peer pressure, especially when you’re in school.  The number one thing you can do is surround yourself with others who are on the same path as you and want what is best for you.  Pray for those who try to drag you down, and talk to an adult if these people are doing things that could harm themselves or others (you get my drift), but do not allow yourself to go down that same path. Rise above in all situations!

 

You are amazing, incredible human beings who are an inspiration to myself and so many others around the world.  As a teacher, I am so very proud to see students like you come into school everyday.  You are world changers, and I cannot wait to see what you will do.

I highly recommend putting 1 Timothy 4:12 somewhere in your school bag.  Maybe in a binder or folder or in your locker.  Just stick it somewhere to remind yourself of who you are and the POWER that you have inside of you to make a difference for yourself and others in this world.

I wish you nothing but the best as you continue on this journey!

-Kristin

**Original piece by Kristin Schrader written for the [REAL] 30 Day Challenge blog in 2016.

Spared.

“But He knows the way I take, and when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” -Job 23:10

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Photo by SJ Photography

I had the opportunity a few years ago to be in this amazing young-ish adult group for single people from ages 25-35. We had a discussion as a group and then broke off into smaller groups of three. I was very young and had snuck into the group at the age of 24. My group mates were on the older end of our group and, in my opinion, were the most wise out of everyone.

We took turns talking about our real life struggles. You know the ones that are deep and you don’t like to talk about to others. We were supposed to pray for each other and give Godly advice if need be.

We came to my struggles last. I was going through a particularly weird and kind of sad time of life. I was honest with them and said I felt lost and wasn’t really sure what I was doing in life and that trusting God through it was harder than I expected.

And they held my hands and they prayed for me to trust God through this season of life, and said God had a bigger plan for my life than I realized.

I did not really feel better after, but I just kind of accepted it and moved on with the rest of the group.

But I think my group mates felt it, because they came up to me after and the man specifically looked at me and said “sometimes you just are living the life of Job during certain seasons of life.”

I wasn’t really well verses on the book of Job. All I knew is that Job had a bunch of terrible things happen to Him and He loved God through it, but that’s all I really knew about it.

He went on to explain that just as in the story of Job, that I was going through hard times but that God was looking down upon me smiling and bragging to the wicked one that no matter what, I was His child and that I would love Him and stay faithful through it all.

They both reminded me to stay faithful, that I was incredibly loved, and that God would always be there for me if I struggled with understanding this was all happening. Their love and advice meant so much to me.

So I now carry this story with me close to my heart, because it changed the way I can choose to see things that happen.

When things are on the downhill and there is no sight of happiness in my journey, I have two choices. I can lose faith (which real life is what I often chose first because it’s hard out here y’all) and give up or I can remember that God is a proud father watching over me and loving my continued faith despite what I’m facing.

I’m a work in progress over here, but I’m trying to look up more when things happen instead of down, because my Father in Heaven doesn’t lie below me.

Eyes up.

-Kristin

Public School.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”-Proverbs 16:3

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When people find out I am a follower of Jesus, they often ask how I can teach in a public school setting. Why not go private? They say private, religious schools typically have parents who are involved, they have more funding, and that you do not have to worry about being careful about the students knowing your faith.

I have never taught at a private school so I cannot confirm or deny that any of these opinions are typically true or false, but the outpouring of these opinions that have been said to me over the last four years, has led me to believe that I need to give an explanation for why this Christian girl teaches public school.

There are so many reasons from financial to faith reasons…

but the main reason is that I love the extreme diversity of the public school students. They come from all different backgrounds, different families, different financial backgrounds, different cultures, different religions, and different ways of learning, and how they think of education. To me, this is the way Jesus always speaks of and dreams of for our lives. That we are all different but He loves us all and wants us to love each other as well. Many get most of their love and stability at school, and I love that I get the privilege to be a part of that.

I do not think there is anything wrong with attending a private school or having your children attend a private school or even teaching at one yourself. Those students are just as special as the ones in public school and need love as well.

But for all the questioners out there, no, it is not for me.

This Jesus lover finds happiness and peace hanging out with many than the few.

I think everyone finds their purpose somehow at some point in life and God has made it pretty clear that working with the ones who need to be shown serious love, even when it is hard, is where I need to be.

-Kristin

 

 

 

Jumping.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” -Isaiah 43:18-19

 

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Picture by SJ Photography

Dear Redeemed,

 

Today, I choose to jump.

Today, I choose to let go of what has held me down.

Today, I choose to see myself as how God has made me to be.

Beloved, cherished, wanted.

I have finally come to the realization that the only way out is to jump: to forgive totally.

It has taken me longer than I would have liked, but the pain cut deep and I was sure forgiveness was impossible.

But God intervened, and reminded me of what weighed me down.

Even more important than that, He reminded me that what weighed me down was one of His children too.

Also beloved, cherished, and wanted. 

I am sorry I lost sight of that.

I forgive you today, and I forgive myself.

Holding on has hindered. But today, I will no longer let it.

We are free, we are redeemed, I jump.

In Omnia Paratus.

Love,

Redeemed.

 

 

Ya, Ya, Ya, Ya.

“Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.” -1 Chronicles 16:23-25

 

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Picture courtesy of Sunlight Community Church

 

Do you like music?

Do you like letting God know you love him?

Do you know that music and songs are a huge, amazing, and fun way to worship God?

Worship is different for everyone.

We all like to worship and sing praises of our wonderful God in different ways: some like the very traditional hymns sung from hymn books in pews with an organist playing, some enjoy the worship that is loud almost like being at a rock concert, while others like it more of a soft and acoustic kind of thing.

No matter what kind of praise it is, God loves it all.

I am kind of a mix of loud rocket concertish music, and quiet acoustic music when I am worshiping my One true love, my One true God.

I have also been known to dance too in the most ridiculous and embarrassing way possible because sometimes the love hits me so hard I just cannot help it.

Here are some of my favorites to sing out loud (in church, or by myself, or whenever the mood strikes):

No Longer Slaves.

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).

See You Again.

Touch the Sky.

You’re Beautiful.

Ever Be.

Greater.

So raise those hands high, throw your head back in adoration, drop to your knees with thankfulness, dance when it feels you cannot contain it anymore.

…or quietly hum and sing those beautiful songs…

Whatever works for you, but just do it.

What a privilege and honor it is to be a Child of God.

-Kristin

 

For Nothing.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” -John 10:10

kIt amazes me how much emotions can overtake us.

When extreme joy hits us, it can totally consume us.

When extreme grief hits us, it can also totally consume us.

I have found it hard to write the last few weeks, because both of these extremes have hit me so hard, and it has made it difficult to put into words what to say.

God has been faithful, and as of right now, my sicknesses are somewhat under control. I am getting to parts of my life I was promised. I am getting to watch some friends and family go through incredibly beautiful things.

& In other parts of life, I am wondering where God is. A storm has brewed up the worst, most cruel thing I could possibly imagine. It is not fair. It makes no sense. It chills me to my core, because I do not understand.

I would be lying if I said that God has not heard tears, prayers, and questions as to why things happen the way they do from me lately. Why does this great thing happen to this person, but another receives horrible news constantly?

Joy & grief would be my catchphrase right now for what I am feeling, because things are so good but I see and feel the pain around me.

Has anyone ever felt this?

To feel deeply is truly an amazing blessing, and a horrid curse.

I have been letting the grief win of the two, but I am really choosing to try to focus on the joy, because I am beginning to realize (through the strength and vulnerability of others) that joy can be found even in grievous times.

What is your joy or another’s that has been found in grief? How has it helped you to love/praise God even when all seems awry?

-Kristin