Wednesday, December 17, 2014 the love of christ

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Eph. 3:18

 A church here in San Diego that supports our ministry to SDSU dropped off a truck load of presents to our family today. The pastor told us that God put it on his heart to bless us in this way. It was one of those moments where you are both humbled and confused. Obviously this church is aware that we are raising support and maybe they felt we may be struggling financially to buy presents for our kids this year, but the honest truth is that we are not struggling to buy gifts this year. God has been so faithful to provide for us. Ever since saying yes to Him we have had all our needs taken care of and have been lacking in nothing. It has been humbling to say the least and people have been so generous. If I have learned anything these last few years since becoming a US missionary it is that it is important to be a gracious receiver. We hear a lot about being a generous giver but God has been teaching me in this season of life how to be a gracious receiver, and yes it is humbling at times but always a blessing, and what I have learned is that the blessing often times is more for the giver then it is for the receiver, and we should never stand in the way of a blessing no matter what end of it you are on.
 So when this church dropped a truck load of gifts off at our house I knew I had to except the blessing even though it made no sense to me at the time, but I trusted that God laid it on this pastors heart to do this for a reason. As I piled the gifts up in the corner of our living room I imagined the kids faces when they got home and I was struggling with just what I was going to tell them about this generous gesture because I wanted them to get it... even though I wasn't quit sure I knew what "it" was.  So I began to ask God to give me wisdom to explain what he was doing to my children. So when the kids got home from school Brandon and I sat them down in front of the pile of gifts and with their jaws almost to the floor we began to explain to them what we had been given.
We talked about the nature of mommy and daddy's job, and that is to minister to college students at SDSU, but in order to do our job other people, churches, friends and family have to give us money for our food, clothes, house etc. So that is why every Sunday for the past 5 months we have been traveling to different churches so that daddy could tell about our ministry and so that people and pastors would partner with us to make that ministry happen. We told the kids that they have been so good going to all the different churches with their best behavior while meeting new people and attending different children's services with such great attitudes, they really have been amazing through it all.  My greatest fear when we first felt called to this life was my children and all they would have to go through, from moving four times in 2 years, to changing schools 3 times and all the while they have gone about it with happy hearts and adjusted so well. We have truly been in awe of our children during these crazy few years, they have become just as much apart of our ministry as we are. We are truly in this as a family and it has been so amazing to unite in this way...and right then it hit me...So with a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes I told my kids that maybe God told this church to give us this pile of presents because he wants you to know how much He loves you. Just as simple as that... He loves you! So what we did next was began to pray and thank God for his continued faithfulness and love for our family, each of the kids wanted to pray and when Peyton the oldest began to pray her eyes weld up with tears and her voice cracked as she thanked God for his love and it was in that moment that I knew... maybe for the first time... that she got just how wide, how long, how high and how deep Christ love was for her.
 I am convinced if nothing else God had those presents delivered to our door today so that a couple of kids would understand the depth of Gods love for them, and that my friends, is the best gift of all. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Christmas devotional

Have you ever been shaken to the core? 2 years ago my family and I were living a very happy comfortable life in beautiful Santa Cruz CA. We lived in a comfy house a few blocks from the beach, my two oldest kids were happy in school and their activities, our youngest was only 2 months old. We had no family that lived near us but we had close friends that felt like family. My husband was currently working as the interim pastor at our church that we had been serving in full time ministry at for the past 4 years. The church was going through a bit of a crossroads so in our hearts we knew the possibility of God calling us on to a new place was there but we were comfortable with our lives so we often would push those feelings aside. So imagine our devastation the day we got word that our church had made the decision to let us go. It was a shock, a punch in the gut that left me shaking my fist at God. In the moment I was shaken to the core. My head was spinning with doubt and worry... How were we going to support our family? Where were we going to live? What would we tell the kids? As a mom my heart broke most of all for my children. I knew they would have to leave the only place they had ever known as home and leave their friends and change schools, possibly more than once. All I ever wanted for my kids was stability and I felt that slipping through my fingers. All these thoughts and more consumed me and I found myself laying awake one night crying out to God and saying “Don’t you know I have plans? Don’t you know the desires of my heart?  How could you do this to me?” and in that moment a heard a still small voice say “Yes, I know….but my plans are better than your plans and my ways are better than your ways.” I am reminded of Mathew 16:24 that says “For all those who want to find me they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me” To deny myself in that moment meant that I had to give all my plans, hopes and dreams over to God and surrender to him and that was scary, terrifying actually!! but in my brokenness and fear I made the choice to surrender to the God that I knew to be faithful.  I can say now, two years since that night, that my family and I are in the best place we have ever been in our lives. God has proven to be faithful time and time again and has showered us with blessings beyond measure. We feel we are doing the most authentic ministry of our career and we have peace that passes understanding, our children are happy and our family is fulfilled in areas we have never been before. Yes, serving God takes sacrifice but with God there really is no sacrifice because God turns faithfulness into blessings for those he loves. What are you holding onto this holiday season?  Would you consider letting go of your plans and trust God to start giving you the best gifts of your life?

* Brandon and Kendra are Chi Alpha Campus Pastors at San Diego State University. Their mission is to develop the spiritual life and abilities of the students they work with in relation to God, to each other and to the world at large. Chi Alpha Campus ministries is a movement of 27,000 college students on 300+ campuses across America and many sister organizations around the globe. Chi Alpha's mission is reconciling students to Christ transforming the university, market place, and the world. *

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dear College Student

Today was my first day actually being on San Diego State Campus. I had a meeting with a student who is interested in being a part of Chi Alpha. Walking onto the campus I felt like a freshman all over again, not knowing where I was going but not wanting to look at the dreaded campus map for fear of shear embarrassment from the more cultured classmates. I felt old and wondered if I looked it. It was kind of an out of body experience because I was immediately taken back to my college days and the faces of the students walking by reminded me of all the emotions you feel when you are a college student. Some students were walking through the halls with confidence like they owned the campus and gosh I always admired those types. How do they do it? Yet, now in my more mature state of mind I know they are probably just as lost as everyone else, others are more reserved yet I know they feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. There are the groups of silly, giggly girls running past and the groups of athletic guys eyeing the girls. There were students who were actually studying and others who only appeared to be. I caught the eye of one girl who was sobbing on her cell phone... Maybe a break up... who knows....but it all took me back to years passed and I was so inspired that I grabbed my cell phone and jotted down this letter.

Dear college student,
I see you sitting over there all alone with a Starbucks  in one hand and a book bag slouched next to your chair, you occasionally glance down at your cell phone while keeping one eye on the look out for anyone you might know walking by. I see you, I get you, because I used to be you. I know what it feels like to have the world at your finger tips yet it terrifies you all at the same time, you want to be the best you can be yet you find yourself falling short, you believe in dreams but are so aware of the realities, you think you are pretty cool and have a lot to offer yet there is still that voice in your head that makes you question all of that. You think you know yourself but you don't always trust yourself. You wish you were better looking, smarter, and more talented but deep down you know you were made this way for a reason but most days you just wish you knew what that reason was. 
If I could share with you for just a moment. If you would allow me to impart my few years of wisdom that I have on you I would tell you this... Don't take yourself so seriously. You don't have it all figured out and that's okay no one expects you to. You are young, vibrant and beautiful so stop telling yourself that you are not, because in the end it is wasted energy that could be spent enjoying your youth because one day you will realize it passes way to quickly. I know your head is swimming with dreams for your future and some may come true and some may not but what is important is that you figure out what you are passionate about and pursue that, because therein lies your fulfillment. You see, I believe you were made in the image of God, you were created by a loving and giving Savior. All your interests, passions and dreams were put there by the God who made you and they are good, in fact they are the secret to your success. If you can figure out what you are made for it is there you will find fulfillment. I pray you will learn to dream forever because when you are following your passions you are following God and when you follow God your dreams only get bigger and more beautiful. If you can do this I can promise that you will wake up one day in the near future and be comfortable in your own skin. My prayer for you is that you will get to a place that you don't care what anyone thinks of you anymore because you know who you are and who you were created to be and that is all that really matters.
                                                                                  Your Future Self


Friday, February 7, 2014

When my heart aches...

I can't tell you what conference I was at or even what the speakers name was but I do remember listening to his words, and as a young teen still so naive and so innocent, I found some fear in them...

"In your life you are going to experience tragedy...If you haven't experienced it already I promise it is going to happen to you."

Even though I was young and didn't have much life experience in my back pocket I do remember hearing those words and thinking they had to be true. My life up until that point had been easy...perfect really. My parents were still together, my childhood was happy, I had opportunities that most kids only dreamed of and my future looked bright. When I was in that place it was hard to wrap my mind around what TRAGEDY in my life could look like or even feel like.

The speaker went on to say:

"You need to decide today... before that tragedy hits...who is the God that you serve?

I hid those words in my heart and over the years have thought about them a lot. I have studied the word of God and have come to believe that the God who I serve is one of love and faithfulness. I believe that in all things God works them together for good to those who love Him and, above all else I believe that God knows the plans He has for me and that they are good.

but the truth is... although I have chosen to believe these things, tragedy still brings up doubt.

15 years later and I now can say I know what it feels like to be going about your daily business with ache in your heart. Because I have witnessed tragedy.

 Not even a year ago my best friends brother died suddenly from cancer and most recently, just a week ago today, my baby niece was born with some severe complications that caused brain damage. In both these tragedy's I found myself shaking my fist at God, and asking the tough questions like... WHY?

Why would you allow Mark to die at such a young age? He was one of your finest servants and he had so much potential, so much life ahead of him...and how could you let this happen to not just to any family but THIS family who I often admire because of their bond with one another, a closeness that is unusually refreshing and hard to find. WHY?

How could you allow this to happen to my beloved sister -in -law, that I know only you could have hand picked for me since she feels as close to me as any blood sister would? We were all so excited! Her pregnancy was text book! They were as ready and prepared as any parents could be, but not for this... WHY?

But in my rants of confusion and anger...God always meets me right where I ache. Right where it makes no sense to feel peace yet, there is peace. I have come to realize that God can bring life out of the ashes, he can turn sorrow into dancing. He turned Marks funeral into an unbelievably powerful worship service (that I know to this day is still changing the lives of those who witnessed it.) He is using my best friend to now minister to people who have experienced loss in ways she never could have before and it is beautiful to watch...yes beautiful, because only God can turn something so ugly such as cancer into beauty...that's the God I serve.

I pray and I cry out to God and the outcome is not always what I want it to be and, I will never understand that but, I have come to trust in the God that does.

So where do I go from here....what do I do with this remaining ache in my heart?

Just this morning I was crying out to God for a miracle for my baby niece and my mind went to all the people watching this play out that don't know God yet. I cried "God, just heal her...I know you can do it...just do it all ready!! Think of all the people who will come to know you because of it!!!" and I felt God whisper to my heart:

"But for now...just let them see me in you." 

and that's it...that's all we can do friends. Show Jesus, Be Jesus, Live Jesus and in the mean time trust in his promises... It's all we can do.

 "I've said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world." John 16:33

 “He found him in a desert land,
and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
he encircled him, he cared for him,
he kept him as the apple of his eye.
 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
that flutters over its young,
spreading out its wings, catching them,
bearing them on its pinions.
Dt. 32: 10-11

Friday, December 13, 2013

What I believe about Santa Clause

Now I am fully aware that this can be a controversial subject so let me begin by saying that what you are about to read are the thoughts and opinions of a young christian mother who is just trying to make sense of it all and I understand that your opinions may differ from mine and that's okay. But can we all just agree that the spirit of St Nick is actually not a bad thing?  The more that I have thought about this over the past week the more I have come to realize that Santa sure does have a lot in common with Jesus himself and maybe, just maybe, my kids can further their relationship with God through the spirit of Santa Claus?? But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning of my journey with the good old Saint Nick.
So I am one of those moms that allows the fantasy of Santa to be alive and well in my home.  I am under the belief that kids are only kids once and being able to use the imagination that God gave them is one of their best assets (quiet frankly I think adults could learn a lot from children). 
When our first Christmas as parents rolled around, my husband and I talked about what would we do with the whole Santa thing and we concluded that because we were both raised in Christian homes that believed in Santa Claus and neither of us were traumatized, it was probably an okay tradition to continue on with our own children. In fact I have very fond childhood memories of the magic and excitement of Christmas morning and I just couldn't fathom the thought of taking that away from my children. So yes, we decided that the belief in Santa Claus would be welcomed in our home! We did agree on one thing though...the moment that our kids asked us if Santa was real we would tell them the truth. 
Well that moment came way sooner then I could have ever thought or been prepared for because just last week, with tears streaming down my six year old's face she begged me to tell her the truth about Santa....Now Peyton, our oldest child, is just naturally a very imaginative little girl. She spends her days in a dream-like state that often can be frustrating to try to pull her out from. She is one of those kids that believes her stuffed animals come alive at night, and that fairies exist in the grass outside our apartment, she wants nothing more than to see a unicorn and wishes on the first star she sees every night. She wants so badly for there to be something more than just her eyes can see, she wants to believe in something bigger than herself and well...I can't say that I blame her for that...don't we all? So that night when she told me that she felt like she didn't fit in with her friends at school because they don't believe in Santa Claus and..."Mom I feel like I am believing for nothing"...I knew what I had to do and I knew that it would not be easy...and it wasn't easy. What happened next was a heart wrenching night as I watched my little girl's imaginative world, that she held so dear, crumble around her.
She grew up that night...before my very eyes she grew up...and I didn't like it
 ...not one bit! 
But because of God's grace over me as a parent that night I think that what could have been very traumatizing has actually turned into something wonderful. 

Here is what Peyton and I have been discussing and processing together this week:

* We have been reading and learning a lot about the real Saint Nicholas and if you have never done this I highly recommend it. I think this has really helped Peyton to know that a person with the same gentle, kind and giving nature towards children actually did exist and she understands that we still celebrate that Saint Nicholas today in the form of Santa Claus and that we can carry on his giving spirit by being Santa to others.  

* The biggest thing that has come out of all of this for Peyton is the realization that there is someone bigger than Santa who is REAL and that is God! He in fact created Saint Nicholas and if he created a person as cool as that how much cooler is God? I have seen my child grow leaps and bounds in her faith this week. She has channeled the  desire to want to believe in something bigger than herself and has put her full faith and trust in God! She goes to bed reading her Bible and I wake up every morning to the sight of her sitting at the breakfast table with her Bible open next to her cereal bowl (this kid has literally read most of the new Testament and even some books in the Old Testament in just one short week). This week she told her non-Christian friends at school about the God she believes in and has done her best to show His love to them through her actions. What I have witnessed in my little girl has been convicting, challenging and heart warming all at the same time, and I have found myself following her lead to love others this week just like Christ loves us. 

* Lastly, the thing we have discussed and decided upon is that it is still okay to pretend. For the first couple nights after the Santa talk she would come to me, still a little tearful and say, "I wish I never asked you to tell me because it was more fun to believe." So I told her God made her the way she is for a reason and if it brings her joy to make believe that Santa is still real then she should go for it (because after all Mommy still does :)) And so what did we do this week? We watched my all time favorite Christmas movie together, "Miracle on 34th Street," and reminisced about the magic and wonder of the movie and how we both wished we could be Susan. 

So the question I have been asked this week (more times than I can count) is, would I do it differently or will I do it differently with my two younger children and my answer! Again, this is just my opinion and I am fully aware that I could be wrong, but I still believe preserving a child's imagination is so very important. I feel it is a child's right to dream and to dream big and I am not going to be the one to stifle that. I often wonder if kids who grow up in homes that tell them from the get go that Santa isn't real if they secretly believe it anyway?  Just because that is what kids do...they believe! I also know that every child is different and that perhaps Peyton is a more sensitive case than my other children will be. (I can totally see Amber being proud of herself for figuring out on her own that Santa isn't real.) They are just different kids and when the time comes I am sure I will need to have the wisdom to handle each child in their own right. 
As hard as it was to watch my child's innocent world crumble around her that night,  I don't regret being there to walk her through  it, because the truth is this is not the last time my kid is going to go through heart ache. The world is full of it!
At least now she knows it's going to be okay. She is going to make it through and she can trust that her mom will be there every step of the way. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Adventures of SUPER (tired) MOM!!!

Oh I have a doozy to write about today. One thing is for sure, being a Mom is never boring. My children (one in particular) always seems to find a way to keep me on my toes and today was no different. 

Oh my wonderful, beautiful child Amber...I have come to the conclusion that this child was given to me by God specifically to teach me a lot about myself. Of my three girls she is the one that most reminds me of myself when I was a child. She is constantly dreaming. She sings more then she talks. She knows for a fact that she is a princess and she loves all things that sparkle. She is also easily frightened, yet wants so badly to be courageous. She is the most confident of all my children, yet she cares the most about what she looks like. She is stubborn to no end, yet is extremely compassionate and caring. But, the biggest thing about Amber is that her days and nights are consumed with one thing, DANCING! She dances everywhere and this is not an exaggeration. She dances to the dinner table, she dances to the bath tub, she dances to the car, and she dances in her dreams. Now being a dancer myself I would have no problem with this habit except for the fact that Amber can be extremely clumsy (so unlike me...ha ha). There is not a day that goes by she does not fall, trip, crash or break something because of her dancing habit. So, today when she was dancing down the grocery store aisle I should have known this would not end well...

I decided to make a stop at the Whole Foods right next to Amber's preschool. I thought I could squeeze in a grocery shopping trip in the hour I had before Peyton got out of school. I very rarely go to Whole Foods but today because of my time limit and the fact that I was on the hunt for some organic cream cheese (don't ask) I decided to stop. Everything was going fine. The kids were behaving; I was making my way through my list and Amber had been stopped a few times by costumers telling her how much they enjoyed her singing and dancing but again this was nothing out of the ordinary. I remember that I had just got done asking Amber what kind of jam she wanted (raspberry was the answer) and I turned to put the jar in my cart when all of the sudden I heard a huge crash beside me and a flood of some kind of liquid substance was splattering everywhere. At first I thought the entire shelf of jam must of suddenly fallen down or something. After I settled in from the shock and I was better able to make an assessment of what had happened, I quickly figured out that Amber must have "danced" into a display tower of white wine boxes at the end of the aisle. Six to eight boxes of wine were spilling out all over the floor, flooding the aisle, glass was everywhere and Amber was laying in the middle of the mess screaming and soaked. (Is it wrong that my first thought was not "oh my child hurt?" but rather "how on earth am I going to pay for all this wine?")

What happened next seemed to be happening in slow motion as I sat Amber up and looked up to see six workers by our side asking if we were okay. One of the workers spotted that Amber's leg had been cut and was bleeding pretty badly so she rushed off and came back with a towel for me to clean her off a bit and by this time the manager of Whole Foods was by our side. He asked me to go ahead and pick Amber up and follow him to the back to get some band aids. So we began to follow him as he wheeled my cart with Eden in it (who at this particular moment I had never seen so quiet) through the river of wine and glass and passed a cart of two small children whose jaws were to the floor as they stared at us all the way down the aisle. We made our way to the back office and the manager helped me bandage Amber up (who in perfect Amber fashion was crying harder about the fact that her clothes were wet than that her leg was bleeding). I was beginning to formulate a strongly worded speech in my head about how dancing recklessly in the grocery store is never a good idea, but I no sooner opened my mouth to let her have it then workers from every angle began to shower my kids with goodies. First, it was organic whole wheat chocolate chip cookies (about the size of my fist). Then, it was kid sized reusable bags that had cute little dinosaurs eating fruits and vegetables on them. Lastly, a very nice lady came over and handed my kids a stack of stickers about recycling and a coloring book to go with it. The nice lady began comforting Amber, who was still sniffling over her clothes, and telling her how brave she was. Now I am no dummy, I knew what was happening here, they were trying to cover their butts in case I was some crazy, sue-happy mom, so my fears of having to pay for the wine quickly subsided. The nice lady with the stickers and coloring book then led us to the front of a check out line where they did not charge me for my bags and two young gentlemen were eagerly waiting to escort us to our car (which I declined since after all I had only got half way thru my list and had two bags of groceries)

We finally got to the car safe and sound and thank God I had a change of clothes for Amber because I am sure I would have heard her crying about them all the way home. We begin to drive home when I decide now would be a good time to give Amber my speech I had been working on. I began with, "Amber did you learn something today???" Amber was quiet for a minute while she chewed on her organic cookie and then with a twisted smile she said, "Yes, I learned that it is okay to dance in the grocery store as long as it is not next to the wine!" Good grief...what am I going to do with this kid?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

He is so faithful to...

The Kertson household has been talking a lot about hearing the voice of God lately. Probably has something to do with the stage of life we are in at the moment as we are trying to make a very important decision that will set the stage for the rest of our lives. Pretty heavy stuff. You don't make decisions like this without hearing the voice of God, so naturally the topic comes up - around the dinner table, at night before bedtime, in the morning before school and in the middle of doing household chores when your mind slips away to dreaming of what the future holds. Yes, the voice of God is so desperately needed and wanted around here. And of course when you are earnestly seeking God, He always proves faithful to show up and tonight he showed himself to me once again through one of my children.
Around the dinner table after the first day of school I was challenging Peyton (6) and Amber (4) to try to do one nice thing for another person each day of this new school year. I began to give them some ideas like: You could let someone go ahead of you in line, or help someone carry something heavy to class, or play with a kid who looks like they are alone and needs a friend. Peyton stopped me right there and said "I can't really do that mom because my best friend at school doesn't like it when I play with other kids and not her." This information was a bit alarming to Brandon and I and we tried to explain to Peyton that it is good to be friends with everyone and if her friend was not letting her play with other kids then maybe she was not a good friend after all. Peyton nodded with a look of uncertainty and I felt a check in my spirit about the whole thing, I had no idea that Peyton was being controlled by this friend and I prayed that God would help her know what to do. That night before bed Peyton and I prayed that God would give her wisdom to know how to talk to her friend and how to show Gods love to everyone at her school. I don't know why it always amazes me when God answers prayers quickly! I think we often get used to the long wait that God sometimes requires of us, but today I was reminded that prayers can be answered immediately. Peyton came home from school today and told me that her school has this thing called a peace path. It's where one friend stands on one side of the path that says "It makes me feel ___ when you ____" and the other friend stands on the other side that says "I understand how you feel when I _____ I will _____ from now on" and you are suppose to stand there with your friend and repeat the sayings filling in the blanks with issues you may be having with each other. Peyton told me she asked her friend to go to the peace path with her that day and while they were there she told her, "It makes me feel sad when you don't let me play with other people" she went on to say that her and her friend had a really good talk at the peace path and together they decided it would be a good thing to play with other friends this year. I really could not believe what I was hearing. Could my 6 year old really have had the courage to do such a thing??? I was blown away! I told Peyton, "I think God answered our prayer that we prayed last night about giving you the right words to say to your friend." She said, "Yeah, I think he did because the peace path just opened today for the first time and I knew God wanted me to use it".
 He is so faithful to answer. I often question our decision as parents to put our kids in public school but Brandon and I feel a conviction to allow our children to be exposed to the world so that they might be able to be a light to it. It is scary because I know the world is tough and will easily tear you down but I cover my children in prayer daily and trust that God is protecting them and giving us the wisdom we need as parents to guide them daily. I was so proud of how Peyton handled this situation and it was a confirmation that we as a family are indeed hearing God's voice.