Grace in Weakness

It has been far too long since Ben or I have written. We have both felt the need to many times throughout the months it has been since we last posted anything, but life has not had quite enough margin to even pause and reflect, let alone actually write down those reflections.

But it’s time to share an update on what is happening in the world of team UpStream.

I am on my first clinical rotation for physical therapy school. I am living in Joplin Missouri during the week and heading home on the weekends. I am working in acute care and learning more everyday. I finally love what I’m doing, but I deeply miss home. I miss Ben, and our students, and friends…. Real friends who really know me. It’s a rewarding, yet extremely challenging season for me..

And Ben is in the midst of what is quite possibly the craziest time of the year for him. School is starting, which means KLIFE, teaching, and DJing (yes I said it, Ben is DJing) are all starting up too. Ben’s days are packed from beginning to end, and they start early and end late. This season is crazy.

Ben and I sometimes feel like we are on different planets, I am exhausted in the evenings and his day is wrapping up at about the time I want to go to bed. Our weekends are packed to the brim with every ounce of KLIFE we can squeeze in, and we try to share my time at home with all of the other people I love and miss. It feels like we don’t have time to come up for air.

But there is grace for this season.

Grace to mess up and figure it out. Grace for the occasional (okay frequent) temper tantrum over feeling tired and alone and disconnected. Grace for the days I crash at 9:30 and Ben isn’t free until 11. Grace for all of the times I have wanted to be present for our students, but couldn’t be. Grace for the moments I feel like I have no idea what is happening in my husband’s world and I am convinced he is clueless about mine. Grace covers all of this, and continually holds us together.

The grace my husband pours out on me in all of my ridiculously weak moments, each time I fail at this wife thing, is incredible. It’s the kind of grace that points right back to Jesus, who continually tells us,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9a

He has already paid for all of my sins, all of the ways I miss the mark…

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9b

What a joy to know that when I am weak the power of Christ is strong in me. Maybe I should be okay with being weak….

swinging-bridgeThis week has already started off hard. I drove to work from Bolivar Monday morning at 6:00 am, I had weird kind of off morning at work, I missed Chick-fil-a day at work, and I found out a patient I evaluated and felt completely hopeful and confident
would heal well passed away Saturday, and the situation
could have possibly been prevented… that patient was one of my favorite patients I had worked with…This week is already not easy…. But there is grace to cover this too. I do not have to be strong or even okay, but I can rest knowing that in my weakness Christ is strong, and in all my sadness He remains the perfect hope. This season… most of this next year…. Will NOT be easy, but it will be an exercise in grace and a deepening of our understanding of God’s continual faithfulness towards us.

Season of Change

Good Grief, Ben and I have been terrible about blogging lately!
Well, I apologize if you were left waiting months for some life changing wisdom…. But you still probably will not find it here today!

This has been a crazy season in the life of TeamUpstream!
It seems that every time we find some sort of rhythm to life, it’s gone about the time we get on beat. Figuring out life and ministry and my seemingly constantly changing Physical Therapy school schedule is not something we have achieved yet this year. Every week we are caught off guard by something new… or by something totally schedules that we forgot about..

I used to be meal planner extraordinaire, I used to make dinner every night, I used to EXERCISE, and I used to be able to keep up with my own planner… Frozen pizzas (thank you Jesus for party pizzas) and falling asleep each night the moment my head hits the pillow have characterized this season.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining; Ben and I would not have it any other way. We love this poured out life, but this season has forced me to reckon with the reality that two seasons will never look the same, and they often change before I am comfortable. This has left me feeling somewhat nostalgic lately, missing some of those sweet seasons, or regretting some of the mistakes I made in some more turbulent times. I think the hardest realization for me to deal with is that people I dearly love will constantly be moving in and out of my life.

The people I navigated living for Jesus in high school with, are not the same people I experienced deep community and accountability with in college, and they are not the same people I have walked through my first year and a half of marriage with. It even seems to change from semester to semester since the beginning of college.. Now, a few people have remained of course, but I miss the people who have moved on. I even miss the way my relationships with the people who have remained were at one time or another…

But thanks to social media I get to keep a close eye on (creep on) those people I miss, and I have found that most of them have moved on to faithfully serve Jesus in all kinds of wonderful ways! Many of them are married, some have kiddos, some are in grad school or seminary or at different universities, others are teaching and loving students like Jesus did, some are on staff at churches, many are professionals who are living for Jesus in the work place—they are on mission all over the globe! And though I miss the sweetness of life together, I know it is better for them to go, to carry the Gospel to new pockets of the world, even if those pockets are in the same city it is better that they carry the Gospel into new groups of people.

Open-handedness is not always my specialty, but I think the Lord is using this season, that looks much like a Missouri Spring, to remind me that He is and will always be the only constant in this life. People will always be coming and going, and I will cherish them while I get to hold them close, but I know that their purpose in light of eternity is much greater than for me to enjoy their friendship. I cannot pretend to be about the Gospel if I am not for sending.

Anything that I cling to more closely than the cross is an idol.

So now as Spring semester begins tomorrow and I start yet another new season, my prayer is that I will hold up the Gospel above all else, that I will let go of my desire for everything to stay the same, and walk gracefully, rather than kicking and screaming, into the chaos that is a brand new season.

Bring it on Spring 2016.


Ben’s First Blog Post – A Learning Servant

Well, this has been a long time coming…
Since Stevie and I decided to finally start this blog it has been my ambition to contribute to the blogosphere (i think that is how you say it), and I have failed for over 2 months. Time management, or more properly worded life management, is one of the many topics that I have wanted to write about, because clearly I need some work in that area. Additionally, dealing with the highs and lows of ministry, learning to pour into my wife, being convicted by Scripture I am teaching, and leadership are just a few of the other topics that have crossed my mind as blog-worthy.

However, for this first post (and hopefully it doesn’t take me another 2 months for the second) I simply want to try to communicate what the Lord has been teaching me. He has been teaching me a whole lot in my first few months of full-time vocational ministry, but there has been an overall theme throughout.

God is in control and prayer is important. You might say that is kind of a “duh” statement, and I would totally agree with you. Nevertheless, the Lord has been gracious to reteach me a new during this season that He is sovereign and He wants my petitions and my pleads.

It does not matter what the circumstances are or what the schedule looks like, God is in control. It did not even take 1 week of KLIFE officially being kicked off for us to experience some incredible highs and very low lows. The turnout to our first event was well beyond what we could have hoped for, and on top of that kids keep coming back each week. On the flip side, right before that first event I received a call that could simply be described as a bombshell. It was in that first week of leading the ministry of KLIFE that forced me to pray more that I probably ever have in my life. It was difficult and exhausting, and energetic and fun at the same time. The range of emotions I felt in one day was as wide as the mile run is long for an out-of-shape former cross country runner (that’s me). 

But, now a few months into this KLIFE gig, I look back with unbelievable gratitude for those first couple weeks. I am grateful because of the spiritual truths I was able to get a little better grasp on through the grace of God.

  • This is not “my ministry.” It is God’s ministry and He cares for these people more than I do. He wants to see the Bolivar youth culture impacted for Jesus Christ more than I do.
  • I am not that special. God has placed me in this position of leadership and called me to be faithful. Leadership is simply a responsibility that I am to be a good steward of as I bring glory to God. 
  • The Lord works in the affairs of men. So many things that have occurred over the last few months have been far beyond my training in ministry or scope of leadership. But Praise be to God that Jesus Christ is living and active through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Prayer is necessary! There are so many theological reasons for this, but let me give you one really practical application from my journey. Prayer really has encouraged my soul and kept me from falling into despair when I have felt discouraged, which happens weekly if not daily.

All of this has brought me low once again to a new layer of humility. And all though it doesn’t feel great in the moment, I am beyond blessed when the Lord shows me my pride and humbles me once again. Even though some people see me as a KLIFE director, or Stevie’s husband, or anything else, I need to see myself as a learning servant of Jesus Christ. May our identity always be found in Jesus.


Where Would I Rather Be?

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. Ben and I are finally starting to feel a little bit more at home in our roles KLife, and school is definitely in full swing. Like I talked about in my previous post, balance is all but impossible, and quite honestly health hasn’t been easy to find either, but praise God there is grace for that.

I have realized in these last few weeks that, though I love physical therapy and I truly believe God has purposed for me to be in physical therapy school, it still leaves me feeling empty a majority of the time. And, while school feels draining and life sucking, my role in KLife has been life giving. Each aspect of KLife brings me great joy and feels purposeful.

Neither is easy. They are both burdensome and trying a lot of the time, but I think the challenge for me these last few weeks is that I feel far more naturally gifted in youth and college ministry than in physical therapy. Relational ministry is what I was made for, the relational aspect of the field is  even part of what drew me to physical therapy. But currently I feel like I have the option to really practice relational ministry now with our students who are right here or wait another two years for patients who will be in my life for a few weeks/months, then move on. Pouring into students just feels so much more worthy to me than studying… alone… all the time.

Long story short.. I still believe God has a purpose for me in physical therapy, but I would rather spend all of my time investing in our students.

The last couple of weeks I have been studying 1 Thessalonians and something occurred to me that I had never noticed in the many times I’ve read this book. Throughout the book Paul is talking about how he longs to be with the Thessalonians, he desires to share life with these people he dearly loves, but he is prevented from being there. It was God’s will that Paul be somewhere else during that time, and it occurred to me that though investing all of my time and energy into the students we work with is a good thing, even something God has gifted me for; full time ministry is not what God has for me right now, I can be right in the middle of God’s will and not be where my heart most desires to be.

Right now my prayer is that the Lord would align my will with his so I would be at peace with where He has me in this season. I can still serve and love the girls I work with; it is just not my full time job. Right now, my full time job is physical therapy school and though school is difficult and draining, I would rather be in the middle of God’s will than anywhere else… Even when my heart longs to be somewhere else.

I should be studying….

This is the constant guilt trip I live in all but about eight weeks of the year (a few of those weeks off are still filled with studying), and most of the time this statement should be true. I am in PT school. It is not normal grad school, where you can kind of add it onto your normal life, it’s meant to be your life. It is 20+ hours of class time a week, and if you’re following studying rules that means we should be spending about 60 more hours a week studying.

I’m no math whiz, but that is 80 hours a week, after sleeping we are not left with many free hours in the week… But there are some.

 This week, I started school, Ben started teaching, we had our kickoff for the ministry we work for, we recruited leaders, and we met with our current leaders. Needless to say, it was a full week, and I found myself mentally and spiritually on a roller coaster. I am an all-or-nothing kind of person, so I would be super focused and productive in one area and totally slacking in another, leaving me feeling overwhelmed, disappointed in myself and unable to do anything very well.

 I am not good at balancing. I find that with where I am right now, it’s simply not possible, which I have always found somewhat discouraging until recently.

While Ben and I were at training for the ministry we work for, the Women’s Shepherd for the ministry told me, “I don’t strive for balance, because in my life that is not possible, instead I strive for health.” She went on to explain that she does not have to balance how she spends all of her time to maintain a healthy walk with the Lord and overall life.

Maybe I am just a little bit behind on this realization, but this was profound to me. I don’t have to make sure that every commitment in my life and every part of my life is getting a fair amount of time committed to it, I really just need to keep each part of my life healthy.

I don’t have to be a theologian all the time, but I do need to be faithfully walking with my Savior, nurturing my relationship with Him and actively growing stronger.

I am not required to go on a date with my husband every week, that is just not a possibility for us right now, but I do need to be caring for our relationship. I need to make sure that we are connected and that he feels loved and supported.

I am not failing the girls in our ministry if I don’t have a 1-on-1 with each of them each week, but I do need to make sure that I am present and have time reserved to serve and love them.

I do not have to study 60+ hours a week and get straight A’s to be a good therapist one day, but I have to be diligent in learning material and doing my best in my classes.

I am not a bad example or a poor health professional if I do not work out everyday, but I do need to take care of my body and honor the gift the Lord has given me in my health.

There are not enough hours in the week to work on the ministry I work for 20 hours a week, study and go to class 80 hours a week, workout 5 hours a week, and volunteer for my church for a few more hours a week, but health is possible. By the grace of God that is where I want to live my life, I will not strive for a balanced life; I will strive to maintain a healthy life.

So.. We’re going to do this..

Ben and I tossed around the idea of starting a blog together for most of our first year of marriage.

It all started when I began to make Ben listen to my posts for my Christian worldview class, this was really an effort on my part to edit my papers, but Ben got excited about what I was writing. “Maybe you should share these with other people, besides me and your class!?” Eh.. no…
Ben and I are both note takers, we both write out anything we teach or present, and we often process through writing, so sharing some of those things makes sense right?… Naw…
Ben writes lessons all the time and I write all of these Christian World view posts and make up recipes, but we still weren’t sure if we should share any of these things, or if anyone would care.

But then we got a dog….

This fluffy little dog has taught us so much, not much about dogs, really more about ourselves and our relationship with God, so finally, we decided to try this blog thing.

But what do we call it?

Our last name is Salmon.. so there are all sorts of cheesy fish related names.. our favorite of which is team upstream (because if you didn’t know salmon swim upstream), but none of those set well with us. We tried to come up with something super spiritual or deep, but once again everything seemed cliché or just plain ridiculous.
After about a month of trying to figure out a name, it finally came to us when we were driving home from a double date with some friends. We enlisted their brainstorming, but soon got distracted talking about other things. Eventually we began talking about the ministry we work for. The theme verse of the ministry is 1 Thessalonians 2:8 “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but even our own lives as well, because you had become very dear to us.”

And it hit me! Even our own lives! We deeply desire to share the Gospel, but we even more deeply desire to live our lives in such a way that in sharing them with others the Gospel is proclaimed.

This blog will not always be filled with deep theological questions or compelling arguments or delicious recipes, but it will always be filled with our life. And we are thrilled to share it with you..
because we love you dearly.

Ben and Stevie

Ben and Stevie

Truman the Fluff Dog

Truman the Fluff Dog