Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dear Israel

                                       
                                                            June 28th, 2016
Dear Israel,
    God’s Promised Land. His chosen land. Plastered on the news. Fox, CNN, MSNBC. The Middle East. War. Judaism. Islam.
    Israel, I’m not sure that I ever had a complete thought about you prior to visiting you. You existed as an ancient part of my faith and flashed across my TV screen occasionally with news of war, but that was the extent of it.
    Please forgive me of my ignorance of your people, your culture, and your deep current importance in my faith. I thank God for this wake-up call as there is still time for me to stand with you.
    I have to laugh at myself. I thought you would give me the chance to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and strengthen my faith with a passport stamp as a cherry on top. Oh my ignorance!
    I received a border control card rather than the stamp, and El Al took my toiletries, but O Israel, I honestly can’t collect all these wonderful thoughts I now have of you just yet. You were all I’ve ever dreamed of and so much more.
    Jaffa, O I pray I don’t run away like Jonah. May I dive in head first to whatever God calls me to.
    The Sea, O let me get out of the boat to walk in the power of the Spirit with my Savior.
    The Jordan, O fill me up Lord and lead me in surrender as I begin my life in ministry.
    Jerusalem, O may I never lose sight of the ministry, love, and life-giving sacrifice of my Savior.
    Your Borders, O may my heart never lose the fire you have ignited to share you stories and pray intentionally for all involved.
    Your People, O may I never lose the deep-rooted love I have for you and may we work together in the hope and power of our Father.
    Israel, how can I ever repay you? To say you have changed my life would be an understatement. You are misunderstood by many, including some back home. Yet, you welcomed me with open arms. You brought me into the land of my Savior and laid the foundations of strong passion for you in my very soul. Toda! Thank you!
    I promise to carry the banner our God has given me. I will wave it in support and honor for you and your people. I am your advocate now, and I believe many others are now too. Even in the midst of lingering questions, I recognize right from wrong. For that reason, I stand with you as my Savior has called me to do. God shall establish you and increase your numbers. His sanctuary will be in you all as the prophet Ezekiel once wrote.
    Your people are my people. I cry “Toda Abba!” for bringing me into your land and giving me a new scope of the world.  I’m forever grateful to God our Father, and you O Israel. I love you, and I stand with you.
                                                                                                                Shalom My Friend,
                                                                                                                     Keri Fulp

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Real World

Time For….The Real World



I chuckle as I type that title. It seems as though life is always one question after another as to what exactly we will do in the next phase we greet. So, I’m here answering the latest question, “What will you do upon your graduation?” The real world has hit, and it’s time to venture out on my own. So, what’s next?

I am going into full time ministry. I’ll be interning with Athletes in Action at Wake.

I couldn’t be more excited about all that God has been and is still doing in my life. I chuckle again and think about how my diploma will say Wake Forest University BS Physics. I didn’t exactly go to school for this in an academic sense, but at the same time, I do believe I went to school for this.
You see, I had plans for literally every stage of my life laid out before I went to Wake. As a good friend would say, I had this picture of what my college years would look like, and what actually happened wasn’t what I had in mind. It wasn’t what I had in mind, but golly, it’s so much better.

I had some awesome teammates pull me into Athletes in Action my freshman year. Man, did God have something better in store! Through my time in AIA and helping to launch Westside Christian Church, I began to experience Jesus and His love in a brand new personal way. No longer did I seek to just check the boxes of religion, I started to seek a daily surrender to the cross and closer walk with the Lord.

It didn’t stop there. I ventured out to AIA’s Ultimate Training Camp where I learned about our Audience of One and what denying yourself to pick up your cross daily entails. I then spent my summer working in Vietnam and feeling God break my heart for the lost. Toss in a mission trip to Puerto Rico, living with some amazing girls in our AIA house, various conversations of sage wisdom with awesome mentors, and you’ve got a heart ripe for change.

I don’t know that my heart was ready for such a big change so quickly. I said missions all the way when I returned from Vietnam, but once decision time hit this past year, I started to cower away from God’s plan. I was scared. To me, going into ministry did not make sense. It’s totally irrational. I didn’t go to school for this. But then again, I did go to school for this. All those things that happened, they happened while I was in school. School goes beyond textbooks and lectures. School is experiences, and my experiences led me to ministry. Still, it’s irrational, and I was scared.

Truth check here: God’s love for me is irrational.

This truth hit me hard shortly after winter break. There I was trying to rationalize God’s plan for my life into some pretty box that I could easily present to the world. Then it hit me again, “If God loves me irrationally, I can’t try to rationalize His plan for my life.” Let me explain. I can do absolutely nothing for God to earn His love. Yet He still loves me, and I have access to His love through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. See, that’s pretty irrational. So then, I want to follow God out onto the water of irrationality to reach people for His kingdom.   

So, I’ll be working with Athletes in Action, a Cru ministry, at Wake Forest next year. I’ll receive some awesome training under our leader Joe, and have the awesome opportunity to pour into the lives of students just like my mentors did for me. If you feel God calling you to help support this ministry, please visit https://give.cru.org/0867382 or feel free to reach out to me at keri.fulp@athletesinaction.org .


Peace, love, and many blessings y’all!

Also, I just looked back at my "Catching Up" post from two years ago...I didn't expect this at all, but I'm so glad this is where I am!


Friday, March 18, 2016

Life Beyond the Ball


                Travel back in time with me for just a bit if you will please. Think back to when you were just a little kid. The little kid that was bursting with excitement for one of your many childhood passions. Keep that kid in mind and follow her/him along the journey that has made you you. Who were you then? Who are you now?
                For me, I think back to the little blonde headed girl with the bowl cut hair and a strange affinity for grey t-shirts. I remember the little girl that loved riding on the tractor with her daddy and shooting basketball in the driveway.
                Basketball. If I had to sum up the activities of my childhood in one word, I think that would do it. That’s not to say that I didn’t play other sports, compete on academic teams, or simply just love being a kid; I just loved the game and played as much as I could.
                The five year old me that started out playing rec league at the civic center didn’t know how far that passion would one day take her. Now that I’m older, and maybe just a little wiser, I look back and see quite the journey.
                After beginning playing AAU with the Surry Storm with my favorite coach ever, Alan, and favorite point guard ever, Jordan, at the ripe age of eight, there was no turning back. I was sold out, and I LOVED the game.
                Sure, I was tall, but y’all, I wasn’t very coordinated. It took a lot of great coaching and tons of encouragement from my family to develop me into a preteen ready to start tackling the college recruiting circuit.
                As my game started to develop, I began to really believe that I could play in college. No longer were the games I played in the driveway for the Lady Vols against imaginary defenders (the best you can do when you live in the country) just a dream, they could be reality. Keri Fulp, a little kid from a town without a zip-code, could go on to play college basketball.
                Well, Mom, Dad, and Karli made the treks up and down the East Coast every summer. Kayla and the rest of the fam sent their love and encouragement all along the way. They all put something into the journey; for that, I’m truly grateful.
                Before you knew it, I was getting to represent my high school on the court (Go Cards!), and I had my first scholarship offer from App State my sophomore year of high school. I even had the opportunity to try out for the US National U16 Team in Colorado Springs. Even though I didn’t make that team, I then got to travel to Russia for two weeks as a part of a USA Basketball exchange team. The letters kept pouring in, the family and I kept going on visits to different schools, life was so so good. Basketball was taking me places.
                Fast forward a bit and it’s fall of my Senior year. After a very long recruiting process, I’ve decided to play at Wake Forest University. I was getting the chance to not only play in the ACC but to also play for my hometown school.
                So, who was I then?
                This question is a tough one for me to ponder now. I’d like to sit here and say that I played the game and worked hard in school for an Audience of One, my Father in Heaven, but I’m afraid that I didn’t really understand this concept of AO1 at the time. I loved Jesus, and I wanted to follow Him, but when I competed on the court or in school, I was always in pursuit of the next award. My room was covered in plaques, trophies, medals, and ribbons. I’m not saying that awards and accolades are a bad thing. They aren’t a bad thing until you start to worship them, when you live your life for them.
                Looking back on it, that was me. I lived for the awards, for my picture in the paper, for the praises from people in the community. I said I lived for Jesus, and I did, but I also lived for earthly awards, and simply put, you can’t serve both God and accolades. That was me then.
                So, who am I now?
                My short three years at Wake have been the most formative years of my life by far. I came in not knowing what to expect exactly but hoping to make an impact in the classroom and on the court. I was going to be a hometown star, do well in school, and move on to engineering grad school. More and more goals.
                I had no idea how crazy my college career would be. If I had to sum up my experience in collegiate basketball, I would say injury-filled. It started with a broken wedding band finger and quickly escalated to having my front teeth knocked out. Throw in the usual knee pain I’d dealt with through high school and that was enough.
                Scratch that, there was more. Concussions first entered the picture during a practice before we played Clemson freshman year. That one wasn’t so bad, and I figured I would be good. Fast forward to sophomore year and kick start preseason with a subluxation in my left shoulder. After finally getting some range of motion back, I got hit in the head again. Concussion number two in under a year. Red flag.
                I need to pause for a moment on this injury train and talk about some surgery that was being done. My heart was going through surgery, not literally of course, but God was doing surgery on my heart. Thanks to some awesome teammates, Susie and Millesa, I joined Athletes in Action and immediately began experiencing true Jesus-loving community my freshman year. In the midst of this, I was helping launch Westside Christian Church with Matry and Exie. These people poured into me in such a huge way, and God began to really pull on me to feel His presence in my life.
                Following freshman year, I ventured out to AIA’s Ultimate Training Camp where I realized basketball was an idol in my life, and began to surrender my everything to my Audience of One. Follow that up with a month spent teaching in Vietnam, and I was a changed woman. I was sold out for Jesus and pumped about the heart change.
                I like to think about this as a submerged me. I began to see what it meant to truly live out my identity in Christ. See, submerged once referred to dipping a cloth in dye. When it comes out of the dye, it has a new identity. This is my identity in Christ.
                So, the me that lived for AO1 was the one with all of the injuries, and I thank God for that. I didn’t know in December of 2014 that I would never step foot on the court again after playing the game for 14 years, after all the time my family had invested in it. I didn’t realize at the time how much it would hurt to lose the game. I didn’t realize at the time how hard it would be to sit back and watch my teammates play. I didn’t know that it would sometimes be hard to celebrate in team victory because my own loss hurt so much. I didn’t know, but I did know God had a plan.
                All that became true after attempting to train through the spring of 2015 to come back for my junior year. Things did not go well. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the headaches didn’t get much better after reaching a point over Christmas break when I wasn’t even allowed to drive. Headaches began to have me leaving class early, seeing spots, and simply feeling dejected. I clung to Christ through it all, and thanks to the amazing people He placed around me, I became a better person.
                So, the decision was made in April and the papers signed in May to medically disqualify me from ever participating in collegiate athletics again. It hurt. It hurt worse than I thought it would, but God gave me the strength to trust in Him and His plan.
                Sometimes I feel silly for getting as upset as I do about basketball, because I know people that have experienced real pain. Mine is nothing compared to theirs, right? Wrong. You see, we each have our own story. We each have a story being woven into this huge tapestry of life. Our triumphs and pains our unique to each of us, and the feelings we feel are real. This is true because ultimately we all have the same Author writing our stories. He’s using the good and the bad in each of our lives to weave the most beautiful story imaginable.
                This season, what should be my junior year, but is actually my last year since I’m academically a senior, has been a tough one for me. I was given the title of student assistant. It sounds nice, but it’s not the same as putting on the uniform with Wake Forest and 22 on it. Feeling disconnected, sad, and even mad has been a part of the journey. I never knew I would miss playing the game so much I would find it hard to celebrate after we beat Duke for the first time in forever. It hurt, and it still hurts.
                I’m not sure that I’ll ever lose the pain of losing the game, but I am confident that I have life beyond the ball. You see, I know who I am now. I am a child of the One True King. I live my life for God in every circumstance. I no longer find my worth in a sport and awards; my worth comes from my Risen Savior.
                Even in the midst of the pain this past year, I have experienced God and His grace in a huge way. The relationships I’ve developed, the opportunities I’ve had with AIA, and the quality time I’ve had with the Father, all remind me who the Author of my story is.
                The Author of my story never lets His pen slip; He has no turnovers on the stat sheet; He doesn’t drop the ball. He knows my story. He writes every twist and turn leading to a most beautiful conclusion that then gives way to a brand new and eternal beginning.
                My treasure isn’t in jars of clay. My treasure is in Heaven with my Father. So, even if I sometimes choke back tears, I have joy. My joy comes from the Father, because I am His.
                Who are you? Our Father wants to know you personally. He wants a love relationship with you. Will you surrender your life to Him? Will you lay all your burdens at the cross? He’ll take it all, and He’ll submerge you in your new identity.

                Friends, we are His.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Fulp- You Are Still Our Star! Shine Bright!

Fulp- You Are Still Our Star! Shine Bright!

You still are.



I read those words, and I am floored. I am nearly brought to tears in front of a gym full of watching eyes.

You still are.

………………………………

I walked back onto the court following halftime of our game against Syracuse. My eyes were heavy from lack of sleep, and my mind was racing with all sorts of thoughts.

I had just gotten back from an amazing weekend of fellowship and growth in Christ with our Servant Team from Athletes in Action. My eyes were heavy from wonderfully deep late night chats, and my mind was filled with awe-struck thoughts at just how great our God is. To those watching eyes, my face may not have spoken of these wonderful emotions, the lack of sleep was really getting to me, but man did I feel good!

I rode this emotional high into the gym as we geared up for a tough second half battle. My eyes naturally scanned the arena. Nothing too exciting caught my attention until I looked behind our bench. Then, my heart nearly stopped.

Fulp- You Are Still Our Star! Shine Bright!

A little girls basketball team from Shoals, my beloved hometown, and Pilot had come to watch the game. One of those girls happened to be a dear family friend’s daughter. She held that sign for me as she stood in front of her mom with a big smile on her face.

I didn’t know what to do. We don’t talk to fans until after the game, but these girls and their families had come to this game to not only support the Deacs, but to also still support me. One of my coaches handed me his phone to snag a picture of the girls, and I let them know I would talk to them after the game.

As I sat on the bench for that second half, I could barely hold back the tears.

You still are.

………………………..

As a local kid, earning a scholarship to play basketball at Wake Forest was truly a dream come true. It was a privilege to suit up in the Black and Gold and represent everyone from Shoals. I didn’t get to suit up for too long though. God had much different plans in store for me, plans I now see filled with love and grace even when the going got tough.

I was medically released after only playing my first season and two games my second season. I dealt with a lot of concussion issues, and my doctors and I agreed that God had much bigger plans in store in my future. It simply wasn’t worth risking the next 40 years of my life to play for the next 2.

Now, I must be totally honest, this journey has not been easy. At first, being away from the game I loved wasn’t so bad. Let’s face it, pre-season conditioning is not always fun. Then, the season hit. My teammates suited up for photo shoots, practices, and eventually games, while I put on dress clothes or team issued sweats and lived life as more of a “regular” student.

It hit me hard after the first few games. My career is over. I miss running up and down the floor in practice. I miss pulling that jersey out of my locker and suiting up in front of local fans. I miss the road trips. I even miss conditioning. I miss it all.

Despite the sadness and even the regrets of taking it for granted, I am so thankful for this experience. God has really done surgery on my heart during my time in college, and for that I am so thankful. God has surrounded me with loving, caring people that constantly point me to the cross. Because of that, I knew, and still know, that God has a much bigger purpose for me.

I am still His.

…………………………….

Still. Today, that word has special significance for me. Just by those girls being at our game, I felt loved. They still love me, and they still look up to me. Sometimes, we all need a little affirmation, and these girls did that for me. So, to them, I say thank you.

More than that, I say thank You to God. If these girls still love me and support me at my game even when I can no longer play, how much more does our loving Father still love us?

God’s love is just absolutely crazy. He still loves us. He loves us despite our brokenness, despite our shortcomings, and despite our mess. He still loves us.

Rest in Him and in His crazy love friends. God’s got you no matter what you may face. And always remember to shine bright.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” Philippians 2:14-16


Cling to the Father and His Word. Shine Bright!