The End of a Season

July 31, 2017

Triple Bypass Complications

Less than 36 hours before the official Triple Bypass ride was scheduled to kick off, we received the sad news that the ride had been cancelled for the first time in 29 years due to wildfires further west.19780564_10156302705745830_4865576747616397025_o

My immediate response? I did not train for this for six months to not do it. Unforeseen circumstances that alter everything can and do pop up in the lives of those seeking to escape poverty, too. Classic analogy. They are why we were riding in the first place!

So, 21 of us, the majority of the CrossPurpose cycling team, said “we are not giving up!” and we chose to push forward and take on a different actually MORE DIFFICULT route. Yes, you see that correctly. 121 miles and roughly 12,000 feet of elevation gain over three mountain passes!! (View a stellar video animation of this ride here!)

I spent nearly 10.5 hours in the saddle riding in the dark then under the beating sun, asIMG_20170708_122017.jpg well as in moments of hail and sleet and under two solid hours of miserable, bone chilling rain. When the going got tough it occurred to me that I may be moving very slow… but I am still moving forward. And that is all it takes to make it to the end. One moment at a time. That is really all we can do in any given circumstance.

I am so proud to know the outstanding individuals on our team and am thankful for their perseverance and for the $93,500 we raised to support families currently conquering barriers to escape poverty with CrossPurpose. Getting to take on this “impossible” challenge taught me self-discipline like nothing else has before. I am a different person today because of this. Further, it has been a great joy to serve as an executive assistant and manage this team for the last six months. To utilize my organizing and coordinating skills, directly support and develop relationships with the riders on our team and, ultimately, cultivate the financial resources needed to empower my neighbors as they overcome impossible odds in their own lives has been nothing less than extraordinary. There just might be a future for me somewhere in this mix of fundraising and endurance sport.

Coordinating Summer Internship

IMG_20170727_121140Another highlight from the past few months has been serving as the internship coordinator for our summer intern, Rova. As a Fellow I have been poured into during monthly professional coaching sessions and personal/identity development sessions as well. I loved getting to multiply this investment others have made in me by leading these same coaching sessions with Rova weekly throughout the summer. It was a gift to get to know Rova, have her on our team, and gain a new sister in my friendship with her.

Who Am I?

Speaking of identity development: at the conclusion of our two years in the Fellowship program, each of us meet with our “life coaches”, Ray & Pattie Brim, and a leadership director or two in order to come up with an “identity statement.” This statement is an attempt to put into words who God has created us to be and why. Here is mine:

Kristi Graydon exists to free people from their boxes of limitations and to cultivate courage in them by believing in the unique individuals God created them to be, supporting and energizing their efforts to overcome challenges, and consistently nudging them to explore new bounds of life in creation and in the redemptive mission of Jesus.

That’s me.

Graduation

Just this past weekend, on July 29th, all eight of us in the Delta Cohort spoke of and celebrated what God has done and how we have changed during the past two years that led us to this graduation day.

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I remembered how, about 26 months ago, I moved to Denver yearning to be part of a community of Jesus followers who embraced the gospel that says God is on a mission to redeem all of creation and not just our souls. How I have wanted to grow in my understanding of how to really love my neighbors, to learn pieces of their stories, and to see how the hope Jesus offers meets those in places far from where I had spent most of my life. This doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago. Yet, at the same time, May of 2015 feels like a complete lifetime ago. So much has happened. So much joy and laughter, grief and loss, setbacks and accomplishments, processing and changing.

IMG_20170729_182522Today, I know I have not totally arrived. I don’t hold all the answers now either. I know my growth and need to learn things and unlearn many more will be a lifelong process. My life today, however, is marked by a new depth of hard-fought for faith; a faith that is richer and stronger because of how much it has been shaken. I now walk in a degree of calm strength and courage I had not known before.

Surely I would not be the woman I am today without the supportive belief our leadership, my cohort, and you, my supporters, have had in me all along. And, of course, because of the many opportunities I’ve had to “figure it out” and rise to challenges. Whether that was learning how to teach a cover letter class, writing meaningful & engaging support letters, hosting neighborhood film events, handling conflict with a healthier model of communication, leading coaching and identity development sessions with interns, or responding to the logistical nightmare of the Triple Bypass ride cancellation.

What’s Next?

I am realizing more and more how thoroughly prepared and confident I am now to excel in a position of leadership and influence wherever I may land. Since Denver is now thoroughly my home, I am thrilled to remain part of this community and am actively searching for where I may utilize the skills and growth attained during my time in the Fellowship. And, as mentioned above, I will be exploring the possibility of continuing to lead fundraising campaigns for CrossPurpose and other local non-profits through endurance sporting events. Exciting possibilities!

You Made This Possible

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As I face the uncertainties of my future, I remember how I have been cared for in the past. I stand amazed at how our Father has cared for me through your faithfulness and generosity these last two years. Words cannot thank you enough for your kind support and investment in me. You have bolstered my faith and taught me so much about how to live generously. I am eager to follow after your examples and support others as you have supported me.

Regarding Finances…

If you had signed up for the automatic monthly draw (Electronic Funds Transfer) through the CrossPurpose website, your donations stopped automatically at the end of July. If anyone still mails a check or submits a one-time only online donation, I will receive that money through the end of August.

Question: I officially completed my full-time position with CrossPurpose at the end of July and am still seeking employment. Would you consider continuing your financial support of me until the end of August as I seek where God would have me serve next?

You can do it as a one-time gift online here. Please be sure to write “to the ministry of Kristi Graydon” in the donation note box.

Closing Notes

Please remember me in prayer as I try to figure out my next steps in life here.

Thank you for making these last two life-changing years possible. I could not have done this without you.

Know I thank God for each of you by name. My prayer is that he will continue to teach us how to trust and know him more so that we have the courage to step up and lead wherever he has called us to do so.

Your sister,

Kristi

 

 

Triple Bypass & the Woman on the Mountain

My alarm pierces the early morning still and rattles me into consciousness. It is 4:30 a.m., long before I normally roll out of bed. Without allowing my mind a chance to consider the alternative, I slip out from the covers and grab a bowl of oatmeal. I’m going to need it.

The wind is bitter as I step outside, and the short drive to Lookout Mountain gives me time to think about how cold the training ride up the mountain will be. Surely I wouldn’t be doing this if I weren’t preparing for such an intimidating event! In just a couple months, the newly formed CrossPurpose Cycling Team will be fundraising and riding the Triple Bypass, a 120 mile bike ride over three mountain passes with 10,990 feet of grueling elevation gain.

There are several other cyclists here facing the predawn chill. On occasion, I meet someone who has traveled from around the world to train at this altitude. This morning, I can see my breath as I unload my bike, and I wonder how many times the others will climb the mountain today. They look strong, and, judging by their expensive bikes and equipment, professional! I am a true rookie to this kind of endurance sport so as I grind up the steep grades and switchbacks it is not unusual for other cyclists to fly right by me on their way up for the third time in a row. They make it look so effortless. I’m not there yet.

One thing is for sure, each of our thin tires will grind up every taxing meter of that road between the parking lot and the lookout fifteen-hundred feet above. There is only one route. But, it can be a significantly more difficult task for some than it is for others.

Finishing up my pre-ride stretching routine, I briefly speak with a woman who, without a car, had to bike the twenty upward miles from the city just to get to the start of this road. She appeared a bit out of place wearing an oversized dark-grey hoodie and sweatpants sure to cause a lot of drag. I noticed she was sporting some long-worn tennis shoes a size too small. And, to top it all off, the bike she rode was clearly too short for her; I could hear it dangerously creaking as she pedaled off.

Without surprise, shortly after I began my ascent, I passed her. As painful as this demanding, slow ride is for me, I thought about how exhausted she must be. She’s already ridden so far just to get here!

As I crept up the steep mountain road I shifted my eyes to the vast landscape to my left, the foothills softly covered with morning light, my gaze landing on downtown Denver in the distance. I feel proud to have passed her, like I’m exhibiting such painstaking perseverance pushing up this mountain. But a wave of humility washes over me as I consider what that woman has already accomplished this morning by riding that terrible bike all the way here from the city I see in the distance. The more I thought about all she overcame to make it this far, the more amazed I felt. What an incredibly resilient and strong example of perseverance!

Then I realized, I know this woman.

She is a representation of everyone I know whose path to success in life is laden with many more barriers and obstacles than mine. She is everyone who has not been given the advantages that I have. She is the little boy overlooked and told he will fill a jail cell someday because he was born with black skin. She is the teenage girl abused by her step-father who channels her pain and shame into poor choices at school. She is the young immigrant who only feels wanted and important when he carries out a hit with his gang. She is the eighteen-year-old suddenly on her own after a lifetime of being tossed from one foster home to another.

She is LaShawn, Liliana, and Brittany. She is Steve, Felix, and John. She is every Leader who has come through the doors at CrossPurpose seeking opportunity, a boost over their barriers in life, and some encouragement on their path to empowerment and self-sufficiency.

She is the many who inspire me to seek new opportunities and take on my own impossible challenges.

She is why I have joined CrossPurpose’s “Bypassing Barriers” fundraising & cycling team.

At CrossPurpose, the people we work with face a lot of seemingly insurmountable barriers. The barriers that keep people from exiting poverty are manifold, including lack of transportation, childcare, access to good jobs, education, etc. CrossPurpose specializes in being “barrier busters.”

Last year three individuals raised awareness, fundraised, and completed the Triple Bypass ride, calling it “Bypassing Barriers.” They raised over $50,000 for our neighbors leading their way out of poverty. This year our goal is to have an even larger impact and we already have 36 riders registered on our team!

Several months ago I gained the joy and privilege of managing this extraordinary team. I have really found my “sweet spot” in this position as I get to utilize my deIMG_20170505_122444_684 (1)tail-oriented, administrative skills while directly interacting with people, expanding our network, and ultimately supporting the ministry of CrossPurpose and the development of the community in which I live.

This is the exciting announcement I alluded to in previous blog posts and emails. If you follow me on social media you have seen quite a slew of cycling related posts recently – now you know the greater purpose.

Please keep an eye out for more details to come!

(…or find out more now by checking out our fundraising pages here and here.)

-Kristi

 

 

Moving Forward & Needing Help

January ‘17  

Full Circle

Two years ago I received an email welcoming me onto the Summer Internship Team with CrossPurpose. I moved to Denver in May, 2015, for a 10-week internship, loved my experience, and launched right into the 2-year Fellowship program thereafter. Today, everything is coming full circle! This year I have the privilege of welcoming img_20161202_204025new interns as I step into the role of Summer Internship Director! This will be my primary role from now until my graduation at the end of July. More details on this to come!

Speaking of Welcoming People

I thrive off of helping others succeed and I have been gifted with gathering & organizing information. Because of this, I get to support the recruitment team in managing one hundred job board postings that will capture college students attention and guide them through our doors as potential Fellows. This is another new opportunity that I get to grab hold of this new year.

This Doesn’t Change

I will still get to serve in my roles with Career Services & Urban Encounters. Last week about 30 community members entered their first day in our year-long Career Development program and I am eager to get to know each of them and continue to teach courses on a variety of job readiness topics. Teaching is something I’ve grown to love!

16143740_10154813503770450_8781916579487262731_oSpeaking of Teaching

It’s no secret that fitness & good health are passion-areas of mine! I’m looking forward to assisting some of my colleagues in launching the new health curriculum in the Career Development program. We care for the whole person and this is an exciting new addition to our holistic program!

A Request

I am a helper; I thrive off of supporting others in their success. Yet, I am becoming increasingly more familiar with the courage required to be the one asking for help.

Within the last few weeks, I experienced the most severe pain I have ever felt and needed to have two emergency root canals. I have never been so thankful for dentists!

Long story short, even with insurance, dental work is incredibly expensive and far beyond what I can afford. I have at least three more appointments to finish the work they have started and am unsure of the total final cost. I have already accrued $2,425 in new debt which they charged onto a 6-month interest-free credit card that I opened at their office.

I feel discouraged yet unusually calm & thankful at the same time. I’m well aware that what I am experiencing is a taste of how so many families end up in poverty – because of emergency situations where there aren’t any good options. This highlights my need for each of you who stand with me as faithful supporters! And, while I believe I’m doing all I am able to, this strengthens my need for faith that God will provide for my needs.

Would you consider being an answer to my prayers and partnering with me specifically to manage this financial crisis?

I trust God will care for me somehow. Please let me know if it might be through you.

To give: Click Here – Please write “Kristi Graydon Dental Work” in the “donation note” box.

P.S. There is some BIG NEWS on the horizon. Keep your eye out for this announcement! :) Coming to you March 2017.  

 

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Ever grateful for your encouragement,

Kristi

 

The Latest

October – November 2016

On the Streets

A few weeks ago I co-facilitated an experiential learning event where participants spent 48-hours on the streets in a guided Homelessness Immersion. These individuals chose to do this in order to learn about a world that is often invisible and learn how to better love our neighbors. I’ll allow some participant feedback to speak for itself:

“I always learned about those who live in poverty but never lived it. It’s a lot harder to love the poor from a distance once you live a weekend in their shoes. I’d encourage people to do it because it has enhanced my perspective as a follower of Jesus… that the Savior of the world would become the lowest of the low (what society considers to be a homeless person) in order to die for me.”

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We recently welcomed a new class of neighbors determined to lead their way out of paycheck to paycheck living and into new careers & financial freedom. I have loved getting to spend more time with this group than with previous classes. Getting to know each of them little by little is much of why I get out of bed each morning.

At the end of October, one of our outstanding “family members” in the program was tragically killed. The loss of Terrance has left a massive hole in our family and in the world. It’s not meant to be this way.

Terrance Vigil.jpgA friend of mine reflecting after the candlelight vigil held for Terrence wrote,

“He had a big heart. He was one of the most genuine people I knew. He always wanted to do whatever he could to help others. He was a classy man. He was there for me when I needed someone. He had so much love for people. He truly cared. He helped me do better. His laugh was unforgettable. || These were the phrases repeated over and over tonight in remembrance of Terrence Ashley. Our community lost a good man this week. Our Upstream Impact family took a big hit. We are better for knowing you, Terrence. Your presence was a gift. || God, we pray for peace. We are weary from violence. Bring justice. Give strength. Cover us with grace… we need you.”


The influence of Terrence has left each of us more inspired and determined than ever to persevere and never give up.

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Participants in CrossPurpose’s annual fundraiser, “The Walkout”, walk the path of someone moving from financial poverty to self sufficiency. My role in this was to give participants a quick tour and overview of the programs at the Denver Rescue Mission. From there they headed to a transitional housing facility, a food pantry, McDonald’s, a technical college, and eventually they walked through the doors of our office. There they were introduced to our program and “offered” a way to get higher education and a career that will sustain them.

Through this impactful event eighty-one individuals learned more about the complexities of living in poverty, heard real life testimonies, and were introduced to the work of CrossPurpose. Additionally, $58,000 was raised to support our programming!

What’s The Impact?

Among the greatest examples of perseverance and heart that I know is my friend Ta’Rell. It is an honor to have heard his story and be part of the Upstream Impact family together. Please watch his story here: 

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  • I enjoyed teaching a short lesson on “The Power of First Impressions” at our weekly Upstream Family Gathering recently.
  • I am continuing to teach classes on a variety of job readiness topics for those in the Training Camp portion of our Career Development programs.
  • I led our entire staff in a discussion on the importance of always moving while in the office. If you sit during your work day then this is relevant for you too. Do your health a favor and check out this article: Outside Magazine: “Always Be Moving” by Christopher Keyes

What Else?

I’ve been given the lead on a project to collect, research, and organize information regarding community resources. We know family doctors refer patients to specialists to address specific needs. Similarly, no single organization can fulfill an individual’s holistic needs, and so it is essential to identify and partner with “the specialists”. Only together can we work for the good of our neighbors!

Thanksgiving

I am thankful for what I have been saved from and the life God is continually leading me into. Thank you for investing in me as I continue to grow as a leader and work with CrossPurpose in Denver. Twenty-eight of you have served as my core-monthly-support team and twenty more of you have contributed to sustaining me in this ministry. I couldn’t do this without you.

I am encouraged by the unseen ways God has used this ministry in lives I may never meet. According to the stats page on my blog 2,555 different people have read at least one of my eleven ministry updates! If you are one of these, might you consider investing in what God is doing in me and in Denver by making a one-time financial contribution or even joining my monthly support team?

On average, I am $200-300 under my monthly support goal. God provides through people just like you :)

If you’re interested in partnering with me please let me know. You may give to this ministry by clicking here. Please be sure to put my name in the “Donation Note” box.

 

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Gratefully,

Kristi

The Changing of Seasons

To bring in the month of September, Delta (my cohort in the Fellowship) and several staff of CrossPurpose & Providence flew to Los Angeles for our second Christian Community Development Association National Conference. Thousands of urban ministry practitioners from around the country gathered for three days of worship, challenging & encouraging messages, learning, and networking.

One evening a Syrian man shared:

14203167_10155132469655830_7353888524054394939_n“I moved to the U.S. about four years ago because of the war in Syria… My family friend was kidnapped by ISIS. We were not able to meet their demands to spare his life… So, on his knees, wearing an orange jumpsuit, he declared his name, his allegiance to Christ, and was shot point blank; murdered because of the name of Jesus.”

 

Then he proceeded to lead us in worship:

“You are a good, good Father and You are perfect in all of your ways.”

I was struck and quite moved by the uniquely rich and deep faith of which this man testified.

A Big Day!

Every four months each of us in the Fellowship prepare Board Presentations for staff and community members covering what we hav14310576_1221971807843933_5202585885085744401_o.jpge accomplished, roadblocks we ran into and how we navigated them, where we have grown, and what we hope to achieve in the next four months. This is immediately followed by questions and a period of feedback. It feels fairly grueling but I really value hearing the heart & seeing concrete growth in my teammates, and realizing the same in myself. We have come so far in just a year!

Retreat to the Mountains!

I got to serve on the planning committee for our Center for Urban Leadership Fall Retreat! What a deeply meaningful, good time all of us had together in the golden-Aspen laden Rocky Mountains. We got to listen and hear of the ever-increasing glory of God in each 14494764_10155207343715830_4008595082881812849_n.jpgother’s life stories, encourage and pray for one another, and simply enjoy time together as a team.

In being reconciled to God individually we have collectively joined Jesus in bringing glimpses of God’s future into the present; this is why we do what we do.

 

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Shortly before the retreat, five new Fellows (the Epsilon cohort) arrived to begin their 2-year Fellowship experience. Anytime new Fellows or Interns come we take them out for a day of team building and hiking. There is something unique about pushing ourselves & overcoming challenges in the great outdoors that bonds us and cultivates conversation that may not otherwise happen. God has wired me to really thrive off of these opportunities & moments!

Looking Ahead

  • In just a few short days, a new class of neighbors in our Career Development program will join “our family” as they begin their year-long journey toward financial freedom. I always look forward to meeting each new class and learning of the unique gifts, challenges, and stories they bring.
  • In a couple weeks, I will be co-facilitating a Poverty Weekend/Homelessness Encounter. Participants will spend 48-hours on the streets in a guided Homelessness Immersion in order to learn about a world that is often invisible to middle-class America and learn how to better love our neighbors. If the Spirit of God uses this experience as he has in the past, lives will be changed.

During a time of worship with my church family recently we sang, “We are standing here only because You made a way.” Our Father made a way for me to be here AND you joined him to make this possible. Thank you for your faithful support of me and your involvement in building the coming Kingdom of God both here in Denver & in your corner of the world.

-Kristi

The Summer Scoop

August 24, 2016

Heart of the Internship

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Hiking St. Mary’s Glacier w/ Interns

We had seven interns come from all over the country to join us for the summer, and I had the privilege of working with them for ten weeks! Every Tuesday evening we enjoyed a meal together (they are fantastic cooks!), debriefed some aspect of their week, and then each week a different intern shared their life story, answered questions, received affirmation, and we entered into a time of prayer together. These hours always proved to be such encouraging grounds where friendship, faith, and understanding grew to a new depth.

14,060 Foot Milestone!

Speaking of hiking: Just two days prior to the interns arrival I hiked my first 14er (Mt.
Bierstadt) with Kayla & a friend of hers from Minnesota. What a beautiful, exhilarating experience!

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Standing at 14,060 feet!

Day by Day
I get to spend most of my days with Leaders active in their job searches – serving as a listening ear, answering questions, debriefing interviews, editing resumes & cover letters, reporting on all the career opportunities I learn about at Career Fairs, and, in general, developing friendships. I am also actively recruiting “Allies” – community members who will walk alongside, encourage, and support our Leaders as they pursue financial freedom & stability.
Significant change requires significant relationship. I personally began my journey as an Ally a few weeks ago! I am excited about my new friendship and for what is to come.

Fresh Beginnings!

Two new classes equaling fifty-eight Leaders have graduated from “Training Camp”; the first phase in our year-long Career Development/Poverty Abolition program! These individuals first met each other as a group of strangers who were all looking for a change; seven weeks later these they are part of a tight-knit community that encourages and lifts one another up.

I recently listened in on a class discussion regarding what it means to excel; to extend beyond the ordinary. Here is some of what they said:upstream class 3 TC grad

“You just have to push yourself. If you want success you have to fight for it.”

“It’s going to hurt but it will be worth it.”

“You have to believe you can do it.”

“The test of time will prove whether you can make it or not.”   

Their determination, perseverance, and belief is contagious.

Memorial

In July, a group of us drove up to Wyoming where we held a memorial in honor of our friend John Britton who died there last December. We camped in one of John’s favorite locations. My mind flooded with the many conversations he & I had about his love for the 20160703_202544.jpgwilderness there. How beautiful it was!

As we stood on the ground where he was killed, through tears I spoke of my confidence in God’s fatherly, caring acceptance of us. I reflected on how anger, pain, and confusion can cultivate a truer depth of faith; just as it did with David who held back nothing as he poured out his emotions while penning the Psalms. I know this now more than ever.

I am thankful all of us got to cry & lament together but also laugh & enjoy the place John always spoke so highly of, though, of course, we wish he could have been there with us.

Celebrating Two Years!1-Gamma grad

We recently honored the Gamma Cohort as they completed their two-years in the
Fellowship. It was a wonderful celebration of each individual, their faith, perseverance, development, and the tremendous impact they’ve had on so many lives here.
We (Delta Cohort) have big shoes to fill and look forward to welcoming the new Epsilon Cohort in just a few short weeks!

Parting Shot

To close out July, I enjoyed a few days with my Mom & Dad. What a joy to welcome them13876248_1083862761703851_6616748970998053725_n into my world here!

You know, Colorado is a great vacation spot and I think I know a good tour guide ;)

I thank God for each of you and your investment in me that makes this ministry and this significant time in my life possible. I genuinely could not do it without you.

Thank you.

Kristi

Special Edition: Journey of Overcoming

Two months ago I shared news of the journey of overcoming I had set out on. (If you missed out on that post, please check it out here.)

Nearly every day I get to spend time in the office with Leaders (*participants in our career development/poverty abolition program) as they work hard pumping out job applications, going to interviews, researching potential career paths; all the while managing personal & family needs, supporting others, and conquering their unique obstacles. One of my greatest joys these last several weeks has been talking with many of them, sharing how their daily examples of perseverance and grit have inspired me to face this challenge of my own. What a sweet experience to give some a copy of the “I. Am. Terrified.” post I wrote, and gratefully express, “You have inspired me to do this”. Truly a beautifully encouraging experience all around. Without fail, every one responded with a wide smile, high five, and some rendering of “You are crazy!”

Go Time

The big day, June 26th, finally arrived. After a restless night of tossing and turning, my alarm pierced the half-past-four morning stillness and, with a prayer and a deep breath, I was up. Upon arriving at the race location, I set up my gear in the transition area, walked around to be sure I located the start/finish lines for each leg of the event, and1-IMG_4090.jpg then purposefully lingered, engaging in nervous chit-chat with other athletes before heading down to the beach for the start of the swim. It was time. Time to face my fears. Time to triumph over all that could have kept me far from that beach.

Right at 7:50am, the horn sounded and I was off! “This is the culmination of everything I have been losing sleep over for the past six weeks”, I thought as I entered the water… heart beating out of my chest. The first 100 meters were the toughest. Fighting to win the battle in my mind against panic. Praying I’d relax and be able to enjoy the swim instead of hyperventilating my way through it. Sure enough, I passed the first buoy and finally entered into my rhythm.

I Can Do This!

Once my fingertips hit the sand under the water at the beach, I knew I’d just conquered the most daunting part. Ah, the relief! A bit disoriented I made my way out of the water, pulling1-IMG_4099 off my wetsuit as I staggered toward the transition area, taking in words of encouragement from spectators along the way. Soon I was all set and off for the biking portion, by far my favorite of them all. Eighteen miles later, with slightly wobbly legs I jogged my bike back into the transition area to pull on my running shoes and head out for the final stretch.

Though swimming elicits the most nerves, running is the hardest. Heart racing, sometimes skipping13754576_10154997572965830_4593217017938911426_n beats. Lungs pleading for air. Legs aching. Sweat dripping.

Finally, I crossed the finish line, lifted my hands declaring victory, and was enveloped by some good friends, the cheering crowd, and, just minutes later, my “coach”, three-time Ironman, and dear friend Jeff Cook. The joy was palpable! The beautiful medal adorning my neck couldJeff & In’t compare to the smile on my face and the confidence gained from sweet success.

Then What?

Since then, I have completed not just one but TWO sprint triathlons! These accomplishments have been exhilarating and transformative. This discipline has grown into an entirely new lifestyle for me.

Purpose

To be clear, this has never been simply about the triathlon itself. As I said when I first decided to venture into this, “My commitment is another step toward a lifetime of taking courageous action and influencing others to do the same.” This is what I am made for. To encourage others in this fight called life.

Anne Lamott writes that stories of pain and drama draw such a vast crowd because they detail what every one of us is all about: survival. Our specific experiences do not need to be the same for one individual’s story to inspire another’s. Everyone faces challenges in life. We all have to overcome and press on.

Thank you for pushing and supporting me in this journey called life. I couldn’t do it without you.

P.S. COMING SOON: Another update on ministry/work life from this summer. Keep an eye out :)

 

I. Am. Terrified.

Almost 365 days ago I moved to Denver to be part of the CrossPurpose Center for Urban Leadership. This past year I have had the privilege of entering many community member’s journeys as they lead their way out of poverty and into stability and freedom. It’s something beautifully-painful to see as these new friends endeavor to overcome obstacles in their lives. It takes grit, determination, support, discipline, and faith.

You better believe I have been moved & inspired!

So now I am embarking on my own journey of overcoming.

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About seven years ago I became inexplicably, severely ill. All of  my life I had been an avid athlete with an unending love for sports, challenges, and competition. So I suddenly went from confidently tearing up the soccer field to hospital stays, endless doctor visits, chronic pain, inability to eat, loss of strength, confusion, disappointment after disappointment, missing half of my junior-year, and bearing the weight of near hopelessness…

I have never fully regained the strength and confidence that once marked my life.

But early last year I decided to start really fighting to regain good health and strength which culminated in tackling the “World’s Toughest Mud Run” and becoming a Tough Mudder.

11049582_10153808036565830_5571682309224121122_nThrough this, I did not just gain victory, Tough Mudder status, and overwhelming amounts of lactic acid (!); I gained confidence, drive, whole new possibilities, and a dream that maybe I could do more; become more.

TRIATHLON!

Two days ago with trembling, clammy hands I clicked “register” for the Boulder Sunrise Triathlon (June 26th, 2016). I sealed my fate of facing a 750 meter swim in open water, a 17.3 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run to top it all off (cue the butterflies). More than that, I have chosen to face many of my fears, deepen my pursuit of the priceless gift that is good health, and to reclaim ground that was once lost, taken from me as a sixteen year old.

A sprint triathlon is by no means impossible… but it sure was for me not that many years ago.

WE ARE DOING IT TOGETHER

Every day people around me who have seen defeat too many times to count are boldly choosing the harder road and pushing forward. They are enduring the pain that comes with climbing the mountain of odds set against them as they escape generational poverty. It’s daunting. But they are building a foundation of life much stronger and more stable.boulder tri logo

I am determined to encourage others as they overcome their fears, barriers, and obstacles, just as they inspire me to prevail over mine; one step at a time.

WOULD YOU HELP MAKE THIS A REALITY?

If you believe in me and in the value of what I am doing, I ask that you go above & beyond and choose to sponsor me for this special endeavor. My commitment is another step toward a lifetime of taking courageous action and influencing others to do the same.

The approximate cost of my gear & registrationBoulder Tri Swim photo fee is $500.

 

Be sure to let me know if you’d like to “be on my team”. (Don’t hyperventilate! That doesn’t mean you are registering too.) :)

If you do, Click Here – Please write “Kristi Graydon Triathlon” in the “donation note” box.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela

Excitedly Terrified,

Kristi

 

You SHOULD read this. :)

4.14.16

Check out the latest! 

Graduation Day!

We recently celebrated the graduation of the first cohort of Leaders in our poverty abolition/career development program called Uprise! What a marvelous time celebrating over a year’s worth of hard-sought growth and accomplishment. The average inco2016-04-14 13.43.16.jpgme a year ago was a meager $80 a month… today it is $1,900 a month!
Once again, the value of
confidence, stability, and freedom each individual earned for the
ir families is
priceless. And relationships built across social, racial, and economic class lines are strikingly stunning expressions of the Kingdom of God.

As the Uprise Family, we laughed and rejoiced together but we also cried together as we remembered the loss of our friend and Uprise Leader, John Britton. It was a weighty reminder of the deep struggle, worth, and value of every individual I will ever meet. The work we do matters.

I’ve Been Teaching!

Speaking of Uprise: Our new cohort is here! Just a few days ago 27 Leaders completed the 6-week Training Camp (TC) portion of the program. Training camp focuses on building relationships, enhancing professional skills, and developing personal awareness. As the Career 12973212_996356513792425_2143198203187956703_oServices Assistant I got to teach a class with Laura (my Supervisor) on Monday afternoons covering a variety of interview and job readiness topics. I am enjoying this growth opportunity and am learning just as much as the Leaders are!

Hear what several Leaders had to say about their first six weeks:

 

“I enjoyed spending time with my ‘new family’…I learned to value myself…” -Rocio

“I learned the right way to interview and how patient I can really be. I’ve grown a lot. I’m able to stand in front
of a crowd now.” -Tiye12977091_996356210459122_6470918843066215278_o

“I enjoyed the new family that I gained…” -Greg

“I learned about heartache and how to heal with love, support, and the trusting of my new family” -Abdullah

“I learned to be more of a team-player and that it’s okay to be myself.” -Rhonda

It is a gift to walk alongside these new friends as they continue to fight for greater success!

Refugee Weekend

Several weeks ago I flew to Ohio to help run Refugee Weekend, an experiential learning event. For 48-hours forty-two participants encountered a microcosm of what it is like to flee a homeland, move across the country in makeshift families under the control of human smugglers, build and survive in a refugee camp, and feel the confusion and frustration of applying for asylum in a host country.

The most common feedback we receive is always “this was the most transformative weekend of my life.” I know it was for me. I have lost count of how many times I have been part of the team that makes this experience happen and it never loses it’s power. We gained a few prospective summer interns and fellows from this weekend but, more than that, there are now forty more people freshly imprinted with the heart of God toward those who have faced unimaginable suffering. The God-given impact of this experience is immense.

The Art of Writing

2016-04-14 13.56.03.jpgCommunicating through the written word is an important discipline and a powerful skill we develop in the Fellowship. I am ever grateful for the coaching I receive in this regard!
The photo to the left is an example of what comes out of an editing session. All that red ink is simply growth happening before your eyes :)

By the way, you should check out our Fellowship Blog. An article of mine was recently posted (click here to view). Stick around to read what other Fellows have written as well. You just may find your heart being moved over what has stirred ours.

 

Epic Fellowship Video!

Want to better understand where I am and what I am part of? Take a few moments to watch this exceptionally well-made video presenting some of the outstanding people I work alongside and what we have chosen to dedicate our lives to here in Denver. Seriously. Watch it! …do it.

Financial Update

Without each of you I could not be part of this Kingdom-building work. God is using you to provide! Thank you for your faithfulness. I enjoy sharing the vision of what we are doing here and inviting others to get on board. If you are interested in learning more, partnering with me, and investing in the good God is doing here, please let me know.

Approximately $400 more a month will meet the remainder of my financial ne20160312_113425.jpgeds.

Most of my support comes in from individuals who give $20 to $50 each month. Every contribution counts and none ever goes unnoticed. It’s what makes this
work possible!

As a recent graduate of our career development program said, “You can have all the drive in the world but you still need gas.” Please pray and consider how we may get “the gas my tank needs” to continue moving forward.

Here is the link where financial contributions can be made: Please click here. And please be sure to note it is for the “ministry of Kristi Graydon” in the donation box.

Until next time, Kristi 

An Eventful Six Weeks

Recent News!

Four times a year we host a Loving Our Neighbors Film & Discussion Event at a local theater. We do this this to provide a space for community members to come together to learn and discuss issues that affect our community. In January we broke the record of attendees when over a hundred people gathered to watch the award-winning documentary film “Poverty, Inc.” – a film that examines the rise of charity as a multibillion dollar industry.

“Having a heart for the poor isn’t hard but having a mind for the poor… that is the challenge!”film event january

Charity, or simple relief work, is not enough and that is why we invest our resources and lives into development work for the good of our neighbors here in Denver. The overwhelming response from film attendees was, “From now on I am going to ask a lot more questions before I assume what I am doing or giving to is actually helping those experiencing poverty instead of perpetuating the problem.”

Many are now seeking to learn more about how to partner with CrossPurpose and invest in the development work we are doing. It was a joy to help organize, manage, and facilitate this meaningful event!

Graduation

A few weeks ago the second cohort of Leaders in Upstream Impact graduated! (UI is our sisteupstream gradr organization’s poverty abolition/career development program). What a beautiful evening celebrating over a year’s worth of hard-sought growth and accomplishment. The average income a year ago for those in Tier I was $180 a month… now it is $1,750 a month! For Tier II the average income moved from $1,500 to $3,400 a month! The value of confidence, stability, and freedom each individual earned for their families is priceless. And relationships built across social, racial, and economic class lines are strikingly stunning expressions of the Kingdom of God.

At Providence

My friend Juan Peña recently wrote, “One of the blessings of multi-ethnic worship services is that they introduce perspectives about our faith that are often absent in our own cultures. Our African brothers and sisters led us in praising God for his protection and mercy even in the midst of murder and suffering…

Swahilii choir

Look carefully at the translation in English from Swahili: ‘We appreciate our God for His protection in this year. For His mercy we live, many were killed or are dead.’

…You don’t get these types of lyrics from contemporary Christian music!”

My faith is greatly bolstered and encouraged by these brothers and sisters.

Memorial

Anyone who has worked in ministry… or simply lived any amount of days knows that life does not bear only success and good news. Rather, great pain and brokenness is very much part of our experiences. It is no different here.

This past weekend we held a memorial for our friend and brother John Britton (bald man in the photo below). He was an usher at Providence, Leader in our Uprise program, and faithful member of our community group (house church) family. Such a hard working, gifted, and caring man. He eagerly learned to make the best gluten free dishes just to include everyone in our meals at community group. When asked to bring a pie for Thanksgiving, he showed up with not one but four (!) GF pies. Always going above and beyond. A genuine servant’s heart.

thanksgiving at cooks

No doubt John carried a lot of pain and had experienced such brokenness in life. He was fighting to put his life back on track after 12 years in prison. I often told him how much he gave me hope… that in the midst of such difficulty he was yet so faithful and served others so earnestly. But there are some wounds that cannot be healed this side of Heaven… Sunday, December 6th, 2015 he was despondent and suicidal and through a series of murky circumstances was shot to death by the police. My heart has never before known such deep grief…

This past summer when a young man dear to many in our church family passed away it was John who urged everyone not to allow that pain to prevent them from loving others so deeply. “More people need to be loved the way this community cares for people. Don’t stop.”, he said. I attest that if the heartbreak left in his wake is an indicator of the cost of love, it is yet so worth it.

When I look into the eyes of every individual in Uprise, Upstream, JobOne, or Refuge I will see someone of great worth. I will see John. And I will serve them better because of him. Please pray for each of us, as well as John’s family, as we continue to process, grieve, and move forward.

Soul Care

Walking and hiking are among the greatest acts of “soul care” I have discovered. And I have done quite a bit of it recently! After the last winter storm dumped over a foot of snow we have had many 60 degree days. I’m not complaining. Several long walks in this unusually warm weather and a couple hikes this weekend in the Rocky Mountains have been refreshing gifts of God.

After all, as John Muir wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

 

Thank you for your steady love, prayers, and support. I need you and am grateful to link arms with you!

-Kristi