Sunlight on the Windshield

Sun

Last night I was hit with a profound reality: Jesus loves me. I know it sounds elementary, and we’ve heard it so many times, but do we ever stop to think about how amazing that is? Jesus loves us!

This weekend has been full of reminders that I am a sinner. It’s not that I’ve necessarily been acting differently, but as my friend Sarah reminded me, seeing your sins is like when the sun hits the windshield of your car. The light accentuates the dirty spots. As I draw closer to Jesus, his light exposes the depth of my sin. This weekend I felt annoyance and frustration, jealousy and comparison, stress and fear. I tried to control people far more than I loved them. My confidence was shot.

I knew that my only hope for starting this week on the right foot was getting right with God, so I began to write confessions. Words were flying out of my pen at an overwhelming rate. One page, two pages, would the list of sins ever stop?

Right in the middle of my furious scribbling, Jesus stopped me and said, “Kelly, I love you,” and then it hit me. My slate is wiped clean. Romans 8:1-2 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Do I believe that? His grace is sufficient for me! If that’s not good news I don’t know what is! So this week I challenge you to let the knowledge of Jesus’ vast love for you sink in. You are his beloved! Will you accept his love?

I Am

Thankful and Blessed

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Audience. Followers. Publicity. All are new territory for me. Up until last summer I almost exclusively wrote for letters, school projects, and journal entries. In all of these types of writing my readers were well defined. I either wrote for my friends, my teachers, or myself. It was easy to think about who would be reading what I wrote because I knew my readers personally. All of that changed when I entered the blogging world.

I started my personal blog as an outlet. I felt a compelling need to share my writing, even if nobody read it. I was an avid reader of blogs, and for several years I had considered starting one of my own, and one day last June I decided to take the plunge.

Swimingly

Honestly, in the beginning I had no expectation of anyone reading my blog. For the first couple of weeks a few people read my blog. They were all people I knew, but I was excited to have someone read what I wrote. It just felt good to get my writing out into the open. Then, one day, I wrote a post, and a random stranger read it. To tell the truth, at first it freaked me out. I simply didn’t know what to do with the thought of someone outside of my friends and family actually reading what I had to say. I realized, however, that I read the blogs of people I don’t know all the time. The fact that I don’t know them doesn’t stop me from loving their writing. Why wouldn’t my readers feel the same about my blog?

Having strangers read my blog has made me think about my readers more. It is helpful to consider how people will interpret what I write. I want my writing to point to the glory of God.

Jesus You Are Good

This week in my writing class we participated in an interesting exercise where we described our ideal reader. Here’s what I came up with:

“I want to write for someone who is on the edge between living life with abandon or settling for mediocrity. I want to write for someone who is trying to decide if a life of adventure and pursuing their dreams is worth it. I want to write for someone who is trying to choose between a safe and easy life, or a difficult one lived for the glory of God. I want my words to be a catalyst, and give someone hope and encouragement, while simultaneously challenging them. I want someone to be inspired by my writing.”

I’m sure I’ll be doing lots more learning about what it means to have readers, but for right now I simply want to say thank you! Thank you readers, whether I know you personally or not, for supporting me in this endeavor! Thank you for sticking with me when my writing is messy and underdeveloped and thank you for giving me the space I need to pursue this dream!

Thankful and Blessed

In Need Of Encouragement

Stories are powerful. They linger, they challenge, but above all else, they encourage.

It’s no secret that the past two weeks have been brutal. For whatever reason my transition back to school after Christmas break has felt so much harder than my initial transition to school in the fall. It doesn’t make any sense, but some combination of factors has left me in a very rough spot.

Last night, however, I felt like my soul could breathe. God has blessed me with an amazing small group connected to my church, and this group has welcomed me with open arms. In the few months I’ve known them, they’ve become family. For our gathering last night we made breakfast for dinner and talked about life. Somehow Mandee, Maddy, and I started telling each other stories of difficult times in our lives when God has come through in amazing ways. Their stories were exactly the encouragement I needed.

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Shauna Niequist has a quote that addresses the power of stories perfectly. She says, “When we, any of us who have been transformed by Christ, tell our own stories, we’re telling the story of who God is.”

One of my biggest struggles is having faith that God has a plan that is better than mine. Wholeheartedly trusting him is a battle I fight every single day, but when I hear people’s stories it helps me surrender control of my life to him. A story is typically told from beginning to end, and when I can see how someone’s difficult situation worked out far better than any solution they could’ve orchestrated, it reminds me that God will do the same in my life. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28) is a verse that is frequently quoted. While that verse does carry power by itself, it takes on new meaning when I can see it play out through people’s stories. So today I would encourage you to share your stories. You never know when they will be exactly what someone needs to hear.

Even The Homosexuals?

Sometimes I think the best thing that could happen to someone who struggles with loving homosexuals is for their best friend to come out of the closet, for their best friend to turn to this person they know and love and say, “You know what, I’m gay.” That’s what happened to me, and it changed my perspective forever.

Let me stop right here and say up front that this post has nothing to do with politics. I know homosexuality is a hot button issue, but I’m not addressing the political side of this. I’m addressing the human side that we often seem to miss. Our political views mean nothing if we don’t realize that homosexuals are just as human as you or I, and just as in need of love.

Five years ago, I met a boy in jazz band. For a whole year we were really great friends, and then, one day I thought, “I don’t know where these feelings came from, but I like this kid.”  The next two and a half years were a roller coaster ride with many twists, and turns, and strong emotions. At the end of those two and a half years God told me, “Kelly, let go, it’s time to move on.” So I did, although not without a fight. At that point our friendship was very tense and awkward. Senior year, however, God worked a miracle and redeemed our friendship! We graduated together as very good friends… and then the shoe dropped. The summer after our senior year, my friend told me he was gay.

My initial response was confusion. This guy I had known and loved for five years had a whole dimension to him that I knew nothing about? I wrestled hard. I prayed, and read articles, and talked to person after person about their views on homosexuality. While I did come to some conclusions, I am still not firm on what I believe, and that is ok because no matter how confused I feel, I have discovered a very important truth. At the end of the day, my friend is still the man I know and love. His sexual orientation is simply one part of him, and nothing more.

So often, we as humans are tempted to judge people by the first thing we notice about them. Unfortunately for homosexuals, the first thing noticed is often their sexual orientation. Unfortunately for us, we struggle to look beyond their sexual orientation, and miss out on  valuable friendships. I was so blessed to be able to get to know my friend for the amazing person he is before I knew about the thing that someone new would notice immediately. My love for my friend has helped me realize that I am far too quick to judge. How many incredible people are hidden behind a controversial part of who they are?

More than political reform or political restrictions, strong arguments for or against the issue, or anything related to politics or theology, homosexuals need to be loved just as much as orphans, and lawyers, and Guatemalans, and 4th graders, and every single person who walks this earth. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do!

Heart Balloons

Haven

We all have those people in our lives who inspire us. One such person for me is my friend Haven. Haven and I were in band together in high school, and that’s where our friendship began. You, as my reader, are probably wondering why I would write an entire blog post about a girl most of you will never meet. Today, I am writing about Haven because I believe there is good in our world that needs to be highlighted. We need to tell stories of people who are living inspiring lives. Our culture loves to criticize people for what they’re doing wrong, so I am going to do the opposite. So without further ado, let me show you why Haven inspires me.

Haven is a fighter. Satan is always trying to harm people. He doesn’t want us to succeed. Every time he tries to knock Haven down, however, she comes up swinging. Just last night, someone broke into her car and stole her stuff, but I can tell you for a fact that while this will be a setback, she won’t let it stop her.

Brave

Haven is courageous. This year she is attending a culinary school hundreds of miles from home. She could’ve chosen to go to a local community college. That would’ve been the safe, easy option, but Haven knew what she wanted. Instead of staying in her comfort zone, she packed up her car and moved far away so she could pursue her passion.

Haven is passionate. She loves to cook. She has found something that makes her come alive, and she is pursuing it. She is throwing herself into her studies, and pushing herself to make her dream a reality.

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Haven is determined. Moving away from home was not easy for her, but she knows it will be worth it. Even on the days when she wants nothing more than to give up and go home, she grits her teeth and pushes through.

So Haven, when you read this, I want you to know you inspire me! I greatly admire your perseverance and spunk! I love you, and I truly believe that you can accomplish ANYTHING you put your mind to!

2014

New Year

Passing from one year to the next always feels significant. I don’t have any “New Years Routines,” but I usually find myself taking some time to reflect. My refections on the year that has passed, and the year that is to come have led me to discover two themes that will give me direction in 2014.

Theme One: Have mustard seed faith.

Mustard Tree

My first theme comes from something God spoke over me the night before my 19th birthday back in November. I was reading Matthew 13, and although I’ve read that passage many times, the parable of the mustard seed took hold me in a new way. V. 31-32 says, “He told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” As I thought about that imagery, God whispered to me, “19 will be the year of mustard seed faith.”

Theme Two: Pursue fulfillment that isn’t contingent on my relationship status.

His Plan Not Mine

My second theme comes from a quote by Carl Wilson that I read on my favorite blog. (http://thelipstickgospel.com) To share this theme is not entirely comfortable for me, but I know the writing that impacts me most comes from the heart, and is vulnerable and honest, so here we go. As a 19 year old college student, the opposite gender is often on my mind. In the past few months I have had many friends both begin new relationships and get engaged. I know I am still very young, and not yet ready for marriage, but I often become disheartened, wondering if it will ever be my turn to begin my journey towards marriage. My flaw lies in my perception of the beginning of that journey. In truth, that journey has already begun. I cannot know another until I know myself. I’m building my character, discovering my interests, and pursuing my passions. As much as I dream of getting married, there is so much more to my life than my relationship status. In 2014 I may enter a romantic relationship… or I may not. “The future is an undiscovered country,” (Shakespeare) which is why I’m choosing to find fulfillment in other things.

A few blog posts ago, I mentioned an upcoming trip I will be taking to Romania and Moldova. This trip is such a beautiful culmination of my two themes for this year.

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First, going to Romania and Moldova is a leap of faith. It will be my first time out of the country without another member of my family, I will have limited contact with the people I love, and I will be farther away from home than anyone in my family has ever traveled. To top it off, I have to raise $3600 in order to take this trip, and yet, I am so excited! I know this is part of God’s plan for my growth. It’s an incredible opportunity to increase my faith in his protection and provision.

Secondly, going to Romania is “fulfillment that isn’t contingent on my relationship status.” The two largest passions in my heart are getting married and raising a family, and traveling the world. Three and a half years ago I went on a mission trip to Honduras. While I was in Honduras, God awakened a passion in me for travel and culture. Although I do enjoy seeing new places when I travel, it’s the people I meet that truly captivate me. I love stepping into their worlds and hearing their stories.

The Miles Between Don't Matter

Sometimes my passion for travel and my passion for a marriage and family feel at odds with each other. While I know God will somehow work them out together, right now he’s allowing me to wholeheartedly pursue my passion for travel. What a blessing! So I’m running into 2014 with confidence, strengthening my faith and pursuing my passions!