What a Beautiful Mess

Stumbling, tumbling, up and down, round and round. Life feels exciting and significant, yet challenging and overwhelming. Our lives are full of crushing lows and soaring heights, and the past week has felt like an accelerated roller coaster of emotions. Friends with cancer and difficult pregnancies. Friends traveling the world and getting married. Struggling to understand the whys of foster care and adoption. Holding beautiful miracle babies, laughing at sassy toddlers, and watching kids grow up seemingly overnight. Missing my wonderful community at school. Camping and reconnecting with my church community at home. Hearing about wildfires, and plane crashes, and praying desperately for the restoration of this broken world. Looking at stars so gorgeous they take your breath away. Going to work instead of spending time with the people I love. Rocking out to 80s music with my brother in the kitchen. Having hard conversations with someone I care about deeply. Letting old worship songs wash over my weary soul. Worrying about the future. The still, small voice of God saying “Trust me.” What a beautiful mess! Hard as it is to feel the whole spectrum of emotions, I always try to remember that the juxtaposition of the good and the bad is important because

Stars in the Darkness

Let’s lean into whatever comes our way this day, knowing that no matter how hard life is right now, someday all things will be made right.

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The World Is New

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I feel like I’m heading into a new season of life. A new job, an upcoming new school year, and coming home from both college and Eastern Europe with fresh eyes has left me feeling like the world is new. It’s very exciting, and a little terrifying, but I have an overwhelming feeling of, “This is good!”

But while this new season is good, it has given my brain a multitude of thoughts to ponder, and my heart an abundance of emotions to feel. A few nights ago, I was feeling overwhelmed, so I flipped my Bible open to Proverbs 3:5-6, and the words provided exactly the encouragement, challenge, and inspiration my soul needed.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart”

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For five years now THE lesson I’ve been learning has been how to trust God. For me, it’s that one lesson I just keep learning over and over and over again. More often than not, when I pray the answer I receive is, “Trust me!” Lately, the answer has become a bit more nuanced, because God has been responding to my prayers by asking me, “Do you trust that I have a good plan for you?” but the lesson is the same. The hard thing is that God asks me to trust him with my whole heart. The heart is incredibly complex. Sometimes my heart feels open and tender, but other times it feels closed and hard. Sometimes it is broken, but other times it is overflowing with love. The heart can feel many things at once, and right now my heart feels excited yet confused, anticipatory yet uncertain, intrigued yet timid, optimistic yet vulnerable. But God is asking that I trust him with my whole heart, swirling emotions and all. So trust him I will!

“and lean not on your own understanding;”

Let Faith Be Your Guide

At face value, I want to take this line to mean don’t trust in your own understanding because it is flawed, but that is a very discouraging interpretation. If my understanding of a situation is completely wrong, how am I supposed to make an informed decision, how am I supposed to feel peace, how am I supposed to proceed? When I question my understanding, my confusion multiplies, and my anxiety shoots through the roof. After looking past the surface of this verse, however, I don’t think that the ultimate reason to not trust my own understanding is because my understanding is incorrect. Instead, my understanding is incomplete. There are certain things in life that I know to be right and true, but in every situation I encounter there will be unknowns. I can only see the present, not the future, and I can only know what I’m feeling because I can’t know what’s going on in anyone’s heart but my own (and sometimes I don’t even know that.) God is the only one with complete understanding, and fortunately for us, he uses that complete understanding to make all things work for our good. So I will lean on his perfect understanding!

“in all your ways acknowledge him,”

How He Loves

This portion seems pretty straightforward to me, but that doesn’t make it easy to do. To acknowledge him in all my ways is to submit everything I do to him. When I’m acknowledging God in all I do, it becomes difficult to knowingly do something he wouldn’t approve of. This creates fantastic accountability, and a high standard to live up to, but the fact remains that I am a human who willfully sins more often than I would like to admit. Making mistakes is a regular part of my life. However, this verse does not say “in all your ways (except when you mess up) acknowledge him.” That’s how we want to interpret this verse, but it’s simply not what it says. So in all my ways, good, bad, and ugly, I will acknowledge him.

“and he will make your paths straight.”

God Will Direct Your StepsI don’t know about you, but in this context I usually associate the word straight with the word easy. I really want to read this as, “and he will make your paths easy.” But in my heart of hearts I know that that is simply not true. God never promises easy. Your path could be straighter than a yardstick, but steeper than a ladder. And no matter how straight your path is, if it is so dark that you can’t see more than two feet in front of your face, it will be anything but easy. Some other translations say, “and he will direct your paths.” I think that is a much healthier understanding of this verse. If you trust God with your whole heart, lean on his understanding, and acknowledge him in all your ways, he will direct your paths. For me, this promise of divine direction is enough to do all I can to trust him! So here’s to a new season of beautiful unknowns and wholehearted trust!

Mulțumesc!

This is the thank you letter I wrote for my trip to Romania and Moldova. I figured you (my readers) would appreciate reading it as well. 🙂

My Dear Family,

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me on my trip to Romania and Moldova! Without your prayers, encouragement, and financial contributions, this amazing experience would have never been possible.

I know beyond a shadow of doubt that this trip was exactly what God wanted for me at this point in my life. It changed me. I feel like I grew up during my three weeks abroad. I went into the trip anticipating transformation, but I did not expect this experience to be so far-reaching and all encompassing. It touched completely unexpected areas of my life.

Although I have been home for a month, I am still struggling to put words to what I experienced and learned. That being said, I want to try to give you a snapshot of what’s on my heart.

As most of you know I am in the process of seriously exploring living abroad as a missionary. My two goals going into this trip were to delve into Eastern Europe, and to delve into life as a missionary in a foreign country. I feel like I accomplished both goals, and then some! We stayed with Word Made Flesh staff members, and living with them gave me the opportunity to fulfill these goals. I was able to fully immerse in their culture, and pick their brains about missionary life. My conversations with them were rich, and my interactions with them deeply inspired me. Their courage, joy, hospitality, openness, and dedication challenged me. They showed me what life among the vulnerable, in all its grit and beauty, looks like, and I came away from my time with them feeling that, while a life abroad will be difficult, I truly want to pursue living in a foreign county.

Although this trip did confirm that I want to go abroad someday, I have no idea where I want to live… and that’s completely ok! For the first part of the trip I was constantly analyzing if I could see myself living in Eastern Europe, or working with Word Made Flesh, and it was exhausting. One morning during chapel with the staff, however, God directly challenged the way I was thinking. During this particular chapel we read Matthew 9:9-13 where Jesus calls his disciples to follow him. Those two words, “Follow me,” have been ringing in my ears ever since. The reality of living for God is that I don’t need to know when or where or how I’ll go. I simply need to be close enough to God to hear His voice when He says, “Go!” Once I had this realization, I felt released to enjoy what was in front of me without having to worry about the future. Trusting God with everything is a lesson I have been intensely learning for five years, and this trip helped me continue to release my preconceived notions of my future to the one who has good plans for His children.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was our nightly debrief meetings. Every evening, David (our amazing trip coordinator, mentor, and friend who serves as the regional coordinator for Word Made Flesh in that portion of the world) would meet with Sierra, Grace, Kira, and I to discuss what we had experienced that day. We would say our consolation (high point) and desolation (low point) and then we would discuss hard things we had encountered and ask questions that had come up throughout the day. Our discussions ranged from defining what poverty is and naming what causes it, to wrestling with how to be ethical consumers and live simply, to exploring who constitutes the unseen and vulnerable in our communities back at home. During our meetings we also did a study on God’s heart for the poor by looking at the poor in scripture, and each of us shared our life stories.

I want to end this letter with a quote I recently came across that really resonates with me. “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” – Terry Prachett. For me, coming back has been incredibly hard, but in going to Romania and Moldova, I grew into more of the person that God created me to be, and I would not trade my growth for the world! Thank you so much for your grace and support as I implement all I have learned, and dig into where God has planted me for this season. I love you all dearly!

Many Thanks,

Kelly