Why I Pray

When I pray for you it’s like breathing –
equal parts commonplace and extraordinary in its rhythm and repetitive motion.

Each morning I climb the stairs,
check the first of many trash cans,
and begin to pray as I move counterclockwise around the perimeter of the library.

Some days I am eager to pray,
overflowing with hope in the promises of God,
but most days I feel frustrated and weary of
praying and praying and praying
without seeing growth or change.

And yet,
a little voice inside says,
“Kelly, God hears you,”
and so, I pray.

While walking the length of the library I look out on the quiet quad,
taking in the steadfast clock tower,
the blooming hanging baskets,
and the construction projects strewn across campus in various stages of completion.

I pray for your work,
your family,
your mind,
and most of all, our friendship.

Rounding the southwest corner of the building, I often begin to sing,
sometimes as a force of habit,
and sometimes because I feel as though my own words are failing me
leaving me no option but to lean on those that others have penned.

When I head to the other side of the library
my prayers often deepen in intensity
as I pray away the demons that threaten to devour
all who choose to walk in their identity as children of God.

I finish my circuit
and sometimes I feel relief that this particular morning ritual is finished,
but more often I feel a sense of longing for even just one more minute
in the presence of a God who already knows,
but still listens
who doesn’t need me,
but still chooses to use me in continuing the work of His Kingdom
as I pray for you.

So friend,
I want you to know that while my words may be raw,
and my feelings fickle
I am praying for you
because I trust that the growth that happens beneath the dirt
is every bit as important as the blossoming of the flower.

In the Middle

Today I’m going to go out on a limb and say something that often gets left unsaid.

Life sucks sometimes.

And I’m not saying that to be pessimistic or garner your pity. No, I’m saying that because I’m in a hard season of life right now, and I’m done pretending to be ok because I know that some of you reading this are also in a hard season of life, and you probably need someone to gently remind you that it’s ok to not be ok.

Have you ever noticed that people are reluctant to share a story unless they know how it ends? They say “I dealt with depression for four months, but I went to counseling and I’m better now,” or “we knew that God was calling us to move to a different state, and we didn’t yet have a house or know a soul, but now that we’re settled in, we can totally see God’s provision in this move.”

Don’t get me wrong, stories like these are incredible testaments of God’s faithfulness and absolutely should be shared! But what about the stories that don’t yet have neat or tidy endings? And what about the ones that may never have a resolution on this side of heaven?

The danger in only telling our glossy, polished stories is that when our story isn’t pretty, we feel like we’re the only ones not living in a fairytale.

When I only hear the completed stories, my sense of aloneness even extends to what I read in the Bible. I begin to see David, and Paul, and Noah’s stories as flawless, forgetting that they lived messy, imperfect lives. I forget that Abraham, a man known for his faith, doubted God’s promise of children, and even slept with his wife’s servant to produce an heir and regain control of his story.

Here’s what I like to imagine. Abraham has been given a promise from God that he will have descendants too numerous to count, but as the days of waiting for the fulfillment of this promise turn into weeks, months, years, Abraham has mornings when he wakes up and says, “No, God, I can’t. What’s the point in believing in your promises when my daily reality doesn’t match what you’ve told me? Can I just be a bear today and hibernate until this is all over?”

Ok, maybe the bear part is more how I think than how Abraham would’ve thought, but I’m sure Abraham had days of doubt, confusion, frustration, even despair.

And that’s ok.

God does not call us to pursue perfection. He knows we can never be perfect, because if we were, we’d be God. But while God does not call us to be perfect, He calls us to be brave.

So here’s my challenge to you today – step out in courage and share your unfinished story with a trusted friend.

It takes bravery to look at your life and admit that “what now?” lies much closer to the surface than “happily ever after.” But who knows – maybe your brave act of vulnerability will grant someone else the permission they need to be raw and honest about the unresolved stories in their life.

And maybe, just maybe, by sharing from the middle of the story instead of only from the end, you’ll find some freedom to live your life as it is, instead of how you think it should be.

 

I Want My Life to Matter

(Written on June 21st.)

One year ago today I rode an elephant.

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We awoke at dawn, sleepily dressing in big headbands or hats to keep the spiders out of our hair, and donning our comfiest pants to avoid unnecessary chafing. After a quick ride in the van with our quirky driver, Krishna, we used wooden platforms to climb onto the backs of elephants, four girls per animal. A Nepali man guided our elephant for an hour and a half through the jungle, pointing out deer, boars, storks, peacocks, monkeys, mongooses, rhinos and even a tiger footprint! It was a magical and utterly unforgettable morning.

Fast forward one year.

I yet again awoke at dawn, routinely dressing in an old t-shirt and my zip-off pants. After a ten minute walk to the heart of campus with my housemate Kaylee, I spent eight hours vacuuming hallways, scrubbing toilets, and wiping out drawers. Our custodial team was lively per usual, joking and singing, but you could tell that, just beneath the surface, many of us were either stressed by life’s conundrums, or nauseous from the smell of the new carpets in the otherwise decrepit dorm. It was just another day in the life of a summer custodial worker.

When you put June 21, 2015 side-by-side with June 21, 2016, the contrast is startling. And I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t wake up this morning and wish that the 5:00am alarm meant it was time to ride an elephant.

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I’d also be lying if I said there haven’t been days this summer when I have absolutely ached to go back to Nepal. As I watch six of my Nepal teammates travel internationally again this summer, the comparison bug bites hard.

However, in my moments of discontentment, God is always faithful to remind me what I most need to hear. A few days ago I was wrestling with not being back in Nepal, so I decided to look at my journal from last summer to see what I had been doing on this day one year ago. I flipped through the travel-worn pages to find the right entry, and when I did, this is what I read:

“Today was a hard day. I spent most of it in bed with a  fever. I’m fighting to give myself grace, still feeling some numbness, not wanting to eat ever, and am so overwhelmed.”

Hmm, on the day when I’m feeling most discontent, God chooses to remind me that Nepal was not all roses and sunshine or peaches and cream. I tend to romanticize travel, I know I do. But in recalling that day in Nepal when I was so dehydrated that I couldn’t even get out of bed, I also remembered a fundamental lesson that I far too often overlook.

In the words of Ben Rector “life is not the mountaintops – it’s the walking in between.”

Every life has big days – the day you graduate from college, get married, run your first marathon, have a baby, or move across the country. However, in between these big days are hundreds of seemingly insignificant little days. Days when the most exciting event is receiving a letter from a faraway friend; days when you wake up running, and don’t stop until you fall into bed; and days when life feels like an endless cycle of go to work, do the laundry, prep food, take a shower, repeat.

And yet, in the midst of the mundane, life is bursting with purpose and beauty, if only we have eyes to see it. Learning to cook alongside my roommates, having vulnerable conversations with my custodial teammates, singing as I clean, helping a new housemate feel welcome in our home, praying for my missionary friends – all of these things feel so small in the moment, and yet, when I step back and view them together, these are the patches of fabric that piece together to make the beautifully rich tapestry that is my life.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Shauna Niequist, an author who has taught me so much about celebration in the midst of the nitty-gritty of everyday life.

“This is it. This is life in all its glory, swirling and unfolding around us, disguised as pedantic, pedestrian non-events. But pull of the mask and you will find your life, waiting to be made, chosen, woven, crafted.

Your life, right now, today, is exploding with energy and power and detail and dimension, better than the best movie you have ever seen. You and your family and your friends and your house and your dinner table and your garage have all the makings of a life of epic proportions, a story for the ages. Because they all are. Every life is.

You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural.

You are more than dust and bones.
You are spirit and power and image of God.
And you have been given today.”