About Kelly

I am a recent college graduate, INFJ, lover of people, music connoisseur, creative cook, wordsmith, and world traveler, among many other things, but at the heart of it all, I'm a woman who is learning that the core of my identity is the beloved of God, and that is enough.

A Little Announcement

Hello Faithful Readers,
4 1/2 years ago I had just graduated from high school, and was in the beginning stages of discovering that I deeply enjoy writing, so I started this blog. Every month since then I have posted at least one blog post (although certain months I may have cheated a bit – March 2017, I’m looking at you) to provide consistency for both me as the writer and you as the reader. Although some months the writing process was more difficult and the writing product less polished than I desired, overall this blog has been a source of great joy, which is why I am sad to announce that due to security needs, I will be taking a three month break from blogging. As most of you know I’m heading overseas in February, and due to the nature of some of the work I will be engaging in, I need a bit more Internet anonymity than I currently have. However, unless unforeseen circumstances prevent me from doing so, I fully intend to return to blogging at least once a month come May. From next week through April when you visit my blog site you’ll see a notice that says it’s been made private, but once I return from my trip, I’ll make the site public again. Whether you have read one post or nearly all of them, I cannot thank you enough for being willing to read what I write! It’s both humbling and motivating, and I just want to say thank you! See you in May!
                                                               Kelly      

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My Word for 2018

About six weeks ago I suddenly became aware that, due to the rapid passage of time, 2018 was looming on the horizon. This realization kicked off my search for a word to focus on throughout 2018. The initial word that came to mind was fulfillment, and I immediately pushed back hard against it.

Over the past two years there are things God has prophetically spoken into my life – promises I believe He has made – that have yet to come to fruition. I have been intentionally vague on this blog about these promises, simply because I am not yet at liberty to share them. However, the words God has spoken over me have had a deeply shaping impact on my life. Waiting for them to come to pass has frustrated me to no end, and yet, the waiting has grown and grown and grown me at an accelerated pace. Like most difficult parts of my life, I wouldn’t want to live this waiting season over again (and no – it’s not over yet), but I also wouldn’t change this season for it has borne much fruit in my life.

Due to the waiting season I find myself in, I would love to choose fulfillment as my word of the year, however, I know that focusing on that word would set some lofty and detailed expectations (and goodness knows I struggle enough with those) as to how God I think God will work in my life in 2018.

This past week, due to a mix of opportunity and necessity, I finally got to sit down with God and process through this word I couldn’t shake. I dug into definitions, and the appearance of the word throughout Scripture because I knew something about the word was significant, and yet it still didn’t sit well with me.

Then, one night as I drifted off to sleep, I had a startlingly clear thought that my word for 2018 isn’t fulfillment, it’s fulfilled.

If fulfillment would set me up for failure, fulfilled is an opportunity, a challenge I can rise to. It’s the same word, but the changed ending makes all the difference! Isn’t that so often how language and life works? The slightest shift gives a different nuance of meaning that changes everything!

The definition of fulfilled I’m choosing to focus on this year is the word’s adjective form meaning satisfied. In this way my 2018 word is a cousin of 2017’s savor. This feels fitting because, unlike discipline (my 2016 word), I don’t feel that I’ve dug deeply enough into the concept behind savor – the practice of being present – to move on to something completely new.

Some people struggle with initiative and inertia, but in most areas of life, I am not one of those people. I’m a mover, a planner, a dreamer and doer! These aren’t bad things, but at one point last year I wrote in my journal, “God, I feel like all you say to me these days is ‘be still.'” Being present is one of the biggest areas of growth I hope to lean into in this new year.

In focusing on being fulfilled I’m choosing to, “Let the unseen days be. Today is more than enough.” (J.R.R. Tolkien)

One of the things I like most about the word fulfilled is that it’s not something to do, but rather something to be. It’s an attitude to chose, a state of being to enter into.

And the best part about this word is that it still leaves room for God to bring the promises to pass. The verb definition of fulfilled is to bring into actuality, to effect, to make real. Maybe 2018 will be a year I can look back on and say, “Wow! God fulfilled His promises this year!” But whether or not 2018 brings about the fulfillment I desire, I can still choose to be fulfilled, knowing that I can be satisfied for God alone is enough.

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Savor

In writing this blog post I am resisting the urge to jump ahead and tell you about the word I’ve chosen for 2018 (that blog post will be coming in early January). I think I would rather write that post than this one in part because I’m excited about it, but even more so because savor (my word for 2017) is proving to be rather difficult to write about. This is both because the impact savor had on my life was far less dramatic and measurable than the impact of discipline (my word for 2016), and because savoring, in many ways, proved to be harder to do than being disciplined. But, in spite of the subtlety of its influence on my life, savor taught me some important lessons in 2017 that I feel are worth sharing.

One of the most important lessons I learned from this year’s word is that in order to focus on savoring for an entire year, you can’t only choose to savor when you’re in a good moment or season.

It’s no secret that 2017 was a hard year for me. It was a year of uncertainty and upheaval, God telling me “no” and “not yet,” and more physical pain and time spent visiting doctors than throughout the rest of my life combined due to emerging gastrointestinal issues. When it’s day four in a row of going to work with a stomachache, the last thing you want to do is try to enjoy the day. Survive, sure, but definitely not savor. And I honestly can’t say that I always chose to savor. I didn’t even choose it most of the time. But on the days I did, wow – what a sweet and life-giving experience!

The truth I discovered this year is that savoring is often linked to gratitude. For every bad thing worth complaining about there was something equally good to be thankful for. Stomach pain that made it difficult for me to work allowed me to experience the empathy and generosity of my coworkers who took great care of me and completed the tasks I couldn’t. A less-than-ideal late night work schedule enabled me to see the stars on my drive home every single night this summer. God closing the door for me to go on the World Race has opened up the opportunity for me to return to Nepal. It’s truly about perspective!

I’ll end this reflection on my year of savoring with a Henri Nouwen quote a friend sent me at the beginning of the year.

“To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.”

IMG_6301My best savoring face from the year!

A Little Life Update

Hello Friends,

I know I’ve been pretty silent on the blog lately, and there are a lot of reasons for that – a full schedule, lots of travel, making big decisions that I couldn’t yet share, and wanting to savor this last chunk of time in Oregon before I head off on my next adventure! But now I’m finally ready to bring you all up to speed!

First, let’s look backwards!

October was a ridiculous month of travel! I did a 48 hour whirlwind trip to Texas for one of my all-time favorite weddings! The best part was that it served as a reunion for seven of my Nepal teammates!

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A week later I went to Florida for an orientation with a nonprofit (with whom I will be heading overseas in February!) It was a wonderful and challenging week where I met a lot of inspiring, like-minded people! Between the two trips, I spent twenty hours on an airplane! Fortunately, I always had a window seat, and enjoyed many spectacular views of this diverse nation I call home.

November has been a month of intense discernment in the midst of crazy hours at work. Thanksgiving at a grocery store is no joke, and much as I love the holiday and enjoyed spending it with two dear friends, a part of me is grateful to have it behind me.

Now for the announcement you’ve all been waiting for since I told you I was heading back overseas! After much prayer and discussion with my community, I have decided to return to Nepal! And yes, I do know that Nepal is not in the Middle East! As I’ve said before on this blog, I am difficult to surprise, but God gets me every time! Here’s an abbreviated version of how this all came to be:

While I was in Florida various people asked me why I wanted to go to the Middle East if I felt a long-term calling to Nepal. Their questions weren’t accusatory, just curious, and I kept running up against the fact that while I had some sort of response to that question, I wasn’t sure if I was satisfied with my answer. During this time I also came to realize that I wasn’t sure if going to the Middle East at this stage of life is something I’m ready for. I think I could survive, but I’m not sure I would thrive. So I came home from the week in Florida thinking I was going to end up in Europe working with Middle Eastern immigrants.

Shortly after returning from Florida I received an email about an opportunity to return to Nepal in partnership with the organization I’ve committed to going overseas with and with an organization I worked with the last time I was in Nepal. The timing and wording of the email was such that I knew I couldn’t ignore it. The very next day I received an email from the woman I will be working with in Nepal saying she would like to Skype with me. This launched me into a few weeks of intense discernment, throughout which God slowly and faithfully revealed to me more and more and more reasons why heading back to Nepal is both what God has for me, and what I desire for this upcoming season.

I feel incredibly at peace about heading back to Nepal. My heart is and always has been there, and a part of me can’t even believe I get to go back so soon! I also feel peace about God leading me towards the Middle East for the past few months even though I’m not ultimately going there because that process led me to the organization I’ll be heading to Nepal with, and I’m 100% confident that for this trip I’m meant to head overseas with them. If I knew I was going to be heading back to Nepal, I would’ve gone with organizations I already knew, and wouldn’t have found this incredible opportunity that feels so well-tailored to me! Last time I was in Nepal God really stirred my heart to come back and do trafficking prevention work out in a village, and that’s exactly what I’ll get to do! The best way to describe my heart for the work I’ll be doing is this spoken word piece I wrote two years ago: Three Little Girls.

In that vein, I will also be participating in Dressember again this year! For a summary of what Dressember is, here’s a link to their page: Why A Dress? And for a post on why I do Dressember, you can check out this one from the first year I participated: Dressember 2015. I love that by wearing a dress every day of December, I will have an opportunity to embrace my femininity and reclaim the dignity and power of being a woman in a world that says otherwise! If any of you would like to join me, I’m always looking for friends to come alongside me in the challenge of doing anything and everything in a dress!

I have three more housekeeping bits to tell you before I’m done with this update. (The title “A Little Life Update” may have been slightly misleading…)

One: In three short weeks I will be moving back to Washington to live with my family for the six-ish weeks before I go to Nepal. To my Washington friends – I’m excited to be back in the same place as you for a while, and am looking forward to getting together! To my Oregon friends – if you want to see me before I leave it will need to be soon, but I’m almost positive that I’m not leaving Oregon forever!

Two: Now that I have figured out some details surrounding my upcoming trip I have launched back into fundraising! If any of you are interested in partnering with me financially to enable me to go back to Nepal, please let me know! Due to security concerns, I can’t post a link to my fundraising page, but I can send it to you individually.

Three: Sadly, due to security concerns, I will not be blogging while in Nepal. I will also be making this blog private for the duration of my trip. With that being said, I have no intention of discontinuing this blog permanently, so come May I’ll be writing a bare minimum of once a month, just as I’ve done these past four and a half years. I will also be sending out regular email updates from Nepal (that will be similar to my blog posts) so if you’re interested in receiving those, please send me your email address!

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your support of my journey to this place!

Nepal, here I come!

#MeToo

The past few days I’ve been watching the #MeToo hashtag and subsequent discussion unfold on social media, but I’ve been hesitant to join in, mainly because my experiences dramatically pale in comparison to what so many women have faced. However, I have several thoughts on this topic that keep cycling around in my brain, and I’d like to share them, so here we go.

Me too.

My story isn’t one of assault, or even especially severe harassment, but one of microaggressions and limitations being put on where I can go and what I can do. My worst experience was being followed most of the way home while walking with a teammate after dark in Nepal. But I’ve had many other less dramatic instances of feeling unsettled, uneasy, unsafe. Whether those feelings were warranted or not, they spring from a constant what-if in my mind, a what-if that causes me to park close to the building when I work a closing shift at the grocery store, not run alone unless I’m in a familiar place with plenty of people around, and dutifully carry my pepper spray, just in case.

In college I strongly disliked night classes, in part because I’m a morning girl through and through, but in equal measure because a ten minute walk home becomes an eternity when you’re a female walking alone after dark. My college campus was relatively safe, but the horrors of what could possibly happen to me were always terrifying enough to make me jumpy.

One time, a female professor of mine used walking home in the dark after class as an example in a conversation with a male colleague to help him understand what women face on a regular basis. She told him to watch how his female students behaved at the end of a night class. When he did, he observed that the men packed up and left, just like they would for any other class. The women, however, took extra care in packing up, making sure they’d be prepared to run or even fight if the need arose. They then left the classroom in clusters, having carefully mapped out who was going where so they wouldn’t have to walk to parking lots and dorm rooms by themselves. As a female, scenarios like this are such a common experience that I occasionally forget that this shouldn’t have to be normal.

But then I think of all the girls in other countries who don’t even go to school for fear of sexual harassment or assault. The truly disheartening reality is that sometimes the long-term risk of them not receiving an education is even greater than the short-term risk of harassment or assault as they walk to school. And when I think of scenarios like this I snap out of my, “this is just how it is” mindset, and burn with anger for my sisters who face extreme oppression simply for being a girl.

This isn’t about guilting or shaming – not all men are monsters by any means, and calling them such diminishes their humanity – but it is about changing the narrative women have to tell. #MeToo is highlighting the real and broken world that exists here and now, in hopes that we can somehow reach for the kinder, richer, freer world that could be.

One more thing – to all the men who are showing up to this conversation, thank you. I know, both from my conversations with you and from my experiences as a member of the majority group in this nation’s conversation on race, that it can be very confusing to find where you, as a member of the power-holding group, fit in this conversation, Most of the time your role will be to show up and listen. However, there will be situations where your unique voice has power, not the corrupting, greedy kind of power, but the type of power that is a force to be reckoned with where goodness and change are concerned.

Despite all the flaws in the #MeToo conversation, I am very encouraged by the discussion that has been opened by this hashtag. I know that we cannot completely solve the problem of women being oppressed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take important steps towards encouraging their holistic well-being. So, I move forward in hope that this little blip on the radar of our advancement towards the flourishing of all human beings can be taken as a victory.

Why Would You Go to the Middle East?

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A few weeks ago I announced on social media that if all the necessary pieces fall into place, I will be embarking on a 3-4 month adventure to the Middle East beginning in January. When I first made that announcement, I was still in the process of making sense of how I had come to that decision, but I’ve finally come to a place where my thoughts are collected enough to share with you why the Middle East is where I’ve chosen to go.

As many of you know, I graduated from college in April, and have been working in the deli of a local grocery store and living with five other women from my university since then. It’s been a wonderful place to be – just what I needed in the aftermath of school. However, before it even began, I knew this season would be relatively short because my lease is up at the end of December. As such, in mid-July I began to explore options for going overseas in January.

As I began to research potential travel opportunities, I kept picturing myself in the Middle East. In some ways this caught me off guard, but in other ways it made sense with some of the passions and desires God’s been cultivating in me, without me even fully being aware of them, for the past year and a half.

I decided to dig deeper into this image by asking God where it came from. God responded by asking, “Kelly, why would you want to go there?” I began to list motives, some frivolous and others with surprising depth, but at the heart of it all, this is the conclusion I came to:

I want to be able to picture it. I want to be able to come home from this trip and pray for names and faces instead of this nebulous mass of refugees and war-torn towns, deserts, and religious extremism. Because beyond the violence and conflict there are people there, living out their daily lives just like you and me. I want to care better. When my grandkids ask me what I did, I want to say, “I went,” not for my own glory, but because I responded in obedience to the call to care. 

To which God responded with, “It will break you.”

But immediately my spirit responded with, “But I serve a healing God, A healing God who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Am I willing to sacrifice my wholeness, trusting that God will put me back together?”

Lately I’ve been exploring this question: If Jesus were currently walking the earth, where would he go? I honestly believe it’s a question we should ask in each area of our lives – in my neighborhood who would Jesus visit, at my workplace who would Jesus talk to, etc. And when I ask the question on a more global scale, I am becoming increasingly convinced that the answer to this question is places like Mosul. Now, just to be clear, I’m not (to my knowledge) going to Mosul. Northern Iraq, maybe, (I’ll know for sure at the end of October) but as I’m feeling drawn overseas again, this question of where Jesus would go has been a driving force in my decision-making process.

As I’ve begun to share about my desire to go to the Middle East, many people have brought up the issue of safety. I understand that I may be a bit naïve to some of the dangers I could face, but I want to make it clear that I do not take my life lightly, and will take every possible precaution to remain safe. I fully intend to come home in one piece, but, the risk of that not happening is not great enough to keep me from going. I can’t allow fear and what ifs to keep me from following what my internal still small voice (with the impressive track record) is highlighting as the next step. (You can read more about my previous wrestling with the issue of safety overseas here: To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain).

This summer Nichole Nordeman came out with a song called Dear Me that has served as a source of inspiration on this journey to the Middle East. The song is a beautiful mix of her saying, “You are so very loved, to the depths of your being, and nothing you can do or say will change that,” and, “Out of that identity of beloved there is so much good you can do so go and be love to your fellow humanity” (the Kelly paraphrase). There’s a line in the song that says, “Hold all the mothers/whose babies bleed from bullet holes,” and every time I hear that it moves me to tears. Because how many mothers in the Middle East are cradling bleeding babies as we speak?

I know I can’t solve the conflicts in the Middle East. I don’t begin to pretend that I hold the solution to the problems they face. If I’m being completely honest, there is very little I can do. But, I have been given a love to share, a love that I have personally experienced and been changed by, a love that I’ve seen heal and redeem and restore in ways that appeared utterly impossible until it was done. How can I keep that life-altering, identity-breathing, breathtakingly beautiful love to myself?

Am I scared? Absolutely! But, the love of God compels me to go.

And so I go, face first into the risk and unknown, but with the confidence that it’s where I’m being led, and the knowledge that no matter what happens to me, I am loved and that is enough.

Vocational Confusion

A year ago I was starting my final year of undergrad, and this is what I wish someone would have told me:

  1. The first year of life post-grad will be really hard, but for different reasons than you expect it to be.
  2. You’ll spend the first four months (and quite probably the remaining eight months of the year) wrestling with: your place in society, your purpose in God’s kingdom, and your ability to function as an independent adult.
  3. God will continually surprise you by being more faithful, creative, and generous than you ever could have anticipated.

When I graduated, I knew that it wouldn’t truly feel real until the rest of the world went back to school. On Monday of this week my university started classes again, and I was surprised at how deeply I miss the routine of beginning another school year. I’ve always loved school, and since this fall is the first time since I was four years old that I am not enrolled in any formal education, I feel a bit lost.

Some of the lostness I’m feeling comes from wrestling with my vocation. The way I miss school makes me wonder if I should have gone the teaching route? Up until two years ago that’s where I was headed, and as I watch a surprisingly large number of friends begin student teaching or prep their first classroom for the year I think, “Wow, that looks fun and life-giving.” But deep down I know myself better than that. I know that if I were pursuing a teaching career, a small part of me would be enjoying it, but a larger part of me would be very anxious and wondering if maybe I should have chosen a different career. I’m also fairly confident that I would get five years into teaching and be ready to move on to something else. So, appealing as it appears from where I currently sit, I don’t think teaching is the answer to my confusion.

The truth is that I have chosen the less straightforward (but neither better nor worse) path. When people ask about my career, I can talk their ear off about Kurdistan, the 10/40 Window, and Nepal; Muslims, refugees, and young women; writing, mentoring, and storytelling, but I can’t give a simple answer as to what I want to do. I know that I want to be an overseas missionary, and I have a million ideas of what that could look like, but is that a vocation, especially if it only ends up spanning one season of my life?

When I catch myself thinking thoughts like these, I’m trying to learn how to pause and remember the qualities I attributed to God above: faithful, creative, generous. Of this I am confident: God has good work for me to do in this world (Ephesians 2:10).

In his book entitled Let Your Life Speak Parker J. Palmer says, “As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots.”

How often am I the person not trying to discern my selfhood because I’m too busy trying to fit myself into a slot?

Maybe I won’t live a conventional life, work in a neatly-defined job, or spend my time doing activities that are easy to explain to others. I’m sure if that ends up being my reality, I’ll chafe against it quite a bit. However, this summer God has been teaching me about the sweet freedom that comes with surrendering what I think should be happening in favor of being present to whatever is actually in front of me. Because what’s in front of me is all part of the larger-than-me story God is lovingly crafting, and at the end of the day, living my life in a way that is true to who I am is worth every complex answer I must give to the question, “So what is it you want to do with your life?”