A Life Update

Hello Friends!

I greet you from the beautiful, snowy land of Eastern Washington. I am home on Christmas break, and am basking in this chance to breathe, and rest, and be.

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After four months of hearing from me on a weekly basis you’re probably wondering where I’ve disappeared to. The truth is that last semester I had a standing assignment for my Magazine and Feature Writing class to blog once a week, which cleared glorious space in my schedule to write much more frequently. However, much as I would love to see the weekly blogging continue, in this college season of twelve-page research papers I just don’t see it happening. However, I do promise to continue posting at least once a month, and I have an exciting announcement that will hopefully help me blog even more frequently than that.

You see, while I was in Nepal, God spoke very clearly to me about the direction my life is heading. You already know that He has confirmed my calling to Nepal, but what you don’t know is that I went into Nepal wanting to be a teacher, and came out wanting to be a writer. How that directional switch happened is a very neat, yet very long story of God slowly and faithfully speaking new dreams into being in my heart. It’s a story I hope to eventually write down for all of you to read, but I want to do it justice, and I sense that now is not the time for that story. Suffice to say, my new post-college dream is to write for nonprofits. What I will write remains to be seen, but at the heart of my passion is storytelling and giving a voice to the voiceless.

The best part of this new direction is God’s faithfulness in already beginning to bring it to fruition. At the end of my six weeks in Nepal I discovered that one of the nonprofits we worked with was preparing to launch a blog, and needed several writers who could commit to contributing to the blog on a monthly basis. I volunteered to write for them, and was met with overwhelming enthusiasm. And now, five months later, the blog has finally launched!

So without further ado, here is my first blog post as an official Tiny Hands blogger!

Cultivating Creativity

I deeply believe that each and every human being possesses creative potential. This creativity may be buried deep inside of us, but I guarantee it’s there because, in the image of the Creator, we create. And yet, while creativity is an innate human characteristic, it needs to be nourished. Just as discernment must be developed, creativity must be cultivated.

In our American education system, that’s exactly what we do. Think back to your kindergarten days. How many times were you asked to draw, or play with blocks, or use your imagination? If your experience was anything like mine, the answer is nearly every day. That’s creativity being cultivated.

Now imagine an education system where rote memorization is the norm. A system in which a fourth grader can tell you more about the human skeletal system than you’ve learned in your entire fifteen years of school, but will grow up not being taught how to creatively solve problems. The repercussions of this education style are enormous, and unfortunately, this is how the school system works in Nepal.

You can read the rest at http://www.tinyhandsblog.com/?p=126.

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The Next Step in My Journey

For the past four years I’ve had a dream. It’s one of those dreams that feels so wild and unimaginable that I tuck it in my back pocket and only take it out on days when I’m feeling especially hopeful, or willing to believe that God has a good plan for my life. This far-fetched dream is to teach history to Nepali high school students in Nepal. I know this dream is very specific, and I know that as I continue to learn and grow, this dream will continue to evolve, but I also know that this idea of teaching in Nepal has deeply rooted itself in my heart and captured my imagination.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love traveling and experiencing other cultures. You’ll also know that last summer I spent three weeks in Romania and Moldova working with an organization called Word Made Flesh. (Insert shameless plug. Here’s their website: http://wordmadeflesh.org. You should check them out because they’re awesome!) When I returned from Romania and Moldova last June, I knew that my next logical step would be to take a longer journey out of the U.S.. I never dreamed, however, that I would so quickly be given the opportunity to go to the one place I have wanted to go more than any other. I am elated to announce that from June 8th through July 20th I will be going to Nepal!

I will be working with a non-profit organization called Tiny Hands International. (They’re also awesome and worth checking out! https://www.tinyhands.org). Tiny Hands works in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh with street children, orphans, and victims of sex trafficking. They have children’s homes for at-risk youth and border-monitoring stations to intercept girls being trafficked from Nepal to India. They are also in the process of opening a school with the vision of raising up leaders in Nepal through quality education. My first three weeks in Nepal will be an intense time of learning. My team of nine young women from all across the U.S. will be exploring the different facets of Tiny Hands’ work by visiting their ministry sites throughout Nepal. As a future educator, I am especially excited for the time we will get to spend at the school! We will also be using this time to dive into Nepali culture, and wrestle with issues of poverty and injustice. At the halfway point of the trip, each member of our team will meet with the leaders of Tiny Hands to choose an area of the organization to plug into for the remaining three weeks of our trip.

This is where you as my blog readers come into this. First, I want to let you know that I am planning on using this blog to keep my friends and family, and all of you updated on my trip. As I am in preparation mode between now and June, you can anticipate a mix of posts that are similar in nature to what I have posted in the past, and posts pertaining to my trip. Once we reach June, however, this blog will be filled with all things Nepal! And then once I come home I’ll start posting about other topics again.

I can’t take this journey alone. First and foremost, I will need prayer support. I think all too often we underestimate the importance and the power of prayer! Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Because God has so clearly called me to go to Nepal, I know that Satan will oppose me every step of the way, which is why prayer is such an important part of this journey. Last summer, when I was in Romania, I would be feeling discouraged and overwhelmed when, suddenly, my mood would lighten. Then I would realize that, although it was 4:30PM in Romania, it was 6:30AM on the West Coast, and my prayer warriors were waking up and praying for me. More than once the knowledge that they were interceding on my behalf helped me through the most difficult moments of that trip. So if you are a person of prayer, I would love it if you would pray for me! Sometime in the near future I will post a blog with a list of specific requests you can pray over.

In order to go to Nepal, I am also in need of financial support. I am personally responsible for raising $4200. I know that some of you reading this blog don’t know me personally, and I want you to know that there is absolutely no obligation for you to contribute to my trip! However, I do encourage you, if you feel led, to pray about this opportunity. I firmly believe it takes an army to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. While God is calling me to go, that does not negate the importance of what He is calling you to do where He has planted you. In thinking about the significance of your role in bringing the Kingdom, I would encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. We all have an important role to play in the body of Christ. If you do feel led to donate towards my trip you can go to https://www.tinyhands.org/campaigns/kelly-simonsen-vision-trip.

I want to say thank you in advance for the myriad of ways you will be taking this journey with me. Even you just reading my blog posts means the world to me! I’m still in shock that this dream is coming true! Nepal, here I come!

Dreams and Reality

Seeing Rejection in a Different Light

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I was sure I was going to go to school in Massachusetts.

From the minute I discovered the school I knew it was right. The historical sites in the area would provide hands-on learning opportunities, the new places to explore would satisfy my hunger to see more of the world, and the secondary education program would catapult me into my teaching career.

I told anyone who would listen about the grand adventure I was preparing to embark on. I had even planned out a clever Facebook status to announce my exciting plans for the upcoming year.

I eagerly mailed in my application, and was ecstatic when I was accepted to the school. The only thing standing between me and my dream was a financial aid letter. One fateful day in February, I received the long-awaited letter. Instead of containing the joyous news I was expecting though, it said, “We’re very sorry, but we are unable to give you the financial aid you need.”

Rejection stings. It doesn’t matter if it’s a job, or a trip, or a school, or a relationship; rejection is universally difficult.

When I received the rejection letter, I was crushed. I had poured my heart into my dream of going to school in Massachusetts, and any other school felt second-rate at best, and at worst, just plain wrong.

I spent a very tense month waiting to hear back about financial aid from the other schools I had applied to. It was a month of deep prayer and acute anxiety. Fortunately I received the aid I needed from my second choice school in Oregon, but while I was relieved, I was not necessarily excited. Little did I know God had incredible plans in store!

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The hardest thing about rejection is that it disrupts our carefully laid plans. We go through life trying to make decisions that will put us where we hope to be, but when rejection enters the picture, we suddenly have to rethink our entire future. The last thing we want to do is see rejection as an opportunity, but maybe God uses rejection to realign us with his will.

Now that I’ve been at school in Oregon for a semester, I can confidently say it has completely exceeded all of my expectations! If I had gone to Massachusetts, I would have never experienced the amazing community God has blessed me with, and I would have never met my best friend.

After living away from home, I can also fully appreciate how difficult moving to Massachusetts would have been. For me, Washington State is my home, and in hindsight, I can see I was not ready to move so far away from my family.

I feel a deeper sense of, “I belong here,” than I have at any other point in my life.

The more I think about it the more I realize that rejection can open more doors than it closes. The key is choosing to see it in the right light. Yes, rejection is disappointing and disheartening, but it also presents us with an opportunity.

My dad frequently reminds me that if I say yes to one thing, I will have to say no to other things. Life is a series of choices of when to say yes, and when to say no. We cannot say yes to everything that comes our way. Decision-making is tough, but maybe rejection can help us make difficult choices.

By forcing us to say no to good things, rejection allows us to say yes to unexpected things that may be even better.

I'm Not Called To Understand