Why Would You Go to the Middle East?


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.


Hey Brother, We’re All Learning to Love Again

Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog, and I feel overwhelmingly grateful for the joy this blog has brought me. Thank you for reading, commenting, and supporting me both in my writing and in my life. The past year has been chock full of growth and change, but I can honestly say it’s been the best year of my life.

Telling you why I named my blog what I did has been one of the many things that just never quite happened this year, so in honor of my blog anniversary, I’m going to write about my name choice.

My blog name, Learning To Love Again, is inspired by a Mat Kearney song with the same title.

Ever since I saw Mat Kearney in concert two summers ago I’ve been a big fan of his music. I especially appreciate how his lyrics get under my skin. They make me think about God, and love, and life. When I first heard this song, it didn’t strike me as anything special, but as I listened to it again, I was hit with the realization that humans, in our fallen state, are learning to love again.

I don’t know about you, but for me, loving is hard.

First, it is hard to love God. I can’t physically see Him, hear Him, or touch Him, which can make Him feel so abstract. I know He is very much a part of my life, but some days I forget He’s even there. While I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loves me, sometimes (oftentimes) it is hard to love Him in return.

It is also hard to love others. They make decisions that hurt me, and do things that are not in my best interest. I know I am called to love them, but that can be so hard to do.

Finally, it is hard to love myself. Although being selfish comes naturally enough, I really struggle to value myself just the way I am. Instead of being confident and selfless, I am selfish and insecure.

And yet, even though love is difficult, we are learning to love again. When humans sinned, they broke their ability to love, but when Jesus died, He set in motion the restoration of all things, including our ability to love. While this restoration is by no means complete, we’re making progress everyday, and someday, all things will be made right.

So I named this blog Learning To Love Again to help me remember where I’m going, and how far I’ve already come. “Hey brother, we’re all learning to love again.”

Sunlight on the Windshield


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

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

She Gathers Beauty

She gathers beauty.


Her home is spotless, and creatively decorated for the season. Her appearance is stylish, and always fashionably put together. Her flowers are glorious, and well-deserving of every compliment they receive.

She creates delicious food.


From chicken and dumplings to cherry berries on a cloud, pumpkin scones to beef broccoli stir fry, quiche to cinnamon rolls, her culinary creations are heavenly! Even as she has been forced to change her diet, she still manages to make tasty gluten free, low sugar dishes. She also grows food. Whether it’s farm fresh eggs from the chicken coop, or juicy strawberries from the garden, she always has something homegrown to add to the table.

She teaches her children.


Because of her instruction, her children know how to do laundry, They know how to make healthy choices. They know how to have good table manners, and know how to behave in formal social situations. She has raised them well.

She loves her husband.


Other women look to her as an example of a loving wife. She holds down the fort while her husband travels. She shows her love in word and deed. Her thoughtfulness knows no bounds.

She cares for her family.


Cooking and cleaning, photographing and driving, but most importantly, supporting and loving. Even when she is having health struggles and should be the one receiving care, she always attends to the needs of her family. She has more love to give than she realizes because her love runs deep.

She is strong.


Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, she is a strong woman. Life is hard, but she’s a courageous fighter/ She just need to remember that she never fights alone, and that her strength comes from the one who holds the entire world in his hands.

She is my mom.

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I love her to the moon and back! I cannot wait to see how God uses her in this next season of life!

Sweetly Broken

This summer has been challenging. Unlike previous summers, it hasn’t felt carefree or relaxing. Some of the difficulty has come from being in the middle of a transition period. In 28 days I’m moving away from all I’ve known to go to college. Most people can’t believe that it’s already August because that means summer is coming to a close. I can’t believe it’s already August because that means I’m leaving this month! But although I leave so soon, I can’t leave yet. Waiting is hard. I’ve been working towards going to college all year long, and yet I’m still stuck in the bittersweet in-between. Transition seasons are always messy and tough. This one is no exception.

I’ve also encountered other difficulties this summer. My family is still waiting for our adoption to move forward, (See Mountains) and I’ve been working 4-5 days a week on staff at a camp. My job is a huge blessing, but I feel like I’m missing out on so much valuable time with my family and friends. I know having a job is part of being an adult, but it has definitely made me realize that my childhood is over, and that is hard to process. Individually, these struggles might be manageable, but put together they’ve left me feeling incredibly worn.

Through all these trials, I’ve been trying so hard to trust God. I’ve been striving and straining, and working as hard as I can, yet I’ve been failing at every turn. Last night, however, God met me right where I was, and helped me back onto my feet.

For the past two years I’ve attended a life-changing summer camp called Collide. This year I was too old to be a camper, but last night I had the privilege of going to camp for the evening worship service. Let’s just say I’m coming to a fuller understanding of the beauty of being sweetly broken.

For the first hour of the service I worshipped, and listened, and prayed, but nothing life-altering happened. Then, towards the end of his message, the speaker talked about how much God loves us. His words hit me full force. God’s love is at the core of everything good, yet I so easily forget how much he loves me. When the worship band began to play How He Loves, tears streamed down my face. I feel like I’ve been holding in my emotions all summer. I’ve been trying so hard to be strong. I’ve been searching for a formula that would enable me to make it through this season. Do this every day, don’t eat that, sleep for this long, just say that, don’t forget to pray about this, and then you’ll be ok. It’s exhausting! When I mess up, my self-confidence takes a hit. When I succeed, I become prideful. God never intended for me to live this way. He wants me to be confident, yet humble. My strength will fail, but his won’t. My plans won’t succeed, but his will. On my own, I’ll never make it, but I am not alone. He has broken through my tough exterior with his radical grace and love, and I am free. None of my struggles have gone away, but God loves me, and that is enough.

You Are Loved