Courage.

ok, ok, ok. I haven’t written a blog in like a year and a half. I am not entirely sure why I am writing this one now.

I do not consider myself to be courageous. I am an over thinker. I tend to think of all of the possible outcomes to any given situation prior to doing it. Therefore as a kid I never liked roller coasters. You know because as a kid I thought there were three options: 1. I could die. 2. I could cry (always likely) 3. I could love it. 2/3 of the options seemed negative therefore, roller coasters were not an option. I have two brothers who rarely seemed to conduct a risk analysis like I did. This led to constant wondering of me how my two younger brothers could be so much braver than me? [ this is where mom says, “Kelly, they are not braver than you, they are just different than you]

nevertheless. They are courageous. I am not. But I have done at least one thing that was brave.

I moved to Alabama.

To most people that may seem like nothing. I came to suburban america, to live in a nice community and serve in a nice church. That step in courage though has led to some interesting things. One of which being that I have learned more about myself in the past two years than I ever would have thought. Some of the things are great, some are not so great, and some are crazy (discovering I like living alone, something I dreaded prior to moving….who knew?)

The following is something that I have learned about myself that is just real. Not bad, not good, just real.

[be aware that the following is straight vulnerability….you have been warned]

One thing that I have learned about myself is that I lie. I don’t lie to others (ok, that in itself is a lie). I try very hard not to lie to others and when I do, I try to confess.

I mainly lie to myself.

The lie that I repeatedly tell myself is: You are alone. You are unlovable.

[told you this was vulnerable]

To be honest, this is most likely the root of a lot of my baggage that I have acquired leading up to my late twenties. In my mind I am carrying around lots of cute vintage luggage, including a nice hat box….but packed away in all of this cute on the outside baggage is this ugly monster of a lie.

friends hurt you? you’re alone. unlovable. Maybe if you were lovable they wouldn’t hurt you.

no boyfriend? you’re alone. unlovable.

family hurt you? you’re alone. unlovable. Maybe if you were lovable they wouldn’t hurt you.

people disappoint you? you’re alone. unlovable.

etc….

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

You know that saying, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then guess what? It’s a duck”?

It is not always like that with lies. Because the lie that I tell myself’ appears, smells, tastes, sounds, feels, like truth. Nevertheless… IT IS A LIE.

I know that it is a lie for several reasons. First being that I have a precious community that loves me from near and far. I trust them. They tell me all sorts of important things like when I have food in my teeth or when I am full of crap and am lying to myself. They tell me that I am lovable. But more importantly they show me that I am lovable by continuing to love me as best they can. Sometimes the way that they love me doesn’t look like what I expect, but that doesn’t diminish it’s value.

My friend Emily came over today. She came over with an abundance of junk food. She came over and watched my favorite musical on DVD because she knows that I love it. She came over because she loves me [even when I do nothing but complain to her. Cry. And then selfishly eat all of the popcorn] Today she spoke truth into my lie by sitting with me.

Becca and Toby proof read this for me because they know my heart. They show me that I am lovable my reading my disjointed thoughts when I need it and picking up my weeping, complaining, or happy phone calls. [sometimes our phone calls are all of these emotions at once.]

Audra loved me today by picking up the phone and speaking words that I maybe didn’t like hearing but needed to hear. She told me that I was lovable by speaking difficult truth wrapped in love and grace [Audra is a total pro at that….it’s kind of awesome]

I have countless friends that show me I am lovable regularly. Most of the time I don’t think they understand the gravity of their actions and how they ring true in my heart. I don’t always see their love. But they are always showing me that I am lovable.

The problem is, that when I begin to tell myself that lie that sounds like truth. I begin to push the very people who I need to speak truth into my life away. I begin to retreat into the solitude that I think I deserve. And for that, I am sorry.

I live into this self ordained prophesy. I think I am alone and unlovable. So I pull away, distancing myself from others. Thus making me alone. It’s a cycle that I recognize and struggle to break free from. It’s dangerous. I am thankful for friends, and family that love me and don’t allow me to run from them.

They chase after my heart, in the same manner that God is constantly chasing after my heart. The God whose love pursuit is seen throughout Scripture.

“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand” Psalm 73:23

“Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Matthew 28:20

and finally, a favorite:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” Isaiah 41:10

Scripture is like one giant love letter constantly telling me how not alone and lovable I am we are.

Lovable enough for a death on a cross. Not alone because of a resurrection.

I don’t know if you are like me and you lie to yourself more than you lie to anyone else. I would guess that this is the case for most people. Walking around looking whole, while our brokenness sounds clearly within our heads and hearts. For me it is the lie that I am alone and unlovable. For you it may be something else. My prayer is that we would all find truth that rings louder than the self spoken lies. That you would find yourself in community (and allow yourself to stay in the midst of that and not pull away like is my temptation) and hear the value of your life from them and through Holy Scripture.

For me the risk analysis of even writing these words is that there are three options 1. no one reads this because even I forgot I kept a blog. 2. I cry (welp, that has already happened.)  or 3. You hear truth.

I guess it is worth the risk. I’ll be courageous.

what a difference a year makes.

Okay, so I know that I have not written recently. There has been a lot going on in my life though! Sometimes I worry though that I get so busy that I forget to have a time to reflect. At first this blog was because so many people were asking me to document my adventures in Alabama. Now though, I recognize that it is a time for me to reflect, and then share those reflections. My life is good, but busy. I know that is really the norm in our society….to be busy. But, that is another blog post, for another time….not tonight.

 

So in the past few weeks , I have; spent my first Easter in Alabama, traveled to Memphis, completed my first year of seminary, and traveled to Florida. My trip home was really good. I was able to spend time with my family and friends and spend some time at the beach and by the pool. It was so wonderful to relax and just be away. My family threw a party which allowed me to see many loved ones at one time, which filled my heart with happiness. But although it was so great to be home, one of the best moments was on my flight back to Alabama. As I sat in the airport I remembered just 5 months prior when I sat in the airport with tears running down my face, not wanting to return to Alabama. Life just seemed so much easier in Florida. It was home. It was my only home. Fast forward 5 months, and I am sitting in the same airport, same terminal, ready to get on the plane. It may seem simple, but what a difference the last 5 months made.

 

It helped make a home.

 

Just one week after sitting in the airport, I hit another tiny milestone here. Today is one year since I came to my church to visit. That weekend still stands as one of the most stressful, awkward, and exciting weekends of my life thus far. I remember sitting in the church with people who seemed to love me without even knowing me. I was preoccupied trying to look like I was not completely lost within the liturgy of the service. I sat at the confirmation luncheon trying to not look overwhelmed and attempting to make conversation without making to seem like my nerves were controlling me. It was a whirlwind of a day. Today is one year later. My how things have changed. Today was also a whirlwind, but I was a part of it. Today instead of not having a clue what we were celebrating, I burst with pride watching my kids proclaim their faith in public.

 

My kids

 

What a difference a year makes. It really is incredible. Some days have been utterly exhausting and emotionally draining. But still, I am living my dream. I never in a million years could have dreamed what my life would look like now. It’s crazy. This adventure is nuts. But, God is so faithful. He heard my cries and answered them. He has taken me on this adventure. It’s kind of incredible.

 

What a difference a year makes.

**It should also be noted that I did may have accidentally set the fire alarm off today at the church and maybe the firemen showed up….so although a year does make a big difference, not everything is different…..I should still stay away from ovens. **

April 5th

Dear April 5th

You suck. I am sorry, I wish there was a better way for me to say it, but seriously….you suck. For the past two years you have been the worst day in both 2012 and 2013.

In 2012 you changed my family and my lives forever with my father losing his job. We no longer worked together, and I lost confidence in where I served. Work made me sick. It was’t your fault April 5th, but you were the worst day. You were the day that made me have to eat lunch in my car, and cry on my drive into work. You were the worst. 

In 2013, you changed my life forever again by being the day we lost my grandfather. It was hard to see my family hurt. It broke my heart. He was gone. We had the blessed assurance of knowing where he was, but it didm’t make the sting of death hurt any less. 

But today is another day. Instead of dwelling on the hurt that has been in the past I am going to be thankful and joyful for where I have come from. April 5, 2014 marks 9 months since my move to Alabama. It marks 9 months since I changed my life forever. These 9 months have not been easy. They have been anything but easy. But April 5th, you remind me that life isn’t always easy. April 5th, you’ll always remind me of my dad and the courageous, and loving man that he is. How he has supported me as I strive to answer what I believe the Lord has called me to do. My dad, who has stood by me and encouraged me to dream big. The man who had lunch with me everyday at Shellpoint and taught me to how to best serve the resident we loved. April 5th, you will forever make me thankful for Jimbo. For the man that challenged me, made me laugh, taught me countless stories, and loved me. He encouraged me to follow the Lord, to serve those around me especially the oppressed, and to above all else love. 

 

So, April 5th, you are not my favorite. You have broken my heart. But, from now on I choose to look at those tragedies as joys. I choose hope over bitterness, love over hate. I choose to be thankful for where I am today, and to acknowledge the pains of the past and to remember the sweet impacts that they had. I choose to remember the impact that the time I worked with my dad had and not continue to digest the bitter pill of his lost. I choose to find joy in the new adventure that I am on, pursuing the career that I love. I choose to remember my Jimbo and all of our porch talks, cribbage games, and laughs over jellybelly jelly beans and rum and coke. I choose to remember his kind smile and the pride he had in me, and the way he loved my family. 

 

I choose joy and remembrance on April 5th, 2014. 

 

love,

Kelly 

 

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Jimbo and I

 

 

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My Dad and I 

 

my voice.

[ before I even begin, let me clarify with saying that I understand the irony of this post….that I am writing about, well you’ll see….]

have you ever heard a recording of your own voice? I have and hate it. In January I recorded myself several times reading something very short for church and as I listened to the recording I just kept thinking that I felt so bad for everyone that had to listen to me on a daily basis. I thought that my voice was nasally and didn’t sound at all like I hear myself. It was nearly painful to hear my own voice played back.

A couple of years ago I lost my voice. I had a case of laryngitis that was persistent for approximately 9 months. It left me utter speechless at times. (I am sure that you can imagine all of the jokes I heard about my condition….. “oh, what do you have to say Kelly?’ “Oh, I wish my wife would catch that!”…. not funny, it gets old after a few months) Nevertheless I remember the first day that I left speech therapy and I heard my voice for the first time. It took a lot of work, but I was able to call my mom and get out the words, “Hi Mom, it’s me Kelly. I’m talking.” It pretty much took all of my energy to just utter that phrase. I had to think so much and calculate my words in a way that was foreign. This was easily one of the biggest accomplishments of my life…saying those 7 words. Needless to say, my voice is my Achilles’ heel.

However, there is so much more than just the physiological reasoning behind my voice being a weakness for me. I don’t know why, but recently I have been thinking about the fact that I am the one that hears my voice more than anyone else. (most people are probably saying “duh, Kelly” at this point) For some reason, this thought blew. my. mind. I hear my voice more than anyone else. Not only am I present for every conversation that I participate in, but I constantly hear the internal dialogue of my thoughts. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes, my own voice within my head is processing all that is around me. Oftentimes, I think that this processing is funny because let’s be honest……I’m hilarious(well, at least I think I am). However, just like speaking those 7 simple words or hearing the recording, sometimes hearing my own voice can be painful. Quite often this voice is tearing me apart. I am not enough. I’m failing. I’m alone. This voice leaves my spirit void and my heart filled with despair, and brokenness. I deceive myself into believing that those are fact. I lie to myself and say that I speak the truth to myself. However, the real truth is that those are feelings. Quite often my voice tells me that I am inadequate and not equipped. However, the truth is that God has equipped me and called me. My voice often silences the truth that others speak into me, although they know and love me, I often find an excuse (given to me by my voice) to not hear the truth that they speak.

 

So for this Lenten season I have tried to hear less of my own voice. (Although I probably still speak just as much) I try to not listen to my internal voice that tears me down. I try to not hear the voice that claws at my spirit. I am vowing to spend time daily in meditation where I breathe in truth and exhale the lies that I tell myself. It is difficult. I struggle. I find myself at times feeling discouraged and although I know that my feelings are valid that they are not necessarily fact. I lie to myself.

The truth found in scripture, creation, and spoken to me by others must be louder than the lies that I tell myself.

 

Now, I know that my voice is not all bad. I know that at times I am the one that God uses to speak truth into others. But in this season, I desire to hear less of my own voice and more of others. Less lies more truth. I am so thankful for those who speak words of truth and affirmation to me daily. I am especially thankful for those that continue to love me even when I don’t accept the truth.

I don’t know if you are like me. Perhaps your own voice speaks words that affirm your spirit. However, I believe that the root of my lying voice is the sin that I am stuck in. in which case, I would challenge that we all suffer with internal dialogue of sin of some kind. My hope for you (and me) is that we would work to silence that and turn our hearts towards truth.

 

In the days that I was rendered silent I was able to see how essential and mighty my voice can be.

 

I still believe that it is truly powerful.

Snowpocalypse.2014

 

“The church died because it got old. It was here with the mindset to serve the neighborhood but it really never was part of it.”

 

These words were spoken to me Thursday afternoon and they have been haunting me ever since. 

You see, I was in Memphis Thursday afternoon…and I don’t know if those words would have been so poignant had I not experienced being a neighbor as the church earlier that week.

 

 

It was Snowpocalypse 2014. 

So, clearly I know nothing about snow. You wanna talk about sand and the beach? I’m your girl, but snow…..not so much. Just the fact that I saw snow twice in a week and a half is pretty outstanding (and never happened before in my life) . However, as I am assuming most people know we in the southeastern US experienced a “snowpocalypse” last week. Atlanta, Birmingham and all that is in between came to a screeching halt due to a few inches of snow and crippling ice. To be honest, it was one of the most bizarre days of my life. Tuesday I woke up to do some last minute reading and to pack to leave for Memphis for school later that day. While packing, I got a text from my friend Emily that it had started snowing. It was beautiful outside. After a few minutes of dancing in the snow (I mean, let’s be real….that was my first instinct) I realized that I needed to go to the the church quickly to get my backpack for my retreat to Memphis. Looking back now, I am certain that God sent me to the church at that precise moment for a reason. I returned to my apartment 29 hours later. 

 

I got to the church, quickly grabbed my backpack and headed out. On my way out of the church parking lot I saw a car accident; it wasn’t just a fender bender but the drivers were okay. I called 911 and stayed with the drivers. While trying to get out of the way of the ambulance I proceeded to spin my car on the ice, and slide 180 degrees into the grass (hey, I know nothing about snow or ice remember?) The police quickly told me not to leave my car and to just stay in the grass. They also mentioned that there had been at least 5 car accidents on the same small road in less than 10 minutes.(Later I heard there had been a 15 car pile up on that same stretch of road I would have taken) So, I listened to them and this is the scene that I saw for about half an hour…… 

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So, after finally getting back to the youth room it became apparent to our associate minster, Scott and I that we would quickly be needing to offer a place for people to stay as highway in front of the church had become a parking lot . A few people came in at first and began to tell stories that seemed unreal. One woman drove for almost two hours, just to get to the church….her office was across the street! We could literally see where she came from after driving for almost two hours. Quickly, people began to pour into the church at a rate that made it difficult to even know how many people were there. I was constantly pouring hot chocolate and coffee and listening to the tales of people battling traffic and ice to go almost no where. There was a sense of relief to be inside yet panic to not be home. Hours passed and the snow kept falling while more people poured into the church. Cars were abandoned everywhere, and people were walking to just seek shelter. As people walked into the church it became more and more apparent that no one would be able make it home that evening. As the realization of a overnight came to mind, meals need to be cooked and sleeping arrangements needed to be made. Because of a recent cold snap here in Birmingham our church had an abundance of blankets and pillows that had been donated by the congregation. Several people that were stranded worked together to cook dinner for everyone as well as the preschool children that were stuck at school and parents that were coming to be with their young children. Sitting with everyone and eating made it difficult to see who knew who, as it was already apparent that new friendships were being made within a group of stranded strangers. The Lord certainly provided in indescribable ways with enough blankets, pillows, food, and even a box of toothbrushes. I am still in awe of His provision. 

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As hours continued to pass, more and more people began to enter the church seeking shelter. Some came and stayed all night, while others just came to get warm and then continue on their journey. All and all we probably had somewhere around 150 people through the doors of the church. It amazed me that people thanked me so much for opening the doors of the church. How could we not? This is our home. These are our neighbors. They needed help. What else would we do? That is what the church is for. 

I was amazed at what I saw over the 29 hours I was at church. I was in awe over the stories I heard….of parents walking miles just to be with their children. Teachers who spent countless hours comforting scared kids. People opening their homes and their hearts to care for complete strangers. I saw people who were stranded, separated from their families and those they love serve one another. I saw two men with a four wheeler drive all night in order to get people home or to bring necessary supplies to those who needed them. I saw neighbors loving neighbors….What Christ has called us to do. 

 

So, there was a lot of snow and even more ice. It was inconvenient and frustrating. But, at the same time it was beautiful. It was how we should treat each other everyday.It was not just how the church should be, but how neighbors should treat neighbors. I am thankful for the sweet community that my church is a part of. I am thankful for the opportunity to not just serve that community, but to be a part of it.

 

and that is Snowpocalypse 2014 

 

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2013/2014

2013.

Well, here we are in 2014. 2013 was a fantastic year. It was one of the more difficult years of my life but also one of the most fulfilling and rewarding. It was filled with adventures, laughter, good friends, sweet laughter, joys, mourning, dancing, newness, and challenges. Looking back, I would not change a thing. I think that I will look back in a coming day and see 2013 as the year I became myself. There were so many great things that happened in 2013, but I thought I would share a favorite moment from each month….

1. Being able to serve in the beginning of the year with South Lee Athletics…. what an awesome organization with some great people!

2. Celebrating with my bestie when she said, “yes” 

3.  Watching our small town college destroy everyone’s march madness brackets….thanks dunk city

4. Finding out I was moving to Alabama, and then visiting for the first time

5. Karaoke nights, themed parties, the conclusion of the office and beach days with my crazy friends.

6. Resigning from two jobs, packing my apartment, and celebrating two weeks of unemployment with my bestie (June was a crazy month!)

7. kickball in the rain for my first night with my new kids here

8. Standing next to my bestie as she took her marriage vows

9. Going back to school, feeling discouraged and being reminded that I don’t have to be confident in myself but rather the One who dwells within me. 

10. Turning 27. it pretty much just rocks. 

11. Thanksgiving with my crazy, awesome, sweet family. 

12. Realizing that I have two homes….and how truly special that is. 

 

((and so many other sweet, crazy, awesome moments))

 

365 days ago I would not have believed what this year would have in store. It has been a roller coaster of a year. It fills me with anticipation for all that will come with 2014!

Bring on the adventures 2014, I’m ready!

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”- Helen Keller

165.

So, I have been here for 165 days

(not that I  have been counting….I just have an app on my phone)

So much has changed over 165 days. In many ways I am feeling more and more settled in as each day passes. I completed my first semester of school (thank you Jesus- because I was quite certain I was too dumb), I love job, I love my kids, life is good. Life is good, but it is not always easy. The last 165 days have been pretty much anything but easy. I have struggled, doubted, cried, been uncomfortable, been scared, been nervous, leapt out of my comfort zone, and so much more. I have discovered what it means to have two places to call home. I have been humbled through the accepting of gifts, and accepting of praise or correction. I have learned. I have learned about what it means to be in ministry professionally, what it means to be in school, what it means to do both at the same time. I have learned about myself and others. I have learned about southern culture and denominational beliefs. I have learned a lot.

In 165 days I have grown, and changed. I have gotten up each day and tried to not allow anxiety or self doubt run my life. Some of those 165 days I succeed and others I failed, but each day I got up. So much has changed in 165 days. But here is the one thing that I have had to cling to; The Lord is with me. He is constant and His love is enduring and everlasting.

In my loneliest and craziest moments He was there. He is not a God who is distant. He has been with me then, alongside of me now, and before me. Without Him I would not have survived day 2, let alone day 164.

I am, because He is.

As we prepare for Christmas, that is what we are celebrating. We celebrate that we have a God that love us to the point that He came to us. We celebrate that we are loved by a God that knew that we could not do it alone. He knew that we needed grace, and forgiveness and love and He sent that as His son.

So, on day 167 I go home to Florida. I go home different. I have changed, as I know “home” has as well. But, I go home to celebrate, to rejoice, to spend time with so many people I love dearly. I am so thankful for the past 165 days, and for what has been done within me because of them.

165 days. Wow.

Here’s to 166….

Jimbo.

Have you ever seen the opening scene to the movie Home Alone? You know where there are about a million McAllisters all under one roof and the burglars come in pretending to be the police? People are running from here to there, there is loud chaos and constant movement. Well, if you have seen that scene or you understand what i am trying to convey then you have a tiny glimpse into what my Thanksgiving looked like. All in all there were about 35 of my family members in one place. Crazy does not even begin to describe it. But in complete honesty I would not have changed a thing (well…except maybe when the electricity went out and then we were a very smelly 35 under one roof)

We gathered in probably my favorite place in the world, western North Carolina. Amidst the beautiful mountains I celebrated with my sweet, crazy, loving family. This year in particular was a special year for us as we lost my grandfather Jimbo in April. He was one of the strongest men I have ever known. He was not perfect, but he was beautifully flawed in a way that made him human. Had he not had his flaws he would have easily looked like a super hero through my eyes. He lived a life that was worthy of respect. He more often than not inconvenienced himself in order to serve those that may have been less fortunate, or that the world may have written off. He loved my grandmother in a way that I can only one day hope to be loved. In his late years the two of them really did appear to be a single unit rather than two individuals. So, this Thanksgiving we all gathered in North Carolina in his home atop a mountain to say goodbye and to spread his ashes. As each member of our family got a small mouthwash cup (rather appropriate for a man that spent his life as a dentist) they dispersed to give him back to the mountain that he loved so much. I have to admit though that unlike my family, I did not give him to the mountain. I poured him out onto the porch. 

 

To be honest, this seemed like a great idea at the time. Jimbo and I spent much of our time together sitting on that porch. He would often call me out to the porch to discuss theology or politics (it was not until my twenties that I realized that this was not a norm for grandchildren and grandparents) . It was out on that porch that he challenged me to think deeper. It was out on that porch where he challenged me to think outside of the box that I had placed my mind in. It was out on that porch that he encouraged me to serve others. It was out on that porch where he laid the groundwork for my call to ministry. It was also out on that porch where he introduced me to butter popcorn flavored jelly bellies (my favorite), challenged me to countless games of cribbage, and told me that if he ever caught me smoking a cigarette he’d cut the lips off my face (kid of ironic for a man that smoked a couple packs a day). So, it seemed like the best place for me to put him….onto that porch so that when I sit there from now on he will join me. It seemed like a great idea until I realized that we were tracking him into the house and sweeping him up while cleaning……luckily one of Jimbo’s greatest qualities was his sense of humor….so I think he thought that was amusing! 

 

So, my thanksgiving was a little crazy. I mean, with 35 family members with big personalities how can it not be a little crazy. But it was a good crazy. It was a crazy that lead us to having a talent show, playing card games and talking by the bonfire late into the night. It was the the kind of crazy that made me appreciate the calm serenity found on my Friday hike in the mountains. It was the kind of crazy that delivered lots of hugs and laughter amongst people that I know will always love me. It was loud, hectic, and crazy but it was my family. I can’t help but believe that Jimbo would have loved that gathering. 

 

I don’t know what your Thanksgiving was like. Maybe it was like mine, or perhaps it was like mine have been the last few years where I ate cold turkey out of a to go container and worked…… but either way I hope that you were surrounded by love like I was. The holidays can be a very happy and exciting time for some. However, I recognize that, that is not always the case. The holidays can also highlight our loneliness and darkest times. Nevertheless know that you are loved this season. Know that I love you….and even more than me the God of the universe loves you. The God that placed each star in the sky and created the mountain that I stood atop loves you. He loves you so much he sent his only son to this earth to be born in a stable……and then to suffer and die. My heart cannot contain that kind of love.

 

So whether or not your house was like the opening scene of a classic christmas film, know that you are loved with a great love. Now, that is a love that is worth celebrating this holiday season.