Feb 17, 2019 - My Story, Uncategorized    1 Comment

Word(s) of the Year 2019

I am a word addict.

I spend an immense amount of time thinking about words. I choose a word or phrase each new year to tie my hopes to. I spend a large amount of time around New Year’s reflecting on the previous year and set hopes and goals for the future. Grit and grace defined 2018. They became my mantra. There were a myriad of situations that required me to demonstrate both grit and grace. They were well chosen words. And they remain on my wall as a reminder of the goodness, the striving, and the struggles that are always a part of the story!

I loved my words for 2018, and wanted 2019 to live up to the same awesomeness. I made a list of over fifty options and began to prioritize. I though one word had a good sound; it was fun to say. Another option had a secondary connotation that was lovely. A third would be easy to find on a t shirt (as I buy a reminder of my year, this actually was part of the decision!)

But I still couldn’t decide. There were just so many good options. So I decided to break the rules… and choose two.

Words of the Year 2019 (drumroll please)

Gumption

and Defiant Joy

Gumption is defined as the ability to decide what is the best thing to do in a particular situation, and to do it with energy and determination. 

I loved the idea of doing something with energy, vigor, perseverance and determination. There is a light at the end of my doctoral school tunnel, but it will take gumption to get through it. Gumption means working with integrity, doing what is right, and doing it whether you get recognition or praise for your work or not. I want to be a lady with gumption.

Defiant Joy has been a meaningful phrase for some time. There are an immense variety of irritants in life. We cannot escape from them, but we can choose what to do when they inevitably arise. I want to make pearls. I want to be an oyster. And when sand gets into the tender spaces between my shells, I want to spit on it and make a pearl! I hope to take all the irritants that come by way, smooth them out and make something beautiful. I chose defiant joy, because “the year of oyster mucus” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I bought myself a pearl necklace to commemorate this hope for myself. I pray for defiant joy in 2019. Defiant joy is not dictated by situations, it rises above, eye on the prize. Defiant Joy has gumption 🙂

2019, here we go!

Jan 8, 2019 - My Story    1 Comment

Hurricane Season 2018

My apologies for being MIA on the blog. I was busy surviving a five month long cyclone. I survived hurricane season 2018! Both the literal hurricane season and the figurative one that defined my life last fall.

Between August and December 2018 I worked full time, pursued a doctorate degree, completed residency hours, studied for a certification exam, trained an intern…. oh yeah, and taught a class for graduate students! Even when I list out such things now, my shoulders hike up!

When people would ask me how I was over the past six months, I would just respond what category of hurricane I was living through that day. I lived in Cat 3, but also hit Cat 5 a few times over the course of the semester.

Every time I became overwhelmed by my tasks, I had to remember that I did this to myself. No one forced me to go back to school, or teach, or take on extra tasks or skills. I chose this life. I chose this hurricane… so let’s do it! Let’s face the wind with grit and grace. Let’s know when to hunker down for safety. Let’s know when to share my supplies and rations and when to seek help from my neighbors for a metaphorical downed tree.

And , man, did I have lovely neighbors this semester. My students were encouraging, kind, motivated, and delightful. My intern kept me sane and did so much more to help me straddle professoring and therapying than she was required to. My friends checked on me regularly and reminded me often that my words of the year for 2018, Grit and Grace, were well chosen and would lead me through. My family celebrated every small victory and every step completed with me and reminded me that it was worth the struggle.

I still think the hurricane analogy was apt because I spent a ton of time inside (weather wasn’t inviting), ate weird pre-packed foods (since I didn’t have time to cook!), slept poorly (since I had too much to do), and needed a hearty clean up effort when the wind settled. But it was also such an encouraging “storm.” I was stretched and challenged. I was windblown, yes, but also thrilled! I even chose a hurricane as my ornament to summarize 2018.

Now my tree is complete!

As I look back on hurricane season, with just a bit of time and perspective between me and it now, I remind myself of the collateral beauty of doing something scary. I celebrate success and the thrill of surviving and thriving in new ways. I am stronger for having been through the storm. And I remind myself not to do it again! 🙂

Sep 30, 2018 - Devotional, Doctorate, Health    1 Comment

Procrastination vs. Self Care

Avoidance. Taking a break. Filling my cup. Delaying the inevitable.

All of life is a balancing act. I believe most people have more goals, tasks, or demands than they could possibly accomplish in a single day. Whether it is children who need attention, job or school tasks that demand completion, or relationships that require tenderness and time, we are all pushed to our limits.

I am in a season of incredible demands on my time. I am currently working full-time, nearing completion of a doctorate degree, and teaching a class at a local university. I’ve begun jokingly referring to my life and stress level as a category of hurricane. For instance, “Guys, there are seven toddlers coming to class today… what could go wrong? My life is like a category 5 hurricane.” It’s a good day lately when the category or hurricane was deemed to be three or less. I long for the days when I deal with the winds and demands of just a tropical storm level life!

The winds, rains, and hurricane categories will not abate any time soon. And yet in all of it, I cannot maintain the same pace of life; I need breaks. Real, guilt-free, purposeful breaks. My brain, heart, body, and soul cannot run this fast and deal with constant hurricane-force winds without real and serious repercussions. I’ve tried to be mindful of such strains on my body over the past several months. Those fingers that go numb because I slept wrong or the headache that hangs on longer than normal or the stress-filled dreams are all indicators of a need to care for myself. Caring for my body is crucial, but I am trying to be just as attentive to strains on my soul.

Whenever I have control of my schedule, I schedule weekly breaks. Real, intentional, purposeful, life-giving breaks. During these times, I don’t do school work. I don’t check emails. I don’t write dissertations. Instead, I create margins in my life. I watch movies, and take naps, I go to theme parks, have lunch with friends, I make crafts and do all the many, many items that get pushed off the edge of my plate on a daily basis during Cat-5 hurricane days!

There was a long period of time where I felt selfish for these actions. Like I was filling my world with too much “me-time” or feeling guilty for taking a break. I have been thinking a lot about the difference between procrastination and self-care. The difference to me is that procrastination is focused on task avoidance. I procrastinate when I don’t want to do something, when it feels overwhelming, when it isn’t fun. Procrastination is, at its core, saying “no.”

Self-care, on the other hand, is choosing to say a deep and resounding, “yes!” to something better. It isn’t primarily saying no to an undesirable task, but saying yes to something even more important. Self-care is saying yes to rest, to life-giving experiences, to reminding myself of my limits and my worth. My sanity and health are more important than any paper than could be written, any grade that could be assigned, any project that could be completed, or any course that could be taught. Self-care is not selfish. It is pulling away in order to re-engage at our best. This realization has let me take breaks without guilt. The tasks will never fully quiet. Even when I graduate and the semester is done, the pulls for my time and attention will continue. I am training myself to distinguish between procrastination and self-care, and to choose the best yes. Sometimes the best thing I can choose is to take a break.

 

How do you practice self-care?

May 19, 2018 - My Story    No Comments

High School Reunions

I was reminded of how much I’ve aged this week. I attended a Justin Timberlake concert with my high school buddies. This group of girls were gaga for *Nsync back in the day. We each had a favorite guy in the group and knew all the songs and statistics about our singing beaus.

Our high school career culminated with a trip to see *Nsync live in concert in the magical land of Orlando. We saved money, chose outfits, and begged our parents for a lift to Orlando to sing the night away. We were beyond excited. We cranked up the tunes and sang all the way there and back. We brought our own noise makers, dressed the part, and cheered incessantly. It was as if we’d been in training for this moment for months.

These were the girls who rode the tides of high school and college alongside me. We have been friends for the majority of our lives now! So when we learned that Justin Timberlake was coming to Orlando on tour nearly twenty years after our original experience, we HAD to go.

But my, how we’ve aged!

This time the preparation for the concert was a bit different. Two of us stopped to buy ear plugs. Two others made plans for toddlers for the evening. When we got in the car together (sitting in between carseats), instead of a boy band, a CD of nursery rhymes pumped through the speakers. All of us calculated how much sleep we were giving up by staying out past our bed times. Oh my, how we’ve aged.

At this concert, we watched as the young ones shimmied and danced, while we sat in our seats, still very much enjoying the show, just less rowdy than the last time! But the point wasn’t the concert. It wasn’t how close we got to Justin or whether he sang our favorite songs or not. This concert was more about celebrating us. We have kept up our friendship the decades and still remain friends and companions in this wild ride of life. Life is a journey. I reminded myself as I felt old this week that wrinkles, fatigue, and aging are not the enemy. I am proud to give up sleep and spend my time with these fine ladies. Plus, JT puts on a mighty fine concert!

Stay AAAIY! 🙂

Apr 5, 2018 - Doctorate    1 Comment

Worshipful Mediocrity

When I started seminary in 2007, my professor shocked me. He started the first day of the first class with this warning: “Some of you will not get an A in this class, and that will be a sin because it will mean that you didn’t take the class material seriously or work heartily as for the Lord. For those of you who will fall into this category, be warned.” I am an excellent straight-A student and I scoffed at this warning. This would not be my lot.

Yet, my professor continued, “Some of you will get an A in this class and that too will be a sin because it will mean that you neglected something more worthy in order to give time to this class.”

*Stab of poignant truth! * *gasp* (Imagine my heart doing a Shakespearean level death speech)

That was me.

I would almost always choose school and neglect worship, personal quiet times, community, service, or caring for others. I value my studiousness and it outranked so everything else for much of my life.

But since I am an eternal graduate student (going on year eight…), I am hoping to change my priorities and sometimes I practice worshipful mediocrity. This does not mean that I worship the Lord in a mediocre fashion! That would not be holy, honoring, or appropriately awe-inducing. He is worthy of all my worship. Rather, I perform other tasks with a level of mediocrity to allow space for worship.

I practiced this new balance this week as I turned in an assignment for class. It was good, but not my best. I estimate I will get a B+ on this assignment. I could have easily put more research into it. Found three more sources. Re-read my paper and honed a few sentences. And basically spent two more hours on this assignment to change my B+ to an A+. But I made the decision that I could spend these two hours differently. I could talk to my roommate, go for a walk, read scripture, pray, prepare for Sunday School, or just rest and remind myself that the world does not depend on my efforts continually. I also could have “saved” two hours from my school assignment just to squander them with mindless phone scrolling or frustration when I received my grade. The mediocre work wasn’t the win, what I did with my newly found time was what made it worshipful.

My time and energy are finite. It takes immense wisdom to choose the best yes for my limited resources. My professor’s first day speech has stuck with me more than a decade later. School is important. I want to complete it well, and still dedicate oodles and oodles of time toward it. But sometimes, mediocre work is the right choice. Intentional mediocrity reminds me that I am worthy no matter my grades and that I should spend my time and energy on the most important things, which isn’t always my discussion board post!

Where do you choose mediocrity and what do you put your energy toward instead?

Jan 6, 2018 - Book Review, My Story, Writing    3 Comments

Writers Write… And Publish!

I am a writer.

I have been for decades. I chronicled the triumphs and pitfalls of our family vacations as a teen. I am verbose and never have trouble meeting my word counts for assignments. Words are my friends and  a large part of my story. Because I am a writer. I truly do think best on paper. I must have an outlet for my thoughts, ponderings, curiosity, and insights.

Some of the best advice I ever received came from one of my favorite authors, Leigh McLeroy, who commiserated on the difficulty in writing and publishing, and the fact that those are two very different capacities. She said, “Writers write. Publishers publish. Don’t confuse the two.” So I write, honestly, faithfully, and frequently, and left the publishing dream for later.

But I have always longed to be published! To share my thoughts with others on a larger scale. In fact, I made a bet with my dad twenty years ago to see who could get published first. I am happy to announce that I won the bet with my dad. 

The talented and creative team of John, Abby, Margaret, and myself beautified, formatted, edited, and perfected my Bible study on the book of Jonah! I am a published author! You can find my work on Amazon.com! These are all dreams of mine. I teared up when I held the book that I wrote. That Abby and I labored over for months. That had to be formatted three separate times. The vulnerable stories I shared were labored over to made sure they say what I wanted them to. It was a labor of love, determination, and prayer from many, many sources. And, like a proud parent, I am happy to share it with you now. (Drumroll, please!)

 

Jonah: Salvation Belongs to the LORD

I remember it well: a bearded man in robes stuck on the flannel board next to a rotund, jovial-looking whale. Jonah. We’re dangerously familiar with it. But Jonah is far more than a fish tale. It is the story of a man, a servant of the Lord, called to go to his enemies. Jonah—though he is a prophet—is far from perfect, and it is perhaps more his failures than his successes that resonate with our everyday foibles and deep-rooted struggles. Although Jonah is the focus of our study, every book in the Bible is ultimately about God, His character, His glory, and His grand narrative that arches over all of our micro-narratives. We will trace this reality throughout Jonah in three major themes: God’s sovereignty, true obedience and repentance, and God’s love for the nations.

What you’ll find inside:

*11-week study formatted for discussion groups

*leader guide with schedule and format suggestions

*10 weeks of participant homework, divided into 3 days a week

*footnoted resources with scholars’ interpretations of complex questions

*optional culminating craft to reinforce the major themes of the book

Together we will seek to understand the God who works in and through imperfect people and to learn what it means to proclaim, “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” If you are looking to start the new year off right, consider doing this Bible study! Purchase at the link above, leave me a review, enjoy my foibles, and reinforce in your heart that Salvation Belongs to the Lord!

Dec 31, 2017 - My Story, Quotes    3 Comments

Grit with Grace

Rhythms in life feel familiar and welcomed. Newness awaits. 2017 was the year of Wonder(Full). It was intended to be full of wonder, full of busyness, and wonderful. And it lived up to its name.


 

In 2017, I ran a marathon, got published, taught a course, completed a year of doctoral work, survived a hurricane, made new friends, saw many theater productions, laughed a lot, and served faithfully at work. It was a year of Wonder. I could share only my best moments, the highlights of 2017, and while they are wonderful, they wouldn’t be the whole story.

In 2017 I also had my heart broken, felt lonely, dealt with disappointments, and injustices. I cried a lot and worked through more than one midlife crisis.  I frequently wished for more wonder and less busyness in my life. I believe that all stages of life always contain both emotions: joy and sorrow. Triumph and disappointment. Progress and stagnancy.

As I choose sat down this weekend to look back on the year, timeline my life, and think of options for 2018, I wanted to capture that balance. I made a huge list of words — deep powerful, beautiful words. Some connoted fierceness and determination, others rest and peace and rest. I’ve decided on a phrase that attempts to capture both:

2018 – The Year of Grit with Grace

Grit means perseverance for long-term goals. Connotations include: endurance, fierceness, defiant optimism, courage, and strength of character. Grit captures all the hustle that this year will no doubt hold. I will be experiencing schedule changes at work, choosing and attacking doctoral projects, and balancing these and other obligations in all of life. It will take grit.

But it will also take grace. Grace with myself and grace with others. In the Christian tradition, grace means unmerited favor. It connotes elegance, attractiveness, favor, forgiveness, belonging, prayer, and blessing. I long for 2018 to contain grace as well as grit. To know that the tasks will be rapid and steep, but that there is purpose in the sanctification and refinement. I believe 2018 will be a year of refinement, defiant joy, and purpose. I have chosen I Peter 2:6-9 as the verse to support the Year of Grit with Grace. It reads:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Running with endurance is grit. Walking when you need a respite is grace. Hustle, yes, but also be kind to yourself. Expect to succeed, and deal redemptively with failures when they inevitably come.

Happy New Year! Here’s to a balance of stick-to-it-iveness and self-care. That’s Grit with Grace.

Dec 2, 2017 - Writing    1 Comment

Winner!

November is over. December is here!

While most people’s focus is turned toward Christmas, mine is captured reflecting on the accomplishments of November.

I completed the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — admittedly with some modifications. Instead of writing 50,000 words of a novel in November, I kept track of all the words I wrote for work, school, and life for a month. This 207 page document is admitted disjointed and a strange read, but it chronicles the efforts that took up my time for a month of life. Filled with deep occupational therapy theory, short journaling snippets, and Bible study insights, this “novel” is absolutely unpublishable, but delightful nonetheless.

With a grand total of 50,041 words, I am a NaNoWriMo Winner!

www.nanowrimo.org

It helped that my school papers were due December 1 so those lengthy term papers pushed me over the edge (word count wise, and sanity wise!). I typically move right onto the next thing in life, but today I’m taking time to reflect, be thankful, and stand in wonder of the work that is now finished.

Here’s to November! And writing! And reflecting on what I’ve accomplished with perseverance and grit, even while I look forward to what is to come.

Nov 29, 2017 - Health, My Story    No Comments

Seeking Thanksgiving

Hospitals don’t get holidays.

Sickness doesn’t take a break, so hospitals have to keep working to promote wellness and health — no matter what date the calendar says.

I was thankful to have the weekend before Thanksgiving off this year to celebrate with my family. We’ve come to expect this “modified Thanksgiving” since I often work the week of Thanksgiving, serving the little turkeys.

I am thankful to let my coworkers have the day off to spend with their families. I am thankful for my job. I am thankful to wear funny headbands and try to make the best of a holiday where no one wants to be in the hospital: patients or staff. I see purpose in these choices and in my work. But I still sometimes dread going home after work on holidays. I work until after dinner time, which makes it difficult to attend any Thanksgiving festivities. Most of my in town friends were traveling or had plans earlier in the day.

I sought to find a place at someone’s table and it just wasn’t an option. I felt like a the holiday orphan. I had a choice to make here. Even though I got to celebrate with my family just a few days before, it still felt lonely to anticipate celebrating a holiday with leftovers eaten on my lap at home alone. Holidays are difficult. They are difficult if you’re alone. They are difficult if you’re with family. They are full of expectations and grand plans and often don’t live up to them. I wished that spending the evening alone didn’t bother me, but it did. I had a choice to make here, I needed to ask for help. I needed to share my need. To see who else felt alone and was looking for another option just like I was.

I was able to go on a last minute adventure to Disney with a coworker who was in the same situation as me. We had a Thanksgiving feast in Pandora, complete with Na’vi beverages. I ended up having a full and pleasant day. I am so thankful for everyone who got to celebrate with their families and friends on Thursday. If you were like me and separated from loved ones, for any reason, I fight for gratitude alongside you. I had to expend effort to seek thanks giving this year. I sought to practice defiant joy. I had to share my need.

I’ve realized more and more that giving thanks is not a natural tendency. It requires work. It requires a community to remind me of my blessings. It takes friends and family and coworkers to give hugs, phone calls, texts, and last minute Disney adventures to remind me that I’m not really alone. I spent my day seeking thanks giving, and it was worth it.

 

Nov 4, 2017 - Writing    No Comments

NaNoWriMo

Yes, that is not gibberish and is a correct title.

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, writers from around the world start pecking away at keyboards everywhere at a pace of exactly 1,667 words a day. The goal is just to write. The organizers of this challenge do not worry about quality, their goal is to encourage the creative act of writing. You win if you’ve completed 50,000 words at the end of November. Upload your work into the word count validator, and voila! You are a winner. No editing or revision required. They hope to train future writers to make good habits, build stamina, and just write. As one of my favorite authors told me years ago, “Writers write. Editing and publishing are two totally different skills”. That’s the heart of NaNoWriMo. I’ve always wanted to do this challenge!

nanowrimo.org

 

I love the thought of churning out nearly 2,000 words a day of thoughts, plot, action, and inner thoughts. I love the challenge. I love the community in this challenge together. And I am a sucker for medals and prizes!

So I’ve added this challenge to my life… sort of.

There is no way I can add novel writing to my to-do list currently. I work; I volunteer; I run (occasionally), and I am earning my doctorate. I cannot author a novel as well.

So I’m keeping track of my own challenge this year. Everything I write for the month of November is being loaded into one document. Every email, every blog post, every term paper, every discussion board post, all compiled into one strange document. I warn you in advance — It would be an absolutely terrible novel to read. There will be no character foils or foreshadowing or literary devices. It would instead be an odd autobiography of a month in the life of Kelly. What preoccupied my thoughts in November of 2017? What was I studying? Who did I write to? What epiphanies did I experience in my work? Will I reach the 50,000 word count goal?

This is a thought experiment for me. Will my words be an appropriate summary of my life this month? If I read my “novel” ten years from now would it bring back memories of this time in my life? How does it make me feel to be the main character of my peculiar novel? Even though there won’t be planned plot lines or vivid verbs chosen, there will be character development and plot, because it is a record of my lived life. I am constantly changing, learning, growing, and processing. My odd novel is just one way to capture the changes that happen around me and within me all the time. God is the Author of my world. He is writing a beautiful story in my life. I am just more aware of this truth than normal because of this challenge. With that thought, maybe that would be a cool novel to read after all!

Happy National Novel Writing Month! I’ll give you my word count at the end of the month!

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