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!

Nov 4, 2017 - My Story    3 Comments

What’s my age again?

I have no age.

My driver’s license boasts a birthdate, but my life experience varies widely.

This discussion has little to do with what I see when I look in the mirror, but more about the age I feel in my heart. In the past two months, I’ve had experiences that have made me feel decades different.  I got braces (making me feel like an adolescent), complete with shielding my smile and being aware of my jaw in novel ways.  I’ve also fallen in the shower, (necessitating the purchase of a shower chair for safety!) making my balance feel less reliable and me feel far older than I am.

I have no age. Or at least, not a consistent one.

When I ask children how old I am it has ranged from 6 to 100. And I feel that gap in my heart too.  I like to play and joke around and tell stories and be silly. I enjoy spending time with my little friends and entering their make-believe worlds. I wear costumes, including an inflatable T Rex for Halloween this year. I put flowers in my hair and like twirly skirts. One of my favorite hashtags is #DoctoralStudentPlayTime. I’ve been reminded of the importance of play as life has become more demanding with work and school and I have been up to the challenge. Because I am young-hearted.

And at the same time there is weightiness in my heart and an age in my thoughts. I dwell on philosophical queries throughout the day. I am intensely introspective and see beyond the surface of thoughts, actions, and words. I seek purpose in everything in life. I love words, wisdom, proverbs, and ideas and would much rather talk about real things, even when they are painful, than remain in surface pleasantries.

And even though these competing sides make me feel like I don’t fit in, I am so thankful for both sides. I am thankful that I can play and be goofy and cut loose and not take myself too seriously. And I am thankful that I can push deeper and take emotions, circumstances, relationships, and life seriously, recognizing the value and weight they each possess.

I feel like an anomaly. But I wouldn’t change it either. I want to be proud of my chronological age, and my ever-changing felt-age. I’m striving to own my peculiarities in this area and be proud of both my braces and my shower chair! I want to be proud of the knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained over the years, and also proud of the inner child that I’ve managed to let thrive. As I’m often reminded, life is about balance. Youth and maturity are both valuable, they each have their different strengths. How lucky we are to experience both.

Who wants to join me in dressing up followed by an in-depth discussion of Socrates’ writings?

 

Age does not depend upon years, but upon temperament and health.

Some men are born old, and some never grow up.     

Tryon Edwards

Sep 27, 2017 - Doctorate, My Story    1 Comment

My Three-Year Pregnancy

Before you ask, I am not really pregnant.

But I feel pregnant.

I am in my second year of a three-year doctoral program and I’ve begun to think of each year like a trimester. Perhaps this is just because I’m surrounded by little ones all day long, but the analogy works in my mind! Each trimester brings with it joys and pitfalls. Each with new challenges and changes. Here’s what I mean:

First Trimester: I read the books before hand. I planned to enter into this “pregnancy.” I felt prepared. But I wasn’t. My body underwent changes. I stopped sleeping. I had strange cravings. Morning sickness, projects, and anxiety abounds as the future feels daunting. How can I make it to the end? This is not what I expected it would be like.

Second Trimester: Currently, I’m in the second trimester, I have worked through the morning sickness, am comfortable with the idea of this pregnancy/program, and able to make plans to meet this little one. I’ve hit a good stride and the second trimester is magic. I’m far enough into the pregnancy to feel familiar with my new routines, but not so large that I am physically uncomfortable. I’m planning for the future, picking out nursery colors, and watching as my baby and project begin to take shape.
Third Trimester: The third trimester/year will arrive soon enough, and I’ll be more than ready to birth this doctoral project and get this kid out of me so I can sleep again! I am sure I will have “senioritis” and the need to feel finished with this program in the coming months and years and will need encouragement to finish with grit and grace. I will be anxious for the “post-natal” phase of life to begin.
Even as I write this, I know that the post-natal/post-graduation phase of life will bring with it new challenges, joys, pitfalls, and changes. Life seems to be in a constant state of transition. Always seemingly just out of the reach of stability. But that doesn’t make it bad. My dad has reminded me ever since I can remember that each phase of life has its joys and drawbacks. None is inherently better than the other and I can learn from all of them.
Learn from the struggles. Accentuate the good. And keep living the adventure of life.
I’m trying to take his advice. So I continue to eat healthy, sleep when I can, exercise, go to the doctor and care for this little bundle of doctoral joy that I’m currently maturing during my three-year pregnancy.
Moms, what did I miss in my trimester analogy?
Aug 2, 2017 - My Story    1 Comment

Level Up!

Do you anticipate or dread birthdays?

For me, birthdays bring up such mixed emotions. I often feel grateful for another year of life, adventures, and sanctification. But some years bring up feelings of ennui. I ask myself, “What do I have to show for myself this year?” or “Why doesn’t my life feel like I imagined it?”

This was one of those years.

I turned 35. That felt like a significant number. Yes, I am pursuing another degree. Yes, I have wonderful friends & family. Yes, I have people in my corner who love me. But sometimes, in my downcast moments, I can concentrate on what I don’t have. I wish I had a guy in my life.  I wish my ovaries didn’t twitch so much, wishing for a little one of my own, not just the cuties I get to serve at work each day. If I have a baby in the future I will be officially considered a “geriatric mother” and although I know many women who have had children later in life, that diagnoses scares me because I am well acquainted with the risks.

I dreaded this birthday for several months. But I had two choices: to isolate and wallow in ennui. Or to be honest about my disappointments and then choose to concentrate on gratitude.

I chose the latter. I bought a new outfit, organized a few birthday celebrations, and surrounded myself with people who could both be honest about life’s disappointments and also celebrate heartily.

I even had a theme: I don’t get older, I level up!

34 was an important year for me. I began my doctoral degree. I moved houses. I went on adventures. I chose joy and wonder in the face of obstacles. I chose to play, even at 35, I’m not too old to be silly. I prayed and journaled honestly about how much I was dreading this year and this age. I shared the fears I had, both legitimate and imagined. I organized a day full of playfulness including friends, special meals, and an escape game!

I ended up having a wonderful birthday. I received love through hugs, texts, messages, phone calls, and laughter throughout the day. I believe I was able to experience the beauty of this day because I was willing to go through the valley of disappointment honestly. Life is not what we expect it to be. It is not perfect. But that does not mean it is not wonderful!

Here’s to the year of wonder. Level up!

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