My Dream

Julia asked me the other day about my dream. “What’s your dream, Kelly?” This is something extremely relevant to her life as she has recently laid down a dream and is searching for a new one. Also, I’m her mentor, so it was a fair question. In fact, I probably should have been expecting it. But I wasn’t, and it shook me.

I haven’t been asked that question in many years, certainly not since I’ve been back from El Salvador, and I had no answer. I used to be able to answer it so readily because I’ve always had some dream or another beating inside of me. And I was shaken. And sad. And ashamed. And I felt a little hopeless. How could I, her mentor and someone who’s always had a dream on her heart, not have a dream of my own? And worse yet, not realize that I’d lost that part of me. That is a very scary place to find yourself.

I’ve obviously been thinking about this a lot since she asked me, trying to pray about it (though that is painful) and searching the scriptures to see what God says about this. I’ve come to a few conclusions about how I got to this place.

  1. Since El Salvador I’ve kind of turned off my heart. I’ve been essentially heart dead for the past three and a half years. I’ve not allowed myself to hope or dream because I didn’t want to get hurt. That’s understandable, but it’s cowardly.
  2. I’ve been distracted. I’ve allowed everything (hobbies, Netflix, mentoring, work, family, etc) to have my attention to the detriment of caring for my own heart.
  3. I’ve not been delighting in the Lord. This is the main thing. This is what it all boils down to. Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When we delight ourselves in the Lord by seeking him, talking with him, listening to him, reading his word and investing in that relationship, then his desires begin to become our desires. He places new dreams and new desires on our heart. He gives them to us. He is the source. And I’ve not been delighting in the source for the last few years.

It makes me sad to think that I’ve lost so much time, but I am excited to have the veil removed and a new opportunity to delight in the One who knows me best and loves me most. And one day there will be a new dream. I can’t wait for that day.

 

Burn the Ships

In 1519 Captain Hernan Cortez landed in the new world with a mission. They were there to conquer and, as it turns out, it wasn’t easy. In order to make a point about the importance of the mission and to take away the easy out, Cortez destroyed his ships. Most reports are that he burnt them. They were there to stay.

My friend, Allison, is a master ship burner.

She is a senior in college right now, but over the last few years I have watched her fight so hard, through some of the darkest valleys, but she did not give up. You can read about her story on her blog, but I wanted to share a little bit from my perspective.

I was reading in Romans yesterday some verses that I feel like I have read hundreds of times throughout my life. But yesterday they took on a new meaning as I thought about them in terms of Allison. Paul writes to the people in Rome:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

This is the perfect picture of how Allison has been living the last couple of years and how God has been faithful to her. There were moments when she was in some deep and dark valleys that seemed like they had no way out. But she decided to fight. She looked to God for even the dimmest of lights to find a path, she found the path and then fought, and clawed and kept going until she reached the top. Her suffering produced a perseverance. And there where moments along the path that she wanted to turn back. It is much easier going down. It is much easier to walk in familiar territory. But she burnt her ships. There was no turning back. And through her perseverance, Godly character was produced. And in that character, she has found hope. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a hopeful and kind heart. But it didn’t happen over night. What I realized yesterday was that hope doesn’t happen because we decide we want it. Hope doesn’t come with the flick of the switch or with a new dawn. Hope comes after the suffering. After the fight. After the struggle. After we allow God to use that pain to shape our character. Then, looking back, we find hope. And that hope does not disappoint us because our bottom line hope is found in Christ.

Allison, you are an inspiration to me. You have a trust and a hope in Christ that leaves me breathless. You and I both know that there are more valleys and more mountain tops to come, but you have everything that it takes to make it through. Keep burning your ships. I am so proud of you and I love you!

One Way to Mentor

(This is part three of a three part series. Click here for part one and here for part two) 

Mentoring has gotten a bad wrap. When people hear the word mentor, they think book study, weekly meetings, old people, etc. The older generations may be thinking that sounds great, but to the Millennials, nothing could sound worse. They don’t want a regular meeting, more homework or a relationship with a time limit on it. Don’t tie them down, man! I’d have to agree with them on all points. So let me set the record straight right now: we don’t have regular meeting times, we don’t go through a book study and I don’t do this through an organization.

Homework at Starbucks!
Homework at Starbucks!

It’s totally organic. It’s a real life friendship. Things have changed a bit since five of my six are now in college, but for the most part, we connect once a week. Not because we have a set meeting time, but because we like hanging out together.

In Deuteronomy, Moses tells parents to impress the truths of God upon their children when they sit at home and when they walk along the road. I believe this natural sort of talking and learning can and should be applied to mentoring as well. Teenagers and college students don’t need (or want) another thing to do, but they love to connect. When we make our lives available to them we allow that chance to connect. And you aren’t there to preach; you are there to walk along the road with them. It will require a certain vulnerability, because it will mean sharing the mistakes you’ve made. When you are willing to be open and honest with them (to the level that is appropriate for the situation), you will gain their trust. You will be a person they can count on.

Braves game!
Braves game!

To narrow it down a little bit, I believe there are two main jobs of a mentor for the Millennial generation:

  1. To interpret. These people definitely do not need any more information. They have information coming at them from all directions at all times of day. If they want an answer, they can find an answer. They don’t need you for the information. What they need are trusted adults to help them interpret the information that they are receiving. When I was living in El Salvador, one of my girls texted me and asked, “Kelly why is God allowing all of this bad stuff to happen?” I didn’t know it at the time I received her text, but the Boston Marathon bombing had just taken place and she was receiving all of that information from all around her. She was looking for an interpreter and I had the enormous privilege of being that for her. You won’t have all the answers. But when you make yourself available, you can help them to interpret.. 
  2. To provide perspective. You are in the unique position to provide the perspective that only you can give. You have walked ahead of them and now you are walking alongside them. What are you seeing that they can’t see? What have you learned that they haven’t learned yet? You get to help them see a situation from a different angle.
Yes, we play Scrabble at Starbucks...
Yes, we play Scrabble at Starbucks…

So what do we do? Whatever we feel like, basically. I look at my calendar each week (I work retail so my schedule is random) and figure out when there are times that I could realistically give, and I start texting out invitations. Sometimes they take me up on it and sometimes they don’t. It could be anything from coffee, to breakfast/lunch/dinner, to concerts or sporting events. If they are doing something that I can go cheer for, I go and cheer them on. If it is in my power to be there, I am there. I help with homework, I edit papers, we have long text conversations, I take calls in the middle of the night, we take road trips, and we have game nights. We just live life together, like normal friends.

Yes, it requires some sacrifice, but it is so very worth it. Bob Goff, in his book Love Does, says, “But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright.” Nothing is more loving than the gift of your time.

I do not take this lightly. Knowing that these young hearts trust me makes me dive further into the Bible. I have nothing to offer them if my tank is empty or if I am not rooted in the truths of God. My words could potentially change the course of their lives and that is something that I take very seriously. You better believe I pray before each interaction.

I am so much better for having these girls in my life. It is not one sided. I am so very blessed by them every time I see them. They help me see the world differently and my ability to love has increased because of them. So when people ask me why I hang out with teenagers (now young adults), my normal answer is, “Why don’t you?” 

Why Mentoring?

IMG_3559(This is part two of a three post series. Click here for part one)

When “my girls” introduce me to someone, most of the time they call me their mentor. I usually say that too, but I cringe a little because mentoring has gotten a bad wrap (more on that in the next post). 

Over the next two posts, I would like to answer two important questions:

  1. Why is mentoring important?
  2. How can I mentor?

In this entry I will focus on the first question.

We live in a fairly young country, compared to the rest of the world, but a lot has changed

First visit home from college at the same time.
First visit home from college at the same time.

relationally in that short time. Back in our foundational years (and all the way back to Bible times), the generation gap was narrow. Girls grew up working day in and out with their mothers, aunts and grandmas. Not only that, but many times they grew up working with, learning from and talking to various women in the community. Maybe that was in going down to the river to do the wash together or cooking together. They learned from each other. They fellowshipped together. They, of course, spent time with people their own age, but walking with and learning from the older generations was normal and essential for growth and development. Young boys did the same with their fathers and other men in the community. They were apprentices; learning trades by working alongside someone who had walked before them. And yet, somewhere along the way we started to lose that intimacy. As technology developed, education systems changed and transportation improved, we began to separate from one another. Soon it became every man for himself, and while children are still exposed to the knowledge and advice of their parents, they are missing the critical element of other adults in the community.

We all need guidance. We need people who have walked ahead of us, who can share the lessons they’ve learned and warn of us pitfalls they see us walking towards.

Mentoring gives me the chance to help a generation of young women understand who God is, what it means to be loved unconditionally by him, that holiness is not out of reach and that He really is at work all around them. It is truly a holy calling. Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” That is an incredible privilege! Sharing the works of the Lord that we read in the Bible, and the works of the Lord in our own lives. We are passing down the story of God to the next generation. If you are willing to take the time to earn their trust, you have the privilege of influencing the course of their lives. It is a great privilege that you will completely miss out on if you stick to the generation gaps that our society has created.IMG_5372

You may think you aren’t qualified. That is a lie. Each of us is uniquely qualified to mentor. Each of us has a story to tell and you never know how your story might speak to the heart of a young woman. This generation is so open to mentoring, but that means you have to take a step of faith and put yourself out there! You don’t need to be “cool,” you need to be trustworthy.

Start praying about some young people in your life that you could start investing in. Who comes to mind? Tomorrow I will talk about my mentoring methods, if you need some ideas. But, there isn’t a rulebook. Be creative!

Words of encouragement are like that. They have their own power. And when they are said by the right people, they can change everything. What I’ve found in following Jesus is that most of the time, when it comes to who says it, we each are the right people. And I’ve concluded something else. That the words people say to us not only have shelf life but have the ability to shape life. -Bob Goff

Read the next post of this three part mentoring series here.

Mentoring: My Story

Let’s start with some background. To be honest, before the fall of 2011, I did not really enjoy being around teenagers. My own teenage years, like most people’s, were somewhat confusing and I didn’t feel the need to relive them. And then I ended up with four tickets to the Taylor Swift show in Columbia, SC. There was teenage girl that I did like being around, since I’d babysat her for several years, and she happened to love Taylor Swift as well. I thought it might be fun to go with her and let her invite some friends, so that’s what we did. I picked up Allie and her two friends, Allison and Hannah, at Allie’s house and we headed off to South Carolina. I was totally intimidated. I had never met these other two girls and all of them were sitting in my backseat watching the Twilight movies while I drove.

I wasn’t sure what I’d gotten myself into. But as we arrived at the hotel and got ready for the show and I watched them relate to one another, God started to plant something in my heart.

We have now spent countless hours at Starbucks, travelled to a few States, eaten tons of cheese dip, cried tears, laughed until we cried and played a ton of Scrabble. I ask them about their lives, they ask me about all of the mistakes I’ve made.

Sometimes they ask for advice, sometimes they just want to be listened to. But, why? What’s the point? Why can’t they just hang out with people their own age? What is the benefit to us spending time together? Isn’t it weird? These are all great questions. Stay tuned in the next few days to get some answers.

In the meantime, think about some of the most influential people in your life. Why were they so influential? What did they give you that made you feel the most valuable?

Read the second post in this three part mentoring series here.

One Year

One year ago tomorrow I boarded a plane from El Salvador to the USA for the last time, as far as I know. It was an extremely fast and completely unexpected transition. It was a shattered dream. It felt like a betrayal. It was confusing. It was so painful. It felt hopeless. But it is being redeemed day by day. I thought I would take a minute to reflect on some of the lessons that I have learned over this past year.

  1. Forgive in real time. This lesson came from a very wise woman in my life after a conversation about a month after I returned. She listened patiently as I told my story and shared my heart and then she said, “Kelly one of the most healing things you can do is learn to forgive in real time.” What she meant was that when all of the memories and accusations and conversations start playing in my head, I can either feed them or I can diffuse them. So in those moments when I would start remembering and thinking the “how could you’s” I would forgive. Right then. In real time. It completely diffused the ugly thoughts that could easily become sin. For awhile forgiving in real time was literally every five minutes. But it was very healing. And the reality is, a lack of forgiveness doesn’t hurt the person I’m not forgiving. They don’t care. They are over it. It only hurts me. One of my favorite quotes is “Forgiveness is setting a prisoner free and discovering that the prisoner was you.”
  2. God works most profoundly in the midst of shattered dreams. One of my favorite verses comes from the book of Proverbs and it says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true there is life and joy.” And that’s the thing. You’ve got to wade through that hope deferred. You have to go through it, push through it, nearly drown in it sometimes. You have to do it though, because life and joy are on the other side. You have to go through it, not around it. I have seen God move so profoundly in my life this year. He has brought healing, hope when there was none, renewed my calling, taught me how to love better and deeper, given me a renewed love and desire for the Gospel…I could go on and on. Shattered dreams are neither surprising nor troublesome for God. They are his most unique canvas.
  3. Just because it didn’t turn out the way you thought it would doesn’t mean that you weren’t called to do it in the first place. Man, I struggled with this so much. Because my time in El Salvador ended so abruptly and painfully, I started doubting whether I was supposed to even go there to begin with. That’s where the enemy attacks us, isn’t it? He takes our pain and turns it into insecurity. But that’s not what God does. He used another wise woman in my life to remind me that my calling wasn’t to El Salvador or to the children of La Casa. My calling was and always is to Jesus. Wherever he takes me. She also reminded me how certain and clear my calling was to go. Not just to me but to everyone around me. My job is to obey, God’s job is everything else.
  4. Sometimes I feel like a sailboat. And that’s ok. I posted this post about a sailboat soon after I returned. Sometimes I still feel like that. Drifting, depending on a wind that doesn’t seem to come, looking for the shore, feeling like I’m talking but no one is listening. And that’s ok. The thing about sailboats is that the wind eventually picks up and that shoreline eventually shows itself. And God is always listening.
  5. Hope does not disappoint us. I didn’t really believe this until recently. More on my story of losing hope and finding it again in the next few blogs!

Stop Being Typical (What I Learned From My 13-Year-Old Cousin)

This past week I got to spend some one on one time with my awesome cousin, Lily. She is thirteen years old and a total sparkler. She’s full of joy, reckless abandon and kindness. I mean, look at her!

IMG_2193

The first time we hung out we went to Starbucks for a couple of hours and just talked. It was at that point that I noticed something very unusual about teenage Lily. She had an iPhone with her (that’s normal), but the iPhone stayed in her pocket the whole time. She never brought it out except at the end when I asked her to show me some pictures of her friends. I can’t remember the last time I sat a talked with anyone who didn’t take their phone out at least once. Most people have them right next to them the whole time. I thought to myself, “It’s in her pocket, so surely she can feel it going off, but she’s still not checking it.” I was so impressed with her.

A couple of days later we went to lunch together. I thought the no phone thing was a total fluke and as waiting for her to bust it out. But she didn’t. Not once. Afterwards I mentioned how impressed I was with her and how much I appreciated it. I told her that it must be hard to feel it going off in your pocket and still not look at it. She looked at me and said, “I can’t feel it going off. I have it on Do Not Disturb.” I seriously almost passed out right there from the shock. I have honestly never felt so valued in my life. This thirteen year old gets it. Most people I know, including adults, don’t.

This whole thing reminded me of a quote from my favorite book, Love Does, by Bob Goff. He says, “When you decide to drop everything that’s typical, all that is left is just a big idea about an even bigger God and a world that’s worn out from the way everyone else has been doing it. The world has been shouting over the noise of our programs that it doesn’t need more presidents or organizations, what it needs are more friends. If you are a sincere friend, folks around you will quickly understand that there’s no hidden agenda and nothing on the other side of the equals sign—just you.” We have gotten lost in a world that has decided that the people who are sitting in front of us are not as important as the ones in our social media worlds, or our text worlds. We are so wrapped up in the people we can’t see, that we miss the people that we can.

I would encourage you to be a little more like Lily. Use that beautiful Do Not Disturb feature. Focus on the person in front of you for just a little while. Be a sincere friend. You will never regret making someone feel valuable.

IMG_2196

In the Meantime

Yesterday my pastor started a sermon series with this same title. I love that he is doing this series right now as it is exactly where I am. In the meantime. So I thought I might give a little update of what I have been doing since I left El Salvador and some plans, at least through September.

I had no plans to leave El Salvador anytime soon. In fact, when people would ask me how long I was going to be there, I would say, “As long as God has me here, but I can see myself here for a very long time.” So, needless to say, I hadn’t been thinking about what else I would like to do or a direction that God was leading me in. It was unexpected and it caused a lot of sadness and grief for me. Sadness and grief, not because I lost myself or my views of “whose” I am, but because I LOVED those kids and what I was doing down there. Those are things worth grieving. So I spent the first several weeks in what my friend called the “tourniquet stage” trying to stop the bleeding. During that time I spent time with friends and family, cried, and talked with trusted people in my life. It also included a couple of trips with my family. I also connected with an amazing counselor and have loved (and hated…haha) digging in with her. She has helped me to process the transition and it’s effects on my heart, identify things that need to be grieved, identify some habits or “vows” that I have made in my life and process what it means to live in the meantime right now. We have been discussing how ambiguity is the perfume of God. That space in between giving up and taking control is where we get a whiff of God.

One huge gift that God gave me during this time was the chance to jump back into the lives of three amazing teenage girls that I’ve been investing in for a few years. They are in a transition time from high school to college and I was grateful for the chance to walk through that with them. They are a huge gift to me and God has used them greatly in my life, but especially this summer.

So what now? For the long term, I have no idea. That is annoying to me as I am a planner and I don’t know what the plan is. But I also feel extreme peace about it. For the short term, I will be traveling quite a bit from next week through the first week of October. I was supposed to be home from August 23-Oct 1 for a five week break after team season in El Salvador. My family and I planned (and paid for) a couple of trips for my time home, so we are still planning on enjoying those trips. The first one is next week. My dad and I are headed out to Colorado to have our revenge on Mt. Elbert (which put me in the hospital a couple of years ag0). I am looking forward to five days out there with him! In September my entire family is heading to Disney World for a week. I can’t wait to experience that with all of my nieces and nephews!

And then there is something new added to the plan. My counsellor was asking me what I want to do with my “in the meantime” if I could do anything. I told her that since I have been home, I have been dreaming about taking a road trip out west. God put a very specific dream on my heart a very long time ago about a couple of states out west and I was feeling pulled out there to check it out. She asked me why I didn’t go do that and I told her that it just didn’t seem financially responsible or super safe or realistic. And she told me that she hadn’t heard a real reason that I shouldn’t do it. She’s super subtle. So for two weeks in September/October, I will be making a trip out west to Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota and I couldn’t be more excited! My goals out there are:

  1. See and enjoy beautiful pieces of creation that I have never seen before but have been dreaming about.
  2. Spend uninterrupted time with my Creater/Father/Friend in his creation dreaming, praying, and mostly listening. Getting that “whiff of God.”
  3. Meet new people.
  4. Come back with a fresh perspective on the next chapter of my life and hopefully some direction on a career path.

So that’s what is going on with me right now. I know it seems ambiguous, but I think I am finally ok with it. In this ambiguity I am finding peace, healing, and a trust in God that I haven’t known before.

Sailboat

As most of you know, I’ve been through a big and tough transition in my life recently. Many people have been asking me how I’ve been doing, and I haven’t had a great answer. It’s really hard to describe. And then I heard this song. This. This is how I am doing. Confusion. Doubt. Wondering. Wandering. Hope.

“Sailboat” by Ben Rector

I feel just like a sailboat
I don’t know where I’m headed
But you can’t make the wind blow
From a sailboat

I have seen the sun
Felt the rain on my skin
I’ve been lost and found
But mostly I’ve been waiting

Oh I’m out in the waves
I’m hoping and praying
Please let this wind blow me home
Night after night there’s an empty horizon
And my God do I feel so alone
Sometimes life, most times I, feel just like a sailboat

I’m pretty sure I’m heard
At least I know I’m speaking
But I feel like a fool
Cause I can’t hear you listening

But I’m not giving up
Oh I will move on forward
I’m gonna raise my sail
God knows what I’m headed towards

Oh I’m out in the waves
I’m hoping and praying
Please let this wind blow me home
Night after night there’s an empty horizon
And my God do I feel so alone
Sometimes life, and most times I, feel just like a sailboat

The only change I see
Lost or found, let’s see
The only difference is believing I’ll make it in

Oh I’m out in the waves
I’m hoping and praying
Please let this wind blow me home
Night after night there’s an empty horizon
My God, do I feel so alone
Sometimes life, most times I, feel just like a sailboat