I’m great! (Right?)

Well I’m clearly not the best about keeping up with my blog, but I do really want to share this journey with y’all so I’ll do my best.

The last couple of months have been a variety of ups and downs, lessons learned, struggles overcome, self realizations, and times cherished. In the last week I’ve realized that I have actually been kind of stressed out for awhile. There were moments of temporary stress or being overwhelmed, but for the most part it was a gradual process that caught up with me all of a sudden.

I’ve been really busy with work, program commitments, community events, fundraiser meetings, and everything in between, but I’ve always enjoyed being busy and have thrived in stressful environments. At least that’s what I thought. While it is true that I do well under pressure, I internalize stress and don’t let it bother me until it either starts affecting my relationships or my health. Generally in subtle ways, but the stress is still impactful. It’s normally after the fact that I realize all these little signs were actually subconscious outward expressions of my internal stress. For example, my skin has been acting up since I moved to Denver and I figured it was a change in weather, the altitude, dry climate, new environment, slight stress, a change in hormones, and all sorts of temporary stress. The thing is, it didn’t clear up, which stressed me out. I also gained a little weight but blamed it on the fact that it got colder here than anywhere else I’ve ever lived so I didn’t feel like going out to exercise in the icy tundra. I didn’t talk to many of my friends from home or school regularly, but figured we were all busy and who really has time to make the effort? (Hint: it should be mutual, but you DO have the time to keep up with the ones you care about even if you have to make time.)

Overall I’m good. Great even. I love my job, my roommates, this city, my friends, and everything else that is surrounding my life right now. There was really no reason for me not to be great. Right? Well, kind of right.

A couple of days ago I had a half day from work and the weather was beautiful. I went on a solid run, did some laundry, sat outside and read soaking in the warmth of the day, cooked two full meals, cleaned the house, and overall really enjoyed myself. As I was walking to the grocery store to grab something I needed for our extended community dinner (housemates and neighbors), I was just so happy and relaxed I said “Thank you Lord for this day and this wonderful time of my life!” as my eyes filled with tears. I knew it was a good day, but I didn’t know just how much I needed it. My soul felt refreshed and energized. I spent some time with the Lord (another thing I had been needing to MAKE more time for) and realized how out of sorts I had been.

I’m not saying that everything is perfect now that I realize how my built up stress has been affecting my life, but I think I’m on the right track to getting back in a healthy rhythm.

  • Talking to friends and family more: check
  • Making time to work out and eat healthy: check (ish)
  • Being intentional about my time with the Lord: Working on it
  • Taking time to be alone and be at peace: Working on it
  • Loving the people around me with all that I have: my favorite thing to do

I’m very comfortable in Denver and I have a feeling that the level of comfort pushed me in the direction of being complacent in certain areas of my life. That is not okay with me. I want to constantly be pushing to better my life and the world, but in a way that encourages a healthy lifestyle for me and the people around me.

I am planning/hoping to do another year of service this next year so stay tuned to hear more about my discernment process and what that is going to look like. I know that the Lord is calling me to another place, I’m just not sure what that place is yet or what that will look like. I would love for you to keep me in your prayers in general, and especially during this time of processing what is next for me.

As for now, I’m off to spend the weekend in California with some college friends and my brother (best gift he’s ever given me) so I am looking forward to sunning, beaching, reading, hiking, and enjoying my people. A much needed trip that will be filled with much needed time with loved ones!

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Kelsey

Blessed Beyond Measure

I’ve been realizing more and more lately how much I have. In terms of family, friends, material things, clothes, support, resources, shoes, and opportunities – I have them in abundance and I am extremely blessed. 

I was talking to my momma recently about something I planned to bring back to Denver after winter break and thought out loud, “I really can’t believe I own more than what I have here with me. I don’t even need all the things I have right now.” I then got a little sick to my stomach thinking about the full closet, shoe shelf, bins of kitchen supplies, hair things, beds (yes, plural), and countless other things that I left in Texas. A fully furnished room and a mass of bins taking over the guest room. Seriously, how did I collect so much stuff over the years? Why did I think I needed all those things?

I remember struggling to pack and couldn’t believe I was attempting to live with only two suitcases (and two boxes that I mailed) of stuff for a year. Were they crazy?! No, they weren’t. I was. 

I’ve bought a few things since being here (found some gem thrift stores to supplement my winter clothes collection-it was pathetic) but even before that I didn’t need anything. Besides a really warm jacket, of course. So now I sit with yet another full room and closet. I used to think my dad was clinically insane when he would say stuff like, “you only need one pair of (insert clothing/shoe item).” I mean, come on Greg. How am I supposed to function with only ONE pair of jeans? Or one pair of black heels? That’s ridiculous. No! I AM RIDICULOUS! I mean, having the luxury of choosing between clothing items and shoe choices is more than most of the world can do. Next time I find myself thinking, “I have nothing to wear today” I hope someone walks in and slaps me in the face. 

My support network and resources make me feel like I’m capable of anything, and that is such a wonderful feeling, but so few people have that. I had just as much of a chance to be born into my family as I did to be born into a family that has struggled with poverty for generations, or any other situation for that matter. I did NOTHING to earn the life I was given, and neither did people born into poverty earn that either. It’s the luck of the draw, and apparently I drew all the cards and didn’t leave many for other people. 

After being here for about a month I was struggling with the above thoughts and the guilt that can come along with it. But I chose another route. You can’t control the life you’re born in to, but you can control what you do with your life, and I’m going to make a difference. I am going to use my resources, opportunities, education, physical abilities, and everything else I’ve got to do my part in making the world a better place. I can’t change who I am or the hand I’ve been dealt, but I can attempt to play the cards in a way that will do the most good for the most people. I don’t quite know what that will look like, but stick around-I’m sure it’ll be an interesting journey. 

Count your blessings everyday and thank the Lord for giving you the life He’s given you. 

Whirlwind

Wow. The last month went by so quickly, I didn’t even realize I hadn’t posted on here until a dear friend gave me grief about it. It is a whirlwind season around these parts, I don’t even know where to begin. I won’t discuss my entire month (even though I know you’re all dying to hear the boring details) but I’ll give a brief overview.

I bought an old school Schwinn road bike from the 80’s that had been restored into awesome condition and I named it Sasha. My community and I went to a Lumineers concert at Red Rocks in the middle of a rainstorm during the flooding period around here, and it was fantastic! I realized that all my ‘winter’ clothes weren’t keeping me warm in September so I went thrifting and got a legit Columbia jacket on the cheap. Our van had a flat tire so I helped change it-marking my first tire change ever. Had a slight health issue that eventually went away. Met a friend-of-a-friend who is now our 5th unofficial roommate. Went to a few Rockies games to watch them lose. Had multiple good friends come into town (usually for work) who I got to spend time with-such a blessing. Went on some fantastic hikes. Got my nose pierced. Attended my first NHL game to watch the Avalanche open their season with a win. Got snowed on. Worked a food drive that raised 80,000+ pounds of food for DenUM. Taught a class at DU about poverty and homelessness. Played with puppies. Learned how to make a longboard and proceeded to make a deck with my community. Played in a Thunderball tournament. Went to a Mennonite Relief Sale and watched all sorts of things being made (and ate lots of pie). Ran in the Rock n Roll half marathon with one of my roommates. Interviewed Chapman applicants with my old boss and got to catch up with him. That brings us up to date so I guess that’s all I’ve been up to. Oh! And all the glorious day to day work I get to do that continues to uplift and inspire me on a daily basis.

In short, I love it here. I am getting to do so many wonderful things while doing work that I know the Lord has called me to do. The people I work with are super heroes and I cherish them all. My community is a random group of weirdos that I cannot imagine being here without. I cannot even fathom living anywhere else or doing anything else with my life right now, and it is such a beautiful feeling.

A brief photo diary of the past month (in mostly chronological order):

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Thank you for the prayers and support, I wouldn’t be able to be here without either of those things and I know I am extremely fortunate to have this opportunity. Pray for the coming cold months-for my easily cold self, but mainly those without warm homes to go to at the end of a winter day.

Be blessed and be a blessing

Looking for Hope (and finding it)

Last week was my first week of work at DenUM! It was filled with excitement, new friends, public transportation woes, confusion, triumph, and hives. It was quite the week to say the least. I learned my way around the building, felt extremely welcome by everyone on staff, sat through hours of informational talks and meetings, and met some clients that I will remember for the rest of my time here, and possibly my life. One of those stories is Trisha’s. The rest of this post is taken from one of my journal entries from last week that I thought would help paint a picture of my time here so far. If it seems like I’m talking to myself, it’s because I am.

 

I was shadowing intakes (one on one informational talks with clients when they arrive to get information for our system and see what services they came in for) and had just gotten started for the day when Trisha came back into the room with a coworker and myself. She came in like any other client and went through basic verification questions because she had been there before, but when we got to current address, her demeanor changed. She told us that her address had in fact changed because she had left her (soon to be ex) husband and was trying to make it on her own. She told us about how he had “knocked her around” for years but she couldn’t support herself independently so she stayed. Finally, she left. All the while worrying about bills and food and everything in between.

Her current proof of address was a pay check she had picked up earlier that morning. She held it in her hands like it was sacred and made of glass. Trisha explained that she had requested to get her check a little early so she could pay her rent in time, and she did. She looked down at her check, then up at me, and said with tears in her eyes, “I did it! I really did it.” She continued by saying that she still obviously needed help – DenUM included – but that it was healthy help she felt good about taking. As her eyes continued to fills with tears of joy and pride, so did mine. I will forever hear her voice saying, “I can do this!” through hopeful tears as a reminder of the strength and courage we all possess.

This work can be hard, frustrating, and draining – but it is so worth it. On my first day of work, the executive director Tammy sat the new volunteers down for a chat. She told stories from her service year decades ago, informed us of aspects of DenUM culture, and imparted wisdom she thought we should hear. One of the main things I took away was about the importance of balancing work with the rest of our lives. Since we see so much brokenness and pain on a daily basis, it’s easy to take those worries home with you at the end of the day, but don’t. You can’t end the cycle of poverty while you’re at work, so why try from home? The problems, the darkness, the oppression, and the hurt, will all be there the next day when you show up. Maybe in smaller amounts, maybe not. But don’t take it home with you, it won’t do any good.

Work your tail off while you can and do the most good that you are able, but don’t let the despair pull you in and convince you that you’ve lost – because you haven’t. They call it a fight for justice for a reason, so keep fighting. Keep pushing onward and holding on to hope. Keep saying ‘I can do this’ like Trisha, in a world that says you can’t. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength, so go get ‘em!

Guard your heart, but pour it out at the same time. Be present where you are and let the Lord work through you always. Be the hands and feet of the One who created yours. Meet people where they are and love them as He would. Work for change, but be content when you can’t see it happening. Look for joy and hope in every situation. Thank the Lord for these experiences, even when they break your heart, and especially when they give you hope.

Peace & Blessings

In the Beginning

Well it has certainly been an eventful couple of weeks since leaving Texas! All of the national and international YAVs (Young Adult Volunteers) gathered for a week in upstate New York for orientation. We were able to connect with our future housemates and get to know the people going to every other YAV city. By the end of the week I was amazed at the community that had formed and the support I felt from people I had just met days before. One night on the phone with a friend in California, I said that it was refreshing to be around people who understood what I was about to do, and why. These were my people! They get it! I can definitely say that I made strong connections last week that will last for years, if not forever.

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Traveling to Denver with my new roommates was exciting to say the least. We were tired, yes, but the anticipation of getting to our new home and starting this adventure was enough to spur us onward and keep the adrenaline pumping. The adrenaline was not enough, however, to keep some of us from feeling the effects of the altitude within the first couple of days, but we charged on. Visiting each of the places we would be working all year, looking for used bikes, eating at funky Denver hipster restaurants, exploring public transportation, and spending quality time as a community learning more about each other and our new city, it has been a long but meaningful first week.

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Waking up in this house everyday with its lack of A/C, creaky floors, strange unprovoked noises, remnants of communities past, and mismatched furniture, makes this experience finally start to feel real. All of the planning, phone calls, paperwork, and conversations, have all led to this-and I’m here. I’m really here. It still feels surreal sometimes, but I know I’m where the Lord wants me to be and I’m excited for how He’ll work in and through me this year. Making our first homemade dinner last night as a group felt like the icing on the cake of this orientation week, bringing us together as a family to create and share a meal.

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Quick birthday shout out to my Pops who turns 50-something tomorrow! Thank you for instilling a passion for mission work in me from the very beginning, I wouldn’t be here without your guidance and support.

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I officially start my job at DenUM on Tuesday and I’m very excited about it! Though I feel at peace being here right now, prayers are still needed and appreciated. One of the songs we sang at orientation in NY had a verse that has become my anthem and prayer for this upcoming year, so I thought I would share it with you.

Christ in the eyes of all who see me

Christ in the ears that hear my voice

Christ in the hearts of all who know me

Oh Christ surround me

Oh Christ surround me

Peace and blessings

Preparing for a New Chapter

As the summer is coming to an end, I am astonished at how quickly it flew by. I feel like I graduated from college yesterday and left for a European adventure, but that was almost three months ago. It has been a whirlwind season to say the least.

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A month in Europe with my momma, packing and moving out of my house in California, coming straight back to work for Center for Student Missions, a mission trip to Peru for a couple weeks, then back in Houston to unpack and repack. Whew! I always think I’ll have so much more time in the summer than I actually do. Every year, without fail, it takes forever to roll around then is gone right when I’m settling in to it.

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This is my last week in Houston before I begin my year of service in Denver, and I have to be honest-I’m not completely ready. I am in some ways, but in others I feel utterly unprepared and lost. For example, how on Earth am I supposed to pick just a handful of shoes to take with me? I am all about trying to live a more simplistic lifestyle, but a girls gotta have a solid collection of heels at her disposal, right? I’ve looked at my shoe shelf everyday for the past week trying to pick my favorites to bring along but they’re like my children, how can I choose? I’ll have to pick just a few dresses too. I knew this year would have sacrifices but c’mon, this is just madness (wink).

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Enough about shoes and packing (I guess), I’m also still working to prepare my heart and my mind for this experience. I know that the Lord is calling me to Denver this year and I am very excited about starting my job at Denver Urban Ministries and meeting my roommates, but I know it will all come with challenges. I’ve tried to build ‘the unexpected’ into my expectations, but I obviously have no idea what this next year will hold for me. I’ve done a pretty good job at not stressing about raising support or trying to live in a cold climate, but I know both of those things are real concerns in my life. I will be fine. More than that, I will be fantastic! (Convincing? I’ve almost convinced myself) It’s just the continuous thought of the unknown in the back of my mind that brings in a hint of doubt or fear every once in awhile.

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Whataburger and Bluebell, comforts of home

I am ready for this. I really am. As much as I joke about freezing to death or wanting to take my entire wardrobe (and kitchen) with me, I know that Denver is where I’m supposed to be and I’m very excited about it! I am sad to leave my loved ones behind, but I know I will see them again and I have so much love and support behind me I can get through anything.

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I mean with a momma like this, how could I not miss her?

I will definitely need as much prayer support as I can get, so keep it coming! Blogging is a whole new world for me but if you’d like to stay updated about my experiences, my walk with the Lord, learning to bake at a new altitude, and everything else in between, check back here every couple of weeks and see what new shenanigans I’ve found myself in. Thank you in advance for your prayers and support, it means more to me than you’ll ever know!

Peace and blessings