Ready

This past week I was riding my bike home from sending off my last group of the summer. It was about 9:30pm and I was ready to get home and relax, so I started my journey. Shortly after getting to the crowded section of my commute, my headlight went out. About a minute after that, my chain started making weird noises so I had to stop and tinker with it in the dark. By the time I got to the bike trail, I was frustrated but cautious because I couldn’t see much. I decided to pull over, drink some water, and clear my head. I then remembered that I had a spare mini bike light that I got on Bike to Work Day, so I quickly strapped it on and was feeling refreshed and ready to go home. Once I wasn’t as stressed about not being able to see, I found myself completely at peace and filled with joy. What a privilege it is to enjoy a night bike ride in a city I love. Going home to a house that is safe and full of people I adore.

I decided to go off the path and ride around Mile High Stadium since I bike next to it everyday. It was empty and quiet. I rode around the side and began staring at the Denver skyline on a clear night while I pedaled my trusty Sasha. Breath-taking. I then began speaking out loud to the night, as only crazy people do, saying “Oh Denver, you’ve been so good to me. I’m going to miss you and hold you in my heart.” And it was at that moment that I rode into a mini pothole and almost ate pavement. I’m so graceful sometimes.

But on the reals. I’m really going to miss this place. My last post described not being ready to leave, and while I still haven’t packed (yikes!), I’m feeling at peace about ending this chapter of life and beginning my next one. I have been blessed and honored to be here this year and I have certainly learned a lot about nonprofits, myself, communal living, outdoor-sy activities, social injustices, and everything in between.

I’m really ready to be home for a hot minute. I haven’t seen my people in a long time and I’m ready for the comfort of home and family. I’ll be able to share my experiences from this past year with my home congregation and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the people who have supported and loved me from an early age until now. Going home to me is just as much about seeing my family, sleeping in my bed, and driving my car as it is about going to my church and feeling the warmth and comfort uniquely CLPC.

I am certainly not ready to unpack, clean, organize, and repack. Moving is the worst. I keep asking myself why I keep doing it, but I know why. At this point in my life I need to go, do, learn, struggle, and explore elsewhere. I feel called to these places and I’m not ready to be somewhere for a long time, but I feel that on the horizon. Maybe law school will slow me down, but who knows.

Prayers for transition are needed and appreciated. Saying goodbye to my Denver family has been hard so far, and will continue to be hard, but I know they aren’t goodbyes forever. I’ll be back. Maybe just to visit and pick up my kitty, but Colorado has certainly become one of my favorite places in the world, and I can see myself living here again in the future.

Not Ready

I’ve always been one to move around a lot. I love the nomadic lifestyle and I have a feeling it will continue to be characteristic of my life for the next few years, but I don’t necessarily love leaving. Of course, leaving one place means starting life in a new, exciting, and wonderful place full of possibilities, but it also means leaving the place you’ve grown to love.

I love Denver. It is a fun, energetic city with lovely people and exciting things to do. I’ve made a home here (it’s in a rough neighborhood in a small, old home-but it’s home) and I’m very happy. It doesn’t seem like it should be time to start thinking about moving and saying goodbyes, but I only have a little over a month left here. Boy, this year has flown by! They say each year of your life goes by faster and faster, which I can agree with, but I also think that the more exciting and passionately you’ve lived that year affects how quickly it seems to pass.

I am very excited about the Philippines, don’t get me wrong. And I know that once I’m there it will be so new and fascinating that it will take my mind off of moving, but for now-I’m not ready to leave Denver. I plan to use this last month to pour myself even more into my community, my job, my friends, and this city.

My typical M.O. when getting ready to leave somewhere I love, is to get distant and slightly irritable (probably not always slightly) as if that would make it easier to go. I’ve done my best the last two times I’ve moved to be more conscious of my behavior and it worked for the most part. This time, I’m definitely acknowledging this early so I can be present and aware of myself in my final weeks with the ones I love here. We’ll see how it goes. Prayers for transition would be appreciated!

Discerning and Learning

Well if you haven’t heard already, I’M MOVING TO THE PHILIPPINES! I could not be more excited to do another year of service through the PCUSA in Manila next year.

The whole discernment process was actually a fairly easy one for me this year. I knew I wanted to do another YAV year. I knew I wanted to go international. I knew I wanted to work in human rights and advocacy. And most importantly (not really), I knew I wanted to be warm. All the dots aligned themselves and I got my offer to work with human rights lawyers in the Philippines. Pretty perfect, right? Pretty much.

I know that it won’t be all rainbows and sunshine, though I’m sure the sunshine part will be mostly constant (thank you Jesus), but I’m ready for the challenges. New challenges especially. This year in Denver has had it’s ups and downs, but I feel very comfortable here and am ready to be uncomfortable.

I have certainly learned a lot this year and grown in many ways, but I feel good at it. Sure of myself and my abilities. Confident that I can do the best job at what I do. This may sound strange, but I would like to experience the opposite of that feeling. Not knowing if I can do it. Not being prepared for the task at hand. Not knowing what language people are speaking. Not feeling safe. I know that those will be very difficult times for me, but I welcome them. Full disclosure: if/when these moments happen, I probably won’t be very happy about it, but that’s okay with me.  I might sound naïve or foolish, and that’s alright, but I don’t think I am being either of those things. I’ve generally wanted and sought out different things than most other people so this doesn’t surprise me.

I was talking to a friend recently about how you “know” when you’re supposed to be with one person for the rest of your life. I said that I want to be with someone who pushes me to grow in ways I’m not necessarily comfortable with. Someone who makes me want to be the best version of myself. Someone who loves all of me completely, not just the nice and pretty parts. I then reflected on that and realized that I need to be those things for myself before I can expect or want someone else to. I need to push myself to grow, encourage myself to be better, and love myself no matter what. I think this next year will be one full of beautiful moments, growth, sweat, and challenges – and I couldn’t be happier about it. But for now, dear friends, I’m going to continue to be present in Denver and love every moment of it!

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):

2013-09-08 14.59.232013-09-15 21.33.08 2013-09-15 19.32.452013-09-18 18.55.222013-09-19 12.53.19 2013-09-20 17.22.052013-09-21 18.46.07IMG_2334 2013-09-12 19.26.35 IMG_2720IMG_2483 IMG_2482 IMG_2395IMG_2605IMG_2629IMG_2655IMG_2214 2013-09-21 10.09.13IMG_2744IMG_2809IMG_2800IMG_2813

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