Month: September 2014

What Do I Stand For?

photo 1 (6)I was 18. Northwest Airlines was on a ground strike, which meant no flights were arriving or departing from my hometown, so my mom drove me to Sioux Falls, SD. While my dog, Gingersnap, waited in the car, she hugged me goodbye and I boarded the plane, heading off to college on the east coast.

I didn’t know one single person. I had no idea that the east coast culture was strikingly different from that in the Midwest. I was on my own, really on my own, for the first time in my life.

And I remember on that plane ride, thinking about who I wanted to be in that new chapter. What characteristics did I want to be true about the new college-bound me? What things did I want to leave behind in high school? What did I stand for?

Fast forward a few years where life has happened. Real life, filled with unexpected twists and turns. Hard knocks. Breath-taking moments of joy. Gut-wrenchingly difficult situations. Once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Moments of disbelief and despair and pain that hurts to the core. Seasons of abundance and provision. Some dreams come true and some unrealized.

And through all of it, the question still remains. What do I stand for?

Because life happens anyway. With or without us. Whether we engage or not. In the victories and defeats, every single choice I make, regardless of who is watching, defines me and what I stand for.

There have been times – lots of them – where I’ve come dangerously close to choosing the exact photo 3 (6)opposite of what I stand for. There have been times when I’ve driven right off the clif of what I stand for, willingly. While sometimes those choices make for good stories later, they haven’t been my proudest moments. And they drive me right back to defining and deciding and then living out what I stand for.

If I don’t know what I stand for, then how can I fight for the things that I want to be true in my life? How can I keep running when I want to quit? Where does my motivation to make the more difficult choice come from? How can I pass up instant gratification and indulgences that seem so satisfying at the time for a greater reward that will come later? Where does my strength come from in a moment of weakness?

When I know what I stand for, I live strong. I am at peace. My soul is awake. I can hear. I can respond. I am intentional. I live with purpose. I am alive.

What about you? What do you stand for? What things would you fight for? What are your non-negotiables? What would you like to be true about you?

It’s worth it for all of us to spend time thinking about – and then living from that place.

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Willing To Be Made Willing

IMG_1333I used to have a motto: The only way you’ll get me to run is if you drive an ice cream truck down the street faster than I can catch it by walking.

I was 19 and 194 pounds, not exactly the goal of teenager unless you’re a guy trying out for a spot on the defensive line of a football team. I knew I needed to watch what I ate and do something about my weight and exercise. I knew I wasn’t healthy and I felt trapped in my own body. Like my soul and the person I knew I was inside was not reflected on the outside.

For as long as I could remember, I used food to cope with life. If I was happy, I ate. Scared, I ate. Bored, I ate. And I didn’t want to give that up. I couldn’t give it up.

By the time I got to my sophomore year of college, something had to be done. I was so frustrated with being frustrated. I was barely squeezing into size 14 jeans and XL shirts. Yet, as frustrated as I was, I didn’t know where to start.

In life, so many times, my stubbornness and my will get in my own way. So many times, I don’t want to surrender, give something up, let someone go, or do what I feel like God is asking me to do.

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Joe Zickafoose was my pastor in college. He was one of a kind. He had such a passion for helping young people navigate life. When he found something funny, you couldn’t help but to laugh along with him. He taught me so many little nuggets that still echo in my head today, but I’ve returned to one prayer he taught me many times over the years.

“Lord, I’m willing to be made willing.”

The first willing to be made willing prayer I ever prayed was about food and my unhealthy relationship with it. Shortly after, I was home in North Dakota on winter break from college. It was -30 degrees with the windchill. I put on long johns, insulated pants, three shirts, a double-lined Columbia jacket, two pair of socks, an ear warmer, neck warmer, and gloves. I put my hood up and ventured out for a run through a nearby park.

For two miles, I kept a run one minute, walk four rhythm. I felt good and nothing was frozen by the time I returned home. So, I got up the next day and did it again. And there, in that cold tundra, my love of running was born. It was the first step on a journey to being healthy that continues for me today.

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The strongholds still show their strength. My will and stubbornness still fight what I know is better, what my soul strives for. And when I find myself stuck, I begin with being willing to be made willing.

And then I go for a run, regardless of the ice cream truck.

Maybe for you, a run or Joe’s prayer could be helpful. I hope you use them when you need them.

PS. The pictures from this post are all from my runs over the last few years, including the unintentional selfie that I accidentally took while shoving my phone into a baggie while running in the rain on the beach.

It Won’t Be Perfect, But It Can Be Beautiful

A couple years ago, when the dust of the divorce settled, I began taking a mental inventory of my life. It seemed like a natural next step after spending ten years on a path that I thought was leading “somewhere,” to one day having no idea where the path was, let alone where it was going.

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In the inventory-taking process, I realized that there were a few things about me that I didn’t want to be true anymore and some things that I wanted to build into my life.

  • For one, I had a bitchy side when I wanted something and didn’t get it. I could be mean. So mean. Embarrassingly mean. People in customer service roles got the brunt of it. If I had a coupon that I wanted to use and something in the fine print prevented that from happening, man, it was like Ursula was unleashed.
  • Another, I wanted to be more active. I had never picked up a golf club and I wanted to know how to play. I wanted to paddleboard. I wanted to run again.
  • Over the years, I had allowed toxic people too much influence in my life, and I had to make some painfully difficult decisions to protect myself and my daughter. Painful doesn’t really touch how difficult those decisions were to make. And then figuring out how to walk that out in love, while not allowing bitterness or anger to take root. Uffda. (Some of you will have to look that word up, others will know exactly what I mean.)

Somewhere in the trying-to-check-every-next-box-in-life part of my twenties, I got so busy doing just that: checking boxes, pleasing people, adapting to societal norms, I never really thought about what I wanted to be true for me. Not for my mom or what society “said” I should be doing.

So, when found myself at a place of figurative wide open spaces with a bit of new perspective, it was then that I realized, I have been given full capability and resources to build the life I want.

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Whatever we sew, we reap. It’s just the way it works. Like Newton’s Laws of Motion. Or the sunrise and sunset. Or the changing of seasons. If I sew love and kindness and grace, I’ll reap love and kindness and grace. If I sew physical activity, I’ll reap being physically stronger. If I sew lies, I’ll reap distrust.

I guess you could call it being intentional. I called it taking steps to building the life that I wanted. I practiced kindness and gratitude more often. I realized that no amount of money saved by a coupon was worth any amount of rudeness. I signed up for golf lessons. I got out on a paddleboard. I spent more time at the beach. I started running again. I set boundaries for relationships.

And then one day, I was talking with my good friend, Marion.  Her wisdom and insight have proven invaluable in my life. She, being the smarter of the two of us, knowing that perfectionism runs like an undercurrent in my little mind, said to me, “Kelli, your life will never be perfect. It just won’t. However, it can be beautiful.”

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And in that moment, the last piece of the puzzle was put in place.

I can and will build my beautiful life. I can fill it with people and experiences and things that I just love. Sometimes, the things I want to be true require effort and some blood, sweat and tears (just to throw in a cliché for good measure). Sometimes, a little adjustment is all it takes. And sometimes, it’s simple awareness. Putting down my phone or turning off the television and just being present to give myself some space to listen. Sometimes, it’s saying yes to the four-year old. Like when she asked if she could buy a Chinese yo-yo that she found at the store and we spent the better part of an afternoon laughing and playing with a random toy I never would have thought to buy for her. Sometimes it means getting off my lazy hind-end when I’d rather not. Sometimes it means getting on my knees. Being patient. Being steadfast. Being brave.

It won’t and it shouldn’t and it’s probably better that it’s not perfect, but it’s mine. And it’s all I’ve got. And yours is all you’ve got. So, my hope is that you, too, find freedom and fascination in building your beautiful life. And that we can celebrate together who we are and the things that make us, us.

Because, while our lives will never be perfect, they can most definitely be beautiful.

Let’s make them so.