Month: January 2015

The Day My Dad Called

I was in the middle of a sleepover with my BFFs, celebrating my 10th birthday, when the phone rang.

At our house, growing up, the ringing telephone was like the gunshot at the beginning of a race. My sister and I would both make a mad dash, trying to get to it first, pushing each other to the ground in the pursuit of being the one who could answer.

It was my lucky day. I beat her by a hair. “Hello,” I said, slightly out of breath.

“Kelli?” a man’s voice asked on the other end of the line.

“Yeah?” I answered.

“Hi. Happy Birthday. Do you know who this is?” he asked.

“My dad?” I said hesitantly. The words felt awkward as they came out of my mouth.

My mom’s head snapped around and she went flying out of the kitchen and down the hall.

“Yeah, how are you?” he asked.

Before I had time to answer, my mom spoke. “Kelli, hang up the phone.”

The world stood still. The noise in my living room was squealing and laughter. The noise in my head was quiet.

That day, when my dad called, was the first and last conversation I’ve ever had with him.

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Regardless of our gender, our race, what or who makes up our family unit, what societal class we are a part of, what school we go to or what city, state or country we call home, I believe we all ask the same foundational three-part question: Do you see me? Do you love me? Do I matter?

From that place, we use our life experiences, our conversations and our relationships with our parents, siblings, spouses, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, co-workers, the cool kids, the uncool kids, bosses, bullies, teachers, teammates, pastors, professors, and other stay-at-home moms at the playground, to determine the answer to our question.

And when we look to people and situations, whoever and whatever they are, then who we’ve happened to cross life paths with, and what we’ve done or not done, determines how that question is answered.

But here’s where I think we could use a course-correct. And I just recently had my course-corrected after 34 years of looking at myself through the wrong lens, so I know how difficult this one is to digest and absorb, as I’m still digesting and absorbing it myself.

The answer to our question is: Yes, we are seen. Yes, we are loved. And yes, there is purpose for our lives that is uniquely ours. The end. No room for debate.

If I look to my dad, I walk away believing that I’m not worth being pursued. I’m not enough. I’m not seen, loved or needed. And I saw myself for years through that lens. Believe me, friends, the lens of unworthiness is terribly betraying. The biggest regrets I have in life are from decisions I’ve made by looking at myself through that lens.

And it’s not my dad’s fault. Or my mom’s. It’s not about fault at all. Hurting people hurt people. Which is why we can’t look to them for our worth.

People and experiences and conversations should not determine what we believe about ourselves. The truth determines that, and the truth is, that you were created for precisely this time, with precisely the gifts and abilities and talents and quirks that make you, you for a reason. For a purpose. As part of a plan.

And let me take it one step further: This world wouldn’t be complete without you.

There is a mighty creator, maker and God of the universe, who, for me, is the Dad I’ve never had, the one who pursues me to the ends of the Earth. And He’s called me, too. He says: You’re worthy. You’re worth being pursued. You’re enough. You’re loved. You’re beautiful. You’re my child. You’re a saint. You’re my beloved. And I have a plan for you, because you’re you.

My dear friends, He says the same to you. You’re worthy and loved and seen and needed because you’re you. The end. No room for debate.

My hope is that you see yourself so.

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Maybe We Aren’t That Different After All

It was spring of 2003. I was sitting the lobby of Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, around a table with a group of friends as one of omtnluther3ur classmates told the story of why she had missed class for the last two weeks. There was a streak of grey right down the middle of her jet black hair that you couldn’t miss. The streak wasn’t there when we last saw her. And as she told her story, it all became clear.

“I didn’t know if they were dead or alive,” she explained. “The phone lines were cut off, emails have gone unanswered, television reports showed news that I couldn’t bring myself to watch.”

My friend was a 22 year old Iraqi citizen who had been sent to Scotland to get her master’s degree. She was the only person from Iraq in our program. Her country had just been invaded and devastated….by mine.

“I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep,” she continued. “The days felt like years. All I knew was that my family was together when the attacks began, but I didn’t know if my mother or father and siblings were alive or dead. Until finally today, the phone lines were reopened. They are all alive!”

The whole table exhaled together. In that moment, a very political, polarizing life-changing world event rocked my personal world.

mtnluther2Grad school was the first time in my life where I experienced what it was like to be in the minority. In a program of over 200 students, I was the only American, and, along with a girl from Canada, was the only representative from North America.

We ate the most amazing ethnic meals. We had the most fascinating conversations comparing life experiences. The solutions presented to problems varied as widely as the countries we all represented.

And when my Iraqi friend shared her story that day, I thought to myself, maybe we aren’t really all that different after all. Sure, we all have different experiences, there are things that we can and can’t empathize with, we have different stories to tell. But at the root, at the core of who we are, aren’t we all seeking the same thing?

As she shared her story of heartbreak, my heart broke for the despair and desperation that had paralyzed her for days. She wanted to know that her family was okay, just like me. She wanted peace, just like me. She had dreams and desires, just like me. She was seeking an education with career goals in mind, just like me. She was compassionate, and loving and concerned, just like me (most of the time!). She had a story to share and a contribution to make, just like me.

So while we represented countries and faiths at two extreme ends of a spectrum, we were there as two girls, friends, who were for each other and accepting of each other,mtnluther who were not that different at all.

As we got up, I walked around the table to my friend. We stood there, in a hug, for just a moment. And while shots were fired and battles were being fought in her hometown by people from mine, we shared a hug.

Because love enables us to see that perhaps we aren’t all that different, after all.

Do You Ever Get Lonely?

Do you ever get lonely?

I get asked that question a lot. And before I get into where I’m at with it, it’s worth prefacing with this: There are some emotions that tend to be seasonal and cyclical and tough.

Loneliness is one of them, in my opinion.

Let me add: I don’t have loneliness figured out. There aren’t five magical steps to never feeling lonely again. I don’t have a cute correlating story that drives home a warm and fuzzy point. What I can offer on this topic are the following thoughts and a few questions.

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Loneliness is not predicated on whether or not you are in a relationship. I spent eight very lonely years in an unhealthy marriage. On the outside, I didn’t look lonely. On the inside, some of my loneliest days were during those eight years. And it wasn’t all terrible, but it was lonely. Because it felt to me, one-sided, un-reciprocated, unengaged, stagnant, distant.

There are married people wanting “the spark” back, single people wanting a relationship, stay at home moms wanting someone other than a two-year old to talk to, working moms wanting conversations about things other than budgets and deadlines and performance reviews. The introvert wanting the phone to ring. All feeling lonely.

However, regardless of the relationship or situation, what will go away or become a reality if the spark comes back or the phone rings or your work or home status changes?

I’m convinced that whatever it is, it will not be solved by another person.

Which brings me to my second point.

Our hearts are worth examining. At it’s root, loneliness seems to be the recognition of some kind of real or perceived lack. Lack of connection or intimacy or cause.

So, it’s worth considering: Are you calling it loneliness when maybe it’s something else. Maybe envy, jealousy, fear, discontentment, or [insert your issue here]?

The hard work on this point will pay dividends later. Because if I’ve learned anything in this game called life, it’s that if I don’t learn the lesson this time, I’ll be given “opportunity” after “opportunity” to learn it until I finally get it.

So, if you are lonely for friends, and envy trips you up now, envy will trip you up when you’ve got a close-knit circle and someone shows up with a bigger this or a shinier that. And then envies close cousin, discontentment, will mean that you want to blame someone for why you don’t have the bigger this, or faster that. And, because looking inward at ourselves is hard, we make room for resentment and judgment and more envy.

It’s a sneaky little spiral. Examine your heart. It’s worth it.

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You can be alone and not be lonely. When I boil it down, I think there are a few critical pieces worth every ounce of effort to make true in our lives:

  1. A community.
  2. Vulnerability.
  3. A cause.
  4. Gratitude.

“It’s hard to be lonely when you’re busy,” a friend of mine recently said. “Especially when you’re busy with things you like and want to do.”

So, could it be as simple as instead of focusing on lack, whatever it is, change your perspective, to focus on what you do have and work from there. We all have much for which to be grateful. If you’re alive, man, you’re blessed.

And then, let’s find and build and be communities where people, including us, can be vulnerable and real and honest. Let’s work together and support each other and celebrate victories as we work towards our cause, our holy discontents, our passions.

When those four things are in motion, it’s extremely hard for loneliness to find a place to camp. How can it have room when your heart is overflowing with gratitude? When do you have time to tend to it when you have a packed calendar with people who know you and love you and who you love back? And what place does it have when you’re pouring your life into something you believe in?

Our lives have the potential to be so full. Let’s make them overflow.

Getting Out the Knee Pads

You know when you meet someone and you think, “Man, there’s somethin’ special about that person.” Those were my first thoughts when I met my friend, Lauren. She’s beautiful, kind, super funny, warm, and vulnerably honest. We have the privilege of mentoring high school girls together, and recently, we’ve been chatting recently about the new year. She’s stepped into a beautiful place of submission and trust that couldn’t not be shared.

FullSizeRenderAs you read Lauren’s thoughts, you’ll see just why those of us who know her, love and appreciate her so much.

In Lauren’s words:

Of all the people who make New Years resolutions, only 8% of people actually follow through with their resolution. I am such a 92%er.  I’ve attempted numerous diets, workout plans, devotionals. To no avail. I never want to watch the Bachelor. Truly, I never do. My track history of New Years resolutions will show a willing heart, yet a broken mind set. A weak resolve.

So I had to ask myself why. Why can’t I stick to a New Year goal? Why do I give up so easily? How do I get distracted from the vision the Lord has given me? Why are the Bachelors always so darn cute? Oh that must be why…

But in all seriousness, I know there is a problem. I have problems. There it is y’all, I admit it. Cat’s out of the bag, no one has to wonder anymore.  I struggle, I am a fool, I am prideful, and I yearn for love. Whenever I am feeling lost, hurting, or living in a cycle of sin, my friend Carly always reminds me to look at what spiritual truth I am not believing. For me, that spiritual truth is that of trust.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

This verse. This verse is the issue for me. I want so badly to completely surrender my worries and doubts to God, but a part of me will always struggle to let go of control.

Even after a season of seeing the Lord by my side through failures, heartbreak, and family illness there is a very human portion of my soul that’s like “Mmhmm Jesus you can have this, and this, but HELLS no are you touching this.”

We all do it. For some it may be finances, for others relationships. Regardless of what IT is, there is something everyone feels they can deal with based on his or her own understanding. Out of fear, we hold on to IT.

Why do I guard IT from a most High, yet intimate God? Because I truly don’t know Him as well as I could. Think of your best friend. Why do they get that status? Because his or her character has proven true circumstance after circumstance. If I truly knew and allowed myself to experience the character of Jesus, I would be able to trust Him.

And the paradox of being in a relationship with Jesus is that He is the main event, the main attraction. Yet, He works from backstage. Well I don’t know about you, but I don’t pay the big bucks to see the production team of Wicked do their best. I wanna see Idina Menzel! I don’t want to see back up dancers, I want to see Justin Timberlake bring sexy back…and then bring it back again!

The beauty of Jesus is that He doesn’t demand our attention or adoration. Like the production crew, He is doing work in our lives behind the scenes. Dependable. Vital. The character of Jesus proves He is a friend to put our faith in. He is the crew member that keeps the show running, often without receiving flowers at the end of a performance.

But enough is enough. I’m done with clenching my desires to my chest. I’m done with worrying about my future. I’m done with questioning my worth.

I WILL TRUST THE LORD WITH ALL MY HEART. I intend to fall in love with the set designer. I will be led by sure hands. I will be open to the One who wants the best not just good.

So in my journey to better know the character of the Lord, I’ve started with a 60 Day Challenge on my knees. I will physically take this submissive posture as a reminder of whose understanding I will be looking to. On my knees, I will surrender and TRUST in the Sovereign King. I will delight in the fact that I don’t have to have things figured out. I will breathe easy knowing I am offered a relationship with Christ. Loving, TRUSTWORTHY, Christ.

2015 will be a different year! The curse of failed New Years resolutions will dissolve this year. All I need is some knee pads…

Sparkle and Shine

“Mom, can you help me get a dress down,” A asked staring up at her closet.
“Which one,” I asked, walking in to her room.
“That one,” she said, pointing to the one with sequins at the top and frills at the bottom.
“No, honey. That one is for Christmas,” I replied.

I’m the adult. I decide these kinds of things. And fancy, sparkly dresses should only be worn on special…

Wait. Why? Why shouldn’t she wear the sparkly dress? Why not today? What good is a sparkly dress hanging in the closet?

As a little girl picks out her dress, I’m reminded of what I know, and yet often forget. We’re only promised today. As the saying goes, yesterday is in the past, tomorrow is in the future. Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.

“You know what, yes.” I said, handing her the frock full of frill. “Yes, you certainly can wear the dress.”

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One year ago, I sat in a living room half a country away not having the slightest idea of where the path through 2014 would lead. As the year unfolded, each time I thought the plan was clear, a change of events or twist to the plot would leave me back on my knees, asking for light enough to see where to step next.

No doubt, 2014 was the year of A-venture. I wouldn’t change one piece of the story. I wouldn’t remove any of the characters or erase a single conversation. It was as if I had a front-row seat to the best action story I’ve ever been a part of, and yet all I knew to do was continue walking through the doors as they opened.

We’ve settled in to our new life well and quickly. It’s easy when you land in the midst of an amazing community of people who love you like they’ve known you for years and who can love right back. When there are friends from all corners of the country pulling for you, crying with you during darker hours, speaking truth when it’s necessary and calling to check in often.

One thing I know for sure after the adventure we called this last year: there is a most loving God who has proven Himself breath-takingly faithful, and I am blessed to call some of the most amazing people on the planet, friends.

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So, as I was packing the Christmas items away, I was thinking about the year ahead. 2015. I’m not big into resolutions for resolutions sake. I gave up diets a long time ago. I don’t do well with checklists.

But I do whole-heartedly believe in fully living this one life I’ve been given and making whatever tweaks and changes and adjustments are necessary to have the best, most full life possible. And I’m also a fan of clean slates and new chapters and change.

So, as one year rolls to the next, I’m taking a lesson from the four-year old (who often times proves to be the wiser of the two of us). We are going to wear frilly clothes on Wednesdays. I am going to drink the expensive wine over a good conversation on a random Friday. We’re going to eat marshmallows – fist fulls of them – in our hot cocoa, every single time. I’m going create reasons to send the cute note cards and give away the cute gift bags.

After all, what good is the fancy china if it’s always packed away or collecting dust in the cabinet? Why not burn the candle? Or wear the expensive perfume on a Monday. Or get dressed to the nines on a Tuesday.

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That’s my goal this year: to behold each day and each moment as sacred and special and worthy of my attention. To fully live. To infuse sparkle. To shine love and light and laughter and truth to my daughter and to those close to me as often as possible.

For you, as you approach this next year, I wish for you space to determine where your attention needs to be focused. Courage to live it out. Determination to keep going when the obstacles come. Faith in things unseen. And lots and lots of laughter.

Cheers to 2015, friends!