Monday, April 4, 2016

Today

Days, weeks, possibly months out of the last few years, have taught me a bit of the weariness and weightiness of being an adult. From talking with others, I think it is a season many people go through even without moving far away from everything and everyone they know.

But this season, this season brings so much joy. And just like the clouds can't keep back the sun anymore, and spring is literally exploding all around, I too, am overflowing.

Planning a wedding and anticipating marriage is definitely a highlight in life. If you only knew the road we've been down to bring us to this point, you'd understand why tears almost splash over when I just imagine reaching the end of the aisle and taking his hand.

Today, however, is what I am most thankful for. Yesterdays were hard, and my tomorrows-- I look forward to simply not living them alone. But today I see where and how God has brought me, and I am so very thankful I never was truly alone.

 During the hard times I resented a little bit when people told me I was "living the dream". (sorry!) It made me feel like I couldn't admit how hard it was to be "living the dream" because "living the dream" should be dreamy. But how do we even know what dreamy is, without also just the grit of real life?

Today-- these words are loaded with meaning and more than I can express right now-- but I write because I'm happy. I write because I'm free. I write because I know His eye is on the sparrow. And I know He watches me.

I think I will step out to the little village shop and buy myself a cold drink and enjoy the warmth of the sun, and just enjoy this day called today and let those feelings of security and peace wash over me.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

In the midst of the pain, I like to remember the miracles.


In April of 2014, B flew to the United States and was able to meet my family for the first time.
Amazingly my dad was able to get a whole week off work and he and my mom and I took B on a road trip through New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.

In Colorado we visited my uncle and his family. My grandparent's were also able to meet us there. For me it was out of this world joy to introduce my guy and watch him "bonding" with my family, even in just a few short days.

Some memories get embellished with time, but I remember thinking even in the moment, how precious these times were.

Sitting around the table eating my aunt's delicious Mexican food, listening to my parents and my uncle half-planning, half-dreaming about building dream cabins on dream properties.

Or the after dinner duet of my uncle and his little boy singing "I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck."

Or the guys-- my uncle, dad, grandpa, and B-- all piling into the Chevy Camero uncle had restored and driving away just for a ride.

Or the motorcycle ride I had to have, (because if it wasn't for my uncles my life would be motorcycle-less). I was going to run back inside to get my shoes, when my uncle said, "who needs shoes?" and I laughed because that was so him. In the spirit of one rebellious second born to another, I hopped on with out shoes.

Or the motorcycle ride I never thought I'd see happen! My uncle gave B his first ever motorcycle ride and I'll never forget that grin on B's face and they pulled back up to the house. 

Or the circling up in the living room and singing hymns and praying. 

Or the Sunday afternoon drive up into "my uncle's mountains". He loved them and I think wished for years our family would have moved up there closer to him and his family to enjoy the mountains with him. He showed us cabins he'd helped build while we were up there as well.

My final memory from that trip is giving uncle a great big hug and thanking him for everything. As he told B goodbye he gave him a Colorado ball cap as a souvenir as well as a T-shirt with Harley Davidson Colorado on it. Then he went out on the porch and brought him back a Colorado license plate. Because that was just the kind of guy he was. He felt personally responsible to make sure B had the best impression of Colorado, and because he was just a giving person like that. He wasn't the type of guy to try to give gifts to make people like him. He just knew knew somehow, how to make B's day. B told me later, "Your family is awesome, and your uncle, he is just the kindest person ever."

At the end of the same year, a couple of days after B proposed, we got the news that uncle had been in an accident and was in a coma. After a year of hoping against all odds that he'd come back to us, he passed away this week. One of my cousins last's memories of him was a phone conversation the day before the accident. He told her that B and I had gotten engaged, and that he very much approved.

With many tears and so much love, I saw goodbye today to a guy who's touched a lot of lives in a really quiet way. Who wasn't perfect, who never claimed to be, and who paid a lot of difficult consequences for choices he made, but who came out like gold.

I'm sending my love across the ocean to his family, my family, our family at this time, and thanking the Lord for amazing memories.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Jesus is My Everything

Sometimes just a slight perspective change can make all the difference. I think I've said it and believed it to be true for most of my life, but what does it really mean, that "Jesus is my everything"?

Believing it, I willingly stepped out of my comfort zone and left my family, friends, and country behind me. The first time I did this was for full time ministry. They were some of the happiest times of my life. I made friends for life there and I enjoyed good spiritual fellowship more than three times
in a week. 

The next time was to yet another country, to look for work and live closer to my then, almost fiancé. Things were different this time. Comforts I was use to, just weren't there. Although I had a life fit for the front of a postcard living abroad and exploring Europe, it was almost too much. For the first 8 months I lived with a non- Christian family in a tiny village. I was a 5 hour train ride from my boyfriend. I was there a couple of months before meeting another Christian-- it felt like eternity. Moving to a town closer to my boyfriend later on helped a lot, but still the disconnect between me and the culture was vast. Quickly I let my circumstances affect my spiritual state. After telling myself over and over "Jesus is my everything" when homesickness or depression or health or job or visa difficulties came about, I finally gave in to the questioning. "If Jesus was all I needed, why am I totally failing at this?"

Things are looking up now. We will marry in 4 months time. I've finally found a church and a weekly Bible study. I have a couple of good friends and my fiancé is finished with the most grueling years of his engineering degree. My life is not only as pretty as a postcard, but also as satisfying as a long friendly letter. But somehow, I'm not completely satisfied. 

Finding time with God hasn't gotten any easier. I still must fight against feelings of defeat and loneliness. So I wondered to myself the other day, sort of in awe of my ungratefulness, "What more? What more do you need to be happy?" And the words "Jesus is my everything," just literally reverberated through me. It was like for the first time I realized that it meant something totally different than forced contentment. In that moment I knew He was trying to show me, 

"If you have nothing, or if you have it all, I am everything. Those things you need in life, the comforts of knowing you aren't alone in this world, even the relationships I've designed you for, your job, and even your rights to live and work in a certain country... None of those things will ever be your everything. None of them will fulfill you or help you find meaning. You are you, with or without them, but without Me... you are nothing."

One thing is sure, in the midst of and also coming out of those struggles I saw just how needy of a creature I am. The words to the song You are my All in All become more and more vivid every year that goes by.

You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all

Seeking You as a precious jewel
Lord, to give up I'd be a fool
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name.

Those words have come out of my mouth as a plea on the darkest day of my life, as well as praise on the happiest days. I feel like those words are the bottom line. Jesus is worthy. He is worthy of all of me, because He gave all of Himself. When I have everything, He is all. And when I have nothing, He is still all. He is my all in all. He is all the meaning, and purpose, and love and joy my life has. Jesus is my everything.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Yes, I'm an Artist.

"Are you an artist?"

A random stranger asked, sitting next to me in Heathrow Airport between the gate to Dublin and the gate to Zürich. I wasn't traveling either of those places, but I had a long (long,long,long) layover and had found a spacious sitting area where I could set my carry ons beside me, pull out my colored pencils, and color in my new coloring book. Yes, I like to color. Yes, I am 26 years old. Believe it or not, adults who color is actually a thing.

But am I an artist?

I told him no. That was just the first reaction, first thing to pop into my head. And per usual, I said it. A bit embarrassed by his random flattery I continued meticulously filling in the flower petals on the page as he continued watching. Meanwhile, I was arguing with myself.

"You're a photographer. That automatically should have warranted a yes." 

"Ok, but it's not your job. You don't have a degree in art. You're coloring in a coloring book for goodness' sake. How embarrassing that he should even ask you that."

"But you do like to add color to everything, to decorate and create. You're an artist."

The guy was making chit chat, continuing with the not so subtle flattery. I halted the inward dialogue to concentrate on the issue at hand. I was compelled to mention my fiance' and our wedding plans several times during the chat. (Because, maybe he just didn't see that huge white hanging bag laying next to me with the word "Bridal" on it). We never exchanged names, but he kissed me on both cheeks before he ran off to catch his flight. He was French, don't be alarmed. Or do be. No, don't be.

Fast forward to the end of that same week. I was home in my little apartment watching the snow fall. Quite suddenly the sun came out and I had to too. It was my natural response to the light and the snow's reaction to the light, to take my camera and try to capture it.

I am an artist.

How do I know that I am? Not because anyone affirms my handiwork as true art. (Definitely not the flattery of a random stranger in an airport). No, I know I am an artist because very recently I've realized that when I am in a place in my life where I'm closest to God, it's also the place where I can truly appreciate the beauty around me. When I'm closest to God, I want to do nothing but to create and inspire. When I am closest to God the world has color, people have a million different fascinating emotions and expressions... and all I want to do is capture it all or somehow be a part of it.

I went through a season where I literally always left my camera at home. I didn't like people very much during that time, (really, I didn't) and I was struggling with God. I wouldn't have made a correlation between my struggles and my art except, when I started drawing closer to Him, all of sudden I had inspiration again. Particular people came to mind whom I wanted to capture in stills and tell their story. Decorating became a new hobby.

It was like someone had just come out and painted my whole world.

There are lots of young people out there, searching for their true identity. We look for words to describe ourselves and boxes to fit in, and none of it really seems to fit just right. Maybe it's too easy to say "I'm an artist" and that's that. I'm a lot of things. But the recognition to the role which art plays, even in worship of my Creator, has left me at least a little less apologetic for considering myself an artist. It's an undeniable part of who I am and I am so thankful for it as a way to express my appreciation for the world and life God's given me.
"Winter Art" Flickr Album
 Konstanz-Wallhausen, Germany

Thursday, January 14, 2016

2016, you are welcome here

I guess it's time to write a post with all my highlights of 2015, but to be honest I'm not too sorry that that year is behind us. I can't think of a whole lot I want to highlight. (I know, I know...how ungrateful). It was rough in a lot of ways, yet somehow I do feel guilty complaining. I was and am engaged to the sweetest boy who was faithful to me through those hard times, and I lived in a beautiful, historical lake town on the German Swiss border. Dreamy, huh? Exactly. Who wants to hear about health problems, financial problems, spiritual problems, relationship/friendship problems, room mate problems (dot, dot, dot)? Yeah, that's what I thought. Nobody.

Some life choices we make, and others are made for us. As I have been chasing "the right choice" and "God's will" all over the world for the last few years I'm slo-o-o-owly learning --that one decision weighing me down at the time, does have consequences, but there is no way to know what other decisions it will lead me to. When the going gets rough I keep hearing this quiet encouragement to put one foot in front of the other, to embrace "it" whatever unexpected circumstance "it" is. To engage in the life and culture I've been given and placed in without looking back to the choice I blame for getting me there. I have to let go of thinking it's my responsibility to shape my life completely by the choices I make. It's a fine line between obsessive control and taking responsibility. 

Something haunting a very deep part of me, is the fact my uncle has remained in a coma this entire year following a car accident. As different opinions-- medical, theological, personal ones-- were being exchanged among the family members, it seemed there was no good solution to be found. An immeasurable decision was weighing down on my aunt and family. It put every decision I've ever made into perspective. Sometimes, answers are not clear. Sometimes God does not hand us the map and say "this way". I don't believe He is a tricky God, mocking us as we struggle to make the right decision. I'll admit it, sometimes it feels like there's a trick somewhere. Couldn't he at least show us the pain and struggle has purpose? 

Wise people have tried to caution my questioning and my need for answers. They weren't critical of my searching heart, but they did warn me it was possible to be asking the wrong questions. I guess that's why I'm choosing to end 2015 and close the book and put it on the shelf. It will stay there as a reminder of God's faithfulness through fiery trials. But 2016 is here and I for one will pray that somehow God let's the calendar we go by symbolize a new beginning. I heard once that it's not about where you go, but who you're with. And He's with me every where I go.

“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?” -c.s.lewis

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Making a List, Checking it Twice


I'll be flying to the USA the day after Christmas for the first time in a year and a half.

I couldn't be more excited to see my family and to be a bridesmaid in my sister's wedding. That's a huge understatement and pretty much goes without being said. Maybe a little less known fact is how much  I'm looking forward to eating American food!

Cottage cheese, for example, as I know it to be, is super hard to come by around here. I have here sitting in front of me, a container of it. Or supposedly that's what it is. So I keep staring at it, thinking "it sure looks like cottage cheese" and willing it to actually be cottage cheese as I take yet another bite of disappointment. That is just one little example, and probably the healthiest of all my Christmas wishes this year.

So I'm making a list of all those things I'm going to eat when I get stateside. Post trip I'll probably be desperately in search of a weight loss program so I can fit into my wedding dress in a few months. But not even my wedding dress will keep me from enjoying some Taco Bell and Chick-fil-a and an occasional Dr. Pepper or root beer. My mother might, but somebody's going to have to hold me back after awhile anyway.

I have really lovely friends who sent me peanut butter and flavored roasted coffee grounds for my birthday. That's probably how I've even lived long enough to be writing this. On a day when I'm feeling a little mean and a little more grateful, I'll tell you about all the foods you're missing out on by not being here in Germany. Like the fresh bread... Yep actually that's pretty much the only thing, but seriously... Soo good. There should be a law against self-torture and gluten free people entering Germany. 
 
©2014 Kaylene Elise | Blog design by Cappuccino Factory